1. The Scots-Irish as indigenous people By Razib Khan
2. How the Scots-Irish Came to America (And What They Brought With Them)
3. Irish Story-Telling, how-the-irish-lost-their-words, By Rory Boland
1. The Scots-Irish as indigenous people By Razib Khan
Craig White commented:
These people have very Hebraic characteristics from all that I have observed and read. In particular read the book "God's Frontiersmen."
The Scots-Irish as indigenous people
By Razib Khan
In traveling across America, the Scots Irish have consistently blown my mind as far and away the most persistent and unchanging regional subculture in the country. Their family structures, religion and politics, and social lives all remain unchanged compared to the wholesale abandonment of tradition that's occurred nearly everywhere else.
If you are not aware (e.g., you are not American) the Scots-Irish in this context refers to a melange of peoples who emigrated to the New World from Ireland and the border region between Scotland and England in the middle of the 1700s. These were not Catholic Irish, or Gaelic speaking Highlanders. Rather, they were tough Presbyterian Protestants, whose cousins still remain committed to their distinctive identity in Ulster in Northern Ireland. They arrived to the port of Philadelphia, and spread south via the spine of the Appalachians. Many of the traits that non-Americans perceive as 'Yankee' are ironically those of Scots-Irish, who were most certainly not Yankees (i.e., Puritan New Englanders). The Scots-Irish were the prototypical cowboys, pushing into the Appalachian wilderness despite the attempts of the British crown to restrain them.
Though the Scots-Irish are not 'Pilgrim stock' in their length residence on the American continent, the majority were not immigrants to the United States, they were settlers of the American colonies. Their's was part of the founding culture of the United States, and it still leaves its stamp on our society in its politics and mores, for good or ill (that depends on your perspective!). But one aspect of Scots-Irish identity is that to a great extent it has decoupled itself from any 'Old Country' consciousness. A broad swath of the Eastern American Uplands is dominated by people who give their ethnicity as American. After 250 years they have only the vaguest recollections of the nature of their British antecedents.
In Ornamentalism David Cannadine makes the case that the British saw their Empire through the lens of class as much, or more than, race. Though one can quibble with the magnitude of Cannadine's argument, I think one must grant that it is part of the picture, if not the whole picture. The importance of class in England, and more or less in Europe as a whole, is contrasted with its relatively lower salience in the United States. Why? One can make a classic materialist argument that in a labor scarcity-land surplus regime which characterized the early American republic the ossified class systems of the Old World simply could not develop. But another aspect which must be acknowledged is that the early American republic also saw the emergence of a white man's republic, where implicit white identity gave way to the expansion of suffrage to non-property holding white males as a natural right, and the revocation of what suffrage existed for non-whites based on their racial character. The Scots-Irish were a major part of this cultural evolution, being as they were generally part of the broad non-slave holding class in the South and Border States. Though they may not have had the wealth of lowland planters, the Scots-Irish were part of the aristocracy of skin.
This position of Scots-Irish as part of the aristocracy of race and white skin privilege leads to perverse situations. It is true that Scots-Irish Americans are arguably among the more racist white ethnic groups. But this reality can easily be mitigated by a Marxist explanation of their relative lack of economic privilege. How many people would guess that the poorest county in America is 99% non-Hispanic white? But this amelioration of contempt for the retrograde attitudes of poor whites on the part of elites is blocked in part by the racialized consensus of the 19th century which served to uplift the Scots-Irish! As I have noted before, the 21st narrative of white privilege is in many ways simply a normative inversion of the 19th century narrative of white supremacy.
All this leads to the strangeness of American in 2012 which might perplex outsiders. For example, Malia Obama, the daughter of two individuals with law degrees from Harvard, would be able to benefit from affirmative action,* because she lacks white skin privilege. In contrast, the child of a poor family from Appalachia who was white would not gain any preference, because by their nature as a white person they had the right of white skin privileged from which they benefited. You might assert here that there are points in favor for geographic and class diversity at elites schools. But from what I have read Thomas Espenshade's work shows that elite universities tend to discriminate against rural and lower class whites (as well as Asians) to maintain diversity through admissions of sufficient numbers blacks and Hispanics. Note: well connected whites with high socioeconomic statuses are doing fine under the current dispensation. Unfortunately, non-elite whites have contributed to their own situation via the construction of the racial republic in the 19th century, which has now been turned upside down to their disadvantage.
2. How the Scots-Irish Came to America (And What They Brought With Them)
In the summer of 1718, five ships of Scots-Irish immigrants from Ulster arrived in Boston to an uncertain welcome. The Puritan leaders sympathized with their fellow Protestants who also endured Anglican intolerance. But the newcomers came from an impoverished land, and whether they could support themselves was an open question.
Cotton Mather wrote in his diary:
But what shall be done for the great number of people that are transporting themselves thither from ye North of Ireland?
Had he known that they brought seed potatoes for the first potato patch in America, he might have been more sanguine about their arrival.
Worse Than Peasants in Germany
Times were hard in Ireland during the winter of 1717-18. A harsh winter followed bad harvests, and smallpox and fever raged.
Jonathan Swift wrote that travelers to Ireland 'will hardly think himself in a land where law, religion, or common humanity is professed.' He blamed rapacious landlords, 'who by screwing or racking their tenants had reduced the people to a worse condition than the peasants in Germany and Poland.'
The Scots who had settled in Ulster beginning more than a century earlier were known as the Ulster Scots-Irish, or the Ulster Presbyterians. They were squeezed between hostile Irish Catholics and the Anglican Church, which forced them to pay tithes, but didn't allow them to hold official positions.
In the spring of 1718 the Rev. William Boyd was sent from Ulster to Massachusetts to ask for land for Scots-Irish families. He brought a petition signed by the heads of 319 families, all but four of whom could sign their names. Gov. Samuel Shute was open to the idea. He envisioned Scots-Irish pioneers settling on the frontiers of Maine and New Hampshire, buffering the colony from French and Indians. They also had the support of the Revs. Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewall, who sympathized with their fellow Calvinists. Others were not so pleased by their arrival.
Five or six ships carrying Scots-Irish families arrived in Boston during the summer of 1718. Some of them came as congregations led by clergymen. The Rev. James McGregor was one of their leaders. Before they left, he delivered a farewell sermon emphasizing that they had been persecuted for their religion.
They were fleeing Ireland, he said, "to avoid oppression and to have an opportunity of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of His Inspired Word."
The first ship probably arrived on July 28, 1718, according to Charles Knowles Bolton in Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America.
For years Nutfield was disputed territory between New Hampshire and Maine. What is not disputed is that McGregor planted the first potatoes in America. He brought seed potatoes from Ireland and planted them in Londonderry Common Ground in what is now Derry. They are acknowledged to be the first potatoes planted in the United States.
Londonderry became the Scots-Irish mother town, spawning new settlements in New Hampshire. According to one estimate, the Scots-Irish made up 10 percent of New Hampshire's population in the 18th century.
It isn't certain when the other ships sailed into Boston that summer. They were the William and Mary, the McCallum, the William and Elizabeth and the Mary and Elizabeth.
The Ulster Scots-Irish stayed in Boston for a time, then moved to the frontier, voluntarily or not. In 1720, an ordinance passed in Boston ordering 'certain families arriving from Ireland to move off.' In 1723, immigrants from Ulster were ordered to register with Boston selectmen.
Fifty families moved to Worcester, where they formed a Presbyterian church. Puritan resentment against them flared in 1738, when their church was burned down.
More Scots Irish arrived in 1720-21, including Ocean Born Mary. They thrived in the frontier towns, and along with the Scots and Huguenots may have comprised 10 percent of the white population of the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 18th century.
Today, many place names in Maine and New Hampshire reflect their Scots-Irish roots: Derry, Antrim and Londonderry, N.H.; Belfast and Limerick, Maine; Colrain, Mass.; and Londonderry, Vt. (Maine today ranks seventh in the percentage of residents of Scots-Irish descent.)
3. Irish Story-Telling
New storytelling groups are reintroducing the Irish to ancient myths and the art of blarney.
By Rory Boland
23 May 2016
I always knew my Uncle Peter was setting up for a story when he'd lean back in his bar stool. Nothing dramatic, nothing too flashy, just a gentle recline, always followed by a more determined pushing away of his half-drunk pint of Harp and a wipe of the whiskers. Stage set, audience warned, he'd begin by saying 'C'mere 'till I tell you.' By the time that pint of Harp was drained, half the pub would be leaning in to listen and laugh.
The stories he told were the everyday made interesting. They were anecdotes about the butcher or the bus driver, or a screaming match at the end of the street. Every story was true, but embellished each time it was told; embroidered to make the story more entertaining. It's a way of telling stories that is very Irish. You probably know it better as blarney.
Jack Lynch prefers to call them 'tall tales'. As the Chair of Aos Sceal Eireann, or Storytellers of Ireland, Lynch is the man charged with getting the Irish talking again. Incredibly, it seems that we had stopped.
"Many Irish people would have memories such as yours, listening to stories in pubs or living rooms told by aunts and uncles or friends," Lynch said. "But they are just that 'memories.' Storytelling is seen as an experience from the past."
The story of Irish storytelling's decline is very much the story of the seancha.
The seancha were Ireland's original storytellers, travelling from village to village to tell tales. Lynch described them as 'reporters, entertainers and historians' rolled into one. While specialising in the swashbuckling myths of Cu Chulainn or Fionn mac Cumhaill, they also recorded and passed on local history, and crucially for Ireland's rural communities, were a link to local goings on. It was the seancha's skill in making the everyday interesting that brought the Irish to blarney.
Listening to the seancha was an oral tradition that stretched back to the times of Gaelic chieftains. But by the 1950s, it was starting to disappear. "Ultimately, radio and then television displaced the storyteller," Lynch said. "There just wasn't the audience for them anymore." Today, with everything from the local news to the latest Scandinavian thriller available at the press of a button on your phone, the seancha's 1,000-year story looks set to come to a close.
.... Lynch strode into the middle of the cafe and launched into a welcome. He told a traditional Irish folk tale, his eyes pinched closed as he swayed and paced while speaking. There was a comforting rhythm to the story, stretches that required concentration but also funny asides. If the initial quiet from the crowd was borne of politeness, by the time the story swung to a halt there were two-dozen heads craning in to listen and seats being shuffled to get a better view.
More storytellers followed. There were heroic myths and fighting faeries, but also local history. Seosamh, Maolala's account of the 5th Battalion North Dublin volunteers and their part in the 1916 Easter Uprising was especially poignant. Told just days before the 100th anniversary of the rebellion that put Ireland on a painful path to independence, heads bowed and hands clasped during this story of Irishmen fighting Irishmen.
Afterwards I asked Lynch if events like this are a sign of a revival in Irish storytelling. He grinned. "It's not a revival," he said, "because storytelling in Ireland was never quite dead. But interest is growing again."