Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Kingdom of Strathclyde

I am just getting towards the end of Tim Clarkson's The Men of the North, subtitled The Britons of Southern Scotland. I sent for the book, inspired by the curious circumstance of the red and blue patches on the post-May 5 electoral map of Scotland in the otherwise yellow sea of SNP north of the border. Until I had read Clarkson, I thought that the area might match the ancient kingdom of Rheged but it is more like Strathclyde - sometimes refered to as Cumberland (the land of the cymry or fellow countrymen), the British kingdom based at Dumbarton Rock or Alt Clud. What very strange names they had, the British kings: Arthgal; Rhun; Dyfnwal;Amdarch - with a sprinkling of Malcolms and Owains by way of welcome familiarity. Some of my previous information has been corrected for instance that it is now not thought that the Scots came over from Ireland but were an aboriginal Celtic tribe in their own right speaking Gaelic not Brittonic based in Kintyre. It is impossible to precis a book so densely packed with names and dates, in effect a critical review of the latest research consensus concerning the tribes occupying 'North Britain' between the 9th and 12th centuries. I was disappointed that the reference to Merlin does not associate him with Moffat, but does cite in the bibliography The Quest for Merlin by our guest Count Nikolai Tolstoy at the Moffat Book Event on October 15. Clarkson also mentions the theory that Abington in South Lanarkshire just up the A74(M) from Moffat was the site of the killing of Cuilen, king of Alba, by a warparty of Britons led by Amdarch or Radharc in 971 - only to dismiss it on the grounds that Ybandonia is more likely to have been in the vale of Leven. My late mother-in-law was amused when, on a walk with a small boy he eventually said to her: 'Why are you telling me all this?'. I don't know what she said, but my reply is: 'because it interests me'.

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