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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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popular versifiers who by trade were weavers of linen or otherwise involved in textile manufacture...

More dramatic was the appearance of the ‘Rhyming Weaver’ poets, a remarkable movement of popular versifiers in north and mid Antrim and northeast Down who by trade were weavers of linen or otherwise involved in textile manufacture. Much of their work, which appeared originally in local newspapers, has been lost, but dozens of these poets flourished from the 1780s until past the middle of the next century. Many assumed the stance of community spokesmen and acquired nicknames signifying this. James Orr (1770-1816), who was perhaps the most notable of these poets and called the ‘Bard of Ballycarry’ wrote in ‘The Dying Mason’ (c1798):

          Nae mair shall I gang, while in this side o' time ...
          Nae mair, while ilk mouth's clos'd, an' fast the door bar'd,
          Initiate the novice, baith curious and scaur'd;
          Nae mair join wi' scores in the grand chorus saft,
          Nor fandly toast `Airlan' - and peace to the craft';
          I aye cud been wi' ye, but now I maun stay
          Confin'd in my lang hame - the cauld house o' clay.

Within this territory Catholics as well as Protestants speak Ulster-Scots...

At other periods as well Ulster-Scots has found a voice in literature based on the spoken version of the language. This includes the present moment, when a cultural revival has prompted some who grew up with Ulster-Scots to write poems and stories in it.

In the Early 1960s, Professor Robert J Gregg from Larne in Northern Ireland, outlined the precise geographical boundaries of Ulster-Scots which embrace the four counties of northeast Down, north and east Antrim, north Londonderry, and east Donegal and reflects closely where Scots settled in the Plantation period. Within this territory Catholics as well as Protestants speak Ulster-Scots, and it remains distinct from English especially in its pronunciation (e.g. toon ‘town’, hame ‘home’) and grammar (disnae ‘does not’, cannae ‘cannot’). This is not to deny either the influence of Ulster-Scots on the English spoken throughout Ulster (from the ubiquitous wee ‘small’ to whenever ‘when’ to refer to a one-time occurrence) or the influence of English and Irish on Ulster-Scots. The long-term effect of the Plantation has been to produce three historic, interwoven linguistic and cultural traditions in Ulster.

Ulster-Scots became a recognised regional language ...

Under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, formulated by the Council of Europe in 1992, Ulster-Scots became a recognised regional language by the European Bureau of Lesser-Used Languages. When the government of the United Kingdom ratified the document in 1999 and signed it shortly thereafter, both Ulster-Scots and Irish achieved official status within the realm for the first time. The value of both, and other languages as well, had already been recognised by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement:

All participants recognize the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland.

In the 17th century the Plantation of Ulster laid the groundwork for much of this linguistic diversity. It remains one key to understanding the complexities of Northern Ireland in the 21st century.

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