Who Are The Scots? - The Kingdom Of Fife

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Who Are The Scots?

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According to recent DNA research, the human species came very close to extinction during the last Ice Age. We know this because there ought to be far greater DNA variations than there actually are and providing evidence to suggest the total population of mankind towards the close of the Ice Age could have been as few as ten thousand people or less. More recently, DNA research from Leicester University and published in 2010, goes further and where eighty per cent of Caucasian males in Europe may have had ancestors who lived in regions known today as Iraq and Syria. Ironically,this new evidence and if supported by future research, may lend substantial credence claimed by Jacobite Scots for centuries. Even the name, 'Jacobite' refers to being 'Sons Of Jacob' - leader of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Bible tells us about the twelve tribes of Israel led by Jacob and who was given the additional name of 'Israel' after wrestling with an angel and demanding a blessing and which was eventually received. (See Genesis 32:28-30).

According to Jacobite legend, the origin of the Scots began in these Middle East Regions and where one of the twelve tribes of Israel, originally led by Jacob, steadily emigrated to Thrace, a part of modern day Southern Bulgaria and bordering Greece and Turkey. It remains unknown why they left there but it seems the tribe emigrated South through Greece and onward to Egypt and where an Egyptian Princess named Scotti or Scotta became a part of the tribe and where the tribe moved across North Africa. Some accounts suggest they settled in Carthage for a time before moving onward to Galicia on the Iberian Peninsula. When the trade wars between Carthage and Rome began, the Scotta supported Carthage and as the war turned in favour of Rome, the Scotta left Iberia and sailed North towards Ireland and where some married into the Royal Houses of that Celtic State and from where, colonisation would feature largely in the establishment of a Scottish Nation.

According to one variant of this legend, the Gaels, According to one story, the Gaels, led by a Spartan called Niall, conquered the cities of Rigmonath (St.Andrews) and Bellathor (current location is unknown) and where he named the land and people after his Egyptian wife, Scotia.

Whatever the truth of this account; it may explain the origin of the word 'Scot' and later 'Jacobite'. It is certainly true that from about the third century, Roman writers like Ammianus Marcellinus, and writing in Latin, described Ireland as Scotia and where the Gaelic speaking inhabitants were known as Scotti. From a etymological perspective, however, the Gaelic word 'scoth' translates as the absolute best of everything and it's not impossible that these bands of Irish raiders who attacked Roman occupied areas of Britain could have referred to themselves as 'scoth na bhfear' with translates to the best of men. It doesn't explain the Jacobean link with Jacob however.

When the Romans came to the area now referred to as Scotland, they encountered fierce warlike tribes who often adorned their bodies with tatoos and referred to them in a collective sense as 'Picts' meaning 'painted people' or alternatelty refered to by tribal names like 'Caledonaii'. Not for the first time in Roman Script, they were said to be barbaric and where their 'hit and run' form of military operations defeated the might of the Roman armies.

It's likely that the 9th Roman Legion, having served with distinction elswhere in the Empire, met with virtual decimation and destruction in Scotland. In terms of history, much is known about the Romans but the Picts were more likely to have passed down their history orally and hence little in the way of writing. Despite this, much information has been gathered about them and the Pictavia Museum located near Brechin may be the best place to visit and find out more. Click Here To Visit The Pictavia Web Site.

By the time of the Roman departure, it was known that there were seven Pictich kingdoms as allegedly described by St Columba but more likely by a monk of Iona writing long after St. Columba had died since it is written in Gaelic and after the establishment of Alba, the Gaelic word for Scotland. Fib is the region now called Fife.

"Seven Children of Cruthne,
Divided Alba into seven divisions
Cait, Ce, Cirig, Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Forten"


At an early point in times, the Scotti adopted a name for themselves to seperate their identity from their British cousins - Goídil, Gaels. The first Irish Gaels, arrived in Scotland circa 450AD from Scotia (Ireland) across the Sea of Moyle (Irish Sea) and settled in Argyll (Earra Ghàidheal ), which they called Dal Riata.

The consolidation of the Kingdom of Dál Riata and the ancient province of Ulster around the 4th century, linked the North of Ireland and Western Scotland together while accelerating the expansion of Gaelic, as did the success of the Gaelic-speaking church establishment. By the sixth century, it was the language of the rulers of Argyll and of the Kingdom of Dál Riada and which still included parts of County Antrim in Ireland. It was the language of its churchmen who still had close kinship and political ties to Ireland.

In subsequent centuries, and although their numbers and territory continued to expand, Gaels were only one people among many in Northern Britain and far from being the most powerful in political terms. In the Church though, they were highly influential. Gaelic churchmen played a large part in converting many parts of Scotland to Christianity. Right through to the ninth century and beyond, men from Eastern Scotland would travel to Ireland for their Church education. Iona and Dál Riata flourished as a centre of civilisation and kept the lamp of learning alive long after the fall of the Roman Empire and where the Dark Ages descended on England and many other countries in Europe. The Celts in both Scotland and Ireland had largely escaped and remained outside Roman influence.

Over a period of time, they occupied many of the Hebridean Isles and the region currentlly known as Dunfries and Galloway and where many place names are derived from the Gaelic language. In 523AD, St. Columba arrived in Scotland for the first time and was granted permission to establish an Abbey on the Island of Iona. From here, he and his aids and successors including St Aidan of Lindisfarne spread the Celtic form of Christianity across Scotland and Northern England and where the differences had profound impact on the history of Britain over many centuries and lasting into current times.

The fifth century saw many regions of England invaded and conquered by Danish and Germanic tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes. By the sixth century, the Saxons had established a territory roughly equivilent to East Lothian, Berwickshire, Northumberland and Durham and reaching from the Firth of Forth to the River Tees. It was called Bernicia and in the seventh century, it merged with the Kingdom of Deira to form the new Kingdom of Northumbria and where it was most likely ruled from Bamburgh and close to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Stuck between these cultures lay the Kingdom of Strathclyde and where many different forms of racial mix and language was inevitable.

The Picts had retreated to the North and East of the country and where, in 873AD, the Pictish tribes united under the leadership of Kenneth McAlpin; the 'last King of Picts' and the 'first King of Scotland'. The intial area of Scotland was thus far less than it is today and excluded most of the islands.

The extent of Gaelic settlement was limited at this time. North of Ardnamurchan, East of the mountains and South of the Clyde, lay speakers of other Celtic languages like Pictish and British, and beyond them to the South, speakers of the pregenitor to Lowland Scots and often referred to as Northern Old English.

During the ninth century, Vikings from Scandanavia began to raid British shores and rapidly began to settle the Orkney, Shetland and Hebridean Isles before assuming hold of the most northerly territories. By then, the old tribes and the name of 'Pictland' had almost disappeared and where the new name of 'Alba' was more universally accepted and with it came the 'Fir Alban' or 'Men of Alba'.

It was the beginning of an established independent nation state that would reach its present boundaries by 1013AD and thus one of the oldest post-Roman states in Europe; much older than England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium and many other countries displayed on global maps today.

While establishing themselves in the new land, the Gaels were fiercely resisted by the former Pictish establishment, and particularly by those in the North East of Scotland. The Gaels did eventually take over these regions and then steadily pushed back the borders of other Kingdoms in Southern Scotland. North of the Forth, Gaelic speech supplanted Pictish entirely. South of it, the Kings of Alba made conquest as far as the Tweed by 1018AD and in their wake came nobles from the North and their retainers bringing Gaelic speech into South East Scotland. In some places, there were 'hybrid' communities and where some parts of language merged. Words like “Crash, Clang, Smash and Welcome” originate from Viking sources. The word, 'Galloway' as used to describe a region in the South-West of Scotland also comes from this source and where Scandanavian Gaelic speakers were known as the Gall-Ghàidhil.

Ownership of the isles was disputed between Norway and Scotland and in 973AD, Marcus, King of the Isles, King Kenneth III of Scotland and the Leader of the Cumbri formed an alliance and where the Scandinavian response led to the defeat of Gilledomman of the Isles and forcing him into exile in Ireland.

In 1095AD, Magnus Bare Leg assumed the tole of King in Norway and in 1098AD, he entered into a treaty with King Malcolm III of Scotland and where demarcation of their respective authority was the objective. According to the Orkneyinga Saga, King Malcolm III conceded all islands as defined by the ability of a boat to move around it would fall under Magnus's influence while the mainland would remain the preserve of the Scottish King.

In response to this offer, Magnus allegedly had a boat lifted out of the sea and manually hauled across the narrow strip of land at Tarbet beside Loch Fyne, with himself at the helm, and thus included the whole peninsula of Kintyre as within his domain.

In time, Scandinavian noblemen in the West had Gaelic nicknames and could speak Gaelic in all regions from Dublin to the Outer Hebrides. These men, with their Viking names like Oláfr, Ljodr, Ívarr, Thorketill were the new Gaels of the age. Their descendants, known as MacAmhlaibh, MacLeòid, MacÌomhair, MacCorcadail, and many others, would be the lordly families of the later Middle Ages. During the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Western Isles had been most thoroughly settled by Scandinavians; Skye, Barra, the Uists, Harris and Lewis, began to become Gaelic speaking communities, both through the increasing use of Gaelic by the ruling elite and through less perceptible changes further down the social scale.

In the twelfth century, Somerled, the grandson of Gilledomman, King of Kintyre, married Ragnailt, daughter of Olaf, King of Mann and the Isles in 1140AD and perhaps naturally expected to inherit the isles upon the death of King Olaf in 1153AD and surprised to learn that the King had tried to ensure the lands passed to Goraidh, Somerled's brother in law. This led to war and where a fleet of eighty ships inflicted defeat on Goraidh and a truce whereby Ardnamuchan would represent a border between Northern Isles and their Southern Counterparts with each in control of one part. Two years later though, Somerled led a new force towards the Isle of Man and defeated Goraidh for a second time and compelling Gordiadh to seek sanctuary in Norway. Somerled thus acheived his aim of establishing his island empire reaching from the Butt of Lewis to the Isle of Man but his success brought him directly against the sickly King of Scotland, Malcolm Canmore IV and known as 'the Maiden' on account of his constant poor state of health. Malcolm eventually died at the young of twenty-four but before then, in 1164AD, Somerled led his army towards Renfrew and where he was poisoned by his own servant. According to some historians, this event was a great tragedy for the Gaels because if Somerled had won the battle against Malcolm IV; Gaelic, rather than English or Scots might have become and possibly remained as the dominant language in Scotland.

The lands that Somerled had gained for himself; the lands of Argyll and the Islands were divided up between his sons and where, from that point forward, the origins of extended families or clans like McDougal and McDonald began.

The twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, were when the great Gaelic families and clans were founded and began to make their fortunes. Families like Clann Dòmhnaill, descendants of Scandinavian Gaels, ruled as Lords of the Isles for 200 years. There were many more like the Frasers (na Frisealaich), who drew their descent from Anglo-Norman settlers from South of the Forth and the Earls of the Lennox, whose ancestors bore the Old English name Ælwine. The Campbells saw themselves as descendants of Northern Britons (and even that of Arthur of Camelot!) and of Normans, as well as of Gaels. To be a Gaelic speaker in the Middle Ages then, suggested knowledge and teaching, rather than any racial or ethnic tag. It was the preferred language of the Church and of Kings.

In 1263AD, a combined army of islanders and Norweigans led by King Haakon IV of Norway fought the Scottish Army led by King Alexander III. The result was inconclusive but where Angus Mor (the Elder) MacDonald (the first MacDonald) and Lord of Islay accepted King Alexander III as his (nominal) overlord and retained his own territory. It was thus a longer term strategic victory for the Scots.

At the famous Battle of Bannockburn of 1314AD, King Robert the Bruce gratefully accepted help from many islanders but in later years warned future Kings of Scotland about the power and influence exerted by the 'Lords of the Isles'. During the next four hundred years, the Lords of the Isles significantly extended their power and territories on the mainland of Scotland and often by marriage alliances and by making bonds with the Scottish Kings. By the early fifteenth century, these were the most powerful clans in Scotland and where successive Lords of the Isles asserted a right of independence.

This was called into question when John MacDonald II, Lord of the Isles, entered into a treaty with King Edward IV of England in 1462AD. In this, and in conjunction with the Earl of Douglas, they would support English plans to invade and conquer Scotland. In the event though, the eruption of civil war in England and known as the 'Wars of the Roses' prevented enactment but was discovered a year later and where John MacDonald II was compelled to forfeit his estates and titles to King James IV of Scotland. The Hebridean Isles thus became a part of Scotland, and where,the eldest male child of the Scottish monarchry automatically assumed the title of Lord of the Isles. Later, under the Act of Union between Scotland and England, this changed to a British circumstance and where the heir to the throne, known as the 'Prince of Wales' also assumes the title of 'Lord of the Isles'.

Prior to the fourteenth century, the Highland regions did not exist as a separate concept although the Gaelic language had displaced Pictish North of the Forth. Until the late fifteenth century, it was known in Inglis (English) as Scottis Gaelic, a descendant of the Goidelic branch of Celtic and closely related to Irish, and which is the traditional language of the Scotti or Gaels. The language became the historical tongue for the majority of Scotland after it replaced Cumbric, Pictish and Norse. The culture of the Gaels had spread throughout the country and their language had become the language of the King, Court, Church and for most of the common people. In truth though, it was destined to become the pinnacle of Celtic society with a steady decline to follow. King James IV (1473-1513) was the last Scottish Monarch to speak Gaelic.

Since that time, the scale and usage of the Gaelic language has steadily declined to the point where the language is rarely heard beyond the Hebridean Isles and with the number of Gaelic speakers numbered in their thousands. Unlike Wales and where most signposts read in both English and Welsh, there has been no similar development in Scotland.

We stated this article by asking, "Who are the Scots?" and in a conclusive answer, we offer that we are all descended from a wide mix of races and the perhaps better for it. For many, it means partial ancestry to greater or lesser extent from the Picts, Irish, Scandinavians, Germanic Saxon and Norman English and more. It all depends on what period of time is being referred to when the question is being asked and where the answer will change accordingly.    

In modern Scotland, and where the ethnic minority is about five per cent, there are possibly more speakers of Punjabi or Hindu than Gaelic and where the ongoing influx and integration of immigrant races has, for the most part, been acheived peacefully albeit and admittedly with some violent exceptions. The prominent languages in current parlance, by far, are dialects of English of which there are about twenty-seven in the United Kingdom; most of which are compatible for the most part although some local variance does occur with some words and even within the borders of Scotland.

In closing, and where much of our history was largely determined by the ambitious aims and objectives of our nearest neighbouring nation, we'll be addressing that in the next section.

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