Ulster Scots people: Wikis


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John Ballance · Earl Cairns · Francis Hutcheson
Total population
worldwide population
Regions with significant populations
Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland

English · Ulster Scots · Scots · Irish


Protestant - Presbyterianism · Church of Ireland · Methodist Church in Ireland

Related ethnic groups

Scottish · Irish · Welsh · English

Ulster-Scots are an ethnic group in Ireland, descended from mainly Lowland Scots who settled in the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. The term Ulster-Scots refers to both the Scottish Presbyterian settlers of the 17th century and, less commonly, to the gallowglass who arrived from what is now northwest Scotland centuries prior to the Scottish Reformation. Settlement of the former first began in large numbers with the Plantation of Ulster, a planned process of colonization which took place in the reign of James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Ulster-Scots were largely descended from immigrants from Galloway, Ayrshire, and the Scottish Borders Country, although some descend from people further north in the Scottish Lowlands and the Highlands. Ulster-Scots emigrated in significant numbers to the United States and all corners of the then-worldwide British EmpireCanada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa — and to a lesser extent to Argentina and Chile in South America. Scotch-Irish is a traditional term for Ulster Scots who later emigrated to what is now the United States; "Scots-Irish" is a more recent form of the American term[1], and is not to be confused with Irish-Scots, i.e., recent Irish immigrants to Scotland.




Early development

Provincial flag of Ulster.

Although population movement of Gaels to and from the northeast of Ireland and the west of Scotland had been on-going since pre-historic times, a class of warriors from the west of what is now Scotland fought in significant numbers as mercenaries for Irish kings from the mid 13th century to the end of the 16th century. These were known as gallowglass, from the Irish for "foreign gaels", referring to their mixed Norse and Gaelic heritage. Many settled in Ireland at the conclusion of their service. The next major influx of Scots was a concentrated migration of Lowland Scots to Ulster, mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The first major influx of Lowland Scots into Ulster came in the first two decades of the 17th century. Starting in 1609, Scots began arriving into state-sponsored settlements as part of the Plantation of Ulster. This scheme was intended to confiscate all the lands of the Gaelic Irish nobility in Ulster and to settle the province with Protestant English and Scottish colonists. Under this scheme, a substantial number of Scots were settled, mostly in the south and west of Ulster, on confiscated land.

At the same time, there was an independent Scottish settlement in the east of the province, which had not been affected by the terms of the plantation. In east Down and Antrim, Scottish migration was led by James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, two Ayrshire lairds. This started in May 1606 and was followed in 1610.

During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the native Irish gentry attempted to expel the English and Scottish settlers, resulting in severe violence, massacres and ultimately leading to the deaths of between four and six thousand settlers over the winter of 1641-42.[2] Native Irish civilians were massacred in kind.[3]

The Ulster-Scottish population in Ireland was further augmented during the subsequent Irish Confederate Wars, when a Scottish Covenanter army was landed in the province to protect the Ulster-Scottish settlers from native Irish landowners. After the war was over, many of the of their soldiers settled permanently in eastern Ulster.[4] The war itself, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, ended in the 1650s, with the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. At the head of the army, Oliver Cromwell re-conquered Ireland. Defeating the native Irish forces on behalf of the English Commonwealth, he and his forces employed methods and inflicted casualties among the civilian Irish population that were long commonly considered by historians and the popular culture to be outside of the accepted military ethics of the day (see more on the debate here). Under the Act of Settlement 1652, all Catholic-owned land was confiscated and the Plantations, which had been destroyed by the rebellion of 1641, were restored. However, due to the Scots' enmity to the English Parliament in the final stages of the English Civil War, English settlers rather than Scots were the main beneficiary of this scheme.

There was a generation of calm in Ireland until another war broke out in 1689, again due to political conflict closely aligned with ethnic and religious differences. The Williamite war in Ireland (1689-91) was fought between Jacobites who supported the restoration of the Catholic James II to the throne of England and Williamites who supported the Protestant William of Orange. The Protestant Ulster community, including the Scots, fought on the Williamite side in the war against Irish Catholics and their French allies. The fear of a repeat of the massacres of 1641, religious persecution under a Catholic monarch, as well as their wish to hold onto lands which had been confiscated from Catholic landowners, were all principal motivating factors.

The Williamite forces, composed of British, Dutch and Danish armies as well as troops raised in Ulster, ended Jacobite resistance by 1691, confirming the Protestant monopoly on power in Ireland. Their victories at Derry, the Boyne and Aughrim are still commemorated by the Orange Order today, because the Irish Protestant mythos maintains they had saved their community from annihilation or exile at the hands of the Jacobites.

Finally, another major influx of Scots into northern Ireland occurred in the late 1690s, when tens of thousands of people fled a famine in Scotland to come to Ulster.[5]

It was only after the 1690s that Scottish settlers and their descendants, the majority of whom were Presbyterian, gained numeric superiority in Ulster. Along with Catholic Irish, they were legally disadvantaged by the Penal Laws, which gave full rights only to members of the state church (the Church of Ireland), who were mainly the descendants of English settlers and native converts. For this reason, up until the end of the 19th century, there was considerable disharmony between Dissenters and the ruling Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. With the enforcement of Queen Anne's 1703 Test Act, which caused further discrimination against all who did not participate in the established church, considerable numbers of Ulster-Scots migrated to the colonies in British America throughout the 18th century.

Towards the end of the 18th century many Ulster-Scots Presbyterians ignored religious differences and, along with many Catholic Irish, joined the United Irishmen and participated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in support of republican and egalitarian ideals.

1800 - Present

Scotch-Irish / Ulster Scots

Andrew Jackson a President of the United States was of Scotch-Irish extraction.

Just a few generations after arriving in Ulster, considerable numbers of Ulster-Scots emigrated to the North American colonies of Great Britain. Between 1717 and 1775, an estimated 200,000 migrated to what became the United States of America.[6] In the United States Census of 2000, 4.3 million Americans (1.5% of the population of the United States) claimed Scotch-Irish ancestry. The author Jim Webb suggests that the true number of people with some Scotch-Irish heritage in the United States is more in the region of 27 million[7][8][9]. Two possible reasons have been suggested for the disparity of the figures of the census and the estimation. Modern Americans with some Scotch-Irish heritage may quite often regard themselves as simply having either Irish ancestry (which 10.8% of Americans reported) or Scottish ancestry (reported by 4.9 million or 1.7% of the total population).


Because of the large scale intermingling of the Ulster Scots population with both its native Scotland and acquired Irish, it is difficult to define distinct aspects of Ulster Scots that would distinguish it from either. An example of this being that the Ulster Scots Agency itself points to many of its cultural icons as being from either the Scottish lowlands or from Ireland.


Ulster Scots, the local dialect of Lowland Scots, which has, since the 1980s, also been called 'Ullans', a portmanteau neologism popularized by the physician, amateur historian and politician Dr Ian Adamson[10], merging Ulster and Lallans - the Scots for Lowlands[11]- but also an acronym for "Ulster-Scots language in literature and native speech".[12]


In music, there is believed to be a distinguishable line between the cultures of the native Irish and the Ulster-Scots living in Ireland. In Ireland the traditional music is focused around the 'session' or until the 1990s, 'kitchen session'. This is a regular meeting, often weekly, and is marked by informal arrangement of both musicians and audience, although Irish traditional music is one of the most influential types of music known to the modern world, and can be heard in some of the Ulster Scots music and in Country and Appalachian musics. Protestant Scottish traditional music is sometimes similar to Irish and Scottish Gaelic-centred music, in that it is usually informal. A popular example Protestant Ulster-Scots musical events is the marching bands. Here a formal and organised structure is more obvious. Although they play less frequently, these bands meet regularly in community halls to tune their instruments and to practice popular tunes and songs. The strong Scottish Unionist roots of the Ulster-Scots musical scene is evident through the continuing celebrations during the Marching Season, which has caused much controversy in Northern Ireland.

Intermingling and intermarriage in Ulster

A question that has been raised by many historians about the Ulster-Scots is the question of intermingling and more importantly, intermarriage between the native Irish and the incoming Scots. However others contest such claims.

Pádraig Ó Snodaigh, author of the book Hidden Ulster, Protestants and the Irish language, states that many of the settlers came from Gaelic speaking areas in Scotland and thus would have culturally meshed well with their new neighbours. Also he states that church records show that by 1716 close to ten percent of ministers in Ulster preached in Gaelic. He claims that such cultural and geographic affinity would have produced numerous conversions and also marriages.[13] In addition James G. Leyburn, author of The Scotch-Irish: A social history, quotes James Reid, a historian of the Irish Presbyterian Church in 1853, that when the marriage ban was lifted in 1610 that it was a "great joy to all parties". However Professor Leyburn examines both sides of the intermixture debate in Chapter 10 "Intermarriage with the Irish" where after examination of both viewpoints, ends the chapter by giving his own view of the matter:

"If one must give his verdict, the weight of evidence seems to be on the side of little intermixture. The Scotch-Irish, as they came to be known in America, were overwhelmingly Scottish in ancestry and Presbyterian in faith. To the extent that occasional intermarriage occurred, the Irish partner seems almost invariably to have been absorbed into the Presbyterian element."[14]

James Woodburn, in his book, The Ulster-Scot: His history and Religion, states that the Scots and Irish "commonly intermarried". The Handbook to the Ulster Question states how the English politicians were quite perturbed how the Scots were ready enough to intermarry with the Irish.[citation needed] Each of these authors have shown sufficient evidence in their claims.

See also


  1. ^ The term has usually been Scotch-Irish in America, as evident in Merriam-Webster dictionaries, where the term Scotch-Irish is recorded from 1744, while Scots-Irish is not recorded until 1972. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scotch-irish, and http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scots-irish
  2. ^ Patrick Macrory, The Siege of Derry, Oxford University Press, 1980, pgs 97-98
  3. ^ Jane Kenyon, Jane Ohlmeyer, The Civil Wars, A military History of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638-1660, p.74
  4. ^ Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 562
  5. ^ [1][2]
  6. ^ Fischer, David Hackett, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America Oxford University Press, USA (March 14, 1989), pg. 606; Rouse, Parke Jr., The Great Wagon Road, Dietz Press, 2004, pg. 32, and Leyburn, James G., The Scotch-Irish: A Social History, Univ of NC Press, 1962, pg. 180.
  7. ^ Why You Need To Know The Scotch-Irish
  8. ^ Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
  9. ^ Scots-Irish By Alister McReynolds, writer and lecturer in Ulster-Scots studies
  10. ^ Falconer G. (2006) The Scots Tradition in Ulster, Scottish studies review, Vol. 7, Nº 2. p.97
  11. ^ Hickey R. (2004) A Sound Atlas of Irish English. Walter de Gruyter. p.156
  12. ^ Tymoczko M. & Ireland C.A. (2003) Language and Tradition in Ireland: Continuities and Displacements, Univ of Massachusetts Press. p.159
  13. ^ Padraigh O'Snodaigh. Hidden Ulster, Protestants and the Irish language, Lagan Press, Belfast (1995)
  14. ^ Leyburn, James G. The Scotch-Irish, A social history University of North Carolina Press, (1962)

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