23 February 2012

Ancient connections among the Pretanic Isles

Connections between the Scots and the Irish and the Britons go back centuries, even before the rise of the Roman Empire.

In medieval times, even as late as negotiations between Brian O’Neill, King of Tir Eoin, and Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, for the latter’s brother Edward to take the throne as High King of Ireland, Ireland and Scotland were referred to as Scotia Major and Scotia Minor respectively.

Recent genetic research has determined that, genetically speaking, the people of the British Isles predominantly descend from immigrants out of northwest Iberia (with a 75-95% genetic match), with their closest genetic relatives outside the area being the Galicians and the Basque.

This is more true in some parts than others, say western and northern Ireland and northwestern Scotland versus southern England, but even the latter on average are genetically more Insular (75%) than they are Northwest European (25%).

In the most ancient times, geographers in the Mediterranean called the British Isles by the name Pretanic Isles, after the dominant Celtic people who lived there, the Pretani.  From Pretani comes not only the Latin word Britannia and the English words Britain and Britons, but the later P-Celtic words Prydain and Brithwyr as well as the Q-Celtic word Cruithin, by which the Goidels referred to those whom the Romans called the Picts, groups of whom could be found on both islands.

In the days of Julius Caesar, many of the tribes in Gaul moved at least parts of their numbers to the south of Britain to escape the Roman legions, which proved futile after the invasion and conquest of the isle by the Empire.

Only one part of the island remained unconquered, and near the end of the 3rd century, Roman writers began to refer to these peoples as the Pictii, and distinguished between two confederations: the Caledonii (Coille Daon) and the Maetae (Miathi).

The only time Scotland north of the Firths (of Forth and of Clyde) came under Roman domination was during Agricola’s campaign of 80-84 CE.  This included beginning of the largest legionary fortress in the Imperium Romanum, Pinnata Castra, at Inchtuthil and forts as far north as Cawdor.  After retiring south, the general gave the name Vespasiana to the area in honor of the Imperator Augutus at Rome.  His gains, however, fell apart when he was recalled to Rome in 85 CE. Septimus Severus attempted to repeat Agricola’s gains in the 3rd century, even giving himself the title Britannicus, but these too were short-lived.

In later decades, there were also two confederations, referred to by classical writers as the Di-Caledones and the Uerturiones, the latter of which became known to the Irish as Fortriu. These two tribes or groups were to dominate the politics of the island north of the Firths (Clyde and Forth) for centuries as the kingdoms of Circinn (later Alba) and Moireabh.

A clue to their origins, culture, and language can be seen in one of the pejorative names the Romans used for them, Brittunculi, or Little Britons.

There were also many tribes of the Picts, or Cruithne, in Ireland, surviving into the Middle Ages as the Dal nAraidi, the Ui Eachach Cobo, the Connaill Muirtheimhne, the Cenel Foghartaigh, the Loigis, the Sogain, and the Fothairt.  In modern times these families have “conventional” family names such as O’Lynch, MacCartan, MacGenis, O’Mannin, O’More, O’Nolan, O’Doran, O’Lawlor, O’Dowling, others.

In the latter half of the Roman Empire, several tribes had groups on both islands. 

The Dumnonii of southwest Britain had a branch in Ireland (originally in Leinster but moved to Connacht) called the Fir Domnann. The Fir Domnann were said by some to have come to Ireland from the area of Gwynedd (formerly Caernarfonshire) in Wales. 

Another branch were the Damnonii of later southwest Scotland who formed the core of the post-Roman kingdom of Alt Clud, called Ystrad Clud after its seat moved to Govan. Its Gaelic name was Strath Cluid, anglicized as Strathclyde. 

At one time, this kingdom extended all the way down to the southern borders of the former kingdom of Rheged (present-day Cumbria) after that kingdom had been absorbed. It also extended farther north than is usually assumed, bordering the Strath Eireann, or Ystrad Aeron, the “valley of the Irish” now commonly called Strathearn. 

The Wallaces and the Galbraiths certainly descend from its gentry, and the Olivers, Buchanans, and possibly Campbells may have some connection as well. Strathclyde was itself absorbed by the kingdom of Alba in the 12thcentury under David I of Scots, whose title before ascension was Prince of the Cumbrians. 

The Galeion were another early invading tribe from the east according to the early legends, and survived as the Galenga of the north of Leinster.

The Gangani of Munster were a branch of the Gangani in North Wales.

Likewise, the Brigantes (Ui Bairrche of Leix), the Corieltauvi (Coraind of Sligo, Cuirenrige and Dal Cuirind of Wexford), the Manapii (Fir Manach of Fermanagh), and Belgae (Builg, or Fir Bolg, of Cork) of Britain all had branches in their neighbor to the west.

Others have noted the similarity of the tribal names of the Vennicnii (Fineachan) of west Ulster and the Venicones of southeast Alba, i.e. the area of Fife and Strathearn, which Ptolemy placed on his map of the Pretanic Isles in 140 CE.

It’s not unthinkable that the Cornovii of the Midlands, the Cornovii of the Cornish peninsula, and the Cornovii of Caithness were related also. 

Several tribes in Britain were branches of groups on the Continent, such as the Parisii, the Suessoines, the Redones, the Atrebates, the Belgae, and the Menapii, the latter two of which also having branches in Ireland.

Incidentally, the autonomous Ducatas Noviodunum (aka Domain of Soissons; 457-486) that existed in northern Gaul during the time of Vortigern, his son Vortimer, and Aurelius Ambrosius, ending about the same time Arthur became supreme commander of the Britons, was seated at the city of the same name that earlier served as the seat of the Suessoines. More on that below.

The earliest settlement of the Gaelic Irish in the isle to the east mentioned in legends was supposedly led by Cairpre Riata himself, founder of the Dal Riata. He was supposedly one of four sons of Conaire Mor, according to legend High King of Ireland, c. 100-40 BCE. 

The kingdom was established in what is now Co. Antrim, then spread to what is now Argyll. Since the kingship was seated in Ireland until Fergus Mor mac Erc migrated across the Hebridean Sea at the end of the 5th century, we can assume Cairpre eventually returned west.

The next mention of a colony from the west in the east is by Lugaid mac Con of the Corco Loigde in Munster, later High King of Ireland (195-225 CE). According to legend, he fled to Alba with most of his warriors and their families after losing a war for the kingship of southern Ireland to the forces of Eogan mac Ailill Ollamh mac Mog Nuadat (ancestor of the Eoganachta). 

When the “King of the Picts”, probably at Inverness, learned who Lugaid really was, he raised a group of warriors from among his own people and sent them with Lugaid and his warriors to fight his enemies. After killing Eogan during the Battle of Maigh Mucruimhe, Lugaid became High King since Art mac Cuinn had also died there. In the meantime, he left a colony in the Hebrides under his son, Fothaid Canan.

Upon becoming High King, Lugaid fostered Cormac mac Art, son of the man whose place he’d taken. 

Cormac later succeeded to the High Kingship, after a brief reign by Lugaid’s immediate successor, Fergus Dubdetach, ruling 226-266 CE. It was during his reign that Demna Fionn mac Cumhail served as head of the Fianna of Ireland.

After the power of the Fianna was broken by the High King at the Battle of Gabhra in 284, the survivors, according to legends told in Argyll down to the 19th century, retreated across the Sea of the Hebrides as others had done before.

One story even tells of how the warriors of the Fianna, including Fionn himself, sleep in the hills surrounding Glen Etive awaiting their call to return.

Archaeological evidence discovered recently indicates that German warriors may have been imported into Roman Britannia as foederati as early as the late 3rd century. Certainly Dumfries, from Dun Phris or Fort of the Frisians, would indicate this, since it is an area held by Brythonic kingdoms long after the mass invasions began in the 5th century. 

The main reason for the establishment of these colonies of foederati was an attempt to supplement legionaires to stop raiding by the Irish (called Scotti, the word from whence “Scot” comes), the Picts, the Attacotti, and other Saxons. Small groups of Sarmatians, Saxons, Frisians, Angles, Franks, Jutes, and possibly even Irish took part.

Some of the earliest reports of Irish settlement in the southern parts of the island of Britain were probably of groups of just such foederati. In addition to the well-known extension of the territory into northwest Scotland by the Dal Riata of Ulster, who then held land on both sides of the Hebridean Sea, other groups in Ireland also planted colonies in Britain beginning in the 4th century.

The Lleyn peninsula of northwest Wales is named for the Laighin from Leinster who colonized it, at least for a time, while Gwynedd gets its name from Feni, one of several names for the people of Ireland.

A group of Ui Laithin from Munster settled in Dumnonia, while a group of Eoganachta led by a chieftain named Cairbre from the vicinity of Kerry settled in the Pictish region of Circinn. 
Supposedly about this same time, the Ui Bairrche, the Irish branch of the British Brigantes, are also supposed to have begun colonizing what later became Scotland.

Not long afterward, in approximately 326 CE, Cairill mac Cairbre, aka Colla Uais, High King of Ireland, was overthrown by his uncle, Muiredach Tirech, son of the previous High King, and expelled to Alba. A previous king of Alba had been their mother’s father. 

Colla Uais, fled there along with his two brothers, Aed, aka Colla Menn, and Muiredach, aka Colla Fo Crith, and three hundred warriors. A year or two later, thirty returned, including the Three Collas, and in 331 CE, defeated the last Ulaidh high king of Ulster, destroyed Emain Macha, and established the kingdom of Airghialla out of part of it.

Other areas of the north colonized by Irish immigrants or ruled by Irish dynasties include Angus (Oengus), The Mearns (Magh Geighinn, or “Plain of Circinn”), Atholl (Ath Fodhla, or “New” Ireland), Strathearn (Strath Eireann, “Valley of the Irish”, in Brythonic, Ystrad Aeron), Gowrie (Gabhrain), and Lennox, so named for the dynasty who ruled there, the Lemnaig, who had previously held Ath Fodhla.

A group of the Deisi, who also named Desmond (Deisi Mumha), settled in what is now southwest Wales under a king named Ilan and gave their name to Dyfed. The son of a later Dyfed king called Brychan (Briocan in Irish) gained the neighboring rival Brythonic kingdom of Garth Madrun by marriage to the king’s daughter and left it with his name as Brycheiniog.

The earliest post-Roman ruler of Dumnonia is called Conor Mor, obviously Irish, at least in name.

Even Arthur the Soldier, in later legend “King” Arthur, may himself have been Irish; the earliest mention of him calls him not king, but “dux bellorum”, meaning, literally, “commander of the battles”, and says specifically that he was a military commader, not one of the kings. 

While there is no record of anyone in Roman or previous post-Roman Britain with the name Arthur or its equivalent, examples of men named Art in Ireland go back to at least the 2nd century CE; Art mac Cuinn, High King of Ireland, for example.

The Ui Echach Cobo, previously mentioned as one of the Cruithne tribes of Ireland, invaded and colonized the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. 

A group of the Ulaidh (or Dal Fiatach, aka MacDonlevys, as they were later known), for whom Ulster is named, settled in the southwest part of Scotland called Galloway for the later Norse-Gaelic invaders who conquered them called the Gall-ghaidheal, or Stranger Gaels.

The Dal Riata previously mentioned were fully active in the politics and tribal warfare of Ulster, with some of the monarchs dying in battle there. The kingdom declined after the middle 8th century CE when they were conquered by the armies of Oengus I mac Fergus. They never regained a position of real power after that, though the early decades of the 8th century saw them temporarily regain a measure of independence; they did, however, leave their name on their territory as Earr a’ Gaidheal, or Seacoast of the Gaels.

Of all these groups of Irish/Scotti invaders, the Eoganachta Maigi Dergind (Magh Geirginn), are probably the most important since one of their members, Oengus I mac Fergus, was the first to dominate all of Scotland north of the Firths, the area later called Alba. 

The kingdom which formed the base of his power was Fortriu, previously thought to have been centered on Strathearn between Atholl and Lennox but now known to be the area later called Moray, or Moireabh (meaning the Mormaerdom of the Early Middle Ages rather than the greatly reduced later county of the High Middle Ages).

In addition to Oengus I, mention should also be made of an earlier Gael who ruled Fortriu, Bridei mac Dargart, son of a Pictish princess named Der-Ilei and Dargart mac Finnguinne of the Cenel Comghall of Dal Riata. Bridei succeeded to the throne in 696 CE and was succeeded by his brother Nechtan in 706. Nechtan ruled until 732 (except for an interregnum where a usurper ruled from 724-728), when he died and was succeeded by the afore-mentioned Oengus mac Fergus. 

Meaning, that the throne of Inverness (Inbhir Nis) was in the hands of Gaelic rulers from 696 CE.

The reasons Bridei couldn’t become king over both the Picts and the Scots were twofold.

First, his kindred, the Cenel Comghall of Cowall and Knapdale, were, by the time of his ascension, one of the minor kindreds of Dal Riata, the others being the Cenel Baodan (Clan Gillean) of Morvern, the Cenel nOengusa of Islay and Mull, and the Cenel Choncride (or Conraig) of Islay. The major powers were the Cenel nGabhrain of Kintyre (Ceann Tir) and the Cenel Loairn of Argyll (Earr a’ Gaidheal) and Lorn. 

Second, Oengus I became ruler of all the north by conquest, not by succession, an accomplishment of which Bridei apparently was incapable.

By the way, Bridei mac Dargart was also grandson of Bili ap Nechtan, King of Alt Clud. Nor was he the first king of Fortriu from the ruling family of Strathclyde (Ystrad Clwd); the brothers Garnait, Bridei, and Talorg, sons of Gwid son of Nechtan (d. 630) of Strathclyde, had earlier held the throne of Inverness. 

The three brothers were in turn succeeded by the son of the Earl of Beornicia, Talorcan, who was succeeded by Garnait and Drest (both Brythonic names), both sons of one Dungal; while Dungal is not identified, his name is Gaelic.

The Britons of Alt Clud/Strathclyde, and their cousins in Manaw, Eidyn, Gododdin, Rheged, Argoed, Dent, Peak, Bryneich, Deifr, Elmet, and Ebrauc (York), were known to the Welsh, or Cyrmry, as the Gwyr y Gogledd, or Men of the North, and their lands the Y Hen Gogledd. 

Alt Clud, renamed Ystrad Clud after the capital was moved to Govan, was the longest surviving of these kingdoms, including the territory of Rheged for a time, only losing its identity on the succession of David I mac Malcolm III to the throne of Alba, by which time it also included most of Lothian and Scottish Bernicia. 

Yet even then they did not entirely lose their identity; as late as the reign of Alexander III, Scotland’s monarch was using the title “Rex Scotorum et Britanniarum” on official documents.  A century and a half before that, David I upon his accession to the throne promulgated a codification of Scottish law called Leges inter Brettos et Scottos (Laws of the Brets and Scots) that lasted until they were discontinued by Edward I after his victory in the First War of Scottish Independence.

In the early records, the kingship of Dal Riata did alternate back and forth between the descendants of Comgall, the elder son of Domangart mac Fergus Mor, and those of his younger brother Gabran. By the 7th century, the Cenel Comghall’s fortunes had apparently receded and the Cenel Loairn moved much more to the forefront, more often occupying the seat of kingship than Cenel nGabhrain. 

However, only a few chiefs in Dal Riata were strong and capable enough to be recognized as sovereign over all the various Cenels, the first being Aedan mac Gabhrain (574-606) and the next being Ferchar Fada of Cenel Loairn (680-697) although it is possible that Fergus Mor mac Erc (d. 501) also achieved this recognition; these were, in fact, the only overkings to achieve that goal in any realistic definition.

Even the alleged member of that dynasty who Middle Age geneaologists claimed was the first king of the Scots and Picts, Kenneth I (Cinaed) mac Alpin, reigned as Rex Pictorum from 848 CE, as did his successors until 900 CE.

Constantine (Causantin) mac Aeda, who took the throne that year, ruled as “King of Alba” ”, the Pictish name for the country, rather than “King of Picts”, as did his own successors to the time of David I. 

And speaking of David I, contrary to popular belief it was neither he nor his father Malcolm III who first introduced Norman lords into the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland, but the reputed last of the Gaelic kings himself, MacBethad mac Findlaech, predecessor of Malcolm III.

Around this time, the title of Mormaer appeared, probably of Pictish rather than Gaelic origin, since the word itself is not Gaelic. Mormaers appear to be roughly the equivalent of Anglo-Saxon Earls at the time when the kingdom of England was composed of four earldoms: Northhumbria, Mercia, Wessex, and East Anglia. 

Mormaerdoms of the kingdom of Alba included: Moray (Moireabh, sometimes still called Fortriu), Fife (Fibh), Buchan, Marr, Angus (Oengus), Mearns (Magh Geighinn, or Circinn), Atholl (Ath Fodhla), Caithness (Cait), Strathearn (Strath Eireann), Lennox (Lemnaig), Menteith (Teadhaich), and Ross (Ros), even the later Carrick (Carraig) and Dunbar (Din Baer); the title is still used in Irish annals for Robert the Bruce as Earl of Carrick in the 14thcentury. 

Other provinces mentioned, without giving the men who ruled them the title of Mormaer, include Forthriff, Gowrie, Galloway (Gall-ghaidheal), the Isles, and Orkney, the latter of which may have had a Mormaer separately from Caithness.

The reason I mention the Mormaers is because Irish annals cite three of them as dying in battle during a war between rival kings in the north of Ireland. In addition, Malcolm (Maelcoluim) II, king of Alba at the time, sent a sizable contingent to fight with Brian Borumha, High King of Ireland, (to whose daughter he was married) at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. 

Brian styled himself in Latin “Imperator Scotorum”, or Emperor of the Irish, Scotorum being the name by which the inhabitants of both Alba and Ireland were known at the time. 

Among those Malcolm sent were Domnall, his son and heir, and several Mormaers, two of whom died along with his son; the heads of all three served as part of the honour guard on the High King’s bier carried from the battlefield to Armagh (Ard Macha) for the funeral and were subsequently buried with him, in the style of ancient Irish kings.

After Malcolm II, with the death of his son at Clontarf, the Cenel Connaill came to power as Kings of Alba in the person of Duncan (Donnchaidh) mac Crinan, his son-in-law. The Cenel Connaill, called the Kindred of St. Columba in Scotland, had first come to that country when St. Colmcille, or Columba (Crimthann mac Felimid of Cenel Connaill), established the great abbey of Iona in the 6th century. 

Colmcille was held as the patron saint of Alba, as well as of Dal Riata, until the Pictish king Nechtan mac Dargart of 696-706 changed the patron to St. Peter, which was changed to St. Andrew in 820 by Oengus II mac Fergus, brother of the Causantin who founded the church at Dunkeld (Dun Chaillean) and moved Alba’s share relics of St. Colmcille there, the remainder going to Kells.

The Cenel Connaill shared an ancestor with some of the kings of Dal Riata, the Cenel Loairn, for Loarn himself was great-grandfather to St. Colmcille as much as Conall Gulban, his daughter having married the latter’s son, Feidlim. 

The Cenel Connaill and the Dal Riata remained close allies until 637, when the king of Dal Riata, Domnall Brecc (629-642), crossed the Irish Sea to fight alongside the Cruithnic Dal nAraide against the forces of the High King, who also happened to be head of the Cenel Connaill.

After the primacy was moved from Iona to Dunkeld, the abbot became more and more a temporal lord as well as an abbot. By the time of Duncan’s father Crinan, the comarbha of St. Colmcille, head of the Kindred of St. Columba in Scotland, was Abbot of Dunkeld, Mormaer of Atholl, Abthane of Dull, Kirkmichael, & Madderty, and Seneschal of the Isles.

After Duncan was killed in battle near Inverness, the throne of Alba was assumed by MacBethad mac Findlaech of Moray, who previous to this was referred to as King of Moray and King of Fortriu in Irish annals of the time.

The rulers of Moray had broken from the kings of Alba at Scone in the time of Malcolm I (942-954) and held their territory more or less independently since that time, and may have even held sway over Buchan and Marr.

There was, however, apparently still some acknowledgement of the king at Scuin since MacBethad received Duncan at Inverness, the capital of Fortriu and of Moray since ancient times, at least back to the days of Bridei mac Maelchon, to whom Columcille travelled to get permission for his abbey to remain. 

Macbethad was the great-grandson of the Morgan who initiated the break. His father, Findlaech mac Ruadri (d. 1020) and his father’s successor, Malcolm mac Maelbride (1020-1029), as rulers of Moray were both called King of Alba in the Irish annals; Gillecomgan mac Maelbride (1029-1032), who succeeded Malcolm, was called merely Mormaer of Moray; Macbethad (King of Moray 1032-1057) was his successor; Lulach mac Gillecomgan (1057-1058) was also called King of Alba; Maelsnechtai mac Lulach (1058-1085), his immediate successor in Moray, King of Moray, as are his successors down to Oengus, grandson of Maelsnechtai, who died in 1130 during the invasion of the south.

Traditionally, Kenneth I mac Alpin, who, until recently, was held to be the first king of the Scots and the Picts, was thought to be a member of the Dal Riata dynasty of the Cenel nGabhrain, and was said to have moved the seat of the Picts from Inverness to Scone because of the depredations of the Norse. 

However, since the rulers of Moray continued with Inverness as their seat, this explanation, while still possible, seems more and more implausible, especially in light of the fact that claims he moved St. Colmcille’s relics to Dunkeld have been shown to be false. 

Furthermore, given the existence of the historical district of Gowrie between Perth and Dundee, belonging to Atholl but just across the Firth of Tay from Fife, it’s possible that either the Cenel nGabhrain by the time of Kenneth I had moved east, or even that the Cenel nGabhrain always existed in the east.

The annals do, in fact, identify the "sons of Connad Cerr (mac Connaill; d. 629)" of Cenel nGabhrain with the men of (Fife) Fibh, in contrast to the main line of Cenel nGabhrain, whose territory lay in Kintyre. What’s more, all of the locations identified with Kenneth I mac Alpin—Scone, Forteviot, St. Andrews, Dunkeld—are within Atholl. 

It is entirely possible that the junior line of Cenel nGabhrain, having married into the dynasties which ruled Atholl and Fife separately or together, stepped into the vacuum left by the deaths of so many leading men of Fortriu and Dal Riata in the northern battle against the Vikings in 839.

The story about how Kenneth I invited all the Pictish nobles to a banquet and massacred them has been so disproven by so many and so well that only its falsehood needs to be mentioned here. 

Pictish dynasties ruled Mormaerships and smaller territories well into the High Middle Ages; indeed, Garnait of Mar was one of Robert the Bruce’s strongest supporters. The families of Brodie, MacRae, MacMillan, Buchan, Erskine, Rattray, Forbes, Urquhart, Mackenzie, Nicholson, Matheson, MacLaren, Balquhidder, Tyrie, Logie, Glencairie, Burie, Strathearn, and MacLeish all have Pictish roots.

The Cenel nGabhrain and their rivals the Cenel Loairn had long fought over the kingship of Dal Riata. According to legend, the Cenel nGabhrain married into the southern Pictish royal house while the Cenel Loairn moved north up Glen Mor and married into the house of the rulers of Fortriu/Moray. 

Given the proven falsehood of the other stories, it seems possible a member of a relatively minor Dal Riatan dynasty may have have married into a southern Pictish dynasty and that upon his succession Kenneth I switched the seat of the kingdom of the Picts to Scone because that was his base of power already.

The power of Fortriu had been shattered at the battle against the Norse in which both Eoghan mac Oengus of the Picts and Aed mac Boanta of Dal Riata, along with a large part of their forces, had been killed in 839, leading to ten years of civil strife that allowed Kenneth I to seize power.

The possibility of this conclusion becomes more likely when you take into account the fact that the latest reliable reference in the annals to a King of Dal Riata from the Cenel nGabhrain is of the death of Eochaid mac Eochaid in 733 CE, which, by some coincidence, is the very year that Dal Riata were allegedly divided into two separate kingdoms, the western of which fell under the dominion of Indretach, king of the Cruithni tribe Dal nAraide, who later took the surname O’Lynch.

The Dal Riata in Antrim were ruled directly by the O’Quinns of Cary in the Glens of Antrim. The O’Quinns later lost their claims by marriage to a Scoto-Norman exile named John Bisset, whose heirs became MacKeown, who in turn and by the same way lost to the MacDonnells of Antrim, a branch of the great Clan Donald of the Isles.

If true, this might explain the long-standing rivalry between the kings in the south and the rulers of the north, which continued until the time of David I, who killed the remaining members of the dynasty and broke up the territory.

The claims of the northern line, by the way, were continued by MacWilliams claimants, who were descended from a daughter of Oengus, King of Moray, married to William fitz Duncan, son of Malcolm III Ceannmor mac Duncan, until the last of their number, an infant girl, had her brains bashed out publicly in 1230 by the head of the Scoto-Norman House of Comyn.

Godfraidh mac Fergus, of the southern Ui Neill Clann Cholmain of Midhe (rivals of their cousins, Sil Aeda Slaine of Brega) and likely part Norse himself, became about this time Ri Innes Gall, or King of the Foreigners’ Isles (the Hebrides, or Eilean na Bride).

Godfraidh was the probable ancestor to the Kings of Man and the Isles who ruled the Hebrides until the time of Somerled, who married the daughter of the heiress of Kintyre (Ceann Tir), and used that as a platform to conquer their kingdom. 

Somerled became the ancestor, in the male line, of the Clan Donald, the Clan Dougall, and the Clan Ruari.

The Cenel Connaill families in Scotland include Wemyss (senior line of Clan Duff), Camerons, Dunbars, Moncreiffes, Robertsons, MacDuffs, Mackintoshes, Scrymgeours, Spens, Abernethys, Bannermans, Syrases, Scotts of Balweary, Duffs of Muldavit, Shaws, Farquharsons, McCombies, and MacThomases.

The Cenel nEoghan are represented in the Clan Rose, who are connected to the O’Cahans of Tyrone, the Clan Ross (who descend from the O’Beolains of Cenel nEoghan, abbots of Applecross and comharbas of St. Maelrubha), and the O’Briodys of the Isles, who are a branch of the ecclesiastical O’Brollaghans of Cenel nEoghan.

There are claims that the Cenel nGabhrain survives in the groups of clans known as the Siol Alpin (Clan Gregor, Clan Grant, Clan na Aba or Macnabs, Clan Ferguson of Strachur, Clan Kersey, Clan Fingon or Mackinnons, Clan t’Saoir or Macintyres, Clan Duffie or Macfie, and Clan Guaire or Macquarrie). However, strong claims have lately been made that these clans descend from the Pictish inhabitants of the western Highlands and/or the Cenel Loairn.

From the Cenel Loairn are supposedly descended the Ui Duibhne/Campbells (who are demonstrably a Scoto-Norman house in the male line), MacArthurs, MacGillivrays, MacInneses, MacNachtans, Clan Chattan (MacPhersons, Davidsons, Cattanachs, MacBeans), Camerons, MacMartins, MacGillonies, and MacSorleys. 

The chiefs of the Camerons, also a branch of Clan Duff, married into the Cenel Loairn clan descended from Gilleoin of the Aird which also includes the MacMartins, MacGillonies, and MacSorleys. 

The Ui Duibhne, into which the Scoto-Norman Campbells (de Campo Bello) married, were the junior branch of the Siol Diarmid, of which the MacArthurs were the senior branch, though their premier position had already been lost to the O’Duins before the coming of the Campbells. 

According to the Senchus fer n-Alban, Cenel Loairn was further subdivided into Cenel Shalaig, Cenel Cathbath, Cenel nEchdach, and Cenel Murerdaig.

The Clan Aodh, or Clan Morgan, i.e. the Mackays, descend directly from the MacHeths and MacWilliams of the High Middle Ages whose ancestor of the Clan Duff (from Alexander, or Aodh, first Abbot of Abernethy) had married into the old House of Moray, making them descendants of both the Cenel Connaill (in Scotland) and the Cenel Loairn.

The Cenel Comghall survive as the Siol Gillivray, and are descended from the marriage of Aedh Androdhan O’Neill of Airghialla to the heiress of Cenel Comghall around the year 1100 CE. The Cenel Comghall/Siol Gillivray includes MacLachlan, Lamont, MacSorley, MacNeill of Barra, McNeill of Gigha, MacEwen, MacSweeney of Donegal, MacSween of Skye, MacQueen of Strathdearn, and Macleay/Livingstone.

The Cenel Baodan of Morvern, descended from a younger son of Cenel Loairn, became known as Clan Gilleoin from the 13th century after Gille Eoin of the Battle Axe, and moved from Morvern to Mull, with branches in Duart, Lochbuie, and Urquhart (the latter of which joined the Clan Chattan confederation).

Of the Cenel nOengusa, supposedly descended from Oengus Mor mac Erc, nothing is known other than that they had lands in Islay and Mull; perhaps Godfraidh mac Fergus was one of their number.

The Cenel Conchride also lived on Islay, descended from Conchriath mac Bolc mac Setna mac Fergus Bec mac Erc.

The Scots in the east also migrated west prior to the Plantations, including entire clans being set up, most notably in the MacKeowns (descended from the Bissets of Scotland) and MacDonnells of Antrim (a branch of Clan Donald), the MacSweeneys of Donegal (one of the Siol Gillivray clans), the MacSheehys of Desmond in Munster (another branch of Clan Donald), the MacCoys of Moylurg in Connaught (a branch of Clan Aodh/Clan Morgan), and a MacGuaire clan related to the Macquarries of Ulva. 

Individuals and small groups no doubt also made the move, all before the 1600’s.
Interestingly, Ranald the Wise, Jarl of More, was father of both Rolf the Granger, Count of Rouen, ancestor of the Dukes of Normandy, and Einar, ancestor of the Norse Jarls of Orkney and Earls of Caithness who were closely related to the Kings of Dublin and Kings of Man and the Isles. 

Therefore the Normans rulers, at least, were closely related to at least a part of the people whom they later subjugated, though the greater part of the Viking invaders who settled Normandy were Danes as opposed to Norse, with a few Swedes in the mix, even some Orcadians and Hiberno-Norse. The colonization, however, was spread thin over a population mostly of local origin.

The region of France that later became Normandy had been a quasi-independent state ruled from Noviodunum (Soissons), by two successive Roman magisters militum of Gaul, Aegidius and Syragius, from 457 to 486 CE. Saxons raiders and Frankish invaders had only sparsely settled Normandy, and most inhabitants were descendants of the original Gaulish tribes who lived in the area, with some spillover from Armorica (Gaulish: Aremorica), which came to be known as Brittany. 

Under the Franks, the area of the later Normandy was called Neustria. Before the Roman conquest, the area had been the seat of the kingdom of the Suessoines which straddled the English Channel.

Speaking of Brittany, two of its traditional provinces bear witness to its immigrants of the Early Middle Ages: Dumnonie and Cornouaille. In addition, another of its traditional regions, Vannetais, is called Gwened in Breton.

In modern times, Irish immigrants to Scotland are Irish-Scots. Conversely, Scottish immigrants to Ireland may be called Scots-Irish, but this term is usually reserved for those who immigrated to Ireland during the Plantation period, at first meaning strictly the Scots, but later including English and Welsh too, if they fell under the Dissenter (non-Anglican) umbrella. 

The Protestant Ascendancy, or Anglican Ascendancy in later terms, wore the term Anglo-Irish, meaning those who came over during the Plantations. The earlier wave of invaders/immigrants from the island to the east fall in the category of Hiberno-Normans, though many were of Flemish or Welsh origin as well as Cambro-Norman. 

In Northeast Ulster, many now prefer the term Ulster-Scots to Scots-Irish, and both are used colloquially to refer to Protestants there as a group.

“Green Irish” is a term sometimes used for Catholics and/or nationalists/republicans, while “Orange Irish” is a term sometimes used for Protestants and/or unionists/loyalists.  “Black Irish” is a term originating in Canada, the designation “Black” being a diminuitive form of “Blackfeet”, the term given by the Catholic terror group Whiteboys to fellow Catholics who did not boycott Anglo-Irish business and/or the Ascendancy government. It is a pejorative reference in the same vein as the epithet “souper” for those converted to Protestantism during the Great Potato Famine in order to be fed.

Prior to the large influx during the Potato Famine, all newcomers in America from the island of Ireland were simply referred to as “Irish”, regardless of their origin or religion in the home country. Even later this was often the case, so the Protestant John Henry “Doc” Holliday of post-bellum West fame was regarded as much Irish as his cousin and love interest the very Catholic Mattie Holliday, who later became Sister Mary Melanie of the Sisters of Mercy.

The star-crossed Doc and Mattie were the inspirations respectively for Margaret Mitchell’s Rhett Butler and Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in her epic novel,Gone With The Wind. Both were Mitchell’s cousins by marriage.

Many today lament the partition of Northeast Ulster (aka Six Counties, aka Northern Ireland) from the Republic, but historically Ulster has never really been a part of the rest of Ireland at any time, at least not in the past two millennia. 

At one time, the area (as well as Connacht) was literally and physically separate from Ireland: along with the north part of the island of Britain from the mouth of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth, it was once part of the Laurentian craton that now forms most of North America.

The afore-mentioned Attacotti were most likely dispossessed tributary tribes (Aithechthuatha in Irish), mostly from Munster, referred to in some annals as the Deisi (Deisi Mumhan, Deisi Tuisceart, Deisi Becc, & Deisi Temro, not to mention the group who bequeathed their name to Dyfed). 

Anthropologists once thought that the modern Irish Travellers (Pavees in Shelta) are the direct descendants of these Attacotti/Deisi,  In fact, DNA analysis shows that the Irish Travellers originated as a population from different groups in the mid-17th century, around the time of or just after the Confederation Wars.  The nearly identical in culture Tinkers/Travellers/Summer Walkers of the Scottish Highlands (Ceardannan in Gaelic) are similarly descended from likewise dispossessed crofters and clansmen. The name Tinker, also applied sometimes to Irish Travellers, is derived from the Gaelic word “tincuer”, which literally means “craftsman”, and is also the English translation of “Ceardannan”, their name in Scottish Gaelic.

“Irish” groups in Britain

Ulaidh in Novant (Rhinns of Galloway) & Mann
Dal Riata (Earra Gaidheal)
Ath Fodhla
Eoghanachta Magh Geirginn
Strath Eireann
(Cenel n)Oengus(a)
Laighin in Lleyn
Feni in Gwynedd
Deisi in Dyfed & Brycheneoig
Eoghanachta in Dumnonia
Ui Liathin in Dumnonia
Cenel Eoghan
Cenel Connaill
Corcu Loigde (in Alba; aka Dairine, of Ptolemy)
Ui Bairrche (Irish Brigantes) in Alba

“British” groups in Ireland

Galeion/Galenga of northern Leinster
Gangani of Munster (Gangani in North Wales)
Ui Bairrche of Leix (Brigantes)
Coraind of Sligo (Corieltauvi)
Cuirenrige of Wexford (Corieltauvi)
Dal Cuirind of Wexford (Corieltauvi)
Fir Manach of Fermanagh (Manapii)
Builg/Fir Bolg of Cork (Belgae)
Fir Domnan of Connachta (rel. to Damnonii & Dumnonii)

“Pictish” groups in Ireland

Fineachan of Ulster (Venicones)
Dal nAraidi of Ulster
Ui Eachach Cobo
Connaill Muirtheimhne
Cenel Foghartaigh

“Belgae” in the Pretanic Isles

Kingdoms of Y Hen Gogledd

Ystrad Aeron/Strath Eireann (?-?)
Gododdin (420-638)
Din Eidyn (545-638)
Manaw (?-?)
Alt Clut/Ystrad Clud (410-1124)
Novant/Wyr Enouant (535-1025)
Caer Guendoleu (505-573)
Rheged (450-616)
Argoed (535-613)
Ebrauc (420-580)
Bryneich (420-c. 600)
Deifr (420-559)
Pennines (470-525)
Dunoting (525-595)
Peak (525-590)
Elmet (470-617)

Urban centers of Y Hen Gogledd

Din Eidyn (Edinburgh)
Caer Eidyn (Carriden)
Din Guardi (Bamburgh)
Dinas y Brython (Dunbarton)
Din Paladur (Traprain Law)
Din Baer (Dunbar)
Din Gefron (Yeavering Bell)
Caer Ligualid (Carlisle)

The Delbhna

At one time a major power in the island, this population was broken into several parts and scattered across central Ireland. What makes this group interesting to me is (1) the MacConroys are my ancestors and (2) the Dealbhna are according to legend descended from Delbaeth mac Ogma of the Tuatha De Danaan, the race of gods driven underground, literally, by the Milesians.

Delbaeth mac Ogma is the same as Tuireann, the Irish god of thunder, and Ogma, his father, is/was god of eloquence, inspiration, language, magic, music, physical strength, poets, and writers.

1. Delbhna Tir Dha Locha (of the Two Lakes), or Delbhna Feadha (of the Heather), were based in the area of Co. Galway between Lough Corrib and Lough Lurgan (Galway Bay).  Their chiefs took the surname MacConraoi, or MacConroy, later Anglicized to King.  The MacConraoi held Gno Mor while their cadets, O'hEanna or O'Heney, held Gno Beg, but in the annals MacConraoi is always styled Ri (King of) or Tighearna (Lord of) Thira Da Locha.  As chiefs of the name they were styled Mac Mheic Con Raoi.

2. Delbhna Cuile Fabhair once held Maigh Seóla, the area east of Lough Corrib in County Galway, until conquered by the Ó Flaithbertaighs/O’Flahertys (and who were in turn later driven into Connemara, where they became known as Kings of Iar Connacht). Their chiefs took the surname O'Fathairtaigh or Faherty

3. Delbhna Nuadat, or Delbhna Ui Maine, were lords of a large section that is now Athlone in Co, Roscommon, situated between the Suck and Shannon Rivers. From the early historic era they were a subject people of the Ui Maine.  Their chiefs took the surname O'Flannagain or Flannagan

4. Delbhna bEthra may have once formed a single kingdom with the Delbhna Nuadat until subjugated by the Ui Maine. By the late 5th century they had fallen under the control of the Uí Néill.  Their chiefs took the surname MacCochluinn or Coughlan, and their territory was what is now Garrycastle in Co. Offaly

5. Delbhna Mor were located in what is now Devlin in Co. Westmeath.  Their chiefs took the surname O'Finnallain or Fenelon.

6. Delbhna Bheag, or Delbhna Bec, were based in what is now Demifore in Co, Westmeath.  Their chiefs took the surname Ua Maoilchallan, or Mulholland.

7. Delbhna Sith Neannta ruled over the area now called Fairymount in Co. Roscommon.  Their chiefs took the name O'Laoghog or Logue.

8. Delbhna Teannmhagh, or Delbhna Iarthair Mhidhe, at one time controlled what is now Rathconrath in Co. Westmeath.  Their chiefs took the surname Ua Scolaidhe or O'Scully.

The Dal Riata dynasties/tribes in Argyll

Corcu Reti
            Cenel nGabhrain (Kintyre, later Circinn)
            Cenel Comgaill (Cowall)
                        Clann Connad Cerr (Fibh)
            Cenel nGarnait (Skye)
            Cenel Conaing
Cenel Chonride (Islay)
Cenel nOengusa (Islay; poss. Dal Fiatach related to Ui Ibdaig)
Cenel Loairn (later Fortriu/Moireabh)
            Cenel Shalaig (Nether Lorn)
            Cenel Cathboth (Mid Lorn)
            Cenel nEchdach (Upper Lorn)
            Cenel Baetain (Morvern; aka Clann Gilleion)
            Cenel Murerdaig


The Fortuatha were descended from older populations dominant in Ireland in pre- and proto- historic times.  Many of these, like the Debhna above, were themselves divided into a number of sub-groups, often widely dispersed.  They were “kingdoms not ruled directly by members of the dominant dynasty of a province” (Francis John Byrne) and/or “people belonging to a different stock from that of the rulers of the territory” (T.F. O’Rahilly).  Their fortunes varied, some being classed as Aithechthuatha.

  1. Calraige, found mostly in northern Connacht but also in Cos. Westmeath and Longford
  2. Ciannachta, originally from Mumha, found in Brega, Tir Eoghain, and Co. Louth
  3. Ciarraige, several branches in Laighin, Connacht, and Mumha
  4. Conmaicne, several branches, all in Connacht
  5. Corca Fhir Tri, found in northern Connacht
  6. Dal Messin Corb, former rulers of Laighin
  7. Dartraighe, found in Co. Monaghan
  8. Delbhna, several branches, see their section above
  9. Deisi, mentioned briefly above, there were several branches
  10. Forthairt, found under this name in several branches in Laighin
  11. Gailenga, found in Connacht and Brega
  12. Grecraige, found in coastal Co. Clare and Coolavin in Co. Sligo
  13. Luighne, originally from Brega, migrated to north central Connacht
  14. Masraige, from Magh Slecht in Co. Cavan
  15. Osraighe, a small semi-independent kingdom between Laighin and Mumha