Ulster Scots people

Last updated

Scots-Irish, Ulstèr-Scotch
Regions with significant populations
United States
Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ulster English, Ulster Irish, Ulster Scots,
Scots Gaelic (small numbers historically)
Mainly Presbyterian, some Church of Ireland and other Protestant denominations
Related ethnic groups

The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots: Ulstèr-Scotch; Irish : Albanaigh Uladh), also called Ulster Scots people (Ulstèr-Scotch fowk) [6] or, in North America, Scotch-Irish (Scotch-Airisch [7] ) or Scots-Irish, are an ethnic group [8] [9] [10] [11] in Ireland who share a common history, culture, and ancestry. Some speak an Ulster Scots dialect of the Scots language, a West Germanic language. As an ethnicity, they descend largely from Scottish and English settlers who moved to the north of Ireland, during the 17th century. [12] [13] [14]


Found mostly in the province of Ulster, and to a lesser extent in the rest of Ireland, their ancestors were Protestant, mainly Presbyterian, Anglican, and Methodist settlers who migrated from the Scottish Lowlands and Northern England during the Plantation of Ulster. [15] The largest numbers came from Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham, Yorkshire and to a much lesser extent, from the Scottish Highlands. [16] Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. The majority of people living in Northern Ireland are British and/or Irish citizens.

The Ulster Scots migrated to Ireland in large numbers both as a result of the government-sanctioned Plantation of Ulster, a planned process of colonisation which took place under the auspices of James VI of Scotland and I of England on land confiscated from members of the Gaelic nobility of Ireland who fled Ulster, and as part of a larger migration or unplanned wave of settlement.

Ulster Scots people emigrated from Ireland in significant numbers to the American colonies, later the United States, and elsewhere in the British Empire.[ citation needed ] Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish) is a traditional term for Ulster Scots who emigrated to America. [lower-alpha 1]


Early development

The first major influx of border English and Lowland Scots into Ulster came in the first two decades of the 17th century.

First, before the Plantation of Ulster and even before the Flight of the Earls, there was the 1606 independent Scottish settlement in east Down and Antrim. It was led by adventurers James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, two Ayrshire lairds. Montgomery was granted half of Lord of Upper Clandeboye Conn McNeill O'Neill's land, a significant Gaelic lordship in Ulster, as a reward for helping him escape from English captivity. Hamilton forced himself in on this deal when he discovered it and, after three years of bickering, the final settlement gave Hamilton and Montgomery each one-third of the land. [17] [ failed verification ]

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 Scottish and English colonists. Under this scheme, a substantial number of Scots were settled, mostly in the south and west of Ulster, on confiscated land. [ citation needed ]

While many of the Scottish planters in Ulster came from southwest Scotland, a large number came from the southeast, including the unstable regions right along the border with England (the Scottish Borders and Northumberland). These groups were from the Borderers or Border Reivers culture, which had familial links on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border. The plan was that moving these Borderers to Ireland would both solve the Borders problem and tie down Ulster. This was of particular concern to James VI of Scotland when he became King of England, since he knew Scottish instability could jeopardise his chances of ruling both kingdoms effectively. [18]

During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the native Irish gentry attempted to extirpate the English and Scottish settlers in revenge for being driven off their ancestral land, resulting in severe violence, massacres and ultimately leading to the deaths of between four and six thousand settlers over the winter of 1641–42. [19] Native Irish civilians were massacred in return. [20] By 1642, native Irish were in de facto control of much of the island under a Confederate Ireland, with about a third under the control of the opposition. However, many Ulster-Scots Presbyterians joined with the Irish in rebellion and aided them in driving the English out. [21] [22] [ failed verification ]

The Ulster-Scottish population in Ireland was quite possibly[ weasel words ] preserved from complete annihilation[ peacock prose ] 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.[ citation needed ] 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 conquered all of Ireland. Defeating the Irish Confederates and English Royalists on behalf of the English Parliamentarians, he and his forces employed methods and inflicted casualties among the civilian Irish population that have long been commonly considered by contemporary sources, historians and the popular culture to be outside of the accepted military ethics of the day (see more on the debate here). After the Cromwellian war in Ireland was over, many of their soldiers settled permanently in eastern Ulster. [23]

Under the Act of Settlement 1652, all Catholic-owned land was confiscated and the British Plantations in Ireland, 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.[ citation needed ]

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 majority of the Protestant colonists throughout Ireland but particularly in Ulster, fought on the Williamite side in the war against the Jacobites. The fear of a repeat of the massacres of 1641, fear of retribution for religious persecution, as well as their wish to hold on to lands which had been confiscated from Catholic landowners, were all principal motivating factors.[ citation needed ]

The Williamite forces, composed of British, Dutch, Huguenot and Danish armies, as well as troops raised in Ulster, [24] [25] ended Jacobite resistance by 1691, confirming the Protestant minority's monopoly on power in Ireland. Their victories at Derry, the Boyne and Aughrim are still commemorated by the Orange Order into the 21st century.

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. [26] [27]

It was only after the 1690s that Scottish settlers and their descendants, the majority of whom were Presbyterian, gained numeric superiority in Ulster, though still a minority in Ireland as a whole. Along with Catholics, they were legally disadvantaged by the Penal Laws, which gave full rights only to members of the Church of Ireland (the Anglican state church), who were mainly Anglo-Irish (themselves often absentee landlords), native Irish converts or the descendants of English settlers. For this reason, up until 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 and 19th centuries. [28] In fact, these 'Scots-Irish' from Ulster and Lowland Scotland comprised the most numerous group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland to the American colonies in the years prior the American Revolution, with an estimated 150,000 leaving northern Ireland at the time. [18]

Towards the end of the 18th century, many Ulster-Scots Presbyterians ignored religious differences and, along with many Catholic Gaelic Irish, joined the United Irishmen to participate in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in support of republican and egalitarian ideals. [29]


Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States, was the first of Scots-Irish extraction. Andrew Jackson.jpg
Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States, was the first of Scots-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. [30] Around the same time, the British took control of the territory of New France, allowing many Ulster-Scots to migrate to these areas as well. These people are known as the Scotch-Irish Canadians.

In the United States census of 2000, 4.3 million Americans (1.5% of the population of the United States) claimed Scotch-Irish ancestry. Author and former United States Senator Jim Webb suggests that the true number of people with some Scots-Irish heritage in the United States is more—over 27 million—possibly because contemporary Americans with some Scotch-Irish heritage may regard themselves as either Irish, Scottish, or simply American instead. [31] [32] [ page needed ] [33]


Over the centuries, Ulster Scots culture has contributed to the unique character of the counties in Ulster. The Ulster Scots Agency points to industry, language, music, sport, religion and myriad traditions brought to Ulster from the Scottish lowlands. In particular, the origin of country and western music was extensively from Ulster Scots folk music, in addition to English, German, and African-American styles.

The cultural traditions and aspects of this culture including its links to country music are articulated in David Hackett Fischer's book, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America . In 2010's documentary The Hamely Tongue, filmmaker Deaglán Ó Mocháin traces back the origins of this culture and language, and relates its manifestations in today's Ireland. The film's title refers to James Fenton's book, The Hamely Tongue: A personal record of Ulster-Scots in County Antrim.

Most Ulster Scots speak Ulster English as a first language. Ulster Scots is the local dialect of the Lowland Scots language which has, since the 1980s, also been called "Ullans", a portmanteau neologism popularised by the physician, amateur historian and politician Ian Adamson, [34] merging Ulster and Lallans  – the Scots for 'Lowlands' [35]  – but also said to be a backronym for 'Ulster-Scots language in literature and native speech'. [36]

Hereditary disease

The North American ancestry of the X-linked form of the genetic disease congenital nephrogenic diabetes insipidus has been traced to Ulster Scots who travelled to Nova Scotia in 1761 on the ship Hopewell. [37]

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.[ citation needed ] Scots-Irish was recorded in 1972. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scotch-irish and http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scots-irish

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ulster</span> Traditional province in the north of Ireland

Ulster is one of the four traditional or historic Irish provinces. It is made up of nine counties: six of these constitute Northern Ireland ; the remaining three are in the Republic of Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kingdom of Ireland</span> English and British client state (1542–1800)

The Kingdom of Ireland was a monarchy on the island of Ireland that was a client state of England and then of Great Britain. It existed from 1542 to the end of 1800. It was ruled by the monarchs of England and then of Great Britain, and was administered from Dublin Castle by a viceroy appointed by the English king: the Lord Deputy of Ireland. Aside from brief periods, the state was dominated by the Protestant English minority. The Protestant Church of Ireland was the state church. The Parliament of Ireland was composed of Anglo-Irish nobles. From 1661, the administration controlled an Irish army. Although styled a kingdom, for most of its history it was, de facto, an English dependency. This status was enshrined in Poynings' Law and in the Declaratory Act of 1719.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scottish Lowlands</span> Cultural and historic region of Scotland

The Lowlands is a cultural and historical region of Scotland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irish Confederate Wars</span> Ethno-religious conflict within Ireland between 1641 and 1653

The Irish Confederate Wars, also called the Eleven Years' War, took place in Ireland between 1641 and 1653. It was the Irish theatre of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a series of civil wars in the kingdoms of Ireland, England and Scotland – all ruled by Charles I. The conflict had political, religious and ethnic aspects and was fought over governance, land ownership, religious freedom and religious discrimination. The main issues were whether Irish Catholics or British Protestants held most political power and owned most of the land, and whether Ireland would be a self-governing kingdom under Charles I or subordinate to the parliament in England. It was the most destructive conflict in Irish history and caused 200,000–600,000 deaths from fighting as well as war-related famine and disease.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plantation of Ulster</span> 17th century colonisation of northern Ireland

The Plantation of Ulster was the organised colonisation (plantation) of Ulster – a province of Ireland – by people from Great Britain during the reign of King James VI and I. Most of the settlers came from southern Scotland and northern England; their culture differed from that of the native Irish. Small privately funded plantations by wealthy landowners began in 1606, while the official plantation began in 1609. Most of the land had been confiscated from the native Gaelic chiefs, several of whom had fled Ireland for mainland Europe in 1607 following the Nine Years' War against English rule. The official plantation comprised an estimated half a million acres (2,000 km2) of arable land in counties Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal, and Londonderry. Land in counties Antrim, Down, and Monaghan was privately colonised with the king's support.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irish Rebellion of 1641</span> Rebellion by Catholics in Ireland

The Irish Rebellion of 1641 was an uprising by Catholics in Ireland, whose demands included an end to anti-Catholic discrimination, greater Irish self-governance, and return of confiscated Catholic lands. Its timing was partially driven by the dispute between Charles I and his opponents—the English Parliamentarians and Scottish Covenanters—which the rebels feared would lead to an invasion and further anti-Catholic measures. Beginning as an attempted coup d'état by Catholic gentry and military officers, it developed into a widespread rebellion and ethnic conflict with English and Scottish Protestant settlers. It led to the 1641–1653 Irish Confederate Wars, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, with up to 20% of the Irish population becoming casualties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652</span> English act after the 1641 Irish Rebellion

The Act for the Setling of Ireland imposed penalties including death and land confiscation against Irish civilians and combatants after the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and subsequent unrest. British historian John Morrill wrote that the Act and associated forced movements represented "perhaps the greatest exercise in ethnic cleansing in early modern Europe."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tudor conquest of Ireland</span> 1536–1603 English campaign in Ireland

The Tudor conquestof Ireland took place during the 16th century under the Tudor dynasty, which ruled the Kingdom of England. The Anglo-Normans had conquered swathes of Ireland in the late 12th century, bringing it under English rule. In the 14th century, the effective area of English rule shrank markedly, and from then most of Ireland was held by native Gaelic chiefdoms. Following a failed rebellion by the Earl of Kildare in the 1530s, the English Crown set about restoring its authority. Henry VIII of England was made "King of Ireland" by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542. The conquest involved assimilating the Gaelic nobility by way of "surrender and regrant"; the confiscation and colonization ('plantation') of lands with settlers from Britain; imposing English law and language; banning Catholicism, dissolving the monasteries and making Anglican Protestantism the state religion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plantations of Ireland</span> British colonisation of Ireland

Plantations in 16th- and 17th-century Ireland involved the confiscation of Irish-owned land by the English Crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from Great Britain. The Crown saw the plantations as a means of controlling, anglicising and 'civilising' Gaelic Ireland. The main plantations took place from the 1550s to the 1620s, the biggest of which was the plantation of Ulster. The plantations led to the founding of many towns, massive demographic, cultural and economic changes, changes in land ownership and the landscape, and also to centuries of ethnic and sectarian conflict. They took place before and during the earliest English colonisation of the Americas, and a group known as the West Country Men were involved in both Irish and American colonization.

Scotch-IrishAmericans are American descendants of Ulster Scots people who emigrated from Ulster to America during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their ancestors had originally migrated to Ulster mainly from the Scottish Lowlands and Northern England in the 17th century. In the 2017 American Community Survey, 5.39 million reported Scottish ancestry, an additional 3 million identified more specifically with Scotch-Irish ancestry, and many people who claim "American ancestry" may actually be of Scotch-Irish ancestry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scottish Americans</span> Americans of Scottish birth or descent

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Ireland (1536–1691)</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland</span> Territorial evolution of the UK

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Portadown massacre</span> Massacre of Protestants during the 1641 Irish Rebellion

The Portadown massacre took place in November 1641 at Portadown, County Armagh, during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Irish Catholic rebels, likely under the command of Toole McCann, killed about 100 British Protestant settlers by forcing them off the bridge into the River Bann and shooting those who tried to swim to safety. The settlers were being marched east from a prison camp at Loughgall. This was the biggest massacre of Protestants during the rebellion, and one of the bloodiest during the Irish Confederate Wars. The Portadown massacre, and others like it, terrified Protestants in Ireland and Great Britain, and were used to justify the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and later to lobby against Catholic rights.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Protestantism in Ireland</span> Religious community

Protestantism is a Christian minority on the island of Ireland. In the 2011 census of Northern Ireland, 48% (883,768) described themselves as Protestant, which was a decline of approximately 5% from the 2001 census. In the 2011 census of the Republic of Ireland, 4.27% of the population described themselves as Protestant. In the Republic, Protestantism was the second largest religious grouping until the 2002 census in which they were exceeded by those who chose "No Religion". Some forms of Protestantism existed in Ireland in the early 16th century before the English Reformation, but demographically speaking these were very insignificant and the real influx of Protestantism began only with the spread of the English Reformation to Ireland. The Church of Ireland was established by King Henry VIII of England, who had himself proclaimed as King of Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scottish people</span> Ethnic group native to Scotland

The Scottish people or Scots are an ethnic group and nation native to Scotland. Historically, they emerged in the early Middle Ages from an amalgamation of two Celtic peoples, the Picts and Gaels, who founded the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century. In the following two centuries, Celtic-speaking Cumbrians of Strathclyde and Germanic-speaking Angles of Northumbria became part of Scotland. In the High Middle Ages, during the 12th-century Davidian Revolution, small numbers of Norman nobles migrated to the Lowlands. In the 13th century, the Norse-Gaels of the Western Isles became part of Scotland, followed by the Norse of the Northern Isles in the 15th century.

Ulster Protestants are an ethnoreligious group in the Irish province of Ulster, where they make up about 43.5% of the population. Most Ulster Protestants are descendants of settlers who arrived from Britain in the early 17th century Ulster Plantation. This was the settlement of the Gaelic, Catholic province of Ulster by Scots and English speaking Protestants, mostly from the Scottish Lowlands and Northern England. Many more Scottish Protestant migrants arrived in Ulster in the late 17th century. Those who came from Scotland were mostly Presbyterians, while those from England were mostly Anglicans. There is also a small Methodist community and the Methodist Church in Ireland dates to John Wesley's visit to Ulster in 1752. Although most Ulster Protestants descend from Lowland Scottish people, many descend from English, and to a lesser extent, from Irish, Welsh and Huguenots.

Scottish-Irish Canadians or Scots-Irish Canadians are those who are Ulster Scots or those who have Ulster Scots ancestry and live in or were born in Canada. Ulster Scots are Lowland Scots people and Northern English people who immigrated to the Irish Province of Ulster from the early 17th century after the accession of James I to the English throne. This was known as the Plantation of Ulster.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irish Americans</span> Americans of Irish birth or descent

Irish Americans are ethnic Irish who live in the United States and are American citizens. Most Irish Americans of the 21st century are descendants of immigrants who moved to the United States in the mid-19th century because of The Great Famine in Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laggan Army</span> Militia in the Plantation of Ulster during the Irish Rebellion of 1641

The Laggan Army, sometimes referred to as the Lagan Army, was a militia formed by Protestant settlers in the fertile Laggan district in the east of County Donegal in Ulster, during the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1641.


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