February 26, 2001
Symposium examines roots
of Scots-Irish culture
By Deb Hammacher & Michael Terrazas email@example.com
The Scots-Irish have been one of the largest and most influential ethnic groups in the American South, but few Americans know much, if anything, about that heritage.
Ulster Roots/Southern Branches, a one-day symposium cosponsored
by Emory, the W.B. Yeats Foundation and the University of Ulster in Northern
Ireland, looks to provide some of the answers through scholarly discussion
and artistic performances. The event will be held March 3 on the Emory
Theres been a certain wiping of ancestral memories,
said Jim Flannery of the Scots-Irish descendants living in the United
States, especially in Appalachia. Flannery, who along with Atlanta filmmaker
Chris Moser developed the symposium, is professor of performing arts and
director of the Yeats Foundation.
Ive always been conscious of this, ever since I came to the
South, Flannery said. [The Scots-Irish] know very little about
it because the immigration patterns were so long ago. They came in the
early 18th century, mostly to New England, then made their way down to
Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and ultimately down to the Appalachian
region. And, through gentrification, theyre now in Atlantaand
some of them are teaching at Emory.
The Ulster Scots are the descendants of mostly Protestant Scottish people
enticed by King James I to settled in what is now Northern Ireland starting
in the early 1600s, sparking centuries of conflict with the displaced,
Catholic, native Irish.
The current peace process in Northern Ireland has led to a re-examination
of the Scots-Irish heritage and the underlying reasons for the strife.
The symposiums speakersdrawn from both American and Irish
institutionshope to add fresh perspective on the situation, contribute
a better understanding of Scots-Irish heritage in both Ireland and the
United States, and advance the process of reconciliation that is under
way in the old country.
Actually, it couldnt be more timely, Flannery said,
because just in January theres been created a group that came
out of the Good Friday Agreement called the Ulster-Scots Agency, which
is promoting exactly this type of effort. Flannery added that the
musical group Clatter OFolks, made up of members of the Ulster Scots
Folk Orchestra and scheduled to perform at the symposium, had its way
paid over from Ireland by the new agency.
The five panel sessions include:
Ulster Scots and the Unionist/Nationalist Division.
Speakers include Flannery as moderator; Anne McCartney, associate director
of the Centre for Irish Literature and Bibliography at the University
of Ulster (Coleraine, Ireland); and Michael Montgomery, emeritus professor
of English and linguistics at the University of South Carolina.
Scots-Irish Presbyterianism in Scotland, Ulster and the
American South. Speakers include moderator Brooks Holifield, Candler
Professor of American Church History; Katharine Brown, adjunct professor
of history and art at Mary Baldwin College (Virginia); and Erksine Clarke,
professor of church history at Columbia Seminary in Decatur.
Scots-Irish Intellectual, Political, Social and Economic
Contributions to America. Speakers include Moser as moderator; Richard
MacMaster, professor of history at Elizabeth-town College (Pennsylvania)
and president of the Scots-Irish Society of America; Jim Doan, professor
of the liberal arts at Nova University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; and Clarke.
Scots-Irish Cultural Contributions to the American South.
Speakers include moderator Allen Tullos, professor in the Institute of
Liberal Arts; Tyler Blethen, director of the Mountain Heritage Center
at Western Carolina University; Maggie Holtzberg, folk and traditional
arts coordinator for the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and McAuley and
The day will culminate with a concert, Roots and Branches: The
Scots-Irish Heritage in Music and Dance, that will bring together
Northern Irelands Ulster Scots tradition and Georgias finest
traditional performers. On the bill are the aforementioned Clatter OFolks,
the Georgia Mudcats, Nonesuch and Holtzberg playing the fiddle.
The concert will be at 8:15 p.m. in Cannon Chapel, and Flannery said
it is more than just a nightcap to the symposium. I have always
felt the arts are central to political issues, Flannery said. Theyre
not just background or wallpapertheyre core. You cant
discuss one without the other.
Admission to the symposium is $15; students get in free. Admission to
the concert is $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door or $5 with a symposium
registration. For concert information or to order tickets, call 404-727-5050.
For information on the symposium, call the Yeats Foundation at 404-727-6180.