Works of Ballycarry poet ‘deserve wider audience’

A LEADING Ulster Scots linguistic expect has said that it is a scandal that the works of James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry, are not better known.

Dr Carol Baraniuk, whose PhD was awarded for her study of Orr and his poetry, told an audience in the village last week that Orr was an outstanding poet whose works had been featured in Irish poetry anthologies in the past.

But she said that as time went on Ulster Scots poetry had been marginalised and as a consequence the significance of the works of those such as Orr had become forgotten.

Dr Baranuik, who gave a detailed and impressive outline of Orr’s use of traditional Scottish verse styles as well as the context of his work, said that the Ulster Weaver Poets were not copying Burns but they and the Scottish bard were drawing from the styles of older Scots poets such as Robert Fergusson (1750-1774).

She also outlined her hopes that the works of Orr would make their way onto the education curriculum in Northern Ireland.

Dr Baraniuk, who is a teacher and a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots, was speaking at the launch of The Weaver’s Trail, a heritage trail which traces sites associated with Orr’s life and works in Ballycarry.

Dr David Hume, chairman of the Ballycarry Community Association, outlined that the aim of the trail was to provide a cultural tourism experience for visitors to the area, and said the objective was to dovetail in to other programmes including a Community Leadership Programme tourist project already underway.

The chairman said that while the village had enjoyed some small scale industry and commerce in the past, tourism offered a new potential for economic potential and possibly employment.

He noted that academics had said some of Orr’s work was better poetry than that of Burns and contrasted the situation at Alloway with that of Ballycarry.

Yet, he said, Ballycarry was to Ulster what Alloway was to Scotland, and the Weaver’s Trail was an attempt to start to redress the balance.

The new heritage trail was officially launched by the Mayor of Larne, Cllr. Bobby McKee, who said that the Community Association and its chairman were to be commended for their work over the years to ensure that Orr was not forgotten.

He said that while he had been aware of the story of James Orr and his poetry it had not been until that evening, when surveying the new exhibition which highlighted his life and times, that he became fully aware of the importance of the Ulster Scots poet.

Among those who joined community association members for the event were local councillors Gregg McKeen and John Mathews, representatives of the Ulster Scots academic community and members of the Masonic Order, of which Orr was a founding father in the local community.