My father’s family are from the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, and many of my father’s generation and older were Gaelic-speaking. My father spoke Gaelic, but couldn’t read or write it – and I learned for a while but soon forgot once I had no-one to speak it with.
My mother’s family are from Elgin, on the mainland – and English speaking.
Between my mother and father, they named me for both grandfathers – Malcolm Campbell was my father’s father – James Spence was my mother’s father – so I became “Malcolm James Spence Campbell” – a name too long to fit on a British Airways boarding pass.
But when I was on Lewis, they’d often call me Calum – or if very annoyed with me “Calum Hamish”. Calum is the Scots Gaelic form of Malcolm, and Seumas (or Hamish) is the Gaelic form of James.
Both Calum and Malcolm are references to St Columba, who came to Scotland from Ireland in 563CE, and played a significant role in religion, literacy and diplomacy in early Scotland. His name in Irish was “Colm Cille”, meaning “church dove”, and in Scotland Colm became “Columb”. As he worked between groups of Ulster Gaels settled on the West of Scotland, and other tribes – I’m pretty sure he had two names too.
So through all of my life people have used both names for me. In some social circles everyone will call me Malcolm, and most of my legal paperwork uses that name – but in others many people know me as Calum – and I now have a bank card with that name on it too. Those closest to me use either name depending on context.
The other name you’ll find on this website is Skirnir. Skirnir is the “shield man” for the God Freyr, often sent as a messenger or to negotiate for the god. In the Poetic Edda poem Skírnismál, Skirnir visits the giants to negotiate a marriage for Freyr. In some versions of the poem he is threatening, in others he negotiates – but in all the meaning is multi-layered and complex.
I chose the name Skirnir as a subdomain under Demon Internet back in 1993 – without too much thought – I liked the mythological connection, and that he was a messenger and communicator. I registered it as my personal domain name in 1997. As I’ve learned more about the layers of Skirnir’s story, I see more reasons why it makes sense for me, and I end up asking more questions.
And I like questions…