Individuals in education are particularly vulnerable to criticism when they make statements either within or beyond their areas of expertise. I recall a professor of Astronomy, who circled the word "centre" on one of my reports and replaced it with "center". I lacked the temerity to suggest that he shouldn't give up his night job. The word "centre" has French origins , and it was introduced to Britain through the Normans in 1066. Hence, "centre" is the legitimate spelling in Canada in both of our official languages: English and French. Now that most scientists and engineers use the metric (not "meteric") system as their standard of measurement, I wonder if our professor has allowed himself to be programmed to know the difference between a metre and a meter. Persons of his ilk were undoubtedly responsible for the complete foul-up with the Mars missions of "scientific discovery" by NASA in 1999. Not only the metric system, but also the old unwieldy avoirdupois system, had French origins. [I can hardly remember how many pints there are in a bushel or how many square rods there are in an acre any more.] Our weather man on TV reports the temperature in degrees Centigrade (Celsius) and the barometric pressure in millimetres (with occasional references to Fahrenheit in deference to our neighbours across the border). Our car's speedometer is calibrated in both miles and kilometres per hour, but how long will that last? The odometer which reports the "mileage" and the spell-checker which came with the word processor should go stand in the corner.

During my years at a certain Collegiate Institute (IX to XIII), it was my good fortune to have highly qualified teachers. Among these, were an English and an history specialist. Let it be understood at the outset, that I am grateful to both for instilling in me a modicum of skepticism ..... an essential trait in any would-be genealogist! Do I consider myself an "expert"? Hardly!

One day in the middle of a very important lesson, the English teacher assured everyone that there were no poisonous snakes in Ontario. Obviously he had never camped in the Canadian Shield area of Georgian Bay. The Massassauga rattler ----- a small, shy, endangered snake ----- loves to sun itself on the rocks ----- until some human saunters along and forces it to take cover in the brush. This rattler is both rare and rarely seen. I lacked the courage to suggest that our English teacher should cease instructing us in Nature Study.

A couple of days later, the History teacher felt an urge to exercise his pointer. He pulled down a map of the British Isles and boldly drew a line just above the Lowlands of Scotland ----- stating as Gospel, that the Protestant Reformation went that far and had no influence upon the north of Scotland. [Tell that to an Abbot of Fearn Abbey (East Ross), Patrick Hamilton, who was burnt at the stake at St. Andrews in 1528, the first Scottish martyr of the Protestant Reformation. After censuring a long list of "sinful practices", the religious zealots headed by John Knox made a particularly strong effort to enforce the ways of the Reformed Church of Scotland upon the County of Ross, such that Nicolas Ross (Bishop of Fearn Abbey and Provost of Tain College) handed the historical Clan relics and artifacts over to Alexander Ross (9th of Balnagowan and nominal Chief of Clan Ross) in 1560 for safe keeping.]

The above statements should not be interpreted as being overly critical. It was, after all, the sworn duty of these paragons of wisdom to fill the empty jugs of youth. I probably owe my critical nature and skepticism to their ilk, and these qualities are essential if one's genealogical skills are to progress beyond the "crawling stage". [I might add that both teachers became principals of Collegiate Institutes.]
BTW - - - both teachers became principals of Secondary Schools.

Suppose that you read, as I did, the following generalization: "The Highlanders were Roman Catholic and the greatest Highland chiefs were those who held out the longest against the English, who were chiefs of very small, unimportant clans and who had no Norman titles." Now, how does that stack up against a pile of bull patties? As with many myths, one source is quoted by the next until even the most recent experts begin to quote each other's inaccuracies.


It was from the sacred Isle of Iona that St. Columba set out in the late 6th century on his mission into Pictland. His biographer noted that the Irish saint needed a translator to preach to King Brude, son of Maelchon, at Brude's court near the shores of Loch Ness. Normally, the King of Picts lived at Scone but he may have selected this site so that the saint could chalk up a victory of sorts. It seems that Nessie had snacked upon a local Pict, so the saint rowed out to the centre of the loch to convert the large monster from its heathenist tendencies; never again has Nessie, or "Nessiteras Rhombopteryx", repeated its dastardly deed of 565 AD. In today's age of technology, any recurrence of this miraculous event will be caught by a "LiveCam" focussed upon the loch. Whatever the mythology surrounding Columba's venture into the savage wilderness, there is certainly evidence of a change in the symbolism of Pictish stone carvings. I couldn't locate a single Pict to dispute any of this weighty evidence.

The ancient Celtic Church in Ross developed as a monastic clan church with its own Saint Duthus and hereditary, uncelibate priests. For reasons best known to the Pope at that time, the Church of Rome made an alliance with this Celtic Church in the 8th century with no attempt at reorganization or imposition of external doctrines. That strange partnership, between the old Celtic Church and Roman Catholicism, was erased during the Protestant Reformation some 8 centuries later.

The Killearnan Church was built in 1744, and Donald Fraser entered his first record into the church register on "the eleventh day of Aprile one thousand seven hundred and fourty four". It goes on to say, "That Day Master Donald Fraser (who was ordained Minister of the Gospel at Killearnan the twenty-seventh Day of March last)" baptized the first baby. Years later, a Reverend John Kennedy, the minister to my ancestors, commented in the 1845 statistical account of Scotland that this same parish church was "every thing but comfortable as a place of worship. It was originally built, some hundred years ago, in the form of a cross; and in that form it now stands." You can almost hear his tch-tch! Regardless of the shape of the church, Reverend Kennedy might have been quite shocked to learn some "expert" had concluded that the Protestant Reformation would hardly advance a stone's throw northward beyond the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond!

Alexander Ross, 9th of Balnagowan, was the progenitor of the Pitcalnie Cadet Branch. A descendant, Alexander Ross, became the nominal clan chief of Clan Ross when the Balnagown line ended. Alexander's eldest son was Malcolm Ross; his second son by a second marriage was Nicholas. Like other members of the fragmented clan, Alexander was a staunch Protestant, but somewhat more tolerant of Jacobites than his father had been and definitely pro-Royalist or Hanoverian in his public sentiments (unlike many plain clansfolk whose loyalties favoured a Scottish King over a German one). In addition, Alexander's uncle, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, was Lord President of the Court of Session for King George II's government in London. With great difficulty, Duncan Forbes and the Pitcalnie chief raised a Ross Independent Company to garrison the castle at Inverness. The issues were complex, involving anti-English sentiment, Protestant ethics and Nationalism (and perhaps even the ties between masonic guilds), but the main source of their difficulty was no lesser person than Malcolm Ross, the eldest son of Alexander in the Pitcalnie line. This son was a student at Aberdeen University at the time of the Rebellion of '45, and he was soon caught up in the rebel ferment, which arose in that area. In tribal times, such high-spiritedness in a chief's son earned clan respect and support when he, in turn, became the chief. In these times, according to Donald MacKinnon's THE CLAN ROSS, Malcolm's actions would eventually lead to disinheritance, the chieftainship falling to his half-brother, Nicholas. The Clan Chief had the final say. Malcolm Ross and his decimated rebel force fled to equally perilous Sutherland after they were ambushed prior to the Battle of Culloden (April 16th, 1746).


A few counties such as Sutherland, Ross and Fyfe are true Counties in the sense that the territories were once held by Counts (Comes) or Earls. For the COUNTY of Ross, we may thank Malcolm Macbeth, the first Earl of Ross, who was given his title by the Lowland Scottish King Malcolm IV. Other territories were shires (Thaneages or Sheriffdoms, i.e. governed by Thanes or Sheriffs). Ross also became the first erected clan (in 1160) from the paired districts of Moray and Ross once ruled by Mormaers and Righs. Not one of the many Earls of Ross ever had the surname "Ross", and most of the chiefs put their ownership of the land above rights of the common clansman. (All I can defend are the facts.)

Heavens, even the Norse Vikings managed to "capture" a few Earldoms as Normanization (and feudalism) crept SLOWLY northward through the territory of the Angles into the Lowlands and eventually into the Highlands. Even then, the titles were far more rare than those so cheaply disseminated in the south. I can only recall two Highland Earls in the time of Robert the Bruce ----- the Earl of Sutherland and the Earl of Ross. The latter was a descendant of an imported O'Beolan from the west of Scotland, who inherited the title through his mother in the Pictish tradition ----- and both Earls were present at the Bruce's first court.

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