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.




Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Fish and chip shops


I came across the following key facts about fish and chips in a newspaper last week.

The first fish and chip shop opened in the British Isles in 1860.

By the 1930s the number of fish and chip shops in Britain had risen to 35,000.

However today the number has fallen to 10,500.  Nevertheless they account  for a quarter of all the white fish consumed in the United Kingdom and a tenth of all the potatoes.

I like to do my part to sustain a great British tradition!

The article noted a number of the names that have been given to fish and chip shops around the country, including The Codfather, The Plaice to Be and The Frying Scotchman.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

'The old account was settled long ago"

Frank M Graham (1859-1931)
'The old account was settled long ago' is a popular gospel hymn that was written by Rev Frank Monford Graham (1859-1931), a Wesleyan Methodist minister in the United States of America.  He was a Scotch-Irish American with family roots in Donegal and Londonderry.

It was recorded back in the late 1920s and in more recent times has been performed by many others including Johnny Cash, the Cathedrals, the Statler Brothers and the Booth Brothers.  Nearer home, here in Ulster, it has been recorded by Rev William McCrea and by Live Issue.
There was a time on earth, when in the book of Heav’n
An old account was standing for sins yet unforgiv’n;
My name was at the top, and many things below,
I went unto the Keeper, and settled long ago.
Refrain
Long ago (down on my knees), long ago (I settled it all),
Yes, the old account was settled long ago (Hallelujah!);
And the record’s clear today, for He washed my sins away,
When the old account was settled long ago.
The old account was large, and growing every day,
For I was always sinning, and never tried to pay;
But when I looked ahead, and saw such pain and woe,
I said that I would settle, I settled long ago.
Refrain
When in that happy home, my Saviour’s home above,
I’ll sing redemption’s story, and praise Him for His love;
I’ll not forget that book, with pages white as snow,
Because I came and settled, and settled long ago.
Refrain
O sinner, trust the Lord, be cleansed of all your sin,
For thus He hath provided for you to enter in;
And then if you should live a hundred years below,
Up there you’ll not regret it, you settled long ago.
Refrain
When He was on the cross at Calvary, Jesus said 'It is finished' (John 19:30).  The Greek word is telelestai and it has been found written on ancient receipts where it means 'paid in full'.  The debt of my sin was paid by the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary and I can experience His redeeming love by grace through faith.  He call us to repent of our sin and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour.

Frank M Graham was born on 1 March 1859 in Birmingham, Illinois, and was the son of David Graham and his wife Lucinda Miller.  He became an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, serving as District Superintendent in northern Georgia from around 1895 to about 1915.

In 1899 he held a revival at Mayo, Spartanburg County, South Carolina, where the Graham Chapel Wesleyan Church was later named in his honour.

He was also a song evangelist who helped to establish and expand the 'holiness movement' in the South and especially in South Carolina and Georgia and in 1906 he was one of the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Bible Institute (now Southern Wesleyan University) at Central, South Carolina.

Frank Graham wrote many hymns and hymn tunes and his hymnal Songs for Jesus went through at least six editions.  These books were particularly produced for gospel missions and gospel meetings, as can be seen in the subtitle 'The Book You Need For Revivals'.

Altogether Graham may have written as many as one hundred gospel songs and hymns but the best known, by far, is 'The old account'.  He believed that the songs he wrote were gifts from God and refused to copyright any of them so that everyone could freely use them.

He wrote 'The old account was settled' in 1902 at the Oliver Gospel Mission in Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina.  The mission had been opened in 1888 and still continues its work today.

Frank Graham died on 25 August 1931 at Greensboro in Georgia and was buried in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery.  There his memorial stone describes him as 'THE HOLINESS SINGER AND PREACHER'.

The Graham family were Scotch-Irish and he had ancestral root in Ulster and beyond that in Scotland.  We know something of the family from a History of the Graham Family, which was written by David Graham and published by him in 1899.  He was a great-grandson of John Graham, the father of the Graham family in Virginia, and he wrote:
The Grahams, like many of the early settlers of the Valley of Virginia, were of Scotch-Irish descent and came from counties Donegal and Londonderry, in the northern part of Ireland.  The term Scotch-Irish does not necessarily mean a blending of blood between the Scotch and Irish nations but implies the Scotch who emigrated from Scotland and settled in Ireland.  during the years beginning shortly after the middle of the seventeenth century, there was a large emigration from Scotland to Ireland, having been brought about on account of religious persecutions the Scotch received at home.
It seems clear that the Graham family came from counties Donegal and Londonderry but the precise details of the early family history are somewhat unclear.and there are some differences between the version given by David Graham in 1899 in his history of the Graham family and the version given by James Miller in 1906 in his history of Summers County.  They are agreed that the Graham family came from north-west Ulster but on other matters to the early history there are some differences.

John Graham was the first of the line to settle in America.  According to The History of Summers County WV, written by James Miller in 1906:
John Graham, the senior, in this country, had a family of four sons and five daughters.  His oldest son's name was Lanty [Lancelot]; the other three sons were John James and Robert.  His will was probated in Augusta County, Virginia, on the 19th day of November, 1771.
However in his history of the Graham family, written in 1899, David Graham stated:
The tradition of the branch of the family to which Col. James Graham belonged is incomplete, but from all the facts gathered, James was born in Ireland in county Donegal. His father was a brother of John Graham, Sr., who settled on the Calf Pasture river. Whether or not the father of James Graham, Sr., ever moved to this country is not now known.
Colonel James Graham (1741-1813), was born in Augusta County, Virginia, on 3 January 1741 and he married his cousin, Florence Graham, in Monroe, West Virginia, on 17 February 1762.  According to James Miller:
James Graham, the son of said John Graham, moved to Greenbrier County, and settled in what is now this Summers County, just across the river opposite where the village of Lowell now stands on the Chesepeake & Ohio Railroad. ... James Graham was a prominent citizen in the affairs of this region; was created a colonel of militia under the laws then existing; assisted in the defence of Fort Donally when attacked by the Indians of Greenbrier County, and his name is largely connected with public affairs during his long life.
Colonel James Graham house
James Graham was the first settler at what became Lowell and this was the first settlement in what is now Summers County.  He arrived in 1770 and between 1770 and 1772 he built a three-storey log house, which served as a home for the family and also a fortress to protect the settlers from the danger of Indian attacks.  The house is currently owned by the Graham House Preservation Society, who operate it as a museum, and in 1976 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Nearby is the Old Graham Cemetery, where members of the family were buried.

In 1777 a party of Indians attacked the Graham home.  They killed John Graham, one of the sons, a neighbour called McDonald and a young boy as well as kidnapping Colonel Graham's daughter Elizabeth.  She was held by the Indians until 1785 when the family were finally able to ransom her.

James and Florence Graham were the parents of Lieutenant David Graham (1772-1818).  He was born in Monroe County, West Virginia on 24 March 1772 and was made a lieutenant of one of the companies of the 66th Virginia Regiment.  He served several terms in the legislature of Virginia and was also sheriff of his county.  Graham was a surveyor and surveyed some of the largest tracts of land in Kentucky and Virginia.  He married Mary 'Polly' Stodghill in Monroe County on 24 December 1807 and they had seven children of whom the fourth was David.

Major David Graham (1810-1879) received his early education in the common schools of Virginia and then at the age of twenty-three he moved to Rushville, Schuyler County, Illinois.  In the autumn of 1834 he moved on to the township of Birmingham, also in Schuyler County, and there he built a grist mill and a saw mill.  He did more than any other man to develop the township and accumulated a fortune but unfortunately he lost much of it.  He was married in January 1835 to his first wife and they had five children but she died on 14 November 1852.  That was the year in which he first church was erected in the township and it was built in the village by the Protestant Methodists.  David Graham married his second wife, Lucinda Miller (1827-1877), in Adams County, Illinois, on 4 April 1855 and they were the parents of Frank M Graham, who wrote 'The old account was settled'.

When David Graham (1821-1914) published his History of the Graham Family, he wrote in the preface: 'The writer being in his 79th year and one of the few living great-grandchildren of John Graham Sr. the founder of this branch of the Graham family in this country.'  He also identified the family as Scotch-Irish with family roots in Ulster.  Since this David Graham was a close relative of Frank M Graham it is clear that this was the common understanding of the family and it is almost certain that Frank would have known of his Ulster-Scots background.


Bibliography
Howard F Dyson (ed), Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County: 1908
David Graham, History of the Graham Family: 1899
James Miller, The History of Summers County WV: 1906
Biographies of Old Schuyler County Settlers: 1876




Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Spotlight on Casement Park


The Spotlight programme on BBC1 tonight was about the Casement Park debacle and it was useful in that it identified and explored some of the key issues about emergency exiting and the safety of spectators.

The GAA representative, Stephen McGeehan, was extremely uncomfortable when the presenter, Conor Spackman, produced a GAA plan that proposed purchasing and knocking down five houses outside the ground in order to improve the arrangements for spectators to exit the ground safely in case of an emergency.  However that document is an important piece of evidence.  The GAA would never have come up with that proposal if they had not been aware of the problems around emergency exiting.

The former DCAL minister Caral Ni Chuilin was very defensive about what she did or didn't know of these issues but again Spackman was able to produce the minutes of a meeting which she chaired and there was a reference to the issue of emergency exiting.

The Sport NI safety expert Paul Scott was very clear and confident in his account of what happened and he was backed up by Professor Phil Scraton, who is professor criminology at Queen's University, whose book Hillsborough - The Truth, is the definitive account of the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath.

Theer are many other aspects of the Casement Park debacle that the programme was unable to cover, probably because of time and because of their complexity, for it is a complex issue.  However having chaired so many meetings of the Assembly's CAL Committee inquiry into Casement, I believe there is still more work to be done to get to the bottom of who knew what and when they came to know it.

The good news for local residents is that today the GAA has stated that in any future plan there will be no demotion of houses.  They also stated that they would not be holding out for a capacity of 38,000.  I think this is a 'soft admission' or an 'implicit admission' that they had got it wrong last time 

It seems fairly clear that the capacity of a redeveloped Casement Park will be a lot less that previous anticipated and that is essential if it is to be a safe stadium.




Monday, 23 May 2016

A few words with Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey


Last night I called into the Belfast Central Library and parked my car nearby in Union Street before going in.  

As I was walking the short distance from the car to the library I noticed three men standing talking and as I passed them one of them separated himself from the others and started to follow me.  

I looked round and it was none other than Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey of the Carrick Hill Residents Association.  He was out for a walk with his little dog and was carrying a heavy blackthorn stick.

We had a short exchange of words and I detected that Frank was not exactly pleased to see me.  I can be fairly confident that I will not be on his Christmas card list this year, or indeed any other year!

As I turned towards the library I did comment on the heavy blackthorn stick that he was carrying and also on the fact that on this occasion he was not wearing a uniform.  At that point the short conversation, which probably lasted no more than a minute, came to an end.

What surprised me however was the fact that he even spoke at all.  I would be very keen to talk to Frank Dempsey but not in a side street off Royal Avenue.  The best place would undoubtedly be in a radio or television studio.  There are just so many things I would love to ask him about directly ... including his role in a Provisional IRA D Company reunion.  [Andersonstown News August 2012]

The unfortunate thing is that he seems reluctant to appear in a radio or television studio to engage in a debate ... you would almost think he didn't want to answer questions about various interesting subjects ... such as that Provo D Company reunion.

Readers of this blog will of course remember that at the reunion it was Frank Dempsey himself who handed over a special gold medal to Billy McKee, a founder member of the Provisional IRA, and later a supporter of Republican Sinn Fein.  Readers may also remember that when McKee was asked about the atrocity known as Bloody Friday he said, 'I'm not going to condemn it or the men that carried it out.  No way.'

The passage of time has certainly not mellowed Billy McKee and from what I heard last night it hasn't really mellowed Frank Dempsey either.




Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Assembly Election


I found the newspaper reports of the result in the North Belfast constituency particularly interesting after all that the pundits had said before the election about a UUP revival.

Simon Doyle, writing in the Irish News yesterday, said: 'The DUP three - Paula Bradley, Nelson McCausland and William Humphrey - were all in pole position, or more accurately if one must use a tortured motor racing metaphor, they occupied three of the top four places in the grid after stage one.'  That was due to our strong vote and our disciplined vote-management.

He went on to say: 'The Ulster Unionist Party would have expected its bright hope to do better.  It had selected a popular, well-known cleric in Lesley Carroll, but her 1,972 first preferences failed to make a dent in the DUP's massive vote. ...  The PUP also polled badly, leader Billy Hutchinson receiving just 1,238 first preference votes and then struggled to pick up transfers.'

Noel McAdam wrote in the Belfast Telegraph: 'The performance of the Rev Lesley Carroll in North Belfast, in particular, was very disappointing [for the UUP].  In unionism the DUP is now in pole position across Belfast.'

Noel is absolutely right.  Across the four Belfast constituencies there are now 8 DUP MLAs and just 1 UUP MLA.  Before the election it was 7 DUP MLAs and 2 UUP MLAs.

It is interesting that in their accounts of North Belfast neither journalist referred to the other two unionist parties.  UKIP came in with just 751 first preference votes (2.05%) and the TUV with just 644 first preference votes (1.76%).  Across the unionist parties the first preference votes were: DUP  12,783 (34.95%), UUP 1972 (5.39%), PUP 1238 (3.52%), UKIP 751 (2.05%) and TUV 644 (1.76%).

In terms of the breakdown of the total first preference unionist vote of 17,388 in North Belfast, that gives DUP 73.5%, UUP 11.3% , PUP 7.1%, UKIP 4.3% and TUV 3.7%.

In spite of some earlier predictions of a surge for the UUP, the pundits now have to accept that the DUP has had a remarkable election result.