The Ulster-Scot supplement
Blazing the trail across America
The cultural, historical and musical dimensions of
the Ulster-Scots Agency are being promoted far beyond these islands,
with the United States, with its significantly large Scots-Irish
population, being a particularly receptive base for expansion.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand are other
countries where interest in the Ulster-Scots diaspora is naturally
keen, but it is the United States that the Agency's role is being
appreciated the most.
This was very apparent to an Ulster-Scots Agency
delegation who last month spent two weeks in several regions of the
United States, attending various cultural and musical events and fully
explaining how Americans, who would categorise themselves as
Scot-Irish, can best identify with the homeland of their 18th century
Agency vice-chairman Jim Devenney and deputy chief
executive George Holmes, who were joined on the United States visit by
Scots-Irish author Billy Kennedy and champion piper Robert Watt,
confirm the welcome they received from people at the events they
attended in Tennessee and Georgia was warmly spontaneous and very
"It is uncanny the kinship and characteristics
there are between what are known as the Scots-Irish people of the
Appalachian states like Tennessee and Georgia with the folk back home
in Ulster. There is a close bond inherited from several centuries ago
when the first set of Presbyterian emigrants left Ulster for America,"
reports Newtowncunningham, (Co Donegal) man Jim Devenney.
"This was very apparent at the Appalachian Fall
Homecoming at Norris in East Tennessee and the Stone Mountain Highland
Games at Atlanta in Georgia, and at lecture and social events we
attended in Knoxville and Newport in East Tennessee and in North
Georgia," adds Jim, delighted at meeting a good number of people with
Donegal family connections.
George Holmes concurs: "There is clearly a very
positive and genuine interest in Ulster-Scots history, culture and
music, judging from the reactions and responses of the many Americans
that we met and talked with. There is a great yearning to learn more
about Ulster and Northern Ireland, and its people., We are seen by
many as cousins from across the Atlantic."
Lord Laird of Artigarvan, chairman of the
Ulster-Scots Agency, is delighted at the American interest.
"We were aware of the large Scots-Irish diaspora in
the United States and fully realise the importance of promoting our
work there, and in countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Ulster-Scots movement now operates internationally," says Lord
More than 1,000 copies of the Ulster-Scots Agency's
special set of eight leaflets on the Ulster-American link were
distributed along with 1.000 copies of the Ulster-Scots newspaper.
There was a very ready demand.
The recently-formed Ulster-Scots Society of America
is making big strides with its recruitment of members, and area
convenors have been appointed in various states, particularly in the
Billy Kennedy once again returned to the trail he
has been on in Scots-Irish research in the United States for the past
10 years and demand for his seven books remains high there, with
considerable interest generated already in his next publication due to
be published next spring.
Piper Robert Watt, from Maghera in Co Londonderry,
won plaudits all round at the Stone Mountain Highland Games by taking
first place in the three major piping events. Robert was quite
deservedly voted Piper of the Games.
Anticipation is growing in the United States for
the Atlanta (Georgia) premiere next May of the Ulster-Scots musical,
On Eagle's Wing, which is produced and directed by leading Northern
Ireland musician John Anderson.
The two-hour musical extravaganza, with a cast
running into hundreds, will also be presented in Jacksonville
(Florida) and Baltimore, before returning to the Odyssey Arena in
Belfast in late May.