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The Family Tree - August/September 2003
The Other 70%

By Judith Lloyd

Scotland’s Lowlanders’ heritage is made up of several different races including an Irish Celtic tribe (the Scots) who invaded the Lowland areas in the 3rd and 4th centuries and established colonies there.

Much later the Lowlands was the area separating England from the Highlands.  In the skirmishes and wars between the latter two the Lowlands were continual battlefields, and suffered total destruction of their farms and other lands many times by both sides (the Highlanders to prevent the English from having supplies to aid in their advance, and the English in revenge).  They also added to their own land destruction through the planting of the same crop continually, thus stripping the lands of the nutrients required and causing crop yields to diminish or become non-existent.   Thus the life of a Lowlander was unstable and eventually untenable.

The people of the Lowlands were mostly strong Presbyterian, and, in the reign of the Catholic James 1st (James the 6th of Scotland) were persecuted by the Crown of England. 

When James decided to set up his plantation of Ulster (he had already successfully set up the Jamestown Plantation in 1607 in the colonies) he meant for Englishmen to settle there in addition to some of his Scottish supporters.  James also saw it as a place to send ‘pesky’ Scottish border families to quiet the border between Scotland and England.   The English did not do as well as the Scots on the Ulster Plantation.  Their lands at ‘home’ were more profitable, and many of them returned to England.  Since it was only a 30 mile trip from Scotland to Northern Ireland thousands of Lowland Scots migrated to the Ulster Plantation, bringing with them their Presbyterian religion and their very strong feelings of independence from England.  Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton, who had been given land in the Ulster Plantation by James, were instrumental in assisting many Scots in the Ayrshire and Galloway regions to leave their homes and obtain land in the Plantation.   This was surely not what James had had in mind.  The areas of Antrim (which had already been settled by Scots since the 1400’s) and County Down became inhabited almost totally by Scots. At this time Highlanders were totally banned from the Plantation.

The Scots prospered here with agriculture, the raising of animals, and growing flax for linen production.

The language spoken was Ulster-Scots.  At one time this was the main language spoken in Belfast.  Now the language is spoken only in some rural areas.   Some of the words and phrases here in the U.S. are said to have originated from Scots Ulster.  The most intriguing one I’ve seen was a reference to y’all owing its existence to the Scots Ulster word ‘yis aa’ (meaning you all).  There are also words that we associate with Scotland as Scottish words, (such as nicht – night) which are really Scots-Ulster in origin.

In 1641 the Irish rebelled against these ‘invaders’ of their lands and in surprise attacks killed many Ulster Scots in an effort to rout them from their lands.  The war lasted 8 years and at its end the Scots were still in Ulster.  (However the skirmishes continue to this day between Northern Ireland – Ulster, and the Irish Republic).

In the 1800’s the Highland Clearances created another migration to Ulster.  Though these were in the main, Highlanders, the population still remained Lowland ancestry.  Though the American term given to these people is Scotch-Irish, these people did not and still do not consider themselves Irish.  

It is said that if you live in Northern Ireland and you are protestant, that your ancestry began in the Lowlands of Scotland – or (if you will reread the first paragraph of this article) did it?  Perhaps the people in Ulster have simply come full circle?

The Ulster-Scots Society Of America
105 Arrowhead Way, Cary, NC, 27513
(919) 380-0383  e-mail -

This is a new association starting up.  Their president is Paul Smallwood.

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