The William Carlton Summer School: 2

Today I attended the 22nd William Carlton Summer School at Corick House, Clogher, County Tyrone. I was accompanied by Helen Brooker, our Chair, who is also my colleague on Pretani Associates, Consultants in Common Identity. This is an amended version of my speech.

It is a pleasure to be here again at the Carlton Summer School, as President of the Ullans Academy (The Academy of Common Identity (Ullans) Ltd). I  enjoyed my last visit several years ago, when I spoke on the subject of the Mythological Yoyagers, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. From the 1891 Census we know that 50% of protestants in this area of the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone were Presbyterians and so Ulster Scots would have been commonly spoken here. Although the Plantation Undertakers of the area were English, as Paddy Fitzgerald says, Scottish settlement in the Seventeenth Century was substantial. William Carleton, the 19th-century writer who came from the Clogher Valley, once proudly boasted that he had ‘studiously avoided that intolerable Scoto-Hibernic jargon’. But then Carlton, by the end of his life had managed to offend just about everyone.

He was not alone, however, in his attitude to the Scots language. With the appearance of the Geneva Bible in 1560 (and the Authorized Version of the Bible or King James Bible in 1611) and the Union of the Crowns in 1603 (when James VI of Scots also became James I of England) the prestige and status of Scots declined. John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, was extremely hostile to Scots. Knox viewed Scots as ‘the language of Popery’ because the most formal writing (or the highest register, as a sociolinguist might observe) in Scots was religious and Roman Catholic in content. It was increasingly displaced as the language of government, commerce and writing in both Ulster and Scotland by English because it lacked status and prestige.The Reformation, therefore, essential though it was, could be said to have destroyed Scottish civilisation.

The educational system also frowned on Ulster-Scots. As Dr Ivan Herbison of Queen’s University, Belfast, has noted: ‘The new education policy of the 1830s was an additional pressure on Ulster-Scots.  State control of education through the National School system enabled the Anglo-Irish establishment to frame a curriculum which privileged English language, literature and cultural values, and marginalised Ulster’s Scottish cultural heritage’. Marginalization and even denigration of Ulster-Scots was the inevitable result.Scots and Ulster-Scots continued as the language of the home and the countryside but encountered serious prejudice.  This may be evidenced by observations in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs describing Ulster-Scots as ‘disagreeable’ and ‘coarse’.

I was born in Bangor in County Down and reared in Conlig a village between Bangor and Newtownards. When I attended Bangor Grammar School as a boy many thought I came from Ballymena because of my speech, even though Conlig was only 2 miles away  From the hills of Conlig I used to look over at Ayrshire and Galloway on a clear day.  I was descended from the Sloans of Kinelarty through my two grandmothers who were sisters.  One grandfather Robert Kerr from Lanarkshire in Scotland was a devotee of James Keir Hardie and fought for the flame of idealism, and working for socialism and the unemployed.  I travelled extensively in my youth through the Highlands of Scotland with my grandfather, to the Isle of Skye were I was taught the legend of Cuchulainn, to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and to Galloway where he taught me about the Covenanters, whom he loved.

I learned that Catholic and Protestant Gaelic speakers on the Scottish Highlands and Islands were in the majority Protestant.  The first book printed in Irish Gaelic was the Book of Common Order commonly called John Knox’s Liturgy, published in Edinburgh in 1567 for the use of Presbyterians.  Scottish Gaelic was not a literary language until the early 17th Century.  Old British was displaced in Ireland by Gaelic just as English Literature displaced Gaelic.  When Gaelic was planted on the British mainland its verbal system was on along the lines of the old British language.  Scottish Gaelic was to preserve archaic features now lost in Irish Gaelic.

The division of Ulster Gaelic from that of the rest of Ireland developed well before the arrival of English in the 17th century and there was an increasing influence of Scottish Gaelic on Ulster.  TF O’Rahilly in 1932 outlined the features which distinguished the two languages and regarded the position of word stress as the most important of these. The southern language of Gaelic stretches from south County Meath running through West Meath to Longford in Co Galway.  This is more than homogenous than the Ulster dialects. Modern Irish Gaelic was basically developed from Munster and Connaught dialects.

In 1770 Ulster Lallans was used by Rhyming Weaver poets until about 1870.  My ancestor Edward Lennox Sloan of Conlig was one of these. These Rhyming Weavers were self taught in Greek and Latin to a level unknown among any section of the peasantry in Western Europe.They were not merely writing in imitation of Robert Burns but in a tradition which went back to Allan Ramsey in Scotland and beyond. Ramsay was a member of the Easy Club along with the Jacobite leader Dr Archibald Pitcairn and had strong Jacobite sympathies following the 1715 rising.  During the occupation of Edinburgh in 1745 he was a highly respected figure but probably disapproved of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s policy of invading England.  He supported the aims of the French moderate Cardinal Fleury who died shortly before the 1745 Rising was embarked on.

Ramsay lived to influence the Whig “Pacifiers” following defeat at Culloden Moor.  “The Gentle Shepherd” deals with the Restoration of the Stuarts following the Cromwellian interregnum. It contains Jenny an early advocate of Women’s Liberation.   He stands midway between the Scots renaissance poets Henryson, Gawain Douglas and Dunbar and the later Romantic group, of which Burns personifies the French Revolution, Scott is the product of imperial compromise and MacDiarmid adheres to the Russian Revolution.  At first Ramsay appears the least conspicuous but he is the still small voice between the two storms, right at the beginning of the Scottish Enlightenment..

The first known Ulster Scots poet William Starrat of Strabane was closely associated with Ramsay. Indeed nine editions of Ramsay’s “The Gentle Shepherd” were printed in Ulster between 1743 and 1792 (five in Belfast, three in Newry and one in Strabane). When the first edition of Burns’ poems, the Kilmarnock edition, was published in July 1786 , extracts appeared in the Belfast News Letter– the first paper in Ireland to do so. The Edinburgh edition appeared in 1787 and James Magee of Bridge Street, Belfast reprinted and republished it the same year, the first to do so outside Scotland. Indeed extracts from the Ayrshire Ploughman appeared in the News Letter before they were published in book form.

Edward Lennox Sloan (1830–1874) was a Latter-Day Saint editor and publisher. He was the arranger of the text of the hymn “For the Strength of the Hills” into the version currently contained in the hymnal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). But he was also “Uncle Ned”, the Bard of Conlig, to my grannie Isabella Sloan Kerr, who bought me my first book on Robert Burns. Born in the village of Conlig, he was the  son of  John Sloan (1789-1853) and Mary Lennox (1794-Unknown) of Conlig, County Down, Ireland. His father’s first wife died, possibly in childbirth of her third child. Only one of his half siblings is known to have reached adulthood and died in England. Little is known of his older full brother, Samuel Lennox Sloan, Isabella’s antecedent.

Edward was married on 14 April 1853 at Bangor, County Down, Ireland to Mary Elizabeth Wallace, also of Conlig. Their first 6 children were born there, two of them dying before the family emigrated to America in 1863. Their last 5 were born in Utah. In 1865 he married by plural choice, Phoebe Louisa Watts (2 children) & in 1866, Emma Jones (3 Children). His family suffered the loss of many. My two grannies were sisters, so that Edward was “Uncle Ned” to both. Martha (1879-1946) was the eldest, Isabella (1896-1983) the ninth child.  Their father was Alexander Sloan  (1853-1913) , who married, at the age of of 25, Jane Gamble (1858-1937). In Conlig at this time there were three predominent families the Sloans, the Gambles and the Montgomerys. These three families underpinned the community and intermarriage between them resulted in every one being related to everyone else in some way or other.

Uncle Ned was trained as a weaver. At some point in his teens, he joined the LDS Church. He was ordained an Elder in the church at age 18 and then served as a missionary throughout the British Isles.  In 1854 he published a volume of poetry he had written, entitled The Bard’s Offering. In 1851, Edward had  married Mary Wallace, who was also a native of Conlig. After having served as editor of the Millenial Star , with his young family, he emigrated to Utah Territory in 1863. They crossed the ocean on the Amazon on which he served as the first counselor in the presidency over the Latter-day Saints on board. He was interviewed on the boat by a young journalist called Charles Dickens. In Utah, Edward was the founder of the Salt Lake  Daily Herald in 1870, which he ran with W.C. Dunbar. When his efforts to get a column on women’s issues included in the Herald were defeated by Dunbar, Edward went ahead and organized the Women’s Exponent with Lula Greene as editor. Edward also published the first City Directory of Salt Lake City.
In his famous directory, Edward  reported that  on January 10, 1870, the Utah Central Railroad was complete to Salt Lake City, its southern terminus. In spite of inclement weather, a huge crowd assembled to hear speeches and witness the ceremonies. The last spike, made of Utah iron, was driven by Brigham Young. This railroad was an immediate success. Most of the mining, manufacturing and trade of the territory was concentrated in Salt Lake Valley, and this connection with the main line of America’s greatest railway, the Union Pacific, at Ogden was vital. Two days after completion, the first carload of ore was shipped over the line. Edward also served as secretary of the Deseret Sunday School Union at the time of its organization in 1872. Prior to the founding of the Herald, he had assisted George Q Cannon in editing the Deseret News. He was also the recorder of many of the discourses included in theJournal of Discourses. Trully Uncle Ned was a great man of the early American West.


In Conlig  I also learned from my Grandmother the story of Archibald Wilson, the Carpenter of Conlig, who was hanged for his part in the United Irish rebellion on 26th  June 1798.   His grave slab in Bangor Abbey graveyard is one of the best preserved in Ireland, so history was always different to me than to many of my friends. History is primarily a record of human relationship with a vast network of variation in the manner of its evolution.  Now is the time to widen its perspective beyond the religious and political divide.  People do not change their minds rather their horizons are widened.  We begin to comprehend that what we thought was the whole of reality is but a small part and that a representation.  Nobody can claim to own reality just as nobody can legitimately claim that theirs is the only view of history.

Common Identity is the total expression of all the inter-relationships within the island of Ireland, which defines who we are. It creates a sense of belonging, which takes people beyond their religious divide. Understanding Common Identity will empower all sections of our community to achieve cultural expression and allow freedom of thought.  Common Identity is neutral and inclusive. The vision of the Ullans Academy is to promote Common Identity so creating stability for the people on the island of Ireland resulting in lasting peace for the benefit of the whole community in Northern Ireland and for future generations. Thank you….


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