I meant to write this last week but other matters became more important.
Once upon a time when I was a child, I used to listen with fascination to the stories told by my Grandfather, father and uncles.
In the early 1960s public houses in Belfast used to close at 10.30 pm, as a consequence many people would buy “carry-outs,” before they left the bar, then return home and continue their drinking sessions at home.
One of the things which sticks in my mind about this period was the way my grandfather, father and uncles spoke about the 36th Ulster Division and the Somme.
They would always say, the 36th Ulster Division was deliberately set-up to be slaughtered at the Somme and they maintained the slaughter was planned by the politicians and high-ranking British army commanders as their way of “solving the Irish question.”
It was not just my family who held these views, it was a view which was pretty widespread among working-class Unionists. I must emphasise it seemed to be widespread but not universal.
Over the years, I never seen this point of view written in any books or articles about the Somme, it seemed to be something which was handed down by word-of-mouth from father to son.
During last week`s episode the facts emerged of how the Germans knew a great deal about the plans for the opening phase of the battle, I found this very interesting, as this is what brought to my remembrance the stories I had heard once upon a time when I was a child.
You cannot help wondering if the British High Command knew about the German`s abilities to gather intelligence from various sources and if this was used for malicious purposes?
There does seem to be an instinctive mistrust of “centralised government” or “centralised power” in the DNA of working-class Unionism.
During the times my family would sit around and talk, they also would talk about the earlier “troubles” which took place in Belfast, particularly in the York street area. As a child I would have been told about the old-time “Loyalist” gunmen and from a very young age would have known their names and identities, and even saw some of them, who were still alive in the 1960s.
The funny thing is, just like the stories of the “deliberate slaughter” of the 36th Ulster Division none of the stories about the “Loyalists” of yester- year ever appeared in book form, it was carried by word of mouth down the generations.
The crazed phenomenon of putting controversial and dangerous facts into the public domain has only been a modern innovation, and those idiots who embarked upon this new idea, only go to prove the “old-timers” were a lot shrewder and more competent when it came to fighting “The Dirty War” and concealing the facts about it in an efficient manner.
How could anyone ever be so stupid?
All in all, I can only conclude that real working class Unionists, seem to have a strikingly similar mindset to that found amongst the people`s of the Appalachian mountain areas.
“extreme mistrust of governmental authority and legal strictures,”
Author (and U.S. Senator) Jim Webb puts forth a thesis in his book Born Fighting to suggest that the character traits he ascribes to the Scotch-Irish such as loyalty to kin, extreme mistrust of governmental authority and legal strictures, and a propensity to bear arms and to use them, helped shape the American identity. In the same year that Webb’s book was released, Barry A. Vann published his second book entitled Rediscovering the South’s Celtic Heritage. Like his earlier book, From Whence They Came (1998), Vann argues that these traits have left their imprint on the Upland South. In 2008, Vann followed up his earlier work with a book entitled In Search of Ulster Scots Land: The Birth and Geotheological Imagings of a Transatlantic People which professes how these traits may manifest themselves in conservative voting patterns and religious affiliation that characterizes the Bible Belt.
Perhaps before the series “The Somme From Both Sides” finishes, it will manage to shed some light on the “deliberate slaughter” perception?
1 When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
2 And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
4 For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.