17 March 2010

When Irish Eyes are Smiling


Happy St. Patrick's Day

  Ireland is a magical place in the minds of those whose heritage reaches back in time to the Emerald Isle. 
My roots go back to Northern Ireland ~ Ulster. 


 It was to this northern tip of the island that  the king of England sent Lowland Scots to settle and convert the Catholic population to Protestantism. These folks remained in the northeast corner and the rest of the country remained loyal to the Pope. We call them the Scots-Irish.

I can trace part of my family tree to a young woman named Elisabeth Murray who came to America in the 1740's. She came as an indentured servant to a family in Philadelphia and then was "sold" to another family. 
The story goes that she met young Patrick Coyle aboard ship who was also coming as an indentured servant. They fell in love and the end result was that he took her remaining years upon himself so that they could be married. 
Romantic, isn't it?

They moved to North Carolina and their descendents ended up with Daniel Boone on the Wilderness Trail in Kentucky.  
These ancestors of mine have their names engraved upon a monument at Fort Boonesborough, Kentucky. 

The fort has been rebuilt and I have been to the small cabin that is placed where theirs stood. Their surname was Azbill or Estill, as there is still confusion whether these are the same family or not.  
Along the way before this point in time, there was a Cherokee princess who  married a Dutch settler and had a baby girl. This angered one of the Cherokee braves who loved the Chief's daughter and he murdered them. The little girl was left alive and returned to her grandfather, the Chief. She was sent to live with Patrick and Elisabeth's married daughter.  When she grew up, she married one of their sons ....these are the line who went to Kentucky.


I have always loved things Irish.....and Scottish......I am red -haired and green-eyed. 
I love the music from Appalachia....fiddle music.  That stands to reason because my Irish ancestors settled in Appalachia and then Kentucky and then many moved north into southern Indiana. There are many people around me boasting  similar Scots-Irish heritage. I have heard many superstitions over the years...things that my grandma told me that my great grandmother would say and do.  I have found that these have their roots in Scotland.

I found a book on the superstitions and traditions of Scotland. It was very interesting. It had all sorts of things that we still do today. Things like bringing a housewarming gift, saving a child's first tooth, first haircut, throwing rice at a wedding. Phrases we say, such as "tying the knot" also come from these traditions and superstitions. 

There was a very real fear of "faeries". You brought the housewarming gift to keep the faeries away. You buried the tooth and the hair to keep the faeries from stealing the baby and replacing it with a faery imposter known as a changeling.  I remember being told not to raise my arms over my head while I was pregnant because it would cause the cord to go around the baby's neck. I couldn't figure out how to hang clothes on the line unless I stood on a ladder and figured I'd take my chances with my arms raised.  

All of these things are interesting to me.


The strong Presbyterian background of the Ulster Scots has also influenced my life so many generations removed. 
They had a strong work ethic and often thought in black and white only. If you can sort out the superstition from the true faith, you end up with folks who care about others, want to share the gospel with others and support missions. 

I have the pleasure of knowing two such people who came to the USA from Ulster. They have been instrumental in spreading the gospel in Mexico. They are wonderful people and love the Lord. It amazes me how they have not lost any of their Irish accent in over the 50 years they have lived here. 
I always wonder if we are related, but I cannot trace Elisabeth and Patrick to their original families in Ireland. 
They were poor, not prominent. 
Maybe someday....

Saint Patrick, of course, was not protestant, but he was a missionary to the druid people who worshipped the creation instead of the creator. I found a free audio story about him at Storynory.  Natasha at Storynory tells kids the story of  St. Patrick and has some interesting legends about him that are little known.


So today in honor of those who have gone before us......
to those who have given us a "goodly heritage"
...I wear the green of Ireland and will listen to some Irish music.  

I will think about those who gave up home to forge a new life in America. 
Those, who through hard work, prayer and by the grace of God came before me and whose blood runs through my veins and 
I wonder if anyone will look back to my place in time some 250 years hence.

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.



* a special note as I was re-formatting the old posts on my blog- I have discovered that many facts and names of the "old family story" are incorrect.  I have documented those parts that are true. And it seems that my forebears do hale from the Highlands of Scotland as well as Ulster.  Lizzy Murray and Patrick Coyle did not come to America on the same ship.  I can't say when they met or when they fell in love, but I do know they were both Indentured and sold. I know they moved to North Carolina and then Lizzy went to Kentucky.  They did not end up at Fort Boonesborough with Daniel Boone, but they did end up in the beautiful area around Berea, KY.  



photos of Ireland by Janet Teitsort
To read more about the Ulster Scots click here.

To watch a moving dramatization of what it was like to be an indentured servant from Ireland click here and then here.

To learn about Fort Boonesborough click here.

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