Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gavin Esler and the Ulster Scots


Gavin Esler is a well-known television current affairs presenter here in the UK, best known for his role on BBC2's Newsnight. He's taking part at the International Genealogy Festival in Glasgow over the next few days. Here's an excerpt about what he'll be doing:

...Gavin Esler is also well acquainted with some of his lineage, but hopes that Bruce Durie's investigations will shed further light beyond his more recent family backgrounds – again, all will be revealed during the festival. The broadcaster and author describes his recent background as "solid west of Scotland Protestant working class, even though I was mainly brought up in Edinburgh and went to Heriot's."

He can, however, trace his ancestry back through working-class Clydebank and Northern Irish immigrants whose forebears arrived in Scotland in the 1880s, but were Ulster Scots who had settled in Ireland during the "Plantations" of the 17th century. The Eslers had originally arrived in Scotland from Europe, following the former Baltic trading routes in search of religious freedom. "I know quite a lot about them," says the broadcaster. "They were German Protestants who emigrated to Scotland in the 17th century to escape religious persecution during the Thirty Years' War. The name Esler comes from 'Esel', meaning donkey – which might explain my family history of mule-like stubbornness. They were probably ostlers, looking after horses. Three brothers settled near Ballymena in County Antrim, and thereafter bits and pieces of my family lived in Ulster and the west of Scotland."

What Esler looks forward to learning is more about his mother's side of the family. "That's the real mystery to me – the Knights of Clydebank and my grandmother, Annie Bruce. I know almost nothing about them and I can't wait to find out what Bruce Durie has discovered.

"What we do know so far is that at least five of my ancestors signed the Ulster Covenant, threatening a rebellion against a united Ireland. And I also know that I have relatives all over the world, in Australia, Canada, the United States, Ireland north and south… you name it. And the same names keep recurring – David, James, William, Robert Esler come up time after time..."

Full article online here