A service from
Scottish Origins...to William Wallace
Chapter One - Scottish Origins
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Dawn. Early man learns to use his dextrous hands to make tools. He begins
to live in small villages or communities, relying on each other for their
own unique talents to survive. In early Scotland, man lived in and around
the coasts of the mainland and the Isles. Early man steps forward to modern
From the beginning Scotland was made up of coastal settlements. To go inland
meant forest and swamp , and wild animals. It is known that the early settlements
seldom ventured into the mainland too far for fear of a number of creatures.
The wolf, notably, was the major rival of man for food. Other wild life
included Red deer, snakes or serpents, wild cattle, falcons, eagles, wild
pigs, wild boars, and large cats in remote areas, are just some of the animal
life on the mainland of Scotland. Even the giant Sabre Tooth cats, legend
has it, were still alive early in the first century. Acccording to some
this is where the name of the town of Caithness, (great cat - not a literal
translation), in the far north of Scotland got it's name.
Eventually, slowly at first, man made his way inland and claimed all as
his own. Thankfully, largely due to archaeology, we have some examples of man's
skills and travels.
Stone from Rum and Arran found it's way to Fife and southeast Scotland by
boat. Axes from Antrim were used in communities in the Isle of Lewis, the
Shetlands and Aberdeenshire. Boats came too from the English Lake district
and north Wales. Flint from Yorkshire has been found all around Scotland
and elsewhere. Communities few and far between, but not without knowledge
of each other.
Jarlshof, in Shetland, had inhabitants as far back as 4000 years ago. They
made a living rearing sheep and cattle, eating mainly shellfish and seafoods.
Their homes -- similar to those found in Crete, in the Aegean. Make what
you will of that -- speculation of a connection to Greece is nearly impossible
to prove -- but possible.
It has been said that the early civilized inhabitants of Scotland were Sythians.
Wherever civilized man in Scotland first came from is another story, so
I will not dwell on it. However, stone age man certainly got religion at
some point and those in Scotland built Cairns to honor their dead. These
circular stone monoliths and burial mounds are found in many places in the
British Isles. In the Orkney's, Isles north of Scotland, some stones weigh
up to three tons! All of this from a people without levers or rollers to
help them. The tombs, from families or tribal communities, are all over
the Orkneys. For these early folk life was hard, thus, they honored the
dead with lavish graves.
The 'beaker people' came to Scotland from the Rhine. Their name derives
from the act of laying clay beakers in their tombs. They may have built
the stone monolith cirlcles in Orkney -- so similar to those found in Crete,
in the Aegean, and closer to Scotland are the monoliths of Stonehenge, in
England. Most likely, religious or holy gathering places for the tribe(s).
On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides -- the western Isles -- at a
place called Callernish the same stone structures exist.
Later, with the discovery of bronze came metal axes with wooden handles,
bronze daggers -- the forerunners of the dirk. Bronze shields the forerunners
of the Highand Targe. Ireland was the chief centre for the manufacture of
bronze, and Scotland's early settlers were energetic seamen -- traveling
to Ireland, the Outer Hebrides and mainland Europe. The most powerful were
fond of displaying their wealth. Beautiful gold and silver, arm, neck and
ankle decorative bands were found all over Britian, showing the entire
island of Britian was inhabited by Celtic peoples.
One thousand years before Christ, the Celtic people first came from Europe;
(mainly from the north of Germany and northern France). These new settlers,
in Scotland and all of Britain, were skilled in working iron. Now, armor
and weaponry, due to these new Celts, took an evolutional leap forward due
to their iron working abilities. The Celts, (actually a type of generic
word, as there were so many types of Celtic people throughout Europe), were
the first race to use the long sword and small shield (a type of buckler
shield) in Europe. Previously, knives or daggers, short swords -- as the
Romans used -- were the accepted Roman way of fighting. This three and
one-half foot long sword put fear in the Romans. The great Roman
historian, Tacitus wrote of the Celtic weapon -- "...their (Celts)
swords of this iron materials, and extreme length seemed a poor choice of
sword to the legions until they saw that these monstrosities could actually
be used quickly and efficiently with proper training. The Ninth Legion under
Agricola, in Britain, feared the barbaric Caledonians extreme advantage in
reach, with this overly long sword."
Settlements such as the one found in East Lothian had to be fortified as
tribal warfare became a way of life for the Caledonians. Hundreds of years
before the birth of Christ, the Celts built hill forts all over Scotland.
The Celts also built artificial islands called Crannogs for shelter against
animals and invaders. These so-called floating islands were small circular
homes, like huts, built on wood pilings over a pond or body of water for
exceptionally good protection. And they needed that protection, sea raiders
(not Vikings yet) invaded Scotland, in search of slaves for the Roman
Empire, a century before Christ. To better protect themselves, the settlers
(Celts) built fortified towers called Brochs.
The Romans In Scotland:
The Romans came to Caledonia again in A.D. 80, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, Governor
of the Province of Brittania (and chief general), invaded northern England
and southern Scotland (as they were to be known). With an army of 20,000
men, Agricola reached the River Tay and proceeded to build fortifications
to keep out the northern tribesman, while his Roman fleet supplied him from
(Author's Note: Agricola's plan of campaign would be later imitated, down
to the minute details, by others bent on conquering Scotland). Agricola's
Ninth Legion built the great fortified camp of Pinnata Castra, near Inchtuthil
on the River Tay. But Agricola was called away by the Emperor of Rome before
he could organize a large attack. He returned three years later having left
his Ninth Legion on their own. This time Agricola came intent on conquering
Galloway and Morayshire. This soon led to the battle of Mons Graupius, (near
the Grampian Mountains, so tradition holds) in 84 A.D. The Celtic Tribes were
led by Calgacus the Swordsman, who before battle gave a rousing speech to his
men and with reference to what the Romans would do to Caledonia -- "...
..They make a desolation (of our lands) and they call it peace!". The
Romans drove out the Caledonians on this day where 5,000 Romans battled 30,000
The odds seem , by today's standards, to have been way out of balance in
favour of the Caledonians, but the Romans were expert and professional soldiers
and had been fighting as a unit for centuries. The Romans won the battle
of Mons Graupius killing thousands of Caledonians. The survivors fled to
the hills beaten in battle but they remained unconquered.
Later, Emperor Hadrian ordered construction of a wall (to be known as
Hadrian's Wall) erected from the River Tyne to Solway -- to keep out the
Tribesmen who continued to invade Roman occupied lands and slaughtered an
entire Legion of Romans based near York by attacking at night.
Thirty years after Mons Gaupius, after the defeat of the Tribesmen in 114,
the Caledonians regained their fighting, burgeoning, patriotic enthusiasm.
They suddenly attacked the Roman Legion's fortresses and wiped out the unprepared
Roman invaders. Many of that fateful Ninth Legion, now without leadership,
spread out and ran from their forts. The Caledonians had expected this,
and had set an ambush in the south and east of the Roman's fortresses. Over
a period of one week the Caledonians, who were used to hiding in the mountains
sprang one at a time on the confused and hopelessly lost Romans utterly
killing them all. But the new Roman Ninth Legion returned in 118 and marched
north again to suppress the rebellious ingrates and simply disappeared.
Little trace has ever been found of that famous Ninth Legion or any of it's
equipment. (There are many theories as to their disappearance, i.e. - one
account tells of the wild Caledonians filling the dead Roman soilders bodies
with stones and sinking them, forever, into a Loch).
This prompted in 122 , Emperor Hadrian himself to come to Britain. Hadrian
brought with him, enough helpers to help gaurantee some respect among the
turbulent barbarians. But he too, found that he could see no reason for
ruling Scotland. Too much trouble and too little reward. Hadrian concluded
England was quite enough and ordered Hadrians Wall to be completed and that
this wall, running across the north of England, would be the limit of Rome's
Europe. The Romans however couldn't quite give it up.
Aroud 143 the Romans tried again to suppress the northern Tribes of Caledonia.
Another Wall or rather barricade was built The Antonine Wall (also known
as Grahmn's dyke) north of Hadrian's wall. The Antonine Wall ran from the
rivers Fourth to Clyde --- thus cutting Caledonia off from the rest of already
occupied lower Britain.
The Antonine Wall named after Emperor Antonius Pius was built of turf on
a stone foundation barrier against the Picts and Caledonians. The Romans
re-occupied much of the lands originally taken by Agricola, but after forty
years Roman Legions, were again attacked, its' forts (20 of them) lost
, retaken, and lost again by the 2nd, 6th and 20th Legions and were again
forced south below their protective walls.
In the year 155, the natives stirred again attacking the wall and chased
the Romans. The Scots are on occasion, believed to be stubborn to the point
of absurdity. Perhaps this could this could be said of the Romans in Britain
at this time, for they returned to the decimated wall, and began rebuilding.
The Caledonians routed them again. The combination of boredom and common sense
eventually persuaded the Empire to leave Scotland to the Natives. The Romans
did hold England for the next 200 years.
The Romans began pulling out of Britain and abandoned work on the seventy-two
mile Hadrian's Wall begun in 122A.D. The wall included at least sixteen forts.
Eventually they pulled down the forts, but they left a legacy -- the Romans
helped unify the Tribes of Scotland by attempting to conquer them.
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