Thursday, 3 September 2009

A tradition laid aside

It sometimes seems to be a tradition in Scotland, to name a first born son after his great grandfather, grandfather or even his dad. There had been a pattern down the Miller line for at about six generations of David, William and then Stewart. My dad was Stewart Crichton Miller and my grandfather William Young Crichton Miller. The middle names were from the maiden names of mothers and grandmothers. My great-grandfather was David, and so on to Stewart again and beyond for at least a while. Claire has been doing some genealogical research - I must ask her how far back with the Millers she's got and whether she discovered the start of the pattern!
But, back in 1994, when our first turned out to be a boy, there was perhaps a certain amount of pressure to call him William. I have to say that this pressure was purely self inflicted, due to my limited knowledge of the family tree and not as a result of any hints from Grand-dad Stewart or Great-Gran. We resisted on several counts. Firstly, the name was not in either of our top ten lists of boys' names. Secondly, we might have seemed as if we were just very late in following a certain Windsor decision some twelve years earlier and then finally, we didn't want him to feel even more pressure, assuming he one day fathered a son, to call the boy Stewart.
So, after a deal of discussion during our time as expectant parents, we settled on Alexander Paul. We agreed quite easily on the name as one which we liked, went well with Miller whose initials didn't spell anything! Unless you have an 'M' surname, you might be surprised at the number of unfortunate three letter words unintentionally created by initials! Alexander McCourtie was incidentally the name of my maternal grandfather, so in the end, there was a certain symmetry about our choice, and you can see where my middle name came from!
Both our choices were originally Greek; Alexander, meaning warrior, is the name for several bit part players in the New Testament. Some were aligned with those who had been threatened by Jesus; for example there is mentioned in Acts 4, an Alexander who was part of the high preistly family, engaged at that stage with persecuting two of the apostles. However, Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry Christ's cross was reported as the father of Alexander and Rufus - see Mark 15:16-26, so perhaps that family weren't so hostile to the embryonic church. Incidentally, we know two brothers called Alex and Rufus who are of an age with our Alex and Steve and I keep meaning to ask his parents how they chose their sons' names.
Paul, a name meaning small, of course put his name to many letters to the young churches as recorded in the New Testament, although scholars will tell us that for reasons of linguistic style, it is now thought that not all of them are authentically his. Whatever the truth of this, Paul and those who wrote in his tradition continue to be hugely influential on the life of the whole Christian church.
So that concludes my four part mini series on the names of our little clan - all precipitated by stopping at a road sign or two on holiday!

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