Thursday, 14 February 2013

'God's Frontiersmen - The Scots-Irish Epic'

In 1988 Channel 4 (UK) in co-operation with Ulster Television produced a four episode mini-series and accompanying book entitled 'God's Frontiersmen - The Scots-Irish Epic' by Rory Fitzpatrick.  The TV production was part drama, part documentary exploring the Ulster-Scot journey from Scotland to Ulster and then for many, onto America. The series containing around 3.5 hours of video was released on VHS in 1989 and possibly on DVD a little later. Both the book and the video are worth trying to track down for anyone interested in Scots-Irish / Ulster-Scot history.

the hardback book

Presented below are a series of clips from TV series plotting part of that journey.... Thanks to YouTube user BickyBox for uploading these clips!

Clip 1
The introduction to 'God's Frontiersmen'. This opening clip looks at an infamous section of the Anglo-Scots border communities who comprised part of the plantation settlers in Ulster; The riding families or Border Reivers.

This clip, set in Ulster around 1604 - 1610 introduces us to some of the typical characters that would have been part of the early settlements.

Clip 3
Having been in Ulster for around 100 years the Scots settlers (now Ulster-Scots) were now enduring famines, increasing rents and other economic hardships. Also, since the death of king William III of Orange they were once again suffering religious persecution. The colonies in America offered cheap land and religious freedom but getting there wasn't so easy. Many had to sell themselves into indentured servitude (basically slavery) for a number of years.

Clip 4
Ulster-Scots were suffering under the penal laws in the early 1700's. Many Presbyterian ministers encouraged and in some cases led their their flocks to seek a new life in America. Many decided they would go. They faced a harrowing journey though, not all would make it.

Clip 5
Having survived a perilous 14 week sea crossing to the American colonies and then most having endured at least four years of indentured slavery to pay for that crossing, the next step for the Ulster-Scots was to head for the frontier wilderness in search of cheap or free land. They cleared the trees in the thick forests, built a homestead and ploughed a field, just like their forefathers had done 100 years previously in Ulster.

The tune that is being whistled by the character in clips 4 & 5 is called Lilliburlero and was a very popular song with followers of William of Orange in Ireland around the time of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and remained a popular tune among Ulster-Scots ever since. You can hear a recorded version of the tune by clicking the link on the Play button below...

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