Presbyterian republicans on stage…

A FESTIVAL in Saintfield is celebrating the battle that took place there in the 1798 United Irishmen’s rebellion. This year, it is exploring the role of the Dissenters (mainly Presbyterians) in the uprising, and includes a play in Ulster-Scots. Vivien Hewitt, who wrote it, said: “Although fictional, the play is heavily based on the facts and community memories of those few June days in 1798 when the Ulster-Scots imagination caught fire and believed it would be possible to transform Ireland into an American-style republic.”From the Irish News:

Festival will highlight Ulste-Scots 1798 role

By Claire Simpson

Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter were encouraged to “think outside the box” when they united in 1798, according to organisers of a new event marking the Battle of Saintfield. Claire Simpson reports

A festival to commemorate the 1798 rebellion aims to shed some light on the role Ulster-Scots played in the conflict.

The Liberty Days festival in Saintfield, Co Down, which is launched today (Thursday), will include music, dance and drama as well as a re-enactment of the Battle of Saintfield.

Although a prototype reenactment was held last year it will be the first time the full mock fight has been open to the public.

Due to run all weekend the festival also boasts the first performance of a new play on the United Irishmen rebellion.

A procession will walk down the town’s main street on Saturday culminating in a wreath-laying ceremony on York Island.

Organiser Vivien Hewitt said the idea for the festival had been mooted many years ago.

“Last year we made a film about the 1798 rebellion and the festival came out of that,” she said.

“It is very much a cross-community event – we want people to have fun with history.

“I know the United Irishmen rebellion was not a fun time but it was wonderful and colourful and exciting for the people involved.

“It encouraged Irishmen to think outside the box – something we should do today.”

Ms Hewitt said the play, called Who Dares to Speak, would be performed in Ulster-Scots and had been extensively researched.

“It is about human stories and human beings and what happens to them in a civil war,” she said.

“I think we have got past the idea that one side is right and the other is wrong.

“It is not a history lesson, it is a day in the life.”

Ms Hewitt, who wrote the play, said it aimed to reflect the mixture of idealism and confusion surrounding the rebellion.

“Although fictional, the play is heavily based on the facts and community memories of those few June days in 1798 when the Ulster-Scots imagination caught fire and believed it would be

possible to transform Ireland into an American-style republic,” Ms Hewitt said.