Friday, 24 December 2010


I always enjoy watching a few western films over the Christas holidays and what better way to start than the old James Stewart classic Shenandoah.

Stewart plays the role of Charlie Anderson, a farmer in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  He finds himself and his family caught up in the middle of the Civil War but decides not to get involved until his youngest son is taken prisoner by Union soldiers.

The story is set in Virginia, which had a large Scotch-Irish population, and the script was written by James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) from North Carolina, another state with a large Scotch-Irish population.  Indeed the Anderson family in the story were probably conceived by the script-writer as a Scotch-Irish family.

The star of the film, James Stewart (1908-1997), was certainly of Ulster-Scots descent and his family can be traced back through the generations to 1785 when William Stewart and his wife Margaret Gettys emigrated from county Antrim to America.

Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne (1907-1979), played the role of James Anderson, one of the boys in the family, and he too was of Ulster-Scots descent.  John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison and in the 1950s he remarked to a reporter that he was 'just a Scotch-Irish little boy'.  His great-great-grandfather Robert Morrison enigrated from county Antrim to America in 1792.

The director was Andrew V McLaglen, who was born in London and was the son of the actor Victor McLaglen (1886-1959).  His grandfather was Rt Rev Andrew McLaglen, a bishop and primus of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England, an obscure denomination with just a few small congregations.

The inclusion of the old folk tune Shenandoah as a recurrent theme throughout the film adds to the enjoyment of a classic western.

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