From Scotland’s Past

September 2, 2009

Scotland’s Birthplace?

Signs proclaiming that the county of Angus is “Scotland’s Birthplace” are getting historians irritated because of its obvious inaccuracy. The slogan was adopted after a workshop in 2003 that came up with over 100 potential marketing phrases for the county. “Angus. Naturally” came top of the poll, but was deemed unsatisfactory as it did not give the area the essential “unique selling point”. A report by Glasgow University’s history department suggested that the case for Angus adopting the title “Scotland’s Birthplace” was “quite convincing”. It was argued that the Battle of Dunnichen in 685AD, in which the Picts defeated the Northumbrians from the north of England, had halted their advance, keeping the country from being over-run. While Angus was very much Pictish territory at that time, the Picts had their main centre around Inverness – and they were later to be absorbed by the Scots, who had settled in Argyll from Ireland. It is also argued that the case for Angus is strengthened with the Declaration of Arbroath being written in the county in 1320 in the reign of King Robert the Bruce (by which time, Scotland was well established).

Angus Council was considering a new promotional campaign which would brand the county as the “Birthplace of Scotland” – a title based initially on the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Angus was also one of the heartlands of the Picts and the birth of Scottish nationhood can be traced back to the union of the Picts and the Scots. Angus was also the location of the Battle of Dunnichen (known also as Nechtansmere) in 686AD. It is argued that if the Picts had not defeated the Northumbrians from what is now northern England, Scotland as a separate nation would not have come into being. Needless to say, the bold claim by Angus was disputed by other parts of Scotland – including Argyll (where the Irish immigrants from around 500AD were called “Scots” and Dunadd was the capital of Dalriada), Forteviot in Perthshire (where King Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of the Scots and Picts set up his capital) and Glen Trool in Galloway (where Robert the Bruce’s first victory in 1307 gave rise to it being named the “Cradle of Scottish Independence). Then, of course, there is Sutherland which has Lewisian rocks, the oldest in the country….
Sept 2006 article


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