Without Admixture of Alien Blood

Know then, most Holy Father, that since the time when our early ancestors, the three sons of Milesius or Micelius of Spain, by God’s will came into Ireland (then destitute of all inhabitants) with a fleet of thirty ships from Cantabria, a city of Spain standing on the bank of the river Ebro or Hiberus (from which we take the name we bear), 3,500 years and more have passed, and of those descended from these men, 136 kings without admixture of alien blood assumed the monarchical rule over all Ireland down to king Legarius, from whom I, Donald, have derived my descent in a straight line. It was in [those] days that our chief apostle and patron St. Patrick, sent us at the inspiration of the Holy Ghost by your predecessor Celestine in the year 432 taught the truths of the Catholic Faith with the fullest success to our fathers.

And after the Faith had been preached and received, 61 kings of the same blood, without intervention of alien blood, kings admirably in the faith of Christ and filled with works of charity, kings that in temporal things acknowledged no superior, ruled here uninterruptedly in humble obedience to the Church of Rome until the year 1170.

And it was they, not the English nor others of any nation who eminently endowed the Irish Church with lands, ample liberties and many possessions, although at the present time she is, for the most part, sadly despoiled of those lands and liberties by the English.

– Remonstrance of the Irish Chiefs to Pope John XXII, A.D. 1317.

Viperous Calumny of the English

This case, or Remonstrance, of the Irish chiefs, led by Donal O’Neill, king of Cenel Eoghain or Tyrone, against English oppression, was addressed to the Avignon Pope John XXII in the latter part of 1317, apparently through two papal nuncios, Luke and Gaucelin, who were then in England attempting to make peace between Edward II and Robert the Bruce.  The first section follows.

* * *

Lest the sharp-toothed and viperous calumny of the English and their untrue representations should to any degree excite your mind against us and the defenders of our right, which God forbid, and so that there may be no ground for what is not well known and is falsely presented to kindle your displeasure, for our defence we pour into your ears with mighty out-cry by means of this letter an entirely true account of our origin and our form of government, if government it can be called, and also of the cruel wrongs that have been wrought inhumanly on us and our forefathers by some kings of England, their evil ministers and English barons born in Ireland, wrongs that are continued still; and this we do in order that you may be able to approach the subject and see in which party’s loud assertion the truth bears company.  And thus being carefully and sufficiently informed so far as the nature of the case demands, your judgment, like a naked blade, may smite or correct the fault of the party that is in the wrong.

— Remonstrance of the Irish Chiefs to Pope John XXII, A.D. 1317.

The Falling Asleep of St. Brigid

Dormitatio of Saint Brigid, in the 87th year of her age, or 77th, as some assert.
Pope John quievit.

— Chronicon Scotorum, Annal 523, Kal. A.D. 523

So They Compute in Their Chronicles

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.

— Annals of Ulster, Year 432.

Alasdair Mac Colla Chiotaich Mac Domhnuill

A figure of Gaelic folklore, Alasdair the son of Colla the Left-handed MacDonald was born into Clan Donald around 1610 on the island of Colonsay in the Outer Hebrides. As Clan Donald was spread across them, Mac Colla had experience of both the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the Gaeltacht of Ireland. A soldier like his father, and being particularly renowned for his expertise with the claymore, his youth was taken up with the perpetual conflict between the Presbyterian Covenanter Campbells and the Catholic MacDonalds. He came to prominence in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms during which Clan Donald sided with the Royalists and Irish Confederates.

Attacked by a Covenanter/Campbell force, Mac Colla was forced to flee the Western Isles early in the war. Colla, his father (“Collkitto”), was taken prisoner by the Campbells. Upon the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Mac Colla found himself in Antrim, under the command of Randal MacDonald, the chief of the Irish MacDonalds. Mac Colla quickly became involved in fighting the Protestant settlers in east Ulster. He was implicated in several massacres of Protestant civilians, but he also scored some notable military victories. He was defeated and wounded in an attack on Lurgan and was rescued by Dónall Geimhleach Ó Catháin. The Scottish Covenanters landed an army in Ulster and drove the Irish Catholic forces out of the greater part of the province.

In 1644, he was selected by the Supreme Council of Confederate Ireland to lead an expedition to Scotland to aid the Royalists against the Covenanters there. He was charged with an army of perhaps two thousand Ulstermen. Arriving in Scotland, Mac Colla joined forces with the Royalist James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, and he also raised more men from among his MacDonald clansmen and other anti-Campbell clans.

In the subsequent Scottish Civil War, Mac Colla and Montrose won a series of victories at the battles of Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Auldearn, Alford, and Kilsyth. Perhaps the most notable of these battles was the Battle of Inverlochy, during which the Marquess of Argyll left the command of his army to his General, Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, and retired to his galley anchored on Loch Linnhe to watch the battle. In many respects, the Battle of Inverlochy was as much part of the clan war between the deadly enemies Clan Donald and Clan Campbell and their allies as it was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and that is how it was portrayed in Gaelic folklore.

During his Highland campaign, Mac Colla also freely pillaged Campbell lands, killing all the men he could find there. On January 14, 1645, Mac Colla sacked Inveraray, the seat of the Campbells of Argyll. In an incident in Argyllshire after the Royalists were ordered to lay down arms, Mac Colla burned down a building full of Campbell women and children becoming known as the “Barn of Bones.”

Mac Colla has been credited with inventing the tactic of the Highland Charge in the Civil Wars– a tactic whereby his men ran toward the enemy infantry, fired a single volley at close range, and then closed in hand-to-hand combat. This tactic proved remarkably effective in both Ireland and Scotland, due to the musket’s slow reloading time and the poor discipline and training of many of the troops Mac Colla’s men faced.

Mac Colla’s father was killed by the Campbells in retaliation for his son’s atrocities in the Campbell country. Mac Colla himself retreated to Kintyre and then to Ireland with his family, where he re-joined the Irish Confederates in 1647. His troops (both Irish survivors of the 1644 expedition and Scottish Highlanders) were split up and assigned to the Leinster and Munster armies, with Mac Colla attached to the latter. Mac Colla’s men were mostly killed in the Confederate defeats at the Battle of Dungan’s Hill in County Meath and then at the Battle of Knocknanauss in County Cork. Alasdair Mac Colla himself was killed by English Parliamentarian soldiers at Knocknanauss after he had been taken prisoner.

Continue reading “Alasdair Mac Colla Chiotaich Mac Domhnuill”