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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 1995

Letter to the Editor

November 14, 1979

Mr. John Madigan
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Mr. Madigan:

I listened to your pitch this morning re the visit of Prime Minister Lynch in which you advised us that one-third of the forces in the Revolutionary War (American side) were Irish. Also that 10 U. S. Presidents were Irish.

Please don’t perpetuate this old myth Mr. Madigan. The Irish you speak of were almost entirely Ulster Scots Presbyterians with virtually nothing in common with the Catholic Irish. They have never gotten along together and would destroy each other today. Many of the Ulster Scots were there only a few years before moving on to America in the 18th Century.

For your information, the Catholic Irish didn’t start arriving in this country in any numbers until the potato famine in the mid-1800s. The historian Morrison said that at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, 12 Roman Catholic priests served the small Catholic population.

In the TV show “The Last Convertible” shown about six weeks ago, an Irishman, when told that there were nine Irish U. S. Presidents, responded that there was only one and he was John Kennedy. Then he added, “You aren’t Irish if you aren’t Catholic.”

He wasn’t about to accept the Scots-descended Presbyterians as Irish which is not uncommon among the Irish today. Only one Catholic signed the Declaration of Independence, yet Wally Phillips hands out the same myth at St. Patrick’s Day that it was signed by 10 Irishmen. The 10 were Scots and 8 of those were Ulster Scots. Using the term Scotch-Irish (a term unknown outside the U.S.) is worse because the average American doesn’t know what you are talking about.

You and Wally can get away with this fiction because the average American is pretty dumb about most things. But you and Wally are in responsible positions and should not take advantage of the naiveté of the public.


James C. Thomson

cc: Wally Phillips

(James C. Thomson was President of the Illinois St. Andrew Society in 1979 and is a recognized Scottish historian. He researched and wrote the 227 plaques that hang in the Scottish-American Hall of Fame at the Scottish Home. Mr. Thomson died on December 20, 1994.)

Douglas Drive

In Chicago, Douglas Drive is 3500 South and runs from 735 East. Stephen Arnold Douglas (1813-1861) was a U.S. Senator from Illinois and was the Democrats’ pre-Civil War leader and his rival for the presidency was Abraham Lincoln. His greatest achievement for Chicago was to push through the Illinois Central Railroad bill, which was a map for the railroad between Chicago and Mobile, Alabama.

In 1852 Douglas purchased seventy acres of land along Lake Michigan between 33rd and 35th Street and laid out two communities known as Groveland Park and Woodland Park. Groveland Park was a small, elegant South Side community which developed after the Civil War. In 1900, the Scottish Home began on property which was once owned by Douglas.

George Anderson, who was President of the St. Andrew Society in 1852, lived and died on Groveland Avenue.

“Amazing Grace”

John Newton, a deserter from the Royal Navy rose to become the captain of a slave ship. Bound for America, his ship loaded with slaves, he experienced a religious conversion. Turning his ship around, he returned to Africa where his suffering human cargo was freed. Inspired by his conversion, he wrote Amazing Grace. Ordained by the Church of England, Newton ministered for 28 years, denouncing from the pulpit the trade by which he had once lived.

More information on John Newton and Amazing Grace is available at Anointed Links.

Robert Hepburn Sim
*Someone You Should Know*

Robert Hepburn Sim was born in 1895 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. In 1912, he joined the Fourth Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders and served in France throughout WWI. While recuperating from his wounds suffered at the Battle of Ypres, he met the King’s Piper, Henry Forysthe. He had been interested in piping as a child and served as pipe major of the Convalescent Camp in Buchy, France. After the war he was invited to become the King’s Piper, but declined the offer.

In 1920 he came to Chicago and, like so many other Scots, found employment at Quaker Oats. Almost immediately he set about forming a pipe band. In 1926 the band became affiliated with the Stock Yards’ American Legion Post #333, thereby becoming the first pipe band in American Legion history. For many years it was the official pipe band of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.

Robert Sim was a great teacher, and several of his students still live in the Chicago area.

Bob Sim and his wife Margaret had no children; the band was their family and their home was always open to friend or stranger. Margaret Sim later become a resident of the Scottish Home. Bob Sim died on October 7, 1963, and is buried in the family plot at Cedar Park cemetery.

A younger brother, James Shepherd Sim, also came to Chicago in 1920 and became the leading drummer in the Stockyards Band. His son, James Irvin Sim, became a drummer at the age of six and played with the band for over forty years. His son, James S. Sim, named after his grandfather, is now the leading drummer of the Midlothian Pipe Band.

On September 14, 1994, the Chicago City Council adopted a resolution honoring the Sim family. It says, in part, "the Sim family name has grown over the past five decades to be synonymous with bagpipe music throughout the City of Chicago...Be it resolved that the Mayor and members of the City Council...do hereby extend to the Sim family our heartiest congratulations and sincerest appreciation for over 50 years of traditional Scottish bagpipe music."

On October 25, 1976, the stockyards, along with the Saddle and Sirloin Club, were to be destroyed. After 56 years the Stockyard Kiltie Band would be without a home. (The band now practices at the American Legion Post in Evergreen Park.)

A street has now been named for Robert H. Sim. Exchange Avenue, which was the main street through the Stone Gate to the stockyards, is now Robert Sim Drive. All that is left are memories.

Who knows about Stirling Calder, the sculptor? A newspaper article sent in by Dr. John Nettles indicates that he did monuments to Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford and Rosa Ponselle. The article goes on to say that “He is also represented by the statue of George Washington on the northern face of the arch at Washington Square.” Anyone know the location of these sculptures?

Newt Gingrich was born Newton McPherson. Is the Speaker of the House of Scottish descent?

Bonnie Blair, the most gifted female athlete in U. S. Olympic history, is retiring. Is she of Scottish ancestry? According to the Chicago Tribune her boyfriend is David Cruickshank. That is certainly an ancient Scottish name. We also wonder about the new Miss America, Heather Whitestone. Anyone know?

On a cold wintry day in 1869, Andrew Hallidie, a Scottish immigrant, witnessed an accident involving a horse. Four years later he invented something called “Hallidie’s Folly.” His invention is still being used today and is extremely important to one American city. Who knows the answer?

Have you heard about the Scotsman who never smoked cigarettes with his gloves on?
He hated the smell of burning leather.

Have you heard about the Scotsman who threw caution to the winds?
He gave the canary another seed.

John Paul Jones

The United States Navy recently commissioned another ship in honor of John Paul Jones. Since the Revolutionary War five ships have been named after America’s first great sea fighter.

Few men have led such a tumultuous, swashbuckling life at sea. Born John Paul in Kircudbrightshire, Scotland, on July 6, 1747, he was destined to receive special honor citations by Congress and Louis XVI of France.

At the age of twelve, he sailed to Virginia as a cabin boy where he visited his brother, William, in Fredricksburg. John Paul soon moved from first mate to master to Captain... then he killed the ringleader of a mutinous crew on a voyage to Tobago. Dropping out of sight to avoid the British admiralty, he emerged with a new name, John Paul Jones.

Joining the fledgling U. S. Navy, he was soon disrupting British shipping from Nova Scotia to the Bermudas. He extended his raids to the British Isles and once landed his men on the English coast near his birthplace in Scotland.

Commanding the Bon Homme Richard, Jones intercepted a British convoy guarded by HMS Serapis. In perhaps the best known and bloodiest engagement of the war - nearly 600 were killed or wounded - he lost his ship, but boarded and captured the Serapis.

After the war he joined the Russian Navy as a rear admiral and fought the Turks. He later returned to France embittered by Russian politics. His health failed and he died July 18, 1792. John Paul was buried in an unmarked grave.

More than a century later, a U. S. flotilla of destroyers was sent to France to return his body to America. He is buried in a magnificent tomb of marble beneath the domed chapel of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Read his biography at Naval History

1904 Steam Yacht

The Medea was built for William Macalister Hall of Torrisale Castle, Scotland, by Stephen of Linthouse. She was launched on August 29, 1904. The yacht was built of steel, decked with imported teak and finished inside with quarter-sawn English oak.

Macalister Hall was a wealthy landowner and British army officer who used the Medea for social functions and hunting trips around the isles and lochs of Western Scotland. The Medea saw extensive use during both World Wars. In 1971, she was purchased by Paul Whittier who restored her and then donated the yacht to the San Diego Maritime Museum.

The Star of India, an 1863 sailing ship, is also located in San Diego. She was launched at Ramsey, Isle of Man, on November 14, 1863, as one of the earliest iron-hulled ships to be built. A tour of the ship gives one an insight into the difficulties of travel for Scottish people as they migrated around the world. A working ship, the Star of India is the oldest iron sailing ship in existence.

The Fiery Cross
March, 1930

It may please those who love the pipes to know, and surprise Biblical students to learn, that the Journal of Biblical Literature proves that the music the elder brother in the story of “The Prodigal Son” heard as he approached the house was the bagpipes.

The word used in the Greek Testament is Symphona. This is an Aramaic loan word used in Daniel and is properly translated bagpipe. In the western church “bagpipe” was the prevalent translation as late as the fifth century, and the reading of the verse was, “Now his elder brother was in the field, and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard bagpipe and dancing.” Some critics say this is the reason he would “not go in.”


Gordon Crombie supplied information about Bobby Thomson. He is alive and well, living in Watchung, NJ. Gordon is a collector of baseball autographs and has a signed picture of Bobby Thomson. Gordon also knew about Mr. & Mrs. Graham Massey, who now live in Atlanta. Thanks, Gordon, for all the information.

George R. Smith of Ocala, FL, sent a brochure advertising the Mississippi Queen. Three of the river cruises in 1995 are called “All-American Baseball Cruises.” Guess who will be aboard signing autographs? None other than Glasgow-born Bobby Thomson. Mr. Thomson was a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1958 and 1959.

Concerning Robert Burns we heard from: Robert O. Patterson, Neil Henderson, and Betty Priest. Thanks for writing.

Whatever happened to Laurie Johnson, Heather Queen in 1967? She is a Registered Nurse, mother of twins, and lives in Highland Park. Her mother, Mrs. Harold Drummond of Ladysmith, WI supplied the information. This family was known as the Drummond Family Singers and often appeared at the Anniversary Dinners. Dr. Drummond died in 1993, after an illustrious career.

Someone apparently took a copy of our last Newsletter to the Georgia Historical Society Library in Savannah, Georgia. As a result we received a very nice letter from Eileen Ielmini, who is an archivist at the library. She sent all of the interesting information about the beginnings of golf in Savannah.

We have recently spoken to Sam Harrod of Eureka, IL, and sent copies of the information from the Savannah Historical Library to him. If anyone else would like copies of this information about the beginnings of golf, please let us know.

Silicon Glen

Business is booming in Scotland’s “Silicon Glen,” a 70-mile-wide corridor between Glasgow and Edinburgh, says U. S. News of October 24, 1994. “More personal computers and workstations are produced here per worker than anywhere else in the world, and over 450 electronic companies have plants in the area.” The area began to develop during World War II, when British companies moved there to escape German bombings. In 1950 IBM moved to the region, and today over half the companies are American. Motorola has just announced that “it will invest $375 million in a Scottish expansion program.”

Thanks to: Donald McLeod, Addison, IL

Dr. Ian W. Taylor

Dr. Ian W. Taylor of Wheeling, IL, holds a perfect attendance record of 36 years for monthly Lions Club meetings. He has attended international club meetings in 57 different countries. He recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Ontario Veterinary College Association. In 1994 he was named Wheeling’s Centennial Historian for getting the old village hall on Milwaukee Avenue preserved as a museum. Dr. Taylor is a life member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.

From the Editor...

This issue marks the completion of our first year which means that many of you need to renew your subscription. Slightly over 500 people responded last year to help with the postage. We did not keep a record so we do not know when your subscription expires. We will leave that to your records. I do want to thank everyone for their help. There has been an amazing response from all over the country.

The cost of printing each issue is about $400. If any printer in the Chicago area could help us reduce this amount, it would be greatly appreciated. At present the Illinois St. Andrew Society has kindly consented to cover the deficit. Since we use the mailing list of the Illinois St. Andrew Society, each mailing is almost three thousand copies.

We owe a special debt to Ian Lisk and Margaret Laing for their expertise in editing our publication. Thanks!

Two of our readers knew about the Big Woods Cemetery near Batavia, IL and the final resting place of David McKee. Thanks to Charles Stamm and Robert McNamara. Full details will be in our next issue. The History Club will visit the Cemetery on April 8. If you would like to attend, please call the Scottish Home.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546