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.
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
(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,