Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The American Scots-Irish Viewed from across the Pond

Born Fighting: How the Scots Irish Shaped America, is a new television documentary based on a book by Senator James Webb of Viriginia, who is a direct descendant of Ulster Scots who immigrated to America. However, this two part program was first broadcast in the United Kingdom yesterday on 1 February 2011 on STV. It is produced by Scottish and Ulster Television and the Smithsonian Channel.

Before the siege of Derry in 1689, Scots Presbyterians flooded Northern Ireland, lured there by King James I who wanted to transfer land ownership to Protestants. They suffered at the hands of the Catholic and Protestant strife, and tried to build a new life. After Derry, most of the Ulster Presbyterians lost their jobs and when new laws stated that office holders must be members of the Church of England. The Ulster Scots saw the New World as an escape from the Northern Ireland troubles.

The first Scots Irish to leave were led by Rev. James McGregor from County Londonderry who brought his flock to Boston in 1718. In Puritan Massachusetts anti-Irish sentiment made them unwelcome, even though these were not Irishmen. They turned to the wilderness of Nutfield, Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1719. Thousands of Ulster Scots followed, some stopping in Londonderry and most moving on to settle Maine, Pennsylvania and areas south along the Appalachian Mountains.

Webb’s book traces the Scots journeys from the invading Romans, through their fight for independence with William Wallace, to Northern Ireland and then to the New World. He follows their influence on language, culture, music, and religion. Part of this fascinating book is the story of the descendants of the Scots Irish, and the 17 presidents who are descended of Scots Irish settlers.

Since the Smithsonian is one of the producers of this documentary, I hope it will be shown here in the United States soon.

For more information:

The Drum, a UK website article “STV and UTV Partner Up for New Documentary Simulcast” article “The Roots of a Nation: The Scots Irish that Built America

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. To learn that over 38% of American Presidents were of Scots-Irish descent is amazing. I guess this is not obvious from their surnames because many of them are Scots-Irish on their mother's side. I look forward to seeing the documentary.

  2. My Scots-Irish research is focused on this side of the pond but this looks fascinating. Thanks for the heads up. I'll be watching for it.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Heather. I've set up a Google Alert so hopefully I'll hear about it if it's shown here. Also, the book looks very readable (Amazon has a very generous preview).

  4. Thanks (as always) for the terrific post. Since my ancestors were among those original fmailies in Nutfield, I look forward to seeing this documentary. Please let us know if you find out is going to be broadcast in the U.S>, or become available on DVD.
    Robert Burnett

  5. Born Fighting documetary can be viewed here...

    Otherwise it'll be shown on Smithsonian channel on April 8th

  6. Thanks for the link. There are some great videos posted here, as well as "Born Fighting". I know the the Smithsonian Channel is not available in Londonderry, NH, so this will be the way most of us will watch the documentary.