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Robertson’s Historical Proofs on the Highlanders
Preface to the Second Edition


THE very kind reception given to the First Edition of this Work, by the un­expected rapidity of its sale, and the highly favourable opinions of it by several of the best literary reviews and competent authorities, gives good reason to hope the same may be extended to the issue of a second Edition, which has been revised, and very much en­larged by the opportunity afforded to the author, of giving the reader what had been intended as a Supplement, namely a full dis­sertation on the Gaelic Topography of Scotland, with ancient historical and antiquarian infor­mation connected with it. The Gaelic names of nearly five hundred places, which pervade every county in Scotland, will be found noticed, and their significations in English are fully given; no work, (that the writer knows), has yet appeared to give a general view of the etymology of the Gaelic names of places in Scotland, or to point out where each distinct class is found; therefore the author has adopted an original plan, which he hopes may convey a full idea and give much information on the subject; in this part of his undertaking he has had the advantage of the kind criticism of two undoubted good Gaelic scholars, namely, the Rev. D. M’Intyre, Kincardine, Ross-shire, (author of two essays on the Gaelic language), and Mr H. Macdonald, Grandtully, Perthshire, to both of whom his best thanks are due. Any small error that may be supposed to exist in the course of this part of the present Work, is to be attributed to the writer, who may have considered the point so clear as not to require a reference.

To expose the fables that have been put forth by ancient and modern writers, as history of the noble Caledonian Gael, has been the chief reason to endeavour, by writing this Work, to remove them.

The author has nothing to recall from his views as expressed in the first Edition, in noticing the works of those who had given inaccurate statements of the ancient events, the people, and country of ‘the Highlanders, or their language, which last is proved by the topographical dissertation now added in this Edition, to be identical with all the Gaelic names of places in Scotland.

The fictions propounded by the Scotch writers, Fordun and Boece, as to the insigni­ficant Irish colony that came into Argyleshire in the sixth century, having been repeated, adopted, and even exceeded by a recent authors a refutation became almost a necessity, that the public should not be misled, or the truth obscured, by such fables as a conquest of the kingdom of the Pictish Gael, by the paltry numbers of the Irish Scots of Argyleshire, or that at the same period a new language was brought in by them, while the whole topo­graphy given by the Caledonians remained unchanged, as it does to this day. When King James I. became monarch of Great Britain, the English historians did not investigate his descent, nor when the Elector of Hanover became the sovereign of this country, his pedigree was not searched into, or tried to be made of a vast antiquity; likewise, who is the present heir apparent to the throne of the British Empire? He is son, of a younger son, of a German Duke of a very small territory, but whose genealogy is a matter of complete indifference to the British nation; this was not the Scotch view, the ancient and some modern writers think the Honour of the country requires a vast antiquity, as belonging to the origin of the Scots, and their insignificant Argyleshire rulers, who have been also by them so ridiculously exalted. An example of the national fondness for the marvellous, occurs in the belief by some, that the stone taken from Scotland, and placed in Westminster Abbey by King Edward I., was that which belonged to the Irish kings, and that it had been brought over by that trifling number of emigrants of Irish Scots who arrived in the county of Argyle in the sixth century; but as their rulers were for near a hundred years after that, subordinate to the Irish Kings, this fact proves they could not have been the possessors of their coronation stone; a late writer has propounded a new theory, namely, that it was Columba who got the Irish coronation stone, but where he got it, or when, we are not told: nor any proper authority given whereby the conjecture might be considered as at all possible of belief. Thus we see that those who adopt fabulous views on early Scotch history, are obliged to invent mere conjectures to help them out. This is only one half of the fable of how the pretended Irish coronation stone came into possession of the petty rulers of Argyleshire; the full version of the tale is, that the Scots, under the leader­ship of the son of a king of Spain, brought it to Ireland, but that they had originally ob­tained it in Egypt, and further, that it was the identical stone that formed Jacob’s pillow, as mentioned in the 28th chapter of Genesis. If this part of the history of the alleged Irish stone is rejected, so may the whole of it, as impossible, or consistent with history and proba­bility; why Scotchmen should not be willing to believe that the stone at Westminster Abbey is that of their own ancient Caledonian Pictish kings, is very extraordinary, when it is con­sidered that to do so is consistent with all that history makes known of the Pictish power, also with all probability; but on the other hand, the claiming it to be the Irish stone, can only be accounted for by a desire for what is marvel­lous, instead of sober truth; besides, there are other grave suspicions as to this stone as spoken of elsewhere; we must believe it to have been handed from one deadly set of enemies to another, namely, from the Argyle— shire tribe of Kintyre to that of Lorn, and the latter giving it again back to the former, as they were always at strife and bloodshed with each other; again, the pretended stone, (which is called by the Irish Liathfail) must have been lost to both of these tribes when the Picts conquered the Irish Scots of Argyleshire, and a Pictish prince was placed over them— altogether, as before said, it is most perfectly agreeable and compatible with probability and history, that the stone at Westminster was the ancient coronation stone of the Caledonian Pictish kings. [It is an error to assert there is not a Gaelic name for this stone, it will be, found in Dr Armstrong’s Gaelic Dic­tionary, ,namely, ‘Clach-na-Cineamhuinn,’ which also proves it was not Irish. Logan, in his Scottish Gael, says, that it is of that kind of stone which is peculiar to the neighbourhood of Dundee.] To make the local Gaelic names of places most useful to the reader, a very full and complete index of every one mentioned has been made out, so that any name, of which it may be wished to learn the meaning, can at once be found; the names of everyone of the principal mountains, etc., of Scot­land, have been explained, they are as monu­ments of the heroic Caledonians speaking to us in their language, which is still that of their descendants, the Highlanders. A selection from the communications and reviews on the Work is inserted, that the reader may be assured that competent authority has passed on it a most favourable judgment. A very large addition has been made to the illustra­tions of the country of the Gael: they have been doubled in number to what appeared in the first Edition, and exhibit most of the finest scenery that composes the picturesque country of the Highlanders. It was an omission in the last edition, not to have mentioned that the majority of the views are given from Robson’s Sketches, (now a very rare book), and which was a companion with the author in many distant lands, and often served to remind him of his native hills. Among the illustrations are views from photographs by Mr Wilson of Aberdeen, which, with the several historical and antiquarian descriptions of them, it is hoped may make them still more acceptable to the reader. The Map has also had considerable additions made to it; the territory of the Pictish Gael and Irish Scots distinguished; the height of the largest mountains has also been inserted in it. The embellishment, showing the ancient national dress, taken from very old sculptured stones, has been engraved and inserted with the chapter treating of the costume of the Highlanders. An additional conclusion has been given on the Gaelic topography, which evinces how extensive must have been the early occu­pation of the whole of Scotland by the Caledonian Gael, who designated, in their ancient language, all the principal objects of nature

both in the south and north, and which for rich­ness, beauty, and truth of description can no­where be surpassed in any country, and equalled in few. The great number of genuine Gaelic names of places in Orkney and Shetland, [The Rev. I. Taylor has fallen into an error in stating there are no Gaelic names of places in Shetland, at page 178 of his work he says of it, ‘every local name without exception is Norwegian,’ the writer has produced examples in Shetland and Orkney, with the Gaelic root and test words ‘Dun,’ ‘layer,’ and ‘Ross’; in Orkney the lakes have the Gaelic prefix ‘Loch,’ the Druidical circles there may also be justly considered as another proof of an occupation by the Gaelic race, at a very remote period] as also those that exist in parts which we know were inhabited in the south—west of Scotland by Britons, undoubtedly prove the Gael had there preceded them, and even lead to the conclusion that the British or Welsh occupa­tion had only begun therein with the invasion of the Romans, and under their protection.

Lastly, the writer hopes the whole proofs and facts herein given may be acceptable to all readers, as being an effort to establish truth and remove fable from the ancient history of his fellow countrymen, the Highlanders or Gael of Alban, the true descendants of the valiant Caledonians, declared by Tacitus in the earliest ages, to be ‘nobilissimi Britan­narum,’ ‘the most noble of the inhabitants of Britain.’

118 Princess Street, EDINBURGH,
5th July 1866.


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