If you have heard ‘The Wee Wee Man‘ from County Antrim on the radio, you would have enjoyed the ‘Gap in the Hedge’ night at the East Belfast Arts Festival. Before I go any further I should explain to readers outside Ulster that ‘wee’ is merely local dialect for small and a common expression in this part of the island of Ireland and in Scotland. Stephen Hall who wrote the song is a graphic designer who now devotes his time to storytelling and songwriting. He has written, illustrated and published popular books that look at the theme of identity through popular myth, using accessible styles and writing techniques to introduce these works to a broader audience.
Stephen sometimes uses a Kenyan drum to accompany his songs. The programme told us that he has a deep interest in how we see ourselves as a community in Northern Ireland. I notice that one of the songs on his album, released in 2010, is called The Reiver and the Gael, which refers to the period before Plantation.
One review remarked on the “melodic mandolin and catchy chorus” of that particular track. As John Baucher explained in that article in culturenorthernireland.org:-
“What Hall is doing, in my view, is asking people to look beyond the obvious and politicised traditions by arguing that we are a mix of the old and new. We are of a mongrel bloodline: a hotchpotch of Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English, to name a few of the obvious strands of DNA flowing here in Northern Ireland. As Hall states in the musical poem ‘The Lang Staine’: ‘So culture vultures listen. Listen long and hard. Ulster Scots a hybrid. Nae dull aul lump of lard. A shiny shiny dappled thing. A mongrel through and through’. “
The album is “an inventive mixture of poetry and song in the Ulster-Scots Irish tradition”. The CD with 21 tracks of songs and poems was recorded in a work East room at the top of Stephen’s house, his ‘moon shed’, and was launched at The Black Box in Belfast in September 2010. Further details are available on BBC Northern Ireland’s Ulster-Scots page.