Friday, 14 August 2009

John Wayne, Scots-Irish Icon

In one interview in the early 1950's John Wayne described himself as 'just a Scotch-Irish little boy.' John Wayne, or as he was known before his fame, Marion Morrison, was born in Winterset, Iowa. His family emigrated from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1799. The Morrison family, like so many families in Counties Antrim and Donegal, were of Hebridean ancestry and the Morrisons were Scottish Gaels that came to Antrim from the outer Hebrides. His immigrant ancestor was Robert Morrison born in 1782, son of John Morrison. The Morrison family were active in the United Irishmen movement and their decision to emigrate was brought about by a British warrant issued for the arrest of Robert Morrison.

Robert Morrison and his mother arrived in New York City, in 1799. Like so many Scots-Irish the Morrison family had a tradition of being strong willed, opinionated, and carried a well developed sense of right and wrong. Like so many Ulster settlers the Morrisons pulled up stakes many times and followed the frontier west. The first wave of Ulster settlers headed west and south and people the Southern Uplands and the hill country of Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Morrison were part of a second wave of Scots-Irish that moved along the rivers west into Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Iowa. They became the Mid West Scots-Irish.

John Wayne is arguably the most famous and most successful actor in history, quite an accomplishment for a Scots-Irish boy from Winterset, Iowa. He was a complex man, his family very Presbyterian, yet John Wayne often described himself as a 'cardiac Catholic.' He lived his life as a Christian with noticeable Presbyterian focus and drive, yet his wife Pilar was Roman Catholic, as were all his children. John Wayne himself converted to the Catholic Church officially just days before he passed away.

John and Pilar Wayne

John Wayne's childhood home in Winterset, Iowa


John Wayne Museum in Winterset, Iowa


mlmuckian said...

Hi Barry

The blog is referring all the time to the Scots-Irish. What do you call the other half of Ulster's population? Are we the Irish Irish?

Michael L Muckian

Barry R McCain said...

mlmuckian, mo chara,

Good comment and illustrates well how odd nomenclature can be. As a fellow from the Diaspora I must admit it gets a little odd always having to qualify of whom I speak... nach dtuigeann túsa, ach níl a fhios agam cad é a dheanamh fá an rud... of late the many Scots-Irish post are driven my email traffic and requests for more posts on the topic. Ach, cuir chugam sceal ar na Eireannaigh-Éireannaigh agus beidh sé sa UH Mag cinnte! We are always hunting for interesting topics, you input very welcomed.

Mise le meas mór,


Anonymous said...

It's amazing what you can do on the internet with a google Irish translator. nice post Mimuckian enjoyed your comment. Does not surprise me that John Wayne was of Scots highland descent if he had been of Scots lowland descent he would have been a totally different personality an uptight presbyterian bigot with an inveterate hatred poof anything Irish, which John Wayne himself doesn't seem to have had.

Larry Morgan said...

So the duke was Scots/Irish or Ulster/Scots as they prefer to call themselves these days. And of highland descent also, which doesn't surprise me he seemed to have a generally friendly disposition. It's amazing how little us southern Irish know about the history of the Scots/Irish and the influence they had on the history of the USA especially the early history of it's foundation. We tend to concentrate on people like the Kennedys and Irish regiments in the American army. The Scots/Irish had a few presidents of note and played a big part in the War of Independence. Come to think of it they live join the same island and wee still know f/a about them and visa versa.

Barry R McCain said...

As I work with Ulster history and Ulster DNA results, it is amazing how many Ulster folk are of West Highland and Hebridean ancestry. My own family in that mix, they came from mid Argyll to east Donegal with Iníon Dubh and company. It is a very interesting aspect of Ulster history certainly, and much understudied.

Larry Morgan said...

True, the McDonalds of Antrim being a good example. They had a big influence on the history of the whole island during the 16th and 17th centuries and had alliances with the native chieftains of Ulster.