Sam Hanna Bell (1909-90)

Commentary

Life
[bapt. Samuel] b. 16 Oct., Glasgow; son of Glasgow Herald journalist James Hanna Bell (b.1870-1918), himself of Ulster parents from Killyglen, who married Jane McCreay [var. mCarey] McIlveen in Raffrey 1906, returning with her to Scotland; family moved to Greenock, and then returned to Raffrey, nr. Crossgar, Strangford Lough [var. Mahee Island], on death of father; mother moved to Belfast and occupied part of house of uncle at India St., where she lived by sewing and taking paying guests, 1921; received a patchy education, and attended Belfast Art School; took various menial jobs incl. watchmen, labourer, potato grader; worked as lab technician, and booking-clerk with Canadian Steamship & Railway Co.; wrote his first stories for BBC Children’s Hour;
 
first stories accepted by Children's Hour; his story “Summer Loanen” appeared in The Bell (ed. Seán O’Faolain), 1941; this was followed by “This We Shall Maintain”, 1942, and a first collection, Summer Loanen (1943); he shared flat with Bob Davidson at 8 Wellington Place, Belfast; fnd. the journal Lagan with John Boyd and Davidson, 1943; contrib. to Ulster Now, ed. by the Campbells, and Robert Greacen’s Anthology of Ulster Writing (1944); submitted a test piece to the BBC as “Their Country’s Pride”, featuring migration from rural regions to the city; appt. to permanent post as senior Features Producer at BBC Northern Ireland Region, 1945, initially through good offices of Louis MacNeice;
 
m. Midred Reside, 1946, with whom a son Fergus (b. 1948); broadcast “The Microphone in the Country” (1949); embarked on a survey of Ulster fairlylore and superstitions with Michael J. Murphy, 1951-52, and lodged his findings with the Irish Folklore Commission; broadcast programmes incl. “Fairy Faith” (1952), “The Saints and the Storytellers” (1953), and “Talking Around the Hearth” (1961); produced programmes by Roy McFadden (on William Allingham) and Benedict Kiely (on William Carleton); also stories by Sam Thompson, 1956-58; also an account of George Farquhar (28 Aug. 1951); a history of the stage-Irishman (28 Nov. 1951); the Ulster Group Theatre (9 Dec. 1965), and the Ulster Literary Theatre (25 Nov. 1954); ed. with Nesca Robb The Arts in Ulster (1951); issued Erin’s Orange Lily (1956), based on his reasearch, treating of folk-custom and folklore of the ‘nine counties’ of Ulster;
 

issued Within Our Province (1972), planned as part of “It’s An Old Ulster Custom” [series], and incl. a paeon to the shipyard men as ‘giants’; moved to King’s Road, Knock, East Belfast, 1953; established the BBC archives of folklore and folk music; broadcast some folk tales, BBC; ed. literary section of Ulster Tatler; issued December Bride (1951), a story of a woman ‘married’ to two brothers in rural Co. Down; contemporaneously banned in the Republic of Ireland and successfully filmed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan (1990), with Donal McCann and others, but premiered too late for Bell to see it; brought Rathlin Island, filmed by Wilfred Capper, and dealing with local life, to TV, 1957 - later broadcast in Europe and America [see note]; issued The Hollow Ball (1961), a novel set in the Depression and centred on the career of a footballer who begins at Glenbank United Football Club on Ormeau Rd. and moves to England;

 
retired from BBC, 1969; issued A Man Flourishing (1973), a novel linked to December Bride by the family name of Echlin but dealing with the period of the 1798 Rebellion, and indicting Ulster Protestants for betraying United Irish principles; issued Across the Narrow Sea (1987), a ‘romance’ about the plantation, dealing with the career of Neil Gilchrist, a failed lawyer, representing the conscience of the novel, who travels to Ireland with McIlveens, going to rent from planter Lord Kenneth Echlin at Ravara in 1608 [note]; after surveying the rights and wrongs of the plantation, it ends with Neil’s elopement to Scotland with Anne Echlin; d. at his home in Knock; a commemorative selection of his writings was issued as A Salute from the Banderol, ed. Fergus Hanna Bell, and launched by Paul Muldoon at the Linenhall Library, 16 Oct. 2009; a plaque was unveiled at 2 Crescent Gardens (S. Belfast) where Bell was living when he wrote December Bride, and a colloquium was conducted at the Linenhall Library, where the MS of Across the Narrow Sea is held: Fergus Bell worked as a solicitor in Newry. DIW DIL MAX DUB OCIL

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Works
Novels
  • December Bride (London: Dennis Dobson 1956), 299pp.; Do. (NY: E. P. Dutton & Co. 1951), 2546pp.; Do. [new edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1974; reps. [1982] 1990), 299pp., and Do. [rep. edn.] (Edinburgh: Mainstream 1990) [see summary & extracts];
  • The Hollow Ball (London: Cassell 1961; Belfast: Blackstaff 1990), and Do. [rep edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1990) 256pp.;
  • A Man Flourishing (London: Gollancz 1973), 255pp., and Do. [rep. edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1986);
  • Across the Narrow Sea: A Romance (Blackstaff 1987), 299pp.
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Short fiction
  • Summer Loanen and Other Stories (Newcastle, Co. Down: Mourne Press 1943), 85pp. [ten stories, “Summer Loanen”; “Always Raise Yur Hat to a Hearse”; “Two Blades of Grass”; “The Broken Tree”; “Thursday Nights”; “A Fish Without Chips”; “This We Shall Maintain”; “Dark Tenement”; “Old Clay, New Earth”].
 

Contribs. to The Bell, ed. Sean O’Faolain (Dublin): “Summer Loanen”, in No. 3 (1941), pp.203-08; “This We Shall Maintain”, in No. 4 (1942), pp.235-40.

 

Blackstaff Reprint Editions: Erin’s Orange Lily [1956], Summer Loanen [1943] and Other Stories [facs. of Dobson 1956 edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1996), 224pp. [0 85640589 2].

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Miscellaneous
  • Erin’s Orange Lily: Ulster Customs and Folklore (London: Dennis Dobson 1956), 144pp. [see contents];
  • The Theatre in Ulster: A Survey of the Dramatic Movement in Ulster from 1902 until the Present Day (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1972);
  • ed., with Nesca A. Robb and John Hewitt, The Arts in Ulster: A Symposium (London: Harrap 1951), 173pp.;
  • ed., Within Our Province: A Miscellany of Ulster Writing, compiled by Sam Hanna Bell (Belfast: Blackstaff 1972), 131pp. [collected with Michael J. Murphy and Sean O’Boyle]
 

See articles in journals incl. ‘The Poetry of Joseph Campbell’, in Lagan, No. 3 [1945], pp.67-73.

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Reprint Edition
  • Fergus Hanna Bell, ed. & intro., A Salute from the Banderol: The Selected Writings of Sam Hanna Bell (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2009. xvii, 186pp., ill. [8pp. of pl.; 24cm.]

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Bibliographical details
Erin’s Orange Lily: Ulster Customs and Folklore (London: Dennis Dobson 1956), 144pp. [ded. ‘For my son Fergus’]. CONTENTS, Foreword [7]; To Chap the Lambeg [11]; Roaming the Fields on Boxing Day [27]; “I work Down the Island” [37]; The Way to Catch Mountain Dew [50]; Respect to Good Neighbours [69]; Dancing at the Feis [100]; Give us a Bar [113]; To Crack the Hearth [124]. Illustrations incl. painting by William Conor (Chap. 1); engraving by George Cruikshank from W. H. Maxwell’s Wild Sports of the West (Chap. 2); George Petrie’s engraving of Long Bridge, Belfast (Chap. III); another from Alfred Barnard, Whiskey Distilleries of the United Kingdom, 1887 (Chap. IV); drawing from Thackeray’s Irish Sketchbook (Chap. VI); others from S. C. Hall, Sketches of Irish Character (Chaps. V and IX); and Mr. & Mrs. Hall, Ireland, Its Scenery and Character (Chaps. VII and VIII). [See under Quotations, infra.]

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December Bride (1951): - plot summary: ‘A sparse, slow growing thorn bush of domestic crises sprouting on somewhat acrid Gaelic earth. When Sarah Gomartin, a cool, determined lass, arrived with her widowed mother to work on the Echlin farm, she felt she had found a home under the protection of old Andrew and his two sons - strong and hard-working Hamilton, and gay Frank. After the death of Andrew, however, Sarah finds herself under pressure from her mother and Rev. Sorleyson to leave the undesirable situation caused by her unmarried state. But Sarah remains in the home she loves, and eventually becomes the mother of two Echlin [children], refusing to marry “simply to make everything smooth from the outside”. Sarah’s decision brings - through the years - misery to some, strength to others, and antagonism from the village. Yet Sarah, for the make of her grown daughter is married at last to Hamilton by Sorleyson’s son - in a ceremony of lifeless mockery. Deep country soil but no dirt.’ (Kirkus Reviews; copied at COPAC online; accessed 03.12.2009 - see extracts, infra.)

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Criticism
  • James Simmons, ‘“The Recipe for all Misfortunes, Courage”: A Study of Three Works by Ulster Protestant Authors[...]’, in Across the Roaring Hill: The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland - Essays in Honour of John Hewitt, ed. Gerald Dawe & Edna Longley (Belfast: Blackstaff 1985) , pp.79-98; espec. pp.92-95 [extract].
  • Douglas Carson, ‘The Antiphon, the Banderol, and the Hollow Ball: Sam Hanna Bell, 1909-1990’, in Irish Review (Autumn 1990), c.p.96;
  • Douglas Carson, ‘A Kist o’ Whistles’, in Radical Ulsters: Three Northern Writers on the Side of the Outsider in Irish Society and Culture: Sam Hanna Bell, Peadar O’Donnell, and Joseph Tomelty Fortnight, 290, (Jan. 1991), Supplement [incls. Patricia Craig, ‘Out of the hands of zealots’, p.4];
  • Edna Longley, ‘A barbarous nook’, review of A Man Flourishing, rep. in The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Belfast: Bloodaxe 1994), c.p.101;
  • Sophie Hillan King, ‘“A Salute from the Banderol”: Sam Hanna Bell’s Contribution to Ulster’s Cultural Life’, in Writing Ulster [‘Northern Narratives’, ed. Bill Lazenblatt], 6 (1999), pp.1-11 [extract; also available in JSTOR online - password access];
  • Sean McMahon, Sam Hanna Bell: A Biography (Belfast: Blackstaff 1999), 238pp.
  • Fergus Hanna Bell, ed. & intro., A Salute from the Banderol: The Selected Writings of Sam Hanna Bell (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2009. xvii, 186pp., ill. [8pp. of pl.; 24cm.]
 
Dissertations
Deborah Keys, “Sam Hanna Bell: A Study of his Contribution Toward the Cultural Development of the Region”, [Diss.] (QUB 1982).
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See also J. W. Foster, Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1974), and Sean McMahon, ‘The Realist Novel after the Second World War’, in The Genius of Irish Prose, ed. Augustine Martin (1985), 145-154; Robert Greacen, Rooted in Ulster: Nine Northern Writers (Belfast: Lagan Press 2001), 130pp.

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Commentary
Some reviews ...

Anthony Weir: ‘A story of the eternal triangle, held, like the land, by stubborn force. Cold, blunt passion, like a broken knife-blade, is studied with delicate care and a wonderful use of idiom.’ (Quoted in inside cover of December Bride, Blackstaff rep. edn. 1974, 1982.)

James Simmons, review of December Bride (1951), in The Irish Press [presum. 1974]: ‘No book in the world means more to me than this one does. The Bible, and War and Peace, are more extensive and complex achievements; but after a certain point of excellence, one stops trying to choose. This one will always be with me, especially because it goes to the heart of the Ulster experience, and the feel of the place and the nature of the people.’ (Quoted [in part] on inside cover of December Bride, Blackstaff [rep. edn.] 1974, 1982; also found more fully in a scrapbook of the John Hewitt Collection, University of Ulster.)


James Simmons, ‘“The Recipe for all Misfortunes, Courage”: A Study of Three Works by Ulster Protestant Authors: Apostate by Forrest Reid, Castle Corner by Joyce Cary and December Bride by Sam Hanna Bell’, in Across the Roaring Hill: The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland - Essays in Honour of John Hewitt, ed. Gerald Dawe & Edna Longley (Belfast: Blackstaff 1985): ‘I had not read December Bride for ten years despite my early enthusiasm for it. I must have been reluctant to face the disappointment of its petering out from a work of great power and beauty into a melodrama, desultorily tied up by a few weak chapters. It is also more obvious at a second reading that there is very little development in the characters. The house at Rathard is ruled at first by a patriarch, Andrew (as Castle Corner is ruled by Mr John). What goes on between him and his two sons and the two women who come into the house is interesting, and later, what goes on between the two sons and Sarah when Andrew dies and Sarah’s mother leaves; but when Frank is crippled, the novel suffers a hiatus and we move on to the next generation, unsatisfied. There are further passages of great beauty, but the author has deserted his theme.’ [Cont.]

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James Simmons, ‘“The Recipe for all Misfortunes, Courage” [... &c.]’, in Across the Roaring Hill [...], ed. Dawe & Longley (1985) - cont.: ‘I take the theme to be a preference for the natural dignity of the people at Rathard over the values and religion of Mr Sorleyson’s Sarah’s resentment of the way he treats old Andrew’s sacrifice of his life leads to her defiance of him when he tries to make her marry one or other of the brothers. Bell is describing the growth of moral consciousness and offering a challenge to the Christian Church in Ulster. Because he chooses characters who can barely express themselves in words the challenge is muted, but very strong.’ [92; Cont.]

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James Simmons, ‘“The Recipe for all Misfortunes, Courage” [... &c.]’, in Across the Roaring Hill [...], ed. Dawe & Longley (1985) - cont.: ‘A theme in fiction should not be too easy to pin down [cf. Cary’s introduction to Castle Corner], but we must have a clear sense of why each bit of reality is being offered us in the name of a novel. In this case Bell has drawn our attention to Sarah’s preferences. And if we are to accept that she loses Fergus from bad luck or hasty action, the notion of preference still [93] comes up when Sarah is sleeping with both Frank and Hamilton. I think at the very least the reader is curious about the details, more precisely how the arrangement works. And then it is suggested that there is a fineness and sensitivity about Frank that Hamilton does not possess, although there is an attractive courage and kindness in Hamilton.’ [Cont.]

James Simmons, ‘“The Recipe for all Misfortunes, Courage” [... &c.]’, in Across the Roaring Hill [...], ed. Dawe & Longley (1985) - cont.: ‘It may be that Bell is very properly suggesting that these people have no vocabulary in which to present these issues to themselves and each other; but they must experience differences that lead to discrimination. After all, the confrontation with the minister implies an unusual fineness of sensibility, an innate scrupulousness that hears what the minister is saying about God’s will and finds it a violation of the truth: ‘she suspected, and her anger rose at the thought, that Sorleyson had bent a fortuitous and tragic occurrence to buttress his own beliefs and teachings, and had in some way robbed the lustre of Andrew’s self-sacrifice. On this occasion the man of words has undertaken to interpret her life and she has rejected the interpretation.’ [92; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Critical Classics”, attached.)]

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Sophie Hillan King, ‘“A Salute from the Banderol”: Sam Hanna Bell’s Contribution to Ulster’s Cultural Life’, in Writing Ulster [‘Northern Narratives’, ed. Bill Lazenblatt], 6 (1999): ‘Somehow, in the middle of this punishing schedule of work, there appeared in 1951 his first and best-known novel, December Bride. Originally intended as a short story, it became a vehicle for an affectionate but unblinkered depiction of the ways of the Raffrey folk of his childhood. Its heroine, Sarah Gomartin, is described by Bell as “secretive and restrained and self-absorbed”. Unconventional and ambitious, Sarah manipulates the two brothers of the Echlin household, bearing two children while refusing to name either brother as the father, and turning her position into one of power by refusing to entertain the idea that she should be ashamed of her position. In the end, she becomes the “December Bride” of the title to satisfy the need of one of her two children for conventional parental behaviour. It would be an oversimplification to suggest that the attraction of the novel lies solely or primarily in the heroine’s freedom from conventional morality. She is very much her own woman, but she is not Hardy’s Tess, doomed to destruction: Sarah knows the strength of the woman in the house, and it is her intention to hold that power to herself. Therefore, she will neither belittle either brother by marrying the other, nor risk losing her position of influence by freeing either brother from her control. Gradually, she is accepted, by the men, if not the women of the neighbourhood.’ (Quotes “But the women ... do rightly with Sarah Gomartin’s girl”, as given in Quotations, infra.) [Cont.]

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Sophie Hillan King, ‘“A Salute from the Banderol”: Sam Hanna Bell’s Contribution to Ulster’s Cultural Life’, in Writing Ulster [‘Northern Narratives’, ed. Bill Lazenblatt], 6 (1999) - cont.: ‘Bell does not shy away, in this study of the balance of power between the sexes, from his knowledge of sectarian bias in the community from which he came. He shows Sarah’s vindictive behaviour towards her Catholic neighbours, the Dineens, when she has them evicted in order that she may have their land for storage barns [quotes “Not one of them .... neighbourliness and a more ancient kinship were forgotten”, in Quotations, infra]. / This recognition of ‘neighbourliness and a more ancient kinship’, combined with a clearsighted understanding of ‘centuries-old enmity’, and a balanced view of the ways in which all of these contradictions mix within Ulster people, inform all Sam Hanna Bell’s work, fictional and non-fictional.’ (For full text of this article, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism”, attached.)

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Robert Greacen, Brief Encounters: Literary Dublin and Belfast in the 1940s (Dublin: Cathair Books 1991), writes that Sam [Hanna Bell] shared a flat with Bob Davidson in Wellington park in Belfast [and had] still a remnant of Scots accent for he had been born of Irish emigrant parents in Glasgow where his father worked as a journalist; worked for the Canadian Steamship Co. in their Belfast offices and during the War years he was in Civil Defence; encouragement from Sean O’Faolain; through the good offices of Louis MacNeice [got] a permanent job in the BBC in N. Ireland; ed. literary section of Ulster Tatler; commuted Belfast-Notting Hill Gate and later Belfast-Ballsbridge. (pp.17-19).

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Maurice Craig, reviewing Sean MacMahon, Sam Hanna Bell (1999), writes that Bell worked at the BBC during 1932-46 [sic] under ‘the bleak regime of George Marshall who saw it as his mission in life to give aid and comfort to the Unionist establishment.’ (Books Ireland, Sept. 2000.)

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Quotations
December Bride (1951): ‘The farm of Rathard sat crescent-shaped on a low green hill screened by beech trees from the misty winds that rose from the lough in the winter. On summer evenings the cream-washed homestead, eyed by the setting sun, blushed warmly under the dark foliage. Swelling gently from the shores of Strangford Lough, the hill had borne habitation for centuries. Behind the dwelling house lay an ancient rath from whence an earlier people had looked down on the sinuous waters of the lough. Now nothing more martial was head than the cry of the cock, or the low piping of bees from the seven hives that sat in the curve of the bowed earth walls. The house faced inland; to its right, towards the lough, were the barns and byres. To its left, the stackyard, bounded by a delicate file of rowan trees, which ended where the rutted loanen, climbing the road, emptied into the close. / When Margaret Echlin turned her face from her husband and her sons, from dung-crusted beats and hungry fowl and clashing pails, only then did her husband Andrew realised what part she had filled in Rathard. It was as if the whole framework of daily life had been withdrawn. Hardly a task about the kitchen or the fields but now lacked some essential part. Urgently, Andrew set about finding someone to tend to himself and his sons’. ([p.3]; quoted in Sophia Hillen King, ‘The Millstone and the Star, Regionalism as Strength’, Linen Hall Review, Autumn 1994, p.11.)

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December Bride (1951): ‘To her [Sarah Gomartin’s] simple mind, the idea of a vast overleaning spirit, ever present, which with infinite patience followed the coming-in and going-out of a human being for eighty-years, and then, at a pre-ordained time plucked him from the world, bore the signs of an ultimate responsibility. But now she suspected and her anger rose at the thought, that Sorleyson had bent a fortuitous and tragic occurrence to buttress his own beliefs and teachings, and in some way robbed the lustre of Andrew’s self-sacrifice.’ (p.92; quoted in James Simmons, ‘“The Recipe for all Misfortunes, Courage”: A Study of Three Works by Ulster Protestant Authors [... &.c], in Across the Roaring Hill: The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland, ed., Dawe & Longley, Belfast: 1985 [as supra].

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December Bride (1951): ‘But the women, those shapers of opinion and prejudice, would hear nothing in Sarah’s favour, and the men for peace’s sake, agreed that she was a shameless bisom and worth the watching. Yet, among themselves, as they gathered at the crossroads, there could be detected a tickled humour at the idea of this matriarchal household set up among them, and one man expressed the opinion that if there was any truth in the old saying that “a man maun ask his wife’s leave to thrive” then the Echlins would do rightly with Sarah Gomartin’s girl.’ (p.164-65; quoted in Sophie Hillan King, ‘“A Salute from the Banderol”: Sam Hanna Bell’s Contribution to Ulster’s Cultural Life’, in Writing Ulster [‘Northern Narratives’, ed. Bill Lazenblatt], 6, 1999, pp.7-8.)

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December Bride (1951): ‘Not one of them honestly believed that it was necessary to turn the Dineens out. Had it been any other family the brothers would have put themselves to any inconvenience to find another storage house. Yet they, and even Sarah, liked Owen Dineen. But deep down in all three the centuries-old enmity against the papist stirred, and neighbourliness and a more ancient kinship were forgotten.’ (p.184; quoted in Sophia Hillen King, op. cit., 1994, p.8.)

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Erin’s Orange Lily (1956) - ‘County Down, 1920s’, rep. [extract], in Northern Windows, an Anthology of Ulster Autobiography, ed. Frank Ormsby (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987), pp.134-37: ‘In my childhood I was fortunate enough to live for several years in the household of a small farmer, Alexander Gaw. Alexander was about seventy at the time, heavily bearded and his shoulders bowed by hard work. He divided his time between his five acres of land (or four, really, for one of his fields was marred by a whin knowe), and his harness-making business which he carried on in a lean-to at the gable of the house. His daughter ‘took in flowering’, that is to say, she acted as an agent for several of the linen firms in the city of Belfast, and distributed embroidery work to the needlewomen of the district. These activities of the Gaws made their hearth a meeting place for their neighbours. In the evenings, when their day’s work was done, the young men came with broken harness and wrenched buckles for Alexander’s attention. The farm women, with their skirts kilted against the wet grass of the fields, would bring their finished embroidery. There was talk about the hearth of crops and markets. births and deaths, and if someone had brought a paper Alexander read it aloud, down to the Government cheers and Opposition uproar. [...]’ (For longer extract, see attached.)

Note: whin the received Ulster term for gorse, is prob. a Viking word of wide British distribution. A knowe is an acknowledged synonymous for knoll, (i.e., a small hillock) - also known in America as in the Grassy Knoll associated with the assassination of J. F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.

Erin’s Orange Lily (1956): ‘It has been concluded that ... the traditions of Ulster can be found only in Catholic homes, because Catholics are more “poetic”, less “materialistic”. I don’t think this is so ... / In Ulster, for reasons which you will find in history, the mountainsides are inhabited by Catholics and the valleys by Protestants. Understandably, the old beliefs live longer among the scattered cottages in the hills than in the plump lowland acres tilled to the hedges where the fairy thorns have been torn out and the souterrains filled in for the sake of a few extra buckets of grain’. (Quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.39.)

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Erin’s Orange Lily (1956): ‘Several years ago I attended a country funeral. The July sun was as bold as brass that day and those who weren’t relatives or near neighbours stood in the shadow of the rowans that fringed the close. At last the prayers in the house were finished and the coffin was carried out and set on the backs of two chairs to rest there until the first “lift” to the hearse waiting up on the county road. / Four sons of the dead woman were to lift the coffin, and as they handed their hard hats to other mourners and bent to slide their shoulders under the coffin, a man beside me, a schoolmaster, whispered “watch this”, and as the coffin was lifted I saw an old man [118] knock over one of the chairs with a dunch of his knee. It looked like clumsy old age. Then he pushed over the second chair. / “What’s the idea of knocking the people’s furniture about?” / “[He’s]‘trimmlin’’ the chairs; that’s to say, he’s making quite sure that the spirit of the departed hasn’t gone to roost while the corpse is on its way to the churchyard.”’ [... &c.; for longer extract, see attached.)

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A Banderol: An Introduction’, in The Arts in Ulster: A Symposium (London: Harrap 1951): ‘The Ulster writer, then, dips in moving waters. Let us consider what he may hope to bring up from various soundings. We inherit, in theory at least, the epic myths of our country. Most of us came to them in later life through Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne or the stories of Standish O’Grady and Charles Squire, for these were not the heroic tales that the majority of us were taught at school. They have, I fear, little attraction for us who heard them as part of the epic history of their people. Gerald MacNamara, the dramatist, in his Thompson in Tir-na-n-Og wove together with some dexterity two Ulster myths from diverse and widely separated cycles, but, apart from that, little use has been made of them. Notwithstanding the beauty of these tales - and there are lovely and moving passages in them - the heroes are too vast, too amorphous; they lack the saving salt of human vulgarity. “The great virtues, the great joys, the great privations come in myths”, said W. B. Yeats, “and, as it were, take mankind between their naked arms, and without putting off their divinity.” There is nothing, I should say, more distasteful to an Ulsterman, of whatever persuasion, than to be hugged by a myth, unless, of course, he had the privilege of creating it.’ (p.15; quoted in Richard Mills, MPhil/DPhil UUC 1997.)

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The 1940s: ‘Perhaps it was a sudden sense of interrupted isolation, of being cast from the fringe of Europe into portentous happenings. But whatever the alembic through which this new awareness passed, it is a fact that the decade has been one of importance as far as creative art in Ulster is concerned.’ (Arts in Ulster, p.19; quoted in Sophie Hillan King, ‘“A Salute from the Banderol”: Sam Hanna Bell’s Contribution to Ulster’s Cultural Life’, in Writing Ulster [‘Northern Narratives’, special issue, ed. Bill Lazenblatt], 6, 1999, p.5.)

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Old ways: ‘The old ways of our community are vanishing rapidly. A visitor to Ireland wishing to enrich the cathedral of his native city asked a bishop where he might secure relics of an Irish saint. The bishop replied “Go into any graveyard, the most remote in the land, and take a handful of dust. So you will have your relics.” In another generation the same answer will hold for those who search Ulster for the relics of men lesser than saints.’ (Erin's Orange Lily, p.8, quoted in Sophie Hillan King, op. cit., 1999, p.6.)

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References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction, Part 2 (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists Summer Loanen and Other Stories (Newcastle: Mourne Press 1943), 85pp. [set in Lecale, Co. Down and Belfast; migration to city and other themes, incl. furtive evening with prostitute]; December Bride (London: Dobson 1951), 299pp.; [set at Strangford Lough; Sarah becomes mistress of two brothers]; no listing for A Man Flourishing.

Frank Ormsby, ed., Northern Windows, an Anthology of Ulster Autobiography (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987), contains extract from Erin’s Orange Lily (1956) at pp.134-37.

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Notes
December Bride
(1951), set at the beginning of the 20th century, and narrating the life of Sarah Gomartin, a servant hired with her mother by the Echlins, a Protestant farming family, after the mother Margaret dies (‘turns away’). Andrew Echlin is the pater familias and the owner of the farm at Rathard, nr. Killeagh, and when he too dies, drowning in a storm - sacrificing himself in the crisis to save his children - Sarah forms relationships with the two sons, Frank and Hamilton, and refuses to reveal the name of the father of the child which is born subsequently or to marry either of them ‘simply to make everything smooth from the outside’. In time a girl is added to the family. Frank, the father of the boy Andrew, is increasingly side-lined and suffers a terrible beating from the kindred of a girl he seeks out to replace Sarah as a wife. His death, later on, arises when the roof of the Dineens’ cottage - a Catholic family whom the Echlins evict on Sarah’s wish - falls down on him during building operations. The novel features the Rev. Sorleyson as the outraged minister whose theology Sarah comes to suspect in spite of her ‘simple mind’ in regard to such matters. Sorleyson, who is trapped in a loveless marriage with a wife who tries to pretend that all is well, loses his vocation when faced with Sarah’s womanly allure and the natural rightness of her feelings. When - later on - Sarah’s daughter is successfully wooed by the son of a local shopkeeper (who disowns him on that account), the son of Rev. Sorleyson, now installed as minister at Rathard, persuades Sarah and Hamilton to marry in order to make matters right for their children. The narrative is based on a story received as family history from the author’s mother’s family which Bell was persuaded to write by Seán O’Faolain. It is supplied with an epigraph from Hardy and is often styled Hardyesque.

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The Hollow Ball (1961) is set in the 1929 Depression and centres on David Minnis of Ormeau Rd. and Glenba[n]k United Football Club who quits his obdurately religious mother and his girlfriend in order to become a footballer in England with Maitland Park, turning hard and selfish; the novel also features Bonar Law [and] a socialist who joins the IRA and is killed in action.

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A Man Flourishing (1973) , James Gault, a young divinity student, deserts his theology studies to join the United Irishmen but fails to reach the stricken field at Ballynahinch and escapes the reprisals, living as a hunted man. He flees to home and sweetheart Kate Purdie (whom he marries), travels to Belfast and finds refuge with sinister Doctor Bannon of Legge’s Lane, a merchandise and crime-broker. After months of hiding he takes passage to America where revolutionary and turns businessman - in illustration of the Presbyterian reversion to conventional life amid ‘shrivelled and relinquished liberties’ though his bourgeois world is rocked by blackmail and murder. The novel is linked to December Bride by the family name of Echlin.

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Across the Narrow Sea (1987): Neil Gilchrist, failed law student and son of feckless Scots laird, going to try his luck at James I’s court in London meets MacIlveens, peasant family fleeing persecution and sails from Portpatrick to Donaghadee; travel together to Ravara, estate of Kenneth Echlin, Undertaker, in Co. Down; MacIlveens’s rented holding raided by native Irish; Neil employed as arborist to chart woodlands of Ravara; MacIlveens intermarry with neighbours; Neil defends old crone Rushin Coatie against witchcraft charges; faces villainous Lachie Dubh with a rapier; falls in love with Anne Echlin; shown the road that leads back to the Narrow Sea. (See Blackstaff Catalogue, 1986.)

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Rathlin Island (1957), a silent 8mm film in black and white shot by Wilfred Capper - shot list: Ballycastle Harbour. Northern Star ferry going across to Rathlin Island. General views of the island - buildings, Marconi transmitter. Men with ropes getting into boat. Men climbing down cliff on a rope to check birds nests. Thatched cottage. Old mill and water wheel. Tractor, derelict house. Stone gate-posts (these are only found in Northern Ireland and are very tall on Rathlin Island). Derelict stone buildings. High-angle views of Church Bay and fields. Shop. Close up of fishing nets and waves crashing against pier. Graves of drowned sailors. Parish church on coast. Village buildings. Good view looking down across the zig-zag coastline. Gateposts. Men near pier. Gate posts. Marconi transmitter. Coastline. View down long road. Thatched cottage. Man showing a model sail boat. General views of a furrowed field with a dog. Free standing large stone. Cottage. Cows. Cottage. Cliff and lighthouse. Cave. Man in boat bringing in crayfish pots. Man climbing cliffs. Rope and helmet over his shoulder. Three men climbing on sheer cliff. Free climbing. Birds nest and eggs. The rights are held by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. (Source: NI Digital Film Archive online; accessed 03.12.2009.)

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Ulster triangles: The story of one woman and two men in Sam Hanna Bell's December Bride somewhat resembles that of Martha and Esther in their relationship with the sailor-husband in Mrs. Martin’s Man (1914) by St. John Ervine [q.v.] - and thereby gives Ulster fiction an unusually prominent strand of bigamy. [BS]

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Echlin (1): Surname is of Scottish origin associated with the lands of Echline in the parish of Dalmeny, West Lothian; [...] a branch of the Echlins established themselves in County Down early in the 17th Century, twenty-six of the name are recorded as students of Dublin University, many of whom had distinguished careers. See Surname Database - online; accessed 5.12.2011.]

Echlin (2): there is no historical Lord Kenneth Echlin - not at least associated with the plantation of Ulster, though there is a Scottish name Echlin and an Irish peerage, viz., Sir Henry Echlin, 2nd Baron of the Court of the Exchequer in Ireland, created 1st Baron Echlin of Clonagh, Co. Kildare, on 17 October 1721. He was and grandson of the Right Reverend Henry Echlin, Bishop of Down and Connor (1613-35). Sir Norman David Fenton Echlin, the 10th and last Baron Echlin, died in 2007. The Echlin name is quite prevalent in Canada. (See “Eclin Baronetcy” at Wikipedia online; accessed 5.12.2011.)

Echlin (3) - cf. Echlinville, a townland on the Ards peninsula (Co. Down), formerly called Rowbane/Rubane, in the parish of Inishargy, takes its name from James Echlin, a member of a family that derived its name from a Scotland location. He built Rubane House in the townland of that name in the second quarter of the 18th century. According to Knox, the Echlins of Pettadro in Linlithgow were ‘heirs of Philip le Brun, who obtained the heritage of the estate ... of Echlin’. (Knox, p.469.) In the early 17th century Dr. Robert Echlin, ‘a Scotchman by birth’, was appointed as bishop of Down and Connor [and] settled at a residence in the south of the Ards known as the Abbacy. (Reeves, EA, 379; Harris, Hist, 44). (See Placenames in Northern Ireland Project - online; accessed 5.12.2011.

Echlin (4): Kenure, at Rush, Co. Dublin, was inherited by James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormond in 1703, who built the house destroyed by fire in 1827. Though favoured in the reigns of William and Mary - having joined William at Carrickfergus - and afterwards by Queen Anne, he was impeached at the beginning of the reign of George I for his Jacobite leanings and fled to France. The family titles (Earls of Ormond and Ossory) passed to John Butler of Kilcash and Kenure was purchased by a Robert Echlin, acc. J. G. Simms in The Williamite Confiscation of Ireland. (See further attached, or go to Ask About Ireland > Kenure House - online; accessed 05.12.2011.)

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The Linen Hall Library in association with the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival mounted a series of events to celebrate the birth centenary of writer and broadcaster Sam Hanna Bell, at The Queen’s University, Belfast, from 14-17 Oct. 2009. The events included a book launch, conducted by Paul Muldoon, and recitations from Roberts Burns. Speakers at the associated symposium incl. Carlo Gébler (‘Sam Hanna Bell and the Irish Literary Tradition’); Roma Tomelty (‘Sam Hanna Bell, Joe Tomelty and the Theatre in Ulster’); Anne Tannahill (‘Publishing Sam Hanna Bell’); Thaddeus O’Sullivan (‘The Making of December Bride’); Glenn Patterson (‘An Ulster Miscellany’); Sean McMahon (‘Sam Hanna Bell: The Man’).

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