Johnny Cash’s Celtic Ancestry

One remarkable thing about Scotland is the impact its people have had on the world – it’s utterly disproportionate to the country’s size.

Considering this enduring global influence, one might be so bold as to suggest that everyone and everything in the world is connected to Scotland – just like in the popular “six degrees of separation” theory, that says we can all be linked in half a dozen steps.

When American singer songwriter Johnny Cash traced his ancestry, he was amazed to discover that it led back to Scotland – and had royal connections.

Born in Arkansas in 1932, Johnny Cash learned guitar as a child and began writing songs aged 12, influenced by country, gospel and Irish music.

After a chance meeting with the hereditary keeper of Fife’s Falkland Palace on a flight in the 1970s, Cash was inspired to dig deeper into his genealogy.

Cash traced his roots all the way to the 12th-century King Malcolm IV

He traced his roots all the way to the 12th-century King Malcolm IV, learning that the first Cash to come to America had been William, who sailed to Salem in 1612 with the pilgrims.

Cash and daughter Rosanne made several trips to Fife, enjoying a sense of home among the locals. His discovery made such an impression on him that in later years, when he checked into a hospital, he would give his name as Malcolm instead of Johnny.

Even Cash’s music style has echoes of his ancestral homeland of Scotland. Country music has roots in Scottish and Celtic folk music, and gospel music harkens back to the Gaelic psalm singing of the Scottish islands.

Cash wasn’t the only famous American to delight in his Scottish roots. We trace former US President Ronald Reagan’s links to Scotland and discover that a current Hollywood actress is proud of her Scottish heritage. But more of that later…