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The memoranda of grants


The farther Gaelic contents of the Book of Deer are notices of grants of land conferred by the fiends of the institution. None of these are real charters, but the age of charters had come, and it was important that persons holding lands should have some formal title to them. Hence the notices of grants inscribed on the margin of this book, all without date, save that there is a copy of a Latin charter of David I., who began his reign in the year 1124.

The memoranda of grants to the monastery are in one case headed with the following blessing - Acus bennact anchomded arcecmormar acusarcectosech chomallfas acusdansil daneis. "And the blessing of the one God on every governor and every leader who keeps this, and to their seed afterwards. " The first grant followed immediately after the legend given above. It narrates that Comgeall mac eda gave from Orti to Furene to Columba and to Drostan; that Moridach M'Morcunn gave Pit mac Garnait and Achad toche temni, the former being Mormaor and the latter Toiseach. Matan M'Caerill gave a Mormaor's share in Altin (not Altere, as in the Spalding Club's edition), and Culn (not Culii) M'Batin gave the share of a Toiseach. Domnall M'Giric and Maelbrigte M'Cathail gave Pett in muilenn to Drostan. Malcolum M'Cinatha (Malcolm the Second) gave a king's share in Bidbin and in Pett M'Gobroig, and two davachs above Rosabard. Malcolum M'Mailbrigte gave the Declerc. Malsnecte M'Luloig gave Pett Malduib to Drostan. Domnall M'Meic Dubhacin sacrificed every offering to Drostan. Cathal sacrificed in the same manner his Toiseach's share, and gave the food of a hundred every Christmas, and every Pasch to God and to Drostan. Kenneth Mac meic Dobarcon and Cathal gave Alterin alla from Te (Tigh) na Camon as far as the birch tree between the two Alterins. Domnall and Cathal gave Etdanin to God and to Drostan. Cainneach and Domnall and Cathal sacrificed all these offerings to God and to Drostan from beginning to end free, from Mormaors and from Toiseachs to the day of judgment.

It will be observed that some of the words in this translation are different from those given in the edition of the Spalding Club. Some of the readings in that edition, notwithstanding its general accuracy, are doubtful. In the case of uethe na camone, unless the ue is understood as standing for from, there is no starting point at all in the passage describing the grant. Besides, we read Altin allend, as the name of Altin or Aletrin in another grant. This seems to have escaped the notice of the learned translator.

These grants are of interest for various reasons. We have first of all the names common during the twelfth and previous centuries, for these grants go back to a period earlier than the reign of Malcolm the Second, when the first change began to take place in the old Celtic system of polity. We have such names as Comgeall Mac Eda, probably MacAoidh, or as spelt now in English, Mackay; Moridach M'Morcunn(morgan), or as now spelt, M'Morran; Matain MCaerill, Matthew M'Kerroll; Culn M'Batin, Colin M'Bean; Domhnall M'Girig, Donald M'Erig (Gregor or Eric?); Malbrigte M'Cathail Gilbert M'Kail; Cathal M'Morcunt Cathal M'Morran; Domhnall M'Ruadri, Donald M'Rory; Malcolum M'Culeon, Malcolm M'Colin; Malcolum M'Cinnatha, Malcolm M'Kenneth, now M'Kenzie. This was king Malcolm the Second whose Celtic designation is of the same character with that of the other parties in the notice. Malcolum M'Mailbrigte, Malcolm M'Malbride; the nearest approach to the latter name in present use is Gilbert. Malsnecte M'Luloig,Malsnechta M'Lulaich. The former of these names is obsolete, but M'Lullich is known as a surname to this day. Domnall M'Meic Dubhacin (not Dubbacin), the latter name not known now. The name Dobharcon is the genitive of Dobharcu, an otter. The names of animals were frequently applied to men at the time among the Celts. The father of King Brude was Mialchu, a greyhound. Loilgheach (Lulach), a man's name, is in reality a milch cow.

The next set of grants entered on the margin of this remarkable record are as follows: Donchad M'Meic mec Hidid (probably the same with Eda, and therefore Aoidh), gave Acchad Madchor to Christ and to Drostan and to Coluimcille; Malechi and Comgell and Gillecriosd M'Fingun witnesses, and Malcoluim M'Molini. Cormac M'Cennedig gave as far as Scali merlec. Comgell M'Caennaig , the Toiseach of Clan Canan, gave to Christ and to Drostan and to Columcille as far as the Gortlie mor, at the part nearest to Aldin Alenn, from Dubuci to Lurchara, both hill and field free from Toiseachs for ever, and a blessing on those who observe, and a curse on those who oppose this.

The names here are different from those on the former entry, with few exceptions. They are Duncan, son of Macbeth, son of Hugh or Ay, Malachi, Comgall, Gilchrist M'Kinnon, and Malcolm M'Millan, Comgall M'Caennaig (M'Coinnich or M'Kenzie ?) In this entry we have the place which is read Altere and Alterin by Mr. Whitley Stokes. It is here entered as Aldin Alenn, as it is in a former grant entered as Altin. In no case is the er written in full, so that Alterin is a guess. But there is no doubt that Aldin Alenn and Alterin alla are the same place. If it be Alterin the Alla may mean rough, stony, as opposed to a more level and smooth place of the same name. It will be observed that in this entry the name of a clan appears Clande Canan (Clann Chanain). There was such a clan in Argyleshire who were treasurers of the Argyle family , and derived their name from the Gaelic Cąin, a Tax. It is not improbable that the name in Buchan might have been applied to a family of hereditary tax-gatherers.

The next series of grants entered on the margin of the "Book of Deer" are as follows: Colbain Mormaor of Buchan, and Eva, daughter of Gartnait, his wife, and Donnalic M'Sithig, the Toiseach of Clenni Morgainn, sacrificed all the offerings to God and to Drostan, and to Columcilli, and to Peter the Apostle, from all the extractions made on a portion of four davachs, from the high monasteries of Scotland generally and the high churches. The witnesses are Brocein and Cormac, Abbot of Tubruaid, and Morgann M'Donnchaid, and Gilli Petair M'Donnchaid, and Malęchin, and the two M'Matni, and the chief men of Buchan, all as witnesses in Elain (Ellon).

The names in this entry are Colban, the mormaor, a name obsolete now - although it would seem to appear in M'Cubbin - Eva, and Gartnait. The former seems to have been the Gaelic form of Eve, and the latter, the name of Eva's father, is gone out of use, unless it appear in M'Carthy - Donnalic (it is Donnachac, as transcribed in the edition of the Spalding Club), M'Sithig or Donnalic M'Keich, the surname well known still in the Highlands - Brocein, the little badger, Cormac, Morgan, Gillepedair, Malęchin, the servant of Eachainn or Hector, and M'Matni or M'Mahon, the English Matheson. There is another instance here of a clan, the clan Morgan.

The most of these names must be understood merely as patronymic, the son called, according to the Celtic custom, after the name of his father. There is no reason to think that these were clan names in the usual sense. King Malcolm II is called Malcolum M'Cinnatha or Malcolm the son of Kenneth, but it would be sufficiently absurd to conclude that Malcolm was a MacKenzie. And yet there are two clans referred to in these remarkable records, the clan Canan and the clan Morgan. There is no reason to believe that either the Buchanans of Stirlingshire or of Argyleshire had any connection with the tribe of Canan mentioned here; but it is possible that the Mackays of the Reay country, whose ancient name was Clan Morgan, may have derived their origin from Buchan. It is interesting to observe that the Toiseachs are associated with these clans, Comgell Mac Caennaig being called the Toiseach of Clan Canan, and Donnalic M'Sithig the Toiseach of Clan Morgan, although neither of the men are designated by the clan name. It would seem that under the Mormaors the family system existed and was acknowledged, the Mormaor being the representative of the king, and the Toiseach the head of the sept, who led his followers to battle when called upon to do so. At the same time the clan system would seem to have been in an entirely different condition form that to which it attained after the introduction of the feudal system, when the chiefs for the first time got feudal titles to their lands.

Many other inferences might be made from these interesting records. It is enough, however, to say that they prove beyond a question the existence of a literary culture and a social organisation among the ancient Celts for which they do not always get credit; and if such a book existed at Deer, what reason is there to doubt that similar books were numerously dispersed over the other ecclesiastical institutuions of the country ? There is one curious entry towards the close of the M.S. - "Forchbus caichduini imbia arrath in lebran colli. arutardda bendacht foranmain in truagan rodscribai" which is thus translated by Mr. Whitley Stokes :- "Be it on the conscience of every one in whom shall be for grace the booklet with splendour: that he give a blessing on the soul of the wretchock who wrote it."

This is probably the true meaning of the Gaelic. But the original might be rendered in English by the following translation :- "Let it be on the conscience of each man in whom shall be for good fortune the booklet with colour, that he give a blessing on the soul of the poor one who wrote it." Rath is good fortune, and li is colour, referring probably to the coloured portions of the writing, and Truaghan is the Gaelic synonym of the "miserus" or "miserimus" of the old Celtic church. Mr Whitley Stokes, as quoted by Dr Stuart, says, "In point of language this is identical with the oldest Irish glosses in Zeuss' Grammatica Celtica".

 

 


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