Sunday, 28 February 2010

Settlement and plantation

In response to an earlier post, Mairtin Og (whom I take to be Mairtin Og Meehan and Ardoyne Republican) wrote:
The Gaelic leaders of Ulster, the O'Neills and O'Donnells, finding their power under English suzerainty limited, decamped en masse in 1607 (the Flight of the Earls) to Europe. Which allowed the English Crown to plant Ulster with more loyal English and Scottish planters, a process which began in earnest in 1610. Ever since the province and its citizens have suffered endless conflict.
In fact the arrival of Scottish settlers in Ulster pre-dated the Flight of the Earls and was concentrated in Antrim and Down, which were not part of the Plantation of Ulster. Of course this has also to be seen in the context of what G M Trevelyan called the ‘constant factor’ of movement in both directions between Ulster and Scotland. The ‘narrow sea was more of a bridge than barrier.

King James VI of Scotland succeeded Queen Elizabeth I of England and became King James I in 1603. Soon after this two Scottish lairds, Sir James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, acquired land in the north-east of county Down and they arranged for the settlement of that land with Scottish settlers.

The first Scottish settlers, who were Lowlanders and Presbyterians, started to arrive in May1606, the year before the Flight of the Earls. Hamilton’s settlement was based around Bangor and the Montgomery settlement around Newtownards.

Lowland Scots were also brought over to Ulster by the Roman Catholic landowner Sir Randal MacDonnell. He had supported the Gaelic chieftains in the Nine Years War but enjoyed the favour of James I and was encouraged to bring Scottish tenants into Ulster. As a result three hundred families of lowland Scots Protestants settled on his land.

These early settlements in east Ulster were ‘the dawn of the Ulster-Scots’ and Hamilton and Montgomery have been described as the ‘founding fathers of the Ulster-Scots’.

The success of Hamilton and Montgomery inspired King James I’s Virginia Plantation of 1607, his Ulster Plantation of 1610 and his Nova Scotia Plantation of 1621.

This aspect of Scottish settlement in Ulster is largely unknown and often overlooked and it is therefore very disappointing that there is no mention of either Sir James Hamilton or Sir Hugh Montgomery, or indeed Sir Randal MacDonnell, in the account of Ulster history in the Ulster Museum. It is a most regrettable and unfortunate omission.

As regards ‘conflict in Ulster’ I think that is something that goes back way beyond the 17th century. There was certainly conflict with the Vikings and with the Anglo-Normans and there were also bloody struggles for power and land among the Gaelic chieftains themselves. Indeed one of the themes in the Ulster Cycle was about the struggle by the men of Ulster to keep out the men of the South.

Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are the Maker’s instructions.

The Ten Commandments are absolute not obsolete.

The law cannot give us the salvation we need but it drives us to the cross of Christ where salvation is to be had.
Maurice Roberts

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Elvis Presley's Scotch-Irish ancestry

Last night I was at the home of the American consul in Belfast for some photographs in relation to a new booklet entitled Ulster and Tennessee.  The booklet has been produced by the Ulster-Scots Community Network and provides short pen-portraits of some famous Tennesseeans with Ulster-Scots ancestry.  One of those included in the booklet is the singer Elvis Presley.

Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on 8 January 1935 and he was the son of  Vernon Presley and his wife Gladys Love Smith.

His father Vernon Elvis Presley was born in Fulton, Mississippi, on 10 April 1916 and his paternal grandparents were Jessie D McClowell Presley (1896-1973) and his wife Minnie Hae Hood (1893-1980).  One researcher has traced the Presley family back to Scotland and the middle name McClowell also suggests Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry.

There was Scotch-Irish ancestry is his mother's family.  His maternal grandparents were Robert Lee Smith and his wife Octavia Luvenia Mansell and according to Elaine Dundy, who wrote the book Elvis and Gladys (1985):
Elvis's great-great-great-grandmother, Morning White Dove (1800-1835), was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. She married William Mansell, a settler in western Tennessee, in 1818. William's father, Richard Mansell, had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Mansell is a French name - its literal translation is the man from Le Mans. The Mansells migrated from Norman France to Scotland, and then later to Ireland. In the 18th century the family came to the American Colonies.

Republican night in GAA club

Last weekend, back in Ulster, there was a Republican Youth weekend in Strabane to mark the 25th anniversary of three IRA terorrists who were killed by the SAS.  The weekend began on Friday night in rather unrevolutionary fashion with a dinner dance but this was no ordinary dinner dance.  It was organised by Strabane Republican Flute Band.  On Saturday morning there was a republican tour of West Tyrone and then it was on to the Fountain Street community centre in Strabane for an exhibition about the three terrorists.

As part of the commemorative weekend there was a social event in Drumquin GAA Clubrooms on the Saturday evening.  These are the clubrooms of the Wolfe Tone's GAA Club and it is regrettable that a sport club is used to celebrate the memory of IRA terrorists.

According to the poster on the Ogra Sinn Fein website the music was provided by Patriot Flame along with a Republican Flute Band although another reference on the website states that the music was provided by what Ogra Sinn Fein describe as the Armagh rebel band Paddywagon.

Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda (2)

Another speaker at the Sinn Fein sponsored conference Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda was Margaret Ward, who was described as an author and historian.   In the course of her address she described herself as 'a representative for the women's sector in the Bill of Rights Forum' in 2008 and indeed she is very much to the fore in the 'women's sector'.

This is not her first time on a Sinn Fein platform and she was the speaker at a conference organised by Sinn Fein in March 2009 in Belfast to mark International Women's Day.  On that occasion she was introduced as chair of the Women's Centres Regional Partnership.  Acording to its website the WCRP is funded by DSD and is made up of four lead partners, one of which is the Women's Research and Development Agency, represented by Margaret Ward.

Dr Margaret Ward has a long political history stretching back to her days in the People’s Democracy. Then in October 1975 she was a founder member of the Socialist Women's Group, which was established by some of the most radical feminists.  It was a Trotskyist republican socialist group and it linked feminism to socialism and to Irish nationalism. According to Margaret Ward herself they ‘tried to link women’s oppression, partition and the imperialist domination of Ireland’. She further explained the Trotskyist nature of the group by saying ‘it was women who came from various places - from People’s Democracy, the Revolutionary Marxist Group and the Irish Workers’ Group - together with ones of us who hadn’t really a notion.’ The PD, RMG and the IWG were all Trotskyist organisations.  [A Difficult Dangerous Honesty p 17]

Carmel Roulston has also confirmed the distinctive political character of the SWG and she observed that, 'The Socialist Women’s Group members were for the most part involved in or associated with the Trotskyist or pro-IRA left.  [Women on the Margin p 226]

Another of her current interests is Hanna's House in Dublin, of which the WRDA in Belfast is a participating organisation.  This is named after the Irish republican revolutionary Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and it is perhaps significant that in 1997 Mary Ward wrote a biography of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.

At the Bill of Rights Forum Margaret Ward was one of two representatives of the women's sector but she is hardly representative of the majority of women in Northern Ireland and that is an illustration of one of the fundamental flaws of the Bill of Rights Forum.  It was simply an unrepresentative body.

Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda (1)

Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda was the title of a conference, which was sponsored by Sinn Fein and held in London last Saturday, 20 February.   It was presented as part of Sinn Fein's strategy for a United Ireland but will have done nothing to forward that futile cause. 

The truth is that there can only be a United Ireland with the consent of unionists in Ulster and no amount of nationalists and republicans talking to other nationalists and republicans will alter the views of unionists.  There were two unionists on a panel later in the day but essentially this was about nationalists taking to nationalists.

Nevertheless the reports of the conference provide some interesting insights.  The opening speaker was Gerry Adams MP, president of Sinn Fein, and he was followed by a session chaired by the Labour MP Diane Abbott.  The contributors included Conall McDevitt MLA of the SDLP, Margaret Ward, who was described as an author and historian, and Jarlath Burns, a former GAA player, a former Daily Ireland columnist and now a GAA commenator on BBC.

Jarlath Burns, who was also a member of the Consultative Group on the Past, was quite frank about the political agenda of the GAA.
The GAA is a critical element in the conversation about Irish unity. You see, the GAA has never accepted partition. Some of our clubs straddle the border, Ulster consists of nine counties and the desire to seek Irish unity is enshrined in the Official Guide of the GAA. There is a commitment to the use of the Irish language and the promotion of Irish culture that is discrete yet honourable, inclusive, not intrusive and at all times, full to the neck of integrity that is to be admired and learnt from.
He also spoke about the pan-nationalist aspect of the GAA:
Within clubs, it can be just as fraught with the GAA having to be equally relevant to the SDLP and Sinn Féin in the north.
You can't get much clearer than that - 'the desire to seek Irish unity is enshrined in the Official Guide of the GAA' - and his choice of the word 'enshrined' is significant.  Not only is it there in the Official Guide but it is enshrined in the Official Guide.  There is no place for unionists in the GAA and there probably never will be.  Those who speak of the GAA reaching out to unionists and opening the door to unionists need to realise that the GAA is a nationalist organisation.

But that is not the end to the nationalist rhetoric of Jarlath Burns and he even manages to launch an attack on me personally:
And bringing us right up to date; this week Bryansford GAA are having their expansion plans thwarted by a particularly bigoted piece of political chicanery from the DUP minister of culture, a man who hadn’t even the guts to mention the GAA Ulster championship last summer in a statement promoting the summer of sporting activities in the six counties. And we are still in trouble because some of our grounds are named historically and emotionally after what we would term irish patriots, but who others would call terrorists. Off the field, we just can’t seem to win and this is why we are distinctly uncomfortable in the political arena and nowadays try to avoid it at all costs.
Jarlath Burns accuses me of 'a particularly bigoted piece of political chicanery' in relation to Bryansford GAA.  In fact I have had no role in relation to Bryansford GAA or their expansion plans and his personal and erroneous attack tells us more about his own prejudice than anything else.  It might be argued that his false accusation should be ignored, especially since it is on a Sinn Fein website, but Burns is a well-known figure who appears regularly on BBC television.  I intend to look into this matter further, especially since what appears once on the internet has a tendency to get repeated elsewhere.


Scotch-Irish in the Southern states

A Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American South
Edited by Richard Gray and Owen Robinson (2004)
Chapter 18, The South Through Other Eyes, page 327
Professor Helen Taylor

I came across the following paragraph on the Scotch-Irish of the American South, which was written by Professor Helen Taylor of the University of Exeter:
From the late seventeenth century to the American Revolution, the Southern backcountry was flooded with one of these groups, the Scotch-Irish, and it has been said that their heritage and style are the characteristics most associated with Southerners over the last two centuries: herding rather than tilling, leisurely, musical, tall-taletelling, violent, clannish, family-centered, fiercely Protestant, with a strong sense of honor.  Indeed, the term most used, usually pejoratively, to describe poor white Southern frontiersmenfrom the mid-1700s is the Scottish term for a noisy, boasting fellow, a 'cracker'.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Celtic DNA

Michael Conaghan, writing in the Belfast Telegraph (26 February) about the popularity of Country & Western music, asks, 'Why should a musical form so rooted in American rural values find a ready audience over here?'  He responds to this question by saying, 'The qualities that define the average Country song is (sic) one that appeals mightily to our Celtic DNA.'

The roots of Country music lie in the traditional folk music of the Appalachians and that area was home to many Scotch-Irish settlers, whose fathers and forefathers had taken their music and song with them across the Atlantic.  When Country music returned across the Atlantic it was therefore in some ways a musical homecoming.

But what on earth is Celtic DNA?  Are the people of Northern Ireland somehow Celtic?  I know what Celtic languages are but I find the concept of Celtic DNA rather bizarre.  The fact is that most of us have very mixed ancestries - in my own case there is an Ulster-Scots ancestry but my maternal family were originally of Dutch origin and I am sure that somewhere in my ancestry there will be English and Irish and other strains.  To describe the people of Northern Ireland as Celtic is therefore simply nonsense.

'Northern Ireland' or 'Northern Irish'

In recent years there has been a trend towards introducing the term 'Northern Irish' in a variety of situations to replace the traditional 'Northern Ireland'.  For example, some people refer to the Northern Irish economy, whereas traditionally we spoke about the Northern Ireland economy.

It seems to me that the traditional form is better because it is clear that it is referring to the country of Northern Ireland whereas Northern Irish is somewhat ambiguous.  Moreover, from what I can recall of English grammar, the use of Northern Ireland in this way is in fact as an 'attributive noun' ie a noun that modifies another noun and is optional - meaning that it can be removed without changing the grammar of the sentence.  Although I wait to be corrected by some 'experts' in grammar!

Since it is grammatically correct and avoids any possible ambiguity, I will therefore continue to listen to the Northern Ireland news, enjoy Northern Ireland culture, work as a Northern Ireland politican and hope that both the Northern Ireland weather and the Northern Ireland economy improve.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh was in Northern Ireland today for a series of engagements.  The day started at Hillsborough Castle he presented Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards to around 100 young people.

After that he visited the new Belfast Activity Centre boathouse, beside Shaw's Bridge, where he performed the official opening.  My department provided much of the money for the boathouse and I was delighted to be there and to meet him.  The boathouse was designed by Dawson Stelfox, who is also patron of the BAC, and it fits in beautifully and naturally with the surroundings.  There is a stone indicating that it was built in 2009 but a number of people thought that it was actually an old building that had been restored.  As well as being aesthetically pleasing it is extremely functional and able to cope with the needs of desabled young people, who want to use the canoes and kayaks.

From there we travelled the short distance to the main Belfast Activity Centre in Barnetts Demesne.  The centre, which was established in 1988, with funding raised by the Earl of Wessex, is one of a number of special Duke of Edinburgh projects throughout the United Kingdom.

The aim of the BAC is to engage young epople aged 14-25 years from all backgrounds in a range of adventure learning and outdoor programmes and activities, aimed ta developing their personal and social activities.

There was a strong Shankill presence on the day, with young people from Edenbrooke Primary Schools and various representatives from the Grater Shankill Partnership Board.

City of Culture

Congratulations to the historic city of Londonderry, which has just been shortlisted for the new title of United Kingdom City of Culture in 2013. 

Londonderry will jon three English cities, Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield, in bidding for the title.  The four cities will have until 28 May to develop their full and final bids with the winning city due to be announced in June.

The year 2013 is of course the 400th anniversary of the granting of the royal charter to Londonderry by King James I as part of the Plantation of Ulster.  This was the start of the modern city and the walls were built between then and 1618.  Londonderry still preserves the original layout of four main streets radiating out from a central Diamond to four gateways.

I wish Londonderry well in the next stage of their campaign for the City of Culture title.

Monday, 22 February 2010

When That Great Ship Went Down

Tonight there was excellent programme on BBC Four about the early years of American country music with singers such as Fiddlin' John Carson (1868-1949) and Ernest 'Pop' Stoneman (1893-1968).

One of Stoneman's hit songs was sung on the programme by his daughters and it caught my attention.  The song was When That Great Ship Went Down and it told the story of the Belfast-built Titanic, which sank on 15 April 1912 after striking an iceberg.  It must have been written soon afterwards because it has been traced back to Alabama in 1915 or 1916.  Stoneman recorded it in September 1924. 
Oh, They built the ship Titanic,
They built it strong and true,
And they thought they had a ship,
That the water wouldn't go through.
It was on her maiden trip,
That an iceberg stuck the ship.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Oh it was sad,
Oh it was sad,
It was sad when the great ship went down to the water.
All the husbands and wives,
Itty, bitty children lost their lives.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

It was off the coast of England,
And far from any shore,
When the rich refused to associate with the poor.
So they put the poor below,
Where they'd be the first to go.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

So they swung the life boats out,
O're the dark and stormy sea,
And the band struck up with "Near My God To Thee".
And the women and children cried,
As the water rushed through the side.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Mrs. Aster turned around,
Just to see her husband drown,
And the ship Titanic made a gurgling sound.
So she wrapped herself in mink,
Just to see the great ship sink.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Oh the moral of this story,
Is when you put out to sea,
Just make sure that the ship
Is plenty sea worthy.
And the icebergs are afloat,
On an ocean far remote.
It was sad when the great ship went down.
The song was recorded by other musicians and there was also another song with the same title and the same theme but different words  This version was recorded by the Scotch-Irish folk singer Woody Guthrie (1912-1967).

Monica McWilliams and cultural identity

Professor Monica McWilliams, then leader of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and an MLA for South Belfast, spoke about cultural identity in an address to the Irish Association in Belfast on 2 September 2000:
Closer to home the unionist-nationalist divide still remains strong. Perhaps one of the saddest developments in recent years is how cultural identity has been used to exacerbate this divide. It is doubtful if either Cuchullan (sic) or Douglas Hyde would have recognised the cultural battles that are taking place in their name. Faced with an increasing Irish language and cultural hegemony, Unionists have responded with an inflated Ulster-Scots identity, that they police in terms of parity of financial and esteem equity. This is the ‘black pig’s dyke’ defensive mentality in practice.
There are several interesting points in what Monica McWilliams said.
(1) She ignored the fact that the Gaelic revival at the end of the 19th century, led by men such as Douglas Hyde, gave rise to Irish cultural nationalism.
(2) She referred to an ‘increasing Irish language and cultural hegemony’. The word hegemony means ‘dominance, especially by one social group over others’.
(3) She also said that there was ‘an inflated Ulster-Scots identity’. In fact there is nothing inflated about an Ulster-Scots identity. It is an important part of our cultural diversity and a significant strand in our cultural history.

Today Monica McWilliams is the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and therefore responsible for upholding the cultural rights of individuals and communities, including the Ulster-Scots community.  It may therefore be helpful for those in the Ulster-Scots community to have this insight into the commissioner’s ill-informed view of their cultural identity.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Association of Loyal Orange Women

Yesterday there was a letter in the Irish Times which was critical of the Orange Order and supportive of Gerry Adams and the Garvaghy Road Residents Committee.  One of the criticisms was that there are no women in the Orange Order.  I responded to the letter and pointed out that there is indeed an Association of Loyal Orange Women.  This is the origin of that organisation.

The Orange Women’s Association began in 1887 when a number of women with strong unionist views formed themselves into a body to work together for the promotion of Protestantism and the defence of the Union. The founder was the Hon Helena de Moleyns, daughter of the 3rd Baron Ventry, and wife of Colonel Edward Saunderson, the Conservative MP for North Armagh. The Association was authorised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in December 1887 and it flourished for a short time but eventually ceased to function.

Then in 1911, with the consent of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, Mrs R H Johnston of Bawnboy House, county Cavan, undertook to reissue warrants. That new start marked the origin of the women’s Orange movement of today. 

The event that prompted this re-formation of the women’s movement was the promulgation in 1911 by the Roman Catholic Church of the Ne Temere decree. This decree declared that a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant was only valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church if it was performed by a Roman Catholic priest.

The decree became a matter of much public attention when a young Presbyterian girl in Belfast, who had married a Roman Catholic man named McCann, refused to be remarried in a Roman Catholic chapel. The result was that her two children were kidnapped. Protest meetings were held in Belfast and there was a very large meeting in the Presbyterian Assembly Hall at which Bishop Crozier spoke. 

Mrs Johnston read about the case in the newspapers and felt that a revived Women’s Orange Association would be an influence against mixed marriages and the effects of Ne Temere. 

She called a meeting in 12 Rutland Square, Dublin, in February 1912 and three warrants were issued. The first went to Mrs W Bridgett to meet in Sandy Row Orange Hall, the second went to a lodge at Ballymacarrett and the third to Kingstown, county Dublin.

Today the revived organisation is approaching its centenary.

World Police and Fire Games

On Wednesday afternoon, along with Dame Mary Peters, I visited a number of possible venues for the 2013 World Police and Fire Games.  We started the tour at Custom House Square in Belfast, which is being considered as the location for the Ultimate Fireman Competition, one of the highlights of the games.

We also visited the Mary Peters Track in South Belfast, Lisnagarvey Hockey Club at Hillsborough, and the Civil Service sports complex at Stormont.

At the Games the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and Northern Ireland Prison Service will host approximately 10,000 Law Enforcement Officers and Fire-fighters from around the world who will compete in a wide variety of sporting events.  The total number of visitors to Ulster, including partners and friends, will be around 25,000.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Few Good Acres

A Few Good Acres: The Odyssey of Thomas Beaty and His Descendants in America is the title of a book by Marvin T Beatty, which was published last year.

It is the fictional story of Thomas Beaty, a young Ulster-Scot who emigrated from Ireland to America with his brother Will and worked his way across colonial Pennsylvania, contending with Indians, blizzards and uncertain land titles until he and his hardy wife were able to buy a farm on the frontier.  There they raised their twelve children.

The story of the Beaty family continues through four generations, who follow the frontier westward, always searching for better land, until the fifth generation settles on a farm in a mountain valley of Montana.

This is a fictional story but in his dedication the author says:
This book is dedicated to my hardy and intrepid ancestors; their struggles and accomplishments laid the foundation for this fictional account.

Gerry Adams and Garvaghy Road

The following letter appeared in the Irish Times (16 February):
Despite his sometimes repeated hope/wish to reach out to the Protestant unionist/loyalist people, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams continues to support the Garvaghy Road Residents Committee in denying Orangemen their right to enjoy their traditional parade (now reformed to answer residents' complaints) along the Garvaghy Road (Home News, February 13th).
Comforted, presumably, by the insipid popular meaning of the Irish Tricolour - the hopes/wishes for peace between the two historic traditions - he ignores the need to call for the 'lasting truce between Orange and Green' which is signified by the flag's white strip (as pointed out by Thomas Francis Meagher when he presented the flag to Ireland in 1848).
Obstructing the Orangemen from the Garvaghy road is an insult to the national flag's inclusive nature.  It allows it to be dismissed as politically sectarian, even racist, as it hangs from the lamp-posts along the Garvaghy Road.
Dublin Road
Co Cavan

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Edna O'Brien and the IRA

There is an account in the Belfast Telegraph (16 February) of an interview with Irish author Edna O'Brien, whose first novel, The Country Girls, appeared in 1960.  Her latest work, Haunted, has just opened at the Grand Opera House, and she is in Belfast with it.  She is now approaching 80 but it is clear that she still holds strong Irish nationalist and republican views.
Like many, she feels that Ireland should be one country, but unlike the majority, she also thinks that there is some justification for the republican armed struggle.
'I feel there was a justification, yes, and I believe Ireland is one country but my human side is relieved that the guerilla war is over.'
Alongside her support for Irish republican terrorism she has a marked disdain for Ulster unionists, in spite of the fact that she has met very few of them.  But then prejudice is a great time-saver.  It allows you to form an opinion without taking the time to find out the facts.
'Although I have only met a few unionists, intransigence is in their DNA - it's in their history and geography.  I don't want to sound off but there is on their part a reluctance to concede anything, an ingrained sense of superiority.'
It is worth noting that this notable Irish author, who says that republican terrorism was 'justified', has such a strong love for Ireland that she has spent the last fifty years living in Chelsea, London's grandest postcode.  Obviously she loved Ireland so much that she left it!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund

Broadcasting is an important part in any strategy for the promotion of a culture or language and Ulster-Scots is no exception.  Unfortunately both Ulster-Scots culture and the Ulster-Scots language have been treated very poorly over the years by public service broadcasters, in terms of both radio and television.  However there is evidence that things are starting to change.

The United Kingdom government has committed to fund a new Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund at £1million a year over the next five years from 2010 to 2015.  This money comes directly from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London and will be handled by Northern Ireland Screen, which will establish an Ulster-Scots sub-committee to oversee the funding.

The Irish Language Broadcast Fund has done much for Irish language broadcasting and I have no doubt that this will result in much more Ulster-Scots broadcasting on both radio and television. 

This is something that I have been campaigning about for several years and my predecessor, Gregory Campbell MP MLA, also pressed the Northern Ireland Office on this matter. In recent weeks I had the opportunity to speak about it directly to the Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, and I am delighted that he has acceded to the request for direct funding from London.

Some of the money will be directed towards  Ulster-Scots language programmes but most of it will probably be directed towards programmes about Ulster-Scots culture and history.  For example, we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant, which was signed in 1912.  It was the birth certificate of Northern Ireland and it was modelled on and inspired by the old Scottish covenants.  Another example would be the Siege of Derry, when so many Ulster-Scots sought refuge behind the walls of the Maiden City.

This is an important development and an important element in the forthcoming strategy for Ulster-Scots, which is due to be completed by the end of March.


This week in the Irish Times (15 February), Diarmaid O Muirithe erxplains the word rowt, which was sent in by a reader in Tyrone.  He says that it refers to the bellow of a bull, the low of a cow, or the bray of an ass.  The reader had also heard it used of the efforts of a singer who has to raise his voice above the din ain a public house.  Thw word is also used as a verb meaning to bellow or roar and is of Scots origin.  It appears in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, which gives examples of its use by Burns, Ramsay and Fergusson, and notes its use in Ulster in 1880 and 1953.

Independently I have come across two examples of its use in Ulster-Scots placenames.  The Routing Burn or ‘roaring stream’ is a boundary stream in Tyrone. There is a description of the parish of Termonmaguirk in the Down Survey, which was executed by Sir William Petty in 1657, and it states that ‘The Owen ne Coggreeght is the stream now called the Routing Burn, which separates on the south the parish of Clogherny from that of Clogher.'

There is also the Routing Wheel, which is a tidal whirlpool in the mouth of the narrow entrance to Strangford, near Portaferry.  In his description of the area in 1683 William Montgomery said, ‘there is a whirle poole called by ye Scotts ye rowting weele from ye loud sound it some tymes makes’.

Scotch-Irish hall of fame (2)

Francis Alison (1705-1779)

Dr Francis Alison was born in the parish of Leck, outside Letterkenny, in county Donegal in 1705 and he was the son of a Presbyterian weaver named Robert Alison.

He was educated at Edinburgh University and after that he possibly attended Glasgow University, where one of his tutors would have been Francis Hutcheson, another Ulster-Scot and the 'Father of the Scottish Enlightenment'.  Certainly he knew Hutcheson well enough to write to him from America in 1744.  

Alison was licensed by the presbytery of Letterkenny in June 1735 and then emigrated from Ulster to America with other family members.

Dr Francis Alison was the father of higher education in the middle colonies. He was vice president of the College of Philadelphia and founded the institution that is now the University of Delaware. Among his students were some of the leaders in the American movement for independence, including three members of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia - Thomas McKean, the son of Ulster-Scots emigrants, Charles Thomson ,another Ulster-Scot, who was born in Maghera, and George Read, whose father had come from Dublin.

According to Kerby Miller, Alison 'perhaps more than any other public figure, helped prepare Pennsylvania's Scots-Irish for their prominent role in the American revolution.'

Alison was regarded by contemporaries as America’s greatest classical scholar and Benjamin Franklin described him as a man of ‘great ingenuity and learning, a catholic divine’.

Alison is known to have had at least one sister, whose son James Latta was born in Donegal in 1732 and who also became a prominent Presbyteiran minister and schoolteacher in Pennsylvania.

The cultural ethos of schools

There is an ongoing debate in Northern Ireland about the replacement of the five Education and Library Boards with a single Education and Skills Authority and in that context there is a debate about the nature and governance of the controlled or state sector.

As a contribution to that debate I waould draw your attention to an article by Jude Collins in the now-defunct Daily Ireland on 24 November 2005.  Jude Collins is a writer and broadcaster and at that time he was also a lecturer on education at the University of Ulster.

Secretary of State Peter Hain had proposed the reorganisation of the education system, with a single education authority and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools becoming an advisory body.  Against that background Jude Collins took the opportunity to write about the importance of the Roman Catholic schools sector:
There are two good reasons for protecting Catholic schools here.
Firstly, they provide a Catholic education for children.  That is they try to help the young people in their schools to see that their religious faith, if it is to be more than a social veneer, permeates all aspects of life.  Catholic schools don't always succeed in this mission.  Some think they fail more than they succeed.  but they try.
Secondly, Catholic education supports a sense of Irish identity.  The schools don't talk a lot about this in their official curricuclum, but it's part of what they do.  Children attending Catholic schools are helped to see that 'visiting the capital' doesn't necessarily mean going to London, that Carndonagh, clones and Carrickmacross are Ulster towns every bit as much as Carrickfergus, Cookstown and Killyleagh - that Irish music and Irish games and the Irish language are a wonderful source of fun and fulfilment, as well as a rich heritage to be proud of.  They give children an Irish lens through which to view the world.
So if yoy're a commited Catholic, you'll be watchful that Mr Hain's plans for the CCMS don't signal an assault on Catholic schools.  If you're a commited nationalist, you'll also be equally watchful, for different reasons.
Repeat it to yourself so you stay alert: for political as well as religious reasons, Catholic education in this state matters.  Some things don't change.
Accortding to the writer, Roman Catholic schools have a religious dimension and a cultural dimension and the cultural dimension is unashamedly Irish and Gaelic.  He says that the sector should therefore be supported by Irish cultural nationalism, because it is supportive of, Irish and Gaelic culture.

The Irish-medium sector also promotes Irish and Gaelic culture but what then of the controlled sector and children in the controlled sector?  I intend to look at several reasons why the cultural ethos of the controlled sector is important.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Scotch-Irish hall of fame (1)

James Gamble (1803-1891)

Procter & Gamble is an American multinational company with its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it manufactures a wide range of consumer goods.  In 1946 the company introduced a new detergent called Tide and in 1955 it began selling Crest, the first toothpaste to contain fluoride.  Another innovation came in 1961 when it began to test-market Pampers, the first successful disposable nappies.

The founders of the company were William Procter, an Englishman, and James Gamble, an Ulsterman, who was born at the Graan, near Enniskillen, on 3 April 1803.  He was educated at Portora Royal School and then emigrated from Ulster to America with his parents in 1819. 

The Gamble family settled in Cincinnati and James was apprenticed as a soapmaker.  He attended Kenyon College and after graduating in 1824 he went into business on his own as a soapmaker.

James married Elizabeth Norris and when William Procter, a candlemaker, married her sister, Olivia Norris, their father-in-law suggested that the two men go into business together.  The firm of Procter & Gamble was formed on 31 October 1837 and by 1859 their annual sales had reached $1m. 

During the Civil War the company supplied the Union Army with soap and candles and this introduced the company's name and products to men from all over the United States.  James Gamble died  on 29 April 1891 and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

His eldest son James Norris Gamble (1836-1932) worked as a chemist in the company and he is credited with accidentally inventing a floating soap, Ivory Soap, which was the company's first really successful product.

Thompson Brothers

Mark Thompson, the former chair of the Ulster-Scots Agency and a leading activist in the Ulster-Scots community, is one half of a gospel 'brother duet' with his brother Graeme. 

They are known as the Thompson Brothers and their first CD as a duet will ready before Easter.  It will be entitled Soda Farls & Redemption Songs (Hairtsome Hymns fae oor Ulster-Scots Childhood) and will include about 18 tracks, some of them hymns with Ulster roots, some Sacred Scotch Solos and some old brother duet songs.

In the meantime you can hear them sing, along with the Calvary Quartet, in Burnside Orange Hall, near Templepatrick, next Saturday night 20 February.  I am not sure of the time but it is probably 7.30.

Alcohol Abuse (2)

On 1 February I posted some extracts from newspapers about the problem of alcohol abuse in our society.  This afternoon I came across some other newspaper articles from last year on the same theme.

1. The Belfast Telegraph carried an editorial (9 September 2009) entitled 'Serious side of our drink hangover'
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the binge drinking culture in our society. Indeed ,it is virtually impossible to walk the streets of the towns and cities of Northern Ireland without encountering people who are severely inebriated, often violently so.
Now there is disturbing hard evidence of the extent of criminal behaviour fuelled by alcohol. Almost half of the 10,000 people arrested in the province this year to date had been drinking. and drinking was a factor in 77% of arrests at weekends.
There must be a change of mindset in society. The idea that drinking to excess is normal behaviour or is a requirement to having a good time needs to be challenged.
Measures must be taken to control the sale of alcohol and scale of drinking, especially among young people who are most likely to abuse the substance.  Those measures should include increasing the cost of strong drinks and strictly enforcing age limits in licensed premises and at off-sales outlets.
2. The Irish News (30 October 2009) reported 'Booze-link death sees barmen in court'.  Two barmen in county Tipperary were charged with the unlawful killing of an English tourist who died from acute alcohol intoxication.  The bar manager and a barman worked in the Hayes Hotel in Thurles, better known as the birthplace of the GAA, and the tourist died on 1 July 2008 after celebrating his 26th birthday in the hotel.  He had died after choking on his own vomit and the case sparked debate about the responsibility that pubs and hotels have to their patrons.

3. The Irish Times supplement Health Plus (1 December 2009) reported in a headline that 'Four in 10 women drink excessively'
More than 50 per cent of Irish people are drinking alcohol harmfully, with older people and women especially at risk, research published today has found.
An analysis of data from the 2007 Slan lifestyle study suggests some foru in 10 women are drinking excessively over an extended period, with seven in 10 men also at risk from this pattern of alcohol intake.
4. A news release from the Scottish Government (12 January 2010) reported that alcohol misuse was costing every adult about £900 a year:

Alcohol misuse could be costing Scottish taxpayers around £3.56 billion per year, according to an independent study.
The research, which looked at the impact across the NHS, police, social services, the economy and on families, estimated the total annual cost at between £2.48 billion and £4.64 billion - with a mid-point estimate of £3.56 billion. 
Averaged across the population, the £3.56 billion figure means alcohol misuse could be costing every Scottish adult about £900 per year.
The Bible warns us about the danger of alcohol abuse - 'Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise' (Proverbs 20:1) - 'Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine' (Proverbs 23:29.30).

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Victory for Belfast boxer

Congratulations to North Belfast boxer Carl Frampton who defeated Yohan Boyeaux in a super-bantamweight bout at York Hall in London last night.  Frampton, who is from Tiger's Bay, has had a great start to his professional career with a series of victories.

He started boxing at an early age and his first competitive bout was at the age of seven in Crusaders FC Social Club.  His amateur career started with the Midland Boxing Club and it ran to 130 bouts with 110 wins.  He won the Irish senior flyweight title in 2005, a silver medal at the 2007 European Union championships, and the 2009 Irish senior featherweight title.

Frampton has now turned professional and his manager Barry McGuigan is convinced that he can become a world chamption.

Royal Society of Ulster Architects

The Royal Society of Ulster Architects was established in 1901 and it is the professional body for architects in Northern Ireland, with around 900 members. 

On Monday I attended the agm of the RSUA at which they were launching the RSUA Development Plan 2010-2012.  The launch took place in the Meter House at the Gasworks.  This beautiful old building was restored by Doug Elliott and is an excellent example of restoration and regeneration.

Dawson Stelfox, the president of the RSUA, gave a presentation on the development plan and then I made a short speech and took some questions.

I thanked the RSUA for supporting the development of DCAL's architecture and built environment policy and commented on the value of good design, the importance of built heritage as part of our cultural wealth and the need for sustainable development.

In conclusion I encouraged the RSUA to raise expectations - to challenge construction clients, both public and private, to strive for design excellence and to challenge policies which are a barrier to good design.  Good buildings, in which we can live, work and socialise, enhance the quality of our lives and I am grateful to the RSUA and the Ministerial Advisory Group for all their efforts.

Friday, 12 February 2010

DUP issue warning to Sinn Fein

DUP Issue Warning to Sinn Fein

Statement from Peter Robinson MP MLA (party leader), Nelson McCausland MLA, Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA and Stephen Moutray MLA (members of the parades working group) 

“We are deeply disappointed by the statements made yesterday by Gerry Adams in relation to parades. His comments were crass, irresponsible and extremely unhelpful.

They are contrary to what was agreed to by Sinn Fein at Hillsborough and indicate a move back to the old republican stance.

Gerry Adams has stated that the right of public assembly is dependent on the consent of residents but that is Sinn Fein speak for cultural apartheid. Where is the vision for a shared and better future, with shared roads and shared public space?

His comments also breach both the spirit and the letter of the principles set out in the Hillsborough Agreement.

Gerry Adams is looking over his shoulders at dissidents and the most extreme elements in his own ranks. This is not a time for political retreat; it is a time for leadership and a time for progress. 

The core principles agreed at Hillsborough form the remit of the parades working group. Any move away from what was agreed at Hillsborough will be an act of bad faith and would stymie progress.  

The DUP is committed to finding a resolution to this issue and we will not be party to any report which falls short of the principles agreed at Hillsborough.”

DUP delegation meet Parades Commission

Along with David Simpson MP MLA and Stephen Moutray MLA I met with the Parades Commission yesterday to discuss the Drumcree parade in county Armagh.  It was a useful meeting, which lasted around an hour, and we were able to question them about their approach to the situation whereby dissident republican Brendan McKenna, has refused to engage with the Orangemen.  Sadly the Parades Commission has rewarded such intransigence.

The commissioners undertook to consider the issues we raised and we will seek a further meeting with them in due course.

Brendan McKenna was jailed for six years for his involvement in blowing up the Royal British Legion Hall in Portadown in 1982.  He served on Craigavon Council from 1997 to 2001 and was for some time an adviser to Sinn Fein MLAs.  Eventually he left Sinn Fein and he was elected general secretary of Eirigi in May 2009.

Sinn Fein agm in GAA complex

I have highlighted a number of cases in Ulster where Sinn Fein have used GAA premises for party political events.  Now it seems that the practice also occurs in the Irish Republic.  The current issue of An Phoblacht (11 February 2010) reports that:
A large crowd of dedicated republicans converged on Mallow GAA Complex early on  Sunday morning last for the annual general meeting of the Munster Cuige.
Sinn Fein vice-president Mary Lou McDonald was one of the speakers and the following extract is taken from the report of her speech:
Outlining in more detail the outcome of the talks at Hillsborough, Mary Lou explained how at all times the negotiating team would not entertain the DUP’s attempt to appease the Orange Order element in their ranks to return to the past and dispose of the Parades Commission. Cross-community support remains a key aspect to any parade being allowed into an area, with the DUP agreeing to the fundamental right that people have the right to live free from sectarian harassment.
Poor Mary Lou seems not to have understood the Hillsborough Agreement.  The fact is that the Parades Commission will be replaced by a new and improved framework - that is what the Agreement states.

Neither has she understood the nature of this new and improved framework.  There is no mention in the Agreement of a requirement for the 'support' of residents as 'a key aspect to any parade being allowed into an area.'  There is an emphasis on local dialogue and mediation but if dialogue and mediation fail then the adjudication will be based on human rights and the right of peaceful public assembly, which includes both parades and protests, is one of the most fundamental rights in a democratic society.

The comments by Mary Lou McDonald were followed by even stronger statements from Gerry Adams and others and it is clear that Sinn Fein leaders are looking over one shoulder at dissident republicans and over the other shoulder at some elements in their own ranks.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Parades Working Group

A working group has been established by OFMDFM and tasked with preparing a report on a new and improved framework for regulating public assemblies.  This will mean a new start, a new system and a new structure for parades and protests.  The group has six members, three of whom are DUP MLAs and three of whom are Sinn Fein MLAs.  The report has to be completed within a few weeks and so we are meeting every weekday, Monday to Friday.  Submissions have been invited from the other political parties in the Assembly and also from other stakeholders such as the Loyal Orders, bands, parades forums and residents groups.  The report will inform the development of new draft legislation, which will then go out to public consultation.  The legislation will then pass through the Assembly with the intention that it will receive Royal Assent in December.  The new and improved framework will replace the Parades Commission, which has been heavily criticised by many unionists and nationalists.

There is a long tradition of parades by the Loyal Orders, one that stretches back several hundred years, and the parades are a unique aspect of the cultural wealth of Ulster.   The colour and pageantry, the music of the bands, and the artistry of the banners all contribute to the special character and the popularity of the parades.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


I have referred on several occasions to the weekly column by Diarmaid O Muirithe in the Irish Times and yesterday (8 February), he included another Ulster-Scots word in his column.
In Ulster they have an interesting term for what a hungry baby does at his or her mother's breast: they grabble or clutch at the source of nourishment.  Paedar O Casaide sent me the word from Monaghan many years ago, and now I have it from James Baxter from Fermanagh, who asks where it came from.  From the Scots grabble to grope, a word also found in some north of England dialects, from Dutch grabbelen, an extended form of Middle Dutch grabben, which gave us grab.
This is another of the Scots words that came to Ulster as Ulster-Scots and have passed into general Ulster dialect.  The use of the word in Ulster is confirmed by the Dictionary of the Scots Language.

Orange Order museums project

There is an  article in the current issue of Museums Journal about the plans by the Orange Order to open two museums.  The £4m project comprises interpretive centres at its headquarters, Schomberg House, in Belfast and at Sloan's House in Loughgall, county Armagh.  This is an excellent project which can do much to increase understanding of the Orange tradition and contribute to a shared and better future in Ulster.  The project was launched in Schomberg House back in December.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Another highland dance teacher

This afternoon I presented Mrs Clayre Evans A.U.K.U. with her certificate from the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers, Highland Associate Exam.

Clayre is a member of Magherafelt Highland and Country Dancing Group where she received her training and she is the first person from the Mid-Ulster area to receive this certificate. Financial assistance for the training was provided by the Ulster-Scots Agency.

At one time we were dependent on Scottish teachers coming across to Ulster to teach Scottish highland dancing but that situation has changed and we now have our own local teachers.

Congratulations to Clayre and all those associated with the Magherafelt group.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

North Belfast schools project

Prof Tony Gallagher (QUB), Ruth McWilliams (Belfast Model School for Girls), Sharon Walker (Invest NI), Maeve McCambridge (Little Flower Girls School), Nelson McCausland MLA and Ciara McCann (Our Lady of Mercy), plus a large cut-out of book character Freddie the Frog!

Three North Belfast girls schools have written and published an innovative book for children promoting tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.  The colourful story book was launched at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, on Wednesday 3 February with North Belfast MLAs Nelson McCausland (DUP) and Alban Maginness (SDLP) in attendance. 

The pupils - from Belfast Model School for Girls, Our Lady of Mercy and Little Flower Girls School - worked together to create their own publishing company LeapNI, with the support of Young Enterprise NI.

They noticed a gap in the market for a story book which would appeal to children and would promote ideas for days-out in Northern Ireland. The storybook follows cartoon characters Amy, Adam and Freddie the Frog, as they visit popular attractions in each of the six counties of Northern Ireland – including Belfast Zoo, the Giant’s Causeway and Armagh Planetarium. 

This is an excellent project and I congratulate all concerned. The pupils and staff from the three schools have worked well together to make it a success and this is an excellent cross-community project through which they have learned about working with others.

Young Enterprise NI has provided close support and the girls learned valuable business skills as they established their company – LeapNI - sold shares, appointed directors, developed business and marketing plans, discussed concepts and created their product. 

The book itself is very attractive, promoting venues in all six counties of Northern Ireland, and I am sure it will be widely enjoyed. At just £3 each the book is excellent value and I have every confidence that the girls will succeed in selling their print-run of 1,000 copies. Particular thanks are due to the School of Education at Queen’s University Belfast which subsidised the printing costs. 

I note that the pupils already have plans for a follow-up edition and I wish them continuing success with this venture.

'Shared heritage' talks in Guildhall

Derry City Council has organised a series of four talks in the Guildhall during the month of February and each of them explores a different aspect of ‘shared cultural heritage’.  Acording to the Council's website the subjects are:
1. Placenames of County Derry
2. English as it is spoken in Ireland, which investigates the influence of Irish on the way English is spoken
3. The Ulster Protestant Gaelic Tradition
4. Our Shared Musical Heritage, with Irish language radio presenter Brian Mullan

There are some placenames of Ulster-Scots origin but the emphasis in the series is almost entirely on the influence of the Irish language. It is therefore a lost opportunity, especially as Londonderry and East Donegal are part of the coastal crescent which formed the original Ulster-Scots heartland. The addition of a talk on the Ulster-Scots language would certainly have added to the inclusivity and the value of the series. 

The omission of a talk on Ulster-Scots and its influence on Ulster dialect was particularly disappointing as the series has been jointly funded by Derry City Council, Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency.

Ulster-Scots is all around us

Yesterday I was listening to our pastor preaching a sermon and noted that in it he used a number of Ulster-Scots words - wee, sleekit, footery and thran. He understood them and so did the congregation.  My departmental driver has also introduced me to the Ulster-Scots word hutherin, which he recalled being used in Belfast some years ago and meaning untidy or slovenly. Yes the language is all around us.

Ulster hymnwriters (6)

This morning our pastor continued with a series entitled Reality Check [Consider your ways Haggai 1:5] and he spoke on the subject of prayer.  As the final hymn we sang one of the best-known hymns about prayer, What a Friend we have in Jesus, which was written by an Ulsterman, Joseph M Scriven (1819-1886).
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Joseph Scriven was born on 10 September 1819 at Ballymoney Lodge, Seapatrick, near Banbridge, in county Down. He was the third and youngest son of Captain John Scriven and his wife Jane.  Scriven was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and while he was there he heard the Christian gospel and was converted.

After two years at Trinity he decided on a military career and went to Addiscombe Military College in Surrey but poor health compelled him to give up this idea and he returned to Trinity, from which he graduated in 1842. In the same year he was engaged to be married and the wedding was arranged for the summer of 1844 but just before his wedding day his fiancee was accidentally drowned in the river Bann. 

Joseph Scriven, who was then just 24 years old, decided to emigrate to Canada and start a new life there. The reason for emigrating is unknown and some believe it was because he did not want to be near the place where his fiancee had died while others think it was because he had joined the Plymouth Brethren and this had led to strained relations at home. Whatever the reason he settled at Port Hope, Ontario, and was a teacher and a preacher with the Brethren. 

When he arrived in Canada, Scriven became a tutor for a young man in a family near Rice Lake, Ontario, and he lived with different families in Woodstock, Brantford, Hamilton and Bewdley. He also fell in love with a young woman called Eliza Roche but she became ill and after three years of sickness she died in 1855. During that time Scriven spent much time with her and helped with her nursing care. Her body was laid to rest in a small hillside cemetery overlooking Rice Lake, just outside Bewdley in Ontario.  Out of this tragic experience was born the hymn What a Friend we have in Jesus.  At one time Scriven was asked how he had managed to compose it and he replied, ‘The Lord and I did it between us.’ He also said that he had written it to console his mother back in Ulster. 

On 10 October 1886 Joseph Scriven was found drowned in a water-run near Lake Rice and he was laid to rest in the little cemetery beside his sweetheart Eliza. 

The words of What a Friend we have in Jesus were first published anonymously in Horace L Hastings' Social Hymns, Original and Selected in 1865 but Scriven was given credit as the author in Hastings' Songs of Pilgrimage in 1886. A collection of Scriven's verses was published under the title Hymns and Other Verses in 1869 at Peterborough, Ontario.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Irish Indoor Athletics Championships

This evening I attended the first day of the Irish Indoor Athletics Championships at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast.  This event attracts up to 1,000 athletes from Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and beyond and includes a competition for primary and secondary age children as well as the main senior championships.

The championships are organised by Athletics Northern Ireland and Athletics Ireland and this is the seventh year of the competition.

I presented the medals for the women's 3,000 metre walk and I was rather amused when one official suggested that this was rather appropriate in view of my own participation in quite a number of long walks over the summer months, although they are rather different and usually involve bands and banners.  After that I presented the medals for the women's long jump.

The Odyssey Arena has the only indoor hydraulic 200-metre running track in either Northern Ireland or the Republic and it was interesting to see how the arena can be transformed into a showcase for top class athletes from around the world.

Arts funding in Republic

In a letter to the Irish Times (5 February), composer Conor Linehan wrote:
It has come to my attention that the Corn Exchange Theatre Company [in Dublin], for whom I have worked as a composer, has recently suffered a crippling 48 per cent cut in its Arts Council funding. ...  The overall cut to arts funding this year was six per cent.
This report relates to the situation in the Irish Republic but from this and other reports, it is clear that in the current worldwide economic climate there is pressure on arts budgets in most countries.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Historic mill in Donaghcloney

I was glad to hear that the Environment minister Edwin Poots has 'spot listed' part of an historic industrial site at Donaghcloney.  He has issued a Building Preservation Notice for the former Liddell's Mill complex, which dates back ot the 18th century.  The mill was the centre of village life from its expansion in the early 19th century until it closed a few years ago.

Edwin Poots said, 'Our built heritage is important and should be protected.  Early indications are that these buildings are particularly noteworthy.  They represent a significant part of the development of Donaghcloney and have a social history linked to many of the local families.  They are now protected from alteration or demolition and my department has six months to consider all of the information and carry out its statutory consultations before issuing a final decision on the listing of the buildings.'

The linen industry in Donaghcloney can be traced back to 1742 and the firm of William Liddell started in the village in 1866.  It was one of the largest linen factories in Ulster, employing 1000 workers in 1919, and it supplied the linen for the Titanic.

The company developed Donaghcloney as a model village, with comfortable cottage style houses for the workers.  These are ranged around a central green and the village has a unique atmosphere.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Malcolm Brodie

Lord Sebastian Coe (chair of London 2012 Organising Committee), David Elliott (chair of Libraries NI), Malcolm Brodie, Irene Knox (chief executive of Libraries NI) and Nelson McCausland

The following is the text of the address given by the veteran Ulster journalist Dr Malcolm Brodie MBE at the launch of the All Our Saturdays exhibition in Grove Health and Wellbeing Centre on Tuesday 2 February.  I am grateful to him for forwarding the text to me. 

To-day I feel proud to attend the inauguration of this exhibition of sporting history through the pages of the Ireland’s Saturday Night. This was not only a sports paper but a national institution known as The Ulster to the public and The Pink to the staff for it was in its early years printed on pink paper.

It was first publish in November 1894 named the Ulster Saturday Night and later the Ireland’s Saturday Night as circulation spread to Dundalk and Dublin. It ceased publication on July 26,2008 - four years after it had gone tabloid - suffering the economic fate of newspapers in to-day’s changing social and economic patterns.

The founding fathers got the format right – a comprehensive immediate coverage including the most minors sports events . It did much more than that--monetary- sponsorship and support were forthcoming for various sporting projects over the years.

This was a newspaper for the people. Indeed, few if any publications experienced the deep-seated dedication or loyalty of readers as did the ISN, It was a tradition passed down the years from generation to generation with a ritual of copies posted every Monday to relatives and Ulster exiles all over the world.

The features service, family orientated - I emphasise family orientated - and much based on the humorous ways, of local life. as a hit. For instance, Mrs McNeese column was the forerunner of James Young’s McCooey programme on BBC. 

The staff of the Telegraph had a special affection, a contagious passion, It was THEIR paper and many young men and women who later became acclaimed journalists, cartoonists, authors, poets and playwrights – among them a Nobel prize winner-cut their teeth on ISN. 

Van delivery drivers were heroic during the 35 years of the our civil unrest, They had their vehicles hi-jack burned- Saturday seemed the night favoured by terrorists. Yet they returned to Royal Avenue procured another vehicle , re-loaded and ensured newsagents got their newspapers.

At one stage we had more than 200 people working on this with correspondents in all parts of the UK., Name a sport event and you found it in ISN. In effect it was a Sunday newspaper on a Saturday night available on the streets at 6pm with a distribution throughout the Province and a 110,000 circulation at its peak.  On occasions too the front page was devoted to major news stories the Princess Victoria Shipping Disaster, he Hillsborough and Ibrox football disasters and the huge peace rally with that historic picture of the front of the City Hall and Donegall Place a mass of a hundred thousand faces.

In many ways this exhibition is a valediction for a vanished world. Part of the way of Ulster life has gone with the ISN’s demise. The memory, however, of one of Europe’s finest and most professional sports newspapers will never die.

Nor will the feats of those Ulster men and women portrayed on these boards and recorded over its 114 years existence.

I congratulate Libraries NI on this exhibition ands I hope this will be yet another step in the efforts of Dame Mary Peters, Ronnie Spence and others to establish a permanent Ulster Museum Of Sport. Otherwise much of the memorabilia of amazing world-class achievement from sportsmen and women of this Province could be lost. That must not be allowed to happen.

Newtownstewart Library

Because of the current political discussions I was unable to get to the offical opening of the newly refurbished library in Newtownstewart, county Tyrone.  The refurbishment took almost a year and the total cost was £535,000.

The library opened in its present location on Main Street in 1979 and the building is a former National School, which was constructed in 1860.  It is a Grade B listed building and retains many of the original features of the 1860 school.  This is a good example of the continuing use of what is an important historic building.

A modern library must meet the needs of people in the 21st century and it should offer a flexible and responsive service.  There is no doubt that a library should also provide a vibrant and dynamic focal point in the community.  It should also be a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can be educated and entertained.  A library should invite users to be enquiring and imaginative, to expand their knowledge and explore their creativity.  That is what we should expect and I know that is what will be delivered.

Libraries NI, the arms-length body that runs our library service, has been in existence now for a year under the chairmanship of Dr David Elliott and the chief executive is Irene Knox.

Ireland's Saturday Night

The newspaper Ireland's Saturday Night was launched on Saturday 17 November 1894 as the Ulster Saturday Night and it described itself as a 'journal of general reading, football, cycling [and] athletics.'  It was published as a sister paper to the Belfast Telegraph because readers of the Telegraph regularly complained that the Saturday edition of the newspaper contained too much sport.

In January 1896 it was renamed Ireland's Saturday Night, because it also circulated in Dublin, but it continued to be popularly known as the Ulster or the Pink because it was originally printed on coloured paper.

The paper covered a wide range of sports and not just the most popular ones.  On 27 August 1898 the front page had a headline Aquatic Sports and it reported an International Acquatic Festival at the Waterworks in North Belfast.  This included a water polo international between Ireland and Wales and the Ladies Swimming Championship of Ulster.

In 2004 the paper became a tabloid but the it ceased publication on 26 July 2008 and part of Ulster's sporting heritage had gone. 

The Newspaper Library in the Belfast Central Library has a compelete set of the newspaper from 1896 to 2008 and this provides a unique record of 112 years of Ulster sporting history.  The library holds a wide range of Ulster and Irish newspapers, with copies of the NewsLetter back to the 18th century, and it is a marvellous resource for anyone interested in or researching in any aspect of local history.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Lord Coe's visit to Belfast

Here I am standing on the steps at Stormont today with Lord Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and the Speaker, William Hay MLA, before a briefing on the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics.

Nelson McCausland MLA, Lord Coe & Mervyn Storey MLA

Earlier Seb Coe had visited a school at Dundonald and after the Stormont presentation he came to the Grove Health and Wellbeing Centre in North Belfast for the launch of a project called All Our Saturdays.  This has been prepared by Libraries NI and others, and is based around the resources of the old Ireland's Saturday Night newspaper.  The veteran sports writer Malcolm Brodie, who was for many years the editor of the newspaper, also spoke and recalled the affection so many Ulster people had for the paper.