Saturday, 11 February 2012

Rory McIlroy and the US Open

I was writing a short note about Ulster golfer Rory McIlroy and his win at the 2011 US Open when I noticed that the tournament was held at Bethesda in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The name Montgomery struck a note with me because thirteen American states have counties named after General Richard Montgomery (1738-1775), who was born in Dublin into a family of Donegal Ulster-Scots.  His parents were in Dublin at the time of his birth because his father was an Irish MP but the Montgomery family had been in Ulster for four generations.  Richard's great-great-grandfather Rev Alexander Montgomery was prebendary of Doe in county Donegal and died in 1658.  He was brought over to Ulster from Scotland by his kinsman Bishop George Montgomery, another Scot, who was a brother of Sir Hugh Montgomery, one of the founding fathers of the Ulster-Scots. 

General Montgomery was a leader on the American side in the War of Independence and as well as counties that were named after him there are many towns and cities named Montgomery, such as the state capital of Alabama.  President Andrew Jackson, the son of Ulster-Scots parents, said of Montgomery, 'he will ever live in the hearts of his countrymen.'

The names Bethesda also struck a note with me as it is a Bible name and was sometimes used in America as the name of a Presbyterian congregation.  In this case the town of Bethesda was named from Bethesda Presbyterian meeting-house, which was founded in 1820. 

However the Presbyterian congregation can be traced back to 1723 and the ministry of Rev Hugh Conn, who was born in Magilligan, county Londonderry, in 1685.  He was a graduate of Glasgow University, which he entered in 1707 as Scoto-Hibernus.  Conn sailed for America in 1714 and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in October 1715.  He was a founding father of the Presbyterian Church in America and a colonial proprietor of Washington, DC.

This is just a simple example of the depth of the Ulster-Scots influence in America and in 2013 the US Open will be at a location in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

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