Monday, 24 March 2008

FIRE! Ready, Aim...

The well known English leftist newspaper, the Guardian, recently ran an odd article supposedly to debunk the reported ancestry of the popular American Republican presidential candidate. The head line of the piece proclaims…

John McCain, veteran war hero: yes. But a descendant of Robert the Bruce? Baloney

Then we get the hard hitting gist

... Asked by the Guardian to investigate McCain's family history, genealogist and medieval historians described the link to Robert the Bruce as 'wonderful fiction' and ' baloney'...

It is an odd article to the educated reader as the subjects of the sentences toggles back and forth between John McCain’s paternal and maternal lines. The article is not in fact about John McCain’s paternal McCain ancestors, but rather those of two of his maternal lines, the Earles and Lamonts and their connections to Robert the Bruce. The writer of the article is unaware of some basic biology or prefers paternal surnames when leveling remarks that could be taken as less than flattering to the Republican Presidential candidate.

The Guardian asked a panel of experts it selected to ‘investigate’ an oral history told in John McCain’s family, which has never been offered up by the family as the written-in-stone truth, but rather exactly what is stated, an oral history passed down. Despite this aspect of the Senator’s story, the newspaper felt it necessary to debunk it none-the-less.

Rather than rely upon the speculation and guesses of an English newspaper’s selected genealogists and medieval historians it is now possible to turn to the brutally honest science of genetics to examine one’s ancestors. So how do John McCain’s ancestors stack up?

John McCain’s roots go back to the McCain family of Teoc, which is in Carroll, County Mississippi. The Carroll county McCains and their relations has been the subject of a five year running Y chromosome DNA tests. The results have been very revealing and also confirm John McCain’s ‘oral history’ about his paternal line. There was some Victorian era colour brushed upon the tale, but the basic facts were spot on.

John McCain’s paternal line is a Gaelic one, from County Antrim. They are not really Scots-Irish, but rather an old order Gaelic family that had links to the mid Argyll. For those readers not familiar with Gaelic history, Irish and Scottish Gaels moved back and forth from Ulster to the southern Hebrides and Argyll for centuries. In the late 1400s into the mid 1500s there was a large movement of Gaels from mid Argyll into Ulster to settle, encouraged to do so by the leading Gaelic clans of that day, such as the McDonnells of the Glens and Route, the O' Neills of Tyrone, the Aodh Buí O’Neills of County Antrim, the O’Kanes of County Derry. The DNA results place the McCains among these Gaels that moved from Argyll into Ulster circa late 1400s to mid 1500s.

Gaels of Argyll origins often were part of the Irish Gallóglaigh caste, left is a late Medieval stone carving of a Gallóglach.

The Y-chromosome haplogroup that the McCain family belongs turned out to be interesting. This haplogroup is centred in the geographic area of the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Raida, i.e. County Antrim, Ireland and mid-Argyll and in this area it even out numbers the famous Niall of Nine Hostage (R1b1c7) haplogroup discovered by researchers at Trinity. It is very possible these McCains belong to a paternal dynastic family long associated with Dal Riada; additional research will likely reveal even more details.

While the Y-chromosome DNA research into the McCain family does not relate to the validity of the Earles and Lamonts in John McCain’s ancestry, the research does show that the parts of John McCain’s family’s oral history that has been researched, did in fact turn out to be true.

In the hurry to obtain readers and ratings the media increasingly presents stories before facts and research have been done. It might be a good idea, that prior to announcing that a prominent family’s history has been debunked to have actually done some in-depth research relative to the matter. The Guardian-led investigation is mere speculation which when given the labels wonderful fiction and baloney suggests political motivation rather than a desire to provide its readers with the facts. In fact, the article offered no evidence of in-depth research on these families’ link to Robert the Bruce. The matter is as yet unknown. Perhaps one day there will be such research, perhaps both mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA testing could be a part of this research. Until that time it might be wise to hold off on the gleeful debunking. The Guardian may be thinking ahead here as one of the experts went on to say Robert the Bruce was ‘an absolute scoundrel’. I guess this is to cover their bases just in case Senator McCain’s link to The Bruce turns out to be bona fide.

McCain's Corner

Barry R McCain (c) 2008

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Festival Tug O' War

The UH Magazine is very pleased to offer this story by Mr Ivan Knox of Ballybofey, County Donegal. The story won the Finn Valley Voice Literary Award in 2000.

During the Twin Towns Festival of the 1980s, I was on the Festival Committee, and we were getting the events list ready for publication. I suggested that we should think about a Tug O’ War event between the Twin Towns and that it should be pulled across the River Finn and that a Shield and cash prize be made available for the winning team. To all this the committee agreed and of course you are right, I go the job of organising the event. I sought the assistance of Michael Bogan from the Laught, Castlefin, an expert in the Tug O’ War events and he had all the necessary tools for the job.

We decided that the place for the event would be just below the Bridge of Ballybofey and Stranorlar about thirty meters downstream from the bridge itself. We could use the bridge for spectators.

The pull was to be a three stage pull and the team that was most times in the river were the losers. We had a van going between the two towns all that Saturday and when the van was in Ballybofey campaigning for the big event they would be telling the Ballybofey people that the Stranorlar folks were saying about Ballybofey. Then when in Stranorlar it would be visa-versa.

Eight PM on Saturday suddenly arrived and Michael and myself were full organised for the big event. We dragged the big heavy Tug O’ War rope across the river and waited.

The first man to arrive for the Stranolar side was Eugene Kelly, The Glebe, Stranorlar. Eugene being in his usual high spirits was ready to do battle for his town of Stranorlar and by 8:30 the whole of the Stranorlar team had assembled, the whole three of them. There were no limits as to how many people were on each tea. If you felt that wanted to represent your town all you had to do was grab the rope and pull, the rope could only hold so many people anyway.

Michael Bogan and myself took up our position, into our waists in water in the middle of the River Finn. We could not see from our position what was going on in the Ballybofey side but we could see the Stranorlar side, all three of them ready to start. Ballybofey could not see the other side either because of the high banking that goes along the river on the Ballybofey side.

Someone tipped off the Stranorlar side about the number that was on the Ballybofey side, so the Stranorlar side got prepared quite unknown to either Michael or myself. While waiting for the start call they had tied the thick Tug O’ War rope to a big Ash tree that was growing close by and they allowed for a slack piece to get the pull started.

The call came to pick up the rope. The rope went up and the Ballybofey team gained a couple of feet on the ground but could not get another inch. The crowd on the bridge was over packed and they were hurling all kinds of encouragement to their team. Of course they knew the score from their vantage point. They were able to see all that was going on.

Michael Bogan gave the command to stop and restart. The teams dropped the rope and it sank into the mud at the bottom of the river, out of our sight. I moved around to talk to Michael and must have stepped over the rope with one leg. First think I knew was I was flying through the air when I came down I went straight to the bottom of the river. I recovered as fast as I could and surfaced to a big cheer from the huge crowd on the bridge. It was a this point the big Tug O’ War rope was broken and the crowd were hysterical, roaring for more and making all kinds of remarks. Cameras were flashing in all directions and people were wild with laughter. What had happened was that when the pull restarted, the Ballybofey team got to know what was going on in the Stranorlar side and were not going to be out done by their competitors on the other side so they tied the rope to a tractor and the huge pull broke the rope.

As for Michael Bogan and myself things went from bad to worse and the crowd loved every minute of it. We decided to go to the hard ground and do the pull across the bridge itself. But because the crowd had gathered and the Gardaí would not allow the pull to take place, and so we headed off for the GAA training ground just below the bridge. We were no sooner there when we were told we could not pull the Tug O’War there as it was nor for that type of sport, so off we went again, this time to the big car park in Ballybofey. The crowd still screaming and us doing our best to facilitate them.

It was nearing midnight at this stage and we were working with the aid of the car park lights. Both teams were doing their best but Ballybofey was getting the advantage and were almost home when a group of Stranorlar boys could not stand to see Stranorlar lose, so in they went and all hell broke loose.

Well, they fought lives aside and things got so bad at end up the local Gardaí were sent for to quell the situation at around 1:30 AM Sunday morning. The town folk agreed that they would meet in the afternoon at the car part and sort this thing out once and for all. By the agreed time no one showed up and the competition was abandoned to another day, so perhaps that day has now arrived when the two towns will get their just reward to celebrate the first ever Fete of this type of sport. We will have a winner, for this outlandish sport that is now gripping the nation.

Ivan Knox, noted local historian
and seanachaí, of Corcam,
Ballybofey, County Donegal.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Congratulations Mac !!!

John McCain won the Texas Republican primary on Tuesday, 4 March and clinched the number of delegates needed to win his party's presidential nomination. John McCain’s family emigrated from north County Antrim to the Colonies circa 1719 and it is always good to see Antrim descendants doing so well. Senator McCain’s experience and wisdom will serve him well in the upcoming presidential contest. He is unique in that he had a career, that of naval pilot, prior to entering the world of politics. The story of his bravery and service in the face of extreme hardships and danger is well known.

Also a nod to his opponent Governor Huckabee for running a good and honourable campaign that kept important issues at the forefront of the race. An interesting sidebar, Governor Huckabee’s wife’s maiden name is McCain. While there is no known relationship to Senator McCain’s family, both families hail from the Deep South and research done by the Ulster Heritage DNA Project have shown most of the McCains from the Deep South come from the north Antrim McCain family, some interesting research waiting to be done there perhaps.

John McCain has had an interest in Ireland for many years, to use his words… I count myself as a friend of Ireland… (photo, John McCain with the Taoiseach)

Barry R McCain

News from the Canadian Gaeltacht

Gaeltacht deireadh seachtaine, Irish language weekend to be held at the new Canadian Gaeltacht in Kingston, Ontario. The dates are 25 through 27 April, 2008. Classes will be in seven levels from beginner to cainteoir líofa. Their will be also workshops in Irish music, dancing, story telling, a céilí, Welsh language workshop not to mention a lot of fun and excellent craic.

Prices only $200.00 CDN, $200 US

San áireamh: Béilí oíche Aoine
go lón Dé Domhnaigh,
dhá oíche lóistin, feast, céilí,

Includes: meals from Friday night to Sunday noon, 2 nights accommodations, banquet, céilí workshops.

Deireadh seachtaine lán-Ghaeilge. Irish Language Immersion Weekend.
Cuirfear Foirm Iarratais iomlán mar comhad Word ach é a iarraidh. Complete Application as a Word Document will be sent upon request.

(the Ontario Gaeltacht)

Contact: Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, Dr, Capt, PPCLI,
Department of Physics, RMC, Box 17000, Stn Forces, Kingston, ON, Canada, K7K 7B4
phone: (613) 541-6000 ext 6042, fax: (613) 541-6040
freagraí as Gaeilge le do thoil, oiread agus is féidir