Who are they?  In England and Scotland, this term means nothing.  This term was invented in North America. They were an “ethnic group”, living in the Province of Ulster, who started emigrating in the 1700’s to Canada and the USA.  The term, “Scotch-Irish”, was a derogatory term used in North American when this hardy group of people landed because they were different in language and dress.  The Protestant communities in Northern Ireland recognize “Scottish-Irish”, but few accept it as a designation for themselves, preferring to be described as “British” or “Ulstermen”.  In other words, they were “men who didn’t fit in.”

The Scots-Irish are one of the most remarkable arms of both the Scots and the Irish people.  As foretold, thousands of protestant lowland Scots made the journey to a new colony to settle a land that had been largely unfarmed.  The native Irishman had been pastoral rather than arable.  The lure to the land were long 20 year leases.  And of course, the settlers needed an adequate military force; hence forth the need for galloglasses and red-shanks arose.

In Ireland, these fighting warriors became Ireland’s most fearsome fighting men.  They recruited heavily from Irish low social origins.

The woodkerns (native Irish chieftains) were tough but the Scots were tougher still so survive they did.

The protestant Scots were thrown into a country with an ancient Catholic tradition and were not welcomed with open arms.  Many of the Scottish settlers perished in midnight raids carried out by the woodkerns.  Over a period of 100 years, the colonials survived many acts of terrorism perpetrated against them.  During this period, they maintained a distinct Protestant Ulster identity that was unique and different than the source of origin.  Because of the isolation in Northern Ireland, religion provided the common bond rather than the race.  Henceforth, the “Scots-Irish” race was born.

This is an old image of an Emigrant Ship in Cork that would take them far away, to an unknown wilderness, that they believed was a washed in gold.

Image is an old etching.

As the years passed, the landlords kept doubling and tripling the rents to the tenants.  Thousands of Ulster Scots, not wanting to go back to Scotland, looked farther afield across the Atlantic Ocean, to America.  They came by the thousands, these tough fighting Irish-Scotsmen.

The McCutcheons were not to remain very long in Ulster.  In fact, only 4 generations of our ancestors were born and raised here:  Hugh (1677-1746); his son Hugh 1706-1770); John (1725-1800); and then finally Samuel (1752-1825).  Samuel was the last one to die on Irish soil.  About 150 years in duration.  All of Samuel’s children immigrated to Canada, dying on Canadian soil.

Why did they emigrate?  Their reasons for doing so were complex and layered.  This letter may shed some light on the flight of the Irishman:

The letter given below, which is from the pen of a distinguished Protestant clergyman, appears to me of such importance, that I place it here to be a permanent record for the future historian of Ireland, as an important opinion on the present history of this country, but too well supported by facts.”  



If every other man in the world entertained doubts of my sincerity, you, at least, would give me credit for honesty and just intentions. I write to you accordingly, because my mind has been stirred to its inmost depths by the perusal of your address in my native city of Limerick.  I do not regard the subject of your address as a political one.  It ought to be regarded solely as a question of humanity, justice, common sense, and common honesty.  I wish my lot had never been cast in rural places.  As a clergyman, I hear what neither landlords nor agents ever heard. I see the depression of the people; their sighs and groans are before me.  They are brought so low as often to praise and glorify those whom, in their secret hearts, are the objects of abhorrence. All this came out gradually before me.  Nor did I feel as I ought to have felt in their behalf, until, in my own person and purse, I became the victim of a system of tyranny which cries from earth to heaven for relief.  Were I to narrate my own story, it would startle many of the Protestants of Ireland.  There are good landlords—never a better than the late Lord Downshire, or the living and beloved Lord Roden.  But there are too many of another state of feeling and action. There are estates in the north where the screw is never withdrawn from its circuitous and oppressive work.  Tenant-right is an unfortunate and delusive affair, simply because it is invariably used to the landlord’s advantage.  Here we have an election in prospect, and in many counties no farmer will be permitted to think or act for himself.  What right any one man has to demand the surrender of another’s vote I never could see. It is an act of sheer felony–a perfect “stand-and-deliver” affair.  To hear a man slavishly and timorously, say, “I must give my vote as the landlord wishes,” is an admission that the Legislature, which bestowed the right of voting on the tenant, should not see him robbed of his right, or subsequently scourged or banished from house and land, because he disregarded a landlord’s nod, or the menace of a land-agent.  At no little hazard of losing the friendship of some who are high, and good, and kind, I write as I now do.

Yours, My Dear Butt, Very Sincerely,


Dundrum, Cough, County Down, September 7th, 1868.

The McCutcheons were not the poorest of the poor (those people didn’t have enough money to emigrate).  The yearning for religious freedom was naturally there; desire to avoid the economic strife that was prevalent at the time; the ever-re-occurring famines; a flight to freedom; and to better themselves materially.  Also, they were invaders; they were the “Ulster Scots”; they were hated by the Irish born inhabitants.  They were men who didn’t fit in.

 THE COTTIER:  The most numerous people in rural Ireland were “Cottiers” (early 1700 – late 1800).  They were mainly farm labourers, or men whose farms were so small they could not make a living from it and had to work on larger farms to survive.  Many larger farmers who needed help, gave some ground, usually 1/2 acre, to a man who would build a cabin on it (usually a one room damp mud hut without windows or chimney).  He would pay the farmer for the land, usually about £5.00 (1800s) but he paid in labour not money.  When the farmer needed him, he would work for 5-8d per day (240d=£1).  Then at the end of the year the wages were added up and set against the money owed.  At this rate, it might take 10 years or more to buy his little plot of land.  The Ulster farms were generally better cared for than in the rest of Ireland.

                                          Print Collection of Maggie Land Blanck.

 THE YEAR WAS 1718…..and Bishop Nicolson, upon arriving in Derry, wrote he found dismal marks of ‘hunger and want’ on the faces of the people in his diocese; a few years later one of his horses was killed in an accident and he states “Some 50 people fell on the carcass, hacking off pieces with choppers and axes……….”  He also says “We seem to be on the brink of a famine.”

THE YEAR WAS 1726-1727….. and again food was in short supply.  In fact, there was a severe famine in 1728 – 1729.  In the winter of 1739, nature conspired to exacerbate the situation with a severe frost that lasted 7 weeks.  Potatoes in store and clamps in the fields were destroyed; water-powered corn-mills were totally frozen; cattle died in the fields.  The river Foyle was frozen and an ox was roasted on the ice.  Further bad weather led to a devastating famine in 1741 (the forgotten famine) with an estimated 300,000 lives lost.  A contemporary writer put it thus:  “Want and misery on every face; the rich unable, almost, as they were unwilling, to relieve the poor; the roads spread with dead and dying bodies; mankind the color of the docks and nettles that they fed on; two or three, sometimes more, in a car going to the grave for want of bearers to carry them; many buried in the fields and ditches upon whence they fell.”

The Irish called this:      BLIADHAIN AN ÀIR       Year of the Slaughter.  1741.

THE YEAR WAS 1822…..And after a poor harvest in Ireland in 1821, famine and disease were widespread.  The Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg Pennsylvania) of 24 July 1822 reported that,

“A letter from T. S. Lindsay, Esquire, High Sheriff of Mayo, says, the distresses arise from ‘A failure in the potatoe crop of the last year, and the inability of the lower classes to purchase either this root or any other provision at present.  The small plot usually attached to the cabins of the poor, in many cases, remain unsown from the impossibility of procuring seed.  Nothing can be more wretched than the situation of the peasantry generally in Mayo.  I have seen hundreds of wretched people greedily seeking for water cresses, wild mustard, nettle tops, dwarf thistle, or dandelion all spring, and this unnatural food has been the only meal within their reach.'”

The Edinburgh Advertiser (Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland) of 31 May 1822 gave similar descriptions of conditions in County Mayo, as well as reports from other counties.  Typhus fever was reported in County Kerry and a report from Galaway stated that “the population of the town and vicinage of Galaway, under-rated at 30,000 souls, to which are to be added thousands of wretched beings whom famine has driven hither from the remote parts of Connemara, exhibit at this moment a spectacle of extended and complicated misery which baffles description………”

From Limerick……“The scene at the Catherine-street Dispensing Station yesterday, was truly awful–the poor meagre, half-starved women with cans and piggins [small wooden pails], many of them with an infant or two clinging to their backs, appeared in a continued crowd and almost impenetrable density, to obtain their pint of porridge (the quantum allowable on each ticket).  A vast number of these [women] were furnished with 2, 4, 6, or 8 tickets, according to the number of the family – but strange to tell; only one pint was given to many with a family.  We are truly concerned to find that Dysentery Patients will not be received in the Fever hospital as usual, in consequence of the increase of Fever in this city.”


There is not enough room here to adequately record or to give justification to the scope of the Irish Diaspora.  But we have a need to address a small portion of it because an ENTIRE family, our Gx5 grandparents were the forerunners of this mass migration.  They had two choices:  the famine of 1821 they were currently under-going or the “Golden Door”.  They chose the latter.

Prior to 1820, emigration was more of a trickle than a flood.  Before the advent of the Steamship in the mid-1800’s, most individuals traveled to their destination in uncomfortable, rat-infested cargo sailing ships.   The journey was a long one – 2 to 8 weeks.  (See chart.)  They left in droves on ships that were so crowded, with conditions so terrible, these sailing ships were often referred to as “coffin ships.”   From records of ships arriving in Quebec for 1821, there were as many as 400 – 500 people recorded aboard some of these ships.  They travelled in the bowels of these ships, sitting on their bags, not afforded cabin nor bed nor bathroom.  Privacy was non-existent.  These ships, after ploughing the rough Irish Sea, headed for open ocean that was rougher still; waves often swept over the decks, soaking all of the inhabitants and their belongings below.  Many emigrants threw their dead over board on the rough journey across the Atlantic.

June 13th 1821                                                                                                                                DATE        VESSEL                MASTER            SAILED       FROM       PASSENGERS  CONSIGNED TO/REMARKS

June 01

Ship Royal Yeoman Sly

42 days

Weymouth Mr. and Miss Harvie to order / in ballast

June 01

Brig William Parker Pragnell (Thomas Pranguell)

01 April

London to McKutcheon & Co./ general cargo

June 02

Brig Eagle Dixon

17 April

Exeter to Wm. Newton / in ballast

June 02

Bark Providence Jourdison

07 April

London to R. Hamilton

June 02

Ship William Pitt Richardson

17 April

Plymouth to P. Patterson / in ballast

June 02

Brig Grace Fishley

40 days

Iltracombe and Cork Mr. Sinton  120 settlers to the Captain / bricks, malt and hops

June 02

Bark Triton Marshal

20 April

Plymouth to P. Patterson / in ballast

June 02

Bark George Canning Potter

54 days

Greenock 489 settlers to Rogerson, Hunter & Co. / in ballast — goes to the Miramichi to load (Lanark county settlers)

June 02

Brig Heart of Oak Gwathins (C.G. Mathers)

12 April

Liverpool to Froste & Porter / general cargo

NOTE:  line 2 of the above chart needs some special mention here.  Under the remarks column, for June 1, 1821, cargo left the Port of London, arriving at the Port of Quebec on April 1, 1821.  The vessel Brig. William Parker was loaded with general cargo for a McKutcheon & Co.  The only McCutcheon I have located that this company could belong to is “Peter McCutcheon” who was born in 1789 in Creebridge, Scotland.  However, I can’t confirm that this is the rightful owner of that company.  This Peter McCutcheon changed his name to “Peter McGill” sometime in 1821 to satisfy an inheritance document. Peter McCutcheon owned 7 vessels including the ship “Brig William Parker.”

Besides offering free land (1/4 section being 160 acres), there were flattering accounts of Canada vigorously published in Great Britain at the time. 160 free acres must have made it appear like the lands of Canada were a-wash in gold (considering it took almost a lifetime to accumulate 1/2 acre in Ireland).   The desire for religious freedom may have also been a factor; another possible factor persecution by the British government. From the autobiographies published in 1906, the McCutcheons’ were very religious.  Passage to Canada was often less expensive than to other North American destinations.  Henceforth, there was an influx of early Irish Immigrants to Eastern Ontario.

The “British Passenger Act” attempted to deflect the immigration from the British Isles to Canada instead of the United States – making the fare a cheap 15 shillings for a passage to Canada compared with the ₤4 or ₤5 fare to New York.   Many Irish found it convenient to take the cheaper Canadian fare, then walk across the border to the US.

Also, in order to entice settlers to come to Canada, the Canadian government had a program in the 1820’s and 1830’s whereby they sponsored Irish Settlers with their families to come to Canada by giving them passage and paying their expenses.  There was also a worldwide agricultural depression that began in the early 1800’s.  The United Kingdom, specifically Ireland, was over populated around this era and therefore had a great need to encourage thousands of its citizens to leave the country.  In the 1821 Census in Ireland, the population was 6,800,000 and it was soon to rise drastically, contributing to the infamous “Infamous Great Famine of 1845”.

This catastrophic event was not in their tarot cards.  Samuel’s 6 children were already planning their exit.  They began cleaning up their affairs and decided to immigrate in April 1823, 2 years before the aging patriarch’s death.

Circa 1850, Reverend P. Malone recorded in a pamphlet: “I have seen the son, standing upon the deck of the emigrant ship, divest himself of his only coat, and place it upon his father’s shoulders, saying, ‘Father, take you this; I will soon earn the price of a coat in the land I am going to.”  Such instances, which might be recorded by the hundred, and the amount of money sent to Ireland by emigrants for the support of aged parents, and to pay the passage out of younger members of the family….

These tough McCutcheon Scot-Irishmen were on the move – again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s