Scot-Irish - The Other Irish
Two Traditions in Ireland
Patty Inglish's Hub, Orange on St. Patrick's Day, got me to thinking about the other Irish - the Scot-Irish of Northern Ireland and a comment I once read, which I think it was made by the Irish politician/journalist Conor Cruise O'Brien, about the two religious and cultural traditions of Ireland.
While the majority of the population of the Irish Republic is Roman Catholic there is also the Protestant majority in the North of Ireland in the six counties that chose to remain a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There is also the Church of Ireland which is a part of the world-wide Anglican Communion with members in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
I can easily relate to O'Brien's observation as I am a product of both cultures since, on my Father's side, my grandfather and his family were Catholics from Navan in County Meath in what is now the Republic of Ireland while my great-grand parents on my Father's side were Catholics from what is now the Ulster Province of Northern Ireland.
On my Mother's side my great-grandparents were Protestant Presbyterians from the northern part of what is now the Republic of Ireland (close to the Ulster border but south of that border) while my Mother's father's family were descendants of Scot Irish Presbyterians who had been a part of the mass migration of Scot-Irish to the U.S. that occurred in the decades immediately before and immediately after the American Revolution.
And, just to give my siblings and I representation from the Anglican Protestant tradition my Mother, as a teenager, had become a member of the Anglican Church (actually, she probably had other reasons, unknown to me, for converting as she did it before thinking of marriage, let alone future children).
A Confusion Over a Church
I remember my Father telling a story about an American Army chaplain stationed temporarily in Dublin, Ireland with American troops during World War I (at time when all of Ireland was still under British rule).
The Chaplin was an Irish-American Catholic priest who was passionate about his Irish heritage. The Chaplin's unit was probably a New York National Guard unit that consisted of mostly Irish-American troops.
So, for St. Patrick's Day the Chaplin rounded up all of the Irish in the unit and began leading them in his own impromptu parade to St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
It wasn't until they were almost to the Cathedral that a lieutenant was able to get the Chaplin to listen to him and make him understand that St. Patrick's Cathedral, unlike its counterpart in New York City, was a Protestant, and not a Catholic, church. I think I also recall seeing a scene like this in an old World War I movie but don't have a clue to its name.
Today, of course the Catholic chaplain probably would have continued the march to St. Patrick's Cathedral and, more than likely, would have been invited in to celebrate Mass there.
But things were different in that era and the lieutenant did him a big favor in steering him clear of what would have been a very embarrassing situation in front of his men to say nothing of the wrath of his bishop when word got back home.
England first became involved with Ireland in 1169 when one of the parties in a dispute over who would be the High King of Ireland went to England and sought help from some Norman Lords in England.
The King of England, Henry II, was busy in France at the time defending his lands in France (in addition to being King of England, Henry was also the Duke of Normandy and lord of other lands in France). However, when Henry returned in 1171 he took over the operation in Ireland and began establishing Norman control over Ireland. The Norman lords and their followers were an independent lot and after a generation or two went native and joined the Irish in their fight against British rule.
The Irish and Norman nobility were also a practical lot who were concerned with maintaining their estates in Ireland. I discovered this years ago when, while doing some research, I discovered that every book I looked at, whether it was written from the British point of view or the Irish, people with my family name, Nugent, were always among the good guys.
Upon further inquiry I discovered that it was the practice of the nobility to always have at least two sons so that in every conflict one son would fight with the British and one with the Irish which would guarantee that one member of the family would be on the winning side thereby being able to keep the family lands - the other son then went into exile on the Continent which is why the name Nugent along with many other Irish names are found in so many places in the world.
With the rise of Protestantism and the English monarchy's embrace of it, a religious dimension was added to the mix. Beginning with King James I in the early 1600s, efforts were begun to crush Irish rebellion once and for all. Beginning with the Ulster area which was the center of the strongest resistance to British rule, James and his successors not only confiscated the lands of the Irish nobility in that area but also drove the peasants from the land. Title to the estates were given to British nobles and the Irish peasants replaced with Presbyterians (Calvinists) who were taken mostly from the Lowlands of Scotland and transported to the North of Ireland. This created a large religious divide in Ireland.
Despite continued wars and persecutions, the British were unable to colonize Ireland with non-Catholics beyond the northern counties.
Just as economic forces, the potato famine, led to the mass migration of predominantly Catholic Irish from the south of Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, similar forces resulted in the mass migration of mostly Protestant Irish to America in the eighteenth century.
In this case the cause of the migration was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the rise in the demand for wool needed in cloth production. This resulted in the British landlords refusing to renew the leases of their tenant farmers in the North of Ireland in order to convert the land to pasture for sheep and wool production.
This mass migration of Protestant Irish from the North of Ireland occurred in the decades immediately before and immediately after the American Revolution and they became the first large group of Irish settlers in what is now the United States.
While John Kennedy is often acclaimed as the first American President of Irish descent, he is really the first President of Irish Catholic descent, having had all four of his grandparents being Irish born or of direct Irish ancestry. Actually Andrew Jackson was the first President of direct Irish descent having been born to parents both of whom had been born in Ireland - but they were Northern Irish Protestants.
Many other Presidents, including George Washington and Barack Obama, have some Irish ancestry in their background with most of it being Scot-Irish.
While these Irish Protestants of the eighteenth century migration originally identified themselves as Irish, they had moved up economically and socially by the time of the potato famine and the mass migration of the poor Irish Catholics. In an attempt to separate themselves from the new mass of Irish who were both poor and Catholic, these descendants of the early Irish migration began identifying themselves as Scot-Irish, a name which stuck.
As the later Irish began establishing themselves and forming fraternal and social organizations to help their members and preserve their heritage, so too, did the Scot-Irish began forming their own historical, cultural and social societies giving rise to two distinct Irish groups in the United States.
However, across the Atlantic, the Irish seeking to create a their own state continued to consider the nation to include the entire island despite the fact that, at the time of partition, the Protestant residents of the six counties in the north voted to remain with Britain. Under the Irish Constitution, residents of Northern Ireland are considered citizens of the Republic with the right to vote in Irish elections.
Also, according to many the orange in the Irish tri-color flag was put there in recognition of the north. Green, of course is the traditional color associated with Ireland and the flag under which the Fenian Army, of Irish American Civil War Veterans who invaded Canada in 1866 in a failed attempt to capture and ransom it for Irish independence, fought under a green banner with a gold harp in the center.
As to orange, this comes from the fact that King William III of Britain, who defeated a Catholic Irish force under the Catholic pretender James at the Battle of the Boyne ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Boyne ) in Ireland in 1690 thereby ensuring Protestant rule in England and preservation of the Protestant enclave in Northern Ireland, was also the Prince of Orange-Nasau in France (William married Mary, the heir to the British throne however, not wanting to be merely the Prince Consort to Mary, he demanded that they rule jointly before he would allow her to assume the British throne).
Since the time of the Battle of the Boyne, the Protestants in the North of Ireland have used Orange as their color. According to most authorities, the Irish flag deliberately included both Green and Orange separated by a White bar in an attempt to include the North in the Republic with the white between them representing a truce between the two factions. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Ireland )
While the political divisions still exists in Ireland, in American both groups are starting to come together to celebrate their common Celtic Heritage which includes both Scotland (original home of the Scot-Irish) and Ireland, including both parts of Ireland.
© 2009 Chuck Nugent
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