Yesterday we talked about the family of the Earl of Grantham from the surprise hit show Downton Abbey. We’re continuing in a similar thread by today looking at the staff of the household. For those wondering, there will be a part III, which I’ll put off until next week to allow you time to recover; that post in question will be looking at the recurring cast of the show.
However, first, we introduced Pt.I with a mention of the creator of the show, Julian Fellowes. It seems fair, therefore to start this post by talking about Shelagh Stevenson who is one of the main writers for the show. Shelagh is likely to be a variant spelling of the name Sheila. The name Sheila herself derives from the Irish name Síle, which is the Irish form of the name Celia; follow that further and you get to Cecilia, which derives from Latin and means blind.
But now, let’s begin with the gentlemen, and the first one to mention is Charles Carson, who is played by Jim Carter. What’s interesting about both men is that their surnames have seen use as first names.
Charles is usually taken as being the English and French form of the German name Karl, which means man. On the other hand, the name Carson is likely of Irish origins, but his exact meaning remains unclear. In 2010, Charles ranked at #62 for boys in England&Wales, whilst Carson ranked at #503.
The name Jim is usually a short form of James – a name which means supplanter. The surname Carter alludes to one who uses a cart. Whilst James ranked at #10 in 2010, Jim ranked at #1620 with just 14 born; he was outranked by both Jimmy (#307) and Jimi (#942).
The actor Jim Carter is married to the rather delightful Imelda Staunton who played Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films. Imelda’s middle names are Mary, Philomena and Bernadette.
Starting at the start of her name and working through in order, we first have Imelda which is both the Spanish and Italian form of the German name Irmhilde, which is derived from the Germanic elements:
- ermen, meaning whole
- hilta, meaning battle
What’s more, together the couple have a daughter named Bessie, which is one of the many offshoots of Elizabeth, another name we discussed yesterday.
Moving on we have the character John Bates, who is played by actor Brendan Coyle. The name John means Yahweh is gracious, whilst Brendan could derive from the Welsh brenin, which means king.
We then have the character of Thomas Barrow, who is played by actor Robert James-Collier. The name Thomas is another popular choice – he currently ranks at #6 – but no doubt many will be unaware that he means twin. Once more, we mentioned Robert yesterday – but in a nutshell the name Robert means bright fame.
The last male staff member we should mention in this post is William Mason. He is played by Thomas Howes. The name William derives from two Germanic elements:
- vilja, meaning will
- helm, meaning helmet
Moving on to the female members of the staff, we start with Elsie Hughes, played by actress Phyllis Margaret Logan. The name Elsie is the second name we’ve come across in this post alone which derives as a short form of Elizabeth. The name Phyllis we very recently mentioned in a post on old people names, and if you missed it, the name means leaf/leaves/foliage. I’m pretty sure we mentioned Margaret as well in Pt.II, although I will tell you that she means pearl.
Moving slightly away from the Yorkshire home of Downton Abbey, the actress Phyllis Logan was born in Paisley which I’ve recently seen considered for/given to girls. As well as being a place name, it is also the name for a pattern which derived from the town of the same name; Paisley is closely associated with Scotland. The origins of the name Paisley likely lie in the Irish word baslec, which means church. And as for Logan, it heralds from Ireland and means hollow.
Our second female member of staff is Sarah O’Brien, who is played by Siobhan Finneran. The name Sarah is well known to mean princess in Hebrew, whilst Siobhan is the Irish Gaelic form of the name Jane/Joan, both of which derive from the name John we we’ve already mentioned above.
The actress Siobhan is married to one Mark Jordan and together they have two children: Joseph and Poppy – two more names we’ve mentioned recently, but in two different posts. Joseph came up yesterday, whilst Poppy came up last week. The meaning of Poppy is clear, and she ranks at #16. The name Joseph means he will add, and the name ranks at a pretty similar #15.
Next we have Anna Smith who is played by Joanne Froggatt. The name Anna is usually taken as being derived from Ann, whilst Ann herself is usually taken to come from Hannah – which would therefore mean that the name means grace. Joanne is a variant of Joan, mentioned above.
Still with me? Gwen Dawson is one of the household’s housemaids along with Ethel Parks. Gwen is a delightful Welsh name and female form of Gwyn – but she is often seen as a nickname for Gwendolen or even Guinevere. The name Gwyn means white, pure, blessed. Then we have Ethel, which appeared in the same post as the aforementioned Phyllis. The name Ethel derives from Old English and means noble.
As for the actresses, Gwen is played by Rose Eleanor Leslie and Ethel is played by Amy Nuttall. When it comes to the former, both her first and middle names are in the England&Wales Top 100: Rose at #90 and Eleanor at #61. The name Leslie started off life as a Scottish surname, and thus probably derives from Scottish gaelic and means garden holly. Once upon a time, the name Leslie was all-boy. It’s worth noting however that in 2010, there were only 8 girls called Lesley born – and not enough girls named Leslie for that particular spelling to rank. However, on the other side of the fence, 10 male Leslies were born in England&Wales.
One of our last characters to mention is Beryl Patmore, who is played by Lesley Nicol. The name Beryl coincides with the name of a precious gem and just 6 girls were given the name in 2010.
And last, but by no means least, we have Daisy Robinson, played by actress Sophie McShera. Both names are quite popular these days in England&Wales: Daisy ranks at #15 and Sophie ranks at #2. The name Sophie comes from Greek and means wisdom.