Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2001-12 > 1009031823
Subject: Re: [Scotch-Irish] Pictures
Date: Sat, 22 Dec 2001 06:47:03 -0800
>My only point was
>that you never know what you will find out about your family. And if anyone
>prevailed in the IRE enviornment, it was probably our Scotch-Irish. They
>were very resourceful.
They were in one way, though the ones who prevailed were
the gentry. They were living in the big houses staying warm and
dry. Apparently the resourceful Ulster Scots married into them
while the more romantic married into the Irish and moved into
even less comfortable housing.
Though I have to believe that the most resourceful of the
lot were the Irish. To survive as they did with absolutely
nothing really takes a lot of resourcefulness. The resourcefulness
of the Irish continues to this day. I am often struck by this --
the Ulster Scot thinks you need a large government grant to build a website and communicate with the diaspora, but the Irish know
you just need a couple motivated lads and some beers to build
a website. The Unionist overrates the role of American money in
giving the Nationalist an edge they lack. But it ain't about money,
it's about resourcefulness.
Ireland was no Southern California for anyone. I think it was
Bardon in his history of Ulster where the archeological findings
of Ireland are discussed. As compared with research in England,
for instance, the findings are mighty sparce. At times when
the poor English were tossing out broken china and broken
cutlery, the Irish had nothing. Nada. No chimneys. No furniture,
no beds. No forks or spoons. No plates. Nada.This includes the
Ulster Scot who also had very little by way of creature comfort.
These people did well on the American frontiers because they were
used to living with nothing -- no matter what their religion.
People who moved to America and became the masters of large
estates -- 500 acre farms -- in Ulster were farming 5 acres. It
had nothing to do with their capabilities but rather a limitation
to what anyone could do in that society.
Another thing I've noticed in my reading is that in the past
the people in Ulster were portrayed as one people with two
religions. Just as in America and elsewhere now, we understand
that people with different religions may have differing religions
but share the same nationality, that is the case in Ulster. We
make too much of this Catholic/Protestant/Irish/Ulster Scots
thing due to brainwashing by the perpetrators of the recent Troubles.
It's not historically accurate and even Sinn Fein is now dropping
it (but not because it is not historically accurate but because
it's racist and unattractive to would-be international supporters).
SOmeday even their mirror images on the Loyalist side will drop the
Our ancestors, no matter what their religion, were Ulstermen and
women. They all shared a regional culture that differed from that
of other IRish regional cultures. Read the Ordnance Survey Memoirs.
They quickly had more in common with others in their community then they did cousins in England or Scotland. They reacted to political
events as Ulstermen in Ireland.
A clear example of this is the difference in their
attitude towards Cromwell from that of Scots as well as
their attitude towards Jacobitism. The danger to the
Williamite Settlement came from Scotland and Irish Catholics,
not Protestants in Ireland. The enemies of Cromwell in Ireland were
Irish Catholics and Old English not Ulster Protestants, as he quickly
realized, no matter how much he had fought with Presbyterians in
England (where they were the extremists -- he was a moderate) and
in Scotland. Moving to Ireland changed them.
The single society point was brought home to me by Henry Glassie's book
"Passing the Time in Ballymenome". It is a large paperback,
sold in Borders and probably at the local library. It is a
huge folk study of a rural community in Fermanagh on the
border with the Republic and written in the 1970's, or
there abouts. An incredible book. I cried at the end of it
and fell in love with everyone living in Ballymenone.
The book shows a single society that is unique
to Ulster and how various people, differing by religion,
education, societal role, and wealth enact their roles and interact
with others. Just as Greek Americans will celebrate Christmas
differently from Presbyterian-Americans and Indian-Americans from
Bombay and American Muslims and Chinese, so Catholic and Protestants
in Ulster had and have their cultural differences -- but they are
all Ulstermen, at the basis, and different too from Munstermen --
ie people living in other regions of Ireland. Our ancestors were
mroe clear of this than we are today, having passed through
the Troubles, perhaps yet another major divide in Ulster history,
after which nothing will be quite the same again -- but we can hope.
BTW, the term Ulster was hi-jacked during the Troubles to
be a sectarian term. Use of it tended to mark you as one side.
That's bunk. The four provinces of Ireland are prehistoric in
origin. They are far older than the county-system, so loved by
nationalists, though it was set up by King John in the 1100's
and so, like the potato, is an English implant. A lot of the
misunderstandings in Ireland have to do with Irish regional culture.
This is made clear in Heslinga's book "The Irish Border as a
Cultural Divide". There is no word in Ireland more Irish than
Ulster (well...exceptng for the Viking suffix <grin>) for the
pan-Irish among us. To reject it is to reject traditional Irish
food to worship the potato, brought to Ireland by Sir Walter
>My family didn't fare as well in the States. I often wonder why they didn't
>return to Ireland.
Because they still had hope and knew their time would come.
For many there was nothing to go back to. Like in Jesus's case,
there was no room for them at the inn. While conditions in Ireland
were also improving, there was no space. You can drive across it,
east to west, in a couple hours. It's small. Imagine it with
the pre famine population load!
The population was exploding in the 1700's and on up.
I was recently reading about County Longford in Ryan "Irish Records".
This agriculturally based county had a population in 1841 of
115,000. These people were living in small huts or cottages
and subsisted on agriculture. You can imagine a countryside dotted
with little mud huts, if you wish. By 1851 -- TEN YEARS LATER --
the population had declined by 29% due to the famine. Over
14,000 County Longford people died in ten years. Emigration
continued. Today's population? ****31,000***. It was 115,000
in 1841. It is totally depopulated. People alive in 1841 would
not recognise it. It would be clear to them that a catastrophe
of epic proportions had struck and that it never recovered from it.
Like a meteor hit, only 150 years after a meteor the place would
have done a lot more healing. There is probably no way to imagine
what it was like in 1841 with all those people. I can't! Only
way to get a clue what it was like in 1841 is to read the Ordnance
Survey Memoirs or other books that specifically describe a pre-famine
In the 1970's people in Ballymenone, no matter their religion,
were living in the same kind of houses, only the Protestants'
were usually bigger and a bit better off. From our point of
view, they were all living in poverty. They were all eating
cabbage and potatoes....every day. That was their staple diet.
No roast beef, no trips to Burger King. No cheese. They were
deriving significant portions of their daily protein from
butter. Now, that's poor. Back in 1841 it was hard to find an
unoccupied ditch to put up a thatched hut over. By comparison
with their ancestors, these folk in Fermanagh are living,
as my father would say "high off the hog".
It's hard to get a picture of the past, especially in Ireland
where things changed so drastically in the mid 1800's. Ireland
has never been the same since then and never will be. To
find out what it was like before that is hard due to a lack
of documentation. As Prods we like to believe that all it
takes is hard work to move up in the world. That wasn't so.
There was no way to move up. All you could do was move out.
And so they did, willingly, unwillingly, or they died.
The same btw was happening in England and Scotland, two small
islands with no room and no jobs or food for their burgeoning masses
either. Of course it was far more brutal and nasty than it
needed to be, but the seedpod had ripened and burst open,
and the seed of Britain was cast to the winds. They had
no place in the parental seed pod. The world awaited them
and they went forth to find some new soil to grow roots in--
because there was no room at the inn for them and no future
there but death, the same death that awaits the chick who
never leaves the egg.