Windham Life and Times – November 23, 2018

Whittier Homestead Haverhill MA

Well, as I’ve researched this subject, I have felt like I was on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and its appropriate that I now come full circle back to the beginning. John Greenleaf Whittier was a poet and author who lived in the nearby town of Haverhill. He is one of the most important observers of early 19th century New England and it inhabitants. He broke from the Puritan’s ideals, seeing them as dull and gray while exhibiting a grimness of which he had no desire to be associated. He like Thoreau, rejected the emphasis on the pursuit of heaven and saw the incredible richness and beauty of natural world at hand.

It is from Whittier that we have the best glimpse of the Scotch-Irish and their way of life in southern New Hampshire. In fact, his first poem was published in Robert Dinsmoor’s book of poetry. He was also a keen observer of the Native American and saw them as a lost people who once had inhabited the natural Eden of America.  Therefore, it was incredible to find, in his Prose Works, Volume II, a chapter about New England fairies, entitled, Charms and Fairy Faith.


Up the airy mountain,

Down the rushy glen,

We dare not go a hunting

For fear of little men.

Wee folk, good folk,

Trooping all together;

Green jacket, red cap,

Gray cock’s feather.”  ALLINGHAM


“…In our cities and large towns children nowadays pass through the opening acts of life’s marvelous drama with as little manifestation of wonder and surprise as the Indian does through the streets of a civilized city which he has entered for the first time. Yet nature sooner or later vindicates her mysteries; voices from the unseen penetrate the din of civilization….”

“But in the green valley of rural New England there are children yet; boys and girls are still to be found not quite overtaken by the march of the mind. There, too, are huskings, and apple bees, and quilting parties, and huge old fireplaces piled with crackling walnut, flinging its rosy light over happy countenances of youth and scarcely less happy age. If it be true according to Cornelius Agrippa, ‘a wood fire doth drive away dark spirits,’ it is nevertheless, also true that around it the simple superstitions of our ancestors still love to linger; and there the half-sportful, half-serious charms of which I have spoken are oftenest resorted to…”

“Fairy faith is, we may safely say, now dead everywhere,—buried, indeed,—for the mad painter Blake saw the funeral of the last of  the little people, and an irreverent English bishop has sung their requiem. It never had much hold upon the Yankee mind, our superstitions being mostly of the sterner and less poetical kind. The Irish Presbyterians who settled New Hampshire about the year 1720 brought indeed with them, among other strange matters, potatoes and fairies; but while the former took root and flourished among us, the latter died out, after lingering a few years in a very melancholy and disconsolate way, looking back to their green turf dances, moonlight revels, and cheerful nestling around the shealing fires of Ireland. The last that has been heard of them was some forty or fifty years ago in a tavern house in S——, New Hampshire…”

“It is a curious fact that the Indians had some notion of a race of beings corresponding in many respects to the English fairies. Schoolcraft describes them as small creatures in human shape, inhabiting rocks, crags, and romantic dells, and delighting especially in points of land jutting into lakes and rivers and which were covered with pine trees,  (The exact description of the dwelling place of Tsiennetto.) They were called Puckweedjinees, —little vanishers.”

“In a poetical point of view it is regretted that our ancestors did not think it worth their while to hand down to us more of the simple and beautiful traditions and beliefs of the ‘heathen round about’ them. Some hints of them we glean from the writings of the missionary Mayhew and the curious little book of Roger Williams. Especially would one like to know more of that domestic demon, Wetuomanit, who presided over household affairs, assisted the young squaw in her first essay at wigwam-keeping, gave timely note of danger, and kept evil spirits at a distance—a kind of new-world brownie, gentle and useful…”

“Not far from my place of residence are ruins of a mill, in a narrow ravine fringed with trees. Some forty years ago the mill was supposed to be haunted; and horse-shoes, in consequence, were nailed over its doors. One worthy man, whose business lay beyond the mill, was afraid to pass by it alone; and his wife, who was less fearful of supernatural annoyance, used to accompany him. The little old white-coated miller, who there ground corn and wheat for his neighbors, whenever he made a particularly early visit to his mill, used to hear it in full operation,—the water-wheel dashing bravely, and the old rickety building clattering to the jar of stones. Yet the moment his hand touched the latch or his foot the threshold all was hushed save the melancholy drip of water from the dam or the low gurgle of the small stream eddying amidst the willow roots and mossy stones in the ravine below.”

“… The strange facts of natural history, and sweet mysteries of flowers and forests, and hills and waters, will profitably take the place of the fairy lore of the past, and poetry and romance still hold their accustomed seats of the circle of home, without bringing them the evil spirits of credulity and untruth. Truth should be the first lesson of the child and the last aspiration of manhood…”

In an odd coincidence, I had decided to write about Whittier last week, and this weekend I had a need to travel to Newton NH. My navigation took me through an obscure corner of Haverhill, that I’ve never been to before, on the New Hampshire border, and low and behold, there was the Whittier homestead.


Windham Life and Times – November 16, 2018

Fairy Homes

Souterrain, Bushmills, ‘Wee Folks Cove’ – a view of an underground entrance with a boy at the mouth for scale. (Northern Ireland: County Antrim: Bushmills).

Fairy Homes in Northern Ireland Tradition

I found an interesting e-book online available for free with Project Gutenberg titled, Ulster Folklore, written by Elizabeth Andrews in 1913. In it there were many examples of the fairy beliefs in Northern Ireland. It seems that these legends arose out of some distant cultural memory of the people in Scotland and Ireland. “As you will see in the following pages, traditions record several small races in Ulster: the Grogachs, who are closely allied with the fairies, and also to the Scotch and English Brownies; the short Danes, whom I am inclined to identify with the Tuatha de Danann; the Pechts or Picts; and also the small Finns. My belief is that all these, including the fairies, represent primitive races of mankind, and the stories of woman, children, and men being carried off by the fairies, we have a record of warfare, when stealthy raids were made and captives brought to the dark souterrians. These souterrains, or as the country people call them, ‘coves,’ are very numerous. They are underground structures, built of rough stones without mortar, and roofed with large flat slabs.”

“As a rule, although the fairies are regarded as ‘fallen angels,’ they are said to be kind to the poor, and to possess many good qualities. ‘It was better for the land before they went away’ is an expression I have heard more than once… Much of the primitive belief has gathered around the fairy—we have the fairy well and fairy thorn. It is said that fairies can make themselves so small that they can creep through keyholes, and they are generally invisible to ordinary mortals.”

Mrs. Andrews goes on, “We have seen that fairies are believed to inhabit souterrains; they are also said to live in certain hills, and in forts where, so far as known, no underground structures exists. I may mention as an example the large fort on the Shimna River, near Newcastle, where I was told their music was often heard…”

Souterrain, Ballymagreehan, Castlewellan – a view of an underground entrance with a lady beside it. (Location: Northern Ireland: County Down: Castlewellan).

A “Wee Folk Cove?” on Beacon Hill Road in Windham

“The tradition in regard to both Danes and fairies are very similar in different parts of Ireland. In the County Cavan the country people spoke of beautiful music of the fairies and told me of their living in a fort near Lough Oughter. One woman said they were sometimes called Ganelochs, and were about the size of children, and an old man described them as little people about one or two feet high, riding on small horses. A terrible story, showing how the fairies punish their captives, was told to me by and old woman at Armoy, in County Antrim, who vouched for it being ‘candid truth.’ A man’s wife was carried away by fairies; he married again, but one night his first wife met him, told him where she was, and besought him to release her, saying that if he would do so she would leave that part of the country and not trouble him any more. She begged him, however, not to make the attempt unless he was confident he could carry it out, as if he failed she would die a terrible death. He promised to save her, and she told him to watch at midnight, when she would be riding past the house with the fairies; she would put her hand in at the window, and he must grasp it and hold it tight. He did as she bade him, and although the fairies pulled hard, he had nearly saved her, when his second wife saw what was going on, and tore his hand away. The poor woman was dragged off, and across the fields he heard her piercing cries, and saw next morning the drops of blood where the fairies had murdered her.” (Good qualities?)

Stone megalithic structures exist spread across all of New England, one of the most famous being Mystery Hill in Salem. They are very much in the same form and style of construction as found in Ireland. I have a book in my collection entitled, The Ruins of Greater Ireland in New England, by William B. Goodwin. It posits the theory that whatever race built the stone structures in Ireland also built the structures found in New England. It is curious that these structure have such small openings. Certainly when the Scotch-Irish arrived from Northern Ireland they must have recognized them as being the same type structures as they had back home and would ascribe to them the same fairy legends.  The openings are just the right size for the “wee folk.” You might ask me to explain how the giant slabs of granite were put in place by such little people and I would answer, “They were gifted in magic and descended from fallen angels.” Certainly their inheritance included the power to lift such heavy stone slabs.


Windham Life and Times – June 29, 2018

The 1718 Migration – Events and Celebrations

     “This year marks the three hundredth anniversary of the migration of a number of families from the Bann Valley to a new life in North America.”

“In order to commemorate this, Ulster University shall host a gathering of academic and community writers who shall explore the connections between Ulster and North America. The event will examine three main shared areas of interest between the two places: culture, family and space. It is hoped that this will prompt a re-examination of the impact of literature and ideas, family and genealogy and space and landscape that have shaped the relationship between the two places then and since. This conference is a sister conference of the Maine Ulster Scots Project Ulster Diaspora Reunion and Conference which will be held August 14-16, 2018, in Brunswick Maine at Bowdoin College Campus. Afterlives of 1718”

What’s so fascinating to me, is that the historians and scholars in Northern Ireland have such an intense interest it the Scots-Irish both there and in America. In contrast, for many American descendants of the Scots-Irish and American historians, their influence on America is in the very hazy past. Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard, is better known in Northern Ireland than in America. The contributions of the Scots-Irish to the Revolution in American are better known there than here, where the colonist are portrayed as a monolithic group, which they were not.

MAINE ULSTER SCOTS                                                                                    

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, Augus 14, 2018

8:30 AM- 4:30 PM Full day Guided Bus Tour of Historic Portland for Pre-registered guests.

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Conference Registration Bowdoin, Thorne Dining Hall

5:00 PM – 9:00 PM Cocktail Hour & Dinner with Special Keynote event for speakers and 5 day ticket holders only. Sponsored By Northern Ireland Bureau

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM Conference Registration Thorne Dining Hall

9:00 AM-10:00 AM Welcome & Opening Roundtable “Immigration – Emigration Ulster to Maine Causes, Consequence, Conditions” Kresge Auditorium, Bowdoin College

10:00 AM -11:00 AM

Concurrent Presentations 1-3

1. Maine Before 1718 – Dr. Emerson “Tad” Baker, Salem State University


3. 1718 Families Project – Mr. Colin Brooks

11:00 AM – 12:00 AM

Concurrent Presentation 4-6

4. Rustic Bard Poet- Robert Dinsmoor – Dr. Frank Ferguson, Ulster University

5.Title To Be Announced -Mr. Chris Sockalexis, Penobscot Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

6. Allagash Community Under Siege- Mr. Darrell McBriety

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Free buffet lunch for 5-day ticket holders- Moulton Hall, Bowdoin College

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Roundtable 2 “Exploring the Diaspora” -Kresge Hall

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Concurrent Presentations 7-9

7. “Hardscrabble and good old times amongst the Scotch Irish in Maine” – Mr. Alister McReynolds

8. “By Another Route: The Ulster Scots and the Scottish Prisoners of 1650-51” – Dr. Carol Gardner

9.  From Kilrea to Kittery and beyond, the Sterret(t) Saga- Mr. Bob Starrat

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Concurrent Presentations 10-12

10. Scots-Irish Religious Folkways in Mid-Coast Maine; The Presbyterian Founding 1729-1763– Mr. Carl R. “Chip” Griffin III, Esq.

11. Relationships with the land: The Scots-Irish Experience in the District of Maine – Mr. John T. Mann, President Emeritus, Maine Ulster Scots Project

12. Wilson Family in Maine- Ms. Delia Wilson Lunsford

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Private Meet & Greet for presenters and 5-day ticket holders only, Hosted by the Scottish Affairs Council, special guest Joni Smith, at The Daniel, Brunswick Maine. Cash bar, casual setting.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

7:00 AM-8:00 AM Walk in Conference Registration Location TBD

8:00 AM -10:00 AM Round Table 3 “Religious History” with 1718 Woodside sermon offered by Rev. James McCaughan of Dunboe Church, Articlave, Northern Ireland and Brunswick, First Parish Church Reverend Mary Bard.

Round Table Panel with experts on clergy and migration. – First Parish Church, Brunswick.

10:00 AM- 11:00 AM

Concurrent Presentations 13-15

13. Woodside in Dunboe Parish Northern Ireland- Dr. Alison McCaughan

14. 1718 Migration; Connections Coincidences, Consequences- Dr. Linde Lunney, Royal Irish Academy

15. NEHGS DNA Studies- Mr.  Tom Dreyer, New England Historic Genealogical Society

11:00 AM – 12:00 AM

Concurrent Presentations 16-18

16. Role of Religion in Migration – Dr. William Roulston, Ulster Historical Society

17. TBD

18. Gaelic Poetry Expert Title TBD- Ms. Holly Morrison

12: 00 PM Free buffet lunch for 5-day ticket holders- Moulton Hall, Bowdoin College

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Roundtable “Somerset Archaeology” -Kresge Hall

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Concurrent Presentations 19 – 21

19. Rathlin Island to Lubec, The Sam Henry Collection- Ms. Sarah Carson, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Museum Service Officer

20. Woodside Homestead Archaeology – Mr. Fred Koerber

21. TBD

Concurrent Presentations 22-24

19. Forest & Coasts, The Ballads of Maine, -Ms. Julia Lane, Castlebay

20. Fort Richmond Archaeology- Dr. Leith Smith, Maine Historic Preservation

21. The Irish New Settlement on Merrymeeting Bay- Ms. Barbara Desmarais, Brunswick Historian

6:30 PM- 9:30 PM Evening Special Event: “Fiddle Traditions in Ulster-Scots Music, Then & Now”  Open to the Public Tickets available to all. Free to 5-day ticket holders.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Open to all pre-registered ticket holders on first come, pre-paid basis.


1:00 PM – 5:00 PM Historic Tour 4 “Archaeology: MacFadden Site & Merrymeeting Bay

6:00 PM Special pre-games Ceildh sponsored by St. Andrews Society of Maine– Topsham Fairgrounds – Free and open to the public!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM 40th Annual Maine Highland Games and Scots Festival, hosted by St. Andrews Society of Maine

Open to the public, Free to 5-day ticket holders. Tickets may be pre-purchased or purchased at the gate. Click here for more info.

So for all of you with family names such as the Boyd, McGregor, Cornwell, Holmes, Nesmith, Davidson, Cochran, Dinsmore, Moore, Armstrong, Hopkins, Ramsay, Thompson, Jameson, Paterson, Mitchell, Wilson, McBride, Gray, Anderson, Greg, McGovern, Hordock, Campbell, McLaughlin, MacFadden,  Galt, Todd, King, Black, Tarbell, McAlester, Robb, Lindsay, Barr, Black, Christy, Craig, Smith, Irwin, Bryce, Dunlop, Knox, Kincaid, Hendry, Duncan, Gilmore, McKeen, Stirling, Caldwell, Smiley, Morrison, Hogg, Hanson, Hazleton, Hunter, Richey, Walker, McNeal, Orr, Lord, Alexander, Clendenin, Clark, Barnet, Allison, Steele, Starrett, Stuart and many others; you might just have Scots-Irish roots. Many of these names were on the 1718 petition emigrate to Governor Shute or part of the migration.