The Chairman Robert Williamson’s Speech
Sir Samuel Ferguson
Thursday, 27th October 2016
Welcome Your Excellency, President Higgins, Distinguished guests, Friends.
Welcome to this beautiful old church of St John, burial place of Sir Samuel Ferguson amongst the ancient kindred of Dalaradia. We are delighted to host President Higgins in remembering one of Ulster’s great poets, scholars, authors and historians, although some may say that description might also apply to our Patron Dr Ian Adamson.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Margaret Bell, a warden of this very church who in 1998 published the history of this parish, telling of Donegore Motte, an ancient burial site of pre-Christian times where the Annals of Ulster record tales of Cu Chulainn, of the Kings of Ulaid, and the Red Branch heroes blending legend with fact as the Ulaid moved from Emain Macha to settle at the Royal residence of Rath Mor Moy Linney, barely one mile from here, beside Kilultagh, the woods of the Ulstermen , on the ancient route from Tara to Dunseverick. She tells how this was the portion of Araide, King of Ulster, listed in The Four Masters as fighting a fierce battle here in 236 AD, of how in 1004 Brian Boru “set out to Rathmore Moy Linney whence he carried away the hostages of Dalaradia”.
A church is listed here since 1306 and in 1315 Edward the Bruce “harried the choicest part of Ulster” burning down Rath Mor Moy Linney. Here in the 1980s was unearthed remains of a fortified camp from 3000 years ago, the most westerly of its kind discovered in Europe with 100,000 artefacts uncovered, Margaret describes it thus “the graceful spire of the Church of Donegore is a familiar landmark as one speeds along the motorway across the beautiful valley of the six mile water in the ancient territory of Dalaradia, truly we are in a special place.
Our own Dalaradia group evolved from the pain of our recent conflict when a peace process promised so much, but seemed to pass by, perhaps even exclude many from a working class and loyalist tradition.
Originally of an Ulster Scots interest we progressed to explore the shared history of the peoples of this island, from earliest to present times, hoping that this rich, multicultural melting pot could help us on our journey of Common Identity, which is essential if we are to express respect for the heritage and culture of all those who share this beautiful land.
With guidance from Ian Adamson and Helen Brooker of Pretani Associates our voluntary group has engaged in dialogue and debate with such diverse groups as Republican and Loyalist ex combatants, Sinn Fein, the Loyal Orders, the Parades Commission Chairman, UK Houses of Parliament outreach office, Church of England, UUP, Amnesty International, UKIP and motor racings Eddie Irvine on our St Columbanus events. Most recently we thank the Bishop of Connor for his support, Superintendent Emma Bond PSNI for her straight talking and Dr Katy Radford with David Esler for the stained glass window project which we shall preview this morning.
Literary projects include publishing members experiences of the troubles, remembering James Orr, weaver poet, a feature article requesting the name of our new super-council to be Dalaradai was published by the Belfast Telegraph, presenting copies of the Bible translated into plain Scots to St Mungos Museum, Glasgow. To mark the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz when TRH Duke and Duchess of Gloucester visited Belfast we printed a commemorative book which we presented to the current Duke of Gloucester, with a copy also presented to the Linenhall Library, Belfast.
Our Somme Remembrances began at 7.30am July 1st by placing a wreath on the grave of `Ulster Scot, Private Paul Pollock, RIR, whose name and story of being killed at the Somme at 7.30am a century ago was not recorded until 2013. Although not members of the Masonic Orders we facilitated the inaugural event at Whiteabbey Masonic Centre to remember their fallen of two world wars, earning grateful thanks from Provincial Grand Lodge, Antrim.
Representatives of our group travelled South to engage with other traditions, attending the unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice, Glasnevin Cemetery. The Irish National Day of Commemoration and even the commemoration of O’Donnovan Rossa, respecting the heritage and culture of others so that we may receive the same.
During these events we came into contact with President Michael D Higgins, his hospitality, generosity of spirit and love of music, poetry and language inspired us to invite him to visit Dalaradia and the final resting place of Sir Samuel Ferguson, described by historian F J Bigger as “a tender hearted Antrim man, Ulsterman, Irishman”
We have achieved these things without resources. All we have is our good name and reputation. All we will ever need is our good name and reputation.