This year marks the 300th anniversary of the first great wave of Scots-Irish migration to the United States, and over the next 12 months, several towns in Northern Ireland and the U.S. will be celebrating. In Aghadowey, County Derry, the Ulster History Circle will unveil a blue plaque to honor Reverend James McGregor and those that followed him to New England. In the U.S., Londonderry, New Hampshire, will celebrate the Scots-Irish’s settlement and the establishment of their town, originally named Nutfield.
During the early 1700s, Scots-Irish Presbyterians were not allowed by law to hold office or conduct civil ceremonies such as marriages and funerals. The combination of few employment opportunities, little religious tolerance, and recent bad harvests led the Scots-Irish to the New World. Under the guidance of Reverend James McGregor (above), close to 500 Scots-Irish left to settle in the promised land of New England. (McGregor is the great, great, great, great-grandfather of former Secretary of State John Kerry.)
Upon arriving in Boston Harbor, McGregor and his congregation were not welcomed by the Puritans and were left to establish their own settlements in the hinterlands. In addition to Londonderry, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians went on to become influential founding members of major New England hubs like Worcester, Massachusetts, and Casco Bay, Maine, which are also planning commemorations for the coming year. ♦ Dave Lewis