Wednesday, 27 July 2011

In Caithness

I'm up in Caithness for ten days with some of the family, taking a short break from promoting 'The Stuart Agenda'. Yesterday we visited John O'Groats, the far northeast corner of the UK mainland. The collection of shops isn't inspiring but the view across the Pentland Firth to Stroma and The Orkneys is pretty awesome. The family ritual is to go collecting 'groatie buckies', very small conch type shells that are relatively rare and supposed to bring good luck. We found over twenty in an hour.
One of the delights of Caithness is the quality of the salmon fishing. I caught my first salmon on the Wick River, a relatively small spate stream running east to the sea through Wick. I was fourteen and still remember the pride I took in presenting that fish to my mother. This is me above on the much classier Thurso River with the two fine fish I caught in early June last year. I return to the Thurso for the first week in September with friends Barrie Hesp and Amos Smith from the USA.

Caithness was heavily influenced by the wave of Viking settlement that took place around the turn of the first millenium. That poses a question for Caithness born folk: Am I a Viking? I took the plunge recently and ordered the Y-chromosome  testing kit from Oxford Ancestors. The answer for me was fairly clear. My origin is Celtic so I'm descended from the original inhabitants of the island who came earlier on. I wasn't surprised since the name Calder isn't Norse in origin. It means something like 'the people who live between the trees and the water,' a place name, not a 'son-of name.' Caithness has the highest density of Calders in the UK so it is worth further study.
     Looking on the Oxford Ancestors site I found 22 people who shared an identical set of DNA markers with me. Of course none were called Calder. We apparently shared a common ancestor around 50 generations ago, taking us back to the dark ages around 500-600AD. My DNA cousins were spread throughout the UK with a west coast bias.
     There were a few Calders in the Oxford Ancestors database. One of them was of Viking origin. It can be confusing. I'd like to get a group of Caithness Calders tested to find out if those of us in a defined geographical area are related.

'The Stuart Agenda' by Alan Calder from and

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