Modernity Has Not Been Kind to the Celt

Note: This post was first posted on Monday April 4 was “sticky” for a couple of days. Scroll down for more recent posts, including a culturally enriched hit-and-run in Molenbeek, a translated article about the willingness of Italian students to convert to Islam if they were threatened by the Islamic State, an addendum to Seneca III’s “Faye on Fate and Futurism”, Viktor Orbán’s speech in Portuguese, two subtitled Italian videos, and last night’s news feed.

Apollon Zamp returns after a long absence with this guest-essay analyzing the contributions of the Scots-Irish to the building of the United States, and their long-time feud with the federal government — which battle the government seems to have won, at least for now.

Modernity Has Not Been Kind to the Celt
by Apollon Zamp

Introduction: Why You’re Not Going to Like Anything I Say

I moved to the mountains of southwestern Virginia in August of 2008. Granted, I was relocating to the New River Valley (i.e. Blacksburg) so I didn’t really get to see the heart and soul of this area until I moved out into the country two years later. Nevertheless, it became clear to me, as I hit the Bedford County line that summer afternoon and saw the Blue Ridge rising up in front of me, that I was entering a different world. As it would turn out, the deep, dark hills of western Virginia are different from the plains and coastline in many ways.

Like many in this part of the world, I’m a big fan of the TV show “Justified.” Not only is it well-written and well-acted (and unlike so many television serials, well-ended), but it evokes rural Appalachia in a way that few forms of media are able to do these days. To quote a song from a different time, “Justified” captures the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, and the shame of the mountain culture that has been sadly degraded by its communion with the larger society around it. Truth be told, though, if you’re a native of the mountainous parts of the rural Southeast, your exit from the physical plane probably won’t be at the hands of a career criminal like Boyd Crowder or some violent Oxycontin addict. It’s much more likely that your departure from this mortal coil will be due to the adipose tissue surrounding one or more of your vital organs.

The men and boys of the infamous Hatfield family, circa 1897

Throughout history, the denizens of rural Appalachia have been at a high risk of death from gunshot wounds, stabbings, and blunt force trauma. This is the seeming end result of piling too many Scots-Irishmen together and expecting them to co-exist peacefully (cf. a certain six counties of Ulster). Those causes of death have been replaced by the much less mediapathic,[1] but no less lethal, trio of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.[2] Fast forward a couple of centuries and the main threat facing a mountaineer is the face he looks at in the mirror every morning. In the immortal words of the comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The singular question any intelligent and curious observer is left with is: Why?

Or, in other words: What happened to the Appalachia of yesteryear? Who’s responsible for its decline? How did it come to this?

The best answers I can provide are, respectively: it’s dead; the Federal government; and the inevitable progress of the welfare state.

Part One: How the Scots-Irish Built America

This isn’t an original idea on my part. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find numerous quotes pertaining to the idea that the Scots-Irish migrations laid the foundation for America. A Hessian officer serving under the British wrote that the American Revolution was “nothing more nor less than a Scots-Irish… revolution.” King George III famously ranted about a “Presbyterian war” in the Colonies. Washington himself supposedly declared, “If defeated everywhere else, I will make my last stand for liberty among the Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia.”

(Years later, during the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington would make a stand for Federalism against the Scots-Irish. It’s the thought that counts, though.)

My purpose here isn’t a complete re-examination of the American Revolution — dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a historian — but rather a re-examination of the role of the Scots-Irishman in colonial America as a whole. For decades the Protestant dissenters had been pushed into the hills by the Anglican establishment that inhabited the flatter, more easily-farmed areas of the Eastern Seaboard. The gentry’s aim was twofold. First, it drove a famously lawless and quarrelsome folk (to wit, the predominantly Celtic Protestant immigrant population) into an area where they could fight amongst themselves without causing untold property damage. Secondly, it pushed what had been a strategic buffer for the British Empire — that is, the Scottish Border peoples — up against the Indians.

The average Ulsterman arrived in America with “an almost pathological thirst for their own land”[3] (to say nothing of whiskey), a fierce sense of individualism, and a well-placed distrust for lawful authority. The promise of his own land made him seek a remote mountain home. His ability to hold that land against all comers strengthened his desire to hold his ground. His tenacity in doing so made him a worthy adversary against any Indian tribes that might try to force his hand.

To put it another way, the Anglican upper class of early America managed to kill three birds, rather than two, with one stone. They shunted aside a rather troublesome thorn in their sides; ensured that said troublesome population would stay put for once; and turned them into a weapon against what they considered to be an even more quarrelsome and violent native enemy.

Unfortunately for them, this had roughly the same result as James I’s meddling did in Northern Ireland. Just a few decades later, the Appalachian Overmountain Men would prove to be the undoing of Cornwallis’ forces and the end of the American Colonial era. In both Ulster and America, the temperamental and contentious Celt was never really able to stay out of Anglo-Saxon hair.

As I said before, this isn’t meant to be simply a history lesson. Suffice it to say that from the arrival of the Scots-Irish on America’s shores is the history of not just Appalachia, but the entire nation, writ large. Their frontier outposts and forts along the Blue Ridge plateau were a line of defense during the French and Indian War. In one particular incident that took place in the summer of 1755, Shawnee Indians from what is now northern Kentucky raided a settlement called Draper’s Meadow, which occupied a part of the modern-day Virginia Tech campus. During their assault, they captured a woman named Mary Draper Ingles, the daughter of immigrants from Donegal. She managed to escape and travel — by foot — five hundred miles through the frontier wilderness back to her home and family.

I refer to this incident not just because it happened close to me, on the very grounds of a school I attended, but because it demonstrates the character of the Scots-Irish settlers. They were a rugged and resilient race, inured to hardship, accustomed to lack. They were a people of blood and iron. What we think of as the “pioneer spirit” is truly the spirit of the Scots-Irish, the settlers of the Appalachian Mountain range from western Pennsylvania to northern Alabama.

What went wrong?

Part Two: Stars, Bars, and Union Jacks

Ever since their migration across the Atlantic, Ulstermen and their descendants have formed the backbone of American warrior culture. Malcolm Gladwell has posited the popular belief that their belligerent nature springs from their heritage in the borderlands, which is to say the lowlands of Scotland and the green hills of Northern Ireland.[4] This is not a new hypothesis. Horace Kephart, the benevolent grandfather of Appalachian cultural anthropology, stated a similar philosophy in his magnum opus, Our Southern Highlanders. He wrote in 1913 that

“…full three-fourths of our mountaineers still live in the eighteenth century, and that in their far-flung wilderness, away from large rivers and railways, the habits, customs, and morals of the people have changed but little from those of our colonial frontier; in essentials they are closely analogous to what we read of lower-class English and Scottish life in Covenanter and Jacobite times.”[5]

Correct as Kephart and Gladwell are in their observations, the Scots-Irish warrior spirit goes back much further than the eighteenth century. The Gael has always been a restless sort, prone to wanderlust, whether at the behest of his own internal flame or the external realities of landlords, debt collectors, and officers of the law. The authors of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer could have been referring to their Celtic bugbears when they described the lot of human existence: “…he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.”

The ancient Celt was, in all likelihood, as afflicted by this itinerant lifestyle as his modern descendants were. In the first millennium B.C., anyone who aimed to play the wild rover had to develop a warlike mentality or else perish. By the time they reached the shores of Hibernia and the highlands of Alba, the Gaelic peoples had achieved the apex of their martial prowess, to such an extent that even the legions of Rome did not prevail against them.

In other words, the borderlands did not shape the Celt entire. Rather, the Celt ended up in the borderlands due to a millennia-old pattern of semi-nomadic and ever-bellicose lifestyle. The Ulstermen who made the trek to America had been steeped in more than two thousand years of wandering and struggle, hardship and strife. Their forebears traveled from Anatolia to the Iberian Peninsula. From there they settled the coast of Gaul and sailed across the channel to Britain, which still bears its Celtic name despite fifteen hundred years of Saxon occupation. Their ancestors stymied the efforts of Roman emperors and English kings, submitting to subjugation only when schisms and clannish factionalism divided them.

Joseph F. Keppler, ‘Uncle Sam’s lodging-house’, 1882 (Click to enlarge)

This cultural legacy certainly explains the role of the Scots-Irishmen and their opposition to British rule during the American Revolution. One would be tempted to think that the Appalachian mountaineers would have taken a similar stance towards the Union at the outset of the American Civil War. At first glance, it seems surprising that the vast majority of the mountain counties voted against secession.[6] A breakdown of Virginia county votes before and after the battle of Fort Sumter [7] shows that support for the Confederacy increased dramatically only when the fight had actually begun. After all, no self-respecting Celt backs away from a good scuffle.

However, their initial reticence is telling. For the sixty years between Jefferson’s presidency and the War Between the States, the average mountaineer had been free to tend his land and make his whiskey unencumbered by revenue tax. It’s not inconceivable that the aforementioned average mountaineer preferred the status quo of Washington, D.C. to some upstart new government in Richmond. In many ways, the period of time between the turn of the nineteenth century and the election of Abraham Lincoln was an idyll as far as the people of Appalachia were concerned. It would be the last time in American history that the Federal Government truly left them alone, which makes their initial support of the Union all the more heartbreakingly ironic.

That early Unionist sentiment would quickly be replaced by Confederate fervor following the sound-and-fury Battle of Fort Sumter. (The formation of the state of West Virginia was a notable exception to this rule. However, its establishment had less to do with loyalty to the Federal Government and more to do with trans-Appalachian Virginia’s long-standing desire to break away from Richmond’s control.) Scots-Irish culture, like most tribal societies, places a high value on honor. The presumed incursion into Southern territory left the average mountaineer with little choice: not responding would have been akin to witnessing a friend being attacked outside a tavern and responding with a shrug.

Despite their initial reaction to the honor of the South being sullied, the mountaineers’ devotion to the Lost Cause was always a bit tenuous. Yet another close-to-home example exists in the case of Floyd County, Virginia. About forty miles up the mountain from Roanoke, this quiet backwater was such a hotbed of desertion that Jefferson Davis asked the Confederate Congress to suspend habeas corpus within its limits.[8] This further emphasizes the Appalachian citizen’s devotion to family and clan above all else. His duty to nation, whether Union or Confederate, came second to his duty to his kin.

Perhaps this could partially explain a fascinating phenomenon which has cropped up within the last few decades, and which has reached a fever pitch over the last couple of years. There exists a vocal minority of people, largely Protestant, who view themselves as put-upon and marginalized by a government they historically supported. Despite their bitterness and opposition to the current government’s policies, they remain loyal to its ideals. As far as they are concerned, those ideals are enshrined in pure Platonic form in a red, white, and blue flag, quartered diagonally.

Belfast flag rally

Those people are called Ulster Loyalists, and they reside in Northern Ireland.

Confederate flag rally

In other words, it is impossible to consider the ongoing Confederate flag issue without first examining the culture in which such philosophies arise. It’s worth noting that when the Belfast City Council voted in 2012, not to ban, but simply to limit the instances in which the Union Jack was flown over Belfast City Hall, there were Loyalist riots in the city.[9] Take a moment and imagine the theoretical mainstream media coverage of Confederate riots in Charleston, South Carolina.

The point here is not that the mountaineer’s overarching loyalty is to the Federal Government or the Confederate States of America. It’s worth noting that when he felt bullied by the Federal Government, he resisted, and when he felt bullied by the Confederacy, he deserted. The mountain men who now fly the Army of Northern Virginia’s battle flag are cut from the same ancestral cloth as the Unionist Protestant “fleggers” of Belfast. Their reasons for doing so in both cases are not as simple as wholesale support for the philosophies of the respective entities the flags represent. Rather, it is an emotional reaction to feeling hemmed in, sidelined, and oppressed — regardless of whether those feelings are based in objective truth.

From this, it’s easy to conclude that the Celt not only likes a good fight, but will continue to keep fighting a war he’s already lost. Unfortunately, the Civil War was a war that the mountaineers lost not only in a military sense, but in a societal and economic sense as well. That cultural aspect of the ongoing war has ruined not only the small farms and industry of greater Appalachia, but the family structure of the mountain people.

How did the Federal Government succeed where Great Britain failed?

Part Three: The Lighter Side of (Potato) Famines

The two principal migrations from Ireland to America happened under wildly different circumstances. To be sure, there were quite a few Ulster Scots who arrived in America as indentured servants. It’s difficult to calculate their numbers with any precision. Estimates place the number of European immigrants to America prior to the Revolution at half a million. Of those, 55,000 were involuntary prisoners. Of the 445,000 who came of their own free will, almost half were indentured servants.[10] It’s fair to assume that a good chunk of the quarter-million Scots-Irish that made landfall did so under a condition of voluntary and temporary servitude.

The Irish who landed in New York and Boston in the mid-nineteenth century did so on the heels of a famine of truly Biblical proportions. One could argue that the lot of the average Irish immigrant factory worker in South Boston or Five Points differed in name only from that of an indentured servant. However, in both cases, the vast majority of the Celtic immigrants to America undertook their journey of their own accord. Folks tend not to run when times are good. Both groups of people saw an opportunity to escape a bad situation, and both took it.

There exists to this day a controversy over whether or not the British response, or lack thereof, to the Irish Potato Famine constituted a genocide. Suffice it to say that a complete answer would be much more than a paragraph in the writing. However, it’s fair enough to say that had the British wanted the Irish wiped off the face of the earth, they could have seen to such a deed before, during, or after the Famine. Cromwell and his ilk certainly engaged in more active measures over the centuries. If a genocide it was, it was more of a coincidental and passive version of one.

That being said, the British government maintained a studied indifference to the terrible suffering that left a million Irish dead and another million bound for foreign shores. Sir Charles Trevelyan, assistant secretary of Her Majesty’s Treasury from 1840 to 1859, summed up the attitudes of his Whig peers in this encapsulation of the Famine: “The judgment of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.” To add insult to injury, many Irish immigrants to America during the 1860s found themselves conscripted into the Union Army — the frying pan of Great Britain replaced by the fire of the Federal Government.

(As an ironic and bitter aside, Trevelyan thought the Irish could survive on maize. It was a crop that the Irish were not accustomed to growing nor preparing. However, it was a crop the Scots-Irish in America had mastered decades beforehand, not simply for the purposes of agriculture but as a base for the spirit which would eventually become known as “white,” “mule,” “blockade whiskey,” or more commonly, “moonshine.”)

Why bring up the Famine when a good chunk of Ulster Protestants got out of Ireland more than a century before that particular tragedy struck? Simply this —

The average Celt functions best on the lean and hungry side of life. As alluded to above, the Gael is accustomed to an existence on the raggedy edge of society. Historically, he reached a pinnacle of sorts when scraping by without being starved, when simply in want rather than being completely malnourished. The inevitable and inescapable cycle of feast and famine kept him hard and sharp. It made him a shrewd farmer and an indomitable warrior, a perceptive mind in times of peace and in times of war.

Please note that I am not advocating a de-industrialization of society. Nor am I arguing for a return to the practices and policies that made the Potato Famine an inevitability rather than a detestable aberration. That being said, throughout history, famines and other such hardships have been situations through which populations test their mettle and their fitness to survive. The Celts that crossed the English Channel, the Irish Sea, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean did so precisely because their ancestors were able to weather two thousand years’ worth of boom-and-bust cycles.

I realize such language may lead to my being accused of Social Darwinism. I cannot state firmly enough that I reject such philosophies as callous and brutal, to say nothing of detrimental towards the human condition and the Christian ideal of charity. That being said, can anyone really posit that the average Appalachian farmer has benefited from his livelihood being taken from him in the form of subsidized industrial farming? Can anyone say with a straight face that the government has helped the small mountain farmer when its statist cronies sell corn for less than it costs the mountaineers to produce it?

Part Four: Sweet Potato Pie and I Shut My Mouth

This brings us to the uncomfortable conclusion, the elephant in the room; that is, the rise of the welfare state killed the Appalachia that the Civil War had merely wounded. The war between the Appalachian corn farmer and the revenue agent is well-established, almost to the point of being a cliché by now. However, it is worth considering at least the partial origin of “blockade whiskey.” Kephart wrote of his conversation with a mountaineer neighbor in 1904:

But, when all’s said and done, the main reason for this ‘moonshining,’ as you-uns calls it, is bad roads…Seven hundred pounds is all the load a good team can haul over [the local] road, when the weather’s good. Hit takes three days to make the round trip, less’n you break an axle, and then hit takes four…Thar’s only one sarviceable wagon in this whole settlement, and you can’t hire it without team and driver, which is two dollars and a half [approximately $66 in 2016 dollars] a day…You see for yourself that corn can’t be shipped outen hyar. We can trade hit for store credit — that’s all. Corn juice is about all we can tote around over the country and git cash money for.[11]

This is, of course, setting aside the Celt’s natural predilection for flouting governmental authority. For more than two centuries the average Appalachian citizen has viewed the revenue as a tax on mountain corn, and rightly so. However, it’s important to consider that he also derives just as much pleasure, if not more, from sticking his finger in the eye of the law as he does from obtaining a fair price for his labor.

Marvin ‘Popcorn’ Sutton, Tennessee moonshiner, 1946-2009, who committed suicide rather than turn himself in to Federal authorities

In all seriousness, the above mountaineer’s commentary serves only to highlight the rift that had grown between the lowland Southerner — culturally of Cavalier stock — and his highland neighbors. His reference to “store credit” also raises uncomfortable associations with the “company store” of West Virginia and Kentucky coal-mining culture. Hamilton’s revenue tax was really only the opening salvo of what would become the Federal war against the yeoman farmer of Appalachia.

Sign that greeted would-be visitors to Sutton’s land

Granted, that war experienced a fairly long hiatus between the cessation of hostilities in 1865 and the start of Prohibition in 1920. Just as Hamilton needed money to fill young America’s coffers, the Civil War had brought with it a burning need for money to feed the military budget. This led in turn to the reinstatement of the excise tax. Revenue enforcement throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century was certainly nuisance enough to inspire future generations of blockaders and still operators. However, it was Prohibition that really brought the small corn farmer into his own. Before, he’d had to compete with legal distillers and saloon owners. When alcohol became completely illegal, the market changed, as did the nature of corn farming.

The period of time between the beginning of Prohibition in early 1920 and the beginning of the Depression in late 1929 was a relatively decent time to be a small corn farmer in Appalachia. The demand for liquor was at a peak theretofore unprecedented in the history of a nation even as famously thirsty as America. More importantly, buyers from points north — such as New York, Boston, and Chicago — were willing to pay good money for corn liquor from the South, which they doctored with vanilla and caramel coloring (to say nothing of less-benign adulterants) and passed off as brand-name whiskeys.

One of the more evocative images of Prohibition in the rural mountain territories is the cover of The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant. It’s a mostly-biographical account of the author’s grandfather and two granduncles and their adventures and tribulations running moonshine in the 1920s and 1930s. The photograph on the front of the book shows a grinning Jack Bondurant, a boy from Franklin County, Virginia who was barely into his twenties, wearing a fine coat and leather riding boots while sitting on the hood of a Ford. The money to pay for such luxuries came from the liquid produce of the rolling cornfields that fill the seventh-largest county in the Commonwealth. As with all other such enterprises, though, most of that money was going to fill the coffers of the middlemen, not the producers themselves.

A family of mountaineers making moonshine, 1929(?)

If the pre-Depression era was a comparatively good time to be a corn farmer, post-Depression America was one of the worst times. Even with the demand for moonshine and the relative value of corn in that particular illicit market, agricultural surpluses had sent prices plummeting throughout the Hoover administration. By 1933, the low point of the Great Depression, corn farmers in Appalachia had already seen a decade’s worth of their depression. Across the country, six million Americans left rural farms for work in mines and factories. Despite that, mountain communities had one of the higher population retention rates in the country, most likely because people in mountain communities had no other refuge to flee to.

Unfortunately, the Depression eventually spelled a decrease in mine and factory labor as well. Mountaineers who had fled the poverty and want of their own homes were forced back into an even greater privation than they had known before. Small wonder that many men who had rarely, if ever, stilled in their lives put on the mantle of moonshiner. However, even that would soon become less profitable than it had been. With the advent of Repeal in 1933, the alcohol market returned to what it had been before Prohibition.

In the midst of all of this, the New Deal faction that Franklin D. Roosevelt had ushered into power was doing its level best to address the rampant problems facing small farmers across America. In a now-typical mixture of bureaucratic presumption and progressive ardor, the Department of Agriculture under Secretary Henry Wallace instituted the Agricultural Adjustment Act. This act limited production and raised prices. Despite good intentions, as is so often the case with state-sponsored initiatives, the large farms benefited at the cost of the small ones. Industrial farms in the Midwest signed up for the AAA, then put fertilizer on their worst land and laid off more and more workers even as their output increased. In the end, the net result was a rise in industrial farm acreage and a drop in farm worker population. Eventually, the Federal Government stopped enforcing limits on production. This had predictable results for the small mountain farmer who had seen little, if any, benefits from the measures designed to protect him in the first place.[12]

One of the enduring ironies of the New Deal is that it bankrupted the Southern small farmer and left him reliant on the Federal Government in order to survive, while simultaneously managing to make him a lifelong supporter of the party that destroyed him and put a ring in his nose. For the past two generations, the South has enjoyed a solid base of Democratic Party support. This is despite the fact that the New Deal subsidized large farms in the Midwest while driving grain prices so low they put smaller producers in the Southeast out of business. Not only did the Democratic Party of the 1930s rob the Appalachian corn farmer of his livelihood, they made him dependent on government handouts as well as the cheap produce of their political allies.

(The above paragraph should in no way be taken as an endorsement of the modern Republican Party, which has proven time and again that it is quite willing to do everything the Democratic Party does, only more slowly and while lying about its intentions.)

A Harlan County, Kentucky coal miner surrounded by National Guardsmen, circa 1939

Conclusion: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive

This past year, I started volunteering at a local food bank in the county where I live. A good number of the folks who came in were obviously of local stock. The remnants of the original Scots-Irish dialect that filled these hills nine generations ago still pop up here and there. Any number of native mountaineers can remember their parents and grandparents “rais[ing] most of what they ate and ma[king] ninety percent of what they used.”[13] Without fail, these people were the ones taking canned food instead of fresh produce. The little produce they did take tended to be potatoes and tomatoes, peaches and apples — starchy, sweet, carbohydrate-laden stuff. The pole beans and zucchini, basil and spinach went unheeded as though they didn’t exist.

It’s not an original idea to note that the Celt has a long history with starchy grains and tubers. The potato farmers of Ireland and the corn farmers of ancestral Appalachia are a clear enough case in point. However, as noted previously, the self-sufficient farmer of yore has been replaced with the indolent mountaineer of today. Just this afternoon I watched a rural family at the local grocery buy over a hundred dollars’ worth of sweet desserts, processed wheat pasta, and high-carb snacks at the grocery store.

Of course, it’s easy to lay the blame at the feet of the consumer. After all, they could make better choices and eat healthier. Vegetables are cheap and it’s relatively easy to grow a garden this far out in the country, et cetera, et cetera. For once in our modern era, though, I would like to indict those who are responsible for the degradation of the Southern Celt.

Horace Kephart could be called a prophet for his encapsulation of the plight of the Appalachian mountain citizens over one hundred years ago. It’s probably more accurate to say that he simply saw clearly and earlier what it’s taken recent observers much longer to recognize:

The worst enemies of the mountain people are those public men who, knowing the true state of things, yet conceal or deny the facts in order to salve a sore local pride, encourage the supine fatalism of “what must be will be,” and so drug the highlanders back into their Rip Van Winkle sleep.[14]

The Danes have a legend regarding their cultural hero, Holger Danske. As with other “king in the mountain” figures, it is believed that Holger sleeps beneath a castle until such a time as Denmark is in great and mortal peril. Then, and then only, will he rise and save the nation from its enemies.

It is worth recalling King George III and the unnamed Hessian officer, and their understanding that the American Revolution was actually a Presbyterian and a Scots-Irish one. It is worth remembering that the Appalachian honor culture turned the tide from Unionism to Secessionism in the battleground state of Virginia. It is worth noting that despite one hundred fifty years of revenue tax, the moonshiner’s trade has never been stamped out in the hills and hollers of greater Appalachia.

Like their distant cousins in County (London)Derry, the spirits of the mountaineers were bruised but never broken. Some of them — perhaps a great number of them — have grown fat, apathetic, and content on the Federal dole. However, we forget at our peril that in 1775, 1792, 1861 and points forward that the determination and wrath of the mountain people are not to be tossed aside lightly.

One day, perhaps not tomorrow or the next decade or even the next century, the fierce Gaels who settled the southeastern Alleghenies will awaken. When they do, the reckoning will be very great indeed. The question that remains unanswered is: what new epoch of American history will they usher in this time?

‘Bound for the fiddlers’ convention, Raleigh’


1.   Stephenson, Neal, Zodiac (New York; Bantam Spectra, 1995). The neologism occurs as an approximate antonym to “telegenic.”
2.   “Highest Rates of Obesity, Diabetes in the South, Appalachia, and Some Tribal Lands.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press release. 19 November 2009. Web. 21 March 2016.
3.   Dabney, Joseph Earl, Mountain Spirits: A Chronicle of Corn Whiskey & the South Appalachian Moonshine Tradition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974) p. 39.
4.   Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008) pp. 167-169.
5.   Kephart, Horace, Our Southern Highlanders: A Narrative of Adventure in the Southern Appalachians and a Study of Life Among the Mountaineers (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1913) p. 285.
6.   Part of a larger discussion on a forum on, “Appalachia county secession vote map 1860-1861” started March 6, 2015. Web. 21 March 2016.
7.   Virginia Secession Convention: Votes for Secession by County — April 04, 1861 and April 17, 1861. University of Richmond. Web. 21 March 2016.
8.   Wolfe, Brendan. “The Curious Case of Floyd County,” Virginia Foundation for the Humanities February 2015 Web. 21 March 2016.
9.   Mills, Tara. “Loyalist flags protest: 37 jailed amid 55,000 ‘incidents’ says report.” BBC News N. Ireland. 3 December 2014. Web. 21 March 2016.
10.   Tomlins, Christopher. Reconsidering Indentured Servitude: European Migration and the Early American Labor Force, 1600 — 1775. Labor History, vol. 42, no. 1 (2001), pp. 5-43. Published online 19 August 2010.
11.   Kephart, pp. 122-123.
12.   Thompson, Charles D. Jr. Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World. (Chicago: Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois) pp. 137-141.
13.   Thompson p. 21.
14.   Kephart p. 329.

225 thoughts on “Modernity Has Not Been Kind to the Celt

  1. A very interesting piece, my grandmother was born and raised in the mountains of North Western NC, approx 1890. when we were young she would tell us stories of the rugged individualist lifestyle.

    • Grandparents born in early 1880’s (fathers side) their parents came over from Scotland and settled near Winnipeg, later after G’parents met and married, came down to Washington state from British Col. opened up a Hardware store N. of Seattle in early 1900’s had my father and 3 other boys born in 1913-1919, all went to the university and were successful. Husband is Irish and Norwegian decent, g’parents and parents farmers on both sides struggled thru the depression.

      • It’s an amazing and fascinating place, Frank. I really love talking to some of the older folks around here, not just for their own stories but what they remember their grandparents telling them. It truly is a different world up here.

        • Ta me as contae Dun Na nGall (aka Tir Chonaill (Land of Connell)), Cuige Ulaidh. Terrific article; gura maith agat.

          An Gael.

        • My wife and I live in NW North Carolina and this article hits real close to home. Parts of it remind me of Jim Webb’s book “Born Fighting”. We will share this piece with our far flung family on both sides. From reading the other comments here, we may have some relatives on this thread we didn’t know about 🙂

          • I looked up Born Fighting on and it’s definitely going to be on my reading list soon. Thanks for the recommendation!

          • I have family in that part of NC, and one of the quotes in this article immediately jumped out, the word “you’un” It is still used by people in that part of the state.

            I’ve tried to find a job there myself, and I would relocate in a heartbeat if I could. Perhaps my lack of success in that regard is itself telling, and reinforces the theme of this article.

  2. I would like to thank Apollon Zamp for this interesting piece, and his kind consideration of my troublesome ancestors.

    • You’re very welcome! Thank you for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Being Irish on my mother’s side, I have my share of troublesome ancestors as well.

      • I detected Irish blood in your writing style. My gypsy impulses have carried me to every US state except Alaska and she will soon come.

        I have special affection for the rebel states (Donegal is one of 3 Irish counties referred to as “Rebel” counties; them Brits could never completely control us; Cork and Kerry being the others).

        I felt freer in Texas than anywhere else in the world other than Donegal.

        • My great-granduncle used to conduct chemistry experiments in his temporary home in Dulwich, and nearly ruined one of his wife’s bridge parties when something went wrong in the lab. Her friends’ response was to assume that James “was just being Irish,” a phrase I have appropriated for myself. It’s quite handy.

          I haven’t been to Ireland yet but I have a special affection for Donegal as well. The fact that so many of the Scots-Irish who lived in Donegal settled in the mountains of Appalachia makes me wonder if they were thinking of whence they’d come when they got to these hills. I used to think they were yearning for Scotland but now I’m not so sure.

          Also, Kerry is where my great-grandfather was. He was a staunch Irish Republican in the early part of the 20th century, even going so far as to christen his daughter with the middle name “Sinn Fein” in 1916, right after he got out of jail for his part in the Easter Uprising.

          • OMG Apollon! You need to go regardless of the expense. Interesting phenomenon the first time I stepped on Irish soil – I felt a sense of normal I hadn’t previously experienced. It cleared up a lot of mysteries for me – like why cold grey blustery days seem the best and why wimmins with freckles are distracting. N’ salmon and potatoes and so forth. Its a magnificent rock. One single observation cleared up the mystery of Appalachia for me on a train from Dublin to Galway – the, er, ‘dining car’. It was full of Irishmen and their beverages. And their families. To the casual observer it appeared to be dangerous. A sight to behold.

          • Agree, you should go. Ireland is the least expensive country in Europe. You can book a trip with air, car with unlimited miles, and Bed & breakfast vouchers for six nights for about $850 per person, if you will travel in early spring or the fall. Eat hearty at breakfast, stop at a store and buy sandwich makings, or get a bowl of seafood chowder at a pub for cheap lunch. For dinner ask your host where to get good pub food. If you just ask for good food they will send you to a restaurant and you’ll pay much more. Hotel pubs often have the same food as the dining room at half the price. If you’re just a bit frugal you can do the whole trip for about $2500 for two.

          • I talked to him about his trip. He is going by himself since he knows no one with that kind of money to travel – he lives in Appalachia, after all. He’s been saving for two years or so, if I remember correctly…

            He has family there – cousins, I think. He is staying with one or two and will do an AirBNB for the other days – maybe a week all told? I hope he reports back.

            Also, he is deeply interested in the history of northern Ireland – no, not the usual press releases but in what the pressures were. There is a wall, I think, in one of the north counties, that he wants to see.

        • I am scottish and visit Ireland regularly as my family are from Achill Island and Westport.I visited Donegal last year and i am proud to hear they were a rebel area.I now realise now how i love rural Ireland so much,ie no Islamisation as yet,pubs open till whenever,few traffic lights ,few parking wardens and government zealots,no speed cameras,few yellow lines,next to no police,still predominantly Christian Celts,who will not be told what to do ,in short freedom from an all consuming tyrannical state in this hellhole called Britain.Enjoy it while it lasts.

          • Trains in Ireland are pretty extensive throughout the nation and buses likewise,you can go from Dublin all the way to Westport easily in just over 3 hours,Westport is a beautiful georgian port well worth a visit.

  3. Hatfields were English and came over in 1630’s with other religious protesters.

    • While the male Hatfield ancestor was of English and Swedish descent, the well-known patriarch William Anderson Hatfield–known as “Devil Anse”–was of Scots-Irish ancestry on his mother’s side. I use the term “Scots-Irish” throughout the article interchangeably to both mean of literal descent from lowland Scots who had lived in Ulster, as well as the overall cultural climate of the mountains.

    • I don’t know where this Celtic Irish stuff is coming from. You seem to be ignorant of history while creating your own fantasy world.

      The so called “Scots Irish” were originally staunch Protestants, and people from both sides of the English Scottish borders, who first settled in Northern Ireland and then moved on to America, finally settling in the Appalachian mountains.

      ( In 1810 the people of Londonderry were of 50% Irish, 25% English, and 25% Scottish blood)

      It was the Scottish and English protestants who Emigrated to America.

      Along with them were the emigrants who moved directly from Northern England and the Scottish borders.
      The People on both sides of the English Scottish border (Ancient Northumbria) are mostly descended from The Angles and Frisians. (The “Sassenachs” were the people south of the Scottish Highlands who were and are largely the ancestors of the English. Although in the far west of southern Scotland and northern England they would have had more Norse and British Celtic blood.
      As they still do on both sides of the Political border.

      Their culture isn’t in any way connected to the Highland Scots or the Gaelic Irish.

      • The fighting prowess of the people who came from across the largely lawless English Scottish border land is in my opinion down to the centuries of rustling raids across both sides of the border by the Famous\Infamous Reiver families.
        The Border Reivers who raided across both sides of the largely political border were renowned horsemen.They took their qualities with them when they journeyed to America.

        • As I stated in the article, I’m fairly certain that Celtic fighting prowess far predates the border raids. Unless you’re talking about the border raids that occurred between Roman and Pict. 😉

          On a more serious note, the term “lawless” is an interesting one when applied to the Scots-Irish border people. At first blush it seems to indicate that they respect no order. However, when you get to know them good and proper, it becomes clear that what they resent is a top-down hierarchical order. There is plenty of order within the mountain society, and plenty of rules–as the unfortunate transgressor will soon discover. There simply is not a centralized or bureaucratic structure behind them.

          To put it another way, the same impulse that drove the mountaineer to form an impromptu posse and hang a fellow that stole a horse is the same impulse that drives the mountaineer to leave a bushel of food on a neighbor’s doorstep during a bad harvest.

          • There was an order and a logic to the Scottish clan wars, in their own brutal way. Here’s but one example;

            Clan MacDonald v Clan MacLeod (1375- 1602)

            Though it’s less celebrated than other feuds, this was the bloodiest and most horrific by far. Unlike the Campbell feuds, this one took place far away from the Lowlands and so attracted less attention (much as today’s slaughter in the Congo slipped off the radar).

            As has already been covered, the MacDonalds ruled the Western Isles. The MacLeods had a royal decent too, however- they trace their descent from the Norse Kings of Man. As a result, they were by no means cowed by the MacDonalds and had a bit of an axe to grind from the start. The MacLeod clan’s stronghold was the Isle of Skye, with other settlements on other Western Isles (particularly in the Outer Hebrides). Being an unbelievable bunch of headcases (even by Highland standards) the MacLeods really deserve a “Historical Filth” of their own- one day it’ll be done

            In 1375 the MacDonalds invaded Skye, and a major battle took place at Sligachan where the MacLeods were defeated. The MacDonalds seized large estates on Skye, and for the next 100 years the MacLeods were a vassal clan. This suited the MacDonalds well as the MacLeods were noted for their battle skills, and in the great battle of Harlaw in 1411, the army of Donald MacDonald was partially commanded by “Fierce Iain” MacLeod, possibly the most berzerk clan chief ever seen (He died a few years later when he became so enraged during a wrestling bout that all his old battle scars opened up simultaneously, causing him to bleed to death).

            It went badly wrong for the MacDonalds in 1480 when their clan was torn apart by an internal power struggle. This was settled at the Battle of Bloody Bay on the wild Ardnamurchan peninsula when the MacLeods backed the deposed Lord of the Isles against his own bastard son, Black Angus MacDonald. The MacLeods were beaten, losing their Laird William in the process. For the next ten years this placed the MacLeods at war with the dominant MacDonald faction.

            Black Angus MacDonald was murdered by an Irish harper in 1490, and the faction the MacLeods had backed returned to power. However by this point the MacLeods were no longer willing to become good servants of the MacDonalds again, and started backing oppenents of their former masters in a number of feuds. It probably didn’t help that the MacLeod Laird Alasdair had been left hunchbacked by a blow from a MacDonald battleaxe in a raid on Skye following Bloody Bay. During open rebellion in 1493, Alasdair captured the MacDonald’s Skye stronghold of Duntulm, and from then on the conflict became increasingly bloody.

            Unlike most feuds, this one was open war. The MacLeods were warriors, not bandits like the MacGregors, and the feud contained several major battles such as at Glendale in 1530. In 1577 the conflict took an even darker turn. A raiding party of MacLeods raped some MacDonald women on the Isle of Eigg but were captured before they could escape. They were castrated and sent back to Skye. The enraged MacLeods stormed Eigg the next year, herded every single MacDonald man, woman and child into a cave and lit fires at the entrance. 395 MacDonalds died- the worst massacre in the history of the Clan Wars.

            Two years later the MacDonalds of Uist stormed Skye. A large raiding party attacked the town of Trumpan, herded the resident MacLeods into the church and burned it. It proved a Pyrrhic victory because the alarm was raised at the MacLeod stronghold of Dunvegan, and while the MacDonald boats were still stranded by the tide they were attacked. In the ensing “Battle of the spoiled dyke” the MacDonalds were wiped out, though it did provide one moment of black comedy when a particularly irate MacLeod continued to fight and kill MacDonalds on his stumps after having both his legs hacked off.

            The last act of the feud took place after a failed attempt at diplomacy. Margaret MacLeod, sister of the MacLeod Laird, was betrothed to Donald Gorm Mor MacDonald, but no wedding took place. Instead she was sent back to the MacLeods with only one eye, riding a one-eyed horse with a one-eyed groom and a one-eyed dog. This calculated insult provoked the “War of the One Eyed Woman” of 1602. In the last battle between the clans, the MacLeods were routed and the clans settled the feud.

      • Mike–you call me ignorant of history while remaining woefully ignorant of my article. I scarce know where to begin.

        First off, the only mention I made of the Highland Scots was a brief reference to the Pictish inhabitants therein and the Roman inability to conquer them. As far as I know, I never made any reference to a Highland influence on Scots-Irish culture.

        Secondly, if you’re arguing that the Roman Catholic and/or Gaelic Irish influence on the Scots-Irish is negligible to none, I don’t really disagree. My larger point, as I’ve repeated numerous times on this thread as well as in the article, is that the Scots-Irish culture is a Celtic one, with all the virtues and baggage that entails.

        If you’re arguing about the very name “Scots-Irish,” it’s an old term that dates to the 16th century in reference to people of Scottish extraction living in Ireland. I agree it’s a bit confusing, but it’s an established term and I feel comfortable using it.

        Maybe next time try taking a less contentious tack and let’s actually talk this through before accusing anyone of a general lack of knowledge about history, yeah?

        • I wasn’t replying to you. It was Celtic bones that irritated me.
          I am sorry if I offended you, I was sorry when I sent it and found I couldn’t delete it.
          In relation to the Highland Scots remark, I was just pointing out the difference in culture between the lowlands and Highlands, they are a completely different people. and treated as different by Scottish people in Glasgow, who were once part of a British kingdom that extended into what is now northern England
          Scotland is historically made up of three different peoples with an awful lot of Germanics of different varieties. Mixed Norse- Irish in Cumbria (once Known as Cumberland)
          The Firth of Forth was once called the Frisian sea, and they were speaking English in Edinburgh before they were speaking English in Leeds in Yorkshire.

          Traveling around the UK you can actually see the different races, the faces don’t change over the centuries. An old painting of an Armstrong has the same wide set eyes as the moon lander

          Scots-Irish may be an American term that you’re familiar with but I don’t agree that it reflects reality. It gives the erroneous impression that the people who emigrated were Just Scots and Irish.
          Rather than Northern English and the people from the Scottish borders who settled in Northern Ireland and are in reality largely northern English by race.

          later added to by settlement from the Angles in Yorkshire after William the conqueror harried the north of England, and salted the farm land leaving the people to either die of starvation or move in with their their cousins in Northumbria. which is now the border regions in Southern Scotland.

          I would be interested to know if you check the app at

          To discover where your neighbours surnames originate.

          • Unfortunately, Scots-Irish-Frisian-English-German gets a bit cumbersome at times. 😛 I do understand what you mean about the incorrect image that it perpetuates. I would say that more than half of the names I run across in the county where I live (among the native mountain citizens) are English or German. A few are Scottish, though due to the lowland Scots influence many of them lack the easy Mc-/Mac- patronymic.

            Without wishing to harp on a point, I think it’s telling that they’re referred to as Scots-Irish to this day. Their culture certainly reflects more of what we think of as Celtic culture, with sprinklings of German in among it.

            I read somewhere once that the average German settler moved once in his trip down the Appalachians. The average lowland Scot or Ulsterman moved three times. The further you go, the more the German influence decreases and the more the lowland Borderer influence increases. It probably explains at least some of the difference between Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Kentucky.

      • The people of the borders have a lot of formerly celtic ancestry, but not from the Irish but the Britons who faced the Romans.
        Celtic counting systems deriving from Welsh/Cumbric language survived in Northern England up until recent times amongst farming communities. Proof that the original population wasn’t wiped out like seems to have happened in parts of southern England.
        The western Cumbric kingdom of Strathclyde survived into the middle ages when it was absorbed by Gaelic speaking Scotland.
        So those Reiver people who were sent over to Ireland would have been descended from the ancient Britons with some Germanic ancestry and a wee bit of Irish.
        In regards culture, they were not like the Gaelic clans further north, but they were regarded alike enough by the authorities to regard them as clans led by chiefs as their activities in regards raiding and general antipathy to the government were similar to that of the highland clans.
        Both clan systems were able to survive due to their remoteness from authority. For the highlanders it was lack of access in a backward part of the country helped by a different language being spoken. For the borderers it was living on the borders of two kingdoms often hostile to each other so they were in effect living in a dead zone, free to flee into one jurisdiction or the other depending on who was chasing them. It wasn’t until James I/VI took over the English crown that a common cause could be had against the border clans. His solution was to exile many of them to Ireland and execute any trouble makers left behind.
        There were plenty of other lowlanders who went to Ireland though, not just those from these border clans.
        Rather than some ancestral trait, what seems more influential is a people with an independent outlook cut off from central authority and who otherwise don’t antagonise their neighbours enough to warrant attention.

        • DanielK, your thoughts seem in line with a comment I put below that I’ve lost track of now–the mountaineers in America are the descendants of the Celts who kept moving, while the Irish and Scots still in the Isles are the descendants of the Celts who stayed put.

          It’s not a value judgement either way, nor is it a reflection on one area was largely peaceful compared to the other. And in both cases, the peoples of Strathclyde and Ulster and Harlan, Kentucky can all claim a common lineage, regardless of how distant their cousinage might be.

        • “So those Reiver people who were sent over to Ireland would have been descended from the ancient Britons with some Germanic ancestry and a wee bit of Irish.”

          I think that would depend on whether on the east or the west of the border.
          I have a BBC gene map of the population of the UK which shows southern Scotland, especially in the east. to be just as Anglo Saxon as England. Another study showed 76% of the population of the North east of England classified as English while even Celtic Cumbria was 56%. I believe that extends all the way down the east coast, I don’t believe you need a blood test to discover the difference between a Yorkshire man and someone from the west country.

          • And how many of the Appalachian mountaineers would today identify as Scots-Irish? Or German or Northern English, for that matter? Most would say they were American, or Southern, or from the state they’re a resident of. Self-identification is all well and good as far as modern, current cultural association goes. What I’m referring to is the larger, more prevalent culture that existed then and exists now (in a more battered state).

  4. Very interesting essay but it did make my head spin a bit probably because it crossed and recrossed continents in seconds. However there are some things I don’t quite understand .. references to the Celt coming from Anatolia. Is this true? I understood from my school history books that we had a tribe called the Cantii who were already ensconced in Kent (UK) when the Romans arrived a couple of thousand years ago, not to mention the famous Iceni tribe from East Anglia (of Boudicca fame) and others or are you only talking about the Celts who were originally from Ireland? I would agree however that the Celts per se and the Highland Scot in particular,are an innovative and shall we say feisty lot? (I plead some knowledge here as an Englishwoman married to a Highland Scot for 30 odd years).

    • The Celts arrived in Ireland after traveling from Anatolia (look for “Galicia” on maps to find regions that were once Celtic), island-hopping westwards across the Mediterranean, and then across the Iberian peninsula. From there it was across the Bay of Biscay to Hibernia.

      The Celts in Britain were a separate strain. They crossed Europe from the steppes to the North Sea and the English Channel, and thence to Briton.

      The Scots were Hibernian Celts who crossed the Irish Sea to Scotland and displaced the Picts (who were also Celts).

      The Bretons in France were originally in Briton, crossing to Brittany under the pressure of the Saxon incursions, probably from Devon and Cornwall. The Cornish are their close relatives.

      The original Celtic inhabitants of France were the Gauls. They were absorbed and/or exterminated by the Frankish tribes.

      A summary of the migrations from the second millennium BC until 1000 AD:

      The Celts moved continuously westward, harried by the Germanic tribes, who finally drove the last of them into the British Isles. The Saxons pushed them further west in Britain, with Wales being the last redoubt of the Celts south of Scotland.

      Meanwhile the Romans conquered them in Gaul and other provinces, particularly in the Alpine areas.

      • Thanks for the insight to a possible reason for the fighting prowess of the Northern European type…….it helps to have group support in a fight, so there will always be at least two groups in conflict wherever geographic conditions or population density give cause for struggle.

        • Let us hope and pray that we continue to have *groups,* as opposed to the atomized-individual man, without family, clan, or nation to which he owes allegiance, love, or protection.
          The model as exemplified by God’s disbursement of the one, the Tower of Babel, is a world populated by diverse peoples with different languages and cultures.
          Sure we fight, at times.
          But the order of magnitude of a fight against a World Order intent on our subjugation — the subjugation of atomized man — cannot be calculated; it is just that enormous.

          • Surely there will always be *groups* but ultimately we face our maker as individuals, and no NWO is going to make any difference on that score

          • Since there is no reply field to your response to my comment, JRW, I will insert a reply to you here.

            Before our maker we are individuals. Right on.
            But in this world God has made us into families, communities, clans, nations and particular cultural peoples.
            And that for a purpose.

          • Harriet HT, agreed, there can be good purpose in a group, clan, tribe or nation………..depends of course on what it is founded and how the fighting spirit is channelled. It essentially goes two ways — those who developed their fighting prowess in the Northern climes and have honed their skills practicing on each other (sometimes against other northerners allied to pro to Celts from further sour on the continent), and then there is the 1350 year old group from the arid regions.
            Pitted against each other, the Northerners have previously come out on top……….now I’m hoping they can manage things in much the same way again. But I have to admit that personally my Saxon genetic makeup has been diluted to the extent that some of the tribal fire has been lost, so it would take conflict right at my doorstep to get it fired up……..I happen to be very far away from the frontline.

        • That’s fascinating! I’d wondered about Celtic connections to Eastern cultures and religions. There’s a song in Gaelic I like to listen to. Perhaps it’s my imagination but I hear similarities to Turkic and Uralo-Altaic languages. I’m sure there’s been an academic paper or two on the subject that I’m too lazy or incompetent to find on Google.

          • Linguistically there is very, very little connection between Gaelic and Turkic and Uralo-Altaic.

            The latter 2 aren’t even part of the Indo-Aryan language group that stretches from the Celts in the far northwest of Europe all the way to the Hindis of India.

            What is interesting, though is having your TV on low and not looking, and having to go and check as to whether what’s on it is Indian or Welsh, because the rhythms and intonations are remarkably similar.

          • I remember many years ago asking a Hindu shopkeeper in the United States to count from one to five in his language. It sounded almost exactly the same as in Irish or Scots Gaelic. No question in my mind now.

      • Actually the Celts arrived in Anatolia relatively late. If I remember my history, they invaded Anatolia around 280 BC. but the Celts had been a force in Europe for over 3 centuries before that. Actually, the proto-Celts may actually have made it as far east as Western China, as is evidenced by the fabrics found at Urumchi and similar fabrics found preserved at the salt mines of Hallstatt.

        • The proto-Celts and the proto-Germanics were part of the same Indo-European group back then, according to some scholars. The Germanics split off and moved north, eventually arriving in Scandinavia. After they had been toughened by those harsh northern conditions, some of them re-crossed the Baltic into Podolia etc., and began their fabled Völkerwanderung, pushing all others before them (and with the Hun pushing from behind) until they reached Iberia, North Africa, Carinthia, Brittany, and the British Isles.

          A funny thing happened to the Germanic language along the way, however. Unlike any other Indo-European language, it developed internal inflections based in the vowels, for both nouns and verbs (e.g. “sit” and “sat”, “goose” and “geese”). All the Germanic languages — German, Dutch, Frisian, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic — have this feature, while no other Indo-European languages do.

          The languages that most resemble the Germanic tongues in this respect are the Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and some others I can’t remember). They, too, inflect their stems with internal vowel changes. Example from Arabic: hajj and hijra.

          Some linguists theorize that the proto-Germans came into close contact with a Semitic culture during their migrations. Unless one of the lost tribes of Israel ended up on the Baltic coast, the most likely explanation (my own theory, no evidence of it that I know of) is that the Phoenicians, who spoke a Semitic language, founded trading centers in permanent colonies along the Baltic coast way back in the dim mists of antiquity. To the Germans coming out of the forests of Courland and Livonia, they would have seemed fabulously rich and civilized. If the two groups remained in contact and established a relatively symbiotic relationship, the borrowing of linguistic features from the more advanced culture to the more primitive one could well have occurred. Proto-German would have grown out of the pidgin spoken between the Germanic tribes and the Phoenician traders.

          It’s all pure speculation. But some scholars think the Phoenicians did reach the Baltic, so it’s not impossible.

          • You’re correct, and I should have been more specific. I didn’t mean to imply that the Celts were in Anatolia for the entirety of the first millennium BC. I was referring (hastily, I now realize) to the overarching semi-nomadic Celtic presence in eastern Europe, as well as the establishment of Galatia in the later part of the millennium.

          • Proof of Phoenician contact with Germanic peoples is no more, nor less evident than maritime evidence of contact between SE Asia and Islanders in remote Oceania. Apart from linguistic and biological, that is.
            Even so, scholars use linguistics traits to postulate E to W Austronesian contact in much the same way as shown by Semitic (Phoenician) and Germanic language similarities.
            Of course there is a possibility of overland contact between the latter, but maritime contact is entirely feasible…….in the case of Ireland and Britain it is essential, so the theory is meritorious, and helps to explain much Celtic and Germanic interaction.

      • Sorry it made your head spin. 🙂 I don’t really have anything to add to the Baron’s comments, as his knowledge of the Indo-European migrations surpasses mine in most cases.

        • Not spin in a bad way but good in that it was a topic that interests me, made me think a bit harder and reinforced my thoughts that we have so much to lose if we give up our roots, history and joint culture.

          • The loss of culture has been the Federal Government’s semi-conscious aim for quite some time. I don’t believe it was always as pronounced or deliberate as it is now, but the larger our country got, the more original culture and heritage posed a threat to a unified system of governance.

            We can “celebrate” our history or devote a month out of the year to paying lip service to it. But that’s about all we’ve got left at the moment.

      • There is a school of thought that the Gaels originated in the Czech Republic as a language similar to Gaelic was reported discovered there, in small pockets, in the 1980’s (as told to me by a Vietnam draft dodger studying icebergs in Canada!).

        As most human migrations move east to west, following the sun, there might even be some legitimacy in the claim they came from Anatolia and dropped off elements along the way.

        • For what it is worth; As a wee gossun growing up in Ulster, I studied Greek, Latin, German, French, Spanish and Italian (all through Gaelic) and although fluent in English I did not speak English as first until I wuz brung to NA at 15).

          At the time German was reputed the most difficult to absorb for Gaelic speakers (other than the “Dead” Latin and Greek), yet I found German the easiest.

          Familiarity with these languages helped me later when I played soccer for:

          Hamilton Allemagne,
          Hamilton Croatia,
          Hamilton Serbians,
          Hamilton Bosnia,
          Hamilton Megas Alexandrus,
          Toronto Italia,
          Toronto Ukrania and finally the Ottawa Royals (Scottish) and Waterdown Hawks (Dutch). The war stories I can tell!

        • Anatolia was just one of the places the Celts inhabited. There were branches all over the region, from the Baltic to the Caucasus. The Celts were in Denmark before the Danes.

          Their general movement was westward, pushed from behind, until they could go no further. Until crossing the Atlantic, that is, a thousand years later.

        • I have heard it said that one of the lost tribes of Israel ended up in Ireland 🙂 Muslims are busy developing their own claims and should be up to speed soon enough. Visa free travel for Turks will create some pre-war mythology.

      • Thank you Baron I now understand where the various ‘tribes’ are from and the possible differences.

      • My uncle and I did a little research on our clan a while back. Turns out our ancestors came over from Ireland to the big wet island in the east.

        They settled in the Highlands, then after a while, drifted south. Some landed up around Keith, apparently. (‘The Friendly Town’, haha ..’)

        The clan to which I belong then became mercenaries, fighting in Geordie land and in Scandanavia, and who knows where else. We were hired killers, basically.

        I told this tale to a doctor once, who had read through my records, and he gave me a strange look & said, ‘You know it wouldn’t take much for those genes to be expressed, even today.’

        I told him the truth. ‘I know.’

        • Scots blood in my family, too. I think it’s what makes me stubborn and ornery. When I was a kid and I was bullied, I always fought back, even when the bully was much bigger. Went to school with a black eye one time after one of those incidents at the bus stop in the morning.

          I didn’t realize it at the time, but that must have been the Scot in me. Except for circumstances like that, I didn’t get into fights.

          • And we are in such a situation right now, are we not?

            Maybe your Scottish genes are part of the reason why you do GoV?

          • Could be. Without going into any detail, a while back I was in a situation where someone was trying to intimidate me. Nasty threats. My reaction was utter defiance — regardless of what might have happened to me, I was going to show up and face whatever the fellow decided to dish out, consequences be damned.

            My wife talked me out of it, but I only changed my mind for her sake, not for my own. She has PTSD, and I wasn’t ready for her to take damage from my decision. So I decided to stay away, much as it bothered me.

          • Same here. When my dander gets up, my sole preoccupation is dealing damage to the opponent. It’s almost as if that’s victory enough, even if I can’t win.

            Early on I developed a phrase that summarizes it: “as a matter of fact I will cut my nose off to spite my face.” It’s how I describe this tendency to embrace even an ultimately unwinnable fight — because at that point it’s no longer about something as simple as “win” or “lose” — and instead the sheer satisfaction that comes from extending your middle finger.

            I can’t help but recognize this as a Celtic trait.

      • You have it right, Baron. I’m a Tennessean, old enough to be raised in a homogenous culture of devout warrior Protestants who loved their land and cherished their freedom. Both sides of my family passed on written and oral family histories. This is a Celtic trait that is now being lost.

        My mother was deep into family genealogy. We’re Scotch-Irish (everyone I knew called it Scotch, not Scots), with a dollop of German, and a dash of Cherokee she said. And told me many stories, of the good and the not-so-good ancestors.

        The records of her family show the progression of Celts from Anatolia through Spain and into Ireland, and on to the western borders of Britain and Scotland, then back to Scotland and on to the New World. One of my Kentucky ancestors was Virginia McCoy of the Hatfield/McCoy feud.

        My father’s family were Roundheads and left the Borders due to religious persecution. As my German ancestors left Germany. Even after 400 years of family life in America, my father was wary of Roman Catholics and convinced that John Kennedy and the pope would lead the country “to rack and ruin.” He also had a distrust of the federal government and its bureaucracy which he passed to me. His family had no slaves but fought in the Confederacy for states’ rights.

        Thanks so much Apollon for this report of history and culture that you won’t find anywhere else. And thank you Gates of Vienna for posting it.

  5. A really great read from an American angle (I’m a Scot), and there were a lot of boxes ticked about our nature and ‘love’ of authority. I was reminded of my history lessons at school when you were talking about the famine and the migration. Thank you for a stoatin’ good read.

    • I’m sincerely glad to hear it passes Scottish muster! My feeling was that, while I might have a few pint glasses tossed at my head (it’s inevitable), the Scots (and Scots-Irish) tendency is to respect honesty and forthrightness. I can’t find the exact Kephart quote from “Our Southern Highlanders,” but he made some reference to how they can weather bluntness and critique but take condescension and mockery as a mortal insult. I’ve definitely found that to be the case living in the mountains. It’s a land of hard truths.

      • ‘but take condescension and mockery as a mortal insult’ …oh how true.. the Scots pride is famous.

        • Another relevant Kephart quote:

          “…socially, the mountaineer is a democrat by nature: equal to any man, as all men are equal before him. Even though hunger be eating like a slow acid into his vitals, he still will preserve a high spirit, a proud independence, that accepts no favor unless it be offered in a neighborly way, as man to man. I have never seen a mountain beggar; never heard of one.” (p. 327)

  6. I think it is from the repetition but it appears that deception in whatever form appears to be the integral to many problems in the past and today. It is a little outside the box but until now I never thought of it as the Power to Deceive. It is like a concept hidden in plain site all my life. Would you grant your government the power to deceive?

    • “A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.”
      -Shepherd Book, Firefly

  7. The civil war ran right through my great-grandfather’s home that I grew up in WV. He lost his 4 brothers and father. But there’s not much left of the tough breed back there now. Drugs and the health problems you’ve mentioned turned WV into a hell-hole. So much so, that I get a bit sad thinking of how it was when I visit. Maybe someday it will turn around, unlikely in my lifetime but hope springs eternal.

    • It will turn around when the reach of the federal behemoth is reduced to the point that people begin to form real communities of interdependence.

      When the government runs out of money, the times will be cruel. Let us hope that people learn in time and begin to find ways to become self-supporting. It’s not that hard to grow vegetables or to keep chickens and goats. The work involved increases physical and mental health.

      A neighbor is giving me her “ox” tails. Her husband is getting ready to slaughter their two steers and I get the bits no one wants…the tails provides wonderful broth. Not much meat, but it’s the broth I can’t buy.

      When they do the chickens I will get the livers, heart, and gizzards, plus the feet. Chicken foot soup is utterly delicious. Their family eats none of the offal (for that matter, neither does the Baron) but I grew up on it. My Dublin-born mother taught me to love it all, including beef tongue.

      Oops, I forgot to ask her for the tongue…

      • Boy that oxtail makes a great broth – the Vietnamese (French?) use this for nearly everything they cook. The offal, you’ve got the DNA to stomach it, I don’t!

      • Oddly enough, the mountain communities are in the best position when the decline of the Federal Government occurs. One of the recurring motifs of the mountains is “somebody told us that Wall Street fell, but we were so poor that we couldn’t tell.”

        When the dole runs out, there’s going to be a lot of suffering people. But there are a lot of suffering people up here anyway. The mountaineers will close ranks and take care of their own. That’s what they’ve always done. That’s what they will always do.

        • I was telling my mother (in her 80’s) years back that the economic boom was over. She said what boom? We’ve been poor our whole life and know nothing of economic booms. But they all still hang on, eating those horrible smelling ramps off the hillsides about this time of year.

          • It can be hard for the outlander to fathom why mountain people can be so suspicious and skeptical, yet alternately so generous and hospitable. I think the answer lies in the fact that “we’re all poor together here.” The Appalachian mountaineer’s impulse is to give because he recognizes that by and large his neighbor will do the same–when all of you have so little, sharing is essential to survival. The mountains are a land where the divine duty of the host is still taken very seriously.

          • @ Apollon Zamp,

            My mother still talks fondly of her upbringing in a small (very small) fishing village on the NE coast of Scotland. Everyone know everyone else, and everyone helped everyone else.

            Times were tough, the environment was tough, and the people were tougher.

            One of the reasons that has traditionally been given to justify the existence of a ‘government’ is that in ‘the state of nature’ people will inevitably start fighting against one another – it would be a war of all against all, and life would be nasty, brutal and short, etc. (See Ch. 13 of Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’ etc.) In order to avoid this, we are supposed to need a ‘government’.

            Total rubbish! As you have said, and as my mother’s upbringing proves – people can and do get along & help one another out without a ‘government’.

            So why does ‘the government’ exist again?

      • My (North of England) mother raised us on delicious steak and kidney (about 50/50) pie. Even the best ones here in the decadent South have very little kidney.

        Chicken livers go well with the mince in bolognese sauce!

      • Cook down your oxtails low and slow. You’ll be surprised at how much fall-off-the-bone meat you can get.

        • simmering meat on the bone is cooking two different things. I simmer until the meat loosens from the bone. I remove the bones and meat and cook down the broth till the meat is picked over. I pack the meat in this first broth. Then the picked bones, gristle, etc., go back into the pot with about half the water of the original (plus a second addition of vinegar to continue pulling out the minerals still remaining in the bones). Those bare bones and bits are simmered at an even lower level for eight hours or so. Once the bones are removed from the second batch of broth I concentrate that further by cooking down to about a fourth its original level. That second broth still has a surprising amount of sticky gelatin left in it, though noticeably less than the original. It gets used to braise boneless meats or for making rice. Finally, those very tired bones are returned to the farmer for his dog.

          I read a food culture book which had one section devoted to the passing on of the bones in small villages in Scotland. Whomever it was who originally slaughtered the sheep (and so had the first go at using the bones) supposedly passed them on to a neighbor who used the bones again before passing them on to the next person. I wondered at what point they decided there were no more nutrients to be had from the darn things, though I liked the idea of using them up entirely.

      • You have won me. I love to visit Turkey because they eat offal there like i grew up with,Tripe,ox heart,kidney,brains. Chicken gibblets. Gee I wish somebody would open an offal fast food take away

        • My mother grew up eating all that in Ireland. When I was growing up in Florida it was also available because we bought and cooked it all. Kidneys and bacon,yum! Don’t forget beef tongue, which we often had on Sundays. Sometimes we could get smoked tongue, but not often. I didn’t know it was awful offal until a friend was over and saw me peel the tongue. She ran from the room.

          Want fast food offal? Come to Virginia…a number of small convenience stores off the beaten path sell deep fat-fried chicken livers, hearts, and gizzards. They sell it by the carton, like Chinese food. The batter is mildly spicy. Yes, it is heart attack city. I don’t eat them anymore since I found out what they do to non-organic poultry in this country. Besides, the oils become toxic after being overheated and overused.

          Ever since a Whole Foods market opened nearby I’ve gotten to know their lamb schedule – on Wednesday afternoons they’re brought in from a local farm for processing. I can order a pound of liver and anywhere from two to eight kidneys if I call the day before. They slice and pack the liver for me into single servings. These are *very* cheap, much more than ‘regular’ meat in the less pricey grocery stores. I only order if there’s some other reason we have to go to town. When I luck out, I have enough to last until the next “must go there” trip. I also order necks for stewing – the Baron won’t eat the awful but he likes lamb stew and shepherd’s pie IF it’s local lamb because he knows it’s not halal slaughtered. Otherwise any lamb available in our area is from New Zealand and that’s all halal. We’re the haram-kinda folks.

          • Dymphna…I hope this may alter your view of New Zealand processed meat..

            What are the animal welfare requirements for animal slaughter in New Zealand?
            It is compulsory for all animals to be stunned before commercial slaughter in New Zealand.
            Stunning ensures an immediate loss of consciousness to prevent animals from feeling any pain during the slaughter process.
            The requirement for animals to be stunned prior to slaughter is contained in the Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare 2010, which is available on the Ministry for Primary Industries’ website.

            What about exemptions for halal slaughter?
            In New Zealand there is no exemption to the requirement for pre-slaughter stunning, unlike in some other countries.
            Halal slaughter requires that the animal dies from the “halal cut” to the throat, i.e. that the pre-slaughter stun is not powerful enough to kill the animal.
            In premises that undertake halal slaughter in New Zealand, reversible electrical stunning is used to ensure that animals are rendered unconscious instantaneously and remain unconscious at the time of slaughter, thus complying with both animal welfare and halal requirements.

          • Don’t forget that wonderful dish stuffed lambs’ hearts – when my daughter was young (and we were hard up) I cooked this a lot but it is difficult to get hearts now (impossible from the supermarkets locally) – as for Halal meat I always ask and refuse to buy it and will tell the shop manager why (here in the UK so much of the meat for sale is halal.

          • Tamati, though I’m from Central Otago I no longer buy NZ lamb for the same reason as Dymphna–because it’s halal.

            I’ve had words with the NZ Meatboard, to no effect. It isn’t really the non-lethal stun bit that infuriates me, but the fact that NZ gave in to moslems, as did the Aussies.

            Even before I left NZ for Canada in 1968, NZ was selling lamb to Iran and I knew about the moslem demands that the animals must be alive, etc., through a friend who worked at Pukeuri, but it’s just getting to be too much, the way moslem demands trump everyone else’s.

            For over 1400 years they have been the enemy, our ancestors fought them in the ME, and it seems to escape everyone’s attention that the next wars against them will be fought in our own countries.

          • @Peter35. It may interest you to know, I was talking to a friend recently (Waikato) who knew something about what went on at a local slaughterhouse. He said they had some muslim guy contracted to be on site during the killing season to say the prayer to Allah to make the meat halal. But evidently this individual didn’t regard his presence was a sacred duty as he was often absent and slaughtering continued without him. My in the know friend said this muslim bloke would turn up when a delegation of Arabs turned up to inspect the halal process, but once the last Mercedes Benz drove out the driveway, the muslim bloke sloped off home. So is it halal or sometimes halal? I thought that was rather amusing.

          • Baucent, yes I’ve heard of things to that effect in OZ too, where my brother lives.

            A cousin in Alexandra also told me it happens, “So what’s the big deal?”
            Of course, the big deal is that the moslems get money out of it which goes to support terrorism.

          • In the ’60s my folks ran a restaurant in rural Central Valley California. We had a “daily special” that changed through a regular cycle. I was about 10 and worked in the restaurant (which may have been illegal but I liked the money…) One of my jobs was to cut up a case of 50 chickens and pack the parts for making Fried Chicken. All the “innards” (we never called it ‘offal’) were saved for the “Chicken Innards” special…

            I still get to eat the “innards” when I cook, as the spouse doesn’t like them… Yum! But blame pet food for the recent demise of innards at the grocery… Demand for pet food pays more than the local food shop.

            The Cook ( a lady from Oklahoma who looked a bit blond Celtish) would put them, floured and seasoned, into a large “hot table” tray at about 6 A.M. There they would slow cook and make a gravy… and be ready for service at lunch / dinner.

            Never knew Gizzards could be so tender you could cut them with a fork until then…

            Mum is from Britain. A mix of Viking of some sort and local British Celts. Dad is ‘Merican of mixed German (Swiss Amish) and Irish (Potato Famine). So I’ve got a German – Celt mix on both sides.

            Looking deeply into Celt history, I found that “we” started out near the present Czech / Bavarian area. THE oldest beer making find is there. Burned barley grains where the smoking was done prior to the ferment. The Germans were just north, the Celts south, both partying in the same space together and making beer. To this day, that’s the place to get the best beer…

            Germans and Celts started as “one group”, with the Slavs just next door near Slovakia / Ukraine. Slavs spread north east, Germans north and north west, Celts south (east and west). The line between Germans and Celts ran more or less through France, but there were pockets both sides. Belgium Celts, and the Germans who ran down to Spain… (Goths, Visigoths, etc.) In short, the Germans and Celts have been getting in each others pants forever.

            Then Rome ran over the whole place and started calling us different groups. Rome broke up and we became “Nations”… France named for their German Franks instead of their Celt Gauls (though Gaulois and “galling” survive in use 😉

            Ancient Celts, pre-Rome, eventually divided into Italians and the Gaelic languages are part of an Italo-Celt group. So to some extent we could say that the whole of the Roman Empire was a Celt derivative thing… Though the Romans thought themselves special… Ancient Gaulish was nearly mutually ineligible with Latin, by some accounts. Gaelic of the islands became significantly different…

            Some of those early Celts wandered off to invade, variously, Rome, Greece, Anatolia, and more over most of history. There was even a Celtic Mercenary Army hired by Ramesses ( I think it was R.II, but bears checking) who was himself a RedHead, as were a fair number of important Egyptians then… Not at all like the Arab type now running the place. Then there are those Tocharians in Asia that look to be Celt in build and tartans…

            So at one time Europe was essentially a Germano-Celt place of a big tribe. Then we divided into dozens of sub-groups and now are called German, French, Italian, British, etc. etc. Now we’re all “mixing back” and thinking it different.

            Oh, my spouse? “English – Irish” mix too… Has gotten an Irish Citizenship so someday we’re going to take a long vacation there…

            And yes, Mum made Steak & Kidney Pie with the steak not being the main ingredient… We also had Beef Heart stew and strips and Liver & Onions remains a favorite of mine. Never really liked the Tongue Sandwich though… but Dad did. In a farm town where folks grow and dress their own meat, you eat all parts one way or another… Even “blood sausage” in the German style…

            To this day I don’t understand how some folks can decide to only eat the muscle meats. Sooo boring!

            BTW, you will find bagpipes being played in Argentina, Chile, and more in S. America, and across Europe from Czech to Italy and even into Anatolia. It’s a reasonable way to find where Celts have been, whatever they call themselves today… While modernity may not have been kind to the Celts of Virginia, many of us have done quite nicely… and spread all over the New World. Yes, mostly speaking Spanish, Portuguese, French and English, but so it goes. Note that in New York City, the police still play the pipes…

    • Governments and cultures have been underestimating the Celtic ability to survive and persevere for centuries. I truly believe it will turn around, though as you mentioned it may not be in our lifetimes.

      • I believe the culture is surviving in WV, only because the young ones don’t know anything else. I blame the dirty politicians who first allowed the UMW to run wild, now that the economy is gone the drug dealers have moved in. Just one look at the WV Gazette obits tells the tale. It’s going to take a few generations to return to normal if they start now.

        • Governments playing the Celts against each other and keeping them in a state of indentured servitude while using their labor is as old as the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. It probably goes back even further to the Romans.

  8. Fascinating. I can feel my heart beating. It’s so not PC but my family of Scots-Irish basically ended up running Ireland. The demands by the British government for beef from the estate caused my great-great-great grandfather, the mayor of Dublin… to die of a heart attack in 1948 and the British stripped the family of the land in 1853.

    • Wow! Talk about a fascinating history. I looked up Robert Shaw and apparently his great-great-grandfather fought for King William during the Williamite War in Ireland, which is how the Shaw family had a land grant in Ireland in the first place. The term “Scots-Irish” itself can be rather fraught, given the numerous ways in which a Scot could end up in Ireland, and whether or not he stayed or left!

  9. Fascinating.

    As famines have shaped history, so it is that it will take something like 10,000 dead from water poisoning to wake this country from its slumber with the world’s most lethal ideology.

    • It doesn’t necessarily have to come from external terrorism, either. We have enough slurry ponds in the coal-mining regions of Appalachia to poison many hundreds of thousands of people. It’s terrifying to think about.

  10. Yet another great find posted here on Gates of Vienna- A FAVORITE!- and as I reside in Floyd County, Va., it all felt as a warm sweater. The stories in these “hills” are worth learning though the past is fading away. This work by Apollon Zamp seems heartfelt and cared enough to give the reader the “whats & whyfors” as the old days were so different as the people held their roots near and the hard times/ life at labor made holding to that which was known, served the mind, heart and soul toward survival. Thank you again.

    • I’m really glad to hear it, Charlie. Floyd County is a special place–a haven for deserters from the Confederate Army in the 1860s and now a haven for deserters from mainstream society today. It’s hard to live in the Blue Ridge and not feel a part of the landscape and the culture. As A. J. Roach wrote about his home county, “Scott County is a woman gonna treat you like a child, and the more you try to hate her, the more she makes you smile.”

  11. If he hates us with such contempt, why does he live among us? I have had creatures like mister zamp look down their catholic noses at me all my life. This kind of “OH THE POOR SISTER HUMPING, DUNKEN , DRUG ADDICTED, HILLBILLY WRETCH; However can we SAVE them? Is nothing new. It also has little basis in modern truth.

    • Ray, it’s truly a shame that the above is what you took away from the article. I don’t mean any disrespect but I do have to ask: did you read all of it? While there are some harsh and unpleasant truths in what I wrote, it seems a bit unusual that I would choose to refer to the history of Scots-Irish in such a positive way if I were looking down my nose at them.

      If you read Section Four more carefully, you’ll see that I’m arguing precisely *against* governmental meddling and socioeconomic attempts to “save” people. More often than not those efforts fail, as they have in Appalachia and the South as a whole. It’s that belief that, in part, inspired me to write this article.

      I wish you the best and hope you’ll take the time to re-read the article, bearing in mind that I have great affection and respect for the native mountaineers I share my home with.

  12. They aren’t called “Wild Scotsmen” or “Wild Irishmen” for nothing. Stubborn, crazy and relentless are words that the British used to describe them.

    I have also heard that the Welsh of yore were pretty vicious too. Welsh foot soldiers and archers were prized by the English Crown for their capability in battle.

    • The Welsh didn’t make it to this part of the state in the same numbers that the Scots-Irish, Germans, and Belgians did. However, I’ve seen a few Welsh surnames scattered about, and my mechanics (both natives of these hills) are named Owayn and Tuff, so I’m guessing there’s some influence here.

      Oddly enough, the county where I’m from in flatland Virginia was a big destination for Welsh gold miners in the middle part of the nineteenth century. The Welsh surnames and place names are rife in that part of the world.

      • My Welsh antecedents made it to the coal mines of West Virginia. My maternal grandmother was born there, a Roberts.

      • Apollon. Out of interest, Maybe if you try this excellent Surname profiler to check your neighbours ancestry, or use telephone book listings, I’m sure you will find it very interesting and informative

        Although it doesn’t cover Ireland, it will tell you the country of origin of a surname. Which “county”has the most of a particular surname. How the name has spread in a hundred years. I consult it a lot.
        The international version isn’t very good

        • That is pretty cool. Unfortunately I can’t find a lot of the more populous names here in the mountain area where I live. I’d love to see a United States version with some kind of cross reference to the areas in Britain where the name crops up the most often.

    • You’ll recall what happened when those NTDWI terrorists tried to blow up Glasgow Airport.

      The general public immediately ‘set about them’.

      The farther north you go, the more true that is. Man, if any ‘cloot-heid’ tried that in Aberdeen, he’d be sent to the afterlife without pause or concern.

      I was once aboard a plane at Dyce that was heading for London (down in England-shire) and over the tannoy came an announcement: plane delayed because there was an extra piece of luggage that had been found aboard the plane.

      I kid you not, the plane was full of big hairy Scotsmen and to a man everybody stood up and started scanning the seats with the evil eye. If a rampant ‘cloot heid’ had been aboard that plane right at that moment, he would have had his [tush] handed to him before he got the chance to finish yelling out the takbir.

      You could actually smell the urge to do violence in the air.

      I could feel myself cycling up, and there was definite eye contact with some of the other men aboard, unspoken communication and understanding. Those old, old genes kicking in again … it had the potential to be a life and death situation, and there were women and kids aboard. It was all on the verge of kicking off, and I mean this turn of events was just immediate.

      I’m just surprised that when Dynamite Dave visited the north, & went offshore so he could have a photo op wearing a hard hat and a boiler suit, someone didn’t kick him in the [goolies] and throw him over the side. Next time, Dave …

  13. The people who mostly populated the Western Part of Virginia, Bath Co. and surrounding Cos. were mainly from Co. Donegal and Co. Tyrone. They settled in the Ulster area of No. Ireland area originally from the low lands of Scotland and England arriving in early 1600s to No. Ireland.
    Many who first arrived in America in 1740s went to first Cumberland area of Pa. and shortly later to Western Va.
    Those originally from lowland of Scotland – Presbyterian and most from England – Anglicans. Those two religions actually lived together in Western VA.

    A large mid area of Ohio called the Virginia Military Dist. was populated by large numbers of these Ulster people in the early 1830s who migrated there from VA.

    • What’s interesting about the Scots-Irish people’s (relatively) quick transition from lowland Scotland to Ulster to America is that quite a few of them had little to no connection to Scotland (having been born in Northern Ireland) and little to no connection to Ireland (due to dissatisfaction with living conditions in the Ulster Plantation). Within a few generations, both sets of Celtic identities were largely forgotten. However, the archaic dialect that you can still hear, especially among the older folks, is a remnant of the original Ulster dialect, much in the same way that the Tangier Island dialect is a holdout of Elizabethan-era English. It’s fascinating which cultural artifacts remain intact.

      • My great Grandfather, on my mother’s side, came from what is now Northern Ireland, County Down. They referred to themselves as being Irish, though quite obviously they were Ulster Scots.

        • I had a mountaineer here in town tell me that as far as he knows, his ancestors on his mother’s side came from County Cork in the 1750s. This is a man who says “hit” and “hain’t” in the lilting, musical, archaic Appalachian dialect. I told him, “Ricky, I could tell that given your accent.”

          He laughed delightedly for a good ten seconds.

      • Exactly.
        I know several people who are several generation from Ohio who had ancestors who were lowland Scots and English settled in Ulster and came over 1740s. After being in Virginia a few generations, went to the VA. Military Dist. of Ohio.
        This family today who still live in Ohio and when I speak to them on the phone have that archaic dialect.

  14. I was born in hazard ky in 1959. lived there until 1974 . fairly accurate , and quite sad . billions of $ in coal was mined in those counties, and the locals got little for it. moonshine don’t pay and nobody grows the corn to make it out of anyway. I miss the closeness and family affection we had in those days there . I don’t see that anywhere anymore .

    • my direct male lineage shows the first of my family born in VA in 1730.
      my family was in the mountains of VA, NC, and for the last 150 yrs mostly KY. lots of documented service in the indian wars, French and indian wars, revolutionary war, war of 1812 , civil war, and 2 uncles kia in Korea.

      • Celts have always made fine warriors. It’s their distaste for rigid, hierarchical systems which gets them into trouble in regular armies…

    • The collusion between the Federal Government and the coal mining companies is something I really neglected to address in this piece. If I had it to do over again, I’d have addressed it alongside the agricultural policies of the New Deal. Suffice it to say that the economic exploitation of the mountain peoples has taken many forms, with coal mining being at the top of the list both for historical abuses and ongoing economic and environmental issues.

  15. Lots of Scots Irish came to Canada. My ancestors came here in the early 1800’s. They were Loyalists. More than half of the 100,000 Canadian men killed in WW1 and WW2 were Orangemen, (Loyalists of the Orange Lodge). At one time, a hundred years ago, every third Protestant male in Ontario belonged to the Orange lodge.
    The land here is suited to agriculture, mostly gently rolling hills. After clearing the land and much hard work, they became prosperous and eventually mainstream. Now, there are those who talk of “white privilege “. HA. Those people never can imagine the generations of hard work and sacrifice required to make the wealth our society enjoys today.
    I joined the Orange Lodge 5 years ago. I wanted to celebrate my Protestant Heritage. I don’t consider Catholics to be my enemy, but rather my fellow Christians and we tolerate no animosity toward them. The leftists detest Christian heritage and that’s one reason why I’ll be in Toronto this July, walking in the Orange parade held there. It will be the 196 th Toronto Orange parade and we will carry our banners high. No Surrender.

    • Bert–I think your feelings in regards to Catholic and Protestant co-existence is pretty much in line with other Protestants, and Catholics, both where you are and in Northern Ireland. From what I’ve read of the Troubles, the paramilitaries on both sides represented a weird mixture of political maneuverings and class warfare. Pride in one’s ancestry and heritage and religion is a very natural and often a very healthy and fulfilling thing.

      Your use of the term “No Surrender” is interesting, though. I presume you’re using it in reference to multiculturalism and the leftist dislike of Christianity, as you mentioned. I’ve seen it so often in pictures of murals and graffiti in Belfast and Derry. It’s refreshing to see it used in another context for once.

      • Apollon. Thanks for your peice, which I read with interest.

        I would however point out that from my understanding of ‘Scots-Irish’ (called ‘Ulstermen’, ‘Loyalists’, Ulster Loyalists’ here in Britain) they are not predominantly what I (or they themselves) would call ‘Celtic’: though I can see how the American version of the name may lead to that conclusion. They are largely of Border or Lowland Scots ancestry – ie from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, plus a significant element of northern English. The ‘Borderers’ – (known as ‘Reivers’ to this day) – were a particularly troublesome bunch, and after being banished by King James 6th (of Scotland – he was also James 1 of England) formed a strong core among the Ulster Planters. The Borderers – with names like Armstrong, Elliot, Robson, Scott, Charlton – were from both sides of the border, but held allegiance to neither – only their own clans. But non-conformists from northern England helped form the Ulster Plantation, as did other Protestants such as Huguenots. You can see this mix in Appalachian family names (at least those which I’ve seen) – and I can’t see that this would be skewed, ie that there would have been much reason to change their names after settling in America.

        You might have read David Fischer’s work, tracing the Borderers to Appalachia.

        Certainly Ulstermen both today and historically would not have seen themselves as ‘Celts’, but variously as Scotsmen, Englishmen, Ulstermen, etc.

        I’m sure you’re aware of this but it’s worth repeating that British and Irish history is very deeply interwoven – this can be seen from DNA tracking which, for instance, has shown that about 75 percent of DNA in all parts of Britain is Brythonic (pre-Celtic) – the figure is higher in Ireland. Plus bear in mind the varied impact of the Norse (Norway) on Scotland, Ireland and Cumbria and the Danes on north-east England and south-east Scotland.

        Thanks again.

        • I’m confused — the Brythonic languages were Celtic. Celts were split into two main branches, the Insular and the Continental. The former are the groups in the British Isles; the later were the Gauls and many other groups on the European mainland, all of which are now extinct (their languages, not their DNA).

          The Insular Celts were further subdivided into the Brythonic or Brittonic (Welsh, Cornish, Breton, and the extinct Cumbrian language) and the Goidelic (Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx).

          All of these groups are Celts, as recognized by their linguistic similarities and a common origin somewhere in the steppes of Eastern Europe or Central Asia and the Caucasus.

          • Insular Celtic languages were divided into “Q” (Gaelic–Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx) and “P” languages (Welsh, Cornish, Breton–Cornish that got transplanted to the NW corner of France in the early middle ages).

            Also, I doubt that the Indo-European languages originated in Asia Minor or the Caucasus. Judging by common vocabulary, density and diversity of IE languages in ancient times, and the like, the Urheimat was probably somewhere between the Elbe and the Dneister.

            Also, keep in mind that apart from the Armenians and speakers of some refugee Iranian languages, the Kavkaz is a region of very diverse non-IE languages (Kartvelian Languages, Circassian Languages, Chechen-Ingush, Bats, Lesghian, and a host of other tongues that remain unconnectable despite the manful labors of generations of Russian and Soviet linguists.

            However, the oldest attested (by writing) IE language is indeed Anatolian, i.e., Nes (“Hittite”).

        • Hey, Jon. Thanks for reading. While I understand that you’re talking about how the Ulstermen self-identify today, I’m referring in a broader context to their cultural and historical background, which is undeniably Celtic. The north of England is rife with distant cousins of modern Welshmen (hence the county of Cumbria, an etymological cousin of Cymru, the Welsh name for their country). The peoples of lowland Scotland trace their roots back to various Celtic-speaking peoples of Breton, Pictish, and in some cases what we would consider Irish ancestry.

          So while I agree that the modern Ulsterman’s association and self-portrait is that of being British rather than Celtic, I am taking the more objective viewpoint that his history, as well as his personality, are predominantly Celtic in their origins.

          And if you tell anyone I said that when I visit Derry this summer, I’ll call you a liar.

          • “…about 75 percent of DNA in all parts of Britain is Brythonic (pre-Celtic) – the figure is higher in Ireland.”

            I missed this the first time around. Brythonic is literally the group of British Celtic languages, which the Baron alluded to above:


            While I don’t discount the Norse influence on the Border Country, it’s simply part of the larger belligerent history that the Celts have been involved in since the beginning of their migration across Europe. However, since the Norse did not supplant the Celtic populations or chase them out, but simply occupied the territory for a period of time, their overall impact is limited. Certainly it’s less so than that of the Saxons.

      • Yes, No Surrender of our cultural heritage, Religious and Civil Liberty. “Equal Rights for all, Special Privileges for None”, has been our rallying cry for many years.
        You tube carries ‘Toronto Orange Parades” . Check it out.
        Also “Lambeg Drums”. You will either love them or hate them. I love them. They have been referred to as the heartbeat of the Protestant people.
        In the videos of the Toronto Parades you will see on some of the Banners as well as Chaplains carrying them, the open Bible, a symbol of the Protestant faith.

  16. Very interesting piece. However… to me its pretty clear that cousins of Apalachian ‘Scotch-Irish’.. Lowland Scots and Ulster Protestants, while having Britannic-Celtic roots… have never been ‘Gaels’. A distinct Anglo-Scots language supports that. Unfortunately, these Sasanachs have been the prime enemy of Gaels and Gaelic culture in both Ireland and Scotland where, as loyal servants of the English…. they drove the ethnic cleansing of Highland Gaelic Scotland and Ireland And happily continued similar processes against native north Americans, Rhodesians, Australians and Maori. (and slave mastery in Jamaica and the south).While there is some revival in Scotland, in Ulster, they continue to reject any association with Celtic culture and instead pay homage to a German / Dutch royalty. While a courageous and pioneering race… seem a bit confused to me… dont see much ‘honor’ in their identity at all.

    • The Scots-Irish origins are certainly a bit muddy and confusing. Certainly, it seems a bit odd to refer to them so specifically when their numbers were bolstered, in Northern Ireland and America, by Germans, Belgians, Dutch, French, northern English, et cetera.

      However, they are very much Gaelic in their origins. Their ancestors spoke some form of Gaelic, whether Pictish or Scottish. Their geographic origins include the ancient Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata. How they identify currently doesn’t have much to do with history (or genetics).

      I don’t disagree with you about the tragic and far-reaching effects of the Ulster Plantation. It’s probably somewhat banal to note that what has happened (and is still going on) in Northern Ireland has to do less with actual ethnic identity and more to do with cultural association going back to James I and William of Orange.

      One of the things I tried to make note of was that while the Scots-Irish in Ulster retained their British identity, the Scots-Irish of America lost it very quickly. Within two generations of coming to America, the were essentially the vanguard of the Revolutionary War. One possible reason for this is that the Ulster Protestants regard their British heritage as separating them from the Catholics they were sent to pacify four centuries ago. The Scots-Irish in America had no such need, although they have found other new ways to separate themselves from the larger culture(s) around them.

      • “British identity”. As I understand it there are English, Irish, Scots and Welch peoples. All are in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish are part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Irish are not British like the Scots, Welsh and English are. If the Scots go ahead with independence from their English neighbours and partners to the south where will that then leave the Orange elements in the two thirds of Ulster called Northern Ireland? The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Then if the UK exits the EU and Scotland decides to stay in the UK. What then? The times they are a changing.

        • MHB, if you want to wander into a Loyalist neighborhood in Belfast and proclaim that Northern Irish aren’t British, you’re welcome to try. 😉

          In all seriousness, the gap between historical background (i.e., the Celtic roots of the Scots-Irish) and their current cultural self-identification (British) is one of the reasons I wrote this article, and which I alluded to in my passage about the Union Jack. I expected it might engender this kind of discussion and debate and I’m glad to see it did.

          • I gather from reading Northern Irish newspaper articles and such as well watching recorded excerpts of “The Nolan Show” on utube, that within the Protestant communities there are organised efforts (by popular demand) to learn Gaelic. There are also rumblings about not being able to easily become members of traditional Irish sports clubs I that part of Ulster. Lots of room for possibility thinking.

    • I once observed on a popular British TV show a young Northern Irishman in British Army uniform make a point to a very still, unresponsive English audience that the people of Northern Ireland identified with the people of then Rhodesia.

      • The English indifference to, or embarrassed avoidance of, the Irish Question has been one of the contributing factors to everything that’s gone on there since…hell, since 1169, really.

    • Actually, I have come to suspect that “Scots-Irish” is a 19th century invention to serve both a rankled Catholic Irish nationalist and an imperial-colonial-racial narratives of “Anglo-Saxonist” Britain (and its American admirers).

      It’s worth noting that in the 18th century, Americans saw anyone from anywhere between Londonderry to Cork as “Irish”, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, and at that time, the overwhelming majority of “Irish-Americans” were Protestant.

      I do not doubt for a minute that lots of “Anglo-Saxon” Lowland Scots were planted in Ulster under the Stuarts and later. But I suspect there is indeed a Gaelic strain in the “Scots-Irish” –and this comes from things I’ve seen in old Presbytery records here in the States and from an Irish Nationalist writer, Padraig O Snodaigh.

      When a Presbyterian student preacher in Western Pennsylvania (an old “Scots-Irish” stomping ground), I noticed some old presbytery records “We welcome Mr. McSo-and-So from County (one of the six or neighboring) in Ireland….” as a minister; while a number of names in older Presbyterian cemeteries have a definitely Celtic ring.

      O Snodaigh wrote a book on Gaelic in 18th century Ulster, and notes that while it was widely spoken by Catholics, literacy in it was very heavily a Protestant thing, especially with members of the Established Church of Ireland (Anglican). As for Presbyterians, O Snodaigh notes that among the British forces brought to Ulster were Highlanders under the Duke of Atholl, many of whom stayed (and, presumably, found ways to merge their Gaelic with an 18th cenury Ulster Irish which was still very much a transitional dialect at that stage).

      I suspect that what happened was that there was a native Protestant Irish presence that melded rather well with the Scots (and other British) newcomers, especially after having borne the brunt of Roman Catholic rebellion in 1642. How did they lose Gaelic speech? Probably from a dynamic similar to other communities that give up a language for one identified with better opportunity.

      The British world of the 1700’s and early 1800’s offered much opportunity to any white Protestant–even if Presbyterian or other dissenter–provided he could speak English. If the government might exclude the dissenter, business welcomed him. Hence, just as Hakka-speaking Taiwanese youth today prefer to use Mandarin (the official language and language of culture) and Minnan (the language of business) rather than their own “peasant speech”, formerly Gaelic-knowledgeable Ulster Protestants, regardless of ancestry, latched onto English. The same is happening with Basque, Frisian, Low Saxon, Northern Khmer, and other non-prestige minority languages in dynamic areas of the globe.

      Whence the Scots-Irish? The 19th century British imperial-colonial-racial narrative preferred to latch onto their Lowland Scots strain to tout the superiority of the “Anglo-Saxon”, thus making the Ulster Protestant a good Anglo-Saxon colonist rather than a mix; the rankled Irish Catholic nationalist narrative concurred to make the Ulster Protestant a hated intruder into poor, sacred Ireland who had no legitimate business being there. Add to that, on the American side of the pond, the Protestant Irish immigrant (regardless of ancestry) could easily blend into other English-speaking Protestant communities that might (after the Potato Famine) be quite hostile to “Papistical Paddy”.

      My guess is that the truth is that the “Scots-Irish” were a mix of various strains (as there had been mixtures of people from both sides of the Irish Sea throughout history) united by Protestantism–with a generous dash of a love-hate relationship with a British crown that on one hand bothered them over being mostly Presbyterian rather than Anglican, but on the other provided protection (and minor privilege) against a hostile Roman Catholic majority.

      Hence, to the assertion that the Appalachian white American is a “Celt”, I’d also guess he’s just as much an “Anglo-Saxon”, with perhaps a dash of German, Huguenot, and a few other strains as well.

      BTW, re the reference to the Hakka Chinese (to whom I am kin), they’re also a migratory and colonizing tribe, having opened up some of the marginal areas of western Taiwan to Chinese civilization, appearing as well in the hills of northern Viet Nam, the jungles of Borneo, and the elsewhere as well.

      • Kepha–excellent points, most of are one with which I agree. I’d been wondering about the (very likely) possibility of a Scots and Irish Protestant mingling during the period of time between the beginning of the Ulster Plantation and the first Scots-Irish emigrations to America. There were most certainly Irish Anglicans (now there’s an odd term) as well as Protestants in Ireland during the Williamite War, many of whom were given land grants for their service to William of Orange.

        I also agree with you that DNA-wise, there is certainly a mingling of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic, to say nothing of Frankish, Frisian, and (very likely) Norse among the bloodlines of the mountaineers. I realize that my terminology becomes somewhat unclear, using Scots-Irish as both a literal descriptor of the origin of the people who settled the mountains as well as the culture. However, my overall argument is that the social climate of the mountains is very much a Celtic one, for the reasons enumerated above.

        I also think it’s telling that when the Scots-Irish arrived in America, most of them listed their ethnicity as “Irish.” Nowadays their distant cousins would sooner hurl themselves into Belfast Lough than self-identify as Irish. If I were forced to tender an explanation as to why, I’d say it’s because Ireland was their last known address. It’s difficult to have a two-thousand-year-long slog across Central and Western Europe while retaining any strong identification with place.

        The people who settled lowland Scotland, Ulster, and eventually the Appalachian mountains are culturally similar to the Scottish and Irish who inhabit the former two places. However, they are by no means identical. The Scottish and Irish in Scotland and Ireland today are the descendants of Celts who stayed. The Scots-Irish are the descendants of the Celts who couldn’t stop moving. And that, as Robert Frost would say, has made all the difference.

        • **Nowadays their distant cousins would sooner hurl themselves into Belfast Lough than self-identify as Irish.**

          Again, given what I have noticed about *!!partial!!* Celtic roots of the Scots-Irish and my suspicion that “Scots-Irish” is a 19th century invention raised to serve both a rankled Irish Catholic nationalist narrative and a British imperial-colonial-racial one (illegitimate land-stealing usurper or noble settler), this attitude you note about today’s Northern Irish Protestants just goes to show how a probably false narrative can still have much power.

          And again, had the bulk of the Irish opted for the Reformation in the 16th century, they’d be vying with the Scots over providing a far greater than fair share of the eminent people of a still-united UK.

          As for peoples on the move, that’s an awful lot of us.

          • Sorry to disagree but see my reply to the Baron above. My family on both sides came early to America, from the 1640’s on. They were all genealogy freaks and, from the first, proudly claimed a Scotch-Irish ancestry. I’m sure some were Anglo-Saxon but to be English wasn’t admitted.

            My mother said our Irish ancestors, the Neely’s and the Carruthers, moved back and forth from Ireland to western Scotland, and were not just plantation settlers. Although they were that too.

      • The late David Frost in his book was adamant that “Scots-Irish” was an invention of the nineteenth century to differentiate the first wave of Protestants and Catholics from the many truly dirt poor Catholic for the most part “Famine Irish” showing up in droves from the 1840s on. Prior to that according to David Frost “all the Irish seemed to get along somewhat Ok”. Bear in mind a disproportionate number of leaders and agitatirs for Irish Indeoendence were “Scots-Irish”. A debt I imagine Irish people have not forgotten.

    • While I may not have much old-line colonial ancestry, as an American of Jewish and Scandinavian stocks who married into the Chinese, I am not going to get all teary and sentimental over the displacement of the American Indigenes (who in any case probably wouldn’t want to go back to the days of stone tools and a deerskin loincloth, with women serving as beasts of burden prior to a few of Coronado’s horses running off).

      I’ll also note that in Britain’s 19th century conquests and settlements, Scots (including people with “Mc” and “-agh” in their names) and Irish played a rather large role, too. These included everyone from lowly army privates to colonial governors and theorists. So spare us the pretense that the Roman Catholic Irish were brothers in suffering with the non-white peoples who got in the way of the Pax Brittanica (and I doubt that your typical 19th century Irish Roman Catholic immigrant to our shores would’ve seen the Indian as anything other than a howling savage).

      While we’re at it, my wife’s people helped push aside Austronesians in 18th and 19th century Taiwan after pushing aside Tai-Kadai and Hmong-Mien peoples in the southern part of Mainland China. We enjoyed ourselves while living in Thailand, on land that the Thai had “stolen” from the Mon and Khmer peoples–all of whom took their cultural cue from an India founded on the original Aryan’s displacement of the Dravidians and Munda.

      How many of their famously sad songs do the Gaels sing in memory of the Picts of Caledonia and the Fir Bolg, or whoever the pre-Celts of Ireland were?

      • Prior to the Celts: The Tuatha De Danaan
        Prior to the Tuatha De Danaan: The Fir Bolg
        Prior to the Fir Bolg: The ice.

      • “So spare us the pretense that the Roman Catholic Irish were brothers in suffering with the non-white peoples who got in the way of the Pax Brittanica (and I doubt that your typical 19th century Irish Roman Catholic immigrant to our shores would’ve seen the Indian as anything other than a howling savage).”

        This sees suffering as both a zero-sum game and a shared-guilt enterprise, in which if I am a citizen of a social group whose members have committed some wrong elsewhere, some *other* more dominant social group gets to burn my house and force me into indentured servitude. I don’t wish to be rude but that’s some of the most ridiculous thinking I’ve run across in the comment section on this blog.

        Your derisive and dismissive references to the plight of a Catholic living in Ireland bespeak your ignorance of the history of the Isles. For centuries, a very small minority of Protestant landowners more or less ran Ireland. The vast majority of the *million* Irish pushed out of Ireland were Roman Catholics who were at the mercy of their Protestant landowners. This doesn’t in any way justify anti-Protestant feeling or prejudice, but to ignore it entirely because the Irish were literally conscripted and press-ganged into murdering the enemies of British policy in foreign countries is absurd.

        Finally, the Roman Catholic Irish migrations to America overlapped with the Civil War. As I made mention above, it was very likely that if you were an Irish immigrant to America in the 1860s, you were going to get forced into service and sent to fight not the Indians, but ironically the Protestants that had left Ireland more than a century before.

        In both cases, the British and the Federal Governments promoted ethnic and religious and political hatreds for their own gain and benefit. And it’s going to keep on happening until people realize they’re being played against other.

        • Apollon…to further assist your argument..

          “In the 12 year period during and following the Confederation revolt, from 1641 to 1652, over 550,000 Irish were killed by the English and 300,000 were sold as slaves, as the Irish population of Ireland fell from 1,466,000 to 616,000. Banished soldiers were not allowed to take their wives and children with them, and naturally, the same for those sold as slaves. The result was a growing population of homeless women and children, who being a public nuisance, were likewise rounded up and sold. But the worse was yet to come.

          In 1649, Cromwell landed in Ireland and attacked Drogheda, slaughtering some 30,000 Irish living in the city. Cromwell reported: “I do not think 30 of their whole number escaped with their lives. Those that did are in safe custody in the Barbados.” A few months later, in 1650, 25,000 Irish were sold to planters in St. Kitt. During the 1650s decade of Cromwell’s Reign of Terror, over 100,000 Irish children, generally from 10 to 14 years old, were taken from Catholic parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In fact, more Irish were sold as slaves to the American colonies and plantations from 1651 to 1660 than the total existing “free” population of the Americas!”

          • “So spare us the pretense that the Roman Catholic Irish were brothers in suffering with the non-white peoples who got in the way of the Pax Brittanica (and I doubt that your typical 19th century Irish Roman Catholic immigrant to our shores would’ve seen the Indian as anything other than a howling savage).”

            Please read the above link in may alter your view on this statement.

          • Wow. I have to wonder, honestly, if some of those numbers are inflated. It can be really hard to estimate non-military and even military deaths once you go back far enough. Suffice it to say that the British slaughtered, deported, and otherwise inflicted a great deal of pain and suffering upon the Roman Catholic population of Ireland.

            My point here really wasn’t that the Irish have suffered more than any other subjugated population. My point was that there’s this modern school of thought that the Irish haven’t suffered as much as the historical records indicate because…I’m not really sure, to be honest. Maybe it has something to do with white privilege. I’d say it’s because it happened so long ago but that isn’t the case with the mainstream take on the African slaves and American Indians, so apparently that’s not the explanation.

          • And to Tamati:

            I am well aware of how Cromwell responded to the Irish Catholic rebels, and thank Tamati for his bit of C/Kavanaugh family history.

            But consider as well that in 1642, in the risings in Ulster, captured Protestants were forced naked into ponds in cold weather, and their infants thrown to pigs. Surely Cromwell and his soldiers (and those Protestant Irish who acquiesced in his invasion) must’ve been aware of such, since failure to protect loyal, Protestant subjects in Ireland was one of the charges brought against Charles I by his Scots Covenanter and English Parliamentary enemies.

            In any case, on my Father’s side (alov hasholom) I descend from people kicked everywhere from Iran to Ethiopia to Spain to the Baltic and points in between (and they penned the original sad song of exile, which you can find in Psalm 137); my wife’s from people kicked out of the North China Plain by various invaders, and to this day, despite being resident in southern China for a millennium, they still call themselves People of the Central Plain, while their neighbors call them “Guest Folk” (although I doubt they’d abandon their warm, well-watered present homeland for the dusty land of extreme temperatures from which they were once forced).

            The point is that history happens to everyone; and we’re all descended from both settlers and displaced indigenes. If you’re intent on making some dramatic and bloody history, be ready to come up against someone even more fierce.

        • Apollon (and Tamati) I get it about the sufferings of much of Ireland, and do not wish to belittle it. However, I recall back in the times of the Troubles, supporters of the IRA waxed eloquent about the “anti-colonialist struggle” and “solidarity” with other such struggles–even on this side of the pond.

          While we’re at it, the Protestants also did a lot of “bloody shirt waving” over the revolts of 1642, which prompted one of the major suppressions and consequent plantations in Ulster.

          I’m old enough and well-read enough (although not as much as I’d like to be) to know a lot about people spitting on each other over the centuries. Believe me, it wasn’t invented by the North Atlantic peoples, and it doesn’t need shady operators trying to stay in power to happen.

          • Kepha, forgive me–or don’t–for saying that your initial statements on the matter *do* seem to belittle the sufferings of Ireland. You seem intent on a neo-Leftist mindset, wherein the wholesale slaughter of Roman Catholic Irish doesn’t matter or isn’t relevant because, holy crow, Roman Catholic Irish helped the British Empire subjugate indigenous populations in other countries! I can’t tell if your meaning is that the sufferings of the Irish are cancelled out or that there’s some kind of retroactive karma thing going on, but either way, your discourse in the comments above is telling.

            Never mind that the British colonization of India began in 1757 and ended in 1947, while the British colonization of Ireland began in 1169 and ended in 1949. Never mind that the Irish soldiers that “played a rather large role” in the conquests of the British Empire were often press-ganged and forced into military service against their will.

            The Irish are not the brothers-in-suffering of the victims of the British Empire. They are the many-times-great-grandfathers of suffering of the British Empire. White privilege be damned.

      • Get teary and sentimental about the holocaust? Ask your missus if she celebrates Nanking.

        • Kepha… ”We enjoyed ourselves while living in Thailand”

          As I have the regular pleasure of being within earshot of Jewish (Israeli) and Chinese (Mainland) tourists in Thailand… I’d suggest that such cultural expansion has been less than positive… and most Thais generally hate them.

  17. Interesting article. During the 19th century poor Scots, Irish and English all left the British Isles for a hopefully better life in the new colonies in Africa,Canada, Australia and New Zealand and that former colony America. Today we don’t appreciate the scale of that migration. I have Scots ancestry from the Borders, and from just one family three sons emigrated, one to America, one to Canada and one to New Zealand in the late 1800’s.
    There is no doubt these people were tough physically, many of our ancestors who were farm labourers living in a harsh climate lived long lives. Generations of natural selection of genes for toughness and resilience (weak babies died) resulted in a people ideal for pioneering a new land.
    The Celt connection to Asia Minor is also interesting. St Paul in his letter to the “Galatians” was probably writing to Celtic Christians. Later when missionaries were sent to take Christianity to the Scots and Irish, Celtic monks from that old Roman Galatia province were sent as they would have the language and culture.

    • It *is* a bit staggering to consider how far the Celts were spread over the entirety of Europe. Even knowing about their reach, I realized the Gaelic connection to Galatia only during the course of reading through this comment section. It drives home, in a way, that referring to “Celtic culture” is a very broad reference indeed, and yet it is really only conflated with Scots, Irish, and Welsh history. I’ve been wanting to read more about the La Tène culture just to educate myself more on the ancient roots of more than half my family.

  18. Kapo-Celts

    If Celtic identity is now to be claimed by the ”Scots-Irish” … would suggest that the prefix ‘Kapo’ be added… to celebrate continuing loyal service to foreign crowns and centuries of self-loathing treachery.

    • Murray, while I don’t wish to presume too much about your larger point, whether or not the Scots-Irish claim Celtic ancestry is immaterial. They *are* Celts. This is backed up by the historical record and is a separate issue from four hundred years’ worth of political machinations and vicious religious conflict.

      • Rather more of a vicious native and colonial settler conflict. Today Ireland and Scotland have moved on to where if you don’t like one just move to the other. Gerrymandered power hopefully is no more.

        • Yeah, the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland is something I really want to study more. Too bad it’s steeped in Communist rhetoric and contaminated by association with murderous paramilitary groups. Oh, wait, just like America. Maybe it’ll be more familiar than I thought.

          • Apollon: re the Northern Irish Troubles, I can remember a lot of the noise about “solidarity” with other “anti-colonial struggles” against perfidious Albion coming from IRA supporters.

            Years later, when I was in the US Foreign Service during Gulf War I, Sadam Hussein was negotiating with a lot of nasty actors about bumping off low-level coalition diplomats of my rank for $35-45K and our minor kids for $10K. The IRA, along with the Moro Liberation Front, Palestinians, and ageing members of the Japanese Red Army Faction were among those his people were contacting. Needless to say, I was not a fan of Pres. Clinton’s inviting Gerry Adams to the White House.

          • You won’t find any support for the IRA from me. They lost any legitimacy they had after the formation of the Free State and their decision to wage war on their own countrymen. After that, it didn’t take long for them to be infested from the ground up with a mixture of thugs, psychopaths, and people too stupid or ignorant to know any better.

  19. “Britain, which still bears its Celtic name despite fifteen hundred years of Saxon occupation”. Not really true. The name Britain, which was wholly forgotten except by antiquaries, was revived by Sir Francis Bacon in the days of King James the first of England and sixth of Scotland, first ruler of both kingdoms. The idea was to find a non-contentious name for a new united kingdom; although political union didn’t come for another century. The actual name was Great Britain; ‘Great’ in those days didn’t have any other meaning but to distinguish our island from Brittany or Little Britain.

    • My point was more that “Britain” is derived from the Welsh “Prydain,” and thus is Celtic in origin as opposed to having a more modern Germanic name. I didn’t mean to imply that the name “Britain” has been in continuous use since the Saxons began to settle the place in the 5th century.

      (And honestly, that sentence was meant to be mildly tongue-in-cheek.)

    • Of course Bacon spoke of Britain! After all, the English had to import a Scottish king after their [Welsh-descended] Queen Elizabeth Tudor died unmarried and childless.

      As for the Protestant Irish being “Kapo Celts”, I daresay that had the Irish of Connaught and Kerry gone Protestant as the English, Scots, and Welsh, there’d probably still be a unified Ireland (under the British crown), with the Irish jostling with the Scots over who provides a more disproportionate share of the UK’s eminent people.

      I also cannot help but notice from the tribes of Gallia Celtica conquered by Julius Caesar to the Highland Clans and pre-Norman Irish tribes, the Celts have been pretty good at killing each other, without any help from the Germanic folk, thank you.

      • Yes, that was the main reason they were conquered by the Saxons — they could not for the life of them stop their internal feuding and unite against the common foe.

        • If you get on a Scotsman’s [offensive substance] list, there you will remain.

          Take the poll tax. The Tories are still absolutely hated up here.

          It’s profoundly satisfying to know that Thatcher and Heath are down there, shovelling coal in the furnaces of hell. Right next to Hitler and Josef Stalin.

      • I believe I stated early on in my article that piling Celts together is a good way to get them to kill each other. However, the sheer number of Irish murdered in the name of British dominance over Ireland far outweighs any amount the Irish could have inflicted on each other in the course of tribal warfare. Cromwell killed over two hundred thousand Irish and displaced another fifty thousand. The Potato Famine–which, granted, wasn’t a war per se but was something the British were equipped to address and chose not to–left a million dead and another million forced out of the country.

        So, no, we didn’t need any help from the Germanic folk. But the Germanic folk elected to help us anyway, and haven’t stopped for the past nine hundred years.

        • I’m not so sure I’d blame the worst of the potato famine on perfidious Albion. It hit all of Europe. Unfortunately, Ireland’s potato monoculture left it particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, down in Swabia and Bohemia (where a portion of my father’s people were sojourning at the time), potato blight also struck lots of peasants–however, these fell back on eating bread (if they didn’t emigrate to an immigrant-hungry America over this or political issues).

          • I’m not blaming the Potato Famine on Britain. I’m saying that their response bordered on seeing a fellow lying in a gutter bleeding out from a gunshot wound and saying “Well, he must have done something to deserve it, otherwise, he wouldn’t be lying in a gutter dying of a gunshot wound” and wandering down the street whistling God Save The Queen. Which is precisely what the Whig faction did.

        • Apollon,
          Ha… yes…well… I believe the ferociously, bloody minded independence of the Celt (even at the expense of reason)… has always been both our (in all our conflicting cultural associations and geographies) finest attribute and collective weakness. Thanks again for a fascinating article. and equally fascinating thread discussion. Very interesting perspectives / views shared. Proves this area needs more research. Look forward to your book! It would be great for us all to be able to identify some core common threads… spread (dissipated) as we are throughout continents, cultures and generations.

  20. Apollon, thank you for the interesting read. It reminded me of a book I bought years ago, “God’s Frontiersmen: The Scots-Irish Epic” by Irish Catholic Rory Fitzpatrick (

    A point Fitzpatrick made that gave insight into the Scots-Irish psyche, was their belief that they were God’s chosen people (the lost tribe of Israel). They believed that the American Frontier was God’s land and therefore their land.

    • More material for my reading list! 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation, and I’m glad you liked the article.

    • Having ministered to “Scots-Irish” descended Presbyterian people (while sharing perhaps only a smidgeon of shared ancestry with them–I am Central European Jewish and Scandinavian, married into the Chinese), I can state categorically that they do not see themselves as a “lost tribe of Israel”. Rather, along with most other confessional Protestants, they understand that all who join themselves to Jesus the Messiah (including Blacks, Indians, Chinese, Koreans, whoever) thus become children of Abraham and part of a “spiritual Israel”. It comes from reading Paul’s epistles to the Romans and Galatians.

      I’ll also note that the late Conor cruise O’Brien, in his _God Land: Reflections on Religion and Nationalism_, noted that the Roman Catholic Irish (Gaelic-using, no less!) also had a tradition of identifying themselves with the Israelites suffering under Pharaoh.

      • Kepha…As a descendant of an Orange Lodge Grand Master who was imprisoned for organizing an illegal Orangemen’s Day parade in County Antrim (noren iron), I can assure you that that Order certainly did believe in the Israelite connection.

        “Scottish Constitution makes direct reference to the Scots’ Israelite origins”
        “Irish history also records her Israelite origins”

        Fitzpatrick was not saying that this belief is still held by present day Scots-Irish stock

        • As far as I can tell, Anglo-Israelism (the idea that the British peoples descend genetcally from the biblical Israelites) is a minority and fringe opinion. Then again, I have never belonged to an Orange Lodge. Further, I have read a lot of 17th century divinity of the Presbyterian/Puritan variety, know the Westminster Confessions and Catechisms, and cannot find Anglo-Israelism in them.

        • I did some digging in your suggested link. It does not seem to reflect the Presbyterianism of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.

  21. At the beginning of the article the difference between the religion of the English and that of the Scots-Irish was mentioned. The English were by and large members of the Anglican Church, whose head was the sitting monarch instead of the sitting Pope. The laity continued to ‘go through the motions’ as it were placing their fealty to the English monarch above that of a foreign power, Rome.
    The Scots-Irish took their faith more seriously, as they do with their rest of their life. Their innate contentiousness is what I believe led them to question and then search out for themselves the Truth of God’s Word. From this commitment from the heart that went far beyond the typical Anglican lip service, (i.e. Presbyterian and Congregational denominations) came forth the Scottish Divines to whom Christendom owes a debt of gratitude that can scarcely be repaid. Men such as James Stalker, Murray McCheyne and others who gave their lives in all due honour to the pursuit of the Truth of God gave us insights into our faith and support and comfort that serves us well in these times of trouble. Though it won’t be filled with whiskey, I raise a glass in a heartfelt toast to kith and kin (I am part Welsh) who valued honour and righteousness above convenience and position. Hear! Hear!

    • The array of Protestant denominations in Appalachia, derived from Scots Calvinism and German anabaptist sects (among others), is truly fascinating. You’re right to note that the Scots-Irish took their faith seriously–as they tend to take everything seriously. Not only does their nature lead them to question and search, it leads them to distrust authority and hierarchical structures. The Presbyterian church is the closest thing to a centralized church in the mountains.

      And there’s always the story of the Episcopalian minister who was riding past a mountain cabin. Seeing a woman outside washing her clothes, he asked, “Ma’am, pardon me for bothering you, but are there any Episcopalians around these parts?”

      Without looking up, she said, “Well, I don’t know, but you might want to check the hides on the smokehouse door. My husband traps and shoots a lot of strange creatures.”

      • Let’s not forget the influence of the oddball Arminian Anglican named John Wesley while we’re at it.

  22. Fascinating article, and comments. As a part-Scot, I know more about my cousins than before.

    Re the 2012 Belfast riots, from outside my flat, I can see the Union Jack on the Houses of Parliament. However most public buildings in England, at least, seem to display it only on special occasions, so perhaps Belfast City Council were just trying to be consistent.

    Crossing from Canada into the US, one is aware of the widespread display of Old Glory, even on private houses. Whether this indicates that Americans are more patriotic than Brits or Canucks, or we’re just more relaxed about it, I wouldn’t dare to speculate.

    • I think that’s exactly what the Belfast City Council was trying to do, Mark. From everything I’ve read, their position was that they were going to fly the Union Jack on the same seventeen days that their counterparts in Scotland, England, and Wales did. The Scots-Irish/Gaelic/Celtic tendency–and despite their insistence on their British identity, the Ulster Protestants are of an ancient and deep Celtic background–is to hold on fiercely to symbols and traditions. When those things are threatened, it breathes air onto a bed of smoldering coals.

      I don’t necessarily think that Americans are more patriotic than Canadians or British people. I think that the American approach is overt display. The introverted British guy/Canadian versus the American extrovert is a chestnut, but as is so often the case, it has its roots in truth. I know for certain that I’ve roused several genial and laid-back Canadians to ire by making jokes about their military.

      (After I assured them that I was aware of Canada’s long and glorious military tradition and that I was only teasing them, they felt embarrassed and bought me a beer.)

  23. Very interesting, thank you. When you’re reading Born Fighting, also look at Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks in which he traces cracker culture to the Anglo-Scottish border country.

    • Oh man. I haven’t read that book since right after it came out, sometime in 2005 or 2006. I need to pick it up again. Thanks for the reminder!

  24. Baron, I wish I could find the citation, but there was a paper in a recent Nature or Science journal recently that said that they have found the earliest remnants of celtic culture, not in Anatolia (Asia Minor) but along the western coast of Spain and Europe.

      • Baron, this may be related to the recent Science or Nature article. Go to and to subheading ‘roots’. Then check out article by Michael O’Laughlin “Some tales of the “Celts” exposed by the science of DNA” on 2/14/16.
        He brings up Spain, front and center, as a root source of the Irish DNA and the Celts.

        • OK, I get it. DNA is a separate issue for me, since linguistics is my hobby. The origin of the languages is what fascinates me.

  25. As most of the American Celts have their origins in the British Isles, it should be interesting to look at the origins of Britons – both genetic and cultural. There is evidence that suggests that the biggest genetic contribution to white Britons can be traced to the northern Iberian (Basque) regions, and that continental Celts – as well as the following Roman, Saxon, Scandinavian and Norman migrants – had mostly cultural influences on an already established population.

    “The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our [British] ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language. Another wave of immigration arrived during the Neolithic period, when farming developed about 6,500 years ago. But the English still derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots…. So, based on the overall genetic perspective of the British, it seems that Celts, Belgians, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were all immigrant minorities compared with the Basque pioneers, who first ventured into the empty, chilly lands so recently vacated by the great ice sheets.” (Stephen Oppenheimer, 2006)


    • Some people believe these earliest arrivals were the Fir Bolg (“Bag People”), the first settlers of Ireland according to Irish oral traditions. They were conquered by the Tuatha De Danaan, the “People of Dana”, who were subsequently conquered in their turn by the Hibernian Celts. The Tuatha De Danaan are thought to have come into popular folklore as the fairies.

    • Yeah, Basque is (as far as I know–I’m sure someone on here will correct me if I’m wrong!) the only non-Indo-European language remaining in Europe. Whether or not the language the pre-Celtic people living in the British Isles was related to Basque, it definitely wasn’t Indo-European.

      As the Baron mentioned, the people may have survived in part in legend as the Tuath Dé. I’m trying to figure out whether the Fomoire fit the same bill. In some ways Irish mythology reminds me of Genesis 1 and 2, where no one tradition superseded the other but rather the different legends become stratified like an ancient city.

  26. On my father’s mothers side my Scotch Irish ancestors came to America in the 1700s. The so-called Celts from Ireland also have Germanic or Viking heritage as well. The word Celt or Keltoi in Greek meant stranger and came from when a group of Celts invaded Greece during the Hellenistic period. The term Celt or in Scotland Kelt is more of a modern term. With my mixed European heritage I am 100% sure I have Celtic ancestry. The Celts who tried to loot the Oracle of Delphi were defeated by the Macedonians and Greeks and eventually ended up in present day Turkiye or Anatolia to create the town of Galata. This is were the Book of Galatians got its name.

    • A better name for the Celts would be the Ubiquitines. Those rascals were everywhere. 🙂

    • The Tectosages, Trocmii, and Tolistobogii who invaded Anatolia under a chief named Brennus settled in the northern part of what became the Roman province of Galatia (to which those Celtic tribes gave a name). Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was probably written to a mixed Greek and pre-Hellenic population settled in the southern part of the province (where he had ministered–cf. Acts 13-14).

  27. Very interesting read and oddly enough one that I found it cleared my mind of all else. Bravo Zulu as they say in the naval service.
    My family is originally from the western areas of Franklin County and Henry County. Though the family name has continuously been on the rolls since colonial times, it’s also grown way beyond the original half-dozen or so family members.
    On occasion I still find my way down Rt. 220 to Ferrum. And I always marvel at how folks found their way in the 1740’s. My half-serious thought is that settlers like the family blazed the path for I-81.
    I find an animating spirit in Franklin County and Henry County. That said, I also found a special place in Floyd County. On a mountaintop there I can stand and almost see the entire world.
    My suggestion to any and all is go have a look at the region and mightily consider staying there. Dunna let tomorrow become the day that you regret what you didn’t do yesterday.

    • Thanks for the high praise! I had to look up Bravo Zulu and I consider myself pretty well-versed in military slang. Well, for a damn civilian.

      Franklin County! Well, then I’m glad I put in that reference to the Bondurant Boys. I’ve been looking for an excuse to include them in an articl since…well, since I read the book in 2011.

      You’re not wrong about I-81. Route 11 was, if memory serves, partially laid atop the Carolina Road section of the Great Wagon Road, which itself was laid atop an old Indian trail. The Wilderness Road–at least its most northeasterly section–isn’t that from I-81 either, especially up near Fort Chiswell.

      The draw of the mountains, I think, is due to the fact that it’s the closest an American can get to a feeling of true ancient-ness. You pick up that feeling in England and Wales (and Ireland, I would imagine, though I have yet to visit there), but you get a sense of it in Appalachia as well. History here runs *deep*.

  28. The main reason Maj. Patrick Ferguson still reposes on top of King’s Mountain, NC to this day is because he threatened to cross over the mountains and begin burning farms and hanging rebels. As one who has lived in Belfast and studied the Ulster Scots for 20+ years, I can say that what was true in 1780 is as true today: the quickest way to end up dead is to threaten an Ulsterman’s family.

    • I would add to that that the quickest way to get anything done is to tell an Ulsterman not to do whatever it is. He’ll strike the table and shout, “Well, by God, sir, then I mean to do it!”

      I remarked to the Baron recently that one of the enduring ironies, to me, of the Battle of King’s Mountain is that it was a battle fought by Scots-Irish Protestants originally from the lowlands of Scotland and now living in the highlands of America, against a group of Tory Loyalists from the lowlands of North Carolina led by a Highland Scot.

      • My head hurts just reading that sentence!

        I think I need to draw a Venn diagram, LOL

        • It hurts less than it would after a night drinking with Ulstermen. 😉 Or fighting with them. Or both. The two go hand in hand. The good news is they respect you the morning after.

    • Another irony: John Witherspoon, the Scots Presbyterian clergyman who signed the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey, was a staunch partisan of the Hanover King against not-so-bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, and was actually imprisoned by the Jacobites for a couple of years. Flora MacDonald, who helped the Young Pretender escape to Skye and then to a French warship , was transported to the Carolinas for the deed, and ended up a staunch loyalist.

  29. The reason the Scots-Irish felt at home in the Appalachians is that they are an extension of the ancient highlands geologically. Yes, it’s true.

    • The Scots equally felt a home in the scenery of the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. There in Otago and Southland they established themselves in the mid 1800’s with cities with names like Dunedin and Invercargill.

  30. Does nobody notice the resemblance of Scottish-type honour/fighting culture with today’s Arab-Muslim one?

    • They are similar, in that both societies are tribal. What makes the Scots-Irish tribal society different is that their religious conflicts are predominantly internal. If the Arab-Muslim religious aspect were limited to Sunni-versus-Shia infighting, the comparison would be more apt.

      • A slight correction, the Scottish Clans (families) were not tribal but feudal. There is a difference.

    • A friend of mine – kind of a mentor/elderly aunt, long dead now – was married to a man in the American foreign service before they retired to this area. She told me they were stationed in the Middle East (I forget where) before being transferred to Ireland. This was in the 1950s, I think. She said she was so surprised at the similarities: clannish, suspicious, and the women in the poorer classes very repressed. She tried to open a women’s health center – in Dublin, I think – and couldn’t get approval. They were mistrustful of her “modern” ways. Twenty years later she reminisced about the similarities and about her own naivete in being surprised about them. To her, Ireland felt very third world and the poverty was dismaying. But then it *was* very poor. I mean, we were quite poor in America but my mother was sending packages to relatives, as did her sister, a Franciscan nun in Brooklyn.

      Well, the Middle East has certainly arrived in Ireland now and God is long gone from the public square.

      • A local woman went on a rant some time ago that all the local restaurants serve is “hard bread with Yankee sauce.” We still have no idea what she’s referring to. Pizza, maybe? In any case, tribal societies are notoriously averse to any kind of change. After all, change is the harbinger of doom, or at the very least death and destruction and possible displacement, for a tribal society. It’s essentially hardwired into their structure to fear the outlander and his ways. Kephart’s trifecta of “What’s your name, sir? Whar ye from? What’s your business here?” is as accurate now as it was in 1913.

        • For my mother in Dublin, her father’s question when she brought a friend home from school was always: “what’s your friend’s father’s name? What is their address (a basic requirement was a ‘good’ address)? What does your father’s friend do for a living?” The friend in question had to pass muster to be allowed into the house or into my mother’s closer acquaintance. That’s why America felt so free to her. She was ashamed of her own lingering snobbery…but by then it was wired in tight.

        • And averse to new foods, too. When I was a kid I felt like an indentured servant to my newly arrived Irish uncles, my mother’s brothers whom she sponsored. Potatoes – and lots of them – at every meal. I could skate by with “boiling them in their jackets” (not peeled) but not always.

          They didn’t touch rice or spaghetti, thought salad was “rabbit food”, and found corn on the cob tedious as they pulled off one kernel at a time with their forks. The idea of taking the cob up in their hands was met with disbelief.

          I sure did get sick of kippers for breakfast after a few months of it.

  31. Howdy from Cocke county TN, home of Popcorn Sutton and the and poorest town in TN, Newport. For what it is worth, we have a Latino sheriff, Armando Fontez, A female mayor, Crystal Ottinger and three legal moonshine distilleries, one of them named in honor of ol’ Popcorn. We are poor but proud and we handle our business our way. Now if ye’ins would just leave us alone and mind your own business, everything will be fine. Here’s a little history of our little corner of Appalachia- “We here in Cocke County have always felt the federal government has taken every effort to kick our butt that they possibly could,” McMahan said.”
    Now if you want to see a travesty, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, tourist traps that play on the ” Fauxbilly” image of the slacked jaw local yokel redneck to entertain the tourists.”

    • Glad to hear my article reached someone from the same place as Mr. Sutton. 🙂 Thank for the link. I’ve been interested in reading more about that area since I stumbled across the article on Popcorn.

  32. May The God in heaven’s blessin’s be upon yur’ house m’ lad.
    Such a wonderful read, with such good history, it would do the young’uns good to learn from when they came, so they’ll know where they’re a goin’…

    Bein’ scot is in the blood methinks. I happened across some bagpipers at a festival some twenty five years ago… and I felt me blood burnin’.
    I had to do it, something in the soul pulled me into the happenstance of witnessing those boys playin’ the pipes. One of ’em told me, “Its takes twenty one years to make a piper laddy.” It did. But nothin’ feels as good as actually playin’ em, the blood comes up and you actually FEEL the pipes playin’ in your soul.
    Then Destiny took away use of my left arm, nerve damage, and my playin’ days was done, right when I felt like I was soundin’ like a piper. My soul still crys, but that led to another passion, blacksmithing, good thing I can still use the right arm 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words, Piper Michael.

      There’s a road in my county that goes over several large hills. Coming from the north in the morning, the hills are covered with light and they seem green no matter what time of year it is. Coming from the south when the sun is setting, the eastern slopes are bathed in gold while the western hills are dark against the sky.

      I’ve talked to several people in the county who agreed that that landscape was part of what made them decide to make their home here. Independently of each other, several of them also agreed it reminded them of the highlands of Scotland.

      There IS something in the blood, and in the music. I’ve often said that had I been an orphan or a foundling, I would have suspected I was Irish due to what the music does to me–heart, soul, and mind.

      Best wishes for your eventual recovery and your health.

      • Agreed …. genetic memory… it does exist. I’m a generation removed from the soil … but although traveling / living within multiple cultures for 20 odd years. The music… (and landscape)…. calls me ‘home’. Thanks Piper Michael… maybe I should follow your example. I cant pray…. so maybe I should play. Working out bush in Aboriginal communities in Australia.. I observed a similar ‘doorway’ when watching an old fellas play the didgeridoo… and remember talking to a Cambodian soldier who said the Khmer pipe (bamboo type flute), made warriors feel ‘ like they were ”dead already” (in a good way). Would be interesting to explore how these ‘liminal’ soul instruments offer us time travel.., a deep, deep sense of connection to ancestry.. AND.. the eternal.

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