Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"The South's Scots-Irish Strike Again" - Duck Dynasty in the Washington Times


Richard G Williams Jr. of the Old Virginia Blog published the above-titled article a few days ago, based on one which appeared in the Washington Times on Boxing Day (see here). We love Duck Dynasty in our family, as do my brother's family, and many of our friends and neighbours as well. I put a short clip on the blog here back in March 2013. Since then the Robertson family of West Monroe, Louisiana, have more or less filled our Sky+ box (for U.S. readers, that's TiVo) and episodes are watched many times over.

I have not heard or read the Robertsons claim to be of Scots-Irish/Scotch-Irish descent, but a number of commentators say they are. Phil Robertson's autobiography says that his grandfather was Judge Euan Robertson of Vivian, Louisiana.

In an episode we watched recently, Jase Robertson confronted his posh neighbours (who objected to him burning the piles of dry leaves he'd raked up in his garden) by quoting the US Constitution and said that if his inalienable rights were to be suppressed he would have to move to "Scotland or China" - maybe the comment was about distance rather than places where pyrotechnic freedom would be assured.

There are lots of things to love about Duck Dynasty. Maybe some folk watch to feel superior and to laugh at the (multi-millionaire) redneck country folk with their rural ways which blend camouflage print and Jesus. But I think to really get the genius of Duck Dynasty, you have to be from the country yourself. My parents' generation was one without running water in the house, when the pig killer came round to slaughter one of your own animals in your own yard, when people ate what they could grow or barter, when family stuck together and worked together and fought together.

In our own context, Ulster-Scots heritage makes far more sense to country folk than it does to city dwellers. There are of course very important echoes in the city - and Ulster-Scots industry, entrepreneurial flair and philanthropy largely built Belfast and Londonderry anyway, never mind the market towns and villages across Ulster, and further south to the likes of Dundalk - but Ulster-Scots heritage is still best found among what W.G. Lyttle described in his intro to Humorous Readings by Robin (1880) as '... plain country workin men ...'.  And anyway, his alter-ego - Rabin Gordon of fictional Ballycuddy, shown below - looks like a Robertson himself.


Here are the Robertsons, intimately filmed as part of the 'I Am Second' project

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