From Ulster Scots to Scots- Irish, the Odyssey of a People from the Old World to the New.

Ulster Scots, the Irish and English and Their beginnings in the New World.

” Go West and Prosper!”

In the beginning..


Ah! The Ulster Scots. They came from the Borders and from the Lowlands of Scotland. They also came out of Northwestern England. Their land was a harsh one, not easily farmed.  Therefore, they had to find alternative methods of fund- raising. Some of those methods involved cattle- raiding and holding hostages for ransom. Travel in those areas was obviously extremely risky and the turbulence of the area was a headache to the
Kings of Scotland and England alike. The farmer- warriors of this area owed fealty to none save their own clan, their own people. The governments of
Edinburgh and London meant little to them, at least until a certain king lured them away with the promise of a better life.




” Rather disruptive to trade, isn’t it?”

Sign of the Celtic Cross




In 1607, King James of the House of Stuart, who united the thrones of England and Scotland in his own person, decided to solve two headaches with one royal ad campaign. The first headache was that already mentioned, the borderlands’ state of nearly constant conflict and the second headache had to do with the state of the nascent
British Empire in the equally turbulent ( and far larger) area of Ireland. Since the Anglo- Normans had been assimilated into the broader Gaelic society in Ireland, the English ( now British) Crown had encountered fierce resistance to its authority. Ethnic and now religious differences separated the Catholic Irish from the Anglican government in London.

  2. Diggin Historic


From infertile crags and barren hills to the Emerald Isle they came..
celtic cross
An event known as the Flight of the Earls in the last years of the sixteenth century saw a mass migration of Catholic Irish depart Ulster for Europe. They were  led by Hugh O’ Neill and Rory O’ Donnell, chiefs of two of what were the most powerful clans in the north of
Ireland. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and its aftermath made King James I quite wary of Catholic motives. He saw in Ulster a chance to lessen the troubles happening in the Border regions. He also saw a chance to plant loyally Protestant settlers in a largely Catholic area. So, he advertised the availability of land in Ireland to people whose own land had been spent long since. In many cases, these faithful Presbyterians were joined by their ministers as they made the short trek over the Irish Sea to Ulster.



” Fine, we’ll leave!”



The seventeenth century indelibly impressed on the minds of the Ulster Scots both their advantages and disadvantages. Yes, Calvinists settled among their ranks, English Puritans and French Huguenots augmented their numbers and provided their skills. They were also targets for restrictive laws by Anglicans for their status as Dissenters and resentment for the Catholic Irish who they displaced. The Siege of Derry saw the forces of the recently ousted Stuart Dynasty surround and very nearly starve out the city of Londonderry before King William and his army lifted the siege and forced King James II to flee back to Europe. The laws continued to the disadvantages of the Ulster Scots, who could trade with only England and found their ability to compete with English merchants severely curtailed.


Around the beginning of the eighteenth century, the established colonies of the New World started to look more appealing to these beleaguered Ulster Scots.. thanks in large part to the mercantilistic laws of the colonial government.

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The Colonies proved irresistible to the enterprising families who wanted to make a better life for themselves. Hundreds of them sailed to the New World. Beginning in 1718, the Ulster Scots migration became a flood of people who frightened the already settled Colonists that they would be overrun ( and the British authorities that Ireland would be emptied out). These Ulster Scots did not linger long in the cities, but were encouraged to move west. There, they were promised land. Their reputation as fighters had preceded them and the colonial administrators were counting on using these settlers as a buffer. The hope was that they could keep the
American Indians out in the frontier from raiding the established settlements closer to the coast. These Scots who had lived in Ireland for a couple of generations acquired the moniker ” Scotch- Irish,” later to be called ” Scots- Irish” in the Thirteen Colonies.


” We’re here and we’re not going anywhere!”


They were indeed fierce fighters. In fact,  they were among those who most cheerfully engaged in the American Revolution when the American Colonists decided to part ways with Great Britain in 1776. They were a root ethnic stock in the
Appalachian Mountains, who formed a core for that culture. At first, most of these settlers were Presbyterian by faith, but as time went on and the Second Great Awakening swept through the new country of the United States, they joined Baptist and Methodist denominations. Some, of course, retained their Presbyterian faith



To conclude, the Scots- Irish  pursued one dream after another to better their lot, often with dramatic results. They had their hands and their faith to guide them through times of exceptional difficulties.
The principles of family, faith and the rewards that come with hard work and set determination remain prevalent among these people and their descendants to this very day.