Thursday, April 11, 2013

Multicultural Ulster - introduction

Left: Detail from the Census of Ireland form, 1911.

What if everything you know is wrong? What if the stereotype of 'two tribes' in a state of constant antagonism in Ulster/Ireland is not true? What if it is in fact a relatively recent invention - and what if the actual story of Ulster / Ireland is of a truly multicultural place with thousands of years of comings and goings of different peoples and influences?

It has been said that there is no such thing as Irish history, just Irish mythology. The Census form here shows that 100 years ago efforts were made to avoid 'vague' terminology. Sadly this wisdom has not applied for the past few generations. People have been told that there are just two groups and that they belong to one or the other and never the twain shall meet or have met. But how would this place change for the better if everyone who has been fed that stereotype throughout their lives - and who as a result is boxed in to one of those 'two tribes' - had grown up understanding a bigger, broader and more accurate story?

Maybe rushing back to a selective interpretation of the 17th century, seeking justification to hate your neighbour, (as so many people ultimately seem to do) is a very unhealthy pastime and a very bad idea.

Over a series of posts to follow I am going to attempt to map out a complex, hopefully interesting, Alternative Ulster. The next post will begin with a family trip we made to Newgrange in the Boyne Valley in 2009 - a 5000 year old structure which is older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

St Patricks Channel, Donaghadee

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Law v The Gospel (by Ralph Erskine, Dunfermline)

One for Sunday. The Bible shows us that the Law of God demands an impossibly high standard of perfection. No-one can achieve it - but many try to do so, and either end up:

a) filled with pride as they admire what they see as their 'successes' - as the poem above says it takes 'boasting' and 'feeds it to my bane', or

b) filled with despair when they experience repeated failure.

Jesus came and raised the bar. To paraphrase, He shocked his listeners one day by telling them 'here's a list of things that the Law says, if you do them, are sins. Well, even if you think about them that's sin too'. Only Jesus meets the perfect standard required the Law - and not only for Himself, but on behalf of all of the failures who trust in Him. I'm not a follower of Jesus because I am a 'good person' or as people in Northern Ireland often say 'good living'. I follow Him because I am a failure, rotten to the core in word, thought, deed and motive - but His perfection covers my failure completely. Ulsterman William McComb put it like this, inspired by these famous words from the Apostle Paul.

And so the Gospel, as the poem says, - 'yields me full relief'. And that relief, and gratitude, I hope is bringing about a change.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

National Tartan Day in the USA


Greetings to my US readers who are celebrating National Tartan Day today. The date of April 6th was chosen as this is the date of KIng Robert the Bruce's Declaration of Arbroath on 6 April 1320 - a document seen as the predecessor of the Scottish Covenants, the US Declaration of Independence, and therefore by default both the Ulster Covenant and the Women's Declaration of 1912. Of the 46 men who signed the Declaration of Arbroath, many had served under Edward (and Robert) Bruce during their campaign in Ulster/Ireland from 1315-1318. The list of signatories is available here.

See the Declaration of Arbroath online here.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Multicultural Ulster?

If you take the time to read the great historical volumes published in the 1800s, ie prior to the political turmoils of the various Home Rule crises which began in 1886, what you'll notice is the orthodox view was that Ulster as a province had been, throughout the centuries and millennia, a truly multicultural place. This is not understood today. Will post more here soon to develop this idea.