Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cigar Burns


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thomsons / Thompsons and King Robert the Bruce


I like Robert the Bruce. For all sorts of reasons I'll not bother boring you with. So I was pleased a few weeks ago when a certain Mr Anderson was good enough to scan a page from The book of Ulster Surnames by Robert Bell, which he blogged about here.The Thompson/Thomson entry reads -

'...The name Thomson is among the first five in Scotland and in the Lowlands was of the same derivation as in England – 'son of Thom'. It was first recorded in 1318 when John Thomson, 'a man of low birth, but approved valour', was commander of the men of Carrick (in Ayrshire) in Edward Bruce's invasion of Ireland...'

The Bruces also came from Carrick - Turnberry to be precise, where their castle was on the site of today's famous golf course. So I did some checking and it was this same John Thomson who led the Bruce retreat from Ireland in 1318.

In the prolific Rev Thomas Thomson's A History of the Scottish People from the Earliest Times (1895) p 252 it says

'...the handful of Scots who survived the defeat were rallied by John Thomson, the leader of the men of Carrick; and having extricated them from the throng he effected a dangerous retreat to Carrickfergus, where they embarked for Scotland...'

I'm sure if I look at Barbour and other early texts I'll find the same Thomson. Our family tradition is that our Thompsons also came from Ayrshire, between Kilmarnock and Troon. The paper records we know of only go back to the mid 1700s, and even that early there was a Thompson family living in the townland where we still live today. I have no idea if I am descended from this much earlier Ayrshire John Thomson, and I expect there's no way to be sure.

But while there's doubt there's always hope - I'm glad he was a Bruce man and came to Ulster with them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

John Knox, died 440 years ago on 24 November 1572

Did anyone mark this anniversary? I doubt it. Wikipedia entry here


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Newtownards 1613

These two artefacts probably date from 1913, the 300th anniversary of the town Charter which was granted by King James I to Hugh Montgomery's blossoming Newtownards in 1613. The crescent/hand/fleur-de-lis symbol is from the Montgomery family coat of arms. It was quite an achievement for a place which (apart from a ruined Priory, a ruined castle next to it, and a ruined Movilla Abbey - all of which had been torched in 1572 by Sir Brian O'Neill to stop the Thomas Smith expedition using the buildings as garrisons) didn't exist until Montgomery and his crew arrived from Scotland in May 1606. Up to 40 towns across Ireland were chartered in 1613; I am aware of some plans to mark the Newtownards 400th anniversary next year. More info to follow in due course.



Friday, November 23, 2012

Tabletalk magazine - free offer for iPad edition

it's also available as a printed publication, but the free offer is only for the iPad version.

> Click here for the iTunes store.
> Click here for more info.


'...When you enter the sanctuary of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, you cannot help but notice the majestic pulpit that rises from the chancel and towers above the congregation. Although the pulpit is relatively plain in its structure and design, there is one unique feature to the pulpit that is noticed only upon a closer look. In the very center is an ornately carved emblem of a cross surrounded by rose petals. The emblem is a replica of the Luther Rose—the crest of the sixteenth-century Reformer Martin Luther. Luther designed the crest to teach the gospel to others, particularly the illiterate and children. The focal point of the Luther Rose draws our eyes to the central tenet of Luther’s theology—the cross.

The cross is set against the backdrop of a heart to remind us that we must believe in Christ with our hearts, which God graciously makes alive by the Holy Spirit. Rose petals surround the heart and the cross to highlight that faith in Christ results in joy, comfort, and peace on account of the finished work of Christ. The rose petals are fixed in a sky of blue to symbolize that our joy in the Holy Spirit by faith is our present hope of the future heavenly joy awaiting us. On the outer edge of the Luther Rose, encompassing the entire emblem, is a gold ring symbolizing the heavenly riches awaiting us in the eternal glory of heaven...'

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Madness - synced Christmas lights and music...

'Granny Went to Meeting with Her Old Shoes On' - an old Kentucky fiddle tune

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Field Notes - the stationery brand for Alan Lomax, Sam Hanna-Bell or Estyn Evans*

I just got an email advertising this range of old fashioned notebooks, pencils and stationery. Glorious. Website here. Beware of some of the language in the video!

Field Notes Brand: From Seed from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.







* what do you mean you don't know who they are??!!!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Hatfields and McCoys - worth a-watchin'!

This recent 6 hour mini-series (official website here) has just been broadcast on Channel 5, a dramatisation of the classic Scotch-irish post-Civil War mountain feud in Kentucky and West Virginia. Gripping viewing. An online review from the Los Angeles Times said: "Although deftly nailed into its time and place with sets and costumes so vivid you can smell the blue wood smoke and the stink of moonshine sweat, Hatfields & McCoys transcends the confines of its age by revealing the feud's posturing, resentments and callous violence that mirror the dynamics of modern urban gangs... It isn't a perfect piece — when faced with a choice between historic detail and story, Hatfields & McCoys errs on the side of detail, which is both the series' greatest strength and weakness."

'...We think of clans today mainly in connection with the Scottish Highlands. But they also existed in the lowlands, northern Ireland and England’s border counties where they were a highly effective adaptation to a world of violence and chronic insecurity. The clans of the border were not precisely the same as those of the Scottish Highlands, and very different from the Victorian contrivances of our own time. They had no formal councils, tartans, sporrans, bonnets or septs. But they were clannish in the most fundamental sense: a group of related families who lived near to one another, were conscious of a common identity, carried the same surname, claimed descent from common ancestors and banded together when danger threatened...' - from Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer (click here)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

WGA Fine Line Art - hand-drawn illustrations

Gordon McFarland's website offers a range of prints of scenes of Ulster. A few are shown below. All are © WGAFineLineArt so don't copy them. Click here for the website gallery and contact information.

BALLYMENA CASTLE (now demolished)





Strategic plan poster

From the Baltimore Print Studio (click here).

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Ards Door - architectural heritage in Newtownards (Castlebawn development)

With the recent news that the Castlebawn development in Newtownards has been given the go-ahead by the Planning Service, even in a climate of opposition from town centre traders and of course financial austerity, there are hopes that two major streets in the town which have been steadily deteriorating into almost-dereliction might finally be given a facelift.

One of the distinctive features of both Court Street and South Street are the remarkable amount of 'Ards doors' a specific arch-shaped doorway design made of distinctive Scrabo stone with a large keystone at the top, which was once such a signature of the town that tourism books describing the area remarked upon them -

'...this land must have changed little since the Viking ships and Norman cogs rolled and staggered through its narrow blue channel. Here and there crumbling Norman keeps rise from the shores, and stone causeways Norman-built link the nearer islands with the mainland. Here again we meet with typical Ulster farmhouses with their spread of whitewashed barns; their doors with fanlights and characteristic trimmings, called Ards doors, on account of their association with that district...'

- from The Face of Ulster by Denis O'D Hanna (1951)

Local features are gradually disappearing, and knowledge of them as well. I hope that someone has the good sense to preserve them, raise awareness of them and maybe they can be recovered as an Ards-specific feature once again. At the very least someone should photograph all of these doorways before any potential renovations are carried out and their distinctiveness is lost forever.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Gerald Anderson's Mumford guitar

I sat beside Gerald on a bus in Washington DC during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in July 2007, where he was part of the Virginia delegation and I was part of the Northern Ireland one. I gave him one of our CDs and he gave me one of his, a gospel CD called "Anchored in Love", a lovely selection of old gems like Drifting Too Far from the Shore, I am a Pilgrim and I'd Rather Have Jesus. Here he is talking about a guitar he recently made for Mumford & Sons, and here's his website.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Twilite Broadcasters - 'Drifting Too Far From the Shore'

I came across this duet a while ago, and not long after that they were featured on the tv show 'Santer'. Great authentic sound. The song was written by Charles Ernest Moody (1891 - 1977) in 1923, who also wrote "Kneel at the Cross" in 1924. Moody was from Georgia and had briefly played in an old-time string band called the 'Georgia Yellow Hammers' - it is said he once swapped his shotgun for a new fiddle. He wrote over 100 hymns and gospel songs. 'Drifting Too Far From the Shore' was made famous by the Monroe Brothers who recorded it in the 1930s.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Barbour Threads brochure, 1896