The Speaker at the December meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society was the well known local Historian, Mr Alec Blair whose subject was “The Planter and the Gael”.
He pointed out that they made what might be called a volatile mixture as the Planter was generally taken to be Protestant and British and the Gael to be Catholic and Nationalist. In fact he pointed out that there was no such thing as a true Gael as Ireland had been invaded very many times centuries ago (for example by marauding groups such as the Vikings and Normans) and that the Gael was a mixture of different bloods. There were Gaels in France and other countries in Europe and he quoted Irish names which had obviously descended from these times.
The first Planters were mostly Scottish and were sent here because they were expelled for various crimes they had committed and a lot of them went back . The seventeenth century plantation had been more successful because the King oversaw it and with the disastrous intervention of Cromwell it had become the most resented episode in Irish History. He then gave examples of the strife it had caused – from the rebellion of 1641 up to the present day.
He also interspersed his talk with poems written by “both sides” which demonstrated with humour how well, in fact, they had got on. His concluding points were to illustrate what a mixture we all are, tracing the origin of names from the Planter and the Gael which illustrated that many families had “changed sides” over the years and pointing out that in present times we had learned to respect each others cultures and points of view.
Mrs Mary Breslin thanked Mr Blair for his talk which had been listened to very attentively by his audience and reminded members that the meeting in January would be a showing of events and customs in very old films by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission.