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A History of Moray and Nairn
Chapter I. The Province of Moray


From the days when authentic history begins, the province of Moray was one of the great territorial divisions of the country; and it continued to be so through the long years of the successive kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots, until the country was finally consolidated into feudal Scotland in the early part of the twelfth century.

The province of Moray embraced an area of about 3900 square miles. It was bounded on the east by the river Spey; on the west by the great dorsal ridge of Drumalban; on the north by the Dornoch Firth and the river Oykel; and on the south by the range of mountains known by the name of the Mounth. It thus included the two modern counties of Moray and Nairn, the whole of the midland district of Inverness-shire, all but the outlying portion of Cromarty, and more than two-thirds of Ross.

The word Moray is an old locative plural of the word muir, the sea, and its meaning is therefore “in” or “among the seaboard men.” In Gaelic the dative locative is very often raised to the nominative in place-names.

No territory could have a more appropriate designation; for the Moray Firth—the sea here referred to—is the key to its history. To it are due in great measure those exceptional advantages of climate and soil which at various times have attracted Picts, Scots, Norsemen, and Saxons to its shores.

The earliest inhabitants of these parts of whom we have any accurate historical knowledge belonged to the great nation to which the Romans gave the nickname of Picts, or the Painted People, from their habit of dyeing their bodies with woad. The word occurs no earlier than in the writings of the writers of the second century, but it can hardly be doubted that it was in use by the Romans at a much earlier period.

The name by which the Picts designated themselves was Cruithneach ; and the early chronicles of the race—the compilation, it need hardly be said, of long after-ages—deduce their history from a certain Cruithne, a hero of Scythian or Thracian descent, belonging to a tribe which called itself Agathyrsi, who in the days of the great exodus of the Aryan race landed in Orkney with his seven sons, and from thence overran the whole of the mainland north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde. His children subsequently divided the land into seven provinces, most of which are readily identified, and in one or other of these Moray was certainly included. If any reliance is to be placed on etymology, it possibly formed part of the territory of King Fidach, and the little stream called the Fiddich, which runs into the Spey near Craigellachie, may yet preserve the memory of its most ancient chief.

That the Picts of Moray belonged to the Gaelic or Gaid-helic, and not to the Welsh or British or Brythonic, branch of the Celtic people is also undoubted. When we reach historical times we find them invariably siding with their Celtic brethren. In those early days, when blood was thicker than water, a common origin implied a common policy against all foreign aggression.

What history fails to tell us of the early inhabitants of the district is supplied in some degree by its prehistoric annals. It is impossible, of course, to say to what degree of civilisation they had attained at any particular date. But the unwritten chronicles of tumulus and barrow preserved in local museums, or noticed in the journals of antiquarian societies, prove this at any rate, that their progress in culture and the arts was identical with, and certainly not behind, that of other parts of northern Britain; that Moray had its Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages like the rest; that the proficiency it attained in the arts of agriculture, of spinning and weaving, of forging metals—in short, of peace and war—was equal to that of its neighbours; that, in a word, before the age of history begins, the inhabitants of the province had left barbarism far behind, and had reached a standard of civilisation of which it had no reason to be ashamed.

The general result of the inquiries of scholars may be taken to be this: that the Piet of Moray of the second and third centuries was no mere naked, ignorant savage, but one who had made considerable progress in the culture of the age. In religion he had long ceased to be a polytheist. There was only one stage, and that a short one, between his pantheism and monotheism. He believed in the immortality of the soul.

His priests or magi were a caste by themselves. The “ demon-like Druids,” to use the oddly complimentary though historically inaccurate expression of one of the earliest Pictish chroniclers, were men of learning and influence.

“Necromancy and idolatry, illusion,
In a fair and well-walled house,
Plundering in ships, bright poems,
By them were taught.
The honouring of sredhs and omens,
Choice of weather, lucky times,
The watching the voice of birds,
They practised without reserve.”

The nature of their religion is as yet, and probably will always be, matter of speculation only. But relics of their religious worship, whatever it may have been, are not wanting in Moray. At Viewfield, in the parish of Urquhart, not far from the town of Elgin, is an incontestable stone circle. In Nairnshire these are still more abundant. Examples of them may be found at Moyness, Auldearn, Urchany, Ballinrait, Dalcross, Croy, Daviot, and the upper reaches of the river Naim. In the valley of the Nairn no less than thirty sites of such circles are known, and the existence of many others is to be inferred from the place-names.

By far the most interesting of these prehistoric remains are the stone circles of Clava. Situated on the south bank of the Nairn, on a piece of uncultivated ground nearly opposite Culloden Moor, they consist of two concentric rings of stand-ing-stones, six to twelve feet high, surrounding a group of cairns, originally seven or eight in number, of which two only now remain sufficiently entire to show the nature of their structure. Those of them which have been opened appear to have been stone-built circular chambers, erected for the purpose of containing the cinerary urns whose remains were found within them.

As for the stone circles themselves, it is impossible to avoid the conviction that they had a meaning of their own. What that meaning was cannot yet be said to have been accurately ascertained. Their size, their equidistance, their remarkable coincidence with the points of the compass, seem to imply that they were something more than a mere setting to the graves of the mighty dead that lay within them. They may have been, according to the most commonly accepted theory, a sun-dial indicating the hours of the day. But why a mere sun-dial should be placed in such close connection with a burial-ground has as yet to be explained. A more legitimate inference, considering their proximity to these burial-cairns, and keeping in view the veneration with which the Picts regarded their dead, is that they had some religious signification. What that was no one so far has been able to discover. There is less difficulty in arriving at a conclusion as to their antiquity. Cremation was a typical characteristic of purely pagan burial, and, looking to the character of their contents, they probably belong to the Bronze age—the age before iron came into use, and after stone implements had ceased to be exclusively manufactured.

Another relic of prehistoric days, and another also of “the enigmas of archaeology,” are the stones with cup-markings found in many parts of the district. According to Mr Romilly Allen, a greater number of these have been discovered in Nairnshire than in any other part of Great Britain. Moot-or doom-hills, too—the “fairy hillocks” of long after-ages— are very common throughout all the district.

The social polity of the Picts seems to have rested on a basis no less enlightened than that of their religious belief.

The scandalous slander that credited the Caledonian Piet with a community of women is now entirely exploded. The Celtic family was in all probability based on the monogamic tie; and in the Celtic family is to be found the germ of all his gentilitian and national peculiarities. The clan system, which in after-ages became the distinguishing characteristic of the Celtic race, was not yet established; but its embryo existed. In the presence of a common danger all the families in a community combined under the leadership of the chief, whose ability to lead constituted his sole claim to supremacy. His weapons, his chariot, his horses, his implements of warfare generally, were the product of skilled and often of highly artistic workmanship. As for his mode of warfare, it was such as our troops had to contend with in the case of the Kaffirs of Cape Colony in 1852, and in that of the Zulus in 1879.

During the Roman occupation of Britain, which began in a.d. 79 and lasted till a.d. 409,—or three hundred and thirty years in all,—the northern Picts, to whom the inhabitants of Moray and Nairn belonged, seem to have been known under different names. Before the time of Severus these various tribes were merged in the general appellation of Caledonii; in Severus’s time they were called the Dicalidonae. But each tribe had also its own separate name. Ptolemy, the Alexandrian geographer, writing in the second century, calls the tribe who occupied the district between the Moray Firth and the Tay the Ov/cofiaryoi or Vacomagans, and adds that they possessed four towns—Pannatia, Tamia, Pteroton Strato-pedon (the Winged Camp), and Tuessis. Pannatia and Tamia have been assigned to such different sites as Inverness and Buchanty on the Almond in the one case, and Braemar and Inchtuthill, an island on the Tay, in the other. Tuessis is almost universally admitted to have been somewhere on the banks of the Spey, about Fochabers. As for the Winged Camp, though its exact site cannot be said to be established beyond the reach of argument, the general opinion is that if not actually on the shores of the Moray Firth it was not far off them. A strong effort has been made to identify it with Burghead, a little village recently erected into a burgh, about nine miles west of the town of Elgin. Opinions may differ as to whether this effort has been successful or not, but the striking physical features of the locality lend considerable weight to the notion that Burghead was from the earliest times a native Pictish stronghold.

As Burghead is, as we shall see in the sequel, both the most interesting and the most ancient inhabited place along the whole seaboard of the Moray Firth, it may be proper to describe it The town, which consists of a single street running north and south, is situated on a headland about a third of a mile in length. The abrupt and fractured cliff which terminates it is evidence that at one time this headland extended farther out to sea. Its greatest height is about 80 feet; its breadth at the extremity some 400 feet, but it widens out as it descends into the plain, till its diameter extends to about 1150 feet. This promontory may be said to command the whole of the Moray Firth from the mouth of the Beauly Firth (the Æstuarium Vararis) on the west to the mouth of the Lossie on the east, and the Ord of Caithness on the north. On its western side is a wide circular bay, sufficiently capacious for a mighty fleet. It is a haven safe from the winds of all quarters. In ancient times a belt of forest and peat, now submerged, stretched along its eastern shore. Now a small but weather-proof harbour, erected in 1809 and deepened in 1882-87, is its principal feature.

Nature itself seems to have intended this headland for a fortress. A beacon-fire lit on its summit could have been instantly answered from the hill-tops of what now comprise eight Scottish counties. And what nature intended, man has carried out. The whole crest of the headland was, till the beginning of this century, a piled-up mass of ancient fortifications. In 1793, when General Roy’s celebrated work, ‘The Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain,' was published by the Society of Antiquaries of London, their extent and character were still distinctly manifest, and a plan of them will be found in his book. But when once the demon of improvement has laid its destructive grasp upon a community, nothing, however old, however venerable, is safe from its clutches. About 1818 the proprietors of the land resolved to fill up a small bay where the herring-curing stations now stand. “The whole of the north-west ramparts were hurled down the hill and deposited in the bottom of the bay, the full waggons running down and carrying up the empty ones. No less than a height of 18 feet of ramparts, and the whole upper surface of the high fort, now lie below a line of curing-stations. Its cross ramparts were hurled each into its foss, and are now built over, and the many coins, battle-axes, and spear-heads then found, gone to any English tourist who came that way.”

Nothing now remains but a rampart about 400 feet long on the eastern side of the promontory. It is locally known as the “Broch Bailies.” But this rampart is of so extraordinary a construction, and has given rise to such different conjectures, that some account of it is necessary. It is about 25 feet high; about 60 feet wide at the base, and about 24 feet at the top. It is composed of alternate layers of logs and stone. The wood is oak, probably from the neighbouring oak-forest of Duffus; and the logs are joined by cross-pieces, also of oak, riveted together by iron bolts. The stone is freestone, but not the native freestone of the district; and the foundations are large boulders resting on a beach of rolled pebbles. It is undeniable that this rampart has many points of resemblance with the walls of some of the Gaulish cities which Caesar found in France.

Upon this fact, and upon the discovery of another very curious relic of antiquity close at hand, and of various objects, resembling Roman manufacture, found among the ruins, it has been maintained that the Romans not only visited Burghead, but established there a military station of something more than a merely temporary character. This theory was first brought prominently forward by General Roy in the work already referred to. In his younger days he had been one of the engineers connected with the survey of Scotland of 1748, and while thus engaged he had been led to the conclusion that the traces of Roman occupation were both more numerous and more widely diffused than was generally supposed. His preconceived ideas were confirmed in a most remarkable manner by the appearance in 1757 of a work entitled ‘De Situ Britanniae,’ which the editor, Charles Julius Bertram, attributed to Richard of Cirencester, a Westminster monk of the fourteenth century. This work revolutionised all the previous knowledge of scholars. It maintained that, instead of the Roman occupation of North Britain, even between the walls, being that only of a camp, the Romans had in the reign of Domitian accomplished the entire conquest of Scotland east of the Great Glen, and between the walls of Antonine and the Moray Firth. Out of the territories of the Caledonians a great province had been carved and named Vespasiana. Roads had been cut and military stations erected throughout the length and breadth of this wide tract. The province had even attained the distinction of a capital called Ptoroton, which was situated on the coast somewhere near the mouth of the Varar. As the estuary of the Varar of Ptolemy was either the Beauly or the Moray Firth, there was a strong presumption that Ptoroton was no other than Pteroton Stratopedon, the Winged Camp of the Alexandrian astronomer. Presumption gave place to demonstration when remains of an important stronghold and a Roman well or bath were actually found in situ.

General Roy was a man of great ability and considerable learning, and with extraordinary powers of induction. It derogates in no way from his well-deserved reputation that his predilection for everything Roman was stronger than his critical faculty. He had been dead nearly sixty years before his assertions were called in question. But in 1852 the first note of suspicion was sounded, and in 1869 the bubble was finally burst The work of Richard of Cirencester was an audacious forgery. There was no province of Vespasiana; there were no Roman roads consular or vicinal; there was no Ptoroton. None of these existed save in the imagination of their author, Charles Julius Bertram.

This discovery does not necessarily demolish the theory that Burghead may have been a Roman station. For the evidence of its remains is still left. But it places many insuperable obstacles in the way. It shifts the burden of proving that these remains are Roman upon those who assert this; and to this day it can hardly be alleged, with any degree of confidence, that this burden has been discharged.

If it were possible to show by any direct evidence, for example, that the Romans had been at any time in those parts, the difficulty might not be so great. But there is absolutely no evidence. Tacitus, no doubt, states in his ‘Agricola' that in a year fixed by scholars as a.d. 86, the Roman fleet made the periplus of Britain. The Orkneys were discovered, and Thule—probably the mainland of Shetland—was seen. There is no improbability, but very much the reverse, that in this circumnavigation the Romans sailed into the Moray Firth—and sailed out again. The next possible theory is that the district may have been visited by Lollius Urbicus, the imperial lieutenant of the Emperor Antoninus Pius. But Julius Capitolinus, who is our only authority, goes no further than stating that the emperor “even subdued the Britons by Lollius Urbicus, and, driving back the barbarians, built another wall of turf.” Where that barrier was, and who the Britons were that his general chastised, are nowhere specially mentioned. The only other explorer of these northern regions was the Emperor Septimius Severus. We have full accounts of his expedition, which certainly extended beyond the Grampians, in the works of Dion Cassius as abridged by Niphilin, and of Herodian, in Greek; and in those of Spartian, Eutropius, and others in Latin. The object of the emperor's expedition was the punishment of the Caledonian or Pictish tribes, whose repeated attacks upon the northern wall had been for long a source of much annoyance to the Roman garrison. The task was more difficult than he expected. His progress was disputed inch by inch. The enemy with whom he had to contend was not only a race of warlike proclivities, but one which had made considerable advance in the art of war. They were inured to fatigue, hunger, and cold. They would run into the morasses up to the neck. They could live for days in their desolate wastes without any other food than roots or leaves. They were armed with bucklers, poniards, and lances with metal balls attached to their lower ends, which they shook to frighten their enemies; and they fought from chariots. It cost the emperor 50,000 men, and it took him three long years, to force his way “to the extremity of the island,” wherever that may have been. The conquest he intended was never achieved. His death at York in 211 put an end to it for good, and his successors never repeated the experiment. Such is the gist of the accounts we have of his expedition. From first to last there is not a word of the establishment of any fortified station in Moray—not even a word of his ever having visited the district.

We shall have occasion later on to consider the character of the antiquities of Burghead, great and small. Meantime it is enough to say that though the legend of the Roman occupation of this remarkable locality is improbable, it is by no means an impossibility.

For four centuries after this we know nothing of Pictish history. But in the seventh century we find the Picts in possession of one of the four kingdoms—and by far the largest— into which Scotland was at that time divided. With the exception of a small territory occupied by the Irish nation of the Scots, known as the kingdom of Dalriada—a territory which may roughly be described as coextensive with the limits of the modem county of Argyll,—the whole of the north of Scotland from Duncansbay Head to the Firth of Forth was in their hands. It was divided by the great mountain-chain of the Mounth between the northern and the southern Picts. It seemed as if the Picts were destined to be the dominant race, and at no distant period to gain possession of the whole of Scotland.

From the earliest times there had always been a strong line of demarcation between the Picts on the north of the Grampians and those on the south. The northern Picts were purely Gaelic in race and language. The southern Picts, though their main body was Gaelic also, were not so purely so. The country between the Firths of Forth and Tay was in the hands of the tribe of the Damnonii, who belonged to the other branch of the nation ; and thus a British interest had been introduced amongst these southern Picts, from which those on the other side of the mountains were entirely free. But both sections prided themselves on their descent from Cruithne, the eponymus of their race, and differed only as the families of brothers descended from one parent stock differ from one another. Broken up as they were into tribes and septs, they still acknowledged a common origin and a common interest And though each tribe (tuath) and “great tribe” (martuatk), which was a combination of tuaths and province (coicidh\ which was formed by the union of two or more mortuathsy had a ri or kinglet of its own, both divisions of the people accepted the necessity of a paramount chief (iardri), who exercised authority over the whole nation.

Such was the origin of the kingdom of the Picts. Their kings were elected sometimes from the one, sometimes from the other, branch of the nation. At first the seat of government oscillated between the north and the south of the Mounth, as the northern or the southern Picts had for the moment the ascendancy. But in the end the capital of the kingdom was settled at Scone, and here their kings were crowned sitting on the block of red sandstone which now supports the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey.

The Pictish Chronicle contains a list of the Pictish kings from “Cruidne, filius Cinge,” the “father of the Picts inhabiting this island, who reigned a hundred years,” to Brude or Bred, the last of the line, who reigned one year only. The monarchy extends from mythic times till the year 844, when Kenneth MacAlpin conquered Pictavia, and constituted the Scots—the race to which he belonged—the predominant factor in the history of the country.

Although it is impossible to take this list seriously, so far at least as it relates to the earlier kings, it has always been regarded as sufficiently authentic to deduce certain inferences from it, which, confirmed by statements in other ancient records, show that a very peculiar law of succession prevailed amongst these Pictish kings. The right of sovereignty lay in the females of the original royal blood, and not in the males. This rule was no doubt adopted to counteract the laxity of morals which prevailed amongst the males. Even if the mother had married into another tribe, she could transmit to her children a portion of the blood of the original ancestor of the line. The tribe, whether of the northern or the southern Picts, who thus secured the eldest female descendant of Cruithne, the first king of the nation, secured also the sovereignty of the whole. His children were adopted into their mother’s tribe, and the old family names of Brude, Drust, Nechtan, Talorgan, and Gartnaidh, bestowed upon them, were at once the evidence and the guarantee of their royal descent.

It is not till we reach the sixth century that we find ourselves on firm historical ground with regard to those ancient kings. When this is actually the case, we are brought face to face with another very interesting subject of inquiry —the introduction of Christianity into northern Scotland. Between the years 556 and 586, Brude, son of Mailcu (Malcolm), who belonged to the northern branch of the nation, was king of the Picts. He was a very brave and powerful prince, who had successfully repulsed the attacks upon his kingdom of the Scots of Dalriada, slain their king Gabhran, and attached certain insular portions of their territory to his own dominions. He had his fort and palace at the eastern end of Loch Ness—probably on the summit of Craig Phadrick,—and there he lived surrounded by his warriors and fortified in his paganism by a crowd of attendant Magi.

He was at the very height of his glory when, in the ninth year of his reign (a.d. 565), he received a visit from Columba. The defeat of the Scots, who were nominally at least a Christian people, had drawn the saint’s attention to Pictavia; and in 563 he crossed over from Ireland, determined to effect the conversion of its inhabitants, and to obtain, if possible, some concessions in favour of a conquered race, to which he himself belonged. It took him two years, however, to reach the Pictish king’s stronghold.

When at last he did so, it was to receive a most inhospitable reception. The doors of the fortress were shut in his face. But when the saint signed them with the sign of the cross, they immediately flew open of their own accord. Filled with alarm, the king and his councillors advanced to meet Columba and his companions, and addressed them in conciliatory and respectful language. “ And ever after, so long as he lived, the king held this holy and reverend man in very great honour, as was his due.”

But the king’s conversion was not effected without difficulty. Columba had to overcome the determined opposition of his Magi. So virulent was their resistance that he had to invoke the aid of miracles. In the end the question resolved itself into a struggle for pre-eminence in supernatural power. It was the story of Moses and the priests of Pharaoh over again. It ended, of course, in the saint’s decisive victory. It was difficult to resist a man who could raise a child from the dead, who could make a stone from the river float on its surface like an apple, who could overcome a storm and a darkness interposed to prevent his departure, and could even force Broichan, the chief of them all, to liberate a little Scottic female slave with whom he “cruelly and obstinately” refused to part. The king’s conversion was followed, nominally at least, by Christianity being declared the State religion.

But many long years were to ensue before it was anything but a name in the kingdom of the northern Picts.

In time, however, the seed sown by Columba began to germinate. Churches were erected, religious foundations endowed; the rites of paganism fell into desuetude, and a healthy Christian spirit was engendered among the people. The evidence of this is to be found in the dedications and place-names which still exist in the locality. No one, however, can say how long the process took, or who were the agents by whom it was effected.

Very little of it, if any, was the work of the saint himself. When he left King Brude’s palace he probably proceeded eastward to Buchan by sea. At least this is the inference to be deduced from Adamnan’s story of Broichan’s invoking a storm of fog and darkness to impede his departure. But, not very long after, a little Christian colony was planted a couple of miles east of Burghead on a plot of particularly fertile ground, which still goes by the name of the College of Roseisle; and at much the same time a church was erected at Burghead itself. Two miles yet farther east, at a place called Unthank, was another small settlement of holy brethren. At any rate, at both of these, ecclesiastical buildings of very early date are known to have existed.

One is almost inclined to think that it was intended to make Burghead the seat of the new religion within the province. There was already a Pictish stronghold here to protect the church which was actually established in its midst And there was perhaps another, though a less practical, reason. Adamnan, in his Life of Columba, tells of a miraculous dream which happened to his mother Eithne shortly before the birth of the saint. An angel appeared to her, bringing her a certain robe of extraordinary beauty. After a short time he demanded it back, and having raised and spread it, he let it fly through the air. It was lost to her for ever. But as it sped away she could see it widening and widening, till it overshadowed mountains and plains and forests. The angel comforted her for its loss by assuring her that her son was destined to encompass a countless number of souls within his garment and bring them home to God. An Irish memoir of St Columba, supposed to be as old as the tenth century, still further amplifies the legend. The garment was splendid beyond all the colours of this world, and it seemed to “reach from Innsi-mod to Caer-nam-broce.” Innsi-mod is Inishymoe, a place on one of the islands in Clew Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. As for Caer-nam-brocc, both Dr Reeves, Bishop of Down, the editor of Adamnan’s Life, and Dr W. F. Skene, the author of ‘Celtic Scotland,’ identify it with Burghead. Be this as it may, there is every reason to believe that the church of Burghead was an ecclesiastical foundation of the highest importance. The number of fragments of stone crosses found about and around it—fragments to which the best authorities are now almost unanimous in assigning a post-pagan origin—go far to prove this.

Still stronger evidence, however, is to be found in the existence, a short distance to the eastward of its site, of a very curious structure which locally goes by the name of the Roman Bath or Well, but which the same authorities believe to have been a baptistery. It may at once be admitted that it bears a considerable resemblance to an old Roman bath, such as have been found at Chester, at London, on Hadrian’s Wall, and at Dijon in France. As, however, no Roman occupation of the locality can be held to have been satisfactorily established, while no one disputes the existence of a very early Christian church, the probabilities seem to lean towards its Christian origin.

It is a cistern or reservoir hollowed out of the solid rock. Its four sides are very nearly about the same dimensions, or between 10 and n feet. The depth of the basin is 4 feet 4 inches, and the height of the chamber, from the ledge upwards, between 11 and 12 feet. Two steps lead down into the basin. Even without its present arched roof, which was erected in 1810, it reminds one, in its gloom, its silence, and its construction, of nothing so much as a tomb. And when we consider that the rite of immersion was held in the early days of Christianity to be typical of dying to the world, and that baptisteries were usually constructed so as to resemble the tomb of our Lord, with whom, in the words of St Paul, “we are buried by baptism,” a strong presumption arises in favour of this having been its purpose. It in no way militates from this theory that it does not actually adjoin the site of the church. The baptism of adults, which never took place except at the festivals of Easter, Pentecost, and Epiphany, was always by immersion, and necessitated the existence of either a river, a pool, or a spring. On the promontory on which the church was situated there is none of these. The nearest place where living water could be obtained was the spring, now covered by this cistern; and, after all, it was only a few hundred yards off.

It would be absurd to attempt to assign any date to this remarkable structure, or to. the stone crosses which have been exhumed in the locality. The age of stone crosses is from the eighth to the eleventh centuries. During that lengthened period Celtic workmen had assuredly reached a standard of excellence sufficiently high to equal the work of the Roman soldiers even of the third century.

As if to add still further to our perplexities, there were discovered, in the course of the improvements which took place upon Burghead and its harbour between the years 1805 and 1809, certain boulder slabs, each incised with the figure of a bull, of a kind entirely new to Scottish archaeology. Fragments of six of these early sculptures are in existence. But if a statement of the late Mr Robert Carruthers in his ‘Highland Note-Book’ may be relied on, no fewer than thirty have been found in all. Those which remain agree in this, that the stones on which they are cut are fiat, water-worn, sandstone boulders, picked up, it would seem, on the adjoining shore; and that they are of small size, varying in length from 27 to 30 inches, and in thickness from 3 to 6 inches.

In order to adapt them to the theory of Roman occupation, which was the one exclusively in vogue in the first half of the present century, it was suggested that they “were trophies carved by the Romans, as we strike medals in commemoration of any signal victory.” This theory, though it received the sanction of the Society of Antiquaries of London, was soon seen to be untenable. And of late another has been brought forward by the eminent archaeologist Dr James Macdonald, which, though not yet of universal adoption, is in many respects more reasonable than the other.

According to this authority these incised slabs were commuted votive or piacular sacrifices, such as were practised in all parts of Britain within Christian times. They are true “substitutory offerings made in grateful commemoration of a benefit received, rather than as an atonement of sin,” similar to the ex votos common to this day in Roman Catholic countries.

A curious superstition, prevalent till within the most recent years amongst the fisher people of the Moray Firth, may still preserve the sentiment embodied in this suggestion—the feeling that a sacrifice, or its symbol, was due either to a protecting saint or to Divinity itself for escape from some threatened danger, or for preservation from the ordinary perils of this mortal life. No fisherman of any of the fishing villages along the coast would ever venture to sea at the beginning of a New Year until blood had been shed. Amongst old-fashioned people a sheep was often killed for the purpose. In later and more degenerate days the person who first drew blood in a quarrel with a neighbour was believed to have discharged the obligation, and secured for himself good luck in the fishing for all the subsequent year.

Though Burghead was probably, as we have suggested, not only the first but the most important seat of the early Christian Church within the province, it was far from being the only one. It might seem strange, if we did not know the jealousy with which his memory was regarded in afterages by the Roman Catholic Church, that Columba, to whom Moray owed its Christianity, should not have been adopted as the patron saint of the province. But this he never became. Three places only within it, so far as we know, have specially venerated his name. At Petty and Kingussie in Inverness-shire there are two undoubted dedications to him, though it is impossible now to say whether they were the foundations of the saint himself or of his disciples. And the little village of Auldearn, near Naim, till the year 1880 perpetuated his name in the annual “ploy” that went by the name of St Colm’s Market.

The only other traces of the Columbite Church within the district are certain place-names in Nairnshire believed by local antiquaries to be referable to St Evan or St Ewan, a corruption of St Adamnan, “Little Adam”— Columba’s biographer, and one of his successors in the abbacy of the monastery of Iona—to whom also the church of Cawdor was dedicated; two old Celtic church bells—one at Inch, near Kingussie, the other at Cawdor—which bear his name; and a spring at Burghead called St Aethan’s Well, which is supposed to be a corruption of St Aedan or Aidan, a monk of Iona, and afterwards first bishop of Lindisfame, another of Columba’s disciples.

From this time till the expulsion of the Columbite clergy from the territories of the northern Picts by King Nectan in 717, we know nothing further of the Columbite Church.

About three years before St Columba's mission to King Brude, as we have seen, hostilities had broken out between the Picts and their neighbours the Scots. These “Irish vagabonds” (.Hibemi grassatores), as Gildas calls them, first make their appearance in history in the year 360 as one of the barbaric assailants of the Roman province in Britain. They were then in alliance with the Picts. But an alliance between two tribes both bent upon the same design—the possession of the land—was not likely to be of long continuance ; and in the days of King Brude they finally came to blows. The Pictish king was successful He drove his enemies across Drumalban and confined them within Dalriada, where by this time they had established a kingdom of their own. The Scots, however, were irrepressible, and for the next two hundred years the hostilities between the two races were unceasing.

On the whole, the Picts were most frequently victorious. Indeed for a whole century—between 741 and 841—they actually ruled over Dalriada, and seemed to be in a fair way of becoming the future kings of Alban itself. But in 839 Fortune declared against them. Kenneth MacAlpin, a Scot by race, though of Pictish descent on the mother’s side, invaded Pictavia and defeated the Picts with great slaughter. Five years later we find him in undisputed possession of both Dalriada and Pictavia. And within fifty years after this the name of Pictavia disappears from history, and in its place we have the independent principality of Moravia and the kingdom of Alban.

The tract of country embraced within these two states consisted of the whole midland and north-eastern districts of Scotland east of Drumalban and between the Firths of Dornoch and of Forth. The boundary between them was a line drawn a little to the eastward of the course of the river Spey, and descending in a south-easterly direction to Lochaber. In short, the old limits of Moravia remained unchanged till towards the end of the tenth century, when the Norsemen succeeded in substituting the Moray for the Dornoch Firth as its northern boundary.

The exact date when Moravia became an independent principality cannot be given. Still less can we be sure to which of its Maormors it owed its freedom. But the family which raised it to the highest pitch of glory was that to which Macbeth belonged, and whose most distinguished member was Ruadri, son of Morgan, who claimed to be a descendant of Angus, one of the seven sons of Cruithne. This family, according to the Irish Annals, is first heard of in history somewhere about the end of the tenth or the beginning of the eleventh century. Nor does it finally fade into oblivion till the reign of David I. The Scottic kingdom of Alban lasted for about a hundred and sixty years, or from 844 to somewhere about 1004, when the name became merged in that of Scotia during the reign of Malcolm MacKenneth. During the whole of this period its kings were of the race of its founder, Kenneth MacAlpin, and, with a brief exception, alternated between the descendants of his two sons, Constantin and Aedh. With this preliminary explanation we may now resume the narrative.

It would be a mistake to suppose that the final success of the Scots was due entirely to their unaided superior manhood. Kenneth MacAlpin’s victory was brought about in great measure from his alliance with a race which for some time past had been menacing the western coasts of Scotland, and in the days of his father Alpin had already inflicted a crushing defeat on the unfortunate Picts. This was the people whom our earlier historical writers insisted on calling by the generic term of Danes, but whom we, with fuller knowledge, now separate into their proper divisions of Danes and Norwegians, or Norsemen. These Scandinavian invaders were now acting the part towards the Scots which the Scots themselves had in earlier ages assumed towards the Picts. For the moment they were their allies. Later on they were destined to be their most formidable foes.

The story of the Norsemen in Scotland has not yet been written. When it is, it will be found that the chapter which deals with Moravia is not the least interesting portion of the narrative. But the facts are few, the presumptions we are compelled to make are many. And even these are based in too many instances on no higher evidence than the misleading testimony of place-names, and the existence of certain customs and superstitions, which we may assert but cannot always prove to be of Scandinavian origin.

The Scandinavian invaders of Scotland of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries belonged to two distinct nations, and were known to the earlier annalists by two distinct names. The one was the Finngaill, the white or fair-haired Galls (or strangers). The other was the Dubhgaill, the black or dark-haired Galls. The former were Norwegians, the latter were Danes. Another name for the Norsemen was Lochlan-nach, the people of Lochlann—the Lochlin of Ossian’s poems. The Scandinavian assailants of Moravia belonged, so far as we know, exclusively to the first of these races. They came at first as Vikings—in other words, merely to harry. Not until the very end of the ninth century can we trace any disposition on their part to colonise the districts which every year, or nearly every year, they visited with their hostile fleets of dragon-ships, cutters, and shells.2 The name of Viking— the man of the vik or bay—is derived from the great Wick, the bulge-shaped indentation at the foot of the Scandinavian peninsula, washed by the waters of the Skaggerack and Cat-tegat, from whence, according to tradition, the first of his kind emerged. Whether that was its original habitat or not, Vikingism, like other bad practices, spr/ead like a conflagration. It became a regular pursuit even amongst the highest in the land. As soon as a lad of noble birth had attained the age of manhood—and Norsemen became of age as soon as they could wield a sword or hurl a spear—he was given a ship and sent on a viking cruise to gain wealth and to see the world. It was what the “ grand tour ” was in the days of our grandfathers, with this difference, that in the one case parents sent their sons abroad to win money, and in the other to spend it. And at the period at which we have now arrived all Scandinavia, wheresoever situated,—Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Pomerania, the Shetland, Orkney, and Western Islands—Iceland alone excepted,—sent out swarms of plunderers, who, if they did not always adopt the name, had adopted the practice, and were feared for their courage, their cruelty, and their rapacity, as their ancestors were said to have feared their fabled opponents—the giants and other monstrous beings of old.

It would be ludicrous, if it were not pitiful, to read the descriptions given by contemporary annalists of these formidable invaders. Their fears transformed them into a demon host of whose coming heaven itself did not disdain to warn them. Horrible lightnings, dragons in the air, flashes of fire glancing to and fro, heralded their advent Like clouds of stinging hornets, their swift galleys glided into bay and creek. Like hordes of fierce and angry wolves, their warriors, clad in suits of glistening mail, with crested helmets on their heads and double-edged swords three feet long in their hands, overran the country in all directions, “plundering, tearing, and killing not only sheep and oxen, but priests and Levites, and choirs of monks and nuns.” Woe to the enemy who fell into their pitiless hands ! His conqueror would carve “the blood-eagle” on his back, hewing his ribs from his backbone, and casting his warm heart and lungs to the winds. Or, dashing out his brains with a stone, he would offer him as a sacrifice to Thor, the God of War. Or, hastily strangled, he would fling him on the funeral pyre of some brother warrior. Or, mutilated and blinded, he would leave him to drag out a miserable existence as a coward and a nithing.

With the Norseman it was different. Death, which through the teachings of Christianity his victim had now learned to fear, had no terrors for him. On the contrary, he courted it For with him it was not “after death the judgment,' but “after death the guerdon.” Life might be a painful fight, but eternity was a painless one. All day long in Valhalla the warriors might struggle and combat But every evening their wounds were healed, and they awoke each morning to renew with redoubled zest the martial exercises of the previous day. For with the Norseman to fight and to live were synonymous terms.

Their first appearance on the Scottish coasts is supposed to have been in the year 798, when they harried the Hebrides. In 802, and again in 806, they ravaged Iona, slaying on the latter occasion sixty-eight of the monastic family there. In the following year they settled on the mainland of Ireland. A short time later two Norse kingdoms — the one with Armagh, the other with Dublin, for its capital—were established there; and it was from the latter of these that the great wave of Norse supremacy which began to sweep over Moray so early as the end of the ninth century appears to have come.

So far as we know, the earliest occasion when the Norsemen did a little harrying in Pictland on their own account was in 871, when Olaf the White, King of Dublin, attacked the southern part of Pictavia, and carried “a great prey of Picts and Angles and Britons into captivity in Ireland.” But it was Olafs son, Thorstein the Red, who first conquered Moravia. An expedition undertaken by him in the year 874 resulted in his possessing himself of the whole territories of the northern Picts. He retained them, however, only for one whole year. The following year, the Annals of Ulster tell us, he was treacherously slain by the men of Alban. Until Skene pointed it out, this expedition of Thorstein’s was generally believed to have been undertaken in concert with Sigurd, first jarl of Orkney and Caithness, brother of the celebrated Rognvald, Jarl of Moeri, Harold the Fair - haired’s friend and counsellor, and consequently the uncle of a still more famous Norseman, Hrolf, the conqueror of Normandy, to whom we owe our Norman kings. But Sigurd's invasion of Moray was certainly at least ten years later. It is, however, impossible to give the actual date.

In the Icelandic ‘Flateyarbok,' after stating that Sigurd made an alliance with Thorstein, which we have seen is a mistake, the Saga-writer goes on to say that Sigurd, now become a great chief, “conquered all Caithness, and much more of Scotland—Maerhaefui [Moray] and Ross—and built a borg on the southern borders of Maerhaefui.”

This “borg” is believed by the best authorities to have been erected on the promontory which the writer of the Orkneyinga Saga so often refers to under the name of Torfness, “on the south side of Baefiord.” And though by some Torfness is identified with Tarbetness, the more general opinion is that it is no other than the sandy spit on which now stands the town of Burghead, already so frequently mentioned. That a broad belt of torf or peat once existed on the western side of its wide semicircular bay, is clearly proved from the character of its submerged remains; and the fact that no other is to be found on what to the Norseman, at least, was “the southern boundary of Moray,” lends considerable colour to the supposition that Torfness and Burghead are identical. Still more conclusive, perhaps, is the circumstance that Burghead is to this day locally known by the name of the “Broch.” And though the proof falls short of demonstration, it can hardly be reasonably doubted that this most interesting locality was the headquarters of the Norsemen during their early attempt to establish a foothold in Moray.

How long Sigurd reigned in Moray is uncertain. But his rule cannot have been long, and it certainly was not peaceful. The Moray Maormors were not men of a character to bear without impatience a rider on their back. In the end they succeeded in throwing him off. The holder of the dignity for the time was Maelbrigd, son of Ruadri or Rory, whose possible claim to have been the founder of the independent principality of Moray has been already referred to. According to the Scandinavian Sagas, he was surnamed the Tooth, from a protruding buck-tooth, which certainly did not detract from the ferocity of his visage. This Maelbrigd was destined to be the Norsemen’s bane. One day he and Sigurd arranged to meet at a certain place, with forty men on horseback apiece, to settle some differences between them. Sigurd had no very high opinion, however, of his adversary’s good faith. Accordingly, he directed that two of his men should bestride each horse. As soon as they came in sight Maelbrigd’s quick eye detected the deception. He pointed it out to his followers. “There is no help for it,” he said. “Sigurd has dealt treacherously with us. But let us each kill our man before we die.” Then they made themselves ready. The jarl saw what they were about Bidding his men dismount, he divided them into two bodies. The one he ordered to advance and break their battle; the other he bade go round and attack them from behind. “There was hard fighting immediately, and it was not long before Maelbrigd fell and all his men with him.” The Norsemen were as elated as if they had won an honest victory. Cutting off the heads of their foes, each man hung one to his saddle-straps. To Sigurd was allotted that of Maelbrigd. And with these ghastly trophies dangling by their horses’ sides they galloped home in highest glee. But on the way Sigurd, meaning to give his horse a kick to quicken its pace, brought the calf of his leg in contact with Maelbrigd’s projecting tooth. It scratched him slightly. On, however, he rode, thinking nothing of the accident. As he proceeded home he began to feel his leg getting painful. Soon it commenced to swell. Ultimately it mortified. Before many days were over he was dead. And he was “howelaid” at a place called Ekkialsbakki.

A fierce fight has ensued amongst archaeologists as to the site of Ekkialsbakki. While Worsaae and Dr Anderson think that it was situated on the banks of the river Oykel, which formed the northern boundary of the province of Moray, Skene places it on the river Findhom, and even suggests that the sculptured pillar near Forres known by the name of Sueno’s Stone may have been intended to mark the grave of the Norse jarl. The first of these theories seems the more correct.

After this comes another great void in Moravian history. When next we can make sure of the records, another Sigurd, sumamed the Stout, is the Jarl of Caithness and Orkney. His relations with the Moray men are not a whit more amicable than were those of his predecessors. We find him marching forth to battle against Finleikr or Finlay, who had succeeded his brother Maelbrigd in the maormorship of the district The battle took place at Skitten, about five miles north-west of Wick, and was long and fierce. Finleikr’s troops outnumbered those of Sigurd in the proportion of seven to one. But Sigurd had an ally more powerful than a host This was a magic banner, bearing the device of an ink-black raven soaring on the wings of the wind. It was the gift of his mother, a sorceress of transcendent skill. She and her maidens had spent many weary hours over its fashioning, and it was woven about with spells and enchantments. The man who carried it in battle would die, but so long as the standard waved aloft the Norwegians would be victorious. And so, of course, it came about. Then occurred the inevitable reprisals. Sigurd followed up his victory by overrunning the province north of the Firth. In 989 we find him in possession of Moray, Ross, and Sutherland, and a portion of Dalriada on the other side of Drumalban. The effect of this victory was to establish the Moray Firth as the northern boundary of Moray for all time coming.

The next noteworthy incident in Sigurd’s history is the resistance he made some years later to the attempt of Malcolm MacKenneth (1005-1034), King of Scotia (as the kingdom of Alban with the addition of the Lothians had now come to be called), to wrest his hardly acquired dominions from his grasp. The attempt was unsuccessful. Malcolm found it more to his advantage to enter into an alliance with Sigurd than to fight him. He conferred the earldom of Caithness upon him, and he gave him his daughter in marriage. A few years later—in 1014—Sigurd was killed at the battle of Clontarff (Cluantarbh) in Ireland.

Besides the daughter whom he married to the redoubtable Scandinavian jarl, Malcolm had another, named Bethock or Beatrice, who at an early age became the wife of Crinan, lay abbot of Dunkeld. Each of these daughters had a son to their respective husbands. The son of Sigurd was named Thorfinn; the son of Crinan was named Duncan. The emulation between these two cousins was destined to embroil all the north of Scotland, and to create complications which lasted for nearly half a century.

Sigurd died when his son Thorfinn was only five years old, but his grandfather Malcolm, with whom the boy was a great favourite, at once took steps to provide for him. He conferred on him the districts of Caithness and Sutherland with the title of earl. Fifteen years later, when the last of his brothers of the first family died,—for Sigurd was a widower when he married King Malcolm’s daughter,—he succeeded to the jarldom of Orkney and Shetland. From that time forward he owed a divided allegiance—to Scotland for his earldom, to Norway for his jarldom. As for his cousin Duncan, he seems to have been a youth whose ambition was ever greater than his judgment. He had hardly succeeded .to his grandfather’s throne than we find him in hostilities with Thorfinn. His cousin’s succession to the Scandinavian jarldom, which had occurred a few years before his own succession to the Scottish throne, seemed to have raised doubts in his mind whether an allegiance divided between two monarchies could possibly be loyal to either. To put an end to this state of uncertainty he determined either to recover possession by force of arms of the earldom of Caithness and Sutherland or to make Thorfinn pay tribute for it The struggle lasted for a considerable period. The Norsemen were, as a rule, successful; and in the end they gained a decisive victory.

The scene of this momentous fight was Torfness—in other words, Burghead; and the date is the 14th August 1040. It is the only battle of real consequence that ever took place in Morayshire. The army of the Scots far outnumbered that of their antagonists. It consisted of levies drawn from every part of the kingdom, from west and east and south, even from the distant and unknown region of Can tire, and it included amongst other provincial troops the men of Moray under Macbeth, son of Finlay, now become their maormor, and one of the most distinguished generals of the Scottish king. It was supported also by a large body of Irish auxiliaries. This formidable host was led by King Duncan in person. As for its opponents, the Saga gives us a striking picture of their leader Thorfinn—a huge, sinewy, uncomely, martial-looking man, sharp-featured, dark-haired, sallow, and of swarthy complexion, with a gold-plated helmet on his head, a sword at his belt, and a spear in his hands; but it tells us little more about them. We need not linger over the details of the battle. For us they are of little interest. “The fight ended,” says the Saga-writer, “with the flight of the king, and some say he was slain.”

Slain undoubtedly Duncan was. We have it on the authority of Marianus Scotus, of Tighernac, and of all the later chroniclers. And his general, Macbeth, was his murderer. Local tradition has it that Bothgauenan,1 the place where the older chroniclers tell us he was killed, is Pitgaveny, at the head of the once wide and beautiful Loch of Spynie, about a couple of miles north-east from Elgin; and that the tragedy occurred as the king was resting after his nine miles* ride from the battlefield. It is not unlikely to be true. Tradition, however, cannot help us to settle the mystery of the crime. Skene’s suggestion that Macbeth had possibly some claims upon the Scottish throne through his wife Gruach, daughter of Boede, the descendant of an elder branch of Duncan’s family, and that these claims were in the eyes of many preferable to those of King Duncan, is exceedingly probable. If so, the slaying of King Duncan may not have been, in the estimation of those days, murder; but it is difficult, notwithstanding, to regard it as anything less than treason.

The mystery that enshrouds the whole affair is deepened by the result. Macbeth becomes King of Scotland, and from that date the Norsemen cease from troubling. Thorfinn joins forces with Macbeth, and accompanies him south on his victorious march as far as Fife. How this extraordinary state of affairs was brought about we can but conjecture.

What alone is certain is, that an agreement of some sort was entered into between them; and that from this date no further hostilities took place between the native princes and the Scandinavians. But, before leaving the Norse period of Moravian history, something remains to be said concerning the character and extent of the earlier Viking occupation, or attempted occupation, of the southern seaboard of the Moray Firth.

There is no reason to believe that it was at any time acquiesced in by the inhabitants. At the best it was always precarious. Brushes, more or less serious, between the invaders and the natives were frequent. Of this we can have but little doubt That these reached the importance of a pitched battle is, however, a different matter. The great struggle at Kinloss in the reign of Malcolm II., when “the Danes” took the castles of Elgin and Naim and put their garrisons to the sword, which is to this day a fondly cherished belief in certain quarters, rests on no higher authority than that of Hector Boece, whose information is based on the fabulous Veremund or John Campbell. The whole story is a fiction from beginning to end. The absurd local tradition that the town of Elgin was founded by Helgi, son of the celebrated “Burnt Njal,” and one of Jarl Sigurd Hlodverson’s warriors, and that it still bears his name, is quite as worthy of credence.

Close to the town of Forres stands a very remarkable sculptured pillar which goes by the name of Sueno’s Stone. There is nothing approaching it, either in style or in execution, in any other part of the province. If not the finest, it is almost the finest, in Scotland. Its workmanship is Celtic, and of the highest type of Celtic art. It has a story to tell, and seems to tell it very clearly. There are men standing arrayed in line of battle, with swords in their hands; there is an army apparently on the march; there is a battle; there is a victory; there are slaughtered men and fettered captives; there are veiled and hooded figures that look like priests praying, and above them is a gigantic cross. Most people would say that it was a record of fierce fight and glorious victory. Yet no one so far has been able to connect it with certainty with any local event for which we have the voucher of history. It stands there, by the side of a commonplace nineteenth-century field—brown in spring and green in summer,—gaunt, solitary, frowning—an object of mystery to this age, and in all probability to future ages.

Theories about it, of course, are abundant. Worsaae, for instance, would have us believe that it was erected to commemorate the treaty of peace concluded between the Danish king Svend Tveskjaeg and King Malcolm II., and “the expulsion of the Danes from the coasts of Moray”; and this interpretation, though it bears its own refutation on the face of it, has been repeated by most of the local writers who have noticed it. Others, with a show of greater probability, think that it records some incident in the career of Swein Asleifson, the last and greatest of the Orkney Vikings, who was certainly in Moray in the reign of Donald, King of Alban (889-900). Skene, as we have seen, is of opinion that it has nothing to do with any one of the name of Sueno at all, seeing that this name “is no older than Hector Boece,” and that it may refer to the great battle at Ekkialsbakki between Sigurd and Maelbrigd, though to give plausibility to this conjecture he is compelled to read it from bottom to top. Others, adopting an entirely different view, maintain that its meaning is purely mystic. It is a relic of the early Christian Church, and is intended to represent the battle of life and the triumph of good over evil.

We must leave each of these classes of theorists to make good its own position. We would only add that, if it has any historical significance at all, it is, considering its Celtic origin, more likely to have been intended as a record of the men of Moray over the Norsemen than of the Scandinavians over the Celts.

But the fertile Laigh of Moray was unquestionably more than a mere battlefield to the Norsemen. They had certainly settlements within its borders, and beyond them too. For in Nairnshire the traces of their existence are both more numerous and more certain than in the sister county. If the borg at Torfness was, as is very probable, the Norsemen’s principal stronghold, their other settlements must all have been in its immediate neighbourhood, or sufficiently near to be able to rely on the protection which it afforded. And this appears to have been the case. The Orkneyinga Saga speaks of “a trading-place in Scotland in the days of Swein Asleifson” which it calls Dufeyrar, which was certainly in the immediate vicinity. For Dufeyrar means the tyri or sandy spit of Duffus, which is the parish within which Burghead is situated. As for the others, they seem to have been farther westward. The little fishing village of Mavistoun, between Forres and Naim, now extinct, is said to have once been known as Maestoun, which in Norse would mean the “town of the maidens.”

Naim was certainly a Scandinavian settlement. The names of the people in the fisher-town there are still almost exclusively Norse. Main, Manson, and Ralph are undoubtedly Magnus, Magnusson, and Hrolf. As a rule, however, local surnames and place-names aid us little in our inquiry. They are remarkably few in number. But this need not surprise us. Moray was a settled district before the Norsemen made its acquaintance, and its various localities had already names of their own. One thing, however, is especially noticeable, and that is, that on the whole seaboard of the two counties of Elgin and Naim there is absolutely not a single place-name ending in thorpe or by, the two unmistakable terminals of Danish origin. The inference is obvious. It was the Norwegians, not the Danes, who had designs upon the possession of the district.

Macbeth’s reign as King of Scotland lasted from 1014 to 1057. He had a difficult game to play, but he played it like a man. The Irish and Pictish additions to the ‘Historia Britonum’ speak of him as “the vigorous Macbrethack.” The "Duan Albanach" calls him “Macbeathadh the renowned.” In another old chronicle he is described as “felicis memorice”

But Macbeth, in the opinion of many, was a usurper, if not something worse, and he had to take a usurper’s risk. Hence we find that he was never strong enough to stand alone. Without the aid of his ally Thorfinn he would never have maintained his position, and Thorfinn’s assistance was only purchased by the cession to him of a large portion of territory on the east coast, extending as far south as Fife, or at any rate as the Firth of Tay. Even with this help he must have had an anxious time of it. Shakespeare’s picture of him, tortured with apprehension and remorse, may not‘be so fictitious after all. For we find him in 1050, if not taking a pilgrimage to Rome in person, at any rate distributing prodigal largesse among the poor of the imperial city. Great men in those days did not take such journeys or send such contributions except to obtain absolution for sins of so scarlet a dye that they could not be washed away by the ordinary means of cleansing at their command.

He returned to Scotland only to find himself plunged into a sea of troubles stormier than he had left. His absence had made his enemies bolder. Not content with plotting, they now meditated action. Siward, Earl of Northumberland, whose sister, or cousin, the murdered Duncan had married, was in arms to defend the rights of Duncan’s young son Malcolm. His first effort on behalf of his kinsman ended by his driving Macbeth from the English part of his possessions. There was a great battle at Scone. If the prophecy of St Berchan is to be credited, it seems to have been a night attack:—

“On the middle of Scone it will vomit blood,
The evening of a night in much contention.”

The men of Alban loyally supported their king de facto; so did his Norwegian allies. There was a tremendous slaughter. Thorfinn’s son was killed, so was Earl Si ward’s, as also was his nephew. But whichever side gained the victory, the campaign ended by Malcolm being placed in possession of Cumbria.

This, however, was but the beginning of troubles. Next year Earl Siward died. Malcolm, whose ambition had by this time been whetted by his previous success, resolved to make a further effort to regain his father’s kingdom. In 1057 he was in a position to carry out his designs. He invaded Scotland, chased Macbeth across the Mounth, and finally slew him in battle at Lumphanan in Mar on 15th August 1057.

This did not, however, end the struggle. Macbeth’s friends immediately proclained Lulach, son of Gillacomgan, his successor. There are various opinions as to his relationship to Macbeth, but he seems to have been his cousin. Whatever may have been the connection, he inherited nothing of his predecessor’s character. The poor half-witted creature was as little fitted to hold the reins of government as Richard Cromwell. He was slain at Eassie, in Strathbogie, seven months afterwards; and Malcolm, surname Ceannmor or Great Head—a name which Scotsmen hold in affectionate remembrance to this day—succeeded to the crown of Scotia.

The memory of Macbeth, like a ruthless ghost, still haunts the district of which he was, without dispute, the hereditary ruler. The site of the spot where he is said to have met the three witches is even now the subject of lively local dispute. A piece of uneven heather-carpeted land, now thickly planted with Scotch firs, whose red stems and cheerless foliage cast a sort of eerie gloom over the scene quite in keeping with the story, known as the Hardmuir, which the traveller by the Highland Railway cannot fail to notice on his journey between Brodie and Naim, is most commonly credited as Shakespeare’s famous “heath.” There is a tradition, too, that Macbeth’s castle was at Forres and not at Inverness, and a green mound adjoining the town, surmounted by a very modem ruin, where a castle unquestionably once stood, is pointed out to strangers as its site. Moreover, the surname of Macbeth still lingers in the locality. If Shakespeare and Holinshed between them have done nothing else for Moray, they have, at least, indissolubly localised the legend of Macbeth with the district immediately surrounding “Fores.”

Macbeth and Lulach the Fatuous were the first and last kings that Moray gave to Scotia. Things might have been different if Macbeth’s successor had been such a one as himself; for Macbeth was a popular monarch, and had a strong personal following. But the Moravian dynasty was like the seed sown in stony ground. When Malcolm’s sun arose it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And with it disappears, for a time at least, the glory of Moray.

It is important to keep in view the actual position of affairs. Malcolm succeeded Lulach as Ardri or sovereign ruler of Scotia—the district to the east and south of the Spey. But whatever rights he may have claimed over the independent principality of Moray, which adjoined it, were at first nominal only. On the other hand, Macbeth, and Lulach after him, had been, in the words of one of the old chronicles, “kings of Moravia and Scotia.” The title of king, however, was only applicable to their authority over Scotia. Within Moray their proper designation was merely that of maormor. The little that is known of the nature and extent of this office may be summed up in a few words. From primitive times, as we have seen, Celtic Scotland had been divided into tribes, “great tribes,” and provinces. The heads of these various divisions all went by the generic term of ri or regu-lus. But the correct name for the chief officer of a tribe was toisech or toshach, and of a “great tribe,” maormor.

Maormor means the great maor or mair; but the meaning of the word maor in Celtic times is still matter of uncertainty. We can but guess at it from the knowledge we possess of the functions attached to the office as we find it later on in the days of feudalism. For officers bearing the name existed till comparatively recent times. Sir John Skene, in his work ‘De Verborum Significatione,’ says a mair is an officer or executor of summonses, and adds that he is otherwise called Prcuo Regis, the king’s crier or herald. In the Act 1426, c. 99, the mair is described as the “king’s sergeant,” and entitled to bear a “ horn and a wand.” All persons possessing rights of jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases, such as kings, sheriffs, earls, and thanes, had mairs to summon those amenable to their authority to their tribunals. To the mair also was committed the duty of carrying out the decrees of the court; of arresting and poinding the personal estate of fugitives and of law-breakers; of discharging, in fact, the most of the duties which now fall to a messenger-at-arms or a sheriff-officer.

The tendency of ancient times was to constitute every office of emolument or distinction, however insignificant, a hereditary one. Thus in the Culdee Church there were hereditary co-arbs or abbots. The office of sheriff was heritable. The Lords of the Isles had their hereditary physicians —the Beatons of Mull. The Macrimmons of Skye were the hereditary pipers of the Macleods of Dunvegan; and attached to the lordship of Brechin there were actually hereditary blacksmiths.

We need not be astonished, therefore, to learn that there were hereditary maors in connection with the various jurisdictions above mentioned. These officers were termed mairs-of-fee. Sometimes they were remunerated for their services by fees, which they were entitled to levy themselves—from which one gathers that the office was closely akin to that of coroner, with which it is occasionally found combined. But, as a rule, each mair-of-fee had in addition certain lands annexed to his office; and it was doubtless these which rendered the appointment so much sought after.

Arguing from these premises, it may be fairly enough assumed that the Celtic maor was, like the mair in feudal times, an executive officer of the ri tuath, or toshach; that the maormor held the same relation towards the ri mortuath; and that both these offices came in time to be hereditary, and carried with them the possession of certain lands assigned to them in remuneration for their official services.

In a wide area like the province of Moray there were many tuaths, and therefore many maors. But there seems to have been only one mortuath and one maormor. And this office was hereditary in the family to which Macbeth belonged. We know as a fact of five who preceded him. The first is Ruadhri, or Rory, the father of Maelbrigd, whom the Norsemen called Tonn, or Maelbrigd of the Tooth. Maelbrigd had a son called Malcolm. But the dignity did not at once descend to him. His brother

Finleikr was elected. Then came Malcolm’s turn. After him came Gillacomgan, Malcolm’s brother. And after him Finleikr’s son Macbeth. The succession is thus in strict accordance with the rules of tanistry. It is father to son, son to brother, uncle to nephew, and cousin to cousin. And after Macbeth’s death, when the office descended to Lulach, it was another instance of cousin to cousin.

It not unfrequently happens that a subordinate office, especially if it is an executive one, comes in time to supersede that from which it derives its authority. Thus the hereditary stewards of the Scottish kings became in time the kings themselves, and the mayors of the palace the kings of the Franks. This seems to have happened in the case of the maormors also. At the period at which we have now arrived the maormor of Moray was not only its hereditary prince, but an independent one as well.

No period of Moravian history is more obscure than that which followed the accession of Malcolm Ceannmor. The chaos is so complete that any connected narrative is almost impossible. On Lulach’s death Thorfinn, who had all along been Malcolm’s ally—one might almost say his partner— seems to have made an attempt to continue his feeling of opposition to Ceannmor. But Thorfinn was slain in battle, possibly in the great fight at Lumphanan in 1057, and thus the greatest obstacle to Malcolm’s intended pacification, or —to give it its proper name—conquest of the district, was removed. In 1078 a further step was taken in the same direction. Malcolm invaded Moray with a great army, defeated Lulach’s son Maelsnectan, who was then its maormor, and “won his mother and all his best men, together with all his treasure and cattle.” Maelsnectan himself escaped with difficulty, and in 1085—seven years after—he died in the old stronghold of Deabhra in Lochaber which had been his father’s residence, without making any attempt to regain his kingdom. This was Malcolm’s last effort to bring the men of Moray under his subjection. He was slain in battle in 1092, after a glorious but uneasy reign of thirty-five years.

During the successive reigns of his brothers, Donald Bane and Eadgar, we hear of no further attempts to bring Moravia under Scottic rule. The district continued to be governed by. its native rulers. To Maelsnectan had succeeded Angus, Lulach’s grandson by his daughter, who was killed in battle in the beginning of the reign of David I. His death brought the direct line of Moray maormors to an end.

But aspirants to the dignity still remained. Two families —the one called MacHeth, whose founder, Wymund, claimed to be the son of Angus, the other known as that of Mac-William—disputed for the pre-eminence. And the struggle continued till the pretensions of both were extinguished by King Alexander II. in 1222.

King Eadgar, Malcolm Ceannmor’s son, died in 1107. By his testament he divided his kingdom between his two brothers, Alexander and David. To the one he bequeathed the districts north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde, to the other those on the south of them. Alexander’s share thus included the whole of the kingdom of Scotia, with the single exception of the Lothians.

Alexander I. died in 1124, and at his death his brother David succeeded to his possessions. David therefore is the first king of all Scotland. In his reign the processes, first of Saxonisation, and secondly of feudalisation, which had been going on uninterruptedly from the time of Malcolm Ceannmor, assumed concrete form. The old Celtic polity was obliterated, civilisation settled down into modem shape, and the progress of the nation was directed into the channels in which it continued to run for the whole remaining period of its history.

We shall have occasion in the sequel to consider this subject in fuller detail. Meantime it may be sufficient to note the more important changes which had ensued in the district with which we are concerned before the conclusion of the reign of David I. in 1153.

These consisted of the establishment of burghs, the erection of a diocese of Moray, the conversion of the toshach into the thane, and of the maormor into the earl. As the history of the first two of these will be fully narrated in the chapter specially devoted to them, we may confine ourselves at present to the last two.

Malcolm Ceannmor’s marriage in 1069 to Margaret, sister of Eadgar the Atheling of England, had been the means of introducing into Scotland a flood of Saxon notions, Saxon offices, and Saxon titles.

Amongst these were the office and title of thane. The gesith or thegn was, in early England, one whom the king selected as his comrade. He was his companion in arms and his companion at the board. And as he lived by his bounty, he was expected in return to do his master loyal service with every faculty of mind and body which he possessed.

It was natural that on the members of such a corps Telite the king should bestow all the good things at his disposal. Very soon they had absorbed all the more confidential offices connected with his Court and person. These offices could not be maintained without expense, and grants of public lands soon followed to remunerate them for their services. From this to their establishment as an order of local nobility was but a step; from this to their absorption of the highest offices of State was but another. As the system was based on military service, it contained the germ of what afterwards became feudalism. But in England the process of development from Saxon thanedom to Norman feudalism was a gradual one. The one grew into the other naturally and insensibly. The Conquest only put the copestone on a fabric the foundation of which had been laid centuries before.

In Scotland it was different. The introduction of thanedom was no natural growth of the soil; it was an exotic forced upon it from without. Whether it was Malcolm Ceannmor himself, or whether it was one of his successors, who introduced it, is uncertain. But at any rate it came into existence somewhere about this time.

The Scottish thane had little in common with the English thegn except his name. It was hardly to be expected that the king would choose his companions from the rude chiefs of semi-barbarous tribes. But any system which would attach these brave but troublesome potentates more firmly to his person and dignity was a distinct advance in civilisation. And this was effected by constituting the toshachs into a body of local nobility, by intrusting to them the administration or stewardship of the Crown lands, and by recompensing them for their services by grants of territory. And on this footing the name and the office continued till after the death of Alexander III., when the name was given up; and by converting the thanages into baronages, the dignity was placed on a standard more in consonance with the feudalism of the day. In the province of Moray there were thanages of Dingwall, Moyness, Dyke and Brodie, Cawdor, Moravia or Moray, Kilmalemnok, and Cromdale. Whether these exhaust their number or not it is now impossible to say.

The principle of comradeship, which, as we have seen, underlay English thegndom, was not, however, lost sight of in the new polity, which had come in with Malcolm Great Head.

In England the thegns had supplanted the old Eorls. They were destined to be themselves supplanted by the new earls which the Conquest and the establishment of feudalism introduced into England.

In the time of Malcolm Ceannmor feudalism, though it had begun to exist in England, had not reached Scotland, nor, considering his relations with Eadgar the Atheling, was it likely that it would do so for some time to come. It is no strained assumption, therefore, that the earls whom Malcolm Ceannmor created—if indeed he did create them—were intended to resemble the old Saxon thegns, whose office was based on the principle of sodality, rather than the Norman earls, whose distinction was founded on the possession of lands and the military service attached thereto. The Latin equivalent of earl is comes or companion, which shows that the sentiment of comradeship underlay both dignities. In England, however, sentiment had already given place to necessity; and the existence of the earl was grounded rather on his ability to support a certain number of men-at-arms who would fight the king’s battles, than on the feeling of personal friendship with which his sovereign regarded, or professed to regard, him.

In Scotland it was otherwise. The first earls had no territorial connection. The title was a personal one only. Up to the time of David I. the earls appended “comes” to their names; and that was all. They were not earls of this place or that, but the comites, the comrades, of their king.

In selecting the persons upon whom he chose to confer the distinction of being styled his companions, it was only natural that the king should not go outside the class who held the highest rank within their respective districts. In northern Scotland there was none so exalted as the maormors—the old independent native princes—or who exercised a greater influence over them. Hence we find that “benorth the Firths” the maormors were the first earls of Scotland.

It is impossible to assign a definite date to the creation of the dignity. But there are the strongest grounds for believing that thanedoms and earldoms came into existence about the same time, and as parts of the same system. The two offices seem to have differed only in degree. Much the same duties were assigned to each. The earl was bound to protect the interests of the Crown as well as of the thane, —the only distinction being in the extent of the area of their respective jurisdictions. Neither of the offices was originally based on either a hereditary or a territorial foundation, although later they became both.

The first earls were certainly the maormors of the seven provinces of Scotland, of which Moray was one. But in the time of Alexander I. we find traces of a mysterious body which goes by the name of the Seven Earls of Scotland, and seems to have exercised functions similar to the Witenagemot of the Saxon monarchs of England. The names of the members of this enigmatical corporation — for such it appears to have been—cannot be identified in all cases with the descendants of the native rulers of the old seven provinces, for there is no representative of the maormors of Moray amongst them, and there are others who belong to districts which never achieved the importance of independent maormorships. While, therefore, it is impossible to assert that they were in any sense representatives of these old territorial divisions, it is equally impossible to resist the conviction that their number was originally fixed with reference to these ancient jurisdictions.

The partition of the kingdom into counties (yicc-comitatus) or shires, with the sheriff or shire-reeve as their titular head —a division which took place somewhere about the time of David I.—wiped out the old provincial delimitations of the country.

From this time, therefore, the province of Moray as an actual historical entity ceases to exist The name, however, survived, and is not yet fallen totally into disuse; only, henceforward the limits of the so-called province of Moray were those attributed to it by its historian Lachlan Shaw. It included “all the plain country by the seaside, from the mouth of the river Spey to the river of Farar or Beaulie, at the head of the Frith; and all the valleys, glens, and straths situated betwixt the Grampian Mountains south of Badenoch and the Frith of Moray, and which discharges rivers into that Frith.”

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