Wednesday, January 19, 2011


above, RR McIan's 19th Century print of a Mac Grioghair

Grier is an anglicised for of the Gaelic surname Mac Grioghair, which itself is a variant form of the more common Mac Greagair; both forms means son of Gregory. Grier, also spelled Greer, is a phonetic rendering of how one says Grioghair in Gaelic. The second G in the surname is not said as it is softened by the adding of the H. The softening is called a seimhiú (said Shay-voo).

In Ireland, Grier families arrived in east Donegal with the Redshanks that settled in the Portlough precinct, in what is today, Taughboyne Parish. Many are found living on the lands of Ludovic Stewart who was the Duke of Lennox in the early 1600s around the St Johnston area. The Griers were Highland Gaels, yet many found a home within the Ulster Scots Planters in east Donegal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scottish DNA Project Blog

DNA testing is proving to be a very effective tool for the historian and more universities and independent scholars are taking advantage of the increasing flow of DNA results on Scottish and Irish families. The link to the Scottish DNA Project blog is below, there you will find news and updates on current research projects:

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Kilt In Ireland

Is the kilt Irish…. was the kilt ever worn in Ireland? The answer to this question is a very simple yes, of course, but even simple answers need some explanation. The kilt comes in two forms, the filleadh beag and the filleadh mór. The wearing of kilts came into fashion in the Hebrides and Highlands of Scotland sometime during the late 1500s. Prior to the popularsation of the kilt most Hebrideans and Highlanders dressed identical to the native Irish in a léine and short jacket.

Liam Neeson portraying Rob Roy wearing the large kilt, of filleadh mór

Why the kilt came into fashion can only be speculated on, perhaps it was the changing climate, which was growing colder in the late 1500s and the full kilt offered warmth, or perhaps it was improved small looms that could produce more woolen cloth, or perhaps just a fashion trend indigenous to the Gaels of Scotland. For whatever reason, the kilt became popular and fashionable among Gaels in certain parts of Scotland and would be brought to Ireland by Scottish Gaels that settled there in the late 1500s.

The filleadh mór is comprised of a very long piece of material called a plaid, which is belted in the middle. The upper part could be arranged in various ways depending upon the temperature of the day. The part below the belt was folded in the back to make pleats and came down to the knees.

There is a pseudo history about the creation of the smaller kilt, the filleadh beag, which is the form of kilt still very much in use today. At some point prior to 1690s, Gaelic tailors began to cut the filleadh mór in half. It was an organic fashion development within the Scottish Gaelic community. The upper part became a separate plaid and the lower part had the folds sown into it. This way the lower half, the kilt, could be worn separately from the plaid.

Sean Connery wearing the small kilt, or filleadh beag

A false story has long circulated about the creation of the small kilt that maintained two English tailors invented this form in 1727. However, in Gaelic oral history it was known that the small kilt predates this time. The English creation myth persisted in some circles until writer Clifford Smyth produced an illustration of the small kilt in use in 1690 and put an end to the pseudo history of the small kilt.

18th Century illustration on how to wear the kilt

In Ireland the full kilt and small kilt were worn in those areas settled by Highland and Hebridean Gaels. There are eyewitness descriptions of the kilt being worn as early as the 1590s in Ulster. Originally it was worn in the Redshank communities in east Donegal, northwest Tyrone, and north Antrim. Its popularity has waxed and waned over the years, but more and more the small kilt can be seen in Ireland worn at weddings and parties, by hill walkers, and sportsmen. This growing popularity of this very old Gaelic garment is natural and part of the heritage of Ulster.