the greatest of all the kings of the Scots of Dalriad, a kingdom which
formed what is now Argyleshire, was the son of Gabran, or Gay-ran, and
succeeded to the throne in 575, on the death of his cousin, Conal I. He
reigned twenty-four years, according to the celebrated Duan, a
Gaelic poem supposed to have been written by the court-bard of Malcolm the
third; or thirty-four by the old lists. Duncan the son of Conal seems to
have contested the kingdom with him, but he was defeated and slain in
battle at a place called Loro in Kintyre. Pinkerton thinks that the
Duan dates the commencement of his reign from his unction as king,
which Columba long deferred, having a preference for Aidan’s brother
Eogenan or Eugain. The Duan calls him "Aidan of the extended
territories," and he certainly carried the Dalriadic power to a height
from which it ever after declined, till Kenneth II. ascended the Pictish
throne, in 836, and united the Picts and the Scots.
In 579 the
battle of Onc against Aidan is mentioned in the annals of Ulster, and in
581 the battle of Ma-nan, (O’Flaherty says, the Isle of Mann,) in which he
was victor. He also conquered in the battle of Miathorum, or Lethrigh, in
589. In the following year he was at the famous council of Drumkeat in the
diocese of Derry in Ulster, consisting of kings, peers, and clergy,
summoned by Aid, king of Ireland, in which council Aidan procured the
remission of all homage due by the kings of Dalriad to those of Ireland.
In 594 Aidan’s brother Eugain died. In 603, Aidan, who is styled by Bede,
"the king of the Scots who inhabited Britain," marched against Ethelfrid,
king of Northumbria, "with an immense and strong army," but was conquered,
and fled with a few. "Forasmuch as," says Bede, "in the most famous place
which is called Degsastone, almost all his army was cut to pieces: In
which fight also Theobold, brother of Ethelfrid, with all that army which
he himself commanded, was killed." The place where this disastrous battle
was fought is now unknown, but it is conjectured by Bishop Gibson to have
been Dalston near Carlisle, or as Bishop Nicolson supposes, Dawston near
Jedburgh. Aidan died in 605, in Kintyre, at an advanced age, and was
buried at Kilcheran. where no king was ever buried before. If the date of
his death be correct, he reigned just thirty years. He was succeeded by
his son Achy, or Achaius, or Eochoid-buidhe (Eochy the yellow) who reigned
for seventeen years. Another son, Conan, was drowned in 622. He had
several younger sons. His brother Brandubius was king of Leinster—See
Pinkerton’s Enquiry, vol. 2. page 113, and Ritson’s Annals of the
Caledonians, Picts, and Scots, vol. 2, page 39.
AIDAN, bishop of
or Holy Island, in the seventh century, was originally a monk in the
monastery of lona, and is said by some to have been a native of Ireland.
By his zeal, a large portion of the northern part of England was converted
to Christianity. In 634, when Oswald became king of the Angli of
Northumberland, he sent to Scotland for a missionary, to instruct his
subjects in the doctrines and duties of Christianity. Aidan was
accordingly consecrated a bishop, and sent to the court of Oswald, and by
his advice, the episcopal see was removed from York, where it had been
fixed by Gregory the Great, to Lindisfarne, a peninsula adjoining the
Northumbrian coast, by a narrow isthmus, called also Holy Island, because
it was chiefly inhabited by monks. Here Aidan exercised an extensive
jurisdiction, and preached the gospel with great success; deriving
encouragement and assistance in his labour from the condescending services
of the king himself.
On Oswald being
killed in battle, Aidan continued to govern the church of Northumberland
under his successors, Oswin and Oswy, who reigned jointly. The following
extraordinary instance of the bishop’s liberality to the poor is related.
Having received a present from King Os-win of a fine horse and rich
housings, he met with a beggar, and dismounting, gave him the horse thus
caparisoned. When the king expressed some displeasure at this singular act
of humanity, and the slight put upon his favour, Aidan quaintly but
forcibly asked, "Which do you value most, the son of a mare, or the son of
God?"—the king fell upon his knees and entreated the bishop’s forgiveness.
The death of Oswin so much affected him, that he survived him only twelve
days, and died in August 1651. He was buried in the church of Lindisfarne.