Ulster-Scots exhibition comes to Coleraine

Dr. Frank Ferguson and Dr. Kathryn White from the University of Ulster
Dr. Frank Ferguson and Dr. Kathryn White from the University of Ulster

A University of Ulster exhibition on the influences that have shaped Ulster-Scots poetry will be launched by the Mayor of Coleraine, councillor Sam Cole, in Coleraine Town Hall this Friday lunchtime.

Entitled ‘Every Townland Earned its Name in Song: John Hewitt’s Ulster-Scots Tradition’ the exhibition by academics in the School of English and History was one of the centrepiece attractions at this year’s John Hewitt Summer School.

Consisting of a state-of-the art series of panels that tell the story of Hewitt’s fascination for the poetry of the Rhyming Weavers, the exhibition traces the history of the Scots language in Ulster and how it became an integral part of the poetry of local poets.

Coleraine Museum is using the exhibition as an opportunity to showcase the work of local man, Sam Henry and highlight its relevance to the John Hewitt Collection.

Sam was a vibrant member of the community involved in the church, societies, clubs, and becoming a councillor.

His interests included genealogy, folklore and folk music, poetry, bird watching, archaeology and photography among others. These he enthusiastically shared through newspaper articles, publications and radio broadcasts.

He is widely recognised through his work as editor of the weekly series, ‘Songs of the People’ between 1923 and 1939, which ran in The Northern Constitution. ‘Songs of the People’ published songs known, played and sung by people in Northern Ireland. Sam was not only instigator of the series, but the collector of a vast majority of the songs.

The exhibition narrative also follows the history of printing and the linen industry in the north of Ireland and how it had an impact on Ulster literature.

There is a map showing where Ulster-Scots poets lived and wrote. Visitors can also nominate other poets to be included as the exhibition evolves and moves from venue to venue.

The exhibition has been produced by Dr Frank Ferguson and Dr Kathryn White from the School of English and History, in partnership with the Ulster-Scots Agency and is designed by Professor John McMillan of the University of Ulster School of Art and Design.

Dr Ferguson said: “We are delighted to bring this exhibition to Coleraine. At Ulster, we are particularly fortunate to have John Hewitt’s personal library of Ulster poetry books, and it is marvellous to get the opportunity to communicate the significance of Hewitt’s work to the general public.

“We are particularly happy to have the support of the Ulster-Scots Agency in such a major exhibition and outreach project and to have John McMillan, who worked with Hewitt, as our designer has been a fantastic experience.”

Dr White added: “We are very excited about this project as it develops work that the University has already carried out on Ulster and Ulster-Scots poetry and opens up many new opportunities for our research to be heard.”

The exhibition has been made possible by a project partnership agreement with the Ulster-Scots Agency and by grant funding from the University’s Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

‘Every Townland Earned its Name in Song: John Hewitt’s Ulster-Scots Tradition’ is at the Town Hall, Coleraine, from Friday November 30, 2012, until 5 January 2013.