Call them the other Irish.
The invisible Irish.
They’re more associated with corn, coal and moonshine than green beer.
There was a mass migration of Scots-Irish to America from 1717 to 1775, enough to claim 15 percent of the colonial population and stock General Washington’s army with fighters.
They were ideal raw material for frontiersmen.
Davy Crockett and Sam Houston were Scots-Irish. The southern branch produced the first Scots-Irish American president, Andrew Jackson, while Ulysses Grant hailed from Ohio.
They also celebrate a New South that embraces progressive policies, hi-tech, the digital age, clean coal, college football and advanced education.
My wife’s mother was born in Paint Lick, Ky., giving me only a hint of hillbilly, though I’m sure Jeff Foxworthy could find enough evidence to convert most anybody into hillbilly ranks.
My Scots-Irish lineage is located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, and before that, County Ayrshire in Scotland.
The Scots-Irish were known as thrifty. Family letters from the 1790s allowed me to trace that lineage.
On the plus side my Pennsylvania roots are linked to William McGuffey whose McGuffey’s Readers became our national textbooks of the 1840-1920 period.
On the minus side, I found our ancestral farm in Northern Ireland in the midst of a terrorist flashpoint area near the border when I visited there during The Troubles in 1979.
The loyalists and British army battled until a peace agreement removed most of the guns, bombs and belligerence from the conflict.
On St. Patrick’s Day, a hard-core Billy Boy would drink orange in tribute to William of Orange.
But just as we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day and celebrate the best of our American Irish heritage, if you check your family tree back to colonial times, you’ll likely find that you’re a wee bit Scotch-Irish. And maybe even with a hint of hillbilly.
You could do worse.
James F. Burns, retired University of Florida professor, Gainesville