Wednesday, February 29, 2012

' is a glimpse, and on the whole a fascinating glimpse, into the quiet country life of the Ulster Scot, well calculated to quicken the interest in and the respect for the sturdy race he represents...'

So says one of the reviews of the writings of Archibald M'Ilroy, which I came across a few weeks ago in an old periodical which has been on my shelves for donkeys years, and which I then scanned to eventually post here. They amazed me because as the self-professed 'clever' people keep telling us, the term 'Ulster Scot' was only invented about 15 years ago. So the appearance of the term, twice, in these reviews from 1899 must therefore be elaborate forgeries, akin to the Hitler Diaries. Or else, maybe the 'clever people' are wrong.

But since when was 'quiet country life' given much 'respect' anyway? McIlroy's work is top-notch and highly recommended - I'm re-reading 'The Auld Meetin Hoose Green' and 'The Humour of Druid's Island' at the moment. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Update on Charles Wesley and 'Jesus Lover of My Soul" (from two posts ago)

The farm where Wesley sought refuge in the old stories (read one of them here) is named as "Island Barn Farm" near Killinchy. It has been pointed out to me today that there is an "Islandbane" townland near Ringhaddy, in Killinchy parish. It is a small outcrop of land into Strangford Lough. It appears to have had just one farmstead - see below an early 1800s map, and a present-day aerial photograph. I think that's the spot.



Monday, February 27, 2012

Ulster Covenant evening lectures; Titanic centenary concerts


There has been a lot of froth on the media today about commemorations and centenaries. Westbourne Presbyterian Church on the Newtownards Road in East Belfast is taking the initiative this year. Known as 'The Shipyard Church' since it was built in 1880, it was the biggest signing centre for the Ulster Covenant in 1912 after Belfast City Hall.

• Starting on Thursday 22nd March is a series of four monthly evening talks on different aspects of the Covenant. Entry is free. Some well-known names will be speaking.

• And on Sat 31 March, and Friday 20 April, there are two concerts being held in the Church to mark the centenary of the Titanic. The men who built her would have sat on these pews on a Sunday. Suggested donations are £10 per ticket.

You can find out more at their new website here.






Charles Wesley, County Down and the Ulster Covenant

(story is quoted from this website)

"...Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was conducting one of his many open-air meetings, this one near Killyleagh, (Northern) Ireland. During the course of his preaching, a number of persons who took exception to his views assaulted him. Unable to withstand the mob, Wesley fled for his life.

He took refuge in a farmhouse nearby. Jane Lowrie Moore*, a kind-hearted wife of a farmer, hid the panting evangelist in the milk house. She was barely in time, because at that moment some of Wesley’s assailants rushed up. Mrs. Moore tried to divert their attention by preparing refreshments. Fearful that they might search the premises and discover the harried evangelist, she went to the milk house on the pretext of getting a cold drink for her visitors.

Quickly, she bade him, get through the rear window, and hide under the hedge. He clambered through the window and found a little brook flowing beside the hedge, forming a pool with overhanging branches that afforded a pleasant and safe retreat. While waiting for the vindictive Irishmen to give up the search and leave, Wesley pulled a pencil and paper from his pocket and wrote out the immortal hymn, Jesus, Lover of My Soul.

Dr. George Duffield**, author of Stand up for Jesus, another of our famous songs, once said of Wesley’s hymn, If there is anything in Christian experience of joy and sorrow, of affliction and prosperity, of life and death—that hymn truly is the hymn of the ages..."

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Jesus Lover of My Soul was one of the hymns associated with the Ulster Covenant of 1912 and was printed on the Ulster Day Service Sheet which was produced for the many church services held on the morning of 28 September 1912. I wonder if its Ulster origin is partly why it was chosen? It is also said that the Royal Welsh Fusiliers sang this as they went 'over the top' at Mametz Wood in World War One. The best-known tune for it is called Hollingsby, but with a bit of work it can be made to fit 'My Heart is like a Red Red Rose', Robert Burns' famous love song. One to be tried out this year I think.

Here it is to a new tune:

* The hymnwriter Robert Lowry's parents were said to have come from near Killyleagh. Were they related to Jane Lowrie Moore?
** Duffield was also of Ulster descent.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The faithful remnant

Now this is funny. There is a segment of the (Ulster) Protestant psyche which wants to be the faithful remnant, the chosen few, Gideon's 300. I suppose everyone thinks they're right. From The Gospel Coalition.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The overpowering trade of the Scottish merchants & the pygmy piper of Islandmagee

Old books are brilliant. I came across these great quotes recently:

'...through the overpowering trade of the Scottish merchants of Belfast the English trade of Lisburn is upon ruin… those Scotch have got all the general commissions from the London merchants for trade into their hands and so not one Englishman in these parts is so employed...’ (1679)

'...a little beyond Port Davy stands a promontory called the Black-head, whereon stands a lighthouse, and under it from the sea there is a large cave, where I have been told by the Country, a piper went in, and was heard at a place two miles form thence under ground; he must have been very little, for I have run fox into it with my dogs and killed him at the far end...' (1683)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thanks to Roberta: David Garibaldi painting.

Stick with it, it'll get there... with thanks to Roberta for sending this to me earlier today.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Pikemen - A Romance of the Ards of Down, by S.R. Keightley (published 1903)


I recently got hold of a copy of 'The Pikemen - A Romance of the Ards of Down', published in 1903, written by Samuel Robert Keightley (1859-1949, pictured here) of Lisburn. I had been trying to get a copy of this for a while, and when it arrived I wasn't disappointed. It's a classic 'kailyard' format novel, set around the time of the Battle of Ballynahinch, and purports to be a first-hand account of the events as told by a Rev Patrick Stirling who had fled Ulster for the USA (Sangamon County, Illinois to be precise - click here to read the History of Early Settlers of Sangamon County published in 1876 and you'll find plenty of references to Ulster emigrants). Keightley had previously published 'The Crimson Sign', a novel about the Siege of Derry, and other books as well. You can read more about him here. Here are some excerpts:

"...there was a fever in my own blood. My hands were shaking and my heart was beating like a sea in storm. I hardly knew myself. My forefathers had marched to the lilt of the Psalms under the blue banner of the Covenant, and had laid down their lives like men at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge on the other side of the narrow sea...

... he turned suddenly and stood staring up the road toward Kircubbin as you go to Newton... 'Archie Spence gave a hunted man twa nichts' lodgin' - his guid woman is a kin' ov cousin ov my ain - an' noo they're payin' him fur the kindness that he showed me - harberin' rebels they ca' it. The white-heidit bairns are oot on the roadside noo, an' the bonny roof-tree that shud be as sacred as the wa's ov a palace are jist a wheen ov charred sticks... before ye gang tae bed this nicht ye'll see how Britain trates the honest men ov Ards, shud I hae tae carry ye ivery fut ov the road mysel...

...Here on this night of June burned the watchfires of liberty where eight thousand men of Down were gathered... It was a great and inspiring sight - great not in the pomp and splendour of war, but in heroic courage and noble self-sacrifice. Here were men from Killyleagh and Strangford shore, from hilly Dromara and Rathfriland, and the sweet valley of the Lagan; hardy fishermen from Portavogie and Ardglass; weavers from Lisburn and Newtownards and Bangor, all dressed in decent Sunday wear like men going to the last communion of death... here and there a Psalm tune was being sung by many voices to the tune of 'Martyrdom' or the 'Old Hundred'..."

I'm looking forward to reading it. For a Belfast-born academic living in Lisburn, with a Bangor JP for a father, Keightley has a brave hannlin' of the hamely tongue throughout the book, and as the excerpts above show he also had a firm grasp of cultural identity and history. Ask any of his present-day equivalents what happened at Drumclog and they'll struggle to tell you. 'The Pikemen - A Romance of the Ards of Down' might be another wee indicator of just how widespread Ulster-Scots speech was a century ago.

The Ulster Journal of Archaeology review of the book said:

The Pikemen. A romance of the Ards of Down. By S. R. Keightly
London: Hutchinson & Co. 1903.

This is a story of the year '98 in the county of Down, written in vivid and telling language by one who has an excellent knowledge of the period of which he writes, and a thorough grasp of local circumstances and the common dialect of the people. There is not a dry or uninteresting chapter throughout the hook, and it will afford ample pleasure to the general reader of romance, and more especially to those who are residing in the county in which the principal scenes described in the book are laid. We heartily recommend to the cultured author the desirability of a cheaper and more popular issue of this work, so as to make its pages accessible to everyone. The principal characters are painted with a decisive brush, but if anything, we consider the scene in the old meeting-house at Greyabbey a little over-drawn. Here we have the Rev. James Porter balloting in the communion cup for the name of him who was to do away with the informer Newell. We doubt the accuracy of this incident, and even the death of Newell at this place ; nor do we think this wretched man was such a character as is so skilfully portrayed by the writer. Be this as it may, it is ill to cavil with dry historical details in a work that has many charms, a store of information, and the deepest interest to even the most casual reader.

(PS - Here's another biography of Keightley - click here. A similarly-entitled novel about the events of 1798 in County Antrim is James McHenry's The Insurgent Chief, the Pikemen of '98 which you can read online here.)

Monday, February 06, 2012

How does your garden grow? (1902)

‘...The English-planted districts in Ulster are still fragrant with fruits and flowers, no parishes being more noticeable in this respect that those in the Moira, Downshire and Hertford Estates, in South Antrim and Down. The Scotch-planted districts are the very opposite, there no gardens as a rule are to be found, and the filth of the cattle surrounds the dwellings. The most casual observer notices the changes at once when passing from one to the other, say from Carnmoney or Ballynure to Glenavy or Ballinderry...’

So you can now accumulate a dung midden at your door and claim that it is of cultural importance. You might even get a grant for it if you can persuade a neighbour of a different religious persuasion to help you to build it, and then claim that it is a cross-community initiative. From the Ulster Journal of Archaeology 1902, page 98.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Ulster Covenant - cruises, Glasgow and Ballyclare

An excellent find here by Robert Campbell over at his blog The Bog Myrtle. Whilst the Ulster Covenant was signed by over 470,000 people on Ulster Day in September 1912, that same evening there were bonfires and illuminations along the coasts of Antrim and Down. An enterprising boat owner organised cruises on Belfast Lough from 9pm - 11.30pm. Robert has also posted here a very interesting Belfast News Letter report of Ulster Day in Glasgow. And, like me, he has found that his great-grandfather signed the Covenant in Scotland. Closer to home, from Robert's own back yard, he has posted this advert for Ulster Day events in Ballyclare.

Friday, February 03, 2012

"...more Southern Irish Catholics died in British uniform on the first day of the Somme offensive than participated in [the Easter Rising] ..."

I spent a very interesting day today, with three people I had never met before who (later admitted that) at 10am this morning were fairly sceptical about the overall Ulster-Scots story, but by 5pm were totally convinced and even enthused. I managed to wipe away years of preconceptions just by showing them simple evidences and telling local stories - which just proves the depth of the authentic stories themselves and their power to persuade if reasonably well told.

We live in a time when some old prejudices are hopefully being rethought and reassessed, maybe because the full story is now being told, rather than the narrow, propagandised, selectively-edited versions. In light of this recent story, the headline of this posting is a quote from this article in the Daily Telegraph and I thought some of you would be interested in it. This book - The 6th Connaught Rangers: Belfast Nationalists and the Great War - is an excellent telling of very similar stories and is full of photographs of artefacts which had been kept by the families of the men who served.