The church and the highlands

" But the Sun will yet revisit the fair grove

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" But the Sun will yet revisit the fair grove

Whose boughs shall bloom anew ;

And the trees of the young summer

Shall look up smiling to the Sun of the Sky."


The contents of the valuable MS. volume entitled The Book of Deer are too well known to require recapitulation in these pages. The MS. in question derives its interest and importance from a double cause, the antiquity of the Gaelic preserved in it, and its references to a bygone social and political system. The purely philological and etymological aspects of the volume have been discussed in con­siderable detail, and from the effective standpoint of modern scholarship. Probably little now re­mains to be said on these heads; but when we approach the volume from a purely historical point of view, it would appear that our knowledge is as yet by no means as full and as particular as it should, and, perhaps, might be, in order to a proper understanding of the work.

It will doubtless be remembered tbat Gaelic entry No. 1 in The Book of Deer relates to the traditionary founding of the monastery by St. Columba and by St. Drostan, his pupil. It is here unnecessary to reproduce that brief and affecting narrative. Its substantial accuracy remains un­challenged, though modern scholarship, whose role of iconoclast is never, let us hope, needlessly as­sumed, nor officiously exercised, is resolved to disregard the traditionary theory touching the origin of the name of Deer.

Gaelic entry No. 2, the subject of these present remarks, refers to various grants of lands, made in behalf of the monastery by sundry personages ; and inasmuch as I propose to discuss these last in some detail, it will be agreeable to my purpose if I give the entry exactly as it stands in The Book of Deer, appending an English translation for the benefit of such as are not proficients in the extremely difficult art of deciphering old Gaelic."Còmgeall mac èda dòrat ùaorti nice fùrenè docolumcille acusdrostàn. Moridac mac morcunn dorat pett mic garnait accusàchàd toche temni. Agusbahè robomormair acusrobothosec. Matain macCaerill dorat cuit mormoir inàlteri,acusculii mac batin dorat cuit toisèg. Domnall mac giric acusmal-brigte mac chathail dorat pett inmulenn dodrostàn. Cathal mac morcunt dorat àchad naglerec dodrostàn. Domnull mac ruàdri acus malcolm mac culeòn dora-stat bidbin do dia acusdòdrostàn. Malcoloum mac

The Gaelic and translation are both from the late learned Dr. Stuart's Book of Deer, published by the Old Spalding Ciub in 1869.

cinathà dorat cuit riig ibbidbin acusinpett mic gobrl ròig acusdàdabig uactair rosàbard. Malcolum mac moilbrigte dorat indeclerc. Màlsnecte mac luloig] dorat pett maldùib do dròstan. Domnall mac meic] dubbacin robaith nahùle edbarta rodrostàn artha-j bàrt àhule do.

Robaith cathal àrachòir chetna acuitid thoisig acusdorat proinn chet cecnolloce acusceccasc doj dia acusdò drostàn. Cainnèch mac meic dobarcon acuscathal doratsat alterin alia ùethè na camonej gonice in beith edarda àlterin. Dorat domnall] acuscathal ètdanin do dia acusdò drostàn. Robaith] cainnec acusdomnall acus cathal nahùle edbarta ri dia acussri drostàn othòsach goderad issàere omor^ Acus othosech culaithi bratha."
Translation of the above.

Comgeall son of Ed gave from Orti to Furene to Columcille and to Drostàn. Moridach son ofì Morcunn gave Pett meic Garnait and Achad tochej temni; and it was he that was mormaer and wasl tosech. Matain son of Caerell gave the mormaer'sj share in Altere, and Culi son of Baten gave (the) toisech's share. Domnall son of Girec, and Mael^ brigte son of Cathal, gave Pett in Mulenn to Drostàn. Cathal son of Morcunt gave Achad naglerich (the cleric's field) to Drostàn. DomnalH son of Ruadri, and Maelcoluim son of Cinaed, gaya the King's share in Bidbin and in Pett meic] Gobroig, and two davochs of Upper RosabardJ Maelcoluim, son of Maelbrigte gave the Delerw Maelsnechte son of Lulog gave Pett Maelduibj to Drostàn, giving the whole of it to him. Cathal immolated in (the) same way his toisech's share,] and gave a dinner of a hundred every Christmas

;and every Easter to God and to Drostàn. Cain-mech son of Mac Dobarcon (otter's son) gave [Alterin alia bhethe na cemone as far as the birch-tree between the two Alterins. Domnall and .Cathal gave Etdanin to God and to Drostàn. ;Cainnech and Domnall and Cathal immolated all tthese offerings to God and to Drostàn from beginning to end in freedom from mormaer and from toisech to (the) day of judgment."

With regard to the place-names mentioned in tthese various grants, some have been identified under their modern (and much corrupted) appella­tions ; others may be classed as doubtful; whilst a [few have hitherto baffled all attempts at their interpretation. It is with the personal names, however, that we are here to be concerned; and as their appearance in tabular form might con­siderably facilitate reference, and free the text of some unnecessary details, I shall now proceed- to set down the names in the order in which they occur in the grants, omitting, however, all mention of the various donations associated with these 'patronymics.

1. Comgeall son of Ed.

1 2. Moridach son of Morcunn.

I _ 3. Matain son of Caerell.

  1. Culi son of Baten.

  2. Domnall son of Girec.

  3. Maelbrigte son of Cathal.

  4. Cathal son of Morcunt.

  5. Domnall son of Ruadri. I 9. Malcolm son of Culeon.

I 10. Maelcoluim son of Cinaed.

  1. Maelcoluim son of Maelbrigte.

  2. Maelsnechte son of Lulog.

  3. Domnall son of Mac Dubbacin.

  4. Cathal (presumably the son of Morcunt above mentioned).

  5. Cainnech son of Mac Dobarcon.

The remaining grants, etc., are obviously by persons whose names have already appeared in this list.

The question naturally arises, who were these several personages who testified their devotion to the Church by giving grants of land, etc., to St. Columcille and St. Drostan? Unfortunately for our purpose, the entries are managed in such a way as cannot fail to leave us in considerable doubt and perplexity on that head. A cursory inspection of the entries might lead to the opinion that they were all made simultaneously, inasmuch as the expression "to Columcille and to Drostan" or "to Drostan" alone prevails throughout; but this conjecture is by no means supported either by the names of the donors themselves (some of whom have been recognised as historical personages), or by the subsequent entries in The Book of Deer. The monastery of Deer was founded during the lifetime of Bede the Pict, who " flourished " some time during the sixth century, and the last entry which its Book or record contains is the copy of a Latin charter by David I.; so that, roughly speaking, we have here a period of over five hundred years, within which we are required to determine the dates of the various grants, as well as to solve the problem of the respective identities of the donors—no easy task, as a reference to the Book itself, and some little consideration of its apparently casual—if not careless—system of regis­tration will abundantly prove.

In entry No. 2, the first grant recorded is that by Comgeall, son of Ed, who may safely be regarded as a Mormaer of Buchan, on the authority of the text itself, which explicitly states "and it was he that was Mormaer". The absence of a more de­finite statement touching his identity is, of course, regrettable; but inasmuch as Deer was situated almost in the heart of Buchan, we are at liberty to conclude that the place of honour in the entries _ would naturally have been assigned to the rulers of that province, as, of course, the monastery's principal benefactors, and more especially considering the munificence and piety displayed by a former Mormaer of Buchan—Bede the Pict, to wit. Be­sides, writing for natives of Buchan, and from a monastery situated well within the confines of that province, it probably would not have occurred to the author or authors of the entries that any further specification was necessary. The expression, " and it was he that was Mormaer and Toiseach," un­doubtedly sufficiently explains itself, in the sense that it would seemingly necessarily refer to Buchan rulers and to local dignitaries only.

Moridach son of Morcunn was evidently Toiseach of Buchan in the time of the above-mentioned Com­geall, flourishing contemporaneously with him.

What period of time elapsed between this entry and the one following it is impossible to say; but for my part I am inclined to regard Matain son of Caerell—the next mentioned—as another Mormaer of Buchan, more especially as Altere has been identified as Altrie, "about two miles westward from the church of Deer".1

1 Moreover, the refer­ence to "the Mormaer's share in Altere" naturally disposes one to regard this gift as one on the part of a Buchan ruler, especially in the absence of any reference or allusion seeming to justify a different

1 The Booh of Deer. Spalding Ciub. Preface, p. 50.

opinion. I regard Culi son of Baten as Toiseach of Buchan under the above-mentioned Matain.

The next grants are those by Domnall son of Girec, and Maelbrigte son of Cathal—it will be observed that the entries tend to run in couples— who, also, I am inclined to regard as Mormaer and Toiseach of Buchan, respectively. Pett in Mulenn, signifying the portion of the Mill, was probably a local place-name. There is certainly nothing singu­lar about it, or that calls for particular remark, a mill and its landed appurtenances being a common, because deemed a necessary, appanage to Celtic and mediaeval monasteries.

Cathal son of Morcunt (Morcunn—later, Mor-gund) seems to have succeeded (possibly) his father (the above-mentioned Toiseach of Buchan under Comgeall') in the Mormaership of Buchan; for in the next grant we read that " Cathal son of Mor­cunt gave Achad naglerech to Drostàn". This entry, however, is not coupled with another, the explanation of which might be that Cathal son of Morcunt was Toiseach only, as Dr. Stuart evidently thought, though what grounds he had for this opinion I am unable to say. Possibly he regarded the improbability of a son's succeeding to his father, under the Celtic system, as ground enough for the view which he held.

The next grants are those by Domnall son of Ruadri, and Maelcoluim son of Culeon, whom I regard as Mormaer and Toiseach of Buchan, re­spectively.

Dr. MacBain, however, is inclined to think that this Donald or Domnall son of Ruadri was Mormaer of Moray;1 but I think he has been misled by a

1 Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. ri, p. 151.

certain similarity in respect of names. I could produce at least a dozen Domnalls sons of Ruadris (and vice versa) from the Irish genealogies of differ­ent families ; and was there not a Ruadri Mormaer of Marr,1 who also may possibly have had a Donald for his father? Domnall son of Ruadri was cer­tainly " the first Moravian Mormaer we have record of," if the Irish pedigrees are to be set aside, which, in these days, I am by no means prepared to assent to. But I think the next grant in The Book of Deer (entry No. 2) sufficiently disproves Dr. MacBain's theory; for it is one on the part of Malcolm the son of Kenneth, i.e., Malcolm II.; to be followed by one on the part of an individual who was undoubtedly Mormaer of Moray, viz., Malcolm (Maelcoluim) " son of Maelbrigte," whose death as "King of Alban" in 1029 is recorded by Tighe-arnach. This grant is followed by one on the part of another Moray Mormaer, Malsnectan son of Lulach—"Maelsnechte son of Lulog" -who suc­ceeded MacBeth on the throne of Scotland, and who died in 1085 in possession of the Moray Mormaership.

Thus, after divers grants on the part of the Buchan Mormaers, we find the King of Scotland (Malcolm II.) intervening as superior over the local rulers, and granting " the king's share," as the MS. states, out of the tribal lands. Next in rank to the Kings of Alba we should naturally expect to find the Mormaers of Moray, who wielded so vast a power that they were sometimes confused, especi­ally by the Irish annalists, with the Kings of Scotland proper. The Moray Mormaers even disputed the succession to the throne (of Scotland) with the line

'Ruadri, Mormaer of Marr, appears as witness to a later grant (temp. David I.) to the monastery of Deer.

of Atholl; and in the persons of MacBeth and Malsnectan succeeded in making good that claim.

It may be enquired at this conjuncture, "by what right did the Moray Mormaers interfere in the domestic affairs of Buchan?" "If the lands conveyed by them (i.e., the above-mentioned Mormaers) were in the neighbourhood of Deer, as is likely, it is not easy to understand how the Mormaers of Moray, as such, could have any title in a province obviously subject to their rivals, the Kings of Alba. No such local names as the Delerc or Pett Malduib are now to be found in the district, but if the lands consisted of small portions, which afterwards were merged in larger possessions with definite names, this could hardly be expected. It does not seem likely that the lands were isolated fields lying in Moray, and at a distance from the monastery; nor do I think the difficulty is removed by Mr. Robertson's remark,' ' that the grants of Malcolm mac Malbride and of Lulach's son Malsnechtan, would appear to mark the tenacity with which the family of Moray clung to their claim of exercising proprietary rights in that province (Moray) in which both the kings who sprang from their race met their death,' as the province of Moray was always confined within the limits of the Spey as its southern boundary."I have no doubt whatever that the lands gifted by the Moray Mormaers were in Buchan, and in the neighbourhood of the monastery of Deer, as all the other lands so gifted appear to have been. The explanation of the appearance of these Moray names lies, no doubt, in the fact that both the Mormaers mentioned claimed sovereign power, the


1 Scotland under her Early Kings, vol. ii., p. 500.

2 Dr. Stuart's Preface, p. 52.

last-mentioned being actually King of Scotland for a short period; and it was probably during his reign that the grant alluded to was made. The first-mentioned, Malcolm son of Malbride, was styled "King of Alba" by Tighearnach, who records his death in 1029; and though it is no doubt true that "the province of Moray was always confined within the limits of the Spey," yet as " King of Alba " the Mormaer of Moray would doubtless possess certain rights and privileges (which he could remit, if so inclined) beyond the limits of his proper territory. Indeed, it would be extremely difficult to account for the appearance of these Moray names on any other hypothesis. The idea that the lands gifted by these Mormaers lay outside the confines of the territory of the Buchan rulers is not to be lightly accepted, "especially as the above-mentioned would appear to be the only two Moray names associated with the grants recorded in The Book of Deer. Nor do I think it at all likely that the grants made by the Moray Mormaers constituted some part of their property lying within the marches of Buchan; and any theory based on that presumption would neces­sarily require to be supported by the strongest evidence, considering the then state of society, and the strict and jealous manner in which the tribal possessions were guarded under the Celtic system.

Dr. MacBain says that "' the King of Scotland grants his share of the same lands'. This may mean that he remits his exactions as Ardri, while the Mormaer and Toiseach at the same time remit theirs, but it may also be a confirmation of the 'King of Moray's grant'." This last statement is hardly supportable, and is in singular contrast to Dr. MacBain's former utterance, viz., " it must be remembered that the Mormaer of Moray was during the eleventh century often called ' King of Moray,'1 that is of the North (West X); he was even called ' King of Alba,' and in the person of MacBeth he was actually such. Hence the Mormaer of Moray may here intervene as superior or king over the Mormaer of Buchan." It is extremely unlikely that the King of Scotland would have been called in to endorse a grant by a Mormaer of Moray, and the whole history of that province, which remained independent until the suppression of the Earldom in the beginning of the reign of David I.,2 is averse from any such theory. The probability rather is that Malcolm son of Malbride (King of Alba)

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