Who are the Ulster Scots?
- The Ulster Scots are an ethnic group in Ireland, descended from Lowland Scots and English from the border of those two countries, many from the "Border Reivers" culture. These people first began to occupy Ireland in large numbers with the Plantation of Ulster, a planned process of colonisation which took place under the auspices of James VI of Scotland and I of England on land confiscated from the Irish nobility, most extensively in the Province of Ulster. The term "Ulster-Scots" refers to both these colonists of the 17th century and, less commonly, to the Gallowglass who began to arrive from what is now northwest Scotland centuries earlier.
- Ulster-Scots were largely descended from colonists from Galloway, Ayrshire, and the Scottish Borders Country, although some descend from people further north in the Scottish Lowlands and the Highlands. Ulster-Scots emigrated in significant numbers to the United States and all corners of the then-worldwide British Empire — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa — and to a lesser extent to Argentina and Chile in South America. Scotch-Irish is a traditional term for Ulster Scots who later emigrated to what is now the United States; "Scots-Irish" is a more recent form of the American term, and is not to be confused with Irish-Scots, i.e., recent Irish immigrants to Scotland.
- Further information: The Ulster Plantation
- Although population movement of Gaels to and from the northeast of Ireland and the west of Scotland had been on-going since pre-historic times, a class of warriors from the west of what is now Scotland fought in significant numbers as mercenaries for Irish kings from the mid-13th century to the end of the 16th century. These were known as gallowglass, from the Irish for "foreign gaels", referring to their mixed Norse and Gaelic heritage. Many settled in Ireland at the conclusion of their service. The next major influx of Scots was a concentrated migration of Lowland Scots to Ulster, mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries.
- 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.
- At the same time, there was an independent Scottish settlement in the east of the province, which had not been affected by the terms of the plantation. In east Down and Antrim, Scottish migration was led by James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, two Ayrshire lairds. This started in May 1606 and was followed in 1610.
- 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 augmented 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 by historians and the popular culture to be outside of the accepted military ethics of the day (see more on the debate here). 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.
- There was a generation of calm in Ireland until another war broke out in 1689, again due to political conflict closely aligned with ethnic and religious differences. The Williamite war in Ireland (1689–91) was fought between Jacobites who supported the restoration of the Catholic James II to the throne of England and Williamites who supported the Protestant William of Orange. 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 the Orange Order into the 21st century.
- Finally, another major influx of Scots into northern Ireland occurred in the late 1690s, when tens of thousands of people fled a famine in Scotland to come to Ulster.
- It was only after the 1690s that Scottish settlers and their descendants, the majority of whom were Presbyterian, gained numeric superiority in Ulster. Along with Catholic Irish, they were legally disadvantaged by the Penal Laws, which gave full rights only to members of the state church (the Church of Ireland), who were mainly Anglo-Irish and converts or the descendants of English settlers. For this reason, up until the 19th century, there was considerable disharmony between Dissenters and the ruling Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. With the enforcement of Queen Anne's 1703 Test Act, which caused further discrimination against all who did not participate in the established church, considerable numbers of Ulster-Scots migrated to the colonies in British America throughout the 18th century.
- Towards the end of the 18th century many Ulster-Scots Presbyterians ignored religious differences and, along with many Catholic Irish, joined the United Irishmen to participate in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in support of republican and egalitarian ideals.