Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Ulster-Scots Community Network

Tonight the Ulster-Scots Community Network launched a series of new booklets on Ulster and Tennessee, the Plantation in Donegal, W F Marshall and Patrick as well as a teaching manual on Scottish country dancing.  The manual will be accompanied by a music CD and will help teachers to introduce some simple dances into schools.

Among those taking part were the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Pat Convery, Damian Smyth (Arts Council), Niall Gibbons (Tourism Ireland), Ray Mullan (Arts Council), Alister McReynolds and Caroline Marshall, a granddaughter of W F Marshall.  Caroline was accompanied by her mother, who is a daughter-in-law of W F.

They are all high quality publications, both in terms of content and production, and will be much appreciated by those who want to learn more about Ulster-Scots culture.  They are a credit to the authors and the staff of the USCN.

In my comments at the end of the evening I picked up on the observation by Damian Smyth, who said that W F Marshall was 'on the margins', and I urged that we bring him back into the mainstream of Ulster culture.

On returning home I was pleased to see the excellent BBC coverage of the European Pipe Band Championships, which were held at Stormont a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ulster-Scots research in 1959

I came across the following article in the Belfast Telegraph (21 May 1959).  It is about academic research on the speech of the Ulster-Scots and J Y Mather was one of the editors of The Linguistic Atlas of Scotland.  This was published in three volumes in 1975, 1977 and 1985 respectivley but is now back in print.  The three volumes were republished by Routledge on 27 April 2010 and they offer a thorough and comprehensive dialectological study of Lowland Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, Northern Ireland, Northumberland etc.

Braid and Ards talk the 'purest Scottish'
Expert's dialect comparisons

Speech is one of the most evident of Ulster's many links with Scotland.  But which Ulster dialect has the closest connection with Scottish speech?  In the opinion of Mr J Y Mather it is in the Braid area, near Ballymena, with the Ards peninsula a close second. 

Mr Mather, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, is in County Antrim on a survey of the phonetical construction of dialect words.

He will take his findings back to Edinburgh and record them for further research.

'We deal mainly with the Scottish dialects but we are also interested in the Ulster dialects,' he said at Ballymena.

Armed with a tape recorder, he is travelling round the Glens of Antrim asking people to read a prepared list of words to find out how the phonetical construction differs from district to district.

'It is amazing how the pronunication of a word differs from area to area,' he said.

Mr Mather was over in Ulster two years in the Co Down area and helped to start the Ulster Dialect Dictionary.

In 1952 the University of Edinburgh prepared a questionnaire which they sent to Belfast Field Naturalists' Club.

It gave lists of common objects and the club had to find the dialect name for them.  From the lists returned Ulster was split upinto dialect zones, and this helped in the completion of the dictionary.

Mr Mather is recording all his findings for research purposes.

'We will have all the information in Edinburgh for anyone who wants to go into it in further detail,' he says.

'The next stage after this phonetical survey will be into 'intonation' - the ups and downs the voice makes.

Mr Mather's survey will finish in about three weeks time.

Broadisland Gathering

The 18th annual Broadisland Gatherign in Ballycarry takes place from Thursday 2 September to Saturday 4 September with the main day being the Saturday.  This is always a good event and well worth a visit.  'The Best of Ulster-Scots' runs on Saturday from 12 noon to 5 pm in the heart of the village.

Greater Ardoyne

As the days go by Greater Ardoyne seems to be expanding.  We are often told that it is residents who protest against Loyal Oder parades and band parades but it seems that isn't quite true.

If those involved in protests and riots on the Crumlin Road back in July were residents of Ardoyne or even Greater Ardoyne, then Greater Ardoyne has certainly expanded.  It extended across parts of North and West Belfast, then up to Ballymena and on to Londonderry.  Now with the addition of Spain, Greater Ardoyne is going international!  Who knows where it will extend to next?  Perhaps it will end up like the British Empire, of which it was said that it was an empire 'on which the sun never set'.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Irish Football Association

There have been further developments today at the Irish Football Association, with newspaper and radio reports of four resignations from the executive committee.

I have on numerous occasions expressed my concerns about the governance arrangements at the IFA.  I have also emphasised that the IFA needs to move, and move swiftly, to regain the confidence of all concerned. 

Today's developments reinforce the urgent need to have a full and rigorous review of the IFA's structures and governance arrangements.

It is important to remember that an Independent Report was produced into the dismissal of the previous IFA chief executive and in the wake of that I had asked the IFA board to take control of the situation and press forward with restructuring and a number of other measures.  It is difficult to justify putting public money into the IFA when at the same time money is being lost through poor governance.  I

t is reported that because of the way in which the dismissal of the previous chief executive was carried out, the IFA was out of pocket by around £500,000.  That is money which could have been invested back into football.

The IFA is the body responsible for the development of football in Northern Ireland and football deserves to have a body that is fit for purpose.  That is in the best interests of the the sport, the IFA, the international team, the supporters and all the clubs, at every level in the game.

As things stand at present, with resignations, post-dated resignations, qualified resignations etc, the whole situation reminds me more and more of a 'Brian Rix farce'.

Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's

My second appointment today was the launch for the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's. 

This was held at Queen's Film Theatre and Arlene Foster MLA, the Tourism Minister, and Belfast Lord Mayor Pat Convery, were also there.

The festival runs in October and you can access the programme at .

The Arts Council is supporting the festival this year with a grant of £250,000 and DCAL also provided £75,000 as the last year of a three year package of support to take the festival towards sustainability.  The Northern Ireland tourist Board also supported the marketing of the festival and there is also a good partnership between the festival and the Ulster Bank.  In these days of financial restraint, private sector sponsorship is especially important.

Last year I raised on this blog the issue of the poltiical balance of the talks at the festival and I am glad to see that this year they have added a panel of speakers on the legacy of Sir Edward Carson - Professor Graham Walker, Professor Paul Bew and Dr Eamonn Phoenix.

Shankill tourism office

There was an official opening today for the new Shankill Tourism Information Office in the Spectrum Centre.  The opening was chaired by the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor William Humphrey, who is chairman of the Greater Shankill Tourism Committee and the opening was performed by DETI minister Arlene Foster, who has responsibility for tourism.

The tourism centre has plenty of information and a great range of Shankill products, many of them using the 'Shankill - Original Belfast' branding.  I understand that they are doing a good trade in the new products and they were especially popular with the Scottish visitors who were over in Ulster for the Apprentice Boys celebrations last weekend.  It is a good brand and there are some excellent high-quality products.

The branding has a double significance:
  1. This is original Belfast, dating back to the 5th century and the earliest Christian church in the area.
  2. It is also original Belfast in the sense of an authentic and unadorned Belfast.
The Spectrum is looking really well and much credit must go to the chair of the Greater Shankill Partnership board, Tom Scott, the manage of the centre, Julie Andrews, and all the board members and staff.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Sinn Fein and direct rule

In her 1993 book In Search of a State: Catholics in Northern Ireland, Fionnuala O'Connor also interviewed Mitchel McLaughlin (pp 42,43), who was then Northern chairman of Sinn Fein. 

Almost twenty years later it is interesting to look back at his views on direct rule, a policy now favoured by some unionists.  He spoke about the benefits of direct rule for Nationalists and said:
There's no belief in power-sharing.  One of the things that can't be sold to the Catholic population ... We've moved on.  For Catholics, direct rule has been the best form of government we've had, with a number of direct effects, for example fair employment.  We'd still be waiting for a local assembly to introduce fair employment legislation.  but we have it, it's up, it's operating, slow enough in some places but on the way ... And the relationship between Catholics, nationalist politicians and westminster - that they have direct access and a good profile in the world at lareg - these things have come about, in all honesty, as a result of direct rule ...
McLaughlin's analysis of how direct rule advantaged the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland is certainly interesting and something that Unionists would do well to remember.

John Hume backed academic selection

Back in 1993 the journalist Fionnuala O'Connor wrote In Search of a State: Catholics in Northern Ireland.  One of the Roman Catholics she interviewed was John Hume, then leader of the SDLP, and the conversation came round to the subject of academic selection (pp 23,24).  O'Connor summarised the case against academic selection, describing it as 'socially divisive' and stating that it 'unfairly favoured children from more literate, middle-class homes'.  She then continued
Hume still will not have that.  'There's no education system in the world that'll put brains into someone who hasn't got them,' he says.  'Selection means that people of ability, no matter what their social level, can break through.'
I can't remember when the SDLP changed its stance but there you are - John Hume, a founding father and long-time leader of the SDLP supported academic selection.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Ulster and Scotland

I have been using the newspaper library in Belfast Central Library to look back at some old newspapers and in the course of other research I came across these two items.

  1. On 15 July 1967 the Belfast Telegraph carried a advertisement for an Ulster-Scottish Crusade in Portstewart Town Hall.  The preacher was the Ulster evangelist Hedley G Murphy and the soloist and the organist were Scottish.  I suspect that the title was chosen to interest the many Scottish folk who used to come to Ulster holiday resorts such as Portrush and Portstewart every summer in the 1960s but I think it also says something about the close spiritual and cultural connections between Ulster and Scotland.
  2. The 12th annual meeting of the Ulster Scottish Friendly Society was held in the Midland Hotel in Belfast on 24 June 1970.  The secretary of the society was R A Houston , with an office at 22 Great Victoria Street.  It was reported that they had assets of more than £5m and group funds of more than £7.5m.  I wonder if anyone has some more information about the Ulster Scottish Friendly Society?
The connection between Ulster and Scotland stretches back a long way in human history and it created its deepest and most enduring legacy when Lowland Scots settled in Ulster at the start of the 17th century and thereafter.  That settlement and the creation of an Ulster-Scots community gave Ulster a cultural diversity that is different from the rest of the island.

Marxist madness

Goretti Horgan, who is described in newspaper reports as a 'children's rights academic from the University of Ulster' has 'strongly criticised the PSNI after a police flyer was put through her letterbox in the Bogside area of Londonderry'.  The flyer carried photographs of young people the police would like to speak to regarding sectarian violence and Ms Horgan said that this was a breach of the children's human rights.

She also said that the rights of children trump all other human rights and that the human rights of those endangered by rioters compete with the rights of the rioters themselves! 

I would have thought it was in the best interests of children involved in such actities to be identified so that their parents can be aware of their behaviour and take appropriate action to prevent them being drawn further into criminal activity. 

I was also interested to see that Goretti Horgan was described as a 'children's rights academic from the University of Ulster'.  She is indeed a lecturer in social policy at the University of Ulster but readers might also be interested to know that she is the partner of Eamonn McCann and that both are members of the Socialist Workers Party.

It is easier to understand Goretti's views when we understand her political philosophy.  This is the mad world of Marxism and the sort of nonsense that gets human rights a bad name.

I have no knowledge of the situation in Londonderry but I do know that the police have used a similar approach to identify the republican rioters at Ardoyne last month.  It's the right approach and there is a widespread demand for those who engage in such serious rioting to be brought before the courts as a matter of urgency.

Monday, 16 August 2010

15 August

15 August has always been a date I remember - especially as it is my birthday and also the birthday of Princess Anne.  As a small child I was always impressed that on that date there was a 21 gun salute and for some years my parents failed to tell me it was for Princess Anne.  I also noticed that there were parades and bonfires and in due course learned that these were associated with the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the celebration of the Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption.

Yesterday the AOH held their annual parade on the Falls Road in West Belfast and in the report in the Irish News today the president of the AOH Division 58 commented that 'Today's parade commemorates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the Battle of Benburb.'  This was the first time I ever heard it said that the AOH commemorated that battle but then we learn something new every day.

What I find surprising is that the battle did not take place on 15 August or indeed in August at all.  The date usually given is 5 June 1646 but I suppose why not commemorate it on 15 August.  However many people will wonder, what was the Battle of Benburb? 

It was a battle between the Catholic Confederate Army of Owen Roe O'Neill and a Scottish covenanter army led by Robert Monro.  In 1641 there was an uprising by Irish Roman Catholics in Ulster and many Protestants were murdered at that time.  Subsequently a Scottish army came to Ulster in 1642, led by Major General Monro, to protect the Scottish and English settlers.  They landed in Carrickfergus and linked up with British settlers under Robert Stewart.

It was chaplains from the Scottish covenanter army who established the first presbytery in Ulster on 10 June 1642 and this was the birth of organised Presbyterianism in Ulster.  In the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church there is a beautiful stained glass window commemorating that first presbytery and it is known as the 'Carrickfergus Window'.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Creative Peninsula

This month is Craft Month, the annual celebration of craft in Northern Ireland, and I visited Newtownards for the launch of Creative Peninsula.

Creative Peninsula is now in its ninth year and runs from 6 to 15 August.  It is designed to promote artists and craftspeople living and working in the Ards Peninsula.  The event will comprise a series of exhibitions, open studios and taster workshops as well as a 'Craft in the Square' day featuring demonstrations, music and 'children's creative peninsula'.

I was very impressed by the range of exhibitions and activities being offered and I am sure that arts and crafts lovers, both lcoal and from further afield are in for a real treat during the course of this event.

The creative industries have the potential to generate very significant and long lasting economic benefits for Northern Ireland and this is especially important in these tough economic times.

Sesame Tree

It was announced on 6 January 2010 that Sesame Tree, Northern Ireland's very own version of Sesame Street, is to return to TV screens across the United Kingdom this year with a second series.

Sesame Tree was broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland in March 2009 and was then picked up by CBeebies, becoming a firm favourite of youg children and their families across the UK.

It is co-produced by SixteenSouth Television and Sesame Workshop, the producers behind Sesame Street.  SixteenSouth is an innovative television production company based in Belfast and it was formed by Colin Williams in 2007.  Its first production was the first series of Sesame Street and the company has just completed a new series for CBeebies called Big City Park, which was filmed in Ormeau Park, Belfast.

I visited the set yesterday for the final session of filming and also there were Shari Rosenfeld, vice-president of International Sesame Tree Workshop, Rick Hill of NI Screen, which has supported the project, and Mark Adair from the BBC.  The programmes were filmed in the BBC Blackstaff Studio.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Ulster Scot LOL 340

A researcher on Orange history has uncovered the existence of an Orange lodge in the Killen district of Tyrone which was named The Ulster Scot LOL 340.

The lodge changed its name to The Ulster Scot in 1872 and the change was approved by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in December of that year. 

It continued to operate until some time around 1969 and I would be interested to know what happened to the banner and other property when it ceased to function.  It would also be interesting to know the background to the change of name.

Iwonder if anyone knows any former members of the lodge or anyone from that area who could help?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Ardoyne riots

The story of the rioting on the Crumlin Road on the evening of 12 July and the following days continues to unfold and it is becoming clear that people came from far and wide to take part in the riots, which were encouraged by dissident republicans.

The PSNI have published photographs of epople participating in the riots and they are gradually being identified with the intention of charging them and bringing them before the courts.  This is very important in terms of sending out a warning that such criminal behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  It also helps to build confidence in the police and the legal system.  Too often I hear people say that there is no point in calling the police when a crime is committed because 'they do nothing' and 'the ones that do it just get away with it.'

We need to see the culprits before the courts and we need to see the courts hand out appropriate punishments.  There were rioters who were intent on murder.

I hope that the media continue to cover this story as it unfolds so that the wider public are aware of the facts about the disgraceful violence.

Monday, 2 August 2010

European Pipe Band Championships

The 2010 European Pipe Band Championships were held at Stormont on Saturday and it was a marvellous occasion, with around 120 bands and a crowd of more than 10,000 spectators .  The event was organised by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (NI Branch) and Belfast City Council.

Local bands were joined by bands from Scotland, England and the Irish Republic as well as some bands from Australia and America.  St Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band from Dublin won the Grade One competition by one point from our own Field Marshal Montgomery but Ulster bands claimed four European titles from the six senior grades.

The celebration of piping continues throughout the week with Pipe Up! Belfast and culminates with a special concert in the Belfast Waterfront on Friday night by the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from Canada and six times World Champions Field Marshal Montgomery.  That event is already booked out.

RSPBA President George Ussher was delighted with the success of the day and at the finale he told the crowd that some years ago I had suggested that Belfast bid for the Europeans.  That was the start of a journey that came to fruition on Saturday.  Congratulations to all concerned and the championships will return to Stormont in 2011 and 2012.

The Future of Human Rights

The Northern Ireland human rights Commission has organised a one day conference in the Waterfront on 16 September.  The title of the conference is The Future of human Rights in the UK.  It will focus on four themese (1) The human Righrs Act (1998) (2) Rights and Responsibilities (3) Regionalism and Bills of Rights and (4) Economic and Social Rights.

A Northern Ireland Bill of Rights and an emphasis on economic and social rights are ongoing priorities for the NIHRC and it is not surprising that they feature on the programme.  However it is disappointing that there is no mention of cultural rights.  This is an aspect of human rights that has a particular relevance in Northern Ireland, especially in relation to areas such as education, museums and cultural infrastructure.