Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rev W. R. Megaw (1885–1953): From Carrowdore to Princeton to Ahoghill: minister, author and naturalist.

Megaw

 

Rev R.T. Megaw was minister of Carrowdore Presbyterian Church in the 1880s. In 1885 his son, William Rutledge Megaw was born. He would have been knocking about Carrowdore in my great-grandparents’ time. He followed his father towards the Presbyterian ministry and after a childhood in Carrowdore he went to RBAI, then Queens University and finally to Princeton in the USA.

He returned to Ulster and took up the role of minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Ahoghill in County Antrim in 1910. A local poet wrote this quite superb Ulster-Scots poem just after hearing Megaw’s first sermon, on Sunday 10 April 1910: 

First impressions aft are lastin’

Whither bad ur whither guid,

Pardon, an’ I’ll tell ye my yins

In a simple bit o’ screed;

Born an’ broucht up in the district,

Niver bein’ far frae hame,

Sma’ wunner that my words are common,

An’ ideas awfoo tame

Foo dull this day.

Hooiver, freens, this peacefoo fixture

Minds me o’ lang years ago,

Whun the church wus mair auld-farrent

Baith inside an’ oot ye know;

What the venerable F. Buick

Preach’d the Word tae rich and poor;

Sacred be his name fur iver

Fur flingin’ wide the Gospel door

Foo guid that day.

Whas sturdy henchman an’ assistant,

Mr McConachie o’ fame;

A fearless, faithfoo Gospel preacher,

Regerdin’ whom we think nae shame,

Assisted an’ succeeded later

By him wha cud “catch-his-pals”;

Bit Mr Pyper did “surrender”

Tae the folk o’ “Derry Wal’s”

Foo firm this day.

Revertin’ mair til’ present moments,

Wae expecations reemin’,

Anent Trinity Church o’ hope,

Whar “Love” and’ faith are beamin’,

Becas his Mester sent alang,

His servant, young Mega’,

Noo weel ordain’d as pastor here

By Presbyterian la’,

Foo nice this day.


Son o’ the Manse, wae bright career,

He comes, we trust, fur guid,

Provin’ himself baith in an’ oot

A clargieman indeed;

We wish tae see the “B” degree

Knock’d oot by cubit’s darts,

An’ like the sang replaced ‘fore lang

By “M” atrimonial “A” rts

Foo gled some day.

The prayers an’ expositions, friens,

O’ Young Mr Mega’

Did me a world o’ lastin guid

Afore he preached ava’,

Although his sermon, weel got up,

Wus jist as weel laid doon,

He hurl’d the darts right at our hearts,

An’ no’ up at the moon

Foo heich this day.

His theme wus Christ the Crucified,

Nane else he wants til’ know,

Nur preach til’ plase himsel’ alane,

Nur heich, middle, ur low;

Yit varied as the rainbow’s hues

He show’d this theme til’ be

Heich as the sky, wide as the earth,

An’ like the michty sea

Foo deep this day.

The la’ the Prophets, big an’ wee,

An’ Gospels wur the same,

Epistles sweet, al’ pointed tae

The Crucified’s dear name;

Wae sic’ a theme an’ sic’ a place,

An’ sic’ a time as this,

An’ sic’ a school, an’ sic’ a church?

The hale thing jist means bliss

Foo great this day.

– Randerin’ Rhymer, Cullybackey, 11th April, 1910 (reproduced from this website)

Megaw published at least three books: Nature’s Speech (1930), Ulota (1934) and Carragloon: Tales of Our Townland (1935), and edited the second edition of A Flora of the North East of Ireland with R.L Praeger which was published in 1938. Megaw was a prominent member of Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club, as a specialist algae and moss collector. He became President of the Club, and also became a member of the Royal Irish Academy,

Despite all of his education and erudition, a Carrowdore childhood and an Ahoghill ministry means he would have understood the poem with nae bother.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sankey's hymns - "Scottish and Irish in its construction"

Last week I was up at the annual Keswick at Portstewart convention, with about 1000 people in a big tent. The event has been going for over 100 years every summer. The bookstall people were doing a bargain offer on a book about the American evangelist DL Moody, for just £1. How could I resist?

Moody’s musical partner was Ira D Sankey, of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and their music made a vast impact worldwide. Here’s a few pics of pages from the book, recalling the observations of a Glasgow journalist on Moody & Sankey’s début in Scotland in the 1870s. Now bear in mind that Scotland had never heard this kind of sacred music before. And it was in its own way scandalous as it introduced a 'new' sacred musical style different from the Psalmody tradition. But, like the Wedderburns before in 1520s Scotland, Sankey’s hymnwriting bore the recognisable hallmarks of popular folk music:

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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ancient Ards: Ballyhalbert motte & standing stone

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SAM 1666 The Anglo-Norman motte at Ballyhalbert probably dates from around the early 1200s; the megalithic standing stone further down the slope could date from around 2000BC. There was another similar stone about a mile away at Ballyhemlin until fairly recently, and some accounts say a third one nearby but I'm not sure of the location. Further down the coast at Millin Bay is a network of burial chambers which is even earlier, around 3000 – 2500BC. It's a great spot for a sunrise breakfast picnic. And near there is Tara Hill, an ancient earthwork. Some geologists have suggested there might have been a 'land bridge' connecting Ireland and Scotland, at around 6000BC (see here).

IrishSights Archaeology has some great drone footage of various local features; Ardquin Abbacy below was where an 'Inquisition' was held to pin down which parcels of land were owned/claimed by local landlords, before King James VI & I approved the Hamilton & Montgomery scheme of 1606.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"The genetic make-up we see is really one of perhaps 1400 years ago"

According to this article from The Telegraph in March 2015, not much has changed since about 600AD:

The ‘People of the British Isles’ study analysed the DNA of 2,039 people from rural areas of the UK, whose four grandparents were all born within 80km of each other. Because a quarter of our genome comes from each of our grandparents, the researchers were effectively sampling DNA from these ancestors, allowing a snapshot of UK genetics in the late 19th Century before mass migration events caused by the industrial revolution.

I think I might have volunteered for this project, which (if I am right) I applied for in writing and was then invited to the Belfast City Hospital to give a blood sample for (at which I nearly fainted, which is why it sticks in my mind). It was somewhere around 2005 I think.

Below is the map from the Telegraph article showing the various peoples & regions at around 600AD (it’s not accurate for Ulster by the way - Dalriada was just one of the eastern ‘kingdoms’ - see previous post here), and then below it is the project’s genetic map from 2015.

There is a clear ‘genetic cluster’ of people with the same ancestry in Ulster and western Scotland. Genetically, people across Ireland and Scotland are not very different. Culturally of course there is much variation even within both. The Lowland Scots that Ayrshiremen Hamilton & Montgomery brought over to settle on the former O’Neill lands in 1606 were the direct descendants of those whom, 300 years before, earlier Ayrshiremen Edward Bruce and Robert the Bruce had brought over to form an alliance with those O’Neills in 1315.

And of course the links and two-way migrations go back much farther than that...

Project website is here
Project Wikipedia is here 

 

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

"Sacred Parodies of Secular Folk Songs"

I hope to be in Fife later in the summer, and am planning to visit Dundee to see not only Desperate Dan but also the plaque to the Wedderburn brothers. This 1938 article about them, by Anne Gilchrist in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, provided the title for this post.

Soon after he became unintentionally famous in 1517, Martin Luther's writings travelled across the North Sea into the ports of Edinburgh and St Andrews, smuggled inside barrels as illegal contraband. The Wedderburn brothers became committed Lutherans, and spread the newly-Reformed Gospel through music and street theatre. They took the familiar folk songs of their day and wrote new, Reformed, lyrics. Some of their work has been recorded in recent years.

I also then remembered that earlier this year I heard a man at the People’s Hall in Portavogie sing a gospel song to the tune The Fields of Athenry. His version was much better than the YouTube one below! But you get the idea. 

Orange tunes are great for this, as are Irish tunes such as Galway Bay and The Wearing Of The Green, and Scottish tunes like The Rowan Tree and The Road and the Miles to Dundee.

The Wedderburns were at it in the 1520s, and it’s still being done today. Luther said he had nearly killed himself with religious devotions, confessions:

"I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I.  All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out.  If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work."

And then he opened the Bible and began to read what it said. The message he found there? No-one can make themselves right with God. Jesus Christ came to do that job, and He has done it all. 'It is Finished’.

It’s an offer that’s open to all who will receive it. Luther didn’t invent it, it had been there all along. It can be traced right back from 1500s Luther to the New Testament churches of the first century. He was just in the right place and the right time, with new technology - the printing press - to take it to the world in a simple and relevant format. Religion as control was replaced by a liberating faith. Read more about Luther’s world-changing discovery and influence with these free PDFs.

(UPDATE: this week only, renowned US Presbyterian R.C. Sproul is giving away a FREE 10-part download about Luther and the Reformation - click here

Outside the city wall 
I heard a large crowd calling, 
Mocking, scorning those who suffered there 
As they hoisted up on high 
Three more men condemned to die 
The voice of one man echoed through the air 

“Eli lama sabachthani 
My God why have you turned your back on me”? 
“It is finished,” then he cried 
As he hung his head and died, 
Messiah crucified for you and me 

Outside the city wall 
I watched the darkness falling 
As the power  of sin and death had done their worst 
And the one who made the light 
Hung abandoned in the night 
And he who made the oceans said “I thirst” 

Outside the city wall 
I heard a young man calling 
“Woman, take this man to be your son” 
And he turned his face to see 
One who said “Remember me” 
And said, “ with me to paradise you’ll come” 

Outside the city wall 
I heard a young man calling 
“Forgive them Father, they don’t understand 
For the man was God’s own son 
And His work on earth was done 
And then he placed his spirit in Gods hand

 

P5055

Thursday, July 06, 2017

“American ancestry” = Scots-Irish ancestry?

American1346

 

I’ve had to abbreviate that title from a longer quote in this very interesting article:

... Areas with a high prevalence of “American ancestry” also tend to have a prevalence of Scots-Irish ancestry, which was a large cohort of Protestant immigrants in the 1700s who arrived in the U.S. from northern Ireland and southern Scotland with few resources and wound up settling predominantly in the uplands, partly because the fertile lowlands were already occupied and partly because the emptiness of the hills was more amenable to their anti-establishment leanings. “American ancestry” may function something of a stand-in for having Scots-Irish or “borderer" ancestry ...

I've been to the one which comes out top of the league table, Virginia's 9th District, twice or maybe even three times. I remember remarking to our kids when were in Bristol last July (on the Virginia / Tennessee state line), buying a burger in the café where Hank Williams was last seen alive, that from looking at the people around us - the other customers and the staff - their shape, their faces, their complexions, that we could have been in Newtownards or Ballywalter.

Last November Virginia's 9th voted 68.8% for Trump.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

“an American eagle on the wing and rising”

This is how Maghera-born Charles Thomson described in heraldic terms his sketch for the proposed Great Seal of the United States of America, in which he had been assisted by William Barton, the son of a Monaghan minister Rev Thomas Barton.

The similarity with the name of the 1636 emigrant ship ‘Eagle Wing’ is tantalising.

President Seal Gold HR

US Great Seal Charles Thomson Preliminary Design

Happy 4th July - Pittsburg Dispatch 12 February 1889

Pittsburg Dispatch 12 02 1889

Monday, July 03, 2017

Every story!

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"If defeated everywhere else..." that Washington quote, 1890

I have found it, in the speech given by Mayor Henry Irvin Gourley at the opening session of the Second Congress of the Scotch-Irish Society which was held at Pittsburg in May 1890, given as:

“If defeated everywhere else, I will make my last stand for liberty among the Scotch-Irish of Virginia”. 

But no primary source cited. This then predates the William McKinley paraphrase of 1893. Gourley was born in 1838, ‘to a peasant family’ at Thompsontown in Juniata County in mid-Pennsylvania. His father was Joseph Gourley, but he died when Henry was just five years old, leaving his widow to raise the family. A full biography is online here.

In the 1700s there was a Fermanagh township in Juniata County, and by the 1776 revolution around 1/3 of the population of the whole state was Scotch-Irish.

• My previous post about the 1890 Pittsburg Congress is here. Gourley is shown below.

Henry I Gourley

USA 2018?

We are thinking about another family visit to the USA next year. So, as you do, I’ve been Googling places like New England and Philadelphia. On the website of the Philadelphia Museum of Art I found an etched glass goblet in honour of William of Orange (web page here). There is an identical one in the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York (see web page here).

That then set me looking for Orange toasts, which is how I found this 29 point toast from 1821, which includes a verse to ‘our Roman Catholic countrymen;– may they love us as fellow Christians, and assist us as fellow subjects’.

The newly-opened $150m Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia looks like a must-see (see here) and this New York Times review makes it sound very good.

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