How blood will always bind us to those who have gone before

On other pages of this website I have expressed sentiments that almost amount to incredulity, in respect of those who gush with so much enthusiasm for certain families and clans, and their modern day societies or associations. 

This is particularly true with regard to those living in America, who are today the real driving force behind the societies and associations and are giving them a real shot in the arm. In fact, if it were not for eager American participation, many associations and societies would be in danger of being nothing more than self-selective social clubs for the professional middle classes of the UK.

The reason for my aforementioned incredulity has been the fact that many of these modern day enthusiasts forebears washed up in the new world due to the greed, incompetence and sheer inhumanity of certain family heidsmen and clan chiefs of old. 

Even today, some of the direct descendents of the improvers and evictors who brought so much pain upon the Highlanders, still seem to be in denial of what took place. They seem to want to try and gloss it over with platitudes and fluff and ignore it, as if one could ignore an elephant in the middle of ones lounge.

I have sometimes wondered just how deeply some potential new members of clan associations have looked into their origins and the reasons for why they grew up in America and not in their ancestral land of Scotland? Additionally, there can also often be an incredible amount of ignorance with regard to historical truths.

Those of Scots descent sporting good Border surnames such as, Armstrong, Graham, Kerr or Scott tend to clad themselves in tartan and dance to the drone of the bagpipes, seemingly totally unaware that the people of the Borders did not wear plaid or play the bagpipes, those were Highland traditions. Yet when confronted with those facts, they can become coolly unreceptive and hostile, as if one were attacking their very right to a ‘real’ Scottish heritage.

Border tartans are a fairly recent innovation, mostly invented by the very talented, so-called, Sobieski-Stuart brothers in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, clan tartans, bagpipes, haggis and shortbread have all become symbolic of Scotland, almost the very essence of Scotland itself, a kind of melting pot of ‘Scottishness’. Even today these supposed traditions are being added to, the peculiar Scottish-American ‘tradition’ of the ‘kirkin o’ the tartan’ being a recent case in point.

Over the past few months I have given the question more thought and contemplation and I can clearly see why people would still want to retain an association with their name, their ancestral lands and the modern clan chief or family heidsman.

There is a strong human emotional need to feel a sense of belonging, which is natural and completely understandable. No matter what has happened in the past there is still a tie of blood, a bond that was set in place long before the Lowland Clearances, the Highland Clearances or the Jeddart Justice of the Borders. No matter how abused ones forebears were, by those who carried the same name and shared the genetic connection of kinship, it cannot destroy the truth of blood that flows through ones veins and passes down the long generations.

I have always had a conflicted relationship with my maternal forebears, the Kerrs. On the one hand, our bloodline flows right back to the distant past yet at the same time, those very same Kerrs may well have been responsible for the dispossession and scattering of my family. Yet despite all that, for good or ill, we are all of Kerr blood and share that unbreakable bond. No matter what may have happened in the past, I can’t help feeling a sense of belonging to that stalwart border surname, whose deeds, exploits and achievements have resonated down the centuries.

I think we can reconcile ourselves to historical wrongs if we see particular individuals of the past as the real villains. Not the name, heidsmen, clan or clan chiefs as a whole. What are necessary though, to truly heal old wounds, are honest acknowledgements of past injustices. Whilst the sins of the father cannot be visited upon the son, the son can recognise familial wrongs and use that recognition to build a genuinely new relationship with the scattered children of the clans and families.

We should all be able to feel justly proud of our surnames and clans, steeped as they are in the very essence of what makes us who we are today. They are a rock of certainty in a fast changing and uncertain world. They are the very anchor that holds us fast to a safe harbour of self-recognition and knowledge of who we truly are. When so many people these days seem to be rootless, ignorant and uncaring of who and what they are, it is a source of great emotional strength to know ones historical origins and to draw enduring fortitude from that knowledge.

I recall working in London not so long ago with two young guys, one with the surname of MacDonald and the other a Campbell. It raised a smile with me, but those guys had no understanding of their roots and indeed, the MacDonald had a tattoo on his arm that read, ‘Made in England’, something else that gave me a wry smile.

Trying to explain to them about the past antagonisms of their names and the history thereof would have been far too taxing and time consuming, and to be honest, I doubt they really would have cared.

Much of the blame for this can be placed upon the educational system of England in particular, and the self-interested politicians who form educational policy. For the sake of political dogma and an insidious social engineering agenda, they have chosen to ignore and downplay British history and achievement. In so doing, they have deprived generations of British children of a real connection with their forebears and the ancient heritage that is their birthright.

It is little wonder that there is so much social dysfunction in modern society when so many people have no real knowledge or understanding of who and what they are. Instead their rich genealogical heritage is substituted with vacuous superficiality and meaningless materialism. Facile mediocrity as an opiate of the masses, is always a jolly wheeze to initiate a state of docility and unquestioning acceptance amongst them.

Fortunately, in recent times there has been a huge upsurge of interest in family history, almost as an unconscious reaction to the social engineering mentioned above. People have a natural yearning to know who their ancestors were, how and where they lived, what their surnames mean and where those names originated. People feel the need to have a connection with those who have gone before and how the actions of their forebears in the past have impacted on the present day.

This aspect of modern life brings us neatly back to the growth of family and clan societies and associations. People want to feel a sense of belonging, almost as if they could reach out and touch a past that is so tantalisingly close at hand. That is a wonderful mechanism indeed to connect them with those of their blood who have walked this ancient land. Those who have passed on to another place and like Bonnie Prince Charlie, will nay come back again, except in our hearts.  

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