Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Donegal Community In Touch, Issue 6

Welcome to the Donegal in Touch e-zine. This e-zine is part of the Donegal Diaspora Project. Through this project Donegal is reaching out and connecting with people in all parts of the world who have a connection to or interest in Donegal. This e-zine is sent to people in all parts of the world.

Please feel free to pass this e-zine on to others that you feel might be interested in it. Any views, comments or contributions to the e-zine are very welcome. The latest edition of the e-zine can be viewed or downloaded via the Donegal County Development Board website - using the following link:

For further information on Donegal or on the Donegal Diaspora Project, please contact Maria Ferguson at or Roisin McBride at

Fáilte go ríomhiris Dún na nGall i dTeagmháil. Tá an ríomhiris seo ina pháirt de Thionscnamh Diaspóra Dhún na nGall. Tá Dún na nGall ag síneadh amach agus ag nascú le daoine ar fud an domhain a bhfuil gaol nó suim acu leis an chondae. Cuirtear an ríomhiris seo chuig daoine i ngach cearn den domhan.

Seol an ríomhiris seo chuig duine ar bith a mbeadh suim acu ann, le do thoil. Beidh fáilte roimh thuairimí, ráitis nó eolas don ríomhiris. Tá an eagrán is deireannaí don e-iris le fáil le léamh nó íoslodáil ó suíomh idirlín Bord Forbartha Chontae Dhún na nGall - ag an nasc seo a leanas:

Chun tuilleadh eolais ar Chontae Dhún na nGall nó ar Tionscnamh Diaspóra Dhún na nGall, dean teagmháil le Maria Nic Fheargusa ag nó le Róisín Nic Giolla Bhríde ag

With kind regards

Happy Christmas and Best wishes for 2010 from,

The Donegal - community in touch / Dún na nGall - pobail i d'teagmháil Publication Team

Roisin McBride

Research Officer
Strategic Policy Unit
Donegal County Council
Tel: +353 74 9172562
Fax: +353 74 9142130

Monday, 21 December 2009

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

The Ulster Heritage Project would like to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas. The past year has seen many remarkable successes as more and more families recover their family history by using DNA testing and we are looking forward to many more successes in the year to come.

Nollaig Shona daoibh agus Nollaig Chridheil chuig ár gcaraide in Albain.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Doegen Records Web Project

A project of the Royal Irish Academy Library

The digital archive of Irish dialect recordings made during 1928-31 can now be accessed online. The collection contains early Irish language recordings of folktales, songs and other material. It includes recordings from many regions of Ireland where traditional Irish dialects have disappeared since the time the recordings were made. The recordings are organised by counties so one can hear Gaelic spoken by native speakers from most of the nine counties of Ulster. Of particular interest to Ulster folk are recording of native speakers from Cavan, Armagh, and Antrim.

To visit this historic and amazing collection follow this link:

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Ulster Heritage Project and DNA

The Ulster Heritage DNA Project uses DNA testing to research Ulster family history and genealogy. Anyone from Ulster or of Ulster ancestry can participate in the project. Ulster is comprised of the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone in Northern Ireland and the counties of Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. The goal of the project is to study the surnames, families, clans, of the people of Ulster and their descendants throughout the Diaspora, and to allow Ulster descendants in the Diaspora to locate their kin still in Ulster and to communicate with them.

Ulster has several factors that make family research and surname study problematic. Since the early 1700s the nature of Ulster history is one of emigration and Diaspora and there is in far too many cases a lack of paper records and primary sources to rely upon for family history and genealogy research. Most genealogists have encountered the infamous ‘brick walls’ in their research. These ‘brick walls’ occur when there are no primary source paper records and the research dead-ends. DNA testing can confirm paternal relationships and go around these brick walls.

DNA testing can be used by genealogists and historians to:

• provide geographic locations for further genealogical research
• determine the ancestral homeland
• discover living relatives
• validate existing research
• confirm or deny suspected connections between families
• prove or disprove theories regarding ancestry

The project uses a Y chromosome DNA test for surname research. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son and is the perfect tool to research a family’s paternal ancestry. Y-DNA follows the direct paternal line (from father, to father's father, etc). Women do not inherit the Y-chromosome and cannot take a Y-DNA test, however for those women researching a paternal line, they can use a father, brother, uncle, or cousin in that male line, who can take the test in their place.

The Ulster Project also uses mitochondrial DNA tests. This type of DNA is present in men and women and both can participate in mtDNA testing. Mitochondrial DNA testing provides information about ethnicity and when done at the higher levels can also provide data on kinship groups.

The Y-DNA test results are a series of numbers that represents the participant’s genetic signature, which is known as a haplotype. The results are presented in a clear, concise manner which is easy, even for those people not familiar with genetics, to understand. DNA matches are very obvious as the haplotypes will match with very little difference between one result and its match.

The chronology, or time to the shared paternal ancestor, is revealed in the number of mutations that separate the matches. For example, in a Y-DNA test that used 37 markers it is normal that 37 out of 37 will match with first cousins and closer relations, but with seventh cousins from the early 1700s, it is not uncommon that two or three mutations might have occurred in that time frame and this will appear as 35 out of 37 or 34 out of 37 level matches. It is possible to locate branches of a family from much early times also, even going back to era when surnames were being introduced. In Ulster it is not unusual for a member of a patronymic Gaelic clan to locate cousins that date from the 1500s back to medieval times, or with an Ulster Scot, to locate distant cousins in Scotland.

DNA testing can be useful in many ways in family genealogy. Matches to families of the same surname can provide a windfall of new family history and genealogy if the new connection is with a family that retained their history. DNA testing can be used to confirm a relationship to a family where a connection is suspected, but where there are no paper records to confirm. By confirming a connection many families have been able to ‘solve’ their origins, to confirm an immigrant ancestor, and even locate their family in Ulster. In many cases DNA testing reveals a definite geographic location which tells a family from where they originate and allows that family to focus their research on a given township or district.

Many participants in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project have successfully recovered lost family history and have reconnected with distant cousins in Ulster and around the Diaspora. The opportunity to travel to Ulster and meet with distant relations is particularly rewarding and renews a sense of family and clan that is so important to the Ulster way of life.

Another benefit of DNA testing is the ability to research a family’s deep ancestry. Ulster has a very interesting history in which native Irish Gaels, Gaels from the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides, Vikings, Normans, Lowland Scots, Frisians, and English settlers have all played a part. Each one of these groups carries a unique genetic signature that provides fascinating insights into a family’s deep past.

The Ulster Heritage DNA Project is an exploration of the people of Ulster through genetic genealogy. It is an incredibly accurate tool that allows a family to reconnect with its relatives and ancestors.

For information about the Ulster Heritage DNA Project visit:

The Ulster Heritage project is run by Barry R McCain of Oxford, Mississippi and Jim McKane of Wiarton, Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Donegal In Touch Magazine

Fáilte go ríomhiris Dún na nGall i dTeagmháil. Tá an ríomhiris seo ina pháirt de Thionscnamh Diaspóra Dhún na nGall. Tá Dún na nGall ag síneadh amach agus ag nascú le daoine ar fud an domhain a bhfuil gaol nó suim acu leis an chondae. Cuirtear an ríomhiris seo chuig daoine i ngach cearn den domhan.

Seol an ríomhiris seo chuig duine ar bith a mbeadh suim acu ann, le do thoil. Beidh fáilte roimh thuairimí, ráitis nó eolas don ríomhiris. Tá an eagrán is deireannaí don e-iris le fáil le léamh nó íoslodáil ó suíomh idirlín Bord Forbartha Chontae Dhún na nGall - ag an nasc seo a leanas:

Chun tuilleadh eolais ar Chontae Dhún na nGall nó ar Tionscnamh Diaspóra Dhún na nGall, dean teagmháil le Maria Nic Fheargusa ag nó le Róisín Nic Giolla Bhríde ag

Welcome to the Donegal in Touch e-zine. This e-zine is part of the Donegal Diaspora Project. Through this project Donegal is reaching out and connecting with people in all parts of the world who have a connection to or interest in Donegal. This e-zine is sent to people in all parts of the world.

Please feel free to pass this e-zine on to others that you feel might be interested in it. Any views, comments or contributions to the e-zine are very welcome. The latest edition of the e-zine can be viewed or downloaded via the Donegal County Development Board website - using the following link:

For further information on Donegal or on the Donegal Diaspora Project, please contact Maria Ferguson at or Roisin McBride at

With kind regards

Best wishes from,

The Donegal - community in touch / Dún na nGall - pobail i d'teagmháil Publicatio

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

DNA testing for Ulster Folk

2009 is coming to a close and we're finishing it off with an end-of-the-year promotion!

To Join The Ulster Heritage DNA Project go to: ULSTER HERITAGE

First, though, let me thank you for helping us make our recent Full Mitochondria Sequence sale a resounding success. Despite the challenging economy this was the most successful promotion in our company’s history.

Our Holiday Season promotion will bring back the discount that we offered this summer for the Y-DNA37, since this has been requested by many of our project administrators.

• Y-DNA37 – promotional price $119 (reg. price $149)
• Y-DNA67 – promotional price $209 (reg. price $239)
• mtDNAPlus – promotional price $139 (reg. price $149)
• SuperDNA – promotional price $488 (reg. price $665)

Orders for the above tests need to be placed and paid for by December 31, 2009 to receive the sale price.

IMPORTANT: since this promotion will run through the months of November and December, we encourage you to spread the word starting now, as the natural tendency is for people to order at the last minute, and we will not extend it beyond 12/31/2009. You may use our bulk email feature to notify existing project members about this holiday sale.

In addition here are the newly released permanent prices for the Full Mitochondria Sequence:

• New kit (mtDNA Full Sequence) … $279
• Upgrade from HVR1 … $229
• Upgrade from HVR2 … $209
• mtDNA Full Sequence after testing Y-DNA … $249

Thank you for your continued support. We appreciate your contribution to the sustained growth of the Family Tree DNA matching database, the best genealogical matching tool of its kind.

Bennett Greenspan
Family Tree DNA

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Heritage Syrup Festival in Texas

Heritage Syrup Festival
Henderson, Texas
2nd Saturday of November 14th

The making of syrup was and still is an integral part of Anglo-Celtic society and culture in the Southern United States. The practice is still done and celebrated in those areas that were heavily settled by Ulster folk.

Many years ago, as the leaves were turning and the air was crisp, families gathered at the Syrup Mills. This was a time of fellowship and trading, but most importantly, Ribbon Cane Syrup. Syrup was a very treasured sweet. Made from crushed sugar cane, using mule power, and cooked in a pan over a wood fire. The old-timers still reminisce about this well remembered traditional folk art.

This operational syrup mill is made from parts of two country mills. The pan is more than 100 years old and came from the Richardson-Lowe Plantation and the crushing mill was part of the Leopard syrup making facility at Church Hill, Texas. Sugar cane was crushed in the mill to extract the juice. The juice is piped down to the furnace, where it is cooked down into syrup.

The highlight of the Heritage Syrup Festival revolves around a day of old time syrup making demonstrations. The grounds of the Historic Depot Museum come alive with over thirty folk artist demonstrating and selling their crafts. Folk music and rural East Texas soul food round out the festivities.

For more information visit:

The Depot Museum

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Oldest Known Ulster Ancestor Data

Of interests to participants of the Ulster Heritage DNA Project; the short article below tells how to enter your oldest known Ulster ancestor data on your Family Tree Page so that the information will appear in the results chart.

Oldest Known Ancestors Location for Mapping

If you have taken a Y-DNA or mtDNA test, you can gain more from your test results by entering information about your oldest direct male line or direct female line ancestor. As more people enter their information, the value of the My Maps feature increases.

With My Maps, you can see the ancestral locations of your matches. This information may provide a clue to finding your ancestral homeland, or a clue for further research.

Take a moment today to enter your most distant direct line male or direct line female ancestor information:

Log into your personal page. In the menu on the left, under My Maps, click "Plot Ancestral Locations".

Below the map you will find the entries for your most distant known paternal and maternal ancestors. If you have not made an entry before, the entries will say “No Label Saved” or “No Location Saved.” To add your direct male line ancestor, click the edit button on the left. To add your direct female line ancestor, click the edit button on the right.

Enter your ancestor’s name, date of birth, and date of death. Where a date is unknown, enter date unknown. This is a free form text field, so enter as much or as little information that is known.

Then click "Next Step." In step 2, you will identify the location of your most distant ancestor. You can now enter your location using natural language, such as Dublin, Ireland. You can also still enter the location by latitude and longitude. Choose either "Search by Location Name" or "Enter Latitude and Longitude". We recommend searching by location name.

You will now enter your most distant ancestor’s birth place. Perhaps you only know a general area, such as Ireland, and not a specific location. This is fine, and the pin on map will go in the country.

Perhaps you don't know your ancestor’s birth place, but do know where he or she married or where he or she is buried. Then in Step 1, where you entered information about your ancestor, also add a note that the location is for the marriage or for the burial. This will help the people you match when they see your ancestor’s pin on their map.

Once you have entered the information for your direct male line and direct female line ancestors, click "Maps" in the menu on the left to view your matches’ ancestral locations.

The color of the push pins on the map reflect how closely you match, from red for an exact match to grey for a 7 step genetic distance.

On the upper right is a button called "Map Instructions." Click on this button to get a tour and explanation of the different features of the map.

My Map is an exciting new tool which may help you in finding your ancestral location. For the tool to be very valuable, everyone needs to enter their most distant known ancestor's location. Please take a moment to do this today.

Additionally, your Group Administrator can select an option for the DNA Project web site to display the map of the location of most distant ancestors. If you are a Group Administrator, go to your Group Administration Page. Then click on Family Project Web site. This page is used to set up and maintain your web site. Move down the page, below the boxes, where you will see:

Display Ancestor's (Alleles) Map:
Display Ancestor's (mtDNA) Map:

Check the box to the right of the first line to display the Y-DNA most distant ancestor map. Check the box to the right of the second line to display the mtDNA most distant ancestor map.

The Group Administrator can also view a map of the most distant ancestor or of the participants' locations by going to the Group Administration Page and clicking "View Member Distribution Map."

Those who have tested are encouraged to add their most distant ancestor information today!

My Maps is an exciting step forward for all genealogists. Again, Family Tree DNA is the leader in Genetic Genealogy, consistently investing in new tools, features, and services for genealogists.

Take a few minutes today to enter the location of your oldest known direct line male ancestor and direct line female ancestor so everyone can benefit from My Maps.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Maternal Ulster Ancestry

The Family Tree labs are running a special on their maternal DNA tests for a limited time. Unlike the Y chromosome test, which can only be taken by males, the maternal, or mitochondrial DNA, tests can be used by males and females. Interested parties can access the Family Tree labs from our main website on this page:

Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project.

Both men and women may take this test. It traces the direct maternal line without influence from other lines. This test is for all three regions of the mitochondrial DNA: HVR1(16001-16569), HVR2(00001-00574), and the coding region (00575-16000). The entire mitochondrial genome is tested and this is the last mtDNA test that a person would need to take. A perfect match indicates a common ancestor in recent times. Results identify the ethnic and geographic origin of the maternal line. The customer receives a certificate and report generally describing the testing process and the meaning of matches. Results are placed in our database. When another person shows identical results, if both parties have signed the Family Tree DNA Release Form then we will inform them of the match.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Gallóglaigh and their Surnames

a Gallóglach with his conical helmet

The Gallóglaigh are one of the most important phenomenon in Irish history and they had a profound effect on the survival of Gaelic culture into the modern period. They were a uniquely Gaelic warrior caste that were organised by kinship groups and they were the heart and backbone of almost all Irish armies in the long series of wars against the English.

Their name in the plural is Gallóglaigh which has been in the past anglicised as galloglass, the singular form is Gallóglach. Descendants of the Gallóglaigh families and clans are located throughout Ireland, but it was in Ulster that they were particularly numerous and active. Historians not familiar with Gaelic culture often pass them off as mere mercenaries who worked for various Irish chiefs and lords, but in reality they were much more than this. They were a hereditary warrior caste that functioned much like the Japanese Samurai. They were Gaelic families that originated in Argyll and the southern Hebrides, that moved to Ireland and settled circa anno domini 1200 to 1400. They were well paid and were given land for their service and were part of the upper levels of Irish Gaelic society. They were known by their unique dress and battlefield accouterments, which included a two handed axe, shirts of mail, and their stylised conical helmets.

Gallóglaigh with their trademark conical helmets and mailed shirts

The descendants of the Gallóglaigh are found in Ireland and throughout the Diaspora and a growing number are participating in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project. The great Gallóglaigh kindred groups include Clann Suibhne (MacSweeneys), Clann Dhómhnaill (Mac Donnells), Clann Sithigh (MacSheehys), Clann Ruaidhri (Mac Rorys), Clann Dhubhgaill (MacDowells), Clann Chába (MacCabes), Clann Chaimbeul (Campbells), Clann Mhic Giolla Eáin (MacLains). Each of these clans and kinship groups also had several well known septs and each one developed their own surname, for example many from Clann Chaimbeul carry the surname McAllen.

Like the Redshank families in Ulster, the Gallóglaigh families represent an aspect of Ulster Scot history not often written about. Their history is different that the Ulster Scot families that participated in the Ulster Plantation, because the Gallógaigh were very much part of the traditional Gaelic power structure and society. Y Chromosome DNA testing is allowing the descendants of the Gallóglaigh families to very effective research their history and to explore their deep past and clan connections.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Èrinn 's Alba

A celebration of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland...

Mar phàirt do Oireachtas na Gaeilge 2009 tha Colmcille toilichte an cuireadh seo a thoirt dhuibh gu ÈIRINN ‘S ALBA, feasgar, le Lillis Ó Laoire mar fhear-an-taighe, far am faigh sibh òrain, ceòl, dannsa agus craic bho luchd-ealan às gach taobh de Shruth na Maoile.

Aig a chuirm-chiùil bithidh Éamon Ó Cuív, TD, Ministear airson Ghnothaichean Coimhearsnachd, Dùthchail agus Gaeltachta, a’ toirt seachad na duaisean airson na deilbh a b’ fheàrr anns a’ cho-farpais Saoghal nan Gaidheal.

Taigh Òsda Mount Errigal, Litir Ceannain, Dùn nan Gall, Èirinn
Disathairne 31mh An Dàmhair aig 12.30f

Grèim bidhe agus deoch.

Bus an asgaidh a’ fàgail an taigh-òsda as dèidh làimh a’
dol chun an AURA Letterkenny Leisure Complex airson
na co-fharpais Danns’ anns an t-Seann-Nòs.

RSVP: 0044 1463 225 454

As part of Oireachtas na Gaeilge 2009, Colmcille has pleasure in inviting you to join us for ÈIRINN ’S ALBA, an afternoon hosted by Lillis Ó Laoire, when artists from both sides of Struth na Maoile will entertain with song, music, dance and craic.

During the event Éamon Ó Cuív, TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Aairs, will present the prizes for the best pictures in the Saoghal nan Gaidheal/Saol na nGael photographic competition. Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland; Saturday 31 October 12.30pm. Buffet and refreshments

Free bus leaving the hotel after the event for the Sean-Nós Dancing Competition at the AURA
Letterkenny Leisure Complex.

RSVP: 0044 1463 225 454

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Goin' to Starvy Creek

the stage at the Starvy Creek Bluegrass festival

Goin’ to Starvy Creek

Bluegrass music, mountain music or hillbilly music. Whatever it’s called, it has always held a wonderful fascination for me. From the doghouse bass to the fiddle, the blend of acoustic instruments stirs my blood and gets my toes tappin’ and my hands clappin’.

When I was a youngin’, folks would gather on the weekend; bringing their guitars, banjos and fiddles or mandolins. We would eat, visit and make music. Mostly we would play and sing from the church hymn book. However, our neighbor Dick Stanger had a three-ring notebook full of songs. He had written them all out by hand and included the guitar chords. There were a lot of old-timey songs in that notebook along with about every song Hank Williams Sr. ever recorded.

I had me a Silvertone guitar from Sears & Roebuck. Dick would help me tune the thing and he showed me a few chords. What fun times those were.

Over the years, my musical adventures have taken different avenues but I’ve never strayed too far from my back-home roots. I have made a living playing music, singing and entertainin’ folks.

And while it seems most of the music I’ve performed has been everything except mountain music, that very mountain music is what I think of when I think of relaxin’ and havin’ a good time.

Kenny and Amada Smith on stage

Now, having said all that, a few weeks ago, I found out State of the Ozarks would be going to a bluegrass festival. I really had no idea what to expect. The place we headed to was the Starvy Creek Festival near Conway, Missouri.

Joshua Heston, editor of State of the Ozarks, had been telling me of the thousands of folks at this event — and what a big deal it was. On the way out to the park, I was a bit skeptical. We were the only ones on the road (I had figured the traffic would be more like Branson). But as we rounded a corner on the appropriately named Bluegrass Road, Joshua said, “Now you ain‘t gonna believe what you’re about to see.” And boy, was he right!

As we topped a knoll, a sea of RV campers and trailers came into view — hundreds of them. Josh was right. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Folks and music and food were everywhere, all centered around the main stage: a little cabin with a big front porch — settled low in a small ravine. Folks set up chairs all up and down that ravine. And there were thousands of them.

Group after group performed all day long. When evening came, the performances started all over again! Josh was busy taking pictures and talking to folks now and then. But he told me my job was to just enjoy the festival and I did! I just sat there and soaked up a wonderful experience!

One of the biggest highlights of that day was watching the group Nothin’ Fancy make their Starvy Creek debut. A lot of folks had never seen Nothin’ Fancy perform before that Friday but by the end of the day, just about everybody was talking about them.

Those fellas know how to entertain folks. When they received their first standing ovation, I couldn’t help but tear up a little for them.
The music on that stage wasn’t the only music happening! No sir! I went wanderin’ to stretch my legs. I strolled through the RV village and came upon several groups of folks jammin’ just like we had when I was a kid! It was hillbilly heaven.

I decided right then and there this wouldn’t be the last time I came to one of these events. Josh and I were both invited to sit in on a late-night jam session by the good folks of Iron Mountain, a new band from Salem, Missouri. Time and weariness didn’t allow for that, but next time I surely hope to get out my mandolin and join in.

It was nearing midnight and the chill of the evening had set in. We bagged up our chairs and headed home. You might say I was tuckered out but ready to do it all over again. I’ll be there next year and hope to see you there too.

’Till next month,

Elias Tucker
October 11, 2009

To explore the Ozarks visit: The State of the Ozarks

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Foyle Halloween Carnival

Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival
Welcome and Failte

Celebrate Halloween in style with the Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival

With family fun days, magic shows, movies and live music, and of course the spectacular carnival parade and jaw dropping fireworks over the River Foyle, it is clear to see that this city is the place to be this Halloween!

So get your costumes at the ready, and discover the magic of Halloween with us.

For a full programme of events from Wednesday 28th to Saturday 31st October, visit or contact 028 7126 7284 for further event and accommodation details.

Accommodation Specials starting from £69pps for 2 nights B& B and one evening meal, check out the offers at

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Ozark Mountain Céilí Presentation

One of the presenters at the upcoming Missouri State University-West Plains Ozarks Studies Symposium will be the lovely and very talented, Julie Henigan. The event will be in Springfield, Missouri, on September 24-26, 2009 at the West Plains Civic Center. If you would like more information, please contact Matt Meacham or Leigh Adams.

Julie Henigan discusses her upcoming presentation below:

In my presentation at the 2009 Ozarks Symposium in West Plains, Missouri, I will compare the house entertainments of Ireland and the Ozarks, demonstrating points of analogy between the social and music-making traditions of both, and demonstrating the possible cultural retention of Old World traditions in the New. In Ireland, these traditions range from informal house visits (known variously as céilí, cuaird, or "night-ramble," and including anything from simple conversation, to music, storytelling, song, and dance) to more organized house and barn dances.

In the Ozarks, these have their counterparts in the house dance or "music party." I will discuss the social and musical aspects of these events, noting their previous and current centrality in many traditional communities and their contribution to social cohesiveness and the encouragement of individual and communal artistry. I will also describe their decline since the Second World War and their deliberate revival in both cultures--as well as the emergence of the public house session in Ireland, which has in most places virtually supplanted the older, home-based musical events. Finally, I will discuss the element of human choice or agency in the continuation of these traditions--traditions which, far from being passively preserved, have instead been actively perpetuated by the individuals and communities who engage in them.

Julie Henigan Bio:

Julie Henigan is both a scholar (with a Master's in Folklore and a Ph.D. in English) and a musician, specializing in traditional Irish and American music. She sings unaccompanied, in English and in Irish, and plays guitar, fiddle, five-string banjo, and lap dulcimer. Her scholarly publications include: Folk’ Vs. ‘Literary’ in Eighteenth-Century Irish Song, in Anáil an Bhéil Bheo: Orality and Modern Irish Culture, ed. Nessa Cronin, Seán Crossan, Louis de Paor, and John Eastlake for Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009, as well as articles in journals and magazines like New Hibernia Review, Ulster Folklife, and The Old-Time Herald. She has also contributed articles to The Companion to Traditional Irish Musicand the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland (UCD Press). Her published works are available from Amazon.

Julie is also well known for her excellent Irish style guitar tutor on DADGAD Tuning which she did for Mel Bay Publications and the CD American Stranger, on the Waterbug label. She also appears on an anthology of sean-nós singing (Sean-nós cois Locha, on the Cló Iar-Chonnachta label) recorded at Sean-nós Milwaukee, an American festival featuring traditional singing in the Irish language.

For more information on all of these , please see

In Irish Disapora Studies, the depth and strength of Irish and Scottish cultural roots in the Ozarks region of Missouri and Arkansas do not recieve as much attention as those areas with more recent immigration histories. Julie Henigan life's work is a very good place to start to explore this Ozark cultural continuum which has a lot of input from Ulster.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Ozark Symposium September 2009

Ozarks Symposium

New: The schedule of events and presentation abstracts for the third annual Missouri State University-West Plains Ozarks Studies Symposium, September 24-26, 2009, are now up to date!

To read more about the upcoming Ozarks Symposium use this link:

The Missouri State University-West Plains Ozarks Studies Committee looks forward to welcoming you to its third annual symposium, "Situating the Ozarks," September 24-26, 2009, at the West Plains Civic Center. If you would like more information please contact Matt Meacham or Leigh Adams.

The Route Back Home, Ballymoney 2010 Update

The Route Back Home, a family historian and genealogist meeting in Ballymoney in 2010, is seeking input about a new development that impacts the planned Ulster heritage event. All interested parties are asked to email Keith Beattie with suggestions on how The Route Back Home should proceed. The Route Back Home is a major family history and genealogy event sponsored by the Ballymoney Borough Council.

The Ballymoney Museum Link

The Route Back Home, Ballymoney 2010

Dear Family Historian,

Since my last correspondence, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has announced that they will be closing from September 2010-May 2011. This is to allow the transfer of all their records to new premises. Please refer to the following link for further details:

The closure of this important archive facility will impact on the amount of research that overseas family historians can perform during their stay for The Route Back Home, Ballymoney 2010. Therefore, I am writing to ask for your opinion on whether the festival should continue or be cancelled.


Overseas visitors may feel that without access to PRONI it would be difficult to fully research family history during their brief stay. For some, this may be their only opportunity to visit Northern Ireland to look for their ancestors.

Proceed as planned:

If The Route Back Home, Ballymoney 2010 proceeds as planned in October 2010, every effort will be made to advise on alternative sources for the information that will be inaccessible in PRONI. For example:

· Ballymoney Branch Library: Archives of the Ballymoney newspapers and books on local history. Internet access (by appointment).

· Coleraine Branch Library: Microfilm copies of many of the church records for the Causeway region (Ballymoney, Coleraine, Moyle and Limavady) are available, in addition to archives of Coleraine and Ballymoney newspapers.

· Local Studies Unit, Ballymena Branch Library: A substantial archive of genealogical material is available including the 1901 census, Griffith Valuation (with maps) and archive copies of the Ballymena & Larne newspapers and The Belfast Newsletter.

· Other resources include the Derry Genealogy Centre, Northern Ireland Family History Society (by appointment) and the General Register Office (by appointment).

Ballymoney Borough Council welcomes your feedback on this question. Please respond to this email within seven days to allow Council the opportunity to make their decision.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Beattie
Museum Manager

Public Record Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) Update

Customers of the Public Record Office NI (PRONI) are advised of a temporary change to service delivery between September 2010 and May 2011.

The construction of the new PRONI headquarters at Titanic Quarter is progressing well, with the building scheduled to open to the public in May/June 2011. To ensure that services in the new building will be operational and that records will be available and will be preserved during this move, the Public Record Office will have to change how it carries out its business next year. The Public Record Office is providing 12 months' notice of changes to ensure that overseas visitors in particular have good time to make alternative plans.

Keeper of the Records, Minister Nelson McCausland said: “Records stored within PRONI are priceless, some of which contain vital historical information which, if lost or damaged, would be a massive blow to the general public, both in Northern Ireland and also worldwide.

“Staff at PRONI are currently working hard to produce appropriate and secure storage containers which will enable records to be moved to the new building safely and securely. A complete stock-take of all the records will then be carried out before they are securely packed, bar-coded and transported to the new building. This mammoth task does not end there, as staff then have to carry out a further stock-take to ensure that all records arrived safely."

The Minister continued: “Access to public records is a core function of the Department and to minimise disruption to customers, PRONI is increasing the amount and range of material which will be available online. In the coming weeks I will be marking the launch of the 1819 to 1900 street directories going on-line, which will make the contents of 27 street directories for Belfast and provincial towns available to a worldwide audience.

"Discussions are also taking place with partner organisations to make arrangements to allow customers to have alternative sources to draw upon during this time.

"Whilst the public will not be able to physically access the Balmoral Avenue site during the move, PRONI will continue to provide a limited correspondence and telephone enquiry service and will address FOI and urgent legal enquiries.”

The Minister concluded by saying that interest in personal and local history is on the increase and the new state of the art offices will encourage wider community involvement in accessing the unique assets that it holds.

Notes to Editors:

1. The site of the new Public Record Office is in a prominent position close to the Odyssey Arena and adjacent to the Gateway building at the entrance to the Titanic Quarter. It is scheduled to open to the public in May/June 2011.

2. PRONI was established under the Public Records Act (NI) 1923 for the reception and preservation of public records. The 1923 Act also made provision for the deposit of private records in PRONI.

3. To help alleviate the inconvenience to customers during a period of on-site closure the amount and range of material available on-line will be extended. This will include the Belfast Street Directories (pre 1901) going on-line in September 2009 and additional databases scheduled for completion in 2009/10 financial year including 1766 Religious Census Returns, 1775 Dissenters Petitions and the pre-1910 Coroners’ Inquests.

3. Discussions are taking place with partner bodies about the possibility of providing an off-site self-service facility for limited microfilmed records.

4. PRONI’s records cover every aspect of life from the Minutes of Cabinet Meetings to records of a local corner shop – from the thoughts and actions of the ‘great and the good’ to the reminiscences of the working man. The oldest document is a 13th Century Papal Bull.

5. Media enquiries to Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Press Office, tel: 028 90 515045 or email:

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Ulster Heritage DNA Project Update Sept 09

A reminder for our new participants: To view the results please go to our main website (, use the menu on the left to access the DNA project and the results.

For those participants that have matches to men with their own surname, we can group you as a family if you wish, just send me an email with the details. One of the goals of the Ulster Project is to gain a better understanding of Gaelic clans, their origins, etc. this is why many participants are listed in family or clan groups.

If you have matches on your 25 marker test and these matches are on the cusp of being a match on your 37 marker test, we recommend that you upgrade to the 67 marker test to clarify a suspected match. In large family groups in which the surname was taken many centuries ago there is the possibility that the 37 marker will not pick up these distant matches, however they will show up as a match on the 67 marker test.

Anyone needing help with Gaelic orthography and etymology send an email to Ulster Heritage and we can arrange a report to be done should you need one. If you get to the point that you feel you need a researcher on the ground in Ireland or N Ireland, also just contact me and I can put you in touch with several professionals there that we work with.

Some other tips; make sure you upload all your markers to Ysearch, this will really help your research as it expands the data base to which you have access. Also, make sure you have your settings so that non surname matches can appear. Gaelic surnames especially have many different forms and variations and you may have a match with a surname very different than the variation that your family uses.

Take advantage of the Ulster Heritage Forum and Newsletter. The Forum is where you can post your family notes and research needs. The Newsletter is run by Jim McKane of Ontario, he places research tips and updates on the project.

For those participants interested in deep ancestry, please read about the Project 8 team at the University of Wales. This team is made up of the leading figures in the fields of early European archaeology, history, genetic genealogy, etc. Dr Barry Cunliffe has joined the team recently and everyone is looking forward to the team’s first publications. They will examine the spread of Celtic people from the Iberian peninsula. The article on Project 8 is found in the July section of the Ulster Heritage Magazine and is titled The Atlantic Zone Celts and it has a link to the University of Wales, Project 8, website.

Barry R McCain

Ulster Heritage DNA Project

Friday, 28 August 2009

Celebrate the invention of Irish coffee!

The birth place of Irish Coffee, Jacksons Hotel, Ballbofey

Everyone is welcomed to come to Ballybofey and celebrate the invention of Irish coffee at Jackson's this weekend. Irish Coffee was originated and perfected by the hotels progenitor, Joe Jackson, way back in the late 1940s. As part of this weekend's Twin Towns Festival, Jacksons Hotel is sponsoring a competition for Best Irish Coffee and has announced this will be an inaugural event which will be an annual contest.

After WW II Joe Jackson returned home to his wife Margaret (née Slevin of Ruskey near Convoy), who had bought a hotel in Ballybofey in 1945. The Jacksons started serving Irish coffees and other specialty drinks in their bar and the rest is history. The drink's reputation spread when in the early 1950s, a Scottish motoring magazine, described Joe's amazing new drink.

the very comfortable bar in Jacksons Hotel

Monday, 24 August 2009

Stranorlar Presbyterians Celebrate 300 Years!

Anyone with an interest in or a connection to Donegal and more specifically to the village of Stranorlar, may be interested in the tercentennary of Stranorlar Presbyterian Church. And in the history of the congregation itself...

Stranorlar Presbyterian Church 0r 'Meetin'hoose' has been a rock for successive generations of Presyterians in this locality for more than three centuries. Family names such as Adams, Alexander, Arle, Armstrong, Baird, Bates, Blair, Bell, Boggle, Campbell, Carson, Ewing, Fairman, Hastings, Henderson, Irwin, Knox, Leeper, Love, Lucas, MacGregor, Magee, McCain/McKane, McClean, McClure, Neilands, Roulston, Russell, Kee, Taylor, Virtue, Wallace, Wauchop, Woods, Wilson and Whyte are examples of the many planted family names associated with this congregation since the early days.

The village of Stranorlar like so many other remote Ulster villages of this time quickly developed a strong Presbyterian influence as the planted Scots of that era brought with them their 'Scriptural Creed, and habits of industry and love of Liberty'. Their strong faith combined with their high moral standards and work ethic has laid the foundation of the proud Ulster-Scot heritage we enjoy today.

Stranorlar lies on the outer edge of the Laggan Presbytery in East Donegal which is noted as the second Presbytery established in Ireland in the year 1649, after Carrickfergus in 1642. According to its early records the first commissioners in Stranorlar requested supply of a Minister as early as August 1675: "John Armstrong from Stranorland (sic.) desired a visit and some supply for that people, who now have of late become more willing to receive the Gospel than before..."

Rev. Alexander Leckey, Minister in nearby Convoy village from 1870 and a renowned local historian, remarked in his notes in 1905: "this previous unwillingness to 'desire and receive the Gospel' on part of the people of Stranorlar and the neighbourhood should not lead us to think that they were sinners above all others that dwelt in the Laggan, but should, rather, I suppose, be attributed to the fact that they lived within what would have then been considered at an inconvenient distance from two other Presbyterian places of worship, viz., Donoughmore and Covoy."

As both meetinghouses at Convoy and Donoughmore were at a considerable distance we can assume that Stranorlar folk had been gathering for worship locally in a somewhat informal manner for some time before August 0f 1675, and felt that their numbers and their needs justified the formal calling of a Minister to lead them.

However, due to various underlying reasons such as the scarcity of such Ministers, serious poverty and wretched living conditions among the people, as well as the on-going and continued suppression by the established church, the Presbyterians in Stranorlar were not successful in installing their first official Minister, Master Robert Wilson, until 25th June 1709. And the congregation has had an interesting and colourful past and, like most others, has gone through various phases of growth and decline since its inception.

Many able men have passed through our pulpits since Master Wilson passed on in 1727 including Rev. Joseph Kinkead (1745-1755); Rev. Joseph Love (1767-1807); Rev. James Neilson (1808-1821); Rev. James Steele DD (1821-1859); Rev. Hugh Clarke Graham (1859-1874); Rev. WJ Macaulay (1874-1880); Rev. James Curry (1881-1940); Rev. John McFall (1941-1947); Rev. Charles McKimm Eadie (1948-1951); Rev. Herbert Courtney (1951-1955); Rev. WJE McClure (1955-1965); Rev. John Sproule ((1966-1971); Rev. W McI Craig (1971-1977); Rev. GD Campbell (1978-1986); Rev. Eleanor Henning (1988-1997); Rev. Alan Carson (1998-2004); Rev. Tom Luke (2005-2007) and Rev. Stanley Stewart, our present minister.

Meetinghouse Street pictured c.1910 with the existing Meetinghouse (built in 1906), Sunday school building just visible on the upper left and the Manse on the right (built in 1881).

The existing church building replaced the earlier 18th century building which would originally have had a traditonal thatched roof, clay floor and no seating! Worshippers simply brought their own seat, sat on the floor or remained standing for worship!

The centenary of the present meetinghouse was celebrated by the congregation in April 2006 and the Tercentenary of the founding of the congregation is currently being celebrated since the anniversary on 25th June 2009.

Stranorlar is an interesting corner of Ulster-Scot history and much work is still required to unearth what is still out there. However, a fairly detailed history of this congregation (produced to mark the centenary of the church building in 2006) is available in booklet form and includes various facts, figures, personal memoirs, photos, family names & information as well as a general overview of the church and locality since the 17th century. A glimpse into our forfather's lives after arriving here all those generations ago...

They always stood up for what they believed and many suffered to preserve what we have today - we trust that Presbyterians will continue to worship in Stranorlar for many generations to come!

Mark M Knox

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

4,000-year-old timber circle found in Tyrone

(from the BBC news website)

The remains of a timber circle from more than 4,000 years ago have been uncovered by archaeologists in County Tyrone.

The timber circle was found by the Headland Group near Ballygawley in 2006/2007 as part of an excavation project linked to the A4 and A5 road improvements scheme.

Project Officer at Headland Archaeology, Kirsty Dingwall, said radiocarbon dating had confirmed it was from around the middle of the third millenium BC, "although some elements of it may be earlier".

"The specific use of timber circles are not well understood but it is thought that they were used as ritual sites, perhaps for feasting or for commemorating the dead," she said.

"The find is very significant for archaeology and for Northern Ireland in particular, as very few timber circles have been fully excavated.

"It might seem that stone circles are more common as they survive better, but we are learning more and more about this type of site and how widespread they were.

"The postholes containing the timbers were carefully excavated and the pottery and charcoal found on the site are now undergoing close inspection and analysis by the Headland experts to reveal more about the activities which took place in the timber circle.

"The results of the analysis will be submitted to the Roads Service in 2010."

Kirsty said the circle near Ballygawley was an example of a "relatively rare type of site, generally dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age".


She said it was "made up of two concentric rings of timbers focussed on a central area, which appear to have replaced an earlier series of large pits".

It "had a large monumental porch on one side with a line of substantial timbers along the front, which would have formed an impressive façade for anyone approaching the circle".

"The outer ring of the double circle comprised pits holding four posts in a square arrangement, which would themselves have pinned sections of wattle or planked walling in place," she added.

"As a result, we can be fairly certain that it would not be possible to see into the centre of the circle from the outside, unlike other timber circles elsewhere in the British Isles, or at stone circles such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire or Callanish in Scotland, where an observer would have had glimpses of the activity.

"As timber circles are generally thought to have some form of ritual importance, the issue of restricting the views of what was happening inside the circle is an interesting one."

Kirsty said the archaeological investigations undertaken as part of the A4 and A5 road improvements scheme were "currently undergoing post-excavation analyses and reporting which are likely to throw interesting new light on the prehistoric archaeological record of the area".

The Department for Regional Development said road construction would not be affected by the discovery of the timber circle remains.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Celtic Colours Festival 2009 Approaching

Bridging the Atlantic with Music and Culture

Since 1997, the Celtic Colours International Festival has featured hundreds of musicians from throughout the Celtic world and attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Cape Breton Island. For nine days in October, the Festival presents dozens of concerts all over the island, an extensive line-up of workshops, a visual art series of exhibitions, and a nightly Festival Club. Over the years, artists have traveled from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Germany, and Cuba as well as from across the United States and Canada to join the finest of Cape Breton's musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers and tradition-bearers for the annual Autumn celebration.

One of the things that sets Celtic Colours apart from the vast majority of festivals taking place around the globe is that it isn't limited to just one location. Communities around Cape Breton Island host concerts and workshops at a time when the fall leaves are at their most brilliant and traveling around the island offers one breathtaking view after another. These communities are the places where the culture has been nurtured for over 200 years providing context for the roots of the music and celebrating each community's contribution to the Island’s living Celtic culture.

During the past 12 years, Celtic Colours International Festival has offered a wide range of music from Celtic nations around the world. While this has been a very effective way to introduce some of the broad influences on Celtic music and culture world-wide, this year’s event will concentrate on one region, Ireland. As usual, the Festival will feature local and international artists, but with a focus on the Irish influence on Cape Breton’s Celtic music and culture and the immense contribution Irish music and culture has had on the Celtic music of the world.

The festival kicks off with Island to Island: The Cape Breton-Ireland Musical Bridge, in Port Hawkesbury on October 9. It’s a concert that goes to the root of it all, says Artistic Director Joella Foulds. “In 1993, a group of Cape Breton musicians were invited to Ireland to put on a Cape Breton festival in Cork. Now, we have invited the Irish here to share their cultural traditions in this concert and throughout the nine days of the Festival.”

Twenty-four artists from Ireland will be participating in the Festival this year which runs from October 9-17. Their presence will contribute to an exploration of tradition and culture and how that is maintained through generations and in communities. People might not recognize the names of some of the Irish artists, but they are the people who are carrying on the tradition.

“We want our audience to experience the real thing,” Foulds explains, “just as they would with our Cape Breton artists. These Irish artists represent the best of the various traditions including Donegal fiddling, the Irish harp, uillean piping, Irish Gaelic and sean nos (meaning “old style”) singing, accordion, sean nos dancing, and story telling.”

Some of the visiting artists Celtic Colours fans may recognize from Ireland are harper Laoise Kelly from the popular group Bumblebees, Maireád Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan, and of course, Liam ó Maonlaí who was a big hit last year. Returning from Scotland this year is the fiddle harp duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay; fiddler Sarah McFadyen from Harem Scarem and the Unusual Suspects; Mairi Campbell who performed with the Cast in 1997; and Gaelic singer Brian Ó hEadhra.

Canadian artists returning to the Festival this year include Le Vent du Nord from Quebec, fiddler Sierra Noble from Manitoba, and Jim Payne & Fergus O’Byrne from Newfoundland while Abby Newton and Kim Robertson will be traveling from the US.

This year, there will be concerts paying tribute to influential Cape Breton fiddlers Sandy MacIntyre, Angus Chisholm and Jerry Holland. There are also a couple of very special shows in the works. One is Suite Silver Dart, featuring Symphony Nova Scotia, which will premiere Friday at the Savoy with an encore performance on Saturday afternoon at Strathspey Place. Another is a show called The Fiddle Tree, October 12 in Sydney Mines at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, a new venue this year. This show will put luthier Otis Tomas’s work, both his instruments and his music, on display in a way not to be missed. And also fitting into the category of not be missed shows is Traveling Tunes, a show that takes advantage of the expertise of this year’s Artists in Residence Paul Cranford from Cape Breton and Máire O'Keeffe from Ireland. They will be discussing tunes and how they make their way around the world in a show that includes some of Cape Breton’s foremost composers and carriers of the tunes. As usual there will be a number of shows featuring Gaelic song, piping, fiddling and traditional dance as well as the Acadien roots of Cape Breton’s music.

For those who want to experience the festival more deeply, there is once again an extensive program of hundreds of Cultural Opportunities available in communities all around the Island.

For the full schedule and lineup of artists visit Tickets can be purchased online or by phoning 1-888-355-7744 (toll free in North America).

Friday, 14 August 2009

John Wayne, Scots-Irish Icon

In one interview in the early 1950's John Wayne described himself as 'just a Scotch-Irish little boy.' John Wayne, or as he was known before his fame, Marion Morrison, was born in Winterset, Iowa. His family emigrated from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1799. The Morrison family, like so many families in Counties Antrim and Donegal, were of Hebridean ancestry and the Morrisons were Scottish Gaels that came to Antrim from the outer Hebrides. His immigrant ancestor was Robert Morrison born in 1782, son of John Morrison. The Morrison family were active in the United Irishmen movement and their decision to emigrate was brought about by a British warrant issued for the arrest of Robert Morrison.

Robert Morrison and his mother arrived in New York City, in 1799. Like so many Scots-Irish the Morrison family had a tradition of being strong willed, opinionated, and carried a well developed sense of right and wrong. Like so many Ulster settlers the Morrisons pulled up stakes many times and followed the frontier west. The first wave of Ulster settlers headed west and south and people the Southern Uplands and the hill country of Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Morrison were part of a second wave of Scots-Irish that moved along the rivers west into Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Iowa. They became the Mid West Scots-Irish.

John Wayne is arguably the most famous and most successful actor in history, quite an accomplishment for a Scots-Irish boy from Winterset, Iowa. He was a complex man, his family very Presbyterian, yet John Wayne often described himself as a 'cardiac Catholic.' He lived his life as a Christian with noticeable Presbyterian focus and drive, yet his wife Pilar was Roman Catholic, as were all his children. John Wayne himself converted to the Catholic Church officially just days before he passed away.

John and Pilar Wayne

John Wayne's childhood home in Winterset, Iowa


John Wayne Museum in Winterset, Iowa

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The State of the Ozarks

the beautiful Ouachita Mountains

One very important part of the Ulster story is found in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and Arkansas, and the Ouachita Mountains in central Arkansas. Both areas were settled by the descendants of the 18th Century Ulster Migration which began in 1718. The hardy Ulster folk followed the frontier south and west and by the early 1800s began to settle the hills and mountains of Missouri and Arkansas. In this culturally conservative environment they thrived and created the basis for the unique people and society of the Ozarks.

The Ozarks and Ouachitas existed in a state of cultural isolation well into the 20th Century. To this day the upland areas of Arkansas and Missouri retain a wealth of traditions and folklore brought there by the sons and daughters of Ulster. The area is noted for its music, food, Christian faith, and a society in which the extended family and clan are still important parts of daily life. The people of the Ozarks and Ouachitas have a profound appreciation for the beauty of their land and tend to measure time by the seasons.

A good place to read about the Ozarks and Ouachitas is the State of the Ozarks website and online magazine.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Ulster Scots Gathering at Ballyearl

Ulster Scots Celebration at Ballyearl

Ballyearl Arts & Leisure Centre & The Courtyard Theatre

* Time: 8:00 PM
* Date: 5 September 2009
* Ticket Price: £10
* Booking/Info: Courtyard Theatre: 028 9084 8287

Further Details:

The Broadisland Gathering, Ulster's longest established Ulster Scots Festival, is a moveable feast! The Gathering, founded in 1993, celebrates Ulster Scots culture and music.

Fronting the concert will be Session Beat, whose musical tastes revolve around the tradition of Scottish and Irish music. The group uses Irish and concert flutes, bagpipes, tin whistles, fifes, guitars, bouzouki, keyboard, snare drum, Congo drums, drum kit and Bodhran. Their exceptional sound is not to be missed, and this is their first appearance at a Broadisland Gathering.

The Major Sinclair Memorial Pipe Band also join the line-up and are regular performers at the Gathering, bringing excellent music and a bit of chat!

This is sure to be an excellent night of musical entertainment for all those who enjoy the skirl of the pipes and Ulster Scots songs and chat!

The Broadisland Gathering has ventured outside Ballycarry for the first time so book not and don’t miss out!

For additional information contact: Newtownabbey Borough Council

Monday, 3 August 2009

Colmcille group strengthens the age old links between Ireland and Scotland

Gaelic: A vibrant living language in Ireland and Scotland
The vision of Colmcille is "a vibrant interactive Gaelic community spanning Ireland and Scotland". The organisation is named after the 6th century Saint Colum Cille. It works where the Gaelic speakers of Ireland and Scotland meet; and works to bring them together. Colmcille also promotes awareness of Gaelic language and culture: it has offices in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Colmcille was set up in 1997 with funding from the Governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with a remit to 'create a vibrant interactive community spanning Ireland and Scotland'.
Colmcille aim to do this is two ways:
1. Giving grant funding to projects that meet our strategic aims and...
2. Organising projects that raise awareness of the shared heritage of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Colmcille website anseo

Thursday, 30 July 2009

William Roulston to Speak

Thursday 30 July at the Flowerfield Arts Centre

In this talk William Roulston, Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, will look at a range of different records that can aid the researcher looking for family history prior to the nineteenth century. The importance of landed estate papers will be highlighted, as will the availability of church records for the 17th and 18th centuries. Other sources include those which have been termed ‘census substitutes’ – the flaxgrowers’ list of 1796, the religious census of 1766, the so-called ‘census of Protestant householders’ of 1740 and the hearth money rolls of the 1660s. The value of these records, where they can be found and how they can be used will be discussed.

Time: 7.30pm
Admission: £3

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Saint Columba: Fact and Fiction

Written by The Very Rev. Lester Michael Bundy, OSB(Obl)
Professor Emeritus, Regis University
Retired Pastor of St Columba Parish Church

Mouth of the dumb,
Light of the blind,
Foot of the lame,
To the fallen stretch out your hand.
Strengthen the senseless,
Restore the mad
O Columba, hope of Scots,
By your merits' mediation.
Make us companions
of the blessed angels.

Early 14th century prayer
from the Island of Inchcolm1

Overview of the life of St. Columba

The name Columba is a Latinized later name. His Gaelic name was Colum-cille which means "Dove of the Church." He was born a prince of the royal Úi Néill line. His grandfather and two brothers had conquered North-west Ulster and set up the provincial kingdom of Ailech. In his youth, he decided to enter monastic life and was trained in the monastic community by notable figures including St. Finnian. He grew to be a powerful and influential figure and while in Ireland founded Dair-mag (Oak-plain) now Durrow and Dir-Calgaich (Calgaich’s Oak Wood) now Derry [546].2 In total 40 Irish Churches and 56 Scottish Churches are connected directly or indirectly with his cult.3 In 563 with twelve companions, he founded the community of monks on the island of Iona. Kenney, in The Early History of Ireland describes it as follows: "The most distinguished center of Irish religious life at the end of the sixth-century through the seventh century was not within the land of Ériu. It was the little island of I, Hii, or Iona, to the west of modern Scotland, some, 80 miles from the Irish coast."4 There, Columba served as Abbot, and leader of the missionary movement that would bring Christianity eventually to all of Scotland. There he lived for thirty-four years evangelizing the mainland and establishing monasteries in the neighboring islands. He succeeded in converting Brude king of the Picts and in 574 the new king of the Scots Dal Riada came to Iona to receive his sacring at Columba’s hands. In the year 597 he died and was buried on the Island by his devoted monks. Many miracles were associated with his life and his legend grew rapidly. Some would say that he became bigger in death than in life, yet there is no question that during his own lifetime he was in many ways a monumental figure.

Many stories have become a part of the Columba legend. To some he is the perfect saintly figure — the "Apostle" to Scotland. However, to some he is the epitome of the imagined "independent" Irish or Celtic soul, who defies authority at every turn. Still others see him as the progenitor to women’s liberation and the "modern age."

The "Modernist or Popular" view of Columba and Celtic Tradition

As previously noted some modern writers have seen St. Columba in particular and Celtic tradition in general as counter cultural images. In their view St. Columba is an historical figure and a larger than life hero of downtrodden women and abused minorities — a defender of those who value individual prerogative over communal obligation. However, such views have been well refuted by more serious scholars such as A. M. Allchin.5

In fact we know very little of Columba as far as day to day activities, personality, etc., are concerned. What we do know is clouded by mythic images and politicized agendas. One thing certain, he was in his day a controversial figure and has continued to be so down to our current times. Much of what has been written about him is romanticized. The image of St. Columba is interwoven with the folklore -- various strands of tradition real and imagined.

In this day and age, Celtic tradition (or what people imagine being Celtic tradition) has become popular and trendy. David Adam, in his books on Celtic poetry prayers, has popularized Columba as the essential "Anglican" spirit. Thomas Cahill in his romanticized book about the wonders of Irish tradition has given an exaggerated focus on the "gifts" of Celtic culture to Western European civilization. While there is undoubtedly some truth in what Cahill has to say, his account is simplistic and at time trivialized.

New Age Spirituality has adopted -- but more accurately adapted Celtic spirituality as a way of verifying a variety of dubious practices and beliefs. Ex-Roman Catholics like Matthew Fox (more accurately ex-Christians) have created a pseudo Celtic spiritually to justify their own deviations from traditional Christian belief and practice.

Victor Walkley, in his Celtic Daily Life, extols the "virtues" of paganism — conveniently skipping over such small matters as human sacrifice.6 He has attempted to argue that the early Celtic Christians were really druids. Walkley states that "the Culdee faith drew together two strands of doctrinal belief: the Druidic teaching and the revealed word of God in Biblical texts. But the Roman Church made every effort to stamp out what they called the pagan belief of the Celtic pole and to destroy the Culdees. Celtic sanctuaries and burial places were desecrated and churches built above the ruins. The name Culdees (from cele de, servants of God) was probably derived from the name given to the Christianized Druids in Britain. Gaulish refugees found asylum among the western Celts, the Silures of Wales where they established a Druidic College..."7

The image of Columba and the early Irish Christians as unfortunate benign pagans persecuted by the Catholic Church seems to give comfort to those who seek to find in Celtic tradition an excuse from the moral standards and conventions of traditional Christianity. However, serious evidence to support such views is singularly lacking.

St. Columba is revered by some as a popular folk hero. The Story of St. Columba by David Ross provides a simplistic summary of some of the more popular stories from tradition, principally those of Adomnán while side stepping the more serious Christian dimensions of his life. A better book in this genre, St. Columba by Ian Macdonald provides popularized versions of his life as found in the writings of Columba’s early biographer Adomnán.

In some current writings, Saint Columba is portrayed as a proto-protestant. In this view, St. Columba was never really a "Catholic" because there never was a real unified Church.8 Further, it is argued that the Celtic church foreshadowed the rise of feminism in the 20th century.9 Cahill argues that since there are virtually no references to Patrick in Adomnán’s writings, that that shows there was no unified church.10 As Meeks notes, even today Columba is vaguely regarded by some protestant apologists as a member of their imaginary "pre-Reformation Protestantism."11

On the contrary, solid scholarship shows "Fundamentally, the Church in Ireland was one with the Church in the remainder of Western Europe. The mental processes and the ‘Weltanschauung’ of the ecclesiastic who looked out from Armagh or Clonmacnois or Innisfallen were not essentially different from those of him whose center of vision was Canterbury or Reims or Cologne."12 That there were regional differences is obvious, especially in relation to secular powers. That these differences sometimes led to friction is equally obvious. That these differences have been exaggerated in an attempt to try to "prove" there was no universal Church is also obvious — and obviously wrong. As Meeks points out, "There is need to clean the ecclesiastical cupboards of denominational skeletons, and return to a broader view of the saints. ‘Celtic’ saints were, in reality, part if the European mainstream; they were not, in fact, completely different from saints elsewhere in Europe. They belonged to the same pre-Reformation period, and shared the Catholic faith of East and West. ‘Celtic’ saints, including Columba, adhered broadly to the same theology of those in the East, and practiced the same kinds of rituals."13

Historic Sources for the Life of St. Columba

There are three main sources for Columba’s life. The work of Cuimíne Ailbe, Abbot of Iona from 657 to 669; Adomnán, Abbot of Iona from 679 to 704, and the Venerable Bede who lived 673-735.14

Accounts that fit more in the realm of legend than history are several. Amra-Colum-cille, a difficult and obscure work, is a eulogy of Columba that was compiled in the sixth century. Other works include the Old Irish ‘Life of Columba’ a homily for the saint’s feast day that may go back to the tenth-century, possibly even the 9th. Simeon’s Lines on Columba [1107-1114] are prayer in the form of poetry, raising the hope that Columba may be patron to various persons including the clergy and people of Scotland. The Life of Columba from Codex Salmanticensis 845-70 and the Life from Codex Insulensis (a second recension of the latter with some added detail) provides the story of the famous conflict with Diarmait macCerr-béil over the King’s judgement on the rights to a copy of a manuscript. Included is an account of the Synod of Tailtin at which Columba was threatened with excommunication. There are a variety of other minor sources including a number of poems attributed to Columba.

The legends associated with Columba have grown to be a major part of his identification in modern times. "That great figure from the first age of monasticism, Colum Cille of Iona, came to occupy the center of this lore. In his own day he was reputed to have protected the poets of Ireland, and from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries many nameless poets of Ireland produced a literature they attributed to him. This poetry gathers up the highest aspiration of the monastic church: the love of solitude, asceticism, and scholarship, and the acceptance of exile as the ‘white martyrdom’ the great sacrifice man can make for Christ. Colum Cille was the great and archetypal exile, show for the love of Christ abandoned ‘the three best-loved places’, Tír Luígdech his birthplace, Durrow with its ‘cuckoos calling from the woodland on the brink of summer’, and lastly Derry, ‘noble angel-haunted city ...calm and bright, full of white angels from one end to the other.’15

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries a new Irish literary cycle arose with a renewed focus on romance and poetry. One of these cycles was centered on stories and legends associated with Columba. Some of the cycle may be based on earlier works of the ninth century, which have since been lost. Finally, there is the ‘Life of Columba’ by Manus O’ Donnell, composed in 1532, as a compilation of various previous works.

Saint Columba in current scholarship

Corish tells us, "The Christian church was organized as it was in every other place around diocesan bishops and their clergy. Up to about 550 the great majority of ecclesiastics whose deaths were recorded in the annals were bishops. By about this date the ‘new druids’ had been allocated their niche in the social structures — the bishop being equated with the king, and the clergy being accepted as another element in the as dána, the men of learning. The pagan sages retained their place in this class, according to legend because of the intervention of Colum Cille at the convention of Druim Cett in 575. One function they had to yield to the Christian clergy was the role of intermediaries with the other world. In the second half of the sixth century the two cultures reached and accommodation which in certain matter remained uneasy."16

As Christianity grew in Ireland the monastic founders became the "new heroes" around which the Christian communities grew. "The development of the monastic paruchiae fitted into the structures of Irish civil society. Land belonged to the extended family group, the derbfine. When part of this was alienated by agreement to form the endowment of a monastery it remained an interest of the family group but was freed from secular obligations. This made a monastic foundation particularly attractive to branches of ruling families that were losing out in the dynastic struggles, as secular overlordship tended to become concentrated in fewer hands the monastic paruchiae were built up."17 It was not an accident that Columba was from the highest ranks of aristocracy.

Columba’s monastery at Iona became a center for Christianity with long reaching influence both in Ireland and Scotland.

Eventually Viking invasions lead to the abandonment of Iona as a major religious center. "... as early as 804 the decision was taken to set up a new headquarters at Kells in Ireland. That this move involved some subordination to Armagh is still testified to by the inscription on the high cross at Kells: ‘the cross of Patrick and Colum Cille’. Iona continued to be a venerated spot, but its ecclesiastical power continued to decline."18

Miraculous events in the life of St. Columba

Adomnán gives accounts of Prophetic Revelations, Miracles and Angelic visitations. There are a number of accounts of Columba's ability to foretell certain events that later came to pass. For example there is his prophecy concerning the sons of King Aidan. At one time the saint questioned the King regarding his successor in the kingdom. The King replied that he did not know which of his three older sons was to reign. The saint replied that none of the three would reign because they would all be killed in battle. He then advised the King to summon his younger sons. "Let them come to me and the one whom God will choose out of them will suddenly rush on to my lap." The younger sons were called in and Eochoid Buide came to him. Immediately the saint kissed him, and blessed him, and said to his father, "this is the survivor and is to reign king after thee, and his sons will reign after him."19 There are a number of stories of similar prescience on the part of Columba during his life at Iona.

Adomnán tells of a number of miracles that took place including his power to control the winds and storms, his removal of serpents from the island, purification of springs and waters, but perhaps most notable is his encounter with the Loch Ness monster. "At another time again, when the blessed man was staying for some days in the province of the Picts, he found it necessary to cross the river Ness; and when he came to the bank thereof, he sees some of the inhabitants burying a poor unfortunate little fellow, whom, as those who were burying him reported, some water monster had a little before snatched at as he was swimming, and bitten with a most savage bite." Upon hearing the story, Columba called for one of his men to swim to the other side of the river to fetch a small boat and bring it back to him. The man jumped in the river and was attacked by the monster. "Then the blessed man looked on, while all who were there, as well the heathen as even the brethren, were stricken with very great terror; and, with his holy hand raided on high, he formed the saving sign of the cross in the empty air, invoking the Name of God, and commanded the fierce monster, saying "think not to go further, nor touch the man. Quick! Go back!" The beast hearing the voice of the saint became terrified and fled.20
Adomnán also lists accounts of Angelic Visitations. This begins with the visit of an angel to Columba's mother before his birth when it is prophesied that he will become a great religious leader of his people. Other accounts include visions of angels conducting the souls of Diormit and Brendan to heaven, and stories of angels descending to earth.

St. Columba as Patron and Intercessor

As noted above the Early History of Ireland identifies forty churces or establishments in Ireland and fifty-six in Scotland connected with St. Columba. Clearly his role as patron and intercessor was significant. The idea that a powerful Saint could be of help both in this world and in the world to come is an ancient and venerable tradition in Christianity. It is not surprising that Columba would fulfill this role in both Ireland and Scotland.

O Columba, hope of Scots,
By your merits' mediation.
Make us companions
of the blessed angels.

O Columba Spes Scotorum
nos tuorum meritorum interventu
beatorum fac consortes angelorulm. Alleluia.21

This early fourteenth century prayer from the island of Inchcolm is the perfect example of what we speak. Adomnán and others used Columba and the Celtic saints as a source of protection both for this life and after death. Prayer/poems were used to entreat a privileged member of the kingdom of Heaven to grant safe conduct in the strange kingdom of the other-world and also immunity from legal process that would be due a sinner after his death. The poems interweave the idea of the power of Columba in life, his ability to work miracles etc. and his power while alive on this earth with his ability to continue to be an effective protector and advocate in Heaven. In the trials and tribulations of the fourteenth century — pestilence, plague, and warfare, it is not surprising that Columba would be called Spes Scotorum, 'hope of Scotland.'

Evidence of the early distribution of Columba's relics is somewhat scanty, yet clearly there was a dispersal of primary relics, and the development of a number of shrines dedicated to his cult. It should be noted however, that there was a tradition that poem/prayers were thought to carry a supernatural power and were treated or used in much the same way as relics were used in other parts of the Christian world. Clancy makes the point that this seems to be a somewhat uniquely Celtic tradition. "It is striking that only really in Gaelic sources do we get this sense of poems composed about saints as, essentially, secondary verbal relics, whose use is tantamount to the veneration of physical relics."22

Not only was Columba appealed to for intercession against war and plague, he was also invoked as an agent of justice. The Synod of Birr 697 enacted Lex Innocentium, later called the Law of Adomnán, which protected non-combatants -- women, clerics, and children — from violence. The law was signed by fifty-one of the kings of Ireland and northern Britain, including the Pictish king, and forty of the leading churchmen of the Gaelic world. Adomnán used the saints in the enforcement of the law. Clancy states "I have no doubt that initially Adomnán leaned on Columba as patron of his law, rather than on his own authority alone."23 In effect Adomnán decreed that anyone who broke the law should pay the appropriate penalty, "his life may be short with suffering and dishonor, without any of their offspring attaining Heaven or Earth."24 There was also a malediction for miscreants which included psalms for up to twenty days and collects for specific saints.

A great deal of poetry and song is either attributed to him or composed about him. Yet we do not know how much material he actually directly composed. Although modern scholarship cannot unquestionably attribute any writings to Columba, there are a number of poems in Latin and Irish that legend has ascribed to him. It is notable, and a problem to some historians, that Adomnán makes no mention of his writings. There is an ancient tradition that Columba wrote the hymns Altus prosator, Inte chrite cedentiumm, and Noli Pater. All three hymns have antiphons and other additions indicating liturgical use, but their actual use is not clear.25

Columba remains today as a mighty figure. To many in the secular "modern" world he is a hero to fit their own imagination. But, to those of us who adhere to traditional Christianity, he is a truly saintly figure of great proportions, one to whom we go regularly for support, succor, and fellowship.

for end notes and bibliography visit the Ulster Heritage History page.