Monday, 7 January 2019

Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charlotte Elizabeth

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American abolitionist and author and she is best remembered as the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin..

She was born in Connecticut, the daughter of Rev Lyman Beecher, a Presbyterian minister, and had a good education.  

After that she settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her father was president of Lane Theological Seminary, and in due course she married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a Biblical scholar and a professor in the seminary.
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There had been racist riots in Cincinnati in 1829 when Irish-Americans attacked African-Americans.  Harriet met some of the African-Americans who had suffered in the attacks and when she heard their stories it confirmed her in her opposition to slavery.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852 as an anti-slavery novel and it was the best-selling novel of the 19th century.  It was also the second best-selling book of the century, second only to the Bible.  Its first appearance in print was in 1851 as a 40-week serial in the National Era and then the following year it was published as a single volume.

In 1844 she wrote an introduction to The Works of Charlotte Elizabeth, which was published in three volumes.

Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna
These were the works of Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (1790-1846), a British author who was born Charlotte Elizabeth Browne in Norfolk and was a daughter of a canon of Norwich Cathedral.  She married a British Army officer who had a small estate in Ireland but it was a very unhappy marriage and they separated about 1824.  After the death of her husband in Dublin in 1837, she married Lewis Tonna in 1841.

Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna was an evangelical Protestant and she wrote books, evangelistic tracts and poems on a variety of subjects but always from an evangelical perspective.  She also edited the Protestant Annual and The Christian Lady's Magazine and produced an abridged version of Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

Among her poems were hymns and also several written on Orange themes, including The Maiden City and No Surrender.  She was a fine poet and writing in 1899 the Irish Catholic editor D J O'Donoghue said: 'These are extremely vigorous and popular.  They are quite the best Orange songs that have ever been written.'

She also wrote a novel titled Derry: A Tale of the Revolution.

Sadly Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna is now largely forgotten but those who uphold the Protestant tradition in Ulster and who would share her evangelical Protestant faith could learn much from her fearless defence of truth. Harriet Beecher Stowe spoke well of her and so should we.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

More hypocrisy from Sinn Fein

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Sinn Fein commemoration for the Brookeborough IRA raid
In my Belfast Telegraph column today I highlighted the hypocrisy and inconsistency of Sinn Fein on New Year's Day in protesting against a 'drag hunt' in North Down in the morning and then commemorating and celebrating an IRA attack in the afternoon.

There is a Sinn Fein calendar of IRA commemorations and the Brookeborough event, which commemorates an IRA raid on 1 January 1957, marks the start of another year of that calendar of shame.

However the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein is further highlighted when we recall their voting record in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

When the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill came before the Assembly in 2010 there was an amendment which placed a ban on hare coursing, and this was passed by 23 votes to 18.

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Hare coursing - backed by Sinn Fein
However when the Bill came back for its Further Consideration stage on 7 February 2011 the Sinn Fein MLA Francie Molloy, now the Sinn Fein MP for Mid-Ulster, attempted to amend it and prevent a complete ban on hare coursing.  Indeed during the debate he said, 'I support coursing'.

In the end his attempt was voted down by 53 votes to 33 but that 33 included Molloy and the other Sinn Fein MLAs.  

Sinn Fein supported hare coursing but oppose fox hunting.

So the next time Sinn Fein attempt to assert their 'progressive party' credentials by protesting against fox hunting, it is worth remembering that the party backed the retention of hare coursing.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Prophet of Brexit doom arrested

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Carlos Ghosn
Last month the car manufacturer Nissan warned that a 'hard Brexit' would have serious implications for its plant in Sunderland.

The company issued a statement and the Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosin, speaking at the Paris Motor Show said, 'We are preparing for the worst but I do not want to tell you how we are preparing because you will say I am trying to scare people.'

His comments got a lot of attention because he is head of a business empire Alliance that includes Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Indeed such has been his standing over many years that he was honoured by the United Kingdom with an honorary knighthood (KBE) in 2006.

But earlier today it was reported that he has been arrested in Japan on suspicion of financial misconduct and BBC News has reported that the Nissan company is preparing to sack him.

Nissan said that it had been conducting an internal investigation for several months which showed that Ghosn had been under-reporting his pay package.  'Numerous other significant acts of misconduct' including 'personal use of company assets' were also found.

It's a funny old world!

Friday, 26 October 2018

Every EU language 'except Irish'

Irish Gaelic activists have certainly been silent in recent months about what I thought they might regard as a grievous insult to the Irish language.
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The European Commission has just completed a consultation on abolishing 'daylight saving time' and in due course will produce some proposals.  The consultation ran from 4 July to 16 August  information about it was available on the European Commission website.

There will various views about 'daylight saving time' but I was interested to find the following on the web-page with information about the consultation.  This is what the European Commission said:

The online questionnaire is accessible in all official EU languages (except Irish) and replies may be submitted in any EU language.  We do encourage you to answer as much as possible in English.

Irish Gaelic is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union and Irish language activists are always keen to assert the rights of Irish speakers, so here are some questions.

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Why did the European Commission exclude the Irish language from the online questionnaire?

What did the government of the Irish Republic do or say about the exclusion of Irish?

What did the MEPs from the Republic do or say about the exclusion of Irish?

What did the Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson do or say about the exclusion of Irish?

What did Irish language organisations such as Conradh na Gaeilge do or say about the exclusion of Irish?

Why was there no protest by Irish language activists outside the office of the European Commission in Belfast, rather in the same way as they did outside the Department for Communities?

Perhaps some answers will be forthcoming but in the meantime I was disappointed by the exclusion of Irish because it would have been interesting to see how many of the respondents from the Irish Republic or indeed Northern Ireland would have responded in Irish and how many in English!

On the other hand, while the questionnaire is accessible in  23 of the 24 official languages, with Irish excluded, it states that 'replies may be submitted in any EU language', so was it possible to read the questionnaire in English and yet reply in Irish; and if so how many people did?  So that brings the number of questions up to seven.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Scotch Readings at Ballysillan

Ballysillan Presbyterian Church

Back in the 1890s Ballysillan Presbyterian Sabbath-School held an annual fete and there was an interesting report of the 1891 fete in the Northern Whig (5 September 1891). 

The teachers and children assembled at the Wolfhill Mill School and then, led by Wolfhill Flute Band, they walked to the grounds of the Wolfhill Spinning Company.

There were games, swings, a shooting gallery and a four-a-side football competition.

Image result for scotch readings murdochAfterwards there was a tea, the Ballysillan choir sang and R Diamond read Bobbie Barefeet.  

I was unfamiliar with this but discovered that it was a short story titled Wee Bobbie Barefeet and that it was from SCOTCH READINGS Humorous and Amusing by Alexander G Murdoch.

The volume of readings includes titles such as The Sittin Doon Cauld and Wha Rules the Hoose?

As regards Wee Bobbie Barefeet, most of the narrative is in English, interspersed with some Scots,  and most of the dialogue is in Scots.

The fact that a 'Scotch reading' was included in the Ballysillan fete is another insight into the Ulster-Scots heritage of the Ballysillan area.  It seems that the adults and children of Ballysillan and Ligoniel were able to understand the language of the reading and that is only to be expected.  Those who came into the area to work in the mills were coming from surrounding rural areas which were thoroughly Ulster-Scots in their language and culture.

Unfortunately much of our Ulster-Scots heritage, linguistic and cultural has been eroded, especially in more recent years and there is much work to be done to recover what has been forgotten.  

The author of the book was Alexander Gregor Murdoch (1841-1891) who contributed many poems, both serious and humorous, to the Glasgow Weekly Mail and also published two volumes of poetry.  Eventually he joined the staff of the Glasgow Weekly Mail.  

 His Scotch Readings was very popular and went through a number of editions, with a fourth edition being published in 1889.  His poetry, which was written in Scots, was also very popular and received very positive reviews, both for the quality of the poetry and the quality of the Scots.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Richard Sullivan - Sunday World scribbler

Yesterday someone told me that a journalist had just attacked me in a newspaper,   Later on I discovered that they were wrong on two counts.

It wasn't a journalist, it was someone called Richard Sullivan and it wasn't a newspaper, it was the Sunday World.

Richard's column in the Sunday World was a reaction to the column I had written last Thursday in the Belfast Telegraph about the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Coalisland to Dungannon march in August 1968.

However this clearly irked Richard Sullivan  who failed to address anything of what I had written and simply got down to the level of:
To read former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland's haughty remarks this week was like consuming a poison from a bygone age. 
Nelson, who likes to describe himself as a commentator but who has never been anything other than the intellectual mouthpiece of extreme intolerance, likes nothing better than to look down on a movement he shamelessly connects with murder.
His diatribe in a newspaper column this week linking the Civil Rights Association with communism and bigotry while condemning the proponents of civil rights as 'incendiary' are the words of a man uncomfortable with the truth.
No doubt I will be the target next week of a pseudo-intellectual character assassination at the point of Nelson's pen.
Apart from the personal abuse he homes in on the word 'incendiary' and claims that  I condemned the proponents of civil rights as 'incendiary'.

What I actually said was that the speeches given in Dungannon that night by Gerry Fitt and Austin Curry were 'incendiary'.

Well that was the night when the late Gerry Fitt told an angry crowd, 'If one of those black bastards of the Northern Ireland Gestapo puts a hand on any man here.  I'll lead you through.' 

He described the RUC as the 'Gestapo' and as 'black bastards' and surely it is not unreasonable to describe that as incendiary.  Or is Richard Sullivan going to describe that language as perfectly acceptable?

Finally, just in case he thinks I am making up those words and attributing them to Gerry Fitt, which he might do, since he thinks I am 'uncomfortable with the truth', the words are copied from The Price of My Life by Bernadette Devlin, who was there on the night that Gerry Fitt said it.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

'Black Saturday'

'Black Saturday', the last Saturday in August, is the big day for the Royal Black Institution and is sometimes seen as the end of the big summer parades.

Yesterday the County Down demonstration was in Newtownards and the town was packed with members of the institution, bands and spectators who had come along to watch the parade.

The parade was well organised, there were many excellent bands and in his sermon Sir Kt Rev Ron Johnstone faithfully preached the gospel.

Of course there's always a social side to the day and it's an opportunity to meet up with people I probably haven't seen for months, or in some cases since last year.  I talked to people that I knew, including politicians from both the DUP, of whom there were quite a few, and the UUP, and got the latest news on what is happening in different Protestant denominations.

There was plenty of time in the field to speak to people and as I had parked my car some distance away there were conversations with people sitting or standing at the side of the road.  It's a relaxed day and people are more than ready to stop and talk.

As well as people I know, I also talked to quite a number of people I don't know personally but who were keen to chat about all sorts of issues including the current political impasse, education and social trends. Overall it was probably a fair reflection of what is sometimes called 'middle Ulster', and affords an opportunity to assess what 'middle Ulster' is thinking.  

That is not the reason I walk on the Twelfth and Black Saturday,  I joined the Orange Order in 1975 and the Black in the early eighties so these days were part of my annual calendar long before I entered politics.  However it is one of the benefits of those days for anyone interested in assessing public opinion.

Social media have their place but it is the conversations in the shopping centre, the community centre or on days such as the Twelfth and Black Saturday which provide the best understanding of mainstream unionist thinking.  You can't beat a 'face to face conversation'.