Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The White Pig Rules!

It has surprised us here at the Ulster Heritage Magazine, but we have discovered that our little white pig icon that we use here (at the bottom of the page in case you haven't seen him yet) has turned out to be surprisingly popular, with people emailing us to ask about him, or where they could obtain something with the little pig on it.

The pig, called An Mhuc Bhán, which means, 'The White Pig,' is one our our two logos (and copyrighted) for the Ulster Heritage project. The wild Boar has long been a totem animal in Ulster and a white pig was, and is, particularly important, some say even lucky.

Our Canadian webmaster, Jim McKane, has worked his magic, and one can now purchase T-shirts, and hats, etc., with the little white pig on them. They can be found here:

The White Pig

Long may his fame endure...

Monday, 30 March 2009

Donegal - Community In Touch E-Zine, no 3

Hello and welcome to the third edition of the Donegal - community in touch / Dún na nGall - pobail i d'teagmháil e-zine.

This publication provides a source of information to those who have moved away from County Donegal and who wish to be kept informed of local news, the Donegal business community, education and learning opportunities and upcoming events and activities of interest.

Please click on the following link to access the e-zine:


Please feel free to pass this email on to others who may have an interest in keeping in touch with Donegal or, alternatively, send their details to Diaspora@donegalcoco.ie to have their names added to the distribution database.

Best wishes from,

The Donegal - community in touch / Dún na nGall - pobail i d'teagmháil Publication Team.

Breid Neely
Community Development Officer
Community, Culture & Enterprise Directorate
Donegal County Council
Station Island
Co. Donegal

Tel: 074 91 72 573
Email: bneely@donegalcoco.ie

Friday, 27 March 2009

New Themes in Scots-Irish Research

Over the past few years as I’ve worked with the Ulster Heritage DNA Project I have noticed a new direction in Scots-Irish family history research. I have noted for many years now that there are families in America and Canada with Highland Scottish surnames that describe their ethnicity as Scots-Irish. These families are from Ulster, but have roots that go back to the southern Hebrides or Argyll. They belong to a little studied aspect of Ulster history, the many Highland Scots, often called Redshanks, that were living in Ulster prior to the 1609 Plantation and yet in time became part of the Scots-Irish story, albeit a little known part of it.

Everyone knows that in 1609 the Plantation of Ulster began and many Lowland Scots, usually Presbyterians, settled in Ulster. In time of course they would become the Scots-Irish that conquered the New World frontier. There was another Scottish migration to Ulster prior to 1609, one in the 1500s, this one however was comprised of Highland Scots from Argyll and Hebrides. These were Gaelic speakers, part of what Scottish historian Wilson McLeod calls the, Redshank Period.

This migration is woefully understudied, but there are signs that at least some academics are taking an interest in it now. These Highland Scots were moving into Ulster to support the various Irish lords there, especially the Ó Dónaill and Ó Neill clans. Many of them were sent there by the political efforts of the 5th Earl of Argyll, Giolla Easpuig Caimbeul, a Gael himself.

The Redshank period began in the late 1400s and gathered strength throughout the 1500s. By the 1560s Argyll Gaels were pouring into Ulster, to settle. There were several areas where they lived in great numbers, in east Donegal, in parts of Tyrone, and in north Antrim. The obscure part of their history is what happened to them after the Plantation began in 1609. Did they come to terms with the Presbyterian Lowland Scots?

Well part of the answer can be found in the fact that a fair number of Scots-Irish have very Highland Scottish surnames. I've been reading through the primary records that exist circa 1600 to 1630s pulling any information I can concerning these 'Highland Scots-Irish' families and I have found some interesting clues as to how they fared when the Plantation came.

I recently found letters written by James Hamilton and Dennis Campbell in the 1601, that discussed the possibility of using the Highland Scot communities in Donegal and Tyrone. They wanted to hire the men to undercut the supply of Redshanks to Irish lords and also to protect lands that they intended to settle. It is no surprise that later Highland Scottish surnames appear on muster and tenant lists on the vast Hamilton estates in east Donegal and northwest Tyrone.

While there has been no definitive study on these Highland Scots settlements in Ireland, it does appear that at least some of them in Donegal and Tyrone did manage to find a place within the Plantation Scot society in time. Surnames such as McAllen, McColley, Campbell, McKean, McDuff, McNaughten, etc. just to name a very few, are all Highland Scottish surnames, yet also are very Scots-Irish and appear in the Colonial Ulster settlements.

More research is being done on these families right now. Their DNA results often reveal their Argyll and Hebridean roots and point to their origins being with the little known Highland Scot migration to Ulster in the 1500s.

We will be updating on this theme in the future.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Oatcake

above, Ditty's oatcakes, one of the better brands found in Ulster

I have noticed in my travels that I get served oats from Sligo north into Ulster and then all the way into Scotland. Oats are still a popular food in Ulster and are usually found in two forms 1) oatmeal porridge and 2) Oat cakes. Oat cakes have been around in Ulster for thousands of years, it is truly an ancient food and they are simply delicious.

Oatcakes these days are not known widely outside of the north of Ireland and Scotland. This is a shame as they are one of the finest foods on the planet, bar none. The ingredients are very simple: a fine oatmeal, water, a bit of melted butter, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of baking soda, and just enough oil on a griddle to make them cook right. The flavour is a toasted nut-oat taste. The round flat "cracker" is the perfect thing to serve a bit of smoked salmon or soft goat cheese on. In my home we make them from scratch and often serve them at a céilí or just any gathering. We tend to have them more often around Christmas where we make up an hors d'oeuvre of an oat cake with some soft goat cheese or cream cheese, topped with some smoked salmon and a little sliver of green onion. They are the perfect accompaniment to a little single malt cheer.

Nairn's make a wonderful organic oatcake
They are available commercially in Ulster where you can find both Northern Irish brands and Scottish brands in the shops. Many Americans are totally unaware of this most Ulster of all foods and are pleasantly surprised when they discover them.
If you would like to try them and can not find a commercial brand in your shops, they are not hard to make. The process just takes a little practice. It is an art that requires some experience and they can not be rushed.

2 cups medium to fine oatmeal
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 teaspoon Pinch of salt
enough hot water to make a stiff dough
Additional oatmeal for kneading

A fine oatmeal can be made by processing old fashioned rolled oats in a food processor for just a few seconds. Put the butter in the water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Mix oatmeal, a pinch of salt, and pinch of baking soda together. When the water has boiled, mix it into the dry ingredients. The dough should be stiff. Roll out on a dough board covered with fine oatmeal a round about one quarter inch thick. You can then cut them into rounds with a biscuit cutter or cut the entire thing into farls, or triangular pieces as you would a pie.

These can be cooked on a cast iron skillet or in the oven on a baking sheet. For the skillet method, lightly grease the skillet and cook at a medium heat until the edges begin to curl a bit, the flip and cook the other side.

Our family prefers the oven method as we tend to make them up several dozen at the time.
Use an cookie sheet, a thick one works best. Cook in a medium oven, 350 degrees, for 30 minutes. If you like them crispy, try cooking them at 325 degrees, then reduce the temperature to around 200 and leave them for another 20 minutes. The oat cakes will not change colour much, just a very slight browning around the edges. You can keep these in a cookie tin. It's hard to say how long they will keep, because around my house, they rarely last longer than a day or two. We have two boys who can eat their weight in them.

They are good with just a touch of butter and a cup of good strong Ulster tea beside them or top them with anything from peanut butter to cheese.

If you have a go at making them remember that oatmeal is different than the more common rolled oats one finds in the New World grocery stores. Fortunately, real oatmeal is available in many of the nicer grocery stores and whole food markets these days. You will find them called Scottish oatmeal or Irish oatmeal and often they are an import product. If you simply can’t find any oatmeal, and have to use rolled oats, be sure to run them through your food processor until you get a meal consistency. That will work and I have done this from time to time when I had no oatmeal in the house. You can also these days mail order bona fide oatmeal via the internet.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Southern Illinois Irish Festival

April 2009 Southern Illinois Irish Festival Features Musical Families

The 13th annual Southern Illinois Irish Festival, coming to Carbondale April 24-26, will showcase musical ensembles with family relations. The two main acts for the Saturday night concert at McLeod Theater on the SIU campus will be a group of four young adult sisters from Scotland called Give Way, and a family of 12 from Nashville, The Willis Clan.

Give Way is made up of the four Johnson sisters from Scotland: Fiona on fiddle, guitar, & whistle; Kirsty on accordion; Mairi on keyboard; and Amy on percussion. They all sing also. Their myspace website says, “The musical diversity of the group encompasses Scottish traditional and folk music, with haunting airs and lively jigs, energetic blends of folk-jazz, vocals, harmonies and bold tunes.” Their website is www.givewaymusic.com. This is one of the top young bands from Scotland, not to be missed!

The Willis Clan consists of Brenda and Toby Willis and their 10 children, all of whom are involved in Irish music and dance. Local whistle maker Michael Burke has heard them perform at other festivals and says “They are right up there with the best Irish bands I have ever heard.” Check their website, www.thewillisclan.com, to learn more about Jessica, Jeremiah, Jennifer, Jeanette, Jackson, Jedidiah, Jasmine, Julie, Jamie, and Joy Anna!

Give Way and The Willis Clan will perform at McLeod Theater on Saturday night, April 25. The Friday night Celtic rock concert will be at Copper Dragon Brewing Co., featuring last year’s surprise crowd favorite from Indianapolis, Mother Grove.

The Friday night acoustic concert will feature acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter-guitarist Gerry O’Beirne, playing at Cousin Andy’s Coffeehouse at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Carbondale.

The Festival’s Celtic Fair will take place at Turley Park throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, with local family band favorite The Bankesters, as well as The Dorians, Blackberry Blossoms, Banjovi, Etherton Switch, Duddy Breeks (Scottish band from St. Louis), and well-known fiddler Dennis Stroughmatt with a presentation on Creole Music from the Illinois Country.

The Celtic Fair days will also feature children’s activities, Highland Games, Celtic merchandise vendors, food and drink, a roving Scottish bagpiper, and much more. Details are available on the festival website, www.silirishfest.org, and will be in the program guide by mid April. Advance concert tickets are available through the Festival website. Call 618-303-3320 for further information.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Ulster Heritage DNA Project Update March 2009

From our humble offices in Wiarton, Ontario, Oxford, Mississippi, and Ballybofey, County Donegal, comes the March 2009 Ulster Heritage DNA Project Update.

The results tables have been updated and are current. Please let me know if you see something that should be moved around. Some very interesting trends and family groups have appeared. Ulster history coming alive in front of us. Even a Son of Adam has appeared, i.e. haplogroup A.

I urge all participants to be proactive in your research. Be aware of geographic patterns in the surnames that are close to your surname in your results, often this reveals much about your family’s history.

One of my pet study projects are the Redshank families, or the Hebridean and Argyll families that settled in Ulster in the 1500s. I’ve noticed several of them in the project. One I noticed recently was several Mac Giolla Eáin families (McLain); they are much welcomed as I was always curious if they were Norse or Gael in ancestry, turns out they are Gael. As always we have many of the old Irish clans appearing in the results and we have had a flood of Scots-Irish families recently join and all are Very Welcomed.

Please note that Jim McKane, of Wiarton, Ontario, our webmaster, has a new Newsletter available and has an Ulster Heritage Forum up and running. The newsletter is an excellent way to stay up to date on news relating to Ulster Family History and research and developments in genetic research. It is highly recommended.

The Forum is where you can post inquires and information on your particular family and field of interest. It has the benefit of having much of the data posted backed up with by DNA testing.

The best way to access the website and online magazine is to Google ‘Ulster Heritage’ or put that into any search engine you favour. Or for those that do not like to type, a link is below.


As our project nears 1,000 members we will be looking for ways to make sure each family has easy access to the all important results tables. The project may just divide into an UHDP I and UHDP II. The division would be by haplogroups, R1b and its many subclades in one section and the remaining Haplogroups in the other. This would allow easy access to the tables even as the project tops 1,000 members.

Lastly, if your genealogy society or history group, Highland Games, Irish Gatherings, etc., would like Jim or I to speak, you can contact us via the website.

Barry R McCain

Friday, 6 March 2009

Dr Brian Trainor and Fintan Mullan to Tour USA

Fintan Mullan and Brian Trainor, two of the better known and most respected experts in the field of Ulster family history, will be doing a tour in the USA in March. Brian and Fintan give an enjoyable and very informative talk, our readers are urged to attend. Brian and Fintan have been known to enjoy a local ale, so go up and introduce yourselves!

Executive Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, Fintan Mullan

Dr Brian Trainor, Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation

Details below:
Dr Brian Trainor and Fintan Mullan will undertake an Irish genealogy lecture tour from 07–17 March 2009. The following dates have been arranged:

Oakland, California, Saturday, 7th March, 9.00am to 4.00pm
Host: California Genealogical Society
Contact: Jane Knowles Lindsey

Seattle, Washington, Sunday, 8th March, 10:30 am – 6:30 pm
Host: Irish Heritage Club and the Seattle Galway Sister City Association
Contact: John F. Keane
Seattle, Washington, Monday, 9th March, 10.15am to 11.45am
Host: The Seattle Public Library, History, Travel & Maps
Contact: John LaMont

Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wednesday, 11th March, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m
Host: Albuquerque Genealogical Society and the Special Collections Library
Contact: Jodie Streit
Santa Barbara, California, Friday, 13th March, 8:30am to 4:00 pm
Host: Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
Contact: Mary E. Hall
Alternative contact: Diane Sylvester
Houston, Texas, Saturday, 14th March, 9.30am to 4.00pm
Host: Clayton Library Friends
Contact: Alice Braud-Jones
Mail to: Clayton Library Friends –Seminar, P. O. Box 271078, Houston, TX 77277-1078
Shreveport, Louisiana, Sunday, 15th March, 1.30pm to 4.30pm
Host: GENCOM, Ark-LA-Tex Genealogical Assn and Friends of Genealogy
Contact: Libby Siskron
Alt Contact: Don Davis
Tel (Libby Siskron) on: 797 8952

Frankin and Williamson County, Tennessee, Monday 16th March, 7.00pm to 8.30pm
Host: The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and Carnton Historic Plantation
Venue: Williamson County Library at 1314 Columbia Avenue, Franklin
Contact: Mary Pearce

Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday, 17th March, 8.15am to 10.30am
Host: Tennessee State Library & Archives
Patrons can also register by telephone by calling 615-741-2764

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Saint Columba Medal

above, the Saint Columba medal

Celtic metal worker and artist, Garth Duncan, who lives on the Isle of Skye, celebrates the Cetlic Saints with the creation of two medallions to honour Saint Columba and Saint Maelrubha. Garth Duncan's work to honour these two great men of Ulster is very welcomed by the many faithful that still hold these two saints in very high regard. Garth has generously offered the proceeds from the sales to go to the local parish on Skye.

Saint Columba, also known as Colm Cille, certainly needs no introduction. He is well known to this day, his popularity is still very strong and even growing in the 21st Century. He is the patron saint of both Ireland and Scotland, patron saint of the Raphoe diocese in Donegal and of Argyll. He is celebrated in both the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faiths. He was born in anno domini 521 in Donegal and was of the royal Uí Neill line. He studied at Moville under Saint Finnian, then in Leinster at the monastery of Clonard. He was ordained before he was twenty-five and spent the next fifteen years of his life in Derry, Durrow, and Kells. He left Ireland in his mid forties for Scotland and eastblished the world famous monastery in Iona. He died on 9 June 597, his feast day celebrated on that day each year.

Saint Maelrubha was born near Derry in anno domini 642. Like Columba, his father also of the royal Uí Neill line and his mother, a nice of Saint Comgal of Bangor, was of the Cruithin tribe native to east Ulster. Saint Maelrubha entered the monastery at Bangor in his youth and moved to Scotland in 671. He eventually settled in Appurcrossan, now known as Applecross, in the west of Ross. In 673 he establish a monastery there that served as his base for his conversion work among the Picts. He lived a very long life, dying on 21 April 722. His feast day in Ireland in on that date and his feast day in Scotland is on 27 August.

Garth Duncan, an American whose father was born in Scotland, began metal work at the age of 15 under the guidance of Navajo silversmith Joe Madrid, in New Mexico, USA. All of his work is hand carved and done in the living Celtic tradition of the craft. He makes no apologies for his romantic ideals and preferences for tradition over modernity. Garth says his guides to his work are those things that are good and fine he finds in the world, in honour and love, which are infused in his work. He credits his great admiration for his ancestors and the love of his children for his life's path in which he ambitiously carries on a living Celtic artistic tradition.

renowned Celtic artist, Garth Duncan