Before the Games: Maryville College’s Scottish roots go waaaay back
By Karen B. Eldridge (email@example.com)
Scottish clan members attending the Smoky Mountain Highland Games on the Maryville College campus this weekend should feel very comfortable under all the “Go Scots!” signage hung along the athletic fields and the orange and garnet tartan that MC students, faculty and staff, alumni and administrators will likely sport.
The College’s ties to Scotland go waaaaaay back.
But to trace Maryville College’s roots to that region in the north of Great Britain, one would have to go back centuries — further back than 1819, when Presbyterian minister Isaac Anderson founded the Southern and Western Theological Seminary (as the College was known from 1819 until 1842).
One would have to go further back than the 18th century, when Anderson’s ancestors left the British Isles for the American colonies.
Maryville College’s Scottish roots actually precede the 17th century, according to Dr. Ronald Wells, author, international lecturer and director of the Maryville Symposium on Faith and the Liberal Arts. Wells has, with president emeritus Dr. Gerald W. Gibson, researched the origins of Isaac Anderson.
Scot, by way of Ireland
“Maryville College celebrates a Scottish heritage, but that heritage is filtered through Ireland,” Wells explained in a recent interview. “If Isaac Anderson were asked about his lineage, he likely would have answered ‘Irish.’”
Anderson was born on May 26, 1780, in Rockbridge County, Va., the son of William Anderson and Nancy McCampbell Anderson. Anderson’s great-grandparents were present at the siege of Londonderry, the 105-day siege in 1688 against the Protestant stronghold in northern Ireland by deposed British King James II.
Londonderry was considered the crown of the Plantation of Ulster, an area of about half a million acres across northern Ireland. The plantation was actually a colony settled by loyal English and Scottish migrants who were Protestant. It was the brainchild of James I, who had unsuccessfully tried to conquer the area (which was largely Gaelic and therefore, Catholic) and bring it under British control. It was from the Ulster region that many American colonists came after 1660, when persecution of Protestants began.
“‘Scotch-Irish’ and ‘Scots-Irish’ are terms that are American inventions,” Wells said, explaining that the descendents of Scottish and Irish Protestant immigrants who came to the United States prior to the 19th century (such as Isaac Anderson’s ancestors) coined the term to distinguish themselves from the droves of Irish Catholics who immigrated to the U.S. as a result of the potato famine of the 1840s.
“It’s an interesting and contested history,” Wells said, referring to the historic mixing of the Irish, English and Scottish.
Today, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. Ulster, one of the four provinces of Ireland, encompasses nine counties, six of which make up Northern Ireland.
Many in the province refer to themselves as “Ulster-Scot,” a modern term to distinguish and celebrate those Irish of Scottish descent, Wells said.
It is the Presbyterian identity of the College that is its strongest connection to the British Isles, Wells argues. In addition to Isaac Anderson, several of the College’s earliest administrators and faculty members were Presbyterians of Scots-Irish descent. In addition to Anderson and McCampbell, the history contains these surnames: McCracken, McTeer, McLean, McGinley, Duncan, Crawford, Craig and Buchanan — names still present this part of the country.
However, that link to the church isn’t exactly a straight line to Scotland.
“Presbyterianism in the United States has a stronger connection to the Synod of Ulster than the Synod of Edinburgh,” Wells pointed out. “Francis Makemie is considered to be the founding father of Presbyterianism here, and he was born in County Donegal, Ireland — the same county from which some of Isaac Anderson’s family hailed.”
But no conversation about the history of Presbyterianism can take place without considering the work of Scottish clergyman John Knox and his contributions to education in the 1500s.
In an address entitled “Our Scottish Heritage” that he delivered for Convocation back in 2001, then-President Gibson shared that the education offered at Maryville College had a strong Scottish imprint on it.
“The movement that John Knox began in 16th-century Scotland was taken by committed Presbyterians through the North of Ireland and across the Atlantic and down the Great Wagon Trail from Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley and into the mountains of Tennessee. John Knox believed that both the public good and the good of the church depended on having educated citizens,” he said in the address. “That’s why the Presbyterians established schools in every parish in Scotland and why we have 67 Presbyterian colleges in America today. It is also why Maryville College came into being and is here today.”
Scotland on display
In addition to Presbyterianism, the heritage that the northern Irish and Scottish share seems to include a passion for liberty, a love of God and man, a “No Surrender” spirit and an appreciation for self-reliance.
It’s a culture that is easily embraced by athletes who compete for the College. Bagpipers often lead Maryville teams onto fields of competition, and pre-game rituals sometimes include listening to battle cries of 13th century Scottish hero William Wallace from the 1995 movie “Braveheart.”
In 1915, a Scottish highlander was introduced as the College’s first mascot. For reasons not entirely known, “Scots” and “Fighting Scots” replaced “Highlanders” in the mid 20th century. Also in 1915, the campus newspaper took on the name The Highland Echo. This title is still in the nameplate.
The College has an official tartan that was authorized and approved by the Scottish Tartans Authority and registered in the International Tartan Index in 2006. Utilizing the college’s official colors, the design features prominent orange squares outlined in light gray on a field of rich garnet. Less prominent black lines intersect the orange.
The official tartan is woven in Forfar, Scotland, and merchandise made from it is sold in the College’s bookstore. Elements of the tartan are incorporated into the designs of the College’s athletic identity, as well.
MC appropriate host
Because of the College’s Scottish and Irish heritage, Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart said it is appropriate that the Highland Games be held on the campus.
“Maryville College is very excited to be working with the Smoky Mountain Highland Games, the City of Maryville and the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau to host the Games on our campus this year,” he said. “We believe that the Games, the College and the entire community will benefit from the publicity, media exposure and boost in tourism.
“We also believe that this is a terrific opportunity for so many people of this region to learn more about their origins and culture.”