When and How the Flemish came to Scotland

Claire Hawes
Friday 1 April 2016

This posting is the second in the blog series on themes that will be addressed at the June 2016 conference in St. Andrews.  One session, described below, will examine the movement to Scotland of the Flemish—the aristocratic Flemings as well as artisans and religiously persecuted—who arrived in the medieval and early modern periods 


This session will examine when and how various groups of Flemish people came to Scotland in the medieval and early modern periods.  It will provide an overview of the factors that led to the migration at various times.

One of the major issues surrounding the arrival of the aristocratic Flemish in Scotland in the 12th century is what brought them north and where they (or their ancestors) were before that.  It is possible that the Fleming family, for instance, may have been previously in Wales where there were people with names identical to those later found in Upper Clydesdale.  Then there are questions as to the movement to Scotland of some other major Scottish families with possible Flemish origins—for instance the Murrays, Sutherlands, and Lindsays.

There are also issues surrounding the later Flemish migrants.  These include the question of when the Flemish weavers and other artisans arrived, where they came from (England or directly from Flanders) and where they settled.

Finally, there is a question surrounding the religiously persecuted Flemish who may have come to Scotland in the mid 16th to early 17th centuries.  At issue here is why and when these migrations to Britain took place, how many of them likely came to Scotland, and what routings they may have taken. 

Main Participants 

Dr. Alex Fleming will chair the session and is a co-sponsor of, and researcher in the Scotland and the Flemish People Project.  He is also editor of the blog attached to the project. Now retired, he is an international economist by training.

Charles Rigg is a Trustee and member of the Interpretive Design Team of Biggar and Upper Clydesale Museum. A centrepiece of the new museum, which opened in 2015, is the impact of the ancient Fleming family on the local area.  Before retiring Charles was a secondary school history teacher.

Dr. David Dobson is currently a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Research Fellow with the Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews.  His research interests are focused mainly on the Scottish Diaspora as well as Scottish history in the Early Modern Period.

George English is a Director of the family history service Research Through People. He has undertaken extensive genealogical and historical research and published work in United Kingdom, United States and Europe. He has a special interest in the issue of religious persecution in the Low Countries.



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