I stumbled across a blog just now, wherein, the author made some incredibly outlandish and factually wrong assertions in regards to the differences between Lowland and Highland Scotland. I tried several times to post a comment, but found it unable to go through; why? I have no idea, though it was posted in 2010, there were comments as recent as this year. Regardless, I thought I’d go and address the matter here, perhaps in the vain hope that any mislead by that particular authors post will stumble across mine. Below is the comment I attempted to post; and because I’m like a dog with a bone; will continue to try and post.
“Wow, what utter nonsense. Firstly; Gaelic was spoken in Galloway well into the 1800’s, as the Gaels settled there in the 4th century; Dal Riata was established in around the 5th. Gaelic language and culture then went on to subsume that of the native Brythonic Celts (Picts). The Gaelic language was then spoken throughout Scotland in both the Lowlands and the Highlands. The great plaid was a component of both Lowland and Highland Scotland as attested to in countless historical accounts.
Secondly, any Anglo-Saxon heritage in Lowland Scotland, is comparable to that of Norman heritage in Ireland; the Normans having conquered much of eastern Ireland; pushing the native Gaelic Irish to the far west of the island; yet those Irish with Norman heritage are still considered Gaelic on account of possessing the Irish language, for you see; you can be both culturally, and linguistically Gaelic, regardless of ethnicity.
Many Scottish kings had Bagpipers in their court. Also, the Bagpipe wasnt invented in Scotland, neither in the Lowlands, nor the Highlands. As to Clans, even in the 1300-1400’s, the Lowland families of Scotland were reffered to as Clans. In regards to Tartan, both Highland and Lowland Tartans are all of the modern variety. Originally, the Great plaid was dyed with whatever herbs were local to the makers area, or those that were in season. A roman scribe, Tacticus I believe, commented that on the Caledonians, saying: “The Caledonians wore Kilts of primitive tartans” The Caledonians incidentally, were not Gaels, but rather, Brythonic precursors to the Picts.
I myself am descended from the MacDonalds of Clanranald, yet live in the Lowlands, and know many Highlanders with Lowland surnames, nearly as many as those among my Lowland friends who possess Highland surnames. For people move about; Lowlanders went north, Highlanders went south. Today, hardly anyone speaks Gaelic in the Highlands sadly, and all of them wear trousers.
Scotland was wholly Gaelic, then the south begun to wear trousers and speak in English (Regardless of whether or not they were ‘Highland’ or ‘Lowland’ most of them went along with it). The Highlands held onto the ancient Scottish culture a while longer. Then, they too lost it for the most part. Today, the Highlands are home to as many English folk, as the Lowlands are; with only the outer hebrides retaining anything close to a daily Gaelic culture. In both the Lowlands and the Highlands, to some degree, Gaelic is still being spoken or learned, with many a Scot rediscovering the language that was spoken Scotland wide by our Gaelic, or Gaelic-speaking, ancestors well into the relatively modern period of Scotland’s 2000 or so years of existence.
Having a drop of anglo- saxon blood does not in anyway diminish a majority of Scottish blood; wether that blood is Pictish, Gaelic, or somewhere in the middle. A Scot is a Scot, regardless of geographical location. If you speak Gaelic, then you are a Gael; if you are English, but speak Gaelic, then you too, are a Gael. Clothing and language is cultural, not ethnic. Simply put ‘Highlanders’ are no different to ‘Lowlanders’not culturally, or ethnically.
Lastly, just to hammer home how insignificant location is; Douglas, a lowland Clan name, is an anglicised form of the Gaelic Dubhghlas; meaning: Dark stream”
Even had my comment went through, I doubt it would have gotten through, for some people just stay rooted in their own ignorance. Even I, the most patriotic Scotsman alive today, understands that not every Scotsman, Highland or Lowland, is fully ‘Scottish’. Many people will have some English/Irish/Welsh ancestory, yet those people will also have a good portion of Scottish ancestry in them also. To reiterate; no Scotsman, or Irishman, or Welshman, or Englishman alive today, whether he be Highland or Lowland, Northern or Southern is anything nearing 100 percent ‘Scottish’ ‘Irish’ ‘Welsh’ or ‘English’, regardless of whether or not he or she speaks Gaelic, or whether or not his or her ancestors were Gaels, Picts, Cumbric speaking Celts, Northumbrians, modern day Irish, Danish viking, or Anglo-Saxon. Culture and ethnicity do define people, but with such an intrepid and tiny population as these islands possess; it stands to reason that someone’s Gaelic granny would have had it off with another’s German granddaddy at one time or another. After all; the Picts certainly got their rocks of with the Gaels, so much so, that they eventually ceased to be a separate people entirely.
Hint; they became Scottish…
Now, let’s take the whole concept of Kilt wearing and Bagpipes shall we, which are often touted as Highland dress; Highland Bagpipes; yet the Great plaid, or some such garment was worn by the Picts, as documented by many ancient scholars of that time. The Picts were not ethnically Gaels, so by the logic presented by the misinformed author, the Kilt is Lowland Brythonic culture, as it was our Brythonic (Pictish) ancestors who wore it first, and then the Gaels wore it, then all of Scotland wore it, then the lowlands stopped wearing it, whilst the Highlanders retained it, then they too stopped wearing it. Then it was shortened and worn by all; remember, the Kilt as we know it is a modern outfit that belongs to all Scotland; this is verifiable. The same can be said in regards to the spread, and then diminshing, of the Gaelic language.
A little evidence backed up by actual scholars
In his authoritive “Clan Gregor‘, published in 1977; Forbes MacGregor stated; ‘The Dalriadic Scots and the Picts intermarried to the extent the blood lines of many families became blurred‘. This statement takes into consideration, the many Scottish Clans; Highland and Lowland; who claim Pictish descent, as well as those who claim Dalriadic Scottish descent; who are in fact, a blending of both the founding races of Scotland. For any Scottish clan to claim they are of a pure Dalriadic (Gaelic) or Pictish descent is utter arrogance.
Now, where historical records indicate a definite Pictish Clan origin, only those clans are listed as being of a Pict descent, with the Welsh-speaking (Cumbric speaking Brythonic Celts) Britons of the Celtic Kingdoms of Strathclyde, and Gododdin, who came to be known as, according to Forbes; the ‘Southern Picts‘ also being included in the ancestry of such Clans of Pictish descent regardless of geographical location. The historical fact that the Cumbric language subsequently subsumed the Pictish language by 300AD in the far south, and that Gaelic was slowly adopted in the middle and north of Scotland around this time also; coupled with the fact that all Celts within what is roughly modern Scotland often fought together to repel foreigners I.E; Anglo-Saxons, Romans etc; indicates that for the most part, these three Celtic societies/cultures were content to live in a semblance of normalized peace; whilst gradually intermixing, as stated above, so as to become one people under a somewhat uniform culture; first as the Albannach, and then the Scots.
This, incidentally, is way before Gaelic spread throughout the entirety of Scotland, but rather, when the Picts were still a distinct culture. I simply add it so as to get across the point that everything most people assume to be Highland Scottish culture, is in fact, Scottish culture via the Picts, who lived in both the north, and the south of Scotland, and who were Brythonic Celtic in origin. Why, as the Gaels begun to spread among southern and western Scotland, many Picts actually fled further north, which was ever their dominant stronghold; and wherein, Clan’s such as Gunn developed; a Highland Clan which is actually more Pictish in origin, than it is Gaelic. Do you see the point I’ am trying to get across here? Scotland’s baseline culture owes more to the Picts than it does the Gaels. It just so happens that the latter ultimately went on to dominate the former so completely, that the influence of the Picts is buried beneath labels such as Gaelic or Highland, when in reality; most Scots are a mixture of Brythonic Celtic, and Gaelic peoples, regardless of whether they originate above or below some imaginary line.
I just want to point out that I have both Highland Clan (MacDonald of Clanranald, MacRae, MacGregor) and Lowland clan names in my family, so does that mean those Lowland Scottish names such as Douglas and Armstrong automatically make me a Saxon? Do they immediately negate my ‘Highland’ ancestry? My Scottish ancestry? Well, it seems by her logic, that the answer is yes. Let that sink in, the sheer absurdity of it…
Side note: According to VisitScotland.com “nearly half of all Gaelic speakers live in the Lowlands“.
P.S. Here is a link to the aforementioned post: http://scottishdreamtours.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/scotland-difference-between-highlanders.html