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Arran of the Bens, The Glens and the Brave
Chapter IX. The Brandanes

I have in the following pages adopted the old name of the islanders, as it is quite impossible in many cases to distinguish between deeds done by the Arran or Butemen singly and those done collectively.
Arnold Blair, chaplain to Wallace, from whose MS. Blind Harry got his material, writing shortly after the death of Wallace, in 1305, says: "In this unfortunate battle (Falkirk) were slain, on the Scottish side, John Stewart of Bute, with his Brandans; for so they name them that are taken up to serve in the wars forth of the Stewart's lands." Both the islands had, it will be remembered, been acquired by the Stewarts a century earlier by the marriage with Jane, granddaughter of Angus MacSomhairle. Hector Boece, writing in 1527, says: "Brandani—ita enim ea setate incolae Arain et Boitae insularum vulgo vocabantur." "The term," says Fullarton, "has been understood as denoting the military tenants holding of the Great Steward "; and this explanation seems to fit in best with all the facts, especially with the evidences of their independent action on many occasions,—an independence worthy of the old Gall Gael of whom they were the descendants. D. Macpherson says: "The people of Bute, and I believe also of Arran, perhaps so called in honour of St. Brendan." St. Brendan, who died in a.d. 577, was a companion of St. Colum or Col-umba. Camden states that the saint lived and laboured in Bute; but there seems to be no direct evidence of this.

The Rev. Neil MacBride of Lamlash again suggests that the word Brandani means the bold water or spray men; and, of course, it is quite possible that it may mean simply the men of the sea of Brandan. The Book of Arran goes, I think, far afield when it follows Captain White, who assumes that the name Kilbrannan refers to a kil or cell of St. Brendan of Clonfert, and tries to find in a small church on the coast of Kintyre the actual cell of this saint. Mr. Balfour, is, I think, equally mistaken in believing that in the site at Kilpatrick they have discovered the real St. Brendan's church. The site, he says, is "on the northern shoulder of Leac Bhreac." The name of the hill that guards it isTorr an Daimh, which he translates "the hill of the church." This is, he says, "the only known memorial save the record furnished by the cashel itself, that this was one of the first outposts of Christianity in Scotland." This site, first discovered by the Arran Society, may, of course, be ecclesiastical, but it does not follow that it was founded by Brendan.

Mr. Balfour asks where, failing this, is the church which gives its name to Kilbrandon Sound?

St. Brendan does not seem to have figured largely in the West Highlands. There is a small parish church in Argyll called Kilbrandon, and my suggestion is that the name of the Sound contains no reference to a church; that the word is not Kil but "Kyle," a narrow sea, passage, or strait of water, which is familiar in the "Kyles" of Bute, the "Kyle" of Lochalsh, "Kulri" in Skye. I suggest that this name was given long before Brendan's time, and is taken from the name Bran or Branan MacLir, a brother of Man-nanan, who beyond doubt gave his name to the neighbour isle of Man. They were sons of Ler the sea-god, made famous by Shakespeare, and in the Keltic story, The Fate of the Children of Lir. The old name of the islanders, assuming that it contains the same root, the Brandani or Brannani, would be thus the followers of the war-god, a name that would fit their character when history first introduces us to them. By that time Bran had undergone the change which so many of his brother gods underwent when the Christian monks had the shrewdness to appropriate them for their own Church; he was by them credited with having introduced Christianity into Britain, and became Bran the Blessed!

The fact that the name of the saint, though common in Ireland, does not occur amongst the men either of Arran or Kintyre, who are all men of the Sound of Kilbrandon, seems to support my contention, or at any rate to suggest that the saint's and their name have no connection with each other, save that they are probably borrowed from the same source.

It is to be regretted that the Rev. J. K. Hewison in his Bute in the Olden Time, unlike any other writer on the subject, has written as though all the deeds of the Brandani had been performed by the Bute men alone, which is as unreasonable as it would be to suppose that Wallace's remark given by Blind Harry—"Good westland men of Arran and Rauchle, if they be warned they will all come to me," did not include in Wallace's mind the men of Bute itself, who with their Arran kinsmen and the men of Fife had fought so splendidly at Falkirk.

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