The problem with Ulster Scots…

John Coulter lays into the Ulster Scots movement arguing that in over identifying with a Scottish rather than an Irish cultural idiom, they are reinforcing the otherness of Ulster protestants. Far better, he argues, “to see the formation of a Protestant Gaelic League, with classes in Irish for Protestants set up in the network of Orange Halls across the North”. The spirit of Ballinahinch reborn?

  • maca

    Yeah, I think you are right about the O’Neills, at least they had a monopoly on the position until Brian ended that.
    I read somewhere they were 4 high kings (with opposition) after Brian but I could be wrong. You know better.

  • unionist_observer

    well equally David, I have as little in common with Ulster Scots as David Christopher does.

    “The multicultural tent of the UK can easily include the Ulster Scots identity, which I have to say is more robust than your rather vague attachment to the UK. “

    your scornful dismissal of the personal reasons why I consider myself is rather rude but then I have come to expect that from you. I am a fan of debating basic concepts like why we are unionists but it would be nice to do it respectfully.

    “I don’t mean to run down the Anglo-irish Unionists, but they haven’t really exerted themselves culturally, socially, linguistically or politically since preWW1- and apart from the omnipresent (and very rude “fouter”) the huguenot language hasn’t crept into our everyday speech patterns !”

    Its not so easy asserting yourself as a unionist in the republic. I thought along the same lines when I first went to Dublin but now I have lived there for a while, I appreciate the difficulties faced by societies such as the reform movement and I admire them hugely.

  • maca

    David (and it applies to Chris too) I fear you are making a serious mistake with U-Scots. You shouldn’t have to be protestant or even unionist to be part of and celebrate Ulster Scots heritage.
    Do you not recognise the mistake when you call it the “most vibrant strand within Unionism”?

  • unionist_observer

    “I read somewhere they were 4 high kings (with opposition) after Brian but I could be wrong. You know better”

    I wouldn’t say that now – I wrote an essay on high kings in first year which seems a long time ago now and the memory is rather murky, I’d have to look it up before I was sure.

  • IJP

    George

    We are in agreement!

    U-O

    Northern Ireland has its own culture and I don’t need it forced down my throat for me to appreciate it. Thats something the republicans are known for – getting very OTT about their culture, fair enough but thats not the British way, it never has been. The whole thing just reeks of trying too hard.

    An excellent and important point.

  • willowfield

    unionist observer

    to be honest Willowfield, I would say there were more than just a few, but these are assumptions.

    And what is your assumption based on?

    maca

    Except of course that Hiberno-English is full of Irish words. I’m sure people are familiar with many such as Taoiseach, Táiniste, Dáil, Garda etc etc etc.

    Those are Gaelic words that are used in English (normal English as well as “Hiberno-English”), not Gaelic spellings of English words.

    Christopher Stalford

    Erm, wrong. The European Union has included Ulster-Scots in its Charter of Minority Languages.

    The European Union doesn’t have a Charter of Minority Languages.

    maca

    “Taoiseach – ah yes the Gaelic for Il Duce!”

    Actually it’s Irish. The Scottish don’t use Taoiseach. (sometimes pedantism is a necessary evil)

    Irish is Gaelic. It was quite clear that young Stalford meant Irish Gaelic and not Scots Gaelic.

  • willowfield

    unionist observer

    to be honest Willowfield, I would say there were more than just a few, but these are assumptions.

    And what is your assumption based on?

    maca

    Except of course that Hiberno-English is full of Irish words. I’m sure people are familiar with many such as Taoiseach, Táiniste, Dáil, Garda etc etc etc.

    Those are Gaelic words that are used in English (normal English as well as “Hiberno-English”), not Gaelic spellings of English words.

    Christopher Stalford

    Erm, wrong. The European Union has included Ulster-Scots in its Charter of Minority Languages.

    The European Union doesn’t have a Charter of Minority Languages.

    maca

    “Taoiseach – ah yes the Gaelic for Il Duce!”

    Actually it’s Irish. The Scottish don’t use Taoiseach. (sometimes pedantism is a necessary evil)

    Irish is Gaelic. It was quite clear that young Stalford meant Irish Gaelic and not Scots Gaelic.

  • IJP

    Those are Gaelic words that are used in English (normal English as well as “Hiberno-English”), not Gaelic spellings of English words.

    Very true.

    Although of course Maca’s point stands – there are quite a few Gaelic words in Standard English even (‘slogan’, ‘twig’ [=’understand’], ‘quid’ etc, perhaps even ‘she’).

    not Scots Gaelic.

    Or even ‘Scottish Gaelic’…

    Going right back to the point, though, the strand of thought based on whether ‘Ulster Scots’ is part of ‘unionism’ (and, if so, whether that is good or bad news for Ulster Scots and/or unionism) is much more interesting…

  • Biffo

    IJP

    I don’t know if you read me correctly, maybe we are at cross purposes.

    The point I was making is that you can adopt any word from any language and render it according to the writing system of any other language, whatever it might be, Germanic, Celtic, Romance, whatever.

    You can change the spelling to make it easier to pronounce, eg “Whisky”, or you can keep the original spelling, maybe for historical reasons, as in “O Neill”

    I used “tsunami” as an example of a relatively new word adopted into English, where Japanese characters can’t be used. That isn’t the case with something like “cul de sac” where original spellin was retained.

    You said “If a word derives from a Germanic language, though, why adopt the Celtic-language spelling? It’s nonsense.”

    I say, why not, you can adopt different words and/or spellings, if needs be. It happens all the time. I don’t know if you can read Irish but have a look at the following, it’s by Flann O’Brien and it’s quite funny only, but only if you are familiar with Irish spelling.

    Said a Sassenach back in Dun Laoghaire
    “I pay homage to nationalist thaoghaire,
    But wherever I drobh
    I found signposts that strobh
    To make touring in Ireland so draoghaire.”

    OK, you’re right. I am boring.!

  • maca

    I’m with Biffo on this.
    There are no rules which say you can or can’t do things like this, every living language does it and this is especially true of ‘langualects’ like Hiberno-English or U-Scots which are strongly influenced by the more dominant languages on the island.

    “Those are Gaelic words that are used in English (normal English as well as “Hiberno-English”), not Gaelic spellings of English words.”

    So?

  • JD

    Surely the point in all of this is simply that there is no such thing as a “pure” language. There is no “one” language without influence from anywhere else. To try and argue for one either misguided or anachronistic.

    Languages borrow from each other in lots of interesting and surprising ways. Transliteration is just one way.

  • steveo

    U-O:

    “Ulster Scots is an attempt to force a scottish type culture on me.”
    – who’s coercing you? Did the boys come round in tartan balaclavas and put a haggis to your head? And is the Ulster-Scots movement active in Dublin now as well?

    “…but thats not the British way…”
    No, Britain never imposed its identity on anyone did it? All those pink bits on the Empire map not ring a bell? Black Policemen in the Carribean islands wearing shorts and London Bobby hats?

    No-ones forcing anyone to do anything. If you don’t like it, fair enough, leave it alone and go and do something else. But you could at least stop carping and recognise and respect the growing numbers of people who feel Ulster-Scots is part of who they are and who continue to enjoy its expression – linguistic, cultural, historical, musical etc.

    And all this from a Strangford UUP constituency member?…. not ventured beyond Greyabbey yet?

  • IJP

    JD is right.

    My point is that the spelling innovation ‘craic’ is totally illogical given the word already exists within English. But like I say in my ‘disclaimer’ (and so as broadly to agree with Macca and Biffo), language is not always logical!

    (Spellings such as ‘doubt’ and ‘delight’ are also ‘wrong’, as they are based on false etymology, for those of you determined to be bored…)

  • IJP

    To some extent I see your point, Steveo, but I’m still entirely with U-O.

    It is simply not ‘British’ to play the ethnic nationalist game – i.e. the game of inventing a cultural package (e.g. religion + music + language) to accompany a ‘nation’/’people’/’community’.

    This is entirely different from the broad imposition of British customs through the growth of Empire.

    If I understand U-O‘s point correctly, it is that creating a ‘cultural package’ (Presbyterianism+Ulster-Scots speech+Scottish ancestry+highland dancing etc), and furthermore expecting taxpayers’ money to assist this creation, is a decidedly ‘un-British’ act (not that that is the aim of all within the ‘Ulster-Scots movement’, I hasten to add). I think she’s right.

  • JD

    But so-called “false etymology” is still a completely valid way for a language to evolve.

  • steveo

    IJP et al,
    I’m sure you’re aware of the transAtlantic incarnations of “crack”. (The following from “Cracker Culture – Celtic Ways in the Old South, Univ of Alabama Press”):

    “Cracker does not signify an economic condition; rather it defines a culture. Scotch-Irish settlers, in whose dialect a cracker was a person who talked boastingly, brought the term to the South…. the Cracker was typically a Scotch-Irishman…

    …to most travellers in the antebellum South, especially those from England and the North, a Cracker was any Southerner whose ways differed significantly from their own, and many accounts of trips through the Old South devoted space to laughing and sneering at the rustic and lazy habits of the Crackers…

    … the speech of upcountry Southern Crackers reminded one traveller of the “dialect of your genuine” Scottish border country man…”

  • fair_deal

    Coulter’s material is getting so bad that I am beginning to wonder if there is any value to discussing his latest piece of tripe on here.

    The Ulster-Scots Agency has not been a success story at all (but some Ulster-Scots activists believed from the beginning that it was designed to fail).

    Unionist observer

    The claim that gaelic was the language of Ulster Protestants historically 200 years ago is just plain wrong. The usage was largely restricted to communicating with the native Irish – it usage was for communication with others not as a language within that community nor was it imbued with a cultural or identity significance.

    The 98 rebellion was over 200 years ago and most of its rural participants in Antrim and Down were Ulster-Scots speakers. For example the Ulster-Scots poetry of James Orr provides great insight into the rebellion. Unfortunately too much of what the public think they know about 1798 is actually the irish nationalist reinvention and myth created for the centenary in 1898.

    The Ordnance surveys of the 1830’s which documented the widespread use of Scots in rural communities in Antrim and Down did not find that for Gaelic.

    In general, the historical argument is actually irrelevant for pretty much all lesser used languages in today’s context. Knowledge of any lesser used language was of use a few hundred years ago when it was more widely used however today it is not required for its communicative value and people (especially new speakers) learn it for identity/cultural issues.

  • steveo

    IJP:

    “…It is simply not ‘British’ to play the ethnic nationalist game – i.e. the game of inventing a cultural package…”

    All cultures are, to some degree, invention. Britishness is an invention.

    The renaissance of Ulster-Scots has brought various extant related strands together, strands which people have been celebrating for generations – these strands have existed for a VERY long time!

    Some of the critics (not you IJP) aren’t aware – or simply don’t want to know about – the 140+ years literary usage of the term “Ulster Scot” and the much longer usage of “Scot in Ulster”.

    The formal establishment of Scottish cultural groups here goes back a long way – a lot further than the Ulster-Scots Agency and the Agreement!!

    AFAIK the Presbyterian Historical Society founded its (North of) Ireland branch in 1907. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society founded its NI branch in 1923. The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association founded its NI branch in 1950, and the first NI World Champion Pipe Band event was held at Balmoral Showgrounds, Belfast in June 1956. My mother’s Presbyterian minister was using Ulster-Scots in his sermons in the same era.

    These are Scottish customs which have been organically and naturally enjoyed here for generations. These things are not artificial! Your personal exposure to them may be very limited, but that doesnt mean they haven’t – and dont still – naturally exist.

    My fear is that the antics of a few has caused some folk to dismiss the whole thing – throw the baby out with the bath water if you will. Go to an Ulster-Scots event and look at the people there – these are “respectable decent people” who go home afterwards and put the kettle on, not political animals. They are not protesting about Bank of Ireland cashpoints using Irish. They do not dress like shortbread tins. They are not phoning “TalkBack”. They are not on Slugger. That is not who these people are.

    It is grossly unfair, and perhaps reckless, to dismiss these people – as the Irish News did with an Ian Knox cartoon – as some kind of neo-Nazi movement.

    Relax. Buy some Bushmills and get a copy of James Webb’s “Born Fighting – how the Scots-Irish shaped America” and open your minds… 🙂

  • unionist_observer

    “Ulster Scots is an attempt to force a scottish type culture on me.”
    – who’s coercing you? Did the boys come round in tartan balaclavas and put a haggis to your head? And is the Ulster-Scots movement active in Dublin now as well?

    of course not steveo, I am talking about the ridiculous sort of peer pressure put on unionists by fellow unionists to be an ulster scot, as if that is part and parcel of being a unionist and the idea that if you are not an Ulster Scot then you are not a unionist. I reject this entirely, unionism is a broad church (hugely overused phrase but still very valid).

    I personally just don’t identify with Ulster Scots and whether right or wrong I do see it as the unionist retaliation to irish, this annoys me because as I said several times above, unionists do not need to prove anything to anyone and certainly do not need to produce some sparkly little culture package to justify being a unionist.

    “The claim that gaelic was the language of Ulster Protestants historically 200 years ago is just plain wrong.’

    I was not saying it was their main language, I was simply trying to get the point across that it was almost certainly in use.

    “The Ordnance surveys of the 1830’s which documented the widespread use of Scots in rural communities in Antrim and Down did not find that for Gaelic.”

    Yes, but in the same way as the english were probably using another form of english that would sound foreign to us all today. That doesn’t make it a language, that makes it a dialect and part of the journey english has made through time.

  • unionist_observer

    “AFAIK the Presbyterian Historical Society founded its (North of) Ireland branch in 1907. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society founded its NI branch in 1923. The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association founded its NI branch in 1950, and the first NI World Champion Pipe Band event was held at Balmoral Showgrounds, Belfast in June 1956. My mother’s Presbyterian minister was using Ulster-Scots in his sermons in the same era”

    so Ulster Scots was a twentieth century creation? Thats the impression you are giving, if it was such a big part of the culture going back so many years why did societies only start being formed in the 20th century? I remember when I was growing up I went to dancing classes with my friends, we went to irish dancing and ballet because thats what was on offer. Scottish dancing was and is alien to us.

  • steveo

    U-O:
    I admire your pig-headed “thranness”. Very Ulster-Scots in fact. You must enjoy your regular arguments with your shadow.

    Ulster-Scots is not a twentieth century phenomenon. Perhaps this late at night your maths skills have deserted you? ie – 2005 – 140yrs = 1865 AD = 19th century.

    Shall I then provide more, earlier, examples? Would more from the 19th Century suffice?

    That Belfast’s first curling club was founded in 1839?

    That Ayshire needlework was being produced in County Down – at an industrial level – from 1830 onwards?

    Or what about when Sir Hugh Montgomery built a “great school” in Newton (ie Newtownards – where your constituency association meets) he granted the students a green where they could play golf? (golf is recorded as having been played in Scotland as early as 1457)

    Shall I go on?

    “….I remember when I was growing up I went to dancing classes with my friends, we went to irish dancing and ballet because thats what was on offer…”

    With respect, most rural working class Ulster-Scots kids don’t take / can’t afford dance lessons. But that’s your experience, and that’s fair enough. But it is not the experience of thousands of others are precisely refers back to my point of Jan 4 at 7.31:

    “Ulster-Scots… brings together cultural icons which have been long-ignored and long-demeaned by Hibernophiles and Anglophiles alike… Leafy North Downers / Stranmillisites / Lisburnians may have little or no contact with Ulster-Scots people…”

    There’s a BBC Northern Ireland documentary which gets shown from time to time – old archival footage from the 50s and 60s called “The Day We Went to Bangor” – and has a few minutes of film and narrative about the then-tradition of spontaneous Scottish Country Dance happening down at Pickie Pool each Saturday afternoon. People would just turn up and get stuck in.

    Simple, natural stuff. No politics. Just culture.

  • steveo

    Whoops – typo! “…Ayshire…” should of course be “…Ayrshire…”

    And Montgomery’s “great school”, with golf course, was built in 1630.

  • Biffo

    fair_deal, what are your sources? Whatever they are they are not comprehensive?

    “The Ordnance surveys of the 1830’s which documented the widespread use of Scots in rural communities in Antrim and Down did not find that for Gaelic”

    Your are wrong. The Presbyterian church sent Irish speaking missionaries to the glens of Antrim in the 1830’s.

    Irish was certainly spoken in Counties Antrim and Down as it was in Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Londonderry.

  • Biffo

    Steveo,

    “With respect, most rural working class Ulster-Scots kids don’t take / can’t afford dance lessons”

    How much are they charging these days for dance lessons? Would I be right in assuming that the Ulster-Scots are largely a poor community, except for their dance instructors.

    It’s a state of affairs I was not aware of.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I’ve just finished John Hewitt’s ‘Rhyming Weavers’ and most of the poetry (IIRC) was from the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. Does that help anyone?

    And without wanting to start a bout of whataboutery, all tradition is invented anyway. I seem to (vaguely, so feel free to correct me) remember reading about aspects of Gaelic culture that were ‘revived’ in the last century, that perhaps would have been unrecognisable to those who called themselves Irish in previous generations?

    This is not a criticism. While there is obviously a strong ethno-nationalist aspect to Gaelic culture, it has certainly evolved culturally. There’s always going to be a ‘Wolfe Tones’ part that won’t appeal to many outside that culture (and a ‘twee’ aspect for those that like their culture pre-packaged), but ‘Irishness’ has definitely changed in its outlook in some respects. To me, a casual observer, it doesn’t seem as inward looking as it maybe used to. It is more all-embracing, with notable expections (another day).

    But can anyone imagine an Ulster-Scots ‘srl’ at this moment in time? There is often a diversity in how Irish culture is celebrated that simply doesn’t seem to exist yet in Ulster Scots culture, although I think that will change over time.

    My guess is that this will happen if more younger people make it their own and interpret it in a contemporary way, rather then just hark back to the past. Maybe there’s an Irvine Welsh in Ballymena, or a comedian lurking in Buckna!? (Quit laughing at the back…)

    There seems to be enough vibrancy and enthusiasm at the moment, so who knows. It is interesting to watch the whole debate evolve, although it gets a bit tedious to see the old ‘It’s a language. No it isn’t’ argument crop up every single time it gets discussed.

    Get over it, whatever you think!

  • steveo

    Biffo,

    Apart from the resurgence of Scottish dance among primary schools age kids over the last few years, dance lessons are not top of most rural working class “dour Presbyterian Calvinist” parents’ wish list.

    This would have been even more the case during U-O’s era (I’m guessing at 1980’s/1990’s) – dance is more “acceptable” and widespread these days, but little Billy Elliotts are not a regular feature of Ulster-Scots life.

    Does anyone know of their local BB or GB running ballet lessons? More likely today to find Scottish dance lessons in your area – and in Ulster-Scots areas, now these are becoming more easily available, they are extremely popular.

  • davidbrew

    “I am talking about the ridiculous sort of peer pressure put on unionists by fellow unionists to be an ulster scot, as if that is part and parcel of being a unionist and the idea that if you are not an Ulster Scot then you are not a unionist. I reject this entirely, unionism is a broad church (hugely overused phrase but still very valid).”

    which is precisely my point Rebecca-although expressed in reverse. I merely asked you to explore why you were a Unionist, beyond the vague”It’s my country” stuff.

    If you feel uncomfortable as a Unionist because Laird Lord wears a kilt, you would equally feel uncomfortable if Unionism included a strand of gaelic playing Irish speaking Roman Catholics in Royasl crossmaglen ( which incidentally would be perfectly compatible with the concept of Unionism.

    If my strand is making all the running culturally,how would that make you feel uncomfortable any more than if you lived in Southall with an indian temple on your doorstep and curry houses galore in your neighbourhood.?

    My expression of my culture is a lot less invidious peer pressure than the nonsense leeching into your head from your repubnlican friends I fear. You’d be no less a Unionist if you hated everything Scottish or Orange or Protestant -the weakness I perceive in your Unionism is that it has no root, beyond the economic and cultural links with Britain, most of which are homogenised by common influences from USA and EU anyway, so that Dublin could be really just a regional UK city.

    I invite and welcome any evidence to the contrary and I don’t criticise you for sharing the mindset of what Trimble used to call the “post-Unionist” section of NI. I criticise your antipathy to a perfectly valid form of Unionsm, which, I reassert, is more vibrant and has a longer pedigree and greater vibrancy than what we have heard from you to date.

    Now’s your platform to proslytise your from of Unionism as being equally vital to the unionist family as a whole.

  • fair_deal

    Biffo

    Nice try but the use of the source was in the context of the was the usage of Irish by Protestants as a community language. The Presbyterian Church sent Gaelic speakers to evangelise among Roman Catholics (and if I recollect correctly that they had to recruit speakers from Scotland).

    As I also mentioned the historical argument is largely irrelevant as the reasons for learning a lesser used language in the 21st century are different than why it was learnt in the 18th century.

    UO

    The Ordnance Survey material was about the usage of Scots not about its status. For example the surveyor in my family’s home parish of Drumtullagh made the following comment “The Scotch language is spoken in great purity”.

    The status argument is over, Ulster-Scots is recognised and is being treated as a language.

    In fact it was one of the few policy success stories of the UUP in the recent past but if you want to denigrate a political achievement of your party that is fine by me.

  • maca

    Fair Deal
    “Ulster-Scots is recognised and is being treated as a language”

    Would you mind clarifying, by whom exactly?

  • unionist_observer

    “AFAIK the Presbyterian Historical Society founded its (North of) Ireland branch in 1907. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society founded its NI branch in 1923. The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association founded its NI branch in 1950, and the first NI World Champion Pipe Band event was held at Balmoral Showgrounds, Belfast in June 1956. My mother’s Presbyterian minister was using Ulster-Scots in his sermons in the same era”

    erm steveo, read again – all the dates in that section are all 20th century – I have not the faintest clue where you suddenly got this 1865 from.

    “Or what about when Sir Hugh Montgomery built a “great school” in Newton (ie Newtownards – where your constituency association meets) he granted the students a green where they could play golf? (golf is recorded as having been played in “

    If my memory serves me right, that was the model primary school he founded, which is not the place that Strangford association meets, they meet in the town hall which was the original market hall. By the way Newtownards was not called Newtownards then, then it either Nove Ville (to the english settlers) or Baile Nua (to the Irish inhabitants).

    “With respect, most rural working class Ulster-Scots kids don’t take / can’t afford dance lessons. But that’s your experience, and that’s fair enough”

    Well, I apologise most sincerely for being middle class, although in fairness all the dance classes I went to were always very busy, yes even the irish dancing classes.

    “It’s a state of affairs I was not aware of.”

    Biffo, he is preaching Ulster Scots, of course he is not going to allow reality to get in the way.

    “how would that make you feel uncomfortable any more than if you lived in Southall with an indian temple on your doorstep and curry houses galore in your neighbourhood.?”

    I wouldn’t mind that at all, you see they wouldn’t be trying to convince me I am something that I am not, unlike the Ulster Scots crowd.

    “you would equally feel uncomfortable if Unionism included a strand of gaelic playing Irish speaking Roman Catholics in Royasl crossmaglen ( which incidentally would be perfectly compatible with the concept of Unionism.”

    no, because again, that is diversity, I am not protesting about Ulster Scots per se, I am irritated because suddenly to be a unionist you have to an Ulster Scot.

    “My expression of my culture is a lot less invidious peer pressure than the nonsense leeching into your head from your repubnlican friends I fear. You’d be no less a Unionist if you hated everything Scottish or Orange or Protestant -the weakness I perceive in your Unionism is that it has no root, beyond the economic and cultural links with Britain, most of which are homogenised by common influences from USA and EU anyway, so that Dublin could be really just a regional UK city.”

    again, rude, patronising, is this because I don’t agree with you David?

    Don’t be so daft as to assume I make up my mind by listening to what other people tell me, as I recall that was a feature of the young unionists when I first joined in 2000 that annoyed me. By the way people in the republic don’t really care as much about Northern Ireland as your siege mentality paranoia would have you believe. Dublin is a remarkably apolitical, especially where I go to college.

    I do not hate everything orange, scottish and protestant, I am protestant myself so I’m not likely to hate protestantism, many of my relatives are in the orange so I am hardly likely to hate the orange. And as for Scottishness, I don’t hate that, I just don’t identify with Ulster Scots. Don’t try to convince me otherwise, it really won’t work, I had to spend an evening over the summer being lectured and yelled at by someone involved with Ulster Scots so rest assured, belittling me will not suddenly turn me into an Ulster Scot.

  • unionist_observer

    “The Scotch language is spoken in great purity”.

    How do you know they are talking about Ulster Scots? It sounds more like they are talking about Scots Gallic.

  • willowfield

    maca

    There are no rules which say you can or can’t do things like this, every living language does it and this is especially true of ‘langualects’ like Hiberno-English or U-Scots which are strongly influenced by the more dominant languages on the island.

    Why would you use a spelling of a word from another language when there is already a spelling in the language being spoken??

    “Those are Gaelic words that are used in English (normal English as well as “Hiberno-English”), not Gaelic spellings of English words.” — So?

    So you’re not comparing like with like.

    unionist observer

    I was not saying it was their main language, I was simply trying to get the point across that it was almost certainly in use.

    You said that 200 years ago “we were all speaking Gaelic”. We weren’t.

    How do you know they are talking about Ulster Scots? It sounds more like they are talking about Scots Gallic.

    You mean Scots Gaelic. “Gallic” means “French”.

    And it is highly unlikely that they would be talking about Scots Gaelic, since Drumtullagh was not a Gaelic area. It would have been inhabited by Protestants, the descendants of “planters” from Lowland Scotland.

    You’re exposing a fair degree of ignorance, if you don’t mind me saying. Honestly, we’re not misleading you: Ulster Protestants did not speak Gaelic, they spoke English or Scots (just English if you want to argue that Scots is a dialect).

  • steveo

    U-O:

    To clarify 1865, see my post of Jan 6 10.32. The term “Ulster Scot” has been in literary usage for at least 140 years. This year is 2005. That means its usage as a distinct term goes back at least as far as 1865. No doubt people with more historical info will be able to provide a precise date, and one much earlier than 1865.

    Newtownards is where the Strangford UUP association meets – I was referring to the town not the building – and I cited the Sir Hugh Montgomery example to give you a geographically relevant example of a centuries-old Scottish custom.

    “…it either Nove Ville (to the english settlers) or Baile Nua (to the Irish inhabitants)…”

    Yes – and to the Scots is was “Newtown”. You can check out the Scots contribution to the establishment of Newtownards in John Harrison’s “The Scot in Ulster”, published 1888. The Scots started to arrive there in spring of 1606, and in 1613 Newtown became a borough with the right to send two members to Parliament.

    It is a shame when the presentation of a catalogue of perfectly valid evidence detailing some examples of the impact of Scottish culture and practices on Ulster is rhetorically dismissed as “preaching”.

  • unionist_observer

    “You mean Scots Gaelic. “Gallic” means “French”.”

    yeah but you pronounce the word gaelic when you are referring to Scots gaelic and the way it is pronounced sounds like gallic.

    “You’re exposing a fair degree of ignorance, if you don’t mind me saying. Honestly, we’re not misleading you: Ulster Protestants did not speak Gaelic, they spoke English or Scots (just English if you want to argue that Scots is a dialect).”

    Well, its not something that any of us can prove one way or the other so I think we should probably agree to disagree what guesses are about our forefathers.

  • unionist_observer

    “The term “Ulster Scot” has been in literary usage for at least 140 years”

    but if the scots arrived in 1605, why did it take around 200 years to coin a term for their influence?

    And surely Newtown in Ulster Scots should be something like Newtoun?

    “It is a shame when the presentation of a catalogue of perfectly valid evidence detailing some examples of the impact of Scottish culture and practices on Ulster is rhetorically dismissed as “preaching”.”

    Yes, I am aware that the Scots came over to Ulster in their droves in the 1600s, fleeing from famine, poverty etc. There is evidence of the Scots in Newtownards but there is also the 1600years before the Scots came to Newtownards which was made up of Normans, Vikings and the gaelic Irish. The Scots are only one phase of settlement, certainly nothing to get so excited about. It’d be alot more helpful to NI society to celebrate all the strands.

  • George

    Unionist Observer,
    many of Ulster’s Protestants have Irish names so they either intermarried or were indiginous who switched religion, so I would assume that many of them did speak Irish at some time.

    I also agree with your earlier point about Ulster-Scots being divisive. Are the majority of Northern Ireland Protestants not Anglo-Irish like their southern brethren?

  • George

    Scots-Irish prayer I found which seems to sum them up people perfectly:

    “Lord please make me always right for Thou knowest I am hard to turn.”

  • steveo

    “…It’d be alot more helpful to NI society to celebrate all the strands…”

    Precisely. Which is why, with Ulster-Scots as a long-ignored but now-recognised additional strand is so valuable.

    It has the potential – particularly linguistically – to straddle the “two communities” if allowed to do so.

    And that surely is a good thing.

  • willowfield

    unionist observer

    yeah but you pronounce the word gaelic when you are referring to Scots gaelic and the way it is pronounced sounds like gallic.

    But you were writing, not speaking. Do you write “Beaver” instead of “Belvoir”?

    Well, its not something that any of us can prove one way or the other so I think we should probably agree to disagree what guesses are about our forefathers.

    I asked you earlier what was the basis of your belief that Ulster Protestants mostly spoke Gaelic. You didn’t answer. I ask again. There must be some reason why you make the claim.

    George

    Are the majority of Northern Ireland Protestants not Anglo-Irish like their southern brethren?

    No.

  • davidbrew

    “I do not hate everything orange, scottish and protestant, I am protestant myself so I’m not likely to hate protestantism”

    Of course I never accused you of hating any of these aspects Rebecca- though if I recall before Chridtmas you were posting that you would never describe yourself as Protestant- a bit of consistency please.

    You repeat and endorse the nationalist smear that Ulster Scots ethnicity is a pre-requisite for Unionism. No it isn’t. It doesn’t even follow that an Ulster Scot would be a Unionist, even though the Whig ideal of government which so influenced the formation and development of the UK is a profoundly Scottish Presbyterian influenced belief, and would sit naturally with the Union of the Kingdom.

    I’m not patronising by asking you to expand on why you are a Unionist -unless it ‘s patronising to ask for more than the vague ramblings you’ve posted on this thread, in which case i expect your lecturers patronise you a lot too. It’s called challenging assumptions in order to make you think. they used to do that at Universities once upon a time…

    Willow understands the point I have been trying to make, and his Unionism may possibly share my ethnicity and your political viewpoint, so disproving your contentions about Ulster Scots.
    Believe me, if you don’t identify with US that’s no problem-there’s more haggis for us on Burns’ night.

    BTW “David Trimble’s first mistake was…”? Still waiting!

  • George

    Willowfield,
    any chance of proferring more than a simple no.

    There are many more Anglicans than Presbyterians and there are as many names of Irish and English origin as there are Scottish so why are you so sure?

  • George

    Willowfield,
    Whoops, more presbyterians than Anglicans, which would probably explain your no.

  • unionist_observer

    “You repeat and endorse the nationalist smear that Ulster Scots ethnicity is a pre-requisite for Unionism.”

    but no nationalist or republican has ever said to me that you need to be an ulster scot to be a unionist, the person who made that clear to me was a unionist!! To be honest I don’t think nationalists even take it seriously enough to bother smearing Ulster Scots.

    “you would never describe yourself as Protestant- a bit of consistency please”

    yep and it does make me uncomfortable to label myself religiously but you had me backed into a corner by accusing me of hating protestantism.

    So why are you a unionist David?

    “But you were writing, not speaking. Do you write “Beaver” instead of “Belvoir”?

    Well, its not something that any of us can prove one way or the other so I think we should probably agree to disagree what guesses are about our forefathers.

    I asked you earlier what was the basis of your belief that Ulster Protestants mostly spoke Gaelic. You didn’t answer. I ask again. There must be some reason why you make the claim.”

    wow, chill out willowfield. as I mentioned before I am currently writing my dissertation on the history of my town and I am finding out more and more about the influence of the gaelic irish in my towns history whereas Ulster Scots sources would have you believe there was never any gaelic irish anywhere near the town. Up until the Scots arrived in the 1600s Newtownards was mostly gaelic irish, the normans had been but then left again so the majority of people in the town then would have spoken Irish. The Scots undoubtedly influenced the town, you can see that today with the sheer number of presbyterian churches in the town. However it is doubtful that all the Scots who came over were english speaking lowlanders, there had to be a few of the gaelic speaking highlanders too. Also unless they killed off the entire native irish settlement in the town, there would still have been a gaelic irish component.

    This is proved by the catholic graveyard at Kiltonga which dates from 1600s to 1800s, entirely separate to the protestant graveyards at Movilla and the old priory.

    This of course is all specific to Newtownards, however I think we can safely assume the pattern was the same in other towns across Ulster, especially in Down and Antrim. The point of this all is that it is unlikely that the Irish language entirely died out when the Scots came, the settlers who came to the area would have had to learn the language to communicate with others and live there.

    Sorry thats so long winded.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pictures of David Brewster in a kilt should be emailed directly to me for potential publication on Slugger. Faces can be Photoshopped to protect the guilty.

    LOL!

    Anyway, I think David and Rebecca’s argument is interesting, in that it clearly delineates two valid strands within unionism.

    David’s seems (to me) more emotional, a bit more nationalist, influenced by religion and based strongly on tradition.

    Rebecca’s seems more secular, perhaps more internationalist, less emotional, maybe a bit more bland and self-interested (a kind of civic unionist whose unionism isn’t based so much on an attachment to the union, but the benefits of it).

    Horses for courses really. I do feel that Rebecca has got the wrong end of the stick if she assumes that because someone tells her she “has” to be an Ulster Scot to be a unionist it is representative of how Ulster Scots think.

    Unfortunately, many of those who claim to represent the Ulster Scots have no idea how to do so, and revert to a very narrow definition of the term. Sadly, I have come across a few people who’ve bumped into Laird and his colleagues, only to be force fed a lecture on why they should join the Ulster Scots movement.

    Mr Brewster does not appear to be one of those people, so perhaps Rebecca’s criticisms are misdirected?

    For the most part, I have been impressed by the way those claiming to be Ulster Scots on this board have refused to allow it to be defined in a purely ethnocentric way.

    Sadly, it often seems to admit to having an interest in Ulster Scots is to invite a torrent of abuse upon oneself, and frequently unjustified criticism based on myths and a lack of knowledge.

    Many of the criticisms should be directed at the Ulster Scots Agency, as it has done more to define Ulster Scots in recent years than any other group. I actually find it very odd to hear grass roots U-S activists discuss their culture and how it should be promoted, but in a completely different way from the U-S Agency.

    Perhaps if the U-S Agency listened to those on the ground, who were celebrating their culture and speaking the dialect long before the Agreement came about, it might be more widely accepted. I find it bizarre, for example, that the U-S Agency HQ is in Belfast, when U-S is strongest in rural areas and is only really spoken in rural areas. (I know they are opening an east Donegal office, but… so what?)

    I also find it strange that the U-S Agency seems to primarily concentrate on the cultural, non-linguistic aspects of U-S, when developing a codified form of U-S should maybe be the priority for funding.

    That the U-S Agency has worked to isolate itself from Scots is also disturbing, given the co-operation and goodwill it could get from across the Sheugh – it seems incredibly inward-looking, until it comes to junkets to America.

    Equally, those applying the peer pressure on Rebecca and others should also wise up. You cannot force someone to be part of a cultural movement. Well, if you do, it kinda defeats the whole point of celebrating a common tradition. And it’s very stupid, as a typical Ulster Scot is more likely to do the very opposite of anything s/he feels pressured into doing!

  • davidbrew

    Rebecca-Once again,where did I accuse you of hating anything? I said anyone could be a Unionist and hate Protestantism, but if the cap fits…

    If someone said you had to be an Ulster Scot to be a Unionist he’s a fool and wrong on both sides of his equation. And you should know better than to let him away with it.

    You’re not getting off with batting the question back at me. Why are YOU a Unionist? In the words of the song, after reading your post I felt “Is that all there is?”.

    However, if you want a starter for ten-I’m a Unionist because of (in no particular order) ethnic links primarily to Scotland-a constituent part of the Kingdom; political identification with the constitution of the UK as grounded in the whig principles of constitutional monarchy which are consistent with my religious and political beliefs; an intellectual judgment that the Union is economically, and culturally best for the people of Ireland, based on its past achievements; past and present family ties to the UK through service -military and otherwise; family ancestors originating from the other parts of UK and family members currently resident there; a shared history ;and various oaths of loyalty to the monarchy which I have sworn which place a personal obligation upon me. And that’s only half way through a cup of coffee-there’s bound to be twenty more constituent parts to most Unionists beyond your “it’s my country, like”, which I look forward to hearing from you now.

  • davidbrew

    Gonzo you swine-I’ve never worn a kilt, which is a highland device, despised by the lowland Scot. And I don’t play the pipes because my wife says my singing is nearly as bad- she is not an Ulster Scot, but one of the Anglo-Irish(sadly not any of the ones with dosh) but her dad was a pipe major for over 30 years in a pipe band-what does that say about Ulster’s ethnic soup?

    Now a nice pair of tartan trews in the Loyal Orange Institution dress tartan would do the business for the haggis massacre and might persuade me to release photos- but only if that other vital part of Ulster Scots culture is furnished- the glory that is a fine Islay malt.

    BTW going back to U/S words in everyday use- or perhaps more accurately Scots words in use in Ulster-surely Donnie uses the word “sleekit”, one of the many adornments of our vocabulary which makes us far more capable of being thrawn than the anodyne Englishman!

  • IJP

    JD

    But so-called “false etymology” is still a completely valid way for a language to evolve.

    Indeed. Although ‘false spellings’ like ‘doubt’ and ‘delight’ were not evolution, but rather decisions made by supposedly educated people who were specifically trying to base the spellings on ‘correct etymology’!

    steveo

    Britishness is an invention

    This I would dispute. To give one of many examples, the common-law system to which even the monarch is bound is integral to Britishness but is evolution, not invention.

    Gonzo

    all tradition is invented anyway.

    I disagree and refer you, in very British manner, ‘to the answer I gave some lines ago’!

    The codification of tradition is of course artificial. But ‘Britishness’ is all about not codifying things – ‘evolution, not revolution’, or more negatively ‘doing things because that’s the way they are done’.

    Sitting around codifying and standardizing a single ‘identity’ or ‘cultural package’ is just not in the British tradition. As Clemenceau once described Austria you could also describe the UK – ‘ca qui reste’, loosely ‘that which is left over (once everyone else has defined themselves).

    Again, if I’m understanding correctly, I think that is U-O‘s point. The whole idea of having ‘our language’, ‘our culture’ or ‘our whatever’ (that belong, by definition, exclusively to ‘us’, whoever ‘we’ are) just doesn’t ring true to most people brought up in the British tradition, wherever that may be.

  • unionist_observer

    “If someone said you had to be an Ulster Scot to be a Unionist he’s a fool and wrong on both sides of his equation. And you should know better than to let him away with it.”

    oh believe me, I didn’t, I ranted for at least an hour at the person!!!

    “You’re not getting off with batting the question back at me. Why are YOU a Unionist? In the words of the song, after reading your post I felt “Is that all there is?”.”

    I’m not, I am just genuinely interested in the reasons people give for being unionist as I do find it quite hard to define. Its not easy to define your nationality.

    hmmm, you do think this is a weak flimsy reason but I do just feel British, the idea of a united ireland to me is completely foreign, I couldn’t imagine having my nationality reversed and being told that I was Irish. Nationality to Northern Irish people is very complicated I reckon, with so much intermarriage etc, no one can really claim to be of one ethnic group.

    Anyway, I digress, politically I am an Ulster Unionist because I am right wing, their policies on real political issues mirror my own opinion and what I think is the correct, common sense way of governing a country. My unionism as gonzo says is more pragmatic rather than emotional.
    Culturally I grew up going to watch the bands every year and feeling a surge of pride when I saw the big flags and banners.
    Economically, it is simply the best thing for Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom.
    Religiously I like the freedom and tolerance in the United Kingdom, there is not one religion that is accepted norm for everyone to be. Our laws reflect todays society (although its about time abortion was made legal in Northern Ireland like in the rest of the UK)
    People wise, I like the ethos of Northern Ireland, the work hard, honest, just mentality of Ulster Protestants at their best.

    Defining unionism is an interesting topic and something that political parties should focus on more in these days when unionism is coming under fire by governments and others. I suppose Ulster Scots is an attempt to do this but I do feel unionism is much bigger than this whole Ulster Scots thing.

  • George

    Brewster,
    How many generations have your family been here in Ireland and your primary ethnic links are still with those from Britain rather than this island?

    You guys should get out more or your eyebrows will start meeting in the middle.

  • davidbrew

    no it’s not easy to define nationality rebecca, but I think you should consider how Unionism pre 1912 was very much an all Ireland movement, and Carson’s Unionism was very different in emphasis from Craig’s and certainly Brookeborough’s. The reason was simply that the nature of the Uk had changed with the 26 secession. hence many southern Unionists did a Lord Dunsany or even a Bryan Cooper. Interestingly the Ulster Scots in East Donegal generally ignored the border and did not evolve into FG until relatively recently.

    My point is simply that the U/S strain has teneded to be the most significant within Ulster Unionism-not necessarily the best- and undoubtedly has some of the Presbyterian arrogance which comes from being God’s elect.

    Your civic unionism -as Gonzo terms it- is no less valid, but is less effective (only because it is less proactive), and in many cases less durable ( because so much of it comprises Trimble’s post Unionists, who tend to be middle class and based in urban greater Belfast and hence feel “safer”)

    Unionism would benefit greatly from more involvement of civic Unionists and from greater commitment from those already active. Trimble knew that and based his whole strategy on wooing that section . Bono and Blair got them out for him in 1998 (yup, another trait of many civic Unionists is that they are rather too trusting) since when there has been a great big nothing.

    Because they don’t see unionism in a struggle with nationalism, as people west of the Bann and in the border areas do, civic Unionists haven’t had their value system placed under such strains as we have. I mean, when are you likely to have a Sinn Fein mayor in Newtownards, to give one small example? And there won’t be too many released IRA killers turning up on the streets of Comber to gloat at their victims’ relatives.

    It’s not just what your country does for you- it’s what you can do for your country to misquote a charlatan. And BTW -the UUP’s right wing?!!! If only.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    IJP

    I can accept your points. I thought the Hobsbawn reference might have struck a chord with some, as it gets a complex point across quickly, if not entirely accurately – but yes, culture and language evolves. In fact, as I said in my earlier rant, they SHOULD evolve. My earlier post (hope you read it!) suggested that U-S culture has not evolved as much as Gaelic culture, but that hopefully it will in time. I think the U-S Agency is actually hindering that evolution you refer to.

    (Example. David Brewster said: “…going back to U/S words in everyday use- or perhaps more accurately Scots words in use in Ulster…”.

    You certainly wouldn’t hear THAT from the U-S Agency, as it seems to be in denial about the influence Scots has had on local speech, and seems to view U-S dialect in isolation, rather than in historical context. This seems to be to ensure that U-S dialect is seen as something entirely separate from Scots. I’m not realy sure why though. Maybe for funding reasons, maybe to define U-S as a counterfoil to Gaelic culture and language. I dunno.

    The point also stands in relation to the joke about kilts. Every time you see Lordy Laird, he’s wearing a kilt – yet as DB says, this is nothing to do with his cultural background. An ‘invented tradition’ perhaps?! You would have a better idea than I, but do you get my drift?)

    My point about codification was perhaps also badly made. It was in relation to the spoken form of U-S. In a nutshell – more funding should be spent on researching and publishing an U-S dictionary than on cultural events (especially if they are associated solely with one section of the community, IMHO, as there are many Ulster Scots who would feel uncomfortable in an Orange Hall).

    Any thoughts?

  • davidbrew

    why george, don’t you know we po’ white trash stick together ?

  • maca

    Willow
    “Ulster Protestants did not speak Gaelic”

    As I said earlier you really have to be more accurate. You can’t make a general statement like that, it’s simply false. Ulster Prods had a very proud tradition of involvement with the Irish language from the 16th century up until about 100 years ago. And it was used for more than simply ‘communicating with the natives’.
    Don’t forget who founded Conradh na Gaeilge, Douglas Hyde.

  • Davros

    “Tradition” is thorny IJP. One of things it’s very easy to end up talking at cross purposes about!

  • unionist_observer

    “Your civic unionism -as Gonzo terms it- is no less valid, but is less effective (only because it is less proactive), and in many cases less durable ( because so much of it comprises Trimble’s post Unionists, who tend to be middle class and based in urban greater Belfast and hence feel “safer”)”

    yes, I take your point but its the type of unionism most subscribed to, unfortunately it is also the type of unionist that generally doesn’t vote.

    The point about unionists who live in the greater belfast area and feel safer is a good point, there isn’t likely to be a shinner anynear near Ards Borough Council, the SDLP are lucky to have representatives there.

    After the experience of living outside the safehold of Newtownards, I have a huge deal of respect for those unionists who live in border and republican areas and remain active in unionism. People like the current chairmen of the Young Unionists, Danny Kennedy, Billy Armstrong, Derek Hussey etc. It would be very easy to just keep your head down and stay quiet but they don’t, to me that is the strongest version of unionism. I was reading today in the newsletter about an orange hall in Tyrone that was burned out with various sectarian slogans daubed on the wall.

    “Unionism would benefit greatly from more involvement of civic Unionists and from greater commitment from those already active. Trimble knew that and based his whole strategy on wooing that section . Bono and Blair got them out for him in 1998 (yup, another trait of many civic Unionists is that they are rather too trusting) since when there has been a great big nothing.”

    There must be some way of luring these unionists out to vote and participate. Although you do realise if they did all come out to vote, it would be for Trimble and the UUP, maybe you don’t want them to come out!!

  • steveo

    UO:

    “…Defining unionism is an interesting topic and something that political parties should focus on more in these days when unionism is coming under fire by governments and others. I suppose Ulster Scots is an attempt to do this but I do feel unionism is much bigger than this whole Ulster Scots thing…”

    This is where the major misunderstanding lies. Authentic Ulster Scots is not an attempt to define unionism. It is not political. It is cultural – and particularly through the language side it straddles “both communities”.

    Many try to present it as Unionist thing, but its not. Laird et al have tried to make it ultra-Orange to make it more appealing to the Unionist population. Many nationalists attack it to demonise it, and thus further dissuade Catholic folks from identifying with it and participating in it. Meanwhile the non-Ulster Scot unionists are bewildered.

    “…Unionism is bigger than this Ulster-Scots thing…” – yes it is.

    And Ulster-Scots is bigger than Unionism.

  • Davros

    Fair play to the SF rep who condemned the attack on the Orange Hall.

  • unionist_observer

    which one was it who condemned it?

    It really was horrible, someone wrote get out murdering orange bastards on the wall.

  • Davros

    To be honest I don’t recall, the aged parent was still rabbiting on about the main story of the day 🙂

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Possibly of interest…

    An Irishman’s Diary by Pol O Muiri

    Irish Times 6 October 1998

    THE OPENING of the new Northern Ireland Assembly highlighted once more the fractious nature of cultural politics in the North. A few word in Irish from Sinn Fein were greeted with a fit of ill-mannered coughs from some unionists while supporters of Scots spoken in Ulster (`Ulster Scots’) distributed the leaflets.

    It is not surprising that things have developed in such a way. Sinn Fein has long been vocally round of its attempts to push the Irish language. Like all political parties, however, it has been less keen to admit its failings in this regard. The old policy of equating words of Irish with “bullets” in the fight for “national liberation” seems to have been quietly decommissioned as the party has sought to emphasize the cross-community importance of the language in recent times.

    Partly, perhaps mainly, as a response to the republican cultural agenda, Ulster Scots has emerged as a counter-balance from unionist quarters. The argument put forward for it is, in many ways, a mirror image of the republican argument: “They have their language, we have our language” – and never the twain shall meet. Ulster-Scots was an anchor forged to stop Orange Ulster from drifting away in a sea of Gaelic green.

    Cultural fabric

    It would be a mistake, however, to let any political party or pressure group in the North set the cultural agenda. Writers and artists are the ones who should be doing that. It is through their work that the willfully constructed stereotypes of “our” culture and “their” culture are most effectively challenged.

    Take, for example, the work of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. His verses were part and parcel of the cultural fabric of the Donegal Gaeltacht since the beginning of this century. The novelist Seamus O’Grianna (or “Maire”, to use his pen-name) spent his summers, as did many from that region, as an economic migrant in Scotland harvesting and navvying. (The Romanians of their time?) What drove him and his contemporaries was economic necessity, a necessity, it must be said, which did not die with the foundation of the Irish Free State.

    In the first of his autobiography, Nuair a bhi me Og, O Grianna is introduced to the poetry and locale of Robbie Burns. It is an Odyssey of discovery and education for the young man and one which leaves an indelible mark on him. He litters on chapter of his autobiography with verses from Burns:

    What’s a’ the jargon o’ your schools,

    Your Latin names for horns and stools?

    If honest nature made you fools,

    What sairs your grammars?

    Ye’d better ta’en up spades and shools

    Or knappin’ hammers.

    Costly investment

    Without question, Burn’s anti-authoritarian tone appealed to O Grianna. Tellingly, O Grianna is later asked: “Do you read often?” He replies: “Often enough…. But I have only one book, Burns. One book and that bought. An investment in literature that was undoubtedly costly for someone costly for someone forced to work like a mule for every penny he could collect.”

    What fascinates most is that this cultural exchange occurred almost unnoticed. The gaudy to-ing and fro-ing of contemporary literature has none of the lyrical honesty and heartbreaking poetry of O’Grianna’s encounter.

    Here was a man, like many of his generation, with pride in himself and his people, with ear for the music of the spoken word, learning from a neglected tradition. This cross-pollination and whispered discourse was to last well into this century. The Donegal poet Cathal O’Searcaigh, a man only in his 40s, remembers his own father returning from work in Scotland and reciting Burns.

    Burns spoke to the native speakers of Donegal in a way, which was often magical. It is difficult to see Burns or the language he spoke as being “ours” or “theirs”. It lived among the predominately Catholic, predominately monoglot Irish speakers on Ulster’s western seaboard long before unionism decided it needed a counterbalance to a republican cultural agenda.

    Michael Longley

    An added twist is provided by the poem Phemios and Medon by Michael Longley. Longley takes the story from the Odyssey and rewrites the Greek into as near a living Ulster-Scots vernacular as you’re likely to get:

    Still looking for a scoot-hole,

    Phemios the poet

    In swithers, fiddling with his harp, jukes to the hatch,

    Lays the bruckly yoke between porringer and armchair,

    Makes a ram-stam for Odysseus, grammels his knees.

    Then bannies and bams we this highfalutin blether….

    {Still looking for a rat-hole, Phemios the poet

    In hesitation, fiddling with his hard, ducks to the hatch,

    Lays the brittle implement between porringer and armchair,

    Makes recklessly for Odysseus, grabs his knees,

    The cajoles and bums with this high-falutin’ blether…..J

    No navvy, Longley – educated in the classics at Trinity, born and raised in Belfast, on Ulster’s eastern seaboard. His poem is further proof of the power of the Scots on the imagination. It is the words that matter: the imaged they evoke in the mind that count. The use that “them” and “us” make out language seems petty in the light and O’Grianna’s and O Searcaigh’s and Longley’s epiphanies.

    That, I believe , is how it should be and that is the challenge faced by all artists in the North, more so now then ever to send the needle on the cultural compass spinning between east and west while all the time searching for true North.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/learning/history/stateapart/agreement/culture/support/cul2_n032.shtml

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Erse. That link has widened the thread, and I can’t fix it on this PC. Sorry…

  • Davros

    Great Link Gonzo, Thanks for sharing it.

  • Fraggle

    is ‘yoke’ a scots/ulster scots word? I’ve never heard it used in the north but people in the south use it all the time. the last person I heard saying it was from waterford but had lived in louth (near that dermot ahern fella) for years.

  • Biffo

    Nice one Gonzo, Keep it real 🙂

  • maca

    Fraggle, we’ve always used “yoke” in the midlands. It’s an English word though it’s usage to mean “something whose name does not spring immediately to mind” is distinctive Hib-English.

    Do ye use the word “rakes”, meaning “many/a lot of”?

  • George

    Yoke was also used in the Hades episode of Ulysses.

  • George

    Yoke was also used in the Hades episode of Ulysses, says he feigning a deep and inciteful knowledge of said book 🙂

    We’d use buckets instead of rakes in Dublin.

  • ShayPaul

    I use rake(s) in that sense maca.

    Let’s have a rake o’ Guinness for example :o)

  • ShayPaul

    Agree also George,

    Buckets being more appropriate for Guinness than rakes.

    :o)

  • ShayPaul

    Agree also George,

    Buckets being more appropriate for Guinness than rakes.

    :o)

  • maca

    Aye, sounds like a normal weekend, head to the pub with a rake a lads, drink buckets a Guinness, then feel sick as a box of frogs the next day. Grand!

    As my brother says, “i’ve to take a jo-maxi to the moriarty but i’ve choice grades.” Eh?

  • fair_deal

    U-O

    “How do you know they are talking about Ulster Scots? It sounds more like they are talking about Scots Gallic.”

    In this debate you raised a number of reasonable points but I am sorry that comment either shows incredible ignorance of the linguitsic history of the British Isles and Ulster or you’ve blogged yourself into a corner and are not prepared to realise or admit it.

    I accept you are not an Ulster-Scot and this comment is not meant to pressurise you into adopting that identity but I do honestly think that that comment shows there is a part of the cultural mix that you do not understand or appreciate. Do not let your identification with the English and Irish cultural influences in Ulster act as a barrier to the impact of the Scottish influence. You can leanr to appreciate and understand it without becoming an Ulster-Scots.

  • willowfield

    George

    Whoops, more presbyterians than Anglicans, which would probably explain your no.

    Presbyterian or Anglican, Ulster Protestants are not “mostly Anglo-Irish like their southern brethren”. They are mostly descended from planters. “Anglo-Irish” refers to a particular class of wealthy Protestant (effectively landed gentry) whose ancestry is quite different to Ulster planters. I am an Anglican, my ancestry is both Anglican and Presbyterian, and my ancestors would not have been considered to belong to the “Anglo-Irish” class. They were of relatively humble background.

    unionist observer

    “But you were writing, not speaking. Do you write “Beaver” instead of “Belvoir”?
    Well, its not something that any of us can prove one way or the other so I think we should probably agree to disagree what guesses are about our forefathers.

    That answer makes no sense. Do you write “Beaver” instead of “Belvoir”? I assume not, which raises the question as to why you wrote “Gallic” instead of “Gaelic”.

    wow, chill out willowfield. as I mentioned before I am currently writing my dissertation on the history of my town and I am finding out more and more about the influence of the gaelic irish in my towns history whereas Ulster Scots sources would have you believe there was never any gaelic irish anywhere near the town. Up until the Scots arrived in the 1600s Newtownards was mostly gaelic irish, the normans had been but then left again so the majority of people in the town then would have spoken Irish. The Scots undoubtedly influenced the town, you can see that today with the sheer number of presbyterian churches in the town. However it is doubtful that all the Scots who came over were english speaking lowlanders, there had to be a few of the gaelic speaking highlanders too. Also unless they killed off the entire native irish settlement in the town, there would still have been a gaelic irish component. This is proved by the catholic graveyard at Kiltonga which dates from 1600s to 1800s, entirely separate to the protestant graveyards at Movilla and the old priory.

    Tell us why there would have to have been “a few of the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders”. I would have thought, on the contrary, that this would been highly unlikely. As for the “Gaelic Irish component”, this was, by definition, not Ulster Protestant, as you admit when you cite a “catholic graveyard” as evidence!

    The point of this all is that it is unlikely that the Irish language entirely died out when the Scots came, the settlers who came to the area would have had to learn the language to communicate with others and live there.
    Sorry thats so long winded.

    No-one’s claiming it died out when the Scots came. The point is that Ulster Protestants spoke English/Scots, not Gaelic. If they learned Gaelic in order to communicate with Gaelic-speakers, then they learned it in the same way as we might learn French: as a second language.

    You have singularly failed to offer any kind of valid argument that Ulster Protestants spoke Gaelic 200 years ago.

    DB

    Gonzo you swine-I’ve never worn a kilt, which is a highland device, despised by the lowland Scot.

    Indeed. Bagpipes too, I believe. So why does so much Ulster-Scots activity involve pipe-playing and kilt-wearing?

    maca

    As I said earlier you really have to be more accurate. You can’t make a general statement like that, it’s simply false. Ulster Prods had a very proud tradition of involvement with the Irish language from the 16th century up until about 100 years ago. And it was used for more than simply ‘communicating with the natives’. Don’t forget who founded Conradh na Gaeilge, Douglas Hyde.

    Sorry, maca, as you well know, as a general statement is perfectly true to say that Ulster Protestants didn’t speak Gaelic, even despite the small number of eccentric antiquarians like Hyde.

  • davidbrew

    Indeed. Bagpipes too, I believe. So why does so much Ulster-Scots activity involve pipe-playing and kilt-wearing?

    simple really Willow-it probably goes back to the Imperial fondness for a certain visual symmetry in things pertaining to the Scottish military, whether Highland or lowland, which then carried over into the numerous United States, Australian, NZ and particularly Canadian Scots diaspora- so in fairness the U-S agency is only treading old ground.

    Also, much of the genuine Ulster-Scots commone affinity is from the Isles and The Mull of Kintyre which predates the Plantation and can belong to the people of the Glens of Antrim in particular. I happen to share much of the jaundice of my lowland-Scots ancestors which you can see clearly in the works of R L Stevenson and less obviously Walter Scott towards the Highland ideal, clan chieftains a la “Monarch of the Glen” etc- but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid means of expressing your scottish roots. it might be a bit synthetic but so , after all, is Irish dancing “The Quiet Man” etc which became part of the irish cultural self vision- because culture is always evolving.

    If your ancestors didn’t know what a kilt was , or what their clan tartan looke dlike, it doesn’t mean you should reject how scottishness has evolved since then.

    Don’t forget BTW that a Unionist like Sir Samuel Fergusson was motivated to preserve and promote the irish language as a means of tying a distinct segment of irish society further into the Union- I presume in the same way Imperialists saw a role for the Indian Empire- distinctive yet complementary.

  • Biffo

    davidbrew

    “..it might be a bit synthetic but so , after all, is Irish dancing..”

    In what way is Irish dancing synthetic?

    “If your ancestors didn’t know what a kilt was , or what their clan tartan looked like, it doesn’t mean you should reject how scottishness has evolved since then.”

    Maybe that’s also a good reason to reject it all as fake and not any part of your heritage.

  • maca

    “Sorry, maca, as you well know, as a general statement is perfectly true to say that Ulster Protestants didn’t speak Gaelic,”

    Not at all Willow, it’s an inaccurate statement. You shouldn’t generalise.
    “eccentric antiquarians” – another assumption?

  • Auxiliary

    How many members of the Ulster Unionist community do you think are NOT descended from the Ulster Scots?