“Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

“Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Jigging at the Crossroads" ~ by Fintan Vallely
Release Date: June 2006
Hardcover 272 pages (June 2006)
Publisher: Irish Academic Press
Language: English
ISBN: 0716526417

Synopsis from Amazon.co.uk ~ for discussion ~ Ye Protestants all? I knew quite a few fine and respected Protestant Irish musicians when we were based in Eire…

"Looks at the present day booming Traditional Irish music scene and notes that while there is enthusiastic participation of Northern Ireland Catholics, Protestants have largely absented themselves. The author argues that not only are Protestants in general indifferent to the explosion of this music’s Irish ‘new-culture’ life in the expanding EC, but many Loyalists, at the cutting edge of Britishness in Northern Ireland, perceive the music as being actively hostile to Union with Britain, implicitly Republican. The process of acceleration of Catholic interest in the music and of Protestant rejection of it, is also looked at during the rise of Civil Rights politics and ‘the troubles’ since 1966. Contrary to many contemporary opinions, the author does not see any unique, society-healing power in this music, instead holding that the music only reflects what goes on in the outside political world."

We are somewhat removed from the isle at the moment, but most of our experiences are contrary to this, are of the healing sort, though there are a few sore memories where the likes of certain Comhaltas officials publically put down the music of the North, and not just Northern Ireland, but Ulster as a whole.

In one case a load of Northerners who’d come down for a cultural festival in Dublin, to do with RTE, they were there to support a call for preserving traditional content in the media, radio and T.V., at a time when there was a percieved threat to its reduction. Anyway, at a gathering outside RTE one of the spokespersons for Comhaltas dropped a nasty. Most of the Northerners, fed up with the hypocrisy, got in their cars and went home, weren’t there for any evening sessions or ceilis.

BUT ~ mostly our experiences have been the healing sort, with humour, hospitality and heart. I pray that hasn’t changed too much, though a recent ‘Cead Mille’ discussion started by Ptarmigan of Antrim is part seed for this. We are very fond of Ulster and all the hospitality and heart I found up there amongst those darker shadows of insecurity, fear and their attendendant suppressions… People, Catholic and Protestant, were kind to us, opened their doors, made us feel family. Yeah, there were others in cars and with guns curious about what the hell we were about, some even afraid of us, all sides and the British Army too. I still well remember the guy in the ditch aiming his gun at me while they had me empty my backpack in some backwoods area of Armagh. It turned out the guy with a gun played fiddle in an English ceilidh band back home… But, mostly it was good, even there we found a glimmer of commonality, community in the music…though I’d rather he had a fiddle bow aimed at me and was asking if I knew the tune he’d just played…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Interesting view on this, Ceolachan. I did start a similar discussion a while back but more as an enquiry, after reading Susan McKay’s book.
It seemed from that that many protestants freely participated in sessions. But maybe that’s just the ones we know about. The paragraph you quoted seems to tell a different story.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Isn’t this more of a political Unionist/Republican issue? While in most cases, the religious beliefs break upon the same lines, is it fair to drag religion into what is essentially a political dispute? Or, because religious beliefs and affiliations have been used as a tool in this conflict over so many years, has this now become a religious issue? With many in the populations of both Britain and Ireland turning away from the churches, does religion still play the role in these issues that it once did?

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Only recently I found playing traditional music in the north has been a very touchy issue. When I was in Belfast this March, I heard a horrible story of a bodhran player from Eastern Europe beaten up by a Protestant gang. That happened just a few months ago. The local musicians remarked he wouldn’t have survived ten years ago.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

On page 41 of "Hidden Fermanagh" Cathal McConnell tells us he was eliminated from a competition in 50’s simply because he wasn’t from Donegal. This is ridiculous.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Because I’m American, I probably just don’t fully understand the situation, but I have to wonder:

How can a series of musical notes be political, or religious?

Song lyrics, sure. Or I suppose the melody of a song, because of the association with the words. And I suppose that, for the relatively few people familiar enough with the different styles of instrumental music, there could be such associations with particular styles.

But isn’t that making quite a stretch of it? It seems to me that some people are just looking for an excuse to make trouble, and are highjacking something that really has nothing to do with any of it.

Me, I just like the tunes because they’re good music.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

In the north, I believe, playing traditional Irish music is a bit like speaking Irish in public. It seems some crazy people still think anything "foreign" should be eliminated.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

If this thing we love were purged completely of all outside influence, including Protestant, we’d all be beating branches together and slapping our thighs and ululating…

A load of ‘names’ used to meet, along with the ‘unnamed’ like myself, to swap banter and songs back and forth, in this case rebel songs from both sides of the conflict. I guess for us it was a kind of exocism by song. It was a lot of fun and we all dug into it with gusto, taking turns, something from the one side and then something from the other. Sometimes we’d play a tune or two in between the singing and slaggin. There were folks from all over, North and South, East and West, and the usual ‘tourists’ too. Then one time, the last time we gathered, some hoods showed up and got a bit mouthy and nasty and threatening. I know we should not let such things spoil our fun, but we never met in that particular pub and at that particular time for that particular exorcism again… The bastards…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

One of the finest traditional singers and music teachers I have ever had the good fortune to call friend, is John Kennedy of Cullybacky. We have been singing traditional ballads for years and I have never heard him mention religion one way or the other. I’m Catholic and John is not, but who cares, it doesn’t make him any different in my eyes, just one of lifes gentlemen doing great work for the music he loves..

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

It never amazed me how much folks had in common before things went pear shaped and paranoid. The one difference I came across was that in an evening of dancing, whatever the house or hall, the Catholics tended to, say in County Armagh to narrow things down a little bit, to dance more sets in an evening than the Protestants. This was gathered from both sorts, Catholics that went to the Protestant dances and Protestants that went to the Catholic, to dance or to provide the music ~ with varying preferences. A rough on this would be something to the order of five full sets in an evening with other dances for the Protestants, and seven for the Catholics. I never heard amongst the older population one bad word or criticism either side for the other, and the difference in quantity was never really an issue either… Everyone I spoke to remembered those days fondly… One lady in her 80s, at a house dance, grabbed my arm and squeezed the flood from it, tears flowing from her eyes, and commenting ~ "We haven’t had a house dance like this since the troubles." ~ smiling through her tears…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

A point to remember in this discussion is that not all of us Protestants are Anglicans. So we don’t have ties to a church that is linked to a particular state or nation. The term "Protestant" is a VERY wide umbrella.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Good point, but this is about one enclave of definitions, Northern Ireland, and not about the very wide community of variety across the globe. There are equally violent aspects, some of us would want to say ‘worse’, elsewhere in this world that claim the cloth for themselves, with blood. It is important to consider this in context, whether or not we personally have the experiences or perceptions to understand something that for reasonable people makes absolutely no sense at all. Where is this division of hate outlined in that text of Christianity, the bible.

But back to form, this is about the premises of Vallely’s book in part ~ that this music we love, in the context of Northern Ireland, is divisive rather than healing…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Gary Hastings quite handily proved in his book that many of the tunes are from the same origins. If you haven’t read and listened to the accompanying CD, it’s a wonderful resource.

As a Protestant from Belfast, who loves the music, plays it, sings it, and enjoys the arts of both subject traditions, it always pained me that while saying "no surrender," there were members of my family willing to ‘surrender’ a previously-deeply-engrained part of their heritage - music - because they wrongly associated it with people slightly different from themselves.

And…if you don’t understand the difference between a loyalist and a unionist, and a nationalist and a republican, you may want to sit back and take it all in for a period of time before offereing comment.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Well said…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

once when asked if i was either orange or green i simply replied that i was color blind. a little more color blindness in the world would go a long way methinks.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Perhaps it’s worth telling this tale again here:

Just after I came back over here to Ulster to live, 14 years ago, my Belfast manager had to fill out an ‘equal opportunities’ form for all his staff & had to say whether they were Catholic or Protestant. So, without asking me, he just put me down as a Catholic.

When he told me about this at the next staff meeting, I said that that was very interesting & asked him how he came to the conclusion that I was Catholic.
He replied that it was obvious I was a Catholic because I played all that Diddley Dee music.

So when I told him that I had in fact been Christened as a gid Scots Protestant, he said - "What, but have you never been a Catholic?"!

I think the huge rise in interest here in Ulster by the local Protestant population, & all those who consider themselves to be Ulster-Scots, in all things ‘Ulster-Scots’, including the music, will hopefully result in a spin-off which means far more interest will be taken in future in ‘ALL’ the Traditional Music of Ulster.

"the author does not see any unique, society-healing power in this music," - in light of what I have said above, I believe that ultimately, it, traditional music, may well prove to have great healing powers. Well, can but hope!

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Oooops! - Well, ‘we’ can but hope!

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Here’s my two cents. I now live in Cape Breton and very happily too.My hometown in ‘Norn Iron’ was Larne, which until recently had the dubious title of the most sectarian town in the north(the ‘honour’ now belongs to Ballymena. During several trips home in recent years I have seen many big improvements in the acceptance in traditional music.When I left the madness back in
1976,you had to know where the sessions were held. Nowadays,one can find wee sessions all around the place.One notable session has been held in the Meeting House in Carncastle,Co Antrim for many years and is popular with prods and taigs alike. Any time I’ve played in The Thatch(I’m a whistle player), a few guys would come into the room and sit beside me so they could hear.Most of these guys had been fifers in what we affectionately call ‘kick the pope’ Orange bands. Anyone who politicises music should be ashamed of themselves. Finally, A pox on the houses of all militant republicans or protestants for stealing my country from me

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

I’m yet to be convinced that traditional music, ALL or ANY traditional music, will prove a catylist for positive change. I see it, as it has been for a long time, largely falling pray to various groups who can do no better than to lay their own clichéd and ill-informed claim on various strands of it (republican assumptions of ownership, "Ulster Scots" latter day ghettoisation and claim staking, gaelic revival romantic puritanism…) The ‘it’ll bring us all together’ rally cry is wearing a bit thin for me. Let’s not pretend we’ve done the real hard work of positive change behind an upbeat UTV, unionist agenda sanctioned soundtrack.

Real change will take the insight, intelligence and courage to disarm our hatred, distrust and constructed alienation for one another. Let’s not beat about the bush. If indeed the music is being geared up as a vehicle to bring unity then why is it being represented as a trophy of implied racial differentiation with renewed vigour?

Good man, Fintan… keep ‘em thinking one step ahead.



Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Here’s one musician’s take on this, from his web site. Every little bit helps.

Tommy Sands has presented his unique weekly Country Ceili programme on Downtown Radio, Belfast, without a break since August 1977. It is one of the longest running folk music programmes in these islands and continues to be one of the most popular.

"Ceili", for Sands, is not just music, but chat and a get together too, just like the gatherings in his own family home when he was growing up.

Folk and traditional music is the main focus of the programme but, as well as playing all the recent recorded releases, he likes to travel the Ulster country side recording the music and stories of the older people who may never otherwise be heard.

He believes that the music can be a great force for unity and healing in a divided society like Northern Ireland and the "Folks" who have dropped into the programme to take part include the late Cardinal O’Fee to sing "The Oul Orange Flute", Rev Ian Paisley to tell jokes, Lord Fin to play "Roisin Dubh" on the mouth organ or Gerry Adams and Gary McMichael to reminisce about their youthful days in Belfast. Country Ceili airs every Saturday night in Northern Ireland between six and eight o’clock on Downtown Radio.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

This discussion just shows how horribly complicated and confused are the issues in our wee Ulster - where as Seamus Heaney said at Hay on Wye last week everyone is always on the lookout for for clues about the ‘allegiance’ of everyone they meet.

I was brought up in a Presbyterian, strongly Unionist (but not Orange Order) household in Belfast in the 50s and early 60s.
The only contact I had with Irish music was with the songs of the Dubliners and the Clancy brothers - songs like the Holy Ground and Leaving of Liverpool were regularly sung at dances and parties. Traditional music was something that occured in ‘republican’ rural pubs in Donegal etc that Prods didn’t go near.

I only ‘discovered’ the music when I moved to London and ended up a few streets away from the legendary ‘Favourite’ pub in London where the Jimmy Power trio held sway on Wednesday, Saturday nights and Sunday lunchtimes. I didn’t fully understand the thing then and probably heard some legendary guest swithout knowing it. Anyway I gradually developed into a pretty mediocre whistle and then flute player.

The conflict in Norn Iron, the Six Counties or whatever you want to call it isn’t religious at root - it is economic and cultural and religion is one aspect of the cultural divide between unionist/loyalist/ protestant and nationalist/republican/Catholic (yes there are differences but they are subtle to outsiders). Unfortunately the music is also caught up in this battle for cultural dominance - despite the fact that there are tunes etc in common and that there a lot of us that take the plague on both your houses stance.

Maybe things are changing a bit - maybe music can play a bit of a role - if we can detach it from the politicos. One thing that we trad musicians can do is to play more of the ‘proddy’ tunes like the orange marches that Harry Brad does.

As Joe Cooley says on his wonderful tape ‘its only music brings people to their senses’. Lets all work to try and make that come true!

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

As far as the "…"Ulster Scots" latter day ghettoisation and claim staking" goes, well OK it clearly rankles those who are very politically minded in Ulster, but it can’t be deinied that this recent phenomenon has resulted in literally thousands & thousands of new Ulster ears listening to it - folk who would, in the past probably have paid little or no attention to Trad music, because of all the political baggage it ‘appeared’ to carry with it.

Call me foolish if you like, but I think that anything which encourages thousands of new trad music enthusiast, however ignorant they are of the music & where it came from, can only be a good thing.

Many of these new listeners & practitioners are children - let’s be hopeful shall we!

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Maybe I’m been under a misapprehension for all these years but surely the Anglicans are a small minority in Northern Ireland? Isn’t the main form of Protestantism the Presbyterian Church?

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Speaking as someone from the outside, but yet British, to see it from the point of view of anyone NOT from Norn Iron, the whole thing has always seemed both a storm in a teacup, and yet of course a horribly unpleasant one. Does anyone else in Britain, I have often wondered, know or care what the unionist/loyalists are on about ? They always seem to be clinging on to some outdated idea of what Britain is which most of the rest of us have long outgrown. If only they could get themselves out of their backyard and into the real world and get the blinkers off their eyes, then the world would become a much happier place. But, no, they are still stuck in their little corner fighting their outdated wars, and both innocent people and the music they love suffers as a result.
And, just to be a pedant, my parish priest told me when I was growing up that Anglicans ARE Catholics, they’re just not Romans. But I’ve long since left that church too.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

This is getting to me like that old song swap I mentioned earlier, there is a kind or exorcism that airing certain subjects brings. The light generated from the friction shows you where best to hang the laundry for a good fresh drying. It doesn’t eliminate the shadows, but sharing a concern with others starts to define things a bit more clearly, what definitions can be pulled from the unreasonable. Maybe it is that mostly I’m an optimist that I feel hopeful after reading the contributions so far, thanks… I am not a cynic, but I am a skeptic…

I wasn’t born to the troubles, so there’s that limitation on my undrestanding, but as so many of us also come to realize, being born to anything sometimes is an association that is so close it comes with blinders, we take too much for granted, and in the end it places greater limitation on our understanding. What gives me the most hope is that some of those folks in the fray of promoting and furthering this music (& dance & most expecially the social craic) in Ulster are not limiting their welcome or their definitions…

I remember my first English jingoistic friend, yeah, me, actually it was a couple. It was by accident, but my understanding is much greater than it was beforehand. For them there is no doubt, not only is Northern Ireland British, in their own words ~ "It belongs to us!" Part of the magic of first coming together outside of the many disagreements we have is that we discovered that all later. We know we don’t agree. We can argue up a blue storm and still we somehow remain friends. I also know, as WASP as this couple are, as pro England and Protestant and the Caucasian race as they are, and really, their attidudes fall within the scope of that political ‘F’ word we musn’t say ~ if a black couple, or Asian, or Irish, had a car breakdown in this man’s area, he’d do everything in his power to help them. So, while the language is strong, curiously there is heart and concern for others that superscedes their bigotry. I guess having seen that keeps me in hope that my arguements, based more on considerably more realistic sources than their bigotry, might break through their concrete some to achieve a slight chink of light for them to root around in the shadows that have built in them a fear of anything outside of their bigotry, a bigotry that has a long history for both of them, generations of false belief handed down that colour their view and laden them with preconceptions. At least, and this is one chink in that, I definitely shattered their preconceptions of me, and probably as much as I had my own adjusted with regards to jingoistic English people… Oh yeah, almost forgot the place we’re in ~ and they now have an appreciation of Irish music…

So, all said, thanks for bolstering my faith in us all…and in that positive and hospitable spirit of the North that persists despite the fires of fear and anger raging or smouldering about it… I prefer, if not already obvious, that previous warmth, the one with humour and laughter…

Now I have to see if I can find someway to catch that Saturday show of Tommy Sands, maybe there’s a way via this medium, the Internet?

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

It is, of course, true that many loyalists view the music with suspicion. It is also equally true that there are and probably always have been many exponents and enthusiasts for the music that come from a unionist/loyalist background.

In the Ards and Co Antrim they abound.

I would also suggest that the boundary between the ‘Ulster Scots’ and ‘Irish’ is a bit less certain than many assume. The repertoire of tunes in Antrim and Donegal especially includes many tunes that would be comfortably part of the repertoire of pipe bands and many pipe bands [like the Field Marshall Montgomery] include many ‘Irish’ tunes in their playing.

It could also just as easily be said that there is anathema among many catholics/republicans/nationalists to the music.

There is also a very strong dance tradition among the ‘protestant’ community and many Orange Halls throughout the North play hosty to the Festival Dance Association.

Whether or not the music can be a force for reconciiation or not - I don’t know - but there is certainly a lot of overlap across the communities and I have played tunes with boys and girls from both traditions over the 30+ years I have been playing.

Finally - my Da taught me a song [The Crimson Banner - an Apprentice Boys Song] that he learnt from Gusty Spence [convicted UVF murderer] while Gusty was learning Irish from my Da while working in the Post Office, and my da was a former IRA man! So maybe there is hope for us all after all :-)

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Its worth remembering that protestant people have always played what we now call traditional music in Ireland. From the gentleman pipers thru to canon Goodman, the RIC pipe band, piper Philip Martin through to Gary Hastings and the many contempories and in betweens. It is not new. If anything, there seems to have been less problem with it, and less fuss made about it, in the past. Before we had senses on nation and identity entrenched by civil conflict there seems to have been quite organic blends of what are now broadly considered ‘opposing’ cultura movements.

Philip Martin, orange man, uilleann piper, pipe maker made a three record recording in 1928 with a scots piper and a northumbrian piper entitled "The Pipes of Three Nations". Presumably Philip represented the nation of Ireland for example (Martin is a fine example of a musician, he accepted traditional music exactly for what it was and was an influence on Seamus Ennis who visited him and held him in high regards. Martin’s house in Monaghan(?) was a bit of a northern Mecca for traditional musicians)

The people who play and are involved in ITM in the North of Ireland are a small majority of the general populace. And of course not all of those are the hugable type who are able to drop their baggage. Many are not above claiming their art for their politics etc. This is trajically natural.

I’m not suggesting that there is no positive message here, but the big fuss made over the posititve message that is being kncked out just indicates how much traditional music is blindly accepted as some sort of battle OR healing ground: its ‘healing lite’ and a catchy subject for people who would rather not give up too much ground or challenge the real seeds of idiocy.

If it were simply a case of thousands of children being introduced afresh to traditional music then I’d be delighted. Given the political realities, and emerging cultural prospecting sorrounding the said phenomena then I think its very fair and relevant to say that its not a simple case. The political clout behind the movement is the power (the unionist and loyalist politicians and loyal order officials who represent the ‘Ulster Scots’ political wing and council), not the small minority who are subjected to its sanctioned cultural manifestations.




Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

The people who play ITM in the north are a small *minority* of course, not a majority as typo-ed above… ho hum.


Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

In my experience, the "city" Protestants who play traditional music tend to be a more open-minded breed than their Unionist (and Nationalist, for that matter) brethren.

They see the music, much as their rural cousins have for a long time, as the property of neither "side", for want of a better word; i.e. whether you hate your next door neighbour’s guts or not has very little to do with the fact that you both play the flute.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

My comment that all Protestants are not the same came from a couple of incidents where I was involved in Irish music and dance here in the US, and ran into a few folks who were: a) Surprised to find out that I was a Protestant, since they couldn’t understand how a Protestant would be involved in ITM, and b) Assumed that, since I was a Protestant, I must be Orange, and a Unionist, etc, etc. I don’t pretend to understand all the intricacies of the situation in Northern Ireland (which I believe I have demonstrated in my previous comments). My only desire is that a solution be found that allows people to live in peace. So I resented people assuming I held a whole set of political beliefs just because of where I worshipped. Thankfully, I have only met a few people like that—in general, the ITM scene here in the NE US is very open, and the people that I have played with have ancestors from a whole host of nations and come from many faiths, joined by a common love of music.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

breandan - I found your comment about Gusty of interest. My family is from the Banjo up the Shankill and the Spences were in the Hammer below us. I was re-introduced to Gusty a few years ago, before he and his family were forced off Boundary Street. They have since moved to a small town near Bangor.

Gusty proudly speaks the language your Da taught him. He says that speaking it helped him gain understanding and served as a foot hold to open communications with republicans while he was in prison. I got a list of republican books from him, that he read while he was incarcerated and read them, in the order he did, in attempt to understand his journey. He recommended I read them.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Apologies for this small aside, but a memory has been touched in my following your contributions, you holding the greater responsibility here Al.

There has been a flash of fashion in dance, ‘New Age’, that I’ve found in Eire, Cymru, Scotland, and all over, including in Canada and the U.S., calling itself "Circle Dancing"… Its ideals center on peace and community and there’s a certain worshipping nature about it in these folks hands. My wife finds it all too airy fairy, but I’ve been to a few gatherings and even played for some. What used to catch my heart, part pain and part wry humour, was watching these ‘New Age’ folk prancing about bare footed to Croatian and Serbian songs that were actually those countries’ jingoistic anthems. You know, the sort of thing where one side is the sufferer and the chosen of God and the other are the inhuman bastards and deserve being trampled under foot and purged from the land.

Maybe, that isn’t bad, that the songs no longer hold that same power to support hate and bigotry in other hands and a different setting, wherever they’ve been transplanted to. Maybe enough of that and they become articles freed from that tyranny, becoming something more historic, something appreciated for that and the beauty of the melody and dance.

If we can in a sense make our music involvements in a spirit similar, open, welcoming and in our mind ‘healing’, eventually that may overrule the bitterness. So, it is good that the music has gained an international identity and exercise, and coming back to the ‘homeland’ from those ‘aways’, maybe some of that spirit, like the innocence of beginners, can refresh it, make it anew, and help to heal at least in some small way…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

I appreciae the sentiments in what you’re saying there, ceolachan. Maybe there is some merit to be gleaned there, and the renewal enrichment of strands of ITM from influences that went away to later come back is certainly no new thing in Iriland (I immediately think of Michael Coleman, John McKenna and others who embraced the musics in their new homes in the US to create an idenifiably Irish/ US sound and ethic. Their influence is still very traceable today).

More fundamental to the problem as I see it though is the misappropriation of the music, or strands of the music, to enforce some idea of the ‘pure’ expression of one sort of identity (republicanism, nationalism, ‘Ulster-Scots" and unionism, gaelism etc…)

In reality just has not existed as exclusively as that up til now. Such misconceptions should be challenged where they appear, where they are blatant, and where they are subtly implied.



Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

I’m interested very much in this thread, and particulary in different viewpoints expressed by Ptarmigan and Harry B. I’d like their feedback on whether or not I’m understanding their points as they intend them to be understood.

Ptarmigan, I think, is suggesting that this new protestant interest in what is being called Ulster Scots music is a very positive thing and that the similarity of this music to ITM will help bring the two groups together. I think he also is at least sympathetic to the view that this music is somewhat distinct from ITM.

Harry B, on the other hand, seems to me to take the view that the music that protestants are now calling Ulster Scots is really not distinct at all from ITM, and that the fact that they (the protestants) are suggesting it is, is a negative thing in that they are seeking to distinguish themselves from their catholic neighbours even when such a distinction is not really valid.

I hope this is a reasonably accurate interpretation of these two viewpoints.

And I suppose I may as well give my opionion - I agree partly with both. I think HB is correct in that the Ulster Scots music is really part of the same music as ITM, and I agree that those who insist on calling it something else are doing so for reasons that have nothing to do with music. But, I also think that this interest in traditional music among protestants is probably a positive thing - it means that some protestants are identifying with something that really is part of their heritage, whatever they choose to call it (as opposed to indentifying only with being British). But I agree with those who say that it isn’t the music that is driving this recognition - the music itself is not a force for change, it’s merely a reflection that change is happening, and for the most part, this change is positive.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Dear ampyjoe,

Just to further inform your take on my own view on one point: I accept that there is an innocent side of "the Ulster Scots adventure" as one protestant friend put it (he is not a ‘Ulster-Scot inthusiast although a fine and experienced traditional musician BTW). Aspects of ‘it’ are harmless enough (if not terribly accurate). Rarely is something all bad, and such a viewpoint would simply be another unwelcome extream.

Problem is that when ‘it’ is embroiled inseparably into the wider social, political and religious realities of the North (through sectarian groups seeming to lay claim to aspects of it) ‘It’ ceases to be harmless as it then contributes to the cultures of segragation, alienation and just plain sectarianism that contribute to the beleifs and attitudes that recently contributed to the futile destroying of life. This is not harmless.

So I don’t want to come across as totally anti Ulster Scots, as I’ve stated before: people can believe whatever they want, and if it doesn’t contribute to the suffering of their countrymen and women then I’ll happily leave them off. That’s not entirely the situation here of course.

Its the subtle aspects of the tragedy that really need a lot of attention.

Its worth pointing out as well that I’ve been playing with protestant musicians from the word ‘go’ and ‘Ulster-Scots’ is a new kid on the block. Many of my protestant comrades still see it as dodgy, silly or just laughable… so its not at all accepted as a means of identity by all protestant traditional musicians and many wouldn’t appreciate being identified with it just because they are from protestant backgrounds.

All the best,


Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Excellent thread. A breath of fresh air. I look forward to having a read of Fintan’s book!

The synopsis above mentions "booming scene", which suggests popularity. Is the very popularity of what we call Irish Traditional Music a reason for its use as a demarkation device? A way to separate us versus them? Is it being used to bolster the religious dividing line? Stateside, we would call this a "wedge issue".

Perhaps we should return to the days of subculture where it was just cool to be different, together.

Posted by .

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

To answer your question Joe, you said:

"Ptarmigan, I think, is suggesting that this new protestant interest in what is being called Ulster Scots music is a very positive thing and that the similarity of this music to ITM will help bring the two groups together.
I think he also is at least sympathetic to the view that this music is somewhat distinct from ITM."

Well Joe, not being a native Ulsterman [although my maternal grandfather was] I was not raised amongst ‘the troubles’, & this plus the fact that I have not been a regular church goer for some 40 years, means I don’t have any religous or political baggage to my view of Ulster Scots music.
Not that I’m suggesting that Harry has any baggage as such, although clearly many on both sides of this question up here would have, it’s just that it is not unnatural that his view is a little different to my own.

I often hear older folk up here in North Antrim describe how, before the troubles, musicians, both Catholic & Protestant, would have played freely together in Orange Halls, & Parish Hals, but mostly Orange Halls, for weekly Dances.
Interesting too that up here, a large % of the repertoire would have been of a Scottish origin.
However, from listening to these older folks, I have been left with the impression, rightly or wrongly, that once the troubles came along two processes started taking place.
In Protestant households, musicians who had once embraced Traditional Music, now stepped back from it & denied their interest in it. I’m told Fiddles were often either disposed of, or hidden away.
In these same households, they perceived the Catholic population making more & more of a fuss of traditional music & claiming it as their own & only theirs, & so putting a Nationalist stamp on it which further alienated the Protestant population from it.

If this is indeed what has happened over the last 35 years, I can only see a movement which puts traditional music, whatever they want to call it, back in the hands of 55% of the population up here as a positive step forward.

OK the political heads will use this, like they use everything else, to futher their own little causes, but then of course that’s what politicians do, so nothing new there.
Just like I have no doubt at all that ITM was constantly used & being made use of by political beings of a Nationalist persuasion throughout the troubles.

However, once the dust settles, I would be hopeful that at least trad music, in its many shapes, forms & guises, will be freely accessible to 100% of the population in Northern Ireland, rather than to a minority.

For this reason, I try to keep an open mind on the claims that Ulster-Scots is a separate & distinct music form.

I’m sure Harry knows only too well that I know Scottish Music when I hear it & likewise Irish Music, so I feel sure he is also well aware that I am unlikely to be fooled by any music which claims to be distinct from either, but is not.

I believe it is just possible that this term Ulster-Scots music, which may well be a new term, is possibly describing a musical form which has & does exist, but just didn’t actually have a proper label before.

As I said above, I’m trying to keep an open mind on the subject.

"the similarity of this music to ITM will help bring the two groups together."
- There is no doubt in my mind at all that Ulster-Scots music & ITM are inextricably linked, given the toing & froing of Scots & Irish musicians over the past centuries it is hardly surprising.

To many outsiders there may in fact appear to be little or no difference between the two, but It is perhaps like comparing Bluegrass & Old Time. To an outsider they sound the same, but to those insiders in the know, they are very different! Although the distinction between these two doesn’t have a political edge, or does it?

Anyway Joe, I hope that helps to answer your questions.

Like Jode says, it is indeed an interesting topic this & must surely be considered just a tad more weighty than Dow’s lost trousers - I think? :-)

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:


You could quickly clear up any confusion by quantifying the differences, or perceived differences, between ITM and Ulster- Scots.

I still have been given no reason to believe that there is any distinct bodu of music there and it runs completely contrary to the opinions of the musicians I know and play/ played with. Untill I am furnished with actual stylistic content then I strongly question the existence of such a distinct body of material, your assumtion that it exists (in that you give ‘it’ a title and refer to ‘it’) and by extension I’m afraid I can only question your understanding of ITM and Scots music: it seems to me, if you really knew both music’s distinctions, you’d be able to quantify perceived characterisitics of this alleged spin-off. I don’t detect any reasoned impartiality on your part to question, so there’s no issue there.

There is certainly nothing there as distinctly different as bluegras and old time music, Dick… c’mon.



Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Harry, I only say I am keeping an open mind on the subject.

I personally don’t feel any threat from this claim that an Ulster-Scots Music exists, so consequentially I see no harm in my keeping an open mind on the matter.

As yet, I have not been convinced that it does exist, nor have I been convinced that it does not, so I keep an open mind.

You, on the other hand, always seem to get very hot under the collar whenever this topic rears its head, so you appear to be convinced it does not exist! Either that or perhaps the political issues override the musical considerations for you?

Your comments like - "I don’t detect any reasoned impartiality on your part to the question" always appear to be designed to precipitate an argument, but perhaps it’s just the nature of forum talk.
However, I likewise detect very little impartiality on your part either to this question.

If ‘it’ does not exist, then just how then would you propose encouraging the protestant/unionist population of Northern Ireland to embrace Irish traditional music, if indeed that is the only traditional music that exists in Northern Ireland?

You may well see it all as one music, but what % of orangemen do you think you would be able to convince to join you at the Ulster Fleadh & share a Guinness & a ballad & a tune, in a Mc pub?
… & what % of Unionists would you imagine would be willing to send their kids along to your local Comhaltas classes?

I simply say let the politicians get on with their silly little mind games & let us get as many folks up here playing trad music as we can.
Shoot, does it really matter what they call it?

When the kids grow up playing trad, they’ll all make their own minds up on what it is anyway & where it came from, & probably, like most musicians in sessions, they won’t be too concerned about a tunes origins, but rather will simply enjoy playing a good tune.

I know some daft eejits in sessions get all edgy & upset when the old debate starts as to whether a certain reel started out first in Scotland or Ireland - but does it really matter, just so long as folks play it & enjoy it, surely that’s what matters!

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:


I am not concerned with drawing more and more people of any creed or persuation into Irish music. I am much more concerned with quality than quantity. As I said, I don’t think ITM as a saviour of the Irish race and solver of the ‘Irish Problem" is a realistic expectation to have of a minority music interest, and I don’t think that we should exert pressure on any section of Irish society to adopt a musical identity that it isn’t willing or happy to adopt.

Re: Impartiality on my part: I am not, and have never claimed to be, impartial on the subject. I don’t beleive that the stuff exists in the way that people would have me beleive it exists at all! (and certainly not in the way your website portrays ‘it’). In much the same way I don’t beleive in unicorns, goblins and the tooth fairy… I have no reason to beleive in them, its just ill founded hearsay and folk chatter… harmless enough until somebody starts to take it seriously.

Re. your impartiality on the existence of ‘it’: On your website you write:

"Who plays Scots-Irish Music?"
" It is played by the Pipe Bands, the Fifers with their Lambeg Drummers, the Flute Bands, the Accordion Bands who all have their own repertoires, and the country Fiddlers & Whistlers, who play whatever they hear, & like…"

I’m sorry, Dick. But I’d say that you were strongly suggesting the existence of the great ‘thingy’ there, and you seem to be putting a shape on it. This is all completely misleading of course.

Is the only thing that qualifies this music as Ulster Scots the fact that it is played by people who consider themselves Ulster-Scots? Was Lord Laird, formally of the Ulster Scots agency correct when he asserted that there are two nations in Ireland: one Irish and one Scots?(i.e. is it purely a matter of designating racial segregation? If not, what are its distinct characteristics as art forms?) Your above staement is on very, very shaky ground and any knowledgable commentator or academic I know would have a field day with it.

I’m going to enquire off Gary Hastings about these Ulster-Scots shenanigans where Fife and drum is concerned. I think its a damn shame that such a fine distinctive strand of tradition is being tarred with this latter day brush.



Dick’s site address again: http://www.causewaymusic.co.uk/scots.irish.html

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

So your Da is to blame. During my political career I was at Stormont for a week, "talks about Talks" I kid you not, and Gusty would speak Irish to me, and I had grown very rusty.

I told you before about the Pan-Nationalist musicians being legitimate targets. Just before 1994 ceasefire. Loyalist paramilitaries attacked a pub in Newtownards, all prods nearly, natuirally. The following week they came to attack us in a pub in Anne Street, Harbour bar or the other one, but our banjo player knew them. Turns out he used to play the banjo in loyalist clubs and such. Sounds funny now, and was then but only because I was completely stoned, but the perception among the "poor white trash" protestants is that ITM is fenian music, thereby Catholic.

I use the term "poor white trash" as I always compare N.Ireland to Southern States of America, and the on;ly fighters left on both sides are the "poor white trash" who never had anything, and never will. It is all very sad.

There were always Protestant musicians, and always will be, and things like Riverdance, Titanic music, Braveheart and countless other films do reach out to a new younger audience. And the Brits are selling it like mad, because they badly want a united Ireland.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Bliss - "but the perception among the "poor white trash" protestants is that ITM is fenian music, thereby Catholic."

- Aye, that’s what my point above was about!
With this perception, amongst the Protestant population that ITM is all fenian music, how could you ever get them to embrace it?

If I hear a good tune, I don’t give a fig whether it is called ‘Sleepy Maggie’ & originated in Scotland or is called ‘Drowsy Maggie’ & originated in Ireland, but clearly there are those out there who care passionately!

I just love Trad music & would like to see as many folks as possible be exposed to it & given an opportunity to try it out or simply enjoy listening to it without all the old political crap that has plagued this wee corner.
So if we have to go ‘round the houses’ a bit & take a scenic route in the process, fair enough, if at the end of it all, it helps even just in a small way to bring folks together.

Harry, you say there have always been Catholics & Protestants playing trad music up here - so let’s see if we can’t get a few more playing it - together, what harm can that do?

I know you are all for Quality rather than Quantity, but more of the latter will surely result in more of the former, in the long run, won’t it?

I personally wouldn’t be the biggest CCE fan, but surely, over the period, it has to be said they have encouraged countless numbers of people to take up trad music, so some good has come out of that movement.

OK, so this Ulster Scots phenomenon isn’t exactly perfect, but in the long run it might just succeed in helping to encourage more folks to take up trad & ultimately bring all manner of trad players together - I don’t see any harm in giving it a chance.

At a weekly Irish ballad session I attend, three Fife players, who I believe consider themselves to be Ulster Scots, have started popping in & treating us to a few of their Fife tunes. Surely this sort of thing has to be encouraged?

The fact is I started this particular Ballad session some 7 years ago in Bushmills, a town which boasts at least a 98% Protestant Population!

So you see, I have been trying to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ & am doing a little bit to encourage more folks to accept that traditional music, whatever you like to call it & whatever fancy wrapper you give it, belongs to the entire population up here.

There will always be those who, for whatever political or sinister reason, don’t wish everyone to have access to this music, but I think lots more people than many folks believe, do warm to it.

John Lennon once said ‘Give Peace a Chance" - well, I think we should give the music a chance, too & not get too hung up on names!
There has been far too much ‘name calling’ over the years up here!

Oh yeah, & thanks for the website plug Harry. :-)
I suppose that means I’ll have to buy you a pint, if we run into one another at Derrygonnelly this year? :-D

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Incidentally, Harry ‘kindly’ gave my site a plug, but anyone who wishes to know more about this Ulster Scots ‘thingy’ (as Harry calls it) can also check out the ‘Ulster Scots Agency’s’ website, for an idea of how they, these ‘dangerous’ Ulster Scots see themselves:


A wee browse here might just give you more of an understanding on where this discussion is coming from.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Well ceolachan, are you glad you started this one?

"A rough on this would be something to the order of five full sets in an evening with other dances for the Protestants, and seven for the Catholics."
- could it be the Protestants spent more time at the bar? :-)

"I never heard amongst the older population one bad word or criticism either side for the other, and the difference in quantity was never really an issue either… Everyone I spoke to remembered those days fondly… "
- let’s hope we have more of these ‘good old days’ in front of us, up here?

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:


I probably won’t make it up there again this year unfortunately. I’ll have to claim that pint on another occassion I think.

Re: Giving peace a chance: ‘The music’ tradition does not exist as some object separatly from people. People make music, and people make peace or war. Really, making peace or war has much more immediate signifigance to lives (and deaths). The music is not really that imporatant in the peace making equation. Its a token of goodwill at best as are other arts, sports, diciplines that have been plodding along unlauded for years.

If we want to make peace then the most effective way is to disarm and dissemble whatever causes war. Music isn’t a cause.for peace or war, it merely provides a soundtrack to division or acts of resolution at times. We can look at the causes of such division after fully recognising it if we are really interested in effectively creating conditions for peace. It is the duty of every peace maker if their efforts are to be successfu and lasting.

Also, I think it’s useful to bear in mind the difference between an uneasy stalemate and the goal of a lasting peace. Stalemate may be arrived at by a rather superficial evaluation of the relative death tolls, politcal advantages/ disadvantages, losses/gains etc. Lasting peace will only be won with more insightful consideration of wider and less selfish, polarised considerations.

I look forward to the day when all our rediculous, shaky identities are completly outmoded here and elsewhere.



Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Just a slight aside here. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, as I admit I’ve scrolled down past some possibly very interesting comments.
I’ve observed this phenomenon as a Scot therefore an outsider. Round where I live in SE London, and where I frequently visit in Suffolk, there has been a remarkable renaissance in English music. Not exactly my cup of tea but credit where credit’s due. It’s still good trad music. They are reforging a nearly forgotten tradition. There are collectors out there like John Offord disenterring tunes that haven’t been played for possibly a century or more (and finding several cross-over points in English, Irish and Scots traditions!)
I think also that English music feeds into the new-found maturity of Englishness (after decades of English football hooligans rampaging throughout Europe), and they are now getting comfortable with that since the break-up of their empire. If the Loyalist community in the North were to follow a similar path, might the Troubles be further banished to oblivion…or am I too optimistic?

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Key Maniac Lad ,

In a country such as ours where identity has been popularly used by us as a stick to beat our own people with I think it has to be treated with caution. Others obviously disagree.

Follow some of the political wrangling sorrounding the ‘Ulster-Scots’ revival and reinvention and you might see it in all its glory.



Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

A lot of interesting comments here.

I agree that the music will hardly provide a resolution to the political issues in the north and I also agree that many protestants feel alienated from the music because of their perception that it is ‘fenian’ music.

But I do think that every little bit helps. Every time we have an opportunity to see one another as human beings rather than with the sectarian or political labels helps mend the rift. Music will not make a huge dent in the problem but perhaps will create a space where people feel able to meet.

I think that it behoves those of us who are musicians to make others feel welcome in the trad music space - reaching out to those who have little or no understanding or appreciation of the music - whether they be the 95% of the ENTIRE population that doesn’t play or to those within the unionist tradition who simply misunderstand it’s role because they think that the chuckies have highjacked the music.

For me the music is part of the island North and South and I will do my little bit to persuade those who feel otherwise that it is ‘their’ music too.

It’s maybe also worth thinking about what this will mean to the ‘new Irish’ from Poland, Nigeria, Latvia, Somalia, etc. I always loved that scene in Father Ted where they go down to Chinatown on Craggy Isalnd and all the chinese guys are rattlin’ out the tunes on fiddles, boxes and banjos. It reminded me of one of the singers’ sessions in Johnny Joe’s in Cushendall when a sikh guy resplendent in turban sang a seán nós song in Irish - Brilliant!! :-)

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Just a quick thanks to Harry B and Ptarmigan for responding to my request and clarifying their opinions on this subject. As I don’t live in Northern Ireland it’s a little difficult for me to get a feel for how this Ulster Scots thing is being presented by protestants - and I can see that it could be done in a divisive way or a let’s look at similarities way, irrespective of whether it really is distinctively different or not.

But it does seem to me that the music won’t bring about change on its own, rather this new interest in Ulster Scots is a reflection of how protestants are feeling about their history. And how protestants (and catholics) feel about their history is very important, and has the potential to ease the conflict (or increase it I suppose too).

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

It’s maybe also worth thinking about what this will mean to the ‘new Irish’ from Poland, Nigeria, Latvia, Somalia, etc."

Aye Breandan, reminds me that I was playing at a Multicultural Festival last weekend, up here on the north coast, which featured, all in the one afternoon, a demonstration of just how diverse the culture of the area is fast becoming and included Chinese Lion Dancing, a Guitar group, a Drumming display, a Singing group, Sri Lankan Dancing, an Irish Music group, Irish Dancing, Belly Dancing, Romanian Dance group, the Sundown Dance group, an Ulster Traditions music group and finally Flamenco Dancing.

Maybe this invasion of folks from all over Europe will take some of the hard line thinkers mind’s off their petty squabbles of the past, & might even help some of them to see the bigger picture.

"For me the music is part of the island North and South and I will do my little bit to persuade those who feel otherwise that it is ‘their’ music too."
- I’m sure most folks who actually play this music feel the same way as you Breandan, but I think perhaps it’s hard sometimes for some of us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are outside it, & who perhaps have all these weird & wonderful preconceptions about what the music represents & means to us.
For many of them I think we need to take the softly, softly approach with the Carrot, rather than the Big Stick!

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

"As I don’t live in Northern Ireland it’s a little difficult for me to get a feel for how this Ulster Scots thing is being presented by protestants … and I can see that it could be done in a divisive way or a let’s look at similarities way, irrespective of whether it really is distinctively different or not."

- well, doing a lot of things up here is a bit like walking on eggshells, for if you don’t upset one group, then you are sure to upset the other!
But the alternative is to do nothing, so all in all, I think it’s better to at least try & trust that some good will come out of your efforts.

Getting the two extreme groups to come together here for a back-slapping session would not be easy to do in many cases, so things are usually done here with little steps.
I regard this Ulster Scots movement as one such little step with a wider appreciation of good traditional music a hopeful result of that movement.

The hope for me is that this greater interest in trad music all round could then be used as a vehicle for helping to bring members of both communities closer together.

It won’t solve all the problems of the north & will certainly not be a cure all, but if it just helps a bit & takes everyone, one step closer to understanding the other fellows viewpoint, then I think it’ll have been worth doing.

Like in business, you are either moving forward or you are moving backwards, there is no standing still. So I’m hopeful that this is a step forward. I could be wrong of course, but isn’t it worth trying?

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

To finish, when the rediculous nature of human relations and our hopelless aspirations for control over each other and our environments start to wear me down , I like to think on these words:

"Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth."
Franklin D Roosevelt

Keep the faith, dudes and dudettes.


Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Faith and belief in a basic good is my one true constant, and as important to that surviving is the other old gem ~ not to let the bastards wear you down… But being human, I do sometimes succumb to the blue waters, but I’ve also developed over time some skill at skulling, even in rough waters…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

I can tell you that some of the changes that have taken place within my own family have indeed been sped along by experiences accommodated by the music, however subtle. So whereas I can certainly agree that music, in and of itself, cannot change deeply engrained attitudes and behaviors, it can and does allow people to sit down alongside folks they otherwise might not. If the experience turns out to be positive for them, it serves as one bit of personal evidence that can counter spurious generalizations that were held without basis. Perhaps that’s somewhat unique to me, or not often noticed, but I know others who gradually exposed family members to people they initially considered very different from themselves. Focus on the music, at tthe very least, can provide a point of common diversion that can lead to something positive.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

I find that if you can sit down and share music with someone, or even a dance, that you usually can also share a laugh. It doesn’t mean you agree beyond that, but it is the start of a communication that is often followed by some shade of understanding, and that seed has seen growth in some of those instances… But I’d feel some satisfaction even if it never goes beyond the laugh…

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Fortunately, FDR did not have the MTV / Attention Deficit Disorder generation as an audience. In today’s Amerika, repeating a lie enough times does make it a truth in many people’s eyes.

I agree that music on its own cannot be relied upon to save the world. I also agree that labels can be dangerous. Often, the label alone can be used to seperate people.

Posted by .

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Music does have a way of knocking down barriers. Having spent the weekend accompanying a choir singing a variety of American folk songs, I saw clear evidence in that body of song that shared music was constantly working to erode barriers of all sorts between the races, between immigrants and long-time inhabitants, between regions.

I suppose at this point I should advocate that we all join together singing on a hilltop, with a Coca Cola in our hands, like in the old TV commercial. If only it were that easy……


Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

MTV…I sympathise, Jode. Of course, if the truth is relative then it’s not the truth: "Pepsi is the best Cola" vs "We all die some day".

I accept that the later wouldn’t be as comercial a success as MTV or Pepsi. :-)



Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Stevie C said - "Focus on the music, at the very least, can provide a point of common diversion that can lead to something positive."
Ceolachan said - "but it is the start of a communication that is often followed by some shade of understanding,"
Al said - "Music does have a way of knocking down barriers."

Encouraging to hear those positives vibes, Man! - or should I say Men! :-)

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Harry B has a point about some aspects of Ulster Scots, I mean the club in Antrim Town only opens for Rangers matches, and is known as the "Kneebreakers".

Ptarmigan also has a point, in that the more things enjoyed by both "sides" the better. Britain does it’s best, always coming up with things to unite us, like an Ice Hockey team (soccer is still too dodgy) george Best’s state funeral, and letting Ulster win the Heinekin Rugby Cup in 1999. That was certainly part of the Peace Process. There have always been Ulster Scots Traditionalists, although I do agree with Harry that much of it, especially the so called language (a regional dialect like Geordie or Southern Drawl in the states) has been invented for the peace process, so that we can promote Irish culture, and this "new" all embracing Ulster Scots as an example of parity of esteem. And some of these "ideas" work.

Unfortunately the "lumpen proletariat" on both sides are only interested in violence and hatred, but their numbers are dwindling. And I use the term "lumpen…." not as a snob but as a committed Socialist, who would love these people to unite for a real cause, real parity of economic esteem.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Seems to me that people cling to apparently solid constructs, such as Irish/Ulster Scots/ British, etc. but forget they are products of each other, they are inimately related and the boundaries are and have always been permeable. People don’t like that, it’s too complicated. But ‘Scottish’ music and ‘Irish’ music are intermingled and products of each other, due not least to the fact that Scotland was an Irish colony at one stage. Much Ulster Scots goings on are political, though not all. Some of it is silly, some of it is quite good. It is as Irish as much Irish stuff, and has some scottish influences in it, as you would expect. Not simple. Not pure. All the hairy breast.

Re: “Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland:

Harry B and others - the last comment on my recent post, wrt to the Loyalist community was, I admit, rather hypothetical. As I stated on the similar thread which I linked to, quite near the start of this discussion, I’m not long after reading Susan McKay’s book "Northern Protestants - An Unsettled People" so I have at least some second hand knowledge of the prevailing mindset.
The main gist of my "aside" was in regard to how the English as a nation are reconstructing their identity, by incorporating their music. That said, I take your point that identity has been used in Ireland as a stick to beat the people with.