Loch Etive and The Sons of Uisnach
Chapter I - Dunn Add
"They passed away from
With the splendour of swiftness,
To dwell by valour
In the land of the country beyond Ile" (Islay).
* From the additions,
Irish and Pictish, to Historic Britonum. Skene's Translation. Said
of the Picts from Ireland.
Loudon.—We shall sail
to the fastnesses of the sons of Uisnach, and to the islands where
they hunted and fished. We shall visit the woods and bays which they
frequented, and speak of their history, the romance of their doings,
their well-known traditions, and the fancies relating to them. And
this I at least do, not merely because of them, for after all they
are little known, and much, if not all, is in uncertainty; but they
are links of union with early days, and they present a human
interest with which to adorn our mountains. We rejoice in the hills,
but have too little to say of them. Their natural features are
large. We like some thoughts that lead us more into details, and
besides on a holiday we require easy thoughts, and these seem for
most men, and certainly for most women, such as refer to persons. By
linking our wild hills to the history of persons, we have a mode of
enjoying them and a reason for loitering among them, and if we
search out the homes of the legendary names, we have places to visit
more interesting than the best of modern houses. But still, as I was
taught, I also take a delight in our Highland hills for themselves,
and in our Highland air. The Highland archaeology supplies grave
studies, and even labour, when we return home. The sail to Oban is
rapid, and through scenery too beautiful for such swift steamers,
and I propose that we stay at Crinan.
all places on the route, Crinan I would have chosen last. Everybody
leaves it as soon as possible. There is a rush from canal-boat to
sea-boat and dinner, and are five minutes not enough for its little
pier and the general waste around it?
sorry to hear this. I wish you had known and remembered the great
cauldron that cooked for as many persons as were to dine there, and
gave everybody enough and according to his requirements. No place in
the world was better supplied with food ; hunger was less there than
anywhere else, with a few similar exceptions in Ireland; and, if
things have changed, at least sympathise with the past, even if its
greatness has departed.
Sheena — Oh!
that alters the case. I thought Crinan had no romance, and people
fancy it has no beauty; is it not common-place in appearance?
means. Row after row of islands defend it from the Atlantic, large
and little, rugged and flat, whilst rocks innumerable rise out of
the waves, and dangerous currents frighten the reason. They are
ramparts and guardians for many quiet bays and towns, whilst their
various forms are themselves a wild story and a constant wonder.
Steamboats and hotels do not make it easy to dwell there Ion-, but
we shall stay a little, and even the sons of Uignach will not hurry
us, since we shall halt at the earliest seat of the Dalriad Scots,
and look at their first fortress also, which is passed unheeded as a
mere stony heap, instead of the beginning of a great history.
not know that it had a history.
may be sure that the English Government that made the canal were not
the first who found the value of this narrow passage from sea to
sea, nor were the present Scots the first to see that a fine palace
might be built in this valley: many a one must have come from the
raging sea outside, which cannot reach Crinan until it spends its
force upon Mull, rages on the Islands of Saints, roars through
Corrievrecan, and calms itself down at the Dorus Mor—the "Great
Door." The Dalriad Scots came from Ireland here and settled. I dare
say some of them knew the way long before. We can imagine the
expedition avoiding Cantire and Jura, as there is a long line of
coast which would too clearly show their coming. I dare say they
knew also that had they taken earlier landing places on the mainland
they would have been as much isolated as if in islands, for the long
peninsula of Cantire stretches far south, and is the inner
breakwater of the calm and cheerful Clydesdale seas. West Loch
Tarbert would entice them, but they probably thought that which a
later king asserted, that the narrowness of the isthmus made the
land an island. At any rate we shall imagine the Dalriads sailing to
Crinan from Mull, and one of their earliest establishments was on
that island ; we can think of them avoiding the rough rocks outside
Scarba and the violent currents, and coming down south of
Eilean-na-naoimh to look for a calmer opening between Scarba and
Jura, and finding a whirlpool. And we can imagine them shouting with
no small fear, "This is Corrievrecan" (Corrie Bhrecain). Brecan was
the son of an Irish king, and he had nothing to do with this coast,
but when he was sailing between Ballycastle and Rathlin he got
entangled in the terrible sea commotion or whirlpool there, and went
down with his ships and men. It was then named after him. The name
of the Scotch Corrie must have been given to it by men familiar with
the Irish one, and about the Dalriadic times Brecan was fresh in the
minds of men from the Nest. St. Columba knew of King Brecan, and had
an interest in him, since it is told of him that one day, when
sailing through that rough passage at Rathlin, the wind made such
terrible troughs in the sea that he saw the bottom of it, and bones
lying there, and it was revealed to him that these were the bones of
Brecan and his companions. The saint was glad and prayed for their
souls, and he had the pleasure of seeing the soul of Brecan rise
before him at once from purgatory up to heaven. The death of Brecan
was in 440.
This whirlpool would
frighten the Dalriads, and they would turn north again and try to
make their way among the numberless little islands and rocky points
that defend the entrance to Crinan, and we can imagine the next
shout to be much more cheerful, "This is the way," "this is the
door," and to this day we go in to the bay by the Dorus mor.
We may imagine Fergus the son of Erc coming in this way, and Gabhran
after him going backwards and forwards, and still more, Aedan making
permanent the settlement and keeping his power in the islands. We
must imagine few at first, since the valley is small.
But do not suppose
that they landed on a desert or lived in peace; if so, you are far
wrong. We shall get a boat here, and good rowers will in a few
minutes take us over to Duntroon, that old castle which was built by
a branch of the Campbells in later but still in dangerous times. Now
a peaceful clergyman has brought his southern learning gained among
people then unknown here, but when the Scots landed we have no
reason to believe that any building occupied that spot. In those
days the people could not build a wall closely knit and standing
perpendicularly on a bare steep rock. They went farther back, and
there in the wood we shall find the remains of their fortress in the
form of numerous vitrified heaps in the direst confusion. The
invaders would see a black wall on the hills, the stones of the
lower part melted sufficiently together to keep them united; having
no mortar to bind them the builders resorted to fusion; and having
no tools probably to cut them into shape or to quarry great masses,
they used the pieces as they found them and thus bound them
together. It was not easy to vitrify the wall to a great height, and
they probably raised it higher than the vitrified part by masses of
loose stones forming a dry dyke which would enclose small stone
buildings. The lesser people would live outside in huts built
sometimes with loose stones only, and sometimes with interwoven
branches or wickerwork.
should like to know the names of the people and the places, and what
kind of people lived in vitrified forts.
ask difficult questions, but I suppose Picts lived here—Cruithne.
The vitrified forts seem to have come from the north-east of
Scotland to the west, and to have made an inroad into Ulster, but
only for a little way. It was a curious invention, and it may have
been obtained from other countries. There is a fine one in Bohemia,
but whether men came to commence it in Scotland from the Continent
we do not know; it is most probable.
the people were Picts I should have expected them to live in Picts'
towers, and is it not the case that Mr. Anderson of the Scottish
Society of Antiquaries speaks of seven of these towers or brochs at
Craignish close to Crinan?
but he says also that we cannot go beyond the fifth century for
them, and if they began in the north and east they would take some
time to come south and west. Now Fergus came only at the end of the
fifth century, and probably did not see these forts, which were a
new step, an advance on the vitrified. At any rate there are the
remains of a vitrified fort, and we hear of no Picts' towers in the
same valley. But the Picts may have continued near; we know that as
a nation they were not for a long time conquered, and we can readily
suppose them bringing in the new style of building for their
defence. The Dalriadic kings did not adopt the broch, but some of
the chiefs may have used it; still we may fairly picture the
invaders looking at the black line of the old fort with its half
melted wall, and the few people living in comparative abundance on
the chase, with protection from storms in their abundant material,
and protection from cold in an ample supply of wood and peat. We
might even say more by help from Irish analogous living, but we must
not imagine too much, and I dare say you would like to hear how the
should like first to know what the people were like.
think we shall speak of them some day when we have more time, but I
may say by the way that they were mixed even then. Do not suppose
that the world began with the people immediately before the Dalriads,
or magnify the events of this little part of our world. There are
dark people in Argyle, and most are either dark or inclined to dark,
but there are light also; now the greatest inroad known to us of
people from north and cast has been of the light class. This, I
think, is a sufficient reason for believing that there were dark
you said they were mixed, meaning, I suppose, that there were light
people also even then.
I said so, and for one simple reason. The Caledonians of the
North-East are said by Tacitus to have been light, or at least
red-haired, and as it is evident that north-eastern habits,
especially as to building, came to Argyle, it is probable that the
people sent specimens of themselves also. Besides, Celtic Ireland
was peopled in the earliest times by light and dark people, as we
shall see some day, and the opposite coast much resembled it in
population in all probability—we might say certainty. There were
small men in Ireland and large; it is probable that there were so
here also then as now, but this is less easily shown. The existence
of the small is considered certain by most, but whence came the
large? We cannot suppose that the small changed rapidly; we must
bring in a tall and dark people.
do you think they were exactly as now?
in the same proportion. We have not decided what the Picts were
like. The people of Ulster had been communicating with Ireland
before the time we speak of, and even if there had been a pure
Pictish race in Argyle at one time, it would have become mixed. But
the dark and small race were very numerous at the time in Ireland,
under the name of Firbolgs, and they seem to have come over to the W
'est of Scotland also. The Irish traditions would lead us to think
of other races of Ireland keeping a close communication with
Scotland. Cuchullin, for example, is said to have gone to Skye for
education. There may have been as the chief people in Argyle the
Picts or at least Cruithne, and a considerable mixture. These Picts
are not to be supposed as all coining immediately from the North of
Scotland. They had a settlement in Ireland, from whence they went to
Galloway, and they are well known as opponents of the Romans farther
south. Where they came from we do not know, but they had a peculiar
dialect, which Mr. Skene has investigated from the few words
remaining, concluding it to be somewhat between Gaelic and Cymric.
If we want to picture to ourselves these Cruithne we shall find many
difficulties. Scottish folklore makes the "Pechs" small men, but
perhaps this does not deserve attention. Had the whole of the
Pictish region been peopled by small Firbolgs—called by some
Iberians—more traces would have been left. Even the fearfully
murderous times that the Norsemen brought and continued long could
not have destroyed them all. If so, the Norsemen would have left
only themselves, and we do not find such proofs of extirpation; on
the contrary, we find in the very Pictish Northern regions a tall
people with long faces and abundant specimens of dark hair, which
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark could not brighten or redden, although
there is everywhere a tinge of red, reminding of old Caledonians.
These red Caledonians had made advances in civilization. Four
hundred years previously, according to Pytheas, no such men had
appeared in the North of Scotland. They were invaders evidently. A
proverb in Lorn says, "Better to be brown haired than black, better
to be black than fair (ban), better to be fair than red, better to
be red than bald (carrach), better to be bald than headless." I can
only say that I think the races at Crinan were mixed, but the Picts
dominant; this is not proved.
however that may be, we must suppose them to be on the shore as we
are, and the old black fort frowning upon them. If Duntroon is
Dunt-Sroine—the "Dun of the point" or nose—the old fort would not be
have told us of the fort and the people. Was the land the same as
fear the sea has made some inroad, as the plain was called the great
moss or great peat bog, and this is probably in part washed away,
and in being washed there would be a great deal of black muddy
looking material, which caused later men to call it Poltalloch or
the dirty pool. Then there has been found on the plain a stone
coffin the bottom being 45 feet above the mean sea level, according
to Mr. J. Lawson, R.E. The place appears to me swampy, and one would
imagine they would not bury there unless in haste, whereas this was
not a hasty burial, and, on the contrary, seems one of the most
careful, as there are carvings of hatchets, flint or otherwise
without handles, and lines very like Oghams, on the stone. This
would point to the spot being at least as dry at the time as now,
and not being washed by the sea. The Oghams are imperfect, and it
has been doubted if they are Oghams, but this is probably because
the people who try cannot read them. Still this burial may have been
rather later than the time spoken of, and the argument is imperfect.
[See account by the Rev. R. J. Mapleton.]
Enough to say that
the evidence points to a little change of shore from very early
times, but to no geological upheaval having taken place. We may
suppose this grave to have been made when Oghams were in use, but
written badly in this distant place. If they went out in the west of
Britain, as Professor Rhys thinks, in the eighth or ninth century,
they must have been in use some centuries before, probably in some
places, later. Styles did not change rapidly in early times,, and
languages change slowly in all times; a few cases excepted, for
there really are exceptions.
have not told us where they landed.
must of course imagine, but when the black fort was on the left, we
may be sure that the invaders would take the right side. No army
would land under the natives' stronghold if it could find a safer
place. They would land at Crinan or as far up the stream as
circumstances allowed, and so take solid possession of lodging room.
The land is rugged; there are many pleasant knolls giving good
shelter, but suited only for a small army, and the men could run up
the side of the river, keeping near the present canal line. They
would thus take the rugged side of the glen and look towards their
enemies on the warmer, sunnier, and better cultivated side. It was
fitter for cultivation then as now from natural position. And so we
can imagine them working their way round. After having made
considerable progress they settled.
there not a conical hill near the modern house, called, perhaps, by
an old Christian name—Kilmahonig, at Crinan, and having an
appearance of stones placed round like a moat hill or a Thing.
know what you mean — it seems to me rather like the works of nature
as they are in the district, but I did not examine, and at any rate
Thingvollr is Norse, and if the cone be of that class it would be
much after the time of our Hibernian friends. And now I wish you to
allow that even then the country must have been beautiful—it is so
now and it was so seven centuries ago, and we must suppose it so
five centuries earlier. An Irish poet says of Scotland in the
"Beloved to me—it is
natural to me,
Are the beautiful woods of Alban.
Though strange, I love dearer still
This tree from the woods of Erin."
This was written by
Mac Conmidhe when on a mission to Scotland: he preferred the one
tree or stick from Ireland to all the fine woods of the eastern
land. [O'Curry and O'Sullivan, Manners and Customs of the Ancient
Irish, vol. III., p. 272.]
will let you have your way there, as it may be right, but if
Duntroon is an old name it might be made to mean the fort of the
Druids, and Crinati or Grianan or Grecnan, the sun-place, the place
where the sun was worshipped. The name may have included all the
valley, and these great stones towards Kilmartin may have been the
suppose you know that you are talking heresy. I wish I could make
out something so clear. It is by some believed that there were not
any real Druids in Scotland, but the word with its compounds is well
known, and we may talk of it some day. At present, however, you may
be reminded that although Greenan, pronounced Creenan, means really
a sunny place, it is used for the bright part of a building, the
pleasant part of the residence 'where the lady presided, and
indicates an important dwelling or palace, so that we do not require
to imagine it to refer to more than to the fort opposite, as that is
near enough to give a name to the whole. Still your idea is a
pleasant fancy; one likes to think of the religion of a people. In
it we learn the character, the very inner souls of the men; and your
remark. throws around the place a still greater air of romance and
of mystery. However, I fear that your derivation of Duntroon is too
strained to assist us in forming a true picture. It may be added,
not as an argument, that the invaders, however pagan in their
notions, were by profession, I suppose, all Christians; not so the
people who were invaded.
in any case these invaders landed, and they brought their mode of
building with them, and on the top of that rough and rocky isolated
Add they built a dun. Perhaps Add was the name of the
river then, and the fort would be called after it. Celts are fertile
in etymology and they could derive the word from adh, law
and joy in their language, but this might not be in any way
true; in so far as I see, it might have been called from adhbha,
a palace, or from Aedh, son of the king to be spoken of, or better,
the king himself, Acdan, the son of Gabran, the true founder of the
Dalriad kingdom, as Skene says. It is also called Dunat and Dunaet,
which does not contradict the last and natural derivation. ' re can
and we must imagine some hard fighting with the people of the
vitrified fort some two miles distant, and many must have been
There were at any
rate two parties at the time we are speaking of. The pleasant valley
which is now well cultivated would for a while be divided between
them, and on the Dun Add side we see great and tall standing stones.
If these were erected by the invaders, they would not be for
worship; indeed, it is the opinion at present that all such stones
were memorials of the dead. When large, in long lines, or even in
very great circles, it has long been imagined that something more
was intended, although this belief is not at present in fashion.
Pre-christian worship existed in some form, although we know not
much on the subject. Stones were with certainty connected with it.
Old notices sufficiently authentic show this superstition in France,
and the very oldest notices in Ireland indicate the same. I know of
nothing equally clear from Alba, although there are signs of it, and
beliefs existed in the time of Hector Boece that the large circles
were not private graves merely.
We shall go up the
valley on the west, but we move only a little before coming to the
great modern mansion of Poltalloch. This name is supposed to
stigmatise the plain below, but it has a fine sound whatever be its
meaning. Here it stands, a fine object in the valley, with a fine
park and many trees encircling the prospect. Behind it on the bare
rock there are some of those strange carvings called cups and
circles ; the first are little round depressions cut on the stone,
the second sometimes single, sometimes several concentric; sometimes
the cups arc connected by straight lines; the like are to be seen in
various Celtic places, and more or less similar in Scandinavian
lands. Dr. Mapleton mentions something very like them on a stone in
If we move on by the
road we find over the wall at our left a cairn and very complete
stone circle made of boulders. It is apparently as first made, and
it is very like those found on Loch Etive, near a vitrified fort
which we shall see. As we go on towards Kilmartin, a place which had
no such name at the time we are thinking of, since there were no
churches here and no saints, we find in the field a greater cairn
recently opened and showing a gallery which had not been covered
with heavy stones as in Brittany, but comparatively light ones, the
remaining scarcely sufficient to keep the two sides from soon
meeting. So much has been removed, that it is all ready to be
destroyed, unfortunately. Nearer still to the Kilmartin church is
another with a long passage to it lined with boulder walls, showing
abundant care and some power of building.
If we pass down the
other side, and towards Arcirishaig, we soon come to the high stone
pillars spoken of, and we can imagine the two parties, invaders and
natives, struggling long, and burying their dead in different
methods, keeping their own side of the glen. This is supposing the
large stones to indicate burying places—the most favoured opinion. I
am giving, perhaps, a little too much supposition, but each must
judge for himself. We do not go far until the road to the right
leads us to Dun Add. This isolated hill, perhaps 150 feet high, has
so many stones irregularly around it that one scarcely feels sure
which have been left by nature, but after consideration one feels
sure that much has been touched by man. Indeed one may fancy, and
even more, one may almost feel certain, of a passage winding
upwards, consisting partly of rocks and partly of building. When
half way up on the south there is found a less uneven spot where
dwellings may have been, and on the upper part and near it, certain
remains of very definite buildings, the most definite being at the
very summit, where the lower ranges of stone are in some parts
undisturbed. Here certainly was an artificial fort, and around it
many people may have dwelt; here the invaders made their stronghold.
In old times the land in the plain could not have been drier than
now. I believe, indeed, the ancient name, as Mr. Skene and Dr.
Donovan say, was Dunmonadh, and although there are some arguments
for making that apply to Dunstaffnage, they seem quite insufficient,
and we are safer to follow the guidance of these Celtic-learned.
Dunmonadh means the fort of the peat-moss, and so we may suppose
still more peat than now, but not a great deal, as people seldom put
houses on peat, at least I have that belief. Men, too, wanted their
cattle fed, and required grass; and in the old days cattle were the
great wealth, although wild swine and deer were abundant on the
hills. Birds were less easily caught, still they were not neglected.
you think they had little houses and gardens, and kept cattle, and
houses they would have, perhaps some round bee-hive ones, and almost
certainly wherever there were trees, wattle cottages, made of sticks
plaited together. I do not see that they had raths like the Irish,
places surrounded with earth walls, for their cattle; but I believe
in later times they used wattle fences for the same purpose, and
perhaps even then. Their cattle would probably be in some such
enclosure in times of commotion, and they would in some such way
take care of their little brown-wooled, many-horned sheep; and
surely some of their long-legged pigs would be at home, since it
would be difficult to catch them when they had leave to ramble
freely in the woods or on the hills.
Of course the brown
wool made brown dresses, and I suppose that the men had the short
kilt and the women the long over-gown, the upper part of the man's
body being often uncovered amongst the poorer.
We must now suppose
the Dalriads to have settled here, to have conquered the people of
the black fort, and that Vitrified fort itself to have begun to
decay, whilst several little but ambitious kings, much admired in
their time, held their court on this hill, and had still their
so-called Druids, perhaps soothsayers of a kind, and their bards
certainly, and their fine apparel and their pride of conquest. We
must suppose Acdan to have passed away, he who settled the kingdom
of Dalriada, and whose power was great enough to lead an army,
including Angles, into Northumberland. We have supposed him to have
made Dun Add important, and to have given it its name; we may learn
better. His life was troubled, although he was blessed by St.
Columba; and perhaps he might have been better at home than fighting
in England. I am inclined only to think at present of his successor,
the yellow-haired Eochy or Eochy Bui (Buidhe), appointed by the same
saint. It is pleasant to have a picture of him in all the glory of
his court as painted with the cheeriness of Celtic imagination by an
Irish writer or bard. What the foundation was who can tell, but
there is generally some for the bright pictures drawn by the class.
We cannot say that the account was written in the king's day, and we
do not know how late, but it is found in the yellow book of Lecan,
transcribed in 1390 according to O'Curry. We must make a great jump,
but information exists scantily; when we want to know exactly the
extent of purely historic knowledge we must go to Skene's Celtic
what age are you speaking?
Eochy began his reign in 6o6 A.D., and this may be enough of
chronology for the present. The time is not doubted by Skene, and
the man is no myth, although he may have been too much exalted by a
writer, who, according to Dr. Donovan, wrote of him before the year
I197, or about six centuries after the events. The earlier
authorities are lost, and we take our account of his court from the
story as it is extracted from the book of Lecan. Let us imagine the
valley lighted by the brightness of the company, an invading and
successful people, and the king with the yellow hair to be as he is
painted, and proud of his warlike sons.
Eochy was the
grandfather of Congal Claen, a young man who sought to be king of
Ulster, and who felt himself so insulted at the feast of Dun na n'
Gedh that lie determined to redress his wrongs. Ile had not been fed
as the other guests were, for they had had wild goose eggs on silver
plates, and he was left out, and, as he thought, with intention. So
he sought his grandfather King Lochy in Dun Add, and took with him a
A Druid from the Dun
met the ships with greetings. His name was Dubadhiah, but he is
elsewhere called Drostan, as we find in Dr. Samuel Ferguson's poem
of Congal, where the story is told in the adventures of that fierce
warrior, as an incident which led to the famous battle of Moira
(spelt Magh Rath). These incongruous spellings often sound sweetly
in the modern pronunciation. The Druid's name I do not know how to
make soft, but you may leave out the bh and the dh.
The Druid said-
before you tell us what he said, what had Druids to do there? I
thought the invaders had been Christians, and blessed by St. Columba.
is true; but Druids of some kind we must admit. The Druids, then, if
they did come over with the Dalriads, may not have been exactly like
Czesar's Druids, and at any rate all these tales have a thoroughly
heathen ring, and seem to have grown out of unchristianized ages.
Perhaps Christianity had but a slight hold of the people, and still
less of the bards and magicians, who would keep long to their
traditions, notwithstanding St. Patrick's great success. We have
here our Druid and his welcome, and I consider the modified and
so-called Druidism, or witchcraft if you prefer, at the court, much
more credible than any real Christianity. The Druid came to meet the
boats, and we can imagine him standing on the shore, when he said to
Conga! Claen in a dignified style of welcome:—
was to your bright fleet,
Which I saw at a distance.
Declare your race of stainless fame,
And what your country, whence you came."
"We come from
Oh, proud and noble youth;
And we have come hither
To address Eochy Bui."
"If you come
To confer with Eochy Bui,
After your arrival over the sea,
I tell to you my affection."
not admire the poetry.
literal translation never sounds well, and Dr. O'Donovan, whose
translation it is, wished to be exact.
The King of Alba was
sitting in an assembly of his nobles.
on the spot contemptuously very early called Dunmonadh, and now
disregarded. The king and his men welcomed Congal, and in a right
royal way promised him the forces of Alba, and sent him to confer
with his sons, who were there in conference. He said, "I have four
sons, Aedh, of the green dress, Sweeny (Suibhne), Congal Menn, and
Donald (Domhnall) Brec, the eldest of thy maternal uncles; it is
they who have command of the forces of Alba." He had promised never
to fight against the king of Erin, but with diplomatic duplicity,
royal even then, he promised all his forces.
The uncles were all
delighted to see the young man from Erin, and all wanted to take him
home and feast him; they had all separate houses not far off, and
all these are spoken of as having been well appointed.
wonders how food could be found for any large number of people here.
forget the abundance I spoke of, and that Lochy the king could
entertain any number of guests with abundant food, because lie had
the great magic cauldron which always cooked food enough for
whatever number of guests there were. Aedh, the youngest, in his
green dress, asked Congal to stay with him, and refused to fight if
this were not granted. Donald Brec said he was the eldest, and ought
to have the guest, and the others put in their demands, until the
Druid was obliged to interpose, as Congal did not wish to offend any
one. Dubadhiah said, "Tell them that you will stop with that one of
them who shall obtain the regal cauldron which is in the king's
house to prepare food for thee, and that the person who shall not
get the cauldron is not to be displeased with thee in consequence,
but with the king."
is rather depreciating the capabilities of the sons, is it not? It
supposes that they could not feed Congal well enough.
one would despise the use of such a cauldron. It was able to return
its due share to each, and no party ever went away from it
dissatisfied, for whatever quantity was put into it, "there was
never boiled of it but what was sufficient for the company,
according to their grade and rank; " there were other cauldrons in
Ireland with this same power.
The sons then sent
their wives to petition the king for the cauldron. Aedh or Hugh's
wife went first.
I cannot remember all
the speeches, but the king asked this Hugh's wife why the cauldron
should be given to her, and she said it was because her husband
never refused any gift to any man ; he had a bounty more extensive
than the world, and the jewels of the green-faced earth would not
remain an hour on his hand; he would put upon small spits all that
his proud brothers would give to guests. But the king said, "I will
not give you the cauldron as yet," and turning to Congal Menn's
wife, asked her why her husband should have the preference. Because,
was the reply, there is no king's son. better than he, his shield
can shelter a hundred heads, he is brave, not small, and jealous.
That was not enough
for the king. So Donald Brec sent his wife, who gave her reasons for
preference—"If the great Sliabh Monaidh were of gold, he would
distribute it in an hour; no king ever ruled better than Donald Brec."
Sweeny's wife then
came and boasted of the size of the house:-
goblets, one hundred cups,
One hundred hogs, and one hundred joints,
And one hundred silver vessels,
Are yonder in the house."
But after all the old
king had the feast in his own house, and so prevented quarrelling;
still it was after asking the advice of the Druid, whose answer was
King.—"Let my austere Druid decide
Between the wives of Mogairc's sons,
To what fair-skinned yellow-haired woman
Of them my cauldron shall be given."
it were a golden cauldron,
With golden hooks to move it,
Oh Eochy of the hosts of men,
It should be given to Donald.
"If it were a
cauldron of silver,
From which would issue neither steam nor smoke,
It should be given to the plundering Hugh,
The youngest of the sons of Eochy.
"If it were a
cauldron very great,
It should be given to Congal of the beauteous tunic,
That renowned man of great prosperity,
Who mikes lawful of unlawful property.
Oh Eochy, oh great king,
Should be given to the host,
To Sweeny in the middle of the house."
The king gave his
blessing to his sons' wives, and feasted everybody.
I must not follow
Congal; having excited your interest, you may read of his collecting
troops in Britain, and his failure in Ireland. [Dr. (now Sir) Samuel
Ferguson has written a poem called "Congal," the hero being the
Irish sub-king of Ulster. His course is illustrated till his end
arrives at Moira.]
must now leave Dun Add, and see the valley. But before we go I
should like to know what happened to the place, and why it is so
a good deal more may be -leaned. I can tell you some little. We
shall not go over the history. The Dalriads had four divisions, and
one of these was in Lorne, the chief of which lived in the castle of
Dunolly, the head of all being at Dun Add. The whole of the power
was taken from them again by Angus, the king of the Picts, who laid
waste the country, took Dun Add, and burnt Creich, their western
centre in Mull. You must read Skene's history to see the order of
things till the Picts and Scots were united in Kenneth M'Alpin, and
as that king lived at Forteviot, near Perth, and died in 858, the
old capital here would go early to wreck, and you see what it has
become in a thousand years. It has been difficult to unearth the
little we know, and to connect the stories of old with these broken
fragments of buildings.
said the sons had houses; can you tell where they lived?
is asking much. I told you of cups and circles over at the new
castle, and if we go a couple of miles nearer to Lochgilphead you
will see a farm house called Achnabrcac. This, they say, means the
field of the spots. Breac is not uncommon as applied to places; it
might mean also in the Irish, the field of the wolves, and this is
much more sensible. The word is not given in Scotch Gaelic
dictionaries as meaning wolf, but it is in Irish. It means also a
trout, which is spotted; but one fancies that it might take its name
from Donald Breac or Brec, who became king. He was no mean person,
and his power extended far.
that be good Gaelic—would not Achnabreac suit the wolves better than
may be, but a similar form might easily pass into Achnabreac when
the original idea was forgotten, and that king has been long
forgotten here. Another son may be remembered in the names Sweeny,
Loch Sweeny, and Castle Swin. One may be fanciful at times, but we
must take care to keep our fancies free in the sense of distinct, so
as not to confound them with facts. I daresay the cups and circles
were old at the time we speak of, and Donald Breac would not know
their meaning, and the word would not relate to these spots; but
even this is only an opinion. I believe in many old traditions among
getting late. At Carnban, the white cairn, we can see more cups and
circles, and we may go back to Kilmartin to stay, so as to dream for
a night, and wander for a morning in this valley of the Scottish
kings; for these men were Scottish invaders, intruding on the men of
Alba and the Picts.
is fine. We may take a walk up the valley, and have a peep at least
at the tower of Carnassery, where the Carswells lived, where, I
suppose, Bishop Carswell was born. It is a long step to him,
although he was successor to St. Columba after 1000 years, as Bishop
of Argyll and the Isles, after being rector or minister of the
parish of Kilmartin. He did not care for old stories, and tried much
to suppress them. We owe him, therefore, a certain grudge, although
we may thank him for translating into Gaelic John Knox's Liturgy,
which has been so carefully edited by the Rev. Dr. M'Lauchlan.
Bishop Carswell made poems, and rather melancholy ones, warning us
to think of death, whilst the neighbours made lampoons upon him, and
called him greedy; but his size was great, and his eating may have
astonished people scantily fed in the troublous times of the
sixteenth century. He requested to be buried at Ardchattan; and he
was carried there with difficulty on a wild and stormy day. We
intend to visit the place, but we shall not find anything to remind
us of him, so we shall leave him connected in our minds with the
paternal tower standing high in the wood to our left hand going to
Lochawe, and making a fourth style of building still to be seen,
before the old Highland cottage, which is a fifth, brings us to our
The steamer will take
us to Oban. We can meet it at Crinan pier. We have scarcely time to
look at the little conical hill alluded to, said to be a
Scandinavian hill of meeting, but we can mark the wondrous twistings
of the road, and the scanty arable land among the many prettily
It needs a poet to
describe a sail to Oban. Swift steamers run in two hours or little
more, but it is a new land to those coming from the South or East.
There is a new geology to them ; the hills have changed their
shapes, the land is cut out into forms difficult to remember, places
that look inland are suddenly seen to be sea-ports, and the ocean is
sprinkled over with rocks, whilst it rushes in violent currents. Old
shores stand up and show themselves, reminding us that they too in
their time had borne the ravages of the waves, and were glad of
rest. Islands deserted tell of men also who had suffered and fled;
and the Garveloch Isles at our left, containing Eilichanave (Eilean-na-naoimh),
the isle of the saints, reminds us of terrible struggles that
Christian civilization had in these stormy regions.
remains of churches and a monastery nearly as old as those of Iona.
It was called Hinba before the saints made it famous, and now it
descends to be called one of mare islands, a corruption, as Skene
thinks, of Eileann an mliara, isles of the sea, [Life of St.
Columba, by Dr. Reeves, 1874, Appendix, p. 319.] an expression
indicating loss of tradition and fading interest. This name has been
changed again into Horse Island; and this derivation may account for
several islands named so.
We are going to Loch
Etive, and we cannot wait for all the visits that these isles tempt
us to make; we cannot wait where the slates are leading men deep
under the sea, and where, I daresay, the workers have frightened the
Gruagach, who lived about this spot, and who himself frightened so
many people long ago. [I remember this in Campbell's West Highland
Tales, but cannot turn to it at present.] We shall pass the rugged
turning of Seil, which stands like a smaller Ardnamurchan, and looks
to those ever threatening precipices of Mull. We shall pass the
great walls of basalt—dykes built by rocks better fused than the
walls of the vitrified forts, and outlasting all around, defying the
sea and rain when others have been ground into mud and long cleared
We are coming into a
new district; we may rest and look for the old tower of Dunolly, and
the cheerful white houses of Oban, which tell us to be ready to land
in its well-protected bay.
that we do not know the really first arrival of the Scots in
Britain, and that we are equally ignorant of the exact boundaries of
Picts to the west.
Dr. Fergusson says
that the "Brochs" were built by the Norwegians, but this does not
affect the arguments here.
Marc is a word
for horse, and may have been mistaken for mara.
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