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.