Friday, October 21, 2011

A fishy coat of arms

A month or two ago David Zincavage, who is both an old friend and a sort of dog relative (his Uhlan is Ataika's nephew) emailed me asking if I knew anything about my mother's family, the McCabes.

In fact I did, but mostly family folklore; that though they came to the New World (the Canadian Maritimes) through Ireland, and though many had been involved with the rebellions of the 1770's, they were in fact a military family of Scots mercenaries, "gallowglasses", in service to various Irish kings and nobles. That in addition to being a seriously combative clan-- in the words of the Ezra Pound poem on Bertrans de Born, great "stirrers up of strife"-- they conspired with other such English- Irish troublemakers such like the Duanes and the Loveless (Lovelace, Lawless) family, and intermarried with them (often in France, fleeing English pursuit); or, after 1800, in Canada. One Duane was also expelled from Calcutta, was probably born in Newfoundland whence other ancestors came but lied about it, and was a friend of Thomas Paine's. My maternal great grandmother was a Lawless.

All oral folklore. All, I have found, true. For years I never thought about it or looked into it (difficult pre- Internet anyway), but David hooked me*. A serious salmon fisherman, he said: "Do you know why they have three salmon on their coat of arms?"

As you can see, they do, and I have no idea why. Suggestions encouraged.

The other things I have found is that they originally hail from one of the Western Isles (Aran?), and that their combativeness is probably real. Their motto is "Aut Vincere Aut Mori": "Conquer or die!"

* I don't see why Reid has any monopoly on bad puns.

1 comment:

Reid Farmer said...

I don't see why Reid has any monopoly on bad puns

Wouldn't dream of it!