Belfast Telegraph

Scottish referendum: No foggy thinking from Co Antrim locals and visitors - majority say 'we're glad Scotland voted No'

By Nevin Farrell

Sea mist swirled through the North Channel at Torr Head in the 'Ulster-Scots' heartland of north Antrim on Friday, meaning it was impossible to see the Mull of Kintyre just 12 miles away.

But there was no foggy thinking on the Scottish independence vote from locals and visitors.

The majority of people told the Belfast Telegraph they were glad Scotland voted No and stay with the UK.

Torr Head - with its spectacular rollercoaster approach road defying gravity to cling to the hills towering above the waves - is closer to Scotland than it is to Glenariffe in its own Glens of Antrim - and on a clear day Scotland can be clearly seen.

However, Torr farmer Robert McHenry (55) said on clammy September days, just like the words of the Paul McCartney song 'Mull of Kintyre' the mists can roll in from the sea but he said Scotland is never far from his mind.

"On a good day you can see Scotland no bother and there are a lot of links between here and Scotland. It is only 12 miles from here and I'm glad they voted no because it would be too wee a country," he said.

"I have relatives in Campbeltown in Kintyre and although I have not been over for a few years I would go over for funerals and things like that.

"And we get a lot of visitors along here, especially from Scotland. I think they like to see how close it is to their homeland. There is a man on up the Torr Road and he did tea during the summer and he said there were a lot of people from Scotland.

"And before Sky came in the only tv channels we could get here in Torr were from Scotland. I still watch a lot of Scottish tv and was keeping up to date with what was happening with the referendum."

At nearby Cushendun, Independent councillor Randal McDonnell, claims his ancestry can be traced back to "King Robert of Scotland in the 12th century". He said there were ancient trading and family links between the Antrim Glens and western Scotland and even now representatives from the island of Islay regularly travel to Ballycastle, especially for the Auld Lammas Fair.

He said people in the Glens have relatives from Scotland going back four of five generations and people still come over for holidays to keep up the family links.

Randal said he was pleased with the No vote but said it was closer than he expected.

"It is natural for Scottish people to have pride in their nation but it was an emotional thing and those voting yes were letting their hearts rule their head," he added.

North Antrim has the highest proportion of people who said in the 2011 census they have "some ability in Ulster-Scots" with almost one in three in the Ballymoney area stating that.

At the Ullans Centre in the town, which is dedicated to the promotion of Ulster-Scots, John 'Codie' Murray - said, like in Scotland, people coming into their centre had differing views on the independence debate but he was glad it was it a 'No'.

"Personally I think it is a good thing to keep the Union together and a lot of people had been asking us how a 'Yes' vote would have impacted on the promotion of Ulster-Scots."

He said whatever way the vote had gone the Ulster-Scots tradition would have continued because he said it is a cultural movement rather than political and the links between Ulster and Scotland stretch back before the time the Union came into being right back to the ancient 'Kingdom of Dalriada' which straddled the North Channel.

And Ballymena-based Willie Drennan - well-known for his promotion of Ulster-Scots music - said: "The result was a great relief. I believe Yes would have been economically damaging and would have caused serious social division not just in Scotland but across the British Isles.

"For Northern Ireland it may not have had much significant impact on local politics but there would have been huge damage to the deep cultural and family links. The bonds between Ulster and Scotland are ancient."

Richard Lafferty runs a boat firm and often takes people on trips from the north coast to Scotland for walking and golf and also whisky tours to places like Islay.

He said if he had been a 'Yes' it would have meant border controls being brought in which would have "impacted upon what we do".

In some places in north Antrim although there are obvious Scottish links - the name of the Scotch House Inn in Bushmills being one - many people had no appetite for what was happening across the water. Staff there said the referendum had "not really" been a topic of discussion.

Back up at Torr Head and as well as the mist the tourists kept rolling in.

Two Scots - now living in England - were part of a minibus tour.

Pauline McMillan (58), originally from Glasgow, couldn't vote because of where she lives but she was glad it was No and said she had a sleepless night fearing the outcome of the referendum.

She said: "We don't need a separatist Scotland in a global world. I was worried as I want to go back and live in Scotland but my brother said he would have left if it had been a yes."

Iain Thomson (60), originally from north-east Scotland, said he agreed with Pauline but said the whole thing had been a "fantastic exercise in democracy".

Others on the bus were disappointed they could not see Scotland but some joked it was so close they could have swam across.

Another Torr Head tourist, Don Kennedy (59), said it was ironic that he came from 'New Scotland' or Nova Scotia in Canada. He was on an 18-day road trip around Ireland and felt there was a lot of pressure being put on voters at the end of the campaign and he said that was something he had lived through at Quebec in Canada where he was born.

He too was disappointed at not being able to see Scotland in the mist but Torr Head is so close to Kintyre if had listened carefully it just might have been possible to hear the skirl of the bagpipes wafting over the waves.

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