The Plantation of Ireland and the Scots-Irish

The Plantation of Ireland: Part One
Who are the Scotch-Irish (Ulster-Scots)?

By Brian Orr Have a question? Click Here to go to Brian's own Discussion Board!

Map of Ulster, click for larger image. Very simply they were Scottish peoples who migrated to the ancient Province of Ulster and from there emigrated to the old Colonies of England. They were mainly of the Presbyterian faith and opposed to the control of it by the Bishops as in the established church.

The name Scotch - Irish is the North American title, they are known elsewhere as the Ulster Scots. In U.S. and Canada, they are mainly associated with the Ulstermen who settled in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and who played a large part in settling the wilderness, service in the American Revolution and the foundation of the United States.

Gallow-oglach or Gallowglass, Click for Larger Image It should be remembered that the West Coast of Scotland has very many lochs and two belts of islands; the Inner and Outer Hebrides between the mainland of Scotland and Ireland . It is only 21 miles at its nearest, and there was always the movement between the coasts of fishermen and some small-scale trading In times of crisis, famine or war it was sometimes safer to move family and flocks to another safer and more attractive place. Such escapes were often followed within a generation by a return to the original homeland once conditions had returned to normal. As long ago as the 13 th century there had been the movement of "galloglass" - mercenary soldiers, plying their trade in Ireland who were often paid by giving a plot of land. So there was a Scottish presence which was enhanced considerably when John Mor MacDonnell, Lord of the Isles married Margery Bissett, heiress to some two thirds of the Glynns of Antrim. in 1399.

A troubled Scotland

Click Here For Larger ImageThere was much change in Scotland in the 16th century as the poor feudal population just about survived from subsistence farming on small strips of land. Hunger and poverty was the norm and they moved about driven by political, economic and religous pressures. There were a number of campaigns to force clearance of areas conducted directly by the British Crown and also by substantial landowners evicting their tenants . In 1513 Henry VIII defeated James IV of Scotland at Flodden Field and there followed years of disruption and war as Henry sought control. The defeat of James V at Hadden Rig near Berwick in 1542. and the "rough wooing" in 1544 and 1545 all contributed to driving the population out of southern Scotland. The accession of James VI of Scotland ( James I of England) in 1603 merged the two crowns and led to further political and especially religous pressures that had a direct impact on migration to Ireland.

Against this background a ray of hope came with the opportunity of greater religous freedom and permanent settlement in Ireland with land on offer at reasonable rents on the estates of two Scottish landlords from Ayrshire, Hugh Montgomery and Sir James Hamilton ca 1606 . Subsequently more land became available for settlement under the Plantation of Ireland 1610 - 1630.

A troubled Europe

Not only was there disturbance within Scotland there were also turbulent external relationships with Europe There was the inevitable religious discrimination depending on whether the King was Catholic or Protestant. Ireland had become part of the English lands under Henry VIII. but remember that until 1707 Scotland was a foreign country. Thus England was concerned with its safety along its borders with Scotland and Ireland whilst there was the ever present threat of war with France and Spain. On the political front the English Parliament tended to regard the internal affairs of Ireland as a side show and compounded the issue by allowing the local Lord Deputy, who represented the King, to manage as he saw fit.

The migration to Ireland

James VI of Scotland aka James I of England In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England and this saw a major change of direction in Ireland. The existing Scottish and English families in Ireland expected a better deal from the Protestant King James and he saw that by getting loyal Scottish Protestants into Ireland he could also remove a lot of his other problems. On the Scottish - English border the Border "Reivers" had been a thorn in the flesh for a long time with several families (Armstrong, Elliott, Irvine, Graham, Nixon, Johnson, etc) called `the riding clans` , living by pillaging the populace ("reiver" means plunderer ). He dealt with the Reivers very harshly, hanging many and transporting others to the Province of Connacht in western Ireland. James also saw the opportunity to encourage the Scottish Presbyterian "Dissenters" who were severely opposed to the rule by Bishops, to move across the Irish Sea.

His opportunity came when the Irish Earls fled from Ireland in 1607 leaving the whole of Tyrone and Donegal and half of Fermanagh liable to seizure. The subsequent confiscation of virtually all non- church lands in Counties Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh, Donegal, Cavan and Coleraine meant that much of the Province of Ulster was available for disposal by the Crown.

Elizabeth I (Tudor), click for larger image Plantation was not a new idea but followed a number of earlier attempts to settle people in Ireland. There was a mainly English Plantation in the mid-16th Century when Queen Elizabeth I wanted lands settled and sought to curb the growing friendship between the Scottish McDonnells in North Antrim and France. There were several attempts in cluding one by Sir Thomas Smith to settle the Ards in Co Down in 1572 .

Thousands of Scottish people went to Ulster with the Plantation and thus was born the Scotch - Irish / Ulster Scot. In 1649 -50, there was another major redistribution of lands when Cromwell offered land in lieu of wages to his soldiers - many took the offer and sold the lands on without themselves even visiting their allotment. In later years many of these Scots - Irish and the indigenous Irish people who were badly treated in so many ways, subsequently emigrated to the USA and Canada . It was not until the late 18th and 19th century that their ancestors continued the tradition of emigration to other colonies in Australia and New Zealand.

There you have a snapshot of how the Scotch - Irish originated and of whom President Teddy Roosevelt said that they were, "the kernel of the distinctively and intensely American stock who were the pioneers of our people in their march westward."

Back to The Plantation of Ireland and the Scotch-Irish (Ulster-Scots) Main Page

Part One: The Beginning of the Scotch-Irish
Part Two: The Plantation of Ireland 1610-1630
Part Three: Emigration to the British Colonies

Ulster Scots Discussion Board


Public Record Office Northern Ireland (PRONI ) for details of Baronies, Poor Law Unions, Parishes etc.

Ulster Historical Foundation (maps and townlands)

Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh (specialises in emigration to the US and Canada)

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

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