Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Ne temere

My pal Speedo, who held my hand in the transition to becoming a computer SYS$OP, grew up in Tuam, Co Galway a member of the minuscule Church of Ireland community. He reflected ruefully that, for lack of choice, he'd surely marry a Catholicker girl and because of Papal bully-boy tactics in Ne Temere, his kids would be brought up believing in transubstantiation and that would be the end of his line of Protestants. This anecdote welled up from the forgotten reaches of my mind because I'm reading a political history book by Liam Kennedy called Unhappy the Land; the most oppressed people ever, the Irish?  MOPE: it's an acronym innit? I may have more to say about this pervasive trope in political discourse if I'm feeling particularly fighty in the future. For now, I'll look at Chapter 2 The Planter and the Gael. It's personal because, as "Planter Scum", I've been invited to go back where I came from: poke a lot of Irish people (maybe it helps if they are a bit boozed up) and they'll blurt out their base-line knee-jerk belief that Protestants are not really Irish.

Kennedy (and co-authors) tries to put some numbers on the integration of 17thC and 18thC protestant incomers (Planters) into mainstream Irish society. A key evidential strand is to carry out a surname analysis from the recently digitised 1911 census of Ireland. Hey, I've done that.  40ish years ago, as a PhD student, I was tasked to look at the genetic consequences of successive trans-Atlantic migrations: British, French, Dutch, Spanish. It was science, Jim, but not as many scientists understood it. One thread that ran through my data was the frequency of tailless cats in my various samples. My boss was an expert on the genetics of Manx cats and encouraged me to ask if the places with lots of Manx cats had lots of people with Manx surnames. The most common last-name on the Isle of Man, both now and 100 years ago is Kelly which is also really common in Ireland. Corlett, Quayle, Moore & Clague are more diagnostic. I took myself to the library with a note-book and counted these names in telephone directories for Augusta, Maine and Fredericton, New Brunswick and found . . . nothing. But negative results also count for something if they are carried out carefully and with sufficient sample size. The New England Manx cats didn't come directly from Douglas or Peel, IoM in the hand-baggage of emigrants.

I don't know what it is about The Arts Block but they sometimes seem to prefer things vague rather than getting a definitive answer. And would rather trot out an anecdote than get some quantitative data. This in a era when obtaining wodges of data is just a few clicks away and a wonk to write a script to tally the numbers is readily to be found mumbling in any internet café. In my day, y' had to be well 'ard counting things on pages and writing them down with a pencil.

Kennedy et al. picked three quintessentially incomer names Bell, Anderson and Robinson and looked for them in the 1911 census data but hedged their analysis with "A systematic analysis, using a large sample of new British surnames, is not attempted here. But the findings from a small sample of such names is certainly suggestive".  Arrrgh is not attempted here if not now, when? They were on a roll, they had the data to hand; they could have answered the question for all time; but just did a pilot study.
Nevertheless: the Ne Temere data are compelling. The religious affiliation is recorded for everyone in the 1911 census as well as their surname and location. Kennedy et al. found that while the Bells of Ulster are still mostly [94%] Church of Ireland, in the other provinces they are about half Catholic
Catholic [%]: Leinster [46%], Connacht [51%], Munster [51%] Ulster [6%]
This effect is even more striking for Anderson and Robinson. The Andersons of Cork have married a catholicker girls in one of the generations between plantation and 1911 and that's switched the allegiance for all subsequent generations.

And then Kennedy et al. were careless in their write up <tsk>; errors in books seem somehow more culpable than errors in papers because an extra tranche of copy-editors shd/cd have looked over the manuscript. Here's Table 2.2 a tally of occupations in Co Dublin for the tribe of Bell:
Church o I
Cath %
CoI %
Civil serv
I'm a number-wonk, so when I see the solid blocks of history-professor text leavened with a table, with data, my heart pitter-patters a little faster . . . and then stops because the numbers don't add up. One each for landowners but 0.4% for Catholics and 0.6% for Protestants? Because there are more Catholic Bells than Protestants Bells but those totals are embedded in the text rather than appended to the table as I have it above.
Q. And then if there is one [1] CoI Landowner and one [1] CoI Merchant, how come the numbers are different in the % column??
A. Because the 1.1 should be 0.6 ! But I'm the only person who cared about contents of that table to notice. On one level it doesn't matter, it only took me 5 minutes to work out what was wrong. But if people can't get internal consistency in the final report then how confident can we be that the actual numbers have been correctly tallied.

And what is the occupation of the 283 Catholic Bells who are not enumerated in Table 2.2? That's potentially interesting if the missing are all dependent on the 55 tallied bread-winners.
Catholics: 283 - 55 = 228 dependants with average family size 228/55 = 4.1
Protestants: 176 - 27 = 149 dependants with average family size 149/27 = 5.5
Hey, that's interesting because unexpected. Protestants had bigger families than Catholics.
Dara O'Briain on mixed marriage.

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