The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #10469   Message #868119
Posted By: GUEST,Philippa
16-Jan-03 - 05:55 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Ard Ti Chuain/Quiet Land of Erin
Subject: RE: ÁIRD A' CHUAIN/Chumhaing & McCambridge
I read an interesting but rather sad tale of McCambridge in an essay about involvement of Protestants in the Irish language revival in the north of Ireland in the 18th and 19th century (when there were still a number of native speakers in northern counties such as Antrim and Down).
from Aodán Mac Póilín, "The Protestant Gaelic Tradition" (part 2: "The Gaelic Revival in the North of Ireland"), published by the Ultach Trust:

"John McCambridge, an ancestor of Major James Chichester-Clarke, was the last Gaelic poet of the Glens of Antrim. 'My mother knew him well', wrote Eoin McNeill, 'and says that on every possible occasion he tried to interest people in the Irish language and would rather talk about it than anything else'. McCambridge wrote the beautiful song, 'Aird a' Chumhaing'. He had been intending to emigrate to Scotland: according to the story, he imagined himself in Kintyre, looking back on the Antrim Coast, and wrote this song of exile. It is said that the song made him so homesick that he decided not to go.

"Unfortunately, McCambridge's religion was a drawback for an Irish enthusiast in the [Antrim] Glens. Before the famine, there had been a sustained attempt to proselytise Irish-speaking Catholics, then numbering about three and a half million. The movement was based on the theory that the Catholic peasantry regarded the Bible in English as the work of Satan, but would read the Irish version, 'believing the devil is dumb in that language'. The teaching of Irish at [Belfast Academical] Inst., which had ceased with the death of William Neilson, was revived again in 1833, largely for proselytising purposes. No church survived this number-crunching Christianity with much dignity; in the Glens, Catholic clergy encouraged their flocks to speak English rather than Irish, and in other parts of the country scribes were forced to burn Gaelic manuscripts. All Protestants promoting Irish in the Glens of Antrim were therefore suspect, and McCambridge's efforts to check the decline of the language failed."

Chichester-Clarke and Eoin McNeill were both important political figures; Unionist Chichester-Clarke was N.Ireland Prime Minister 1969-71 (between O'Neill and Faulker) and Nationalist Eoin McNeill founded the Irish Volunteers in 1913.