Fam­ily name con­fu­sion

The Oban Times - - News -

A FEW weeks ago I wrote about fam­ily names. Fol­low­ing this, a cor­re­spon­dent from Fort Wil­liam has been in touch to tell me about two broth­ers from Lochaber who were killed on the same day in the first World War.

They were both chris­tened John which caused some con­fu­sion when their reg­i­ment came to deal­ing with their ef­fects.

John Carmichael and his brother of East Laroch, Bal­lachul­ish, fought at Flan­ders with the 1st (8th Bat­tal­ion) Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers (A&SH) and were killed in ac­tion on Novem­ber 13 1916. One was a cor­po­ral and the other a pri­vate. Puz­zled by the du­pli­ca­tion of first names, the of­fi­cer in charge of records at the A&SH de­pot in Perth wrote to the Rev­erend Alexan­der Boyd, the Church of Scot­land min­is­ter at Bal­lachul­ish, ask­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion and re­ceived the fol­low­ing ex­pla­na­tion: Dear Sir, In ref­er­ence to the en­quiry re­gard­ing two broth­ers hav­ing the same name John, I have to ex­plain that this pe­cu­liar­ity is quite com­mon in the High­lands where the peo­ple are Gaelic speak­ing - one mem­ber of a fam­ily be­ing called by an English name and another mem­ber of the same fam­ily be­ing called by the equiv­a­lent Gaelic name so that col­lo­qui­ally no con­fu­sion could arise.

Thus, in re­gard to the sol­diers in ques­tion one was called by the English name John and the other by the Gaelic name Ian (=John in English). One was named af­ter his pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther and the other af­ter his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther. Sim­i­lar ex­am­ples in re­gard to other names are fairly com­mon due to the fact the peo­ple are bilin­gual.

Alexan­der Boyd, The Manse of Glen­coe, Bal­lachul­ish East.

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