The Scotch Migration to Ulster (4) - Scotch-Irish in America

Henry Jones Ford
CHAPTER III (4) Start of Section

The educated clergy who directed the interests of early Presbyterianism of Ulster set themselves firmly against religious ecstasies that tended to folly and disorder. Blair described some manifestations at Lochlearn in 1630 as "a mere delusion and cheat of Satan." It seems that there were persons who "in the midst of the public worship fell as mourning, and some of them were afflicted with pangs like convulsions." Their case excited sympathy at first but as conference with them disclosed no spiritual value in such experiences they were before long sharply rebuked. Blair tells how a woman of his own congregation "in the midst of the public worship, being a dull and ignorant person, made a noise and stretching of her body." He forthwith denounced the exhibition as the work of the lying spirit and charged it not to disturb the congregation. Blair notes that after this rebuke nothing more of the kind occurred, "the person above mentioned remaining still a dull and stupid sot." One can hardly be mistaken in thinking that these early experiences had much to do with developing in Ulster Presbyterianism its characteristic insistence upon the importance of having an educated clergy. We may therefore descry here the initial impulse of important educational activities in the United States ensuing from Ulster emigration.

These accounts of early conditions by the pioneer clergy are tantalizingly curt in their references to the industrial situation. Blair remarks that when the plantation began "the whole country did lie waste; the English possessing some few towns and castles, making use of small parcels of near adjacent lands; the Irishes staying in woods, bogs and such fast places." After mentioning the influx from Scotland he observes: "The wolf and widcairn were great enemies to these first planters; but the long rested land yielded to the laborers such plentiful increase that many followed the first essayers." These brief references are all that Blair has to say about the conditions that the planters had to endure, but they cast a flashlight on the situation. A relief map of Ireland shows that elevations above 500 feet are more thickly clustered in Ulster than in any other part of Ireland except the southwestern extremity. Three highland masses whose general direction follows rather closely the sixth, seventh and eighth meridians of longitude stretch across Ulster from the north to the great central plain of Ireland. Between and about these highlands are lake basins and river valleys terminating in short coastal plains. At the time of the settlement forests and swamps occupied much of the country.

Ancient Ireland was a densely wooded country. State papers of 1529 represent the districts in which English law prevailed as being everywhere surrounded by thick forests. From time to time the Government had to cut passes and take measures for their maintenance. During the wars of Elizabeth it was a proverb that "the Irish will never be tamed while the leaves are on the trees," meaning that the winter was the only season in which the Irish could be descried and pursued in the woods. "Plashing" is mentioned as a great obstacle to the movement of the troops, by which was meant the interlacing of the tree trunks with underwood so as to render the forest paths impassable. The Government sought to reduce these woodland areas, with such success that by the time James succeeded to the throne the central plain of Ireland was nearly destitute of woods; but extensive forests still remained in Ulster, in the counties of Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim and Down, particularly on the east and west shores of Lough Neagh, and the territories adjacent.

Almost everywhere the lands occupied by the planters were in reach of the "fast places" in which Blair speaks of the "Irishes staying." The planters had to pasture their cattle near coverts in which wolves prowled or marauding natives lurked. Blair speaks of the wolf as a great enemy. Its ravages were so great that so late as 1652 under Cromwell's Government a bounty of six pounds was offered for the head of every she wolf. Grand jury records mention payments for killing wolves as late as 1710, and they were not wholly extinct until about 1770. The "widcairn" mentioned by Blair is a corruption of wood kern. From the reference to this enemy it appears that although Chichester had shipped out of the country many of the fighting men many still remained behind, still trying to live their old lives as a privileged class to whom tribute was due. The planters thus lived in a state of siege. Thomas Blenerhassett, whose Direction for the Plantation in Ulster describes conditions at this period says: "Sir Toby Caulfield's people are driven every night to lay up all his cattle, as it were, in warde; and do he and his what they can, the woolfe and the wood kerne (within caliver shot of his fort), have oftentimes a share." Gainsford, another writer of this period, mentions that it was an Ulster practice in 1619 "to house their cattle in the bawnes of their castles where all the winter nights they stood up to their bellies in dirt."

Such hazards powerfully impelled the settlers to build securely. In the official survey made by Nicholas Pynnar in 1619 such entries appear as the following:

"On the allotment of Lord Aubigny, held by Sir James Hamilton, is built a strong castle of lime and stone, called Castle Aubigny, with the King's arms cut in free stone over the gate. This is five storeys high, with four round towers for flankers; the hall is 50 feet long and 28 broad; the roof is set up and ready to be slated. Adjoining one end of the castle is a bawn of lime and stone, 80 feet square, with two flankers 15 feet high, very strongly built."

"John Hamilton has built a bawn of lime and stone, 80 feet square and 13 feet high, with round towers for flankers; he has also a stone house, now one storey high, and intended to be four, being 48 feet long and 24 broad; besides two towers, which are vaulted, flank the house. Also a village of eight houses adjoining the bawn, inhabited by British tenants, a watermill and five houses adjoining it."

Pynnar says that at that time there were in Ulster "in British families 6,215 men, and upon occasion, 8,000 men, of British birth and descent for defence, though the fourth part of the lands is not fully inhabited." Of buildings there were "107 castles with bawns, 19 castles without bawns, 42 bawns without castles or houses, 1,897 dwelling houses of stone and timber, after the English manner, in townredes, besides very many such houses in several which I saw not."

This estimate of the number of men able to bear arms of course implies a much larger population when the women and children are taken into the reckoning. The number of houses also points the same way. Inasmuch as the settlers took their families, and families were apt to be large in those days, the statistics given by Pynnar indicate that from 30,000 to 40,000 colonists were then settled in the country. Pynnar classes together English and Scotch as "British" but he gives details which show that the Scotch were much the more important element. He remarks that "many English do not yet plough nor use husbandry, being fearful to stock themselves with cattle or servants for such labors," and he goes on to say that "were it not for the Scottish, who plough in many places, the rest of the country might starve."

From the very first the Scotch took the lead in the settlement. In a report written in November, 1610, Chichester describes the English Undertakers as:

"For the most part, plain country gentlemen, who may promise much, but give small assurance or hope of performing what appertains to a work of such moment. If they have money, they keep it close; for hitherto they have disbursed but little, and if he may judge by the outward appearance, the least trouble or alteration of the times here will scare most of them away. . . . The Scottish come with greater port and better accompanied and attended, but it may be with less money in their purse; for some of the principal of them, upon their first entrance into their precincts were forthwith in hand with the natives to supply their wants, or at least their expenses, and in recompense thereof promise to get license from His Majesty that they may remain on their lands as tenants unto them; which is so pleasing to that people that they will strain themselves to the uttermost to gratify them, for they are content to become tenants to any man rather than be removed from the place of their birth and education, hoping, as he conceives, at one time or other to find an opportunity to cut their landlord's throats; for sure he is they hate the Scottish deadly, and out of their malice toward them they begin to affect the English better than they have accustomed."