Tuesday 28 December 2010

Ulster, Ulsterite and Ulsterian

On 20 November I posted about the word Ulsterite but this is a more comprehensive post on the words ulster, Ulsterite and Ulsterian.

We are all familiar with the word Ulster as meaning either the province of Ulster, or in everyday speech, Northern Ireland.  However there is another use of the word and also several associated words, with which many people are less familiar. 

The name ulster was given to a form of overcoat designed by John Getty McGee (1816-1883) who had a shop in High Street in Belfast and owned the Ulster Overcoat Company.

At that time male travellers used to wear greatcoats, fitted with capes and other accessories, which covered them from head to toe. These kept them warm but were awkward to wear. McGee decided to make a coat that would give more freedom of movement. Several designs were tried before the Ulster was evolved and it was so successful that a woman’s model was made also. Orders poured in from all over the world and the design was extremely popular and profitable. 

The great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes had a liking for the ulster overcoat. He first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1887 and at one point in the story he was described as ‘enveloped in an ulster’. An ulster overcoat was also worn by Billy Connolly when he was playing Queen Victoria’s ghillie, John Brown, in the 1997 film Mrs Brown

The success of the ulster led on to the design of an ulsterette, which was defined as ‘a light ulster’ and the creation of the word ulstered, which meant ‘wearing an ulster’.

The word Ulster is used as an adjective as well as a noun but there are also the words Ulsterite and Ulsterian.  Ulsterite can be used as a noun, meaning an Ulsterman or Ulster person, and occasionally it has been used as an adjective meaning ‘of or associated with Ulster’.

In November 1912 the Ulster Unionist MP Ronald McNeill achieved notoriety when he hurled a book at Winston Churchill in the House of Commons and one newspaper headline read ‘Wild Ulsterite Attacks Winston Churchill’.

The following year the New York Times (28 September 1913) reported a speech in Chicago by Lord Northcliffe with the headline ‘Cannot Coerce Ulsterites: So Says Lord Northcliffe, Who Doesn’t Expect Home Rule.’ Again in 1916 the New York Times referred to the ‘prospects of an Ulsterite-Nationalist Agreement’.

The word was used on both sides of the Atlantic and in reviewing a publication by James Connolly, the Socialist Standard (June 1914), which was published by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, referred to the ‘struggle between Home Ruler and Ulsterite’.

An Irish-born American named William Bourke Cockran addressed the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate in Washington on 30 August 1919. He spoke at some length on the subject of Ireland and in doing so he repeatedly referred to Ulstermen as ‘Ulsterites’.  Later that year, in December 1919, the Chicago Tribune also described Sir Edward Carson as an Ulsterite. 

With the appointment of the Boundary Commission to review the border between the Free State and Northern Ireland, the New York Times (29 October 1924) carried a report with the headline ‘Ulsterite on Boundary Board’. 
The word also appeared in settings that were not related to Ulster politics and it was used by a number of American historians. In 1921 James T Adams used the word in his book The Founding of New England, where he said that ‘the Puritanism of any individual today may derive from an ancestral Pennsylvanian Ulsterite’.  Another historian, Professor Thomas J Wertenbaker, wrote The Planters of Colonial Virginia, which was published in 1922 by Princeton University Press and Oxford University Press. In it he referred to ‘the poor Ulsterite' who arrived in America in the 18th century. 

Dr H M Klein wrote A History of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania in 1926 and said, 'It is generally recognized that the first dominant Scotch-Irish settlements in Lancaster county were in its 'Upper End' or northern part, not in the 'Lower End', as the five Scotch-Irish townships of southern Lancaster are sometimes called.  The settlement of the aggressive Ulsterites in Lancaster county seated a power which soon became evident in the local government.'  Again in The Annals of Southwestern Pennsylvania, written around 1939 by Lewis Clark Walkinshaw, an Ulster-Scots emigrant named John Laird is described as ‘an Ulsterite from County Donegal’.

Some years later, on 14 July 1947, away from politics and history, Time magazine described the famous Northern Ireland golfer Fred Daly as a ‘jaunty little Ulsterite’.

Rev Dr Robert F MacNamara, a Roman Catholic historian, used the word Ulsterite in the April 1963 edition of Rochester History to describe a young Roman Catholic woman who had emigrated from County Cavan to America.

The word is still used occasionally in America and appeared for example in a chapter in a book entitled Peace, Conflict and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century, which was published in 2001. There the authors spoke of ‘a possible Ulsterite identity … built on the richness of both cultures’.  It also appeared in an article by James A Haught, the news editor of The Charleston Gazette, in 2002 and again in the same year in a book by Professor Kimberly Cowell-Meyers of American University in Washington, who has written extensively on Northern Ireland politics. In her book Religion and Politics in the Nineteenth Century, she described the unionist reaction to the possibility of home rule and said, ‘Faced with the threat of home rule, the Irish Protestant minority … defined itself as separate again, as Scotch-Irish, as Ulsterite, and as unionist’.

The word Ulsterite was used in 2005 in an article published by a California division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America and as recently as 2007 Eric P Kaufman used the word Ulsterite in The Orange Order: A Contemporary Northern Irish History, when he said that Brian Faulkner ‘displayed his national identity as British rather than Ulsterite’.

Today the word is comparatively rare but it is an alternative word for an Ulsterman and it is also used in relation to a resident of Ulster County in New York.
The word Ulsterian is an adjective referring to the province of Ulster or to a geological division. The latter meaning is derived from Ulster County in the state of New York and is a subdivision of the American Devonian period.  The use of the word Ulsterian in relation to the province of Ulster has been less common than the use of the word Ulsterite, but it does appear in dictionaries and can be found in some other publications. 

On 27 June 1918 the New York Times considered the possibility of a federal United Kingdom ‘including Wales, Scotland, England, the two Irelands, North and South – if non-Ulsterian Ireland can be brought to consent to that division’.

The word was also used by the famous writer J R Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, who said of his friend, the author C S Lewis, that he had an ‘Ulsterian motive’.

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