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Chapter 10. People—Race, Language, Population

The Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy gives the dwellers between Dee and Tay the name of Venicones. These were part of the race of Picts, who occupied Eastern Scotland from the Pentland Firth to the Forth. Through the district now called Kincardineshire ran the dividing line between the Northern and the Southern Picts—the Grampians. Gaels also from the west found their way into this region.

Traces of the Pictish and the Gaelic occupation are discernible in place names. “There is no district,” says Dr Don (.Archaeological Notes on Early Scotland),- “in which Scottish land names may be better studied than in the ancient and still linked provinces of Angus and Mearns . . . they hold almost every type of Celtic and Saxon place name found in the country.” Pit or pet and fother are Pictish, as Pitnamoon, Pitforthie, Pitskelly, Pitgarvie, Pitbeadly, Fordoun, Fettercairn. Of Gaelic origin are names of rivers, as Esk, Bervie, A an, Cowie, Luther ; of mountains, as Clochnaben, Kerloch, Cairnmonearn, Knock, Carmont, Bruxie; as well as Kincardine, Mearns, and the names of many of the parishes.

Towards the end of the fifth century the English invasion began. Over the North Sea strangers came sailing from Frisia and the adjoining districts to settle along the coast and originate the fishing villages. From these settlers, who in time pushed inland and intermarried with Picts and Gaels, the bulk of the people have sprung. This blending has produced the robust type of character that distinguishes the inhabitants to-day. Place names indicating English settlements are those ending in ton, ham or hame, kirk.

It is doubtful if any Norsemen made their homes here. But we find ness, from a Norse word for headland, in Girdleness, Greg Ness.

The Celtic tongue formerly spoken in Kincardineshire retreated long ago before a variety of Northern English. Gaelic speaking is now extinct, though at the census of 1911, 78 persons were recorded as able to speak Gaelic and English. -

The vernacular of the county belongs to the Northern Division of the Scots dialects (extending along the east from the Tay to Caithness), but it has a few Midland characteristics. In pronunciation, for example, while in the regions towards the Dee words like moon, school, good are sounded in the northern way as meen, skweel, gweed, in the south they have the ui vowel sound, something akin to the sound in French mur, fieu. The change of wh to / (characteristic of the old Pictish region) is in Kincardineshire still heard, but mostly in fa, fat, fan = who, what, when, and such like. The vowel sound in the pronunciation of one, bone, stone is as in the Aberdeenshire een, been, steen. Stonehaven is locally known as Steenhive. Unheard north of the Dee is the pronunciation of knock, knee, as tnock, tnee. This links the dialect with Forfarshire, and reminds one of J. M. Barrie’s Tnowhead for Knowhead. It may be also noted that the forms this and that are plural as well as singular.

This steens, that beens are these stones, those bones. Dialect differences, however, are to a certain extent disappearing under the influence of schools, newspapers, and easy communications.

As regards population Kincardineshire with 41,007 inhabitants stands twenty-fourth in the list of Scottish counties. Since 1801, when the first census was taken, there has been an increase over the whole county of 14,659, or 55 per cent. From that date each decennial census has shown an increase with the exception of those of 1861 and 1881, when the decreases were very small. The relatively great increase in the 1901 returns (14.8 per cent.) is explained by the fact that 11,428 were included in the Kincardineshire - returns as the population of Torry, which really forms part of Aberdeen city. With this excluded, the population of the rest of the county is found to have decreased- by 1957, or 6.2 per cent.


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