Saturday, July 27, 2002
Steamboat Springs Dear Bertha,
In your last letter, you asked if the Jim Bowie of the Alamo was a relative of my grandfather? Well, I guess he was a distant relative, but I couldn't begin to tell you what the relationship was. I have been told that Grandfather once met a distant cousin who claimed to know what the relationship was. I have been told that Grandfather once met a distant cousin who claimed to know what the relationship was; but (so far as I know) there has never been a record kept.
During the year that my cousin, Eileen Woodburn, taught school in Ayrshire, she thought she might find some Bowie relative who could give her some information on the subject; so she went to the village of Ayr and made the inquiry: "Is there anyone by the name of Bowie living in this area?" The answer she received was: "Oh my, yes. Every village is full of them." It seems that the name Bowie in Scotland is as common as Smith is in America. And, so far as that is concerned, I have learned that there are locations labeled Bowie scattered all over America quite a profile breed of Scotts! Now I will relate a rather amusing story.
A few years past, a party of hunters stopped by looking for a place to hunt elk. I think they were from Louisiana or Mississippi. Well, somehow the evening conversation revealed that my maiden name was Bowie. This really got this old hunter excited for (he said) his wife was a Bowie. Then he went on to say: "We Bowies must stick together. All Bowies are related; they're all Black Scotch and are mean as Hell!" Quite a complimentary description of his wife and myself! Ha!
Then he went on to extol the virtues of Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
I didn't tell him that (although she was reluctant to admit it) that my grandmother, Helen Stuart, was a direct descendent of that line.
For the most part Grandmother avoided referring to the Stuarts, although if she did mention them it was usually to comment, "The Stuarts were aye awfa' bonnie, but no vera guid."
By this description I'm sure that she meant the Stuarts were quite handsome and that being "no vera guid" meant that they weren't sanctimonious.
If Grandmother was by chance forced to mention Mary Queen of Scots, she usually ended her comment with, "The wicked woman." And then (being the pious individual that she was) she would add a final post script "God rest her soul."
On the other hand Grandmother was obviously proud of the fact that her maternal grandmother was Ellen MacDonald, of the MacDonald of Glencoe (a place made famous by a battle fought there a battle which turned into a massacre).
Every Scotsman has two languages, the Scottish dialect (and it is a dialect, not a brogue) and English. They can all speak proper English when this is required, but with family and friends they use Scottish dialect.
In Scotland the name Helen is very popular but is almost universally pronounced (and often spelled) Ellen.
Well Bertha, I don't know where this business of the Bowies being "mean as Hell" might have originated. I have always known the Bowies to be gentle, loving people; but they're certainly not the sort of people that will stand for being pushed around as General Santa Ana of Mexico learned when he tried to run Jim Bowie out of Texas. And as for Black Scottish I don't know where that came from. Maybe I can find out some background on that, by the time I write again.
Will close for now, sincerely, your friend,