Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Michael Carberry en route to Ashes selection
If Fantasy Bob is reading the runes correctly – and this is a big if, since Rune Reading is not among his higher level skill set – the start of the Ashes series this week will see Michael Carberry open the England innings alongside Alistair Cook. Carberry, in some eyes a surprise selection for the tour, has justified his place by showing exceptional form in the warm up matches. FB wishes him well and hopes that his golden run of form continues.

In the whole history of the world, Michael Carberry is the only Carberry to strut the stage of first class cricket, since it is not a common name. But Scottish cricketers should take interest - in particular those from East Lothian.

For reference books suggest the name is derived from the place name in East Lothian, itself derived from the Gaelic craobh, tree and barran, hedge. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. There is no suggestion that Michael is an East Lothian lad made good – otherwise Scotland’s fortunes in the World T20 qualifiers might be in a more favourable position.

Carberry Tower
FB could have been a Carberry. Many years ago, when Mrs FB was trenchant in her wish to embrace rural living, she prevailed upon FB to inspect a property close by the grounds of Carberry Tower in East Lothian.  True to its etymology, there were quite a lot of trees and hedges about.  But for some reason or other, which is lost in the mists of FB’s waning memory, the property did not meet her meticulous standards and her interest was taken no further.

However had FB taken up residence there, and had he subsequently moved he might have adopted the late mediaeval habit and named himself after the place. In that event, Michael Carberry might still be the only Carberry to grace the first class game but he would surely have taken strength (if not inspiration) from such a namesake in the lower levels of the game.  

Carberry Tower is now an hotel. When FB and Mrs FB were prospective neighbours it was still in the hands of the Church of Scotland who ran the place as a spiritual retreat, a sort of deep fine leg for those exhausted by fielding close to the wicket in everyday life.

While there is no evidence that the excitements of cricket ever came to the Carberry location, it was not always so tranquil as in its Church of Scotland days. For in June 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, faced an army assembled by a confederation of her Lords. The Lords were displeased with their Queen over her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, whom they suspected of complicity in the murder of his immediate predecessor in the Queen’s favour. She surrendered herself on promise of Bothwell’s safe conduct into exile and after a night in Carberry Tower was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle and then Loch Leven. A monument commemorating the incident, the Queen's Mount, still stands nearby.

East Lothian’s cricketers may also find of interest that while the Carberry lands were first mentioned in the 11th Century when they were granted to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey by King David 1, the first owner of the tower itself was the Johnstone family. Changes in spelling aside, Mitchell Johnson may be a descendant of this family and Michael Carberry may care to bring this ancestral memory to mind this when he takes his guard against the left arm paceman.

It may be however that it is cricketer Carberry’s name which has suffered from a spelling change. In which case the intensity of interest of cricketers of East Lothian in his progress may diminish.

For the name Carbery - spelt with one r rather than 2 - is held to be an Anglicized form of the Irish O'Cairbre or MacCairbre, meaning son of Cairbre. Some big brained authority on these matters suggests that Cairbre means a charioteer.  Son of a charioteer is a fine name for anyone.  Carbery was also an Irish Earldom, although the title is now extinct.  The 3rd Earl of Carbery was Governor of Jamaica between 1675-78 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  He may well have come from a long line of charioteers but he appears not to have been a cricketer of any note, cricket not being played in Jamaica at that time.

The only Carbery (and he did use that spelling not being of East Lothian extraction) who FB has known was not a cricketer either.  He is however a raconteur of some distinction and has recently collected many of his stories in a couple of published volumes.  Regrettably cricket does not feature among these many fine tales.

Should his misspelt namesake prosper he may have to revisit this oversight.
Not a cricket book

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