Page images

were of those Gauls who possessed themselves origi.
nally of Britain. It is compounded of two Celtic
words, Cael signifying Celts, or Gauls, and Dun ol
Don, a hill; so that Caeldon, or Caledonians, is as
much as to say, the “Celts of the hill country.” The
| lighlanders, to this day, call themselves Cael, and
their language, Caelic, or Galic, and their country
Caeldock, which the Romans softened Caledonia.
This, of itself, is sufficient to demonstrate that they are
the genuine descendants of the ancient Caledonians,
and not a pretended colony of Scots, who settled first
in the north, in the third or fourth century.
From the double meaning of the word Cael, which
signifies “strangers,” as well as Gauls, or Celts, some
have imagined, that the ancestors of the Caledonians
were of a different race from the rest of the Britons,
and that they received their name upon that account.
This opinion, say they, is supported by Tacitus, who,
from several circumstances, concludes that the Cale-
donians were of German extraction. A discussion of
a point so intricate, at this distance of time, could
neither be satisfactory nor important.
Towards the latter end of the third, and beginning
of the fourth century, we find the Scots in the north.
Porphirius makes the first mention of them about that
time. As the Scots were not heard of before that
period, most writers supposed them to have been a
colony, newly come to Britain, and that the Picts were
.ve only genuine descendants of the ancient Caledoni
ans. This mistake is easily removed. The Caledoni.
ans, in process of time, became naturally divided into
two distinct nations, as possessing parts of the country
entirely different in their nature and soil. The welf-
ern coast of Scotland is hilly and barren; towards tile
east, the country is plain, and Ét for tillage. The in-
habitants of the mountains, a roving and uncontrolled


race of men, lived by feeding of cattle, and what they
killed in hunting. Their employment did not fix them
to one place. They removed from one heath to ano-
ther, as suited best with their convenience or inclina-
tion. They were not, therefore, improperly called, by
their neighbors, Scuite, or “the wandering nation;”
which is evidently the origin of the Roman name of
On the other hand, the Caledonians, who possessed
the east coast of Scotland, as this division of the
country was plain and fertile, applied themselves to
agriculture, and raising of corn. It was from this
that the Galic name of the Picts proceeded; for they
are called in that language, Cruithnich, i.e. “the wheat
or corn eaters.” As the Picts lived in a country so
different in its nature from that possessed by the Scots
so their national character suffered a material change.
Unobstructed by mountains or lakes, their communica-
tion with one another was free and frequent. Society,
therefore, became sooner established among them than
among the Scots, and, consequently, they were much
sooner governed by civil magistrates and laws. This,
at last, produced so great a difference in the manners
of the two nations, that they began to forget their com-
mon origin, and almost continual quarrels and animosi.
ties subsisted between them. These animosities, after
some ages, ended in the subversion of the Pictish king
dom, but not in the total extirpation of the nation ac
cording to most of the Scots writers, who seem to think
it more for the honor of their countrymen to annihilate
than reduce a rival people under their obedience. It is
certain, however, that the very name of the Picts was lost,
and that those that remained were so completely in-
corporated with their conquerors, that they soon lost
a" memory of their own origin.
The end of the Pictish government is placed so near

tnat period to which authentic annals reach, that it is matter of wonder that we have no monuments of their ianguage or history remaining. This favors the system. I have laid down. Had they originally been of a different race from the Scots, their language of course would be different. The contrary is the case. The names of places in the Pictish dominions, and the very names of their kings, which are handed down to us, are of Galic original, which is a convincing proof that the two nations were, of old, one and the same, and only divided into two governments by the effect which their situation had upon the genius of the people. The name of Picts is said to have been given by the Romans to the Caledonians who possessed the east coast of Scotland from their painting their bodies. The story is silly, and the argument absurd. But let us revere antiquity in her very follies. This circumstance made some imagine, that the Picts were of British extract, and a different race of men from the Scots. That more of the Britons, who fled northward from the tyranny of the Romans, settled in the low country of Scotland, than among the Scots of the mountains, may be easily imagined, É. the very nature of the country. It was they who introduced painting among the Picts. From this circumstance, affirm some antiquaries, proceeded the name of the latter, to distinguish them from the Scots, who never had that art among them, and from the Britons, who discontinued it after the Roman conquest. The Caledonians, most certainly, acquired a considerable knowledge in navigation by their living on a coast intersected with many arms of the sea, and in islands, divided one from another by wide and dangerous firths. It is, therefore, highly probable, that they very early found their way to the north of Ireland, which is within sight of their own country. That Ire. land was first peopled from Britain, is, at length, a mat. ter that admits of no doubt. The vicinity of the two islands; the exact correspondence of the ancient in. habitants of both, in point of manners and language, are sufficient proofs, even if we had not the testimonies of authors of undoubted veracity to confirm it. The abettors of the most romantic systems of Irish antiqui. ties allow it; but they place the colony from Britain in an improbable and remote aera. I shall easily admit that the colony of the Firbolg, confessedly the Belgae of Britain, settled in the south of Ireland, before the Cael, or Caledonians discovered the north ; but it is not at all likely that the migration of the Firbolg to Ireland happened many centuries before the Christian aeria. The poem of Temora throws considerable light on this subject. The accounts given in it agree so well with what the ancients have delivered concerning the first population and inhabitants of lreland, that every unbiased person will confess them more probable than the legends handed down, by tradition, in that country. It appears that, in the days of Trathal, grandfather to Fingal, Ireland was possessed by two nations; the Firbolg or Belgae of Britain, who inhabited the south, and the Cael, who passed over from Caledonia and the Hebrides to Ulster. The two nations, as is usuad among an umpolished and lately settled people, were divided into small dynasties, subject to petty kings or chiefs, independent of one another. In this situation, it is probable, they continued long, without any material revolution in the state of the island, until Crothar, lord of Atha, a country in Connaught, the most potent chief of the Firbolg, carried away Conlama, the daughter of Cathmin, a chief of the Cael, who possessed Ulster. Conlama had been betrothed, some time before, to Turloch, a chief of their own nation. Turloch re.


sented the affront offered him by Crothar, made an ir.
ruption into Connaught, and killed Cormul, the brother
of Crothar, who came to oppose his progress. Crothar
himself then took arms, and either killed or expelled
Turloch. The war, upon this, became general between
the two nations, and the Cael were reduced to the last
extremity. In this situation, they applied for aid to
Trathal, king of Morven, who sent his brother Conar,
already famous for his great exploits, to their relief.
Conar, upon his arrival in Ulster, was chosen king by
the unanimous consent of the Caledonian tribes who
possessed that country. The war was renewed with
vigor and success; but the Firbolg appear to have
been rather repelled than subdued. In succeeding
reigns, we learn, from episodes in the same poem, that
the chiefs of Atha made several efforts to become
monarchs of Ireland, and to expel the race of Conar.
To Conar succeeded his son Cormac, who appears
to have reigned long. In his latter days he seems to
have been driven to the last extremity by an insurrec-
tion of the Firbolg, who supported the pretensions of
the chiefs of Atha to the Irish throne. Fingal, who
was then very young, came to the aid of Cormac,
totally defeated Colculla, chief of Atha, and re-estab.
lished Cormac in the sole possession of all Ireland. It
was then he fell in love with, and took to wife, Ros-
crania, the daughter of Cormac, who was the mother
of Ossian.
Cormac was succeeded in the Irish throne by his
son Cairbre ; Cairbre by Artho, his son, who was the
latner of that Cormac, in whose minority the Invasion
3f Swaran happened, which is the subject of the poem
of Fingal. The family of Atha, who had not relin-
quished thei- pretensions to the Irish throne, repelled in
the minority of Cormac, defeated his adherents, and
murdered him in the palace of Ternora. Cairbar, lord

« PreviousContinue »