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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
II. Gaelic Society


did not degenerate from a previous and pervasive Roman church, although this assumption has been made (implied here is the vulnerability on the part of the historian to distort history by interpreting it too much in the light of his own age). Irish monasticism was in fact an outgrowth of that of Egypt, not Rome, and its position in Europe was one of antecedence.

At any rate, the tribes, being the focus of Gaelic political power, encompassed virtually the entire Gaelic population. Generally speaking, this meant that anyone with any basic rights at all belonged to a tribe, and usually descended in the male line from one of the ancient Celtic ethno-tribal groups of Ireland and Scotland (the Gaels proper—the tribal sense of the name Gael— and also the Laigin, Erainn and Cruithne), or from one of the Viking or Norman families that came later. The only exceptions of note were those families which had attached themselves wholly to the church or some other hereditary profession, or which became so debased in power that they lost political significance even on the most local scale, and thus lost also their tribal identity (a unique situation arose for the O’Donegans of North Tipperary and O’Duggans of Cork who were tribally isolated and thus became entities unto themselves, while the same can be said for the O’Lynches of County Cavan, see Part II). Some church kindreds, such as the ancestors of the Skenes of Aberdeenshire and the Glenesks of Angus, later became temporal lords of their territories after these abbey lands were secularized in the thirteenth century.

It should be pointed out that families of the Galloway region of southwest Scotland, though of Gaelic origin in many cases, cannot be placed in the larger tribal framework of Gaeldom. The reason for this is their descent from Norse-Gaelic pirates and sea-kings who originally settled the area, whose tribal identity or continuity was lost as that tribalism completely lost its political significance. Thus the families of Kennedy, MacDowell, MacClellan, etc., of the Galloway region, though they form clan groups traceable from about the end of the twelfth century, fall outside the scope of Part II of this book. Other families in the south of Scotland are of Norman origin, but as their ancestors settled in the Lowlands of South Scotland, outside the area of Gaelic influence and cultural assimilation, most of these fall outside the scope of this book. This also applies to some families of the northeastern coastal lowlands of Scotland, and even to the mighty Lowland houses of Douglas and Bruce. The senior branch of the latter inherited and held the Throne of the Scots (in the person of Robert the Bruce) during the critical wars of Scottish independence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but their male-line failed soon after, and their royal inheritance and representation passed to the House of Stewart.

Tribalism of course influenced Gaelic literature, and the oral tradition is crowded with kings and heroes, often originally of a divine nature, who figure prominently in the genealogies of the tribes. Indeed, if you include descent in the female line, the likelihood was very great that a given Gael might descend, on a regional basis, from an historical king or hero of old. Such likelihoods,


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