Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sir Samuel Ferguson's final writings - St Patrick and the Frederick MacNeice connection

During late July, August and early September (just after lockdown was relaxed, and just before the more recent restrictions were introduced) we filmed six new episodes of Hame for BBC Northern Ireland; one of which includes a short reference to Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886) who was regarded as one of Ireland's greatest ever literary figures. He spent his childhoods at his granda's farmstead at Four Mile Burn in the Sixmilewater Valley, and was laid to rest at historic Donegore churchyard.

After a day of filming in the area I bought a copy online of his last ever writing for the Royal Irish Academy, entitled The Remains of St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, the Confessio and Epistle to Coroticus, with a Dedication and Introduction by his widow Mary. 

It was published as a memorial edition after Ferguson's death. It wasn't expensive and I expected a run-of-the-mill edition. But when it arrived, I opened it and found the signature of Frederick MacNeice (1866–1942) the father of writer, poet and broadcaster Louis MacNeice.

In her Introduction, Mary Ferguson comments on the Scottish origins of St Patrick and his reputed birthplace at Dumbarton, a subject which readers here will know fascinates me. To see those Scottish traditions within such an august context confirms to me once again how well-known and credible they once were.