Saturday, 30 April 2011

Clyde Valley - Gun Running in 1912

Historical information relating to the period of 1912 - an important time in Ulsters History - keep Loughries new banner in mind and read the following!

The ‘Larne’ gun-running was a major gun smuggling operation organised in Ireland by Major Frederick H. Crawford and Captain Wilfrid Spender for the Ulster Unionist Council to equip the Ulster Volunteer Force. The operation involved the smuggling of almost twenty-five thousand rifles and three million rounds of ammunition from Germany, with the shipments landing in Larne, Donaghadee, and Bangor in the early hours between Friday 24 and Saturday 25 April 1914. The Larne gun-running may have been the first time in history motor-vehicles had been used "on a large scale for a military-purpose, and with striking success".

In November 1910 the Ulster Unionist Council formed a secret committee to oversee the creation an army in Ulster to fight against the imposition of Home Rule. It approached Major Frederick Crawford to act as its agent to purchase the guns needed to arm such an army. Major Crawford wrote to five arm manufacturers for the purchase of twenty thousand rifles and a million rounds of ammunition.

In January 1913, the Ulster Unionist Council instituted the Ulster Volunteer Force consisting of people who had signed the Ulster Covenant. This was an attempt to co-ordinate the activities of Ulster’s unionists, as well as to give real military backing to the threats of the Ulster Covenant in resisting the implementation of the Third Home Rule Bill introduced on 11 April 1912 by then Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. These threats had been regarded as a "gigantic game of bluff and blackmail" by Irish nationalist leader John Redmond as well as most Liberal MPs including Winston Churchill.

UVF membership grew to around 90,000 members, led by retired officers of the British army, with the organisation under the charge of Lieutenant-General Sir George Richardson KCB, a veteran of the Afghan Wars. By 1913 the UVF had over £1 million pledged to it, and £70,000 invested in attempts to import arms.

Major Crawford however would convince the Ulster Unionist Council that he could provide the weapons and ammunition needed "to equip the entire UVF".[9] Thus the scene was set for what would become known as the Larne gun-running, with Edward Carson in response proclaiming; ‘I'll see you through this business, if I should have to go to prison for it’.

Crawford secured the services of the SS Fanny to transport 216 tons of guns and ammunition he had purchased - Included in this cache was; 11,000 Mannlicher rifles brought from the Steyr works in Austria; 9,000 ex-German army Mausers; 4,600 Italian Vetterli-Vitali rifles; and 5 million rounds of ammunition] in clips of five — much of which was transported from Hamburg via the Kiel Canal.

On 30 March 1914, these weapons were being loaded onto the SS Fanny on the Baltic island of Langeland when Danish customs officials seized the papers of the ship. The customs officials suspected that the cargo might contain weapons to arm militant Icelandic home rulers who sought independence from Denmark; however the SS Fanny managed to escape into a gale and sailed outside of Danish territorial waters. On 1 April, The Times newspaper had correctly claimed that the guns were destined for Ulster rather than Iceland.

In a bid to evade the authorities as the SS Fanny neared Ireland, Major Crawford purchased the SS Clyde Valley in Glasgow. On 19–20 April off Tuskar Rock, County Wexford, the entire cache of weapons was transported from the SS Fanny onto the SS Clyde Valley. On 24 April, the SS Clyde Valley was renamed the "Mountjoy II", with the use of 6-foot-long (1.8 m) strips of canvas painted with white letters on a black background. This was a direct reference to the Mountjoy that broke the boom across the River Foyle during the Siege of Derry in 1689, which gave it a historic symbolism for unionists.

Captain James Craig was in command of the operations in Bangor, with Adair taking command in Larne. The commander of the UVF, Sir George Richardson, would remain in Belfast on the night of the landings and was kept fully informed of proceedings by dispatch-riders.

On the arranged date that the UVF Motor Corps had been given for their "test" operation, a decoy ship, the tramp steamer SS Balmerino, was intentionally dispatched into Belfast Lough so that the authorities would investigate it for smuggled armaments in what the UVF leadership called the Hoax.

The Hoax involved a large truck waiting at the Belfast docks in an intentional bid to make it appear as if it was awaiting an incoming load. The captain of the SS Balmerino ensured that by making his ship's approach as suspicious as possible, the authorities would be alerted. Once the ship was docked, the captain set about stalling the authorities for as long as possible with excuses, which further convinced the authorities that they had intercepted the real cargo.[10] Eventually the authorities searched the ship's contents and discovered that its papers were in order and that it was only carrying coal.

Whilst this was happening, twenty miles away the "Mountjoy II" brought the real arms cache into Larne harbour unhindered. After the "Mountjoy II" docked a motor-boat sailed up alongside and cranes transported "thousands" of rifles to it. After it had sailed away a second vessel sailed up to take away more arms. These vessels would transport their loads to Donaghadee.

As the weapons were unloaded onto the motor vehicles, each batch was counted and its destination noted by counting clerks. Due to the volume of weapons, temporary arms-dumps had been set up in the surrounding districts so that the vehicles could return as quickly as possible to receive another load. The Belfast Evening Telegraph remarked that all present "put their backs into it" and that it "illustrated the old adage, 'One Volunteer is worth three pressed men'" and they "toiled like galley slaves". The local population of Larne was noted as having lined the streets exchanging salutes and running make-shift canteens to supply the workers with refreshments throughout the night.

At 5 am the ship set sail from Larne harbour for Bangor to unload the rest of its cargo. Three cheers for "The King" and three more for "the Volunteers" were let out by the ships skipper and its crew as they stood to attention, with the cheers allegedly reciprocated by all those ashore.

By 7:30 am the "Mountjoy II" had completed its mission, and a course was set for the River Clyde to confuse any coast-guards. On its way, the canvas sheets that bore the name Mountjoy II were cut, revealing the ship's real name, and it then proceeded down the Irish sea. After offloading Major Crawford at Rosslare, County Wexford, the SS Clyde Valley set sail for the Baltic Sea, travelling along the coasts of France and Denmark. Here it would rendezvous with the SS Fanny to bring back the Ulstermen contingent of its crew. Once this had been done, the SS Fanny was disposed of at Hamburg.


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Lord Carson's Funeral 1935

Today I spent some time with friends from my Orange Lodge - selecting what to paint on our new banner. We plan to unveil the banner in June 2012.

As many Ulstermen will know, there are a few important historical dates coming up in the next few years, without giving too much away Loughries Orange Lodge plan to reflect these events on our new banner.

Here is a clue to what we are planning!

More clues later!


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Fame at Last!

Last year Laura Spence (Producer BBC Ulster Scots) as me to say a few words about myself with regards to Ulster Scots.

Today, in between chores at home, I looked through the BBC Ulster Scots Web Site and found many interesting articles - including my 1 minute of fame!

If you have a minute to spare click on the link then on my photo:


Mini Ulster Scots Festival 2011 - 2

I blogged recently regarding Loughries planned Mini Ulster Scots Festival later this year - well the funding has come 'on stream' for the community festival funding from Ards Borough Council, forms to be submitted by Thursday 28th April 4pm.

Is there an end to all this form filling?......well the Ards Council Community Festival Funding is very straightforward application form, concise and plain - sadly I have found other 'Funders' application forms overlong, complex and at the end of a very long process, they only grant you a percentage of the required amount which is needed - to put on a high quality, professional Ulster Scots Event!

I have been working on this a little over recent weeks - here are the plans to date.

Thursday 6th October - Historical Talk / Lecture: Further details to follow.

Saturday 8th October - Coach Trip 'Tour of Ards Peninsula Part 2' Historical trip around the bottom half of the Ards Peninsula with the ever popular tour guide Mr. Mark Thompson.

Friday 14th October - Musical Evening featuring 'The Broken String Band' more details to follow however the event will take place in the Londonderry Room Town Hall.

So folks if you are interested please drop me an e-mail for further details.


Newtown - A History of Newtownards.

During my Spring break to Bushmills, Co. Antrim (I enjoy spending time with my Ulster Scots Cousins in Co.Antrim) - I took one book with me to read: Newtown - A history of Newtownards.

Well, I really enjoyed the read, learning about many aspects of Newtownards and the Greater Ards Peninsula Area - overall it was an enjoyable book.

A minor criticism would be at times it appeared to be a history of the local Landowners and their internal family issues. The book also at times came over quite sad and sometimes 'desperate times' for the ordinary common folk! Yes it probably was an over view of the history of Newtown, however a little more emphasis on life as a peasant farmer / labourer / ordinary resident would have made it a little more personal for me - that said on the round it is a great publication and credit must be given to the author and fellow contributors!

I would recommend the book to all Newtown Folk.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Custom in Newtown!

A N'Ards tradition / custom is the annual pilgrimage to Scrabo Hill to roll down our painted hard boiled eggs.

This morning we - the Anderson's climbed Scrabo, rolled our eggs whilst the icy north wind kept us chilled!

MLA Simon Hamilton arrived with his family and a wee bit of electoral canvasing.

We headed off back to Bangor to see the 'Easter Parade' and motor car display.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ulster Scots Tourist Trail - The Ardes

This morning - just back from my holiday's and nursing a very sore back, I travelled to Newtownards to do a few chores, as we have a busy few day's ahead. I took the time to get the Matthew and Christophers hair cut and whilst waiting I read the local Newtownards Chronicle.

In the paper I read about the launch of the Ulster Scots Tourist Trail around Ards and North Down - the launch took place recently with the great and the good being there to promote the event. Now, I was fortunate enough to see the artwork for the tourist display boards recently and they looked magnificent.

So after hair cuts, it was up to the Ards Tourist Office to view the display. I was very, very impressed with the display, the graphics, artwork, wording maps etc, was fantastic - the history was just jumping out at you as you looked at the display.

I managed to persuade my children - Matthew and Christopher to pose just long enough to take 2 x photo's, to give you a taster of the display. It was great to see the Hamilton / Montgomery / Thomas Smith history projects come to life once again.

I took the time to speak to the ladies working in the tourist centre and they were almost overwhelmed by the volume of people visiting the shop this morning to see the new display.

Loughries Historical Society organised a pilot Ulster Scots Tourist Trail 'Aforenoon Aroon the Ards' last October, as part of our Mini Ulster Scots Festival - it was very entertaining, informative, and a great morning out, exploring our local history.

The next step I would like to see would be a children's version of the Sir Thomas Smith and Hamilton Montgomery local history projects, all coming to life, lets hope someone has the vision to promote and develop this living local history and take it into local schools, community groups and library's etc.

Well done to Mark Thompson - for the trail blazing work in this field, ably supported by his back up team and support staff - they being his close friends and confidants!

I look forward to assisiting Mark T and others, as we aim to continue building upon the strong foundation stones - for local Ulster Scots, being laid by hard working and dedicated folk!


Friday, 22 April 2011

Lambeg Drum - A selection of Stamps!

Bobby Magreechan's lambeg drum booklet - The Ulster Drum, has on the front cover this collection of 'stamps' on the front cover! Strange you may think, but not if you are part of the lambeg drum culture.

The skins are every bit as important as the shell itself - if you have the right shell and an equally the right pair of skins (heads) you may well have the perfect combination. It does not happen too often, but when you get the right combination it is a tremendous sound and feeling.

There are many secrets attached to the lambeg drumming tradition - none more so than the skins and the secret potions / methods used to prepare the skins.

Here are just a selection of skin producers through the generations.


Lambeg Drum - A selection of Painted Shells 9

The Ulster Scots (Scots Irish)of America, pride themselves of their rich cultural heritage and ancestory. Many great, great men, left these shores in search of a better life, but also to eacape persecution that was rife in the 17th and 18th Century's.

One famous figure was Sam Houston - he is quite unique in the lambeg drumming tradition as he has been painted on the shell of a drum, which is if I am correct in Texas. Below is a brief word on Sam Huston.

Sam Houston was the son of Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton. Houston's ancestry is often traced to his great-great grandfather Sir John Houston, who built a family estate in Scotland in the late 17th century. His second son John Houston emigrated to Ulster, Ireland, during the English plantation period. Under the system of primogeniture, he did not inherit the estate. After several years in Ireland, John Houston emigrated in 1735 with his family to the North American colonies, where they first settled in Pennsylvania. As it filled with Lutheran German immigrants, Houston decided to move his family with other Scots-Irish who were migrating to lands in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

An historic plaque in Townland tells the story of the Houston family. It is located in Ballyboley Forest Park near the site of the original John Houston estate. It is dedicated to "One whose roots lay in these hills whose ancestor John Houston emigrated from this area.

The Shenandoah Valley had many farms of Scots-Irish migrants. Newcomers included the Lyle family of the Raloo area, who helped found Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church. The Houston family settled nearby. Gradually John developed his land and purchased slaves. Their son Robert inherited his father's land. His youngest of five sons was Samuel Houston.

In 1812 Houston reported to a training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee, enlisted in the 39th Infantry Regiment to fight the British in the War of 1812. By December of that year, he had risen from private to third lieutenant. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, he was wounded in the groin by a Creek arrow. His wound was bandaged, and he rejoined the fight. When Andrew Jackson called on volunteers to dislodge a group of Red Sticks from their breastwork (fortification), Houston volunteered, but during the assault he was struck by bullets in the shoulder and arm. He returned to Maryville as a disabled veteran, but later took the army's offer of free surgery and convalesced in a New Orleans, Louisiana hospital.

Houston became close to Jackson, who was impressed with him and acted as a mentor. In 1817 Jackson appointed him sub-agent in managing the business relating to Jackson's removal of the Cherokees from East Tennessee to a reservation in what is now Arkansas. He had differences with John C. Calhoun, then Secretary of War, who chided him for appearing dressed as a Cherokee at a meeting. More significantly, an inquiry was begun into charges related to Houston's administration of supplies for the Indians. Offended, he resigned in 1818.

He negotiated a peace settlement with the Cherokee of East Texas in February 1836 to allay their fears about independence. At the convention to declare Texan Independence in March 1836, he was made Commander-in-Chief.
On March 2, 1836, his 43rd birthday, Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He soon joined his volunteer army at Gonzales, but retreated before the superior forces of Mexican General (and dictator) Antonio López de Santa Anna. Mexican soldiers killed all those at The Alamo Mission at the end of the Battle of the Alamo on March 6 1836. At Goliad, Santa Anna ordered the execution of approximately 400 volunteer Texas militia led by James Fannin, who had surrendered his forces.

Houston continued his retreat eastward towards the Gulf coast, drawing criticism for his perceived lack of willingness to fight. Finally, Santa Anna caught up with Houston's army, but had split his own army into three separate forces in an attempt to encircle the Texans. At the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, Houston surprised Santa Anna and the Mexican forces during their afternoon "siesta." The Texans won a decisive victory in under 18 minutes, suffering few casualties, although Houston's ankle was shattered by a stray bullet. Badly beaten, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texas its independence. Although Houston stayed on briefly for negotiations, he returned to the United States for treatment of his ankle wound.

Houston was twice elected president of the Republic of Texas (the first time on September 5, 1836). He served from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838, and again from December 12, 1841, to December 9, 1844. On December 20, 1837, Houston presided over the convention of Freemasons that formed the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, now the Grand Lodge of Texas.

While he initially sought annexation by the U.S., Houston dropped that goal during his first term. In his second term, he strove for fiscal prudence and worked to make peace with the Native Americans. He also struggled to avoid war with Mexico, whose forces invaded twice during 1842. In response to the Regulator-Moderator War of 1844, he sent in Republic militia to put down the warfare.

In 1854, Houston, having made a profession of Christian faith, was baptized by Rev. Rufus C. Burleson. At the time Burleson was the pastor of the Independence Baptist Church in Washington County, which Houston and his wife attended. Then the wealthiest community in Texas, Independence had won the bid for Baylor College, where Burleson served as second president. Houston was also close friend of Rev. George Washington Baines, who preceded Burleson at the church. Baines was the maternal great-grandfather of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1862, Houston returned to Huntsville, Texas, and rented the Steamboat House; the hills in Huntsville reminded him of his boyhood home in Tennessee. Houston was active in the Masonic Lodge, transferring his membership to Forrest Lodge #19. His health deteriorated in 1863 due to a persistent cough. In mid-July, Houston developed pneumonia. He died on July 26, 1863 at Steamboat House, with his wife Margaret by his side. His last recorded words were, "Texas! Texas! Margaret..."
The inscription on his tomb reads:

A Brave Soldier - A Fearless Statesman.
A Great Orator – A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian– An Honest Man.

Sam Houston was buried in Huntsville, Texas, where he lived in retirement;


Lambeg Drum - A selection of Painted Shells 8

I have blogged before regarding Brian Jamison - a family friend as well as an old school friend. We keep in touch regularly regarding family, history, music or art, Brian of course is a very talented artist from the famous townland of Ballywatticock on the outskirts of Newtownards, Co. Down.

The first Lambeg Drum Brian painted was my drum 'Prudence' seen here in drum 2, following that he painted Eric Cully's drum 'Aul Samuel' seen here in drum 3 and more recently Brian painted 'The Whitla's' drum from Conlig - see here in drum 1.

Brian as mentioned is a very talented artist, a great eye for detail. He is currently painting a new drum for Eric Cully - from Portavogie. Eric had a very sad family tragedy 2 years ago and the painting will reflect the tragedy. Brian is the right man to paint the drum as he will create another masterpiece but also paint the drum with compassion and care - You will have to wait to see how it turns out, provided Eric permits the drum to be photographed!

As you can I'm sure tell every drum has a story to tell.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Sunday Feature - The American Civil War BBC Radio 3

If like me you enjoy learning about the American Civil War - here is a new series from BBC Radio 3 - Sunday Feature Series - The American Civil War.

Adan Smith - senior lecturer in American History at University College London, plots the course not only of this bloodiest of all US conflicts but also the way in which history was distorted thereafter.

Are there lessons for us here in Ulster?


Fifer on Parade - 2010 12th!

One of my schools, Glengormley High School, have produced a few excellent drummers and fifers in the last 18 months - here is one of my student Ryan McKay, taking part in his first 12th Parade.

It is great to see young people - who have had no previous experience of either fife or lambeg drum, learning one or both instruments in school, then taking part in parades, concerts and community events.

I have had other students parade with the lambeg drum, however Ryan is the first fifer - well done Ryan!


Thursday, 14 April 2011

William Johnston of Ballykilbeg

William Johnston of Ballykilbeg a famous Orangeman and folk hero!

The redoubtable William Johnston of Ballykilbeg was a legend in his own lifetime. A Co Down landlord, Johnston gave the name of his Ballykilbeg estate near Downpatrick and to the people of Sandy Row, the Shankill and Ballymacarrett he was an Orange and Protestant folk-hero second only to that other William of "glorious, pious and immortal memory".

Johnston, born on February 22, 1829, inherited Orangeism for his family was reputed to have played a forward role in the Glorious Revolution. His great-grandfather, William Johnston, of Killough, is credited with being the founder in 1733 of the first Orange Society in Ireland, the Loyal Society of Blue and Orange.

It was with such ancestry that William Johnston of Ballykilbeg joined the Orange Order on May 8, 1848, the same year in which he entered Trinity College, Dublin. From Trinity he was to graduate with a BA in 1852 and an MA in 1856. He was subsequently called to the Bar.

By the mid-1850s, Johnston was Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, had founded the Down Protestant Association and was the moving Spirit of the Downshire Protestant newspaper.

The year 1857 marked his first and unsuccessful bid to enter Parliament as the Member for Downpatrick. Despite this set-back, in the 1860s he emerged as the leading campaigner against the unpopular Party Processions Act of 1850. It was his opposition to this legislation which was to make William Johnston of Ballykilbeg a folk-hero.

The Party Processions Act had been passed by Lord John Russell's Liberal administration in response to the affray which had occurred at Dolly's Brae on July 12 of the previous year. The intention of the legislation was to ban Orange parades. While scarcely welcoming the legislation, the leadership of the Orange Order, being aristocratic and cautious, was anxious to remain within the law and was not racourably disposed to challenge it. However, rank and file Orangemen grew increasingly dissatisfied at what they believed to be their leadership's timid respectability.

Johnston shared the frustration of the rank and file and offered them alternative leadership. In July, 1866, he held a great jamboree on his estate to celebrate the Twelfth. Other Orange demonstrations were held that year at Lisburn, Kilwarlin, Waringstown, Lurgan, Portadown and Dungannon. Johnston decided to challenge the legislation directly.

On July 12, 1867 he led a massive but peaceful and orderly parade from Newtownards to Bangor in clear defiance of the Act. On his arrival in Bangor he made a speech boldly stating he and his followers would tolerate no longer the suggestion that it was illegal for Orangemen to march on the Twelfth when it seemed perfectly legal for Irish nationalists to march through the streets of Dublin. Contrary to the advice of their Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Conservative Government insisted on prosecuting Johnson for defying the Liberal-inspired legislation and at the Spring Assizes in February, 1868, Johnston was sentenced to two months imprisonment in Downpatrick Gaol. Johnston's martyrdom conferred upon him heroic status.

While he was in prison Johnston's supporters adopted him as the candidate of the United Protestant Working Men's Association of Ulster for the Belfast constituency in the forthcoming General Election. On July 12, 1868 with the election in prospect, Johnston engaged in some pre-electioneering: "We will have an Orange Party please God, after a while in the House of Commons ... for all the good some of the Ulster members do the Orange cause, they might as well have been selected from the Deaf and Dumb Institute".

Impressive With an easy command of such rhetoric and a populist programme drafted by the Rev Hugh ("Roaring") Hanna, Johnston humiliated the Conservative Party by heading the poll in the double-member constituency with an impressive 5,975 votes when the election took place in November. The two official Conservative candidates managed to poll only 3,540 and 1,580 respectively and were pushed into third and fourth place by Johnston's running mate, Thomas McClure.

The newly-enfranchised electorate had decisively endorsed Johnston and his opposition to the Party Processions Act. In 1863, the new Independent Conservative member for Belfast introduced a bill for the repeal of the act but was unsuccessful. However, in 1872 Gladstone's administration quietly repealed the offending legislation. Thus within three years Johnston saw realised the object for which he had sought election and entered parliament.

Although Johnston had been imprisoned by a Conservative administration and had in turn humiliated the Belfast Conservatives, he gravitated naturally towards the party. At Westminster he sat with the Conservatives. He frequently expressed his admiration for Benjamin Disraeli whom he had already described as a "genius" in an issue of the Downshire Protestant in June, 1862.

In the General election of 1874 he was adopted by the Belfast Conservatives as an official candidate and re-elected. In 1878 for his loyalty to the Party he was rewarded with an inspectorship of fisheries at £700 per annum. Since this was an office of profit under the Crown, he was obliged to leave the Commons. However, in 1885; following what was regarded as a partisan speech at the General Synod of the Church of Ireland in Dublin, he was dismissed by Gladstone's administration.

Fortuitously his dismissal made possible a return to politics and in November, 1885 Johnston was elected member of Parliament for South Belfast which he was to represent until his death. His re-appearance at Westminister coincided with Gladstone's conversion to Home Rule and it was Johnston's opposition to Home Rule which was to give coherence to the latter part of his political career. Both in 1886 and in 1893, he helped mobilise opinion and organise opposition to Gladstone's Home Rule bills.

He was involved in the organisation of both the great Ulster Hall rally of February 22, 1886 at which Lord Randolph Churchill was the principal speaker, and the Ulster Convention of June 17, 1892. William Johnston died at Ballykilbeg on July 17, 1902. He had travelled from London to open an Orange bazaar in Lurgan on July 10, and two days later attended the Twelfth celebrations at Ballynahinch. Most fittingly, it was his last public appearance because for William Johnston that day was the most important date in his calendar.

While William Johnston's principal claim to fame must be his successful opposition to the Party Processions Act and his assertion of the right of Orangemen to march, it is also worth noting that he was the author of several Orange ballads, including The Orange and Blue and The Orange Standard.


Lambeg Drum - A selection of Painted Shells 7

Below are two wonderfully painted shells - again note the military link.


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Movilla High School - Drama Project

Tonight I attended a drama ‘Sit There for the Present’ written by Dan Gordon at Movilla High School Newtownards – my old school.

Year 8’s performed the play: - It tells the story of a group of children at school in the early 50’s when learning was often purely fact based and by rote. Away from school they play traditional games and vie for ownership of the local glen. The play features around 30 children who have stepped back in time in an era of ‘pig tales’ & comb-over’s, ‘short trousers & caps, to take on a trip down memory lane!

Well it was fantastic! The children excelled themselves and entertained us with humour, dance & song – a great evening, a brilliant project for Movilla and a real morale booster!

Well done Mrs Kelso + Mrs Ferris

As an ex-pupil I feel that it is important to help Movilla High School where possible - there are wonderful children, who need support and an opportunity to express themselves and show off their talents - this play helped. Also Movilla is blessed with wonderful dedicated staff, who under difficult circumstances work hard to bring the best out of their children.


Monday, 11 April 2011

Sands of Kuwait-The Archipelago Project with Bag Pipes

Here is a rousing tune - to begin the new week.

I was made aware of this tune - The Sands of Kuwait, by a friend Pastor Andy Burns from Dundee in Scotland, a great tune - here played by The Archipelago Project with Lone Piper.



Sunday, 10 April 2011

Gala Performance for The Ards

Last night, Saturday 9th April 2011, I attended the Ulster Hall in Belfast, for a charity event in aid of the Mayor of Ards Charity for 2010/11 – The Link.

A number of schools performed including Regent House, Londonderry Primary, St. Finnian Primary and Movilla High. Compare for the event was Lynda Bryans with other performers Jeff Martin, Diane Petherick, Ards Choral Society and Fr. Martin O’Hagan.

I was with Movilla High School – fife & lambeg drum group and bagpipe & snare drum. The boy’s all played extremely well and received a loud cheer and rapturous applause, at the end of their performance.

As a tutor it was rewarding to see young people – who never get an opportunity to perform, being allowed to express their musical talents at a public performance, especially at a venue like the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Well done Movilla - with valuable support from Mrs Ferris (Miss Coey)


Friday, 8 April 2011

Vegetable Garden 2011

Today I spent some time in the garden planting some vegetables including onions, red onions, scallions, carrots, beetroot, garlic, shallots - I intend to plant more items as the weeks progress, like peas, potatoes etc.

Christopher was my little helper until he got rather 'bored' however he perked up when he found Caterpillar and a lady bird!

I had a reasonably good crop in 2010 especially my 'special pickled beetroot'

Boys' Model - 2011

On Thursday I had the great pleasure to attend St. Patricks school in Belfast with one of my schools - the Boys' Model Belfast, wonderful school, great teachers and fantastic children!

David Scott received an award from the ex Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern - Well done David.

That aside, Bertie was very keen to get his photo taken with the most powerful musicial instrument in Ulster - the Lambeg Drum. I don't have a pic yet maybe in a day or two, but here are 3 snaps of Simon and Bertie on stage!!!


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Day The Music Died

One year ago today - George Douglas Holmes died. George was a charismatic character, career civil servant of high intellect, musician, singer, storyteller, historian, lambeg drum enthusiast and a dear friend.

He will be sadly missed by those who were closest to him.

For me his knowledge of music and in particular local history was incredible - he made local history come alive with his story telling qualities - sadly no more.

However his memory will live on with me and others - for the good times!

Thanks to Mark T for this photo.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Lambeg Drum - A selection of Painted Shells 6

Here is another selection of painted lambeg drums.

As you can see the connection between Ulster and the British Military is very close -through the years, many Ulster men and women served with distinction and honour in the armed forces.

Many great military leaders have gone before us - perhaps this is why on many lambeg drums, there are paintings with a Military theme.


The menacing looking Oliver Cromwell a favourite of mine!


Ulster Scots Poem - Solace.

Below is the latest Ulster Scots poem from 'The Bard of Lisneal' a Ballyfrenis man living a life in exile - Londonderry. Here are a few lines of explanation.

As is often the case when I sit down to write a ween o lines, the poem which I start out to write is rarely the one that I end up with. I began this one with the idea of writing something about 'danners doon loanins' that are no longer there with people that are no longer with us.

Inevitably perhaps this led me to thinking about my childhood journeys and in particular my Sunday danners with my granda Sam - a man who had a great deal of country wisdom, who always seemed to know what to do and who did it - without fuss or complaint.

I believe a lot of these strengths come from knowing what is truly important - from a sense of your place in the greater scheme, so a poem that started af aboot a danner fun itsell turnt in tae yin aboot unnerstannin.


Tae danner doon loast loanins
Whur time hangs thick as stoor
An squinted een can aft times
gleen aa that came befur

Tae lay agin a warm stane wa
That croons a drumlins heid
Betwixt the plan o God an man
An free fae unco need

Tae weave tha breakers fickle pad
Whur swells rise up tae claim tha lan
And in there wak learn tae tak
Solace fae there tireless plan

Tae turn yinst mere an heid fur hame
Noo tha day iz gan
Oor peace new-made wae him wha said
Be still, an know I am.


Friday, 1 April 2011

Top young Drummer

This is Andy Bickerstaff from Rathfriland - Andy comes to my classes at Rathfrilind H.S. each Thursday and teaches me to drum - well something like that!!!! . Andy made his debut at Markethill drumming competition - the biggest and most prestigious drumming competition in Ulster. Andy just missed out getting into the last round, however he assures me that this year he will at least be in the last 25, perhaps even the top 10! A great up and coming drummer.

Local Publications - saved from the Skip!

Whilst visiting one of my elder brothers on Wednesday, he (Clarke) kindly gave me a selection of local books to keep. I was quite surprised that Clarke would be interested in these types of books, but there you go! Clarke told me a work colleague had a few boxes in the boot of the car going to the dump and these few publications were on the top of one of the boxes, destined for the skip – what a save!

These will keep me occupied for the next couple of weeks – now that I have completed a plethora of grant application forms!


Loughries Ulster Scots Summer School 2010 - 5

Loughries Ulster Scots Summer School at Castle Gardens Primary School 2010, a few snippets of the activities the children were engaged, in are available from the BBC Ulster Scots Web Site. / Link here: / Thanks to Laura Spence - Producer Ulster Scots at the BBC NI. / HMA