Friday, May 29, 2009

Some folk from Scotland just don't get it

And here's an example of a Scot, now living in Ulster, over at Ministry of Traybakes. I think Hilary actually knows her.

I can understand the automatic "i hate the politicisation", but the comments about the naming of the very fine Risin' Stour make me rowl ma een...

Well done Mazza922 for settin her straucht.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh no, another oul mandolin has mysteriously arrived in our house...

...but at least this time it's not a sneaky purchase! My cousin's husband called in today to lend me / ask me to repair an old bowlback (or as they say in the USA, "taterbug") mandolin. It was his grandfather's, and I'm guessing it was probably made in the late 1800s. The label inside it says "Francesco Perretti and Figli, fondato nel 1840, Napoli, Italia". It's not in great nick, with five big screws holding the headstock onto the neck, but otherwise it's okay and is definitely repairable. A wee job for some Saturday.

In the battered case is a pile of old music books and sheet music, including Volumes I and III of "Revival Songs for Soul Saving Campaigns", with 1943 written on the cover. There's also a copy of "Elim Choruses", and a few other booklets with stamps on them from bookshops in Belfast and Glasgow.

I'll take a few pics in daylight and will post them here. I'm also going to find out a bit more about his granda, and see if the mandolin has a story to tell.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"The New Calvinism is Changing the World"

Thanks to William for sending me this a few weeks ago:



The 23 March 2009 edition of Time magazine main cover article is entitled: 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.

The number 3 idea, written about on page 25, is entitled: "The New Calvinism".

It is a critical, in some ways hostile article, and yet it is very positive, in that opponents of Reformed Christianity are having to acknowledge its energetic growth and world changing impact.

Calvinism is Back
"If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard 'The Old Rugged Cross', a celebration of the Atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-Is-My-Buddy intimacy of 'Shine Jesus Shine'. And today, more and more top songs feature a God Who is very big, while we are...well...'I am full of earth / you are heaven's worth / I am stained with dirt / prone to depravity'"

"Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th Century reply to Medieval Catholicism's "buy your way out of purgatory excesses" is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging Deity, sinful and puny humanity and predestination...

"Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim; it offers a rock steady Deity who orchestrates absolutely everything...our purpose is fulfilled...'by glorifying Him.' In the 1700s Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon overtaken in the US by movements like Methodism that were more impressed with human will...Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine - and the triumph of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus - seemed to relegate hardcore Reformed a few crotchety Southern churches.

"No more. Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don't operate on a Rick Warren scale. But...everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world...

"The Calvinist flavoured ESV Study Bible sold out it's first printing, and Reformed blogs...are cyber Christendom's hottest links...

"More moderate Evangelicals are exploring clues for the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket assurance.

"'A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation', says Collin Hansen, author of 'Young, Restless and Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists'. 'They have plenty of friends: What they need is God.

"The moment someone begins to define God's being or actions Biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinists."

"Calvin's 500th Birthday will be this July...more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy."

Energy and Passion
The above quotes from the Time magazine article by David van Biema, may not understand all that the Reformed Faith stands for, but he is clearly impressed by its dynamic energy and growing global influence. It is also interesting to notice the journalist's contempt for Methodism that seems "more impressed with human will", and the "Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of 'Shine Jesus Shine'", and the "friendly fuzzy Jesus" of most Evangelicals today.

The terms used to describe today's Calvinists are hardly meant to be positive, and yet this journalist has to recognised that Calvinism has "a rock solid Deity who orchestrates absolutely everything" and "everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world".

This journalist seems to appreciate that while modern Evangelicals are satisfied with converts, Reformed Christians are dedicated to making disciples. And not only disciples of individuals, but of nations, all nations. As van Biema notes, Calvinism affects "absolutely everything."

Also interesting is his observation that "the moment someone begins to define God's being or actions Biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist." By implication he notes that most modern Evangelicals are less than Biblical and "more impressed with human will."

Turning the Tide
So often Christians see our position like that of the Dutch - building dykes to keep our the ocean tides from their land, much of which lies below sea level. Many Christians see their position as similar to the young Dutch boy putting his finger in the hole in the dyke to stop a leak while his sister went to raise the alarm. We are trying to hold back the tide of this ocean of paganism.

However, Reformed Christians should understand that the situation is actually the reverse. It is not our calling to hold back the tide of paganism, but rather to turn the tide of Christianity. Time, history and the power of Almighty God are on our side. It is the Humanists who are frantically building dykes to keep out the rising tide of Christianity. We are called to be the light of the world. All the darkness cannot put out the smallest light. Even a small flickering candle can defeat the darkness around it. Not all the darkness can put out even the smallest candle.

"The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:14

"The Lord will be awesome to them when He destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship Him, everyone in his own land." Zephaniah 2:11

"The Lord will be King over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His Name the only Name." Zechariah 14:9

This is what the Great Commission calls us to: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto Me. Therefore go and makes disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you..." Matthew 28:18-20

This is what it means to pray the Lord's Prayer: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10

The Lord has granted believers the keys of heaven, what we bind on earth will be bound, what we loose will be loosed. The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus Who loves us (Romans 8:37). Greater is Him Who is in us than him who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

When we understand this, it becomes clear that it is, in fact, the paranoid Atheists and Secular Humanists who are desperately trying to plug up the cracks in their dykes as the rising tide of Christianity threatens to sweep away their filth and rebellion against Almighty God.

Cracks in the Dykes of Humanism
There are many encouraging cracks in the dykes: successful Christian films are putting cracks into the dykes of Humanism in Hollywood. Christian community radio stations are breaking the Secular Humanist monopoly on the airwaves. Christian magazines are breaking into what has been a secular dominant market in the magazine racks in shops and supermarkets. There is a great spiritual hunger with tens of thousands of men turning out to old-fashioned Gospel preaching. The rise in Christian schooling and home schooling, the growth of Focus of the Family and the establishment of the Creation Museum, all of these represent seismic events which are putting cracks in the dykes of Humanism. These are only a small foretaste of the coming spiritual tsunami when God will send a spiritual revival that will fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord as the seas are full of water. The dykes of Humanism cannot stand. It is for us to remain steadfast, immovable, faithful, diligent, resolute and energetic for the Kingdom of God.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:57-58


Friday, May 22, 2009

The 12th and Guilty Prods

I am currently a guilty Prod. Not the usual type though - ie not because I'm ashamed of some colonial oppression that my forefathers are alleged to have imposed on the natives (what opportunities did poor peasant farmers and hand-to-mouth fishing folk have to do such a thing anyway?*) - but because we have decided to go to England for a week with the weans, during which we'll hope to call in with Hilary's parents - and because of other diary commitments we may well have to leave on the 11th of July. Meaning we will miss the 12th.

I enjoy the 12th. It gives me a chance to coat-trail in a rather triumphalist fashion as we watch the bands twice, yarn to folk in the field, and eat warm egg and onion sandwiches out of the back of the car. And try to stop the weans spending their special 12th-Day-only £5 handouts on red white and blue tat like spray-on hair dye and Red Hand of Ulster sunglasses with wee holes in them. On that score, I usually fail.

This could well be only the third 12th I have missed in my 37 years. To do so will be a shameful dereliction of my duty to uphold the cause. Therefore I will have to enter into high-level wifely negotiations to adjust the travel arrangements.

[ * to be specific, on my da's side of the family he is one of five children, raised by a widowed mother that scraped a living out of 3 acres. On my mother's side, she is one of nine children rared in a three room house with a tin roof, and whose only breadwinner was their building site labourer father. Burning down the nearest chapel in the middle of the night was probably not top of the to do list.

It makes the 1920's Depression situation in America, which Gillian Welch summarised the rural experience as being where "...We lease 20 acres and one Ginny mule from the Alabama Trust..." sound like the lap of luxury. Here's the song on YouTube, with a great slideshow video.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

David Pauley - Police Dog Blues

Here's a YouTube clip of a Belfast-based photographer friend of mine - wish I could pick the blues like this!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just the usual pre-Summer news story

Yep, it's back again, just the same as every other year...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Gospel and the Four Nations

My uncle Henry used to quote this old saying: -

The gospel gives the English something to talk about, the Welsh something to sing about, the Irish* something to fight about, and the Scots something to shout about... because it's free!

(* usual caveats apply).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hippies with Banjos part 2

I seem to have struck a chord with some of you after that recent post!

The irony of it all is that I'm now using my (worldly) guitar and mandolin to play some very old hymns indeed - and I'd suggest faaaaar older than the stuff that most church organists or praise groups play every Sunday across the country. The most extreme example is that I'm currently tinkering with some of the songs from the Gude and Godlie Ballates, first published in 1546.

But there's just nothing like being in a wee hall somewhere with people really belting out a mighty old hymn! As the multi-genre group Alabama 3 wrote in their track "Ain't Going to Goa" - "...when I want consciousness expansion, I go to my local tabernacle and I SING!..."

Congregational singing seems to be declining, and this is causing concern in the more discerning corners of the evangelical world. In days gone by, the power of song was fully understood. In 1912 Ulster, it's no accident that the great political gatherings at the time of Ulster's Solemn League and Covenant began with the thousands who were gathered singing hymns - it binds people together. Football or rugby matches are our only comparison today - Abide With Me at the FA Cup Final, or the marvellous Welsh anthem:

Here's a great wee song that celebrates the atmosphere and content of old-time gospel meetings - it's a bit corny, but I love it!:

O how well I remember in the old-fashioned days,
When some old-fashioned people had some old-fashioned ways;
In the old-fashioned meetings, as they tarried there
In the old-fashioned manner, how God answer'd their pray'r.

Twas an old-fashioned meeting in an old-fashioned place,
Where some old-fashioned people had some old-fashioned grace;
As an old-fashioned sinner I began to pray,
And God heard me and saved me in the old-fashioned way.

There was singing, such singing of those old fashioned airs
There was power, such power in those old fashioned prayers
Old fashioned conviction made the sinner pray
And the Lord heard and saved them in the old fashioned way

If the Lord never changes, as the fashions of men,
Even though He's the same, why, He is old-fashioned, then!
As an old-fashioned sinner saved thru old-time grace,
O, I'm sure He will take me to an old-fashioned place.

Objections to Ulster-Scots: Part Six

because it doesn't really exist "on the ground"

I hear this objection now and again, usually uttered by people who have either lost or rejected their rural roots - the sort of people for whom their closest contact with rural Ulster is the car park at M&S. And therefore their only contact with Ulster-Scots is the publicity-led variety, which tends to be that of public bodies and their marketeers, not that of organic local communities.

Rooted Ulster-Scots remains a quiet, modest wee thing that shuns the limelight. It resides in small local communities. As JB Woodburn indicated in the poem he purposefully chose to quote on the title page of his 1914 epic book "The Ulster Scot" -

He came from the North and his words were few
But his voice was kind and his heart was true.

However, the majority of what might be called "organised Ulster-Scots community groups" - the ones that are geared up to apply for funding, that hold high profile events, and who run local projects week in week out - are often outside of what might be seen as the traditional Ulster-Scots areas. North Down, the Ards, mid Antrim - there are very few organised, funding-applying and therefore high profile groups in those places. That in itself is an interesting dynamic.

As with most things in life, the real stuff is usually off the radar. You need to make a bit of effort to find and experience it, but it's definitely there. I'm told that if you want to visit Rome, go to the small, almost forgotten prison cell of the Apostle Paul, not the world-famous tourist magnet of the Colosseum. In America, don't go to New York, Florida or Disneyland - fly into Atlanta and hire a car, and get up into the small mountain communities. In Scotland, spend some time in Old Cumnock never mind cosmopolitan but kitschy historic Edinburgh.

In terms of Ulster-Scots, choose to sidestep the obvious and high profile - get your hands dirty (or clarried) among wee local communities. Ulster-Scots probably won't skip past you wrapped from head to toe in tartan wearing a big sticker saying "I am Ulster-Scots". You have to know what you're looking for. Ulster-Scots will look at you through the smiling eyes of the wee woman in the Post Office, or speak to you through the lilting voice of the man selling freshly landed fish at the market stall. Or greet you on a Sunday morning with a strong handshake that's been stooking bales all its life. Or be expressed in the stone walls of farmsteads, village streetscapes and ancient castles and abbeys.

Ulster-Scots is everywhere. You just need to tune in to the right frequency.

Previous articles in this series:
> Part Five
> Part Four
> Part Three
> Part Two
> Part One
> Intro
> What is Ulster-Scots?

Monday, May 11, 2009

A bit of Sluggerage (Slugger coverage)

Over at Slugger O'Toole they've been following my recent series on Objections to Ulster-Scots. This post caught my eye, but (unfortunately) true to form only 2 out of the 60-odd comments on the thread actually pass comment on my articles - the rest are just people slagging each other off.

'Burn reader stats are still at around a healthy 1300 - 1500 unique visitors per month, with half from the UK, a quarter from the USA, and the rest from ROI, Canada, Australia and continental Europe.

Which reminds me, I must get the Objections series finished...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Ulster-Scots Music? The Fiddle - "The Devil's Box"


I can vividly remember when I was about 18, being publicly lambasted one Sunday morning by an older man in the gospel hall I grew up in, as he ministered after the breaking of bread. Word had clearly reached him that I was committing the heinous act of playing the guitar in public at another ("looser") hall in Newtownards from time to time. He didn't mention me by name, but it was clear as crystal to everyone at the morning meeting just who he was referring to in his rant about "hippies with banjos in the meetings". (Just to reassure you, I had short hair, and it was a guitar, not a banjo...)

This is nothing new. There's a strain of transatlantic Scots/Ulster-Scots/Scotch-Irish culture which spurns musical instruments, especially those which are perceived to be "worldly". It's probably connected to the mid 1800s religious revivals that swept through Scotland, Ulster and America, but it predates those too.

An excellent book on the subject is "The Devil's Box - Masters of Southern Fiddling" by the late Charles Wolfe. Published in 1997, it charts the rise of the fiddle as a popular instrument in the USA, and the early recordings which turned country fiddlers into superstars of their time:

"...they called the instrument "The Devil's Box" because some thought it was sinful to play one. Sometimes in recent years, people would be tearing down old log cabins to get at the logs and they would find hidden in the wall an old beat-up fiddle. At first they puzzled about this, but then people explained that the man who lived there was once a fine old-time fiddler, but that in later years he had gotten religion. In his zeal, he became convinced that he must turn his back on his old life, and especially the devil's instrument, the fiddle... many newly saved fiddlers took their instruments and smashed them against the wall. But others, unable to part with the heirlooms they had devoted much of their lives to, quietly dropped them behind the walls of their cabins and kept quiet, hoping perhaps that some day in the future, in a kinder and more tolerant age, someone would find them and let them be heard again..."

It has often been observed that Ulster Protestants do not have the same type, or same quantity, of traditional folk music as Irish Catholics do. This is then extrapolated to an extreme position of "Prods have no culture". [see Edna Longley, "Ulster Protestants and the Question of Culture", in "Last Before America - Irish and American Writing", 2001 ] There is of course a certain amount of what might be crudely termed Ulster Protestant (non-religious or non-Orange) folk music, but not that much of it has been collected, published or "packaged". Yet.

My own view is that most of the musical energies of the Protestant community in Ulster (particularly in the late 1800s and early 1900s around the religious revivals of 1859, Moody/Sankey and WP Nicholson, and the three Home Rule crises) generally went in two directions - either into religious music or the marching bands. As more research goes on, it is clear that many of the major hymnwriters of the late 1800s had Ulster roots. Here's just one example - Robert Lowry, whose parents emigrated to the USA from Killyleagh in County Down. To compare gospel music with classical for a moment, this is akin to finding that Beethoven was an Ulster-Scot.

Ach, but there you go again Thompson, this is all just either religious or political. Well, as Bill C. Malone observed in this great book, even in the USA there was a deep anti-religious bias amongst those who had set themselves up as the "experts" on musical traditions in the early 20th century. As the song collectors scoured the mountains and rural Scotch-Irish communities looking for untapped reservoirs of music there were"...scores of items that came from the gospel tradition... this music was generally ignored by the apostles of high culture...". It is deeply revealing when Malone goes on to say that "hillbilly music did not fit the idealized version of folk music promoted by the collectors and their allies... but it did conform marvellously to the reality of plain folk-life..." (p. 18)

There is a big job of work to be done in analysing the musical output and movements within the Ulster Protestant community over the last 150 years. Our music might not wear an aran sweater and play in a themed pub among Guinness and oysters. Our traditional indoor venues are church, fireside or Orange hall, among tea and egg & onion sandwiches; our outdoor venues are the public road or the Field (and the tea and egg and onion sandwiches go there too).

But maybe Prods have no culture, eh?


To finish back with fiddlers - one of the earliest recorded American players was Fiddlin' John Carson, who played the fiddle that his grandfather had brought with him when he emigrated from Ireland/Ulster in 1780. And three others were Alec "Eck" Robertson, Henry Gilliland and "Uncle" Jimmy Thompson. One of the earliest American fiddle recordings was of a tune called "Glory in the Meeting House" (see video below) - with names like these, it's fair to expect that there's a deep Ulster-Scots dimension to all of this.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Savage Family in Ulster

Thanks to Fiona McDonald for this - she referred to George Savage Armstrong in a recent post over on her own blog "Newton Lass" - I had forgotten about his writings, so here's a taster excerpt for you all, on my favourite subject - the mighty Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement which began in May 1606:

" colonies of Scots were brought into the Great Ards and Clandeboy by Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton respectively; the two families of Montgomery and Hamilton had now established themselves in the County of Down ; and it is interesting to note that James Hamilton (who afterwards seems to have become a trusted friend of both Henry Savage and his uncle Roland), had been a Fellow of the new College of the Holy Trinity to which Henry Savage was in due time to be sent.

Among the colonists were the founders of many other Scottish families whose names frequently figure in connection with the Savages, and with the history of the County of Down in succeeding years, — Nevins, Bailys, Shaws, Boyds, Rosses, M'Gills, and others; and the Scottish settlers brought with them the Lowland Scottish dialect, chiefly that of Ayrshire, which was for a long time the dominant language of the Ards and is still spoken by many of the older inhabitants north of the Blackstaffe River..."

from "The Savage Family in Ulster", p 196, by George Francis Savage-Armstrong (1906)

He also gathered up a lot of poems which were published as "Ballads of Down" in 1901. I might post a few here over the next while

Printing - another Ulster-Scots industry

Much is made of Belfast's great shipbuilding industry and its Scottish roots - and rightly so. But that's sometimes as far as the Ulster-Scots industrial story goes. Box ticked, job done, move on.

Printing is another very important one, and I would suggest that it was more revolutionary than commercial industries - because printing and publishing created an intellectual revolution. About 34 different titles were printed in Belfast before 1750. Back in Scotland, printing was a far more developed industry and had begin in 1508. But Ulster, and Belfast in particular, caught up quickly. Here's an overview of the early stuff -

1694 - Patrick Crawford, Ulster Presbyterian, and a member of the Belfast Corporation, decides that Belfast needs its own printing press. A press had been brought over by the army of King William III, but it went back to England.

Crawford brought Patrick Neil, an experienced printer from Glasgow, and his apprentice brother-in-law, James Blow, to Belfast. The Blows were from Culross, Fife. They went into partnership with Crawford, and founded "Patrick Neil and Company".

1699 - their first Belfast publication was "The Psalms of David in Meeter" (a copy is in the Linenhall Library)

1705 - a bound edition was presented to First Belfast Meeting House, and in it was an advertisement for other Patrick Neil and Co books:

- Christ's Famous Titles by William Dyer
- Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
- A Choice Drop of Honey from the Rock Christ
- Advice for Assurance of Salvation by Robert Craghed (1702)
- The Bible (1704, no known surviving copy)

Neil died in 1705, and Blow carried on the business with his son Daniel Blow. Later printings included

- An Elegy to Arthur Upton by Rev James Kirkpatrick (1707)
- The Experienced Huntsman by Arthur Stringer, Huntsman to Lord Kilultagh (1714)
- The Church Catechism in Irish and English (1722)
- The Bible, known as Blow's Bible (1751)
- Another edition of the Bible (1755)
- Discourse on the Lord's Supper by Henry Groves (1758)

The Blows were non-subscribing Presbyterians, and so in true Ulster-Scots style, the other Presbyterians decided to set up their own printing outlet, with a Robert Gardner in 1713. The Blows were also paper merchants, and sold paper to other printers who were springing up in Belfast.

They also printed on contract for Dublin printers. The biggest of these was George Grierson, who was appointed the King's Printer. On one contract alone the Blows printed 8,000 Bibles for Grierson - the Griersons themselves were originally from Galloway in south west Scotland with large estates near Dumfries and Kirkcudbright... and related to the ruthless Covenanter persecutor Grierson of Lagg. George Grierson had arrived in Dublin around 1703 and almost immediately began printing large quantities of Bibles and the Book of Common Prayer. He was an Anglican - and so perhaps life in post-Revolution Scotland was uncomfortable for the wider family of a notorious Covenanter killer.

The first printed Ulster-Scots linguistic material was a series of "Scotch Poems" in the Ulster Miscellany, printed in 1753.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

'Shotts Kirk Revival, 1630' by Jock Purves

Thanks to Jack for this one, from Jock Purves' book "Fair Sunshine":

Shotts Kirk stauns hie ayont thae knowes;
Thae scrogs o'whin, thae hidlins howes;
An' wavin' bent gress muirs;
Shotts Kirk o' availin' prayers,
Hert cries Heeven heard an' holie vows;
In the Fire o' God, the Spirit's lowes.

Shotts Kirk a' alowe wi' God Himsel!
An' a' forgat but Heaven an' Hell!
An' Evangelist Livingstone -
Whaur deidstanes staun aroon -
Alleve untae God, in the daithless Evangel,
Proclaimin' the Message, ne'er trysted wi' angel.

The Kirk O'Shotts revival was one of a sequence of three Ulster-Scots revivals of the early 1600s. The first was at Stewarton in Ayrshire (1623 - 1630), then to east Ulster for the SixMileWater Revival (1625 - 1634), and then back to Scotland again for the Kirk O' Shotts in 1630. These revivals took place among the same type of people, separated by water and migration, but with common roots, mindsets and spiritual conditions - for example Robert Blair was involved at Stewarton and Sixmilewater, and John Livingstone was involved at Sixmilewater and Kirk O'Shotts. There's also a big Hamilton & Montgomery spine than connects all three.

Monday, May 04, 2009

1690 and the Scotch Irish

This isn't quite what you might expect! (this probably is though!)

I was digging through some files this morning, for a reader in Alabama who had emailed me some questions, so I thought I should post the information here for benefit of any other researchers out there.

The first use of the term "Scotch Irish" in America was in Somerset County, Maryland, in an affadavit recorded on 15 March 1689/1690 in a hearing to bring charges against a Matthew Scarborough:

"I William Pattent was at worke at James Minders and one night as I was at worke Mr Matt: Scarbrough came into the house of sd Minders and sett down by me as I was at work, the sd Minder askt him if he came afoot, he made answer again and sd he did, saying that man, meaning me, calling me Rogue makes me goe afoot, also makes it his business to goe from house to house to ruinate me, my Wife and Children for ever. I made answer is it I Mr.Scarbrough(?) and he replyed and said ay you, you Rogue, for which doing ile whip you and make my Wife whipp to whipp you, and I answered if ever I have abused (you) at any time, or to any bodies hearing, I will give you full satisfaction to your own Content. (At which Scarbrough said) You Scotch Irish dogg it was you, with that he gave me a blow on the face saying it was no more sin to kill me then to kill a dogg, or any Scotch Irish dogg, giving me another blow in the face. now saying goe to yr god that Rogue and have a warrant for me and I will answer it. Wm. Patent"

I suspect Mr Scarborough was English, and Mr Patent was an Ulsterman!

Significantly, (not the first) but an important early Ulster-Scots migration was led by Rev Francis Makemie from Donegal soemtime between 1682 and 1684, and they landed at this very location - Somerest County in Maryland. Makemie had graduated from Glasgow University, where he was enrolled as "Scoto-Hybernus".

• this information is from the Scotch-Irish Rootsweb list
• Info on Makemie from the American Presbyterian Church website is available here

Friday, May 01, 2009

Where is God? / A King in Exile

There's an easy wee question for a Friday afternoon. My oldest son, Jacob (10), is now starting to ask life's big questions - why do bad things happen, why doesn't God show himself, all of that sort of thing. A lot of people ask these questions, and it's good to see Jacob growing up and thinking about these things. So I went to the EP shop in Belfast last week and came home with a bagful of booklets for young people, John Blanchard and the like, and Jacob's reading his way through them.

I'm no theologian (thanks to Crawford's writings, Robin's advice and other folk too I'm a recovering dispensationalist!) and for those of you who are your toes will probably curl as I expand this post. I'm going to explore a wee bit around the idea of "a King in exile", and see if there are any scriptural parallels that emerge. More to come later on...


... well, since I posted the bit above, my internet connection has been playing up so I've had a bit longer to think about this than I thought. So I'm going to keep this simple.

(Caveat: Every metaphor breaks down at some stage, because it's in some way different from the thing it seeks to describe. Plus, trying to explain God through a human example is never going to work)

• At this very moment, there are many kings and princes in exile - in Ulster-Scots terms, King Robert the Bruce's 6 months on Rathlin Island in 1306/1307 is a good example. Today, most exiled kings are mainly African and Asian, now living in the West. For generations their families ruled their kingdoms and provinces, but at some point there was an enemy attack, or a coup d'état, or a popular uprising, and the King was ousted, rejected by the people and forced into exile. An opposing force now rules his kingdom. For the time being he is at best semi-detached, and cannot exercise his full authority.

He's not entirely absent - he has a resistance movement of sympathisers and supporters who are still there, maintaining as much loyalty as they can, but sometimes they are discouraged and demoralised. He communicates with them via longwave radio broadcasts, or maybe through tv and YouTube (here's an example of the exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi of Iran on CNN) Sadly, the general public of the country may have adjusted to life under the new overlord, and may even have come to despise the King. However, he maintains an active interest in the affairs of his kingdom, and may even have planted a network of covert agents there who provide him with regular information about the situation. Ultimately, he is planning to return, to retake his rightful place as the Sovereign of that country and to rule it the way he always intended. This may require a military invasion - and above all, perfect timing.

So for the moment he is biding his time, mustering his forces, communicating with his supporters and waiting and watching until the time is right to take back his kingdom.

• The basic Christian position is that the world was once a utopia, ruled in harmony by God - an Eden if you will. But there was a coup d'état, the people rejected him, and ever since the world has been (to some extent) under enemy occupation. However, He's already been back, for 33 years, and is currently planning His eventual permanent return. But for the time being, the world remains detached from His full authority and control, and utopia will not be restored until the return, the invasion, takes place and triumphs.

So we live in a compromised world, where bad things happen, where evil prospers. Good people get sick. Bad people get away with murder.
Things that every fibre of our being tell us are not right, are unfair, seem to succeed. Yet that very thought, that sense of fair play, and of right and wrong behaviour, are surely signals that something has gone wrong in this world - that things are not the way they should be...

(In talking to someone about this over the weekend, I'm told that Ulsterman CS Lewis explores this concept much more eloquently in "Mere Christianity", in the chapter entitled "The Invasion" and "The Shocking Alternative". Here's an excerpt:

"...The difference is that Christianity thinks... it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy-occupied territory - that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage..." )

I hope there is something useful in this post.