Grant Histories : Age of the Monymusk Text

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Age of the Monymusk Text
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In 1876, Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk, 7th Baronet, published "Ane Account of the Rise and Offspring of the Name of Grant" - which we now refer to, for that reason, as the "Monymusk Text" (MT). This was a transcript of a manuscript history of the Clan of which there were several - probably far from identical - copies. It appears that the particular MS original from which this book was copied is now held in the Inverness Archives. Even a quick perusal of the text shows that the Cromdale Text (1729), the work of the Rev James Chapman, was based on this story. Indeed it is not wholly impossible (though unlikely, see below) that Chapman had even written MT himself - some time earlier.

It would seem that this particular text (MT) was prepared for Captain James Grant of Wester Elchies (who obtained crown confirmation for his lands in 1713). Now it appears that all the original manuscripts are lost - but for the MT in Inverness Chapman`s own papers amongst the Seafield Papers in the Scottish National Archive. In the BMS one such MS was described as so well thumbed as to be illegible in many places. Chapman`s work was a full revision in which he attempted to make several "improvements" (though in some cases his limited knowledge actually made things worse) and in so doing several clues as to its origins and development would have been lost, but for MT - much as a house`s history is diminished whenever many layers of wall paper are stripped back to the plaster.

But fortunately some of what Lachlan Shaw ("History of the Province of Moray" 1775) described as the "unchronological" aspects are actually most informative, for in this case although these copies were updated, the copiers had the good sense to interpolate their additions while retaining the whole of the previous text. Unfortunately we do not know to which version he had access.

Thus in MT p29, reference is made to "Ludovich the present laird". Ludovick was chief 1663-1714 and yet there is no reference to the Regality of Grant (1694), while Ludovick is extensively treated in CT, including the Regality.

In MT p33 reference is made to "Sir Francis Grant of Cullen". From this we can deduce that the particular manuscript in which this occurred was written after 1705 when he was given his Baronetcy, but before 1713 when he purchased Monymusk from the Forbeses. This is supported by the fact that he is described as heir to his father (implying his father is still alive - Archibald died in 1717).

Similarly in MT p34 the author says: "Duncan Grant the Representative commonly called Duncan Chiusth, because he delighted in Fir Trees and hunting, and was not so polite as his progenitors; he was married to the Laird of Mc Intosh?s daughter, of whom he begat sons, John and Patrick; John Kay being as yet in life." This reference to "John Kay" is to John Grant 5th of Freuchie (Chief 1585-1622). And so we discover that an earlier version of MT was clearly written before that latter date - say 1620. This is significant for two reasons - firstly it shows that it was NOT the case (as we had for some time supposed) that the genealogy was first composed around 1660 in the context of the proposed earldom for the the then Chief (James) who died in 1663 before it could be confirmed. Secondly - perhaps more importantly - it shows that Chapman was dealing with a manuscript at least 100 years old.

On the other hand, so embedded in the thinking of the writer is an erroneous historical background as first promulgated by Buchanan (published in the year of his death, 1582), that it seems highly unlikely that the "mother text" antedated John Grant 5th of Freuchie.Could it have been put together for him by his tutor? We know from AGM MacGregor`s history of the MacGregors that the Grants of Bonhard (near Perth) were in possession of a copy before 1715 - which is highly unlikely, therefore, to have been related to Chapman in any way (and this is supported by the fact that CT contains no reference at all to Bonhard). MT has the progenitor of Bonhard being the (unnamed) 3rd son of John "Bard Roy" 2nd of Freuchie, but is confused as he names the mother as Janet Leslie who was actually married to John 4th of Freuchie. Curiously Fraser`s trees basically positively deny the existence of the Bonhard family - which is silly as records of theirs (though sadly not the MS) remain in the Perth Archive today. Assigning Janet Leslie to the wrong husband cannot have been done before the event, but it would have been relatively easy to interpolate it into the text in the wrong place. As the marriage took place in the later 1500s, this takes us back to our post 1585 situation with a strong presumption to a still earlier predecsessor text.

Despite the fact that others (eg Fraser) appear to attribute MT to Chapman, it is difficult to suppose that Chapman would update a mother text to produce MT and include the p29 reference but NOT refer to the Regality, given the detail in CT (original p116). The same applies in the case of the failure of MT to detail Bard Roy`s marriage to Margaret Ogilvie. In other words if Chapman DID have anything to do with MT it was very much as a rushed job.

A problem exists, however, with regard to precursors of this 1600 text. There is no "obvious" break in the lineage from 1600 onwards - no reason to suppose that a time intervened when reliance on written sources was complete - ie that oral transmission was broken. And yet.... and yet... for there are errors in MT which can only be accounted for by reliance on written sources for which there was no oral back up. When MT and CT write of "Andlaw"`s daughter "Wishilla", we can reasonably assert that this is a misreading of "Hextilda" (the name of this lady`s only granddaughter); when "Swein" is misunderstood as "Rowan", clearly no-one can mix the two names up by mispronouncing them - only by misreading squiggly writing. Indeed "Andlaw" himself is a misreading of Amlaim - an accepted Irish orthographic variant (eg in the Annals of Tigernach) for Olav. Thus it is clear that MT is based, at least in part, on earlier MSS the contents of which survived their excision in living memory. Similarly the mix up (inter alia) of the early generations (eg in the period 1200 - 1400) implies a reliance on isolated tales of derring-do told by a bard with their attendant detail rather than a family tree cherished as such and passed down systematically. Further rumination upon the individual elements of the text may yield further conclusions.

We have noted already the touch of derision in Shaw`s tone when he refers to the "unchronological" family tree. Fraser was no less scathing (Vol I p2) "Mr. Chapman?s compilation is a somewhat strange production, and is a record quite unworthy of the race of Grant. {Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk, Baronet, printed Mr. Chapman?s history for private circulation. The title is ?An Account of the Rise and Offspring of the name of Grant,? 1876, 8vo. Pp. 40.}"

As well as being inaccurate - for, as we have seen Chapman`s contribution to MT was at most minuscule, probably nil - had these authors actually paid attention to the detail of what they were reading instead of spending their time polishing their vacuous rhetoric, they might have reached different conclusions.

In the meantime our best guess must be that the mother text upon which both MT and CT came to be based was composed in association with the knighthood conferred on Sir John Grant of Mulben in 1617.


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