bi Stuart McHardy

Gliog an seo gus an aiste seo leughadh sa Ghàidhlig
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This is the name o an airticle publisht back in 2000 bi Ewan Campbell o Glesca University.  Maist histories o Scotland is happy tae tell ye that the Scots, the Gaelic-speakin tribes that formit the kingdom o Dalriada, in Argyll, came ower fae Ulster roun aboot the year 500CE.  It’s jist ane o thae ‘facts’ o historie that awbody kens, an there’s the problem – awbody kens it but whit if they’re aw wrang.

Campbell maks the pynt that the first reference tae the Scots bein fae Ireland disnae appear til aroun 730 CE, twa centuries later.  We shuid mind that it wisnae till the Christians cam here that we hae onie writin in Scotland ava, an in terms o the west this means the arrival o Columba, wha is said tae hae set up his monastery in Iona aroun 563.  

Campbell gaes on tae hae a look at ither types o evidence.  He reckons that there is nae evidence at aw tae suggest onie incursion fae ower the Sheuch took place, eethir in buildins or in artefacts.  Gin there wis a total tak ower o ae group bi another, ye wuid expect some kin o archaeological evidence.  He also maks the pynt that there is nae evidence tae suggest that there ivver were pre-Gaelic placenames around Kilmartin whaur the Scots had their capital, Dunadd.  Gin there wis an invasion shuirely the fowk there afore, maist likely Picts, wuid hae left some kin o evidence.  The fact is there disnae seem tae be onie sic evidence.

We fin oorsels Iin a situation whaur there is nae contemporary historical evidence –  an even Adomnan screivin his Life o Columba thirty year afore Bede gies us the story o the Scots’s Irish origins, disnae mention onie invasion.  It seems there is nae real evidence fer sic an invasion, ane o the cornerstanes o whit maist fowk think is Scottish historie.  How has this come aboot?  Weel gin we accept Campbell’s suggestions – ye cin find the airticle online at – whit wis goin on?

Nou recent revisitin o the past maks it clear that auld ideas that the seas were a barrier tae movement are simply wrang, the seas wer mair like a highway.  We shuid aye mind that ye cin see the coast o Ireland fae Arran, Kintyre, Galloway an ither pairts o Scotland, so it wuid be daft tae think there wis nae contack ower the Sheuch – it had been gaein on fer millennia afore Columba’s time an mebbe we shuid be thinkin o a society that wis based aroun communication bi watter an encompassit baith sides o the Sheuch.

Campbell gaes sae far as tae suggest that influence fae Scotland tae Ireland micht hae been stranger than the ither wey.  But wha wuid want tae mak us think that ane o Scotland’s indigenous peoples – fer that’s the conclusion it’s hard tae avoid gin Campbell is richt – cam fae anither land.  Weel, mindin that historie is nivver far fae propaganda, the quaistion tae think on is ‘cui bono’, wha benefits.

Weel Bede wis fairstly a Christian cleric, an gien that Columba is aye said tae be the founder o Christianity in Scotland, biggin up the Irish connection cuid dae his ain religion nae hairm at aw.  We hae tae mind that thre are examples o pagan practices bein reportit in Scotland up til at least the seevententh centurie, sae back in the echth centurie there wis likely a lot mair.  An there were a lot o pagans fae ither airts aboot – they were cried Vikings!

But there is anither aspeck tae this that this far hisnae been getting muckle attention. Dunadd, the capital o the tribes o Dalriada, sits richt in the middle o Kilmartin Gen, ane o the maist sacred landscapes in Europe, a place that had been the site o pre-Christian ritual fer millennia afore Columba wis flung oot o Ireland fer causin trouble amang his ain fowk.  It wis aye Christian policy back in the day, tae tak ower “pagan precincts’ and bigg their kirks on them, but ye cuid hardly dae that wi the haill o Kilmartin Glen.  An gin the Scots were native there, they wuid be the fowk wi the stories an mebbe still the beliefs tae, that were associated wi the cairns, circles, standin stanes an rock art o Kilmartin Glen.  An thae stanes had been first pit up back in the fowerth Millennium BCE.

Whit better wey nor removin the significance, an the remnants o the pouer, o sic a place, than tellin awbody that the fowk that were bidin there onlie cam in a couple o generations afore Columba brocht the Gospel?  An the new story, tho it micht hae taen a while tae spreid, wis in the new form o writin.  Eftir aw this time we cin nivver be shair hou the story arose bit it seein it as ‘spin’ mebbe maks some kin o sense as weel as tellin us whit we aw ken – historie is written bi winners.  Seein the Scots as comin fae Argyll, rather nor Ireland micht also gang some wey tae explainin hou the Picts and Scots bandit thegither tae caw doun Hadrian’s Wa in 360 in whit the Romans cried the Barbarian Conspiracy, afore stravaigin doun thro England an terrifyin the natives.

Nou Bede alsae tells us that the Picts settled in Scotland eftir been tellt tae gang there bi the Irish, an that they needit tae get wives fae the Irish forbye.  This seems tae be pairt o the same process o biggin up Ireland an pittin doun Scotland, which ye cin see as mair o the saem kin o ‘spin.’  An Bede’s predecessors in Northumbria had been Christianised bi monks fae Iona.  An fae his pynt o view the interest o the church wuid aye be the maist important thing.  It disnae mak him a bad mannie, juist a mannie screivin bad historie.


ituna semea
2011-09-20 13:37

Shouldn’t it be Scoatland?
2012-04-02 21:52

Aye Stuart,the screivin o history is a gey thrawn thing. Anither mair modren problem is the describin o the early Scots leid as belangin “Middle English” thereby pittin doun the foonds o oor naitional tung,an lattin folk think o it as nae mair nor a dialeck o Inglish. Whaur I stey, there a sign in a local village explainin that the local leid wis originally a kinna early Welsh afore folk gaed on tae speik Inglish!! Nae mention o Scots at aw. The story o the Scots leid isna bein telt, an whan it is it’s whiles inaccurate. As ye jaloused yersel Stuart, politics is pairt o aw this. Nae doot chynges tae politics wull chynge attitudes tae whit haes gane afore, an the significance o language tae naitional an political identity.

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