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Professor of Ancient Irish History in 
the National University of Ireland 





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'First' 'E'diti.m 
Second Impression 


5 30 







II. The Ancient Irish a Celtic People. 

II. The Celtic Colonisation of Ireland and 




s -\ 


III. The Pre-Celtic Inhabitants of Ireland . 61 

IV. The Five Fifths of Ireland 

. 98 

V. Greek and Latin Writers on Pre-Christian 

T t *> 

l 03 

Ireland .... 
VI. Introduction of Christianity and Letters 161 

VII. The Irish Kingdom in Scotland 

* VIII. Ireland's Golden Age 


IX. The Struggle with the Norsemen 

X. Medieval Irish Institutions. 

XI. The Norman Conquest 

XII. The Irish Rally 


. 194 

. 222 

. 249 

. 274 

. 300 

• 323 

• 357 



The twelve chapters in this volume, delivered as 
lectures before public audiences in Dublin, make no 
pretence to form a full course of Irish history for 
any period. Their purpose is to correct and supple- 
ment. For the standpoint taken, no apology is 
necessary. Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever 
bring out the truth of history. 

I have been guilty of some inconsistency in my 
spelling of early Irish names, writing sometimes 
earlier, sometimes later forms. In the Index, I have 
endeavoured to remedy this defect. 

Since these chapters presume the reader's ac- 
quaintance with some general presentation of Irish 
history, they may be read, for the pre-Christian 
period, with Keating's account, for the Christian 
period, with any handbook of Irish history in print. 

Eoin MacNeill. 


EVERY people has two distinct lines of descent 
— by blood and by tradition. When we 
consider the physical descent of a people, 
we regard them purely as animals. As in any 
breed of animals, so in a people, the tokens of 
physical descent are mainly physical attributes — 
such as stature, complexion, the shape of the skull 
and members, the formation of the features. When 
we speak of a particular race of men, if we speak 
accurately, we mean a collection of people whose 
personal appearance and bodily characters, inherited 
from their ancestors and perhaps modified by 
climate and occupation, distinguish them notably 
from the rest of mankind. It is important for us 
to be quite clear in our minds about this meaning 
of Race, for the word Race is often used in a very 
loose and very misleading way in popular writings 
and discussions. Thus we hear and read of the 
Latin races, the Teutonic race, the Anglo-Saxon 
race, the Celtic race. If these phrases had any 
value in clear thinking, they would imply that in 
each instance it is possible to distinguish a section 
of mankind which, by its inherited physical charac- 
ters, differs notably from the rest of mankind. 
Now in not one of the instances mentioned is any 
such distinction known to those who have made 


the races of man the subject of their special study. 
There is no existing Latin race, no Teutonic race, 
no Anglo-Saxon race, and no Celtic race. Each of 
the groups to whom these names are popularly 
applied is a mixture of various races which can be 
distinguished, and for the most part they are a 
mixture of the same races, though not in every case 
in the same proportions. 

In the case of the populations which are recog- 
nised to be Celtic, it is particularly true that no 
distinction of race is found among them. And this 
is true of them even in the earliest times of their 
history. Tacitus, in the remarkable introductory 
chapters of his book, " De Moribus Germanorum," 
gives a brief physical description of the Germans of 
his time. " Their physical aspect," he says, " even 
in so numerous a population, is the same for all of 
them : fierce blue eyes, reddish hair, bodies of great 
size and powerful only in attack." Upon this the 
well-read editor of the Elzevir edition of 1573 has 
the following remarks : " What Tacitus says here of 
the Germans, the same is said by Florus and Livy 
in describing the Gauls. . . . Hence," he continues, 
" it appears that those ancient Gauls and Germans 
were remarkably similar in the nature of their 
bodies as well as of their minds." He goes on to 
develop the comparison, and sums up as follows : 
" Who then will deny that those earliest Celts were 
similar to the Germans and were in fact Germans ? ' 

These Latin writers were contemporary witnesses, 
and among the captives taken by Roman armies 
they must have seen the men that they describe^ 


Thus, in early times the Romans observed the same 
physical semblance in the two peoples, Celts and 
Germans. It may be pointed out, however, that 
the physical characteristics on which they lay stress 
are those which exhibit the greatest difference be- 
tween these northern peoples and the peoples of 
southern Europe. For that reason we may suspect 
a certain element of exaggeration in the description. 
We may take leave to doubt whether all the Germans 
of antiquity were fair-haired and blue-eyed, as 
Tacitus describes them. It was the fair-haired and 
blue-eyed Germans and Celts that attracted the 
attention of Latin writers, accustomed to a popula- 
tion almost uniformly dark-haired and dark-eyed, 
and they would naturally seize upon the points of 
distinction and regard them as generally typical. 

If, then, by the name Celts we cannot properly 
understand a distinct race, what are we to under- 
stand by it ? By what criterion do we recognise 
any ancient population to have been Celts ? The 
answer is undoubted — every ancient people that is 
known to have spoken any Celtic language is said 
to be a Celtic people. The term Celtic is indicative 
of language, not of race. We give the name Celts 
to the Irish and the Britons because we know that 
the ancient language of each people is a Celtic 

A certain amount of enthusiasm, culminating in 
what is called Pan-Celticism, has gathered around 
the recognition of this fact that the Irish, the Gaels 
of Scotland, the Welsh and the Bretons are Celtic 
peoples. So much favour attached to the name 


Celtic that in our own time the Irish language was, 
so to speak, smuggled into the curricula of the Royal 
University and of the Intermediate Board under 
that name. What ancient writers called opus 
Eibernicum, " Irish work,'" 1 is popularly known in 
Ireland as Celtic ornament. In the same way 
people speak of Celtic crosses, and there are even 
Celtic athletic clubs. There is no small amount of 
pride in the notion of being Celtic. It is somewhat 
remarkable, then, to find that throughout all their 
early history and tradition the Irish and the Britons 
alike show not the slightest atom of recognition that 
they were Celtic peoples. We do not find them 
acknowledging any kinship with the Gauls, or even 
with each other. In Christian times, their men of 
letters shaped out genealogical trees tracing the 
descent of each people from Japhet — and in these 
genealogies Gael and Briton and Gaul descend by 
lines as distinct as German and Greek. This ab- 
sence of acknowledgment of kinship is all the more 
noteworthy because there is little reason to suppose 
that, before Latin displaced the Celtic speech of 
Gaul, the differences of dialect in the Celtic speech 
of Gaul, Britain, and Ireland were sufficient to 
prevent intercourse without interpreters. 

From this ignorance of their Celtic kinship and 
origin we must draw one important conclusion. 
The extraordinary vitality of popular tradition in 
some respects must be set off by its extraordinary 
mortality in other respects. There must have been 
a time when the Celts of Ireland, Britain and Gaul 
were fully aware that they were nearer akin to each 


other than to the Germans and Italians, but this 
knowledge perished altogether from the popular 
memory and the popular consciousness. 

It was re-discovered and re-established by a 
Scottish Gael, George Buchanan, in the sixteenth 
century. Buchanan, in his history of Scotland, 
published in 1589, dismissed as fabulous that section 
of the Irish and British genealogies that purported 
to trace the origin of each people, generation by 
generation, from Japhet. He was a man of great 
classical learning. No better refutation could be 
adduced of the notion that Bacon, who was a child 
when Buchanan wrote, established the inductive 
method of scientific proof than the clear and well- 
marshalled argument by which Buchanan proves 
from numerous Greek and Latin sources that the 
Gaels and the Britons were branches of the ancient 
Celtic people of the Continent. 

An account of Buchanan's discourse on this sub- 
ject will be found in an article by me in the " Irish 
Review," of December, 191 3. Buchanan's discovery 
seems to have lain dormant, as regards any effect 
on learning or the popular mind, for more than a 
century. In his argument he dealt rather severely 
with the statements of a contemporary Welsh anti- 
quary, Humphrey Llwyd, and this controversy had 
probably the effect of sowing the seed of what may 
be called Celtic consciousness in the soil of Welsh 
learning. In Ireland, though Buchanan's work was 
doubtless known and read, his theory of the Celtic 
origin of the Irish people and their language, and of 
their kinship to the Britons and the Continental 


Celts, docs not appear to have been thought worth 
discussion, so firmly established were the ancient 
accounts which attributed to the Gaels of Ireland 
a Scythian origin. Yet these ancient accounts, as 
I propose to show in the third lecture of this series, 
did not belong to the true national tradition, ran 
counter to tradition, and owed their invention to 
the Latin learning of Ireland in the early Christian 

In 1707 the publication of the first volume of 
Edward Llwyd's " Archaeologia Britannica ' ex- 
hibits the first fruiting of Buchanan's theory, in the 
form of a sort of conspectus of the Celtic languages 
then extant, namely, the Gaelic of Ireland and 
Scotland, and the British languages of Wales, Corn- 
wall and Brittany. From this time onward, the 
existence of a group of Celtic peoples may be taken 
as a recognised fact in the learned world. I do 
not know whether anyone has yet traced the early 
stages of the recognition of the same fact in Con- 
tinental learning. 

The Celtic languages now began to attract atten- 
tion from outside. I ought, however, to note here 
that already for a brief period the Irish language 
had seemed about to extend its influence beyond the 
limits of its own people. It will be remembered 
that Edmund Spenser, during his residence in 
Ireland (1 586-1598), made some small acquaintance 
with Irish poetry which was translated for him, 
and that he was pleased in some degree with its 
peculiarities. About the same time an English 
official in Dublin reports to his masters in London 


that " the English in Dublin do now all speak Irish," 
and adds that they take a pleasure in speaking Irish. 
A primer of the Irish language was composed by 
the Baron of Delvin for the special use of Queen 
Elizabeth, and a facsimile of portion of it may be 
seen in Sir John Gilbert's " National Manuscripts 
of Ireland." 

The growing interest in Celtic literature among 
outsiders is exemplified in some of the work of the 
English poet Gray, who died in 1771. His poem of 
"The Bard," reflected, if it did not initiate, the 
notions long afterwards fashionable of the character 
of the Celtic bards and of the spirit of their poetry. 
Gray had the reputation in his time of being an 
antiquarian. He made an English version of the 
vision-poem on the battle of Clontarf from the 
Icelandic saga of Burnt Njal, and from this same 
poem part of the inspiration of his " Bard '' is ac- 
knowledged by him to have been derived. Gray 
also wrote English versions of some Welsh poems, 
and the novelty of poetic expression which he 
borrowed here seems to have baffled for once the 
critical experience of Johnson, who contents him- 
self with saying that " the language is unlike the 
language of other poets." " The Bard " was pub- 
lished in 1755, and, if I am not mistaken, its weird 
rhapsodical spirit contained the germ of the Celtic 
literary revival, for Gray's " Bard " may be re- 
garded as the literary parent of Macpherson's 
"Ossian." In 1760, five years after the publica- 
tion of " The Bard," appeared the first collection 
of Macpherson's pretended translations, entitled 


" Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the 
Highlands of Scotland." The consequences of this 
publication are fitly described by Dr. Magnus 
MacLean : "[The arrival of James Macpherson 
marks a great moment in the history of Celtic 
literature. It was the signal for a general resurrec- 
tion. It would seem as if he sounded the trumpet, 
and the graves of ancient manuscripts were opened, 
the books were read, and the dead were judged out 
of the things that were written in them." In 1764 
was published Evans's " Specimens of the Poetry 
of the Ancient Welsh Bards " — which supplied Gray 
with fresh material. In 1784 appeared " Musical 
and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards," and from 
that time onward the stream of translations from 
Welsh to English was fairly continuous. Notwith- 
standing the controversy that soon arose about the 
authenticity of Macpherson's compositions, their 
direct influence and vogue went on increasing for 
half a century. Among those who shared in the 
Macpherson craze were Goethe and Napoleon Bona- 
parte. In France, de Villemarque published his 
" Chants populaires de la Bretagne," a collection 
of poems from the Breton. In Scotland, Macpherson 
had several imitators. In Wales, the new movement 
took shape in the revival of the National Eisteddfod 
in 1 8 19. In Ireland, the first fruits of Macpherson's 
genius are found in Walker's " Historical Memoirs 
of the Irish Bards," published in 1786, and in 
Charlotte Brooke's " Reliques of Irish Poetry," 
published in 1789. The originals in this case were 
genuine, including a number of poems of the kind 


called, since Macpherson's time, Ossianic. 1 The English 
versions supplied by Miss Brooke were in close 
imitation of the style and diction of Macpherson. 
The same influence extends to Hardiman's " Irish 
Minstrelsy," published in 1831. 

The expansion of the new Celtic consciousness is 
exemplified in the publication in 1804 of a tract in 
French on the Irish Alphabet by Jean Jacques 
Marcel. The first important philological treatise 
on the Celtic languages was published by the French 
philologist Pictet in 1837, dealing with " the affinity 
of the Celtic languages to Sanscrit." Next year, 
1838, appeared Bopp's work in German, showing the 
relation of the Celtic languages to Sanscrit, Zend, 
Greek, Latin, German, etc. The Celtic literary 
enthusiasm was henceforth supplemented by solid 
scientific research. 

In these particulars is presented, I think, a fairly 
accurate sketch of the wholly modern development 
of the Celtic consciousness. I wish to recall here 
the fact that from the earliest traceable traditions 
of the Gaelic people down to the time of George 
Buchanan, there is not found the slightest glimmer 
of recognition that the Celts of Ireland were Celts, 
or that they were more nearly akin to the Celts of 
Britain and the Continent than to any other popu- 
lation of white men. The second fact which I wish 
particularly to emphasise is that throughout all its 
history the term Celtic bears a linguistic and not a 
racial significance. 

1 The Irish term for this class of poetry is " Fianaidheacht," and 
is of great antiquity. 


It need hardly be re-stated here that the Celts 
are a linguistic offshoot of a prehistoric people whose 
descendants — also in the line of language — com- 
prise many ancient and modern populations in 
Europe and Asia. It would be out of place now to 
discuss the central location from which the various 
branches of this prehistoric people spread them- 
selves over so wide an area. Indeed, it is a facile 
and fanciful assumption to suppose that the spread- 
ing took place from one central habitat. It is 
enough to say that, whereas the earlier philologists 
took for granted that the original population, before 
its division into various linguistic groups, was located 
in Western Asia, the later philologists are strongly 
inclined to place its home in Europe, in the region 
south-east of the Baltic Sea. 

The oldest known geographical descriptions of 
Europe are those of Hecataeus, who flourished about 
500 years before the Christian Era, and Herodotus, 
about half a century after him. Their knowledge of 
the European mainland, north of the countries 
bordering on the Mediterranean and its inlets, was 
of the most vague and general kind. They divided 
the whole of northern and middle Europe between 
two peoples, the Scythians in the eastern, and the 
Celts in the western parts. They also knew of the 
Iberians in the south-west, in the Spanish penin- 
sula and the adjoining parts of France. Herodotus, 
however, recognised to the west of the Celts a people 
whom he calls Kunesioi and Kunetai, and in the 
furthest north of Europe a population distinct from 
the Celts and Scythians, but unknown to him by 


any name of their own, for he calls them Hyper- 
boreans, i.e., out and out northerns. In the time 
of Eratosthenes, about 200 B.C., this knowledge 
does not appear to have been very much increased 
among the Greeks. They knew, however, of the 
existence of the islands of Ireland, which they called 
Ierne, and Britain, which they called Albion, and 
also of a country beyond the Baltic ; but they 
still divided the northern mainland of Europe be- 
tween the Celts and the Scythians. 

I have already remarked how ancient Irish tra- 
dition ignores the Celtic origin and affinities of the 
Irish. We may go farther and say that our ancient 
writers, when they set about exploring the geo- 
graphical knowledge of the, world that came to 
them in Latin writings, had it very definitely in their 
minds that the Irish were not of Celtic origin ; for, 
of the three great populations of northern and 
western Europe known to the oldest classical writers 
— the Iberians, the Celts, and the Scythians — they 
excluded the Celts, and included the other two, 
some selecting the Iberians and others the Scythians 
as the ancestral people from which the Gaels were 

The reason why to the Greek mind, in the early 
centuries of history, the Celts appeared to occupy 
so much of Middle Europe and to occupy it so ex- 
clusively, was I think this : the Celts at that time 
actually occupied the upper valleys of the Danube, 
the Rhone, the Rhine, and the Elbe, and the high 
ground between. These rivers were the principal 
highways of such transcontinental commerce as then 


existed, and this commerce was probably con- 
siderable, comprising various metals, salt, amber, 
etc. Whatever came and went in the course of 
transcontinental trade from north-western Europe 
to the Mediterranean countries followed trade routes 
which lay through the central region north of the 
Alps, and all this region was held by the Celts. In 
this way, the Celts seem to be more extensively 
spread over northern middle Europe than they 
actually were. 

Archaeology takes us back farther and tells us 
more than history in relation to the Celts while they 
were as yet, so far as we know, located solely or 
mainly in the mid-European region to the north of 
the Alps. It is not questioned that the ancient 
cemetery discovered and explored many years ago 
at Hallstatt in Upper Austria belonged to Celts and 
that the curious remains of art and industry found 
there are the work of a Celtic people. The period 
assigned for that work begins in the ninth century 
before the Christian Era and may extend onward 
for several centuries. The discoveries indicate an 
organised and progressive community, among whose 
resources were agriculture and the working of mines 
for metals and salt ; but the principal fact disclosed 
is that, already in that early time, the Celts were 
acquainted with the use and manufacture of iron. 
In the northern parts of Europe, in Scandinavia, 
Britain and Ireland, as archaeologists are agreed, 
the Iron Age did not make its appearance until 
several centuries later. 

We need not doubt that it was this possession of 


iron in abundance and of skill in its manufacture, at 
a time when neighbouring peoples found in bronze 
the highest class of material for their implements of 
industry and war, that gave the Celts the power and 
prosperity which they long enjoyed in Mid-Europe 
and enabled them to conquer and colonize all the 
countries that surrounded them. 

One effect of the mastery of iron, for a people 
occupying an inland region with small facilities for 
water-traffic, was that the Celts acquired a notable 
skill in the making of vehicles. From them in a 
later age the Romans borrowed the names of nearly 
every variety of wheeled vehicle that the Romans 
used : carrus or carrum, carpentum, esseda, rbeda, 
■petorritum. From this it obviously follows that 
the Celts were also great road-makers. During the 
nine years that Julius Caesar spent in the conquest 
of Transalpine Gaul, and marched his legions in 
every direction over that vast region, it is quite 
evident that he was operating in a country already 
well supplied with roads. 

The earliest recorded expansion of the Celts from 
the region north of the Alps was over northern Italy, 
and no historian supposes or suggests that the first 
Celtic occupation of northern Italy was earlier than 
about 600 b.c. This item ought to be borne in mind, 
for it has an important bearing on the date of the 
early Celtic migrations to Britain and Ireland. It 
was probably about the same time that they began 
to move westward across the Rhone, occupying 
the parts of France between the Garonne on the 
south and the English Channel on the north, which 


parts are specifically described by Julius Caesar as 
Gallia Celtica, Celtic Gaul. Between 500 and 400 
b.c. they spread south-westward into Spain, ap- 
parently more as conquerors than as colonists, for 
the resultant of the Celtic occupation of the Spanish 
Peninsula was the formation of a mixed people, 
partly Celts and partly Iberians, whom ancient 
writers distinguish from the Celts by giving them 
what we may call a hyphenated name, Celtiberians. 
We are not to imagine from this that Celtic con- 
quests elsewhere were of an exterminating character, 
or that they did not result in a fusion of peoples. 
The notion that the migratory conquests of antiquity 
resulted in the displacement of one population by 
another is one of the favourite illusions of popular 
history. In Spain no doubt the Celtic element was 
relatively less numerous than in Gallia Celtica, and 
also perhaps the Celtic civilisation became less 
dominant, for the Iberians were in touch more or 
less with another and still more highly developed 
civilisation, that of the Phoenicians. That there 
was a somewhat distinctive civilisation south of the 
Garonne is clearly to be inferred from Caesar's ac- 
count, which tells us that the people of Celtic Gaul 
differed from those of Aquitaine, as well as from 
those of Belgic Gaul, in language, culture, and 

In the fourth century b.c a second wave of Celtic 
migration poured over Italy. The Celts in this 
movement captured and destroyed the city of Rome. 
But they also appear to have destroyed the pre- 
dominance of the Etrurians, and thereby to have 


facilitated the later imperial expansion of the Roman 
power. There was also an eastward Celtic move- 
ment along the Danube. In the third century b.c. 
the Celts overran most of what is called the Balkan 
Peninsula, including Greece, and in 278 b.c. large 
bodies of them passed over into Asia Minor and 
settled in the country which after them was named 

Let it be noted at this point that so far as history 
casts light on the subject, the known period of 
Celtic expansion on the Continent lies within the 
years 650 B.C. and 250 B.C. We shall have to recur 
to this fact when we come to consider, in the follow- 
ing lecture, the probable date of the Celtic colonisa- 
tion of Ireland. We shall see also that the evidence 
from archaeology leads to the same conclusion as the 
evidence from history. 

History recognises the expansion of the Celts from 
inland and central Europe southward, westward and 
eastward, but is silent about any expansion north- 
ward. No one doubts that in these early times the 
parts of Europe northward of the old Celtic country 
already described were occupied by the Germans, 
but Greek and Latin writings have no word of the 
Germans until the last quarter of the third century 
b.c. Yet we know from archaeology that there was 
trade intercourse long before that time between the 
Mediterranean countries and the shores of the Baltic, 
extending even to Scandinavia. As geographical 
facts, the Baltic and Scandinavia were known to 
the Greeks, if only vaguely known to them, in the 
time of Eratosthenes, i.e., about 200 B.C. How is 


it, then, that the Germans are not mentioned by 
that name or by any name ? I suggest that the 
reason was that the Germans of that period were so 
much under Celtic domination that they were not 
recognised as a distinct people of importance. 

The first mention of Germans in history is found 
in the Roman Acta Triumphalia for the year 222 B.C., 
in the record of the battle of Clastidium. Clastidium, 
now called Casteggio, is in northern Italy, on the 
south side of the river Po and a few miles from that 
river. It is a little west of the meridian of Milan, 
which at the time of the battle was Mediolanum, the 
chief town of the Insubrian Gauls. In the battle, 
the Roman consul Marcellus overcame the Insubrians 
and gained the spolia opima by slaying with his 
own hand their commander Virdumarus. The Acta 
Triumphalia state that he triumphed " over the 
Insubrian Gauls and the Germans." Now so far as 
is known or thought probable there was no German 
population at the time settled anywhere within 
hundreds of miles of Clastidium, whereas the In- 
subrian Gauls were settled on the spot or in its near 
neighbourhood. Moreover, unless the Germans were 
there fighting in considerable force, it is most un- 
likely that any notice of them would have appeared 
in the record. The commander was a Gaul, bearing 
an undoubted Celtic name. Therefore the Germans 
at Clastidium were not fighting for their own hand, 
they had not come there as invaders. Thus we are 
brought to the interesting conclusion that, on this 
first appearance of the Germans in history, they 
had been brought from their own country, hundreds 


of miles away, to assist a Celtic people resident in 
the valley of the Po. To assist them in what 
capacity ? Undoubtedly either as hired troops or 
as forces levied on a subject territory. Whichever 
view we take, the presence of German forces at the 
battle of Clastidium in 222 B.C. must be regarded 
as an indication that the German people, or portion 
of them, were still at that time under Celtic pre- 
dominance. I say " still at that time," because it 
will be seen that the Celtic ascendancy over the 
Germans soon afterwards came to an end. 

What is thus inferred from the historical record 
is corroborated by philology. A number of words 
of Celtic origin are found spread through the whole 
group of Germanic languages, including the Scan- 
dinavian languages and English, which was originally 
a mixture of Low German dialects. Some of these 
words are especially connected with the political 
side of civilisation and are therefore especially 
indicative of Celtic political predominance at the 
time of their adoption into Germanic speech. Thus 
the German word retch, meaning realm or royal 
dominion, is traced to the Celtic rigion, represented 
in early Irish by rige, meaning kingship. From the 
Celtic word amb actus, used by Caesar in the sense 
of " client " or " dependent," indicating one of the 
retainers of a Gallic nobleman, but originally signi- 
fying " one who is sent about," a minister or envoy 
— from ambactus is derived the German word ami, 
meaning " office, charge, employment." From am- 
bactus are also derived the words embassy and am- 
bassador, with their kindred terms in the Romance 


languages. From the Celtic word dunon, a fortified 
place, represented in Irish by dun, is derived the 
word town in English and the cognate words in the 
other Germanic languages. Professor Marstrander 
holds that several of the names of the numerals in 
all the Germanic languages, and therefore in the 
original German speech from which they have 
diverged, are formed from or influenced by Celtic 
names of the same numerals. If this is so, it indi- 
cates a thoroughly penetrating Celtic influence 
among the ancient Germans, for the names of the 
numerals may be regarded as among the most native 
elements of speech, so much so that it is said that 
facility in the speaking of two languages rarely 
exists to the degree of being able to reckon numbers 
with equal readiness in both, and that the language 
a person uses in ordinary reckoning must be regarded 
as his native and natural speech. 

This matter of the early intermingling of Celts 
and Germans in northern Mid-Europe will be after- 
wards seen to have a special interest in reference to 
the Celtic colonisation of Britain and Ireland. Be- 
fore concluding the evidence I have to bring forward 
on the subject, it will make the drift of the matter 
clearer if I state the later outcome of the Celtic 
migrations northward among the Germanic popula- 
tion. We have already seen that, as archaeologists 
are agreed, the Celts north of the Alps were in 
possession of iron long before the use and manu- 
facture of iron was established in the more northern 
parts of Europe. It is mainly to this advantage 
that we may ascribe the predominance acquired 


by the Celts among the Germans. In the German 
regions, however, the Celts were for the most part 
an ascendant minority. Their domination must 
have lasted for several centuries. A time came 
when, in those parts which in the Celts were 
numerically and otherwise in greatest strength, a 
fusion of peoples took place, resulting in a Celto- 
Germanic population, Celtic in language but mainly 
Germanic in race. Meanwhile, the less blended 
section of the Germans, retaining their native 
language, had acquired the craft of ironwork, and 
were advancing in civilisation and no doubt in- 
creasing at the same time in numbers. Eventually 
the German-speaking Germans became more powerful 
than the once dominant Celtic minority and more 
powerful also than the Celto-Germanic folk who had 
become Celtic in language. A sense of distinct 
nationality grew up between the two populations. 
The Celticised Germans were located in western 
Germany, towards the Rhine, the un-Celticised 
Germans farther east. Under hostile pressure from 
the German-speaking element, the Celtic-speaking 
element were forced westwards across the Rhine 
into Gaul. Here they in turn pressed back the 
Celts who had settled in north-eastern Gaul, and 
modern events will help to fix in the mind the fact 
that this overflow of Celto-Germans into Gaul ex- 
tended as far west as the river Marne, where it was 
brought to a stand by the resistance of the earlier 
Celtic inhabitants. The date of this migration was 
probably later than that of the battle of Clastidium, 
222 B.C., when, as we have seen, the Celts appear 


to have still held sway over the Germans. The 
Celto-Germanic settlers between the Rhine and the 
Marne were the Belgae of Caesar's time. 

At first sight, this account may seem to be too 
precise an effort to fill up a blank in history, but the 
testimony of Caesar and Tacitus, witnesses of prime 
authority, seems to leave no room for any alternative 

Caesar is the first writer in whom any mention of 
the Belgae is found. Holding the Gallic command 
for about nine years, he reduced the whole of Gaul 
to obedience to the Roman power. For him, Gaul, 
Gallia, signified the whole country between the 
Rhine and the Pyrenees. All its inhabitants in 
general were named Galli by him, but we also find 
that he uses the name Galli in a more precise sense 
as proper to the people of those parts which were 
not occupied by the Belgae. He also calls this 
people Celtae, Celts. Therefore in Caesar's mind 
the Belgae were less Gallic and less Celtic than their 
neighbours to the west. His evidence on this sub- 
ject however is much more precise. 

The Rhine was for Caesar the main boundary line 
between Gaul and Germany, between the Belgae 
and the Germans. The Belgae, he states, differ from 
the Celtae, as these from the Aquitani, in language, 
culture, and institutions. The difference between 
the Celtae proper and the Aquitani has already been 
accounted for. The Aquitani, bordering on Spain, 
were the same Celtiberian mixture as the people of 
Spain ; they were Celtic, or mainly so, in language, 
but otherwise mainly Iberian. I am proceeding to 


show that the difference between the Celtae and 
the Belgae is to be explained in a similar way. 
The Belgae were likewise Celtic in language, at 
all events mainly so, but otherwise they were mainly 
Germanic. When Caesar says that the three divisions 
of Gaul differed from each other in language, we 
must understand that he refers to broad distinctions 
of dialect, for the names of persons and places in 
Belgic Gaul at that time appear to the reader to be 
quite as Celtic as those in Gallia Celtica or western 
Gaul. Caesar tells us that the Belgae are ruder, less 
civilised and more warlike than the Celtae or Galli 
more properly so called, and his explanation for this 
is that they have less commerce and less intercourse 
with outsiders, and so are less softened by refinement 
and luxury. This is interesting, because it implies 
that Gallia Celtica had a sufficient degree of com- 
merce, intercourse, refinement and luxury to con- 
siderably soften down the character of its in- 

The westward and southward pressure of the Ger- 
mans, then a very powerful and numerous people, 
was in full force in Caesar's time, so much so that 
it seems certain that Caesar's conquest of Gaul came 
just in time to stay and delay that tide of Germanic 
invasion which overran Gaul some centuries later. 
His first operations in Gaul were against the Helvetii, 
whose country corresponded to the modern Switzer- 
land. He tells us that the Belgae are at continual 
war with the Germans along the Rhine, and also 
that the Helvetii in their own country fight almost 
daily battles with the Germans. In the first year of 


Caesar's Gallic command, the Helvetii came to a de- 
cision to migrate from their country westward, and 
Caesar's first campaign was conducted with the pur- 
pose of forcing them to return to their own country. 
He ordered them to return thither, he states, lest the 
Germans should take possession of the territory and 
thus become neighbours to the old Roman province 
in southern Gaul. 

Caesar states plainly that the Belgae for the most 
part are of German origin ; that in former times 
they had crossed the Rhine and dispossessed the 
Galli (here he used the name Galli as proper to the 
other inhabitants of Gaul in distinction from the 
Belgae). He indicates that, after this migration, 
they had offered a successful resistance to the in- 
vasion of the Cimbri and Teutones (between 113 and 

102 B.C.). 

Modern Frenchmen, though their national name is 
in origin the name of a Germanic people, show a 
tendency, easily understood, to minimise the Ger- 
manic element in their composition, and M. D'Arbois 
de Jubainville, dealing with Caesar's statement that 
the Belgae were mainly of Germanic origin, seeks to 
explain that this was true geographically not ethno- 
graphically, that they came from German lands but 
did not come of German ancestry. Against the plain 
statement of a contemporary observer, such ex- 
planations are always to be received with caution. 
In this instance, there is corroborative evidence 
which indicates that Caesar's words are to be taken 
at their face value. Caesar also tells us that the 
Condrusi, Eburones, Caerosi and Paemani " uno 


nomine Germani vocantur " — are called by the 
common name of Germans. Again he says that 
the Segni and Condrusi are " ex gente et numero 
Germanorum " — of the German nation and so ac- 
counted. Strabo, writing within a century of Caesar, 
says that " the Nervii are a Germanic people." 
According to Caesar, the Nervii had no commerce, 
avoided wine and other luxuries, and were fierce 
men of great valour. They led the rest of the Belgae 
in opposing him. Tacitus is a hardly less valid 
authority, for his father-in-law Agricola had been 
engaged in long campaigns against the Germans in 
the Rhine country. " The Treveri and the Nervii," 
he says, " are especially forward in asserting their 
German origin, as though by this boast of race to 
be distinguished from the pacific character of the 
Gauls." It was surely not a geographical origin that 
was claimed in such a way. The Treveri dwelt on 
the west side of the Rhine. They were a Celtic- 
speaking people, and unlike most of the inhabitants 
of Gaul they seem to have retained their Celtic lan- 
guage throughout the period of Roman domination, 
for St. Jerome, writing in the late part of the fourth 
century, says that " the Galatians (of Asia Minor), 
apart from the Greek language, which all the East 
speaks, have a language of their own almost the 
same as the Treveri." In one respect the Treveri, 
Caesar tells us, resembled the Germans of his time — 
they excelled in cavalry ; and his continuator, 
Hirtius, writes that " in fierceness and in manner 
of life they differed little from the Germans." The 
Advatuci, he writes, " were descendants of the 


Cimbri and Teutoni." All these peoples dwelt in 
Belgic Gaul and came under the common appellation 
of Belgae. In addition to Caesar's statement that 
the Belgae as he learned, not supposed, were, for 
the most part of German origin, we have detailed 
evidence that, of about eighteen States composing 
Belgic Gaul, no fewer than eight, in Caesar's time and 
long after it, were still accounted to be German. 

On the other hand, then and afterwards, a number 
of peoples reckoned to be Celtic continued to inhabit 
countries to the east of the Rhine. The Tencteri 
and the Usipetae, on the German side of the Rhine, 
were Celts, according to Dio Cassius. Tacitus, 
speaking of the Helvetii and the Boii, says that 
" both are Gallic nations," yet in another passage 
he speaks of " the Boii, a nation of the Germans." 
Still further east dwelt the Cotini and the Osi, of 
whom he writes : " The Cotini by their use of the 
Gallic language and the Osi by their use of the 
Pannonic language are proved not to be Germans " : 
from which it appears that language was the criterion 
by which the Romans were accustomed to distinguish 
Germans from Celts. Again Tacitus writes : " The 
Triboci, Vangiones and Nemetes are certainly Ger- 
mans," but modern German authorities recognise 
that the Triboci and Nemetes are Celtic in these 
very names. Of the Aestyi, dwelling apparently on 
the northern seaboard of Germany, Tacitus says that 
their language resembles that of Britain. 

Further evidence of Celtic occupation of regions 
considered German in Caesar's time and ever since 
then is afforded by a number of ancient place-names. 


For example, there were two towns or stations named 
Carrodunon, i.e. " wagon-fortress," one on the river 
Oder, the other in the upper valley of the Vistula. 
Other Celtic place-names, like Lugidunum, Eburo- 
dunum, Meliodunum, are found in central Germany. 

Tacitus confirms the evidence of Caesar to the 
effect that the Belgae were a Germano-Celtic people 
who came westward over the Rhine and conquered 
part of the country already occupied by the Celts. 
" Those," he says, " who first crossed the Rhine and 
expelled the Gauls were then named Germans but 
now Tungri." The Tungri inhabited a part of 
Belgic Gaul between the Nervii and the Treveri. 

It seems to me, then, to be certain that the Belgae 
not only came into Gaul from Germany, but were 
themselves a mixed population of Celts and Germans 
speaking a Celtic dialect. Holder assigns their 
migration into Gaul to the third century b.c. It is, 
however, undesirable to attempt to fix anything but 
a somewhat extended period for migratory move- 
ments of the kind. The instance of the Helvetii 
proves that down to Caesar's time the Celts in con- 
tact with the Germans were still in a very mobile 

Before using the facts hitherto stated and the 
conclusions derived from them to throw whatever 
light they can on the Celtic colonisation of Ireland, 
it may be well to state in a general way what can 
be said as to the stage of civilisation reached by the 
continental Celts before their subjugation by the 

Some modern writers, but not very recently, have 


written about a Celtic Empire in ancient Europe. 
The nearest approach to authority for the existence 
of such an empire is a statement by Livy, who says : 
" While the elder Tarquin reigned in Rome, the 
supremacy among the Celts belonged to the Bituriges. 
They gave a king to the Celtic land. Ambigatus was 
his name, a very mighty man in valour and in his 
private and public resources, under whose rule Gaul 
was so abounding in men and in the fruits of the 
earth that it seemed impossible to govern so great a 

The most that can be made of this passage, sup- 
posing that Livy had it on better authority than 
some other parts of his history, is that at one time 
the Bituriges held what the Greeks called hegemony, 
a political primacy among the Gauls, and this, too, 
only in the time of a single king. It may reflect a 
genuine Celtic tradition, going back to the time 
when the Celts were still a compact nation inhabiting 
a relatively small territory. 

When we come to contemporary evidence of the 
political condition of the Celts, we find that every- 
where on the continent and in Asia Minor, their 
form of government resembles that of the Roman 
Republic. There are no kings, and the power of the 
state is vested in a senate with certain high executive 
officers. The Celtic form of government in historical 
time was that of a patrician republic. The Celtic 
people was divided into a large number of small 
states without any organised superior power. From 
time to time, however, one or other of these states 
might acquire a degree of political pre-eminence 


over a group of neighbouring states, forming a 
loose federation in which it took chief direction 
of the common affairs. We find the same tendency 
among the states of ancient Greece. In Asia Minor, 
the three states of the Galatae formed themselves 
into a strict federation, with a fixed constitution, a 
common council of state and a common executive 
both civil and military. 

So far as I have been able to trace, wherever the 
Greeks and Romans came in contact with Celts so 
as to acquire a closer knowledge of Celtic affairs, 
they found this kind of patrician republican govern- 
ment. Caesar found no kings in Transalpine Gaul, 
and the governing authority, when he mentions it, 
belongs to senates and magistrates, i.e., chief officers 
of state. It was apparently so in Spain a century 
earlier ; and in distant Lusitania, corresponding to 
the modern Portugal, the most western Celtic region 
on the continent, in resisting the Roman conquest 
the chief command is held by Viriatus, who is not 
called a king by the Roman and Greek historians, 
Dor is any king mentioned in his time. Nor do we 
read of kings in Cisalpine Gaul. Thus from farthest 
east to farthest west, the patrician republican form 
of government seems to have prevailed in all Celtic 
communities with the probable exception of Ireland ; 
and this was probably their political condition as far 
back as 300 B.C., or earlier, before the Galatians 
passed into Asia Minor. 

At some earlier period, the Celts were undoubtedly 
governed by kings. The word for king, represented 
by the Irish word ri, is widely exemplified in ancient 


Celtic names. From it, as I have already re- 
marked, the Germanic languages took their word 
for kingdom or realm. Sometimes it is found in 
the names of peoples, e.g., the Bituriges, Caturiges, 
etc.; sometimes in the names of men, e.g., Dumnorix, 
Ambiorix, Vercingetorix. We find evidence, too, of 
a strong anti-monarchical sentiment, as among the 
Romans. The law of the Helvetii made it a capital 
offence, under penalty of being burned alive, to aim 
at autocratic power. 

Not only the Celts, but the Germans of that 
time, were governed without kings, as Tacitus 
records. He adds, however, that they appointed 
kings to command them when they went to war. 
Here we have a parallel to the Roman dictatorship, 
the vesting of the power of the republic in the 
hands of a single ruler during a time of critical 

I have already mentioned the proficiency of the 
Celts in the construction of wheeled vehicles, and 
the consequent deduction that they were practised 
in the making of roads. The passage already quoted 
from Livy shows that, with all their military ardour, 
they were known to be active in agriculture ; and 
this is corroborated by other ancient authorities. 
The countries occupied by the Celts excelled in 
ordinary agriculture not only during what we may 
call Celtic times but in subsequent ages, and it is 
these countries that have furnished the most ex- 
cellent breeds of domestic animals — cattle, sheep, 
poultry, dogs. 

Originally an inland people, the Celts who occu- 


pied the seaboard soon became proficient in naviga- 
tion. Caesar bears witness to their skill in ship- 
building, and he seems to have found no great 
difficulty in collecting from the Belgic coast a 
sufficient fleet of ships to transport his army and 
supplies to Britain. 

From the Greek settlement at Massilia (Marseille) 
two arts especially appear to have spread among 
the Celts of Transalpine Gaul : sculpture and the 
use of letters. The remains of Celtic sculpture in 
Gaul show evident signs of Greek origin. Caesar 
makes the remarkable statement that the Gauls in 
his time use Greek writing in almost all their 
business, both public and private. The Romans 
of Caesar's time had not long emerged, under Greek 
influence, from a state of comparative illiteracy, as 
every student of Latin literature must recognise. 
Among the spoils of the Helvetii captured by Caesar, 
he found a complete census of the people written in 
Greek characters. Inscriptions in the Celtic lan- 
guage before the Roman conquest are in Greek 
characters, except in Cisalpine Gaul, where the 
characters are Etruscan. 

On the subject of ancient Celtic art on the 
continent, reference may be made to the book by 
Romilly Allen, from which also a good idea of the 
skill and taste of the Celts in metal work may be 

In general, it is clear that the Celts were a highly 
progressive people with a strong civilising tendency. 
Under the Druids, the western Celts developed a 
system of education and some kind of philosophy. 


With regard to their religion and to the part played 
by the Druids in Celtic life, I have summarised my 
own studies in a brochure entitled " Celtic Religion," 
which is published by the Catholic Truth Society of 


IN the preceding lecture, I have claimed to show 
that, so far as positive knowledge goes, the 
period of Celtic expansion from Mid-Europe lies 
between the years 600 B.C. and 250 b.c The spread 
of the Celtic peoples and of their power was arrested 
by a movement of German expansion on the north, 
beginning perhaps about 200 B.C., and by the growth 
of the Roman Empire, for which a starting point 
may be found in the final subjugation of Etruria, 
265 b.c. I have also claimed to show that there was 
a large northward expansion of the Celts, resulting 
in a partial fusion of Celts and Germans, and that 
this Celto-Germanic population was afterwards for 
the most part, but not all, forced westward across 
the Rhine by the more purely German population, 
and was represented by the Belgae of Caesar's time. 

From the objects discovered at Hallstatt, the 
early period of Celtic art in the Iron Age is called by 
archaeologists the Hallstatt period. It is succeeded 
by a later stage and higher development of orna- 
mental art, exemplified in discoveries at La Tene in 
Switzerland. The period in which this higher de- 
velopment is found has been named the La Tene 
period ; but the same stage of Celtic art is ex- 
emplified by objects discovered in the valley of the 
Marne in northern France, and the term " Marnian 



period " is used by French archaeologists as an 
equivalent of " La Tene period." So far as I am 
aware these Marnian remains represent the earliest 
known substantial appearance of Celtic work, of 
Celtic activities of any kind, in the north-western 
parts of Europe. The La Tene or Marnian period 
is estimated to begin about 400 B.C., and not earlier 
than 500 b.c. This estimated date is an important 
part of the evidence that goes to establish the date 
of the Celtic migrations to Britain and Ireland. 

Before going more fully into the evidence, it is 
necessary to deal with the theory which at present 
holds the field in British archaeology, and which is 
based principally on the authority of the late Sir 
John Rhys. So completely has his theory domi- 
nated, that we find it stated in summary in books 
for general instruction. I find a good exemplifica- 
tion in the volume on Lincolnshire of the Cam- 
bridge County Geographies, a series devised for 
school study and general information. The follow- 
ing paragraph purports to tell us how Britain was 
peopled before the Roman occupation : 

" We may now pause for a moment," says the 
writer, " to consider who these people were who 
inhabited our land in these far-off ages. Of Palaeo- 
lithic man we can say nothing. His successors, the 
people of the Later Stone Age, are believed to have 
been largely of Iberian stock — people, that is, from 
south-western Europe — who brought with them their 
knowledge of such primitive arts and crafts as were 
then discovered. How long they remained in un- 
disturbed possession of our land we do not know, 


but they were later conquered or driven westward 
by a very different race of Celtic origin — the Goidels 
-or Gaels, a tall light-haired people, workers in bronze, 
whose descendants and language are to be found 
to-day in many parts of Scotland, Ireland, and the 
Isle of Man. Another Celtic people poured into 
the country about the fourth century b.c. — the 
Brythons or Britons, who in turn dispossessed the 
Gaels, at all events as far as England and Wales are 
concerned. The Brythons were the first users of 
iron in our country." 

So far the quotation. The writer is a man of 
scientific education, a master of arts, a doctor of 
medicine, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. 
This is the age of science, not of credulity, and in 
matters of science men of scientific education are 
believed to require scientific proof before they state 
anything as a fact. If it is the age of science, it is 
also the age of invention. The statements made in 
the passage I have quoted are definite enough. In 
fairness to their writer, however, I shall quote his 
next paragraph, in which this definite assurance is 
somewhat qualified : 

' The Romans," he writes, " who first reached our 
shores in b.c. 55, held the land till about a.d. 410; 
but in spite of the length of their domination they 
do not seem to have left much mark on the people. 
After their departure, treading close on their heels, 
came the Saxons, Jutes, and Angles. But with these, 
and with the incursions of the Danes and Irish, we 
have left the uncertain region of the Prehistoric 
Age for the surer ground of History." 



From what is said just afterwards on the surer 
ground of History, we are prepared in some measure 
to assess the value of what has been said, very 
definitely indeed, in the uncertain region of the 
Prehistoric Age : 

" Of the Celtic population of this county [Lin- 
colnshire]," we are told in continuation, " at the 
time of the Roman invasion, but few traces are 
left, thus contrasting greatly with what has hap- 
pened in counties such as Somerset, Cornwall, and 
the wilder parts of Wales, and the Lake district, 
where the Brythons (hence the name Britain) fled 
before the Roman advance and later from the 
Saxons. These Celts, belonging to the tribe of 
Coritani, have left little impression on the names of 
places (Lincoln itself being an exception), and pro- 
bably none on the actual people of Lincolnshire. 
On the other hand, the Saxon invasion and settle- 
ment must have been complete early in the sixth 

Now let us consider first what the English reader 
and student is asked to believe in regard of the effect 
of strictly historical movements on the population 
of an English county. " The Romans," we are told, 
during about four centuries of occupation, " do not 
seem to have left much mark on the people." The 
writer's object is to show from what early population 
elements the modern population is composed. By 
what tokens does he assure us that the prolonged 
Roman occupation left no permanent element be- 
hind ? Is it by the scarcity of Roman noses in the 
Lincolnshire of to-day ? Let us regard the facts. 


For generation after generation, the Romans sent 
legion after legion of their soldiers into Britain. 
These legionaries were not all Italians. They were 
recruited from various parts of the Roman Empire. 
We know that one of the Roman emperors, holding 
command in Britain, took a woman of British birth 
to wife, and that Constantine the Great was their 
child. Are we asked to believe that the thousands 
upon thousands of Roman legionaries in Britain lived 
a life of celibacy, and left no descendants after 
them ? The city of Lincoln was itself no mere 
military station but a Roman colony, Lindi Colonia, 
and the volume from which I quote shows that 
Lincolnshire has produced very extensive traces of 
its Roman occupation, civil as well as military. The 
county appears to have contained no fewer than six 
Roman military stations, and was traversed by four 
Roman roads. 

In the preceding lecture, I have alluded to that 
common illusion of popular history through which 
people are led to imagine that the migratory con- 
quests of ancient times led to the extermination of 
the older inhabitants by the newcomers. On this 
same illusion, lodged in the mind of a man of 
scientific education, is based the notion that the 
Roman occupation left no mark, in the ethno- 
graphical sense, on the later population. We find 
the definite expression of this illusion in the words 
in which the writer professes to account for the 
total disappearance of the Celtic population of 
Lincolnshire, on whose people, he says, still speaking 
ethnographically, the Celts have probably left no 


impression. " The Brythons," he tells us, " fled 
before the Roman advance." Bear well in mind 
that we are now on the surer ground of history. 
The Roman conquest of Britain was completed by 
Agricola in the year 80 of the Christian era. We 
have the account of this conquest from a con- 
temporary authority, Tacitus, who was son-in-law 
to the conqueror, Agricola. In a remarkable 
passage, Tacitus tells how the Britons behaved 
after Agricola had warred down their pride : 

" During the following winter," he writes, 
" Agricola was occupied in carrying out a most 
salutary policy. The Britons were a rude people, 
dwelling in the open country, and for that reason 
they were readily disposed to war. Agricola's aim 
was to reduce them to peace and a life of ease by 
ministering to their pleasures. He exhorted them 
in private and assisted them in public to build 
temples, places of assembly, and houses. [He 
means, in the Roman manner, and obviously refers 
especially to the noble and wealthy of the Britons.] 
Those who were quick to act in this way he praised, 
those who were reluctant he punished ; so that 
they could not avoid competing with each other for 
distinction. He set about providing the culture of 
a liberal education for the sons of their chief men, 
and he used to award the Britons the palm of ex- 
cellence over the Gauls in their studies, so that those 
who not long before refused to speak the Roman 
tongue were now actually eager to exhibit their 
eloquence in Latin. Even our fashion of dress be- 
came honourable among them, and the toga was 


quite generally worn. By degrees they yielded to 
the attractive apparatus of vices, lounging in 
covered walks, frequenting public baths, and enjoy- 
ing elegant banquets." The comment of the Im- 
perial historian on the real aim and character of 
this " salutary policy " carried out by his father- 
in-law has a cynical frankness which is quite refresh- 
ing in comparison with the studied attitude of moral 
justification that we might expect from a modern 
Tacitus : " And this," he says, " was called civilisa- 
tion by the ignorant Britons, whereas it was in 
fact an element of their enslavement." 

We have here a graphic picture of the British 
nobility, under distinguished patronage, making 
themselves familiar with the luxuries and vices of 
Imperial Rome, and their sons at school learning 
to become eloquent Dempseys in the conqueror's 
tongue. Compare it with Dr. Sympson's statement 
on the surer ground of History : " The Brythons 
fled before the Roman advance," to take refuge in 
the remoter and wilder parts of the island. Having 
already fled before the Romans, they again fled, 
we are told, before the Saxons. There is just as 
much historical foundation for the one statement 
as for the other. I remember reading, in one of 
Archbishop Trench's works on the origin and 
growth of the English language, a list of words 
which passed from the ancient British tongue into 
Anglo-Saxon — most of them being names of things 
used in ordinary rural industry, and the con- 
clusion drawn from this class of words, that, under 
the Anglo-Saxon conquest and occupation, the 



menial work of the country continued to be done 
by the conquered Britons. There is an old yarn 
about a whaling crew in the northern seas. The 
cold was so intense that, when the seamen tried to 
speak, the words were frozen hard as they came 
from their lips and could be heard falling on the 
deck. It must have been under the operation of 
some similarly marvellous phenomenon, shall we say 
the excessive coolness of the Anglo-Saxons, that 
they were able to capture and preserve the vocabu- 
lary of the fugitive Britons. 

In my first lecture, I have attempted to trace 
the somewhat academic origin and growth of the 
modern Celtic consciousness. The Anglo-Saxon 
consciousness has a very similar history. It begins 
in learned circles of the reign of Elizabeth, when, 
under the stimulus of the Anglican controversy 
and the special patronage of Archbishop Parker, 
a keen interest was aroused in the remains of Anglo- 
Saxon literature. The Anglo-Saxon craze appears 
to reach its high-water mark in some American 
universities. I wonder if it will survive the war. 
The compiler of the Cambridge Geography of 
Lincolnshire has outdone Attila himself in extermi- 
nation. He has completely wiped out five successive 
populations to make Lincolnshire an exclusive 
habitat for pure-blooded Low Germans. 

Let us now return to the paragraph which sum- 
marizes Sir John Rhys's theory of the peopling of 
prehistoric Britain. Its first article is this : " Of 
Palaeolithic man we can say nothing," and we pass 
on to " his successors." The people who in- 


habited Britain in the Early Stone Age are ex- 
tirpated in a phrase of six words. It is a less 
interesting, if less appalling fate than that which 
overtook Parthalon's people in the Book of In- 
vasions. They all died of a plague, and then 
apparently the dead buried their dead in " the 
plague-cemetery of Parthalon's people " — Tamh- 
lacht Mhuinntire Parthaloin, now called Tallaght. 

Let us take up another current handbook of 
popular instruction, the volume entitled " Pre- 
historic Britain," by Dr. Munro, in the Home 
University Library series. The date of writing is 
191 3; the same as the date of the Cambridge 
volume on Lincolnshire. Dr. Munro discusses a 
certain type of skulls found in various parts of 
England. " All of these," he says (p. 234), " are 
usually assigned to the Neolithic period (the later 
Stone Age), and represent the prevailing type of 
Englishman at the commencement of that period, 
and probably also in the latter part of the Palaeo- 
lithic period (the Early Stone Age). The skulls 
mentioned may represent British men and women 
living thousands of years apart. They clearly be- 
long to the same race, which, for lack of a better, 
we may name ' the river-bed race.' It is the 
prevailing type in England to-day, and from 
the scanty evidence at our disposal we may pre- 
sume that it has been the dominant form many 
thousands of years. . . . All trace of this race has 
disappeared in Switzerland, whereas in England, 
in spite of invasion of Saxon, Jute, Dane and 
Norman, it still thrives abundantly." And further 


he says (p. 235) : " According to Dr. Keith, Palaeo- 
lithic blood is as rife in the British people oi to-day 
as in those of the European continent — a con- 
clusion," adds Dr. Munro, " which entirely meets 
with the present writer's views." 

Thus we see that, according to two eminent 
British authorities, the race which inhabited 
Britain in the Early Stone Age is still the preva- 
lent type in that island, and has not been displaced 
by Celt or Roman or Anglo-Saxon. 

[It is, however, due to Dr. Sympson to say that 
a year earlier, in 191 2, Dr. Munro, as he himself 
observes, thought it " possible that (at the close 
of the Early Stone Age) the Palaeolithic people would 
shrink back to Europe and thus, for a time, leave a 
gap in the continuity of human life in Britain " 
(p. 236) ; and this, he says, was formerly the 
general idea.] 

The second population of Britain, " the people 
of the Later Stone Age," says Dr. Sympson, " are 
believed to have been largely of Iberian stock — 
people, that is, from south-western Europe." 

Before the discovery of " the law of gravity " 
and of the operation of atmospheric pressure, the 
old-fashioned scientists used to explain the rising 
of water in a pump by saying that " Nature abhors 
a vacuum." There is no doubt that when the 
human mind becomes interested in any department 
of knowledge and inquiry, it abhors a vacuum, and 
this very laudable abhorrence often leaves the 
mind a victim to almost any plausible and positive 
effort to fill the vacuum. That is why such a very 


precise and particular term as Iberian comes so 
handy and brings so much satisfaction. Ethnolo- 
gists, however, are agreed that in prehistoric times, 
before the Celts had invaded south-western Europe, 
there were already at least two very distinct races 
in that region, and that both are still well repre- 
sented in it. To speak of them as one race, and 
to call that race Iberian, or to use the term 
" Iberian " without distinguishing between them, 
is merely filling the vacuum. Rhys has succeeded 
in popularising the term " Iberian " as a name 
for the population which occupied Britain and 
Ireland before the first coming of the Celts, and he 
has identified the Picts with this Iberian stock. 
Politics, as well as war, is eager to turn to account 
the services of science. There is, perhaps, no more 
acute and more highly educated mind in England 
of to-day than that of Mr. Arthur Balfour. I wish 
to remark here that I am only dealing with certain 
prevalent views about ancient history, and that I 
am not arguing politically one way or the other. 
But Mr. Balfour, in a written document supporting 
certain political views of his with regard to the 
political claims of a certain proportion of the Irish 
people, gave it as a reason for rejecting the claims 
in question, that the people of Ireland were in a 
large degree of the Iberian race, descendants of the 
primitive inhabitants during the Later Stone Age. 
As for any political controversy on that point, I 
have nothing at all to say. I should prefer to hear 
it discussed between Mr. Balfour and the Portu- 
guese ambassador to London. I do confess that 


I am very curious to know what political conclusion 
Mr. Balfour would derive from the scientific con- 
clusion of Dr. Keith and Dr. Munro, that the pre- 
vailing type in the English population of to-day 
represents something still more primitive than Sir 
John Rhys's Iberians, and is the survival of that 
" river-bed race " who, in the words of Dr. Munro, 
were " miserable shell-eaters." 

In Sir John Rhys's theory, the Iberians of the 
Later Stone Age are succeeded by the Goidels or 
Gaels, of Celtic origin, who introduced the Bronze 
Age in Britain and also in Ireland. Many 
centuries after these came the Brythons, who 
introduced the Iron Age, and drove the Gaels out 
of the greater part of England. Dr. Sympson says 
that the Brythons of that invasion drove the 
Gaels out of Wales also, but for this he has no 
warrant from Sir John Rhys. According to 
Rhys, the Gaels continued to occupy the more 
westerly parts of the island, even after the Roman 

Rhys's theory is still more elaborate. The three 
divisions of Gaul with which Caesar begins the 
account of his Gallic war are familiar to students 
of Latin. Rhys equates his Neolithic Iberians of 
Britain and Ireland with the Iberian element in 
Aquitanian Gaul and Spain, his Bronze-Age Goidels 
or Gaels with the Celtae of Caesar's Gallia Celtica, 
and his Iron-Age Brythons of England with the 
Belgae of Caesar's Gallia Belgica. He goes still 
farther with this process of equation. Finding 
that the consonant Q, where it occurs in the most 


ancient forms of the Irish language, is replaced by 
P in the corresponding forms of the British or 
ancient Welsh language, he divides the Celts into 
two linguistic groups which he labels the Q-Celts 
and the P-Celts, and this division he makes to 
correspond to the other classification into Celtae 
and Belgae. In this way, he produces a most 
interesting and symmetrical set of equations show- 
ing the successive stages of population-change in 

First, there are the people of the Early Stone 
Age, not named. 

Secondly, the people of the Later Stone Age, 

Thirdly, the people of the Bronze Age, Goidels 
or Gaels, or Celtae, or Q-Celts. 

Fourthly, the people of the Iron Age, Brythons 
or Britons, or Belgae, or P-Celts. 

For the present, let us pass away from the 
Iberians, and consider the theory as it concerns 
the Celtic migrations to Britain and Ireland. The 
earliest known habitat of the Celts is the region to 
the north of the Alps. The earliest definitely 
known migration of the Celts is their southward 
movement into Northern Italy. For this migra- 
tion no earlier date than 600 b.c. is assigned. 

The chief authority on the Bronze Age in Ireland 
belongs to the late Mr. George Coffey. In his book 
on the subject, " The Bronze Age in Ireland," he 
hesitates to date the close of the Stone Age and the 
introduction of the Copper Period as far back as 
2500 B.C., which is the approximate date estimated 


by Montelius. He puts the close of the Copper 
Period between 2000 and 1800 b.c. and the first 
period of the true Bronze Age between 1800 and 
1500 b.c. Now, according to the theory prevalent 
in Britain, the first Celtic invaders introduced the 
Bronze Age, and these were the Gaels or Goidels. 
If we accept this view and combine it with the 
best archaeological authority, we shall conclude 
that the Celts reached Ireland at least 1,200 years 
before they are known to have entered Italy — 
that they pushed out to a distant island in the 
ocean more than a millennium before they occupied 
the fertile and attractive plains which lay on their 
very borders. 

But, it may be objected, is it not possible that 
the Celts of the Bronze Age had settled far away 
from the Alps, on the coasts of north-western 
Europe. Possible, perhaps, but what is the value 
of mere possibilities ? We have seen it stated, and 
the Cambridge handbook is only a specimen of 
many publications that accept the view, stated 
most definitely that the Gaelic branch of the Celts 
introduced the Bronze Age to Britain and Ireland. 
Surely something more than a mere possibility, 
some shade or degree of probability should appear 
in support of teaching so positive. 

Now let us suppose that the dominant Bronze 
Age population of Britain and Ireland were Celts, 
as we are instructed to believe. Let us see what 
would follow from this position. It would follow, 
beyond question, that the peculiar art and works 
of the Bronze Age in Britain and Ireland would be 


mainly connected with the art and works of the 
Bronze Age in those parts of Europe which were 
likewise inhabited by Celts, rather than with other 
parts of the Continent. I cannot find that any such 
connection has been established or is believed in by 

The Brythons, we are told, were Belgic invaders 
who introduced the Iron Age. Not the faintest 
probability has been brought forward to establish 
this very precise and positive doctrine. Coffey 
places the close of the Bronze Age in Ireland and 
the coming of iron into general use at about 350 b.c. 
It is admitted that the Celts of central Europe were 
in possession of iron about four centuries earlier. 
This affords a most cogent argument that, during 
the intervening four centuries, there was no such 
social and industrial continuity between central 
Europe and these islands as must undoubtedly 
have been if both regions and the intervening parts 
of the Continent had been occupied by Celtic 

Again, if the Brythons or Belgic Celts, armed 
with iron, were able to cross the channel and dis- 
place the western Celts in Britain, it would surely 
have been much easier for them to cross the Marne 
and the Seine and displace the western Celts in 
Gaul. The theory seems to presuppose that an 
invasion was necessary to bring the Iron Age into 
Britain, but the same theory would have it that 
the Iron Age found its way into Ireland without 
any invasion, for it leaves the Bronze Age Goidels 
of Ireland to learn the use of iron in some more 


pleasant way than by meeting iron-headed spears in 
the hands of Belgic conquerors. 

It is certain that after the withdrawal of the 
Roman legions from Britain and after the Anglo- 
Saxon invasions, there were Gaelic populations in 
various parts of western Britain, in Argyllshire, 
North and South Wales, and the Cornish peninsula. 
Rhys supposed these to be the remnants of the 
Gaelic population which, in his view, had occupied 
all England during the Bronze Age. There is 
sufficient evidence to show that they were fresh 
settlements made by the Irish of Ireland during 
and after the collapse of the Roman power in 

The " P and Q " element in the theory is equally 
unsound. It is certain that, where the Irish Celts 
retained the consonant Q in their language, the 
British Celts replaced it by P. But no such dis- 
tinction has been shown to have existed between 
the language of the western Celts and the language 
of the Belgic Celts on the Continent. Such 
phonetic changes as the substitution of P for Q 
spread in an almost mysterious way through lan- 
guages. Their spread may be arrested by a geo- 
graphical barrier so considerable as the Irish Sea, 
but it was not at all likely to have been brought 
to a stand by the waters of the Seine and Marne. 
Nor can a phonetic change of the kind be taken as 
necessarily corresponding to any racial or political 
boundaries. In all the western dialects of Latin 
which grew into the Romance languages, the initial 
W of Germanic words was changed into GW, and 


this identical change also took place in the Welsh 
language, but riot in Irish. It took place in Spanish, 
yet that does not appear to prove that the Welsh 
are more near akin to the Spaniards than they are 
to the Irish, nor, if history happened to be silent, 
would it prove that Britain after the Roman 
occupation was peopled by a Spanish invasion which 
did not extend to Ireland. 

There is one serious argument which has been ad- 
duced in support of the view that Britain was in 
Celtic occupation during the Bronze Age. The 
existence of the word kassiteros, meaning " tin," is 
traced in the Greek language as far back as about 
900 B.C. There seems very good reason for think- 
ing that kassiteros was a Celtic word adopted into 
Greek. From this it is argued that the metal itself 
came from the Celts to the Greeks, which seems 
reasonable enough. It is further argued that the 
Celts must accordingly have been in possession of 
the country which produced the metal, and that 
this country was Britain. The conclusion is that 
the Celts were in occupation of Britain earlier than 
900 B.C. It seems to me, however, that the fact, 
granting it to be a fact, that the metal tin reached 
the Greeks bearing a Celtic name is by no means 
proof that it came from a country inhabited at the 
time by Celts. If you visit the Zoological Gardens 
in the Phoenix Park, you will be invited, before you 
reach the entrance, to purchase for the delectation 
of the monkeys a certain vegetable product, the 
name of which, upon inquiry, you will learn to be 
" pea-nuts." No one will be rash enough to deny 


that " pea-nuts " is an English word. I have not 
the least idea where pea-nuts grow, but I am quite 
certain that the fact of their being named " pea- 
nuts " is no proof that they grow in England or in 
any English-speaking country. It is very good 
proof, however, if proof were needed, that the trade 
in pea-nuts has passed through the hands of English- 
speaking people. If kassiteros is a Celtic word, as I 
think it very probably is, it proves no more than 
that, when the Greeks learned this Celtic name for 
tin, the trade in tin passed towards them through 
the hands of a Celtic-speaking people. If it was 
British tin, which again is not improbable, I suggest 
that it came to Greece by an overland route through 
the Celtic region in Mid-Europe, probably along 
the Rhine and the Danube or to the head of the 
Adriatic. As a matter of fact, the Greek writer 
Poseidonios states that in his time British tin 
reached the Mediterranean by an overland route. 
" It is brought," he says, " on horses through the 
interior of the Celtic country to the people of 
Massilia and to the city called Narbon." 

There is, then, no evidence from archaeology, 
history, or language, sufficient to establish even a 
moderate degree of probability for the theory of a 
Celtic occupation of Ireland or Britain during the 
Bronze Age. 

On the other hand, taking Coffey's approximate 
date of 350 B.C. as the beginning of the period of 
the general use of iron in Ireland, we shall, I think, 
find sufficient evidence to warrant the belief that 
the Celts reached Britain and Ireland about that 


time, and not earlier, at all events not considerably- 
earlier than that time. 

Why not earlier ? I think we have conclusive 
grounds for believing that the Celtic migrations to 
Ireland cannot have begun very much, if at all, 
sooner than the fourth century b.c. Before stating 
these grounds, let us ask is there any discoverable 
reason for supposing that the Gaels inhabited 
Ireland from a time many centuries farther back. 
I think it possible that those who in modern times 
have entertained this view have been influenced 
by the dates assigned to the Gaelic immigration 
by Irish writers like the Four Masters and Keating. 
These dates may be taken to correspond closely 
enough with the estimates of archaeological 
authorities for the commencement of the insular 
Bronze Age, and, in the absence of evidence to the 
contrary, it might be imagined that they were 
founded on some basis of tradition. 

It is not the habit of popular tradition to en- 
cumber itself with chronology. There is no known 
instance of ancient reckoning in years and periods 
of years that is not based on some era, on the ac- 
cepted date of some real or supposed event or events. 
Nowhere in Irish tradition has any trace been found 
of the existence of a native system of chronology 
before the introduction of Christian learning. In 
a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal 
Irish Academy (July, 1910), I have shown how 
the extant written chronology of the Irish Invasions 
was first originated. The method was not unlike 
Sir John Rhys's series of equations. 


The Irish historian found in Latin histories a set 
of definite epochs by which antiquity was divided : 
the beginning of the Assyrian empire, the beginning 
of the Median empire, the beginning of the Persian 
empire, the usurpation of the Magi in Persia, and 
the beginning of Alexander's empire. The chronology 
of the Irish Invasions was settled by the easy process 
of making each invasion coincide exactly in time 
with each of these epochs. It is evident that no 
traditional value can be attached to a chronological 
system of this kind. 

But, it may be objected, the very remoteness of 
the time assigned to the Gaelic invasion by Irish 
historians may reflect the popular belief in its remote- 
ness. If that be so, then the earlier the historian 
is the more near he is to the popular tradition. In 
the paper just cited, I have shown that, in the earliest 
known version of this chronology of the Invasions, the 
Gaelic migration to Ireland coincides with the date 
of Alexander's empire, 331 b.c. That is not very 
far from the date assigned by Coffey for the end of 
the Bronze Age in Ireland, about 350 b.c. For my 
own part, I attach no traditional value to this co- 
incidence, but if it pleases anyone to insist that Irish 
prehistoric chronology has a traditional value, then 
it must be conceded that tradition, as far as it is 
valid, is altogether favourable to the view that the 
Gaelic occupation of Ireland belongs to the end, 
and not to the beginning, of the Bronze Age. 

The migratory movements of the Celts on the 
Continent have a bearing which cannot be ignored 
on the time of the Celtic migrations to Britain and 


Ireland. So far as I am aware, no modern investi- 
gator has suggested that the Celts were not already 
in the Iron Age at the time of their expansion into 
Italy and Spain. Why then should it be imagined, 
in the absence of any positive indication to the 
purpose, that they occupied these islands more than 
a thousand years earlier ? 

If I am not mistaken, the archaeological evidence 
is fairly decisive on the point. Archaeologists are 
agreed in dividing the Celtic Iron Age into two main 
periods, the Early Celtic or Hallstatt period, and 
the Late Celtic or La Tene period, also called the 
Marnian period. Each of these periods is taken to 
consist roundly of about four centuries, and the 
two periods on the Continent together correspond 
roughly to the last eight or nine centuries before 
the Christian Era. The Late Celtic period is 
abundantly represented in the antiquities of Great 
Britain and Ireland, but the objects that have 
been found in either country belonging to the 
Early Celtic Period are extremely rare. On this 
head Coffey writes as follows (" Bronze Age in 
Ireland," page 5) : 

" It must be remembered that the Continental 
Hallstatt period is not at present well repre- 
sented in Great Britain and Ireland, and though, 
under Hallstatt influence, certain Continental Iron- 
Age types such as bronze caldrons, trumpets, round 
shields, etc., found their way into Ireland, we cannot 
as yet definitely separate this period from the end 
of the Bronze Age." 

In fact, " sporadic finds " arc all that represent 


the Early Celtic period in Ireland, in Britain, and 
even in the neighbouring regions of the Continent. 
It will not be questioned that during the Hallstatt 
period there was quite sufficient intercourse of trade 
between the islands and the Continent to explain 
these sporadic finds as importations. 

The main fact is that, so far as archaeological 
research has ascertained, the Early Celtic period of 
the Iron Age is substantially absent from Ireland 
and Britain, whereas the Late Celtic period is 
abundantly represented. The Bronze Age in Ireland 
comes down to about 350 B.C., and its Continental 
affinities are not specially or notably Celtic. The 
Bronze Age is succeeded in both Britain and Ireland 
by the Late Celtic period of the Iron Age. The 
inference, to my mind, is obvious, that the Celts 
did not reach either Britain or Ireland until the Late 
Celtic period, i.e., until the fourth or fifth century 
B.C. This conclusion agrees well with all that is 
known of the migratory movements of the Celts on 
the Continent. 

Let us now revert to the Belgic migrations and 
consider their bearing on the matter of the Celtic 
colonisation of Ireland. The Belgae, we have seen, 
were a Celto-Germanic group which, according to 
Caesar and Tacitus, occupied the lands stretching 
from the Rhine to the Seine and Marne, and ex- 
pelled from that region the Celtae proper. There 
is no indication in what Caesar says that in his time 
this movement was one of remote antiquity. In 
fact, it is perfectly clear that it was a movement by 
no means exhausted but still in active progress 


when he took command of the Roman armies in 
Gaul. The attempted migration of the Helvetii in 
the first year of his command, b.c. 58, was a part of 
this movement. A little later, Caesar had to repel 
similar attempts of the Usipetes and the Tencteri 
to cross the middle Rhine and settle in Gaul; and 
these, according to Dio, were two Celtic peoples. 
Still later, in the time of Augustus, the Ubii migrated 
from the eastern to the western side of the Rhine. 
From all this it is clear that the Belgic migration was 
a continuous movement and that its force was far 
from being spent at the time of the Roman conquest 
of the country west of the Rhine. Caesar indicates 
that there were powerful Belgic settlements west of 
the Rhine during the great wandering movement of 
the Cimbri and the Teutones, i.e., about half a 
century before he began his Gallic campaigns. There 
is nothing, however, to show that these settlements 
were of earlier date than the second century b.c, 
and I have seen no reason for thinking that they 
could have been much earlier. 

We now come to the question of the Belgic in- 
vasion of Britain and its probable date. In Rhys's 
theory, which is still accepted in England, the 
Belgic invaders were the first to establish the Iron 
Age in Britain. I claim to have shown good grounds 
for believing that there was no Celtic occupation of 
Britain before the Iron Age. I have already sug- 
gested that, if this Celto-Germanic movement was 
brought to a standstill on the banks of the Marne, 
it was not likely to have succeeded in over-running 
all England at the commencement of the Iron Age 


in England. It will be seen that the Celto-Germanic 
migrations extended not merely to Britain but also 
to Ireland, and I suggest that if these Celto-German 
Belgae had been the first people to come over 
armed with iron, they would have made an easy con- 
quest of Ireland as well as of England. 

Let us look at the actual evidence of the Belgic 
conquest of England. The sole historical witness 
on the point is Julius Caesar, and this is his testimony : 

" The interior of Britain is inhabited by those who 
say that, according to tradition they are natives of 
the island ; the maritime part by those who had 
crossed over from Belgium [meaning Belgic Gaul] 
for the sake of plunder, nearly all of whom are called 
by the same names of states as the states from 
which they originated and came thither, and having 
made war they settled permanently there and began 
to till the land." 

From this it is clear that Caesar was informed of 
two populations in Britain, one which was more 
ancient and claimed to be native, another which 
resulted from comparatively recent invasion. The 
older population he assigned to the interior, the 
more recent to the seaboard. What did Caesar 
mean by the seaboard, the maritime part ? Sir John 
Rhys has no difficulty in supposing that Caesar did 
not mean the whole seaboard of Britain or if he did 
mean it that he was not fully informed, for accord- 
ing to Rhys's theory, the older population, which 
he supposed to be Gaelic, continued to inhabit the 
western seaboard of England and Wales. I also 
agree that, whatever Caesar may have understood, 


his statement about the maritime part must be 
taken in a restricted sense, for no one believes that 
the Celtic occupation in Caesar's time extended to the 
seaboard of the northern parts of the island. I agree 
also with the view that the traditional natives of 
whom Caesar speaks probably included the earlier 
Celtic colonists, whose settlements dated, according 
to my argument, from the fourth century B.C., about 
three centuries before Caesar's time. The more 
recent maritime settlements, in that case, would 
have been very recent in his time, and I think that 
his statement leads us to that conclusion. These 
later settlers on the seaboard, he tells us, are known 
collectively by the same names as the states on the 
Continent from which they originated. Now this is 
a statement about a fact likely to be within Caesar's 
personal knowledge. He was certainly well ac- 
quainted with the names of the states of Belgic 
Gaul, and there is no reason why he should have 
said that populations retaining the same names 
existed in his time on the British coast if he did not 
know it to be a fact. His testimony on this point, 
touching a matter within the scope of his personal 
observation, is of higher evidential value than any 
other part of the statement quoted. Caesar does not 
himself name these states, but in the two following 
centuries the names of the various states of Britain 
are given by Ptolemy and other writers, and when we 
compare these names with those of the states of 
Belgic Gaul, we find that they coincide only in three 
instances. These arc the Parish on the foreland 
north of the Humber, the Atrcbatii in the district of 


Berkshire, and the Belgae, eastward from these to 
the Bristol Channel. There are some eighteen other 
states enumerated in Britain, so that the coincidence 
of names amounts to only one in seven, a proportion 
which by no means corresponds to Caesar's words, 
fere omnes, " nearly all." Except for the Parisii, 
who occupied the promontory north of the Humber, 
the states bearing names also found in Belgic Gaul 
are located in southern England, south of the 
Thames and the Bristol Channel. One of these, 
and the most extensive, bears the general name 
Belgae. which certainly does not suggest that the 
remainder of the population was also Belgic. Now 
the j'ere omnes, " nearly all," in Caesar's statement 
cannot refer to such a small minority of the states 
of Britain. Therefore, either Caesar was grossly in 
error, in which case there is not much to be built on 
his whole statement, or, if he stated the truth, which 
is much more likely, then there were Belgic settle- 
ments on the British seaboard in his time which had 
lost their identity and passed into insignificance a 
century later. This I take to be true, for it will be 
seen that there were also Belgic settlements on the 
Irish coast after Caesar's time and that as states 
they had disappeared a few centuries later. It is 
indeed quite possible that the Belgae so named, in 
southern England, consisted of a collection of colonies 
from various states of Belgic Gaul, whose names were 
preserved in Caesar's time, but not one of which was 
sufficiently populous or otherwise considerable to be 
worth naming by later writers. There may have 
been similar Belgic colonies on other parts of the 


southern and eastern seaboard of Britain, none of 
them considerable enough to be reckoned as a state. 
At all events, I submit that Caesar's statement, far 
from justifying the assumption of a Belgic conquest 
on a grand scale, comprising the greater part of Celtic 
Britain, is rather contrary to that assumption ; .also, 
that it cannot reasonably be taken to refer to settle- 
ments made in Britain at the close of the Bronze Age 
three or four centuries before Caesar's time. 

I have referred to the existence at one time of 
Celto-Germanic settlements on the coast of Ireland. 
The authority on the point is Ptolemy the geographer, 
who flourished about a.d. 15c. In the south-eastern 
angle of Ireland, the region of Wexford, he places 
a population named Brigantes. There was a very 
extensive state of this name in the north of Roman 
Britain. Its territory extended across the country 
from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Whether the 
Brigantes were or were not Belgic colonists in Britain 
and Ireland, I find no means to determine. North 
of the Brigantes, on the Leinster coast, Ptolemy 
locates the Manapii. It can hardly be doubted 
that these were a Belgic people, a branch of the 
Menapii, 1 whose territory on the Continent lay in 
parts of the countries now called Belgium and 
Holland. North of the Manapii on the Leinster 
coast, Ptolemy places the Cauci. The topo- 
graphy of Ireland from the time of Saint Patrick 
onward is very copious and minute, but no trace 
has been discovered in it of these three peoples in 

1 The syllables en and an are found interchangeable in many 
Celtic words, perhaps varying according to dialect, 


the location ascribed to them by Ptolemy. It 
seems to me possible that the Manapii may be repre- 
sented in later times by a scattered people called 
the Monaigh or Manaigh. Some of these dwelt in 
eastern Ulster, near Belfast. Another branch of 
them dwelt in the west of Ulster, and their name is 
preserved in that of the county Fermanagh. It is 
interesting to note that the Irish genealogists derive 
the origin of both from Leinster. The only trace 
known to me in Irish tradition of a people similarly 
named on the south-eastern seaboard is found in 
the name of Forgall Monach, the father of Emer 
who was wife of Cu Chulainn. Who were the Cauci ? 
Their name, in the Germanic form Chauci, was that 
of a people of the German seaboard bordering on 
the North Sea, who are described in Smith's Ancient 
Geography as " skilful navigators and much ad- 
dicted to piracy." Tacitus praises them for their 
love of justice and says that, though ready for war, 
they do not provoke war. It must be remembered, 
however, that Tacitus was an extreme " pro-Ger- 
man." Elsewhere, he tells of incursions made by 
them against neighbouring peoples. We find, then, 
two peoples, the Menapii and the Chauci, on the 
Belgic and German shores of the North Sea, and 
also on the Leinster shores of the Irish Sea ; and this 
shows that in Ireland as well as in Britain there 
were Celto-Germanic settlements about the be- 
ginning of the Christian era 

Caesar is the earliest known writer to give the 
name Brittania to the island of Britain and the 
name Brittani to its people. In earlier writings the 


name of the island is Albion. In Caesar's term 
Brittani, there seems to be a confusion of two 
existing names, one Brittani, the name of a small 
local population, the other Pretani which is recog- 
nised to be a British and probably Gaulish equivalent 
of the Irish name for the Picts, Cruithin, more 
anciently Qreteni. Caesar fixed the name Brittani 
in Latin usage, but the form Pretanoi continued 
after his time to be used by Greek writers. Polybius 
and Ptolemy apply the adjective Pretanic to the 
two islands, and a still later geographical tract in 
Greek says, " the Pretanic islands are two in number 
one called Albion and the other Ierne." The 
Pretanic islands means the Pictish islands, and 
this name for them must have been taken from the 
Gauls. It points to a time before the Celtic occupa- 
tion, when the Pretani or Picts were still regarded 
as the principal people of both islands. Here we 
have another indication of the relatively late period 
of the Celtic occupation. Caesar learned that the 
natives of Britain had some curious marital customs 
which he did not observe among the Gauls, including 
the Belgae, on the Continent. A later writer, 
Solinus, in whose time the customs of the Britons 
were more intimately known to the Romans, ascribes 
a similar custom, not to the Britons but to the in- 
habitants of the Hebrides. Both accounts are based 
on a well-established fact, recorded also in Irish 
writings, the custom of matriarchy which was 
peculiar to the Picts. Caesar's statement is readily 
explained, if we understand that the Gauls, from 
whom his information was likely to have been de- 


rived, still spoke of Britain and Ireland as the Pictish 
islands, and regarded this social custom, which was 
foreign to them, as a Pictish custom. In the time of 
Solinus, the Romans knew that the Picts were 
limited to the northern parts of Britain, and the 
story is accordingly told of the people of the 
Hebrides. If a custom peculiar to the Picts was 
spoken of in Caesar's time as common to the in- 
habitants of Britain, and if Britain and Ireland were 
then still regarded in Gaul as Pictish islands, I sug- 
gest that this was because the Celts of Gaul did not 
look upon the two islands as having been mainly 
occupied from any remote period by a people akin 
to themselves. 

The conclusions which I wish to draw in this 
lecture are : that neither Britain nor Ireland was 
colonised by the Celts until the Late Celtic period, 
corresponding to the period which followed the 
Bronze Age in these countries ; that the Belgic or 
Celto-Germanic settlements were of still later date, 
and extended to Ireland as well as Britain ; that the 
Belgic settlements in England were not so wide- 
spread as they are represented in modern British 
writers ; and that the distinction between the 
ancient Gaels and Britons does not correspond to 
the distinction between the Celtae and Belgae of 
Gaul in Caesar's time. 



IN the second lecture, I remarked how the name 
Iberians has been adopted to fill a vacuum as 
regards the naming of the population which 
occupied Great Britain and Ireland before the Celtic 
immigration. This kind of naming is unscientific 
and misleading. It implies that the ancient popu- 
lation thus artificially named can be identified as a 
branch of the population which actually bore that 
name in Greek and Latin literature. From this 
implied identification other equally unwarranted 
assumptions are likely to follow. Rhys expended a 
vast amount of study, ingenuity, and argument in 
the effort to show that very definite traces of a 
language akin to modern Basque survived in ancient 
Ireland and Scotland. On this point it may be re- 
marked that we do not even know that the Basque 
population was originally Iberian. Ethnologists are 
agreed that, apart altogether from the Celtic migra- 
tions, there must have been a mixture of very dis- 
tinct races in south-western Europe in prehistoric 
times. If there was a mixture of races, there was 
also no doubt more than one language, and if the 
Basque language has been able to survive the con- 
quests of Celt and Roman and Goth, and last until 
our own time it may also well have survived the 



extinction of other languages in south western 

So far as the Iberian theory is not mere vacuum- 
filling, it appears to rest on a single passage of 
Tacitus. He is describing the Silures, a British 
people whose territory was in the south of Wales, 
and who offered a very fierce resistance to the 
Romans. " The swarthy complexion of the Silures," 
he says, " the prevalence of curly hair among them, 
and their position over against Spain, argue that 
the ancient Iberians must have crossed over [from 
Spain] and occupied their territory." We have 
often heard the occurrence of similar physical traits 
in the west of Ireland ascribed to a more recent 
Spanish mixture. It all amounts to this, which Irish 
tradition bears out, and which nobody questions, 
that these western isles contain descendants of an 
ancient dark-complexioned population, probably 
already of mixed race, which existed in western 
Europe before the arrival of the fair-complexioned 
people, whose distinctive features appear by all in- 
dications to have originated in the lands forming 
the basin of the Baltic Sea. 

If I am right in suggesting that the Greeks adopted 
from the Gauls the name Pretanic Islands, as a joint 
name for Britain and Ireland, it follows that the 
Gauls themselves supposed the chief population of 
both islands, before the Celtic occupation, to have 
been the Pretani, i.e., the Picts. During the early 
historical period, the Picts are chiefly known as the 
people of the northern mainland of Scotland, north 
of the Grampian mountains. The Venerable Bede 


speaks of their language as still existing in his time, 
the early part of the eighth century, and as being 
distinct from the Irish and British languages. 

We have abundant and clear evidence that the 
Picts were at one time widely spread throughout 
Ireland. Early Irish writings recognise the existence, 
in their own time, of sections of the population 
known to be Pictish. The Picts were especially 
numerous in Ulster. They are described as a sub- 
ject population, spread over the whole of ancient 
Oriel, which at that time comprised the counties of 
Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone and the greater part 
of Derry and Fermanagh. There was also a large 
Pictish element in Connacht, and there were smaller 
groups, traditionally known to be Pictish, in Munster, 
Meath, and various parts of Leinster. In Ulster, 
the ruling or dominant population of a large belt of 
territory, extending from Carlingford Loch to the 
mouth of the Bann, is named in the Annals both by 
the Latin name Picti, and its Irish equivalent 
Cruithni or Cruithin, which is the Irish form corre- 
sponding to Pretani. They continue to be so named 
until the eighth century, when apparently their 
Pictish identity ceased to find favour among them- 
selves. It may be observed, however, .that, while some 
proper names which contain non-Gaelic elements 
survived in ancient Ireland, no trace has been dis- 
covered of any language other than Gaelic con- 
tinuing to be spoken in any part of Ireland within 
the traditional memory of the people. From this it 
will appear that the Gaelic language had become 
universal throughout Ireland some centuries before 


Irish history and traditions began to be written. 
The earliest writing of Irish history still extant be- 
longs to the closing years of the sixth century. 

In the case of the Picts, we find an interesting 
example of the method that recommended itself to 
the learned folk of ancient Ireland when they desired 
to fill the vacuum. In the Irish " Nennius," the 
Picts are said to have come of the stock of the 
Geloni, a people of Scythia mentioned by Herodotus. 
The explanation of this curious piece of history is 
found in a passage of Virgil, in which he speaks of the 
picti Geloni, i.e., the painted Geloni. They were 
supposed to dye their skin with some colouring 
stuff. In one of the versions of the wanderings of 
the Gaels before they reached Ireland, instead of 
sailing the Mediterranean they marched from Scythia 
across Europe. On their way they fraternised with 
a people called the Agathyrsi, who dwelt in Thrace. 
They made a compact with these people, with the 
result that later on a body of the Agathyrsi, having 
taken the name of Picts, followed in the track of the 
Gaels and came to Ireland. On their way they 
passed through a part of Gaul, where some of them 
remained, and were afterwards known as Pictavi. 
From these is named Poitou in France. Virgil is at 
the back of this story also. In a verse of the JEneid, 
he speaks of the picti Agathyrsi, " the painted 

From these instances, we can see how closely Virgil 
was read in the ancient Irish schools. We can also 
see from what materials our ancient scholars could 
weave their legends of antiquity. And later on we 


shall see how similar materials and a similar pro- 
cess enabled the Latin scholars of ancient Ireland to 
construct their accounts — for they have more than 
one account — of the origin and early wanderings of 
the Gaelic people. 

Another considerable element of the ancient popu- 
lation was the Iverni, as they were called by Ptolemy 
in the second century. Ptolemy locates them in the 
middle of southern Ireland. The Irish form of their 
name in the time of our most ancient writings was 
'Erainn, more familiar in later usage in the ac- 
cusative form 'Erna. They have been sometimes 
called Erneans in English. In the older heroic 
literature, the Iverni or 'Erainn are the chief people 
of Munster. In an important early tract, which 
gives the names and distribution of the principal 
subject communities throughout Ireland, the Sen- 
Erainn are placed in the district of Luachair, i.e., in 
the north of Kerry and the adjoining parts of the 
counties of Limerick and Cork. The peoples 
enumerated in this tract are regarded as being 
not of Gaelic origin. Sen-Erainn means the old 
or original Iverni, and the term is used to dis- 
tinguish them from others also called Erainn, who 
were of free status and are attached by the genealo- 
gists to the Gaelic stock. My opinion is that the 
dominant element in every part of Ireland during the 
historical period, including the dynastic families and 
higher nobility, was Celtic. Otherwise, if we suppose 
that large communities of pre-Celtic inhabitants con- 
tinued to exist under rulers and nobles of their own 
stock down to medieval times, the universality of 


the Gaelic language as far back as tradition reaches 
would be hard to account for. I suppose that, when 
a Celtic dynasty and nobility became established 
over a non-Celtic commonalty, the old name of the 
community became attached to them all. So we find 
that Giraldus calls the nobles who invaded Ireland 
in his time Angli, giving them the name of the 
subject people over whom they had ruled in England, 
though they had been barely a century in England 
and some of them not nearly so long. I think the 
same is probably true of the free and dominant 
Picts in the north-east, i.e., that they consisted of a 
common population of Pictish stock ruled by kings 
and nobles of Celtic origin. 

Not only in Munster but also in Connacht, Meath 
and Ulster, our ancient genealogists recognise the 
existence of Ivernian communities. Rhys put for- 
ward the view that the Iverni were only a southern 
division of the Picts, but this view cannot well be 
reconciled with Irish tradition, which seems always 
to distinguish between Picts and Iverni, and recog- 
nises Picts in southern Ireland and Iverni in northern 
Ireland. For example, in county Antrim, Dal Riada, 
the north-eastern portion, was Ivernian, and the rest 
of the county for the most part was Pictish. We 
are on safer ground in regarding the Picts and the 
Iverni as two fairly distinct peoples. 

From the Iverni the whole island took the names 
by which it was known to the ancient Irish, the 
Britons, the Greeks, the Romans, and therefore no 
doubt to the Celts in the neighbouring parts of the 
Continent. But we have seen that the original 


Iverni, in Irish tradition, were a remnant of the 
pre-Celtic population. Ireland therefore was named 
by the Celts, as Britain and Ireland were jointly 
named, from an older population which the invading 
Celts found in possession. The Romans changed 
Iverni into Hiberni, through a process known as 
popular etymology. Hiberni suggested to them 
the Latin word meaning " wintry." Though Ireland 
was known to some Latin writers to be by no means 
a wintry country, but quite the contrary, this 
verbal resemblance naturally caught the imagination, 
and one Latin poet actually speaks of " glacialis 
Ierne," ice-cold Ireland. 

The Irish and Welsh names of Ireland are not 
directly taken from the name of the Iverni, but 
evidently from an older form which must have 
been Iveri. Both the Irish name 'Eire (formerly 
'Eriu) and the Welsh Iwerddon go back to an older 
name Iverio, and this older name is actually found 
in the writings of Saint Patrick in the slightly dis- 
guised Latin form Hiberio. The Irish genealogies 
corroborate this view that the name Iverni is itself 
a derivative from an older name Iveri. A common 
feature in genealogical lore is the tracing of a 
people's descent from an ancestor of the same 
name. It is found in the Bible, in the genealogies 
of the Arabs, in the legends of the Greeks, and in 
our own legends, for example, when the Gaels are 
said to have taken their name from an ancestor 
named Gaedheal Glas. In like manner all the 
pedigrees of the Erainn or Iverni in the Irish 
genealogies are traced to an ancestor named Iar. 


Iar is a word of two syllables, and represents an 
older form Iveros. From this and from the Irish 
and Welsh names of Ireland, I infer that the people 
called Iverni were at a still earlier period called 
Iveri. The change in the name of a people from a 
simple to a derivative form is of very common 
occurrence. Thus, instead of Angles, people now 
say the English, instead of Scots, the Scotch ; in 
Irish, the names for the English and the Welsh have 
undergone a similar change ; and so with numerous 
other names in many countries and languages. 

Rhys derives the old Celtic name of Ireland, Iverio, 
from a word cognate with the Greek piaira, meaning 
" fat," and understands Iverio to mean the fat, i.e., 
the fertile country. This explanation, however, 
will not hold good if, as I think, the name Iverio 
means the country of the Iveri, unless we suppose 
the name Iveri to be Celtic and to mean " the fat 
people ! ' But we have seen that, in Irish tra- 
dition, the original Iverni were a pre-Celtic people, 
and we are under no necessity to discover a Celtic 
origin for their name. 

For my part, granted that this people bore the 
name Iveri, changed afterwards into the adjectival 
form Iverni, I see no serious difficulty in supposing 
that this name was a local variant of Iberi, the name 
by which the people of Spain were known to the 
ancient Greeks and Romans. 

Authorities on Irish archaeology are agreed that 
the Early Stone Age is not exemplified in the most 
ancient remains of human occupation that have been 
discovered in Ireland. The explanation for this is 


supplied by the geologists. Some thousands of 
years ago, the conditions of perpetual snow and ice 
that at present prevail in the Arctic regions ex- 
tended much farther into the temperate zones. The 
northern parts of Europe were covered with per- 
petual ice. Ireland lay entirely within this glacial 
zone. The southern limit of the ice ran through the 
south of England and eastward across the Con- 
tinent. The time during which this southward ex- 
tension of ice lasted is called the Glacial Period. 
Already before that time, Europe was inhabited by 
man, and the Early Stone Age or Palaeolithic Age is 
held to have preceded the Glacial Period. 

The condition of Ireland during that period was 
like the present condition of Greenland, under a 
heavy covering of ice formed by the accumulation 
of snow. By its own weight the ice kept moving 
from the mountains into the valleys and plains, and 
from the higher land level into the surrounding seas. 
Under its moving action, the solid rock-formation of 
the mountains was ground down and rounded off 
and scooped into hollows, and great sheets and 
ridges of stones, gravel, sand and boulder-clay were 
accumulated on the slopes and low grounds. It is 
evident that any traces of human life and habitation 
that may have existed before this process were not 
likely to be found after it. 

The consequence is that the earliest traceable 
population of Ireland was Neolithic, i.e., belonged to 
the Late Stone Age. By the Stone Age is meant 
that time in which the use of metals was still un- 
known, and in which the most durable material of 


implements used by men was stone. Needless to 
say, they also used wood, bone, and any other 
material that came to hand. The Late Stone Age 
is distinguished from the Early Stone Age by the 
use of polished and finely shaped stone implements. 

In England, according to eminent authorities 
already quoted, the descendants of Palaeolithic Man 
survived and are still the prevalent type. In Ire- 
land, they did not survive, and whatever Palaeo- 
lithic blood is in our veins to-day is due to immigra- 
tion. Regarding the Neolithic population of Ireland, 
whatever is to be said belongs rather to archaeology 
than to history. In Britain, we are told, the Neo- 
lithic population consisted of at least three distinct 
races, one which had remained there from Palaeo- 
lithic times, and two new races, or rather a mixture 
of two races, which came in from the Continent. 
One sees how futile it is to attempt to fix upon such 
a population a name like Iberian. It is assuming a 
knowledge which does not belong to us. 

The Late Stone Age was followed by the Bronze 
Age, but between the two came a transitional period 
now generally recognised, in which copper replaced 
stone as the most durable material of manufacture. 
This Copper Period is well exemplified in Ireland. 
Bronze, the distinctive material of the Bronze Age, 
was made by adding a small proportion of tin to 
copper, producing a metal very much superior to 
pure copper for the manufacture of tools and 
weapons. So far as I have been able to learn, the 
presence of tin in quantities that could be worked 
is unknown in Ireland. There seems to have been 


no scarcity of bronze, and from this I conclude that 
during the Bronze Age, Ireland had an import trade 
in tin, and probably therefore an export trade in 
copper or some other product. This is the earliest 
evidence of Irish commerce. Bronze cannot have 
been the material of ordinary industry, nor, unless 
the inhabitants were very unwarlike, can bronze 
have been the material of ordinary weapons of war. 
It is a very durable material, almost unaffected by 
the action of the elements during centuries. 
Numerous as the finds of bronze tools and weapons 
have been in Ireland, they should have been im- 
measurably more numerous if tools and weapons of 
bronze had been in every man's hands throughout 
the Bronze Age, which, according to Coffey, lasted 
from about i8co B.C. to about 3^0 b.c In fact, 
Sir Robert Kane, in his work on " The Industrial 
Resources of Ireland," in a footnote regarding the 
once extensive copper mines of the Danes' Island on 
the Waterford coast, supplies an interesting proof 
of what otherwise we should reasonably expect to 
be true, that the ordinary working population of the 
Bronze Age continued to use the implements of the 
preceding Stone Age. 1 Weapons and tools of bronze 
must therefore have been in the hands chiefly of a 
more opulent class than the general population. 
Gold was also used for ornaments, and Ireland is 
noted for the abundance of its gold ornaments dating 
from the Bronze Age. Native Irish gold was worked 
from very remote times, but it is also certain that 

1 "In the abandoned workings, antique tools have been found, stone 
hammers and chisels and wooden shovels." 


in the early Christian period gold was brought to 
Ireland by Oriental merchants in exchange for other 
products of the country. Sickles of bronze bear 
witness to the tillage of the soil for corn during this 
period. It will be seen that there was a mixture of 
various peoples in Ireland at the time. From this 
we might expect that there were various degrees 
of civilisation, and so the remains of Bronze Age 
sepulchres indicate. The simpler and ruder forms 
of these are found all over the country. The highly 
elaborate sepulchres of the region of the lower Boyne, 
its tributary the Blackwater, and the lower Liffey, 
are indicative of a relatively high civilisation in 
those parts, the ancient territory of Bregia. Along 
with these we may take into account an old Gaelic 
tradition. It tells that when the Gaels came to 
Ireland many of the fertile plains had still to be 
cleared of forest, but there was one plain, Magh 
n-Ealta, stretching northward from Dublin, which 
was called the Ancient Plain and was already clear 
of forest before they arrived. Its name is inter- 
preted as meaning " the plain of the flocks of birds," 
by which we may understand that it was frequented 
by the various kinds of gregarious birds which we 
see in our own time hovering around the plough, 
rooks, jackdaws, starlings and seagulls. It is worth 
noting that towards the opposite border of the same 
region of Bregia there is another plain of the same 
name, still represented in the name of Moynalty 
village, about four miles north of Kells and on the 
Moynalty river, which is a tributary of the Meath 


I shall here mention an additional indication that 
the Gaels were not in occupation of Ireland during 
the Bronze Age. In ancient Gaelic tradition, the 
great chambered tumuli of the Boyne are taken to 
be the tombs or the dwellings of an earlier race. 

We pass on now to consider some of the evidence 
supplied by our ancient literature regarding the 
population which inhabited Ireland before the coming 
of the Gaels, that is, according to the conclusions I 
have already drawn, before the Iron Age. The 
Gaels occupied Ireland as a conquering and dominant 
people. During the early centuries of their occupa- 
tion, whatever language or languages had been 
spoken in Ireland before them completely disap- 
peared as languages, leaving no doubt some traces 
behind in the names of places, etc., and probably 
also influencing to some degree the Gaelic language 
itself. But for a long time there was nothing like a 
complete fusion of the old and the new population. 
The older population remained, not as a mere pro- 
miscuous swarm of subject folk, but preserving in 
a large measure its ancient organisation and sub- 
divisions. This state of things continued during the 
early centuries of Christianity in Ireland. 

Most of the manuscript evidence concerning these 
ancient communities is still awaiting collection, pub- 
lication, and study. Some of it is to be found here 
and there in the old genealogical tracts, which are 
still unpublished, and some in the annals. There is 
a good deal of very ancient material on the subject 
quoted in the introductory part of the great Book of 
Genealogies by Dubhaltach Mac Fir-Bhisigh. There 


is one particular tract dealing specially with the 
names and topography of these ancient subject com- 
munities. It exists in a number of MSS., and has 
been printed by Craigie in the Revue Celtique from 
a single MS. of the Edinburgh collection. From 
internal evidence I think that this tract is of not 
later date than the eighth century., I mention 
these facts to show how much has still to be done 
before we can claim a near approach to full and 
accurate knowledge of the existing evidence. 

There are, however, some larger divisions of the 
ancient population, spread over wide areas and 
comprising in each instance several of the smaller 
named groups ; and about these larger divisions 
there is sufficient information to warrant the essaying 
of some account of them. Chief among these may 
be reckoned the Picts. The tract just mentioned 
shows that there were subject communities of the 
Picts around Cruachain, the seat of the Connacht 
kings, and all over Mid-Ulster, from Meath to Loch 

Along the lower part of the Shannon, in the 
counties of Galway, Tipperary and Limerick, there 
was an ancient population known as Fir Iboth, or by 
the adjectival name Ibdaig. These names contain 
the Irish equivalent of the name by which the western 
islands of Scotland were known to Greek and Latin 
writers of the first and second centuries of the Chris- 
tian era, i.e., Ebudae. The modern name Hebrides 
originated in a mistaken writing of this name, and it 
is curious that the most celebrated island of the 
group got its English name, " Iona," in the same 


way. Ptolemy makes these islands belong to Ire- 
land not to Britain. Solinus says the inhabitants 
in his time grow no crops and live on fish and milk. 
It is possible that an ancient branch of this popula- 
tion preserved their identity by forming, so to 
speak, a fisherman caste on the banks of the Shannon. 
There is evidence that something like the Hindu 
caste system, in so far as it is linked with the occupa- 
tions o: the people, existed among the descendants 
of the Pre-Celtic population in Ireland. One of these 
subject communities is known by the variant names 
Tuath Semon, Semonrige, Semrige, and Semaine. 
Each of these names contains the Irish word seim, 
meaning a rivet, and may be translated the Rivet- 
folk. This people dwelt in the Desi territory of 
Munster, where those copper-mines are found which 
were worked in the Bronze Age by miners using 
tools of stone and wood. Taking the facts together, 
it seems reasonable to infer that the Semonrige tribe 
were the descendants of the ancient copper-smiths of 
the district, and that they obtained their name from 
the commodity in which they paid their tribute to 
the dominant Celts, for the name is Celtic. It should 
be well noted here that these Irish metal-workers are 
presented to us in early Irish records as descendants 
of the pre-Gaelic population ; whereas, as we have 
seen, the current theory in British archaeology as- 
sumes that the occupation of working bronze was 
distinctive of the Gaels themselves and was intro- 
duced by them. 

Another copper-producing district is that of Bearra 
in West Munster, bordering on Berehaven. Here in 


ancient times dwelt another " rent-paying " com- 
munity bearing the significant name of Ceardraighe, 
" the Smith Folk." There was also either a branch 
of this folk or another community of the same name 
situate around the ancient seat of the Munster kings, 
Teamhair Luachra, a suitable locality in which to find 
constant employment for a caste of workers in bronze. 

According to the tract on the Rent-paying Com- 
munities, all over the parts of Munster which, in 
historical time, were regarded as being specifically 
Ivernian, including large districts in the present 
counties of Tipperary, Limerick, Cork and Kerry, 
there was distributed one of these subject com- 
munities which bore the name Tuath Cathbarr, i.e., 
" the people of helmets." Since there is no record 
and no likelihood that this subject people were a 
fighting caste, as undoubtedly some of the subject- 
communities were in other parts of Ireland, we may 
infer that they got their name from being employed 
in the manufacture of battle-gear. 

I come now to the most celebrated of all the pre- 
Celtic folks that inhabited Ireland, the Fir Bolg. In 
including these among the industrial castes of ancient 
Ireland, I claim the support of the oldest written 
traditions, which clearly tell that the Fir Bolg, or 
" Men of Bags," obtained that name from an in- 
dustrial connection with leathern bags. The story 
of the origin of the name, as found in the Book of 
Invasions, Keating's History, etc., is no doubt well- 
known. They migrated, we are told, from Ireland 
to Greece (Greece in ancient Irish writings means 
the Eastern Empire). There, being outlanders, ac- 


cording to the ideas of our forefathers, they did not 
obtain the local franchises and became a serf people. 
Their occupation was to carry sand and earth in 
leathern bags and spread a soil over rocky places, 
as is still done in parts of Ireland, to make fertile 
land. From this occupation, they were named Fir 
Bolg. They afterwards used the hides in which 
they worked to construct ships in the ancient fashion, 
and in these ships they escaped back to Ireland and 

Quite a different version of the story is found in 
the Book of Lecan, a book which contains a great 
miscellany, awaiting most desirable publication, of 
excerpts from older writings, especially excerpts of 
material which does not accord with what one may 
call the received teachings of later times on matters 
of Irish legend and tradition. This particular passage 
contains what is doubtless the oldest extant account 
of the Fir Bolg. Its language, in my opinion, is of 
not later date than the eighth century. Like the 
accepted story, it says that they were a branch of the 
race of Nemed, but unlike the accepted story, it does 
not say that they left Ireland in a body and came 
back to it in a body after many years. On the 
contrary, it tells us that they continued to inhabit 
Ireland all the time, but carried on a particular 
trade with the eastern world. The manner of their 
trade was this. They put Irish earth into leathern 
bags and exported it to the east, where they sold it 
to the Greeks to be spread on the ground around 
their cities as a protection against venomous reptiles. 
From this trade they got the name of Bagmen. 


Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh, in the unpublished 
introduction to his Book of Genealogies, tells us that 
Fir Bolg was the specific name of a particular sec- 
tion of the pre-Gaelic population, but became ex- 
tended in common usage so as to be applied to the 
whole of that population. Of this statement we 
have abundant corroboration, with details enabling 
us to locate the abode of various sections of the 
Bag-folk properly , so called. One section, called 
Bolgraighe, was the principal Rent-paying com- 
munity of the ancient Tir Conaill, a territory of much 
smaller extent than the Tir Conaill of later times. 
Another section inhabited the district of Sliabh 
Badbgna (Slieve Baune) in the east of County Ros- 
common, where, I have been told, popular tradition 
still recognises their descendants. Another section 
dwelt in the district of Cong in the south of County 
Mayo, another in Sliabh Eachtgha (Aughty) in the 
south of County Galway. 

The manufacture of bags from hide or leather was 
no doubt not a highly esteemed occupation, and it 
was probably out of contempt that the name Fir 
Bolg was extended to the whole conquered popula- 
tion by the Celtic ascendancy. The subject com- 
munities produced not only skilled artisans but men 
of great piety and learning in early Christian times. 
Saint Mo-Chuarog, for example, who is called Sapiens, 
" the Learned," and who introduced a reform into 
the Irish chronography of his time, was a member 
of the Rivet-folk, the Seamonraighe of the Deisi. 
But the general attitude of the Gaels towards the 
older population was undoubtedly disdainful. The 


passage quoted by Dubhaltach from " an ancient 
book " is familiar to many in O'Curry's translation : 

" Every one who is black-haired, who is a tattler, 
guileful, tale-telling, noisy, contemptible ; every 
wretched, mean, strolling, unsteady, harsh and in- 
hospitable person ; every slave, every mean thief, 
every churl, every one who loves not to listen to 
music and entertainment, the disturbers of every 
council and every assembly, and the promoters of 
discord among people — these are the descendants of 
the Firbolgs, of the Galians, of the Liogairne, and of 
the Fir Domhnann in Eirinn. But the descendants 
of the Fir Bolg are the most numerous of all these." 

This is fine old ascendancy talk, the sort of lan- 
guage that has served in many ages to justify the 
oppression of liberty ; and there is plenty of evidence 
that the older population was in some instances 
subjected to very harsh treatment — in some in- 
stances, not in all, nor were the ancient communities 
always spoken of in such terms of contempt. 

Among them, besides industrial groups or castes, 
there were also others which appear to have followed 
the profession of arms. Cu Chulainn, according to 
one tradition preserved by Dubhaltach, belonged to 
a non-Gaelic tribe called Tuath Tabhairn, and it 
will be remembered that he is once described as " a 
small dark man." " Thou little elf ! " his charioteer 
used to call him, to provoke him to do his utmost 
in the fight. His rival, Fear Diadh, was a noble of 
the Fir Domhnann from Connacht, and the Fir 
Domhnann still existed as a subject community in 
the times to which the tract on the Rent-paying 


Folks has relation. They are located in a stretch of 
country comprising the greater part of the counties 
of Mayo and Sligo. In the eastern Midlands, from 
the Shannon to the Irish Sea, the same tract places 
another of these ancient tribes named the Luaighni — 
a name still preserved in that of the barony of Lune 
in Meath. These are represented as forming the 
chief fighting force of the kings of North Leinster in 
the heroic period. When Conchobhar sets out to 
exact reparation for the Tain and the invasion of 
Ulster, he is met by the forces of the Luaighni at 
Rosnaree on the Boyne, his heroes one after another 
are worsted in the fight, his army almost routed, and 
it is only when their king has fallen in single combat 
that the Luaighni abandon the field. In the curious 
story of the revolution brought about by the revolt 
of the Rent-paying tribes against the oppressive rule 
of the Gaelic nobility, it is the chief of the Luaighni, 
Cairbre of the Cat's Head, who becomes king of 
Ireland for twenty years. 

Still more remarkable is the tribute of the ancient 
saga to the valour and discipline of the Galians. In 
the ninth century the Galians are still described by 
the poet Mael Muru as one of the outstanding sections 
of the population who are not Gaels. The tract on 
the Rent-paying Folks divides them into three 
tuatha and gives the location of each. They inhabited 
the northern parts of old Leinster, in the present 
counties of Wicklow, Kildare, and King's County. 
The story of the Tain tells how the Galians ex- 
celled all the other troops that joined Medb on her 
march from Cruachain for the invasion of Ulster. 


" This enterprise," said the warlike queen, " will be 
a barren one for all of us, except for one force alone, 
the Galians of Leinster." " Why blamest thou 
these men ? " said her consort. " Blame them we do 
not," replied Medb. kt What good service then have 
they done that they are praised above the rest ? " 
said Ailill. " There is reason to praise them," said 
Medb. " They are splendid soldiers. When the rest 
are beginning to make their pens and pitch their 
camps, the Galians have already finished setting up 
their booths and huts. When the rest are still build- 
ing booths and huts, the Galians have finished pre- 
paring their food and drink. While the others are 
getting ready their food and drink, the Galians have 
done eating and feasting, and their harps are playing 
for them. When all the others have finished eating 
and feasting, by that time the Galians are asleep. 
And even as their servants and thralls are dis- 
tinguished above the servants and thralls of the Men 
of Erin, so shall their heroes and champions be dis- 
tinguished above the heroes and champions of the 
men of Erin on this hosting. It is folly then for 
the rest to go, for the Galians will enjoy the victory." 
And in fear and jealousy the queen declared that 
nothing would please her but to fall upon the Galians 
and destroy them. Her husband expostulated. 
" Shame on thy speech ! ' he said, " a woman's 
counsel, for no better reason than because they 
pitch their tents and make their pens so promptly 
and unwearily." And Fergus interposing swore that 
he and his Ulstcrmen would stand by the Galians to 
the death. The Galians, he said, are but one division 


in eighteen of our army. Even so, we shall take care 
that they shall be no danger to us. And he took and 
divided the forces of the Galians among the rest so 
that not five of them were in one place together. 

Of this Galian stock came Fionn and Oisin and 
Oscar and all their kindred, according to some ac- 
counts. They were of the sept Ui Tairsigh, one of 
the three folks who, says Mael Muru, are not of the 
Gaedhil. This sept dwelt at Drumcree in the barony 
of Delvin in Westmeath. Their name and existence 
as a sept is probably not so ancient as the time of 
Fionn, but we may suppose that in their own time 
they claimed descent from the family of Fionn, from 
Clann Bhaoisgne. 

Other possible instances of occupation-castes are 
found in the names Cechtraighe " plough-folk," Cor- 
braighe and Corbetrighe "chariot-folk' (Carbanto- 
rigion, the name of a town of the Selgovae in southern 
Scotland), Gruthraighe " curd-folk," Lusraighe 
" herb-folk," Medraighe " weight or balance-folk," 
Rosraighe " linseed-folk," Rothraighe " wheel-folk," 
Sciathraighe " shield-folk." 

The tinker clans of recent times in Ireland and 
Scotland may well be survivals of some of these 
ancient industrial communities. 

It is certain that ancient tribes remained in every 
part of Ireland after their conquest by the Gaels, and 
retained in some measure during the early Christian 
period in Ireland their ancient organisation, often 
under their own ancient lines of chiefs. 'This is 
matter of strictly historical record, and if any similar 
records had existed and were still extant in Britain, 



we should hear less of the cheap and easy history of 
successive populations, each of them completely ex- 
terminating those that inhabited the land before 
them. Writers on history would not find themselves 
flatly contradicting ethnologists on the strength of 
their own gratuitous assumptions, when ethnologists 
say that the modern English race is largely composed 
of descendants of the primitive inhabitants. 

On this subject of primitive races, there is one 
point which, in passing, I desire to bring out. One 
of the founders of the modern study of ethnology, 
Quatrefages, has given a good illustration of a sort 
of scientific method akin to some that we have had 
already under consideration. A glance at the map 
showed him that Ireland represented a north- 
western limit of the likely spread of the human 
race in remote times. The migratory movements 
of antiquity were thought to have, generally speak- 
ing, a western trend in Europe. Ireland besides 
was an island, which in the distant past must have 
been reached through Britain. Conclusion : Ireland 
was the place in which to look for primitive European 
types, and in Ireland the surest place to find the 
primitive types must be the extreme north-western 
part. Accordingly, M. Quatrefages packed his port- 
manteau in Paris and labelled it for Belmullet. This 
kind of scientific quest is usually successful. It 
succeeds after the manner of the schoolboy who, 
before entering into the intricacies of a question in 
algebra, takes the precaution of providing himself 
with the answer from the end of the book. M. 
Quatrefages found the Mayo seaboard swarming with 


a primitive race of men. I do not propose to examine 
his discoveries in detail. Anyone who is curious 
about them is referred to the late Dr. Hogan's little 
book on " The Irish People," which is the source of 
my information. In a paper contributed by me to 
the Royal Irish Academy's " Clare Island Survey," 
on the Place-names and Family-names of Clare 
Island, I showed that nearly half of the families now 
living there could be traced to an earlier home in 
distant parts of Ireland. I pointed out that in 
remote ages, the parts of the sea that adjoin the 
land and the parts of the land that adjoin the sea 
must have afforded the freest highway for movements 
of population. It must have been so in the glacial 
period and during its decline, when the scanty 
population must have lived a life like that of the 
modern Eskimos who travel long journeys in their 
canoes and change their habitation at will. It must 
have been so in the barren period that succeeded the 
age of ice, when animal and vegetable food was 
much more abundant on the sea-shore than inland. 
And it must have been so in the succeeding forest 
period, when the inland regions became difficult to 
traverse. In fact, until men became tillers of the 
ground and road-makers, the sea-edge was their 
grand highway. Hence it is that the population of 
the seaboard is always the most mixed and variable. 
The place to look for the least movement and least 
variation is inland, especially in deeply wooded, 
swampy or mountain areas, which offer the least 
attraction to newcomers and from which an older 
population is hardest to dislodge. And this, I think, 


is also the lesson of ethnological research conducted 
without foregone conclusions. In all western Europe, 
there is no region that contains a larger proportion 
of a late-coming population than the Orkneys, Shet- 
lands and Hebrides and distant Iceland, the utter- 
most extremes of the north-west. 

The ancient legends of Ireland tell of certain 
peoples which are not represented by territorial 
groups in the historical record. Most conspicuous 
among these are the Tuatha De Danann and the 
Fomori (" Fomorians ")• The late D'Arbois de 
Jubainville showed very clearly that these two 
peoples belonged to pagan mythology. His work on 
the subject can be read in the English translation by 
Mr. Best, " The Irish Mythological Cycle." I cannot 
now attempt to go over the ground it covers, even in 
summary, but shall content myself by adding a few 
cogent proofs to those which it supplies. About the 
year 1000 the poet Eochaidh O'Flainn wrote a poem 
on the Tuatha de Danann. He began by setting 
himself the question, w^ere these folks human or 
were they demons. He answers that they were 
mortal men of Adam's race, and we are even told 
by what deaths they died. The very fact that the 
question had to be asked is conclusive as to the 
popular belief. But the poet was not satisfied with 
having brushed this popular belief, a survival of 
paganism, to one side. In his concluding verses 
he protests " I do not worship them, I worship the 
one true God." So that as late as the year 1000 
people in Ireland still spoke of the Tuatha De Danann 
as objects of heathen worship. 


An older writer, quoted in the Book of Lecan, tells 
a plainer tale. He does not admit the truth of the 
ancient mythology, and says that the Tuatha De 
Danann were a remnant of the fallen angels. They 
assume, he says, bodies of airy substance so as to 
become visible to men, the better to tempt them. 
They come at the call of sorcerers and those who 
practise malevolent incantations by walking in circles 
lefthandwise. They used to be worshipped, and it 
was they who invented the spells sung by smiths and 
druids and wise-women and pilots and cupbearers. 
From them druidism came in Ireland. 

The poet-historians did not succeed in killing off 
the Tuatha De Danann. In 1088 the annalist Tiger- 
nach died, and in 1084, four years before his death, 
his chronicle contains an account of a pestilence 
which visited Ireland at that time. The cause of 
this pestilence, says the chronicler, was revealed in 
that year to a certain man, Gilla Lugan, who was in 
the habit of frequenting a fairy mound at Hallow- 
tide, the old heathen festival of Samhain. There in 
the year 1084, Oengus appeared to him and told 
him that the plague was brought to Ireland by 
legions of evil spirits from the islands of the northern 
ocean, who spread it over the country with their 
fiery breath. And Gilla Lugan himself, says the 
chronicler, afterwards saw one of these demon 
legions on the rath of Mullaghmast, and in what- 
soever direction their fiery breath came on the 
land, there the plague broke out among the people. 

In Agallamh na Seanorach, the rulers of the Tuatha 
De Danann are still alive in St. Patrick's time, and 


inhabit the hills associated with their memory. One 
of them has recently come to life once more in 
Dublin, Finnbheara of Cnoc Meadha. From the 
hills at Tourmakeady you can see Cnoc Meadha, a 
low round hill, on the eastern horizon. It was 
pointed out to me by a man who knew all about it. 
That is where Finn Bheara lives, he said. He is 
the king of the Good People. He is not always 
there. When Finn Bheara is living in Cnoc Meadha, 
it is a good year for the country. When he goes 
away, it is a bad year. 

A poem in Duanaire Finn tells how Oengus aided 
the Fiana in their hostilities with king Cormac, and, 
like the gods in the Homeric poems, remained in- 
visible while he fought on their behalf. 

The passage already cited from the Book of Lecan 
tells how the Tuatha De Danann arrived in Ireland. 
They came, it says, without ships or boats and first 
alighted on Sliabh an Iarainn, in the heart of the 

The mythology of the Irish Celts was not originally 
shaped in Ireland. They brought it along with them 
from central Europe, and just as the ancient scrip- 
tures of the Hindus bear traces of having been 
originally composed in a climate very different from 
that of Hindustan, so I think the Irish mythology 
shows some traces of its continental origin. The 
Fomori of Irish tradition were not inhabitants of 
Ireland. They always appear as invaders. They 
come from the north, from the unknown places of 
the northern ocean. The demons who brought 
the pestilence to Ireland in 1084 were Fomorians. 


They are always enemies of the people of Ireland. 
They were enemies to Parthalon's people, and after 
them to Nemed's people, the Fir Bolg, and after 
them to the Gaels. They were a malevolent race of 
immortals. In the popular view, among heathens, 
a people expected to be defended by the gods of its 
own worship. If a hostile people had other gods, 
these were expected to fight on the other side. 
Hence there was a natural tendency to regard a 
double set of immortals, one party being foreign and 
malevolent, the other domestic and benevolent. But 
the Irish people, before the Norse invasions, knew no 
human enemies in the northern ocean. Accordingly, 
I think that the Fomorians originally belonged to 
the continental geography of Celtic mythology, and 
that the sea from Avhich they came was not the 
ocean to the north of Ireland but the Baltic and the 
North Sea, and that their islands were originally 
perhaps Britain and Ireland and the islands of the 
Baltic and the Scandinavian peninsula itself, which 
was thought to be an island when it first became 
known to the Greeks. The Fomorians would be 
perhaps in part identical with, in part associated 
with, the gods of the peoples dwelling on the shores 
of those northern seas before the Celtic expansion 
northward and north-westward. 

We have glanced at the process by which one of 
our poet-historians endeavoured to transform popu- 
lar tradition into a kind of history more acceptable 
to his own school. Christian learning brought into 
Ireland a double stream of history, derived from 
the Old Testament and from the Greek and Latin 


historians. The two streams had already been 
mingled in one by early Christian historians like 
Eusebius and Orosius. The works of these writers 
were well-known in early Christian Ireland. The 
Chronicle of Eusebius, a history of the ancient king- 
doms of the world, written in parallel columns, a 
column to each kingdom, was known through the 
Latin translation by St. Jerome and its continuation 
by Prosper of Aquitaine in the fifth century. It be- 
came the basis of the writing of Irish history, and 
was continued in Ireland, with an Irish section 
added, down to the early years of the seventh 
century. By adopting this basis and model, the 
early Christian historians of Ireland brought them- 
selves inevitably face to face with the task of 
linking and fitting the old Gaelic tradition to this 
existing framework of Biblical and Greco-Latin 

We cannot doubt that the Celts, like the Greeks, 
Persians, Egyptians, Northmen and other ancient 
peoples, had what is called a cosmogony of their 
own, an account of the beginning of the world. 
Caesar tells us that the Druids expounded the nature 
of the gods and also of the material universe. This 
cosmogony could find no place in the new scheme, 
and it disappeared, leaving perhaps a few traces in 
the genealogies. In like manner, other parts of the 
popular tradition and native lore required to be 
transformed and recast to find a place in the ac- 
cepted scheme of world history. That is why the 
Tuatha De Danann became mortals in the teaching 
of the learned while they remained and still remain 


immortal in the traditions that come down from 
heathen times. 

The native tradition had its own account of the 
origin of the Celtic people. That account, as we 
shall see, was not such as could be adopted into the 
Christian world-history received from Eusebius and 
St. Jerome. It was completely rejected by the 
Irish historians, as completely as modern Irish 
people reject the substituted account when they say 
that their ancestors were Celtic. « 

To provide a theory of the origin of the Gaels more 
in keeping with the received world-history, a search 
was made through the Latin historical and geo- 
graphical writings that were used in the Christian 
schools of Ireland and suitable discoveries were made. 
The most serviceable material for the purpose was 
found in the world-history of Orosius, a Spanish 
historian who wrote in Latin about the year 400. 
Quotations from Orosius by name and word for word 
show that his book was well-known in the Irish 
schools. It had the advantage of combining a 
geography of the world with a history of the 

In those times, the ordinary Latin name for the 
people of Ireland was Scotti, Scots. It is the name 
used for them by Orosius, and also by St. Patrick, 
and it was accepted by all the early Irish writers who 
wrote in Latin. But this name Scotti does not 
appear in Latin before the fourth century and gave 
no direct clue to trace the origin of the Gaels. In 
the historical and geographical Latin writings to 
hand, the people's name that most nearly resembled 


Scotti was Scythi, Scythians. Accordingly, we are 
told that the Gaelic people were of Scythian origin. 

There was an independent and evidently earlier 
effort to account for their origin in a precisely similar 
way. The man of learning who undertook this 
effort fastened his attention not on the name Scotti 
but on the older Latin name Hiberni, and searched 
his Latin authorities for a corresponding name of 
some ancient people. He found that there was 
an ancient people in the region of the Caucasus 
mountains who bore the name Iberi, and we 
have the result in an old tract quoted in the Book 
of Lecan : 

" Question : what is the true origin of the Sons of 
Mil [i.e. the Gaels] ? Answer : A race there is in 
the mountains of Armenia, Hiberi they are named. 
They had a famous king, Mil, son of Bile, son of 
Nem. He was contesting the kingship with his 
father's brother, Refellair son of Nem, and he went 
into exile with the manning of four barks, and 
twelve married couples to each bark, and a soldier 
over and above without wife. . . ." And so the 
story goes on until the descendants of these Iberi 
come to Ireland. 

It is not unlikely that this account was known 
to Saint Columbanus of Bobbio. In letters written 
about the year 600, he speaks of his own people not 
as Scotti or Hiberni, but as Iberi. 

The two accounts appear to have been blended 
together by making the Scythians, before they 
reached Ireland, sojourn for a time in Spain, the 
country of the western Iberi. This gave a satis- 


factory explanation of both names, Hiberni and 

The story of their wanderings through the world 
is itself a geographical description of the ancient 
world, based in detail on the geographical chapters of 
Orosius. Of this story also there are two distinct 
versions. In one they travel overland through the 
continent of Europe, passing through the various 
peoples and territories named by Orosius. It was 
on this journey that they fell in with the Picts, for 
whom also a close scrutiny of Virgil provided two 
distinct origins, as already told. In the other ac- 
count they sailed round the world, and the names 
of the various places they touched or passed in the 
narrative are also taken from the geography of 
Orosius. A noteworthy feature of that geography 
is that it is based on the early writings of Eratosthenes 
and Strabo and entirely ignores the much larger and 
more accurate knowledge recorded by Ptolemy in 
the second century. For example, according to 
Orosius, the Caspian Sea opens by a strait directly 
into the northern ocean, and the river Ganges flows 
into the eastern ocean on the eastern side of Asia. 
Accordingly we find in the Irish story that our 
ancestors sailed right out of the Caspian into the 
northern ocean, then turning eastward came round 
by the eastern coast of Asia, and passed on that 
coast the outlet of the Ganges. 

This view of the world's geography continued to 
be taught in the Irish schools for centuries. It may 
be remarked here that the rotundity of the earth 
was also the common teaching of these schools. 


It is still more curious to note how the wording of 
Orosius has supplied some remarkable details in the 
Irish story. It will be remembered how Bregon, 
chief of the Gaels in Spain, built a tower on the 
northern Spanish coast, the Tower of Bregon, and 
how, one fine evening in spring, his grandson went 
up to the top of this tower and from it descried 
the land of Ireland. When the Gaels afterwards 
took ship and came to Ireland, the place where they 
landed was Inbhear Sceine. All this comes from 
the actual phraseology of Orosius. 

" The second angle of Spain, he writes, points to 
the northwest, where Brigantia, a city of Galicia, is 
situated and rears its lofty lighthouse, of a structure 
with which few can be compared, looking towards 
Britain." The last words might also be taken to 
mean " for a view of Britain," and it was in this 
sense that they struck the imagination of the Irish 
schoolman. He thought of a tower so tall that 
Britain was actually visible from it. A few chapters 
further on he read that " Hibernia is an island 
situated between Britain and Spain," a notion of its 
position due to the fact that ships sailing by the 
old Atlantic trade route were accustomed to call 
at some Irish harbour on their voyages between 
Spain and Britain. If then Britain was visible from 
the lofty tower of Brigantia, and Ireland lay be- 
tween Britain and Spain, Ireland must also be 
visible from the tower. Bregon or Breogan appears 
to have been a real name in Irish tradition. It re- 
sembled the name Brigantia. So we arc told that 
Brigantia took its name from Bregon, the Gaelic 


chief, and that the tower there was built by him. 
This impression of Ireland lying within sight of Spain 
was confirmed by other passages of Orosius. " The 
ocean," he says, " has islands which they call 
Britain and Ireland, which are situated over against 
one side of Gaul and looking to Spain (ad prospectum 
Hispaniae)." And again speaking of Ireland : 
" The fore parts of this island, stretching towards 
the Cantabrian ocean (i.e., the Cantabrian part of 
the ocean, the Bay of Biscay) behold far away over 
a wide intervening space Brigantia, the city of 
Galicia, facing them towards the northwest, especially 
from that promontory where the mouth of the 
river Scena is, and where the Velabri and Luceni 
inhabit." The tower of Brigantia " looked towards " 
Ireland, and the south-western parts of Ireland 
" beheld " Brigantia. It is quite possible that Orosius 
himself used these expressions in their literal sense. 
At all events they were so interpreted by his Irish 
reader. The Irish legend tells us that the Sons of 
Mil, who was grandson of Bregon, having learned 
that a land was seen to the north-west from the 
tower of Bregon, set sail for that land and, after 
certain adventures, put into a haven called Inbhear 
Sceine. Where was Inbhear Sceine ? Its locality 
has been the subject of some discussion. If you 
turn up the name in Dr. Hogan's Onomasticon, you 
will find that there are no data to enable you to 
decide which of the havens of south-western Ireland 
bore that name, and for a very good reason. The 
name Inbhear Sceine did not belong to Irish topo- 
graphy. It belonged to this story, and is a transla- 


tion of the words of Orosius, ostium Scenae. There 
is no river of the name and no known record of the 
name as that of any river in Ireland : nor is there 
evidence that those who wrote and re-wrote the story 
of the Gaelic invasion in ancient times had any more 
definite notion of the locality of Inbhear Sceine than 
you or I have. 

The fact is that the whole story of the origin of 
the Gaels in Scythia or in Armenia, their wanderings 
by land and sea, their settlement in Spain, and their 
landing in Ireland, is an artificial product of the 
schools, and does not represent a primitive tradition. 
It must have displaced the popular tradition. If 
so, can we find any surviving traces of the older 
native account of the origin of the Irish Celts ? I 
think we can. We have seen that the Tuatha De 
Danann were an immortal race. They were not all 
gods. We are expressly told that they were gods 
and non-gods. They were tuatha^ i.e., states or com- 
munities like those of the ancient Irish people. 
Their chiefs were gods. When they first came to 
Ireland, their king was Nuadu Silverhand. As a 
god, Nuadu was worshipped also in Britain, as 
several inscriptions of the Roman period testify. 
From him, according to several genealogical tracts, 
the whole Gaelic population of Ireland was descended. 
Other gods as well as Nuadu arc clearly named in the 
ancient pedigrees. 

We have seen how the divine race of the Tuatha 
De Danann came to Ireland in the clouds of the 
air, without ship or boat, and alighted on the Iron 
Mountain in the heart of the country. I have 


found nothing to show clearly whether their human 
descendants, the Gaels, were thought to have 
originated in Ireland or outside of it, except per- 
haps one scrap of ancient tradition. It was from 
the northern parts of Europe that the Tuatha De 
Danann came. The Gaels, according to the learned 
legend already discussed, came from Spain to south- 
western Ireland. There is, however, a totally dis- 
tinct version of their arrival, which says that they 
first arrived at the opposite corner, in the north- 
east, in the locality of Fair Head. If this is genuine 
tradition, it would follow that the Gaels, the offspring 
of the gods they worshipped, were thought to have 
originated outside of Ireland, somewhere in northern 

The Book of Invasions, of which a convenient 
summary is given by Keating, forming the first part 
of his history, is in its true aspect a national epic 
which took shape gradually in the early Christian 
period and under the influence of Christian and 
Latin learning. It treats the principal elements of 
the ancient population, both Celtic and Pre-Celtic, 
as offshoots of one stock, united in ancestry, and it 
thus symbolises the effective national unity and 
fusion which had come about. The land of Ireland 
is the unifying principle, and all the children of the 
land are joined into one genealogical tree. Some 
recent writer, I think it is Mr. George Moore, has 
remarked how Irish people, apparently quite 
naturally and unconsciously, speak and think of 
their country as a person. This they have been 
accustomed to do through all the ages of their 


literature. The first words spoken by a Gael on 
Irish soil, in the ancient legend, were an invocation 
addressed to Ireland herself by the druid Amorgen : 
" I entreat the land of Eire," and the land itself, 
under its three names, 'Eire, Fodla, and Banbha, 
when the Gaels arrived, was reigning as queen over 
the Men of Ireland. Thus we find the clearly formed 
idea of one nation, composed of diverse peoples, 
but made one by their affiliation to the land that 
bore them — the clearest and most concrete concep- 
tion of nationality to be found in all antiquity. 


WE have seen how the poet-historians of early 
Christian Ireland took over certain Latin 
histories of the world, especially St. 
Jerome's translation of Eusebius and the history of 
Orosius, and adopted these as the established frame- 
work of the world's history, thereby compelling 
themselves to adjust their own accounts of the 
Irish past to that framework. In the process of 
adjustment they did not all work hand in hand, 
and so we have different and sometimes contradictory 
accounts and at least half-a-dozen distinct chrono- 
logies. They found a mass of Irish traditions and 
legends embodied in stories long and short. They 
set to work on this material, endeavouring to arrange 
it all in sequence and to provide it with dates — the 
original matter being largely independent of date or 
sequence. This task became in fact the principal 
work of a certain school or class of poets, as we learn 
from a passage which, though found in the Book of 
Leinster, is held to date from about the eighth 
century. It is headed : " Of the Qualification of 
Poets." The word translated " qualification " by 
O'Curry, and not inaptly so translated, is nemthigud, 
derived from the word nemcd, the Old Celtic ad- 
jective nemetos, meaning " sacred." A sacred place 
was called nemed, and a sacred person was also called 

9 s 


itemed. The old law tract which deals with the 
privileges and rights of the poets is entitled Bretha 
Nemed, i.e., decisions regarding sacred persons. 
The tract in the Book of Leinster tells us that certain 
kinds of knowledge were necessary qualifications 
for certain classes of poets, in order that they might 
be entitled to the privileges of their class and become 
in that sense sacred persons, who, in virtue of the 
reverence due to them, might enjoy special rights 
and immunities. The knowledge required of them 
was not a knowledge of prosody or grammar, nor of 
chronology or geography, or any other science of 
the times. It was a knowledge of the stories of 
ancient Ireland, so thorough that they should be 
able to recite these stories in the presence of kings 
and chiefs, not a select few of the stories but scores 
and fifties of them. A mere memorised knowledge 
of the stories, however, was not sufficient, and some- 
thing more than the ability to recite them to the 
satisfaction of courtly patrons was deemed essential 
to qualify the person as a poet, for the tract con- 
cludes by saying : " He is no poet who does not 
synchronise and adjust together all the stories." 
This means clearly that it was, at the time, an 
essential part of the poet's work to make a con- 
secutive and dated history out of the sagas of an- 

In this way was produced a history of Ireland 
from the beginning down to Saint Patrick's time. 
From that time onward the ancients, like ourselves, 
relied on the written chronicles of Ireland. 

Among the written stories of antiquity, the 


primacy was accorded to those of the Ulster epic, 
Tain Bo Cuailnge and the other tales that range 
around it. Evidence of this primacy will be found 
in the oldest known Irish chronicle, in poems as- 
signed by Meyer to the seventh century, and 
in the framework of the ancient genealogies. A 
number of modern investigators assure us that the 
antiquarian tradition of the Ulster sagas is mar- 
vellously true to the facts established by archaeo- 
logical research in regard of the age to which those 
sagas relate, the beginning of the Christian era. 
Their historical tradition was adopted without ques- 
tion by our medieval historians. The main fact of 
that historical tradition was that Ireland, in the 
time of Cu Chulainn, was divided into five co- 
ordinate chief kingdoms, whose kings were equal 
in rank and were not subordinate to a central 
monarchy. The old historians consequently call 
this period Aimser na Coicedach (Aimsir na gCui- 
geadhach), the Time of the Pentarchs (the five 
equal kings), and leave the monarchy a blank at 
that time, though they profess to be able to give 
a list of kings of all Ireland for the earlier and later 
periods. This list of the pagan Monarchs of Ire- 
land is not historical. It is compiled in a very 
artificial way from the pedigrees of various Irish 
dynasties, in a way so artificial that one name, the 
origin of which can be traced to the sleepy blunder- 
ing of a copyist, a name which never belonged to any 
man, is found as the name of a king of Ireland in 
the list, with appropriate details telling how he 
acquired the sovereignty and how he lost it, and 


how many years he reigned. On the other hand, we 
are told that the fivefold division of Ireland was 
older than the Gaelic occupation. In fact, its 
origin was prehistoric, and the Pentarchy is the 
oldest certain fact in the political history of Ireland. 
That it is a certain fact, nobody who is acquainted 
with Irish literature and tradition will be disposed 
to question. To this day the word cuigeadh, " a 
fifth," is in general use among speakers of Irish as 
the term to denote each of the principal subdivisions 
of the country ; and cuig cuigidh na hEireann, " the 
Five Fifths of Ireland," is an expression familiar 
to all who speak the Irish language. This term 
cuigeadh, in this sense, is found in every age and 
generation of our written literature. And yet it is 
certain that throughout the whole period of our 
written literature, the political division of Ireland 
represented by this word cuigeadh, " a fifth," and 
" the Five Fifths of Ireland," had no existence. 
Already in St. Patrick's time the Five Fifths were 
only a memory of the past. Then and for centuries 
afterwards, instead of five, there were seven co- 
ordinate chief kingdoms and a monarchy over 

It is evident that a political fact which impressed 
itself so permanently on the vocabulary, the litera- 
ture, and the folk-memory of the people for at 
least fifteen hundred years was not the transitory 
thing that appears in the lists of Irish monarchs 
before Christianity, a Pentarchy which lasted only 
during a few years and interrupted for that time 
the course of an earlier and later Monarchy. The 


details of tradition, upon examination, indicate 
that the Pentarchy preceded the Monarchy and 
lasted for a long time, long enough to become the 
chief outstanding fact in tradition as regards the 
internal political state of Ireland in the early Celtic 

Now we come to the question, what were the 
five principal divisions of Ireland under the Pen- 
tarchy ? In my experience, the less erudite who 
are interested in such matters usually answer, 
Ulster, Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Meath. 
Those who are better read in Irish history will 
answer, as a rule, leaving out Meath and will say 
that there were two Fifths comprised in Munster, 
and this is the teaching of Irish historians for some 
centuries back. In this case, it will be seen that the 
less learned folk are nearer to the truth. 

Let us first consider what our information is 
regarding the Two Fifths comprised in Munster. 
Keating gives two alternative divisions of Munster 
to form the Two Fifths. In one division, the divid- 
ing line runs north and south, from Limerick to 
Cork Harbour. This delimitation seems to be based 
on the ancient extent of Munster, which did not 
include County Clare. The second partition of 
Munster, according to Keating, is by a line running 
from Tralee to Slieve Bloom, a very unlikely 
boundary, as will be evident to anyone who tries 
to place it on the map. The portion south of this 
line, we are told, was the realm of Cu Raoi, and the 
portion north of it was the realm of Eochaidh Mac- 
Luchta. These two names belong to the Ulster 


cycle, and we should expect the division connected 
with them to hold good in the topography of the 
Ulster tales, but we shall find that the Ulster tales 
speak of Eochaidh MacLuchta as king of all Munster 
and speak of Cu Raoi as a great Munster hero, but 
not as king of half Munster. That is not the whole 
story. Keating tells us that Tuathal Teachtmhar, 
when he became king of Ireland, established a small 
domestic realm for himself in the centre of Ireland, 
around Uisneach, by cutting off a section from each 
of the Five Great Fifths, and that the boundaries 
of all five, until his time, met at one point, the rock 
called Aill na Mireann, on the slope of Uisneach 
hill. Look at the map of Ireland, bearing in mind 
that the county Clare was not at that time and long 
after it a part of Munster, and ask yourself what 
possible dividing line between two kingdoms of 
Munster could have terminated in the hill of 
Uisneach, which stands ten or twelve miles west- 
ward from Mullingar. 

The Five Great Fifths of Ireland are a living 
fact in the political framework of the stories of the 
Ulster Cycle. Surely then it is in those stories 
themselves and in the antiquity of their tradition 
that we must seek the evidence about these divisions, 
their location and extent, and not in the unrecon- 
ciled statements of writers in a later age. The teach- 
ing of the Ulster stories on this matter is clear and 
unmistakable. It is the same throughout all of 
them and will be found summarised in a few sen- 
tences of the story of the Battle of Rosnaree. First 
we arc told how this battle was caused. In the 


great expedition of Tain Bo Cuailnge, four of the 

Great Fifths had joined together for the invasion 

of Ulster. The invasion was not a military success, 

but it had secured its object, the carrying away of 

the Brown Bull in spite of the Ulster king, and 

Ulster had suffered from the ravages of war. Con- 

chobhar, following up the retreating army of Con- 

nacht, had overtaken and defeated it on the banks 

of the Shannon, but he had not recovered the Brown 

Bull, and the other three Fifths of Ireland had 

got away without making any reparation for the 

great raid. And Conchobhar vowed that he would 

exact reparation or inflict punishment. He called 

the forces of Ulster together. These things were 

speedily reported to the other four Fifths of Ireland, 

and without delay the king of each Fifth prepared 

for resistance and summoned his forces to meet him 

at his royal seat. Here follows a recitation of the 

names of the four kings and their four capital places 

in which their armies were mustered. 

The king of Tara, Cairbre Nia Fear, called out 
the Luaighni of Tara to meet him at Tara. It is to 
be remembered that in these stories Tara is not 
the royal seat of kings of all Ireland. There are no 
kings of all Ireland. 

The Galians of Leinster are summoned to meet 
their king, Fionn File, at Dinn Riogh on the banks 
of the Barrow. 

The Clanna Deadhadh, which is another name 
for the Iverni or 'Erainn of Munster, are summoned 
to meet their king, Eochaidh Mac Luchta, at his 
royal seat of Teamhair 'Erann. 


The muster of Connacht is held by Ailill and 
Meadhbh at Cruachain. 

In this account of the five musters, there is no 
room for misconception. The author of the story 
was not in the slightest doubt as to the identity of 
the Five Fifths. His account is in complete har- 
mony with the whole tenour of the stories relative 
to that age. In it, there is one Fifth of Munster, 
and all possibility of another is precluded. There is 
one Fifth of Connacht and one Fifth of Ulster. 
How are the two remaining Fifths constituted ? 

The capital of one of them is Tara, that of the 
other is Dinn Riogh on the Barrow. We learn from 
Keating and all other authorities and traditions that, 
in the period of Cu Chulainn and the Ulster hero 
tales, the river Boyne, in its lower course, separated 
Ulster from Leinster. Tara, on the south side of the 
Boyne, was in Leinster territory. Hence it is plain 
that Leinster and not Munster comprised two of the 
Five Great Fifths. 

People sometimes say to me and have said to me 
since these lectures began, " You are very ruthless 
in tearing away from us some of our most cherished 
traditions." Now, if I showed any contempt for 
tradition, this reproach would be altogether too 
mild. Tradition, if it is indeed tradition, is worthy 
of all reverence. It is not infallible. Tradition is a 
people's memory, and a people's memory, like yours 
or mine, has its limitations. We are all agreed that 
the Gaels are of Celtic origin and that their language 
is a Celtic language, but there is no tradition for it. 
From the earliest recorded traditions of Ireland and 


Britain down to the writing of the history of Scot- 
land by Buchanan, not the faintest trace of such a 
tradition has been found. Nevertheless there are 
fields of historical inquiry in which tradition is the 
most faithful witness, and one such field is the in- 
ternal polity of Ireland during the centuries that 
precede the written record. In that field, so far am 
I from despising tradition, that my main effort is to 
find tradition and establish its authority. We must 
get away from the notion that everything that is 
written by Keating or the Four Masters or in the 
Book of Invasions about that early time is tradition. 
The Scythian origin of the Gaels, the geographical 
details of their wanderings, the tower of Bregon, 
the landing at an unknown Inbhear Sceine — these 
things do not belong to tradition, they are the in- 
ventions of Latin scholars, suggested to them by- 
ancient Latin writers. 

The evidence on which I rely with regard to the 
Five Fifths of ancient Ireland is unquestionably 
traditional. The evidence that I have quoted on 
the point does not stand alone. It is not singular 
and inconsistent. On the contrary, it will be found 
to fit in with the whole body of ancient tradition, 
and taken along with the other evidences, it will 
be found to give life and reality to the history of an 
obscure yet most interesting period. 

Following up the ancient testimony, we find that 
Cairbre Nia Fear, the king of Tara in Cu Chulainn's 
time, was brother to Fionn File, the king of Dinn 
Riogh. Both were Leinstermen, Lagenians. Turning 
to the genealogies we find that the descent of all 


the Leinster kings in Christian times is traced from 
Fionn File. Tara therefore was the capital or royal 
seat of a Leinster kingdom, and that kingdom was 
one of the Great Fifths. If we look up Father 
Hogan's Onomasticon, we shall see that this fact was 
otherwise clearly recognised. The kingdom of which 
Tara was the capital was named in ancient writings 
by the name " Cairbre's Fifth," Coiced Coirpri. 

Further we find that in many old documents the 
former existence of two Fifths belonging to the 
Laighin, or ruling folk of Leinster, is definitely 
recognised. One of these divisions is called Cuigeadh 
Laighean Tuadh-Gabhair and the other Cuigeadh 
Laighean Deas-Gabhair. These names mean that 
one of the Fifths lay to the north and the other to 
the south of a place or district called Gabhair. There 
were a number of places so named in various parts 
of Ireland, several of them in ancient Leinster. 
The word gabhair was evidently a topographical 
term having a definite meaning indicating some 
physical feature of the country, but I have not 
found it defined in any dictionary or glossary. 
Examining the various instances of its use in place- 
names and the conformation of the localities so 
named, I have come to the conclusion that gabhair 
most probably denoted a low broad ridge between 
two river valleys. There were two localities so 
named in the middle of Leinster. One was called 
Gabhair Life, with reference to the river Liffey. In 
the first poem of Duanaire Finn it is mentioned as 
the place where dwelt the maiden Life from whom 
the river, we are told, took its name : " In Gabhair 


between two mountains, there the modest maid 
abode." This probably refers to the district of 
Donard in Co. Wicklow, between the waters of the 
Lifrey and the Slaney. The two valleys are 
separated by a low watershed, and bounded on their 
outer sides by mountainous country. Westward from 
this, in the south of County Kildare, is a district 
which was anciently called Gabhair Laighean. This 
means Gabhair of the Lagenians, and the name 
suggests that it was the distinctive boundary be- 
tween the two Fifths of the Lagenians. It is 
situated between the valleys of the Barrow, the 
Lifrey and the Slaney, and may be regarded as 
the westward extension of Gabhair Life. Further 
evidence on the point is supplied by two glosses in 
the Book of Rights. One of these says that Laighin 
Deas-Gabhair is Ui Ceinnsealaigh, the other says it 
is Osraighe. I think we may take both together 
and regard the southern Fifth of Leinster as com- 
prising both territories, which are represented by the 
dioceses of Ferns and Ossory. If O'Donovan is 
right in identifying Dinn Riogh with a site near 
Leighlin Bridge, on the bank of the Barrow, we 
should add to the territories named the diocese of 
Leighlin, which lies between Ossory and Ferns. But 
there is good evidence that the ancient Fifth of 
South Leinster was still more extensive. It ex- 
tended over a considerable part of eastern Munster, 
taking in almost the whole county of Tipperary and 
a small part of County Limerick. 

The territory of Ossory, we are told, stretched 
from Gabhran to Grian, i.e., from the district of 


Gowran in County Kilkenny to the district of 
Pallasgreen in County Limerick. 

There were several stories which explained how 
and why this western part of Leinster was transferred 
to Munster. According to one account 

Osraige 6 Gabran co Grein 
tucad i n-eiric Etersceil. 

The territory of Ossory was forfeited to Munster in 
consequence of the slaying of Ederscel, king of 
Ireland, father of Conaire Mor. Ederscel was of 
the Ivernian race. A second account is alluded to 
by a poem in the Book of Rights, claiming that 
Ossory was rightfully subject to the kings of Munster, 
having been forfeited for the killing of Fergus 
Scannal, king of Munster. The third account is 
much more elaborate. It is found in the story of 
the Migration of the Deisi, a story which in its extant 
form dates from about the year 750. It tells how 
the Desi were expelled from the region of Tara ; 
how one part of them crossed the sea and settled in 
Wales ; how another part sojourned for a long 
time in Leinster, but at last entered the service 
of the king of Munster and acquired a territorial 
settlement by conquering and annexing to Munster 
the western part of the territory of Ossory. The 
story relates that the men of Ossory were first 
driven eastward over the Suir ; they rallied near 
Clonmel and were again defeated and driven across 
the Anner ; were followed up by the Deisi and finally 
forced over the Lingaun river, which to this day 
forms part of the boundary between Ossory and 


Munster. The baronies of IfTa and Offa took their 
name and origin from a branch of the Deisi settled 
in the conquered territory. West of the Suir in 
County Tipperary are the baronies of Upper and 
Lower Kilnamanagh. These were formerly 
O'Dwyer's country, and the territory was ruled 
by the ancestors of the O'Dwyers from time im- 
memorial. But the line of the O'Dwyers and their 
forefathers was an offshoot of the ruling people of 
South Leinster. In the genealogies, Fionn File is 
their ancestor, the same who was king of South 
Leinster in Cu Chulainn's time. Of the same 
Leinster stock came the sept Ui Cuanach, whose 
name and territory is represented in the present 
barony of Coonagh in County Limerick, adjoining 
O'Dwyer's country. On the western side of this 
territory was the district of Grian. the western 
limit-point of ancient Ossory. 

I have found no very decisive indication of the 
westward extent of ancient Leinster along the 
southern coast. However, the story of the Deisi 
migration shows no distinction between the Deisi 
settlements south of the Suir in County Waterford 
and those north of the Suir in County Tipperary. 
There is nothing to indicate that the Munster king 
settled one portion of his allies on conquered territory 
and another portion on territory already in his 
possession, and the whole tenour of the story as- 
sociates the settlement with the displacement and 
dispossession of the Men of Ossory. Therefore, I 
think it probable that the territory of Ossory in- 
cluded the greater part of County Waterford, as 


far west as Cappoquin and the Blackwater from 
Cappoquin to the sea. 

As in the case of the eastern parts of Munster so 
in the case of the part beyond the Shannon, now 
County Clare, there is more than one story to ac- 
count for the annexation. When several stories 
are given to explain a fact, though they contradict 
each other in the manner of the explanation, they 
form a strong corroboration of each other as to the 
fact itself. That Clare was at one time part of 
Connacht is the universal testimony of antiquity. 

Ancient Munster, therefore, the Munster of the 
heroic period, comprised the counties of Cork and 
Kerry, the greater part of Limerick and some small 
area of Tipperary and Waterford. It was the 
smallest of the Five Great Fifths and there is no 
need to bisect it to form two of them. The bisect- 
ing lines mentioned by Keating, however, are not 
likely to have been purely imaginary. They refer 
in my opinion to political boundaries of a later age. 
We have evidence of the division of Munster in 
early Christian times into what may be called two 
distinct spheres of influence. Besides the Eoghan- 
acht dynasty which then ruled in Cashel, there 
were other branches of the same dynasty ruling in 
various parts of Munster. Of these the most power- 
ful was the Eoghanacht of Loch Lein, also called 
the Eoghanacht of Iarmuma, " West Munster." 
Some of its kings are reckoned as kings of Munster, 
and hostile to the kings of Cashel. The dividing 
line from Limerick to Cork Harbour may indicate 
the boundary between the groups of states which 


acknowledged the eastern and the western authority. 
As regards the other line from Tralee to Slieve Bloom, 
I think it is founded on the fluctuating extent of 
the rival authority of the Dalcassian and Eoghanacht 
dynasties during the period between the battle of 
Clontarf and the Norman invasion. During that 
period we read of kings of the Eoghanacht lineage 
who are called kings of Cashel and Desmond. They 
are of the family of MacCarthaigh. North of the 
line, the power of the kings of Thomond was pre- 

The boundaries of ancient Connacht are fairly 
certain. The Shannon throughout its course formed 
the principal limit. From the head of the Shannon 
to the sea at Donegal Bay the boundary was nearly 
the same as it still is. 

Between Ulster and North Leinster, the boundary 
ran from Loch Boderg on the Shannon through 
the southern part of County Leitrim, and thence 
in the direction of Granard ; thence by the present 
boundary of Ulster eastward as far as the Black- 
water, down along the Blackwater to Navan and 
from Navan along the Boyne to the Irish Sea. On 
the expedition of the Tain, Medb's army skirted this 
boundary, keeping on the Leinster side, until they 
reached the Blackwater ; and the story tells how 
they looked across the Blackwater at " the foreign 
territory " (in chrich aineoil). 

Such was the division of Ireland under the Pent- 
archy at the beginning of the Christian Era, as 
disclosed by the oldest traditions. 

When we come to St. Patrick's time, the fifth 


century, we feel ourselves within the scope of clear 
and definite written records. These ancient boun- 
daries are for the most part only memories. There 
is no longer a Pentarchy but a Heptarchy, which 
remains substantially unchanged for several centuries 
and is described in detail by the Book of Rights, 
compiled about the year 900 and revised about a 
century later. 

In this new arrangement, Munster has its present 
extent plus the southern angle of King's County. 
Connacht has lost County Clare, but has annexed 
territory east of the Shannon as far as Loch Erne 
and Loch Ramor in County Cavan. This territory 
has been taken from Ulster, which no longer exists 
as a political unit, but is divided into three of the 
seven chief kingdoms. These are the kingdom of 
Ailech on the west, the kingdom of Ulaidh on the 
east, and the kingdom of Airgialla or Oriel in the 
middle. The Fifth of North Leinster has ceased to 
be a kingdom. There is only one kingdom of 
Leinster, which extends as far north as Dublin, the 
river Liffey and its tributary the Rye, which runs 
by Maynooth. This kingdom contains what remains 
of North and South Leinster and is ruled by the 
ancient dynasty of South Leinster. 

The seventh chief realm is that of Meath which 
has been formed from parts of North Leinster and of 
Ulster. Its northern boundary is nearly but not 
quite the same as the present northern boundary of 
Leinster. It takes in part of County Cavan and 
excludes the northern part of County Louth, north 
of Ardee. 


The strictly historical period in Ireland begins 
with St. Patrick. The authentic writings of St. 
Patrick are the earliest written documents of Irish 
history. But I do not think it would be just to say 
that all before that time is prehistoric. If all we 
had for the first four centuries of the Christian Era 
was a slender thread of narrative like Livy's story of 
ancient Rome, we might wonder how much profit, 
if any, could come from examining it. We are not 
in so poor a case. We have a substantial mass of 
traditions, connected and disconnected, which, I 
think, enable us to supply the void of written docu- 
ments in a manner that will carry conviction. 

The period in question begins with the solid back- 
ground of the Pentarchy. It ends with the solid 
foreground of the Christian Heptarchy. The pro- 
blem before the student is not merely to fill up the 
intervening space with a random collection of tra- 
ditional material, but to find out by what stages and 
through what causes the transformation took place ; 
how a central monarchy came into being ; how 
Ulster was broken up into three distinct realms ; 
how Leinster contracted from two great kingdoms 
into one ; how the new and powerful kingdom of 
Meath was established ; and how Munster grew to 
about twice its ancient extent. 

Our old native historians did not concern them- 
selves with accounting for anything. Their chief 
model was Eusebius, and Eusebius was content 
to give lists of kings with the length of each 
king's reign as the sole history of various realms of 
antiquity throughout centuries. So the only con- 


secutive history we find of Ireland before St. 
Patrick's time consists in like manner of regnal 
lists with little bits of anecdotal matter added here 
and there. Even these regnal lists are not authentic. 
They are made up artificially from pedigrees, and I 
have already shown that the method was so reck- 
lessly artificial as to make a king out of a misread 
note to one of the pedigrees. Even the oldest 
written history of Ireland extant follows this method. 
It does not indeed extend the Irish monarchy back 
to the Gaelic invasion. It declares the authentic 
history of Ireland to begin with the foundation of 
Emain Macha, dated 305 B.C., and it begins the Tara 
monarchy in a.d. 46. But from this date onward 
it gives the succession of the high-kings, and that 
succession is one of a kind unknown in the historical 
period. It is a succession from father to son, which 
is contrary to the known custom of all the insular 
Celts, in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. In other 
words, it is again merely a pedigree converted into 
a dynastic succession. 

When a single pedigree is utilised in this way, 
the fact is easily discovered. Later historians 
adopted a less obvious artifice, and one at the same 
time which made their account more widely ac- 
ceptable. They shortened the reigns of the kings 
in the earlier history so as to leave gaps between 
them, and into these gaps they inserted names from 
other pedigrees besides that of the Tara monarchs. 
They took these names in turn from the genealogies 
of the kings of Munster, Leinster, Oriel, etc., and 
thus, by giving every part of Ireland a share in the 


monarchy, they produced a regnal history which was 
flattering in an all-round way and which succeeded 
in relegating the earlier device to comparative 

I had become familiar with this plan of trans- 
forming pedigrees into regnal lists before I first read 
Buchanan's history of Scotland. In that book I 
found a list of forty-three kings who reigned over 
Scotland before Fergus of Dal Riada went over 
from Ireland. All the names seemed strange. They 
were apparently Latinised from some other language, 
the history being written in Latin. Were they in- 
vented, like the names in " Gulliver's Travels," or, 
if not, where were they found ? Can it be, I asked 
myself, that the Scottish historians, like the Irish, 
filled the vacuum out of pedigrees ? And if so, out 
of what pedigrees ? Now it is a matter of historical 
record that, on the inauguration of a king of Scot- 
land, a part of the ceremony consisted in the recita- 
tion of his pedigree, and this custom was kept up 
until the Dal Riada line died out with Alexander III 
in 1285. Therefore, I argued, the pedigree most 
familiar to an early Scottish historian was that of 
the kings of Dal Riada. I turned up this pedigree 
in the Irish genealogies and my conjecture was 
confirmed. Scotland and Ireland are all along 
agreed that Fergus MacEirc, an Irish prince, settled 
in Scotland and founded there a new kingdom and 
dynasty. But the forty-three kings of Scotland 
named before Fergus are nevertheless the forty-three 
ancestors of Fergus, from father to son, in the Irish 
genealogy. The list comprises names so well known 


in Irish story as Ederscel, that Munster king, whose 
death is said to account for the forfeiture of Leinster 
territory to Munster ; his son Conaire Mor, whose 
tragic fate is told in the story of Da Derga's Hostel ; 
and the younger Conaire, son of Mugh Lamha, who 
also figures in the Irish hero-lore. All these and 
their forefathers, up to the eponymous Iar, head of 
the Ivernian stock, figure one after another in the 
artificial history of the first Scottish dynasty beyond 
the sea. 

Let us get away then from such unprofitable 
material and let us see what comes to us in the 
guise of traditions of substance. We start off from 
the Pentarchy and the Ulster cycle. The Ulster 
stories have for their main basis the hostile rela- 
tions between Ulster and Connacht. Being Ulster 
stories, they do not prolong their scope beyond a 
time in which Ulster has generally the best of it. 
Ulster's mishaps merely serve to heighten the effect, 
which is Ulster's heroism and victory. It was when 
this time of glory was but a memory, when Emain 
was a deserted site and the remnant of the Ulaidh 
occupied only a tiny fraction of their former territory, 
that these stories took their present shape and were 
committed to writing. We have to turn to another 
set of traditions, to those connected with the 
monarchical kindred of historical time, to learn how 
things developed from the stage depicted in the 
Ulster tales. 

The course ot development will be more clearly 
followed if it is stated in summary beforehand. The 
hostile relations between Ulster and Connacht con- 


tinued, but the kings of Connacht grew gradually- 
more powerful. They extended their power step by 
step over central-eastern Ireland, the ancient Fifth 
of North Leinster, and then step by step over all 
Ulster except what is now comprised in the counties 
of Down and Antrim. Upon the increase of power 
thus acquired they established a hegemony or 
primacy over all Ireland. This primacy found its 
definite expression in the institution of the high- 
kingship or Monarchy. 

The first stage in the process was the occupation 
of Uisneach by Tuathal Teachtmhar. Who was this 
Tuathal ? According to the genealogies he was 
sixth in descent from Eochu Feidlech, who was the 
father of Medb, queen of Connacht. Accepting 
Medb's date as fixed or estimated by all our ancient 
writers, she flourished just at the commencement of 
the Christian Era. Tuathal was five generations 
later, and from dated Irish pedigrees we can cal- 
culate an average of almost exactly three genera- 
tions to a century. Tuathal therefore would have 
flourished in the third quarter of the second century, 
say between a.d. 150 and a.d. 175. Exact dates 
are assigned to him in the extant regnal lists, but 
these lists do not agree with each other, and it is 
safer to rely on the law of averages. Tuathal, we 
are told, set up a new kingdom for himself around 
Uisneach. The territory surrounding Uisneach was 
part of the old Fifth of North Leinster. Conse- 
quently the alliance of the Four Great Fifths against 
Ulster was no longer operative. Tuathal was a 
prince of the Connacht dynasty, and his occupation 


of Uisneach was an invasion of North Leinster and 
the first stage in the break-up of the Pentarchy. 

With regard to Tuathal we are told that before 
his birth the Rentpaying tribes throughout Ireland 
revolted against the Gaelic ascendancy and over- 
threw it. Tuathal's mother fled to Britain and in 
Britain he was born. By the time he came of age 
the revolution had spent its force and a reaction 
set in. Tuathal returned to Ireland, by some he 
was welcomed, others he overcame by force, and he 
became the strongest king in Ireland. It was then 
that he took possession of Uisneach. 

It is difficult to know what exactly to make of 
this story of a plebeian revolution. In its actual 
terms, the story is full of improbabilities, and reads 
like a fairy tale for children. Another difficulty 
about it is that a similar story is told of Tuathal's 
grandfather. There is no inherent improbability in 
the main fact of the story, the occurrence of a 
plebeian revolution which for a time displaced the 
Gaelic ascendancy, and the occurrence of a subse- 
quent complete reaction. Something like it hap- 
pened in France little more than a century ago 
and in England under Oliver Cromwell. The 
occurrence of a revolution and the successful sur- 
vival of the Connacht dynasty may help us to 
understand how the kings of Connacht were able 
afterwards to make such headway not only against 
their ancient rivals in Ulster but against their 
former allies in North Leinster ; that is, if we 
understand that Connacht was less shaken and 
weakened by the revolution than the other pro-* 


vinces were. Again, in the Ulster stories, we hardly 
hear of the existence of the Picts in Ulster ; they 
are completely dominated by the Ulaidh. But 
when Ireland emerges into the full light of written 
history, we find the Picts a very powerful people 
in east Ulster, Cuailnge itself, the home of the 
Brown Bull, and the neighbouring plain of Muir- 
theimhne, Cu Chulainn's patrimony, being now 
Pictish territory. This may well have been the 
consequence of some such revolution as the story 

The next stage is the occupation of Tara, the old 
capital of North Leinster, by Cormac, who is fourth 
in descent from Tuathal, and who should therefore 
have flourished in the period a.d. 275-300, a time 
corresponding closely enough with that to which the 
regnal lists assign him. The fact of the annexation 
of Tara and the surrounding region, the territory 
of Brega, is always glossed over by our old historians. 
This tacit treatment may perhaps be explained. 
In their histories generally, the monarchy goes back 
to the Gaelic invasion, and Tara is the seat of the 
monarchs in remote antiquity, as it actually was 
in the early Christian period. This location of the 
monarchy in Tara from time immemorial, like the 
assumed existence of such a monarchy, exemplifies 
a very common tendency, the tendency to project 
the known present into the unknown past. 

The fact of the annexation of Tara and eastern 
Meath underlies the story of the Battle of Crinna. 
The cause of this battle, as stated, was the con- 
tinued hostility of the Ulstermen to king Cormac's 


line. One king after another of this line, which, be 
it remembered, was the Connacht dynasty and still 
ruled over Connacht, had fallen in fight with the 
Ulster enemy. Cormac had forced Ulster to give 
him hostages. Such hostages were by custom 
honourably entertained according to their rank. The 
Ulster hostages sat at Cormac's own table. So un- 
subdued was their spirit that on one occasion they 
did the king the gross affront of setting fire to his 
beard. After this, Ulster again took up arms and 
drove Cormac out of Meath, forcing him to take 
refuge in his native realm of Connacht. There he 
gathered his forces and took a Munster prince, 
Tadhg, son of Cian, into alliance. This Tadhg figures 
in the genealogies as being the ancestor of a group of 
dynastic families which in later times ruled over 
certain states of Connacht, Meath and Ulster, the 
Luighni, Gaileanga, Cianachta, etc. These states, 
when we trace them back as far as possible, are 
native to Connacht ; their branches in Meath and 
Ulster are frontier colonies planted to guard the 
conquests of the Connacht kings. Tadhg macCein, 
in the story, is the personification of these colonies. 

Before going into battle, Tadhg made a compact 
with Cormac the king. They agreed that, if Tadhg 
came off victorious, Cormac would grant him as 
much territory as he could ride around in his chariot 
on the day of victory. 

In the battle of Crinna, Tadhg engaged the 
Ulstermen and completely defeated them. He him- 
self was sorely wounded. He mounted his chariot 
and set out to ride around the territory he desired 


to win for himself and his descendants, and he 
commanded the charioteer to take such a course 
as to bring Tara within the circuit. Then, over- 
come with loss of blood from his many wounds, he 
fell into a swoon and lay unconscious in the chariot. 

King Cormac had foreseen that Tadhg would 
try to get possession of Tara. He desired Tara for 
himself, and he bribed the charioteer to leave Tara 
out of the circuit of the ride. At intervals during 
the ride, Tadhg awoke from his swoon and on each 
occasion he asked the charioteer " Have we brought 
in Tara ? " and the charioteer answered " Not yet." 
At nightfall, Tadhg came to his senses and saw that 
they had reached the banks of the Liffey near Dublin. 
" Have we brought in Tara ? " he asked again. The 
charioteer could not answer yes. Tadhg saw that he 
had been cheated, and he slew the charioteer. 

Now the territory that fell to Tadhg's share in the 
story extended along the coast from Ardee to Dublin 
and inland along the northern frontier of Meath to 
Loch Ramor — and these territories in later times 
were occupied by the Connacht colonies whose 
rulers claimed descent from Tadhg. Roughly speak- 
ing the whole stretch of country forms an L inverted 
and in the angle of this L stands Tara the ancient 
capital of North Leinster, but henceforth the capital 
of Cormac's kingdom. 

Except this story of the Battle of Crinna, there 
is no other story or even title of a story known to 
me which explains how Tara ceased to be the seat 
of the North Leinster kings and passed into the pos- 
session of the kings of Connacht and Uisneach. 


There is no other account which explains why or 
how the Leinster frontier, which formerly lay along 
the Boyne and the Blackwater, was afterwards 
pushed back to the Liffey and the Rye. The terri- 
tory which fell to Tadhg was partly Ulster territory 
and partly Leinster territory. Yet in the story 
itself, there is no mention of Leinster and Cormac's 
only enemies were the Ulstermen. The story, which 
in its extant form belongs to a very late period, is 
evidently defective. It is written in conformity 
with the theory that the Monarchy existed before 
the Pentarchy and that Tara was the seat of the 
Monarchy from time immemorial. Consequently it 
ignores what we may call the Leinster aspect of the 
matter, and the conflict seems to be altogether 
between Cormac and Ulster. Ulster lost land on 
the north side of the Boyne, and this conquered 
territory, under the compact, fell to the share of 
Tadhg. The underlying notion, in this episode of 
the chariot-ride, is obviously that the victor is to 
be rewarded with a share of the spoils. If, then, 
the conquered part of Ulster formed part of his 
reward, and if in the same bargain he gained part of 
Leinster between the Boyne and the Liffey, and if 
he expected to gain Tara, we must, I think, infer 
that this part of Leinster and Tara likewise were no 
less conquered territory than the piece of Ulster that 
fell to Tadhg. 

Therefore, there should have been an earlier 
version of the story, now lost, which showed that 
not Ulster alone but North Leinster also resisted 
Cormac and suffered defeat from him and his ally. 


Such an account would explain, what remains a 
complete blank, so far as I know, in this traditional 
history, how the dynasty of North Leinster came to 
an end and how Tara and Bregia, south as well as 
north of the Boyne, passed into the possession of 
the kings of Connacht and Uisneach. 

The reign of Cormac is regarded in our earliest 
histories as an epoch in Irish history. This, I think, 
was because it marked the end of the Pentarchy and 
the rise of the Monarchy seated at Tara. 

The next stage in the growth of the Connacht 
power brings us to the overthrow of the Ulster 
kingdom and the conquest of the greater part of 
Ulster. In the century after Cormac, his descendant 
Muiredach Tireach becomes king of Tara. Muire- 
dach, we are told, in his youth took command for 
his father, Fiacha Sroibhtine, king of Tara, and was 
successful in establishing his father's authority in 
southern Ireland. His uncles, the three Collas, 
became jealous of his success. The young prince, 
they said, will be chosen king when his father dies, 
and we shall be shut out from the succession. They 
then conspired to overthrow their brother and win 
the kingship for one of themselves while Muiredach 
was still absent in the South. They raised an army 
against the king. Fiacha consulted his druid. The 
druid answered : You have two alternatives. You 
can be victorious. If you are, the kingship will 
pass from your son and your descendants. But if 
you are defeated and slain, your son and your 
posterity will rule Ireland. It is the symbol in 
Irish story of the Triumph of Failure. The king 


said, Then I choose defeat and death. The three 
Collas were victorious, the king fell in the fight. 
Then all Ireland arose against the victors. Muire- 
dach was chosen king, and the Collas were banished 
over the sea. They dwelt in exile for some years in 
Britain, but the guilt of their brother's blood op- 
pressed their souls, and at last they said, We can 
bear it no longer, we shall go back to Ireland and 
lay down our lives for our crime. The young king 
forgave them and took them to his favour. After 
this, they spoke to him one day and said : Though 
thou and we are at peace, our sons will grow up and 
contend with thy sons for the kingship. Give us a 
kingdom for ourselves and our posterity. It shall 
be so, said the king. What part of Ireland will 
you give us ? said they. The Ulstermen, said the 
king, have ever been hostile towards me and towards 
our fathers. Go and conquer their kingdom, and it 
shall be yours. 

The Collas then went to Connacht, which was 
still the homeland of the new Tara dynasty, raised 
an army there, invaded Ulster, were victorious, and 
captured the Ulster capital. The conquered territory 
comprised the present counties of Armagh, Monaghan, 
Tyrone, and the greater part of Fermanagh and 

I wish to dwell on the fact that the conquerors 
were princes of the Connacht dynasty, then ruling 
also in Tara. Their army was drawn from Connacht. 
In fact, all this chain of events is the direct sequel 
of the old rivalry between Connacht and Ulster that 
forms the basis of Tain B6 Cuailnge and the Ulster 


cycle in general. The inhabitants of the conquered 
parts of Ulster got the significant name of Airgialla, 
Oirghialla, " the eastern subjects.'* In relation to 
Meath and Tara, they were northern not eastern 
subjects. The name Airgialla then is based on the 
fact that the conquering power at the time when 
the name came into use was still regarded as the 
western power, its home was Connacht. 

Thus ended the Fifth of Ulster. Let us see what 
was happening meanwhile in southern Ireland. In 
Munster, under the Pentarchy, the kings of the 
Erainn or Iverni held rule. In St. Patrick's time, 
these no longer ruled in Munster. The kings of 
Munster belonged to a distinct line, called the 
Eoghanachta. Their capital was no longer in the 
west. It was Cashel, not far from the eastern 
border of their kingdom and in territory formerly 
part of Leinster. To the original extent of the 
Munster Fifth had been added in the meantime 
the counties of Clare and Tipperary, a small part 
of Limerick, and the larger part of Waterford, 
making the bounds of Munster almost but not 
exactly what they are at present. 

In face of the growing power of the kings of Con- 
nacht, how it came about that Clare was detached 
from Connacht and added to Munster, I cannot 
explain to my own satisfaction, beyond saying that, 
within a smaller scope, the Eoghanacht kings of 
Munster became even more powerful than the kings 
of Connacht and ruled over a more firmly consolidated 
realm. During the early Christian centuries, before 
the Norse invasions, Munster appears to have enjoyed 



greater tranquillity than any other realm in Western 
Europe. The genealogies show that there was an 
early Eoghanacht settlement in the Clare area, 
called Eoghanacht Ninuis, and another, still called 
Eoghanacht, in the island of Arainn Mhor, to the 
north of Clare. 

There were at least two accounts in ancient story 
of the transfer of Clare to Munster. The time of this 
event differs by centuries in the two stories, and I 
shall not endeavour to reconcile them or to choose 
between them. There are three distinct accounts 
of the eastern annexation from South Leinster. The 
only one of these that is full and explanatory, 
and that fits with the known later stage of things, 
is the account connected with the Migration of the 

Let it be noted that Cashel, the seat of the Munster 
kings in Christian times, stands outside of ancient 
Munster. Keating relates an ancient story telling 
how Cashel was " discovered r in the time of Core, 
king of Munster, i.e., about a.d. 400, and got a new 
name. This new name was a Latin one, for Caiseal 
is the Irish representative of the Latin word castellum, 
" fortress." These things show how late was the use 
of Cashel as the seat of Munster sovereignty. 

What and whence was this new ruling power in 
Munster, the Eoghanachta ? Their genealogies show 
that at one time they were worshippers of a god 
named Segomo — one of their ancestors is named 
Nia Segomon, " Segomo's champion." This god 
Segomo is unknown to Irish tradition, in which 
his name is never found outside of the Eoghanacht 


genealogy. He was known, however, and wor- 
shipped in Gaul, where he is commemorated in 
several inscriptions of the Roman period. He was 
a war-god and is equated, according to the fashion 
of Roman Gaul, with the Latin god Mars — " Deus 
Mars Segomo." The descendants of Segomo's 
Champion are named in three Ogham inscriptions, 
all found in the district of Dungarvan and Ardmore, 
on the southern seaboard. The indications therefore 
are that the Eoghanachta represent a relatively- 
late Gaulish settlement in that part of Ireland. The 
story of the Deisi Migration mentions several bodies 
of Gaulish settlers. 

The Migration of the Deisi is an evident sequel of 
the conquest of Tara and eastern Meath under 
Cormac. Deisi means " vassal communities." 
These particular vassal communities dwelt around 
Tara, and were possibly identical with the Luaighni, 
who formed the chief fighting force of North Leinster 
in Cu Chulainn's time. They quarrelled with Cor- 
mac, we are told, and he drove them, or a large 
part of them, out of Meath. They migrated in two 
bodies. One body crossed the sea and settled in 
southern Wales where the descendants of their 
princes still held sway in the eighth century. The 
other body settled for a time in Leinster. 

Later on this Leinster section entered into an 
alliance with the Eoghanacht king, Oengus, whose 
queen was the daughter of their chief. By their aid, 
Oengus conquered what is now the south-eastern 
part of Munster, and he settled the Deisi as frontier 
colonists on the conquered territory. Oengus 


flourished in St. Patrick's time, the second and 
third quarter of the fifth century. 

The loss of the large territories about the Boyne 
and the Suir reduced Leinster to much smaller 
dimensions. What remained of the two ancient 
Fifths was now united in one kingdom, ruled over 
by the line of the ancient kings of South Leinster. 
This reduction and unification means the final passing 
away of the Pentarchy described in the Ulster 
tales. The seat of the Leinster kings is no longer 
either Tara or Dinn Riogh, but Ailinn, which lies 
between them, on the southern side of the Curragh 
of Kildare. 

The Connacht kings continued, however, to ex- 
tend their conquests and their power. A grandson 
of Muiredach Tirech was king of Tara at the 
beginning of the fifth century (c. a.d. 400), Niall 
of the Nine Hostages. His brother, Brion (or 
Brian) took possession of a south-western section 
of Ulster, comprising a large part of the counties 
of Leitrim and Cavan, afterwards called Brian's 
Land — Tir Briuin. Three sons of Niall took 
possession of what remained of western Ulster, 
now comprised in the county of Donegal. 
Their names were Eoghan, Conall, and 'Enda, and 
the territories occupied by them were called 
Eoghan's Land, Conall's Land, and 'Enda's land. 

Another son of Niall, named Coirbre, obtained a 
piece of Leinster, now the barony of Carbury in Co. 

The Connacht dynasty and its branches now 
ruled over the northern half of Ireland, with the 


exception of the eastern seaboard region from 
Ardee to the Giant's Causeway. It ruled in Tara, 
and its chief kings were recognised also as Monarchs 
of Ireland. 

The Connacht power, after the time of Niall, was 
regarded as comprising three chief divisions — the 
kingdom of Connacht, the Airgialla, and the territory 
of the descendants of Niall (Ui Neill). All Leinster 
was laid under tribute to them, and a note in the 
Book of Leinster says that this Leinster tribute 
was divided equally among the three sections. This 
subdivision of the Connacht power, in my opinion, 
was what gave rise to the ancient term Teora Con- 
nachta, " the Three Connachts " — a term which 
seems to have caused some trouble for its explana- 
tion to writers of a later age. 

An unpublished tract in the Book of Lecan, also 
found in the introductory part of the Book of 
Genealogies by MacFir Bhisigh, tells us that during 
this period, the succession to the Monarchy was 
regulated in this way : On the death of the Ardri, 
the king of Connacht took his place as king of 
Tara. A new king of the same family was elected 
in Connacht, and this process went on during 
several generations. Niall was king of Connacht 
first, of Tara afterwards. And so, in like 
manner, the high kingship was filled from Connacht 
until the death of Ailill Molt in a.d. 483 or there- 

The two facts, then, that explain the transforma- 
tion of the Pentarchy at the beginning of the 
Christian Era into the Monarchy and seven principal 


kingdoms of St. Patrick's time, are these : In the 
northern half of Ireland, the gradual conquest 
achieved by the Connacht dynasty ; in southern 
Ireland, the rise of a new power, that of the 
Eoghanacht kings, centred in Cashel. Along with 
the direct control of northern Ireland, the Connacht 
dynasty obtained predominance over the country 
in general, and this predominance found its natural 
expression in the high kingship. 

Between the establishment of the Connacht 
dynasty in East Meath and in Tara, the ancient 
seat of the North Leinster kings, and the overthrow 
of the Ulster kingdom, there is a period of more 
than half a century, during which the Ulster power 
stood at bay. Of this state of things we have a 
very remarkable record, not written on paper, but 
graven on the face of the country. The Ulster kings 
endeavoured to defend themselves against further 
aggression by fortifying their entire frontier except 
where it was already protected by strong natural 
obstacles such as lakes, forests or broad rivers. 
Linking these natural barriers they raised a massive 
earthern rampart which, with these barriers, formed 
a continuous line of defences from the Irish Sea on 
the east to Donegal Bay on the west. Details of 
the extant remains of this Great Wall of Ulster and 
of the popular traditions connected with it will be 
found in Mr. Kane's paper on the Black Pig's Dyke 
in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 
These details I am able to supplement with others, 
but it would be out of place to go into particulars 
in such a historical sketch as the present. What 


I wish to bring under special notice is this — 
that the Ulster frontier was fortified alike against 
Meath and Connacht — a further illustration of 
the fact that during that period Meath and 
Connacht were politically united under one dynastic 


THE earliest known mention of Ireland in 
literature appears to be found in a passage 
of the Greek writer Poseidonios which is 
quoted by Strabo. Poseidonios flourished about 

150 B.C. 

His information about Ireland is vague, and he 
says expressly and candidly that his authorities are 
not trustworthy. Whereas later writers erred in 
supposing that Ireland lay between Britain and 
Spain, Poseidonios says that Ireland stretched 
farther northward than Britain. We have nothing 
definite to tell about Ireland, he continues, except 
that the inhabitants are fiercer than those of Britain, 
being man-eaters and eaters of many kinds of food 
[we may understand perhaps that he supposed them 
to eat various foods not eaten by the Greeks]. They 
think it worthy to devour their own fathers who have 
died. Their marital customs are of the most un- 
restricted kind, disregarding even the closest ties of 
kindred. " This, however, we state as having no 
reliable testimony." For the custom of cannibalism, 
he says, is also ascribed to the Scythians, and the 
Celts and Iberians and many others are likewise 
said to practise it when reduced to great straits by 
a siege. 

The name of Ireland, as quoted from Poseidonios, 



is Ierne, representing an old name Iverna. In 
Greek, as well as in the early Celtic language of Ire- 
land, the sound of v or w had a tendency to dis- 
appear from words. I think, however, that the 
Greeks may have taken the name Ierne, without the 
v, direct from a Celtic source, for the dropping of 
the v or zv sound in Greek took place earlier than 
the writing of the oldest extant Greek prose, and 
if the name of Ireland had been known to the 
Greeks at so early a time, we should expect to find 
mention of Ireland in early prose writers like Hero- 

The next known writer who mentions Ireland is 
Julius Caesar. The island Hibernia, he writes, is 
half the size of Britain, and as far distant from 
Britain as Britain is from Gaul. He calls Ireland 

Strabo, who wrote in Greek in the first years of 
the Christian era, also thought that Ireland extended 
farther north than Britain, and that Ireland had a 
colder climate than Britain. This notion, I have 
already suggested, originated in the Latin name 
Hibernus, which as a Latin word meant " wintry," 
and was substituted for the Celtic adjective Ivernos. 
The people of Ireland, says Strabo, are quite wild 
and have a poor way of living owing to the cold 

A somewhat later anonymous writer in Greek has 
more accurate geographical information, perhaps 
based on the brief statement by Caesar, placing 
Ireland to the west of Britain. 

Pomponius Mela, whose date is about a.d. 40, 


calls Ireland Iuverna, a name also used about the 
same time by Juvenal. It is a nearer approach to 
the Celtic form as used in Britain, which at the 
time was partly occupied by the Romans. Mela 
says that Ireland is hardly equal in size to Britain, 
but has an equal length of coastline opposite to 
Britain. Apparently he supposed Ireland to be a 
long narrow island, about as long as Britain from 
north to south, but less in breadth. The climate, 
he says, is unfavourable to the ripening of seeds, 
but there is such an abundance of excellent pastur- 
age that cattle get enough food by grazing for a short 
part of the day and, if they are not restrained, they 
eat until they burst. 

This is fairly accurate. The Irish climate is less 
favourable to the ripening of certain seeds, such as 
wheat, than the climate of neighbouring countries. 
It is not likely that any other seed but wheat is 
referred to, and we may take the testimony of Mela 
as evidence that wheat was known in his time to be 
grown in Ireland, but not so successfully grown as 
in other countries. 

Mela adds : The inhabitants of Ireland are un- 
civilised and beyond other nations are ignorant of 
all the virtues, and extremely devoid of natural 

A little later, in Pliny's time, the knowledge of 
Ireland among the Romans was far from being 
exact. Pliny, on the authority of Agrippa, gives the 
length of Ireland as 600 Roman miles, its breadth 
as 300. He thus doubles each dimension and multi- 
plies the size of the island by four. 


Tacitus writes that Agricola made special military- 
dispositions on that side of Britain which faces 
Ireland ; and this he did more through hope than 
through fear, that is to say, rather in view of con- 
quest than of protection. Ireland, he says, is situate 
between Britain and Spain. It is of smaller area 
than Britain. In soil and climate and in the 
character of its inhabitants it differs little from 
Britain. Its inland parts are little known, its ap- 
proaches and harbours are better known through 
commerce and merchants. Agricola received one of 
its petty kings who had been expelled in a revolt 
and kept him, under the guise of friendship, against 
a suitable opportunity. From Agricola, I, says 
Tacitus, have often heard that Ireland could be 
conquered and held by a single legion with a 
moderate force of auxiliaries, and that this would 
be of advantage as regards Britain, if the Roman 
military power were established everywhere and 
freedom, as it were, were put out of sight. Later 
he writes that Agricola had led his forces to a point 
close to the Irish Sea when he was brought back 
by an outbreak among the Brigantes and thought 
it better to solidify the conquests he had already 
made than to undertake a new conquest. 

The next writer in point of date is Ptolemy the 
Geographer, who flourished in the middle of the 
second century. Ptolemy names sixteen peoples, 
tribes or states, and gives their relative positions on 
the Irish coast. He names no people or state away 
from the coast. About half of the names can be 
authenticated from other sources. The others have 


been the subject of much fruitless conjecture. It is 
noteworthy that all the authenticated names belong 
to the eastern and southern coasts and that the 
names on the northern and western coasts are still 
names and nothing more. This shows that Ptolemy's 
information came from sea-going traders. The 
northern and western coasts of Ireland are among 
the most stormy in the world and must have been 
avoided in those days by ocean-going craft. Ptolemy 
names several estuaries, and from Irish writings we 
know that in early times estuaries were the favourite 
havens. Ships could run in by the main channel 
and could be grounded without injury on the sandy 
tidal banks. Several " cities ' are likewise named 
by Ptolemy. These, no doubt, were places of as- 
sembly or royal towns — " oppida," like Tara and 
Emania. None of them can be identified with any 
approach to certainty. Two bear the name Regia 
polis, and this I think is taken from Latin, meaning 
" royal city." 

On Ptolemy's description are based one or two 
learned fancies which may almost be said to have 
become popular. One of these is that the ancient 
name of Dublin is Eblana. Ptolemy places a people 
named Eblani on the eastern side of Ireland and 
assigns them a city which he calls by their name, 
Eblana polis. This cannot be Dublin, for no trace 
has been found in Irish records or tradition of any- 
thing approaching in character to a city on the 
site occupied by Dublin until the Norsemen fortified 
themselves here in 841. We cannot give the name 
of either record or tradition to a fabulous poem 


appended to the Book of Rights, a poem which 
relates how St. Patrick visited and blessed the Norse- 
men of Dublin. The poem has this value historically, 
that it shows how far some of our medieval writers 
were ready to go in the audacity of their invention. 

The location which Ptolemy indicates for the 
Eblani and their city is certainly farther north than 
Dublin, probably on the coast of Louth. As 
Ptolemy's information was derived through traders, 
it is not unlikely that some of the places which he 
calls cities were ancient places of assembly. From 
the poem on the Fair or Assembly of Carman, we 
know that these were places of resort for traders 
from the Mediterranean who brought with them 
" gold and precious cloth " in exchange for pro- 
ducts of the country. No doubt they timed their 
visits for the periodical assemblies, and from the 
same poem on the Fair of Carman and from other 
documents we also know that during the time of 
assembly the place of assembly bore the aspect of 
a city. In it at those times there was a great con- 
course of people of all orders ; there was a royal 
court ; a kind of parliament ; many sorts of public 
entertainment ; and a general market. Somewhere 
about the middle of County Louth one of these 
assemblies used to be held. It is called Oenach 
Descirt Maige " the Assembly of the South of the 
Plain " — probably the Plain of Muirtheimhne in the 
district of Dundalk. This place of assembly may 
have been the city of the Eblani named by Ptolemy, 
but the name itself has not been traced in Irish 
writings. Dublin lay almost certainly in the terri- 


tory of the Manapii or of the Cauci, the two Ger- 
mano-Belgic colonies about which I have spoken in 
the second of these lectures. 

Another place of note which has taken its modern 
name straight out of Ptolemy's description is the 
sweet Vale of Ovoca. A few years ago, a lively 
controversy about the name Ovoca was carried on 
by correspondence in a Dublin newspaper. One of 
the disputants undertook to show that the name 
consisted of two Gaelic words and meant " shadowy 
river." The fact is that the river called Ovoca 
received the name in quite modern times from some 
resident or proprietor who had a moderate taste for 
the classics. He found the name in Ptolemy "'OfioKa 
nora/iov €KJ3okal," the mouth of the river Oboca. It 
is one of the few river-mouths in Ireland named 
by Ptolemy, and must have been known to 
traders as a haven. The modern name Ovoca is 
Ptolemy's Oboka mispronounced and does not belong 
to Irish tradition. 

Pliny names several islands between Ireland and 
Britain, one of which he calls Andros. It seems to 
be the same place that Ptolemy calls Adros. I 
venture the suggestion that the proper form is 
Antros or Antron. At the mouth of the Garonne 
there was an island which bore the name Antros in 
the time of Pomponius Mela. Its modern name has 
become widely known as the name of its chief pro- 
duct, Medoc. In the river Loire, there was also an 
island named Antron, which became the site of a 
monastery and is now called Indre. Antros or 
Antron becomes 'Edar in Irish, and 'Edar is the 


Irish name of the Howth peninsula. Our fore- 
fathers use the terms for island as the names of 
peninsulas also, for example, Inis Eoghain and Island- 
magee, just as they applied the term loch indifferently 
to an inland lake and to an inlet of the sea. In our 
ancient tales, Howth harbour is one of the most 
noted and most frequented of Irish havens, and so 
it is not unlikely to have received notice in Ptolemy's 

Our next notice of Ireland is written by Solinus, 
about a.d. 200. He begins by repeating in other 
words what was already said by Mela : " Hibernia 
is barbarous in the manner of living of its inhabitants, 
but is so rich in pasture that the cattle, if they be 
not kept now and then from grazing, are put in 
danger from over-eating. There are no snakes." 
So we see that Solinus, writing two centuries and a 
half before St. Patrick's time, has robbed our 
national saint of one of his traditional glories. He 
is not the only one to blame. One of the Fenian 
lays tells how Fionn mac Cumhaill cleared the 
island of all serpents. Even Fionn cannot be 
allowed the credit without question, for it is evident 
there there were no snakes in Ireland when the Fir 
Bolg supplied the Eastern World with Irish earth 
to protect cities from these venomous reptiles. 
Solinus goes on to say : " Birds are rare. The nation 
is inhospitable and warlike. The victors in combat 
smear their faces with the blood of their slain 
enemies. They make no difference between things 
lawful and unlawful. There is not a bee anywhere, 
and if anyone scatters dust or gravel from Ireland 


among beehives, the swarms will desert their combs." 
Here we have another variety of the snake-story. 
Possibly Solinus, in his reading, mistook the word 
aspis, the name of a kind of snake, for apis, " a 
bee," and adjusted the popular legend about the 
virtue of Irish earth to suit his mistake. " The 
sea," he continues, " which flows between this 
island and Britain is billowy and restless and 
throughout the whole year it is navigable only 
during very few days." Here perhaps we have the 
current explanation of Ireland's immunity from 
invasion by the Romans. Ireland, at all events, 
was still a country about which the Latin world 
was ready to accept travellers' tales from the 

The Irish appear in a new role, that of invaders of 
Britain, in a panegyric of the emperor Constantius 
Chlorus, written in a.d. 297. The same document 
and passage contains the earliest known mention 
of the Picts by that name. " The Britons," says the 
panegyric, " even then an uncivilised nation and 
accustomed to no enemies except the Picts and the 
Irish [Hiberni], still half-naked, readily yielded to 
the Roman arms and standards." In my last 
lecture, I have suggested that the overthrow of the 
old Ulster kingdom is the explanation of the later 
prominence of the Picts in eastern Ulster. The 
sudden emergence of the Picts of Britain as a war- 
like and aggressive people at the close of the third 
century is susceptible of a similar explanation. 
Under the Ulster kingdom, the Picts were subject 
to the Ulaidh. As the Ulaidh declined in power, 


the Picts became relatively prominent. So in Britain, 
before the Roman conquests, the Picts, I suggest, 
were subject to the Celts. The name Caledones or 
Caledonii, belonging to the principal people of 
southern Scotland during the early times of the 
Roman occupation of Britain, is a Celtic name. It 
is formed by adding a very usual termination to the 
Celtic adjective caledos, meaning " hard " or " hardy." 
Caledos was in fairly frequent use as a Celtic personal 
name. Seven instances are quoted by Holder from 
inscriptions. It is found in Irish, e.g., in the term 
caladcholg, " a hard sword." It is the common Irish 
word for a landing-place from boats, originally no 
doubt having been applied to firm ground, as dis- 
tinguished from swampy ground, on the banks of 
a river, and in this sense it has passed into Anglo- 
Irish vocabulary in the form " callow " — the " cal- 
lows " of the Shannon. That the Caledonii did not 
belong to the old dark-complexioned population is 
the testimony of Tacitus, who says : " The reddish 
hair of the inhabitants of Caledonia and their large 
limbs indicate a Germanic origin." That this Celtic 
people at one time held sway in a region afterwards 
dominated by the Picts is witnessed by the place- 
name Dunkeld in Perthshire. The older Gaelic 
name is Dun Cailden, i.e., Dunon Caledonon, the 
stronghold of the Caledones. The Celts, who natur- 
ally would have been strongest in Lowland Scot- 
land, were so weakened there, I suggest, by the 
Roman power, that they could no longer maintain 
their predominance over the Pictish population of 
the Highlands, and so, towards the close of the third 


century, the Picts emerge as new and formidable 
adversaries of Roman Britain on its northern 

In the fourth century, the Irish are named by a 
new name in Latin writings. The earliest known 
instance of this name, Scotti, Scots, is found in a 
passage of the historian Ammianus with reference 
to the events of the year 360. " In that year," he 
writes, " the raids of the Scots and Picts, wild 
nations, had broken the agreed peace in the British 
provinces and were devastating the places near 
the frontier ; terror was involving the provinces worn 
out by the accumulation of past defeats ; the 
emperor, passing the winter at Paris and harassed 
by anxieties from one side and another, was afraid 
to go to the relief of his subjects across the sea. 
lest he might leave Gaul without a ruler a prey to 
the Alamanni, who were already stirred up to cruelty 
and war." In this single passage a great deal is 
implied. We see the Western Empire now beginning 
to totter, its ruler's conduct shaped no longer by hope 
of conquest but by fear of disaster. We learn that 
on the British northern frontier some sort of terms 
had previously been made with the Picts and Scots, 
who were the aggressive party. We learn the 
manner of their warfare, which is similar to that 
of the Norsemen during the first half-century of 
their wars in Ireland. They make plundering raids 
across the frontier, not in small parties but in con- 
siderable force, defeating again and again the local 
defences, and no doubt carrying off booty and 
captives. It was in one of these raids, a few years 


after the date above referred to, that the boy Patrick 
was carried off and sold into slavery in Ireland. 

In the year 365, Ammianus further records that 
" the Picts and Saxons and Scots and Atecotti 
harassed the Britons with continual afflictions." In 
368, " the Picts, divided into two nations, Dicaly- 
dones and Verturiones, and also the Atecotti, a 
warlike nation of men, and the Scots, roving here 
and there, did many devastations." Later on, the 
writer of a panegyric on the emperor Theodosius 
asks, " shall I tell of the Scot driven back to his 
swamps ? " And the poet Claudian, in a eulogy of 
the emperor Honorius, sings : " He has tamed the 
active Moors and the Picts, whose name is no nick- 
name, and the Scot with wandering dagger he has 
followed up, breaking the waves of the far north 
with daring oars " ; and again, " Ice-cold Ireland 
has mourned the heaped-up corpses of her Scots." 
Praising the Roman general Stilicho, Claudian says : 
" The Scot set all Ireland in motion " ; and later, 
referring to Stilicho's muster against the Goths in the 
year 416, he writes : " Came also the legion that 
protected the furthest bounds of Britain, that 
bridled the cruel Scot and scanned the lifeless face 
of the dying Pict tattooed with iron point." 

In all these writings, from the first mention of 
the name Scots down to the fall of the Western 
Empire in the fifth century, the Scots are Irish 
raiders of Roman Britain. Whitley Stokes took 
the name Scottus to be cognate with certain Slavonic 
and Germanic words and to mean " master " or 
" possessor." But why should a people who until 


the fourth century were named Iverni or Hiberni 
acquire in the fourth century a new name meaning 
" masters " or " possessors " ? It is not in the 
quality of possessors that they appear in the records 
of the time, but rather in the quality of dispossessors. 
Raiding, fighting, wandering, wasting, these are the 
occupations of the Scots in that age ; and if they 
acquired a new name, it is to these occupations that 
we might expect the new name to have reference. 
Therefore, though it may appear audacious on my 
part, I venture on a different explanation. 

A gloss on the name of St. Scoithin in the Festilogy 
of Oengus says that he was named Scoithin ar in 
scothad imdechta dognid A. dul do Ruain i n-oenlo 
ocus toidecht uathi i n-oenlo aile, " from the scothadh 
of travelling that he practised, namely, going [from 
Ireland] to Rome in a single day and returning 
thence [to Ireland] in another single day." The 
verb scothaim or scaithim has a group of meanings 
all signifying a rapid cutting or striking movement. 
Dictionaries give the meanings " I lop, prune, cut 
off, strip, destroy disperse, scutch [flax], beat a 
sheaf of corn to make it shed its grain." Scoth- 
bhualadh means a light threshing ; scoithnedn, a sieve 
for winnowing grain. Scottus, then, in this view, was 
originally a common noun meaning a raider or reaver, 
a depredator who worked by rapid incursions and 
retirements. It was probably a Gaulish word, for 
its earliest known use is in various inscriptions of 
Roman Gaul, in which it is used as a personal name. 
For example, an inscription of the year 224 records 
a votive offering by Marcus Quintius Florentinus 



and others, the children of Caius Quintius Scottus. 
Here Scottus is the distinctive byname of the father 
and is not found in the names of his children. 

The old story about promiscuous marriages, which 
in Caesar's time was told of the Britons, and later 
on, when Britain became better known to the 
Romans, was told of the islands of western Scotland, 
continued until the fifth century to be told of the 
Irish, who, like the Hebrideans, dwelt beyond the 
bounds of the Empire. St. Jerome writes that 
" the Scotti and Atecotti, in the manner of Plato's 
Republic, have wives promiscuously and children 
in common " ; and again, " the nation of the Scotti 
do not marry wives of their own ; as if they had 
read Plato's Republic and adopted the example of 
Cato, no wife among them belongs to a particular 
husband ; but each according to his pleasure they 
live without restraint, as cattle live." There is no 
mention of these evil customs a half-century later 
when Saint Patrick tells how he won over the Scots 
and their children from Paganism, and the oldest 
traditions show that the pagan Irish followed the 
law of monogamy with as much fidelity as did 
the ancient Greeks and Romans. St. Jerome tells 
another story, this time on his own direct testimony : 
" In my early youth in Gaul I have myself seen 
the Scots, a Britannic nation, feeding on human 
flesh, and, when they might find herds of swine and 
cattle through the forests, [I have known them] to be 
wont to cut off the hips of shepherds and the breasts 
of women, and to regard these as the only delicacies 
of their food." Instead of Scotti, some texts of 


Saint Jerome have Atecotti in this place. It 
matters little, for all agree in adding the words 
gentem Britannicam "a Britannic nation." We have 
seen that the Atecotti were associated with the 
Scotti in raiding Roman Britain, and we must come 
later to the question, who were the Atecotti. St. 
Jerome's testimony is valuable on the point that 
these invaders of Roman Britain, whether Scotti or 
Atecotti, also roved about Gaul. We may take it 
that there were bands of them in the woods, in which 
he tells us they might have found swine and cattle 
to provide them with food, had it not been for 
their barbarous preference for special cuts of shep- 
herd and shepherdess. He states that he was a 
boy at the time (adolescentulus). He does not say 
that he saw the barbarians in the act of catching 
and killing a shepherd or a shepherdess, and we may 
be certain that he did not, otherwise he would not 
have stayed on to see the preparation and con- 
sumption of the tit-bits. It has been suggested 
that he was probably accompanied by a very wise 
elderly woman who told him, as a precaution, the 
sort of people these roving banditti were, and that 
his childish imagination confirmed the tale. He 
may have seen the wandering islanders feasting 
round their fire in the forest, but how did he con- 
trive to identify the viands ? Once more, let it be 
said that tradition is old enough and history reaches 
far enough back to assure us that cannibalism, like 
promiscuous polygamy, was no custom of the in- 
habitants of Ireland or of Britain in the fourth 
century of the Christian era. 


We have seen that Latin writers of this period 
make mention of the Atecotti, usually in conjunction 
with the Scotti. Some have assumed that the Ate- 
cotti were a branch of the Picts. So far as positive 
evidence goes, it is against this assumption. Am- 
mianus speaks of the Picts, subdivided into two 
nations, Dicalydones and Verturiones, and then 
adds that " the Atecotti, a warlike nation," and 
the Scotti, were engaged with these in the work of 
devastation. This implies that the Atecotti, like the 
Scotti, were distinct from the Picts. 

A verbal resemblance in the names led some Irish 
writers, from the close of the eighteenth century 
down to O'Curry, to identify the Atecotti with the 
Irish Aithech-thuatha, the ancient Rent-paying com- 
munities referred to in my third lecture. I do not 
think that the philologists will sanction the identi- 
fication so far as it is based on verbal resemblance. 
The name Atecotti has not been found in any form 
in the native records of Ireland or Britain as the 
name of any nation or sub-nation or in the topo- 
graphy of either island. Nevertheless contemporary 
evidence during the second half of the fourth century 
shows that not only on the frontier of Roman Britain 
but also on the Continent there was a numerous and 
warlike collection of men known by this name. As 
in the case of the name Scotti, the conclusion I 
would draw is that Atecotti was a name for a general 
class of men not for a particular nation, tribe, or 
political community. The name, in its best authen- 
ticated form, is a Celtic word, consisting of the ad- 
jective cottos preceded by the prefix ate. Cottos 


means " old," or " ancient." The prefix ate, which 
becomes aith or atb in Irish of the MS. period, means 
"back " or " again," like the Latin re, and like this, 
too, it often has a strengthening or intensifying force. 
Thus, Atecotti may be taken to mean the very 
ancient, the primitive, the pristine folk ; and so it 
is explained by Whitley Stokes. Who then were 
these very ancient people who were associated with 
the Scotti and were not identified with the Picts r 
We are reminded at once of the Irish traditions of 
non-Gaelic and pre-Gaelic communities which formed 
the main fighting strength of the kings of North 
Leinster and South Leinster, and of the non-Gaelic 
origin ascribed to Cu Chulainn, Fear Diadh, and to 
the kindred of Fionn mac Cumhaill and of Goll mac 
Morna. Of course, on this point we are far from com- 
plete certainty, but the probability, in my opinion, is 
that, when the Irish went to war in the fourth cen- 
tury, they still adhered to the politico-social dis- 
tinction between the Gaelic ascendancy and the 
conquered plebeian race, and that this was the 
distinction between the Scotti and the Atecotti. The 
adjective cottos does not appear to belong to the 
vocabulary of Irish, but it is found in the various 
Brittanic dialects and was a frequent element in 
Gaulish nomenclature. The Atecotti, therefore, pro- 
bably received their name not in Ireland but in 
Britain or Gaul. The view I put forward reaches, 
but by a different path, a similar conclusion to that 
adopted by the Irish writers who sought to identify 
the Atecotti by name with the plebeian communities 
of ancient Ireland, the Aitheach-thuatha. 


Contact with the Roman military system reacted 
on the domestic condition of Ireland. To this 
cause we may ascribe the origin of the Fiana as a 
definite military organisation at a definite period. 
The word fian is collective, signifying a band of 
fighting men, not merely a band of men called out 
upon occasion for military service, but a permanent 
fighting force. From it is derived feindid, feinnidb, 
a professional soldier. Normally, the ancient nations 
depended in warfare on their citizen soldiers who in 
time of peace were engaged in the works of peace. 
The great imperial states, for their plans of conquest 
and dominion, or for the protection of their artificial 
realms, relied on standing armies. In the stories of 
the Ulster cycle, though, as we have seen, there are 
certain castes or communities with a special tra- 
dition of warlike service and efficiency, there does 
not seem to be any permanent military organisation. 
The cycle of the Fiana, on the contrary, is concerned 
with fighting men whose principal occupation is 
warfare. The two epic traditions are quite distinct. 
Chariot-fighting is characteristic of the Ulster tales. 
The Fiana fight on foot. The time to which the 
Fiana belong is the time of the conquests made by 
the Connacht kings in North Leinster, the time of 
Conn, Art, Cormac, and Cairbre Lifeachar — roughly 
speaking, the third century of the Christian era. 
During that century, the Britons were " accustomed 
to war with Irish enemies," and the Irish therefore 
had opportunities of learning something of the Roman 
manner of warfare and military organisation. Again, 
to the third century and later belong those great 


earthen frontier walls in Ireland spoken of in the 
foregoing lecture. The erection of these walls, we 
may well believe, was inspired by acquaintance with 
the Roman frontier fortifications in northern Britain, 
constructed in the second century and in the early 
part of the third century. 

Accustomed to military life, numbers of the 
Scotti and Atecotti took service under Roman 
commanders, especially under Stilicho, who enlisted 
troops wherever he could raise them to defend the 
Empire against the Goths. The time was during 
the last years of the fourth century and the opening 
years of the fifth. A number of Latin inscriptions 
on the Continent bear witness to the existence, in 
the later days of the Western Empire, of a military 
force in the Imperial service under the name of 
Primi Scotti — " the First Scots." The majority of 
these inscriptions are found near the ancient frontier 
between the Roman Empire and western Germany, 
showing that the Scots or Irish were engaged to 
defend the line of the Rhine against the Germans. 
A few of the inscriptions are found in the interior of 
Roman Gaul. 

About the same time, under the emperor Honorius 
and his general Stilicho, a number of distinct bodies 
— cohorts or regiments — of the Atecotti served in the 
Imperial armies. The military records known as 
Notitiae Dignitatum have mention of the following 
forces : Atecotti seniores ; Atecotti juniores ; Ate- 
cotti Honoriani seniores ; Atecotti Honoriani juniores; 
and Atecotti Gallicani juniores ; to which by implica- 
tion we must add Atecotti Gallicani seniores. All 


these were serving in the Western Empire, and in 
addition to these there was a body called simply 
Atecotti serving in the Eastern Empire. Those in 
the west formed part of a force which included also 
Moors, Germans, and others drawn from countries 
outside of the Empire. The general name for these 
troops appears to have been Honoriani, from the 
emperor Honorius in whose service they were enlisted. 
The chief military task of the Roman armies under 
Honorius was to resist the Goths who were threaten- 
ing to overrun his dominions. The Spanish historian 
Orosius, who lived in Spain at that time, calls the 
barbarian forces of Honorius the Honoriaci, i.e., he 
substitutes a Celtic form for the Latin Honoriani. 
(St. Patrick, a little later, uses a similar Celtic form 
Hiberionaci, instead of the usual Latin name Hiberni, 
for the Irish.) In 409, the year before the capture of 
Rome by the Goths under Alaric, the German nations 
of the Suevi, Vandals, and Alans overran southern 
Gaul as far as the Spanish borders. The passes of 
the Pyrenees were held at this time by the Honoriani. 
Orosius says that, on the approach of the Germans, 
the Honoriani in the Pyrenees made common cause 
with them, and shared with them in the invasion of 
Spain and the partition of the conquered territory 
He adds that the Honorians were more clement 
than the Germans towards the conquered people, 
and extended some degree of protection and as- 
sistance to them. This conquest was of short dura- 
tion. A few years later the Goths in turn invaded 
Spain and established a Gothic kingdom over it. 
These events belong to a period for which Ireland 


has no contemporary documents of history, but for 
which, as it borders on the more strictly historical 
period, Irish traditions have their highest validity in 
evidence. The testimony of native tradition, as we 
might expect, is in accord with that of external 

The third and fourth centuries of the Christian era 
were a time in which nearly all the peoples of Europe 
outside of the Roman Empire were, so to speak, on 
the march with arms in their hands. At the be- 
ginning of the Christian era and before it, we have 
seen that this state of unrest already pervaded the 
Celts and Germans of Mid-Europe. A few centuries 
earlier still, the Celts almost alone are found in this 
condition of warlike mobility ; for the radiation of 
the Celtic migratory movements in every direction — 
southward into Italy, westward into Gaul, Spain, 
Britain, and Ireland, northward into the Baltic 
basin, and eastward along the Danube valley and 
into Asia Minor — is evidence that, unlike the move- 
ments which led to the break-up of the Western 
Empire, the earlier Celtic migrations were not accom- 
panied by pressure from other moving populations 
on their borders. 

I have ascribed the early expansion of the Celts 
to iron. The possession of iron had a two-fold effect. 
The natural condition of the greater part of Europe 
is forest. If man were absent or idle-handed, nearly 
all Europe in a few generations would revert to the 
forest state. To clear the land of woods, or even to 
prevent the fresh growth of woods after clearance, 
the implements of the Stone Age, Early and Late, 


cannot have been effective. Even let us suppose 
that large clearances could have been made by burn- 
ing, at once the thickets would again spring up, and 
under their protection the forest trees. Nor can 
the possession of bronze have sufficed to subdue 
the natural tendency towards forest. Bronze, in 
the Bronze Age, was not the industrial material of 
the many ; it belonged to the privileged few who 
were not hewers of wood. Iron, when it came, intro- 
duced an industrial revolution relatively greater than 
that which has been introduced in modern times by 
the steam-engine. Once people knew how to work 
it, iron was abundant enough to be in the hands of 
every worker. Iron became and has ever since 
remained the sole master of growing wood. With 
the conquest of the forests came a great extension 
of tillage. Iron not only cleared fertile tracts but 
tilled them more rapidly and deeply than was possible 
with the wooden spade which, as the old Irish copper- 
mines have taught us, was the digging implement of 
the Bronze Age. Thus food became abundant, and 
with it a density of population which, before iron, 
was possible only in fertile and forestless regions like 
the flood areas of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Road- 
making, too, progressed, and the use of vehicles. 
As iron furnished the many with better implements 
of work, it furnished them also with better imple- 
ments of war. An overflowing population and war- 
like arms for all — here we have the conditions for 
migratory conquest. On these conditions the Celtic 
migrations were based. The spread of these con- 
ditions to the Germans led to the later Germanic 


expansion, and their further spread brought about 
the Slavonic and Turanian migrations which drove 
the Germans down upon the subject peoples of Rome, 
peoples whose power of resistance and will to defend 
themselves had been already broken by that Roman 
policy so frankly described by Tacitus. 

Just as the universal subjection of science and 
invention to the purposes of warfare has reduced 
Europe to its present condition, so the universal 
possession of iron made Europe in the third and 
fourth centuries a scene of universal war. Though 
Ireland was fortunately untouched by the great 
migratory movements of the Continent in that age, 
these movements reacted on Ireland by weakening 
the neighbouring provinces of the Empire. 

The raids on Britain and Gaul for booty and cap- 
tives — raids from which, as I have argued, the Irish 
got their new name of Scots — were followed by Irish 
settlements on various points of the British coast. 
The conquest of eastern Meath or Bregia by the 
kings of Connacht and Uisneach forced a part of 
the population to migrate, and one body of the 
migrants settled in Demetia, in the south of Wales. 
We can safely place the conquest of Bregia in the 
second half of the third century, but it does not 
follow that the settlement in Wales was made at the 
same time, for the story of the Deisi migration makes 
it appear that the expelled population remained for 
many years in Leinster before the settlement in 
Munster. There may have been a similar delay 
before their kindred crossed over to Wales. 

In south-western Britain, there was also an Irish 


colony, apparently from Munster and headed by 
princes of the Eoghanacht dynasty which displaced 
the earlier line of the Iverni. Cormac's Glossary 
mentions in the Cornish region a stronghold named 
Dinn Map Lethan. This name, a mixture of Cymric 
and Gaelic, means the fortress of the Sons of Lethan. 
The Ui Liathain, or descendants of Liathan, were one 
of the principal septs of the Eoghanachta, and their 
territory adjoined the Munster coast in the district 
immediately to the west of the Deisi. 

The most noted and most permanent of the Irish 
settlements in Britain was that of Argyleshire and 
the adjoining islands. The kings of Dal Riada, 
according to the Annals of Tigernach, did not take 
up their abode in that region until far on in the 
fifth century, a.d. 470. This, however, does not 
imply that the Irish migration to Scotland began at 
that time. It rather means that the Irish colonies 
of Argyleshire and the islands became subject at 
that time to the kings of the nearest territory in 
Ireland. There is no record known to me of the 
Irish migration to Galloway, the south-western angle 
of the Scottish mainland, a region formerly occupied 
by the Picts. Though the Norsemen settled in. 
Galloway in a later age, a glance at the map will 
show that the place-names of Galloway are almost 
as purely Gaelic as those of any part of Ireland. 
Gaelic was the prevalent language of Galloway in 
the sixteenth century and continued to be spoken 
there in the eighteenth century. 

These Gaelic settlements on the western seaboard 
of Britain appeared to Sir John Rhys to be the 


remnants of a Gaelic population which, he thought, 
preceded the British or Brythonic conquest. 

There are stories of the Fiana and even of the 
heroes of the earlier Ulster cycle that reflect in 
tradition those raids on Britain which are recorded 
in Latin writings. As we approach the borderland 
of documentary history, the evidences are still more 
definite. The death of Niall of the Nine Hostages, 
king of Ireland, is assigned to the year 404. At 
the time of his death, he was at the head of an 
expedition in the English Channel, and he was slain 
on board ship by a Leinster prince. He was suc- 
ceeded by his brother's son Nath-'I, commonly 
called Dathi in later writings. Nath-'I in turn met 
his death at the head of an oversea expedition in the 
year 429. He is said to have been killed by light- 
ning in the Alps. At this time, the Roman Empire 
was making its final struggle in Gaul under Aetius 
" the last of the Romans," against the Visigoths 
who held all the southern parts from Italy to the 
Bay of Biscay, and the Franks and Burgundians 
who had occupied the parts along the Rhine. It 
does not seem likely that an Irish raid, in these cir- 
cumstances, could reach the Alps, nor can we well 
imagine what it could expect to gain by such an 
inroad. The Alps are probably a circumstantial 
ornament to the story, and we may content our- 
selves with the main point that this Irish king, 
three years before St. Patrick's mission Degan, led a 
raiding expedition to Gaul and met his death there. 
The story contains an additional proof that the 
kings of Ireland, who reigned in Tara in those days, 


represented the ancient dynasty of Connacht. The 
remains of Nath-'I were brought back to Ireland 
and laid to rest in the ancient pagan cemetery of 
Cruachain, beside the royal burg of the Connacht 
kings. It was the old line of the kings of Cruachain 
that had now become kings of Ireland seated in 
Tara. There is another interesting piece of evidence 
on this point which did not escape the notice of the 
late Father Hogan. Loeguire, son of Niall, suc- 
ceeded his cousin Nath-'I as king of Ireland, and 
was reigning at Tara when St. Patrick began his 
missionary work. But it was at Cruachain and not 
at Tara that St. Patrick met and baptised the 
daughters of Loeguire. Tara, in fact, was the 
official seat of the monarchy, but Cruachain in 
Connacht was still the real home of the kings of 

The condition of Europe at this time, the first 
half of the fifth century, is terrible to contemplate, 
and many must have thought that the ancient 
civilisation was at an end. The R.oman legions 
had abandoned Britain a prey to the Picts, the 
Scots, and the north-western Germans. Gaul and 
Spain were in the hands of the Franks, Burgundians, 
Visigoths, Alans, Suevi, and Vandals. Genseric, king 
of the Vandals, had overrun the opulent Roman 
province of Africa, which never afterwards re- 
covered its ancient prosperity, and the greatest in- 
tellect of the time, St. Augustine, passed away in 
his episcopal city while the Vandals were besieging 
it. Rome itself was twice captured and sacked, 
first by the Goths and afterwards by the Vandals. 


Attila, the Scourge of God, led immense armies from 
one end of Europe to the other, and boasted that 
where his horse had trodden the grass grew no more. 
St. Patrick, in his Confession, relates that after his 
escape from captivity in Ireland he and his com- 
panions travelled for thirty days on the Continent 
through an unpeopled wilderness. It seems a miracle 
that hope and courage could have survived in any 
mind. Yet the spirit of peace and gentleness and 
mercy was stronger than all the violence and blood- 
thirst of all the nations. Some have complained 
that St. Patrick, in his simple narrative, tells 
little but his own heart, but his Confession is one 
of the great documents of history, and explains to 
us better than all the historians how barbarism was 
tamed and civilisation saved. Imagine a young lad 
of tender years, son of a Roman citizen, torn away 
by fierce raiders from his parents and people, no 
doubt amid scenes of bloodshed and ruin, and sold 
into slavery among strangers ; kept for years, the 
despised chattel of a petty chieftain, herding flocks 
in a bleak land of bog and forest. Think that the 
ruling sentiment that grew out of this pitiful ex- 
perience was one of boundless love and devotion 
towards the people that had done him such terrible 
wrongs, so that when he had regained his freedom 
by flight, in nightly visions he heard their voices 
calling him back to them and freely and eagerly 
made up his mind to spend himself altogether in 
their service. It was this spirit that subdued the 
ferocity of fierce plundering rulers and warlike 
peoples. The Irish ceased from that time to be a 


predatory nation. Two centuries later, the king of 
the Northumbrian Angles invaded and devastated a 
part of eastern Ireland. His own subject, the 
Venerable Bede, denounces this violence done to 
" a harmless people who have never injured the 
English," and finds a just retribution in the misfor- 
tunes that afterwards befel the king and the North- 
umbrian power. 

In St. Patrick's time, the headship of Tara was 
not yet firmly fixed in the national tradition. He 
founded various churches in the neighbourhood of 
Tara. Tirechan names eight of them. To none o: 
these he attached the primacy, but to the church 
he founded close by the ancient capital of Ulster. 
The story of this foundation illustrates another 
trait of Patrick's character besides his wonderful 
charity. The nobleman, Daire, from whom he 
asked the land for his church, refused the site that 
Patrick wished and gave another instead. He after- 
wards presented Patrick with a fine vessel of bronze. 
Patrick said simply " Gratias agimus." This curtness 
displeased the magnate, so that he sent again and 
took away the gift. Patrick again said, " Gratias 
agimus." Hearing this, Daire came in person and 
restored the vessel to Patrick and said : " Thou 
must have thy vessel of bronze, for thou art a stead- 
fast and unchangeable man. And moreover that 
piece of land for which thou once didst ask me, I 
give to thee with all my rights in it, and dwell thou 
in it." And that, says the ancient life, is the city 
which now is named Armagh. 



IN our early literature there are many traces of 
an abiding tradition that already before St. 
Patrick's mission there were Christians and 
small Christian communities here and there in 
Ireland. Some of the statements, especially as to 
the founders of certain sees, have been discredited, 
being imputed to a desire to make out that these 
sees, alleged to have been founded before St. 
Patrick's time, were therefore independent of the 
jurisdiction and claims of Armagh, especially of 
the temporal claims for revenue. It was claimed 
in particular for St. Ailbhe and St. Iubhar, of the 
see of Emly, St. Declan of Ardmore, and St. Ciaran 
of Saighir that they were already bishops in St. 
Patrick's time. These things are stated in docu- 
ments in which other things are said that cannot 
be reconciled with historical fact. The date of St. 
Iubhar's death, according to the Annals of Ulster, 
was 500, 501, or 504; of St. Ailbhe's, 534, or 542; 
and SS. Ciaran and Declan are both said to have 
lived into the sixth century. Saint Iubhar ap- 
pears to have been the earliest of them and there 
is evidence that he received episcopal consecration 
at the hands of St. Patrick. The case, however, 
does not rest whollv or mainlv on such unstable 

11 161 


The genealogists of Corcu Loegdae, or Dairine, 
claim that the people of that state were the first in 
Ireland to receive Christianity ; and the claim at 
all events cannot be dismissed on the ground of 
improbability. The diocese of Ross appears to repre- 
sent the extent of this little state in the twelfth 
century, but in earlier times its territory covered a 
much larger area. Dwelling around several good 
havens, which were most favourably situated in 
relation to the old Atlantic trade route, the people 
were always a sea-going people. We read of an 
O'Driscoll at the head of his fleet attacking the 
English of Waterford. One of their chiefs takes 
his distinctive byname from Gascony, another from 
Bordeaux. Thomas Davis's spirited ballad on the 
Sack of Baltimore brings home to our minds how 
direct hostile relation could exist between this 
region and the Mediterranean ; and where such 
hostile relations were possible, trade relations may 
be taken as normal. It is by no means unlikely, 
then, that where the Crescent could come on pirate 
galleys from Algiers, the Cross might well have 
come in some early merchant ship from the Loire 
or the Garonne. 

St. Patrick himself, in his Confession, seems to 
testify by implication to the existence not merely 
of individual Christians but of Christian com- 
munities with their clergy in and before his time 
in Ireland. " For your sake," he writes, " I have 
faced many dangers, going even to the limits of 
the land where no one was before me, and whither 
no one had yet come to baptise or ordain clergy 


or confirm the faithful." This surely implies that 
there were places in Ireland, not in the remoter 
parts, places where some had come before Patrick 
and had performed the purely episcopal functions of 
ordination and confirmation. 

More definite still is the evidence of Prosper's 
Chronicle — direct testimony, for the chronicler was 
in Rome at the time. Under the year 431, the 
chronicle has this entry : " To the Scots believing 
in Christ, having been ordained by Pope Celestine, 
Palladius is sent as first bishop." The natural 
interpretation of this statement, I think, is that 
some Irish Christians sent a request to Rome to 
have a bishop sent to them. The mission was con- 
sidered an important one, for Palladius, before his 
consecration as bishop, held a high ecclesiastical 
office at Rome. He had also interested himself in 
the religious concerns of Britain, having induced 
Pope Celestine two years earlier to send a special 
mission to Britain to counteract the teachings of a 
Pelagian bishop. In another work, St. Prosper 
refers to these two missions together. Pope Celes- 
tine, he writes, " while he laboured to keep the 
Roman island (i.e. Britain) Catholic, also, by ordain- 
ing a bishop for the Scots, made the barbarous island 
Christian " — barbarous meaning external to the 
Roman Empire. Even this does not necessarily 
imply that before Palladius there were no bishops 
in Ireland, but it does imply that these particular 
" Irish believing in Christ," to whom Palladius was 
sent, had no bishop in communion with Rome. 
Pelagius, the author of the Pelagian heresy, was, 


according to St. Jerome, a man " of the Irish nation, 
from the vicinity of the Britons," and St. Jerome 
again, in his vigorous style, speaks of Pelagius as 
one " swelled out with the porridge of the Irish." 
Other contemporary witnesses say that Pelagius 
was a Briton. This leaves us in doubt, for, on the 
one hand, these may have applied the term Briton 
to anyone from any part of the Pretanic islands, 
and on the other hand, St. Jerome's language about 
Pelagius is the language of rhetorical depreciation, 
and from what I have quoted from him in the fore- 
going lecture, we may perhaps judge that by calling 
Pelagius a Scot, he thought the more effectually to 
discredit him. The known career of Pelagius lies 
between the years 398 and 418. One thing comes 
out clearly enough from the contemptuous phrase — 
the Irish were known abroad in St. Jerome's time 
as eaters of porridge. 

The late Professor Zimmer, finding a somewhat 
obscure early reference to the flight of learned people 
from Gaul during the Gothic and Frankish invasions 
and to their finding a place of refuge in another 
country, founded on this an interesting theory re- 
garding the early stages of Christianity and letters 
in Ireland. It was in Ireland, he contends, that 
the refugees found a home, for Ireland was the only 
land in Western Europe that escaped the Germanic 
invasions. To Ireland they brought with them a 
certain devotion to the ancient literatures of Greece 
and Rome. The limits of date for this learned 
migration, according to Zimmer, are the years 419 
and 507, and he holds that it actually took place 


about midway between those dates, i.e., about the 
middle of the fifth century. 

To make this theory of a learned migration from 
Western Gaul to Ireland more easily accepted, 
Zimmer gives a valuable collection of facts in his- 
torical evidence, showing that there was a regular 
course of trade between the two countries at this 
time and for centuries before and after it. 

Zimmer applies his theory to the explanation of 
certain remarkable facts. In the first place, he 
explains by it the pre-eminence in the knowledge of 
Latin and Greek that belonged in the following age 
to Irishmen and the pupils of Irishmen. Secondly, 
he explains by it the reference made by St. Patrick 
in his Confession to certain critics who despised his 
rusticity, i.e., his want of a classical grounding in 
Latin. St. Patrick calls these critics " rhetoricians," 
a term which certainly seems to imply that they 
belonged to a professional academic set. Zimmer 
thinks that these " rhetoricians " were some of the 
learned refugees from Western Gaul. A third fact 
which Zimmer explains by his migration theory is 
the fondness of the early Irish poets and grammarians 
for certain artificial super-refinements of language and 
grammar, and in particular for the production of a 
learned jargon in Irish by making deliberate changes 
in the form of words, substituting one letter for 
another, and adding, transforming or removing 
letters or syllables. This trait, he argues, was 
adopted from a certain learned school of Aquitaine, 
who played similar tricks with Latin, and produced 
by such means not one but a dozen Latin jargons ; 


and Zimmer goes so far as to insist that the supposed 
Irish poet-grammarian who is named " Fercertne 
the Poet ' was actually and personally identical 
with one of the chief exponents of this artificial 
Latinity, Virgilius Grammaticus. 

The difficulties I find in accepting this theory of 
Zimmer are chiefly two. The first is that Zimmer, 
when he set out to establish a novel theory, was 
quite as ingenious in weaving an argument as 
Virgilius Grammaticus could be in concocting a 
Latin jargon. My second difficulty is that, if such 
a school of foreign Latinists existed in Ireland in 
St. Patrick's time, I cannot understand why neither 
the school itself nor any individual belonging to it 
is mentioned in any Irish document. St. Patrick 
does not say that his critics lived in Ireland. 

On the other hand, in a passage which Zimmer 
has not noted, there is reference to a high degree of 
Christian learning in Ireland possibly as early as 
St. Patrick's time. It is in a letter on the Paschal 
controversy written by St. Columbanus of Bobblo 
within the years 595 to 600. It may be remarked 
that St. Columbanus writes in a remarkably pure 
Latin style, founded on good sound Latin teaching, 
and in no way reflecting the ingenuities and puerilities 
of the Aquitanian school. He is speaking expressly 
in this letter about the chronological system devised 
by Victorius of Aquitaine, who flourished in the 
middle of the fifth century. " Victorius," he writes, 
" was regarded with indulgence, not to say con- 
tempt, by our masters and by the ancient Irish 
philosophers." Here, in the last years of the sixth 


century, we find an Irishman placing a higher value 
on the Christian learning of " ancient Irish philoso- 
phers " than on that of a noted Aquitanian scholar. 

I do not propose here to deal with the life and 
work of St. Patrick. Let me escape with the 
apology made by the writer of the Irish Nennius : 
" It would be carrying water to a lake, to relate 
the wonders of Patrick to the Men of Ireland." 

Let the beginnings of letters and literature in 
Ireland now occupy our attention. Caesar's testi- 
mony will be remembered in regard of the Celts 
in Gaul : " They make use of Greek letters in 
almost all their affairs, both public and private." 
This use of the Greek alphabet is corroborated 
by the fact that the oldest Celtic inscriptions in 
Gaul are in Greek characters. The accompanying 
sculptures also demonstrate Greek influence. This 
influence radiated, no doubt, from the early Greek 
colony of Massilia or Massalia (Marseille) and its 
daughter colonies along the Mediterranean coast. 
It extended as far as to the Helvetii in the modern 
Switzerland, among whose spoils Caesar captured 
a census of the entire people written out in Greek 
characters. On the other hand, the Cisalpine Gauls 
in Northern Italy used the Etruscan alphabet, from 
which the Roman alphabet was also in part derived, 
and a number of their inscriptions in the Etruscan 
characters have been discovered. 

We can trace no such early use of the alphabet 
in Britain or Ireland. The earliest known use of 
letters in Britain appears to be in the coinage of 
the sons of Commius. 


Tacitus has told us that the states of Britain 
were governed, not by kings, but by nobles and 
factions — just as Rome was governed in the later 
centuries of the Republic. In Gaul also there were 
no kings. It is interesting to examine how, in 
the period between the temporary invasions of 
Britain by Julius Caesar and the permanent Roman 
conquest of southern Britain about a century later, 
a people of the southern seaboard happen to have 
kings, and these kings happen to have a coinage 
inscribed after the Roman fashion. 

One of the Belgic States that had an offshoot in 
Britain was that of the Atrebates close to the 
Straits of Dover. The town of Arras preserves their 
name. In Britain, they were settled in the valley of 
the Thames and their chief place was Calleva, now 
Silchester in the north of Hampshire. Caesar took 
a special interest in the Atrebates, perhaps for the 
two reasons, that their territory was so near to 
Britain and that a part of their people were settled 
in Britain. In the early and insecure stages of his 
conquest of Gaul, he did not find it practicable to 
establish at once the Roman form of government. 
Instead he adopted a device which had already 
succeeded in the case of the Galatian republic in 
Asia. The Romans changed Galatia into a monarchy 
under a Galatian king Deiotaros, believing that they 
would secure their own authority more effectually by 
making one of the Galatians, so to speak, their 
chief policeman. A son and grandson of Deiotaros 
succeeded him as kings, and after these Augustus 
abolished this appearance of autonomy and made 


Galatia a Roman province under Roman governors. 
Caesar, having overcome the resistance of the Atre- 
bates on the Continent, appointed one of themselves, 
Commius, a noble of great influence, to be their 
king. Commius, he tells us, was a man both 
courageous and politic, and he considered him 
loyal. He afterwards used Commius as his inter- 
mediary in treating with the Britons, and through 
him received the submission of Cassivellaunus, whom 
the Britons had chosen to command their forces. 
After this service, Caesar freed Commius from tribute, 
restored the rights and laws of his people and gave 
him sovereignty also over the Morini, a neighbour- 
ing state on the Belgic seaboard. In the sixth 
year of Caesar's command, b.c. 53, a wide revolt of 
the Gallic states took place, and this time Commius 
took the side of his fellow-countrymen and was one 
of the four chiefs to whom they committed the 
principal charge of the war. In the suppression of 
the revolt, Commius was one of the last to hold out. 
He called in the help of the Germans, and when all 
failed, he took refuge among the Germans. Hirtius, 
the continuator of Caesar's narrative, relates how 
Labienus, one of Caesar's generals, considered that, 
in view of the disloyalty of Commius and his enter- 
ing into conspiracy to revolt, it would be no perfidy 
to have him done away. Accordingly he sent one 
Volusenus to him in the guise of an envoy but with 
private instructions to have Commius murdered. The 
plot failed, and Commius declared that he would 
never again consent to speak to any Roman. He 
continued the war, and had the satisfaction of once 


meeting and wounding the treacherous envoy Volu- 
senus in single combat. At last he was forced to 
submit upon terms and to give hostages, but even 
in his submission he made it a condition that he 
would not be required to hold direct intercourse 
with any Roman. He seems to have taken refuge 
finally in Britain. 

Under the rule of Commius over the Atrebates, 
coins were struck bearing his name in its Celtic 
spelling Commios, but in Roman lettering, pro- 
bably about the earliest examples of the use of 
the Roman alphabet in northern Gaul. Three of 
his sons appear to have reigned as kings in southern 
Britain, where, as already said, a colony of their 
people the Atrebates was settled. Their names, 
Tincius (or Tincommius), Eppillus, and Verica or 
Virica, are on numerous coins found in the south- 
east and middle south of England. One of these 
coins bears the name of Calleva, chief place of the 
Atrebates in Britain, now Silchester. The coins 
are inscribed with Roman letters, the name of 
Eppillus has already exchanged a Celtic for a Latin 
ending in the nominative, and the letters R and F, 
abbreviations for the Latin rex and jilius, appear on 
most of the coins. In this way the Latin alphabet 
found a foothold in Britain about the beginning of 
the Christian era. 

No use of letters nearly so early can be traced in 
Ireland. When Irish traditions began to be written, 
the Ogham alphabet was thought to be of remote 
antiquity, its invention being ascribed to the epony- 
mous god Ogma. This god is apparently identical 


with the Gaulish Ogmios, a god of eloquence, about 
whom there is a remarkable passage in the Greek 
writer Lucian. In the story of Tain Bo Cuailngi, 
Cu Chulainn cuts a message in Ogham on a branch 
and sets it up in the middle of a ford for his ap- 
proaching enemies to read. Nevertheless, I think 
that the use of Ogham characters cannot be quite as 
old as the Cu Chulainn period. I see two reasons 
for thinking so. The first is that the Ogham alpha- 
bet is based on the Latin alphabet. The second is 
that, if the Irish god Ogma mac Eladan (" son of 
science ") is to be identified in any way with the 
Gaulish Ogmios, god of eloquence, — and it seems im- 
possible to dissociate them — then the name of the 
god must have come into the Irish language at a 
very late date before the use of writing. Philologists 
tell us that, when g was followed by m in the early 
unrecorded stage of the Irish language, g disap- 
peared, and the preceding vowel, if short, was 
lengthened " by compensation," as it is called. 
Accordingly, an ancient name Ogmios would be 
represented in early MS. Irish by 'Ome not Ogme, 
and in later Irish by Uama or Uaime not Oghma. 

At first sight, it may appear too much to say 
that the Ogham alphabet was founded on the Latin 
alphabet. Why, let us ask, might it not have 
been a quite independent invention ? A little re- 
flection will convince us that it could not have 
been an independent invention. There is no limit, 
practically, to the possible varieties of alphabet, 
i.e., of graved or written symbols used to represent 
words. There are pictorial systems, and derived 


from these the so-called hieroglyphics, systems in 
which every word has a distinct syllable, systems in 
which each character stands for a symbol, systems 
in which no vowels are written, and systems which 
have distinct symbols for vowels and consonants. 
To the last class belong the Greek and Latin alpha- 
bets. There are systems in which the long and 
short vowels are distinguished, for example, in 
Pitman's shorthand alphabet ; and this is partly 
the case in the Greek alphabet. The Ogham alpha- 
bet belongs to the class in which there are distinct 
symbols for vowels and consonants. All its con- 
sonants but one are found in the Latin alphabet. 
Except for this one, representing the sound of ng 
in song or sing, it is content with the Latin con- 
sonants, though each of them has to express two 
very distinct sounds in Irish, the mute or stop 
sound and the spirant or " aspirate " as it is popu- 
larly called. Lastly, it has the five Latin vowels, 
without distinction of long or short. Hence its 
Latin origin is hardly open to question. Until 
Caesar's time, the Greek, not the Latin, alphabet was 
in use among the Gauls, the nearest people to Ireland 
by whom writing was then used. The Ogham 
alphabet and the Latin alphabet differ, generally 
speaking, in the same respects from the Greek 
alphabet. The latter therefore cannot have furnished 
the Irish model. The conclusion is that the Ogham 
alphabet, based on the Latin, was devised at some 
time later than the introduction of the Latin alpha- 
bet into neighbouring countries, that is to say, 
about the beginning of the Christian era or some- 


what later. It was suitable only to the purposes 
for which it is known or related to have been used, 
i.e., for brief inscriptions or brief messages or state- 
ments. It was not suitable for the ordinary ex- 
pression of written thought, for literature in the 
wide sense. 

The range of the use of Ogham in inscriptions 
outside of Ireland corresponds to the range of Irish 
settlements and of Irish influence, at the time of 
the collapse of the Western Empire. In general the 
range is that of the Irish language at the time, but 
a number of Ogham inscriptions are also found in 
parts of Scotland which at that time were inhabited 
and ruled by the Picts. Apart from the Pictish 
instances, the farthest outlying Ogham that has 
been discovered is curiously enough found at Sil- 
chester, the ancient Calleva, the capital of the Atre- 
bates in Britain, and the place in which the coins 
of the sons of Commius were struck, the coins that 
exhibit the earliest known use of the Roman alpha- 
bet or of any alphabet in Britain. 

The dating of the extant Ogham inscriptions is a 
matter of very great difficulty, and the more closely 
I have attempted to examine them, the greater the 
difficulty has become. I shall only say that the 
latest forms of Irish names that they contain appear 
to be about identical in their stage of phonetic 
change with the earliest forms found in Irish writers, 
for example in the Life of St. Columba by Adamnanus 
who quotes from older documents — probably forms 
of the latter part of the sixth century. The weight 
of evidence, in my opinion, goes to show that the 


cult of the Ogham inscriptions was mainly associated 
with Paganism. 

The manuscript literature of Irish does not come 
in a line of continuity from the Ogham writing. 
The system of spelling in the oldest specimens of 
MS. Irish has its basis in a British pronunciation of 
Latin — that is, in Latin modified and changed as a 
spoken language among the Britons during the 
centuries of the Roman occupation. One of the 
tasks incidental to the work of St. Patrick and his 
helpers in missionary work in Ireland was to give 
lessons in Latin to those who were to be the future 
clergy of the country. Thus we read again and 
again that St. Patrick wrote an alphabet for this 
and that convert — alphabet in this case meaning a 
primer or possibly a book of psalms — at all events a 
set of lessons in Latin. It is easy to show that a 
similar pronunciation of Latin prevailed in the early 
Christian schools of Ireland and in Britain at the 
same time ; that this pronunciation differed 
systematically from the Italian pronunciation ; that 
the differences represent changes which had taken 
place also in the British language, though not in 
Irish ; and that the orthography of Old and Middle 
Welsh and also of Old and Middle Irish was moulded 
by this modified British pronunciation of Latin. 
The peculiarities of spelling produced in this way 
do not appear at all in the Ogham inscriptions ; 
and on the other hand, there are peculiarities in the 
orthographic system of the Ogham inscriptions 
which leave no trace in Irish MS. writing. The 
oldest Irish grammarians speak of the Ogham 


method of writing as the Irish method and 
of the MS. method as the Latin method ; and 
they report current sayings which show that among 
the early Irish Christians the use of the Irish method 
was regarded as profane and even tainted with 
impiety — meaning, beyond doubt, that it was closely 
associated in their minds with heathenism. On the 
other hand the earliest specimens of written Irish 
are distinctively Christian. The oldest known piece 
of Irish MS. writing is, or was until recently, pre- 
served in Cambrai and is ascribed to the seventh 
century — but pieces as old or older exist in various 

In a paper on the Annals of Tigernach, I have 
shown that a chronicle of the world, written in 
continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius, Jerome, 
and Prosper, and embodying a skeleton of Irish 
history, was brought to conclusion in Ireland in the 
year 609. From certain indications this chronicle 
would appear to have been commenced in the closing 
years of the sixth century — say between 590 and 600. 
Part of this chronicle is embodied in the Annals of 
Tigernach and in the Annals of Ulster, and extracts 
from it in the Annals of Innisfallen. What survives 
of it with relation to Ireland is the oldest known 
history of Ireland. From its manner of dealing with 
Irish affairs, I think we must conclude that even 
before its time, a certain body of Irish heroic litera- 
ture existed in MS. and consequently that the writing 
of this literature had already begun in the course of 
the sixth century. There are other evidences that 
during the sixth century a blending of the old 


heathen lore and learned tradition with the new 
Christian learning was taking place — the native 
schools of poets, originally druids, becoming Christian 
and adopting the apparatus of Christian learning. 
St. Columba, we are told, had a poet named 
Gemman for tutor, and we may be quite certain that 
the friendship which Columba is said to have shown 
to the poets as a body in the Assembly of Druim 
Ceata in 575 was not extended to a class which he 
associated with heathenism. 

Nevertheless, a good deal of specifically heathen 
practice and teaching was preserved, more or less 
covertly, among the secular poets, of Ireland for 
centuries after St. Columba's time. 

In the seventh century, writing in Irish appears 
to become very common, but Adamnanus, about 
the beginning of the eighth century, writing from 
the standpoint of Latin and Christian learning, still 
speaks of his native tongue in depreciation. This 
sentiment did not extend to the Irish secular school 
of literati. An old grammar of Irish, dating in part 
from the seventh century, speaks of Irish as a 
" choice language," and proclaims its superiority 
over other languages. In the seventh century, too, 
new metrical forms in Irish poetry, based on Latin 
hymns, make their appearance, and afterwards 
develop into a varied and elaborate system of 


Let us now return to the political side of Irish 
history. I have endeavoured to trace the stages 
by which the Pentarchy of the old heroic tales 
became broken up and transformed into a quite 


different state of things when the early Christian 
period is reached. The chief agencies in this trans- 
formation were the extension of the power of the 
Connacht dynasty and its branches over northern 
Ireland, and the rise of the Eoghanacht dynasty in 
southern Ireland, with its seat at Cashel. The 
growth in power of the two ascendant dynasties, 
those of Tara and Cashel, is marked by a sort of 
colonising process. Offshoots from each dynasty 
are planted in authority over petty kingdoms, dis- 
placing or rather depressing the rulers previously in 

Something similar took place in later times under 
the Feudal system. In virtue of the supposed 
Donation of Constantine, now long recognised to 
have been fabulous, but accepted as genuine in the 
Middle Ages, the Popes claimed temporal dominion 
over all the islands of the ocean. In exercise of 
this temporal claim, Adrian IV conferred the lord- 
ship of Ireland on Henry of Anjou. But in virtue 
of the same supposed right, Adrian had already an 
immediate feudatory for Ireland in the person of the 
king of Ireland — Ruaidhri. Henry thus took the 
place of a - " mean lord " or intermediate feudatory 
between the existing lord and the overlord. Henry 
himself repeated this process. He granted the lord- 
ship of Ireland to his son John, and this grant was 
confirmed by the Pope then reigning, Alexander III. 
Sir John Gilbert has pointed out that, had the issue 
of John's elder brothers survived, John would not 
have become king, and the lordship of Ireland would 
have been separate from and independent of the 


Crown of England, and subject only to the feudal 
overlordship of the Pope while it lasted. The result 
of granting the lordship of Ireland to Henry II was 
that the existing possessor was depressed in rank, 
not dispossessed — this apart from the cession of 
rights which Ruaidhri made to Henry by the short- 
lived Treaty of Windsor. 

An almost identical process was a staple part of 
the policy of Irish kings from the beginning of the 
fourth century until the middle of the sixteenth. 
Such lordships can be shown to have been created 
either by Shane O'Neill or his father Conn, acting 
as king of Ulster. During the whole intervening 
period, we can trace the same process, the creation 
of mean lords, in every part of Ireland under Irish 
kings. In most cases the new lord was a member of 
the king's family, a brother, a son, or other near 
relative. A number of very clear and noteworthy 
instances of this exercise of royal dominion by Irish 
kings took place in consequence of the Norman 

Events of this kind are not recorded in the Irish 
annals, except in a few instances when the exercise 
of power was somewhat abnormal. Since we have 
now reached a point at which the annals begin to 
figure as chief witnesses, some notice of the general 
character of the annals will be in place. At first 
sight, the pages of our native chronicles appear as 
a sort of trackless morass to the inquirer after Irish 
history. The reason is this — the chroniclers hardly 
ever tell us anything that an Irish reader of their 
times could be expected to know as a matter of 


course. They say almost nothing about institutions 
or about anything that is normal. Just as they 
record earthquakes, comets, eclipses, excessive frosts 
or floods or droughts, but say nothing about the 
normal course of the stars or the seasons, so, in 
regard of human affairs, they are silent about all 
that is regular or institutional, about matters of 
common knowledge in their time, and they are 
silent also, as a rule, about the institutional aspect, 
so to speak, of events which they relate. We are 
told, for example, that a certain king puts a prince 
of his own house to death — and that is all. From 
some subsidiary document we may learn that the 
act was a judicial act, done after trial and sentence. 
Or we are told that a certain king leads his forces 
against another king and how the battle went — but 
we have to consult some other source to find that 
the action was taken in consequence of the refusal 
to pay tribute according to ancient claim and 

Among the subsidiary material which helps to 
explain the annals, and to give their events a place 
in historical sequence, the genealogies have the 
highest importance. In particular, they throw a 
great deal of light on the process above-mentioned, 
the extension of the power of dynastic families by 
the creation of lordships over the head of existing 
feudatories — to use a borrowed term. 

An early instance of the process in question is 
found in an account quoted by O'Donovan from a 
MS. life of St. Greallan. Maine, he tells us, from 
whom the sept of Ui Maine took its name and 


descent, was settled in the territory of Ui Maine 
by a king of Connacht in the fifth century, dis- 
possessing the " Firbolg " king of that district. (This 
instance, by the way, further exemplifies the unity 
still subsisting at that time between the different 
branches of the Connacht dynasty. Maine, to whom 
a kingdom in Connacht was thus granted by the 
king of Connacht, belonged to the Oriel branch of 
the royal house, a branch which had settled in 
Ulster early in the preceding century.) When 
O'Donovan, or the narrative which he quotes, says 
that the dispossessed king was of the Fir Bolg stock, 
he uses the term Fir Bolg in its late and wide appli- 
cation. The older possessors of the territory were 
Picts. Moreover, they were depressed rather than 
dispossessed, for the descendants of the ancient 
rulers continued to dwell as subordinate chiefs in 
their old territory. The family of 'O Mainnin, called 
Manning in English, is one of those descended from 
the ancient Pictish rulers of this district, which 
comprised the southern part of County Roscommon 
and the south-eastern part of County Galway. Still 
earlier appropriations of this kind can be traced to 
the time of Niall of the Nine Hostages, his brothers 
and sons. The old territory of the Fir Domhnann 
in northern Connacht became Tir Fiachrach, 
" Fiachra's Land," being appropriated to Fiachra, 
brother of Niall, and his descendants. Another 
branch of Fiachra's sept become possessors of the 
kingdom of Aidhne, lying between Galway Bay and 
the old Pictish territory before-mentioned. From 
Brion or Brian, another brother of Niall, is named 


Tir Briuin or Brion's Land, extending over parts of 
the counties Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan. 
Brion's sept, the Ui Briuin also obtained a territory 
in the district of Tuam and another territory called 
Umhall, around Clew Bay. From a third brother 
of Niall named Ailill is named Tir Ailello, " AililPs 
Land," represented by the barony of Tirerrill in 
Co. Sligo. In like manner, various territories were 
appropriated to sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages. 
The western part of Ulster, which was not brought 
under conquest by the settlement of the Airghialla, 
and which is now represented by Donegal county, 
was partitioned among three sons of Niall, Conall, 
'Enda, and Eoghan, and bore afterwards their names 
Tir Conaill, " Conall's Land"; Tir 'Enda, " Enda's 
Land " ; and Tir Eoghain, " Eoghan's Land." It 
should be noted that the original Tir Eoghain was 
the peninsula now called Inis Eoghain. The country 
now called Tyrone was then a part of Oriel. This 
settlement of the sons of Niall in western Ulster was, 
however, rather by way of conquest than of grant. 
No element of conquest enters into the settlements 
of the other sons of Niall or of the septs descended 
from them. 

Cairbre, or his sept, for we have no record by 
which the grant can be dated, obtained that territory 
in the north-eastern corner of Connacht, bordering 
on Ulster, which still retains his name in that of 
the barony of Carbury in Co. Sligo. A second 
territory appropriated to Cairbre or his sept was 
around Granard in Co. Longford. A third was on 
the Leinster border, and it still preserves the name 



in that of the barony of Carbury in the north of Co. 

Loeguire, son of Niall, who became king of Ireland, 
obtained, or his near descendants obtained, a terri- 
tory on the Connacht side of Loch Erne, another in 
Westmeath, another in East Meath or Bregia. 
Maine, son of Niall, obtained a territory on the 
east side of the Shannon ; Fiachu, son of Niall, a 
territory in Westmeath ; Ardgal, a grandson of 
Niall, a territory in East Meath. 

It seems quite clear that no appropriations of 
this kind took place before the time of Niall, the 
close of the fourth century. Had there been earlier 
appropriations in Connacht or Meath, then there 
must have been royal septs, offshoots of the Con- 
nacht-Meath dynasty, in possession of the appro- 
priated territories and claiming descent from earlier 
kings of Connacht or Meath. Nor was this claim of 
descent likely to be forgotten, for, as the Book of 
Rights shows, in each of the principal group-king- 
doms, the kings whose kinship to the principal 
dynasty was acknowledged, were free of tribute to 
the principal king. The Book of Rights shows that, 
except the descendants of Niall and of his brothers, 
all the petty kingdoms of Connacht and Meath 
were tributary to the overkings ; and the genea- 
logies show that the ruling families of the tributary 
kingdoms were as a rule of quite distinct lineage 
from that of the overkings. The natural inference 
from these facts is that this process of super- 
imposing new lords of the dominant dynastic 
blood over old rulers of a different lineage begins 


in the time of Niall of the Nine Hostages, about 
a.d. 400. 

Some of the petty dynasties thus created were 
themselves in later times subjected to the same 
process and reduced to a lower degree. Thus when 
the O'Conor family, which was itself a branch of 
the sept of Brion above-mentioned, acquired ex- 
clusive succession to the kingdom of Connacht, one 
of its branches, bearing the distinctive name of 
O'Conchubhair Ruadh, obtained the lordship of 
Cairbre in north-eastern Connacht, over the heads of 
the ancient lords descended from Cairbre son of 
Niall. In like manner, AililPs land, Tirerrill, after 
having been ruled for centuries by his descendants, 
passed under the lordship of the families of Mac- 
Donnchadha and MacDiarmada, descendants of his 
brother Brion, whose line held the kingship of all 
Connacht. The sept of Ailill, reduced in degree, 
gradually passes into obscurity. About the thir- 
teenth century, even the genealogists cease to be 
interested in them ; and in the seventeenth century, 
the last genealogist of the old school, Dubhaltach 
Mac FirBhisigh, says that those who then remained 
of Ailill's race are no longer reckoned among the 
nobles of the territory. Let me repeat that, with 
the help of the genealogies, it is possible to trace 
this process at work in various parts of Ireland from 
the fifth century until the abolition of Irish law in 
the sixteenth century. I shall have to recur to 
these facts when I come to deal with the so-called 
" clan-system " or " tribal system," convenient terms 
with which some modern writers contrive to fill up 


the vacuum of their knowledge in regard to the 
general political condition of ancient and medieval 

Breifne, under the rule of Brion's sept, was re- 
garded as permanently annexed to Connacht. In 
its early extent Breifne comprised about the northern 
half of Co. Leitrim and the western half of Co. 
Cavan ; these territories having been annexed from 
the ancient Ulster. In later times, when the 
O'Ruairc and O'Raghallaigh chiefs extended their 
power, Breifne comprised the whole of the present 
counties of Leitrim and Cavan. 

The territories of the sons of Niall were separated 
by Breifne and Oriel into two groups, a north- 
western group and a Meath group. The north- 
western group of Niall's descendants are called the 
Northern Ui Neill, the Meath group the Southern 
Ui Neill. One frequently meets with the error of 
supposing Ui Neill to mean the O'Neills — I find it 
in a paper of Zimmer's published after his death. 
It is true that Ui Neill, as a matter of grammar, is 
the plural of 'O'Neill, but it is not the plural of the 
surname 'O'Neill in Irish usage. The sept-names 
with Ui prefixed belong to an earlier age than sur- 
names like O'Neill. The surname O'Neill belongs 
to the descendants of Niall Glundubh, king of Ire- 
land, who was reigning a thousand years ago. The 
sept-name Ui Neill includes all the descendants in 
the male line of Niall of the Nine Hostages who 
reigned 500 years earlier. 

The chief king of the Northern Ui Neill was called 
king of Aileach, from the prehistoric stone fortress 


of Aileach near Deny, which was occupied by kings 
of that line as late as the tenth century. They are 
sometimes called kings of the Fochla, fochla being 
an old Irish word meaning the North. Their terri- 
tory in the fifth century comprised the county of 
Donegal and possibly also Cairbre's country, the 
northern limb of Co. Sligo. 

The eastern side of Ulster nominally constituted 
another chief kingdom, which was regarded as the 
remnant of the ancient Ulster, and so is sometimes 
called by chroniclers " the Fifth " or " Conchubhar's 
Fifth." It seems, however, to have consisted of 
four practically independent kingdoms, no one of 
which held any permanent authority over the others. 
These were Dal Riada in the North-East, on the 
Antrim seaboard ; Ulaidh, on the Down seaboard — 
retaining the name of the ancient dominant people 
of Ulster ; Dal Araidhe, at the head of a Pictish 
people, occupying the inland parts of Down and 
Antrim and also the Derry side of the Bann valley 
from Loch Neagh northward to the sea ; and Conaille, 
likewise a Pictish kingdom, in the north of Co. 

The remainder of Ulster, excluding Breifne, the 
kingdom of Aileach. and the eastern group, formed 
the kingdom of Airghialla or " Oriel." It should 
be borne in mind that this ancient Oriel of the fifth 
century extended northward to the mouth of Loch 
Foyle, and included the present Tyrone and most 
of Co. Derry, which were afterwards annexed to the 
kingdom of Aileach. 

The territories of the Southern Ui Neill lav in 


the counties of Meath, Westmeath, Longford, King's 
County, and Kildare ; they were not continuous, 
being merely appropriated portions of the kingdom 
of Tara. 

Connacht extended eastward to the Erne and its 
lakes and to Loch Ramor in Co. Cavan. 

Munster comprised its present extent and also 
the two southern baronies of King's County. 

The northern boundary of Leinster ran by the 
LifTey, its tributary the Rye, south of the barony of 
Carbury in Co. Kildare, and included part of King's 
County bordering on Queen's County and Kildare. 

There were then seven chief kingdoms in Ireland, 
each of them containing a number of minor king- 
doms. The seven chief kingdoms were (i) the 
kingdom of Tara, the midlands east of the Shannon ; 
(2) the kingdom of Leinster ; (3) the kingdom of 
Cashel or of Munster ; (4) the kingdom of Cruachain 
or of Connacht ; (5) the kingdom of Aileach, the 
Fochla, or the Northern Ui Neill ; (6) the kingdom 
of Ulaidh or the lesser Ulster ; (7) the kingdom of 

In Munster, a sort of partitioning or appropriation 
was effected by the ruling Eoghanacht dynasty, 
similar to what has been described as taking place 
in Connacht and Meath. At the head of all was the 
Eoghanacht of Cashel. Cashel was surrounded by 
a zone of tributary States, whose rulers were not 
of the Eoghanacht lineage. Westward of these was 
a belt of Eoghanacht States extending across 
Munster from the Shannon to the southern coast. 
These comprised the Ui Fidhgheinte in County 


Limerick, the Eoghanacht of Aine, in the middle, 
and the Ui Liathain to the south in parts of Cork 
and Waterford counties. There was another Eoghan- 
acht kingdom in the region of Bandon. Finally 
there was the Eoghanacht of Loch Lein in the region 
of Killarney, called also the Eoghanacht of West 
Munster. I have already shown reason to think 
that the Eoghanachta represented a relatively late 
immigration from Gaul ; that their original settle- 
ment was probably in the west of County Waterford ; 
and that their conquest of south-western Leinster 
and occupation of Cashel may have taken place 
about the beginning of the fifth century. I have no 
means of fixing the date of their occupation of other 
parts of Munster, but these settlements are not likely 
to have been later than the fifth century. 

In like manner, we find located in various parts 
of Leinster the septs that branch out from the 
royal line. I shall not cumber your attention with 
the details, which can be found in O'Donovan's 
notes to the Book of Rights. A much larger pro- 
portion of Leinster was appropriated in this way 
than of any of the other chief kingdoms, except 
Oriel. Oriel, being the main part of Ulster con- 
quered by the Connacht-Meath princes in the fourth 
century, was treated entirely as a land of conquest, 
no portion of it remaining under the rule of its earlier 

In the case of Leinster, the relative lateness of 
these appropriations is proved by one fact. The 
septs that became possessed of territories in this 
way all belonged to the old ruling house of South 


Leinster, but the territories appropriated to them 
are very largely situate within the bounds of the 
old kingdom of North Leinster. Hence the re- 
settlement of these territories took place after the 
extinction of the North Leinster kingdom and the 
unification of what remained under the South 
Leinster dynasty. This shows that the process 
belongs to the same period in Leinster as in Con- 
nacht, and Meath, and Munster. 

Though the annexation of Tara and Bregia was 
a fully accomplished fact long before St. Patrick's 
time, and though in his time the monarchy of 
Connacht origin was securely seated in Tara, the 
annals, whose details of history begin with St. 
Patrick, show that the claim to their northern 
territories was not yet relinquished by the Leinster- 
men. Time after time they invaded the lost land, 
and battle after battle was fought by them on its 
borders and even far within its borders. This con- 
tinued struggle to recover possession is perhaps most 
clearly seen in a list of the battles from the year 
432 onward — before that year we have no details. 

a.d. 452. A great slaughter of the Leinstermen. 

a.d. 453. The Leinstermen defeated in battle by Loeguire 

son of Niall [i.e. by the King of Tara]. 
a.d. 458. The battle of 'Ath Dara. Loeguire, king of Tara, 

is defeated by the Leinstermen and taken prisoner. 
a.d. 464. Leinstermen win the battle of Ard Corann. 
a.d. 473. Ailill Molt defeats the Leinstermen at Bri 'Eile. 

Ailill was king of Tara at this time. Bri 'Eile was in the 

kingdom of Meath. 
a.d. 474. The Leinstermen defeat Ailill Molt at Dumha 



a.d. 486. Battle of Granard. Finchath, a Leinster king, 
was defeated and slain. The sept of Cairbre, son of 
Niall of the Nine Hostages, was victorious. This sept 
held territory around Granard, and they were therefore 
resisting invasion by the Leinster king. 

a.d. 487. Battle of Graine in Kildare. Muirchertach, king of 
the Northern Ui Neill, defeats the Leinstermen. 

a.d. 494. Battle of Tailltiu (=Teltown, near Navan). The 
Leinstermen are defeated by the sept of Cairbre, son of 

a.d. 498. Battle of Inne Mor in Kildare. Leinstermen de- 
feated by Muirchertach, king of the Northern Ui Neill. 

a.d. 499. Battle of Slemain, in Westmeath. Leinstermen 
defeated by the sept of Cairbre, son of Niall. 

a.d. 501. Battle of Cenn Ailbe in Kildare. Leinstermen 
defeated by the sept of Cairbre. 

a.d. 503. Battle of Druim Lochmhuidhe. The Ui Neill 
defeated by the Leinstermen. 

a.d. 510. Battle of Fremu, in Westmeath. The Leinstermen 
are victorious over the sept of Fiacha, son of Niall. 

a.d. 517. Battle of Druim Derge. The Leinstermen are 
defeated by the sept of Fiacha. This was regarded 
as the final and decisive battle, which forced the Leinster- 
men to relinquish their attempts to recover the lost 
territory in Meath. " By it the plain of Meath was lost 
and won," says the poet-historian Cenn Faelad in the 
following century. 

Thus we see that the Leinstermen maintained a 
prolonged struggle to recover possession of the mid- 
land country that belonged to them under the 
Pentarchy when a Leinster king reigned in Tara. 
There are no recorded particulars of this struggle 
before the year 452, but from that date onward, 
during two-thirds of a century, fourteen battles were 
fought on one side or other of the border. In four 


of these battles, the Leinstermen were victorious. 
The septs of Cairbre and Fiacha, which appear so 
prominently in the defence of the conquered terri- 
tory, were among those descendants of Niall who 
were settled in the lordship of lands in Meath. 
One Leinster dynastic sept continued to hold its 
territory in Meath, in submission to the new rulers. 
It is known by the name of Fir Tulach, " Men of the 
Mounds," and the name is perpetuated in that of 
the barony of Fartullagh in Westmeath. 

While this struggle was going on, another event 
took place, which is marked as an epoch in Irish 
history by the ancient annals. The event is thus 
related : 

a.d. 483. The battle of Ocha, in which Ailill Molt fell, was 
won by Luguid son of Loeguire and Muirchertach 
MacErca. From Conchobhar MacNessa to Cormac son 
of Art, 308 years. From Cormac to this battle, 206 

This summing of years in the old chronicle is in 
direct imitation of the Chronicle of Eusebius, upon 
which the Irish chronicle was founded. In Eusebius, 
or at all events in St. Jerome's Latin translation — for 
the original Greek chronicle now exists only in frag- 
ments — it is customary to divide the course of 
history by epochs connected with great events. 
As each of these epochs is reached, a summary of 
the years between all the preceding epochs is set 
out. Hence we see that the chronicler from whom 
this entry is taken — his name is Cuanu — had in his 
mind three principal epochs of Irish history. The 
first was the reign of Conchobhar MacNessa, the 


celebrated king of Ulster. The second was the 
reign of Cormac. The third was the battle of Ocha. 

The epoch of Conchobhar MacNessa in the 
chronicle is interesting as a further proof of the 
primacy, so to speak, which the Ulster hero-tales 
acquired in the earliest age of our written literature. 

The reign of Cormac is an epoch, because, as I 
have shown in the fourth lecture, it is associated 
with the dissolution of the Pentarchy, the annexa- 
tion of Tara to the realm of Connacht and Uisneach, 
and the definite beginnings of the Monarchy. 

What then is the epochal significance of the 
battle of Ocha, in which Ailill Molt, king of Ireland, 
is defeated and slain, and Luguid son of Loeguire 
and his cousin MacErca, king of the Northern Ui 
Neill, are the victors ? 

Ailill Molt was son of Nath-T, that king of Ire- 
land who died somewhere on the Continent, whither 
he had led an expedition in 429, and whose body 
was brought back to Ireland by his men and buried 
at Cruachain in the ancient cemetery of the kings 
of Connacht. Nath-T, who succeeded Niall of the 
Nine Hostages, was the son of Niall's brother 
Fiachra, whose descendants were settled in Fiachra's 
Lands in the north-west and south-west of Con- 
nacht. The line of Fiachra was closely associated 
with Connacht and had no settlement elsewhere. 
At this period, the line of Fiachra alternated with 
the line of his brother Brion in the succession to the 
kingship of Connacht, until, by the operation of a 
law of succession which I shall have to describe in 
a later lecture, the descendants of Brion obtained 


exclusive possession of the kingship. Thus, Ailill 
Molt, who was cut off in the battle of Ocha, in 483, 
may be described as a king of Ireland from Connacht. 

Who were the victors in the Battle of Ocha ? 
They were Luguid, son of Loeguire, son of Niall, and 
Muirchertach, grandson of Eoghan, son of Niall. 
Luguid, son of Loeguire, thereupon became king of 
Ireland. His ally in the battle, Muirchertach, ap- 
pears from this time forth at the head of the Northern 
Ui Neill, he is king of Aileach. Luguid, since he 
succeeded to the monarchy, must have been at the 
time recognised head of the Southern Ui Neill, his 
patrimony being in Meath. Consequently, this battle 
is the outcome of a combination of the Ui Neill, north 
and south, whose lands are outside of Connacht, 
against their kinsfolk, whose lands are in Connacht. 
From this date, 483, until the eleventh century, no 
king from Connacht became monarch of Ireland, and 
the monarchy remained in the exclusive possession 
of the Northern and Southern Ui Neill. That is 
why the battle of Ocha is marked as an epoch 
by the ancient chronicler. 

The line of Niall in like manner is excluded from 
the kingship of Connacht, which had been held by 
Niall himself and by his son Loeguire, before they 
became kings of Tara. Henceforth there is no longer 
a joint dynasty of Connacht and Meath. 

The clue to the main path of Irish history during 
the partly obscure period of the first five centuries 
of the Christian era is the gradual expansion of the 
power of the Connacht dynasty over northern Ire- 
land from the occupation of Uisneach until this year 


483, when expansion reached the point of rupture. 
To trace this process and the concurrent or partly 
concurrent growth of the Eoghanacht power in 
Munster, has been the matter of my fourth, fifth, 
and sixth lectures. It is evident that the chronicler 
Cuanu, who wrote early in the eighth century, had 
some such general view before his mind of the 
history of this period based on the traditions and 
records known to him. His three epochs stand 
good as bearings for our guidance — first, the Pent- 
archy at the height of its traditional celebrity ; 
second, the extension of the Connacht power to 
Tara, and the rise of the monarchy ; and third, 
the disconnection of Connacht from Tara and the 
monarchy, and the dominant position acquired by 
the line of Niall. The old chronicler, with his three 
epochs, saw something more in the dim morning 
twilight of those centuries than a procession of names 
and dates and disconnected anecdotes. He saw 
something of a story with its sequence, a drama in 
three acts ; and we are entitled to share in his 

Eochu, K.I. 

I I 

Fiachra Niall, K.I. 

I I I 

Nath-i, K.I. Loigmre, K.I. Eogan 

I I I 

Ailill K.I. Luguid, K.I. Muiredach 



Muirchertach, K.I. 

1 ^ ' I I 

Loiguire, K. Eogan Coirpre Conall Cremthainni 

I 1,1 I 

Luguid, K. Muiredach Cormac I'ergus Cerrbel 


Muirchertach, K. Tuathal, K. Diarmait, K, 


IT was about the year 470 when the sons of Ere, 
Fergus and his brothers went from Ireland to 
Scotland. Fergus was king of Dal Riada in 
the north-eastern corner of Ireland. We are not 
to understand that the main Irish migration to 
Scotland took place at that time. There are no 
data to show when the earliest Irish settlements 
were made in Argyleshire and the adjoining islands, 
but we have seen that, at the close of the third 
century, when Constantius Chlorus commanded the 
Roman power in Britain, the Britons were already 
" accustomed " to Irish enemies. If the Irish were 
then strong enough to raid the Roman frontier, 
they were probably in possession of the Cantire 
peninsula. The crossing over of the Sons of Ere 
means that these princes established their rule 
over the Irish settlements in that region. It is a 
common mistake of histories to suppose that Fergus, 
when he became king on the other side, established 
there a new dynasty. Editors of the Irish annals, 
taking this for granted, actually undertake to tell 
us that certain men whom the annals style kings of 
Dal Riada were kings of the Scottish Dal Riada, 
and certain others who are also entitled kings of 
Dal Riada, were kings of the Irish Dal Riada. 

Here again the genealogies supplement the annals 



and show clearly that all these kings belonged to one 
undivided dynasty. Dal Riada in Ireland and the 
Irish settlers in Scotland were ruled by the same 
kings from the time of Fergus macEirc until the 
Norsemen occupied Cantire and the neighbouring 
islands, and thus cut off the Irish territory of these 
kings from the Scottish territory in which the kings 
of Dal Riada had become resident. When this 
separation took place, the title " king of Dal Riada ' 
was abandoned. The last king who bears that 
title in the Irish annals is Donn Coirci, who died 
in 792 ; and in 794 the same annals record " the 
devastation of all the islands of Britain by the 

The account of the Irish migration given by the 
Venerable Bede has often been repeated. It is true 
in so far as it indicates that the migration did not 
begin under the Sons of Ere. In other respects it 
is a fictitious legend. " In process of time," writes 
Bede, " besides the Britons and Picts, Britain re- 
ceived a third nation, the Scots, who, migrating 
from Ireland under their leader Reuda, either by 
fair means or by force of arms, secured to them- 
selves those settlements among the Picts which thev 
still possess. From the name of their commander 
they are to this day called Dalreudini ; for in their 
language dal signifies a part. 

" Ireland," he goes on to say, " in breadth and 
for wholesomeness and serenity of climate far sur- 
passes Britain ; for the snow scarcely ever lies 
there above three days ; no man makes hay in 
the summer for winter's provision or builds stables 


for his beasts of burden. No reptiles are found 
there and no snake can live there ; for, though 
often carried thither out of Britain, as soon as the 
ship comes near the shore, and the scent of the air 
reaches them, they die. On the contrary, almost 
all things in the island are good against poison. In 
short, we have known that when some persons have 
been bitten by serpents, the scrapings of leaves of 
books that were brought out of Ireland, being put 
into water and given to them to drink, have im- 
mediately expelled the spreading poison and as- 
suaged the swelling." (We see that when people 
in Britain in those days wanted something that 
came from Ireland, the first thing and the sure 
thing was a book.) " The island," he continues, 
" abounds in milk and honey ; nor is there any 
want of vines, fish or fowl ; and it is remarkable for 
deer and goats." (But vines were not cultivated 
in Ireland, and if Bede supposed they were, it must 
have been because wine was abundant, as an article 
of continental trade imported in exchange for Irish 
products.) " It is properly," he adds, " the country 
of the Scots, who migrating from thence, as has been 
said, added a third nation in Britain to the Britons 
and the Picts. There is a very large gulf of the 
sea [he refers to the Firth of Clyde] which formerly 
divided the nation of the Picts from the Britons. 
It runs from the west very far into the land, where 
to this day stands the strong city of the Britons 
called Alcluith [Dumbarton]. The Scots arriving on 
the north side of this bay, settled themselves there." 
Bede gives no date for this event, but relates it 


before the invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar 
(b.c. 54). No Irish leader Reuda headed an Irish 
migration to Scotland. The Irish genealogists tell 
us that Dal Riada takes its name from Cairbre 
Riada, an ancestor of Fergus and nine generations 
(i.e. about three centuries) earlier than Fergus ; and 
they agree with the annals in saying that the first 
of Cairbre Riada's line who settled in Scotland 
were Fergus and his brethren. 

In 563, Conall, great-grandson of Fergus, granted 
the island of Iona to St. Columba. Conall was 
succeeded in the kingship by Aedan, with whom 
St. Columba lived on most friendly terms. It was 
in Aedan's reign, in 575, that the relations between 
his kingdom and the kingdom of Ireland were de- 
cided at the assembly of Druim Ceata, St. Columba 
being present. A great deal of fanciful comment 
has been made on this decision. One writer after 
another assures us that St. Columba secured a 
declaration of independence for the kingdom beyond 
the sea. The sole ancient authority on the subject 
is the commentary on Dalian's Eulogy of St. 
Columba. It says nothing about independence, nor 
docs it suggest that the independence of the Irish 
kingdom in Scotland was ever called in question. 
The problem that demanded adjudication was this : 
the old territory of Dal Riada in Ireland had be- 
come attached to two independent jurisdictions. 
Being part of Ireland, it was subject to the suzerain 
claims of the kings of Ireland. But its kings, as 
we have seen, were kings also of a realm beyond 
the sea over which the Irish monarch had no 


authority. A conflict of rights and claims was 
possible. The decision at Druim Ceata, pronounced 
by a lawyer of celebrity and accepted by the as- 
sembly, was in the nature of a compromise : Dal 
Riada was to serve the Irish monarch with its land 
forces, and to serve the king who reigned in Scot- 
land with its sea forces. Obviously it is the services 
of the Irish territory that are the subject of this 
judgment. It would be absurd to lay down that 
the Irish colony in Scotland was to serve the king of 
Ireland with land forces and not with ships. 

Scottish writers look upon the Life of St. Columba 
by Adamnanus as the oldest native document of 
Scottish history. It was written about the year 
692. If I am not mistaken, we have a document 
about twenty years older, written in Scotland, pro- 
bably in Iona, and now preserved in the preface to 
the genealogy of the Scottish kings in the Books of 
Lecan and Ballymote. At the time when it was 
written, the realm of the Scots in Scotland did not 
extend beyond Argyleshire and the adjacent islands. 
That was about the year 670. Northwards of 
Argyleshire, the Picts held sway. On the eastern 
side, the Pictish territory extended southward to the 
Firth of Forth. From the Firth of Forth to the 
Tweed, along the eastern coast, the country now 
comprised in the Lothians and Berwickshire was 
occupied by the Angles under the king of North- 
umbria. The south-western portion was held by 
the Britons, who, in Bede's time, half a century 
later, possessed the strong fortress of Dumbarton on 
the Clyde. The frontier between the Britons and 


the Angles was probably no certain line. In the 
south-western corner, in Galloway, there was an 
isolated Pictish population. The borders separating 
these four nations, Scots, Picts, Angles, and Britons, 
speaking four distinct languages, were a land of 
constant war. 

St. Columba, we are told by his biographer, 
warned the king of Dal Riada to refrain from making 
war in Ireland on the king of Ireland, and foretold 
that, if this warning were disregarded, disaster 
would befall the line of Aedan. Adamnanus goes 
on to say that this prophecy was fulfilled many 
years after St. Columba's death. This was written 
by Adamnanus about fifty years after the event to 
which he alludes, which was therefore within the 
memory of many who read his words. Domhnall 
Breac, king of Dal Riada, he relates, invaded the 
realm of the king of Ireland. And now, he says, 
the fulfilment of the warning is visible in the 
miserable condition to which the kings of Dal Riada 
are reduced, humiliated by their triumphant enemies. 

He refers to the events connected with the battle 
of Moira in 637. The king of Ireland at the time 
was Domhnall son of Aedh, that is, son of the king 
who presided over the Assembly of Druim Ceata. 
Taking advantage of a quarrel between the Irish 
monarch and a prince of the north-eastern Picts of 
Ireland, the Scottish king, as we may call him, put 
himself at the head of a combination of the north- 
eastern province and took the field in Ireland. The 
battle between the two Domhnalls took place at 
Moira, near Lisburn, and the king of Ireland was 


victorious. Here we have an instance of the method 
of contemporary Irish chroniclers. To the chron- 
icler's mind, everybody knew everything that 
was to be known about this battle and its circum- 
stances, and his record of the event is a mere 
memorandum in two words. But what were the 
disastrous results, which, on the testimony of 
Adamnanus, were notorious when he wrote, i.e. 
about the year 690 ? The Irish kingdom in Scot- 
land seems as strong as ever, and is on the eve of a 
great increase of its power and territory. Once 
more, as in the instance of the judgment of Druim 
Ceata, the reference must be particularly to the 
old Irish kingdom of Dal Riada, which drops into 
obscurity in the Irish records about that time, 
possibly becoming tributary either to the neigh- 
bouring Picts or to the Northern Ui Neill, whose 
territory had then extended to the banks of the 

Bede, writing about forty years after Adamnanus 
wrote, tells about certain things that happened in 
the lifetime of both, and shows how great an ex- 
pansion was made by the Irish kingdom of Scotland 
in the meantime. In the year 684, he relates, his 
own sovereign, " Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, 
sending Beorht, his general, with an army into 
Ireland, miserably wasted that harmless nation, 
which had always been most friendly to the English." 
This statement shows that the power of the North- 
umbrian Angles extended at the time to the Irish 
Sea. " In their hostile rage," says Bede, " they 
spared not even the churches or monasteries." The 


contemporary Irish chronicler says briefly : " The 
English devastate the plain of Bregia and many 
churches in the month of June." Bede continues : 
" Those islanders, to the utmost of their power 
repelled force with force, and imploring the as- 
sistance of the Divine mercy prayed long and fer- 
vently for vengeance ; and, though such as curse 
cannot possess the kingdom of God, it is believed 
that those who were justly cursed on account of 
their impiety did soon suffer the penalty of their 
guilt from the avenging hand of God ; for the very 
next year, that king, rashly leading his army to 
ravage the province of the Picts, much against the 
advice of his friends and particularly of Cuthbert of 
blessed memory who had been lately ordained 
bishop, the enemy made show as if they fled, and 
the king was drawn into the straits of inaccessible 
mountains, and slain, with the greatest part of his 
forces, on the 20th of May." The Irish chronicle 
says : " On the 20th of May, on Saturday, the battle 
of Dun Nechtain was fought, in which Ecgferth, 
king of the English, was slain together with a great 
multitude of his soldiers." 

Bede, writing forty-six years later, says that 
from the time of this overthrow the power of the 
Northumbrian Angles began to decline, and the 
Picts recovered some of their territory which had 
been in the possession of the Angles, as well as some 
which had been taken from them by the Scots. 
The ancient territory of Northumbria extended to 
the Firth of Forth. Skene identifies the scene of the 
battle with a narrow pass in the Sidlaw Hills, north 


of the Firth of Tay. The territory which the Picts 
recovered from the Angles must have been between 
these two firths, corresponding to the modern Fife- 
shire ; and this is apparent from a further state- 
ment by Bede. Among the English fugitives from 
the lost territory, he says, was Bishop Trumwine, 
who had been made bishop over the English settlers, 
and who withdrew along with his people who were 
in the monastery of Abercorn. Abercorn is near 
the Forth Bridge, about ten miles west of Edin- 
burgh. If the Anglian bishop and his people were 
forced to abandon this place, it is clear that the 
recovered Pictish territory reached the Firth of 
Forth on the opposite side, the north side. But, 
writing forty-six years after these events, Bede 
calls the Firth of Forth " the arm of the sea which 
parts the lands of the Angles and the Scots," not the 
lands of the Angles and the Picts. Consequently, 
within those forty-six years, the Scots, who a little 
earlier appear to have held little or nothing of the 
mainland outside of Argyleshire, must have extended 
their power eastward into Fifeshire, occupying that 
district from which the Picts had expelled the en- 
croaching Angles. 

The Britons of south-western Scotland appear to 
have been hard pressed by this eastward expansion 
of the Scots and by the Angles of Northumbria, 
and modern Welsh historians trace an extensive 
southward migration of Britons through Cumber- 
land and Lancashire into Wales. These migratory 
Britons, headed by the sons of Cunedda, became 
thenceforward the dominant people in Wales. They 


completely displaced the power of the Irish settlers 
in North Wales, and the descendants of the Irish in 
South Wales became subordinate to them. About 
this time, too, many of the displaced Britons took 
service in Ireland under Irish kings. In 682, a 
victory was won near Antrim, we are not told by 
whom, over a combination of Britons and Ulster 
Picts. In 697, the district of Dundalk was de- 
vastated by Britons in alliance with the Ulidians. 
In 702, 'Irgalach, king of Bregia, was killed on 
Ireland's Eye by a party of raiding Britons. In 
703, the Ulidians defeated a body of Britons near 
Newry. In 709, Britons are found fighting in the 
service of a king of Leinster. In 711 and again in 
717, forces of Britons were defeated by Dal Riada. 
These events all occur within a period of thirty years, 
about the year 700, and after this time the British 
incursions are no longer heard of. The movements 
of the Britons thus chronicled correspond in time 
with the eastward and perhaps southward expan- 
sion of the Scots from Argyle. 

Some of the Venerable Bede's pupils must have 
lived to witness the first appearance of the swarming 
fleets of heathen Norsemen, towards the close of the 
eighth century. Within a few decades, the Norse- 
men held possession of nearly all the islands of 
Scotland. They also settled on the mainland in 
Caithness, Argyle, Cunningham and Galloway — at 
what dates does not appear to be recorded. By 
thus infesting the entire coast of Scotland, they 
weakened the power of the Picts in the North and 
the Angles in the South-east. That there is no sign 


of any concurrent weakening of the Scots may be 
taken as proof that the Scots by this time, the early 
part of the ninth century, had a firm grip of the 
interior. It may well have been, indeed, that their 
displacement from Argyle and the islands — their 
sole possessions in Scotland in the seventh century — 
may have strengthened the hand of Cinaedh, son of 
Ailpin (called " Kenneth MacAlpin " in English 
writings). As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so 
are the sons of them that have been beaten out. 
Cinaedh died in 858 after a reign of sixteen years, 
during which he overthrew the kingdom of the 
Picts and became ruler of the main part of the 
country afterwards called Scotland. In recording 
the death of Cinaedh the Annals of Ulster style him 
" king of the Picts," meaning that he had brought 
the Picts under his authority. According to later 
histories he also obtained the submission of the 
Britons and Angles of southern Scotland ; they 
certainly ceased to have any considerable power 
after his time. The Britons held out in their fortress 
at Dumbarton until 870, when, after a siege of four 
months, the place was taken by Olaf and Imar, the 
joint-reigning Norse kings of Dublin. These kings, 
with a fleet of 200 ships, returned next year to 
Dublin, " bringing a great spoil of men, Angles and 
Britons and Picts, in captivity." The Northum- 
brian kingdom, even south of the Tweed, was crumb- 
ling away. In 867, the Norsemen occupied York 
and defeated the Angles who came against them ; 
and in 876, Halfdene, a Norse commander, parcelled 
out the remnant of Northumbria among his followers, 


who settled upon the lands, says the Anglo-Saxon 
Chronicle, and thenceforth set about ploughing and 
tilling them. In the same year, 876, Rolf the 
Ganger, of the line of the Norse earls of the Orkneys, 
took possession of Normandy. 

Here it is well to consider the various fortunes of 
the Norsemen in different countries. About this 
period, they became masters of a large part of Russia. 
In France, they were able to wrest the northern sea- 
board, between Flanders and Brittany, from the 
powerful Frankish kings. Over England they effec- 
ted a gradual conquest, which was only checked, 
not overcome bv the stout resistance of Athelstan 
and Alfred. In 10 J 3, the year before the battle of 
Clontarf, all England submitted to Sveinn, king of 
Denmark. The Normans mastered southern Italy 
and Sicily. But the Celtic countries, Ireland, Scot- 
land, Wales and Brittany, though particularly ex- 
posed to conquest by a people who were then un- 
disputed rulers of the seas on every side, yielded them 
only a small fraction of their mainland territories. 
The resistance of Scotland is especially noteworthy. 
From Norway and Denmark, Scotland was then two 
days' sail. All the islands and forelands of Scotland 
were occupied by the Norsemen — the Orkney and 
Shetland Islands, the Hebrides, Arran and Bute, 
Caithness, and the peninsulas of Argyle and Gallo- 
way ; as well as the Isle of Man. But the recently 
established Scottish monarchy checked all further 
attempts at conquest, and ultimately recovered the 
whole country, both mainland and islands. 

Another noteworthy fact about this new kingdom 


was its adoption of a polity quite distinct from that 
of the older established Britons and Irish in their 
own countries. In Ireland, the population ranged 
itself around local places of assembly, according to 
the traditional habit and convenience of comin<? 


together ; and the chiefs who presided over these 
local assemblies took the rank and title of kings. 
Each of these assemblies was a court of law as well 
as a court of state. For modern convenience, there 
are about 150 places in Ireland in which courts of 
quarter sessions are held. In ancient Ireland, in 
the ninth century, there were a little more than 100 
courts, and the president of each was a king. Every- 
where, there was a strong sentiment of local autonomy 
and the strongest and most ambitious of the superior 
kings could only maintain a limited degree of cen- 
tralised power. Probably the Celts came into Ire- 
land in small separate bodies, each colony having its 
own government, and so no tradition of centralisa- 
tion ever grew up. In Scotland, on the contrary, 
from the fifth century onward there was but one 
kingdom of the Scots, and this one kingdom effected 
a gradual conquest of the whole country. Thus the 
Irish system of petty states was not transplanted to 
Scotland. The highest magnates under the Scottish 
monarchy bore the title of mor-mkaor, " great 
steward," which in later times was regarded as 
the equivalent of ' earl." This title is mentioned 
in the Annals of Ulster under the year 918 and in 
such a way as to show that it was then a recognised 
and customary dignity among the oversea Scots. In 
that year, just 1,000 years ago, Raghnall or " Regi- 


nald," founder and king of the Norse colony of 
Waterford, carried his forces into Britain, finding a 
small part of Ireland large enough for him. On the 
banks of the Tyne, in Northumbria, he was met by 
the army of the Scots — the place indicates how far 
the power of the Scots at that time extended. An 
indecisive battle took place, in which, says the 
annalist, the Scots " lost neither king nor mor- 

That the conquest of the mainland was followed 
by a very extensive Gaelic colonisation is evident 
from the abundance of Gaelic place-names in almost 
every part of Scotland. They are least numerous in 
the old Anglian territory of the Lothians and Ber- 
wickshire, and from this it is evident that the 
Anglian population was left for the most part un- 
disturbed. The surname Scott indicates that, among 
their Anglian neighbours, the great border sept that 
bore the name was recognised to be of Irish origin. 
Even in Galloway, a region of Picts and Britons and 
Norsemen, the Gaelic language became prevalent and 
the Gaelic people abundant — for in the twelfth 
century the population of Galloway was known to 
the Irish and also to the Norsemen as Gall-Ghaedhil, 
i.e., " Noroc-Irish." Though Alan, the Norse earl 
of Galloway, set himself up as an independent 
sovereign about the year 1200 and formed an 
alliance with the English under King John, his 
language was Irish, for he gave his daughter a 
name that bespeaks an Irish-speaking household — 
Dearbhorgaill. The Irish annals call him " king 
of the Gall-Ghaedhil." 


The Scots opposed a successful resistance to 
William the Conqueror and his successors, whenever 
they attempted a conquest. To the Conqueror they 
were especially obnoxious, for Maol Choluim Ceann- 
mhor (' Malcolm Canmore ") took under his pro- 
tection the refugee royal family of England, the 
Athelings. In 1067, Malcolm married a princess of 
this line, Margaret, grand-daughter of the Saxon 
king Edmund — St. Margaret of Scotland, for she 
was canonised after her death. This queen exer- 
cised great influence over her husband, and brought 
about a partial feudalisation of the Gaelic system 
in Scotland. From her time onward, the small 
Anglian population not merely acquired a favourable 
status but gradually took on the appearance of 
being the most considerable element in the kingdom. 
Various causes contributed to this end. The North- 
umbrian dialect of English, now chiefly represented 
by the Lowland Scotch dialect, became the most 
convenient medium of intercourse not only with 
England but also with the Norsemen and the people 
of the Low Countries. To this day Lowland Scotch 
bears a close resemblance to Dutch and Flemish, 
and we have it on the ancient testimony of the 
Norsemen themselves that they were able to hold 
speech with the Angles, each people using their 
own language. In consequence, the Anglian dialect 
of Scotland spread westward across the Lowlands 
and northward along the coast of the North Sea. 
There is, however, one little fact which shows us 
how effectively Margaret's influence operated against 
the Gaelic tradition of the Scottish court and its 


outlook. Before her time, the kings of the Dal 
Riada line bore Irish names. Only two names that 
are not Irish are found in their list — Constantine 
and Gregory, the names of a celebrated Emperor and 
a celebrated Pope. The names of the six sons of 
Malcolm and Margaret were : Edward, Edmund, 
Edgar, Ethelred, Alexander, and David ; of their 
two daughters, Maud and Mary — not one of them 
Gaelic ; and with the exception of Malcolm's im- 
mediate successor, Domhnall, and another Malcolm, 
no king of the Scots after his time bore a Gaelic 

Malcolm's kingdom, though it did not extend over 
the Norse settlements in the north and west of Scot- 
land, included a territory roughly corresponding to 
Cumberland and Northumberland in the north of 

A frequent effect of the feudal law of succession by 
primogeniture was the breach of succession owing 
to the failure of heirs in the male line. Under the 
Irish (and also Welsh) law of succession, by election 
from a family group, this difficulty was avoided. 
After Malcolm's death in 1093, his brother, Domhnall 
Ban, secured the kingship and, we are told, ex- 
pelled all the foreigners who had come to Scotland 
under the protection of Malcolm and Margaret. In 
effect, the reign of Domhnall represents a brief Gaelic 
reaction against the new-come feudalism. In 1097, 
Domhnall was overthrown by Malcolm's eldest sur- 
viving son Edgar, with the assistance of the English, 
and thenceforward the feudal system took hold and 
the Irish kingdom may be said to have come to an 


end. Nevertheless, the Irish tradition was not 
wholly abandoned. The last of the Dalriadic kings 
was Alexander III who reigned from 1249 until 
1285. In his reign, all the Norse possessions formerly 
subject to the suzerainty of the kings of Norway, 
comprising the Orkney and Shetland islands, Caith- 
ness, the Hebrides and Argyleshire, became subject 
to the kingdom of Scotland. The failure of the 
direct line, upon Alexander's death without male 
heir, brought about the wars of the Scottish suc- 
cession, terminated by the battle of Bannockburn 
in 1314. An interesting account has been pre- 
served of the coronation ceremony as exemplified 
at the accession of this last king of the direct Irish 
line in Scotland, Alexander III. " The ceremony 
was performed by the bishop of St. Andrews, who 
girded the king with a military belt. He then ex- 
plained in Latin, and afterwards in Gaelic, the laws 
and oaths relating to the king. . . . After the cere- 
mony was performed, a Highlander " — we may under- 
stand that he was the official seanchaidh — " repeated 
on his knees before the throne, in his own language, 
the genealogy of Alexander and his ancestors, up to 
the first king of Scotland." Gaelic, therefore, con- 
tinued to be the language of the Scottish court, of 
king, bishop, and courtier, until 1285, when the 
direct line of Fergus son of Ere .became extinct. 

Having endeavoured to trace the principal phases 
in the history of an Irish kingdom which, established 
in Argyle and the western islands of Scotland, be- 
came gradually more and more alienated from the 
mother country, let us now glance through the history 


of another kingdom, a foreign kingdom established 
in the same forelands and islands, a realm which 
became gaelicised as the Scots kingdom became 
feudalised and anglicised, and which drew closer 
and closer to Ireland, so as to bring a decisive element 
into the affairs of this nation during a critical period 
in its history. 

I have already shown how, while the Scots were 
becoming masters of the mainland in northern 
Britain, the Norsemen took possession of the old 
Dalriadic territory of Argyle and the islands. On 
the mainland, the Norsemen also occupied Cunning- 
ham in Ayrshire, Galloway to the north of the 
Solway Firth, and Caithness in the far north. In 
the Gaelic of Scotland, both Galloway and Caithness 
are named Gallaibh, i.e. the Foreigners' territory, 
and the Irish name of the Hebrides after they passed 
into Norse hands is Innse Gall, " the Foreigners' 

We have no records to show the precise date at 
which these colonies were established, but in view of 
the Norse supremacy on the seas from the close of 
the eighth century, their establishment is not likely 
to have been later than the foundation of the first 
Norse colony on the Irish mainland, namely, the 
colony of Dublin, in 84,1. The year after this, 842, 
Cinaedh, the future conqueror of the Picts and 
Britons and Angles, became king of the Scots. 

The first clearly defined authority found among 
these Norse settlements is that of the Orkney earls, 
dating from before 880. Before that time, a mixed 
Norse and Gaelic population, called Gall-Ghaedhil, 


is seen taking part in the Norse wars in Ireland, some 
on the Norse and some on the Irish side, as may be 
seen from the annals of the years 856 and 857. These 
people doubtless came from Scotland, perhaps also 
from the Isle of Man, also occupied by the Norse- 
men. Their language was broken Irish, as may be 
judged from the words of an Irish tract which, in 
praising the accurate utterance of a speaker, says 
" it is not the giog-gog of a Gall-Ghaedheal." But 
they must also have used the Norse language. 

About the year 880, Harold the Fair, king of 
Norway, came over and established the supremacy 
of Norway over the settlements in the Orkneys, the 
Hebrides, Argyle and the Isle of Man. 

A century later, in 980, we find the Hebrides used 
as a recruiting ground by the Norse king of Dublin. 
In that year Mael Sechnaill, king of Ireland, won 
the battle of Tara against " the Foreigners of Dublin 
and the Islands." After this defeat, Olaf, king of 
Dublin, laid down his kingship and retired into 
religious life in lona, where he died not long later. 
The incident shows that the Norse islanders had by 
this time accepted Christianity, and that lona, 
which they had barbarously ravaged again and 
again, had regained among them the religious prestige 
that it held before among the people of Ireland and 

About this time, the Danes, who first appear on 
our coasts in hostility to the Norwegians, established 
a kingdom of the Hebrides, under Godred, son of 
Harold. Godred invaded Dal Riada in Ulster in 
989, and was killed there. His son Rognvald became 


king of the Hebrides and died in 1005. With his 
death, the Danish kingdom in the islands appears to 

In 1014, the chief magnate of the Hebrides was 
Earl Gilli. He held aloof from the great muster of 
Norsemen from many regions that came to Clontarf 
to win the sovereignty of Ireland for Earl Sigurd 
of the Orkneys. From 1041 till 1064, the Hebrides 
appear subject to the Orkney earl Thorfinn. During 
this time, the islands supplied forces to Harald 
Hardrada, king of Norway, for an invasion of Eng- 
land. After this time, there are indications that 
the predominance of the Orkney earls was replaced 
in the Hebrides by that of the kings of the Isle of 
Man. Later on, the kings of Man are seen to occupy 
a middle position of authority between the kings of 
Norway and the local rulers of the Hebrides. In 
the title of the bishops of Sodor and Man, the name 
Sodor is an abbreviation for Sudreyar, " the southern 
isles," this being the ordinary Norse name for the 
Hebrides, in contradistinction to the northern isles 
of Orkney and Shetland. 

In 1098, Magnus Barefoot, king of Norway, came 
with a fleet and re-established the somewhat shaky 
Norwegian sovereignty over the Orkneys, the 
Hebrides, Cantire, and the Isle of Man. Four years 
later, in 1102, he again visited these dominions and 
was received without opposition. The following 
year, 1103, king Magnus landed in eastern Ulster 
and was cut off and slain. 

In 1 1 34, a young Hebridean named Gilla Crist, 
claiming to be a son of Magnus, became king of 


Norway under the name of Harald Gilli. About this 
time, the most prominent magnate in the Hebrides 
was named Holdbodi, who lived in the island of 
Tiree. The Norse documents dealing with these 
times and with the succeeding century never suggest 
that the masters of the Hebrides use any language 
but Norse, though some of them bear Gaelic names ; 
and the same documents apply the name Scots to 
the mainlanders only, never to the people of the 

In 1 157, we find the first mention of a ruler named 
Sumarlidi, who dwelt on the mainland of Argyle- 
shire. In Irish he is called Somhairlidh, and in 
recording his death in 1164, the Annals of Tighernach 
entitle him " king of the Hebrides and Cantire." 
Fordun's Chronicle calls him " king of Argyle." 
Sumarlidi was in fact the founder of a new Norse 
kingdom of the Hebrides and Argyle, which lasted 
from his time, about 1150, until 1499, when the last 
king of his line was captured by the king of Scot- 
land and hanged, along with his son and grandsons, 
on the Boroughmuir at Edinburgh. Sumarlidi was 
killed in 1164, in an attempt to invade the mainland 
south of the Clyde. 

This Sumarlidi was the ancestor of the families 
of MacDomhnaill (MacDonnell, MacDonald), Mac 
Dubhghaill (MacDugall, MacDowell, etc.), and Mac 
Ruaidhri (MacRory). More than two centuries after 
his time, when many of his descendants had settled 
in Ireland, a pedigree was forthcoming to trace his 
descent from one of the Three Collas who overthrew 
the ancient kingdom of Ulster in the fourth century. 


In Scotland, his descendants seem to have been pro- 
vided with another pedigree, which established their 
descent from Fergus, son of Ere, who founded the 
Irish kingdom in Scotland. Ultimately a blend of 
the two pedigrees found acceptance, and no doubt 
there are many MacDonnells and MacDugalds and 
MacRorys who believe in it. Apart from its other 
weak points, this genealogy of the race of Sumarlidi 
is too short by about nine generations or three 

Scottish writers in general show a remarkable 
shyness in dealing with this kingdom of Argyle and 
the Hebrides, and the highest title they are accus- 
tomed to accord to its rulers is that of " Lords of 
the Isles." In contemporary Norwegian and Irish 
records, the title is always " king." 

Internal dissensions in Norway left the Hebrides 
practically independent for half a century after the 
rise of Sumarlidi. In 12 10, when these dissensions 
were composed, the kings of the Hebrides and the 
Isle of Man made haste to Norway and renewed their 
fealty to King Ingi. On the death of this king 
without heir in 121 7, and the renewal of the disorders 
of Norway, the Hebrides again fell away from their 
allegiance. In 1224, Hakon, of doubtful paternity, 
was accepted as king of Norway. At this time 
Alan of Galloway threatened to extend his dominion 
over the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. King Hakon 
found a Hebridcan adventurer named Ospak, who 
had long lived in Norway and had taken part in the 
wars of the factions. He appointed this Ospak king 
over the. Hebrides. For greater prestige he re-named 


Ospak after himself, Hakon, and sent him with a 
small fleet in 1230 to bring the Hebrides under his 
authority. i\iter a partial success, Ospak fell sick 
and died. Fresh troubles breaking out in Norway 
prevented Hakon from following up his Hebridean 
policy and encouraged the king of Scotland, Alex- 
ander II, to aim at the recovery or annexation of 
the islands. To this end, in 1242, Alexander sent 
an embassy to Norway offering to buy out the 
Norwegian claims. This proposal was rejected by 
Hakon. It was afterwards renewed and again re- 

In the meantime, Alexander, stronger by land 
than by sea, made war on the Hebridean kings for 
the possession of Argyle, Arran, and Bute, and 
appears to have gained a strong foothold in those 
parts. In 1248 a dispute arose between two of 
Sumarlidi's descendants over the kingship. Both 
went to Norway to seek a decision from King Hakon. 
Hakon disliked decisions, and was content to keep 
the claimants for a year in Norway. Next year 
Alexander of Scotland renewed his efforts. He sent 
a third offer of purchase to Hakon and at the same 
time made open preparations for conquest. He also 
endeavoured to win over Jon, king of the Hebrides, 
from his allegiance to Norway. Jon held out, and 
in the midst of the preparations for invasion, 
Alexander died (1249). 

He was succeeded by his son, Alexander III, 
already spoken of in this lecture, last of the Dalriadic 
kings in the direct line. When that interesting 
coronation ceremony in Latin and Gaelic was per- 


formed, Alexander III was only nine years of age. 
During his minority, the connection between Norway 
and the Hebrides was maintained. In 1252, Arch- 
bishop Sorli of Drontheim in Norway, being then at 
Rome, assisted in the consecration of a bishop named 
Rikard for the Hebrides. In 1253, Jon and Dubh- 
ghall, joint kings of the Hebrides, went again to 
Norway to assist king Hakon in a war against 

In 1 261, Alexander III, having come of age, 
took up his father's policy of annexing the Norse 
dominions adjoining Scotland, and sent a fresh 
embassy to Norway. Failing to make terms, he 
began next year the invasion of the islands. He 
reoccupied Bute and Cantire, and sent a marauding 
expedition under the Earl of Ross into the island 
of Skye. King Jon of the Hebrides wrote informing 
Hakon of what was going on, and from the sequel 
we may judge that he held out no hope of being able 
to resist Alexander. Hakon called together his 
council, some of whom proposed to relinquish the 
islands to Scotland, but the king ordered that an 
expedition at full strength should be raised next 
year. It was always the next opportunity with 
King Hakon. Next year, 1263, he spent the time 
until the end of July in making ready. In the 
meantime, King Jon made terms for himself with 
Alexander and transferred his allegiance to Scot- 
land. Hakon made a slow progress with his fleet 
through the islands and reoccupied part of Cantire 
and also Arran and Bute. Alexander, relying on 
the approach of winter, re-opened negotiations and 


kept them going till the arrival of the equinoctial 
gales. On October I, Hakon's fleet was partly 
scattered by a violent storm. Some ships were 
driven on the coast of Ayrshire. Here a trifling 
encounter took place with the Scottish forces. It 
has been magnified in Scottish histories into the 
battle of Largs, in which, we are told, 16,000- 
Norwegians were slain. 

The misadventures of his fleet and the defection 
of Jon convinced Hakon that he could only hold the 
Hebrides by main force, and he decided to return 
to Norway and come again next year with a still 
stronger expedition. When he reached the Orkneys, 
he fell sick and died. 

In the meantime, he had received an embassy 
from the Irish offering him the kingdom of Ireland 
on condition of expelling the English power. I 
propose to deal with this occurrence in a later 

With the death of Hakon in 1263 the Norwegian 
sovereignty over the Hebrides and Argyle came to 
an end ; and in 1265 his son Magnus made a formal 
cession of the territory to Alexander. 

During all this time, the chief power in the 
Hebrides belonged to the MacDubhghaill line, the 
sons and grandsons of Dubhghall son of Sumarlidi. 
In the wars of the Scottish succession, these kings 
supported the side of John Balliol and the English. 
Their kinsfolk, the MacDomhnaill and MacRuaidhri 
chiefs took the side of Robert Bruce. After Bruce's 
triumph at Bannockburn in 13 14, MacDomhnaill 
became king of Argyle and MacRuaidhri became 


king of the islands. These two kings joined Edward 
Bruce in Ireland and along with him fell fighting in 
the battle of Fochairt in 13 18. 

In 1387, Domhnall of Isla, head of the MacDomh- 
naill line, became king of the Hebrides, and through 
his mother inherited also the great earldom of Ross 
on the mainland, his power becoming thus a menace 
to the kingdom of Scotland. The regent Albany 
sought by legal chicane to deprive him of Ross. 
Domhnall took up arms and engaged the regent's 
army in the bloody battle of Harlaw near Aberdeen 
in 141 1. The battle was not decisive in the military 
sense, but Domhnall succeeded in keeping the 
earldom of Ross. 

His brother Eoin Mor, about the year 1400, 
by marriage with the heiress of Biset, lord of the 
Glens in Ireland, came into possession of that 
lordship, extending from the Giants' Causeway 
to a line a little south of Larne. In 1431, 
James I of Scotland sent an army into Argyle. 
This army was defeated in the. battle of Inver- 
lochy by Domhnall Ballach, son of Eoin and at 
that time king of Argyle and the Islands. In 
1462, Eoin son of Domhnall entered into a secret 
treaty to assist Edward IV of England in the 
conquest of Scotland. This pact was discovered 
by James III of Scotland in 1475. An expe- 
dition was prepared against Eoin by land and 
sea, but he obtained peace by a timely submission 
and by relinquishing the lordships of Ross, Knap- 
dale and Cantire. In 1493, Eoin again became 
obnoxious. He was attainted in the Scottish par- 


liament and his feudatories were forced to swear 
direct allegiance to the Scottish crown. James IV 
made a new grant of Cantire to a son of Eoin Mor, 
named Eoin Cathanach from his having been fostered 
by O'Cathain in Ulster. The Scottish king came in 
person to Cantire in 1499 and placed a garrison in 
the castle of Dunaverty which he had reserved to 
the crown. James had only put out to sea from 
Dunaverty when, still in his sight, Eoin Cathanach 
attacked and captured the castle and hanged the 
governor from the wall. This time there was no 
forgiveness. Before the year was out, Eoin Cathan- 
ach and his aged father, the king of the Hebrides, 
fell into the hands of Giolla Easpuig, the new earl 
of Argyle, head of the house of Campbell which the 
Scottish kings aggrandised as a check on the power 
of the MacDonnells. The captives were handed 
over to King James. The sequel is recorded by a 
contemporary Irish chronicler in the Annals of 
Ulster : 

" A sad deed was done in this year (1499) by 
the king of Scotland, James Stewart. Eoin Mac 
Domhnaill, king of the Foreigners' Isles, and Eoin 
Cathanach his son, and Raghnall the Red and 
Domhnall the Freckled, sons of Eoin Cathanach, 
were executed on one gallows the month before 

So ended the kingdom of the Hebrides, which 
the line of Sumarlidi had held for three centuries 
and a half. 

Another son of Eoin Cathanach escaped, and 
retained the lordship of the Glens. This was 


Alasdair Carrach, father of the celebrated Somh- 
airle Buidhe and ancestor of the Earls of Antrim. 
A grand-daughter of Alasdair Carrach was the 
Inghean Dubh, mother of Aodh Ruadh O'Domhnaill. 



AS the conversion of Ireland to Christianity did 
not begin with Saint Patrick, so also he did 
not live to complete it. To say this is not 
to belittle his work or to deprive him of the honour 
that has been accorded to him by every generation 
of Irishmen since his death. No one man has ever 
left so strong and permanent impression of his 
personality on a people, with the single and eminent 
exception of Moses, the deliverer and lawgiver of 
Israel. It is curious to note that the comparison 
between these two men was present to the minds of 
our forefathers. Both had lived in captivity. Both 
had led the people from bondage. Some of the 
legends of St. Patrick were perhaps based on this 
comparison, especially the account of his competition 
with the Druids. Some of his lives go so far as to 
give him the years of Moses, six score years, making 
him live till the year 492, sixty years after the be- 
ginning of his mission. There is good evidence, 
however, that the earlier date of his death, 461, 
found in our oldest chronicle, and also in the Welsh 
chronicle, is the authentic date. Father Hogan, in 
his " Documenta Vitae S. Patricii," has drawn up a 
table of the acts of St. Patrick, and after this date, 
461, the table is a blank. I have already alluded to 
the feature adopted by our early chroniclers from St. 


Jerome's version of Eusebius — the marking of cer- 
tain epochs by giving the sum of years from a pre- 
ceding epoch. We must remember that in those 
days the custom so familiar to us of giving an arith- 
metical name to every year, all in one series, was 
quite unknown. The first historian to use this 
method consistently was Bede, and it did not obtain 
general vogue until long after his time. In Ireland, 
though Bede's writings were intimately known, his 
method of dating by the year of the Christian era 
does not appear to have been taken up until the 
eleventh century — nearly three centuries after his 
time. What then was the ordinary method of 
dating ? It was by regnal years. For example, 
the beginning of St. Patrick's mission is thus dated 
in the ancient chronicle : 

" Patrick came to Ireland in the ninth year of 
Theodosius the younger, in the first year of the 
episcopate of Sixtus, forty-second bishop of the 
Roman Church." The Irish Nennius gives an Irish 
regnal date for this event — " the fifth year of King 

It may be noted that this manner of dating lasted 
until our own time in the dating of the statutes of 
the English parliament. 

Our present method of dating by a continuous 
era, giving each year its number in the series as 
its ordinary name, has this great convenience that 
we can calculate the space of years between two 
dated events by a simple subtraction. But if we 
find, to take an actual example from our oldest 
chronicle, that a certain event is dated in the ninth 


year of the emperor Theodosius II, and another 
event in the second year of the emperor Phocas, 
then in order to calculate the distance of years 
between, we must first know the length of each 
imperial reign from Theodosius to Phocas. The old 
chroniclers were constantly at the trouble of making 
calculations of this kind, calculations to which certain 
errors were incidental. Small errors accumulating 
become great errors, and so as a safeguard and cor- 
rective, here and there in the chronicle, at the record 
of some important event, we find these summaries of 
years. In the year 664, a very destructive plague 
broke out in Ireland. To the record of the event, 
the chronicler adds : " From the death of Patrick, 
203 years." So the seventh-century chronicler knew 
461 as the year of Patrick's death. 

There are various things that indicate that pro- 
fessed paganism continued to exist in Ireland in the 
second half of the sixth century, i.e. for a century 
at least after Saint Patrick's death. By that time, 
however, as I have shown in the sixth lecture, a 
blending of the old native culture and the newly 
introduced Christian learning had taken place. And 
just as two elements in the chemical sense unite to 
form something that seems to have a nature and 
virtue all its own and not derived from the quality 
of either component, so this blending of two traditions 
in Ireland brought forth almost a new nation, with a 
character and an individuality that gave it distinc- 
tion in that age and in the after ages. 

Mr. Romilly Allen, in his book on " Celtic Art," 
has something to the purpose. " The great dim- 


culty," he writes, " in understanding trie evolution 
of Celtic art lies in the fact that, although the Celts 
never seem to have invented any new ideas, they 
professed an extraordinary aptitude for picking up 
ideas from the different peoples with whom war or 
commerce brought them into contact. And once 
the Celt had borrowed an idea from his neighbour, 
he was able to give it such a strong Celtic tinge 
that it soon became something so different from 
what it was originally as to be almost unrecog- 

There is a mixture of truth and error in this 
statement that is characteristic of a great deal of 
modern scientific comment. For the explanation of 
a fact, something is offered which, upon close ex- 
amination, is seen to be no more than the unex- 
plained thing stated again in different terms. Why 
do masses of matter tend to approach each other ? 
Because of the law of gravity. What do we mean 
by the law of gravity ? We mean that masses of 
matter tend to approach each other. 

It is to be seen from the quotation I have made 
that Mr. Romilly Allen starts with the idea of evolu- 
tion. So does Professor Bury. His " Life of St. 
Patrick r is a sustained effort to prove that the 
singular chapter in the world's history opened by 
Saint Patrick's work in Ireland finds its explanation 
in this, that Saint Patrick was an evolved product, 
a resultant, a force naturally generated by the 
Roman Empire, of which Professor Bury is a dis- 
tinguished historian. His " Life of St. Patrick " is 
designed to bring the singular and outstanding 


phenomenon of Ireland in the sixth, seventh, and 
eighth centuries, into the direct series of cause and 
effect with which the historian's greater work has 
dealt. He writes, he tells us, as one of " the children 
of reason." But the children of reason cannot ex- 
plain water as the resultant of its known physical 
components, oxygen and hydrogen, or salt as the 
resultant of chlorine and sodium. The properties of 
water and salt, so long as these substances remain 
water and salt, are not the properties of their com- 
ponent substances or any combination thereof. In 
like manner the historian or the archaeologist will 
set himself an impossible task if he undertakes to 
explain every fact of history or archaeology as a 
sort of mechanical resultant of pre-existing forces. 

What Romilly Allen says about the Celts is true 
of every people that has developed and maintained 
a distinctive nationality. The Romans themselves 
borrowed from Greece and from Etruria — but the 
resultant was neither Greece nor Etruria nor Greece 
plus Etruria nor any permutation or combination of 
Greek and Etruscan factors. The Greeks borrowed 
from Crete and Phoenicia, but no mere adding to- 
gether of Cretan and Phoenician elements produced 
the Attic salt. 

Herein lies the justification of nationality, of 
intense, distinctive and highly developed nationality. 
In it resides the elemental power of transformation. 
To it belongs the philosopher's stone. If the Greek 
people had possessed but a feeble individuality as a 
people, if they had resembled Cretans and Phoe- 
nicians and Persians, if they had not felt instinctively 


that they had something precious in themselves, 
something that was worth Thermopylae, then it 
would never have been written in a later age that : 

Greece and her foundations are 
Built beneath the tide of war, 
Throned on the crystalline sea 
Of thought and its eternity. 

In every intense and distinctive development of a 
nation, there dwells the actuality or the potentiality 
of some great gift to the common good of mankind ; 
and I rejoice, I am sure we all rejoice, to see, in 
these days of clashing and crashing empires, that 
the clear idea of nationality, as if by the wonderful 
recreative power that is in nature, is rising in the 
esteem of good men all over the world, above and 
beyond the specious and seductive appeal of what 
has been called " the wider patriotism." In this 
regard, too, our own country in that most remark- 
able period of its history may furnish something of 
a model. With all the singularity of its insular 
character, it maintained the fullest intercourse with 
other countries, and its written mind exhibits no 
trace of those international prejudices and hatreds 
which, for whatever ends stimulated, are the disgrace 
of our modern civilisation. 

We must not pretend that Ireland in that age 
was in a condition approaching ideal perfection. 
Far from it — the country was ruled by a patrician 
class to whom war was a sort of noble pastime. 
When we read of war in ancient Ireland, however, 
we must bear one thing in mind : a prolonged con- 
test like that of the Leinster kings for the recovery 


of Meath was altogether singular, and is not heard 
of from that time until the Norse invasions, three 
centuries later. A war, as a rule, meant a single 
battle, and in the early annals, which were written 
in Latin, the word bellum, which in Latin means a 
war, is always used to mean a single battle. 

Though Christianity did not make the Irish desist 
from this kind of warfare, it certainly changed their 
outlook on warfare in general. Men who had taken 
part in bloodshed were excluded from the immediate 
precincts of the churches. In the wars carried on 
by the heathen Irish in other countries, the principal 
gain was in captives who were sold, like St. Patrick, 
into slavery. In his epistle to the soldiers of the 
British ruler Coroticus, St. Patrick condemns this 
practice along with the killing of non-combatants. 
" These soldiers," he writes, " live in death, the 
associates of Scots and Picts who have fallen away 
from the Faith, the slayers of innocent Christians. . . 
It is the custom of the Christians in Roman Gaul," 
he adds, " to send chosen men of piety with so much 
money to the Franks and other heathens, to ransom 
baptized captives. Thou slayest all, or sellest them 
to a foreign nation that knows not God. I know not 
what to say about the dead of the children of God 
upon whom the sword has fallen beyond measure. 
The Church deplores and bewails her sons and 
daughters whom the sword as yet hath not slain but 
who are carried far away and transported into 
distant lands, reduced to slavery, especially to 
slavery under the degraded and unworthy apostate 


This, therefore, was also St. Patrick's teaching to 
the Irish ; and in and after his time, not a single 
raiding expedition goes forth from Ireland. Kuno 
Meyer has shown that the military organisation of 
the Fiana still existed to some degree in early 
Christian Ireland ; but it gradually disappears, 
and in the seventh century the Irish kings cease to 
dwell, surrounded by their fighting men, in great 
permanent encampments like Tara and Ailinn. In 
the eighth century, we hear the testimony of Bede, 
that the Irish are " a harmless nation, ever most 
friendly to the English." 

Another change that came about, not suddenly, 
but gradually during this period, is the extinction of 
the old lines of racial demarcation in Ireland. The 
Church did not recognise these boundaries. Many 
noted ecclesiastics belonged to the old plebeian 

In this connection, we may note one feature of the 
Irish secular law, not traceable to the influence of 
Christianity. The word soer, used as a noun, has 
two special meanings ; it means a freeman and it 
means a craftsman. The contrary term doer means 
unfree — in the sense of serfdom rather than of 
slavery ; .there is a distinct term for " slave," viz., 
mugh. The plebeian communities are called doer- 
thuatha. The inference, therefore, is that a skilled 
craftsman of unfree race became by virtue of his 
craft a freeman. 

Let us now take a cursory view of the course 
of political events during the sixth, seventh and 
eighth centuries, or rather, from the battle of 


Ocha, which secured the monarchy for the de- 
scendants of Niall in 483, till the coming of the 
Norsemen in 793. 

We have seen that the effect of the battle of 
Ocha was to exclude the Connacht branches of 
the monarchical family from the succession. The 
successful princes were a grandson and a great- 
grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages ; and these 
two princes, one of the Southern, the other of the 
Northern Ui Neill, became the next two kings of 

To understand this event more clearly, it is neces- 
sary to take a view of the Irish law of succession or 
inheritance. Under this law, a man's heirs were a 
family group called the derbfinc or true family. At 
the head of this group was the great-grandfather of 
its youngest members, whether he happened to be 
dead or alive. The derbjine consisted of this family 
head, his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons — four 
generations. When the fifth generation came for- 
ward, the derbjine subdivided itself, forming a new 
set of similar groups, the head of each being one of 
the sons of the man who was head of the older 

When a man died, all the living members of the 
derbfi?ie to which he belonged became his heirs, 
and the inheritance, if capable of division, was 
divided among them in proportions fixed by law. 
Thus, if the deceased belonged to the third genera- 
tion of the four which formed the derbjine, his heirs 
comprised all his grandfather's living descendants — 
i.e. his own children, his brothers and their children, 


and his uncles and their children and grandchildren. 
In each case, the derbfine or group of heirs was 
ascertained by counting back to the great-grandfather 
of the youngest member and comprised all his 

Kingship was not divisible, though it was a herit- 
able property. When a man became king, then all 
male members of his derbfine became potential heirs 
to the kingship. Each member became capable of 
succession. For a man who thus came into the 
line of succession, there was a legal name — he was 
called rigdamna, " king-material," or in homely 
phrase, " the makings of a king." When a vacancy 
occurred, it was filled up by election from among 
those in this way qualified. 

A glance at the genealogical tree (p. 193) will show 
how this law of succession influenced the action of 
the principals in the battle of Ocha. Muirchertach, 
king of Ailech, as the annals show, was the most 
active and daring of the Irish princes in his time. 
But neither his father nor his grandfather had held 
the high-kingship. If he himself failed to secure it, 
then the whole branch of the Northern Ui Neill 
ceased to have any lawful claim to the monarchy. 
He did not belong to the same derbfine as the reign- 
ing monarch Ailill Molt, but he was eligible to the 
monarchy because his great-grandfather, Niall, had 
held it. It was therefore his interest, and that of 
his kinsfolk in the north-west, to strike in, cut out the 
Connacht branch, and secure the potential succession 
for himself and his posterity. Not relying on his 
own power to effect this, he came to an understand- 


ing with Luguid, king of the Southern Ui Neill, who 
belonged to his own derbfine. From the sequel, we 
may judge that the price of Luguid's adhesion was 
immediate succession to the monarchy. He became 
king of Ireland after the battle of Ocha, and Muir- 
chertach became king of Ireland after him. 

It is evident that this law of succession, a part 
of the ordinary law of inheritance, was, from the 
point of view of the public peace, a bad law. There 
were always branches of the ruling lines which, like 
the Northern Ui Neill in this instance, were on the 
point of falling outside of the group of eligibles ; and 
the chiefs of these branches were always under the 
temptation to use violent measures, if they felt them- 
selves strong enough, to retain the legal qualification 
in their own line. 

In 534, Muirchertach died and was succeeded 
peacefully by Tuathal Maelgarb, another great- 
grandson of Niall. Contemporary with him, there 
was another of Niall's great-grandsons, Diarmait, 
whose father and grandfather had not reigned, and 
whose line therefore was in danger of exclusion from 
the monarchy. In 544, Tuathal was assassinated 
by a foster-brother of Diarmait, and Diarmait secured 
the monarchy. He is the last of the great-grandsons 
of Niall of whom we hear, and consequently the 
family of Niall ceases in his time to preserve its 
legal unity. From his death in 565 until the year 
734, though the power and prestige acquired by the 
Ui Neill enabled them to keep the high-kingship 
among themselves, there is no regularity of succes- 
sion. The Ui Neill held a number of small kingdoms 


in Meath and western Ulster, and whatever king of 
them showed himself to be the strongest is recognised 
as king of Ireland. 

The Northern Ui Neill, occupying a compact 
territory side by side, continued to hold together in 
political unity until the seventh century, their chief 
king being at one time of the line of Conall Gulban, 
at another time of the line of Eogan. In 563 they 
conquered from the Picts a belt of territory on the 
western side of the Bann, between Loch Neagh and 
the sea. This territory came into the possession of 
a branch of Eogan's line, represented in later times 
by the family of O'Cathain (O'Kane). In 615, we 
see the first appearance of a break in the unity of 
the Northern Ui Neill. Mael Chobo, of the line of 
Conall, was then their king and king of Ireland. He 
was overthrown in battle by Suibne Menn, king of 
Cenel Eogain, who then became king of Ireland. 
Thenceforward, Cenel Conaill and Cenel Eogain be- 
come rival powers in the North. Their rivalry 
lasted, with intervals, for a thousand years, until 
the battle of Kinsale in i6ot, where it was a con- 
tributary cause of the final overthrow of both their 
houses. Cenel Eogain, from the position of its 
territory, held the advantage, and gradually ex- 
tended its power eastward and southward over 
Ulster. Cenel Conaill on the other hand, holding 
the natural fastness of the Donegal Highlands, 
was never forced to take a permanently subordinate 

Most modern writers on Irish history have ac- 
cepted as historical the romantic story of the cursing 


of Tara and its desertion during the reign of Diar- 
mait. There is not a word about it in the ancient 
annals, though our earliest known chronicler wrote 
within half a century of the supposed event. A son 
of Diarmait, Aed Slane, became king of Ireland, and 
died in 604, within the chronicler's time of writing 
which ends in 610. Aed Slane shared the high-king- 
ship with Colman, king of the Northern Ui Neill, 
and the chronicle says expressly that " they ruled 
Tara in equal power." As late as the year 780, 
Tara was neither an accursed nor a deserted place, 
for in that year an ecclesiastical synod was held 
" in the town of Tara ' (in oppido Ternro). The 
extant stories of the cursing of Tara are all writings 
of the Middle Irish period, written centuries later 
than the supposed event. They tell us that the 
trouble began with the outlawry of Aedh Guaire, 
king of Ui Maine, who refused to submit to a quite 
unprecedented exercise of authority on the part of 
the monarch Diarmait. I have not been able to find 
this Aedh Guaire's name either in the annals or in the 
genealogy of Ui Maine, or anywhere except in this 
story. Aedh Guaire sought sanctuary. Diarmait 
violated the sanctuary. Twelve saints, called " the 
twelve apostles of Ireland," thereupon laid siege to 
Tara with fastings and curses, and Tara ceased to be 
the home of the monarchy. The annals show that 
some of these saints were dead at the time and 
others of them were still in their childhood. These 
so-called historical tales are seldom troubled about 
anachronisms. The celebrated " Colloquy with the 
Ancients " brings St. Patrick and Oisin into conversa- 


tion with the same Diarmait. Apart from anachron- 
isms, the story of the cursing has other features 
which should suffice to warn any reader from taking 
it for serious history. 

The desertion of Tara does not stand alone, and 
can be explained without resort to imaginative tales 
of a later age. Cruachain, the ancient seat of the 
Connacht kings, and Ailinn, the ancient seat of the 
Leinster kings, were also abandoned during this 
period. It was military kings who ruled from these 
strongholds, surrounded by strong permanent mili- 
tary forces. My first visit to Tara convinced me 
that what we see there is the remains of a great 
military encampment. So it appeared or was known 
to the tenth-century poet Cinaed Ua h-Artacain, 
whose poem on Tara begins with the words Temair 
Breg, baile na fian, " Tara of Bregia, home of the 
warrior-bands." When the booty and captives of 
Britain and Gaul ceased to tempt and recompense 
a professional soldiery, and when the old fighting 
castes became gradually merged in the general 
population, military organisation died out in Ireland, 
not to reappear until the introduction of the Gallo- 
glasses in the thirteenth century. That is one 
reason why Tara was deserted. 

There is another and perhaps more cogent reason. 
Diarmait left his son, Colman the Little, king over 
Midhe proper, i.e. Westmeath and most of King's 
County and County Longford ; and another son, 
Aedh Slane, before mentioned, king over Bregia, i.e. 
County Meath and parts of Louth and Dublin 
counties. This is a further instance of that process, 


described in a former lecture, of creating mean lords. 
From these two kings sprang two distinct dynasties. 
Colman's line, Clann Cholmain, dominated the 
western territory ; Aed Slane's line, Siol Aeda Slane, 
the eastern territory. The process of appropriation 
was continued in detail by their descendants. 
" Clann Cholmain," says an ancient genealogist, 
" were distributed throughout Midhe so as to possess 
the lordship of every tuath and perpetual sovereignty 
over them." In like manner, an old genealogical 
poem relates the distribution of Aedh Slane's 
descendants in lordship over various territories of 

The annals show that, between these two families 
so closely related, a fierce and bloody feud broke 
out, with continual reprisals, lasting for many years. 
Tara was in the possession of Aed Slane's line. After 
the year 734, the kings of this line were excluded 
from the high-kingship, but nevertheless continued 
to hold undisputed authority over all Bregia, in- 
cluding Tara, until the close of the tenth century, 
when their dynasty was suppressed by the high- 
king Mael Sechnaill, who was also the chief of Clann 
Cholmain. These facts quite sufficiently explain 
why, after 734, no king of Ireland could occupy Tara 
without an army. 

The political affairs of southern Ireland during this 
period are remarkably tranquil and undiversified. 
In Munster, there was probably more abiding peace 
than in any equal extent of country in western 
Europe. The kings of Cashel appear to have steadily 
consolidated their authority and to have been con- 


tent to do so without seeking to extend it beyond 
the bounds fixed in the fifth century. In the Book 
of Rights, the tributes payable to the king of Cashel 
far exceed those to which any of the other six 
principal kings in Ireland laid claim. There is an 
allegory related in the genealogies which indicates 
that at one time the supremacy of Cashel was 
challenged by the Eoghanacht kings of West Munster. 
This may have particular reference to one of these, 
Aedh Bennan, who died in 619, and who seems to 
have grouped under his own authority the western 
states in opposition to the king of Cashel. It is 
doubtful whether this ambition outlived him. His 
daughter, Mor Mhumhan (" Mor of Munster," as she 
is called), figures in ancient story. She became the 
wife of Finghen, king of Cashel, and the ancestress of 
the most numerous family in Ireland, the O'Sullivans. 
The most powerful of the kings of Cashel during 
this period was Cathal, who died in 742. The annals 
indicate that he held virtually equal authority with 
the contemporary high-kings. One of the preroga- 
tives of the high-king was to preside over the As- 
sembly of Taillte (" Teltown," near Navan). In 
733, Cathal seems to have attempted to preside 
over this assembly, in the absence of the high- 
king Flaithbcrtach, who was engaged at the time 
in a losing struggle to preserve his own authority in 
the north-west. Cathal's attempt to preside over 
the high king's assembly was forcibly prevented by 
Domhnall, king of Midhe. In 734, Cathal appears to 
have secured the adherence or submission of the 
king of Ossory in an effort to extend his power over 


Leinster ; and a fierce battle ensued, in which the 
king of Ossory was killed and the king of Cashel 
escaped alive. In 737, a convention was held be- 
tween Cathal and the high-king, Aedh Allan, at 
Terryglass in Ormond, and apparently an agree- 
ment was made between them securing the claim 
of the church of Armagh to revenue from all Ireland. 
In 738, Cathal again invaded Leinster and exacted 
hostages and a heavy contribution from the king of 
Naas. In view of all this, the name of Cathal was 
afterwards included by some southern writers in the 
list of monarchs of Ireland. 

In Leinster, a factor against peace was the ancient 
claim of the high-kings to tribute from the Leinster 
kings. The origin of this tribute, called the Boramha 
or " kine-counting," is explained by two different 
stories. Possibly it originated in the conquest of 
northern Leinster. The tribute was seldom con- 
ceded but to main force. To exact it at least once 
in a reign was a point of honour, a test of the 
monarch's authority ; and an invasion of Leinster 
for that purpose is an almost regular item in the 
annals under the first or second year of each high- 

The irregular succession to the monarchy ends in 
the year 734. In that year the high-king Flaithber- 
tach, who was king of Tir Conaill, was compelled to 
abdicate by Aedh Allan, king of Cenel Eogain, who 
then became high-king. Flaithbertach retired into 
religious life at Armagh where he died thirty-one 
years later. From the year 734 until 1022, except 
for two interruptions, the succession to the high- 


kingship was reserved to two dynasties, one at the 
head of the Northern Ui Neill, the other at the 
head of the Southern Ui Neill, to the kings of Ailech 
and Midhe ; and these succeeded each other in the 
monarchy in regular alternation. There is no 
record of any express constitutional pact to secure 
the succession in this manner, but the alternation 
was a well recognised fact ; and on this fact the 
medieval reconstructors of Irish history for the 
prehistoric period modelled part of their work — so 
that we read of an alternate sovereignty over Munster 
in remote antiquity, and of another alternate 
sovereignty, in which the Eoghanacht and the 
Dalcassians were the partners, at a later period ; 
and the history of the monarchy is projected back 
to the first arrival of the Gaels in Ireland, by a 
device already alluded to, that is, by selecting 
names in turn out of the pedigrees of the principal 

It is not my purpose in these lectures to give a 
complete scheme of Irish history, allotting to each 
set of facts its due proportion of the discourse. My 
aim is rather to supplement what appears defective 
and correct what appears misleading in the treatment 
of early Irish history as the public has been accus- 
tomed to it. In regard of the great activity of 
religion and learning during the period between St. 
Patrick and the Norsemen, I shall not attempt to 
give even in summary what has been so eloquently 
described in detail by others, for example, by Arch- 
bishop Healy in his valuable work on ' Ireland's 
Ancient Schools and Scholars," and, in the con- 


tinental and missionary aspect, by Margaret Stokes. 
We have noted that the Irish civilisation of this 
period stands out so brightly from what are called 
the Dark Ages that it has commanded the special 
attention of an eminent historian of the Roman 
Empire, and evoked the resources of German scholar- 
ship. When I see the eulogist of Anglo-Norman 
feudalism in Ireland sitting in judgment upon the 
political institutions of a people which he has never 
studied and does not at all understand, I call to 
mind the estimate formed by " the ancient philoso- 
phers of Ireland " about Victorius of Aquitaine — 
that he was deserving of compassion rather than 
of ridicule. A barbarous people in " the tribal 
stage " — every item culled out that might suggest 
comparison with the head-hunters of New Guinea 
and the Hottentot — and beside this and in the 
midst of it schools everywhere, not schools but 
universities — books everywhere, " the countless multi- 
tude of the books of 'Eire," — yes, we can still use the 
scrapings of our Irish vellum as a cure for the foreign 
snake-bite — and on the other hand, the pomp and 
circumstance of Feudalism, with its archiepiscopal 
viceroys, its incastellations and its subinfeudations, 
its charters and its statutes, its registers and its 
inquisitions, but during four centuries not one 
school of note, not even one, and one abortive uni- 
versity, no literature except the melancholy records 
of anti-national statecraft, and whatever learning 
there was for the most part suborned to the pur- 
poses of a dominating officialdom, just as in our 
own day we have seen the highest achievements of 



science and invention suborned to the service of 
the war departments. 

As regards the actual scope of Irish learning, at 
that period, our data are not sufficient to determine 
it. I do not know whether anyone has yet at- 
tempted to draw up a complete conspectus of the 
Latin literature that has been preserved in MSS. 
copied by Irish scribes, and of Latin authors quoted 
in ancient Irish books. In my opinion, the forma- 
tion of a sane estimate of the Latin learning of that 
age, in the case of Ireland as of other countries, has 
been hindered by what I will call the intellectual 
snobbery of the Renaissance — an attitude of mind 
in which scholars think to dignify themselves by 
despising everything in Latin that was not written 
in the time of the first twelve Caesars. It should 
not be ignored that for centuries after the fall of 
the Western Empire, though Latin existed among 
the common people only in the form of broken and 
breaking dialects, the Latin of the grammarians 
continued to be the language of thought and of 
education throughout the western half of Europe, 
and remained for the educated a truly living lan- 
guage. If it did not retain its classical elegance, it 
still had an unbroken vital tradition. Above all, 
the later Latin writings contain the contempor- 
ary record of the most progressive section of the 
human race in those times. I have often thought 
that I should like to see our universities break away 
from that sentiment of intellectual snobbery and 
open up opportunities for their students to become 

familiar with the late Latin literature. There can 


be no doubt that it was this late Latin literature that 
was chiefly read in the ancient Christian schools of 
Ireland, and properly so, for its content was of 
more vital interest to their teachers and scholars 
than the matter of producing elegant yet artificial 
imitations of the Latin classics. In that later Latin 
and through its medium, Western Christendom was 
joined in an international common-wealth of mind. 
The Irish schools were familiar with works written 
in Spain like those of Orosius and St. Isidore, or in 
Gaul like those of St. Jerome and Victorius. Per- 
haps the intimacy and frequency of this intellectual 
intercourse is best illustrated in a letter written by 
the celebrated Alcuin no doubt from the palace 
school of Charlemagne, to Colgu, a professor in 
Clonmacnois, just before the ravages of the Norse- 
men began. " The writer complains that for some 
time past he was not deemed worthy to receive any 
of those letters ' so precious in my sight from your 
fatherhood,' but he daily feels the benefit of his 
absent father's prayers." Here we have clear 
testimony that, for personal correspondence, there 
existed a way of sending letters from Ireland to the 
Rhineland and receiving replies, approaching as near 
to a regular postal service as we could expect to 
find in that age. The sequence of the letter shows 
that the medium of this correspondence was merchant 
shipping engaged in trade between the two countries. 
Alcuin adds " that he sends by the same messenger 
an alms of fifty sides of silver from the bounty of 
King Charles {i.e. Charlemagne) and fifty more from 
his own resources for the brotherhood. He also 


sends a quantity of olive oil . . . and asks that it 
may be distributed amongst the Bishops in God's 
honour for sacramental purposes." 

And what about Greek ? Much has been written 
about the singular knowledge of Greek possessed by 
Irish scholars and their pupils of other nationalities 
in the time of Charlemagne and thereabouts. Zimmer 
in particular has laid great stress on this proposition. 
Some years ago, I went one day to look for help from 
Professor Corcoran in something I was trying to 
work out. I found him in his room, busy with his 
students. I retreated, but he called me back. " We 
are discussing," he said, " the question of the know- 
ledge of Greek in the ancient Irish schools. You 
have come in a good time to let us know your view 
about it." " Well," I said, " I cannot claim to have 
examined the matter at all. I know that some 
remarkable things have been said about it. I can 
only claim to have formed a general impression from 
what I have observed." " Will you let us know 
what impression you have formed ? " " Certainly," 
I said. " My impression is that such evidences of 
a knowledge of Greek as have been found are well 
enough explained as the outcome of the teaching of 
Greek in Canterbury by Archbishop Theodore." 
Since that time, Mr. Mario Esposito has discussed 
the matter at length in " Studies," and his con- 
clusion is that the knowledge of Greek in those Irish 
schools was very meagre indeed and mainly or 
wholly based on mere vocabularies. Kuno Meyer, I 
think, disagreed with this conclusion. I can remem- 
ber that Mr. Esposito's treatment of the question 


jarred on me to some extent — I thought his argu- 
ment was too sharp in some places and too flat in 
others. Nevertheless, I think he was in the right 
on the main point. Knowledge of a language means 
either conversational knowledge or textual know- 
ledge or both together. I certainly could not name 
a single Greek author who was textually known in 
the Irish schools — on the evidence ; and I know no 
evidence of the conversational use of Greek in those 
schools. It may have been in them for a time. 
Bede, a contemporary, says that Theodore's pupils 
learned to speak Greek with fluency. Theodore was 
in Canterbury from 664 till 690, and it is very likely 
that Irishmen would go there to learn from him. 
But notwithstanding Bede's testimony, it does not 
appear that Theodore's teaching had the effect of 
establishing the study of Greek on any permanent 
basis in England, not to say in Ireland. 

Without making any claim that does not rest on 
unquestionable evidence, there is enough to show 
that during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, 
Ireland, enjoying freedom from external danger and 
holding peaceful intercourse with the other nations, 
made no inglorious use of her opportunity. The 
native learning and the Latin learning throve side 
by side. The ardent spirit of the people sent mis- 
sionary streams into Britain and Gaul, western 
Germany and Italy, even to farthest Iceland. And 
among all this world-intercourse there grew up the 
most intense national consciousness. It pleases me 
to see a certain school of writers say certain things, 
so that the truth may be established by its opposite. 


" The Irishman's country," I read, " was the tuath 
or territory belonging to his tribe. . . The clansman, 
while ready to lay down his life for his chief, felt 
no enthusiasm for a national cause. The sentiment 
for ' country ' in any sense more extended than that 
of his own tribal territory, was alike to him and to 
his chief unknown." The implication is that, in the 
twelfth century, to which these words refer, the 
statement made in them is, in the first place, true of 
the Irishman, and in the second place, especially and 
peculiarly true of the Irishman. If it be peculiarly 
or especially true of the Irishman, then the writer, 
Mr. Orpen, has in mind other nationalities about 
which the same could not be stated. What and 
where were they ? Suppose we read instead, " The 
feudal vassal's country was the fief or territory 
belonging to his lord. . . . The vassal, while ready 
to lay down his life for his lord, felt no enthusiasm 
for a national cause. The sentiment for ' country ' 
in any sense more extended than that of his own 
feudal territory, was alike to him and to his lord 
unknown." Would this be untrue of England, 
France, Germany, or Italy in the twelfth century ? 
If quite applicable to all these countries, why is it 
so particularly and specially said about the Irish- 
man ? For what purpose ? To what end ? Is it 
to bring out historical truth ? What is the motive ? 
What is the objective ? 

The fact is that, while the statement is true in a 
limited sense about Ireland, it is not especially and 
peculiarly true, as its writer would have himself 
believe, about Ireland, and it is less true about Ire- 


land than about any country in western Europe at 
that period — the twelfth century. You will not find 
anywhere in Europe during that age any approach 
towards the definite and concrete sense of nationality 
— of country and people in one — which is the com- 
mon expression of the Irish mind in that age. Be- 
ginning with the sixth century chronicle, every Irish 
history is a history of Ireland — there is not one 
history of a tribal territory or of any grouping of 
tribal territories. Every Irish law-book is a book 
of the laws of Ireland — there are no territorial laws 
and no provincial laws. The whole literature is 
pervaded by the notion of one country common to 
all Irishmen. So far as Mr. Orpen's statement is 
concerned with the expression of historical truth, it 
has this much of truth — that neither in Ireland nor 
in any other country was the modern sentiment of 
political nationality fully formed in the popular 
mind. Mr. Orpen goes on to contrast Irish localism 
with the centralised monarchies of Europe. Let us 
hope he does not imagine that any one of those 
centralised monarchies was the expression of the 
sentiment of country in the popular mind or in the 
mind of the ruler. It is true that the sentiment of 
country sometimes obtained its delimitation from 
centralised power — but the sentiments which found 
expression in centralised power were those of fear 
on the one side and domination on the other ; and 
students who study medieval history with a map will 
quickly apprehend that these two sentiments, fear 
and domination, shaped the boundaries of country 
in defiance of the sentiments connected with country, 


race, language, nationality. In Ireland, on the 
other hand, we find the clear development of the 
national consciousness, associated with the country, 
to a degree that is found nowhere else. Just as we 
must reject the ridiculous notion that the Irish 
were a perverse people, with a double dose of original 
sin, and therefore a people about whom the more 
incredible are the things said the more worthy they 
are of belief ; so, too, we must avoid the contrary 
extreme and refrain from insisting that everything in 
ancient Ireland was perfect, deriving this perfection 
from the aneelic virtue of the national character. 
In Ireland it was impossible to escape the sentiment 
of country. So an ancient poet figured to himself 
that the first poem in the Irish language began thus : 
" I invoke the land of Ireland." Another poet puts 
this sentiment in the mouth of Columba — 

Here is a grey eye 

that looks back to Ireland 

an eye that never more shall see 

Ireland's men nor her women. 

Now, Columba's " tribal territory " was Tir Conaill. 
Again, Columba is supposed to say — 

Gaedheal ! Gaedheal ! beloved name — 
My one joy of memory is to utter it. 

But Columba's clan was the Ui Neill — not the 
Gaedhil. Shall we be told that national sentiment 
was an esoteric doctrine of the poets ; that in lines 
like these, they were not appealing to the sense of 
country which they knew to be in the minds of their 
audience, but were seeking subtly to indoctrinate 


with a nationalism peculiar to themselves a public 
which could only think of tribal chiefs and tribal 
territories ? Well and good. In what other country 
of that age was there even a small class of the people 
who held and expressed this definite sentiment of 
country ? A Leinster poet sings the glories of the 
Curragh of Kildare and the royal fortress of Ailinn 
— seat of the Leinster kings ; but in the middle of 
this theme, he says, " Greater than telling at every 
time hath been God's design for Ireland " ; can this 
expression be paralleled in the literature of any 
other country in that age ? Or let us look at the 
words with which Gilla Coemain begins a metrical 
list of the Irish monarchs : 

High 'Eire, island of the kings, 
illustrious scene of mighty deeds — 

These are only casual examples that rise to the 
mind. The plain truth is this — and the writer who 
denies it does so because he has set out to write a 
political pamphlet in the guise of history — that, 
notwithstanding an extensive intercourse with neigh- 
bouring and distant peoples, and notwithstanding 
an extremely decentralised native polity, the Irish 
people stand singular and eminent in those times, 
from the fifth century forward, as the possessors of 
an intense national consciousness. 


THE Norsemen or Northmen were the people 
of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They 
always call themselves Northmen. This im- 
plies that they regarded themselves as being the 
northern branch of a larger people — and that larger 
people can only have been the Germans. North- 
men means North Germans. On their first ap- 
pearance on the Irish and Scottish coasts, the Irish 
called them simply " the Heathens " — Genti : all 
the other peoples with whom the Irish came in 
contact at that time being Christians. Afterwards 
they were called in Irish Locblannaigh. The origin 
of this name is unknown. Professor Marstrander 
thinks it must mean the men of Rogaland, an old 
division of Scandinavia. 

The Norse invasions are seen to go through several 
phases. In the first phase, the islands and coasts 
are fiercely devastated, and the Northmen make 
away again with their booty and captives, or hold 
the captives to ransom. In the second phase, they 
occupy islands and outlying forelands. They are 
thus able to gather strong bands and plan out incur- 
sions into the interior. These two phases cover 
about half a century, from 790 to 840. Gradually 
the leaders are learning the geography of Ireland, 

especially of its harbours and navigable rivers. 



The rapid development of these raiding enter- 
prises has been explained as caused by political 
changes in Norway. But these changes did not 
take place until about eighty years after the Norse 
raids began. They amounted to a strong centralisa- 
tion under king Harald the Fairhaired and a diminu- 
tion of the power of the nobles ; and they were 
perhaps rather a consequence than a cause of the 
raiding movement. We have seen how, some five 
centuries earlier, an almost similar outbreak of 
raiding activity brought the Irish into touch with 
Roman Britain and Gaul, and how the rewards of 
plunder enabled Irish kings to maintain a permanent 
military organisation and to acquire thereby much 
greater power, leading to a depression of the old 
nobility. I think it likely that the chief cause of 
the Norse movement of invasion was the develop- 
ment of a particularly suitable style of ship-building ; 
the building of long undecked ships of light draft 
and very strong construction, very seaworthy ; in 
which, during a sea-fight, every man could take a 

The third phase was the occupation of inland 
waters. The invaders ran their ships, which were 
propelled by oars as well as by sails, up the navigable 
rivers, if necessary dragging them overland where 
the navigable parts were interrupted by shallow 
rapids, for example on the Bann and the Shannon. 
Thus they could place a whole fleet on a lake like 
Loch Neagh or Loch Ree. There they were safe 
from attack and were in a position to choose the 
place on a large shoreline for their incursions. It 


is to be borne in mind that, during the period of the 
Norse wars in Ireland and for some centuries before 
and after it, the Irish had no permanent military 
organisation. Their largest military operations never 
extended beyond a few weeks. Their fighting men 
were called out for the purpose from their ordinary 
peaceful occupations, and could not lawfully be held 
to military service for more than a few weeks in 
any year. Thus there was no effective means of 
fighting down a hostile force encamped on its ships 
in a large inland water. It was by a crafty lure, 
we are told, that Turgesius, commander of the 
Norse fleet on the Shannon, was captured. 

The fourth phase was the occupation of a fortified 
station on some haven, so that the ships, drawn up 
on land, were secure from attack. The earliest of 
these Norse stations in Ireland were at Dublin and 
at Annagassan in Co. Louth. Annagassan, now a 
mere hamlet, was a port of note in ancient times. 
Its sandy estuary suited the shipping of that age. 
Irish folk-tales still describe the old way of bringing 
ships to land in such places. The ships were of very 
light draft. Those made in Ireland had the strong 
framework covered with hides not planks. They 
were run ashore in a sandy rivermouth and dragged 
up on land beyond the reach of the tide. What 
gave Annagassan importance was that at this point 
the old great northern highway, the Slighe Midh- 
luachra, touched the coast. It is in describing the 
fortified stations of the Norsemen at Dublin and 
Annagassan, in the annals under the year 841, that 
we first find the Irish term long-pbort. This word, 


about seventy years afterwards, has come to mean 
an entrenched or stockaded position for an army, a 
fortified camp ; and its use in this sense shews us 
what was the character of these first Norse stations 
on the Irish mainland. 

The occupation of these fortified stations enabled 
the invaders to accumulate force for strong ex- 
peditions overland. Such expeditions were soon 
undertaken with success. 

Dublin was well chosen. The Liffey here was the 
boundary between two of the greater kingdoms — 
Leinster and Bregia. The Norsemen of Dublin were 
thus in a position to take advantage of the ancient 
hostility between the Leinstermen and the Ui Neill 
who had wrested the plain of Meath from Leinster 
and imposed a hated tribute on the Leinster kings. 
So, as a rule, we find the Norse of Dublin and the 
kings of Leinster in close alliance. 

The Irish annals indicate an earlier date for the 
centralising policy of the kings of Norway than 
Norwegian historians seem to accept. In 849, they 
tell us, eight years after the occupation of Dublin, 
the king of Norway (Lochlainn) sent a fleet to estab- 
lish his authority over the Norse settlers in Ireland ; 
and four years later, in 853, they say that Olaf, 
whom they call son of the king of Lochlainn, assumed 
kingship over the Norsemen in Ireland. He became 
joint king of Dublin with Ivar. 

Soon after this, in 856 and 857, the Gall-Ghaedhil 
or Norse-Irish, make their appearance in various 
parts of the island — in Meath and Ulster and Munster. 
These were the people of the generation following the 


Norse occupation of the Scottish islands and the 
Isle of Man. They spoke a broken Irish and no doubt 
also a broken Norse dialect. 

In 851, a new variety of Norsemen arrives on the 
Irish coast. They are called the Black Heathens, 
the Black Foreigners, the Black Lochlannachs, in 
contradistinction to the Fair Heathens, Fair 
Foreigners, or Fair Lochlannachs who had been 
here before them. The Welsh chronicle, the Annales 
Cambriae, makes it fairly clear that these Black 
Heathens were the Danes. They came in hostility 
to the Norwegians, with whom they fought fierce 
battles ; and we have already seen that for a number 
of years the Danes held the chief power in the 

At this point of time, about the middle of the 
ninth century, the Norsemen must have seemed to 
be about to become masters of all northern Europe 
from the west of Ireland to the banks of the Volga. 
England was crumbling under their attacks. The 
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells how Norse armies 
marched up and down through the country without 
resistance, then moved off to the Continent. They 
occupied Ghent in Flanders for a year. They 
defeated the Franks in battle and supplied them- 
selves with horses from their captures, pushed up 
the Meuse into France, excamped there for another 
year ; went up the Scheldt to Conde and sat there 
for a year ; up the Somme to Amiens, and sat there 
for a year. Then up the Seine, and took up their 
winter quarters beside Paris. Then the c army 
went up through the bridge at Paris, and thence up 


along the Seine as far as the Marne, and thence up 
the Marne to Cheny, and then sat down, there and 
on the Yonne, two winters in the two places." Then 
they crossed from the Seine to the borders of Brit- 
tany, where the Bretons attacked and defeated 
them, driving thern into their ships, which apparently 
had been sent round by sea to co-operate with them. 
Turning again eastward they were defeated next year 
in Germany, but held together in France for two 
years more, when they came down to Boulogne, and 
finding shipping for their whole force, including horses, 
crossed over to England in two hundred and fifty 
ships, Alfred being then king in England. After- 
wards they crossed England, passing up the Thames 
and then up the Severn. Alfred, assisted by the 
Welsh, defeated them. They fell back on Essex, 
mustered fresh forces there, once more crossed 
England and laid siege to Chester, invaded Wales 
and were driven out of it. Some settled down in the 
conquered lands of East Anglia and Northumbria, 
the rest made a fresh expedition into France. 
Though Alfred was a great and admirable king, and 
justly held up to renown in English history, he 
could do no more than hold a minor part of England 
against these invaders, and at his death in 901 they 
were undisputed masters of about two thirds of that 

Several causes operated in checking the growth of 
Norse power. One was the rivalry between the 
Danes and the Norwegians. Another was the con- 
solidation of Scotland under Cinaeth Mac Ailpin. 
A third cause undoubtedly was the tenacious resist- 


ance of the " Celts." Had the Norsemen been as 
successful in Scotland and Ireland, Wales and Brit- 
tany, as they were in England and Normandy, Harald 
the Fair might have been the head of a new empire. 
The annals give a long list of pitched battles in 
Ireland, in some of which the invaders were vic- 
torious but for the most part they were defeated. 
Mr. Orpen ascribes their failure to the fact that 
the Irish were not politically centralised and were 
therefore harder to break down ; yet he goes on to 
censure this defect in the Irish polity. Are we to 
conclude that it was a misfortune for Ireland and 
other countries that Ireland was not subjugated by 
the Scandinavian Heathens ? 

As a matter of fact, it was under the personal 
command of the high-king, Aedh Finnliath, that 
the Irish resistance took a definitely successful turn. 
In 866, this king captured all the strongholds of 
the Norsemen in the northern half of Ireland ; 
and from this time on, they made no settlements 
to the north of Dublin and Limerick. Olaf and 
Ivar, the two kings of Dublin, turned their arms 
against Britain. In 870, as already related, after a 
siege of four months, they captured the last strong- 
hold of the northern Britons at Dumbarton. In 
recording the death of Ivar in 873, the Irish annals 
entitled him " king of the Norsemen of Ireland and 

Ireland, however, was not at peace from the 
invaders. Under the same year, 873, we find a 
characteristic entry in the annals. I have already 
said that those who resort to these chronicles for a 


record of the normal affairs of Ireland mistake the 
character of the record and expose themselves to 
deception. One of the institutions connected with 
the Irish monarchy was the " Fair " or Assembly 
of Taillte near Navan. This was considered to be 
the principal assembly in Ireland, and to preside 
over it was a function of the king of Ireland. Yet 
during more than four centuries before this year 
873, the Assembly is only five times mentioned, and 
in each instance it is not the normal fact but an 
abnormal incident that is recorded. In the year 
717, the Assembly was disturbed by Foghartach, 
king of Bregia. Foghartach was a claimant to the 
high-kingship. In 714, he was deposed and exiled 
to Britain. In 716, he is recorded as reigning again. 
His disturbance of the Assembly of Taillte in the 
following year marks therefore an attempt on his 
part to assert his position as monarch. The ef- 
fective high-king at the time was Fergal, king of 
Ailech. In 733, Cathal, king of Munster, made a 
similar attempt to preside, and was prevented by the 
king of Meath. After this event, there is no men- 
tion of the Assembly until 811. In that year, the 
Ui Neill having done something in violation of the 
sanctuary rights of the monastery of Tallaght near 
Dublin, the monastic authorities placed the Assembly 
under an interdict. The high-king nevertheless pro- 
ceeded to hold it. He was Aedh Oirdnidhe, king of 
Ailech ; and so we see that whether the monarch 
had his domestic realm in Meath or in the far North, 
it was equally his custom to- preside over this Assem- 
bly. He failed to hold the Assembly. In face of 


the ban " neither horse nor chariot came thither." 
And the violated sanctuary of Tallaght received 
reparation after this in the form of many gifts. 

In 827, the Assembly was broken up " against the 
Gailings ' by the high-king Conchobor. The ex- 
planation of this event is possibly that the high- 
king failed to hold the Assembly, being preoccupied 
with the hostile activities of the Norsemen who in 
that year were plundering, burning and wasting the 
Bregian seaboard, not far from Taillte ; also with 
the equally troublesome activities of Feidlimid, king 
of Cashel, about whom there is more to be said. 
The Gailings, whose territory lay close by, were 
loth to be deprived of the customary celebration, 
and attempted to hold the Assembly on their own 
account, but were forcibly prevented by the high- 

In 831, the annals record a disturbance in the 
courts of the Assembly, owing to some dispute re- 
garding reliquaries of St. Patrick and St. MacCuilinn 
of Lusk, the reliquaries no doubt being brought 
there for the purpose of administering oaths in 

Let it not be thought that the silence of the 
annals in other years is compatible with the absence 
of the unrecorded event. The entry of the year 
873 puts this possibility out of question. It says : 
" The Assembly of Taillte is not held, in the absence 
of just and worthy cause, a thing which we have not 
heard to have befallen from ancient times." Never- 
theless, that there was sufficient cause in the dis- 
turbed condition of the country owing to the Norse 


wars is made evident, for the chronicler has to record 
the abandonment of the Assembly three years later, 
in 876, when again he denies a just and worthy 
cause ; and again in the second year after that, in 
878, without just and worthy cause. When we 
come to 888, we are told only that the Assembly 
fell through. This is repeated in 889, and then, 
when the failure to hold the Assembly becomes 
annual and, so to speak, normal, the annalist ceases 
to record it. The next we hear of this institution 
is in 916, and once more it is the unwonted thing 
that is chronicled. In that year, the Assembly of 
Taillte was restored by the high-king, Niall Glun- 
dubh. Hence it would appear that the half-century 
preceding 916 was the period during which the 
disturbance of normal conditions in Ireland reached 
its maximum ; and this is also the period of maxi- 
mum activity for the Norsemen in neighbouring 

Aedh Finnliath died in the monastery of Dro- 
miskin in 879. Dromiskin is in Co. Louth, near 
the seacoast, and the fact that it was there the 
high-king " fell asleep," i.e. died a peaceful death 
in religious retirement, testifies to his success in 
checking the menace of the Norsemen in northern 
Ireland. He was succeeded in the monarchy, ac- 
cording to the custom of alternation, by Flann Sinna, 
king of Meath. 

In the meantime, the power of the kings of Cashel 
continued to increase. It is a remarkable thing that 
at least four kings of Cashel during this period 
were ecclesiastics. These were 'Olchobor, who died 


in 796, a scribe and a bishop ; Feidlimid, who 
reigned from 820 to 847, described in his obit as 
" scribe and anchorite," but in an earlier annal he is 
mentioned as carrying his crozier to battle ; Cormac, 
the learned bishop, who fell in battle in 908 ; and 
Flaithbertach, the chief cause of Cormac's tragedy, 
who was abbot of Inis Cathaigh, afterwards became 
king of Cashel, abdicated or was deposed, and died 
in 944. The career of Feidlimid reads like that of a 
Heathen king of Norsemen. There are some church- 
men who stand upon the letter of the law, and con- 
sider themselves thereby entitled to do things that 
are hard to reconcile with the spirit. Feidlimid 
began his reign by proclaiming the Law of Patrick 
over Munster, i.e. by enforcing there the primatial 
claims of Armagh. In the same year he burned the 
monastery of Gallen, a foundation of the Britons in 
the west of Meath, destroying all its dwelling places 
and its oratory. Three years later, in 826, he led 
the army of Munster into the same district and 
wasted it. In 827 the king of Ireland, Conchobor, 
met him in convention at Birr ; this indicating that 
the two kings were on terms of equality. In 830, 
he was again burning and wasting over his borders 
in Meath and Connacht. In 831, he appeared at 
the head of an army of Munster and Leinster 
in Bregia. In 833, he attacked Clonmacnois, 
slaughtered its monks and burned its termon-lands 
up to the church gates ; then handled the mon- 
astery of Durrow in the same fashion. In 836, he 
attacked Kildare, then a purely ecclesiastical and 
monastic settlement, and finding the abbot and 


other dignitaries of Armagh there on visitation, he 
carried them off as captives, no doubt holding them 
to ransom. Next year he again invaded Connacht, 
and in 838 another king of Ireland met him in con- 
vention at Cloncurry, and doubtless came to terms 
with him ; in 840 he attacked Meath, Bregia, and 
Connacht, and exacted the hostages of Connacht ; 
in 841, the year in which the Norsemen established 
themselves at Dublin, Feidlimid with his army 
encamped on Tara. This, along with his taking the 
hostages of Connacht, shows that his aim was to 
secure the high-kingship. In the same year he 
marched to Carman, near Mullaghmast ; Carman was 
the assembly-place of the kings of Leinster, and 
Feidlimid no doubt wished to preside and so assert 
his sovereignty over Leinster. This time, however, 
he overstretched his power. The reigning high-king, 
Niall, came in force against him and drove him out, 
and a poem on this event says that in his flight the 
vigil-keeping Feidlimid left his crozier behind. After 
this check, he is not further heard of until his death 
in 847. In his obit he is called by the northern 
chronicler " optimus Scottorum," the best man of 
the Irish. His reign exhibits the high-water mark 
of the power of the Eoghanacht kings of Munster. 

After 500 years of undisputed sovereignty in 
Munster, the Eoghanacht dynasty of Cashel reached 
a turning point in the battle of Belach Mugna in 908. 
In that year, urged on by Flaithbertach, abbot of 
Inis Cathaigh, an eligible prince and afterwards king 
of Cashel, king Cormac, the bishop, invaded Leinster. 
The high-kings of the line of Niall regarded the 


Leinster kings as their own choice vassals and 
jealously reserved to themselves the privilege of 
exacting homage and tribute from Leinster. We 
have seen how a high-king allowed a king of Cashel 
to plunder and harry in Connacht and Meath, and 
interfered with effect only when the Assembly of 
Carman and the sovereignty of Leinster were involved. 
So it befel with Cormac. Advancing through Ossory 
he compelled the king of Ossory to join forces with 
him, and crossing the Barrow they were confronted 
by the Leinster king and his army. They encamped 
for the night, prepared to do battle on the morrow. 
Flann Sinna, the high-king, must have been well 
warned, for when the morning came, the Munster 
army found not only the Leinstermen against thern 
in front, but the high-king and the king of Connacht 
coming upon their left flank. The king of Ossory 
attempted to retreat but was cut off and killed. 
The battle became a rout. King Cormac was un- 
horsed and beheaded. Two Munster abbots fell in 
the slaughter. The abbot of Inis Cathaigh escaped. 
A graphic account of this expedition, with all the 
appearance of authentic detail, is found in a book of 
annals apparently compiled at Durrow in Ossory. 
The memory of King Cormac was held afterwards 
in great veneration. To him is ascribed the com- 
pilation of the Irish glossary that bears his name, 
also of the Psalter of Cashel and the Book of Rights. 
The Psalter of Cashel survives only in excerpts and 
quotations, and to judge from these it was a collec- 
tion of historical and genealogical matter. Of the 
Book of Rights, Professor Ridgeway once said to 


me that it was the most remarkable state document 
produced by any European country outside of the 
Byzantime empire in that age. We must consider 
its character and content on a later occasion. 

This tragic battle, fought in the year 908, ended 
the long-established prestige of the Cashel dynasty. 
Six years afterwards, in 914, the Norsemen took 
possession of Waterford without opposition ; and 
still six years later, in 920, they took possession of 
Limerick. Until these years, they had gained no 
foothold on the land of Munster. Another result of 
the weakening of the Eoghanacht power was the 
rapid rise of the Dalcassian kings. 

Closely connected with the events of this time, a 
thousand years ago, was the remarkable story of 
Queen Gormlaith. She was daughter of the king 
of Ireland, Flann Sinna. Apparently she had been 
betrothed to Cormac, king of Cashel. He having 
become an ecclesiastic, Gormlaith was given in 
marriage to Cearbhall, king of Leinster, the same 
Cearbhall, victor over Cormac at Belach Mugna, to 
whose sword an ode written by a Leinster poet is 
preserved in the Book of Leinster. The Ossory 
collection of annals, which differs from the ordinary 
chronicles in expanding into narrative, tells that 
Cearbhall, wounded in the battle, lay long a-healing, 
and that once, as the queen sat on the couch at his 
feet, he boasted rudely over the death of Cormac. 
Gormlaith reproached him for his disrespect to the 
memory of so good a king. Her husband, remember- 
ing that she had been promised wife to Cormac, 
became enraged, and with his foot cast the queen 


from the couch to the floor. Thus affronted in the 
presence of others, Gormlaith left her husband and 
went back to her father. Flann refused to receive 
her, not desiring a quarrel with the king of Leinster. 
Gormlaith then sought protection from Niall Glun- 
dubh, king of Ailech. Cearbhall died of his wounds 
the year after the battle, and Niall married Gorm- 
laith. On the death of Flann in 916, Niall became 
king of Ireland. 

I have shown that the annals are a record of ab- 
normal rather than of normal matters. Another 
character of the annals is that they are in the main 
an aristocratic and personal record, having chief 
regard to great personages in Church and State and 
to the personal aspect of events as they concerned 
these magnates. A good exemplification of this 
feature of the annals is shown in the record of king 
Flann's death. It says : " Flann, son of Mael 
Sechnaill, king of Tara, who reigned thirty-six years, 
six months, and five days, died in the sixty-eighth 
year of his age, on Saturday, the 25th of May, about 
the hour of 1 p.m." So Gormlaith, daughter of a 
king of Ireland, chosen to be queen of Munster, 
became queen of Leinster, then queen of Ailech, and 
lastly queen of Ireland. There is an old poem which 
represents her standing by the grave of her husband 
Niall and commanding a monk not to set his foot 
upon that clay. She died in religious retirement in 
948, forty years after the battle of Belach Mugna. 

In the first year of his reign as king of Ireland, 
916, Niall Glundubh, as already told, restored the 
Assembly of Taillte. In the following year, 917, he 


marched against the Norsemen of Waterford. They 
came out to meet him. An indecisive action was 
fought. Then both armies fortified themselves in 
the field, anticipating the modern manner of warfare, 
and remained thus face to face for three weeks. 
Niall meanwhile sent to the king of Leinster request- 
ing him to attack the Norsemen from that side. The 
Norsemen, however, did not wait for this attack. 
Keeping enough force to hold their position against 
Niall, they sent their main body to meet the Leinster- 
men, whom they completely defeated. The place of 
this encounter is named Cenn Fuait, and was ab- 
surdly identified by O'Donovan with Confey in Co. 
Kildare, apparently on the principle that there is 
an M in Macedon and also in Monmouth. The battle 
must have taken place close to Waterford Harbour 
on the Leinster side. Other editors of the annals 
content themselves with repeating O'Donovan's con- 
jecture as authentic. After this failure, Niall with- 
drew, and the Norsemen held Waterford from that 
time until the Norman invasion. 

Next year 918, Niall opened war on the Norsemen 
of Dublin. That is just 1000 years ago. The follow- 
ing year, 919, he led an army against Dublin. The 
Norsemen met him on the north bank of the Liffey 
at Islandbridge. Niall was defeated and mortally 
wounded. This battle is sometimes called the battle 
of Dublin, sometimes the battle of Cell-mo-Shamhog, 
from a church in the vicinity The latter name 
furnished O'Donovan with the occasion for another 
conjectural identification, which other editors have 
blindly followed. He made Cell-mo-Shamhog to be 


the same as Kilmashogue, six or seven miles from 
Dublin on the south side and among the hills. A 
little reflection would have assured these editors 
that, just as a Leinster army coming to the relief of 
an army near Waterford was not likely to encounter 
the Norse of Waterford in the north of Leinster, so 
also an army from northern Ireland was not likely 
to meet the Norsemen of Dublin in the mountains 
to the south of Dublin. For the full identification 
of the battle site, the student may refer to the name 
Cell Mo Shamoc in Father Hogan's Onomasticon. 

From Niall Glundubh the O'Neills of Tyrone de- 
rive their surname and descent. 

The Norsemen were now no longer the ferocious 
heathens of their earlier record. Most of them had 
adopted Christianity. Intermarriages between them 
and the Irish were quite frequent. Their towns 
soon developed into trading communities, though it 
is clear enough from Norse documents that a Norse 
trading ship went to sea well prepared to make 
gains by less patient methods than buying and 
selling. Wexford seems to have been pre-eminently 
a trading settlement, and the first part taken by 
the Wexford Norsemen in Irish wars was apparently 
the defence of their town against the Anglo-Normans. 
With their Irish neighbours they lived in peace and 
security. In the tenth century the Norse settle- 
ments in Ireland became part of the Irish body 
politic, and if they went to war in Ireland, as often 
as not, it was in alliance with one Irish king against 
another. There were still incursions of the Norse- 
men of outlying parts, the Isle of Man, Galloway, 


the Hebrides, etc., and in Ireland the struggle takes 
the form of resistance to these invaders, under a 
number of leaders of note. One of these leaders, 
Cellachan of Cashel, king of Munster, has a saga all 
to himself, but I think the story contains more 
than history. Some of its striking events, which we 
might expect to find recorded in the chronicles, find 
no place in them. However that may be, Cellachan's 
activity against the Norsemen is the last glory of the 
Cashel dynasty, the flame that shoots up from the 
candlestick before the candle goes out. Already the 
Dalcassian line was preparing to take the place of 
the declining Eoghanacht power in Munster. In 
the year 944, the father of Brian Boramha, Cennetig, 
king of Dal gCais, with the title of king of Thomond 
or North Munster, gave battle to Cellachan, but was 
defeated. Brian was born in 941, three years before 
this battle. Cellachan died in 954. 

In northern Ireland at this time the head of 
resistance to the Norsemen was Muirchertach, son of 
the high-king Niall Glundubh who fell in the battle 
of Dublin. A list of his victories is given, a century 
after his time, by the poet-historian Flann of 
Monasterboice. Among them is mentioned an ex- 
pedition by sea against the Norsemen of the Hebrides 
— it is also mentioned in the genealogies but not in 
the contemporary annals. The annals on the other 
hand record that in 939 Muirchertach was captured 
in Ailech and carried off by the Norsemen to their 
ships but was immediately ransomed. The event 
shows that Ailech, one of the great prehistoric stone 
fortresses, was still occupied in the tenth century by 


the kings who took their title from it. Especially 
interesting in Muirchertach's career are his relations 
with the high king Donnchadh. In the ordinary- 
course of the alternate succession, Muirchertach, as 
king of Ailech, was the designated successor in the 
high-kingship to Donnchadh, who was king of Meath. 
At times he appears prepared to dispute the authority 
of Donnchadh, at other times he is active in up- 
holding it. His most remarkable action is what is 
known as his Circuit of Ireland, in 941, briefly noticed 
in the Annals but described at length in a poem by 
Cormacan 'Eces, who accompanied the expedition. 
With a picked force, said to number 1000, Muircher- 
tach marched through all the principal kingdoms of 
Ireland, and exacted hostages from each king. In 
Cashel, he took the king himself, Cellachan, as a 
hostage. The Dalcassians alone stood off, and after 
four days marching here and there in their territory, 
Muirchertach passed on to Connacht without the 
hostages of Dal gCais. 

The fact of this expedition illustrates what I have 
already said, that, from the sixth to the thirteenth 
century, there was no military organisation in Ire- 
land. The hostages were brought to Ailech and 
there hospitably entertained by the king and queen 
for some weeks, after which Muirchertach, so to 
speak, regularised his position in the matter by 
handing over all the hostages to the high king 

Two years later, in 943, Muirchertach fell in battle 
with the Norsemen near Dundalk. The high king 
Donnchadh died in the following year, 944. In the 


ordinary course of the alternate succession, he should 
have been succeeded by the king of Ailech, but 
Muirchertach's death left this kingship either dis- 
puted or divided, and the high-kingship was assumed 
by Congalach, king of Bregia, who reigned for twelve 
years and fell in battle with the Norsemen. This 
reign of Congalach is the only breach in the alternate 
monarchy between the years 734 and 1002. 

The kingdom of Dal gCais occupied the eastern 
half of the present county of Clare. Its prominence 
dates from the time of Lorcan, grandfather of Brian. 
Being a border state, it was able to form relations 
of mutual advantage with the border states of 
Connacht, with Aidne, Ui Maine, and the Delbna. 
In the wars between Mathgamain and the Limerick 
Norsemen, the Delbna were his allies. The kings of 
Aidne and Ui Maine, Connacht states, were allies 
of Brian, and gave their lives, as he did, on the great 
day of Clontarf. 

The killing of Mathgamain in 976 appears in later 
writings in a more odious light than it could have 
appeared to contemporaries. We can recognise that 
the ancient Eoghanacht dynasty of Cashel, which 
Mathgamain overthrew, had already lost its prestige 
and was no longer able to rule and protect Munster. 
It has always happened in the world's history, and 
is probably happening to-day, that institutions and 
established powers appear to contemporary people to 
be full of vigour and likely to last, whereas to people 
of a later time it is clear that they resembled the 
hollow tree awaiting the blast that was to lay it 
low. To the Eoghanacht princes who compassed the 


death of Mathgamain, he was the successful usurper 
who had broken into the ancient right of their 
kindred and held it by the strong hand. 

With regard to Brian, there are some noteworthy 
things to be said which even enthusiastic eulogists 
have ignored. Brian had one or two ideas which, 
in the Ireland of his time, were revolutionary. He 
had the idea of a more centralised authority than 
any Irish king in history before him had attempted 
to create. To this end, he designed holding in 
permanent garrison a number of fortified places in 
various parts of Munster. This design is clearly 
expressed in a poem added in his time, and no doubt 
under his direction, to the Book of Rights ; and the 
annals show that he endeavoured to give effect 
to it. 

Brian had also definite notions on the subject of 
what in our time is called sovereign independence. 
This is one of many matters about which we must 
be on our guard against thinking the present back 
into the past — an obvious precaution yet one which 
many writers on Irish history have neglected. It 
can be shown, and it would have interested Professor 
Bury had he known it, that from the earliest Irish 
chronicle, from the sixth century, down to the 
eleventh or twelfth century, the dominant idea in 
Ireland with regard to international relations was 
this — that as in Ireland there were many little States 
and over them all, in primacy rather than in operative 
authority, there was a chief king, the monarch of 
Ireland, so in the world there were many kingdoms 
and over all these a chief king whom Irish writers 


called the king of the world. This idea was adopted 
from Latin historians, especially from St. Jerome 
and Orosius. In our earliest histories, the emperor 
reigning at Constantinople was regarded as king of 
the world. A metrical list of the kings of the world 
from Noah's Flood down to the eighth century was 
written by the poet-historian Flann of Monasterboice, 
who died in 1056. The prevalence of this idea pro- 
bably facilitated Henry of Anjou in obtaining the 
submission of the Irish princes. The annals, in 
relating Henry's arrival in Ireland in 1171 and his 
departure in 1172, say nothing about the papal 
grant, but describe Henry as " the son of the Em- 
press." The same idea lingered in western Europe 
down to the time of the emperor Charles V, and was 
the cause of no small anxiety to the mind of Henry 
VIII, with all his bluffness. Nevertheless, it was 
very much shaken and confused by the creation 
of the Western Empire under Charlemagne. That 
made two kings of the world. If two why not more ? 
About the year 1000, under Brian, that portion of 
the Book of Rights which concerns Munster was re- 
written, and we have now the new version side by 
side with the old one. The new poem on the rights 
of the king of Cashel asserts that Cashel is subject to 
no king in Ireland but its own. But what about the 
king of the world ? On that point the old idea still 
holds. This is what the poem says : 

Cashel overheadeth every head 
Except Patrick and the King of the Stars, 
The high-king of the world and the Son of God 
To these alone is due its homage. 


But a few years later when Brian was king, not only 
of Cashel but of all Ireland, his view about the high- 
king of the world, the Emperor — eastern or western 
— had undergone a change. He recognised the 
spiritual primacy of Armagh, and when he visited 
Armagh, which now holds his dust, he offered a 
tribute of twenty ounces of gold. The Book of 
Armagh was displayed to him, and in his presence 
his official historian wrote in Latin these words, 
which are still upon the page : 

" I Mael Suthain write this in the presence of 
Brian, Emperor of the Irish." 

This title, " emperor of the Irish," is not a mere 
high-sounding epithet. It means that, as Basil was 
then supreme temporal ruler in the East and 
Henry of Bavaria in the West, so was Brian in 
this island. 

Another trait in Brian's policy was his avoidance 
of battle when, by delay or otherwise, he could 
hope to establish his authority. In 1001, when 
Brian's aim at supremacy was clear to the high 
king Mael Sechlainn, the latter prepared to resist 
with the effective co-operation of the king of Con- 
nacht, and to this end built a new causeway of 
stone across the Shannon at Athlone. Brian's first 
move the following year was to occupy Athlone 
and prevent co-operation ; and it was at Athlone 
that he received the submission of both kings. Year 
after year he led his army into the North to obtain 
the submission of the northern states ; and when 
he was opposed in force he retired without battle, 
until at length it became evident that he had the 


power to enforce submission and the northern 
hostages were yielded to him in peace. 

Some writers have been at pains to argue that 
the popular view of the battle of Clontarf as a 
national victory over foreigners is a delusion ; and 
would have it that this battle was either a mere 
incident in the domestic wars of Ireland or was 
rather a struggle between the forces of Christianity 
and Heathendom. It is enough to say that the 
Norse sagas regard the battle as the Irish popular 
view regards it — a contest between Irishmen and 
Norsemen about the sovereignty of Ireland. The 
kingdom of Ireland was the prize which king Sigtrygg 
of Dublin offered to Earl Sigurd of the Orkneys. It 
was to win Ireland that the Norsemen came from 
distant Iceland and from Normandy ; and the Norse 
poet who tells of the event says, " Brian fell but 
saved his kingdom." " This Brian," too, says the 
Norse account, " was the best of kings." 

If the battle of Clontarf ended the prospect of a 
Norse conquest, it brought no advantage to the 
internal peace of Ireland. The effect of Brian's 
assumption of the monarchy is visible. The year 
after the battle, Flaithbertach Ua Neill, king of 
Ailech, came southward with his hosting, plainly 
with the aim of restoring the alternate succession, 
under which he would become next king of Ireland 
after Mael Sechnaill. Mael Sechnaill resumed the 
high-kingship and held it until his death in 1022. 
The king of Ailech seems then to have made no at- 
tempt to assert his claim to the high-kingship ; and 
for half a century afterwards no high-king is recog- 


nised. Towards the end of the century, the monarchy- 
is restored, going now always to the strong hand — 
two O'Briens from Thomond, two O'Conors from 
Connacht, and two O'Lochlainns from Tyrone ; an 
irregular hegemony, without even the semblance of 
an institution. 

The Icelandic saga of Burnt Njal shows us in 
the most vivid possible way how great a shock 
Clontarf sent through the Norse world. The battle, 
it tells us, was accompanied or followed by ap- 
paritions and dreadful portents seen in the Hebrides, 
in the Orkneys, in the Faroe islands, and in distant 
Iceland. In truth a victory for Earl Sigurd might 
have been, as his defeat must have been, a decisive 
event in European history. The Norse of Dublin 
were comparatively not much affected. They main- 
tained their alliance with Leinster. Three years 
after the battle, these confederates are again seen 
on the offensive, invading Bregia, and their joint 
forces sustain a heavy defeat from Mael Sechnaill. 

Though a close intercourse was maintained with 
Norsemen in other countries, the colonies of Dublin, 
Wexford, Waterford and Limerick became a domestic 
factor in the life of Ireland. Intermarriage with the 
Irish was quite common. We find Norse names in 
Irish families and Irish names in Norse families, and 
a considerable vocabulary of Norse words became at 
home in the Irish language. A new element, the 
commercial life of towns, was introduced by these 



THE Book of Rights divides Ireland into a little 
more than a hundred petty states (owing to 
certain peculiarities of treatment, the number 
cannot be stated definitely.) These are arranged in 
seven groups, with an over-king at the head of each 
group. The principal matter of the book is to 
define certain relations between the over-king of 
each group and the petty kings under him. All 
this is told in verse. The plan of the book is to 
allot two poems to each of the over-kingdoms or 
groups of states. One of the two poems relates the 
tributes payable by the petty states to the over-king 
at the head of the group. The other poem relates 
the customary gifts given by the over-king to the 
petty kings. Great importance was attached to this 
giving and receiving of gifts, and the significance of 
the gifts is clearly expressed in their Irish name, 
tuarastal. The meaning of this word, which is still 
in familiar use, is wages. The gifts then were not 
favours. The acceptance of them was an act of 
homage. The king who accepted tuarastal from 
another king acknowledged himself to be that other 
king's man, to be, so to speak, in his pay — if only 
in a figurative or ceremonial sense. 

Not all the petty states were subject to tribute. 

When the dynasty of a petty state was a branch of 



the over-king's dynasty, no tribute was due. In 
Munster, for example, there were various petty 
states whose rulers were of the Eoghanacht lineage. 
These paid no tribute to the king of Cashel, who 
was also of Eoghanacht lineage. The other states 
were tributary. This exemption from tribute and 
liability to tribute goes back to an ancient state of 
conquest, but of conquest during the Celtic period. 
The citizens of the tributary states were freemen, 
whereas the people of the older communities of pre- 
Celtic origin were, at least in theory, unfree. This 
does not mean that they were slaves. The status 
of the unfree communities, roundly speaking, was 
similar to that of the natives of British India at 
present ; and the status of a tributary state would 
be comparable to that of a country possessing self- 
government but subject to what is called an im- 
perial contribution;, The non-tributary states might 
be compared to the existing autonomous dominions 
of the British Empire. There were distinct names 
for each class. Non-tributary states were called 
saor-tkuatha, " free states " ; tributary states were 
called fortuatha, which means " alien states " ; un- 
free communities were called daor-tbuatha, which 
we might translate " vassal-states " — and they were 
also called aithech-thuatha, " rent paying states." 
Each free or tributary state had a distinct territory, 
but the unfree communities were not bounded by the 
territorial bounds of the others. They might over- 
lap the bounds of two or more States, and some of 
them were broken into separate groups distributed 
here and there over a very wide area. 


The compilation of the Book of Rights is ascribed 
to two writers, Selbach and Oengus, acting under 
the authority of Cormac mac Cuilennain, king of 
Munster. Cormac reigned from 901 to 908. As 
O'Donovan has shown, the Book received certain 
amplifications under a king of Munster who claimed 
to be, or aimed to make himself, king of Ireland ; 
and O'Donovan properly argues that this king could 
only be Brian Boramha. Moreover I think that 
there are fairly clear indications of the year 1000 
or 1001 as the date of these amplifications. 

The Book of Rights was edited by O'Donovan 
and published in 1847 by the Celtic Society. The 
Council and officers of this society, whose names 
follow the title page, form a list which shows a 
greater interest in Irish historical studies at that time 
than in our time among Irishmen of high standing 
in learning and politics. The names include those 
of Sir Aubrey de Vere, Sir Robert Kane, William 
Monsell, William Smith O'Brien, Daniel O'Connell, 
Dr. Renehan, president of Maynooth College, Thomas 
Hutton, Sir Colman O'Loghlen, Michael Joseph 
Barry, Dr. Crolly, Charles Gavan Duffy, Samuel 
Ferguson, Dr. Graves, James Hardiman, William 
Elliott Hudson, Dr. Matthew Kelly, Joseph Sheridan 
Le Fanu, William Torrens McCullagh, John Mitchel, 
Thomas O'Hagan, John Edward Pigot, Sir William 
Wilde, Dr. Madden, and Thomas Francis Meagher. 
The edition belongs to O'Donovan's early work. A 
new edition is very much to be desired, with a 
critical treatment of the text and more accurate 
notes, taking advantage of the great increase of 


-i i 

philological, historical and topographical knowledge 
accumulated during the seventy years that have 
passed since this first and only edition was brought 

I think it likely that only the section relating to 
Munster was drawn up in Cashel ; that this section 
was circulated as a model ; and that each of the 
other sections was drawn up on this model by writers 
on behalf of the other principal kings. For example, 
in the Connacht section, the tributes are said to be 
brought " hither," a fairly definite indication that 
the writer belonged to the personal surrounding of 
the king of Connacht. 

The over-kings in the Book of Rights are the 
kings of (i) Cashel, (2) Cruachain, (3) Ailech, (4) 
Oriel, (5) Ulaidh, (6) Tara, (7) Leinster. In the 
section for Oriel, the statement of tributes is wanting. 
Its absence is probably not accidental. The kings 
of Ailech from the fifth century onward kept steadily 
extending their power eastward and southward, en- 
croaching on the domain of the kings of Oriel. 
Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital, was in Oriel, and 
one can clearly trace throughout a long period of 
time a definite policy, on the part of the Ailech 
dynasty, of bringing and keeping Armagh within 
their sphere of influence. The natural resistance of 
the kings of Oriel appears to have been broken down 
by their defeat in 827, in the battle of Leth Camm, 
at the hands of Niall Caillc, king of Ailech and 
afterwards king of Ireland. According to an old 
tract, from this time forward, the kings of Oriel 
became tributary to Ailech. This would explain 


the omission from the Book of Rights, drawn up 
about eighty years later, of a list of tributes payable 
to the over-kings of Oriel. 

In the tenth century we find the kings of Ailech 
still inhabiting Ailech. In the eleventh century, the 
name of their domestic territory, Tir Eoghain, has 
been transferred from the district of Ailech to that 
which now bears the name, " Tyrone," which was 
formerly the central part of the kingdom of Oriel. 
I have not been able to determine how or at what 
time the old Tir Eoghain, now called Inis Eoghain, 
containing the fortress of Ailech, passed into the 
dominion of the kings of Tir Conaill. With regard 
to Oriel, there is one point to be carefully noted. 
In the early documents of the Anglo-Norman regime, 
we find the name Oriel used to comprise the present 
county of Louth, which is called the English Oriel, 
being occupied by feudal grantees. Only a very 
small fraction of the county belonged to the Irish 
kingdom of Oriel ; but a few years before Strong- 
bow's invasion, Donnchadh O'Cearbhaill, king of 
Oriel, extended his dominion southward to the 
Boyne. It was he who, in exercise of this extended 
dominion, granted the lands of Mellifont to the 
Cistercians. This recent occupation caused the 
feudal newcomers to extend the name Oriel to the 
whole region between Oriel and the Boyne. This 
nomenclature may well hold good for documents 
of the feudal regime — but we find it used to import 
error and confusion into quite a different class of 
documents. For example, the editor of the Annals 
of Ulster, in his index, says that Oirghialla comprises 


the county of Louth, though the name is not used in 
that sense before the fifteenth century ; and he 
omits to say that in the early annals Oriel com- 
prises Tyrone and the larger part of County Derry. 

This method of treatment is unfortunately typical 
of the manner in which the sources of Irish history 
have been presented in publication. It is not mere 
anachronism. The underlying principle is that what 
is true of one period is true of the whole range of 
time covered by Irish records. When we find sym- 
pathetic editors of these records obsessed by such a 
view, we are still more inclined, in the case of anti- 
pathetic writers, to content ourselves with the judg- 
ment recorded by Columbanus — to deem them 
worthy of indulgence rather than of ridicule. 

The tenth and eleventh centuries produced a 
school of Irish historians whose chief work was to 
reduce the old miscellaneous matter of tradition to 
unity and sequence. It would have been well if 
they had been satisfied with so much, but they went 
farther. In dealing with the pre-Christian period, 
they tampered with tradition in two ways. Where 
they found definite elements of heathenism, they 
either cut these out or furbished them in a guise 
which they considered consonant with Christian 
belief ; and this can be shown to have been done 
consciously and deliberately. They also took a free 
hand in devising a system of chronology for events 
that had no chronology. On this point, they did not 
all act together, and so, for such epochs as the Gaelic 
invasion, we have six or seven different dates varying 
from the fourth to the eighteenth century b.c. Not- 


withstanding these defects in their work, the 
historians of this period acquired in later times a 
degree of authority that stood up as a barrier in 
front of the past. Their highly artificial treatment 
was vested with all the sanctity of veritable tra- 
dition. The main work that has now to be done by 
students of Irish antiquity is to get behind this 
barrier and bring into the light the abundant remains 
of older tradition that are extant. 

I have said that, in the minds of the scattered 
Norse community, the battle of Clontarf broke the 
victorious prestige of their race. It happened at a 
critical moment, for in the year before it, in 1013, 
the Danish conquest of England had been com- 
pleted, and all England had submitted to the rule of 
Sveinn, king of Denmark. Nearly a century later, 
king Magnus of Norway endeavoured to restore the 
empire of the Norsemen. He succeeded in bringing 
under his authority all the Scottish islands, Caithness, 
part of Argyle, and the Isle of Man. Once more, 
Ireland shaped the course of history. In 1102, 
Magnus, then in the Isle of Man, sent an embassy 
to Ireland threatening war, and no doubt demand- 
ing tribute. Muirchertach O'Briain, then king of 
Ireland, obtained a year's truce. About the same 
time, Muirchertach made peace for a year with 
Domhnall MacLochlainn, king of Tyrone, who op- 
posed his claim to the high-kingship. Next year, 
1 103, Muirchertach marched against Domhnall, but 
was defeated in the neighbourhood of Banbridge. 
About the same time, and probably taking ad- 
vantage of this internal conflict. Magnus made a 


landing on the Ulster coast, but was cut off and fell 
in the fight. With his fall, the prospect of a Norse 
empire came to an end. 

The weakening of the Norse power at Clontarf 
restored in some measure the freedom of the seas. 
During the Norse wars, the old missionary movement 
from Ireland to the Continent became a refugee 
movement. Afterwards we see abundant evidence 
of a freer intercourse. For example, the annals 
record frequent pilgrimages of Irish kings to Rome, 
beginning with the pilgrimage of Flaithbertach O'Neill 
in 1028. During the Norse wars, the condition of 
the Church in Ireland had not improved. We read 
strange things in newspapers, and no doubt Provi- 
dence works in strange ways, but the fact remains 
that war in itself is the negation of moral and spiritual 
force. St. Bernard tells us something about the con- 
dition of part of Ireland, as described to him by St. 
Malachy and his companions who visited him at 
Clairvaux in 1 1 39. The description refers to my 
native district, the diocese of Connor, the time 11 24, 
when St. Malachy was sent there as bishop. " He 
discovered," says St. Bernard, " that it was not to 
men but to beasts he had been sent ; in all the 
barbarism which he had yet encountered, he had 
never met such a people, so profligate in their morals, 
so uncouth in their ceremonies, so impious in faith, 
so barbarous in laws, so rebellious to discipline, so 
filthy in their life, Christians in name but Pagans in 
reality. They neither paid first fruits nor tithes, 
nor contracted marriage legitimately, nor made their 
confessions." There were few clergy and those few 


but little employed. In the churches neither preach- 
ing nor chanting was heard. All this is the language 
of pious reprobation. In that age, adherence to 
local custom as against the general practice of the 
Church was often denounced as impious. And we 
are told that within eight years, before St. Malachy 
was transferred from Connor to Armagh, ' their 
obduracy yielded, their barbarism was softened, and 
the exasperating family began to be more tractable, 
to receive correction by degrees, and to embrace 
discipline. Barbarous laws were abrogated, the 
Roman laws (i.e. of the Church) were introduced, the 
customs of the Church were everywhere admitted 
and contrary customs abolished. Churches were 
rebuilt and supplied with priests. The rites of the 
sacraments were duly administered, confession was 
practised, the people attended the church, and 
concubinage was suppressed by the solemnisation of 
marriage. In a word, so completely were all things 
changed for the better that you can apply to that 
people now what the Lord said by his prophet — 
' They who were not my people are now my people.' 

The writer of these words, Bernard of Clairvaux, 
was the most outstanding figure in Christendom at 
that time. Popes and emperors, kings and peoples, 
waited upon his word. His abbey of Clairvaux 
became in his time alone the parent of a hundred 
and sixty Cistercian foundations in many lands, 
among the rest in Ireland. Bernard gloried in the 
acquaintance and friendship of the Irishman Malachy. 
" To me also in this life," he writes, " it was given 
to see this man. In his look and word I was re- 


freshed, and I rejoiced as in all manner of riches." 
After some years, Malachy once more visited Bernard 
at Clairvaux and died there peacefully in the presence 
of Bernard on All Souls' Day, 1148. St. Bernard 
wrote afterwards a life of his Irish friend, partly 
from what he learned from him and his companions 
and partly from an account sent to him from Ireland 
by the abbot Comgan. This life is extant, as also 
are two discourses by St. Bernard, one delivered at 
St. Malachy's funeral, the other at a later anniversary 
celebration. There are also extant two letters written 
by St. Bernard to St. Malachy regarding the founda- 
tion of Mellifont, in which both had part, and a letter 
from St. Bernard to the Cistercians of Mellifont giving 
them an account of St. Malachy's death. I mention 
these details to exemplify the close and frequent 
intercourse between Ireland and the Continent in the 
period preceding the Norman invasion of Ireland. 
Many other evidences could be cited to the same 

From this intercourse, there arose a strong desire 
to bring about a closer conformity between the 
Church in Ireland and on the Continent and to 
reform the abuses in morality and discipline that 
resulted from a long period of warfare and partial 
isolation. This movement for reform, it should be 
noted, came mainly from within, and the leading 
part in it was taken by Irishmen. One reforming 
synod succeeded another. The details may be found 
in works on Irish ecclesiastical history. Besides St. 
Malachy, may be noted the names of Cellach or 
Celsus, who came before him, and Gilla Maic Liac or 


Gelasius who came after him in the primacy ; of 
Gillebert, bishop of Limerick, whose work, " De 
Statu Ecclesiae," was written in the cause of ecclesi- 
astical reform ; of Flaithbertach O'Brolchain, abbot 
of Derry ; and Lorcan, St. Laurence, archbishop of 

Following the introduction of the Cistercian Order 
by St. Malachy, the Synod of Bri Maic Thaidg in 
1 158 undertook to reorganise the old Columban 
monasteries, uniting them in a single order, over 
which O'Brolchain, abbot of Derry, was appointed 
abbot-general. This abbot was a great builder. In 
rebuilding his monastery in Derry, he removed 
eighty houses — from this and from various items 
regarding Armagh, Kildare, etc., in the annals, we 
gather that these monastic and scholastic towns had 
a considerable population. The new buildings were 
of stone, for the abbot had an immense lime-kiln 
built, eighty feet square, to provide lime for their 

In the year 11 64, Sumarlidi, king of Argyle and 
the Hebrides, and the community of Iona sent an 
embassy to Derry to offer the abbacy of Iona to 
O'Brolchain, but the king of Ireland, O'Lochlainn, 
and his nobles, would not consent to his leaving 
Derry. The Norman invasion made an end of the 
attempt to organise the Columban monasteries. 

The Synod of Clane in 1162 ordered that in future 
only pupils, or as we should now say, graduates of 
Armagh, were to obtain the position of fer leiginn 
or chief professor in a school attached to any church 
in Ireland. This decree then was equivalent to a 


recognition of the school of Armagh as a national 
university for all Ireland. I recommend the fact 
to the notice of those writers who cherish the de- 
lusion that Irishmen in that age had no conception 
of nationality. In 11 69, the year of the Norman 
invasion, the king of Ireland, Ruaidhri O'Conchu- 
bhair, who lived in Connacht, established and en- 
dowed in Armagh a new professorship for the 
benefit of students from Ireland and Scotland. 

The position of fer leiginn is first noticed in the 
annals in the tenth century. This points to a new 
development in the schools of Ireland at that time. 
Four men holding this position are named in that 
century by the Annals of Ulster, and three of the 
four are in the school of Armagh. The fourth is in 
Slane. In the eleventh century, Kells and Monaster- 
boice have their fer leiginn. In Monasterboice that 
position was held by the poet-historian Flann, who 
belonged to the ruling family in that region, the 
Cianachta. In the twelfth century, there are notices 
of the fer leiginn in Kildare, Derry, Clonmacnois, 
Killaloe, Emly and Iona. The Norman Invasion 
brought ruin to all these schools. The last notice 
of the school or rather university of Armagh is in 
1 1 88. Three years before this, Philip of Worcester, 
king Henry's Justiciary, at the head of a great 
army, occupied Armagh for a week and plundered 
the clergy ; and Giraldus, who denounces this ex- 
ploit, says with a jibe, " he returned to Dublin 
without loss." 

We have seen how St. Bernard reports the strong 
terms used by the Irish reformers themselves in 


condemnation of the abuses they laboured to remove. 
It was this very language of pious reprobation that 
Henry II seized upon as furnishing the pretext for 
the commission he sought and obtained from his 
friend Pope Adrian to reform the Irish Church and 
people. I take it that the Laudabiliter is genuine. 
Without discussing all the arguments against its 
authenticity, but admitting that the heads of those 
arguments are made good, in my opinion neither any 
one of them nor all of them together suffice at all to 
discredit the document. In it, the Pope replies to 
a ■proposal made by Henry and states that proposal 
in these terms : " Laudably and profitably hath 
your magnificence conceived the design . . . you 
are intent on enlarging the borders of the Church, 
teaching the truth of the Christian faith to the 
ignorant and rude, exterminating the roots of vice 
from the field of the Lord, and, for the more con- 
venient execution of this purpose, requiring the 
counsel and favour of the Apostolic See. . . . You 
then, most dear son in Christ, have signified to us 
your desire, in order to reduce the people to obedience 
unto laws, and to extirpate the plants of vice . ." 
and so forth. The terms in which these good pur- 
poses are stated are merely an echo in brief of such 
words as those in which St. Bernard describes the 
reforms already effected by St. Malachy. 

Now let us compare what may be called the " war 
aims " of Henry, thus stated by him to Pope Adrian 
and approved by the Pope, with the actual measures 
adopted. The Synod of Cashel was convened at 
Henry's instance by Gilla Crist, bishop of Lismore 


and papal legate, and attended by most of the Irish 
prelates. Henry was represented by several high 
ecclesiastics whom he brought to Ireland. The 
decrees of the Synod were confirmed by Henry. 
They are therefore of the highest importance as de- 
termining what had to be done to " enlarge the 
bounds of the Church, to teach the truth of Christian 
faith to the ignorant and rude, and to extirpate the 
roots of vice from the field of the Lord." The 
provisions of the Synod number eight as related by 
Giraldus Cambrensis : 

The first decree forbids marriage within the degrees 
of kindred fixed by the law of the Church. The 
second requires children to receive catechetical in- 
struction outside of churches and to be baptised at 
fonts duly provided in the churches. The third 
commands all to pay tithes to their own parish 
churches. The fourth exempts Church property from 
temporal exactions. The fifth exempts the clergy 
from paying a share in the compensation for homi- 
cide, though of kindred to the guilty person. The 
sixth regulates the making of wills. The seventh 
prescribes the religious rites to be performed for 
those who die in peace with God. The eighth orders 
that the Church ritual in Ireland shall be the same 
as in England. 

That is all. Giraldus adds : " Indeed both the 
realm and Church of Ireland are indebted to this 
mighty king for whatever they enjoy of the blessings 
of peace and the growth of religion ; as before his 
coming to Ireland all sorts of wickedness had pre- 
vailed among this people for a long series of years, 


which now, by his authority and care of administra- 
tion, are abolished." No wonder indeed that our 
historian Keating names Giraldus the tarbh tana, 
the leading bull of the herd, of the long-stretched 
herd of historians, journalists, and zealous reformers 
of " all sorts of wickedness." Giraldus, however, was 
not entirely a partisan of false pretences. Years 
afterwards, when Henry was dead, he addresses his 
successor John, reminding him of his father's pledge 
to Pope Adrian, then also dead — the first pledge 
made by an English ruler in regard of Ireland, 
whereby, he says, Henry " secured the sanction of 
the highest earthly authority to an enterprise of 
such magnitude, involving the shedding of Christian 
blood." This pledge, he says, has not been kept. 
On the contrary, " the poor clergy in the island are 
reduced to beggary ; the cathedral churches, which 
were richly endowed with broad lands by the piety 
of the faithful in the olden times," and which, we 
may add, supported on these endowments the schools 
already mentioned, " now echo with lamentations for 
the loss of their possessions, of which they have been 
robbed by these men and others who came over 
with them or after them ; so that to uphold the 
Church is turned into spoiling and robbing it." 
Even the revenue, the Peter's Pence, promised by 
Henry to the Pope was not paid, and Giraldus pleads 
that it should be paid in future, " in order that some 
acknowledgment and propitiation may be made to 
God for this bloody conquest and the profits of it." 

And now, before considering further the character 
and effects of the Feudal conquests in Ireland, 


let us take a general view of the domestic polity 
of Ireland. 

In recent times, and only, I think, in recent times 
we find the whole of this domestic polity, or nearly 
the whole of it, summed up in one convenient phrase 
— the Clan System. This phrase is used by the 
ultra-patriotic just as freely and confidently as by 
those on the opposite edge — whatever we are to 
call them — those people who perform for Irish 
history the not unfruitful function of devil's advo- 
cate. The word system imparts a notion of some- 
thing arranged in a definite and perceptible order, 
and those who speak or write about the Clan System 
indicate thereby that they have some perception of 
this detailed and co-ordinated arrangement. But 
I do not know where any one of them has success- 
fully undertaken to reduce his mental view of the 
system to plain words. I think, however, most of 
us have gathered in a vague way the underlying 
notions. They amount to this : 

The Irish population was divided into a large 
number of groups, each of which was a " clan." At 
the head of each clan was a chief. The clan and the 
chief considered themselves to be of one blood, a 
great family. Each clan occupied a definite stretch 
of country and was in fact the population of its 
territory. The clan was a miniature nation. That, 
I think, is a fair summary of the prevailing notions 
as to the basis of what is called the clan system. 

Some writers prefer to say " tribal system." I 
have been reproached with avoiding the word 
" tribe." I have avoided it, and for two reasons ; 


first, because some have used it in so loose a sense 
as to make it meaningless ; and second, because 
others have used it with the deliberate intent to 
create the • impression that the structure of society 
in Ireland down to the twelfth century, and in parts 
of Ireland down to the seventeenth century, finds 
its modern parallel among the Australian or Central 
African aborigines. Already, in reference to the 
law of succession, I have mentioned the deirbfine, 
the Irish legal family of four generations, a man, his 
sons, grandsons, and great grandsons. O'Donovan 
calls this family a tribe. I told how, in the battle 
of Caimeirghe in 1241, Brian O'Neill secured the 
kingship of Tyrone for himself and his line by cutting 
off his rival MagLochlainn and ten men of MagLoch- 
lainn's deirbfine. Here the word deirbfine has a very 
special and technical importance ; but the student 
who has to rely on the official editorial translation 
misses the whole significance of the Irish term. The 
translator of the Annals of Ulster renders the passage 
thus : " The battle of Caimeirghe was given by 
Brian O'Neill and Mael-Sechlainn O'Domnaill, king of 
Cenel Conaill, to Domnall MagLochlainn, to the 
king of Tir-Eogain, so that Domnall MagLochlainn 
was killed therein and ten of his own tribe around 
him ; and all the chiefs of Cenel-Eogain and many 
other good persons likewise. And the kingship was 
taken by Brian O'Neill after him." 

It is certain that in the beginnings of Irish history 
we find the tradition of the tribal group, just as we 
find it in the history of the Hebrews, the Greeks, the 
Romans, the Germans, and their offshoots the Anglo- 


Saxons. It is also certain that Ireland, not having 
been overrun and shaken up by any of the great 
migrations after the migration of the Celts, and not 
having been steam-rolled by the levelling weight of 
Roman imperialism, preserved a great deal of the 
old tradition. Our old books are full of it. My 
third lecture dealt very much with the evidences of 
ancient tribal communities which survived in some 
shape into historical time. It is, however, perfectly 
clear to any student of the materials that already in 
early Christian Ireland the old tribal distinctions 
are waning and disappearing under various influences. 
All Irish people, Ebudeans, Ivernians, Picts, Fir 
Bolg, Galians, are known to each other by the 
common name of Gaedhil, itself once the name of 
the dominant Celtic element ; to others they are all 
known as Scotti. So complete is the fusion that, 
when by ancient custom this or that portion of the 
community remains liable to pay tributes or taxes 
in virtue of their being the successor of some old 
conquered tribe, our old historians or archivists are 
careful again and again to say that the people them- 
selves are free and that these imposts are attached 
only to the lands on which they dwell. 

I think that the popular notion of a Gaelic clan is 
derived from Scottish writers like Thomas Campbell 
and Sir Walter Scott. " False wizard, avaunt ! I 
have marshalled my clan. Their swords are a 
thousand, their bosoms are one." Here we have 
the picture of the men of Lochiel's country, Camcrons 
to a man, headed by their Cameron chief. I do not 
know how far such pen-pictures are true of Scotland 


and the time to which they relate. I do know that 
you will find nothing of the kind in historical Ireland. 
Ask for a similar instance of an Irish clan. I suppose 
the O'Neills of Tyrone will do. The O'Neills were 
never more than a small fraction of the people of 
Tyrone or of any part of Tyrone. Take the period 
preceding the confiscation of Tyrone. Shane O'Neill, 
in order to convince certain persons of the futility 
of trying to poison him, said that if the hundred best 
men of the name of O'Neill were cut off, there would 
still be O'Neills to succeed him. That seems to 
justify Mr. Bigger when he says that there are as 
many O'Neills in Tyrone to-day as there were then. 
The fullest lists of the followers of Irish chiefs are 
to be found in the Elizabethan fiants ; and these 
documents effectually dispel the illusion of an O'Neill 
at the head of a thousand O'Neills or an O'Brien 
leading a host of O'Briens. It is quite true, as I 
have shown in a previous lecture, that by the pro- 
cess of creating mean lords and in other ways, the 
ruling families provided for their own kinsfolk at the 
expense of their other subjects, and thus acquired a 
disproportionate increase. The extension of great 
families in this manner is the one fact that comes 
nearest to substantiating the illusion of a clan 

From the popular I pass on to the learned view. 
Ireland in the twelfth century, says Mr. Orpen, was 
still in the tribal state. This is written to justify 
the Norman invasion. The Normans were not in 
the tribal state. Mr. Orpen relies strongly on Giraldus 
as a witness in other matters. Giraldus omitted 


nothing that occurred to him to say that could justify 
the invasion, in which his friends and kinsfolk 
took a prominent part. From first to last it did not 
occur to Giraldus to say that the Irish were in a 
tribal state. He knew the facts. If there were 
outstanding clans in Ireland, i.e., noble kindreds, 
so were there among the invaders. Giraldus him- 
self belonged to the same clan as Milo de Cogan, 
Gerald FitzGerald, Raymond le Gros, and others 
of those bold adventurers. He is not ashamed of it, 
and being half a Welshman, he is under no delusions 
about the social structure of the Irish nation. 

When we read on to learn what is Mr. Orpen's 
idea of an Irish tribe, we are gradually enlightened. 
We find that the tribe of king Diarmaid is the Ui 
Ceinnsealaigh. Here is the main authentic basis of 
the illusion. It is a peculiarity of Irish nomenclature 
that a territory is called by the name of its ruling 
family. Ui Ceinnsealaigh thus has two meanings. 
It means the descendants of Ceinnsealach and it also 
means the territory over which the chiefs of that 
lineage ruled as kings, namely the diocese of Ferns. 
But the Ui Ceinnsealaigh were never at any time 
more than a tiny fraction of the population of that 
territory. 'Enna Ceinsealach, their ancestor, lived 
in the fifth century ; and however well his posterity 
may have looked after themselves, they certainly 
did not displace from the region that got their name 
any large proportion of its inhabitants descended 
from other ancestors. The territory called Clann 
Aodha Buidhe covered a large part of the present 
counties of Down and Antrim. The tribe named 


Clann Aodha Buidhe were the descendants of Aodh 
Buidhe O'Neill, who died in the year 1280. They 
never at any time amounted to a territorial popula- 
tion. There were clans of Norman origin in Ireland, 
too, and territories named from them. There were 
the De Burghs of Clann Ricaird in Connacht, and 
their country named from them ; the De Burghs of 
Clann William in Munster, and their country still so 
named ; FitzGeralds of Clann Mhuiris in Munster 
and in Connacht, and the districts still keep their 
name ; there are Power's country, and Roche's 
country, and Joyce's country, and Condon's, and 
Barrymore, and Clann Ghiobuin, the Fitzgibbons — 
family and country bearing the same name after the 
Irish manner. Every one of these great families 
was precisely as much and as little a tribe as any 
Irish tribe that Mr. Orpen has in contemplation ; 
as much and as little a tribe as the Plantagenets or 
the Bourbons or the Hapsburgs or the Hohenzollerns. 
Undoubtedly in these great families there was a 
good deal of what we call clannishness — of devotion 
to their particular interest to the detriment of the 
public or the national interest. On the other hand, 
it is quite a mistake to suppose that the hostility of 
clan to clan, as is often said, was the principal 
element of harm to peace. The Irish chronicles 
show clearly that domestic wars arose far more 
frequently from disputes and rivalries between 
members of a ruling family. It was the same 
among the Welsh, and a recent Welsh historian has 
justly traced this evil to the law of succession which 
was similar in the two countries — the choice of sue- 


cessor to king or lord being open between a number 
of claimants. A doubtful succession was the fruit- 
ful source of disorder in other countries also. 
Readers of history will remember its effects in the 
Roman empire, the wars of the Scottish succession 
before Bannockburn, the Wars of the Roses in 
England, the war of the Spanish succession. The 
feudal law of primogeniture tended to minimise this 

Here we find another instance of the ignoring of 
time and change in books on Irish history. I think 
I am right in saying that most readers gather from 
these books the impression that the Irish institution 
of Tanistry dates from time immemorial. There is 
no mention of a tanist in the Annals until the 
thirteenth century, after feudal institutions had 
been established in many parts of Ireland ; and we 
can trace the gradual spread of the custom in the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It seems right 
then to infer that those who lived under Irish law 
were impressed by the greater stability afforded by 
Feudal law in this matter of succession, perhaps 
also by the aggravation of their own plight owing 
to the opportunities that a disputed succession gave 
■ for the interference of the enemy in their midst; 
and that they sought to remove this evil and danger 
by determining the succession beforehand, choosing 
in the ruler's lifetime the man who was to succeed 
him, the tanist. 

Another notion which has accompanied the 
modern illusion of the " clan system," is that of the 
communal holding of land by the tribe or clan. This 


view, like that of the " clan system," has had its 
enthusiastic eulogists and its self-complacent censors. 
On one side we are asked to admire our forefathers 
for anticipating Sir Horace Plunkett. On the other 
side we are told that progress and even temporary 
well-doing in agriculture were rendered impossible 
by a system under which all the land belonged to 
everybody at once and to nobody for long. Once 
more we are faced with that canon of Irish history, 
" Credo quia impossible." We are seriously asked 
to believe that the lands of a tribe, meaning the 
population under a territorial chief or even under a 
king, was held in common by all ; and more than 
that, was periodically thrown into hotch-potch, 
taken from everybody and redistributed among all. 
Now we can imagine what an event that would be, 
taking place all over a district as large as the diocese 
of Ferns ; or even as large as the barony of Forth ; 
what a feature it would have been in the simple life 
of a large countryside. Strange, is it not ? that no 
account of any such resettlement of a district appears 
in any Irish writing, even in the form of an incidental 
allusion. The fact is that no such communal system 
existed on any scale approaching to the territorial. 
I have described the constitution of the deirbjine, 
the legal unit of succession. There were larger 
family groups, based on the kinship of five, six and 
seven generations. It was among such groups that 
property was held in common, when it was property 
of a kind that did not lend itself to subdivision in 
accurate proportions — just as succession to the king- 
ship, being indivisible, was common to a family 


group until its determination became necessary. 
But as new generations came forward, existing 
family groups were of necessity dissolved and recon- 
stituted. When this happened, a redistribution of 
the family property was necessitated. Moreover, 
there were certain kinds of land — mountain, bog, 
forest, and marsh, which were not divided by fences 
or mearings into individual or family holdings — and 
these were held in common both in ancient and in 
modern times. And that, I think, is the foundation 
of prevalent notions about communal land tenure 
in ancient Ireland. 

Those who desire a studied account of ancient 
land tenures in Ireland — in preference to their own 
or other people's imaginings — should read the little 
book on Irish Land Tenures by Dr. Sigerson. 

Connected again with the notion of communal 
ownership is the denial of proprietary rights of kings 
and lords. It must not be a question whether the 
ahum dominium, the extreme form of proprietorship 
in land, was a good thing or a bad thing. We want 
to know the facts first, before we pass a valuation 
on them. Mr. Orpen is obsessed with the notion 
that the Irish order and the Feudal order were as 
the poles apart. Accordingly he says that the 
Irish political structure nowise depended on grants 
of land. I do not know and I do not inquire what 
may be the peculiar virtue of a polity depending 
upon grants of land ; but I do know that the 
structure of Irish political society in the twelfth 
century was mainly based on that foundation. 
Documentary proofs, referring to various dates from 


the travels of St. Patrick down to the eve of the 
Norman invasion, show that every lord in his degree, 
from the local chief of a small territory up to the 
king of Ireland held and exercised the power of 
granting ownership in land over the heads of all 
occupiers. If the king of Tyrone was also king of 
Ireland his power of making grants was not con- 
fined to his domestic territory of Tyrone. So the 
Annals tell us that Muirchertach O'Lochlainn, king 
of Tyrone and monarch of Ireland, granted a town- 
land at Drogheda to the Cistercians of Mellifont, 
and a charter of the same king is extant granting 
lands at Newry to another religious house. Diarmait 
MacMurchadha was king of Leinster, his domestic 
realm, or as Mr. Orpen would say his tribal territory, 
being Ui Ceinnsealaigh. He was also recognised 
over-king of the Norse kingdom of Dublin, which 
included a stretch of country northward from Dublin 
and outside of the kingdom of Leinster. In virtue 
of this extended kingship, Diarmait granted lands 
at Baldoyle to a religious community, and the charter 
of his grant is still extant. In truth, the granting 
and regranting of lordship over lands is the keynote 
of the Irish dynastic polity from the fifth to the 
sixteenth century. 

What then of the objections that were raised to 
the introduction of feudal law under Henry VIII. 
and afterwards ? Was it not contended on the Irish 
side that the chief or king had no more than a life- 
tenure of the territory he ruled, and that in accept- 
ing feudal tenure he w r as disposing of what did not 
belong to him ? That is so. In accepting feudal 


tenure, he disposed of the succession, which he had 
no legal power to determine : the determination of 
which, within limits fixed by law, belonged to his 
people. It was theirs, not by virtue of communal 
ownership of the land, but by virtue of the right of 
election to the principality. Of this right they were 
deprived by the introduction of feudal law. The 
law of tanistry was a reasonable provision which 
preserved the right of election and yet determined 
the succession in advance. 


THERE was one advantage incidental to the 
feudal law of primogeniture, which did not 
belong to the Irish law of succession before or 
after the institution of tanistry. In feudal law, the 
lawful successor might be a child, an invalid, a 
demented person, and in some countries a woman. 
In feudal law, as in Irish law, and in ancient law 
generally, the ruler was also chief judge and chief 
military commander for his people and territory. 
Each of Henry's feudal grantees in Ireland held and 
exercised these functions. The kings of England 
themselves, from William the Conqueror to Henry II. 
and the Saxon and Danish kings before them, were 
judges and generals as well as chiefs of State. The 
Irish law contemplated a ruler who was fitted in 
mind and body to exercise these functions. The 
law of primogeniture often failed to secure such 
fitness. At first sight, the Irish law seems to have 
the advantage, but on closer consideration the case 
will appear otherwise. 

If the ruler of the state combines in his own person 
the offices of judge and military commander and 
performs these offices in person, as well as the presi- 
dency of the public assembly, it follows that there 
must be as many states and rulers as there are 

presidents of assembly, judges of law, military com- 



manders. And this is what we actually find in 
ancient Ireland. Most of the modern baronies, so- 
called, take the place of ancient kingdoms. The 
ruler being in the people's mind fit to judge in liti- 
gation and to lead in war and to preside over the 
assembly, and being unfit to rule as king when he 
could not perform these functions, there was no 
place in so simple a polity for ministers of State, and 
there was no regular delegation of these important 
duties. I think it will be admitted that the de- 
velopment of ministerial offices is one of the greatest 
phases in political progress. 

On the other hand, the feudal law of primo- 
geniture, under which the ruler at times might be a 
child, an idiot, or a weakling, rendered ministers of 
State a necessity. When Norman feudalism came to 
Ireland, it was just emerging from a condition 
similar to what it found in Ireland, and so the 
domestic polity of Ireland called for no remark from 
Giraldus, who was ready to find fault with anything, 
even with the fact that the Irish reared their children 
in a natural way, and succeeded admirably with it, 
instead of shaping their limbs and bodies with 
swathings and bandages. In southern Italy, the 
Normans found the civil service of the Byzantine 
emperors in operation ; adopted it, and from them 
it spread to Normandy and England. This trans- 
formation was just taking place at the time of their 
invasion of Ireland, and was providing them with 
an apparatus of statecraft which the Irish did not 

The Feudal system, thus augmented, tended 


towards centralisation. The Irish system had an 
opposite tendency. I notice that Mr. Orpen, in his 
comparison of the two systems, shows himself a 
whole-hearted worshipper of centralisation. His 
book, however, was written before the rulers and 
ministers of great states had begun to discover and 
formulate the objects of a righteous war. To my 
mind, European civilisation has suffered very much 
from undue centralisation — from the domination of 
courts and capitals over large regions and the conse- 
quent disrepute of what is called provincial life. 
We see the effect in countries like England and 
France, each of which consists of two parts — the 
capital and the provinces — the capital draining the 
provinces of all that is best in them, so that they 
are held and hold themselves in low esteem. I have 
often hoped that the Ireland of the future will not 
be unduly centralised, and that full scope will be 
given to ' the highest possible development of social 
life and art and education in every part of the 

The Normans so-called, when they came to Ireland, 
had ceased to be Northmen. The contemporary 
Anglo-Saxon, Welsh and Irish chronicles call them 
by the same name, Franks. Franks they were in 
language, customs and institutions. If they some- 
times called themselves Angli, this meant no more 
than that they were subjects of the rex Anglorum, 
the king of the English, and not of the king of the 
French. Their ordinary language was French. 
When Giraldus Cambrensis expresses the wish that 
his works should be translated into the vulgar 


tongue, he makes it clear that he means French. 
In another part of his writings, he shows himself 
an enthusiastic adherent of the Welsh language, and 
voices a prophecy that his countrymen of Wales will 
speak Welsh till the day of Judgment. The rank 
and file of the invaders were Welshmen and Flemings. 
There was a large Flemish colony settled under the 
Normans in Pembrokeshire, and when the first in- 
vaders reached Ireland in 11 69, an Irish chronicler 
recorded the arrival of the fleet of the Flemings. A 
Flemish colony was established after that in South 
Leinster, and their dialect continued in use there 
until well on in the nineteenth century. Many of 
the so-called Norman settlers in other parts of 
Ireland were Flemish and Welsh. Norman French 
continued to be used in Ireland for many generations. 
It was the language in which the colonists petitioned 
the lord Edward, as they called the king of England, 
for aid against Edward Bruce in 1 3 1 5. I notice in 
Father Dinneen's Irish dictionary many of the words 
marked with the letter A, signifying of English 
origin, which I am sure came directly from the 
French of these invaders. Mr. Orpen's history is 
largely a laboured attempt to prove that the back- 
ward state of Ireland was the cause and justification 
of the invasion. This search after causes and 
justifications does not conduce to sound historical 
writing. One wonders how the method would be 
applied to the history of the Norman invasion and 
conquest of Sicily and southern Italy, possessing at 
the time the most highly developed political civilisa- 
tion west of Constantinople. Among the French, 


the Normans shared with the Gascons a reputation 
for extreme craftiness. They were also great 
fortress-builders. Giraldus recognises that in the 
open field the Irish were their superiors in fighting. 
They especially feared the Irish use of the battle-axe, 
learned from the old Norsemen. He recommends 
them to keep to the plan of conquest by what he 
calls incastellation — the building of strong castles at 
frequent strategic points. Against this method, 
well organised permanent forces could alone be 
effective, and the Irish in that age had no such 
military organisation. If the testimony of Giraldus 
is not biassed on the point, the only effective field 
forces which the invaders commanded consisted of 
Welshmen. Withal, it is to be said that the chiefs 
of the invasion were in general men of great valour, 
enterprise, and coolness. They brought with them 
a tradition of conquest and adventure. 

Mr. Orpen says again and again that the Irish 
were turbulent. The Normans, he would have us 
believe, were all for law and order. It is again 
strange that this contrast did not occur at all to 
Giraldus, their comrade and kinsman and partisan. 
No one need wonder if a band of hardy adventurers 
should hold solidly together in their common interest 
for at least a generation. Yet the first generation 
of feudalism in Ireland witnessed a series of wars 
among the invaders themselves, quite as much war- 
fare, in fact, as you will find on an average in an 
equal space of time among an equal number of 
chiefs of the turbulent Irish. But it was not in 
Ireland only that the Normans were turbulent. 


Henry himself spent much of his great power in 
quelling the rebellions of his own sons and their 
partisans. If Giraldus Cambrensis says nothing 
about the particular turbulency and anarchy of 
Ireland in the twelfth century, it was probably 
because he and his readers did not know where in 
western Europe to look for anything else. Let me 
quote here from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle a picture 
of England under the Normans in the generation 
preceding the invasion of Ireland : 

" a.d. 1 1 37. When King Stephen came to England .... 
when the traitors [i.e. the nobles of England] perceived that 
he was a mild man, and a soft, and a good, and that he did 
not enforce justice, they did all wonder. They had done 
homage to him, and sworn oaths, but they no faith kept ; 
all became forsworn and broke their allegiance ; for every 
rich man built his castles and defended them against him, 
and they filled the land full of castles. They greatly op- 
pressed the wretched people by making them work at these 
castles, and when the castles were finished they filled them 
with devils and evil men. Then they took those whom they 
suspected to have any goods, by night and by day, seizing 
both men and women, and they put them in prison for their 
gold and silver and tortured them with pains unspeakable ; 
for never were any martyrs tortured as these were. They 
hung some up by their feet and smoked them with foul 
smoke ; some by their thumbs or by the head, and they 
hung burning things on their feet. They put a knotted 
string about their heads and twisted it till it went into the 
brain. They put them into dungeons wherein were adders 
and snakes and toads, and thus wore them out. Some they 
put into a crucet-house, that is, into a chest that was short 
and narrow and not deep, and they put sharp stones in it and 
crushed the man therein so that they broke all his limbs. 
There were hateful and grim things called Sachenteges in 



many of the castles, which two or three men had enough 
to do to carry. The Sachentege was made thus : it was 
fastened to a beam, having a sharp iron to go around a man's 
throat and neck, so that he might nowise sit nor lie nor sleep 
but that he must bear all the iron. Many thousands they 
exhausted with hunger. I cannot and I may not tell of all 
the wounds and all the tortures that they inflicted upon the 
wretched men of this land. And this state of things lasted 
the nineteen years that Stephen was king [1135-1154] and 
ever grew worse and worse. They were continually levying 
an exaction from the towns, which they called Tenserie, and 
when the miserable inhabitants had no more to give, then 
plundered they and burnt all the towns, so that well mightest 
thou walk a whole day's journey, or ever shouldest thou find 
a man seated in a town or its lands tilled. Then was corn 
dear, and flesh and cheese and butter, for there was none 
in the land. Wretched men starved with hunger. Some 
lived on alms who had been erewhile rich. Some fled the 
country. Never was there more misery, and never acted 
heathen worse than these. At length they spared neither 
church nor churchyard, but they took all that was valuable 
therein and then burned the church and all together. Neither 
did they spare the lands of bishops, of abbots, or of priests, 
but they robbed the monks and the clergy ; and every man 
plundered his neighbour as much as he could. If two or 
three men came riding to a town, all the township fled before 
them and thought that they were robbers. The bishops and 
clergy were ever cursing them, but this to them was nothing, 
for they were all accurst and forsworn and reprobate. The 
earth bare no corn, you might as well have tilled the sea ; 
for the land was all ruined by such deeds, and it was said 
openly that Christ and his saints slept. These things, and 
more than we can say, did we suffer during nineteen years 
because of our sins." 

It was in the very year that followed these nine- 
teen years that Henry, in his council of barons at 


Winchester, first announced his intention of invading 
Ireland. The barons who formed the council were 
the castle-builders of the foregoing account written 
by their contemporary. From them and their sons 
were drawn the men who, we are to believe, came 
to establish law and order in the place of anarchy 
in Ireland ; who were " to enter that island and 
execute whatsoever may tend to the honour of God 
and the welfare of the land " ; who were " to restrain 
the downward course of vice, to correct evil customs, 
to implant virtue and extend the Christian religion " 
— these being the pious and laudable designs which 
Henry Plantagenet, who could not rule his own 
household or his own person, proposed at that time 
to his friend Pope Adrian. 

I have already adverted to Mr. Orpen's doctrine 
that the Irishman had no nation but his tribe. In 
all these things, a comparison and a contrast is 
studiously suggested. To what nation did the 
leaders of the invasion belong ? Mr. Orpen calls 
them Normans, but they themselves knew nothing 
of Norman nationality. They knew that their lord 
was duke of Normandy and as such a vassal of 
France. Among themselves they knew no distinc- 
tion of Norman, Angevin, Poitevin, or Aquitanian. 
The most English of them came of three generations 
of residence in England as a foreign element — as 
Franks. These were only a few. The majority had 
lived in Wales or the Welsh marches. At a very 
early stage in the invasion, one leader, Maurice de 
Prendergast, went right over to the Irish. Another, 
De Courci, set himself up as an independent prince 


in that region of intractable folk, eastern Ulster. 
The chief feature of Henry's Irish policy, continued 
by his son John, was not the subjugation of the 
Irish but the keeping of the Feudal lords of Ireland 
from becoming independent. Mr. Orpen does not 
like this policy. He calls it interference with the 
colony, and draws the moral of all his history by 
severely remarking that the same objectionable 
interference with the colony has been continued 
down to an indefinitely modern time. The lesson 
is meant to be taken to heart by somebody. The 
fact remains, that the colonists had no nationality 
until in the course of time they became Irelandmen, 
and ultimately more Irish than the Irish. 

There is another feature of the invasion policy to 
which Mr. Orpen does no justice. Pope Adrian's 
successor had not the same personal interest in the 
invasion that Pope Adrian had. A papal legate 
was sent to Ireland. On his way through England, 
he was laid hold of and compelled to swear to do 
nothing in Ireland contrary to the king's interest. 
Evidently there was something to be apprehended. 
From England he went to the Isle of Man, where the 
Norse king was father-in-law and ally of de Courci, 
Prince of Ulster. As a policeman would say, in 
consequence of information received, the legate on 
his landing on the Irish coast was arrested by de 
Courci's men and carried captive to Downpatrick. 
De Courci, though a valiant knight, had done some 
things in Downpatrick, which a legate under arrest 
might be induced to regard more leniently than a 
legate at large. Downpatrick was a monastic and 


ecclesiastical centre. De Courci had made it into a 
fortress. He had made the bishop of Down a 
prisoner and put some of the inferior clergy to 
death. Apparently he had taken complete posses- 
sion of all the Church property. The captive bishop 
appears as witness to de Courci's grants of Irish 
Church possessions to foreign religious. The legate 
seems to have reached Dublin in a chastened temper. 
In Dublin, he granted formal authority to the in- 
vaders to make forcibly entry into Church property 
anywhere in Ireland. The plea is that the Irish 
stored their food in ecclesiastical places, and Mr. 
Orpen says it was a military necessity, and therefore 
justifiable, to get at these stores of food. All this 
was written before the conscience of so many had 
been awakened to the evils of militarism. However, 
the food pretext does not fit the fact. The fact was 
that before the legate came, as well as afterwards, 
it was the settled military policy of the invasion to 
occupy Irish churches and monasteries and turn 
them into fortresses. These places had something 
quite as useful as food, they had strong stone build- 
ings, which could be held as they stood or pulled to 
pieces and used for the rapid erection of fortresses, 
of which process the following instance from the 
annals may be cited as an example : 

a.d. 1214. The castle of Coleraine is built by 
Thomas son of Uhtred and by the Foreigners of 
East Ulster, and for that purpose were pulled to 
pieces the cemeteries and pavements and buildings 
of the whole town, save the church alone. (Coleraine 
until this time was a Columban monastery.) 


From this we may see the full force of the extra- 
ordinary general permit extorted from the Pope's 
legate. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, already quoted, 
shows how earlier experience in Britain had pre- 
pared the fate of the Irish monasteries and schools. 

A long list could be drawn up of the churches 
and monasteries occupied by the invaders, some 
permanently, others until evacuation was compelled. 

This method of warfare reached parts of Ireland 
far remote from effective occupation by the invaders, 
and one of its results was the complete reversal of 
all the efforts towards reconstruction and progress 
which, as I have shown in the foregoing lecture, the 
Irish themselves had undertaken in the grounds of 
religion and education. The unconquered parts of 
Ireland were thrown back into the condition of the 
Norse war period. In the conquered parts, the Irish 
were excluded from education and ecclesiastical pre- 
ferment. There was much building and much 
writing of official documents, but no progress in 
learning or the arts, not one school of note, and in 
an age when universities were springing up all over 
Christendom, there arose in Ireland only one Uni- 
versity, which was stillborn. 

On the other hand, the feudal invasion reached 
Ireland on a wave of developing town life, and its 
regime was able to monopolise this development in 

That the particular pledges, on the faith of which 
Henry obtained from Adrian the grant of the feudal 
lordship of Ireland, were not at all fulfilled by Henry, 
we know from general evidence and from the par- 


ticular testimony of Giraldus, who implores John to 
fulfil them for the sake of his father's soul. John 
had other things to think about, and these pledges 
were not fulfilled by John or by any of his successors. 
A memorial on this subject was addressed, at the 
time of Edward Bruce's invasion, to the contem- 
porary Pope by Domhnall O'Neill, king of Tyrone, 
and the document still exists, charging the Plan- 
tagenet rule in Ireland with general injury to 
religion and civilisation. 

Among the barbarities of Ireland in the twelfth 
century, we are told by Mr. Orpen that the Irish 
had no legislature and no proper judicature. One 
wonders what sort of legislature Mr. Orpen imagines 
to have existed in England at that time, and whether 
he is aware that the English judicature was then 
only beginning to exist. 

There is one feature of the Feudal settlement — if 
we may so call it — which is hard to place in its 
proper category — that is, to say whether it comes 
from systematic bad faith or merely from incapacity 
to act according to ordered notions of law. The 
Irish kings in general outside of Ulster made formal 
submission to Henry as their liege lord, and were 
received, as Giraldus says, into the protection of the 
most merciful king. This submission and reception 
constituted a solemn contract — the submitting kings 
became Henry's vassals and he became bound to 
defend and maintain them in their rights. In not a 
single instance was this contract observed for a 
moment longer than the opportunity to violate it 
was delayed. The rights and possessions of the 


Irish vassal kings were straightway granted afresh 
to one or another of the new adventurers — and the 
new grants were not preceded or accompanied by 
the pretence of any escheatment or invalidation of 
the existing contract — so little importance was 
attached by Henry and John and their filibustering 
captains even to the outward appearances of law and 

Let me give here an illustration of Mr. Orpen's 
historical temper. He admits his difficulty in ascer- 
taining the name of the king of the Ulaidh at the 
time of de Courci's seizure of Downpatrick. What 
does it matter ? he suggests. The surname, at all 
events, was MacDunlevy, and — these are his actual 
words — " the kings of this family were always 
killing one another." It seems a strange manner of 
existence, but then, you understand, they were 
Irish and could manage it. There is just one 
instance of it in the annals, where one of the 
MacDunlevy kings, a man of evil life, was deposed 
and put to death by his kinsman. Possibly Mr. 
Orpen has confused the MacDunlevys with the 

Mr. Orpen gives an extended account of Irish 
law, with footnotes, references, and all the ap- 
paratus of learned exposition, compelling the respect 
and acquiescence of the less learned reader. Irish 
law, he tells us, was merely consecrated custom ; 
implying by contrast that England and Normandy 
were at that time in the enjoyment of codes and 
statute books. In Irish law, we are told, there were 
no crimes. No breach of the law was regarded as 


an offence against the commonwealth, to be punished 
by the executive power of the State. The State did 
not interfere to enforce the law among the subjects. 
There were, in fact, no penalties. Every offence, 
from homicide down to the smallest breach of the 
peace was, in Irish law, merely a tort, a matter for 
civil litigation between the offended and the offender, 
and capable of being settled by an assessment of 
damages. But what was worse still was this, that 
when judgment was given and the damages assessed, 
there was no machinery for enforcing obedience to 
the decree ; in legal phraseology, the law had no 
sanction. Unpopularity, the pressure of public 
opinion, some sort of boycotting, furnished the only 
resource of making men amenable to the law and the 
decrees of the courts. Credo quia impossibile ! 

It was not merely in twelfth-century Ireland that 
this wildly absurd legal system might be discovered 
by Alice from Wonderland, even though Giraldus 
Cambrensis completely failed to make a note of it. 
The thing was an essential vice of Celtic barbarism, 
and could be found in full bloom among the Gauls 
of Caesar's time. Celts are impossible people, and 
therefore quite capable of keeping an impossible and 
utterly negative system of law in full operation for 
twelve centuries and upwards. The child's game of 
playing at law-courts which Irish brehons enjoyed 
in the twelfth century and afterwards had amused 
the druids of Gaul before the Christian era ; and 
Caesar himself is called into the witness-box. Certain 
forms of mental aberration are known to be infectious, 
and this may explain why all the great feudal lords 


of Ireland were fain in time to adopt this preposterous 
system of Celtic law with all its apparatus. Here is 
what Caesar says about the druids and their judi- 
cature : 

" Whosoever, be it a private individual or a people, 
does not obey their decree, is excluded from the 
sacred rites. This among them is a penalty of ex- 
treme severity. Those who are under this ban are 
classed among the impious and the criminal. All 
men abandon their society and shun their approach 
and conversation, lest they may suffer harm from 
contagion with them. When such men seek their 
legal right it is not rendered to them. When they 
seek any public office, it is not conferred on them." 
Mr. Orpen's comment on this passage is concise. 
" It was," he says, " the primitive boycott." The 
analogy which he thus brings down to date appears 
incomplete. If a man having a credit balance at 
the bank draws a cheque within the amount, he seeks 
a legal right. If that right is not rendered to him, 
there is something more than a boycott. Complete 
divestment of legal rights is not boycotting, it is 
attainder. It goes a long way beyond the greatest 
excesses of social ostracism that have been charged 
against the Land League or the Primrose League. 

Mr. Orpen is not satisfied with this exposure of 
Celtic law at long and at large in his first volume. 
He repeats it in somewhat varied phrases in the 
second. Now mark how plain a tale shall put him 
down. In his search for this particular plum of the 
Celtophobe, he has travelled to the sixth book and 
thirteenth chapter of Caesar's history. Mr. Orpen's 


historical method is identical with one of which I 
have had later experience, when I have seen the 
file of a periodical presented to the tribunal with a 
sentence here and a paragraph there marked by the 
blue pencil of a Crown Prosecutor. There is a 
first book in Caesar's Gallic War. It comes before the 
sixth book. The first episode related in the first 
book is doubtless familiar to Mr. Orpen since his 
school days, if the exigencies of the historical indict- 
ment of a nation have not compelled him to forget 
it. Let us recall that first episode of the Gallic 
War, bearing in mind all the time the doctrine that 
under Celtic law there were no crimes against the 
State, no sanction or penalty for breaches of the 
law except payments in composition, and no 
machinery for enforcing obedience. 

The first episode in the Gallic War is the migra- 
tion of the Helvetii. Caesar tells us that this enter- 
prise was undertaken by the Helvetian state at 
the instance of a great noble named Orgetorix, and 
that Orgetorix was commissioned to take charge of 
the preparations. Before all was ready, an accusa- 
tion was brought forward against him of aiming at 
the subversion of the republican constitution of the 
state and at the usurpation of supreme power. 
This was not a tort, a matter for private litigation. 
The Helvetii, says Caesar, according to their custom 
(it was, therefore, no exceptional proceeding) sought 
to compel Orgetorix to stand his trial under arrest 
[ex vinculis]. If found guilty, Caesar adds, the 
penalty which he must duly incur was death by 
burning. Here we have the crime, the State tribunal, 


the executive authority, and the penalty fore- 
ordained ; not exactly features of " the primitive 
boycott." Orgetorix, we are told, was by far the 
greatest and wealthiest noble of his people. He 
stood in no fear of a boycott. Caesar continues : 
" On the day fixed for the trial, Orgetorix gathered 
from every side and brought with him to the place 
of judgment all his slaves to the number of ten 
thousand, and all his dependents and rent-payers, 
of whom he had a great number. By this array, he 
extricated himself from being placed on trial." Here 
was a crucial test of the question, whether there 
was or was not what Mr. Orpen calls " machinery ' ! 
for enforcing the law. The State, says Caesar, 
(civitas is his word) was provoked by this conduct 
and set about the enforcement of its law by force of 
arms. The magistrates, meaning in the Roman 
sense the principal officers of State, collected from 
the land a large body of men. But while this was 
going on, Orgetorix died ; and it was suspected, so 
the Helvetii believe, that he committed suicide. 

All this is related in the first four chapters of the 
first book of Caesar's Gallic War. It is not to the 
purpose, and so we are invited to judge the case from 
a blue-pencilled extract from book vi., chapter 13. 

The notion of a system of Celtic law from which 
all cognisance of crimes as crimes, all State authority, 
all power of enforcement was absent, which had no 
sanction except public opinion exercised through boy- 
cotting, is borrowed from Sir Henry Maine's " Early 
History of Institutions." Sir Henry Maine, however 
eminent his authority, acquired this notion from an 


inspection of a portion of the Ancient Laws of Ire- 
land. The sort of judicature which he happened to 
find there was that which was administered by the 
Irish brehons in courts of arbitration. Mr. Orpen 
shows familiarity with a much wider range of Irish 
literature in English translations. When he wrote 
his history, in which he claims expressly for himself 
the title of historian, he knew certain things, but the 
necessities of the case compelled him to forget he 
knew them. He knew quite well that the ancient 
literature in general ascribes the judicial function to 
every Irish king, the head of every Irish state, great 
or small. He knew that a hundred and a hundred 
times the good king is said to be a just judge, and 
the unjust judge is said to be a bad king. But when 
he assumes the r6le of historian, he puts the micro- 
scope to the blind eye, and, though he knows the 
facts are before it, he is unable to see and describe 
them. In the very chapter which contains his in- 
dictment of Irish law, he quotes Standish Hayes 
O'Grady's fine collection of pieces of Irish medieval 
literature, the Silva Gadelica. I observe that his 
footnote refers the reader to the Irish text, not to 
the English translation, and the reader may con- 
clude, if it please him, that Mr. Orpen is most at his 
ease among Irish originals. Since most of those for 
whom Mr. Orpen's work is intended are not familiar 
readers of Middle Irish, I would refer them to the 
volume of the English translations, where they will 
be able to understand and verify. On page 288 we 
find how Cormac, a stripling, came to Tara, where in 
his father's house the usurper MacCon held rule. 


When he arrived in the royal house, a lawsuit was 
in progress. The story proceeds thus : 

" There was in Tara a she-hospitaller, Bennaid, 
whose roaming sheep came and ate up the queen's 
crop of woad. The case was referred to Lughaidh 
[MacCon the king] for judgment, and his award 
was : the queen to have the sheep in lieu of the 
woad. ' Nay,' Cormac said, ' the shearing of the 
sheep is a sufficient offset to the cropping of the 
woad ; for both the one and the other will grow 
again.' ' That is the true judgment,' all exclaimed : 
' a very prince's son it is that has pronounced it ! ' 
.... MacCon's rule in sooth was not good : the 
men of Ireland warned him off therefore and bestowed 
it on Cormac." 

Here, quite as a matter of course, we find a king 
sitting in judgment, without even a brehon for 
assessor, on a civil case of no great importance, a 
case of damage done by straying sheep. The king 
judged unfairly, not indeed because it was in his 
wife's lawsuit, but because he made an award of 
excessive damages. His people deposed him and 
gave the kingship to the youth who proposed the 
fair award. And so intimately was the judicial 
office combined with the kingly office in the 
medieval Irish mind, that the capacity of judging 
rightly was thought to be hereditary in the royal 
blood : "A true judgment, he who pronounced it 
is in truth the son of a king ! " 

From this same work, cited by Mr. Orpen, I could 
quote example after example of the same fact, quite 
well known to Mr. Orpen, but " in the heat of 


hatching, the hen does not know an egg from a 
stone." I could also cite a bookful of instances 
from the annals, the historical poems, the ancient 
stories, and other sources, showing that the ancient 
and medieval Irish were quite as familiar as were the 
magistrates of the Helvetian State with criminal 
jurisdiction and with penalties in every degree, in- 
cluding the death penalty, as the sanction of their 

The normal court of law in ancient Ireland was 
the king's court, as the normal court in a Gaulish 
republic was the court of the magistrates of the 
republic. The druids' tribunal in Gaul and the 
brehons', also originally the druids' tribunal, in 
Ireland, was a subsidiary institution. It did not 
carry with it the plenary powers of the regular 
tribunal, and therefore relied in part on the reverence 
of the people for justice — with regard to which we 
have the most remarkable testimony borne by 
Englishmen in Ireland at the time when Irish law 
was on the verge of total abolition. And one of 
these writers aptly says that nothing that the Irish- 
man does, however praiseworthy, finds favour with 
a set of men who are his professional traducers. 

The brehons were primarily jurists, and in their 
hands Irish law was elaborated and refined, its de- 
velopment in this respect being similar to the de- 
velopment of Roman law. They acted also as 
legal advisers to litigants, safeguarding the proper 
legal form of their proceedings. They acted also 
as assessors and advisers to the kings in court. 
When they sat as judges by themselves, their courts 


were at least theoretically tribunals of arbitration, 
but differed from the casual arbitrations of our 
time in having more of the character of institutions. 
It is probably true that after the Feudal invasion, 
and especially when Irish law was adopted by Feudal 
lords, the brehon's court tended to supersede the 
court of king or lord as the normal instrument of 

The story of Cormac introduces us to a king's 
court held at the king's place of abode and in his 
house. A higher and more ceremonial court was 
held by the king in the periodical assembly. This 
court of assembly was called by the name airecht, 
oireacht ; the word is used to translate the Latin 
curia. " Suit of court " was an Irish no less than a 
Feudal institution. The kings or lords subject to a 
presiding king were expected to attend his airecht ; 
and from this it comes that these subject lords are 
collectively called the king's airecht, and by a further 
extension the name is given occasionally to their 
lands collectively. The whole of O'Cathain's terri- 
tory is called Airecht Ui Chatham, and the territory 
of O'Connor Kerry still bears the name of Oireacht 
Ui Chonchobhuir, the barony of Iraghticonnor in 

The assembly was the focus of the people's life. 
Kuno Meyer has published and translated into 
English an ancient tract called Tecosc Cormaic, 
" King Cormac's Instruction to his Son." Every 
student of early Irish institutions ought to read it. 
Many who read it will be surprised to find how 
modern was the mind of antiquity. One of the 


maxims which the king gives to his son is this: 
Vested interests are shameless. There is a truth in 
that for all peoples of all times, that has never 
elsewhere been so pithily expressed. The tract con- 
sists of a collection of maxims and counsels for a 
prince in his private and public conduct, and is 
cast in the form of a colloquy between the king 
and his son. Reading it, one comes to realise the 
importance held by the assembly and particularly 
the court of assembly, the airecht, in the minds of 
our ancestors. Those who wish to study the art of 
public speaking will find excellent canons of oratory 
and advocacy in Tecosc Cormaic ; but they may be 
forewarned that the ancient standard has no mercy 
for rhetorical bombast, bounce, or any other device 
to obscure and mislead the exercise of right judg- 
ment by the audience. 

The last effort of the people to maintain its 
assemblies can be seen in those " paries upon hills " 
which were so obnoxious to the Dublin govern- 
ment under Elizabeth. In place-names and other 
traditions we can still trace the old assembly places 
in most parts of the country. Not long ago, in the 
southern part of County Armagh, a man pointed 
out to me a smooth green rising ground, and said 
" The old people say there used to be a parliament 
there." The old people are not far wrong. In these 
assemblies, laws were enacted, modified or con- 
firmed, taxes and tributes were regulated. The men 
of lore came there with their poems in praise of the 
living and their stories of the olden times and their 
genealogies. Musicians came, and clowns with their 



antics, and sleight-of-hand men. The men of military 
age came with their arms for weapon-show and then 
laid their arms aside till the assembly ended. Traders 
from distant countries came to sell and buy. Horse 
races and other games were held. The general 
public, at least in the larger assemblies, were ranged 
and classed in divisions, and wooden galleries were 
set up to seat them. Streets of booths were set up 
for sleeping and eating, giving the place of assembly 
the temporary aspect of a town, and such towns 
were, I think, the cities named and placed in 
Ptolemy's description of Ireland. The detailed ac- 
count that is extant of the Leinster assembly at 
Carman, and the rare references in the annals to 
disturbance of assemblies show that order and peace 
were in general characteristic of these occasions. 


THE most casual reader of Irish history knows 
that within a few centuries of the Norman 
invasion, the authority of the kings of 
England had shrunk to within a day's easy ride 
of Dublin and the outskirts of a few other towns. 
Standish O'Grady has noted the constant alliance 
between town and crown in the Middle Ages. It 
was not peculiar to Ireland. The merchants and 
the sovereign had a common interest in resisting 
the encroachments of the great nobles. Even 
despotic kings, as a rule, governed better in the 
interest of the burgesses than any powerful oligarchy 
was likely to govern. 

Why did the Norman conquest fail to be a con- 
quest ? Giraldus Cambrensis gave to his story the 
title Hibernia Expugnata — " Ireland fought to a 
finish." Four centuries later comes another historian, 
telling of another conquest, and he calls his story 
Hibernia Pacaia — " Ireland pacified." Why was the 
second conquest necessary ? 

There are two factors that make for the com- 
pleteness and permanence of conquest — namely, 
physical superiority and moral superiority. In the 
art of war and in the apparatus of centralised 
government, the invaders, we have seen, were 
superior to the Irish. They could even use the 
Church as an instrument of the State, and Mr. Orpen 




boasts that, whereas the Irish bishop of Dublin, 
Lorcan O'Tuathail, was only a saint, the English 
bishops who succeeded him were statesmen. War- 
fare by incastellation, carried on for seventy years, 
brought three-fourths of the country under control. 
If to this physical superiority we must add the 
moral superiority claimed for the Feudal regime by 
modern admirers — if not by its contemporary cham- 
pion in letters, Giraldus — there is left only one 
possible explanation of the failure, the perversity of 
the Irish mind, afflicted with a double dose of original 
sin, refusing to recognise either physical superiority 
in the arts of war or moral superiority in the arts 
of peace. 

Another factor must not be forgotten. The 
second generation of Feudalism in Ireland was in 
full possession of all the military resources of the 
greater part of the country. Just as, in the be- 
ginning of the invasion, they had led armies of 
conquered Flemings and conquered Welshmen, and 
as a few years later they led a force of conquered 
Norsemen from Dublin to the battle of Thurles, 
where they were defeated by Domhnall O'Briain, so 
in their later wars they led armies of conquered Irish- 
men for the completion of the conquest. And even 
conquered Irishmen were not bad fighting material. 

Two causes have been assigned by modern writers 
for the failure of the conquest. One cause alleged 
is the invasion by Edward Bruce in the years 131 5 
to 1 3 18. In view of the fact that Bruce's under- 
taking was itself an ignominious failure, another 
cause assigned is the transference of the Feudal 


lordship of Connacht and Ulster from the De Burghs, 
resident in Ireland, to the Plantagenets, who were 
absentees. This happened after 1333. 

It will be shown that neither of these causes 
can be held to explain the failure. The conquest 
was brought to a standstill and the tide was turned 
more than half a century before the Bruce invasion. 
The principal factor was national sentiment, in- 
tensified and supplied with a more definite political 
form under a sense of national oppression. Hardly 
had the sentiment of nationalism acquired this form 
when a new and unexpected force came to its aid. 
The value of this new force was crystallised into a 
proverb by one of the Feudal lords, Sir Robert 
Savage of the Ards in East Ulster : " Better is a 
castle of bones than a castle of stones."' The policy 
of conquest by incastellation crumbled away before 
the castles of bones built up first under the Irish 
princes of Ulster, afterwards in Connacht, and in 
time all over Ireland. By a castle of bones, Sir 
Robert Savage meant a well organised, well armed, 
and well trained permanent field force. From the 
days of the Fiana down to the thirteenth century, 
there had been no such force under the command of 
an Irish king. Irish law and custom were un- 
favourable to soldiering as a profession. The new 
force was not supplied by Irishmen. It came from 
the Norse kingdom of Argyle and the Hebrides. 
Already before 1263, when the rulers of this kingdom 
ceased to be subject to Norway, we find Hebridean 
leaders helping the Irish of Ulster. Before the 
close of the thirteenth century, we find organised 


bodies of Hebridean fighting men on the Irish side, 
and a eommon name for them already in use, Gallo- 
glaich, a word which was afterwards transplanted into 
English in the form " galloglasses." It means 
" foreign soldiers." You may learn from a number 
of books that the galloglasses were heavy-armed 
Irish soldiers. They were men of Argyle and the 
Hebrides who came over to Ireland for military 
service, or descendants of such men who were 
settled in Ireland and held on to the profession of 
soldiers. It may possibly be too much to say that 
no Irish were admitted to their ranks ; but with 
one very doubtful instance every officer of gallo- 
glasses that I find named from the thirteenth century, 
when they are first heard of, until the seventeenth 
century, when they are last heard of, bears a 
Hebridean surname ; and the surnames of the 
majority of their commanders indicate descent from 
Sumarlidi, who established the kingdom of the 
Hebrides and Argyle in the twelfth century. 

A century or so after the introduction of the 
galloglasses, we find native Irish troops established 
in imitation of them. These, however, bear a 
distinct name, buannadha, " buonies," meaning men 
on permanent service. 

It was this reintroduction of permanent military 
organisation that ultimately broke down the force 
of feudal conquest. But as this preceded the Bruce 
invasion, so also it will be seen that it was itself pre- 
ceded by a very definite national rally of the free 
Irish. Let us trace the course of events in greater 


In violation of the Treaty of Windsor, the lordship 
of all Connacht, still unconquered, had been granted 
to William de Burgh. Marriage with De Lacy's 
heiress had added the lordship of all Ulster, like- 
wise unconquered, and the Earls of Ulster, chiefs of 
the great house of De Burgh, thus became titular 
lords of two-fifths of Ireland. To make their 
dominion a reality was a great incentive to the 
completion of the conquest. Half a century after 
the invasion, the conquest extended to about two- 
thirds of the country. In Leinster, the mountainous 
parts southward from Dublin were unsubdued ; and 
in the midlands a group of the old Irish states, side 
by side, had resisted penetration, under the O'Connors 
of western Offaly, the O'Mores of Leix, the Fitz- 
Patricks of Upper Ossory, and the O'Carrolls of Ely. 
In Munster, MacCarthy More held out in Muskerry 
and kept the title of king of Desmond. The kings 
of Thomond preserved more real power, though 
part of their territory was occupied by the Norman 
de Clares. In Connacht, the O'Connor kings were 
still recognised by the Foreigners, and the kings of 
Breifne were intact. Along the western seaboard, 
too, the conquest had not taken effect. The De 
Burghs were established in the fortress of Galway 
and in the middle plain of Connacht. In the other 
parts of Leinster and Munster, and all over the old 
kingdom of Meath, the Irish states had either been 
altogether subverted or reduced to subjection. 

In Ulster, the Earls of Ulster held effective 
dominion over so much territory as is now com- 
prised in the counties of Down and Antrim. 


The Irish rally may be dated from the year 1241. 
In that year Maeleachlainn O'Domhnaill became 
king of Tir Conaill, and by his aid Brian O'Neill 
became king of Tir Eoghain, defeating in battle the 
last king of the MagLochlainn line, one who was 
favourable to the Foreigners and no doubt acknow- 
ledged the dominion of the Earl of Ulster. The 
viceroy, or, as he was then called, justiciar, of the 
English king as lord of Ireland, was Maurice Fitz- 
Gerald. He was the most active and enterprising 
of the new rulers since the first generation of bold 
adventurers had passed away, and he set himself 
the task of completing the conquest of Ireland by 
making the Earl de Burgh effective ruler of his 
titular lordships of Connacht and Ulster. In Con- 
nacht, he succeeded so far as to make the king of 
Connacht, Feidhlimidh O'Connor, his subject ally, 
allowing him to retain the title of king. In 1242, 
Fitzgerald took the first step towards the reduction 
of Ulster by leading an army from Connacht against 
Tir Conaill and compelling the king, Maeleachlainn 
O'Domhnaill, to give him hostages. As yet, no 
fresh occupation of Ulster territory was attempted. 

From the earliest times until the Confiscation of 
Ulster, the southern frontier of that province made 
invasion difficult. It was protected by broad lakes 
and rivers and deep woods, and probably also by the 
remains of that great ancient line of earthworks of 
which I have spoken in an earlier lecture. When 
Ulster was invaded by land, the approach was 
almost always on the eastern side from Dundalk or 
Ardee towards Armagh, or on the western side 


between Lower Loch Erne and the sea-coast. 
Maurice FitzGerald planned to invade it, building 
castles as he gained ground, both on east and 
west. In 1244 we read of a new castle built at 
Donaghmoyne, near Carrickmacross. 

Next year, 1245, FitzGerald was summoned by 
Henry III. to aid him in an invasion of Wales. 
He went across with an Irish army and his subject 
king of Connacht. The enterprise did not answer 
expectation, and Henry sent FitzGerald back de- 
prived of the viceroyship. FitzGerald nevertheless 
resumed his plan of conquest, the new viceroy, 
FitzGeoffroi, seconding him. In 1247 he built a 
castle at Sligo, as a basis of operations towards the 
Erne. This done, the next step was to seize and 
fortify the passage of the Erne at Ballyshannon ; 
but he found the king of Tir Conaill there on guard. 
FitzGerald ordered his Connacht auxiliaries to pre- 
tend a retirement and to make a circuit crossing the 
Erne some miles further up. The stratagem suc- 
ceeded. The king of Tir Conaill, attacked in front 
and flank, was defeated and fell in the fight. At his 
side fell a chief named MacSomhairlidh, " the son of 
Sumarlidi." This name is the first sign of the 
Hebridean Galloglach element in Irish wars. 

Next year, 1248, the justiciar FitzGeoffroi co- 
operated in the campaign against Ulster. He led 
an army to Coleraine, where already there was a 
castle on the eastern side of the Bann. He built 
a bridge and built a second castle on the western side, 
thus securing a new way for invasion. Brian O'Neill 
did not remain inactive. He brought ships over 


land from Loch Foyle to Loch Erne, and attacked 
and demolished a castle at Belleek, newly built by 
FitzGerald. Fast upon this followed a revolt of 
Feidhlimidh O'Connor. The viceroy marched to 
FitzGerald's aid and Feidhlimidh was driven out, 
but returned next year and continued to hold his 

In 1250, taking advantage of a dispute about the 
succession, FitzGerald invaded Tir Conaill but did 
not remain there. In 1252, he renewed the attack, 
building a new castle near Belleek and another on 
the eastern frontier near Banbridge. The viceroy 
also came on with a strong army, penetrating into 
Tir Eoghain by way of Armagh. O'Neill bent before 
the storm and made submission. This was the 
culminating point. Next year, 1253, hoping to en- 
force his advantage, the viceroy once more invaded 
Tir Eoghain, but this time he obtained no submission 
and was forced to retreat with heavy loss. O'Neill 
forthwith took the offensive, invaded the Earl of 
Ulster's territory, and destroyed a number of castles 
including the new castle near Banbridge. There is 
a lull at the turning of the tide. For several years, 
hostilities cease on both sides. Then in 1257, Godfrey 
O'Domhnaill, king of Tir Conaill, destroys again the 
castle of Caoluisce near Belleek and attacks Sligo, 
burning the town. Retiring, he fights a rearguard 
action, and both he and Maurice FitzGerald receive 
wounds of which they afterwards die. 

Under the following year, 1258, is chronicled an 
event in itself of the greatest significance and also 
an index of the significance of foregoing events. Of 


the unsubdued Irish outside of Ulster, the chief 
potentates at this time were Tadhg O'Briain, king 
of Thomond, and Aodh O'Connor, king of Connacht, 
son of Feidhlimidh who had cast off the authority 
of FitzGerald and De Burgh. These two kings as- 
sembled their nobles and their forces and marched 
together to Caoluisce on the Erne, the site of the 
demolished fort. They met there Brian O'Neill, 
king of Tyrone, " and," says the annalist, " all those 
nobles gave the supreme authority to Brian O'Neill." 
That is to say, so far as lay in their power, by a 
spontaneous act, they restored the monarchy of 

Therefore, when I say that Brian O'Neill's defence 
of Ulster, with the co-operation of the kings of Tir- 
Conaill, marks the definite rallying point against 
the Norman conquest, I give something more than 
a private opinion or a modern inference. It is a 
fact to which, in the year 1258 on the banks of the 
Erne, the kings and nobles and fighting men of 
Thomond and Connacht, as well as of Tyrone, render 
the clearest and most solemn testimony possible. 
Never before in Irish history had the chief provincial 
kings thus spontaneously and peacefully awarded the 
high-kingship to one of their number. The act im- 
plied a repudiation of the authority that set up feudal 
lords over Irish kings, and amounted to a declaration 
of national independence. Half a century later, 
Brian O'Neill's son, in a letter to the Pope, again 
declares the Plantagcnet lordship of Ireland to be 
null and void and asserts the right of the Irish to 
determine their own sovereignty. 


These facts prove that the first factor in the Irish 
rally of the thirteenth century was the sense of 
nationality, intensified by adversity. Of this we 
shall see new and striking proofs. 

About this time, the Irish began to strengthen 
their domestic polity by adopting the custom of 

In 1260, Brian O'Neill led an army of Ulstermen 
and Connachtmen against the Earl of Ulster's strong- 
hold, Downpatrick. The viceroy, warned of his 
movements, was there to meet him. Brian was 
defeated and killed, and, as though his death were 
a greater glory than his life, he is known to his 
countrymen of later times as Brian Catha an Duin, 
" Brian of the Battle of Down." 

Three years later, in 1263, when king Hakon of 
Norway came with his fleet to the Hebrides, he re- 
ceived a message from Ireland. Sir George Dasent, 
the English editor of the history of king Hakon, 
undertakes to say quite gratuitously and quite as 
absurdly that this embassy in 1263 came from the 
Ostmen of Dublin. The facts are related by Sturla, 
a contemporary, a councillor of king Hakon, and no 
doubt on the testimony of eye-witnesses. Sturla and 
his informants knew the difference between Ostmen 
and Irishmen. Sturla says that, after Hakon's first 
arrival in the Hebrides, " there came these messages 
to him from Ireland, that the Irishmen offered to 
come into his power, and said they needed much 
that he should free them from that thraldom which 
the English had laid on them, for that they held 
then all the best towns along the sea. But when 


king Hakon lay at Gigha (off Cantire) he sent men 
out to Ireland in a light cutter, and that man with 
them who was called Sigurd the South-Islander 
{i.e. the Hebridean, no doubt as interpreter). They 
were to find out in what way the Irish invited them 
to come thither." Before their return, Hakon's 
expedition had proved unsuccessful. As he lay at 
Lamlash, in the Firth of Clyde, " thither came to 
him those men that he had sent to Ireland, and 
told him that the Irish would keep the whole host 
that winter, on the understanding that king Hakon 
would free them from the sway of the English. King 
Hakon was very much inclined to sail to Ireland, 
but that was much against the mind of all his 
people. And so, because the wind was not fair, then 
the king held a thing {i.e. an assembly) with his force, 
and gave it out that he would give them all leave 
to sail to the Hebrides as soon as the wind was fair ; 
for the host had fallen short of victuals." 

It is not unlikely that Hakon gave the Irish to 
understand that he would come to them later. 
The entry of his death in the Annals of Ulster shows 
that at that time, two months after he left Lamlash, 
he was expected in Ireland. The annalist says : 
" Ebdonn, king of Norway, dies in the Orkney 
Islands on his way to Ireland." 

Here we have the second attempt within fifteen 
years on the part of the Irish to determine the 
sovereignty under which they were to live. There 
was a third attempt, in 13 14, after the battle of 
Bannockburn, when Domhnall, son of Brian O'Neill, 
with other Irish princes, offered the sovereignty of 


Ireland to Robert Bruce, and, at his instance, chose 
his brother Edward to be king of Ireland. 

A rapid survey of events will enable us to trace 
the development of the Irish resistance from these 
beginnings. We shall see the extension of Irish rule 
over territories once in Feudal occupation, the 
destruction or reduction of Feudal castles, the 
building of castles by the Irish, the spread of the 
galloglass organisation, the renewal of distinctive 
elements of national life. 

Since the immigration of Hebridean soldiers was 
continuous for about three centuries, so as to form 
a considerable new element in the population of 
Ireland, and since their descendants are numerous 
among us to-day, I shall put in a word here about 
the principal families that reached Ireland in this 

In Tir Conaill, the leaders of galloglasses belonged 
to the family of MacSuibhne, englished MacSweeny 
or Sweeny. 

In Tir Eoghain, MacDomhnaill (englished Mac- 
Donnell and MacConnell), MacRuaidhri (englished 
MacRory and Rogers), and MacDubhghaill (englished 
MacDugall in Scotland, MacDowell and Doyle and 
Coyle in Ireland). These three families are descended 
from Sumarlidi, first king of Argyle and the Hebrides. 

In Connacht, MacDomhnaill, MacRuaidhri and 
MacSuibhne. In Munster, MacSuibhne and Mac 
Sithigh (englished MacSheehy, Sheehy, and Shee). 
This family is a branch of the MacDonnell family. 
In Leinster, MacDomhnaill. In Oriel, MacCaba, 
" MacCabe." 


Of galloglass commanders on record, those of 
the race of Sumarlidi far outnumber all the rest 

The galloglass chiefs obtained grants of land for 
their support. About a fourth of the whole territory 
of Tir Conaill was held by the three MacSuibhnes. 
Besides these principal names, many less prominent 
surnames, especially in Ulster, are of galloglass origin. 

The events hereinafter related are drawn from 
the Annals of Ulster mainly. 

In 1264, the year after Hakon's death, Aodh 
Buidhe O'Neill, who succeeded Brian as king of 
Tir Eoghain, extended his sovereignty over Oriel. 
After his time, the kings of Tir Eoghain take the 
title of kings of Ulster. 

1265. The kings of Connacht and Tir Conaill join 
forces and destroy the castle of Sligo. 

1267. Murchadh MacSuibhne is captured by the 
Earl of Ulster and dies in prison. He is the first of 
his surname in the Irish record. 

1269. Roscommon castle built b\ the viceroy 
D'Ufford, and Sligo Castle rebuilt. 

1270. The king of Connacht defeats the Earl of 
Ulster (lord of Connacht), and next year destroys 
the castles of Teach Teampla, Roscommon, Sligo, 
and 'Ath Liag ; and the year after, 1272, he destroys 
the castle of Rinndown. This king of Connacht was 
the same who joined in offering the sovereignty of 
Ireland to Brian O'Neill in 1258. 

In 1278, Donnchadh O'Briain, king of Thomond, 
defeated the Earl of Clare at Quin. His father had 
been taken three years earlier by the same Earl of 


Clare and put to death by being drawn asunder by 
four horses. 

In 1286, Ricard de Burgh, the Red Earl of Ulster, 
comes to the front with a sustained effort to recover 
power in Ulster and Connacht. Several times he 
forced a king of his own choosing on Tir Eoghain in 
place of Domhnall O'Neill, son of Brian of the Battle 
of Down. Domhnall, however, time after time 
recovered the kingship, and held it until his death 
in 1325. 

1289. De Birmingham is defeated by the Irish 
of Offaly, under their king, Calbhach O'Conor. 

1290. Toirdhealbach O'Domhnaill, "with the help 
of his mother's kindred, the MacDonnells of Scotland, 
and many other galloglasses," deposes his brother 
and makes himself king of Tir Conaill. This is the 
first mention of galloglasses by name and also of 
the MacDonnells as galloglass chiefs, in the Annals 
of Ulster, but the context indicates that the word 
was already in established use. 

1291. The Red Earl exacts the hostages of Con- 
nacht and harries Tir Conaill. 

1292. FitzGerald of Offaly rebuilds the castle of 
Sligo and takes the king of Connacht prisoner. Next 
year, this king, having got free, destroys the castle 

of Sligo. 

1295. Geoffrey O'Farrell destroys three border 
castles of Meath. The O'Farrell territory was at 
this time a small part of the present county of 
Leitrim. It was gradually extended after this until 
it comprised the county of Longford in addition. 
Longford takes its name from Longphort Ui Fhear- 


ghail, " O'Farrell's camp," a name significant of the 
new military organisation. 

1305. Sir Piers de Bermingham caused three of 
the Irish ruling family of Offaly and twenty-nine 
nobles of their people to be murdered at a banquet 
to which he had invited them in his own castle. 
For this he received a reward in money from the 
Viceroy and Council, with the consent of Ricard de 
Burgh, Earl of Ulster. 

In the same year, the Earl of Ulster built a castle 
in Inishowen, no doubt with a view to commanding 
Loch Foyle and hindering the landing of galloglasses. 
It may be noted that the Irish name of Milford 
Haven, a little farther west, is Port na nGalloglach, 
" the port of the galloglasses." This year we find 
a MacSuibhne in command of galloglasses in Breifne. 

1307. Donnchadh O'Ceallaigh, king of Ui Maine, 
in retaliation for the burning of his town of Ath 
Eascrach, attacks Roscommon, kills a great part of 
the defenders, and captures the Sheriff. 

1308. The Foreigners of North Connacht are de- 
feated by the Irish at Ballysodare. 

1 3 10. Geoffrey O'Farrell marches against Donore 
Castle in Westmeath, and Ruaidhri, king of Con- 
nacht, attacks the De Burgh castle of Bun Finne. 

1 31 5. At the instance of the northern Irish, Robert 
Bruce, having himself declined to accept the 
sovereignty of Ireland, sends his brother Edward 
to Ireland at the head of a strong expedition. 

Now that wc have reached this point, it is fairly 
evident that the Bruce invasion, so far from being 
the origin or cause of the Irish reaction against 


Feudalism and the English sovereignty, was itself 
a consequence of that reaction. Notwithstanding 
several great victories and successful marches through 
the country, Edward Bruce showed himself incapable 
of any constructive policy. His victories were more 
than counterbalanced by the crushing defeat of the 
western Irish at Athenry and by his own defeat and 
death at Fochairt, near Dundalk, in 1318. The 
northern annalist, in chronicling this event, makes it 
plain that the Irish of Ulster who suffered least 
during the invasion, knew no reason to grieve over 
its ending. This is his record of the event : 

1 3 18. " Edward Bruce, the destroyer of Ireland 
in general, of Irish as well as Foreigners, is killed 
by the Foreigners of Ireland through strength of 
fighting at Dundalk, and along with him are killed 
MacRuaidhri, king of the Hebrides, and MacDomh- 
naill, king of Argyle." In the previous year, the 
same annalist tells that Robert Bruce came to Ireland 
to aid his brother in expelling the Foreigners, and 
brought with him many galloglasses. It may be 
noted that the purpose, " to expel the Foreigners," 
is identical with that proposed half a century earlier 
by the Irish embassy to King Hakon. The failure 
of Edward Bruce, after a campaign of four years, 
must have restored some of the lost prestige of the 
Feudal colonists. On the other hand, the Irish of 
Thomond, by the defeat and death of Ricard de 
Clare, rid themselves of invasion. 

We come now to the next event which has been 
described as the turning point in the fortunes of 
the great struggle. In 1326, the Red Earl died, 


having recovered all that he had lost in East Ulster 
from Bruce's occupation, but not all in the same 
condition as before. He was succeeded by his son, 
the Brown Earl, William de Burgh. A feud arose 
among the De Burghs, and the young earl captured 
his kinsman Walter de Burgh, and starved him to 
death in the Red Earl's new castle of Inishowen. 
Death by starvation in prison is so frequent an 
incident of the Feudal regime as to suggest that these 
magnates obeyed the commandment, " Thou shalt 
not kill," by allowing God to allow their enemy to 
die, themselves not interfering. The event shows 
that, despite the Bruce invasion, the old earl held 
on to his isolated fortress among his Ulster enemies. 
The kinsmen and friends of Walter de Burgh avenged 
his death by assassinating the young earl near 
Carrickfergus. He died without male heir, his sole 
child, an infant daughter, became by law the ward 
of the king of England, who made her over in 
marriage, with the titular lordships of Connacht and 
Ulster, to his son Lionel, duke of Clarence. 

Sir John Gilbert, in his history of the Viceroys of 
Ireland, writes soberly and judiciously. He has one 
weakness. Just as Mr. Orpen revels in grants of 
land, which he takes to be the bedrock of civilisation, 
and therefore declares to have been no structural 
element in the Irish polity, attaching to them a 
sacred efficacy of which neither Henry II. nor John 
nor their grantees in Ireland appear to have been 
fully sensible ; so Gilbert revels in details of court 
procedure, and overloads his book with them : to 
be excused, perhaps, on the ground that he is writing 


the history of a court not of a country and people. 
Gilbert does not regard the Bruce invasion as a 
deciding factor in the attempted conquest ; but he 
does attach this character to the demise of the 
Feudal lordships of Connacht and Ulster from the 
great house of De Burgh, resident in Ireland, upon a 
branch of the Plantagenets, absentees in England. 
He pictures to us the De Burgh chiefs forthwith 
abandoning their allegiance to the English sovereign 
as lord of Ireland and at the same time suddenly 
adopting the language, laws, customs and manners 
of the Irish ; and the other Feudal lords infected by 
their example. We may readily believe that the 
titular dominion of the De Burgh earls over Connacht 
and Ulster had been a strong incentive to urge them 
to complete the conquest of those provinces, and the 
Feudal authority exercised by the earls, backed up 
by the power of the viceroys, furnished military 
resources which might conceivably have sufficed for 
such a conquest. It is further probable that Feudal 
law, so far as it could subject the De Burghs to the 
dominion of an absent prince, found little favour with 
them. There is no evidence forthcoming that the 
De Burghs in the fourteenth century were more 
reverent than De Prendergast, De Courci, or the 
De Lascis of the invasion period in their interpreta- 
tion of the obligations of Feudal allegiance. Their 
loyalty was measured by the power and prestige of 
their overlord, so far as he could make it felt. The 
decline of the Feudal regime was as much cause as 
effect of the estrangement of the De Burghs from 
the English interest. As for any sudden change of 


language, we must bear in mind that the " Anglo- 
Normans ' of the invasion did not speak English. 
So far as their language was not French, it was 
Welsh, with a mixture of Flemish. There was not 
much use for any of these languages in Connacht, 
where the De Burghs and other Feudal settlers led 
Irish armies and intermarried with Irish families. 
In short, the sudden and deliberate turning Irish of 
the De Burghs, after they had killed ofl their last 
earl, seems to be no better than a fantastic inference. 
Instead of adopting any common counsel or common 
policy, the De Burgh chiefs, after the Earl's assassina- 
tion, engaged in violent warfare against each other. 

From this time on we can trace the gradual and 
rapid spread of the galloglass organisation in various 
parts of Ireland ; and this continues until the time 
of Elizabeth who employed galloglasses on her 
own side and rewarded their chiefs with grants of 
Irish land. Meanwhile resurgent Ireland began to 
assimilate her "Old Foreigners." In 1374, the 
annalist, recording the death of Jenkin Savage, says 
that " he leaves poetry an orphan." This foster- 
father of Irish poetry was of the family of old Sir 
Robert Savage who said " a castle of bones is better 
than a castle of stones," Feudal lord of the Ards in 
East Ulster. 

The year after his death, 1375, a second battle 
of Downpatrick was fought. The Irish were com- 
manded by Niall O'Neill, great-grandson of " Brian 
of the battle of Down," so little were the Irish of 
that age daunted by the apparent disasters of their 
forefathers. The Foreigners were commanded by 

34 2 


Sir James Talbot of Malahide. O'Neill was 
victorious. Talbot fell in the fight. The battle 
put an end to the Feudal dominion established over 
East Ulster by the valiant de Courci. Of this fact 
we have a striking proof in the succession of bishops 
to the sees, then separate, of Down and Connor. 
From De Courci's time until the second battle of 
Down, during two centuries, no man of the Irish 
nation had been allowed to hold either bishopric. 
Soon after this, we find appointed bishop of Connor 
a man named O'Lucharain, and Irish surnames 
become very frequent in the clergy of both Down and 

In 1384, Niall O'Neill attacked and destroyed 
the fortress of Carrickfergus, and (says the annalist) 
" obtained great power over the Foreigners." In 
1392, the Feudal colonists of Dundalk submitted to 
him. In the record of his death in 1397, he is 
entitled " king of Ulster." 

About this time, Eoin MacDomhnaill, brother to 
Domhnall of Harlaw, king of Argyle and the Islands, 
acquired the Feudal title to the Glens of Antrim 
through marriage to the heiress of Biset. Having 
taken possession, the MacDonnells did not concern 
themselves about Feudal duties to an overlord, an 
Earl of Mortimer or an Earl of March. Afterwards, 
in the official language of the Elizabethan govern- 
ment, the MacDonnells of the Glens were intruding 
Scots : a point of view which their chief, Somhairle 
Buidhe, countered bluntly by proclaiming that 
" plainly the English have no right to be in 


In the fourteenth century and still more in the 
fifteenth, the Irish built castles for themselves and 
took possession of many castles built for their sub- 
jugation. They turned the policy of incastellation 
against its proprietors and patentees. In this they 
were facilitated by the galloglass organisation, 
always ready for military service. The principal 
family of galloglass chiefs, the MacDonnells, had 
for their heraldic motto " Toujours prets " — " always 
ready." In this period, too, a number of the old 
petty kingdoms, after long abeyance under Feudal 
lords, once more emerge into prominence. 

In 1423, the Irish of Tir Eoghain and Tir Conaill, 
aided now by the Irish of East Ulster, defeat the 
viceroy, the Earl of Ormond, at Dundalk. In 1425, 
the Earl of March, heir to the lordship of Ulster and 
Connacht, is sent to Ireland as viceroy and receives 
the formal submission of the Ulster princes. This 
does not count for much, for in five years time 
Eoghan O'Neill, son of the king of Ulster, received 
in his father's name the allegiance of O'Farrell, 
king of Annaly, O'Connor, king of Offaly, O'Molloy, 
king of Fir Ceall, O'Melaghlin, titular king of Mcath, 
and other Irish rulers in the midlands ; also of 
Nugent, Baron of Delvin, the Plunkcts, the Herberts, 
and the Foreigners of Wcstmeath in general. This, 
in the year 1430, marks the highest point of power 
reached by the kings of Tir Eoghain at any time. 
On his father's death in 1432, Eoghan O'Neill, says 
the annalist, " went to Tulach 'Og, and was there 
inaugurated king on the stone of the kings by the 
will of God and men, of bishops and chief poets," 


In the year following, 1433, Margaret, daughter 
of O'Carroll, king of Eile, and wife of O'Connor, 
king of Offaly, held those two festivals for the 
learned of Ireland that have been justly described 
as national events of high and singular importance, 
proving that the Irish of that time acted on a clear 
and definite consciousness of nationality. It should 
however, be made plain that Margaret's achieve- 
ment marked no new expression of the national 
consciousness, either in conception or execution. 
Eighty- two years earlier, in 135 1, what we may 
call a fair of Irish learning was held by William 
O'Kelly, king of Ui Maine, in his own territory. 

A contemporary account of O'Kelly's assemblage 
has been left us by one of his guests, Gofraidh 
Fionn 'O Dalaigh, official poet to MacCarthy, king 
of Desmond. Miss Knott, who has edited the 
poem in 'Eriu, 1 says properly that these assemblies 
of the learned under Irish rulers had a political 
import : the poets fulfilling in that age a function 
proper to the journalists of our time. 

The poet makes the occasion clear. O'Kelly had 
regained power in his ancestral territory, long under 
the control of the Foreigners, whom he had expelled, 
and was about to divide it again among his own 
people. In celebration of his good fortune, he offers 
a Christmas feast to all the men of learning and art 
of his nation : to the seven orders of poets, to the 
jurists, the historians, musicians, craftsmen, and 
jugglers also and jesters. Wide avenues were laid 
out with lines of conical roofed houses of timber 

» " Eriu," vol. V., page 50. 


and wickerwork : a street for the poets, one for 
the musicians, one for the chroniclers and genealogists, 
one for the rhymers and jugglers. These structures 
are compared to the letters on a page, O' Kelly's 
castle to the illuminated capital letter at their head. 
Craftsmen are busy carving animal figures on its 
oakwork. It is in the midst of a rich country, re- 
conquered by O' Kelly. On its bounds are Athenry, 
Athlone, and Athleague, three famous fords. " Loch 
Derg, a cause of pride, Loch Ree with its green 
marshes, these blue bays on which the sun shines 
brightly are the boundaries of William's land." 
Before William's ancestors, the land belonged to the 
hero Goll MacMorna and his brethren. It is a 
country of plenty, with every variety of surface, 
tillage and grasslands and forest. " We men of learn- 
ing have come through evil days — the time of con- 
quest and disruption — our lore neglected, our affluence 
reduced, most of our country against us ; but a better 
time has come. Our host to-night has delivered us 
from sorrow." 

It was among a people once more confident of 
the future that a congress of this kind was planned 
and successfully held. The poet bears witness that 
the king's invitation has brought together a con- 
course from every part of Ireland, from Ulster, 
Thomond, Desmond, Leinster and Meath. The 
annals tell us they came away well pleased. Could 
any event be more typical of a conscious and con- 
structive national idea ? 

In 1387, Niall 'O'Neill the younger, in the reign 
of his father, the victor of Downpatrick, built a 


hostel for the learned of all Ireland in Eamhain 
Macha, the site of the ancient home of the kings 
of Ulster. Margaret O'CarrolPs great festival of the 
learned in 1433 was thus the third such occasion 
within three generations, noteworthy above the 
other two in this respect among others, that it re- 
vived the fulness of national tradition on the very 
borders of the Pale. 

The true beginning of the Irish rally was in the 
minds of those kings and nobles and fighting men 
of Thomond and Connacht who marched to the 
Erne in 1258 to offer the headship of the free Irish 
to a king of Tir Eoghain. Both O'Brien and 
O'Connor were closer in the line of descent to 
kings of Ireland than O'Neill was. There was no 
country in Europe at that time whose magnates 
were not willing to have civil war rather than 
abandon plausible claims to sovereignty. From 
this worthy beginning I have traced the progress 
of resurgent Ireland down to a worthy fruition, the 
generous homage of an Irish queen to that literary 
tradition which, as Mrs. Green has so clearly shown 
us in a recent work, is the most characteristic 
element in Irish nationality. And there I leave 

the story. 

Another time of dark adversity came afterwards. 
What stands for the history of Ireland in that dark 
time is mainly the history of a government which 
nobody pretends to have been Irish. We need a 
new history from the fifteenth century onward, 
written out of the records of the Irish people. But 
as I have set down the Irish rally as the subject of 


this lecture, I may properly be asked now this 
resurgent movement ended. I shall go as near as 
I can to imitate the brevity of Sir Robert Savage. 
The Plantagenets invoked Peter, the Tudors in- 
voked saltpetre. When the Plantagenets undertook 
to become missionaries in Ireland, and incidentally 
to pay Peter's Pence, as Giraldus says, out of the 
profits, they were under the impression that Irish 
kings had control of secret gold mines. When 
Elizabeth's ministers professed a yearning to bring 
the Irish to civility, they were calculating how 
much land could be acquired by the expenditure of 
the stock of saltpetre available from time to time at 
so much per ton. It may shock the proper sense 
of the " Ireland under " historians that this villain- 
ous substance should be blown betwixt the wind and 
their civility, but just as the true keynote of what 
is called "Ireland under the Normans" is incastella- 
tion, so the true keynote of " Ireland under the 
Tudors ' is gunpowder. There is more mental 
profit in one fact of this kind than in the painful 
perusal of stacks of State papers, evidence mainly 
against those who write them. 

I must say that Irish history in the diatribal 
stage afflicts me much less than Irish history in 
popular handbooks. This lecture has not exhausted 
the subject from the time of Brian O'Neill to 
the time of Margaret O'Carroll — less than two 
centuries. I claim to have shown evidence of 
real life, growth, development, purpose and spirit 
in the Irish nation during that time. Take up one 
of these popular handbooks and what will you find ? 


The dissensions of the Irish clans, Edward Bruce's 
invasion, the perpetual Statute of Kilkenny, and 
how Richard II. fared in Ireland. Much is made 
of the Statute of Kilkenny, as though its oppressive 
operation were a necessary consequence of its record 
on the Statute Book. The Irish dissensions are 
gravely deprecated. They are the whole history 
of the nation during all this period, and one example 
is given as sufficing for all. It tells how Godfrey 
O'Donnell, after his fight with FitzGerald near Sligo, 
returned to Tir Conaill never to recover from his 
wounds ; how Brian O'Neill used the occasion to 
invade Tir Conaill ; how O'Donnell had himself 
borne on a litter at the head of his forces, routed 
O'Neill, and died in the hour of victory. All this 
story indeed is related in a Latin chronicle of uncer- 
tain date and the place of battle is not mentioned. 
The contemporary Annals of Ulster are the most 
copious and minute record for that time of the 
affairs of Tir Eoghain and Tir Conaill, having been 
written not far from the border of the two territories. 
They say nothing about an invasion of Tir Conaill 
or about any battle or hostility between the two 
kings. They relate the death of O'Donnell in these 
words only : ," quievit in Ckristo " — " he fell asleep 
in Christ," the customary formula of the obit of a 
churchman or of a layman who died in religious 
retirement in a monastery. This leaves the romantic 
battle story open to question. Whether the story 
be truth or fiction, when it stands with Edward 
Bruce, Richard II., and the Statute of Kilkenny, as 
a representation of Irish history during the period 


with which this lecture is concerned, it is not the 
truth of history. Not indolence nor want of access 
to the materials produces popular history of this 
sort. It is the product of a peculiar obsession of 
mind, that makes Ireland appear a sort of hotel, in 
which the important people are always distinguished 
visitors, and the permanent residents, when they are 
not under orders, are occupied with quarrelling 
children and other household worries in the garret 
or the basement. 

I have said in a former lecture that the " clan 
system," or, as some prefer to say, the " tribal 
system," of medieval Ireland, is a modern notion and 
is an illusion. Its basis is found in the prominence 
given in Irish literature to the aristocratic kindreds 
and in the Irish custom of naming territorial divisions 
by the names of the septs to which their lords be- 
longed. From this has arisen the notion that the 
sept or clan from whom a territory was named was 
the people of the territory. The illusion has been 
enlarged by the loose use of the term " tribe," which 
quotation has shown applied to a family group con- 
sisting of the children, grandchildren and great- 
grandchildren of one man ; the same term being 
applied to an ancient aristocratic kindred like Dal 
Cuinn, spread over nearly half of Ireland. Common 
tenure of land by a family group, necessitating 
redistribution of the land as new generations come 
forward, with the use of the term " tribe " to denote 
such groups, has created the further illusion of a 
tribal territory held in common and periodically 
redistributed. These things being illusions, I am 


reminded that I have not endeavoured to set out 
the facts in their stead. 

Let me then take a particular territory like 
William O'Kelly's kingdom of Ui Maine. In the 
fifth century, the lordship of this territory, carrying 
the title of king, was granted by a king of Connacht 
to his kinsman Maine. His descendants, called 
Ui Maine, were the principal nobility of the territory 
in later times. Before Maine, the territory belonged 
to a Pictish folk, the Sogini or Soghain, also found 
in other parts of the country. This Pictish folk 
continued to inhabit the territory under the rule 
of the sept of Maine, and under the subordinate 
rule of their own nobles. But even before Maine's 
time, the population did not consist of a homogeneous 
tribe of Sogini, for we find record of another folk 
dwelling there, distinguished from the Picts and 
classed among the Fir Iboth, i.e. the Ebudeans or 
Hebrideans ; and their descendants also remained 
in occupation, and are named and located in medieval 
documents. Successive conquests established various 
degrees of freedom, the measure of freedom being 
the degree of immunity from tributes and services. 
Besides these permanent inhabitants, there were 
landless immigrants who obtained holdings of land 
on very exacting terms, mitigated, however, by law 
after long continued occupancy. At the bottom of 
the scale, there were slaves, who could be bought, 
sold, or given away. In historical time, the slaves 
were never numerous. 

In addition there were professional men, the 
brehons or jurists, the poets and historians, the 


physicians, the musicians ; and with these must 
be classed the master craftsmen. All these had 
lands for their support. In the later age, lands 
were also set apart for the captains of galloglasses 
and the constables of castles. The law of the family 
or the fine governed all property in land, including 
the high proprietorship of the ruler. Under this 
and other influences, every calling tended to be 
hereditary in the Irish sense, not necessarily from 
father to son, but within the legal family group. 
It is even clear from the annals that the clergy 
were drawn from certain families much more than 
from others. 

There were common rights over rough land un- 
suitable for tillage. The remainder of the land was 
apportioned among family groups. There may have 
been an older system of a more communal character, 
for there is a tradition or legend about the enclosure 
and specific apportionment of the lands of Ireland 
in the reign of Aodh Slaine, about a.d. 600. 

Any king or lord could make grants of land within 
his jurisdiction ; and this can be shown to have 
been done in every age from the fifth to the sixteenth 

In every large territory there were church lands. 
The inhabitants of a church estate formed a little 
body politic by themselves, with a chief of their 
own, the airchinncch (oirchinneach, " erenach," or 
" herenagh "). O'Donovan thought that the lay 
succession to this title was a consequence of the 
disorder caused by the Norse wars ; in any case, it 
was merely an assimilation of the temporal govern- 


merit of church lands to the ordinary civil polity. 
The airchinnech was obliged to provide from his 
revenue for the support of the clergy and the main- 
tenance of religious services. Otherwise, his status 
was that of any territorial lord. In medieval Ireland, 
as elsewhere, we find the conflict between Church and 
State about the immunity of Church possessions 
from rendering tributes and services to the secular 

On broad and simple lines, the government of an 
Irish State resembled that of the Roman republic, 
with the king added as chief officer of State. 
Authority belonged to the patrician class, con- 
ditioned only by the prudential maxim, is treise 
tuatb na tighearna — " a people is stronger than a 
lord." Of the election of a king I know only one 
detailed account — the last instance in history — the 
election of Aodh Ruadh O'Domhnaill in 1593. The 
nobles, meeting apart, came to a decision, and 
then brought it before the popular assembly for 
ratification. New laws, and even important legal 
decisions, such as the sentence of death or deposition 
of a king, were also proposed for ratification by 

The executive functions of the king and the 
relations of subordinate to superior kings are well 
indicated in a law tract printed by Meyer in Eriu. 
It deals with a case in which a plaintiff or creditor 
has a claim to recover against a defendant or 
debtor who belongs to a different State. The 
plaintiff's king has no jurisdiction over the de- 
fendant. He must refer it to the next superior 


king, called " the king of a major State." If the 
defendant is outside of this king's jurisdiction, the 
major king must have recourse to the next higher 
authority, traditionally called " the king of a fifth." 
This king, if his jurisdiction does not extend to 
the defendant, must take the case to the king of 
Ireland, whose duty it will then be to levy the 

From this it follows that, when the parties at 
litigation were both subjects of the same petty king, 
it was his duty and function to give effect to the 
law as between them. 

The Irish Record Reports contain particulars of a 
class of State papers, the Fiants, which, especially 
for the reign of Elizabeth, contain lists of the 
principal followers of various Irish chiefs. No one 
who examines these lists will entertain the illusion 
that the people of an Irish territory were a homo- 
geneous clan. In a single list of the principal 
followers of O'Donnell, there are close on 150 distinct 
surnames, and among these the O'Donnells form a 
very small fraction. With regard to occupation, in 
these lists we find gentlemen, veomen, husbandmen, 
surgeons, physicians, priests, rhymers, harpers, 
pipers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, tailors, butchers, 
carpenters, masons, etc., and on the military side, 
horsemen, kerns, and galloglasses. 

There is no doubt that life in ancient Ireland was 
for the most part rural life. It did not reach that 
social intensity and complexity which arc peculiar 
to towns and to countries in which town life is. 
dominant. Nevertheless it was probably as high. 



a development of rural life as any country had 
produced in any age. 

What I have said about Irish institutions has of 
necessity taken often the form of an apologia ; of 
necessity, because I have found the balance heavily 
weighted down. But, one may object, there must 
have been some radical defect in this ancient civilisa- 
tion, otherwise its inherent soundness would have 
been more secure against either castles or saltpetre. 
How came it that a brave and intelligent and 
energetic people did not keep itself in the forefront 
of western development ? 

My answer to that is, that Ireland was ruled by a 
patrician class — and that is not all, for other 
countries have made remarkable progress under a 
patrician rule. The Irish nobility were rendered 
incapable of using their intelligence to profit with 
the times by one defect — they were perhaps the 
most intensely proud class of men that ever existed. 
This pride was bred in their bones. It came to 
them out of an immemorial past. The history of 
the Gaelic people falls into cycles of four centuries, 
beginning with our earliest knowledge of the Celts 
in the Hallstatt Period. There are four centuries 
of conquest, expansion and domination, before the 
Celts came to Ireland. By this time, pride of race 
was already their dominant sentiment. A Latin 
poet has described a Celtic general : 

" Before the rest, the rapid wing of the Boii, led 
on by Crixus, charges headlong into the foremost 
ranks and their gigantic limbs engage in battle, 
Crixus himself, swelling with ancestral pride, boasted 


his descent from Brennus, and bore for his token 
the capture of the Capitol. His shield depicted the 
Celts weighing out the gold of Rome. His milk- 
white neck gleamed with a golden torque, his rai- 
ment was embroidered with gold, the sleeves were 
stiff with gold, and the same metal formed his 
helmet's nodding crest." 

Four centuries more established the Celtic rule 
in Ireland. Their rule in Ireland remained secure 
during four centuries of Roman domination in Gaul 
and Britain. During four centuries of Germanic 
invasion and conquest, Ireland stood intact. After 
four centuries of Norse supremacy over neighbouring 
seas and lands, Ireland emerged unconquered. Two 
thousand years of unbroken sway may suffice to set 
pride above prudence in the tradition of any class. 
At the end of another cycle, when the Irish nobles 
were scattered over Europe, the nobility of their 
bearing and the distinction of their manners won 
admiration for them in every land but one. 

This intense pride is blazoned on the pages of 
our medieval literature, in annals, genealogies, stories, 
poems. The poets lived by ministering to it. In 
this respect, too, we can see the analogy with a 
good deal of modern journalism. 

Too much pride blinded the native rulers of 
Ireland to the insecurity of their state, and made 
them careless of their safety, and neglectful of the 
measures it required. Glorying in the long vista 
of their past, they did not look before them. They 
were conservative, inadaptable, unproviding. Herein 
lay the fatal weakness of medieval Ireland. 


We are now nearing the end of the seventh cycle. 
It has brought us a different experience. I must 
not speculate upon the outcome. If only I have 
succeeded in convincing you that Irish history must 
contain life, movement, colour, coherence, and human 
interest, beyond anything depicted of it in many 
books that have been written about it, with that 
and the recollection of your kind support I make a 
well contented conclusion. 



Aed Bennun ( ao-6 t3eAnriAn), 
power of, 237 

Agricola conquers the Britons, 
36 ; intends the conquest of 
Ireland, 136 

Ailbhe, Saint, date of, 161 

Ailech (OileAc), kingdom of, 
184 ; growth in power, 277 

airchinnech (oi]icinneAc, " ere- 
nagh," " herenagh "), office 
of, 351 

airecht (oipeAcc), court of as- 
sembly, 320 

Airgialla (Oi|i siaUa, " Oriel "), 
126 ; varying extent of, 185, 

Aithech-thuatha, 148 

Amorgen (AmAinjeAn, Ainii)i- 
5eAn), legend of, 97 

Anglo-Norman aggression, false 
pretext of, 286 

Anglo-Norman conquest, fail- 
ure of, 323 ; supposed causes 
of failure, 324 ; extent of, 

327 ; rally begins against, 

328 ; details of rally, 335 
Anglo-Norman invasion, de- 
ls of, 308-31 I 

Anglo-Normans, [rish assimi- 

La1 ion of, 341 
Annals, restricted scope of the, 

Aristocracy, intense pride of, 

Armagh founded, 160; school 

of, a national university, 284 
Assemblies, 138. 320; of the 

learned. ■', I 1 

Atecotti, 144, 146, 147-149 


Bede describes Ireland, 195; 
relates Irish migration to 
Scotland, 195, 196 

Belach Mugna (toeAlAc ITU1511A 
" Ballaghmoon "), battle of, 

Belgae, origin of, 18 ; " Bryth- 
ons," a supposed branch of, 42 

Belgic migrations, 52 ; ex- 
tended to Ireland, 57 

Bernard, Saint, of Clairvaux, 
his interest in Ireland, 281 

Black Pig's Dyke, 131 

" Book of Invasions," a nation- 
al epic, 96 

" Book of Rights," contents 
of, 274 

B6ramha tribute, 238 

Brega (t^eAgA, " Bregia "), 
kingdom of, 235 

Bregon (t>neoj;An), legend of, 

Brian Boramha. birth of, 266; 
his allies, 268 ; his policy, 

Britain, Irish invasion of, 141, 
[rish sell Lements in, 155 

British ethnography exempli- 
fied, 3'2 

Britons, effect of [toman con- 
quest on, 34-37 ; displaced 
from Scotland, 202 ; in Irish 
wars, 203 

Brittani, Brittania, origin of 
tin- names, 58 




Bronze Age in Ireland, date of, 
43 ; not Celtic, 44-46, 70 ; 
tillage in Ireland during, 72 

Brown Earl of Ulster, 339 

Brace, Edward, chosen king of 
Ireland, 334 ; conies to Ire- 
land, 337 

Bruce, Robert, sovereignty of 
Ireland offered to, 333, 337 

" Brythons," 34, 43, 45 


Caesar, Julius on Ireland. 134 

Caledones, 143 

Cathal, king of Munster, 237 

Cashel (c&ireAl TTlutiiAn) " dis- 
covered," 127 ; synod of, 286 

Cellachan (CeAllACAn), king of 
Munster, 266 

Celtae of Gallia Celtica, sup- 
posed identity of Gaels with, 

Celtic antiquity, growth of 
learned and popular interest 
in, 6-9 

Celtic migrations to Britain and 
Ireland, current British 
theory of, 32 ; approximate 
earliest date of, 48 ; tradi- 
tions concerning, 49, 50 ; 
archaeological evidence of, 
51, 52 

Celtic origin of Gaels and 
Britons forgotten by them- 
selves, brought to light by 
Buchanan, 4-5 

Celtic religion, 30 

Celtic resistance to Norsemen, 

Celtic studies : initiated by 
Buchanan, 5 ; developed by 
Llwyd, 6 ; stimulated by 
Gray, 7 ; and still more by 
Macpherson, 8 

Celtic words in the Germanic 
languages, 17, 18 

Celto-Germanic population, 18- 

Celts : the name indicative of 
linguistic not racial descent, 
1-3 ; earliest accounts of ; 
early relations with Germans, 
15-25 ; ancient civilisation 
of, 25 

Cerdraige (ce&n'ot <A1 5 e )> 76 

Christian era in Irish chrono- 
logy, 223 

Christians in Ireland before St. 
Patrick, 161-167 

Chronology of pre-Christian 
Ireland, 49 

Church, effect of the Anglo- 
Norman invasion on the, 28S, 

Church lands, 351 

Ciaran of Saighir, Saint, 161 

" Cities " in Ireland, mentioned 
by Ptolemy, 137, 138 

" Clan system," notions of, 289, 
349, 353 

Clann Cholmain dynasty, 236 

Clontarf , character of the battle 
of, 272 ; effect on Norsemen, 

Coiced (cuiseA-o), significance 
of, 101 

Coirpre Nia Fer (CAi^b^e Hia 
•peAji), king of North Leinster, 
104, 106 

Collas, the Three, 124 

Columban monasteries, re- 
organisation of, 284 

Commios and his sons, 167-170 

Communal land tenure, true 
and false notions of, 295, 

Connacht (CotitiAccA), ancient 
extent of, 112, 186 

Constantine, Donation of, 17 



Copper mines in Ireland, their 

remote antiquity, 71 
Copper Period in Ireland, 

Copper rivets, ancient industry 

in, 75 
Corcu Loegdae (Co^ca Laoij- 

•oe), 162 
Cormac, king of Munster, 260 
Cormac, king of Tara, 120 ; his 

reign an epoch, 124 
Craftsmen enfranchised. 229 
Crinna, battle of, 120 
Cruithin, the Irish name of the 

Picts, 59, 63 
Cu Chulainn, 79 
Cu Roi (Cu TtAoi), 102 


Dairine, 162 

Dal Araidhe, 185 

Dal gCais, " Dalcassians," ris- 
ing power of, 266, 268 

Dal Riada, 185, 194-200, 203 

Danes arrive in Ireland, 253 

Danish kings of the Hebrides, 

Dathi = Nath- 'I, 157 

De Burgh family, their alleged 
change in policy, 340 

Declan (-gia^Iati), Saint, 161 

Derbfine (-oeipupno), signifi- 
cance of, 230, 290 

D6si, Deisi, migration of, 109, 

Druim Ceata, assembly of, 197 

Dublin first fortified, 251 ; be- 
comes seat of Norse kingd< < 1 1 1 . 
J.V2 ; battle of, 264 

Dumbarton, " stronghold of 
the Britons," 198, 204 ; cap- 
tured by Dublin Norsemen. 

Dynastic polity, 177 


Eblana, Eblani, 137 

Ecclesiastical reform, 281-288 

'Eire, 'Eriu, origin of the name, 

Emain (ati eAtiiAin. " the 
Navan "), 115 

England before the Anglo- 
Norman invasion of Ireland, 
305 ; racial type now preva- 
lent in, 39 

English invade Ireland, a.d. 
684, 201 

English power recovered 
through firearms and artil- 
lery, 347 

Eochu Feidlech (eocAi-6 peni>- 
Igac), 118 

Eochu MacLuchtai (eocAi-6 
rrtAc Ixicca), king of Munster, 
103, 104 

Eterscel (ei-nipr >eAl), king of 
Ireland, 109 

Eoghanachta, origin of, 127 ; 
states of, 186 ; maximum 
power and decline of, 260- 

'Erainn, 'Erna, " Erneans," 
65-68, 104 ( = Iverni) 

" erenagh "=airchinnech 

Etruscan alphabet in Cisalpine 
Gaul, 167 

Eusebius, Irish writers influ- 
enced by, 89 

IVidhlimidh, king of Munster, 

Peidhlimidh, king of Connacht, 

career or. 828 
Per Diad iv*v tiia-6), 79 
Fergus (pcA r siir) defends the 

Galians, 81 
Fergus mac Eire, n<>, 194 



Fiachu Sroibtine (Paca S^Aip- 

cme), 124 
Fiana, 150 
Find Fili (porm pile), king of 

South Leinster, 104, 106, 110 
Fionn Bheara a Celtic god, 87 
Fir Bolg, 77, 79 
Fir Domhnann, 79 
Fir Iboth (Uboc), 74 (=Ebu- 

deans ) 
Fit zGc raid, Maurice, career of, 

Five-fold division of Ireland in 

ancient tradition, 102 
Flemish, settlers in Ireland, 303 
Fochairt, battle of, 338 
Fochla, kingdom of the, 185 
Fomori (-potiionAis), 85, 87 


Gabhair in Leinster between 

the two ancient provinces, 

Gaelic settlements in Britain, 

origin of, 46 
Gaels, legendary origin of, 90 
Galians (gAileoin), 80, 104 
Gall-Ghaedhil or Norse-Irish, 

211, 252 
Gall6glaich, " galloglasses," 

326 ; commanders of, 334 ; 

first record of, 336 ; spread 

of, 341 
Gaulish settlers in Ireland, 128 
Genealogies help to explain 

the annals, 179, 183, 194 
Geography in ancient Irish 

schools, 92 
Germans and Celts, early rela- 
tions between, 15-25 
Glacial period in Ireland, 69 
Gold in ancient Ireland, 71 
Gormlaith, career of, 262 
Government of an Irish state, 

character of, 352 

Grants of land, 297 ; to Gallo- 
glach commanders, 335 

Grants of lordship, 177 

Greek alphabet used in Gaul, 

Greek in ancient Irish schools, 


Hakon, king of Norway, loses 
control of Hebrides, 216 ; 
Irish sovereignty offered to, 

Heathen lore, ancient Irish, 176 

Hebrides, 74 

Hebridean forces, 325 ; first 
appearance in Ireland, 329 

Heptarchy in Ireland, 113 

" herenagh " — airchinnech 

Hiberni, Hibernia, origin of the 
names, 67 

History of Ireland, how con- 
structed by ancient writers, 
89, 98 ; earliest documents 
of, 114, 175 ; distorted views 
of, 347 

Ibar (iud&iO, Saint, date of, 161 
Ibdaig (11jx>ai5), Ebudeans, 74 
Iberi in Irish legend, 91 
Iberians, supposed early in- 
habitants of Britain, 40-42 ; 
supposed traces of, 62 
Inber Scene (inoeAfi Sseine), 

legend of, 93-95 
Incastellation policy of Anglo- 
Normans adopted by Irish, 
Industrial tribes of pre-Celtic 

origin, 75-79, 82 
Intercourse with the Continent, 

Iona granted to St. Columba, 



Irish, civilisation, chief defect 
of, 354 

Irish forces under Roman com- 
mand, 151 

Irish language, ancient learned 
jargon of, 165 

Irish law, features of, 312 

Irish learning, characteristics 
of, 240-244 

Irish manuscript orthography, 
origin of, 174 

Iron Age in Britain, supposed 
to have been introduced by 
Belgae, 42 

Iron, Celtic expansion facili- 
tated by possession of, 153 

Iverni, 65-68, 104 


Kenneth MacAlpin (CionAo-6 

itiac Aitpin), 204 
Kingship, law of succession to, 

Kings, functions of, 352 

Lagin Tuad-Gabair (IA15111 
Cua-o-Jaoaih), L. Des- (Jab- 
air (T)eAf-5ADAi|i), 107 

Latin in ancient Irish schools. 

" Laudabiliter," 286 

Law, courts of, 318 

Law of succession, evil conse- 
quences of, 294, 300 

Learning in Ireland, Zimmer's 
account, 164 ; testimony of 
Saint Columbanus, 166 

Leinater, ancient extent of, 108, 
122, 129, 186 ; struggle lor 

lost territory of, 188 ; tribute, 

Letters in Britain, introduction 
of, 167-170 

Limerick. Norse settlement at, 

Lincolnshire, pseudo-scientific 
ethnography exemplified in 
the case of, 32 

Literature in Ireland, begin- 
nings of, 167 

Loeguire (lAogAipe), king of 
Ireland, 182, 188 

Luaighni, 80, 104 

Luguid (tusAi-6), king of Ire- 
land, 190-193 


MacCaba(" MacCabe ") family, 

MacDomhnaill (" MacDonnell, 

^JaeConnell," etc.) family, 

334 ; obtains Irish territory, 

219, 342 
MacDubhghaill (" MacDugall, 

MacDowell, Doyle, Coyle ") 

family, 334 
MacRuaidhri (" MacRory, 

Rogers ") family, 334 
MacSithigh (" MacSheehy, 

Sheehy, Shee ") family, 334 
MacSuibhne (" MacSweeney, 

Sweeny ") family, 334 ; first 

record of, 335 
-MagRoth, niAj;nAc = Moira 
Magnus, king of Norway, fails 

to restore Norse power, 280 
Malachy (IHaoL m'Ao-oos), 

Saint, 281 
Mathgamain ( 111 AcgAtii 41 n ) 

overthrows Eoghanacht 

dynasty, 268 
Matriarchy, a Pictish custom, 

59 f 

Medb (nicA-61)), 80, 118 
Medraige (nicA'onAise), 82 
Midhe, early extent of, 113; 

partition of. '-'.•!.■; 

3 62 


Mil, legend of, 91-95 

Military organisation disap- 
pears, 229, 235, 251, 267 ; 
reintroduced, 325 

Military tribes of pre-Celtic 
origin, 79-82 

Moira, battle of, 199 

Monarchy, Irish, fictitious ac- 
counts of, 115, 239 ; origin 
of, 118; held by Connacht 
dynasty, 130 ; detached from 
Connacht dynasty, 192 ; suc- 
cession to, 231, 238 ; in 
abeyance, 272 ; restored in 
depraved form, 273 

Muirchertach MacErca, king of 
Ireland, 190-193 

Muirchertach, king of Ailech, 
career of, 266 

Muiredach Tirech (muipeA-oAC 
CijieAc), 124 

Munster, ancient extent of, 
108, 126. 186 ; increasing 
power of, 236 ; ecclesiastical 
kings of, 258 

Mythological inhabitants of 
Ireland, 85 

Mythology of Irish Celts shows 
traces of continental origin, 
87 ; transformed by Chris- 
tian writers, 88 

Nationality, ancient Irish con- 
ception of, 96 ; characteris- 
tic development of, 224-229 ; 
conscious sense of, 244-248 
Nath- 'I, 157 
Nemed (tleitrieAX)), 88 
Neolithic Age in Ireland, 69 
Nia Segomon (niA SeASAtiiAti). 

Niall Glundubh, king of Ire- 
land, 263 

Niall of the Nine Hostages, 129, 
130, 157 ; settlements of his 
kindred, 180-185 

Norman statecraft. 301 

Normans, so called, in Ireland, 
their racial, linguistic, and 
political affinities, 302 

Norman plan of conquest, 304 

North Leinster kingdom, fall 
of, 122 

Nuadu (nuA-oA, Nodons), a 
Celtic god, 95 

Norse invasions begin, 203. 
249 ; Celtic resistance to, 
205 ; conquests in Scotland, 
205 ; kingdom of Hebrides 
and Argyle, 211-220 ; earliest 
settlements in Ireland, 251 ; 
power in England and 
France, 254 ; expelled from 
northern Ireland, 255 ; adopt 
a settled life, 265, 273 ; de- 
moralisation caused by, 281 


Ocha, importance of the battle 
of, 190, 231 

Oengus (Aonjur), a Celtic god, 

Oengus ( Aonsur), king of Mun- 
ster, 128 

O'Farrell (Ua V e Ar5* 11 ) terri- 
tory extended, 336 

Ogham alphabet, origin of, 170, 
inscriptions, range and time 
of, 173 

Ogmios, Ogme (OjtriA), a Celtic 
god, 171 

Oileach= Ailech 

oirchinnea = chairchinneeh 

oireacht =airecht 

Oirghialla= Airgialla 

O'Neill, Brian, career of, 328 ; 
chosen chief king, 331 



•O'Neill dynasty, increased 
power of, 343 

Oriel= Airgialla 

Orosius, Irish writers influ- 
enced by, 90, 92-95 

Ovoca, curious origin of the 
name, 139 

" P-Celts " and " Q-Celts," 43, 

Paganism, survival of, 224 

Palaeolithic Age not represented 
in Ireland, 68 

Palladius, Saint, mission of. 163 

Parthal6n, 39, 88 

Patrick, Saint, 159 ; date of his 
death, 222 ; Bury's account 
of, 225 

Pelagius, 164 

Pentarchy in Irish tradition, 

Picts, supposed to be Iberians, 
41 ; Ireland and Britain 
named from, 59 ; in Ireland 
and Scotland, 62-65 ; legend- 
ary origin of, 64 ; in Ireland, 
74 ; in Ulster, 120, 185 ; 
earliest mention of, 141 ; in 
Connacht, 180 ; their king- 
dom in Scotland overthrown, 
201 ; they lose territory in 
Ulster, 233 

Pliny on Ireland, 135 

Political system in ancient 
Ireland, 274-278 

Pomponius Mela on Ireland, 

Poseidonios on Ireland, 133 

Pre-Celtic population of [re- 
land, 73 

Pre-Celtic metal workers, 75. 76 

Pietani, significance of the 
name, 59, 82 

Primitive races, assumptions 

regarding, 83 
Property in land, 295-299 
Ptolemy on Ireland, l'->'6 


Qreteni, an ancient name for 
the Picte, 59 


Race, true and false notions 

of, 1, 2 
Racial fusion in Ireland, 229 
Red Earl of Ulster, 336 
Revolt against Gaelic rule, 80, 

Rigdamna (juo5x>AriinA), pre- 
cise meaning of, 231 
Roman empire, collapse of. 15S 
Roman military system influ- 
ences Ireland, 150 
" Rosnaree," Ror ha U105, 
battle of, 103 

Schools, reorganisation of, 284 
Scotland, Irish colonisation of, 
194 ; Irish settlements ex- 
tend to east coast, 202 ; con- 
quest by Cinaed (CionAoo), 
204 ; centralised polity of, 
206 ; extent of Irish colonisa- 
tion, 207 ; anglicisation, 208 ; 
feudal institutions intro- 
duced, 209 
Scotti, legendary origin of, 90 ; 
earliest mention of, 143 ; 
meaning of the name. 111; 
St. Jerome's account of, 146 
Scottish history, earliest docu- 
ments Of, 198 
Scythians in Irish legend, 91 
Segomo, a Celtic god, 127 



Semaine (SeAiriAiiie), Semrige 
(Seimtuse), Semonrige (SeA- 
montiAige), Tuath Semon 
(SeAinAti), 75, 78 

Siol Aedo Slane (siol aot>a 
SlAine), dynasty of, 236 

Sliab Badbgnai (sliAb t)A5nA, 
" Slieve Baune "), 78 

Sliab Echtgi (SliAb Oaccsa, 
" Slieve Aughty or Baugh- 
ty "),78 

Snakes absent from Ireland, 

Solintis on Ireland, 140 

States in ancient Ireland, classi- 
fication of, 274, 275 

Strabo on Ireland, 134 

Sumarlidi (SotiiAijili-o), founds 
a kingdom in western Scot- 
land, 214 ; spurious pedi- 
gree of, 215 ; sends enibassy 
to Derry, 284 ; bis descend- 
ants in Ireland, 326, 3C4 


Tacitus on Ireland, 136 
Tadbg, son of Cian, 121 
Taillte (" Teltown "), assembly 
of, interrupted, 256 ; re- 
stored, 258 
*' Tain B6 Cuailnge," its an- 
cient celebrity, 100 
Tanistry, origin of, 295 
Tara (CeAihAin), a provincial 
capital, 104 ; occupied by 
Connacht dynasty, 120 ; its 
desertion, legendary and 
historical, 233-236 
" Teora Connachta," 130 
Tigernach (CiseAtmAc), 86 
Tillage in Ireland during 

Bronze Age, 72 
Tin from Britain, ancient trade 
in, 47 

Tradition, historical value of r 
105 ; medieval treatment of, 
" Tribal system," theory of. 289 
Tuatha De Danaan, 85, 95 
Tuathal Teachtmhar, 118 


Ui Maine kingdom, origin of, 

Ui Neill, 130 ; Northern ami 
Southern, 184-18G ; dissen- 
sions of, 233, 236 

Uisneach occupied by Connacht 
dynasty, 118 

IJlaidh, kingdom of, 185 

Ulster, ancient extent of, 112, 
123-125, 129 ; Great Wall 
of, 131 ; strategic aspect 01" 
frontier, 328 ; O'Neill kings 
of, 335 ; earldom, 336 ; goes 
to English royal house, 339 ; 
Feudal authority overthrown 
in, 341 

Ulster kingdom, fall of, 126 


Welsh settlers in Ireland. 303? 
(See also under Britons) 

Warfare in ancient Ireland, 

Waterford, Norse settlement 
at, 262 ; successfully defend- 
ed, 264 

World-sovereignty, Irish no- 
tions about, 269 

Writing in Irish, early spread 
of, 176 

Zimmer's theory of the be- 
ginning of Irish learning, 164 

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