The ‘Scots-Irish’ in America

Professor Brian Walker from the School of Politics at Queen’s University Belfast has a piece published in the Irish Times today about the Scots-Irish in America.

He points out that over half of some 40 million people who gave their country of origin as Ireland are actually of Protestant descent. He also points out that many were Ulster Presbyterians, descending from Scotland in the 17th-century:

“To explain this situation attention now focused on the Scots Irish. The first waves of emigrants from Ireland to America in the eighteenth century consisted largely of Ulster Presbyterians, numbering about a quarter of a million people, who were descendants of 17th-century Scottish immigrants to Ireland. Due to their early arrival and thanks to a multiplier factor, it was argued, their descendants made up a major part of those in America with an Irish background.”

The article offers interesting reading and shines a light on the extent of immigration by Protestants, of Scotish origin, from Ireland to America. I recalled when reading the article the story from the Ulster-Scots musical ‘On Eagles Wings’.

  • Dewi

    Hell – my dad’s raging against the dying of the light,

  • latcheeco

    Is that a Tom Jones number? 😉

  • Dewi


  • latcheeco

    Here’s a better one for you then:

    Had I the Heaven’s embroidered cloths
    Enwrought with golden and silver light
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light
    I would spread the cloths under your feet
    But I , being poor, have only my dreams
    I have spread my dreams under your feet,
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

  • Dewi

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  • Harry Flashman


    “I believe in changing the government when it becomes necessary as the Americans did a couple of weeks back .”

    And what is the one guarantee that the citizens of the United States have that such a means of changing government is always on offer? The houses of Congress? No, of course not, given the chance those deadbeats would vote themselves jobs for life. Is it the Supreme Court? Absolutely not, easily packed or swayed by any competent administration. No, there is one very clear and obvious part of the US Constitution that keeps governments honest. A friend of mine in the US described the Second Amendment as a giant “Reset” button, if things go wrong and they have to go back to square one, the citizens of the United States have the means to do so.

    We serfs in Europe and other nations have no such option, our governments are our bosses, we must do their bidding because they will not allow us to challenge them should things go badly wrong. You, despite your protestations to the contrary, prefer it that way, you like big government, freedom worries you because you fear your fellow man, that is the main philosophical difference between us.


    I couldn’t agree more latch, there was a de facto right to bear arms in the North unfortunately it was granted to only one section of the community thus the obvious power imbalance that was created led to the injustices of Northern Ireland. If the Irish Republic had a second amendment in their constitution a) there would have been no need for an Irish Army and b) every Northern Nationalist could simply have toddled over the border to the gun shops of Muff and Newry and challenged the Northern Government to try and disarm them. Such a state of affairs would very soon have put manners on the Unionist government.

    I recall that Condoleeza Rice is in favour of gun ownership as she remembered her father and neighbours arming themselves for protection against white gangs back in the 1950’s. It has always been a mystery to me why more Southern Blacks didn’t avail of the opportunity granted to them by the Second Amendment.

  • Harry Flashman

    Dewi, if I understand you correctly you have my deepest sympathies and I am sure that of everyone here.

  • Dewi

    Thank you Harry but Dad still raging..

  • OC

    One part of my family still lives on land “patented” in 1701 to a Presbyterian family from Ulster with a Scottish last name.

    They preceded the great mass of Scotch-Irish who came in mid-1700’s.

    I would say that most Irish Presbyterians arrived in a soon-to-be-USA well before the creation of the Orange Order.

    Whist I can remember reading of fights breaking out between canal builders over Orange Order celebrations in the mid 1800’s, the largest disorder that I’m aware of was in New York City, called the Orange Riots of 1870 and 1871 (see chapter XXI) [note: should be called Anti-Orange Order Riots]

    1870 – In the basement of the Thirty-first Precinct station, on a low trestle bed, three bloody corpses were stretched, while the neighboring precincts were filled with the wounded. Two more died before morning.

    1871 – (I)t was decided that Superintendent Kelso should issue an order forbidding the Orangemen to parade…Processions of all kinds and nationalities were allowed on the streets, and to forbid only one, and that because it was Protestant, was an insult to every American citizen…Two of the police and military were killed, and twenty-four wounded; while of the rioters thirty-one were killed, and sixty-seven wounded–making in all one hundred and twenty-eight victims…To a casual observer, this calling out of seven hundred policemen and several regiments of soldiers, in order to let ninety men take a foolish promenade through a few streets, would seem a very absurd and useless display of the power of the city; and the killing of sixty or seventy men a heavy price to pay for such an amusement. But it was not ninety Orangemen only that those policemen and soldiers enclosed and shielded. They had in their keeping the laws and authority of the city, set at defiance by a mob, and also the principle of religious toleration and of equal rights, which were of more consequence than the lives of ten thousand men. The day when New York City allows itself to be dictated to by a mob, and Protestants not be permitted to march as such quietly through the streets, her prosperity and greatness will come to an end. The taking of life is a serious thing, but it is not to weigh a moment against the preservation of authority and the supremacy of the law…One thing should not be overlooked–the almost universal faithfulness of the Roman Catholic Irish police to their duty. In this, as well as in the draft riots, they have left a record of which, any city might he proud. To defend Protestant Irishmen against Roman Catholic friends and perhaps relatives, is a severe test of fidelity; but the Irish police have stood it nobly, and won the regard of all good citizens.

    BTW just north of NYC is Orange County.

    For a taste of proto-Bluegrass, a Scottish musical group “Battlefield Band” play several 16th Century songs that sound right out of Appalachia.

    An interesting book on the topic is “Apples On The Flood: Minority Discourse and Appalachia”

    I’ll conclude with a quote from an LA Times article,0,784394.column

    ‘As director John Waters said in 1994, talking trash about “white trash” is “the last racist thing you can say and get away with.” After all, there’s no political action committee for hillbillies.’

  • Harry Flashman

    *‘As director John Waters said in 1994, talking trash about “white trash” is “the last racist thing you can say and get away with.” After all, there’s no political action committee for hillbillies.’*

    I think you’ll find that it’s also permissible to be racist about the Cuban American community in Florida too.

  • OC

    You make my case, Harry.

    Perhaps you can be racist towards Cubans in Florida, but one can be racist towards hillbillies all over the USA, and apparently the whole isle of Ireland also!

  • HeadTheBall

    “…which they call an Eriach” (MR)

    Thank you Malcolm R. They do indeed, as I now recall from the legend of Clann Tuireann.

    I shall,henceforth, insist on “Eriach” regardless.

    Much obliged.

  • Greenflag

    UMH ,

    ‘Here I was trying to keep things light’

    I thought the FP manifesto was hilarious which is I why I replied in like manner. We may have here as the man said a failure to communicate.

  • Greenflag

    Dewi ,

    Sorry news -strength – remember the good times.

  • Greenflag

    Head the ball ,

    ‘When Dublin was founded by the Vikings about 1,000 years ago the feckin place must have been knee-deep in Erics, so why has the name not been “Irished”? ‘

    Why should it have to be Hibernicised ? Some names are fine as they are. I’ve no idea if there is an Irish for Cecil . In fact I hope not -it’s ghastly enough as it is 😉

    For the record some norse/danish were hibernicised . McAuliffe is Irish Gaelic for Son of Olaf and McLoughlin is Irish Gaelic for Son of Norway, also McIvor (son of Ivar) and probably more .

  • Dewi

    “I’ve no idea if there is an Irish for Cecil”

    Astonishingly enough that’s Welsh – “Seisyllt”

  • Greenflag

    harry flashman ,

    ‘We serfs in Europe’

    Northern Ireland has a public sector dependency factor of 70% making it the highest in the world bar North Korea but even so calling yourself a serf seems a little harsh . Calling 450 million people ‘serfs’ is indicative of A serf means one cannot leave one’s village or one who is tied to the land . I would remind you that Northern Ireland is well provided for with ferryports and airports and it’s inhabitants are not restricted from moving to other parts of the same or neighbouring island or for that matter to at least 25 other countries on the European continent .

    ‘You, despite your protestations to the contrary, prefer it that way, you like big government’

    What exactly does big government mean ? What does small government mean ?. Britain went through the Thatcher revolution with promised to reduce ‘Government ‘ expenditure as a percentage of GDP . By the time she left office it was back where it started . The only difference was that Britain had lost most of it’s manufacturing and engineering industries and coal mines . The same if not worse happened under Reagan in the USA . Both countries put the financial sectors of their economies at the top of their economic priority lists and expected deregulated ‘capital ‘ to do the rest . Well we now know how that worked out.

    ‘the main philosophical difference between us’

    I’m not into philosophy . I prefer to look at what the facts are and results as they happen regardless of ideology . The so called ‘cult’ of the individual taken to extremes is just as inimical to everyone’s security and prosperity as is all embracing State control whether it be of the right or the left . If any political or economic system strays too far from the limits imposed by our human nature then it will end up doing more harm than good . Totalitarian communism , and fascism /nazism have shown us just how much in recent history . The results of ‘red claw ‘ laissez faire capitalism are still being worked through but we can safely say that this ‘rooster’ will be somewhat more caged in in the future than in the recent past.

    And as to the ‘red claw rooster’ I’m reminded of the poultry scientist a man highly trained in genetics and evolution who carried out an experiment selecting for waht he thought was ‘productivity’. Chickens as you may know have always lived in groups and in the modern chicken farm are crammed into cages containing nine to twelve hens . In an effort to increase egg production the ‘expert’ tried selective breeding using two methods . Method one involved selecting the BEST individual hen layers from each cage to breed the next generation . Method two involved selecting All the hens from the best cages to breed the next generation.

    You might think that method one should work better after all it is ‘individuals’ who lay eggs and not groups and selecting the best individuals should work better than selecting the best groups which would of course have to include some non performing individuals.

    To cut a long story short the geneticist later presented his results at a scientific conference. The audience gasped as they saw the slide show of the results of method one -i.e the focus on the individual . After 6 generations of method one selection the cage contained not 9 hens but 3 the other 6 had been ‘murdered ‘ by the others and the 3 survivors had plucked each other during their incessant attacks on each other and were now nearly featherless. Egg production plummetted during the course of the experiment even though the most ‘productive ‘ individuals had been selected each and every generation . What happened ? The most ‘productive ‘ individuals had achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of their cagemates ‘ The geneticist had selected not jst the most productive but the most aggressive hens in each cage and after 6 generations had produced a ‘nation’ of psychopaths.

    The geneticist then showed the slides of the hens selected by method two . The cage contained 9 plump hens all fully featherd and all producing . egg production had increased dramatically during the course of the experiment .

    Of course human beings are not chickens but we are subject to our ‘natures’ . Those who favour the cult of the individual above all – run the risk of living in a sparsely populated poverty stricken universe minus their feathers .

  • Greenflag

    correction to above ; omission

    sentence should read

    Calling 450 million people ‘serfs’ is indicative of a failure to appreciate the very great advance that has been made within the EU over the past 50 years .

  • Greenflag

    dewi ,

    Latin apparently just like Patricius – Patrick it would seem.

    Is Seisyllt in frequent use as a Welsh first /last name ? If the final t in the welsh is not silent then I guess it would sound like ‘Seshilt’ . Sounds better than the anglicised version to my ears anyway 😉

    btw -Here’s the origin

    ‘Welsh (Monmouthshire): from the Old Welsh personal name Seisyllt, an altered form of the Latin name Sextilius, a derivative of Sextus meaning ‘sixth’. The spelling has been modified as a result of folk etymological association with the Latin name C(a)ecilius, a derivative of caecus ‘blind’.

  • Nice chicken story, Greenflag on Nov 25, 2008 @ 01:17 PM. I apologise in advance for the numerous times I shall doubtless recycle it.

    That fine son of Port Talbot, Clive Jenkins, was successively the dynamo of AScW, ASSET, and ASTMS. When the brothers could no longer ignore real talent by calling it “pushiness”, they let him be Chair of the TUC. He listed “organising the middle class” as his Who’s Who hobby. Above all, of his generation, he was one of the few in the Labour Movement who worked out how to exploit television.

    To the point:

    Clive’s story about modern capitalism involved the factory that was automated. Total employees were reduced to a man and a dog. The man was there to feed and exercise the dog. The dog was there to make sure the man did not interfere with the machinery.

    But, of course, that was when Britain still made stuff.

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow –

    The ‘chicken story ‘ is from the chapter ‘Be careful what you wish for’ in ‘Evolution for Everyone’ – David Sloan Wilson , Prof of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University, NY. He also wrote Darwin’s Cathedral. Feel free to use the story but any extrapolation of said chicken story to the ‘human’ economic and political condition in Northern Ireland or elsewhere you undertake at your own peril 😉

    ‘But, of course, that was when Britain still made stuff.’

    And now it’s the Chinese who make the stuff or did up to a few weeks ago . I wonder who’ll be next ? As the world or most of it levels out or so they say then the old fallacy of composition snag will raise it’s head . Everybody can’t make stuff but everybody needs enough stuff to keep the orb going around so that we don’t eat each other ?

    I read President Obama’s economists and many others are working on this major issue which has world wide import for all of us . The gypsy fortune tellers have been stunned into silence for now, alas 🙁

    I remember Clive Jenkins as an abrasive union representative of UK wide reknown . I guess anybody who spends a lifetime in union representation and on state boards and committtees can be forgiven for disappearing to St Helen’s in Tasmania to run a B & B on retirement . Now that’s a move that bespoke a sense of humour 😉 He returned to the UK before he passed away in 1999 .

  • Dewi

    “Is Seisyllt in frequent use as a Welsh first /last name ?”

    Not common but used rhymes with Dice Tilt (but with the “ll” intead of l……

  • Greenflag


    where did the S of Seis go when it was replaced by the D of dice ?

    Is it Dishklit instead of Seshklit ?

    When try to pronounce Welsh from looking at it I feel like this American _Des Bishop trying to understand Dublinese i.e where do some of the letters go ? Mind you he also had some difficulty with the Modh Coinniallach (the conditional and subjunctive mood in Irish verbs) now that was hilarious .

    But this skit’s in ‘near ‘ english as the Yank takes the piss out of Bush , Bertie and the rest of us :).

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [u]The ‘Scotch-Irish’ in America[/u]

    why do the Ulster people always have to put up with outsiders dictating their identity? The Romans labeled us when they as a nation were crippled and the names stuck, now the crippled American nation is doing the exact same. Why can’t the Ulster people decide what to call themselves in stead of some trans-at-Atlantic- gobledegook as Scotch-Irish or Scots-Irish?

    where’s your Ulster identity, Gael and Scot? Are you going to allow a crippling nation like America dictate who you are? are you not proud of your Ulster Gaelic identity, your Ulster-Scot identity?

    Your identity is our identity, it doesn’t belong to a crippling power like America. Home is where the heart is!

  • RepublicanStones

    Anyone got a violin lads?

  • Dewi

    “where did the S of Seis go when it was replaced by the D of dice”

    Just said it rhymed mun. S is still there

    “Why can’t the Ulster people decide what to call themselves”

    So what do u call yourselves UMH?