Throughout the 1600s, the English government encouraged the move of lowland Scots, Welsh and the northern English–Protestants all—to “Ulster Plantation” in the north of Ireland, in the hopes of some influence and balance over the independent, Catholic Irish. In Scotland, Highlanders and Lowland Scots were also leery of each other, separated by many cultural ideas as well as religion over multiple centuries. Indeed, all British history is spattered with the blood of religious animosity—quite obvious in the Tudor period.
|From "Free Printable Maps.com" here is today's United Kingdom.|
Starting around 1718, large scale numbers of Scotch-Irish left northern Ireland for the new world. (At this time, they referred to themselves as Irish, but the term changed to Scotch-Irish when, a century later Catholic Irish Immigration began to surge, heightened during the famous Potato Famine in the 1840s.) The Scotch-Irish Protestants settled well in North America, flourishing in their new freedoms and kept the traditions of strong work ethic and education. But few welcomed their Catholic peers from Scotland and Ireland with open arms. The Irish were one of the most poorly treated immigrant groups ‘welcomed’ to the new world, due in part to the earlier establishment of their Protestant countrymen.
Back home in 18th century Scotland, the north still held to its ways of clan society and the wearing of kilts until these practices were made illegal after the failed Jacobite Rebellion (the hope of putting a Catholic King back on the throne and disposing of the Protestant one) in 1745. Tartan was banned and families were forced off their own land, branded traitors to the English King. It wasn’t until 1782, almost 40 years later, that King George reinstated the right for Highlanders to wear Tartan—no doubt, a purely political move.
Ironically, all Scots regiments serving in the British Army were outfitted in kilts throughout this time.
The Scotch Irish in America comprised 40% of the Continental Army. Not surprising, when their immigration numbers are estimated at 25-40,000 in the 18th century. Most welcomed the chance to fight against Britain, or more specifically the English King. Even so, many leaned toward the Tory side and moved to a more loyal Canada.
Around the turn of the 19th century, the continued policy of ‘The Scottish Clearances’ included both northern Catholics and lowland Protestants and flamed a surprising new alignment of nationalism between the two based on little more than hatred of the English.
Those early 19th century abuses sent a huge number of Gaelic speaking Catholics to the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia, mid-Atlantic America, and North Carolina in particular. Many settled north of Lake Ontario and made up the Glengarry district whose men formed one of the toughest British regiments to fight in the War of 1812.
Many North Americans don’t understand the significant influence of these two Celtic countries on our histories, or the unsettled religious history. An estimated 27 million Americans are descendants of those Protestant Scotch-Irish alone! Thankfully, the "new world" eventually allowed old animosities to fade enough that Catholics and Protestants today prefer to celebrate a combined Celtic heritage.
The Scotland of today is more united under the ideal of the independent Scot--represented by the Highlander, the wearing of Tartans, the kilt, and renewed interest in the Gaelic language, and as always, their hesitance to be ruled from beyond their border. (Ironically, it was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's love of the land and its wild history that prompted a resurgence in the use of the kilt and tartan!)
In Northern Ireland (remember it is part of the United Kingdom and not the same as the country of Ireland!) those referred to in North America as the Scotch-Irish are called Ulster Irish, or more loosely, ‘the Orange’. Unfortunately, the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland became synonymous with the animosity between Catholics and Protestants. Those same Scotch-Irish and Irish who left for the new world found its ‘melting-pot’ mindset brought them more easily to reconciliation.
So that's just a wee bit of the Celtic history shared by many of us in the 'new world. I hope you've enjoyed it or learned something new. What's your tie to this particular emigration? If none, what surprises you most about their history?
For myself, I have yet to find any ancestry outside of Great Britain. It's not a big place geographically but bursts with fascinating history.