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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
IX. The Gaels


(Dallas) in 1232. John Spens was baillie of Irvine, 1260, and Thomas de (a contemporary conventional form of Norman-French "le," also evident in Gaelic) Spensa witnessed a charter in favour of the Hospital of Soltre, Midlothian, between 1296 and 1324. One of these early Spenses was a scion of the House of Fife, and the office was probably hereditary in the family for a time. Thomas de Spensa and Laurence de Spensa appear as witnesses in Perth in 1375, and Henry Spens witnessed a charter by Robert, Earl of Fife, about 1390. Fergus de la Spens held a tenement in Edinburgh in 1392 and John de Spensa was a burgess of Perth in 1426 and had a grant of lands in the earldom of Mentieth. The family held considerable estates in mid and eastern Fife towards the end of the sixteenth century including that of Lathallan. Thomas Spens was an important bishop of Aberdeen in the latter half of the fifteenth century.

Southern Ui Neill
The Southern Ui Neill alternated the High-Kingship of Tara with their cousins of the Northern Ui Neill. They established themselves near Tara in the late fifth century, as several of the sons of Nial of the Nine Hostages settled in the east of the territory of Mide (Westmeath and North Offaly) just west of Tara. By the seventh century the Southern Ui Neill were masters of Brega (which included the sacred center at Tara in what is now County Meath) and were also firmly established as masters of the whole of the expansive territory of Mide (Westmeath and North Offaly). This territory stretched across the center of Ireland to the Shannon, and included Uisnech, the important traditional center of the Island, as meeting-place of the traditional "five fifths" of Ireland.

Here the Clann Cholmain, a collateral line to the Sil nAedo Slaine (the Seed of Aed of Slane) of Brega, established themselves as overlords of Mide under the title of Rig Uisnef ("king of Uisnech"). The center of their power was in the heart of what is now Westmeath, and their royal residences reflect this, they being either on or by Lough Ennell in the center of Westmeath. Thus there were, through the tenth century, two overkingdoms of the Southern Ui Neill, the Sil nAedo Slaine of Brega (Meath with parts of Dublin and Louth) and the Clann Cholmain of Mide. The former were more important during the seventh century, and possessed the site of Tara, though their princes resided some five miles to the southeast at Lagore. Eight of their kings were also High-Kings of Tara, and with this monopoly went the overkingship of the Southern Ui Neill. But after the death of their king, Cinead, in 728, it was the ClannCholmain who monopolised the overlordship of the Southern Ui Neill (which included the right to alternate the High-Kingship of Tara with the Northern Ui Neill), except for a brief period between 944 and 956.

The Clann Cholmain thus became the royal clan of the Southern Ui Neill. They became established as kings in Mide (Westmeath and North Offaly) from the sixth century onwards. Their chief family in later times was that of


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