Kennedy: Scots-Irish roots run deep in the South

Country music, stock-car racing, serpent handling and moonshining all flow from the same mother culture.

They are all Southern traditions we owe to the Scots-Irish immigrants who populated the American South more than 200 years ago, according to Irish journalist Karen F. McCarthy.

McCarthy spent months in the South, including several days in Chattanooga, doing research for a new book, "The Other Irish: The Scots-Irish Rascals Who Made America" (Sterling, $25).

The book is illuminating. It suggests that many of our Southern impulses -- "rascals" is an apt word -- are actually linked to the DNA of the estimated 250,000 free-spirited Scots-Irish immigrants who came to America beginning in the 1700s.

McCarthy was in Chattanooga last week as a guest of David Crockett, director of Chattanooga's Office of Sustainability and a central character in a chapter about the frontier tradition of gun ownership in the book.