17th July 1793, Thomas arrives in Belfast after 2 months of uncertinty in the French port of La Havre. He sails in on an American ship bound for Baltimore. He visits his friend Dr Drennan, probably when he arrives, but definitely before he leaves a fortnight later on the 30th of July.
Relationship with Place
I first travelled to Belfast around 1985. It was part of an exchange between the Environmental Art Department of Glasgow School of Art and the Fine Art course at the University of Ulster, Belfast. During this time I met some artists that are still my friends today. In fact it was through one of these relationships that I was staging an exhibition at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, with the help of Seacourt Printmakers in Bangor. This exhibition had come about because a small group of artists in Belfast were interested in the work I was making, for the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow in 2007, on identity politics in the west of Scotland. In that exhibition I made a work called ‘4 things we should remember about Thomas Muir’ and for the Belfast show I made another piece on the same theme. This second work was a conscious attempt to raise awareness around the web project, at least amongst the audience that visited the show. Beyond the opportunity to make an exhibition in Northern Ireland it did, of course, help facilitate my being in town for the install, the opening and for a public talk afterwards and it was during these visits that I walked the streets to take the photographs that now represent Belfast on ‘helpfindmyneighbour.com’.
Tom would have noticed a bond of kinship with the people he met in Belfast. The friends he visited were both Presbyterian and mercantile, the same as his own family in Glasgow.
He would have been aware of the Plantation families who’d left Scotland and gone to Ireland hundreds of years before and helped shape that culture.
As a boy he would have heard about the Capitalist Revolution in America and would have, I imagine, been aware that American society on the eastern seaboard had been heavily influenced by waves of disenfranchised Ulster Scots escaping restrictive social practices imposed by London institutions on the Presbyterian community in Scotland and Ireland.
Did his religious identity lead Tom to question the authority of the government in London?
(Autumn 2008 – Autumn 2009)
Travel costs were principally covered through making an exhibition at the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast, November 2008.
Site visit, installation, opening and public talk.
Some shots were taken while traveling to conduct work on a public art consultation with Derry City Council (with Peter McCaughey and Cherrie Driver) and research and development work in Londonderry with the Apprentice Boys for the Imperial War Museum in London.
Travel Costs: Return flights booked 2 weeks in advance through Ryan Air: £30
Return train fare: £70, single passenger on the ferry: £25
Accommodation: A couple of B&B’s at £60 each but I also stayed for free with Robert Peters the (Director of Seacourt Printmakers) in Banger and with Peter McCaughey’s family in Holywood, Larne and Omagh.