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Chapter 1. - County and Shire. The County of Forfar

Most of the divisions of Great Britain are known as shires or counties, names often, but not always, interchangeable. Shire comes from the Old English sciry meaning administration, charge. Often, though incorrectly, our early kings are represented as having divided up their realm and as having given shares of it to various noblemen to rule in subordination to the crown. Rather, we should regard many of the present divisions of the country as the relics of older kingdoms now merged in the larger unity of Great Britain.

County, or the district presided over by a count, is a Norman-French name and was not used on this side of the Channel until the Conquest. The title of count was regarded as the equivalent of our earl and was soon replaced by the latter, though the earl’s lady is still called countess. For long the earl’s duties and privileges were those of the original count. The comes, or companion of the king, he was the ruler under his sovereign of a county or shire, and he derived an official revenue from his earldom.

The county or shire treated of in this volume has, like a few others, two distinct names, Angus and Forfar. Angus is much the older, although Forfar is now much the commoner. Angus is held by some to have been the name of a Scottish prince who was granted the district by his father, while others interpret it as meaning a particular kind of hill. The designation Forfarshire is taken from the name of the county town.

Geographically Angus and the adjoining county of Mearns or Kincardine belong to one district, and it is thought that they formed originally one independent province, which, however, became part of the wider region of Pictavia. They appear at one time to have been ruled by a single maormor, but if so they must have been separated at an early date.

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