Mixed bag

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Brian Mayes (Letters, 26 November) expresses his recognition of the mixed nature of Scotland’s heritage of peoples and asks why we could not also “embrace… the Angles, Saxons, Normans and Welsh”.

In fact, we already have. The oldest work of literature written in Britain (possibly with the exception of Gildas’ writings) is Y Gododdin, which was written about warriors who rode south from Din Eidyn to do battle and (mostly) die in battle with Saxons at a place called Catraeth.

Those warriors spoke Cumbric, the original language of much of Lowland Scotland at the time and closely related to Old Welsh.

Later, the Lowlands were settled by Anglo-Saxons who carved out the kingdom of Bernicia between the Forth and Tweed (and much of Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway as part of the later kingdom of Northumbria) which lasted
more than 400 years and gave us our present-day language.

Indeed, King David I repeatedly referred to his “English” subjects in Lothian and to their nobles as “French”, though, of course, they were Normans with names like Fairbairn and Haliburton. Many of them came north from Northamptonshire with King David when he inherited the throne, just as many English had fled to Scotland after the “Harrying of the North”.

That is why the attempts by some to portray Scots as a separate people of Gaelic origins, unrelated to the English, are untrue. Scots are a Heinz 57 variety and that does not include other groupings that have settled here, including Bretons (like the Stewart kings), Germans and Flemish.

That is why Scottish Nationalist exclusivity is a historical and racial nonsense. 

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive

Edinburgh