Saturday, 31 December 2011

Old Years Night

Firstly - Happy New Year Folks!!

Reading many articles about this tune, would lead you to believe that it is purely an Irish Traditional tune - well like many a good tune it is well travelled and sung and played by many, many famous and not so famous musicians.

I tend to like the story that it IS a traditional Scottish tune and once more popular than Auld Lang syne!

In my opinion - if you play or sing a tune or song give it its true meaning and recognition, it is only professional courtesy!!

So at midnight tonight what ever your tipple - may joy be with you all !!

Of all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm I've ever done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile,
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own she has my heart in thrall,
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.


Saturday, 24 December 2011

From the Archives 6

Last piece from my recent visit to the Newspaper Library in Belfast.

With luck and good will, a short play about the harvest fair will be performed by a school in Newtownards - incorporated in an Ulster Scots Concert night around March time.

This newspaper piece in the Newtownards Chronicle from 1925 looks back 50 years to 1875 at the Harfest Fair in Newtown!!


Friday, 23 December 2011

From the Archives 5

Snippet out of the Newtownards Chronicle from the winter of 1925 - instructions of scatting safely during cold weather and frozen lakes!

I am sure there is a 5,000 page government document somewhere explaining the health and safely implications of scatting on ice nowadays!!


A Chronicle of Comber

Friday 16th December I attended a book launch at the Thomas Andrews Memorial Hall Comber, where over 180 people attended the launch, on what turned out to be a very enjoyable and interesting evening.

I was invited by one of the books co-authors Laura Spence.

I would highly recommend the publication to all my friends and filmily.

I don't have much of a connection with Comber, nevertheless all those interested in local history and particularly Comber, will thoroughly enjoy the book.

Congratulations to Laura and her friend Desmond Rainey for an excellent evening and thanks for signing a couple of copies- one for me and the other one for the Low Country Exile in Londonderry!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Bloggin - 2 years on!

Since I took the plunge 'bloggin' on 16th December 2009, I have placed 543 items on my blog - some may be of interest, some may not be, however it has been a great experience.

I have accumulated 20,550 individual hits - an amazing total for me, I did not think anything that I posted would be of interest to the wider public. It pleases me that throughout the past 2 years I have received communications from all around the world, made 'friends' with the unlikeliest people, annoyed a few (intentionally) and entertained others!

So here is to another 2 years of Bloggin!


Family History Trail - William Anderson.

For a number of years I have been researching my Family Tree, I have collated quite a bit of information from living relatives, and bit n pieces from local newspapers etc. I have to say that not all information I have been given has been true - I have found out some very, very sad stories and of course they have not been told to me 'as it was' more conjecture, folklore and misleading stories.

Anyone who knows me well, will testify that I am determined to get to where I want to go, using all avenues that will lead me to 'the truth' - here is one example!

In November I blogged about gate crashing / going to a book launch at the Somme Centre at Conlig, near Newtownards on Remembrance Day 2011. The books Remembering Their Sacrifice of the Great War - The Ards & North Down by Barry Niblock - I bought 2 x copies of each, 1 set for me and 1 set for my good friend Jack Greenald.

I have read through extensively but found no reference to William Anderson, my Great Uncle, so I decided to contact the Mr. Niblock to see if he had any information on William Anderson.Within 24 hours Barry e-mailed me back with a holding e-mail then a week or so later he forwarded me some exciting and emotional news!

Here is part of the e-mail regarding Uncle William :-

Born in Ballymacarrett, Belfast, William Anderson enlisted on 17 September 1914 in Newtownards.

He was a mechanic, 5 feet 8 inches tall and he was aged 19 years 10 months.

He was posted to 'B' Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (No. 17148). On 22nd December 1914 he was transferred to the Motor Machine Gun Section of the Royal Artillery (No. 32504).

He went to France on 8 February 1915.

On 1 December 1915 he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps.

He was hospitalised in July 1917 due to the effects of gas poisoning.

He was later discharged from the army on 10 February 1919 on a pension of 11 shillings per week.

At that time his next-of-kin was his aunt, Jane Anderson, who lived at 157 Greenwell Street, Newtownards.

He was single when he was discharged and some time later he got married.

In January 1926 his widow applied to the military authorities for financial assistance.

So it may be assumed that William died around December 1925/early January 1926.

Well I was totally surprised and a little shocked - I am very grateful to Barry Niblock for his prompt response and wonderful information! However I don't like where this is taking me - I have the feeling there is going to be a very sad story at the end of this trail!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Visit to Belfast Newspaper Library - 2

I will share with you another snippet from the archives from the Newtownards Chronicle form 1917 during my visit to the Newspaper Library during the week.

A few weeks ago I blogged about planting an Echlinville Apple Tree in my back garden, here is a connection.

My good friend Mark Thompson blogged this on 'Bloggin fae the Burn' article entitled Scottish Bishops and Ulster-Scots apples. The article explores Robert Echlin from Fife, Scotland who settled in these shores from Pittadro in Fife and became Bishop of Down & Connor - later a brand of cooking apples were named Echlinville.

I came across this newspaper entry

Local History is so fascinating at times!


Iconic movie clip - Dr. No

Billy Connolly was asked during a BBC interview who was the greatest living Scots man? Billy replied Sean Connery - Billy explained, Sean had the ability to walk into a room full of people - women went weak at the knees, and of course men went weak at the knees also!

Well my favourite Bond movie is Dr. No and every time I watch this scene I go weak at the knees - for me an iconic moment in movie history!


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Visit to Belfast Newspaper Library.

Back on my family history trail again!

I visited the Newspaper Library in Belfast and viewed the Newtownards Chronicle Jan 1917 to December 1917. Looking through the year the news was dominated with news from the Western Front and associated stories - church, community groups, Orange Lodges, Council - all collecting, sweets, chocolate, knitted gloves, socks, underwear etc.

The other big news item running throughout the year was the Home Rule Crisis - Lord Carson taking the fight to the Westminster Parliament, and arguing the Ulster cause against increasing English hostility!

I was looking for information on my Great Uncle William Anderson, who I believed died during the great war - wrong! Having looked through the paper I did come across a letter that he had sent to the Chronicle thanking the good folk of Newtownards for sending him a 'parcel of comforts'

It is truly amazing what can be found - if you have the patients of course.

So guess what, William Anderson to my surprise survived the war - see next blog post regarding the information!


Handel - Hallelujah

Well, excuse me for not bloggin for a while - I was very, very busy!

To get us in the Christmas mood - no better way prepare for the coming Christmas Period than The Hallelujah Chorus - fantastic!!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Amazing Grace - Hayley Westenra (Live)

Woke up this morning with this song in my mind - beautiful hymn, I am off to Church!


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Ecklinville - Ulster Scots Cooking Apple

Thanks to two local folk the Ecklinville Cooking Apples are once again growing in Co. Down – with two other trees near Londonderry.

Research carried out by Mr. Mark Thompson identified the Ecklinville cooking apples arriving into Co. Down, in particular Ards Peninsula – over 400 years ago. More information can be found at Mark’s Blog – Blogging Fae the Burn and Darren Gibson’s Blog – Fae the Han o a Low Country Lad.

Today, we planted our Ecklinville apple tree in the back garden in North Down – Matthew, Christopher and Dudley gave me a hand.

I look forward to the first crop of apples – I can’t wait for an Ulster Scots apple tart / apple crumble!


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Agent ZigZag

I just watched the a most interesting BBC Time-watch Programme - If you have an hour to spend and like war stories, espionage, intrigue, and a love story - well this is for you!

Click on the link to the below for the BBC iPlayer.

Following on from his hugely successful BBC2 documentary, Operation Mincemeat, based on his book of the same name, writer and presenter Ben MacIntyre returns to the small screen to bring to life his other bestselling book - Agent Zigzag.

As part of the Timewatch series, MacIntyre reveals the gripping true story of Britain's most extraordinary wartime double agent, Eddie Chapman. A notorious safe-breaker before the war, Chapman duped the Germans so successfully that he was awarded their highest decoration, the Iron Cross. He remains the only British citizen ever to win one.

Including remarkable and newly discovered footage from an interview Chapman gave three years before his death in 1997, the programme goes on the trail of one of Britain's most unlikely heroes - a story of adventure, love, intrigue and astonishing courage.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Autumn Re-Image

Folks - just a re-image, the other design - although I like it, was just getting a little boring and needed a lift.

Well, we could all do with a nip, tuck and re-imaging now and again!!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lambeg Drums - A Selection of Painted Shells 21

Here is a selection of lambeg drums with portraits of local men - who undoubtedly had a keen interest in the lambeg drum musical tradition.

I am unsure who owns the drums, other that they all look great and of course each shell has a story to tell.

Thanks to Bobby Magreechan, who continues to permit me, to publish some of the photo's from his 'The Ulster Drum' book - 2010.


Saturday, 12 November 2011

Ulster Snack

Those of my blog followers who are unsure what a traditional Ulster snack is - well here a couple of the essential ingredients.

1 Veda thickly sliced (door stoppers) spread with some butter or margarine topped with a thick slice of Ulster mature cheese, touch of pepper.

I cup of tea and a packet of Ulsters finest crisps - Tayto Cheese & Onion flavour.

You don't need to have too much culinary talent - just strong chewing jaws!!

I am off for a few slices now.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Remember Us

One of my students came up to me recently and handed me a poem that he had written - I took it from him and read it later that day.

Sam is an average student, I began to teach him fife around 18 months ago, Sam lives for football and music, everything else simply passes him by.

It is a simple poem - but one that I enjoyed reading.

Sam Gyle is 13.

Remember Us

Boom! What’s that? That’s the sound of death calling

Dragging you to eternity

It’s that fear you see in your comrade’s eyes

As he wallows into a pit of despair

The puff of smoke as their lives evaporate


Can you hear the screams as they drown into the fog of gas

Their very screams that haunt you as you lie awaiting

Wandering what death has for you

Help me!

You can feel yourself being dragged into the chaos and destruction of this futile war

You ask yourself why?

Why is it that so many had to suffer?

Suffer so that you can live in peace and harmony today

They fought for you and gave one plea

Remember Us!

Sam Gyle


The Great War - North Down & Ards

This afternoon, Friday 11th November 2011 (Armistice Day) I attended a rather special book/s launch - at the Somme Heritage Centre, White-spots, Conlig, N’Ards.

I did not receive an official invitation, I kind of gate crashed the event, however I did call with the Somme Centre who agreed that I could slip in at the back of the event.

The great and the good were there - both Local PM's, both Local Mayor's, a host of MLA'S and Councillors from both Council areas.

The book/s Remembering Their Sacrifice in the Great War – The War Dead of North Down and Ards, Compiled by Barry Niblock.

I am looking forward to browsing through both volumes over the coming weeks.

You never know who you meet at these events are they are usually great social / community gatherings – the first man I met was the great Willie Cromie!


Reliable Funding

As a community activist, I help to apply for financial assistance for various projects, for Loughries Historical Society - an Ulster Scots Group from Newtownards, Co. Down.

Time after time I get bogged down with repetitive form filling, unnecessary complicated forms that take too much time! I understand fully the need for application forms, that of course is part of the funding process, however some of the forms that I regularly fill in are designed by people who know absolutely nothing about the needs and limitations of community groups.

Thankfully in Ards Borough Council - who do have a grasp of community based groups and their needs - provide simple, concise and uncluttered application forms and a fully motivated staff who help and assist at every call.

Loughries applied for their Festival Funding on April 30th 2011 as per their guidelines - festival held in October as planned, end of grant forms completed with invoices and report attached - Grant paid into account with in 3 working days.

How is that for efficiency!


Sunday, 6 November 2011

It is well with my soul

I was unable to make Church (Greenwell Presbyterian Church Newtownards) this morning, however I went along this evening.

It was a wonderful service - as always, but I left the Church this evening really uplifted as this was the final hymn - 'It is well with my Soul'.

I found this clip on YouTube..... what a story behind the writing of this hymn - Enjoy!


Lambeg Drums in Portavogie

I was clearing some space on my laptop today and came across this photograph from around 2005.

The photo was taken at Eric Cully's house in Portavogie Co. Down - in July, on the run up to the 12th. We spend almost 2 weeks preparing drums for fife & drumming nights, the 11th Night under the arch in N'Ards, then of course the big day - the Twelfth Day itself.

Here we paused from 'pullin the drums' for a tune!

In the middle of the drum ring with the fife is, Dr. Diane Harvey-Smith, lead fifer and prominent female lambeg drummer in the Ards area.

The faces may have gotten a little older, but the enthusiasm for the fife and lambeg drumming tradition is strong as ever.

The other folks in the photo bottom left to right are: Ian Lawther, Brian McClurg, Dean Rainey, Stephen Gordon, Harold Gordon, Harry Gordon, Mark Anderson (me) and Eric Cully.

The hospitality and friendship we receive from Eric and Jean Cully is just wonderful - great Ulster Scots folk, in the heart of Co. Down........... it would be great to get together again.... sometime perhaps!


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Lambeg Drums - A Selection of Painted Shells 20

I haven't blogged with pictures of lambeg drums for a while, so here is a selection for you to view.

I have picked plain shells with a simple ribbon / banner on the drum, usually identifying where the drum comes from, or simply the name of the drum.

There are many hundreds of these drums around Ulster that don't always get the recognition of a well painted shell, however a lot of the competition drummers don't really care much what it looks like, as long as the drum sounds great - that is all they are interested in.

I tend to be the opposite - I enjoy the 'cultural art' aspect of the lambeg drum tradition, as I have said before the lambed drum musical tradition is more than music or noise, it tells the story of us Ulster folk, who we are, our town-lands, families, famous people we idol, historical buildings, great ships, animals, the list is endless, so perhaps a simple ribbon with a name says enough about a drum and more often that not the drum owner!

Hope you enjoy these shells.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wilbert Magill - Ulster Scots Native Speaker.

Newtownards and the Ards Peninsula is a wonderful place!

Well, I am very proud of the fact that I was born in the 'Front Deed' (Wallace's Street N01) in the Movilla end of the town. My father was Blakely Anderson and a lifelong friend of Wilbert Magill.

Wilbert is a fine man and of great character, a writer & musician of note and one time local Politician and Mayor of Ards.

Wilbert has attended a number of events hosted by Loughries - he visited our Ulster Scots summer school, reading local poetry from his book Aboot Tha Airds, we also were blessed by his attendance at a couple of our Burns Night Suppers where Wilbert addressed the haggis in a wonderfully theatrically way. He also graced our guests with a number his poems. I recall having to wipe away tears of laughter as Wilbert had me and the audience in roars of laughter and of course we were in the grasp of his Wilbert’s hand – what a fine exponent of the Ulster Scots Tongue!

It is my understanding that Wilbert is unwell at present – I wish him well on his road to recovery.

It makes me intensely proud to know 3 great local Ulster Scots Speakers Wilbert Magill, Willie Cromie and of course Willie McAvoy!

Here are a few snaps from one of Loughries Burns Night Suppers.

Wilbert Magill's Aboot Tha Airds

Recent Loughries Burns Night Suppers with performers and invited guests

Piping in the Haggis - with Piper Stephen Rodgers

Wilbert preparing to address the Haggis

Wilbert in full flow!

Fabulous Champion Scottish Dancer Michelle Johnston

Packed Londonderry Room N'Ards Town Hall Celebrating Burns

Two local Ulster Scot characters Wilbert Magill and Willie McAvoy


Fife & Lambeg Drum in Ulster Schools

Earlier this year I was contacted by Miss Jenny Hill - a student teacher at Strandmillis Teacher Training in Belfast. Jenny was working on her college dissertation, her chosen subject being The Fife and Lambeg Drum Tradition in Northern Ireland.

Jenny travelled around Ulster visiting schools that I was working in, whilst there Jenny carried out her own research, speaking with teachers, pupils, as well as noting my working practice and exploring my thoughts on the fife and lambeg drum musical tradition as well as my view on the Ulster Scots Culture.

Jenny promised me a look at her dissertation, after it had been submitted for marking and evaluation, thankfully Jenny honoured her promise and allowed me to view her work.

The dissertation was well written and meticulously researched - Jenny has encapsulated the tradition and developed an understanding of where this musical tradition fits within the overall patchwork quilt - that is Ulster Culture. I was fortunate to read the article in its entirety and pleased at with the final product, so congratulations to Jenny on an excellent project.

Jenny has started work in a Primary School in East Antrim.

Front cover of the Dissertation

Inside cover of Jenny's Work


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Loughries - Broken String Band

Loughries - The Broken String Band were in great form last Friday at our musical night - there was a great appreciative crowd at the Town Hall, Newtownards for one of the top traditional stringed bands from Ulster - not a bodhran in sight!!

Rather than give a full report, I thought I would let the pictures tell the story of the night!!

Loughries would like to acknowledge the help, support and guidance of the Community Development / Community Relations office at Ards Borough Council during the planning of the Ulster Scots Festival.

Loughries are also pleased to announce that £280.00 was collected / donated to Loughries during the Festival Events for our 2 x chosen charities for 2011 - N.Ireland Children’s Hospice and Diabetes UK, presentations to both charities will follow later this year.

Great night - see you all next year!


Wee Geordie

Geordie McAdam is a wonderful musician, accomplished fisherman and all round entertainer.

I had the very good fortune to meet George around 12 years ago, as we both had developed a keen interest in the fife.

George has been a life long musician, firstly a flute player, then as we all know him to be one of Ulster's finest fiddle players. He prefers bluegrass / Hillbilly music, sprinkled with a touch of Scottish and Ulster Scots tunes.

Despite his best efforts, George won't make a lambeg drummer - although he does keep good time, but he is an accomplished fifer and I am always pleased to either fife along with George or indeed drum along to his fifing.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Newtownards Welcomes home - 1st Battalion Irish Guards

This morning Saturday 8th October, I spent an hour or so in my hometown of Newtownards.

The 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards were given a civic reception by the Mayor of Ards and his fellow Councillors. Huge crowds turned out for Parade and Church Service - The Service was held at St. Marks Church of Ireland, then followed the parade and march pass by the flute, pipes and drums of the Battalion Band and Officers and Men of the Irish Guards. The Mayor of Ards and the Lord Lieutenant of Co. Down took the salute.

It is wonderful to live in a democracy where - what the majority of the community wants happens, where all the citizens of the Borough of Ards can pay respect to 'Our Troops' as they return from active service serving Her Majesty's Armed Forces.

Conway Square and Town Hall with welcome home banner.

The great and the good gather in anticipation of the march past.

Some of the crowd that gathered to welcome the Troops home.

1st Battalion Marching past taking the Salute.

The flute, pipes and drums of the Battalion Band approach.