Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A-Z Challenge - I is for Initials, Scotch-Irish, and Iris Dement

The Appalachian mountains were settled mostly by the Scotch-Irish. This term is a totally American confection because most of the immigrants were not from Scotland. They were Protestants transplanted from England and Wales to the Ulster plantation in Ireland during the 17th century. When they immigrated to America in the colonial era, many made their way inland from the coast to Appalachia. It was during the surge of Irish immigration after the Irish Famine in the 1840's that the earlier immigrants took to calling themselves Scotch-Irish (to distinguish themselves from the newer arrivals.) People around here still call themselves Scotch-Irish.

But rather than argue semantics, let's talk about what they did bring. Music and language. Old ballads and old English still find their way into the local dialect. (See the letter "H"). One of the stories I love is that a prayer said under a beech tree goes straight to God. We have an enormous beech tree on our property.
And on it are a pair of carved initials. The letters are so worn they're not distinguishable anymore. I often wonder, did these lovers say a prayer under the tree to make their relationship last?

A great movie about the tradition of music in the Appalachian Mountains is Songcatcher, a drama about a musicologist sent to record the old ballads. The soundtrack of this movie is incredible. In the spirit of the Scotch-Irish sent journeying from their homes I give you one of my favorites, Pretty Saro, as sung by Iris Dement. Enjoy!
(Unfortunately Youtube wouldn't let me imbed this one - but it's worth the watch, such a beautiful song)

So tell me a story about the initials above, what do you think they say?


  1. I am amazed at the similarities between your area of the world and mine. They're so different, and yet the story is much the same. It really is fascinating.

    I don't think I could come up with a better story than yours for those initials.

  2. This is crazy - last night I was having trouble sleeping and I was trying to do that whole distract-my-mind thing by thinking about anything BUT not being able to sleep.

    One of the things that popped into my head was that movie, Songcatcher, but I couldn't think of the name. I also, in my confused, hazy state, kept getting scenes from it mixed up with "Get Low" with Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall. I couldn't remember that title, either.

    So I went to look up movie names this morn and there was one already on your blog - crazy how things work out!

  3. Huh, never heard of Scotch-Irish. Fascinating that people still use it today. :D

  4. Hmm, looks like maybe "E.B." and "K.B."??
    I imagine you opening your door one day to find a darling white haired couple picnicking under your tree, on their, let's say... 60th anniversary.

    And my great grandfather used to say he was Scotch-Irish, though there was a lot of English in there. Makes sense, with that explanation.

  5. I love that tradition of saying a prayer under the beech tree... such a romantic gesture! And how cool that this tree, with all its history, is right on your property. I hope the couples who carved their initials in it have led happy, loving lives!

  6. I just...I really loved this post. I love it when I learn something interesting, something that I can let tumble around in my mind and when the time is right, turn into a wildly romantic tale.

  7. The Appalachian sound pretty interesting.

  8. Lily Cate has great eyes!

    I have seen just a smidgeon of the Songcatcher through Netflix. Awesome movie, have meant to re-boot it! I will check out the site.

  9. I love that Lily Cate - though my dogs would probably scare them half to death!

    Thanks all for stopping by today.

  10. Ok - not sure what the letters say - but how interesting about the Scotch-Irish. The Blankenship side of my family has always been described as Scotch-Irish. On our ancestor's immigration record, his country of origin is "Scotland-Ireland." He immigrated before the Revolutionary war, so before the 1800 famines. I wonder what that means!

  11. I really am loving these beautiful posts about this completely unique culture right inside my own country! Thanks again for lovely bit of information.


Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'