The ninth and newest novel in the bestselling Outlander series will feature a new character who is a freed slave called Scipio, one of the stars of the hit TV drama series has revealed.
Actor and storyteller Colin McFarlane, who plays a slave called Ulysses in the STARZ television drama series, told an online genealogy launch event that Diana Gabaldon’s new Outlander novel, Go Tell The Bees that I Am Gone, will feature the new character when it publishes in November.
He also revealed he’s made a new “incredible” discovery about his own family’s links to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Mr McFarlane made the revelation as he helped launch the largest collection of Scottish family history records ever made available online, published by leading UK family history website Findmypast, which is owned by Courier publisher DC Thomson.
The vast new online collection of Old Parish Records has been published in collaboration with local archives and organisations across Scotland.
Drawing comparisons between real life African slave Scipio Kennedy, who served as a slave in Scotland after being taken as a child from Guinea in the 1690s, and Ulysses, the fictional slave he plays in Outlander, Mr McFarlane said: “I spoke to the writer of the Outlander series Diana Gabaldon earlier and unbelievably, in the next Outlander novel, Go Tell The Bees that I Am Gone, which is due out in November, she told me she also has a new character who is another freed slave and unbelievably he’s called Scipio.
“That’s hot off the press as none of the hordes of Outlander fans have got their hands on the book yet!”
Mr McFarlane, who is also known for his role as Gillian B. Loeb in two films of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, and as the voice of Bulgy in the children’s television series Thomas & Friends, admitted that he’s never been able to get further back than his grandparents when researching his own family history.
However, as he celebrated the fact that the newly available Findmypast records will help ensure so much more of Scottish history never dies, he was also excited to reveal that, thanks to Findmypast’s regional licensing and outreach manager Myko Clelland, he’s made an incredible discovery about his own family links between Scotland the Caribbean slave trade.
“I’m excited to say that literally just yesterday having spoken to Myko, and having told him there’s a rumour in the McFarlane family that there was a doctor in the family somewhere, Myko did a little researching,” he told the online audience.
“It’s kind of incredible – I’m kind of freaked out because I’ve never got beyond my grandparents.
“But Myko’s now found there was a Scottish doctor on a plantation in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where my father’s side of the family was from. He’s found his (the doctor’s) name and a little bit of information about him and where he’s from in Scotland.
“We’re going to do a little more research on this! We’ve discovered that he ran his plantation and I think he died on his way back to Scotland in 1837.
“But as you know, all the slaves took the name of their slave owner. So I am directly related to this man which is quite extraordinary.
“After this I can hopefully uncover my own Scottish story whose roots will no doubt not be dissimilar to Ulysses and Scipio, and maybe I might officially be able to call myself a Scot. Who knows!”
Breaking down barriers
Mr McFarlane told how, around a decade ago, he was inspired to set up his Making History charity.
It tasked children in 16 schools across Lincolnshire and London in two pilot programmes to research their family and cultural history with guidance from a team of genealogists and support from Findmypast.
“We asked the children to make a short five minute movie about something they found,” he said, adding that it’s his dream for the approach to become part of every school curriculum.
“The aim of the project was to break down barriers of race, culture, class and gender.
“Through their research they each discovered things about their family and cultural history that many of their parents and grandparents didn’t even know.
“Sharing their stories with each other proved a great way to educate – including tolerance and understanding – and to give them a real sense of pride in who they were.
“Our motto is ‘Everybody has a story’ and even though a lot of the kids didn’t think they’d find one, each and every kid found something to be proud of.”
Myko Clelland of Findmypast, who said he had “goose bumps and tears in his eyes” after hearing Mr McFarlane’s narrations, said the coming together of real life stories like this summed up the collaborative power of making these genealogical records available online.
As reported by The Courier previously, the vast new online collection of Old Parish Records published by Findmypast dates back to 1561 and spans 450 years of Scottish history.
The new collection contains more than 10.7 million historical documents chronicling baptisms, marriages, burials and more.
The vast new online resource will allow family historians across the globe to uncover rare details of their ancestor’s lives and the stories behind major life events.
When combined with Findmypast’s existing collection of Scottish records and historical newspapers, the release firmly establishes the DC Thomson owned company as the home of the largest collection of Scottish family history records available anywhere online, enabling users to explore their Scottish family tree in greater depth and detail than ever before.
It’s the result of Findmypast’s close collaboration with local family history societies, archives and volunteers from across the country.
Thursday night’s launch event also featured Dundee-born Hollywood actor Brian Cox and other guests including genealogist Tahitia McCabe.