Johnny Cash had a voice that rumbled as deep as bone and songs that secured his reputation as one of the greats of country music. Now, seven years after his death, his final album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave, will be released on 26 February – which would have been his 78th birthday. But while his millions of fans may have believed Cash to be an all-American outlaw, the man himself was obsessed with his Scottish roots.
The unlikely tale begins in the late 1970s when Cash was returning to the United States and found himself seated next to Major Michael Crichton-Stuart, hereditary keeper of Falkland Palace in the Kingdom of Fife on the east side of Scotland. Cash mentioned that he had heard that his family originated in Scotland. Crichton-Stuart told the singer that he knew this to be the case since there were farms and streets in Fife that still bore the Cash name.
Inspired by the chance meeting on the plane, Cash visited a genealogist and discovered that he was of Scottish descent and that his clan had originated around the 12th century in the Strathmiglo area of Fife. The connection was traced back to when the niece of Malcolm IV (1153-1165) – who was named Cash or Cashel – married the Earl of Fife. The first American Cash connection came in 1612 when mariner William Cash sailed from Scotland to Salem, Massachusetts, with a boatload of pilgrims.
What may to others have appeared a tenuous Celtic connection was for the country star something altogether more profound and meaningful. The shared roots of country music and Celtic music inspired Cash to visit Scotland and he travelled to Fife at least three times – most notably in 1981 when he recorded a Christmas special for US television.
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