In the nineteenth century, it was common for the Irish to first settle in Scotland, and then move elsewhere. You can see the coast of Scotland from the Antrim Highway in Northern Ireland. Yes, it’s close. Although there was back and forth between the Presbyterians or seasonal workers of Ulster and Scotland, large scale immigration occurred during the Potato Famine. In 1841, before the famine there were 126,000 Irish born and in 1851, after the famine there were 207,366 Irish born in Scotland.
The Irish concentrated in the urban areas of Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Coatbridge and Greenock. This included both Catholic and Protestant Irish. Concerning Catholics, while there were Catholic chapels in Scotland which survived the Reformation, they remained small and quiet. The influx of the Irish into these areas changed the very nature of Scottish Catholicism. In an odd twist, it was among the Protestant Irish in Scotland that Mormon missionaries had great success, thus initiating a further move to the American West of its members.
We often think of immigration from Scotland to Ulster in the 1600s as creating what we have come to define as the Scots-Irish. However, think of the descendants of these
immigrants to Ulster returning to Scotland some 150-200 years later. So while the Scots-Irish may have had the same shared DNA as their distant relatives in Scotland, 200 years later, they had a different culture and worldview.
From Scotland, immigrants often continued their journey worldwide. Many stayed, and it was their children and grandchildren who continued the journey to greener pastures. It’s a fascinating story, with so many odd twists and turns, that it’s sometimes hard to keep straight. However, this particular migration out of Ireland to Scotland, whether it was a stopover or not was an important piece of Irish immigration history.