Random thouchts on Ulster-Scotch

I intend make a few points on the Ulster-Scots language/dialect/speech, but first a few minor observations.

My personal understanding is that much, but not all, of what we see as the Ulster-Scots movement is one reflection of how many in the unionist community see the Irish Language movement, the GAA etc. Maybe I am wrong?
For example, I attended the Ulster-Scots/Irish night in the Cultúrlann last year and I took much from it. The Ulster-Scots music was sung in English and was of a religious nature, justified by the fact that it was from Ulster-Scots in America. I personally was bemused, my more socialist friends were quite sullen.

We also had a speech explaining that the particular Ulster-Scots group in question put no emphasis on the ‘language’ as this would ‘turn children against it’. Frankly, I understood the speech in its entirety as an attempt to persuade Irish speakers to use Irish only symbolically so as not to antagonise people. I felt that most people in the Ulster-Scots group were surprised but not shocked to find Irish spoken at a vernacular level.

I also found it strange, and still do that much of what is promoted as Ulster-Scots culture is solidy Highland and Gaelic rather Lowland Scottish, the sight of a Highland Fling and a feileadh beag could well have had the ancestors of the Ulster-Scots reaching for their swords rather than joining in. There was also a titter of two of laughter as we were explained what a sgian dubh was! How long before Shinty makes it to the Newtownards Road I asked myself. In general however, the evening was good one.

Now, Ulster-Scots the language rather than an ethnic identity, language or dialect or nothing at all? The thing is, it can’t be a dialect of English as it does not seem to have sprung from English. Is it a dialect of Scots therefore?

Many agree but others here seem to be striving towards a separatist vision of a separate Ulster-Scots language. Ulster-Scots – The Language, has long been dismissed, even by Lord Laird but more notably by linguists such as Manfred Goring and John Kirk of QUB. I myself asked an expert on Scots for her opinion on the matter and she merely looked at me with pity.

So what is it then, Goring says it is a cant. I say however that Ulster-Scots is the remains of a language, albeit a dialect of Scots. There is a considerable vocabulary but there is not enough there to be a language as a complete system in my opinion, though there maybe more than one would think.

For example I was up in Ballymena a while back and I got to taking with an eldery gentleman who explained to me that Braid-Scotch was much spoken in his youth in Ballymena though he himself could not speak it. He explained to me that he was able to understand much of it and that often he translated for others who couldn’t. He said that whilst there are people who can speak Scotch, none would nowadays out of shame.

Clearly, the language we see in advertisements is simply ‘made up’ and designed to be as different from English as possible. This leads to the use of words such as ‘leid’ for language, a word extinct in Scotland and unknown in Ulster, and then there is Eksee-Peeksie ‘equality’, a word found in Scots today but only in the speech of 6-8 year olds. A wee bit bizarre?

I would suggest ‘The Hamely Tongue’ by James Fenton and ‘A Concise Ulster Dictionary’ by Caroline McAfee as honest records of Ulster-Scots for those interested.

I believe that there should be much academic work carried out of what is left of Ulster-Scots speech before it is too late (It is shocking that it hasn’t been done already, money being spent on Orange Order CDs in English I fears). That is were the priority must lie for those genuine about the speech? No?

Of course, many understand Ulster-Scots as a mere instrument to hold the Irish Language back, to take as much of the funding as possible and to make the question of language in the North seem so silly that Irish is make look ridiculous by association with Ulster-Scots. There may be some truth in that but it dismisses the efforts of some genuine people.

There is no doubt that certain politicians were noted for their opposition to Irish long before they came across Ulster-Scots and Nelson McCausland shows no sign of learning it, even mocking ‘poor Barry McIlduff’ on Talkback after he had apparently spoken Ulster-Scots.

I my opinion Ulster-Scots (or as I have heard ‘oul spakes’) is a form of speech which should be recorded and preserved and people should have the right to revive it and to reinvigorate it if they wish. We need to find out what the speakers of Ulster-Scots want, Ulster-Scots medium education, radio, books? Nothing at all?

The word equality is too simplistic an answer.

  • dub

    I also found it strange, and still do that much of what is promoted as Ulster-Scots culture is solidy Highland and Gaelic rather than Lowland Scottish…

    Indeed. It is also be noted that scots vocabulary and speech patterns are particularly strong in the Bogside area of Derry city, or at least among people over the age of 40.

    I myself think that the movement is mostly a positive thing as it is a move away from the obsession with being British which does not really mean anything to something which is an attempt to deal with reality, and that is always a good thing. That reality being that most northern protestants do indeed come from a scottish background and they do indeed live in a place called Ulster. At genuine ground level there does not seem to be overt hostility to gaelic culture. Indeed, as gaelic culture is an important part of scottish culture, this would be a bit absurd and i think that realisation is there.

  • myself

    Good to see some-one give a balanced and in-depth analysis of “ulster-scots”, as the mere mention of it does tend to bring out a bit of sillyness with many people.

    My gut reaction has always been, “what a joke, probably the biggest scam of the entire peace-process era”, being from north derry and having gone to school in Coleraine, I find pretty easy to both understand and speak most of what passes for ulster scots, in fact if they bring it in as a gcse, i’d get another qualification over-night.

    Although my gut reaction is to dismiss it, you have given me some food for thought, there’s no doubt there is an ulster-scots culture, no matter how through other and disjointed it may be, language on the other hand i’m yet to convinced.

    undoubtedly however it was highjacked as a response to the preservation of the irish language and although technically they are both on a par according to the EU courtesy of the GFA, it’s pretty obsurd that they are treated as equals, funding or otherwise.

    i will ponder some of the points you’ve made, again, quite a balanced analysis i thought

  • OC

    As most Ulster Planters emigrated from southern Scotland, one must understand that this population changed languages several times in a few hundred years. From Cumbric (P-Celtic) to Gadhlig (Q-Celtic) to Scots (west Germanic) to Scottish English (also west Germanic). So perhaps the Ulster-Scotch (and I don’t see the term “Scotch” as derogatory) have little invested in any language as the main pulse of the culture.

    A parallel can perhaps be seen in Ritchie Valens, who recorded “La Bamba”. He’s of Mexican heritage, but spoke no Spanish. So, because he spoke only English, does that mean that his culture is void of any Spanish-ness, or Mexican-ish?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Scotch ? Like a scotch egg ?

  • Harry Flashman

    “It is also be noted that scots vocabulary and speech patterns are particularly strong in the Bogside area of Derry city, or at least among people over the age of 40.

    Actually much of what was “oul’ Derry” talk is not Ulster-Scots but Elizabethan English, “graze” for “grease”, “shade” for shed, “starving” with cold and “doubt” for ‘fear’, as in “I doubt I will have to start early” meaning “Unfortunately I think I will have to start early”, reflecting when English first was brought to Derry and Shakespeare himself would have talked like a Derry man, ye know like hi.

    As regards “Ulster Scots” not being a separate language from English, would I be right in saying it’s as much a separate language as is Catalan or Portuguese from Castillian Spanish? And whilst I would agree that it is mainly pursued not for its linguistic qualities but because of its political implications I would humbly submit that in that respect it is no different from modern day Irish.

  • Franzipan

    I myself think that the movement is mostly a positive thing as it is a move away from the obsession with being British which does not really mean anything to something which is an attempt to deal with reality, and that is always a good thing. That reality being that most northern protestants do indeed come from a scottish background and they do indeed live in a place called Ulster. At genuine ground level there does not seem to be overt hostility to gaelic culture. Indeed, as gaelic culture is an important part of scottish culture, this would be a bit absurd and i think that realisation is there.

    You speak of reality, but the REAL culture of Northern Ireland is British, as is the REAL culture of Scotland. Gaelic, Ulster Scots, tossing cabers, wearing kilts, morris dancing and the like ARE nationalist SYMBOLS more so than they are real culture. They are more akin to flags and emblems than to real day to day culture as an anthropologist from Mars would see it. Those are the facts on the ground. Most Scottish men have never worn a kilt in their lives.

    The real culture is of growing up watching Blue Peter, following Coronation Street, having topless page 3 to the shock of puritanical Americans etc. with local variations like soda farls, Tayto cheese and onion, Irn Bru, scrumpy, Buckfast etc. as real but minor elements of differentiation of culture in a realistic anthropological sense. The reason a lot of unionists see the use of the Irish language as a piece of nationalist flag waving, a more genteel and acceptable variation on the painting of kerbstones, is actually that in reality 95% of the time, such an interpretation is a correct one.

  • Shameless Ulsterman

    Yet more cultural superiority from the Irish lobby. Condescension and mockery seem to be the default settings.

    The position, poorly clothed as legitimate consideration, is that Irish culture is the authentic article whereas Ulster Scots is spurious and promoted primarily to thwart the development of Irish.

    But hey, carry on, fill your boots. The genuine Ulster Scot will allow you your petty prattle.

  • The Spectator

    Franzipan

    Then where does that put those of us who grew up not on Blue Pter (Bleh!) but on Bosco and Fortycoats and the Community Games, on Nuacht and Glenroe, on Club Orange and Cidona, where Tayto Crisps had little to do with Tayto Castle, or even Tandragee, who mostly shopped at Dunnes and sometimes played Gaelic Football, and yes, learned Irish, if only to understand things like our own names, the names of our towns and villages, and the mythology and history that lay behind them.

    What about those of us who grew up with “Channel 4” on Channel 6, because 4 and 5 were already taken up by Dublin 4? What of those who when they hear “the Independent”, think of the Dublin Rag as instinct?

    Now Buckfast I’ll give you, though I can honestly say I’ve tasted Irn Bru maybe once in my life (and hated the bloody stuff) – what about us?

    Is our life experiences of less reality because they don’t match yours, or pass your tests?

    To be brutally honest, to the point of insult – when and where I grew up (Newry of the Troubles) – we broadly felt much culturally closer to dundalk than Liverpool – frankly we were much culturally closer to Dundalk than Ballymena, wthe latter being why many I suspect will never get their heads around the “Northern Irish” identity – And most of our expressions of culture where about what we were part of – not against what we weren’t part of – If we differ from you it’s not because we want to differ, but because we want to be ourselves, and ourselves IS different to you.

    Discuss.

  • Franzipan

    Would you not say that irish nationalism, or indeed unionism (british nationalism/ ulster nationalism) is part of the culture?

    Can you really separate culture and politics?

    I would suggest that you are narrowly defining culture in order to support your political outlook, which appears to be unionist.

    For example, i could easily say that growing up watching Friends and listening to the news on CNN makes me American with minor variations like my accent (but thats easily changed). Is that a sound anthropological argument?

  • Franzipan

    @The Spectator

    I don’t have a problem with that provided you do not have a problem that others genuinely feel more attached to those in Liverpool than in Dundalk and view it in equal and non-malicious terms, or try to undermine the East-West connection. Of course there are elements of “spill over” from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland Protestants and elements of “spill over” from Great Britain to Northern Ireland Catholics as well as of course elements of spillover between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

    However, if like dub you say that British culture “does not really mean anything” it is the height of nonsense. It is that which de facto means the most. Most of the culture is Northern Irish Protestants is British, not Northern Irish or Ulster Scots but British. Britishness in Northern Ireland is a real and living culture, and not something which nationalists have any right to wish to try to diminish or unnaturally alter. If you agree to that then fine. People like dub obviously do not.

  • Ulster-Scots is a scam, perpetrated by bigots, perverts and chancers, nothing more than that.
    http://skinflicks.blogspot.com/2007/10/ulster-scots-scam.html

  • Franzipan

    @michael

    For example, i could easily say that growing up watching Friends and listening to the news on CNN makes me American with minor variations like my accent (but thats easily changed). Is that a sound anthropological argument?

    Absolutely it is valid to talk of an “anglosphere” stratum of culture. It exists. It creates political differences e.g. “special relationship” between the US and UK.

    More widely there are also elements of culture common to “Christendom” etc. as opposed to Islamic cultures for example.

    I would suggest that you are narrowly defining culture in order to support your political outlook, which appears to be unionist.

    I would put it to you that I am doing quite the opposite. I am looking more widely at what culture is. The elements of “national” culture in the UK (tossing cabers, morris dancers) are relatively tokenistic and peripheral (a point made well in a speech by Trevor Phillips a couple of years ago). Most culture is shared.

    I am not defining culture in terms of what is not shared but in terms of what is, whether shared or not. GAA is a real part of Irish culture amongst one of the communities in Northern Ireland, much more than caber tossing in Scotland or morris dancing in England, that is a fact. I’m pointing out to people like dub that culture is not a matter of differentiation, and that to say that British culture is not present in Northern Ireland is ludicrous. If anything it is the strongest cultural element.

  • Billy Fish

    Yes we do ‘differ’ in Northern Ireland.

    The tragedy is that some took it upon themselves to try to murder that difference in a failed attempt to make those who differed subscribe to a particular worldview, or simply to make them dead.

  • Harry Flashman

    “To be brutally honest, to the point of insult – when and where I grew up (Newry of the Troubles) – we broadly felt much culturally closer to dundalk than Liverpool – frankly we were much culturally closer to Dundalk than Ballymena”

    I have no doubt you did (although I am a bit surprised that Bosco and Forty Coats had such an influence on your upbringing, in Derry we’d never heard of them but knew all the Blue Peter presenters and their dogs too) but I would submit you’d have felt more at ease in Liverpool, Manchester or even Glasgow than you would have done in Mullingar, Waterford or Skibbereen, I know that’s how 98% of my fellow Derry nationalists felt throughout the Troubles.

  • jone

    “I believe that there should be much academic work carried out of what is left of Ulster-Scots speech before it is too late. That is were the priority must lie for those genuine about the speech? No?”

    You’re right, but this work was left in the hands of the bunglers and duffers at the Ulster Scots Academy Implementation Group so don’t expect to see results anytime soon

  • dub

    Franzipan,

    You make a lot of good points. When I said britishness was meaningless i meant it in the sense that For most people in gb it is an umbrella nationality whereas for unionists in ni, in reaction mostly to the troubles, it became a primary nationality. this is now changing as the troubles are over,

    Flashman,

    Was there no rte on when you were growing up? Also surely most derry people that i have met feel very at home in Inishowen and that is a long way away from those large British cities you mention. I was thinking of words like “thran”, the pronunciation of the word “no”, the ubiquitous “aye” and “wains”, “scundered” and many other words i cant remember for now. Suffice to say that when i first went up to Derry i needed several words translated for me. And these were nearly all Scots words.

  • paul kielty

    Harry flashman,

    Its nice to converse with a man who can speak for 98% of Derry nationalists!
    As someone who has lived for many years in england, scotland and southern Ireland, I can assure you that the old notion, championed by gerry fitt among others, is generally utter nonsense and insulting.
    This is even more remarkable when one considers the total saturation of southern TV with english soccer and soaps.
    Come and live in the south and you will most definitely discover that your average southerner and northerner have far more in common than anyone across the water. Even those cities that you have mentioned, which have an enormous Irish dimension to their identities.

  • The Spectator

    Harry Flashman

    “I have no doubt you did (although I am a bit surprised that Bosco and Forty Coats had such an influence on your upbringing, in Derry we’d never heard of them but knew all the Blue Peter presenters and their dogs too”

    Harry, I can assure you Bosco was a mainstay in my home, and the homes of many around me. Indeed, Marion was my first crush as a child. Indeed, many people in Newry would only have their worst biases against Derry confirmed by your testimony.

    “but I would submit you’d have felt more at ease in Liverpool, Manchester or even Glasgow than you would have done in Mullingar, Waterford or Skibbereen”

    Well, having lived a year and a half of my youth just outside Manchester, and having recently lived for a while in Galway – I can assure you you’re quite wrong – and frankly only revealing your own (understandable) biases more obviously by your statement ;-).

    I grant you, Mullingar is the a***hole of nowhere, and the obvious route of the irish directions joke – No matter where I was going, I wouldn’t start in Mullingar.

    Franzipan

    The line I would object to was this:

    “but the REAL culture of Northern Ireland is British”

    No. A real culture of Northern Ireland is British. Another equally real culture of Northern Ireland is not British, but Irish.

    Either we accept the equal validity of both (and the McCausland/McNarry/Allister wings of Unionism clearly doe not) and learn to accept both cultures being expressed freely, with all that entails for promotion of Irish language, GAA and other ‘culturally nationalist’ symbols (and Orange walks and military rememberances too, fwiw) or inevitably we will one day find ourselves back in the horror of both traditions or cultures trying to win by annihalation.

    Sometimes i can’t but wonder if some of the culture warriors were not happier when armed.

  • It’s an interesting discussion but destined never to reach a common ground, it seems to me. I always thought it strange that the Ulster Scotch culture was almost always expressed in English and its main advocates, the likes of Nelson McCausland, Lord Laird and the Ulster Scots Agency were totally English speaking.

    My perception is that Ulster Scots has been poorly served by unionist parties, as has Irish been served by Sinn Féin and the SDLP. A definite case of politics and culture not mixing well.

    Either they don’t or won’t understand what’s needed to genuinely support culture and always, for instance, fall for civil service schemes to enhance the civil service [for whom will translators recruited to translate millions of unread words in English to unread words in Irish be working except the civil service!].

  • Plastic Paddy

    “to say that British culture is not present in Northern Ireland is ludicrous”

    True, but I also see the presence of British culture when I see the Pakistani cricket team, or New Zealand’s All Blacks, or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or watch people in the West Indies drive on the left side of the road et cetera. That is not to say that Pakistanis and Canadians and Jamaicans don’t have their own cultures (that have in turn influenced British culture.)

    The moral is, British culture, thanks to the old Empire, is everywhere on Earth, not exclusive to these Isles and that aspects of other cultures are found here.

  • Franzipan

    ‘I would put it to you that I am doing quite the opposite. I am looking more widely at what culture is. The elements of “national” culture in the UK (tossing cabers, morris dancers) are relatively tokenistic and peripheral (a point made well in a speech by Trevor Phillips a couple of years ago). Most culture is shared.’

    Absolutely most culture is shared, however, I purposely wrote American as opposed to ‘Angle-shpere’ as the latter term is indeed a blanket term whereas the former is not, in our common use it means something related to the US. Likewise with the term British. Some would argue that the cultural elements shared across these islands, and beyond, have little to do with what is British, but are simply elements of a wider ‘western’ culture. I guess what im saying is its a name thing. Much like the non-sense Gordon Brown went over when he tried to define ‘British Values’.

    More interestingly, by your comments, you seem to have a hierarchy of culture. A nonsense i would say. Culture is culture is culture, whatever name you give it. British, Irish, American or ‘anglo-sphere’ *ahem*.

  • veritas

    shameless Ulsterman. Can you speak Ulster Irish/Scots?

  • dewi

    Excellent series of posts GGN – keep them coming! Apart from “thran”, “drecht” and was it “scunnered” – what other Scots words are in everyday usage?

  • Heidi Concorran

    Excellent series of posts GGN – keep on sticking it to those silly Prod feckers!

  • Mack

    Is the real culture of NI, British?

    Defining British culture could be quite complex. Is British culture only what is exclusively common between NI, England, Scotland and Wales? Or is it the sum total of the cultures that exist within the countries that make up the union?

    I would posit that the later is a more helpful definition – for if you were to exclude from the former those common cultural elements not present in Ireland (republic), you’d be left with next to nothing. Of course that definition would make Irish Gaelic and the GAA part of British culture for as long as NI remains in the UK (which may not suit either side).

    Harry Flashman

    “but I would submit you’d have felt more at ease in Liverpool, Manchester or even Glasgow than you would have done in Mullingar, Waterford or Skibbereen”

    Nonsense.
    Difficult to see GAA or Ireland matches (rugby, soccer) on TV for a start. (You are also comparing cities to villages – Derry isn’t a metropolis, but how about Dublin, Cork and Galway?)

    The cultural differences for a northern nationalist between southern Ireland and northern Ireland are relatively slight (they certainly do exist), but are much bigger wrt to England. Scotland is culturally closer than closer than England I find.

    But why waste our time with that argument – most people from these islands, could live anywhere in these islands without suffering severe homesickness (GAA & Rugby league fans perhaps excepted outside of areas where their sport is popular).

  • Harry Flashman

    To briefly answer a few points, no RTE was not available in Derry until the early ’80s so perhaps my admittedly generalised statement about Derry people relates more to those of my generation. Derry certainly had a very strong affinity with Inishowen but up until recently Derry was to all intents and purposes a very “British” town, I use the word in its most general and loose term rather than its political meaning.

    Derry people of my generation and earlier grew up in a British garrison town, there was little Irish cultural nationalism. I can’t recall a single person (apart from maybe Christian Brothers) who read Irish newspapers or followed southern Irish politics, GAA was almost unheard of in Derry city, the big sports were soccer, rugby and cricket and the BBC and ITV were the only TV we watched and more of us would have had relatives in Manchester and Glasgow than we would have had in Dublin or Cork.

    I’m not making a value judgment and I concede that much has changed since but up until the 1970’s Irish political and cultural nationalism barely registered in Derry, I accept that it was very different in other parts of Northern Ireland and I probably shouldn’t have generalised from a very peculiar society to encompass all of Northern Nationalism.

  • Suchard

    It quite simple tha’ knows. All t’people o’al talking English world have one thing in’t common like- them all buy and sell in t’same lingo like in fact t’all over auld British Empire like. Them’s more pukka British int’ far east than in’t West Riding now tha knows and what””sa more we,re bloody fed up wih’t being ignored oer t’here we,s an t’ethnic minority o’er here like and we demand t’leglislation to protect o’er int’rests loike, and further more us were’nt consulted by yon fellow from’t Paisley and tha can stop blethering on t’about Rugby League as tha know’s nowt about bugger. Us Yorkies settle our differences with’t Lancastrians by laking Cricket an’t Rugby amongst our s’ens see tha. So tha t’all wants to stop wasting valuable brass on’t dead lingoes the’ dont speal yon Latin tha knows a right lot now tha knows. So just find somutt to do lads and lasses and get thissen’s a life.

  • Danny

    Those who bring up “modern Irish” and try to suggest that it’s a pieced together language (and thus no more legitimate than Ulster Scots) need to keep in mind that there’s a difference between the official written standard (An Caighdeán Oifigiúil) and indeed the spoken “standard” (sometimes referred to derisively as “book Irish” or “school Irish”) and the regional dialects which survive to the present day.

    Like many languages, Irish has a written standard. It has something approaching a standard spoken form too which is essentially based on a mixture of dialects. In other words, it’s unexceptional and not something that people should use as an excuse to dump all over the language.

  • Padraig

    Take away public money from cultural endeavours and what will you get?The GAA will continue to thrive. Norn Iron soccer will become extinct even quicker.

    The Irish language will continue to thrive And the Bally menea accent (Ulster Scots language aka Nelson Mc Causland) will head right back up the M2 were it belongs.

    If there’s one could thing about the recession is that public dole outs on fripperies will cease.

    That which is authentic will thrive as it always has and the Emperor’s new clothes will be seen as it is, bonkers.

  • picador

    I invite you to view the Courses page of the Ulster Scots Agency website:

    Ulster Scots Courses

    As you will see there are lots of courses for pipes, flutes and drums and plenty for ‘Scottish country’ / highland dancing but not one for learning the alleged Ulster-Scots language. The fact that the agency responsible for promoting this ‘language’ cannot offer a course in it tells a tale in itself.

    I am not very well versed in Scottish history but I have been led to believe that Highlanders hate Lowlanders (and vice-versa) on account of the role of Lowland regiments of the euphemistically named ‘Highland clearances’ of the eighteenth century (another case of divide and rule by the canny Sassanach).

  • Glencoppagagh

    Padraig
    “Take away public money from cultural endeavours and what will you get?The GAA will continue to thrive. Norn Iron soccer will become extinct even quicker.”
    As would almost all ‘cultural’ activity but it’s still a price worth paying. Abolish DCAL immediately.

    Persuade the Irish language lobby to put it’s begging bowl away and the Ulster-Scots lobby will soon evaporate. Unfortunately, the Irish language lobby seems unanimously convinced that public subsidy is indispensible. For me, that is evidence of its own weakness and lack of confidence.

  • What a bunch of feckin chancers, I checked that link to the Ulster Scots “poem”(by the way awful poetry too) and I could understand practically all of it.

    http://www.ulsterscotsagency.com/secondhancomputer.asp

    I can’t believe both governments are paying valuable and in these days rare money to fund what’s basically a strong northern accent, they’re shitting bricks in case they offend a few unionist politicians, who in all honesty, love going out of their way to be offended, they’re professional dour whingers anytime you see them on the TV.

    I’m from Cork and I tell ya I could say many things in Cork slang and call it a language e.g. corkeese(cue millions of comments about the indistinguishable cork accent), cmereiwantchabhoy loike. What a bloody scam. Language my erse!

  • Republic of Connaught

    Harry Flashman,

    It’s perfectly understandable that many nationalists in the North would feel privately more at ease in Liverpool, Manchester, or Glasgow than the South. Why?

    Because the surroundings in Britain are familiar with “home” in the six counties; from the currency used to the yellow number plates on the cars to the black taxis to the post office service to god knows how many other things symbolic of life under UK jurisdiction. What we call “home” is often the things that are most familiar to us from childhood. So clearly the Southern system isn’t as familiar to a northern nationalist, or Unionist, as the UK system, which they have been brought up in.

    But these are in essence trivial things. If all the north was changed to the same as the rest of Ireland then within a few short years people in the North would regard the Southern system – ie, number plates, currency, postal service etc – as their own. It’s merely a matter of what becomes most familiar to people which in turn makes them feel more at “ease” in one place rather than another.

    Being in other parts of Ireland wouldn’t seem any different if the system on the entire island was the same. The way things are anyone in the north is going to find many aspects of the South unfamiliar while in Britain things are the same as the six counties.

    If people in Kerry were partitoned from the rest of Ireland and brought up in the French system from childhood they’d logically feel more at ease in Paris than Dublin. Does that make them French?

  • Gael gan Náire

    Dewi,

    Bore Da. I will try and think of some.

    Picador,

    There was an Ulster-Scots course out in Ards, I never attended but friends who did claimed it wasnt very good (cant back that up), there was also a course in the Linen Hall library but this has been replaced by Scottish Gaelic, to the best of my current knowledge.

    Anyone else with info on this quite relevent point?

  • Harry Flashman

    RoC, you are probably entirely correct in your analysis I was merely explaining how Derry was somewhat more “British” (again used in a vague ‘cultural’ rather than political sense) than other parts of the North which maintained much stronger ties with the cultural nationalism of the rest of Ireland. I think Derry was more comparable to Dublin prior to 1921 in its outlook towards Britain with for example West Cork being more comparable with South Armagh.

    Not without justification did the British Army in the 1970’s say that “Derry is different”, it is no surprise that while the Troubles started in Derry they also began to end there too and the only bastion of the post-Nationalist SDLP west of the Bann is Derry. In many ways you could drop Derry in the north west of England and most people wouldn’t notice much of a difference, the people of Crossmaglen on the other hand, well let’s just say yellow number plates never had much effect on them.

  • Padraig

    Glencoppagagh ,quite right, there’s a lot of chancers going about looking for hand outs.

    Not one penny for Irish , not one button for the Ballymena accent.

    If they have no impetus of their own they should sink or swim.i

  • Franzipan

    @Plastic Paddy

    True, but I also see the presence of British culture when I see the Pakistani cricket team, or New Zealand’s All Blacks, or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or watch people in the West Indies drive on the left side of the road et cetera. That is not to say that Pakistanis and Canadians and Jamaicans don’t have their own cultures (that have in turn influenced British culture.)

    The moral is, British culture, thanks to the old Empire, is everywhere on Earth, not exclusive to these Isles and that aspects of other cultures are found here.

    While of course there is truth in what you say, there is a much greater concentration of British culture in Northern Ireland than the veneer of British culture you see in the Pakistani cricket team. For example I’d imagine that if you were to reminisce on the death of Oliver Postgate, creator of Bagpuss, or try to sing the words of Mt Blobby’s Christmas hit with a member of the Pakistani cricket team you wouldn’t get very far.

  • Padraig

    Also to hell with chancers wanting a huge white elephant of a football stadium, IFA, GAA and the rugger nuts.

    Spend the dough on a cancer centre or a treatment centre for drunk,drug ridden psychpathic, MLA’s

  • Franzipan

    @The Spectator

    The line I would object to was this:

    “but the REAL culture of Northern Ireland is British”

    No. A real culture of Northern Ireland is British. Another equally real culture of Northern Ireland is not British, but Irish.

    Either we accept the equal validity of both (and the McCausland/McNarry/Allister wings of Unionism clearly doe not) and learn to accept both cultures being expressed freely, with all that entails for promotion of Irish language, GAA and other ‘culturally nationalist’ symbols (and Orange walks and military rememberances too, fwiw) or inevitably we will one day find ourselves back in the horror of both traditions or cultures trying to win by annihalation.

    I think you are taking it within a context outside that which it was meant, though admittedly that was a provocative way to put it on my part. What I was meaning is that the vast majority of culture in Northern Ireland, as measured by our anthropologist from Mars, is also found amongst the people of England, Scotland and Wales. I would also say that there is more unique culture shared between people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland than there is that differentiates each of these units from each other, by a wide margin. Tossing cabers, morris dancing and for the most part, the Irish language in Northern Ireland, and certainly Ulster Scots in Northern Ireland are peripheral to those aspects of culture (food, dress many other things that are shared) and that those things are more akin to nationalist symbols, like flags and emblems, than they are part of day to day culture. By “real” I meant day to day culture as opposed to symbolism. Therefore what I meant was that kilts, caber tossing and morris dancing are not “real” culture, and neither is Ulster Scots, and for most nationalists neither is Irish. That is an empirical observation not one of “validity”.

    There are people who go home after a hard week’s work and speak Irish to their children, don a kilt and practice the bagpipes, or get out their two sticks and dance a merry morris dance in their back garden of a weekend, but these are sub cultures, about as numerically common as people who (say) play Dungeons and Dragons of a weekend.

    What I object to is these symbols and activities being conflated with “culture”. They are mostly de facto the same as flags and emblems as used by people with particular nationalist aspirations. That applies to Ulster Scots.

    You speak of recognising the equal validity of both cultures in Northern Ireland, but I don’t accept your premises. There aren’t two cultures in Northern Ireland there are two nationalisms in Northern Ireland. 95%+ of culture is shared. Nothing I said relates to validity, it relates to empirical reality (e.g. anthropologist from Mars).

    There may be good reasons for NI to split from the UK or Scotland to split from England but cultural difference (what amounts to the 5% at most nationalist symbology at worst or the activities of hobbiests at best) isn’t one of them.

    The reality is that, in most contexts, sticking Irish or Ulster Scots everywhere is no different than sticking tricolours and union jacks everywhere. Now there may well be an argument for sticking tricolours and union jacks everywhere but to me “culture” is not some free pass to deflect the normal criticisms from what are symbols of national identity, most of the times, and in most of the contexts in which they are used.

  • Plastic Paddy

    Ok, Franzipan, fair enough. Pakistanis don’t know the Mr Blobby song. For many reasons (chiefly geographical proximity, shared language and continued political union) NI is more influenced by British culture than Pakistan. I still think that the doesn’t prove very much.

    NI is also much more influenced by US culture than is Pakistan – that doesn’t make Belfast an American city. We could go back and forth about this ad infinitum (Fermanagh is clearly Irish – Antrim is far more British, Derry is practically part of Donegal, Well the real Ulster is all nine counties – I don’t understand people from Cork, I can’t understand cockneys. . . )

    Land borders are inherently difficult and contentious. Fortunately, Ireland was blessed with a its own island. From orbit, it is totally unambiguous what is Ireland and what is not, it’s only when you get down here near the surface that things get confusing.

    Ask your average Londoner what “hurling” is you’ll likely get some entertaining responses – ask the same Londoner what happens on the Twelfth of July and he’ll likely look at you in puzzlement. Which, incidentally, reminds me of Ali G in Northern Ireland, class.

    On a more serious note, for a British perspective on the Irish troubles, check this.

  • The Spectator

    Franzipan

    I see your point, but I must reject your rejection of the premises. For many in Northern Ireland, Gaelic Sports, the Irish (FAI) soccer team, and watching RTE, for example, are day and daily the norm. For many in NI, the daily cultural activities to which they are drawn share more with the South than with the East – that’s just empirical fact.

    It’s not that it’s cultureally ‘nationalist’ so much as cultural ‘(the nation of) irish’.

    Now of course the Anglosphere – espeially the first world anglosphere has, via media, introduced broad cultural norms – and the US and the UK as the two largest economies in that sphere have hit heavier than most. But I don’t see Canada or Australia accepting that therefore their culture is “American”

  • Dave

    “I’m from Cork…” – dave

    That explains much.

    “Not one penny for Irish , not one button for the Ballymena accent.” – Padraig

    The trick in this is to claim that all non-mainstream languages in one state must have ‘parity of esteem’ with each other in how the state supports such languages, otherwise, it is claimed, that the state is practicing discrimination between the different social groups. Since all languages in one state cannot have parity with each other, it is then claimed that none should be supported by the state (a parity of contempt). This is a trick of cultural censorship.

    Because you are resident in a foreign state (assuming that you reside in Northern Ireland), you can avoid the dismal situation of being a resident of the Irish state who advocates that the state stops promoting the culture of its nation without grasping that promoting the culture of the nation is the key rationale behind the nation-state. If the Irish state no longer serves the Irish nation, the nation-state is thereby incrementally dismantled.

    Nations have rights, so where a nation exists (beyond the rights of the British nation that covers the rights of the traditional unionist tribe), then this additional nation can claim an additional class of indigenous rights attributed to it. Of course, claiming something and having it validated under international law by the UN are two different events. In the Northern Ireland context, it is far more important to have it ‘validated’ by disseminating propaganda as Northern Ireland operates in a parallel universe.

    In the Republic of Ireland (as with the 194 of the world’s 197 states that are nation-states), other nations that migrate to live within another nation’ state are not granted any form of veto over the host nation or granted any right to its state beyond the rights conferred upon them by the laws of that state. They don’t say “The Polish in Ireland account for 5% of the population which is probably more than speak Irish, so we want equal state support for our language or else your state should stop supporting your nation’s language.” As all states support their nations’ culture, the right to self-determination for that nation is granted in their state of origin and not in their state of foreign residence. Ergo, they are not deprived of their rights as a nation in any way by the host nation’s ‘discriminatory’ support for its own culture. The only people who would be deprived of such a right would be the host nation if they agreed to censor their own right to self-determination in order to promote a ‘pluralist’ state, effectively placing themselves among the stateless nations of the world.

  • Dewi

    You’ve posted that 194 out of 197 before. What’s the 3?

  • dub

    Flashman,

    thanks for your generous response. i think your derry and dublin comparison is good. i think the droppping into northern england is a bit far fetched though! these things are complex and defy easy categoriation. changing the view, surely the biggest and most unquanifiable change in derry nationalist community is the massive disappearance of devotional catholicism, all the columbine rites etc that were a huge part of derry life…

    derry’s nationalist community was a very catholic community until very recently. irish nationalism in some ways is a discovery and a compensation for that loss. that explains some of the rather nasty hibernianism you see in derry nationalism now.. plethora of glasgow celtic tops etc…

  • Laird.ie

    http://www.ulsterscotsagency.com/siteFiles/images/newus_02.gif

    Hie demant thad awl compuders haf nue keyboarts issued wid the new ledder.

    Stop discriminating against Ulster!