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Forfarshire
Chapter 11. - People—Race, Dialect, Population


We possess no certain knowledge about the earliest inhabitants of Forfarshire. It lies in what was in Roman times the land of the Caledonians, who were also styled Picts. What the Picts were racially is still an unsolved problem. Their language was of the Celtic type—as far as can be gathered from the scanty fragments that exist. Pett or Pitt (a Pictish name equivalent to “place,” or “ dwelling ”) is frequently met with in place-names in the north-east of Scotland, and is abundant in Forfarshire. A few specimens are—Pittendrich, Pitarrow, Pitmuies, Petreuchie, Pitcur, Pitalpin, Pitscandly, Pitpointie. The words Angus, Mearns, Dunnichen, Monikie, Meigle are Pictish; so, too, is aber, as in Aberlemno, Aberbrothock, Arbirlot ; whereas the western or modern Gaelic equivalent of oZw is inver, of which we have instances in Invergowrie, Invermark, Inverquharity, Inverarity, Inver-keillor, and many more. The names of rivers and mountains in Forfarshire are for the most part of a Celtic origin—.&£, Isla, Dean, Tay, Mark, Tar/J Prosen, etc.; while its mountains have Celtic names in the north [Cairn na Glasha, JVirren, Driesb, Mayar, Caterthun, etc.) and Old English ones in the south [Sidlaws, Catlaw, Dundee Law, Oathlaw, etc.).

From the dawn of history on to practically our own day there has been a considerable intermixture of races in our district. And here it must be stated that the limits of a single county are somewhat narrow for the subject under consideration. Except in special circumstances, it is safer to think of this modification of race as affecting all southern Pictavia,—Fife, eastern Perthshire, Forfarshire, and the Mearns,—rather than Forfarshire alone.

In the fourth century Frisian settlers from the Continent began to appear on the east coast of Scotland. Hence in Forfarshire we have such names as JVesthaven, Easthaven, Ferrydert, and Ethiehaven. From those Frisians the fishing communities of the east coast from Fife Ness to Stonehaven are doubtless descended. Their speech differs in at least its intonation from that of landward districts ; and they are a people apart from others of the same region, intermarrying with one another and forming a distinct community.

At one time the Angles of Bernicia seemed likely to dominate Scotland ; but in 685 they were overthrown at the battle of Nechtan’s Mere, identified with Dunnichen in Forfarshire. In the ninth century Picts and Scots united under Kenneth Macalpin, which effectually put an end to the warlike inroads of aliens into Pictavia.

The occurrence of the word ness, for headland, in some parts of Forfarshire—particularly in Buddon Ness— would seem to point, if not to occupation of the maritime district by the Danes, at least to their familiarity with the coast-line. Other Danish names—Ravensby near Barry and Hedderwick, Buttergill, and Shteldhill in a line stretching westwards from Montrose—give some colour to the tradition that the Danes entered Forfarshire and marched through it to Luncarty, where they suffered defeat. But there is little beyond this to bespeak an infusion of Viking blood in the district.

Within a century after Carham (1018) the Anglian folk of the south-east by peaceful immigration and settlement overspread the district from the Forth to the Grampians, a fact of the utmost ethnological importance to Forfarshire, whose people henceforth became predominantly Lowland instead of Highland, Anglians instead of Celts. The civilization that we associate with Malcolm Canmore, his English Queen Margaret, and their immediate descendants, was admittedly English in its character and tendencies. Under those monarchs Norman families settled as a semi-foreign aristocracy in Forfarshire ; but these families did little or nothing to modify the ethnology of the district. Far more important was a settlement of Flemings in the twelfth century. They introduced the weaving of linen and woollen goods. Evidence of their presence in Forfarshire is to be found in such place names as Friockhetm, Letham, Craigo, and Cruitck.

In comparatively recent times Celts from the Highlands made their way through the Grampians and settled in the adjacent districts. Such were the Ogilvys, Farquharsons, Robertsons, Stewarts, and Murrays.

While the race of the aborigines in Forfarshire is thus largely a matter of conjecture, within historical times its people have been essentially Anglo-Pictish, slightly modified by the immigration of Anglo-Normans, Flemings and Highlanders.

Anglian influence in Forfarshire is not confined to ethnology ; it is even more pronounced in the speech of the people ; for Lowland, or Braid Scots, the folk-speech of the county, is directly descended from northern English, or Northumbrian. This gradually spread northward from the Lothians. Different districts of Scotland have developed certain peculiarities, which have given rise to local dialects. North-west Fife, East Perth, and West Forfar belong to the North-Mid-Lowland district, while East Forfar with most of Kincardine belongs to the Southern-North-Lowland district.

In East Forfar red beads is pronounced reed heeds, and in West Forfar raid haids. Another distinction would appear to be an increase of lip-protrusion—rounding—in the pronunciation of ui spellings (especially before r), as we go east and north towards the mid-north or Aberdeen Lowland, in which after k and g the ui sound by further lip-protrusion changes into wee ; e.g. school, skull, skweel.

The following are some of the most striking features of Forfarshire speech :

(1) What looks like a singular verb is used with a plural noun : e.g. “The men works at so and so.” Historically this is a survival of the original Northumbrian plural.

(2) Words beginning with kn have not yet lost the sound of k : e.g. the k in knee is pronounced. In some parts such a k has been changed to a e.g. knock is often tnoc.

(3) In such words as butter, water, the t is not pronounced at all ; instead, the breath in the throat is completely shut off, and sounds are heard like bu'er, wa'er. This is very common in Dundee, and seems to be absent, or at least less common, in the eastern part of Forfarshire.

(4) At is used for that (relative)—a Danish idiom.

With a population of 281,419, Forfarshire stands fifth on the 1911 list of Scottish counties. It is exceeded by Lanark, Midlothian, Renfrew, and Aberdeen, which have respectively 5’i, i'8, I’ll, and no times as many inhabitants; while it is 37-2 times as populous as Kinross, which comes last on the list.

Large as this population is, it shows a decrease of 2663 as compared with the figures for 1901. This is the first time a decrease has been recorded : in previous census years the increase has ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 within a decade. The registrar-general notes that this falling off is in part due to the fact that the 1901 returns included a large number of workmen temporarily resident in Lintrathen in connection with the Dundee Water Works ; but more important causes are emigration and centralisation—both to some extent arising from depression in trade.

The position of Forfarshire on the census list is the result mainly of the industries and manufactures of its towns. More than 84 per cent, of its inhabitants live in its nine burghs, and 58 per cent, in Dundee, the largest. Dundee has a population of 165,006; and if Broughty Ferry, Monifieth, and Carnoustie be added, to say nothing of the townships on the southern bank of the Tay—and all these are largely residential suburbs of Dundee—some 20,000 must be added to the Dundee figures. In round numbers, the Dundee centre has about 200,000 inhabitants; and on the strength of its own figures it ranks third among Scottish towns. In 1821 Dundee had a population of 30,575; in 1841, of 62,794; in 1871, of 120,724; in 1911, of 165,006. It has thus increased more than five times in ninety years.

The decrease of burghal population in Forfarshire is not here, but in the smaller towns. The increase in Dundee is 1-2 per cent., in Carnoustie 3, in Broughty Ferry 5.5, and in Monifieth (Parish) no less than 45.2— one of the most remarkable cases of increase in the whole country. On the other hand, the chief percentages of decrease are : Forfar 4.8, Brechin 5.8, Kirriemuir and Arbroath 7.8, and, largest of all, Montrose 11.7.


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