Fowk o Ulster

Author: Ian Adamson

Date: 1996

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 4 Spring 1996

Tha Auldife Gates

(Continued) In Ullans 3 we gien oor memmers a furst owresettin o pairt o “The Ulster People.” Nae buiks haes ris mair threap nor Ian Adamson’s yins anent the Pechts o Ulster — no raicent-like oniehoo — an yit his hinnermaist yin “The Ulster People” (Fowk o Ulster) is owre ocht salerife gat. We hae tuk tha stairt o chaipter yin (An Ancient Heritage), an owreset it fae Inglis til Ulster-Scotch.

Tha same roád at thaim furst fowks wus oor far-oot forebears, an sae we maun be jist like thaim tae luk at — chaingit o coorse bi aa tha wee hirsels o ithèr fowks at flittit tae Airlann efther — sae, forbye, it cud aisie be at we hae kep a pickle laivins o tha farrants o thae auldrife fowks, maistlie anent oor ties tae tha laun an thà saisons, thängs ats owre ocht bäg wi fairmin fowks. Quhat aa the uist tae houl wi — quhat we noo caa tha Auldrife Gates — haes gane lang syne, yit aiblins ye can spey wee bäts o thaim in lang-set kintra freats an fowk mindins.

Estyn Evans screivit at archyologie wus stairtin tae “confirm what recent anthropological, linguistic and ethnographic research suggest, that the roots of regional personality in north-western Europe are to be found in the cultural experience of pioneer farmer and stockmen, quickened by the absorption of Mesolithic fisherfolk … One should probably look to the primary Neolithic/Megalithic culture rather than to the intervening Bronze Age as the main source of the Elder Faith”, (homologate quhit is raicent foon oot fae tha wocht o anthropologie, langidge, an ethnagraphie speirins, at the taupin ruits o ilk kintras ain gates in north-west Euraip is foon in tha fowkgates o thae fairmers an kye-boys at bruk in tha laun, fowkgates braidit bi takin in the Mesolithic fäshers … Aiblins ye maun luk til thae furst Neolithic/Mesolithic fowkgates, rathèr nor tha Bronze Age at cum efther, for tha main stairt o tha Auldrife Gates”.

Proféssor John Kelleher quod: “The culture that reasserted itself in the fourteenth century and continued viable … down to the early seventeenth century was but the latest stage of the culture that had existed continuously and strongly since prehistoric times … We can be sure that much of it survives in the native population, of only below the level of consciousness”.

(Tha fowkgates at cum bak til thà fore in thà thirtaen hunners an kep on … tae tha stairt o tha saxtaen hunners wus jist anither pairt o tha fowkgates at wus aye poustie wi us fae afore screivit historie … We can tak it for certs at muckle o it is tae tha fore yit amaing hameart fowks theday, tho mebbe fowks disnae ken it.)

Quhat we hae o Airlanns auldrife fowks fur aa tae see — tha dolmens, stane rängs an ithèr buryin stanes — bis respéctit bi kintra fowks yit. The say at interfeerin wi thir auld stanes cud, even theday, ill-fit ye, an archyologie men haesnae bin lat dae thair däggin roon some auld stanes bi residenters. Roon thà ninetaen hunners W G Wood-Martin screivit: “Facts which show the resentment formerly felt by the country people at their disturbance, are well known. It is noteworthy that these former objects of the peasants’ veneration were erected by an early wave of population. It may be suggested that their preservation by means of veneration for traditional beliefs points to the continued influence, up to a very late date, of their builders”.

(Daeins at kythe quhitwey kintra fowks tuk it ill quhan tha auldstanes wus interferrit wi is weel-kent. Ye maun tak tent o hoo thir Saicred Stanes wis biggit bi tha furst doon-sitters. Ye cud ledge at the hae stuid tha test o time acause o auld fowkgates an sae tha gates o tha fowks at biggit thaim haes aye bin tae tha fore.)

Ye cudnae credit it, bot sic auld freats bis a guid heft theday til oor wrocht o protéctin tha laun. In 19an89 tha Airisch fälm-maker Eamon de Buitlèar daen a fälm o tha baists an plants at leeved in an oul dunnerin-in o a forth, quhilk for hunners o yeirs tha resídenters hadnae touched it for fear o the ‘wee fowk’ at wus hidlins amaing tha bushes an trèes. Quhit cum aboot wus at tha baists daen guid, wi nae fear o fowk. “Animals realise these are the places to inhabit. There are cases of council workmen refusing to make a road through an area containing a ‘fairy fort’ because they have certain knowledge of men elsewhere who were cursed for interfering with such places. These beliefs guarantee conservation”.

(Baists ken thir pairts is guid for leevin in. Thars daeins quhar Cooncil warkers wudnae mak a roád th’oo an airt wi a fairy forth in it for the kent weel o ither fowks at wus wae-worthit for intèrfeirin wi sic thängs. Sic fowkgates an freats haes bin thair stay.)

Thar haes bin kep in Airlann forbye a guid wheen o fowkgates an freats anent tha keepin o heich days an faist days — yokit roon tha hame wants o fowk at leeved bi raisin coarn an rairin kye, quhit ye wud caa a fairmers calendèr. Kevin Danaher haes daen the pruif at thir ‘fowk calendèr’ wusnae Celtic, an pits forrit: “We may conclude that the four-season calender of modern Irish tradition is of very high antiquity, even of late neolithic or megalithic origin, and that its beginnings predate the early Celts in Ireland by at least as great a depth of time as that which separates those early Celts from us”.

(We maun jalouse at tha fower-saison calendàr o Airisch fowkgates theday is a muckle auldrife yin, aiblins cumin fae tha neolithic or megalithic days, an at it aa stairtit afore tha furst Celts cum tae Airlann bi as monie yeir at we hae atweesht thae furst Celts an oorsels, an mair).

Differin Airts an Pairts Estyn Evans jist ses aa anent hoo bäg thir lang times o leevin an doon-settin wus, an taaks o quhitwey ye can see ilk airt an pairt haes differs: “The [archaeological] evidence reveals … one essential truth: that we are dealing not with mythical ‘lost tribes’ but with ancestral West Europeans, physically our kinsmen, who were the first Ulster farmers, pioneering in a way of life which has persisted through more than 5000 years, carrying with it attitudes of reverence for the forces of nature and leaving indelible marks on the face of the land. The landscape they helped to fashion was to be the heritage — for good or ill — of all later settlers, Celt and Christian, Norman and Planter. Already by the late Neolithic, farmers practising shifting cultivation and rearing livestock had penetrated all the major upland areas in the province and had reduced considerable stretches of forest to grassland, scrub or bog.” (The’s tha ae big faic at tha wittins [fae archaeologie] haes brung up: at we’re no taakin o freatie ‘loast trìbes’ bot o West Euraip forebears, oor ain kith an kin, at wus tha färst Ulster fairmers, wrocht in a new gate o leevin at haes cum doon thoo mair nor 5000 yeir, an bringin wi it attítudes o respeck for tha pouer o nature an laivin mairks on tha tap o tha groon for aye. Tha laun the wrocht wi an made a change oot o cum tae be tha heirskip — for guid or ill — o aa ither in-flitters, eftherhaun Celts an Christians, Normans an Planters. Bi thà late Neolithic times, fairmers wus aareadie flitten fae new laboorit grun tae new laboorit grun an rairin baists an haed bruk intae aa tha bäg hielann pairts o Ulster an haed wrocht doon straiks o wuidlann tae graiss, scrogglann an mosses.

Ian Adamson


• • • • •

Hard Breid Raa (North Street) in Greba (Grey abbey) was the subject of the Greba Lasses — a song we published in a previous issue. Prompted by this, another residenter has sent in the following ditty he learnt as a young Greba Craa:

Up Hard Breid Raa

A loast ma Da

An whaur dae ye think A fun him

Behin’ the pump

Scartin his rump

Wi aa the weans aroon him.



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