Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Paton Pride

There's a bit of a joke in my family about a long running trait on the Paton side of the family. A few years ago I met one of my first cousins in London for the first time, and one of the first questions I asked him was whether his father shared a certain characteristic that my father did - the 'Paton Pride'? He instantly knew what I was referring to without me having to explain it - the answer was a resounding yes...!

Basically, my father won't do anything he doesn't want to do, and is more than happy to speak his mind. He'll listen to anyone making a fair argument, but for those talking just to hear the sound of their own voice, he won't listen for much longer! I share the trait to an extent, and by the way my youngest son is beginning to look at me, there is definitely a case forming of history about to repeat itself!

But how far back does the Paton Pride go, and how widespread is it amongst the 'clan'?! I had to laugh a few years ago when I found a record concerning my four times great grandfather, William Paton, a weaver in Perth who had been signed up to serve in Breadalbane's Fencibles. A Sergeant MacKay was doing the recruiting, and ran into a spot of bother, as the following letter he received from Edinburgh Castle, and held within the Breadalbane Muniments (GD 112) at the National Archives of Scotland, showed. The question - "Where are my troops?"!:

Perth, 24th March 1797


I had the honour to receive your two letters and in answer to the first letter, I wrote the commanding officer mentioning that the most of my party were weavers by trade and some of them were committed to stay until they should find security to finish and work the webs they had in the looms at the time they were inlisted; and indeed the greatest part of them had webs incurring fines at that period, which they were obliged to finish, therefore I could not get them away until all these points were settled; but now I think it will be in my power to march 8 recruits from here on the 28th March to head quarters, and I expect they will arrive there in due time.

I have the honour to be

Sir, your humble servant

Robert McKay,
Sergeant 2nd Battalion, 4th Fencibles

Possibly the threat of a fine was holding him back, but I like to think that William had decided he wasn't going anywhere until he was good and ready!

In another example, when the First World War broke out, my great grandfather elected to remain in Brussels to look after his shoe shop. The decision costs him his life two years later during the occupation, and a family letter states after "what a pity he didn't leave when he could". I can imagine the conversation - "No bloody Bosch is going to make me give up my shop...!"

The Paton Pride seems to have been long established - but how widespread is it?!

Earlier today however, I received an email from someone containing a Daily Telegraph obituary from 1992 for the Reverend David MacDonald Paton, my father's second cousin. David was something of a high flyer within the Anglican Church, some said one of the greatest archbishops the church never had, but he never made it to such a high office, settling instead for a role as one of the present Queen's chaplains for eleven years. The reason for his apparent failure? Here's an extract:

"Yet after 10 years of fine service at Church House - which included acting as an adviser to Archbishop Michael Ramsey, a close personal friend - Paton was denied the senior appointment for which he was so admirably equipped...

"The Archbishops of Canterbury and York pleaded his cause with the Secretary of Appointments at Downing Street and with bishops who had patronage at their disposal. But all to no avail.

"The reason for Paton's failure to secure a cathedral canonry or even deanery is not clear. It was sometimes suggested that he spoke too freely and too frankly..."

Of course, being ex-BBC, I know only too well the dangers of single sources for stories. So, erm - here's the Guardian's take!

"Canon David Paton, who has died at the age of 78, was arguably the most far-sighted English Anglican this century and yet was denied any influential post, let alone a bishopric. Did his outspoken understanding of contemporary issues and his sharp insight into people make him a threat to people responsible for easing round pegs into round holes?"

A potentially definite pattern emerging there then?!

So the Patons of old and far may share the same Y-chromosome, but do we also share the same sense of individuality?

Haha - for my boys, I say "hopefully!" Even if you open your mouths and say something inconvenient to the listener but which you passionately believe in, go for it (just make sure it's legal! lol)

Be yourselves and listen to no man - and long live the Paton Pride!!!


Disclaimer - I can offer no scientific back up to this, but only the perspective of someone equally afflicted with the condition. Secondly, no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post. Thank you!


  1. It's such fun to see those character traits "emerge" as we research our ancestors. As you indicate, it's usually not written in black and white but we can see evidence of it by the actions of our ancestors. Lovely post.

  2. Thanks Nancy. Another trait I seem to be following is receding hair, but I didn't think that would be as interesting! :)