Preserving culture & identity in the modern world

Maintaining our identity and our heritage is a concern to us all, especially in a world where global media plays such a pervasive role in our living rooms and our communities.


This talk brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to bear on the issue of how we can take steps to preserve our heritage and how other groups have been successful with projects they have promoted.


Laced with examples from the community, you will be introduced to a wide range of ideas and projects which have proved successful in communities elsewhere.


This talk is intended to be thought provoking and discursive and brings community development principles into play. It will be of particular interest to groups which are interested in actual projects of a historical nature.


The Presbyterian Radical tradition in Ulster, from the 1770s to 1914

The Presbyterian involvement in the 1798 Rising was not an aberration.


The outlook and ethos of Presbyterianism lent itself to democratic developments and to a republican form of governance.


As the talk details, radical Presbyterianism was encountered by the authorities in the early 1770s through the Hearts of Steel revolt and the Irish Volunteer movement.


It did not end in 1798 but can also be traced into the Home Rule period.


Join the speaker in a fascinating talk focused on radical Presbyterians and their influence on our modern world.


Billy’s men beyond the Boyne: Orangeism abroad, 1798-1945

Many people do not expect to encounter a Twelfth of July parade in rural Ontario, or Australia, but the spread of the Orange Order from Ireland in the post 1798 period led to thousands of lodges being established across the globe.


In Canada in 1900 1 in 3 adult male Protestants was an Orangeman, while almost every town in Australia had an Orange or Protestant Hall and there were 400 lodges in the USA in the early 20th century.


This talk looks at the Orange tradition as a cultural phenomenon and outlines its development and, ultimately, decline in many parts of the globe including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the USA, and the Far East.


Ulster emigration to the Great Dominion in the 19th and 20th centuries

Canada became the major focus for many Ulster emigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, so much so that Toronto was known as the ‘Belfast of Canada’. Ulster settlers spread across Canada, from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nova Scotia and elsewhere. Some were very prominent figures including Sir Timothy Eaton, while most were very ordinary people. This talk sets the scene of why they chose Canada for their new homes, how and when they went, and where they settled. The talk uses letters from the 19th and 20th century to help provide a greater understanding of this great population movement and its legacy.

Postcards from Home: Ulster place names abroad and their stories

There are many places across the world which carry names from Northern Ireland, among them Belfast’s in South Africa and the USA, a Newry in South Carolina, a Cookstown in Canada and Londonderrys and Derrys scattered across New England and New Hampshire, not to mention Tyrone in Pennsylvania.


Learn more about the fascinating story of emigration and the clues the emigrants left behind in farm, township, village and town names. This is a PowerPoint talk and postcards from different parts of the world as well as maps and other illustrations are included and will assuredly lead to an interesting evening!

Far from the green fields of Erin: Ulster emigrants and their stories

The lure of a better life elsewhere was a strong one in bygone years, taking not only individuals but also families abroad.


This talk looks at the reasons why people emigrated, where they went and how they got there as well as what their new lives were like.


Examples of people who emigrated to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are included as well as some of the letters they sent home.

The talk also details the modern legacy of some of the emigrants and their families as well as some of the prominent Ulster exiles in other parts of the world.


‘Fraternally Yours’: Fraternities in Ireland

Fraternities are a feature of the social landscape of the country and they represent an old tradition of social interaction.


This is a talk which sets fraternities in their social context and also looks at examples of local fraternities from the 19th and 20th centuries.


The history of groups such as the Good Templars, Freemasons, Hibernians, Orange Order, Free Gardeners, Order of Foresters and others will be examined and details of local chapters/lodges/branches researched over a long period of time are included in this engaging talk, along with some artefacts from fraternities which will be on display.


Most recently delivered to: Glengormley Probus Club, Co. Antrim


The history of Irish Newspapers

On September 1st, 1737, Francis Joy brought out the first publication of the Belfast News Letter. It was a twice weekly at one penny an issue and was a single sheet of printed paper, issued from the Sign of the Peacock in Bridge Street.


It was issued to a town with 7,000 inhabitants. The News Letter is the oldest continually produced newspaper in the world and its story is part of the fascinating history of newspapers in Ireland.


With plenty of examples and a first-hand knowledge of how local newspapers developed and were produced, this is a talk which will include anecdotes from the period when the speaker was a local reporter and a number of artefacts to illustrate the subject.


Most recently delivered: Larne Museum


An Introduction to tracing your family history

Intended as a basic introduction, this talk will look at sources for tracing your family history including Hearth Rolls from the 1660s, Land Valuations of the 19th century, newspaper columns and articles, gravestones, anecdotes and artefacts.


The author will outline how it has been possible for him to trace family connections through the internet to Canada and also Argentina. There will also be some documents available to give an idea of the range of potentials. This is an engaging and informative look at how to track down your ancestors!

Lessons from the Landscape: our past is all around, but do we notice it?

Sometimes things are so obvious to us that we do not see them, taking them as for granted and just another part of our landscape.


Yet dotted around our landscape are the relics of past generations and bygone lifestyles. In the local area alone there are reminders of Viking, Norman, Early Christian, Victorian and 20th century wartime locations, structures or place names.


This is an excellent introduction to a local historical knowledge and will encourage you to interrogate the landscape on your daily journeys…

The development of photography and the preservation of history

The year 1888 was an important one for the advent of ‘mass photography’, with the production of the first Kodak camera. Prior to that date photography was much more the preserve of the very wealthy.


In just over a decade simple mass produced cameras were selling for $1.00 each and film for 15 cents from the Eastman Kodak factory. The impact was outstanding.

The development of photography has provided a rich resource for the history, detailing social history, events, people, architecture, and all aspects of life.


This talk looks at the development of photography from the days when it was the preserve of the rich to being a mass phenomenon.


Most recently delivered: Larne Museum

‘Hillbilly Music’: The development of Country & some Ulster roots

American country music owes its origins to many different musical and cultural strands, among them the music of the emigrants who set sail from Ulster in the 18th century.


These emigrants ended up in the Appalachian Mountains and they retained their musical instruments, including the fiddles and the dulcimer, as well as tunes from home. They were the original Hillbillies and their music survived in the mountains, while country artists such as Dolly Parton and others have Scotch-Irish roots to be thankful for…


This talk will focus on the history of American country music and its development over the decades of the 20th century when it first came to be recorded. Included will be a look at the origins of country music, the early recordings and artists and the development of country during the 20th century.

Poems and Songs of History….

Our history is dotted with songs, poems and ballads telling the story in verse of events which took place, some of them well-known and others not so.


Explore history through poetry in Ulster from the 18th century to more modern times and expect to hear from poets Alice Mulligan, John Hewitt, James Campbell, Sir Samuel Ferguson, James Orr, and others and to meet up with The Man from God Knows Where, the Emigrants, Willie Gilliland, the Wanderer and Willie Wark.


This is a talk which takes the listener through the history surrounding the ballad as well as the ballads themselves. A different style and type of talk!


Most recently delivered: Larne Museum


Under African skies: the story of Orange lodges in Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and South Africa

The story of migration of a culture from Ireland and the British Isles to West and South Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries is an interesting an unusual case study of Orangeism abroad.


The first Orange Lodges in South Africa had a strong military component and date back to the 1860s, while commercial connections with Liverpool led to the first lodge in Nigeria and missionaries spread the Gospel message and the Orange tradition in Ghana and Togo in the early 20th century.


This is a detailed and definitive account of the Orange tradition on the African continent.

Good Templars and Bad Liquor: The story of a forgotten social movement & fraternity in Ulster

The International Order of Good Templars was once a strong and vibrant organisation in Ulster, with lodges dotted across the local landscape but it is now a forgotten fraternity and social movement.


The Larne area, for example, once had several lodges including in the town itself, at Carnlough, Glenarm, Ballycarry, Islandmagee, Kilwaughter and elsewhere and much material about the organisation is documented in old newspapers as well as a number of documents which have survived. Using report books from the IOGT we will also trace the movement’s lodges in the 1930s.


This talk is a fascinating insight into the movement generally and also the local lodges and their history in the area.

Remarkable Ulsterwomen: Some heroines from history

A talk focusing on a number of Ulster female figures who rose to prominence and made a major impact on lives around them.


The talk include Elizabeth Jackson, the mother of the seventh president of the USA, Mary Ann McCracken, a social reformer and political radical, and Martha Craig, a little known academic, and explorer.


Often women do not feature in a male-dominated historical narrative and this talk is an attempt to remind us that women’s role has often been in the forefront of historical events and social change.

The Man who fell into the Muttonburn Stream: the life & works of William Hume of Ballycarry

One of the most popular and well-known folk songs in 1940s Ulster was The Muttonburn Stream, a catchy song about a tiny stream which runs near Ballycarry. It has been recorded over the years by Richard Hayward, Houl Yer Whist and the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra.


The song was written by William James Hume, a farmer and poet, who penned a collection of material in his lifetime which provides a social history of the area. This talk looks at his life and utilises many of the poems and songs which he wrote about individuals, events and the landscape. The material has never been assembled together and the talk reflects the author’s work in bringing together musical scores and poems handwritten in exercise books to tell a fascinating story of rural Ulster in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.


Tangled strands: Protestantism & Radical Politics in Ulster, 1798-1912

In the aftermath of the 1798 United Irish Rebellion, the Orange Order opposed an Act of Union with the rest of the United Kingdom, while as the 19th century wore on radical Protestants caused concern to the Conservative establishment in Ulster, culminating in the rise of the Liberal Party and variants of ‘independent’ Orangeism which continued into the 20th century.


This is a fascinating talk from an academic who had studied the radical trends within unionism and Protestantism and also examined the inherent conservatism in some sections of the Protestant community which has largely been the dominant force.




The past usually sets the context for communities and individuals in the present. Community development is, by definition, about moving to the future. This talk examines how the past can be a resource in planning community development but also looks at the wider issues of seeking to develop community projects, establish and maintain community groups and engage with as many people within the community as possible.


As many of those involved with community groups will know, it is not easy to maintain and develop groups. The speaker has 30 years of experience in building and developing community activities and can reflect on how - and how not - to move forward.


This talk will use lots of different examples from communities and from groups who are successful as well as several which were ultimately not so.



Many people have something of a fascination with cemeteries and it is because of the stories which they tell: the stories in the stones.


The talk provides information on well-known figures from the past history of Northern Ireland and details of where they are buried, and includes a powerpoint presentation.


For those who have ever wandered around a cemetery reading gravestones, this is a talk which satisfies the curiosity of where famous figures are buried and also provides photographs of the graves of individuals from history, politics, the arts and sport. A unique talk which is one of the most recently developed and, we predict, one of the most popular.

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