Tuesday 29 November 2011

45 – 'Ach, would yez catch yerselves on?'

Sunset over Strangford Lough, Islandhill, near Comber, Co. Down
November 14, 2011

The clocks have changed and it's getting dark quite early these days – "There's a qu'er change in the evenin's."  But strangely enough, despite all the dire predictions from the weathermen of prolonged sub-zero weather, we've actually been experiencing warmer temperatures than we had during our so-called, summer, earlier this year!  We haven't really had a proper frost yet!  It just goes to show ye what it shows ye – ye can never predict the weather in Ireland.  It's always got a wee surprise in store for ye.

Mind you, mild as it's been, we've certainly been havin' more than our fair share of rain –  'Mingin' is a good Belfast description of it (that means it stinks).  Or you could say, 'It's bin putrid!'  'It's bin comin' down in bucketfuls' – or, 'bucketin wi' rain.'  Or, "It's teemin' down out there."

I was gettin' some work done to my car the other day and the radio in the garage was playing fairly quietly.  I was only able to hear it because I was standin' right by the speaker.  A good summary of the weather forecast for the next day would have been, "Well, it's not gonna rain the WHOLE day!"

My mother used to use a great expression for a downpour, she'd say, "By the lucks of it I'd say we'r' in for a right thunderplump!"   Usually, when it rains here, it's not that heavy.  We'll say, "There's a wee bit of a mizzle," or "Sure, it's only spittin' a wee bit."  Or, "The weather's a bit saft, today."

We're used to rain, but the wind, now, can take us unawares.  When it get's up a bit we might be heard to say, "There's a win' out there would clean corn!"  That's ano'rr one my mother was fond of.  Or maybe, "That win' wud cut clean through ye!"  In Irish ye might say, "Tá mé fuar agus fliuch""I'm cold and wet." 

A discussion about holidays might start, "Where yez away anywhere the year?"  "Aye we were'n Spain for ten days, so we were."  "Right.  What sort of we'err did yes git, over there?"  "Ach, it wuz dead onn, so it was.  Right'n warm, like."  As I've said before, we're not that well geared up for extremes of temperature.  When it freezes, we're 'foundered', an' when it's unseasonably warm we're 'boiled', or 'melted'.  An' the winter weather in this part a' the world is mostly just, "Desp'rate, altoge'rr!"

Some of the expressions that we would use without thinkin', here, would leave outsiders totally flummoxed.  Listenin' to somebody tryin' to control a chid, or two, can be very entertainin'!  "Ach, would yez catch yerselves on?  Runnin' aroun' there like a hen on a hot griddle!  Quit yer bullickin' about, or I'll give yez a clatter roun' the lugholes, so a' will.  Yez are doin' my head in wi' yer actin the maggot, there."  Or, if the child happens to be climbing too high, "Git down ah' that, afore ye fall 'n' kill yerself."

The word, 'look' usually gets pronounced as 'luck'"Luck what yer doin', there!"  Or, "Luck after yerself, now."  Not to be confused with the word, 'lock', meaning 'a lot'  – as in, "There were a lock a'  boys hanging aroun' tonight, so there were."  Or, "A lock a' people wouldn't even bo'rr wi' that."  Or, "If ye'd a right lock a money, ye cud do a whole lock a' things."

When it comes to phrases to express someones cleverness, or the lack of it, we aren't short of a few.  "Have a wee titter a' wit, there, now."  Or, "He hasn't an ounce a sense, has he?"  "There's more brains in my boot, now, so there is."  "Some people havn't the sense they were born with."   Or, "He's a few stories short of a bungalow."

Watching somebody make a hash of a job, we might comment, "Aye, if ye'd brains ye'd be dangerous!"  Alternatively, ye might hear, "Yer man's no dozer, is he?"  Or, "If he was any sharper he'd cut himself!"  And, "Do ye think I came up the Lagan in a bubble?"  

When asked if we are able to do something, we might reply, "Dead on.  No problem!"  Or, "Ach, no bo'rr."  Or perhaps, "Aye, wee buns!"  In other words it'll be 'dead aisy.'  If somebody calls in unexpectedly for a brief visit, ye'll probably ask them, "Will ye take a wee cup a' tae?"  To which they'll probably make some excuse.  So ye'll say, "Sure, go on – A've the tae already wet."  How can ye refuse, eh?

Thursday 3 November 2011

44 – Patrick Brunty and the Brontë Trail

Patrick's mother, Alice McClory's house, near Rathfriland, Co. Down
November 03, 2011

Now, have ye ever heard of a guy called Patrick Brunty?  Probably not!  But you've most likely heard of his famous daughters, Charlotte and Emily Brontë – the authors of 'Jane Eyre' and 'Wuthering Heights', respectively – and their sister, Anne?

Patrick was born in 1777 to the east of Co. Down, near Rathfriland – not far from the Mourne Mountains.  Although he later went to Yorkshire in England and became a Church of England clergyman, he started out much more humbly and with very little education to speak of.

As a teenager he worked in a linen factory, then became an apprentice blacksmith.  He must have picked up some learning somewhere because, at the age of sixteen, he started his own school and took in pupils.  During the 1790s he taught at Glascar School and was apparently dismissed for forming a romantic attachment to one of his pupils.  He was certainly romantic – his wife to be once wrote to him as "My dear saucy Pat!'

Pat Brunty went on to teach in Ballyronan School in Co. Down, which is still there – just a small cottage, really.  And, in 1802, at the age of twenty-five, he won a scholarship to Cambridge University – an outstanding achievement for a self-taught Irish peasant boy in those days.  At University, he obviously decided to distance himself from his Irish background – a bit of a handicap at that time.  He changed his name to Brontë – possibly the result of his hero worship of Lord Nelson, Brontë being one of his titles.

In 1806 he gained a BA degree from Cambridge and was ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England.  He came home to Co. Down for several months after this, preaching in Drumballyroney Church, beside the school he'd left behind.  Back in Cambridge, he was ordained as a full clergyman in 1807.  Not satisfied with his success, he published a book of poetry, 'Cottage Poems', in 1811.  He also had a short lived romance with Mary Burden, before meeting and marrying Maria Branwell in 1812.  He published another book of poems, 'The Rural Minstrel' in 1813 – full of romanticism, wild nature, strong emotions and a love of the Irish countryside.  You can easily see where his daughters got their literary skill from.

Patrick Brunty – or Brontë, as he had become – was obviously a very ambitious and determined man.  He didn't allow his humble background to hinder him from achieving his ambitions, although he was to experience a lot of hardship in his life.  He became a curate in Yorkshire in 1820 and moved there with his six young children.  His wife died from cancer within a year.  And, unfortunately, the experiment of sending the four eldest girls away to school resulted in the death of the two oldest from poor nourishment and bad hygiene.  Patrick taught the remaining four children himself, at home.  He was, after all, an experienced teacher and he obviously passed on to them his own enthusiasms .

On one occasion Patrick lined up his four remaining children, and asked them a series of questions about their ambitions, and about the people they most admired.  From him they learnt to love the wild countryside around them, to read widely and vociferously, to feel deeply, to express their feelings frankly, and to desire, above all else, fame as writers.
Patrick died at the age of 84, outliving all of his children.  His daughters Charlotte and Emily, are probably best known for the heroes they created, Rochester and Heathcliff – fierce, wild, independent men, both. But they are matched with equally independent women, who are accepted as equals by their men. How much of this came from the influence of Patrick Brontë, encouraging his daughters to see themselves as individuals, not trapped by society, as he had done himself?

Patrick's home in Haworth, Yorkshire, has been preserved as a centre for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.  Unfortunately, nobody thought of preserving his birthplace in Co. Down.  His mother, Alice McClory's house is still in existence, though it's a bit tumbledown, and the schools where he taught.  The remains of the cottage where Patrick was born have been preserved by the Brontë Homeland Trust.  You can go there and follow the Brontë Trail.  It's well worth a visit.  Stand inside the ruined walls, and realise that from these tiny rooms originated the genius that became known to the world as ‘the Brontë Sisters’.