An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Dalriads (Dalriada)

DALRIADS, a name given to the Scoto-Irish, a branch of the great Celtic family, who are generally supposed to have found their way into Ireland from the western shores of North Britain, and to have established themselves at a very early period in the Irish Ulladh, the Ulster of modern times. They appear to have been divided into two tribes or clans, the most powerful of which was called Cruitlne or Cruithnich; a term said to mean eaters of corn or wheat, from the tribe being addicted to agricultural pursuits. The quarrels between these two rival tribes were frequent, and grew to such a height of violence, about the middle of the third century, as to call for the interference of Cormac, who then ruled as king of Ireland ; and it is said that Cairbre-Riada, the general and cousin of king Cormac, conquered a territory in the north-east corner of Ireland, of about thirty miles in extent, possessed by the Cruithne. This tract was granted by the king to his general, and was denominated Dal-Riada, or 'the Portion of Riada,'over which Cairbre and his posterity reigned for several ages, under the protection of their relations, the sovereigns of Ireland. [See O'Flaherty's Ogygia; Ogygia vindicated, pp. 163, 4 and 5. and O'Connor's Dissertation, pp. 196, 7.] The Cruithne of Ireland and the Picts of North Britain being of the same lineage and language, kept up, according to O'Connor, a constant communication with each other; and it seems to be satisfactorily established that a colony of the Dalriads or Cruithne of Ireland, had settled at a very early period in Argyle, from which they were ultimately expelled and driven back to Ireland about the period of the abdication by the Romans, of the government of North Britain, in the year 446. In the year 503, a new colony of the Dalriads or Dalriadini, under the direction of three brothers, named Lorn, Fergus, and Angus, the sons of Ere, the descendant of Cairbre-Riada, settled in the country of the British Epidii, near the Epidian promontory of Richard and Ptolemy, named afterwards by the colonists Ceantir or 'Head-land,' now known by the name of Cantyre or Kintyre. History has thrown but little light on the causes which led to this settlement, afterwards so important in the annals of Scotland; and a question has even been raised whether it was obtained by force or favour. In proof of the first supposition it has been observed, [Chalmers' Caledonia, Vol. i. p. 275,] that the headland of Kintyre, which forms a very narrow peninsula and runs far into the Deucaledonian sea, towards the nearest coast of Ireland, being separated by lofty mountains from the Caledonian continent, was in that age very thinly peopled by the Cambro-Britons; that these descendants of the Epidii were little connected with the central clans, and still less considered by the Pictish government, which, perhaps, was not yet sufficiently refined to be very jealous of its rights, or to be promptly resentful of its wrongs; and that Drest-Gurthinmoch then reigned over the Picts, and certainly resided at a great distance beyond Drum-Albin. It is also to be observed, in further corroboration of this view, that Lorn, Fergus, and Angus, brought few followers with them; and though they were doubtless joined by subsequent colonists, they were, for some time, occupied with the necessary but uninteresting labours of settlement within their appropriate districts. Ceantir was the portion of Fergus, Lorn possessed Lorn to which he gave his name, and Angus is supposed to have colonized Ila, for it was enjoyed by Muredach, the son of Angus, after his decease. Thus these three princes or chiefs had each his own tribe and territory, according to the accustomed usage of the Celts; a system which involved them frequently in the miseries of civil war, and in questions of disputed succession. There is no portion of history so obscure or so perplexed as that of the Scoto-Irish kings and their tribes, from their first settlement, in the year 503, to their accession to the Pictish throne in 843. Unfortunately no contemporaneous written records appear ever to have existed of that dark period of our annals, and the efforts which the Scotch and Irish antiquaries have made to extricate the truth from the mass of contradictions in which it lies buried, have rather been displays of national prejudice than calm researches by reasonable inquirers. The annals, however, of Tigernach and of Ulster, and the useful observations of O'Flaherty and O'Connor, along with the brief chronicles and historical documents, first brought to light by the industrious Innes, in his 'Critical Essay' a work praised even by Pinkerton have thrown some glimpses of light on a subject which had long remained in almost total darkness, and been rendered still more obscure by the fables of our older historians. Some of the causes which have rendered this part of our history so perplexed are thus stated by Chalmers in his Caledonia. "The errors and confusion which have been introduced into the series, and the history, of the Scottish kings, have chiefly originated from the following causes:

1st. The sovereignty was not transmitted by the strict line of hereditary descent. There were, as we shall see, three great families, who, as they sprung from the royal stock, occasionally grew up into the royal stem; two of these were descended from Fergus I. by his grandsons, Comgal and Gauran; the third was descended from Lorn, the brother of Fergus. This circumstance naturally produced frequent contests and civil wars for the sovereignty, which, from those causes, was sometimes split; and the representatives of Fergus and Lorn reigned independently over their separate territories at the same time. The confusion which all this had produced can only be cleared up by tracing, as far as possible, the history of these different families, and developing the civil contests which existed among them.

2nd. Much perplexity has been produced by the mistakes and omissions of the Gaelic bard, who composed the Albanic Duan, particularly in the latter part of the series, where he has, erroneously, introduced several supposititious lungs, from the Pictish catalogue. These mistakes having been adopted by those writers, whose object was rather to support a system, than to unravel the history of the Scottish monarchs, have increased, rather than diminished the confusion."

Although the Dalriads had embraced Christianity before their arrival in Argyle, they do not appear to have been anxious to introduce it among the Caledonians or Picts. Their patron-saint was Ciaran, the son of a carpenter. He was a prelate of great fame, and several churches in Argyle and Ayrshire were dedicated to him. The ruins of Kil-keran, a church dedicated to Ciaran, may still be seen near Campbellton in Kintyre. At Kil-kiaran in Ilay, Kil-kiaran in Lismore, and Kil-keran in Carrick, there were chapels dedicated, as the names indicate, to Ciaran. Whatever were the causes which prevented the Dalriads from attempting the conversion of their neighbours, they were destined at no distant period from the era of the Dalriadic settlement, to receive the blessings of the true religion, from the teaching of St.Columba, a monk of high family descent, and cousin of Scoto-Irish kings. See ICOLMKILL.  

 

 

 

 

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