The Middle Ages to 1750

Gaelic in the History of the Seaboard

Part 1: the Middle Ages to 1750

Last year I wrote a series about local place-names, which we got from Scandinavian, Pictish, Gaelic, and English or Scots . (You can get this on our new website now: http://seaboardhistory.com/gallery/gaelic-in-the-villages/ ) It was very clear that the majority of names in this area came from Gaelic. This is Part 1 in another series, related to the last one, about Gaelic’s role in the history of Easter Ross, especially in our part of it. The language’s story is very much a reflection of the social and political history of our area.

‘Machair Rois’ – the coastal strip of (East) Ross-shire, is the traditional name given to the parish of Fearn and its neighbouring parishes, Tarbat and Nigg, broadly equivalent to the modern ‘Fearn Peninsula’. It includes the craggy coastline between Tarbat Ness and Nigg, with the ‘trì port mor’ – the three fishing villages of Hilton, Balintore and Shandwick – and the fertile farming country further inland. These two sides of the area – farming and fishing – were both significant in the history of Gaelic.

As we saw, it’s from the Gaels that we got the majority of our place-names. In the early Middle Ages political and economic power in the North East gradually shifted from the Picts to the Gaels, and with them the influence of Gaelic in the area increased. From then on up till the 19th cenutry Gaelic was the main language in this area, as it was across the Highlands. To some extent, that’s the same process that happened with Gaelic and English over the centuries – though much more slowly. The influence of English, and Scots, was present much earlier and more strongly in Easter Ross than in other parts of the Highlands.

The rulers of state and church had always taken a great deal of interest in this fertile sheltered site at the end of the Moray Firth. It had great strategic importance to them, and the ‘high heid yins’ or their representatives or vassals who came to administer the area were usually from the south of Scotland. In the course of time the Scots or English languages came north with them, along with ‘southern’ social structures and tenancy systems.

In the parish of Fearn itself there has been an abbey since c. 1238, founded by monks from Whithorn in Galloway, and castles like Cadboll and Geanies. Tain was the seat of local government and a centre of commerce, with strong royal links and Scotland-wide fame as a place of pilgrimage, because of the bones of St Duthus in the chapel there. The Lowland incomers would not usually have learned the “barbaric” local language, as Gaelic was described by the writer John of Fordun in 1380, and even by King James VI/I himself in 1616. It’s hardly surprising that it was English, or English alongside Gaelic, that came to be used increasingly over time by the educated people and the landlords, although Gaelic was clearly still “the dominant language” in both the countryside and the fishing villages in the mid-18th century, according to historians such as Ian R.M. Mowat (Easter Ross 1750 – 1850: The Double Frontier)

In the oldest maps of the area, e.g. by Joan Blaeu c.1684, we can already see that some of the names are given in their English versions instead of the original Gaelic, e.g. Fern (Manachainn Rois), Sandwick (Seannduaig), Abetsheavn (Port an Ab / Baile an Todhair). These would be the forms used by the learned or governing classes who commissioned the maps, not by the locals themselves, and are a good example of the early influence of English here. As historian Ian Mowat said of Easter Ross: “Although it is geographically located in the North of Scotland, the area was not typically Highland.”

In Part 2 I’ll be looking at the period 1750 – 1850 and the agricultural developments in the area.

 

A’ Ghàidhlig ann an Eachdraidh Machair Rois

Pàirt 1: bho na Meadhan Aoisean gu 1750

An-uiridh sgrìobh mi sreath mu ainmean-àite ionadail, a fhuair sinn bho Lochlannais, Cruithnis, Gàidhlig agus Beurla no Beurla Gallda. (Tha seo ri fhaotainn air an làrach-lìn ùr againn cuideachd: http://seaboardhistory.com/gallery/gaelic-in-the-villages/ )

Bha e gu math soillier gur ann bhon Ghàidhlig a thàinig a’ chuid a bu mhotha de na h-ainmean anns an sgìre seo. Seo Pàirt 1 de sreath eile, ceangailte ris am fear ud, mun a’ Gàidhlig ann an eachdraidh Rois an Ear, gu h-àraidh a thaobh a’ phàirt againne dhith. Le eachdraidh a’ chànain chì sinn dealbh eachdraidh phoiliteagach agus shòisealta na sgìre cuideachd.

‘S e Machair Rois an t-ainm tradaiseanta air Sgìre na Manachainn agus na paraistean air gach taobh dhith, Tairbeart agus Neig, pàirt de Ros an Ear air a bheil san latha an-diugh ‘the Fearn Peninsula’ sa Bheurla. ‘S e sin an oirthir chreagach eadar Rubha Thairbeirt agus Beinn Neig, leis na “trì port mor”, na bailtean-iasgaich Baile a’ Chnuic, Baile an Todhair agus Seannduaig, agus am fearann torrach nas fhaide a-staigh san tìr. Bha an dà thaobh seo den sgìre – àiteachas agus iasgach – glè chudromach ann an eachdraidh na Gàidhlig.

Mar a chunnaic sinn, ‘s ann bhon t-sluagh Ghàidhealach a thàinig a’ mhòr-chuid de na h-ainmean ann am Machair Rois. Anns na Meadhan Aoisean tràth chaidh an smachd poiliteagach is eaconamach beag air bheag thairis bho na Cruithnich chun nan Gàidheal, agus mar sin dh’fhàs buaidh na Gàidhlig anns an sgìre, agus b’ i a’ Ghàidhlig prìomh chànan muinntir na sgìre as dèidh sin, a-nuas chun na 19mh linne co-dhiù, mar a b’ i air feadh na Gàidhealtachd. Gu ìre, ‘s e sin a thachair – ach mòran na bu shlaodaiche – le Gàidhlig agus Beurla tro na linntean. Bha buaidh na Beurla, no na Beurla Gallda, na bu tràithe agus na bu treasa ann an Ros an Ear na bha i ann am pàirtean eile den Ghàidhealtachd.

Bha an-còmhnaidh ùidh mhòr aig luchd-riaghlaidh na h-eaglaise agus na stàite anns an dùthaich thorraich fhasgaich aig ceann Linne Mhoireibh. Bha cudromachd ro-innleachdail aig an làrach seo agus thàinig “na h-urracha mòra” seo, no na riochdairean no basaillean aca, gu tric à ceann a deas na h-Alba, agus ri ùine thàinig Beurla Gallda no Beurla còmhla riutha,

cuide ri na structaran sòisealta agus siostaman gabhaltais aca.

Ann an Sgìre na Manachainn fhèin bha an abaid Mhanachainn Rois ann bho c.1238, a chaidh a stèidheachadh le manaich à Taigh Mhàrtainn (Whithorn),Gall-Ghàidhealaibh, agus caistealan agus taighean mòra mar Chathabul agus Gàthan. Bha Baile Dhubhthaich na shuidhe aig riaghaltas ionadail agus na ionad-malairt, le ceanglaichean rìoghail làidir agus cliù air feadh na h-Alba mar àite-taistealachd, air sgàth cnàmhan Neamh Dubhthaich anns a’ chaibeal an sin. Cha bhiodh na h-in-imrichean Gallda ag ionnsachadh a’ chànain “bhoirb” a bhiodh aig muinntir an àite – mar a bha aig a sgrìobhadair John of Fordun ann an 1380 agus fiù ‘s aig Seumas VI/I fhèin ann an 1616 air a’ chànan Ghàidhlig, agus is beag an t-iongnadh gur e Beurla a-mhàin, no Beurla ri taobh na Gàidhlig, a bha ga cleachdadh ri ùine leis na daoine foghlaimte agus na h-uachdarain, ged as i a’ Ghàidhlig an cànan a bu treasa fhathast meadhan san 18mh linn – “the dominant language” air an dùthaich agus anns na bailtean-iasgaich, a rèir luchd-eachdraidh leithid Ian R.M.Mowat (Easter Ross 1750-1850: The Double Frontier).

Anns na mapaichean as sìne den sgìre, m.e. fear le Joan Blau (c. 1684), chithear mar-thà cuid de dh’ainmean-àite ann an cruth Beurla seach Gàidhlig, m.e. Fern (Manachainn Rois), Sandwick (Seannduaig), Abetsheavn (Port an Ab / Baile an Todhair), ainmean air an cleachdadh leis a’ chlas fhoghlaimte, no riaghlaidh, chan ann le muinntir an àite fhèin – deagh eisimpleir de bhuaidh thràth na Beurla an seo. Mar a thuirt Ian R.M. Mowat mu Ros an Ear, “Although it is geographically located in the North of Scotland, the area was not typically Highland.”

Ann am Pàirt 2, bidh mi a’ coimhead air an linn 1750 -1850 agus leasachadh àiteachais san sgìre.

 

 


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