A New Breed Of Ulster Defender

Here are a pair of large boards in the Ulster Museum on the theme of Cú Chulainn, one from each sect.

In the left-hand painting – the CNR piece, by Marty Lyons and a Short Strand artist – Francis Hughes of the IRA – in what we think is a unique break with tradition – takes the place of Cú Chulainn, who became a symbol of the 1916 Easter Rising when Oliver Sheppard’s statue of Cú Chulainn’s death was placed in the re-built GPO. Hughes has a tourniquet on his right leg, an assault rifle dangling from his wrist, and instead of the raven that signified Cú Chulainn’s death there is the symbol of republican political prisoner, the lark, which appears in the apex of many other republican murals.

In the second of the pieces – the PUL piece, painted by Dee Craig – the raven sits on the shoulder of a Cú Chulainn who has a red cloak and carries a Northern Ireland shield. “Down through the years, his shadow has cast a new breed of Ulster defender”: a (loyalist) hooded gunman. Thus while Cú Chulainn is the (surprising) “Ancient defender of Ulster!”, the UVF and UDA are its modern defenders, now that the B Specials and UDR are gone.

The dripping red hand in the top left is the ‘red hand of Ulster’; one version of the origin-story for the red hand is that the man who avenged Cú Chulainn’s death made a bloody hand-print to indicate his completion of the deed. Most people, however, will think of the legend that in a race to be first to touch the land of Ulster one contestant (perhaps Érimón Uí Néill) cut off his hand and threw it ahead of the others. (This legend was depicted in a lower Shankill mural and narrated in an east Belfast mural: The Strangest Victory In All History.)

The Black Pig’s Dyke is the collective name for a number of ditches built around 400 BCE, perhaps to prevent cattle-raiding. They share a common mythology: that they were created by huge black boar; they are on the Ulster-Connaught border, rather than the Ulster-Leinster border as shown in the painting, though there are similar earthworks in Down, Armagh (and Cork) (WP).

Click and click again to enlarge (to 1200 x 900)
Copyright © 2022 Extramural Activity
Camera Settings: f1.8, 1/685, ISO 20, full size 4032 x 3024

Click and click again to enlarge (to 1200 x 900)
Copyright © 2022 Extramural Activity
Camera Settings: f1.8, 1/685, ISO 20, full size 4032 x 3024

Click and click again to enlarge (to 1200 x 900)
Copyright © 2022 Extramural Activity
Camera Settings: f1.8, 1/685, ISO 20, full size 4032 x 3024
X10386 X10387 X10385

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