No, not that one – step away from that Daily Mail. If you’re into aviation history, you may well have come across this guy – Austrian Luftwaffe officer Gordon Gollob – high-scoring ace and all-around Nazi tool. Comment has been made online and in books about his supposed Scots ancestry – perhaps just for the novelty value, or because we enjoy the thrill/scare of fascism brought close to home. If a Scotsman or other Briton could fight for the Nazis, so could we have. Anyway, before veering off into pop psychology, what interests me about Gollob is that to reinforce this pedigree, he’s claimed to have a Scottish name, as I read whilst lurking on the militaryphotos.net forum recently. The name, if not the genetics, struck me immediately as unlikely.
Ronald wasn’t the only one…
Starting with the ‘Gordon’ – this is emphatically a Scots name, and if his father really were a Scot as has been claimed, he could have chosen it for him. In this source, I take “nice Scottish name” to refer to this rather than the improbable surname that set me investigoogling. ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ Gollob sounds like no Scots name I’ve ever heard or seen. For this to hold true, ‘Gollob’ would also have to have been a Scots or Scots Gaelic name (Mc or Mac meaning of course ‘son of’). No matter how you check using Google (or Google books), Gollob or McGollob or MacGollob doesn’t come up in association with Scots or Scotland. It does however feature in pages about Germans, Austrians, Poles, and other continental/central Europeans. This should not surprise us, since Gollob and both of his parents (including his ‘Scottish’ father) were actually born and bred in Austria.
I was becoming convinced that the ‘Mc’ was just a nickname, perhaps bestowed by his fighter pilot pals, intended to riff on his Scots Christian name in a more obvious and stereotypical way. An exaggeration for comedic effect, maybe even to take the piss out of his mixed ancestry. But it seems that there may well be more to it. Supported by the bio in my previous link, this book claims that;
“The ‘Mc’ in McGollob was not part of a Caledonian family name, but a highly unusual Christian name bestowed upon the young Gollob by his parents. They were both Austrian artists who named their son after an American friend, Gordon Mallet Mc Couch [sic – should be ‘McCouch‘]”
So not only is the ‘Mc’ spurious, the whole name was made up – and not by a Scottish father, nor even (as far as I can tell) in honour of any Scots ancestor!
It’s not that there weren’t any Nazis with verifiable Scottish heritage – there were. Well, at least one. Douglas Pitcairn was another Nazi officer with an undeniable (if relatively distant) Scottish heritage. He just doesn’t attract the same level of interest as ‘Mc’ – perhaps because he wasn’t even an ‘ace’, having just 4 victories to Gollob’s 150. In any case, what does ancestry actually tell us about these people? In what meaningful sense would they be ‘Scottish nazis’?Does it reflect upon Scotland, or the UK in any way? Does it (or, say, the Indian Waffen-SS) make the Nazis fans of cultural diversity, or otherwise less nasty? No. All it really tells us is that hate, prejudice, snappy dressing and mad air-gunnery skillz are no respecters of heredity.