Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Notes on the Early History of Scotland
An Examination of the ancient histories of Ireland and Iceland in so far as it concerns the Origin of the Scots

IN pamphlets already published, under the titles of "Ireland not the Hibernia of the Ancients," and "Interpolations in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. and other Ancient Annals affecting the early History of Scotland," an attempt has already been made to show that Iceland was the ancient Hibernia, and the country from which the Scots came to Scotland. In the following pages the subject is continued. This treatise will be mainly taken up with an investigation of the early history of Ireland and Iceland, in order to ascertain which has the better claim to be considered the original country of the Scots. Before proceeding with this investigation, however, it will be necessary to review the evidence furnished by the more genuine of the early British annals against the idea that Ireland was the ancient Scotia.

After having spent so much time in endeavouring to unravel the contradictory notices of Scotland and Ireland contained in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and other ancient chronicles, it is refreshing to be able to turn to the works of early annalists in which there are few traces of interpolations. Nevertheless, in examining these, it should be borne in mind that most of them were for a long period in the hands of the priests of the medaeval Church. Learning was, till the time of the Reformation, or at least till the introduction of printing, confined to the monasteries; and it was in the libraries of the ecclesiastical buildings that most of the books in the country were stored. The monks had, therefore, unlimited means of tampering with the authentic history of the island to further their interests. There is ample evidence to show that this opportunity was fully taken advantage of. Notwithstanding this, a few of the ancient annals seem to have escaped the notice of the interpolators who were commissioned to falsify the history of ancient Scotia; and it is necessary, in the interests of truth and justice, to make use of the scanty light they afford to enable us to pierce. the darkness that hangs around the early history of Scotland.

GILDAS’ "De, Excido Britanniae"

The earliest writer to whom we can turn with some degree of confidence in this respect is Gildas. He is sometimes called the wise, and sometimes Badonicus; and appears to have been born in the year 516. He is said to have visited France in 550, and Ireland in 565.[Chambers' Encyclopedia, article Gildas]authorities say that he was born near the Wall of Antonine, and it is therefore more likely that the place he visited in 550 was Gaul, the name of a district in the neighbourhood of the Forth river, as well as an ancient name of France. With regard to his visit to Ireland, it is remarkable to find that in one of the several lives of Gildas he is said to have gone to. Britannis, which was the former name of Ireland, according to Ethelwerd, and to have led a solitary life in Houath. [Turner's Anglo-Saxon, vol ii pp 212 and 213 and notes]] Howth is the name of a place near Dublin in Ireland. Gildas died in 570. His The Exeidio Britanniae was first printed at London in 1525, and has often been reprinted, both in England and the Continent. *

The greater part of! the historical portion of Gildas’ work has been incorporated in the writings of succeeding historians, including Bede; and there is. every reason for believing it to be a truthful, if highly coloured, account of the events which took place in the south of present Scotland in the centuries immediately preceding the writer’s death. The evidence furnished by Gildas, as to the country occupied by the Scots, is clear and emphatic, supported as it is by the testimony of Bede. He calls the Picts and Scots transmarine gentes, and Bede, who copies this description, explains its meaning thus :—The Scots and Picts are called transmarine nations, or people from beyond the seas, not because they dwelt out of Britain, but on account of their habitations in the island bejng separated from those of the Britains by two arms of the sea. These arms of the sea are acknowledged by every writer who alludes to this passage of Bede’s to refer to the Firths of Forth and Clyde; and this shows that Gildas places the Scots and the Picts in the region lying north of these firths. Neither Hibernia nor Ireland is ever mentioned by Gildas, and in everything else that he says about the Scots he plainly intimates that he is alluding to inhabitants of North Britain.


The Saxon Chronicle is a continued narrative, written at different dates, of the most important events of English History from the earliest period till the year 1154. There are only six copies of it known to be in existence. The oldest is sometimes called the Plegmund Manuscript, because the Archbishop of Canterbury of that name, in the reign of King Alfred, is believed to have transcribed it to the year 891, when he was elected to the See. It is said to be written in one and the same hand to this year, and in hands equally ancient to the year 924, after which it is continued in different hands to the end. Like the other ancient English annals, it is not free from interpolations, but there are only a few which concern the present subject. An interpolation is said to occur at the end of the year 890, for instance, and there a passage is found which will require to be noticed afterwards. Another manuscript, considered to have been written in the year 1048, is said to vary in the orthography from about the year 890.

Turning to the Chronicle itself, let us see what evidence it, or rather they, for there are several manuscripts collated in this edition, furnish with regard to the subjcct before us. At the beginning this sentence is found: "He (Julius Caesar) left his army to abide among the Scots, and went south into Gaul," &c. A note to the word Scots says: "This is an error, arising from the inaccurately written manuscripts of Orosius and Bede; where in Hybernia and in Hiberrniam occur for in. hiberna. The error is retained in Wheloc’s Bede."

The nextnotice of the Scots is found under the year 430. It has been already produced in speaking of a parallel passage in Bede’s EcclesiasticaI History about Palladius’ mission to the Scots. The next entry in the Chronicle with which we have to do is that about Columba. It has also becn previously quoted when dealing with the notice of that saint contained in Bede’s work. The following entries regarding the battle at Egesanstane, the letter of Houorius to thc Scots, Colman’s return to his own country, Egfrid’s expedition against the Scots, Egbert’s conversion of the monks of Hii and his death there, have all been dealt with under similar circumstances.

The first entry which demands minute examination is found uniter the year 891; it is as follows: "And three Scots came to King Alfred in a boat, without any oars, from Ireland, whence they had stolen away, because they desired for the love of God to be in a state of pilgrimage, they recked not where. The boat in which they came was made of two hides and a half; and they took with them provisions sufficient for seven days; and then about the seventh day they came ashore in Cornwall, and soon after went to King Alfred. Thus they were named: Dubslane, and Macbeth, and Maclinmun. And Swinney, the best teacher among the Scots, died."

As already stated, this is found where an interpolation occurs about Plegmund’s being chosen archbishop of Canterbury. There is only a sentence between the two. And in another of the older manuscripts of the Chronicle, the orthography is said to change at the year. 890. In addition to these suspicious circumstances neither Henry of Huntingdon, nor William of Malmesbury, nor Roger of Wendover, take any notice of this passage; and yet about this period they are relying mainly upon the Saxon Chronicle, copying it almost verbatim. It is found in Ethelwerd’s work, which appears to have escaped manipulation at the hands of the monks; but the diflerence between the entry as it is found in the Saxon Chronicle and in Ethelwerd’s work leads to the belief that it has been transferred from the latter to the former and tampered with in the transference. Ethelwerd’s notice of the same event will be treated of a few pages farther on.

Continuing the examination of the Chronicle, at the year 903 it is stated that " Virgilius, abbat of the Scots," died. At the year 918 we are told that an army which had been ravaging the coasts of England and Wales, "went out to Ireland." Under the year 924, it is said that King Edward was chosen "for father and for lord, by the King of the Scots, and the whole nation of the Scots." "926..... Athelstan... ruled . . . Constantine, King of the Scots?’ " 933..... Athelstan went into Scotland." Under the year 937, a long poem is inserted about the battle at Brumby, which speaks of the Scottish people and the Scots. It also says :" The Northmen departed.... over the deep water Dublin to seek again Ireland." "941. This year the Northumbriaus . . . chose Anlaf of Ireland to be their king." "945. King Edmund . . . granted it (Cumberland) all to Malcolm, King of the Scots." "946: The Scots gave him (King Edred) oaths that they would all that he would." "1031. This year King Canute went to Rome. And so soon as he came home then went he into Scotland; and the King of the Scots, Malcolm [II], submitted to him" "1034; . . This same year died Malcolm[II], King in Scotland."

As it is said to have been during this last king’s reign that the name of Scotia was first transferred from Ireland to Scotland, it is needless pursuing these records further. Every reference, up till this time, to the Scots or Scotland, and to the Irish or Ireland, has been quoted; and it will be seen that nothing is ever said about Ireland having been called Scotia, or of the transference of that name from the western island to Scotland. It will also be noticed that the only passage in which Ireland is mentioned before the year 918, and which connects the Scots with Ireland, has evidently been tampered with. In no other part of the Chronicle are the Scots connected with Ireland. The mention of Ireland at the years 918, 937, and 941, may be quite genuine, as it is in accordance with the time when Ethelwerd says that name was first given to it; though the latter entry is open to suspicion. It is certainly strange to find a king of such a large country as Ireland submitting to become king of so rebellious a race as the Northumbrians were at that period. With regard to the Scots, to whom Palladius was sent, the transcribers of the Chronicle evidently took them to be the same people as those over whom Constantine and Malcolm II. were kings, or they would have explained that the Scots spoken of under the year 430 were the inhabitants of Ireland, had such been the case.


One of the least interpolated of the ancient English annals is Etheiwerd’s Chronicle. It is almost an. abstract of the Saxon Chronicle, although apparently not a full one. Unlike many of the early annalists, Ethelwerd was a soldier, and his Chronicle was written for the purpose of instructing his relation, Matilda, daughter of Otho the Great, Emperor of Germany. Such a work, therefore, is likely to have escaped the vigilance of the interpolators, who would not dare to exercise their ingenuity upon the.books kept in the libraries of persons of distinction. In addition to this, on account of its being written by a person who was perhaps more of a warrior than a scholar, its style is so crude that it repelled the learned men of later ages; so that it may be considered the genuine production of a writer of the eleventh century.

The Chronicle of Ethelwerd entirely upsets the general belief that Ireland was at one time called Scotland or Scotia. At the period when he lived the western island is said to have been well-known under the latter appellation; and yet, although he speaks of both countries he never mentions this remarkable fact, nor even alludes to it. On the contrary, he says that Ireland was first so called about the begining of the tenth century, and that it previously went under the name of Bretannis. He nowhere identifies Scotia and Hibernia like the interpolated writers who preceded and followed him; and when he speaks of. the Scots, as he does several times, he is evidently referring to inhabitants of Scotlaind. The following instances may be given. Innes says: "Ethelwerd tells us that in the first age of Christianity the Emperor Claudius, who never went farther than Britain, met with resistance and opposition from the Scots and Picts in his design to conquer the island; and again that the Scots and Picts made inroads on the provincial Britons in the Emperor Severus’s time." In his first book, Etheiwerd concurs with the Saxon Chronicle in saying that Palladius was sent to the Scots; but unlike that generally trustworthy record of events he omits all notice of St Patrick’s mission to the same people. It is affirmed that the Scots to whom Palladius was sent were the inhabitants of Ireland, but no trustworthy evidence is produced to support the affirmation; and as Ethelwerd does not distinguish the Scots to whom Palladius was sent, from the Scots subjugated by Athelstan and Edred, his testimony is clearly in favour of their being the inhabitants of the same country.

Near the end of his first book he says, Columba came from Scotia to Britain to preach to the Picts: that is, he came from the north-east of Scotland, then the only district called Scotia, to the country south of the Tay, which was then comprehended in the Britain of that age; and in the northern part of which the Picts had settled after the Romaus left the island. Lives of Columba, and fabricated sentences in the early annalists tell us that he came from Ireland to Britain; but these lives and sentences are not to be depended upon in deciding such a question.

In the third chapter of his fourth book, under the year 891, Ethelwerd speaks of three men of Hibernian race, one of whom he calls a distinguished master of the Scots. It is a paraphrase of a similar passage in the Saxon Chronicle, and likely refers to the voyage made by three Papae or Christians who were then being driven out of Iceland by the Norwegian settlers. There is nothing in the work under review, at any rate, which warrants the conclusion that it relates the exploits of inhabitants of Ireland.


Geoffrey of Monmouth, the writer of a History of Britain, lived in the first half of the twelfth century. The work is generally acknowledged to be a mass of fables; and while admitting that this is to a large extent true, there are good reasons for believing that a foundation of facts has been used by Geoffiey on which to build the superstructure of fables. The writings of Gildas and Nennius especially, two preceding writers on British history, seem to have furnished him with the greater part of his reliable information. Although such a work might easily be discarded as an untrustworthy authority, it may be as well to glean the few notices it contains bearing upon the subject.

Geoffrey gives the following account of the settlement of Ireland, which materially differs from the fabulous statements of the writers who endeavoured to make it appear that the Scots were among the earliest settlers in that country, although there are a few facts common to each. It is not improbable to suppose that the fables regarding the Scots settling in Ireland may have been grafted upon this chapter of Geoffrey’s work :—

"As Gurgiunt Brabtruc was returning home from his conquest of the Orkney Islands, he found thirty ships full of men and women; and upon his inquiring of them the occasion of their coming thither, their leader, named Partholoim, approached him in a respectful and submissive manner, and desired pardon and peace, telling him that he had been driven out of Spain, and was sailing round those seas in quest of a habitation. He also desired some small part of Britain to dwell in, that they might put an end to their tedious wanderings; for it was now a year and a half since he had been driven from his country, all of which time he and his company had been out at sea.. When Gurgiunt Brabtrue understood that they came from Spain, and were called Basclenses, he granted their petition and sent men with them to Ireland, which was then wholly uninhabited, and assigned it to them. There they grew up and increased in number, and have possessed that island to this very day."

There is nothing in this passage to indicate that there ever were any Scots in Ireland, or that it was called Scotia. In the works which allude to the Scots settlement in Ireland some of these facts are laid hold of; but such extraordinary and marvellous statements are added to them that they put Geoffrey’s fables to the blush.

In chapter one, Book VI., of the British History, the leaders of the Picts, who had been driven from Albania to Ireland, are said to have returned from that country, and to have brought with them the Scots, Norwegians, and Dacians. How these three nations came to be in Ireland at this time is not explained. In time third chapter the statement regarding the return of the Picts with the other three nations already mentioned, is repeated; and it is added that they seized upon all Albania as far as the wall, which had been built between Albania and Deiri, as we are informed in a preceding chapter. It is remarkable, however, to find that the materials for this third chapter, and other chapters before and after it, are taken, in some instances word for word, from Gildas, who says nothing about Ireland, Albania, Norwegians, or Dacians.

Scotia is mentioned several times in Geoffrey’s work, but if there is any foundation for the statements contained in the passages where it is mentioned, they evidently refer to Scotland, as it was the only country called Scotia in Geoffrey’s lifetime, and he never speaks of Ireland ever being called Scotia. In the eighth and ninth books Ireland is frequently mentioned in connection with facts of a fabulous character; and little confidénce can therefore be placed on the occurrence of the events narrated in these passages. In these same books the Scots and Picts are sometimes spoken of; but they are always represented as inhabitants of Scotland.


William of Malmesbury, who flourished during the first half of the twelfth century. is said by most of the writers able to form an opinion on the matter to be the most faithful and learned of the historians of his age. As he lived near the time when Scotland is said to have been first called Scotia, a name, according to the same authorities, formerly applied to Ireland. only, it is to be expected that he should say something about this change of name, in his History of the Kings of England. In that work Scotia and Hibernia or Ireland, are freqnently mentioned, and a good portion of their history given, but, strange to say, not a single word is said regarding this change in the name of these two countries. On the contrary, all that he says induces the belief that Scotland was called Scotia at an earlier period than is generally supposed; and that it was the only Scotia known to him. He certainly gives no indication that Scotia was a name ever applied to Ireland; and the passages in which Hibernia or Ireland is mentioned before the tenth century are evidently interpolations, as will be afterwards shown.

Malmesbury’s History of the Kings of England was originally published anonymously as a continuation of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, but the text in the early editions was found to be so frequently faulty and corrupted that later editors and translators have found it necessary to go to the British Museum and examine the manuscripts of this work which lie there. . This produced numerous corrections; alterations, and insertions; but it has to be kept in mind that it is impossible to ascertain that any one of these manuscripts is really the composition of Malmesbury. During the five or six hundred years they lay in obscurity, it is not unlikely that at, or after, the Reformation in Scotland, some priest or other may have tampered with them all to a greater or less extent. By examining in detail the passages of the work referring to the Scots, the necessity of keeping this in view will be evident.

In the first chapter of Book I., which treats of the arrival of the Angles, Malmesbury frequently speaks of the Scots as fighting along with the Picts against the Britons. In all he there says about the Scots he gives no indication that he. is speaking of any other people than the inhabitants of Scotland. This is very significant in an author who lived so near the period when the name of Scotland is said to have been transferred from Ireland to the country which now bears the name. According to this assumption Malmesbury should have explained that by Scots he meant inhabitants of Ireland. His not doing so here, as well as in every other instance when he speaks of the Scots, manifests that the people he referred to were the then inhabitants of Scotland.

The next passage which requires examination is one in chapter two of the first book. Though neither the Scots nor Scotia is mentioned in it, Hibernia or Ireland and the Irish are; and St Patrick comes in for a share of notice also. As already stated, its authenticity, is questionable. It begins with the words :—" But since we have arrived at the times of Kenwalk," &c. It includes several paragraphs, one of which deals with St Patrick being sent to Ireland. But as these paragraphs are only found in one manuscript of the work, this raises a suspicion of their genuineness, which is confirmed by an analysis of their contents. Take the paragraph about St Patrick. It says that he was sent by Germanus of Auxerre, at the instance of Pope Celestine, to preach to the Irish, in carroboration of which we are told that, "It is written in the Chronicles, ‘In the year of our Lord’s incaination, 425, St Patrick is ordained to Hibernia or Ireland by Pope Celestine.' Also, ‘In the year 433, Hibernia or Ireland is converted to the faith of Christ by the preaching of St Patrick, accompanied by many miracles.’" The Chronicle here referred to is the Saxon Chronicle; but the most ancient and authentic manuscripts of that work do not support these quotations. In one of them St Patrick is mentioned, but nothing is said there of his being sent to Ireland or the Irish. Another manuscript calls him Palladius, and there it is stated that he was sent by Pope Celestine to the Scots, but nothing is said there either to connect them with Ireland or the Irish. It has to be remembered that it is Hibernia or Ireland and the Irish that appear in this passage of Malmesbury’s work; and here we have the anomaly presented of an author who lived when Scotia was the name of a part of Scotland only, copying a sentence from a preceding annalist, regarding Patrick’s mission to the Scots, and calling the people to‘whom he was sent Hibernians or Irish and the country Hibernia or Ireland without ever explaining, here or elsewhere in this work, that Ireland was then called Scotia or its inhabitants Scots. Surely this is untenable. This, taken along with the fact that the passage about St Patrick only appears in one manuscript, cleady proves that it ts an interpolation, and, some of his editors have treated it as such.

Immediately after those interpolated paragraphs in Malmesbury’s History these words occur: "This monastery (Malmesbury) was so slenderly endowed by Maildulph, a Scot as they say by nation, a philosopher by erudition, a monk by profession," &c. According to the generally received opinion, the historian should have explained whether Maildulph was a Scot of Ireland or Scotia; and his not doing this here again clearly indicates that the only Scots he knew of were those of Scotland. It is almost needless to reiterate this, but a few more instances may be given of a similar kind. In the third chapter of Book I., the battle of Degsastan between "Edan, king of the Scots," and Ethelfrid is mentioned; but nothing is said to imply that there were any other people called Scots but those of Scotland. Again, after relating the death of Ethelfrid, it is said that his sons, Oswald and Oswy, ‘fled through the management of their governors, and escaped into Scotia." This is strong evidence that Ireland was not called Scotia at that period. Had it been the case that the latter name was only transferred from Ireland to North Britain about a century before Malmesbury’s time, it was his duty as a faithful historian to state that Scotia was the name given to Ireland in the days of Etbelfrid. His not doing so here, or elsewhere, proves that North Britain was the only country so called. In the same chapter we are told that, "Not only the nations of Britain, that is to say, the Angles, Scots, and Picts, but even the Orkney and Mevanian islands both feared his (Edwin’s) arms and venerated his power." Malmesbury also says that Eanfrid was "baptised in Scotia" and Oswald "had been admitted to baptism while in exile with many nobles among the Scots." "If Aidan the priest addressed his auditors in the Scottish tongue, the king explained the foreign idiom in his native language." The Christian faith was brought to maturity by the learning of the Scots during the reign of Oswy." These are all passages from the work of a writer who had Bede’s Eeclesiastieal History before him, and who wrote when Scotland was the name given to North Britain only. Besides discrediting the assumption that Ireland was at one period called Scotia, they supply data to prove that Bede’s work has been largely interpolated.

In treating of the reign of Egfrid, Malmesbnry says he "overwhelmed the Irish." Referring to the same incident, the Saxon Chronicle has Scots instead of Irish; and as Malmesbury would not have substituted the one name for the other, without giving the reason for the change, this sentence of his has evidently been tampered with. The next paragraph of his history appears to have undergone like treatment.! Speaking of Aldfrid, the Northumbrian king, Malmesbnry says he "retired to Ireland." It is noteworthy that the historian, at the end of the previous paragraph, when writing of the death of Egfrid, quotes from Bede’s Life of St Onthbert. This is a work which has apparently escaped the interpolator’s ravages; and in it we are told that Aldfrid in his youth retired "ln insulas Scotorum," and "In regiomibus Scotorum." It would have been strange if Malmesbury, with this. work of Bede’s before him, should have substituted a word indicating a different country in his time withont giving any reason for so doing. The only explanation of the appearance of the words Hibernians and Hibernia in the early portion of his work, is that they have been substituted for other words in the original text. It is remarkable to find that they occur only in the first three chapters of Malmesbury’s Chronicle, and in connection with events which are all noticed in Bede’s work. Ireland is not mentioned again till two centuries after Bede’s death. This is just what we found in Huntingdon’s History; and it is evident that these words. have been introduced into both works to support the interpolations in Bede’s History.

Regarding the country known to Malmesbury by the name of Scotia, numerous instances could be cited from his Chronicle to show that he applies that title to North Britain. One or two may be noticed. In giving a sketch of the Venerable Bede’s life, he says: "For even Britain, which by some is called another world, since, surrounded by the ocean, it was not thoroughly known by many geographers, possesses in its remotest region bordering on Scotia, the place of his (Bede’s) birth and education." In the twelfth century the name Scotia was confined to the eastern portion of North Britain lying north of the Firth of Forth. It has already been shown, in speaking of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, that he was born and educated near the Firth of Forth; and this district cannot be said to border upon Ireland, so that the Scotia of Malmesbury was that part of Britain to which, as we know by authentic native records, the name was applied in the historian’s life-time. Another instance of his use of the word Scotia may be noticed, as it points us to the Scotland of another eminent Anglo-Saxon writer. Speaking of the reign of Ethelred, Malmesbury quotes a letter of Alcuin’s about his death, in which these words occur: "Ambassadors who returned out of Scotia." By this the historian signifies that Alcuin’s Scotia was a part of the country now known by the name of Scotland. Had Alcuin intended to signify Ireland under the name of Scotia, Malmesbury would have said so, and his withholding any such statement evinces tbat Alcuin’s Scotia was north-eastern Scotland.

In the sixth chapter of the second book, the first mention of Ireland occurs which can be allowed to be authentic. It is there referred to in connection with events which happened in the year 926. This harmonises with the change in the name of the western island recorded by Ethelwerd in his Chronicle, where, describing the events which took place in the year 913, he says that a fleet which had been in the Severn went to Ireland, formerly called Bretannis by the great Julius Caesar."


Roger of Wendover, the writer of a work entitled Flowers of History, lived in the early part of the thirteenth century. Very little is known regarding him, but this much is told in the preface to the translation of’ his works in Bohn’s Antiquarian Library, that he was a monk of St Albans, and died in the year 1237. It is possible that the Flowers of History may be the genuine production of Wendover, but it is evident that a good deal of it is based upon fabulous lives of saints, which at that period were freely fabricated. This renders it all the more valuable for the purpose in view, as it distinctly and emphatically contradicts the Ireland-Scotia theory, and furnishes evidence that the interpolations made in Bede’s History and other works to identify Scotia with Ireland, are the work of a later period than Wendover’s lifetime. It does more: it shows that the character of Bede’s work has been entirely changed, as it quotes from what is now known as the Ecclesiastical History of the English, under the simple title of Bede’s History of the English. Wendover refers several times to that work of Bede’s, but always under this title.

In noticing the interpolations in Bede’s History, much has been already said to show that Wendover knew of no Scotia but a part of present Scotland. It may be added here that he never states, either: directly or indirectly, that Ireland was at one period called Scotia, or the inhabitants Scots. And yet he lived at the time when Scotia is allowed by every writer to have been for nearly two centuries the well-known appellation of North Britain. If it had been before the eleventh century the name of ‘Ireland only, it is a strange omission on his part not to. have said so, and to leave editors of the ninteeenth century to correct him in his references to ancient Scotia. This of itself might perhaps be considered sufficiently conclusive evidence in favour of Scotland being the only Scotia, but a few instances from the Flowers of History may be looked for in support of the statement.

Probably the most direct testimony that this writer considered Ireland and Scotland to have always been different countiies is found in what be says under! the year 491 regarding St Patrick. He there affirms that this saint was "born in Ireland, and in his childhood sold by his father, with his ‘two sisters, into Scotland." Two sentences further on, we also learn that "Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine to convert the Scots to Christ. Preaching the word of God first in Scotland, he afterwards went into Britain, and died in the land of the Picts." Then it is recorded that Patrick, who had in the meantime been staying at Rome, arrived, in Britain, and preached the word of God there. "Then making for Scotland he preached there." Afterwards it is said that he "passed over into Ireland," and preached there eighty years. An endeavour will be made to prove that there is little likelihood of this account being all genuine; but the fabricated sentences may not be due to Wendover, who, as a monk of St. Albans, was bound to believe that the lives of all the saints of the Romish Church were founded on facts. But there can be no doubt from these quotations that he considered Ireland and Scotia to be names of different countries at the time he is writing of. In distinguishing that part of Britain where Palladius died (the district between the northern wall and the Tay, from Scotia, he agrees with Ethelwerd, when writing of Columba’s mission to the Picts, as already noticed.

Under the year 561 Wendover says St Brandan flonrished in Scotland. The editor of the translation of his works in Bohn’s Antiquarian Library, puts [Ireland] after the word Scotland, and says in a note: "The reader must bear in mind that the Irish were called Scots by the ancient writers, and their country Scotia." According to this the people over whom King David; Malcolm Canmore’s son, ruled, were Irish, for Wendover calls them Scots under the year 1135, and their country Scotland under the year 1138, and he says nothing to distinguish between the Scotland of 561 and the Scotland of 1138.

Under the year 566, it is said that "St Oolurnbanus came from Scotland into Britain.". This agrees with what Ethelwerd says regarding the country from which Columba came, and to which he went. The circumstance that Wendover’s work was rescued from oblivion by an accident at a late period may have enabled it to escape being tampered with by those persons who wished to distort the history of ancient Scotland. When two such authors as these agree on any statement it may be taken for granted that it is very near the truth. Wendover supplements his notice of Columba by saying under the year 598: "St Columbanus, teacher of the Scots and Picts," died then. He. never tells us that there were any Scots in Ireland.

At the year 635, he says that Oswald "sent into Scotland, where he had been an exile, and brought thence bishop Aidam" It is granted by all writers that Aidan. did not come from Ireland, but from Scotland. And as our author gives no indication here that he is speaking of a different country from that already so often mentioned under the name of Scotland, it is plain that this was the only country known to him under that name.

At the year 684, he says Egfrid sent an army into Ireland; and at the year 700 he speaks of him experiencing the curses of the Irish. Again at the year 701 we are told that Adamnan sought to bring his people in the isle of Hii to the true way of keeping Easter; "after which he sailed into Ireland." It is remarkable to find notice taken here of a work of Adamnan’s, while nothing is said regarding his life of St. Columba. There is good reason to believe, as noticed in speaking of similar passages in Malmesbury’s works, that all this about Ireland and the Irish was fabricated before Wendover’s time to favour the transference of the name Hibernia from Iceland to Ireland.

Regarding Johannes Scotus, who was held in great honour by King Alfred, and who is generally believed to have been an Irishman, Wendover writes thus, under the year 883:—

"There came into England Master John, a Soot by nation. .... Quiting his country early in life, he passed over to Gaul, where he was honourably entertained by Charles the Bald, who made him the.companion both of his meals and his retirement. Instances of the vastness of his understanding, his knowledge, and of his wit, remain to this day. He was once sitting at table opposite the King, when, at the end of the repast, the cups having passed frequently, Charles became unusually merry, and observing Mastei John do something which was offensive to Gallic good breeding, he pleasantly rebuked him and said: ‘John, what is there between a Scot and a sot?’ ‘Only a table,’ replied Master Scot, thus tuining back the reproach on its author."

After giving some other proofs of John’s wit and learning, he quotes an epistle of the Roman pontiff to Charles, which begins thus: "It has been reported to our apostleship, that a certain John, by birth a Scot, has lately translated," &c.

In all that Wendover says about this Scot by nation he gives no indication that he is speaking of an Irishman, or a person born in Ireland. When writing about the western island, or its people, he uniformly uses the words Hibernia and Hibernians. It is never called Scotia or Scotland, nor its inhabitants Scots by him. We are therefore led to conclude that this Johannes Scotus was one of the people, and came from the country, mentioned in the following instances taken from Wendover’s History. Under the year 933, these words occur: "Ethelstan, king of England, proceeded with a strong fleet, and a large force of cavalry to Scotland, the greater part of which he laid waste, because the king of Scotland had broken the truce which he had made with him. In the issue, Constantine, the king of Scotland, was compelled to deliver up his son as a hostage." At the year 937, Constantine is called "King of the Scots." And at 1033 these words appear: "On the return of the most potent King Cnute, he led a hostile expedition against the Scots, who had rebelled, and easily defeated Malcolm and two kings, his allies." A writer living in the thirteenth century would surely have distinguished between the Scots of King Alfred’s time and the Scots referred to in these passages, had such a distinction existed. If Johannes Scotus had been born and brought up in Ireland, Wendover would have said so. But as he evidently considered the nation from which Johannes Scotus came to be the same as that over which Constantine was king, this, added to the others produced furnishes strong proof that Scotland was the only Scotia.


The evidence given by Roger of Hoveden is also worthy of notice; but it will be noticed as briefly as possible. What has to be said ot it is in part a repetition of what has been said of William of Malmesbury’s History. In the introduction to Hoveden’s Annals, where an interpolation might easily be made, Egfrid is said to have ravaged Hibernia or Ireland. As that country is not mentioned again under either of these names till the year 927, it is likely that the .word in the introduction is not a part of Hoveden’s genuine writings.

Hoveden lived in the twelfth century, when present Scotland was the only country known by that name. He says nothing about Ireland ever having been called Scotia or Scotland. On the contrary, he implies that this name was given only to North Britain, for he speaks of Aidan, the Bishop of Lindisfarne, coming out of Scotia or Scotland in the year 764. Under the year 883, he writes of John the Scot in similar terms to these employed by Wendover, and he refers to a venerabld abbat of the Scots named Virgillius, under the year 900. The source from which he derived informátion regarding these worthies did not lead him to believe they were Irishmen, or he would have said so; and had Ireland been called Scotia or Scotland till the eleventh century, a writer of the following century would have been careful to distinguish between the inhabitants of the earlier and later Scotland. But Hoveden evidently knew nothing of this alleged change of name, and he writes as if the Scotland of Bishop Aldan’s time was the same country as the one now so called, and the only country he knew by that name. In this he concurs with William of Malmesbury and Roger of Wendover.

It is needless to pursue this examination of the ancient chronicles further in the meantime. The same tale can be told of Ordericus Vitalis, Matthew of Westminster, and Matthew of Paris; of Simeon of Durham, and the Melrose Chronicle, &c., &c. The only early Scottish annals that can be depended on to any extent is the Pictish Chronicle; and even it, as we have seen in speaking of the Irish version of Nennius’ British History, is interpolated with passages containing Hibernia. All the other Scottish annals up till the time of the Reformation, and even after it, are considered by all the best of the modern Scottish historians to be very untrustworthy. The annals of Tigernach, Ulster, and Innisfallen will be noticed in reviewing the early history of Ireland.

There are numerous saints’ lives which contain references to Hibernia, indicating that it was the name of Ireland before the twelfth century. These, are generally filled with descriptions of miracles performed by the saint whose life is being written. In fact, where Ireland is identified with Hibernia before the twelfth century, it is very often associated with incredible events. The monks were so far wise in doing this. In credulous ages the people read greedily whatever was tinctured with marvellous incidents, and the new names would therefore be more frequently in their minds, and more easily remembered. One saint’s life—Adamnan’s Columba—bearing this character, has already been noticed. In dealing with the ecclesiastical evidence, others will be analysed, and an opportunity will then be taken to show that whenever Hiberia is made to stand for Ireland: in the lives of the early Scottish saints, miraculous events are imported into the biography along with it. The same process takes place in other writings, such as charters. It is unnecessary to extend the proofs, but one instance of an evidently forged charter may be quoted in support of what has been said. Edgar, king of England, in the year 969, "talks proudly in one of his charters that he had subdued all the islands of the ocean, with their ferocious kings, as far as Norway, and the greatest part of Hiberniae, with its most noble city, Dublin. No wars, however, have been particularised to have been waged by him; but his ecclesiastical! ones, except an invasion of Wales." Another alleged charter of Edgar's calls him "king of all Albion" and immediately after it is cited we are told about "what was supernaturally shown to the king." In "Ireland not the Hiberia of the Ancients," page 61, it has already been shown that Alban or Albion was a name for a part of Scotland only. But the monks wished, for some reason or other, to appropriate it for Britain, and so they took the pains to interpolate the early annalists to make people believe it was once called Albion.

To conclude this part of the subject it may be interesting to state that the English king called Edwin or Edwy by all the early writers, except one of the Saxon Chroniclers and Ethelwerd, who call him Eadwig, is called on a coin of his, shown in Gough’s Camden, Eadwig also. This tends to confirm the accuracy of Ethelwerd’s Annals; and makes us accept without hesitation his statement, that about the year 913 Ireland was first so called, and that it had formerly been called Bretannis.

Return to Book Index


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus