Monthly Archives: November 2019

Fortriu & Grandtully’s Nechtansmere

A few years ago, Alex Woolf promoted a theory that the Pictish region known as Fortriu/Fortrenn was up near Moray & that the Battle of Dun Necthan was fought up there as well.  It was all very well done & ultimately wrong, as an almost too easy piece of Chispology has just helped me to hone in Fortriu, which re-opened the search for the Battle of Dun Necthan / Nechtansmere – which I have also solved.

First things first, Fortriu means river of the Fort, clearly the River Forth which starts out in the western belt of Scotland, meanders by Stirling & empties into the North Sea via the Firth of Forth, at whose mouth lies the island of Fidra. ‘Riu’ means ‘river’ in Old Occitan, a language spoken in southern France, including the region of Aquitaine.  Quite unsurprisingly there is a record of the Picts COMING from Aquitaine, & at a fell stroke we can now see at least one of the lingual roots of Pictish.  While Big Geoff describes a certain Goffar the Pict as  a king of Aquitaine c.1000 BC, Walter Bower’s Scotichronicon tells us;

After a long time had passed in which the Scots had lived in peaceful & quiet prosperity, a certain unknown people, later called the Picts, appeared from the lands of Aquitania & landed on the Irish shores

Among the Pictish King List’s names for the seven Pictish regions in their deepest antiquity, the name ‘Fidach,’ immediately resonates with Aquitane & Languedoc. We can also link the ‘renn’ variant to a river, for ‘renne’ means flow, or run, in Old Norwegian & I have covered the Scandinavian influence on the Picts elsewhere. We’ll come back to Fortriu at the end of this post, but lets have a pop at finding Nechtansmere for now.

battle_dunnichen

The Battle of Dun Necthan / Nechtansmere between Egrid of the Angles & the Pictish King, Brude son of Beli  was one of the most important of the British Dark Ages. It bloodied the nose of the Angles & halted their drive north, in essence preserving the Picto-Scottish union which would develop over the next few centuries & crystallize as the nation of Scotland. The locating of its site has been controversial, but my Chispology these days is going thro’ the roof, & I believe that Nechtansmere was fought by the village of Grandtully, a small Tayside village in Perthshire, about 3 miles from Pitlochry.

In essence there are seven bullet points which we can use to hone in on the battle site. Looking at them in 2019 means most of the evidence needs to be altered in order to compensation for 14 centuries of factual & philological distortion. These clues are garnered from several brief accounts we have of the battle as contained in antique & written sources.

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In the year 685, Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians rashly led his army to ravage the province of the Picts… the enemy made a feigned retreat, and the king was drawn into a narrow pass among remote mountains, and slain, with the greater part of the forces he had led thither.
Bede

The battle of Dún Nechtain was fought on Saturday, May 20th, and Egfrid son of Oswy, king of the Saxons, who had completed the 15th year of his reign, was slain therein with a great body of his soldiers
Annals of Ulster

Egfrid is he who made war against his cousin Brudei, king of the Picts, and he fell therein with all the strength of his army and the Picts with their king gained the victory; and the Saxons never again reduced the Picts so as to exact tribute from them. Since the time of this war it is called Gueith Lin Garan.
Historia Brittonum

In the very year that he had Cuthbert ordained bishop & in fulfillment of his father’s prophecy, King Ecgfrith was killed with most of the forces he was leading to lay waste the land of the Picts at a place called Nechtansmere (that is Nechtan’s water) on 20 May in the fifteenth year of his reign, & his body was buried on Iona, the island of Columba.
Symeon of Durham

The battle of Dún Nechtain was carried out on the twentieth day of the month of May, a Sunday, in which Ecfrith son of Osu, king of the Saxons, in the 15th year of his rule completed, with magna caterua of his soldiers was killed by Bruide son of Bile king of Fortriu.
Annals of Tigernach

Today Bridei gives battle
Over the land (inheritance) of his grandfather
Unless it is the wish of the son of God
That restitution be made.
Today the son of Oswig was slain
In battle against iron swords;
Even though he did penance,
It was penance too late.
Today the son of Oswig was slain,
Who was wont to have our dark drinks;
Christ heard our prayer
That Bredei would avenge Brega
(A poem found in a single MS in the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland,
attributed to Riaguil of Bangor)

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THE INVESTIGATION

Clue 1: Bredei would avenge Brega.

The mention of Brega suggests that the Nechtansmere campaign was linked to the attacks on the Celtic church in Ireland the previous year.

AU 684: A great storm. An earthquake in the Island. The Saxons wasted Magh-Bregh (in Ireland), and several churches, in the month of June.

ACL 684: This year Everth sent an army against the Scots, under the command of his alderman, Bright (Brecht), who lamentably plundered and burned the churches of God.

Everth is a philochisp of Egrid, whose motive was some form of Dark Age jihad, a bout of holy warfare over the date of Easter. In 664, the great Northumbrian King Oswiu had overseen a synod at Whitby, where the date for Easter was high on the agenda. The Roman Catholic Church had come up with a different date from the Celtic church, who obstinately refused to alter their traditional dates. Twenty years later, King Ecgfrith attacked the Celtic Church in Ireland. The mention of MAGH-BREGH by the AU is highly significant, for it was a centre of Easter worship in Ulster, as confirmed by the Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick;

When the solemnity of Easter approached, Patrick considered that there was no place more suitable to celebrate the high solemnity of the year than in Magh-Bregh, the place where the head of the idolatry and druidism of Erinn was… as the people of Tara were thus, they saw the consecrated Easter fire at a distance which Patrick had lighted. It illuminated all Magh-Bregh.

The Picts also worshipped in the Celtic way, & in the very next year it seems Ecgfrith was personally leading this ‘body of persuasion,’ but where? By the 7th century, only two Christian centres were named in Pictavia. The earlier site is at Abernethy, Fife, established about 500 AD, when in the Pictish King List we read; ‘Nectonius the Great, Wirp’s son, the king of all the provinces of the Picts, offered to Saint Brigid, to the day of judgement, Abernethy, with its territories.’

Dunkeld
Dunkeld

The slightly later site is at Dunkeld, by the River Tay.  Hector Boece describes the 6th century Columba meeting Saint Kentigern at a monastery at Dunkeld, where they spent 6 months together in spiritual cohabitation. Elsewhere, the poem Amra Coluimb Chille ‘Elegy of Colum Cille’, compiled soon after Columba’s death in 597, states that Columba was ‘the teacher who would teach to the peoples of the Tay’ and ‘subdued with a blessing’ the ‘arrogant ones who surrounded the great king of the Tay.’ The Life of Saint Cuthbert also places Columba at Dunkeld, but with an embedded factochisp. The vita tells that about the year 640; ‘Saint Columba, first bishop in Dunkeld, took Cuthbert when a boy, & kept & educated him for some time.’ Personally I think that Boece is correct – he generally is – & the Saint Cuthbert reference is down to the young boy being educated at the monastery established by Columba, & not the saint himself.

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Clue 2: The enemy made a feigned retreat, and the king was drawn into a narrow pass among remote/impassable mountains

Assuming that the point of contact was the defence of a Christian settlement, the feigned retreat into mountain passes tells us that the campaign was conducted around Dunkeld, a region heavily mountain’d as opposed to the much lower lying hills of Fife. Dunkeld lies on the verge of a great mountain barrier, at the southern end of a narrow valley of the Tay, with an opening towards verdant plains. The many hills of great height & diversified form in the locality resonate with the mention of remote/impassable mountains.

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dn 1

Clue 3: Dún Nechtain / A place called Nechtansmere (that is Nechtan’s water)

Focussing our investigation on the mountain passes, straths and slens to the north of Dunkeld, we find a transchisper of Dun Necthan at Balnaguard. The Bal element of this name derives from the Gaelic ‘bhaile,’ which means ‘place, homestead, town, city.’ This leaves us with Naguard, which soon transchispers into Nechtan

Na-guar-d
Ne-guar-t (an)
Ne-ch-tan

dn 4
Just to the west of Balnaguard there is a clear contender for the dun of Dun Nechtan. I found it via the brilliant Oxford digital hillfort map of Britain, as the screen shot shows. The full text of the description reads;

Haughbrae of Grandtully:  A large and complex fortification is revealed by parchmarks on a promontory formed where a stream gully cuts down through the escarpment known as Haughbrae of Grandtully, which falls away steeply on the NE down to the W bank of the River Tay some 25m below. The defences almost certainly represent several phases of construction, comprising an inner series of ditches cutting off the tip of the promontory, which was already partly isolated by a natural hollow that bites into the escarpment on the NE flank, and an outer pair of ditches with two concentric internal palisade trenches. The two innermost ditches, which are both about 4m in breadth, are set roughly parallel behind the natural hollow, cutting off a triangular area measuring about 50m in length from NW to SE by a maximum of 35m transversely (0.09ha); although the parchmark of the outer peters out, the inner terminates abruptly a short distance from the SW margin of the promontory and almost certainly indicates the position of an entrance leading out towards the SE. Further complexities in the arrangement of the ditches at the entrance are probably masked by the natural hollow, which can be seen in the parchmarks extending in an arc across the entrance and into the stream gully on the SW; it may well hide another ditch, and outside its line there is another dark mark lying parallel to it on the edge of the stream gully, though if this is yet another ditch it does not seem to extend any further across the neck of the promontory. The outer defences lie some 30m beyond the natural hollow and cut off a much larger area measuring in the order of 100m in length from NW to SE by a maximum of 75m transversely (0.41ha). The two ditches lie roughly parallel 5m apart, though neither can be traced all the way to the edge of the escarpment on the NE. There is a clearly defined entrance towards this side, and while a short segment of the inner can be seen between the entrance and the lip of the escarpment, the outer apparently terminates on the SW side of the entrance, turning inwards slightly on this side of the causeway. Immediately within the line of the inner ditch, there are traces of two concentric palisade trenches set about 4m apart, both of which are also broken at the entrance causeway and turn inwards slightly to either side of the gap. While these outer elements are all concentric, it is unclear whether they all relate to a single scheme of defence, or whether the palisades indicate an earlier timber phase.

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dn 9

Clue 4: Gueith Lin Garan

The ‘Garan’ element is found embedded in the village of Grandtully. The ‘Tully’ element is founded on the Irish ‘Tullach,’ meaning a ‘little hill’ that was a landmark, or a meeting place perhaps, where fairs were held. The ‘Lin’ element is found embedded in the name ‘Ballinluig,’ just to the south of Grandtully, which translates into Gaelic as ‘town of the hollow lake.’ This suggests that there was once a lake in the vicinity. The Tay at this point does flow through a low & level flood plain both sides of the Haughbrae of Grandtully, so its no stretch of the imagination to see it as a living lake 14 centuries ago.

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Clue 5: The Haugh of Grandtully Stone

In the floodplain at Gradntully there stands a mysterious stone, a memorial, perhaps to some unknown event. 1.4m tall by 1.0m wide by up to 0.5m thick, with thick veins of sparkly white quartz running through it, the stone was one of a pair, with Fred Coles being told in 1908 by “two aged residents in the immediate vicinity” that there used to be a second stone close by this stone. Aerial reconnaissance has recorded the cropmarks of two ring-ditches to the west of the stone, & also one to the north, which seem to be burial barrows, measuring between 10-15m in diameter with central pits. They could be Bronze Age, but they could also be markers of the battle of Nechtansmere…

dn 5

The barrows
The barrows

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Clue 6: Today Bridei gives battle over the land (inheritance) of his grandfather

The home glen of the Clan Macnaughton is basically Balnaguard & Strathtay, the village neighbouring Grandtully. Their name derives from Nechtan, & indeed the Balnaguard members of the clan claim descent from Nechtan the Great. We must also remember that  ‘Elegy of Colum Cille’, places Columba as subduing the ‘arrogant ones who surrounded the great king of the Tay.’

dn 2

 

FORTRIU

It is now time to analyze the Annals of Tigernach definition of Bruide as a  ‘king of Fortriu.’ The title essentially means the king of a united realm of Pictavia whose core was the River Forth, rather like Prussia would unite the disparate German principalities under one flag. In the 1st century, Tacitus described a number of tribes in Pictavia, but by Columba’s time, they were now down to two power blocks, North & South. Bede tells us;

There came from Ireland to Britain a priest and abbot named Columba, a true monk in life no less than in habit, to preach the word of God in the lands of the Northern Picts, these are by steep and rugged mountain separated from their southern regions. The Southern Picts, who have their own seats within those same mountains, a long time before, they say, had abandoned the errors of idolatry and accepted the true faith through the preaching of the Word by bishop Nynia…

These two power blocks were given names. Cassius Dio (3rd century) calls them the Maiatai & Kaledonioi, while Ammianus Marcellinnius (4th century) calls them the Verturians & Dincaledonus. The idea we get is that he Maiatai/Verturians were to be found near the Antonine wall, ie near the Central Belt & the Forth River / Fort-Riu. The major Pictish capital of Forteviot would herald from this time

In Britain there are two very large (free) nations, the Caledonians and the Maetae, and the names of the others have become included in these. The Maetae live by the wall which divides the country into two halves and the Caledonians beyond them; and they both inhabit wild and waterless mountains and lonely and swampy plains, without walls, cities, or cultivated land Cassius Dio

At that time the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones, as well as the Attacotti, a warlike race of men, and the Scots, were ranging widely and causing great devastation  Ammianus Marcellinus

That the Meatae & the Verturiones originated from the same place – ie the  Forth river system, is supported by the summit of Dumyat hill in the Ochils, overlooking Stirling, where the remains of a n iron-age fort can be found. There is also a Myot Hill near Falkirk.

After the 4th century, is seems that the southern Picts would become the dominant Pictish force, for accounts continuously class the Picts as a whole as ‘Fortrenese’ as in the following accounts;

1: The AU entry for 866, gives us; ‘Amlaib & Ausisle went into Fortriu with the Gaill of Ireland & Britain & plundered the whole Pictish people & took hostages.’ If Fortenn was only a small part of Pictavia, then how could their entire nation be plundered & taken hostage?

2: The Irish recension of the Historia Brittonum describes, ‘Chuithnechan, the son of Lochit, son of Ingri, went over from the sons of Mileadh to the Britons of Fortenn to fight against the Saxons; & he defended the country for them, & he himself remained with them… so that the chiefs of the Cruithneach (the picts) have been the men of Erin from that time ever since.’  Here, the ‘Britons of Fortrenn’ were named the ‘Cruithneach’ after their leader, Cruithnechan. The name Cruithin was used by the Irish to denote the Picts.

3: The Tripartite Life of saint Patrick gives us this, in relation to Fergus of Dalriada; ‘From thee the kings of this territory shall ever descend, & in Fortrenn. And this was fulfilled by Aedan, son of Gabran, who took Alban by force.’ Once again giving Scotland two halves – the Scots of Dalriada & the Pictavia of Fortrenn.

4: Analyzing two accounts of the same event shows how the ‘men of Scotland/Foirtriu’were in action as far south as Newcastle

The foreigners of Loch dá Chaech, i.e. Ragnall, king of the dark foreigners, and the two jarls, Oitir and Gragabai, forsook Ireland and proceeded afterwards against the men of Scotland. The men of Scotland, moreover, moved against them and they met on the bank of the Tyne in northern Saxonland… The Scotsmen routed the three battalions which they saw, and made a very great slaughter of the heathens, including Oitir and Gragabai
Annals of Ulster

Almost at the same time the men of Foirtriu and the Norwegians fought a battle. The men of Alba fought this battle steadfastly… and many of the Norwegians were killed after their defeat, and their king was killed there, namely Oittir son of Iarngna
The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland

5: Where Ailred highlights, ‘when William conqueror of England penetrated Lothian, Calatria and Scotland as far as Abernethy,’ we can clearly see how the obscure Calatros was sited below Perth/Abernethy. This leads to the Annals of Ulster’s account for 736, when was fought, ‘the battle of Cnoc Coirpre in Calathros at Etar Linddu between Dál Riata and Fortriu.’

6: The Annals of Ulster also record, ‘768: A battle in Fortriu between Aed and Ciniod.’ The “Laws of Áed Eochaid’s son” are mentioned by the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, & very much place, “Áed Eochaid’s son, in Forteviot.”

THE PLAINS OF FORTRENN

In the ninth century, the Christian centre of Dunkeld seems to be in spiritual command of the whole of Fortriu. The Annals of Ulster tells us that for the year 865, ‘Conmal, steward of Tamlacht, and Tuathal son of Artgus, chief bishop of Foirtriu and abbot of Dún Caillen, fell asleep.’ By the early tenth century, an area known as The Plains of Fortrenn / Wertermorum’ was being mentioned. This was, in essence, the breadbasket of the Picts in the fertile lowlands in Aberdeenshire & Moray.  In his account of Aethalstan’s invasion of Scotland, Symeon of Durham tells us, ‘he then subdued his enemies, laid waste to Scotland as far as Dunfoeder & Wertermorum with a land force, & ravaged with a naval force as far as Caithness & in a great measure depopulated it.’ The mention of Dunfoeder is interesting – this is Dunottar, on the east coast near Aberdeen, & its conquest by our very own  ‘Bruide… king of Fortriu,’ alongside other Pictish conquests north, south & west, seems to indicate the moment when the realm of Fortriu conquered the whole of Pictavia. The Annals of Ulster tells us;

AU681: The siege of Dún Foither
AU682: The Orkneys were destroyed by Bruide
AU683: The siege of Dún At and the siege of Dún Duirn

Woolf’s theory of a Moray Fortrui is based upon stanza 166 of the Prophecy of Berchan

One of the kings goes on a useless expedition
across the Mounth to the plain of Fortrenn;
though he may have gone, he does not return,
Dub of the three dark secrets will fall.

Elsewhere The Scottish King lists (Marjorie Anderson divided X-group 1980) states that King Dub was slain at Forres on the Moray Firth, which lies north of the Mounth mountain range & firmly in the Wertermorum breadbasket we have described. Just as Carlisle on the Scottish border belongs to the same country as faraway Hastings by the ENGLISH Channel, ‘The Plains of Fortrenn’ should be understood as the plains belonging to Fortrenn, & not the naive ‘Fortrenn is only plains.’ 

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OTHER CLUES (so far)

1: There is a loch near Aberfeldy called Loch Holi, which could be named after Bridei’s sister or daughter, Der-Eli. Her son was Dagart, who is reported as dying violently (the Latin word iugulation is used) by the Annals of Tigernach in the same year as Nechtansmere.

Capture

2: Not far from Dunkeld is Dalguise, whose name appears embedded in the Segais’  of the Annals of Tigernach in conjunction with a pre-Nechtansmere ‘Nechtain.’

637: The battle of Segais in which fell Lochene son of Nechtán Longhead and Cumascach son of Aongus. At Dalguise, on the east banks of the Tay, a cairn once stood about thirty feet in diameter, supporting a battle was fougth there.

CLatchard Craig: The Orrea of the Venicones

Clatchard_Craig_1932

In North Fife, a couple of miles from the coastal town of Newburgh, there once stood an impressive Iron Age fortress called Clatchart Craig. Before it was quarried out of existence, it cannot be denied that Clatchard Craig was an impressive elite-level fortress. The fort was first mentioned in the 17th century by Sir James Balfour of Denmilne and Kinnaird, who wrote; ‘. . . thair a great rock on the tope of the w(hi)che stuid thair a strange castell double trinshed leueiled with the ground by Martius Comander of the Thracian Choorts under the emperour Commodus, the ruine of thes Trinches may to this day be perceiued’.

So here we have a folk memory of an agressive late 2nd century Roman incursion into Fife, but why would Martius take such pains to level the defences, The answer is, I believe, that Clatchart Craig was once the capital of the Venicones, & that the campaign of Martius dragged them under the Roman yoke, so to speak. The supporting evidence is as follows.

THE NAME CHANGE

Clatchard Craig took its Gaelic name (clach – stone, ard – high, creag – rock) from a prominent geographical feature, a projecting pillar of rock some 90 ft (27 m) high and 25 ft (7-60 m) wide, known as the High Post, which ‘rose in one columnar mass from the base to the summit of the craig’, closely adjoining the precipice. This pillar was blown-up with dynamite in 1846 – Edinburgh and Northern Railway. With ‘Clatchard’ being a Gaelic name, & the iron-age hillfort that once stood there being dated before the Irish Scots ‘conquer’d’ northern Britain, then logic tells us that it would have been previously known by a different name.

fortToo

ARCHEOLOGY

Clatchard is/was a quite complicated site to study; the ramparts are late iron age, while a pre-Roman Iron-Age occupation is attested by pottery dated fourth century
BC to the first century AD, Two small metal finds also suggest occupation in the
second century AD, which leads us through a certain soundness of natural thought to support that Clatchard was once the capital of the Venicones tribe, Orrea.

NEAR THE RIVER EDEN

This Iron-Age site’s singular mention in the annals comes in Ptolemy’s geography, dated to about 150 AD. It reads; The Venicones, whose town is Orrea  (24*00/58°4). Ptolemy sites the ‘mouth of the Tina river,’ at 24*00, 58°30, i.e. very close to Orrea. With the mouth of the Tina being sited between the Forth & the Tay, the river is clearly the River Eden (E-Tina) which flows east through Fife to the North Sea.

Lindores Abbey
Lindores Abbey

LINDORES: THE GROVE OF ORREA

That Clatchard Craig was Orrea comes in its clear proximity to Lindores, which chispology renders as;

Lind-Ore-s

Lind-Orre-a

Lindores is a very sacred site – an abbey was established there – while the wee church of Abdie is of high antiquity. In 1300, Abdie was referred to as Ebedyn, a modem descendent of an old ecclesiastical term denoting a ‘shrine’ connected with an abbey or monastery. As Abdie was known to have existed before Lindores Abbey was built the shrine would have  bore some relationship to pre-Christian spiritual practices. Lindores was given in 1178 as ‘Lundors,’ & if we see this as deriving from the Old Norse lundr (“grove, tree”) we gain a possible translation of ‘Grove of Orrea.’ Groves were sacred spaces in pre-Christian Europe, upon which sites were built many churches of the new faith. That Vikings were naming places in the very area is supported by nearby Tayside Wormit, whose name can be traced back to Danish, and means place of worm or serpent.

OTHER ORREA SITES

On the NE shore of Lindores Loch is a small mote-hill called Inchrye, at one time surrounded by lochs of which only Lindores Loch remains. This could mean island (inch) of Orrea, for the -Rrea element pleasantly transchispers into Rye. An even better match comes with Inchyra, on the north bancks of the Tay, while at Carpow, near Perth, where a Roman fort was built that was called “Horrea Classis” or “Poreo Classis”, with the latter name influencing the ‘Pow’ of Carpow.

CUNEDDA

Cunedda has been a bit of a theme recently, & its nice to chuck him into the equasion. Just to the north of Lindores rises Kinnaird Hill, on whose summit aerial photographs have identified a possible fort on the summit of Kinnaird Hill. The name reflects Cunedda, who in recent posts I have shown was a Pictish King called Canutalahina.  With Fife being a Pictish centre, it would make sense that he had a fortress there, & of course the ‘Cune’ of Cunedda reflects the ‘Cone’ of Venicones. That Cunedda settl’d & named Venedotia / Gwynned in North Wales, strongly supports his place among the Venicones. Nennius tells us that Cunedda migrated from ‘Manau Gododdin,’ with modern scholarship identifying it with the Clackmannan region near Stirling at the head of the Forth estuary. This area is about 20 miles to the SW of Clatchart Craig, suggesting that Manau Gododdin may have stretched as far as the Tay.

Ptolemaic_Scotland
Orrea & the Tina estuary are to be found above the word OCEANUS

 

The Site of Camelot

dun 7

Before we begin this investigation, we must make allowance for one supposition, the hyper of the hyperbasis on which I shall build my case. This will be the reasoning that the two famous Arthurian places – the fortress of Camelot & the immortal battlefield of Camlann, being joined by the Cam prffix, existed in topographical proximity.

There is nowhere in Britain where a Camelot & a Camlann are sited near each other, but there does exist an area where, if we scrape away the linguistic topsoil, we may logically create a closely-linked Camlann & Camelot. The true inclination of this post is to prove the site of Camelot via weight of evidence & common sense, in order to point the way to a future excavation of the site. This, I have determined, is the iron-age hill fort at Dunhead, in Angus.

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LINGUISTIC EVIDENCE: THE LANN

In late antiquity, the Welsh word Llan and its variants (Breton: lan; Cornish: lann; Pictish: lhan) was applied to the sanctified land occupied by communities of Christian converts. The typical llan was defended by a circular or oval embankment with a protective stockade. An Iron age llan can be found in the parish of Dunnichen, Angus, on a hillfort called Dumbarrow, confirmed by the Statistical Account of Forfarshire’s, ‘this Fort seems to have been built of dry stone in a circular form.’ Dumbarrow has clear Arthurian connections, with the Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1791) describing ‘a rock on its north side is still called Arthur’s Seat,’ while Alexander Warden in the third volume of Angus or Forfarshire, tells us, ‘The Hill of Dumbarrow (anciently Dunberach), in the parish, disputes with the Hill of Barry, near Alyth, the honour of having been the prison of Arthur’s frail Queen, Guanora.’

Dunbarrow in the distance
Dunbarrow in the distance

Dumbarrow is about 4 kilometres from Dunnichen, near which is a place (and a stone) called Arthurstone and a farm once named Arthur’s Fold. A positive connection to the Battle of Camlann is  given in the Second Statistical Account of Scotland’s account that a, ‘confused tradition prevails of a great battle having been fought on the East Mains of Dunnichen, between Lothus, King of the Picts, or his son Modred, and Arthur King of the Britons, in which that hero of romance was slain.’ This correlates with the Annales Cambraie’s ‘537: The Strife of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell.

dunnichen 1

It is possible, & indeed likely if you think about its similarity to the llan of Dumbarrow,  that Camlann actually derives from the fortification at a certain Castle Hill, by Dunnichen itself. The wonderful atlas of hillforts (which you can look at here) has the following information on Castle Hill;

A drystone enclosure likened to the small fortification on Dumbarrow Hill (Atlas no. 3076) was first noted in the late 18th century on Castle-Hill (Stat Acct, i, 1791, 419), which is the hillock forming a low spur at the foot of the S flank of Dunnichen Hill to the W of the village. Its destruction by quarrying before 1833 revealed evidence of occupation: ‘on its floor was found a thick bed of wood ashes, mixed with numerous bones (NSA, xi, Forfar, 146). Its site was noted with a cross and the annotation ‘Site of Tower’ on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Forfar 1865, sheet 34.9).

dun 3

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LINGUISTIC EVIDENCE: THE ELOT

The ‘elot’ of Camelot is found only a few miles to the south of Dunbarrow, where the River Elot – Elliot these days – rises in a moss called Diltymoss, and, after a course of about eight miles, falls into the North Sea at Arbirlot. Hard by its headwaters stands Dunhead, a fortification covered by dense deciduous woodland, situated on a steepsided promontory at a confluence of the Elliot Water, between two ravines, one of which contains the Black Den & the other the Den of Guynd. In 1754, Melville made a rough sketch-plan of the site, describing it as ‘the entrenchment on Down Head Hill near Arbilot.’

dun 6
Camelot is the ‘earthwork’ on the map

Dunhead is triangular in form, precipitous on two sides & defended by a ditch & a rough wall & dyke on the other. A visit by the RCAHMS in 1956 found on the SE a bank up to 5.8m in thickness by 1.5m in height cutting across the neck of the promontory. An OS surveyor in 1958 thought he could detect a kerb and a scatter of stones belonging to an inner rampart, a second surveyor in 1966 could see no trace of these. No fieldwork has been conducted since, while an archeaological dig has never been conducted. When they do, I am sure they will discover Arthur’s Camelot. I mean, lets just look at the traces of the name in the immediate area. The ‘Guyn’ of Guynd transchispers to Cam, the ‘Lot’ element is found in Arbirlot.

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LINGUISTIC EVIDENCE: THE CAM

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There is no Cam in the vicinity of Dunhead & Dunbarrow, but there is the definite ‘Carm’ of Carmyllie, in which Dunhead stands & the Dunnichen parish neighbours. The sparsely populated parish of Carmyllie has a clear resonation with the ‘Camellian’ battle given in the Old Welsh tale, The Dream of Rhonabwy, in which a certain Iddawg places the battle near the Pictavian ‘Prydyn.’

I was one of the missionaries in the Camellian battle between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew… I was named in Iddawg Cordd Britain. And because of this the ranks of the troops were distributed at Machman. But, however, three nights before the end of the Camell battle I drove them out and I came to Lech Las in Prydyn to eat.

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ARTHUR THE PICT

Dux Pictorum: There is a swelling body of evidence that shows how Arthur was at one point a Pictish king. The early 12th century Liber Floridus of Lambert of St Omer desrcibes ‘Arthur the leader of the Picts, directing kingdoms inland in Britain.’ He then adds ‘there is a palace, in Britain in the Picts’ land, of Arthur the soldier, built with wondrous art and variety, in which may be seen sculpted all his acts both of construction and in battle.’ This  palace, I believe, awaits excavation at Dunhead.

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Garthnach: Arthur son of Igerne & Uthere appears as Garthnach son of Gygurnus & Uudrost in the Pictish King Lists. By analyzing the reign-lengths given in Poppleton recension, we can see how Arthur was the Pictish king between the years 529 & 536. His ‘abdication’ in the year before Camlann for Cailtram son of Gygurnus – Arthur’s brother it seems – totally fits with account by Big Geoff of Arthur marching through Europe towards, then turning round at the Alps in the Winter & marching back to Britain to fight Camlann the next year.

Rhynie: The Royal Pictish centre being excavated in recent years at Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, is given as Penrhionyd in one the Welsh Triads.

Three Tribal Thrones of the Island of Prydain: Arthur the Chief Lord at Menevia, and David the chief bishop, and Maelgwyn Gwyned the chief elder. Arthur the chief lord at Kelliwic in Cornwall, and Bishop Betwini the chief bishop, and Caradawg Vreichvras the chief elder. Arthur the chief lord in Penrhionyd in the north, and Cyndeyrn Garthwys the chief bishop, and Gurthmwl Guledic the chief elder

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In the Welsh language, ‘Pen’ means ‘summit or peak,’ which renders Penrhionyd as meaning ‘Peak of Rhionyd.’ Above Rhynie towers the far-seen Tap o’ Noth, Scotland’s second highest hillfort, complete with impressive triple-ringed defense-works. A definitive Arthurian connection to Rhynie comes through Tintagelware, which had fanned out throughout Britain to a series of high-status sites such as South Cadbury in Somerset & also Longbury Bank in the Dyfed parish of Penally, situated within another of Arthur’s ‘Tribal Thrones.’ Just as Cadbury was home to a grand timber feasting hall; & just as at the ‘high-status’ Longbury Bank in Dyfed Ewan Campbell & Alan Lane suggest ‘there is tenuous evidence for at least one large timber building;’ so have archeologists uncovered the post-holes & plank slots of a timber feasting hall at Rhynie.

Drest Gurthinmoch: More support for a Pictish Arthur begins with a glance at the King List, where we encounter a certain ‘Drest Gurthinmoch’ as ruling the Picts between 477 & 507. We can now identify the Triad’s ‘Gurthmwl’ with Gurthinmoc, for it makes perfect sense that when Arthur – the chief lord – became the King in 529, Gurthmwl/Gurthinmoc would have been described as a ‘chief elder.

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SUPPORTING LOCAL EVIDENCE

So we now have a Pictish Arthur & a possible Camlann at Dunnichen. It is time to analyze more of the local evidence in an effort to prove the battle was indeed fought at East Mains.

Guinevere’s Captivity: In the following extract from Hector Boece we learn how that after the Battle of Camlann, Guinevere was taken to ‘the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar.’ The hillfort of ‘Dunbarr‘ is in fact situated at  at Alyth, a few miles from Dunnichen. It is possible that Boece is getting mixed up with Dunbarrow/Dunberach, but either way the locality remains more or less the same.

On the following day, the British camp was ransacked. In it were discovered Arthur’s consort Queen Guanora, and no few men and women of noble blood. Furthermore, ample spoils were collected and shared out among the victors in the traditional way. The Scots were allotted wagons decorated with precious British ornamentation, horses of noble appearance and speed, arms, and the captive nobles, while Queen Guanora, illustrious men and women, and the rest fell to the Picts. These were led to the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar, which was then a very stoutly fortified stronghold (in our days, the name of the place endures, although nothing of the fort save some traces). There they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude.

East Mains: Archaeology has proven that a substantial conflict had been fought in the locality. A Pictish stone was dug up on East Mains, of which instance Headrick observes in 1833’s Statistical Account that, ‘a good many years ago, there was turned up with the plough a large flat stone, on which is cut a rude outline of an armed warrior’s head and shoulders; and not many years ago, the plough also uncovered some graves in another part of the same farm. These graves consisted of flat stones on all sides. They were filled with human bones, and urns of red clay with rude ornaments upon them ; the urns being filled with whitish ashes. By exposure to the air, the bones and urns mouldered to dust.’ To this information, Andrew Jervise adds (PSAS II, 1854–7), ‘on the lands of Lownie also, (the original property of the Auchterlonies) & in the King’s muir adjoining, a variety of ancient graves have been now and then discovered.’

Saint Constantine:  The parish saint of Dunnichen is Constantine, & alongside the church dedicated to him, there was also a ‘St Causnan’s Well,’ whose pure fine spring was renamed as the Camperdown Well to commemorate the battle of Camperdown. According to Big Geoff, Constantine succeeded to the high kingship of Britain after the Battle of Camlann, & on its very field, Arthur; ‘gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine.’

Battle Stuff:  Hector Boece describes ‘twenty thousand Scots and Picts,’ fighting at Camlann, suggesting a northern location far from the River Cam in Cornwall. According to the King List, Cailtram ruled the Picts for only a year, ending his short stint on the throne in the Camlan year of 537.  Among the Camellian casualties listed by Hector Boece, we read of a certain ‘Caimus,’  a clear philochisp of Cailtram, the Pictish King who ruled for a year after Arthur/Garthnach & died in the year of Camlann. Another northern king to die in 537 was Comgall, king of the Scots, as given by the Annals of Tigernach, who, “fell in the 35th year of his reign.” By this use of the word ‘fell’ we may come with some confidence to the conclusion that Comgall died in battle. The ‘gall’ element of his name also philochisps into Gwalinus, another of Boece’s eminent casualties, & one cannot help but feel that when Boece places Caimus & Gwalinus side-by-side in death, he is referring to them as the kings of the Picts & the Scots.

Morded’s Sons: In 537 a new dynasty seems to take control of the Pictish Kingship. No longer are the sons of Gygurnus on the throne, with ‘Talorg son of Mordeleg,’ coming to the throne. The ‘Muir’ element of this name could well derive from Mordred, & the fact that after Camlann Guinever was held in captivity supports a Mordredian victory. Big Geoff himself describes, ‘when Constantine was crowned King, the Saxons and the two sons of Mordred raised an insurrection.’ A variant name for Mordred, given in the Scalacronica, was Mendelgh, as in Talorg Mendelgh. Next in this succession was Drust son of Menech, & little Chispology confirms they were brothers.

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Aberlemno 2: At Dunnichen was found one of the most remarkable symbol-stones in the Pictish pantheon. It had been dug up in 1811 in a field named ‘Chasel’ (Castle) park at East Mains, & moved to the church yard at Aberlemno. Its now in Dundee, actually, its a replica that stands at Aberlemno – but its still pretty cool. One side of this wonderfully carved stone shows a battle in full swing, presumably between the long-haired Picts & what appears to be helmet-wearing Saxons. Camlann was fought on an international scale, a great civil war in which Mordred obtained military assistance from the Saxons, with the Triads telling us;

The three disgraceful traitors who enabled the Saxons to take the crown of the Isle of Britain from the Cambrians… The second was Medrod, who with his men united with the Saxons, that he might secure the kingdom to himself, against Arthur; and in consequence of that treachery many of the Lloegrians became as Saxons.

Inchyra: The Welsh Triads tell us, ‘there took place the Battle of Camlan between Arthur and Medrawd, and was himself wounded to death. And from that wound he died, and was buried in a hall on the Island of Afallach.‘ The name Afallach translates as ‘apples’, & with Camlann being fought at Dunnichen, common sense tells us we are looking for an island with orchards somewhere in the vicinity. For as long as anyone can remember a rich & fertile tract of land in Perthshire called the Carse of Gowrie has flourished with that Fruit of Eve, the apple. The Carse still retains the pleasant moniker of ‘the Garden of Scotland,’ whose once sprawling historic orchards have dwindled to only five wee woods in the modern age; Bogmiln, Inchyra Farm, Muirhouses, Newbigging & Templehall.

Fifteen centuries ago, the alluvial flood plain on which the Carse is situated was a patchwork of many islands, including Inchyra, whose phonetic ‘inch’ stems from the Gaelic name for ‘small island.’ Inchyra House is a place of great significance to our investigation. A Pictish grave, disturbed by ploughing in 1945, was discovered 100 meters south of the house. The remains were covered by a large decorated flat slab lying flat over a cairn of forty-nine water-rolled stones. This seems to be Arthur’s, for the Triads say he was buried in, ‘a hall on the Island of Afallach.’ The skeletal remains, which included the upper part of a skull, an arm bone and shoulder socket, were later respectfully re-buried without a closer examination.

Arthur's Tomb, Inchyra
Arthur’s Tomb, Inchyra

On analysing a 1959 paper on the Inchyra Stone, by Robert Stevenson, the Ogham inscriptions leapt out at my mind like striking panthers. Transliterated by FT Wainwright, of their academic accuracy, Stevenson wrote; ‘Professor K.H.Jackson, who examined the stone along with us, is in general agreements.’ The first inscription reads, ‘INEHHETESTIE.’ We can here see the word Anoeth, as in the babel-chain, ‘Anoeth-Inohhet-Inehhet.’ The true meaning of the name Anoeth is not yet understood to satisfaction, but it is given by the poem’ The Stanzas of the Graves’ as the actual burial site of Arthur.
Another inscription on one of the stone’s edges gives us the winning ticket;
UHTU-O-AGED

In the Welsh tradition, Igerne is given the name Eigr, & thus in the Ogham inscription above we can quite positively see the names of Arthur’s legendary parents;

UHTU —- AGE

Uther — Eigr

That the philochisps of Arthur’s burial site at Anoeth & the names of both of his parents appear on a single stone help us to paint Inchyra as the original Avalon. This means simply that King Arthur was – & still is – buried in the grounds.

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We have now come to a wonderful possibility. Thus far we have established that Arthur was a Pictish king & there is a good chance that Dunhead in Arbirlot was Camelot. Its now time to focus our historical eyes on the local area, & see what turns up. The results are startling;

1: The First Statistical Account refers to the recent demolition of a “druidical temple” in the parish, & the finding of a “Pictish crown” at Black Den, a forested ravine linked to the Guynd Den.

A few years ago the remains of a religious house in the parish, whose ruins had been revered for ages, were taken down. And though we cannot say at what time, or by what person, it was built, yet from the accounts given of it, we have reason to believe that it had been a druidical temple.

It is reported, with much confidence, that a crown of one of the kings of the Picts, was found in the Black-den of this Parish, by a quarryman, about the beginning of the present century, who sold part of it in the neighbourhood, for 20L. Scotch; & sent the remainder to London , with a view to procure its real value. But by some unforessn occurence, he & his family were prevented from reaping that advantage, which might have been expected from so valuable a curiosity

King Arthur’s Pictish crown dissapearing in 18th London, perhaps?

Arbirlot Stone,  recovered from the foundation of the old church of Arbirlot
Arbirlot Stone, recovered from the foundation of the old church of Arbirlot

There’s also time for one last spin through the haze, for there is both a weird stone found at Arbirlot, & a Castle Kelly whose origins are lost in the mists of time. Big Geoff called Excalibur ‘Caliburnus’ (from Kelly?), while the faint grooves running down the middle of the Arbirlot stone may have been intended to depict a sword, with a horizontal feature to the right of and adjacent to the lower book possibly representing the sword guard. Was this the source site of the Sword in the Stone legend….