Written by Tamela Maxim
Photography by Bill Neely
t’s March - what better time of year to learn something new about Ireland? South Carolina relinquished British control and set up an independent government 231 years ago in March 1776 and in the following year, efforts were made to annex Georgia! Up until the time of the attempted “hostile takeover,” relations between Georgia and South Carolina had been quite amicable. In fact more than 40 place names (streets, cities, counties, etc.) were named after famous South Carolinians.
Just last month, on February 20th, the Heritage Library here in the Lowcountry featured two fabulous speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast, Ireland. Dr. William Roulston and Dr. Brian Trainer spoke to us about the history of emigration from Northern Ireland to America and also about genealogy research techniques. This special program helped bring to life the Scots-Irish heritage so deeply rooted in the history of our country and especially in South Carolina.
Dr. Trainor and Dr. Roulston encouraged any of us who hope to find their Irish roots to visit their location in Belfast. Membership in the Ulster Genealogical & Historical Guild provides a database of over 2 million records. For more information send an email to email@example.com Three recommended websites are: ancestryireland.com, historyfromheadstones.com and booksireland.org.uk. Another way to research is through the genealogical records available through the Mormon (LDS) church, which are on microfilm (pronounced micro-fillim by Mr. Trainor).
Inspired by their talk I did some research. One thing I discovered was that tourism in Northern Ireland has grown tremendously since the first cease fire in 1994. The former period of violence is known as “The Troubles,” which reminded me of our Southern euphemism for the Civil War “The Great Unpleasantness” or not so euphemistically “The War of Northern Aggression.” Almost all early emigration from Ireland to America was from Ulster. Northern Ireland, unlike Southern Ireland is more of a mix of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish, but mainly Scottish and Irish, known as Scots Irish or later called Scotch Irish in America. South Carolina was a favored destination because immigrants received a free plot of land and other incentives. Back in Ireland, they had to pay rent on their farmland, which was difficult, if not impossible, when crops failed. Alexander Hewitt, a Presbyterian clergyman and a resident of Charleston went to England at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War and published his history in 1779. In it he says:
“Besides foreign Protestants, several persons from England and Scotland resorted to Carolina after the peace. But of all other countries, none has furnished the province with so many inhabitants as Ireland. In the northern counties of that kingdom, the spirit of emigration seized the people to such a degree, that it threatened almost a total depopulation. Such multitudes of husbandmen, laborers and manufacturers flocked over the Atlantic, that the landlords began to be alarmed, and to concert ways and means for preventing the growing evil. Scarce a ship sailed for any of the plantations that was not crowded with men, women and children. But the bounty allowed new settlers in Carolina proved a great encouragement, and induced numbers of these people, notwithstanding the severity of the climate, to resort to that province. The merchants finding this bounty equivalent to the expenses of the passage, from avaricious motives persuaded the people to embark for Carolina.”
I learned from Dr. Roulston that the Northern Irish are known for their candor and that the agents who sold tickets for sailing to America (a 4 month journey) described our country in minute detail, down to the exact color of the cows. From the lecture and in my research I found that the great emigration of Scots-Irish began in the early 18th century and peaked during the 11 years of the Great Famine, during which approximately 2 million Scots Irish left for a better life in America. I was surprised to read that a high proportion of them were single women. A single person received 100 acres of land. A married man got an additional 50 acres for a wife and another 50 for each child or dependent under 16. No married woman, unless she was a widow, could take land. The immigrant also received 10 pounds in gold to build a house.
By the time of the first U.S. national census in 1790, the Irish were America’s 2nd largest ethnic population and when George Washington became our first President it is estimated that the Scots-Irish in America numbered at least 1/4 million. There was no emigration between 1775 - 1783, but there was an explosion of emigration from Ireland from 1775-1783.
Fifteen U.S. Presidents are of Scots-Irish ancestry, including Theodore Roosevelt, who once said that the Scots-Irish were, “the kernel of the distinctive and intensely American stock who were the pioneers of our people on their march westward.” Dr. Roulston also explained to me that the Irish were very supportive of one another and those in America did whatever they could to help their friends and families emigrate, which is another reason that the Irish came here in such large numbers.
emigrate - means to move out of, as in “He emigrated from Belfast to America.”
immigrate - means to move into, as in “He immigrated to America from Belfast.”
Northern Ireland consists of 6 counties in the province of Ulster - the capitol is Belfast
The motto of Northern Ireland is “Quis separabit” or “Who will separate us?”
Belfast is the birthplace of C. S. Lewis and Van Morrison (known there as “Van the Man”)
An Irish accent is very beautiful: project is not prahject it is PROject, Barony, which is a subdivision of a county sounds like Barney, refers sounds like ree-faress, name sounds like nay-hem, early sounds like air-lee and miles sounds like my-alls
There is no official language of Northern Ireland, although it is English by precedence. Irish and Ulster Scots are officially recognized minority languages.
The Titanic was built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast
The Star Spangled Banner is believed to have been inspired by an Irish marching song from the Ennis Killen Castle during the late 17th century sung by the 2 regiments supporting the cause of William III when the castle became an English garrison fort. The names of the regiments: The Inniskilling Dragoons and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) was of Scots Irish descent and was very proud of his heritage. In 1886 when addressing what he called his Scots-Irish cousins, he said, “We believe as you do that we really made this country.” President Wilson said that one of his first memories was at the age of 4 when living in Augusta, Georgia - he overheard someone say that Mr. Lincoln had been elected and that there was going to be a war.
Two Really Terrific Stories about the
Scots-Irish in America:
The Declaration of Independence’s first draft was drawn up by Scots-Irish Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the 1st Continental Congress. He emigrated from Londonderry in 1739. On July 4, 1776, the original Declaration of Independence was signed by only 2 people, Charles Thomson and the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock. They took the Declaration of Independence to a printer and had 500 copies made, which were sent to the members of Congress and the King of England. The original was lost in what has been described as the “Fever of Freedom.” That same printer, John Dunlap, also printed America’s first daily newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet. On August 2, 1776, the delegates returned to Pennsylvania and signed the newly prepared Declaration of Independence and for some reason Charles Thomson was not asked to sign it. There were 56 signatures; 9 were Scots-Irish.
Ulysses Simson Grant, who was our 18th President (1869-1877), was of Scots-Irish descent. His real name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but a mistake was made on his birth certificate. He didn’t like the name Hiram, so he never changed his name and both his son and grandson were named after him. When Ulysses S. Grant was a junior officer in the Mexican War, he was given a commendation for his gallantry as a soldier by Major Robert E. Lee. Little did he know that this junior officer would one day be the Commanding General of the Union Army and he would have to surrender to him on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. President Grant’s homestead in Tyrone County Ireland is open to the public and can be seen at www.flavouroftyrone.com
The Heritage Library is located on Hilton Head in The Courtyard Building in Suite 300 (3rd floor)
Hours: 9am - 3pm Mon, Thurs, Fri & Sat
The phone number is 686-6560. www.heritagelib.org