module 01

Why did Ulster feel so "Scotch"?

This Module shows how people visiting Ulster during the 19th and early 20th centuries are struck by how different it is from the rest of Ireland. Consistently, they say that if the region “feels” so different, it is because it is so Scottish. Click on the Icons below to discover their story...

Module 01


  • 1775

    Beginning of American War of Independence

  • 1789

    French Revolution

  • 1791

    Foundation of the United Irishmen in Belfast

  • 1797

    De Latocnaye, Promenade d’un Français dans l’Irlande

  • 1798

    United Irishmen's Rising

  • 1800

    Act of Union abolishes the Irish Parliament and creates the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

  • 1811

    John Gamble, Sketches of History, Politics and Manners, Taken in Dublin, and the North of Ireland, in the Autumn of 1810

  • 1813

    John Gamble, A View of Society and Manners, in the North of Ireland, in the Summer and Autumn of 1812

  • 1823

    Catholic Association founded by Daniel O’Connell

  • 1829

    Catholic Emancipation Act allows Catholics to sit in parliament

  • 1831

    Tithe War begins

    Introduction of ‘national’ system of elementary education

  • 1832

    James Glassford, Notes of Three Tours in Ireland in 1824 and 1826

  • 1834

    The Presbyterian minister, Rev. Henry Cooke, addresses a meeting of Conservatives in Hillsborough, calling for the formation of a united pro-union front between Presbyterians and members of the Church of Ireland

  • 1840

    Foundation of the Repeal Association

    General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland formed

  • 1843

    Mr and Mrs S.C. Hall, Ireland: Its Scenery, Character &c, Vol. III

  • 1845

    Potato blight first noticed in September: beginning of Great Famine

  • 1859

    Religious Revival in Ulster

  • 1865

    Micí Mac Gabhann (1865-1948), author of Rotha Mór an tSaoil, born in Cloughaneely, Donegal

  • 1867

    Fenian Rising

  • 1869

    Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland

  • 1870


    Gladstone’s first Land Act


    foundation of Home Government Association by Isaac Butt

  • 1873

    Home Rule League founded

  • 1876

    T.C., “Ulster and its people,” Fraser’s Magazine

  • 1879

    Irish National Land League founded

  • 1884

    Gaelic Athletic Association founded

  • 1885

    Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union founded

  • 1886

    First Home Rule Bill introduced; defeated in the Commons

    Ulster Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union founded

  • 1888

    John Harrison, The Scot in Ulster

  • 1889

    The Scotch-Irish in America: Proceedings of the Scotch-Irish Congress at Columbia, Tennessee

  • 1892

    Ulster Unionist Convention in Belfast

  • 1893


    Second Home Rule Bill introduced


    Gaelic League Formed


    Second Home Rule Bill is defeated in the Lords

  • 1905


    Ulster Unionist Council created


    Sinn Féin policy launched

    Rev. Alexander G. Lecky, The Laggan and its Presbyterianism

  • 1907

    The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland founded

  • 1908

    Rev. Alexander G. Lecky, In the Days of the Laggan Presbytery

  • 1911

    Parliament Act removes veto of the House of Lords

  • 1912


    Third Home Rule Bill introduced

    September 28

    Ulster Day: Signing of Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant

  • 1913


    Ulster Volunteer Force founded


    Ulster Unionist Council approves the creation of an Ulster Provisional Government under Sir Edward Carson


    Irish Citizen Army founded


    Irish Volunteers founded

  • 1914


    UVF gun-running


    First World War begins


    Government of Ireland act passed; implementation suspended during the war

  • 1916


    Easter rising in Dublin


    Battle of the Somme

  • 1918


    End of First World War


    General election across the United Kingdom.

  • 1919


    First meeting of Dáil Éireann

    Beginning of War of Independence

  • 1920

    Government of Ireland Act partitions Ireland, creating Northern Ireland (six counties, with a Parliament in Belfast), Southern Ireland (26 counties, with a Parliament in Dublin) and a Council of Ireland

  • 1921


    Opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament by King George V


    Anglo-Irish Treaty ends the War of Independence

    Lynn Doyle, An Ulster Childhood

Glossary learning resources
Next module

Putting the Ulster Scot Centre Stage

Module 01


Why did Ulster feel so "Scotch"?

People have often seen Ulster as “a place apart,” one that is strikingly different from other parts of Ireland. 

From the beginning of the 17th century, when large parts of Ulster were “planted” with English and Scottish settlers, one of the main differences people remarked was the Scottish influence on the region. This is interesting because, although Ulster had one of the strongest concentrations of English settlement in Ireland, it is often not the “Englishness” of the region that stands out, but its “Scottishness.” 

It is almost as if people saw Ulster as being so different because it was so Scottish. 

This first section contains a number of documents that show how the Scots have left an indelible mark on the region. 

Representing the Scots community in Ulster 

Some of the texts are personal accounts written by people who simply travel through the area as visitors. These texts will give you precious glimpses of what everyday life in the Ulster-Scots communities was like at the time. 

Then, you’ll find other texts that are written from a specifically Scottish point of view. Here, the authors tell you how they are struck by the similarities between Ulster and Scotland. 

Or again, there are the extracts from the very first Scotch-Irish Congress in Columbia, Tennessee, in 1889. These texts are written by the descendants of Ulster Scots who had been settling in America since the earliest large-scale migrations in the early 18th century. These people, who called themselves “Scotch-Irish,” decided to start looking into their own identity at exactly the same time as the Ulster-Scots community in Ireland. 

You’ll probably not be surprised to see that many of the documents underline the strong link between Presbyterianism and the Scots community in Ulster. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that “Ulster-Scottishness” is only for Presbyterians. Individuals and communities have always interacted in Ulster. This is the case for the Irish and Scots traditions, for example, especially in the rural areas which formed the backbone of Ulster society up until very recently. This aspect comes out strongly in some of the texts. 

A lot of the authors make references to the way people use language. They frequently see the use of Scots as one of the most striking features of the community. They sometimes even quote the people they meet on their travels. This is really interesting because some of the texts therefore allow us to “hear” what ordinary people belonging to that community have to say “in their own words.”

If you pay attention to the place-names mentioned in the texts, it will give you a pretty good idea of where the Ulster-Scots communities lived in Ulster. 

Some of the authors do not try to hide the fact that they are trying to promote the “Ulster Scot” and make him look as good as possible. Others are more neutral and just describe what they see. This means that, even those with no particular political or cultural agenda are sufficiently impressed by the Scottish feel of this part of Ireland to comment on it in detail in their writing. 

In other words, it is not only the people of Scottish origin in Ulster who see themselves as making up a distinct community – outsiders see them as distinctly Scottish as well. 

Towards the “Ulster Scot”

The characteristics highlighted in these texts will come into sharper focus when Ulster unionism begins to organise itself to resist Home Rule. One of the many facets of that resistance that was specific to Ulster was the “Ulster Scot” who emerges as a recognisable figure in the history and literature of the period. 

However, at this stage, we are only interested in showing how these authors identify the cultural distinctiveness of this community. The way that distinctiveness is used for a specific political purpose – opposition to Home Rule – will be looked at later.

The well-known material in the Ordnance Survey (begun in 1824 and completed in 1846) provided evidence of the strong Scottish influence on parts of the North-East of Ulster at that particular period. The selection in this Module - which covers a much more extended period, over one hundred and twenty years from the end of the 18th century up to 1920 - leaves us in no doubt as to how deeply rooted this distinct Ulster-Scots community was and continues to be in the province of Ulster.