'‘you cannot put a price on culture.’' - Jamie Bryson, interview on Slugger O'Toole http://sluggerotoole.com/2014/03/24/jamie-bryson-a-rebel-without-a-hope/#comments
I'd agree (to a certain extent).

Although, I imagine what passes for Irish Protestant culture in Jamie's eyes differs from mine a tad.

His appears to be wrapped in a Union Flag.

So, what passed for Irish/Ulster Protestant culture before there were such things as the Union Flag/Union, before the paramilitaries, before KTP bands, before the ‘Loyal’ orders or the 12th?
Did we live in some sort of cultural cocoon awaiting the day when we would have something to celebrate or did we have other things to be getting on with?
So I had a dig:

Dancing and fiddling

Of course I had a rough idea about this topic before my half-assed search, my grandparents often spoke of dances down at the Orange hall and they didn’t mean the modern version that sometimes includes some god-awful combo of loyalist anthems, country music and dance (would make yer ears bleed, jeez!).
They were referring to the days of when people would attend social dances at orange halls and dance till daybreak to the music of a melodeon or a fiddle or such like.

My other Granda (a B Special) and his brothers (also B specials) played a full range of folk instruments in their village hall, including some instruments that would now be considered ‘suspect’ or a bit ‘taigy’ e.g. the penny whistle (don’t laugh, you know some of the nutty wans would be offended at a display of something so ‘oirish’).

Fast forward a few decades and there’s hardly any evidence of this.
It’s like there’s been some massive cultural brainwashing.                                                              

Many loyalists would be as blindly ignorant to such goings-on in local Orange halls as Germans neighbouring the various concentration camps of WWII: “what? We heard nahin’”.

For anyone who wants a more qualified and in-depth look at this story I recommend simply looking at some easy to obtain books on Ulster folk culture.

I would like to name a book in particular but as this is a blog for LAD then the more paranoid types would unfairly and uncritically assume that the book is part of the great republican-nationalist-middleclass-Protestant-papist-commie-Chinese-conspiracy and ignore the contents of this book much to their cultural peril.

So, sorry to be vague, but it’s the way of NI’s world: “you have provided proof that we are wrong therefore you are the enemy…”
The author has been looking into this topic for decades and has come up with examples of Orange folk music preservation that have gobsmacked even myself e.g. post-partition Orange halls in County Down were some of the best places to find examples of ‘unadulterated’ Irish folk music on account of their immunity to the influences of the Gaelic League and the Catholic Church (e.g. in the Republic there was a massive overhaul on folk music & dancing and as such house dances were banned, instead dances had to be held in parochial halls with ‘approved’ ceili music).
Orange Halls of Co Down - Home of the craic/crack?
(Image kindly lent by 'How to Start a Fight in an Irish Bar' -
http://howtostartafightinanirishbar.blogspot.com.au/2014_01_01_archive.html )

So, we have the scenario where pro-British Orangemen were dancing to traditional Irish reels and jigs whilst Irish nationalists in neighbouring villages were dancing very much to the tune of something recently contrived, in essence their ‘traditional’ Irish folk dance and music was in fact something very new.
Being Northern Ireland I doubt if it was quite so clear cut but it’s certainly something to think about.
So there you have it, Protestants used to sing, dance and make merry in a very traditional Irish manner and latterly the ‘most’ Irish manner (some still do, but it’s almost an ‘underground’ thing).

NOT the 12th
So, what about the 12th of July? Surely that’s been a part of culture for a long time?
Well, yes, but not from the word go as some would suggest.

As most of ye’s know, the Orange Order was formed in 1795 but the celebrations of the British acquisition of the Dutch stock exchange Williamite victory at the Boyne weren’t celebrated for a good while after that. And even then it was mainly an Anglican affair. 

Presbyterians took quite a while to get involved (mid 1800’s roughly speaking), most modern day Presbyterians tend to be quite forgetful regarding the topic of Britain’s attitude and behaviour towards them (Cromwell, the Penal Laws etc…).

Indeed, it’s not a stretch to say that many if not most Presbyterians in the 1790’s were much more concerned with rebelling against the crown than supporting it.

Apprentices: More 'FTP' than YTP?

Apprentice Boys and the Siege of Derry celebrations
Unbelievably (or believably if you have suffered enough of my blogs) this event wasn’t much remembered for a long time and when it did finally make an appearance the first celebrations involved members of the Catholic Church.
Again, a large time gap between the actual event and the celebrations becoming part of a tradition.
Not only that, but a number (if not all) of the original Apprentice Boys spoke some form of Gaelic. Yet more vanished culture.
A respected flag.

So, what about flags?

Union Flag – Didn’t incorporate Ireland till the 1800’s and it was an unpopular move at the time, so that’s a couple of centuries of doing without it

Ulster Flag – Didn’t come into existence till the 20th century, so that is a relative newcomer.

Independence Flag – Somehow this flag still makes its way into demonstrations by people eager to show their loyalty to an institution that the flag purports to disengage from.
Go figure.
It’s like wearing an IBM or Coca-Cola T-shirt to a Marxist rally…

All in all, the culture of disgracing flags by attaching them to lampposts with gay abandon is something relatively new and perhaps not essential to unionist or Protestant 'culture' after all?

A Gaelic game played by Prods?! Scotland you Lundy!!!!!


I said cammanachd.

The easiest way to describe it would be to think of the Scottish game of Shinty.
Actually, cammanachd is the ancestor of both shinty and hurling, arguably shinty would more closely resemble the old cammanachd on account of its caiman (stick), the hurling stick came from a later summer version of hurling (well, Cammanachd) that gradually supplanted the older version.

Whilst hurling sticks became synonymous with Irish nationalism old Cammanachd (or shinny as it became known) limped on up north, mainly in the Protestant areas.
So there you have it, the last bastion of an old Gaelic game was in Protestant Ulster.

The Old Firm be damned
Other ‘taigy’ activities:

Other suspect activities that were part of Ulster Protestant culture at various points of history include the following points; I’ll only list them as I’ve ranted in greater detail about them previously.

·         Irish/Gaelic

·         Uilleann pipes – Once upon a time they were part and parcel of the culture of ‘gentlemen pipers’ and clergymen

·         Crossroads dancing

·         Bodhran playing - Just like many Protestant folk enthusiasts still do across the water in Scotland 

·         Celebrating St Patrick’s day – Though some still do celebrate it, more are starting to and I THINK there’s an annual Orange parade in Ballymena not to mention Ian Paisley’s enthusiasm for St Pat (he opened his Martyr’s memorial church on St Pat’s day).

It could be argued that those who are arguing most passionately for the preservation of their culture are among the worst offenders with regards to its decline and stagnation.

They have no respect for the old traditions of folk music & dance (resembles ‘Irish’ culture too much), care not a jot for fiddles or ballads, think of the Gaelic languages as ‘foreign’ (despite a tractor trailer load of evidence to the contrary) and would sooner stuff their ears with wax rather than listen to ‘fiddledy dee’ music (unless they’re in Scotland).
Irish music - Taigy (?)

They’re seemingly only interested in preserving their mutant version of Britishness which is not recognised by the majority of folks living in Britain.

Scottish music - Not Taigy (?)
If they put as much effort into preserving the Ulster versions of Gaelic as they do preserving the place of flags in public spaces then Ulster Gaelic would perhaps have less in common with the southern variants.  Who knows, just speculating?

If they had kept up the dancing and fiddling with the enthusiasm they have for marching then perhaps Ulster folk music would not be so ‘Oirish’?

Loyalists and indeed some unionists despise what they see as Irish culture but fail to realise that they are partly responsible for its current incarnation having opted out of its development.

It’s a sad irony for them that Northern Ireland would perhaps be even more culturally detached from the South than it is now had Loyalism not turned its back on its Irish culture.

I’d ask what would happen if loyalism and Orangeism were to re-embrace their lost culture, alas I think I know the answer:

People would see them as ‘Irish’, a price too great for some to pay.


Remember kids, if you're not loyal enough you'll turn into this