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The Ulster-Scots Society of America

The Ulster-Scot supplement October 2003

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 emigrant ancestors.

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 encouraging.

"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 Laird.

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 Appalachian region.

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.

Visit the Official Ulster-Scots Agency Website at:


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