Monday 1 August 2011

29 - Scotch Street, Irish Street & English Street

Scotch Street, Downpatrick, Co. Down

February 08, 2011

Last time I was tellin' ye about the Latin word, 'Scotti', meaning an Irishman!  Well, now, I'm sure you've heard it said that ye should never refer to a Scotsman as 'Scotch' - that's a drink, they say - the correct term is Scots, or Scottish.  Well, that's all very well, but then why do we have several towns in the north of Ireland with an Irish Street and a Scotch Street, eh?

In most towns ye'll have a Main Street and a High Street, a Church Street, Castle Street and mebbe a Railway Street.  But in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone; Armagh City; and Downpatrick, in Co. Down, among others, ye have a Scotch Street.  It's not called Scots Street, or Scottish Street!  Armagh and Downpatrick also have an Irish Street, while Limavady, Co. Londonderry, has an Irish Green Street.  Downpatrick has an English Street, as well - but, to the best of my knowledge, the Welsh never got in the act at all - there's nivver a Welsh Street!

This all dates back to something called the Plantation of Ulster, which has left us with a bit of a legacy - especially in the north of Ireland.  Ulster had always been the most Gaelic part of Ireland, and the most resistant to English rule.  But after years of bitter warfare, the English finally gained control there, too, and the flight of the earls took place in 1607.  The Ulster Gaelic chieftains, Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell and their close supporters, left Ireland by ship to seek help from Spain, which was the superpower of the time.  They were destined never to return.

The English King James confiscated the lands of the rebels, and anyone who had sided with them.  He also wanted to reward his faithful English - and especially Scots - supporters.  So they came up with the idea of the Plantation - or colonisation, really - of the parts of Ulster that had previously been so rebellious.  Planters had to be English-speaking (not Gaelic-speaking) and they had to be Protestant.

In a lot of cases the local Irish population, who'd been deserted by their leaders, were forced off the land they had lived on for centuries, the land given to what they regarded as foreigners - even though the Scots were a related  people - and a lot of bitterness began to build up.  There weren't too many towns back then, and the land was depopulated after all the fighting there'd been.  New towns and garrisons were built, where only English was spoken and English law replaced the Gaelic Brehon Law.  Maybe something in the region of 80,000 settlers, mostly Presbyterians from Scotland, had come to Ulster by the 1630s.  

But in 1641 the local Irish rebelled and attacked the Protestant settlements.  The English reaction to this was severe and there were a lot of atrocities on both sides.  Protestants fled to the new towns for safety.  Added to this mix was Oliver Cromwell and the overthrow of the English king by their Parliament.  The Scottish Presbyterian army brought in to quell the rebellion sided with the king, while other defenders sided with Parliament, so that in the end both Catholic Irish and Scots Presbyterians were the losers and became dominated by Anglican English ascendancy.

Thousand more fled from a famine in Scotland towards the end of the 17th Century, so that Presbyterians became the majority of the Ulster population for the first time - and have been ever since.  As the towns grew, eventually they began to have more of a native Irish - in other words, Catholic - population.  So, you'd have a Presbyterian Scotch Street area, probably in the business part of the town, and maybe a Roman Catholic Irish Street, likely in a poorer district.  English Street would have represented the dominant Anglican seat of power and government.  It's not complicated at all!

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