Friday, August 23, 2013

Corn Bread, Scots-Irish Icon

In the 18th Century when many thousands of Ulster's sons and daughters came to New World to settle on the frontier, they brought with them their folkways, music, etc., and also their foods and methods of food preparation. Many of the cooking styles and foods became in time quintessentially 'American.' Foremost among these would be the humble and incredibly delicious cornbread.

The Ulster settlers brought with them a tradition of cooking flat oat breads on a griddle, something that had been done for several thousands years in Ulster. Now, in the New World these Ulster settlers quickly adapted to the new foods available to them. In the Ulster settlements oats and wheat quickly gave way to corn and the traditional griddle cooked oatcake was then made of corn. This trait of borrowing from other cultures they were exposed to was a factor in the success of Ulster folk on the frontier.

Griddle cooked cornbread quickly became the bread of the Scotch-Irish communities and the bread followed them as the pushed the frontier west. This wonderfully simple food is still commonly found in those areas where the Scotch-Irish settled and it is to this day a staple on the supper table of the descendants of these Ulster folk, especially in the American South.

The bread is simplicity itself, a little cornmeal, an egg, some leavening, a pinch of salt, and enough buttermilk to make a batter. This is poured onto a cast iron hot skillet with bacon grease or oil in it. In the past the bread was cooked in a skillet next to the fireplace or anyplace where coals were available. When Dutch ovens came into use, the cooking of cornbread was often done in them. Later still, when ovens became a common kitchen appliance, the cornbread recipes were adapted for the modern oven, where it came into its present day form.

The cooking of cornbread in the South is an art as well as a science. Many families have special cast iron skillets, often that have been in the family for generations, in which the cornbread is cooked. Many women have wooden bowls and spoons handed down in from past generations, in which the batter is made. It is served with butter with a meal and can also be served after a meal with honey or sorghum syrup, as sweet.

Cornbread is a wonderful food, simple, tasty, and also part of  the cultural continuum from Ulster.

Donagheady Presbyterian Churches

Donagheady Presbyterian Churches
A Brief History & Photos

Edited and Submitted by

James A. McKane


In the early 17th century, the Scottish colony, Abercorn Estate which owned the manor of Dunnalong, was established in the Bready area. In 1622, the nearest church at Old Donagheady was in a sad state of repair being roofless. It was restored to become a Protestant place of worship. In the Rebellion of 1641, it was destroyed with the minister being fatally wounded.

John Hamilton was the first Presbyterian minister in Donagheady. He arrived in the 1650s from Scotland. At the time of the Restoration in 1660 Hamilton refused to conform to the will and practices of the Church of Ireland; therefore he lived as a virtual outlaw. Persecution by the authorities forced Hamilton to secretly preach to followers in small groups. Traditional lore has it that the Presbyterians met in the Wood near Magheramason. In 1667, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry excommunicated 19 Presbyterians from Donagheady.

Slowly restrictions became more relaxed with the Presbyterians of Donagheady being allowed to build their first church in Altrest townland in 1672.  Rev. Hamilton ministered at Donagheady until his death during the Siege in 1689 at Derry. Lore claims that his small gravestone, which can no longer by found was in the north-west corner of Grange graveyard. It is still debated whether he was actually buried in Grange as the gravestone may have only been to his memory. There was no minister at Donagheady Presbyterian until Rev. Thomas Wensley was ordained on 16 January 1699. After the service in the church, Church business was concluded after the service in the tavern, later known as Molly Kelly's, in Drumgauty close to the Grange graveyard.

Following the death of Rev. Wensley in 1736, a dispute over the choice of their next minister ended with the congregation splitting into two separate divisions. At its lowest point, there was a riot in the church during a Sunday service. By 1741, the Synod of Ulster agreed to splitting the congregation in two parts. The congregation in the original church became known as First Donagheady with the new one named Second Donagheady. The situation was so ridiculous that the Second Donagheady Church was built only 300 metres from the old one.

In the latter 1800s, both congregations built new churches. With changes in economic conditions membership in both congregations dwindled forcing the two Donagheady congregations to unite on 1 January 1933.  With the union, Second Donagheady was chosen at the succeeding church. A plaque in the church commemorates the union and honours the two retiring ministers – Rev. John Rutherford and Rev. James Connell.

The old First Donagheady church building was allowed to fall into disrepair and was later demolished. Today, there are two houses on the First Donagheady property with a portion of an original wall of the church still there.

First Donagheady Presbyterian, pre 1933

Link to additional photos: Donagheady Presbyterian Churches.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Belfast Historical Society and Museum

Fort Richmond, located in Richmond, Maine near Augusta, was a pre-Revolutionary War military garrison first built on the site in 1721 to protect early settlers ...from Indian raids. Information about Fort Richmond remained a mystery until 2011, when an extensive archaeological dig began to unearth artifacts and the structure of the fort. Since work began, walkways, walls, chimney bases, cellars and a cistern have been found.

It is the topic for the Belfast Historical Society meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 26, in the Abbott Room at the Belfast Free Library. Leith Smith, staff archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, will present photographs and historical information about the excavation site.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gaelic Place Names in Scotland Link

A basic part of family history and genealogical research is geographic place names.  Many Scottish geographic place names are Gaelic or of Gaelic origin and appear in an anglicised form. 

Link to website concerning Gaelic Geographic names:  Gaelic Place Names in Scotland

Ulster and the Scottish Lowlands Genetic Link

The Niall of the Nine Hostages haplogroup (genetic signature) was one of the first large family groups discovered by DNA testing.  It was designated as the Northwest Irish modal, because so many Irish in northwest Ireland have this paternal ancestry. It genetic short hand it is called the R-M222 family.

The R-M222 branch of the Y-DNA tree  has a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) called M222. As more men participate in DNA testing an interesting pattern has developed.  This diagnostic marker is not only found in many individuals whose roots lie in the counties of Northwest Ireland and Ulster in general, but it is also found in the Scottish Lowlands.

The map above shows the area where this profile is most often found. In the county of Donegal an incredible 20% of the population share this paternal ancestry.  The map shows where the R-M222 is found in significant numbers, but it is also found throughout Ireland and Scotland, from the Orkney islands south to the shires of northern England.  It even shows up in Iceland and Norway.

Laggan District Research

For all interested in the Laggan district, the book In the Days of the Laggan Presbytery is now available as an Ebook on the Ulster Heritage website.   Description of the book below:

By Rev. Alexander G. Lecky, B.A. Published 1908, 148 pages

In the Preface, Rev. Leck writes “these everyday transactions gives us a clearer picture of some phases of the social and religious life of by-gone times than would a record of the more important events with which the historian deals.”

The writer gleans a great volume of important information from the Minutes of the Laggan Presbytery including its origin, the division of the Presbytery, its subsequent re-unification which is followed by the re-division into three Presbyteries. He also discusses travel problems in the area and congregational disputes which include those between Strabane and Donagheady as well as Urney and Letterkenny.

The book includes transcriptions of the wills of Rev. Robert Cunningham, Mrs. Frances Cunningham and Rev. Hugh Cunningham; the names of the ministers of the Laggan Presbytery; and the names of those attending Presbytery meetings from 1672-1700 as Ruling Elders and Commissioners.

Link to purchase:  In the Days of the Laggan Presbytery

Hance Hamilton Scots-Irish Icon

Hance Hamilton was the quintessential Scots-Irish man.  Colonial history books tell of his many accomplishments and exploits.  He is a well documented figure that left behind many letters and official reports and he is mentioned in many Crown records.  Yet, his origins and early life are a mystery.

Hance Hamilton was the de facto leader of the Ulster settlement at Marsh Creek, which is where present day Gettysburg stands.  In the late 1740s and early 1750s he served as sheriff of the Adams County.  He also served as a magistrate for Adams County.   He was a captain of the militia and later rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He was a leader in French and Indian War and participated the famous Kittaning Expedition against the Delawares.  He fought in many very brutal battles, of a nature common on the frontier,  and in these he exhibited great bravery and leadership.  He was well educated, a Latin speaker, his peer circle include the likes of George Washington, he was a man of his age that did extremely well.

The mysteries about him concern with his date and father.   Hance Hamilton was born in Ireland, probably in northwest Tyrone or east Donegal.  Most histories of him state he was born in 1721, however that date is too late to explain his oldest son Thomas being made deputy sheriff in the early 1750s.  The current tombstone on his grave was placed there in the late 1800s, the original one was broken and very hard to read.  There is the distinct possibility that the 'birth' date on the replaced tombstone is incorrect given the math of his older son's life.

The father of Hance Hamilton is often listed as Hance Hamilton Sr who led a fleet contain 140 families that landed at New Castle, Delaware in 1729, but there is no record of this fleet or any record of an older Hance Hamilton.  Such a large influx of settlers would certainly have been noticed and it would have taken several ships to carry so many people, but Colonial records do not record the event.  However, it is possible that Hance Hamilton arrived on a ship that came into New Castle, Delaware in 1729.    But he very well could have already been living in the PA Colony.

It is known he had at least two brothers, James Hamilton who died in 1748 and John Hamilton who took care of Hance Hamilton's will.

Scots-Irish soldiers 1750s
There are several researchers trying to unravel the true story of this remarkable Scots-Irish man.  If anyone has any primary sources concerning Lt Col Hance Hamilton of the Marsh Creek settlement, please send a note to the Ulster Heritage Magazine and we will forward it to the interested parties.

Ludovic Stewart of the Laggan

 Ludovic Stewart was the 2 Duke of Lennox and was one of the primary Planters in east Donegal.  His lands had belonged to Iníon Dubh, the wife of Aodh Mac Manus Ó Dónaill.  Of interest, he was a cousin to Iníon Dubh.  In 1591 he was appointed Lord High Admiral of Scotland and his connections to James VI were responsible for him becoming one of the largest land holders in the New Order in Ulster. 

In the Plantation he was granted the lands at Portlough Precinct in the Barony of Raphoe in County Donegal.  His son, illegitimate, John Stewart, was given Mongavlin castle, which was Iníon Dubh’s residence, and the surrounding lands. 

At the time of the Plantation in 1609, the Stewart lands in Portlough Precinct already had a sizable number of Scottish Highlanders living there .  These Highlanders were called ‘Redshanks.’  They had settled in Portlough in the mid to late 1500s and most of them had Clann Chaimbeul connections.  The settlers that Ludovic brought over from Scotland were from his lands in Lennox, which were on the edge of the Scottish Highlands.  These settlers along with the existing Scottish Highlanders gave the district a decidedly strong Scottish Gaelic element which shows up in the surnames in the early records.  Stewart was born in September of 1574 and died in February of 1624.  His brother, Esme Stewart, became the new Duke of Lennox and took over headship of the Stewart lands in east Donegal.   

Iníon Dubh

model and photographer Niamh O'Rourke and actor, archaeologist, Dave Swift portray Iníon Dubh and Redshank in a recent Irish photo shoot.  
Iníon Dubh (said, Nee-an doo) is one of the most remembered and beloved heroines in Irish history.  Iníon Dubh was her pet name which means 'black haired daughter.'  She was Fionnuala Ní Dhónaill née Nic Dhónaill.  She was a Gaelic aristocrat, the daughter of the taoiseach of clann Mhic Dhónaill, Seamus Mac Dónaill, and Ann Chaimbeul, the daughter of the third Earl of Argyll, head of clann Chaimbeul.  She was multi lingual, speaking her native Gaelic, Latin, and English.  She was born on Islay and spent much of her early life in the Scottish Court.  She married Aodh Mac Manus Ó Dónaill in the summer of 1569.   She moved to the Laggan district of Donegal with some 1,000 Redshanks recruited from clans Caimbeul and Mac Dónaill.

With her husband's health failing, she became the de facto taoiseach of Clann Uí Dhónaill by the mid 1580s.  She was by this time also the most powerful person in west Ulster, because she commanded her own army of very devoted Redshanks.  An account of her career in Donegal will be included in the book A Short History of the Laggan Redshanks, 1569-1630, which will be published by Ulster Heritage Publishing later this spring.

Iníon Dubh was the mother of Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill who led his west Ulster army to many victories against the English in the Nine Years War (1594-1603). 

She lived at Mongavlin just south of St Johnston, in east Donegal.  The remains of her castle are still standing.  Her legacy still lives in Donegal in the many families there that are of Redshank origins.

Gaelic Language in east Belfast

There is an increasing amount of research into Ulster's Irish speaking Protestant community.  Dr Peter Toner Sr's well known research into the predominately Presbyterian Gaeltachtaí (Irish speaking areas) in New Brunswick, Canada, in the mid 18th Century well into the 20th Century, made many aware of this largely understudied aspect of Ulster history. 

Many Irish speaking Ulster Scots descend from the migration of Argyll and Hebridean Redshanks into Ulster in both the 1500s and 1600s.  Recently as Irish census records of the early 1900s have come on line some Ulster Presbyterians have discovered Irish speaking ancestors. As these Ulster Scots migrated to the New World, they often brought their Gaelic language with them.

Below, a link to The Irish Times article Ulster says Tá, which highlights the growing interest in learning Gaelic among the Protestant community in east Belfast.

Link:  Irish Language in East Belfast

Mid Argyll Kinship Group

The research into the Mid Argyll Kinship Group picking up pace with the creation of the Mid Argyll Group DNA project.  The project will collect DNA results from those men are in the group. The project is only open to men that are a paternal DNA match to the group, which is a Gaelic paternal kinship clan indigenous to mid Argyll.

The project's goal is to research the Mid Argyll Kinship Group circa 1300 to late 1500s. . The geographic area of the study is the parish of Kilmichael Glassary and the immediate surrounding districts.

The surnames in the group are Duncan, Gay, McGay, Gray, Henry, Henrie, McAlpin, McCain, McCane, McKane, McKain, McKean, McKeen, McDonald, and McLea.  In Gaelic, Mac Donnchaidh, Mag Aodh, Glass, Mac Eanruig, Mac Ailpín, Mac Eáin, Mac Dónaill, and Mac an Leagha.   Another surname of interest in the research are McLachlain (Mac Lachlainn) and the project is open to any male that is a high level DNA match to the group.

The reason are so many surnames in the group is because surnames were not fixed in Argyll in the 1500s.  Gaelic families often followed traditional patronymic customs of mid Argyll.  This generated several surnames within the same family during that century.

The surnames in this DNA match group were in use in Kilmichael Glassary in the 1500s.  Most of these surnames appear in records connected to the Mac Lachlainn 'clan'  of Dunadd.   It is speculated that the Mid Argyll Kinship group is actually the Mac Lachlainn of Dunadd family.

The families of the Mid Argyll Kinship Group played an important role in the history of Ulster.  Many of the families in this kinship group migrated from mid Argyll to the Foyle River area from 1569-to the late 1590s.  They were Redshank soldiers connected to the Ó Dónaill and Ó Neill clans.

This project will have Dr Kyle MacLea as a co-administrator;  he is a graduate of Dartmouth College and teaches at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon.   Barry R McCain will be a co-administrator; he is a graduate of Ole Miss and is a writer living in Oxford, Mississippi.  Mr McCain will working with the primary source research and Gaelic language elements.

Link to Join the Mid Argyll Kinship Group DNA project:   Mid Argyll Group

Scots Irish in Maine

Link to excellent website with data on the Scots-Irish in Maine;  Ulster Scots in Maine