Friday, September 3, 2010

"MacKinnon / McKinnon DNA project"

Clan Donald has been running a DNA project for a number of years now, and has so far revealed a number of fascinating results.  In this case the DNA project has helped resolve a centuries old question regarding the paternity of Somerled (Somhairle), Gaelic hero, ancestor of the MacDonalds and a giant in the history of the Western Isles.  The Y-DNA testing has shown that his paternal ancestry was Norse rather than Gaelic, and it is estimated that he has over 500,000 descendants living today, more than any other known individual aside from Ghengis Khan.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a MacKinnon DNA project in the works.  Though still in its infancy, some of the early results certainly look promising.  Hopefully the project will continue to grow, and I'll be keeping an eye on it in case there is any other news of note.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walking Tour of Finlaggan

During the time of the medieval Lordship of the Isles, Finlaggan could easily be considered the 'capital' of the Isles.  Finlagan was divided into two parts, Eilean Mor (Large Island) and Eilean na Comhairle (Council Island).

Eilean Mor was the living area, and included the great hall of Clan Donald as well as a Chapel and other structures.   Eilean na Comhairle was where the Council of the Isles would meet, which can thought of as a 'parliament' or sorts where disputes could be settled, and other important issues could be discussed and addressed.

The Mackinnon clan was amply represented during these council meetings, as the MacKinnon Chief was a valued member of the council.  During much of this period MacKinnons were also the abbots of Iona, and thus had two seats at the council table.

If you'd like to find out more about Finlaggan and what it was like during its heyday, the BBC has posted Neil Oliver's walking tour of Finlaggan over at their Open University website.  It's formulated similar to radio show in some ways, including commentaries from locals, archaeologists, and historians.  It's worth a listen if you have the time, though it is rather lengthy at nearly fourty minutes in length.  If you have an Ipod or another device that plays MP3s you can download the file and listen to it at your convenience.

(Also, if you visit the first pair of links I posted above, they contain maps of the Isles in question if you wish to follow along as the tour goes on - Finlaggan has also been added to the MacKinnon map).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gaelic Names for Plants

Recently I stumbled across an excellent website entitled An English to Gaelic Primer of Plant Names.  The website is very straightforward providing the common name, the scientific name, as well as the gaelic name of the plant in question.  As an added bonus the website also include an English translation of the Gaelic word, which is quite handy for those of us not fluent in the Highland tongue!

Particularly relevant to the Mackinnons is St. John's Wort, one of the plant badges of our clan.  The Gaelic name is 'eala bhuidhe' meaning 'yellow appearance' which seems to be a very practical name for a plant with such a distinguished yellow flower.  There are a few other gems as well, and most of the other plants also seem to have very practical names.

For those who would like a wee bit of extra information, the Gaelic college on Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, has uploaded an older volume from their collection entitled Gaelic Plant Names: Study of Their Uses and Lore.  You can reach their digitised collection here, or if you would prefer a direct link to the PDF click here.