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Letters to the editor

Tom McCalden

America is a nation of immigrants. Many of these new citizens of the U.S. came in the 18th and 19th centuries from Ireland. Most were Catholic Irish who are now largely identified as originating in Dublin and the southern Irish Republic. However, more than 250,000 came from the northern Irish province of Ulster and were Scots-Irish originally “planted” from Scotland to work for the English landowners. These Scots-Irish Presbyterians are today largely concentrated in the six counties of Ulster that form the separate British province of Northern Ireland.In the eyes of many Americans, the contributions of these Ulster men and women are largely unknown. For example, several years ago the museum at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, had a small exhibit of the flags of other nations involved in the fight against the Mexican army of Santa Anna. In recognition of the contributions of the Irish-American volunteers led by David Crockett, the tricolor flag of the present day Irish Republic was displayed. Nothing could have been more inappropriate. Indeed, instead of defending against Santa Anna, many Irish Catholics joined forces with the Mexican general to form his San Patricio battalion to fight against the U.S. Davy Crockett was born in East Tennessee and was the great grandson of Joseph Lewis Crockett, who moved to Pennsylvania from the north of Ireland at the beginning of the 18th century. Joe Crockett was just one of many members of the clan who migrated to the U.S. at that time. The clan settled throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri. They made a significant contribution to development of the young nation with Davy progressing from the militia to the Tennessee Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Thus, the more appropriate flag for the Alamo would have been the flag of northern Irish province of Ulster, the ancestral home of the Crocketts.Another figure from the Texas battles with Mexico was Sam Houston. Like Crockett, Houston was a third-generation Ulster-American born in Virginia. He grew up in Tennessee and became a significant figure in politics and the militia. Perhaps his most famous exploit was the battle of San Jacinto, in which he routed Santa Anna’s army that had most recently sacked the Alamo, killing Crockett and the Tennessee Volunteers.Presidents Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKiney, Theordore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and both George Bush Sr. and G.W. all have family ties with Ulster. However, my favorite Ulster-American story has to be the tale of the Mellon family from Omagh. In 1818, they sold the family farm and moved to Philadelphia. The family became very successful as bankers and businessmen, resulting in the current Mellon Bank empire. More recently the Mellon brothers reconnected with their Ulster roots and returned to reacquire their old farm. They then identified, purchased and physically moved to the farm many buildings throughout Ulster that had an American significance (much like Williamsburg, Va). One exhibit is a reconstructed Belfast harbor where visitors can climb aboard a sailing ship to land on the other side in a Philadelphia street. You can find out more at http://www.folkpark.comThe error made at the Alamo museum by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas was in automatically connecting the word Irish with the Catholic Irish, who have made such a positive contribution to the political and cultural development of many large cities across the U.S. As North America celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day, please be aware of the many Scots-Irish who have similarly affected our history. As a recent immigrant (in 1978), I am proud of my heritage and hopeful that I make a contribution in keeping with the history of my forebears.Tom McCaldenWolcottVail, Colorado


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