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More about John ELDER of Caithness, in book by SKENE

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PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 5:37 pm    Post subject: More about John ELDER of Caithness, in book by SKENE Reply with quote

On my Sutherland research webpage, I posted a JOHN ELDER,
from Northern Scotland in 1500's (Caithness and Isle of Skye).

More JOHN ELDER News 5/28/2006:
Today the DNA Discussion list pointed to an online book, which has
more about JOHN ELDER, mapmaker, quoted by SKENE.
"The Highlanders of Scotland"
By William F. Skene, D.C.L. (1836)
Edited by Alexander MacBain, M.A., L.L.D. (1902)
Transcribed Chapters posted on Electric Scotland webpages.
Home page:
Searching for ELDER in each chapter,
finally found the same JOHN ELDER (mapmaker, b. Caithness)
Part 2 Chapter 1
" The first proof of the existence of this tradition which I shall bring forward, is contained in a letter dated 1542, and addressed to King Henry VIII. of England, by a person designating himself “John Elder, clerk, a Reddschanke.” It will be necessary, however, to premise that the author uses the word “Yrische” in the same sense in which the word Erse was applied to the Highlanders, his word for Irish being differently spelt. In that letter he mentions the “Yrische lords of Scotland, commonly callit REDD SCHANKES, and by historiagraphouris, PICTIS.” He than proceeds to give an account of the origin of the Highlanders; he describes them as inhabiting Scotland “befor the incummynge of Albanactus Brutus second sonne.” and as having been “gyauntes and wylde people without ordour, civilitie, or maners, and spake none other language but Yrische;” that they were civilized by Albanactus from whom they were “callit Albonyghe.” And after this account of their origin, he adds, “which derivacion the papistical curside spiritualitie of Scotland, will not heir in no maner of wyse, nor confesse that ever such a kynge, namede Albanactus reagnedether, the which derivacion all the Yrische men of Scotland, which be the auncient stoke, cannot, nor will not denye.”

      "He then proceeds to say, “But our said bussheps drywithe Scotland and theme selfes, from a certain lady namede Scota, which (as they alledge) came out of Egipte, a maraculous hote cuntreth, to recreatt hirself emonges theame in the colde ayre of Scotland, which they can not afferme by no probably auncient author.” From the extracts which have been made from this curious author, it will at once be seen, that there were at that time in Scotland two conflicting traditions regarding the origin of the Reddschankes or Highlanders, the one supported by the Highlanders of the “more auncient stoke,” the other by the “curside spiritualitie of Scotland;” and from the indignation and irritation which he displays against the “bussheps,” it is plain that the latter tradition was fast gaining ground, and must indeed have generally prevailed. The last tradition is easily identified with that contained in the MS. of 1450, and consequently there must have existed among the purer Highlanders a still older tradition by which their origin was derived from the “Pictis.”
"The accordance of the oldest tradition which can be traced in the country, with the conclusion to which a strict and critical examination of all the ancient authorities on the subject had previously brought us, forms a body of evidence regarding the true origin of the Highlanders of Scotland to which the history of no other nation can exhibit a parallel. The authority of John Elder, however, not only proves the tradition of the descent of the Highlanders frm the Picts, to have existed in the Highlands before the Irish or Dalriadic system was introduced, but we can even ascertain from him the origin of the later system, and the cause of its obtaining such universal belief."

     " It appears from John Elder’s letter, that the clergy of Scotland asserted the descent of the Highlanders from the Scots of Dalriada, and that the older Highland families held a different tradition, which agrees with the system contained in this Work. The object of John Elder’s letter, however, was to assure the King of England of support in the Highlands in his plans of obtaining influence in Scotland, and the Highland chiefs who held this older tradition are just those whom he afterwards names to King Henry as in the English interest. Now it is very remarkable, that the first trace of the Dalriadic system which we can discover, is in the famous letter addressed to the Pope in 1320 by the party who asserted the independence of Scotland. To this party the clergy of Scotland unquestionably belonged, while it is equally clear that the Highland chiefs, with very few exceptions, belonged to the English party; and upon comparing the traditionary history upon which Edward I. founded his claim, and which of course his party in Scotland must have believed, we actually find it to be a part of the same tradition which john Elder asserts to have been held by the older Highland families, and which included a belief of their descent from the Picts. The cause of the prevalence of the Scottish story is now clear; for the question of the independence of Scotland having been most improperly placed by the two parties on the truth of their respective traditions, it is plain that as the one party fell, so would the tradition which they asserted; and that the final supremacy of the independent party in the Highlands, as well as in the rest of Scotland, and the total ruin of their adversaries, must have established the absolute belief in the descent of the Highlanders, as well as the kings and clergy of Scotland, from the Scots of Dalriada."

     " We see, however, from John Elder, that, notwithstanding the succession of false traditions which prevailed in the Highlands at different times, traces of the true one were still to be found...."
Part 2 Chapter 2:
"But besides the strong presumption that the Macdonalds are of Pictish descent, and formed a part of the great tribe of the Gallgael, we fortunately possess distinct authority for both of these facts. For the former, John Elder includes the Macdonalds among the ancient Stoke, who still retained the tradition of a Pictish descent, in opposition to the later tradition insisted in by the Scottish clergy, and this is sufficient evidence for the fact that the oldest tradition among the Macdonalds must have been one of a Pictish origin. The latter appears equally clear from the last mention of the Gallgael, in which they are described as the inhabitants of Argyll, Kintyre, Arran, and Man; and as these were at this very period the exact territories which Somerled possessed, it follows of necessity that the Macdonalds were the same people."
Last Chapter of "Highlanders of Scotland" (includes John Elder's views again):
Excursus and Notes

...[.Def. A digression.]
" John Elder’s views. This rascally turncoat tells Henry VIII. that the Redshanks were Picts, and that they were racially the old stock descended from the mythical Brutus, and hence naturally belonged to Britain and England. The story of descent from Scota, or from the Scots, he repudiates. In fact he takes up Edward I.’s position in his letter to the Pope about his claims on Scotland; the Scots, with Bruce at their head, claimed independence as being from Ireland, descended of Scota. Dr. Skene favours the English view! The two stories are myths; they are not even traditions."
Nancy Elder Petersen
Vancouver, WA USA
Host, ELDER DNA project
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