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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
III. The Coming of Gaeldom

The Middle Ages lasted from about A.D. 500 to about the time of the reformation in Scotland (ca. 1570) and in Ireland to about the time of the English conquest (ca. 1600). The tribal bards and ollavs (scholars) of the early Middle Ages had developed a whole historical scheme bringing the Gaels to Ireland from Egypt via the Iberian Peninsula. Inaccuracy was partially a result of Christian scribes recording and secularizing pagan history and traditions, and partially deliberate dynastic propaganda, for tribes of all races often tried to have their own tribal-dynastic genealogy tacked on to the "Milesian stem": the royal genealogy of the Gaels per Se. Independent traditions of early genesis in the local areas of the tribes concerned help tell us the true story.

In this way, after the arrival of the Gaels as an ethno-tribal population, the essential racio-cultural elements of what would become Gaelic society were in place, and all later developments would build upon this basic Gaelic framework. That a warrior aristocracy minority could stand in conquest over a subject majority and ultimately succeed in imposing its language upon them is aptly reflected in the emergence of Gaeldom, for by about A.D. 400 the Gaels had asserted themselves as the dominant group in Ireland. By this time, however, Ireland’s tribal nature was well established, and the Gaels simply became the overlords of a myriad of once P—Celtic-speaking tribes, though certain of these earlier groups maintained a greater degree of autonomy than the rest. By the beginning of the historical period (ca. A.D. 500) all of these groups spoke dialects of Q-Celtic, the prestige language of the dominant Gaels. Thus, while maintaining its various racial identities, the society as a whole was streamlining, and the resultant culture can best be described as Gaelic. The various separate racio-tribal identities were, however, still of central importance in determining inter-tribal political relationships, and would remain so throughout the Gaelic period (ca. 500—1600 in Ireland, 800—1750 in Scotland).

Throughout the course of their development, the Gaels had remained outside the main European sphere. Although they had been, after the coming of St. Patrick (ca. 400), fundamental to the conversion (and classical education) of much of Europe, their Christianity remained more exclusively a matter of religion and learning, and never became, as it did in Europe, a vehicle for encouraging a revival of Latin culture (Garvin 15).

Outside the realm of Papal conformity, Gaelic society was free to develop at its own pace and in its own way. Thus were the Gaels able to maintain that continuity of tribal vitality so important to their Gaelic identity. This identity-born-of-continuity was itself a vehicle of cultural confidence, and contrasts sharply with the decline in cultural self-confidence which attended the Europeans’ relative break with lndo-European tradition. Europe would eventually develop a new identity, but there has always been evidence of psychological ill-health associated, for instance, with religious or moral inhibition initiated by the European church. The Gaels, for their part, had always accepted such Latin influences as essentially secondary, in the sense that they had always

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