THE accession of Kenneth, son of Alpin, to the Pictish throne, led to a union of the two crowns, or of two separate nations into one monarchy; but this union gave the Scots an ascendancy, which enabled them, afterwards, to give their name to the whole of North Britain. The coalition, or rather amalgamation of the Scots and Picts under one sovereign, was greatly facilitated from their being of the same common origin, and speaking respectively the Gaelic and British tongues, the differences between which were immaterial; for nothing tends more to keep up a separation between the inhabitants of a country, than a marked distinction in their language. The consolidation of the Scottish and Pictish power, under the direction of one supreme Chief, enabled these nations not only to repel foreign aggression, but afterwards to enlarge their territories beyond the Forth, which had hitherto formed, for many ages, the Pictish boundary on the south. Pictavia, or the country of the Picts, is said to have been anciently divided into six kingdoms or states; but, passing over these fictitious monarchies, we may observe, that, at the time of the union in question, it consisted of the whole of the territory north of the Forth, with the exception of that on the western coast, extending from the Clyde on the south, to Loch-Ew and Loch-Marce on the north, and from the sea on the west, to Drumalban on the east; which latter territory and the adjacent isles were possessed by the Scots.
Although the power of the tribes to the north of the Forth was greatly augmented by the union which had taken place; yet all the genius and warlike energy of Kenneth were necessary to protect him and his people from insult. Ragnor Lodbrog with his fierce Danes infested the country round the Tay on the one side, and the Strathclyde Britons on the other, wasted the adjoining territories, and burnt Dunblane. Yet Kenneth overcame these embarrassments, and made frequent incursions into the Saxon territories in Lothian, and caused his foes to tremble. After a brilliant and successful reign, Kenneth died at Forteviot, or Abernethy, the Pictish capital, on the sixth day of February, in the year eight hundred and fifty-nine, having ruled the Scots seven years, and the Scots and Picts jointly sixteen years, being a reign of twenty-three years. Kenneth was a prince of a very religious disposition, and, in the midst of his cares, did not forget the interests of religion. He built a church in Dunkeld, to which, in eight hundred and fifty, he removed the relics of St. Columba from Iona. He is celebrated also as a legislator, and it is extremely probable that the union of the two nations rendered some legislative enactments for their mutual government necessary; but no authentic traces of such laws now appear, the Macalpine laws which have been attributed to the son of Alpin being clearly apocryphal.
Kenneth left a son, named Constantine, and a pious daughter, Maolmhuire,1 celebrated by the Irish annalists. But Constantine did not immediately succeed his father, for the sceptre was assumed by Donal III. his uncle, son of Alpin. The Gaelic bard calls him “Dhomhnaill dhreachruaid,” or Donal of the ruddy countenance. He died at his palace of Balachoir, in the year eight hundred and sixty-three, after a short reign of four years. It is said that the Scoto-Irish chiefs, during this reign, re-enacted the laws of Aodh-fin, the son of Eocha III. at Forteviot.
Constantine, the son of Kenneth, succeeded his uncle Donal, and soon found himself involved in a dreadful conflict with the Danish pirates. Having, after a contest, which lasted half a century, established them selves in Ireland, and obtained secure possession of Dublin, the Vikings directed their views towards the western coasts of Scotland, which they laid waste. These ravages were afterwards extended to the whole of the eastern coast, and particularly to the shores of the Frith of Forth; but although the invaders were often repulsed, they never ceased to return and renew their attacks. In the year eight hundred and eighty-one, Constantine, in repelling an attack of the pirates at the head of his people, was slain near a rampart called the Danes’ dyke, in the parish of Crail. The Gaelic bard thus alludes to that event.
“Don churaidh do Chonstantin:”
The hero Constantine bravely fought,
Throughout a lengthened reign.
Aodh or Hugh, the fair haired, succeeded his brother Constantine in eight hundred and eighty-one. His reign was unfortunate, short, and troublesome. Grig, an artful Chieftain, who was Maormor of the country between the Dee and the Spey, having raised the standard of insurrection, Aodh endeavoured to put it down, but did not succeed; and having been wounded in the bloody field of Strathallan, he was carried to Inverurie, where he died, after lingering two months, having held the sceptre only one year.
Grig, the worthless chief who had waged war with his sovereign, now assumed the crown, and, either to secure his wrongful possession, or from some other motive, he associated with him in the government, Eoacha, son of Ku, the British king of Strathclyde, and the grand son, by a daughter, of Kenneth Macalpin. After a reign of eleven years, both Eoacha and Grig were forced to abdicate, and gave way to
Donal IV. who succeeded them in eight hundred and ninety-three. During his reign the kingdom was infested by the piratical incursions of the Danes. Although they were defeated by Donal in a well contested action at Collin, on the Tay, they nevertheless returned under Ivar O’Ivar, from Ireland, in the year nine hundred and four, but they were gallantly repulsed, and their leader killed in a threatened attack on Forteviot, by Donal, who unfortunately also perished in defence of his people, after a reign of eleven years.
Constantine III., the son of Aodh, a prince of a warlike and enterprizing character, next followed. He had to sustain, during an unusually long reign, the repeated attacks of the Danes. In one invasion they plundered Dunkeld, and in nine hundred and eighty, they attempted to obtain the grand object of their designs, the possession of Forteviot in Strathern, the Pictish capital; but in this design, they were again defeated and forced to abandon the country. The Danes remained quiet for a few years, but in nine hundred and eighteen their fleet entered the Clyde, from Ireland, under the command of Reginald, where they were attacked by the Scots in conjunction with the Northern Saxons whom the ties of common safety had now united for mutual defence. Reginald is said to have drawn up his Danes in four divisions; the first headed by Godfrey O’Ivar; the second by Earls; the third by Chieftains, and the fourth by Reginald himself, as a reserve. The Scots, with Constantine at their head, made a furious attack on the first three divisions, which they forced to retire. Reginald’s reserve not being available to turn the scale of victory against the Scots, the Danes retreated during the night, and embarked on board their fleet.
After this defeat of the Danes, Constantine enjoyed many years’ repose. A long grudge had existed between him and Æthelstane, son of Edward, the elder, which at last came to an open rupture. Having formed an alliance with several princes and particularly with Anlof, king of Dublin as well as of Northumberland, and son-in-law of Constantine; the latter collected a large fleet in the year nine hundred and thirty-seven, with which he entered the Humber. The hope of plunder had attracted many of the Vikingr to Constantine’s standard, and the sceptre of Æthelstane seemed now to tremble in his hand. But that monarch was fully prepared for the dangers with which he was threatened, and resolved to meet his enemies in battle. After a long, bloody, and obstinate contest at Brunanburg, near the southern shore of the Humber, victory declared for Æthelstane. Prodigies of valour were displayed on both sides, especially by Turketel, the Chancellor of England; by Anlof, and by the son of Constantine, who lost his life. The confederates, after sustaining a heavy loss, sought for safety in their ships. This, and after misfortunes, gradually disgusted Constantine with the vanities of this world, and, in the fortieth year of his reign, he put into practice a resolution which he had formed of resigning his crown and embracing a monastic life. He became Abbot of the Monastery of St. Andrews, and thus ended a long and chequered life in a cloister, like Charles V.
Malcolm I., the son of Donal IV., obtained the abdicated throne, He was a prince of great abilities and prudence, and Edmund of England courted his alliance by ceding Cumbria, then consisting of Cumberland and part of Westmoreland, to him, in the year nine hundred and forty-five, on condition that he would defend that northern county, and become the ally of Edmund. Edred, the brother and successor of Edmund, accordingly applied for, and obtained the aid of Malcolm against Anlaf, king of Northumberland, whose country, according to the barbarous practice of the times, he wasted, and carried off the people with their cattle. Malcolm, after putting down an insurrection of the Moray-men under Cellach, their Maormor, or chief, whom he slew, was sometime thereafter assassinated, as is supposed, at Fetteressoe, by one of these men, in revenge for the death of his chief.
Indulph, the son of Constantine III., succeeded the murdered monarch in the year nine hundred and fifty-three. He sustained many severe conflicts with the Danes, and ultimately lost his life, after a reign of eight years, in a successful action with these pirates, on the moor which lies to the westward of Cullen. This victory is known in the tradition of the country by the name of The Battle of the Bands. This battle took place in nine hundred and sixty-one.
Duff, the son of Malcolm I., according to the established order of succession, now mounted the throne; but Culen, the son of Indulf, laid claim to the sceptre which his father had wielded. The parties met at Duncrub, in Strathern, and, after a doubtful struggle, in which Doncha, the Abbot of Dunkeld, and Dubdou, the Maormor of Athol, the partizans of Culen, lost their lives, victory declared for Duff. But this triumph was of short duration, for Duff was afterwards obliged to retreat from Forteviot into the north, and was assassinated at Forres in the year nine hundred and sixty-five, after a brief and unhappy reign of four years and a half.
Culen, the son of Indulf, succeeded, as a matter of course, to the crown of Duff, which he stained by his vices. He and his brother Eocha were slain in Lothian, in an action with the Britons of Strathclyde, after an inglorious reign of four years and a half. This happened in the year nine hundred and seventy.
Kenneth III., son of Malcolm I., and brother of Duff, succeeded Culen the same year. He waged a successful war against the Britons of Strathclyde, and annexed their territories to his kingdom. During his reign the Danes meditated an attack upon Forteviot, or Dunkeld, for the purposes of plunder; and, with this view, they sailed up the Tay with a numerous fleet. Kenneth does not appear to have been fully prepared, being probably not aware of the intentions of the enemy; but collecting as many of his chiefs and their followers as the spur of the occasion would allow, he met the Danes at Luncarty, in the vicinity of Perth, on the south-western side of the Tay, at a small distance from Inveralmond. Preparations for battle immediately commenced. Malcolm, the Tanist, prince of Cumberland, commanded the right wing of the Scottish army; Duncan, the Maormor of Athole, had the charge of the left; and Kenneth, the king, commanded the centre. A furious combat ensued, and man stood singly opposed to man. The Danes with their battle-axes made dreadful havock, and compelled the two wings of the Scottish army to give way; but they retired without much confusion, and rallied behind the centre division, under the immediate command of the king. Here they were enabled to take up a new position on more advantageous ground, from which they renewed the combat with great vigour, and finally succeeded in repulsing the enemy, who, as usual, fled to their ships.
The defeat of the Danes enabled Kenneth to turn his attention to the domestic concerns of his kingdom. His first thoughts were directed to bring about a complete change in the mode of succession to the crown, in order to perpetuate in, and confine the crown to his own descendants. This alteration could not be well accomplished as long as Malcolm, the son of Duff, the Tanist of the kingdom, and prince of Cumberland, stood in the way; and, accordingly, it has been said that Kenneth was the cause of the untimely death of prince Malcolm, who is stated to have been poisoned. It is said that Kenneth got an Act passed, that in future the son, or nearest male heir, of the king, should always succeed to the throne; and that in case that son or heir were not of age at the time of the king’s demise, that a person of rank should be chosen Regent of the kingdom, until the minor attained his fourteenth year, when he should assume the reins of government; but whether such a law was really passed on the moot-hill of Scone or not, of which we have no evidence, certain it is that two other princes succeeded to the crown before Malcolm, the son of Kenneth. Kenneth, after a reign of twenty-four years, was assassinated by Finella, the wife of the Maormor of the Mearns, and the daughter of Cunechat, the Maormor of Angus, in revenge for having put her only son to death while suppressing an insurrection in the Mearns. This event took place in the year nine hundred and ninety-four.
Constantine IV., son of Culen, characterized by the name cluin, or deceitful, by the Gaelic bard, succeeded; but his right was disputed by Kenneth, the Grim, son of Duff. The dispute was decided in a battle near the river Almond, in Perthshire, where Constantine lost his life, in nine hundred and ninety-five.
Kenneth IV., surnamed Grim, from the strength of his body, the son of Duff, now obtained the sceptre which he had coveted; but he was disturbed in the possession thereof by Malcolm, the son of Kenneth III., heir presumptive to the crown, and regulus or prince of Cumberland. By the interposition of Fothad, one of the Scottish bishops, the parties were, for some time, prevented from coming to blows, and it is said that a treaty was concluded, by which it was stipulated that Kenneth should wear the crown during his life, and that Malcolm and his heirs should succeed in future as intended by Kenneth III. But this treaty proved in the end only a truce, for Malcolm again took the field, and decided his claim to the crown in a bloody battle at Monivaird, in Strathern, in which Kenneth, after a noble resistance, received a mortal wound. This happened in the year one thousand and three, after Kenneth had reigned eight years.
Malcolm II. now ascended the vacant throne, stained with the blood of the brave Kenneth; but he was not destined to enjoy repose. Of him the Gaelic bard has said –
“Trocha blaidhain breacaid rainn
Ba righ manaidh, Maolcholaim.”
Thirty years of variegated reign;
Was king by fate Malcolm.
The Danes, who had now obtained a firm footing in England, directed their attention in an especial manner to Scotland, which they were in hopes of subduing. They had hitherto been defeated in every attempt they had made to establish themselves in the north; but having become powerful by their vast possessions in England, they considered that they now had great chances of success in their favour. Accordingly, immense preparations were made by the celebrated Sweyn to invade Scotland. He ordered Olaus, his viceroy in Norway, and Enet in Denmark, to raise a powerful army, and to equip a suitable fleet. Sigurd, the Earl of Orkney, carried on an harrassing and predatory warfare on the shores of the Moray Frith, which he continued even after a matrimonial alliance he formed with Malcolm, by marrying his daughter; but this was no singular trait in the character of a Vikingr, who plundered friends and foes with equal pleasure. The scene of Sigurd’s operations was chosen by his brother northmen for making a descent, which they effected near Speymouth. They carried fire and sword through Moray, and laid siege to the fortress of Nairne, one of the strongest in the north. The Danes were forced to raise the siege for a time, by Malcolm, who encamped his army in a plain near Kilflos or Kinloss. In this position he was attacked by the invaders, and, after a severe action, was forced to retreat, after being seriously wounded. Nairne then surrendered, but the whole garrison were hanged, notwithstanding a capitulation which stipulated for their lives and properties.
Having mustered all his forces, Malcolm, in the ensuing spring, marched north with his army, and encamped at Mortlach. This was in the year one thousand and ten. The Danes advanced to meet the Scots, and a dreadful and fierce conflict ensued, the result of which was long dubious. At length the northmen gave way and victory declared for Malcolm. Had the Danes succeeded they would in all probability have obtained as permanent a footing in North Britain as they did in England; but the Scottish kings were determined, at all hazards, never to suffer them to pollute the soil of Scotland by allowing them even the smallest settlement in their dominions. In gratitude to God for his victory, Malcolm, in pursuance of a vow which it is said he made on the field of battle, endowed a religious house at Mortlach with its appropriate church erected near the scene of action. Pope Benedict afterwards confirmed this endowment, and Mortlach soon became the residence of a bishop.
The Danes were not discouraged by this defeat. On the contrary, that, as well as some disasters which they met with on the coasts of Angus and Buchan, exasperated Sweyn who formed a determination to seek revenge by another descent. He therefore, despatched Camus, an able general, who effected a landing with his army on the coast of Angus, near to Panbride, but he had advanced but a very few miles when he was met by Malcolm, who attacked him with great fury and intrepidity. After a bloody contest the army of Camus gave way and their leader sought safety in flight, but he was closely pursued and was killed by a stroke from a battle-axe which cleft his skull asunder. The place of his overthrow is indicated by a monumental stone called Camus’-Cross.2
No defeat, however, could subdue the persevering attempts of the Danes, to subject North Britain to their sway. They renewed their enterprize again by landing on the coast of Buchan, about a mile west from Slaines Castle, in the parish of Cruden, but they were attacked and defeated by the Maormor of the District. The site of the field of battle has been ascertained by the discovery of human bones left exposed by the shifting or blowing of the sand. From the circumstance of a chapel having been erected in this neighbourhood dedicated to St. Olaus, the site of which has become invisible, by being covered with sand, the assertion of some writers that a treaty was entered into with the Danes, who were then Christians, by which it was stipulated, that the field of battle should be consecrated by a Bishop as a burying-place for the Danes who had fallen in battle, and that a church should be then built and priests appointed in all time coming to say masses for the souls of the slain, seems very probable. Another stipulation it is said was made, by which the Danes agreed to evacuate the Burgh-head of Moray, and finally to leave every part of the kingdom, which they accordingly did in the year one thousand and fourteen.
Some time after this Malcolm was engaged in a war with the Northumbrians, and, having led his army in one thousand and eighteen, to Carham, near Werk, on the southern bank of the Tweed, where he was met by Uchtred, the Earl of Northumberland, a desperate battle took place which was contested with great valour on both sides. The success was doubtful on either side, though Uchtred claimed a victory, but he did not long enjoy the fruits of it, as he was soon thereafter assassinated when on his road to pay obeisance to the great Canute. Endulf, the brother and successor of Uchtred, justly dreading the power of the Scots, was induced to cede Lothian to Malcolm forever, who, on this occasion, gave oblations to the churches and gifts to the clergy, who in return transmitted his name to posterity. He was designed, par excellence, rex victoriosissimus.
The last struggle with which Malcolm was threatened, was with the celebrated Canute, who, for some cause or other not properly explained, entered Scotland in the year one thousand and thirty-one; but these powerful parties appear not to have come to action. Canute’s expedition appears, from what followed, to have been fitted out, to compel Malcolm to do homage for Cumberland, for it is certain that Malcolm engaged to fulfil the conditions on which his predecessors had held that country, and that Canute thereafter returned to England.
But the reign of Malcolm was not only distinguished by foreign wars, but by civil contests between rival chiefs. Finlegh, the Maormor of Ross, and the father of Macbeth, was assassinated in one thousand and twenty, and about twelve years thereafter, Maolbride, the Maormor of Moray, grandfather of Lulach, was, in revenge for Finlegh’s murder, burnt within his castle, with fifty of his men.
At length after a splendid reign of thirty years, Malcolm slept with his fathers, and his body was transferred to Iona, and interred with due solemnity among the remains of his predecessors. The story of his assassination is a mere fiction.
Malcolm was undoubtedly a prince of great acquirements. He made many improvements in the internal policy of his kingdom, and in him religion always found a guardian and protector. But although Malcolm is justly entitled to this praise, he by no means came up to the standard of perfection assigned him by fiction.
Duncan, son of Bethoc, one of the daughters of Malcolm II., succeeded his grandfather in the year one thousand and thirty-three. He had to sustain several severe conflicts with the Danes, whom he finally repulsed from his dominions, and in virtue of the engagements of his grandfather, with Canute, he entered Northumberland in one thousand and thirty-five, and attacked Durham, but was forced to retire with loss, according to an old English historian.3 The unhappy fate of Duncan is too familiar to render any detail of the circumstances of that event necessary. The scene of Macbeth’s perfidy was not at Inverness, as some writers have erroneously laid it, but at Bothgowanan, near Elgin. Duncan had reigned only six years when he was assassinated by Macbeth, leaving two infant sons, Malcolm and Donal, by a sister of Siward, the Earl of Northumberland. The former fled to Cumberland, and the latter took refuge in the Hebrides on the death of their father.
Macbeth, “snorting with the indigested fumes of the blood of his sovereign,” immediately seized the gory sceptre. As several fictions have been propagated concerning the history and genealogy of Macbeth, we may mention that, according to the most authentic authorities, he was by birth Thane of Ross, and by his marriage with the Lady Gruoch, became also Thane of Moray, during the minority of Lulach, the infant son of that lady, by her marriage with Gilcomgain, the Maormor, or Thane of Moray. Lady Gruoch was the daughter of Boedhe, son of Kenneth IV.; and thus Macbeth united in his own person many powerful interests which enabled him to take quiet possession of the throne of the murdered sovereign. He of course found no difficulty in getting himself inaugurated at Scone, under the protection of the clans of Moray and Ross, and the aid of those who favoured the pretensions of the descendants of Kenneth IV.
Various attempts were made on the part of the partizans of Malcolm, son of Duncan, to dispossess Macbeth of the Throne. The most formidable was that of Siward, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, and the relation of Malcolm, who, at the instigation or command of Edward the Confessor, led a numerous army into Scotland in the year one thousand and fifty-four. They marched as far north as Dunsinnan, where they were met by Macbeth, who commanded his troops in person. A furious battle ensued, but Macbeth fled from the field after many displays of courage. The Scots lost 3000 men, and the Saxons 1,500, including Osbert, the son of Siward. Macbeth retired to his fastnesses in the north, and Siward returned to Northumberland; but Malcolm continued the war till the death of Macbeth, who was slain by Macduff, Thane of Fife, in revenge for the cruelties he had inflicted on his family, at Lumphanan, on the fifth day of December in the year one thousand and fifty-six.
Macbeth was unquestionably a person of great vigour, and well fitted to govern in the age in which he lived; and had he obtained the crown by fair and honourable means, his character might have stood well with posterity. He appears to have entertained some sentiments of compunction on account of his many crimes, for which he offered some expiation by deeds of charity and benevolence, and particularly by grants to the church; but it is to be feared that his heart remained unchanged.
Lulach, the great-grandson of Kenneth IV., who fell at the battle of Monivaird in the year one thousand and three, being supported by the powerful influence of his own family, and that of the deceased monarch, ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five or twenty-six; but his reign lasted only a few months, he having fallen in battle at Essie, in Strathbogie, on the third day of April, one thousand and fifty-seven, in defending his crown against Malcolm. The body of Lulach was interred along with that of Macbeth, in Iona, the common sepulchre, for many centuries, of the Scottish kings.
Malcolm III., better known in history by the name of Malcolm Ceanmore, or great head, vindicated his claim to the vacant throne after a two years’ struggle. His first care was to recompense those who had assisted him in obtaining the sovereignty, and it is said that he created new titles of honour, by substituting earls for thanes; but this has been disputed, and there are really no sure data from which a certain conclusion can be drawn.
In the year one thousand and fifty-nine, Malcolm paid a visit to Edward the Confessor, during whose reign he lived on amicable terms with the English; but after the death of that monarch he made a hostile incursion into Northumberland, and wasted the country. He even violated the peace of St. Cuthbert in Holy Island.
William, Duke of Normandy, having overcome Harold in the battle of Hastings, on the fourteenth day of October, one thousand and sixty-six; Edgar Ætheling saw no hopes of obtaining the crown and took his departure from England along with his mother and sisters for Hungary: but they were driven by adverse winds into the Frith of Forth, and took refuge in a small port, which was afterwards named the Queen’s ferry, in memory of Queen Margaret. Malcolm on hearing of the distress of the illustrious strangers, left his royal palace at Dunfermline to meet them, and invited them to Dunfermline, where they were hospitably entertained. Margaret, one of Edgar’s sisters, was a princess of great virtues and accomplishments; and she at once won the heart of Malcolm.
The offer of his hand was accepted, and their nuptials were celebrated with great solemnity and splendour. This Queen was a blessing to the king, and to the nation, and appears to have well merited the appellation of Saint. There are few females in history who can be compared with Queen Margaret.
It is quite unnecessary, and apart from the object of the present work, to enter into any details of the wars between Malcolm and William the Conqueror, and William Rufus. Suffice it to say, that both Malcolm and his eldest son Edward were slain in an attack on Alnwick Castle, on the thirteenth day of November, one thousand and ninety-three, after a reign of thirty-six years. Queen Margaret, who was on her death-bed, when this catastrophe occurred, died shortly after she received the intelligence with great composure and resignation to the will of God. Malcolm had six sons, viz., Edward, who was killed along with his father, Edmund, Edgar, Ethelred, Alexander and David, and two daughters, Maud, who was married to Henry I. of England, and Mary, who married Eustache, count of Boulogne. Of the sons, Edgar, Alexander, and David, successively came to the crown.
On the demise of Malcolm, Donal-bane his brother, assumed the government; but Duncan, the son of Malcolm, who had lived many years in England, and held a high military rank under William Rufus, invaded Scotland with a large army of English and Normans, and forced Donal to retire for safety to the Hebrides. Duncan, whom some writers suppose to have been a bastard, and others a legitimate son of Malcolm, by a former wife, enjoyed the crown only six months, having been assassinated by Maolpeder, the Maormor of the Mearns, at Menteith, at the instigation, it is believed, of Donal. Duncan left, by his wife Ethreda, daughter of Gospatrick, a son, William, sometimes surnamed Fitz-Duncan.
Donal-bane again seized the sceptre, but he survived Duncan only two years. Edgar Ætheling having assembled an army in England, entered Scotland, and made Donal prisoner in an action which took place, in September one thousand and ninety-seven. He was imprisoned by orders of Edgar, and died at Roscobie in Forfarshire, after having been deprived of his eyesight, according to the ụsual practice of the age. The series of the Scoto-Irish Kings may be said to have ended with Donal-bane.
The accession of Kenneth to the Pictish throne, and the consequent union of the Scots and Picts, introduced, throughout the whole extent of the Pictish dominions, many usages which were peculiar to the Scoto-Irish. Some of these would require the force of a positive law to establish them, while others would be gradually amalgamated with the Pictish customs. The authenticity of the Macalpine laws has been questioned; but, without entering into a discussion upon such a dubious question, we think there can be no doubt that the new sovereign would find it necessary to make some regulations for the government of the two nations he had united. It certainly appears, that the Brehon law of the Scoto-Irish was introduced among the Picts under Kenneth. By this law every chief, or flaith, had a Brehon, or judge, within his district, and this office was hereditary, descending to the sons of the judge, who were brought up to the study of the law. The law of tanistry, which limited the right of succession to the crown to the royal line, but did not confine that succession to any direct series, was another characteristic in the new government, which superseded the Pictish law of succession. This law which left the succession open to competition, and the only exception from which seems to have been, when a tanist, or heir presumptive, was appointed during the life of the reigning monarch, naturally produced innumerable disorders in the state, and weakened the government, and hence the many civil strifes, tumults, and assassinations we have witnessed during the whole sway of the Scoto-Irish kings.
We have already alluded to the poetry of the Celts. And here it may not be out of place to take some notice of their music, which seems to have been cultivated with greater success by the Scots, than by the Picts. A question has been raised by the genealogists of music, whether she is the mother or daughter of poetry, or, in other words, whether music or poetry be the older art. Such a discussion appears to be neither instructive nor amusing, and may therefore be passed over with this simple remark, that the kindred and sister arts of poetry and music, are undoubtedly almost coeval in their origin. Among the Celts the science of music was cultivated with great care, and formed a branch of the education of the Bards. Some remains of the songs of the Druids are said still to exist,4 and it is alleged that the chaunting of the Druidical precepts in times of paganism, was imitated by the early Christians. This is indeed extremely probable. The primitive Christians did not, for many ages, devote their attention to the improvement of the melody of the church, and in the east they are supposed to have long followed the music of the synagogue. The Gregorian chaunt, as used in the Catholic churches at Vespers, is conjectured to be nearly the same as that used by the Jews, with some trifling variations, made by St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, and afterwards still farther improved by Pope Gregory the Great, from whom the music derives its present name.5
The great characteristics of the Gaelic music, are, its simplicity, tenderness, and expression. All the ancient music is distinguished by the first quality; for the complex movements and intricate notes of modern composers were unknown to antiquity: but the latter qualities, which may be termed national, in as much as they are dependant upon the genius and character of a people, and the structure of language, are peculiar attributes of the music of the Highlanders. “The Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish, have all melodies of a simple sort, which, as they are connected together by cognate marks, evince at once their relationship and antiquity.”6
The ancient Scottish scale consists of six notes, as shown in the annexed exemplification, No. 1. The lowest note, A, was afterwards added to admit of the minor key in wind instruments. The notes in the Diatonic scale, No. 2, were added about the beginning of the fifteenth century, and when music arrived at its present state of perfection, the notes in the Chromatic scale, No. 3, were further added. Although many of the Scottish airs have had the notes last mentioned introduced into them, to please modern taste, they can be played without them, and without altering the character of the melody. Any person who understands the ancient scale can at once detect the later additions.
The Gaelic music consists of different kinds or species. 1. Martial music, the Golltraidheacht of the Irish, and the Prosnachadh Cath of the Gaël, consisting of a spirit-stirring measure, short and rapid. 2. The Geantraidheacht, or plaintive, or sorrowful, a kind of music to which the Highlanders are very partial. The Coronach or lament, sung at funerals, is the most noted of this sort. 3. The Suantraidheacht, or composing, calculated to calm the mind, and to lull the person to sleep. 4. Songs of peace, sung at the conclusion of a war. 5. Songs of victory sung by the bards before the king on gaining a victory. 6. Love songs. These last, form a considerable part of the national music, the sensibility and tenderness of which excites the passion of love, “and stimulated by its influence, the Gaël indulge a spirit of the most romantic attachment and adventure which the peasantry of perhaps no other country exhibit.“7
“The ancient Gaël were fond of singing, whether in a sad or cheerful frame of mind. Bacon justly remarks, ‘that music feedeth that disposition which it findeth:’ it was a sure sign of brewing mischief, when a Caledonian warrior was heard to ‘hum his surly song.’ This race, in all their labours, used appropriate songs, and accompanied their harps with their voices. At harvest the reapers kept time by singing; at sea the boatmen did the same; and while the women were graddaning, performing the luaghadh, or at other rural labour, they enlivened their work by certain airs called luineags. When milking, they sung a certain plaintive melody, to which the animals listened with calm attention. The attachment which the natives of celtic origin have to their music, is strengthened by its intimate connexion with the national songs. The influence of both on the Scots’ character is confessedly great – the pictures of heroism, love, and happiness, exhibited in their songs, are indelibly impressed on the memory, and elevate the mind of the humblest peasant. The songs, united with their appropriate music, affect the sons of Scotia, particularly when far distant from their native glens and majestic mountains, with indescribable feelings, and excite a spirit of the most romantic adventure. In this respect, the Swiss, who inhabit a country of like character, and who resemble the Highlanders in many particulars, experience similar emotions. On hearing the national ranz de vaches, their bowels yearn to revisit the ever dear scenes of their youth. So powerfully is the amor patriæ awakened by this celebrated air, that it was found necessary to prohibit its being played under pain of death among the troops, who would burst into tears on hearing it, desert their colours, and even die.
“No songs could be more happily constructed for singing during labour, than those of the Highlanders, every person being able to join in them, sufficient intervals being allowed for breathing time. In a certain part of the song, the leader stops to take breath, when all the others strike in and complete the air with a chorus of words and syllables, generally without signification, but admirably adapted to give effect to the time. In singing during a social meeting, the company reach their plaids or handkerchiefs from one to another, and swaying them gently in their hands, from side to side, take part in the chorus as above. A large company thus connected, and see-sawing in regular time, has a curious effect; sometimes the bonnet is mutually grasped over the table. The low country manner is, to cross arms and shake each other’s hands to the air of “auld lang syne,” or any other popular and commemorative melody. Fhir a bhata, or, the boatmen, is sung in the above manner, by the Highlanders with much effect. It is the song of a girl whose lover is at sea, whose safety she prays for, and whose return she anxiously expects. The greater proportion of Gaëlic songs, whether sung in the person of males or females, celebrate the valour and heroism, or other manly qualifications, of the Clans.”7
Connected with the Gaelic music, the musical instruments of the Celts remain to be noticed; but we shall confine our observations to the harp and to the bag-pipe, the latter of which has long since superseded the former in the Highlands. The harp is the most noted instrument of antiquity, and was in use among many nations. It was, in particular, the favourite instrument of the Celts. The Irish were great proficients in harp music, and they are said to have made great improvements on the instrument itself. So honourable was the occupation of a harper among the Irish, that none but freemen were permitted to play on the harp, and it was reckoned a disgrace for a gentleman not to have a harp, and be able to play on it. The royal household always included a harper, who bore a distinguished rank. Even kings did not disdain to relieve the cares of royalty by touching the strings of the harp; and we are told by Major, that James I., who died in fourteen hundred and thirty-seven, excelled the best harpers among the Irish, and the Scotch Highlanders. But harpers were not confined to the houses of kings, for every chief had his harper, as well as his bard.
The precise period when the harp was superseded by the bag-pipe it is not easy to ascertain. Roderick Morrison, usually called Rory Dall, or the blind, was one of the last native harpers. He was harper to the laird of McLeod. On the death of his master, Morrison led an itinerant life, and in sixteen hundred and fifty, he paid a visit to Robertson of Lude, on which occasion he composed a porst or air, called Suipar chiurn na Leod, or Lude’s Supper, which, with other pieces, is still preserved. McIntosh, the compiler of the Gaelic Proverbs, relates the following anecdote of Mr. Robertson, who, it appears, was a harp player himself of some eminence. “One night, my father, James McIntosh, said to Lude, that he would be happy to hear him play upon the harp, which, at that time, began to give place to the violin. After supper, Lude and he retired to another room, in which there was a couple of harps, one of which belonged to Queen Mary. James, says Lude, here are two harps; the largest one is the loudest, but the small one is the sweetest, which do you wish to hear played? James answered the small one, which Lude took up, and played upon, till daylight.”
The last harper, as is commonly supposed, was Murdoch McDonald, harper to McLean of Coll. He received instructions in playing from Rory Dall, in Sky, and afterwards in Ireland, and from accounts of payments made to him, by McLean, still extant, Murdoch seems to have continued in his family till the year seventeen hundred and thirty-four, when he appears to have gone to Quinish, in Mull, where he died.
The history of the bag-pipe is curious and interesting, but such history does not fall within the scope of this work. Although a very ancient instrument it does not appear to have been known to the Celtic nations. It was in use among the Trojans, Greeks and Romans; but how or in what manner it came to be introduced into the Highlands, is a question which cannot be solved. Two suppositions have been started on this point, either that it was brought in by the Romans, or by the Northern Nations. The latter conjecture appears to be the most probable, for we cannot possibly imagine, that if the bag-pipe had been introduced so early, as the Roman epoch, no notice should have been taken of that instrument, by the more early annalists and poets. But if the bag-pipe was an imported instrument, how does it happen that the great Highland pipe is peculiar to the Highlands, and is perhaps the only national instrument in Europe? If it was introduced by the Romans, or by the people of Scandinavia, how has it happened that no traces of that instrument in its present shape are to be found anywhere except in the Highlands? There is, indeed, some plausibility in these interrogatories, but they are easily answered by supposing, what is very probable, that the great bag-pipe, in its present form, is the work of modern improvement, and that, originally, the instrument was much the same, as is still seen in Belgium and Italy.
The effects of this national instrument in arousing the feelings of those who have, from infancy, been accustomed to its wild and warlike tones are truly astonishing. “In balls of joy, and in scenes of mourning it has prevailed; it has animated her (Scotland’s) warriors in battle, and welcomed them back after their toils, to the homes of their love and the hills of their nativity. Its strains were the first sounded on the ears of infancy, and they are the last to be forgotten, in the wanderings of age. Even Highlanders will allow that it is not the gentlest of instruments; but when far from their mountain homes, what sounds, however melodious, could thrill round their heart like one burst of their own wild native pipe? The feelings which other instruments awaken, are general and undefined, because they talk alike to Frenchmen, Spaniards, Germans, and Highlanders, for they are common to all; but the bag-pipe is sacred to Scotland, and speaks a language which Scotsmen only feel. It talks to them of home and all the past, and brings before them, on the burning shores of India, the wild hills and oft frequented streams of Caledonia; the friends that are thinking of them, and the sweethearts and wives that are weeping for them there, and need it be told here, to how many fields of danger and victory its proud strains have led! There is not a battle that is honourable to Britain in which its war blast has not sounded. When every other instrument has been hushed by the confusion and carnage of the scene, it has been borne into the thick of battle, and, far in the advance, its bleeding but devoted bearer, sinking on the earth, has sounded at once encouragement to his countrymen and his own coronach.”8 Many interesting anecdotes connected with the use of this instrument on the field of battle will be given when we come to treat of the military history of the modern Highlanders.
History has thrown little light on the state of learning in the Highlands during the Pictish and Scottish periods; but, judging from the well-attested celebrity of the college of Icolm-kill, which shed its rays of knowledge over the mountains and through the glens of Caledonia, we cannot doubt that learning did flourish in some degree among the Scots and Picts. The final destruction of the venerable abbey of Iona, by the Danish pirates, unfortunately checked for a time the progress of civilization, and swept away, as is supposed, the proofs collected by the monks in support of the learning of those times, and to which, if they had been preserved, the historian of future ages would have appealed. No man, no scholar, no christian can visit the hallowed ruins of Iona without awakening associations, the most powerful and affecting. Dr. Johnson, the great and inflexible moralist, thus describes the emotions he felt on visiting this celebrated spot: “We were now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefit of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish, if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy, as would conduct us, indifferent and unmoved, over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue! That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force on the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warm among the ruins of Iona.”
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF THE SCOTTISH KINGS, FROM 843 TO 1097,
ADJUSTED FROM THE BEST AUTHORITIES.
|NAMES OF THE KINGS.||Date of Accessions.||Duration of Reign.||Demise.|
|KENNETH MACALPINE over the Scots and Picts||843||16||859|
|CONSTANTINE II., son of Kenneth||863||18||881|
|AODH, or HUGH, the son of Kenneth||881||1||882|
|EOCHA, or ACHY or GRIG, jointly||882||11||893|
|DONAL IV., the son of Constantine||893||11||904|
|CONSTANTINE III., the son of Aodh||904||40||944|
|MALCOLM I., son of Donal IV.||944||9||953|
|INDULF, the son of Constantine III.||953||8||961|
|DUF, the son of Malcolm I.||961||4½||935|
|CULEN, the son of Indulf||965||4½||970|
|KENNETH III., the son of Malcolm I.||970||24||994|
|CONSTANTINE IV., the son of Culen||994||1½||995|
|Kenneth IV., surnamed Grim, the son of Duf||995||8||1003|
|MALCOLM II., the son of Kenneth III.||1003||30||1033|
|DUNCAN, the grandson of Malcolm II.||1033||6||1039|
|MACBETH, the son of Finlech||1039||17||1056|
|LULACH, the son of Gruoch and Gilcomgain||1056||4½||1057|
|MALCOLM-CEANMORE, the son of Duncan||1057||38-8 Months.||1093|
|SONAL-BANE, the son of Duncan||1093||½||1094|
|DUNCAN II., the son of Malcolm III.||1094||½||1094|
1 This name signifies in Gaelic the devotee of Mary. This lady was married, 1. to Aodh-Finlaith, who reigned in Ireland between 863 and 879; 2. to his successor, Flann-Sionna, who reigned from 897 to 916. Ogygia, p. 434. She had several sons who reigned in Ireland; and a daughter Ligach, who married Congal, the king of Ireland. She died in 923.
2 A huge skeleton was dug up many years ago near Camus’-Cross supposed to have been that of Camus. It was lying in a sepulchre which was erected with four stones.
3 Simeon, Dun. p. 33.
4 Logan’s Scottish Gaël. Vol. II.
5 The Gregorian song consists of eight tones, of which four are called authentic, and four are said to be plagal. The former are confined to an octave; the plagal descends from the lower octave to the fourth below.
6 Caledonia I. 476.
7 Logan II. 252-3.
8 Logan II. 255.
9 Preface to Macdonald’s Ancient Martial Music of Scotland.