The Middle Kingdoms 2: Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North)


Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North) is a British “Welsh” term which refers to those parts of what is now northern “England” and southern “Scotland” in the years between 500 and the Viking invasions of c. 800, with particular interest in the Brittonic or Old British-speaking peoples who lived there. Until recently, knowledge of the Old North has been suppressed by the partisan nationalist academic elites of Ireland, Scotland and England, but teaching our people about it through the internet will be an essential part of the modern Ulster and Appalachian cultural revolution.

Places in the Old North, the Middle Lands, that are mentioned as kingdoms in the literary and historical sources include:

  • Alt Clut or Ystrad Clud – a kingdom centred at what is now Dumbarton in “Scotland”. Later known as the Kingdom of Strathclyde, it was one of the best attested of the northern British kingdoms. It was also the last surviving, as it operated as an independent realm into the 11th century before it was finally absorbed by the Kingdom of Scotland and its ecclesiatical centre of Govan superceded by Glasgow.
  • Elmet – centred in western Yorkshire in northern “England”. It was located south of the other northern British kingdoms, and well east of present-day Wales, but managed to survive into the early 7th century.
  • Gododdin – a kingdom in what is now southeastern Scotland and northeastern England, the area previously noted as the territory of the Votadini. They are the subjects of the poem Y Goddodin, which memorialises an illfated foray by an army raised by the Gododdin on the English of Bernicia.
  • Rheged – a major kingdom in Galloway and Carrick that may have included parts of present-day Cumbria, though its full extent is unknown. It may have covered a vast area at one point, as it is very closely associated with its king Urien, whose name is tied to places all over northwestern Britain.

Several regions are mentioned in the sources, assumed to be notable regions within one of the kingdoms if not separate kingdoms themselves:

  • Aeron – a minor kingdom mentioned in sources such as Y Gododdin, which gave its name to Ayrshire in southwest Scotland. It is frequently associated with Urien of Rheged and may have been part of his realm.
  • Calchfynydd (“Chalkmountain”) – almost nothing is known about this area, though it was likely somewhere in the Hen Ogledd, as an evident ruler, Cadrawd Calchfynydd, is listed in the Bonedd Gwyr y Gogledd. William Forbes Skene suggested an identification with Kelso (formerly Calchow) in the Scottish Borders.
  • Eidyn – this was the area around the modern city of  Edinburgh then known as Din Eidyn (Fort of Eidyn). It was closely associated with the Gododdin kingdom. Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson argued strongly that Eidyn referred exclusively to Edinburgh, but other scholars have taken it as a designation for the wider area.] The name  survives today in toponyms such as Edinburgh, Dunedin, and Carriden (from Caer Eidyn), located fifteen miles to the west. Din Eidyn was besieged by the English in 638 and was under their control for most of the next three centuries.
  • Manau Gododdin – the coastal area south of the Firth of Forth, and part of the territory of the Gododdin. The name survives in Slamannan Moor and the village of Slamannan in Stirlingshire. This is derived from Sliabh Manann, the ‘Moor of Manann’. It also appears in the name of Dalmeny, some 5 miles northwest of Edinburgh, and formerly known as Dumanyn, assumed to be derived from Din Manann. The name also survives north of the Forth in Pictish Manaw as the name of the burgh of Clackmannan and the eponymous county of Clackmannanshire, derived from Clach Manann, the ‘stone of Manann’, referring to a monument stone located there.
  • Novant – a kingdom mentioned in Y Gododdin, presumably related to the Novantae people of southwestern Scotland.
  • Regio Dunutinga – a minor kingdom or region in North Yorkshire mentioned in the Life of Wilfrid . It was evidently named for a ruler named Dunaut, perhaps the Dunaut ap Pabo known from the genealogies. Its name may survive in the modern town of Dent, Cumbria.

Kingdoms that are not descibed by the academic elite as part of the Old North but are part of its history include:

  • Dalriada (Dál Riata) – Alhough this was a Gaelic-speaking kingdom in early Mediæval times, its people were indigenous Epidian Cruthin and the family of Áedán mac Gabráin of Dalriada appears in the Bonedd Gwýr y Gogledd (The Descent of the Men of the North).
  • English Northumbria and its predecessor states, Bernicia and Deira, which engulfed the Middle Kingdoms.
  • The Caledonian Cruthin Kingdom of Pictavia.
  • Bryneich – this is the British name for the English kingdom of Bernicia and was the  pre-Anglo-Saxon British kingdom in this area. 
  • Deifr or Dewr – this was the British name for the English Deira, a region between the River Tees and the Humber. The name is of British origin, and as with Bryneich, represented the earlier British kingdom.

To be continued

© Pretani Associates 2014 

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