From Highlanders to Tar-Heels: Part 1

The Virtual Gael

The Scottish Gaelic Immigrant Community of the Cape Fear

(The following blog entry is a summary of a talk about the Scottish Gaelic immigrant community of the Cape Fear of the Carolinas during the eighteenth century, delivered as a public lecture at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, on Sept 15, 2014.)

Some of the circumstances and general facts surrounding the large-scale migration of Scottish Highlanders to the Cape Fear region of the Carolinas in the eighteenth century are well researched and widely understood, despite the very poor and complete record of migrants: the North Carolina Colonial council granted tax breaks to foreign Protestants for the first ten years of settlement to encourage the “desired type of immigrant” and a group of about 350 Gaels from Argyllshire formed the first colony in 1739. There was very little further migration until the 1760s. Between 1768 and 1774 economic and political pressures…

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Which Roderick?

Which Roderick?
At 11pm on the 10 August 1867 John McKinnon took his fist breaths, his cries carried on the clear, cold air over Direcleit, Harris. John was the first-born of Anne Kerr and her husband Alex McKinnon, who came from Scalpay which was where the couple had lived since their wedding on 18 December 1866. The birth was registered by a cousin, Roderick Kerr of Strond, Harris who signed the register with ‘his mark’, an upright cross.
Now, there are two possible candidates for the informant for at that time there was Roderick Kerr, the Post Runner in Strond and also Roderick Kerr the Fisherman in An t-Ob, which today is called Leverburgh.
I am a little confused because a couple of years later Roderick the postie witnessed the marriage of Roderick the fisher, but seemingly with a signature rather than a simple cross. However, Roderick the fisher, who certainly never learnt to write and would have had to sign the register with a cross, wasn’t a resident of Strond at the time of John McKinnon’s birth.
Which Roderick was it? Well, the post runner was Anne’s cousin and the fisherman was her nephew, and therefore John McKinnon’s cousin so, although it surprises me slightly that there’s a hint here that Strond’s postman couldn’t write, it looks as if it could have been either of them who registered the birth of their first Scalpaich relation!
More on the two Roderick’s here:
Plus a wee snippet giving something of a flavour of the time:
Note on spellings: I have shown those used on the birth certificate in case others wish to look that document up online.