Tag Archives: Scots-Irish

An interview with the authors of ‘Wayfaring Strangers’

We reached back to explore medieval troubadours in the south of France, wandering minstrels who fanned out across Europe, and Scottish ballad collectors, composers, singers, and fiddlers. Above all, though, our book is primarily about the nameless families—across many generations—who held onto the one thing that cost nothing, took up no space in their travel trunks, and was perhaps their most valuable symbol of identity: the songs and tunes they carried over centuries and the miles. In particular, we spent years researching these intrepid wayfarers: Scottish emigrants to Ulster in the north of Ireland, who blended their musical traditions with the Irish in their new home and transported these on their Atlantic crossing to America. They often seemed drawn to the distant horizon and their journeys have been a carrying stream of music, fed by so many sources and in turn feeding out along countless tributaries. As Scots-Irish, many found Appalachian homes and new ways of sharing their long-held musical traditions. To tell the truth, at times it felt as if we were traveling along with them, and we developed a real affinity for their unshakeable spirit and their incredible persistence in keeping their music and traditions alive.

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Raise your glass to Mr. Robert Burns

January 25 marks the 255rd birthday of poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), who continues to be widely loved in the Scots-Irish community. Many of the bard’s songs and poems have become international favorites – even among those who find his use of Scottish lowland dialect difficult to decipher. If you find yourself in Franklin, NC this […]

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New Year countdown

Ringing out the old, ringing in the new. Everyone’s doing it tomorrow night. One New Year tradition in Appalachia is the New Year baby. The custom of using a baby to signify the New Year originated in ancient Greece, the baby symbolizing in this case not birth, but re-birth. The Germans added the twist of […]

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The “Fighting Irish” from the Mountains and Beyond

For all the “Fighting Irishmen” there were also large numbers of Irish shirkers. Across the Confederate army, the Irish had a higher propensity to die in action but also to desert. They seem to have bought into the rhetoric of the Fighting Irish but ultimately not enough to see it through for the Confederacy. This more complicated story of the Irish in the Civil War, just like the one in the southern Appalachians (as also highlighted for example by John Inscoe in his work on western North Carolina), is not useful to movies or politicians looking to simplify things for their respective audiences. But, it is the more accurate one.

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