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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Great Scot, no African links!


Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Great Scot, no African links!

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Reading in the WEEKEND NATION that fellow columnist and back-in-the-day schoolmate Dick “Lowdown” Hoad was off to visit his ancestral Scotland where his great-grandfather John Hoad married Margaret Donald from Aberdeen before coming to Barbados in 1857 triggered some long forgotten memories in my head.

I suddenly recalled that while growing up I had often heard my late father boasting about his own Scottish ancestral blood, which ran through the veins of his father and grandparents on that side of the family.

Ironically, in keeping with the colonial mentality of the day, and which still persists today, he never mentioned a word about the African ancestral blood that ran through the veins of his blacker than blue mother and grandparents on her side.

So when I read about Dick flying off to Scotland, the voice in my head suggested that I should try to find out if the stories told by my father were indeed true so that one day I could consider taking a similar trip to see if I might find some unknown cousins in Aberdeen or Glasgow.

I was aware of the Ancestry.com site but decided to take the most straightforward route with the Google search engine and within seconds of typing “origin of name Gilkes” in the window, up came the following revelation, among a range of others:

“Recorded in a wide range of spellings, including Gilk, Gilks, Gilkes, Gilkson, Gulk, Gulke, Jelkes, Jilks, Jilkes and others (like Gill), this is a surname of Scottish origins.

 “It is a patronymic form of the old Gaelic personal name Gilchrist, a compound of the elements “Gilla” meaning friend or servant with the suffix “Christ”; and hence the literal translation of the “follower of Christ”.

Gilchrist was the name borne by the sculptor of St Martin’s cross on the isle of Iona and an inscription in Irish reads “a prayer for Gilchrist who made this cross”.

The name “Gillecrist” (without surname) appears in the Pipe Rolls of Cumberland in the year 1202, whilst the surname is first recorded in the early half of the 14th century. Early examples of the surname recordings taken at random from the church registers of Greater London include; Margaret Gulk, who was christened at the church of St Mary Somerset, on May 18, 1563; Thomas Gilks, who married Anne Hopkins on February 19, 1651, at St Dunstan’s, Stepney; Thomas Jilks, who was christened on March 4, 1652, at St Ann, Blackfriars.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Gilcristson. This was dated 1332 in the ‘Subsidy Rolls of Cumberland, during the reign of King Edward III, known as ‘The Father of the Navy’ . . .”

So my old man was indeed correct in this regard.

Regrettably, there is and will hardly ever be a search engine, Google, Poogle or Foogle, that will be able to unearth the origin of my grandmother’s African family name so that one day I could also walk the streets of some country in that motherland in search of other unknown cousins.

• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.

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