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Nerve Centre launches Ulster-Scots web resource Making Northern Ireland



Date Posted: June 20, 2022

An exciting new web resource, Making Northern Ireland, is being launched this week. The project has been produced by the Nerve Centre and funded by Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

Making Northern Ireland is designed to highlight how interest in Ulster-Scots history and culture formed an essential aspect of unionist political strategy in the period leading up to the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921. It was precisely at this period that the “Ulster Scot” emerged clearly in the popular imagination.

Making Northern Ireland uses a highly engaging web-based format developed by The Nerve Centre that includes original illustrations by award-winning animator John McCloskey. An accompanying graphic novel, The Ulster Scot – On Home Ground, has been produced to appeal to teachers seeking creative ways to engage young learners about local history and heritage.

Content has been written by Wesley Hutchinson, Professor Emeritus at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Wesley is a native of County Antrim and is a well-known speaker and published author about Ulster-Scots, in particular Ulster-Scots identity.

The site has been designed as an educational resource across a broad range of levels. Some of the content is aimed particularly at Key Stage 3 and 4 students. However, the site can also be used by those working at more advanced levels as well as those with a general interest in Ulster-Scots history and culture.

The site is made up of three modules.

  • Module 1 sets the scene for the rest by showing how people visiting Ulster during the 19th and early 20th centuries are struck by how different it is from the rest of Ireland. Consistently, they say that if the region “feels” so different, it is because it is so Scottish. This evidence points to the existence of a distinct community, recognised as such by outsiders and conscious of its own identity in terms of language use and social practice.
  • Module 2 identifies a series of “frames” that explain the way the Ulster Scots have seen themselves and their community over the centuries. It does so by highlighting the Ulster-Scots perspective on key historical events or themes. Exploring the Ulster-Scots mind-set in this way is vital to help understand the choices made in the political campaign.
  • Module 3 focuses on the period from 1886 when Gladstone introduced the first Home Rule Bill, up to 1925 when the border of Northern Ireland was finally confirmed. This section uses a wide range of contemporary sources from Ulster, Scotland and America to show how unionists constantly return to themes that emphasize the strength of Ulster’s Scottish connection.

If Ulster-Scots history and culture are systematically called on in this way, it is because they are of such central importance to a large section of the Ulster population. Making Northern Ireland shows how the people behind the unionist campaign had an intimate knowledge of this culture and knew exactly how to make the most of it politically.

Richard Hanna, Chair of the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund commented: “Making Northern Ireland is an engaging multimedia teaching and learning resource that will help learners understand the Ulster-Scots identity in the context of the establishment of Northern Ireland. It is part of a developing range of content supported by the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund aimed specifically at encouraging the development of high quality digital assets that support teaching and learning about Ulster-Scots culture and heritage in the context of lifelong learning.”

Professor Hutchinson explained the significance of the website to the telling the story of the foundation of Northern Ireland: “The site explores Ulster-Scots history and culture from the Plantation period on to show how unionist politicians systematically called on Ulster’s particularly strong Scottish connections as a central pillar of their campaign of resistance to Home Rule that was to lead to the creation of Northern Ireland.”

Visit www.makingnorthernireland.co.uk to find out more information about the project.

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