Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Newtownards 1613

Ards folk are fond of their history, and tomorrow night the Events Programme for the 400th anniversary celebrations of the borough Charter is being launched. As you can see from the photos below of an antique bass drum from the CLB band, with the town seal hand-painted on the shell, local people here have remembered the date fondly over the centuries and I'm sure this year will be one to remember.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Wooden iPhone conversion kit

So if technology is taking over your life then now at least you can adjust to it in a rustic, natural way. Eden Made is a wooden iPhone self-conversion kit from Germany, costing €89. Nice touch.






Sunday, February 17, 2013

Irish Folk Furniture - a short film by Tony Donoghue (© Mayfly Films 2012)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Mandolas (video clip from Irish tv station Balcony TV)

Never heard of these guys before but their sound is great. They describe themselves as a 'four piece folk-pop harmony group' and are from Cork.Website here. They have a page here with some more background info and music.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fishermen's Friends (Port Isaac, Cornwall)

The manager (Paul McMullen) and one of the members (Trevor Grills) of acapella singing group Fishermen's Friends have tragically died as a result of an accident at a concert venue at the weekend. I've enjoyed their style for a few years, and was just re-reading their biography - Sailing at Eight Bells. For those of you who don't know of them here's an introductory video:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Temperance Movement

A band with a name like that just had to be good...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Join me on Valentine's Night!

#alttext# Yes it's the opportunity you've been waiting for. I'm giving my illustrated talk on Sir Thomas Smith's Forgotten English Colony of North Down and Ards (1572-75) on Valentine's evening for Bangor Historical Society. The venue is Bangor Abbey and it starts at 8pm. I will have a small supply of the booklets available. A PDF version of the booklet will soon be available on the new Ulster-Scots Community Network website here.

Dr Jonathan Bardon's talk to the Society in January was about the arrival of James Hamilton in 1606, so I'm doing what is sometimes called the 'backstory' or if you're into Star Wars, the 'prequel'. For those of you who don't know, around 1605 Hamilton got a look at the Smiths' old legal papers from 1572 and discovered a golden opportunity which they had missed out on, but which he wanted for himself.

Bangor Abbey was burned down during the Smith campaign, but Hamilton rebuilt it. Hamilton succeeded where Smith failed. When he died he was buried in the Abbey crypt.

Hope to see you there!



Thursday, February 07, 2013

City versus country (Photo: the Scotch-Irish Farm, Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, Virginia USA)


An idyllic photo of hard work outside an old Ulster farmstead that was taken across the Atlantic to Virginia. I visited it 15 years ago on honeymoon.

It is one of my favourite images and I am posting it here as over the past few days I have been thinking about the enormous social mis-fit there is here in Northern Ireland. It is not the 'two tribes' stereotype. It is the gulf between city people and country folk. It is vast.

The NI media and the majority of NI institutions are dominated by city-minded people. In cultural terms there is a version of Ulster-Scots heritage in the cities - but the authentic and natural form is to be found in the country areas. In landscapes not streets. City issues do not automatically apply to the country; city 'chips on the shoulder' are sometimes irrelevant in the country. City fights should not be assumed to exist in the country.

I have been spending a bit of time over recent months with some city-dwellers who are getting to grips with Ulster-Scots history for probably the first time ever. I think their self-confessed scepticism is starting to melt a wee bit. And fair play to them for being open-minded. But every now and again their urban mindset seems to struggle with things that country folk find natural.

Yes, Scotland is just over the water and we can see it every clear day. Yes, there are lots of folk out here who still use those words. And yes, we do try to get on with our neighbours even if their politics and religion are different than our own - we'll maybe bump into them next week in the shop, or down at the shore, or at the builders suppliers. And our grandparents probably knew their grandparents. And maybe even after all of that, they are our neighbours first and 'different' second.

As a local man once said to me '... d'ye know who it is that causes all the bother roon here? A'll tell ye - oul Bilfast yins...'. Life in much of rural Ulster is far from perfect, but it is not as polarised as in the city.

I know some lovely folk from Belfast, so the observation certainly doesn't apply to everybody. But, the next time you hear people arguing on our radio and tv channels, ask yourself if they are city-minded people. They probably are.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

So King Richard III of England (1452 - 1485) has been found buried under a car park?


Here's the story. But what's the big deal? The first King of Scotland lies in an unmarked grave on a hillside in the suburbs of Belfast.....

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Rev James Hume grave, Hillsborough Parish Church (1718 - 1782)