Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

I have just launched a website which looks at, what some consider to be a recent phenomenon in Northern Ireland, & others think of as something that’s as ‘old as the hills’ - ‘Ulster-Scots Music’.

For some folks in the nine counties of Ulster, it is a form of music they can trace back to their descendants who were planted here, hundreds of years ago.

To others, it is a recent entity, simply created by politically minded Unionists to drive yet another wedge between them & their Catholic neighbours.

The site, however, tries to avoid the emotive, political quagmire & contents itself with simply trying to establish what the various elements of this music are, or might be, in the process, taking a look back towards Scotland & the possible origins of each, & a glance forward, towards Appalachia, where this music may well have helped shape ‘Old Time’ music.

As a ‘blow-in’ from Scotland myself, I did not create this site from a ‘fountain of knowledge’ standpoint, but rather as an inquisitive onlooker.
I have, it is true, been actively involved in playing Scottish & Irish Music for more than 30 years now, but I would not presume for one moment to tell the folk of Ulster what they were, or were not playing.

With these thoughts in mind then, this site must be classed as nothing more than a ‘work in progress’, but one which will, hopefully, with sufficient input from local musicians here in Ulster, grow to become a valuable indication of what exactly the folk of Ulster understand this music, variously called Ulster-Scots, Scots-Irish & Scotch-Irish, to be.

If you are interested enough to take a look, I’d appreciate any ‘musical’ comments you may like to make, & will be happy to respond to any questions you may have, just so long as they are not politically motivated or barbed!

I’d particularly like to hear from any Scottish musicians who may well spot errors in my information & detail on the Scottish roots of this music.

Just as in any good healthy Pub Session, it’s best to keep Politics & Religion at bay, don’t you think?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Ptarmigan. May I be the first to congratulate you on your courage, curiousity & open mind. Our music is suprisingly inter-bred, my own view being that the "British" Isles & indeed northern France share a suprisingly common repertoire, we just play ‘em differently. The English for example, lost our tunes because of the industrial revolution but that could have happened in any of these islands. The very best of luck to you.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Excellent project, Ptarmigator! In a brief glance, I learned at least three things I never knew before. I’ve already forgotten two of ‘em, but that just means I’ll be back.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

A quick technical comment, re readability: the lines of text don’t quite fit in my monitor (17-inch, 800x600 resolution) at full-screen size, and don’t re-break when I resize the browser to less than full-screen.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

After just a brief perusal the sight looks quite interesting & I plan to go back & read more fully when I finish this comment. Good Job by the way.
As a hammered dulcimer player myself I think it unfortunate that the instrument appears to be fading in Antrim. Good luck in trying to resurrect it.
On another note "…a form of music they can trace back to their descendants who were planted here, hundreds of years ago."
How does one trace "back" to a "descendant" from " hundreds of years ago"? You must come from a verrrrry long lived line indeed! ;)

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Thanks for your good work, Ptarmigan,

I’ll watch this site develop with keen interest. Quite a few of my southern USA ancestors were from the region. Long before I knew anything about where any of my folks were from, I was drawn to playing Appalachian music, first mountain dulcimer but eventually to a regional fiddle style that is very "notey" (e.g. John W. Summers, Taylor and Stella Kimble, Oscar Wright) and which feels to me much more Scottish than Irish (excluding some Donegal playing). It was a dandy coincidence but the styles I liked most were right on their paths through the frontier in the late 1700s. Lately, I find myself revisiting those tunes -especially the most strongly modal tunes - and with fresh interest, I think partly as a result of my gradually improvng ITM playing skills and ear.

So I’ll be very interested to learn more about what the cousins are up to now!

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Ptarmigan - Good man yersel’ ya aul’ teuchter.
It seems a terrible shame that two parallel traditions can be rent asunder by how they choose to celebrate their faith in the Almighty (if that’s what you believe in), but there ye go.

Yours is a bold attempt to play your little part in re-writing history, but I would suggest you should read McKay’s book (not me) Northern Protestants to really get under the skin, nay, get inside the brain, of the prod mentality.

As a "blow-in" you might find it to your advantage that maybe one or two of your orange neighbours might be referring to you behind your back as a "taig-lover", or "half-way to the other side" and so on.

Your "ecumenical" approach to the music may be welcomed on this site, but we are a select few and apart from the anally retentive straightjacketted politically correct know-alls, I’d say we’re fairly free thinking. But maybe that’s just me seeing the best in people.

Take-home message from me is: Best of luck, ye’re a bold man, and I hope you know what your doing. If there is some way I can help give me a shout.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Speaking, not as a "blow-in", but as someone from so far south that I’m barely still in the British Isles, isn’t it true, anyway, that Scotland is only so called because it’s where the Duns Scotiae, an Irish tribe, went to live ? I’m sure that was what I was taught in my ancient British history.
And who’s that terrible fellow playing a mountain dulcimer standing up in the photo ?
And would you have any opinions about Farley Mowat and his account of the Albans ?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Spent a happy hour following links off this new site of yours - being a mountain dulcimer player myself, I’m not too sure that it was the Scots-Irish who took it to Appalachia - after all there are versions of the instrument over much of northern Europe, from the langspil of Iceland, the langleik of Norway or Denmark, the norsebalk of the Friesian islands, the epinette des Vosges of France - a settler from any one of these countries could have taken it to the colonies. I think the jury is still out on this one.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Great site Ptarmigan.
G.Pete the Inuit of Labrador had a fiddle not unlike the langspil but I don’t think they got down to Appalacia.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Hey, many thanks to you all for the kind words of encouragement, much appreciated.

Mickray, sorry about the technical problem. I have reduced the width of the Home page, so if you, or anyone else, get an opportunity to check it out, please let me know if it is now the required width to make reading easy?

If so, I am of course quite happy to spend a bit of time to sort out all the other pages.

Ed Veras, aye you can see why I keep away from the ‘Ulster-Scots’ Language/Dialect when it takes me all my time to make a complete mess of the standard English I was taught to use!

Aye Danny, "re-writing history". That is certainly what many claim this Ulster-Scots Music phenomenon really is. However, although I have my own views on the matter, I am trying to approach the subject with an open mind & be open to all suggestions, thoughts & ideas.

As for the "taig-lover" label you suggest, I have no doubt there are those who stick that on me.
At the same time there are those in the other camp who have other names for me, I’m sure.
But that kinda stuff goes with the territory, when you ‘plant’ yourself on the fence.
You end up not fitting comfortably into either camp but then I nevber was a very good ‘Boy Scout’! :-)

Not sure about the book suggestion Danny. I’m trying to keep away from the tricky politics etc & stick to the music only & I expect that politics plays a large part in that McKay book you suggest?

Sadly my "ecumenical approach" as you call it, hasn’t saved me from a severe grilling already, on another Irish Music forum!
I know I would probably be on far safer territory if I stuck to promoting this site, & asking my questions, on ‘Ulster-Scots’ sites only.
But of course that approach would hardly result in my gaining any kind of a balanced picture of the situation.

Anyway, thanks for the offer of help. Have you got a Black Belt by any chance? :-)

Aye Pete, I know it is widely understood that all the Scots are originally descended from the Irish to start with.
Perhaps you could also say that we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns’!
If only all the Scots & the Irish shared the same religion, then Ulster might have ended up a big happy melting pot, full of the best of Irish & Scottish Music, shared by all.

That dude standing up to play the Mt Dulcimer is Butch Ross, who played & taught at last year’s Causeway Dulcimer Festival in Bushmills.
He’s a cracking musician & I must be honest, he was doing things with his Dulcimer I didn’t know were possible.
You can check out his music at:

I had a look at Farley Mowat’s ideas & they look pretty well thought out.

But just imagine if all North Americans now spoke with a broad Orcadian accent?

Aye Pete, I qualify that initial statement further down the page by elaborating & pointing out that:
"During the 1700s, the scheitholt was brought to Pennsylvania by German immigrants and down the Shennandoah Valley by their descendants."

& going on to say that:

"when the Scots-Irish in Virginia got a hold of the scheitholt, they used it for dance music and that meant fiddle tunes."

So I agree with you, from the evidence it would appear that the Scots-Irish only encountered this instrument once they reached America. Still it’s worth examining the subject as many have this misconception that the Scots-Irish had a hand in it’s introduction.
However they certainly seemed to take to the Dulcimer very quickly.

Pete, do you ever tell folks you play a Scheitholt? :-)

I’ll tidy up the intro to that Mt D page though Pete, just in case anyone else gets the wrong impression - Ta

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Fine stuff, Ptarmigan. I’ve only glanced through a few details so far, but it has confirmed my opinion that you are a gentleman AND a scholar.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Yep, the new width works fine for me now.
Nice site!

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Too kind Oldstrings.
Yeah, it was all just bad press before! :-)
Bit like Judas eh, who it’s now thought, might have actually been one of the ‘good guys’:

Thanks Mickray, I’ll go & sort out the other pages now.
If only I could ‘narrow’ my own body mass so simply! :-D

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Nice site, Ptarmigan. (I glad its reception here is better than some other places. )

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

I see why you’ve been quiet on this site, Mr. Ptarmigan. I’ve just looked it through, and found it has some interesting articles, especially on fiddles. Now I’d like you to do some research on the brass fiddle. I saw one in a small museum in Orkney. (I forgot the name of the town.) And as you know, there’s a classic recording of Donegal fiddle music called "The Brass Fiddle." I’m wondering if the metal fiddle used to be manufactured in some parts of Ulster and Scotland.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Great site Dick! Of course I first explored your information about the bodhrán and was very happy to see Stephen Matier, Paul Marshall, and Paul Phillips represented. In keeping with your “build a bridge with music” philosophy, a philosophy I share, might I suggest that you also link to the drum making video these great drummers created for the Northern Ireland Film Council. It is indeed an inspiring video to watch.

As to the; “& a glance forward, towards Appalachia, where this music may well have helped shape ‘Old Time’ music.” aspect of your project I can only add that as I was hitchhiking through parts of Appalachia in the early and mid seventies I encountered many folks playing the music of this region who told me of their families origins in Ireland with a good bit from Ulster. Now I am in no way a scholar, hell I prefer not to think too much about most things just experience them, but it seems to me that given the earliest of settlers in these regions, save the indigenous, were of Irish or Scots-Irish descent certainly a few of them carried with them the music of their origins. I know there are scholars that argue both sides of the debate based upon things like structure and style but for the life of me I can’t understand how there would have been no influence in the development of Appalachian music.

Anyway, a great site indeed and I am very much looking forward to learning more about the music of Ulster. Thank you for this undertaking. It is the folks like you with your temperament that will ultimately unlock the commonalities we all share and thus help create the foundation on which true peace amongst all people will be built. You’re a good man, stay the course it’s brilliant!!


p.s. If you were to see your man up there with all the knowledge of the songs please tell him I now understand that he wasn’t talking about the city. I suppose that all them “come to life tipples” are catching up with me. The old hard drive is slowing down a bit I fear.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


Aye Bystander, it’s certainly getting a smoother passage through these mustard waters - phew!

Slainte, fraid I haven’t been to Orkney, sadly, though Kenny tells me the festivals up there can be excellent!
As far as I know these brass fiddles were produced more by travelling metal workers who produced whatever folks needed, at the drop of a hat, so I dare say they’d have travelled all over Ulster’s nine counties.

Google just turns up ‘Heavy Metal Fiddlin’. I take it your not into that Slainte?
Did AC/DC ever have a Fiddle player in the line up I wonder?

Thanks Ed.
I’d love to track down info on that video you speak of, Do you have any leads?

As to the Scots-Irish influence in Appalachia. It doesn’t make any sense to me that they wouldn’t have influenced the development one way or another, even if it was only a deep love of fiddles & fiddle music!

I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about all music here, myself Ed.

I see John most weeks, in fact he came along to our singing session last night, so I will pass on your City comment.


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Email either of the Pauls or Stephen. If they can, and this I assume would be whether or not the Northern Ireland Film Council has exclusive rights or not, I am sure they will put you on to the video. Thanks by the way for passing my comments on to John.


P.S. Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

You know Dick whilst I was traveling around Applachia back then there were plenty of times when a fiddler would say "Oh, here’s an Irish tune." or "Here’s a Scottish tune". I wasn’t really on a tune or song collecting adventure. I was just wandering about in my defiant youth diggin’ the tunes, songs, and stump whiskey so there is no way I could even begin to recall the tune names or even the melody after all this time. In retrospect I wish I had a bit more of a scholarly attitude about things back then. Something about eyesight whilst looking backwards comes to mind.

By the way, the drums made in the video were made of old Bushmill barrels. Brilliant folks those guys from DDI I must say.


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

I’ve probably been through that museum too Slainte, but many, many moons ago, so sadly don’t remember seeing the Tin Fiddle. That was an interesting org thread though.

Still not sure that these brutes would actually sound too good, but if I came across one in a Car Boot Sale, I’d certainly snap it up.

Ed - "whilst I was travelling around Applachia" - you lucky dog you. That’s something most folk just dream of doing, well I know I certainly do!

Wonder if anyone ever made a Barrel Organ from a Bushmills Barrel?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

I once had a tin fiddle in an exhibition I mounted on sailors’ leisure activities (bar boozing, wenching & tossing). It was my understanding that there was a small but steady demand for such instruments within the maritime community because they could stand the conditions inside the fo’csle (much water, little heat, rolling and pitching etc.) where a wooden fiddle would have fallen to pieces. Since life in the northern isles is not too dissimilar from life on shipboard (bar the rolling and pitching), they may also have found a market there.

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Dick - the Susan McKay book probably is political, or more sociological, but does try to be fair. Though, if you’re not into the minutiae of Northern proddy thinking you’re probably right in wanting to give it a miss. No, I don’t have a black belt, but I know karate and ju-jitsu and a few other Japanese words. I don’t even have a purple sash. The offer of help was purely musical, but those wee Orange fifes (Bb I guess) are buggers if you’re not used to them.
There used to be some Orange halls in the Drum where I grew up, and those boys were always out of a Sunday morning marching round the Catholic pineapple during mass. So the proddies terrorised the fenians. The fenians had a good auld gripe about being terrorised but remained pious and mostly above it all, so everybody was happy. They’ve had the last laugh as Sellick are faring better than the Teddy Bears these days. Not that I care too much about that. Anyway, once again good luck with the thing.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Here’s a link to tthe Chiff and Fipple site where this issue was discussed in a wider context and in a level of detail that didn’t seem to suit certain individuals:

It was consigned to the ‘Political and Controversial’ bin, and viewing it may involve a C&F log-in.

The issue strongly and inseparably involves politics of course, and it is an on-going political and cultural controversy in the north and in academic circles beyond.

Regards to all,


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

It seems Fintan Vallely has written a book called "Protestant Rejection of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland: Jigging at the Crossroads." It will be out in June.

Harry, I miss you. I’m the seaweed dancing guy in Tokyo. It was not my invention though. Was it last march, or april? Hope I’ll see you again somewhere before you forget me.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

KateG, you don’t happen to have a photo of your old Tin Fiddle by any chance, do you you? The maritime connection makes sense alright & just makes me wonder how many Donegal fishermen actually took a Tin Fiddle out to sea with them?

Danny, aye it’s hard not to be, at least a little, interested in Northern politics when you are actually living up here, but I steer well clear of them as I am simply not qualified in the least to talk about them.
There’s been so much gripin’ on both sides, back & forward, forward & back for so long, & to someone like myself who is not personally involved, I’m afraid it all becomes very tiresome.

For the past 14 years I’ve listened to David Dunseath on Radio Ulster every day & I hear the same arguments, complaints & accusations from both sides day in & day out.

I just feel that any good session should be treated like those Eastern temples where, instead of your footwear, you leave your politics & religion at the door instead.

In our Bushmills singing session last Saturday though we did have two players & 5 Fifes on the table & got through a few wee fifin’ tunes during the night, in between the Ballads, & of course - why not!

So although Harry, I’m sure, you are well qualified to argue the politics of the issue, I’m afraid I’m not.

We had a bunch of Lambeg & Fife men in one night too, (without their Drums!) who sat at a nearby table & fairly rattled their coins & fingers on the table along to many of the jigs & marches we played. It’s not all doom & gloom, at least not on the musical front.

I was also a member of the original line up of the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra, & interestingly we were playing in Limerick University one time & various solos were arranged beforehand, but the general concensus was that there was little or no point in letting the Scotsman (me) play a solo because, "what did his music have to do with their Ulster music"!
Surprise, surprise, I left the group very shortly after that, but mainly because so many of the venues they played in were, I felt, far too politically charged, & rightly or wrongly just made me feel uncomfortable.

I have to say though that I felt the same unease at a Comhaltas committee meeting one time, when I was encouraged to get involved in all the branches activities because ‘of course I wanted to become a good Irishman’!. The fact that I was actually a Scotsman & had no desire to become Irish didn’t go down to well.
It seems some folks just can’t separate the politics from the music.

Slainte, I’m sure that will be an interesting book alright, That Fintan certainly keeps himself busy, doesn’t he!

Sorry I didn’t find you a Tin Fiddle yet.
By the way, is there any history, over there in Japan, of instruments being made of Tin?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Re: Tin Fiddles

I just heard, on another forum, that:

"One sold for twenty quid in a Glasgow auction last year. It was put up as a "toy"!
I tried to find out who had bought it, in case it was a trader. Nae luck."

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Mr. Ptarmy, I found the photos of a tin fiddle: What I saw in Stromness museum 5 years ago was probably such kind of simple one, not as elaborate as the brass one on the cover of "The Brass Fiddle" CD. So, I guess some people played tin fiddles on the coastal areas of Scottish mainland too. A person like "ceolachan" might know.

In Japan, people used to play tin sanshins in an island called Okinawa. Sanshin is originally a snake-skinned banjo, but some people who couldn’t afford it, especially during the war, made it with small tin drums.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


I have no interest in arguing politics, most of the questions I asked on the C&F site where to do with the actual content of ‘Ulster-Scots Music", I don’t percieve ‘it’ as a distinguished style or sub-style, that’s all and can quantify that outlook with evidence. It seems you were just unable or unwilling to answer my questions on this AND politics. If we answered just the easy questions all the time we wouldn’t have a great understanding of things, would we? Squalid northern politics is of no interest to me, when political affiliated movements start to lay claim to aspects of enduring Irish culture then it becomes important.

In fairness to CCE (an organisiation that I have no great affetion or sympathy for), for all their stancing and armchair republican rhetoric, they are inclusive, and even at the height of their political hot headedness they never were anything but inclusive (membership wise) of different religions and political outlooks. It would have been seen as totally unacceptable for them to exclude on that basis. Given the association between the ‘Ulster-Scots’ movement and the Orange Lodge (a totally exclusive, sectarian organisation) I’m surprisesed that you are more forgiving of the ‘Ulster-Scots’ movement than CCE. I’d remind you that you brought this point up in relation to CCE and that I’m hardly leading the discussion on that one.

All the best,


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

All the best, Slainte. Hope to get to Japan again soon, that was quite a night’s carry on!

All the best ‘Kieran,


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Slainte, fascinating photos - well done for tracking those down.

Someone has already said the one they played didn’t sound to great, but of course if your ear was used to the warm, musical sounds of a quality violin, then I’ve no doubt an old Tin Fiddle would sound a bit thin & feable, to say the least.

However, just imagine you couldn’t get your hands on a real fiddle at all, wouldn’t you be just delighted to at least have one of these to play your tunes on.

Those Sanshins are certainly cool lookin’ dudes alright:

Harry, you clearly have issues which I neither have a desire, or am qualified, to debate with you. It would be satisfying for you, I’m sure, to find someone here to argue these matters with, but I suspect the people who have sufficient knowledge from that side of the fence, don’t spend a lot of time on ITM sites.
You may well have to take your questions onto a very different type of forum to get satisfaction.
In any case, I wish you good luck in your quest.

As for the Orange Order, I never mentioned them & in truth have little or no knowledge of this organisation, nor these links you mention between them & the Ulster-Scots movement, so once again, no debate there, I guess I’ll just have to take your word on that one.

However, I don’t see how you, or anyone else can claim I am more forgiving of the Ulster-Scots than of CCE?

Perhaps I’d need to launch a website devoted to promoting Irish music up here too, but then of course I did that about 5 years ago, so maybe that helps my case there, just a little & of course I have been teaching Irish Music here for the past ten years, so I’m pretty sure nobody around here would think I was prejudiced, one way or the other.

But then all this kinda talk is, I’m sure, ultra boring for all the musos here, who simply come to the session to talk tunes & music, so maybe we can just agree to disagree, & leave it at that?


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


for your, and everybody elses’s info: You cited the fife and drum band tradition as an aspect of ‘Ulster-Scots culture’. To separate this tradition as it exists in the north of Ireland from orangeism OR indigenous traditional music is a synthetic separation. There have been an increasing amount of events that seem to focus more on the musical side of this strand of culture and I hope this continues, but lets be clear about the historical associations of same. This is a fact and does not require debate, so no political debate there.

Also, Gary Hastings (east Belfast traditional flute player, Church of Ireland minister and author) points out quite rightly that the music of the fife in the north simply drew on existing Irish traditional music. This was undoubtably effected by Scots tradition like all Irish music but, and again the same would be the case for all Scots effected Irish music in the wider cultural reality of transmission and borrowing, to brand it ‘Ulster-Scots’, ‘Sligo-Scots’, ‘Kerry-Scots’ would be overstating the point considerably in that the scots elements of Irish music generally have been incorporated to such an extent as to render it stylisiically distinct from any Scots cultural perspective. Irish music is, of course, distinct from Scots music otherwise we would call them the same thing. An Irish player will play a Scots tune differently from an Irish player and I have yet to hear anything from the ‘Ulster-Scots’ cultural movement that stylisitically is not just Irish or scots music or that isn’t revision very much after the facts of wider issues.

Given the diversity of influences that have contributed to our distinct musical culture we could just as legitamtely consider ourselves "Anglo-Ulster—Euro-American-Hiberno-Scots…" or whatever which would, of course, be more realistic but hardly conducive to quick and handy reference! To separate any one or two of ITMs considerable strands of influence from the whole is synthetic, and it is generally indicitive of other reasons for wanting to do so.

My view (bearing in mind that I AM NOT a blow in and do have experience of the politico cultural layout of the north), and the view of many cultural commentators (many much more experienced than me) is that ‘Ulster-Scots’ is primarily a politico relogious re-imaginig of Ulster unionism, an identity being explored over the last couple of decades by people who quite naturally require a spiritual home, and whose traditional identity, Britain and the union Jacjk , has become less desiriable or fulfilling for various reasons.

There are undoubtaby a large number of people of Scots ascendancy in the north of Ireland and I think it is fair to say that there is an identifiable number who are protestant and of a unionist or loyalist political persuation. These are the people who are buying in to the ‘Ulster-Scot’ story. Unfortunately, unwilling or unable to accept the wider reality of the subtlties of transmission and disimilation of traditional music and ‘folk’ culture, there is an attempt to ghettoise strands of culture as uniqely "Ulster-Scots’. This never bodes well for Irish culture and society as a whole and is not based in cultural reality. Also, the music plays a small part in the overall life of many of the individuals who feel drawn to an "Ulster-Scot’ identity and there is the feeling of a certain level of overstating the relationship for ‘legitimisation’ purposes.

So to answer your question from my perspective, Dick (and you did ask a question with this topic). The music is as it has always been more or less in this context, with a sligh upturn in the reletively self concious "folk orchestra" ethic along the scots line and a new system of context labelling. Ultimately the material is more or les the same as it ever was, fluid, apolitical, areligious, ambigious, recyclable, of no sect or nation in the end The only difference is that a number have started imagining this to be different. Its really nothing new to ITM and nationalism and the music will endure after our perceptions of it have crumbled to dust.



Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

A small comment only because there seems to be a concensus on this list that Appalachia is where what if is currently called "Old Time Music".

Appalachia is perhaps where a more original form of Old Time music has SURVIVED into modern times.

To say the "roots" of Old Time music are in Appalachia is ignoring the examples of that kind of that kind of music that could have been found all over many parts of the rural USA more than 70 years ago.

Scot-Irish influence?
Perhaps in the north it came by way of the Metis community (Scottish/French/Native American). Perhaps not.

My grandfather playing fiddle at Sat. evening dances at a lumber camp in northern Wisconsin during the early 1900s might have learned some tunes from the local Metis.
His parents and most of the local farmers spoke German and Polish.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


FYI, a googe search for "ulster scots orange" turned up many sites with orange/ulster-scots info. (examples below) along with this little titbit from wikipedia:

"The board and staff of the Ulster-Scots Agency include members of the Orange Order and other "loyal orders".

There’s plenty of intereting reading there for anyone with a wider interest in the phenomena.

Loyalist Music Archive - Loyalist Songs, Loyalist mp3`s, Ulster …
Loyalist Music Archive. Loyalist, Orange, Ulster-Scots, Irish Unionist, Irish, Scottish, Folk music archive. - 9k - Cached - Similar pages

Ulster-Scots Loyal Oragne Lodge No. 1690
Founded March 28th, 1998, in Torrance, California. History, membership information, and Orange and Protestant links. - 16k - Cached - Similar pages

Ulster-Scots Online
Ulster-Scots history, culture and heritage. … Northern Irish. Unionist · Orange Order · Orangemen · County Londonderry … - 28k - Cached - Similar pages

Ulster-Scots & Irish Unionist Resource - Orangeism in Canada, A …
Ulster-Scots & Irish Unionist Resource Orangeism in Canada, A Brief History. … In the history of Canada the Loyal Orange Association has played an active … - 8k - Cached - Similar pages
[ More results from ]

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Ulster Scots Publications
Grand Orange Lodge : Publications : Ulster Scots Publications … This tribute to the Ulster Scots people was written by Reid when he was Ambassador to … ulster_scots_publications.html - 18k - Cached - Similar pages

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Audio and Video
Ulster Scots Folk Music and Song is provided on 18 marvellous tracks of this CD, … A celebration of Orange music recorded live in the Ulster Hall, … - 34k - Cached - Similar pages

Ulster-Scots Agency
Rathfriland Ulster Scots music and dance courses Moneygore Orange Hall … Ulster Scots cookery demonstrations Dunmore Orange Hall, Edendariff Road just … - 26k - Cached - Similar pages

Ulster-Scots Agency
Forthcoming Ulster-Scots Courses Fife & Drum Ballymarlow Orange Hall, Ballymena, … Rathfriland Ulster Scots music and dance courses Moneygore Orange Hall … - 20k - Cached - Similar pages
[ More results from ]

Ulster-Scots, Loyalist and Orange Order Links Database - A …
Loyalist songs, Orange songs, Rangers songs and Ulster/Irish/Scottish Folk songs, aswell as flute and pipe band tunes and lambeg drums. … show.php?usernum=49170087&cpv=1 - 247k - Cached - Similar pages

University of Ulster Online - News Release
Dr Naylor’s research into the nature and significance of the Orange Order in west Africa is supported by the Institute of Ulster Scots Studies. … - 13k - Cached - Similar pages

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

You say:
"There have been an increasing amount of events that seem to focus more on the musical side of this strand of culture and I hope this continues"
Well that’s the sort of thing I’m hoping to explore & promote with this site, not the political issues you seem so hung up on.

As to the history of the Fife & Drum that is indeed very interesting, for example:

“The fife and the drum are prehistoric musical instruments; simple in design, they were first made before man’s written history.
They were and are used in various forms and combinations in nearly every culture.”

“The first time that they were used together in a form which we would recognize as “fife & drum” was in Switzerland.
The Swiss had won their freedom in 1291, and had become famous for the bravery and excellence of their military.
The needs of extended marches and camp life encouraged the development of fife and drum music in the 1400’s.”

“Thus fife & drum music was adopted by the British military (except for the Scottish regiments).”

from - A History of Fife and Drum

That’s the kinda stuff that would perhaps interest folks here more, & not all this talk of the Orange Order, which you keep harping back to.

It’s interesting to note that the Scottish Regiments didn’t take to the Fife & Drum, but then why would they need those yolks when they had the Pipes & Drum to march to!

Anyway, from the above, it may perhaps be fair to assume that it was probably the English who brought the Fife & Drum tradition to Ireland, in the first place.

Surprisingly perhaps, I found that there also seems to be a tradition, of some sort or other, of Fife & Drum in Africa:

“Slavery brought African versions of fife and drum to America.”
“the last of the real fife and drum bands come from the North Mississippi hills and were decendents of slaves.”

from - Fife and Drum Blues

Interestingly, traditionally they played with a five hole instrument, which I believe was originally the standard in Europe, way back.

Of course as well as all the Fife & Drum & Flute Bands in the north, there are still bands in the south too, for example:

I know how petty folks can get when it comes to ‘their’ things, & I think I can see why the ancesters of Scots folk here would like to have a form of music to call their own, just as, for example, many Donegal musicians might, when asked, say they play Donegal music before they would say Irish Music & why not.

I personally would be happier, now that we are all Europeans, if we simply referred to it all as Traditional Music, but at the same time, I don’t begrudge folks putting their own little labels on their own music, if it keeps them happy.

If you said to one of Shetland’s traditional musicians for example, that he was playing Scottish Music, he’d probably thump you, cause he regards the music he plays as being Shetland Music, same for folks on Orkney & the same applies, to a certain extent, for N E Fiddlers, West Coast Fiddlers etc etc.

The fact is, if you asked a non musician on the street anywhere to listen to the music of any of the young Traditional bands from Scotland or Ireland, I doubt if they’d be able to tell you which was which.
This is partly due to the fact that so much of each countries music shared nowadays.
If you played them a song, then that’d probably give it away though.

To the punter on the street it’s all just so much diddley dee anyway.

So I’m quite happy to let folks put whatever labels they want on the music they play.

Hi Hyldemoer,

Yes the music of Appalachia is becoming more & more complex, the more I look into it.
It seems hard sometimes to be able to give a track a label sometimes as there have been so many musical influences on this region.
I used to think of it all as Old Time, but now I hear, Gospel, Bluegrass, Blues, Country etc etc
As you say, the Germans too, with their Scheitholts, played a big part, at least in the early days, of shaping the music.

The more the music of an area becomes a big melting pot, the more folks seem to want to try & hang onto a little bit of their own history, & I personally do not grudge them that.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


I think separating the organised marching aspect of northern fife and drumming would be the equivalent of trying to separate ITM from sessions and music/ cultural inststiutions, and we don’t do that!

The former music is solely connected to marching in many people’s minds (across all divisions). I hope we can separate *all* traditional music in Ireland from polotics, religion,’nationality’ etc at some stage in the fututre, but until we do then its just the way things are. Why shy away from it? That, of course, is just my outlook.

The "Ulster Scots’/orange links are fascinating reading, I did not post those just to make a point. Enjoy.



Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Cross Post.

Re: your last post Harry.

OK - Very Good. Fair enough Harry. So there’s a connection, grand. Doesn’t mean to say that I have to be interested in it though!

I’ve come across the attitude so many times. of people assuming that because we were musicians sitting playing ITM for hours on end in an old pub, that we must be all Nationalists & probably Sinn Fein supporters or even worse IRA sympathisers, so a good old blood & guts rebel song would go down a treat.
Only two have their song stopped on the 2nd or third word, cause in a music pub nobody is interested in that old politics boll&cks!

So perhaps you’d like to debate these political issues that you have with some of the folks in the know on those sites you tracked down, & let us get back to the music here.

Unless of course, anyone else here is interested in arguing about this Orange Order stuff with you, in which case feel free to tear away, but I’m sorry, but I just find it boring.


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Cross Post again.

Sure Harry, honestly, I can see how you would be fascinated by these Orange Order links, but you must realise that we are standing in different places.

I respect your right to be interested in them, & in fact I am impressed by your insight on these matters, it’s just that they don’t light my fire.

Incidently, I shy away from it for the very reason you mention, because I’m trying to encourage that split, in my own small way, i.e. to separate music from Politics & Religion.

As for Nationality, I think there are good & bad types of that.

I am very proud to say I’m a Scotsman, but I would probably let you shave me bald & amputate my wobbly bits (well, I might not let you go that far!) before I’d become a Scottish Nationalist!

At the same time, I am also very proud of the fact that my maternal Grandfather was a Letterkenny man & that my family name most likely originates in Ulster.

Still, you won’t catch me flying ‘any’ flags on the front of my house!

Like you say, that’s just my outlook.


Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


I thought you might be interested in establishing that reality for the purposes of your studies. Obviously not, I’m sure somebody will find things of interest there, as I did, which is why I posted it.

The orange order peobably predates a lot of the music I consider so traditional. It is not a parimilitary or an illegal organisation. It IS sectarian and of another age… what can you do? It ‘s not a political organisation as such, so I don’t see where the politics comes into it?

At no point have I called on you to debate. I, like you, am simply trying to put the subject into a context that helps me/you/us inderstand it. Its hardly my fault that my context doesn’t suit your context! The music, at any rate, remains the same.

‘The attitude’ that your talking about (i.e. assumption) is an attitude supported by ignorance. I have never suggesting that we adopt ignorance or intolerance but being knowledgable of the connections outlined above is less ignorant than not being aware of them or denying them.

To misquote the inscription at the temple of Apollo at Delphi: "Know thyself" (it is considered that a more acurate translation is actually "know thy place"). Knowing your place in Ireland entails a lot if you look at it in any meaningful detail.



Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Jesus ptarmy look what youve started. Ive just been warned out of Wales and now im scared to continue reading this thread. Diddly dum dum di diddley dum dum dum.

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Don’t worry, Newty. It being manufactured it’ll probably snap before it does any damage! ;-D

What did you do to Wales? Suggest that Harry Seacombe was the missing link to Avalon or something?



Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


"The orange order probably predates a lot of the music I consider so traditional. It is not a parimilitary or an illegal organisation. It IS sectarian and of another age… what can you do? It’s not a political organisation as such, so I don’t see where the politics comes into it?"

Aye, but it’s not a musical organisation & that’s possibly why I have no interest in it.
I have no interest in the Masonic Lodge either, by the way.

To an outsider like myself all that stuff on the 12th smacks of politics & the Orange Order always seems to be in the thick of it, politics or no politics!

No, quite right, let’s not bother having a debate about debating, there’s even less point in that.

I am aware of these connections you talk of & I don’t deny them as such, I just am not interested in them.

Just as I am quite happy to play music at a session & not get involved in debates on politics.
Likewise, I am quite happy to talk about music & ignore any political topics that rear their ugly heads.

I see music as a simple entity to be enjoyed for it’s own sake without any unnecessary political baggage.
I can play a Scottish tune without coming over all Scottish Nationalist just as I can play an Irish tune without wishing to sign up.

At the end of the day, Traditional Music is just made up of nice wee tunes & that’s the way I look at it.

That may be a simplistic way to look at it & if so, so be it, but that’s just the way it is for me.

By the way, the proof of the pudding is in the eating & I think it’s safe to assume, that I am not the only person on this site who is turned off by the intricacies of Northern Ireland’s politics, the Orange Order etc, judging by the lack of interest in this discussion by anyone else here, since you brought these other issues to the table.

Like I say, I hope you find someone to argue the toss over this, but it doesn’t look like this is the place mate.

Best of Luck

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Humble appologies Newty, but I did try & keep it on a musical theme, honest, I did try!

Why were you warned out of Wales?

Did you buy a ‘Holiday Home’ there!

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

I simply dared to guess that the existence of Wales is purely to provide a stepping stone for the English on their way to Ireland.

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

No, surely not Newty. I mean to say, for one, didn’t Wales also provide Ireland with St. Patrick?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

History I know little about. It seems to me to be a subject bathed in mystery and opinion. This current thread now delving into such an ambiguos subject could go on forever. Good luck with the record attempt for longest thread - you may have cracked it with this one! !

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Just spotted the comment about "playing a scotish tune without coming over sounding nationalist". Your lucky Ptarmy, we get a rollocking for displaying the George Bloody Cross.

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Aye Newty, although it may end up winning the record for the longest thread, with the least number of contributors!

You are surely your OK wearing crosses at Easter though? :-)

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Unfortunately everything in N.Ireland is political as Mr Ptarmigan should know. Where else do we get newspaper headlines "Catholic horse wins the Grand National"?

At present Ulster-Scots is tied to loyalism, it was created as part of the parity of esteem business in the Good Friday agreement. The Ulster-Scots heritage centre in Antrin Town is only open for Rangers matches, which says it all. It is known locally as the "Knee-Breakers" by one and all.

However there are genuine Ulster-Scots cultures. Some of the poetry from the 18th century is excellent, once you realise that Ulster-Scots is not a language, but rather a local dialect like "Geordie".

There are musicians as well, Willie Drennan, old Bill Flaherty in Antrim, and many others. But Harry is right, it is not a distinct genre.

One of the main reasons for creating an Ulster-Scots present day "Culture" was to give the Orange Order an opportunity to turn the marches into family fun days. Some enlightened members favour this, as it is the only option for survival.

So to answer the question posed, Scots-Irish music is real in that all music borrowed bits and pieces from somewhere, but much of what is being promoted in N.Ireland at present is manufactured, as it is part of the peace process. Just like all that GAA on the TV nowadays, and countless Irish Language programmes on Radio Ulster.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Hi Bliss,
Nice of you to drop in.

Aye, it’s a political ghetto alright, but hopefully it doesn’t always have to be like that, is all I’m saying really.

"Catholic horse wins the Grand National" - Aye we suffer from that sort of thing in Scotland. When a Scottish athlete wins at the Olympics uncle Beeb often reports it as a great win for Britain but when an English athlete wins somthing it’s a case of England does it again & yet when a Scottish athlete fails, they’re not slow to say that a Scottish athlete failed.

Of course, we don’t go around breaking folks knees for it! Although…maybe………….

Aye the Language/Dialect debate. I’ve had some fun debating that already & personally come down in favour of it being a dialect.
Course there’s not so much money available for Dialects, which is at the root of that debate I fear.

Well, if all it does is help to turn days of fear & violence into ‘family fun days’ I reckon it’ll have been worth the effort & can’t hurt.

I just hope I can eventually manage to get some idea of what the real & the manufactured are & in any case, I’ll have learned a lot about this music in the process.

Incidentally Bliss, does that name ‘Knee Breakers’ come from the Antrim centre originally or that Comedy TV prog with Uncle Andy & the gang?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


It is a political ghetto alright then? Are you ‘allowing’ this into a realm worthy of political comment? …Really, here’s me thinking I was being original saying that.

I really don’t see why you keep pushing the thing about me looking for debate. Once more: I DON"T SEE ANYTHING TO DEBATE ABOUT. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT MY TAKE ON THIS BESIDES. That’s not shouting, its just so it stands out a bit.

I’m not calling anyone names, I’m not saying that anything is wrong apart from sectarianism of any nature (from any ‘side’), musically and culturally I see nothing yet of actual substance to debate! Are you debating with yourself? Have I said anything that is blatantly untrue or unfair?

I would appreciate the same respect that I afford you though (i.e. I was never rude enough to suggest that anything that you added to the discussion was ‘boring’, that’s not nice and it is very subjetive and inconsiderate of you).

Now, back to mixed font. If you are unprepared to talk about the numerous conditions that spawned the ‘Ulster-Scots’ wider phenomena then ***can you or anyone else at least consider offering some hints as to its proposed unique qualities i.e. repertory, stylistic nuance, social context (oh yes, we don’t like talking about that)***. To my knowledge there is no respected study of the actual stylistic movement being implied, not saying it doesn’t exist even if I’ve never seen/ heard it. If you are not prepared to do that then I’m afraid the title of this thread is redundant and I see no grounds at all for open minded, musically informed discussion here on this subject.

And BTW, while we’re talking about evidence and the lack of, I don’t see any objections from board members to this discussion, and there are plenty of threads that do not run on an all-in basis.



Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Harry, I think this is all just starting to get just a bit too silly.

It was of course, as I’m sure you know, the topic which I was implying that was boring, not your take on it.

I’m sorry if I find the subject of Politics boring, but that’s just me, but why should I pretend I’m fascinated in Ulster’s Politics for fear of offending you.

Apart from that we’re just going round & round in circles here & it’s all becoming more & more pointless.

In any case, I think once someone raises their voice or starts writing in italics & taking offence at things, it’s an indication that it’s time to quit, while we are ahead, & before something is said that either would regret.

I’m sure neither of us want to see this start to get too heated, so I’ll say good night, & good luck.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


I’m doing my best, and it is interesting. But I’m still getting nothing of substance to consider re. "Ulster-Scots’ music or culture. More ‘Ulster-Scots’ comment please (any aspect of ‘it’)

All the besht,


ps. Dick, if you are no longer spooked by ‘Norn Irn Palataks’ then surely a few capitals and italics are wee buns?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

A language is a dialect with an army.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Mr Ptarmigan’s line about "If it helps to bring about some peace and quiet, what harm can it do" sums it all up, that’s why the Ulster-Scots thing is being promoted/manufactured. That’s fair enough with me. In 1998 the Orange Order had a big say in organising the celebrations for the 1798 rebellion in Antrim Town,and it was a family day for all, with us doing a session all day on the main street, outside a pub naturally. I would have no objection to that sort of thing all the time, and certainly we had "Ulster-Scots" dancers and music, but it was better than killing each other.

I think I know perhaps what Harry is thinking, I always think the same when the Ulster Scots "language" is mentioned, as it is not a language, and perhaps Harry believes that there is no distinct thing as Ulster Scots music.

It’s all a game, but if it pleases many, well, why knock it.

Incidently, it is nice to hear from Harry again, as he usually knows what he is talking about.

And Mr P means no harm. He even knows my illustrious brother, but does not know me. And it is all about compromise up here now.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

I never knew there was so much controversy and emotion swimming the heads of my fellow musos. Im just looking forward to playing The Trumpet Hornpipe this summer at the seaside. How nice to have such an easy outlook on the whole music scene.

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Newty, as you know, if you play that hornpipe in Belfast, you’ll be in great danger.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

You still might say "why?" Actually, many flute players in the city often use their instruments as blowguns when someone plays an English sounding tune. Scots people have similar ones, but they are much smaller and not as harmful as the ones seen in Belfast. Mind you, flute players from the city are very dangerous!

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


‘Easy’ is relative.:-)



ps. And FYI, it is wriiten in the Cattle Prodding of Coolbea, that Wales was actually mistaken into existence due to the Ulster-Scots invasion of then Lower Lowland Scotland (now England). On passing through this magical, mythical race planted their wild porridge outs like they were going out of fashion. Its all there in a book I read sometime… but can no longer find.

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Is Belfast by the sea slainte? Hey, have I just inadvertantly invented a new Irish musical phenomenom - "The Sea Slainte"? (Get it Chef Paul?) Ive never been to N.I. still too scared. Excuse my ignorance.
And Harry I aint getting drawn on this Ulster-Scots debate.I dont even know where Belfast is!!

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?


Belfast is just over the next hill, round the next corner, after the next wave, over that rainbow… it’s where BAD Dorothies go to. Near Wales in other words.



Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Near WALES? Holy mother I feel myself being pushed deeper and deeper into the south west. I could end up as a morris man if I go any further south. Heeeeeeeeeeeelp

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Nobody has ever explained to me why the Norn Iron flag has a cross of St. George. instead of cross of St. Patrick.

Posted by .

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

For some reason the links didn’t work. Are you still working on them?

Re: Scots-Irish Music - real or manufactured?

Just checked & they’re all working fine jrathbun!

N.B. The links are the ‘Black Buttons’ - NOT the Names!