The Ulster-Scots Language Society, formed to promote the Ulster-Scots language, our own hamely tongue

The Auld Meetin'-hoose Green

The Auld Meetin'-hoose GreenWhether or not The Auld Meetin'-hoose Green can be classified as a novel is certainly debatable. It is perhaps more a series of short stories arranged into chapters and, although many characters cross over from one story to the next, there is no underlying and unifying plot to the book. What cannot be denied, however, is that the entertainment value to be derived from this piece of literature has not diminished with the passage of more than one hundred years since its first publication.

Archibald M'Ilroy, the author, was born near Ballyclare in 1859, the year of the Great Revival in Ulster, and from humble beginnings went on to become a successful businessman, public office holder and writer. His first book When Lint was in the Bell (1897) was largely autobiographical and included his reminiscences of people and events from Ballyclare and the surrounding area during the mid-nineteenth century. It proved so popular that it was quickly followed by The Auld Meetin'-hoose Green which was published in Belfast in 1898 and later in Toronto, Canada, in 1899.

In The Auld Meetin'-hoose Green, as in When Lint was in the Bell, M'Ilroy draws on the memories of his childhood and youth to provide us with a wonderful picture of County Antrim life in the mid-Victorian era, and delight us with endearing sketches of folk he knew (or had heard of) as a boy, all lightly disguised as fictional. Although the author moved away to Belfast as a young man and spent his last three years in Canada, he never lost his love of the Ulster-Scots tongue with which he was raised, and the dialogue in The Auld Meetin'-hoose Green adds a charm to the characters that he so fondly portrays in the book.

Archibald M'Ilroy has for too long been neglected as a home-grown author of some merit, and his books are now nigh impossible to find. If any local writer deserves to be rescued from near virtual obscurity, he does, and a good starting point would be the re-publication of The Auld Meetin'-hoose Green.

November, 2009

[For further information on this book and author, see Archibald M'Ilroy]