BY THE EDITOR.
EXCURSUS ON THE ETHNOLOGY OF CELTIC
THE ethnology of
the British Isles is still, despite the intelligent researches of the
last fifty years, in an unsettled state. This is greatly due to the
fact that the subject draws its materials from various subordinate or
kindred sciences, and no one man has yet appeared who has been able to
grasp with equal power the reins of all these sciences. The
archaeologist deals with the monuments and other physical remains of
man’s past, helped by the anatomist in deciding upon “skins and
skulls,” a subject also dealt with by the anthropologist, whose sphere
of science is man – his race, physique, and beliefs. The historian
depends on his written or printed documents; while the latest to lend
his aid, as a real, not an empirical, scientist, is the philologist.
Much was done in former times in using language to decide racial
points; but it is since Grimm and Zeuss some sixty years ago put
philology on scientific lines that any good has accrued from this
subject. It is still a science known thoroughly, especially for
purposes of ethnology, only by a few.
going back to the cave-men, and others of paleolithic times, when
Britain and its isles formed a continuous part of Europe, we come to
neolithic times, when unmistakably we have man of the New Stone Age.
These neolithic men were comparatively small of stature, long-headed,
and dark-haired. They buried in long barrows. The Bronze Age begins
with the intrusion of a race tall in stature, broad-headed, and
fair-haired, with beetling grows – a splendid race physically and
mentally. They buried in round barrows. Some – indeed, most –
ethnologists regard these men as the first wave of the Celts; some say
of Gadelic, or perhaps Gadelic and Pictish. They are allied by
physique to several past and present races on the Continent – the
modern Walloons, for instance, and the old Helvetii. The view
maintained by the Editor is that the Gadels or ancient Gales and the
Picts both belonged to the great Aryan Race, and originally possessed
the tall stature, blond hair, and long heads which are postulated for
the pure Aryan. The Aryan Race, or rather the Aryan-speaking Race, is
a discovery of modern or scientific philology. It was discovered some
sixty years ago that the languages of the various nations – barring a
very few – dwelling from Ireland to Ceylon, ultimately came from one
original tongue. In short, the chief Indian languages, Persian,
Slavonic, Lettic, Teutonic, Greek, Latin, and Celtic, are descended
from one mother-tongue. For a long time it has been a matter of
dispute where this original language had its habitat. It is now
agreed that southern Russia and ancient Poland formed the home of the
Aryan tongue. The dispersion of the Aryan-speaking people began some
four thousand years ago. The Celts lay on the upper reaches of the
Danube until the dawn of history begins; the Latins and they were
nearest of kin of any of the other leading branches. The Celts spread
over Germany to the shores of the North Sea, and then, about 600 B.C.,
or indeed earlier, they entered Gaul and pushed on their conquests
into Spain, and later into northern Italy. They were at the height of
their power in the fourth century, spreading from the west of Ireland
to the mouth of the Danube, and in 279 they overran Asia Minor,
settling down to the limits of Galatia about 250 B.C. Such an “empire”
might satisfy Rome itself. But it had no centre, and soon crumbled,
after two hundred years’ domination.
all unite on one philologic peculiarity: every Aryan initial p
has been lost. In the course of their dispersion over Europe they
divided into two dialects over the Aryan sound qv (as in Lat.
quod Eng. quantity). The one dialect made it k or
q purely, the other made it p; and we speak of P and Q
Celts for brevity’s sake. The Belgic Gauls, the Britons and Welsh, and
the Picts, were P Celts; the Gadels or Gaels of all ages were Q Celts.
Most of Gaul spoke the P variety of Celtic. The Celts, of course,
pushed westward into Britain. It is usually thought that the Gadels
came first. The common notion naturally is that they swarmed into
England about 600 B.C., and were thence driven westward into Ireland
by the advancing Belgic tribes. Undoubtedly Gadels were in Wales and
Devonshire in the fifth century A.D., settled as inhabitants. These,
however, are accounted for as the invaders of the Roman Province of
Britain during the invasions of the Scots and Picts from 360 to 500.
Indeed, in 366, and for a few years, the Province of Britain was
ruled, or misruled, by Crimthann, High-King of Ireland. Theodosius
arrived in 369, and drove out the invaders. As early as 200,
settlements were made by expelled Gaels in South Wales. Besides this,
Gaelic inscriptions of the fifth and sixth centuries in Ogam are found
in South Wales, and one or two in old Cornavia. Professor Rhys is the
great protagonist for the view that the Gadelic tongue was continuous
in Wales from the time of the first Gadels till the seventh century.
On the other side, Professor Kuno Meyer asserts that “no Gale ever set
his foot on British soil save frm a vessel that had put out from
Ireland,” a dictum with which the present writer agrees.
tradition among the Gaels of Ireland themselves is that they came from
Spain to Ireland. It is more likely that, starting from Gaul, they
skimmed along the southern shore of England – perhaps the Picts were
then in possession of the country – and thus arrived in Ireland. Their
own traditions and there being no other trace of them in Britain
before the Christian era prove this contention. As already said, the
date of their arrival must be about 600 or 500 B.C.
same time the Picts came across, possibly from what was afterwards the
land of the Saxon invaders of England, and may have colonised Scotland
first, bringing there the red-haired, large-limbed Caledonians of
Tacitus. In any case, the Picts must have been the predominant race in
Britain in the fourth century B.C., when the Greek voyager, Pytheas,
made his rounds of the northern seas. He calls the people of Britain
Pretanoi or Prettanoi; this might be a Celtic Qretani, present Gaelic
Cruithne, possibly from cruth, figure, so called because they
tattooed themselves, whence Lat. Picti, painted men. The fact
that Pictavia was also the name of a large Gaulish province makes this
last statement doubtful. It may, however, be inferred that this Greek
from Prettania gave rise to the name Britain – a bad Latin
pronunciation of Prettania. Prof. Rhys here objects, and pints out
that Pliny mentions a tribe of Britanni as situated at the mouth of
the Somme, not very far from Kent; that there was such a tribe is
proved by the modern town-name of Bretagne. If Prof. Rhys is right, he
must postulate that part of Kent was inhabited by these Britanni, and
that from this little colony came the name of the whole island. No
Britanni are mentioned as in Britain, and it is likely that the tribe
on the Somme were some returned emigrants from Britain. The Welsh call
the Picts Prydyn (from pyrd, figure), which again agrees
with Gaelic derivation (Gaelic cruth, whence Cruithne, is, in
Welsh, pryd). Britain is Welsh Prydain, the same word as that
for Pict. Hence the Picts are the “figured” men both in the Gadelic
and Brittonic languages. These are the Editor’s views, and the proof
must be deferred till we come to treat the Pictish question.
‘We are on
firm historic ground in regard to the last Belgic invasion of Celts
from the Continent. The Belgic Gauls crossed over into Britain before
Caesar’s time, for he found them in possession of at least the eastern
portion of England; the language was the same on both sides of the
Channel, some tribe names, such as the Atrebates, were common to both,
and King Divitiacus ruled both in Gaul and Britain. Caesar speaks of
the Britons of the interior as aboriginal, no doubt referring to the
west coast and to Scotland. In any case, the Belgae seem at the time
of the Roman conquest to have possessed Britain as far as the Forth –
at least its eastern half, being probably in much the same position as
we find the Anglo-Saxons about 613. The Picts had been conquered or
driven west and north; we know they inhabited all northern Scotland
then, and possibly what was afterwards the Kingdom of Strathclyde.
Tacitus mentions the Silures in South Wales as a dark curly-haired
people, and argues their Spanish origin. These Silures are now
recognised as the survivors of the Iberians of the Neolithic age.
therefore, at the beginning of the Christian era, the racial position
would be thus: Belgic Gauls in the eastern portion of the country from
the Firth of Forth to the Tweed; parallel to them in the western half,
from the Firth of Clyde to the Solway, were the Picts, still
retreating. The rest of the Picts filled the remaining portion of
Scotland from the Firths to Cape Wrath and the Orkney Isles. The
previous Iberian population, with its admixture of Bronze-age men,
were absorbed by the Celts or driven westwards, where, among the Isles
and on the West Coast, plenty traces of them are still in evidence.
The Roman occupation of the district between the Walls, that is from
the Tyne and Solway to the Clyde and Forth Wall, no doubt added a new
ethnologic factor to the population there; and the Brittonic or Belgic
Gauls undoubtedly came to possess Strathclyde and Dumbarton (the
“dune” of the Britons). In the sixth century the Anglo-Saxons entered
Scotland. The Celts called them Saxons because that tribe formed the
first Teutonic raiders and invaders of Britain, the Gadelic tribes
receiving the name from the Brittonic peoples. It was, however, the
Angles that conquered the eastern half of Scotland to the Firth of
the Scots, who had helped the Picts to harass the Roman province for a
hundred years, had acquired settlements on the Argyleshire coast and
in the Isles. The Scots were simply the inhabitants of Ireland; it was
their own name for themselves. Isidore of Saville (600 A.D.) Says the
name in the Scottic language meant “tattooed,” and, as a matter of
fact, the root word is still alive in the language – Gaelic sgath,
lot off; old Irish scothaim, allied to English scathe.
This makes both Gadels and Picts mean “men of the tattoo.” Dr.
Whitley Stokes prefers the root skot, property; German
schatz, stock; and translates the word as “owners, masters.” The
first invasion of Scotland by the Scots is set down by the Irish
annalists as in the latter half of the second century (circ. 160 A.D.)
Under Cairbre Riata, whom Bede calls Reuda (Gadelic *Reiddavos
“Ready-man?”) Riata gave his name to the Irish and Scotch Dál-Riadas
both – “the Tribal portion of Riata.” Possibly additions took place
during the Picts and Scots alliance of 360 to (say) 460, but in any
case a great accession to the Scots on the West Coast was the arrival,
in 501, of the sons of Erc from Dalriada; they founded the little
kingdom of Dalriada, practically Argyleshire and its Isles, though the
original Argyle extended from the Mull of Kintyre to Lochbroom, as our
earliest documents show. It means “Coastland of the Gael” –
Airer-Gaidheal. When the Norse came about 800, they called the Minch
Scotland Fjord, which shows that the Gael practically held the West
coast entire, and the Picts held the East Coast to Pettland Fjord, or
Pictland Fjord, now Pentland. The name Scot and Scotland came to be
applied to the Scottish kingdom in the tenth century by English
writers – the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle calls Constantine, who fought
unsuccessfully at Brunanburg, in 938, King of Scotland. The Irish, who
were called by this time Hibernienses, or Hiberni, by outsiders,
dropped the name Scot and called themselves Goedel, or, later,
Gaoidheal, “Gael.” This is the name that the Highlanders still call
themselves by – Gàidheal. Unfortunately, the oldest Irish form dates
only from 1100 – Góedel, which would give a Gadelic form, *Gaidelos,
but Scottish Gaeli points to *Gâdilos or Gâidelos, and from various
considerations seems the correcter form, giving a root gâd,
Eng. good, Gothic gadiliggs, relative; German gatte,
husband. The idea is “kinsman,” as in the case of the native name for
Welshman – Cymro, whence Cymric, *Com-brox, a “co-burger,” where
brox or broges (plural) is from the root mrog, land;
Lat. margo, Eng. mark, march.
invasion of Scotland, which gave her a most important accession of
population in the Isles, the West Coast, and in Sutherland and
Caithness, was made by the Norse about 795. Our historians seem little
to understand either its extent in time and place or the great change
it wrought in the ethnological character of the districts held by the
Norse. Of this we shall speak at its proper place in notes on Chapter
V. The Norman invasion extended even to Scotland, and Celtic earls and
barons, either through failure of heirs male or otherwise, soon and in
great numbers were succeeded by Normans and Angles.
It will thus
be seen that the Scottish people are ethnologically very much mixed.
The Caledonians, as Dr. Beddoe points out, still show German, or
rather Walloon, characteristics. Norse features are predominant in
Lewis and the northern Isles generally, though Iberian and other (such
as Spanish) elements are strong. The East Coast is largely Teutonic.
The old burghs were planted by the Canmore dynasty in the northern
districts to keep the ordinary population in order, and towns like
Inverness were from the first in the hands of Flemish and other
criticism began with Father Innes’s Essay on the Ancient Inhabitants
of Scotland in 1729, the Scottish historians taught that the Picts and
Scots were two separate nations living side by side, each speaking a
language of its own. These historians gave their attention nearly
altogether to the story and genealogy of the Scots, representing
Kenneth Mac Alpin in 843 as overthrowing and even extirpating the
Picts, insomuch that their language and their name were lost. Father
Innes’s Essay, among other things, holds that though Kenneth Mac
Alpin, the Scot, had to fight for his Pictish throne, yet he was
rightful heir, but he proves that there was no extirpation of the
Picts. Their language, as a dialect of Celtic, like British (Welsh)
and Gaelic, naturally gave way to the Court and Church language of
Kenneth and his dynasty, which was Gaelic – such is his easy-going
method of getting rid of a national language. Later on Pinkerton, who
had an anti-Celtic craze, put the Picts in the foreground of his
historic picture of Scotland before 843; he regarded them as Gothic or
Teutonic – ancestors of the Lowland Scots, who wiped out the Dalriadic
Kingdom about 740. The king of the straggling remnant of Dalriads, one
hundred years later, became, in the person of Kenneth Mac Alpin, also
King of Picts. George Chalmers (1807), sanest critic of them all,
regarded the Picts as Cymric or British by race and language, and of
course accepted the usual story of the Scottish Chronicles. Mr. Skene,
in the first edition of the present work, in 1837, adopted Pinkerton’s
revolutionary ideas about the Picts and the Scottish Conquest, but
with the great difference that he regarded the Picts as
Gaelic-speaking, using the same language as the Scots. In fact, he
held that there was no change of race or language at the so-called
Scottish Conquest, which was no conquest at all, but a mere matter of
succession on Kenneth’s part according to Pictish law. This may be
called the “Uniformitarian” theory of early Scottish history: nobody
conquered anybody, and the great Pictish nation was, as before, in
language and race, the main body of the Scottish Kingdom, and most
certainly ancestors of the present-day Scottish Highlanders – at any
rate the Northern Picts were so. The Southern Picts he allows in 1837
to be conquered by Kenneth Mac Alpin, but in Celtic Scotland he
only admits that Britons were between the Tay and the Forth – the
Britons of Fortrenn being mentioned in the Irish Chronicles – and gave
Kings to the Picts, as the Kings’ lists compelled him to admit; but
these Britons were Cornish (Camnonii of Cornwall and Dumnonii of
Mid-Scotland, according to Ptolemy’s geography, were likely the same
people in Skene’s view). This very plausible theory has for the last
sixty years held the field in Scottish history; indeed, the popular
historians of Scotland – Dr. Hume Brown and Mr. Andrew Lang – regard
the Picts as purely Gaels, and kill off the Dalriads in the time of
the terrible Pictish King, Angus Mac Fergus (About 740). The obscurity
of Kenneth Mac Alpin’s succession is insisted upon. Mr. Lang, as might
be expected, is really “funny” on the subject. Writing about Prof.
Zimmer’s expression that the Scots “took away the independence of the
Picts,” he says: – “We might as easily hold that James VI. took away
the independence of the English by becoming King, as that Kenneth Mac
Alpin, a Pict by female descent [?], did as much for the Picts.” Dr.
Skene has retarded the progress of scientific research into early
Scottish history for at least a generation. This sort of thing, as
shown by Lang’s case, will go on for many a day yet, let Celtic
scholars do what they like.
Celtic scholars have reverted to the old position of the Chronicles.
Respect for the authority of contemporaries like Bede and Cormac, and,
we may add, Adamnan, compels them so to do, not to mention the
authority of the Chronicles; philological facts, scientifically dealt
with, and considerations of customs, especially in regard to marriage,
hold the next place. The present writer thinks that the topography of
Pictland is one of the most cogent factors in the solution of the
problem, but, unfortunately, Celtic scholars “furth of Scotland”
cannot appreciate this aspect of the question except to a limited
extent. If Prof. Rhys studied the topography of Pictland instead of
the so-called Pictish inscriptions, it is certain that he would not
distract either Celtic scholars or outsiders like Mr. Lang with his
theories as to the Pictish being a non-Aryan, pre-Celtic tongue. The
ingenuity wasted on this theory and on its ethnologic consequences
makes the outsider yet distrust philologic ways. And here, again, the
study of Scottish ethnology is retarded, though not to the same extent
as it is by Dr. Skene’s theories.
We can here
only summarise the arguments that go to prove that the Picts were a
Celtic-speaking people, whose language differed both from Brittonic
and Gadelic, but, at the same time, only differed dialectically from
the Gaulish and Brittonic tongues. The language was of the P class.
The arguments are these: –
Contemporary writers speak of the Pictish as a separate language from
both Brittonic and Gadelic.
twice refers to the matter: – “The nations and provinces of Britain,
which are divided into four languages, viz., those of the Britons, the
Picts, the Scots, and the English” (III. cap. 6). There may have been
thus many provinces in Britain, but only four languages. In his first
chapter he adds Latin as a fifth language – Britain “contains five
nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts, and Latins, each in its
own peculiar dialect cultivating the sublime study of divine truth.”
These statements, surely, are definite enough: Pictish is a language
different from either Brittonic or Gadelic. This Skene acknowledges in
the present volume, but confines it to the southern Picts; in
Celtic Scotland he does like the Scottish theologian – he looks
the difficulty boldly in the face and passes on!
(died 704), writing for people who knew that Pictish was a very
different tongue from Irish, did not require to mention that
interpreters were needed any more than modern travel-books do, but he
does incidentally mention that columba preached the Word twice through
an interpreter, once to a peasant, and once to a chief. “On two
occasions only,” says Skene, does he require an interpreter, and it is
at once inferred that King Brude and his court spoke to Columba
without interpreters – and in Gaelic!
King-bishop of Cashel (circ. 900), records a word of the berla
cruithnech or Pictish language (cartit, pin).
contemporary references occur in the twelfth century, and they concern
the so-called Picts of Galloway. These will best be considered under
the next heading.
II. – The
so-called Picts of Galloway and the Irish Cruithnig.
The Picts of
Galloway are mentioned as being present at the Battle of the Standard
(1138) by Richard of Hexham, a contemporary writer, who informs us
that King David’s army was composed inter alios of “Pictis, qui
vulgo Gallweienses dicuntur.” The learned cleric calls them Picts;
their usual name was Gallwegians. From Reginald of Durham, writing at
the end of the twelfth century, we get a word belonging to these Picts,
for, speaking of certain clerics of Kirkcudbright, he calls them
“clerici illi qui Pictorum lingua Scollofthes cognominantur”
Unfortunately, the word Scollofthes proves nothing, for like
the Welsh ysgolhaig and old Irish scoloe, scholar,
student – latterly, in Gaelic, servant – it is derived from Latin
scholasticus; but the reference to the Pictish language implies
its existence in Galloway at the time. Of course we can pit against
these two references, another from the same Anglic source. Henry of
Huntingdon, who writes before 1154, says: “The Picts seem now
destroyed and their language altogether wiped out, so that what old
writers say about them appears now fabulous.” We have further an
enumeration of the inhabitants of the Glasgow diocese in the charters
of Malcolm and William the Lyon, which are addressed thus: “Francis et
Anglis, Scotis et Galwejensibus et Walensibus” – Franks (Norman
French), English (of the south eastern counties), Scots (Gaels
possibly), Galwegians and Welsh (remains of the old Britons of
Strathclyde). Here there is no mention of Picts.
so named from Gall-Gàidheil or “Foreign Gaels.” This was the name
given to the mixed Norse and Gaels who inhabited the Isles of
Scotland, Man, Galloway, Kintyre, and the Western coast of Scotland.
Dr. Stokes thinks that the Gaelic portion of them had relapsed into
paganism. The Gall Gàidheil afterwards formed the Kingdom of Man and
the Isles, without, however, any portion of the mainland being
included; and the name Gall Gàidheil became latterly restricted to
Galloway. The early history of Galloway can only be guessed at. the
Brittonic people certainly had possession of it, and Dr. Beddoe
regards the tall hillmen of Galloway and upper Strathclyde as the best
representatives of the Brittonic race, Wales itself being very much
mixed in blood. It formed part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, no
doubt; but it must have received a Gaelic population from Ireland
before its conquest by the Norse. Its place-names show traces of
Brittonic, Norse, and Gaelic names; but Gaelic names are predominant.
Gaelic was spoken in Galloway and Ayr till the seventeenth century;
but the Gaels of Ayr, Lanark, and Renfrew were invaders from the
north, who in the tenth and eleventh centuries imposed their language
and rule on the British Kingdom of Strathclyde. It is clear, from the
above considerations, that the Galwegians of the twelfth century were
anything but Picts, and that their language was the same as the Manx.
Richard of Hexham and Reginald of Durham, finding the Galwegians a
race apart, called them Picts; and so Dr. Skene founds one of his
strongest arguments that Pictish was Gaelic on the fact that the
Gaelic-speaking Galwegians were Picts according to two bungling
English ecclesiastics of the twelfth century.
Picts have always the name of Cruithnig, both in Gaelic and in Latin,
whereas the Picts of Scotland are variously called Cruithnig, Picts,
Piccardai, Pictones, and Pictores. In Ireland there were Picts in
Dal-araidhe (Down and part of Antrim), in Meath and in Roscommon. The
last two were doubtless some mercenaries introduced by some King or
Kinglet returning victoriously from exile. Nothing is known of them
save in a wild legend about the arrival of the Picts first in Ireland
and their departure to Scotland, leaving a remnant in Meath. But the
Cruithnig of Dal-araidhe figure prominently in Irish history in the
sixth and seventh centuries. The Irish histories relate that they were
the attendants or descendants of the Princess Loucetna, daughter of
Eochaidh Echbél, King of Alba; she married Conall Cernach, the great
Ulster hero of the early part of the first century of the Christian
era. But the Ulster Picts were evidently invaders from Scotland who
settled on the corner of Ireland nearest to their own land. By the
sixth century they were as Gaelic-speaking as the rest of the Irish.
And hence Skene finds another proof that Pictish was Gaelic. He also
misreads the history of Ulster, which he regards as having been all
populated by the Picts. Ulster had in early Irish history two
consecutive denotations: Ulster at first meant the provence of Ulster
as it is now. But the old kingly heroes of Ulster – the Clann Rudraid,
descended of Ir, son of Miled – was gradually extruded from its lands
by scions of the royal line of Ireland, until in the fifth century
they had only Dal-araidhe or Ulidia or Uladh, which was still called
Ulster and its kings still styled “Kings of Ulster.” They were, of
course, also King of the Picts of Dal-araidhe. Hence has arisen
Skene’s confusion, in which he is followed by Prof. Rhys.
The Pictish Language.
Not a line
of either poetry or prose has been recorded in Pictish; the so-called
Pictish inscriptions are yet unravelled. Only two words are recorded
by writers as Pictish. Bede records that the east end of the Roman
wall, between Forth and Clyde, ended “in loco qui sermone Pictorum
Pean-fahel, lingua autem Anglorum Penneltun, appellatur.” Here pean
is for penn, which is also the old Welsh for “head,” old
Gaelic, cenn; and fahel is allied to Gaelic fàl,
Welsh gwawl, rampart. Both Skene and Rhys regard pean as
British, belonging to the “Britons of Fortrenn,” or if not so,
borrowed from the British. Cormac records the word cartit, a
pin or brooch pin, to which Stokes compares the old Welsh garthon,
however, ample means to judge the affinities of the Pictish language
in the numerous personal and place-names recorded by classical and
later writers, or still extant in old Pictavia.
(1) Names in
the classical writers.
first mentions Caledonia, by which he means Scotland north of the
Firths, and Ptolemy writes it Kaledonios. The long e between
l and d is guaranteed by the old Welsh Celydon, and
Nennius’s Celidon; but all the same, it must be regarded as a Roman
mispronunciation of Caldon – ld being not common in Latin as a
combination, for early Gaelic shows Callden, now Caillinn, Scotch Keld,
in Dun-Keld; and there are three other names near at hand there with
the same ending, notably, Schiehallion. the root cald in Celtic
means “wood,” and Caldonii would mean “woodlanders.”
records the Boresti in Fife; he gives the personal name Calgacus,
“sworded one” (Gaelic calg, colg, Welsh caly). The much
misread Mons Graupius (now Grampian), yields the root grup, a
non-Gadelic root in p, which argues its Picto-Brittonic
character. Stokes compares it to Greek grupos, rounded (Ger.
krumm, bent). The Orcades, or Orkney Isles, give the Celtic root
orc, pig, possibly here meaning “whale.”
(circ. 140 A.D.) In his geography, gives some 44 names connected with
Pictland. Ptolemy’s tribal names begin in south Pictland with the
Damnonii, who stretched across the neck of Scotland from Ayr to Fife.
It is usual to regard the word as a variant of the Cornish Dumnoni,
now Devon (Gaelic domhan, world, and dumno); both Skene
and Rhys allow them to be Britons – those Britons of Fortrenn who were
responsible for the Brittonic elements in the Pictish language
according to the theories held by these writers. The Epidi of Kintyre
are distinctly of the P Celtic branch; the root ep or eq
means horse (stem eqo, Gaulish epo). The Carnonacai (G.
carn), the Caireni (“sheep men”), the Cornavii (compare
Cornwall), the Lugi (lug, win), Smertai and Vaco-magi (magh,
plain), are all good Celtic names); and to these may be added the
Decantai, found also in Wales, and the Vernicones (G. fearna,
alder?). The Taixali of Aberdeen, and the Cerones or Creones, are as
yet unexplained as to name. The coast names come next. The Clota or
Clyde is from the Celtic clu, clean; Lemannonios, now Lennox,
like lake Lemann, comes from lemano, elm. The river Longos,
Norse Skipafjord, or Loch Long, comes from long, ship; Tarvedum
(tarbh, bull); Cailis river (caol, narrow); Deva river
means “goddess,” and is a common Celtic name, more Gaulish-Brittonic
than Gadelic; Tava, the Tay, has Brittonic equivalents (W. Tawe, Devon
Tavy? Welsh taw, quiet). Celtic, too, must be Itys (Gaulish
Itins), and Vir-vedrum and Verubium (prefix ver); nor would it
be difficult to explain from Celtic roots Volas or Volsas, Nabaros (nav,
float?), Ila, now Ullie (il, go), Varar, Tvesis (Spesis? now
Spey); and Loxa. Tina and Boderia or Bodotria (Forth), are doubtful.
The town names are less satisfactory. Alauna, really the river Allan,
a good Celtic river name (W. Alun, Cornish Alan, root pal);
Lindum, G. linne, loch, water, possibly Linlithgow; Victoria, a
translated name, in West Fife; Devana, “Goddess,” Gaulish Divona,
“fons additus divis,” gets its name from the river as usual, viz., the
Don, old Gaelic Deon, now Dian, being in spite of its inland bearings,
really Aberdeen; Orrea, Bannatia, and Tamia are not immediately
explicable, though, as far as mere roots are concerned, they can be
Celtic. Alata Castra, or Winged Camp, is supposed to be Burghead. It
is a translated name. So, too, is High Bank, between the Ullie or
Helmsdale, and the Varar or Moray Firth. This has recently been
happily equated with the Oyken, whose “High Banks” the Norse usually
made the southern boundary of their conquests, and which they called
Ekkjals-bakki, or Ekkjal’s Bank. The name Oykel goes along with the
Oichil Hills and Ochiltree, and is from Celtic uxellos, high,
Welsh uchel, Gaelic uasal. The Pictish here shows
decidedly Brittonic phonetics. The island names prove nothing: Ebouda,
perhaps for Boud-da, now Bute; Malaios, now Mull (mal, mel,
brow, hill); Epidium (ech, horse); Ricina; Dumma (compare
Dumnoni); and Skitis, now possibly Skye (not ski, cut,
historians of Severus’s campaign (208-11) record but few names. The
Maiatai and Caledoni are the only tribes mentioned seemingly having
the north of Scotland between them, the Maiatai being next the
northern wall. Adamnan calls them Miathi; the name is still
unexplained. Argento-coxos was a Caledonian chief of the time; the
name means “Silver-leg.” A tablet found some years ago at Colchester
gives us the war god’s name as Medocius (G. and Irish Miadhach) and
the devotee’s name was Lossio Veda Nepos Vepogeni Caledo. The date of
the inscription is from 232-235. Prof. Rhys has suggested that Lossio
(Brittonic gen. Lossion-os, Gadelic Lossen-as) is related to the Welsh
personal name Lleision. Vepogenos, the name of the Caledonian’s
grandfather or uncle (possibly), is thoroughly of the P variety of
Celtic, and it appears in a shorter root form (vip) in the
Pictish list of Kings (Vip, Vipoig), Gaelic Fiacha, a common
name. Veda may be for Veida, and this in a shorter root form appears
in the Pictish Kings’ list as Uuid, i.e., Vid. Ammianus
Marcellinus (circ. 400) gives the two tribes of Pictland as
Di-Calidonae and Vecturiones. the latter name has been happily
corrected by Prof. Rhys into Verturiones, whence the historic name of
Fortrenn, the district between the Forth and the Tay.
To sum up
the results of the above analysis: one-third of the names can easily
be paralleled elsewhere on Celtic ground – Gaulish or Brittonic,
though not on Gadelic ground; a fourth more show good Celtic roots and
formative particles, and another fourth can easily be analysed into
Aryan or Celtic radicals. These facts dispose of Prof. Rhys’s theory
of the non-Aryan and non-Celtic character of the Pictish, and it also
makes so far against Skene’s Gadelic view – a name like Epidi being
especially decisive against a Q language. The names of northern
Pictavia show no difference in linguistic character from those of the
south, as witness – Deva, Devana, Vacomagi, Caelis, Smertae, Lugi,
Cornavi, Caireni, Carnonacae, Tarvedum, Verubium (root ub,
point, weapon); and, finally, Orcades.
Post-classical Pictish Names.
Contemporaries like Adamnan and Bede record but few Pictish names, and
we depend on the Chronicles of the Picts and Scots for complete King
lists, and on the Irish Annals as a check on these lists and as a
source of further names, and especially, place-names. The lives of the
Saints present some names, but this is a doubtful source. The King
list begins with Cruithne, the eponymus of the race, who is
contemporary with the sons of Miledh, the Gadelic invaders of Ireland,
whose date is only 1700 B.C. according to the Annals. We have 66 names
of Kings to cover the period from Cruithne to Brude, son of Mailcon
(554-584 A.D.), the King who received Columba in 565. Imagination
seems to have failed the Pictish genealogists in making this list, for
they fill a long gap with 30 Kings of the same name – Brude,
differentiating them by epithets that go in couples, thus: Brude Leo,
Brude Ur-leo, Brude Pont, Brude Ur-pont, & c. The ur here is
the Gaulish prefix ver, Welsh gur, guor, Irish fer,
for, allied to English hyper and over. It is very
common as a prefix in all the branches of Celtic. It is useless to
take these King names seriously before Brude Mac Mailcon’s time,
though one figure may be historic – Nectan, son of Erp (A.D. 480), who
is said to have given Abernethy to Derlugdach, abbess of Kildare. the
name Nectan is common to Pictish and Gaelic; it comes from necht,
pure, whose root is nig, wash. The Pictish form and
pronunciation is doubtless best recorded by Bede’s Naiton, which shows
Brittonic phonetics in changing et into it. Erp, the
father’s name, was common in Pictland, and we last hear of it among
the Norse. Erp, son of Meldun, a Scottish earl, and grandson of an
Irish King, was captured by the Norse, and as a freed man went to
colonise Iceland in the end of the ninth century; from him descended
the Erplingi clan of Iceland. This is clearly the Pictih equivalent of
Welsh Yrp (Triads) and Gadelic Erc, the latter a very common name (erc
means cow, heaven). Brude appears in Bede in a more Welsh form as
Bridei; Stokes equates it with Eng. proud. Mailcon, the father,
may have been the famous Welsh King, whom Gildas calls Maglo-cunus,
“High Chief,” known later as Maelgwyn of Gwyned. The list from Brude
Mac Mailcon to Kenneth Mac Alpin is in the Pictish Chronicles as
(584-599). The name Gartnait, or Garnait, was very common in Pictland,
It comes from gart, head; Welsh, garth. It is non-Gadelic.
Domelch is in the Irish Annals given as Domnach (from Dummo).
(599-619), “nephew of Verb.” Verb appears in many Gaulish and British
names In Ir. it means “cow,” “blotch”; in O.W. gverp, stigma.
(619-631); Ir. Cinaed Mac Luchtren. The first name is our modern
Kenneth (cin-aed, “fire-kin”), common to Irish and Pictish.
Lutrin is a Pictih form of Celtic Lugo-trenos, “strong by the god
Lug.” Lug either means the “sun-god” or “winner.”
Uuid or Wid
(631-635). The name Vid is to be compared to O.W. guid as in
Guid-lon, Guid-nerth; fuller form Veida, already mentioned. Seemingly
the root is vid, know. It also exists in Ir. as a prefiz:
Uuid or Wid (635-641). Brude son of Vid, brother of above.
(641-653). The name Talorg and Talorgan is purely Pictish, and is the
same as Gaulish Argio-talos, “Silver Brow.” It is common; there was a
St. Talorgan. The phonetics of the Pictish Chronicle are here purely
British (rg becoming re).
(653-657). Talorgan, son of Eanfrid, King of Bernicia who was an exile
in Pictland. The name Eanfrid is Saxon.
(657-663). The father’s name is Domnall or Donald (Dummo-valos,
“World-King”), and it is Irish. He was himself likely a Scot of
(663-672). Drust is meant. It is a common name and purely Pictish. Its
longer form is Drostan, old Cornish inscription Drustagni; more
celebrated as Tristan or Tristram of the legends. Stokes makes the
root drut, W. drud, brave, strong. Compare Eng. trust
and the terminal trud in Teutonic names (Ger-trude, & c).
Bridei f. Bili
(672-693) Brude, son of Bili or Beli, King of Strathclyde. The name is
British (Ir. bil, good).
(693-697) Taranis was the Gaulish “thunder” diety. W. taran,
thunder. Adamnan has Tarainus, a Pict. The Irish Annals give Enfidaig
for the father’s name, En-fidach possibly; Fidach, son of Cruithne,
and Vid, already discussed, have the same root.
(697-706). Brude, son of Derile. The der may be an imtensive
prefix, as in W. Der-guist, O. Br. Der-monoc. There are also Dergard
and Doirgarto, which came from Der-gart, gart being as in
Derili (706-724-729), brother of above.
Drust and Alpin
co-reigned. The name Alpin is purely British; if native, the root is
alb, white, as in Alpes, the Alps. It seems allied to the name
Alba, the older Albion.
(730-760). Angus, son of Fergus. Both names are common to British and
Irish. They mean “Unique Choice” and “Super-choice.”
(760-762), Angus’s brother.
(762-774). Kenneth, son of Feradach. An early mythic king was called
Wradech, Ir. Annals, Uuradech, that is, Feradach. The name seems both
Ir. and Pictish.
Wroid (774-779). Ir. Annals, Feroth and Ferith, compare W.
f. Onnust or Angus (783-786).
Canaul f. Tarla
(783-788), mis-reading for conall, son of Tadg, both names being
purely Irish, and he seems to have been a Scot interloper.
Constantin f. Urgust (d. 820). Constantine is Latin; Fergus,
Urgust (820-833). Angus, son of Fergus, his brother.
or Drust f. Constantin, and Talorgan f. Utholl,
co-reigned 3 years.
or Eogan f. Unnust or Angus (836-838). Eogan is both
British and Gaelic.
Bargoit, 3 years. [possibly Dergairt.]
or Brude, son of Dergard, “Ultimus rex Pictorum” (St. Andrews
Priory Reg.). For Dergart, see Bridei f. Derili.
list, as handed down by the Pictish Chronicles, the age of which is
unknown, is decidedly British in phonetics, and the names Brude,
Gartnait, Talorgan, Drostan, and Alpin, are foreign to old Gaelic;
but, at the same time, they are explicable from British sources. There
is nothing non-Celtic in the list. It tells, therefore, both against
Skene and Rhys.
so-called Pictish Inscriptions.
shares with the south of Ireland, Cornwall, and South Wales the
peculiarity of possessing inscriptions in Ogam character. Ogam writing
is an Irish invention, coincident probably with the introduction of
Christianity into southern Ireland in the fourth century. By the south
Irish missionaries this style of inscription was introduced into
Cornwall and South Wales; and naturally we must look to the same
people as its propagators in Pictland. the south Irish conformed to
Rome in Easter and other matters in 633 or thereabout. It is likely
that they came to Pictland in the Roman interest some time after, and
may have been mainly instrumental in converting King Nectan in 710 to
adopt the Roman Calendar. The Irish Annals say that he expelled the
Columban monks in 716 over his conversion to Rome.
naturally expect these inscriptions to be either in Irish or Pictish,
but Prof. Rhys has jumped to the conclusion that they are purely
Pictish, and, as his Pictish is non-Aryan, so is the language of these
inscriptions. Unfortunately they are difficult to decipher; the
results as yet are a mere conglomeration of letters, mostly h, v,
and n. One at Lunasting in the Orkneys is punctuated, and
according to Rhys runs thus: –
ahehhttmnnn : hccvvevv : nehhtonn.
In opposition to
those who hold that Pictish was a Brittonic tongue, Prof. Rhys cites
the above, and declares that if it be Welsh he will confess he has not
understood a word of his mother-tongue! It is neither Welsh nor any
other language under the moon. Mr. Lang quotes the inscription and
says – “This appears to be not only non-Aryan, but non-human! Or not
correctly deciphered. Some people seems to have dropped all its
aspirates in one place at Lunasting.” A word here and there is in a
general way recognisable in these decipherments (as above the last
word looks like Nechtan), but as yet these inscriptions are not
correctly deciphered, and some, like the Golspie stone, are too
weathered or worn to be deciphered.
Place-names of Pictland
resumé can be given here. The Pictish place-names are very
different from names on Gadelic ground – Ireland and Dalriada. There
is, of course, a veneer of Gaelic over them, as the Scots really did
impose their language as well as their rule on the Picts. Place-names
in the Isles and in Sutherland and Caithness must be left out of
account, since they are largely Norse. From the southern borders of
Ross to the Forth east of Drumalban the names have all a marked family
resemblance, partly Gaelic, partly Pictish. The prefixes aber
and pet, unknown to Gadelic, are found from Sutherland to the
Forth. The former means “confluence,” and had two forms, aper
and oper, as in Welsh (ad, od, and ber, Lat.
fero); the Gaelic for aber is inver, and it has in
the most common names superseded the Pictish aber. Pet
means “farm,” G. Baile, which, in fact, has superseded it in
purely Gaelic districts for a reason which the dictionary should make
clear. The prefix both – farm, dwelling, common to Irish and
Welsh as an ordinary noun, is widely used in Pictland to denote a
bally. Pres, a bush, W. prys, a covert, is a borrowed
Pictish word and occasionally appears in place-names, as does perth,
brake, in Perth Partick (Old Perthoc, Strathclyde British), and
Pearcock or Perthoc (King Edward). British pen we do not find
now; every one such has become kin, as in Kin-cardine, a very
common name, for Pen-cardin, W. cardden, brake. Equally common
is Urquhart for older Ur-charden, Adamnan’s Airchartdan, “At
(the) Wood.” A prepositional prefix peculiar to Pictish names is
for, fother, corrupted into fetter (Fetter-cairn) and
foder (Foder-lettir). It is corrupted also into far
(Far-letter = Foder-letter). Possibly it is an adjective terminally in
Dunnottar *Dun Foither of Chronicles?), Kin-eddar (King Edward), & c.
It seems to mean “lower,” “under”: vo-ter, a comparative form
vo, Gaelic fo, under. The extensive use of certain
prefix names in Pictland is observable as compared to Ireland, where
their use is rare: strath, ben, monadh (rare in Ireland), allt
(“stream” in Pictland), corrie, blair, and cairn. Lan, so
common in Wales, is rare, though known, in Pictland; the cill
of the Iona monks gave Ian no chance. Ochil Hills and Oyken
river have already been discussed. space does not allow the discussion
of individual place-names; nor can the influence of Pictish on Gaelic
phonetics and vocabulary be touched. Such a word as preas,
bush, already alluded to, is easily detected as a Pictish borrow,
because initial p is non-Gaelic, and its root qre, or
qer, is allied to G. crann, W. prenn.
Pictish Manners and Customs
manners and customs of early Scotland, Skene goes to Ireland, and
transfers the whole social system to Pictavia; so, as the latest
example, does Mr. Andrew Lang. But surely the Book of Deer ought to
have warned them all that this is utterly wrong. The public life
outlined there resembles the Irish, but it is not the same. We have
the king (rí), mórmaer or great steward (translated earl of
jarl, and tóisech or clan chief: also the clan. the word
mórmaer means “lord”; but it must be a Gaelic translation of the
Pictish word, for the Gaelic itself is hybrid (mór, great;
maer, officer; from Lat, major). We have only three grades
of nobility here, nor is there any trace else of more. The tenure of
land is the usual Celtic one, but the only word of definite import we
get is dabach or davoch, four ploughlands, a term
peculiar to Pictland, though extended slightly in feudal times to the
West Coast and Isles. We see, therefore, that the older Pictish system
underlies the Gaelic kingdom of Scotland.
serious point, whose significance was lost by Skene, and found only
too well by Prof. Rhys, is the Pictish rule of succession, or the
marriage system. The succession to the throne (Bede) and to property
(Irish writers) lay in the females; that is to say, a man succeeded to
the throne because his mother was the previous king’s daughter or
sister. The king’s brother was his heir, and failing him, his sister’s
son. It was the female side that was royal. A glance at the king list
given above shows this: no son succeeds a father, but a brother often
succeeds a brother. The fathers, too, were often outsiders: Talorgan,
son of Enfrid, Prince of Bernicia, and called cousin of Egfrid (686);
Brude, son of Bili, King of Strathclyde; Gartnait, son of Domhnall,
Donald being likely a Scotic prince. this system, where maternity
alone is regarded as certain, holds a low view of marriage, and is at
present found only among uncivilised races. Caesar knew of the
existence in Britain of promiscuous marriage; Dion tells us that the
wife of Argento-coxos, a Caledonian, acknowledged promiscuity among
the high-born; and Bede explains the system of his day – that the
Picts got their wives from the Scots on condition of the succession to
the throne being through the females.
Here we have
a custom palpably belonging to a non-Aryan race, not to speak of a
non-Celtic race. It must therefore be due to the customs of the
previous inhabitants still surviving among the Celts; the vanquished
here took captive their victors. Whether the Pictish language was also
influenced by the previous one it is hard to say; but the influence
could not be much, because Celtic civilisation was much higher than
the native one, and borrowing would be unnecessary.
To sum up
the argument we cannot do better than quote Prof. Mackinnon’s
criticism on Dr. Skene’s position: – “The question cannot, however, be
settled on such narrow lines as these [Pictish if non-Gaelic would
have left remains, and an interpreter was only wanted twice.] the
questions of blood and language must always be kept distinct.
anthropology and archaeology may hereafter yield concrete evidence
which will be decisive of this matter. As things are, the following
facts must be kept in the forefront. Among the Picts, succession was
through the female. This custom is unknown among the Celts; it is, so
far as we know, non-Aryan. Again, Bede regarded Pictish as a separate
language. The Gael of Ireland looked upon the Picts or Cruithnig, to
use the native term, as a people different from themselves. Cormac,
the first Gaelic lexicographer, gives one or two Pictish words,
quoting them as foreign words, at a time when presumably Pictish was
still a living language. The Norsemen called the Pentland Firth
Pettland, i.e., Pictland Fjörd, while the Minch was Skottland
Fjörd. Mr. Whitley Stokes, after examining all the words in the old
records presumably Pictish, says: ‘The foregoing list of names and
words contains much that is still obscure; but on the whole it shows
that Pictish, so far as regards its vocabulary, is an Indo-European
and especially Celtic speech. Its phonetics, so far as we can
ascertain them, resemble those of Welsh rather than of Irish.’” Celtic
scholars of the first rank who have pronounced on the matter are all
agreed that Pictish was not Gaelic, as Skene held.
N O T E S.
Buellan is another form of Boyle.
For Hamilcar read Himilco.
There is no distinction between Albiones and Britanni. Albion
originally meant all Britain; it is the Irish that restricted the name
possibly a misreading for Verturiones, later Fortren.
Gift of Iona, according to native annals, was made by King Conall of
Dalriada. Bede is here mistaken. For the extent of the power of the
Gael, see Excursus above. Strabo’s “Islands of the Picts” is poetic
license. The older Argyle stretched to Lochbroom, and in Norse times
the Minch was Skotland Fjord.
Picts, Piccardach, Pictores, Picti, & c. Dr. Skene’s attempted
distinction in these names is not supported by the facts, and it finds
no place in Celtic Scotland.
“Eochaid Iarlaithi rex Cruithne moritur.” The Cruithnig meant were
those of Ireland.
The Pictish Succession. See Excursus. The succession among the Scots
was Patriarchal, but the king or chief was elective by the nobles. A
king’s successor was appointed during his lifetime, and was called the
Tanist, which really means the Second. He was usually brother of the
king, and generally gave way before the king’s son, if the latter was
The Scottish Conquest. Here Dr. Skene declines to follow the Latin
Chronicles for the Dalriad kings of the 8th century, and
puts his faith in a poem called the “Albanic Duan,” a monkish exercise
of unknown date (professing to be written in Malcolm Canmore’s reign,
and calling Macbeth “renowned”!), and of little value. This is
unfortunate, for Dr. Skene has misread the plain Chronicle history of
Dalriada. The Duan confuses Dungal, son of Selbach (circ. 735), with
Dungal, son of Ewen (circ. 835), and places Alpin, the successor of
the latter, as successor to the former, thus killing off Alpin in 743
instead of 843. Dungal and Alpin are the immediate predecessors of
Kenneth the Conqueror in reality. Would it be believed that Skene
actually places them like the Albanic Duan, one hundred years earlier,
and closes the record of Dalriad kings for the next hundred years,
regarding the kings in the lists, even in the Albanic Duan, as
inserted by the monkish Chroniclers to fill the vacant gap? Yet so it
is! Pinkerton, before him, performed the same feat. The reason in both
cases is the same – to get rid of the Dalriad Scots and their
conquest. Nor was there material wanting to make the suppression of
the Dalriad kingdom plausible. Angus MacFergus, King of Fortrenn,
waded his way to the Pictish throne through blood – “a sanguinary
tyrant,” as a Saxon chronicle calls him. For an outrage on his son he
invaded Dalriada and captured Dungal, King of Lorn, and possibly of
Dalriada also, in 735, and in 740 he gave Dalriada a “smiting.” In the
same year a battle was fought in Ireland between the Cruithnig and
Dalriads of that country. Skene transfers this fight to Galloway
somehow, and manages to kill in it Alpin, the Dalriad King that
appears then in the Albanic Duan. (A late Chronicle has it that the
real Alpin fell in Galloway.) With the death of the king, the kingdom
of Dalriada falls under Angus’s sway, and it remains evermore Pictish
– so Skene. The real truth is different. Angus’s invasions were of no
more moment than his invasions of the Britons, who in 749 inflicted
heavy slaughter on the Pidts, and the significant remark is made by
the annalist – “Wane of Angus’s kingdom” – a remark which Dr. Skene
never saw. It occurs in Hennessy’s new edition of the Annals of
Ulster. Skene makes Angus a great king and conquering hero to the end
(760). While he dies as “King of the Picts,” his successor (his
brother) dies as “King of Fortrenn.” This dynasty had shrunk to its
original measure of power; and with it also tumble the theories built
on it by Pinkerton and Skene. Later writers while accepting Skene’s
views that there was no Scottish Conquest, have usually refused to
follow him in his suppression of Dalriada and its kings in 740. King
Aed Finn fought with the Pictish King in Fortrenn in 767, a
fact which Skene finds it hard to explain away. Aed’s death is also
recorded in the Annals - 777; his brother’s in 780. In the Latin list
given, the first two names should be deleted, and for Eogan should be
read Eachaidh, who was father of Alpin, who was father of Kenneth the
Conqueror. The conquest of the Picts cannot be clearly explained from
our present materials. There was constant dynastic war for the last
generation of kings – attempts mostly to break the Pictish rule of
succession; and it is notable how Scottic names are very prominent.
The Danes harassed the Picts north and east. The Scots, pressed out of
tye Isles by the Norse, pressed eastward in their turn. The Scots also
had the Church and the culture very much their own; Iona was
undoubtedly the religious centre till the Norse caused a change to be
made. Both in Pictland and in Strathclyde Gaelic ultimately and
completely wiped out the original Pictish and British. The west coast
from the Clyde to the Solway was, in the 11th century, “as
Gaelic as the Peat.” See further the Editor’s paper on “Skene,” in
Inverness Gaelic Soc. Trans., vol. xxi.
The Pictish prince of Kintyre! What an inversion of facts is here!
Cruithen tuath meant the Pictish nation (Pictavia), not the
Northern Picts. There was no distinction whatever between northern and
southern Picts; it is all a delusion, founded on Bede’s reference to
the Grampians as a physical division of Pictavia.
Welsh Gwyddyl Ffichti proves nothing; the authority is too
late, and word Gwyddyl being phonetically very unsatisfactory.
The word dobur is common to Welsh and old Gaelic. It
proves nothing either way.
The quotation about Aed Finn’s laws, promulgated by the Gael at
Forteviot, surely speaks against Skene’s views, and implies conquest.
The Mormaor of Moray was often by the Irish Annalists loosely called
rí Alban. This Malcolm was not the King Malcolm
Read “Mormaer Moreb,” Mormaor of Moray. For Mormaer see
The Norse Invasions, & c. Here Skene tries to write the history of
Scotland from 843 to 1057 from new sources, viz., the Norse
Sagas checked by the Irish Annals. He never refers to the native
Chronicles, which during this period are no longer mere lists of
kings. The results of Skene’s departure from native sources are here
again disastrous. The chapter may well be omitted in reading the book,
for it is entirely misleading. The facts are correctly given in
Celtic Scotland, where Dr. Skene makes the Chronicles his basis,
and adds interesting particulars from the Norse Saga. But even in
Celtic Scotland he failed to appreciate the full force of the
Norse Invasions. For a period of over four hundred years the Norse
were in possession of the Western Isles and a fringe of the mainland (Kintyre,
& c.), and for shorter periods they held Argyle in all its extent to
Lochbroom (Dalir), Sutherland, and Caithness. With less firm hand they
held Ross to the Beauly Valley (Dingwall, “County Meeting Field,”
being still the Norse name of the capital of Ross). The place names
prove this. The Hebrides could have no Gaelic left spoken in them. The
place names in Lewis are in the proportion of 4 Norse to 1 Gaelic.
This surely speaks for itself. In Islay, however, the proportion of
Gaelic is to Norse as 2 to 1. It is certain that Gaelic had to
reconquer (if it was there before) the Hebrides, Skye and Sutherland
(in great part). The ethnological characteristics of the people of
these parts fully bear this out, as Dr. Beddoe shows. The Norse
element is very strong throughout.
The Norse settled in the Isles early in the 9th century.
“Native chiefs”; there were scarcely any left. It was Norse
chiefs who rebelled against Harald.
The “Native chiefs” could scarcely then have recovered Sutherland. The
Sagas were unfortunately written when Caithness became part of
There were no “Midland Cruithne.” See correction of this mistake at
note above. The elaborate argument about the Ptolemy names and those
of the 10th century is useless and groundless.
The Malcolm that succeeded in 1005 to the throne of Scotland was
Malcolm Mac Kenneth, who reigned 30 years. The other Malcolm was only
Mormaor or King of Moray. This error is acknowledged by Dr. Skene in
Celtic Scotland, i. p. 400.
Many of these pages are from Norse Sagas, and as given here are
useless as history. Macbeth’s connection with Thorfinn and the Norse
is a matter of doubt. His name never appears in the Sagas. The name
Mac-beth, Gaelic Mac-bethadh, means “Son of Life.” Dr. Skene evidently
thought that there was a Gaelic personal name Beth, and he would not
allow that Comes Beth mentioned twice in the Chartulary of Scone is
manifestly a mistake for Comes Heth, of Moray (Celtic Scotland,
iii. 62). He is the ancestor of the famous Mac-Eths, and was married
to the daughter of King Lulach. The name is Aed, “fire,” a favourite
old name, later Aodh, Englished as Hugh and lost, but still living in
the surname Mackay and Mackie.
Thorfinn’S mainland power is vastly exaggerated in the Sagas. Its
southern limit was Beauly Valley, where the Norse names fail. he had
also the Kingdom of the Isles and the West Coast fringe (old Argyle or
Dalir, as they called it).
Donald Mac Malcolm here mentioned is, of course, King Malcolm’s own
For Morlach, see Celtic Scotland, ii. 379.
This is the same Donald as above. King Maelsnechtan is in the Annals
rí Moreb. His father Lulach was Macbeth’s successor for half a
Caithness, Sutherland, and old Argyle were still Norse or under Norse
rule. It was King William who really annexed Caithness and Sutherland
to the Scottish Crown; and Argyle was finally subdued in 1222.
Donald Bane was “elected” king. He was at first tanist.
Ladmann or Lamont, son of Donald, was slain by the Moray men. He was
really son of the Donald mentioned above. See Celtic Scotland,
i. 453. The argument is therefore wrong.
Too much id made of the “Boy of Egremont.” The conspiracy of the six
earls is unexplained. See Celtic Scotland, iii.66, where the
Boy is cautiously suggested.
Dr. Skene here suggests that the fall of the Macdonalds meant the fall
of the Highland clans. why, it was the ruse of the modern
Highland clans. It freed the great clans of Maclean, Macleod, Mackay,
Cameron, and especially, Mackenzie, not to mention minor clans, who in
the 15th century all freely got Crown charters independent
of the Macdonald chiefs.
One of the greatest factors in the change of the Highlands from
mediaevalism to more modern habits of thought was the inflow of
Presbyterian ideals in religion. Before the ‘45 the Highlanders were
from a religious standpoint neither good Episcopalians nor
Presbyterians at all. Indeed, they resisted Presbyterianism. A
religious revival rose in the last half of the 18th century
and spread slowly all over the north, which assured the success of
This chapter is rendered almost valueless by later research, which is
given in full in Celtic Scotland, iii, chaps. iv. to viii.
Modern Highland clans have been feudal in succession and tenure of
land; but the kinship feeling still remained.
The officer of Engineers was Captain Burt. His book was reprinted
Law of Succession. Dr. Skene says in Celtic Scotland that the
Irish law of succession was “hereditary in the family, but elective in
the individual.” This has been shown already. In this work he confuses
Pictish and Gaelic succession together.
Tanistry. The tanist or next heir was appointed during the king’s or
chief’s lifetime, to avoid confusion at his death.
Gavel. The rule of dividing the property equally among the sons is
really not Gadelic nor Scottic. It was very English, however, before
feudalism came in. The case of Somerled of the Isles and his
descendants to the 15th century is peculiar. It was the
ruin of a mighty house. Originally, the chief had his mensal lands,
and the rest of the tribe-land belonged to the tribe. But ever since
the English Conquest (1172) the old Irish and Gadelic system became
corrupt, because the sub-chiefs stuck to the lands assigned them, and
latterly got charters. In Scotland, the chief of a Highland clan for
the last five hundred years succeeds by primo-geniture, and it cannot
be held by a bastard (contrary to the old system), nor can it pass
through females. This is purely feudal and also Salic.
Native men, or Nativi, were simply the bondsmen on the estates.
Gradually they were set free, and by the 16th century the
term is used in the sense of “kindly men” – men allied by kin to the
chief. This is especially the case in bonds of manrent.
The Toiseach. Dr. Skene has here fallen into a grievous error. The
toiseach was the head of the clan; its earliest translation into Latin
was “capitann,” later “chief” in English. The theory about the
oldest cadet being called toiseach is probably due to Skene’s view of
the Mackintoshes as oldest cadets of clan Chattan. The derivation of
toieachdorachd, “coronership,” is toiseach, baillie, and
deoraidh, a stranger; his first duty was doubtless to attend to
incomers into the clan, and other “foreign office” matters. It also
exists in Manx, tosiaght-yoarrey.
Dr. Skene’s account of the Celtic Church here is an excellent piece of
pioneer work. Bishop Reeves later put the whole question of the Celtic
Church on a scientific basis; and Dr. Skene’s second volume of
Celtic Scotland is entirely devoted to the Church. It is his best
piece of work. It was a monastic Church purely, the abbot being the
religious head of the “diocese,” or rather of the tribal district, for
the Celtic Church was tribal. The abbot might only be a priest, as at
Iona usually. Bishops had no dioceses; they were attached to the abbey
for ordination purposes, and were numerous. Skene fails here to grasp
this point. The use of the term Culdee for the Columban clergy is
unfortunate. The Culdees belonged to the later and debased state of
the Celtic Church (900-1200). They were first anchorites, who later
clubbed into 13, still retaining their separate booths or houses and
also lands. Later, of course, they were married. With great difficulty
the Church reform party of the Ceannmore dynasty got them to become
canons, and in the 13th century they practically
Ireland was, except Dalaraidhe, all Scottic/ but it was traditionally
divided into two halves – Leth Moga and Leth Chuinn, Mog Nuadat’s Half
(south), and Conn’s Half (north). These were two kings – somewhat
mythical – of the 2nd century A.D.
St. Patrick and Palladius are really one person, the person meant
being called in British Sucat, “good at war” (W. hygad),
translated into Graeco-Latin as Palladius (Pallas, goddess of war),
and naming himself as Patricius, because he was of noble birth. His
sphere in Ireland was the north, and the later Romanisers make him
bishop of Armagh. He was a Briton, but no relation of St. Martin of
The monks were laymen under monastic rule, as usual; but
bishops were also monks, and nothing more. It was not, as Bede says,
necessary that the abbot should be a bishop.
There really was no episcopacy at Armagh to transfer to Iona.
There were no dioceses apart from the monasteries. There was only one
bishop for Scotland – the Bishop of St. Andrews – till King
Alexander’s time. They really were not needed, as there were no
dioceses till the Celtic Church fully conformed to Rome.
The Ossianic Poetry. It is needless to enter upon the question of the
authenticity of Macpherson’s Ossian. Celtic scholars are agreed that
it is all Macpherson’s own work, both English and Gaelic. Indeed, the
Gaelic was translated from the English, and is for the most part very
ungrammatical and unidiomatic. These very faults – showing its
extremely modern character – have been always regarded as marks of
antiquity. Ordinary Gaelic readers do not understand it at all. The
English is better done, because it is the original. He has little or
no foundation in Gaelic legend for his so-called poems; he used only
about a dozen stories – and these, too, much abused – of the old
literature, forming only a very small fraction of the English work.
The latest scholarly views on the subject may be found in Dr. Ludwin
Stern’s paper on the “Ossianic Heroic Legends,” translated in the 22nd
vol. of the Inverness Gaelic Soc. Trans. Dr. Skene makes no reference
to Finn or Ossian in Celtic Scotland. Again here he confuses
the older Ulster with the smaller Ulster, called Ulidia or Dalaraidhe,
and containing Picts. The list of kings shows to what straits a theory
drags a man. Macpherson in “Temora” gives a further corrected list.
The history of Ireland unknown! Why, both Keating and
O’Flaherty were already published! Macpherson used them for the 1763
The Bagpipe: “origin unknown.” That is not so. It came to Scotland in
the 14th century and reached the Highlands in the 16th
century, where it was hospitably received. Major (1521) does not
mention it among Highland musical instruments, but Buchanan, fifty
years later, says the Highlanders used it for war purposes. They also
improved it by adding the big drone, whence the “Piob Mhór.” It is
thoroughly non-Gaelic by origin.
The Highland Dress. About all the information possible in regard to
the Highland dress is here given; yet curiously the modern Highland
dress of plaid and philabeg are not accounted for. The old dress was a
(saffron) leine or shirt, a plaid thrown over the shoulders and
brought to the knees all round in plaits and also belted. a bonnet
(sometimes), and brogues made of skin, sometimes with hose; knees
always bare. This is really a Southern Europe dress, not the “garb of
old Gaul,” which was breeches. The modern kilt is merely the lower
half of the breacan or féile cut off from the upper, a jacket being
made of the upper. When this improvement took place – when the kilt or
philabeg was invented – is not known to a hundred years. It was during
the Lowland wars of the 17th and 18th century at
the instigation of the Iron Companies that then bought the Highland
The Seven Provinces of Scotland. Dr. Skene makes too much of these
seven earldoms. It is possible that in or about 800 A.D. the Pictish
Kingdom was divided into the seven provinces mentioned. The sons of
Cruithne are named in the best MSS. as follows: – Cait, Ce, Cirig (Circinn),
a warlike clan Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Fortrenn. Cait is Caithness; Circin
is Magh-Chircinn or Mearns; Fib is Fife; Fothla is Athole; Fortrenn is
Menteith. But what are Ce and Fidach? Evidently Mar and Moray. Ce may
appear in Keith.
Gouerin is surely Gowrie. Skene’s Garmoran is a continual nuisance.
The lists. The attempt to explain the 30 Brudes in this way is more
The Northern Picts in the 9th and 10th centuries
were overrun by Scots and Norse-men, and made less Pictish than any
part of Scotland. The Norse-men had the Province of Cat; the Scots had
the West Coast, and were masters of the Mormaership of Moray. He
allows the conquest of the Southern Picts by the Scots. Consequently,
the chiefs of the older Highland clans can well claim to be either
Scots or Norse.
“Barbarous Scottish hordes”! Why, the Scots were the most learned
people of Western Europe then! The Picts were the barbarians.
The 1450 MS. Dr. Skene has made much use of this MS. – overmuch use.
As far as the Macdonald genealogies go, the MS. reproduces the Book of
Ballimote, and otherwise depends on that work. Where it stands alone,
as in the case of clans Chattan, Cameron, Mackenzie, Ross, Matheson,
Macfee, Macgregor, Maclaren, Mackay (of Perthshire), and Maclagans, it
has to be used with caution, even as late as 1400. The genealogies end
from 1400 to 1450. The MS. is now undecipherable, owing to the
employment of chemicals by its first editors.
The MS. here alluded to is the famous Dean of Lismore’s Book,
published in 1862.
John Elder’s views. This rascally turncoat tells Henry VIII. that the
Redshanks were Picts, and that they were racially the old stock
descended from the mythical Brutus, and hence naturally belonged to
Britain and England. The story of descent from Scota, or from the
Scots, he repudiates. In fact he takes up Edward I.’s position in his
letter to the Pope about his claims on Scotland; the Scots, with Bruce
at their head, claimed independence as being from Ireland, descended
of Scota. Dr. Skene favours the English view! The two stories are
myths; they are not even traditions.
The extraordinary statement made here that we first hear of the Scota
descent in 1320 in the letter to the Pope is contradicted by many
documents, and all Irish history. See Picts and Scots Chronicles
The idea of “Highland Chief” was first translated by “capitanus”; it
implies nothing as to descent.
The Gall-Gaidheil. As already said, these were the mixed Norse and
Gaels dwelling in the Western Isles and along the west coast from
Galloway to Cape Wrath, afterwards reduced to the Kingdom of Man and
the Isles. The Gael portion seem to have turned heathen, thinking Thor
more powerful than Christ. The Hebrides were completely Norse. The
term Vikingr Skotar of course applies to the Gaels among these Gall-Gaidheil;
but the Norse were by far the more numerous in the combined
nationality, if it may be so termed. The Gall-Gaidheil never held any
part of Perthshire – Dunkeld or any other place.
Battle of Brunanburgh. There were two Anlafs present. Anlaf Cuaran,
son of Sitric, son of Imar, claimant to Deira, and Anlaf, son of
Godfred, King of Dublin and Cumberland. The former was Norse
paternally, despite a Saga reference. See Skene himself on the point
in Celtic Scotland, i. 353.
Somerled. He was “regulus of Argyll,” which the Norse called Dalir,
and his family the Dalverja. This is simply the old name Dalriada,
which the Norse Sagas claim to have been often conquered and held by
their Kings and Earls. Somerled’s name is Norse – Sumarlidhi,
“Summer-slider,” that is, “mariner.” He was son of Gille-brighde, son
of Gille-adamnan. These two names are thoroughly Gaelic. The genealogy
then gives “son of Solam (Solomund?) son of Imergi, son of Suibne, son
of Nialgusa.” Imergi or Mergad is conjectured to be the kinglet
Ichmarc who submitted to Canute in 1031, Macbeth being the other. On
the whole, Somerled may be regarded as a Gael ruling independently
over the mixed Norse and Gael of Argyleshire, the Gael being there
predominant in numbers, though not in martial activity. In Somerled’s
genealogy is Suibne, son of Nialgusa. Skene makes him Suibne, son of
Kenneth, to fit his Suibne, son of Kenneth, King of the Gall-Gaidheil,
who died in 1034. He deliberately charges the genealogist with here
tampering with the facts; but really why should the genealogist do so?
He had gone back far enough, in all conscience. This Kenneth is made
King of Galloway in Skene’s “Picts and Scots:!
The MS. referred to is the Red Book of Clanranald (Reliquia Celtica,
vol. ii. p. 154).
The date should be 1135. David’s conquest of Man, Bute, and Arran is
not mentioned in Celtic Scotland, and seems mythical. David had
some claim over Kintyre as monastic charters show (Orig. Par.
vol. ii. part i. p. 1).
The sons of Malcolm Mac-Heth were nephews of Somerled (mepotes
then meant nephew). Malcolm himself was brother to Angus of Moray,
whose father Aed was husband of King Lulach’s daughter. Malcolm’s
history is mixed up with that of an imposter – Bishop Wymund of Man –
who asserted that he was Malcolm Mac-Heth. The surname is now Mackay.
Somerled was slain before any battle occurred by one of his own men in
his tent at night. The Sudreys included all the Scottish Isles on the
West Coast; the historical expression is “Sudreys and Man,” still
known in the title of the “Bishop of Sodor and Man.”
No grandson of the name of Somerled succeeded Somerled. His power and
lands were divided between his three sons by Ragnhild, daughter of
King Olave of the Isles and Man. Dugall, the eldest, received Lorn,
Morvern, and Mull; Reginald got Kintyre, Cowall, and Islay; while
Angus, the third son, received lands further north, of which he and
his family were dispossessed by Reginald Celtic Scotland, iii.
“Lochaber held by the chief of Clan Chattan” – this is pure tradition,
and wrong at that. The sheriffship here meant is Ballliol’s division
in 1292 (Celtic Scotland, iii. 88-89).
Reginald never had Lorn or any of Dugall’s possessions. See notes on
King Ewen of Argyle did not die without issue. See Celtic Scotland,
The two Reginalds. If historians are careless or partisan, it is easy
to confuse Reginald of Man and the Isles with Reginald of Islay and
Kintyre. Reginald of Man was a great Viking, and undertook the
government of Caithness for William the Lion, about 1196. This is
distinctly stated by the Orkney Saga and implied by Roger of Hoveden,
who calls Reginald King of Man, but makes him son of Somerled, which
he was not. Skene, even in Celtic Scotland, is wrong on this
point, and so are all the Clan Donald historians.
Roderick was not the eldest son; that honour belongs to Donald,
ancestor and name-giver to Clan Donald ( Celtic Scotland,
Clan Donald. Dr. Skene so entirely changed his views on the Macdonald
history and genealogy that Celtic Scotland, iii. 293-300, must
be consulted. There he avowedly follows Gregory, the most level-headed
of clan historians. The name Donald is Celtic: Dumno-valo-s,
“World-ruler,” the same as the Gaulish Dumnorix. Reginald or Ronald is
Norse: “Ruler by the Gods”; his mother bore a feminine form of the
same name still known as Raonaid. Donald was eldest son of Reginald.
John’s sons by Amy were John, Reginald, and Godfrey. John died early
and his family failed; Reginald was the second son and regent of the
Isles in John’s old age and Donald’s youth. Godfrey appears with the
title “Lord of Uist,” but he too disappears. His son was not
Alexander Mac Reury of Garmoran; such juggling with names might do in
1837, not now.
Battle of Harlaw. There is far too much importance attached to this
battle. As Earl of Ross, Donald held estates in Buchan, which his
descendants afterwards held, and it is far more probable that the
attack on Aberdeenshire was largely due to the desire of recovering
his position there, as joint Earl of Buchan.
Donald Balloch was a youth of 18, son of John Mor of Islay, cousin of
Alexander of Ross. Skene here confuses him with Donald, second son of
Reginald; this Donald who died about 1420, was ancestor of Glengarry.
It is a great blunder. Donald Balloch lived to a good old age in
Ireland and the Isles. His betrayal was a ruse; another man’s head was
sent to the king.
Macdonalds of Keppoch. These were descended from Angus, illegitimate
son of Alaster Carrach. They had no right to any lands; they simply
squatted on lands granted by Alexander of Isles to Mackintosh.
Alexander Macreury of Garmoran cannot be transmogrified into Alexander
MacGorrie. Phonetics are against it. MacReury, no doubt, was a
descendant of the old M’Rorys of Garmoran, the last legitimate heir
being Amy M’Rorie, wife of John of Isles and mother of Reginald of
Garmoran, ancestor of Clanranald. Alexander M’Reury was a claimant to
the lordship; and he, with another claimant (?) John MacArthur, got
hanged for their conduct.
Clanranald and Glengarry. In this earlier work, Skene allowed his
connection with the Glengarry family to warp his judgment over
undoubted facts. Reginald’s eldest son was Allan; Donald was a younger
son. From Allan are descended Clanranald, who, to prove the truth of
this, had the lands of Garmoran. The early history of the Glengarry
branch is very obscure – an obscurity out of which the family emerged
by the heir, about 1510, marrying Sir Donald of Lochalsh’s sister, who
was co-heiress of Sir Donald. As regards the right of chiefship
between Clanranald and Glengarry, it has to be borne in mind that,
according to purists, a Highland clan chief cannot be a bastard, even
though legitimated, nor can he claim chiefship through the females.
Unfortunately for Clanranald, their most famous chief and ancestor was
John Moydartach, a bastard legitimated (1531).
Clan Dugall. skene has here been led into a most unfortunate blunder
by MS. 1450. Skene holds that King Ewen of Argyle died without male
issue, because the 1450 MS. happens to drop him in the genealogy. The
second blunder is to say that the MacDougalls are descended of Dugall,
son of Reginald. The MS. of 1450 and the Book of Ballimote both make
this blunder; but the Book of Lecan gives the true genealogy under the
heading of “Clan Somairli,” for Dugall was really Somerled’s eldest
son and therefore head of the house of Somerled. John of Lorn and his
father, Alexander de Argadia, were the heads of Somerled’s house in
Bruce’s time. Alexander was son of King Ewen, son of Duncan, son of
Dugall, son of Somerled. This is the genealogy given in Celtic
Scotland, vol. iii. p. 294. It also agrees with the facts, for it
would be otherwise difficult to account for Alexander de Ergadia of
Lorn. The reference to Cupar Abbey Chartulary is also unfortunate, for
Duncan de Lornyn here adduced was Duncan of Lornie, near Perth! The
name Dugall is for Dubh-ghall, “Black Foreigner,” that is, Dane. It is
on a par with Norman, Frank, the Norman-French Allan (Allemann) and
others, formed from national names.
Siol Gillevray. Gillebride rig eilan is a further reading of MS. 1450,
in the Iona Club Transactions, p. 358. In Celtic Scotland, vol.
iii, p. 473, his place under the guidance of the Irish genealogist Mac
Firbis is taken by Flaithbhertach; and the genealogy is that of Clan
Lamont! The connection of King Suibne of Galloway with these mythic
names is merely fancy. Anradan, or better Anrothan, is not Henry. The
Mac Neills are not mentioned, nor the Mac Gillevrays in MS. 1450. The
latter were an old Argyleshire clan; and a branch of Clan Chattan bore
the same name – from Gillebratha, better Maol-bratha, “Servant of
Doom.” Gillebride could never phonetically become Gillevray. The whole
[siol Gillevray] page is a mistake.
Knapdale in 1292 belonged to the Earl of Menteith and was in
the sheriffdom of Lorn. It was acquired from the Sweens thirty years
before as the Paisley charter show.
The Mac Neills. this clan was divided into two branches: Mac Neills of
Gigha and Castle Sween, and the Mac Neills of Barra. They were
separate clans historically, and Gregory thinks, from their
non-connection and frm their different armorial bearings, that they
are not descended from two brothers, but are independent. If there was
any chiefship, then Gigha family had it, as the quotation shows, for
this Chief Torkil in 1530, by the same document, is gifted with the
non-entry of Gigha. It is a pity Skene did not quote this fact. an
excellent account of the Mac Neills of Barra appeared in the
Highland News for 15th December, 1900, from the pen of
Rev. A. Maclean Sinclair. Skene is wrong in saying that the MS. of
1450 contains any reference to the Mac Neills. It does not (Celtic
Scotland, iii. p. 473). The name Niall means “champion.”
the Mac Lachlans. MS. 1450 derives the Maclachlans, the Lamonts, the
Clan Somerled (?), and Mac Ewens of Otter from Aed Alan, the Buirche,
son of Anradan, descendant of Niall Glun-dubh, the 10th
century Irish king. The Dedaalan given as father of Gilchrist is the
above Aed Alan, whom Skene in Celtic Scotland, iii. 472,
regards as a far-away ancestor of Gilchrist. Angus Mac Rory was no
ancestor of the Lamonts, as MS. 1450, revised in Celtic Scotland,
iii. 472, will show. The name Lachlan is somehow descended from
The Gaelic of Ewen is Eoghan, “well born,” with the same meaning as
Eugenius or Eugene.
Siol Eachern. The statement that the Clan Dugall Craignish and the
Lamonds are of the same stock is justified by the Lamond genealogy in
MS. 1450, which Skene had misread. Where he gets his “Siol Eachern” is
not known to the Editor. The Mac Eacherns flourished as a clan-let in
the first half of the 16th century in Kilblane of Kintyre,
the chief having the lands of Killelane and others after the
forfeiture of the Lord of the Isles. Golin Makauchern of Killelane in
1499 was “mayr of fee” for South Kintyre, as he was before under the
Island lord. The land was lost in 1552 to the grasping Lord of
Dunivaig. In the first edition of MS. 1450, Skene gives an ill-read
genealogy of the Mac Eacherns. Eachthigherna means “horse-lord.”
Clan Dugall Craignish. Dugall of Craignis is mentioned in 1292. In
1361 the heiress Christina parted with his barony, in her sore
distress, to Colin Cambel, of Lochow, ancestor of the Duke of Argyle.
Skene’s arguments about the early connection of the Macgillevrays,
Macinnesses, and Clan Dugall are all “in the air” – not even good
clan Lamont. Skene failed to recognise this clan in MS. 1450; hence he
does not join them to the Mac Lachlans, & c. they were powerful in the
13th century, and too generous to the Church. It is
unlikely that they bore the name Mac-erchar previous to Mac Lamont,
though there was a tendency latterly to do so. Anegosius Maccarawer,
who submitted to Edward I. in 1297, has been claimed as the then chief
of Mackintosh, though really head of the Lamonts. The name Lamont is
earlier Lagman, a Norse name, the same in force and elements as
Atholl. Older Gaelic form, Aththotla or Ath-Fodla, “Second Fodla” or
Second Ireland, Fodla being one of the names of Ireland, and
that also of a mythical queen of the same. Atholl is one of the old
Pictish provinces, and its population represent the best type of the
Caledonians. Skene makes it belong to the Gall-Gaidheil – a flat
impossibility. The Norse never had any power in Atholl.
Abthane. The title Abthane, to which Skene devotes several pages,
never existed! The word is the old Gaelic for Abbey-land, still
preserved in Appin! All this is known in Celtic Scotland, ii.
343, and in vol. i., p. 431, Skene actually criticises Burton for
following Fordun in such nonsense! The ingenious arguments about
abthane all fall to the ground.
Clan Donnachie. The name Donchath or Donnchath is explained as for
Donno-catus “Warrior-lord” or “Brown-warrior,” for the colour domn
meant both. Dunno-catus, another old name, makes this doubtful,
for duno (u short) is used in names and means
“strength:; as dunum, it means “town,” “fort.”
Read Conaing, not Conan.
Clan Pharlan. This clan has nothing to do with Atholl. The clan is
descended from the Earls of Lennox, as he well shows later. These
Earls themselves were Celtic, and a Celtic genealogy is given them in
the older genealogies (Celtic Scotland, iii. 476) and MS. 1450,
though Skene was unable to decipher the genealogy in the 1450 MS., or,
indeed, to recognise it. The name Ailin in the Gaelic records,
Englished, or rather Latinised as Alwyn (us), is native; it is also
old, for Adamnan (700) has it as Ailenus. The root is al, stone
(cf. Athelstane, Thorstein, & c.). The Norman Alan is from Breton, and
means an Alemann (“All Men”; cf. Frank, Norman, Dugall).
Aluin Macarchill appears in the Book of Deer as Algune Mac Arcill (8th
year of David’s reign), and the man was an East Coast – probably
Aberdeen – potentate.
“Andrew Macfarlane does not appear to have had a natural title
to the chiefship,” Why? Because Sir John Macfarlane is called “capitaneus
de Clan Pharlane”; and Skene is satisfied capitanus or
“captain” means “cadet chief.” Now, captain is the very
earliest word for “chief.” the word chief did not then naturally
mean what was known as a Highland chief. The 1587 Act puts
“captain” before either “chief” or “chieftain.” There is no break in
the Macfarlane genealogy (so Celtic Scotland, iii. 329). This
is history as “she was wrote” in 1837. The name Parlan, as he says, is
an adaptation of Bartholomew; just as the same family were fond of the
name Absolon, and derived therefrom M’Auslan, a sept of the
For “Mhic Croeb” read “Moreb,” that is, Morays – dat. pl. of muir,
Mac-Heth. Much nonsense has been written about Malcolm Mac-Heth, whose
life history is complicated by the fact that an impostor, Wymund,
Bishop of Man, tried to act his part. The name Heth is the most
ill-used syllable I know of. It appears ad Head, Ed, Eth; the Gaelic
form of all these monstrosities can easily be identified. It is the
very favourite name of Aed or Aodh, later, translated as Hugh. Mac-Heth
is an old form of Mackay, the Galwegian Mackie! Earl Ed is one of
David’s seven earls, and was, of course, Earl of Moray. He was married
to King Lulach’s daughter, and was thus father of Angus, Earl of
Moray, slain in 1130. Malcolm Mac-Heth was another son of Aed, and he
continued the war. He married Somerled’s sister, and was thus the
father of the Mac-Heth nephews whom Somerled supported in 1153.
Malcolm Mac-Heth was reconciled to the king in 1157, and made Earl of
Ross. The impostor’s share in the whole story is not clear. Mac-Heth
was not a family name; surnames had not yet started, or were only
starting in Southern Scotland. Mac-Heth was used, like a surname, to
denote the claim on the Earldom of Moray by the descendants of Aed.
Conquest of Moray. Skene makes far too much of this Conquest of Moray,
and his two Gillespics, though named by Fordun, can hardly represent
the old families of Mac-Heth and Mac-William.
The Clan Chattan, which is so named from St. Catan or little Cat.
Skene’s views on this clan are vitiated by the fact that willy-nilly
he antedates the Macphersons, who, probably, did not belong to the
clan in a genealogical sense at all, being in the same position as the
Macgillivrays and other adherents. Besides, the Macphersons are
unknown till 1594. Shaw, the historian of Moray, could not give them a
genealogy; and the genealogy in Douglas’ Baronage is an audacious
manufacture. It is usual to regard the Clan Chattan as coming from
Lochaber, but MS. 1450, which, by the way, identifies the Mackintoshes
with Clan Chattan, points rather to a Moray connection, and possibly a
relationship, as far as Mackintosh is concerned, with the family of
Macbeth – the Mormaors of Moray. Skene’s identification of Tead (Head
in 1837) of that genealogy with Heth of Moray is impossible, if the
name is Tead, and unlikely anyway. MS. 1450 has two genealogies of
Clan Chattan. The first one is undoubtedly the Mackintosh genealogy,
or an attempt at it. The second genealogy is quite a puzzle, for it
does not agree in any way with the Macpherson genealogy. Both end in
Gillecatan, significantly 14 generations back, which would place that
worthy about the year 1000. Skene forces the second genealogy on the
Macphersons, who don’t want it! They have one of their own already!
The Battle at the North Inch of Perth. The clans who fought at Perth
in 1396 were the Clan Shaw (Clan Headh) or Mackintosh, and a clan
called Quhele. We do not exactly know what this clan was; it is
mentioned in 1587. It must have possessed the uplands of Badenoch; but
it gave way before the Macphersons, who came from Strathnairn
originally. In Celtic Scotland Skene makes the combatants to be
the Mackintoshes and Camerons. This is the usual view now, but it is
not correct. No early Macphersons had names like Sha Ferchar-son. In
the later work Skene gives the Macphersons as ancestor, Duncan Persoun
(1438), a personage imprisoned with the Lord of the Isles. Their own
genealogy names the Parson as Muireach, and his date, according to the
length of their genuine genealogy, is about 1400, thus: Andrew, in
Cluny (1591), son of Ewen, son of Donald Og (1562?), son of Donald
Dall, son of Donald Mor (his brother Bean of Brin appears in 1490),
son of Duncan (Skene’s Parson!), son of Kenneth, son of Ewen Ban, son
of Murdoch Parson, whence Clann Mhuirich (about 1380). This Murdoch
was great grandson of Gillicatan, who flourished 400 years before! He
was also great grandfather of Eva of Clan Chattan, who married Angus
Mackintosh in 1291, and brought him the Clan Chattan lands and
matter of fact Skene himself hit upon the truth. It was Huntly that
raised the Cluny chiefs to check Mackintosh’s rising power. The
Strathnairn Macphersons he bands in 1543 against Mackintosh, and in
1591 he bands the Badenoch Macphersons. Besides, they were Huntly’s
tenants. In 12603, Andrew Macpherson in (not of) Cluny
had land to the extent of “3 pleuchs in Laggan,” of which he was
tacksman. And this is the family that Mr. Andrew Lang, following
Skene’s 1837 vagaries, ranks as royal! Skene’s argument about
“captain” of Clan Chattan gets a good back-hander in the present work:
legitimacy of a Parson’s son has also to be considered in the case of
a Highland chief. If Muireach lived in the 14th century,
down tumble the Macpherson claims. a surname – or Highland Mac surname
– cannot go back to the Culdees.
Macduff nonsense in the Mackintosh genealogy may really be explained
by the curious fact that the allied Macbeth genealogy is called
“genealogy of Clan Duff.” The Mackintoshes are probably of Macbeth’s
lineage. There was no thane of Fife, and Macduff himself is
doubtful; Macduff could not be a surname.
Clan Chattan, has been usually regarded as mythical by those who have
studied this question unbiasedly; but Mr. Murray Rose has tried to
prove her identify. A lady Eva in 1296 supplicates her maintenance
from Edward I., her husband having been taken prisoner at Dunbar. It
runs thus – “Eva, uxor domini Alexandri Comyn de Badenaghe, qui captus
fuit apud dunbar, supplicat regi sustentationem suam de 40 £
terra de dote Domini Alexandri de Moravia quondam viri sui.” An old
antiquary – Rose, of Moncoffer – left among his innumerable papers a
statement that Eva, heiress of Lochaber of the Isles ( = Eva
Macdonald, of Lochaber) married firstly, Alexander Murray, Freskin of
Duffus’ brother; secondly, Alexander Cumming, son of John Cumming of
Badenoch; and thirdly, she married Mackintosh of clan Chattan. The
weak point is the statement is that Eva was heiress of Lochaber, for
in her time, the eastern portion, at least, of Lochaber belonged to
Macdonald of Keppoch had no right to his lands. His ancestor, Angus of
Fersit, was an illegitimate son of Alaster Carrach.
The Clan Cameron. In modern times the Cameron estates have been west
of the Lochy. Again Skene’s notion of “captain” leads him astray. The
septs of the Camerons were the Mac Martins, Sliochd Somhairle, Clann
‘ic Gillonfhaidh, and the Locheil branch. The 1450 MS. contains names
from the Mac Martins and the M’Gillonies; they are all the same stock.
Gillonfhaidh or Maolonfhaidh means “Servant of Storm” Cameron itself
is from Gille-Camshròin, “Wry-nosed one.” But the Camerons of Fife,
Edinburgh and Southern Perth, derived their names from the place-names
Cambrun. Bishop Cameron was an Edinburgh man; but he is given in the
Cameron genealogies as brother of that excellent reiver, Donald Du!
The Cameron genealogy in the histories before Donald Du is
manufactured like that of Cluny in Douglas.
Ewen Allanson got his lands of Locheil and Lochalsh from Celestine of
Lochalsh and his son, Sir Alexander. The Clan Ranald was in possession
of its usual Garmoran lands; it had lost Lochaber altogether.
The Mac-Naughtons. The name Nectan is Pictish and comes from nig,
wash, as already said. the deportation of the Mac-Naughtons from
Northern Moray is mere theory, and unlikely too. the name exists
clanwise only in Strathtay and Argyle. It seems clear that the Mac-Naughtons
are intruders into Argyle from Pictland.
The Macleans. Of course the Macleans are not “of Moray”; they are an
Island family, the name being either Mac-Gilleòin or Mac-Gill’
sheathain (Gill’-eathain); in either case the name means “Son of
John’s Gille.” MS. 1450 has the genealogy, and improved by
other sources it appears at p. 480-1 of Celtic Scotland, iii –
a good genealogy. Gillemore, of Perth, is not in the genealogy; and
the three sons mentioned in Bruce’s time (John, Nigel, and Donald,
1326) are the sons of the real Gilleoin or ancestor. For John Mac
Gillimore, read John Mac Gilleòin.
The Mackinnons were possessed of lands in Mull. The Macleans were
interlopers, apparently. The legend is old but unauthentic.
The capture of Lachlan Mac Lean at Harlaw is unlikely.
An account of the feud between Maclean and Angus of Isla is given in
the new history of Clan Donald, vol. ii. p. 553-73. It gives a
more fair, if Macdonaldian, account of the transactions (dates
Siol O’Cain. All this is traditional and unworthy of regard. O’Cathan
is not allied to Clan Chatan; the one is from cath, battle; the
other is from cat, cat. These O’Cathans came over in the train
of the O’Cathan wife of Angus Og (1300) – so the Seanachies say, but,
to use Fordun’s terms, “they lie.” These were native clans. The Sleat
Historian is the main authority for all this.
The Munros. The Sleat Seanachie says that this clan got its name from
Bun-Roe, “Mouth of Roy River,” in Derry, and that they came over in
the train of Angus Og’s wife (O’Cathan). A clan in the east of Ross,
before ever Macdonalds were Earls of Ross, could hardly have come as
attendants on the bride of the Lord of Kintyre in west Argyle. The
name is very difficult to unravel; it is a place-name, since the first
chiefs in the 14th century are called de Munro.
Monadh-Ruadh, or even Bun-Ruadh (“Red Mount,” “Red-footland”), would
phonetically suit – the former especially. Ruadh, or Rodh, is the
latter root and the foundation of the Gaelic name, Rothach, a Munro.
Robert de Monro is the first assured chief by charter evidence
The Mac-Millans. The name is firstly Mac-Gille-Mhaoil, Gille-maol,
“Bald Gille”; but it probably stands for Gille-na-maol, which means
“Gille of the Saints.” Shortened in the usual way, it appears as
Maolan. Compare Gille-naomh, Irish Gille-na-naomh, “Gille of the
Saints,” whence M’Gilnef, and Naomhan, whence M’Niven. The Macmillans
of Knap and those of Lochaber were clearly independent clans.
The Buchanans and M’Auslans, as already said, are descended from the
Earls of Lennox, and can be traced by early charters. See note above
The first earl of Ross was Malcolm Mac-Heth, who was liberated in
1157, witnessed a charter of Dunfermline Abbey as Malcolm Mac Eth, and
as Earl of Ross was entrusted with the defence of the monks of
Dunfermline. His real due was the suppressed Earldom of Moray; he got
only the (easter) Ross part of it. He seems to have behaved badly, and
probably plotted to get back the old Earldom. The next Earl of Ross is
the count of Holland, but he does not seem to have had more than the
nominal title. The first Earl of line was Ferchar Mac-in-tagart (son
of the priest), hailing evidently from the west – from the clerical
district of Applecross. His family name was O Beòllan, Beòllan being a
common name then, even borrowed by the Norse (from beul,
mouth). His connection with the Clan Gillanders is close, though not
clear. Paul Mac-Mac-tire, in 1370, was, evidently from MS. 1450, chief
Gilleoin does not translate into Colin. Later it is the surname
Gilleon, a side form of Maclean.
“Gael of Western Isles” – read “Gall, & c.” The Isles were still
Paul Mac Tyre. Tyre was not his father, as usually is supposed, but
Mac-tire (meaning “Wolf,” a common name in his day and earlier); the
name is Paul Mac ‘Ic-tire. Of course Paul the Wolf is possible, and,
as a fact, he harried Caithness sufficiently to earn this title.
Historians usually call him after old traditions, Paul the Robber.
The Rosses of Balnagown were descended of Hugh or Rarichies, third son
of Hugh, fifth Earl of Sutherland. For the whole subject, see F. N.
Reid’s Earls of Ross (1894). The third Balnagown married Paul
Mac-Mac-tire’s daughter and heiress.
The Mackenzies were vassals of the Earls of Ross, and little or
nothing is known of their history until the forfeiture of the last
Earl. Their first charter is about the first forfeiture of the Island
lord – 1463. Anything before that is spurious. The first chief
mentioned is Kenneth More, leader of two thousand, captured by the
king in 1427, as Skene says. In Celtic Scotland, iii. 317, he
gives this Kenneth Mor as ancestor of Cluny! And this, too, though
Kenneth was manifestly a prominent vassal of the Earl of Ross, whose
men alone are mentioned by Fordun. Mackenzie domes from G. Coinneach,
“Fair one”; it has nothing to do with Kenneth. The z in the
name arose from mistaking old g for z, Kengie being the
John, last Earl of Ross, was the only legitimate son of Alexander,
Earl of Ross. His sons, Celestine and Hugh, were both illegitimate;
Celestine of Lochalsh, and Hugh of Sleat, ancestor of Lord Macdonald.
Clan Matheson. The Gaelis is Mac-Mhathan, “Son of Bear.” Like the
Mackenzies, they were vassals of Ross, but at the forfeiture of the
Earldom they, unhappily, were vassals to Celestine and his son
Alexander, of Lochalsh, and so did not get free like the Mackenzies.
Good genealogies to about 1600 can be made out for the leading
Siol Alpine. This is pure tradition, made famous by Sir Walter Scott’s
Lady of the Lake, and therefore requiring respectful notice.
Clan Gregor. The name is the Latin Gregorius, from late Greek
gregorios, “Watchful.” There was no King Gregory; the name meant is
Cyric, debased into Girig. a genealogy to Kenneth Mac Alpin appears in
the Dean of Lismore’s Book; a quite different one appears in MS. 1450,
going back to Ferchar Foda of Lorn. An account of the lands held in
Glenorchay by the Macgregors will be found in Orig. Parochiales,
ii. part i. p. 138.
Clan Grant. The name means undoubtedly “great,” and is the
Norman-French grand or grant (compare Blound, Blount, & c.) The first
of the name are mentioned – Laurence Le Grant and Robert – the former
being Sheriff of Inverness. They were Norman-French interlopers. The
clan itself, like the rest of the population, is native. The Bissets,
Grants, and Prats were neighbours both in England (Nottingham, & c.)
And in Northern Moray in the 13th century. Many le
Grants are mentioned as connected with the North in 1292-1307. Gilbert
of Glencarnie (circ. 1360) was not a Grant, as Skene asserts; but
Matilda of Glencarnie was mother of the first undoubted Chief of Grant
(Sir Duncan Grant, 1434-85), her father being Gilbert of Glencarnie or
Duthil. Many Grants appear in the 14th century, and
confusion reigns in the Grant genealogy for that reason. Sir Duncan’s
father was possibly John Roy Grant, who died young.
The MacKinnons. The name Fingon was common in older times, a Celtic
Vindo-gonios, denoting “Fair-bairn.” The original habitat of the clan
was Mull (Mishinish the chief place), where they held lands under the
Lord of the Isles, and from the crown after their forfeiture. They had
also the estate of Strathardle in Skye (parted with in 1791, the last
of their land). They were closely connected with Iona in the 15th
century, and John Mackinnon was the last abbot. See “Memoirs of Clan
Fingon,” by Rev. Donald D. Mackinnon, M.A. (1899). Their Clan Gregor
connection, though asserted by a bond, seems mere fancy. There was a
bond also between the Mackinnons and Macnabs, asserting kinship.
Mac-nab, “Son of the Abbot”; likely the abbot of Glendochart, where
there was a great Celtic monastery.
Macphee: Gaelic (old) Mac Duibhsithe. The name Dubhsithe means “Black
of Peace,” the adjectives of colour being so used often to govern
nouns in the genitive.
Macquarrie: Mac-Guaire. The name Guaire, Celtic Guarios or Gorios,
means “noble,” “glorious.” The clan had a good position under the
Mac-Aulay. Skene’s two objections to the Mac-aulays being not of the
line of the Earls of Lennox are of little value. The bond of kinship
of 1591 rests on pure tradition. The Aulay is no doubt here the Norse
Olaf or Anlaf. the Macaulays of Lewis are certainly of Norse origin.
There was an old Gaelic name, Amalghaidh, which confuses the etymology
of the name in the case of the Lennox Macaulays, where the Earls bear
old Gaelic names like Ailin and Maoldomhnach.
Garmoran. In 1343 this name is Garw-morwarne, that is, Garbh-morbhern
or “Rough Morvern,” meaning, no doubt, the “Rough (bounds) of Morvern,”
the district to the south of it. Mor-vern itself means likely “
Great Passes” (bearna). Neither name has anything to do with
Mearns (older Magh-ghirghinn), either in pronunciation or roots.
Garmoran was the Clanranald country, “from sheil to Sourn,” as the
Dean of Lismore has it. It was never an earldom, only a district.
Skene is entirely wrong, and the Earldom of Garmoran has no place in
events detained as I., II., III. belong to Mearns. See Celtic
Scotland, i. 364, 439, and 452.
Cellach could not become Gilli in Norse; it becomes Kjalakr. Earl
Gilli ruled in the Isles (Coll, & c.) And not on the mainland.
Besides, there was no Earldom of Garmoran. Nor could it remain in the
Crown till Alexander III.’s time. It then belonged to the M’Rorys, and
had been so held since Rory’s time (Celtic Scotland, iii. 88).
The Macleods and Campbells were entirely unconnected and never
belonged to the fabled Earldom of Garmoran.
Clan Leod. Skene denies the Norse origin usually ascribed to the
Macleods by tradition. The genealogies given both for the Campbells
and Macleods in the Kilbride MS. of 1540 and MS. 1450 are clearly
absurd: both deduce the lineage of these clans from Fergus Lethderg,
son of Nemed (2349 B.C.!), but there is nothing in common in the
genealogies, save these last two names. The Campbell genealogy passes
through King Arthur and other British names. The Macleod genealogy
passes through Iver, the Norse King of Dublin (9th
century), and several ancestors bearing such Norse names as Olvir,
Magnus, Harold, Uspac, Magnus of Orkney, Longbard, & c. To make them
Gaelic, the two mythic heroes are added at the end. There is therefore
no connection whatever between the Campbells and Macleods, as a
student of Highland history might expect. (See Celtic Scotland,
iii. 340). Skene regards the Macleods as mainland clans, mainly
because the charters of 1343 to the respective heads of both branches
are for Glenelg and Assynt; but the after history of the Macleods show
them to be almost purely an Island race. Indeed, Assynt is
traditionally recorded as coming to the Lewis branch through the
heiress of the Macnicols. We may, therefore, regard the Macleods as a
Hebridean clan; and, secondly, we can deduce from their Norse names –
Leod (Ljotr, “Ugly,” curtailed doubtless from Ljotulf, “Ugly Wolf”),
Torquil or Thor-Kell (“Thor’s Kettle”), Tormod (“Thor-mooded”), and
further back, Ollghair (Olvir) – that the chiefs were purely Norse.
Their descent from Olave of Man is not provable by any old documents.
Lewis and Harris formed the cradle of the race apparently; and from
this we may infer that the Lewis family was the elder, as keeping the
first habitat. Leod may, as the clan historians have it, have lived in
the time of Alexander III., after the cession of the Isles (1266). His
two sons, Torquil and Tormod, may have been the heads of the two
branches or clans (so Gregory) into which they were in historic times
divided. An interesting genealogy, attached to the Maclean genealogy (Celtic
Scotland, iii. 482), should be borne in mind in discussing any
genealogy before or after Leod. It plainly contains “Ollaghar Nan Lann”
or Mary the Bardess.
Macleod of Harris does not always take precedence of Macleod of
Lewis in the charter signatures. On this score, they are about even.
Buchanan of Auchmar (1723) gives the Lewis branch the precedence.
Despite Gregory, who regards them as two separate clans, with separate
armorial bearings, there seems little doubt that the clan chiefs are
ultimately from one father.
The story of the atrocity at Egg, though formerly much doubted, is now
known to be perfectly true from a contemporary MS. published in
Celtic Scotland, iii. 428, & c. The date of the event is 1577.
Clan Campbell. As Skene says, the Campbells are certainly Celtic. The
name is an epithet. Caim-beul, “Wry-mouth,” is equivalent to the
ancient Irish cerrbél, an epithet of Fergus, father of
Diarmat, king of Ireland (539-558). Cerbél or Cearr-beul became a
Christian name as Cearbhall, Norse Kjarvalr, now Carrol. We meet also
in ancient literature with ech-bél, “horse-mouthed.” The name Cameron
is also to be compared. The other derivations offered are useless.
There was no “de Campo-bello,” because idiom demanded Bello-campo
(Beauchamp, Beecham); and “de Campellis” would become Champeaux. Of
course the Campbells belonged not to Garmoran, though apparently
Arthur, son of Sir Arthur Campbell, got a charter from the M’Rory
heiress (about 1400) for the Garmoran lands; but it clearly took no
effect. John Macarthur in 1427 lost his life in reviving the claim to
Garmoran, along with Alexander Mac Reury. These Campbells were, no
doubt, the Strathchur branch, whose claim to the headship of the
Campbell race rests merely on assertion. In Celtic Scotland,
iii. 331, Skene says the original seat of the Campbells was the
district of Lochow and Ardskeodnich, and he concedes to the Mac
Cailin-Moir branch the headship (Celtic Scotland, iii. 339). At
any rate, it is the genealogy of the Lochow family that is always
given; it goes back to an ancestor, Duibhne, who lived about the
middle of the 12th century. The clan was certainly known as
Clann O Duibhne or Clann Duibhne (Englished Clan Guin, and often badly
rendered in its Gaelic form in the old MSS. and songs). In 1266,
Gilespic Campbell has the king’s lands of Menstrie and Sauchie in
Stirlingshire – evidently temporarily; but he is the first Cambell
mentioned, and is regarded, no doubt rightly, as father of Cailin Mor
(1292), who possessed lands in Argyle, and who is the family eponymus
(M’Callum-mor). In 1292 Thomas Cambel held lands in Kintyre,
and about the same time Dugald Cambell is connected with Dumbarton
Castle as governor. The relationship of these several Cambels, and of
Sir Arthur Cambel, it seems impossible now to define. Cailin Mor’s son
was sir Neil, who married Bruce’s sister. The Cambells are usually
regarded as interlopers in Argyle (see Brown’s Memorials of Argyle),
but, if they did not originally belong to Argyle, we must not go
further than Dumbartonshire for their habitat. The old genealogies
trace them to the British King Arthur, a tradition which may indicate
that the Cambells originally lived on the borderland of the
Strathclyde Briton and the Gael. The name Arthur is common among them.
The Cambells rose then on the ruins of the families of Lorn and of
Alexander, lord of the Isles, partisans of the English. The Cambells
of Lochow soon became masters of Argyle; they were a race of
statesmen, with high literary talent, as old Gaelic poetry shows, and
they still manifest the same characteristics. Skene’s severe censures
are undeserved; because the Campbell chiefs nearly always trod a path
of level-headed common sense, must they be declared cunning and
There was no sheriffdom of Argyle till 1292.
Caithness. The old province of Cat (so named from the Catti or
Cat-tribe) included Caithness and Sutherland. In the restricted sense,
Caithness meant in the Sagas, modern Caithness, but they also used it
to mean the whole Cat province, save Sutherland. The province Ness
meant strictly and always modern Caithness; it was the Ness of Cat.
Skene’s attempt to make Ness mean the Cape Wrath district is entirely
against the evidence; it is abandoned in Celtic Scotland.
“Gaddgedli”; this is simply a corruption of Gall-Gaidheil, later
reduced to mean Galloway. The text of the Saga is corrupt (Anderson’s
Orkn. Saga, p. 28).
The Mackays. The name aodh or Aed, so troublesome to Sassenach
scribes, was once the most popular of Gaelic names. We have already
dealt with the Mac-Heths of Moray; then there were the powerful
Mackeths, or Mackies, of Galloway; Mackays of Ugadale; Mackays of the
Rinns in Islay; and the Morgan Mackays of Sutherland. There is, of
course, no connection between these clans. The Inverness-shire Mackays
are usually called in Gaelic, Mac-ài, that is, Mac Dhài or Davidson;
they formed a branch of Clan Chattan. It is remarkable that the
Sutherland Mackays claim kinship with the Forbes’s of Aberdeenshire,
and about 1608 actually adopted Lord Forbes’ arms, with cadet
differences (by permission of Lord Forbes, whom Hugh Mackay of Mackay
calls his “dear Chief”); but it is also remarkable that the name
Morgan exists, or in historic times existed, nowhere else than in
Aberdeenshire and among the Sutherland Mackays. The name in Pictish –
Morcunn (Book of Deer), “Sea-bright.” Perhaps the explanation lies in
the fact that the Earl of Ross held lands in Buchan – indeed, he was
entitled to half the earldom, and the last lord of the old line died
in asserting his claims, and the first of the Macdonald lords suffered
at Harlaw in the same cause. Now, the lands of Strathhalladale and
Ferrincoskry (Skibo, Creich, & c.), and probably more, belonged to the
Earl of Ross. The former lands were granted or re-granted to Angus Du
Mackay in 1415 by Donald of the Isles. Angus Du is the first historic
chief of Clan Mackay, and from Donald’s charter we learn that he held
also Strathnaver (Aed de Strathnaver), or part of it. He does
not seem to have held it of the crown. Angus opposed the claims of
Donald of Isles to the Earldom of Ross, and put himself at the head of
all the men of Sutherland, belonging to the Earldom of Ross, and the
Ross-shire men, to expel donald from the earldom, but Angus was
defeated and captured. He then married Donald’s sister, and in 1415
received the lands above mentioned (Strathhalladale and Ferrincoskry).
In 1427, he was arrested as abettor to the Lord of the Isles, his
nephew, when he is represented as having 4000 men at his command. This
number must apply to his former campaign against Macdonald, when he
had all the malcontents of the Earldom of Ross at his back. The
Mackays were never so numerous as the Mackenzies, who, in 1427, could
muster 2000. But all Fordun’s numbers are clearly exaggerated for the
clans and chiefs then in arms in Macdonald’s cause.
“Y. Mackay”; this should simply be “Y Mackay.” The single letter Y was
all that then represented Aodh, older Aed, “Fire.”
All the arguments about Ness are simply wasted ingenuity. See above
note on Caithness.
The Mac-Nichols. This was a Norse clan like the Macleods. Macnicol is,
and was, sometimes pronounced Macreacuil according to a
well-known Gaelic phonetic law that cn becomes cr (cf.
Macreachtain for Macnaughton, Macrigh for Macni). An ancestor, Krycul,
is absurdly impossible as a name. Nicolas was a common Norse name. The
habitat of the Clan Nicol is now Skye; they say that they left Assynt
when the Macleods took possession of it, and came over to the nearest
shore of Skye. Nicolsons have been there for at least three hundred
years, in abundance.
Skene regards Sutherland proper – east of the Brae-chat and Dirie-chat
range – as Norse, the Gaelic speakers being mostly incomers; but the
same must be said of the rest of Sutherland. The old Earls of
Sutherland were Celts of the Celts – the famed De Moravia family. Like
the De Atholia family, they belonged to the family of the Mormaers of
Moray – kinsmen by descent to Macbeth, Finlay, and Ruary. The Murrays
still hold high places in the peerage: Duke of Atholl, Earls Mansfield
and Dunmore, not to mention lesser titles. Freskin of Moray was
probably the descendant of a refugee, De Moravia, who established
himself in Norse Sutherland about the first Mac-Heth rebellions. The
name Freskyn is still unexplained, but it is likely to be either
Pictish or Gaelic, and not Flemish or Frisian as usually asserted.