A MAJOR genetic
study of the population of Britain appears to have put an end to
the idea of the "Celtic fringe" of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Instead, a research
team at Oxford University has found the majority of Britons are
Celts descended from Spanish tribes who began arriving about 7,000
Even in England,
about 64 per cent of people are descended from these Celts,
outnumbering the descendants of Anglo- Saxons by about three to
The proportion of
Celts is only slightly higher in Scotland, at 73 per cent. Wales
is the most Celtic part of mainland Britain, with 83 per cent.
Previously it was
thought that ancient Britons were Celts who came from central
Europe, but the genetic connection to populations in Spain
provides a scientific basis for part of the ancient Scots' origin
The Declaration of
Arbroath of 1320, following the War of Independence against
England, tells how the Scots arrived in Scotland after they had
"dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage
Sykes, a human geneticist at Oxford, said the myth may have been a
"residue" in people's memories of the real journey, but added that
the majority of people in England were the descendants of the same
people who sailed across the Bay of Biscay.
Prof Sykes divided
the population into several groups or clans: Oisin for the Celts;
Wodan for Anglo-Saxons and Danish Vikings; Sigurd for Norse
Vikings; Eshu for people who share genetic links with people such
as the Berbers of North Africa; and Re for a farming people who
spread to Europe from the Middle East.
The study linked
the male Y-chromosome to the birthplace of paternal grandfathers
to try to establish a historic distribution pattern. Prof Sykes, a
member of the Oisin clan, said the Celts had remained predominant
in Britain despite waves of further migration.
"The overlay of
Vikings, Saxons and so on is 20 per cent at most. That's even in
those parts of England that are nearest to the Continent," he
"The only exception
is Orkney and Shetland, where roughly 40 per cent are of Viking
In Scotland, the
majority of people are not actually Scots, but Picts. Even in
Argyll, the stronghold of the Irish Scots, two-thirds of members
of the Oisin clan are Pictish Celts.
to the study, the Picts, like the Scots, originally came from
"If one thinks that
the English are genetically different from the Scots, Irish and
Welsh, that's entirely wrong," he said.
"In the 19th
century, the idea of Anglo-Saxon superiority was very widespread.
At the moment, there is a resurgence of Celtic identity, which had
been trampled on. It's very vibrant and obvious at the moment.
cornerstone of Celtic identity is that they are not English.
However, to try to base that, as some do, on an idea that is not
far beneath the surface that Celtic countries are somehow
descended from a race of Celts, which the English are not, is not
right. We are all descended from the same people.
"It should dispel
any idea of trying to base what is a cultural identity on a
genetic difference, because there really isn't one."