Now they had a banner of wonderfully strange nature, which though I believe that it may be incredible to the reader, yet since it is true, I will introduce the matter into my true history. For while it was woven of the plainest and whitest silk, and the representation of no figure was inserted into it, in time of war a raven was always seen as if embroidered on it, in the hour of its owners’ victory opening its beak, flapping its wings, and restive on its feet, but very subdued and drooping with its whole body when they were defeated. Looking out for this, Thorkell, who had fought the first battle, said: “Let us fight manfully, comrades, for no danger threatens us: for to this the restive raven of the prophetic banner bears witness.” When the Danes heard this, they were rendered bolder, and clad with suits of mail, encountered the enemy in the place called Aesceneduno, a word which we Latinists can explain as ‘mons fraxinorum’.
Encomium Emmæ Reginæ.
The aunciente Irish descend from the Spaniards whoe, above 1000 yeares agoe got that kingdome from the Graecians, and governed it with just and holie lawes, being holpen thereon by the doctrine and holynes of many holy miraculous and learned men of there owne, until the comeing of the Danes, the which by overthrowing and destroying churches and Universityes in that island, broughte in much barbaritie, and evill customes, with tyranny, after which there followed, even in the Irish themselves sinnes and offences against God, civil wars, and domesticall hatred, murthers, &c.
Notable was the wickednesse of Dermitius king of Leynster, one of the five kynges of Ireland, who took away by force the wife of O’Roarke, another king of the same island, for which the said Dermitius being pursued by O’Roarke, was fayne to fly the land, and to crave aide of Henry the second King of Englande, whoe at this time was in France, and gave free libertye to all his subjectes, that voluntarilie would, to helpe Dermetius to recover his lost kingdome, whereupon, with ayde of certaine of the king of England’s subjectes, he regained his owne, and laied hold on other men’s lands besides.
Henry the second seeing the Irish divided amongst themselves by a false relation (as they say) to Pope Adrian the fourth, an Englishman; obtained of his holynes lycense to conquer the land, and to be collector of the church rentes, which the see Apostolicke had in Ireland, with the title of Lord of Ireland: But after the kings of Englande forsaking the true fayth have by their own proper authoritie intitled themselves Kings of Ireland.
— Briefe relation of Ireland, and the diversity of Irish in the same, Philip O’Sullivan Beare,
originally written in Spanish in the early XVII century.
The inhabitants of this Island are for the most part of a good stature, strong and nimble, of a good complexion, live verie long, much addicted to hunting, arching, shooting, swimming, wherein they are expert. Their language for the most part is Irish, which is very empathetick, and for its antiquity Scaliger reckons it one of the material languages of Europe. They are good lovers of all sorts of mussick — have a good ear.
As to their women they are very modest, temperet in ther dyet and apparell, excessively grieved at the death of any near relation.
All the inhabitants here have a great veneration for their superiour, whom with the King they make particular mention of in ther privat devotion. Besides ther land rents, they ordinarilie send gratis to their superiours of the product of ther lands of all sorts. They honour ther ministers in a high degree, to whose care, under God, they owe ther freedom from idolatrie and many superstitious customes. Their traditions, wherein they are verie faithful, gives account that this Isle has been in time of the Danes and since, the scene of many warlik exploits. Some of ther genealogers can neither read nor writt, and yett will give an account of some passages in Buchanan his Chronicles, Plutarches Lives; yea, they will not onlie talk of what has passed in former ages, but in ther pedigree will almost ascend near Adam, as ifthey had an Ephemerides of all ther ancestors’ lives. They treat strangers with great civility, and give them such as the place does afford without ever demanding any payment. There are among them who excell in poetrie, and can give a satyre or panegyrick ex tempore on sight upon anie subject whatsomever.
– Description of Sky from The Spottiswoode Miscellany: A Collection of Original Papers and Tracts, Illustrative Chiefly of the Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, Spottiswoode Society, 1845.
The ignorance or supineness which characterises so many English writers on Celtic history is to be found even among Highland and Irish clerics and others who have not taken the trouble to study or even become acquainted with their own ancient literature, but fallen into the foolish and discreditable conventionalism which maintains that before Columban or in pre-Christian days the Celtic race consisted of wholly uncivilised and broken tribes, rival only in savagery.
How little true that is; as wide of truth as the statements that the far influences of Iona ceased with the death of Columba. Not only was the island for two centuries thereafter (in the words of an eminent historian) “the nursery of bishops, the centre of education, the asylum of religious knowledge, the place of union, the capital and necropolis of the Celtic race,” but the spiritual colonies of Iona had everywhere leavened western Europe. Charlemagne knew and reverenced “this little people of Iona,” who from a remote island in the wild seas beyond the almost as remote countries of Scotland and England had spread the Gospel everywhere. Not only were many monasteries founded by monks from Iona in the narrower France of that day, but also in Lorraine, Alsatia, in Switzerland, and in the German states; in distant Bavaria even, no fewer than sixteen were thus founded. In the very year the Danes made their first descent on the doomed island, a monk of Iona was Bishop of Tarento in Italy. In a word, in that day, Iona was the brightest gem in the spiritual crown of Rome.
Note to page 118 of The Works of “Fiona MacLeod” (Uniform Edition), Volume IV, arranged by Mrs. William Sharp, William Heinemann, London, 1912.