The cat, in the field, concentrating ever so diligently on the small mouse hiding under leaves and dry grass, is annoyed by my footsteps in gravel on the side of the road. As I stop to watch this Scottish version of the common house pet, her ears pitched forward toward the mouse, I notice that she doesn’t look Scottish at all. Not that I would know what a Scottish cat is supposed to look like, but when you’re in Scotland well, everything is Scottish. Her right ear, the one closest to me, suddenly pivots toward me as I take a step and the sparse gravel beneath my foot crunches loudly in the still, evening air. I stand still, and just as suddenly, the ear twitches again and returns to it’s former attentive position. Her body tenses, her head lowers and, I take another step. This time her head turns, she focuses on my face and I am the recipient of an evil glare that seems to say, “I know where your hotel is. Later I will find you there, and I will kill you in your sleep.”
Saint Patrick’s day is coming once again, on Saturday, March 17th. In honor of himself, I thought I would talk about my Irish heritage. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching my family genealogy, taking DNA tests and planning trips to Scotland and Ireland. It’s been great fun discovering my ancient ancestors. Armstrong is a Scottish name but I’m having trouble tracing them back to Scotland. The Armstrong’s, as with many Scottish families, moved around between Scotland, England and Ireland. I’ve hit a brick wall with that side of my family. Not so on my mother’s side. I have traced a family line back 17 generations. Toirdhealbhagh Turlough Don Mac Mathghamhna aka Turlough Bishop Killoe-O’Brien -O’Brien King of Thomond of Mumhan, born in 1450, Bally, Clare, Ireland was my 17th great grandfather. He was the King of Munster.
Don’t ask me to pronounce his name! His son, Murrough Carrach O’Brien, First Earl of Thomond, was the first Baron of Inchiquin. Inchiquin, is a Barony (a historical subdivision of a county) in County Clare. Ireland. My Grandmother on my mom’s side was a Brown. Her grandmother was a Dailey. Several generations back from her, the family married into the Byrne name and they in turn married into the O’Brien’s. The O’Briens trace their family history back to Brian Boru, King of Munster who died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. His brother, Mathghamhna is one of the names of my 17th great grandfather listed above, although more than 400 years separate them, they are probably related. Some people find this dry and boring, but when it’s your own family, it’s fascinating.
Saint Patrick was captured from Roman Britain by Irish pirates during the early 400’s and after being held as a captive slave for six years he escaped and returned home. Some years later he returned to Ireland and began to convert the Irish to Christianity. Saint Patrick’s day has been celebrated as an Irish Catholic holiday for a long time but it was only during the 1970’s that American style celebrations took place in Ireland. Something that really grinds my gears is when people write, St. “Patty’s” day. It’s not “patty”, It’s “paddy.” Patrick is the English version of the Irish name Padraig or Padraic, pronounced, PAWD-rig. Patrick, in his own writings used the name, “Patricius” so I suppose those who say St. “Patty’s” day can be forgiven. But not by much.
I’m going to Scotland in a couple weeks for a Reiver festival. The Armstrong’s were a Scottish boarder clan centered in the Liddesdale and Eskdale area of the Scottish/English boarder. They were called “reivers” because they were a warlike clan, cheating, stealing, pillaging, and murdering there way through life. Hey, times were tough. You did what you had to do.
The Motto, Invictus Maneo means, “I remain Unvanquished.” Sounds badass, doesn’t it? I highly recommend doing your genealogy. And also taking a DNA test. The results can be fascinating. I’ve found some nationalities I didn’t know I had. From doing my family genealogy I knew I had Scottish and Irish as well as French and German but I found some Dutch in there as well as the possibility of Flemish. And if you like, you can find others who share your DNA that you are related to but didn’t know it! DNA tests are a little expensive but it’s worth it to know where your people came from.