Traced back to Rynelrick

Having managed to trace my Grassick line to the parish of Abernethy and Kincardine in Inverness-shire, my wife and I decided to make a trip up there in 2006 to try to get more details. What we found from the parish records was that my ancestors lived in a small croft called Rynelrick, just to the west of the Inverness-shire-Aberdeen-shire border. Here Duncan Grassick lived with his wife Isabella Grant, until his death in November 1875. His son James, born on the last day of 1843, would later head south to Edinburgh, probably around 1860.

My Grassick Ancestry

My Scottish ancestry is dominated by the fact that my paternal grand-parents were first cousins. James Duncan Grassick, born in Edinburgh in 1894, was the son of Isabella Bowie, who had married my great grand-father James Duncan (these two forenames keep cropping up in this branch of the family) five months before my grandfather’s birth. In 1921 he married Isabella’s sister Elizabeth’s daughter Jane McGregor Erskine.

The disgrace caused split the family. My father, an only child born nine months later, seems to have been quite cut off from the extended family. There were two other children, Annie Erskine and John Erskine. But my father was never really in touch with his aunt and uncle. We do know that one of Annie’s children was Bobby Combe, the legendary Hibs footballer of the 1950s who also playedfor Scotland.

For this reason, I have spent some time researching the Bowie line of the family. The Bowies moved from Linlithgow to Edinburgh sometine between 1866 and 1869. James Duncan and Jane McGregor’s grandparents lived on the High Street there, possibly with a shop since he (Thomas) was a shoe-maker and she (Jane) a dress-maker. Jane McGregor’s mother Elizabeth was born in Linlithgow in 1859. James Duncan’s mother Isabella, was born ten years later in Portobello, Edinburgh.

The Grassick line can be traced to James Duncan’s grandfather James, who was born in the parish of Abernethy and Kincardine in Inverness-shire in 1844. It must have been James who moved to Edinburgh, as he married in Leith in 1868. What caused James to leave the Highlands?


Grassick – Origins of the Surname

This is a rare surname of Gaelic – Scottish origins. It derives from the word “griasaich” and can have several meanings including embroiderer, decorator and more latterly, shoe or hose maker. The surname is unusual in that it is occupational when most Gaelic names were patronymics, and based upon nicknames for the original chief of the clan. It is said that Grassick is most popular in the far north and specifically Aberdeenshire, where the pronunciation is as Gracey! As a result that there are spellings as Grassie and Grass, and indeed these seem to predate the actual Grassick recordings with that of John Grasse of Kirktoun of Crathe appearing in the tenants list in 1539. However it is more likely that earlier registers have gone missing, since the keeping of such items in the past was not given any great consideration. Other early examples of recordings include Donald Graycht at Lochalsh in 1548, Elspet Grassiche of Tullochaspak in 1612, and David Grassiche of Kepache. He was a bit of a lad who was accused of “violence” in 1617, although his fate is not known. Another to fall foul of the authorities was Alexander Gresiech of Towie in 1669. He was accused of curing cattle by charming them!

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The Grassicks in 2010 at a gathering in the Derbyshire Dales.

I’ve been dabbling in geneology off and on for 15 years now, so now is the time to begin to gather together and share everything I’ve learnt (and am still learning) about my wide, wide family.

My paternal roots are in Scotland, but through my mother and my partner, like half the world (and unlike Theresa May) I am very much a global citizen.

My mother, Paulette Abecassis, is from a Jewish north African family. My father, Henry Hay Grassick, was born to parents who were first cousins via the maternal grandparents – the Bowies of Linlithgow. And my wife Beatrix is north German, with Danish and Norwegian relatives.

The Second World War brought us all into existence. Poignantly, my father landed in Algiers in November 1942 as a participant in Operation Torch, the action that probably saved my mother from the Nazi machine for which my wife’s father was fighting.

These pages explore and celebrate the diversity of my family, and considers some of the strange questions of identity that such a history can produce.

Remainer Brexiteer Tactics

It’s intriguing that, on the day the Article 50 letter is delivered, the loudest voices around the kind of Brexit we’ll get are still those of the hardliners. Perhaps this is not surprising, given PM May’s strategy of aligning herself with them prior to the start of negotiations, and the position of the rabid right-wing press.

But at the end of the day, Brexit is an internal battle for the Tories, coupled with a political strategy for neutering the UKIP threat, at least in Tory-oriented territory. What seems to have been forgotten is the strong pro-EU balance among, not just MPs in general, but Tory MPs specifically.

Here’s a breakdown of the UK MPs position re Brexit in 2016, PRIOR to the Brexit vote on June 23rd:

Amongst these 185 remain Tories is Theresa May herself. So why would she be pushing for a hard brexit, as so many red tops and Kippers seem to think? The answer, of course, lies in the positions to be taken at the start of negotiations. These, in the UK government’s case, have little to do with the destination of these negotiations, but everything to do with giving EU negotiators much of what they want. A hint of this strategy was revealed in a Spectator editorial from December 2016. To quote:

Britain… has decided to press ahead with plans to join an EU-wide patent system. This is a major overhaul, requiring UK courts to give up jurisdiction over patents, pooling sovereignty with the rest of Europe….We might be witnessing the first example of Mrs May’s Brexit strategy — to leave the EU, but opt into the agreements that we find agreeable. The price for this would be to accept the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, something that had been considered off the agenda. But on patents, at least, Mrs May’s government has planned to accept the ECJ’s writ.

In other words, sector by sector, the UK government will aim to negotiate agreements that essentially mean paying the EU for access to these sectors, and under EU jurisdication. This will prove expensive, and will require giving up “sovereignty” to the extent that, following the Great Reform Bill, the UK parliament will be required to enact UK legislation in these areas that mirrors EU law.

All of this will probably be sellable to the Brexit mob with a little smoke and mirrors about all laws being passed at Westminster. But what of the EU? What cannot be seen to come to pass is the cherry picking that threatens membership’s raison d’etre. Even Norway is required to accept the free movement of peoples in order to gain paid access to the single market. How will the UK government get round this sticking point?

The obvious route is to pick up on ex-PM Cameron’s negotiated deal prior to the referendum, but simply try to nail the same deal from the outside rather than from the inside of the EU. That deal, which limited EU migrants’ rights to a range of welfare benefits for the first 4 years, could well re-appear in another form as part of the final Brexit agreement, seen on one side as limiting immigration, and on the other as confirming the right to the free movement of peoples. But the key to a final agreement lies in PM May’s real wishes, Looking at the political numbers, and despite the rhetoric, they do not seem to be hard Brexit.

All this has obvious repercussions for the situation in Scotland. Not for nothing is May arguing that a second referendum should be called only once the final details of the Brexit deal are known. My strong suspicion is that May is going to aim for a soft Brexit that would outflank the SNP’s position of offering voters in Scotland a choice between full membership and no EU access. A soft Brexit, a sort of neo-Norway model, is attractive to Scottish voters, including many YESers who voted to leave the EU. My advice to Nicola Sturgeon would be to keep your powder dry, and accept that we should wait until the details of the deal are known before actually calling IndyRef2.

It might well be that the EU cannot accept, yet again, a privileged position for an outside UK, after years of insider privileges. But if a deal is struck, to be magnanimous in accepting a soft Brexit would essentially confirm the Scottish government’s position set out in the Scotland’s Place in Europe paper. The reasoning behind IndyRef2 is gone. The Scottish government needs to remain open to both outcomes, and make more of the distinction between having the power to call a referendum, and actually calling it.