Wednesday, 1 June 2011

BBC's James Naughtie is English. Surely some mistake!

BBC Radio 4's James Naughtie
Respected political correspondent James Naughtie had his ancestry unveiled on the BBC's Today programme this morning, which revealed to the award-winning presenter's horror and intrigue, that he may actually have descended from the English.

Alistair Moffat, author of The Scots: A Genetic Journey, persuaded the BBC Radio 4 presenter to have his DNA tested a few weeks ago. And although James was brought up in Milltown of Rothiemay, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire has always been proud of his Scottish heritage.

The well-known author and historian, Alistair Moffat has worked with geneticist Dr. Jim Wilson to map Scotland's DNA using thousands of samples from around the country. Every one of us carries our history in our DNA and technology has now advanced to such a stage that a simple spit-and-go test allows scientists to analyse and interpret our DNA and give us a very clear indication of where our ancestors may have come from.

Naughtie's marker (known to scientists as S142) points very clearly to an Anglo Saxon origin in this country and before that to Denmark and Norway. 13% of Danish men share this strand of DNA. His ancestors would have arrived in the south of Britain in the early 5th century AD and moved north to Northumbria and to the Scottish borders arriving around 600 AD. And there they would have stayed until around 1130s. King David I of Scotland was involved at that time in what could be compared to Bosnian style ethnic cleansing of the Moray region to rid him of troublesome local aristocracy. He gave large Scottish estates to his Anglo-Norman friends and transplanted Border farmers to the Moray area to repopulate with those who were more sympathetic to his cause. And Naughtie's ancestors would be amongst those transplanted.
So is he English? As Alistair Moffat points out in The Scots: A Genetic Journey, every Scot is an immigrant. Until 9000 BC, Scotland was empty of people and animals. For 15,000 years, ice had covered the land and nothing survived. Naughtie's family has been firmly rooted in the North East of Scotland since the 12th century - he is very much a Scot. But way back, his ancestors crossed the seas and made their way north through England to the borders and from there, to Moray. His DNA is part of the rich tapestry that now enriches Scotland.
On hearing about his genetic background James joked, “I confess a wee bit of nervousness, but now discover that the (Today) programme has been kind enough to offer me counselling!”

The new study of DNA for genealogy purposes is growing at an incredible pace and can take personal histories back much further than family trees and desk research. Alistair Moffat is now working on a new book with Jim Wilson, Britain: A DNA history, which will be published next year.

The Scots: A Genetic Journey by Alistair Moffat and Jim Wilson is published by Birlinn and is available as a hardback book and eBook. Testing kits are available from EthnoAncestry ( Britain: A DNA History will be published by Birlinn in 2012.

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