Much of the discussion about the two communities in Northern Ireland refers to the different backgrounds of the Irish (Gaelic) race and Ulster-Scots. But there is little to be found about a third category that dates back to the time of the Plantation in 1607, Ulster-English. This was the subject of a fascinating talk hosted on St George’s Day at St Macartan’s Cathedral in Clogher, County Tyrone and organised by the William Carleton Society.
The speaker was Dr Paddy Fitzgerald of the Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American folk park in Omagh, a member of the Executive Committee of the Society. Earlier this year he gave an interesting talk about Archbishop John Hughes who came from the Augher area.
Dr Fitzgerald gave an outline of his own family history, which he pointed out had an Ulster-English connection. He explained that this was a different strand than the Ulster Scots. English settlers arrived after 1607 in the Belfast Lough area, moving through the Lagan Valley and South Antrim towards North Armagh and then along the Clogher Valley into Fermanagh. At the end of his talk, he posed the question whether we should have an Ulster-English Agency, because he said the authorities seemed to be promoting Ulster-Scots as the only alternative to the Gaelic and nationalist tradition.
The British Museum guide on accents and dialects of Northern Ireland says:-
“The Plantation of Ulster…was a planned process of settlement aimed at preventing further rebellion among the population in the north of Ireland. This part of the island was at that time virtually exclusively Gaelic-speaking and had shown the greatest resistance to English colonisation. From the early seventeenth century onwards, Irish lands were confiscated and given to British settlers — or ‘planters’ — who arrived in increasing numbers, bringing the English Language with them. Large numbers of settlers came from southwest Scotland and thus spoke a Scots dialect, while the remaining settlers came predominantly from the north and Midlands of England….
For some considerable time the colonists remained surrounded by Gaelic-speaking communities in County Donegal to the west and the counties of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan to the south. Thus English in the northeast of the island developed in relative isolation from other English-speaking areas such as Dublin, while the political situation over the course of the twentieth century has meant that Northern Ireland has continued to develop a linguistic tradition that is distinct from the rest of Ireland. Scots, Irish Gaelic, seventeenth century English and Hiberno-English (the English spoken in the Republic of Ireland) have all influenced the development of (Ulster) Northern Irish English, and this mixture explains the very distinctive hybrid that has emerged.”
The William Carleton Society would like to express its thanks to Precentor Noel Regan, for making the Cathedral available for this event. In his absence, the diocesan Curate Reverend Alistair Warke said the Cathedral enjoyed a good relationship with the annual William Carleton summer school and was pleased to be able to host the Society’s first talk in its programme for 2012/13. The talk was part of the “Shared History, Shared Future” project, supported by the EU Peace III programme delivered by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council.