Thursday, 29 August 2013

Stupid idea from a long tradition of stupid ideas...

THREE Flags?!....

History is littered with stupid ideas and mistakes.

One would imagine that they are so common place that mistakes don't really appear on anyone's radar unless said mistakes take the form of breath taking stupidity such as invading Russia or if they result in the mistake being filmed and making its way onto Youtube or a ghastly prime-time TV show on a Saturday night.

Invading Russia: Pretty stupid...

Your humble narrator to all intents and purposes has a degree in mistakes as he can seemingly only learn by getting his fingers burnt.

Your narrator's learning curve
As such, the following proposal portends to be proper little pearl of wisdom for your humble narrator, who, in his defence "is only trying to help".

Now, not being in the same league as the champion of Ulster-Scots, Dr Billy McWilliams, your narrator does not harbour any ambition to leapfrog his noble intentions or pragmatic judgement on the matter of the 'fleg' at Belfast City hall rather he would propose a pale shadow of a suggestion in the company of such inestimable intellectual might:

Rather, your beleaguered narrator had the misfortune to apply his unimpressive mental faculties to the matter of Belfast's embattled city hall (a building most admired by himself).

To break the argument down to it's very base elements:

Unionists do so desire the flag of the Union to fly daily from the building

Republicans, from a perspective hitherto unfamiliar to your narrator want 'their' flag flying as a symbol of equality.

Your narrator at 1600hr, Saturday
As of very recently (namely until 1600hr Saturday 24th August as your narrator was on a mission to purchase some wine) this equality argument was given no merit within the quarters of AG.

However, he now understands that feelings are feelings and that, quite simply, is that. So, if a large percentage of the population of Belfast feel beholden to salute a flag not to your narrator's taste then so be it, that is how they feel and no amount of pleading nor reasoning shall determine otherwise.

Which brings us all to the oft forgotten 3rd group; The middle ground.
Middle of the Road: Here it is.

This middle ground are both brave and foolish for the same reason; they take potential hits from two lanes of traffic much to the frustration of Mr Miyagi, who quite clearly stipulated that it was a bad idea to walk in the middle of the road. "Walk left side of road, safe/ Walk right side of road safe/ Walk middle, sooner or later get squish like grape"

Mr Miyagi will bitch slap you if you put
up a third fleg
Mr Miyagi no longer care about stupid fleg

This middle ground of Northern Ireland would like a flag for Northern Ireland. They might have a preference of a Union Flag over a Tricolour or vise-versa but that is not to say that their comfort with either flag should be interpreted as a preference to a Northern Ireland flag or that they harbour the sentiments expressed by those whom embrace the extremes of either (fleg) pole (har!).

But a choice they don't have.

It's either a Union Flag which by the day is being trailed into the redoubt of 'Britishness' (thank you Protestant Coalition), the Tricolour (which is 'Irish' at it's lightest extreme but perceived as 'Provo' at the other) or the Ulster Flag which sits firmly within the Loyalist camp.

As such, the middle ground is ignored. As usual.

With regards to the 'fleg' crisis, your permanently baffled narrator proposes a plan that should satisfy the points mentioned earlier regarding the alleged 'demands' of each side. However, as we shall soon discover, these demands will upon deliverance multiply if not mutate rather quickly to the point where the original demands are unrecognisable and obsolete.

Said plan involves a THIRD flag for city hall.

Yes, another flag.

A recap on the demands of earlier and their subsequent satisfaction, reads thusly:

A Union Flag: This satisfies the demand for the UK flag to be flown 365 on a British municipal building.

A Tricolour: This satisfies the Republican demand for equality.

Observe now reader, how the goal posts change, no longer is J Bloggs Unionst MLA satisfied with his flag of choice flying as he demanded, rather now he sees his own loss in the gain of 'themuns' should the Union Flag be raised in tandem with the Tricolour, ergo, back to square one.

So, enter the third flag, a new Northern Ireland flag yet to be concocted.

This flag would cover the massive grey area of those who regard themselves as 'Northern Irish' and either British or/and Irish.

They would be represented on the whole by two flags and, given that they have twice as much flak to cop from either extremity of the political spectrum it is rather fair.

So, a Union Flag for those who are solely British/partially British/sometimes British. A Tricolour for those whose allegiance is more Republic orientated and the newly formed Northern Ireland Flag for the deviants/confused sorts/Lundys/miscellaneous types stuck in the middle.


                                                                        So far so good?

You're wrong


This is where the principles of each tribe are abandoned and exchanged for a petty currency measured in annoyance at the other tribe's expense.

Loyalists and Tricolours don't mix

From the Unionist camp, rather than seeing gratification that their flag is rightfully restored to it's place over the centre of one of Britain's most important industrial cities, they would see insult at the achievement of the Tricolour's ascent over the copper dome not to mentioned anger at the face-lift bequeathed to the Ulster Flag, the flag of Northern Ireland in their eyes (and only their eyes).

From the Republican camp parked on a similar latitude defeat would be salvaged from a small victory. Rather than seeing an equality (1/3rd to match the two other schools of thought) they would lob the sheer existence of Northern Ireland into the Unionist camp and would summarise the situation thusly: "themuns have TWO flags so they do! We have only one!!!"

Hence, an abandonment of the underlying principles for either camp's original objective brings it all to a point where victories and successes are measured not by how much one obtains but by how much 'the other side' loses.

Northern Ireland is increasingly becoming a frontier with three fronts, not two.

It is about time the people of 'Northern Ireland' have a say instead of just those who would deem themselves purely as people of the UK or the Republic.

Let us fly three flags from city hall to represent the wide range of opinions and wavering allegiances rather than the grinding, miserable zero-sum game that our politicians and trouble makers hold dear.

Insert abuse below.

Your narrator: It's what he deserves.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Once Upon a Time in the West of the Bann II: Catholic Lambeg Drummers and Protestant Ceilidhs

Once upon a time, when things were simple and it was permissible to label people by their religion/former religion rather than infuriating an acronyms such as PUL or CNR your humble narrator stood and listened to a discussion regarding the pubs of a neighbouring village.

100% Protestant village

100% Catholic village

This village was at the time 100% Protestant (the fashion at the time being to ignore people not of Judeo-Christian persuasion and hand out ‘get-out-of-jail-free-cards’ to European foreigners whose religious views would not have be otherwise tolerated were they Irish, in the case of this village the recipient of said card was a Catholic Belgian woman).
Belgians: Exempt from South Londonderry bigotry

Your narrator paid particular attention to the conversation as it was a stomping ground and was the domain of his grandmother and a sprinkling of various cousins, distant cousins and in-laws and an evil auntie.
What baffled your narrator the most was the casual labeling of one of the pubs as the ‘fenian’ pub.
Now, this is not through an ignorance of the local lexicon of slang.

What he said...
Your humble narrator knows his jungle Jim from his hun, his soap dodging bead rattler from his black bastard, his apron kisser from his Douglas Haig, his Mick from his Billy and readily  knows that Paddy is almost certainly a tim to boot.

What confused him the most was that the patrons of said pub were certainly nearly all Protestant as were the owners.
How then chilblains, did said pub acquire such an unenviable reputation in the marketplace of the Protestant shilling?
For no better reason than it held onto some of the character that has seemingly been cast onto the cultural bonfire by the Protestant community.
In other words, it looked ‘Irish’.

          It retained (or rather retro-applied) old Irish script for its signage, had the audacity to put a couple of carriage wheels out front and the leftfield brass neck to put hanging baskets of flowers out the front. All in all, none of the hallmarks of a typical South Londonderry, Protestant, drinking, establishment.

Mid Ulster property developer, post-crash
For its sins said pub has went the way of mercurial Ulster property developer and is no longer with us.
It suffered a fate worse than death: that of being a ‘fenian Protestant’.

It held on to the submerged and hidden culture of local Protestants and was shunned as a result along with folk music, celidh dancing, the Gaelic language(s) and numerous folk instruments.

Your narrator has wondered many times as to when the ‘burning of the ceilidh books’ occurred as in when was the time when Protestants collectively turned their back on their culture or at least the parts that were similar if not shared with their Catholic neighbours.

 He knows for certain that 30 – 40 years before hand that very same village did host village meetings to the accompaniment of a ceilidh band that played all manner of ‘fenian’ jigs and reels as a warm up (or cool down) to the meetings.

Said brothers were not natives shipped in from the neighbouring Sperrins and given an entry-pass on account of their musical skills and cheeky Celtic ways.


These were Protestant  brothers descended from planters who went higher up the hills than your typical colonist.

They were also devoted Christians, B Specials and (such were the times) Loyalists.

Your humble narrator knows this as his grandfather was one of the multi-skilled musicians.

                         He played: the accordion, fiddle, Jew’s harp, drums, penny whistle, fyfe, spoons and if it was your 4th birthday maybe the saw & bow. (No, not all at the same time, smart-ass).                                                                                                                   

De Valera: Gave culture 'The Treatment'
(Though he was much opposed to Irish dancing, this may have been due to the ‘treatment’ that Irish dancing and traditional Irish folk culture received decades beforehand when the new found Irish Free State was ‘purifying’ its culture).

Back then there was no such contradiction in being a Protestant and playing ‘Irish’ folk music, it was just folk music.
To walk into a modern day Protestant pub or church hall and play a jig on a fiddle without the protective talisman of Ulster-Scots sponsorship or at the very least a St Andrew’s Cross or Ulster Flag would raise all manner of eyebrows and bequeath unfinished egg & onion sandwiches and cups of tea to the poor church hall that was forced to witness such an affront.

Somehow we've went from folk music, fiddles and dances to being the playthings of everyone to them being the preserve of themuns and then to the modern day demarcation of different camps with Ulster-Scots flying the flag (well, fiddle) for Protestants. 

Now, lest there be any misconception, your humble narrator is a fan of the Ulster Scots Orchestra and of Willie Drennan in particular, having met oor Willie at a cultural event once and discussed the practitioners of lambeg drum repair. Your narrator was struck by Willie's intelligence, modesty and musical skills.                                                                                                                                                                                    Regardless of one’s criticism of the ‘exclusivity’ of Ulster-Scots and its current trajectory, Willie Drennan will go down in history as a force for good. He has led a resurrection of folk music in Protestant quarters and this is a fine achievement and a foundation to from which we can bridge the cultural gap.                                                                                                                                                                                
IF we want to…

Lambeg Drum 'Owen Roe O'Neill'
Decades ago there was no need for Ulster-Scots as everyone danced, jigged, reeled and played the same music on the same instruments, not forgetting that some Catholics also played the lambeg drum. Gentlemen pipers and Protestant clergymen were more agiven to playing the Uilleann pipes.                                                                                                        

      No doubt there were different musical styles in each region, but such is the quirks of distance, demographics and geography, hence Antrim and East Down would be particularly Scottish orientated.

Your narrator would love some enlightenment on the matter and is appealing for help & facts to help his small mind fathom the change and the reasons behind it.

Should you know something about the matter then he would be most obliged for pointers, references, books, photos and general low down dirty gossip about how and when things changed because all he can hear are whispers of how things used to be.

Actually, Willie Drennan’s books are a good place to start:

But for hard core perception busting concise history your narrator strongly recommends  'Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down'


How and when did the cultural split start?

Was there a cultural split at all and that your narrator’s observations are mere one off exceptions?

Are there anymore Protestants who play the Uilleann pipes?

Why are there practically no more Catholic lambeg drummers?

Where did they go?

What forced the Shankill Protestants to turn their back on their Gaelic heritage (aside from your narrator’s previous conjectures)?

Is it the fault of overzealous nationalism?

If so, then does overzealous nationalism harm the culture it’s trying to promote?

What is 'Protestant' culture if an individual is no longer religious and cares little for politics and Orangism?                                                                                                                                                                                            He/she may find musical appeal in the Ulster Scots musical scene, but it is weighed down with Union Flags, Ulster flags and the shadow of politics not to mention a sense of contrived re-invention.

Surely he/she would consider the path of least resistance, the path of traditional folk?     

                             The music of his/her ancestors which belongs to us all and ironically the very same path which is now considered to belong to ‘themuns’.

The Oul' Days: Dancing was for Protestants and Catholics.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Scottish Bigot's Guide to Ulster/Ireland

The Nightmare Vision!

Having spent over a decade in Scotland, your humble narrator is no longer shocked at the behavior of  90-minute-bigots across the North Channel.

For a bit of balance, one must say that it isn't all their fault,  they are in a minority (thankfully) and Paisley Road West and the Gallowgate areas of Glasgow are regularly awash with Northern Ireland's most bitter cretins who contaminate the natives with their own bigotry and bitterness.

Not known for their training in historical research, bitter cretins pass on fantastical accounts of exaggerated Irish history and on occasion one does hear 'history versions' that makes one weep.

So, in the interests of insulating wannabe-bigots of the Scottish Central Belt from erroneous versions of history, here are some nuggets that can be ignored as and when it pleaseth.

1/ The Red Hand

NOT Loyalist
Not all Red Hand badges are Loyalist badges.

It is an Irish symbol.

Which is why it was chosen by the Irish Unionists of Ulster.

Had most Unionists been concentrated in Connaught then we probably would be seeing very different Loyalist symbols.

A dear friend of your narrator is a life long Tyrone GAA fan.

Their nickname is the Red Hands.

Said friend nearly got a thrashing in Glasgow because an ignoramus mistook her for a Loyalist on account of her Red Hand emblazoned Tyrone shirt.

2/ Derry/Londonderry

It is NOT a hard and fast rule.

Your narrator is of Orange stock and most of his family would say Derry instead of Londonderry.
It only became an issue a few decades ago when some people wanted it to be an issue.

FYI: County Londonderry was NEVER called County Derry, its previous name was 'County Coleraine'. The argument can only be applied to the city.

3/ Ulster

Ulster is an Irish province.

It has 9 counties, not 6.

The borders and definitions have varied over the centuries but people generally agree on its borders.

Its a bit severe to lampoon everyone if they casually refer to the place as Ulster, for lazy generalisations are the norm in Northern Ireland and there are numerous associations that have it in their title.

But don't get all uppity about it and jump down people's throats if they correct you, you left yourself open with that one.

4/ The British Army

You can call the British Army an occupying force if you want (though you'll sound like you've been brain-washed) but please remember that a fair whack of the soldiers who served in Northern Ireland came from Scotland.

Many were murdered:

5/ The Battle of the Boyne

It was NOT a straight up Catholic vs Protestant fight. Seriously.

6/ The Potato Blight

Affected Scotland too. The Highlands and Islands were decimated for reasons similar to those of Ireland.

7/ Coming over for the 12th of July

Please stay away

Just stop it.

(Except for Blackskull FB, a tight outfit altogether)

Blackskull FB: Welcome
It's supposed to be about Protestantism. Not getting hammered and screaming at the fenians.

(We do a good enough job of that thank you very much)

Having said that...

8/ The Glasgow 12th

                                                                 Simply awful.

Brian John Spencer: The artist who sums it all up wonderfully.

Your narrator has been to a few over the years and has been scared witless every time and taken to be a 'Mickey bastard' on account of his soberness and unimpressed face. (Your narrator was hoping for an event more like the 12th's in Northern Ireland: Gospel tents, tea tents, each church with its own stall, toy stalls, ice cream trucks, burger vans etc etc. Not a massive drinking session!)

9/ Screaming at Folk Who 'Walk Between the Bands'




10/ Asking Someone Their Religion Upon Hearing Their Northern Irish Accent and Then Accosting Them For Having Different Views To Yourself About Something Of Which You Know Very Little  

That's just rude.

If you find yourself doing this then you may be a NED after all.

Just saying.

Refer to the NED checklist:

Do you:

Drink Buckfast?

Wear trainers and trackies?

Have a penchant for stabbing people?

Think of education as a waste of time?

If you answer 2 or more of the above points then you're probably a NED and are about to commit violence upon your computer or stolen smart phone...

"Answered 2 or more eh? Well chaps, I'm afraid I have some news for ye...

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Narrator Discovers 'BUZZFEED' and the Importance of Cat Photos

Your humble narrator today stumbled across; a site that likes to list half-assed facts* and pad them out with random or vaguely related photos courtesy of writers whose ambitions are clearly constrained by their limited talent.

Sound familiar?

Your narrator was agog at discovering this site and its horrifyingly familiar formulaic productions.

It also dawned on your narrator what exactly is missing from his posts: Cats

So, without further ado, cats.

1/ Irish Cat Photo

2/ Scottish Cat Photo

3/ IRA Cat Photo

4/ NI21, Alliance and Middle of the Road Cat Photo

5/ Unnecessary and Tasteless Catholic Church Joke Cat Photo

6/ Celtic & Rangers Cat Photo

7/ UVF Cat Photo

8/ Sinn Fein Youth Joke Cat Photo

9/ Geeky Catholic Joke Cat Photo

10/ Celtic Tiger's Relegation to Celtic Kitten Joke Cat Photo

Perhaps now that your narrator has went the way of the cat he can expect to get 10 000 hits by breakfast time.

To be humble doesn't mean you can't be a sell out...

*Japing about the facts, your narrator puts a lot of effort into researching them