Saturday, October 31, 2015

Yin for Hallowe'en

Tam o'Shanter from Spiral Productions on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Francis Boyle and the "ladies of the night" of Donaghadee – Hornbook's Ghaist.

(Fully understood, Ulster-Scots poetry isn't just a source of old words and vocabulary. The poems take the reader to a different time and place, to better appreciate how society functioned in days gone by. With thanks to Fiona McDonald for permission to reproduce this 2009 post from her blog).

Here's a poem written by Francis Boyle (c1730–post 1811) of Gransha County Down from his 1811 volume Miscellaneous Poems. His was the Gransha near Dundonald rather than the one near Bangor. Although it is often said that Ulster-Scots writers merely imitated the works of Robert Burns, many of Boyle's poems were written before Burns work was published, although this one does appear to have been influenced by Burns.

Interestingly, Robert Burns wrote 'Death and Dr Hornbook' in 1785 as a satire about John Wilson, the son of Glasgow weaver who initially came to teach at Tarbolton and later kept a shop where he also sold drugs and gave out medical advice. A 'hornbook' was a sheet of paper with basic learning tools such as the alphabet, numerals and the Lord's Prayer and this would have been mounted on wood and covered by a protective plate of transparent horn. Burns wrote his poem after hearing Wilson going on about his medical knowledge at the Tarbolton Masonic Lodge. Here's Boyle's poem:


It happen't ance in Donaghadee,
No' monie perches frae the kee,
A gentleman I chanc't to see,
'Mang ither foks,
Wha deign't to talk a while wi' me,
An' sklent his jokes.

He saw that I was auld an' gray,
An' had but little for to say,
My garb was neither mean nor gay,
Just kintra weed,
An' as it was a frosty day,
Had tie't my head.

He took me for some kintra clown,
Wha liv't far distant frae the town;
He'll rue his folly I'll be boun',
To slight my leuk;
I'll spread his fame the kintra roun',
In my new beuk.

I hear he has attain't some skill,
To wait on women when they're ill,
An can prescribe sic dose or pill,
As mak's them worse;
An' braid receipts for them he'll fill,
To swall his purse.

But yet mair famous for his cures
O' batter't bawds, an' pockie whores,
While here an' there he taks his tours,
'Mang brothel-houses;
He sudna scorn my mental pow'rs,
Nor slight the Muses.

These sportin' Does, like Mrs. Clarke,
That win their wages i' the dark,

An' warm their logies wi' their wark,

Which staps their water

They maun gie Hornbook monie a mark

To mak' them better.

Young Tarry-breeks is come ashore,

Thro' storms an' tempests that did roar -

Revisits now his paramour,

The sportin' maid,

An' swears she's sprightly, aft an' fore,

An' fit for trade.

Some folk will say he's but a quack,

But that maun be a great mistak';

He cur't young Jamie, Wull an' Jack,

An' teuk their fees,

An' mim-mouth't Meg, the ridden hack,

O' her disease.

Nae Hornbook bred in shire o' Ayr,

Wi' our new doctor can compare;

My lads, jog on, an' never spare

To warm their tail;

Twa or three days in Hornbook's care,

Will mak' thee hale.

As Jock does live at the sea-side,

He sud bathe aften in the tide;

To brace his nerves, an' clean his hide,

In the saut water;

Perhaps this might allay his pride,
An' stap his clatter.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Brilliant political advertising - SNP 2015

A friend showed me this the other day, I hadn't seen it earlier this year around the time of the UK General Election. Absolutely superb.

Braidstane Castle, Ayrshire, home of the Ulster Montgomeries

Braidstane Castle (detailed Wikipedia entry here), nowadays Anglicised in neighbouring farms as 'Broadstone', is long-gone. Dismantled in the 1700s, all that remains now is a stone boundary wall. It's just a short drive from Gateside near Beith in north Ayrshire, along Reek Street, to a bend in the road that normally wouldnt cause a second glance unless you knew what was once there. For here, Con O'Neill and Hugh Montgomery lived it up for three days in 1604, celebrating Con's escape and impending Royal pardon from Montgomery's friend King James VI & I, and also celebrating vast amounts of County Down land which Montgomery was going to receive in return.

Here it is, named as 'Braidstam' in Blaeu's map of 1665, not quite as big as the neighbouring Montgomery castles of Hessilhead and Giffen.

Braidstam v1 1665 Braidstam v2 1665


Here it is again, on Andrew Armstrong's map of Ayrshire, circa 1775 (See here for full res version)

Broadstone 640 1775

Somebody has recently marked the site on Google Maps (link here)

Broadstone Farms Big Broadstone Farms 640

More to follow...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

George Best, Ulster-Scot.

Don't take my word for it. His father was famously a member of the Harland & Wolff Burns Club. Germaine Greer once wrote that "George was a genuinely hard man, but hardness results in fragility. His working-class Ulster-Scots upbringing afforded him no way of coming to terms with that fragility". He spent his latter years living near his family outside Portavogie, in a relatively new house built on ground my father used to own and where I used to gather both spuds and straw bales – exactly three fields from where I now live. We can see the gable end from our front step. Here he is, looking Burns-esque, resplendent in full tartan.

Mp 0139411

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Joe Rae at Donaghadee Montgomery stone

Joe Rae Donaghadee

A week ago my friend Joe Rae called in on his annual road trip around Ireland. Joe and I got in touch many years ago through a shared appreciation of the song My Ain Countrie which was recorded by William MacEwan in 1911, and we have stayed in touch ever since. Joe lives in the hills above Beith in North Ayrshire. On previous visits I have made to see him, and his late wife Jean, he has taken me to the site of Braidstane Castle, which was the home of Sir Hugh Montgomery back in 1606, and also to the ancestral home of Montgomery's great rival, Sir James Hamilton, in the Main Street of the village of Dunlop which is also in Ayrshire. I took Joe on a wee jaunt around the Ards - up to Ballywalter, then to Donaghadee (specifically the Parish Church with the Montgomery memorial stone over the doorway), and then to Grey Abbey. Later that evening we went to the unveiling of a newly-restored cow tail pump in Greyabbey village, where I was pleased to introduce Joe to various Ards folk including Bill Montgomery, the head of the Ulster Montgomeries and a collateral descendant of the original Braidstane Montgomeries. The photo above could be captioned as: Joe Rae from near Montgomery's Braidstane visiting Donaghadee to see a Montgomery of Braidstane stane.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Donaghadee footage by drone

Saturday, October 03, 2015

James McHenry's inspirational aunt

Maligning and ignoring Ulster-Scots is nothing new. This is from novelist James McHenry's introduction to his 1798 Rebellion book O'Halloran, regarding the aunt who funded him to write it –

'…amidst the multitude of volumes which she had perused on these subjects, she was surprised to find none that gave anything like an accurate account of the people among whom she had spent her whole existence … she was much chagrined with the carelessness with which even professed travellers through Ireland have uniformly mentioned its northern province. Some, she would say, seem to treat the people of Ulster as altogether beneath their notice; others take delight in making them the objects of misrepresentation and slander; while none manifest for them that sympathy and respect, to which, from their spirit of enterprise and industry, they are assuredly entitled…'

In an excellent essay entitled 'Irish and American Frontiers in the Novels of James McHenry' by Stephen Dornan, from the Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies (Volume 3 Issue 1), comes this observation on the 'three stranded' cultural nature of Ulster –
'… McHenry saw Irish society not in terms of a binary between Protestant and Catholic, but rather as divided in triangular terms between Anglicans, Roman Catholics and dissenters. He was annoyed at Owenson’s wilful exclusion of the dissenting element from the moment of resolution in The Wild Irish Girl, in which Anglican ascendancy Ireland is symbolically united and reconciled to ancient Catholic Gaelic Ireland through the marriage of Horatio and Glorvina. The Anglican and Catholic traditions are symbolically reconciled, whilst the Presbyterian tradition is acknowledged by Owenson, but ultimately excluded …' – Published by the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen - online here.
Over 200 years later, these themes sadly persist.