Ulster Presbyterians and the endurance of principle…

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

Numbers 30:2

If you didn’t see Will Crawley’s evocative first spisode in a new three parter on the much spoken about, and little understood Ulster Presbyterians, you really should bookmark the page on iPlayer and take the time to watch it.

The timing is interesting, not least since Friday’s DigitalLunch concerned the whole business of history, storytelling and propaganda. Our special guest Hiram Morgan noted towards the start that:

“Essentially the more you dig down into a subject, looking at the documents, the original sources, you get further and further away from your own preconceptions your own present mindedness as it were.

Will’s documentary certainly had a strong sense of journey to it. He clips through more than a century of history at a fair old pace from the advent of Calvin’s Ordonnances ecclésiastiques of Geneva in the mid 1500s, through that epoch making decade a century later, to the eventual accommodation with the Presbyterians by the English throne in the decades after the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

In dialling down the James-v-William face off and pointing up the 1640s, Crawley takes us into the chaotic, dark and at times unfathomable cauldron of modern Irish political identity. Hav ing suffered casualties of up to an estimated 12,000 men, women and children, the Presbyterian Scots returned a year later this time, as Eamonn noted last night “we came with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other.”

And yet their story is one of unquellable rebellion. A pain the side of both the English Republic and the Monarchy for their unflinching fealty to principle. They had much resolve in adversity which gave way to an eventual, if uneasy, accommodation with a crown authority which had several times sold it short of it’s own highly prized values of equality before God. “But they could not be bought’ says Crawley after the granting of the Regium Donum.

Great television.  And, if history is in part at Hiram describes it, as a journey “away from your own preconceptions” this is a journey well worth undertaking…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty