10 – CAMLANN
Welcome to the world of Arthur’s last battle, of which the AC says, ‘537 AD – The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland,’ & Tennysson describes as “the last dim, weird battle of the west.” Camlann was fought on an international scale, a great civil war in which Mordred obtained military assistance from the Saxons. The Welsh Triads tell 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.’
The Irish chronicles introduce the possibility of the Scots fighting at Camlann; ‘537 - Comgall, Domangart’s son, King of Scotland, fell in the 35th year of his reign Annals of Tigernach.’ By this use of the word ‘fell’ we must come to the conclusion that King Comgall died in battle – in the same year as our seismic battle at Camlann. Indeed, one of the Triads actually places the Scots at Camlann, as in; ‘Three Dishonoured Men who were in the Island of Britain: The third and worst was Medrawd… When Medrawd heard that Arthur’s host was dispersed, he turned against Arthur, and the Saxons and the Picts and the Scots united with him to hold this Island against Arthur.’
The battle’s size & significance is given by another Triad, which tells us, ‘Arthur was slain with 100,000 of the choice men of the Cambrians.’ Camlann was evidently a disaster for the British, a calamitous defeat in which their great leader had died. Within decades the British hold over the island was in tatters, & at the Battle of Chester in 616 the Kymry were divided forever as the Angles reached the western coast. Over 600 years later when the last prince of Wales, Lewellyn, was slain, the poet Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch saw his death in terms of Arthur’s defeat, deeming it, ‘as at Camlan.’
Searching for the site of Camlann begins with an eye-witness statement, albeit removed by about 30 generations. The second statistical account of Scotland (1845) tells us, ‘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.’That sounds like Camlann to me, & that it is fought in this part of Forfarshire is shown by a definite phonetic match to Camlann in the area, for the parish that borders Dunnichen is known as Carmyllie. I believe the origins of the names Carmyllie & Camlann come with the following lineage of dark-age noblemen;
Despite being a lineage of the Kings of Powys (Wales), there are too many coincidences here not to see the Carmyllie area as once belonging to the family. Brydw is a welshified ‘Bridei’ a common Pictish name, while the names Camuir & Millo merge together sweetly as Carmyllie. Finally, Cynan appears in the same parish at Cairn Conan hill, of which John Stuart writes, ‘the cairn from which the place gets its name is still to be seen near to the northern summit of the ridge, it no doubt covers some person of importance.’ Thus, Camlann would be the ‘lann’ of Cam(muir). The likeliest translation would be the Brythonic llan, which means land.
That an Arthurian battle was fought at Dunnichen can be discerned by taking a gander at the following statement by John S Stuart-Glennie; ‘A rock on the north side of the hill of Dunbarrow, in Dunnichen parish (in the adjoining county of Forfar), has long borne, in the tradition of the country, the distinguished name of Arthur’s Seat.’ In 1881, a Pictish stone was dug up in the area, underneath which, according to Jervis, lay the buried remains of a warrior, & ‘throughout the farms of East and West Mains of Dunnichen—which were both reclaimed from the swamp or mere above mentioned—great quantities of tumuli and primitive graves have been discovered, some of which contained urns.‘
More support for Forfarshire as the Camlann site comes through the 16th century Scottish historian, Hector Boece, who writes that after the Battle of Camlann; ‘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. As proof of this account, there remain plenty of traces of those captives, as anybody can see. At Meigle (a village of Angus, the former Horestia, about ten miles from the town of Dundee) are some tombs of the dead, not without their fame. The most ornate of these is that of Queen Guanora, as we are advised by its inscription. There is a superstition in that district that women who tread on that tomb henceforth remain as barren as was Guanora. Let the experts decide the truth of this. But this I would venture to affirm, that women avoid that tomb as if it were a place of the plague, and hate it so much that they will not even gladly look upon it, and teach the same to their daughters.
The Dunbar named by Boece is not the coastal town of East Lothian, but is actually Dunbarre, a Pictish hillfort at Alyth, 13 miles to the west of Dunnichen. A couple of miles to the south of Alyth lies the village of Meigle, where a number of Pictish stones are kept in a museum in the in the village churchyard. In the grounds one finds the famous ‘Vanora’s Mound,’ said to be the grave of Guinevere herself. The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1845, tells us; ‘Like other places of the same kind, it is the scene of innumerable legends, which agree in representing it as the residence or prison of the infamous Vanora or Guinevar, who appears in the local traditions under the more homely appellation of Queen Wander, and is generally described as a malignant giantess, ‘ while Boece adds, ‘The most ornate of these is that of Queen Guanora, as we are advised by its inscription. There is a superstition in that district that women who tread on that tomb henceforth remain as barren as was Guanora.’
Tradition definitely places Guinevere’s grave in the area, but I believe it is a few miles to the south & west, underneath a tall Pictish stone known as the ‘Keillar Stone.’ It stands on an ancient burial mound, with a clear view across Strathmore to the hillfort at Alyth, & is a really special location indeed. Of it, in 1875, William Oliphant described it as an; ‘old and striking monument, making the spot on which it stands historical, though no syllable of the history has come down to us.‘ It is, one writer says, “one of those remarkable sculptured monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Scotland, embellished, in this instance, with the rude outline of the boar.” In 1856, John Stuart reports of the ‘graveyard’ under the stone as in; ‘The tumulus on which it is placed is formed of earth and stones, and several cists containing bones have been found in it. Ancient sepulchral remains have also been dug up in various parts of the adjoining field.’ The stone has etched into it a wolf symbol – which some scholars think could actually be a bear – the oblique double-disc/z-rod Pictish symbol & a rimmed mirror & comb, the latter combo probably representing a female. Now I would just like to project the following hypothesis;
1 – Guinevere & her fellow nobles taken in captivity to Alyth, where ‘they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude,’ were buried in this spot.
2 – The local tradition that Guinevere was buried in the area, under a mound, was accidentally shifted from the Keillor stone to the Vanora Mound at nearby Meigle.
By the way, if the wolf is a bear, we have the celtic-influenced Pictish word Arto – which means bear – an obvious semantic match to Arthur.
One other clue left to posterity is the knowledge that after Camlann, a mortally wounded Arthur was taken to ‘Ynas Afallach,‘ as in Big Geoff’s; ‘Even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the ‘Ynas Afallach’ for the healing of his wounds.’ This island is known today as Mugdrum island, lying just across the Firth of Tay from the Dunnichen area. My reasons for associating this particular place with Afallach are as follows;
1 – The nearby town of Abernethy (2 miles) is said to have received nine ‘maidens’ from St Brigit during the Arthurian period.
2 – Medieval Arthuriana states Morgan la Fay & nine of her mystic sisters lived on the Isle of Avallach
This is enough to suspect a common source, & allows us to make further inquiries with confidence. First off, we’re gonna make a babel-ring to connect Abernethy & Avallach.
Abernethy – Aballach – Avallach
Abarnect – Afarnach
Abernethy - The Pictish King list tell us, ‘So 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. ‘
Aballach is a variant spelling of Avallach, said to be the father of a certain Modron, who married Urien, a 6th century King in the north of Britain. If Aballach & Avallach are the same person, then Morgan Le fay & Modron should also be the same, seeing both their names begin with ‘mo-‘ & end in ‘an/on.’
Afarnach – appears in the Pa Gur poem, just before the ‘Heights of Eidyn’ mention, as in;
Though Arthur was but playing
He caused blood to flow
In the hall of Afarnach
Fighting with a witch
Abarnect is unrecorded, but it probably derives from Obair Nechtain, i.e. the Dun Nechtan of a battle fought near Abernethy in 685 by Lindores Lake (Nechtansmere). The isle of Avalon should now be somewhere near Abernethy, a lovely old town perched beside the Tay estuary. The obvious choice would be the Isle of Mugdrum, at the mouth of the Tay between Newburgh & Abernethy. Let us now link the semantics between Mugdrum, Morgan & Modron,
For me, there is a great deal of evidence that places Camlann in the region, & that ‘confused tradition’ of a battle at Dunnichen can be seen to have its roots in some very definite historical events.