Orkney Family Names, by Gregor Lamb

Orkney Family Names, by Gregor Lamb

Orkney Family Names, by Gregor Lamb

Published by Bellavista in 2003, 170 pages. Hardback with Dust Jacket (N6224X1)

Brand New Book

From the inside fly leaves: Gregor Lamb is a well-known Orkney writer and broadcaster. Born at Binscarth Cottages, Firth, his father was from Aberdeenshire and his mother a Yorston from Rendall. In this book he returns to one of his earliest interests, the family names of Orkney. His own family tree stretches back to the 18th century and includes Mowats and Gaudies of Evie, Fletts of Firth, Yorstons of Rousay and Pottingers of Westray.

The book looks afresh at old Orkney surnames, recording their earliest appearance and explaining how they originated. Since surnames are derived from a number of sources, their study embraces a number of disciplines such as the study of personal names, place-names, archaic trade names, etymology - and, in the case of Orkney, an understanding of its history, its dialect and the Old Norse language. These are fields in which Gregor has shown a persistent interest in his forty years of writing.

In the old records of Orkney we often find that men in an official capacity are referred to as armigers. This meant that they had a coat of arms. A number of arms borne by old Orkney families can be found on tombstones and include such names as Alexander, Ballantyne, Clouston, Craigie, Cromarty, Flett, Foulis, Halcro, Irvine, Liddle, Maine, Manson, Murray, Paplay, Pottinger, Richan, Sinclair, Stewart and Tulloch.

Another source of information for such arms lies in old documents to which very attractive seals were appended. They show, within the shield, typical heraldic features such as a cross or chevron with animals and, above the shield, a helmet. It is often difficult to establish the ownership of such seals since they were frequently borrowed and the paper reused with the original seals still in place! There is no doubt however about the origin of one such seal. It takes the form of a shield showing an engrailed chevron, three animal heads and two crescents! surrounded by the name 'Andrew Velzian'. The coat of arms of the Earl of Orkney which is illustrated dates from the 14th century and is reproduced from the Armorial de Geire held in the Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels. It shows a black engrailed cross on a silver shield. Above the shield is a basi net, a visored helmet, surmounted by a crown out of which protrudes an odd animal licking its lips after devouring its prey which can be seen as a lump in its gullet! Coats of arms often alluded to the name or title of the bearer and the animal is no doubt the orkan, the fabled monster of Germanic legend, otherwise known in Orkney folklore as the Stoorworm! Orkn in Old Norse and erkny in the dialect of North Ronaldsay referred merely to a big seal...

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