Saturday, 26 December 2015

An Ulsterman in North Carolina

Some years ago I visited the North Carolina Museum of History in the city of Raleigh, North Carolina.  It is an excellent museum which explains the history of the state, including the influence of the Scotch-Irish.

Recently I came across their Facebook page.  On Tuesday 22 December their FB post was about one of the state's historic sites, Fort Dobbs, which is the only site in North Carolina dedicated to the French and Indian War (1754-1763), some years before the War of Independence.

There was a drawing of the old fort and link across to the website This Day in North Carolina History for 21 December.

Fort Dobbs
The fort was named after Arthur Dobbs (1689-1765), who was the governor of the royal colony of North Carolina.

He chose the location in present-day Iredell County and charged Colonel Hugh Waddell and his frontier company of fifty men with protecting both the fort and the colonists against the encroaching French.

Arthur Dobbs was born on 2 April 1689 and was the eldest son of Richard Dobbs (1660-1711) of Castle Dobbs and his wife Mary Stewart, who was one of the Stewarts of Ballintoy in north Antrim.  Those were unsettled times in Ulster and Richard had sent his wife across to Scotland for safety.  As a result Arthur Dobbs was born in Girvan.

When peace was restored his mother brought him back to Ulster and he remained there until he moved to America as governor of North Carolina.

Arthur Dobbs became an engineer and surveyor and also served in the army before taking over the management of the family estate in east Antrim, near Kilroot.  He was elected MP for Carrickfergus in the Irish Parliament in 1727 and held that position until 1760.

Meanwhile he became a major landowner in North Carolina and encouraged many Ulstermen to settle there.  Following the death of the previous governor he sought for appointment as the new governor and he was confirmed on 25 January 1753 but he did not arrive in the colony until 31 October 1754.  The previous year he had finished rebuilding Castle Dobbs and it seems that he was determined to finish that project before going out to the colony.

The Dobbs family had been in Ulster for several generations and his house was just yards away from the ruins of the old castle that had been built by his grandfather.

He was the most prominent organiser of Scotch-Irish emigration to pre-revolutionary America and he remained governor of North Carolina for twenty years until his death on 28 March 1765.

Arthur Dobbs was just of the many Ulster-Scots who helped to make modern America.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Wright Brothers

David McCullough is a renowned American author, historian and narrator.  He was born in Pittsburgh in 1933 of Scotch-Irish ancestry.

His parents and his grandmother, who often read to him, introduced him to books at an early age and they also introduced him to history.

As well as writing about American history he has narrated many great television programmes and documentaries including The American Experience and The Civil War.

Earlier this year he wrote a book about The Wright Brothers.  Wilbur and Orville Wright were inventors and pioneers of aviation.  They are credited with inventing and building the world's first aeroplane, which took to the air on 17 December 1903.

Wilbur was born in Indiana and Orville in Ohio and their father was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, a conservative evangelical denomination.  

McCullough's book was one of the most acclaimed books of the year and of the two Wright brothers he said:
They had something many houses didn't have.  They had books.  They had parents who encouraged curiosity about everything.
There were two libraries in the home of Bishop Wright, a theological library and a general library and looking back on his childhood Orville once commented that he had his brother had:
special advantages ... we were lucky enough to grow up in a home environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused their curiosity.
David McCullough has highlighted two things about the brothers, two things that undoubtedly contributed to their achievements, They had books and they had parents who encouraged them to read and to ask and find out.  Those things were still important when David McCullough was growing up and they are still important today!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Belfast - "Scotch town"

Today many folk associate the Ulster-Scots language with rural Ulster and especially with some rural areas in Antrim and Down but for many years Belfast was an Ulster-Scots speaking town.

The French traveller Le Chevalier de La Tocnaye (1767-1823) toured Ireland at the end of the 18th century and then published an account of his travels in 1797 under the title Promenade d'un Francais en Irelande.  Later it was translated into English and published in 1917 by John Stevenson in Belfast as A Frenchman's Walk through Ireland 1796-1797.

As regards the town of Belfast the French visitor wrote:
Belfast has almost entirely the look of a Scotch town and the character of the inhabitants has considerable resemblance to that of the people of Glasgow.  The way of speaking is much more Scotch than Irish. 
At that time Belfast was a small town but it was predominantly Presbyterian and Ulster-Scots.

Earlier this year I wrote Scotch Town, an account of the Ulster-Scots language in Belfast and this was published by the Ulster-Scots Agency.  The title was taken from the words of that 18th century French traveller.  You can get a copy from my constituency office or directly from the Ulster-Scots Agency and it is free.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Belfast's 'barbarous Scotch'

In the little book Scotch Town, I traced the history of Ulster-Scots language and literature in Belfast. However since then I have come across a number of other references and examples which I would have included if I had found them sooner.

One of them is from a book entitled Ireland Exhibited to England, which was published in 1823 and written by A Atkinson Esq., 'late of Dublin'.  This possibly Anthony Atkinson.

He was also the author of The Irish Tourist, which appeared in 1815, Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1833, and A Course of Essays on Christian Doctrine and Philosophy.  

Ireland Exhibited to England consisted of two volumes and on page 42 of the second volume he noted that many of the Presbyterians in Belfast praised God in 'the most barbarous broad Scotch slang that ever disgraced a conventicle in the mountains'.

Such prejudice against Scots was not uncommon and we find it in many references to the speech of the Ulster-Scots.  It is certainly to be found in some of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of the 1830s but unfortunately these did not cover Belfast.

We do know that in the 1790s the ordinary people of Belfast spoke 'broad Scotch' or 'braid Scotch' and this writer,, albeit an unsympathetic one, confirms that it was still the language of the Ulster-Scots in Belfast in the 1820s.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

An Ulster-Scots place-name

Earlier today there was a report on the news of an incident at Flush Place in Lurgan.  The name took my attention because last week I was speaking to some folk about Ulster-Scots place-names in North Belfast and in particular the Flush Road and the Flush River.  I also mentioned that in West Belfast there is a Flush Bend on the Springfield Road. and there is also a Flush River.

The word flush is found in Scots and Ulster-Scots and the Dictionary of the Scots Language explains it as:
A piece of boggy ground, esp one where water frequently lies on the surface, a swampy place, a pool of water in a field.
The DSL only provides historical examples of its usage in Scotland and there are no examples from Ulster but we can see plenty of examples in Ulster with its use in place-names.

It appears in place-names in various parts of Ulster and at one time there was a Flush Hall at the bottom of Scrabo Hill in Newtownards, where Scrabo estate now stands.  Apparently it was the scene of a famous murder in 1915.

I also came across a Flush Road near Moneyslane, a Flush Park in South Belfast and another Flush Park at Knockmore in Lisburn.