Archaeologists have uncovered a “very significant” Pictish fort after scaling a remote sea stack off the coast of Aberdeenshire.
The team from the University of Aberdeen believe the ancient remains could be one of many along the coast south of Stonehaven.
It is the first time an official excavation has been carried out there.
Pictish symbol stones were said to be found on the Dunnicaer sea stack by locals in the 19th Century.
Until this latest discovery, it was unclear whether the site held other historical remains.
The Aberdeen team believe they have found the remains of a house, a fireplace and ramparts.
Lead archaeologist Dr Gordon Noble said it could be the precursor to Dunnotter Castle, the remains of which lie a quarter of a mile south of the site.
He explained: “We’ve opened a few trenches so far. This is the site where, in the 19th Century, they found six Pictish stones when a group of youths from Stonehaven came up the sea stack.
“Here we’ve got clear evidence of people living on the sea stack at least for part of the year. Certainly people are living here for long enough to create this really nice well-constructed hearth and these lovely floor layers.”
Mael Ísu Ua Brolcháin, the sage of Erinn in wisdom and in piety, and in the poetry of either language, suum spiritum emisit. Annals of Loch Cé.
Moyle Issa o’Brothloghann, the ealder and sage of Ireland was soe ingenious and witty, and withall soe well learned that he composed great volumes containing many great Misteryes and new sciences devised by himselfe, died this year. Annals of Clonmacnoise.
The Age of Christ, 1086. […] Maelisa Ua Brolchain, learned senior of Ireland, a paragon of wisdom and piety, as well as in poetry and both languages. His wisdom and learning were so great, that he himself wrote books replete with genius and intellect. He resigned his spirit to heaven on the seventh of the Calends of February, as is stated [in this quatrain]:
On the seventeenth of the Calends of February,
The night of fair Fursa’s festival,
Died Maelisa Ua Brolchain,
But, however, not of a heavy severe fit. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Annals of the Four Masters), likewise in the Annals of Ulster.
The patron saint of the parish of Cloncha, in Inishowen, was always regarded as being the present Maelisa Ua Brolchain. In this parish, there stood an ancient monastery, known as Temple Moyle, or Tapal Moule. An old graveyard, surrounded by a stone wall, with an iron gate entrance, is found at this place. John Canon O’Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints.
The following hymn attributed to one Máel-ísu is to be found at fo. 31b. col. 2 of the Liber Hymnorum, Trin. Coll. Dub. E. 4. 2.
The Holy Spirit (be) around us, in us, and with us! Let the Holy Spirit come to us, O Christ, forthwith!
The Holy Spirit to possess our body and our soul, to protect us with swiftness against danger, against diseases!
Against demons, against sins, against hell with manifold evil, O Jesus, may thy Spirit sanctify us, save us!
The Máel-ísu by whom this little poem was written, was perhaps Máel-ísu Hua-Brolcháin, who died (according to the Annals of Loch Cé) A.D. 1086. He was the author of two hymns, one in the Lebar Brecc, p. 501, half in Latin and half in Irish, beginning thus:—
Deus meus adiuva me tucc dam doserc amaic modé1
In meum cor ut sanum sit tucc arí rán dograd cogribb.2
And another in H. 2. 16, col. 336, to S. Michael the Archangel, beginning—
beir a michil morfertaig
cuinnig codia ndilgudach
dilgud muilc adbail uile
“O Angel! bear, O great-miracled Michael, my complaint to the Lord.
Hearest thou? Ask of forgiving God forgiveness of all my vast evil.”
1 “Give me thy love, O Son of God!” 2 “Give, O right noble King, thy love quickly!”
— Whitley Stokes, Goidelica, Old and Early-Middle-Irish Glosses, Prose and Verse, 1872.
The relics of Patrick were enshrined sixty years after his death by Columcille. Three precious reliquaries were found in the tomb, sc. the Cup, the Angel’s Gospel, and the Bell of the Will. The angel directed Columcille to divide the three reliquaries thus: the Cup to Down, the Bell of the Will to Armagh, the Gospel of the Angel to Columcille himself. And it is called the Gospel of the Angel, because Columcille received it at the Angel’s hand.
— Annals of Ulster, U553.3,
copied from a chronicle called the Book of Cuanu.
Aengus son of Fergus, king of the Picts, laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At and burned Creic and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, i.e. Donngal and Feradach; and shortly afterwards Bruide son of Aengus son of Fergus died.
The first prey by the Saxons from Ireland or in Ireland.
— Annals of Ulster, U434.1.
The Angles came to England.
— Annals of Ulster, U464.2.
The second prey of the Saxons from Ireland (as some state) was carried off this year, as Maucteus (Mochta) says. Thus I have found in the Book of Cuanu.
— Annals of Ulster, U471.1.
[These are the only V century citations of the “English” in the Annals of Ulster. In 409 or 410, the Romano-British were either invited by the emperor to see to their own defence or rather expelled the Roman magistrates from their cities, effectively ending Roman rule in Britain.]
Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including the imprint of a foot and a basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata’s coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late VIII century or afterwards.
In 712, Tarbert was burned by King Selbach mac Ferchair of Cenél Loairn and of Dál Riata and in 731 by his son, Dúngal mac Selbaig, the latter event being recorded in the Annals of Ulster:
The burning of Tairpert Boitir by Dúngal.
— Annals of Ulster, U731.4.
King Edward II of England transferred control of the castle to the Scottish King John II de Balliol in 1292. A fortified structure was built in Tarbert during the XIII century. It was reinforced with the addition of an outer bailey and towers in the 1320s by Robert the Bruce, to protect it against the Lords of the Isles. A towerhouse was added in the XVI century, which is the most noticeable part of the remains. The castle occupies high land above Loch Fyne, providing views up East Loch Tarbert and beyond to the Firth of Clyde. This castle was captured from John MacDonald of Islay, Lord of the Isles by James IV of Scotland as part of his campaign to destroy the power of the Lords of the Isles in 1494. In 1687 the castle was involved in another skirmish when Walter Campbell of Skipness Castle seized it as a stronghold for Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll as part of actions in support of the Monmouth Rebellion in England.
The theft (and eventual recovery less its golden cover) of the Book of Kells is recorded in the Annals of Ulster under the year A.D. 1007.
* * *
The Great Gospel of Colum Cille was wickedly stolen by night from the western sacristy in the great stone church of Cenannas. It was the most precious object of the western world on account of the human ornamentation (?). This Gospel was recovered after two months and twenty nights, its gold having been taken off it and with a sod over it.
The king of the Saxons made accusation against the queen that she committed adultery and she was put to death through that and her head was taken off her and he turned not himself from his error of Faith.
— Annals of Ulster, U1536.12.
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The Gaelic Annals of Ulster record the execution of Anne Boleyn, accused of adultery and incest to King Henry VIII, who ordered her execution which occurred 19 May 1536. The annal notes that Henry continued in his schism with the Catholic Church.
Edward Bruce, the destroyer of Ireland in general, both Foreigners and Gaidhil, was killed by the Foreigners of Ireland by dint of fighting at Dun-Delgan. And there were killed in his company Mac Ruaidhri, king of Insi-Gall [Hebrides] and Mac Domnaill, king of Airthir-Gaidhil [Argyll], together with slaughter of the Men of Scotland around him. And there was not done from the beginning of the world a deed that was better for the Men of Ireland than that deed.
Patrick arrived in Ireland in the ninth year of the reign of Theodosius the Less and in the first year of the episcopate of Xistus, forty-second bishop of the Roman Church. So Bede, Maxcellinus and Isidore compute in their chronicles.