My article for Heritage Quest Magazine 109, “Locating Colonial Wagon Roads on a Modern Map,” points out that the Scotch-Irish arriving in America during the Colonial period were the ones who contributed the most to the development of wagon roads into wilderness areas. Because of some modern issues relating to the naming of this group of people, I decided to deal with that subject in a sidebar to the article, which follows:
In his classic book, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a Cultural History), (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), Harvard historian David Hackett Fischer discusses in great detail the people who came to America from the Irish Province of Ulster and the borderlands of England and Scotland, from about 1717 to 1775. In his first reference to this group of people, he said, “Many scholars call these people Scotch-Irish. That expression is an Americanism, rarely used in Britain and much resented by the people to whom it was attached.”
Fischer also threw in a quote, “We’re no Eerish bot Scoatch, one of them was heard to say in Pennsylvania,” which came from Wayland Dunaway’s, Scotch-Irish in Colonial Pennsylvania (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., reprinted 2002) considered by many as the best history of these people. The Scots/Scotch-Irishman who made this comment was not objecting to the “Scotch” reference to himself, but the “Irish” reference, because he didn’t think of himself as Irish, even though he (or his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents) may have lived in Northern Ireland for over 100 years prior to his arrival in Philadelphia.
In any case, the term “Scotch-Irish” is an American description of these people, particularly by the earliest histories describing them. But, after his first mention of the “Scotch-Irish,” even Fischer began using the term “Scots-Irish,” but suggested a better description of them might be “Ulster Scots,” except that he admitted that would not describe the entire group. Many of these people never went to Ireland, but went directly to America from the border counties of both Scotland and England. So, to describe the roots of these people, Fischer ended up calling them “Borderers.” One thing is sure. Whether English, Scottish, or Scots-Irish, these folks were all originally part of the border clans on either side of the Scottish-English border. They all spoke English, and had the same “New Light” religious beliefs; and wore the same type of clothing, ate the same kinds of foods, and danced the same folk dances. Americans have always called them “Scotch-Irish,” until sometime in the last twenty years or so, when someone decided that “Scotch” was not correct, and should be replaced with “Scots.”
But, the fact still remains that native Scots use the term “Scotch” to describe their whiskey and to describe themselves. Even today, it comes out “Skoatch” in the native tongue more often than “Scots,” or “Scotch.” And, you will still hear it spoken this way in any pub located in Dumfries County, Scotland or one across the border in Cumberland County, England. But regardless, in America, it is now politically incorrect to refer to the people as “Scotch.” One must refer to them as “Scots.” I will now comply with this politically correctness, but only because I know that it is unwise to have a Scots-Irishman mad at you (for any reason).