Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 1998-12 > 0913950267
From: "Merle, Linda" <>
Subject: Culture -- from Ballymenone
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 19:04:27 -0800
>From Passing the Time in Ballymenone by Henry Glass, chapter
"I got as close to Protestants as I did to Catholics, I met everyone, but
no one directed me to a Protestant historian [this is not so in Antrim -
LM]. All the District's noted historians are Catholic men.
"...Catholic men, I concluded, were guided by their nationalistic elders
into accepting responsibility for maintaining an alternative history,
while Protestant men became content with history as found. Alternative
history is the creation of people who feel removed from power; it is
the imagination's parallel to armed resistence.
"..The Saints were not Catholics opposing Protestants but Christians
opposing pagans. Irish nationalism has been as much a Protestant
as a Catholic hope.....Today in even so small an area as our District,
the identity of Catholic with the Nationalist cause and the Protestant
with the Unionist cause, remains imperfect, and projecting a
cleansed distinction into the past prevents understanding all the
people share. [Twenty years later I beleive violence has polarized
the community to a much larger extent than Glassie found in the
1970's - LM].
"They share conditions...The point is culture, the collective patterns
of thought developed out of conditions, out of wet clay and winds alive
with political terror. I would prefer to assert cultural unity, citing
quantifiable house forms for support, but I fear some will read my
writings through lenses of preconception and feel my argument is
running in a 'Catholic' direction when I describe culture's base as
sacred, and in a 'Protestant' direction when I stress the importance
of work. My answer must be better than to say, that is not how I
see it. My view does not take in bitter, broken Belfast, and though
it may extend to other parts of rural Northern IReland, it is focused
tightly on one small spot, where I see Protestants enacting a deep
sacred obligation when they give butter to their neighbors,
where I see Catholics working industriously through long, hard days.
"No modern nation is ethnically or historically pure." Here is a
response of AE to Rudyard Kipling "''The mass of Irish Unionists
are much more in love with Ireland than with England. They think
Irish Nationalists are mistaken....and all the time they beleive
Irishmen of any party are better in the sight of God than Englishmen.'"
"There are shamrocks among the regal portraits in the country
kitchens. Unionists danced jigs and reels in youth...But it is
hard for them to identify with their place publically. Recently,
and it saddens them, the tradition they share has been claimed
as exclusive property by those they call "Fenians" when angry,
"the other side" when not. Today it is a nationalist political act
to enjoy openly the music which thirdy years ago everyone liked.
Mrs. Cutler, who plays the old reels with great spirit on the 'mouth
organ', wanted a Claddagh ring, but no one would give her one,
because it had come to symbolize not Ireland but Catholic
Ireland. Being an outsider, I could give it to her....
"Green robe and Orange sash: symbols in conflict do not necessarily
symbolize a split in culture. Culture must contain conflicts to
remain useful in strange situations, to allow for psychological
difference, to enable change. The Fermanagh mind is not destroyed,
it is formed in conflict."
P 638 -645
Though born and raised in rural America, I find much here that is
also true of me. My mind was also formed in conflict -- in the same
conflict, 200 years removed. But the difference is I am not content
with one half because in my family you could be both orange
and green. Not at the same time -- though through your phasings
you were grounded in something Irish in which both are subsumed.
I think most on this list are the same way. We phase without any
jarring between Irish and Scots and back again...to us it is one
continuum. There are no phases of it that are not interesting or
that we cannot claim as ours. We do not know so well the
Orange, for we came so long ago, and we forgot so much.
In Belfast I found a lot of Unionists feel the same way and many
who bore Irish surnames and are well aware that their ancestors
were O'Neills and sword bearers of the O'Neills. The difference
seems to be that they also remain aware of their cultural continuity
with Scotland and England and Wales. Though they are STILL
just as certain that any Irishman is superior to an Englishman <GRIN>.
Thanks for reminding me of this book. It is so beautifully written.
|Culture -- from Ballymenone by "Merle, Linda" <>|