Readers’ e-mails sent to Roamer’s mailbox regularly introduce intriguing topics and often proffer more than enough information for a full page or more.
But shorter notes and responses are equally welcome and enlightening, like two here today.
The first came after Ulster Scots author Liam Logan’s latest book called ‘Nine Rhymes’ was mentioned on this page at the end of last month.
In the process of sharing some extracts, a peculiar little creature called a ‘gulpin’ made a most unexpected appearance!
Though Roamer didn’t know (and still doesn’t!) exactly what a ‘gulpin’ is, Liam explained that it’s a curious, green, shapeless creature with a black diamond marking on its back and a yellow feather on its head. Apparently it’s the star of a popular game called Pokémon.
“But the Ulster Scots ‘gulpin’ isn’t!” Liam stressed.
“It’s a nitwit, a fool, an impressionable idiot,” he continued.
According to Mr Logan “as a general rule in Ulster Scots, a ‘gulpin’ tends to be youngish and, in the main, ‘gulpins’ are drawn from the male end of the gender spectrum.”
“Reading about ‘gulpins’ on Roamer’s page today,” Isaac Thompson’s e-mail started “reminds me of a true story told to me many years ago about a pupil in a primary school in the Garvagh area.”
Mr Thompson’s tale concerned a teacher who was “trying to explain to her pupils what a cannibal was.”
The teacher, like most teachers, had an eagle eye for pupils who weren’t concentrating.
“She soon noticed that wee Billy wasn’t paying attention,” Isaac continued “he was looking out of the window, yearning for three o’clock to come and school to end. Trying to get his attention, and perhaps to teach him a lesson, the teacher called out ‘Billy, Billy!’ and the lad quickly turned his gaze from the window to the teacher at the front of the classroom.”
“Billy, what would you call a man who would eat another man?” the teacher asked, trying to get his attention back to the core-subject of the lesson.
“Quick as a flash, Billy answered confidently, ‘Miss, I would call him a hungry gulpin!”
Isaac Thompson ended his tale - “I presume the cane was brought out to punish Billy for both non-attention and using such local language which was forbidden in class in those bygone days!”
The second reader’s e-mail here today came in response to a recent story concerning philately.
Every year towards the end of September, John Proctor, Secretary of the Portadown and District Philatelic Society, tells us what’s happening in the Society’s annual Stampex exhibition and fair.
Many of the postage stamps in the various displays down the years in Portadown Town Hall commemorate famous local folk, historic events and well-known locations.
Last September’s event was no exception but John Proctor raised a rather unusual issue about one item in particular - a special postmark that put Derry in Enniskillen!
When a new postage stamp is issued by the Royal Mail a commemorative motif is often ‘hand stamped’ on the envelope, usually consisting of some decorative artwork and the date.
A set of eight ‘Curious Customs’ stamps were issued in July, celebrating strange traditions and unusual celebrations around the UK, and one was Londonderry’s famous Halloween Festival.
The special £1.55 Londonderry stamp celebrated the city’s annual five-day extravaganza in October.
Clearly printed on the stamp was our Maiden City’s customary identification - Derry-Londonderry.
But along with a spooky Halloween skeleton the commemorative hand-stamp moved Derry to Enniskillen!
“The Royal Mail found that the only Derry in Northern Ireland was a location which had Enniskillen as its post-town,” explained John Proctor.
I asked him to pinpoint Enniskillen’s Derry and he didn’t know where it was apart from supposing it to be “an area southeast of Enniskillen and although covered by a postcode it’s largely uninhabited…just a little townland.”
Roamer hoped that someone would know exactly where it’s to be found but numerous Fermanagh folk said they haven’t heard of it, even though it’s officially rubber-stamped by Royal Mail.
But one well-informed Fermanagh e-mailer has finally confirmed - “there are two towns here called Derrylin and Derrygonnelly. There are also two parishes called Derrybrusk and Derryvullan. And there are over 100 townlands using the name Derry - alphabetically from Derryad and Derryaghna to Derryvree and Derryvullan.”
At this point in the e-mail Roamer was despairing of ever discovering which, if any, of the townlands was the one on the Royal Mail hand stamp.
But in the e-mail’s closing lines came a breakthrough, or a bullseye, or a bonanza - or all three!
“One of the townlands is just called Derry, near the island of Killygowan on Lough Erne. It’s in Kinawley Civil Parish in the Barony of Clanawley, County Fermanagh. The townland of Derry consists of 113 acres of (mostly) shoreline.
Nationwide it’s the 48,426th largest townland in Northern Ireland and within County Fermanagh it’s the 1,365th largest townland.”
And I’m told, on good authority that Derry is just off the A509 Derrylin Road on the edge of Upper Lough Erne.
Apparently the Knockninny Road is even closer but wherever it is, it’s got to be the only townland in Northern Ireland, if not in the whole of the UK, that’s got its own commemorative Royal Mail hand stamp - thanks to Derry!