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The Scottish Gael
Chapter XII
Of the shipping, commerce, money, and manufactures of the Celts

IT has been said that no art is so primitive as navigation, nations in the
rudest state of existence being found to possess sufficient ingenuity to
form vessels capable of bearing them on the surface of the waters. The
Gauls, in the most distant ages, appear to have had ships wherein they
transported themselves to other countries, as those who, escaping after
the battle of Thermopylae, passed into Asia.*

A canoe, forrned by hollowing the trunk of a tree, seems the first
attempt at ship-building. Hannibal, in passing the Rhone, bought all the
small boats of the natives, a great number being there at the time attend-
ing the fairs of the sea ; he also, as Polybius informs us, made so
many vessels of hollow logs of trees, that every man strove to cross the
river by one for himself. Lord Kames, however, thinks that beams and
planks were first used in the construction of vessels, an opinion that is
scarcely tenable.

The remains of log canoes have been discovered under ground in Scot
land, evincing a very remote but unknown antiquity. In the Locher
moss, near Kilblain, one was found that measured eight feet eight inches
in length, the cavity being six feet seven ; the breadth was two feet, and


* Pausanias, i. 4.

362 SHIPS.

the depth eleven inches : it had evidently been hollowed by fire, and at
one end were seen the remains of three pegs for the oars or paddles.
In the same moss, in 1736, another was found which measured seven
feet in length, and contained a paddle. The Welsh Triads celebrate
Corfinawr, a bard, as the first who made a ship for the Cumri, and the
account which Athenaeus gives of the mainmast of King Hiero's great
ship having been procured from the mountains of Britain is, no doubt,
equally true.*

Coit, an obsolete term for a tree, is the name which the Highlanders
apply to the simple vessel formed of a hollow log. It was also called
amar, literally a trough, both appellations being in use by the Irish and
Scots. When Dr. Mac Pherson wrote, about fifty years since, a few
were still to be seen in some of the Western Isles. We are told by
Pliny that the German rovers, who formed their boats in this way, made
them sometimes sufficiently large to carry thirty men. I Long is also
Gaelic for a ship; and Pryce, in his Cornish British Archaeology, says
it is the British log.

This first essay at ship-carpentry was succeeded by a frame of wicker,
covered with hides, a sort of vessel used by the Iberians, J Veneti, &.c.
They were also used by the British tribes in the most early ages, from
whom Caesar learned their manner of construction, and by this means
conveyed his army across the river Sicoris. Lucan, referring to this
circumstance, describes them

" The bending willow into barks they twine,

Then line the work with spoils of slaughtered kine:
Such are the floats Venetian fishers know,
Where in dull marshes stands the settling Po ;
On such to neighboring Gaul, allured by gain,
The bolder Britons cross the swelling main."

The Saxons also, we learn from Sidonius Appollinaris, crossed to
Britain in these apparently frail barks, in which our ancestors fear-
lessly ventured on the most stormy seas. The Britons went a dis-
tance of six days' sail in them to Mictis, when pursuing the trade in
tin. Saints Dubslane, Machecu, and Manslunum, left Ireland in one,
and after having been seven days at sea, they landed in Cornwall, a very
fortunate voyage, considering that they took neither oars nor sails with
them. |! Saint Cormac also made a voyage from Orkney to lona in a
similar vessel, but he appears to have had less faith than the others, for
he provided himself with oars. IT Wicker boats continued in use by the
innabitants of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales long after they were able to
construct vessels of stronger materials. Dr. Mac Pherson says it was
not above thirty years since such a boat was employed in the Isle of
Sky. In some parts of Ireland they are still to be found, and in Wales
they are more common. One Robert Leeth, who made a survey of

* Campbell's History of the Admirals. t Lib. xvi. 40. J Strabo. Virgil

Lib. iv. v. 130. || Marianus Scotus. HAdomnan.


Ireland in 1572, states, in his expenses, " item for a lethere boat, with
three men and a gyde, to serche the said greate ryvere of May ore."*

The Gaelic name for this boat is curach in Cumraeg, it is called
cwm, and corracle. The Spanish euro, applied to small vessels used
on rivers, is evidently a relic of the primitive language. In this wide
spread tongue, bare, which Pelletier acknowledges to be genuine Cel-
tic,"! ls a general name for shipping, and is to be found, with little alter
ation, in most European languages. In the English, Armoric, French,
German, Swedish, and Danish, the sound is similar the Dutch have
boork, and the Spanish have barca.

The curachs must have been strongly built, and often of a large size:
there is a tradition that the one in which Columba made his voyages was
forty-feet in length, but from its dimensions preserved in an earthern
mound at lona, it appears to have been sixty-four feet. The curach, in
which the above three holy men performed their voyage, was composed
of 3| ox hides. J One of the heroes of Morven, in Dr. Smith's Gallic
Antiquities, says, " my father wove a bare of the branches of trees."
It is well known that the British tribes excelled in the formation of wick-
er work. The modern corracles in Carmarthenshire are only five feet
and a half long, by four broad, forming an oval shape. ^ The hides are
pitched, and they are furnished with a seat, the men being accustomed
to paddle with one hand, and fish with the other; they are so small and
slight, that, when brought ashore, the owners carry them home on their

It appears from Eumenius and Caesar, that, on the descent of the lat-
ter, the South Britons had not one vessel of war,|| their shipping con-
sisting solely, according to antiquaries, of the small skin covered boats,
the reason of which appears to be that their navy was lost in the defeat
of the Veneti, to whose assistance it had been sent; and to encourage
the subdued tribes to improve their navy, the Romans held out consider-
able advantages. Certain rewards were offered to those who would fit
out vessels capable of containing 10,000 rnodii of corn.1I Although it
is, perhaps, impossible to ascertain when the Britons acquired the art
of building vessels of timber, it must have been known very anciently.
The Caledonians had certainly numerous fleets in distant ages, and it
is evident that they were not all curachs. The long and perilous voya-
ges which they made to Scandinavia and other parts, are celebrated in
bardic lore. Their skill and. dexterity in working their vessels, and the
intrepidity with which they encountered the storms of a Northern ocean,
are celebrated in a description so striking, that it is to be regretted the
tianslator of Ossian did not meet with the poem. Those adventurous
Warriors, like the Ligurians described by Diodorus, made long voya-
ges in their skiffs, daring the most tempestuous seas, and guiding their

* MS. in Brit. Mus. t Diet, de la Langue Bretonrie. J Mathceus Westmon.

Tour in Wales, 1775. || Panes', ii- Huet du Commerce.

Tt Cod. Theod v. 1. 13. Campbell, in his Naval History, however, says, the Roman*
confined them to the use of the curach.


course by the reul;* yet some of their vessels must have been stoutly
built, and of a goodly size. The Gaelic biorlin, the term for a ship or
boat, is said, by some etymologists, learned in that language, to signify
the deep or still water log, showing its original application to a rude
float; but it appears, with much more reason, to be a corruption of bar-
lin, the top of the waters, and in some parts the word is still so pronounced.
We know less of the form of these ships, and the manner in which they
were built, than of those used by some nations on the continent, a de-
scription of which may not be uninteresting or unconnected with the
subject. The ships of the Suiones were so built, that either end became
the prow as circumstances might require, and they were consequently im-
pelled in any direction without the trouble of being put about. They had
no sails, and the oars were not fixed, but the rowers plied in all parts of
the ship, changing their position from place to place as they were led to
alter their course. f The Veneti, we learn from Cresar, had a great navy,
and excelled in nautical science; their ships, with which the Roman
fleet had an engagement, this accomplished writer considered superior
to his own galleys. They were entirely formed of oak, very strongly
put together, their bottoms were flat for the purpose of clearing shallows,
and the prow and stern were high to resist the waves. The benches of
the rowers were a foot in width, and were fixed with inch-thick iron bolts.
The cables were of iron chain, and the sails were of skins and of soft
leather.^ The Gauls, in general, however, manufactured canvass for
sails. Stones, sand-bags, &c. were first used for anchors; they were
afterwards made of wood, and the invention of the double flue is ascrib-
ed to Anacharsis, the celebrated Scyth.|| From the figures on ancient
monuments in the West Isles, and a sculpture at lona, the prow and stern
of the Caledonian ships were equally high. A single mast placed midship
sustained a square sail, as represented in the vignette at the commence-
ment pf this chapter, IF and the flag was borne on a mast fixed at the prow.
The cordage was formed of thongs. There were anciently a number
of galleys, of twenty oars, in the Hebrides, the service for many lands
being to provide and maintain a certain number; hence the longfad, or
lyrnphad, in the arms of the Campbells and others. In the twelfth cen-
tury, Symerled's fleet amounted to fifty-three sail, but they were after-
wards augmented to 160, which enabled him to shake off" the Danish
yoke, and contend with Malcolm IV.

Hailes relates, on the authority of Mathevv of Westminster, that, in
1249. a large vessel was built at Inverness. The ship that was discov-
ered in the ancient bed of the river Rother, and exhibited in London some
jears ago, is believed to have been one of those used by the Sa^on

* Guiding star, from ruith, course, and iul, star.
\ Tac de Mor. Germ. | Bello Gall. iii. 8, 13.

See page 182. Some of the vessels on the Po had sails of rushes. Pliny. The
Spaniards made cables and other tackling of genista, or broom. Ibid. xix. 2.
|| Reloe on Herod.
If The distant vessel is modern, but the anachronism will be pardoned.


rovers. This singular hulk was clinker-built, long and narrow, ; n the
form of a barge or canal boat, and was caulked with a vegetable substance
said to be moss. We find that the people of Picardy bruised certain
reeds, with which they filled the seams of their vessels, and for this pur-
pose it had no equal.*

In a manuscript account of Dumfriesshire, written more than a century
ago, is an account of a ship, or part of one, dug up at Stranraer, in a
place to which the tide had long ceased to flow; nay, the remains lay
under a spot of ground that, from time immemorial, had been a cabbage-
garden. In this instance, the planks were fastened with copper nails,
in a manner very different from that in use now, or at the period of the
discovery.f As the greater part of this vessel, which appears to have
been of a considerable size, remains undisturbed, it is to be hoped that
an opportunity may hereafter occur of making more accurate observa-

As there was an incentive to battle among the Highlanders, there
was also an incentive to seamen, or stimulating address to the crews of
the Biorlins.J One of these curious poems, the composition of Alexan-
der Mac Donald, and recited to animate the crew of the Lord of Clan
Ronald, is a work of considerable merit, and an analysis and a few quota-
tions, for which I am indebted to a literary friend, whose favors I have
before had to acknowledge, will show its character.

It commences with a benediction thus: " Now the ship of Clan Ron-
ald is launched, I fervently implore God's blessing upon her, on the
chief, and on his crew; acrew unmatched in bravery and courage: And,
O God! render thou the breath of the sky propitious, that it may urge us
over the waters uninjured to a safe haven. Almighty Father, who hast,
by thy word, called forth from nought the ocean and the winds, bless
our lank bark, and our stout heroes all, and take them under thy pro-
tecting power. Do thou, O Son! bless our anchor, our sails, our
shrouds, and our helm, our tackling, yard, blocks, and mast, and be our
pilot o'er the waves! Our stays and haulyards keep sound. Preserve
us from all dangers free. Let the Holy Ghost be around us, who knows
every harbor under the sun. We submit ourselves to his protection."

The benediction on their arms then follows: "May God bless our
swords our keen, blue, Spanish blades, our heavy coats of mail, proof
against the soft edge of an ill-tempered weapon, our cuirasses and bossy
shields. Bless all our armour, offensive and defensive; the bows of bright
and polished yew, that we bravely bend in the strife; our birchin arrows,
(hat will not splinter, and the badger's rough spoil that contains them;
and whatever other warlike stores are now on board of Mac Donald's

* Pliny, xvi. 3(r. t Trans, of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1893, p. 52.

t Called Prosnachadh fairge.

The Gaelic liturgy, composed by John Kerswell, afterwards Bishop of Argyle.
I5G6, contains the form of blessing a ship when going to sea. The steersman says,
" Let us bless our ship," the crew responding < ; God, the Father, bless her '" Repeating


Addressing the crew, the bard says: " Be not deterred by womanish
softness from acting like the hardy and the bold. As long as the sides
of our biorlin are unrent, as long as four boards of her keep together, as
long as she can swim under your feet, be not appalled by the angry
ocean. The pride of the sea will submit to the brave. If thy foe on
land finds thy courage increase with thy danger, he will the more readily
yield. T is even so with the great deep; its fury will yield to the
efforts of the fearless and the bold."

Address to the Rowers, or the Prosnachadh Uimrai: "That you
may urge on the long, dark, brown vessel, man the tough, long, polish-
ed oars; keep time, strike quick, and deeply wound the heaving billows,
and make the surges fly like sparkling showers of living flame. Send
her, swift as an eagle, o'er the deep vales and mountains of the sea.
O, stretch, bend, and pull the straight sons of the forest! And see how
the stout conquerors of the ocean bend their muscular forms like one
man! Behold their hairy, sinewy arms! See how they twist their oars
in the bosom of the deep! Now the pilot's song inspires them with fresh
vigor see how they urge the swift courser of the ocean, snorting o'er
the fluid plain. Lo! how her prow cuts the roaring waves! Her strong
sides creak amidst the dark heaving deep, while the sons of the forest,
wielded by the strong arms of the crew, impel her against the storm.
These are the fearless, unwearied, unbending rowers, whose oars can
shut the very throat of the whirpool."*

As soon as the sixteen rowers were seated at their oars, and ready
to row the vessel into the fair wind, Callum Garbh, Mac Ronald of
the ocean, the fore oar's-man, sung the loram, which consists of fifteen

Having got into the fair wind, they hoist their sails, and Clan Ronald
orders his officers to appoint every man to his station, the bard address-
ing each separately respecting his particular duty, in which great nautical
knowledge is displayed. The steersman is first addressed; next the
man who manages the main sheet, then he at the jib sheet, then the pilot,
then a person who is called Fear Calpa na Tairne, then the describer
of the waters, or the man on the outlook, and next the thrower out of
the water. There were also two who assisted in a storm or when need-
ful, and four who were in reserve, lest any of the others should be
disabled, or, as the bard expresses it, "lest the sea in its fury should
pull any of them overboard."

Every thing being now prepared, and every man at his post, they set
sail at sunrise from Lochainart', in South Uist, on St. Bridget's day, and

his request they rejoin, " Jesus Christ bless her !" and, to the same observation, the
third time, "The Holy Ghost bless her!" The steersman then asks them what they
fear, if God, the Father, be with them, &c.; to which they reply, " We do not fear any
thing." They did not, however, altogether rely on the assistance of the Trinity, for
they were careful to suspend a he-goat from the mast to insure a favorable wind.

* Probably alluding to the Coire bhreacain, a remarkable whirpool between the Isles
of Jurah and Scarba.


the voyage, which proved rough, is described in the most picturesque
and poetic strains. They had scarcely " stretched the well-shaped yards
to the tall masts of sound red pine, and fastened the sails and rigging
through loops of iron," than a storm arose, and " the awful world of
waters drew on its rough mantle of thick darkness, swelling into moun
tains, and sinking into glens; the dreadful monsters of the deep express
their terror by their terrible bellowing and roaring. By the agitation of
the waters, and by the blows of our sharp prow, their brains are scatter-
ed on every wave the sea is red with the gore of its inhabitants, and
our ship is damaged by coming in contact with the monsters of the
ocean. 'T was deafening and maddening to listen to the roaring of the
monsters, and the awful voice of the demons of the deep." As night
approached, the storm increased, accompanied by thunder and lightning,
" until the ocean beheld our invincible spirit with admiration, and hush-
ed his fury into peace. But there was not a mast unbent, yard unsnap-
ped, or sail unrent. Half her planks were sprung, and all her carcass
was loosened, and groaned with distress. It was at the cross of the
Strait of Isla, that the ocean made peace with us, and dismissed this
host of winds to the upper regions of the air, leaving the waters smooth
as a polished mirror. We returned thanks to the King of kings for
having delivered the good Clan Ronald from the fearful death that had
threatened him. We then laid her mast along the deck, and stretched
out on each side the smooth polished oars, made from the good red pine,
cut by Mac Varas, in the Isle of Funen. We rowed with strong arms,
as if one man moved all the oars, until we came to port near Carrie Fer-
gus. We cast anchor, took food, and the cup went unsparingly round,
before we laid ourselves down for rest."

The art of ship building was brought to great perfection in Scotland,
and this subject may be concluded with an account of a ship of a re-
markably large size, built by King James IV., which consumed so much
timber, that she is said to have wasted the woods of Fife. This vessel
was one hundred and twenty feet long, and thirty-six feet wide within the
sides, which are said to have been no less than ten feet thick! " This
great ship cumbered Scotland to get her to sea." She was provided
with 300 mariners, 120 artillerymen, and 1,000 men of war, and cost
30,000. " If any man," says Pitscottie, " believe that this description
be not of verity, let him pass to the gate of Tillibardine, and there afore
the same, ye will see the length and breadth of her, planted with haw-
thorn by the wright who helped to make her."*

Before the precious metals are adopted as the medium of exchange,
commercial transactions are simply the barter of different commodities.
Cattle is the property which most uncivilized people possess, and which
they can part with to others, and it consequently becomes a standard of
value among primitive nations. The armor of Diomede, Homer tells us,
cost only nine oxen, while that of Glaucus cost a hundred. From this

* Chronicles, p. 108, fol. ed.


commodity, which regulated the traffic and indicated the wealth of the
Celts until a late period, is derived the name which the Romans gave to
.heir coined money. Pecunia is deduced by Varro from pecus, a flock,
pointing to the time when domestic animals were the only means by
which all other necessaries were procured. The inconvenience of this
sort of traffic becoming much felt on the advance of civilisation, it natu-
rally led to the adoption of precious metal, as a more convenient article
to exchange for whatever might be wanted. Gold, silver, brass, and
iron, are therefore adopted as money, and are bought and sold in a
state of roughness, by weight. The system of trading by the exchange
of commodities may, however, continue long among a rude people. The
inhabitants of the Silures, or rather Cassiterides, we are told, adhered
to their old customs, and refused to buy or sell for money, continuing
the primitive method of exchange. It was for the convenience of this
trade of barter that fairs were anciently instituted. In Ireland the)
were denominated aonachs, and one was held near Wexford, much cel-
ebrated by the native historians, who assert its existence in an era of
improbable antiquity. In that country, and in Scotland, the want of
coined money long rendered an exchange of goods the only means of
supplying reciprocal wants.

Tacitus, speaking of the Germans, says, silver and gold the gods
had denied them, whether in mercy or wrath he could not venture to
say. They formerly disregarded these metals, although they had silver
vessels, but when he wrote, the Romans having made them acquainted
with its use and value, they had learned to receive money. Tacitus
informs us, that those on the frontiers of Germany placed most value on
coins that bore the impress of a chariot with two horses.

" In Britain, I hear," says Cicero, writing to Trebatius, " is neither
gold nor silver." Iron appears to have been so scarce and valuable,
that it was adopted for money, and passed by weight. With this and
copper, the subdued tribes paid the imposts which the Romans exacted.*
The iron money of the Britons was in the form of rings, j but the de-
scription has not enabled antiquaries to agree concerning their precise
shape and size. In Oudendorp's edition of Caesar's works, J it is sup-
posed that they resembled the money of the Chinese, who perforate
their coin for the convenience of carrying them on a string, as here

but quantities, amounting to some horse loads of iron pieces, of the other
form, have been found in Cornwall, that very probably once passed for
coin. In a barrow that was opened in the parish of Kirk-patrick-flem-
ing, in Dumfriesshire, a stone chest was discovered, which contained an

* l-luj't, Hist, du Commerce, p. 204. t Caesar. Herodian.

i Vol. i. p. Ji24 f ed. 1737. Lhuyd, in a letter to Mr. Tomkir?

COINS. 369

urn and several iron rings, about the size of a half-crown, and much cor-
roded. Those singular articles, called Kimmeridge coal money, are
believed to have been used in place of coin. It is not improbable but
their appearance would lead to the conclusion that they were rather
employed in some game, the indentations with which they are marked
varying in number. At all events they are not perforated like the ring

The rudest of the Britons soon acquired a knowledge of the value of
more precious metals than iron. In 198 we find Lupus purchasing
peace of the Meatoe, by paying them a large sum of money, and long
before this time it wpuld appear, coins and medals, composed of tin and
lead, rudely formed, were current among the Southern tribes. The
coins of the Britons bear the impression of the heads of their princes,
with various figures on the reverse, either symbolical, or representing
articles, the uses of which are now unknown; but the figure of a horse,
the mystical symbol of Ceredwen or Ceres, as here shown, is frequently

The British coins usually present the inscription Tascio, concerning
which there has been so much conjecture. It has, with much appearance
of reason, been said to be the native appellation of the nobles, being the
same as the Gaelic toshich, which signifies chief, and hence it meant no
more than the Rex of modern coin. It is to be noticed, however, that
tasgaidh, in Gaelic, is the treasury, and taisg, is to hoard or treasure
up; hence Dr. Pettingal thinks it signified the tascia, the tax or tribute
paid to the Romans, who, on their establishment, prohibited the native
princes from coining. In this opinion he seems borne out by others,
who trace tax from task, and that from tasgia; but Peggef believes it is
the name of the Mint-master, who was a Gaul.

It is observable that "not any coin bearing the head of a Welsh
prince, or which can in any respect be supposed to have issued from the
mint of a prince of that country, is known to be extant. "J Ceiniog, or
denarios, is the only coin that has a name in Welsh. The Gaelic boun
is applied to coin, and signifies any thing round, and of a portable size,
whence probably the English bun. The Caledonians had no coins
for nearly 1000 years after Caesar. || The Irish appear to have long

"The opening of the Deveril Barrow by Mr. Miles, contains some observations on
these articles. t On the coins of Cunobeline.

t Introduction to the Beauties of England and Wales, p. 313.
Robaris' Early History of the Cumri. || Dr. Mac Pherson.



remained destitute of money. Campion says there was no coin in
any great lord's house. The ancient money of Man was formed of

Of the commerce of the Celts, and of the state of the arts, both ne-
cessary and ornamental, it is proper in this place to take notice. The
spirit of enterprise which this people displayed, when, after their
subjugation to the Romans, their manners became altered, and their
mercantile advantages were discovered, was no less remarkable than
their warlike propensities. Caesar bears testimony to the industry of
the Gauls, their ingenuity and success in imitating any thing manu-
factured by others, and Diodorus, who praises the diligence of the wo-
men in their household matters and attention to their personal appearance,
extols the acute understanding and aptitude to learn, so conspicuous
in the race. They supplied their conquerors with various articles, which
were found both useful and ornamental in the refined society of Italy;
and the Romans, who never hesitated to copy the barbarians in any
thing really worthy of imitation, derived from the Gauls the knowledge
of many useful inventions. The policy of the Romans, however, ap-
pears from Tacitus to have restricted the advantages of commerce to
the Hermandures, and the stern Nervians prohibited the pursuit alto-
gether, from an apprehension that it was subversive of their pristine
valor and hardihood, and inimical to their independence.

The Celts were reputed very affluent,* and their riches consisted of
gold and cattle, articles easily moved about. | There were no silver,
but numerous gold mines in Gaul, and this precious metal was often
found without the labor of mining, being washed down by the rivers.
It was so plentiful, that both sexes covered themselves with ornaments
of it rings on their fingers, bracelets on their arms and wrists, massy
chains, pure and beaten, about their necks, and heavy croslets upon
their breasts.^ The better sort were accustomed to scatter great quan-
tities of gold in their temples and sacred places, on which no one ever
laid a sacrilegious hand, except the Romans, to whom it is said the
riches of these fanes offered the great temptation for hostilities. When
Claudius Caesar rode triumph for the conquest of Britain, he had with
him a crown of gold weighing nine pounds, presented by Galliacomata.
Spain paid annually 20,000 pounds of gold, and one mine yielded of
silver 100,000 pounds yearly. ||

The above enumeration of ornaments shows that the Celts not only
possessed the precious metals in abundance, but were excellent artifi-
cers. The gold, whether procured from the rivers or by mining, in
which the Aquitani were particularly skilful, IT was melted in a furnace,
and subjected to the process of refining, and the articles fabricated were
finished with great care and ingenuity.

* Tacitus' Annals, iv. Agrippa asks the Jews if they were " richer than the Gauls.'
t Polybius, ii. } Diodorus. Pliny, xxxiii. 3.

|| Gibbon, i. c 7. U Bello Gall. iii. 22.


The prevailing use of brass in the formation of weapons of war has
been noticed. This metal is sooner discovered and easier wrought than
iron, and in ancient times it was more valuable than gold. It was a
favorite metal with the Celts, and was held in particular esteem by the
Pythagoreans, a sect whose doctrines were analogous to those of the
Druids. The ancients appear to have been in possession of a method
of indurating brass by a process now unknown, their alloy being found
different from that which is at present used. Aristotle assigns to Lydus,
the Scyth, the invention of the art of melting and tempering brass.*
The Britons imported this metal, and in smelting it they used a consid-
erable quantity of lead. In Ireland some weapons were found formed
of brass, containing a proportion of gold. Copper, in its pure state, was
also a metal in much esteem by the Celts, and was particularly abund-
ant in Aquitain.

Lead was procured with difficulty from the mines of Gaul and Iberia,
but was easily found in Britain, where it was indeed so abundant, that
there was an express law among the natives, prohibiting more than a
certain quantity from being dug up.

Britain, says Strabo and others, produces corn, cattle, gold, silver,
and iron; besides which were exported wicker work, copper, tin, lime,
pearls, skins, slaves, and dogs, excelling all others, and much used by
the Gauls in war. The Romans, we are told, laid no heavy duties on
British exports or imports. In Strabo's time they made more of the
customs, small as they were, than they could raise by the exaction of

Tin is the metal for the production of which ancient Britain is most
celebrated. It is erroneously supposed that no other country then pro-
duced this metal, an opinion which in the second Chapter of this work
has been proved untenable. It is remarkable that Polybius, speaking
of the Spanish tin, and alluding to Britain in the same sentence, says
nothing of this metal, for which it is said to have acquired so much
celebrity. The Britons, according to Diodorus, dug the tin in the pro-
montory of Baleriurn, or Cornwall, and melted and refined it with much
care and labor. They beat it into square pieces, like a die, and carried
it in carts to an island called Ictis, which was only insulated at high
water; whence the merchants, by whom it was bought, transported it to
Gaul in boats covered with skins, and carried it on horses' backs to the
Rhone, a distance of thirty days' journey.

The Briton, like his continental ancestor, was no doubt long unac-
quainted with the art of working metals, the knowledge of which is
forced on barbarians by the necessity of fabricating arms for their pro-
tection, but it may be presumed that instruments of stone continued in
occasional use among the Celts after the discovery of so useful an art as
forging brass or iron, and until these materials became sufficiently plen-
tiful to admit of general adoption. Arms of brass or copper were more

* Pliny, vii. 56.


easily formed than those of iron, of which besides the Britons had but
little. The uses of this metal, and the art of rendering it malleable, are
not easily discovered, and it is believed that it was only a short time
previous to the first arrival of the Romans that mines of iron ore had
been opened and imperfectly worked, on a very limited scale.

That the ancient Caledonians were acquainted with the manufacture
of iron appears from the testimony of historians. " The hundred ham-
mers of the furnace" are alluded to in a Bardic composition, and a sim-
ile is drawn from the art " fire pours from contending arms as a stream
of metal from the furnace."* The uniform tradition is, that the Gael
anciently made their own iron, in corroboration of which, heaps of iron
dross are found in many places among the mountains, that are confidently
believed to be the remains of their founderies.f Thereis still to be
seen in Glenturret a shieling, called Renna Cardich, the smith's dwel-
ling, with the ruins of several houses, and heaps of ashes, with other
indications of an iro-n manufactory. Old poems mention it as a work
where the metal, of which swords and other arms were made some miles
lower in the valley, was prepared. J In Sutherland also are distinct
marks of the smelting and working of iron with fires of wood.^ Peats
were the usual fuel, and they are yet in general use. The smith's fire
is made of turf, first half burned, and then soaked in water, by which
process it is hardened and made sufficiently solid to stajid the heat to
which it is subjected. In muirs, deep narrow pits are frequently to be
seen, where it is said the peats were thus prepared, but the practice at
present is to dig holes three or four feet deep, in the form of a bowl or
basin, which are filled with peats that are set fire to, and extinguished
when sufficiently charred, by being covered with turf. Charred peat is
still used in Germany, and it answers all the purposes of smelting, weld-
ing, &c. The Rev. Mr. Macqueen, of Kilmuir, describes, from tradi-
tional record, the famed Luno, the son of Leven, who made the swords
of Fingal and his heroes, as a wild savage, going on one leg, with a
staff in his hand, notwithstanding which he was remarkably fleet, and
clad in a mantle of black hide, with an apron of similar materials. Tie
was no inapt personification of Vulcan. Ccesar represents the Gauls
as perfectly skilled in the manufacture of iron, || but the Celtiberi must
be allowed to carry the palm in this art. Their method of purifying and
tempering the iron was by burying it under ground until the weaker and
less useful part was consumed by rust, when the remainder was found
much improved both in strength and solidity. Of this they made their
weapons, and their swords were celebrated even among the Romans,
for they cut so keenly, that neither shield, helmet, nor bone could with-
stand them. The worth of Spanish blades has been acknowledged in
later ages, and they were always preferred by the Highlanders. The

* Report on the Poems of Ossian, Appendix, p. 245.

i Agric. Report of Argyle, &c. I Newte's Tour.

Sir Robert Gordon, &c. || Lib. vii. 21.


plates and chains of iron with which the Caledonians and Picts ornament-
ed themselves, satisfactorily prove their knowledge of the manufacture.

In 1719, a bushel of those implements called celts, each inclosed in a
mould, were found at Brough, on the Humber; and at Skirlaugh a
large quantity of celts, spear heads, blades, &c. was found, along with
several cubes of the same metal, and some masses evidently fitting into
the neck of the moulds in which the celts were cast. The whole was
wrapped in coarse strong linen, and inclosed in a case of wood.* On
Easterly moor, twelve- miles northwest of York, in 1735, there were
found one hundred celts of copper, with some pieces of rough metal and
much cinders. The colony celebrated in Irish history under the name
of Danans, carried from Britain a large brass vessel, or caldron. j"

It would appear, from some ancient poems, that the Highlanders had
metal mirrors. J The reader who is curious, has been referred to works
containing plates and descriptions of the remarkable variety of ornaments
in use among the British tribes. The discoveries in Ireland are often
so singular, that an antiquary is at a loss to determine the era to which
they belong. Articles of solid gold and silver, and of elegant and unique
workmanship, are so often found, as to incline us to doubt the truth of
those accounts which represent the people as formerly in a state of
barbarity. Among other things crowns of gold are not unusual! These
relics are often dug from considerable depths, and it seems impossible
either to account for their numbers, or for their deposition in such places.
The distractions with which that unhappy island has ever been disturb-
ed, may have induced the petty kings and nobles in their adversity to
bury their diadems and other valuables,^ but still we are surprised at the
existence of so many.

The Irish regal crown was called asion from assian, plates, it being
composed of folds or ribs. At the Tain bo, an event that occurred eight
years before Christ, Maud, the queen of Connaught, rode in an open
chariot, four others being at a distance to keep off the crowd, and pre-
vent the dust from staining her golden asion. || It was by his diadem of
gold, according to Marianas Scotus, that Brian Boroimh was discover-
ed after the battle of Clontarf.

Some of the articles which formed the exports of the ancient Britons
have been noticed in a preceding page. Insignificant as their commerce
may have been, they nevertheless carried on a regular trade with the
continent, and the produce of the interior was conveyed in cars along
the tractways that extended throughout the island. The fourteenth
Triad commemorates Beli as a constructor of roads from the southern
shores even to the extremity of Caithness, at the same time affording

* Poulson's Beverlac, p. 5. t Trans, of Highland Society, i. 334.

| Keating. O'Conner. Nen. Brit.

Sir Henry Radcliff writes, in 1576, that on a report that all pewter and brass ves-
sels were to be taken from the Irish, they immediately buried and concealed them.
Ij Harris, ed. of Ware.


protection to those found on them.* The Watling street, running from
Chester to Dover, appears to have been called by the Britons, Gwydd
elin sarn, the road of the Irish. "f The trade of slaves seems to have
been common in Britain; but who the miserable beings disposed of were,
does not clearly appear, for slavery was unknown among the Celts
Some Gauls are indeed said to have been so fond of Roman wine, that
they bartered children for it, and the Germans sold buffoons as slaves,J
but the bondmen must have been those captured in war. The Irish re-
sorted to Bristol for the purchase of slaves.

The exportation of skins was a branch of commerce in both islands
from the most remote times, and it is believed that Scotland was long
unable to part with any thing else. From the abundance of game great
quantities were formerly disposed of; and in Ireland, at the close of the
seventeenth century, we find the revenue was chiefly derived from

In the fabrication of many of the articles described, other implements
must have been employed. Those formed of stone could only have
been moulded into shape by patient exertion, but other means must have
been employed to bring the metal weapons to an edge. The Celts must
have possessed whetstones, not only to sharpen their swords, daggers,
spears, scythes, &c. but the razors with which they shaved the lower
part of their face. The Romans had long made use, for this purpose,
of stones procured from the island of Crete and other places which
could not be used without oil; but about the period of their first visit to
Britain, they discovered that the Gauls used a sort which they called
passernices, that they were much superior to the others, could be used
with water, and were to be procured in Italy. The hones used by the
Roman barbers were procured in Hispania citeriore, and required only
to be moistened with spittle. || British whetstones three inches and up-
wards in length, some much worn and others apparently unused, have
been found in various places. They are often discovered in barrows,
and are sometimes accompanied by those implements, in the manufac-
ture of which they were necessary.

The Gauls, who were noted for always having plenty of pots and pans
for dressing their meat, invented the art of tinning these utensils and all
others formed of brass and appropriated for domestic purposes; and the
Bituriges, or people of Bourges, were most celebrated for this work,
which was commonly called incoctilia.lf It is probable that they cover-
ed other articles with tin as an ornament. The Romans, who repaid
nations for the loss of liberty by the encouragement which their luxury
and voluptuousness gave to the exertion of the manufacturer and artisan,
could not fail to estimate the value of covering their copper and brazen
utensils with a substanr.e so innocuous, nor overlook the beauty which

* Robert's Early Hist, of the Cumri. t Hoveden, p. 432.

t Amm. Mar. xxix. State of Ireland, 1673.

H Pliny, xxxvi. 22. U Ibid, xxxiv. 17.


could, by such a process, be imparted in many different ways. The
Gauls, on their part, were not insensible to the advantages to be derived
from a prosecution of the art, and began about half a century after Christ,
to silver and gild over the harness of horses, and particularly to decorate
all kinds of chariots in this way. The people of Alise, a town of the
Mundubii, in Burgundy were the most celebrated artificers in this line,
and the Roman extravagance led them, in a very short time, to distribute
their ornaments in the most lavish expenditure.

It is curious to find that the Gauls were the inventors of soap. Their
solicitude to preserve the yellow color of their hair, or to deepen its
tone, led to the invention of an article used in -washing their bodies, com-
posed "ex sevo et cinere." This was much used in Germany, chiefly
by the men; it was either solid or liquid, and the best was made of the
ashes of beech wood and goats' suet.*

The utensils and furniture of the Celtic dwellings were suited to the
wants of the hardy inmates, but these articles were not, however, by
any means so inartificial as might be supposed. Polybius does not lead
us to think very highly of the acquirements of the Gallic nations who
lived in Italy, when he says they dwelt in villages without mclosure,
and had no furniture, but lay on the ground, living also on flesh, and
making no profession but those of war and tillage, their wealth consist-
ing of gold and cattle. That the Celts did not sleep on the ground, but
on beds of grass or straw, he elsewhere informs us, and also says they
slept on mattrasses.| In this he is borne out by other authors, who af-
firm that they were the inventors of flock beds, a manufacture which
they taught the Romans. They were usually made from the refuse of
the wool after dying; a superior sort was formed of the Cadurcian flax,
but all the different kinds retained their original Celtic names. J

The Britons spread the skins which they wore during the day, under
them at night, and this practice of sleeping on skins continued until very
lately among the common people of Germany. The Celtiberians made
their mattrasses of the herb genista, a sort of broom, peculiar to that

The Highland practice of sleeping on heath nicely put together on
the ground, with the green tops uppermost, was reckoned very condu-
cive to health. Reposing on a bed of this sort, " restored the .strength
of the sinews troubled before, and that so evidently, that they who at
evening go to rest sore and weary, rise in the morning whole and able."
The Gael, to whom it was matter of indifference whether they reposed
on the heath as it grew on the hill, or stretched on it when prepared in
their cottage, were so strongly prejudiced against any thing tending to
effeminacy, that, according to the chronicle from which the preceding
quotation is made, "if they travelled to any other country they rejected
the feather beds and bedding of their host, wrapping themselves in their
own plaids, and so taking their rest, careful indeed lest that barbarous

* Pliny, xxviii. 12. t Lib. xi. t Pliny, *ix. i- Cluvenus.


delicacy of the mainland, as they term it, shcAild corrupt their natural
and country hardness." The heather bed was certainly well adapted
for the camp, both from the expedition with which it could be prepared,
and the excellence of the materials. Sir John Dalrymple remark?, that
this mode of preparing their beds, was " an art which, as the beds were
both soft and dry, preserved their health in the field when other soldiers
lost theirs."* The Highlanders naturally viewed the introduction of
luxury and refinement as calculated to sap their independence, and they
were not long in observing that the members of the Freiceadan dubh,
or black watch, became less hardy than their other countrymen. What-
ever may be said as to the. ultimate advantage of civilizing the Highland-
ers, it must be allowed that the old chiefs acted wisely in discouraging
the premature introduction of conveniences and improvements, the want
of which was not felt, and the adoption of which could only be partial.
The inconsiderate countenance of innovation could only produce dis-
comfort and dissatisfaction throughout the Highlands. " The happiness
of Highlanders," says Sacheveral, the historian of Man, " consists not
in having much, but in coveting little." Simplicity of life was not con-
fined to the vassals, but extended to the houses and tables of the great-
est chiefs, who equalled their retainers in manly qualifications and har-
diness of frame. O'Neal, who vaunted that he would rather be O'Neal
of Ulster than Philip of Spain, sat on a green bank under a bush in his
greatest majesty.!

Adverting to the ancient Celts, Pausanias bears a reluctant testimo-
ny to their ingenuity, an$ the avowal of a Greek can be easily appreci-
ated. Brennus, says he, was not unskilled in the art of war, but, for a
barbarian, sufficiently acute, and he tells us that his troops constructed
bridges over the rivers, compelling the nearest inhabitants to rebuild
them, when they were destroyed by the Greeks. J The Gauls appear to
have made greater progress in civilisation than the Germans, who longer
retained their stern and unyielding dispositions. Tacitus dwells with
pleasure on the docility and capacity of the Britons, who so cheerfully
received the instructions and followed the precepts of his father-in-law,
who did not hesitate to declare them superior in intellectual ability to
the continental Celts. The Briton was, no doubt, at one time in a state
of cheerless barbarism, ignorant of the arts of the first necessity; but
his natural ingenuity enabled him rapidly to attain a state of comparative
civilisation and comfort, not only providing for his own wants, but ex-
porting his surplus productions to other nations. Their abilities recom-
mended them to the Emperor Constantius, who, in 296, carried a great
number of British artificers to the continent, where they were employed
to adorn his favorite city Autun.^

The art of the potter must be known to a people occupied in pastur-
age, who require vessels to contain the milk of their flocks; but al-

* Memoirs of Great Britain, pt. ii. p. 53. i Riche, p. 9.

t Lib. x. c. 20. Eumenius Paneg. viii.


though the ancient Britons were not unacquainted with the manufacture,
but certainly made urns and other vessels of forms not inelegant, and
ornamented sometimes with considerable taste, they appear to have
been unable to supply themselves without other assistance; earthen-
ware being one of the commodities they received in their barter with
others. Perhaps those vessels imported were superior to the native
workmanship the sepulchres disclose many varieties of urns and other
vases. Adomnan says the Picts used vessels of glass for drinking, and
it is recorded of St. Patrick that he used a chalice of this material. We
also find that 'Rederch, king of Strathclyde, possessed gold, precious
stones, &c. and a cup made by Guielandus, of the town of Sigenius.
Turgot says of Queen Margaret that she caused the king, Malcolm, in
1093, to be served in dishes silvered and gilt. The ingeniously-formed
and prettily-ornamented wooden and horn vessels of the Gael have been
noticed in a preceding page.

Saguntum, in Spain, was famous for the manufacture of earthenware
cups,* but Gauls, Lusitanians, and Celtiberians were accustomed to
use vessels of wax. "f The Celts sometimes used cups made of the skulls
of their enemies, and ornamented with gold.J The Scyths were also
accustomed to use these cups, and among the Isedones it was the skulls
of their relations that were so appropriated. The old Irish are accused
of a similar practice, but there may be a misapprehension of the term,
for skull was formerly applied to a drinking cup.^ It seems originally
to have signified any capacious vessel, and is, in the present day, appli-
ed by the fishermen in the north to a sort of basket. The Thracians
used wooden platters and cups of the same materials, and also of horn,
according to the manner of the Getes.|| In Gaul there were a sort of
vases for travellers to carry their wine, made of yew tree, which, in Pli-
ny's time, had lost their repute from the poisonous nature of the wood,
by which some had lost their lives. IF

The Britons had some vessels of amber, and it was believed by the
ancients that it distilled from the trees in Great Britain.** This curious
substance, which was called glessum,"fj* was gathered in the territories
of the Suevi, who were the only people who dealt in it, and who carried
on a considerable trade in it, taking it by the way of Pannonia to Rome.
The women in the villages around the Po wore collars of it, as a pre-
ventive of the goitre. Jl Lapis specularis was originally found in Cel-
tiberia, and formed an article of export to Rome. 5$} It appears to have
been the glass of the ancients, and different from Mica.|j|j

The British pearls were anciently very famous. The hope of obtain-

* Pliny, xxxv. 12. t Strabo, p. 107. t Silius, xiii. v. 482. Livy.

Jamioson's Scots' Etymol. Dictionary. || Diod. Fragmenta, xxi. 4.

IT Lib. xvi. c. 10. y ** Sotacus, in Pliny, xxxvii. 2.

tt Pliny, xxxvii. 3. X The Scyths called it sacrium, as one would say, " ecoulemenl
du pays des saces." Note on ditto, xii. 202. ed. 1783. It Pliny ut sup

& Ibid, xxxvi. 22. |||| Note on Pliny, xii. p. 76, ed. 1782.



ing a rich booty of them is said to have been a chief motive for the Ro
man invasion, and when Caesar returned to Rome, he dedicated a mili-
tary ornament, embellished with British pearls, to Venus. Tacitus and
Marcellinus, however, do not speak highly of their value. Pearls are
found in many rivers in Scotland, but they are said to be more rare than
formerly. In 1120, Nicholas, an English ecclesiastic writing to the
Bishop of St. Andrews, begs a number of pearls, particularly four large
ones, and if the Bishop had them not, he requests him to procure them
from the king, who had, he knew, an abundant store.* Sir Thomas
Menzies, of Cults, procured a famous pearl in the water of Kellie, in
Aberdeenshire, which, having been informed was of great value, he
went to London and presented it to the king, who rewarded him with
twelve chaldrons of grain and the customs of Aberdeen for Jife.j

The Gauls formed precious stones into ornaments for their persons,
and even sometimes employed them for hatchets and other implements.
They were soon taught by their conquerors the value of such articles,
and when they discovered how advantageously they could dispose of
such articles, they established a prosperous trade, and began to impose
on their credulous customers many articles of little value as wonderful
productions. J The old Highlanders set precious stones in their rings, ^
and, in treating of their costume, many of their other ornaments have
been noticed. The most ingenious and beautiful article that has, per-
haps, ever been discovered in these islands, is that supposed to have
been the handle of a dagger, richly embellished with innumerable mi-
nute gold pins, described and engraved in Sir Richard Hoare's splendid
work on ancient Wiltshire.

That the Celts, and particularly the Britons, were able to construct
very ingenious works in carpentry, is evinced by their chariots and
agricultural implements. On some of the coins of Cunobeline, struck
between the first and second Roman invasion, seats or chairs, with
backs, four feet, &c., are distinctly represented. The Irish are said to
have been anciently much celebrated for their skill in working of wood,
great quantities of which they exported.

The Celtic artisans were hereditary, like all other professions. Much
has been said in favor of and against this system; if it is calculated
to prevent improvement, which is not apparent, it must be remembered
that Celtic civilisation was long stationary, and there was no stimulus
to invention. An Englishman was astonished to find that every employ-
ment passed by descent, not excepting the Rhimer. " Every profes-
sion," says Riche of the Irish, "hath his particular decorum their
virtue is, they will do nothing but what their fathers have done before
them." The case was the same with the Scotish Gael.

* Hailes's Annals, i. 58.

t Survey of the city of Aberdeen, 1685. This pearl was reported to have been placed
m the crown. J Pliny, xxxvii. 11

I>. Smith, in Trans. High. Soc. i. 340.


The Britons were particularly ingenious in the manufacture of osier
utensils, or basket work, which they executed so neatly, that it became
an article in much demand at Rome, to which large quantities were ex-
ported. In a Gaulish monument, discovered at Blois, in 1710, a female
figure is seated in a chair of wicker or straw plaited,* with a high back,
similar to those I have seen for sale in Dublin.

The Highlanders are naturally ingenious, and of a mechanical turn
of mind. It has been stated that they make their own agricultural and
other implements; they also carry their simple but useful manufactures
to fairs for sale, by which they are able to procure those articles which
their own country does not produce. Besides the exportation of cattle
and wool, with much kelp, the manufacture of which is a late introduc-
tion, hames of hair, and sometimes of twisted thongs of raw hides, brak-
ings, and collars for horses and oxen, made of straw, waights, caises,
sumacs or fleats, 8tc; sacks formed of skin, tartan cloth, kersey, blank-
ets, carpets, and woollen yarn, and the produce of their dairy, are all
disposed of, and carried occasionally in some quantities out of the coun-
try. The short wood in the glens is worked into various useful articles,
and disposed of in the Low country. In the month of August there is a
timber market held in Aberdeen for several days, which is of ancient
origin, and to which the Highlanders bring ladders, harrows, tubs, pails,
and many other articles; those who have nothing else, bringing rods of
hazle and other young wood, with sackfuls of aitnach or juniper and
other mountain berries. There is a market somewhat similar in Edin-
burgh. It seems with reference to this, that a proclamation, llth of
August> 1564, commands that in Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin, Inverness,
Forres, and Nairn, " nane sell timber but in open market."

The wooden locks of the Highlanders are so ingeniously contrived by
notches, made at unequal distances, that it is impossible to open them
but with the wooden key that belongs to them.

In a former chapter, when treating of costume, the abilities of the
Highland dyers and weavers were noticed with some attention, and sev-
eral of the excellent coloring substances produced in the country were
enumerated. It is matter of much regret that the adaptation of the
Highlands for the establishment and successful pursuit of manufactures
is so unaccountably overlooked, for it is evident that they could be car-
ried on to much national advantage. The Scotish mountains afford an
abundant supply of various articles, capable of imparting the most beau-
tiful dyes, and which can be procured without trouble, and at the least
possible expense. A command of water for any machinery is in most
places at all times to be found, and the cheapness of living would keep
wages very low. It is surprising that Highland proprietors have paid
so little attention to so obvious a means of enriching themselves. With
how much advantage could the carpet manufacture, for instance, be
carried on, where the wool is always at hand, as well as the materials

* Montf. x. pi. 136.



for dying it. Mr. Cuthbert Gordon, before mentioned, declared that he
had made a discovery which would lead to the incalculable benefit of
Scotland, but as he unfortunately did not meet with sufficient encourage
ment to mature his plans, which I believe related to dye stuffs, the val-
uable secret was never communicated to his countrymen. There can
be no doubt but that the Highland weavers, who indeed, as it is, occa-
sionally make carpets of great beauty of design and goodness of fabric,
if properly encouraged, would soon rival, if not much surpass, the man-
ufacturers of Kidderminster.

The vessels represented underneath are selected from various discov-
eries as specimens of the earthenware manufactures of the ancient Cel-
tic tribes of Britain, and must be allowed to be not altogether deficient
either in beauty of form or ornament. That in the centre is the most
usual form of the funereal urn.

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