Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Scots Irish

I am just back from a great couple of days in Northern Ireland, visiting two friends who run Lynchpin Tours. They offer guided and self guided tours over the whole of Ireland, a similar operation to Scottish Clans and Castles. The base is up on the North Antrim coast at Portstewart, seen below on Monday morning, the glorious November sunshine picking out Donegal, Dhún na nGall, in the distance. And looking east from the same spot I could just see Scotland - the Mull of Kintyre, Maol Ceanntìre, so beloved of Paul McCartney.

Our two companies already provide an informal service for those wishing to visit both Scotland and Ireland; this will soon become more formalised, so that those with Scots Irish roots will be able to rely on a carefully-planned, joined-up two centre holiday.

But this phrase 'Scots Irish' is a slightly uncomfortable one for us over here. In our view you're either one or the other! But then I suppose the Scots originally came from Ireland in the 6th century and a squad of them returned during the 'Plantation of Ulster' in the 17th.

And the similarities were powerfully brought home to me when we visited Dunluce Castle by Portrush, seen below - a castle of the (Scottish) MacDonnells. The castle leaflet includes the following snatch of history.

"Sorley Boy MacDonnell was the first to live his whole life in Ulster, a wild and violent existence. He was captured by brother-in-law Shane O' Neill at the Battle of Glentaisie in May 1565, after Dunluce Castle had been taken, and was held prisoner for two years. Later at a banquet near Cushendun, when peace seemed possible, the MacDonnells turned on their hosts, set Sorley Boy free and killed Shane".

Which sounds exactly like Scotland in the 16th century! Except that we didn't have folk called 'Sorley Boy'.

The reception given to the Scots in those days was wholly unlike that which I enjoyed on my short visit. Many thanks, Lowell and David for all your hospitality.

And here's to the Scots Irish!

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