Saturday, August 11, 2018

An account of Scotch-Irish Women Psalm singers in the Carolinas, 1760s: 'The women sing as well or better than the Girls at the Magdalene Chapel, London'


Michael Scoggins’ book The Scotch-Irish Influence on Country Music in the Carolinas’ was one of the first on my list of summer reading. I have dipped into it a few times over the years but had never read it cover to cover. It is excellent, and I plan to post a few things here from it - but you really should get a copy for your own library.

Rev Charles Woodmason (1720–1789) frankly despised the Scotch-Irish. He was an Episcopalian from England, sent to frontier South Carolina. His intention was to limit the spread of 'backcountry revivalism’ which many scholars say fed into the 'Regulator Rebellion’ and Battle of Alamance, of which Rev David Caldwell was a key figure - I have mentioned him and his wife Rachel here in previous posts.

Here is Woodmason's account of Scotch-Irish women, a combined group of Baptists and Presbyterians:

‘On the 31 (Sunday) I gave service to about 400 people among whom a great number of Baptists and Presbyterians… excellent singing. The women sing as well or better than the Girls at the Magdalene Chapel, London – they all come from Virginia and Pennsylvania – not an English person or Carolinian among them’.

Woodmason’s famous quote – 'a set of the most lowest vilest crew breathing Scotch Irish Presbyterians from the North of Ireland’ – needs to be borne in mind here. To have given such praise to to singing of a people he had no time for speaks volumes.

37584495 10156710222992878 7491968040054030336 o