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.