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The Ulster-Scots Society of America
The Ulster Scots


Ulster Scots is a term used primarily in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It refers to the Scots who migrated to the northern province of Ireland (Ulster) beginning about 1605. Although sometimes in North America they are referred to as ‘Scotch-Irish’ or ‘Ulster-Irish‘. All these terms most commonly refer to those Lowland and Border Scots who settled in the northern counties of Ireland during the Plantation scheme. However, there were Scots in Ireland as early as the l400s, such as the McDonalds of County Antrim. There was also a steady stream of Highland Scots migrating to the north of Ireland in the early 1800s as a result of the highland clearances in Scotland. It can therefore be considered that anyone whose ancestors migrated from Scotland to Ulster from 1400 onward is of Ulster-Scot descent.


The majority of Scots who migrated to the north of Ireland came as part of this organized settlement scheme of 1605-1697. Plantation settlements were confined to the Province of Ulster, in the counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh and Derry. As many as 200,000 Lowland Scots crossed the North Channel to settle in Ulster in this approximately 90 year period. The Plantation of Ulster took place in two stages. The first stage was confined to the eastern counties of Antrim and Down. The initiative was taken by Scottish fortune seekers. Although the British Crown encouraged and co-operated with those responsible, it was fully a private venture. The second stage of settlement was far broader in scope. It was a project of state, conceived, planned, and closely supervised by the British governments of England and Ireland. The plantations included settlers from England and Scotland, although Scots outnumbered those from England by a ratio of 20 to 1. The primary purpose of the plantation scheme was to populate the northern counties of Ireland with loyal British subjects, to counterbalance the native Irish. Scotland was only too willing to participate. It was seen

as a way to eradicate Scotland of the hordes of Lowland and Border Scots, many of whom in their desperate poverty felt compelled to turn to a life of marauding and horse thievery, which had become an occupation in itself in the Scottish countryside. Many were hardscrabble, subsistence farmers barely able to support their families. Hence in the early years of the Plantation, the majority of the settlers were Lowland and Border Scots seeking a better life.


Prior to l707, Scotland was a distinct Kingdom from England, governed by its own laws, with its own manners and customs. To ensure that the arriving Scots could be kept under control from rising up in Ireland in support of their brothers in Scotland, they were required to take an oath of loyalty to the British Crown, as ’denizens’ in Ireland. For Scots to become English subjects in Ireland, it was necessary to obtain letters patent of Denization, pay a fine and take the Oath of allegiance.

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