6 great and lesser-known Scots Americans

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, whose family hailed from the Scottish Borders. PIC:Wikicommons
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, whose family hailed from the Scottish Borders. PIC:Wikicommons
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The Scottish roots of millions of Americans have woven into every level of US society since the arrival of the first emigrant ship from across the Atlantic.

From the Hebridean origins of President Donald Trump to men like Andrew Carnegie, a pioneer of industry, philanthropy and learning, Scotland has made its mark stateside in many ways.

Here, to coincide with the annual New York Tartan Day Parade on Saturday, we look at six great Americans whose Scottish roots are perhaps lesser known - but whose impact is still felt the world over.

Actress Julianne Moore recently sought dual-citizenship to honour her mother's roots. PIC: Getty.

Actress Julianne Moore recently sought dual-citizenship to honour her mother's roots. PIC: Getty.

Neil Armstrong - astronaut

In 1972, less than three years after his historic moon landing, Neil Armstrong was piped into Langholm in the Scottish Borders to receive the freedom of the town.

READ MORE: The Scots who built New York

Armstrong’s father’s ancestors were traced to the area with the family moving to County Fermanagh in the early 17th Century during the Plantation of Ulster.

American singers Johnny Cash and Andy Williams in Fife for a concert at Falkland Palace  in October 1981 which was staged after Cash discovered his Scottish roots. PIC : TSPL.

American singers Johnny Cash and Andy Williams in Fife for a concert at Falkland Palace in October 1981 which was staged after Cash discovered his Scottish roots. PIC : TSPL.

Around 8,000 people lined the street to see Armstrong arriving in Langholm by horse and carriage ahead of the ceremony, to which he wore an Armstrong kilt.

During the service, he said: “The most difficult place to be recognised is in one’s home town. From today, I consider this to be my home town.”

A piper from the Borders was invited to play at a Washington memorial service for the astronaut, who was born on a farm in Ohio, following his death in August 2012.

Malcolm Forbes - magazine editor and publisher

His name is ever associated with the American motor car, but David Buick, from Arbroath, died in relative poverty in Detroit. PIC: Wikimedia.

His name is ever associated with the American motor car, but David Buick, from Arbroath, died in relative poverty in Detroit. PIC: Wikimedia.

The late owner of Forbes Magazine was a by-word for New York extravagance with his lavish parties, private jet - called Capitalist Tool- art collection and a fleet of Harley-Davidson motorbikes.

Malcolm Forbes’ high life was far removed from his family’s origins in the sleepy village of New Deer in Aberdeenshire, where his father Bertie Charles, son of a shopkeeper and tailor, was born.

READ MORE: The Scottish diaspora and how it spread across the world

After attending Dundee University and writing for a local newspaper, Bertie emigrated to New York in 1904 and founded Forbes in 1917.

Malcolm took over the publication following his father’s death and rose to become one of the richest men in the United States.

A long-standing member of the St Andrew’s Society of New York, Malcolm, who died in 1990, loved to express his Scottish roots in a very billionaire’s fashion. He is said to have traded in his 126ft yacht - called Highlander IV - because its ashtrays were full.

In 1987, he threw a party for more than 1,000 people at his Far Hills Estates in Jersey. Guests reportedly ate one tonne of Scottish salmon and were entertained by 140 pipers marching on the lawn amid blasts of artificial mist.

Woodrow Wilson- President of the United States (1913-1921)

Best known for his negotiations at Versailles following the end of WWI, Woodrow Wilson’s grandfather - Thomas - was born in Paisley in 1793.

Thomas graduated from Glasgow University in 1819 before marrying his first wife Marian Willamson, from Glasgow, the following year. He became a church minister.

The couple settled in Ohio in 1838.

The couple’s eldest daughter, Janet, gave birth to a son - Woodrow - in Staunton, Virginia, in 1856. His father was the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson

President Wilson is said to have found pride in his “Scottish conscience” and his firm Calvinist beliefs.

He observed a strict neutrality on the Great War but activities of German U-boats, particularly the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 which killed 128 Americans, pushed his position.

On April 2,1917, he asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.

Following the Armistice. Wilson went to Paris to try to build an enduring peace. He later presented to the Senate the Versailles Treaty, containing the Covenant of the League of Nations, and asked, “Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world?”

However, America refused to join the forerunner of the United Nations. Wilson travelled across the United States to drum up support but political career ended suddenly on September 26 1919 when he suffered a stroke. He remained an invalid for the rest of his life and died in 1924.

Johnny Cash - musician

Johnny Cash was born in Arkansas and died in Tennessee but held a deep affection for a small village 4000 miles across the Atlantic in Fife.

The singer was a regular visitor to Falkland following a chance discovery that his family name was indelibly linked to the rural community and the neighbouring settlement of Strathmiglo.

His surname can be traced back to the time of Malcolm IV, King of Scots in the mid-12th century. Records at Falkland Palace show that a William Cash sailed from Scotland to Salem, Massachusetts, with a boatload of pilgrims in 1612.

Place names such as Easter Cash, Cash Feus, Wester Cash and Cash Mills farm can still be found around Falkland.

Such was Johnny’s fascination with the land of his forefathers he even arranged to play a special televised concert at Falkland Palace in 1981.

Julianne Moore - Oscar-winning actress

Moore’s mother, Anne, emigrated from Greenock to America in 1950 and the actress sought dual citizenship to honour her mother’s memory following her death in 2009.

Her father, Peter, was a paratrooper in the United States army during the Vietnam War with her mother, a social worker and psychologist, giving up her own passport to help her husband meet military rules on spouses.

Moore said she remembered clearly her mother returning home holding the American flag. Moore was seven at the time.

She said: “I’ll never forget it. It broke my heart. And so… you know…when they changed the rules, I wanted to do this for my mother. She would have loved it.”

David Dunbar Buick - motor car designer

Possibly one of the sadder tales of Scots who emigrated to the Land of the Free.

Buick was born at 26 Green Street, Arbroath, and emigrated to Detroit when he was just two years old with Buick Motor Company to become one of the biggest names in the history of the US automobile industry.

Buick started working life as a plumber and devised a way to bond porcelain enamel with cast iron fixtures. He may well have settled on making his fortune in this domain but Buick was fascinated with the emerging automobile. By 1900, he had switched all focus to the motor car.

By 1902 he had developed the first successful valve-in-head engine and the Buick Manufacturing Company was set up to sell the new model.

The Buick Motor Company was then created as he ran into financial difficulties but it was ultimately sold to recover losses.

By 1906, despite motor car sales, a bitter split with his business partners forced him out the company.

His final shares were sold for $100,000 but it is estimated that his stock would have grown to at least $10m in just two years when Buick company was acquired by General Motor.

Buick tried unsuccessfully to get several other projects off the ground. He took several low paying jobs and became an inspector at Detroit School of Trades.

He died in relative poverty - unable to afford a telephone, let alone a motor car.