Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 24 03:22:32 UTC 2012

The spelling "Findrum" is not listed under "Finnan" in OED. Yet, it is
quite common and directly associated with the fishing town/village of
Findhorn, at the mouth of Findhorn River in Moray. Yet, the very first
quote--a Fergusson poem--uses this spelling. There is a catch--Findrum
is /always/ associated with "spelding" or "speldings". Every reference
that I found in 18th-19th century sources only talks of Findrum
speldings. ("Speldings" is the split and dried fish, mostly haddock and
whiting, as opposed to fish that's dried whole, or "lucken".)

In fact, this is the case in the Fergusson poem (Leith Races), which is
only partially quoted in the OED entry:

> The Buchan bodies thro' the beech
> Their bunch of /Findrums/ cry,
> An' skirl out banl', in Norland speech,
> "Guid speldigs, fa will buy."

I did find occasional "Findon speldings", as early as 1808, but not
"Finnan speldings". Finnan appears to be entirely reserved for "haddock"
or "haddie". There is some considerable "dispute" (actually, no one but
the OED has a dispute--they always choose one or the other) as to the
origin of Finnan haddie (peat-smoked haddock). Many 19th century sources
pin it on the village of Findon, about 6 miles due south from Aberdeen
center. Others identify it with the aforementioned Findhorn. As I said,
the OED etymology note is the only one that juxtaposes them:

> A place-name used /attrib./ apparently originally the name of the
> river /Findhorn/ , or of a place so called on its banks; but confused
> with /Findon/ , the name of a village in Kincardineshire

In fact, this is wrong. Findon, being only 6 miles from Aberdeen, is
firmly in Aberdeenshire. There is not a single source that I found that
places it in Kincardineshire. Even with administrative boundaries
changing over time, I don't believe it was /ever/ in Kincardineshire.
The location is quite clearly identified in a number of encyclopedias
and gazetteers of the early 19th century.

I have no particular evidence, as of this moment, one way or the other,
between Findon and Findhorn. Generally, as a matter of history,
peat-smoked fish has been common in the entire region between Inverness
and Aberdeen and most fishing communities around Aberdeen had been known
to sell their own smoked fish as "Finnan haddock" or "Finnan haddie".
The number of references to Findon and Findhorn between 1808 and 1834 is
roughly equal, perhaps with slight advantage to Findhorn (but that
mostly because of multiple editions of a couple of cookbooks). Walter
Scott referred to Findhorn. It is /after/ 1834 that the references skew
heavily to Findon, although references to Findhorn, as the source, still
pop up periodically. The reason for the shift is quite simple. Londoners
and the rest of Britain became familiar with Finnan haddock from
Aberdeen. The smoked fish could only be stored between one and three
days before spoilage, unless it was further smoked and dried, which
turned it into something else entirely. Even mail coaches along
established routes could barely get samples of the fish further South,
let alone to London. This changed, however, with construction of
railroads. But, since the connection was to Aberdeen and the local lore
associated the fish with Findon, so did the printed sources. Findhorn,
which used to be an important fishing and trade center, had been
essentially ignored.


PS: I am still collecting sources, but it does not look promising, at
this point. The sources simply do not go far enough back to make a
determination. Wiki suggests that smoked fish was being eaten in
Aberdeen as far back as 1640s. So what? Fish has been smoked in other
parts of the world far longer. The question concerns specifically Finnan
haddie and there is little printed evidence of any kind prior to the
last quarter of the 18th century. I am wondering what the OED is using
as a source for its etymological determination (clearly, it can't be all
correct, if it identifies Findon as being in Kincardineshire). If anyone
has or comes across any further resources, please let me know.

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