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Independence, Home Rule and Partition

By the end of the 19th century Ireland's population was back under four million.

Many Irishmen wanted the same privileges enjoyed by the dominions like Canada, Australia and New Zealand:  Home Rule.  The country was divided.  Industrialisation had come to the North, principally around flax, that was the basis if the linen industry, and then shipbuilding, that provided skilled jobs and locked that part of Ireland more firmly to Britain. 

In predominantly Protestant Ulster the concept of Home Rule was anathema. Influential figures like Rudyard Kipling demanded that Ireland remained British. In 1912 half a million people in Ireland and some in Scotland signed a 'Covenant of resistance' against the proposed Home Rule Bill that was before Parliament.  Women still had no vote but 230,000 signed a 'Declaration' to the effect that they wished to 'associate ourselves' with the Men of Ulster in 'uncompromising opposition to Home Rule'. 



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The Ulster Covenant - signed by several McKie's and Ellson's (Wendy's mother's family - also an unusual spelling)

We, whose names are underwritten, women of Ulster, and loyal subjects of our gracious King,
being firmly persuaded that Home Rule would be disastrous to our Country,
desire to associate ourselves with the men of Ulster in their uncompromising opposition to the Home Rule Bill now before Parliament,
whereby it is proposed to drive Ulster out of her cherished place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom,
and to place her under the domination and control of a Parliament in Ireland.
Praying that from this calamity God will save Ireland, we hereto subscribe our names.


Nevertheless 'Home Rule' was eventually passed into British law, much to the dismay of the Loyalists in Ulster and to the derision of those wanting complete independence, but the start of First World War in 1914 caused its implementation to be deferred.

When the Great War began many Irishmen volunteered but as it progressed and the death toll rose alarmingly conscription was proposed.  This played into the hands of those favouring a Republic, particularly where sectarian and related class enmity remained a smouldering time-bomb to be exploited. 

We have now moved forward into my Father's lifetime and the following events were reported on the front pages of the newspapers he read to radio broadcasts he listened to and to the newsreels played during the movies he went to.

Sectarian and class enmity frequently led to violence.  During Easter in 1916 there was an uprising in Dublin that destroyed property.  In comparison to other incidents this was a relatively minor event and the culprits were quickly caught and jailed.  But in a serious misjudgement of the growing anti-British sentiment several of the leaders were hanged.  The mistake was quickly realised and the hangings curtailed but it was too late.  The dead became martyrs to the Republican cause. The country erupted into civil war. During the next six years the Irish Republican Army (IRA) waged a guerrilla war against the government so that by 1922, to bring an end the violence, both parliaments ratified an Anglo-Irish Treaty, formalising independence for the 26 county Irish Free State: Éire, which renamed itself Ireland in 1937, and finally declared itself a republic in 1949. The remaining 6 counties were partitioned off as a new country, Northern Ireland, also with, initially unwanted, Home Rule. Thus, as Scotland would have to fight for later, Northern Ireland was dragged, kicking and screaming, to become a self-governing country, separate to the United Kingdom.

Like Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch Northern Ireland's new independent Parliament didn't really mind. They set about keeping the new country Protestant by means of an electoral gerrymander that would have been illegal in the UK. Catholics, who were in the majority in some places, like Londonderry, again found themselves second-class citizens. Their grievances included Parliament's unwillingness or inability to remediate the slums of Londonderry and Belfast. This played into the hands of those who wanted a reunified Ireland. Hard-line Republicans had always held that Ireland was the entire 'island of Ireland' and it had now been made easy to ferment Catholic rebellion in Northern Ireland, preliminarily to annexing it to the whole.  The IRA's 'provisional' arm became dedicated to this goal.  The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) were just as determined to keep Northern Island separate and British.

And now we are within my living memory.

Soon ongoing unrest in Ireland ranked alongside: the partition of India; the creation of Israel; the war in Korea; the independence of Indonesia; the 'Suez crisis'; the fall of French Indochina; the Malayan Emergency; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the Six Days War; and the Vietnam War, in my growing awareness of newsworthy world events. 




# Michael 2020-08-28 06:06
This article is brilliant. I've learnt a lot from reading about these travels
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In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The McKie Family








This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing.  Other paths converged and merged as the McKies met and wed and bred.  Where possible I've glimpsed backwards up those paths as far as records would allow. 

The setting is Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England and my path winds through a time when the gardens there flowered with exotic blooms and their seeds and nectar changed the entire world.  This was the blossoming of the late industrial and early scientific revolution and it flowered most brilliantly in Newcastle.

I've been to trace a couple of lines of ancestry back six generations to around the turn of the 19th century. Six generations ago, around the turn of the century, lived sixty-four individuals who each contributed a little less 1.6% of their genome to me, half of them on my mother's side and half on my father's.  Yet I can't name half a dozen of them.  But I do know one was called McKie.  So, this is about his descendants; and the path they took; and some things a few of them contributed to Newcastle's fortunes; and who they met on the way.

In six generations, unless there is duplication due to copulating cousins, we all have 126 ancestors.  Over half of mine remain obscure to me but I know the majority had one thing in common, they lived in or around Newcastle upon Tyne.  Thus, they contributed to the prosperity, fertility and skill of that blossoming town during the century and a half when the garden there was at its most fecund. So, it's also a tale of one city.

My mother's family is the subject of a separate article on this website. 


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Opinions and Philosophy

Renewable Electricity



As the energy is essentially free, renewable electricity costs, like those of nuclear electricity, are almost entirely dependent on the up-front construction costs and the method of financing these.  Minimising the initial investment, relative to the expected energy yield, is critical to commercial viability.  But revenue is also dependent on when, and where, the energy can be delivered to meet the demand patterns of energy consumers.

For example, if it requires four times the capital investment in equipment to extract one megawatt hour (1 MWh) of useable electricity from sunlight, as compared to extracting it from wind, engineers need to find ways of quartering the cost of solar capture and conversion equipment; or increasing the energy converted to electricity fourfold; to make solar directly competitive.

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