As I make my way back to Scotland for the 5th time in 5 years I feel as if I’m going home. Im not alone in that thought. Many times I’ve read with interest the comment of others on social media who express how, upon visiting Scotland, they were over come with a sense of “ this is where I belong.” They also often share feeling a deep sadness upon leaving, and a deep longing to return as soon and as often as possible. I can relate...
It was on my first trip in 2014 that I first experienced a sense of unexpected serenity, a sense of belonging. Sitting alone on the beach at Loch Laggan, part of Ardverikie Estate where I’d been drawn by the TV drama “Monarch of the Glen.” I was overcome by an undeniable feeling that I’d finally found where I belong. Not on that beach or on that estate, but in Scotland.
It was here, sitting alone on this beach at Loch Lagan while spending a week at Srdverikie Estate that I first felt at home in Scotland.
Was something supernatural at work? Was this ancestors calling to me from the ages? Possibly. While my known ancestors were not Highlanders, they were Scots. I’m a classic American Scots/Irish - meaning my ancestors are from Scotland and Ireland. Actually they are Scots who came to America via Ireland. While my direct ancestor, Alexander Breckinridge was born in Ireland, his grandfather, also Alexander, was Scottish, from Ayrshire, likely Ballantrae. Whether they found themselves in Ireland as a result of the Highland Clearances or merely set off to find a better life, I don’t yet know, but their route was Scotland to Ireland to America over a couple of generations. Likewise another ancestor, my 8th great grandfather, Robert Gabriel Barnhill, was also Scottish. I know little of him but only recently was contacted by another of his descendants with whom I hope to explore potential commonality among our family trees.
If it was ancestors calling to me from the eons then it’s not surprising others have felt similar emotions. The Scots, especially after the Highland Clearances, spread out around the world and today the Scot Diaspora numbers in the tens of millions. Barely a corner of the world hasn’t been touched by Scottish blood.
Or perhaps it’s just an old age longing for someplace where the grass is greener? I won’t deny that, but I’ve traveled a fair bit in my life - England, France, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rica and 28 of the US states and no other place on earth has called to me as Scotland has.
Some of the amazing places I’v visited in Scotland - clockwise from top left - Gavinburn Cottages on the Clyde outside Glasgow, Dunrobin Castle, Eilean Donan castle, cairns stacked at Loch Loyne, Black Rock Cottage in glencoe, Isle of Eigg, Cille Choirill Church and graveyard, Peebleshire council area near Pebbles.
How deep are my Scottish roots? I don’t honestly know. I don’t claim to be Scottish, not in the sense that you have to be born there to claim ownership. I’m Texan, born and raised under the Lone Star, but I do have Scot ancestry. And there is a widely accepted school of thought that to be Scottish you only need to have Scotland in your heart, and I have that in truckloads. Two DNA tests have confirmed my genetic makeup is well over 90% Scottish and English. Sadly our family genealogist, my cousin Sherry, passed away from cancer, so I’m left to my own devices to find answers to questions that still confound me. Part of this trip will be spent in South Ayrshire, home to my Breckinridge ancestors and later, I’ll visit the Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland, home to the “Ulster Scots” (Scot/Irish) where the original Alexander Breckinridge and his son are buried. There is also a family line that traces back to the Preston family in Ireland and the Craig family of Scotland but I know little of these.
Until recently I believed only that my Scot roots are traced primarily through the Breckinridge line via marriage. My “Moyer” roots are decidedly German, according to Sherry’s research. Yet just prior to beginning this journey, thanks in part of a Glasgow University online course about Scottish Clans, I discovered that the Moyer name has BOTH German AND Scottish roots. The Moyer name in Scotland reportedly traces to Aberdeenshire in the northeast of Scotland. It is thought to be of topographic origin relating to people who lived on or near a moor or heath. Ancestors of the Moyer name are possibly even descended from the Picts, an ancient civilization in Scotland. There are many spelling variations including Moir (still widely seen in Scotland), Moar, Moer, Moyer, and Moyr. Indeed Moir (pronounced MOY-er) is a Scottish surname and is part of Clan Gordon, a lowland clan.
In fact there is even a Clan Moir; it has no chief as recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon. From Wikipedia, “Historically, holders of the surname Muir (also spelt Moir, Moor, Moore, More, and Mure) can be considered septs of Clan Campbell and septs of Clan Gordon in the highlands. The spelling variation More, and Moore is a sept of Clan Leslie in Aberdeenshire.” (My middle name is Leslie.)
Clearly much more research is required. Likely with my cousin gone I’ll need to hire a professional genealogist/researcher. I don’t know how much Scottish blood pulses within me, yet that question doesn’t rule me. It’s enough for me that I have a great affinity for this place, though some say I’m making a fool of myself, having my own tartan, and in their eyes carrying on as though I’m a Scot. I’m not. I’m Texan by birth, Scot by ancestry. I simply love Scotland.
In all of my travels I’ve never been compelled to return again and again to any place as I am to Scotland. Writing this as I travel by train from London to Scotland, I can only say I am drawn to the same feelings expressed in this beautiful song by the Scottish band Runrig. I’m going home...