Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ulster-Scots Night in City Hall

As part of the programme of events to mark the reopening of the City Hall in Belfast, the Ulster-Scots Community Network organised a special evening in the Great Hall.  The programme included the Ballycoan Pipe Band, Risin Stour, the Bright Lights Highland Dancers and the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.  Gareth Hunter gave a stort talk on W F Marshall, the Bard of Tyrone, and read several of his wonderful poems.  There was a full house and the evening ended with some good old fashioned kailye dancing.

I gave a short address at the start of the night and reminded the audience that it was a fitting event to include in the City Hall programe.  The City Hall was built out of the wealth of Belfast industry and most of the entrepreneurs who founded Belfast's industries were Ulster-Scots, such as William Ritchie, who founded the first shipyard in 1792.

At that time Belfast was a thoroughly Ulster-Scots town and when the French aristocrat Le Chevalier de la Tochnaye visited it in 1797 he said, ‘Belfast has almost entirely the look of a Scotch town.'  Moreover the people still spoke Ulster-Scots. When Amyas Griffith came to Belfast in 1780 as Surveyor of Excise he noted that ‘the common people speak broad Scotch, and the better sort differ vastly from us, both in accent and language.’

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