Lesley Riddoch explores the relationship between Northern Ireland and Scotland. In this episode, she meets members of Colmcille Pipe Band.
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My name is Lesley Riddoch.
I grew up in Belfast because my parents, both Highlanders,
moved there for work when I was aged three,
then back to Glasgow when I was 13.
So, I am a Scot.
And as a journalist and writer,
Scotland is the focus of most of my work,
but I have never lost touch with Northern Ireland.
In this series, I'm going to explore the relationship
between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
How it's expressed through community.
I think the southern part of Scotland would nearly be like the seventh county,
the amount of Northern Irish folk that have moved across.
You would meet somebody every day that you would be talking Ulster Scots to.
Through culture and faith.
And I'm going to meet people on both sides of the North Channel,
for whom those things that link Northern Ireland and Scotland are an
integral part of their lives, their identity and their future.
I don't know if it's Ulster Scots or if it Scots-Irish or...
what it is, I don't know what the label is, but there's something there.
Community isn't just the place where you live
or even the religion or cultural tradition you grew up in.
There are communities in Northern Ireland and Scotland
built around music and sport,
and communities whose identity is defined by the language they speak.
I'm on my way to Londonderry
to find out about a community of musicians
that stretches from the west coast of Donegal
to the Highlands of Scotland,
and whose members share a passion for the Highland bagpipes.
Colmcille Pipe Band are rehearsing
for the forthcoming UK Championships,
to be held in Stormont.
Formed in 1978,
it draws its members from the local community of Galliagh,
from across the border in Donegal and from Scotland.
Alec Brown is originally from Fife,
but now lives on the island of Arainn Mhor, off the Donegal coast.
The main reason we are here tonight, it's our last practice before the
United Kingdom Championships up in Stormont.
The thing we have to get right tonight is to get our team together.
We are pretty confident.
It is just we need to all click together on that day.
And many bands will be hoping that you might not click,
but we never say "Good luck",
because good luck is not a thing I would use in piping, pipe-band terms,
because it's not about luck, it's about the work you put in together.
And all the other bands do exactly the same as us.
I think that is why we all get on so well,
because we understand the work that's put in.
Nobody wants to see anybody going under, you know.
What is it that's making Northern Ireland perform so well in piping circles?
I just see a hunger within, especially the Northern Irish,
as opposed to some of the Scots, who might go along just for the ride.
There's nobody in the North here goes along for the ride.
They all want to win.
The camaraderie is fantastic.
Everybody helps each other here.
That's what I really liked - the friendship between all the bands.
Every week, I go and meet more and more people, and it's very difficult
just to go for a walk without stopping and chatting,
which is really, really nice.
You grew up in Fife. There were many pipe bands there.
Did your father get involved in piping?
Was that how you got the bug?
My father didn't, no.
We were all from Lochore in Fife, which had its own pipe band.
All the villages interconnect.
Every colliery had a pipe band.
And most of the bands then were in full number one dress -
the old-fashioned feather bonnets or hackles and the reason they could
afford all that lovely uniforms was every miner had something off
his salary deducted, and that went to the band funds.
Sadly, on the decline of the collieries in the early '80s,
a big decline in the bands.
So there's very few of those names left.
When Alec retired to Arainn Mhor island,
where his wife's family come from,
he found not only a thriving local community,
but one with its own strong links to Scotland.
I was amazed at the amount of Scottish people
that have married and come across.
When I asked the question, of course, it makes sense,
there was no employment being on an island.
A lot of men worked in the coal mines.
A lot of the families were picking tatties and would stay on the farms
and, hence, relationships came about.
I got married and resettled.
The biggest amazement I got with the Arainn Mhor Pipe Band was that their
repertoire was 90% Scottish.
Driving from the North into the Republic in Donegal is very,
very similar to the Highlands of Scotland.
It is really nice, you know - the rough mountain terrain, the heather,
the peat bogs, the lochs.
You feel just... You're, like, at home.
THEY PLAY A MARCH
I've heard the pipes in Scotland in all sorts of different places -
at the Edinburgh Tattoo, at weddings and Highland Games -
and I have honestly never heard anything quite as thrilling
as this group of people in this hall here in the north of Ireland
mastering a Scottish instrument. What a surprise.
I'm looking forward to catching up with Alec and the band at the
competition in Stormont.
But before that, I want to address a more contentious facet of the
relationship between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
When I crossed the water to come here
and live in Glasgow at the age of 13,
this was a very scary place.
Of course, Belfast was pretty dodgy in the 1970s, as well,
but there seemed to be some rules there.
Glasgow, by contrast, was a bit of a free-for-all.
The tenements were black, scary, forbidding.
There was a gang culture, and actually Glasgow had a higher
murder rate than New York.
If I could have had my way,
our family would have time turned tail and gone straight back home.
But things changed.
The stone cleaning removed the centuries of grime
and the city brightened up.
But it's always remained a melting pot of cultures,
particularly of the two traditions from Ireland,
mixing together and playing out their historic grudges.
In the 19th and 20th centuries,
the sea between Belfast and Glasgow
was one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
There was a transport of raw material from Scotland
- coal, steel and iron - to fuel the factories,
shipyards and mills around Belfast.
With that great movement of material,
there was a movement of people,
mostly from the north of Ireland to Glasgow, in search of work.
As a result of the famine in Ireland in the 1840s,
tens of thousands of Catholic-Irish
relocated to the West Coast of Scotland.
Thousands of Ulster Protestants
came to work in the shipyards along the Clyde.
By the 1870s, there were two very distinct
Irish communities in Glasgow.
Celtic and Rangers football clubs grew out of these two communities.
And over the years the Old Firm rivalry
has come to stand for societies divided along sectarian lines.
To find out more, I've come to meet broadcaster and football pundit
Stuart Cosgrove, who's covered many a Celtic-Rangers fixture
in his radio show, Off The Ball.
I was wanting to go back in time
to an old Rangers legend, Roger Grynd.
It's a hugely-important game in the history of Scottish football.
These two clubs playing each other always attracts more media interest,
more sponsorship, more revenue generation,
so there's no question it's an important game.
But when you boil it down, as well, the clubs, historically,
their colours - green and white for Celtic,
red, blue and white, the colours of the union, for Rangers -
have always had this, kind of,
oppositional point of difference and competition around them.
Layered on to them over years has been endless numbers of accusations,
counter-accusations, what aboutery, and always, you know,
trying to argue that the other one's worse than they are
and all the rest of it.
When you look at what's happening at an Old Firm match - the songs,
the flags, the emblems - it's nothing to do with Scotland.
It's all to do with Ireland.
It's just a re-enactment, really, of Irish struggles.
Many fans who are not fans of Celtic or Rangers, for example,
fans of my club, I see on message boards all the time,
"Oh, here we go again,
"a re-enactment of 17th-century Dutch history"
or "a re-enactment of 1916 in the Irish war of liberation"
I think there are two kind of metaphors that go around this game,
one of which is the boiling pot theory.
All of the troubles that have come about in Northern Ireland around
Unionism versus Republicanism could easily have happened in Scotland,
but the game, the Celtic-Rangers game, has become a way of, almost,
a pressure cooker, and it's allowed those things to be simulated
around that game and, therefore,
they have not spilled out into the wider civic society.
That's one theory of it.
Another theory is the proxy theory,
which is, well, this game just keeps those debates alive,
no matter how distantly relevant they are to Scotland,
as we move through an issue around our own constitutional identity
and our own status, and our own relationship to
Westminster and the Union.
I'm not sure where I am on it.
I think I'm probably somewhere near the second.
I think that it becomes a proxy for the history of Ireland,
rather than actually something
that's deeply meaningful to me in modern Scotland.
Many people would say to you,
"Why can it not be just about the football?"
Well, in lots of ways, it would be nice if you could rip up
200 years of history, but that's a very naive thought.
It's not going to just be about the football.
Some of it is baggage.
Some of it is actually genuine cultural identity
and cultural support, on both sides, Celtic and Rangers.
And I think there's a way where,
if people want this fixture to simply become
another bland inter-city fixture,
like Sheffield United versus Sheffield Wednesday,
they're really dreaming, you know.
Watching this Old Firm match starting to assemble
is like watching a battlefield start to be pieced together,
with all the division between the fans.
If you look at the faces of the individuals in the crowd,
what you see are family groups, fathers and sons,
and lots of friends gathering.
So, it's hard to know whether it's a proxy for other issues,
as Stuart suggested, or just a celebration of different cultures.
Or maybe, a bit of both.
If football stirs up community tensions, language can unite them.
And Scots, in particular, has a special place in my heart.
There are three languages in Scotland and, in my time,
I've tried to learn the lot of them.
Obviously, I am managing in English at the moment.
I tried for three fruitless months to learn Gaelic at evening school,
and both my parents were Broad Scots speakers.
So broad that neither my brother nor I
could understand a word that either set of grandparents ever said.
So, in Belfast, I spoke with a Northern Ireland accent,
but I had a whin of Scots words drappit through.
And when I crossed to Glasgow, I had to learn another variant on Scots.
A lot more blunt, perhaps a bit more aggressive one -
"Goannae no' dae that?!", for example -
before moving across here to Fife,
a fairmin' community with a softer tongue.
But one thing's for sure, despite all these variants of Scots,
if you take away the language from a community,
you take away what defines it.
You take away stories and history and, above all,
you take away a sense of self.
This is Billy Kay, spearin' what's happening' to Scoats thi day,
in a new and final episode o' The Scoats Tongue -
an archive series on the history of the leid I wrote back in 1986.
Based in Dundee, writer and broadcaster Billy Kay is
a passionate advocate for the Scots language,
and his BBC radio series explores the rich history and culture of
the language he grew up with.
In my book, Scots: The Mither Tongue,
I described speaking Scots as an activity engaged in
by consenting adults in the privacy of their ain hame.
But noo, mair and mair native speakers have come oot the hoose,
say tae speak.
OK, Billy, nuts and bolts.
The Scots language, where does it come fae?
Scots is a Germanic language, which is close to English,
which came into Scotland
roughly at the time Gaelic came into the west of Scotland,
with influences from Flemish, French, Gaelic, Norse.
And eventually, because of these influences and because of politics,
gradually Scots and English diverged,
and then with the political differences between Scotland and England,
Scots became the national language of Scotland.
So much so that, for example,
the Gaelic-speaking clan chiefs in the north would have to learn Scots,
to get on at court, to get on in society.
So, Scots was the language of prestige and power,
until really the 17th century.
What about the idea that Scots really is only a dialect
and not a proper language?
You mentioned it being a dialect yourself.
What is it that gives it the status of something more?
Well, historically, it was a dialect of Old English,
but it developed into a national language.
It's recognised by the European Parliament,
by the British Parliament and by the Scottish government as a language.
So anybody who tells me that Scots is just
a series of provincial dialects,
I'll say, "Well, ye ken nought about linguistic history."
What is it that's driven you to write the book you've written,
to do the radio series, the TV series?
Where's the passion coming from?
The passion comes from being steeped in it,
as a wee boy growing up in Ayrshire.
My hale world picture was seen through the prism of Scoats.
It was also the language that was sung at faimily get-togethers,
because Burns was a great traditional in Ayrshire,
as you can imagine. My sister's a great Burns singer.
So, given that rich linguistic background
and realising how rich it was,
it made me determined.
What is it that Scots gives you, particularly, that English doesn't?
Another window in the world, simple as that.
Every language has its own genius.
Scots describes the landscape, the people,
the culture in Scotland like no other.
Language can, because it's rooted in a living landscape.
So, what does Scots do for the communities in Scotland
that do actually speak it?
It's a huge part of local identity to the extent that,
sometimes, people think I speak Farfar or Dundonese or Glesga,
raither than Scots, so it is a very strong badge of identity.
The Border boroughs, like Hawick, Gala, Selkirk,
part of the identity,
along wi' Riding the Marches and looking o'er the border at England,
is the local poetry and the local songs in the Scots language
that are part of the language they learnt at their mither's knee,
the language of the culture that surrounds them,
and the language of the culture they want to continue using.
When Scottish people came to Ireland,
they brought that culture with them,
and their language became Ulster Scots.
I've come back to Northern Ireland,
to discover if Ulster Scots is as deeply rooted
in the living landscape here as it is in Scotland.
And whether it's as vital to community identity.
"Whut has heppin't tae the countryside,
"since you an' me wus wains?
"When folk had time tae tak' tae ye
an' al' the kye had names.
"The Clydesdales stud abane the men, as gentle as a lamb,
"And the oul' men proud o' whut they dane, they know'd aboot the lan.
"The wather it wus better then Och!
Mebbe that's joost me
"An' burds noo naw so plentifu', they sung fae ivery tree
"Spring rowl't intae simmer an' it seem't tae g'on for iver,
"But th wurld's in sich a hurry noo,
"It's changed since we wus wains.
"Al' the sime, I lake't it, whun al' the kye had names."
This is the eastern-most part of Ireland, and it's here,
on the Ards Peninsula,
where large-scale migration from Scotland to Ulster began.
Ayrshire men James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery acquired land here from
Ulster chieftain, Con O'Neill.
And they settled it with families from Scotland,
whose ties to home remained so strong that,
right up till the 1800s, some rowed across the Channel
to have their children baptised on Scottish soil.
But what about now?
Are those connections to Scotland still strong?
Is the language and culture of Ulster Scots still important to the
communities of the Ards Peninsula?
Well, it seems that in recent years
there's been a bit of a revival going on.
And as part of a week-long festival,
Ballywalter is hosting a night of Ulster Scots music and dance.
This is our tradition we're trying to keep alive.
Er, the fifes and the drums. As you see, we're a mixed group of ages.
Ould boys like me and young...
We're going to gie ye a well-known American tune.
This is how you can join in, clap your hands.
You'll hear the drummers banging the sticks and so on.
Yous get hammered into it.
Jackie Thomson was born and brought up on the Ards Peninsula
and has got involved in efforts to promote
the culture and language he grew up with.
So, Jackie, where did this all start for you, then, the Ulster Scots?
Well, I was brought up in the area
and we just spoke as we normally did.
Unknown to us, this has now been, sort of, classed as Ulster Scots.
I just heard words every day from my ma and da,
and that was the words I used.
But you've just said that in English and I'm speaking in English now,
and we could both be speaking in Scots to each other.
So why are we not doing it?
Once you get into a familiarity with somebody,
then you break into your own tone.
It's when you left your own community,
you had to switch over to English.
It was because it was stigmatised when I was growing up
that it was beat out of me, to hear,
"That's the way you've got to talk if you're going to go outside
"the community to work and things like that."
Have you got children?
-Aye, just the one.
-And did you teach the bairn yourself Scots?
I mean, teach, in a conscious way, Ulster Scots?
She would have told me off for saying things like,
you know, I would say,
"Lift them ould shunners oot the fire," or,
"Get us a bit of kiln." And she... "What are you talking about, Da?"
And I would have said, "Shut that door after you."
"Da, it's door. It's not the dug, it's the dog."
So she would have sort of tapped into me, in a sense,
and I would have said, "Listen, this is in my DNA,
"you're not going to beat it out of me at your age" sort of thing.
But saying that now, she's 33 now
and she would throw in wee Ulster Scots words.
And I'm... Happy days.
The Ards Peninsula and the Ards area,
is this the sort of Scots glen or whatever of Northern Ireland,
Portpatrick, Donaghadee, first boys came across, 1600s.
It's on our doorstep.
We would puff our chest and say, "We're the Ulster Scots folk."
County Antrim men would say differently
because they're as fluent as me,
maybe even better at it, lots of them.
Yes, you would meet somebody every day
that you would be talking Ulster Scots to.
What does it mean to you, then, Ulster Scots?
Is that your identity?
Does that carve this set of communities out as being very particular?
Ulster Scots is more to me than a language.
Even music... It's something in you, it's in you, you know.
You say, "Can you teach somebody Ulster Scots?"
You can teach them certain words and you get boys that want to learn
Ulster Scots and they're saying these words, but the same sort of...
It has to come from your heart, Ulster Scots.
That's the way I feel about the Ulster Scots language.
It's built in you and it has to come from inside you.
Just before we bed ourselves,
we look at our wee lambs.
Tam has his arm around wee Rab's neck.
And Rab, his arm around Tam's.
I lift wee Jimmy up the bed, and as I stroke each crown.
I whisper till my heart fills up.
Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon.
I'm finding myself unexpectedly moved in the middle of
this little ceilidh here tonight
because this would be like being in Scotland.
Someone has just recited my mother's favourite poem.
My mother came from Wick in Caithness.
It's as far north in Scotland as you can get.
It's hundreds of miles from here.
But "bairnies cuddle doon", that's what she used to recite to me.
My father's favourite pipe tune, The Rowan Tree, was played there,
and the whole set was finished up with Mhairi's Wedding,
played at my own wedding.
This is as if I'm stretched across the sea here between Scotland and
Northern Ireland because the two are one.
Tonight, here, this could be in Scotland.
If I could only greet, my heart it wouldnae be so sair.
But tears are gone.
And the bairns are gone.
And baith come back nae mair.
PIPE BAND PLAYS
When I left Colmcille Pipe Band in Derry,
they were rehearsing long into the night.
Today, they're competing at the UK Pipe Band Championships at Stormont.
I'm blown away by the sheer number of people here.
There are bands from all over the UK and Ireland taking part,
and people of all ages and backgrounds.
Lochlainn Fergusson is one of the younger members
of the Colmcille Pipe Band.
Lochlainn, I'm just fascinated to know why someone like you -
young, you're not really born into this tradition completely -
but why on earth the pipes, what is it?
I've been here since I've been a young boy, age 11.
And at the start, I came as a social thing.
Not many of my friends are doing it. I like to drum and I like meeting
other people. People that I've never really had a chance to meet.
Different religions, different cultures.
And then when you filter in the whole music side of things,
when you're standing with your band, with all your friends,
it's just that feeling... I like this type of sport.
I also like a bit of competition.
We all have a goal to succeed.
It's the same situation here, but only... We've got rivals
but they're also our best friends as well.
There's bands from all around Northern Ireland, Scotland,
all over the world. There is fierce competition here,
as you'll see later on the day,
but after it's just a matter of going over,
shaking hands and saying, "How did you play today?"
Getting to know them and just joining with real friends again.
Is there anything else that the Scots bring to this?
Scots bring a neutrality to here,
cos here in Northern Ireland there's a lot of unneeded politics, I think.
And when you bring the Scottish over, the Scottish are very...
They don't really care about that kind of thing
and it neutralises the field.
If there's any hostility here,
the Scots just kind of wipe it away because it's just their personality.
They're great fun, great character, their bands are amazing,
and it just brightens up the whole day.
Gosh, you make me feel proud to be both Scottish and Northern Irish.
But anyway we'll let you get back to the practice
-and good luck with it.
-Thank you very much.
It's the moment of truth for Colmcille Pipe Band
as it's their turn to perform for the judges.
THE BAND PLAY A MARCH
Communities, like families, can be complicated.
The Old Firm rivalry is certainly divisive.
Though, I suspect those football fans have more in common
than some of them would like to admit.
Other communities are struggling to keep alive the culture and language
that gives them their identity.
But here today,
I see a community bound by a Scottish musical tradition
that's as strong and vibrant in Northern Ireland
as it is in Scotland.
And, for the record, Colmcille Pipe Band came first in their grade.
In the second programme of the series journalist Lesley Riddoch discovers how communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland share strong ties through music, language, poetry and football. She meets members of Colmcille Pipe Band from Londonderry as they prepare for the UK pipe band championships, talks to Scottish broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove about the uncomfortable legacy of Celtic and Rangers' historic rivalry. And in Ballywalter, a poem from her childhood reminds her of the close links between Scotland and the Ards Peninsula.