Ulster Scots people

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Ulster Scots
Total population
No figure available
Regions with significant populations
Northern Ireland   No figure available
United States 5,393,554 [1] (Scotch-Irish)
Canada No figure available
Republic of Ireland No figure available
United Kingdom No figure available
Ulster English, Ulster Scots, Gaelic
Mainly Presbyterian
Related ethnic groups

The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots: Ulstèr-Scotch; Irish: Albanaigh Uladh or Uladh-Albanaigh) are an ethnic group[2] in Ireland, found mostly in the Ulster region and to a lesser extent in the rest of Ireland. Their ancestors were mostly Protestant Lowland Scottish people,[3] many being from the "Border Reivers" culture.[citation needed] These people 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 James 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 unofficial settlement.

Ulster Scots are largely descended from colonists 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 what is now the United States and all corners of the then-worldwide British EmpireCanada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the British West Indies, and to a lesser extent to Argentina and Chile.[citation needed] Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish) is a traditional term for Ulster Scots who later emigrated to what is now the United States.[4]


Early development

Royal Standard of Ireland from 1542-1801
Traditional provincial flag of Ulster.
Scottish Saltire.
English Flag. (St George's Cross).

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 Ireland 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 Conn O'Neill's land as a reward for helping him escape from prison. 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.[5]

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]

During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the native Irish gentry attempted to extirpate 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.[6] Native Irish civilians were massacred in return.[7] 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.

The Ulster-Scottish population in Ireland was quite possibly preserved from complete annihilation 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.[8]

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,[citation needed] 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.[9][10]

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 century.[citation needed]

Towards the end of the 18th century many Ulster-Scots Presbyterians ignored religious differences and, along with many Catholic Irish, joined the United Irishmen to participate in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in support of republican and egalitarian ideals.[11]

Scots-Irish / Ulster Scots

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.[12] 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 in the region of 27 million, possibly because contemporary Americans with some Scotch-Irish heritage may regard themselves as either Irish, Scottish, or "American" instead.[13][14][15]


Over the centuries Ulster Scots culture has contributed to the unique character of the counties in Northern Ireland. 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. 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.


Most Ulster Scots speak English as a first language. Ulster Scots, 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 Dr Ian Adamson,[16] merging Ulster and Lallans - the Scots for "Lowlands" [17] - but also an acronym for "Ulster-Scots language in literature and native speech".[18]

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 came to Nova Scotia in 1761 on the ship Hopewell.[19]

See also


  1. "U.S. Census Bureau, 2008". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 4 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Pauline Frommer's Ireland". google.ie.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Newshound: Daily Northern Ireland news catalog - Irish News article". nuzhound.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 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
  5. "Greencastle Museum" (PDF). greencastlemuseum.org.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Patrick Macrory, The Siege of Derry, Oxford University Press, 1980, pp. 97-98.
  7. Jane Kenyon, Jane Ohlmeyer, The Civil Wars, A military History of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638-1660, p. 74.
  8. Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 562.
  9. "AOL UK - Search". aol.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "AOL UK - Search". aol.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "1798 Rebellion". ulsterscotstrail.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Fischer, David Hackett, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America Oxford University Press, USA (14 March 1989), p. 606; Parke S. Rouse, Jr., The Great Wagon Road, Dietz Press, 2004, p. 32, and Leyburn, James G., The Scotch-Irish: A Social History, Univ of NC Press, 1962, p. 180.
  13. Why You Need To Know The Scotch-Irish.
  14. James H Webb. "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America". powells.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Scots-Irish By Alister McReynolds, writer and lecturer in Ulster-Scots studies
  16. Falconer G. (2006) The Scots Tradition in Ulster, Scottish studies review, Vol. 7, Nº 2. p. 97.
  17. Hickey R. (2004) A Sound Atlas of Irish English. Walter de Gruyter. p. 156.
  18. Tymoczko M. & Ireland C.A. (2003) Language and Tradition in Ireland: Continuities and Displacements, Univ of Massachusetts Press. p. 159.
  19. Bichet et al, X-linked nephrogenic diabetes insipidus mutations in North America and the Hopewell hypothesis, J Clin Invest. 1993 September; 92(3): 1262–1268. doi:10.1172/JCI116698 Unité de Recherche Clinique, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.

External links

Template:Scottish diaspora