OF THE PAST
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
©Copyright - James of Glencarr