The Cummings of Altyre and the search for an ancient genealogy: ‘It hath been the unvaried tradition of the country’

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Abstract

An illuminated pedigree roll, ink on paper, possibly a draft for a more finished version, is analysed as a symbol of how the Cummings of Altyre, Moray, asserted their claim to be patrilineal descendants of the medieval Red Comyns of Badenoch, during the 18th–19th centuries. This article explores the family’s interactions with historians and antiquaries, and the tensions generated between the rational search for documented historical fact against the romantic desire to maintain epic tradition, conveying local bardic tales into the fixity of print. The descent claims are considered through six notions or ‘memes’ that elevated the family’s stature by rooting it in antiquity, but lacked compelling historical evidence. A close reading of documents from the era reveals the family’s role in influencing the creation of historical narratives, its own members emerging across the period as the chief authors of their ‘official story’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235–256
Number of pages22
JournalProceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Volume151
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • tradition
  • antiquarian
  • roll pedigree
  • genealogy
  • legend
  • Moray
  • Comyn
  • Cumming
  • Lachlan Shaw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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