Scots Gaelic

Irish-Scots

Mention is made of the term Irish-Scot in the text of the atlas The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (1612} by John Speed (1552-1629).

"This Province of Ulster and furthest part of Ireland, affronteth the Scottish Islands, which are called the Hebrides, and are scattered in the Seas betweene both Kingdomes; whose inhabitants at this day is the Irish Scot..."

In modern times, the term is also used to describe people who emigrated from Ireland to Scotland, mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries, and their descendants.

This group were commonly described as Irish-Catholics, although not all of the immigrants were Roman Catholic. Nowadays, with the reduction in the influence of the Catholic church, the term "Irish-Scots" perhaps better reflects the dual ethnic and national character of this grouping.

Sometimes Irish-Scots are known as Scots-Irish, but this term is more correctly applied to mainly Ulster Scots.

Background

As with any national "label", the term "Irish-Scots" is open to interpretation; many Scottish-born descendants of the Irish immigrants would style themselves "Scottish", while others take pride in their dual Irish and Scottish identity or spurn any association with the country of their birth, feeling greater affinity and loyalty to Ireland. The same is true of many other transnational groups or diasporas, such as Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans, where the link to the country of origin may be decades or centuries old.

Attitudes to the waves of immigration from Ireland to Scotland were mixed, as evidenced by the following quotations:

  • "In our opinion, the Irish have as much right to come to this country to better their lives as the Scots and English have to go to Ireland or any other part of Britain for the same reason. Let us hear no more complaints about the influx of Irish having a bad effect on Scotland unless it is to do something about tackling the problems which caused the emigration."

The Glasgow Courier, 1830

  • "The immigration of such a number of people from the lowest class and with no education will have a bad effect on the population. So far, living among the Scots does not seem to have improved the Irish, but the native Scots who live among the Irish have got worse. It is difficult to imagine the effect the Irish immigrants will have upon the morals and habits of the Scottish people."

Report from the Scottish Census of 1871

Some of the Irish-Scots were brought over from Ireland to take the jobs of striking workers, which was a source of great friction.
Difficulties also arose due to differences between the typically Catholic immigrants and the predominantly Protestant native Scots population.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, it was reported that, in Glasgow, there were only thirty-nine Irish-Catholics, but forty-three anti-Catholic clubs.

In the UK census of 2001, the new category "Irish" was added to the list of ethnic background.
In Scotland, results showed that 49,428 (0.98%) people described themselves as of Irish background but this does not seem to be an accurate reflection of the Irish presence in Scotland. The Irish immigrated to Scotland in the tens of thousands, especially from the mid-19th century to the mid 20th century. It is believed that because the Irish category was a new addition to the census, that respondents confused this question with the more familiar question regarding country of birth.

The Irish-Scots were instrumental in the formation of Celtic Football Club, Hibernian F.C., and Dundee United F.C. (which was originally known as Dundee Hibernian). Indeed, these teams were originally formed to provide recreational facilities for the Irish immigrants. At first, these teams faced discrimination from the football authorities, and there was controversy over whether their players should be picked to play in international games, especially against the Irish international team.

Celtic F.C. still has a very proud connection with its Irish heritage. The predominance of Irish tricolours (including official flags atop Celtic Park) and the singing of Irish national anthems and folk songs (e.g. the Fields of Athenry) among their supporters may be controversial to some, particularly among Rangers F.C. supporters. (For more information see the article on the Old Firm).

Notable Irish-Scots

Scots and Irish

The terms Scots and Irish, while they have a settled meaning today, are not always readily distinguished. Sellar & Yeatman's spoof history 1066 and All That highlighted the confusion that these words can cause when used to refer to the past :

The Scots originally Irish, (but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essentially to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and verce visa).

Irish people live in Ireland; Scots people live in Scotland. However, Scotti, a word borrowed from Latin, where it probably meant something unpleasant, came to mean "someone who speaks the Old Irish language". So, while there were Scots in Scotland, there were also Scots in Ireland, Wales and Cornwall. The 11th century was the time of Brian Boru, who called himself "Emperor of the Scots", and of Macbeth, who called himself "King of the Scots", and also of Malcolm Canmore, who went one better and called himself Scottorum basileus "Emperor of the Scots", just as Brian had. In the 14th century Robert the Bruce spoke Gaelic, and lived in Gaelic-speaking world. When he and his brother Edward campaigned in Ireland, they could present themselves as, and be widely accepted as, fellow-Gaels set on liberating the Irish from the Norman yoke.

After Robert, Kings of Scotland, up to and including James VI, thought of themselves as having a Gaelic, Irish origin; before James V they were Gaelic-speakers. Fergus Mór mac Eirc, whom the Duan Albanach, and Medieval Scots historians like John of Fordun and Hector Boece, and even James VI himself, saw as the founder of Scotland's ruling dynasty, was said to have invaded Argyll from Ireland, and the creation of Scotland was seen as a conquest by Gaelic kings.

The Reformation and the perception of Gaelic-speaking (their language now called Erse rather than Scots, a name transferred to the Scots language) as idle, warlike and crude changed attitudes, but even a Protestant humanist scholar like George Buchanan could write of the Picts and the Scots as being like the Irish. Racist fantasists such as John Pinkerton, and others with more noble motives, would try to portray the Scots as the descendants of the Goths or the Scythians, but their ideas were rejected by the majority of scholars who worked in the field.

Today, while the idea of Fergus Mór as Irish conqueror of Dál Riata is no longer universally supported, and the idea of a mass migration from Ireland is largely rejected, the archaeological evidence shows that contacts between Scotland and Ireland date back to the earliest times, not only passing from Ireland to Scotland, but also from Scotland to Ireland. Rather than a conquest, it is supposed that Argyll, and perhaps other parts of south-western Scotland, evolved together with Ireland, speaking similar Goidelic languages. These languages, the ancestors of modern Irish and Scots Gaelic, spread to most of Scotland. We cannot say why they spread, but it seems safe to assume that they were carried in part by Irish clerics such as Columba, Adomnán, Mirin, and thousands whose names are now lost, and by Picts and Britons trained in the flourishing Irish schools of the day.

See also

  • "The Irish Scots and the Scotch-Irish" - John C. Linehan.

(ISBN 0-7884-0788-0).

External links

The first part of an extensive biography by Ashley Baynton-Williams]

  • A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of information regarding Scots whose ancestors who can be traced back to Ireland. The list does not address Scots whose descendants reside in Ireland.
  • An sceal A newsletter of events involving or of interest to members of the Irish community who live in Scotland.

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