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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland

There be more than 60 countries, called regions, in Ireland, --- some regions as big as a shire, some more, some lesse; where reygneith more than 60 Chyef Capytaynes, whereof some callyth themselves Kings, some Kings Peers, in their language, some Princes, some Dukes, some Archedukes --- and every of the said Capytaynes make yth war and peace for himself, and holdeith by sword, and hath imperial jurisdiction within his rome, and obeyeth to no other person.
A Tudor official in 1515

This book is dedicated to the heroic spirit of those "Chyef Capytaynes" of old, who reigned in wild but magnificent style in the numerous tribal kingdoms which once graced the Emerald Isle and the North of Britain. Part One of Clans and Families provides the reader with an historical overview of the lost tribal culture of Ireland and Scotland. In Part Two, the reader is provided with information on the origins of specific Irish and Scottish families/surnames as they developed from clan and tribal names/groups.

The idea for a book on the tribes and clans of Ireland and Scotland has been with me for a long time. There has certainly been a need for an authoritative, comprehensive yet relatively concise treatment of the subject, one faithful to the Gaelic reality as it was lived by the tribesmen of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a student of anthropology, I have long been interested in the tribal character and racio-ethnic origins of the Gaelic-speaking peoples of historical times. My personal interest in the rich lore and cultural heritage of the Irish and Highland Scottish people, including the history of the great kin groups and families, led me to the task of providing for general readership a guide to the subject less affected by Anglicized characterization and romance.

This book combines genealogical, historical and anthropological information on Irish and Scottish clan-families in one volume. Excellent work has been done on the origins and character of the early tribal populations by British and Irish scholars. Clans and Families bridges the gap between these early tribes and the great clan-families of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, showing their relationships and connection to each other through branches, subtribes, and clans. Herein I have brought together much diverse and specialized material from various fields in order to apply the best modern information in a unified way. Such information has been heretofore unavailable to the general public.

The purpose of this book is to provide in one volume an authoritative and comprehensive account of the Gaelic tribes and clans. Any serious treatment of Gaelic history, politics, sociology, anthropology or related fields should take this Gaelic tribalism into central account when dealing with the period preceding 1607 in Ireland and 1746 in Scotland. The reason for this is that throughout the historical period and even into the eighteenth century, Gaelic polity was built upon a framework of tribal groups with their intra- and inter-tribal political relationships.

Similarly, studies of traditional Gaelic literature which aim to examine its social context should strive to view it in light of its tribal background. Much folklore in the Gaelic oral tradition, inasmuch as it is an expression of cultural realities past and present, is also profitably viewed in this way.

It is not my purpose here to glorify a particular place or race by calling attention to some mystical quality. The men of the tribes were just men, and the places where they dwelt were just places. If anything must be glorified, let it be the human spirit; the spirit of men and women who would build a hearth and defend a family against ever-present dangers in a wild land. Think of the Gaelic tribes as an aspect of our Western heritage, for they have left us above all with a legacy of pride in the face of adversity, of family unity in the face of potential annihilation. This is the legacy of the tribes and clans, that men could unite with bonds of blood and friendship, to uphold their freedom, their chief and their way of life; that men could stand together with honor, and face their fears with dignity. Though often enough the Gael fell short of his best, yet more often he did not, and at the very least the scions of an heroic aristocracy could gather around a fire at night, and listen to their ancient tales, reaffirming the morals and values of their people.

In many ways Gaelic society stood in bold contrast to the rest of Europe. To correctly interpret a society so strikingly different from its neighbors in the rest of Europe requires knowledge of the nature of its separate identity. This book should greatly aid that task.

C. Thomas Cairney October 1988



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