Thursday, 16 December 2010

Whistling Dixie


















Squinter of the Andersonstown News has an interesting take on Belfast City Council's penchant for funding travel to Nashville, Tennessee as part of the burgeoning Ulster-Scots industry. The writer quite reasonably points out that there are far more people in the United States, Nashville included, who acknowledge an Irish ethnic tradition than an Ulster-Scots one.

That doesn't mean that the Ulster Scots were never there, of course — just that they no longer exist as a recognisable group. As the academic Patrick R. Ireland states in a study available on the Web, "none of the three case countries, the U.S. included, bears witness to a coherent, identifiable Irish Protestant political legacy".

And there are obvious similarities, for example, the brand of evangelicalism prevalent in the United States and Northern Ireland, something that serves to delineate both polities from Europe — including, nowadays, Scotland. As one liberal Northern Ireland politician put it to the Blether Region: "People in America are even nicer than people in Northern Ireland, and even madder too."

Just as professional Ulster Scots are doing their best to soup up the three-wheeled wagon of the traditional dialect into a fully fledged language, they have enthusiastically embraced the paradigm of an evangelical nation spanning the Atlantic. One case in question is the Southron Liberation Media News Network. Its website reports in detail on the work of David Kerr, who as well as for a time being the Northern Ireland face of the National Front is an Ulster nationalist and the former pastor of LOL 1303, the British Israelite lodge founded by Tara's William McGrath and of which Clifford Smyth was a prominent member.

While the contemporary United States, Northern Ireland, British Israelism, the Orange Order, Ulster nationalism and Ulster Scots may be difficult to connect for the academic, for the biographer it can be easy enough.

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