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The Highland Clans

It is now well understood that the Celts originally came out of the east. Guest, in his Origines Celticoe describes the routes by which they streamed across Europe and along the north coast of Africa in a bygone century. The migration did not stop till it had reached the shores of the Atlantic. The Celtic flood was followed within the Christian era by the migrations of succeeding races— Huns, Goths, Vandals, Franks, these variously called themselves—and before the successive waves the Celts were driven against the western coast, like the fringe of foam driven up by wind and tide upon a beach. This process was seen in our own islands when the British inhabitants were driven westward by the oncoming waves of Saxons, Angles, and Danes in the fifth and following centuries. Thus driven against the western shores these Celts were known, down to the Norman Conquest, as the Britons or Welsh of Strathclyde, of Wales, and of West Wales or Cornwall.

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In the north, beyond the Forth and among the mountain fastnesses, as well as in the south of Galloway, the Celtic race continued to hold its own. By the Roman chroniclers the tribes there were known as the Caledonians or Picts. Between the Forth and the Grampians were the Southern Picts, north of the Grampians were the Northern Picts, and in Galloway were the Niduarian Picts. To which branch of the Celtic race, British or Gaelic, or a separate branch by themselves, the Picts belonged, is not now known. From the fact that after the Roman legions were withdrawn they made fierce war upon the British tribes south of the Forth, it seems likely that they were not British. Dr. W. F. Skene, in his Highlanders of Scotland, took elaborate pains to prove that the Picts were Gaelic, an earlier wave of the same race as the Gaels or Scots who then peopled Ireland, at that time known as Scotia.

Exactly how these Scots came into the sister isle is not now known. According to their own tradition they derived their name from Scota, daughter of one of the Pharoahs, whom one of their leaders married as they passed westward through Egypt, and it is possible they may be identified with the division of the Celtic tribes which passed along the north coast of Africa. According to Gaelic tradition the Scots migrated from Spain to the south of Ireland. According to the same tradition they brought with them the flat brown stone, about nine inches thick, known as the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, on which their kings were crowned, and which was said to have been Jacob’s pillow at Bethel on the plain of Luz. From Ireland they began to cross into Kintyre—the "Headland "—in the sixth century. Their three leaders were Fergus, Lorn, and Angus, Sons of Erc, and their progress was not always a matter of peaceful settlement. Fergus, for instance, made a landing in Ayrshire, and defeated and slew Coyle the British king of the district, whose tumulus is still to be seen at Coylesfield, and whose name is still commemorated as that of the region, Kyle, and in popular rhymes about "Old King Cole."

In Kintyre and the adjoining neighbourhood the Invaders established the little Dalriadic kingdom, so called from their place of origin in the north-east of Ireland, Dal-Riada, the "Portion of Riada," conquered in the third century by Fergus’s ancestor, Cairbre-Riada, brother of Cormac.

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