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Finding my Matonga

June 2, 2005

Ruined Abbey at Holyrood

Matonga is a Xhosa word which literally means ‘ancestors’. But it means a lot more: it also means guides, guardian spirits, those who have come before. And like a good African boy, I am always careful to listen to my matonga – although the Western agnostic in me sometimes like to call it ‘intuition’.

So: it was my matonga that told me to leave beautiful, sunny Kalk Bay and come to this rainy, grey island, and more specifically, to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I discover I have deep roots.

My surname is a corruption, or alternate spelling of ‘Pentland’, and sometimes also appears as ‘Paintland’ or ‘Pentelain’. As some of you may know, there are Pentland Hills just outside of Edinburgh. The name itself comes from the no longer extant parish of Pentland, close to the village of Rosslyn, a famous ‘thin place’ where the veil between the worlds is thin, and sight of a famous Templar chapel that appears in the Da Vinci Code.

The Pentland parish (and perhaps its people) were subsumed into the lands of the powerful Norman Sinclair family, which also has strong Templar connections.

Interestingly, the first time the name ‘Pentland’ occurs in written history, it is to record that Adam of that ilk was a monk as Holyrood Abbey, pictured above, and quite coincidentaly just a few metres from where I find myself living today….

But the Enbra roots go deeper: my paternal grandmother was a Moody, and her father owned a sweet shop in Leith, just down the road. And my mother’s surname is Hannay, another lowlands name that has been prominent in this city.

And family tradition links us to the highland Robertson clan.

It’s all very interesting, but I am not sure what it amounts too. But calls of blood aside, i do feel some strange affinity with this place.

I am just waiting to find out why my matonga want me here….

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