Sunday, January 31, 2021

"An Irish boy he may well be, But he spoke Braid Scots when he coorted me"

He was geographically Irish, and linguistically Scots. It's probably a fictional tale but the boy was most likely from Ulster. These are the ties that connect across our narrow sea. This song is from Galloway in south west Scotland, and is sung here by Robyn Stapleton, Claire Hastings, Emily Smith and Hannah Rarity for the BBC in January 2020.

• Here is an article by Valentina Bold about the song's origins.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

1949: Hugh Shearman on "The Languages of Donegal" – The "English" of Donegal is "Scottish"


I'm posting this whole chapter as I think it will be of interest to some of my readers. This 1949 book, Ulster, was much more than a travelogue for the general Great Britain reader/tourist, yet not an academic history or a linguistic publication. It's split into three sections – The Making of Ulster, Metropolitan Ulster, and The Ulster Counties, and there's plenty of content in it that goes much deeper than a typical 'come and see the sights' approach. Throughout the book Shearman misses, or misunderstands, important nuance though, so I'm only sharing this chapter and not endorsing all of its observations. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Hugh Shearman (1915–99), Mount Stewart and Ireland's last sea eagle

I've been reading some of Hugh Shearman's books recently. In his 1949 tourism book Ulster, he says that Mount Stewart estate on the Ards Peninsula was where "the last white-tailed sea eagle in Ireland was seen in 1890".

In fact, a search of the British Newspaper Archive says "on 30th January 1891, an adult female was shot at Mount Stewart, Co Down, which was set up by the late Alfred Sheals holding a mallard in its talons. This specimen, one of the last, if not the last to be secured in Ireland, may be seen in the Belfast Municipal Museum" (Northern Whig, 10 July 1936). And here it is, from the NMNI website

The same article also referred to them living in the Mourne Mountains before 1831,  a pair that lived on Fair Head in 1839, and another pair on Rathlin Island.

An article in the same paper on 10 October 1929 said that a man called Arthur Swithin Newton Horne had recently shot one on the lake of Clandeboye Estate near Bangor. Knowing that the sea eagle lived in County Down makes the naming of the 1636 emigrant ship Eagle Wing even more significant.

As one of 'The County Books Series' published by Robert Hale Limited of London, Ulster is an interesting book - it's wrong in some places, but very strong in others. Shearman himself was a very unorthodox individual. More to follow.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Michael C Scoggins, 'Amazing Grace' – the early 'Scotch-Irish' in Charlestown, South Carolina – Charles County, Maryland

So Garth Brooks sang two verses of Amazing Grace at the Joe Biden & Kamala Harris inauguration yesterday. But he left out the best verse, some of the lines of which I once threatened to my wife I was going to have tattooed on my chest - "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved"

The late Michael C Scoggins (October 21, 1953 - March 4, 2019) in his tremendous 2013 book The Scotch-Irish Influence on Country Music in the Carolinas: Border Ballads, Fiddle Tunes and Sacred Songs, painstakingly traced the journey of the tune which Amazing Grace is sung to, formally known as New Britain. Starting with the famous William Walker shape note hymnal The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion from 1835 Kentucky where it was first published, Michael tracked it all the way back through history to the Ulster-Scots settler townships of early 1700s Pennsylvania.

Michael Scoggins and I never met; we had become Facebook 'friends' and we emailed each other a number of times in 2018. He passed away in March 2019 aged 65. He was a fine historian and, as we say, he wore many hats - here is one of the many online obituaries.

One of the things he had offered to look into for me arose from this blog post of August 2018, of the Ulster-Scots settlement at Charleston in South Carolina led by a Thomas Ferguson in 1683/84. This was at the same time as Francis Makemie's arrival into the existing Ulster-Scots settlement at Maryland, 560 miles north.

During our correspondence he sent me this information –

"I have gathered several references to “Scotch-Irish” settlers living in Charles and Somerset Counties, Maryland in the 17th century. These are court cases in the Archives of Maryland, the earliest of which dates to July 1663 in Charles County. There are also several from 1689-1690 in Somerset County. I found these because I have been doing extensive research into the usage of the term “Scotch-Irish” on both sides of the Atlantic beginning in the 16th century.

In these court cases, “Scotch-Irish” is a  specific ethnic term used to refer to people who migrated (presumably from Ulster) to Maryland and settled there prior to these dates, and they prove that the term “Scotch-Irish” was already in common enough usage to be entered verbatim into court transcripts."


July 29, 1663:  

“Richard Dod and Mary his wife plantive John Nevill and Joane his wife defendants- the plantive declares against the defendant in an action of the Case upon defamation for that the sayd Joane Nevill did in or about the mounth of June last past falsly and Maliciously utter publish declare and expres severall scandalous words of and against the sayd Mary Dod much to the scandall Prejudice and defamation of the sayd Mary alleaging that shee the sayd Mary was the whore of Capt: Batten and further shee the sayd Joane woold aver and prove her the sayd Mary Dod to bee a whore together with severall other scandalous and ignominious expressions and Aspertions unto her the sayd Mary Relating did shee the sayd Joane utter and declare out of her malicious and fals suggestion which is highly to the Prejudice and defamation of her the sayd Mary whearfor the sayd Plantive sayeth that in fact thay are infinitly damnified in thear Reputations and impared in thear Credits whearfor your petitioner Craveth Reparation of this worshipfull Court against the defendants and for thear Cost of suit…

“Mary Roe sworne and Examined in open Court sayeth that Mary Dod Come into Goodie Nevills feeld and Goodie Nevill sayd thou jade get thow out of my ground for what buisnes hast thow come shee sayd I am in the Path I will goe when I Please and Goodie Nevill sayd if thow wilt not get thee out of my ground I will set thee out and with that Goodie Nevill followed her and Goodie Dod turned about and sayd stand off from mee or I will stricke thee and with that Goodie Dod did stricke her in the face and Goodie Nevill did say thow jade dust thow stricke mee in my owne ground and with that Goodie Nevill tooke holt of Goodie Dods hands and Goodie Dod sayd let my hands goe for the Child it will fall and Goodie Nevill sayd dont feare woman I wont hurt thy Child and with that Goodie Nevill Caled sumbodie to tacke the Child out of her Armes and Robert Cockerill thearupon Came and Goodie Dod thearupon sayd stand away I will not let goe my Child and with that Goodie Nevill strocke her a good blow in the Chops and sayd by God you shall have one for the other and sayd thow jade I will have my Revenge of thee yet and Mary Dod sayd Goodie Nevill doe not you threaten mee for threatened foulkes live long and Goodie Nevill sayd bauld Eagell get thee home and Eate sum of Gammer Belaines fat Porke and Mary Dod sayd if shee did eat fat Porke shee did not Eate Rammish boare and Goodie Nevill sayd who did and Goodie Dod sayd shee did not and with that Goodie Dod Cryed thee Troge and Goodie Nevill sayd thow whore who is that thow Callest Troge and Goodie Dod sayd she was no Scoatchmans whore and Goodie Nevill sayd that nether scotch Irish or English came amis to her and with that Goodie Dod sayd to Goodie Nevill cum will you go home and eat sum of Goodie Belaynes fat Porke if I have any and Goodie Nevill spit at her and sayd shee scorned to go with such Companie as she was and with that Mary Dod went away and Goodie Nevill held up her hands and hollowed at her and further sayeth not:”

• Primary Source: Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, Maryland, 1658-1666, 53: 376-379 [145-149 in original source].  [Archives of Maryland Online]


March 15, 1689/90:  

“I William Pattent was at worke at James Minders and one night as I was at worke Mr Matt: Scarbrough came into the house of sd Minders and sett down by me as I was at work, the sd Minder askt him if he came afoot, he made answer again and sd he did, saying that man, meaning me, calling me Rogue makes me goe afoot, also makes it his business to goe from house to house to ruinate me, my Wife and Children for ever. I made answer is it I Mr.Scarbrough[?] and he replyed and said ay you, you Rogue, for which doing ile whip you and make my Wife to whipp you, and I answered if ever I have abused [you] at any time, or to any bodies hearing, I will give you full satisfaction to your own Content. [At which Scarbrough said] You Scotch Irish dogg it was you, with that he gave me a blow on the face saying it was no more sin to kill me then to kill a dogg, or any Scotch Irish dogg, giving me another blow in the face. now saying goe to yr god that Rogue and have a warrant for me and I will answer it. Wm. Patent” 

• Primary Source: William Pattent, Affidavit, March 15, 1689/90, in Somerset County, (Maryland) Judicial Records, 1689-90, 106:67. (William Pattent filed this affidavit in order to bring charges against Matthew Scarbrough.) [Archives of Maryland Online]


June 10, 1690: 

“Their Maties [Majesties]
“ agt.   [against]
“William Scarbrough  

“Somersett County the Jurors for their Maties being sworne upon the holy Evangelists at a grand Jury held for the body of this County the second tuesday in March last doe present and find that Matthew: Scarbrough of this County Gent att Snow hill in Boga=toe norton hundred and within the jurisdiction of this Court, most proudly arrogantly and contemptuously and malitiously utter publish, and with a loud voyce did declare his contemptuous malitious and seditious mind agt their Maties authority now in - being in these words that mr. Samuel: Hopkins had granted a warrant to the Constable to sumon none to theese Burgesses but Scotch Irish men. which was a great abuse to your Maties Comrs for this County yr fore yr Maties attorney craves judgmt agt the sd Scarbrough according to Law.      

Somersett County  The Jurors for their Maties being sworne upon the holy Evangelists at a grd Jury held for the body of this County March Court last past doe present and find that Matthew Scarbrough of this County at the house of James Minor in the hundred of Bogete norton Ano. 89. his Maties peace then and their did not keep, but their Maties. Comrs did abuse and Contemne, Calling Capt David Browne Rogue & Dogg, and in an oppirous manner stiled him the scotch Irish mens God, and upon the matter aforesd did beat and wound ^ William: Pattent of this County: Taylor, saying affirming and his wished intent wth a loud voyce declaring that it was no more sin to kill the sd Pattent then it was to kill a dogg not regarding that due respect by the law of God he ought and should give to Magistrasy but in despite of their power & authority in it by law invested by perticularizing the sd Capt David Browne in the name of the whole did tacitly imply his contempt to the sd power. Their Maties Attorney Craves judgmt may be entered agt the sd scarbrough according to Law in that case made and provided. 

“James: Sangster. Clk. Judy.”

• Primary Source: Court case, “Their Majesties against Matthew Scarbrough,” June 10, 1690, in Somerset County (Maryland) Judicial Records, 1689-1690, 106:103-104. [Archives of Maryland Online]



Robert King (d. 1697), a northern English planter, merchant, and colonial officer of Somerset County, Maryland, was called a “Gentleman” upon his arrival in Maryland c. 1666, and in 1692 was described as “A Scotch Irish Man” and a chief supporter of illegal trade with Scotland.

• Primary Source: Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson, A Biographical Directory of the Maryland Legislature 1635-1789, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1979), 2: 511-512. Reprinted in the Archives of Maryland, Vol. 426. [Archives of Maryland Online]


Michael C Scoggins (October 21, 1953 - March 4, 2019)

Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down: A Tale of Ninety-eight (1894, 3rd Edition)

Found this image online. If anyone out there has a copy of this edition that they'd like to part with, please let me know.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Brian Boru (941–1014) High King of Ireland, 'Imperator Scotorum'

These stamps were issued in 2002 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Brian Boru becoming High King of Ireland. He was killed in the Battle of Clontarf on Good Friday 23 April 1014, in which he is said to have brought to an end the centuries of Viking presence in much of the island of Ireland. This website by Trinity College Dublin says that the title 'Imperator Scotorum' - which was written into a manuscript of the ancient Book of Armagh around AD1005 - means 'Emperor of the Irish'

So 'Scotorum' means 'Irish', not 'Scottish'. Other sources translate 'Scotorum' as 'Gaels'. It has long been known that at least some of Ireland was for centuries called 'Scotia'. Perhaps this is a further evidence of this, reaffirmed by these official state postage stamps of nearly 20 years ago.

The interlinkedness of the two landmasses that we today call Ireland and Scotland (and their respective smaller islands) and the connectedness of the multitudes of peoples who have migrated back and forth and established deep bonds of common ancestry and kinship, is a concrete fact of history. 

PS - it would be over two centuries later, in 1263, when the Scots managed to end Viking dominance of the North Channel, at the Battle of Largs. New alliances formed between Ireland and Scotland, when the ambitious Bruces gathered their allies at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire to sign the 'Turnberry Band', on 20 September 1286. It was the start of their quest for the crowns, and the two boys present - Robert and Edward - would eventually become Kings of both countries.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Christmas Rhymers / 'Mummers' in Ulster

This is another of the shared traditions - we did this in our primary school a few times as an old-time local equivalent of what in later decades would become 'pantomime' season. We had a wonderful principal - Mrs Armstrong - the wife of a local Presbyterian minister, who loved passing down local tradition to us weans. And, as you can see in the image above, she was happy to have us perform a play that included Beelzebub! I wasn't unique, other friends of my age did the very same thing in other schools in Newtownards and other places on the Peninsula. The tradition can be easily found in County Antrim too, written about by John Hewitt (his poem The Christmas Rhymers, Ballynure, 1941 is online here) and John Clifford (link here).

The famous Ballyboley photograph above (taken by John Clugston of Dundonald) has been reprinted in many books – this one is from my copy of Six Miles from Bangor; the Story of Donaghadee and the Copeland Island by WG Pollock. It has a full chapter about the rhyming tradition, and it reproduces a version of the entire script. 

My aunt Betty turned 80 back in July. She sent me the following poem on New Year's Eve. It looks like an extract from the famous Rhymers script, but she said that it was used by itself as a standalone rhyme on Hogmanay in years gone by –

I wish you a Happy New Year
With a bag full of money and a barrel full of beer
Get up auld wife and shake yer feathers
And don't ye think that I'm a blether
A slice of loaf, a cut of cheese
And a glass of whisky if you please

I posted it on Twitter, and a friend in Scotland told me that on their side of the water these are known as the Galoshan plays, which are being carried on at Inverclyde & Greenock (website here).

I remember seeing the excellent Aughakillymaude mummers from County Fermanagh at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC in July 2007, and recognised a lot of their performance. They are the most renowned group carrying this once-widespread tradition on.

If traditions aren't written down, to be passed on, they may as well have never existed. I would like to see the Aughakillymaude mummers again some time – a reminder of something that we all used to do.

• PS  - If you are interested in this subject, I can highly recommend my good friend Philip Robinson's chapter 'Harvest, Halloween and Hogmanay; Acculturation in some Calendar Customs of the Ulster Scots'. published in Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, edited by Jack Santino, published by the University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, 1994), which includes a section about the Christmas Rhymers.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Road bowls / "bullet playing" / "long bullets" in Ulster

These days, this once-widespread activity is mostly associated with County Armagh and County Cork. Yet it was once played in Ulster-Scots communities too. Here are a couple of references from Sandra Gilpin, about road bowls in the village of Moneyrea in County Down across a period of 100 years:

"... One Saturday in June 1739 a strange incident took place at Moneyrea. Some young men were playing ‘long bullets’ (i.e. road bowls) near the Presbyterian meeting house when they were approached by a man dressed in scarlet and looking like an army officer. He spoke to them in French and offered them gold if they would ‘inlist in the pretender’s service’. The young men were not impressed and sent him packing. Soon afterwards they decided to pursue him and apprehending this curious individual they took him to James Wilson of Purdysburn, a justice of the peace, who had him lodged in Downpatrick gaol. That evening many of those whom he had solicited in the same manner were seen ‘riding to and fro to the terror of the neighbourhood.’ ..."

A hundred years later, the local Ulster-Scots poet Robert Huddleston was severely injured during a game of road bowls aged around 21 -

"... the young Bob was convivial and evidently enjoyed life to the full. He writes in a letter to John Poundley in September 1843 that he has been made lame by a “mettle bullet”, probably as early as 1835. The game of bullets has disappeared in the area: the car now reigns supreme on the Ballygowan to Belfast Road, where the teams once gathered for their tournaments..."  

There are many newspaper references in the 1800s and early 1900s in both Ulster and Scotland to the same game, under the name "long bullets". According to the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, there's an account of the King playing "lang bowlis" at St Andrews in 1496 (link here).

The Belfast News-Letter reported on 7 October 1946 that "the game is now played almost exclusively on the country roads near Armagh". The same article said that Londonderry Council banned the game from being played on the city walls, and that Dean Jonathan Swift mentioned it in a poem written in Markethill in 1728. Patrick Bronte's relatives played "long bullets" near Aghaderg, Banbridge.

In Northern Ireland's unfortunate yet polished parlance, when an activity is described or perceived as being that of "one community", it's generally an untrue claim. Many traditions, historically, are shared.

Ordnance Survey Memoirs, Donaghadee, 1837

Here's another quote demonstrating the scale of 'Scotch' speech in east Ulster in the 1800s – this is from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs from 1837. When you gather all of the contemporary references up, Belfast was entirely encircled by Ulster-Scots vernacular speech – and it was of course evident within the growing city too when those people moved in for the industrial 'boom'. The children of farmers became world-class engineers, and the old individual wooden hand-loom cottage weavers became mechanised maestros, running factories and leading battalions of labourers who had learned to master vast steel-and-iron behemoths that produced acres of fine linen fabric which rivalled silk. 

When Scotsman Rev Dr James McCosh LLD was at Queen's College in Belfast from 1850–1868. His autobiography says that "The plain people … were earnest in their devotion to the cause of liberty, and so also were their friends and relatives among the Ulster farmers. The classes of Queen's College had many members from among these enterprising, industrious, serious people, and Professor McCosh became deeply interested in them". (online here)

His fellow Scot and Queen's College colleague Professor George Lillie Craik spoke at the Burns Centenary events in Belfast in 1859, and said "we have come over and set up another Scotland here - an Irish or Little Scotland, as it may be called. We have made this Province of Ulster - this Black North - half Scotch, or more than half Scotch, in almost everything – in blood, in language, in religion, even in mind and character ...".

This all sets a far more plausible demographic context for the Census of Ireland in 1911, in which the population was given two options of 'Irish' and 'English' to describe their language, and vast numbers in Antrim and Down opted for 'Irish'. It's extraordinarily unlikely that they meant Gaeilge.

Here is Barry Griffin's excellent map again, showing the familiar and well-attested Gaeltachts of the west – but which also reveals another vast 'non-English' linguistic tradition and community in the east.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Old Comber Pure Pot Still - "striking display" in Belfast, May 1931

The British Newspaper Archive is a wonderful resource, but when you find something as brilliant as this but with understandably poor quality images, it's frustrating! Maybe somewhere in the world somebody has prints of this photograph of whiskey-laden horse-drawn wagons being toured through Belfast in May 1931.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Madness of Crowds, the Danger of Tribes

Humans form tribes. We also worship. Sometimes we worship our tribe. Eric Weinstein has recently said (in this podcast) from an American perspective, that both 'Woke' and 'MAGA' are cults, the quasi-religious worship of ideology. From a Northern Ireland perspective, everybody knows where social severance can lead to.

However, we are all individuals with our own tastes and preferences and influences and responsibilities. But we too easily allow ourselves to be corralled into 'groups' that have been defined for us – which are then squared up against some 'other' group. We are presented with the most extreme voices from the 'other' and we are affirmed that their group are all just as bad.

In an absence of actual relationship, people believe more and more lies about the 'other' far too easily. And, as Voltaire famously said, "You must first believe in an absurdity before you commit an atrocity." Here is a former US President, talking sense.

The White Star of Ireland? A Londonderry postcard from 1907 - "sweet star of the sea"


Sunday, January 10, 2021

The White Shield of Ulster

The more you look the more you see. A few posts ago I showed various examples of the yellow De Burgh arms being used to represent Ulster in a wide range of usages in the late 1800s right up into the 1950s and beyond. And so the impression forms that the more familiar white version came into usage after the Partition in 1921. As is often the case, that assumption is too neat, and isn't true. Here is a range of postcards from the 'We Will Not Have Home Rule" campaigns circa 1911-12, using a white shield. This isn't due to the printer trying to save costs - they are full colour print and adding a yellow to the shield would have been easy. Using white was a conscious decision.

You'll notice that there are Irish messages being signalled too – with the Irish style coat of arms for Ulster (as per the original Ulster Bank coat of arms) which uses the five pointed crown of Ireland, and, in the example above, a 'clan belt' design with an Irish language message - 'Lamh Dearg Go Bragh'.

This one has echoes of the very famous Erin Go Bragh message which was displayed at the famous Ulster Unionist Convention in 1892, a message which can be found being used right across the political spectrum from the United Irishmen in 1798 to a medal struck for King George IV's visit to Ireland in 1821. In 1861 the renowned Belfast Presbyterian publisher William M'Comb wrote a poem entitled 'To The Queen, On the Occasion of Her Majesty's First Visit to Ireland', in which he used Erin go braghVictoria agragh, cead mille failtie and cushla machree (it's online here).

Looking back from our divided perspective, I think we might be prone to retro-fit too much significance into the 1892 image; the use of non-English language mottoes on heraldic emblems to represent families, counties, and nations was/is pretty standard form on heraldry. Honi soit qui mal y pense; Dieu Et Mon Droit; Nemo me impune lacessit, etc.

It was an earlier time, and in some senses a less divided time. Images and messages were being projected without the prism through which our generation has been shaped to retrospectively interpret them. As always, there is more to learn and discover.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

For Peat's Sake! Bushmills and Ulster's distilleries in 1891

In looking for other things I found online a digitised edition of The Industries of Ireland – Part I, Belfast and towns of the North, the provinces of Ulster and Connaught, published in 1891, available here. It's a superb summary of the large businesses and employers of the time and provides what we might today call a 'backstory' for each of them. Most of the expected big names are in it, including of course a number of whiskey distilleries.

The description of Bushmills sounds like an advert voiceover script –

Far up in the north of County Antrim, close to the Giant’s Causeway, and in the midst of some of the grandest of Irish scenery, stands the little village of Bushmills, a quaint and interesting hamlet in itself, and specially noteworthy from the fact that here is situate the famous old Bushmills Distillery. This establishment is at once the oldest and one of the most celebrated of typical Irish distilleries, and the merits of its product in high-class whiskey are known in every land under the sun.The secret of the success of this whiskey undoubtedly lies in the quality of the water of the river Bush, which flows through peat bogs for a long distance, and thus yields a liquid which is specially suited to the distillation of superior malt whiskey. 

You can see the full description on pages 77 & 78. The reference to peat bog is interesting as 'peated' whiskey is today associated with Scotland, not really Ireland (but there are a few exceptions).

• Young, King & Co. Limited, Distillers of Limavady are in there too – owned by Samuel Young MP who was born near Portaferry – whose brand was Brian Boru (page 81).

• Robert A Taylor Distiller from Malt Only, of Coleraine, has an entry (page 157) - their 'H.C.' brand won the coveted Pure Malt Distillers award at the Edinburgh Exhibition of 1886.

• Duncan, Alderdice & Co of 74 Hill Street Newry are described as being the owners of the "Old Distillery" in Monaghan Street (page 159) with their brands "The Native", "Hand-In-Hand" and "White Label".

• The Irish Whiskey Company Limited of Queen Street Belfast (page 118).

• Strangely there's no mention of the giant of them all – Royal Irish Distilleries / Dunville's

• The Lough Neagh Pure Whiskey Company (page 71) with offices at 105 Royal Avenue, Belfast - this one reads like a hugely ambitious prospectus concept to turn Glenconway Mill on the banks of the Glenavy River into a new distillery, using a new system called 'The Improved Wallace Multiple Pot-Still, patented 17th May 1887, No 7,190) and gives a lyrical description of how this new system would work. And the ultimate seal of approval - the manager of a malt distillery in Scotland did a blind test of Jameson 15 Year Old, Roe 16 Year Old, and a sample from the reputed Wallace still and declared "I must admit that they are not to be compared with whiskey from your still". The founders of the company were Samuel Sandys Briggs, (born in Maryport, Cumbria in 1824, but relocated to Glenavy around 1885) Joseph Wallace (the inventor and patent-holder of the still; he was a 'medical scientist' from Oxford Mansion, Oxford Circus, London) and George Douglas Hughes (engineering businessman from Nottingham but had previously worked in Belfast in the 1840s), with Jackson Totton as company secretary (he was born Portadown but lived in Belfast, an accountant, and according to his obituary he had been both Grand Treasurer and also Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland). However, I can find no other references to this company or the Wallace Still in the online British Newspaper Archive - it's a mystery. 

• The content creeps into County Louth and includes Dundalk – "the industries of the town are also in a progressive condition, and include flax-spinning, tanning, ironfounding, distillery..." (page 51).

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Lexicographer James Murray's Belfast wedding, Fisherwick Presbyterian Church, 12 August 1862

James Murray
was the Scotsman of humble origin who – through talent, graft and resolve – made his way into the academic élite and delivered the ailing Oxford English Dictionary project – I've blogged about him here before. I've just found in the biography Caught in the Web of Words, which was written by his grand-daughter K. M. Elisabeth Murray, that in 1862 James married Hawick-born Maggie Scott. She was an infant school mistress, "refined and talented" and was "resident in Ireland" at the time. The wedding took place on 12 August at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast.  Their wedding photograph is in the biography (shown above).

James applied for the post of headmaster of the Parish school at Ashkirk near Hawick, but was unable to apply as "the school managers would only consider a member of the Established Church". The newly weds relocated to Hawick anyway, where they both were employed by Hawick Academy.

Tragically their infant daughter Anna died in 1864, and Maggie died in 1865. (The recent film of James Murray's life – The Professor and the Madman – is excellent).

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Belfast Working Men's Institute and Temperance Hall (built 1873)

I haven't been in Belfast city centre much over the past 10 months due to Covid restrictions, but I think this building is probably still there. Today most folk imagine a "working man's club" to pretty much be a community bar in a working class area. But many references to the ones in Belfast that I've come across over the years show them to have originally been places not only of social life and (often non-alcoholic) refreshment, but of culture, debate, music and learning.

This description is from Historical and Descriptive Guide to the City of Belfast, by John Vinycomb MRIA, published by Marcus Ward, price one sixpence. One of the founders of the Institute, Thomas Gaffikin, delivered a famous lecture here on 8 April 1875 entitled Belfast Fifty Years Ago which was reprinted as a booklet a number of times. His entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography is online here.

A retired man that I only "know" via Twitter posted this photo back in mid October, of the old club on Danube Street just off the Crumlin Road, and said it was where he started brass band tuition in the 1960s – "As a working-class boy in the 60s I don't think I ever appreciated what a rich musical education was being offered to me free as working men (& school boys) played transcriptions of Berlioz, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Holst, Rossini, Haydn et al. in North Belfast Working Men's Club".