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The Perth incident of 1396 from a folk-lore point of view; online

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stories as make up our book of Scotic Genesis is
fairly exposed in the account of Bran crossing the
river Linon, after reaching Ireland on his way to
Matholwch, The nobles of Ireland determined to
keep the river between them and the invader,
because there was a loadstone at the bottom that
neither ship nor vessel could pass over. Bran
and his chiefs consult as to crossing, and they
ask his counsel as to a bridge. " There is none,"
said he, " except that he who will be chief let
him be a bridge : I will be so." He lay down,

' Lajard, Mithra, p. 361. - Hibbert Lectures, p. 429.


hurdles were placed on him, and the crosshig
was effected.^ The idea of the loadstone was that
it attracted to itself the bolts fastening a ship's
planks, well illustrated in the curious old " Ortus
Sanitatis," where a ship was depicted approach-
ing a rock, evidently the loadstone, preceded by
a shower of bolts from its own hull. The parallel
story to the bridge statement is found in the
first chapter of Gerald's ' Itinerary through Wales.'
The King of England, seeing from Haverford the
mountains of Ireland in the distance, said, " I will
summon hither all the ships of my realm, and with
them make a bridge to attack that country." This
version being told by an ecclesiastic of a Christian
kins', and not of a boar invader, a brother of the
Moon's, necessarily has a Christian application. The
Prince of Leinster, hearing of the boastful speech,
asking if the king ignored all higher power but his
own, — in fact, made himself chief like Bran, — said
he had nothing to fear from one who neglected the
Deity. But why should these stories have been con-
nected ? We believe it is owing to the fact that
it was William " Kufus," the " Bed -topped," who
is credited with the story, and so had some resem-
blance to the glowing brand. Neither story is
historical fact.

We must now return to the battle of Magh
Mucrimhe already mentioned. This tale, as told
in the Book of Leinster, has been published by

^ Mabinogion, vol. Hi. p. 118.


Whitley Stokes,^ and seems to offer support to the
views here advanced. It is credited with having
taken place in the year 195, and ended in the
death of an Art (Arthur), head king of Ireland,
and the seven sons of Bare-Ear, slain by Lugaidh
mac Con, who " took the land of Banba and reigned
there thirty years." The seven sons correspond in
number at any rate with the seven sons of Cruithne,
from whom were called the seven divisions of Scot-
land, and we have already pointed out the probable
identity of Banba with North Britain. It is said
to have been fought between the Albanaich, as
we would say Scotsmen nowadays, and the Gael —
that name representing the Irishman, because Scot
is believed, say in 195, to have meant Irishman.
The details of Lugaidh's tactics show that he had
both Picts and Scots, whom he did his best to
"roll into one," as Canning described "Will
Waddle," by chaining by the leg each Gael
(? Scot) to each Albanach (? Pict). We are further
told that he had two Britons to each Gael.
Lugaidh thus commanded a British force, and his
opponents were Munster men of the Corcolaid, of
which, however, Lugaidh was himself one, and the
word core we have suggested as an Irish |;o7t.
That district is the one in which the Ogmic " Mucoi "
seemed to be in highest honour, and is said to
have been the territory of the goddes Duben
(? Blackhead). Another tactical disposition, accord-

' Revue Celtique, vol. xiii. p. 426.


iiig to our authority quoted, was the making by
Lugaidh of holes in the ground, each containing
a soldier with his spear broken in half, with
which to thrust through the hurdles and sods
by which the hole was concealed. This is an im-
possible arrangement, and looks like a modification,
whether purposely or by misconception, of the use
of the lilium, the spiked holes of Caesar at Alesia.

There could be no stronger support of the theory
here advanced than the fact, which has come to the
knowledge of the writer since it was formulated,
that at Rough Castle, on Antonine's Wall, a series
of these pits have been discovered nine feet long,
three wide, and four deep. These may have been
still exposed at the date of the writing of the Book of
Leinster. These pits are well shown in ' The Illus-
trated London News' of the 14th November 1903.

Now for the explanation as given of the name
" Mucrima." " Magh Mucrime, now pigs of magic,
came out of the cave of Cruachain, and that is Ire-
land's gate of hell." Cruachan means a conical
hill, a mountain- top ; the haunch, coxa. After men-
tioning some triple-headed and red birds of a de-
structive sort that came out of it, the tale goes on :
" Out of it, moreover, came these swine. Round
whatever thing they used to go, till the end of seven
years neither corn nor grass nor leaf would grow
through it. Where they were being counted they
would not stay, but they would go into another
territory if any one tried to reckon them. They


were never numbered completely. ' There are three
there,' says the one man. ' More ; there are seven,'
says another. ' There are nine there,' says another.
' Eleven swine ! ' ' Thirteen swine ! ' In that way
it was impossible to count them. They could not
be killed, for if they were shot at they used to

" Once upon a time, then, (Queen) Maive of
Cruachan and Ailill went to count them, into Magh
Mucrime, to wit. They were counted by them
afterwards. Maive was in her chariot. One of the
swine leaped over the chariot. ' That swine is one
too many, O Maive,' says every one. ' Not this
one,' says Maive, seizing the swine's leg ; where-
upon its skin broke on its forehead, and it left the
skin in her hand along with the leg, and from that
hour nobody knew whither they went. Hence is
Magh Muc-rime (so-called)." ^

The spelling of the name of the place is Mucrima,
Mucroma, Mucrama ; O'Flaherty in the ' Ogygia '
spells it Mucroimhe, all genitives ; the nominative
is Mucrom. Let the locality be in Galway, Gaelic
Gaillimh, " the foreigners' country," the name itself
means " pig of Rome."

If reference is made to p. 175, it will be seen
that one of the names of the Dagda's wife was
''Meahal," translated disofrace. O'Davoran's Gloss-
ary sheds clear light on the meaning of the allied
name of Connacht's Queen. " Mem, a kiss, that is

1 Revue Celtique, vol. xiii. pp. 449, 551.


disgracing her, veste elevata." ^^3fehul," j)udendum
muliebre. It is evident that the name " Mebh,"
written above in English " Maive," is a product of
the imagination, from the roots mem, meh.^

Lugaidh's death is peculiar. He is said to have
been bitten by a poisoned tooth of Bare-Ear's, the
result of which was that half of his head melted
away. In this condition, leaning against a pillar-
stone, Ferchess struck him with his spear on the
forehead, " so that the pillar-stone at the back of
him answered, and he became dry and lifeless."
The avenger of his death seven years after was
Find hua Baiscni, " white, descendant of effulg-
ence," Finn mac Cumhail, who is said to have
been Lugaidh's champion.

The story contains much phallic imagery, and, we
think, traces of differences of religious systems, pos-
sibly of about the date 195, just seven years before
the taking of Christianity into Scotland, according
to Boece ; and with this we may consider what
O'Flaherty says as to the inhabitants of Corcolaid
being the first to embrace Christianity before the com-
ing of Patrick. Among these was Liedania, mother
of Kieran of Saighir, of whom she was delivered in
the year 352 "in an island of the sea." The island
he identifies with Cape Clear, but the name Liedania
and the " island " are suggestive of Laudonia, called
from Loth, who was superior of Orkney.

^ Archiv. Celt. Lexic. O'Davoran's Glossary, Whitley Stokes, pp. 413-



We have seen that dogs, both as men and animals,
have played a considerable part in the early tradi-
tions with which we are dealing.

British dogs are frequently alluded to as of great
excellence by classical authors. Claudian speaks of
them as " capable of overcoming bulls." Nemesian,
who flourished at Home about 283, four years
before Carausius was Augustus in Britain, says,
speaking of their export for purposes of hunting —

" Sed non Spartanos tantuni, tantumve molossos
Pascendum catulos ; divisa Britannia mittit
Veloces, nostrique orbis venatibus aptos." ^

Now let us look how this is used in tradition.

Till the time of Diocletian the Scots and Picts
reigned together in peace, but "it so happened
that, on a day appointed, some nobles of both
nations met on the confines of their respective
countries, as they were wont, for the purpose of
hunting ; and when they had been coursing about
hither and thither nearly a whole day, with their

1 Celt, Roman, and Saxon, pp. 257, 258.


dogs uncoupled, in pursuit of game, a certain hound,
which was accustomed to follow the blood-stained
tracks of the quarry, was stolen away by the Picts,
and incontinently found among them. The Scots
asked to get it back, but they would not restore
it ; so they fell out, and the Scots strove to wrest
it from them by force. . . . This, then, was the
occasion and beginning of the first dissension be-
tween them, who, for five hundred years, had lived
harmoniously in a united peace, with their united
powers resisting all other nations whatever." ^

John Major (in 1521) repeats this story, saying
that it was in the year 288, and that it was a
" Molossian " of a wonderful swiftness. In the
year 821 he makes Kenneth mac Alpin, the first
of the Scots to reign at Scone, allude to the inci-
dent before the final annihilation of the Picts.
Kenneth gives five reasons for the justice of the
Scottish cause, the first being " on account of the
theft and the detention of that Molossian hound." ^
Campion speaks of its musical excellence by men-
tioning its " sweetness of opening." ^ Boece gives
us further particulars, putting the date of the
incident at 262. He says that the Pictish dogs
were of less reputation than those of the Scots,
" baith in bewte, swiftness, lang renk, and hardi-
ment." The Picts ask for dogs of this specially good

^ Bowei', Foidun's Chronicle, Bk. II. c. xxxvii.

2 Major's Greater Britain, ed. Scottish Historical Soc, pp. 61, 104.

3 Campion's History of England, p. 33.


stock in order to breed them among themselves, a
request which was compHed with ; but not contented
with what they got gratuitously, they stole certain
others, among which was a ivhite hound more speedy
than any other, a special favourite of the Scottish
king. The name of this king is interesting. It is
" Craithlint," and if reference is made to p. 101 it is
clear that this is manufactured from the local pronun-
ciation of the name Cleland — Creland. Craithlint's
" master of the hounds " tried to recover the white
dog ; the Picts slew him, and, says Boece, " the
skry arrais efter this slauchter," and a series of
fights followed "but capitaine, baner, or ordour of
chevelry." To show that there can be no doubt
of this identification, Craithlint's uncle (!), Car-
ausius, lands in Westmoreland, and joining Craith-
lint at the Wall of Hadrian, and uniting with
the Picts, they invade England, destroy the
Roman power, and Carausius hands over to his
allies the lands lying between York and Hadrian's

The above is not the only instance of interest
in dogs shown by kings of Scotland, on the author-
ity of Boece. He mentions a king, to whom he
gives the name Dorvidilla, who took special interest
in hunting-dogs, and made laws afiecting them in
particular, and hunting in general. If reference
is made to p. 174, reading between the lines will
demonstrate to what this story alludes. '' Dei-h-

1 Bellenden's Boece, Bks. V. and VI., p. 210.


forgail, the law term for a false charge of impro-
priety made by a husband against his wife, a
defamation of character. The woman thus charged
was sometimes called Derhforgaill, so that this
legal term has been sometimes mistaken for a true
proper name of a woman, and indeed appears to
have been so used in later time." ^ The name as
we have it traditionally is corrupt. It appears
as Dervorgille in the instance of the wife of John
Baliol, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, married
in 1228. Pennant writes it Devorgilla, and Sir
Walter Scott De'vorgoil. Boece's edition of it
seems to be connected with the name of a " broch "
which, situated in Glenelg, by a charter found in
Edinburgh in 1282, was at that date in possession
of the King of Man.^ It may have been taken
to mean the Tower of the Gwyddil — that is, the
Tower of the Wild Man, — a Welsh word now ap-
plied to the Irish, and anciently to the Picts — the
Gwyddil Fichti. We are entitled to look to Welsh
in this case for a translation, because Dorvidilla's
father, whom " he " succeeded, is called Maynus, a
religious character, who first ordered the erection
of stone circles " namit be the pepill, the anciant
tempillis of goddis."^ Maen in Welsh, "a stone."
King Maynus of the Scots had as his contem-
porary, as king of the Picts, Crynus. This name

^ O'Curry, Manners and Customs, vol. iii. p. 569.

- Origines Parochiales, vol. ii. p. 207.

^ Boece, History of Scotland, Bk. II. cc. iii. and iv.


has evidently been connected with the battle of
Crinna, immediately following that of Magh Muc-
roimhe, and with Crinan of Dull, who fell with his
" nine score heroes." The abbot's name is spelt
variously, Kryn, Cran, Crin, Trim, Crenan, and,
by Tighernach, Crinan ; the genitive is Crini, Trini.
The initial T seems a clerical error. In Welsh
jprin, the equivalent of a Gaelic crin, means
"scant," "spare"; Gaelic crion, "little, mean."
In the ' Pictish Chronicle ' the succession of kings
commences with thirty - one individuals called
" Bruide." All of them have qualifying names,
and the twenty - ninth and thirtieth appear as
"Bruigi Crin" and " Bruigi Urcrin," Brude the
Mean and Brude the Very Mean. We must not
forget that the conqueror of Ecgfrid was Brud, the
son of Bile, 685. This translation of the meaning
of the names of these two Brudes is not the only
one possible. Cormac gives us crinda as meaning
" wise," mentioning the caill c7'inmon, the hazels of
scientific composition, which produced the nuts
swallowed by the " salmons of knowledge," the
eating of which imparted the highest mental
powers to those who first partook of any part of
them. All tradition makes this name a Pictish
one, and Dr de Bruce Trotter says that of the
Galloway people " there's the Kreenies or Gossoks
too " ; and his account of them is, " Some folk says
they wur yince Morroughs (mer-men), an' that's
hoe the women haes beards ; and some says they'r


the descendants of the Eerlsh Picts," ^ Keating
calls the locality of the battle of Crinna " Crionna-
Chinn Chumair," — cuma?' is in Irish " a valley,"
" the bed of a river," " a place where streams meet,"
— and that it was at Brugh-mic-an-Oig ! ^

We have seen Cleland and Craithlint "masters
of hounds," and it is interesting to find a clan tra-
dition from Athole, and from a locality dedicated to
St Fillan, where the same claim is made. A quarter
of a century ago the writer received the following
note from Mr Duncan Campbell, Keighley : " Clan
tradition says that of the Kobertsons of Struan
' Bodach nan conn,' the ' Master of the hounds,'
who married the daughter of King Malcolm, was
in his time the chief of their kindred, and that his
son by another marriage was first Earl of Athole."
Bodach nan con was Crinan of Dull. This tradition,
whatever its age, is supported by or founded on a
historical incident. In the Orkneyinga Saga, Crinan,
who fought with Sigurd, the Earl of Orkney, is
called the " Hundi Jarl," the Dog Earl, and
Duncan, King of Scotland, Crinan's son, is called
" Hundason." ^

Supposing the descendants of the defenders of
the Wall (either Wall) to have been known as
Feara Gual, they would otherwise be " na Guailean,"
sufficiently suggestive of "Cuilean" whelps — dogs

^ Gallawa Gossip, p. 182.

2 Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 226, note.

2 Skene, Celtic Scotland, vol. i. p. 400.


of any age. With this compare the suggestion on
p. 86. We hear of Feara Cul in Meath, and are
told, in connection with these men, that one of the
prohibitions of the monarch of " Ireland" was, that
he should not traverse the plain of Cuillen after
sunset, Cuillen being the locality inhabited by the
Feara Cul. This traditional prohibition can only
point to some protected district under martial law.
The history of these Cul men is quite traditional.
B.C. 110 : because the palace of Freamhainn (in West
Meath) was built on their territory by the men of
Ireland, divided into seven parties, one of which
was a contingent of the Feara Cul, forty of them, in
chariots, slew King Eochaidh, who had ordered the
erection. To escape retribution they fled to Conn-
acht, and are said 300 years later to have formed
the bodyguard of Cormac mac Airt (charioteer son
of Art), who gave them territory in Bregia, East

In Galloway, called after the Gall-Gael, a name
which really means " foreign Scots," there is a well-
known family name MacCullach. The meaning of
this word, as it is given in Cormac's Glossary, may
assist our comprehension of the supposed existence
of the " Scottish and Attacotish " marriage rite.
" Cullach (' a boar') . i . colach (' incestuous ') . i . ar
met a chuil . i . bi la mathair agus la siair ; from
the greatness of his col — ' incest,' i.e., he cohabits
with mother and sister."^ The family accept the

^ Cormac's Glossary, Stokes's translation, s.v.


meaning' as " son of the boar." Echcullach is a

" Fir Cuile" was the term applied to broken and
homeless men in the Highlands in the middle of
the seventeenth century.^

Diarmait, killed by the boar of Ben Gulban, had
a favourite dog, Mac an Chuill : this seems to mean
" son of the hazel," the wand of knowledge, as many
a Scottish schoolboy knew even if he had never
heard of the " nuts of science." Thougfh called
" son," Rhys points out that as the pronoun used
with it is female, it was probably female.^

In the ' West Highland Tales ' we have described
Diarmait's relations with the daughter of the king,
Under- Waves, described as with hair to her heels.
Diarmait has to leave her, and she has to ask him
who will look after the " arrow greyhound" and her
three pups. Finn, Oisean, and an unnamed indi-
vidual managed > to carry off the three pups. Diar-
mait returns, leaves the woman in anger, finds the
bitch, swings her on his back by the tail, falls
asleep, and ultimately finds himself " under the
waves," where he meets the woman in human form.
He has then to pass to the Plain of Wonder for a
drink for her from the cup of its king. To reach it
he is carried over on the palm of the hand of a red-
haired man. He gets the cup, gives the drink to
the woman, curing her of her ailments, and ap-

^ Trans. Gael. Soc. Inv., vol. xix. p. 104.
■^ Hibbert Lectures, p. 320, note.


parently ceases thereafter to have relations with
her.^ The story seems a Httle mixed, but the red-
haired man carrying "good-luck" with the king's cup
from the Plain of Wonder suggests the Christian

According to a legend of Clare, Bran, Finn's dog,
was snow-white.^ Seeing Bran is a river-name, this
might not be inappropriate to a much broken stream.
In the Black Book of Carmarthen a poem speaks of
" Dormach," the dog of Maelgwn, and of " Fan-
duith " and the "furthest Tay." Fanduith (Findowie)
is in Strath Bran, close to, if not in fact in, the
locality of the Maclagans. Maelgwn is the Maglo-
cunus of Gildas, but philology demonstrates that
Maglocunus and the Latin Welsh Maglagnus have
no connection with such a name as Maclagan.
Maelgwn's dog is "ruddy nosed." ^

The modern name for Inchecuthill is Delvin.
There was a Delvin in West Meath, the original
seat of the Feara Cul. The superior of this was
Mac Cochlan. Michael O'Clery in 1630 gives his
genealogy, and he takes it back to Oilioll Oluim.
In three of the generations consecutively he gives
the names Donnghos, son of Clothcon, son of Comh-
ghall the Great. Now, this is a curious coinci-
dence when compared with the Duncansons of the
raid of Angus, the Mac Clachins and the clan Mac

^ Campbell's West Highland Tales, vol. iii. p. 403.

^ Ossianic Society, vol. iii. p. 63.

' Four Ancient Books of Wales, vol. i. p. 294.


Qwhwle in Angus. Wyntoun's spelling, Clachm(2/^a),
allies itself most naturally with clach, " a stone,"
and Kuno Meyer gives cloclian, a causeway, —
" Clochan na bh-Fomorach," the Giant's Causew^ay.
The Vallum, and the road, an integral part of such
a defensive work, now proved to have existed as a
stone-laid way in connection with the North Wall,
may have equally influenced tradition. Compare
with the name of the chief of Delvin, O'Cochlan,
caochlan, " a swift rill." ^

Of the post - Roman leaders from between the
Walls, many of them are spoken of in connection
with dogs. Of Cunedda, who was pre - eminent
before the " furrow and the sod," it is said —

" His dogs raised their backs at his presence,
They protected, and helieved in his kindness."

Kydderch Hael, king of Strathclyde, a champion of
the faith, is spoken of in connection with dogs.
We have mentioned Maelgwn and Urien's dogs ;
Cenon and Aneurin are the two war-dogs who alone
escaped from the battle of Catraeth. In the Dean
of Lismore we find a statement : —

" Constant in the hunt together
Are Macgregor and his fierce men ;
'No oftener did the blood-red hounds
Enter the fort of Clan Boisgne."

The word translated "fort" is longphort, "ship
station." In this connection we recall the fact that

1 O'Reilly.


at Donolly is a large boulder, on the sea-shore, to
which it is said were attached the dogs of Finn. It
is a purpose-like stone, to which a galley might
be moored, and the writer remembers such a stone
on Loch Etive, considerably smaller no doubt,
called Clach mun asaid, "the anchoring stone"
for boats.

The story of a serious battle about a dog is not
peculiar to the Picts and Scots. We find a like
story in Ireland. Mesreda, otherwise called Mac
Datho, bred a dog called Ailbhe, whose fame spread
over Ireland. Ailbhe, it will be remembered, was
the master of St Fillan. Mesreda, whose other
name has been already suggested as meaning " son
of two nuts," is here connected with meas, " fruit,"
particularly acorns,^ Welsh mes, " acorns." Mes-
reda was brother of Mesgedhra, misgeoir, " a drunk-
ard." They were both kings of Leinster. Ulster
and Connaught desired the dog, met in Leinster to
arrange to whom it was to belong, quarrelled over
the division of a pig. The dog joined the Ulster
men, and, springing on the chariot of Ailill and
Meabh, king and queen of Connaught, had its
head cut off and carried away in the chariot, leav-
ing the body. This dog Ailbhe seems to be Mes-
reda's brother Mesgedhra, for the latter's head plays
a part in Irish story. He was slain, and his brain
preserved by a process which made it a stone. It
came into the possession of Get mac Maghach, the

1 O'Reilly.


"son of the Plainman," who, from a "place among
the women in the middle," slang it into Conchobhar's
head. Conchobhar had to remain sitting thereafter
for seven years till the day of Christ's crucifixion,
when, accepting Christianity and excited by the
news of the murder, the stone dropped from his
head and he died. Ail, " a stone " (Windisch) ;
" a prickle " (O'Reilly).

There is another Irish dog of whom we must
speak, Cuchulainn. De Joubainville points out that
this is a name manufactured in Ireland, because if
it had been old Gaelic it would have taken the form
Culann-chu, as in the case of dohar-chu, literally
water-dog — i.e., otter — the same construction hold-
ing good in Breton in Tan-ki, fire-dog, a proper
name, also in Cormac, corh-mac, chariot-lad, Gaelic.
Cuchulainn = Culann's dog, is so-called, according to
tradition, because he took the duties of the dos" of a

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Online LibraryRobert Craig MaclaganThe Perth incident of 1396 from a folk-lore point of view; → online text (page 16 of 25)