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Ui Neill and Dal Riata Cen�ls

The Dal Riata Cen�ls and the Ui Neill

The following extracts from the Annals of Ulster, Annals of Tigernach, and Chronicon Scotorum record the earliest examples of the Gaelic word Cen�l (nominative plural cen�la) found primarily amongst the Ui Neill in Ireland and the people of Dal Riata in Scotland. Eoin MacNeill has pointed out, the names in Cen�l, Clann and Sil, all of which denote descent from an ancestor living within the documentary period, appear late in the chronological series of nomenclature types and only after those in Ui. These names and those in Ui refer to septs, dynastic families, and not to tribes. The Ui names (Latinised as nepotes) generally refer to an ancestor who lived or was presumed to have lived in the fifth century or later. Apparent exceptions to this rule are the Ui Brigte of the Deisi and the Ui Bairrche of Leinster, whose names are said to claim descent from a goddess (though the Ui Bairrche certainly later regarded themselves as a sept within the Laginian dynastic group descended from Cathair), and the Ui moccu Uais of Airgialla, if such be the correct original form of their name.

Cen�l can mean 'race', �kindred� or 'descendants' and was generally applied to a larger group of septs with aristocratic families of royal blood, who were careful to preserve their genealogies and had extensive territorial power. In the Irish annals, it makes its first appearance in the west of Ulster, where the annals record a battle fought in AD 563 between the Cruithin at Moin Daire Lothair, where Cen�l E�gain and Cen�l Conaill were hired by the Cruithin King Baet�n son of Cenn. In the Gaelic text, both the Annals of Tigernach and Chronicon Scotorum employ the word cen�l to describe the kindred of Eogan and of Conall, whilst the Latin word �Genus� is used in the Annals of Ulster. The phrase �n-Uib Neill in Tuaisceirt� is thought to have been added later to the text, as the battle is clearly said to have been fought between Cruithin themselves. From about 600 onwards, we find cen�l applied to other kindred groups, e.g. the Cen�l Cairpri, Cen�l Maine and Cen�l Loegaire of the Ui Neill, and further divisions within the Cen�l E�gain, namely, the Cen�l mBinning, Cen�l Feradaigh and Cen�l Meic Erca, and in the Cen�l Conaill, the Cen�l B�gaine and Cen�l Lugdach.

In the west of Scotland, almost from their first appearance in the Irish Annals and Genealogies, Scottish Dal Riata formed a dynastic hegemony of sub-kingdoms that were defined as being cen�l. In the Cethri primchen�la Dail Riata, a genealogical tract dating from the early eight century, the �four chief principal cen�ls of Dal Riata� comprised the Cen�la Gabr�in, Comgaill, Loairn and Oengus. These sub-kingdoms formed a group of sea-faring peoples with an identity that might not have been much older than the second half of the fifth century and the first half the sixth century, when the eponymous ancestors of each, respectively, Gabr�in, Comgaill, Loairn and Oengus, would have lived and reigned. The obits of two can be approximately dated by the annals. In the Annals of Ulster, Comgaill son of Domangart is given obits of uncertain date, 538, 543 and 543, and his brother Gabr�in two dates, 558 and 559.

It has been convincingly demonstrated by John Bannerman (SHD), David Dumville (CPDR), James Fraser (DRCR) and others that Loairn and Oengus reigned as kings, at least two generations earlier than Comgaill and Gabr�in, and significantly, the Cen�l Loairn are the first of the four cen�la to appear in the Irish Annals. In AD 678, it is reported that the Cen�l Loairn, under their leader Farcher Fota of the Cen�l Echdach, a branch of the Cen�l Loairn, were defeated by the Britons at a location called T�riu. By then, the Cen�l Loairn hegemony had sub-divided into at least three distinct branches, Cen�l Echdach, Cen�l Cathboth and Cen�l Salaich, a pattern mirrored in NW Ireland, where the Cen�l Meic Erca, Cen�l Feradaigh and Cen�l mBinning emerge as new sub-branches within the Cen�l E�gain hegemony. The eponym of the kindred, E�gain son of Niall, is believed to have lived as a contemporary of Loairn and his brother, Oengus, and Fergus m�r, grandfather of Comgaill and Gabr�in. The territory of Cen�l Loairn has been identified as covering Upper and Mid Lorn divided by Loch Etive, and the rest located west of Loch Awe and north of Lochs Melfort and Avich in the northern half of Argyll.

In the southern half of Argyll, the Cen�l Comgaill and Cen�l Gabr�in came to dominate distinct territories, the Cen�l Comgaill are identified with the district of Cowal and Isles of Bute, and the Cen�l Gabr�in in the Kintryre and Knapdale. Importantly, during the seventh century, these two kindred appear to have been the same people known as the Corcu R�ti, who gave their name to D�l Riata, which extended across the Irish Sea between the northern part of Co. Antrim in Ireland and the west of Scotland. The people of D�l Riata take their name from the legendry founder Reti or Reuda (the name known to Bede), and with the Old Gaelic D�l meaning �portion� or �share�, it refers to Reti�s portion or share. The Gaelic term Corcu, now archaic and obsolete was applied collectively to a people usually identified amongst an older population in Ireland. Mac Neill has noted it is a common generic term equivalent to D�l, found in names like D�l Riata. The transition from corcu to cen�l appears to mark an important cultural and linguistic shift amongst the people of D�l Riata that may have commenced in the seventh century or even earlier. Significantly, it may well be within our grasp to advance further research to understand the internal and external influences that were played out at the court of the kings of the Corcu R�ti, before and after the arrival of St. Columba in c.562.

There is little conclusive evidence to support the case that the Corcu R�ti dominated the people of Loairn prior to 695, though, the defeat of Domnall Brecc in Calathros in 636 may represent an attempt. It is, therefore, possible that in Argyll the forging of the familiar kingdom of D�l Riata from earlier district nations like the Corcu R�ti and Cen�l Loairn was a phenomenon mainly of the seventh century in line with architectural developments at Dunadd (FCPS). Similarly, the reference to the Cen�l Gabr�in in the Vita Columbae, written by Adomn�n of Iona almost a century after the saint�s death in 597, is probably an anachronism. It refers to �Ioan mac Conaill mac Domnaill, who belonged to the royal lineage of Cen�l Gabr�in�, a man credited with being a contemporary of Aed�n son of Gabr�in, king of D�l Riata, who died in 603 (LSC, book II, 22). The identity of Ioan grandson of Domnaill cannot be reconciled from extant genealogies, and even though Gabr�in is claimed to have had a son called Domnaill, Ioan�s lineage makes him a grandson of Domnaill. If the same Domnaill son of Gabr�in, Ioan is likely to have lived several generations after Columba and probably more recent to Adomn�n of Iona.

Modern historians in Scotland and Ireland are divided over whether an actual migration or conquest took place with some suggesting, the story simply reflects a long traditional history of movement on either side of the Irish Sea between its people, the Dalradian. For what they are worth, the same legendry stories that speak of migrations and conquests from Ireland with the same token identify one point of origin in Ireland, the northern part of Co. Antrim facing Scotland, which is the shortest point of travel by sea between Scotland and Ireland. In his De Exidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain), Gildas identified this people as Scots from the northwest of Scotland, who with the Picts in the northern part of Scotland, harrowed the Britons in Southern Scotland and England. These Scots, the Scotti of the Classical writings can hardly be any other than the Corcu R�ti of Dal Riata. However, these traditions do not explain how and when the people of Scottish Dal Riata first adopted cen�l as a kindred name associated with specific dynasties!

The political ties between the Corcu R�ti and the Ui Neill come to the fore at the Convention of Drum Cett held c.575 or as Richard Sharpe has highlighted, more likely to have taken place after the death of B�et�n mac Ninnedo, king of the Conaill and of the northern Ui Neill, in 586 or in 597, when Aed son of Ainmire was apparently High King of Ireland (LSC, note 204). Also present at this Convention were Aed�n son of Gabr�in, king of Dal Riata, St. Columba, abbot of Iona, and a number of other lessor kings, nobles and clerics. For Aed�n son of Gabr�in, it seems a dispute had arisen over the payment of tribute and the obligation to raise an army of fighting men to serve the High King of Ireland. Although, the facts of the dispute are known only in later medieval sources, the judgement reached at the Convention points to a settlement, whereby Aed�n appears to have secured an exemption from the payment of tribute to Aed son of Ainmire, High King of Ireland, which he had attempted to impose on the men of Scottish Dal Riata. However, their obligation to provide and raise a fleet of seafaring men continued, whilst, the men of Dal Riata in Ireland continued to pay tribute and levy a fighting land army, if summoned by the High King. When the men of Dal Riata became a client kingdom of the High Kings of Ireland is unclear, but it seems the outcome agreed at Druim Cett favoured the men of Dal Riata in Scotland, by freeing them from dues and payments that were otherwise imposed on the men of Dal Riata in Ireland. It is unclear, though, if the obligation to raise a fleet included the Cen�l Loairn.

The obligation to raise a fleet was probably already in place and customary by the time Colm�n Bec son of Diarmait of the southern Ui Neill joined the fleet of Conaill son of Comgall, king of D�l Riata, on his maritime expedition into Iardoman c.568. Historians usually identify Iardoman as the Inner Hebrides, stretching from Skye in the north to Islay in south. In the Annals of Roscrea, the raid into Iardoman is said to have been directed against Soil and �le, respectively, the Island of Seil, Gaelic Saoil, in the territory of Loairn, and the Island of Islay in the territory of the people of Oengus. If this notation is correct, this raid may have been an attempt by Conaill with the aid of Colm�n Bec to subdue the Cen�l Loairn and Cen�l Gabr�in. This raid occurred about six years after saint Columba had been exiled from the Cen�l Conaill in Co. Donegal and after his journey, he found refuge at the court of Conaill son of Comgall. It may have been about this time, Conaill gave the Island of Iona to Columba for the purpose of building his monastery. Significantly, the Island of Iona is located in the territory belonging to the Cen�l Loairn. With the founding of Iona, it brought closer ties between the people of NW Ireland and the west of Scotland.

Dal Riata in Ireland is located in an important maritime route to Scotland and vessels sailing between both countries, would have crossed via this northern passage taking other peoples associated with the northern Ui Neill to and from Scotland. This has created an opening for a genetic foot print that modern researchers are attempting to follow amongst the clans and family surnames of Scotland and Ireland. For example, within the R-M222 Haplogroup, a subclade of the DF49 Haplogroup, from the thirteenth century onwards several sub-branches appear in different parts of Scotland, where there are historical connections with the old kingdom of Dal Riata. Branches of the DF85 can be found in the Isles of Bute (McConachie) and Galloway (McGhie), the FGC4133 (Milligan/Grierson), who first appear in the district of Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire, whilst an important branch of the S603 is associated with the Clan Donnachaidh in Perthshire. These branches share a common ancestry with parallel branches found in the northwest of Ireland and these include, the O�Donnells and O�Dohertys. See the following link for the R-M222 triangulation:

Scots-Irish Seaboard

The following is a list of nearly all the cen�l entries found in the annals down until 752, when the last of the Dalradian dynasties is defined by this term. A detailed list of Scottish references found in the Irish annals can be accessed in the Index page, where I have extracts from the fifth century.

SHD: Studies in the History of Dalriada by John Bannerman.
CPDR: Cethri primchen�la Dail Riata by David Dumville in Scottish Gaelic Studies, Vol. 20.
DRCR - Dux Reuda and the Corcu R�ti by James E. Fraser in Rannsachadh na Gaidhlig 3.
FCPS - From Caledonia To Pictland Scotland To 795 by James E Fraser.
EIPG - Early Irish Population-Groups: Their Nomenclature, Classification, and Chronology by John Mac Neill in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 29.
LSC � Life of St. Columba by Adomn�n of Iona, translated by Richard Sharpe.
ATWL � �� and they won land among the Picts by friendly treaty or the sword� by Cormac McSparron and Brian Williams in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 141.
AU - Annals of Ulster.
AT - Annals of Tigernach.
CS - Chronicon Scotorum.


AT 562

Cath Mona Daire Lothair for Cruithnib ria n-Uib Neill in tuaiscirt,a n-dorcratar .uii. righ Cruithnech im Aed m-Brecc. Baedan mac Cuind co n-dib Chruithnib nod-fig fri Cruithniu, & Cenel n-Eoghain & Conaill nod-fichset conducti mercede na Lea & Arda Eolairg.

The battle of M�in Daire Laothair gained over the Picts by the U� N�ill of the north, wherein fell seven Pictish kings, including Aodh Brecc. Baet�n son of Conn, with two Picts fought it against the Picts, and the Kindred of Eogan and of Conall, hired by the recompense of the Lea and Ard Eolairg.

CS 563

Cath Mona Daire Lothair for Cruithnechaibh re hUibh N�ll an tuaisgirt d� a ttorcrattar .uii. righ Cruithne um Aedh m-Brec. Baetan mac Cuind co ndibh Cruitnibh no fig fri Cruithne et Cinel nEoghain et Conaill no figset, conducti mercede na Lea & Ard Eolairg.

The battle of M�in Daire Lothair won over the Cruithin by the U� N�ill of the North, in which fell seven kings of the Cruithin including Aed Brec. Baet�n son of Cenn with two branches of the Cruithin fight it against the Cruithin, and Cen�l nE�gain and Cen�l Conaill fought it for hire, for the Lee and Ard Eolarg.

AU 563

Bellum Mona Daire Lothair for Cruithniu re n-Uib Neill in Tuaisceirt. Baetan m. Cinn co n-dib Cruithnibh nod-fich fri Cruithniu.

The battle of M�in Daire Lothair won over the Cruithin by the U� N�ill of the North. Baet�n son of Cenn with two branches of the Cruithin(?) fight it against the Cruithin.

Genus Eugain & Conaill mercede conducti inna Lee & Airde Eolargg.

[T] Cen�l nE�gain and Cen�l Conaill were hired, being given the Lee and Ard Eolarg as recompense.

1] Weapons press forward, men press forward
2] In the great bog of Daire Lothair,
3] A cause of strife discomfited
4] Around the king of the Cruithin, Aed Brecc.

1] The battle of all the Cruithin is fought,
2] They burn Eilne;
3] The battle of Gabar Liphi is fought,
4] And the battle of C�il Dreimne.

1] Hostages are taken away after conflict,
2] Away west, with a human harvest (?)
3] By Forgus, Domnall. Ainmire,
4] And Nainnid son of Daui.

1] Mac Erca's two sons returned
2] In the same manner;
3] The king Ainmire came back
4] With the possessions of S�tna.

1] Splendidly moves
2] Baet�n's steed upon the host;
3] Well satisfied is Baet�n of the yellow hair,
4] It will carry its little load(?) upon it.

AU 602: CS 602

Bellum Slenne in quo Colman Rimidh, rex Generis Eugain, uictor erat, & Conall Cuu m. Aedho m. Ainmirech fugitiuus alias fugitiuus euasit.

The battle of Slemain in which Colm�n R�mid, king of Cen�l n�ogain, was victor, and Conall C�, son of Aed son of Ainmire, took flight or escaped by flight.

AU 603

Bellum Echrois i m-Muiruisc inter Genus Coirpri & Nepotes Fiachrach Muirsce. Mael Cothaid, rex Nepotum Fiachrach, in fugam euersus est.

The battle of Echros in Muiresc between Cen�l Cairpri and U� Fhiachrach Muirsce. Mael Cothaid, king of U� Fhiachrach, was put to flight.

AU 604

Aed Buidi, r� Ceniul Maeni.

Aed Buide, king of Cen�l Maine, died.
CS 608

Occisio Shechnasaigh meic Garbhain r� Cineoil Bogaine � Domnall mac Aedha.

The killing of Sechnusach son of Garb�n, king of Cen�l B�gaine, by Domnall son of Aed.

AU 618

Iugulatio�Colggen�m.�Suibni, & mors�Fiachrach�m.�Conaill, & iugulatio�Fergusa�filii�Colmain�Magni.i. o�Anfartuch�h-u�Mescain�do muinntir�Blatine.

Ma dum-ised-sa, com thech�
� uisque�dorbach do-mbeuir do
� fo bith gono�Fergusso.

In tan do-regat buidne�
Ceniuil Colmain�sech�Chuilne,�
Iarmi-foiset di suidiu�
Sil�Mescain�i m-Blatiniu

The slaying of Colgu son of Suibne and the death of Fiachra son of Conall and the slaying of Fergus son of Colm�n M�r i.e. by Anfartach descendant of Mesc�n, of the people of Blait�ne.

1] If there should come to me to my house,�
2] Mesc�n's grandson, Anfortach,
� 3] I shall give him wormy water�
4] For having slain Fergus.

1] When there shall come troops�
2] Of the Cein�l Colm�in past Cuilne,�
3] They shall for this interrogate
� 4] Mesc�n's seed in Blait�ne.

AT 627

Fiacha F�nd, r� Cen�oil Boghuine, mortuus est.

Fiacha Finn, king of Cen�l Boghuine, died.

AU 630

Bellum Leithirbhe inter Genus Eugain inuicem, in quo Mael Fithrich cecidit, & bellum Mitani.

The battle of Leitheirbe between the Cen�l nE�gain themselves, in which Mael Fithrich fell; and the battle of Mitaine.

CS 630

Uel sic in Libro Duibh Da Lethe narratur: bellum Lethirbe eter Cenel Mc. Erca & Cenel Feradaig in quo Mael Fithrich cecidit. Ernaine m. Fiachna uictor erat.

The battle of Leitheirbe between the Cen�l Feradaigh and the Cen�l Meic Erca, in which Mael Fithrich fell. Ernaine son of Fiachna was victor.

AT 631

The battle of Fid Eoin in which Mael Caith son of Scannal, king of cruithniu, was the victor.Connadh Cerr king of D�l Riada fell, and Dicuill son of Eachach king of Cen�l Cruithne fell and the nephews of Aedan fell, that is, Rigull�n son of Conaing and Failbe son of Eachach and Oisric son of Albruit, crown prince of England with their utmost destruction.

AU 637: CS 637

The battle of Mag Roth and the battle of Sailt�r were fought on the same day. Conall Cael son of Mael Cobo of the Cen�l nE�gain, and adherent of Domnall, was victor in the battle of Sailt�r; and the death of Failbe Flann of Feimen, king of Mumu.

AU 642: CS 642

The killing of Ailill son of Colm�n, king of Cen�l Loegaire.
AU 649

Death of Aengus Bronbachall, king of Cen�l Cairpri.

CS 656

The battle of Flescach in which fell Cumuscach son of Ailill, king of U� Crimthann, in which Crunnmael son of Suibne, king of Cen�l nE�gain was victor.

AU 666: CS 666

Mael Ca�ch son of Scannal, of the Cruithin, and Mael D�in son of Scannal, king of Cen�l Cairpri, died.

CS 671

The killing of Sechnusach son of Blamac, king of Temair, at the beginning of winter.

Full of bridles, full of horse-switches
Was the house in which Sechnasach used to be;
There was much surplus to the (yard-measure)
In the house in which Blamac's son used to be.

Dub D�in, king of Cen�l Cairpri, killed him.

AT 672

Cath Dungaile maic Maile tuile, r� Ceneoil Bogu�ne. Lo�ngsceach uictor fuit. Dungal cecidit.

AU 678.3

Slaughter of the Cen�l Loairn in T�riu.

AT 680

Cath i m-Badbghna, ub� cecidit�Conall Oirgnidh, r� Ceneoil Cairpri.

AU 683: CS 683

The battle of Corann in which fell Colgu son of Blamac and Fergus son of Mael D�in, king of Cen�l Cairpri.

AU 698.6

Death of Muirgius son of Mael D�in, king of Cen�l Cairpri.

AT 700

Anrothan mac Crunnmail r� Ceneoil Eoghain de regno expulsus, in Britaniam�pergit.

Anrothan son of Crunnmael, king of Cen�l Eoghain, expelled from the kingdom, in Britain pergit.

AU 700: CS 700

Flann the Fair of the Cen�l Eogain, son of Mael Tuile grandson of Crunnmael i.e. son of Suibne Menn, dies.

AU 703.2

The battle was fought at Claenfhinn in �enach Loga situate between Cen�l Conaill and Connachta. Cellach of Loch Cime son of Ragallach son of Uata, king of Connacht, and . . .

AU 704

Feradach son of Mael D�in, king of Cen�l Laegaire, fell.

AU 706: CS 706

Conchobor son of Mael D�in, king of Cen�l Cairpri, was killed.

AU 707

The slaying of Indrechtach son of D�nchad of Muirisc. Fergal son of Mael D�in and Fergal son of Loingsech and Conall Menn, king of Cen�l Cairpri, slew him.

CS 707

The slaying of Indrechtach son of D�nchad i.e. of Muirisc, king of the three Connachta. Fergal son of Mael D�in, king of Cen�l E�gain, and Fergal son of Loingsech, king of Cen�l Conaill, slew him.

AU 710

A conflict among the Cen�l Comgaill in which two sons of Nechtan son of Dar Garta were killed.

AU 712

Two sons of Feradach son of Mael D�in perished in a slaughter of the Cen�l Laegaire.

AU 719

The sea-battle of Ard Nesbi between D�nchad Bec with the Cen�l Gabr�in and Selbach with the Cen�l Loairn, and Selbach was repulsed, on Friday, the day before the Nones 6th of September or October, and a number of nobles fell therein.

AT 719

The sea-fight of Ard Anesbi between Dunchadh the Little with the Kindred of Gabr�n and Selbach with the Kindred of Loarn, and it was turned against Selbach on the second of the nones of October, the seventh day, in which certain counts fell.

AU 722

The battle of Almain on the third of the Ides 11th of December, the sixth feria, in which fell Fergal son of Mael D�in, son of Mael Fithrich son of Aed Uairidnach, i.e. by Murchadh son of Bran; and Conall Menn king of Cen�l Cairpri.

AU 727

The battle of Druim Fornocht between Cen�l Conall and Cen�l E�gain, in which Flann son of Aurthuile and Sn�dgus Derg, descendant of Mrachide, were killed.

AU 727

The battle of Druim Fornocht between Cen�l Conall and Cen�l E�gain, in which Flann son of Aurthuile and Sn�dgus Derg, descendant of Mrachide, were killed.

AU 733

Muiredach son of Ainfcellach assumed the kingship of Cen�l Loairn.

AU 733

Another encounter between Aed son of Fergal and the Cen�l Conaill in Mag Itha in which Conaing son of Congal son of Fergus and many others fell.

AU 734

An encounter in Mag Itha between Flaithbertach son of Loingsech and Fergal's son�Aed All�n�in which the U� Echdach of Cen�l E�gain and others fell.

AU 740

The killing of Ailill's grandson, lord of Cen�l Fiachach.

AU 742

The devastation of Cen�l Fiachach and of Delbna by the Osraige.

AU 742

The killing of the Cen�l Cairpri in Gr�nairet.

AU 747

Death of D�nlang son of D�nch�, king of Cen�l Ardgail.

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