I recently came across this amusing 1930'ish newspaper cutting
from the letter pages of an unidentified Scottish newspaper. The
writer was George F. Black whose lifetime's work "The Surnames of
Scotland" remains the definitive work on Scottish genealogy with
alphabetical listings for over 8,000 families. George Fraser Black
(1866 - 1948) was a noted bibliographer and historical scholar on
the staff of The New York Public Library from 1896-1931 where he
was reported at one time as being the Head Librarian.
The cutting . . .
A few weeks ago Mrs Sherrin disputed the local origin of the
surname Beagrie from Balgray in Angus. In place of this she tells
us that the name is "of Hottentot origin" derived from a race of
wandering beggars common to Africa and India. Her authorities for
this remarkable statement are two friends, one "a famous explorer
who speaks many Eastern languages and dialects," the other an
anthropologist who has travelled extensively in Africa and India.
Their evidence is confirmed by a Southern Irish woman "who did
great service in France in the last war," &c.
John Bagray, who was a messenger-at-arms in Aberdeen in 1569, I
have no doubt would have been greatly astonished to learn that he
was a Hottentot or at least the descendant of one, and so likewise
would have been John Bagray, baker in Edinburgh in 1625 and several
other early bearers of the name.
Mrs Sherrin's derivation is only equalled by the preposterous
origin she put forth some time ago for the Perthshire surname
Larnach, which she solemnly told her readers comes " from Etruscan
Lar - a title peculiar to the eldest son," and German nach "near"
I feel saddened to learn that the forty and more years which I
have spent investigating the origin, meaning and history of the
surnames of Scotland was time wasted, and that I must begin again
by studying Etruscan, Hottentot, Sanscrit, and many other Eastern
and African languages.-George F. Black.
Scribbled at the bottom of this cutting by the collector was
"Guid lad . . . she was really daft"