Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ulster-American Folk Park

Our day at the Ulster-American folk park was quite interesting. The park is dedicated to the migration of man and women from the Ulster region of Ireland to the United States. Our first on our tour through the park was in the small museum that provided a lot of contextual information. Dr. Threadgill, as always, provided us with a pertinent information as he guided us through the museum. The next part of the day we spent wandering around in small groups through the many buildings scattered across the compound. It was interesting to step into the past as we entered the family homesteads and barns. In some instances, we were met with a park staff member on the ready to explain the significance of the building, and provide us with a better understanding of life in those times. We even got a chance to try some tradition fire cooked soda break with butter. (It was delightful!) After some time experience the old shops and storefronts we came upon something surprising. The Ulster-American folk part had imported a cabin from the Appalachian region to be displayed in the part. For us living in the Great Smoky Mountains currently it felt a little bit like a stroll through Cades Cove! After a few hours of experiencing the park we convened in the park’s cafĂ© to have a nice shared meal together. It was a location that is extremely relevant to our current studies of Celtic Connections. There is no questioning that our home in the Appalachia was first settled and partly shaped by Scots-Irish immigrants.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Castle on a Hill and a Giant's Causeway

To begin our final full day in Northern Ireland, we drove up the coast to Bushmills where we toured the Old Bushmills distillery. Before we arrived at the distillery we drove by Dunlace Castle. After the castle, we continued to the distillery where we learned how whiskey is distilled and made. Sadly, there were no photos allowed in the distillery.

This is a glass from the Bushmills Distillery
Pictured above is Dunlace Castle. You may notice that it seems to be falling into the sea. 

After the distillery, we traveled to the Giant's Causeway. The Giant's Causeway is a natural basalt formation on the coast of Northern Ireland. The myth is that a Giant, named Finn, built a bridge over to Scotland to battle another Giant. When Finn got to the other side, he realized that the other Giant was too large to he ran back across the Causeway and the other Giant followed him. Finn then hid from the other Giant with the help of his wife, and the other Giant went back across to Scotland destroying the causeway leaving behind the remnants that people can see now today.
I would have to say that the Giant's Causway was definitely my favorite part of our trip thus far!

Pictured below are photographs from the Giant's Causeway.

Notice the Basalt columns that I would say make the rocks look like Honeycomb. 

Also here is a time lapse I took of the causeway while we were there:
Giant's Causeway Time Lapse

Monday, January 16, 2017

Scottish Country Dancing and Orange Lodges as far as the eye can see

To begin one of our last few days in Northern Ireland, we went to the Brownlow House which is an events facility and a working Orange Lodge. At the Brownlow House we met up with George Patton who is a member of the Orange Order and the director of the Armagh Community Development. We also got the chance to meet Carla Lockheart who is one of the few female MLA's, which stands for member of the Local Assembly, in Northern Ireland's government.

Pictured above is our group with Carla Lockheart and other members of the Orange Order. 

After meeting with Carla, we went on a tour of the Brownlow House. The house is what's known as a calendar house. A calendar house is a house that contains architectural elements in quantities that represent numbers of days in a year, weeks in a year, months in a year, and days in a week. For example, Brownlow House has 365 rooms which is the number of how many days are in a year. As mentioned before the house is also an Orange Lodge and has been since after World War II. This caused the house to be targeted during the "Troubles," it was burned badly after an IRA attack in 1996 and now is only partially restored to it's former glory. Fun History Fact: The Brownlow House also acted as Dwight Eisenhower's headquarters for the European theatre in World War II. He even planned the Normandy Invasion in the house. 

Pictured abound is our group on the Grand Staircase at the Brownlow House. Not So Fun History Fact: The stained glass window behind us is a replica. The American GI's that were stationed here during World War II took the glass as a souvenir before leaving.

Once we left the Brownlow House, we traveled onto Dan Winters' Cottage which is where the Battle of the Diamond took place during the 1700's. It's also known as the place when orangeism was born. We were also fed a wonderful lunch by Hilda Winters. She also shared with us the story of her family, what transpired at the Battle of the Diamond, and how they transformed the cottage into museum. 

Pictured above is our group with Hilda Winters in front of the Dan Winter's Cottage.

After the cottage, we went to the Sloan House which is a museum about the Orange Order. It's even believed that the Orange Order was created in the house. We also engaged in a Q&A with members from the Orange Order. 

We then visited a Lambeg Drum Maker, David Alexander, who hand-makes Lambeg Drums. Check them out below. There are very few Lambeg Drum makers in Northern Ireland, so it was quite a treat getting to meet Mr. Alexander! By the time we left, we all thought Maryville College should get one of these for the pep band!

Pictured above is Natasha trying out one of the Lambeg Drums. 

After our visit to the drum marker we headed over to George Patton's local Orange Lodge where we were served a lovely dinner by the Aughlish Ulster-Scots Group. After dinner we were taught some traditional Scottish folk dances! I'll upload a video later so keep an eye out!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Londonderry and Monreagh

To begin our first full day in Nothern Ireland, we visited the Ulster-Scots Center at Monreagh which is an old converted house that is now a museum sharing the history of the Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland and in America. We received a tour of the site and the church next door by local historian. We also looked at the various surnames of the Ulster plantation whom many immigrated to Appalachia.

After we visited the Ulster-Scots Center, we drove into the town of Londonderry, also referred to as Derry, where we met up with a playwright friend of Dr. Threadgill and Dr. Schmied and went to the Siege Museum. The Siege Museum is a museum about the siege that took place at Londonderry between the Jacobite army of King James and the Protestant citizens of Londonderry. Many people gave up their lives to protect their freedom of religion and the siege was eventually lifted. The museum is run by the group the "Apprentice Boys" who work to sustain the memory of what happened during the Siege of Londonderry. Their name comes from the group of young men who closed the gates at Londonderry essentially beginning the Seige. The organization today works to preserve the history of the Seige and they throw two parades each year: one when the Seige began and when the Seige ended. 

Here is a diagram of Londonderry today. You can see the historic walls that still lay around the city.

Once we left the museum, we went on a walking tour of the walls around the city of Londonderry. We focused on the Troubles and how the Troubles effected the city of Londonderry throughout the years. We saw some of the walls that were put up to separate the Republican and Loyalist communities and that are still up today. We also discussed how the Troubles effected daily life in Northern Ireland. It was also interesting to see some of the places that the Siege Museum taught us about in real life like the Bastions, which are sections of the wall pictured below. 

 Pictured above is the Cathedral which has been around before the Siege of Londonderry and still stands today. During the siege the Cathedral was used as a mass burial site for the deaths from the city. 

Fun History Fact: The county of Londonderry is actually the birthplace of a spy from the American Revolution, Hercules Mulligan.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Peace for All and Learning about just How Titanic the Titanic was

Once we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland we went to the local branch of the Ulster-Scots Agency. They greeted us with a member playing the bagpipes and awesome sandwiches! We then received a presentation from their teaching correspondent about who the Ulster-Scots are and the history behind their immigration to and from Ireland. We even talked briefly about the Ulster-Scots and how some of them immigrated to Appalachia to seek religious freedom! They sent us off on our city tour with the bag pipes playing Auld Lange Syne.

After eating lunch with the Ulster-Scots Agency we headed off on a bus for an official tour of Belfast! We drove around the city and our bus driver even took us into West Belfast, which is where some of the Troubles took place. Even though the city is at peace currently many of the "peace" walls are still up and many are painted with murals depicting figures of peace, human rights issues around the world, or major events that happened during the Troubles. It was quite moving to see the murals and the walls that are still standing tall separating the city. It was very interesting to hear our bus driver's perspective on the walls and on the Troubles. He believes that in the next five years or so the walls in Belfast will come down.
Pictured above is Nelson Mandela as some of you may know, but notice the Irish flag behind him. Our bus driver said many of these murals in particular are meant to represent solidarity with different Human Rights movements around the world.

Pictured above is the Peace wall, and if you look closely you can see a quote from the Dalai Lama and the thousands of signatures lining the wall. 
Even though the murals have been around for a while, new murals are still added today. More recently, this mural in remembrance of the hate crime that took place last summer in Orlando, Florida was added. The murals, especially ones such as this, are meant to promote peace and love towards all people and to remember those who are gone. 

Here is a picture of one of my fellow students, Grace Plemmons, signing the peace wall.

After we finished our tour, we journeyed next to the Titanic museum. As you may or may not know, the Titanic was actually build in Belfast. So next to the slip where the Titanic was built a museum was erected in hopes of keeping the memory alive and teaching people about what really happened on the ship. The museum is huge and each side is as tall as the Titanic actually was. The museum focused on what Belfast was like for the working man back in the early 1900's and how they built the Titanic. It's crazy exactly how much went into just building one part of the gigantic ship! The museum also touched on the search for the Titanic and the various myths surrounding the ship and it's sinking.

This is the slip where the Titanic was built. The poles represent the length and width of the ship when it was in the dry dock.

This is a picture of the Titanic Museum itself. Notice the hull shaped exterior and just how tall the building stands.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

To Caernarfon We Go!

We began the day by taking the scenic route to Caernarfon, stopping at various places along the way. First we stopped at the Shropshire Canal which is an aqueduct across a river valley that was originally used to transport coal and is now used for pleasure cruises and nature walks. The aqueduct was built by Thomas Telford.
After stopping at the Shropshire Canal we journeyed onto Valle Crucis Abbey which was originally a Catholic Abbey where monks of the Cistercian Order lived in the early 1200's C.E. But the abbey was closed down in the 1500's C.E. when King Henry VIII dissolved monasteries across the UK. The abbey was then turned into a house and now lays in ruins surrounded by sheep. The grounds were absolutely stunning!

Our next detour on the way to Caernarfon was through Snowdonia National Park. We were blessed that a snow storm had just passed through so we got to see the beautiful scenery covered in snow! Something that stood out to me was the fact that villages and dwellings were spread throughout the park, unlike parks in the United States. The mountain in Snowdonia is the fourth largest mountain in the United Kingdom. I personally would have loved to stay in the park and explore rather than drive through, but there's always next time!

Once we arrived in Caernarfon, we toured Caernarfon Castle which was ordered to be built by Edward the first and never fully finished. The fact that the castle was never completed was something that our tour guide stressed throughout our tour of the grounds. Edward the first had Caernarfon and other castles in Wales built to secure his hold over the conquered land of Wales.
Something that struck me about the castle was how unique it was. According to our tour guide, Caernarfon had a very good military defensive system for it's time. Almost every arrow slit in the walls of the castle had more than one angle the archer could shoot from, creating crossfire, and people on the outside of the castle could only see one arrow slit.  

The current Prince of Wales, Charles, had his investiture here! 

This is where the Great Hall was. You can notice from the beam holes in the wall that they intended to someday build out the room with stone, but they could not afford it. This is just one example of why the castle is incomplete.  
As our last full day in Wales came to a close, we discussed as a group what we've learned from this leg of the trip, and an overarching theme was pride. We all admired just how much pride the Welsh feel for their culture and history and how they want to protect it and keep the memories alive, especially when it comes to language! With that I say nos da, which is Welsh for good night.

A Snippet on Welsh Culture

            The longer we stay in Wales the more I understand the pride felt by the Welsh people in their culture. Throughout history the Welsh have had to continually fight to preserve their individuality. Poetry, dance, and the Welsh language are all facets of the traditional Welsh culture and are still practiced with pride here in Wales. Over the course of history many countries have had to fight, just like the Welsh, to maintain their own cultural significance. The Welsh should be regarded as a beacon of hope for any country in risk of a forgotten culture. It may not be too apparent from afar but here in Wales it is very apparent; the Welsh are strong, and will not be wholly assimilated, ever.

Diolch yn fawr am y sgwrs heddiw, a chroeso I Gymru!