Prior to the mass immigration of Irish Catholic and Protestants to Scotland in the late 19th century after the Great Famine in Ireland, there had been a mass emigration in the opposite direction by lowland Scots in the 17th Century. These Scots are commonly referred to today as Ulster Scots, or Scots Irish In America.
The story begins with an ending. In March 1603, the same month that James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Ireland, the leading families of the ancient province of Ulster, surrendered to the English. Thus concluded the Nine Years War, the latest in a long line of struggles to arrest the steady expansion of English power in Ireland.
It was in Ulster that Celtic Ireland had made its last stand against a foreign invader, all the more unwelcome because he now came garbed in a cloak of militant Protestantism, a direct challenge to an ancient Catholic tradition. It had been a particularly bitter struggle, and Ulster had been devastated.
James saw this as an opportunity to populate Ulster with English and Scots Borderer’s,and set up Plantations.
The first major influx of border English and Lowland Scots into Ulster came in the first two decades of the 17th century. 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 English and Scottish colonists. Under this scheme, a substantial number of Scots were settled, mostly in the south and west of Ulster, on confiscated land
As a man and a king James was no more sympathetic to Gaelic traditions and culture than his Tudor predecessors on the English throne. While still King of Scots he had been preoccupied with the problems posed by his own minorities in the Highlands and Islands, whom he once described as ‘utterly barbarous.’
In the 1590s he had even sponsored a scheme of internal colonisation or plantation, handing over the island of Lewis to a party of Lowland adventurers. These men were to bring civilisation and commerce to the western Isles, in a project that allowed for the wholesale extermination of the local Gaelic clans
It had been a failure as the Islanders had seen them off!! But this was an opportunity for James to try again with his plantation experiment,only this time it was a war ravaged Ulster.
It is a matter of historical note that James when he took the crown of England never set foot in Scotland again, despite his promises to do so!
By 1640 it is estimated that as many as 100,000 Scots had settled in Ulster compared with some 20,000 migrants from England.
But during the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the native Irish gentry attempted to expel 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. Native Irish civilians were massacred in kind.
The Ulster-Scottish population in Ireland was further enlarged further 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.
After the war was over, many of their soldiers settled permanently in eastern Ulster. 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 re-conquered Ireland. Defeating the native Irish forces on behalf of the English Commonwealth, he and his forces employed methods and inflicted casualties among the civilian Irish population that were long commonly considered to be outside of the accepted military ethics of the day.
Under the Act of Settlement 1652, all Catholic-owned land was confiscated and the Plantations, 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.
James II took the throne In England and unlike his father was a Catholic. It is interesting to note how the Stewart monarchy flipped between being Catholic and Protestant as it politically suited them!
Mary Queen of Scots had been Catholic, her son James I had been protestant and the sponsor of the King James Bible. His grandson CharlesII had been protestant before returning to Catholicism on his death bed. James II had been protestant before his exile, but Catholic on his return.
James II ran into severe difficulties with the predominantly Anglican Protestant English Lords, and they arranged for an Invasion from Holland by Prince William of Orange, who just happened to be James II’s son in law and nephew!
James II ran away into exile in France without a blow being struck and ditched the Crown as he left. He was thus disposed of the throne,and the protestant William and his daughter Mary took his place. The Scots too took the view that he had abdicated the Scottish Throne and also disposed of him.
This was not to be quite the end of the matter however,as James later returned to Ireland and was accepted as King there,as the Irish had not deposed him. What was to follow was the first of the Jacobite Wars.
In the Williamite war in Ireland (1689–91) The Protestant Ulster community, including the Scots, fought on the Williamite side in the war against Irish Catholics and their French allies. The fear of a repeat of the massacres of 1641, religious persecution under a Catholic monarch, as well as their wish to hold onto lands which had been confiscated from Catholic landowners, were all principal motivating factors.
The Williamite forces, composed of British, Dutch and Danish armies as well as troops raised in Ulster, ended Jacobite resistance by 1691, confirming the Protestant monopoly on power in Ireland. Their victories at Derry, the Boyne and Aughrim are still commemorated by Rangers supporters,Irish Unionists and the Orange Order to this day, and it is some of these songs which are under suspicion of being sectarian at present.
What is often conveniently forgotten by some Is that many protestants also fought on the Irish side! This was not a war of religion as such, but rather a war between Rulers!
The Williamite victory in the war in Ireland had two main long term results. The first was that it ensured James II would not regain his thrones in England, Ireland, and Scotland by military means. The second was that it ensured closer British and Protestant dominance over Ireland. Until the 19th century, Ireland would be ruled by what became known as the “Protestant Ascendancy”, the mostly English Protestant ruling class. The majority Irish Catholic community and the Ulster-Scots Presbyterian community were systematically excluded from power, which was based on land ownership.
For over a century after the war, Irish Catholics maintained a sentimental attachment to the Jacobite cause, portraying James and the Stuarts as the rightful monarchs who would have given a just settlement to Ireland, including self-government, restoration of confiscated lands and tolerance for Catholicism. Until 1766 France and the Papacy remained committed to restoring the Stuarts to their British Kingdoms, and Irish soldiers in the French service fought on the Jacobite side in the Scottish Jacobite uprisings up to the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
Protestants, on the other hand, portrayed the Williamite victory as a triumph for religious and civil liberty. In Ireland, many in the Protestant community believed that their victory saved their community from massacre and annihilation at the hands of Roman Catholics. For this reason, the battles of the Williamite war are still commemorated by Protestant Unionists in Ulster, principally by the Orange Order on the Twelfth of July
During the wars the Ulster Scots had played a full part, assisting, amongst other things, in the famous siege of Londonderry. Among their rewards they could expect, at the very least, a measure of religious toleration: after all, the revolution settlement had at last conceded the right of Scotland to a Presbyterian church after years of Stewart persecution. But the Ulster Presbyterians were in caught in a paradox: though the reign of William of Orange brought a measure of calm, they were still subject to a religious establishment in Dublin, which remained strictly Anglican in outlook. During the reign of Queen Anne the Presbyterians, though part of the victorious Protestant party, were to find themselves just as outcast as their despised Catholic neighbours.
By 1710 most of the farm leases granted to the settlers in the 1690s had expired; new leases were withheld until the tenants agreed to pay greatly increased rents, which many could simply not afford to do. Rather than submit to these new conditions whole communities, led by their ministers, began to take ship for the Americas: a new exodus was about to begin
In the short period left before the outbreak of the American Revolution a further 30,000 Ulstermen left for the colonies, joining some 200,000 who had already made their homes there earlier in the century. The contemporary image of the Ulster Protestant is most commonly that of the Orangeman, with all of his exaggerated loyalty to Britain and the Crown. For the dispossessed of the 1770s the opposite was true: they had lost everything, and came to America with an intense hostility towards all things British.
And we all know what happened next!!!
In my fourth part, I will talk about myxomatosis, I promise!!! 🙂
But as a final aside for this section. It was after William of Orange took the English Crown and the first of the Jacobite Wars with James II, that the 1701 Act of Settlement which has been discussed by Holyrood recently came into being. This Act prevents a Catholic attaining the English Throne,and subsequently through the 1707 Union of parliaments both the Scottish and English Thrones.But prior to this the Scots had already in Scottish Parliament through the Claim of Right,which imposes the Sovereignty of the Scottish people over the Throne also debarred any Catholic from ever ascending the throne.
In effect Statutory sectarianism!!