FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY Early Medieval The Birth of Nations: Wales The Birth of Nations: England
The Birth of Nations: SCOTLAND
the Lie of the Land
In the 6th century the country now called Scotland was divided amongst three different ‘peoples’: Britons, Picts and Scots.
To the south of the Forth-Clyde isthmus were P-Celtic speaking Britons.* In the east, the territories of the tribe known to the Romans as the Votadini had metamorphosed into the kingdom of Gododdin.
Around the middle of the 6th century, the lands adjoining Gododdin to its south-east, in what is now north-eastern England, became an Anglo-Saxon, i.e. English, kingdom: Bernicia. (At the beginning of the 7th century, Bernicia was united with its southerly neighbour, Deira, to produce the kingdom of Northumbria.) To the English, the Britons were Wealas or Walas (‘foreigners’), from which the modern English terms Welsh and Wales are derived.
There was a kingdom based at Alt Clut (‘Rock of the Clyde’) – Dumbarton Rock on the north shore of the Clyde. The stronghold at Dumbarton was devastated by Vikings in 870, after which the kingdom becomes known as Strat Clut (‘Valley of the Clyde’), i.e. Strathclyde. Although it may not reflect contemporary usage, the name Strathclyde is generally also used for the king of Alt Clut's territory. Between this embryonic Strathclyde and the Solway Firth, other kingdoms are hinted at in various sources, but have no known history – for instance Goddau, mentioned in Welsh poetry attributed to the 6th century bard Taliesin. Taliesin is particularly associated with Rheged – a kingdom that may have held lands north and south of the Solway Firth (which now forms the western end of the English-Scottish border).*
northern PICTS
southern PICTS
(Dál Riata)
Alt Clut
Approximate extent of the peoples of Scotland in the early-6th century.
The bulk of the country north of the Forth-Clyde was occupied by the Picts (who probably spoke a P-Celtic language, though this remains a subject of debate), but in Argyll, on the west coast, the Q-Celtic speaking Scots had established the kingdom of Dál Riata.*
The Picts remain an enigmatic people. According to a fable, which seems to have Irish origins, the eponymous founding father of the Picts was Cruithne (Cruithni being the Irish name for the Picts).* He had seven sons: Fib, Fidach, Floclaid, Fortrenn, Got, Ce, Circinn (the spellings vary – these are as they appear in the Pictish king-list from the Poppleton Manuscript). The brothers divided their father's country, and their provinces were named after them. This is typical foundation-myth stuff, but the divisions are apparently real enough – Got (elsewhere: Cait) equates to Caithness and Fib to Fife; Fortrenn is the Irish genitive of Fortriu, which corresponds to the name of a Pictish tribe known to 4th century Romans, the Verturiones.*
A confused and contradictory 12th century geographical tract, ‘De Situ Albanie’ (On the Situation of Alba), found in the Poppleton Manuscript, says that Alba (meaning Britain north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus*) was, in ancient times, divided amongst seven brothers. It names the regions they ruled, in 12th century terms, but only names one of the brothers: Oengus (in modern parlance, Angus), after whom “Angus with Mearns” was named.*  ‘De Situ Albanie’ then proceeds to muddy the water by describing the seven kingdoms again, quoting rather vague geographical boundaries, and producing a list of regions which does not correlate with the first list.* At any rate, on the basis that they genuinely represent an early state of Pictish political affairs, scholars have attempted to match the clearly named regions, from the first list in ‘De Situ Albanie’, to the seven sons of Cruithne: “Angus with Mearns” matched to Circinn; “Atholl and Gowrie” to Floclaid; “Strathearn with Menteith” to Fortrenn (i.e. Fortriu); “Fife with Fothriff” to Fib; “Mar with Buchan” to Ce; “Moray and Ross” to Fidach; “Caithness on this side of the mountain, and beyond the mountain” to Got. These identifications are, however, of varying degrees of certainty: whilst Fib = Fife + Fothriff, and Got = Caithness [+ Sutherland] seem reasonable equations, Fidach = Moray + Ross is arrived at simply by process of elimination.*
On firmer ground, the renowned Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede says (‘HE’ III, 4) that the Picts were divided into two groups – the northern and the southern – separated “by steep and rugged mountains”.  This mountainous divide was called ‘the Mounth’ (Grampians).MAP  Bede proceeds to say that Bridei son of Maelchon, was, around the year 565, “the powerful king of the Pictish nation” – implying that Bridei was king of both the northern and southern groupings. Later (‘HE’ V, 21), Bede clearly presents Nechtan son of Derelei, as, around the year 710, king of “all the provinces of the Picts”. Both of these rulers appear in Pictish king lists, which show just one line of succession – presumably over-kings of the whole Pictish nation. By the time of Bridei son of Bili, (Bridei famously defeated the Northumbrian English in 685) it seems that Fortriu was the dominant Pictish kingdom, and their kings were over-kings of the Picts.
Fortriu, as previously mentioned, is traditionally placed south of the Mounth+ (equated to “Strathearn with Menteith” in ‘De Situ Albanie’).* Recently, however, Alex Woolf has made a persuasive argument for Fortriu to be located north of the Mounth – at the northern end of the Great Glen+.
Bede notes (‘HE’ I, 1) that “when any question should arise” the Picts chose “a king from the female royal race rather than from the male”.  Actually, in Pictish king lists there isn't even the possibility of a king being the son of a previous king until the 780s. Indeed, some kings of the Picts appear to have had non Pictish fathers. Two that can be identified with some certainty are Talorcan (r.653–657) and Bridei (r.672–693). Talorcan's father was the Anglo-Saxon Eanfrith, who, briefly (around 633), was king of Bernicia. Bridei's father was Bili, king of the Strathclyde Britons. Some scholars have concluded that matrilineal succession (i.e. via the female line) was the norm with the Picts, and not just “when any question should arise”.*
“There are in the island [i.e. Britain] at present”, writes Bede (‘HE’ I, 1): “five languages of different nations ... to wit, English, British [P-Celtic], Scottish [i.e. Irish, Q-Celtic],* Pictish, and Latin, the last having become common to all by the study of the Scriptures.”  What type of language the Picts spoke has (like every other facet of Pictish history) long been the subject of scholarly conjecture. There is little information to go on – mainly place-names and personal-names, but there are also inscriptions. The Picts have left a legacy of elaborately carved standing-stones, some apparently engraved with ogam inscriptions – ogam being a writing-system, where a character is defined by the number and orientation of straight strokes relative to a stem-line, which seems to have originated in Ireland in the 4th century. St Columba's biographer, Adomnán, says (‘VC’ II, 32) that Columba, an Irishman, needed an interpreter to preach to the Picts, and the Pictish inscriptions have defied satisfactory translation.* To cut a very long story short, the majority view seems to be that the Picts spoke a P-Celtic language. The intractability of what appears to be ogam writing on stones has, however, encouraged the notion that they are in a pre-Celtic remnant language (similar to Basque). It is not only the ogam aspect of Pictish carved stones which has been the subject of scrutiny. There is repeated use of certain designs, known as ‘Pictish symbols’, which it is believed must have meaning, but what that meaning is has, so far, also resisted would-be code-breakers.
The Serpent Stone at Aberlemno, Angus. Its symbols are categorized as (from top): serpent; double disc and z-rod; mirror and comb.
The 2nd century geographer Ptolemy, working from 1st century materials, placed a tribe called the Epidii in the region that became Dál Riata.* Presumably the Epidii would have been regarded as Picts when that term came into use in the 3rd century.* So how and when did the Scottish, i.e. Irish, kingdom of Dál Riata become established on British soil?  Bede reports (‘HE’ I, 1) the tradition that was current in the early-8th century: “In process of time, Britain, besides the Britons and the Picts, received a third nation, the Scots, who, migrating from Ireland under their leader, Reuda, either by fair means, or by force of arms, secured to themselves those settlements among the Picts which they still possess. From the name of their commander, they are to this day called Dalreudini; for, in their language, Dal signifies a part.”  The preface in two manuscripts of the ‘Amra Choluim Chille’, tells how Cairpre Riata (Cairbri Rigfota), who evidently equates to Bede's ‘Reuda’, was forced, by a famine, to lead his people out of Munster, north into Ulster: “and the one part of them went into Alba, and the other part remained in Ireland”.  Dál Riata did indeed straddle the North Channel – comprising territory in Antrim, on the east coast of northern Ireland, as well as in Argyll, on the west coast of what would become Scotland. After Bede's time, however, the Scots apparently ceased to consider Reuda/Cairpre Riata to be the founder of Dál Riata in Britain – that accolade being conferred instead on a certain Fergus son of Erc.
The pedigree of Mael Coluim son of Cinaed, conventionally designated Malcolm II of Scotland, who reigned 1005–1034, appearing (¶1696) amongst a collection of genealogies in an Irish manuscript that has been dated c.1130 (Oxford, Bodleian MS Rawlinson B 502), places Fergus son of Erc seventeen generations after Cairpre Riata.* The Scottish king-list in the Poppleton Manuscript begins with the announcement that: “Fergus son of Erc, was the first of Conaire's race to receive the kingdom of Alba; that is, from the mountain of Drumalban [Druimm nAlban] as far as to the sea of Ireland, and to the Hebrides. He reigned for 3 years.”  An entry in the ‘Annals of Tigernach’, thought to be taken from a no longer extant chronicle produced in the first half of the 10th century, states that, c.500: “Fergus Mór, son of Erc, with the people of Dál Riata, held a part of Britain, and there he died.”  By these tokens (allowing around twenty years per generation), the Reuda/Cairpre Riata character would belong in the 2nd century.
Fergus is purported to have crossed over from Ireland with his brothers.* The eighth verse (of twenty-seven) of a late-11th century Irish poem, the ‘Duan Albanach’, runs:
The three sons of Erc, son of Eochaid the valiant,
Three who obtained the blessing of Patrick [d.c.493?],
Seized upon Alba, exalted [was] their courage,
Loarn, Fergus, and Oengus.
From this point, the ‘Duan’ is simply a versified list of Scottish kings, concluding during the reign of Malcolm III (1058–1093). In the next verse (i.e. the ninth), Loarn is said to have ruled for ten years, after which Fergus is said to have ruled for twenty-seven years. Another source, evidently derived from the same lost king-list as the ‘Duan’, the ‘Synchronisms’ attributed to the Irish scholar Flann Mainistrech, who died in 1056 (but no manuscript of the ‘Synchronisms’ is earlier than the 14th century), however, gives no reign to Loarn, but gives Oengus a reign after Fergus (reign lengths are not provided in the ‘Synchronisms’). Nowhere else are Loarn or Oengus considered to have had the overall rule of Dál Riata.*
The ‘Senchus fer nAlban’ (History of the Men of Alba), which apparently has 7th century origins, but also 10th century modifications, reports that the territory of British Dál Riata was divided between three main kin-groups (cenéla), each named from the group's founding father.MAP  In the mid-9th century, the Scots of British Dál Riata and the Picts were finally united under a single king. By 900, the unified kingdom was called Alba (which came to be called, in English, Scotland). The kin-group from which the kings of Alba claimed descent was the Cenél nGabráin – who, according to the ‘Senchus fer nAlban’, originally held the territory of Kintyre and Cowal, “with the islands” – named after Gabrán, who is presented as Fergus Mór's grandson. The founders of the other two groups, the Cenél nOengusa, who occupied Islay, and the Cenél Loairn, who, by implication, occupied Lorn, are presented as Fergus' brothers, Oengus Mór and Loarn Mór. The ‘Senchus’ is the earliest source to portray Loarn and Oengus as Fergus' brothers. They probably weren't – it is likely they were incorporated into the mythology of the kingdom of Alba in the 10th century. James VI of Scotland, who also became James I of England in 1603, describes himself (in the sonnet ‘To the Queene Anonimos’) as: “happie monarch sprung of Ferguse race”.  Fergus himself, though, could also be a 10th century fabrication (it is telling that there was no kin-group named from him). Some scholars go further – suggesting that the whole notion of Dál Riata being established in Britain by Irish trespassers is itself a fabrication.
There must have been traffic between Antrim and Argyll since time immemorial – they are separated by only a dozen miles of sea – but there is no archaeological evidence to suggest that large numbers of people migrated from Ireland to Argyll, nor even that there was a takeover of the native population by an Irish elite. There is no doubt, however, that the Dál Riatans spoke the same language as the Irish (i.e. Q-Celtic). Archaeologist Ewan Campbell, in a paper called ‘Were the Scots Irish?’ (‘Antiquity’ 75.288, 2001) argues that the short sea passage between Argyll and Antrim was much less of a barrier to communications than the mountains of the Highlands, and, as a consequence, the natives of Argyll, Ptolemy's Epidii, were Q-Celtic speakers. “By the early medieval period,” writes Dr Campbell: “the emphasis on marine transport in Argyll allowed the development of a formidable navy, capable of maintaining a strong political identity within Argyll, and allowing Dál Riata to become an expansionist force in the area attacking as far away as Orkney, the Isle of Man and the west coast of Ireland [as will be seen later]. For a time during this early period, Dál Riata extended its control to the area of Antrim closest to Argyll ... and this area also became known as Dál Riata. During the Middle Irish period, when claims of the Irish ancestry of Scottish royalty were being elaborated, a process of ‘reverse engineering’ was used by Irish writers to explain the existence of an Irish Dál Riata as the progenitor of Scottish Dál Riata rather than vice versa.”  Be all that as it may, Fergus son of Erc is said (except in the ‘Synchronisms’) to have been succeeded by his son.
the 6th Century
Domangart, the son of noble Fergus,
Numbered five turbulent years;
24 without a battle
[Are assigned] to Comgall, son of Domangart.
So says the ‘Duan Albanach’ (Verse 10). The figure of Domangart seems to act as the interface between the fabricated backstory and Scottish history proper. The ‘Annals of Ulster’ (‘AU’), in a somewhat garbled entry, that begins “as some say”, place Domangart's death, or perhaps his retirement into religion, in 507.* Domangart's successor was his son, Comgall, whose death, “in the 35th year of his reign”, is placed s.a. 538 by ‘AU’; then again, without reign length, in 542; and yet again, “as some say”, in 545. Comgall was succeeded by his brother, Gabrán. The announcement of Gabrán's death appears in both 558 and 560. His successor was his nephew (Comgall's son), Conall.
In the same year as Gabrán's death, though not necessarily associated with it, Dál Riatan expansion appears to have suffered a setback, at the hands of the Pictish king, Bridei son of Maelchon. ‘AU’ also records this event in both 558 and 560. The earlier of the two entries is in Latin, and it refers to the “flight before Maelchon's son”, whereas the later entry is in Irish, and it reports the “migration before Maelchon's son”.  The notion of migration does tend to imply that the Picts had forced the Scots to abandon territory they had previously occupied.
‘AU’ places the “voyage of Colum Cille to the island of Iona” in 563.  Colum Cille, literally ‘dove of the church’, was an Irish missionary, and he is probably more familiar as St Columba. Bede, who places Columba's voyage in 565, reports (‘HE’ III, 4) that: “there came into Britain from Ireland a famous priest and abbot, marked as a monk by habit and manner of life, whose name was Columba, to preach the word of God to the provinces of the northern Picts, who are separated from the southern parts belonging to that nation by steep and rugged mountains.MAP For the southern Picts, who dwell on this side of those mountains, had, it is said, long before forsaken the errors of idolatry, and received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Nynia, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth* ... Columba came into Britain in the ninth year of the reign of Bridei, who was the son of Maelchon, and the powerful king of the Pictish nation, and he converted that nation to the faith of Christ, by his preaching and example. Wherefore he also received of them the gift of the aforesaid island [Iona+] whereon to found a monastery.”
Although Bede says it was the Picts who gave Iona to Columba, Irish annals (e.g. ‘AU’, s.a. 574) say that it was Conall son of Comgall, king of Dál Riata, who had made the gift. It may be that Columba prudently secured permission to settle on Iona from both the Picts and Scots – it is not possible to be certain just who would have held sovereignty over Iona in 563. At any rate, Columba's biographer, Adomnán (d.704), the ninth Abbot of Iona, relates (‘VC’ II, 35) that: “at the time when the Saint [Columba] was weary from his first journey to King Bridei, it so happened that that king, elated by royal pride in his fortress, acting haughtily, did not open the gates at the blessed man's first arrival. [Adomnán places Bridei's fortress in the vicinity of the river Ness – it is widely identified with the hillfort at Craig Phádraig.*] And when the man of God knew this, he came with his companions to the wickets of the portals, and first traced on them the Sign of the Lord's Cross and then knocking, he lays his hand against the doors, and immediately the bolts are violently shot back, the doors open in all haste of their own accord, and being thus opened the Saint thereupon enters with his companions. Upon this being known the king with his council is greatly affrighted, and issues forth from his house to meet the blessed man with all reverence, and addresses him gently with conciliatory words. And from that day forth this ruler honoured the holy and venerable man with very great honour all the remaining days of his life; as was proper.”  Adomnán does not, however, say that Bridei adopted Christianity.
Columba is said, by Adomnán (‘VC’ I, 15), to have been a friend of “King Rhydderch, son of Tudwal, who reigned upon the Rock of the Clyde.”  ‘The Rock of the Clyde’ (Petra Cloithe, a Latinization of the P-Celtic Alt Clut) is Dumbarton Rock on the north shore of the Clyde. It was the royal seat of the British kingdom of Strathclyde (though the name ‘Strathclyde’ does not itself appear until the 9th century). Adomnán says that Rhydderch sent a messenger on a secret mission to Columba, to ask the saint: “whether he was to be slain by his enemies or not.”  Columba replied: “ “Never will he be delivered into his enemies' hands, but in his own house will he die upon a feather bed.” Which prophecy of the Saint concerning King Rhydderch was fully accomplished, for, according to his word, he did die a peaceful death in his own house.”  Indeed, in some Welsh texts Rhydderch ap Tudwal is given the epithet Hen, i.e. ‘the Old’. The earliest Welsh collection of royal genealogies, contained in Harleian MS 3859 (although the manuscript itself dates from c.1100, the genealogies were probably collected in the later-10th century), presents (§6) Rhydderch Hen as the great-grandson of Dyfnwal Hen, who is, in turn, presented (§5) as the grandson of one Ceretic Guletic. This Ceretic is widely equated to the Coroticus who is featured in a letter written by St Patrick himself, and is also mentioned by Patrick's biographer, Muirchu (late-7th century): “a certain British king called Coroticus, an ill-starred and cruel tyrant. He was a very great persecutor and murderer of Christians.” (‘Vita Sancti Patricii’ §29).  Returning to the supposed great-great-great-grandson of Coroticus, in the ‘Historia Brittonum’ (§63) Rhydderch Hen is associated with three other North British kings campaigning against Anglo-Saxon Bernicia.* In a Welsh Triad (No.2) Rhydderch ap Tudwal (here Tudwal is given the surname Tudglyd) is one of the “Three Generous Men of the Island of Britain”, and it is as Rhydderch Hael, i.e. ‘the Generous’, rather than Rhydderch Hen, that he is usually known.* It is without any epithet, though, that Rhydderch appears as the patron of St Kentigern in a 12th century ‘Life’ of this obscure North-British saint.*
TheAnnals of Ulster’ (‘AU’) record the death, “in the sixteenth year of his reign”, of Conall, king of Dál Riata, s.a. 574. Conall was succeeded by Aedán, a son of, his predecessor and uncle, Gabrán.
A tale told by, St Columba's biographer, Adomnán (‘VC’ III, 5) hints that Aedán's succession was disputed: “when the illustrious man [i.e. Columba] was staying in Hinba island [not certainly identified], one night in an ecstasy of mind he saw an Angel of the Lord sent to him, who held in his hand a book of glass of the Ordination of Kings, and when the venerable man had received it from the Angel's hand, at his command he began to read it. And when he refused to ordain Aedán as king according to the direction given to him in the book, because he loved Eoganán his [i.e. Aedán's] brother more, the Angel, suddenly stretching forth his hand, struck the Saint with a scourge, of which the livid mark remained on his side all the days of his life, and he added these words, saying: “Know thou for certain that I am sent to thee by God with this book of glass, that according to the words which thou hast read in it thou mayest ordain Aedán to the kingship – and if thou art not willing to obey this command, I will strike thee again.” When, therefore, this Angel of the Lord had appeared for three successive nights, having in his hand that same book of glass, and had pressed the same commands of the Lord concerning the ordination of that king, the Saint obeyed the word of the Lord, and sailed across to the isle of Iona, and there, as he had been commanded, ordained as king Aedán, who arrived there at that same time. And during the words of ordination he prophesied future events regarding his sons and grandsons and great-grandsons [of which more later], and laying his hand upon his head, he ordained him and blessed him.”*
In the following year, that is s.a. 575, ‘AU’ places: “The great convention of Druim Cett” – called by Adomnán (‘VC’ I, 4): “the Convention of the Kings”.  There were two kings present at Druim Cett (which is identified as the Mullagh, also known as Daisy Hill, near Limavady, County Londonderry), Aedán of Dál Riata, who had travelled to the meeting with Columba, and Aed son of Ainmire, a king of the Northern Uí Néill dynasty (who ruled north-western Ireland) and kinsman of Columba. The preface to the ‘Amra Choluim Chille’ preserves some detail of the proceedings. One of the items on the agenda was: “to make peace between the men of Ireland and of Alba [i.e. the Scots of Britain] regarding Dál Riata.”*  Although Dál Riata was based in Argyll, it still retained its territory in Antrim, on the north-eastern coast of Ireland, and it appears that it was the Irish Dál Riatans who were the point at issue. The outcome of the talks seems to have been that, although they would pay their dues to Aedán, and his successors, in Argyll, their military service would be paid to Aed, and his successors, in Ireland.
The only date for Druim Cett is the one provided by ‘AU’, i.e. 575, but it is problematic. Until after the death of his kinsman, Baetán son of Ninnid, which ‘AU’ places in 586, Aed son of Ainmire does not seem to have been a king – by which token it would appear that the notice of Druim Cett has been inserted more than a decade too early.* At the time Aedán succeeded to the throne of Dál Riata, the dynamic force in the North of Ireland was apparently Baetán son of Cairell, king of the Ulaid (from which the name of Ulster derives). According to an Irish tract in the late-12th century Book of Leinster: “Baetán son of Cairell was king of Ireland and Alba. Aedán son of Gabrán submitted himself to him at Ros-na-Rig in Semniu [Island Magee, near Larne, Antrim].”
‘AU’ dates a battle, at an unlocated site (“the battle of Teloch”) in Kintyre, to 576 (and mentions it again in 577): “In which fell Dúnchadh son of Conall son of Comgall and many others of the followers of Gabrán's sons fell.”*  The annal's phraseology and the site of the battle could indicate it was an internal dispute. Indeed, given the chronological confusion evident in the annals around this time, it may be that there was a war of succession following Conall's death, and the battle in Kintyre was the decisive engagement that secured the throne for Aedán. Another possibility is that this attack, mounted from Ireland, compelled Aedán to submit to Baetán son of Cairell.
Aedán seems to feature in a cryptic Irish poem known as the ‘Prophecy of Berchán’ (apparently composed in the late-11th century) which claims that he was at war with the Picts for thirteen years.*
Adomnán tells (‘VC’ II, 42) how Columba met with Bridei (son of Maelchon), king of the Picts: “in the presence of the under-king of the Orkneys, saying: “Some of our people [i.e. Christian monks] have lately gone forth hoping to find a solitude in the pathless sea, and if perchance after long wanderings they should come to the Orkney islands, do thou [Bridei] earnestly commend them to this under-king, whose hostages are in thy hand, that no misfortune befall them within his territories.” ”  The Orkneys were clearly under Bridei's control, but ‘AU’, s.a. 580 states: “The expedition to the Orkneys by Aedán son of Gabrán.”  (And the next year, 581, repeats: “The expedition to the Orkneys.”)  Though the annal is typically short on detail, this was certainly no holiday cruise. A Welsh Triad (No.29), ‘Three Faithful War-Bands of the Island of Britain’, places in second place: “the War-Band of Gafran son of Aeddan [presumably, Aedán son of Gabrán is meant], who went to sea for their lord”.
An entry s.a. 582 in ‘AU’ says that Aedán was victorious in “the battle of Manu”. Aedán's victory in this battle is repeated s.a. 583.* Manu (genitive: Manann), in Irish, could be the Isle of Man or the region, called Manaw in Welsh, that stretched south and east from Stirling.
The north-western corner of the British kingdom of Gododdin was in Manaw – the supposed founding father of the ruling dynasties of North Wales, Cunedda, is purported to have hailed from Manaw Gododdin. However, Manaw also extended north of the Forth (as evidenced by the name Clackmannan, i.e. ‘The Stone of Manu’), which would presumably(?) have been in Pictish territory.
Adomnán reports (‘VC’ I, 8 & 9) that, at an unspecified date, Aedán, though victorious, suffered heavy losses – “three hundred and three men”, amongst whom were two of his sons, Artuir and Eochaid Find – at “the battle of the Miathi”.  The Miathi, whom Adomnán calls “barbarians”, possibly correspond to the Maeatae, a people mentioned in connection with the Roman emperor Septimius Severus during the period 197–211.* It is widely held that the name of Dumyat, a hill topped by a fort, less than four miles to the north-east of Stirling, derives from ‘Dun [fortress] of the Maeatae’. Myot Hill, some seven miles south of Stirling, may also preserve the name of the Maeatae. The territory suggested by these locations would appear to border, perhaps overlap, Manaw. Maybe, then, Adomnán's “battle of the Miathi” is the Irish annals' “battle of Manu”. Possibly, though, it is more likely that in this instance Manu means the Isle of Man.
The ‘Historia Brittonum’ (§8): “Three considerable islands belong to it [Britain]; one, on the south, opposite the Armorican shore [i.e. the coast of north-western France], called Wight; another between Ireland and Britain, called Eubonia or Manaw; and another directly north, beyond the Picts, named Orkney”.
There is mention, placed s.a. 577 by ‘AU’, of: “The first expedition of the Ulaid to Man [Eufania].”  Then, s.a. 578: “The return of the Ulaid from Man [Eumania].”  The implication is that the Ulaid mounted further, unrecorded, campaigns in the Isle of Man. According to the tract on Baetán son of Cairell, king of the Ulaid, in the Book of Leinster: “it was by him that Manu was cleared; and the second year after his death the Irish abandoned Manu.”  It seems plain that, by Manu, the Isle of Man is meant. Baetán's death is placed in 581 (and again, with the comment “or here”, in 587) by ‘AU’. Aedán's victory at the “battle of Manu” is placed in 582 and 583. The ‘Annales Cambriae’, indicating a date of 584, report: “Battle against Man [Eubonia]”. It doesn't seem unreasonable to equate this battle “against Man” with the “battle of Manu”. Perhaps, as a result of Aedán's victory, the Ulaid “abandoned Manu” and the island became, for the time being, a Dál Riatan possession – Bede asserts that, the Northumbrian king, Edwin, who ruled from 616 to 633, brought the Isle of Man “under the dominion of the English”.*
The death of Bridei son of Maelchon, king of the Picts, is placed s.a. 584 by ‘AU’.* However, the Pictish king-list in the Poppleton Manuscript grants him a reign of 30 years, and Bede (‘HE’ III, 4) equates his ninth year to 565, by which tokens his thirtieth year would have been 586.
In 590, Aedán apparently defeated an unnamed foe at the, unlocated, “battle of Leithreid” (‘AU’),* whilst, according to a Welsh Triad (No.54), the third of the ‘Three Unrestrained Ravagings of the Island of Britain’ was: “when Aeddan the Wily came to the court of Rhydderch the Generous at Alt Clut; he left neither food nor drink nor beast alive.”  Rhydderch ruled the Strathclyde Britons from the stronghold of Alt Clut (Dumbarton Rock). According to Adomnán (‘VC’ I, 15) he was a friend of Columba, and he died: “a peaceful death in his own house.”  The date of Rhydderch's death is nowhere directly recorded, but a late-12th century ‘Vita’ of St Kentigern has it that he died in the same year as Kentigern, which event the ‘Annales Cambriae’ place c.612.*
Adomnán says Columba died on Iona 34 years after his first arrival on British shores. ‘AU’, which should, therefore, place Columba's obit in 597, actually places it in 595: “Repose of Colum Cille on the 5th of the Ides of June [9th of June] in the 76th year of his age.”*  Assigned to the year following Columba's death (so, though appearing s.a. 596, it might well belong to 598) is: “The slaying of Aedán's sons, i.e. Bran and Domangart.”  Adomnán doesn't mention Bran, but says (‘VC’ I, 9): “Domangart was killed in Saxonia [i.e. Northumbria], in the bloodshed of battle”.
In the entry equivalent to that of ‘AU’ s.a. 596, the ‘Annals of Tigernach’ (‘AT’) assert that not only Bran and Domangart, but also Artuir and Eochaid Find, were all four slain during a battle which took place in Circinn – the region of Pictland traditionally, though not certainly, equated to Angus with Mearns (see above) – in which Aedán was defeated. This, of course, is at odds with Adomnán, who says that Artuir and Eochaid Find were killed at “the battle of the Miathi”, which Aedán won (albeit it at high cost), and that Domangart was killed fighting “in Saxonia”.  ‘AT’, then, has apparently conflated two or more events. Aedán might, at some stage, have fought a battle against the Picts in Circinn, however, ‘AT’ has a unique entry in its annal equating to 752 as well, which states: “The battle of Asreth in the land of Circinn between Picts on both sides, and in it Bridei [Bruide in Irish] son of Maelchon fell.”  There is only one known Bridei son of Maelchon, so maybe this is a misplaced, but otherwise correct, record of the circumstances of his death in 584 (or perhaps 586), and, if that is the case, possibly it is a record of this battle in Circinn that has become conflated with the reports of Aedán's sons' deaths.
the 7th Century
Attributed to the bard Aneirin is ‘Y Gododdin’, a long elegiac Welsh poem which records the defeat of an elite band of warriors – there were three hundred of them – who had ridden from the British kingdom of Gododdin to engage Northumbrian forces at Catraeth (usually, though without certainty, identified as Catterick). The Britons, led by one Mynyddog Mwynfawr (Mynyddog the Wealthy), were annihilated by the vastly greater number of Englishmen. The battle of Catraeth, assuming it really happened, is generally dated c.600 – early in the reign of the Northumbrian king, Æthelfrith (though he is not named in the poem). Bede reports (‘HE’ I, 34) that Æthelfrith: “conquered more territories from the Britons than any other chieftain or king, either subduing the inhabitants and making them tributary, or driving them out and planting the English in their places... Aedán, king of the Scots that dwell in Britain, being alarmed by his success, came against him with a great and mighty army, but was defeated and fled with a few followers; for almost all his army was cut to pieces at a famous place, called Degsastan, that is, Degsa Stone [not certainly identified]. In which battle also Theobald, brother to Æthelfrith, was killed, with almost all the forces he commanded. This war Æthelfrith brought to an end in the year of our Lord 603 ... From that time, no king of the Scots durst come into Britain to make war on the English to this day.”
‘AU’ has an entry s.a. 600 which records: “the battle of the Saxons in which Aedán was vanquished.”  This is evidently a slightly misplaced reference to the battle of Degsastan. In its equivalent entry, ‘AT’ says that Æthelfrith's brother, whom it calls Eanfrith (a mistake for Theobald? – Æthelfrith had a son called Eanfrith), was killed by Mael Umai son of Baetán, who was a prince of the Northern Uí Néill.
‘AU’ assigns Aedán's death to 606. There is not complete agreement in the number of years reign granted him by various king-lists and annals, but allowing for typical scribal errors in the transmission of Roman numerals, the underlying figure seems to be 34 years. It would appear that ‘AU’ has, once more, placed the event too early, and Aedáns death should be in 608. However, the ‘Prohecy of Berchán’, assuming it really does preserve material relevant to Aedán, says that he was no longer king at the time of his death, which occurred on a Thursday, in Kintyre. Moreover, the early-9th century ‘Martyrology of Tallaght’ lists Aedán (Aedhani mac Garbain) among those worthies who died on the 17th of April – which fell on a Thursday in 609. According to ‘AT’, Aedán was in his 74th year when he died.* As purportedly predicted by Columba, he was succeeded by his son, Eochaid Buide.*
In 616, Æthelfrith, pagan king of Northumbria, was killed in battle, and the Northumbrian throne was taken by Edwin, member of a rival dynasty, whom Æthelfrith had previously exiled. Bede notes (‘HE’ III, 1) that, during Edwin's reign (616–633): “the sons of the aforesaid , Æthelfrith, who had reigned before him, with many of the younger nobility, lived in banishment among the Scots or Picts, and were there instructed according to the doctrine of the Scots, and were renewed with the grace of Baptism.”
Broadly speaking, there were two Christian doctrines prevalent in the British Isles at this time: that of the indigenous Churches, often lumped together under the umbrella-term ‘Celtic Church’, as exemplified by Columba and the monks of Iona, and that of the Catholic Church of Rome, as promoted amongst the English by the mission of Pope Gregory the Great, which had been received by Æthelberht, king of Kent, in 597. The indigenous Churches had evolved their own rituals and practises, but the main difference between them and the Roman Church was the method used to calculate Easter. The error of ‘Celtic’ churchmen in their calculation of Easter is a favourite subject of Bede's.
‘AU’ places Eochaid Buide's obit s.a. 629 (evidently about right, though various king-lists grant him a reign of only 15 to 17 years): “Death of Eochaid Buide son of Aedán, king of the Picts. Thus I have found in the Book of Cuanu.”  There is no record of Eochaid's career, so the claim that he was “king of the Picts” at the time of his death comes out of the blue. It may, of course, be a scribal error in the ‘Book of Cuanu’ – certainly, Eochaid Buide is not a listed king of the Picts.
Two years before Eochaid's death, i.e. in 627, ‘AU’ records: “The battle of Ard Corann [unidentified] in which fell Fiachna son of Demmán: the Dál Riata were victors.”  Fiachna son of Demmán, king of the Ulaid, was the nephew of Baetán son of Cairell, to whom Eochaid's father, Aedán, is said to have submitted. Perhaps it had been Fiachna's intention to emulate his uncle and secure Eochaid's submission – an ambition that cost him his life. According to ‘AT’, however, it was one Connad Cerr who led Dál Riata to victory. Further, ‘AT’ refers to Connad as “king of Dál Riata”. In Scottish king-lists, Connad Cerr (Connad the Left-handed – Eochaid's son?) is presented as Eochaid's successor, and is allotted a reign of just three months. Assuming ‘AT’ is not in error, it would seem that by 627 Eochaid was already sharing the rule of Dál Riata with Connad.
Fiachna son of Demmán (of the Dál Fiatach ‘tribe’) had become king of the Ulaid only the year before his death, having killed the incumbent king, Fiachna Lurgan (of the Dál nAraidi ‘tribe’), in battle. An old (8th century?) Irish tale, ‘Compert Mongáin’ (the Conception of Mongán), has it that Fiachna Lurgan was “a friend” of Aedán, and that he assisted him in his “warfare against Saxons”. The ‘Annals of Clonmacnoise’ assert that Connad Cerr's action against Fiachna son of Demmán was in revenge for the killing of Fiachna Lurgan. At any rate, following the death of Fiachna son of Demmán, Fiachna Lurgan's grandson, Congal Caech, became king of the Ulaid.
In 629 Connad Cerr, titled ‘king of Dál Riata’ in both ‘AU’ and ‘AT’, was killed in a battle at Fid Eóin, another unidentified site in north-eastern Ireland. Although king-lists grant him a reign of three months as Eochaid's successor, in ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ his death is actually placed before Eochaid's in the same annal.*
The battle of Fid Eóin appears to have been a dispute between different factions of the Dál nAraidi. Once again, ‘AT’ provides more detail than ‘AU’. It says that two of Aedán's grandsons were killed, as was “Oisiric son of Albruit crown-prince of Saxons”. The identity of this English prince is not known – whilst it seems clear that Oisiric equates to the English name ‘Osric’, exactly what name is meant by Albruit is not clear – however, the sons of Æthelfrith, the overthrown Northumbrian king, and other Northumbrian nobles, were living in exile ‘north of the border’ at this time.
In the same year as Fid Eóin, Congal Caech was defeated in battle by Domnall son of Aed. Domnall is accorded the title ‘king of Ireland’ in his obit (‘AU’ s.a. 642). He was from the Cenél Conaill branch of the Northern Uí Néill, he was a kinsman of St Columba, and his father, Aed son of Ainmire, had negotiated a treaty with Aedán at Druim Cett. Adomnán tells (‘VC’ I, 10) how the young Domnall was blessed by Columba at Druim Cett: “When the Saint had blessed him, he says forthwith: “This one shall survive after all his brethren, and be a very famous king; nor shall he ever be delivered into his enemies' hands, but by a peaceful death, in old age, and in his own house, in the presence of a crowd of his familiar friends, he shall die upon his bed.” And all these things were truly fulfilled, according to the prophecy of the blessed man concerning him.”
The thirteenth verse (of twenty-seven) of a late-11th century Irish poetic king-list, ‘Duan Albanach’, runs:
Connad Cerr [reigned] a quarter [of a year], renowned in fame.
16 [years] his son Ferchar,
After Ferchar, inspect the poems,
The 14 years of Domnall.
Other king-lists present a similar scheme, but it is not borne out by the annals, which imply that the reign of Domnall, i.e. Domnall Brecc (Domnall the Freckled) son of Eochaid Buide, directly followed that of Connad Cerr. The sole appearance of Ferchar son of Connad Cerr in the annals is his obit – only found in ‘AU’, placed s.a. 694, which seems implausibly late.
The annals report that, in 637, there took place a battle at Mag Rath (Moira, sixteen miles south-west of Belfast) in which Congal Caech, king of the Ulaid, was defeated and killed by Domnall son of Aed, of the Northern Uí Néill. Not mentioned by the annals, however, is the involvement of Domnall Brecc, who had allied himself with Congal Caech in opposition to Domnall son of Aed.* This is made apparent in a passage, seemingly taken directly from a book written by Cumméne, who was abbot of Iona (the seventh) from 657 to 669 (though it seems likely that he wrote his book in the 640s), which is found in the earliest extant manuscript of the Adomnán (ninth abbot of Iona, 679 to 704) ‘Life’ of St Columba*: “Cumméne the Fair, in the book which he wrote concerning the virtues of St Columba, thus said that St Columba began to prophesy as to Aedán and his posterity and his kingdom, saying: “Believe, O Aedán, without doubt, that none of thy adversaries will be able to resist thee unless thou first do wrong to me and to those who come after me. Wherefore do thou commend it to thy sons, that they also may commend to their sons and grandsons and posterity, lest through evil counsels they lose from out their hands the sceptre of this realm. For in whatever time they do aught against me, or against my kindred who are in Ireland [i.e. the Cenél Conaill], the scourge which I have endured from the Angel [see: above] in thy cause shall be turned upon them, by the hand of God, to their great disgrace, and men's hearts shall be withdrawn from them and their enemies shall be greatly strengthened over them.”    Now this prophecy has been fulfilled in our times [i.e. Cumméne's times] in the battle of Roth [i.e. Mag Rath], when Domnall Brecc, grandson of Aedán, devastated without cause the province of Domnall, grandson of Ainmire. +And from that day to this they have been held down by strangers – a thing which convulses one's breast and moves one to painful sighs.”*
In ‘Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD80–1000’ (1984), Chapter 4, Alfred P. Smyth asserts: “In 637, Domnall Brecc took part in a disastrous battle at Mag Rath, in Co. Down in which he lost control of the Irish Dál Riata homelands.”  In ‘The Earliest English Kings’ (Second Edition, 2000), Chapter 5, D.P. Kirby, similarly, states: “This territory [of Dál Riata in Antrim] was lost when Domnall Brecc was defeated at the battle of Moira”.  This, however, is conjecture. In ‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980), Chapter 4), Marjorie O. Anderson writes: “It is possible to argue for a severance of the Irish DálRiata from those in Britain at various times from the battle of Mag Rath (ca. 637) onwards... I am inclined to think that the territories of the “kings of the DálRiata” still included the territory in Ireland when the annalists accorded the title to Aed Find and his brother, that is in 781 or later.”  Dr Anderson suggests that the British/Irish link was broken when pressure from the Vikings (who make their first appearance in ‘AU’ s.a. 794) forced the British Dál Riatans eastwards.
The year after Mag Rath (i.e. in 638), there was a battle at Glenn Mureson (unidentified) in which, notes ‘AT’: “the people of Domnall Brecc were put to flight”.  ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ both record, though clearly too late (it is dated 678 by ‘AU’): “A battle in Calathros, in which Domnall Brecc was defeated.”  Though not certainly identified, Calathros was later (736) the site of a battle between Dál Riata and the Picts of Fortriu, so perhaps Domnall Brecc's opponents were also the Picts.
‘AU’ s.a. 642: “Death of Domnall son of Aed, king of Ireland, at the end of January. Afterwards Domnall Brecc was slain at the end of the year, in December, in the battle of Srath Caruin [Strathcarron], by Owain, king of the [Strathclyde] Britons. He reigned 15 years [‘AT’ says he was “in the fifteenth year of his reign”].”  Both ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ repeat Domnall Brecc's obit considerably later – s.a. 686 in ‘AU’, i.e. 44 years late. If the same degree of error applies to the late entry for the battle of Calathros, then that battle is plausibly placed in 634. Applying the same manipulation to the obit of the mysterious Ferchar son of Connad Cerr, whose 16 year reign is said to have preceded Domnall Brecc's, places his death in 650. By this token, Ferchar's reign overlapped with Domnall Brecc's.
Marjorie O. Anderson (‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’, Revised Edition, 1980, Chapter 3) suggests that the 16 (xvi) years reign credited to Ferchar should be 13 (xiii) years, which would place the start of his reign in 637. Perhaps, then, Domnall Brecc had been obliged to share the kingship of Dál Riata with Ferchar as a result of his defeat at Mag Rath.
A fragment of Welsh verse (inserted into the poem ‘Y Gododdin’) commemorates Domnall Brecc's death:
I saw a war-band, they came from Pentir [Kintyre],
And splendidly they bore themselves around the beacon.
I saw a second, they came down from their homestead:
They had risen at the word of Nwython's grandson.
I saw stalwart men, they came at dawn,
And crows picked at the head of Dyfnwal Frych [Domnall Brecc].*
Meanwhile, in 634 Oswald, Æthelfrith's son, had won the kingdom of Northumbria. Once established on the throne, Oswald: “sent to the elders of the Scots, among whom himself and his followers, when in banishment, had received the sacrament of Baptism, desiring that they would send him a bishop, by whose instruction and ministry the English nation which he governed might learn the privileges and receive the Sacraments of the faith of our Lord.” (Bede: ‘HE’ III, 3).  Aidan, a monk of Iona, was consecrated and despatched to Northumbria. He established his see on the island of Lindisfarne. Bede notes: “when the bishop, who was not perfectly skilled in the English tongue, preached the Gospel, it was a fair sight to see the king himself interpreting the Word of God to his ealdormen and thegns, for he had thoroughly learned the language of the Scots during his long banishment.”
Bede also takes the opportunity to point out that though Aidan was “a man of singular gentleness, piety, and moderation”, he was also in error: “for he was wont to keep Easter Sunday according to the custom of his country, which we have before so often mentioned, from the 14th to the 20th of the moon; the northern province of the Scots [by which northern Ireland and British Dál Riata are meant], and all the nation of the Picts, at that time still celebrating Easter after that manner ... But the Scots which dwelt in the South of Ireland [i.e. the southern Irish] had long since, by the admonition of the Bishop of the Apostolic see [the pope], learned to observe Easter according to the canonical custom.”
‘AU’ reports that “the besieging of Etin” took place in 638. Etin (Etain in ‘AT’) is identified as Din Eidyn (‘Fort of Eidyn’), which is more familiar in the Anglicized form: Edinburgh. The annals do not say who was doing the besieging nor what its outcome was, and they tack it onto the end of their record of the battle of Glenn Mureson (one of, Dál Riatan king, Domnall Brecc's defeats), but it is generally supposed that this brief report marks the capture of Edinburgh and the conquest of the British kingdom of Gododdin by Oswald. Bede (‘HE’ III, 6) asserts that Oswald: “obtained of the one God, Who made heaven and earth, a greater earthly kingdom than any of his ancestors. In brief, he brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain, which are divided into four languages, to wit, those of the Britons, the Picts, the Scots, and the English.”  St Columba's biographer, Adomnán, says (‘VC’ I, 1) Oswald was: “established by God as the emperor of all Britain.”
Having said that Oswald had “brought under his dominion” the Picts and Scots, Bede apparently contradicts himself, by saying (‘HE’ II, 5) it was Oswiu, Oswald's brother, who succeeded him in 642, that: “for the most part subdued and made tributary the nations of the Picts and Scots, who occupy the northern parts of Britain”.
In a paper entitled ‘Oswald, “Most Holy and Most Victorious King of the Northumbrians”’ (in ‘Oswald, Northumbrian King to European Saint’, 1995), Clare Stancliffe writes: “One possibility worth mooting is that Oswald achieved theoretical recognition as overlord from Dál Riata and the Picts, but that Oswiu later re-established or redefined this in more oppressive terms, requiring them to render tribute, the badge of subjection to a foreign king. Given Oswald's long apprenticeship from approximately the age of eleven to that of twenty-eight in Dál Riata, he may indeed have been ready to follow an Irish model in his relationships with other kingdoms, particularly with Dál Riata itself. One can, then, hazard the suggestion that he might have concluded an agreement with Dál Riata and the Picts of a type known from Irish sources which would have required a limited amount of military service, under specific conditions, and perhaps some entitlement to hospitality, but which would have been perceived as honourable and therefore acceptable even by the subject peoples in a way that the tribute-exacting overlordship asserted later by Oswiu and Ecgfrith was not.”
Later (‘HE’ III, 24), Bede states that Oswiu: “subdued the greater part of the Picts to the dominion of the English.”  It would appear that Talorcan son of Eanfrith, king of the Picts from 653 to 657, was Oswiu's nephew.* Bede says (‘HE’ I, 1) that, “when any question should arise”, the Picts: “choose a king from the female royal race rather than from the male”. It is widely suggested that, during the period of Edwin's rule in Northumbria, when Oswiu and his brothers had been in exile, Eanfrith, the eldest brother (who ruled Bernicia, i.e. northern Northumbria, for a year after Edwin's death), had married a Pictish princess, and, according to Pictish practice, as outlined by Bede, Talorcan succeeded to the throne in his own right. On the other hand, perhaps Oswiu had sufficient authority in the region to simply impose his nephew on the Picts, regardless of his eligibility. In any case, it seems reasonable to assume that Talorcan ruled as Oswiu's subordinate. According to additional information supplied by ‘AT’ to an entry dated 654 by ‘AU’, Talorcan son of Eanfrith secured a victory over Dál Riata at Strath Ethairt, an unidentified site, in which Dúnchad son of Conaing, who was a grandson of Aedán son of Gabrán and possibly (it isn't clear) joint king of Dál Riata, was killed.*
Whilst Oswiu, “having been instructed and baptized by the Scots, and being very perfectly skilled in their language” (‘HE’ III, 25), followed the teachings of the Church of Iona (via the bishop and monks of Lindisfarne), his wife, Eanflæd (who was the granddaughter of King Æthelberht of Kent), followed the teachings of the Catholic Church of Rome: “Thus it is said to have sometimes happened in those times that Easter was twice celebrated in one year; and that when the king, having ended his fast, was keeping Easter, the queen and her followers were still fasting, and celebrating Palm Sunday.” (‘HE’ III, 25).  In 664, a synod was held at Whitby (North Yorkshire), to decide which of the two Christian doctrines: “was the truer tradition, that it might be followed by all in common” (‘HE’ III, 25).  St Wilfrid was spokesman for the Roman Church, and his argument persuaded Oswiu that the Catholic doctrine was the correct one. Colman, the incumbent bishop of Lindisfarne, and other ‘Celtic’ clergymen who would not adopt the Catholic Easter, nor, indeed, the Roman style of “tonsure in the form of a crown” – Bede notes (‘HE’ III, 26): “there was no small dispute about that also” – retired to Iona, and thence to Ireland. In 669, Wilfrid became bishop of York. “Wilfrid administered the bishopric of York, and of all the Northumbrians, and likewise of the Picts, as far as King Oswiu was able to extend his dominions.” (‘HE’ IV, 3).
Oswiu died in 670. He was succeeded by his son, Ecgfrith. Eddius Stephanus, St Wilfrid's biographer, says that in “the early years” of Ecgfrith's reign, “while the kingdom was still weak”, the “vicious tribes of the Picts” rebelled against Northumbrian overlordship. Ecgfrith rode to engage the Pictish army: “Host upon host of the enemy fell before him. He filled two rivers with the slain and his men crossed dry-shod over the corpses to slay the fugitives. Thus the Picts were reduced to slavery, a condition in which they remained until Ecgfrith himself was slain.” (‘Vita Sancti Wilfridi’ Chapter 19).
‘AU’ places the “expulsion” of Drest, king of the Picts, in 672. Scholars are generally in agreement that Drest's expulsion was linked to the rebellion recorded by Eddius, but thy are not in agreement in their interpretations of the circumstances – some envisage Drest as leader of the Picts' rebellion against their Northumbrian overlords, whose expulsion was a consequence of Ecgfrith's decisive victory; others see Drest as Oswiu's puppet who was ousted by the Picts following his master's death, which provoked Ecgfrith's response.* Either way, Drest did not recover his throne – he died, presumably in exile, in 678. Drest's successor was Bridei (Bruide in Irish) son of Bili.
A verse in a mid-10th century Irish ‘Life’ of Adomnán (‘Betha Adamnáin’), alleged to have been composed by Adomnán (9th abbot of Iona, d.704) himself, calls Bridei: “the son of the king of Ail Cluaithe.”  Ail Cluaithe = Alt Clut, i.e. Dumbarton Rock, stronghold of the kings of the Strathclyde Britons. Bridei would seem to have been the brother of Owain, the king of the Strathclyde Britons who defeated and killed Domnall Brecc, king of the Dál Riatan Scots, in 642.*
In 681, the archbishop of Canterbury appointed one Trumwine bishop of: “the province of the Picts, which at that time was subject to English [i.e. Northumbrian] rule.” (‘HE’ IV, 12).  It later becomes apparent that Trumwine was based on the Northumbrian bank of the Forth – at Abercorn, approximately 3 miles west of Queensferry.
‘AU’ reports that, in 682: “The Orkneys were destroyed by Bruide.”  Maybe this was a reaction to the “siege of Dún Foither [identified as Dunnottar, on the east coast, near Stonehaven]” that had occurred (no detail is given) the previous year. In 683 ‘AU’ mentions: “The siege of Dún At [Dunadd, Argyll] and the siege of Dún Duirn [Dundurn, Perthshire].”  Dunadd was in Dál Riata and Dundurn in Pictland – perhaps the two sieges are linked, indicating warfare between the Scots and the Picts.
In 685, Ecgfrith “rashly led his army to ravage the province of the Picts, greatly against the advice of his friends”, says Bede (‘HE’ IV, 26): “the enemy [the Picts] made a feigned retreat, and the king [Ecgfrith] was drawn into a narrow pass among remote mountains, and slain, with the greater part of the forces he had led thither, on the 13th of the Kalends of June [i.e. on the 20th of May], in the 40th year of his age, and the 15th of his reign.”  Bede doesn't name the battle-site, but ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ do: “The battle of Dún Nechtain [Fort of Nechtan] was fought on the twentieth day of May, a Saturday”.*  Bede doesn't name Ecgfrith's nemesis, but ‘AT’ notes that he was killed by Bridei (Bruide) son of Bili, to whom it accords the title “king of Fortriu” – Fortriu being the region of Pictland traditionally, though not certainly, equated to Strathearn with Menteith – whilst the ‘Historia Brittonum’ (§57) states: “Ecgfrith is he who made war against his cousin Bridei, king of the Picts, and he fell therein with all the strength of his army, and the Picts with their king gained the victory ... Since the time of this war it is called Gueith Lin Garan [the Battle of Crane Lake].”  Symeon of Durham provides (‘LDE’ I, 9) the English name for the battle-site: “he [Ecgfrith] was killed at Nechtanesmere, that is, the Lake of Nechtan ... His body was buried in Iona, the island of Columba.”
This Pictish carved stone, stands in Aberlemno churchyard – about 4 miles north of Dunnichen. It is widely suggested that the battle scene depicted may represent Dún Nechtain.
Traditionally, the site of the battle of Dún Nechtain has been identified as Dunnichen, near Forfar.* Recently, however, Alex Woolf has made a persuasive case for Dún Nechtain to be equated to Dunachton, on the western shore of Loch Insh, Inverness-shire. Dr Woolf makes a similarly strong case for locating the province of Fortriu, not in southern Pictland, where it is traditionally placed, but in northern Pictland (see above).
The ‘Three Fragments’ – the remnants of an Irish chronicle – carry a poem which, though misplaced, obviously refers to the battle of Dún Nechtain:
Today Bruide fights a battle
over the land of his ancestor,
unless it is the wish of the Son of God
that restitution be made.
Today the son of Oswiu was slain
in battle against grey swords,
even though he did penance
and that too late in Iona [?].
Today the son of Oswiu was slain,
who used to have dark drinks;
Christ has heard our prayer
that Bruide would save the hills [?].
Bede spells out the consequences of Ecgfrith's catastrophic defeat: “From that time the hopes and strength of the English kingdom [i.e. Northumbria] began to ebb and fall away for the Picts recovered their own lands, which had been held by the English; and the Scots that were in Britain, and some of the Britons, regained their liberty, which they have now enjoyed for about 46 years. Among the many English that then either fell by the sword, or were made slaves, or escaped by flight out of the country of the Picts, the most reverend man of God, Trumwine, who had been made bishop over them, withdrew with his people that were in the monastery of Aebbercurnig [Abercorn], in the country of the English, but close by the arm of the sea [the Firth of Forth] which is the boundary between the lands of the English and the Picts.” (‘HE’ IV, 26).
‘AU’ s.a. 693: “Bruide [i.e. Bridei] son of Bili, king of Fortriu, dies”.  According to the mid-10th century Irish ‘Life’ of Adomnán (‘Betha Adamnáin’): “the body of Bruide, Bili's son, king of the Picts, was brought to Iona; and his death caused Adomnán grief and sorrow”.  Bridei was succeeded by Taran son of Entifidich. He was ejected from the kingship in 697, and was replaced by Bridei son of Derelei. Bridei died in 706, and was succeeded by his brother, Nechtan.
Meanwhile, Ecgfrith had been succeeded by his father's illegitimate son, Aldfrith (d.705). According to later Irish genealogical tradition, Aldfrith's mother was Fín (or Fína), a princess of the Northern Uí Néill (who ruled north-western Ireland), and he was known to the Irish as Flann Fína. Aldfrith was a scholar of repute – “Aldfrith, a man most learned in all respects” (‘HE’ V, 12); “The learned Aldfrith” (‘AU’ s.a. 704) – and various Irish literary works, notably the ‘Bríathra Flainn Fhína maic Ossu’ (Sayings of Flann Fína son of Oswiu), are attributed to him.
In the chronological run-down at the end of the ‘Ecclesiastical History’ (‘HE’ V, 24) is the entry: “In the year 698, Berhtred, an ealdorman of the king of the Northumbrians, was slain by the Picts.”  Bede provides no further information, but the Irish annals make it clear that Berhtred was killed in battle. Bede, who lived through Aldfrith's reign, was able to conclude (‘HE’ IV, 26), however, that Aldfrith: “nobly retrieved the ruined state of the kingdom [Northumbria], though within narrower bounds.”
In 684, the year before the battle of Dún Nechtain/Nechtanesmere, Ecgfrith had made a raid – not in person, he despatched an ealdorman called Berht – on Mag Breg, the plain around Tara, County Meath, Ireland, in which many churches had been destroyed. Bede says (‘HE’ IV, 26) that Ecgfrith had: “refused to listen to the most reverend father, Egbert [an English, almost certainly Northumbrian, priest based in Ireland], advising him not to attack the Scots [i.e. Irish], who were doing him no harm”.  It seems likely that Berht is one and the same as Berhtred, who was killed by the Picts in 698. Anyway, Berht had evidently returned to Northumbria with many Irish prisoners, and, after Ecgfrith's death, Adomnán, abbot of Iona and biographer of St Columba, travelled to Northumbria and negotiated their release. Both ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ report (s.a. 687 in ‘AU’): “Adomnán brought back 60 captives to Ireland.”  ‘AT’ alone records that, two years later: “Adomnán brought back captives to Ireland.”  In his ‘Life’ of St Columba, Adomnán himself mentions (II, 46) two occasions that he visited “my friend, King Aldfrith” in “Saxonia”, i.e. England. He doesn't give the reason for his visits, but dates the first of them “after the war of Ecgfrith” and the second two years later.* Bede refers (‘HE’ V, 15) to just one visit, saying that Adomnán “was sent by his nation on a mission to Aldfrith”, but provides no detail of the mission itself. Adomnán presented Aldfrith with a book he had written “concerning the holy places”, and, in return, Aldfrith gave him “many gifts”.  Bede notes that: “At this time a great part of the Scots in Ireland, and some also of the Britons in Britain, by the grace of God, adopted the reasonable and ecclesiastical [i.e. the Catholic] time of keeping Easter.”  On Iona, however, the old traditions of the, so-called, ‘Celtic Church’ – the main difference being the formula used to calculate Easter – were still practised. Bede relates how, during his stay in Northumbria, Adomnán was persuaded that the Catholic doctrine was superior. He, in turn, tried to persuade his fellow monks on Iona, but without success (though he did succeed in converting some Churches in northern Ireland to Roman ways). He died on Iona in 704. Bede indicates (‘HE’ V, 21) it was in about 710 that: “Nechtan, king of the Picts, who inhabit the northern parts of Britain, taught by frequent meditation on the ecclesiastical writings, renounced the error whereby he and his nation had been holden till then, touching the observance of Easter, and brought himself and all his people to celebrate the Catholic time of our Lord’s Resurrection.”*  The Catholic Easter was eventually adopted on Iona in 716 – due to the persuasions of the same Egbert who had advised Ecgfrith not to attack Ireland.*
‘AU’ reports, s.a. 711: “A slaughter of the Picts by the Saxons in Mag Manann [the Plain of Manu]”.  The ‘Saxons’ were, of course, the Northumbrians. Bede states (‘HE’ V, 24): “In the year 711, the ealdorman (praefectus) Berhtfrith fought with the Picts.”*  To which statement, Manuscripts D and E of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ add that the fighting took place between the rivers Avon and Carron – which join the Forth, on its southern bank, about twenty miles west of Edinburgh.* Manu is the Irish equivalent of the Welsh Manaw, and before the conquest of the British kingdom of Gododdin by the Northumbrian English, seven decades or so earlier, this region was known as Manaw Gododdin.
Scotland continued    
‘Duan Albanach’ by J.H. Todd
‘Historia Brittonum’ by J.A. Giles
Muirchu ‘Vita Sancti Patricii’ by A.B.E. Hood
‘Annals of Ulster’ by S. Mac Airt & G. Mac Niocaill
Eddius Stephanus ‘Vita Sancti Wilfridi’ by J.F. Webb
Adomnán ‘Vita Sancti Columbae’ by Wentworth Huyshe
‘Fragmentary Annals of Ireland’ by Joan Newlon Radner
Bede ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum” by A.M. Sellar
Symeon of Durham ‘Libellus de Exordio’ by Joseph Stevenson
As well as the Picts, the name Cruithni was also applied to certain groups of people in Ireland (particularly in the north-east). Whether or not this implies a relationship – i.e. that the Cruithni in Ireland had British origins – is the subject of debate.
‘De Situ Albanie’ also has something to say on the way the regions were governed. This, however, is open to interpretation. In ‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980), Chapter 4, Marjorie O. Anderson writes: “Each region consists of two parts which the author says (with what truth we do not know) were originally ruled by a king and a sub-king.”  In ‘Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD80-1000’ (1984), Chapter 2, Alfred P. Smyth writes: “Indeed, the De Situ Albanie informs us that each of the seven Pictish kingdoms (septem regna) was ruled by a king who was himself the overlord of seven under-kings!”
‘Dún Nechtain, Fortriu and the Geography of the Picts’, in ‘Scottish Historical Review’ Vol.85.2 (2006).
It was W.F. Skene who first equated Fortriu to “Strathearn with Menteith”. A footnote in Chapter 2 of his ‘Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban’ Vol.III (first published in 1880) gives his reason: “When the Pictish Chronicle tells us that the Norwegians were cut off in Sraith-herne or Stratherne, the Irish Annals [s.a. 904 in the ‘Annals of Ulster’] narrate the same event as a slaughter by the men of Fortren [i.e. Fortriu].”
See: Origins of the Picts and Scots.
See: Celtic languages of the British Isles.
The inscription on the Brandsbutt Stone at Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, apparently reads (it is read from bottom to top): IRATADDOARENS.
See: A Barbarian Conspiracy.
The glaring difference is that: in the second list, Caithness is absent, whilst Argyll – the west-coast area where the Scottish kingdom of Dál Riata was situated – is included. The influential 19th-century Scottish scholar W.F. Skene suggested that the first list (which is known as ‘DSa’) related to an earlier time, when Scottish Dál Riata was a kingdom independent of the Picts, whilst the second (known as ‘DSb’) related to later times, when the Scots and the Picts were united, but Caithness had been lost to the Vikings.
“In the end, I would argue that it would be safest to disregard DSa and DSb as evidence for Pictish political geography.”  So writes Dauvit Broun in an essay called ‘The Seven Kingdoms in De Situ Albanie: A Record of Pictish political Geography or imaginary Map of ancient Alba?’ (in ‘Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Middle Ages’, 2000).
Bernicia was the more northerly of two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (the other being Deira), in what is now north-eastern England, that were brought together to form the kingdom of Northumbria.
Mór means ‘big’ or ‘great’. Fergus Mór purportedly (‘Senchus fer nAlban’) had a brother also called Fergus. He is called Fergus Bec (‘Little’).
Alba was the Irish (Q-Celtic) name for the whole island of Britain. Following the unification of the Picts and the Scots of Argyll under a single king, in the mid-9th century, however, the name came to refer specifically to the territory of this combined kingdom.
The ‘Amra Choluim Chille’ is a eulogy to St Columba (Colum Cille), probably written shortly after the saint's death in 597, and attributed to the poet Dallán Forgaill (which means ‘little blind man of superior testimony’). The ‘Amra’ is a difficult work, and at the start of the 11th century it was issued accompanied by a preface and explanatory glosses. It is versions of this text that survive in later manuscripts – the two in question being that in the Leabhar Breac (Speckled Book) and that in Leabhar Buidhe Leacáin (Yellow Book of Lecan), both of which were produced about 1400.
According to some sources (for instance, the Irish, ‘Senchus fer nAlban’) Connad Cerr was the son of Eochaid Buide. According to others (for instance, the Latin, Scottish king-list in the Poppleton Manuscript) he was the son of Conall – the implication being that this Conall was Aedán's predecessor, Conall son of Comgall, who died in 574. However, by 629 any son of Conall's would have to have been at least fifty-four years-old.
Though Cairpre/Eochaid Riata appears in genealogies as the son of a Conaire, the Conaire meant here appears further back in his supposed ancestry: Conaire Mór, legendary high-king of Ireland.
See: British Tribes.
Adomnán (d.704), biographer of St Columba, translates Druimm nAlban into Latin: Dorsum Britanniae, i.e. ‘Spine of Britain’. Adomnán writes (‘VC’ II, 46): “in our times ... the isles of the sea generally, namely, Ireland [Scotia] and Britain, have been twice devastated by a dreadful pestilence, except two peoples, namely, the people of the Picts and that of the Scots of Britain, between whom the mountains of the Dorsum Britanniae form a barrier.” MAP
The ‘Senchus fer nAlban’ outlines a very confused, contradictory, story in which Erc has twelve sons (or thirteen: “There are others who say that Erc had another son”), and: “six of them took possession of Alba”. In the first instance, two of the six are named Loarn, distinguished by the epithets ‘Mór’ and ‘Bec’, another two are named Fergus, distinguished by the epithets ‘Mór’ and ‘Bec’, and the third pair are called Mac Misi, distinguished by the epithets ‘Mór’ and ‘Bec’. A son called Oengus is said to be one of those who remained in Ireland: “his seed are however in Alba”. Later, though, Fergus Mór is said to be another name for Mac Misi Mór, and two sons of Erc called Oengus, distinguished by the epithets ‘Mór’ and ‘Bec’, appear in the story. (Mac Misi, that is mac Nisse, means ‘son of Ness’ – Ness being a woman's name.)
The early entries in royal genealogies must be taken with a large pinch of salt. The idea was to link the subjects with as many appropriate historical and legendary figures as possible – the Latin pedigree of William I of Scotland, r.1165–1214, in the Poppleton Manuscript, traces William's descent back to “Adam, son of the living God”. Genealogies, essentially strings of, sometimes obscure, names, are also prone to scribal errors – omissions, repetitions and corruptions. In William I's pedigree from the Poppleton Manuscript, Fergus son of Erc is only thirteen generations after the Cairpre Riata character, who has metamorphosed into Eochaid Riata (Echdachriada).
Like the ‘Senchus fer nAlban’, the ‘Synchronisms’ maintain that there were six sons of Erc who made the crossing from Ireland, “the two Oenguses, the two Loarns, and the two Ferguses” – the line of succession is given as: Fergus Mór, then his brother Oengus Mór, and then Fergus' son Domangart.
See: Kings of Bernicia.
Later than the Harleian Genealogies is a Welsh tract known as ‘Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd’ (Lineage of the Men of the North). It survives in several manuscripts, the earliest of which is late-13th century (Peniarth MS 45), though the text may have been produced in the previous century. In the ‘Bonedd’, Rhydderch's pedigree has been modified (incidentally, Rhydderch appears as Rhydderch Hael and his father as Tudwal Tudglyd) so that his great-great-great grandfather is not Ceretic Guletic, who has been totally removed from the genealogy, but Macsen Wledig, alias, the late-4th century Roman usurper, Magnus Maximus (see: Ruin).
Bishop Nynia is probably better known as St Ninian.
See: The Tales of Two North-British Saints.
One of Adomnán's tales contains the first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster: Columba Versus the Aquatic Beast.
See: The Tales of Two North-British Saints.
Rheged (Old Welsh: Reget) is frequently sited, with confidence, in modern-day Dumfries & Galloway and Cumbria (and sometimes in Lancashire also), which it may well have been, but the evidence is actually rather insubstantial. There is a 12th century Welsh poem which seemingly places Carlisle in Rheged. Another Welsh poem – found in the so-called ‘Book of Taliesin’ (early-14th century), but written long after Taliesin's time – contains a phrase that can be read as: ‘beyond the sea of Rheged’. The supposed Sea of Rheged has been equated with the Solway Firth. It has been argued that the place-name Dunragit, in Galloway, means ‘Fort of Rheged’.MAP
(Rochdale, Lancashire, is recorded in the Domesday Book as Recedham, and it has been suggested that this too preserves the name of Rheged.)
Clearly the meeting must have taken place before 597, when Columba died. Richard Sharpe, in his 1995 translation of Adomnán's ‘Life of St Columba’, Note 204, writes: “A further clue that 575 is too early may be inferred from Adomnán: he mentions two boys present at the meeting, and in both cases their dates of death suggest a lifespan of nearly eighty years, which would be unusual at this date if not actually remarkable. If the date of the conference at Druim Cett is moved to c.590, their ages at death would be unexceptional.”
The battle of Manu is also entered in two consecutive years, by ‘AT’. Both ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ carry yet another, wildly misplaced, record of the battle – s.a. 504 in ‘AU’.
The ‘Annals of Tigernach’ (‘AT’) call it ‘the battle of Delgu’, and do not have the double entry.
Published under the title ‘Tract on the Tributes Paid to Baedan, King of Ulster”, in ‘Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots, and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History’ (1867), edited by W.F. Skene.
See: The Caledonian Campaigns of Septimius Severus.
What Bede says is: “Edwin, king of the Northumbrian nation ... reduced also under the dominion of the English, the Mevanian Islands of the Britons, lying between Ireland and Britain” (‘HE’ II, 5).  And later (‘HE’ II, 9): “he [Edwin] even subjected to the English the Mevanian islands, as has been said above. The more important of these, which is to the southward, is the larger in extent, and more fruitful, containing nine hundred and sixty families, according to the English computation; the other contains above three hundred.”  It is clear that the Mevanian Islands are Môn (i.e. Anglesey) and Man.
‘AU’ had dated Columba's journey to Britain 563 (563+34=597). Columba died on a Sunday (‘VC’ III, 23). The 9th of June was a Sunday in 597, but not in 595. Bede (‘HE’ III, 4) dates Columba's journey 565, however, he places Columba's death “about thirty-two [XXX et duos] years after he came into Britain”, which also equates to 597. According to Adomnán (‘VC’, 2nd Preface), Columba was in his 42nd year when he travelled to Britain, therefore he was indeed in his 76th year when he died, but Bede gives his age as 77.
‘AU’ also has an entry s.a. 601: “Or this year, the repose of Colum Cille on Sunday night.”
The death of Aedán's brother, Columba's favourite, Eoganán, is placed in 595 by ‘AU’.
The main manuscript (Royal Irish Academy MS 23 G 4) of the ‘Prohecy of Berchán’ was copied in 1722 from a copy that had been produced in 1627. As a rule, the kings featured in the poem are not actually named, but in most instances there are sufficient clues to identify who is meant. Aedán cannot be recognized from the poem's contents, but he is identified as the king in question by a margin-note (gloss). Benjamin T. Hudson, in ‘Prophecy of Berchán: Irish and Scottish High-kings of the Early Middle Ages’ (1996) rejects the identification made in the gloss, and argues (unconvincingly?) that a better candidate would be, Aedán's descendant, Constantine son of Fergus (Causantín mac Fergusa), who died in 820.
However, the ‘Chronicon Scotorum’ (a set of annals related to ‘AT’, surviving in a 17th century copy) says Aedán was in the “88th, or 86th, year of his age”.  Whilst another related set of annals, the ‘Annals of Clonmacnoise’, has Aedán in his 78th year.
Bridei's obit is another instance where both ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ carry an earlier, wildly misplaced, notice – ‘AU’ assigning it to 505.
The ‘battle of Leithrig’ in ‘AT’.
Adomnán (‘VC’ I, 9): “At another time, before the aforesaid battle [of the Miathi], the Saint questions King Aedán as to his successor in the kingdom. He replying that he does not know which of his three sons is to reign – Artuir, Eochaid Find [Eochaid the Fair, or the White], or Domangart – the Saint accordingly prophesies in this manner: “None of these three will be ruler, for they will fall in battle slain by enemies; but now if thou hast any other younger sons, let them come to me, and he of them whom God shall choose for king will suddenly rush to my bosom”. And when they were called in, Eochaid Buide [Eochaid the Yellow], coming to him, according to the Saint's word, lay in his lap. And immediately the Saint kissed and blessed him, and says to his father: “This is thy survivor, and he is to reign king after thee, and his sons shall reign after him.” And thus it was that afterwards, in their season, all things were completely fulfilled. For Artuir and Eochaid Find were slain, in no long interval of time after, in the above-mentioned battle of the Miathi. But Domangart was killed in Saxonia, in the bloodshed of battle: and Eochaid Buide succeeded to the kingdom after his father.”
Actually, ‘AT’ also starts its entries for the following year with another announcement of Connad Cerr's death, noting: “as some say”.
The Irish annals also report that, on the same day as the battle of Mag Rath, a nephew of Domnall son of Aed defeated the Cenél nEogain, a rival branch of the Northern Uí Néill, in a battle at Sailtire. The implication would seem to be that the Cenél nEogain had also allied themselves with Congal Caech.
The location of Sailtire is not certainly known, but the suggestion made by A.O. Anderson (‘Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286’, Vol.I, 1922) that Sailtire is Kintyre seems to have gained some traction. In the Introduction to the 1961 edition of ‘Adomnan's Life of Columba’ by A.O. Anderson and Marjorie O. Anderson (A.O. Anderson's widow) appears the following passage: “The name Sal-tire was known to the Scandinavians, who believed that it meant Kintyre (cf. Heimskringla, Magnus Barelegs' Saga, c. 10). If we accept that meaning, and assume that Domnall Brecc's force was naval, the course of events can be explained in the following way. Domnall Brecc's fleet, led or sent to attack the cenel-Conaill coast, was joined by ships of the cenel-nEogain, and with them withdrawn to Kintyre. The fleet of cenel-Conaill then followed them, and arrived there about the same time as Domnall Aid's son [i.e. Domnall son of Aed] reached Moira [Mag Rath] with his land army.”
According to an Irish tale, ‘Fleadh Duin na nGedh’ (the Banquet of Dun na nGedh), preserved in the Yellow Book of Lecan (a compilation of manuscripts written from the late-14th to the early-16th century), Domnall Brecc was Congal Caech's uncle, i.e. Congal was the son of Domnall's sister.
The earliest manuscript of Adomnán's ‘Vita Sancti Columbae’ is now in the public library at Schaffhausen, Switzerland. The scribe who made the copy gives his name: Dorbbéne. There is general agreement that this is the same man whose death, seemingly after he had been abbot of Iona for only five months, is dated 28th October 713 by ‘AU’. The passage that Dorbbéne quotes from Cumméne's book follows Book III Chapter 5 of Adomnán's ‘Life’ (see: above).
The highlighted phrase is taken from A.O. Anderson's translation in ‘Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286’, Vol.I (1922). In the Huyshe translation (of 1905), generally used on this page, it is rendered virtually incomprehensibly: “And from that day to this they are in decadence through pressure from without”.
This is of course Owain, king of the Strathclyde Britons. The earliest surviving set of Welsh royal genealogies, preserved in Harleian MS 3859 (although the manuscript itself dates from c.1100, the genealogies were probably collected in the later-10th century), give the sequence (§5): "Eugein [Owain] map Beli map Neithon [Nwython]".
‘Y Gododdin’ survives in two versions, the A-text and the B-text, penned by two scribes, in a single later-13th century manuscript (the Book of Aneirin). In the A-text, the fragment (it is probably part of a larger work) concerning Domnall Brecc appears as the 79th stanza. In the B-text it appears 1st. The translation here is Joseph Clancy's of the B-text version, published in ‘The Triumph Tree: Scotland's Earliest Poetry AD 550–1350’ (1998).
In the Pictish king list from the Poppleton Manuscript, Talorcan's father's name is rendered Enfret. In ‘AU’ s.a. 657 Anfrith, in ‘AT’ Ainfrith and Anfrait. There seems to be universal agreement that this person is, Æthelfrith's son, Eanfrith.
Latin Scottish king-lists are defective at this point in time. In the fourteenth verse of the Irish poetic king-list, ‘Duan Albanach’ (late-11th century), the 10 year joint reign of Conall and Dúngall is said to follow Domnall Brecc's reign. (Domnall Brecc was killed in 642, but the mysterious Ferchar may have ruled until about 650.) In the ‘Synchronisms’ attributed to the Irish scholar Flann Mainistrech (d.1056), the names Conall and Dúngall are given as Conall Crandomna and Dúnchad son of Dubán, though there is no indication that they ruled jointly and no reign lengths are given. Conall Crandomna was Domnall Brecc's brother and, therefore, also a grandson of Aedán son of Gabrán. He features in Irish annals, his death being placed s.a. 660 by ‘AU’. Dúnchad (Dúngall) son of Dubán, however, is nowhere mentioned in the annals. Marjorie O. Anderson (‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’, Revised Edition, 1980, Chapter 4) suggests that Dubán was: “perhaps a nickname, “little black one” ”. (Dub = ‘black’.) It is possible, therefore, that Dúnchad son of Dubán is Dúnchad son of Conaing. Dr Anderson does not propose this identification, noting: “The identity of Dúnchad [son of Dubán] has not been established.”  Others, however, are less reticent. For instance, in the entry for Conall Crandomna in ‘A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain: England, Scotland and Wales, c.500–c.1050’ (1991), Alfred P. Smyth states: “Conall's partner in the kingship was Dúnchad son of Conaing.”
Applying the customary one year correction to the date given by ‘AU’, in this, and other instances around this time where English events are recorded, puts ‘AU’ at odds with Bede. The uncorrected year, 685, not only agrees with Bede but would seem to be right, since 20th May was a Saturday in 685.
For instance, A.O. Anderson (‘Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286’, Vol.I, 1922) opines: “The expulsion of Drest in 672 very likely preceded the defeat inflicted by the Angles [i.e. Northumbrians] on the Picts, described by Eddius. After Oswiu's death, Bridei [Drest's successor] seems to have expelled Drest, the Northumbrian vassal”.  Whist Marjorie O. Anderson (‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’, Revised Edition, 1980, Chapter 4) writes: “Soon after Oswiu's death in 670 the Picts, which probably means an army led by Drest, seem to have revolted against Oswiu's son Ecgfrith and to have suffered an ignominious defeat ... In the year following the Pictish disaster Drest, discredited by it as we may imagine, was “expelled” from the kingship”.
There are two Bilis in the Strathclyde royal genealogy (Harleian MS 3859, §5), neither of whom are ideally placed to be securely identified as Bridei's father. The first is the father of Owain and the second is Owain's grandson, who, since he died in 722 and had a son, Tewdwr, who died in 752, would seem to be too late. Owain, however, was ruling the Strathclyde Britons in 642, three decades before his supposed brother, Bridei, became king of the Picts.
Quite how Ecgfrith and Bridei were related is the subject of much conjecture. The connecting link is usually supposed to be Eanfrith, brother of Ecgfrith's father and father of Talorcan, king of the Picts from 653 to 657, but a link via the ruling dynasty of Strathclyde cannot be ruled out.
In fact, the word Fortriu is not used here, nor, indeed, anywhere else in Irish annals. The word used is Fortrenn, which is generally accepted as being the genitive of the name Fortriu (though this is actually purely hypothetical).
Adomnán only mentions his visits to Northumbria as a means of demonstrating the miraculous power of St Columba. He writes that, during his own lifetime: “the isles of the sea generally, namely, Ireland and Britain, have been twice devastated by a dreadful pestilence [in the 660s and the 680s], except two peoples, namely, the people of the Picts and that of the Scots of Britain, between whom the mountains of the Dorsum Britanniae [Drumalban] form a barrier. And although there are not wanting amongst both peoples great sins, by which the Eternal Judge is often provoked to anger, yet hitherto, bearing patiently with both, He has spared them. To whom else can this grace, granted them by God, be attributed except to St Columba, whose monasteries, founded within the boundaries of both people, have up to the present time been held in high honour by both?”  Adomnán says (‘VC’ II, 46) that at the time of his visits to Northumbria: “the plague had not yet ceased and was devastating many villages up and down the country”, but thanks to Columba's influence: “not one of my own company died, nor was any one of them troubled by any disease.”
George Chalmers, ‘Caledonia’ (1807), first identified Dunnichen as the battle-site.
Bede tells how Nechtan (rendered Naiton by Bede) sent messengers to Ceolfrith, abbot of the ‘twin monasteries’ of Wearmouth and Jarrow (the foundation where Bede was a monk), requesting: “that he would send him a letter of exhortation, by the help of which he might the better confute those that presumed to keep Easter out of the due time; as also concerning the form and manner of tonsure whereby the clergy should be distinguished, notwithstanding that he himself had no small knowledge of these things. He also prayed to have master-builders sent him to build a church of stone in his nation after the Roman manner, promising to dedicate the same in honour of the blessed chief of the Apostles. Moreover, he and all his people, he said, would always follow the custom of the holy Roman Apostolic Church, in so far as men so distant from the speech and nation of the Romans could learn it... [Bede quotes the very long reply that Ceolfrith sent, addressed to “the most excellent lord, and glorious King Nechtan”] ... This letter having been read in the presence of King Nechtan and many learned men, and carefully interpreted into his own language by those who could understand it, he is said to have much rejoiced at the exhortation thereof; insomuch that, rising from among his nobles that sat about him, he knelt on the ground, giving thanks to God that he had been found worthy to receive such a gift from the land of the English. “And indeed,” he said, “I knew before, that this was the true celebration of Easter, but now I so fully learn the reason for observing this time, that I seem in all points to have known but little before concerning these matters. Therefore I publicly declare and protest to you that are here present, that I will for ever observe this time of Easter, together with all my nation; and I do decree that this tonsure, which we have heard to be reasonable, shall be received by all clerks in my kingdom.” Without delay he accomplished by his royal authority what he had said. For straightway the Paschal cycles of nineteen years were sent by command of the State throughout all the provinces of the Picts to be transcribed, learned, and observed, the erroneous cycles of 84 years being everywhere blotted out. All the ministers of the altar and monks were shorn after the fashion of the crown; and the nation thus reformed, rejoiced, as being newly put under the guidance of Peter, the most blessed chief of the Apostles, and committed to his protection.” (‘HE’ V, 21).
Egbert moved from Ireland to Iona in 716, and remained there for the rest of his life. He died, aged ninety, in 729.
‘AU’ reports, s.a. 717: “Expulsion of the community of Iona beyond Dorsum Britanniae by King Nechtan.”  Dorsum Britanniae = Druimm nAlban (Drumalban) = ‘Spine of Britain’: the mountain ridge dividing the Scots of Dál Riata from the Picts. Nechtan was firmly committed to Roman practice, so presumably(?) it was monks who would not accept the decision of their masters on Iona, to adopt the Catholic Easter, that he ejected from Pictland.
One such scholar is Marjorie O. Anderson. In ‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980), Chapter 4, footnote 180, she writes: “What exactly Bede meant by ubi res ueniret in dubium [when any question should arise] has been often discussed. The lists afford no evidence of patrilineal succession until long after his time, so that his qualification seems unnecessary... under a matrilineal system no less than under a patrilineal, a man may be succeeded by his brother (in this case his mother's son). Succession by a brother would have seemed quite natural to Bede ... Perhaps he meant that when there was no brother to succeed, matrilineal succession was resorted to.”
Needless to say, other scholars are not convinced. In a paper entitled ‘Pictish Matriliny Reconsidered’ (‘Innes Review’ 49.2, 1998) Alex Woolf admits that “the Pictish situation may require special explanation”, but insists: “The important point is that this special explanation need not be matriliny... given the rarity of matrilineal succession patterns generally, it is not likely, on balance, to have been the system practised by the Picts.”
In fact, ‘AU’, and the ‘Annals of Tigernach’ (‘AT’), in its equivalent entry, do not call Domangart ‘son of Fergus’, but ‘son of Ness’. In the ‘AT’ entry, Domangart is clearly said to have died (not retired). ‘AT’ also bestows the anachronistic title ‘king of Alba’ on Domangart.
Placed around 466 in the ‘Chronicon Scotorum’ (a set of annals related to ‘AT’, surviving in a 17th century copy) is the entry: “Domangart son of Ness rested [i.e. died].”  A misplaced record of King Domangart's death? The word ‘rested’ (quievit) suggests the Domangart in question was a churchman. (This entry has been inserted s.a. 466, by a late scribe, in the Bodleian MS Rawlinson B 489 copy of ‘AU’.)
It is almost certain that the Northumbrian ealdorman Berhtfrith was a close kinsman, perhaps son, of Berhtred (or Berht), whom the Picts had killed in 698.
The king of Northumbria was Aldfrith's son, Osred, who was only about fourteen years-old at this time. Incidentally, though ‘AU’ and Bede place the fighting in 711, the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ prefers 710.
‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ (Ecclesiastical History of the English People).
s.a. = sub anno = ‘under the year’.
The ‘Amra Choluim Chille’ is a eulogy to St Columba (Colum Cille), probably written shortly after the saint's death in 597, and attributed to the poet Dallán Forgaill (which means ‘little blind man of superior testimony’). The ‘Amra’ is a difficult work, and at the start of the 11th century it was issued accompanied by a preface and explanatory glosses. It is versions of this text that survive in later manuscripts.
‘Vita Sancti Columbae’ (Life of St Columba).
Triads are linked threesomes – mainly of people or events – that, it is thought, were a device used by medieval bards to enable them to commit narrative detail to memory. Collections of Welsh Triads exist in a number of manuscripts – the earliest from the 13th century. Rachel Bromwich brought them together in ‘Trioedd Ynys Prydein’ (The Triads of the Island of Britain), first published in 1961.
Between references to, the Bernician kings, Ida (r.547–559) and his son, Adda (r.560–568), the ‘Historia Brittonum’ notes (§62): “At that time, Talhaearn Tad Awen [Talhaearn Father of the Muse] was famed for poetry, and Aneirin, and Taliesin and Bluchbard, and Cian, who is called Gueinth Guaut [presumably, Guenith Guaut is meant, i.e. Wheat of Song], were all famous at the same time in British poetry.”  Examples of the work of only Taliesin and Aneirin have survived.
In English, possession of one noun by another is generally indicated by adding apostrophe+s to the owner-noun. For instance: ‘the man's hat’. In some languages, including Irish, however, the owner-noun is put into the genitive case. For instance: hata is ‘hat’ and an fear is ‘the man’, but hata an fhir is ‘the man's hat’. Possession can also be indicated in English by inserting the word ‘of’ before the owner-noun. For instance: ‘Aed son of Ainmire’. In Irish, a word for ‘of’ is not used, and the name ‘Ainmire’ is put into the genitive case: Aed mac Ainmirech.
‘Senchus fer nAlban’ (History of the Men of Alba) is also known as ‘Míniugud Senchusa fher nAlban’ (Explanation of the History of the Men of Alba). An Irish text which appears to be a 10th century reworking of 7th century material. The surviving manuscripts, though, are later – the main one is 14th century (Trinity College Dublin MS H.2.7).
A collection of sagas chronicling the kings of Norway, written in Old Norse, by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, c.1230.
‘Libellus de Exordio atque Procursu istius hoc est Dunhelmensis Ecclesie’ (Tract on the Origins and Progress of this the Church of Durham).
In about 1650, Irish scholar/scribe Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh included the ‘Duan Albanach’ (Scottish Poem) in his ‘Leabhar Genealach’ (Book of Genealogies). This is the earliest surviving, and best, copy of the ‘Duan Albanach’.