Celebrating Ulster Scots influence

Celebrating Ulster Scots influence
The Monreagh Heritage and Education Centre in Carrigans has an all-star celebration planned for the end of the month, in advance of the US July 4th holiday.

The Monreagh Heritage and Education Centre in Carrigans has an all-star celebration planned for the end of the month, in advance of the US July 4th holiday.

The Ulster Scots Who Shaped America, the American Independence Festival, will be a fun family afternoon of live music, dance and children’s entertainment, from 1 to 4pm, Saturday, June 29th. The festival will be held at the Monreagh Heritage and Education Centre at the Old Manse in Carrigans. Admission is free.

“It will be a fun family day of entertainment, and people will have the opportunity to learn a lot about the influences in America from the Scots-Irish community,” said Kieran Fegan, manager of the Monreagh centre.

An estimated 250,000 people, descendants of the people of the Ulster Plantation, emigrated from the north of Ireland to America in the 18th century. Kieran said their influence can be seen in the agriculture, music and dance and other aspects of life in a wide stretch of the states from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas.

He said last year’s festival drew many American visitors who had been in the area. “They were quite surprised that there was an American independence festival going on and some came to find out what it was all about,” he said. “Often not even Americans are aware of their Scots-Irish heritage.”

Seventeen of the 44 US presidents are understood to be of Ulster-Scots ancestry, some with more direct Ulster links than others. And some of those presidents will be at the June 29th festival, ready to meet and greet festival-goers.

There will also be food demonstrations of Ulster-Scots food from the Plantation period.

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, will also be back for one day only at the festival. Elvis’s great-great-great-grandmother married a settler in western Tennessee, William Mansell, who had his own roots in Ulster: The Mansells had migrated from Norman France to Scotland and later to Ireland. In the 18th century they arrived in the American colonies, where William’s father, Richard Mansell, fought in the American Revolution.

For festival entertainment, The Brambles will be playing bluegrass music and Tracey McRory, four-time All-Ireland fiddle champion, will perform. Linda and Ken McLean will perform Scottish country dancing, popular in the US regions where Ulster-Scots people settled.

There will also be an opportunity to learn about famous battles and to “meet” some of those who sailed to the New World during the 18th century: “Mary and Roy”, two of those long-ago emigrants, will be on hand.

Admission is free, but anyone who wants to register on line will receive a free gift when they arrive and will be entered into a free prize draw on the day.

Online registration at americanIndependence.eventbrite.ie.