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Release date: Feb. 15, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or

Emory Hosts Conference And Concert On Scots-Irish History And Relation To The American South

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" is a day-long symposium at Emory University on Saturday, March 3 featuring scholars and performers from around the world that will examine the cultural, religious and political aspects of the Scots-Irish that have left an indelible stamp on the distinctive character of the South.

The cost of the symposium is $15. Admission is free for students who register in advance. For more information or to register, call 404-727-6180.

The Ulster Scots are the descendants of mostly Protestant Scottish people enticed by King James I to settle in the north of Ireland during the Ulster Plantation period starting in the early 1600s, sparking centuries of conflict with the displaced Catholic native Irish. Beginning in the early 1800s, hundreds of thousands of the Ulster Scots’ progeny immigrated to America, where they are known as the Scotch-Irish or Scots-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 symposium speakers hope to add fresh perspective on the situation, contribute to a better understanding of the Scots-Irish heritage in Ireland and the American South, and to advance the process of reconciliation underway in Northern Ireland.

The symposium will be broken into five sessions that cover politics, religion, culture and the arts:
9-10:30 a.m.: Ulster Roots, Encompassing the First 200 Years of the Scots-Irish in Ulster
This panel looks at the history of the Scots-Irish.

  • Moderator Tony McAuley, producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation specializing in Irish history;
  • Presenter Owen Dudley Edwards, history professor at the University of Edinburgh and author of many studies on the Scots-Irish in America;
  • Responder Kerby Miller, professor of history at the University of Missouri-Columbia and senior research fellow at Queens University (Belfast) and author of the award-winning book "Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America."
10:30-noon: Ulster Scots and the Unionist/Nationalist Division
This panel looks at the political and religious roots to the ongoing division in Northern Ireland, how the arts became politicized in the process, and what efforts are being made to reconcile the two communities now.
  • Moderator James Flannery, Emory professor of performing arts and director of the W.B. Yeats Foundation;
  • Presenter Anne McCartney, associate director of the Centre for Irish Literature and Bibliography at the University of Ulster (Coleraine) and British academy research fellow in the history of the Irish book; and
  • Responder Michael Montgomery, emeritus professor of English and linguistics at the University of South Carolina, considered the international authority on the linguistic relation between the 18th-century Ulster tongue and the mountain speech of the American South.
Noon-1:30: Lunch
1:30-3 p.m.: Scots-Irish Presbyterianism in Scotland, Ulster and the American South
What role did early Presbyterianism play in developing the distinctive character of the Lowland Scots and what happened to that faith group in the southern United States relative to other Protestant traditions are two of the questions that will be addressed during this session.
  • Moderator Brooks Holifield, Candler Professor of American Church History at Emory’s Candler School of Theology;
  • Presenter Katharine Brown, adjunct professor of history and art at Mary Baldwin College who researches the Scots-Irish in Virginia; and
  • Responder Erskine Clarke, professor of church history at Columbia Presbyterian Seminary (Decatur, Ga.) and noted authority on Presbyterians in the antebellum South.
3-4:30 p.m.: Scots-Irish Intellectual, Political, Social and Economic Contributions to America
The panelists will discuss the role of Scots-Irish immigrants and their heirs on elements of American history, including the Declaration of Independence, the ideals of Jefferson and Adams, the Revolutionary War, the development of slavery in the South, and the philosophy of Andrew Jackson, among others.
  • Moderator Chris Moser, a writer and producer of arts and humanities documentaries and a partner with Tony McAuley in a forthcoming television documentary on the Scots-Irish history;
  • Presenter Richard MacMaster, professor of history at Elizabethtown College (Pennsylvania) and president of the Scotch-Irish Society of America;
  • Presenter Jim Doan, professor of the liberal arts at Nova University (Fort Lauderdale) who has written extensively on Celtic mythology, Irish history and the role of Scots-Irish in American history; and
  • Presenter Erskine Clarke.
4:30-6 p.m.: Scots-Irish Cultural Contributions to the American South
This panel will cover such areas as the Scots-Irish influence on Southern speech patterns, folklore, literature and music; why American descendents know so little about their heritage; why their cultural traditions came to be stigmatized under the label "hillbilly"; and what relationship currently exists between Scots-Irish descendents in the South and those in Ireland.
  • Moderator Allen Tullos, professor in Emory’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, whose courses and research cover the folklore and music of the South;
  • Presenter Tyler Blethen, director of the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, N.C.) and an expert in the Scots-Irish history and culture in the Southern highlands;
  • Presenter Maggie Holtzberg, folk and traditional arts coordinator for the Massachusetts Cultural Council and an acclaimed traditional fiddler; and
  • Presenters Tony McAuley and Michael Montgomery.
The symposium will be capped by a concert, "Roots and Branches: The Scots-Irish Heritage in Music, Song and Dance," that will bring together the most noted musicians in Northern Ireland’s Ulster Scots tradition to share the stage with some of Georgia’s finest traditional performers at 8:15 p.m. in Cannon Chapel, 515 Kilgo Circle, Emory. The concert will illustrate the symposium’s theme of indigenous cultural continuity between Ulster and the American South. Featured artists include the Georgia Mudcats, Nonesuch, fiddler Maggie Holtzberg and members of the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra.

Tickets are $12.50 general admission in advance, $15 at door, $5 for symposium registrants and students with i.d. Tickets go on sale Friday, Feb. 16 at the Emory box office. For information or to order tickets, call 404-727-5050.

The program receives financial support from Emory University, the Georgia Humanities Council, the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Ulster-Scots Agency.

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