Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dorchester and the 'Eagle Wing' association

In February 1634 our Eagle Wing minister Rev. John Livingstone and his former schoolteacher William Wallace travelled to Dorchester on the south coast of England to meet with Rev John White (1575–1648). White was an enthusiastic supporter of emigration to America and organised a number of voyages. Around 1623, just two years after the famous 'Thanksgiving' arrival tradition, White became actively involved with the 'Dorchester Adventurers'.

He secured a patent from King Charles I for a tract of land about 40 miles long, stretching from the Charles River at Boston up to and just beyond the Merrimack River at Newburyport, which is where later documents show Eagle Wing was bound for. In 1629 the Massachusetts Bay Company was formed, its shareholders including John Winthrop who would become the first Governor of the colony and whose son came to Ulster at least twice during 1635 to help with the planning of Eagle Wing, meeting with Livingstone & co at Sir John Clotworthy's castle in Antrim in October of that year.

The first ship White's company was associated with, the George Bonaventura, sailed in May 1629. A fleet of 11 ships was soon assembled. By 1640 about 10,000 people emigrated. So, rather than a one-off ‘solo run’ episode (which is how I have heard it described) Eagle Wing was in fact very carefully planned to be part of a large organised and successful wave of emigration from Britain to America.

White was one of those at the Westminster Assembly of 1643 and a firm advocate of the Solemn League and Covenant, a role which would have renewed his acquaintance with the Ulster ministers and Eagle Wing would-be emigrants.

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester is near White's rectory, his church - Holy Trinity and St Peter's - is still in the town, and the doorway of his birthplace at Manor Farm in Oxford has his name inscribed above the doorway.

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Before 'Literally Hitler' – meet 'Bluidy Clavers', John Graham of Claverhouse (1648–89)

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‘Literally Hitler’ has become the tired insult of 2016. Everybody who ‘progressives’ in particular don’t like is described in impassioned tone as ‘Literally Hitler’. Often for relatively minor things such as a difference of opinion, not the actual invading of neighbouring countries and suchlike. Whilst many are getting excited about ‘post-truth’ being the buzz-term of the year, for me it pales in comparison with this very worn-out Adolfian accusation. It is little more than Godwin’s Law 2.0. It’s pretty grotesque to belittle the slaughter of the millions who were rounded up, gassed and burned in ovens during the Holocaust in particular. I’ve been to Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Before the arrival of Hitler on the national and world stage in 1933, there must have been other commonly-understood personalities who were up until then regarded as the embodiment of unimaginable evil. For Lowland Scots and Ulster-Scots, the obvious one that springs to mind is John Graham of Claverhouse (1648–89), a.k.a ‘Bonnie Dundee’ by his supporters, and ‘Bloody Dundee’ by his opponents and victims. In Scots he was ‘Bluidy Clavers’. 

He was the first Viscount Dundee, prior to which he had been the 7th Laird of Claverhouse. At some point in the 1680s King James II gave him military command of all of the King’s forces in Scotland. In James’ previous office as Duke of York he had announced that:

"there would never be peace in Scotland till the whole of the country south of the Forth was turned into a hunting field.” (source here)

Not hunting for stag or pheasants, hunting for humans - Covenanter Presbyterians. And Claverhouse got the job. His name occurs time and again on the gravestones of Covenanter martyrs across Scotland. A now-deceased friend of mine told me of having been at a folk music event in Wigtown in the south coast of Galloway some years ago, and a visiting singer began a rendition of the old Jacobite song in praise of Claverhouse called ‘Bonnie Dundee’. He told me that there was shall we say a heated reaction. No wonder.

Claverhouse was killed in the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 when the Jacobites famously defeated the forces of King William III (William of Orange) which were led by General Hugh Mackay. Claverhouse was buried at the church of nearby Blair Castle. There have been attempts to rewrite Claverhouse as maybe not having been as bad as his legend has painted, but the legendary image has stuck. Of the many soldiers who were tasked throughout the 1661-1688 period to hunt down Covenanters, his name stands above them all - according to Professor Michael Montgomery's exhaustive research, even as far as County Tyrone and also America with the warning to errant children that 'the Clavers will get you' (source here). James Leyburn’s landmark volume The Scotch-Irish: A Social History has further examples of the same expression (see here).

In the early 1900s, Millisle-born missionary Amy Carmichael wrote of one of her maternal Dalzell ancestors, probably the notorious Thomas Dalzell of Binns, being “a friend of Claverhouse, who persecuted the Covenanters. My father’s people were Covenanters”. I know an elderly couple who live outside Portaferry, the wife of whom told me one night at a talk I was giving in Portavogie that her family tradition was that her ancestors had fled from Scotland to Ulster to get away from Claverhouse.

PS: I remember being on school Scripture Union summer camps in the picturesque town of Moffat on three occasions in the late 1980s (when I was 14, then 17 and finally 18) at a place now called the Well Road Centre, and being pretty horrified that the Black Bull Hotel had a plaque on the wall which told some of Claverhouse's story, a photo of which I’ve added below.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Rural Virginia knows us best - Joseph A Waddell's account of 'The Scotch-Irish' (1902)


The Annals of Augusta County, published in 1902, has a very good summary of Ulster-Scots history. Its introduction is simply entitled 'The Scotch-Irish’ which in 15 pages sweeps through two centuries of history from the late 1500s up to the late 1700s when Ulster-Scots emigrant families - who he described on page 5 as ‘Ulster Scotch’ - were making an impression upon frontier Virginia. Page 8 includes a long footnote about the Covenanter slave/prisoner shipwreck of the Crown of London in 1679 (click here).

The author, Joseph A Waddell (1847–1925), claimed descent from one of the men who survived and fled to Ulster for refuge, a William Waddell. This biography says that the Waddells lived in County Down for three generations and emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1739.

Another account traces the family specifically to Newry where Rev James Waddell, known as ‘The Blind Preacher’ had been born also in 1739, presumably just before the family emigrated (Wikipedia entry here). James’ parents were Thomas Waddell (b 1707) and Janet Bruce (b 1710). The Covenanter William Waddell was Thomas’ father. Some of this genealogy is included in the Annals on page 329 (click here).

• The Annals of Augusta County is available online here
• Rev James Waddell was tutor to Donegal-born Rev Charles Cummings, the author of Virginia’s 1775 Fincastle Resolutions (see previous post here)
• Rev James Waddell had been tutored by Armagh-born Rev Samuel Finley at the famous ‘Log College’ (Wikipedia entry here)
• He was the subject of a story by William Wirt, who was fascinated by the power of his oratory (link here

"... Guess my surprise, when, on my arrival at Richmond, and mentioning the name of this man, I found not one person who had ever before heard of JAMES WADDELL! IS IT NOT strange that such a genius as this, so accomplished a scholar, so divine an orator, should be permitted to languish and die in obscurity within eighty miles of the metropolis of Virginia! ..." 

A tablet, containing the following inscription, in commemoration of the Rev. James Waddell, was erected in the Courthouse of Lancaster County, Virginia, in 1905:

IN MEMORIAM Rev. James Waddell, D. D. Son of Thomas and Janet Waddell, of the County Down, Ireland. Born on the Atlantic Ocean, in 1739, when his parents emigrated to America. Died in Lousia County, Virginia, Sept. 17, 1805. Licensed as a Probationer April 2, 1741, by the old Presbytery of Hanover.

Resided on Corratoman River, Lancaster County, Virginia, in 1762, and had three preaching places, viz: Lancaster C. H., the Forest Meet- inghouse, and the Northumberland Meetinghouse.

In 1768 married Mary Gordon, daughter of Col. James Gordon, of Lancaster County, an elder in the church, and a member of the Court, and the maternal grandfather of Gen. William F. Gordon, of Albemarle.

Taught Meriwether Lewis and Governor James Barbour.

Was at one time minister of the Tinkling Spring Church, Augusta Co., Va., and as a patriot, in the Revolution, addressed Tate's Com- pany at Midway, Rockbridge County, Virginia.

Immortalized in Wirt's British Spy, when in a sermon of thrilling oratory and magic eloquence on the passion of our Saviour, he electrified his hearers by the beautiful and sublime quotation from Rousseau: "Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ like a God."

This tablet is presented to Lancaster County through the Circuit Court, by Capt. Geo, P. Squires, Ocran, Lancaster, County, Virginia.




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The return of satire?

It's about time that somebody started to make fun of what has happened to western culture. These are three recent videos which folk have been sharing online, and which I hope ware just the start of a tidal wave that sweeps all of the stupid away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Women of the Revolution – Jane White of County Antrim

"... The anecdote of her in the sketch of Mrs. Wylie illustrates this trait of character. Major Kennedy, who is still living, mentions another. In the war of 1812, he wished to raise recruits for his troop of horse, and knowing that Mrs. White had a fine supply of sons, he rode to her house to make known his business. All her sons were in the field at work except the youngest, whom she called, and in her broad Scotch-Irish dialect, bade him "rin awa' ta the fiel' an' tell his brithers ta cum in an' gang an' fight for their counthry, like their father afore them." ..."

Rev William Martin sermon extract, South Carolina, Sunday 11 June 1780: "unresisting Americans, praying for quarter, were chopped to pieces.”


The content of this sermon is very grim. The appeal back to the times a century before of the Covenanters in Scotland is deeply significant. You can read more about the incident here, with the memorial monument shown above. A young Andrew Jackson was among those who tended to the wounded and mutilated survivors who were brought to the church:

'... At eleven o'clock precisely, the venerable form of Martin, the preacher, came in sight. He was about sixty years of age, and had a high reputation for learning and eloquence. He was a large and powerful man, with a voice which it is said might have been heard at the distance of half a mile. As he walked from the place where he had hitched his horse, towards the stand, it being customary, when the congregation was too large to be accommodated in the meeting-house, to have the service in the open air, the loud and angry words of the speakers must have reached his ears. The voices ceased as he approached, and the congregation was soon seated in silence upon the logs around the stand.

When he arose to speak, every eye was fixed upon him. Those who had been most noisy expected a reproof for their desecration of the Sabbath, for their faithful pastor was never known to fail of rebuking those whose deportment was unsuited to the solemnity of the day. But at this time he too seemed absorbed with the subject that agitated every bosom.

"My hearers," he said, in his broad Scotch-Irish dialect— "talk and angry words will do no good. We must fight! As your pastor—in preparing a discourse suited to this time of trial—I have sought for all light, examined the Scriptures and other helps in ancient and modern history, and have considered especially the controversy between the United Colonies and the mother country. Sorely have our countrymen been dealt with, till forced to the declaration of their independence—and the pledge of their lives and sacred honor to support it. Our forefathers in Scotland made a similar one, and maintained that declaration with their lives; it is now our turn, brethren, to maintain this at all hazards."

After the prayer and singing of the Psalms—he calmly opened his discourse. He cited many passages from Scripture to show that a people may lawfully resist wicked rulers ; pointed to historical examples of princes trampling on the people's rights; painted in vivid colors the rise and progress of the Reformation—the triumph of truth over the misrule and darkness of ages—and finally applied the subject by fairly stating the merits of the Revolutionary controversy. Giving a brief sketch of the events of the war from the first shedding of blood at Lexington, and warming with the subject as he went on, his address became eloquent with the fiery energy of a Demosthenes. In a voice like thunder, frequently striking with his clenched fist the clapboard pulpit, he appealed to the excited concourse, exhorting them to fight valiantly in defence of their liberties. As he dwelt on the recent horrid tragedy—the butchery of Buford's men, cut down by the British dragoons while crying for mercy—his indignation reached its height. Stretching out his hand towards Waxhaw—

"Go see," he cried— "the tender mercies of Great Britain! In that church you may find men, though still alive, hacked out of the very semblance of humanity: some deprived of their arms—mutilated trunks: some with one arm or leg, and some with both legs cut off. Is not this cruelty a parallel to the history of our Scottish fathers, driven from their conventicles, hunted like wild beasts? Behold the godly youth, James Nesbit—chased for days by the British for the crime of being seen on his knees upon the Sabbath morning!" etc.

To this stirring sermon the whole assembly responded. Hands were clenched and teeth set in the intensity of feeling; every uplifted face expressed the same determination, and even the women were filled with the spirit that threatened vengeance on the invaders. During the interval of divine worship they went about professing their resolution to do their part in the approaching contest; to plough the fields and gather the crops in the absence of the men—aye, to fight themselves, rather than submit. In the afternoon the subject was resumed and discussed with renewed energy—while the appeals of the preacher were answered by even more energetic demonstrations of feeling. When the worship was concluded, and the congregation separating to return homeward, the manly form of Ben Land was seen walking among the people, shaking hands with every neighbor and whispering in his ear the summons to the next day's work...'

- from The Women of the American Revolution. v.3 by EF Ellet (1848). All three volumes have tonnes of great Scotch-Irish material.


• the quote in the post title is from an account published just 5 years later by David Ramsay in his History of the Revolution of South Carolina. Ramsay's parents were both from Ulster.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

North Down Museum Covenanters talk - women and slaves // 350th anniversary of the Pentland Rising a.k.a the Battle of Rullion Green

I gave an illustrated (by Powerpoint) talk last week at North Down Museum for Bangor Historical Society on the Covenanters, covering mainly 150 years and broken into 5 chapters:

1. Background 1560-1606

2. The Ulster Dimension 1606–1638

3. The 2 Covenants: 1638–1644

4. Persecution: 1661-1688

5. Legacy: 1688-present

Almost 100 people turned up, and all were attentive and quiet throughout. Most acknowledged that they were shocked by the story - both by the barbaric actions of the state at that time, and also shock that a story which was once so well-known was fairly new to many of them.

Two important questions from the audience at the end were:

a) Did women experience similar sufferings as men did? The answer is yes, and a good book on the subject is the 1862 book Ladies of the Covenant (online here) which gives 23 biographies of women of the Scottish gentry. I had of course told the story of the Two Margarets, and touched on other stories featuring women throughout.

b) Slavery. One man objected to the idea that the 257 male prisoners who had been onboard the ship The Crown Of London (which was shipwrecked at Orkney in 1679 en route to the plantations of Barbados and the Carolinas) were actually experiencing ‘slavery’. He was concerned at an implicit drawing of equivalence between the Covenanters’ experience with the scale and experience of African slavery.

A 1908 book entitled Exiles of the Covenant by WH Carslaw is a good source on the topic, but I can’t find it online anywhere. J.K. Hewison’s two volume set The Covenanters (1913: Vol I here / Vol 2 here) contains numerous references – for example to John Mathieson of Closeburn, a slave-master called Malloch who wanted the young Patrick Walker as his personal slave, that there was even a ‘white slave mart in Scotland’ and that 'inscribed slave-collars were still in use in Scotland’. And many more references in Hewison alone.

There’s no equivalence between Covenanters and Africans. But neither should the Scottish experience be disregarded. Later editions of A Cloud of Witnesses, first published in 1714, include a section entitled ‘A List of the Banished’ (see here), with numerous women mentioned throughout the lists of men.


On 28 November it will be 350 years since the atrocity at Pentland or Rullion Green. In 1866, the young Robert Louis Stevenson made this one of his first stories. The two ministers named on the ancient memorial stone which still stands there today were from Ulster - McCormick from Magherally and Crookshanks from Raphoe. They were hacked down by troops led by Thomas Dalzell who was the only man to refuse to sign the Solemn League and Covenant at Carrickfergus in 1642. They were led by Colonel James Wallace, a former Sovereign of Belfast and resident of Ballycarry in County Antrim.

Why was a group of 900 civilians set upon by 3000 troops? What was the threat of something which today we might call a 'civil rights march'?

• Charles Terry Sanford's 1905 book on the subject is online hereDescription of The Pentland Rising by the Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association • a more detailed account can be read hereWikipedia entry here • the site is an historic battlefield, according to Historic Scotland

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Re-digging the old wells

A recent sermon at Millisle Baptist was based on a passage from Genesis 26. Verse 18 jumped off the page at me:

'And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.'

The recovery and restoration of old things is a endless task, but an important one. They get forgotten or purposely neglected, and with the extraordinary pace of change in the past say 50 years or so a lot has been almost lost.

There remains a lot of really strong oral history among the older generation. It constantly hits me that unless these things are recorded, written down, then to future generations the stories may as well never have existed at all - they will be completely lost. It is hard to do, as with recording stories of older people there is an implicit message to them of their own mortality. It's one of the sensitivities that prevented me from recording my own mother in her latter years, body wrecked but mind pin-sharp. I wish now I had done it, but I knew at the time I just couldn't.

Keep reading old things. Keep bringing the stories back. Keep re-digging the wells.


(ps the sermon was theological, the need to re-visit the old foundational Gospel truths – not about recording local history!)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

America's cultural blend: Scotch-Irishness as a broader influence

Gianno Caldwell

So we wake up today and the world looks different. Everyone's talking about Trump.

I sat up last night to watch the coverage, reflecting on our 3 week trip to the USA back in the summer. One of the things that struck me then - especially in Washington DC - was the enormous ethnic diversity. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Indian Asians and Chinese Asians all there in pretty much equal proportions, visiting the great heritage sites of the nation such as the White House, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museums and so on. Yet all very much American. It was also the case at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia for the 4th July fireworks celebrations (which included the best flute band parade I have ever seen - in period costume carrying flaming torches).

Last night's coverage on Sky showed that again. The pic above shows a commentator who is African-American, with an Italian first name and a Scottish/Scotch-Irish surname. All of these cultural influences coming together.

I think that we in Northern Ireland make a mistake when we look back to an America of yesteryear, to say around 100 years ago when the Scotch-Irish Society was in its heyday, and Ulster had provided a long list of Presidents. Scotch-Irishness was probably more 'distinct' back then, more easily identified, for all sorts of social reasons.

Today, over a century on, multiple waves of immigration have added Italians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics to name but three, social barriers have broken down - and so Scotch-Irishness, whilst probably more 'diluted', is also more widespread as an influence. And not just in terms of surnames or ethnicity or geographical settlement areas, but in terms of general core values, attitudes, and so on.

We need to widen our view - and open up to this far broader story of the Scotch-Irish influence in the present and future, and so not rely solely on narrow somewhat ethno-centric impressions of how the past once was. When we're narrow we leave too many people out. When we're broad we tell our true story.

There are millions and millions and millions of people like Gianno. They have many influences and ancestries, but Scotch-Irishness is an important part of their mix.

So not just Appalachia, not just the South, not just rural, not just Presbyterian, not just bluegrass, not just religious, not just by surname, not just 1700s, not just caucasian. Think bigger.

Monday, November 07, 2016

"I don’t think we don’t place a high enough value on what we’ve inherited."

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been described as the ‘Paris of Appalachia’. Here’s an interview with journalist Brian O’Neill, author of a book of the same name. William Crawley’s Brave New World series is once again on BBC television, exploring the Scotch-Irish story in America, and last night’s episode touched on Pittsburgh. This is now another town I’ve gotta see. Next time I do Appalachia it’ll be the northern states, and on up into New Hampshire and Massachusetts. 

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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Baptists and Burns in Tennessee, 1800s.




The photograph above is of a classic Appalachian river baptism. Much colder than the warm immersion-heated indoor baptismal tank I experienced in a gospel hall in Bangor when I was 18! The Presbyterians get far too much coverage and it’s about time the Baptists got a look in. 

The flamboyantly-named Jesse Montreville Lafayette Burnett was born near Asheville in North Carolina in 1829. His paternal grandfather was known to be ‘of Scotch descent’ and his mother was a Montgomery, described as ‘partly Irish’. The family - two parents and 13 children - moved westwards to Cocke County, Tennessee, in 1835. J.M.L. was converted aged 13 and preached his first sermon at Pleasant Grove on the Pigeon River near today’s Pigeon Forge.

In Illustrated Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers, 1775–1875, by James Jehu Burnett D.D. (1919), it says that J.M.L. took delight in the poems of Robert Burns -

“he had the ability too to read the great poet in dialect… it was a revelation to me to hear him recite "Tam O’ Shanter” … I have never since heard anybody who could do it in his style … I sometimes hear his tones through these long years as he would say

Ah Tam! Ah Tam!
Thou’ll get thy fairin’
In hell they’ll roast thee
Like a herrin"

The extract continues ‘a charming interpreter of the Scotch poet and a delightful lecturer on “Bobby Burns”’. Now the abbreviation ‘Bobby Burns’ is prone to send a purist into orbit with rage, but it is significant that Burns’ works were so admired in rural Tennessee. 

Illustrated Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers, 1775–1875 contains biographies of maybe 100 preachers, many of whom are described as Scotch-Irish. I suspect that in fact the great majority of them were. Those who are specified as such have the surnames Anderson, McGinnia, M’Carrell, Smith, Russell, Love, Moore, Snead, Craig, Taylor, Montgomery, Bryan, Baker, McCallen, Snead, Ross,