To best appreciate the stuff of which we are made it will be necessary to keep before the mind at least a general view of the races of mankind and their leading subdivisions.
From geology we learn much regarding the age and physical transformation of the earth. From archaeology, aided by geological deductions, anthropology, philology and other sciences we are forced to reach the conclusion that from very simple forms and the crudest knowledge far back in prehistoric times the human stock has come steadily though slowly upward. Whether the bottom had been reached by retrogression, nothing short of revelation proves. Asia in the most distant day and America in recent times furnish us the widely separated groups of primitive man. Those who accept the bible believe that in some way the aborigines of America were the descendants of the earliest people of the old world; and that after isolation in what we now call America they were more content with the simple and the crude than their kindred of Europe and Asia. Aside from the Bible, or rather in the corroboration of its story of the origin of all peoples, evidence indicates that either in Asia or Europe, many thousands of years before Christ, there lived a small group of people, and that from them multiplied the peoples of the earth, including what we know as the primitive people of America and their prehistoric predecessors. That in what is now southern Turkestan, Asia, was located that primal home of the human race, is widely believed; and no evidence even suggests that it was in any place very far, comparatively, from there.
This scientific evidence carries us back to a very distant day when the early people had drifted into groups having marked distinguishing characteristics. By these marks even the prehistoric homes of these groups are certainly known from a very far away day, and the movements of each group or its descendants are readily traced. According to widely accepted authority the separated branches from a point in their histories to this day are distinguished as American, including the Eskimo, the Aztecs, &c.; the Asian (yellow), including the Chinese, the Japanese, &c.; the Negroid, including the negroes, &c.; and the Caucasian. The great Caucasian stock is first divided into two early groups, the South Mediterranean and the North Mediterranean. The former group embraces the Arabs, the Bedouins, the Israelites, the Samaritans, the Syrians and the now extinct Assyrians and Carthagenians, &c.; and from the latter branch sprang three other great subdivisions; the Euskaric, including the Basques, and other branches now extinct, to which a few authorities upon little evidence assign the Picts; second, the Caucasic, which includes the Avars, the Kurians, the Laks, &c.; and third, the Aryans. From the Aryan family come the Celtic, Italic, Hellenic, Teutonic, and Slavic. The Celts comprise several branches: the Britons, the Cymri, the Gauls, the Irish, the Welsh, and the Highlanders (Gaels and Scots) of older Scotland. Again, the Italic branch includes the French, the Italians, the Latins, the Spanish, the Romanians, the Danes, the Goths and other Scandinavians, the Saxons and their Angle and Jute tribes, the Dutch, the modern Germans, and as a blending of several of some of these, the English and the most of Americans. To the Slavic family belong the Poles, the Bulgarians, The Russians, &c.
New environment, climatic differences and many other causes accentuated the characteristics of each group and, as we all know, languages became very diverse and multiplied, and for many thousands of years the groups which at length grew into nations forgot their common origin and kinship with the rest of the world. Comparatively recent scholarship and scientific research have given us our present important comprehensive grasp of the brotherhood of the human race.
Now at some prehistoric time there was a great migration,--and yet in other times another and still others; and from the primitive home it is believed that the Celts first reached and established themselves in central Europe. The Teutons at some time followed as the Celts spread into western Europe, where they later settled what became known as Gaul, Spain, and the British Isles. The Teutons were thus left in central and eastern Europe. The Latin and Hellenic peoples took possession of the peninsulas which became Italy and Greece, and the Slovenians, moving behind the others, overran eastern Europe. Among the people who covered the Italian and Grecian peninsulas culture and social organization made their first marked strides, written languages were cultivated and literature was encouraged. The leading Teutonic tribes, the Saxons, the Angles, and their sub-tribe the Jutes, the Goths, the Vandals, the Franks, the Burgundians, the Lombards and Normans and the Danes, the latter two generally known as Scandinavians, are often mentioned under the classification of Germanic. But we must not confound the use of that word with the adjective German when used to indicate the people of modern Germany. Germany in its modern sense was unknown when branches of the Teutons were first called Germans. It is usual to refer to the Germans as Teutons, but that does not imply that they are any more Teutonic than any other members of the great Teutonic family. The name Teutonic to indicate a tribe was first applied to an ancient people dwelling north of the Elbe River in Europe, and who first appeared in history, along with the Cimbri, in 300 B. C. Some of the modern Germans are descended from that ancient tribe, and since also modern Germany includes the territory of the old Teutons, it has become usual to speak of the Germans as Teutons.
The Saxon tribe of the Teutonic family gradually spread until by 550 A. D. their kingdom covered the country from the mouth of the Elbe and that of the Thuringia westward to approximately the Rhine. The Saxons by that time occupied about half of what became England, their possession being on the east of a nearly due north and south line. The Jutes occupied, roughly, what is now Denmark; and immediately to their south was the kingdom of the Angles, now the northern neck of Germany just south of Denmark. The Franks occupied the section now embraced by Belgium and northeastern France; and the Vis Goths were in the remainder of the French country and what became Spain. The kingdom of the Vandals covered the entire Northern Africa. Other early people of whom we read were here and there to the east, north or south in Europe and in Asia.
With this hurried glance at the great human hive of Europe and Asia, we are better prepared to follow the changes which succeeded the Roman evacuation of the British Isles about 410 to 418 A.D.
As we have seen, for one hundred and fifty years after the Romans had gone back (410 to 418 A. D.) to perish with their crumbling empire, there followed a period during which history knows little concerning either of the three countries now known as England, Scotland and Ireland. Particularly regarding Scotland during that period “the darkness is profound,” but with the beginning of the fourth half century after the Roman period the mists begin to dissipate.
To the missionaries of the Christian church we owe the earliest historical light subsequent to Roman rule. The earliest work was a life of Ninian, written in Saxon. The original, unhappily, is lost. This evangelist was of Welsh (Briton) birth; and had studied in Rome. Before the Roman government withdrew he began to preach the Christian religion, as he understood it, to the Pectish people of Galloway, reaching there direct from Rome, and continued northward until his death about 432. It is said that at a place then hardly a town, called Cathures, where Glasgow now is, Ninian established a cemetery for Christian burial. His successor, Kentigern, of whom we shall see more later, reaching the place more than one hundred years later, built his monkish hut near the place and on the banks of the Molindiner Burne (or Creek).
Comyn the Fair, one of the Abbots of Iona, wrote a memoir of his observations at Iona, the monastery of New Dalriada, corresponding in general with what is now Argyllshire, but this has little than local value.
Next was Gildas, born 516 and died 570, a native of the Welsh or Briton stock. Gildas says he never saw any writings or records of his country, adding that “if there were ever any of them” they had been lost, carried into distant lands, “or consumed in the fires of the enemy.” However, we now know that, though Gildas never saw it, Ninian’s life did not perish until much later, only a mutilated, unreliable and much emendated edition coming down to us. The mutilations are the work of Ailred, Abbot of Rievault, a representative of the church as it existed in that land some five or six hundred years after Ninian’s day. Gildas saw only “the destruction of everything that is good,” and draws the darkest picture of the Britons, calling them “an indolent and slothful race.” He abused most vigorously the Picts and Scots; and of course exhibits no love for the invading Saxons. Maxwell is correct: “Gildas can only be reckoned an important historian in the absence of any more capable contemporary writer. It is from his dismal page that we learn how the Saxons first became a power in our land (Scotland).”
The next writer was Adamnan, one of the Scots of newer Dalriada, said to have been born in Ulster, now Ireland, then yet known as Scotia. Adamnan’s work is the life of Columba, the founder of Iona. Columba died in 597; Adamnan was born 627; and so, of course, wrote not earlier than the middle of the seventh century. His story is regarded as reasonably reliable, making due allowance for the supernatural gloss which more or less clouds all the old monkish chronicles. Adamnan wrote in Latin, evidencing the rather wide learning of the day.
Baeda, or Bede, generally known as the Venerable Bede, is our next source of historical light. He was born in Saxon Northumbria, in 673, and died in 735. Bede regarded himself as an Englishman, as did all the Saxon, Angle, and Jute descendants of his day. He is appraised as the first invaluable writer of that country; and his writings are regarded as of “singular impartiality, a quality most rare in the writings of clerics of the early Church.” He used freely the work of Gildas and seems to have sought every other source of information. Yet we have to watch him carefully, for he relates things ascribed by him to the supernatural, which we know to be untrue, with as much assurance and earnestness as he does real facts. For instance, of King Oswald he says that on one occasion a bishop laid hold of his right hand and said: “May this hand never perish.” “Which fell out according to his prayer,” adds Bede, “for his arm and hand, being cut off from his body, when he was slain in battle, remain entire and uncorrupted to this day, and are kept in a silver case as revered relics in St. Peter’s Church in the royal city.”
The life of Kentigern, the son of Ewen of Urien, comes next. Kentigern, also known as Eugenius, was a Briton, or Brython, Cymric, or Welsh of Strathclyde, as we shall see, the old stock occupying the country south of the Clyde at the coming of the Romans. He was a contemporary of Colbuma, and became the greatest Christian missionary and preacher of that day. Jocelyn, a monk of Furness, was the author. Kentigern began his work about 540, but his life was not written until 1164.
From Ailred’s life of Ninian, Adamnan’s life of Columba and Jocelyn’s life of Kentigern, we get our information of the introducing of the Christian religion into what is now Scotland, as well as some information upon other subjects; and from Gildas, the Welsh, or Cymric Briton, also a monk, and from Bede, the Benedictine monk, born in Northumbria, and who died at the monastery of Jarrow, and from another Welshman named Nennius, who is accredited with a Historia Britonum (A History of the Britons), believed to have been written shortly before 900, though some place it as early as 796, and others as late as 994, we get our chief information regarding the struggle between Britons and Scots and Picts; or again the Britons with the swarming Teutonic peoples; or again, between allies of two or more against others. These are supplemented by the work of Tighernac, a Scot of Ireland of an early day, by the Chronicles of the Picts; by the Chronicles of the Saxons, and in a very important way by some historical poems in the Welsh or Cymric tongue. Then we come on down to later works of value, but very old now, in the compiling of which older ones were, of course, used, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote Historia Britonum in 1152; and the works of another monk, Richard of Cirencester, of whom little is known except that he was a great student of history, who died about 1400.
Now, then, we shall follow briefly the story as we get it from those early writers, and as that story has been amplified or corrected by the best subsequent scholarship.
Bede says that, at the writing of his ecclesiastical history, which he completed in 731 A. D., the Island of Britain contained “five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts and Latins, each in its own peculiar dialect cultivating the sublime study of Divine truth. The Latin tongue is, by the study of the Scripture, becoming common to all the rest.”
If by Latin Bede means Romans, this statement is in direct contradiction to one he makes later in regard to a leader of the Britons, “who alone, perhaps, of the Roman nation had survived the storm” of Scots and Picts who fell upon the Britons upon Rome’s withdrawal.
From his native land in old Dalriada, now Ulster, Ireland, Columba, a Christian in the light of his day, went to new Dalriada, founded by the Scots of his country, later known as Argyll, we have seen. Under the encouragement of the king Columba founded, on an island off the extreme west shore of Argyllshire, what became the famous abbey of Iona. Then he turned his greatest missionary efforts to converting the Picts of the adjacent kingdom of the north.
Adamnan, in his biography of Columba, gives us the first historical account of the Pictish king, Brude, of that day and tells us that that king’s fortified capital was what we now know as Craig Phadraig, located, we now know, two miles south of Inverness, when Columba visited the king shortly after 563 A. D. Columba died in 597 A. D. (An interesting account of Columba and his church was written by Alexander Ewing, D. C. L., long Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, which was published in London in 1866.)
To the south of the Pictish country and mainly in what is now Scotland, the Britons, Cymru Celtic, followed the Roman withdrawal by organizing something of a general confederacy composed of numerous small political units governed by kings who exercised limited powers. Over this federation, crude though it must have been, was the power exercised by a chosen common leader when a common danger impended.
Bede, our earliest and chief authority, we remember, gives this story of the first half century thus:
From that time (the Roman evacuation) the south part of Britain (by south part Bede means all of Briton south of the border Highlands), destitute of armed soldiers, and all of its active youth which had been led away by the rashness of the (Roman) tyrants, never to return, was wholly exposed to rapine, as being totally ignorant of the use of weapons. Whereupon they suffered many years under two very savage foreign nations, not [foreign] on account of their being seated out of Britain, but because they were remote from that part of it which was possessed by the Britains; two inlets of the sea lying betwixt them, one of which runs in far and broad into the land of Britain, from the eastern ocean, and the other from the western, though they do not reach so as to touch one another. The eastern (inlet) has in the midst of it the city Guid. The western (inlet) has on it, that is, on the right hand thereof, the city of Alcluith, which in their language signifies the Rock Cluith, for it is close by the river of that name. On account of the eruptions of these nations, the Britons sent messengers to Rome with letters in mournful manner, praying succor, and promised perpetual subjection provided that the impending enemy should be driven away.
An armed legion responded at once, the enemy, “a great multitude” being slain, was driven out of Britain, and the Britains advised to build a wall between “the two bays or inlets of the seas.[”] Such a wall of sod the islanders built. But the Roman legion again gone, the enemies “like men mowing ripe corn” (barley), swarmed into the land by sea “and bore down all before them.” A second appeal to Rome brought another legion, and again the Picts and Scots were slaughtered or put to flight. Then the Romans “built a strong stone wall from sea to sea in a straight line.” “This famous wall, which is still (731) to be seen, was built at the public and private expense, the Britons also lending their assistance.”
When Bede wrote this wall was yet seven feet broad and twelve feet high; but comparatively small fragments now remain.
Having finished the stone wall, and having instructed the Britons in the manufacture of arms, the Romans left, to return no more. Emboldened, this fact induced the Picts and the Scots to occupy “all the northern and farthest part of the island, as far as the wall,” says Bede. This is all the more important and interesting because it established the fact that the Briton country, within which was the capital, “Alcluith” (Alclyde), extended into the border Highlands and north of the Clyde estuary and the present city of Glasgow. When the settlement of the enemy “as far as the wall” was seen: “Hereupon a timerous guard was placed upon the wall, where they pined every day and night in the utmost fear. On the other side the enemy attacked them with hooked weapons, by which the cowardly defendants were dragged from the wall and dashed against the ground.” Finally the Britons fled, and the enemy slaughtered and burned, with ferocity and without quarter, leaving no food for the Britons except such as the chase afforded.
Finally, 423 A. D., “the wretched remains of the Britons sent a letter” to one of the Roman consuls, beginning, “To Aetius, thrice consul, the sighs of the Britons,” and closing by begging for help. But no help went out from Rome this time, for the terrible Huns, ancestors of many modern Germans, were ravaging Europe and surely driving Roman power to its doom. Shortly after this letter, Aetius led every available Roman against the famous barbaric Attila, king of the Huns. The armies joined battle, one of the decisive battles of the world, along that stretch of country between what is now Chateau-Thierry and Chalons, now France. Civilization won; the Huns were scattered. Having fled, some stopped “on the right bank of the Danube, in the Hungry of today,” and others turned back toward their old home on the great plains of Asia beyond the Caspian, from which they had poured fifty years earlier, “as if under a sudden impulse, the whole multitude, in great carts and on horseback, carrying all their possessions,” as we are correctly told in the December 1918, National Geographic Magazine. The Goths, Teutons from Scandinavia, who for a time had been overrun by these terrible Huns, now regained independence, and, aided by Slavic tribes within their domains, turned upon the Roman empire. “Odoacer, chief of the German Heruli,” and of tribes in alliance with them, forced the last emperor in Rome to abdicate the throne. “Thus, 470 A. D., the renowned western Roman empire became extinct.”
Bede gives the Roman government credit for inviting “the nation of the Angles, or Saxons,” to the aid of the Britons, and places the coming of the first contingents in the year 449. Hence from the evacuation by Rome up to the coming of the Saxons less than forty years had elapsed. Taking into consideration the fact that the Britons had been deprived of their young men by the Romans, that they had for nearly five hundred years been held under the Roman yoke and given no opportunity to train for war or permitted even to make and use the implements of war, we can the more readily understand why the Britons were so unavoidably helpless rather than cowardly; and at the same time we get a warning sight of subjugated nations, and an important lesson in the indispensability of preparation for national defense—for the opening of the damnable world war which has ravaged the world, proves that since these early days humanity is but glossed the more.
Quickly, the warlike Saxons put the Scots and Picts to flight; then decided to take Briton for themselves. Rapidly and in great “swarms” they came, the “three most powerful nations of Germany—Saxons, Angles and Jutes,” says Bede—of course, using the name Germany to indicate a different government from what is now Germany, tho in part the same country. “Then, having on a sudden entered into a league with the Picts, whom they had by this time repelled by the force of their arms, they began to turn their weapons against” the Britons.
Now, the Britons were, after the light they had, Christians: the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes were pagans; so the latter slew “priests everywhere before the altars;” demolished public and private structures, slew Britons until there were none to bury those who had been thus cruelly slaughtered; some, taken in mountain retreats, “were butchered in heaps;” those who surrendered were enslaved, and a miserable remnant scarcely survived far up in the mountain fortresses.
At length the Saxons ceased to dog the mountain regions. “Ambrosius Aurelius, a modest man, who alone perhaps of the Roman nation had survived the storm, in which his parents, who were of the royal race, had perished,” gathered up the survivors, gave battle to the invaders and, “by the help of God,” Bede thinks, gained a victory. Shortly after that, under Germanus, the Britons gained over “a multitude of fierce” Scots and Picts, a signal victory “by faith, without the aid of human force,” by ambuscading defiles into which the enemy unsuspectingly marched; whereupon with one voice the Britons, led by the priests, began shouting “Hallelujah!”
Bede’s story is very general, painfully lacking in details, very full of exaggeration as to some things, characterized by a belief that Christianity was introduced among the Britons and Saxons by what we know as the Roman Catholic Church; and that the priests had wrought the most wonderful miracles by direct divine interposition. But out of the confusion we know that before Kentigern, the son of Ewen of Urien, began to preach to his fellow Britons about 540, approximately one hundred years after the last Roman legion disappeared, the Brythonic or Welsh branch of the Celtic race, called by Bede simply Britons, had organized small states, sometimes called provinces, each having its king and all united into one grand federation under the title Strathclyde. We also know that before Kentigern’s day Strathclyde, from the border Highlands and including modern Dumbarton town, just north of the Clyde and the Forth, reached out to the river Derwent, not including the kingdom of the Lothians or what is known as the Principality of Galloway. It will help us if we remember that in the tenth century, perhaps five hundred years after the labors of Kentigern, Strathclyde was also known as Cumbria or Cumberland. It appears that as a result of a war ending at the battle of Arthuret in 573, between forces led by Rydderch Hael and those commanded by Maelwyn Gwynedd, Strathclyde was divided, the southern section becoming Wales or Cymru and the northern section, retaining the name Strathclyde, uniting in itself the former states, within its territory. The northern king established his court at “Alcluyde” (Alclyde), modern Dumbarton. Hael was a Christian. Before the separation of the kingdom the king, a non-Christian, had so menaced Kentigern, as we shall see in another chapter, that he had fled to the mountains of Wales; but Hael recalled him. Locating, as we shall see, at what is now Glasgow, Kentigern spread the gospel through Strathclyde and into neighboring sections.
To the south and in what is now England the Angles, from their home in the region now known as Schleswiz-Holstein, on the continent, from an early day rapidly settled. Large bodies of Jutes, led by Hingest and Horsa, came in 448 and joined those who had acquired an earlier foothold, who had done something like those Germans did who, taking advantage of the laws of Belgium, had built concealed emplacements for the big guns which laid low the historic homes of little Belgium. The Britons gave battle to Hingest and Horsa, and the latter lost his life, but Hingest drove back the natives, settled his followers; encouraged the coming of others, and by A. D. 457 his forces and adherents were so numerous that he founded the Kingdom of Kent. This was the first firm, organized hold of the Teutonic stocks in what is now England. Kent lay in the extreme southeastern corner of the island, covering, in general, what became Kent County, England. Rapidly the Saxons founded other kingdoms, Sussex, Wessex, and Essex, respectively in 490, 519, and 527, as the dates are now generally accepted.
From the border of the Picts and along the eastern shore of Scotland, then known as Alba, the Saxons increased until strong enough to found Northumbria, or Northumberland, reaching from Pictland southward into what is now England, covering the modern counties of York, Durham, and Northumberland. This, after much intermittent fighting with the Celtic Cymry of Strathclyde, as we have seen, now and then assisted by Scots from newer Dalriada, was accomplished in 547, and this was the chief Saxon source from which Strathclyde suffered so terribly.
The southern part of Northumbria came to be known as Deira; and the north as Bernecia, and for some time each had its king; but for our purpose we shall not go minutely into the kaleidoscopic geographical and governmental changes which the coming of the Teutons produced; but it will be interesting to remember that further south East Anglia, bordering on the sea (now Norfolk and Suffolk Counties), came into existence in 575; and the larger kingdom of Mercia, covering the great inland center of modern England, was organized in 582. Of course we shall not want to lose from sight the wonderful Briton, King Arthur and his “sixty knights of the Round Table,” of whom we delight to read, who sallied so oft from Camelot or Cadbury, the capital of their kingdom, against the invading Teutons, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Danes, each in his time and often in cooperation one with the other; but we cannot stop to view the stirring pictures in detail.
Therefore, when the year 600 dawned the kingdom of the Picts covered the Highlands, beginning a few miles north of Glasgow; Dalriada, the Kingdom of the Celtic Scots, who had gone out from Ireland, embraced the western section, now within Argyllshire; and Strathclyde covered the Lowland and border Highland sections from north of the Clyde River to the Welsh country. The Scots also controlled a section on the Irish Sea, surrounded by Strathclyde, known as Galloway, a small kingdom before the coming of the Romans, and which enjoyed spasmodic independence for some time after the Roman evacuation. To the east of Strathclyde lay the Teutonic kingdom of Northumbria; and yet to the south of all these, the other petty kingdoms founded by the Teutons.
In 603 the King of the Scots of Dalriada, possibly assisted by the Strathclyde warriors, led an immense force against the Saxons of Northumbria. A desperate effort was made to break the Teuton power, and to stop their merciless expansion. The Scots had at last foreseen the subjugation of Strathclyde and the ultimate ravage of Dalriada, and made this supreme effort to avert the avalanche and to destroy the Angle rapacity—but the Saxons and Angles were victorious; the Scots were fearfully punished. Telling us of this disaster to the Scots, Bede says: “No King of Scots durst come into Britain to make war on the Angles to this day.” Following up the success against the Scots, the Saxons finally exacted tribute from both Picts and Scots. This led to an alliance between the Picts and Scots, and greatly menaced the Saxon sway. To break this alliance and to reestablish his power, Ecgfrith, king of the Saxons, invaded Pictland in 685. At Dunnichen, in Forfarshire, the Saxons met the northern foe and were slaughtered. This was decisive and resulted in the freedom of the Picts, as well as that respectively of the Scots and Britons of Strathclyde, “whose territory Ecgfrith seems to have annexed to his domains,” at some date before that great battle, says Maxwell. From a writer who continued the chronicles of those days first penned by Nennius, we learn that the Picts never again paid tribute to the Saxons.
By 717 A. D. the Picts and Scots were engaged in a death struggle which resulted, 736, in the subjugation of Dalriada by “Angus McFergus, king of the Picts; and for the next hundred years any glimpse afforded by” the historical sources of those times, chief of which sources are the Irish works known as the Annals of Tigernach, and the Annals of Ulster, “of affairs in North Britain showed Dalriada as a province subject to the Picts; but incessantly and violently striving to regain dependence. This was conquest, not fusion; but in another direction the Picts, now the dominant race in North Britain, had formed a connection which was to lead to important results. Hereditary succession among the Picts went in the female line; hence on the death of the king without any brother, the crown would pass to the son of a sister if he had one, or to the nearest male relative on the female side. It was in accordance with this law that King Brude, who defeated Northumbrian Ecgfirth at Dunnichen, had become king of the Picts, for we learn from the Irish Life of Adamnan that he (Brude) was the son of Bile, king of Alclyde (Strathclyde). He must, therefore, have been the brother of Tuadar, who succeeded his father, Bile, as king of Strathclyde in 722, and, had Tuador [sic] died childless, the succession would have fallen to Brude or his children. This may have been an agency in the network of hostilities that prevailed in North Britain from 744 onwards, the Picts warring now against the Britons of Strathclyde, now against the Scots of Dalriada, sometimes in alliance with the Saxons of Northumbria, at other times employing their leisure in a private civil war of their own. Such were the throes preceding the birth of Scotland as a single nation.” Thus unified, Dalriada and Pictland became Alba.
But fate yet held much suffering in store for that unhappy land, the early home of the clan to which our ancestors belonged. Through those times of terror our ancestors passed, and upon the blood-drenched stage in that drama of an eye for an eye, our fathers and mothers played each a splendid part. Next came the Northmen. Their first recorded inroad was in the year 793. These Northmen, Scandinavians, were the Fingall or Norwegians and the Dubhgall or Danes,--again Teutons, all. On their first raid they sacked the western isles and despoiled sacred Iona. Three more raids followed until in 806 they put the torch to the abbey buildings of Iona and the sword into the hearts of the monks.
In 834 the Picts made another frantic effort to free their country from the Scots; but the Scots king, Alpine—not, of course, Alpine MacEochaidh, the Dalriada Scots king killed in Galloway in 741, at the decisive defeat of the Picts—lost the battle and then literally his head. His son Kenneth succeeded to the leadership; and in 841 this Kenneth defeated the Picts, who were at the same time sorely engaged against the invading Danes. By this victory “the King of Scots obtained the monarchy of the whole of Alba, which is now called Scotland,” says the Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, “as continued by Simeon of Durham” who wrote about 1130 and who is regarded “as the surest guide to events from the middle of the eighth century onward” to the close of the period he covered.
This is the Kenneth known in most histories as Kenneth McAlpin (the mac meaning the son of Alpin); and by some the date that he became king of the united Dalriada and Pictland is given as 844, or 846, for the Picts did not generally recognize him until the latter date.
The Scandinavians were yet to play their most bloody and far-reaching part. An early writer says that in “870 an innumerable host of Danes landed in Scotland.” He says they were “men of dreadful iniquity;” that “they butchered boys and old men,” “and commanded that matrons, nuns and virgins should be surrender to their pleasure.” Nor are these statements mere invective. Words cannot adequately picture the Northmen outrage and brutality. It was in 870 that those “merciless marauders” besieged Dunbarton [Dumbarton] and at the end of four months destroyed it. In increasing numbers they swarmed through the Western Highlands and overran the Lowlands. In 915 the Saxons of Northumbria, now long overrun by the Scandinavians, united with Constantin II (900-924), from McAlpin second king of the Alba, against the invaders. But the Scots, as the old writer calls the Albanian army, were routed, the Saxon monarch was slain “with all the best of the Angles.” Thus Northumbria, born of the Saxon sword, fell helpless at the point of the Northmen blade. Nor did the heathen Danes assault North Britain only; in South Britain Alfred the Great, king of the West Saxons, had been fighting them so successfully that at the end of thirty years he rid his country of danger at their hands, and then passed to his reward in 901. Edward the Elder succeeded. In 924 he built a fortified town on his northern frontiers, and in the borders of Scotland. For some strange reason the “King of the Strathclyde Welsh and all the Strathclyde Welsh,” Constantin II., then king of the Scots and Picts, and the whole nation of Scots, and Northumbria, “as well England and Danes and Northmen and others,” chose King Edward for father and lord.” So the old writer of the Anglo-Saxon or Winchester Chronicle says, though this statement has been questioned. At any rate, a power loomed upon the southern horizon so vividly that all peoples and powers north of the Humbar River began to organize against it. Scots, Danes and Picts now united against the English monarch. At Brunanburg in 937 Athelstan, then sovereign of England, defeated the allies. This great epochal battle added a large part of the then Danish territory (taken from the Saxons of Northumbria) to England.
Upon every border of Strathclyde the volcano had rumbled, and often the deadly eruption had laid her plains in waste and filled her streams with the bodies of her people; armies had marched and countermarched over her fields, leaving only ruin and bleak desolation in their wakes. Yet up to 937 the integrity of the kingdom maintained with a few apparent interregnums. In 756 the allied Picts and Saxons of Northumbria captured Dumbarton and brought the Britons of Strathclyde to surrender; and for more than one hundred years there seems to have been no acknowledged king within the halls of the old capital; but some form of national autonomy maintained. For many years the “Welsh population of Strathclyde had a dynasty of their own, but their kingdom was tributary to the kings of Alba,” Maxwell rightly says.
However, in 945 Eadmund, who had succeeded Athelstan, ravaged Strathclyde, mentioned by Latin writers (many early English authors wrote in Latin, we remember) as Cumberland, “and granted it wholly to Malcolm, king of the Scots,” that is, king of Alba. In more or less dependency upon Alba, Strathclyde held some territory and her sovereigns exercised at least limited dominion for a few years more. In 1018 Eugenius, also called Owen the Bald, the two being in that early day the same name as Ewing, then exercising the functions of king of Strathclyde, was engaged in war as an ally of Malcolm II., and lost his life in one of the battles. It appears that this ended (except in the Welsh country which was part of Strathclyde) all serious Strathclyde claims to independence of Alba. Malcolm II. died in 1034. Duncan, the son of Malcolm’s daughter, succeeded, as descent yet ran in the female line. Before that event, and about 987, the Danes and Norwegians, coming down upon Alba afresh, obtained a stronger footing on the west coast. As a result, Thorfinn, of Norse descent in part and cousin of Duncan, claimed jurisdiction over Sutherland and Caithness. Of course another savage war followed, and during it Macbeda, governor of Ross and Moray, murdered Duncan about 1039 and gave Shakespeare the material which he uses so well in one of his productions, changing Macbeda’s name to Macbeth, and ascribing to Macbeth power the real Macbeda did not enjoy. Macbeth’s father had, years before, been slain by Malcolm, and so the killing had both ambition and revenge as motive.
Macbeda then ruled until killed in a war August 15, 1057, led by Malcolm Canmore (or Cennmor), Duncan’s oldest son. About that time Thorfinn died. The Angle kingdom of Lothian, which had sprung up in old Northumbria territory, had become subject to Alba, it seems most probable, as a result of the battle of Carham, 1018, when “the entire people from the Tees to the Tweed, with their nobility, almost wholly perished in fighting against an almost endless host of Scots,” as the Albanians, whether Scots or Picts, long were called. Therefore, Maxwell concludes, “I think you may regard 15th August, 1057, the date of Malcolm’s victory of Lumphanan—as the real birthday of the Kingdom of Scotland.” About that time Alba became known as Scotia, a name theretofore long used to indicate Ireland. It is said that the name Scotia, to indicate what had theretofore been Alba (or any part of North Britain) was first used by a writer named Mariomes Scotus, who describes Malcolm II as rex Scotiae, King of Scotia, and Brain, king of Ireland, as rex Hibernia, king of Hibernia, says Skene. From that statement North Britain came to be known as Scotland. The writer Scotus lived 1028 to 1081. “The author of the Life of St. Cadral,” also says Skene, “in the eleventh century, alike applies the name ‘Scotia’ to North Britain.” Hence, from Scotia to indicate the combined country of Scot, Pict and Welsh Cymri, or Cumbri, comes the name Scotland, which now, of course, includes also much of the former Northumbria of the old Saxon days.
When Thorfinn died Malcolm married his widow, thus ingratiating himself with the Norse element. She died, and then Malcolm married, in 1067, Margaret, sister of Eadgar, son of Atheling, and heir to the Saxon throne of England. Thus Malcolm drew into closer union with his people the Saxons of Lothian and Northumberland, and laid the foundation for union between Scotland and England. Atheling and his sisters and many powerful Saxons had fled to Malcolm’s kingdom upon the conquest of England by the Normans in 1067, under William the Conqueror. Thus was laid the foundation of the subsequent wars between Norman England and Scotland.
The death in battle of Malcolm III. (or Malcolm Canmore), November 13, 1093, and of Queen Margaret in Edinburgh a few days later, awoke again the racial bitterness of the land. The Scots wanted Donald Ban, Malcolm’s brother; the Saxons clamored for Duncan, Malcolm’s son (said by some to have been illegitimate), and the Gaelic Highlanders recognized Ban (or Bane, as usually spelled), and the Welsh of the Strathclyde county favored Duncan, who had long resided in England. Duncan was absent in England at that time, and for a short while Bane assumed regal functions. Duncan returned to Scotland, accompanied by Norman and Saxon advisers, and for a time the Highlanders were reconciled to him. “But the Scots arose next against him, and killed nearly all his men,” “becoming reconciled on this condition that Duncan should never bring English or Normans into the country.” This was in 1093. Eadmund, half-brother of Duncan, conspired with Donald Bane and Duncan’s murder followed, killed by a governor or earl, as was the earlier Duncan; and Bane thereupon again ruled the kingdom for a time. But Eadgar Atheling led an army from England and put Edmund (Eadgar) “as King in fealty to William,” king of England, on the throne of Scotland. This Edmund (Eadgar), Margaret’s son by Malcolm, was enthroned in 1097 or 1098, and died unmarried in 1109. Bane, his eyes have been put out, died in prison, ending his line of Scottish kings. Eadgar by will partitioned his kingdom, giving to his brother Alexander all Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde and the country south of the Forth, to include Edinburgh. Thus he hoped to please and quiet the fierce Gaelic people of the Highlands. To his brother David, Malcolm’s youngest son, he gave Lothian and Cumbrian (Strathclyde), under the title of earl, because David, having long resided at the English court, was thoroughly Anglicized. Finally David gathered into his hands the kingdom of all Scotland without much warring, and died in 1153. Henry, his son and heir-apparent, having died before his father, Malcolm, Henry’s son succeeded.
The latter became Malcolm IV., or Malcolm the Maiden, “and was the first king recorded to have been crowned at Scone.” The Celts of the Highlands were not pleased; rebellions, wars and many tribulations beset this monarch; the latest before his death led by the renowned Somerled of Argyll, Lord of the Isles, 1164, in the interest of William McEth, who claimed the throne by descent under an old law. Malcolm IV. died in 1165. His brother, William the Lion, who had a Gaelic Ewen as an ancestor, received the throne. In the reign of this monarch the Roman Catholic Church came into fuller recognition. William was zealous for the complete independence of his kingdom, and grasped every aid in that end. The Pope co-operated.
Now, to our family history the most significant fact in the reign of Malcolm IV. is that all the country from the Grampian Hills, stretching from the Firth and the Tay, around the whole coast of Scotland to Beanly Firth, was more completely occupied by an Anglo-Saxon population. Malcolm IV. drove “all the Celts from the rich province of Moray and settled it with the mixed races of the south,” that is, with Anglo-Saxons (Campbell, Scotland, pg. 36; Skene, 3 Celtic Scotland, pg. 27.) So also into Galloway, during the reign of this monarch, the Saxons swarmed, and into all the Lowlands their laws and customs were more and more introduced. This fact, we shall see, accounts for the dispersions of our old Strathclyde family from the Lowlands of Scotland; and that we might better appreciate this cause of the dispersion I have given this resume of the coming of the Saxons and the founding of the Teutonic kingdoms in Scotland.
It will, also, be at least interesting to bear in mind the rather strange fact that “Scotland got its name from the Scots, yet they spoke Gaelic, and their language gets its name from the Angles, who came from the banks of the Elbe.” The Angles early spoke the forms of what is now English. Up to 1400 the term Scotch was used to indicate exclusively the Gaelic, the language of the Celtic descendants occupying the mountains of the north and west of Scotland, known as the Highlands; while the Lowlanders then and for many years later spoke Anglo-Saxon. (W. C. McKenzie, A Short History of the Scottish Highlands, pg. 67.) After 550 the speech of the Lowlanders became known as Scots to distinguish it from the Gaelic of the Highlanders, and from the Early English then spoken south of the River Tweed.
Page last updated 13 October 2008.