Speech by Dr. David Hume MBE, Director of Services of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, to the Airdrie Ulster Scots July celebrations

Links between Scotland and Ulster should be a priority for the governments in Edinburgh and Belfast, a leading Orange Order official and community leader has said.

Addressing the Airdrie Ulster Scots Boyne celebrations on Tuesday evening, he called on resources to be made available to develop east-west links.

Dr. Hume accused some of having a vested interest in avoiding the official recognition which such links deserved.

“The Belfast Agreement of 1998 and the subsequent St. Andrew’s Agreement promised east-west links. Yet these have not been developed. In recent meetings with the Minister of Culture in Northern Ireland and with the equivalent Minister in the Republic of Ireland it was clear that there is a willingness to see such links fostered,”

“The question we as Ulster Scots must ask is why there has not been the willingness to develop those links in the years since 1998. Are there civil servants with a vested interest in not developing these links? Is there lack of vision in encouraging those willing to develop the links?” he asked.

“The one thing that everyone should be very clear about is that throughout our history the Ulster Scots people have had no time for duplicity. If the Belfast Agreement was sold to us on the basis that there would be east-west links and these were deliberately never developed then we will rightly want to know why and who is responsible,”
“It is clear that the body established by the British and Irish governments to encourage the development of Ulster Scots feels that it has no remit to develop east-west links,”

“The Ulster Scots Agency may be technically right in this, and we need to see how the hopes of groups such as my own community group in Ballycarry, County Antrim, were dashed over the years when we wanted assistance to develop links with a community in Scotland,”

“Ironically, we are developing links with Mid Argyll in Scotland, where funding from the Gaelic language bodies is easier to obtain for east-west links than funding from any other organisation,”

“This is not merely academic. The Ulster Scots community is in my view becoming increasingly alienated from the political process. It was given promises which have proved empty words up to now. It is no wonder that so many people from Ulster Scots heartlands do not vote at elections anymore; almost 50% in the case of East Antrim, 42% in North Antrim and 55% in North Down, for example. People are disillusioned because they believe that they were duped over the Belfast Agreement and the promises they expected to be followed through were broken. Unless there is some evidence of issues such as east-west links being addressed, then this sense of dislocation from political life will continue.

The Orange Order Director of Services also said that the question of east-west links was one which could bear fruit from an economic point of view.

“Linking areas in Scotland and Northern Ireland can have significant effects in terms of cultural tourism to both regions, as well as social and cultural benefits, business and economic links and other spin-offs. We should bear in mind the high percentage of Scottish tourists visiting Northern Ireland – 284,000 visits in 2009 and around £59 million spend, although this figure should be higher– and at this time of year there is a steady flow of visitors to both areas, courtesy of the Orange Order and its celebrations.

“We are fed up being viewed as a culture which is best ignored, when our members and supporters, our bands and our community, boost the economy of Scotland and Northern Ireland through travel and participation in each other’s demonstrations and parades. Without us the hotel industry, the ferry companies, gift shops and others would be worse off. Businesses who engage with us know the potential. It is time everyone saw it, and appropriate recognition from the tourist boards on board parts of the island would be welcome,”

The Director of Services said that he believed the Orange Order was the most significant body in Scotland to be maintaining links at the present time, and that as an organisation with tens of thousands of members it had an interest in seeing official recognition and development of east-west links.

“The news that the British Irish Council is at last – after 12 years – to have a permanent home is to be welcomed. This body has not been relevant to the grassroots Ulster Scots people but it can play a part by acknowledging the importance of this community and the potential which it presents. I think many of us as activists in our communities are willing to be patient on these matters, but the clock is ticking and has been since 1998,” he said.

“There now needs to be a strategic plan to develop links between Ulster and Scotland. In a recent meeting which our community group had with the Minister of Culture, Nelson McCausland MLA, we were greatly encouraged at his approach in terms of the need for strategic thinking on this important issue. We would like to see all politicians sign up to this proposition as evidence of the shared future which we would wish for people on these islands,” he said.

Dr. Hume is, in addition to his role within the Orange Order, Festival Director of the Broadisland Gathering, Northern Ireland’s longest-established Ulster Scots family festival and chairman of Ballycarry Community Association in County Antrim. He was awarded the MBE in 2007 in relation to his community work.

Brethren and Freens,

I am delighted to be with you today and to bring the fraternal greetings of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, and also the greetings of my own private lodge, Magheramorne LOL 291 in Larne District of County Antrim.

As an Ulster Scot I also am delighted to be here. Ulster and Scotland have a shared heritage which includes the Orange tradition and the Orange Institution. As an Ulster Scot whose roots lie in the Borders I always feel at home in Scotland. Our family has connections in Bellshill and my grandmother is buried on Scottish soil. So for me this is a homecoming.

I feel a strong regional identity as an Ulster Scot. I was relatively untouched when England came home from the World Cup, but I would have been more animated had Scotland or Northern Ireland been there. My strong sense of identity rests within the context of being British and being an integral part of the nation. In the Scottish context it is interesting to note the findings of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey which highlighted that the SNP is losing support, with more than half of those who vote for independence questioning the competence of their SNP representation. This is good news for the Union. It is entirely possible to be patriotically Scottish and also part of the Union.

We want to see Scotland remain part of the Union, but if Alex Salmond did manage to win independence, then we are ready with a campaign to call back the Stone of Destiny. Alex Salmond will no doubt be aware that it first came from County Antrim with the earliest of Scots, so it is only really on loan. It’s only in Scotland because we’re all part of the Union.

The Stone of Destiny alludes to the great history which exists between our two areas. King Fergus of Dalriada crossed from Dunseverick in the 6th century to be crowned ruler of a joint kingdom which straddled the North Channel. It eventually became separated, but the kinship has never ended. In medieval times the MacDonnells of the Isles brought a new dimension to the Glens of Antrim. In the early 17th century new settlers from Scotland arrived on the coasts of Antrim and Down, and they gave birth to communities such as my own in Ballycarry, which recently celebrated its 400th anniversary. In the 17th and 18th century many young men travelled from Ulster to Glasgow to be educated. In the 1630s the Presbyterians of Killinchy sailed across to Portpatrick to have their children baptized by Rev. John Livingstone.

Recently I was given documentation relating to Bro. Samuel Milligan, a Larne Orangeman who was working in the Dumbarton shipyards in 1874 and until 1920 worked in Scotland. Even when he came back to Larne to live and work, family connections remained in Glasgow. The story of Samuel Milligan is not unique. In 2008 when I had the privilege of addressing the County of the East demonstration, I learned that shale miners from around Ballymena had moved to Broxburn in search of work, bringing with them their Orange identity. In my own parish records for 1838, I find four labourers who emigrated to Glasgow and six men who migrated annually from Templecorran to Glasgow in search of work.

This is not to even consider the more extensive links which exist and which we have as a legacy today. In the 18th century our community was very aware of the great bard Robert Burns. We produced our own School of Weaver Poets, of which James Orr of Ballycarry was the best. Several of the Weaver Poets made the journey to Alloway to meet Burns. Orr never did, but he wrote an elegy on his death;

Sad news! He’s gane, wha baith amus’d
The man o’ taste, an’ taught the rude;
Whase warks hae been mair read an’ roos’d
Than onie, save the word o’ Gude
Him genus fostered on her lap
An’ for his fa’ fand fancy mourns:
Dumfries might weel steek ev’ry shap,
An’ sen’ her tribes to bury Burns
The links that exist between our two areas are really too many to mention. They deserve our recognition. They are a wonderful legacy handed down as a heritage for us all. We must ensure that this legacy is also handed down to new generations. It is worthy not only of handing down but also of adding to.

Links between Scotland and Ulster should be a priority for the governments in Edinburgh and Belfast. Resources should be made available to develop east-west links.

 The Belfast Agreement of 1998 and the subsequent St. Andrew’s Agreement promised east-west links. Yet these have not been developed. In recent meetings with the Minister of Culture in Northern Ireland and with the equivalent Minister in the Republic of Ireland it was clear that there is a willingness to see such links fostered

The question we as Ulster Scots must ask is why there has not been the willingness to develop those links in the years since 1998. Are there civil servants with a vested interest in not developing these links? Is there lack of vision in encouraging those willing to develop the links?

The one thing that everyone should be very clear about is that throughout our history the Ulster Scots people have had no time for duplicity. If the Belfast Agreement was sold to us on the basis that there would be east-west links and these were deliberately never developed then we will rightly want to know why and who is responsible

It is clear that the body established by the British and Irish governments to encourage the development of Ulster Scots feels that it has no remit to develop east-west links

The Ulster Scots Agency may be technically right in this, and we need to see how the hopes of groups such as my own community group in Ballycarry, County Antrim, were dashed over the years when we wanted assistance to develop links with a community in Scotland

Ironically, we are developing links with Mid Argyll in Scotland, where funding from the Gaelic language bodies is easier to obtain for east-west links than funding from any other organisation

This is not merely academic. The Ulster Scots community is in my view becoming increasingly alienated from the political process. It was given promises which have proved empty words up to now. It is no wonder that so many people from Ulster Scots heartlands do not vote at elections anymore; almost 50% in the case of East Antrim, 42% in North Antrim and 55% in North Down, for example. People are disillusioned because they believe that they were duped over the Belfast Agreement and the promises they expected to be followed through were broken. Unless there is some evidence of issues such as east-west links being addressed, then this sense of dislocation from political life will continue.

 Linking areas in Scotland and Northern Ireland can have significant effects in terms of cultural tourism to both regions, as well as social and cultural benefits, business and economic links and other spin-offs. We should bear in mind the high percentage of Scottish tourists visiting Northern Ireland  and at this time of year there is a steady flow of visitors to both areas, courtesy of the Orange Order and its celebrations.

We are fed up being viewed as a culture which is best ignored, when our members and supporters, our bands and our community, boost the economy of Scotland and Northern Ireland through travel and participation in each other’s demonstrations and parades. Without us the hotel industry, the ferry companies, gift shops and others would be worse off. Businesses who engage with us know the potential. It is time everyone saw it, and appropriate recognition from the tourist boards on board parts of the island would be welcome

I believe the Orange Order was the most significant body in Scotland to be maintaining links at the present time, and that as an organisation with tens of thousands of members it has an interest in seeing official recognition and development of east-west links.

The news that the British Irish Council is at last – after 12 years – to have a permanent home is to be welcomed. This body has not been relevant to the grassroots Ulster Scots people but it can play a part by acknowledging the importance of this community and the potential which it presents. I think many of us as activists in our communities are willing to be patient on these matters, but the clock is ticking and has been since 1998

There now needs to be a strategic plan to develop links between Ulster and Scotland. In a recent meeting which our community group had with the Minister of Culture, Nelson McCausland MLA, we were greatly encouraged at his approach in terms of the need for strategic thinking on this important issue. We would like to see all politicians sign up to this proposition as evidence of the shared future which we would wish for people on these islands

We should remember the words of Robert Burns, and ensure that auld acquaintance is not forgotten, but ever brought to mind.

Popular posts from this blog

ORANGE ORDER IN UNITED STATES TO PROMOTE TWELFTH

Qualifications of an Orangeman

Roll of Honour of Members in Service in the Great War