Wednesday 6 January 2010

Hamilton and Montgomery

James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery are sometimes called the founding fathers of the Ulster-Scots. In 1606 they commenced a private, self-financed settlement of County Antrim and County Down, in advance of the better-known 1610 'Plantation of Ulster'.

Now, more than 400 years later it is interesting to note that the majority of their direct descendents (those who still carry the Hamilton and Montgomery surnames, in any case) still remain true to the political aims of the plantation. In other words, the majority of Hamiltons and Montgomeries in Northern Ireland are unionists, and have not been assimilated into the 'native' population. Some of this lack of assimilation can probably be ascribed to the 'ethnic cleansing' of the settled areas, in which very few 'natives' remained for much of the period since the plantation. Even today large areas of north Down and south Antrim contain very few Catholics – the situation was, presumably, more extreme in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, so the Hamiltons and Montgomeries would have had less opportunity to intermarry with 'natives'. In more mixed areas the story may have been different, but that is another story.

The Ulster's Doomed database contains the names of 68 Hamiltons who have played a political role in the past generation or so. Of these, 53 are (or have been) associated with unionist parties or independent unionists. 11 have been associated with 'centrist' parties (Alliance, Green, Workers Party, Independents), and only 4 have been associated with nationalism.

Similarly, the database contains the political histories of 34 recent Montgomeries. These have also been largely associated with unionism (28), with only 4 being associated with either the SDLP or Sinn Féin, and only 2 with centrist groups.

So it seems that the patterns set down in the old plantations are continuing to the present day. Or are they? All of the nationalist Hamiltons and Montgomeries have all appeared on the political scene since the year 2000. Could it be that as Northern Ireland has become more urban, more modern and (hopefully) more liberal, mixed marriages are becoming more common, and some of the products of such mixed marriages are crossing political boundaries?

A similar exercise can, of course be carried out on any other surname found in Northern Ireland (and there are a lot). Such exercises are, of course, far from scientific, and the Ulster's Doomed database makes no claims to be complete or even 100% accurate – but as time goes on, more and more nationalists can be found with traditionally 'Protestant' surnames. For example, the very first nationalist Robinsons made their political debuts only in 2005.

The reverse is, of course, also true. There are unionists called O'Neill, Maginnis, Donnelly, Maguire and so on – though few if any of their families have been Catholic for many generations. The course of Northern Irish politics will be determined partly by the ability of each side to poach from the other's 'tribe'. Up to recently there was little intermarriage, even after hundreds of years of co-existence, but recently the two tribes have started to mix far more than before – a result of looser family ties, better education, desegregated workplaces and colleges. Little by little the walls between the 'planters' and the 'gaels' are coming down, and as they do so there will be more and more new voters with a foot in both camps. How they go on to vote will be of great importance and interest.

Assimilation is one of the greatest dangers to a 'planted' population, especially if they no longer live separated from the pre-existing population. For many years a large proportion of Northern Ireland's Protestants lived in areas that were, to all extents and purposes, mono-religious, and thus they maintained their numbers and their ethos. The same was not true in the south, and as a result southern Protestants are almost entirely assimilated into the wider society. As Northern Ireland's Catholic population expands and especially as it expands in traditionally Protestant east Ulster, the possibility that it will assimilate parts of the Protestant population grows stronger; here Protestantism's exclusivity acts against its better interests – its long-standing refusal to allow Catholics into its space (best demonstrated by the Orange Order), compared with Catholicism's far more open attitude towards its space (nationalism, culture, language, etc) means that assimilation into the 'catholic/nationalist' community is considerably easier than assimilation into the 'protestant/unionist' community.

The small numbers of nationalist Hamiltons and Montgomeries is – after a mere 400 years – unlikely to herald an imminent flood, but as the numbers in the two communities approach parity in the next ten years, every assimilation will count. It is important that the Irish nation keeps its doors open, and remembers that it is a nation of Catholics, Protestant, Dissenters, and increasingly atheists and non-Christians too. A warm house for all the children of Ireland is better for all of us.


Anonymous said...

My favourite post on this blog in a while.

Just as the Viking and Norman territories and people assimilated with the rest of the Irish people, in the future the Ulster Scots will too, adding to our wee island's multicultural history.

Might not be in my lifetime, but it will happen.

Anonymous said...

No it won't.

Anonymous said...

"every assimilation will count"

Spoken like a true little Ireland shinner, I'm not sure whether to call you a raging borg-esque bigot or just a cockring.

An "Ireland of Equals" Sinn Fein claim, a shame then that they and their more knuckle dragging supporters make it plain at every turn in any place where the suddenly find "they can" that some animals will be so very very much more equal that others in their new vision of "equality". (Here's a hint those animals may be the ones wearing "the green")

You're just re-enforcing the old fears of being denuded of valued dimensions of identity (culture, religion, nationality) by an larger cultural mass that has always existed between the communities in Ireland. Also in the process implying that the identity which is to be assimilated is inherently less important or worthy of value and respect in the "New Ireland".

I see you mention "ethnic cleansing" do you acknowledge similar motives to the much more recent actions by the Provisional Republican movement in the border areas e.g. west bank of Derry?

Overall another unpleasant little piece on this site based upon an assumption of an innate superiority of one groups values over another's.

Anonymous said...

Just read the site banner with the "Protestant State for a Protestant People" line. You do of course realise that that near mythical statement is in response to a speech by good old (catholic librarians only need apply) Dev where he called the Dail a "Catholic Parliament for a Catholic People". Might make you think, then again maybe not...

Anonymous said...

It's perfectly true that some people in the south regarded the dail as being a Catholic parliament for a Catholic people, but after years of being screwed over and discriminated against by the British BECAUSE THEY WERE CATHOLICS and then denied the integrity of the country, it was hardly more than a statement of SELF-DETERMINATION. The has never been any institutionalised discrimination against non-Catholics in the republic. The equivalence made between devalera's statement and Craig's is false, precisely because the apparatus of the state in N.I. was used to oppress Catholics and deny them their civil rights.

There no laws in republic denying the right of a protestant to become head of state, and the very first head of state was a protestant.

Anonymous said...

The Celts who arrived in Ulster from Eastern Europe forced out the natives who went to Scotland. So the plantation was just them returning.

Some of the Pan-Nationalists seem to think that ... In the beginning, there were the Roman Catholics in Ulster. Sorry to disappoint you ... it wasn't like that.

Ivan said...

The Celts who arrived in Ulster from Eastern Europe forced out the natives who went to Scotland. So the plantation was just them returning.
This hoary and mendacious old chestnut, for which is there is not one shred of veriable historical support, is trotted out with monotonous regularity by a wierder type of unionist trying to salve an ancestral guilt complex about the plantation.

Anonymous said...

So much sockpuppetry.

Despite what Watcher wants to think, by assimilation no one (sane) means all ulster protestants will be acting like Gaels in a few centuries.

Like it or not modern day Ireland's way of life owes more to Britain than old Celtic culture, so the assimilation goes both ways.

But Ulster's Protestants will see themselves as Irish like the rest of us, like the Vikings eventually did, and the Normans, and like they themselves did until relatively recently.

It's inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Unionists should just keep Down and Antrim and cede the remainder to the republic of Ireland. On the other hand Britain has changed so much since 1948 that it is not at all the country the Unionists once thought they belonged too. If I were a Unionist I wouldn't know what to do.

Anonymous said...

All of this historical navel gazing and revisionism is a complete waste of time. Both The Irish Free State and Northern Ireland were born in blood and the outcome was two imperfect states in which minorities were disadvantaged as was the absolute norm at that time (and today, some might say). The only difference was that Southern Protestants left (or were forced to bring up any mixed marriage children as Catholics) and Northern Catholics stayed. Perhaps this reflected their relative sizes, or the fact that The Free State/ROI was poorer - who knows and ultimately who cares. What matters is today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

Horseman said...

Anonymous at 7 January 2010 14:57,

Actually, historical navel-gazing is both fascinating and necessary, though you're right that the future is more important.

Southern Prods were not 'forced' to rear mixed-marriage children as Catholics, by the way. The same Catholic rules applied in the north and in the south - some reared the kids as Catholics, others didn't (the Quinn children, remember them? Or the Fethard-on-sea case?). I know a family from the NW who reared the boys as Catholics and the girls as CofI - all permutations were possible. Catholic rules were only applicable to those who chose them - they were (and are) entirely voluntary.

And, to be honest, anyone who has a problem with kids being reared as Catholic (or Protestant) is displaying a certain bigotry, don't you think? Why should they not be reared as Catholics, especially if one parent is Catholic and the nearest schools etc are Catholic. Kinda makes sense. In the south these things are considerably less of an issue than in the north. Most kids nowadays, regardless of their parents, are irreligious so the big scare over Ne Temere has turned out to be a bit silly, hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

That's all completely irrelevant Horseman. The actual processes that brought about an almost entirely Catholic Republic, as opposed to a much more evenly split Northern Ireland, were, of course, different, but nevertheless fully effective in the results they produced.

Your comments about the irrelevance of what faith a child was brought up in speak volumes about your inability to step beyond your own blog postings. Religion is less important now than it once was. When the decimation of The Republic's Protestant population actually took place, religion was still closely tied to politics both North and South of the border. Perhaps if all Northern Catholics had been brought up Protestants, we wouldn't be having any discussions about Irish Unity at all, given how irrelevant this issue is according to you.

I look forward to the day when Mass attendance in The Republic finally falls to UK standards before accepting your claims that religion in The ROI is irrelevant - perhaps you could produce two graphs - one for The ROI and one for The UK and update them yearly?

By the way, I don't care if RC is central to The ROI, as I never intend to live in that state. It could be as RC as Saudi Arabia is Muslim for all I care. Although, we all know what it's done to those who did live there. Bad luck on them.

Ivan said...

We may not have to look beyond recent events to find an example of cross-community consanguination (Nuff said!).

Anonymous said...

The suggestion that protestants in southern Ireland were "decimated" after independence by systematic discrimination, forced upbringing of children of mixed marriages as Catholics etc. is complete nonsense.

Ireland was COLONIZED by Britain and many of the protestants in Ireland were British landowners, often of families who also owned property in the UK, educated their children in the UK and had strong ties to the UK. After independence many people who were culturally more British than Irish returned voluntarily to the motherland. They continued to collect rent however.

I am Irish, married to an Englishwoman. My wife's family were landowners in Ireland in the past. They even had a castle at one point! Throughout the last century, and especially after the first and 2nd world wars, as the British empire contracted globally, the culturally British left their former imperial possessions and did so PRIMARILY for economic reasons, not because they -- the former masters -- were victimized.

Ireland has never enacted any laws discriminating on the basis of religion (unlike the UK), has never gerrymandered constituencies on the basis of religion, has elected many protestants (and others) to high public office (including the presidency).

To a significant extent the decline of protestants in the south was the departure of "west brits" and the imperial tide going out.

Anonymous said...

Let's see some links quantifying your theories about the decline of Protestants in The ROI - not the normal Irish anecdotal manure...

Note the word QUANTIFYing...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 15.38:

There is ample evidence of Protestants being elected to high positions in RoI. The first president, nominated by all parties and elected by the people. Many senators. the information's there, every schoolchild who pays attention in history knows it.

There is also a distinct lack of evidence of widespread murder, rigged elections, streets of people being burnt out unlike in Northern Ireland; also well documented.

If you want to claim some sort of systematic persecution of southern Protestants it is up to you to prove it, not up to us to disprove your theory. There is very little evidence for what you're claiming.

Anonymous said...

Another evasive paddy. Fuck off and come back when you've got some numbers.

Anonymous said...


I didn't think bog hoppers could count!

Anonymous said...


Hang on mate, are you from Yorkshire?

Is the expression 'bog hopper' used in Ulster?

There's only one Unionist in the world apparently!

Anonymous said...

Andy said
"Another evasive paddy. Fuck off and come back when you've got some numbers."

No. You're the one making claims that aren't accepted history, it's up to you to prove them.

Let me guess... you're a Young Earth Creationist too aren't you? I'd put my mortgage on it.

"Yes, but where's the evidence?"

Anonymous said...

Irish accepted history? LOL