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.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Irish and Scots-Irish Genealogy

In Irish genealogical research two crucial pieces of information are the name and its variations, and the geographic area of the family being researched. Once the place of origin is narrowed down then a thorough search of any records for that area can be done. Ideally getting the geography down to a township is the goal. DNA testing can be a tremendous asset in locating the area of a family's origin.

DNA results very often produce matches to related families with records that mention a particular township or village. In this way families that have no idea of their geographic origins can overcome this obstacle and find the area and even the township that their family originated.

DNA results also often show variations in Ulster surnames that can provide important new information for a family's history. For example, a family surnamed McKean may have a match with a family surnamed Johnston. The surname McKean is from the Gaelic name Mac Eáin which was often anglicised as 'Johnston.' In this case McKean and Johnston are the same family and or but two forms of the same surname. Another example is McAmis and McKemmish, a high quality DNA match would tell the two families that their surnames, despite looking quite different, are but two forms of the very same Gaelic surname, in this case Mac Thómais.

Families that emigrated from Ulster very early, during the 1700s, often will have little idea of their surname's original form and while they know the left from Ulster, the actual township, parish, and even County is often not known. With DNA testing, these early emigrant families will have matches to families that emigrated from Ulster much later, in the 1800s or even 1900s. This gives the 18th Century emigrant families access to records of their proven relatives from the 19th and 20th Centuries, which often have very detailed information such as township of origin, religion, languages spoken, etc.

For people of Ulster ancestry, DNA testing and results, can provide the two crucial aspect of family history and genealogy research, name and location. The Ulster Heritage DNA Project provides tools and support for families that use genetic genealogy to get around those infamous brick walls in research.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Punjana, the perfect cuppa!

The best cup of tea in the world? Quite possibly as many people who start their day with a cup of Punjana well know. Punjana Tea has broken into the US tea market with Tree of Life supermarket chain, a nationwide distributor with a turnover in excess of $430 million, and with Boston-based Stop and Shop, a major retailer on the eastern seaboard with 300 stores. Punjana tea is the masterpiece of the Thompson family, of Belfast. The Thompson family have been importing and blending tea for over 100 years now and know more than a little about tea.

Punjana Limited, the tea importer and blender, had its start near the docklands in Belfast. It was founded by McArthur and Willis and the now famous Thompson family made their mark in 1896 when Robert Samuel Thompson became a partner. Robert Samuel Thompson originally entered the tea trade in 1887, and studied the art of tea tasting. He became known for his uncompromising devotion to quality and led the company for 51 years.

Robert Thompson

When the Thompson family began back in 1896, Belfast had 25 tea blending companies. Now though Punjana is the last mainstream tea company in the city.

As the 20th Century progressed, the connection with the Thompson family was strengthened and in post-war years, James and Tony Thompson became partners in the company. They were responsible for the birth of the Punjana brand and developed it until they retired in the late 1980´s.

James Thompson, when passing the Gillespie statue in Comber Square, Comber, Co. Down, Northern Ireland noticed an inscription relating to the 'Punjab'. He wanted to use Punjab in the name of his primer tea bend, but it was his wife that toyed with the word and came up with then now famous brand name of Punjana.

Mrs Thompson came up with the brand name Punjana

Ross and David Thompson are joint managing directors of Punjana Limited. They carry on the traditional job of tea tasting and selecting the company´s teas, in much the same way as has been done since the company was founded in 1896.

Punjana is available throughout the UK and Ireland and in better shops in Canada and the USA.

The Atlantic Zone Celts

The Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies will launch a new research project into the Atlantic Zone Celts. This is of great interest to participants in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project as the results confirm that the vast majority of Ulster folk both in the nine counties of historical Ulster and within the Ulster descendant communities in the Diaspora are part of the Atlantic Zone population. The research is called, Project 8: Ancient Britain and the Atlantic Zone (Ireland, Armorica, and the Iberian Peninsula): Celticization from the West?

The research initiative recognizes a potential paradigm shift in Celtic studies. Arguments based in archaeology and genetics have recently been put forward in favour of Celtic origins in the Atlantic Bronze Age rather than the central European territories of the early Hallstatt and La Tène archaeological cultures of the Iron Age. However, a hypothesis of ‘Celticization from the West’ has yet to be fully formulated or tested in detail from the perspective of Celtic and Indo-European historical linguistics. Professor Koch’s recent research on the Tartessian language of the Early Iron Age in southern Portugal and south-western Spain has now suggested similar preliminary conclusions. In its abundance, diversity, archaism, antiquity, and geographic and cultural remoteness from Hallstatt and La Tène, the Hispano-Celtic linguistic evidence sits more comfortably with a theory of Atlantic Bronze Age Celtic origins than with the established central-European model. Celtic scholars, especially in the English-speaking world, have not yet completely ‘factored in’ this material and its implications. Accordingly, the agenda of the project includes collecting, updating, and resifting evidence of the Bronze and Iron Age (third to first millennia BC) to evaluate the case for emergence of the Celtic subfamily of Indo-European in the west.

Under the leadership of Professor John T. Koch the research team combines a breadth of multidisciplinary strengths and interests. Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe was Director of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, from 1972 until his retirement in 2008. He has published prodigiously on periods from later prehistory to Roman times in Britain, Armorica, the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Europe generally. Dr Dagmar S. Wodtko is an Indo-Europeanist with special interests in Celtic and the pre-Roman languages of Spain and Portugal. She has published extensively on Celtiberian, Old Irish, and Proto-Indo-European. Dr Catriona Gibson is a specialist in the Bronze Age of the western Iberian Peninsula with background in field archaeology in Britain, Portugal, and Turkey. Professor Raimund Karl, Bangor University, was formerly a Research Fellow at the Centre. His research interests and publications deal with the Iron Age in Wales and Austria, Celtic social structure, and the Celtosceptic controversy.

Koch is working in the following subject areas: Tartessian, the Brittonic of the ancient and early medieval periods, and the origins of the Irish language and literary tradition. Co-investigator Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe’s input to the project concerns the Bronze Age in the Atlantic Zone. Professor Raimund Karl is contributing on the Irish Sea Region in the Iron Age to Early Middle Ages. Project publications will also include contributions by external experts in Linguistics, Archaeology, and Genetics. The first of these will be a collaborative volume to be published in 2010, edited by Koch and Cunliffe and supported by a British Academy Grant, which will include the papers presented at the forum ‘Celticization from the West’.

To read more follow this link: Project 8

Monday, 20 July 2009

Vintage Ulster Travel Poster

Nothing like a good ramble around ole Ulster Lads and Lassies.... put your walking shoes on!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Music from the Ulster Disapora

From left to right, Jesse Pinion, Donovan McCain, and Conar McCain... live at a club in Oxford, Mississippi.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Mystical Irish Musings Vol 2

Mystical Irish Musings, Vol. 2
Following the success of Mystical Irish Musings Vol. 1, a second volume has been launched.
Vol. 2 follows the same format and style as Vol. 1 and contains 19 interesting and entertaining stories spanning 2½ hours. The package comes on a double CD and contains a six-page photographic insert.
The stories are narrated by the author who is a direct descendant of the Bards of ancient Ireland. They are all true and serve as a vital link between Ireland past and present.
The material will resonate with anyone with a drop of Irish blood (and indeed, those with none!) – those with memories of their own youth and those who listened as children to their parents, grandparents and neighbours.
Some people may find it difficult to visualise a pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland, but Mystical Irish Musings will open a window on a different landscape – social, cultural and historical.
Use the link below for details on all complete series by Brian Mac a' Bhaird.

Mac a' Bhaird

For any queries or to request script, e-mail

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Donegal In Touch Magazine No 4

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

Best wishes 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

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Ghosts of Ulster

Ulster is particularly rich, even infested, with ghosts and other paranormal entities. Here are several examples:

The Headless Horseman of Ballymena, seen often on the road leading to the White Gates, in the Crebilly Road area. Usually seen on 31 October, or Halloween, the ghost is reported to be that of a robber who was decapitated by a thin wire pulled across the road while making, what he thought was, his escape. The headless ghost appears on horseback making what he thought would be his escape.

In the field of cryptology is the giant eel of Lough Neagh. This is a very long black creature, its body thickness twice the size of a man's leg. This massive and as yet unknown type of creature has been observed more than once by boaters out on the loch.

The Green Lady is a haunting manifestation that appears near the Erne Bridge in Ballyshannon. Little is know about the Lady, perhaps a Bean from the Tuatha De Dannan who has a particular affection for the location.

On Lough Derg there is a old galley of the type used by the Norse and Gaels in Medieval times, it is seen always travelling north with gentle singing coming from those on board, whoever they may be.

In 2007 Psychic investigator, Mike Hirons, established Paranormal Ulster to investigate the many paranormal events that take place in Ulster. Mike Hirons was led into this field by his own experience with the paranormal. In 1979 he had an encounter with the apparition of his grandmother, seen shortly after her passing. Over the years he witnessed many light anomalies and he decided to explore the paranormal in depth. This particular type of phenomenon has a long history in the north of Ireland and other places in the British Isles and is associated with the Second Sight.

Paranormal Ulster has assembled a team of talented investigators and they are systematically exploring the hauntings and other paranormal events that take place in Ulster. Their website is highly recommended.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Ulster Scots and Languages

The Scots that migrated to Ulster in the 1600s have a more complex and more Celtic history than many realise. There is a tendency even among many historians to begin their history at the Ulster Plantation in 1610 as if they sprang out of nowhere. Many of the Scots settlers came from Aryshire and Gallowayshire in southwest Scotland and both districts have a history as rich and interesting as any in the Ireland and the British Isles. Part of this history are the languages that have been spoken in the western Scottish Lowlands. The Lowlands were Cymraeg speaking (Welsh) in ancient times and gradually began to shift to Gaelic speaking in Medieval times. The Lowlands even produced one the great Gaelic poets in Walter Kennedy, a member of the Lowlands Kennedy clan and poet from the Galloway Gaeltacht.

In 1455 Walter Kennedy was born in the Carrick distrct of Ayrshire, which was still Gaelic speaking in the 16th Century. Kennedy was the son of Gilbert, first Lord of Kennedy of Dunure and the grandson of Sir James Kennedy and Mary, Countess of Angus, who was the daughter of Robert III, King of Scotland. He graduated from Glasgow University in 1476 and went on to take his MA there in 1478. After his MA he was an examiner at the University of Glasgow and in 1497 he was a representative for the abbey of Crosraguel in Aryshire. He was well to do and owned lands in both Carrick and Galloway.

Like many educated Scots in those days, Kennedy knew Gaelic, Lallans, and Latin, equally well. Only a few of his works survive, which are all written in middles Scots, or Lallans. His wit can be seen in the famous Flyting poem he did with William Dunbar, a rival Scottish poet. A flyting poem is a war of words, a contest, where to poets try to outclass each other with their skills. 'Flyt' is a middle Lallans word for 'quarrel' or 'contention'.

The flyting poem is Schir Johine the Ros, ane thing thair is compild, also known as The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie, and it is a surviving example of the Scottish flyting genre in poetry. Dunbar makes big play of Kennedy's Carrick roots and strongly associates him with Erschry, and the Gaelic bardic tradition. In English and Lallans, all Gaels, be they Lowland, Highland, or Irish, were termed 'Erschry' which even to this day you will hear the term 'Erse' applied to the Gaelic language.

The insults thrown by Dunbar are matched in kind by Kennedy making this Flyting a fine read. The insults are graphic and personal as was the norm in a flyting poem. Dunbar characterises Kennedy as speaking a barbarous Irish dialect, as being physically hideous and withered, poor and hungry, and of having intercourse with mares. Kennedy, by contrast, suggests that Dunbar was descended from Beelzebub, is a dwarf, and has no control of his bowel movements to the point of almost sinking a ship he had been on. Both cast doubt on the other's poetic skill. Kennedy states that he ascends Mount Parnassus to drink of the inspirational waters of the Castalian Spring, but poor Dunbar goes "in Marche or Februere" to a farm pond and drinks the frogspawn.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Armagh Origin Families Needed

Dr John Wright is looking for the descendants of families from Armagh that emigrated circa 1880 through 1930s, especially those that went to Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, or New York. Dr Wright is collecting information on the US experiences of those emigrants from Armagh.

To participate, please email Dr John Wright at:

Dr John R R Wright was educated at Portadown College, Stranmillis University College, Belfast and the University of Ulster. A former teacher and lecturer, he has published two books - Irish Wade, a history of the world famous Wade pottery in Portadown, Co Armagh, and Moses Teggart: Bard of the Boglands - an anthology of the poems of the North Armagh, Victorian poet who left his native county to find fame, if not fortune, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Now retired, he spends his time lecturing on local history, literature, antiques and genealogy. He is married to Emily, a former Co Armagh Dairy Princess, and considers himself fortunate to have three wonderful children, Katherine, Caroline and Bryan and a three year old, livewire, grandson Ben.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Canadian Headstones to Go On line

Jim McKane of Wiarton, Ontario, Canada, has initiated a project that will make Canadian headstone data available to all family history researchers. Jim has developed the Canadian Headstone Photo Project. Each province and territory has its own separate website and database.

The mission of the project is to capture digital images of headstones. As decades pass by many stones are becoming harder, if not impossible, to read. By archiving the images, these important records can be saved to assist future researchers.

If anyone has an interest in helping Jim McKane with this important project, Jim is looking for:

1) people lto upload any and all headstone photos you may possess

2) co-ordinators to assist in "approving" the photos as they are uploaded.

3) volunteers to photograph headstones of cemeteries and upload them.

4) genealogical societies, church groups and others who would like to create a photographic archive of their cemeteries

5) assistance to install a link to on any websites possible.

This Headstone Photo Project is a privately sponsored, non-profit, educational site. Success of the Project will depend completely upon the activities of many volunteers and other individuals who contribute photographs to the archive.

If you can assist in any way or have questions, please email Jim: