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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter I - Early History of British Isles

To understand aright the story we are about to relate, one must hark back to the days of Feudalism in the British Isles. Indeed, we must go much further back, even into the dim past, when the British Isles had no written story, and no particular name that has come down in the pages of history. Fortunately for us, the story of our country and, indeed, that of the whole world, can be read by the capable few in the book of Nature, or the testimony of the rocks. No one knows who were the first inhabitants of our island home. Geologists say that in past ages it was part of the Continent of Europe, and that the Continent in those dim ages extended westwards far beyond the limits of the British Isles. In that ease we need not stay to enquire who were its inhabitants or whence they came, for they were bound to be of the tribes common to Europe.

We may now come down to the dawn of history, and find that by some convulsion of Nature the British Isles were lopped off from the adjoining Continent and were converted into a series of islands. The Phoenicians were probably the first outsiders, or traders, who visited Britain. They were a great maritime people as early as 1000 B.C. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, is about the first writer to refer to these islands by name. He lived in the fourth century B.C., and speaks of Britain as Nesoi Brittoniki, or British Isles.

The Romans of a later date spoke of them as Insula Brittonica. To them France was known as Gaul, for the name "Franks" and "France" had not as yet arrived. In the south-west of Gaul there lived a warlike tribe of people called "Bretons." Their country the Romans named Brittonica Cismarina, to distinguish it from Brittonica Transmarina, or the "Briton over the water." Presumably, therefore, the Bretons in Cismarina (Gaul) and those in Transmarina (Briton) were the same stock of people. Language also is a link in the chain of evidence, for many words in the Breton (France) tongue of to-day are the same as in the Gaelic tongue of Scotland.

The word "Celt" now comes into evidence. The Greeks used the word Keltoi and the Romans Celtae as a name given to certain tribes who occupied a part of western France, or Gaul. Both nations also used the word as denoting a people who used stone and bronze axes. Hence even to this day stone axes are known in the British Isles as Kelts or Celts.

We may now ask ourselves when those Gauls, Bretons, or Celts arrived in Briton. The best answer to this question comes from the testimony of the rocks, and that places their arrival about 1000 B.C.

In Sussex, on the south-east coast of England, there have recently been unearthed the ruins of two villages which throw a lurid light upon our early history. On the top of a hill there has been discovered the ruins of the dwellings of a people who have left only traces of the early stone age. A little below it were found the ruins of dwellings the occupants of which knew the bronze axe and clay vessels. This shows a long gap in the advancement of the two peoples, and presumably the later or bronze men exterminated the ruder or stone men they found on the hilltop. The Celts introduced the bronze and iron age into Briton, and, therefore, this village in Sussex is about the first or earliest evidence of Celtic occupation. The date of this village is given as from 1000 to 700 B. C. Thus we see that the rocks and soil of Briton faithfully record the history of our early ancestors.


The Rornans made their descent upon Briton in 55 B.C. Various reasons are given as to the motives behind their coming. One, the lust of conquest with its trade in goods, soldiers, and slaves; while pearls and gold were common articles of trade in those days in Britain. The other was the desire of Caesar, the Roman General, to punish the Celtic tribes in Briton because of the help they rendered their fellow tribesmen in Gaul (France). The Romans had a trained army, well equipped with weapons of warfare, and accustomed to fight in unison under trained leaders; while the British tribes lacked similar weapons and the habit of fighting in concert. It was, therefore, not surprising that the Romans defeated the separately acting tribes whom they encountered in Briton. As the Roman galleys approached the British coast near Dover, the soldiers noticed the white chalk cliffs, and shouted albus (white). From this arose the name Albion, by which Briton has been known from that day until now. It is curious, however, that the English people rarely if ever refer to their country as "Albion." They prefer the name England, and occasionally Britain. The Gaelic-speaking people in Scotland and Ireland have no name for Scotland but "Alba," their form of the word "Albion," or the Roman Albus. These same people have never called England by that name, but use the word "Sasunn," that being their form of the word "Saxon." Gaelic was the language spoken in Briton on the arrival of the Romans. The word "London," the Capital of our Empire, is of Gaelic origin. Its Celtic inhabitants of the Roman period called it "Loan dunn" (Loan—meadow, dunn—a hill fort). The two principal hills at its site were "Tower Hill " and "Ludgate Hill." The Romans latinized this into Londinium. The Gaelic speakers of to-day call it "Luinnin," and the Saxons "Lund’n." Hills in those days were selected as forts or village settlements. Every such hill was a "Dun," while the Chief’s name was usually associated with his "Dun," as in "Duneidinn," or Gaelic for Edinburgh, which means "Edwin’s (King of Northumbria’s) fort or dun." There are many Gaelic place names in England, but the Saxons being unable to pronounce them changed their spelling slightly in the course of ages, so that to-day it takes a scholar to reveal their origin and proper spelling. The Scottish Celts have no word corresponding to Scotland. They speak of the whole country as "Alba," and their part of it "Gaidhealtachd" or "Gaeltachd," Gaeldom, which means the country of the Gaels, they themselves being the Gaels, or in Gaelic "Gaidheal."

The Romans looked upon the Britons as barbarians, and treated them accordingly. Slaughter, pillage, and expropriation were their modes of dealing with all barbarians, and this no doubt was the cause of the constant warfare existing between the two peoples: Roman rule did some good, but at a terrible cost in life to the native people.

On their departure in the fifth century to defend their territories near to Rome from the Hun invasion, hordes of marauding Germans entered the country, and by means of fire, pillage, and slaughter gradually established small settlements along the east coast of Briton.


These were the Angles and Saxons who gradually increased in numbers and ultimately drove away or slew most of the males of the Celtic tribes, and made slaves or worse of the native women. Then they changed the name Briton to "Angle-land," and now "England." Many of the English people of to-day pride themselves upon the supposition of their being pure Saxons. A little reflection will show the claim to be untenable, for their ancestors, according to the habit of the conqueror in all ages, killed the native men and appropriated the women and children. The succeeding races of children would, therefore, be half German and half British Celt, and this mixture of races applies more or less to the whole population of the British Isles.


During the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries hordes of Norwegian marauders founded settlements along the east coast of Britain. Indeed, on the northern and western coasts of Scotland and in parts of Ireland they took complete possession, and had an arm of soldiers keeping the various tribes in subjection. This is partly the explanation why so many red and fair-haired people are to be found in those localities. The original Celt was a dark-skinned, darkhaired, dark-eyed, long-headed (Dolicho-cephalic) individual; but the Norwegian soldiers living amongst them for some 400 years left many traces of the broad-faced (Brachy-cephalic), fair-skinned, red and fair haired people common to the Nordics. Thus we see that it is unwise to claim any pure race blood, for the study of history and anthropology readily prove the contrary.


The Normans, under William, conquered England in 1066. This was the last of the foreign invasions of the British Isles. By this time there was a fairly large native population in the country, so that a few thousand Normans, or Nordic French, added to the population did not much matter. The Norman leaders, however, were an exceedingly grasping lot of men, who managed by fraud or murder or kingly influence to acquire large tracts of land in England. A few of these men found their way into Scotland, and by the same methods obtained possession of large tracts of land in that country.


It is probable that the feudal system is as old as man. In all ages men have been compelled to combine in self-defence. The early tribes in Britain all lived under this system. They appointed one of their number as their leader. Sometimes the office of leader was hereditary, and sometimes elective. The system was based upon service, principally of a military character, to the chief, over-lord, or king of the period. For this service every clansman, serf, or villain, was entitled to the use of land and the protection of his life and property. The land was held by the power of the tribe, so that every male was compelled to be a warrior. The land, therefore, was the common property of the tribe, and not of any single individual. Strangers who entered the tribe by marriage or favour or otherwise had perforce to forswear their previous allegiance, and become members of their adopted clan or tribe. The word clan is merely an English modification of the Gaelic word "chloinne," signifying children, for it was the patriarchal fashion of those days for the chief to speak of all his clansmen as his children, or clan. Various nations had various modifications of the feudal system, hence when the Normans entered England and Scotland they imposed their form of it upon the various lands which they acquired. As time rolled on towns and villages sprang up, so that the modes of land tenure had to be altered. Villages and towns had large commonages attached to them as the common property of the people. Then the churches began making claims for church lands, and by favour of some powerful chief, baron, or king they gradually acquired enormous tracts of land. Thus the breaking up of the feudal system began, and was ended by civil war, bribery, and kingly favours, depriving the common people of their land and commonages. There are a few towns and villages, however, which still retain small areas of land of these once large commonages. All these changes were slow in entering the more remote parts of Scotland, so that more or less of the old feudal system continued in the Highlands down to 1745; while the Church lost most if not all of its lands during the Reformation period.

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