is something interesting on red hair in the British Isles.
Robin McKie cites actual genetic research by the People of the British Isles Project showing the frequency of the two variants of the MCR1 gene that are responsible for red hair.
Enter the scientists of the People of the British Isles project: thanks to their efforts, this most distinctive characteristic is now opening up its mysteries for the first time. Testing their white cell samples for two of the half-dozen red-hair versions of the MC1R gene, they were able to show their frequency in each area of the British Isles. The results were intriguing.
Where one is the maximum value, they got figures of 0.16 and 0.23 for the frequencies of red-hair genes in Cornwall and Devon. The frequency in Oxfordshire was 0.07; in Sussex and Kent 0.13; in northeast England 0.11; in Lincolnshire 0.07; and in Cumbria nil. In Wales the figure was 0.21, and in Orkney a high 0.26. But the highest was in Ireland. Using data from other research studies, the team got a figure for Ireland of 0.31, confirmation of the stereotypical image of the red-haired Irishman.
The results are remarkable, as Sir Walter Bodmer, the Oxford geneticist leading the project, acknowledges: “I was amazed at them. I didn’t expect to see something like this.”
The research gives us, for the first time, an insight into the startling numbers of native people who have been described as having red hair in ancient times.
To sum up, these are the frequencies of the two red-hair variants of the MCR1 gene studied by Bodmer and the People of the British Isles Project.Cornwall: 16%
Sussex and Kent: 13%
North East England: 11%
So does Bodmer not consider Scotland as part of the British Isles? I should have thought Scotland would be included in any survey of red-hairedness. Even if the independence referendum in September leads to Scotland severing the link with England, the facts of geography dictate that we will still be part of the British Isles.
I had red hair when I was younger and so did some of my cousins on my mother's side. And good old-fashioned paper-trail genealogy helped me find a possible "culprit" way back in my family-tree. In July 1808 several Scottish newspapers carried a Wanted notice for my errant 3 x great-grandfather Thomas Welsh, and among other things it said that he had "reddish-brown" hair.