Why Scotsmen are Irish

Kilmore Free Press – 31 January 1929

Why Scotsmen are Irish

There have been many complaints lately of the immigration of Irishmen into Scotland. Dean Inge in England has echoed the Scottish complaint, and has warned his countrymen of the danger of admitting “low-grade Irish” into Great Britain. It is all the more important that Scotsmen and Englishmen should be reminded, as Sir George Macdonald has reminded them at the British association, that the original Scottish race was composed of Irishmen who left their country for their adopted country’s good.

It is to their Irish ancestry that the Scots of the present day owe all their most striking characteristics. It is to this that they owe that thriftiness—that understanding of the value of a penny, and even of a halfpenny—which has made Aberdeen one of the famous cities of the earth. It has been customary for centuries past to regard the Irishman as a genial wastrel who spends his income at the rate of thirty shillings in the pound—a reckless but forgivable spendthrift—but the truth of the matter is that the real Irishman is so careful of his money that it took quite a long time to persuade him to trust it to a bank, and that it as a number of reckless Englishmen who invaded the country in the capacity of landlords who first gave him the example and the reputation of expenditure.

I do not blame the English for this, but merely point out as a historical fact that, just as it was the Irish who imported the national habit of thrift into Scotland, so it was the English who imported the habit of wastefulness into Ireland.

Nor is thrift the only virtue the Irish imported into Scotland. They also carried with them into Scotland their love of hard work, and left behind them a tradition of hard work which has survived in certain parts of Scotland till the present day. The Irishman, unlike the Englishman, has always believed that work in natural to a human being. The Englishman, rightly or wrongly, has always regarded it as the curse of Adam, and men of English blood all the world over have played a leading part in making the hours of work as short as possible. I do not say that you will never meet a lazy Irishman, but I do say that, if you meet him, you should make it your business to inquire whether somewhere in his family tree, however remote, there may not have been an Englishman.

Scotland also owes to Ireland its name which only means “land of the Irish.” It owes its music and its bagpipes, and the very name of whisky, which is only a mispronunciation of the Irish word for “water.” It would be almost impossible, indeed, to name a single Scottish institution, except, perhaps, the haggis, which was not originally imported from Ireland.

Even what most people regard at the characteristic Scottish seriousness is something inherited from the original Irish inhabitants of the country. Englishmen nowadays maintain that neither the Scots nor the Irish have a real sense of humor, and though I do not agree with this, I do not agree that, compared with the Scots and Irish, the English are a lighthearted, frivolous race.

I have mentioned only a few of the things the Scots owe to their Irish ancestors. I have mentioned enough, however, I hope to show that a Scotsman is only an Irishman with a queer way of pronouncing English.


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