Ulster’s Scots roots expo at Dunree Fort

Fort Dunree.
Fort Dunree.

A new photographic exhibition of work by Ulster academic Professor Sarah Edge is now open for viewing at Fort Dunree, outside Buncrana.

The exhibition features images exploring the ties between Ulster and its Scots heritage, focusing on the works of early Ulster photographer William McKinney.

The bond between Inishowen and Scotland is particularly rich - from a heritage of shared ballads to language to family ties, from Scots people who came to settle in Ulster, to Donegal migrant workers and emigrants travelling back and forth between Inishowen to Scotland.

Artlink’s exhibition at Fort Dunree is a fascinating insight into how a photographer played his part in the forging of an Ulster-Scots relationship.

In this exhibition, the contemporary artist and photographer Sarah Edge made a new series of photographs looking at the photography collection of 19th century Ulster photographer William McKinney (which contains hundreds of fascinating personal 19th century family images and studies of rural workers and rural scenes).

William McKinney was born at Sentry Hill in 1832. Besides being a farmer, McKinney was a man of many interests with an absorbing love of the countryside.

This intense interest in his own locality was carried into his hobby of photography, which he took up in the 1880s.

He photographed not only his family and friends but also everyday life on the farm: the men who worked in the fields and the many craftsmen and artisans who visited the farm, such as the journeyman tailor, the carpenter and the butcher. The small farmers and their families in the area, too, received the attention of his camera.

Altogether, 600 plates were carefully labeled and stored.

This exhibition examines how, through photography, McKinney attempted to highlight his own personal identity as well as establish himself as part of a specifically Ulster Scots heritage.

The Coleraine-based artist’s work looks at the visual traces that the William McKinney has left behind at his ancestral home in Sentry Hill, County Antrim, which can work as clues to us unpicking his intentions within his own photographs.

Alongside this exhibition and, as part of her Artlink darkroom residency, Sarah Edge will run a series of workshops that will use personal family photographs to investigate aspects of their own personal identities.

Sarah Edge is Professor of Photography and Cultural Studies at the University of Ulster, where she is a member of the Centre for Media Research.

The exhibition runs until July 24.