Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spirit Family Reunion at The Goat's Toe this Friday night.

This band are playing at The Goat's Toe in Bangor on Friday night and Belfast on Saturday night. Brilliant sound. Thanks to the Open House Festival email newsletter for letting me know.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oul things are the best things

Pokey LaFarge - Josephine

'Amity and Enmity' by Anthony D Buckley

I came across this 2010 article a few days ago, on the website of University College Dublin. I don't know the author - Anthony D Buckley - but I think that many of you will be interested in what he has to say. Even though he seems not to 'get' the fullness of Ulster-Scots heritage, and seems to not be aware of the upsurge in Reformed thinking within the younger generation, the general approach of the article - that the stereotyped "them against us" narrative of Northern Ireland is not the whole story - is very welcome. Here are a few excerpts:

'...Protestants and Catholics prided themselves on being good neighbours. This good neighbourliness manifested itself in all kinds of ways. For example, there was practical help between farmers, with the larger tasks being shared... there was also evidence of general good-neighbourly behaviour between people irrespective of sectarian division... in many other places, community relations have remained quietly strong, much as they were in the 1970s and earlier. It is merely that writers have stopped writing monographs of this kind. Subsequent studies have been inclined to concentrate on less peaceful places and to neglect the cooperation and amity that still exists and can readily be rediscovered...'

I also like his warning to government to not turn authentic local festivals into 'tourist attractions'. Local people inherit local tradition from previous generations - whereas visitors just consume it. You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mair fishin' fae Peninsula Charters


We were fortunate enough to get back out again yesterday, and what a haul! We brought home 40 fish - cod, pollack (lythe) and mostly coalfish (blockan) - of around 2lbs weight each. Also got a wrasse and a wheen o mackerel forbye. As you can see from the pics below we had nearly 3 full buckets, which when we got home again became a well-filled sink where all were gutted, beheaded, de-scaled, cleaned and readied for either the cooker or the freezer.

Even a generation or two ago, people around our area caught big numbers of fish during the summer months for survival - layered them in saut (salt) in big earthen crocks which were then stored in a cool outhouse - all to keep the family alive until springtime. We are fortunate to go fishing without that pressure, simply for leisure and enjoyment... and in good weather.

Visit the Peninsula Charters website here. And when you book them tell them I sent you!




Saturday, August 25, 2012

Old Crow Medicine Show clip of "Jim Jones at Botany Bay" (go to 2.36 - 3.28)

This is an old English / Australian folk song. In this clip Old Crow Medicine Show play it to the tune that Bob Dylan used to record the song in the 60s. It was originally published in 1907 in Charles MacAlister's book "Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South" on page 72 where he says the tune is "Irish Molly-O" (online edition here). Here are the words of "Irish Molly-O", a tale of a Glasgow man called MacDonald who emigrates to Tyrone, falls in love with Molly, is set for America but Molly's father is having none of it. It is said to be from from around 1810:

Tell me who is that poor stranger that lately came to town
And like a pilgrim all alone, he wanders up and down
He's a poor forlorn Glasgow lad and if you'd like to know
His heart is breaking all in vain for Irish Molly-o

She is young and she is beautiful and her likes I've never known
The lily of old Ireland and the primrose of Tyrone
She's the lily of old Ireland and no matter where I go
My heart will always hunger for my Irish Molly-o

Oh but when her father heard of this a solemn vow he swore
That if she wed a foreigner, he would never see her more
He called for young MacDonald and he plainly told him so
I'll never give to such as you my Irish Molly-o

MacDonald heard the heavy news and sadly he did say
Farewell my lovely Molly, I am banished far away
Till death shall come to comfort me and to the grave I go
My heart will always hunger for my Irish Molly-0

Some of you will recognise the general format of the chorus. "Irish Molly - O" was adapted and became "The Hat My Father Wore"... but is best known as the Orange folk song "The Sash My Father Wore", which is another tale of travel between Glasgow and Ulster.

Here am I, a loyal Orangeman, from Ulster's shores I came
To see my Glasgow brethren of honour and of fame
And to tell them of my forefathers who fought in days of yore
All on the twelfth day of July in the Sash my father wore!

Sure it's old, and it is beautiful and its colours they are fine
It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen, and the Boyne.
Sure my father wore it when a youth in the bygone days of yore,
And it's on the Twelfth I love to wear The sash my father wore.

Amazing how something as simple as a tune can link Scotland, Ulster, America and Australia across the centuries, and can be both "Irish" and "Orange".

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Snobs' Law: Criminalising Football Fans in an Age of Intolerance

Many of my readers here (of whatever background) will recognise Dr Stuart Walton's conclusion in this article which is based upon his new book Snobs' Law: Criminalising Football Fans in an Age of Intolerance.This is his conclusion on the sectarian issue in Scotland today:

"...the rise of anti-sectarianism did not emerge because of a rise in sectarian behaviour, or of sectarian violence; yet anti-sectarianism became a significant political, media, policing and legal matter in Scotland. As we have seen, the rise of interest in sectarianism has absolutely nothing to do with the behaviour of people on the terraces or on the streets. It has, on the contrary, everything to do with the activities and rhetoric of the Scottish elites and their establishment of a virtual industry of anti-sectarianism..."

This really clicked with me today, based upon an experience yesterday where, at an event based upon local history, the media outlet that was present attempted to 'spin' the project into a quasi-sectarian issue. It was bizarre and bewildering.

Northern Ireland has its historic problems, but it also has a poisonous anti-sectarian industry (which paradoxically, by constantly raising the issue, has become pro-sectarian) which seeks to insert a narrative of social division into spheres of life where none exists. It is very sad to read that Scotland now has a sectarian industry too.

Hopefully (both in Scotland and here in NI) most people will continue to get along with each other despite this divilment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Thanks to Will Ghormley of Iowa for getting in touch and inadvertently reminding me of this 2007 movie. It's seriously underrated (probably because the leading man is Brad Pitt). The cinematography is wonderful.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The grave of Louis MacNeice at Carrowdore

With a traditional red fuschia planted on top.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What's the connection between the Ulster Covenant and the 1949 Le Mans 24hr winning Ferrari team?...


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Newtownards Charter, 25 March 1613


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Rev John Pollock (1852 - 1935): From Glasgow to Belfast, "Scotland for Christ", "Ireland for Christ" and the CE Covenant


The Rev John Pollock was born in Scotland in 1852 (reportedly Govan in Glasgow) and ministered in Fife, Edinburgh and Glasgow. He came to Belfast in 1901 to become minister of St Enoch's Presbyterian Church from 1901 until retirement in 1930, a successor to the renowned "Roaring" Hugh Hanna who had retired in 1891. Built in 1872, St Enoch's was said to be the biggest Presbyterian church in the British Isles, but today it is closed.


John Pollock was highly active within the "Christian Endeavour" youth movement and became the President of CE in Ireland, Britain and then Europe.

CE had been founded in the USA in 1881 by Francis E Clark. In 1889 a branch of CE was established at Agnes St Presbyterian Church in Belfast by a working class woman called Margaret Magill. The movement grew rapidly and by 1896 there were 100 CE societies in Protestant churches across Ireland (bringing together Presbyterian, Methodist, Moravian, Baptist, Congregational, Church of Ireland and Quaker) and by 1889 over 10,000 young people were members. It can be claimed that CE brought a unity of purpose and spirit of co-operation across the Protestant denominations in Ireland which had seldom, if ever, been seen before. Significantly, a Covenant was at the heart of its functions. As the 1977 book A History of the Christian Endeavour Movement in Ireland states -

"... The primary emphasis of Christian Endeavour has been on the response of the individual to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, a response expressed in faith, commitment and service. This has been expressed through the covenant or pledge taken by each active member, and renewed each month at a special meeting of the society to which he or she belongs..."

The book gives three separate covenants as an appendix: the Active Members Covenant, the Junior Active Members Covenant and the Trial Members Covenant. So in late 1800s and early 1900s Ulster, Christian Endeavour - probably the first pan-denominational youth movement across all of the evangelical Protestant churches - was using a Covenant as its basis for membership.

In CE founder Francis Clark's 1906 book Christian Endeavor in All Lands, (click here for online edition), a 25-years-on retrospective, these two excerpts speak volumes:

'...think of the "Solemn League and Covenant" of the Scottish martyrs! There is no more holy spot than the flat tombstone in Greyfriars' churchyard in Edinburgh where with the blood drawn from their own veins they signed and sealed the covenant which ensured Scotland's liberties and made Scotland great...'

'...stimulated and sustained by the obligation of a covenant with God and men as binding and exalting as the "Solemn League and Covenant" of Scotland's noblest days...'

Back in 1896, when still a minister of a church in Scotland, John Pollock had written a hymn entitled "Scotland for Christ" for the Scottish National Christian Endeavour Union; I found it in an old hymn book last week. Typical of the era it is full of references to the old Scottish Covenanters of the 1600s: -

"Scotland for Christ" Hark the challenge resounding
High over mountain and valley and plain
All the dark forces of treason confounding
Christ is advancing to conquer and reign!

Rally Endeavourers! Swell out the chorus!
Trusting in God and renewing your tryst
Bright gleams the banner that's marching before us
Claiming the victory - "Scotland for Christ!"

Men of the Covenant! In glad attestation
Setting your seal to the bond of the Lord
Follow your fathers in high consecration
Filled with His Spirit, believing His word

Sons of the martyrs! be this your ambition
Moved by the purpose their memory inspires
Calmly confronting this world's opposition
Bravely to follow your patriot sires

Brothers and sisters in Christian endeavour
Loving and earnest, leal-hearted and true
Bound in a union that nothing can sever
Rally around the old Banner of Blue

"Scotland for Christ!" from the cot to the palace
"Scotland for Christ!" pass the watchword along
Till from her mountains, her glens and her valleys
Scotland united shall join in our song!

(words from Manly Praise - a Collection of Solos, Quartettes and Choruses edited by Rev Wm Nelson, 1897)

Pollock was asked to write a similar hymn, "Ireland for Christ", for the 1899 British Christian Endeavour Convention which was held in Belfast, attracting 1900 delegates, but I haven't located it as yet. Both pieces were said to "...have remarkable power, and are characteristic of the music of the two countries...". Here are some artefacts from early Belfast CE Conventions:


Pollock's son, Paul Gilchrist Pollock, was in the 14th Royal Irish Rifles and was killed on the 1st July at the Somme. There was a memorial plaque to him at St Enoch's Church (see image here / portrait available on this website). Another son was a Royal Navy officer, and Rev Pollock's daughter Elsie was a sister in the Ulster Volunteer Force hospital - after the Great War she became a missionary in Formosa (today Taiwan).


By 1907 CE membership in Ireland was still around 10,000 young people. It experienced a decline and by 1911 there were 6,000 members, but numbers surged again with missions held in Portadown and Belfast in 1911 - 1913. CE membership peaked in 1936 with nearly 15,000 members in Ireland and 452 local societies.

Rev John Pollock was an influential Glasgow-born Presbyterian, ministering in north Belfast to the biggest Presbyterian congregation in Britain, and a leading member of the global Christian Endeavour youth movement whose ethos is still today based upon a 'Covenant'. This is an intriguing example of how the idea of a "Covenant" was very much a familiar element within Ulster Protestant church culture in the decades before the eventual Ulster Covenant of September 1912, signed by 471,414 people exactly 100 years ago.

Christian Endeavour still exists and provides an excellent range of youth-oriented materials, resources and services to churches around the world including here at home.

• To find out more about the work of Christian Endeavour today, visit their website here.
• Their 98th Irish Convention takes place in September, click here for details.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Fishing off the Mull of Galloway


Photo © Whitby Sea Anglers

We live just across the North Channel from the Mull of Galloway - over the years I've posted plenty of photos here of our view of the Mull on clear days. For a while now I've been reading up on sea angling techniques from the Whitby Sea Anglers' visits when they travel 300 miles north to fish the Mull. They've now put together a very informative article summarising the shoreline terrains and the species they've caught. You can read it here. There's an even more detailed website here of sea fishing on the Isle of Man.

My brother just spent 10 days in Waterford and Kerry, and he tells me that along the coast there the local council has helpfully put up interpretive signage showing the best spots for sea angling, and info on species / times of year / bait and tackle to use.

Back in 1683, William Montgomery wrote his Description of the Barony called The Ardes to his lifelong friend Patrick Savage of Portaferry. It's effectively the first "tourist trail" of the area. In it Montgomery said that the coast of the Ardes and Lecahill (Lecale) "...abounds with fishes, as herrings, in harvest, also codd, ling, mackerel, barins*, lythes, blockans, lobsters, crabbs, gray lords (which are near as big as codds), whiteing, haddocks, plaice and large dogg fish..."

You can still catch them all these days. A seafood banquet! Perhaps this is something that the local tourism authorities could (excuse the pun) get their teeth into.

* is this a mis-spelling of ballan wrasse?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Found today in a Saintfield antique shop

...with some care and attention it'll be playable!