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Between the Ochils and the Forth

General view of the district—Its early history and inhabitants.

IN the ancient nomenclature of Scotland, among districts whose limits may have been perfectly well understood in their day, but are now extremely hazy and undefined, the territory of Fothrik, Fothriff, or Fothreve is frequently mentioned. Thus David I. endows the Abbey of Dunfermline with a tenth part of all the gold which may accrue to the royal treasury from the districts of Fife and Fothrif; the deanery of Fothrik, in the diocese of St Andrews, is referred to; and Fothrik or Fat rig Moor is spoken of as a locality somewhere in the western region of Fife, and extending from Dunfermline to Alloa. The title seems distinct from, at least not convertible with, that of Fortrenn, which adjoined :t on the west and north, and denoted a tract of country, afterwards comprised in the districts of Menteith and Strathearn, now belonging chiefly to the southern division of Perthshire, and extending from Callander along the north side of the Ochils to the mouth of the Tay.

Though it is thus not possible to lay down with precision the outlines of the ancient Fothreve, there is a general consensus of opinion as to the territory which it actually comprised. This may be stated generally as the country extending from Loch Leven to Stirling from east to west, and between the Ochil Hills and the Forth from north to south. From the direction taken by the course of the last-named river and its estuary, as well as the contour of the Ochils, the breadth of this tract increases considerably in proceeding from west to east, there being little over a mile at Blair Logie between the hills and the water, whilst a straight line drawn from Glen Farg to North Queensferry would extend to upwards of twenty miles. The shape assumed by this tract is triangular, or perhaps may be described more exactly as that of a cone, of which the apex is at Stirling, the two sides being formed respectively by the Forth and the Ochils, whilst the line from Glen Farg to North Queensferry represents the base.

The Firth of Forth was anciently known as the Mare Fresicum or Frisian Sea, whilst its northern coasts received the name of the Fresiaim littus, or Frisian Shore, having apparently been colonised by Frisians from North Holland and Germany. The monastery of Culross is referred to by early historians as lying between the Ochil Hills and the Sea of Giudi, another primitive designation for this estuary. These Frisian or Teutonic settlers were afterwards dispossessed by the Picts, into whose territory they had intruded, and the Forth for ages subsequently remained the boundary between Celtic Scotland and the Saxon region of Lothian. North of its waters the Picts and Scots, rivals for supremacy, but kindred in blood and language, reigned unchallenged, and their sway was also acknowledged by several tribes of the same race in the central and south-western Lowlands south of the Forth.

The ancient inhabitants of the British Islands are believed to have been of Iberian or Basque origin—that primeval Turanian race which inhabited the countries adjoining the Mediterranean, and is supposed to have formed a large portion of the population of Britain in the early days of the Phoenician traders. They were invaded and overpowered by colonies of Celts, who had gradually forced their way from the east to the west of Europe, and had afterwards in their turn to retreat before the Gothic or Teutonic and Scandinavian races. A marked characteristic in the physique of the Iberians was their dark hair and complexion, their comparatively low stature, and the length of their skulls, as exhibited in the remains that have been discovered.

These are of the dolichocephalic or long-headed sort, as distinguished from the brachycephalic (short or broad skulled) type which marks their Celtic conquerors, who were, moreover, a fair-haired ruddy race, of greater stature. Besides these two descriptions of skulls, there is the orthocephalic (straight or oval-headed) type, which seems to form a connecting-link between the races.

By the Line of the Roman invasion of Britain the aboriginal Basques had almost disappeared, or retreated to remote regions of the country, where, as in the case of the Silures, they seem, among other localities, to have composed a large part of the population of South Wales. They have left few traces of their presence in local nomenclature, though some names, like the Coquet river and island in Northumberland, and "Urr " and "Ore," as terms for water, are maintained to be derived from their language, which is still spoken in the north of Spain and south of France, and believed also to be the basis of the ancient Maltese tongue.

The Celtic race comprehends two leading branches— the Gaelic and the Cymric—and it is not yet quite determined which of these two is to be regarded as the elder. In South Britain the latter exhibits itself in the principality of Wales, and also in Cornwall, where a cognate dialect to Welsh, now obsolete, used to be spoken. Ireland, on the other hand, and the Scottish Highlands, belong to the Gaelic stock; whilst the ancient Manx language, not yet extinct in the Isle of Man, may be regarded as an intermediate stage between the Gaelic and Cymric. It has been claimed by the respective advocates of each, that the language of Great Britain has been at one time either wholly Gaelic or wholly Welsh; but there seems a general agreement that the latter tongue was never developed n Ireland, which, as regards the native population, has been exclusively Erse or Gaelic since the days when the Celtic colonists first set foot on its shores, and supplanted the aboriginal Basques.

More than a century elapsed from the first invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar before the Roman armies penetrated into the northern division of the island, the inhabitants of which are spoken of by classic authors under the appellation of Caledonians—the earliest writer who makes use of the epithet n question being the poet Lucan. They are also referred to as the Picts, a designation which has given rise to an immense amount of controversy, but in all probability signifies nothing more than the Picts, or painted people, from the custom of staining their bodies, which attracted the attention of their invaders as a special characteristic. Unlike what took place in England, the Romans established no colonics north of the Tweed, though they occupied in millitary fashion the country to the south of the Firths of Forth and Clyde, and built a wall across the isthmus between these estuaries, to protect themselves from the inroads of the Caledonians living beyond. Even thither also they carried their arms, erected camps and military stations, and constructed roads to connect these, and furnish themselves with the means of advancing nto the country. Thus, from the station at Camelon on the Roman wall near Falkirk, they constructed a direct highway to Stirling, which has always been regarded as the pass or key of communication between the low country and the Highlands. Thence, through the dense forest which then occupied the site of Blair Drummond and Kincardine mosses, they laid down a road which led northwards by the valley of the Allan to the great camp at Ardoch, and so eastwards, on the north side of the Ochils, into Strathearn and the basin of the Tay. Here converged another highway, which seems to have been carried from the neighbourhood of Stirling eastwards through Clackmannan, the west of Fife, and Kinross-shire, across the Ochils to the neighbourhood of Abernethy and Perth. They had probably a station on the north bank of the Forth near Alloa, which may thus have been the "Alauna" of Ptolemy; and they had certainly a large encampment, called Victoria, at the north-west extremity of Loch Ore, in the parish of Ballingry, in Fife.

At the period of the Roman invasion the peninsula between the Tay and the Forth, as well as a large tract of country to the south of the latter, was occupied by the Damnonii, a tribe which, from the similarity of the name, Mr Skene considers as related to the ancient inhabitants of Devon and Cornwall, and as such to have probably spoken a Celtic dialect akin to the ancient Cornish. They inhabited the whole of the district of Fife and Fothreve, besides the adjoining territories of Menteith and Strathearn. They must thus have been among the nova gentes, or freshly discovered tribes, which Tacitus represents Agricola as invading on the occasion of his third campaign, in which he advanced as far as the banks of the Tay. Subsequently the Damnonii, with other tribes of North Britain, were merged in two leading nations—the Meatre, or people of the plains, occupying the low country to the south of the Forth, as distinguished from the Caledonians, or dwellers in the woods and mountains to the north of that estuary. These North Britons were subdued by the Emperor Severus in the beginning of the third century of our era, but shortly afterwards rose in insurrection. To punish this revolt the Roman monarch prepared energetically for a new campaign against them; but before he could make any progress in it, he was attacked by a mortal illness, and expired at York in a.d. 211. To him must be ascribed a large portion of the Roman military roads still existing in Great Britain, including, in the opinion of Mr Skene, the wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde, which he believes to have been erected by Severus on the lines of that constructed by Lollius Urbicus.

The same district of Fothreve, which was peopled by the Dainnons, included at a later period a portion of the territory of Mannu, or Manann, which extended along the shores of both sides of the Forth, and has left traces of its existence in Slamannan, Clackmannan, and probably also Presmennan, in East Lothian, near Dunbar. The etymology of this term appears to be the Gaelic mu 'ft ann,3 as denoting a region or locality occupying an elevated position above water. It seems to embody the same philological idea as "Mona," or the Isle of Man, and "Emonia," the ancient name for Inchcolm. There was also comprehended in Fothreve the district of Athran, or Athren, now Airthrey, adjoining Stirling and the Bridge of Allan. The whole of the region known by this designation belonged exclusively to "Pictavia," Cruithentuath, or the land of the Picts, and was Toug the southern border of Alban, or the Scotland of the Gaels. The Lothians and Berwickshire were regarded as belonging to the ancient Saxon kingdom of Northumbria; whilst the west Lowlands, from the Clyde to the Solway Firth, and across it into Cumberland and Westmoreland, formed the British sovereignty of Strathclyde, which had its capital at Alcluith or Dumbarton

As already mentioned, the Celtic and Saxon territories were separated by the Firth of Forth, which was anciently known by the various designations of the " Frisian Sea," the "Mirk" or "Dark Fiord," and the "Sea of Giudi." This last epithet refers to a so-called city of Giudi, which, Bede informs us, was situated in the midst of the estuary (in medio sui), and a considerable amount of controversy has arisen as to the actual locality. Some have identified it with Inchkeith, some with Camelon, near Falkirk, whilst Mr Skene, in a paper contributed by him to the Proceedings of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, inclines to the belief that Giudi is Fidra, a small island off the East Lothian coast, not far from the Bass. More recently, however, in his treatise on the ' Four Ancient Books of Wales,' he expresses his opinion that the sue of Bede's Giudi and Nennius's Iudeu is to be sought in one of the islands on the south shore of the Forth, between Carriden and the mouth of the Esk. Adopting this view, we have the choice of Inchkeith, of  Icelandic myrka, dark.

Cramond Island, and of Inchgarvie; and I believe that in the first of these we shall make, as has been pretty generally done, the most likely and best warranted selection. Inchkeith is generally explained as Innis-cheo, the Island of Mist; but t may, with as great probability, be rendered Innis-gaoithe, the Island of Wind; and here we have in gaoithe the genitive of the Gaelic gaoth (wind), a word very nearly resembling "Giudi," or "Iudeu."

The Scots who invaded and settled in Argyleshire in the end of the fifth century, and ultimately gave their name to the whole of North Britain, seem for a long period to have confined themselves to their little settlement of Dalriada, in the West Highlands, and to have made no endeavour to enlarge their territory. The Picts governed the remainder of Alban, and had their capital and royal residences at Abernethy and Forteviot in Strathearn. Down to the middle of the eighth century the two dynasties seem to have reigned together over their respective territories (that of the Picts being much the larger) without any serious attempts at dispossession on the part of either. About the period last named, however, the Scots were completely subjugated by the Picts, who for nearly a hundred years remained masters both of Alban and Dalriada. Then a Scottish prince, named Alpin> laid claim to the Pictish throne, but was overthrown and put to death by his rival Drust or Drest. Alpin's son Kenneth resolved to avenge his father's death, and reassert his chum to the crown. He encountered the Pictish monarch near Tullibody, in Clackmannanshire, routed and scattered his forces, and established himself in 844 as sole king of the Picts and Scots. In the seventh year of his reign he is said to have transferred part of the relics of St Columba to a church which he had built—an incident which seems to mark the transference of the ecclesiastical metropolis from Iona to Abernethy on the south bank of the Tay. The name of the Picts gradually disappears after this from history, and the Scots are the rulers of Alban, or the country to the north of the Forth. It is not till nearly two hundred years afterwards, under Malcolm II., a descendant of Kenneth, that we find Alban, or Albany, coexistent with Scotland, as we now understand the term. This increased extent of sovereignty arose in consequence of the incorporation with the realm of Alban, partly by transfer, partly by conquest, of the British kingdom of Strathclyde, and the portion of the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria lying to the north of the Tweed.

I have considered it advisable to give this prefatory sketch of the early history of Scotland, as an introduction to a more detailed account of the territory which forms the subject of the following work, and with which the district anciently bearing the appellation of Fothreve very nearly coincides. I have only to add now a few remarks on the topography and general character of the district.

In primeval times the territory under consideration must have presented almost entirely the aspect of a dense forest, through which roamed the wild ox, the wild boar, the stag, and the wolf; whilst the few human inhabitants derived their chief subsistence from the chase. Above this portion of the ancient Caledonian forest rose the verdant heights of the Oehils, the Lomonds, and the lower ranges of the Saline and Cleish hills and others, to be crowned frequently in after-days by the circular encampments erected by the Britons as watch-towers of defence, first against the Romans, and subsequently against the Scandinavian invaders. There would be little or no corn-land, and the natives themselves, as regarded civilisation, would probably be much on a par with the North American Indians. Polygamy, or rather community of wives, seems to have been the principle of their social system ; and their religious ideas, like those of other savages, were probably of the most simple and primitive kind. It is very questionable, indeed, ifi the so-called Druidical system of religion, with its rites and ceremonies, ever existed in North Britain.

In time came a change. Christian missionaries found their way to Britain as early perhaps as the second century, though apparently no systematic scheme of conversion or evangelisation was organised previous to the mission of St Ninian to the Southern Picts :n the end of the fourth century of our era. He was, according to tradition, followed by Palladius, who is said to have arrived in North Britain about a.d. 430, visited Culross, and there found a Christian missionary already established —the famous St Serf, the patron saint of a large part of Fothreve, near and about the Och'ls and Loch Leven, and the foster-father and master of the still more celebrated St Mungo. Many strange stories and piquant legends are recorded regarding these early pioneers of Christianity, who have left m numerous localities in this district impressions of their life and work. After them an almost total darkness settles down on this part of the country, and with one or two exceptions, such as the battles of Tullibody and Dollar in the ninth century, there is almost no sure resting-place for the historical inquirer till we come to the reign of Malcolm Canmore, in the last half of the eleventh century. Subsequent to this there is, comparatively speaking, a sufficiency of information, both in written records and architectural remains, to enable us to trace the history of the localities down to the present day.

As regards the geological formation of this district, it belongs entirely, with a very slight exception in the north of Klnross-shire, to the basin of the Forth, and forms also to a large extent a part of the great coal-field of central Scotland. The coal-measures which extend through the Devon valley, through Perthshire on Forth, Kinross-shire, and the western district of Fife, are bordered on the north by the igneous mass of the Ochils, and permeated frequently by similar upheavals of trap-rocks, which both interrupt the workings of the coal-field in particular localities, and break it up into compartments which are frequently quite detached and separate from each other.

The soil of this district is very varied, the upper shores of the Forth between Stirling and Alloa consisting of fertile tracts of rich alluvial ground, or carse, as it is termed, which extends for a considerable distance inland, and at the western extremity seems almost to approach the foot of the hills. About Kincardine a good deal of land has been reclaimed from the sea, and is fairly productive—though below this, throughout the whole extent almost of the parishes of Tulliallan and Culross, the sandstone basis on which they exclusively rest prevents in great measure the development of any rich soil. In the parish of Torryburn, on the other hand, where there is a great upheaval of trap-rocks, so effective in the production of good land, the combination of this circumstance with the fine sunny slope of the rising grounds immediately above the sea, renders the whole of this tract along the Forth, from Newmill Bridge to Queensferry, as fertile and productive as any in the three kingdoms.

In further reference to Fifeshire and the northern shores of the Forth, I may here quote Pennant's remarks on the subject, as given in his ' Tour in Scotland' in the last century: " As I am nearly arrived at the extremity, permit me to take a review of the peninsula of Fife, a country so populous that, excepting the environs of London, scarce one in South Britain can vie with it, fert le in soil, abundant in cattle, happy in collieries, In iron, stone, hrae, and freestone, blest in manufactures; the property remarkably well divided, none insultingly powerful to distress and often depopulate a country, most of the fortunes of a useful mediocrity. The number of towns s perhaps unparalleled in an equal tract of coast, for the whole shore from Crail to Culross, about forty English miles, in one continued chain of towns and villages."

Though long essentially Celtic, and exhibiting in the names of most of its localities unequivocal evidences of its former occupancy by a Gaelic-speaking population, Fife and Kinross have for centuries displayed, as regards religious and social customs, a more decided Saxon tendency than most other parts of Scotland. They have always been noted as the strongholds of Presbytery; and here in the last century was the great Secession from the Established Church inaugurated by the Erskines, and zealously maintained by their followers. From various causes property has been much subdivided in this district, and there are few holders of any large or far-spreading estates. Owing to its peculiar situation, equally removed from English depredators and Highland caterans, it has perhaps been longer and more thoroughly tranquil than the rest of Scotland, and thus been enabled to cultivate from an earlier period the arts of peace. The same characteristics attributed to Fife and Kinross belong likewise, though less markedly, to Perthshire on Forth, Clackmannan, and a portion of Stirlingshire. In manners and customs, in dialect and in race, the ancient Fothreve may be said in its modern component parts to present a homogeneous whole.

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