Thursday 10 April 2014

The Making of the Ulster Scot

Professor Heron said -- The question I propose for consideration in this lecture is -- How did the Ulster Scot come to be what he was before he left Scotland? What were the racial elements which entered into his composition, and what were the formative influences which, before he left his native land, went to create and mould him? The "Quarterly Review" for January last had a well-informed and interesting article on "The Evolution of the Ulsterman," by Mr. R. H. Murray, but the writer confines himself to the discipline and development the Ulsterman has undergone since he came to Ireland. It is another and much more difficult question -- What ingredients and what experiences and influences went to the making of him before he set foot on Irish soil?

I have had the privilege of reading the proofs of an able, scholarly, and very interesting new work on the "Ulster Scot," by the Rev. J. B. Woodburn, M.A., of Castlerock, and, indeed, I expected to see it in the hands of the booksellers before to-day. In the opening chapter of his book, which I can warmly recommend to your perusal, Mr. Woodburn has a brief but careful statement respecting "the race of the Ulster Scot," his conclusion being that the Scottish immigrants to Ulster had fully as much Celtic as Teutonic blood in them, quite as much as the Irishman of the South. Mr. Woodburn does not go into the details of their previous history in Scotland, but the question which he raises and suggests is a deeply interesting one, which it may not be inopportune to carry still farther and examine in more detail. To state with precision, indeed, the exact proportion of Celtic or Teutonic blood in the Ulster settler is probably now impossible, but to take account of the different races which have combined to produce him, and the revolutions and changes through which in the course of a long history he has passed, is not only possible and practicable, it cannot but be an inquiry of deep interest to every one of us, for it is part of our own personal history. And it is of more than personal or local interest at the present moment. For some time past the Ulsterman has had concentrated on him a good deal of attention. He has been giving some moments of anxiety and perplexity to statesmen. His case and claims, I am told, have been a subject of keen debate among the students of German universities; while his decided and very unamiable disinclination to be treated as a mere pawn in the game of politics, or to be tossed about as a shuttlecock of parties, has astonished and even pained some people. Now, this ordinarily quiet and industrious, steady and thrifty, but grimly determined, independent, intractable, unbending, and disobliging person -- who is he? What is he? What were his antecedents before he came to Ireland? What were the constituent elements and manipulations that went to the making of him? Of what some was the laboratory wherein the component parts of him were put together, and formed and moulded? It is these questions I am going to try to answer in this address; but to obtain the right answer to them -- to get at the real facts of the case -- it will be necessary to note briefly the parts of Scotland from which the Ulster colonists came, and then to trace rapidly the history of those regions, and of the people who dwelt in them, and the invasions and additions, expulsions and vicissitudes to which they were subjected.

Whence They Came

As to the parte of Scotland from which the Ulster settlers came there is no controversy, and they may be indicated in a sentence or two. As we gather from such records as the Hamilton and Montgomery MSS., Hill's account of the Plantation, the State Calendars, Commissioners' Reports in the "Carew MSS.," Pynnar's "Survey," and other contemporary documents, the districts of Scotland which supplied the Ulster colonists of the seventeenth century may be grouped conveniently under three heads -- namely, (1) Galloway and the Scottish counties included in the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde -- Dumbartonshire, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, and Dumfriesshire; (2) the counties around Edinburgh -- Edinburghshire, Haddingtonshire, and Berwickshire; and (3) the district lying between Aberdeen and Inverness, corresponding to the ancient province of Moray.

It should be noted here, however, that a certain portion of Scotland was expressly excluded from the privilege (if it was a privilege) of sharing in the Ulster Plantation. It was made a necessary condition that the colonists, both of the higher and lower ranks, must have been "born in England or THE INWARD PARTS OF SCOTLAND." This restriction of authorised Scottish settlers to those born in "the inward parts" of the country was evidently designed to exclude Argyllshire and the Isles; that is to say, the Scottish Dalriada, the parts of Scotland inhabited by Celts from Ireland. It was manifestly for the express purpose of excluding them that the restriction referred to was made. They were not the sort of people that were wanted.

Now, let us trace the history of the several regions named, note the successive races by whom they were occupied, the numerous invasions, the incessant conflicts, the devastations and colonisations they passed through, and the probable outcome as regards the blood, race, and moral quality of the residue. A superficial view on a perfunctory survey of the history might be quite misleading. As the history reaches back far so as to touch even prehistoric tracts of time, and as the events and movements to be observed, even within the historic period, are often involved and complex, and extend over more than a thousand years, both patient study and a fair share of trained insight and of the historic imagination are requisite to realise those movements in their operation and outcome. In the present brief statement of the case I can only attempt to place before you the elementary facts of a somewhat difficult problem, and thus put you in a position to judge for yourselves. And for obvious reasons I have thought it better, as far as possible, to state the facts in the words of recognised historians rather than in my own.

As a necessary preliminary, however, to our consideration of the districts I have named some notice must be taken of the Picts, who held almost the whole of the country we now call Scotland when it begins to emerge into the light of history. A keen controversy as to the racial connection of the Picts, in which the Scottish historians, Pinkerton and Chalmers, towards the end of the eighteenth century, were the chief protagonists, raged for many years, Pinkerton maintaining that they were Teutons, and his opponent arguing with equal vigour that they were Celts. Sir Walter Scott, in his tale of the "Antiquary," has a most amusing skit on that controversy. At the dinner table of Monkbarns a sharp debate arises between the Antiquary and Sir Arthur Wardour on this very question, who were the Picts? Mr. Oldbuck asserts with Pinkerton that they were Goths, while Sir Arthur asseverates quite as strenuously with Chalmers that they were Celts. The discussion, like many a similar one, gets more heated as it proceeds, till at length the combatants lose their temper, and Sir Arthur rises from the table in high dudgeon and "flounces out of the parlour." Dr. Hill Burton, in his "History of Scotland," describes the controversy between Pinkerton and Chalmers as quite inconclusive. In fact, the verdict of the latest and best modern experts is that both were wrong, and that the Picts were neither Celts nor Teutons! Dr. Skene, writing more than a generation ago, held that they were Celts; but I suppose the highest living authority on the subject is Sir John Rhys, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and Professor of Celtic in Oxford University, and Sir John Rhys, led by philological, ethnological, and topographical considerations, affirms that "the most tenable hypothesis may be said to be that the 'Picts' were non-Aryan, whom the first Celtic migration found already settled" in the country. "The natural conclusion is," he says, "that the Picts were here before the Aryans came, that they were in fact the aborigines." He adds that "it is not too much to say that the theory of the non-Aryan origin of the Pictish language holds the field at present" ("The Welsh People,", pp. 13-16). The judgment of the late eminent Professor of Celtic Philology in the University of Berlin, Professor Zimmer, coincides with that of Rhys. His opinion is that "Pict" was the Roman translation of the name given to the aborigines by the British and Irish Celts. And I see that Dr. Macewen, in the volume of his "History of the Church in Scotland," which has just appeared -- a work of very careful research and scholarship -- adopts this view. Note, then, that, according to such distinguished experts as Sir John Rhys and Professor Zimmer, of Berlin, the original inhabitants of the greater part of North Britain, including the aborigines of Galloway and of the North of Scotland from the Firth of forth to the Pentland Firth, and by the Romans called "Picts," were not Celts.

I. We turn now, then, to the first of the three groups of districts I have named as having supplied a very large number of Ulster colonists -- namely, Galloway and the Northern portion of the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde, which included the modern counties of Dumbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Dumfriesshire.


(1) As to Galloway, the remarks just made with regard to the Pictish aborigines have to be kept in mind. Even in the time of Bede we find here a people called by him "Niduari Picts," and at a still later time known as "Galloway Picts." According to Sir John Rhys they wave neither Goidelic nor Brythonic Celts, but non-Aryan aborigines, who had been subdued by the Celts, and had adopted the language of their Celtic invaders. WHEN they were subjugated by a Celtic people, and became in a measure Celticised, is quite uncertain. In Strathclyde also, embracing the counties I have mentioned, there appears to have been a considerable substratum of Pictish aborigines. But overlying them, and constituting the dominant element in the population, were the Britons, or Brythonic Celts, who formed the British kingdom of Strathclyde. They were in close kinship with the Welsh. That, then, is the first thing to be noted with regard to this region -- that prior to the coming of the Romans, and later, Galloway is chiefly populated by Pictish aborigines, and Strathclyde by Britons, who were Brythonic Celts, akin to the Welsh.

(2) The second fact to which I have to direct your notice is the invasion of North Britain by the Romans. The Roman occupation began in the year 80 of our era, continued till 410, and left, without doubt, some lasting effects. The six campaigns in which Agricola sought to subdue North Britain, and the numerous campaigns of later Roman invaders, laid waste the country, and exterminated a considerable proportion of a population which was already sparse, for the forests, moors, and marshes were then extensive; while in the course of the three centuries of the Roman occupation there would be more or less inter-marriage with the Britons, and some infusion of Roman, or at least foreign blood. Remains of Roman camps have been found in various places. We hear of one (at Bar Hill), where, with a cohort of auxiliaries from Germany, about a thousand settlers continued to live for nearly half a century. Dr. Macewen, in his recent "History of the Church in Scotland " (p. 18) says that with the Picts and Britons there was "blended a mongrel, half-foreign element, the residue of the Roman population. This element is difficult to explain in its relations to native life, but it is extremely historical both in itself and in its influences." He describes the people even at this early date as "the hybrid inhabitants of Strathclyde;" while Dr. Zimmer joints out that Patrick in his letter to Coroticus speaks of the subjects of Coroticus in Strathclyde as being of both British and Roman descent.

(3) We have next to record the influx into the whole province of Galloway and Strathclyde of a Teutonic people. In the words of Skene "Galloway was for centuries a province of the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria" ("Celtic Scotland," Vol. I., p. 311); and the same is true of Strathclyde also. Bede informs us, for example, that in the year 603 Aethelfrid, King of Northumbria, "ravaged the Britons more than all the great men of the Angles. He conquered more territory from the Britons, either making them tributory or expelling the inhabitants, and planting Angles in their places than any other king" ("Eccl. Hist.," B. I., c. 34). Mark the policy of the Northumbrian King, as described by Bede, of "expelling the inhabitants and planting Angles in their places" -- a policy which seems to have been pursued by his successors. Bede also states that Oswald, another Northumbrian King (635-642), "brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain;" and that his brother and successor, Oswiu, even extended his realm ("Eccl. Hist.," B. III., c. 6). As Mr. Andrew Long puts it: "Oswiu dominated Strathclyde and Pictland up to the Grampians, the English element for the time extending itself, and Anglicising more and more the Scotland that was to be" (Article on "Scotland" in "Encycl. Britan."). Under Eegfrid, Oswiu's successor, they tried to throw off the yoke of servitude, but Eegfrid "made so great a slaughter of them that two rivers were almost filled with their bodies, and those who fled were cut to pieces" (Eddi's, "Life of Wilfrid," c. 19). A century later, in 756, "the successes of Eadbert reduced the fortunes of the Britons in this quarter to the lowest ebb," and Cunningham and Kyle were taken possession of, with Alclyde itself, the bulwark of the North Britons (Robertson's "Scotland Under Her Early Kings," Vol. 1., p. 18). By the repeated ravages, slaughter, and expulsion of the native Britons, they must have been immensely reduced in number, while the possession and domination of the province for so long a period by a Teutonic people, whose policy it was to "expel the natives and to plant Angles in their stead," cannot but have added a large and powerful Teutonic element to a population already much reduced and mixed with other than Celtic ingredients.

To be continued...

This article was originally published in The Witness of 10 April 1913.

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