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IV. The Kingdom of the Picts: Christianity, Paganism and the Making of Gaelic Scotland


the unit of barter. This socio-economic collapse was part of the larger struggle in Britain (and Ireland) reflected in civil wars between 1642 and 1746. This struggle was ostensibly between Episcopalian Royalists (Cavaliers and Tories) on the one hand and Puritan or Presbyterian Parliamentarians (Roundheads and Whigs) on the other, yet at a deeper level it was the traditional rural aristocracy fighting a losing battle against the inevitable rise of an urban mercantile electorate with an epicenter in the English Midlands. In this light the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 forms the midpoint between the beginning of this struggle in 1642, and the final battle, waged in America between 1861 and 1865. Virginia, mother of Presidents, had seen a rush of Cavalier immigration after the English Civil War (Henry "Light-Horse Harry"Lee, 1756—1818, father of Robert E. Lee, was himself the fourth-generation scion of a Cavalier family), while North Carolina received the bulk of Highland immigration to Colonial America (south of Canada) following the last Jacobite rebellion in 1745.

Whether in 650 or 1650, the Gaelic heroic ethos was based upon the doings of the Gaelic aristocratic hero. It involved the Úlan of a Celtic warrior aristocracy on horseback. The Gaelic hero was a man admired, idealized, and perhaps sacrifical in the eyes of his tribal following. This was the archetypal Highland squire. Educated, perhaps bilingual, he was a man bestriding both eighteenth century and Gaelic values. Quintessentially Celtic in his outlook, he bears strong resemblance to the hero of Y God oddin. He could sing sweetly at the midwinter feast, or stand grimly with heirloom weapons imbued with magical powers: The basket-hilted broadsword, the dirk, the targe of Picto—Gaelic genesis, the speckled gun with its magic stock: Here is the ideal of the half-naked, well-armed Highlander. A man with two pistols in his belt and a "heart for attachment" to the Stuart kings. Here is the heroic irrationale of the Gaelic mind, at once Scotland’s destruction and her saving virtue. It is a mind phallically bent on fulfilling its cultural aesthetic, as related in this translation of the late seventeenth-century vernacular poem "The Day of the Battle at the Head of Loch Fyne" by Alexander Robertson:

The Laird of Inverslany
Was standing in the sand
Having discharged his gun
In the face of the cavalry.
He had an embossed shield on his elbow,
A bloody sword in his right hand,
A pair of pistols on his hips.
Going to strike a blow at Archibald [Campbell of Argyle].

End of Part 1


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Index

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