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.


Bill Curry said...

Scots-Irish indifference to the Arts was very evident in my paternal Ulster Presbyterian line. Over many years of research, I never found a scintilla of evidence that any ancestor was self-indulgent enough to cultivate their aesthetic side through music, art, writing or, Lord forbid--acting!

Inured to this dour bequeath, I was startled and elated several years ago to find an online trove of diaries and other papers of a GG-Uncle, Robert Moore (1760-1816), who penned a richly embellished personal history, including harrowing journeys across the Pennsylvania frontier, rafting down the Ohio to take up wilderness farm lands, love poems to his future wife, escaping from debtor’s jail in Baltimore in the dark of night under a blanket in the back of a wagon, and snooping around an empty Independence Hall with its sexton on a Sunday afternoon. Most exciting for me was his record of visits with my GGG-Grandparents, where “spirits were applied” liberally and frequently—a tidbit that would have made my prohibitionist Grandparents blanch.

My sister, Jane, who broke the family mold as an actor and well-published children’s author, was overcome with delight when I shared this discovery. She emailed…

OH! OH-O-OH!!!!! I haven't had time to dip any deeper than the introduction [to the Robert Moore papers], but this clearly is just what I have been mourning the lack of for most of my life!!  I had sorrowfully concluded that we came from a collection of, however admirable, totally voiceless people lacking any urge TO ARTICULATE THEIR INNER OR OUTER LIVES to themselves or their future families, let alone US!!!    Bless you for finding this!

May we all be so lucky to find such a diamond in the desert!