Saturday, June 21, 2008

One last try...

The main disappointment in my collection of words and cultural facts since I started this research blog a few months ago, has been the almost complete lack of information on Northern Ireland.

Since it is unlikely that any information I receive after the end of this month will have a reasonable chance of making it into my book, due to publishing deadline constraints, I want to make what will almost surely be my last appeal for information on this "missing" part of the United Kingdom.

I have no blog contributors (to my knowledge at least) who are natives of Northern Ireland (although A. was born in Ireland before the the separation of the republic, but not in Northern Ireland) so, I hope to at least glean from the rest of you some memories of visits or residencies of the past. Obviously I am hoping for information from A. as well.

While I am sad I haven't been able to find bloggers who are native to Northern Ireland, and who still live there, I am happy that I have made a friend who does live there now, and who has become familiar with this delightful place. I am even more happy that this friend, Catherine, has agreed to do what she can to help me out with Northern Ireland, starting, I think, with a post on some of their special words (slang of course!) Obviously I also hope to entice her to make some other comments over the next few days, in addition to words alone, which talk about some of her experiences of living there. I know very well how precious Catherine's "free" time is, and so anything at all from her will be appreciated.

Getting the basic Google out of the way:

"Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and covers 14,139 km² (5,459 sq miles) in the northeast part of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland forms about a sixth of the total area of the island of Ireland. It has a population of 1,685,000 (April 2001) which is c30% of the island's total population.

"The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.

"Northern Ireland was created by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 and has had its own form of devolved government, The Northern Ireland Assembly."

Not much, but a start.

Last chance. Anyone?


  1. You called this The Kingdom of Northern Ireland.
    It is not a kingdom, nor was it.
    This is not a minor point, witness the bloodshed and misery it has endured over the last fourty years.
    I'm not irish, nor have I travelled there, so I am no use to your quest, but i can advise caution in your description. Yes, N.I. is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but on its own it is NOT a kingdom, because it never had a king of its own.
    Now that's not the full story...
    in days gone by, Ireland was a tribal country, and each tribal chief/clan chieftain, was a king.
    The PROVINCE of Northern Ireland, as it is now, contains six of the nine counties of the one-time kingdom of Ulster.
    And Ulster was a place that had in itself multiple kings.
    To paraphrase an old Norse saga, "In those days any man in Ireland who had two cows could call himself a king".
    Ireland itself was never really a single united kingdom, the High Kings of Tara deemed themselves to be overall kings of an island of smaller kingdoms, but in truth, they none of them managed to control more than three fifths of the country, existing in uneasy armed truce with the opposing kings.
    The high kings power disappeared in the 1100s with the Norman Conquest, and the period of effective rule from England started, though chieftains were still calling themselves kings, they had only local control, further eroded in the 1500s by King Henry VIII of England's demands that they surrender to the english crown, in return for being granted their lands back, and a title, such as Duke or Earl.
    I'm not sure if this is going to be any use to you, but hey, information is always useful somewhere.
    You see, even a great many Irish people think of Ireland as a historical single entity, with one king ruling it all, but it was in reality, more like germany, or Italy were in past times, a collection of separate states in a sometimes loose coalition.
    The rivalries within Ireland are fierce even now, born of the fact that the now provinces used to consider themselves as separate nations.

  2. Thank you soubriquet. As usual your knowledge is impressive.

    I admit I jumped to a conclusion based on a comment I received to an earlier post (entitled "First Tell Me Who You Are") which gave me the most basic of overviews:


    United Kingdom
    4 Kingdoms - England, Ireland, Scotland and the Principality of Wales.

    England has 34 shires - or counties if you prefer - the origin of the meaning of shire was that it was managed by a sherrif or Shire Reeve to give it's uncorrupted name.

    Hence Bedford-shire, Hertford-shire etc...

    Each is grouped into 9 regions, so South-West, East Anglia, South East, North West etc.


    This was from a fellow reader of this blog that both you and I respect, and (I realize now) was intended to simplify the matter as much as possible for this American. I know now that the commenter easily could have, had she chose, certainly have been more precise. But it served to at least help me start wrapping my mind around the UK political structure generally. I was thankful for the information at the time, and still am.

    But now I am ready for a more precise lesson, and you have provided that.

    When I was growing up, my older brother used to jokingly refer to me as a "walking encyclopedia" - a reference to my unquenchable thirst for learning new facts, even at a tender age.

    But you far outstrip me, soubriquet. I am only a pocket-sized version of you. How lucky I am that you stumbled across my little blog-hell here!

    And don't stop now, please.... :)

  3. If you asked an Irishman from the Republic of Ireland about Northern Ireland, thry would regard it as Ulster or "the north" and people there would be Ulsterman. Ask a Unionist from the Northern Ireland and you get the Unionist answer. This struggle has existed since the atrocities of the 1600s when the Royalists fled England and the rest is history. Things have settled down for the most part although I'm sure there are factions of the IRA that still exist, illegally that is. Nowhere else is this more true than in Derry/Londonderry and Belfast. Granted I'm not Irish nor have I visited there, but I've seen enough TV programmes, and I sympathise with the historical plight of the Irish, and they are succeeding as an economy quite well nowadays (in the Republic anyways, I couldn't say for sure in the North).

  4. Also, technical comment- for some reason I'm having difficulty adding Britishspeak to my Google Reader, it comes up as "(title unknown)" with no posts. Am I not able to subscribe to this blog?

  5. Good morning, redbeard. I'm glad you returned. I appreciate your input. And may I commend you on your usage of British misspelling. (I joke about that because it irritates the Brits, the way Americans spell, and you will soon find that it is helpful to keep them on the defensive as much as you can.) They, of course, will adore you for your attempt at using their quaint spelling and over-use of extra letters. Me? I don't bother. I throw in an extra "u" now and then, and, as an act of kindness, perhaps a double-L where none is really needed. But as you get to know them as I have, you'll soon discover that even the most learned among them could really not give a rat's ass about spelling: they only want to argue, and to teach me things about their country. And so I sit back and let them have at it. I have grown quite fond of them and their mannerisms, truth be known, in spite of their never having heard of the last letter of the alphabet.

    As to Google Reader, I have checked, and mine seems to be working ok. Did you remember to put the ".blogspot" in the URL when you added it? Beyond that, I will have to defer to someone more experienced in subscribing than I. Not to worry, redbeard, these people know everything and will soon come to your aid. :)

  6. Well, I assume you were just clicking on the reader icon in the sidebar rather than adding it manually. I just tried that, and it seemed be working as well. Dunno, redbeard. Jeez...don't give up, ok?

  7. For some reason I've always favoured the British spellings to the American ones. (see what I did there? Ha!) It's the inner Brit coming out in me, 10 generations gone by. However it does irritate some of my American friends, and I wouldn't dare do it whilst in school.

    Glad I found you here- loved the cricket post. The sport still confounds me. Give me football (er, soccer) anyday.

  8. Ha!
    Unwise to encourage me. "inoculated with a gramophone-needle" as my grandmother used to say.
    My mother says I take after her brother, who was variously known as "Loquacious Len", or "Garrulous Griff"
    As a child, I developed a form of deafness to repeated requests to "Shut up".. and total immunity to "Be Quiet!", yes, the occasoinal hurled boot found its target, but I could dodge nimbly without ceasing my inconsequential prattling.
    My family sought solace in earplugs. when that proved inadequate, they tried moving to another county whilst I was at school. But I found them, and continued to torment them. Out of spite, at the age of 83, my father died, insisting on a sound proof burial. My mother is working on a deafness defence, but I keep slipping new batteries into her hearing aid.
    My sister married an airman, and proved to be remarkably immune to jet noise and the sounds of weaponry. She has never thanked me properly for the early training which inures her to the noise of fast jets, frisky horses, and a house full of children and dogs.

    I can't help it... off I go again.. Those shires?
    the nine parts is nonsense. shires were divided by parishes, and earlier wapentakes.
    Literally weapon-takes, areas from which an army could be raised.
    But there was no set number of divisions. Some shires were large, some a twentieth of the size of the largest.

    Just a moment.. I'll drag myself away from the computer and assemble bookshelves. Should keep me out of mischief for a while.

  9. Even though I'm part Irish, I'm not in touch with my roots. In fact I don't know much about "foreign" countries..Ask me about Idaho, and I could tell ya a few things, not that anyone would ever want to know about Idaho, wait nah.

    I too am impressed by Soubriqet's knowledge. Niiiice.

  10. Favoured the British way - well, it is the correct way after all. Mac - are you okay??????!!!!

    PS - bite me.
    PSS - not starting another war, just saying ...
    PSSS - bite me.

  11. I can be of very little help here. My mother-in-law was from the north as we called it in the south :) When our children were small, at the height of the troubles, they weren't taken to see their great grandfather because of the risks. I know of quite a few families who left Ireland at that time. I remember one woman I met whose husband worked in Belfast. She described very eloquently how her husband would be driving home from work, there would be a report of a bomb blast on the radio, her husband would be late, she was in agonies until he arrived home. This was in the days before mobile phones. They left because she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She left behind her father who, when things were flaring up, would go up and down the Shankhill Road trying to calm people down.

    There is a difference between Ulster and Northern Ireland, even though the terms are often used interchangeably. Ireland is divided into Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught. Northern Ireland was, but presumably still is, known as the six counties, whereas Ulster has nine. Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone are the six. Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are the three in the Republic of Ireland.

    See Miss Cook, that year you spent drilling those county names into my head were not wasted! No matter what I thought at the time. If you think I'm sullen now Max, you should have seen me then!

  12. Canucklehead, why are all Canadians so damn psychotic? Is it just the massive inferiority complex? The ladies up there in the Great White North seem to be ok. So perhaps it is just that your dick is so tiny.

    Wtf has been going on with you and entrecard? And why are you still commenting on Britishspeak? I have already dropped the Canadian section from the book because you don't talk funny enough and you have no history that is interesting. So just stick to the pub. Keep drinking.

    Just kidding. Stop by here anytime you want, ok? I'll just start deleting your comments. :)

    Hey, I am working on a new cartoon and bare flesh over there for you. Stay tuned, K?

    Note to Grumpus and Laura: that didn't apply to Canadian ladies, ok? You are still welcome to stop by and talk on Britishspeak. Whenever you like. Of course, I would prefer you in the pub also. It just occurred to me that you are both artists. What's up with that?

  13. Redbeard, the cricket posts were guested by my good friend A., so you have her to thank for that. I personally know nothing about cricket, except to not try and compare it to baseball. She sort of cleared some things up for me at first, then muddied it back up again before she was finished. She is like that.

    Soubriquet, ummmm..What????

    (Just kidding. I follow you. And I am happy to follow you. Thank you for that.) :)

    Chica, I didn't know you were part Irish. Really? What part? The good parts? Will you show me? Make a video and post it, ok? Of the Irish parts, I mean. :) the Idaho for later, though, K?

  14. A., that was very interesting. Again, nothing like that on Google. I like the way you tell stories. You know that is what I am REALLY looking for.

    See, that story about the Belfast bombings makes that time come alive, because it is a personal story and not a news story.

    Search your brain for some more stuff like that. K?

  15. I know, I know, I know. I can't search my brain for any more stuff. You have siphoned off every last bit off. Every. Last. Bit.

    Oh. Apart from ....

  16. RM-

    Thanx for plugging the blog roast. Seems like most of the "Comments" so far are from the drunks at Slap & Tickle; don't any SOBER people read this blog [not that a few shots wouldn't help your rambling comments]?
    Again, thanks for sharing your bitterness with my audient [singular of audience] at the roast. It wasn't nearly as boring...sorry, painful as I thought it would be.


  17. Hi. I've been sent over to you by A. I don't know if i can help you much, but you're welcome to what I know.

    A bit about me. I was born in England (wartime) to Welsh parents. Moved back to Wales for years, now living in Ireland (since 1990). I live in Co Donegal, which is part of the old kingdom of Ulster. Donegal is often ignored by both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

    Like I said, I don't suppose I can help, as I hove no experience of "The North" and I tend to keep my head down. If you think I can provide any insight, you're welcome to get back to me.

    All the best.

  18. Hi Dragonstar! One thing I remember was cross-border shopping, but I can't recall the details. I seem to think it was in both directions depending on how things were taxed in each country, but not sure enough to comment. Does it still go on?

  19. dragonstar, thank you for stopping by. Anything at all would be welcome. Tell me a little bit about your experiences there if you would. What is that part of Ireland like? What did you mean that neither seemed to claim the county? Sounds like a story right there. :)

    Thank you so much for taking the time, ok? Just make little comments here whenever something pops into your head. I promise even the smallest stories will be appreciated. I look forward to getting to now you better. :)

  20. hello,
    I haven't been by in a while, and I have nothing to add to your post, as I no not a lot about Northern Ireland.

    My granddad was from County Down, which I believe is in Northern Ireland. He wanted to join the Navy, but aparently had to join the US Navy as the British Navy wouldn't take him. I am not sure why, although I had heard family rumours that it was because his brother was a member of the IRA, but I can't confirm that.

    We have no connections with Irish part of our family... not really sure why - maybe I should start digging, but I am a little worried of what I might turn up.

  21. I figured I hadn't stopped by in close to a month of Sundays so even though I know zippedty-doo-dah about Northern Ireland, I wanted to drop by and say WAZZZUPPPP???

  22. Hi.

    I'm interested in Link Exchange.

    Your blog is very interesting, the differences between british and american English make the language even richer :)


  23. Hi Caroline. Yup County Down is NI. And thanks for the interesting story. Personally, I think you ought to check it out. :)

    Well hello, Linda. Long time no see. Chuffed. And you don't have to know anything about the post topic in order to say hello. How have you been?

    ricky navas, I sure do appreciate you stopping by and saying hello. But 100% of my readers already speak English, so probably the link would not be beneficial to either of us. Thanks for your comment.

  24. Hmmm, perhaps. But sometimes its better just to let sleeping dogs lie.

  25. It's no longer considered anything much to have had connections with the IRA Caroline. It could be very interesting. One of my very best friends has discovered that many of her relatives were deeply involved. Fascinating stuff.

  26. I am not so worried about the IRA connections, as just my granddad's character in general. Its rumoured he had 3 wives in various parts of the world (and no divorces), goodness knows what else I may uncover.

    The more I think of him though, the more curious I get. Not sure where to start though. He passed away about 24 years ago, and no-one in the family knows of his family. But I am not one to pass up on a challenge.

  27. Hi. A. has the geography right, Donegal being the largest of the Ulster counties outside the Province.

    Many people, even in Ireland, seem to think of Donegal as part of the Province. Even Met Eireann (the Irish Meteorological service) generally means the Six Counties when it talks about Ulster.
    There's a lot of cross-border travel, which is much less unpleasant now the checkpoints are no longer manned. We do a lot of shopping in Letterkenny (Co Donegal) which isn't far from Derry, a much bigger shopping centre. By the way, this side of the border the city is called Derry, never Londonderry. I don't know how the Derry citizens feel.
    Shops on both sides of the border accept payment in Euros or Stirling, depending on what you have. Many display their current exchange rate. Even the car parks in Derry accept Euro coins.
    There's still a lot of sympathy for the IRA in border areas. I had an English visitor once who spoke unwisely in a bar and narrowly escaped trouble. But then, young men in bars can make trouble easily wherever they are!
    Can't think of anything more at the moment. Hope some of it helps a little.

  28. Hi Dragonstar! Young men can make trouble wherever they are :)

    I still find it strange that the border between the Republic and the UK is so open when travelling between the UK and France entails endless passport checking.

    I'd forgotten that about Derry/Londonderry. It was true even in my time.

  29. Caroline, I still hope you do. I know you are curious. C'mon! - start snooping around! :)

  30. Thank you for your informative comment, Dragonstar.

    See? - Things like that really give me a sense of the place, and that's what I'm looking for. Even Americans of Irish descent call it Derry, one assumes because of disdain for anything English being attached to Irish names. Well.

    And always the undercurrent of the I.R.A. Do you remember an old movie with John Wayne and Maureen O'Sullivan called "The Quiet Man"? The I.R.A. was even mentioned in passing in the movie, I remember. Pervasive. Okay, not for an American to be getting into that, for sure. But interesting.

  31. Derry was the original name of the place (spelt differently of course) and it was renamed Londonderry during the plantations. Not unreasonable to revert. Several places in the republic have changed back to original Irish names. I can remember my grandmother always calling Dun Laoghaire "Kingstown". Go on, pronounce that!

  32. There's a Londonderry in North Yorkshire (england), too. I don't know its provenance, but it's not far from Catterick Garrison, a military place for two thousand years or so..
    As we yorkshire tykes also reject rule from the south, maybe it's time to uproot the signs by dead of night....

    O then, tell me Sean O'Farrell, tell me why you hurry so?
    "Hush a bhuachaill, hush and listen", and his cheeks were all aglow,
    "I bear orders from the captain:- get you ready quick and soon
    For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon"
    By the rising of the moon, by the rising of the moon,

    For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon

    "O then tell me Sean O'Farrell where the gath'rin is to be?"
    "In the old spot by the river, right well known to you and me.
    One more word for signal token:- whistle up a marchin' tune,
    With your pike upon your shoulder, by the rising of the moon."
    By the rising of the moon, by the rising of the moon
    With your pike upon your shoulder, by the rising of the moon.

    Out from many a mud wall cabin eyes were watching through the night,
    Many a manly heart was beatin, for the coming morning light.
    Murmurs ran along the valleys to the banshee's lonely croon
    And a thousand pikes were flashing at the rising of the moon.
    At the rising of the moon, at the rising of the moon.
    And a thousand pikes were flashing at the rising of the moon. At the rising of the moon...

    All along that singing river that black mass of men were seen,
    High above their shining weapons flew their own beloved green.
    "Death to every foe and traitor! Forward! Strike the marching tune."
    And hurrah my boys for freedom; 'tis the rising of the moon".
    Tis the rising of the moon, tis the rising of the moon
    And hurrah my boy for freedom; 'Tis the rising of the moon".

    Well they fought for poor old Ireland, and full bitter was their fate,
    Oh what glorious pride and sorrow, fills the name of ninety-eight!
    Yet, thank God, e'en still are beating hearts in manhood burning noon,
    Who would follow in their footsteps, at the risin' of the moon
    By the rising of the moon, By the rising of the moon
    Who would follow in their footsteps, at the risin' of the moon.

  33. Sorry I never got commenting on this - being about the only reader of this blog who actually does live in NI (though on the Tyrone/Derry/Donegal border so within spitting distance of the Republic). But Max, you posted it just as I was heading away on holiday! Grrrr. No pretty photos of Wales for /you/.

  34. Well, I was still hoping for some comments from you anyway, even though the post had to be moved down simply due to reader's losing interest generally. Comment for my own benefit if nothing else, won't you? I don't want to leave NI out of my book, and won't, but I do need more descriptions and stories.

    And I hope the "no pictures" means you are punishing me, not that none were taken. If you have them, I can simply beat them out of you. :)

    May I also tell you that an Irish Slang word post would still be welcome?



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