The Highland region is the largest geographical division in Scotland. This region is in the northwest, and shares borders
in the southeast with Grampian and Tayside, and is bordered in the immediate south, by the region of Strathclyde. The ancient
counties contained within the massive region are Caithness, Sutherland, and Nairn, and the eastern parts of Inverness and
Ross and Cromarty.
Septs of Scotland
Scottish Clans also contained septs or branches, which were founded when powerful or prominent clansmen established their
own important families. Clans often had many septs that were often related through marriage. During difficult times, the families
sought to ally themselves with larger more powerful clans for protection from enemies and other feuding clans alike. This
practice, which often included paying homage to the Clan Chief at important events was effective in building respect, devotion
and familiarity between different families within the same clan.
Nowadays, this relationship is all but lost, but today septs often wear that clan tartan and proudly display their clan's
Some septs became so powerful that they later became clans in their own right.
In Ireland, septs were the Irish equivalent to the Scottish Clan in political and economic stature.
Definition - Clans
A clan is a social group made up of a number of distinct branch-families that actually descended from, or accepted themselves
as descendants of, a common ancestor. The word clan means simply children. The idea of the clan as a community is necessarily
based around this idea of heredity and is most often ruled according to a patriarchal structure. For instance, the clan chief
represented the hereditary "parent" of the entire clan. The most prominent example of this form of society is the
Scottish Clan system.
The Scottish Clan system had its earliest definite manifestation in the founding of the Kingdom of Dalriada, in what is
now Argyll. It was founded by the group of Scots who settled the west coast of Scotland in the early 6th century. This settlement,
established by Fergus, son of Erc, along with his brothers Lorn and Angus, subsequently had its territory divided among four
tribes: the Cinel Gabram and the Cinel Comgall, descended from grandsons of Fergus, as well as the Cinel Lorn and the Cinel
Angus, descended from his brothers. This event marked what was perhaps the earliest division of the Scots into district clans,
a practice which became increasingly common over the next several centuries. Aside from the districts of Dalriada, the formation
of the Highland clans was also heavily influenced by the seven large tribal districts into which Scotland had been already
largely divided by the Picts. These were a people of obscure origin who occupied most of Scotland north of Forth and Clyde.
On the whole, the distribution of the clans was dictated by the terrain of the country, with inland glens, islands, and the
land bordering sea lochs being the districts most favorable for settlement.
The official rise of the clan system is usually attributed to Margaret, the second wife of Malcolm Ceanmore, king of Scotland,
and the granddaughter of Edmund, King of England. During the 11th century, Queen Margaret exercised great influence over the
king and persuaded him to adopt many southern customs, such as the feudal system. Under the earlier Celtic patriarchal system,
all land was the property of the tribe. Now, under feudal law, all land became the property of the king, and was to be distributed
as he saw fit. Though this did not significantly alter the internal structure of the clans, the relationship between the sovereign
and the clan chiefs was significantly changed. The clan was required to be officially received-- in the person of its chief--
by the Crown as an "Honorable Community" in the Communitas Regni Scotiae.
Scottish clans generally consisted of both "native men," who had a direct blood relationship with their chief
and with each other, and of "broken men", who were individuals or groups from other clans and had sought the protection
of the clan.
Clans also contained septs or branches, which were founded when powerful or prominent clansmen established their own important
families. The chief of the clan was succeeded according to the Celtic system of tanistry, which dictated that the heir-apparent
to the chief was elected during the chief's lifetime. Another important Celtic custom retained by the Scottish clans was that
of fosterage, or the sending of children to be reared in another family. This practice, which often included the sons of the
chief, was effective in building respect, devotion and familiarity between different families within the same clan. Until
about the 18th century, most people in the Scottish Highlands used "genealogical" surnames, and only the chief used
The Scottish clans were distinguished by their unique dress, particularly by their belted plaids. The early Celtic tribes
were noted by Roman writers for the quality and color of their woven woolen fabric, which remained part of the everyday dress
of the Scottish people. Among the Highland Scots, the use of tartan became highly developed until it became an important symbol
of clan kinship. The early tartans were simple checks of two or three colors obtained from dye-producing plants indigenous
to the districts where this cloth was woven. Since these patterns tended to be worn by people in the same district that it
was made, they became district tartans. However, since most people in the same district also tended to belong to the same
clan, these district tartans became, in effect, clan tartans. With the introduction of chemical dyes, a larger range of colors
and more elaborate patterns became possible, and branches of the larger clans began to evolve their own tartans by adding
variations to the basic pattern of their parent clans. The extinction of the Scottish clan system came with the utter defeat
of the clansmen at the Battle of Culloden on April 16th, 1746, during the last Jacobite uprising. Shortly afterward, the government,
in an effort to purge the Highlands of all rebellious elements, stripped the Highlanders of their weapons and made the wearing
of tartans a penal offense. This edict was strictly enforced. Consequently, the wearing of tartans was largely abolished and
many patterns were lost. Once the old weavers perished, the few remaining fragments of the old patterns were lost.
The Scottish clan system was undoubtedly well-suited to the circumstances of its time. It recognized that land was not
an individual possession, but was the common property of the clan. Furthermore, it obliged the clansman to aid each other
in times of need. These attributes notwithstanding, the system was not perfect. Instances existed in which clan chiefs abused
their positions. Moreover, this system often encouraged long, bitter, and bloody feuds between the clans, and even today their
divisive effects are evident throughout the Highlands.
[ dahl-ree-ahda ]
There are two Dalriadas: that of northwest Ireland, and that of western Scotland.
Dalridia is the Gaelic kingdom that, at least from the 5th century AD, extended on both sides of the North Channel
and composed the northern part of the present County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and part of the Inner Hebrides and Argyll,
In earlier times, Argyll had received extensive immigration from the Irish of Northern Ireland (known as "Scoti"),
and had become an Irish (i.e., "Scottish") area. In the latter half of the 5th century, the ruling family of Irish
Dalriada crossed into Scottish Dalriada and made Dunadd and Dunolly its chief strongholds. Irish Dalriada gradually declined;
and after the Viking invasions early in the 9th century, it lost all political identity.
The political history of the Dalriada in Britain is traced from the time of Fergus Mor (d. 501), who moved the seat
of the royal dynasty of Dalriada
from Ireland to northern Britain. Scottish Dalriada was confined to the western coast of modern Scotland, including
Arran, Jura, Islay, Mull, and
numerous other smaller islands, with its seat at Dunadd in Argyll. From 574 to 606/8, Dalriada was ruled by one of
its most dynamic and successful kings, Aedan mac Gabran.
Despite heavy onslaughts from the Picts, the Dalriada of the Scottish mainland continued to expand. In the mid-9th
century its king Kenneth I MacAlpin brought the Picts permanently under Dalriadic rule, and thereafter the whole country was
known as Scotland.
Knowledge of the early Scottish kings, until Malcolm II, is primarily legendary.
Also called KENNETH MACALPIN (d. c. 858, Forteviot, Scot.).
MacAlpin was considered the first king of the united Scots of Dalriada and the Picts, and so of Scotland north of
a line between the Forth and Clyde rivers. Ancient Gaelic-speaking people of northern Ireland who settled in Scotland sometime
in the 5th century AD. Originally (until the 10th
century) "Scotia" denoted Ireland, and the inhabitants of Scotia were Scotti.
The area of Argyll and Bute, where the migrant Scots settled, became known as the kingdom of Dalriada, the counterpart
to Dalriada in Ireland.
St. Columba inaugurated Christianity among them and helped raise Aidan to the kingship of Scottish Dalriada in 574.
The Scots then expanded eastward into what came to be known as the Forest of Atholl and Strath Earn (valley of the River Earn)
and northward into the area of Elgin. The union of the lands of modern Scotland began in 843, when Kenneth I MacAlpin, king
of the Scots (Dalriada), became also king of the Picts and, within a few years, joined "Pict-land" to "Scot-land"
to form the kingdom of Alba.
By 1034, by inheritance and warfare, the Scots had secured hegemony over not only Alba but also Lothian, Cumbria,
and Strathclyde--roughly the
territory of modern mainland Scotland. In 1305 the kingdom was divided into Scotland, Lothian, and Galloway; in the
14th century Scotland came
to be the name for the whole land, and all its inhabitants were called Scots, whatever their origin.
Little is known about his father Alpin, though tradition credits him with a victory over the Picts who killed him
three months later, displaying his
severed head at their camp. (c.834). Kenneth succeeded him in Dalriada and ruled in Pictavia also, ruling for 16 years.
This period is obscure but
the gradual union of the two kingdoms from 843 is no doubt due to much intermarriage. By the Pictish marriage custom,
through the female. Nevertheless, Kenneth probably made some conquests among the eastern Picts and possibly invaded
Lothian and burned
Dunbar and Melrose. After attacks on Iona by Vikings he removed relics of St. Columba, probably in 849 or 850, to
Dunkeld, which became the
headquarters of the Scottish Columban church. He died at Forteviot, not far from Scone in Pictish territory, and was
buried on the island of Iona.