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Mar 13, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Fascinating stuff as ever! It does seem hard to dismiss the Strathallan thing in the absence of anything more solid though. I guess as with the Strathearn/Culross connection it could potentially be intended politically instead of hydrologically - but it's not going to reach Forres! I wonder if there are any other toponyms that might be brought into play if Anderson's theory that the 'n's could be 'u's were accepted?

The odd thing about Blervie as the potential site of Malcolm's death is that the argument that pulls one way about Forres (ie even if the kings' deaths there are fictional propoganda, Forres must have been an important place to carry that level of symbolism when it was invented) surely goes into reverse for Blervie? If you were going to invent a fictional place of death to score propoganda points, why would you choose somewhere so obscure? Especially one so close to Forres? It feels there must be at least some pretext for such an otherwise random place to be chosen.

As an aside, what's the basis for Elgin being the most important place in Moray by the 12th century? It was obviously a burgh, but then so was Forres; it didn't become the seat of the cathedral until until the 13th century, and the sherrifdoms of Elgin and Forres weren't combined under Elgin until the late 15th century. If anything Inverness would seem to be the dominant centre of secular power in Moray post-Stracathro - it was probably the seat of the Sheriff of Moray mentioned in 1172, and was where the Leges Scocie specified stelen goods in Moray, Ross and Caithness should be taken for dispute.

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Thanks Daniel! Yes, I still think Strathallan/Dunblane sounds most plausible (especially given that Giric himself died at Dundurn) - this blog was really just getting a stray thought out of my head.

Good question about Blervie - this is why I think there's something about it that hasn't really been pinned down yet. If you've got Archie Duncan's The Making of the Kingdom (mine is the 1992 edition) have a look at p. 190 where he puzzles over the existence of grieveship land at both Forres and Blervie (probably the subject of a future blog...)

Also excellent point re. Elgin - I was really using it as shorthand for the bishop's seat which in the late C12th/early C13th moved between Birnie, Kinneddar and Spynie before settling in Elgin as you say. I also take your point about Inverness - either way, Forres doesn't seem to have been the key place in the C12th. Thanks for keeping me on my toes :)

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Mar 13, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Thanks for the recommendation - I do have a copy of Duncan lurking somewhere, will dig it out. As you say there must be something about Blervie. It feels slightly redolent of Duncan's supposed death at Pitgaveney. somehow.

Wasn't sniping about Elgin I promise! Just mulling things over in my own head as much as anything... hadn't really thought about it before.

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I didn't think you were sniping, don't worry - it was a valid point!

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Mar 12, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

You have my sympathy for the lack of reliable information that you're running into. It reminds me of the early days of the internet, when there was just enough content to make it tantalizingly easy to expect more...only to run into dead ends. Now I also have sympathy for future researchers who will have to deal with information overload made worse by easy access for the ignorant. I guess the silver lining is that you didn't have to deal with more than 3 implausible theories, lol.

In any case, I am thoroughly enjoying your historical journey. For some reason, I've come to view it as a medieval soap opera, always waiting for you to shine a light on another mysterious circumstance...

Best of luck with your continued research and studies!

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Ahhh, thanks Rebecca - the available information is getting better all the time, especially as manuscripts and maps get digitised and put online, but there's no getting round the fact that hardly any written sources survive for pre-12th century Scotland. On the upside, it does make everything seem much more mysterious and therefore fascinating (to me, anyway!)

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Mar 12, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Hi Fiona.

Like your thinking, once again!

Are you aware that there was another medieval chapel in Forres? https://canmore.org.uk/site/15811/chapelton

It has a dedication to St Leonard which would post date it from your period but it has never been dug so we don’t really know it’s age. Could be that the St Leonard dedication (which the High Kirk in Forres now has) was a rededication of an earlier Celtic chapel. St Leonard is very much a Norman saint and his dedications do tend to be early in that period. Perhaps one that the de Freskins imported? They were also keen on St Laurence (their burial chapel is dedicated to him) and Forres’ original church also has that dedication

I have always been intrigued by the existence of that additional chapel within the parish especially as there was never major settlement round about in historic times, just the fermtoun of Chapelton itself. The survival of that name long after memory of the chapel itself has faded is, I think, a clue to the fact that at some point it was a significant religious settlement.

BTW the dating of Shaw in the Canmore entry is incorrect. 1882 is the 2nd edition. The 1st was published in 1775 so the chapel was a ruin even then

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Thanks Alastair - I am aware of St Leonard's chapel and I know there are plans afoot in the town to conduct a community dig there, which is very exciting. Apart from Sueno's Stone, the archaeology of Forres is essentially a blank from the c. 7th century (barrow-graves at Greshop) to the 12th, so there's plenty to uncover I'm sure. I'm also mindful that Sanquhar, right next to Chapelton and the chapel site, is Gaelic for 'old fort', which is worth investigating.

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Mar 23, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Hi Fiona.

Been thinking a little more about your Sanquhar theory. I had always assumed that the estate name was a late import of a Galwegian income but I see that it is attested in a medieval land grant (Robert 2 if I remember correctly) which does give the name greater antiquity and possibly back to your period.

But that then raises the question of the use of caer in Pictish. With Dumfriesshire Sanquhar that is unproblematic as it is accepted as a Brythonic speaking area. And as Pictish was another p-Celtic language/dialect which did undoubtedly share words with Brythonic (e.g. aber, carden) there is no linguistic reason why caer could not also be Pictish. However I can think of no other place name in Pictland that uses this name element.

You may know better and certainly Simon Taylor may well have a view if you have a channel open to him?

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Mar 23, 2023·edited Mar 23, 2023Author

Thanks Alastair, that's really interesting about the land grant, I will hunt for that one. I also initially thought it might have been an implant, but it's on Pont's map of 1590 as Shancharr. Here's what Simon Taylor had to say about it in Pictish Progress (2011):

"It would also seem that Pictish *cair was borrowed into Scottish Gaelic, since there are several place-names north of the Forth containing *cair with Gaelic elements e.g. Balwearie and Dunnikier, both in Kirkcaldy & Dysart FIF (for which see PNF 1); there are also several examples of this word preceded by G seann ‘old’ e.g. Craigsanquhar, Leuchars FIF (PNF 4), Sanquhar, Forres MOR, Shampher, Strachan KCD, Shannacher, Fowlis Wester PER, and Shanquhar, Gartly ABD. Interestingly, none of these appears to be associated with a Roman fort, which may provide a clue to the use of the specific ‘old’. An archaeological assessment of all place-names containing this element would add greatly to our understanding of it, as well as to our understanding of early Scottish high-status settlement and occupation (slightly adapted from Taylor 2003)."

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The fort, wherever and whatever it consisted of, may also be memorialised in 'Rafford', which is Ratheforde (presumably 'fort-ford') in a charter of bishop Bricius of 1208x1215.

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Mar 23, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Rafford is a bit far away. Perhaps it was a separate fort? Though I’m dubious of raths outwith Argyll unless, of course, the Cenel Loarn did indeed relocate to Moray. In any case, I think that name would certainly take it later than a caer I would say.

I hadn’t read that Simon Taylor so thanks for that. I should though at least have thought of Dunnicaer though. Doh!

I found the reference to the Sanchar land deed, it’s in Shaw. He states 1482 so not as early as Robert 2 but still….

I’ve taken a photo of the relevant page. I’ll DM it to you on Twitter

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Haha, multi-platform messaging! Thanks for this. I think there are some rath place-names in Pictland, e.g. the 'Rathinveramon' (Inveralmond?) where Donald macAlpin died in 862, and Rottearns (which is 'Rath Eireann' according to Watson). Neither of those are in Moray, though. Also I think I am seeing forts everywhere! There's obviously the one on Cluny Hill, which was surely the premier 'old fort' in the Forres environs, so what the Sanquhar one must have been, who knows...

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Mar 12, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

I am finding this super interesting so thanks for sharing :)

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Ahh, thanks Melanie - I always worry that what I write is of interest to nobody but me, so it's nice to get comments like this.

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