Talk:Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife

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Evidence[edit]

What credible sources are there that the term Mormaer was still being used after David 1sts reign? Likewise, what is the substantive evidence that Gaelic Christian names were used, commonly or otherwise, as far south as Fife after David 1st? David Lauder 12:03, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Ignoring the Gaelic christian names used by the earls, such names are being used in Fife into the 14th century among all classes of non-burghal Fife society, from Mormaer to unfree peasant. There are hundreds of examples, but check out the cartularies for St Andrews Cathedral Priory and Dunfermline Abbey, esp. the peasant geneaologies in the latter which go into the 1330s. There's a perambulation of Loch Leven c. 1320 in the Dunf Reg. that records a large number of locals with Gaelic forenames and more importantly Gaelic nicknames. In general, modern research into language change in Fife (see works by Taylor, Barrow and Withers) in this period suggest 1) limited early immigration, before 1150, mostly Gaelicised (e.g. the Lochore family) 2) Intense immigration 1150-1250, esp. on royal territory not clearly nativised (though the son of a Flemish peasant, who was introduced around 1200, has a Gaelic nickname (Alwinus Camshron, "crooked nose") and his son, late 13th century, has a Gaelic forename Eoghan), and 3) Cultural osmosis 1250-1400 in which English replaced Gaelic probably entirely, though of course no proof of that can ever be shown. Language change, as it always tends to be, is a long drawn out process that takes centuries for its effects to fully occur. As to "Mormaer", that is just the vernacular term for which comes was chosen as equivalent. Survived in common use until the modern period; Robert de Brus (the king), Earl of Carrick, is a mormaer in two different annal entries; the last male of the native line of the earls of Lennox (15th century) is mormaer, etc, etc. The Earl of Sutherland was Mormaer of Cat (i.e. Sutherland/Caithness) amongst the people until the disappearance of Gaelic in eastern Sutherland in the last century. In the case of this article, the term Mormaer is unfortunately used by many historians to distinguish native lines from new ones, but this is IMHO spurious, as it's simply the way Scots speaking Gaelic designated people called in Latin comes; i.e. there is no difference in Scotland between "Mormaer" and "Earl". English speakers of Scotland called were calling Mormaers Earlis by at least the 2nd half of the 14th century, but probably earlier, although there is evidence that the term thane was used for them originally. In the 15th century western Gaelic lords of comital status (actually, only Campbell and and Islay family as far as I'm aware), whose core territory was outside the traditional territory of Alba, adopted the term Iarla from English, but this term only takes root on the west coast.Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 13:03, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. I have many of Barrow's books so I'll have a look. I can well understand Gaelic terms being used in the west (particularly Argyll) and Sutherland and Caithness until much later (indeed you will know that almost 8% of the population today - almost entirely centred in the western Highlands - still speak Gaelic) but I would be surprised at late (especially official) usage of Gaelic terms south of Perth by 1200. I note what you say about Comes but I would comment that term is universally recognised in Britain as the latin term for Earl (just as dominus is for Lord). Just my view. Regards, David Lauder 13:19, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately true, it is usual to translate comes as earl in Britain. This is just arbitrary of course. The language of most 12th and 13th century English earls was French, and Scottish earls Gaelic, who would have used cunte and mormaer as vernacular terms respectively. We translate comes in England usually as Earl and in France count and in Scotland usually Earl too, although often use Mormaer these days. As I'm sure you'll recognise, this distinction is the artifice of moderns, they are creating distinctions which did not exist in the sources (e.g. a French count is earl in 13th century English, and an English Earl or Scottish Mormaer is cunte in French). To save you wasting time, the Barrow article is "Lost Gaidhealtachd", printed in Scotland and her Neighbours; Barrow changed his mind about Gaelic in Fife from "Highlands in the Lifetime of Robert the Bruce", from Gaelic being dead in Fife by 1350 from Gaelic being alive in Fife at least until that point, a change of mind you will see was produced by (esp.) the Lochleven charter mentioned above. BTW, the point I was making about Argyll and the Isles is that Iarla was used in use by the 15th century; in parts of the original core of Scotland which retained Gaelic, mormaer (or morair as it is written) was still the word used informally or formally for "Earl". As for "usage of Gaelic terms south of Perth by 1200", well firstly Gaelic hadn't declined much in actual use by 1200, just that the monarchs were more French and the kingdom contained a few thousand French, Flemish and English speaking immigrants and, secondly, north-south is not a good way to think of language division at any point in the middle ages: West-East makes much more sense. You can be certain that, as common sense makes likely and those annal entries prove, Robert Bruce was called mormaer by Gaelic speakers before becoming king (of course cunte by French speakers and earl by English speakers). Doubting this is unnecessarily sceptical. Mormaer and Cunte, unlike "earl", actually appear in our sources. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 13:54, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. My point is not that elements of Gaelic were not still about in the 12th and 13th centuries, or perhaps even later. And I don't doubt these crept into documents, because it would depend, often, on who the scribe was. (Church records of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries can often be full of the vernacular, such as 'bairns'). But given than the Anglicisation of the Lowlands probably commences with St. Margaret (who was rather agressive about it), and became more rapid thereafter, especially under David, I would need some convincing that the Scottish nobility and the Diocese of St. Andrew's notaries in this part of the world spoke Gaelic at all by 1200 or if they did it must have been pretty elementary. Regards, David Lauder 10:17, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
St Margaret almost certainly has nothing to do with Anglicization, certainly not of anything other than the monarchy; Margaret's anglicising tendencies are more of a myth, perhaps even for the monarchy. It's just impressionistic, but Ethelred, lay abbot of Dunkeld, issued a charter in Gaelic in the mid 1090s witnessed by his brothers Edgar, David and Alexander. David certainly was comfortable in French and Anglo-French world, but Gaelic is still clearly used at his court; IMHO David's grandchildren, who unlike any previous monarchs, were not brought up in Gaelic Scotland, but were the sons of the Earl of Northumberland, probably mark more of a break. More generally, people don't change their language because their king (who for instance didn't control most of Scotland, not even comital Fife) had a foreign concubine for 20 years. Margaret became though an important origin figure in the mythology of later medieval lowland Scotland, see Wyntoun's comment that her marriage to Mael Coluim meant "Scottish and Saxon blood were henceforth mixed", or the altered version of Turgot found in Bower. Gaelic being spoken by the native nobility of Fife in 1200 really isn't much in doubt, including "native" nobles with Scandinavian names; maybe the earl was bilingual in Gaelic and French/English, who knows, but you have to distinguish between natives and incomers. Incomers after 1150 were probably less likely than incomers before to need to speak Gaelic, but there are families like the Ramseys who, like the Lochores who came in earlier, do appear to be Gaelicised by the 13th century. If you go through the charters of Dunfermline Abbey and Priory of St Andrews, you'll get a little shock if you think Gaelic in Fife is gone even at the upper levels by 1200 or even 1250. You're almost certainly correct about the clerics though. The St Andrews clerks regarded Gaelic as a "foreign" language, they themselves where evidence if available almost always turn out to be immigrants until the 13th century; in one document dating around 1200 I think, they refer to a well near Crail, and say it is "called in Gaelic [Scottice]" something or other, I can't remember, but the text clearly seems to show that Gaelic was not the language of the clerks doing the charters. The bishopric of St Andrews was an anti-Gaelic institution well before 1200, ignoring the Céli Dé; the last known abbot of the Céli Dé of St Andrews is Gille Christ, fl. 1172x1178; there's a list of clerical names in the early 13th century for the chapter of the cathedral and the Céli Dé, the names of the former are mostly of French origin and the latter of Gaelic origin. This shows that the two chapters probably were divided along ethnic lines, and that the demise of the latter meant the disappearance of Gaelic in the church of St Andrews. But this is at St Andrews itself, a centre of Anglo-French influence. Such a demise was part of the early process of anglicisation in eastern Fife, not the completion of it. When thinking about anglicisation, you just got to use common sense. People are not going to go from monolingualism to bilingualism without a good reason (before Wilhelmite immigration, it would prolly have been the incomers who went bilingual), and certainly not from this bilingualism to a different monolingualism until a long period of time has passed. Anyways, if you can get hold of the journal Nomina you could check out Simon Taylor's article "Babbet and Bridin Puddyng" for a survey of language change in late 12th century and 13th century Fife; Taylor tends to be enthusiatic about change from Gaelic to "Scots", but even he clearly admits Gaelic is still the dominant language of Fife in 1200 (it would be truly miraculuous if a densely populated area like Fife changed language so quickly!). Regards, Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 13:50, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Very interesting. I am familiar with Tugot & Bower. Fascinating reading. I am inclined to agree that the change of speech amongst the lower orders would have been a far slower change but we were really speaking of the nobility were we not? But anyway, I note all you say. Alexander Nisbet examined a tomb of one of my ancestors in North Berwick church in 1718 which was then still legible. He states that the lettering was Saxon. I know not how he worked that out but the death was in May 1311 which indicates to me some Anglian influence amongst tradesmen, at least in East Lothian, at that time. Regards, David Lauder 14:02, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Interesting, didn't know there were such inscriptions so early. Well, the language of East Lothian was always English as far as the evidence tells... I think that is pretty clear, at least since the time it replaced British; I don't think anyone argues, or even has ever really argued, that East Lothian was a region that changed to English in the period 1100-1300. There are a cluster of Gaelic place names in eastern Lothian, including Baile (only coined after c. 1100) names but these are explainable by the territory held by the earl of Fife in the area in the early 12th century, rather than a mass Gaelic speaking population; these names do form an exclavic cluster it should be stressed. I find it very difficult to believe that the Gaelic language ever became the language of anyone but a few Albanic or Norse-Gaelic incomers in that area, and also remember that most of "Lothian" (as defined by the archdeaconry of Lothian), including pointedly East Lothian, remained under the earls in Lothian (later Dunbar, then March), who represent continuity with the Northumbrian dynasty. That being said, the Miracles of St Æbba of Coldingham (I think this is late 12th century or early 13th century, have to check) has a fascinating passage mentioning English speakers and Gaelic speakers in the area, but the "Scots" mentioned here could have been merely pilgrims. It is also of note, and I know you're always sceptical about recent research, that recent re-examination of the sources indicates that the Northumbrians probably conquered the Kingdom of Strathclyde in the 11th century, so that English speech may ... who knows .... have been spreading in Teviotdale, Annandale and even Clydesdale well before David got control of it, creating a highly "balkanised" linguistic situation. 11th century history really is quite a nightmare even for modern historians. BTW, if you wanna see how "balkanised" the archdeaconry of Teviotdale was, check out the Stobo perambulation (c. 1200) in the Glasgow Registrum (no. 104, online), which rather stunningly may show Welsh, as well as English and Gaelic, to be spoken in the area around Peebles at the beginning of the 13th century; my favourite name there in Gillemihhel Queschutbrit, Gille Míchéil being Gaelic for "St Michael's Lad", and "Queschutbrit" being "St Cuthbert's lad" in Welsh (is it a nickname, a patronymic, or what?). Then there's the guy called Gille Muire Hund, "Mary's Lad" nicknamed "the dog" in English. Very entertaining, but there's like a dozen similarly fascinating names in this document. Regards, Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 15:47, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Yes, agreed. Nisbet was almost certainly only able to read the gravestone because it was in the floor of the church and had been protected for centuries. That said, there is a tomb in my kirkyard (i.e: outside) still (just) legible from the late 1500s. I have looked at a lot of transcribed charters (I cannot manage the originals!) but as you say nearly all those which survive from that period are ecclesiastical and the language, spellings, etc., are always being reinterpreted. Now I know you don't like the Victorians, but many fine MSS transcribers (like Bain and Laing) were sometimes baffled by some of these charters, and I think when considering the whole subject there is no absolute truth because of the lack of fundamentally accurate and reliable original evidence. It is just too patchy. As for the Northumbrians conquering Strathclyde, is it not more than likely this was just a campaign? I would always see conquest as followed by colonisation. The Northumbrians and the Scots were constantly crossing each others borders and claiming each others lands under a variety of pretexts. The Welsh names are of interest. But several books I have read suggest that at one stage 'Wales' stretched all the way to Glasgow. Again, how much this is claim/campaign/conquest is blurred because no serious colonisation appears to have taken place. It may be the Welshmen in your MSS were mercenaries who had had enough or were captured and decided to stay? Regards, David Lauder 18:34, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
I provided a link to the charter for yourself to read. As you will see, the Welshmen (rather the people with Welsh names) include local priests, and it being a perambulation, are explicitly stated to be local. Regarding Northumbrian conquest, roughly, 1) Siward's attack on Mac Bethad seems to have led to Northumbrian control of the Clyde kingdom, until perhaps liberated by Mael Coluim III in the 1070s, and secured by David in the 1110s. 2) There are Northumbrian crosses from mid-11th century Govan. 3) There are two bishops of Glasgow appointed from York in the aftermath of Siward's invasion. 4) There are peasants with English names in the Glasgow region (Partick) attested very early in the reign of David I, too early to have been introduced by him (both in terms of common sense, and because the charter in question explicitly states that they once held the land). 5) The Cumbrian judices cited as for their native knowledge of the Clyde and Teviot valleys in the mid 1110s have English names, Oggu and Leising. 5) The Northumbrian kindred of the earls of Dunbar are firmly entrenched in the old Kingdom of Strathclyde when the evidence from David's reign comes in, and in the sparse evidence from earlier (witness Dolfin son of Gospatric who was ejected by William Rufus from Carlisle). Anyways, we digress, as this ain't all that relevant to anything. Regards, Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 19:19, 10 September 2007 (UTC)