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Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 238

The ancients were not very close observers of physical characteristics. They describe the Celts in almost exactly the same terms as those which they apply to the Germanic races. Dr. Rice Holmes is of opinion that the real difference, physically, lay in the fact that the fairness of the Germans was blond, and that of the Celts red. In an interesting passage of the work already quoted (p. 315) he observes that, “Making every allowance for the admixture of other blood, which must have considerably modified the type of the original Celtic or Gallic invaders of these islands, we are struck by the fact that among all our Celtic-speaking fellow subjects there are to be found numerous specimens of a type which also exists in those parts of Brittany which were colonised by British invaders, and in those parts of Gaul in which the Gallic invaders appear to have settled most thickly, as well as in Northern Italy, where the Celtic invaders were once dominant; and also by the fact that this type, even among the more blond representatives of it, is strikingly different, to the casual as well as to the scientific observer, from that of the purest representatives of the ancient Germans. The well-known picture of Sir David Wilkie, ‘Reading of the Waterloo Gazette,’ illustrates, as Daniel Wilson remarked, the difference between the two types. Put a Perthshire Highlander side by side with a Sussex farmer. Both will be fair; but the red hair and beard of the Scot will be in marked contrast with the fair hair of the Englishman, and their features will differ still more markedly. I remember teeing two gamekeepers in a railway carriage running from Inverness to Lairey. They were tall, athletic, fair men, evidently belonging to the Scandinavian type, which, as Dr. Beddoe says, is so common in the extreme north of Scotland; but both in colouring and in general aspect they were utterly different from the tall, fair Highlanders whom I had seen in Perthshire. There was not a trace of red in their hair, their long beards being absolutely yellow. The prevalence of red among the Celtic-speaking people is, it seems to me, a most striking characteristic. Not only do we find eleven men in every hundred whose hair is absolutely red, but underlying the blacks and the dark browns the lame tint is to be discovered.”


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