Friday, July 31, 2020

Daft Eddie and the Smugglers of Strangford Lough; a Tale of Killinchy (1914 edition)

I was delighted to pick this up online this week, from a bookseller in England, after many years of searching for this particular edition. When I was about 18 my late aunt Doris gave me a copy of the very familiar 1979 Mourne Observer large format hardback edition which includes an important collection of black and white photos of what were then the continuing traditions of the smugglers' stories (she also gave me a Betsy Gray and the Hearts of Down which was also written by WG Lyttle. The character dialogue in Daft Eddie is of course in light Ulster-Scots. It's a very famous book round these parts; Eddie is a folk hero and there is a restaurant named after him near Sketrick Castle.

The edition I have just acquired is the rare Carswell printing from 1914 with the full colour cover depicting a gang of smugglers around a farmhouse table, replete with skulls and candles. Intriguingly, inside is a stamp which reads "Libraries NI Withdrawn from Stock". On the inside has been pencilled "v scarce, £48" but I was happy to pay the website its asking price of just £25 including postage. I wonder how frequently Libraries NI dispose of such rare editions and by what mechanism that is done?

As you can see it was once owned by a Newtownards man called G. Ivan Patterson. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tenant Right and Archibald M'Ilroy

This extract from When Lint Was In The Bell is insightful - M'Ilroy's activism around land reform means that he must have known about TW Russell (whose story I need to return to and complete). Nobody owned any land, just the landlords. Not all landlords were evil. But rural people had laboured and toiled and sweated over their few rented acres for generations and there was no greater desire than to actually own it, and to hand it down. Here's what Archibald wrote –

There has been some chat here recently about our religiously segregated school system, and that (surprise surprise) children are being taught two different curriculums and two different versions of history (article from The Guardian is here).

Looking back to my own school curriculum from '83-'90, I learned pretty much nothing about my own place, despite it being full of literature, language, story, tradition and music; no sense of value for where I lived. Anything of that nature I learned outside and after the classroom, so therefore I had perhaps been 'neutralised'. Perhaps others have in some way been 'radicalised'.

Tenant Right is a story that we all share. Nobody owned any land. Perhaps that is why it is not talked about. Maybe there is no real desire to have a common story.

Putting the word 'shared' in a few press releases and project titles is a cosmetic exercise. Taking down statues is similarly easy and symbolic. These things satisfy the chattering classes and give the media a few pieces of footage to loop for a few days, but they don't actually change much at all. The hard work to be done - with relationships and mindsets - is superbly expressed in this joint article by Robert P George and Cornel West. –

"To unite the country, we need honesty and courage. All of us must speak the truth — including painful truths that unsettle not only our foes but also our friends and, most especially, ourselves..."
Read it all and you'll see what vision looks like.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Ulster Anti-Prohibition Council (Northern Whig - Saturday 12 February 1921)

Gellocks and Slatecutters

This is an earwig, but in Ulster-Scots its a gellock. Below is a woodlouse, usually known as a 'slater' across pretty much all of Ulster. But for me in the tiny sliver of the Ards Peninsula we always called it a 'slatecutter'. A Twitter friend who is researching these wee beasties directed me to the fascinating 'socchetre' etymology underneath.

Monday, July 27, 2020

'Old Tyme Gospel' evening, Sunday 12th July

My brother and I were invited to home-record a lockdown session of old gospel songs and hymns and associated stories for 'Radio Boyne' which was a 4 day internet radio broadcast by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, to support their '12th At Home' initiative this year due to coronavirus. It was one-take, no edits, no fancy effects, unscripted and about as raw as you can get.

Our piece was broadcast on the evening of Sunday 12th July and is now available as a 'listen again' feature here, as two half hours. We later recorded a second live version of the final track, The Old Rugged Cross, in a key that worked better for our voices. It is online on Soundcloud here.

All four days of broadcasts are also available, lots of excellent material. (pic above by Graham Baalham-Curry)

1798 Rebellion - the nuances of the 'Turn Oot'

Ballyclare author Archibald M'Ilroy's 1897 book When Lint Was In The Bell has two references to the 1798 Rebellion, on the cusp of the centenary. One is a reference to his grandfather who prayed for the 'misguided rebels' as well as the soldiers –

The other is M'Ilroy's own sense of the events of 100 years before, of oral tradition and also subsequent smears. His use of the term 'Turn Oot' is significant (which also crops up in the poetry of Cullybackey's Adam Lynn as this previous post shows - 'the turn oot fecht').

I had seen 'Turn Oot' used in more recent publications, and I must admit I had thought it might be an Ulster-Scots neologism. But not at all, it is a term with rich County Antrim pedigree. A few searches in the British Newspaper Archive confirm this.

1798 is not simple. It is more interesting than that.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Who's your Evil Empire?

• In The True Believer, a seminal book on mass movements by social philosopher Eric Hoffer, Hoffer writes: “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually, the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.” (quote from this article on


Everybody has an 'Evil Empire'. It might be led by Trump or Boris. Or Corbyn or Sturgeon. Or Carson or Connolly. Hitler has got to feature because everyone's a Fascist, even the supposedly anti-Fascists of 'Antifa' behave a lot like their adversaries. It could be the masterminds of the Chinese germ laboratories or maybe the Russians election-hacking bots. It could be the Hard Left or the Far Right. It might be the 'Western' male patriarchy or it might be the Middle Eastern version. Maybe the Illuminati? Capitalism or Communism? It could be the British Empire or maybe even the Vatican. It might even be all of these. All of them must be in some way evil, because all humans are flawed (aka sinners) and so all human systems are flawed. All systems are ladders for the few to gain to power, and therefore all oppress somebody.

The extract below is from ATQ Stewart's The Ulster Crisis (published 1967) a book I had heard much about but had never bothered reading. I had no idea that the Pope wanted to seize the Belfast shipyards ;). In today's world which is gripped by global conspiracy theories, it seems apt to show that paranoias are a universal human condition. "It is doubtful if the Ulster Protestant had much desire to persecute his neighbour because of the way he worshipped, but he certainly had an excessive fear of ... the powerful and world-wide organisation behind him". 

When your ideology convinces you that your neighbours aren't sovereign individuals, but covertly they are the willing emissaries of an Evil Empire, then you're not far away from a very dark place. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

"The latent aesthetic talent of the Anglo-Scot in Ulster" – Lynn Doyle, The Spirit of Ireland, 1936

I love the 1921 autobiography An Ulster Childhood by Dowpatrick's Leslie Montgomery (aka Lynn C Doyle) which I have posted about here before. He was himself a 'Northern Scot' in ancestry and upbringing, but he spent most of his adulthood south of the new border.

In general, his 1936 The Spirit of Ireland is nowhere near as insightful as An Ulster Childhood. I get the impression he was writing The Spirit of Ireland for the London publisher's audience, as it was one volume of a multi-authored series of travel books. It is fairly stereotypical in its themes and presentation of them. But it does have many gleaming gems in it, such as this –

Three cracking paragraphs - the suspicion of arts and literature, the disinterest in the theatre, and brutal banter. The mutual-verbal-abuse that I revel in with my closest friends and family still shocks my England-raised wife, she just can't get her head around it al all. To us, as Doyle says, such 'critical' and 'highly irreverent' speech is in fact a marker of steadfast friendship.

"Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom?

... cause all I ever had were Redemption Songs".

Friday, July 24, 2020

Power to the People?

I was sent this video a few days back, it is interesting on a range of levels – most notably for an NI audience for how it presents the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688–90. It falls into the tribal Catholic King v Protestant King simplification, but after that the script improves. Rethinking the hyper-local in an international context. We have had 'lockdown', maybe John Locke should be reopened. Authority v Liberty. The State v The People.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

London Review of Books - discussions on Ulster-Scots, 1995

This post might as well begin by quoting Star Wars - "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away".

A quarter of a century ago, before the Belfast Agreement thrust Ulster-Scots into the harsh and retina-melting limelight, (mixed metaphor alert) or as a bewildered lamb thrown before bloodthirsty gladiators on the sandy fighting arena that is the Northern Ireland political-ideological colosseum, conversations like this were taking place among gifted and intuitive writers, who were engaging meaningfully and respectfully with actual residents and communities.

Brilliant discussion here in the London Review of Books letters page, among Tom Paulin, Michael Longley, Peter McDonald, James Fenton and my good friend Philip Robinson - click here to view.

Heaney could have graciously eased into this conversation. Quality, calibre, empathy and understanding. Far from the madding crowd. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The love letters from Hugh Montgomery to Sara Maxwell, 1625 and 1631

Hugh Montgomery's first wife, Elizabeth Shaw of Greenock, rightly gets a lot of attention given her enormous impact on his County Down settlement project. She died (precise date unknown, but some time between 1620–23) and in 1630 he married Sara Maxwell the Countess of Wigtown. She didn't like Ulster much and went back to Scotland. Here are two letters he wrote to her, in 1625 from Lochmaben in the Scottish Borders, and from Newtownards in 1631. It's hard to know how to describe the language, Montgomery was an educated and well-connected man, but Scots vocabulary and influence still comes shining through his English.

From Hugh, First Viscount Montgomerie of Airds,
to Sara, Countess of Wigton
A proposal of marriage.

20th April 1625.

Right Honnorabill,
He whois growndis hath sildowm bein settillid by imagenarey contemplatiowns, nathir yit hath had his actiowns limettid by othir menis lavell, bot who by the practicall effectis of his awin personall actiowns is accustomat (by Godis spetiall fawour) to owircom his opposing deficultes, hes (finding his accustomat rest and liberte becom a stranger vnto him) stolin him self from cuntrei and attendantis to offir him self to yowr honnouris wew, that by conferant he may not onle ondirstan the reall effect of his onaccustomat distrubant wroght by the fleing fame of yowr ledyschipis raer wertws, that by conferant he may ondirstand how athir to atten to the combill of desayiris or support the trevarsis of his froneing fortowne. This intretting to be exkussid for that he hes thus passid the lemeitis of yowr honnouris prescriptiowne as for him who in kissing your honnouris is resolfeid to reman,

Youris honnouris affectionat servant,


Loghmaban, this 20 of April 1625.

To the right honnorable and his singular good ladei, the Cowntas of Wigtowne, theis.


Hugh, Viscount Montgomerie of Airds,
to his wife, Sara, Countess of Wigton
Complaining of her long absence from him, and sending her some strong waters.

7th March 1631.

Right Honnourabill and Deirly Belowid Hart, —
By your letteris to your freindis heir it appeirris that ye ar informeid that I am seikly, quharof ye desayr to be aduerteised, for that if it war so, ye, my hart, would presently com hetheir what watheir soewir it war. I could hef bein bettir satisfeid that ye, my hart, had keipid that to your self, in regard that our best effectid freindis, by all that heiris of ws, ar (not without caus possessid) with a oppiniowne that ye, my hart, heth newir lekin or contentment of my companei, no quhillist I am in helth, and that, heirring of my seiknes, ye sould be so ernist as to presipitat your self to ane em[in]ent dangerus jornay for a weisseit in my siknes (a confortles weisseit to trewly effectid luferis). No, my hairt, what thois that ar so possessid with the first oppeneowne would mak of this otheir, I leif the sensour may be mad of it to your approweid iugisment; and for that my desayris ar that ye, my confort, sould so settill your self and your turns thaer that that sosiete and confort that we ar tayeid the on to the otheir might be with such a mvtull hermonei contenoweid and confermeid, that this so gros and raer ensampill of our extrawagencies might ewaneis; and that we both might approwf our selfis to be fathfull, lowing and trew confortteris on of anotheir durring the small remender that is reservid for ows (leist a wore insew to both our discontentis). I will be sattisfeeid, therfor, to beir with this grewows occasiowne of discontent for yowr absenc for a tym, that therin ye may mak such a full and fenall settilling of thois occasiowns ye hawe thaer, that we both may iniow the confort of on anotheirris compane. The respect that I hef to the doctour is for that he is a Mexwell, and heth good partis in heim. God hes so blissid me with the helth of the bodei (God mak me thankfull) that I hef no ows of medesin. My ewir hopfull confort, I persaw that ther is no hopis of settilling betuix the erill and yow, so as theis your hopfull dochteiris ar lek to hawe no confort from yow. Wald to God that I could suplei both your defectis. My hart, I hef sent your horc to yow, and such a on as I hop will gif yow content in all, safing in his cullowr; if nocht, he will both dissawe and discontent me. My harte, thaer is a miserabill and lamentabill accident fallin owt to auld Achinneill, that will inforc me to keip the gennerall assayis at Kragfergus the 24 of this instant; and I hef also on occasiowne of my awin that I most keip the assaysis at Downe, for the quhilk sittis the 4 of Apprayll, so as by Godis faworabill assistanc I intend to be at Downeskay the 10 of Appreill (so God grant a saf passag), to see quhat conclutiowne I can mak of that fekles bulding I hawe ther; and in attending, my hart, your pleisowr conserneing your presenc heir (quhar as ye ar so mvch langid for). As conserneing my actiowns in law, I dow nocht dowt ther ewent, altho my aduersareis dow postpone tyme and drayf me to chargeis. My hart, being tow weill acquanttid with your extraordenar spaer dayat, and that this lentren tym mvfis yow to a harder, I hef sent yow a small supplei of strong wattiris of Doctour Maxwell his making heir in your awin towne, and thay ar als good as anny in Londowne, intretting yow to mak ows of them (as, or if, ye respect me) to confort that stomak of yourris that hes a frawerd gardean. To conclud, if our nobill, generus, and most lowing sone, the Lard of Hempisfeill, or anny vtheir of your nobill freindis, by thaer conwoy hetherwart, will gres your jornay to theis powr cottagis ye hef heir, lat mestir James be aduertissid what ye wald hef downe; that sinc ye ar nocht destitude of prowesiowne heir, that ther may be so mvch sent to Downskay as ye thinkis nessisare for that place, for this will ansuer for it self. This, hopping that quhatsoewir is insert in theis laynis schall be constroweid in the best sence as commeing from him that, tho he be agetattid and tossed with ma[n]y dywers and most inportant motiowns, yeit and still in the singilnes of hart and all trew affectiowne as he is, so shall he ewir approwf him self, your ledeiships fathfull and ewir lowing husband to be commandeid,


Newtowne, this 7 of Marche, 1631.
To his right honnourabill and his onle and deirly belowid ledei, the Cowntes of Wigtowne and Veiscowntes Montgomere of the Greit Aerds, theis.


Montgomery married Sara Maxwell in 1630. As the Montgomery Manuscripts, which were written by his grandson William Montgomery, unromantically say, Hugh –

“…brought her to Newtown, to fill up the empty side of his bed… but she not liking to live in Ireland… after some months stay, returned to Scotland, and did remain therein, which obliged his Lordship to make yearly summer visits to her, and to send divers messages (by his son George) to persweade her Ladyship to return and cohabit with him…”

She was not to be persuaded, so Sir Hugh sent her a page-boy called Edward Betty or Beattie - a dwarf with golden curly hair described as “….the prettiest little man I ever beheld. He was of a blooming damask rose complexion; his hair was of a shining gold colour, with natural ring-like curls hanging down, and dangling to his breast…”

Sara Montgomery died on 29 March 1636, aged 60, and was buried at Holyrood in Edinburgh. By now aged 76, Sir Hugh’s final known visit to Scotland was to attend her Sarah’s funeral, but on the way back his coach overturned and he suffered a number of injuries – “the pains whereof reverted every spring and harvest till his own fall”.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Human solidarity

My father has a cousin who now must be around 80 years old, who has spent most of her life working as a nurse in Loloma in rural north west Zambia. That's it marked on the map above. It is a long way from Portavogie where she grew up, and a long way from the Royal Victoria Hospital where she trained as a nurse. I have only met her twice as far as I can remember. Northern Ireland stopped being her 'home' many decades ago.

A man I know well, who is around the same age as her, was a doctor in Uganda when Idi Amin came to power in 1971. The UK Foreign Office advised all Britons to leave the country but he opted to stay on for as long has he could. As well as daily medical duties, he was a vocal opponent of 'Western' corporations exploiting Africa for profit (one issue he worked against is here). When he and his young family finally had to leave they just managed to escape across the border in the nick of time - he was hit on the head with the butt of a machine gun at the border crossing and he still bears the scar it left him with. Amin killed an unknown number of his own people, estimates range from 100,000 – 500,000.

As the 'West' descends into perhaps the worst race relations in living memory, it is worth remembering that human solidarity has frequently overcome the limitations of ethnicity, genetics and politics, for a higher purpose. May that continue.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Wigtownshire Creamery in Ballymoney, 1899

These old cream jars are brilliant and well-known examples of Ulster-Scots 'material culture'. The Wigtownshire Creamery Company was founded in the Scottish port of Stranraer in 1888 and had been exporting their successful product into Ulster for at least a decade before they decided to expand their operation across the water.

They selected the famous 'Coo Toon' of Ballymoney for a brand new purpose built facility in 1899, and opened on 16 July 1900. It was a two storey building made of Ballycastle brick. The company had done their homework and found that within a four mile radius there were 3500 milk cows, a perfect supply chain. The firm acquired ground from the Earl of Antrim, beside the new Belfast and Northern Counties railway station for optimum distribution efficiency, near Meeting House Street and Rodden Foot (which was later Anglicised to 'Rodeing Foot').

At the opening event, the company's owner, Robert Young, laid out a grand vision to the gathered press. He said that the pasture in Co Antrim was better than in Scotland, and that their butter products "commands the highest price on the market".

• The pic below shows workers from the Creamery, and is from Ballymoney Museum's Facebook page.

1905: A Kirkcudbright suicide dressed up as murder - the pistol found in Strangford Lough

Belter of a story here from 1906. The suicide of Donald Knowles in Kirkcudbright in Scotland but he made it look like a murder. He tied the revolver he had used to a gas-filled balloon which floated up into the sky - but it went 40-odd miles across 'St Patrick's Channel' (an old name for 'The North Channel') and it was found by a fisherman on the shores of Strangford Lough, who had read about the murder in the newspapers. He brought the revolver back to Kirkcudbright and helped the police solve the mystery.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The maverick Presbyterian Rev James Gordon, Scotland, and the Siege of Derry as an Ulster-Scots story

(Above - the Old Parish Church graveyard, Cardross)

In an obscure old graveyard on the banks of the Firth of Clyde is the burial place and eroded gravestone of a key figure from the Siege of Derry. Cardross was where King Robert the Bruce spent the last years of his life and died there on 7 June 1329. Cardross is also just a few miles from Old Kilpatrick where of course Scottish tradition says St Patrick was born and as a youth was kidnapped by slave raiders from Ulster.

The grave is of Rev James Gordon (1645-1693) who was said to have been the man who advised the Shutting of the Gates and who planned the Breaking of the Boom.

• The Siege of Derry as an Ulster-Scots Story
Over the years I've got a bit indignant about history here only ever being told in a "two tribes" way. I think that prism is often untrue, usually unhelpful, and will keep our society trapped in a never-ending rut. The Siege suffers from this. It needs to be re-thought, in a different way yet also a truer way. I have ideas as to how that could or should be done. Gordon is a central figure in that potential re-thinking and re-telling.

• The Story
John Malcolm Bulloch LL.D FSA (1867-1938) was a renowned Scottish historian who had comprehensively researched the Gordon family of Aberdeenshire. In doing so, he uncovered a lot of information about Rev James Gordon. The National Library of Scotland website has a PDF of his pamphlet (link here) entitled Strange adventures of the Reverend James Gordon, Sensualist, Spy, Strategist and Soothsayer, which was published in 1911.

It paints a fascinating picture of Rev Gordon, who it turns out was something of a rogue and maverick minister who flitted between Scotland and Ulster throughout his life, defying Presbyterian norms and rules. It includes the many stories from various sources of him having been present at both the beginning and the end of the Siege of Derry.

• Early Life
Gordon's origins were in the Aberdeen area, where he was born around 1645. He graduated from King's College in Aberdeen in 1663 – which was pretty bad timing given that pretty much all of the Presbyterian ministers across Scotland and Ulster had been ousted from their pulpits by the State in 1661. But theological commitment wouldn't be an issue for Gordon as he manoeuvred his way through life.

• Minister, Elopement and Marriage
He was appointed minister at Glass (south of Keith) and was engaged to "the sister of a gentleman who served the cure of Moville" in Donegal. However, around 1667, he eloped "secretly in the night tyme with some accomplice" with a different woman! She was Helen Gordon, the daughter of John Gordon, the 8th Laird of Cairnburrow. They arrived in Londonderry where Bishop Robert Mossom gave him permission to preach at Glendermott Church. But Gordon was summoned back to Scotland where he was reprimanded and married Helen, but he was banned from ever preaching in the Moray region. Aberdeenshire Epitaphs and Inscriptions (1907) says this of him –
Rev. James Gordon, M.A., was ordained in 1666. On 23rd October, 1667, he was directed to be excommunicated for breach of promise of marriage, running off with another woman, going to Ireland, and deserting his charge. On his subsequently confessing in face of the congregation, the great scandal he had given to God's people by his "ryott" and ''unlawful procedour in marriage with Helen, daughter of John Gordon of Cairnburrow," the sentence was relaxed. He was not reinstated, however — being declared incapable of holding another charge within the diocese. 

• Coull and Cabrach

So Gordon moved to a different Presbytery and in 1671 he became minister of Coull, west of Aberdeen. However he was deposed from this pulpit due to "swearing, drinking, striking, denying his own subscription, and lying". He and Helen settled at "a farm in the Highlands" near Cabrach from which he operated as a kind of rogue freelance minister within the Presbytery of Alford. They summoned him to various Presbyteries to account for his behaviour, but by February 1681 he was set upon leaving Scotland again.

• Dungiven and 'Our Scotch Informer'
He went to London where he met "with some non-conformist preachers" and then ended up back in Ireland again, becoming minister at Bovevagh Presbyterian Church near Dungiven around September 1681. He seems to not have lasted there long and was soon back in Edinburgh, seemingly to appraise his relative George Gordon, the Lord Chancellor of Scotland (who was also the 1st Earl of Aberdeen) of the activities of Presbyterian"fanaticks of Ireland and their brethren in Scotland and England" who were planning to smuggle three shiploads arms from London and Holland into Ireland via Portaferry "or some where thereabout".

If true, the timing is significant. In 1681 the 'Killing Times' had been ongoing for 20 years, with the State and Crown persecution of Presbyterians. The Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Brig had taken place in 1679; Scottish refugees had poured into Ulster. By 1684 the future King James II, then merely the Duke of York, threatened that "there would never be peace in the country until the whole south of Scotland had been turned into a hunting field". So Presbyterian armed self-defence, and the potential re-arming of Covenanters in Scotland, were highly plausible scenarios.

In sharing this information it looks like Gordon was ingratiating himself with the Crown and government for personal advancement. The Duke of Ormonde said of Gordon that "our Scotch informer is certainly a rascal and frames his intelligence for his profit"; Ormonde's son wrote that Gordon was "the improperest man in the world to be employed under you". Scathingly, the son later wrote, in February 1683, that Gordon "promises to make great discoveries but I believe getting money is what he aims at".

• 1683–1690: Gordon and the Siege of Derry
If timing is everything, Gordon timed his contribution to history perfectly. Gordon's life gets a bit fuzzy here, which is a shame because this is where his legend resides. Renowned Scottish minister and historian Robert Wodrow (1679–1734) recorded traditions about Gordon that "it was he who relieved Derry from its Siege" –

a) At the beginning of the Siege, it was Gordon who had advised the 13 Apprentice Boys to close the gates of the city. Rev Samuel D. Alexander wrote "on the 7th of December, 1688, the inhabitants of Derry, acting on the advice of James Gordon, minister of Glendermot, and in opposition to that of Bishop Ezekiel Hopkins and most of the prelatic clergy, seized the keys of the city and shut the gates against the Earl of Antrim's Red Shanks" (link here)

b) At the end of the Siege, it was Gordon who planned the breaking of the boom. Gordon said he was at Greenock in Scotland in July 1689. He took a voyage to Lough Foyle where he boarded the famous Mountjoy, captained by "Captain Brauny" (Browning). Gordon harangued Major-General Percy Kirke for his inaction, and drew up the plan to break the boom. Thomas Witherow wrote "There can be no doubt that in this interval James Gordon, Minister, of Glendermot, the man who at the outset of the troubles had counselled the apprentices of Derry to shut the gates in face of King James's troops, got aboard the fleet, had an interview with Kirke, and pointed out how the matter could be done" (link here)

As you can see in Strange adventures of the Reverend James Gordon, the author Bulloch is sceptical about these claims. But Mackenzie's Memorials of the Siege of Derry willingly accepts them (online here) and additionally states that "almost all, if not all, the Apprentice Boys who shut the gates were Presbyterians".

• 1690: Back to Scotland, death in 1693
After the Siege was over, Gordon moved to Cardross outside Glasgow in July 1690. It was here that his new parishioners learned of his exploits at the Siege and passed them down in oral tradition. Gordon 'demitted' his role at Glendermott by letter in January 1692 and he died at Cardross around 1693. His weathered gravestone stone is in the Old Parish churchyard there. The Annals of Garelochside (1897, online here) describe it as follows –
Inside the churchyard are some interesting tombs, especially those of the old ministers at the corner of the enclosure nearest the road. The oldest is in memory of the Rev. Robert Watson, who died in 1671, ... Adjoining this is the tomb of Rev. James Gordon who died in 1693, and his tombstone is well preserved, though the lettering is beginning to be obliterated – 
"To the memory of Master James Gordon, minister of Cardross. Gordon fell by the stroke of all-conquering Death, and his distinguished frame lies by this tombstone. He proved by his cleverness that the sublime parts comprehend more wonderful things than belong to nature; high souled, in good things daring as the eagle, but as to praises indifferent, nor did the highest wisdom lie hid from the learned man. Too early did the joys of life above snatch him from us."

• Misc Details

• (see photos below) A carved stone head, said to be of Gordon, is on Ferryquay Gate in Derry.

• Gordon features in Canon S.E. Long's 2013 book Famous Clergy (online here - page 53 onwards) where he describes Gordon as "a notorious reprobate".

• His grandson was the historian Rev James Bentley Gordon who published various histories of Ireland, including a pro-Crown account of the 1798 Rebellion which was published in 1801. His portrait is online here).

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The forgotten 'Boston Revolt' of the 'Glorious Revolution', 18 April 1689

Here is an earlier story of yet more transatlantic kinship. Not long after King James II had been effectively overthrown in England in November 1688 by the arrival of his Dutch son-in-law, Prince William of Orange, the 'colonies' of New England also revolted against James and in favour of William.

James II's place-man in New England was the authoritarian governor Sir Edmund Andros who had been in post since 1686. Tremors had been felt for some time - James II's brother and predecessor Charles II had revoked the charter of the Massachussetts Bay colony in 1684 because the citizenry refused to obey his decrees. So, when news of William's success reached America, the population of the region around Boston and Ipswich saw their opportunity. They organised themselves into provincial militias and began to arrest government officials.

An orange flag was raised on Beacon Hill; there was a public declaration supporting "the noble undertaking of the Prince of Orange". Regular readers might remember that I've posted before about the support for William and Mary in the fledgling Ulster-Scots settlements of Maryland and their November 1689 Address of the Inhabitants of Somerset County (previous post here).

O 20 May 1689 the people of Boston published their first direct address to William (link here); on 6 June 1689 they published a second (link here). Congregational ministers were to the fore in opposing the Anglican establishment. And on 31 May a similar rising took place in New York State, led by Jacob Leisler (link here).

There is a very big story to untangle here, and to connect with events on this side of the Atlantic. From Brixham to Boston to the Boyne has a certain ring to it.

Discovering forgotten international dimensions to what are usually seen as narrow local events are game-changers in understanding, in lifting our view from our own Northern Ireland goldfish bowl to a far wider ocean.

• Signage pics from

Friday, July 10, 2020

A 1939 curmudgeon - the new "rude contrast' of the "huge red barn of corrugated iron"

Ah, the red shed with a round tin roof, an icon of rural Ulster. We are building a small version at home just now. A landmark of tradition, a magnificent example of built heritage as the two photos here from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum show.

Well. This brilliant article is from the Larne Times - I've had it for a while but found it again today. One of the writer's targets is my beloved red corrugated tin sheds. Just goes to show that one generation's tradition is a previous generation's new-fangled innovation.