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What Does "scot-Irish" Really Mean?


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#1 The Amadan

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 06:26 PM

John Carrick posed an interesting point for discussion: "Its helpful to understand how the Scots and the Irish get conflated over there because they are distinct nations over here"

'Tis true - we often hear the term "Scot-Irish" used, in American vernacular. (Heck, I have it in my signature!)(In my case, my mother's lineage is Scottish, while my father's is Irish)

I have some thoughts on this, and when I have a bit more time, would like to elaborate.

So, what's your "take", on the subject?
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#2 Raptor

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 07:07 PM

Although Joe refers to herself as Irish, if she's being particular about it, she calls herself an "Ulster Scot". Her family relocated to Ulster during the '42. We view ourselves as two distinct nations, & it's worth remembering that, even though they may be similar, even the Gaelic is different. Another way of putting it: although the Glaswegians are predominantly of Irish descent, ask a native of Glasgow if he's Irish & watch the reaction.

We recognise each other as Celts, but saying we're the same is like comparing the Welsh to the Southern French (both ALSO Celts). I can only assume the confusion has arisen due to the large numbers of Ulster Scots, & Lowland Irish respectively. There are large numbers of Italian immigrants in the US, as well as many of Middle Eastern extraction. Do people assume they are the same nationality? Nope!
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#3 Grendelmor

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:05 PM

It is my understanding that the Scots-Irish name was given to the descendants of the Scottish peoples that were transplanted into Ireland after their land was confiscated and given over to British royals. They were given land in northern Eire (Ulster) that the English had taken from the Irish. The Brits were set on dominating the Isles, and this was one of the many ways that they tried to get into the heads of both the Scots and the Irish. The idea was to break their spirits on their way to being conquered.

Because of this, I really have no way of knowing for sure if my ancestors were really Irish, or Scots-Irish. My last name is Moore (Irish-O'Mordha, Scottish-Muir), and the Irish clan had holdings around co. Antrim, in Ulster. My dads' family migrated to this country from Antrim, Ireland, so I claim Irish descent, but, since I can't find anything past 2nd gen. in Ireland, it could go either way...

That being said, it is also widely accepted that the Muirs are descended from the O'Mordhas centuries earlier, so either way, we turn out to be Irish in the end.
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#4 Chris Webb

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:24 PM

The difference between Scots and Irish is a bit like the difference between Texans and Oklahomans ... same folks, just more PRIDE. :lol: Most Oklahomans don't get upset if they happen to be mistaken for a Texan, but let the same thing happen to a Texan and BANG, the six shooter is liable to come out. But to everyone else outside of Texas and Oklahoma, well, we're all just a bunch of dusty, southern drawlin' cowpokes, Tex-Okie, I suppose.

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#5 Rob Soderman

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 09:21 PM

It's just one of those contradictions that exist in life. Like Starburst candy...






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#6 Spartan

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 09:38 PM

My understanding is like that of Grendelmor. The term Scots-Irish is a technical term that refers to a specific group of Scots who were transported to Ireland by the British forming the Ulster Plantation. Not an entirely happy situation for anyone, except, maybe the English. A large number of this group emigrated to the North America during the Colonial period, particularly into Pennsylvania. They were invited in to populate the frontier as an interface with the Indians. They had more in common with the tribal culture of the Native Americans than with those who populated to coast line of the colonies. They ended up populating South through the Appalachians. This had a significant historical effect in the United States. They formed a lot of the fighting forces during the American Revolution, especially considering their dislike for the English. They have been a consistent backbone of the American military and include such notables as General MacArthur. Their music, linked to Irish folk music is also the foundation for Appalachian folk music, Country Western music and Elvis Presley.

A very readable book is Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by James Webb, former Secretary of the Navy and Senator from Virginia. See Born Fighting

Some more snobbish IMO refer to themselves as Scotch-Irish, but IMO Scotch is only good for drinking.

My line of the Clark family is likely Scots-Irish, coming through Ohio and Indiana, but I don't have genealogical proof. Clark is itself is both an Irish and a Scottish name. Ó Cléirigh in Irish Gaelic. I also have O'Rouke's in my family tree as well as McRae's. However, if you go back far enough the MacRae's were 13th century Irish missionaries to Scotland. The fact that I have both Scots and Irish in my family tree doesn't make me Scots-Irish. To be Scots-Irish, as I understand it, is to be descendant from those Scots who were transplanted to Ireland (exile). It actually is a large group of people in the U.S. (I also have a bunch of Welsh and English in the family tree as well.)

#7 Seanachie

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 10:37 PM

We view ourselves as two distinct nations, & it's worth remembering that, even though they may be similar, even the Gaelic is different.


That is very true, I will walk carefully and not get politcal but this issue has been a sticking point and raised some heated moments in the Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann in Irish or if you prefer Scots Gaelic: Norlin Airlann Semmlie (although in checking my spelling, I see 3 different Scots Gaelic names) or the Northern Irish Assembly that is part of the devolved Government that meets at Stormont.

As part of the Good Friday Agreement Foras Na Gaelige was setup: Foras na Gaeilge, the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland, was founded on the second day of December 1999. In the Good Friday Agreement, it was stated that a North/South Implementation body be set up to promote both the Irish language and the Ulster Scots language. Under the auspices of this body, Foras na Gaeilge will carry out all the designated responsibilities regarding the Irish language. This entails facilitating and encouraging the speaking and writing of Irish in the public and private arena in the Republic of Ireland, and in North of Ireland where there is appropriate demand, in the context of part three of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. The staff of Bord na Gaeilge, An Gúm (Publishers), and An Coiste Téarmaíochta (Terminology Committee) and their activities have all been transferred to the new body. Foras na Gaeilge has a role in advising administrations, both in the Republic and North of Ireland, as well as public bodies and other groups in the private and voluntary sectors in all matters relating to the Irish language. They will also be undertaking supportive projects and grant-aiding bodies and groups throughout the island of Ireland. (source http://www.forasnagaeilge.ie)

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#8 CactusJack

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 06:40 AM

The term Scot-Irish (often mispronounced Scotch-Irish, any Scot will quickly correct you as Scotch is something you drink, while the Scots are a peope from Scotland) was never used by the Scot-Irish themselves. Often born and raised in Ireland and a generation or two from Scotland, the Scot-Irish merely referred to themselves as Irish. The term Scot-Irish was not used by those arrivals in the late 1600's and early 1700's from Ulster until the unpopularity arose from the arrivals of those from Ireland during the potato famine in the 1800's.

The Scot-Irish were those Scots who moved to Northern Ireland and settled Ulster at the invitation of James I of Scotland in the late 1600's. High rents and a desire to better their lives and the lives of their families led the Scots to move to Ulster. Strong Calvinistic Presbyterians, the Scots brought their Protestant religion with them to the lands which had virutally been cleared of the native Irish peoples. The English were happy to allow the Scots to fight the remaining Catholic Irish in the region for them. This practice of using the Scots to fight England's frontier battles would continue as the Scots would later pour into the American colonies, living on lands given to them which marked the border between Indian lands and the civility of the English colonies on the coast.

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#9 The Amadan

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 06:47 AM

Spartan's & Grendelmor's replies reflect my understanding, on the subject.
I don't wish to repeat what they posted, so the abridged version:
I, recently, was doing some research into my ex-wife's family lineage, for my daughter. Specifically, regarding Appalachian Hillbilly ancestry/culture. From what I found, it seems to follow what Spartan & Grendelmor posted.
In a nutshell: outcasts who were lumped together, used as fodder on the frontier.

>as a bit of a sidenote:
One of the things, that I've noticed about my fellow Americans, is a strong need to associate themselves with a foreign lineage... something non-Americans may have difficulty fully understanding.
It's interesting, that Americans, when speaking to people from another country, will identify themselves as "American".
But, amongst ourselves, we will identify with our ancestral lineage, as in: "I'm Irish", "I'm German", etc.
Not that we're trying to convince anybody that we are a citizen of another country, but rather, as a contraction of "I'm-a-descendant-of-immigrants-from-____")
Perhaps it's part of our human psyche, needing to belong? Or because our immigrant ancestors were, essentially, outcasts, and this is/was a way of remaining connected with the world left behind?
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#10 Oakley

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 02:53 PM

Two memories come to mind as I read these posts. The first was a time when my family and I were in Ireland on a trip of the British Isles. The owner of the B&B (a very nice man) asked where we were heading next. We said "Scotland". He said "Ah Scotland, what a beautiful country..." then with a twinkle in his eye had added "...pity about the people though."

The other is that my mother-in-law, when talking about where her ancestors came from, would make a point that while they were from Ireland they were Scot-Irish, which I believed came from the prejudice of American society in her youth against the Irish.

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#11 Alaskan Kilted Guy

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 03:03 PM

Spartan's & Grendelmor's replies reflect my understanding, on the subject.
I don't wish to repeat what they posted, so the abridged version:
I, recently, was doing some research into my ex-wife's family lineage, for my daughter. Specifically, regarding Appalachian Hillbilly ancestry/culture. From what I found, it seems to follow what Spartan & Grendelmor posted.
In a nutshell: outcasts who were lumped together, used as fodder on the frontier.

>as a bit of a sidenote:
One of the things, that I've noticed about my fellow Americans, is a strong need to associate themselves with a foreign lineage... something non-Americans may have difficulty fully understanding.
It's interesting, that Americans, when speaking to people from another country, will identify themselves as "American".
But, amongst ourselves, we will identify with our ancestral lineage, as in: "I'm Irish", "I'm German", etc.
Not that we're trying to convince anybody that we are a citizen of another country, but rather, as a contraction of "I'm-a-descendant-of-immigrants-from-____")
Perhaps it's part of our human psyche, needing to belong? Or because our immigrant ancestors were, essentially, outcasts, and this is/was a way of remaining connected with the world left behind?


I think in the American perspective, you've hit the nail on the head.

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#12 Lonnie Cox

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 08:01 PM

Great topic!! As a derect descendant of the High Kings of Ireland like Coinneach mac Ailpein who the rulers of Scotland all claim their descendants of. In doing my studies on my family I have found that most of kings of Ireland run right down and in to Scotland. so like it or not scottish or Irish we are all the some lot mixed with a little different Viking here and there. I can trace my family back to 1500BC and they were Galician "now spain" but one of the first to settle Ireland.
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#13 Eugene Slagle

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 03:49 AM

I referr to the term because of my family.
I have no clue "yet" as to which clan if any my family herritage come from but on my mothers side I have a great great Grandmother that come to the states from Scotland, Calk & a great great Grandfather from Ireland, Bohannan.

On my fathers side I have my Grandmother who's herritage comes from Ireland, Sullivan but I've yet to find the time line where they come to the states yet, on my Grandfathers side his mother's last name is Blanche but I've yet to get anything but her birth in 1896 here in Virginia & ofcorse there is my last name which is more Germanic Slagle & I'm still finding it dificult to trace.

Since I'm both part Scottish & Irish I concidder myself Scot-Irish with German.

Edited by Eugene Slagle, 10 August 2011 - 03:56 AM.


#14 Spartan

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 09:14 AM

The source of all information Wikipedia :confused2:

#15 The Amadan

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 01:46 PM

I fall into the "other" category of Scots-Irish:

My mother's line is Scots Catholic, and my father's lineage is Catholic Irish mercenary.
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#16 Kilted-Marine

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 01:44 AM

the term use to be used in US Census surveys

#17 O'Callaghan

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 08:49 PM

The thing is, Scotch-Irish appears to be a purely American term, even though, surprisingly, many Americans misunderstand what it means. Although it does indeed refer only to Irish of Scots descent, back where they come from the term that's always used instead is Ulster Scots.

Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, but Northern Ireland (the bit that remained British after independence) is only six of the nine counties of Ulster. Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal are in the Republic of Ireland, and Donegal is actually the Northernmost county on Erin's isle! I think that most of the Scottish planters did settle in Ulster, but some were outside that province. However, after independence, it is said that they "left with the flag", i.e. they moved out of the Republic. Most of them were Presbyterian, and if you find a Presbyterian church in the Republic, the chances are it's been turned over to some other use, i.e. it's no longer a church, because the former congregation is long gone. Maybe to Northern Ireland, or Scotland, but maybe West Virginia.

Scotch-Irish in the Appalachians seem to have mixed with Welsh immigrants who were mostly methodists, and are just as likely to be of either religion irrespective of ethnicity, in my limited experience. They tell me there's little difference in the services between those churches? The catholic or 'green' Irish in America seem to have wound up living in cities like Boston and New York instead, although of course that's a major generalisation.

Any Scot will tell you quite brusquely that the people of Scotland are Scots or Scottish, and usually pointedly say that "Scotch is a drink". To be exact, Scotch refers to any inanimate object from Scotland, not just whisky, and that is the reason why it can offend. Most people don't like any implication that they are an object, rather than a person. However, although I always used to think that Scotch Irish should be corrected to Scots Irish, it's not as if anyone uses it outside America, except maybe online, of course.

#18 McFarkus

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 07:19 AM

I concur that the Scots-Irish were those Scots resettled (mostly forcibly) in Ulster and other northern Irish counties in the early 17th Century on the Plantations. When they came to the American colonies the term Scots-Irish was coined because the earlier Scots immigrants didn't consider them fully Scots, OTOH they weren't fully Irish either.
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#19 Spartan

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 08:59 AM

I concur that the Scots-Irish were those Scots resettled (mostly forcibly) in Ulster and other northern Irish counties in the early 17th Century on the Plantations. When they came to the American colonies the term Scots-Irish was coined because the earlier Scots immigrants didn't consider them fully Scots, OTOH they weren't fully Irish either.

O'Callaghan and McFarkus pretty much sum it up..... It is a USA technical term, not just someone who has both Scottish and Irish ancestry in their family tree.

O'Callaghan's point: "Scotch refers to any inanimate object from Scotland, not just whisky, and that is the reason why it can offend. Most people don't like any implication that they are an object, rather than a person." Think "Scotch Tape" LOL




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