Friday, November 1, 2013

Southern Black Bear

I enjoy nature.  Here is a Rich Mountain Arkansas black bear.  Photo from a trail camera, which is on the property I rented a cabin on recently.  Healthy bear. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scottish Surnames

Scottish Surnames
In the 12th century surnames began to be used in Scotland.  Initially they were used only by the elites in Scottish society, but gradually the practice was adopted by more and more Scots in the following centuries.  In many areas in the Highlands surnames did not become fixed until the 16th into the 17th century and in parts of the Hebrides permanent surnames were not commonly adopted until the 19th century.  For many reason, it can be very complex researching family history just by what Scottish surname one has.  However, a family’s surname remains the best place to start research on a family’s history. Fortunately with DNA testing often it is possible to uncover a family real history despite the many variations and fluid nature of Scottish surnames.

Scotland is made up of primarily Celtic people, the Gaels, the Britons, also called the Cymry, and the Picts.  The Cymry and Picts spoke Cumbric, a Celtic language.  Cumbric is related to modern Cymreag which is called Welsh in English.  To this core group of Celtic Scots small groups of Norse, Normans (also Norse in ancestry), Border English, Flemish, and a few others settled and became Scots.  Most Scottish surnames have a Celtic origin, but there was also a borrowing of names from all the groups that became Scots and the etymological origin of a surname does not always indicate a family’s origin. Gaels for instance borrowed many names from the Norse and Normans that in time became surnames.  Many Gaels and Gaelicised Picts and Cymry simply translated their surnames into English, so the modern form of family’s surname often does not tell a family’s true origins.  The Mac prefix was adopted by the Norsemen and by Lowland Scots of Cumbric origins which lead to surname that are part Gaelic and part Cumbric or Norse in origin.

Many Scottish surnames originated in patronymics. These are often indicated by a Mac prefix.  Mac is often abbreviated as Mc, this was common both in the past and in modern times.   Most people, even those without Gaelic, know that the Mac prefix means ‘son.’  Mhic is a prefix meaning ‘grandson’ of or ‘descendant of’ in some cases. Mhic is often rendered Vic and Vc in old records.   In patronymic surnames a son’s surname derived from the father’s forename.  An example; Seamus Mac Dónaill’s son Padraig would take the surname Padraig Mac Sheamuis, and his son named Giolla Easpuig, would take the surname Giolla Easpuig Mac Phadraig Mhic Sheamuis, and so on.  This pattern of traditional patronymics presents a challenge for the family historian in that the surname changed with each successive generation.  The same family might be using four or more surnames over the course of a century.  This practice died out in Lowland Scotland after the 15th century as patronymic surnames became permanent family names. It persisted in the Highlands & Islands well into the 18th century and in the northern Isles until the 19th century.  It is possible even with a family using multiple surnames to research which names a kinship group used, this along with DNA testing, often reveals a paternal kinship group despite the multiple surnames they used.

This patronymic system was also applied to daughters’ names in both Gaelic and Lallans.  A girl adopted her father’s forename with ‘daughter’ applied to the end of the name. The ‘daughter’ suffix was usually abbreviated in records, e.g. Catherin Adamsdaughter becomes Catherin Adamsdaur, or Adamsdr or Adamsd.  In Gaelic the word Nic was used, it is the feminine form of Mac.  It often appears in old record abbreviated as Nc.   There are many examples of this in the old parish registers, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, such as;  NcEan, Ncdonald, Nclachlan, etc.  Knowing this can be a great asset in working with pre 1800s records.  Careful research into the history of a district along with DNA testing can often uncover kinship groups in which these feminine forms provide insight into a family’s history.  By the 19th century the clerks were abandoning the practice and giving the ladies masculine surnames, which struck Gaelic speakers as very odd indeed.

Clan-based surnames
Many people with Gaelic origin surnames are interested in researching their clan connections. This is cannot be done by assuming one’s last name is also a clan surname.  Not all members of a clan used the same surname and many Gaelic surnames are not clan surnames and do not relate to historical clans.  They are surnames created from Gaelic patronymic naming customs.  Not all Scottish surnames have clan connections, but many do.   A MacDonald for instance may have a simple Gaelic patronymic surname not all connected to Clann Dhónaill.  He may be simply the ‘son of Dónall’ and when that family’s surname was recorded by some anonymous clerk in early modern times anglicised Mac Dónaill as MacDonald.  In such a case it was not a ‘clan’ surname.

Even then the use of clan surnames was not universal and was often a form only found on legal documents written by government officials, rather than the surname a family actually used in their community.  Clan surnames were used more by older sons of landed families within a clan.  In other cases, families related to a clan via marriage, via legal contracts such a manrents (military obligations to a lord), tacsmen (land managers) or just allies, would take the surname of the clan to which they were associated.  The best way to research one’s clan connections is through Y chromosome DNA testing (Y-DNA) and a thorough study of the history of a district that the family originated.

Y Chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) testing often provides a kinship group of surnames with the same paternal kinship.   Often the non-surname matches are as important as the surname matches when trying to ascertain clan connections.  Many Gaelic clans had groups of surnames associated with them and these can turn up in DNA results.  If you have tested your Y-DNA at the 67 or 111 marker level and a definite kinship group has appeared the surnames in the group usually give data relevant to past clan connections.

A good first step is to have research done on the etymology and history of the surnames in a DNA result kinship group. Sometimes this alone reveals a family’s past clan connections.  For example, the common Ulster and west Highland surname of Campbell, most times this is the anglicised form of Caimbeul from the well-known Argyll family.   But some Campbell families have a kinship group that includes the surname Caulfield which is an anglicised form of the name Mac Cathmhaoil, a county Tyrone Irish Gaelic family that used both Caulfield and Campbell as anglicised forms of their surname.  This gave this particular Campbell family their real history and geographic location to conduct further research.   Another example is the common surname Ferguson from the Gaelic Mac Fearghusa.  Some Fergusons that have DNA testing show matches to MacLains, or Mac Giolla Eáin, families from Mull.  The Mac Giolla Eáin clan had a ‘sept’ that used the surname Ferguson and those particular Fergusons in that DNA match group are connected to clan Mac Giolla Eáin.

If one of your research goals is to explore your clan connections and you have reached a brick wall with your paternal kinship group matches it will help to have an expert look at the group and do an analysis of them.  This involves etymology, history, and geographic analysis of the kinship group and an examination of any primary sources.  It is complex work often working with Gaelic language sources, but can provide insight into a family’s clan connections.

Location-based surnames
Many of the first permanent surnames are territorial in origin, as landowners became known by the name of the lands that they held and the families living on those lands could also take the name of their district.  The Peeblesshire surname of Tweedy comes from the Cumbric word Tuede, meaning ‘to flood,’ and is a case where the lords and the tenants have taken the same surname.  All Tweedys do not all go back to one progenitor, but rather to a group of families that lived in a particular district around the River Tweed when surnames began to be taken.

Occupational surnames
Some Scottish surnames are derived from the occupations of their owners.  Many occupational surnames have both Gaelic forms and anglicised forms. Some of these are obvious, e.g. Smith, Tailor, Mason, and others might be less obvious e.g. Baxter (baker), Stewart (steward), Wardrope (keeper of the garments of a household) and Webster (weaver).  The Gaelic surname Mac Gabhann (son of the Smith) was often anglicised as ‘Smith.’   Another example is the surname Mac an Fhúcdair (son of the wauker or fuller of cloth), later anglicised Walker, a common Scottish surname.

Colour Surnames
Others surnames were derived from distinguishing features and nicknames, Colour suffixes were common among Gaelic families.  A Mac Seamuis Ruadh  (son of red haired James) might have his surname recorded a ‘Reid’ a Scots form of the English word ‘red.’  Mac Giolla Dhuibh (son of the black haired lad) was anglicised a ‘Black.’  There are a host of anglicised Scottish origin surnames that are colours, Black, Brown, Gray, Red, White, etc.

Effects of Emigration and Anglicisation
Many emigrants from Scotland changed their names on arrival in their new country, as did many people from the Highlands & Islands who migrated to the Scottish lowlands in search of work. Shortening or dropping the prefix "Mc" or "Mac", or anglicising a Gaelic surname by translation it, or putting it into phonetic English, or even changing the surname entirely to a similar sounding English name, was common.  Some examples, Mac Donnchaidh became Duncan or Duncanson, Mac Eáin became McKean or Johnson.  Many Gaelic surnames have many variations; Mac Dónaill has been anglicised as McChonail, MacConnel, MacDonald, McDonnell, and McDaniel.  The lovely old Gaelic surname Mac Giolla Easpuig was anglicised as Archibald.

Early spellings
Modern spellings also have limited use in research as most Scottish surnames have multiple spellings.  Early spellings of anglicised and Lallans forms of surnames can present a challenge to decipher.   The Wh sound was often written as Quh.  White might be recorded as Quhit, Quhytt, Quhyitt, Quhetit, Quheyt, Quhyte, or might even appear in phonetic Gaelic as Bain.  When researching a name in early records, the expertise of a researcher familiar with the peculiar nuances of Scots spelling and the Gaelic language can led to success.  It is also important to not place emphasis on the modern spelling of a surname as it was spelled in a variety of ways in times past. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Corney Creek Five

A very select group, one member there is spirit only; the four pictured are the survivors.   It is a north Louisiana phenomenon.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Corney Creek Philisopher

I was fortunate enough last weekend to enjoy the with and wisdom of Robbie Warner, also known as the Corney Creek philosopher.  Robbie is smoking a Savinelli Tiger Rustic Bent Pipe, one of the better pipes in the Universe.

"How far is the head from the heart? The difference between I believe and I know" (c) Robbie Warner 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The McCains and Robertsons

Phil, Barry, Conar, Jase
People saw this photo on my face book page and sent me emails asking about the particulars.  Well, it is like this, I grew up in Ouachita parish, Louisiana.  Spent much of my youth there duck hunting and playing football there.  I met Phil, Jase, and Jep, Robertson a couple years ago, they were at a local gun shop here in north Mississippi. My younger son Conar was with me.  We chatted with Robertons, Phil asked me about my surname, one thing led to another, he remembered my older brother Ronnie, who had played football at Ouachita High School, etc. Ronnie was considered a top quarterback in his day, along with Phil Robertson and Terry Bradshaw. This is all north Louisiana stuff.  Anyroad, we had a nice conversation, the type that men from the same background from the same area, with the same upbringing, have.  It is a north Louisiana, Ouachita parish thing I suppose.

I watched their Duck Commander show, back when I had tv service.  Do not have it now, so do not watch the A&E Duck Dynasty Show.  I did see one of their new shows on the computer a month or so ago.  I am not much for anything from Hollywood these days, but wish them well on the show and hope the pay cheques are worth it.  Excellent fellows.  North Louisiana Anglo-Celts are possibly the most talented, dynamic, people on this earth.  They do us proud.  I am curious about how they all married such good looking women.  That Celt thing again I suppose.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Rose Breasted Grosbeak
This fellow came to the feeder this morning, still here in fact.  Supposed to be in migration, but he seems to be running late.  He is eating a lot of sunflower seeds.  A strikingly handsome bird.  His 'name'  says rose, but in fact, it is a loud red.  Birds are grand.  North Mississippi, is a good place to bird watch.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gaelic Wisdom for the Warrior

Am fear a thug buaidh air fhéin... thug é buaidh air namhaid.   (as Gaidhlig Albanach)

An fear a thug bua ar é féin.... thug sé bua ar namhaid  (Gaeilge) 

The man who conquers himself... conquers an enemy.   

The Gall-Ghaeil

Love the illustration above.  It appeals to me.  I do not know who tagged on the clever saying, but I like it.  The young folk tell me this is an illustration from some 'game' they play with computers or Eboxes or something similar.  Pé sceal é....   I am this great fortune of know a lot about my ancestry. I descend from warrior stock, from a warrior caste.  I have the advantage of working with our McCain DNA project and access to primary sources about my own family from the late thirteenth century to we migrated to the New World.

We originate in mid Argyll, in what is now called Kilmichael Parish.  That is the Dunadd areas for you with map savvy.   This area was home to a people called the Gall-Ghaeil, or 'stranger Gaels.'  They were a Gaelic people who became über influenced and joined with the Norse in their lands.  It was a peaceful joining, marriages, etc., worked out well for both parties. Pé sceal é.... they gave rise to a peculiar phenomenon, i.e. Gaelic Vikings.  This in time gave rise to the Gallóglaigh and Redshanks, and pretty much is the story of my family.  We are those people today.

Nice illustration.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gray Catbird

Today a Gray Catbird came to the feeder.  For a couple of weeks I have been hearing 'kittens' out in the woods beside my apartment.  We have a stray cat that we feed, and she has had kittens, so I thought they must be hers.  But every time I went out to look... nada, níl cat amhain ann. So... the arrival of the Catbird explains all.  It does mew like a cat, incredibly so.  Mystery solved.  Nice bird.

The Indigo Bunting

This very handsome fellow has been visiting the feeder of late, the Indio Bunting.  Very beautiful.  They are fairly common here in north Mississippi.


The Chuck-will's-widow, one of my very favourite birds.  We have many of them here in the wooded hills of north Mississippi.  The locals usually call them, quite incorrectly, a Whip-poor-will.  Why?  Well, the two birds are very similar and do have similar calls, but to the experienced ear they are quite different. We do have some bona fide Whip-poor-wills in north Mississippi, but 99 times out of 100, what one hears at Twilight and at night, is the much more common Chuck-will.  Last night one was about ten feet from my bedroom window, singing his sad strange call.    It eats primarily insects, particular those active at night such as moths, beetles, and winged ants. It will also eat small birds and bats, swallowing them whole; its mouth opens very wide.  It is an odd looking, yet beautiful bird.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Path of the Gods

Perun the Thunderer, aka Thor, Taran, Donner
 the gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path. And that takes courage....

Mary Stewart, The Chrystal Cave

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Words of Odin

As a child I discovered the Norse Sagas and the Eddas.  They started me on the path, I still love them. The wisdom below, a suggestion from the Allfather.... 

Praise day at even, a wife when dead,
a weapon when tried, a maid when married,
ice when 'tis crossed, and ale when 'tis drunk.

(from the Eddas)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Birds in North Mississippi early Spring

Current set of birds observed in or near my wee feeder in the last week or so.... House finch, Golden finch, Cardinal, mourning dove (actually, under the feeder), Chickadee, Tit Mouse, Junco, Wild Turkey. White Throated Sparrows (my favs), Robins, Mocking birds, Blue Jays, come for water only at the feed station.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Irish Coffee, the Real Story

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There is a common and widely held myth that Irish Coffee, that most wonderful of restoratives, was first created in the bar in Shannon Airport. It is true this luscious, Gaelic concoction, was served there at a very early date. But… it wasn’t the first place to serve this wonderful drink, it actually originated in County Donegal at Jackson’s Hotel, in Ballybofey.

There was a seaman named Joe Jackson, a Derry man, who served in the Merchant Navy during World War II. It was his misfortune to be on a ship that was torpedoed in the north Atlantic. When he was rescued he was suffering from exposure and was revived with a high proof drink made from coffee and rum, which was a Navy practice of the day. The rest of Joe Jackson’s service was in the eastern Mediterranean and there he was exposed to drinks containing cream, sugar, and spirits.

With the war over Joe returned home to Ireland and married a woman in the catering business in Ballybofey. Joe purchased a hotel in Ballybofey and calling upon his experiences during the war, began to experiment with new drinks. One of the specialties of the house was an ‘Irish Coffee’ which was made of strong black coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey, and then a layer of cream on top. This was circa late 1940s.

In the early 1950s a Scottish motoring magazine published an account of Joe Jackson’s Irish Coffee. The drink was replicated, according to lore, on 10 November 1952, in the bar of Shannon airport, but this was several years after Jackson’s Hotel served the drink. Perhaps it was a public relations coup or perhaps Donegal was in those days too distant and away, for whatever reason, the Shannon airport origin for Irish Coffee began to take root.

The real story is Irish Coffee is the creation of Mr Joe Jackson and was first served at Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey, County Donegal, where they still serve it today, exactly as it was created by Joe Jackson in the late 1940s.

Barry R McCain (c) 2008

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Bonnie Blue Flag

(this re-posted from an earlier article I wrote, posted today in honour of the fall of the Alamo; the Republic of Texas chose the Bonnie Blue flag as a symbol of their liberty and it is still part of the Texas state flag, and will be in the future, I hope, new Republic of Texas flag) 

It may be news to some outside of Dixie, but there is a flag that has long been associated with people of Ulster ancestry in the New World. This flag is of course the lone star flag, which dates to 11 September, 1810. After the American Revolutionary War, Spain regained control of the territory of West Florida, which is located today in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida.

American and British settlers flooded into this area and most of these families were of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, with the majority being of Ulster ancestry. These people are described as Anglo-Celts by some historians, but usually they are just called Scots-Irish. They resented rule from Spain, I suspect knowing these people as I do, and being one of them myself, they resent heavy handed rule from anyone or thing and a rebellion was short in coming.

the Bonnie Blue Flag

On 11 September, 1810 a troop of West Florida dragoons set out for Baton Rouge (Red Stick) to join republican militia to launch an attack on the Spanish fort there. The Scots-Irish forces overcame the Spanish garrison in Baton Rouge and unfurled the flag of the Republic of West Florida. Alas, politics being what they are, the Republic was only to exist for 90 days before the growing United States gobbled it up.
The flag was a single white star on a blue field. The flag unfurled in 1810 was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Isaac Johnson, the commander of the West Florida Dragoons. The flag is called by two names commonly, the Bonnie Blue Flag and the Lone Star Flag. It saw use in the 1820s and 1830s as the Anglo-Celts pushed into Texas and beyond. The state of Texas incorporates the Lone Star into its state flag of course.

On January 9, 1861 the convention of the People of Mississippi adopted an Ordinance of Secession. With this announcement the Bonnie Blue flag was raised over the capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi. Harry Macarthy was so inspired that he wrote a song entitled "The Bonnie Blue Flag" which became the second most popular patriotic song of the Ole Confederacy.

The Lone Star/Bonnie Blue flag has been in constant use from 1810. You will frequently see it today on license plates on cars and trucks and families fly the flag across the US South and beyond. The Bonnie Blue flag today is as popular as ever and still conveys the same spirit as the original lone star flag and it is part of our Anglo-Celtic.

Barry R McCain

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. Bulk Dark Flake Scented

the dark scented flake
Gawith and Hoggarth's scented dark flake is comprised of Malawi dark fired leaf, which is slightly smoky, but much more subtle and totally different flavour profile than Latakia; the other tobacco is Indian dark air cured leaf. This is a strong to very strong smoke, spicy to my palate, a hint of smoke. Flavoured with Tonquin Bean, it is a very traditional British Isles type flake. If you like a pint of ale and tweed jackets you will like this tobacco. It is Highly Recommended, but only if one enjoys strong tobacco. It has a kick.

Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake Bulk

1792 tin
SG 1792 is a dark fired leaf, Virginia and Kentucky tobaccos. A northwest England type tobacco, very strong, rich dark colour, with what I call 'Christmas' flavours abundant, i.e. nuts, good spices, whiskey, and the tonquin bean which graces many Lakelands. It is very strong and has a perfect room note which would shift a feminist into the other room without difficulty. Again, very strong, do not smoke this unless you have facial hair. It is my favourite smoke. Highly Recommended.

the flake

Indian Pale Ale Review

This a an India Pale Ale (IPA) review of six brews I enjoyed just the other day.  This review is in the category of just a regular beer drinking type, but I will say, I am a nth degree expert as I have been drinking beer weekly since 1968 and have considerable experience.  Not only that, I have travelled much, enjoying the beers of what used to be Great Britain and Ireland. 

Pale ales have been around a long time.  The basics; the term pale ale originally denoted an ale that had been brewed from pale malt. The pale ales of the early 18th century were lightly hopped and quite different from later pale ales. By the mid-18th century, pale ale was mostly manufactured with coke-fired malt, which produced less smoking and roasting of barley in the malting process, and hence produced a paler beer.  Paler than the more red, or amber, coloured beers common to that era.

Like all good things, there is controversy over the creation and reason for the India Pale Ale.  I shall not go into that, but the facts remain that India Pale Ale developed in England around 1840 and India Pale Ale became a popular product in England.  Those are the salient points.  I was introduced to this lovely beer in 1978, in Taunton, Somerset, in the West Country.

It is my favourite type of beer, hands down.  Now I do have a beef with many American craft beer companies that produce IPA.  Many make it too damn sweet.  I do not enjoy sweet beers, I like a Dry type of beer. American IPAs to my tastes are often sweeter and heavier than UK IPAs.  With that as the starting point I had six IPAs recently: Diamond Bear Presidental IPA, Shiner Wild Hare IPA, Widmer Brothers Drifter IPA, Lazy Magnolia rye Timber Beast IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo extra IPA, and Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA.

The beers and how I rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 and my observations:
1. DB Presidential IPA; a good IPA, nice hops, a tad on the sweet side; 5 on the McCain scale.

2. Shiner Wild Hare IPA; excellent, could use a bit more hops, but a lovely dry tastes, it was my favourite of the group; 10 on the McCain scale.

3. Widmer Brothers Drifter IPA; above average, nice balance of hops to malt flavours, 7 on the McCain scale.

4.  Lazy Magnolia rye Timber Beast IPA; this one quite unique, strong with 9.0% alcohol, nice flavours, nice amount of hops, a little too sweet for my tastes, still, it is such a unique beer and the high gravity is interesting, a 9 on the McCain scale. 

5. Sierra Nevada Torpedo extra IPA; very good, the extra hops in this its best feature, again, a tad on the sweet side for me, if it were more dry it would be perfect, a 7 on the McCain scale.

6.  Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA; this one a little like Timber Beast, very unique, made from dark rye malt with a lot of hops.  It had almost a licorice like flavour, the dark rye and high hops I suppose, I really liked it, again just a tad to sweet for me, but very good, a 9 on the McCain scale.

I drank all in the course of one evening so the comparisons were done with the memory of each on my tongue and in my mind. If I were getting a six pack, I would go with the Shiner IPA, if I wanted something special, heavier alcohol, etc., I would go with the intriguing Timber Beast or Tommyknocker Black IPA.  At my local here in Oxford, I normally get the Sierra Nevada on tap, as it is always available and I enjoy the hop level there.

Well, hope this guide to IPAs will be of some service to any and all making an upcoming purchase. I posted the John Wayne beer advertisement above, because it uses 'extra dry' as a selling point of the beer.  The appreciation for dry beers seems to have fallen from favour of late. Not with me however, I still love dry beers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Wisdom of Walker Percy

‎'A man must live by his lights and do what little he can and do it as best he can. In this world goodness is destined to be defeated. But a man must go down fighting. That is the victory. To do anything less is to be less than a man.'

Walker Percy