My research into the Redshank settlements in Ireland began innocently enough, through research into my own McCain family history. The McCain family is originally from mid Argyll, from the parishes of Glassary Kilmichael and Kilmartin. They were a fixture there from the early 1400s to the late 1500s. At some point post 1570 they migrated to east Donegal to the area known as the Laggan. They show up in the written records in 1630 around St Johnston. They, in time, became part of the general 'Ulster Scot' community there, but they were not stereotypical Planter stock, in that they were Highland Gaels. As I researched their history I also uncovered the story of many families that moved from mid Argyll to the St Johnston area during the mid to late 1500s.
There were two areas in Ulster where Redshanks settled in large numbers, in east Donegal as mentioned, and also in north Antrim. Over the years I have located primary sources that mention them and there is also new data coming from the DNA testing results, that provide a good basic history of the Ulster Redshank families. For various reasons, the history of Scottish Highlanders that migrated to Ulster, has not been written about much by historians. These reason involve Irish cultural politics, the general marginalisation of Gaelic history in general, and just basic lack of interest in perhaps what is seen by some as a minor aspect of Ulster history when compared to the grand themes there starting with the Elizabethan attempts at conquest of Ulster to the tumultuous 17th Century events of Plantation and epic wars.
The Redshanks are usually mention only in passing in histories as summer warriors that travelled from Argyll to Ulster to serve in the armies of various Irish Gaelic lords, and then who returned back to Scotland at the end of the campaign season. However, by the mid 1500s, some Redshanks began to settle in communities in Ulster.
Most Redshanks were typical Scottish Gaels, but some were from the Scottish Lowlands, usually from Ayrshire and Gallowayshire. The Crawfords of Ayrshire and example of a Lowland Redshank family that settled in numbers in east Donegal in 1570.
Future post will provide the basic history of the Redshank families, including surnames, points of origin in Scotland, where they settled in Ireland, and where that are found today in the Diaspora.