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Table of Contents
Scotland Began with Rome
Rheged: The Original Scottish Kingdom
The History of Dál Riata / Dalriada
While working on another article related to early Scottish history for our AmeriCeltic newsletter we discovered some forgotten incidents that changed the course of the development of Scotland. It seems that, although Rome never controlled Scotland and only made invasions/incursions for a very short period of time, about 7 years between 77 and 84 CE, under Agricola, Rome’s presence destroyed what was then Scotland, through the same mechanism that the much later Spanish, Portuguese and other early European explorers and tiny bands of would-be conquerors and colonists in the Americas: disease. After the destruction of the older kingdoms, the consolidation under new organization and government was also done in the same way: a new religion and language, written as well as verbal.
Scotland and Wales were the most isolated parts of Britain after about 1000 BCE. In this part of Europe, the bronze age was ending as the iron age began, and tin and copper were no longer in such great demand. While there is evidence the Phoenicians visited and traded here, the next surviving record is of the Greek merchant Pytheas in about 325 BC. It is possible that Carthaginians successors of the Phoenicians were also here but no written records have survived of these people to indicate this, nor are there many artifacts in archeological sites found to indicate they were in Britain regularly. Dr. Caitlin Green, an Oxford postgraduate scholar, and tutor and course director for continuing education at Cambridge has done some articles about Phoenician-Punic (Carthaginian) relations and contact with Britain and possible island names that originated with the languages used by these peoples. Most of what she has found appears to fall in two ranges of time: before the iron age, when the whole of Britain was called ‘the copper island‘, and from about the 4th century BC to the fall of Carthage. This supports the beliefs of others and their evidence–lack of artifacts, notably, that state that Britain, Ireland and the nearby smaller islands were ‘relatively isolated’ after the iron age started as copper and tin became less important. Isolated populations are less resistant to bacteria and viruses that have been mutating elsewhere more frequently and infecting populations, which over time, gives survivors greater resistance and even immunity.
Additionally, scientists studying the changes in climate and forests were startled to discover that in the second century CE (sometime between 100 and 200 CE) there was a huge growth in the forests of Scotland, indicating a large loss of human population that otherwise would have been using the forests for firewood and construction. I thought about this and started looking for major epidemics or pandemics that were large enough, and contagious enough to have caused many deaths among these long ‘relatively isolated’ Brythonic populations. Looking through the scant mentions of early epidemics and pandemics, one stood out: in Wales in 114 CE, which was stated to have killed 45,000 persons in Wales. The language of Scotland at this time, as all the small kingdoms or tribal areas in what is now Scotland were Brythonic, were variants of ‘old Welsh ” and there were trading networks along the coast. Romans and Greeks described coming from Iberia, following currents, up between Ireland and Britain and visiting the islands and coastal communities for trade–and Romans for attempts to conquer and control the islands for trade and future conquests on the two largest islands, Britain (Pretannia which morphed into Britannia) and Eire. One tribe in Scotland completely disappeared at about the time of this epidemic. It was gone by the beginning of the 3rd century– and it lived along the coast of southwest Argyllshire, the peninsula of Kintyre and on the nearby islands. This small tribe was replaced by 210 CE by the Irish of Dal Riata. This was the Epiddi.
A second larger tribe lived next to the Epiddi, north of the Novantae who were in what is now Galloway and part of Dumfriesshire. The larger neighbors of the Epiddi were the Damnoni, and the description of their land and their principal occupations was quite clear. They lived in Strathclyde up to the Rock of Dumbarton, down to southern Ayrshire in the ‘deep river gorges and valleys,’ where they also dug into the earth–for copper. This area was well known to peoples before the Romans. The Damnoni also largely disappeared but most merged with the Novantae to form the kingdom of Rheged. Some, like the remains of the Epiddi were quickly absorbed by the Dal Riata as their kingdom grew from ‘a couple of small trading posts’ in the second century to the larger part of a kingdom that stretched from what is now Antrim and small parts of Counties Down and Coleraine (later added to Londonderry) to Kintyre, and at least half of Argyllshire by the 4th century CE, including all the smaller islands between.
The expansion of Dal Riata in Argyll shire south to Ayrshire, could only be accomplished by something that destroyed a large part of the population shortly after the Romans found Dal Riata to have only a couple of small trading forts or posts on Kintyre toward the end of the first century, when Agricola (40-93 CE), was first making notes and maps and had encampments in this same area, notably one at what became Annan.
The Roman encampments forts and towns were high density in housing, many shared buildings, such as barracks for soldiers and ‘insulae’ multi-story apartment or tenement buildings used by all the workers supporting the legions, including craftsmen and lower levels of tradesmen. Densely populated Roman encampments and towns, just as the larger cities in the heart of Rome, were hotbeds of typhus, malaria, measles and more. They also had larger herds of animals living nearby, particularly just before slaughtering for fresh meat, and more than one outbreak of anthrax was reported. It is not certain what the plague was that hit Wales in 114 CE, but it is suspected that smallpox was already in the empire, brought by soldiers from West Asia before the famous Antonine pandemic that raged from about 165-180 CE, and killed two emperors.
When one reads the earliest Roman records, of which there are not many, one other thing stands out, supporting the findings of the climate scientists. The description of Scotland at the time Marinus wrote his geography and made his maps–later used by Claudius Ptolemy, changes when described by Romans and Christian monks in the 4th century. The old tribes were gone by the 4th century and instead kingdoms existed: Dal Riata, Rheged, Caeredon/Caledon, and what became Berenicia. Berenicia is an interesting name with a historical connection to Rome as a daughter of the ‘usurper’ Magnus Maximus, who had become ’emperor’ of Britain and Gaul, was described as named Berenice or Berenicia and married to a ‘Pictish king named Vortigern.’ By the time of her father’s surrender at Aquileia and his execution in 383 CE. Magnus Maximus’ wife had become a Christian and was recorded as having visited and consulted with St. Martin of Tours. It is not known what happened to his wife, but Roman records indicate his mother and at least two young daughters still in the household were spared. Only his son, Victor, is recorded as also having been executed by strangulation the same year the father, Magnus Maximus, was killed. Shortly after this, the Romans withdrew most of the legions in Britain, but Christian monks were already in Britain and remained. Berenicia and Deira of the 5th and 6th centuries were the Votadinii of the 1st through 4th centuries, another tribe broken up and almost destroyed by the Romans.
Also studies are showing malaria, endemic in all of Europe up to the Arctic circle, got much worse in Britain, France, etc. after the Romans came and started building their traditional high density towns with ‘insulae’ for the less affluent and barracks for their legions. In 71 and 79 CE there was severe flooding in what is now England and parts of Wales with losses of ‘multitudes of cattle’ and malaria outbreaks. Now these damaged the populations of Britain closest to the Romans, but the flooding and associated disease outbreaks did not appear to be associated with the greater trading networks.
The one epidemic on the trade routes was the largest one in Wales, in 114 CE. It thus seems likely that an epidemic, a bad one of some highly contagious disease to which the populations of Wales and Scotland had not been exposed for several hundred years since the iron age started, destroyed significant numbers of the original populations and a large part of their social and government structure at this time, and allowed the Irish of Dal Riata to go from a couple of tiny trading posts to taking over land in Scotland and gradually expanding–bringing a new language and new religion.
Key to determining when Scotland was suddenly depopulated, besides the sudden growth of large forests was the oldest map and description, usually described as Ptolemy’s geography at one end of the time frame and the descriptions of the peoples of Scotland found in letters of St. Patrick, what’s left of records of Iona, etc. The kingdom of Caeredon (Caledon) had at least two capitals, one at Dunkeld just before the Vikings arrived, and one at Urquhart, recorded in the 5th century–about two centuries earlier than the archeological findings of the greatest extent of Dunkeld. Both sites had monasteries nearby which would have had a lot of records about this kingdom. Both capitals and the nearby monasteries were destroyed by the Vikings. Archeology and records of Northumbria indicate when the capitols and monasteries were destroyed. It is also after the Vikings arrive and Northumbria falls under their control that the term ‘Strathclyde” for the kingdom of Rheged comes into use. It is first used by Northumbrians and others in about 870 CE, although the region of the Damnoni had the term used in their area to describe their landmark and a nearby capitol at the ‘Rock of Dumbarton” By the early 4th century this people and area was describe as the Alt Cluith and one letter describes a king of the Alt Cluith at this time. However, that is also the last mention of them as a separate people. By sometime in the late 5th century or early 6th century they were absorbed into other kingdoms. The people of the kingdom of Alt Cluith were the last of the Damnoni (Damnon).
The maps and geography generally ascribed to Claudius Ptolemy (ca. 100-170 CE) were not created by him. He did a re-work with limited additions–and subtractions–of the real first geography and maps of the world, and which also used latitude and longitude, done by Marinus of Tyre (ca. 70-130 CE). Marinus, a Roman, used the earliest maps, journals and records of Roman governors and commanders, including those of Agricola whose history and records were well preserved. The son in law of Gneaus Julius Agricola was the famed Roman historian Tacitus. Agricola left good records of his time in Britain and both Tacitus and Marinus used them. The names, descriptions and locations of the original 9 tribes that Rome knew in what later became Scotland were recorded by Agricola and his men. The maps of Marinus and Claudius Ptolemy were actually lost and recreated from the descriptive geographies by Byzantine monks under the orders of Maximus Planides in 1295 CE. The geographies, which never were destroyed, are thus more historically accurate.
There were nine tribes that existed in what became Scotland between 70 and 84 CE. They were no more by the 4th century and large forests had grown up and covered most of Scotland again in the 2nd century (100-200 CE). This indicates Scotland was largely depopulated AFTER Agricola and his victory at Mons Grampius–but the battle at Mons Grampius, in the autumn of 83 or 84 CE, was not the greatest cause of depopulation. Agricola won a victory over three tribes but he did not completely break the power of the tribes and did not destroy the people, only most of the deployed armies, none held in reserve that were not used and helped survivors to escape, and anything near the battle site. Tacitus reported that twice as many as were killed by the Romans escaped into the hills and forests of the area and could not be found a day later. There already were in this region forests and mountains into which the people could and did retreat and still existing hill forts. Agricola defeated a large army and killed many men, but not entire families and there were survivors. He was not able to follow up his victory with conquest and placing permanent Roman encampments, forts–and government. Agricola was recalled by the emperor Domitian to Rome, and ordered into retirement only months later.
Agricola also was not able to defeat and conquer the Novantae in the southwest of what is now Scotland, Galloway and Dumfriesshire–and lost some small battles there. His encampments at Annan and a few other areas were extremely short-lived. The very land, very rugged, hilly, even with mountains, deep gorges, etc. was against him and sheltered the native people and Agricola and others understood this. There also were no known sources of gold nor large caches of other riches in these areas to keep trying to conquer them. The paucity of the usual riches didn’t justify the costs, including in men, to take the areas. Agricola was the first and last to try to take even a part of what became Scotland.
Then, when Hadrian built his wall (122-129 CE), his wall was punctuated by small encampment towns used for trade but already something was happening and Romans noted that trade became less over time, even as the wall was being completed. There were also no major attacks as the wall was being completed. This then emboldened the Romans to build a second wall, the Antonine Wall, 100 miles to the north between 142 and 161 CE, when it was abandoned almost as soon as it was completed. Additionally, while Hadrian’s wall had been made tall and strong out of stone, the Antonine wall was made of turf and wood–far less sturdy, and it began to fall apart as soon as it was finished. In 122 CE Brythonic tribes were seen as both threat and trade. By 142 CE, the threat was gone. By the time this turf and timber wall was completed in 161 CE, the first reports of smallpox in the eastern Roman empire were beginning. The first known pandemic of Europe was on the way, but Scotland had already been hit with something else. Scotland was depopulated between about 120 and 142 CE–the first half of the second century, exactly when huge forests began growing again.
There is another significant tribe that I have not mentioned as this tribe was largely destroyed by Rome and its remnants were quickly absorbed into the four kingdoms. This was the Selgovae and Rome had not been their only problem. They were amid all the other tribes and the southernmost of the tribes north of the Roman government in Britain. Being in the middle as they were, meant potential conflict, as well as trade in good times, with all the others. There were more hill forts built here during the late bronze age and iron age than in any other part of what became Scotland. To get to Mons Grampian and his other targets, Agricola also had to first go through–and destroy the Selgovae and largely did. After Rome left, the records that remain indicate from the 5th century on, this area was fought over by Rheged and Berenicia/Northumbria.
The Picts had names for themselves as tribal kingdoms. Two groups merged and formed one kingdom by the 5th century. The dominant, larger tribe was ‘Caernon’ and various similar spellings. ‘on’ is plural in Brythonic languages. So the kingdom could legitimately be called Caerland–or Carrland or Caredon. The Romans heard this and it became interpreted as something that phonetically is similar: Caledon, substituting an ‘l’ for ‘r.‘ The ‘Pictish kingdom’ referred to in letters by St. Patrick and records of Columba, etc. could legitimately be called the kingdom of Caledon or Caredon. Note, the ancient families of Carr also spelled Kerr could have, and probably did, originate in this kingdom.
Next item that has led to myths-like the Brythonic peoples had no writing before Rome.: the Brythonic pre-Christian Celts in what is now Scotland, as well as the Gaels in Ireland, actually DID have writing. Both they and the Gaelic Irish Celts were already using Ogham in pre-Christian times. Rev. Hamlet McClenaghan was even able to determine both a pre-Christian and post Christian table of inscriptions for his book The History of Dunshaughlin (union of 9 parishes). The problem is for modern researchers that most Ogham writing was incised on sticks of wood bundled together, which could easily be separated and would not have lasted. It is likely that many ended up later used for kindling for hearth fires. They could be broken, burned, or simply decompose over time once the bundles themselves which dictated in what order they were to be read were broken. There have been some inscriptions in stone found but very few. Rome left far more lasting records. The Christian church also used Rome’s Latin language, its alphabet and writing and the same writing materials and came to dominate record keeping in early and medieval Scotland. When the monks were not using Latin, they were using ‘p-Gaelic,’ from Dal Riata. Rome also destroyed what had been ‘Scotland’ (Caledon) with language, as well as disease, and religion.
One last item: ‘Scotare’, is Latin for an act of transferring land–and also refers to fighters who use shields. Secare is to ‘cut.’ ‘Scotti’, long held to be the Latin term for the north Britons, would indeed be a term for raiders, invaders and conquerors. After all, invaders certainly transfer the ownership and control of land. The Dal Riata were indeed doing that. So that part of the tradition is correct: the term did refer to the Dal Riata and by the third century they were invading and conquering in Argyllshire and the islands–all lands known to the Romans and which they were attempting to use, themselves. The early boats of Irish and Scots who held fighting men, as the later Viking ships, had men armed, with not only spears and swords, but also shields, used against onslaughts of arrows, as bows and arrows were also used in fights at sea as well as on land.
By the time the last Roman soldiers left, a new ‘Scotland’ was being born, not tribes but kingdoms, not using Ogham on sticks and stones, but monks using Latin and Gaelic and writing on parchment, and coming with the kings and would be kings of Dal Riata (the Scotarii) which took its first footholds in the old tribal lands of the Epiddi and later the northern Damnon. East of Dal Riata was the kingdom of Caeredon/Caledon, and to the south was Rheged. Southeast was Berenicia and Deira, soon to be joined into Northumbria, first under Saxons, then under Vikings. Then there was a massive eruption of volcanoes in not very distant Iceland (536-538 CE), followed by another pandemic–the first major known historic outbreak of the Black Death, which destroyed the Byzantine emperor Justinian’s efforts to recreate the full Roman empire. Although Britain was not hit as hard by the plague as continental Europe it was not spared and not long after this, there were only three kingdoms in Scotland; Dal Riata, Rheged and Caeredon/Caledon. The next article will cover Dal Riata. (Sources–numerous secondary source articles citing primary sources–most easily found online.)
The Original Scottish Kingdoms and Scots
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker
The history of modern Scotland and its kings begins with Rheged, (later called Strathclyde by outsiders), the one ancient kingdom in the island of Brittania that was never conquered or even badly mauled by Romans, Vikings or Dalriada-Argialla Gaels.
This article is intended to be a short summary of mostly historic times of Scotland–the last 2,000 years. Even though the earliest Scottish kingdoms were not literate, did not leave clay tablets or papyrus or bark scrolls with writing, they had trading partners and neighbors, and invaders who were literate and left some records about them. They also left artifacts and remains of temples, forts and villages and towns from which additional facts can be, and have been gleaned.
In recent months and years, I’ve encountered a number of the same misconceptions, and old, now disproved beliefs about Scottish history and people. I myself recently learned more about a crucial all but forgotten area of Scotland as I began working on an update to my Clan Wallace history, and the first mostly complete history of the Campbells of Loudoun and their cadet houses. Both works are for mostly descendants of their diaspora and largely stop at the time most descendants of these were leaving Scotland, particularly for North America. I then also mention the lines that stayed and continued to have some descendants in Scotland to this day. Unfortunately, generally, Scotland’s largest and most valuable export by far for 400 years and more has been its people. This was observed early in the reign of James VI–over 400 years ago and remains unchanged to this day.
Because so many Scots have left, and so many have now been gone from Scotland for 300 to 400 years, a lot of real Scottish history has been lost among the millions of descendants of Scots now outside of Scotland. Thanks to the 1707 Act of Union and subsequent Anglicization of Scotland, even many Scots are now unfamiliar with parts of their own history. This article is to try to help remedy that deficiency in memory and current historical knowledge and end some misconceptions about what Scotland and the Scots long were, before the last arriving groups that helped make the modern Scots.
Extensive trade and knowledge of the areas of the main island of Britain and nearby smaller coastal islands really began in the Bronze age, before the first Celts arrived. There were already large numbers of people in Britain, who were from the Mediterranean islands, coastal lands, and the northwest coast, including what is now Denmark and the low countries of continental Europe. There is, to this day, a small percentage of people whose ancestors arrived in what is now Scotland up to 6,000 years ago, who do not have modern west European DNA. This shows in both the Y-DNA male haplogroups and the female MtDNA haplogroups. Wales and Cornwall, and a part of southwest Scotland have the highest numbers of I and J haplogroups that predate the Celts. It is no accident. These were the regions where both copper and tin were found. While copper is abundant in many places in Europe, north Africa and West Asia, tin is not. Tin was found in Wales, and Cornwall, and also found in the Basque and Celtic areas of Spain, and the Irish Gaelic came from these areas. The old Basque kingdom of Navarre, straddled part of Spain and France, traded with Brittany, and the people from northern Navarre and Brittany are among those who arrived as Brythonic speaking Celts) Britons in Wales and the rest of Britain, including what became Scotland.
The Brythonic/Briton Celts first arrived in Britain and came to overwhelmingly dominate it, beginning over 3500 years ago. They set up tribes, clans and kingdoms almost immediately. The Brythonic Celtic kingdoms in Scotland and Wales were the longest lasting: over 2500 years. They did not disappear until the 13th century–only 800 years ago.
At the time of Rome’s invasion and conquest of most of what is now England, there were already three early kingdoms in Scotland, two of which extended into what is now northernmost England. We know the name of one of them, the one that included what is now Ayrshire, Dumfries shire, Galloway in Scotland and Cumbria in northwestern England. This kingdom was called Rheged and was identified even on Roman maps. A second one was in southeastern Scotland and included what is now Northumberland. It was identified in later records after the Vikings took York, as the region of Bernicia, the northern half of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria. This region was still Brythonic Celts (Britons) with a Viking rulership that had married with the last of the old kings Briton and nobles, but still essentially, mostly Briton, distinct from the Anglo-Saxon-Viking southern half of Northumbria with fewer Britons, because Rome and then the Angles had killed and/or removed most in that area. The center ‘borderland’ of Scotland and England was fought over and went back and forth between the two southern Briton kingdoms of what was to become Scotland for about three centuries from the 8th to the beginning of the 12th centuries.
Cumbria, the southernmost area of old Rheged, was still considered part of Scotland by the Scots until the Battle of Flodden Field, which the Scots lost, badly, in 1513.
North of these two named kingdoms was a third kingdom, only identified by Rome as the land of tribes of the ‘Picti’, Latin for painted people. We are not sure what they called themselves, but there was often a high king whose rule, generally, if not tightly, extended from the North Sea coast to the northern Irish Sea. At the same time was another kingdom that included northeastern most Ireland, and islands between Ireland and Scotland. This was Dalriada, of the Dalriada, Argialla, and other northeast Irish, Gaelic speaking Celts. By the time of Rome, they already traded with the kingdoms of Rheged and the Picts and probably had a few trading colonies on the western coast of the Pict kingdom. The Romans called the Dalriadans and their large sea-going fleet, the ‘Scoti’ from the Latin verb, ‘Scutari/Scotari’ to cut. They were feared ‘cutthroat pirates’, when not traders or merchants.
The Romans made efforts to conquer Scotland and invaded, had some victories in battles, and weakened the two kingdoms of the Picts and what became identified as ‘Berenicia.’ The Romans were much less successful with Rheged.
The Romans had a short-lived camp at what is now called Annan, but never conquered the capitals or the northern palace of Rheged. Carlisle, sometimes called the capital of Rheged, was actually a capital of the post-Roman kingdom of Rheged. Carlisle began as a Roman fort and market town, established about 78 CE. Dumfries and what became Gatehouse at Fleet were much older.
Rheged was known by the Romans to have a three small cities or large towns, and ports: Besides what became Dumfries and Gatehouse at Fleet, there was an additional northern capitol with palace which the Romans called on their maps, Rhegium Lepidus, somewhere near the southeast end of what is now called Loch Ryan in what is now Galloway, and what was on Ptolemy’s second century CE map as ‘Rerigonius Bay,’ and a capitol in the 5th century has been identified and was near what is now Gatehouse of Fleet, also now in Galloway.
Several kings were identified for Rheged and recorded in early Christian records, roughly from the time of Rome’s exit to 638 CE. When Berenicia merged with Deira to form the first kingdom of Northumbria, in about 638 CE, Oswiu/Oswin, king of Northumbria married Rheinneth, princess of Rheged, temporarily uniting the kingdoms and the language of ‘old English’ began to replace the Briton language of Rheged. However, when the Vikings invaded, the kingdoms split again and Rheged became known as the kingdom of Strathclyde and the older language revived again somewhat, though many used a combination of the two. The evidence of the revival is that the Normans coming into this area in the beginning of the 12th century called many people here “Walensis”–Welsh, and then attached the name to a particular family that adopted the surname, “Wallace” (Latin Walensis) but did not originally have that surname. It wasn’t a surname, but a description of people based on the language they mostly spoke. Still, there was already a mixture of languages. This is most likely to be the beginning of what later became called ‘Lallans’ (Lowlands) Scots. However, in the modern history of the town of Ayr, it was noted that the port town began to grow at the end of the 12th century or early 13th century, after it (and most of the rest of Ayrshire) had been recently separated from Rheged. It appears that to outsiders, the kingdom was called Strathclyde, but those who lived in and nearest the kingdom still called it Rheged for a while longer.
The original name of the kingdom of Rheged, is believed by some scholars to come from the language of the people, closely related to Welsh, and meant ‘Great Forest.’ It was a heavily forested area well into the Renaissance era. In fact, a huge tract of land, acquired by the Fitzalans who became High Stewards of Scotland in the 12th century and later kings of Scotland as ‘Stewarts’ was called Kyle (originally Coill–woods) Stewart. The Wallace’s of Dundonald-Riccarton, later barons of Craigie, were made bailees of this huge area for the Stewarts. The Wallace’s were first found clearly in Rheged, near and in the Gorge of Ness near and around Loch Doon, and may have first had the surname Ness–a familiar Welsh surname. The Muir/Mure family is another ancient family from this area, and likewise the Kennedys of Cassilis and Cunninghams. The Montgomerie’s, originally French, like the Stewarts, and the De Brus (Bruce’s), came in the late 11th, early 12th century. As late as the early 1600’s, Ayrshire was described as a wild and poor land with remnants of untamed forests. Galloway is also one of the most rugged and hilly parts of Scotland with a number of the highest peaks in Scotland in this area. Between the forests and the mountains, and the wild rivers and dangerous bays and inlets, it is no wonder the Romans were never able to control this area. It was as bad or worse than what they had encountered in Wales, and Wales was generally regarded as never having been completely conquered and subdued by Rome, either.
Beginning with the 5th century CE Roman departure from Britain which left a weak Pict kingdom, the Dalriada-Argialla Irish speaking Gaelic and which had adopted Christianity began expanding their take-over of western Scotland, starting with Argyllshire and areas immediately north. This is when Irish Gaelic, which became the dialect of Erse and Latin entered Scotland and began to become the main languages of everything north of Ayrshire and Berenicia.
The first dynasty of most of Scotland, north of Rheged and Northumbria, was the MacAlpin dynasty. At the same time, descendants of O’Neill’s, the line of Cenel n’ Gabrain became kings of western Scotland and northeastern Ireland, and the islands between the two parts–Dalriada. In 1034, the male heir of the Dalriada kings married Bethoc, one of the two daughters of the last Alpin/McAlpin king, Kenneth MacAlpin (810-858). Thus the Canmore (aka Kenmore) also called Dunkeld dynasty was established to rule all of Scotland north of Rheged/Strathclyde and Berenicia. Interestingly, the Alpin/McAlpin dynasty descended from Alpin Mac Eochdach (Echdach, Eochdoch, etc.) and most of the rest of the clan apart from the direct line of kings became Clan Kennedy–again connecting an early dynasty of the kingdom with a part of Rheged, Ayrshire. In fact, some early charters of Ayrshire, and a small legal dispute, show a family of Eodoch, living in the town and environs of Ayr in the 12th century, when the Fitzalans, were ‘High Stewards” of Scotland, not yet kings under the surname of Stewart.
Ayrshire was the northernmost ‘county’ or area of Rheged. The heartlands, which remained longest in the kingdom as either Rheged or Strathclyde were Dumfriesshire, Galloway and Cumbria. What makes the whole of Rheged/Strathclyde even more interesting is that the two most recent and best-known dynasties that ruled Scotland, the Bruce’s and the Stewarts first settled and began to build their power in what had been Rheged and formed their first long-lasting alliances and marriages with the people of Rheged, and last dynasty of the Pict kingdom itself was also associated with Ayrshire, the northernmost part of Rheged.
It is also notable that the Vikings tried to conquer this area, but at the Battle of Largs, in Ayrshire, 2 October, 1263, they eventually were soundly defeated and driven out of Ayrshire. They never returned, except as the occasional peaceful trading merchants. Again, the land worked with and for the inhabitants, just as had happened with Rome.
The one area of Scotland whose people have retained mostly the same genes for over these last 2500 years is this kingdom of Rheged/Strathclyde. These people still have shared DNA haplogroups with many older families of Wales and Cornwall. In appearance, they would have resembled the Welsh and Cornish as seen and described by some more objective Romans, and as seen and described by the later monks and priests arriving from Ireland, and the Angles and Saxons southeast of Rheged, such as the chronicler Bede. It would be a mistake to call them little dark, squat, people.
They were seen by the more fair-haired Saxons and Vikings as having more brown hair, of varying shades of brown to dark blonde, but not as dark skinned, nor as generally and particularly much shorter in stature. The people of Dalriada, particularly the kings, even before the Vikings already had some red hair. The dynasty of Cenel n;Gabrain was already described as ‘the red-haired race of Fergus.’ The early Stewarts were notably described as having considerable blonde hair with one early son having nearly white-blonde hair and having the nickname or sobriquet ‘Boyd,’ he was the founder of what is now Clan Boyd. Boyd’s were originally Fitzalans–Stewarts.
By the 13th century the Norman French, some with very blonde hair, and the Campbells of the red-haired race of Fergus were intermarrying with the mostly brown and brown-dark blonde haired original families of Rheged. However, brown hair is genetically dominant. It can occur with fair and duskier skin, but generally persons with brown hair don’t get sunburned as badly as those with bright red, strawberry blonde and blonde hair.
It’s also important to note that blue eyes evolved earlier than light skin, having arrived in Britain with early hunter gatherers by about 10,000 years ago. We know this from DNA analysis of very ancient skeletons, from long before the first Celts arrived, that both blue and green eyes were certainly present in Ireland and Britain by 5000 years ago. These eye colors arrived with people from the Mediterranean and north Africa. Red brown hair and green eyes have been found in central and north Asian peoples, including among the Sarmatians in what is now Ukraine. Rome brought Sarmatian cavalrymen to Britain and most stayed, going north and west to the kingdoms of Rheged and Wales. The Sarmatians had not much more love of the Romans than the native Britons.
If there is a historic ‘True Scottish Type’ of appearance, it’s probably something like this: Look for persons with some shade of brown hair, with either some blonde or red highlights–or even both, and either brown, hazel, or green eyes (varying shades of green, including green-blue), generally average in height, maybe a little shorter, able to wield a Welsh long-bow as well as a heavy claymore, and who can tan a little more easily than the lightest or reddest haired Scots, descended from the Johnny-come-lately Irish and Vikings.
We (yes, I’m one) also can generally disappear in either a forest, or a crowd of modern humans in about a third of the world. It’s not surprising that despite the longevity, the kingdom and its people of Rheged have been forgotten for so long.
The history of the kingdom of Dál Riata/Dalriada/Dalriata is complicated because it is a dual history of geography and people, and historic sources are generally about one or the other. One must combine both to have a history of how the geographic area known as Dal Riata came to be ruled by a particular people and how and why it expanded and finally included all of modern Scotland, and the history of the kings.
The geography of Dal Riata consisted of both sea and land, and included the North Channel and the adjacent lands of Northern Ireland, western Scotland and its islands as well as the waters of the North Channel between them.
The people of Dal Riata, in Ireland, included the tribes of the Riata, Argialla, Ulaid, Fiatach, and a few lesser ones. They were rivals–and relatives–of the growing Clan O’Neill. When the O’Neill weren’t fighting among themselves to determine clan chief, they were consistently attempting to take over all of Ulster, shoving other tribes elsewhere in Ireland or out. They were also usually a subkingdom of the kingdom of Ulaid (pronounced Ula) from which Ulster takes its name. Dal Riata, with Argialla, had a period of expansion after king Cormac, originally of Meath, defeated the king of Ulaid and reduced that kingdom, and Cormac’s sons became heads of the Ua Neill, the Ua Maine, and the Argialla, with grandsons and cousins expanding their rule. Cormac himself was grandson of Conn also called Conn Cetchathaf and his generally agreed upon wife, Eithne Taebfade. From what remains of documentation, Cormac was born during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and died in about 240 CE. His sons succeeded him by 245 CE. Cormac is recorded as ‘having defeated the kingdom of Ulair and then conquering some parts of Britain’ soon after. This is the best evidence of when the two small trading posts that the Romans knew about expanded into a state, replacing the tribe of the Epidii, already badly weakened or gone entirely. This was the beginning of Dal Riata in what is now Scotland.
By the end of the 2nd Century, both people and geography are together and begin to spread into the islands between what are now Ireland and Scotland in Northern Ireland, Ulster. However, they did not control all of Ulster but mostly Antrim, most if not all of County Down, northern Louth, a bit of southern and eastern Coleraine (combined with County Derry by Charles II), and a little bit into Armagh and Tyrone. This was the greatest extent of Dal Riata and by the time of St. Patrick and St. Columba, the area of the kingdom was greatly reduced to only about half or a little more of County Antrim. In Ireland, the kingdom of Dal Riata was again a subkingdom of Ulaid and the greater proportion of Dalriada was in Argyllshire in what became Scotland.
After Dalriata moved its capitol city to Scotland, by the end of the 5th century Ulaid, as a kingdom in Ireland had redeveloped, Ulaid (pronounced like ‘Ula’). The old capitol city of Dál Riata in Ireland had been Rath Mughie (Armoy) in Antrim; the new was Dunadd in Argyllshire. Ulaid, itself, was conquered in 1177 by the Norman French knight, John de Courcy, much to the alternating glee and concern of the O’Neill. Because of the long relationship with Scotland, of which the northern Irish were well aware, this ultimately led to Irish clan leaders inviting the younger brother of king Robert the Bruce, Edward Bruce (1280-1318) to help drive out the Normans and rule Ireland. The irony is, that the Bruce family itself had Norman patrimony.
The irony is that the leadership and even original clan surnames of, all of what became the largest clans of this region, and Scotland, according to the Four Masters, descend from one particular king of the sometimes existing, sometimes not, Midhe–Meath which originally included West Meath and part of Louth, Cormac.
Cormac was a real king and had at least eight sons. Given the oral histories of his battles, some now supported by archeology and separate oral traditions of the various kingdoms, the best evidence is he was born about 170 to 175 CE and died about 240 CE. Sons are known to have succeeded him by 245 CE. There is a certain amount of conflict about this in the Four Masters, and between them and other early sources. The sons, grandsons and great grandsons of Cormac came to notably lead what became the O’Neill, Clan Donald and Clan Campbell, which actually split from Clan Donald. The McCormick/McCormack family intermarried with McDonalds, etc., is a sept of Clan Donald. Cormac was a pre-Christian king who lived and died near the hill of Tara. His mound grave is believed by many, with some bits of evidence from accounts in the Four Masters, to be the one at Trevet Grange, just north of Dunshaughlin in County Meath.
A Christian church was built on the large mound at what became called ‘Trevet Grange’ with the first building having been erected near the time of a monastery or priory near Dunshaughlin founded by Secundas in the 5th century. Secundas was a follower and contemporary of Patrick. A later rebuilding of the church was done by the Norman Cusack family in the late 13th or early 14th century. It was taken over by Protestants by the 17th century and largely destroyed in the 1641 rebellion, leaving only the graveyard atop the mound and next to the little church still in use for a few more generations. The cemetery was then abandoned, along with the ruins of the church by the end of the 18th century.
When heavy rains in some later years began eroding the mound and the more recent graveyard,’ and dead ancestors began reappearing, much to the dismay and horror of locals, a 5 to 6 foot or so wall was built entirely around three sides of the mound, with no gate. The fourth side was protected and held in place by a thicket of a combination of gorse and bramble berries (what Americans call blackberries). The carved monuments of the Cusacks, and others, including a few odd earlier pieces noted in an 18th century gazette of antiquities in Ireland, were removed about the beginning of the 21st century and placed in a warehouse in Dunshaughlin, to protect them from the elements–and increasing vandalism, until they might someday be restored and placed in a, hopefully local, museum. Thus, in some ways, part of the history of Dalriada, actually begins with a barely known king of ancient Midhe, Meath, the ‘Middle Kingdom,’ that, as a geographic kingdom, only existed briefly a few times in Ireland’s long history.
The Four Masters who wrote down in Latin and ancient Irish-Gaelic, the older oral histories, and some items that survived of the old Ogham writing, began writing down these traditions in the late 6th and early 7th centuries and continued to do so up to and through the 16th century. There are several thick volumes of these works. A fair amount of early Dalriada history is in the Four Masters. On a side note, both the Irish and Brythonic Celts had writing before the Romans and Christianity. It was a kind of runic shorthand, but done mostly on bundles of sticks, which rarely survived. The bundles would eventually be broken up and most of the sticks ultimately ended up as kindling. Otherwise, a lesser amount was on carved/sculpted stones. Rev. Hamlet McClenaghan who wrote a History of Dunshaughlin (the union of 9 parishes) in the early 20th century actually found enough remaining items to create two tables of pre-Christian and early Christian Ogham characters.
It is consistent with some early Roman accounts, which noted the first trading posts in Argyllshire when the Brythonic, native tribe the Epidii still ruled Kintyre, Argyllshire and the coast down to the area of what is now Glasgow. The Romans also noted the later replacement of the Epidii which had disappeared in the second century with people from the kingdom of Dalriada, and the development of the town of Dunadd as their main seat in the 3rd century.
Dalriada, as a kingdom, existed before Christianity, about two centuries before and adopted Christianity early–relatively speaking, becoming closely associated with the spread of Christianity to the islands in the Irish sea and then Scotland. Dalriada as a kingdom in Ireland, first appeared about the same time that Rome changed from Republic to empire under Caesar Augustus. It had only a couple of small trading posts on Kintyre prior to the end of the second century or beginning of the third century, when it then developed Dunadd,an already existing hill fort, into a town and seat of the new colonists. Until about 490 CE, with the arrival of Feargus Mac Erc, the capital of Dalriada was not in Scotland but in Northern Ireland, in County Antrim in Ulster. The first capital of Dalriada was at Rath Mughia (now Armoy). In 204 CE, the beginning of the 3rd century, the Roman emperor Severus, described a port town, which he called Porta Saxa, already existing at what is now Larne, and that the people there were sailing to the islands and to what is now western Scotland, at that time. By the time of St. Patrick, Dalriata/Dalriada was described as a minor sub-kingdom of the kingdom of Ulaid, only in what is now several baronies of Antrim. It had been unsuccessful in Irish conflicts and shrinking for some time, accelerating and increasing the move of its people across the Irish sea to the formerly Brythonic lands of Argyllshire, Kintyre, etc.
The neolithic and bronze ages came late to Scotland and Ireland. Bronze came after Newgrange and Stonehenge were built (roughly 3000 and 2500 BCE respectively. However, by the time the Celts arrived around in two waves about 1000 to 1400 BCE and 800 to 1000 BCE, the Brythonic P Celtic language group earlier and the Goedelic (Gaelic) Q Celtic later, , the trees in all the land suitable for crops or pastures had been cut down and the land converted to agriculture. Recently, paleontologists discovered that there was a massive regrowth of forests all over Scotland in the second century CE (roughly 100 to 200 CE). This of course meant that the population of the Brythonic tribes of Scotland had stopped using the land, most likely because they had suffered a major calamity of some kind that greatly reduced their population. This period is also when these tribes (those remaining after Agricola’s invasions), began forming three or four kingdoms and when the coastal tribe of the Epidii, in Argyllshire, disappeared completely. Roman scribes also noted the outbreak of a ‘plague’ in Wales in 114 CE that killed 45,000 persons there. At that time Wales and the Strathclyde areas, including the tribal lands of the Epidii were linked. During this period, Romans were trading with Cornwall, Wales, Strathclyde and Argyll shire, as well as some of the islands between Ireland and Scotland, seeking copper and tin for bronze household goods, decor and jewelry and crystalline gems (cairngorm, and clear quartz). Smallpox was already in the Roman empire, with an outbreak in Rome itself being recorded in 80 CE, and a recent outbreak in Egypt being recorded just a few years prior to the mysterious ‘plague’ in Wales. A pandemic throughout the empire occurred between the years 165-182 and killed the emperor, Marcus Aurelius. There were also anthrax outbreaks and hoof and mouth disease among cattle. The Brythonic population of Scotland suffered its mysterious decline at the start of the 2nd century, and although there are no records of a large outbreak there, there are records of a large outbreak of ‘plague’ described in nearby Wales, which is on this same trade route that also included the islands and Strathclyde and Argyll shire.
This situation allowed an easy conquest of Argyll shire, down to the Strathclyde by the kingdom of Dalriata of northeastern most Ireland, and by the 3rd century, Dunadd was growing, and a second town was also established.
The Strathclyde region had a tribe noted by Agricola as the Damnoni (and various other spellings) which became a small kingdom called ‘Alt Clut’–Strathclyde and was the river valley and not much more. By the time of St. Patrick (late 5th century), the monks noted that the royal families of Alt Clut and Caeredon/Caledon were joined. By the time of St. Columba in the mid-6th century, Alt Clut’s ‘king’ was a sub king under, and protected by the king of Caeredon/Caledon as the kingdom of Dalriada was to learn the hard way. Twice when they made incursions into Strathclyde, Dalriata was beaten back by the king of Caeredon and his armies. Between 558 and 560, the Annals of Ulster and others recorded how Brudei son of Maelchon/Maelchu, and the Pictish men, defeated ‘the Scotti” and they fled back to Dalriada (Argyllshire). The same thing happened about two centuries later. The island of Iona was given to the monks of St. Columba by King Brudei, a few years later. Recent archeological evidence of some monasteries shows that at least one near where his court was often held, was already in use by 550 CE, but Brudei may have only been nominally a Christian, becoming more interested and supporting after Columba’s arrival.
South of Alt Clut/Strathclyde was Rheged, which would come to rule this area after the Vikings had swept through between 866 and 871 CE, and probably after the Vikings were soundly defeated by the new king of Caeredon/Caledon in 904 CE. Rheged was the only kingdom of what became Scotland whose kings were not killed by other conquering and/or expanding kingdoms, or the Romans, and its land not entirely sacked at least once by the Vikings.
The dominant kingdom in what became Scotland was the land of the Caeredon, which became ‘Caledon,’ in the earliest Roman records. When Gneaus Julus Agricola was in Britain he attempted to name the lands by the tribes and what they called themselves. The Brythonic word ending describing people as a plural was ‘on’ and the Romans often added their own plural ‘ii.’ However, by the 4th century and Ammanius Marcellinus, the people were not always described by the older terms and the Christian monks picked up on the Roman terms. Caeredon/Caledon became in Roman records, and later Christian records ‘Venturiones’ and ‘Fortiu’ bearing in mind that ‘v’ and ‘soft v or f’ were pronounced like ‘w.’ The Welsh word for forts and fortress people was pronounced uerteru (wairteru) and would have been similar to the Roman word used by Ammianus Marcellinus in 364-368 CE. It is simply a descriptive term as to how the Romans found the people in Caeredon living after Agricola’s invasions and the battle of Mons Grampius. The people had decided to rebuild, in large well-fortified towns, no longer the more open villages and small hill forts of the past. Caeredon was not taking any more chances with the Romans or anyone else. However, in nearly all records, as they were done by the Romans and Latin speaking and writing Christian monks, Caeredon became called the kingdom of Fortriu. It is NOT what the people called themselves.
Two big questions long dominated historical discussions. When did Dal Riata take over all the rest of Scotland, and were the McAlpin kings first kings of ‘Fortiu’ (Caeredon) or Dal Riata?
First, Dal Riata never conquered the rest of what became Scotland, which takes its name from what the Romans called the people of Dal Riata, and any associated with them as they sailed back and forth across the Irish sea and went from two trading posts to ruling and colonizing Argyllshire and some points north. Dal Riata was generally a small subkingdom in Northern Ireland except for a brief period of time, and a small kingdom in what became Scotland. It nearly completely disappeared in Ireland after the summer of 637 CE battle of Mag Rath at ‘Moira’ near the woods of Killutagh (later Killetaugh) in County Down, and the sea battle of the Mull of Kintyre the same day. Both were a major defeat for Ulaid and Dal Riata, and Dal Riata, left unprotected by the defeat, was overrun by the forces of the victorious High King of Ireland, Domnall II. The Ui Neill became the ascendant tribe after this battle. It was Christianity with the Irish Gaelic language and Latin that took over what became Scotland. This event was coincidental with the people of Dal Riata having adopted Christianity, and the Latin language and writing before the native peoples of the Brythonic kingdoms of what became Scotland.
The list of the kings of Dalriada appears in a good table, with sources for the existence of the king and notable dates associated with them, in an English wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kings_of_D%C3%A1l_Riata
When looking at data, such as battles associated with the alleged kings, some additional information comes up, including sometimes earlier kings not as well documented. The first kings of Dal Riata in Scotland are not documented until the death of the king, Fergus Mor, aka Fergus Mac Nisse, Mor, who, from the Annals of Tigemach, died about 501 CE. He is recorded also as the first king of the Dal Riata who moved the capitol from Armoy and Dunseverick in Antrim to Dunadd in Argyllshire. Thus, although there were kings of the Dal Riata, prior to Fergus Mor, the kings were in County Antrim, in Ireland, not in Scotland.
Fergus Mor was succeeded by his son, Domangart Reti (Long Arm), aka Domangart Mac Fergus, who died in 507 CE. Domangart was followed by his son, Congall Mac Domangart who ‘ruled for 35 years’ and died in or near 540 CE. Then the Dal Riata in Scotland grew ambitious and tried to expand into the Alt Clut and adjacent regions Brudei, son of Maelchon/Malchu, of Caeredon, defeated the Dal Riata and killed the Dal Riata king, Gabran Mac Domangart in the battle that occurred between 558 and 560 CE.
Later, the king of Dal Riata, Connad Cerr, tried to expand into Alt Clut (Strathclyde), and was soundly defeated in 629 CE and killed by the king of Alt Clut, Eugein map Beli.
This was followed by two more disasters for the Dal Riata kings. Congal, king of Ulaid, had become king in 627, after first being king of Dal Riata in Scotland, abdicating the territory in Scotland for the grander kingdom of Ulaid in Ireland. Then Congall wanted to become High King and went to war against his foster father, the High King of Ireland Domnall II. Congall called on his ally–and subordinate the new king of Dal Riata in Scotland, Domnall Brech (aka Domnall mac Echdach) to gather an army and join him. The battle of Mag Rath was the largest battle on Irish ground ever, and left tens of thousands of men and horses, dead. It occurred in the summer of 637 CE at Moira, near the ‘woods of Killutagh’ (later Killetaugh) in County Down. The High King of Ireland prevailed, and his foster son, Congall and ‘many princes of the Dal Riata and their allies were also killed. The king of Dal Riata survived and retreated back to Scotland where he died a few years later, about 642 CE. He was succeeded by another descendant of Connaid Cerr, Ferchar mac Connaid who died in 649 (one account had his date transposed in transcriptions as 694 but the dates of the kings before and after show it must have been a transposition with Ferchar dying in 649. Ferchar was succeeded by Dunchad who was either the son of Connaing (or Connaid) or Dubain, and died in 654. Dunchad was in annals, but they gave him two different fathers. There were four kings in under 10 years and a ruinous alliance with a former king who became king of Ulaid.
Additionally, the High King of Ireland overran Dal Riata in Northern Ireland and with the victory in the Mull of Kintyre prevented any rescue from the Scottish part. Dal Riata in Ireland was virtually destroyed and the Ui Neill became the ascendant tribe in Ulster afterward. Dal Riata in Ireland, effectively was cut off from its roots for a time. Between that and the loss of so many men at Meg Rath and four kings in ten years, Dal Riata in Scotland was going nowhere for at least a generation.
The next documented king was Ferchar Fota (‘the tall’), chief of the Cenel Loairn who ‘briefly became king of Dal Riata’ and died in 697.
According to the annals, including regarding Cormac and his sons in Ireland, there were also four dynasties all descending from Cormac, all through his son Cairbre (aka Gabrain in some sources) Lifechair, who came to ruled various parts of the kingdom of Dal Riata, and were vying to become king of all Dal Riata. These were the Cenel n’Gabrain (in Kintyre), Cenel n’Oengusa (in Islay and Jura), Cenel Loairn (Lorne and perhaps Mull and Ardnamurchan), and Cenel Comgall (Cowal and Bute–tried unsuccessfully to expand into Strathearn in the 8th century CE). Associated with the kingdom and main ‘Cenel’ dynasties were the capitals and major towns of Dunadd (the oldest), Dunollie (Dunolly/Dun Ollaigh), Dunaverty (fort on a hill), and Tarbert.
As if it could not get worse for Dalriada, in 698, the next king of Dal Riata, Ainbcellach mac Ferchair, was deposed by his brother, Selbach, and the two were in conflict until 718 CE when Selbach finally prevailed, killing his brother. Selbach himself does not seem to have outlived his brother by many years, and Dal Riata was clearly spent by all the civil strife. Onuist, son of Uurquist of Caeredon (Onuist ruled from 731 to 774) then conquered Dal Riata, entirely and invaded Strathclyde (Alt Clut) and Northumbria. Onuist, son of Uurquist of Caeredon (Onuist ruled from 731 to 774) then conquered Dal Riata, entirely and invaded Strathclyde (Alt Clut) and Northumbria. The rule of Caeredon over Dal Riata only lasted, firmly, until 780 CE, when Ephin (aka Alpin), son of Wrad, (pronounced Urad), who had succeeded Onuist, died and four sons of Onuist then competed for the throne. Constantin, another son of Uurquist ended up prevailing–none of the four sons of Onuist. During the time of conflict, Dal Riata agreed upon a new king, Conall Mac Taigg. Conflict again ensued between Dal Riata and Caeredon (Fortriu) and Fortriu again prevailed and Constantin ruled in relative peace until his death in 820 CE. At this point, Dal Riata ceased to exist as an independent kingdom. Then the Vikings invaded in 839 CE and in battle killed the Fortriu king (Wen) and his brother Bran, both sons of Onuist, and also killed the then king of Dal Riata, Aed Mac Boanta, then a subordinate to Wen. The battle is believed to have occurred on the shores of Moray Firth, in 839CE.
The men of Fortriu tried to regroup and recover and did for a time under Cinead (Kenneth) Mac Alpin who came to power in 839 and united Fortriu and Dal Riata by the end of 841 CE and reigned until he died in 858. but in 866 CE the Vikings returned, defeated them yet again, occupied and plundered the entire nation of Fortriu for 3 years and then moved on to Dumbarton Rock (Alt Clut, aka Strathclyde), and returned to Dublin in 871 CE ‘with a great prey of English (Angles and Saxons), Britons and Picts. Oddly, they didn’t have many ‘Scots’ (Dal Riada). It would appear the land of Dal Riada, between its civil wars for its kingship followed by conquest and reconquest by Caeredon (Fortriu) may have become too poor for the Vikings to want to bother.
The men of Fortriu (Caeredon), no mention of Dal Riata, then reorganized and strengthened and killed the Scandinavian leader Imar ua Imair in 904 and drove the Vikings out of their land. The new king of Fortriu/Caeredon then began calling himself ‘king of Alba.’ In 934, Aethelstan of England (Saxon king) invaded Fortriu and made his way as far as Dunotar and the ‘muirs of Fortriu, which given the old capitol was at Urquhart, along Lough Ness was quite far. It was not a fatal attack and the Saxons were driven back, but it did weaken Caeredon/Fortriu now called Alba. The king of Alba between 943 (or a little before) to 954 became Malcolm I, Malcolm Mac Domnall. He became king when his predecessor, his cousin, Constantin II, abdicated to become a monk.
From the annals of these kings, it is clear that Cinead Mac Alpin (Kenneth McAlpin) was NOT first a king of Dalriada but first king of Fortriu (Caeredon) who then united the two kingdoms under his rule, two years AFTER he came to power as a Brythonic king of Fortriu. ‘Electric Scotland’ has a good article about Cinead (Kenneth) McAlpin and states that most historians now agree that he was not the first of the Dalriada kings all Scotland but the 5th to the last of the Fortriu (Caeredon) kings. https://www.electricscotland.com/webclans/m/macalpinehistory.pdf
Domnall Mac Caustatin (Constantine) became king, Donald II, in the ‘late 9th century,’ after the departure of the Vikings, and ruled until his death in 900 CE, He was called ‘Donald the Mad’ and was the first to call himself king of Alba. His father was Constantin Mac Cineada, a son of Cineada McAlpin (Kenneth McAlpin). Donald Ii was succeeded by Malcolm I, as per another source (another wikipedia article). The second article does not mention Constantine the II in this line and Constantine II abdicating and becoming a monk.
A more detailed, and documented second article on Constantin II may clarify this as it has particular dates at which time the persons involved in the event would have been recorded by the monks then keeping records about major events in their region, district or kingdom. Constantin II was a grandson of Cinead McAlpin through Cinead’s son, Aed, He was styled Caustatin (Constantine) Mac Ead, Constantin was born not later than 879 CE, and indeed abdicated in 943 and retired to the monastery of Celi De (Culdee) at St. Andrew’s where he died in 952. There was a reason why he abdicated.
In 934, Aethelstan made an unprovoked attack on Alba, and invaded, ranging some distance, a considerable part of southern Alba before retreating, in less than three months by September. In Aethelstan’s retinue had been four Welsh ‘kings.’ Constantin II wanted to avenge this incident and formed an alliance with Olaf Guthfrithson, king of Dublin, and Owain ap Dyfnwal, king of Strathclyde (by this time probably Rheged). Unfortunately, Constantin II and his allies were badly defeated at the Battle of Brunanburh. The battle occurred in October, 937 and a number of Norse princes and earls were killed and Olaf fled back to Ireland. Constantin’s son was killed, resulting in him being succeeded by a cousin, the son of his predecessor. The battle site is not known for certain and the earliest accounts name it as Brune and Brunandune. In the Domesday book of 1086 CE, a Brune is listed, at what is now Bourne, in Lincolnshire. His cousin, Malcolm I, outlived him by only two years. It was Alba’s turn to experience the tumult Dalriada had centuries before. Alba went through four more kings by 977, some having killed one another, and one being killed by the king of Rheged after he allegedly kidnapped and raped the king’s daughter. In 977, Amlaib, the last of the three sons of Illulb Mac Caustantin, died and was succeeded by Kenneth II, the last of the Alba kings who died in 995 CE. Kenneth II killed his predecessor as part of the feud between two branches of the Alpin dynasty and was seen as treacherous, deceitful and murderous. He in turn was killed by his own men in 995 CE and succeeded by Kenneth III Mac Dub, who in turn was killed in battle at Monzievard about 25 March, 1005 CE by his successor, Malcolm II, who later killed Kenneth’s son in 1032 CE.
Malcolm II had no surviving sons, only three daughters and the line of McAlpin as a patronymic dynasty ended with him. His daughters were Bethoc, married to Crinan, of Dunkeld, and mother of Malcolm’s successor Duncan; Donalda married Findlaech of Moray, and became mother of MacBeth, king of Scotland; and Olith who married Sigurd Hlodvirsson, Earl of Orkney and became mother of Thorfinn the Mighty. This is where and when at long last a dynasty of Dal Riata is joined with the last direct line of Caeredon, now called Alba.
Crinan was, according to a consensus of historians, out of one of the ‘Cenel’ houses that vied for control of Dal Riata though his father is not known for certain. He became hereditary lay abbot of Dunkeld, according to most (there are a few dissenters) which is why the next dynasty is often called the Dunkeld dynasty. As a lay abbot though this could be al lucrative position it was not usually held by the seniormost male member of any royal dynasty. At the same time, it was a prize in the kingdom of Alba and would have helped relations between the leading families of Argyllshire–Dal Riata, and Alba. It is likely he was a middle level member of one of the two Cenel dynasties most often suggested. His son Duncan was the king in Shakespeare’s play MacBeth and was indeed killed by MacBeth, his first cousin, at the battle of Pitgaveny, near Elgin on 25 August, 1040. Duncan’s son, Malcolm III known as Malcolm Canmore in 1058 CE, killed the successor to MacBeth, his stepson, Lulach who succeeded MacBeth in 1057. Malcolm Canmore then had 9 children who survived and died in 1093.
The Dunkeld dynasty was the last Scottish dynasty. John de Balliol was an Englishman married to Devorguilla of Galloway, a descendant of the house of Rheged/Strathclyde through the remnant of Galloway. One great-grandfather of hers was also a king of Scotland. The end of the Dunkeld dynasty was also the end of the only dynasty which descended from a male heir of a Dal Riata dynasty, The Dalriada-Alba dynasty had lasted less than 300 years. But, by the time the Englishman John Balliol, the younger, took the throne, with the promotion by and blessings of Edward I, of England, the language, religion and culture of what was now called Scotland had changed from pre-Christian, Brythonic P Celtic, and Gaelic tribal and clan culture, with all the feuding, to the Christian religion, Latin and Irish Q-Gaelic language and the court and government was well on its way to being Normanized. The power of the clans had begun to be balanced by a stronger parliament and some new positions in government and justice adapted from England. Even the name of the land had changed, from Caeredon, Dal Riata, and Rheged to Scotland, a variant of what the Romans had first called the men of Dal Riata almost 1300 years before. Most of the changes had begun with Christianity brought in with the Dal Riata Irish.
(Sources: numerous, reputable online sources, including several with embedded links in this article, easily found with ‘Google.’ One particular recommended work on the Dal Riata in Ireland is Irish Dalriada by Hugh Alexander Boyd, first published in The Glynns, volume 8, and republished in full by ‘Glens of Antrim Historical Society, July 31, 2016.)