My Anderson azalea

Anderson is the eighth most common Scottish family name and is found, in its many manifestations, all around the country. The common factor, whatever its rendition, is its Gaelic origin Gilleaindreas, meaning a servant of St Andrew. Which, I like to think, given St Andrew is Scotland’s patron saint, makes us staunch nationalists. But perhaps not republicans. As I have noted once, twice, or thrice elsewhere, our Andersons are included on a Celtic Royalty register although I have deep suspicions this register is entirely bogus and created for the egos of ancestry types seeking a glorious family past. I will mark our connections on this register with “(CR)” after first mention of their names. But it seems very suspicious, all this royalty accidentally finding and marrying each other.

Nonetheless, if there were a flicker of evidence for it, our origins may have

found us in Badenoch, to the north of Dundee, now in Inverness-shire. According to one source, Badenoch is possibly the richest site in Scotland for family histories and monumental events. It also was home to a particularly brutal psychopath, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, aka the Wolf of Badenoch. Legend has it the Wolf died after being checkmated by Satan while playing chess. One source says the game took place in Glamis Castle, where Duncan was murdered in the Scottish play and, later, the seat of the Queen Mother’s family. But I digress.

Closer to Dundee is Arbroath, a fishing town famous for, amongst other things,

the Arbroath smokie, freshly caught haddock smoked over wood chips and sold from fishmongers within sight of the harbour and fishing boats. Of more relevance to any Anderson pretensions to the aristocracy, it was from the Abbey in 1320 that the Arbroath Declaration was sent from Scotland's nobles to Pope John XXII seeking his recognition of Scottish independence from England. The linked copy of the Declaration is held by the National Records of Scotland (SP13/7): its most famous lines declare

For, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory , nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

The earliest of our Andersons that I have found lived in Broughty Ferry,

once an independent burgh and now a seaside suburb of Dundee, in the county of Angus (ex Forfarshire). Its proximity to Arbroath would have made possible an Anderson in attendance at the birth of the Scottish nation in the fourteenth century.

Dundee and its hinterland have been populated for at least 10,000 years

and offer a rich archeological narrative of religious, occupational and ceremonial life. Historically, it has had its fair share of strife, battered by warring Picts, Scots, English, French, Viking and assorted other chancers keen to conquer its reputation as the birthplace of the Scots and to take advantage of its geographical assets that made it an ideal port town for invasion and trade.

For much of its history, Broughty Ferry prospered through fishing and

whaling. Its maritime infrastructure made it the logical spot for a ferry service that operated for centuries from a harbour close to the castle, until the first Tay bridge linking Angus and Fyfe was built in 1878. This bridge catastrophically collapsed during a violent storm at the end of 1879. A replacement bridge opened quietly in 1887. By the C19th, building on its strengths in capitalism’s competitive environment, Dundee became renowned for ‘jute, journalism and jam’. Increasingly, it became a financial hub for Scottish industry, too. Apart from the jam, although I’m sure the Andersons did their fair share of preserving, our Andersons were in the thick of these industries. (I’m taking liberties with the definition of ‘journalism’. Although I haven’t found/confirmed a writer in our branch, we surface in newspaper reports and, later, our NZ branch contributed guest pieces to local newspapers on a variety of matters.)

When Dundee joined the Industrial Revolution, the village became a retreat

from the associated grime, disease and challenging living conditions in the city. Well, it became a retreat for the rich; so much so that it was labelled the richest square mile in Europe and still has more than its fair share of affluence. Lesser mortals shared the air as holiday makers and daytrippers to “the Brighton of the North” (now branded “the jewel in Dundee’s crown” although I don’t know whether it is known as this to more than the Come to Broughty 2014-2015 people). It continues to be one of Scotland’s most popular playgrounds. It must be said that Karl and I found few of its charms during the less than 24 hours we spent there in 1995, mainly because it was swathed in dense fog and we could see barely a thing.

Josephine and I had a much better visit in 2018. We found Dundee to be a

charming, compact city on the side of the River Tay. Although it had been badly affected by the loss of its traditional industries to the international marketplace, there were signs everywhere of its resurgence as a digital development and creative centre. Although it had not yet opened when we were there, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum - the V&A - now has a purpose-built exhibition space, Scotland’s first design museum, on Dundee’s waterside. This is as good a reason as any to return to Dundee, along with the city’s visual and performing arts attractions and the very good restaurants we found there.​        

Above is Broughty Ferry Beach Crescent

taken in the 1950s



Broughty Ferry Crescent 2018.jpg

The Crescent from the castle, 2018

In Broughty Ferry we found the headstone Alexander installed over Isobel

and their children who predeceased him in the old graveyard and the monumental one that marked the burial lairs (plots) of David, Martha and several of their family in the Barnhill Cemetery. We visited David and Martha’s villa Mount Rosa again with its high thick walls and extensive garden, now mainly lawn. We visited the castle and enjoyed a long conversation with the staff in the museum. We wandered the streets marvelling at the centuries-old cottages and commercial buildings that spoke of solid continuity and, judging by the doorways, of a previously much shorter population. We sampled coffee and cake at the welcoming tea rooms. Probably because we knew our origins, it felt like home.