I’m reading Norman Davies’ wonderful book – Vanished Kingdoms; the history of half-forgotten Europe. It’s fascinating, well-written, and I’m learning so much, not least about the early history of Scotland.
In pre-Roman and Roman times, a number of tribal territories existed – the Damnonii, Selgoviae, Votadini, Novantae, Caledonii (Picti) etc (these are the Latinised names). One of the largest was based in the Clyde Estuary, and its fort was at Dumbarton Rock (Dun Breatainn). ‘Alt Clud’, or the Kingdom of the Rock, was a large area ruled by successive kings, whose names have come down to us. This was before there was a Scotland or an England. In the east, the Votadini (whose Celtic name is Gododdin) had their main fort at Dun Eidin (Edinburgh), and other settlements in East Lothian and the Borders. North of the Humber was the kingdom of Bryneich (Bernicia). After the period of Roman rule the Angles landed in the area now called Northumberland and forced a wedge across the country, forever dividing the Old North and its kingdoms from the rest of the Isles.
The peoples of the Old North spoke a language from the P-Gaelic or Brythonic roots derived from Old Welsh, and similar to Welsh, Cornish and Breton. The Scotti, Irish raiders and settlers, brought with them the Q-Gaelic, or Goidelic, when they settled in Argyle and the West Coast, together with the name which was later applied to the whole of Scotland. This language became today’s Gaelic. The Germanic language of the Angles gave rise to Lowland Scots, while their relatives, the Saxons, brought the other Germanic language Inglis (or English) to the lands to the south.
I know I have the DNA marker S245 in my Y-chromosomes, which puts me in the Pretani genetic group, one of the earliest groups to settle in the West of Scotland. I know also that my family is from Buchan, the heartland of the Picts, although I don’t have the Pictish gene markers, and nor do I have the Irish marker (S222) of the Scotti. So somehow, in the post-Roman conflicts and alliances between Old North, Angles, Scots, Vikings and Picts, my ancestors moved North-East. Looking at the maps, I can see the possible routes they may have taken. They’re quite widespread; I’ve seen their headstones in the cemeteries of Longside, Lonmay, Strichen, the Newburgh, Foveran and Crimond. I’m reluctant to see the surname-based clan connection which puts the family in Clan Gunn. That’s in Caithness, and I don’t buy that, although I’m happy to wear the tartan on occasion.
So when I’m asked to state my nationality on forms, I do hesitate, because it’s complicated.