The Academic Suppression of the native British or Pretani, the People of the Cruthin : Part 7 – The Myths of Peter Shirlow

Peter Shirlow was a Professor in the School of Law at the Queen’s University of Belfast, then Professor of Conflict Transformation there and a key member of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ), which is linked to the Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution, founded by my friends Jeffrey and Kingsley Donaldson. He has now left Queen’s University Belfast to become director and ‘Tony Blair Chair’ at the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool. Dr Frank Shovlin from the University of Liverpool praised  Shirlow for his “outstanding track record as a scholar, teacher and academic leader”. The Liverpool university’s Institute of Irish Studies was established in 1988. In 2007, the Irish government agreed to a multi-million pound endowment to fund the ‘Tony Blair Chair’ in Irish Studies. The additional funding has enabled the institute to expand the scope of its teaching and research and to expand their undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

Shirlow’s latest book The End of Ulster Loyalism?,  published in 2012 by Manchester University Press, was a product of his attachment to Loyalist groups. In this book he advises that “Using their experience as a deterent, Loyalists can show the motivations behind violence and how these were misplaced, and the burdens imprisonment placed upon family members. Doing so is an invaluable way of transmitting lessons about the past, dispelling myths and falsehoods and discouraging its repetition.” “One myth located within loyalism is that the Cruithin as (sic) the original stock of Ulster driven out by the Celts. Therefore the Plantation of Ulster was a reclaiming of a homeland. Much of that work has been produced by Adamson (1991).There is no archaeological evidence for such a people”

Such a mischievous, and indeed libellous, rendering of my work is not unusual  but what is the real purpose behind it?. The poor scholarship it displays is obvious, but why single out my work?. The Cruthin, of course, are a historically attested people in Ireland, who occupied large parts of the modern counties of Down, Antrim, Londonderry and Donegal in the early medieval period and anciently the whole country before the coming of the Belgae from Great Britain and then the Gaels  “Marauders” from Roman Spain (led by Míl Espáne or Miles Hispaniae, meaning “Soldier of Spain”) . Their name in Middle Irish Gaelic is Cruithnig or Cruithni; Modern Irish Gaelic: Cruithne .Their ruling dynasties included the Dal nAraidi (Dalaradia) in southern Antrim, the Ui Echach Cobo (Iveagh) in western Down and the Cenél Conaill in Donegal. Early sources preserve a distinction between the Cruthin and the Ulaid, who gave their name to the kingdom  of Ulster, although the Dál nAraide claimed in their genealogies to be na fir Ulaid, “the true Ulaid”. The Loigis, who gave their name to County Laois in Leinster, and the Sogain of Connacht are also claimed as Cruthin in early Irish genealogies.

Variations of the name include Cruthen, Crutheni, Cruthin, Cruthini populi, Cruthne, Cruthni, Cruithni and Cruithini. It is generally accepted that this is derived from Qritani or Qriteni, which is the Old Gaelic version of the Old British Pretani or Priteni. From the latter came Britanni, the Roman name for those now called the Britons. Early Irish writers used the name Cruthin to refer to both the north-eastern Irish group and to the Picts of Scotland. Likewise, the Scottish Gaelic word for a Pict is Cruithen or Cruithneach, and for Pictland is Cruithentúath. It therefore obvious that the Cruthin and Picts were the same people or were in some way closely linked. Professor T.F. O’Rahilly describes them as, “the earliest inhabitants of these islands to whom a name can be assigned”. It is also obvious that Cruthin was a name used to refer to all the Britons who were not conquered by the Romans – those who lived outside Roman Brittania, north of Hadrian’s and then the Antonine Walls.

And they have left a wealth of archaeological artifacts in Ireland because of a variety of factors, among them the continued survival of a predominately rural way of life, for many of the artifacts blend effortless into the surrounding environment.   Dolmens, court cairns, passage caves, stone circles, standing stones, Ogham stones, ring fort earth works, crannogs, round towers, high crosses, churches, monasteries, abbeys and castles abound. Rath Mor of Moylinne, was a residence of the kings of Dalaradia, the Kingdom of the Cruthin. It is an ancient archaeological site situated near Lough Neagh, in the present parish of Donegore, and the place is still known as the Manor of Moylinne. After an existence of eleven hundred years, the royal habitations  were burned to the ground in 1513.

O’Neill, i.e.. Art, the son of Hugh, marched with a force into Trian Congail, (the Third of Congal Cláen, which includes Belfast) and burned Moylinne (in Antrim), and plundered the Glynns. The son of Niall, son of Con Mac Quillin, overtook a party of the forces, and slew Hugh, the son of O’Neill, on that occasion. On the following day the force and their pursuers met in an encounter, in which Mac Quillin — namely, Richard, the son of Roderick— with a number of the men of Alba (“Scotland”), were slain. After that destruction of the habitations in Rath Mor Mag Uillin, the Castle of Dunluce became the chief residence of the “Mac Quillins” (Gaelicised Brittonic ap Llwelyn), and the deserted Rath Mor was never re-edified.  Rath Mor Mac Uillin, signifying the Great Rath of McQuillin,  was the original designation of the spot where stood the ancient palace of the Cruthin kings of Ulster. It was often written Rath Mor Magh Line, again Moig Cuillin, and now Moylinne.

Furthermore it was not I, but Professor Emeritus John MacQueen of Edinbugh University, who first suggested in 1955 that the Kreenies (of Galloway) were by origin Cruithnean (Cruthin) settlers, probably fishermen and small farmers, from Dal Araide (Dalaradia), just the people who might be called Gossocks or servile people by the Cumbric native Britons they found in Galloway (my parentheses). So what’s the problem here? Much of it stems, I fear, from the pronouncements of JP Mallory, the Irish-American  Professor Emeritus and “Elder Statesman” of Archaeology at Queen’s, who describes the early “Irish” as those who spoke the earliest attested version of the “Irish” Language, even though that language is anciently called Gaelic and still is, whose speakers were pre-dated in Ireland by thousands of years by the indigenous inhabitants…Says it all, doesn’t it?

That icon of “serious” scholarship, that doyen of revisionist Irish historians (I mean this man is a Celebrity, a Superstar among his kind!), Robert Fitzroy (Roy) Foster, has written in his chapter History and the Irish Question  from Interpreting Irish History -The Debate on Historical Revisionism Irish Academic Press, Dublin 1994, “Still the depressing lesson is probably that history as conceived by scholars is different to what it is understood to be at large, where “myth” is probably the correct, if over-used, anthropological term. And historians may overrate their own importance in considering that their work is in any way relevant to these popular misconceptions- especially in Ireland.The habit of mind which preferred a visionary Republic to any number of birds in the hand is reflected in a disposition to search for an Irish past in theories of historical descent as bizarre as that of “the Cruthin people” today (I. Adamson’s book Cruthin: The Ancient Kindred (Newtownards,1974) is interpreted by Unionist ideologues as arguing for an indigenous ” British” people settled in Ulster before the plantations), the Eskimo settlement of Ireland postulated by Pokorny in the 1920s ,the Hiberno-Carthiginians of Vallancey, or the Gaelic Greeks of Comerford.” How wonderfully cynical, petulant and trite. And, of course, he is completely wrong.

Yet in Wherever Green is Read in the same volume,  Seamus Deane more sensibly, and much more intelligently, argues. “Perhaps it is now time for the stereotype to invert, so that the South can start reading the jargon of the North’s  newly aquired writerly status, complete with its “myths” of the “Cruithin” (Ian Adamson’s redaction of the Gaelic story of dispossession, much favoured by the UDA and, increasingly, by Glengall Street) its evangelical religion and, of course, its poetic rhetoric” . But for Peter Shirlow this is a non-starter, for such “myths and falsehoods” should be dispelled and their repetition discouraged, leading in my view inexorably not only to the End of Ulster Loyalism, but also to the separation of “Scotland” from “England”, and the loss of the United Kingdom’s seat on the United Nations Security Council, with dire ramifications for World Peace.

Common Sense was published by the (New) Ulster Political Research Group and not, as Shirlow has erroneously stated, by the Ulster Democratic Party..He should know that these groups were very far from being the same thing. This is poor scholarship indeed. The real myths and falsehoods are those of the Cunliffe/Koch myth of Tartessian “Celtic”, the Mallory/Warner myth of the first Irish being “Irish” speakers to push them as far back in history as possible and the Woolf/Frazer myths of the “Northern Ui Neill” and Gaelic Dalriada, the Cenel Conaill and Epidians of whom were actually Cruthin or Pretani. In accepting these and deprecating the Cruthin, such myths have become the Myths of Peter Shirlow himself.

To be continued

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