A Purely Celtic Family

Portrait of George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll by George Frederic Watts;. National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1263

Yet from the moment that the standard of national independence was raised by Bruce, he had no more devoted adherents than among the purest Celts, whilst some of his bitterest and most dangerous opponents were the descendants and representatives of western and northern Clans who had collected under Norseman Chieftains. Among the earliest of his followers, and among the most constant, was the purely Celtic family from which I am descended—a family of Scoto-Irish origin—that is to say, belonging to that Celtic colony from Ireland which founded the Dalriadic Kingdom, and to whom the name of Scots originally and exclusively belonged. The name when it first appears in writing is always Cambel, and never Campbell, the letter p having been subsequently introduced in connection with the fashion which set in at one time to claim Norman lineage as more honourable than the Celtic. But the name as universally written for many generations is a purely Celtic word, conceived in the ancient Celtic spirit of connecting personal peculiarities with personal appellatives. “Cam” is “curved,” and is habitually applied to the curvature of a bay of the sea. The other syllable “bel” is merely a corruption of the Celtic word “beul,” meaning “mouth.” So, in like manner, the purely Celtic name of another Highland family, Cameron, is derived from the same word “Cam,” and “srón” the nose. But that portion of the Celtic race which first owned the name of Scots must have had in its character and development something which made it predominant, so that its name came to be that of the whole united Monarchy. Probably all its Chiefs had a memory and traditions which predisposed them to fight for that Monarchy as their own. Certain it is that Sir Nigel Cambel fought with, and for, the Bruce in all his battles from Methven Bridge to Bannockburn, and was finally rewarded by the hand of the Lady Mary, sister of the heroic King, who achieved the final independence of his Country.

— George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, Scotland As It Was and Is, Volume 1, Edinburgh, 1887, pp. 33-34.


John Cennick.
John Cennick.

SWADDLERS. The term “Swaddler,” used by the Roman Catholics of Ireland to describe Protestants, had this origin:– “It happened that Cennick, preaching on Christmas-day, took for his text these words from St. Luke’s Gospel– ‘And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.’ A Catholic who was present, and to whom the language of Scripture was a novelty, thought this so ludicrous that he called the preacher a swaddler in derision, and this unmeaning word became the nickname of the Methodists, and had all the effect of the most opprobrious appellation.”

Robert Southey, Life of Wesley, ii. 153.

Glastonbury Thorn

17th century engraving of Glastonbury by Wenceslas Hollar; Wenceslas Hollar Digital Collection, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.
17th century engraving of Glastonbury by Wenceslas Hollar; Wenceslas Hollar Digital Collection, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.

THE CHRISTMAS THORN.– A friend of mine met a girl on Old Christmas Day, in a village of North Somerset who told him that she was going to see the Christmas Thorn in blossom. He accompanied her to an orchard; where he found a tree, propagated from the celebrated Glastonbury Thorn, and gathered from it several sprigs in blossom. Afterwards the girl’s mother informed him, that it had been formerly the custom for the youth of both sexes to assemble under the tree at midnight, on Christmas Eve, in order to hear the bursting of the buds into flower; and she added: “As they comed out, you could hear ‘um haffer.”

Jennings, and after him Halliwell, give this word haffer for to “crackle, to patter, to make repeated loud noises.” C.W. BINGHAM.

— Notes and Queries, 3rd S. IX. Jan. 6, ’66.

Glastonbury.– A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it blowed as usual.

— Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1753.


Émile Bertrand's poster for Jules Massenet's Cendrillon, advertising the première performance at the Théâtre National de l'Opéra-Comique, Paris.
Émile Bertrand’s poster for Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon, advertising the première performance at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique, Paris.

They tell the fabulous story that, when she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis; and while the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into his lap; and the king, stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in quest of the woman who wore the sandal; and when she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis, became the wife of the king…

Strabo, Geographica, Book 17, 33.

CINDERELLA.– The mention of ladies attending assemblies in slippers, and of pumpkins and lizards being found in the garden, makes it probable this story came from the East. Chindee is Hindoo word for ragged clothing, and Ella a not uncommon woman’s name in India. The story of Catskin, in Mr. Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes of England, very like that of Cinderella, is to be of Eastern origin. The main incident in the story of Cinderella has a parallel in history. Strabo relates that an eagle let fall the slipper of Rhodopis into the bosom of a king of Egypt, who was so struck with the smallness of it, that made proclamation he would marry the female to whom it belonged. In the Fairy Tales of the Countess of D’Anois, Cinderella appears under the name of Finetta — a name not unlike the Tamil word Punetta, meaning Little Kitten, and used by Hindoo women when addressing their children. Pussy (pusei) is also a Tamil name for a cat. The Tamil belongs to the Turanian family of languages, of which the Lap, Fin, and Turkish are members. What is the generally accepted derivation of our word pussy? H.C.

Notes and Queries, 3rd S. IX. Jan. 6, ’66.