Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dutch in the Scottish Highlands

In an earlier blog I discussed the evidence for the use of Dutch or Flemish in Wales. As one might expect, there is far more evidence for the use of Dutch in Scotland. We find one example of this in the army of William III, which invaded England in 1688. This was a multinational army including many Englishmen and Scotsmen or people of British heritage. One such individual was Sir Thomas Livingstone (1652?-1711). He was born in the United Provinces to Scottish parents and married a Dutch woman with the wonderful name, Macktellina Walrave de Nimmeguen. After the 1688 invasion, William sent forces to Scotland to suppress Jacobite opposition to his rule. These were led by the Scot, Major-General Hugh Mackay, who had been in the service of the States General and who had also married a Dutch woman. Livingstone went to Scotland under Mackay's command. We have three letters that he wrote to Mackay in the Highlands in … Dutch. Why would he write in Dutch to a Scot in the Highlands? One possible explanation is that he was using Dutch as a cipher. The enemy Jacobite forces would typically have used Scottish Gaelic, so may well not have been able to read Dutch. In truth, we do not know, but this is another example of how Dutch turns up in some rather unexpected places.

Further reading:
Livingstone's letters: National Archive of Scotland, Edinburgh, GD26/9/255
Christopher Joby, The Dutch Language in Britain (1550-1702). Leiden: Brill, 2015, pp. 367-370.

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