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General History of the Highlands
Changes in Population and Language to 1106


On the demise of Malcolm, Donal-bane his brother assumed the government; but Duncan, the son of Malcolm, who had lived many years in England, and held a high military rank under Willian Rufus, invaded Scotland with a large army of English and Normans, and forced Donal to retire to safety to the Hebrides. Duncan, whom some writers suppose to have been a bastard, and others a legitimate son of Malcolm by a former wife, enjoyed the crown only six months, having been assassintated by Maolpeder, the Maormor of the Mearns, at Menteith, at the instigation, it is believed, of Donal. Duncan left, by his wife Ethreda, daughter of Gospatrick, a son, William, sometimes surnamed Fitz-Duncan.

Donal-bane again seized the sceptre, but he survived Duncan only two years. Edgar AEtheling having assembled an army in England, entered Scotland, and made Donal prisoner in an action which took place in September 1097. He was imprisoned by orders of Edgar, and died at Roscobie in Forfarshire, after having been deprived of his eyesight, according to the usual practice of the age. The series of the pure Scoto-Irish kings may be said to have ended with Donal-bane.

The reign of Edgar, who appears to have been of a gentle and peaceful disposition, is almost devoid of incident, the principle events being the marriage of his sister Matilda to the English Henry, and the wasting and conquest of the Western Islands by Magnus Olaveson and his Norwegians. This last event had but little effect on Scotland proper, as these Islands at that time can hardly be said to have belonged to it. These Norsemen appear to have settled among and mixed with the native inhabitants, and thus formed a population, spoken of by the Irish Annalists under the name of Gallgael, "a horde of pirates, plundering on their own account, and under their own leaders, when they were not following the banner of any of the greater sea-kings, whose fleets were powerful enough to sweep the western seas, and exact tribute from the lesser island chaieftains". Edgar died in 1107, and was succeeded by his brother Alexander, whom he enjoined to bestow upon his younger brother David the district of Columbia.

We have now arrived at an era in our history, when the line of demarcation between the inhabitants of the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland begins to appear, and when, by the influx of a Gothic race into the former, the language of that part of North Britain is completely revolutionized, when a new dynasty or race of sovereigns ascends the throne, and when a great change takes place in the laws and constitution of the kingdom.

Although the Anglo-Saxon colonization of the Lowlands of Scotland does not come exactly within the design of the present work; yet, as forming an important feature in the history of the Lowlands of Scotland, as contradistinguished from the Highlands, a slight notice of it may not be uninteresting.

Shortly after the Roman abdication of North Britain in the year 446, which was soon succeeded by the final departure of the Romans from the British shores, the Saxons, a people of Gothic origin, established themselves upon the Tweed, and afterwards extended their settlements to the Frith of Forth, and to the banks of the Solway and the Clyde. About the beginning of the sixth century the Dalriads, as we have seen, landed at Kintyre and Argyle from the opposite coast of Ireland, and colonised these districts, whence, in the course of little more than two centuries, they overspread the Highlands and western islands, which their descendants have ever since continued to possess. Towards the end of the eighth century, a fresh colony of Scots from Ireland settled in Galloway among the Britons and Saxons, and having overspread the whole of that country, were afterwards joined by the detachments of the Scots of Kintyre and Argyle, in connection with whom they peopled that peninsula. Besides these three races, who made permanent settlements in Scotland, the Scandinavians colonized the Orkney and Shetland islands, and also established themselves on the coasts of Caithness and Sutherland, and in the eastern part of the country north of the Firth of Tay.

But notwithstanding these early settlements of the Gothic race, the era of the Saxon colonization of the Lowlands of Scotland is, with more propriety, placed in the reign of Malcolm Ceanmore, who, by his marriage with a Saxon princess, and the protection he gave to the Anglo-Saxon fugitives who sought an asylum in his dominions from the persecutions of William the Conqueror and his Normans, laid the foundations of those great changes which took place in the reigns of his successors. Malcolm, in his warlike incursions into Northumberland and Durham, carried of immense numbers of young men and women, who were to be seen in the reign of David I in almost every village and house in Scotland. The Gaelic population were quite averse to the settlement of these strangers among them, and it is said that the extravagant mode of living introduced by the Saxon followers of Queen Margaret, was one of the reasons which led to their expulsion from Scotland, in the reign of Donal-bane, who rendered himself popular with his people by this unfriendly act.

This expulsion was, however, soon rendered nugatory, for on the accession of Edgar, the first sovereign of the Scoto-Saxon dynasty, many distinguished Saxon families with their followers settled in Scotland, to the heads of which families the king made grants of land of considerable extent. Few of these foreigners appear to have come into Scotland during the reign of Alexander I, the brother and successor of Edgar; but vast numbers of Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Normans, and Flemings, established themselves in Scotland in the reign of David I. That prince had received his education at the court of Henry I, and had married Maud or Matilda, the only child of Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland and Huntingdon, by Judith, niece to William the Conqueror on the mother's side. This lady had many vassals, and when David came to the throne, in the year 1124, he was followed by a thousand Anglo-Normans, to whom he distributed lands, on which they and their followers settled. Many of the illustrious families in Scotland originated from this source.

Malcolm Ceanmore had, before his accession to the throne, resided for some time in England as a fugitive, under the protection of Edward the Confessor, where he acquired a knowledge of the Saxon language; which language, after his marriage with the princess Margaret, became that of the Scottish court. This circumstance made that language fashionable among the Scottish nobility, in consequence of which and of the Anglo-Saxon colonization under David I, the Gaelic language was altogether superseded in the Lowlands of Scotland in little more than two centuries after the death of Malcolm. A topographical line of demarcation was then fixed as the boundary between the two languages, which has ever since been kept up, and presents one of the most singular phenomena ever observed in the history of philogy.

The change of the seat of government by Kenneth, on ascending the Pictish throne, to Abernethy, also followed by the removal of the marble chair, the emblem of sovereignty, from Dunstaffnage to Scone, appears to have occasioned no detriment to the Gaelic population of the Highlands; but when Malcolm Ceanmore transferred his court, about the year 1066, to Dunfernline, which also became, in place of Iona, the sepulchre of the Scottish kings, the rays of royal bounty, which had hitherto diffused their protecting and benign influence over the inhabitants of the Highlands, were withdrawn, and left them a prey to anarchy and poverty. "The people", says General David Stewart, "now beyond the reach of the laws, became turbulent and fierce, revenging in person those wrongs for which the administrators of the laws were too distant and too feeble to afford redress. Thence arose the institution of chiefs, who naturally became the judges and arbiters in the quarrels of their clansmen and followers, and who were surrounded by men devoted to the defence of their rights, their property, and their power; and accordingly the chiefs established within their own territories a jurisdiction almost wholly independent of their liege lord".

The connection which Malcolm and his successors maintained with England, estranged still further the Highlanders from the dominion of the sovereign and the laws; and their history, after the population of the Lowlands had merged into and adopted the language of the Anglo-Saxons, presents, with the exception of the wars between rival clans which will be noticed afterwards, nothing remarkable till their first appearance on the military theatre of our national history in the campaigns of Montrose, Dundee, and others.

On the accession of Alexander I, then, Scotland was divided between the Celt and the Saxon, or more strictly speaking, Teuton, pretty much as it is at the present day, the Gaelic population having become gradually confined very nearly to the limits indicated in the first chapter. They never appear, at least until quite recently, to have taken kindly to Teutonic customs and the Teutonic tongue, and resented much the defection of their king in court, in submitting to Saxon innovations. Previous to this the history of the Highlands has been, to a very great extent, the history of Scotland, and even for a considerable time after this, Scotia was applied strictly to the country north of the Forth and Clyde, the district south of that being known by various other names. During and after Edgar's time, the whole of the country north of the Tweed became more and more a counterpart of England, with its thanes, its earls, and its sheriffs; and even the Highland maormors assumed the title of earl, in deference to the new customs. The Highlanders, however, it is well known, for centuries warred against these Saxon innovations, becoming more and more a peculiar people, being, up till the end of the last century, a perpetual thorn in the flesh of their Saxon rulers and their Saxon fellow-subjects. They have a history of their own, which we deem worthy of narration.


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