De Valera Connection: Part 1

De Valera Connection

On Friday 27th August, 2010, on behalf of the Ullans Academy and the Portavogie Culture and Heritage Society, I was delighted to welcome Éamon Ó Cuív, the grandson of Éamon de Valera, for whom he is named, to the Portavogie Community Centre, 54 New Harbour Road, Portavogie, Newtownards, Co Down. The Minister had travelled via Downpatrick, where he had visited, for the first time, the Memorial Stone to St Patrick of Lecale, the Patron Saint of Ireland, on the Cathedral Hill of Down.

Portavogie is an Ullans fishing village on the shore of the Ards Peninsula. It started as a settlement in 1555, at Stable Hole, to the north of where the village now stands. The villagers were mainly families of fishermen who had travelled across the Irish Sea from the Solway coast of Galloway, which had once been an area of strong Viking influence and settlement. In those days the Ardes was an area of marshland and bog. Public records from 1620 named the area Portabogagh from the Gaelic Port an Bhogaigh “the Harbour of the Bog”. As with all names pronunciation leads to different spelling and this became in time Portavogie, a spelling which was first recorded in 1810.

Scottish migration to north-eastern Ireland continued throughout the late 16th Century and intensified in the early 17th century, when Sir Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton acquired property in the Ards Peninsula, which they developed as a private plantation. Portavogie was part of James Hamilton’s 1606 Estate. Migration to Ulster continued in earnest after the Battle of the Boyne and the new settlers brought with them their own Scots language, which has developed into modern Ullans or Ulster-Scots. The Church of Ireland was established in the area in the 17th century but Portavogie became a mainly Presbyterian village as many of the fishermen who settled there were Covenanters who had come from Scotland to escape religious persecution.

I was able to tell Minister Ó Cuív of our native Scots language in the Ards, the western limit being in Conlig and my own recent visit to Cathedral Hill in Down. I told him the story of Magnus Barelegs, whose death signified the end of Viking influence in the Strangford area. However, because of their Galloway settlements, an important source of our Scots vocabulary had arisen from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. The intake of Norse vocabulary into Northern or Northumbrian English continued from 900 to 1150 and spilled over into Scotland as the Norman Conquest brought fresh settlers from England in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Norse had close affinities with, as well as differences from, Anglo-Saxon. Instances of the latter are that, in certain positions in a word, Norse had “k”, where Anglo-Saxon had the sound “ch”. Hence we have English “church” and Scots “kirk”, “chest” and “kist”, “each” and “ilk”. Similarly, English has “sh” from Anglo-Saxon, whereas Scots has “sk” from Norse, as in “shriek” and skriech, and English has “dge”, whereas Scots has “g” as in “bridge” and “brig”.

Another distinction is that Scots has the sound “ow” from Norse where English has “ea” from Anglo-Saxon as in “lowp”( Norse hlaupa) for “leap” (Anglo-Saxon hlēapan ).Furthermore “cowp” (Norse kaupa ) gives the first element in the name Copenhagen, meaning to bargain or trade, corresponding to English “cheap” as in Cheapside. English “own” from Anglo-Saxon aζen has its Scots equivalent of ”ain” from the Norse “eiginn”. The contribution of Norse to Scots, and Northern English dialects, of new words have been considerable, for example “blae”, blue, as in blaeberry, “brae”, the brow of a hill, “drucken”, drunken (not a corruption of English but from the Norse drukinn), “strae” from the Old Norse strá ,the Anglo-Saxon being strēaw, the English “straw”. Finally “til”, in Scots is Norse for “to” , a “stowp” is Norse for a drinking vessel, best known from “Auld Lang Syne”,”lug“,the ear and “kilt“,from a Norse verb=to tuck up. Most of these words in use today show the importance of the Norse element in our culture and heritage.

Ed: Thanks, Ian. That explains for me why we have Scottish 'kirk' – from the Germanic root through Norse – whereas Anglo-Saxon (along with Old Frisian) changed 'k' to 'ch' in some positions e.g. church (German: Kirche) and cheese (German Käse)

To be continued

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