Whaur we cam fae: the Pechts

‘Whaur we cam fae’ is a tryptych explorin the history an explodin the myths o the last twa thousand years o Scotland. Tae ken whaur we are gaein ye maun ken whaur we’v been.

The Pechts war warriors, fermers an airtists that ruled ower maist o Scotland throu the first millenia AD. They war the distinct fowk that emerged whan aa the hunners o wee clans in verra early Derk Age Scotland gaithert thegither. They spreid ae appearently homogenous cultur out fae their hertlaunds in the saxt century, an suin Pechtland raxed ower maist o Scotland. Their name an the ends o their muckle launds are commemoratit in the Pentland Hills, south o Embra, an the Pentland Firth aff John O’ Groats, wi Pent bein anither name for Pecht. There’s a guid amount o haivers spak about the Pechts, an little truith. Lat’s here ging on a wee journey throu the story o the Pechts an sort out whit’s kent fae whit’s keech.

The Pechts war, in a sense, inventit bi the Romans. The Romans didnae get faur north o Hadrian’s Waa in ony permanent sense, but they did big a dizzen or mair wee mairchin camps an wad send thousands o sodgers north tae fouter about near the Hieland Line. Wee rammies, sporadic fechts an occasional trade went on atween the fowk north o the Waa an the Roman sodgers gairdin it. Nou an again these Romans wad stravaig about Scotland wi immunity atween their mairchin camps, makkin maps an leukin out for resources. Nou an again they wad be gien a sair lesson. The kenspeckle 9t Legion o Romans, wha haed shed bluid aa ower the Roman Empire, mairchit intae Scotland fae their base south o Hadrian’s Waa tae pit doun a Scottish rebellion. They disappeared. Naeb’dy kens tae this day whaur their bodies lie, but maist fowk credit the idea o a Roman massacre, cairied out bi the indigenous peoples. Roman historians screivit tales o the northren barbarians, an the people becam a bogle uised tae mak bairns aa ower the Empire feart at nicht.

Pechtish dice spiel
This bonnie wee dice spiel is inscrievit wi “The Pechts are defeatit, play in safety”. It wis fund in ane o the Empire’s Germanic states, shawin that the reputation o the Pechts wis international

The Romans biggit up the idea that Pechts war a fowk fae lang ago that haed aa the nobility an savagery o the barbarian. They stotted about in the scud in their cauld launds, baws aye hingin in the snell nor’lin wind wi naething but their tattoos tae protect them. They war uised tae fleg the general Roman population, or else uised as a handy frontier, ower which they could breenge gin ae emperor or anither wantit tae shaw hou big an strang he wis bi blouterin intae some enemy.

The Pechts seem tae hae gaithert thegither unner the banner o ‘Rome’s Enemies’. They raidit south ower the Waa, an cam round the coast bi boat tae pit the fear o God intae puir sowels bidin in the lea o the Roman camps. The Pechts developed as a cívilisation strang eneuch tae be gey unwalcome neebours. They war mebbe ower thirled tae a mairtial wey o life at this stage, an archaeologically they didnae lea’ us muckle.

Whan the Roman Empire fell apairt we see Pictish cultur suddenly flourish. The muckle fort at Burgheid on the Moray coast wis biggit, wi ramparts fifty fit abuin the sea, an a deep well for ceremonial, or mebbe sacrifícial, uiss wis dug out o the law. The relígious centres an pouer centres at Rhynie, at Rosemarkie an ither places shaw a confident fermin an fishin fowk wha traded wi aa o Europe an beyond.

Archeology in airts sic as Rhynie gie us insichts intae the complex heirarchies at play, an the buirit troves o siller jewellery fund in Fife gar us tak tent o the great airtistic cultur that becam the hert o the Pictish warld. There’s guid evidence that the famous Beuk o Kells wis screivit an illustratit in a Pecht monastery.

The Beuk o Kells
The Beuk o Kells, nou pairt o a public collection in Dublin, shares mony design featurs wi the airt o the Pechts. Experts ’hink that it’s mebbe a relic fae the wheen monasteries that ance dottit the launds o the Pechts.

But really, gin ye want tae see ae wee skelf o the warld as the Pechts seen it, an hou they altered an interactit wi their warld, ye maun vísit some o their staundin stanes. Nae ither fowk in Europe hae lea’d us sic a fouth o carvit stanes. Around twa hunner o them exist, in ilka airt fae Gallawa tae Skye an Shetland. They uised a series o sýmbols, wha’s literal meanin is tint tae us nou, that are unifrom ower their hail domain, indicatin a shared cultur an unnerstaundin fae south tae north.

Nae lang syne I made ma wey tae the maist Nor-Westerly o aa the mainland Pictish staudin stanes. The Farr Stane staunds in a kirkyaird at the mouth o the fertile strath in Sutherland, whaur the saumon-rich river Naver oscillates its wey tae the sea. It staunds heicher nor ma ain hicht, an leuks proudly out ower this bonnie pairt o the warld. It haes a muckle cross carvit intae its face, an proclaims its Christianity — an thereby its connection wi the wider European cultur an fashion o their day — out tae sea, as if projectin its ain beliefs north tae the pagan wilds o the Viking nations. Here, wi the wind blawin ower the ragged heather, the collapsed brochs, the tuim ferm biggins, ye get a sense o whit the Pechts war aa about. The laund here is rich, the Naver floods nou an again, makkin great dumps o alluvial soil. Whiles it’s mebbe a bit plowterie, but the Bens tae the west tak the warst o the stottin rain. The river is fouthie wi braw saumon, the sea accessible thanks tae a lang, safe naitural herbour.

The Pechts pit doun roots in the maist bonnie an conducive-tae-life airt they could find in the north, an merkit it wi a stane as a declaration o cívilisation. This paittern ye find in ilka airt whaur the Pechts haed a serious base. Guid fishin, guid fermin an relative safety.

There’s a wheen blethers ye hear about the Pechts fae time tae time. Some claim they bade unnergrund. Ithers that they war about fower fit tall. The Declaration o Arbroath, ane o the great documents o Scottish history, even claims that the Scots “utterly destroyed” the Pechts whan the time cam. Aa’hing here haes ae fit in truith an anither in fiction. The Pechts, or at least their immediate forbears, dug out hunners o unnergrund barrows an earth-houses (also kent as Souterrains). These war uised tae store fuid in the caller air aneath the earth, no tae bide in. The idea that Pechts war tiny wee fowk also is pairtially true. The first account o Pechts bein wee is fae a Norse scriever, wha merely suggestit they war a bittie on the smaa side. Nae dout they war, compared wi the lang-shankit Norse fowk. This myth, alangside the ane about them bidin in earth houses, led tae the idea that they war totty wee bairnie-sized fowk. Dinnae you believe it.

Thon lest idea, that the Scots utterly destroyed the Pechts, haes been the maist damagin ane tae their legacy. It haes gied us the idea that the Pechts war in somewey wiped aff the earth in ae muckle genocide as the Scots, their heids an claes droukit wi the bluid o the natives, swept aa afore them. This wisnae the case at aa. The Pechts an Scots wirkit thegither an, ower hunners o years o intermairiage o elites, airtisitic, mairtial an economic pairtnership, they amalgamatit intae ae people. Bi cuttin aff the legacy o the Pechts wi the foundation o Scotland we cut oursels aff fae our ain Derk Age past. The Pechts ruled ower much o whit is nou Scotland, estaiblisht trade an traivel routes we still uise the day an gied our laund mony o its names an featurs. As outlined abuin, the Pechts gied us a kist o riches in terms o archeology, airt, jewellery an history. The few damagin myths around them are the sneckit lock on this kist. Unsneck it, open it up an tak pleisur in explorin the aulder history o Scotland.


Alistair HeatherAlistair Heather wirks wi the Elphinstone Institute at the University o Aiberdeen, heezin up Scots in the North-East throu impruivin its vísibility in the media an tourism, an estaiblishin Scots in ilka pairt o the education sýstem, fae bairnheid tae unnergraduate. He also maks Scots Radio, alangside Frieda Morrison, an Scots Radio TV. He scrieves for The National, The Herald an aab’dy else wha’ll pit him in prent. Gie him yer chat @Historic_Ally an via Alistair [DOT] heather [AT] hotmail.com.

The Scots leid in Australian líteratur

Onybody that kens anent the Scots leid kens that Scots is spoken in Scotland, whaur the leid first upbiggit. Fowk will like eneuch ken that Scots exists in anither pairt: thare the Ulster Scots, the Scots spik o Northren Ireland. But whit isnae sae weel kent is the Scots uised in Australie.

It’s kenable that the main leids o Australie for hunneryears wis the aborigine leids, Dyirbal an Warlpiri amang ithers. An thae leids is gey an interestin thairsels. R.M.W. Dixon an Kenneth L. Hale amang ither linguists haes written beuks anent thae leids that is orra unalike fae ither leids in the warld. Amang thair partícularities is coverbs, whaur the verb is for common formed fae a coverb an the main verb, coverb specifeein the main verb. Thare is forby the mony places o articulation o consonants (distinction acqueish sounds produced at different pairts o the gab). An thay aften uise the selsame wird for an object an anither object that could potentially become it, for ensaumple ‘ainimal’ an ‘meat’.1

For thair nummers, it is upcast thare wis thareabout 250 aboriginal leids in 1788. The feck o thaim is misfortunately endangert or weedit awa, wi anerly 130 bein uised in ilkaday life, an nae mair nor twinty bein leart by bairns.2

Thir days the leid that’s the maist spoken in the southren continent is the Southspik. But thare is forby ither leids that haes come tae Australie by recent immigrants, the main anes thir days bein Mandarin, Italians an Arabic. But Scots wis amang thaim, inspecially in the nineteent hunneryear.

Haud on readin . . . “The Scots leid in Australian líteratur”

Widney’s Fuil

Fa’s fuil are you?

Out o an aafu wee village, cam an aafu big chairacter. At first glance, Langside is juist a kintra village aside Peterheid, wi nae much gaun on. Wi a population o less than a thousand, fowk can even sometimes forget that the placie exists. But, ‘at disna mean that great things, an fowk, hinna cam fae there, an nae lang ago ah wis lat in on the story o a great Langsider — the story o Widney’s fuil.

Sae, come on than, “fa wis he?”, ye ask. Weel, some puir bugger wis wunnerin the same thing fan he says tae Jamie Fleeman, “Are you the Laird of Udny’s Fule?”, tae whilk the Doric spikkin loun shairply replied, wi his best kent wirds: “Aye, an fa’s feel are you?”

Born in Langside in 1713, Fleeman went on tae be ane o the very last o the faimily jesters in Scotland, whilk in itsel maks him staund out. Fit really made Widney’s fuil spécial, tho, wis the fact that he wisna really a fuil at aa. Aye, he wis a chiel wi a sense o humour, fa enjoyed naething better than kickin about the kintra. He even conformed tae the stereotypical glaiket-leukin appearance o fuils. Houiver, aa o the anecdotes o his life suggest that he wis faur fae stupit. In fact, Fleeman wis sic a signíficant chairacter in Scots history that he’s haen a beuk — The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeman — written about his life, an wis even mentiont in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories.

Haud on readin . . . “Widney’s Fuil”

Fift declaration o a Catalan republic

On the 27t October 2017, the Catalonie government o Carlos Puidgemont declared wanthirldom as a republic. This is the fift time that the Catalonie government haes declared the existence o a Catalan republic. In this airticle, we can leuk at the weys the muivement haes been born, an reborn, an developit ower the hunneryears.

The first declaration o Catalan wanthirldom wis in 1641 by Pau Claris, a priest that wis preses o the Disputacio (the Catalan legal an polítical institution). The wanthirldom wis keepit juist for a week durin the Fraunco-Spainish war, a war that happent acqueish 1635 an 1659. The impetus for this declaration wis the ‘Union o Airms’. The Union o Airms wis a plan that the Spainish government pit intae place for tae obteen mair sodgers an tax fae Aragon (that Catalonie wis pairt o), an Portingal. The Catalonie government refused, justifýin thair opposítion by sayin that thay were sendin ower mony sodgers, an that anerly the Catalan Courts should can send Catalan sodgers outwith Catalonie. Haud on readin . . . “Fift declaration o a Catalan republic”

Scots as a leid o education

In this airticle, we’ll leuk at the faisibility o the uiss o Scots in education. Syne whan haes it been uised in education? In whilk wey it is uised in education? An is it siclike wi ither leids? For tae answer thae quaistens, we can leuk at the history o Scots an its uiss in education . . .

Fae the middle o the nineteent hunneryear till the end o the twintiet hunneryear, Scots wisnae gien a place in Scots schuils ava; it wis whiles doun-hauden even.1

On the ither haund, Scots wis a fair feck mair uised in Scots schuils afore the 18t hunneryear, as we can see fae this quote fae The Register o the Privy Seal o Scotland:2

“Ane instructioun for bairnis to be lernit in Scotis and Latene…” (1559)

Haud on readin . . . “Scots as a leid o education”

The porage revolution: Hou porage cam tae mak Scotland habitable

Five thousand year syne the human warld birlt about a different axis. Doun in Egypt the Pharos war biggin their muckle pyramidal kists, drawin their pouer fae the fertile launds abuin the Nile. The great Sphinx wis appearin out fae ashlars o sandstane the size o houses. Naebody speirt efter wha buir the gree in terms o humanity in thae days; it wis clear. The Egyptians, ane o the great cívilisations, haed taen their place as the heid o the species on earth. They kent wha the Gods war, whit their leid wis, an generally kent wha wis wha an whit wis whit brawly. The rest o us sprauchelt, heid doun, throu the dub an mire, up tae wir oxsters in ignorance.

Ye can think o Egypt as the epicentre o human development o the day, an aa ither human actívity bein ripples out fae thon source. The tottie wee wave o humanity that raxed ower the continent tae exhaust itsel on Scotland’s strands wis minor indeed. Than mair nor iver we war the pure ends o the earth.

Haud on readin . . . “The porage revolution: Hou porage cam tae mak Scotland habitable”