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Ulster-Scots in the Community

Fiddles, Flutes, Drums and Fifes

Willie Drennan
p. 111-122


Cet article tente d’expiquer comment l’identité culturelle Ulster-Scots est présentée aujourd’hui à travers la musique, la danse et la chanson. Cette identité culturelle puise son origine dans l’histoire et ce contexte historique éclaire la façon dont la renaissance culturelle a évolué depuis la fin du XXe siècle jusqu’à nos jours. L’article fait état des connexions, des influences et des interférences entre cette tradition et d’autres cultures et genres musicaux.

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1The term “Ulster-Scots” became popular in the 1990s as an appropriate way of defining a distinct culture in Ulster. It has been adopted by thousands of people who acknowledge their historic family connection with Scotland and the influence that that has had on people’s cultural identity in the northern part of Ireland. The primary focus is on the influence of 17th century Scottish settlers in Ulster and how the language, religion, music, mind-set and social story have developed since then.

2While this is indeed legitimate and appropriate, it does however fail to address the fact that, since ancient times, people have been moving back and forth across the narrow stretch of water that separates eastern Ulster and western Scotland. There is an exceptionally rich shared history predating the Reformation and the Ulster Plantation which deserves more expression through music and other performing arts. For the purpose of Ulster-Scots music as performed in Ulster today, however, the focus remains firmly fixed on the influence of those Scots who settled in Ulster since the early 17th century.

3Identifying the sources of any body of ethnic music is by no means simple as influences from other movements of people have also to be considered. There can be no doubt that the “native Irish” and the English have also contributed to the development of what we now regard as Ulster-Scots culture and music and we most certainly have to acknowledge the role of the music that went out to North America and came back.

4There are several elements to what fits under the umbrella of “Ulster-Scots” music today. These would include: folk songs, dance music, marching bands, Lambegs and fifes, gospel singing and choral singing.

Folk Songs

5The culture, history and world view of any community is normally portrayed in the songs that tell the story of the people, past and present. It can be challenging in Northern Ireland to distinguish between Ulster-Scots, Irish and British folk songs due to the extent of over-lap, sharing and re-adapting. Crossovers of this sort are completely natural and healthy. The problem only arises when someone deems it necessary to pigeon-hole.

  • 1 See R.J. Gregg, “Muttonburn stream”, Ullans, Issue 4, p. 37. For a recording of thi (...)

6It is possible to identify traditional folk songs that are distinctly Ulster-Scots when the lyrics are in the Ulster-Scots language and/or relate to definitively Ulster-Scots places or people. Examples of such songs could be the ballads of the 19th century Weaver Poets of Antrim and Down or more recent classics such as the early 20th century “Muttonburn Stream1”.

  • 2 It was certainly my personal experience as I grew up in rural County Antrim to hear the wor (...)

7If there are Scottish folk songs that could be argued to be as much Ulster-Scots as Scottish then it would have to be the works of Rabbie Burns. As much as Burns was born, bred and buried in Lowland Scotland, his present-day Ulster-Scots fans will point out that an (admittedly pirated) edition of Burns’ 1786 Poems was published in Belfast in 1787 and generations of people in the north of Ireland have embraced his work ever since2. The same Ulster-Scots will also point out that the narrow stretch of sea that separates eastern Ulster from western Scotland has historically been the central territory of the people rather than a boundary or border.

  • 3 See James Johnson, Robert Burns and Stephen Clarke, The Scots Musical Museum in Six (...)

8The other significance for Ulster was that Burns collected and recorded many tunes and traditional songs for the Scots Musical Museum3. As a result, much of his collection was preserved by singers and musicians in Ulster as well as in Scotland.

9Songs of Ulster that were written in Ulster and sung in Standard English or in Ulster dialect are often embraced by the whole community and quite rightly acknowledged as being both Irish and Ulster-Scots. If there is one song in this genre that should be noted above all others it is the extremely popular Belfast street song, “I’ll Tell My Ma When I Go Home.” While being distinctly Scottish in structure and style, it characterises the mentality, humour and spirit of all things Belfast. In typical Ulster fashion however, “Oul Johnny Murray”, one of the characters in the song, becomes “Oul Johnny Murphy” in certain areas…

10Another genre of note is the extensive collection of “Orange” ballads in Ulster. While these songs are often embraced by Ulster Scots and rejected by people who feel themselves to be Irish, they are of course as Irish as can be. That is to say that they are at least “Irish-English” in the same way that many Irish songs sung in English have much crossover with English song and music. It always comes back to the same point: song, story and music have travelled with the people as they travelled and no so-called “ethnic group” can lay claim to total ownership. In this way, the boundary lines between Ulster-Scots, Irish and English folk songs are blurred to say the least.

Dance Music

  • 4 See, Philip Robinson and Will McAvoy, “Old Time Square Dancing: Keeping Ulster-Scot (...)

11Traditional folk tunes of any culture, when not designed for ballad singing, are normally designed for dancing. Where the Ulster-Scots tradition perhaps differs from the Irish tradition in this respect is that traditionally the fiddle tunes were mostly used for social dancing. It is true that Irish performance dance, as popularised by Riverdance, was practised to some extent in Ulster-Scots areas by the early 20th century, but by far the most common use of fiddle music was for social dancing known as Ulster Country Dance or Old Time Square Dance. According to historic records, for example the 19th century Ordnance Survey Memoirs, this activity was the most common form of socialising in Ulster Scots heartlands4.

  • 5 See Derek Montgomery, “Ulster Country Dance”, The Ulster Folk, Issue 12, p. 5.

12Ulster Country Dance, Irish Set Dance, English Country Dance, Scottish Country Dance, American Square Dance and Contra Dance are of course inter-related. The origins of social dancing on the island of Ireland were closely linked to the social dances of Great Britain which moved around largely as a result of the movement of soldiers and sailors. Popular nineteenth-century dances such as The Quadrille or The Lancers are probably the basis of much of the structured social dances in Ireland today. What is different, however, is that Irish Set Dancing went through a twentieth-century revival and rebranding that gives it its Irish distinctiveness today. On the other hand, Ulster Country Dancing has all but died out as a common practice5. A group of dedicated Old Time Square dancers in Greyabbey, County Down is perhaps the last group to focus on preserving the tradition in its pure form. Derek Montgomery of the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra has also striven to re-introduce the tradition but this has been resisted by the Ulster-Scots Agency as they tend to promote only Scottish Highland and Scottish Country Dance.

13The tunes played by Ulster-Scots fiddlers for the county dances were hornpipes, jigs, reels and polkas in the common format as played in any other part of the British Isles. The only difference that can be detected between Ulster-Scots and Irish fiddle music is in the repertoire and the style performed; even then it is all down to the focus of the individual fiddler. While other instruments may have been used occasionally, the fiddle seems to have been the dominant instrument played for this dance form. Although regional differences could have been more easily detected before the popularisation and homogenisation of Irish music in the 1970’s, such regional variation is now more or less a thing of the past.

  • 6 Michael Robinson, “The Fiddle Music of Donegal”, Fiddler Magazine, Fall issue, 1995.

14The Scottish influence on Ulster fiddle music has always been prominent and in some ways was reintroduced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by the large number of Ulster seasonal workers, known as the tattie howkers (potato diggers), who harvested crops in Ayrshire and Galloway. This included young people from the Gaeltacht region of west Donegal who brought home many Scottish tunes and songs6.

15The other distinct influence on Ulster-Scots fiddle music comes from the interconnection with the Ulster marching band tradition.

Marching Bands

  • 7 The connection between marching bands and Ulster-Scots folk music is indeed very significan (...)
  • 8 There are some Republican marching bands but not on the same scale as in the Loyali (...)

16If there is one aspect of music-making in Ulster that makes it distinct, it is the Ulster phenomenon of marching bands. There is probably no other region in the world that has such a high percentage of its population that are involved in, or have been involved in, the marching band tradition7. The majority of these band musicians would see themselves as being Ulster Scots, or at least view Ulster-Scots as being part of their identity. While the majority of these bands are independent of the Orange Order and other Loyal Orders, this is primarily an Ulster Protestant and Loyalist tradition and there is a close and on-going collaboration between the bands and the lodges which hire them out to provide music on their “parades8”. Flute bands are dominant but there are also accordion bands, and a few brass bands, not to mention pipe bands which of course have their own significance in Ulster-Scots identity and will be dealt with separately.

Lambegs and Fifes

17While the marching bands have this special presence and connection with Ulster-Scots music, the one element that makes this genre truly unique is the massive Lambeg drum and its fife accompaniment. Although, as we have already noted above, Orange and Ulster-Scots are essentially two separate identities, it is essential to include fifing and drumming in any examination of Ulster Scots music.

18The Lambeg is a massive oak-shelled, rope-tensioned, goat-skinned, double-sided drum weighing approximately 40 pounds and measuring around 37 inches in diameter. It is named after the village of Lambeg in County Antrim where it was first demonstrated publicly in the early nineteenth century. There are different theories as to who produced the first Lambeg drum, as we know it today, but it is fair to say that it was developed to perfection between 1820 and 1840, and that the Hewitt family and the Walsh family from the South Antrim and North Armagh area were very much responsible for its creation.

19The Lambeg is played in two distinct ways, first within the context of the parading tradition and second as a competition instrument.

  • 9 The Lambeg was most probably developed within the Orange tradition, but it is important to (...)

20It is primarily recognised as being part of the marching tradition and is still performed in many Orange parades9. However, it does not feature in the exceptionally long Belfast Orange Parade on July 12th as the Lambegs slow everything down too much. It is indeed impossible to walk in normal march time while playing a Lambeg as it is just too large and cumbersome. The fifing tunes and the drum rhythms are slowed down to reflect this and this also enables the drummer to bring in complex triplets which simply get lost when played too fast. Indeed, the fife is really the only instrument suited to accompany the Lambeg. Played in a high octave, the pitch of the fife is such that the tunes can be heard by both drummers and audiences.

21The second context in which the Lambeg drum is to be found is the drumming competition, known as “drumming matches”. These are knock-out contests that are primarily about the drum. The Lambegs are individually paraded in front of judges who stand close to the thundering drums and give scores based on tone, pitch and volume and the essential synchronization of sound from both ends of the drum. It is agreed by all concerned however that it takes a good drummer to get the perfection of sound required to win.

22Originally, these contests were all about the musicianship and physical stamina of the drummer. They were held sometimes in association with cock-fighting and were notorious in the nineteenth century for terminating in mass drunken brawls. Today they are much more civilized and well-organised, but informal and impromptu macho-style stand-offs still take place among the younger drummers.

23These drumming matches, which are organised on a weekly basis from spring through to mid-autumn, remain a unique and memorable experience for visitors not familiar with this tradition.

Bagpipes, pipe-bands and Scottish Dancing

24There is no doubt that the tartan, kilted Scottish pipe-bands are well established as a key part of Ulster-Scots traditional music, but it is worthwhile to understand that this has largely come about from twentieth-century military connections and not as a direct result of the migration of mostly Lowland Scots in the 17th century. It was indeed in the twentieth century that bagpipe playing and pipe-bands became extremely popular in Ulster, as a direct result of the British Army. It is generally accepted that it was when Ulster soldiers came into contact with Scottish regiments, especially during the Second World War, that the pipe-band “craze” developed in Ulster. By the 1950s, Scottish pipe-bands were forming all over Ulster and by the end of the twentieth century it was reckoned – at least in Ulster – that there were more bagpipers per capita in Ulster than there were in Scotland. Whatever the truth of that claim, in recent times Ulster pipe-bands have been consistently well-placed alongside the best of Scottish bands in the championship competitions.

25On the back of the increased popularity of bagpipes and the associated paraphernalia, Scottish County Dancing, and indeed anything to do with tartan and kilts also gained popularity. This led to the development of Scottish Highland Dance in parts of Ulster at the end of the last century. In some areas this now competes with the more established Irish dancing, as a glance in any edition of The Ulster-Scot will confirm.

Gospel and choral singing

26When considering the Ulster-Scots musical tradition it is impossible to ignore the influence of religion, an aspect that will be looked more closely later in relation to contemporary Ulster-Scots identity. Traditionally, Protestant Non-conformism, and in particular Scottish Presbyterianism, has had a strong influence on Ulster-Scots music as we know it. This at least partially explains the great popularity of choral singing in Ulster – if for no other reason than the extensive faith-related repertoires of many choirs, even outside the context of the church. If there is one style of choral singing in Ireland that can be identified as being distinctly Ulster-Scots, it is to be found in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, also referred to as the Covenanters. The Covenanters have retained the old traditional acapella style of singing Metrical Psalms. They use distinct four part harmonies that young people in the church instinctively pick up at a very early age. Apart from the spiritual and religious significance, this is undoubtedly a rich, captivating and unique genre of music shared with the members of the Free Church of Scotland.

27From a more informal perspective, gospel singing in a “folk” style is also something commonly embraced by Ulster-Scots, as is evidenced in the popularity of groups like the Low Country Boys or The Thompson Brothers, who regularly perform to packed audiences10.

The North American connection

28Any account of the roots of Ulster-Scots music would not be complete without addressing the connection of the music that travelled to north America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from the British Isles, before developing, evolving and eventually coming back home.

  • 11 For this representation of the Ulster Scot, see Rory Fitzpatrick, God’s Frontiersmen. The S (...)
  • 12 I have had the pleasure of playing with many Appalachian Oldtime fiddlers, and disc (...)
  • 13 Belfast Sacred Harp currently meet on Sunday nights at Skainos Centre, East Belfast. (...)
  • 14 See “Belfast Sacred Harp”, The Ulster Folk, Issue 9, p. 2.

29In the eighteenth century the mass movement of Ulster-Scots/Scotch-Irish to North America strongly influenced cultural expression in the New World. The Ulster Scots, who had a long history of challenging oppression from the government establishments in both Ulster and Scotland, clearly took their independent spirit and fierce tenacity with them11. These collective traits come out in the passion of Appalachian folk music, dance and Mountain Gospel singing. The old time, Hillbilly, Appalachian fiddle music, with its distinct bagpipe-like drones and double stops, has an indisputable historic Ulster connection12. Given the intensity of these (two-way) transatlantic transfers, it is no coincidence that there should recently have been a revival of interest in American Sacred Harp/Shape Note singing in Belfast13. This four-part harmony choral singing acknowledges strong Ulster roots14.

  • 15 See Willie Drennan, “Canada, The Disregarded Link”, The Ulster Folk, Issue 11, p. 14. (...)

30One last area that to date lacks proper academic exploration is the correlation between Oldtime Canadian fiddle music, Oldtime Appalachian and their roots in the British Isles. Again the fife and drum tradition is particularly strong in Canada and dates back to a period when Ulster Scots were a significant, and perhaps dominant ethnic group in the melting pot of North America. In fact, while they found themselves on opposite sides in the American Revolution, many Canadian Loyalists and American Revolutionaries were from the same Ulster stock: with the same mind-set and spirit that would influence the music of the New World15.

The Ulster Scots Culture and Music of today.

31While the purpose of this essay is to explore Ulster-Scots music, this cannot be presented thoroughly without addressing the wider cultural and political context in Northern Ireland today. Prior to the start of “the troubles”, cultural identity was in many ways a shared thing - with no imminent threat to the status quo, people who would nowadays regard themselves as Ulster Scots simply saw themselves as being Irish and British – the strong Scottish links were simply taken for granted as part of a wider whole. This all changed when Irish identity, particularly in Northern Ireland, was politicised, homogenised and commercialised, but with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British aspects being purposefully ignored, indeed hidden.

32In the musical context, this created the situation where young Protestants and Loyalists saw Irish traditional music as being something that didn’t belong to them. Deprived of any guidance from church or political leaders or educators, they began to regard fiddles, tin whistles, bodhrans, etc. as belonging to what they called “Fenian” music. Of course nothing could have been further from the truth, but with sectarian atrocities escalating, on both sides a whole generation of musicians in many parts of Northern Ireland forsook their fiddles and tin whistles for Orange marching flutes and drums. While this did wonders for the preservation of a rich marching band musical tradition, it contributed strongly to the cementing of perceived cultural identity differences.

  • 16 Miles Krassen, O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, Over 1,000 Fiddle Tunes’, AMSCO Music, 1 (...)

33As a traditional musician who had learned “by ear,” by simply listening to the old folk in my area of North Antrim and in that way learning to play along, I developed an insular notion of what traditional “Irish” music was. There were no formal training lessons; the senior musicians would simply slow the tune down in the middle of informal musical gatherings so that others could pick up the melodies. It wasn’t until I emigrated to Canada and started to play along with traditional musicians who had learned the Irish tunes and style that I realised I was operating in a different zone altogether. People there often said I sounded like a Scottish musician, not Irish, and that the way I played certain tunes was “wrong”: wrong because they had taken their version straight out of the Irish and Scottish Fiddle books such as O’Neill’s Music of Ireland16, and so their version had to be correct. When I would explain, “but that’s the way Joe Mills, Wullie Lorimer and Bertie Templeton played it,” they never seemed impressed and continued to play their “correct way”. I became disillusioned that my style of playing and repertoire of tunes was not incorporated into the now universally adored and “sexy” Irish music genre. I was encouraged to conform in order to fit in, but that’s not something I’m any good at.

34It was around 1991 that I was first approached by Rob and Linda Fisher who wanted to form a Canadian Ulster Scots society. They were interested in exploring the cultural heritage of an exiled community that could trace their lineage back to early eighteenth-century Ulster. Along with other Canadians of Ulster stock, we formed the Ulster Scottish Society of Canada, totally oblivious to the fact that a revival of Ulster Scots identity was emerging in Ulster at the same time. It all made sense to me that a revival of a distinct Ulster-Scots identity was not only necessary but should be very positive in the context of the divisions of Northern Ireland.

35When I returned to Northern Ireland in 1997, the Ulster-Scots movement was taking off and I soon found myself in employment as a sort of an unofficial emissary of Ulster-Scots culture and music. It was frowned upon by many among the great and the good of society who saw it as being a source of further division at a time when Ulster really needed something to heal the divisions. On the contrary, I believed that going down this road was healing and positive. I felt certain that encouraging young Protestants to play music from their tradition would add to their confidence and sense of identity: their lack of understanding of who they actually were obviously exasperated the tensions between the two communities.

36Part of my work, upon returning to Northern Ireland, was to give music and storytelling workshops to groups of children from both Catholic and state schools. When, on occasion, in the Catholic schools, I would ask the children if any of them played a musical instrument, there would be an automatic show of hands and an eagerness to play a tune, sing a song or do an Irish jig. However, the Protestant children in the state schools (de facto largely Protestant) often seemed to be hesitant to put their hands up. In the state primary schools at that time they seldom seemed to learn anything traditional, although many of them would have had a connection with a marching band. This connection was outside of the school system and it was obvious the Protestant children were discouraged from talking about this in school, and certainly not in front of Catholics.

37This was all wrong in every way. It increased the Protestant children’s identity insecurity and suggested to them that there was something wrong with the music they had learned from their parents or the local community. Insecurity is an obvious source of fears and resentment and can produce violence in reaction. This was why the development of teaching and promotion of Ulster-Scots music through music and other art forms seemed so important to me in the aftermath of “the Troubles”.

38It seemed obvious that there was a great need to encourage and facilitate young Ulster Scots to develop performance skills that would allow Ulster-Scots culture to be shared on a world stage. It was vital to develop performance levels to offer opportunities for Ulster-Scots music to be performed beyond church halls and Orange halls. To this end, myself and master musician, John Trotter, formed the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra and developed a Youth Programme.

  • 17 The Fowkgates Collective was formed in 1998 and evolved into the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestr (...)

39In spite of not receiving any direct funding for a number of years, USFO was a huge success: engaging young musicians, performing regular concerts and producing a CD recording at least once a year17. Eventually, we did receive some funding for our Youth Programme from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and later from the Ulster-Scots Agency.

40The Ulster-Scots Agency was set up as part of a North/South Body under the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998. This government body was created as a sop to unionists (cementing the politicisation of Ulster-Scots) and like its counterpart, Foras Na Gaelige, had access to considerable sources of funding. It took the Ulster-Scots Agency quite a few years to get operational but once it did, there was a great increase in Ulster-Scots funded activity.

41The problem with this government agency for Ulster-Scots was that it has been politically controlled and motivated from the start. Unlike Foras na Gaelige, the government employees in administration had their own careers within government foremost in their minds, and playing to their political masters was thus more important than the advancement of a culture. The Agency has failed to gain the respect of many within the broader Ulster-Scots community and has managed to completely alienate large sections of Protestant/Loyalist urban communities, especially in Belfast. Indeed, they have been viewed by many as having what might humorously be referred to as the equivalent of a “Plastic Paddy” approach to Ulster-Scots identity.

42In any case, despite the success of The Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra, and its Youth Programme, all funding was withdrawn from this body as it clearly interfered with the control the government agencies sought to exert.

43The result of the termination of the Youth Programme in 2009 was that a number of young musicians who may well have developed a career for themselves as Ulster-Scots musicians started pursuing other paths which did not include an Ulster Scots frame.

44I am afraid to say at this stage that I would not encourage any young musicians to even contemplate presenting themselves as Ulster-Scots musicians. It’s not only that there are no avenues of scope to pursue. It is that – such has been the politicisation of the identity – successful festivals in Great Britain do not want to give it any recognition. In other words, it would not be prudent for any young musicians, endeavouring to create a career in music for themselves, to be identified with that label in any way.

45There may well be rays of hope in the Republic of Ireland however as there is a growing curiosity in what northern culture is all about. The southerners do not have the hang-ups of those of us in Northern Ireland and seem to have no difficulty embracing Ulster-Scots, Ulster Protestant or Ulster Unionist culture. For the most part, they are genuinely keen to put the problems of our historic past where they should be – in the history books. In 2011 and 2012, along with fellow musicians from an Ulster-Scots background, I was invited to perform “Ulster-Scots” material at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Cavan. The hospitality and response from the massive crowds, especially to the fifes and Lambegs, was tremendous.

46I have also had the pleasure of being a guest Lambeg drummer with the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, not only at the Royal Albert Hall in London but also in Rome to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls. Herein lies much opportunity for music to do what it has done throughout history, throughout the world – bringing people of different, and conflicting backgrounds together.

47In these days of modern communication and global awareness, there are more and more people becoming aware that conflict and division are a direct result of political leaders generating and sustaining division for the prime purpose of advancing their personal power. Hopefully Ulster-Scots music and song, while celebrating a distinct cultural identity, and in spite of government attempts to control it for political purposes, can play some part in fostering cultural awareness and harmony in Ireland and the UK.

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1 See R.J. Gregg, “Muttonburn stream”, Ullans, Issue 4, p. 37. For a recording of this song, see the version sung by Billy Teare, grandson of author, William Hume, available on the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra CD, Bringin it Thegither, 2003.

2 It was certainly my personal experience as I grew up in rural County Antrim to hear the words of Burns being quoted and his songs sung. His classic love songs, and “Auld Lang Syne” of course, were the most common, but as a teenager I discovered many more of his gems. “A Man’s A Man For A’ That” struck a particular chord for me at a time when I was exploring the works of early Bob Dylan. For a recent evaluation of Burns’ impact on Ulster, see Frank Ferguson and Andrew R. Holmes (eds.), Revising Robert Burns and Ulster, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2009.

3 See James Johnson, Robert Burns and Stephen Clarke, The Scots Musical Museum in Six Volumes, Edinburgh, James Johnson, 1839, available at

4 See, Philip Robinson and Will McAvoy, “Old Time Square Dancing: Keeping Ulster-Scots traditional dances alive”, Ullans, Nummer 3, Spring 1995, p. 5-17.

5 See Derek Montgomery, “Ulster Country Dance”, The Ulster Folk, Issue 12, p. 5.

6 Michael Robinson, “The Fiddle Music of Donegal”, Fiddler Magazine, Fall issue, 1995.

7 The connection between marching bands and Ulster-Scots folk music is indeed very significant. My own personal experience is that my first musical instrument was a flute in a marching band. This led me to exploring folk music on guitar, tin whistle, drums and banjo, initially through an uncle, Bertie, who played various instruments in his very own unique style. He introduced me to several old traditional fiddlers and accordion players and that was me hooked on music playing. What was particularly interesting about the many “older” musicians was that the majority of them also had had an involvement in marching bands, or in the Lambeg and fifing tradition. Much of the repertoire was similar to the repertoire of the marching bands, often adapted for dance tunes or simply played in march timing. I suspect that dance tunes were often adapted from the marching bands while the exact reverse of this exchange also happened.

8 There are some Republican marching bands but not on the same scale as in the Loyalist tradition.

9 The Lambeg was most probably developed within the Orange tradition, but it is important to note that it was also a prominent part of the Ancient Order of Hibernians parading from the mid-19th century until the late 1920’s.

10 See, for example: and

11 For this representation of the Ulster Scot, see Rory Fitzpatrick, God’s Frontiersmen. The Scots-Irish Epic, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989.

12 I have had the pleasure of playing with many Appalachian Oldtime fiddlers, and discussing the origins of their tunes and styles with them. I have yet to meet one of these musicians who challenge the dominant Scotch-Irish roots of their music. These connections are still very much alive. In March 2001, along with members of the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra, I participated in the “Roots & Branches” Scots-Irish conference at Emory University, organised by The W.B. Yeats Foundation. In September 2003, along with members of the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra, I gave 12 concerts in Kentucky in conjunction with Morehead State University’s Centre for Traditional Music.

13 Belfast Sacred Harp currently meet on Sunday nights at Skainos Centre, East Belfast.

14 See “Belfast Sacred Harp”, The Ulster Folk, Issue 9, p. 2.

15 See Willie Drennan, “Canada, The Disregarded Link”, The Ulster Folk, Issue 11, p. 14.

16 Miles Krassen, O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, Over 1,000 Fiddle Tunes’, AMSCO Music, 1980.

17 The Fowkgates Collective was formed in 1998 and evolved into the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra Association in existence between 2000 and 2010. Work included over 800 concerts, the creation of stage shows (including Fae Lang Syne, a history of Ulster-Scots, and An Ulster Address to Rabbie Burns), an extensive Youth Programme and the production of 14 CD’s: A Clatter o Fowk, 1999 (fgcd001); Fae Oot o Slemish, 2000 (fgcd002); Planet Ulster, 2001 (fgcd003); Endangered Species, 2002 (fgcd004); Bringin it Thegither, 2003 (fgcd005); Wee Book CD, 2004 (fgcd006); My Aunt Jane, 2004 (fgsd007); A Spade’s a Spade, 2005 (fgcd008); Somme, 2006 (fgcd009); Old Time Fusion, 2007 (fgcd0010); Rhythms of Ulster, 2008 (fgcd0011); Wired up and Plugged in, 2009 (fgcd 0012); Journey to Orion, 2011; Ulster-Scots Top 20 Nearest Hits, 2012; and 2 DVDs: Fae Lang SyneDVD 2003; Slow Doon, 2007.

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Willie Drennan, « Fiddles, Flutes, Drums and Fifes »Études irlandaises, 38-2 | 2013, 111-122.

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Willie Drennan, « Fiddles, Flutes, Drums and Fifes »Études irlandaises [En ligne], 38-2 | 2013, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2015, consulté le 11 août 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Willie Drennan

Traditional musician, writer and storyteller

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