It’s true what they say about everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. And it’s especially true here in Upper East Tennessee, where the Celtic heritage of the region’s early Scots/Irish settlers is still treasured.
Many of the Scots/Irish immigrants to America eventually found their way to frontier settlements along the Watauga, Nolichucky and Holston rivers where the lay of the land reminded them of the Northern Ireland they left behind. David Crockett, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson where among those with Scots/Irish ancestry who have called this region home.
The Scots/Irish culture has left a lasting imprint on the music and dance of the Appalachian Mountains. Bluegrass can be traced to the traditional music of Scotland and Ireland.
The fiddle replaced the bagpipe of the highlands once the music reached North America. And clogging, a traditional mountain dance, is rooted in Celtic folk dance.
The mountains of Upper East Tennessee and Western North Carolina also share a history for storytelling, passing down “jack tales” and other legends whose origins can be traced back to the Celtic lands. Even some of the dialects spoken in the Appalachians can be traced back to Gaelic and Elizabethan English.
The Scots-Irish were very self-reliant and independent-minded, and these were no doubt the traits that brought many Scots/Irish settlers to the Watauga settlement here in Upper East Tennessee.
The British Crown had forbidden American colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. That edict did not stop the stubborn Scots/Irish from defying King George and putting down deep roots in the land of the Cherokee.
Yes, many parades will be held across the country today celebrating the Irish. Here in the Upstate, you can say we proudly celebrate our Scots/Irish heritage every day of the year.