Deir mo 'Papa' "Don't pick a fight with the Blacks, unless you know that half
the Boston police force are just around the corner"
So I call on Peter Beresford Ellis' book "MacBeth High King of Scotland
So quoting from the book "... a myth has been created in Scotland that Gaelic
never was the unversal language of the country. The myth is commonly referred
to as the 'Highland' and 'Lowland' myth."
So lets explore what he used to prove or should I say disprove the myth.
Place names, so important to Modern research on history.
He takes for example Peebles were there are 99 pure Gaelic names, such as
'Fingland' form 'Fhionn Ghleann', Bright Glen.
He then lists a series of placenames within this area.
'Achinghall' from 'Achadh nan Gall', field of strangers.
'Kilduff' SE of Edinburgh, from 'Coille Dubh', Black Sword.
'Dalry' now part of Edinburgh, from 'Dail an Righ' King's meadow
or 'Dail Fhraoigh' Heather meadow
'Gilmerton' nr Edinburgh from 'Gille Mhuire' Mary's servant.
'The Braid Hills' from 'Braghaid ' dative of 'Braighe' Upper Park.
'Glencourse' writen in C14 'Glencrosk' from 'Gleann Crosg' Glen of the
Also 3 different old crossings in the area.
'Drumsheugh' in 1507 'Drumselch' from 'Drum Seileach' Willow ridge.
'Currie' dative of 'Curach' a wet place.
'Craighentinne' from 'Creag an tSionneaigh' the fox's rock.
Close to Castellan of Dunbar is a Knoll called 'Knockenhair' from 'Cnoc an
hAire" the watch hill.
"... one could go on indefinitely wandering through the "Lowlands"
deciphering Gaelic names but these few examples should be sufficient."
As for speaking of Gaelic into more recent times.
He mentions the clash of poets William Dunbar an 'Ingish' speaker and Walter
Kennedy a Gaelic speaker for Dunure, Ayrshire. Dunbar claims Kennedy is too
Gaelic, Kennedy answers that Gaelic was the only language for anyone to
called himself a Scotsman.
"An English offical preparing a report between 1563-66 on the possibility of
the military occupation of Carrick, Kyle and Cunningham by an English army
wrote of the town of Carrick: 'The people for the moste parte spekeht
Erische.' Galloway Gossip, 1901 quotes a report that as lates as 1762 the
parish of Barr in Carrick had advertised for a school master and it was
particularly requested 'that he budst be able tae speak Gaelic (and) show the
man they took was frae aboot the Lennox.' The same records show that during
the 1715 and 1745 insurrections in Scotland, Highland troops passed through
the area. 'Forbye whun the Rebels wus passin' through Gallowa' and Carrick in
1715 and 1745 the Hielanmen wus able tae converse freely with the natives,
but naither natives nor the Hielananmen could talk wi'the Erisch auxiliares
for their Gaelic wus that different they cud hardly mak them oot.'Margaret
MacMurray of Cultzeon, near Maybole, who died about 1760, was generally
accredited with having been the last native speaker of Gaelic in Carrick. And
be it remembered that Robert Burns was born near Ayr 'upon the Carrick
border' in 1759.
In 1725 the English traveller Edward Burt, writing in 'Letters from a
Gentlman in the North of Scotland', observed that Gaelic was current in Fife,
just opposite Edinburgh, until the early eighteenth century. he says that
until that until the Union of 1707 it was made a condition that when a boy or
girl was bound as an apprentice on the Edinburgh side of the Forth, he or she
had to be taught English. Burt also sayed that Sir James Foulis of Colington
had informed him 'he had it from an old man, who spoke Gaelic, that even in
his time it was almost the "universal" language of Fife.
According to Andrew Trevisano, the Venetian ambassador, writing about 1500:
The language of the Scots is the same as that of the Irish, and very
different from the English; but many of the Scottish people speak English
extremely well, in consequence of intercourse they have with each other on
Hector Beoce, writing about 1527, and probably more responsible than any man
for the Macbeth of Shakespeare's vision, admitted that 'those of us who live
on the borders of England have foresaken our mother tongue (Gaelic) and
learned English being driven therto by wars and commerce'.
Another historian of the time, John Major, in "The History of Greater
Britain, 1521, also admitted that the majority of the Scots had spoken Gaelic
only 'a short time ago' and that the language was still in fairly widespread
use.. This is also confirmed by the historian George Buchanan who mentions
the widespread use of Gaelic in Southern Scotland durring the sixteenth
Blind Harry, a Scottish Poet, presents us with evidence that the redoubtable
Wiiliam Wallace, who became Guardian of Scotland during the Second
Interregnum in 1296-1306, spoke Gaelic. In his work on Wallace, Blind Harry
has an English soldier sneering at Wallace in Gaelic:
"..,the anglized Scots and descendants of the Norman and English settlers,
started to call the Scottish language Yrisch, Ersch and Irish (and today,
Gaelic) with the inference that it was something non-Scottish. Their own
English speech then became ....."
More Gaelic placenames:
Atholl in the book of the Deer 'Athfho/lta meaning New Ireland
Fife from old province of 'Fiobh' synonym for Ireland
Loch Earn 'Loch E/ireann'
Dumbarton 'Du/n Breatann'
As for IRISH it is an English word discribing those the people and their
language, and not their dialects. As for Gaelic I would guess it comes from
Gaeilge and is like calling German 'Duetch' which is prefertally legal in
As for confusion the past with Irish to mean Irish speaking Scots, well I was
confused when first reading highland history with all these Irish running
around up there, but then again the English couldn't be expected to tell the
difference between a Gaeilge speaker and a Ga\idhlig speaker.
It reminds me the tale that Englishman told me about the Scots calling
themselves Scot and not Irish, "All it proves is that your ancestors could
So remember when the English of past talked about the Wild Irische, they
really mean a Scotsman with a Kilt!
Bernard T Morgan,
16 Euro Way, Tel No +44 793 541541
Blagrove, Swindon, Fax No +44 793 541228
England, SN5 8YQ. E-mail [log in to unmask]