What’s in a Name?

Someone asked me this week the origin of my last name: Oliff. I find it easy sometimes to just say that it’s some old Norwegian name harking back to the time of the Vikings, followed by some attempt at wit about long ships and pillage. My mother was from Scotland, arriving in Corby sometime during the late thirties with her mother, four other Nimmo siblings, a chest of drawers, a welsh dresser and enough hope and dreams to fill an entire future. My dad, who was a carpenter, had arrived from Essex looking for work in the new steel town but with nowhere to live. Well, to cut a long story short, he married the landlady’s daughter and, hey presto, here I am. The name Oliff did indeed originate from Scandinavia at a time when all the Viking nations spoke in the tongue of old Icelandic. The name then was Oleifr or Olafr. Anyway, our lot arrived between the islands of Lewis and Harris off the west coast of Scotland on a white sandy beach at Uig, and once the boats were burned they began to claim the land as their own. They didn’t ask for the land: they took it by force. Some stayed in the Hebrides and others headed off south. After many years the Hebredean lot had transformed into what is known today as the MacAulay Clan of Lewis. The southerners eventually, after settling in various parts of England, became, after a great deal of history, the Oliff’s. It is for this reason that I would feel wholly unjustified in criticising anyone who may choose to come from another part of the world to make the Corby borough, or anywhere else in Britain their home. In some way or another, allowing for the odd exception, we are all descendants of immigrants to these shores. They came from Lower Saxony or the Jutland Peninsula, from France and all across Scandinavia. Then, during different periods in our history, the first being the British Empire the second the European Union, we have seen further huge increases in Immigration and careful management of the current situation is essential. Yet two questions remain: are these people any different from those of our ancestors? And, based on our own heritage, why should anyone have the right to treat an immigrant to Britain any differently to ourselves? The majority of law abiding people that have decided to work and live legally in Britain have done so peacefully, often to the benefit of our economy. Remember, it was ancestors like mine, or perhaps yours that took this country by systematic brutal force. So, tell me, what are the origins of your last name?

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