On Tuesday 27th November members of Dalaradia dedicated a lamppost in memory of our greatly missed former patron Dr Ian Adamson OBE.
Some years ago, Ian rescued this original gas lamp from Sandy Row. Around 2010 he offered it to Helen Brooker, then Chair of Belmont Tower, suggesting it could be erected there. Unfortunately it couldn’t and with Ian’s untimely death, finding a location for it became paramount. Helen, who formed Pretani Associates with Ian in 2015, decided that it would be a perfect way to mark the close relationship that Pretani had built up over the years with our group.
She contacted our chairman and suggested that something could be done to ensure that the lamppost found its way into the community, taking with it something of the message of a shared memory and a common identity that Ian had spent his life promoting.
With the help of many volunteers within our group and the Hubb Community Resource Center the lamp has been restored and it’s final resting place will be the World War remembrance garden on the Shore Road in the coming months. The garden commemorates the 36th Ulster Division, 10th Irish Division and 16th Irish Division. Given Ian’s history with the Somme Association and the restoration of the Ulster Tower we felt it would be a perfect resting place.
On the day Pr. Wesley Hutchinson (Sorbonne Nouvelle) gave a speech to all in attendance. Below is the text of that speech.
Ian Adamson, always on our minds, forever in our hearts.
“Speech by Pr. Wesley Hutchinson (Sorbonne Nouvelle) at the Hubb Community Resource Centre on 27th November 2019.
I would like to say how honoured I am to have been asked to speak to you on the occasion of the dedication of this superb lamppost to the memory of Dr. Ian Adamson.
I’d like to begin by saying a few words about the lamppost itself. Ian rescued this original gas lamp from the Sandy Row and, some time around 2010, offered to give it to Helen Brooker, then Chair of Belmont Tower, suggesting it could be erected there. Even though this was not possible, the gift of the lamppost still held.
With Ian’s passing, the question of what to do with the lamp assumed greater importance. Helen, who formed Pretani Associates with Ian in 2015, decided that it would be a perfect way to mark the close relationship that Pretani had built up over the years with the Dalaradia Historical Group. She contacted Robert and suggested that something could be done to ensure that the lamppost found its way into the community, taking with it something of the message of a shared memory and a common identity that Ian had spent his life promoting.
Robert was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and contacted Jim Crothers about having the lamppost erected just over the road from here. The go-ahead was soon given for the project. The lantern was restored by Brian McCorkell and the post by National Trust volunteers at Patterson’s Spade Mill. They will be assembled and erected by people here at the Hubb Community Resource Centre. Whether it was the necessary authorisation or whether it concerned the repair or the actual installation of the lantern and the plaque, all of this was done by volunteers. Pretani Associates have asked me to thank all the people who have given their time and technical knowhow to make this project possible.
When I was asked to speak at this event I admit I was a wee bit at a loss to see how I could link Ian in to a lamppost. My first instinct was to go on to the internet and look up anything to do with street lights, when gas street lighting was installed in Belfast, when it was replaced by electricity, etc. etc. But as I was doing this, for some reason, one of the things that was in the back of my mind was the lovely WW2 song, “Lili Marlene,” originally sung by Lale Anderson, who came from the island of Langeoog off the north coast of Germany:
Underneath the lantern
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait…
In the song, two lovers are standing together outside an army barracks in the light of a street lamp before reluctantly saying goodbye when he has to go back to join his regiment. The original 1938 version was broadcast on the German Forces radio and was an immediate success right across German-held Europe. But, amazingly, it was translated into English and ended up being recorded by people like Marlene Dietrich and Vera Lynn who made it a major hit with the allied troops as well.
It suddenly struck me that the associations between the lamp and the song and what Ian was trying to do were perhaps more than just in my head. Ian’s work was also about crossing deep-seated, apparently insurmountable barriers between two communities at war and about finding a message that was understandable to both. His work was also about translation, about taking a reality and making it accessible to someone who on the face of things would not be likely to understand. He too constantly reiterated connections that, like the song, could resonate with both sides with the same – shared – emotional intensity.
When I started looking into it in greater detail, I found that the song had originally been a poem, and that it had been written by a young German soldier in 1915, right in the middle of the First World War. In other words, the poem was being written when the young men from Ulster were training near Ian’s village of Conlig before going off to join the British army and fight the Germans at the Somme and elsewhere along the western front. There again, it struck me that there was another obvious connection with Ian and the outstanding work he did in Thiepval and through the Somme Association retrieving the memory not only of the 36th Ulster Division but of all the Irishmen who lost their lives in the Great War. The fact that a memorial to these men was opened just down the road makes it particularly appropriate that the lamppost in his memory should be placed where it will be.
As I said earlier, this project has been made possible thanks to Pretani and Dalaradia and their collaboration with people in the local community through the Hubb. Once again, this practical, hands-on involvement of the community in an act of commemoration was an essential part of how Ian saw his function. For him, his writing and the hundreds of lectures he gave in every corner of this city were given their highest commendation if they could spark off a reaction that would involve the people of the city. What mattered most to him was seeing his ideas translated into a concrete form. Indeed, the placing of this lamppost is anything but a one-off. On the contrary, it fits in with an entire line of action that – literally – gives his work a place in the community. He was particularly pleased when he was asked to become the Patron of Dalaradia allowing him to be involved and to support their work on the refurbishment of Sir Samuel Ferguson’s grave in Donegore in 2016, or the unveiling of the Dalaradia mural in Rathcoole in 2018, or their Burn’s suppers.
Ian saw all of these initiatives as part of a broad strategy of sharing the knowledge he had about his native Ulster with the people of Ulster. One of the central tenets of his work was that we have allowed ourselves to be trapped into a binary reading of history and that what was important was to tackle these misrepresentations at grass-roots level, showing people how his alternative, inclusive reading of history, not only of Ulster and Ireland but of the British Isles as a whole – what the plaque calls the Isles of the Pretani -, had the potential to unite, or rather, re-unite the people of these islands within what he called a “common identity.” That, in a nutshell is the argument put forward by Pretani Associates, who are the driving force behind the project that we see here today.
So you see, you will never be able to look at a lamppost again without thinking of Ian Adamson. Whether or not you associate him with Vera Lynn is up to you!”