Scotland and the Flemish People Conference 2016


We are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the Conference on Scotland and the Flemish People that will take place at the University of St Andrews on 16 -17 June 2016. Details on how to register are set out at the end of this note.

This major inter-disciplinary conference will explore the important relationship between Scotland and Flanders in the medieval and early modern periods, and the influence of Flemish people and Flemish culture on Scotland through the centuries.

This conference is the culmination of an innovative three-year project based at the Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews which has incorporated the research of leading scholars, local and family historians, as well as new doctoral research by students based in St Andrews.

The conference is being supported by generous grants from the PF Charitable Trust, the Wyfold Charitable Trust, and the Government of Flanders. 

Conference Structure and Speakers

The two-day Conference will have a combination of plenary lectures and parallel sessions that will give participants a choice of topics. The conference programme is being developed at present and will be posted on the conference website in due course. A number of speakers have already committed to the event, including:

  • Dr David Ditchburn, Trinity College, Dublin
  • Professor Jan Dumolyn, University of Ghent
  • Professor Richard Oram, University of Stirling
  • Dr Alasdair Macdonald, University of Strathclyde
  • Dr Maarten Larmaseau, University of Leuven and University of Leicester
  • Professor Michael Brown, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Joseph Morrow QC, The Lord Lyon
  • Professor Wim De Clercq, University of Ghent
  • Dr Katie Stevenson, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Lauran Tourians

Conference Themes

Drawing on research by leading scholars in history, art history, archaeology, material culture, and genetic genealogy, the conference will explore a wide range of themes, including:

  • The migration and settlement of Flemish people in Scotland
  • Commercial and economic ties between Scotland and Flanders
  • Artistic and cultural exchange between the two countries
  • Political and diplomatic relations between the two countries
  • Place names in Scotland and what they tell us about Flemish settlement
  • Items of Flemish origin that were brought to Scotland (material culture)
  • How a recent find of medieval charters is shedding new light on the Fleming family of Biggar and Cumbernauld
  • The relationship between heraldry and genealogical research
  • How DNA analysis is being used to help affirm the Flemish origins of some major Scottish families
  • Possible Flemish influences on recreation in Scotland (golf, curling, and jousting)


For more information, and to register, please visit our website:

For all other queries please contact the Conference Secretary, Dr Claire Hawes, at:




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Flemish Migration to Scotland in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

In last week’s posting Morvern French set out the main factors that had led to numbers of Flemish people leaving Flanders. In this week’s posting Morvern looks at the factors that led some to come to Scotland.


The Flemings were known throughout western Europe as people skilled in a wide variety of occupations. In 1188 Gerald of Wales, reflecting on the settlement in that area of a significant number of Flemings, described them as

a brave and sturdy people […] a people skilled at working in wool, experienced in trade, ready to face any effort or danger at land or sea in pursuit of gain; according to the demands of time and place quick to turn to the plough or to arms; a brave and fortunate people.[1]

The question under consideration here is what might have led them to migrate to Scotland. Although the primary impulses for this may be broadly grouped into feudal, economic, and religious categories, the reality was much more nuanced.

The Flemings as Traders in Scotland

Flemings’ international trade links were a major factor in their migration to Scotland. St Margaret, Queen of Scotland (d.1093) is recorded as having encouraged the immigration of foreign merchants:

It was due to her that the merchants who came by land and sea from various countries brought along with them for sale different kinds of precious wares which until then were unknown in Scotland. And it was at her instigation that the natives of Scotland purchased from these traders clothing of various colours, with ornaments to wear.[2]

Flemings in particular have left their mark in the evidence of early trade. The name of Coupar Angus, for example, is thought to have derived from the Flemish word ‘copar’, meaning one who exchanges commodities.[3] Documentary evidence from the early years of the burghs shows that a significant proportion of inhabitants were international, including Flemings. For example, an 1164 charter of Malcolm IV referred to ‘Scots, French, Flemish, and English, both within and without the burgh’ of St Andrews.[4]

Flemish settlers had an important role in the establishment and growth of trading centres in Scotland, and they are thought to have brought with them continental traditions. For example around 1180 William I. (r.1165-1214) granted to the burgesses of Aberdeen, the Moray Firth, and north of the Mounth (an eastern ridge of the Grampian mountains) a free hanse as in the time of David I (r.1124-53); this hanse is believed to have been a trade guild as in the Low Countries.[5]

Around 1144 Bishop Robert of St Andrews founded the ecclesiastical burgh of the same name around the ancient monastic community of Kilrimund. He established there Mainard the Fleming, who had previously been burgess of the royal burgh of Berwick. Because Mainard was one of the first to build and establish the new burgh (‘ex prioribus est qui burgum supradictum aedificare et instauare incepit’), he was granted three tofts in the burgh.[6] His appointment as provost of St Andrews was no doubt connected to his experience at Berwick and his foreign contacts, and his duties would have included finding merchants and craftspeople to settle in the burgh and developing its commercial and mercantile potential.

Early St Andrews, shown in the c.1580 map by John Geddy (National Library of Scotland).

Early St Andrews, shown in the c.1580 map by John Geddy (National Library of Scotland).

In the early 1150s David I confirmed his grant to one Baldwin a toft in the burgh of Perth, in exchange for Baldwin undertaking to carry out watch service within the burgh, contributing towards enclosing the burgh within some sort of fence or wall, and providing the king with one terret and two horse collars per year. Baldwin the lorimer, as he has come to be known, was not to be sued in any court except before the king himself or his justice. David I’s grant was confirmed again by Malcolm IV (r.1153-65), who also provided Baldwin with a tenement in Perth, ‘ten feet broad by twenty-four feet long’. Baldwin was perhaps deceased by the 1160s, when his lands and buildings in Perth were granted to the cathedral priory of St Andrews, under similar terms to those granted to Baldwin.[7] He is assumed from his name to have been a Fleming, although unlike other early settlers he is never described as such in the written evidence.[8]

Aristocratic Settlers

The tenth to the thirteenth centuries witnessed the mass movement of aristocrats, most famously from Normandy, outwards to the peripheral European areas of Britain and Ireland, southern Italy, Spain, Pomerania, and Silesia. Many of these noble migrants were invited to settle in their host lands and were rewarded for military service through grants of lands and titles. The Flemings who settled in Scotland, in areas such as Moray and Lanarkshire, were without ties to the local populations and were intended to bring those areas further under the control of the kings of Scots.

Lauran Toorians points out that settlers came to Scotland from French Flanders as well as from the Dutch-speaking region. A Philippe de Vermelles was introduced into Scotland by Robert de Quincy, who himself originated in Cuinchy, to the east of Béthune in French Flanders. De Quincy may have travelled to Britain as a follower of William the Conqueror. Based in lands around Tranent in East Lothian, he brought several other French Flemings to Scotland, including Alan de Courrières, Hugh de Lens, Robert de Béthune, Robert de Carvin, and Roger de Orchies.[9]

Many Flemish incomers and their descendants who settled as knightly tenants of Malcolm IV (r.1153-65) left their mark on the place names of Upper Clydesdale in particular: Simon Loccard (Symington), Wice or Wizo (Wiston), Tancred (Thankerton), Lambin (Lambington), and Robert, brother of Lambin (Roberton).

Baldwin the Fleming is thought to have been the son of Stephen Flandrensis of Bratton in Devonshire, expelled by Henry II in 1154. Baldwin became sheriff of Lanarkshire and lord of Biggar, constructing a castle there, of which the large motte remains. By 1162 he was sheriff of Lanark and he acted as a witness to the charters of Bishop Robert of St Andrews, Malcolm IV, and William I.[10] Baldwin is thought to have aided in the expulsion of the invasion force of Somerled, lord of the Isles, when in 1164 Somerled landed at Renfrew with a fleet of 160 ships and attacked the lands of Walter son of Alan, the king’s steward. He was defeated at the Battle of Renfrew by the royal army, and it is likely that Baldwin also participated considering the proximity of his fiefs of Inverkip and Houston.[11]

In Moray the only person described in the primary sources as being a Fleming is Berowald. He also held land in West Lothian, giving his name to Bo’ness (Berowald’s-toun-ness). On 25 December 1160 Malcolm IV granted to Berowald the lands of Innes and Nether Urquhart in the sheriffdom of Elgin, for the service of one knight in Elgin Castle.[12] Elgin was an important centre of government in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with William the Lion granting fourteen of his charters there compared to only six at Aberdeen.

Freskin is another possible Fleming in Moray. He was granted Duffus, where he built a castle, and other lands near Elgin by David I; he also held lands in Uphall and Broxburn, West Lothian. His family adopted the name de Moravia (of Moray). Freskin’s son Hugh was given Sutherland by the king. His grandson William of Moray and lord of Sutherland was by c.1230 the first earl of Sutherland. Freskin’s other grandson Gilbert was archdeacon of Moray (1203-22) and bishop of Caithness (1223-45).

At Garioch in Aberdeenshire there was a significant Flemish population in the early thirteenth century, when Bartholomew Flandrensis granted ‘to the church of St. Drostan of Inchemabani [Insch] a toft and two acres of arable land adjoining the toft in his vill of Ravengille’. This Flemish settlement left its name at the farms of New Flinder, Old Flinder, and Little Flinder; and it is thought that Bartholomew also held Flemington near Forfar.[13]

Discrimination against Flemings in England and Scotland

The expulsion of Flemings from England in 1154 was a reaction to King Stephen’s (r.1135-1154) great use of Flemish mercenaries during his civil war against Empress Matilda. The most well-known was William of Ypres, an illegitimate claimant to the county of Flanders. The influx of Flemish migrants encouraged by Stephen was not well received by English contemporaries, who felt their influence over the king and their hold on land and wealth threatened. Chronicler Gervase of Canterbury recalled that,

Flemings were called to England by the king, and they, envying the long-time inhabitants of the land, having left behind their native soil and their job of weaving, flocked into England in troops, and like hungry wolves proceeded energetically to reduce the fecundity of England to nothing.[14]

On the accession of Henry II (r.1154-1189), the new king considered it necessary to rid himself of this large body of Flemish mercenary troops and to regain for the crown control of military recruitment. To this end, in 1154 he expelled those Flemings who had migrated to England during Stephen’s reign:

those foreigners who had flocked to England under King Stephen for the sake of booty and in order to fight, and especially the Flemings, of whom there was then a great multitude in England, should return to their own lands, fixing a deadline for them, beyond which they would be in danger if they remained in England. Terrified by this edict, they slipped away so quickly that they seemed to disappear in a moment, like phantoms, leaving many astonished at how swiftly they vanished.[15]

Many of the Flemings who settled in Scotland in the mid-twelfth century are likely to have come from England after this expulsion.

Another factor that may have encouraged Flemish merchants to settle permanently in Scottish burghs was the imposition from the 1330s of higher customs duties on exports by foreigners, which made up only 15% of recorded exports in this period. This bolstered the mercantile privileges already accorded to Scottish burgesses: they had exclusive rights to deal in wool, hides, and pelts, and foreign merchants could deal only with burgesses except at fair time.[16] The acquisition of burgess rights through permanent residence and the payment of a fee gave merchants greater economic privileges.

In 1347 David II’s parliament moved the Scottish staple port from Bruges in Flanders to Middelburg in Zeeland, and expelled the Flemish people from Scotland:

we entirely banish the merchants of Flanders and all the Flemish people of whatever condition or estate, sailors only being excepted, so that wherever in our kingdom […] any Flemish people are able to be found they should be seized as if banished and exiled and all their goods and merchandise confiscated.[17]

This move is thought to have been made in reaction to Flanders’ expulsion of Scottish merchants from Flanders, for reasons as yet unknown. Scottish merchants probably hoped to gain a better bargaining position with the Flemish by restricting trade.

However, this hostility towards international settlers appears to have decreased substantially by the late Middle Ages. Into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the settlement of international peoples was again considered to be highly beneficial to Scotland. James I (r.1406-1437) was recorded by sixteenth century historian Hector Boece as having,

brocht oute of Ingland and Flanderis ingenious men of sindry craftis to instruct his pepill in vertewis occupacioun, becaus Scotland was continewallie exercitt in weeris [wars] fra þe dede of Alexander the Thrid to þai dayis, and all þe craftismen and vtheris war constrenit to pas to þe weeris, and þe maist part of þame distroyitt be þe samyn.[18]

Also, in 1498 the Spanish ambassador Don Pedro de Ayala noted that,

Scotland has improved so much during [James IV’s] reign that it is worth three times more now than formerly, on account of foreigners having come to the country, and taught them how to live. They have more meat, in great and small animals, than they want, and plenty of wool and hides.[19]

Desirability of Flemish Craftsmanship

The collapse of Flanders’ cloth industry from the late fourteenth century led its cities to diversify their crafts and to specialise in luxury arts in order to maintain their position as centres of manufacture and international trade. Certain towns and cities specialised in the manufacture of different objects, for example manuscript illumination in Ghent and Bruges. Several Flemish craftspeople are known to have migrated to Scotland, often temporarily, to fulfil the demand for Flemish-made objects.

The town of Arras was particularly famed for its production of high quality tapestries in the late Middle Ages, to the extent that the town became synonymous with fine Flemish tapestry. Arras was described by Spanish nobleman Pero Tafur as being ‘very rich, especially by reason of its woven cloths and all kinds of tapestries, and although they are also made in other places, yet it well appears that those which are made in Arras have the preference.’[20] Rulers of this period sought Flemish tapestry weavers to settle in their lands and to produce tapestries for them. The ‘Matthieu de Araz’ present in Scotland in 1312 may have been one such weaver.[21] An ‘Egidius Gremar de Arras’ was employed by James I in 1435, being paid £6 10s. The following year an ‘Egidius tapisario’ was paid £7, and it is reasonable to believe that these two are the same person.[22]

An example of Flemish tapestry, c.1500 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). None of Scottish provenance has survived.

An example of Flemish tapestry, c.1500 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). None of Scottish provenance has survived.

There is evidence that the Bruges painter Willem Wallinc, master of the Bruges guild of painters in October 1506, was resident for a time in Scotland.[23] He may have been the same William Wallanch or Wallange employed by George Brown, Bishop of Dunkeld between 1505 and 1516, as well as the same artist who painted the portrait of Bishop William Elphinstone of Aberdeen in the early sixteenth century, a copy of which bears the label ‘William of Bruges’.[24]

There is further evidence of Scottish elites patronising Flemish and Low Countries painters. In 1502, for example, James IV received a Meynnart Wewyck who had previously worked for Henry VII of England. Also, in September 1505 Scottish conservator in the Low Countries Andrew Halyburton sent to James IV a ‘Piers the painter’:

Item, to ane servand of Andro Haliburtons that the said Andro laid doun on the furnessing of the payntour to cum in Scottland.[25]

Piers remained at the Scottish court, painting such decorations as tournament banners and standards, until 1508 when he received money to ‘pas in Flandrez’.[26]

James V also employed continental craftspeople such as a Peter Flemisman who carved the figures adorning the canopied buttress niches on the south front of Falkland Palace chapel. This was part of extensive works undertaken at the palace by James from 1537 to 1542, which cost a total of nearly £13,000.[27]

Flanders was also known as a centre of munitions production and expertise. As early as 1369 unspecified munitions were imported from Flanders for use in Edinburgh castle: ‘quedam emenda in Flandria pro municione castri de Edynburgh’.[28] From at least the 1470s the Scottish crown was developing and manufacturing guns; however, materials for casting guns (for example, wax, copper, and iron) continued to be imported from Flanders and France. By 1458 the crown was employing ‘cuidam Teutonico dicto Dedrik, gunnar’ (‘a certain Teuton called Dedrik, gunner’), whose duties are likely to have involved the construction, testing, and use of the royal artillery.[29] Several other names in the documentary record suggest that Flemish or Low Countries mercenaries continued to work in Scotland into the early modern period, for example Josias Rikker and Peter Sochan.[30]

Flemings were also utilised as textile workers in Scotland. The region maintained a reputation for high quality cloth production, and efforts were made in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to settle Flemish weavers in Scotland. In 1581 an Act of Parliament brought a Robert Dickson to Scotland,

to learn within this realm the art of the making and working of silks, to be as good and sufficient as the same is made within the countries of France or Flanders and to be sold within the same cheaper than the like silks are sold within this realm brought here or out of other countries.[31]

In return, Robert was granted the sole privilege of silk weaving and the authority to allow others to practice it; custom-free imports of raw and finished materials; and the position of burgess in Perth, ‘or such other places where he shall please to plant’.

In 1587 this was followed by another Act which brought to Scotland the Flemings John Garden, Philip Fermant, and John Banko. These incomers were,

to exercise their craft and occupation in making of serges, grograms, fustians, bombasines, stemmings, baize, coverings of beds and others appertaining to their said craft and for instruction of the said lieges in the exercise of the making of the works, and have offered to our said sovereign lord and whole commonwealth of this realm the experience and sure knowledge of their labours.[32]

It was considered ‘for the common good of the realm’ that these three should bring with them a further thirty weavers, fullers, and other textile workers, and that they should take on as apprentices only Scottish boys and girls, to be taught the Flemish art of cloth production over five years. Significantly, Garden, Fermant, and Banko were granted,

the liberty and privilege of naturalisation and to be as free within this realm during their remaining as if they were born within the same, and that their lawful bairns shall possess the said privileges as if they were naturalised or born Scotsmen.

Religious Incentives for Migration

Artisanal skills are known to have coincided with religious concerns in the encouragement of Flemish immigration. A 1600 Act of the Privy Council authorised the immigration into Scotland of a hundred ‘stranger’ families with textile skills, the masters of the families to be ‘naturalizeit and maid frie denisen’ of the realm.[33]

Many religious refugees settled initially in large Protestant cities such as Geneva or Zurich then migrated to England, where Edward VI had in 1550 established London as a location for ‘Stranger Churches’, in which Calvinists from the Low Countries and France could practice their religion among their own people. A small number of these Stranger Church members may have migrated northwards to Scotland. Although there is no record of such establishments north of the border, David Dobson has identified several Flemish or Dutch names in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century baptismal register of Edinburgh.[34]

The Flemish immigrants of 1587 were also to be granted a kirk and minister, ‘when they are a sufficient number’, suggesting that efforts were being made to encourage the Flemings to stay in Scotland permanently. James VI of Scotland and I of England is thought to have been interested in bringing in Protestant Flemish and Walloon weavers to Scotland via their established settlement in Norwich, linking the Flemings’ reputation for textile production to their growing status as refugees from religious persecution in the Low Countries.[35] Several similar measures, which connected Flemish origin with expertise in cloth manufacture, were enacted in this period.[36]


Having reviewed the myriad reasons for Flemish migration to Scotland, it is clear that Gerald of Wales was correct in describing the Flemings as being adaptable ‘to the demands of time and place’. The principal reasons for their migrating to Scotland can be summed up as follows:

– Flemish expertise in urban planning and trade was desired for the establishment of Scottish burghs.
– Aristocratic Flemings were granted lands and titles, most notably in Upper Clydesdale and Moray, in order to maintain the power of the Scottish king in those areas.
– Those Flemings expelled from England in 1154, and those seeking lower customs duties from the 1330s, may have been encouraged to settle permanently in Scotland.
– Flemish expertise in such crafts as tapestry weaving, painting, gun casting, and textile production was sought after by the Scottish crown.
– Flemish Protestants were encouraged to settle in both Scotland and England by the reform-minded monarchies of James VI and Edward VI.

Although many of the examples above were temporary migrations, with the subjects returning to Flanders after their stay in Scotland, a common theme is that these movements were often initiated by the Scottish crown itself, which was cognisant of the advantages that Flemings could bring to Scottish society. The mercantile, feudal, artisanal, and religious objectives of the crown in the medieval and early modern periods appear to have complemented those of the Flemish people who chose to move away from the Low Countries.

Morvern French
November 2015

Morvern is a third year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and a contributor to the Scotland and the Flemish People project.


[1] Quoted in Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonisation and Cultural Change, 950-1350 (London, 1994), pp. 115-6.
[2] William Forbes-Leith (trans.), Life of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, by Turgot, Bishop of St Andrews (Edinburgh, 1884), p. 40.
[3] Charles Rogers (ed.), Rental Book of the Cistercian Abbey of Coupar-Angus, with the Breviary of the Register, vol. I (London, 1880), pp. v-vi.
[4] G. W. S. Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I: The Acts of Malcolm IV, King of Scots 1153-1165 (Edinburgh, 1960), p. 260, no. 269.
[5] G. W. S. Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. II: The Acts of William I, King of Scots 1165-1214 (Edinburgh, 1971), p. 223, no. 153. See Michael R. Spearman, ‘Early Scottish Towns: Their Origins and Economy’, in Stephen T. Driscoll and Margaret R. Nieke (eds.), Power and Politics in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland (Edinburgh, 1988), p. 107.
[6] Archibald C. Lawrie (ed.), Early Scottish Charters, prior to A.D. 1153 (Glasgow, 1905), pp. 132-3, no. 169. See also Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I, p. 170, no. 91. A toft was a piece of land on which a house or other buildings could be built.
[7] Lawrie (ed.), Early Scottish Charters, p. 200, no. 248; pp. 439-40, note 248; Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I, pp. 186-7, no. 121; p. 216, no. 171; p. 247, no. 221.
[8] See Tom Beaumont James, Nicholas Quentin Bogdan et al, ‘Historical introduction’, in David Perry, Hilary Murray, Tom Beaumont James, and Nicholas Q. Bogdan, Perth High Street Archaeological Excavation 1975-1977, Fascicule 1: The Excavations at 75-95 High Street and 5-10 Mill Street, Perth (Perth, 2010), p. 4.
[9] Lauran Toorians, ‘Twelfth-century Flemish Settlements in Scotland’, in Grant G. Simpson (ed.), Scotland and the Low Countries, 1124-1994 (East Linton, 1996)’, pp. 6-7.
[10] For his position as sheriff, see Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I, pp. 225-6, no. 184. For his appearance as a witness, see Lawrie (ed.), Early Scottish Charters, pp. 185-6, no. 230; Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I, pp. 225-6, no. 185, pp. 233-4, no. 197; Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. II, p. 151, no. 43.
[11] See Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I, p. 20; Richard D. Oram, Domination and Lordship: Scotland 1070-1230 (Edinburgh, 2011), p. 128.
[12] Barrow (ed.), Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. I, pp. 219-20, no.175.
[13] John Dowden (ed.), Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, 1195-1479 (Edinburgh, 1903), pp. 65-6. See W. Douglas Simpson, ‘The Castles of Dunnideer and Wardhouse, in the Garioch, Aberdeenshire’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 69 (1934-35), pp. 465-7.
[14] William Stubbs (ed.), The Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury, vol. II (London, 1880), p. 73.
[15] William of Newburgh, Historia Rerum Anglicarum, in Richard Howlett (ed.), Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, vol. I (London, 1885), pp. 101-2.
[16] See the 1364 charter of David II for his promise to protect burgesses’ rights: J. D. Marwick (ed.), Records of the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland, vol. I (Edinburgh, 1870), pp. 538-41.
[17] The movement of the staple: Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 (St Andrews, 2008): (hereafter RPS), 1347/1. The expulsion of Flemings: RPS 1347/2.
[18] Edith C. Batho and H. Winifred Husbands (eds.), The Chronicles of Scotland compiled by Hector Boece, translated into Scots by John Bellenden, 1531, vol. II (Edinburgh and London, 1941), bk. XVII, ch. VI, p. 393.
[19] Quoted in P. Hume Brown (ed.), Early Travellers in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1973), p. 43.
[20] Pero Tafur, Travels and Adventures, 1435-1439, trans. and ed. Malcolm Letts (London, 1926), pp. 201-2.
[21] Joseph Bain (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London, vol. III, 1307-1357 (Edinburgh, 1887), p. 427.
[22] J. Stuart et al (eds.), The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 23 vols. (Edinburgh, 1878-1908) [hereafter ER], vol. IV, pp. 620, 678. The name Garnier, Gromier, or Grenier was well known in tapestry trading circles in Tournai.
[23] See Lorne Campbell, ‘Scottish Patrons and Netherlandish Painters in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries’, in Grant G. Simpson (ed.), Scotland and the Low Countries, 1124-1994 (East Linton, 1996), pp. 95-6. Wallinc is absent from the Bruges records from October 1506 until the summer of 1516.
[24] See Robert Kerr Hannay (ed.), Rentale Dunkeldense, being accounts of the bishopric (A.D. 1505-1517) with Myln’s ‘Lives of the Bishops’ (A.D. 1483-1517) (Edinburgh, 1915), pp. 18, 22-3, 50, 80, 91, 99, 120-1, 125-6, 129-30, 132, 137, 139, 141, 148, 151, 236, 238, 270, 272.
[25] Thomas Dickson et al (eds.), Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, 12 vols. (Edinburgh, 1877-1916) [hereafter TA], vol. III, p. 162.
[26] TA III, pp. xci, 171, 173, 325-6, 350, 384-5, 387, 393, 402, 404; TA IV, pp. 22, 58, 68, 87-8, 90, 113-4, 134, 138. Piers received money ‘to pas in Flandrez’ in July 1508: TA IV, p. 134.
[27] See Henry M. Paton (ed.), Accounts of the Masters of Works for Building and Repairing Royal Palaces and Castles, vol. I, 1529-1615 (Edinburgh, 1957), pp. 254-6.
[28] ER II, pp. 346-7.
[29] ER VI, p. 385. ‘Teutonic’ was a commonly used to describe the people of the Low Countries.
[30] See David Dobson, ‘The Flemish on the Firth of Forth – Part 1’, (26 September 2014).
[31] RPS 1581/10/83.
[32] RPS 1587/7/142.
[33] David Masson (ed.), The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. VI, A.D. 1599-1604 (Edinburgh, 1884), pp. 123-4.
[34] See Silke Muylaert, ‘The Stranger Churches and their Link with Scotland’; George English, ‘Flemish Religious Emigration in the 16th/17th Centuries’, (7 February 2014); Dobson, ‘The Flemish on the Firth of Forth – Part 1’.
[35] See Muylaert, ‘The Stranger Churches and their Link with Scotland’.
[36] e.g., J. D. Marwick (ed.), Records of the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland, vol. II, p. 117.

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Medieval and Early Modern Migration from Flanders

In this first of two postings Morvern French examines factors that led to Flemish people leaving Flanders at various times during the medieval period. In next week’s posting Morvern looks at why some of these migrants decided to go to Scotland.

Introduction: Population Growth

The Flemings are known as a people who in the medieval and early modern periods resettled in various different regions around Europe. Their migration often coincided with times of great social upheaval and movement for European people in general. The High Middle Ages, c.1000-c.1300, was a time of dramatic population growth, urbanisation, and economic expansion. Like their noble contemporaries, ordinary people migrated outwards in great numbers from the western central core of Europe to more outlying regions, and also to rapidly expanding urban centres. Flanders in particular experienced intense growth, as it became the most commercially developed and densely populated region north of the Alps.

The need for more land was addressed by repeated attempts at land reclamation through such measures as the building of dykes. However, the coastal position of Flanders remained precarious. For example in 1134 a storm surge destroyed much of the coastline and killed many people. Incidentally, though, it also created the Zwin inlet which was to have such a beneficial effect on Flemish trade.

It has been estimated that around 40% of the mid fourteenth century Flemish population lived in urban centres.[1] By the third quarter of the fifteenth century, around 35% of the Flemish population lived in towns. Of these, 47% lived in Ghent (60,000 residents) or Bruges (45,000). 40% lived in one of the eighteen small towns with populations of 2,000 to 10,000 inhabitants, including Ypres (10,000).[2] Around 1470, Flanders was the most populous and the most densely populated of the Low Countries territories ruled by the dukes of Burgundy, with 705,000 inhabitants in total and 72 inhabitants per square kilometre. Compare this to the next most populous region, Brabant, which had a total of 399,000 inhabitants and 39 per square kilometre.[3]

Aside from the issues related to increasing urbanisation and population density, Flanders and the wider Low Countries experienced several economic, political, and religious changes unique to its time and place. These will be addressed in this posting: the so called ‘push’ factors that encouraged population movement away from Flanders.

The Decline of the Textile Industry

The decline of the Flemish textile industry from the mid fourteenth century was one of the major factors in the county’s economic decline. There were several causes: international competition, rigid manufacturing restrictions, and a general economic downturn in Europe. Increasing foreign competition reduced Flanders’ domination of the textile market. Brabantine, English, Dutch, and Italian manufacturers increased their share of the market from the late thirteenth century. Until the fifteenth century high quality English wool was directed towards the continent via the entry point of English-occupied Calais. When England began to weave cloth in greater quantities from the later Middle Ages, it posed a threat to Flemish production despite being of lower quality and in a narrower range of types and colours. Flemish manufacturers reacted to foreign competition by using cheaper wools from regions such as Spain to produce coarser, lighter fabrics, in an attempt to wrest back the segment of the market taken over by non-Flemish producers.

Traditional manufacturing processes were believed by Flemish textile workers to produce a superior product. For example, fulling mills, which cleaned and thickened cloth much more efficiently – twenty to fifty times faster – than the traditional method of stamping with the feet, were banned; even in Scotland the fulling mill was known as early as the 1260s at Coupar Angus.[4] Flemish keuren, or guild regulations, aimed to prevent over-production and a subsequent drop in prices by limiting the number of masters and hands, burning masters’ equipment on their death, and restricting the maximum output per day.

The drie steden of Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres suffered particularly from the decline of the textile industry. In Ypres, cloth production peaked in the 1310s at more than 90,000 cloths per year, but this had dropped by the late 1350s and 1360s to around 50,000, and to less than 25,000 from the 1370s to 1390s.[5] To demonstrate the extent to which Ypres’ economy depended on textiles, it is worth pointing out that the town produced far in excess of the textile requirements of the local population. The average person is estimated to have needed two to three ells (2.2 square metres) of cloth per year, while in the early fourteenth century Ypres produced between 69 and 83 ells per inhabitant annually.[6] An oversupply of textile workers in Flemish towns led to falling wages and large-scale weavers’ revolts in Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres during the 1359-61 period, and then particularly in Ypres in 1366 and 1377.

The Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) of Ypres (author's photo).

The Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) of Ypres (author’s photo).

The Decline of Bruges

The economic decline of Flanders had a great impact on Bruges, the hub of northern European trade. The city’s international character was in fact one of its greatest weaknesses. Hanseatic, Venetian, Genoese, Florentine, Milanese, Luccan, Catalonian, Castilian, Portuguese, Basque, Scottish, and English merchants had established ‘nations’ in the city: settlements where they could meet, reside, store their wares, settle disputes, and hold religious services among their own people. The Flemish manufacturing industries relied on these foreign merchants to export their products, leaving Bruges passive and powerless to prevent trade from drying up as it did in the late fifteenth century, when merchants moved on to Antwerp.

Antwerp benefited from free trade measures exercised at its two annual fairs, lasting four to six weeks each, in contrast to Bruges’s corporative and protectionist economy, which made the latter less competitive in the international market. Also, the Zwin inlet, which acted as Bruges’s route to the North Sea, was increasingly silted up. In 1463 the harbour of Sluis was described as being increasingly deserted ‘à cause du péril et dangier de la perfondité d’icellui qui amoindrit de jour en jour’.[7] Even in its most successful days, merchants importing goods into Bruges had had to transfer their cargo to smaller vessels at the outports of Damme, Sluis, and Arnemuiden. However, this became increasingly difficult and Antwerp became the more accessible trading centre by the end of the fifteenth century.

In January 1441 Duke Philip the Good, for a period of four years, lowered the conditions of registration to become a burgher of Bruges and member of a trade guild; fees were temporarily fixed at 300 groats for all. Before and after this period, fees were set at 626 groats for Flemings and 986 groats for foreigners. The measure was a success: from 1441-45, an average of 403 master craftsmen were registered in Bruges each year, whereas before and after respectively only 79 and 158 were registered.[8] In Bruges registers of admission to citizenship, which involved the payment of a fee in return for qualification as a guild master, give an idea of the economic strength of the town. Bruges took in an average of 197 new citizens annually between 1418 and 1450, 142.2 between 1456 and 1478, and 84.6 between 1479 and 1486, indicating its declining economic power.[9]

However, there is evidence to suggest that the economic situation in fifteenth century Flanders was mitigated by several factors. The Burgundian Low Countries as a whole were ideally situated, geographically, to withstand the late medieval economic crisis in Europe. Their favourable maritime location on the North Sea meant that shortages in food, raw materials, or finished goods could be quickly remedied; and the diverse make-up of the territories, including industrial cities, forests, and coastline, ensured that shortages could also be met from within. Furthermore, the region remained one of the most densely populated and urbanised areas of north-west Europe well into the early modern period. In 1500, 31-45% of people lived in towns or cities: the highest proportion in Europe outside of northern and central Italy.[10] The period was viewed as one of peace and prosperity by contemporaries such as Philippe de Commynes, a Flemish diplomat under Charles the Bold, who wrote the following about the time of Philip the Good (1419-67):

At that time the subjects of the house of Burgundy lived in great wealth, thanks to the long peace they had known and to the goodness of their ruler, who imposed few taxes upon them. Therefore it seems to me that these lands, more than any other principality on earth, could be called the promised lands. They overflowed with wealth and lived in great peace, the like of which were afterwards unknown to them. People had money to spend, the clothing of both men and women was luxurious, meals and banquets were larger and more sumptuous than in any other place I know.[11]

By the mid fifteenth century Bruges was still the wealthiest city in the Low Countries. It paid 15.7% of Flemish taxes to the central government, with a smaller population than that of Ghent, which paid 13.8%.[12]

Civic Strife in Flanders

Politically, Flanders was unique in that its people were accustomed to a high degree of self-determination in their affairs. The region has been described as having a ‘stubborn spirit of independence […] that explains why those tiny countries on the North Sea are still, to this day, sovereign states.’[13] The Flemish cities’ strong traditions of autonomy and self-governance had an effect on the history of the county, and caused resentment when the ruling count attempted to intervene in civic affairs.

Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of civic strife in Flanders is the uprising led by Ghent weaver Jacob van Artevelde, from 1338 to 1346, who established himself as the leader of fellow weavers from the large towns of Flanders. The rebels’ aim was to protect their incomes during the Hundred Years War, as the pro-French policies of Count Louis I of Flanders threatened vital English wool imports. Van Artevelde’s son Philip assumed the mantle of rebel leader in the 1380s, again in order to safeguard Flemish trade with England, cementing Ghent’s reputation as a troublesome city. In May 1382 Ghent won a victory over the army of Count Louis II and seized Bruges, but six months later was defeated at Westrozebeke by a coalition of the count, his son-in-law Philip the Bold of Burgundy, and the French king.

Another example of popular revolt caused by comital interference in civic affairs is that of Ghent from 1449 to 1453. In 1447 Flanders rejected a proposal of Philip the Good to introduce a permanent salt tax in the Low Countries, which would have provided him with a regular income without the need to request financial subsidies from his territories. The refusal of the General Council of Ghent to consent to the tax was a factor in the duke’s 1450 recall of his bailiff from the city, which made it impossible to carry out correct legal procedures. This caused Ghent’s artisans to strike the following year and government forces to institute a military blockade of the city. Full-scale war between Ghent and the duke broke out, leading to the death of the duke’s illegitimate son Corneille at the Battle of Bazel in 1452. The revolt was finally put down on 23 July 1453 at the Battle of Gavere, at which around 15,000 Gentenaars were killed. In the aftermath of the revolt Philip the Good extracted an enormous fine of 840,000 pounds from the city, reduced the powers of the craft deacons over municipal administration, and required the surrender of the guilds’ banners, which had marked the civic identity of Ghent’s citizens during the revolt.

After the death of Duchess Mary of Burgundy (r.1477-82) the regency of her husband, future Habsburg emperor Maximilian I, brought a period of war, financial instability, and urban revolt to the Low Countries. Contrary to the Great Privilege of 1477 issued on Mary’s accession, which required the consent of the Estates General for ducal military action, Maximilian undertook campaigns in Liège and Artois. He also debased the coinage, and crop failures caused the price of grain to rise to many times its normal price.

In the winter of 1487-8 both Ghent and Bruges revolted against high taxes, the debasement of the coinage, and Maximilian’s warmongering. The citizens of Bruges went so far as to hold the regent prisoner for three and a half months in the Craenenburg house on the Markt of Bruges, from which he was released only on the arrival of an imperial army. The conditions of his release – governance by a regency council including the Estates of Flanders, and recognition of the privileges of the Low Countries territories – were soon broken when he resumed hostilities against France.

Maximilian conducted ‘a kind of economic warfare’ against the rebellious towns of Flanders, ordering foreign merchants to leave Bruges in favour of Antwerp, in Brabant. His blockade of Sluis, the port town of Bruges, continued until October 1492, when the rebels were finally defeated and their recognition of Maximilian as regent confirmed.[14] However, by then Antwerp was already well on its way to usurping Bruges’s position as the jewel in the mercantile crown of the Low Countries. The scale of migration to Antwerp is clear from population figures: in 1480 it had 33,000 inhabitants, and this had increased to 55,000 by 1526.[15]

Religious Motivation for Migration

Religious conflict was a major factor in migration away from Flanders and the rest of the Low Countries. Reformation ideals found great support in the cities of Flanders and Brabant, where there was a long-held tradition of free-thinking, autonomy, and openness. Antwerp in particular became a Protestant centre where reformed teachings were popular among those involved in wool weaving and textile manufacturing. Alongside cities such as Ghent, Lille, Tournai, and Valenciennes, Antwerp became a destination for French Calvinists.

The issue of religion caused a great divide between the Low Countries and the Madrid-based Spanish government of Philip II (r.1556-98), which valued centralisation, religious unity, and divine right monarchy, and sought to impose Catholic worship in its territories. In 1522 Philip’s father Charles V had instituted the Inquisition in the Low Countries and condemned all heretics to death. There was a strong relationship between the ecclesiastical courts and the Spanish administration, the former prosecuting and convicting heretics and the latter punishing them. Between 1521 and 1550, the courts tried an average of thirteen people per year; by the 1550s the average was sixty per year; and between 1561 and 1565 it had risen to 264.[16]

The Dutch Revolt (1568-1648) was kicked off on 10 August 1566 in the village of Steenvoorde in western Flanders. The Calvinist congregation’s iconoclastic purging of Catholic imagery – known as the Beeldenstorm (‘statue storm’) – became a symbol of opposition to oppressive Spanish rule, and the movement spread to the towns of Ypres, Diksmuide, Ghent, Mechelen, and many other large centres in the Low Countries. Although peace was restored within a year, the duke of Alba, governor of the Netherlands, in August 1567 occupied the cities of Flanders and Brabant with 10,000 of his soldiers and instituted the so-called Council of Blood: a court empowered to punish ‘serious offences against God and the crown’. The Council of Blood beheaded the counts of Egmond and Horn, convicted for lèse-majesté due to their toleration of Protestants within their territories. The Council’s large-scale executions and banishments – 11,136 people were banished and their property confiscated – led to mass emigration from the Low Countries to France, England, and western Germany.[17] A proportion of these migrants to England then resettled in Scotland, where Flemish Protestant weavers were encouraged to settle by the government of James VI.[18]

Cornelis Kruseman - Philip II and William of Orange (1832)

Cornelis Kruseman – Philip II and William of Orange (1832)

1584 and 1585 saw the fall of Ghent, Brussels, and Antwerp to Spanish forces, as well as the death of rebel leader William of Orange, marking a milestone in the history of the southern Low Countries. Under the terms of surrender to the Spanish crown, heretics were ordered to leave the re-conquered cities within two years. Some 150,000 people migrated to the northern Netherlands, where in large cities Flemings and Brabantines constituted up to one third of the population, while others left for England or the Empire. By 1589, the population of Antwerp had been reduced to 42,000, less than half of what it had been in the 1560s.[19]

Isabella and Albrecht, the daughter and son-in-law of Philip II appointed by him in 1598 to rule the Spanish Netherlands, established the region as a bastion of Counter Reformation thought to the extent that English and Irish Catholics migrated there to seek refuge from religious persecution in their homelands. Conditions for Protestants in these territories deteriorated as strict regulations were imposed on educational and devotional practice. For example, the poor were required to send their children to Catholic Sunday schools in return for financial assistance. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were significant periods of mass migration from Flanders and Brabant. Between 1540 and 1630 – especially between 1577 and 1589 – some 150,000 people, primarily skilled artisans and intellectual elites, left for the newly formed Dutch Republic in the north.[20]

The independence of the Dutch Republic (the Seven United Provinces of Guelders, Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Overijssel, Frisia, and Groningen and Ommelanden) was not permanently recognised by Spain until 1648, when on 30 January the Peace of Münster was signed. Spain recognised the Republic as a sovereign state and abandoned any claim to it. The Dutch Revolt split the Low Countries into the southern Netherlands, which remained under Spanish rule, and the northern Netherlands, which became the Dutch Republic. The southern Netherlands was held by the Spanish and later by the Austrian Habsburgs until it was conquered by France in 1794. The northern and southern Low Countries were reunited as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1815 to 1830, when the southern region seceded to become the Kingdom of Belgium.[21]


As has been briefly outlined, Flanders experienced a range of economic, political, and social events that caused many thousands of people to migrate to other Low Countries territories and further afield. These were, in brief,

– Overpopulation caused by intense urbanisation and population growth.
– The late medieval decline of the textile industry, causing job losses and strikes.
– The decline of Bruges as a commercial centre and its usurpation by Antwerp.
– Popular rebellion and the struggle for urban autonomy.
– Early modern religious persecution of Protestants by the Spanish government.

As one of the most industrialised and wealthy regions of Europe, Flanders held great significance for its Burgundian and Spanish rulers. These major powers’ attempts to maintain their grip on power over the Low Countries appears to be a common theme in the narrative of Flemish population history. Next week’s posting will examine medieval and early modern factors in the choice of Scotland as a destination for Flemish migrants.

Morvern French
November 2015

Morvern is a third year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and a contributor to the Scotland and the Flemish People project.


[1] P. Stabel, Dwarfs among Giants: The Flemish Urban Network in the Late Middle Ages (Louvain/Apeldoorn, 1997), p. 19; Jessica Dijkman, Shaping Medieval Markets: The Organisation of Commodity Markets in Holland, c.1200-c.1450 (Leiden, 2011), p. 327.
[2] Walter Prevenier, ‘La démographie des villes du comté de Flandre aux XIVe et XVe siècle: État de la question: Essai d’interprétation’, Revue du Nord 65 (1983); P. Stabel, ‘Demography and Hierarchy: the Small Towns and the Urban Network in Sixteenth-Century Flanders’, in P. Clark (ed.), Small Towns in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 210-3; Dijkman, Shaping Medieval Markets, p. 326.
[3] Wim Blockmans and Walter Prevenier, The Promised Lands: The Low Countries Under Burgundian Rule, 1369-1530, trans. Elizabeth Fackelman (Philadelphia, PA, 1999), p. 152, table 4, based on a census of the number of households in each territory, estimated by Blockmans and Prevenier at five persons per household in the countryside and four in the town.
[4] Walter Endrei, ‘The Productivity of Weaving in Late Medieval Flanders’, in N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting, Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E. M. Carus-Wilson (London, 1983), p. 108; David Nicholas, Medieval Flanders (London and New York, 1992), p. 277; A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (Edinburgh, 1975), p. 520, no. 24.
[5] Harry A. Miskimin, The Economy of Early Renaissance Europe, 1300-1460 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1969), p. 95.
[6] H. van Werveke, ‘De omvang van de Ieperse lakenproduktie in de XIVe eeuw’, Mededelingen Kon: Vlaamse Academie (Antwerp, 1947); R. van Uytven, Stadsfinanciën en stadsekonomie te Leuven van de XIIde tot het einde der XVIde eeuw (Brussels, 1961), pp. 353-8; N. W. Posthumus, De geschiedenis van de Leidsche Lakenindustrie, vol. I (The Hague, 1908), pp. 370-1; E. Scholliers, Loonarbeid en Honger: De levensstandaard in de XVe en XVIe eeuw te Antwerpen (Antwerp, 1960), pp. 159-61, cited in Blockmans and Prevenier, Low Countries Under Burgundian Rule, p. 160.
[7] R. van Uytven, ‘La Flandre et le Brabant, terres de promission.. sous les ducs de Bourgogne?’, Revue du Nord XLIII, 172 (1961), p. 282.
[8] W. Blockmans, ‘The Creative Environment: Incentives to and Functions of Bruges Art Production’, in M. W. Ainsworth (ed.), Petrus Christus in Renaissance Bruges (New York and Turnhout, 1995), pp. 13-4, cited in Blockmans and Prevenier, Low Countries Under Burgundian Rule, pp. 168-9.
[9] J. A. van Houtte, An Economic History of the Low Countries, 800-1800 (London, 1977), pp. 64-5.
[10] Algemene geschiedenis der Nederlanden: Middeleeuwen, vol. IV (Haarlem, 1981), pp. 44-6, cited in Andrew Brown and Graeme Small, Court and Civic Society in the Burgundian Low Countries, c.1420-1530 (Manchester, 2007), p. 4.
[11] B. de Mandrot (ed.), Mémoires de Philippe de Commynes (Paris, 1901), p. 15, quoted in Blockmans and Prevenier, Low Countries Under Burgundian Rule, p. 141.
[12] Blockmans and Prevenier, Low Countries Under Burgundian Rule, p. 169.
[13] Ibid., p. 28.
[14] Ibid., p. 203.
[15] Ibid., p. 214.
[16] W. P. Blockmans, ‘The Formation of a Political Union, 1300-1600’, in J. C. H. Blom and E. Lamberts (eds.), History of the Low Countries, trans. James C. Kennedy (New York, 1999), p. 131.
[17] Ibid., pp. 132-3.
[18] See Silke Muylaert, ‘The Stranger Churches and their Link with Scotland’, (10 April 2015).
[19] Blockmans, ‘The Formation of a Political Union, 1300-1600’, p. 140.
[20] C. Bruneel, ‘The Spanish and Austrian Netherlands, 1585-1780’, in Blom and Lamberts (eds.), History of the Low Countries, p. 229.
[21] See Alexander Stevenson, ‘Changing Definitions of Flanders and the Netherlands – Part 2’, (17 October 2014).

Further Reading

– Peter Arnade, Realms of Ritual: Burgundian Ceremony and Civic Life in Late Medieval Ghent (Ithaca, NY, and London, 1996)
– Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonisation and Cultural Change, 950-1350 (London, 1994)
– Kelly DeVries, ‘The Rebellions of Southern Low Countries’ Towns during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries’, in Wayne te Brake and Wim Klooster (eds.), Power and the City in the Netherlandic World (Leiden, 2006)
– John Munro, ‘Industrial Protectionism in Medieval Flanders: Urban or National?’, in Harry A. Miskimin, David Herlihy and A. L. Udovitch (eds.), The Medieval City (New Haven and London, 1977)
– David Nicholas, Town and Countryside: Social, Economic, and Political Tensions in Fourteenth-Century Flanders (Bruges, 1971)
– Herman van der Wee, The Low Countries in the Early Modern World, trans. Lizabeth Fackelman (Aldershot, 1993)
– Herman van der Wee, The Growth of the Antwerp Market and the European Economy (fourteenth-sixteenth centuries), vol. II: Interpretation (The Hague, 1963)

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The Flemish and the game of golf

This blog posting, prepared by Geert and Sara Nijs, draws on the work of several golf historians who have examined the possible influences of the Flemish and their game of colf on the origin and development of Scottish golf. Flemish (and North Netherlandish) colf and Scottish golf had much in common. Players used a stick (club) to hit a (originally) wooden ball towards a target like a hole in the ground, a door, or a tree. The player who could reach that target in the fewest number of hits was the winner of the match.


The history of the Scottish game of golf has been studied more extensively perhaps than any other game. For over hundred and fifty years the history of golf has been unravelled and explained in a range of publications. Books on golf history reveal that there is a surprising difference of opinion about the game’s origin. On the one hand well-respected, mainly Scottish historians claim the one and only cradle of golf to be in Scotland. On the other hand well-respected, again mainly Scottish historians claim the cradle of golf to be in the Low Countries (and sometimes in Italy, France, and other countries). This posting is restricted to the Low Countries’ cradle claim with the main emphasis on Flanders and the Flemish.  All of the historians quoted below are referenced at the end of the text and no attempt is made in this particular blog posting to examine the veracity of their claims or to weigh the relative merits of different theories regarding the origin of the game.

Scottish golf

Golf started to be played on the east coast of Scotland, principally in the East Lothian and Fife regions. The game was mentioned for the first time in 1457 when by an Act of the Scottish parliament King James II banned golf (together with football) in favour of practising archery:

Item it is ordanyt and decretyt … (th)at ye fut bawe and ye golf be uterly cryt done and not usyt and (th)at ye bowe markes be maid at all parochkirks apair of buttes and shuting be usyt ilk Sunday … 1

The first mention of a specific ‘round’ of golf dates from 1503 when King James IV played with the Earl of Bothwell near Edinburgh.2 Subsequently numerous documents have been found that refer to the game in Edinburgh, Musselburgh, St Andrews, Montrose, Aberdeen and many other places. In 1744, the first rules for the game were written down in Edinburgh.  Playing golf remained mainly a Scottish game until the late 19th century when it began to be played in other parts of the world.

Flemish colf (Flanders, Brabant)

In the County of Flanders and the Dukedom of Brabant in the Southern Netherlands, colf was mentioned for the first time in 1261 by the Flemish poet Jacob van Maerlant in his poem ‘Merlijn’s Boec’ (Merlin’s book3):

          Vnde gaff den rikesten enen slach
          Van den dorpe dat he lach
          Mit ener coluen vor zine schene

(A rough translation of the above extract from Maerlant’s poem is: “…and hit the richest boy of the village with a colf against his shin”)

Many documents from the 15th and 16th centuries refer to the game played in Brabant (Brussels, Antwerp, Malines, etc.) and Flanders (Brugge [Bruges], Gent [Gand], Kortrijk, etc.). The history of Flemish and Brabant colf in the 17th century has never been fully researched.

‘Dutch’ colf (Northern Netherlands)

In the County of Holland in the Northern Netherlands, the same game seems to have been played in Loenen aan de Vecht in 1297 to celebrate the lynching of Gerard van Velsen, the murderer of the Count of Holland a year before.4,5,6 In the subsequent four centuries there were many documents relating to the game that were found in Veere, Dordrecht, Haarlem, Leiden, Amsterdam and other places. The first, more or less official colf course was assigned to the colvers of Haarlem by Count Albrecht of Holland in 1389.7,8 Official rules for the game were never written down. Colf ceased to exists at the beginning of the 18th century to be succeeded by an indoor version called ‘kolf’ which is still played today but only in a small part of Holland.

Flemish colf and Scottish golf

The oldest reference in golf history books to a possible Flemish/Northern Netherlandish connection to Scottish golf highlights the fact that the two games have identical names: colf (noun), colven (verb) and golf (noun), golfing (verb).  Some historians are of the opinion that because of the much older name of colf the Flemish/Northern Netherlandish people must have introduced their game into Scotland before the 15th century, where it became known as Scottish golf.9

When William, Duke of Normandy, set sail with his army in 1066 to conquer Britain he was accompanied by a group of Flemish knights. These knights played a prominent role in defeating the Anglo-Saxon King Harold. Many of these knights were rewarded by the new king with estates and fiefs often near the borders with Wales and Scotland to defend England against the Welsh and Scots. Reportedly these Flemings continued to play their game of colf which is said to have been very popular at that time in Flanders.10

When David I became king of Scotland in 1124, his wife Maud, of Flemish descent, followed him as his queen. They were accompanied by a large retinue of Maud’s Flemish kinsmen.11 Some golf historians believe that these Flemings continued to play their game of colf as they were gradually absorbed into Scottish society. When in 1154 King Henry of England expelled all aliens as encroachers on English trade, many Flemings sought fortune and refuge in Scotland.12 They were well received in Scotland because of their skills as wool merchants and professional weavers. It could well be that these Flemish incomers played Flemish colf too. Some historians believe that over the course of time the Flemish game of colf evolved into the Scottish game of golf.

That golf developed on the east coast of Scotland in the 15th century, and not on the west coast is, according to some historians, due to the fact that fishermen from Flanders and Holland when fishing for herring in the North Sea found refuge in the harbours of East Scotland. While waiting for favourable winds to return home they killed time by playing ‘mit der coluen’ (colf). The Scots began to play the game also, sewing the seeds of Scottish golf.13


Scottish traders crossed the Channel regularly to do business with their counterparts in the Low Countries. As this painting shows, already in the 17th century golf was a good context in which to discuss business. – Adriaen van de Velde, 1668; National Gallery, London

Over the centuries there have always been close commercial relations between the Flemish and Scottish peoples.  In the course of commercial interchange it is probable that those who played the game exchanged information about the rules, the use of different clubs and balls, etc. Many documents show that in the 16th and 17th centuries large numbers of hair-filled leather balls were exported to Scotland to replace the wooden balls. On several Netherlandish paintings with colf players clubs can be recognised as ‘Scottish cleeks’.14

In the Scottish golf game the target in a match is a small hole in which the ball has to be putted15. The first Scottish reference to such a hole target can be found in the ‘Vocabula Latinæ Linguæ’ written by David Wedderburn from Aberdeen in 1633.16,17


One of the oldest Flemish illuminations with colf players putting a ball into a small hole. It could well be that the Flemish introduced such a target into Scottish golf. – ‘Golf Book of Hours’ by Simon Bening from Brugge (Bruges). Add MS 24098, detail from folio 27 recto, c.1540; © The British Library Board

In Flanders such target holes were in use already in the 15th century judged by several illuminations in books of hours and paintings and drawings from the 16th and 17th centuries. Written evidence can be found in the ‘Tyrocinium Linguæ Latinæ’ from Petrus Apherdianus from 1545.18 Some historians are of the opinion that the Flemish colf target predated its introduction into the Scottish golf game.19

Among the other theories historians have developed to explain the spread of the game from continental Europe to Scotland relates to the exploits of Scottish mercenaries. According to this theory it could have been possible that the Scots were confronted with the colf game on the continent when they fought with the French against the English in the Hundred Years’ War.  On the eve of the battle at Vieux Baugé in 1421 during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, some Scottish soldiers were playing a ‘French’ ball game during a ceasefire.20 The game is considered to be the game of crosse, a variant of Flemish colf. The soldiers enjoyed the game so much that when they returned to Scotland they took the game with them where it developed into golf. Scottish soldiers campaigned in France between 1420 and 1457 being the period in which it is suggested that golf developed in Scotland.21


There is documented evidence, supported by paintings of the period, that in the 14th century a “one stick and ball” game was played in both Flanders and the Netherlands.  There is also some documented evidence that such a game was played in Scotland in the 16th century. One possibility therefore is that over the course of time the Flemish introduced aspects of their game into the Scottish game that evolved into the game of golf as it is played today.  Another possibility is that comparable stick and ball games evolved independently in Flanders, the Netherlands and much later in Scotland.  With the flow of people in the context of the commercial relationship between the three countries it is possible that there was an exchange of knowledge about the game that led to adaptations in the way it was played.

Geert and Sara Nijs
November 2015

Geert and Sara Nijs are amateur historians who have specialised in the ancient history of the games of Flemish/Netherlandish colf/kolf, the Franco/Belgian crosse/choule, the Italian/French game of pallamaglio/mail/pall mall and Scottish golf. They are members of the European Association of Historians and Collectors (EAGHC), the British Golf Collectors Society (BGCS), the American Golf Collectors Society (GCS), and the Association Patrimoniale du Golf Français (APGF). Their publications include: ‘CHOULE – The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse’ (2008) and its revised French edition ‘Jeu de Crosse – Crossage A travers les âges’ (2012), ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ (2011), ‘Games for Kings & Commoners Part Two’ (2014) and ‘Games for Kings & Commoners Part Three’ (2015), the final part of the trilogy.

For more detailed information about the history of the continental golf-like games and Scottish golf see their website where you also find their email address.


  1. National Archives of Scotland, PA5/6
  2. National Archives of Scotland, E21/6
  3. The verbatim text of the original manuscript of Jacob van Maerlant; source Ludo Jongen, medievalist at Leiden, The Netherlands, 2009
  4. Article in the Magazine of Education ‘Nieuwe bijdragen ter Bevordering van het Onderwijs en de Opvoeding’, Hendrik Breuninghoff; March 1870
  5. ‘De Volksvermaken’, Jan ter Gouw; Haarlem, De Erven F. Bohn, 1871
  6. ‘Golf – History & Tradition’, David Stirk; Ludlow, Excellent Press, 1998
  7. Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, The Netherlands
  8. ‘Tafereel der Stad Haarlem en derzelver Geschiedenis: van de vroegste Tijden af tot op de tegenwoordigen toe’, Volume 4, Cornelis de Koning; Haarlem, A. Loosjes, 1808
  9. ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ Part Three, Geert & Sara Nijs; Saint Bonnet en Bresse, Editions Choulla et Clava, 2015
  10. ‘Golf & Kolf Seven centuries of history’, Jacques Temmerman; Gent, Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1993
  11. ‘The Flemish Influence Upon Scotland’, Annette Hardie-Stoffelen;
  12. See 11
  13. ‘Early Golf’, Steven J.H. van Hengel; Naarden, Strengholt, 1982
  14. See 13
  15. ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ Part One, Geert & Sara Nijs; Saint Bonnet en Bresse, Editions Choulla et Clava, 2011
  16. National Library of Scotland, L.C.445(2)
  17. ‘A Swing Through Time – Golf in Scotland 1457–1744’, Olive M. Geddes; London HMSO, 1992
  18. University Library, Gent, Belgium
  19. ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ Part Two, Geert & Sara Nijs; Saint Bonnet en Bresse, Editions Choulla et Clava, 2014
  20. ‘Scottish pageant’, Dr Agnes Mure MacKenzie; Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1946
  21. ‘A History of Golf – The Royal and Ancient Game’, Robert Browning; London, A & C Black, 1955

Further reading

  • ‘Scottish Hazard: The Flemish Nobility and their Impact on Scotland’, Volumes 1 & 2, Beryl Platts; London, Proctor Press, 1985 & 1990.
  • ‘Flemish Settlement in Twelfth-Century Scotland’, Lauran Toorians; Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire, Volume 74, 1996
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Migration from Scotland before 1700

Virtually all of the material posted on this blog to date has focussed on the migration to Scotland of people thought to have Flemish roots and their subsequent influence on the country. In this posting David Dobson explains why there was also migration from Scotland before 1700. Among the emigrants were some people carrying the name Fleming (other family names will be examined in due course).

Migration to Continental Europe

Emigration from Scotland has been a feature of Scottish demography since the medieval period. In the nineteenth century Scotland had one of the highest levels of emigration in Europe relative to its population, only exceeded by Ireland and Norway. Scottish emigration to European destinations began to become significant in the seventeenth century and was caused by a number of factors. Scotland was then a poor country on the fringe of Europe and many of those settling abroad were economic migrants heading for opportunities in the burgeoning cities of the continent. A significant number were soldiers of fortune – mercenaries attracted by opportunities in continental armies. Some were political or religious refugees seeking sanctuary, while others were scholars advancing their education in continental universities. Scots merchants, factors, and pedlars could be found throughout north-west Europe by 1700.

The Scottish Reformation of 1560 turned Scotland into a Protestant country and contributed to an exodus of Catholics, albeit on a small scale, to locations which remained loyal to Rome, such as Poland or France. In the seventeenth century the religious policies of the Stuart kings led to the Covenanter risings and subsequent emigration of Presbyterians to Ireland, the Netherlands, and America. On the Continent the Thirty Years War, which was mainly fought in Germany, attracted thousands of Scottish soldiers, mainly to enrol in the service of Sweden, and many of whom later settled in Germany as well as in Scandinavia and the Baltic lands. Similarly the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule led to substantial numbers of Scottish soldiers being recruited to aid their Calvinist brethren in their struggle. These soldiers were mostly formed into the Scotch Brigade in the service of the United Provinces which existed for nearly two hundred years. Many of these soldiers later settled in the Netherlands. A similar situation could be found in France where Scots had formed elite corps such as Les Gardes de Corps Écossaises or Les Gens d’Armes Écossaises, which formed the king’s bodyguard. The Hundred Years War between France and England brought many Scots soldiers to France to oppose the English. In the aftermath a number of Scots were granted lands and titles and settled there. The French universities and seminaries also attracted young Catholic Scotsmen. Considerable trade developed between France and Scotland that resulted in Scots merchants and factors settling in French ports, such as Bordeaux, as well as in Paris.

One of the most important destinations for Scottish emigrants in the early modern period was Poland, which by the middle of the seventeenth century was the home of around 30,000 Scots. Some had arrived as Catholic refugees, many others as economic migrants attracted by opportunities offered there by the existing social system. Society was divided between the aristocracy and the peasantry, with the gap between them filled by merchants and craftsmen from the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland. Some of the Scots that settled in centres such as Gdańsk/Danzig or Kraków were former soldiers in the service of Sweden and Poland, who became wandering merchants or cramers. The shipping links that existed between Danzig and east coast Scottish ports such as Aberdeen facilitated emigration. Emigration to Poland and the southern Baltic began to decline from around 1650 in favour of locations to the west of Scotland.

Scottish emigration to the Scandinavian lands of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland was largely, though not completely, by soldiers of fortune seeking employment generally under Gustavus Adolphus but also under the Danish kings. Those who survived the campaigns of the Thirty Years War were often granted land and encouraged to settle. As well as soldiers, the Scandinavian kings also recruited seafarers. Merchants and craftsmen, mainly from burghs in eastern Scotland and the Northern Isles, moved to Scandinavia attracted by economic opportunities there.

The emigration of Scottish merchants to the German lands was relatively small scale and they tended to concentrate in seaports such as Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. However the Thirty Years War did bring thousands of Scots soldiers to Germany and a number settled there and in other neighbouring lands in Central Europe. Scottish Catholic families often sent their sons for education to locations such as Würzburg and Ratisbon (modern Regensburg), some of whom were ordained as priests.

Scotland has had strong economic and social links with the Low Countries since the medieval period. Scottish merchants and craftsmen could be found in centres such as Veere, Bruges, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Middelburg. After the Reformation the links concentrated on the United Provinces, especially Holland and Zealand. Scots soldiers and sailors served in the armies of the Netherlands and in their fleets, as well as those of the Dutch East India Company and of the Dutch West India Company in the Early Modern Period. The universities of the Netherlands, such as Leiden, attracted students from Scotland. Holland was a place of refuge for many Presbyterians escaping the religious policies of the Stuart kings of the seventeenth century. Probably Rotterdam had the greatest concentration of Scots, where by 1700 around one thousand Scots were resident.

Migration to Ireland and the Americas

During the seventeenth century the emphasis of emigration from Scotland gradually changed from east to west. Increasingly Ireland and the Americas became the preferred destinations.

While there had been some movement of people between Scotland and Ireland for centuries, it only became substantial in the seventeenth century. In the late sixteenth century there had been an influx of Highlanders into Ulster to support the native Irish in their struggle with the Tudor English, but it was the Union of the Crowns in 1603 that led to mass migration from Scotland to Ireland. In 1606 two Ayrshire lairds, James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery, began to settle thousands of Lowland Scots in County Down and County Antrim. The success of this venture persuaded King James VI of Scotland, now King James I of England, to commence the Plantation of Ulster mainly by Lowland Scots. By the end of the seventeenth century around 100,000 Scots or people of Scottish descent had settled in Ireland, a considerable figure when compared to the estimated population of contemporary Scotland of one million.

The final destination for emigrants from Scotland was the Americas. Links can be traced back to 1600 and the voyage of the Grace of God of Dundee to Newfoundland in 1600. However, settlement did not occur until the 1620s and the foundation of Nova Scotia. A settlement was established at Port Royal on the Bay of Fundy and existed until King Charles I ordered that it be abandoned and returned it to the French in 1632. Another settlement on Cape Breton had a very brief existence, basically as there was a prior claim to the territory by the French. Scots, however, were able to settle within the English settlements along the east coast of America, from New England south to the Carolinas. Many of the Scots arrived there in chains, mostly as prisoners of war but also some petty felons taken from the tollbooths of Edinburgh. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1651, resulted in prisoners captured at Dunbar and Worcester being transported to the colonies for sale to the planters there. Prisoners were also taken with the Scottish Quakers who moved to East New Jersey to avoid persecution in the 1680s. Around the same time a group of Presbyterians established a settlement south of Charleston, South Carolina, to avoid persecution but also to trade. However, this colony was overrun by the Spanish within a few years.

Scotland had trading links with the West Indies from 1611 and this too led to settlement by factors, merchants and planters. Here also was where prisoners were transported to and sold off. The ill-fated Scots colony at Darien was designed as a trading settlement with access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. However, it was located in territory long claimed by Spain and in the face of a Spanish siege and lack of support from England it was abandoned in 1700. Around 3,000 emigrants left Scotland bound for Darien and only a handful returned. Many died on the Darien Expedition, but some survived and settled within English colonies in the West Indies, such as Jamaica, and along the American coast as far north of New York. By the end of the seventeenth century it is reckoned that 7,000 Scots had settled in the Americas.

Fleming Family Emigration

Thousands of Scots clearly emigrated to European and American destinations in the years prior to 1700. Some of them must be, at least in part, of Flemish origin. Unfortunately there is no comprehensive list identifying Scots abroad. However, a number can be identified from their surnames. Take the basic surname of Fleming, for example. Henry Fleming was a Scot and a Colonel of the Swedish Army fighting in Germany during the 1630s. Among the Scots in Königsberg, East Prussia, was a ‘J. Flehman’ in 1648. In Germany a P. Fleming from Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, entered the Monastery at Ratisbon in 1669. In the Netherlands there were a considerable number of Scots including two ministers, father and son: Robert Fleming, who was minister of the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam from 1677 until his death in 1694, and his son also named Robert Fleming, minister of the Scots Kirk in Leiden from 1692 to 1695, then in Rotterdam from 1695 to 1698. Sir Alexander Fleming, an Ensign, married in Holland during 1637. A John Fleming was a merchant in Rotterdam in 1692. A Charles Fleming studied at the Scots Colleges in Paris and Douai in the 1680s. The surname Fleming appears in the early records of Virginia, mostly in the 1650s, which suggests that they may be some of the prisoners-of-war transported there around 1650. One such is a Patrick Fleming who by 1662 was a planter there. Among the Covenanter prisoners taken to Carolina in 1684 was a John Fleming from Stirlingshire. The Register of Testament of the Commissariat of Edinburgh has the testaments of a couple of seafarers, Alexander Fleming and George Fleming, who died on the Darien Expedition of 1698-1699. Several Flemings are recorded in Irish records of the seventeenth century, most of whom had settled in County Donegal, some from before 1630. James and Richard Fleming were among the defenders at the Siege of Londonderry in 1689. A James Fleming, described as Scotch-Irish, studied at Glasgow University in 1636, while several Flemings studied at Trinity College, Dublin, in the late seventeenth century.

The above list is but the tip of the iceberg as many more Flemings who settled abroad are as yet not identified. Much more work is required, especially regarding those Scots who settled on the Continent in the early modern period.

David Dobson

November 2015

Dr 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. His publications include Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, 1683-1783 (Georgia, 1994, 2004); Scottish Trade with Colonial Charleston, 1683-1783 (Glasgow, 2009), and over 125 historical and genealogical source books (Baltimore, 1983- 2013).


The material set out in this blog posting was based on the following books authored by Dr Dobson:

[1] Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, 1607-1783 (University of Georgia Press, 1994)
[2] Scottish German Links, 1550-1850, 2nd ed. (Baltimore 2011)
[3] Scots in Poland, Russia, and the Baltic States, 1550-1850, 2 vols. (Baltimore, 2000, 2008)
[4] Scots-French Links in Europe and America, 1550-1850 (Baltimore, 2011)
[5] Scots-Dutch Links in Europe and America, 1575-1825, 2 vols. )Baltimore 2004, 2011)
[6] Scots-Scandinavian Links in Europe and America, 1550-1850 (Baltimore, 2005)
[7] Scots-Irish Links, 1575-1725, 9 vols. (Baltimore 1994-2012)

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Guns and Gunpowder in Late Medieval Scotland: Influences from Flanders

Among the materials that came to Scotland across the North Sea from Flanders in the medieval period were munitions of various types. In this extract from the November/December 2015 edition of History Scotland magazine, available now from, Morvern French describes some of the most notable instances of this type of import.

The Early History of Gunpowder

The first known mention of gunpowder is in the Wujing Zongyao (Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques), a Chinese treatise written in 1044 detailing a substance used to propel incendiary and explosive bombs. Knowledge of gunpowder weaponry was probably transmitted to Europe through the Islamic world, which knew gunpowder as ‘Chinese snow’ or ‘Chinese salt’.

The first European recipe for gunpowder is believed to be that of Roger Bacon, in his Epistola de secretis operibus artis et naturae, et de nullitate magiae (Letter on the Secret Workings of Art and Nature, and on the Vanity of Magic) of the mid-13th century. In it Bacon revealed that one should take seven parts of saltpetre, five of charcoal, and five of sulphur, ‘and thus you can make thunder and lightning, if you know the means’.

Soldiers of high rank were at first sceptical of this new technology as it brought them into greater danger of death than had traditional weapons. Expensive plate armour was no protection against gunfire, and the advantages of social status on the battlefield were effectively swept away. Nobles were much less likely to be spared in exchange for a ransom payment, and instead could be killed or wounded by an anonymous enemy gunner.

Flemish Munitions in Scotland

By around 1400 guns were used in nearly every European military engagement, at both battles and sieges, eventually coming to replace archery as the primary artillery weapon. The most significant early use of guns by the Scottish army was at James I’s unsuccessful siege of English-held Roxburgh in 1436, for which he ordered the purchase of bombards and aliis instrumentis et apparatibus bellicis (other instruments and equipment for war), and hired specialist gunners and artillery workers from Germany.

James is likely to have used at Roxburgh the brass bombard brought to him from Flanders in 1430, which contemporary chronicler Walter Bower recorded as bearing the following inscription:

For the illustrious James, worthy prince of the Scots.
Magnificent king, when I sound off, I reduce castles.
I was made at his order; therefore I am called ‘Lion’.

Bombards were large cannon (from the Greek kanun or the Latin canna, meaning ‘tube’) measuring as much as 5.2m in length and weighing as much as 16,400kg. They fired stone cannonballs weighing up to 386kg. Although today we might think of ‘cannon’ as a synonym of ‘bombard’, the word in fact applied to all gunpowder weapons, as did the word ‘gun’.

An account of the Burgundian siege of the French city of Bourges in 1412 gives us an idea of the destructive potential of bombards. The attackers…

…caused a cannon called Griette, which was bigger than the others, to be mounted opposite the main gate. It shot stones of enormous weight at the cost of large quantities of gunpowder and much hard and dangerous work on the part of its expert crew. Nearly twenty men were required to handle it. When it was fired the thunderous noise could be heard four miles away and terrorised the local inhabitants as if it were some reverberation from hell. On the first day, the foundations of one of the towers were partially demolished by a direct hit. On the next day this cannon fired twelve stones, two of which penetrated the tower, thus exposing many of the buildings and their inhabitants.

The weaponry holdings of the Scottish monarchy were upgraded substantially upon the marriage of James II to Mary of Guelders, daughter of Arnold, duke of Guelders and great-niece of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and Count of Flanders, at Holyrood on 3 July 1449. The Treaty of Brussels outlining the alliance with Burgundy bound the parties to assist each other against aggressors, for which Mary’s dowry would come in very useful. Philip arranged for a large collection of weaponry, five galleys worth, from his own arsenal to be sent to James via Antwerp. The Burgundian territories of the Low Countries were considered a European centre for the production of gunpowder weaponry, as well as a major entrepôt for the redistribution of guns and their paraphernalia. Much of the saltpetre imported into Scotland, for example, would have come from the Baltic states via Bruges or Antwerp.

Mons Meg (Historic Scotland).

Mons Meg (Historic Scotland).

The details of the ducal weaponry gift still survive in the form of a list written by Berthelot Lambin, controller of Philip the Good’s artillery, preserved in the Archives de la Côte-d’Or. The inventory lists artillery pieces such as 22 veuglaires de fer et 64 chambres pour lesdiz veuglaires (22 iron veuglaires and 64 chambers for those veuglaires), 46 coulevrines de fer (46 iron culverins), as well as powder and stone shot for their use.

Veuglaires were medium-sized cannon which were generally between 1.22 and 1.83m in length, which varied widely between 48 and 3,584kg in weight, and which fired stone cannonballs of between 1 and 14.5kg. Such medium-sized weapons would eventually become the most common type of non-hand-held type of gun in the early modern army, as they were used for both sieges and battles.

Culverins were the smallest type of gun, measuring from 15 to 122cm in length, weighing between 6 and 23kg, and firing lead instead of stone balls. The culverin was the original hand-held gun, and its use was limited to the battlefield. The Burgundian ducal arsenal was one of the most advanced in Europe, as shown by the inclusion of this type of gun. They were much easier to transport than were larger artillery weapons and were more effective in battle, so much so that later in the 15th century it became mandatory for every Burgundian army unit of 8,400 men to contain 600 coulevriniers.

In 1457 there appeared in Scotland from Burgundy the great bombard Mons Meg, now on display at Edinburgh Castle. With an overall length of 4.04m and a weight of 6,040kg, Mons Meg is remarkably similar to the Flemish bombard Dulle Griet, the largest complete surviving bombard in the world, now in Ghent. The two cannon are of similar dimensions and of the same construction, both being of wrought iron bars welded and held together by iron rings, and with a three-stepped ring at the muzzle. All of these elements point to a strong case for Mons Meg and Dulle Griet being made by the same manufacturer: Jehan Cambier, the artillery maker of the duke of Burgundy.

Dulle Griet (author's photo).

Dulle Griet (author’s photo).

Although powerful siege weapons, bombards were difficult to transport, liable to become bogged down, laborious to load due to the large projectiles and amounts of gunpowder required, and they took a long time to cool down before reloading. They also had a tendency to fracture and burst, or to be destroyed by enemy fire. Although large bombards remained in use, from the mid-15th century they began to be replaced by smaller, often hand-held, weapons.

Gret dolour throu all Scotland

James II was killed at the siege of Roxburgh after one of his own cannon exploded near him. 16th century historian Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie wrote that James was so heartened by the arrival of the earl of Huntly that he ordered his gunners to discharge a volley, and a fragment from the broken gun severed the king’s thigh bone, causing him to die from blood loss. In the Auchinleck Chronicle it is recorded that James ‘unhappely was slane with ane gun the quhilk brak in the fyring / for the quhilk was gret dolour throu all Scotland’. Despite the king’s unfortunate demise, his forces succeeded in taking Roxburgh Castle.

By the end of the 15th century guns had made redundant the type of weaponry traditionally viewed as ‘medieval’: swords, bows and arrows, and even plate armour. Guns had come to be an essential part of military readiness. Acts of Parliament in 1535 and 1540 ruled that those with land valued at £40 were to own one culverin, and those with land valued at 100 marks (a mark being 2/3 of a pound) were to have two. Those affected were also required to possess the necessary powder, bullets, and men capable of using the guns. Early arguments against the lethal potential of guns had largely diminished as European rulers competed with each other to maintain the most impressive arsenals as symbols of their power, often looking to Flanders as the source of their weaponry.

Morvern is a third year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and a contributor to the Scotland and the Flemish People project.

Further Reading

David H. Caldwell (ed.), Scottish Weapons and Fortifications, 1100-1800 (Edinburgh, 1981)
Kelly DeVries, Guns and Men in Medieval Europe, 1200-1500: Studies in Military History and Technology (Aldershot, 2002)
Kelly DeVries, Medieval Military Technology (Peterborough, ON, 1992)
Katie Stevenson, Chivalry and Knighthood in Scotland, 1424-1513 (Woodbridge, 2006)

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The Family of Innes of Morayshire

The last two blog postings addressed the question of settlement of Flemings in the Moray area in the later middle ages. Continuing with the Moray theme Mairin Innes reviews the history of the Innes’s that lived in the area in the middle of the 12th century and examines the evidence for and against the family having Flemish roots.                                                         


The Canmore King David I reigned from 1124 and had taken as his Queen, Maud, who was of Flemish descent.  David was enamoured with the culture of the Normans and Flemish who had successfully invaded and conquered Saxon England in 1066.  Less than one hundred years later the King of England, Henry II, expelled many of the Flemish.  Those who came north to Scotland were welcomed by David, who sought to change the face of Scotland to a more enlightened and prosperous one, and also extend the establishment of bishoprics, abbeys, and priories, based on the model of Norman culture as it was in England.  With that goal in mind David gave power and prestige to the Flemish elite who joined his ranks in return for their services and loyalty, and offered similar prospects to any native chieftains in Scotland who would join him, as he extended his influence throughout the land 1.

A Flemish origin for the Innes family?

Morayshire was an independent and ancient province but this did not stop David I and his successors from replacing uncooperative Moravian chieftains with their own loyal followers.  Under David’s rule, communities such as Elgin began to grow and prosper.  This medieval community is described by Lachlan Shaw, Bishop of Moray from 1734 until 1774, in his history of the local area.  He tells us that:“The houses of Elgin, as was the case at this time in all the towns of both England and Scotland, were chiefly built of wood, and comprised several grades of dwellings. These are referred to in different Deeds in the Register of Moray by the terms ‘mansions,’ ‘edifices,’ ‘huts,’ or ‘bothies.’  We find that from an early period several of the barons and clergy in the neighbourhood, as well as some of the officers of State, possessed ‘burgage’ property in Elgin and Tofts of land in the town were granted by David – a practice continued by his grandson Malcolm IV…” One such person was Berowald the Fleming, Lord of Innes2, appointed by the King, to oversee security of the castle at Elgin, under the stewardship of a knight… “Malcolm IV, King of Scotland granted by charter in A.D 1160, the lands of Innes to Berowald the Fleming, the condition of the tenure being the service of …one knight (unius militus) in my castle of Elgin (en castello meo de Elgin),”2a

This was a strategic move by the ruling class to secure the lands Malcolm IV, grandson of David I, held in Moray and it became a standard practice to bestow charters or other favours to various knights, nobles or thanes – providing they abided by the conditions of service to protect the King and his assets – for not all in the land welcomed the changes brought about by his grandfather.  Despite the opposition however, suffice it to say at this time that Scotland’s 12th century ruling classes continued to be influenced by the Norman/Flemish culture and sought to introduce it, and its church, to as many areas of Scotland as possible. This is why it is believed that in 1160 A. D., Berowaldus Flandrensis, thought to be of Flemish origin, came to inherit land and position in Elgin, and whose descendants assumed the surname Innes, [de Ineys, Yneys, de Insula] after the lands given to Berowald – as he is often later referred to.

Some however believed that Berowald was not Flemish, but Moravian, in which case his descendants would not be of Flanders, but of Moray.  One such person was Duncan Forbes whose work is described in the box below.

The first known genealogy regarding the descendants of Berowald the Fleming was by Duncan Forbes of Culloden. Forbes had married Mary [Marie] Innes daughter of Sir Robert Innes, and he was much impressed with his wife’s family, which was the catalyst for his work. Forbes goes into great detail dissecting the wording of the Latin Charters recorded in his work, and it is his conclusion that Berowald of Flanders is not Flemish but ‘of Innes’ in Moray, ie that he was Moravian.  In his work Forbes states that: “As to the first supposition anent Berowald being a stranger, I cannot be of that opinion, for all his being designed Flandrensis in the wreat; because, wher ther were no surnames, he might have had that as a too-name, for his having once made a voyage to Flanders; as to this day it is amongst all wher Irish prevails in Scotland…”.  Forbes adds: “In one word, had this Berowald been really a Flandrian or Fleeming born, it is possible but he would have called himself wither after his family, as Montgomery, Barclay, and many others do, or at least, after the particular town he came from, as the Chartres and Bethunes do? But to call himselfe of Flanders, as if he were prince of it, or Flandrensis, as if he were a begger or a run-away from it, is what, I am sure, Berowald never meant to brag of in his charter; and so leaves it (in my sense) utterly impossible that a man of his import could have any more from Flanders but a nick-name, because he was once there.  For, had he trewly been a Fleeming, he had no more suffered himselfe to be barely named so, than Drummond, Ruthven, or Sinclare would barely let themselves be named Germanus, Italus, or Gallus…” Forbes concludes: “I am positive of the opinion, that whatever Malcolme it was that gave the charter, yet Berowald who took it was no stranger, but heretor from his predecessors of that same estate of Innes and Etherurecard [aka Nether Urquhart] (which is all the lands betwixt the Spey and Lossy). And that finding a custome then beginning of takeing wreat upon lands from the King, he did what he saw others of his quality do, and took the charter before spok of, from one of the Malcolmes, upon that estate which he and his predecessors had always possest befor there was wreat…”3.  Forbes believed there was some confusion as to whether the Malcolm in the Charter was Malcolm the IV, or Malcolm the Maiden.  Forbes continues to examine the early history of the descendants of Berowald the Fleming and the next significant date in the genealogy of this family is January 1226 A.D. in the reign of Alexander II.  In a charter of that date it is confirmed that Berowald had a son John, who had a son Walter (who was the first to assume the surname de Ineys). Forbes sets out the “exact coppie” of the charter, in Latin in Familie of Innes, followed by the Attestation of the Charter by the then Bishop of Moray, Galwinus Dunbar, Clerk of Register. 3a

Lachlan Shaw, mentioned above, also concluded, like Duncan Forbes, that Berowald was not Flemish but Moravian. He used the argument that the Innes paternal arms were similar to the families of Morays [Murrays], Sutherlands and Brodies and for that reason concluded Berowald must be Moravian.  However the balance of academic thinking today suggests that the families of Murray and Sutherland were not native to Moray, but descended from Freskin, believed to be a Flemish knight or nobleman who came to Moray circa 1150’s.  This therefore undermines Shaw’s conclusion.  [The Brodies were an ancient family in Moray whose origins are as yet unknown.]

Others such as James MacVeigh, a 19th century Scottish historian, chose to remain neutral on the subject regarding the origins of Berowald, opting instead to focus on his grandson and says; “Berowald’s grandson, Walter, was the first that assumed the surname of Innes from his lands, and thus was the first progenitor of all the Inneses in Scotland 4.”

Another more recent, but lesser known 20th century publication by Robert Innes-Smith, compiled with the assistance of Malcolm Innes of Edingight, then Lord Lyon of Arms, notes that: “Throughout the 12th century ties were forged between Scotland and Flanders” and “…a new and vigorous aristocracy was imported into parts of the country.5 Innes-Smith, like Lachlan Shaw, points out the similarity of the paternal arms of Innes to the families of Murray and Sutherland but believes they are of Flemish descent.  Innes-Smith provides visual information listed in the form of photo-copied illustrations of the original documents, provided to him by the Lord Lyon of Arms, regarding Berowald the Fleming and some of his early descendants in Moray5a, and he further lists their connections to Elgin and the near-by priory of Pluscardine, 5b.

Despite the arguments of Forbes and Shaw that Berowald Flandrensis was a native Moravian, the belief that he was Flemish has persisted.  Three examples supporting this view are:

1) Notices of Archaeological Publications, The Royal Archaeological Journal, Vol. 49, Royal Archaeological Institute: 1892, (p. 428) cites the work of Cosmo Innes, once a leading antiquarian, advocate and professor of civil history at the University of Edinburgh,……who subscribes to the theory that; “Berowaldus Flandrensis, is one of those strangers who were found along the shores of the Moray Firth about the middle of the twelfth century, and who superseded some of the least powerful of the ancient Celtic Maormors….His name shews that he could not have been of Celtic origin, and his existence is vouched by a charter of Malcolm the IV.” Innes is further quoted as saying that “Forbes has laboured, though with small success, to establish the Scottish origin of Berowald.”

2) Flemish Settlements in Twelfth-Century Scotland; by Lauran Toorians – Revue Belge de Philologie et d’histoire, 1996, Vol.74, Issue 74-3-4, pp 659-693.  Regarding the establishment of Flemish settlements in Scotland: “In Moray all we have is the one Berowald the Fleming, to whom Malcolm IV gave Innes and Nether Urquhart in the sheriffdom of Elgin. …In Moray, the Flemish character of this settlement is hard to define.  Only Berowald is stated explicitly to be a Fleming.  Berowald had earlier held land in West Lothian, where he left his name in Bo’Ness, (Berowalds-toun-ness).”

3) The Use of the Name Scot in the Central Middle Ages, pdf by Matthew H. Hammond, page 39“…there were many individuals described as either Flandrensis or le Flamang, but only one family, the descendants of Berowald the Fleming, appears to have adopted the ethnonym as a surname.” (Hammond 2005, 109-10, RRS I no. 175; Familie of Innes, 52-53; Moray Reg. no. 83)

The origins of the name Innes and its variants

Notwithstanding the adoption of the Innes name by Berowald there is still the question of where the name Innes (and its variants) came from. When and how the Lands of Innes situated between the rivers Spey and Lossie in the former province of Morayshire came to be, is still speculative at best.

Frank Adam in his book, The Clans, Sept, & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands contends that Berowald [the Fleming], who received the Barony of Innes in 1160 from Malcolm VI, describes the place name as meaning ‘greens’ and says Berowald… “seems to have acquired it, by marriage with a daughter of its former chieftain, descent from the native Moravienses6.” Adam does not provide any sources for this statement.

In Ireland the name is found originally as Innis or Inis.  It is topographic, a descriptive place-name which in the form of Innes is used to this day in Scotland as both a surname and a forename.  It is pronounced ‘In-ish’ in the Irish Gaelic, with the emphasis on the first syllable. This surname did not reach North America until the 16th century, and after the 18th century, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.  Some of the variants are:  Ineys/Eneys, Inness/Inneis, Ennis, Ines/Inez, Innice and Inies.  It is probable many of these versions are due in part to variations in spelling or pronunciation, or errors by record takers.   There are bound to be unrecorded descendants of the very first generations however not all the variations will be of this family.  There will be some who are unrelated but who have in the distant past perhaps taken their surname from the place of Innes, or adopted it as a family name.

The Book of Irish Families, Great & Small, by Irish author Michael C. O’Laughlin notes: “that one should be aware that the Scots name of Innes, bears no relationship to Ennis.”7 As a surname it is unclear if it is related, but as the topographic Inis it is.  In Ireland the name goes back many centuries and loosely means ‘island’.  There are two islands in Eire, of a chain of three known as the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway.  One is Inis Oirr [Inis Mor, aka Inishmore], dating back to 1500 /1000 B.C, and the other is Inis Meain.  In Northern Ireland is found Inis an Roin (Inisharoan), meaning seal island.  In Ireland Inis is also connected with islands mentioned in folklore. Inis Meic Uchen is one of two isles mentioned in the tale of Cano, son of Gartnan, with the other isle being Inis Ane, the site attributed to a battle between the men of Tyrone and the men of Alba [Scotland].

Some believe the surname Innes/Innis to be Gaelic, and refer to Aonghus [Angus] an 8th century Scottish King, from which the family of Mcinnes or Macinnes claim their origin, and who refute the connection to Innes.  It is interesting to note that on the island of Inis Mor, in Ireland, is also found the pre-historic fort, Dun Aonghusa [ie. Hill of Angus.]

In Scotland, Innis and Innes are in the Scots Gaelic descriptive words for ‘haugh’ land, that is land commonly found between two or more burns or rivers or land formed where a river or burn join.  It can also include the meaning of a river meadow or raised marshy ground bounded by water.  In the case of Innes in Moray, the land was between two rivers, the Spey and the Lossie, part of which was called Nether Urquhar.  Nether in old Scots means ‘lower of two places, or roads’.  The Gaelic place-name Innis [Inis] in Ireland is also found in Scotland from the west coast of Renfrewshire, to Argyll and the Western Isles, north into Caithness & Orkney, south and east to the southern borders of Sutherland, across Ross-shire, and south into Stirlingshire. It is found mainly along routes once traversed as early as the 6th to 9th centuries by Celtic priests, and others who came to live along these same routes.  Along the Moray coast in Scotland it is spelt as Innes. Most scholars appear to agree that the name Innes/Innis is of Gaelic origin.  The box below contains several examples taken mainly from Watson8 and Black9.

[i] Innis Chonnel – name of a 13th century castle situated on a small island on Loch Awe

[i] Innis Choinnich – Haugh of Kenneth, at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall in Mull

[iii] Coille Innis na Sine – a pre-historic settlement situated on haugh land, river Meig near Scardroy, Ross-shire – Canmore [ancient route between the western isles and ross]

[i] Innis a’ Chomair – haugh land or meadow of the confluence near the head of Strathruedale, Ross-shire,

[i] Innis a’ Phiuir – aka Inchfuir, a meadow at Pitfour, Kilmuir Easter, Ross-shire

[i] Coille Innis na Circe, east Sutherland near Glencassley Castle

[i] Innis ma Cholmdig – aka Colmoc’s isle, from an Irish saint – also known as Inchmahomenear, Menteith, Aberdeen

[i] Innis nan damh/Inshindamff – stag or ox meadow (ie meadow of the stag, or ox) in the Oykell district – Kincardine

[i] Innis Chalainn – haugh land by the river Calann above Tyndrum, Stirlingshire,

[i] Innse Orc, a former name for the Orkney Isles and Innse Cat, the Cat Isles – now Caithness, are the most northerly of old usages of innis.

[ii] Originally called Innis Cailleach – island of nuns, this place name was later known as inischailly & Inche-chaille  ‘wooded island’.

A footnote in the History of the Province of Cat10, is worth repeating here: “it is in the sense of ‘haugh’ that ‘innis’ appears most widely in Scottish topography. Even in early usage there was probably a tendency to this meaning.  Temporary islands are often formed by flooding, or by the forking of streams, and from this to river-side haugh, meadow, the translation is easy…  It may be noted in passing that ‘innis’ is rendered into the Latin of the charters, etc., by ‘insula,’’ even where it has never meant anything other than ‘haugh’, a habit which sometimes has given rise needless searchings of antiquarian hearts”.

There are two other words of similar meaning. One is Eilean which is Gaelic for island or isle (Eilean Donan is the most known) but it can also mean river meadow or meadow prone to flooding.  The other is Inch, the anglicised version of Innis, which is found throughout Scotland as a place-name but is also often associated with a Saint. Inchinnin in Renfrewshire, Inchcolm on St. Columba’s Isle and Inchmarnock on St. Marnock’s Isle—see the box below—are only three of many.

St. Marnoch {aka Marnan], was venerated by the early family of Innes at the church in Aberchirder. Cosmo Innes in Familie of Innes suggests that: “The church of Aberchirder …is the resting-place of Saint Marnan, a bishop and confessor of the 7th century.  There the saint’s well and his bed of stone were … {held} in remembrance and there in the old time his relics were honoured, and his head especially…on every Lord’s day throughout the year to be washed…the clergy suppliantly praying the while, and tapers burning…The Inneses succeeding to the thanes of Aberchirder were votaries of Saint Marnan”11. This interesting paragraph is very telling at a time when the reigning Kings were expounding all things Flemish and Norman, including the church and its way of worship. Here was a family, said to be of Flemish descent, venerating a Celtic Saint of Aberchirder, whose first thane received the charter for the lands of Aberchirder from “the Lord of the Isles, the grandson of Countess Eufam [Euphemia] of Ross and her first husband, Walter Lesly.” [Leslie].

An interesting note by 1828 Scottish editor David Dick12 suggests that “Inchinnan – a long narrow island in Cart water where it joins Gryffe, an island, likewise peninsula – Yneys (Welsh) or Innis (Gaelic).” The author attributes the translation as being either the Welsh (Brythonic) “Yneys”, or (Goidelic) Gaelic “Innis”.


Although not a large ‘clan’, the family of Innes, like most other clans in Scotland, went through moments of great tumult.   For a time this was an influential family that played both a positive, and at times a negative role in Scottish history.  The family eventually held land and positions of influence, not only in Moray, but in Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire, and southeast Scotland.  Its marriages and alliances to families such as Fraser, Douglas, Gordon of Huntley, Stewart, Athol, Forbes, Sinclair, Ross, Mackenzie, Leslie, and others were often advantageous to their survival.  Studies appear to agree the surname Innes is of Gaelic origin, and certainly pre-dates the arrival of Berowald the Fleming, who is said to have had considerable rank, held land, and gave his name to Bo’Ness [Berowalds-toun-ness], West Lothian before he arrived in Elgin. There remain some unanswered questions. Did the lands of Innes of Moray evolve from the Irish Gaelic, Inis, or is it possible that the alternate spelling Yneys pre-dates even that time?  Is it remotely possible Berowald the Fleming married the daughter of a Moray Chieftain?  And was Berowald indeed from Flanders as the balance of informed opinion seems to suggest?  There is still no definitive answer to this last, important question.  Although DNA analysis will not answer all these questions it will bring us hopefully closer to the truth and provide an answer to that last question. Could it be, that after 885 years of recorded genealogical history in Scotland, the genetic code of the Family of Innes of Moray was forged across the water – in medieval Flanders?

Mairin Elizabeth Innes
October 2015

Mairin Elizabeth Innes is the Granddaughter of Campbell Innes who was a collegiate head and historical archivist from McGill University in Canada.   Mairin is an artist, writer/researcher, and amateur family/social history researcher.  She has recently retired from a position with North Lanarkshire Council and assisted dedicated staff responsible for the preservation of archival information.



(1) Celtic Scotland: A history of Ancient Alban by William F. Skene, D.C.L., LL.D., Vol. 1, History and Ethnology, 2nd Edition: Publ, Edinburgh: David Douglas 1886: Chap. VI, pp. 308, 309; & Chap. VIII, p 469.
(2) The History of the Province of Moray, by Lachlan Shaw, New Edition – In Three Volumes, Enlarged and Brought down to the Present Time, by J.F.S. Gordon, Publ. Hamilton, Adams, & Co., London & Thomas D. Morison, Glasgow. 1882, written circa 1760: Vol. 3, p.67.
(2a) Ibid, Vol. 3, p. 80 – from the Notorial copy of Crown Charter by Malcolm IV to Berowald the Fleming 25 December 1160 – Now: NRAS110 Bundle 1928
(2b) Ibid, Vol. 1, pp. 314-315
(3) Ane Account of the Origin and Succession of the Familie of Innes, Gathered from Authentick Wreats, by Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Member of Parliament for Inverness, compiled in 1698, published by the Spalding Club in 1864 with an Introduction & commentary by Cosmo Innes dated at Inverleith, May 1864.
3a) Ibid, Crown Charter of confirmation by Alexander II granting to Walter, son of John, son of Berowald the Fleming the lands of Innes & Easter Urecard (Urquhart)…dated 1226, 20th January (Now at NRAS1100/Bundle 1929.
(4) The Scottish Nation; or the Historical and Genealogical Account of all Scottish Families and Surnames, by James MacVeigh, Vol. 11 – Dal-Mac, 1889, pp. 534-536.
(5) The House of Innes: The Story of a Family, by Robert Innes-Smith, self-published, 1990 – p. 6
(5a) Ibid, pp.6 & 7.
(5b) Ibid, pp. 8 – 12
(6) The Clans, Septs, & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, by Frank Adam – originally published in 1908, this book has been re-published and re-edited many times since then by various publishers & editors
(7) Book of Irish Families, Great & Small, by Michael C. O’Laughlin, publ. Irish Roots Café, 3rd Ed. 2002, online: p. 82.
(8) Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History, by George Fraser Black, – Birlinn ed. 2011
(9) The Celtic Place names of Scotland, by William J. Watson, Publ. by The Northern Counties Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. Edinburgh: Norman Macleod, 1904.(10) The History of the Province of Cat (Caithness and Sutherland) From the Earliest Times to the Year 1615, by the Rev. Angus MacKay, M.A., Ed. Rev. D. Beaton, Wick, Publ. Peter Reid & Coy., Ltd, 1914, p. 156
(11) Charters and Notes: Familie of Innes, a Commentary, by Cosmo Innes, p.p. 72-73, Publ. Spalding Club, 1894.
(12) The Paisley Magazine, by David Dick, Ed. No. 1, Vol. 1, January 1828, p. 627, under the heading: A Few Local instances of the Celtic Derivitives of the Local Placenames in Renfrewshire.

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The Flemish in Moray, Part Two

In last week’s blog posting David Dobson looked at the ancestral roots of some of Scotland’s major Flemish origin families and their presence in the Moray area.  This week’s posting examines evidence of other Flemish people living and working in the area.

New religious orders

The introduction of new religious orders into the Province of Moray may have brought some Flemings, religious or lay people, to settle in or around the abbeys and monasteries that were being established. This seems to have happened elsewhere, for example at Coupar Angus.

David I founded the Benedictine Priory of Urquhart in 1136 and the Cistercian Abbey of Kinloss in 1150. Alexander I brought monks from Val des Choux in Burgundy to establish Pluscarden Priory.  He also brought Franciscans to Elgin and Dominicans to land north of the royal castle.  Elgin Cathedral was established in 1224. Some people with possible Flemish names, linked with the religious houses of Moray, are set out in the box below.

Robert Keith in his work on the See of Moray refers to likely Flemish settlers such as Brice, who was bishop there in 1203, ‘this bishop’s mother was sister to Friskinus de Kerdal of Kerdal on the river Spey…’

King William the Lion [1165-1214] granted a charter when in Elgin to Geoffrey Blund, a burgess of Inverness.  Among the witnesses to the charter was William son of Freskin.

In 1303 John de Spalding, was canon of Elgin, and prebendary of Duffus1

Elsewhere in Scotland the monks relied on the production and export of wool to Flanders for their income.  However there is no obvious reference to this trade in S. R. MacPhail’s research into Pluscardyn2. The only positive link to Flanders is the supply of two tabernacles from there around 1508.

Elgin and Forres

Flemish immigrants were initially to be found in the burghs and other urban settlements.  They were generally merchants, craftsmen, soldiers and churchmen.  The medieval burghs of Moray, namely Elgin and Forres, were relatively small and little documentary evidence, such as burgh records, have survived from the medieval period. Therefore there are no burgess lists, court records, apprentice rolls, which have very useful in identifying early Flemish settlers elsewhere in Scotland.

However, according to one source 3 the people described in the following box were tenants of the Bishop of Moray in 1565, all of who bear surnames that could be from the Low Countries.

In the barony of Spynie: John Umfray; David Bonar;    Thomas Peterkin in the brewery; Thomas Umfray; and, Alexander Hatmaker in Elgin.

In the barony of Kinnedor: James Wisman; Richard Wisman; the relict of Alex Wisman; Andrew Kemp in Muirton; Robert Cant in Muirton; and, John Brabiner in Aikinhead;

In the barony of Birneth: Robert Malies; Thomas Genot; James Runsiman in Innerlochthie; John Junkin; William Rounsiman; James Cant; Archibald Puggat in Whitfield; James Puggat there; and, Thomson Brabener in Easter Kelles.

In the barony of Raffort: Thomas Howffald; Thomas Runciman in Bracoht; Andreas Mawcie in Granroquhy, and Gilbert Weland.

In the barony of Kilmyles: Helen Fleming.

Elgin4 was a royal burgh since the reign of David I, with a merchant guild since 1268 granted by Alexander III. During the 12th and 13th centuries it was an important centre of government, with the cathedral of the diocese of Moray founded 1224. However details of social and economic life missing for the 12th and 13th centuries, though some evidence from fourteenth century onwards. It was an economic backwater with an export trade mainly of salmon, wool, skins, and hides. Elgin suffered through the lack of a good port, depending on small local havens as exits for its exports of wool and cloth. This problem was alleviated in 1700 when a harbour built at Lossiemouth.

No formal burgess roll of Elgin exists, though a partial list exists from 1541. It contains no obvious Flemish surnames, except possibly Alexander Culback in 1636; Robert Blenshell in 1690, and George Junken in 17045.

Forres was founded before the reign of William the Lion, [1165-1214].  The nearby Kinloss Priory meanwhile was established by Alexander II in 1226.  The export trade of Forres went though the port of Findhorn. But as many early records have vanished there is no way of establishing the existence of Flemings there or any trading links with Flanders, though it might be assumed that Kinloss Abbey would have been engaged in the wool trade.

The only settlements of any consequence in Moray were Elgin and Forres.  Regretably, the burgh records prior to 1500 do not exist.  However miscellaneous local records mention the following surnames which may be those of people of Flemish, or possibly Brabant origin in Elgin: Brander; Brabner; Bremner; Gadderer; Junken; Mellis; Purse; Wink; and, Wyseman.

Scotland Map - Dobson Blog

Elgin is not close to the sea, with the nearest ports being Lossiemouth and Burghead. The bishop had a harbour at Spynie that is known to have participated in overseas trade by 1234.  This continued until 1400 when silting occurred. In 1393 the Earl of Moray permitted the burgesses of Elgin freedom from customs duties on good exported through his harbour at Speymouth. Soon malt, salted fish, wool and cloth were being shipped to continental destinations, and in return silk, wine, and ironware were imported. An example of manufactured imports is the 14th century Flemish flagon, found in an Elgin close, now in the local museum.


The seventeenth century port books of Inverness, are not restricted to the burgh of Inverness as the precinct covered former Spey ports which could have been used by merchants in Moray.  However by that period Leith dominated the overseas trade of Scotland and any direct trade was limited.  Among the ships known to have traded between Inverness and Flanders was: the James of Inverness, master John Watson, which arrived from Bruges, 5 May 1666 with cargo6; the Susanna of Leith, master John Gillis, from Inverness to Flanders with a cargo of salmon, on 1 September 16697; and, the St Anna of Bruges, master Francois de la Poor, from Inverness with a cargo of salmon, 15 September 16738.

The registers of sasines of the various burghs and sheriffdoms date from the sixteenth century. The Register of Sasines for the Sheriffdom of Elgin, Forres, and Nairn between 1617 and 1700 contain mention of a number of individuals, some of whom bear or possibly bear Flemish surnames.  These include – James Air, burgess of Elgin, and his spouse Margaret Yewny9, Hierom Badoun, son of John Badoun in Findhorn10, William Cowbane, merchant in Elgin11, John Fimester, in Pitgownie12, also several Branders, Godsman, Hatmaker, Junkin, Kemp, Lafreis, Milvert, and a Genevieve Petow.


As noted in the blog posting dated November 21, 201413 Freskin de Moravia, a Fleming, came to the area south of the Moray Firth in the middle of the 12th century and there is evidence of settlement there by his descendants (Sutherlands and Murrays) as well as the Innes family.

Although a limited degree of Flemish settlement did occur in Moray in the later medieval period there is no evidence of any subsequent migration.  Trade with Flanders, which normally generated some settlement, was minimal due to the lack of a good quality harbour.  The sparse records available do contain a few Flemish surnames but whether they are descendants of the first Flemish settlers or individuals, who have moved from other parts of Scotland is not clear.

David Dobson
October 2015

Dr 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.



{1}  ‘An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops down to the year 1688’, [Robert Keith, Edinburgh, 1824]
{2} ‘The History of the Religious House of Pluscardyn”, [S.R. MacPhail, Edinburgh, 1891]
{3}  ‘Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis’, [Edinburgh, 1837]
{4}  ‘The Scottish Burgh Survey of Elgin’, [Historic Scotland, Edinburgh, 1982]
{5}  ‘The Records of Elgin, 1234-1800’, Volume II, [Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1908]
{6} National Archives of Scotland.E72.11.1
{7} National Archives of Scotland, E72.11.3
{8} National Archives of Scotland, E72.11.3
{9} National Archives of Scotland, RS28.1.207
{10} National Archives of Scotland, RS28.IV.53
{11} National Archives of Scotland, RS28.111.110
{12} National Archives of Scotland, RS28.IV.58

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The Flemish in Moray, Part One

In this blog posting, as well as in next week’s, David Dobson examines the Flemish presence in the Moray area. Many of our readers who carry the name Murray, Sutherland, Duffus and Innes will be familiar with their possible ancestors, Freskin and Berowald, described below; but for others this posting offers an insight into an important medieval Flemish presence in the northern part of Scotland.


The Flemish connection to the old Celtic Province of Moray dates from the reign of King David I (1124-1153). A rebellion in Moray was suppressed by the king’s forces, led by two Flemish knights. The lands of the rebel lords in the Laigh of Moray were forfeited to the crown and subsequently granted to loyal subjects, including those who had successfully defeated the rebels in 1130.

Among those acquiring land were the two Flemings, Freskin and Berowald. The evidence reveals that they had already been settled with lands in the Lothians. Freskin, who was granted the lands of Duffus, already held Strathbrock in West Lothian; while Berowald, who was given Innes and Nether Urquhart, already held what is now Bo’ness in West Lothian.

There were, in all probability, other Flemings, retainers or similar, who accompanied Freskin and Berowald to settle in the old Celtic Province of Moray. However, this migration occurred before the adoption of surnames by the majority of the population, thus making it difficult to identify them as Flemish. At the same time the king settled people of English and Norman origin in the region.


Freskin is thought to have links to the Flemish settlers in Clydesdale. His descendants in Moray were the progenitors of such prominent families as Sutherland, Murray, and Duffus.

Freskin was a Flemish soldier of fortune who was rewarded for his services to the Scottish crown by King David I, through the grant of the lands of Straloch in West Lothian. Freskin was among the knights and retainers sent north to quell a rebellion in the Province of Moray.

Their success led to a migration of Norman, English and Flemish people north, to the lands forfeited by the rebels. Freskin and his family moved north to the Province of Moray in the 1120s, obtaining the important lordship of Duffus, and the lands of Roseisle, Inchkell, Macher, and Kintray, lying between the burgh of Elgin and the Moray Firth.

This was the foundation of three important families in the region – the Murrays, the Sutherlands, and the Duffuses. Freskin built a motte and bailey timber castle at Duffus, on the shores of Loch Spynie, by 1150. This was later replaced by a stone castle during the fourteenth century, the ruins of which can be visited today. Duffus was adopted as the surname by a branch of the descendants of Freskin.

Freskyn possibly had at least two sons – Hugh, the ancestor of the Sutherlands, and William, the progenitor of Murray and Duffus.

In 1150 Freskin was entertaining David I at the time the king was in the neighbourhood supervising the building of Kinloss Abbey, when Freskin died and was succeeded by his son William. William witnessed a charter granted at Perth by King Malcolm IV granting the land of Innes, Morayshire, to Berowald the Fleming in 1160. He witnessed other charters granted in Morayshire. It is possible that he may be related to the William Freskyn, sheriff of Invernaryn recorded in 1204. One of Freskyn’s great grandsons, Andrew, became bishop of Moray and was present at the foundation of Elgin Cathedral in 1224.

In 1197 King William the Lion granted the lands of Sutherland to Hugh, another son of Freskin. Soon his family adopted the territorial name as their surname, thus becoming the Sutherlands.

Through marriage the castle of Duffus passed into the hands of the Cheynes. By 1350 it was owned by a branch of the Sutherland family also descended from Freskin.


The other Flemish knight that settled in Moray was Berowald, from whom were descended the following:

According to the Barony of Innes Writs, 1225-1767,[1] the family of Innes is derived from Berowald, a Fleming who was granted the lands of Innes in Morayshire in 1160 by King Malcolm IV. On 25 December 1160, the king granted a charter to Berrowald Flandrensis, granting him the lands of Innes and Easter Urquhart, in the Province of Elgin. In return he had to supply one soldier for the garrison of the royal castle of Elgin and he was also granted a house and toft in Perth.[2]

On 20 January 1226 a royal charter granted by King Alexander II to Walter, son of John, son of the above Berrowald, of the above lands of Innes and Easter Urquhart. Walter then adopted the place name as his surname, so establishing the family of Innes. The place name Innes is derived from a Gaelic word signifying ‘island’. On 25 March 1539 King James V confirmed Alexander Innes of that Ilk and his heirs in the lands of Innes, which together with various lands in Morayshire and Banffshire were formed into the free barony of Innes.[3]

David Dobson

October 2015

Dr 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. His publications include Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, 1683-1783 (Georgia, 1994, 2004); Scottish Trade with Colonial Charleston, 1683-1783 (Glasgow, 2009), and over 125 historical and genealogical source books (Baltimore, 1983- 2013).


[1] The Barony of Innes Writs, 1225-1767 (The Scottish Records Society, Edinburgh, 1948).

[2] Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis (Edinburgh, 1837).

[3] The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vol. III, charter 1957 (Scottish Record Society, Edinburgh, 1984).

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DNA Project Update

This week’s blog posting has been prepared by Janet Flandrensis who co-administers the DNA Project associated with the Scotland and the Flemish People Project. The posting reviews the current status of the DNA Project and some of its initial findings.  There is also a discussion of next steps and details are provided on how to get DNA tested as part of the Project.


The DNA project associated with the “Scotland and the Flemish People Project” began in 2013 as an important complement to the ongoing historical and family history research.  The host company for the project is  Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).  At the outset one of the goals of the DNA Project was to confirm the geographic origins of participants with potential Flemish origins in Scotland.  Another was to determine whether all people surnamed Fleming descended from one early Flemish immigrant or if some families adopted the surname after arrival in Scotland1.

A number of families with surnames that may have Flemish origins were identified from various sources and this primary list has been added to over time as research has raised new possibilities.  The goal has been to get people from all of the primary families to test under the DNA Project.  This Project has focused mainly on Y-DNA that is passed only from father to son. In Box 1 below the primary list of families (along with variants on their names) is set out and alongside each name is the number of people who have tested to date.  The box also contains a secondary list of names, not derived from research sources, which has been provided by the general public and tested under the project2.

List of possible Flemish origin surnames
Abernethy (0), Anstruther (0), Armstrong (1), Baird (3), Balliol (0), Bart (0), Beal, Beale (1), Beaton (2), Bell, le Bel (8), Bennie (0), Binnie, Binning (0), Bishop (1), Boswell (0), Bremner (1), Brodie (0), Browning (0), Bruce (0), Cameron (1), Campbell (6), Cant (1), Clemmet (0), Clow (0), Comyn (0), Cox (1), Crawfurd (1), De War (0), Deurs (0), Dewar (0), Douglas (4), Dowie (0), Erskine (0), Flamang, Flamank, Flament, Flammang, Flement (0), Flanderensis (0), Flanders (0), Flemish (0), Flemyng, Fleeming (0), Fleming (18), Flemming (1), Flockhart (0), Flucker (2), Frame (9), Frisken (2) Frizall (0), Graham (4), Hally (0), Hamilton (1), Hazeel, Hazel, Hazell (0) Henman (0), Holm (0), Houbron (0), Innes (0), Junker (0), Kessen (0), Kettle (0) Leith (0), Leslie (1), Lindsay (3), Lochore (0), Montgomerie (0), Morran, Morrens (0), Mortimer (0), Murray (9) Mutch (0), Oliphant (0), Petrie (0), Plender (0), Plenderleith (0), Prain, Prayne (0) Pren, Prenn, Preynne (0) Pundler (0), Roche (0), Roy (0), Seton (0), Spalding (0), Stein (0), Stewart (8), Stirling (1), Sturman (0), Sutherland (4), Swankie (0), Vermont (0), Waddell (1), Weddell (1), Woodall (0), Younger, Young (3)

A number of other people with names not on the primary list, but who believe they may have Flemish roots, have tested under the project. Such names that have been placed on a secondary list include: Ayres (1), Ballard (1), Bailey (1), Barton (1), Blackburn (1), Brookes (1), Bryson (1), Clarke (1), Cline (1), Clough (1), Collard (1), Conrad (1), Cuthbertson (1), Drennen (1), Eckman (1), Ellis (1), Ellison (1), Foster (1), Gilman (1), Gouin (1), Davies/Grannigan (1), Hall (1), Harkness (1), Henry (1), Highland (1), Hill (1), Irwin (1), Ames (1), Kerrick (1), Kimsey (1), Lankford (1), Lapinel (1), Lockhart (1), Logan (1), Loggie (1), Lynn (1), Martin (1), Matthews (1), McCarty (1), McCluskey (1),  Mercer (1), Merville (1), Moffat (1), Moore (1), Morrow (7), Napier (1), Nelson (1), Nutt (1), Parker (1), Pate (1), Patterson (1), Pettit (1), Posey (1), Redgate (1), Redmond (1), Reeves (1),  Retherford (1), Sheret (1),  Shewan (1), Skupin (1),  Spinken (1) Sitton/Sutton (1), Stamper (1),  Starling (1), Stoddard (1),  Stuart (1), Szczepanik (1), Teles (1), Tanner (1),  Tennent (1), Thormalen/Graham (1),  Urich (1),  Van Felkner (1), Walker (4), Waldron (2), Warden (1), Warren (1), Watt (1), Watts (1), Weyant (1), Whitfield (1), Williamson (1), Wilson (3), Wright (1).

For purposes of analysis it will also be possible to draw on the results from other projects on the FTDNA database.


DNA and the Haplogroups

The Science of Genetic Genealogy and DNA Testing is constantly improving.  The Haplogroup can be thought of being a people group or a clan. This is a key concept that will in due course help in comparing Scottish family DNA with that of families in Flanders. A number of new tests have been developed over recent years to more finely determine which Haplogroup and subgroup people fall into. There are now multiple subgroups in each Haplogroup.

The original Haplogroup tree has been revised over the past few years as new more accurate modes of testing have been introduced and as new mutations (changes) have been found in test results.  Each branch of the tree is identified by an upper case letter and a series of letters and numbers. Information about these changes, various tests, Haplogroups and Subgroups, Migration Charts, detailed scientific information and links for other projects can be found via links on the main Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) website.

Haplogroup R:  The bulk of the participants for the Y–DNA project are of Haplogroup R or a subgroup of it. Haplogroup R is a major branch of the Y –DNA Haplogroup tree originating in Central Europe and eventually spreading throughout Continental Europe and branching further across the Channel to Britain and Ireland and onto the colonies. Haplogroup R subgroups have expanded over time3. The Haplogroup R Chart can be viewed at this link. There are 122 participants of Haplogroup R in the project.

Haplogroup IHaplogroup I is the next most important group in the sample and this branch of the human family also came from Continental Europe to Britain and Ireland but these are probably of Viking ancestry. The migration trail of Haplogroup I is completely different from Haplogroup R as it tracks further north in Europe and then came south and over the Channel and onwards to the New World, including the British Empire and colonies. Historical research and archaeology has already confirmed that the Vikings both invaded and raided all over parts of Continental Europe, Britain, and Ireland so it is not surprising to find evidence of possible Scandinavian origins in the results of the DNA project3. The Haplogroup I chart can be viewed at this link.  There are 37 participants of Haplogroup I in the project.

Even though the project is very small the greater number of participants within R and I Haplogroups compared to the number of participants in other Haplogroups is a typical pattern found in the results of other surname and geographic projects based on the areas of Continental Europe, Britain, and Ireland, and particularly the lowlands of EU including Flanders.

Haplogroups E, G, and J: There are a few unusual Haplogroups such as E, G and J in the project but these are essentially outliers. These three Haplogroups have completely different migration trails to the Haplogroups noted above. They are not as numerical within Continental Europe, Britain and Ireland as the R & I Haplogroups and according to official Haplogroup Charts and Maps originated as more ancient branches of the Human Family3

Haplogroup G in Scotland is believed to represent the earliest inhabitants of the country, although some may have arrived with the Romans and later invaders.  Haplogroups E and J are commonly thought to be more recent incomers to Scotland (last 1,000 years). The charts for these Haplogroups can also be viewed at the Eupedia Genetics link. The number of project participants in each of the three Haplogroups are shown in brackets:  E (3), G (2), and J (6).

The technical Box 2 below explains how recent developments in DNA testing are shedding additional light on the Haplogroup tree and on ethnic origins.

Recent Developments in DNA Testing

Advanced DNA tests: Advanced tests will need to be used if the goal of discerning a baseline DNA signature for Flanders is to be reached and if the lineages that arrived with the Flemish in Scotland are to be identified. Traditional DNA testing with a relatively few markers could only give people a predicted position on the Haplogroup tree. More recent techniques have allowed project participants to have more markers tested and also reveal mutations that are already on the Y tree or reveal a new mutation. This allows for an even more precise location within the subgroups of the major Haplogroup or an extension of the branch if a totally new SNP. This confirmed position on the tree is their so-called Terminal SNP. Each time a new SNP is discovered it is added to the Haplogroup tree and individuals who have it can be sub grouped accordingly.

The 2015 Y Haplogroup Tree can be found at this link and it is updated regularly. The Big Y is an accurate but expensive newer test for determining deeper ancestral links and new paternal line branches detected by the Terminal SNPS. Only 28 project members have had the Big Y Test and despite the cost it is hoped that more will do so in the future. Most members have had a 12, 25, 37 or 67 Y marker test to date.

MT DNA & Family Finder Results: The focus of this DNA project is, as noted above, the male Y-DNA and this will be the basis for the analytic work that will take place in due course. However, at least 61 members of this Project have had the MtDNA Test and 94 members have the Family Finder Test. The Mt DNA test traces the individual’s maternal ancestry using the DNA in his or her mitochondria. MtDNA is passed down by the mother to all children be they male or female. Tests will show basic maternal ancestry reaching far back in time and the MtDNA Haplogroup allocation will reveal the ancient migration path of direct maternal ancestors. Both men and women can have the MtDNA test. The Family Finder Test gives a more detailed ethnicity makeup for an individual participant. These two types of test could yield extra information that could shed light on Scottish family connections with Flanders.

There are a wide variety of surnames in the MtDNA Section of the Project and Haplogroup H is the most numerous with 26 members followed by U – 14 and T with 9. The remainder are distributed across various branches of the Mtdna haplogroups tree which include Haplogroups A, C, H, I, J, K, L, M, R, T, U and V . The Haplogroup Tree can also be found at FTDNA and further details of participants in the MT DNA Results Section2.

Testing the Fleming Family

Regarding the single person origin of the Fleming family there are not enough Fleming participants in the project at present to arrive at a definitive conclusion. Some Flemings within the project have distant cousin matches with surnames that are of possible Flemish origins or with other members of a Fleming family branch in another project.

More work needs to be done however to draw on the results of other Fleming surname studies, for instance the Ancestry Fleming Surname Project that has been discontinued.  This did point to DNA links between various Fleming families. Comparisons need to be made with the Fleming6 and the Appalachian Fleming Projects7. It may also be worthwhile checking the DNA results of the Flanders Geographic Project at FTDNA8, the Belgium Walloon9 and Brabant and Benelux Projects10 & 11.

Conclusions and next steps

The overall distribution of Haplogroups in the project is broadly as might be expected for a project of this type with most participants’ ancient ancestors being located in Continental Europe well before a migration to Scotland3&4

The key issue of whether families on our lists have Flemish roots is something that will be addressed later in the life of the project when a suitable benchmark of DNA in Flanders has been identified. The Model Flemish DNA Haplotype is probably in Haplogroup R (R-M269) or a related subgroup5.

It is going to be important to get more participants in the project so as to be able to yield statistically significant results that shed light on the issues that the project is hoping to address.

There will also need to be greater collaboration with other similar projects so that the results of the various projects can be compared.  This will help shed further light on the origins of the Fleming family and on the linkages between the other main Flemish origin families in Scotland.

Looking ahead, steps will need to be taken to:

  • secure more funding to be used within the DNA project,
  • encourage participants to initially test more markers (at least the 67 marker STR Test),
  • encourage participants to confirm their Haplogroup Allocation with Terminal SNP testing, or to consider taking tests like the Big Y or an appropriate SNP backbone test.

If readers of this posting wish to join the Project here are instructions for doing so. The DNA test involves a simple swab on the inside of the cheek. It is recommended that you purchase at least the 67 marker Y-DNA test as it will help identify your distant relatives within FTDNA’s extensive database as well as providing data that will help us in our analytic work.  The test kit can be obtained direct by contacting Alasdair Macdonald at or via the join tab at Obtaining a test kit in this way could be much cheaper than the regular FTDNA pricing set out in the Notes on Pricing below.

Janet Flandrensis
October 2015

Janet’s interest in genealogy dates back to 1980.  She has been an Administrator of a DNA Fleming project at and more recently at FTDNA.

Notes on Prices

This note sets out approximate prices for the main DNA tests. The 37 Marker Y Test is $169 (£112), the 67 Marker Y Test is $268 (£178) and the 111 Marker Y Test is $359 (£239). The BIG Y is $595 (£396) and the MtDNA—small HVR1 and HVR2—is  $69 (£46) or for a MyDNA full sequence $199 (£132).  The Family Finder Test is $99 (£66). Haplogroup SNP backbone packs vary in price from $79 (£52) to more than $110 (£73).  All specials are advertised at FTDNA and Coupons are promoted occasionally for a variety of tests.  It is important to check for discounted prices before ordering. This link explains the Big Y test and its pricing.

Information on how to switch test results from another company to FTDNA can be obtained from Janet Flandrensis at the EM address noted above.

(7)Appalachian Fleming Project
(9)Belgium Walloon

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