Tuesday, July 30, 2019

1561: Mary Queen of Scots's return to Edinburgh – presented with the Bible and Psalms 'in Scots language'?

The extract above is from John Maxwell, 4th Lord Herries (1512–83) renowned Historical Memoirs of the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots. These were written in the 1500s and the manuscripts were published in the 1830s. Other references to Mary's return to Edinburgh don't specify that the Bible and Psalms she was presented with were 'in Scots languadge'. She had been in exile in France, and returned to a Reformed Scotland. John Knox's account of the same event says:

When the queen’s hieness was coming through the said port, the cloud openit, and the bairn descended down as it had been ane angel, and deliverit to her hieness the keys of the town, together with ane Bible and ane Psalm-buik coverit with fine purpour velvet.
Domestic Annals of Scotland, Robert Chambers quoting John Knox

As far as I can see there is no reference to this potentially linguistically-significant event in Graham Tulloch's comprehensive A History of the Scots Bible (1989).

Dumfries-born Maxwell was pro-Reformation but yet loyal to Mary Queen of Scots throughout his life. She knighted him in 1567 and he fought for her cause at the Battle of Langside in 1568.

Perhaps Maxwell was mistaken about them being 'in Scots language', but given his devotion to his Queen, it's unlikely that he would have recorded that specific linguistic detail wrongly. So, perhaps there are two remarkable dusty old volumes in a cupboard somewhere in Scotland, awaiting discovery, like these which were found a few months ago.

– More info on Maxwell here.
'Historical Memoirs' online here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Unusual voices

Many years ago I was introduced to the writings of Michael JF McCarthy (1864–1928); from memory I think somebody local to us was clearing out their books and I was given a clatter of them, some were big hefty volumes. McCarthy found himself on the wrong side of the religious-political establishment of his time and he became a prolific author. I think the ones I acquired are in a box in the roofspace.

McCarthy's was a dissenting voice, and he is said to have inspired his contemporary Frank Hugh O'Donnell (1846-1916). Born either in Carndonagh in Donegal, or possibly in Devon, O'Donnell appears to have been a bit of a maverick but also a staunch Home Ruler, as the title page of his History of the Irish Parliamentary Party (1910; online here) shows. It lists his credentials as 'formerly MP for Galway and Dungarvan; ex-member of Council of Home Rule League of Ireland; ex-Vice-President of Home Rule Confederation in Great Britain; and ex-President of Glasgow Home Rule Association'. That's him below. He also features in the National Portrait Gallery (see here).

Surprisingly, O'Donnell was a fan of the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne, as his letters to various newspapers in Ireland show. Those which appeared in the Belfast News Letter in 1903 were later published as a booklet. More to follow.

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Isn't it all just sectarian?"

I froze in my seat momentarily but tried to not let it show. A while back I was in 'polite company' and one of the people who was there, who I'd never met before but who knew a bit about me, remarked "Ulster-Scots – isn't it all just sectarian?". You expect clever people to choose their words a bit more carefully, but it was in equal parts stupid and yet honest. That perception had been formed in the mind of an otherwise intelligent human being.

Its fellow-traveller remark is "it's all just political". These twin tracks have been relentlessly reinforced ever since the Belfast Agreement catapulted Ulster-Scots from the fringes into the middle of contentious public life in Northern Ireland. I remember life at those pre-1998 fringes. I remember someone back then saying to me something like "no matter what the political future holds, Ulster-Scots is about culture, and cultural confidence".

That was true then and it remains true today and tomorrow, from whatever the Brexit future will present.

Lazy minds in Northern Ireland resort to 'sectarian' and 'political' far too easily. Our past, our future and our complexity demands better.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Two views on the 'Glorious Revolution' in National Review


"...Ask a decently well-read conservative or classical liberal to put a starting date on modern government (meaning by “modern” something like free and fair, liberal and democratic, decent and respectable) and nine times out of ten he’ll tell you 1688. 
It was in the summer of that year that the Dutch prince William of Orange invaded England and took the throne from his uncle and father-in-law, King James II. Under William (to the extent that anything can be said to have been “under William”), Parliament claimed a near monopoly on governing authority and adopted the Bill of Rights 1689, establishing the system of effective non-monarchy that perdures in Britain to the present day — and, the revolution’s defenders say, laying the groundwork for all limited, democratic governments to follow, including that of the United States..."

These two articles from National Review have popped into my Twitter feed recently. Neither are in my view coherent summaries of the period. But that they have been published at all shows how formative a moment it was / is. It is an era that needs to be 'reimagined' for our present age.

James P Sutton  - In Defence of the Glorious Revolution - click here

Declan Leary - Conservatives should not celebrate Religious Tyranny and Coercionclick here


Friday, July 19, 2019

James Connolly, 12th July 1913

James Connolly2.jpg

A few months after the huge public events which saw the signing of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant in September 1912, James Connolly was in Belfast on 12 July 1913, watching what he called the 'Orange Walk' - a term less militaristic than 'march' or maybe even 'parade' – and 'walk' is the term still used in Scotland to this day.

He wrote a lengthy article about what he saw and his reflections upon it. The whole piece makes for fascinating reading and is online here. If you have an interest in such things I would strongly encourage you to read it.

It's not just about the 12th, but goes back to the Plantation era, the Glorious Revolution, and the experiences of the 1700s and 1800s. He was very obviously well-read - how many 'Ulster Prods' either back then or today know about Andrew Stewart's History? It's been reprinted and is available here.

I wonder how much of an influence the Milligan family had been on his thinking? Connolly met Alice Milligan in the mid 1890s and her brother Ernest - who would later publish a small collection of Ulster-Scots flavoured poems – helped Connolly set up socialist organisations in Belfast and sold copies of The Workers Republic for him. (back in early 2018 I posted a series of articles here about the Milligans – see here).

There are points in the article where I disagree with him, there are points where I think he misses key ideas, but overall there's a lot there that I do agree with. He can see the differences of social class between those who carried out the Plantation of Ulster, and those who migrated to people it. He can see the 'three cultural strands' of Irish, English and Scottish. Being Edinburgh-born, to County Monaghan parents, maybe his own circumstances enabled him to understand. He could express admiration for aspects of the 12th and also level criticism. He could see some of the contrasts and contradictions within Ulster Protestant Unionism. He had bothered to read, listen, learn and think.

... The reader should remember what is generally slurred over in narrating this part of Irish history, that when we are told that Ulster was planted by Scottish Presbyterians, it does not mean that the land was given to them. On the contrary, the vital fact was, and is, that the land was given to the English noblemen and to certain London companies of merchants who had lent money to the Crown, and that the Scottish planters were only introduced as tenants of these landlords ... 
... Nor did the victory at the Boyne mean Civil and Religious Liberty… In 1704 Derry was rewarded for its heroic defence by being compelled to submit to a Test Act, which shut out of all offices in the Law, the Army, the Navy, the Customs and Excise, and Municipal employment, all who would not conform to the Episcopalian Church. The alderman and fourteen burgesses are said to have been disfranchised in the Maiden City by this iniquitous Act, which was also enforced all over Ireland. Thus, at one stroke, Presbyterians, Quakers, and all other dissenters were deprived of that which they had imagined they were fighting for at “Derry, Aughrim, and the Boyne.” …

Less than six months after the article was published, by the end of 1913 Connolly had helped to found the Irish Citizen Army, and so began the road which would lead to the Easter Rising, and his death by firing squad. History is full of 'what if' scenarios...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

CS Lewis, Ulster-Scots, and Oxford

On a recent visit to Oxford a friend recommended we should go to see the pub called The Eagle and Child (Wikipedia here) where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein frequently met, from 1933–1949, to discuss the deep-rooted craft of storytelling. Tolkien was convinced that there is only really one story, which he outlines in his 1939 essay On Fairy Stories. Lewis would propose to him that underlying every story is the one True story, a 'true myth'. When we got there it was packed with customers so photography opportunities were limited.

Lewis of course understood that Ulster-Scots was and is a legitimate cultural thread within Ulster's fabric, and used the term himself in his writings. His maternal ancestors were Hamiltons after all. His father Albert Lewis famously encountered Ulster-Scots vernacular being used in a court cases which he acted as a solicitor in - photo attached of the surprising case of Ulster-Italian Maria Volento (sic). A search of the Census of Ireland 1911 shows three households of Valentes living in Belfast.

You'll find various CS Lewis references elsewhere on this blog.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Rev John White and the ‘Eagle Wing’ recce

While in England recently I visited the birthplace of Rev John White, a founder of the Massachusetts Bay Company and Puritan colony in 1628. Our own ‘Eagle Wing’ minister John Livingston of Killinchy, and his friend William Wallace, did a recce from Groomsport in 1634 and met with White in the south coast town of Dorchester to plan their ill-fated voyage which took place in 1636. Wikipedia here.