Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 17, 2014

We’re Arash

We're Black Irish too

We’re Black Irish too

St. Patrick’s Day 2014

My late Uncle Dudley recalled often how his Grandmother, Florence Ellen Maley Bowden (1855-1944), said, “We’re Arash.”  That’s West Tennessean for “Irish”.  She was born in Tennessee.  Her ancestors, most likely, came in the Scot-Irish wave from 1700-1760.  Need to run that down someday.  Yet, 4 or so generations in America and she still knew what she was – and what her descendants needed to remember.  She was Irish and life was family, family, family.

I never saw my G-Grandmother, but I sure grew up with her.  She was the matriarch for our clan of Scot-Irish Maley-Bowdens.  We don’t know the ethnic origins of her husband, Jimmy Bowden.  We think we know when his ancestors show up in Virginia and why, but not from whence.  And, we know he was a ‘rake’.  Their family – about 300 of us living today – has an annual reunion in Tipton County, Tennessee.

So, while she said we are Arash, my Daddy, James Albert Bowden (1919-1980), said we’re Scotch-Irish or Scots-Irish.  (And, on his Mother’s side, the Tillmans were all Scot.)  Daddy also said we wear Orange on St. Patrick’s Day.  I thought he was so stupid when I heard this at age 8.  Later, I figured out how smart he was.

Daddy said, “We’re Black Irish.”  He didn’t add any explanation – just like he never said more about the wearing of the orange.

Black Irish has many meanings.  None are definitive.  Daddy fit the descriptive explanation.  He had coal black hair, green eyes and very pale white skin.

Our family fit another of the meanings – it was the derogatory term given to the Protestant Scot-Irish in Ulster.  That’d be us.

No clue if we have blood lines back to the Picts, the Normans or Spanish Armada – to fit other explanations of Black Irish.  (However, my Mother’s Highland Scot ancestry likely includes Armada survivors.)

While we’re limited on facts passed down as oral history – other than our claims to be Black Irish and obligation to wear Orange – we get the cultural heritage.   Devout Christian faith – Bible-based discipleship to Lord Jesus Christ.  A willingness to fight when duty calls.  Sometimes, just a willingness for a good fight.  Independence.  Fierce pride.  Stubbornness – we define it, look for our name and pictures in the dictionary.  Love of laughter and good stories.  And, mostly family.

Family, family, family.

My Daddy would have beamed with pink-faced Irish pride to see all 8 of his grandchildren at my wife’s burial.  He would have laughed – and cried.  Yeah, he was a sentimental man – despite the tough bluster.  He would have done a lot of hugging and kissing.  He would have had a cup or two of good Tennessee cheer.  Maybe he would have sung Danny Boy or When Irish Eyes Are Smiling – two of the very few songs I heard him sing on his own.

He would have mourned with me – as only a man who loved his wife as passionately as he did could.

Yeah, we’re Arash.

Scot-Irish and Southern is put together like a ham biscuit

Scot-Irish and Southern is put together like a ham biscuit

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