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Name Origination for Moffat
The origin of the name of Moffat is unclear and there are several theories surrounding where the name came from.  George Chalmers, in his great study “Caledonia”, published in 1807-1824, divided Scottish place-names into those deriving from Scoto-saxon, and those derived from Gaelic. For those not obviously scoto-saxon, he looked for a Celtic equivalent.  Chalmers wrote: “The parish of MOFFAT derived its Gaelic name from Irish Mai-Fad, signifying long plain, and this name is descriptive of the site of the Kirktown on a narrow plain that extends along the east side of the Annan for several miles.” Another writer demanding attention (Harry A. Long “The names we bear”) holds tenaciously to the belief that it came from the word “oua vat” in the Gaelic language signifying “a long deep mountain hollow”

“No, it’s not Gaelic at all – it’s Anglo-Saxon English, and all very prosaic”, said Alistair Moffat, TV producer, and a noted student of the Scottish Borders as well as author of several very readable books on the subject. The name is obviously derived from “Moor foot”. “A cadet of the English family of Montealt, who derived his name from a place in Flintshire came into Scotland in the twelfth century. Robert de Montealt is a witness to some of the charters of David I. This family obtained from William the Lion a grant of the manor of Fern in Forfarshire. … William de Montealt was one of the Scottish barons who, in their famous epistle to the Pope, said they would never submit to England while one of them remained. Montealt has been vulgarised into Mowat, as the English family of Montefichet has transformed into Muschet.”

The Monymusk Text, a history of the Clan Grant, dating from circa 1710, but clearly relying on sources very much earlier. This text states that Colobella, the youngest daughter of Patrick Grant of Freuchy and Balachastle, was married to the Progenitor of the Moffatts in Scotland, and ties the date to that of the marriage of Patrick’s eldest daughter to Duncan II, i.e. 1094. The Cromdale Text, a later history, written by James Chapman in 1797, but deriving its information from the Monymusk Text, named Colobella’s husband as “William de Monte, The Progenitor of The Movats alias Moffats”, and summarised the events of 1094. The information in these texts has been related to known Scottish history by Adrian Grant in his article “The Establishment of the Clan Moffat”, Clan Moffat UK & Eire Newsletter, Oct 2004. According to Grant, it was indeed a younger son, William fitzRalph, of a Norman-French family from Flintshire, who participated in the English expedition, instigated by William Rufus, to Scotland in 1094 that succeeded in setting Duncan II on the Scottish throne. As a reward, William was awarded lands in Annandale. It is about this time that he assumed the name William Montealt (in Latin “de Monte Alto”; in English “of the Great Hill”). According to Grant, the eponymous Great Hill should be sought in Scotland, and there is a very prominent candidate in the Great Hill overlooking Annandale, with a superlative view southwards down the valley.

This article is a summary of a longer article by Colin Moffat.  The more detailed explanation can be found here.


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