Saturday, 8 October 2016

Clifton Street and Buttle's Loaney

Clifton Street in Belfast is a name that appears in the news from time to time and it is really the 'gateway to north Belfast'.  The postcard above reminds us of how it used to look and sadly many of the fine buildings that once lined both sides of the street have now gone.

St Enoch's Presbyterian Church, Clifton Street Presbyterian Church, Clifton Street United Presbyterian Church and the Sandes Soldiers Home are just some of the buildings that have been demolished or destroyed.  Fortunately the Orange Hall survives and the former Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church is undergoing a programme of restoration.

But Clifton Street was not the original name of the street and back in the 18th century, before it was renamed as Clifton Street, the street was known as Buttle's Loaney.  So where did that name come from?

The words loanen and loaney are found in both Scots and Ulster-Scots meaning a lane or roadway and this was indeed a path leading from the town of Belfast out to the north and in the 18th century, into the countryside.

The first part of the name was probably derived from a David Buttle who was Sovereign of Belfast from 1702 to 1704 or from a member of his family

According to A History of Congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, he was a son of the second Presbyterian minister in Ballymena, who was a Scottish Presbyterian.  After the formation of a presbytery in Ulster, David Buttle was ordained in 1645 and ministered in Ballymena. He was imprisoned under the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell for refusing to take the 'republican engagement' and was not released until 1650.  He was also deposed by Bishop Jeremy Taylor in 1661 for refusing to conform. Thereafter he ministered privately to his people until his death in 1665.

This was just one of many loanens and loaneys in Belfast at that time, and they reflect the Ulster-Scots influence in the place-names of Belfast.

David Buttle's term as sovereign ended in 1704 and one source indicates that during that year George McCartney took over as Sovereign.  That may have been because David Buttle died in that year or alternatively it may have been because of the Test Act of 1704.  The Test Act required all those holding office to take communion in the Church of Ireland.  There were very few Roman Catholics in Belfast at that time but there were many Presbyterians and any burgesses who were Presbyterian had a choice of taking communion in the Church of Ireland or being removed from their position.  Some conformed to the Test Act but others refused and were then removed.  

There is certainly some reading and research to be done to find out a little more about this David Buttle.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Strictly Come Dancing - dissident style!

Is there no end to it?  It seems now that every shade of Irish republicanism is determined to produce its own rather 'down market' version of that great institution of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Strictly Come Dancing!

First of all it was Sinn Fein and they led the way with their version of Strictly, which took place in the less than salubrious surroundings of a business park in Jonesborough in South Armagh.

Now even the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) are at it, but at least they have moved to a more up-market location with the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane, or to be more precise, across the border in Lifford..

However I was deeply disappointed to see that they had settled for a 3-star hotel.  They really are letting the standards slip.  On the other hand it is a step up from the business unit in Jonesborough that Sinn Fein used.

But more serious still is the fact that even the most extreme republicans are now unashamedly borrowing from the hated 'Brits' when it comes to fund-raising!

Anyone wanting more information can refer to the IRPWA Strabane Facebook page, which includes a commendation from a Mandy Duffy, who is probably the same Mandy Duffy that is a sister-in-law of the infamous Colin Duffy.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Carol Cullen - another "IRA prisoner-poet"

Carol Cullen (now Caral Ni Chuilin)
According to the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht (12 August 1999), 'Prisoner Day at the West Belfast Festival proved to be one of the most popular events of the Festival'  Hundreds of people braved the sweltering heat and crammed into the Felons Club in Andersonstown to meet former and current prisoners and view an exhibition of their artwork'.  

One of the events during the day was the launch of a new book, Executed: Tom Williams and the IRA, which had been 'written by serving prisoner Jim McVeigh' and the launch was chaired by Carol Cullen of Tar an Nall.

This was followed by a series of readings by and and about prisoners, given by a number of leading republicans and according to the Sinn Fein newspaper 'recently released prisoner Rosie McCorley read out Carol Cullen's beautiful poem of solidarity to a fellow prisoner'.  It's a short poem about female IRA prisoners in Armagh:

By yourself, alone with your dread, but not for long.
Eight in all held you down.
We couldn't hear you calling for us
But we share, we share your anger,
Those of us spared the degradation this time.
Each of us individually comfort you,
Our comradeship consoling you,
Each of our hands making a fist,
Showing our white knuckles,
Our strength, our sisterhood.
So Bobby Sands wasn't the only 'poet' in the ranks of the IRA and perhaps republicans can now look forward to the publication of a volume of poetry by Carol Cullen.

Of course that volume would now have to appear with the name Caral Ni Chuilin, because some time after 1999 Carol Cullen 'Gaelicised' her name to Caral Ni Chuilin.

Nevertheless her talent as a poet, something on which there will be a variety of views, may help to explain why she was appointed by Sinn Fein as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure ... or maybe not.  That is for others to decide.

However Carol or Caral is not the only poet in the ranks of Sinn Fein in North Belfast.  Indeed the North Belfast constituency must be unique in having two Sinn Fein MLAs who are both poets.  Yes Gerry Kelly is a poet too.  Now I haven't had the opportunity of reading any of his work but according to a reference in Contemporary Irish Republican Prison Writing: Writing and Resistance:
In his poem 'On the Boards' Gerry Kelly recounts his harrowing experience of the punishment cells of the H-Blocks during the winter of 1976-77.
The poem seems to have been published in Words from a Cell, a little volume of poetry that was written by Gerry Kelly and published by the Sinn Fein Publicity Department in 1989.  It runs to 65 pages but anyone looking for a copy should be aware that on Amazon used copies are selling for $65 plus postage and a bookseller in Limerick recently sold a copy for 70 euro!  That works out at around 1$ per page!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Its those Scotch-Irish again!

Today J D Vance is an investment executive and principal at Mithril Capital Management in San Francisco and the author of  a New York Times bestseller.  He is only 32 but his autobiography Hillbilly Elegy is a bestseller!

Vance grew up in a poor family in the city of Middeltown, Ohio.  His mother struggled with drug addiction and a series of broken relationship and he was raised by his grandparents.  He writes of those days: 'I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.'

Beyond Ohio his family roots were among the Scotch-Irish folk of Kentucky and Vance identifies
himself as 'Scots-Irish'.
I may be white but I do not identify with the WASPs [White Anglo-Saxon Protestants] of the Northeast.  Instead I identify with the millions of working class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degrees.'

Those were the people among whom he grew up but he served in the Marines from 2003 to 2007 and was educated  at Ohio State University and Yale Law School.

During the course of the American presidential election campaign we have heard much about the 'Rust Belt' and the 'Scots-Irish'.

I do not intend to comment on the election or the Trump phenomenon but I do want to highlight the fact that there are so many Americans, who identify as 'Scots-Irish' or 'Scotch-Irish'.  They are certainly to be found in many of the post-industrial communities of the Rust Belt but also in Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas and down in the South as well.  Indeed they are to be found in most states of the United States of America.  Those who imagine that the term Scotch-Irish has disappeared are much mistaken.

Some years ago James Webb wrote about the Scotch-Irish in his book Born Fighting and now the story of a Scotch-Irish family has been told in Hillbilly Elegy.  Moreover it is a story about which many people in America must want to read because his book has become a New York Times bestseller.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Is an IRA 'recruitment poster' illegal?

'Join the IRA recruitment poster
On Sunday 5 April 2015 a North Belfast republican addressed an Easter Rising commemoration event in Saint Colman's cemetery in Lurgan.  The event had been organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association and the speaker was Damien 'Dee' Fennell,

Fennell told the small gathering, which included some primary school children: 
It isn't enough to shout 'Up the IRA'.  The important thing is to join the IRA.  As you leave here today, ask yourself is it enough to support republicanism or could you be a more active republican?
Dee Fennell speaking in Lurgan
Some days later Dee Fennell was arrested and charged with encouraging acts of terrorism, inviting support for the IRA and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA.  All three offences were dated 5 April 2015 and all come under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The case is ongoing but I thought about it today in relation to the current situation in Londonderry where someone has erected a recruiting poster for the IRA.  It depicts an IRA terrorist and carries the message:
Unfinished Revolution, Unfinished Business, Join the IRA.
I would have thought that if it is an offence to say 'Join the IRA', then it must also be an offence to erect a poster that says 'Join the IRA'.  What is the different between a recruitment speech and a recruitment poster?

However this morning the Belfast Telegraph reported a PSNI spokesman as saying: 'At this stage no crime has been disclosed therefore it has not been recorded as a hate crime.'

I'm not sure what the PSNI spokesman meant when he said, 'No crime has been disclosed'.  I would have thought it was fairly obvious what the crime is - encouraging people to join a prohibited terrorist organisation.

If Dee Fennell is being prosecuted for such an offence in Lurgan then surely the PSNI should be seeking to identify the person who erected the IRA recruitment poster?

Moreover, if it is a criminal offence to encourage membership of the IRA, then the PSNI should also remove the recruitment poster.

At a time when several republican terrorist organisations that call themselves the IRA are still active and seeking to murder and maim, it is particularly disappointing to hear such an equivocal statement from the PSNI.  It is incumbent on senior officers to clarify the situation and reassure the public that they will remove the IRA recruitment poster and pursue those responsible for erecting it.,

Friday, 1 July 2016

Ulster VC Heroes of the Great War

Last night the Great Hall at Stormont resounded to the music of the bagpipes, the fife and the Lambeg drum.  

The Ulster-Scots Agency was launching a booklet on Ulster VC Heroes of the Great War and along with the booklet there was an exhibition.

The launch took place in the Long Gallery, with contributions from the Speaker, Robin Newton MLA, Michelle McIlveen MLA, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP. and Ian Crozier, director of the Ulster-Scots Agency.  Among those at the launch were relatives of several of Ulster's VC winners.

Along with the booklet there are posters which have been offered to schools across Ulster and these depict the men from Ulster who won the VC, as well as others VC winners who served in the 36th (Ulster) Division.

It is important that the sacrifice of the Somme is not forgotten and these materials produced by the Ulster-Scots Agency will help young folk to appreciate something of the courage of the Ulstermen.

From the Long Gallery we went down to the Great Hall where there were performances by Schomberg Fife and Drum and the Kirknarra Highland Dancers from Kilkeel as well as the Ulster-Scots Juvenile Pipe Band.  Members of Mid-Armagh Community Network then performed an xtract from 'Tommy's Story' by Hilary Singleton.  This was based on the diary of a young soldier from county Armagh who died at the Somme.

After that I read a poem by W F Marshall entitled 'The Lad' and the evening came to a close with the piper's lament performed by Andrew McGregor.

The following are the last lines of the Marshall poem and they reflect the terrible loss experienced  by so many fathers and mothers whose sons were killed in the Great War.

He's sleepin' now where the poppies grow,
In the coat that the bullets tore,
An' what's a wheen of medals to me
When my own wee lad's no more?

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Knights of Luther - who were they?

Tract based on information gathered by the Knights of Luther

Earlier today I came across an old advertisement from 1914 for the Protestant Magazine, which was published in Washington, DC.  It said:
This number will naturally appeal to Protestant clergymen, Guardians of Liberty, Knights of Luther and other church and patriotic organisations.
This was my introduction to an organisation called the Knights of Luther., which was a Protestant and patriotic organisation founded in the United States of America in 1912.

There is very little information about it on the internet but there was a handbook entitled Knights of Luther Text Book, or, The True American Knight.  It was published in 1915 by the Sovereign Board of the Sovereign Castle of the Knights of Luther and the author was F M Shippey.

The local unit of a fraternal organisation is often called a 'lodge', although the Royal Black Institution has a preceptory and the local unit of the Independent Order of Rechabites was a 'tent'.  However with the Knights of Luther, it was a 'castle'.

This was presumably Professor Francis Marion Shippey, who was born in Butler County, Iowa, in September 1854 and died in a hospital in Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, on 4 February 1925.  For forty years he was the superintendent of schools in Algona.  He was also a traveller for the American Book Company and the Rand-McNally Map Company.

There are also several newspaper and magazine articles about the organisation, including one that was published in the periodical America in 1919.  This stated that the members were 'gentle, gallant and godly men'.

On 16 February 1915 the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that the Abraham Lincoln Castle No 11, Knights of Luther of Milwaukee, had adopted a set of resolutions approving a bill introduced in the Wisconsin legislature to make Abraham Lincoln's birthday a legal holiday.
This country has too few holidays that are distinctively American.  We believe the great majority of the American people will approve of making February 12 a legal holiday in honour of him who drove from this fair land the hideous system of human slavery.
There is also a reference in the History of Iowa County, Iowa, which was published in 1915.   This included short biographies of prominent citizens and it was stated that H S Detchon MD of Victor, Iowa, was a member of the Knights of Luther.

I know nothing og the scale and spread of the organisation and how long it survived but on 18 July 1954 the dedication service was held after renovation work at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in DuBois, Pennsylvania.  The Knights of Luther was listed as one of the organisations represented at the service so it was still in existence in 1954, some forty years after its formation.

This was one of many fraternal organisations and it is one of the lesser-known.