Wayfaring Strangers

The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia

By Fiona Ritchie, Doug Orr

Foreword by Dolly Parton; Includes a CD with 20 Tracks

Wayfaring Strangers

384 pp., 8.5 x 11, 64 color plates., 60 halftones, 7 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-1822-7
    Published: September 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-1823-4
    Published: September 2014
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6418-7
    Published: August 2021

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Awards & distinctions

A New York Times Bestseller!

2015 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award, Western North Carolina Historical Association

A Fall 2014 Okra Pick: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a steady stream of Scots migrated to Ulster and eventually onward across the Atlantic to resettle in the United States. Many of these Scots-Irish immigrants made their way into the mountains of the southern Appalachian region. They brought with them a wealth of traditional ballads and tunes from the British Isles and Ireland, a carrying stream that merged with sounds and songs of English, German, Welsh, African American, French, and Cherokee origin. Their enduring legacy of music flows today from Appalachia back to Ireland and Scotland and around the globe. In Wayfaring Strangers, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr guide readers on a musical voyage across oceans, linking people and songs through centuries of adaptation and change.

From ancient ballads at the heart of the tradition to instruments that express this dynamic music, Ritchie and Orr chronicle the details of an epic journey. Enriched by the insights of key contributors to the living tradition on both sides of the Atlantic, this abundantly illustrated volume includes a CD featuring 20 songs by musicians profiled in the book, including Dolly Parton, Dougie MacLean, Cara Dillon, John Doyle, Pete Seeger, Sheila Kay Adams, Jean Ritchie, Doc Watson, David Holt, Anais Mitchell, Al Petteway, and Amy White.

About the Authors

Fiona Ritchie is the founder, producer, and host of National Public Radio's The Thistle & Shamrock. She was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2014.
For more information about Fiona Ritchie, visit the Author Page.

Doug Orr is president emeritus of Warren Wilson College, where he founded the Swannanoa Gathering music workshops.
For more information about Doug Orr, visit the Author Page.


“Essential. . . . A gorgeous holiday gift book, including a CD of various artists' renditions of the songs whose origins the authors so beautifully recount.”--New York Times Book Review

“[Ritchie and Orr] strike all the right chords in this pleasantly tuneful survey of the history of the evolution of Scottish music in Appalachia.”--Publishers Weekly

"Nonmusicians will have no trouble appreciating this work's context, and even those well versed in the subject will find new insights here."--Library Journal

"A readable and epic tale tracing the flow of Scottish music. . . . [Ritchie and Orr] tell a story remarkable for its breadth and depth, conveying the drama of Scottish emigration via Ulster to Appalachia, by a people who clung to the music and song they held dear, and bequeathed it to America. It is for us to keep our eyes and ears open to see how this river carries on."--Scottish Life Magazine

"This handsome volume is both a story of a musical evolution and a time capsule that preserves a nearly forgotten era of mountain life."--WNC Magazine

"This book couldn't have been written by anyone without a lifetime of experience and love of the subject and has set a new standard for projects of this nature. They have certainly hit the mark."--The Living Tradition

Multimedia & Links

Be a fan and keep up with book news on the Wayfaring Strangers Facebook Page.

Listen: Fiona and Doug, with live music from Little Windows, on WFAE's Charlotte Talks. (11/12/2014, running time 51:31)