Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Ulster Scots

These Scottish flags - can you guess where they are flying?


Glasgow? Ayrshire? Aberdeen? No - County Down in Northern Ireland.

These flags surprised me recently, as there were no Scottish flags flying in Northern Ireland on my previous visits. The Protestant community was content to fly the English flag - a St George's Cross - with a Red Hand of Ulster superimposed on the middle. Why were there suddenly so many Saltires?

A clue was the recently formed Ulster Scots Agency, an organisation dedicated to the preservation of the Scots language. It was formed by Protestants in response to the creation of the Catholic-supported cross-border Foras na Gaeilge. A reactionary, tit-for-tat move to many, it is ironic that the only official agency to promote Scots is not in Scotland.

Yet the formation of the agency has served to highlight Northern Ireland's Scottish heritage, when in the 17th centuries Protestant settlers from the Lowlands were planted in Ulster as part of a centuries-old attempt to subdue the native population. This is the root cause of the continuing tensions in Northern Ireland.

I'm not sure I like the Saltire being dragged into Northern Irish politics. But it is too late for that. The Scots were a tribe who crossed the water from Ulster during Roman times, and the Ulster-Scots crossed the North Channel in the other direction in the 17th century. It cannot be denied that Scotland and Northern Ireland are joined by deep, two-way cultural and ethnic ties.


mcgazz said...

The Ulster Scots "language" is hilarious - a mixture of fruity pronounciation and lifts from Burns. The main reason it's being pushed so hard in the Six Counties these days is that the Nationalists have been pushing for Gaelic to be recognised as NI's second language. Ulster Scots is the other side's response.

Billy said...

Were they not flyig when we visited Annalong?

It was the fact that the gardens had red white and blue flowers in them that really got me

Robert Craig said...

I forgot about the flowers!

Sam said...

While once referred to as Scotch-Irish by several researchers, that has now been superseded by the term Ulster Scots. Ulster Scots is spoken in east Antrim, north Down, north-west County Londonderry, the Laggan area of Donegal, and also in the fishing villages of the Mourne coast.

chad said...

I'd just like to point out that you were wrong when you said they flew english st george flags with the ulster hand in the middle. That is infact the old northern irish flag. Yes, the red cross was to represent st george. But it isn't because of england...

For the last 10 years I have seen a rise in the amount of Scottish saltires flying in northern ireland. Some of them with ulster hand on them. Some just plane Scottish flags. It's no surprise really.

The thing is. They feel more British than Irish. But they also feel (alot) more Scottish than English. It's very possible that in the event of Scottish Independence, that the ulster scots will not want to be in a union with England. And they sure as hell won't join the republic...

Check out this fb page.

Robert Craig said...

Not sure I'm wrong about the provenance of the NI flag, it certainly quacks like a duck. But I'm willing to be corrected - what is its alternative provenance?

Have had a look at the Facebook page, would have appreciated a request before using my picture.

In the event of Scotland becoming independent, things have been thought through. See my post from May 2011 - Glasgow will stay as part of the UK thus solving the majority of Scotland's problems at a  stroke ;)