Summer Break

The blog preparation team will be taking a break during the university vacation. Blog postings will resume on the 12th of September 2014.

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Scotland and the Flemish People Project Workshop – 5 June 2014

On 5 June 2014, the Scotland and the Flemish People Project held a workshop at the New Arts Building of the University of St. Andrews. Attending the event were experts in varying aspects of Scottish, Flemish and Low Countries history, as well as genealogy and genetic genealogy. The workshop was made up of four informal panels led by Jan Dumolyn (Ghent), Alex Fleming, David Ditchburn (Trinity College Dublin), and Graeme Small (Durham). Each panel comprised a presentation and discussion on a specific topic related to the relationship between Scotland and Flanders.

Panel 1: Jan Dumolyn (University of Ghent) led the first panel session on ‘Flemish Settlement in Medieval Scotland.’ His presentation and the resulting discussion primarily focused on the push and pull factors for Flemish migration to Scotland. Jan began by stressing the importance of medieval Flanders, particularly its economic dominance in Northern Europe. He then argued for the influence of a demographic boom as a push factor for Flemings to move to Scotland. Between 1050 and 1350 the population of Flanders tripled to some 800,000 people. The available resources in the region were overwhelmed by such a population growth which prompted the movement of peoples to neighbouring regions. The professional skills of these Flemings were important as a pull factor for their migration to Scotland. Jan suggested that Flemings chose Scotland for its need of highly skilled professionals, particularly weavers, fullers, and shearers, and its small population size. Jan also argued that in the 16th and 17th centuries socio-economic push and pull factors were primarily responsible for the migration of Flemings to Scotland, rather than religious persecution. The issue of religious persecution as a push factor was the subject of much discussion. Silke Muylaert (Kent) supported the view that the numbers of Flemings who fled to England because of persecution was relatively small. The discussion also highlighted the need to define clearly the borders of Flanders as these had changed over the course of six centuries. It was also agreed that an analysis of Scottish toponyms would be helpful going forward.

Panel 2: Alex Fleming, a part sponsor of and researcher in the Scotland and the Flemish People project, gave the group an introduction to the work that he and others had been doing on ‘Tracing the Flemings in Scotland.’ This involved liaising with many local and family history specialists throughout Scotland (with the assistance of John Irvine). Among those who contributed to the work was Charles Rigg, who has undertaken noteworthy research into twelfth century Flemish immigrants to Upper Clydesdale. Similarly George English has made an important contribution on the issue of religious emigration from Flanders.

F. Lawrence Fleming spoke about his research on the genealogy of those with the surname Fleming. His work was inspired by the discovery of an eleventh century man named ‘de Flamande’, believed to have been a Fleming in the train of William the Conqueror and the person from which those with the present day surname ‘Fleming’ largely descend. However Jan Dumolyn argued that this is quite unlikely due to the lack of written sources, and warned against ‘argumentum ex silentio’: basing conclusions upon the absence of evidence demonstrating another explanation.

The discussion moved onto an assessment of Beryl Platts’ controversial work on Flemish origin families using heraldic evidence. Suspicion of this methodology was fairly widespread among the group. It was pointed out by Alexander Stevenson that Platts had applied the evidence to the eleventh and twelfth centuries, before heraldry had properly matured, and Michael Brown argued that heraldic relationships could be formed through landholding rather than through families, e.g. the Lindsays and the Stewarts, their overlords, used the same heraldic symbols.

On the question of immigration patterns David Dobson described how, between 1500 and 1700, a small number of Flemish immigrants in Scotland had come as two-stage migrants from cities such as Norwich and London. A correlation may be found between the names of Flemings in Edinburgh and Leith, for example, and these southern cities, using documentary evidence such as church records.

Another way of identifying the Flemish footprint in Scotland is through an examination of place names. Alex Woolf highlighted the work of his former PhD student Peadar Morgan, who compiled a database of ethnonym Scottish place names.[[1]]

Another topic of discussion was military history, which can also shed light on the Flemish footprint – mottes are believed to have been constructed by Flemings in Clydesdale, for instance. The Flemish may also have left their mark on agriculture. Flemish expertise may have been sought by lords looking to improve the cultivation of their land.

Alasdair MacDonald, who is working with Alex Fleming to trace Flemish families in Scotland, explained how DNA analysis can potentially be used to validate an origin. A DNA project is now well underway, hosted by the Family Tree DNA company. It is hoped that DNA testing can in due course confirm the Flemish origins of Scottish families, such as Murray, Sutherland, Lindsay and Douglas, where question marks exist at present.[[2]]

Alasdair cautioned against a populist approach to such analysis and instead stressed the need for academic rigour.

Our participants getting involved.

Our participants getting involved.

Panel 3: David Ditchburn (Trinity College Dublin) led the third panel titled ‘Trade Links and Commercial Exchange.’ He began by exploring the close business connections between the Scots and Bruges in the medieval period. David stressed the point that while Scottish historiography treats it as such, Flanders and the Low Countries are not synonymous. The overlapping jurisdictions of the Low Countries had an important impact upon relations between Scotland and Flanders. Similarly, the economics of trade were vital within the political machinations of Scotland, Flanders, England, and France in the medieval period. David highlighted the problems involved in using the customs records (Exchequer Rolls of Scotland) for reconstructing the history of Scotland’s economy. Another important topic covered in David’s presentation was the movement of Scotland’s staple between Bruges, Middelburg, and, finally, Veere in the sixteenth century. He argued that the movement of the staple was an effort to gain further trade privileges for Scottish merchants. There was a broad ranging discussion on commercial exchange with particular emphasis placed on the community of Scots in the Low Countries.

Panel 4: The final session of the day, ‘Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange, was led by Professor Graeme Small. He is an expert on the politics and culture of the Burgundian Netherlands, of which Flanders was a part.[[3]]

Graeme raised several broad cultural issues for discussion. He speculated on whether the exchange between Scotland and Burgundy in the later middle ages was essentially one way. Specifically he believed that Scotland was pulled more and more into mainstream European culture through diplomatic and cultural links with Burgundy.[[4]]

These links were enabled and made manifest by ‘conductors’ or ‘brokers’ between the two states, a notable example being Anselm Adornes, a Burgundian diplomat and counsellor of James III of Scotland.

Of particular note was the example of Mary of Guelders, niece of Philip the Good of Burgundy and queen to James II. At issue is whether, when Mary was physically transferred to Scotland, she also brought her new home more deeply into the cultural orbit of the Burgundian dukes. Graeme suggested that the establishment of Mary’s household under the Scot David Lindsay rather than under a Burgundian was symptomatic of the lack of cultural influence she exerted. However, architectural historian Richard Fawcett discussed her patronage of the Trinity College Kirk (no longer extant), as well as the remodelled presbytery of St Giles Cathedral, both in Edinburgh. Furthermore, Richard argued that the architecture of Trinity College was an example of Burgundian style with a Scottish accent: a visual representation of the cultural fusion stimulated by Mary of Guelders. The architectural theme continued with an examination of how continental styles were generally influential in late medieval and early modern Scotland. For example Stirling Castle has connections with the ducal palace of Nancy, and the telescopic form of the parish church of Dundee bears a resemblance to Low Countries structures such as Utrecht Cathedral.

This raised the question of just how influential Flemish and, more generally, Burgundian culture really was in Scotland. Many of the objects bought in and imported from the staple at Bruges were not necessarily made there, as illustrated by the movement of Robert Bruce’s Parisian tombstone through Flanders before being shipped to Scotland. Graeme stressed the need to think more broadly when considering potential cultural links, to include such institutional routes as universities, for example Leuven, which attracted several notable Scots. Furthermore, Scots were also subject to alternative cultural influences: for example David II and James I both spent formative periods at the English court.

Despite this, it is clear that Bruges exerted a powerful commercial influence as an entrepôt at which Scotland’s elites, without a developed industrial base of their own, sought the best quality luxuries available. Sources such as the ledger of Andrew Halyburton, a Scottish merchant based in the Low Countries, detail the various imports of Scottish clients. Graeme concluded by suggesting that historians need to look to the mercantile classes, and to trade, to get a fuller picture of the long-term and enduring connections between Scotland and Flanders.

Concluding Discussion: After an interesting day of lively discussion and debate, involving experts on fields as varied as social, economic, and cultural history, genealogy, art, and architecture, the workshop drew to a close with concluding remarks led by Professor Roger Mason. While many aspects of the Flemish influence in medieval and early modern Scotland had been discussed, it was agreed that place name and archaeological evidence will also be necessary in order to create a comprehensive study, with trade and commerce holding everything together. It is hoped that a more open conference will be held in late 2015 or early 2016, accompanied by a published volume of essays. Alex Fleming also requested that workshop participants be receptive to contributing to the blog series over the coming year (the blog will resume in September).

The Scotland and Flemish People Project would like to thank all of those who participated in making the workshop a success.

Post-workshop dinner at Zizzi.

Post-workshop dinner at Zizzi.

Amy Eberlin & Morvern French
20 June 2014

[1] See
[2] Further information is available at
[3] See Graeme Small, ‘The Scottish Court in the Fifteenth Century: A View from Burgundy’, in Werner Paravicini (ed.), La Cour de Bourgogne et l’Europe: Le Rayonnement et les Limites d’un Modèle Culturel (2013).
[4] See Alasdair MacDonald, ‘Chivalry as a Catalyst of Cultural Change in Late Medieval Scotland’, in Rudolf Suntrup and Jan R. Veenstra (eds.), Tradition and Innovation in an Era of Change (2001).

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The Flemings of Cumbernauld Castle

Cumbernauld Castle, the home of an important medieval Fleming family, occupied a strategic position in the centre of Scotland. In its day the castle was probably one of the largest in Scotland. Today not much can be seen of its remains but it is hoped that shortly to be commissioned archaeological research will shed light on the size and structure of the castle. This blog posting, mainly the work of Adam Smith, looks at the history of the castle and the Flemings that occupied it.

The castle and other structures

Cumbernauld castle, built by a Fleming family in the 14th century, would have been one of the largest castles in Scotland in its day, covering some 9 acres of land (see mock up below of how the castle may have looked). Likely the castle would have initially comprised a strong stone tower in the form of an L-Plan (a rectangular block with a wing projecting at the end of one of the long sides) with timber or stone outhouses attached. Today not much of it remains apart from a small section of its original wall.

Sketch of Cumbernauld Castle c. 1550 (

Sketch of Cumbernauld Castle c. 1550 (

Some of the stone from the castle was used to build Cumbernauld House (see photo below), a country house that was constructed in 1731 for John Fleming, the 6th Earl of Wigtown. The house sits on the former grounds of the castle and is a category A listed building. During the 20th century it went through a range of uses, including office space for the now defunct Cumbernauld Development Corporation. The house has recently been restored and developed into flats under strict regulations set by the current council.

Entrance of Cumbernauld House (Robert McAllen,

Entrance of Cumbernauld House (Robert McAllen,

Another interesting feature of the area around the castle was a motte and bailey castle that was constructed by the Comyn family. Today only the motte remains and this is shown in the photo below. The Cumbernauld area was originally part of the Comyn’s barony of Kirkintilloch.

Cumbernauld Motte (Texas Radio and Big Beat; No Were Made From The Original;

Cumbernauld Motte (Texas Radio and Big Beat; No Were Made From The Original;

The Fleming family and the castle

The Comyns, were one of the most powerful families in Scotland and the chief supporter of Edward I of England in Scotland during the early stages of the Wars of Independence. Robert the Bruce met John Comyn, head of the family, at Greyfrairs Kirk in Dumfries in 1306. The two argued and Bruce stabbed and killed Comyn. Robert Fleming was one of two companions to Bruce that day, and a staunch supporter of him. To provide proof that Comyn was dead Fleming cut off his head in order to “let the deed shaw”, a Fleming family motto ever since.

Robert Fleming came from the Fleming family of Biggar (the subject of a blog posting on March 24, 2014), a well-established family. Robert was the son of the Lord of Biggar. Robert died prior to Bannockburn but a grateful Bruce knighted his son, Malcolm. Malcolm was also granted the barony of Kirkintilloch and a significant amount of former Comyn land.

Sir Malcolm Fleming came under threat, after Bruce died in 1329, from Edward Balliol and Scottish lords of the Comyn faction (with the support of English king Edward III). This threat intensified following the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333 and an English invasion. But Sir Malcolm survived and his son, also a Sir Malcolm, subsequently inherited the barony. Around 1371 he turned his attention to a consolidation of the barony and centering its activities towards the more strategic Cumbernauld and away from Kirkintilloch. As a result Cumbernauld castle was built.

The castle played host to a number of royal visitors over the years, including Mary Queen of Scots. It was during her visit on 26 January 1562 that the Great Hall of the castle collapsed (while the Queen and her entourage were out hunting). 7 or 8 men were killed. The Queen visited the families of the men killed or injured in the accident. The Fleming link with Mary was very close because one of her four close companions (the four Maries) was the daughter of Lord Fleming, a descendant of Sir. Malcolm.

Early in the 17th century, following the accession of James VI as James I of England the King acknowledged the services that the Flemings had rendered to himself and family. In 1606 the Earldom of Wigton was bestowed upon John, the 6th Lord Fleming.

The end of the Cumbernauld Castle came at the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s troops some time after 1650. It was one of the fortresses in Scotland that “Cromwell knocked about a bit”.

Excavations of the castle and plans for a new archaeology project

During the period 1963-4 an excavation was carried out by the Cumbernauld History Society on Cumbernauld Castle revealing the remains of a prison and cellar, a 15th century rubbish chute and a 17th century wellhouse. When the excavation was completed it was filled in again. In 1981-2 Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Museums excavated another part of the castle. They discovered a cobbled courtyard, the base of a circular building and part of the wall.

It is hoped that the Friends of Cumbernauld House Park will soon commission a Community Archaeology Project to investigate the belief that Cumbernauld Castle was once one of the largest in Scotland. With the previous excavations having been completed in an era when the only mode of archaeological investigation was to dig, this project will utilise modern technology, for the first time presenting a complete picture of the Castle remains which lie hidden beneath Cumbernauld House Park. This investigation, and the resulting excavations, will not permanently uncover a new historic structure, but will serve a much greater community education purpose, enabling countless people from all over the world to learn of the history of Cumbernauld Castle and a glimpse into the life of its former Fleming residents.

Adam Smith and Alex Fleming

Adam Smith is Chair of the Friends of Cumbernauld House Park and the Chair of Cumbernauld Community Development Trust.



Millar, Hugo B. The History of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth from Earliest Times. Cumbernauld Historical Society, 1980

Cumbernauld Castle – Wikipedia

North Lanarkshire Council Archives

Cumbernauld Museum

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The Flemish Influence on Scottish Language

The Scottish relationship with Flanders — whether through trade, immigration or other forms of interaction — has led, among other things, to a significant impact of the Flemish tongue on the development of the Scottish language. Today’s blog posting, mainly the work of Chris Robinson, examines this linguistic influence.

The links between Scotland and the Flemish people, in its various dimensions, have been the subject of this blog series over the last eight months and they are also the focus of ongoing research at the St. Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research. Suffice to say here that the relationship between the two peoples has been sufficiently deep and lasting, commencing from as early as the 12th century, that there has been a linguistic influence at play running from the Flemish language to the Scots.

The two languages are closely related, which made borrowing very easy. In her History of Scots to 1700, Caroline Macafee[[1]] tells us that the Clyde valley was systematically feudalised by Malcolm IV in the mid-12th century and a colony of Flemings was planted, as evidenced in the place-names Thankerton, Wiston, Lamington and Symington. Such settlement by craftsmen was actively encouraged up until the 16th century.

The establishment of the early Scottish burghs was an important factor in the development of the Scots language. To the linguistic mix of Norse-influenced Northern Middle English, French and Gaelic, Flemish speakers added a substantial number of words. Macafee[[1]] cites guild and kirkmaister as examples of how their linguistic influence was reflected in burghal terminology. She also points out how they would have added their weight to the restoration of non-palatalised forms of words like kirk which in English became church. Old Norse is usually given as the source of these non-palatalised forms, but, as often happens, more than one influence was at work and Flemish had a supporting role.

The Flemish tongue is essentially a form of Dutch and this leads, in terms of linguistic analysis, to a difficulty in isolating the influence of the Flemish people and their language on Scots from that of the Dutch. Attempts have been made to disentangle the relative impacts of these two people groups. In the process of compiling A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Scottish National Dictionary — now available as the online Dictionary of the Scots Language ([[2]] — a huge body of data on the Scots language has been brought together. From this data, David Murison[[3]], editor of the Scottish National Dictionary from 1946-76, did sterling work on extracting and analysing the influence of Dutch and Flemish.

The Flemish influence on the Scots language is felt particularly in fields where there were significant areas of contact. As might be expected, the two most important were areas pertaining to trade and cloth. But there were a number of other areas worthy of note: agriculture, weights and measures, coinage, games, war and weapons. There is also a miscellaneous set of other Flemish-rooted words that have embedded themselves in Scots. Murison’s[[3]] work is noteworthy in that it makes a distinction between the Flemish linguistic influence in the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The tables below have been extracted from Murison’s work.

The words in these tables do not include Flemish rooted words that made their way into both the English and Scots vocabulary. The focus here is solely on the impact on the Scots language.




Weights and Measures



War and Weapons


The heyday of the economic relationship between Scotland and Flanders was the 14th and 15th century, so it is not surprising that many of the words pertaining to trade and cloth date to this period. By the same token the more troubled 16th century saw the transmission to Scotland of Flemish words relating to war and weapons.

In the earlier period the transmission mechanism was primarily through Flemish traders and immigrant Flemish weavers domiciled in Scotland. In the later period the influence may have come through Scottish mercenaries fighting in Northern Europe and bringing words back to Scotland.

There are major difficulties in separating out the influences of the Germanic languages on Scots. The Scandinavian languages, Low German, Dutch, and Flemish, have all played their parts, and it is not always clear whether a Scots word comes from one or more of these languages or whether it was there in Old English from the start. Too often the answer is a definite ‘don’t know’. However, the work of Murison[[3]] in separating out words of Flemish origin and relating them to their semantic fields and date of borrowing can help to focus the range of possibilities for the etymologist. Through their words, he brings to life the speakers and their daily business and demonstrates in parallel the economic and linguistic contribution of Flemings to Scotland.

Chris Robinson and Alex Fleming

Chris Robinson is the current Director of Scottish Language Dictionaries and guest lecturer at the University of the Highlands and Islands. She also teaches postgraduates at the University of Edinburgh.


[1] Macafee, Caroline (2005) The History of Scots to 1700 in Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd.
[2] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd.
[3] Murison, David. “The Dutch element in the vocabulary of the Scots” in Edinburgh Studies in English and Scots, ed. A. J. Aitken, A. McIntosh,and H. Palsson (London, Longman, 1971).

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The Flemish of Glenshee, Part 2: The Easter Bleaton Settlement

The blog posting dated the 25th of April set out evidence pointing to the existence of a community of Flemish people in Glenshee during the later Middle Ages and early modern period. In this posting David Strachan examines the ruined settlement at Easter Bleaton, in the south of Glenshee, that local oral tradition suggests was occupied by Flemish people.

The Settlement

The fermtoun of Easter Bleaton in Glenshee (NO 144 586) is a substantial settlement well known to Scottish archaeologists as a result of a series of oblique aerial photographs taken by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in 1987, and which first appeared in their North-east Perth: an archaeological landscape of 1990[[1]] along with results of a detailed survey of the structures.[[2]] The map below shows the position of the Easter Bleaton settlement.

Easter Bleaton

Despite these images being widely used in publications and talks to illustrate what at that time was being referred to a Medieval or Later Rural Settlement or MOLRS, the site remained unprotected until, in my role as Area Archaeologist, I proposed to Historic Scotland that the site be treated as one of national importance, and as a result the site became a Scheduled Monument in 2003.

The monument comprises the well-preserved remains of a deserted settlement of post-medieval date, a well-preserved fermtoun in pasture on a west-facing terrace at about 300m OD, at the foot of Knockali and immediately above the floor of Glenshee. The settlement extends over a distance of some 800m from north to south and includes at least fifty-two buildings, their walls reduced to the lowest courses or to stone footings, and a series of related structures including four kilns and a series of five retting ponds. The RCAHMS survey suggests at least eight separate units, possibly reflecting the properties of individual tenants. The photograph below shows a portion of the remains of the settlement.

Photo credit: Alexander Fleming.

Photo credit: Alexander Fleming.

The surviving remains appear as ‘Up(per) Bleaton’ on Stobie’s map The counties of Perth and Clackmannan of 1783,[[3]] and the settlement type is consistent with the transition from pre-Improvement nucleated townships to the dispersed farmsteads of the post-Improvement era. Improvements in the late 18th century saw significant changes in the way the uplands were used, and the end of the old settlement patterns of ferms/fermtouns. These were replaced by more regularised field patterns and a dispersed pattern of single farms. Remarkably little else is known of the site, however.

The evidence presented in the blog posted on the 25th of April suggests that there were families of Flemings and Spaldings (both families of Flemish origin) living in the south of Glenshee around the time that the settlement was inhabited, and reportedly Easter Bleaton appears a number of times in documentation referring to people with the name Fleming or Spalding.

The Wider Picture

Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, in partnership with Northlight Heritage, is in the third year of a project to explore the archaeological heritage of Glenshee. While the focus of the Glenshee Archaeology Project is the early medieval turf longhouses that survive there, and in Strathardle, the project will also attempt in the longer term to draw together settlement patterns throughout Glenshee from the Bronze Age until the present. In addition to our excavations at Lair in Glenshee, the project has commissioned a study of the place names of the glen, and is working in partnership with Stirling University to produce an environmental history of the glen based on the study of pollen cores.

David Strachan
May 2014

David Strachan is Manager of the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust.

[1] The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. North-east Perth: an archaeological landscape. 113. No. 258. Bibliographic reference; RCAHMS. 1990.

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The Flemish of Glenshee, Part One

This is the third of a series of blog postings that examine the Flemish footprint in different parts of Scotland.  This one — prepared mainly by John Ballantine — focuses on Glenshee, an area that is situated in Perthshire in the foothills of the Highlands. On the face of it Glenshee seems an unlikely place to find a settlement of late medieval/early modern Flemish.

Most of the Flemish immigrants that have been traced so far as part of the Scotland and the Flemish People project have been found in the border areas with England, the larger Scottish cities, and the east facing coastal towns.  Identifying a group of Flemish in one of the Perthshire glens is therefore a matter of some intrigue.

There appears to have been a good number of people of Flemish origin in Glenshee from early in the 17th century until the industrial revolution took hold. In Scotland this began in late 18th century and early 19th century, and created an incentive for people to move from the rural areas such as Glenshee to cities like Dundee that could offer better employment opportunities.

If the local oral tradition is correct, the Flemish have also left a quite significant footprint on the slopes of the glen. Specifically, there is the remnant of a settlement, at Easter Bleaton in the south of Glenshee, that local people believe to have been occupied by the Flemish, possibly in the 17th and 18th centuries.  This settlement, and its possible Flemish links, will be the subject of Part 2 of this blog, which will be posted shortly.

Evidence of a Flemish Presence

It is difficult to find documentary evidence of a Flemish presence in Glenshee before the 17th century, although an interesting essay by Tod[[1]] points to Flemings in areas bordering the glen from the 16th century onwards. However during the 17th and 18th centuries there is much evidence of a Flemish presence in Glenshee, especially in the vicinity of Easter Bleaton.

For instance, there is a record of a Fleming and a Spalding paying rent for land around Easter Bleaton during the 1640s[[3]].  Later there is reference to a David Fleming’s testament registered in 1738 and another David Fleming’s testament in 1779. Both were from Easter Bleaton.[[1]]

Also J. Arnold Fleming[[4]] tells us: “Robert Fleming owned Glenshee, Bletoun, in the parish of Rattray.  There is a bond in his name dated 3rd June, 1600, and mentioned in P.C. Reg. vol. 649.  Sasine of Moness was granted to Alexander Fleming whom failing to Robert Fleming of Bletoun.  David Fleming was laird of Easter Bleaton on 6th July 1738.”

Looking more broadly at the area, there is a history of the Baron Robertsons of Straloch in Strathmore that tells of a Fleming with a wadset (mortgage) on the Baron’s Mains of Inverchrosky in Strathardle—which is close to Glenshee— giving unwelcome financial advice to the Baron in the early years of the 17th century.[[2]]
Then, in 1706, The Duke of Atholl had a list made of men able to bear firearms and other weapons. The list included six Flemings from the Glenshee area.[[5]]
There are more records for the Glenshee – Strathardle area during the 18th and early 19th centuries, including parish records and the 1841 census that shed light on the presence of Flemings. They appear at various locations around Glenshee, including Westertown in Blacklunans, Easter Bleaton, Dalrulzion, and Soilzarie. Interestingly, many of the Fleming families found in the glen during the 18th century are believed to be unrelated.

One family of Flemings from the area—that of Robert Fleming, the financier — see box below — went on to have a significant local and indeed global impact.

A Local Fleming Family of Note

One account suggests that Donald Fleming, who came from the Blair Athol area, was one of Lord George Murray’s Athollmen who fought on the side of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in the Jacobite uprising of 1745-46. After defeat at the Battle of Culloden, and the cleansing that followed, he may have sought the safety of Glenshee, where he had relatives. Another version of events is that Donald was born in the Dulruzion area of Glenshee to one of the Fleming families living there in the 1720s.[[6]] Donald subsequently farmed the area for a number of years. His son John took over the farm some time before 1841 and his other son, Robert, also farmed in the area.

Robert’s grandson, also a Robert Fleming, went on to become one of the shrewdest investors of his generation. His advice was sought by companies and financial institutions in Britain and abroad. He was instrumental in the formation of the first investment trust in Scotland. He became a financier of international renown, founding an international investment bank that bore his name for over a century.

Robert’s brother, John, became Provost of Aberdeen and its MP. He was subsequently Knighted. Robert, in turn, was grandfather to Peter Fleming, a renowned explorer, and Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond.

Glenshee was a special place for the Fleming family even after the later generations had moved away. It became a place of welcome refuge from town life. [[7]]

Another Flemish origin family that occupied these areas was the Spaldings.

One notable Glenshee-Strathardle member of this family was Colonel David Spalding who in 1576 took an army to fight in Flanders for the King of Spain. After seven years he returned with his plunder and built Ashintully Castle in the parish of Kirkmichael. In the early 1700s the family followed the Jacobite cause, lost its lands and dispersed (footnote A).

By 1841 many of the Glenshee-Strathardle Flemings and Spaldings had left the area. Remaining in the area were eleven Fleming families and four Spalding families. Between 1700 and 1799 in the parishes of Alyth and Kirkmichael there were 95 bans and marriages for Flemings and 51 for Spaldings.[[7]]

At the time of the 1841 census, these people were involved primarily in farming and related activities.

From Whence They Came

It seems unlikely that people came directly from Flanders and settled in Glenshee. One possibility is that they were descendants of the prominent Aberfeldy family, the Flemings of Moness or of their tenants or servants who may have adopted the family name. The Flemings of Moness were probably, in turn, a branch of the Flemings of Biggar family that later moved to Cumbernauld and built a castle there. Moness is some 30 miles from Glenshee.

A further possibility is that the Glenshee Flemish were immigrant weavers who originally settled in or near Perth, Dundee, or Aberdeen, and they or their descendants subsequently migrated to Glenshee. These three towns have good access to the sea and would have had a trading link with Flanders (see also blog dated the 21st of February 2014). The oral tradition of the area is that the Easter Bleaton settlement (see upcoming blog posting) comprised Flemish people who were fleeing religious persecution in Flanders.

The Spaldings were originally Flemish/Frisian settlers in Lincolnshire. They arrived during the period of Anglo Saxon settlements of eastern England. It is known that some of the Spaldings moved by sea to Scotland. A Spalding is recorded in 1294 as a magistrate in Aberdeen. Other family groups are known to have moved south from the Dee valley into Glenshee and perhaps a number of Spaldings did likewise.

But what would have been the attraction of Glenshee to the incoming Flemish people? The south end of the glen, where most of the Flemish appear to have settled, has gentle rolling hills and a fertile valley that would have been ideal for farming of various types, especially sheep. There is also a plentiful supply of fresh water.  Some of the earliest Flemish settlers would likely have been sheep farmers.  They may also have brought their aptitude for weaving into play in the glen.

John Ballantine and Alex Fleming
April 2014

John Ballantine is a local genealogist with a special interest in the families of the Blacklunans area in the south of Glenshee.

[1] Tod, Donald A. The Flemings of Athol and Glenshee.  An essay held in Dundee University Library. 1927
[2] Robertson, Rev. James. “The Barons Reid-Robertson of Straloch”. 1887
[4] Fleming, J. Arnold. Flemish Influence in Britain (vol 2, p.378), Jackson, Wylie & Co. (1930)
[5] The Athol Archive. Blair Castle. Perthshire.
[6] Smith, Bill. Robert Fleming 1845 – 1933.  Whittingehame House Publishers, 2000
[7] Stout, George A. Robert Fleming and the Dundee Merchants.  Friends of Dundee City Archives. Publication No. 1. 1999


[A] Flemish families were not the only ones that moved into Glenshee.  The glen appears to have been settled by new clans and families throughout the medieval period. One clan who moved from Deeside in the north was the Chattan Shaw – Farquharson clan . Members of this family became prominent landowners in Glenshee. Some like the Rattrays came from the south, whilst others, like the McGregors, came from the west.

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Baldwin and the 12th Century Incomers to Upper Clydesdale Revisited

For many years it was thought that Baldwin of Biggar was the same person as Baldwin the Fleming and that the latter was the progenitor of the Fleming family in Scotland. It is an important debate in that the Fleming line in question gave rise to the Earls of Wigtown, who have played a significant role in the history of Scotland. In this blog posting Charles Rigg examines the debate over whether they are the same person or two separate ones and other evidence relating to the 12th century ‘Flemish settlement’ of Upper Clydesdale. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the St. Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.

Baldwin from the perspective of 25 years ago

If I had been asked 25 years ago to write a supporting information pamphlet on ‘Baldwin and the 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale’, I would have been able to state unequivocally the Flemish character of Baldwin and the other 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale. My sources of references would rely heavily on the research and writings of Scottish medieval historians, A.A.M. Duncan, G.W.S. Barrow, and Graham Ritchie; but also archaeologist Christopher Tabraham, and specialists in the Flemish in Scotland, J. Arnold Fleming and Beryl Platts. In addition, from the 19th century, the works of Scottish historian George Chalmers, genealogist John Burke, and local historian William Hunter, would illuminate some of the thinking that influenced these later writers. From these points of references the following profile would take shape:

  • The first proprietor of Biggar of whom we know anything was Baldwin Flamingus, who, as was the usual custom of the period, took the title of Biggar from his lands.[[1]]
  • He was the younger son of Stephen Flandrenis of Bratton, Devonshire and was regarded as one of the most distinguished of the militant Flemings expelled by Henry II. He was an outstanding and renowned leader among the Flemings.[[2]]
  • The first record of him in Scotland was as a witness to a charter dated 1150 by Bishop Robert of St. Andrews.[[3]]
  • He was given the onerous sheriffdom of Lanarkshire by David I and kept that office under David’s successors, Malcolm IV and William the Lion.[[4]]
  • As lord of Biggar, he was the most important of a group who settled within a distance of ten miles of each other, giving their names to these villages – Crawfordjohn (John, stepson of Baldwin); Roberton (Robert); Lamington (Lambin, brother of Robert); Wiston (Wice); Symington (Simon Loccard); and Thankerton (Tancred).[[5]]
  • Baldwin had his castle built in Biggar on a grand scale, with a summit area measuring 32m by 20m; in contrast, his countrymen built more modest mottes, none exceeding 3 m in height.[[6]]
  • The Flemish character of the colony has long been recognized because the names of the settlers echoed with the Fleming names in Pembroke, in particular Wizo and Tancred.[[7]]
  • The arrival of these incomers was part of a systematic attempt by David I (1124-53) and Malcolm IV (1153-65) to implant a new and foreign aristocracy and gentry in which Baldwin was perhaps the organiser.[[8]]
  • It was from the cathedral church of Glasgow that the king took land for these incomers.[[9]]
  • Baldwin’s descendants abandoned the name they received from the locality (Biggar) and resumed the one derived from their nationality (Fleming) at the beginning of the 14th century.[[10]]

A more recent perspective on Baldwin

25 years on, the above profile requires careful reconsideration. A comparison of Duncan’s Edinburgh History of Scotland (1975) to Richard Oram’s New Edinburgh History of Scotland (2011), suggests a shift in interpretation. Duncan refers to the ‘Flemish Baldwin of Biggar’ as ‘lord of Biggar’ and the ‘most important of a group’ who settled within a distance of ten miles of each other in Upper Clydesdale.[[11]] In contrast, Oram appears less willing to acknowledge the Flemishness of Baldwin, referring to him only as ‘Baldwin of Biggar’ and is cautious in going no further than stating that the incomers to Upper Clydesdale were ‘probably of Flemish background’. On the question of Baldwin’s possible role in being the locator or populator responsible for finding these incomers, Oram reminds us of the ‘absence of documentary proof’ (my italics).[[12]]

In actual fact, such a difference of opinion is not new. As early as 1864 archaeologist George Vere Irving cast doubts on the assumption that ‘Baldwin of Biggar’ was the same person as the ‘Baldwin the Fleming’ who witnessed the 1150 charter. By tracing the male line started by Baldwin of Biggar down to the death of Nicholas of Biggar, about 1292, he was able to show two things. Firstly, Nicholas died without any male heirs, leaving behind a widow, Marie, and two heiresses, Margerie and Alde, as wards granted by Edward I of England to Robert, Bishop of Glasgow.[[13]] The significance of this is that it brought the male line started by Baldwin of Biggar to an end, something missed by Chalmers, Burke and to a certain extent Hunter. Secondly, the Fleming line was started with the marriage of a Patrick Fleming to one of Nicholas’ heiresses, most likely Margerie, the elder daughter. What we know about this Sir Patrick Fleming of Biggar is that he was the second son of Sir Robert Fleming, loyal supporter of Robert de Bruce, and younger brother of Malcolm, Earl of Wigtown.

Tracing Baldwin’s ancestry through to Nicholas and the beginning of a new male line is helpful in dismissing the argument put forward by George Chalmers in 1824 that at the beginning of the fourteenth century, Baldwin’s ancestors abandoned the name they received from the locality (Biggar) and resumed the one they derived from their nationality (Fleming). It is also helpful in reminding ourselves that there is no evidence to assert that ‘Baldwin of Biggar’ and ‘Baldwin the Fleming’ were one and the same person but from two different families.

More recently, Lauran Toorians in his reappraisal of 12th century Flemish settlements in Scotland highlighted the fact that we can only name with confidence two incomers to Clydesdale as being Flemings, Lambin and his brother Robert, as they were actually named as Flemings.[[14]] The case for adding Baldwin was not totally convincing and for the others, like Wico or Locard, it can only be said that they were ‘possible, but unproven Flemings.’[[15]] In other words, with the exception of Robert and Lambin, there is no hard evidence that these incomers to Upper Clydesdale were Flemings.

So where does this leave my revised information pamphlet on Baldwin and the 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale?

Baldwin – A revision

The research and writings of the past 25 years from medieval historians Richard Oram, Andrew Barrell, Lauran Toorians, and D.G. Scott provide some important sources of reference which need to be taken into account. Additionally, by accepting Irving’s well researched findings against those of Hunter’s completely unreferenced local history, a different profile takes shape:

  • The first proprietor of Biggar was Baldwin of Biggar.[[16]] Unfortunately, no charter exists to inform us when exactly he was granted the lordship of Biggar, what land was involved and under what terms.
  • The first record of Baldwin appears in 1162 when he is named as sheriff of Lanark.[[17]] This was an important position which carried the responsibility of ‘raising military forces, collecting crown revenues, conducting inquests and assizes, and administering justice’.[[18]]
  • We also know that his landed interest was not restricted to that from the king as he held land from fitz Allan to the west of Biggar which Baldwin then granted to Hugh of Pettinain; and his lands extended further west as a later charter gave notice that Baldwin, Sheriff of Lanark, gave to the Church of St Mirin, the parish and lands of Inverkip church.[[19]]
  • Two other incomers to upper Clydesdale at this time were Flemings, Lambin the Fleming and his brother Robert the Fleming, who gave their names to Lamington and Roberton.[[20]]
  • In addition to Lambin and Robert, other settlers to upper Clydesdale who gave their names to local villages were John, stepson of Baldwin, at Crawford John, Simon Locard at Symington, Tancred at Thankerton, and Wice at Wiston.
  • Within that group Wico may have become more powerful than the others as he was in a position to grant to Kelso Abbey the parish church of Wiston and the chapels of Roberton, Symington and Crawfordjohn in the reign of Malcolm IV.[[21]]
  • The person responsible for bringing these incomers to this area that was formerly part of the kingdom of Strathclyde was probably Baldwin of Biggar, who was given the task to find colonists willing to develop the land and keep routes open.[[22]]
  • Baldwin’s line of succession can be traced to Nicholas of Biggar, either a great-great-grandson of Baldwin or a great-great-great-grandson,[[23]] who held lands in the Garioch, Aberdeenshire, an area with strong Flemish connections.[[24]]
  • The death of Nicholas in 1292 brought the male line started by Baldwin to an end as he died without any male heirs.[[25]]
  • A new line was started when Patrick Fleming married a daughter of Nicholas of Biggar.[[26]]


The above throws up the need to look afresh at two distinct lines of enquiry. The first relates to Baldwin himself; the second, to the 12th century colony of incomers that arrived in Upper Clydesdale.

We should now accept that Irving was right in advancing the theory that the line started by Baldwin ended with Nicholas; indeed, it is a view that both Hunter and Arnold Fleming believed to be far from improbable.[[27]] What is needed is a fresh look at the evidence relating to Baldwin in order to produce a narrative that describes his background and sphere of influence.

On the colonization of Upper Clydesdale, there is a need to remind ourselves that there is a list of ‘mainly possible, but unproven, Flemings’ who ‘formed a closely knit community consisting of people who had numerous relationships of all sort with one another, and who were actively involved in other areas with important settlements, as in Moray, Cunningham and Annandale’.[[28]] Again, there is a need to re-examine the evidence and acknowledge the limitations of it in writing a narrative covering the 12th century colonization of Upper Clydesdale.

Charles Rigg, the author of this blog posting, is a Trustee of Biggar Museums. At present the Trust is involved in a £2million project to relocate two museums to a new purpose built site on the main street. As one of the project’s interpretative design team he is especially interested in re-assessing the evidence relating to Baldwin of Biggar and the 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale.

[1] William Hunter, Biggar and the House of Fleming (1867), 465.
[2] J. Arnold Fleming, Flemish Influence in Britain, vol. 11 (Glasgow 1930), 13.
[3] R.L.G. Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1954), 375.
[4] Beryl Platts, Scottish Hazard:The Flemish Nobility and their impact on Scotland, vol. 1 (Proctor Press 1985), 152.
[5] A.A.M. Duncan, Scotland:The Making of the Kingdom (Edinburgh, 1978), 137.
[6] Christopher J. Tabraham, ‘Norman Settlement in Upper Clydesdale: Recent Archaeological Fieldwork’ in Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, (1977-78), 127.
[7] G.W.S. Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots: Government, Church and Society from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century (London, 1973), 290; and Ritchie, 376.
[8] Duncan, 137.
[9] Barrow, 290.
[10] George Chalmers, Caledonia, or an account, historical and topographic, of North Britain, from the most ancient to the present times (1824).
[11] Duncan, 137.
[12] Richard Oram, Domination and Lordship: Scotland 1070-1230 (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 316.
[13] George Vere Irving, The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, Described and Delineated (1862), 305-6.
[14] Lauran Toorians, ‘Twelfth-century Flemish Settlement in Scotland’, in Grant Simpson (ed.) Scotland and the Low Countries 1124-1994 (Tuckwell 1993), 4.
[15] Toorians, 7-9.
[16] Irving, 304.
[17] RRS, 1, nos 184, see Barrow (ed.), 197.
[18] A.D.M. Barrell, Medieval Scotland (Cambridge University Press 2000), 34.
[19] Ritchie, 375.
[20] Toorians, 7-8.
[21] J.G.Scott., ‘The Partition of a kingdom: Strathclyde 1092-1153’ in Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society (1997), 34. See also Barrow, 289.
[22] Oram, 316.
[23] The forty year gap between mention of Hugh of Biggar and Nicholas of Biggar raises a question as to whether Nicholas was the son or grandson of Hugh. See Irving, 305.
[24] John Davidson, Inverurie and the Earldom of The Garioch (A.Brown & Co, 1878), 21.
[25] Irving, 305; Rot. Scot, i, 14a; see also F. Lawrence Fleming, The Ancestry of the Earl of Wigton and Other essays relating to the family history of Flemings (Paragon, 2011), 90.
[26] Irving, 307.
[27] Hunter, 467; Arnold Fleming, 19.
[28] Toorians, 9.

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The Other Flemish Origin Families in Scotland: Next Steps

Some of the key issues that the project team would like to address over the next 2 years relate to the Flemish origin families in Scotland that do not carry the name Fleming, or what we call here “the other Flemish families”.  In this posting we show the current list of such families and discuss next steps in validating their Flemish origins.

The Other Flemish Families

Over the past eighteen months a regularly updated list of “probable” and “possible” Flemish origin families has been kept.  The list contained the name Fleming and its numerous variants but most families on the list were what might be called the “other Flemish families” in Scotland

Some family names have been found in relevant books/documents and others have been communicated to us by family members or family history specialists.  This list has been published in earlier blog postings (dated 27 September and 8 November 2013), but the current list—Box 1 below—differs from the earlier one in that it excludes the Fleming name but also:

  1. It includes some new families that have been communicated to us recently, and excludes some that have already been found to be non-Flemish, and
  2. It eliminates the distinction between “probable” and “possible” because the Flemish origins of some names on the original probable list have been questioned.  Accordingly all names are considered, for now, to be “possible”.


Box 1: Other Possible Flemish Origin Families in Scotland
Balliol/Bell and variants
Binnie/Binning and variants
Bremner/Bremmer and variants
Crawford and variants
Dewar/De War
Hazel and variants
Preynne/Prain and variants
Waddell, Woodall and variants

Next Steps

Over the next two years we plan to make contact with as many as possible of the above families—or people familiar with them—in order to document work that has already been done to identify their origins.  We are hoping to be able to examine for specific families the results of genealogical/family history research as well as any genetic genealogical analyses that have been carried out to date. Other information we would like to glean is when the family may have come to Scotland, where the family settled, and if possible what they did. We would publish the findings as a series of blog postings.

As a second strand of our investigations we want to encourage as many male members of the above families as possible to test as part of our Y-DNA project.  This will help us discern any common ancestors among participating families and also possibly determine, as genetic science advances, whether a family had its roots in Flanders.  Details of how to join the Y-DNA project are shown in Box 2 at the end of this posting.

We would like to enlist your support in this work.  So if you have have any information of the type mentioned above about any of the listed families (or indeed any other families not in the list but which you believe may have a Flemish origin), please contact Alex Fleming at the following Email address:


Box 2: DNA Testing for the Scotland and the Flemish People Project

The DNA test involves a simple swab on the inside of the cheek. There are two levels of test for genealogical research. If you are interested in getting tested we recommend you purchase the 37 marker Y-DNA test as the minimum for surname research which may well identify distant relatives within Family Tree DNA’s extensive database. The 67 marker test provides extra data and will help us in our analytic work.

This test may give you an indication of your “deep ancestry” by matching with other participants who have been found positive for advanced “deep ancestry” markers. These advanced markers can be ordered at a later date if required. The test kit can be obtained direct by contacting Alasdair Macdonald or via the join tab at There is a small discount by ordering through either route (£13-£20 or $20-$30).

The project is administered by Alasdair Macdonald from the University of Strathclyde (Department of Genealogical Studies). He is a leading authority in Scotland on DNA. Should you have any questions please contact Alasdair at Alternatively feel free to contact co-administrator Alex Fleming

Alex Fleming

March 2014

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Place-Names as a Clue to the Flemish Presence in Scotland

In recent years significant academic work has been done on place-names in Scotland with a view to understanding their origins. Place-names can potentially shed light on patterns of medieval settlement. Scholars have found that toponyms—that is place-names—provide valuable insight into the historical geography of a particular region. Toponyms not only illustrate ethnic settlement patterns, but they can also help identify discrete periods of immigration. This blog posting draws on the findings of author Peadar Morgan’s PhD thesis in this field.

Identifying Flemish Place-Names

In a recent publication, Andrew Smith (2008 and 2008b) discussed the relationship between upper Clydesdale Flemish landowners and Kelso Abbey. He speculated that these Flemings acted as “middlemen in the wool industry” for the monks, adding that this “will forever remain uncertain unless new evidence is uncovered.” One potential source of evidence may lie in the toponymic record (see definitional box below), that is, the place-names that have survived the vagaries of time and documentation. Such studies can be a useful mine of information on ethnic histories. So it is for the Flemish in Scotland, although, as shown below, the evidence is not plentiful or totally conclusive.


Toponymy is the study of place-names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology. A toponymist is one who studies toponymy.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group.

Orthography is the conventional spelling system of a language.

An ethnonym is a proper name by which a people or ethnic group is known (OED, s.v.), whether coined by the ethnic group itself — in this case the Flemings or Flemish — or given to it by others. The interaction between ethnic groups has led to several ethnonyms being used to form place-names in Scotland over the centuries and in the various languages that have been present here. But simply finding “Fleming” in a place-name on the map is no guarantee that it has an ethnic derivation.

Only two current Scottish place-names can be said, with confidence, to have an ethnic origin: Flemington in Ayton parish in former Berwickshire,[[1]] and Flemyland in Dalry, Ayrshire.[[2]] Three others, no longer on the map, might well also count as ethnic: Fleming-Beath† in Beath, Fife;[[3]] Flemingis-land†[[4]]> in Kettins, Angus;[[5]] and Flemingtoun† in Roxburghshire.[[6]] Taking the modern border with England out of the equation brings three more names into a wider picture, in former Cumberland: Flimby[[7]] and Flamiggs[[8]] near Cockermouth, and Fleming Hall near Gosforth.[[9]] All of the above place-names have been designated as “probable”—meaning probably having an ethnic reference—in the map below.

There are others names, however, that while lacking evidence to link them directly with the Flemish ethnicity, cannot be ruled out either: Fleminghill in Kilmarnock parish, Ayrshire,[[10]] and five of the places called Flemington, in Aberlemno in Angus,[[11]] Petty in Inverness-shire,[[12]] Cambuslang[[13]] and Dalziel[[14]] Lanarkshire; and Newlands in Peebleshire.[[15]] Likewise, the former settlement of Fleemington† in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire,[[16]] Towart-Fleeming† (now Toward Taynuilt) in Dunoon & Kilmun, Argyll,[[17]] and, near Carlisle in Cumberland, the inlet Fleming Halse†.[[18]] The place-names described in this paragraph are considered to be “possible” in the map below.

The main difficulty with interpreting Fleming as an ethnonym lies in the fact that the word is also used as a surname. A reference to an individual as “the Fleming”—such as Berowald the Fleming—cannot be taken as an ethnic description. Sometimes the definite article “the” is used somewhat randomly in recording medieval surnames. With the ethnic label, there was a tendency towards using the noun Fleming as a prefix with the force of an adjective (OED, s.v.), already apparent in Older Scots as in Fleming lauch (‘law’, 1357), Flemying schip (‘ship’, 1544), Fleming berge (‘barge’, by 1568) and Flemyng wobster (‘weaver’, 1600) (DOST, s.v.).

Place-names of special interest

The Fleming surname arose from the adoption of the ethnonymic label as a surname by families of immigrants, with several, perhaps unrelated, individuals appearing on record with the name in the second half of the twelfth century (Black 1946, 268). Hammond (2007, 39) has pointed out, however, that there is only evidence for the surname developing in one noble family, that of the knight Berowald the Fleming (alias Berewald Fleming, floruit 1160 Moray; PoMS, person 333). F. Lawrence Fleming (2011) takes a similar position in his books on the genealogy of the Fleming family.

But the label for the knight Bartholomew Fleming (floruit 1235–64; PoMS, person 4710) did continue in his line to at least Robert Fleming (floruit 1270–82; PoMS, person 12826). Their residence of Warderis-Fleming† in Insch, Aberdeenshire,[[19]] would seem to preserve this family name as an affix, and this was retained even after the family name of the owner changed. An Older Scots affix is also found in the village and parish-name Kirkpatrick-Fleming, in Dumfriesshire,[[20]] in which parish were also to be found Flemyng-landis†[[21]] and Flemyngraw†[[22]] in that parish are presumably to be associated. These are most likely surname oriented place-names given their late appearance and the strong local tradition that a family of the name Fleming had been a major landowner in the area. It is safe to assume that Fleming place-names not recorded before the start of the Scottish Standard English period, c.1700, are named for the family.[[23]] In 1881, the surname Fleming was common across Scotland other than the northern Highlands, a pattern that extended into former Cumberland, but not Northumberland; the greatest incidence was in central Scotland and Lanarkshire (GBFNP).

The one Gaelic place-name referring to a Flemish link is A’ Mhòine Fhlanrasach, ‘the peatbog associated with (the) Flemish’.[[24]] This is the equivalent of the English name for Flanders Moss, a wide area in the parishes of Drymen, Kippen and Port of Menteith in former Stirlingshire and Perthshire earlier called Tilly-Moss.[[25]] It has been suggested that Flanders is invoked in the English name because of association with Flemish immigration and/or drainage expertise; but in fact the reason for the name is unknown. The Gaelic name, with an adjective, may imply a topographical comparison with the raised bogs of Flanders, perhaps bestowed by soldiers returning from the European wars of the seventeenth century, rather than referring to people. However, the late-recorded Gaelic name might have arisen as a translation of Flanders Moss, as the tradition of incorporating a country-name to indicate association with an alien ethnicity is unknown in Gaelic.

Flemish immigration is, however, cautiously considered by English authorities to have left its mark in place-names, as in Flempton in Suffolk.[[26]] Despite arriving in the train of the Norman Conquest of England of 1066, the Flemings still had an impact on the Old English toponymy of the far north of England in Flimby. Though seemingly re-analysed with the Middle English reflex Flemynge used attributively,[[27]] it is likely to date to the late eleventh century, when the personal names of colonists in Cumberland were likewise being attached to the Old Danish settlement generic noun (Parsons & Styles 2000, 105).

The tendency towards the use of the Fleming ethnonym before a noun appears in the place-name Flemyland. Also, land possession and/or settlement may be signified by the genitive in Flemingis-land† (though occupied by one Alexander Scot in 1547) and in Fleminghill (1654 Fleamingshill). An adjective appears in reference to land possession only once, as flemisse (for the Older Scots adjective Flemis). Fleming-Beath† is a variable thirteenth and fourteenth-century name at the start of numerous divisions of the lands of Beath with familial affixes often added to the existing name. As pointed out by Taylor (PNF i, 312), it is found in its first few years as a recorded name with an affix preceding it, an affix following it, or with the Older Scots genitive ending is. However, it also has the form flemisse Beeth, recorded sometime between 1230 and 1239, showing the name of the proprietor, former Dunfermline Abbey tenant William (the) Fleming, to be more than just a surname (contra loc. cit.). He had perhaps come to the Benedictine institution from a similar institution in Flanders.

In analysing those Fleming-names containing a noun meaning a settlement, three patterns emerge. First, there is no indication of settlements being named for immigrant Flemish colonisers.[[28]] Of the thirty-six individuals recorded as “(the) Fleming” from 1093 to 1286 (PoMS), remarkably only one shows any correlation with these locations, but this three times. However, William Fleming, floruit 1196–1229 (PoMS, person 1066), is unlikely to be commemorated in these names. He is only a witness in respect of transactions affecting places close to, but not including, Flemington in Aberlemno (the gift sometime between 1196×99 of the church of Guthrie to Arbroath Abbey, PoMS, factoid 4564), Fleemington† (the confirmation in 1195×99 of the land of Moniabrock NS352632, Lochwinnoch, PoMS, factoid 4116) and Flemington in Avondale (the gift in 1229 of teinds of grain in Avondale, PoMS, factoid 44274), all first recorded later, in 1331×72, 1544 and 1816 respectively.

Second, a geographical association, and some known tenurial links, with religious houses are revealed in several instances. These houses belong to:
1) the Benedictines in Dunfermline Abbey (Fleming-Beath† created from within abbey lands for one of its tenants) and Coldingham Priory (Flemington, Ayton, within 6.5km);
2) the Cistercians in Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumberland (Flimby, with nearby Grange Farm serving the abbey (c.1215), and with its deer-park of Flemeby Parke† (1538 PNCu 2, 299), if correctly identified, located near the abbey), Calder Abbey in Cumberland (Fleming Hall, 3km) and Coupar Angus Abbey (Flemingis-land†, ½–6km);
3) the Premonstratensians in Dryburgh Abbey (Flemingtoun†, in Roxburghshire and paying annual dues); and
4) the Tironensians in Kilwinning Abbey (Flemyland, 2km, and marching with a place called Monkredding NS323454 in Kilwinning).
Note also Fleminghill, 1.2km from a place called Monkland NS468396 in the same parish of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

Proximity in itself does not demonstrate tenurial or other association, but the case of Flimby serves to remind that links may exist even when there is a separation of 22.5km. The most likely nature of this link is the medieval export of wool to the cloth industries of Flanders, identified by A.A.M. Duncan (Atlas 1996, 237) as having been undertaken, inter alia, by the Benedictines in Dunfermline and Coldingham and the Cistercians in Coupar Angus (Holm Cultram and Calder being outwith his survey area). As mentioned above, Smith (2008 and 2008b) has demonstrated a tenurial association of upper Clydesdale Flemish landowners with Kelso Abbey, and has speculated that they acted as “middlemen in the wool industry” for the monks. It is suggested that for all the monasteries listed above, and not just those identified by Duncan, the place-names give at least a hint of association in wool production.[[29]]

As part of a third pattern, two settlements in Lanarkshire, Flemington in Avondale and Flemington in Cambuslang, have reported links to the weaving trade, with weaving forming the greatest employment in the former in 1843, and a cotton mill having been in the latter. There was settlement of foreign craftsmen, including Flemish weavers, in Scotland as a result of legislation to encourage such immigration in 1582, 1594 and 1600 (Donaldson 1976, 244), but this scarcely explains either. Flemington, Avondale, is a small settlement of perhaps just three buildings, first recorded in 1816. It cannot be assumed, given the lapse of 200 years, that the name is settlement related, and like Flemington† in Glasgow (apparently post-dating the 1773 Ross Map), is likely to be surname related. Flemington, Cambuslang, on the other hand, was first recorded in 1440, well before the immigration acts. Indeed, the three Flemington-names in Aberlemno, Cambuslang and Petty, are not in the proximity of a monastery, and are in any case recorded before the sixteenth century. Flemington in Peebleshire is known to date from before 1583 (Canmore, 49968), when some houses were burnt down, and is on record as 1755 Fleemington Mills (Roy Map), by 1767 Flemington Mill (GC iii, 148), and 1858 Flemington-mill (manuscript Ordnance Survey Original Object Name Books, 32:15), though by 1858 there was no longer a mill in operation. But it is not known what kind of mill was at this relatively remote rural location. The immigration encouraged in 1582 may already have been under way, if not with the intensity deemed necessary for the economic aims of the Government. So it is not impossible that Fleming-names from earlier in the sixteenth century referred to economic migrants. But that weaving possibility for some names, and that of a wool trade association with religious houses for others, remains to be evidenced. Which is where the Scotland and the Flemish People project can prove so important.

Dr Peadar Morgan has recently completed a part-time Ph.D. with the School of History at the University of St Andrews. His thesis, on Ethnonyms in the Place-names of Scotland and the Border Counties of England, is available at Peadar is Research and Corpus Planning Manager with Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

- Adair Map 3: ‘A Mape of the countries about Stirling’, by John Adair, 1680s, at, held by the National Library of Scotland, Adv.MS.70.2.11.
- Addison, William, 1978, Understanding English Place-names (London).
- Atlas 1996: Atlas of Scottish History to 1707, eds Peter G.B. McNeill and Hector L. MacQueen, with Anona Lyons, 1996 (Edinburgh).
- Black, D.D., 1857, ‘Notice of the Excavation of a “Pict’s House,” on the Farm of Stensall of Kergord, Zetland’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2, 452–4.
- Black, George Fraser, 1946, The Surnames of Scotland – Their Origin, Meaning, and History (New York), repub. 1996 (Edinburgh).
- Blaeu Map: Atlas novus, Vol. 5, Atlas of Scotland, by Joan Blaeu, 1654 (Amsterdam), at the National Library of Scotland.
- Canmore: sites database, at , Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
- Cold. Corr.: The Priory of Coldingham: the correspondence, inventories, account rolls, and law proceedings, of the Priory of Coldingham, ed. James Rain, 1841, Surtees Society, 12.
- Donaldson, Gordon, 1978, Scotland: James V-James VII, Edinburgh History of Scotland, Vol. 3, paperback edn (Edinburgh; hardback edn 1976). Follows earlier edns in 1965 and 1971.
- DOST: A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue from the Twelfth Century to the End of the Seventeenth, eds William Alexander Craigie et al., 1931–2002, at Dictionary of the Scots Language ~ Dictionar o the Scots Leid.
- Dunf. Reg.: Registrum de Dunfermelyn: liber cartarum abbatie Benedictine s. s. Trinitatis et b. Margarete Regine de Dunfermelyn, ed. anon., 1842, Bannatyne Club, 74.
- ER: The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (Edinburgh).
- Fleming, F. Lawrence, 2011, The ancestry of the Earl of Wigton and other essays relating to the family history of the Flemings (Northampton).
- Forrest Map, 1816: The county of Lanark from actual survey, by William Forrest, 1816 (Edinburgh), at the National Library of Scotland.
- GBFNP: Great Britain Family Names Profiling, at University College London. Formerly “National Trust Names”. A research project for the web-based dissemination of the geography of genealogy. 1881 data from the UK Census, and 1998 from Experian International Ltd, presented by frequency per modern postal area.
- GC iii: Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland Made By Walter Macfarlane, Vol. 3, by W. Macfarlane, eds Arthur Mitchell and James Toshach Clark, 1908, Scottish History Society, 1st series, 53.
- Hammond, Matthew H., 2007, ‘The use of the name Scot in the Central Middle Ages’, Part 1, ‘Scot as a by-name’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 1, 37–60.
- Holm Cultram Reg.: Register & Records of Holm Cultram: the cartulary and other records of the important Cistercian house of Holm Cultram, eds Francis Grainger and W.G. Collingwood, 1929, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 7, at , Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust.
- Mills, A.D., 1998, A Dictionary of English Place-names, 2nd edn (Oxford).
- Nimmo, William, and Gillespie, R., ed., 1880, History of Stirlingshire, 3rd edn (London and Glasgow; 1st edn 1777; 2nd edn 1817).
- OED: Oxford English Dictionary, 1928–, at Oxford University Press.
- OSnb: Ordnance Survey Original Object Name Books, county surveys as below, 1845–78 (see NAS MSS, above). Consulted on microfilm copies and photocopied indices in the library of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh.
- Parsons, David, and Styles, Tania, eds, 2000, The Vocabulary of English Place-names: brace-cæster (Nottingham).
- PNCu: The Place-names of Cumberland, Parts 1–2, by Bruce Dickins et al., 1950, English Place-Name Society xx–xxi.
- PNF i: The Place-names of Fife, Vol. 1, West Fife between Leven and Forth, by Simon Taylor, with Gilbert Márkus, 2006 (Donington).
- PoMS: Paradox of Medieval Scotland 1093–1286, bibliographical database by Dauvit Broun et al., 2010, at , University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh and King’s College London.
- RMS: Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum ~ The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland (Edinburgh).
- Ross Map, 1773: A map of the shire of Lanark, by Charles Ross, 1773 (s.l.), at , National Library of Scotland.
- Roy Map: ‘[Roy Military Survey of Scotland]‘ by William Roy, 1747–55, at , National Library of Scotland, held by the British Museum, K.Top.48.25-1.a-f.
- RSS: Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum ~ The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland (Edinburgh).
- St Bees Reg.: Register of the Priory of St Bees, ed. James Wilson, 1915, Surtees Society, 126.
- Smith, Andrew T., 2008 and 2008b, ‘The Extra-Monetary Dimensions of the Lesmahagow Feu-Fermes’, Part 1, History Scotland 8:1, 31–7, and 8:2, 14–20.
- TCWAAS: transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 1866–.
- Watson, William John, 1909, ‘Topographical Varia, [1 and 2]‘, Celtic Review 5, 148–54, 337–42.

[1] At grid reference NT940608; the earliest record collected by me being in 1235, as Flemigtona (Cold. Corr., 241).
[2] NS309453; 1755 Fleymilland, (Roy Map).
[3] NT140890; 1220×35 Beeth Fleming (Dunf. Reg. no. 177).
[4] The symbol † is used here to indicate an obsolete name.
[5] NO237390; 1574 copy of 1547 Flemingis-land (RMS iv no. 2252).
[6] Near NT591316; c.1535 Flemingtoune (Dunf. Reg. no. 331).
[7] NY023333; 1333 copy of 1171‒5 Flemyngeby (TCWAAS 3, cited in PNCu 2, 286).
[8] NY057330; 1652 Flemrigge (PNCu 2, 274).
[9] NY050032; 1419 Flemynghall (St Bees Reg., cited in PNCu 2, 395.)
[10] NS478388; 1654 Fleamingshill (Blaeu Map).
[11] NO526556; 1331×72 Flemyngtoune (RMS i App. 2 no. 1523a.)
[12] NH802536; 1456 Flemyngtoun (ER vi, 215).
[13] NS665593; 1440 confirming a charter of 1421 Flemyngton (RMS ii no. 254).
[14] NS767560; 1513 Flemyngtoun (RMS ii no. 3882).
[15] NT167451; 1583 Flemington (Canmore, 49968).
[16] NS366603: 1544 Flemingstoun (RSS iii no. 854).
[17] NS133683; 1513 Tollart Flemyng [recte: given as two names] (ER xiv, 518).
[18] NY319635; c.1234 Fleming halse (Holm Cultram Reg. no. 25).
[19] NJ593288; first with “Fleming” in 1492 Wardris Flemyng (ER x, 767).
[20] NY276700; first with “Fleming” in 1509 Kirpatrik-Flemyng (RSS i, 1905).
[21] NY250753; 1462 Kircconveth ['Kirkconnel'] a.k.a. le Flemyng-landis, owned by the Fleming family of Kirkconnel (RMS ii no. 85). Kirkconnel was at the centre of its own parish till 1609, when it was united with Kirkpatrick-Fleming (Canmore, 67053).
[22] Near NY264729; 1492 Flemyngraw (ER x, 766).
[23] Unmapped Fleming, near NY617325 in Cumberland, 1950 (PNCu 1, 244); Fleming Hill†, Kettle, Fife, near NO300064, 1836 (Fraser Map, cited in pers. comm., Simon Taylor 2010); Fleming Strip NT560382, Melrose, Roxburghshire (Ordnance Survey mapping); Fleming’s Wood NT401661, Cranston, Midlothian (Ordnance Survey mapping); Flemington NS706449, Avondale, Lanarkshire, 1816 (Forrest Map); and Flemington† NS604674, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, 1816 Flimington (Forrest Map). Fleming Mill† NY275697, 1858 (OS 6″ 1st edn), was named from its location in Kirkpatrick-Fleming; Flemington† HU393546, Tingwall, Shetland, is due to landowner-imposed renaming in the nineteenth century, of unknown motivation (Black 1857, 453).
[24] 1909 A’ Mhòine Fhlànrasach (Watson 1909, 153).
[25] 1680s flandersmoss (Adair Map 3), 1777 Tilly-Moss, replaced by Moss-Flanders (Nimmo 1880 i, 17, 217).
[26] 1098 Flemingtuna; interpreted as the ‘settlement of the Flemings’ in Addison 1978, 94, and, with less certainty, in Mills 1998, s.n.).
[27] Though the medial vowel e of some early forms appears to show the a of the Old Norse genitive plural, its presence is inconsistent and not securely recorded before 1201. A final e is found in variant forms of the Older Scots, Middle English and English Standard English ethnonym.
[28] Note that the lands held by four new twelfth-century Flemish landlords in Clydesdale, investigated in detail by Smith (2008 and 2008b), bear no relationship to the corpus of Fleming-names.
[29] Flamiggs (1652 Flemrigge, with rig ‘ridge’) might also qualify as grazing, if correctly identified by the study as applying to the upland area of Broughton Moor. It lies on the border of the parish named for Flimby, so could otherwise (or also) mark the limit of the territory of that community. Flamiggs, therefore, probably belongs with the only set of Fleming-names likely to contain the ethnonym, those that might be associated with medieval religious houses that were involved in the wool industry. Fleming Halse was recorded c.1234, but the Flemings were already in Cumberland in the late eleventh century, as shown by Flimby, so a derivative family-name is also possible. The nature and location of the tidal inlet, with a long but narrow feeder stream near the end of the headland formed by Rockcliffe Marsh, suggests that this area was grazing land for the Fleming(s).

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The Flemish in Dundee and Surrounding Areas

This is the second of a series of blog postings that are focused on evidence of Flemish involvement in specific areas of Scotland.  In this posting John Irvine examines the Flemish influence,  from the 12th century onwards, on Dundee and its surrounding areas.

The research on the influence of the Flemish on Dundee and the surrounding area has drawn upon a wide range of primary and secondary sources (see the list of references at the end). Up to now the work has concentrated primarily, but not totally, on people with the name Fleming and its variants, although there is a number of other Flemish rooted names that are common in the area – Bell, Erskine, Lindsay, Murray, Spalding, and Sutherland, to name a few.

The Earliest Flemings

The Flemish people may have settled in the area around Dundee as long ago as the 12th and 13th centuries.

In the time of King Alexander II (1198 – 1249) a knight called Bartholomew of Flanders, or the Fleming, can be found in Angus.[[1&2]] Where he settled initially is not known with certainty, but probably the lands of Flemington, near Forfar, had belonged to him, and received their name from his nationality (see box below).  Bartholomew later settled with his followers in the district of the Garioch, Aberdeenshire.  By one account his son, Malcolm de Leslie, was the progenitor of the Leslie family, although this is disputed in some quarters.

Flemington: Flemington is situated in Aberlemno, Angus. “Fleming Toun” literally means “settlement associated with Flemings”. Flemington comprises a farm and Flemington Castle (or tower house) that is of late sixteenth or early seventeenth century build. The castle was therefore not built by the original Flemish owner of the land, Bartholomew, but by a later resident of the area. It is about three storeys in height and stands on the left bank of the rivulet called Henwellburn, which flows through the Parish and passes Melgund castle. One author described Flemington as “a nice compact little property, the land being of good quality and the situation pleasant”. The name itself likely goes back to at least 1331 when the area was known as “Flemyngtoune”. However the name has been recorded in many different forms since that time, for instance Flemyingtoun and Flemyngtoun, until by 1861 it had been transformed into the present Flemington.

Another local Fleming of note is Michael De Fleming.  He was one of six barons of the name, who — following the English invasion of Scotland in 1296 — “submitted” to King Edward I at Berwick in 1296; and the remaining five, with two others who took the oaths at Aberdeen, were all from counties in the south and west of Scotland, and among them was the ancestor of the Earls of Wigton. Ironically it was Scotland’s close links with Flanders, including its trading relationship, which was one of the factors leading to the invasion of Scotland.[[3]]

Trade with Flanders

For much of the period from the 12th century through to the late 15th century the wool trade with Flanders – with good quality Scottish wools being sent primarily to Bruges – was effectively the engine of growth for the Scottish economy.  During that period it was often the Abbeys that farmed the sheep and took the initiative to ship the wool to Flanders. Coupar Angus Abbey, it is thought, produced wool that was shipped through Perth or Dundee.

AC Lamb in his Dundee book[[4]] examines the nature of the trade with Flanders. He consulted customs records dating back to the 14th century. Entries include payments made to Faskyn, Merchant of Bruges, for importation of materials for the King. The principle exports at the time were wool, sheepskins and hides, up to the middle of the 15th century.

The shipping records from the Dundee City Archives and work on shipping lists undertaken by Dr. David Dobson — for 1580-1589 and 1612-1618 — confirm that relatively strong trading links between Dundee and Flanders were maintained through to the late medieval/early modern periods.

Immigrants from Flanders

As noted above, some of the earliest Flemish arrived in Scotland in the 12th and 13th centuries. Later with the significant growth in trade there may have been Flemish seamen and merchants living in Dundee to facilitate the trade between Scotland and Flanders.  Some of these may have stayed in Scotland.  Others will have returned to Flanders in due course.

The Scots decided that there was value to be had from not just farming sheep but also by weaving the wool.  Accordingly, AC Lamb[[4]] tells us that in 1601, it was arranged that twelve Flemings should be sent from Leiden to Scotland, and distributed to various parts of Scotland so that they might teach the natives the art of weaving. Three were named as being sent to Dundee: Claus Lossier, Cornelius Dermis, and Henry De Turk.

A slightly different version of events is given by Warden.[[3]] His interpretation was that a number of “strangers” were brought in 1609 headed by a John Sutherland and a Fleming named John Van Headen, and in 1601 seven Flemings were introduced to improve cloth manufacture in Scotland.

AC Lamb also tells us that Flemings, who had been settled in small colonies around Scotland, were weaving cloth to be exported.  Interestingly, in an Act of Parliament in 1587, aimed at the Flemish weavers in Scotland, all cloth manufactured by them had the same duty levied on it as cloth made and imported from Flanders, Holland and England.

Immigration of Flemish tradesmen was not confined to the weaving trade but also, during late 1500s, the malting trade. This led to Flemings being involved in the setting up of the Maltman Incorporation in Dundee in 1623, Thomas Fleming and David Fleming swearing to uphold various acts of trade at that time.[[5]] The list of masters, apprentices, and excise men shows they continued in the trade for at least another 200 years.

The Burgess Rolls[[6]] for Dundee show that a number of Flemings are recorded, having gained the rights to become a burgess in the early 1600s. These included Merchants, Maltmen, a Brassworker and other occupations.

Migration from Surrounding Areas

By the 18th century the number of families with the name Fleming in Dundee had reached more than a hundred.

Where did they come from? It is unlikely that they were direct immigrants from Flanders by that stage. Some of the increase in the number of families reflects the organic growth of existing families. It is noteworthy, for instance, that the number of surviving children in families began to rise in the late 1600s and more so in the 1700s and 1800s. This of course would have spawned a general growth in the population and in family numbers.

Some of the Fleming family growth is likely to reflect movement to Dundee from rural areas. The industrialisation of Scotland began in late 18th century and early 19th century and this would have created an incentive for people to move from the rural areas of Angus, Perthshire, and Forfarshire. It is likely that many of those migrants with the name Fleming would have come from the “Flemings of Moness” lineage that was dominant in Northern Perthshire, while those coming from Central Angus may have been descendants of Flemings from the Flemington area.

Some of the migrants will have been poorer Flemings seeking work and better pay in some of the evolving industries of the time. Meanwhile, family history resources shed light on the movement of some notable and ultimately very successful Fleming families into Dundee. John Fleming of Kirkmichael in Perthshire, for instance, was one such migrant.  His two surviving sons Robert and John became well known, John as head of one of the most prominent timber importers and suppliers in Scotland, and, Robert as one of the founders of the financial trusts in Dundee, later founder of Flemings Bank (as well as being grandfather to Ian Fleming of James Bond fame). Both sons were to become philanthropists in Dundee and one of the first modern housing developments was sponsored by The Fleming Trust and is still occupied to this day.

Another major family moved to Dundee from Inverarity, Angus. It was the family of David Hood Fleming, a manufacturer who was head of the firm DH Fleming Sons & Co., spinners and manufacturers Gray Street, Lochee. It is believed this branch is also connected with the Orkneys and Fife.


To conclude, there had been people with Flemish ancestry in Dundee and surrounding areas from the earliest recorded times in the town’s history. The area was likely the beneficiary of all of the phases of Flemish immigration: the original settlers in the 12th century as well as the weavers and religiously persecuted in the late middle ages and early modern period. The name Fleming remains a common one in Dundee and the surrounding areas to this day and some of the families of that name — while likely no longer feeling any identity with their distant Flemish roots — have had a noteworthy impact on the city.


John Irvine is a member of the project team for the “Scotland and the Flemish People Project”.  He is a genealogist and local historian and is currently Chairman of the Local History Forum. He has written articles for local history journals on a wide range of topics. He has also published widely in the genealogy field and has researched the genealogy of both illustrious Dundee locals and the common man.



[1] A.J. Warden, Angus or Forfarshire the Land and People (Charles Alexander, Dundee 1881), vol. 2, p. 315

[2] D.M. Peter, Baronage of Angus & Mearns (Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1861), p. 61

[3] A.J. Warden, Angus or Forfarshire the Land and People (Charles Alexander, Dundee 1881), vol. 2, p. 349

[4] A.C. Lamb, Dundee, Its Quaint and Historic Buildings (George Petrie, Dundee 1895)

[5] A. Pellow, The Maltmen, Customs & Excise men of Dunee 1700-1850 (Tay Valley Family History Society, 1991)

[6] Burgess Rolls, Friends of Dundee City Archives Records. Examples from Burgess Roll of Dundee are:

  1. Thomas Fleming entered 18th April 1615 – son of Thomas Fleming
  2. George Fleming, 23rd September 1609 – son of Thomas Fleming
  3. John Fleming entered 24th November 1561
  4. Alexander Fleming, Maltman, entered 1695 – his grandfather
  5. James Fleming – 20th June 1531 – simple burgess

Research for this blog post also drew on a range of other books and documents. A list of these additional references are available on request.

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