Friday, October 28, 2016

Digging Down the Runes

28th October 2016

I recently did a DNA test which came back with the surprising result that I am only 73% European. Eeeks. I thought I would be one of those 99 percenters. I often watch a program called "Finding Your Roots," which takes celebrities on a trip down their ancestral lines. It seems that if they have blond hair, and even if they don't, they often turn out to be 99% European. This twist in my DNA narrative is apparently due to my mother, whose blood group, and consequently mine, is one that is quite common in the Middle East. I even have 5% Ashkenazi Jew, and about three times that much Basque in there! I always suspected something, since my mother's family are all quite dark of skin, hair and eyes. My sister, too. But here I am with a red sheen to my brown hair, green eyes and fair skin. 73%, they say, and I can only conclude that not too far back a female slave or just a random traveller from warmer climes crossed the sea and copulated with some ancestral Brit.

On the McDougall side, the family line originated in exactly the area of Scotland I grew up - Argyll and specifically Oban, where the clan seat is and where I went to school. All McDougalls go back to Dugald, son of Somerled, Lord of The Isles. My branch came not so long ago from the Gaelic-speaking island of Islay, where all the famous single malt whisky also hails from. I think this is the approach the powers-that-be have taken to my writing career - keep it in a vat in a cold dark cellar for decades and then uncork the barrel and pass it around. That's what I am waiting for  - a good connoisseur of spirits to slap a "Grade A, Single Cask" label on my forehead and send me off for general consumption.

Never mind the Celtic cross on that label - that was something that came and then left in my particular distillation. There were lines and lines of Christians for a while in there, including myself for many a youthful year. But it is the heathen that has won out in the end, the dark, peaty, runic drone of my ancestors that hums in my brain and rattles down these tattered bones. What I am trying to do in my writing is lend them a voice.

1 comment:

  1. I found out since I posted this blog that my ancestors founded the Ardbeg distillery on Islay. It is still in operation, though it changed hands in the 1930's. It is a fantastic looking building with pagodas, right on the shore. Needless to say, visiting there is now on my bucket list!