the Kingdom of the Britons - an ancient Welsh
speaking people who settled along the River
Clyde and ruled for the best part of the first
millennium. They founded the city of Glasgow
and supplied us with our earliest examples
of Scottish literature - written in Welsh.
Kingdom of the Britons
Sailing up the Clyde towards Glasgow there
is a vast and imposing sentinel guarding the
river at Dumbarton. As a fortress it has a
long and proud history, and, in fact, has
a longer recorded history than any other in
rock was the centre of the Kingdom of the Britons, that stretched
along the River Clyde, north into Stirlingshire and south into
Ayrshire. Known as Dun Breatann - Fortress of the Britons
or 'Alt Clut' (Rock of the Clyde). It was the centre of a flourishing
Britonnic culture that spoke Old Welsh, or Cumbric, which is
now almost entirely forgotten.
this year the kings of the Scandinavians besieged
Strathclyde, in Britain. They were for four
months besieging it; and at last, after reducing
the people who were inside by hunger and thirst
(after a well in their midst had dried up
miraculously), they broke in upon them afterwards.
And firstly, all the riches that were in it
were taken; and also a great host was taken
out of it into captivity.’
Rock enters history in the mid 5th
century with a letter of complaint
from St Patrick to Coroticus, King
of the Britons, telling him to stop
kidnapping Christians and selling
them into slavery.
The Britons warband would have
feasted in Dunbartons royal
hall. They would have taken their
drink on the kings mead benches,
and listened to tales of Arthur and
Merlin. It was at Dumbarton that Scotlands
earliest poetry, The Gododdin,
by the Welsh bard Aneirin, was first
written down. It tells the tale of
a disastrous raid by the warband of
the Britons of Edinburgh on the Angles,
revelling in their deeds and mourning
the loss of so many fine warriors.
(possible use of Dinogads coat
or In praise of Urien, poem)
Britonnic kings, such as Rhydderch
Hael (c580-612 AD), helped to secure
Christianity in Scotland by supporting
St Kentigern (aka. St Mungo), the
founder of Glasgow.
the mid 7th century only Dumbarton,
of all the Britonnic Kingdoms of Scotland,
had survived the Angles’ onslaught.
This has left us with the image of
the Britons as doomed, heroic losers
of the Dark Ages - an image depicted
by their own poetry and their seemingly
hopeless strategic position, trapped
between the powerful Picts to the
north and the Angles to the south.
However, this is a mistaken image.
The Britons were perfectly capable
of defeating even the mightiest of
most of the 9th century Dumbarton
seems to have avoided the worst of
the Viking attacks which ravaged Scotland,
that is until 866 AD, when Olaf the
White, the Norse King of Dublin, brought
a raiding army to plunder Scotland.
Olaf was married to Aud the Deep-minded,
whose family controlled the Hebrides,
and it seems likely that many Hebridean
Vikings joined Olafs army. For
three years Olafs army reeked
havoc, plundering and extorting money
from Picts and Britons alike.
869 AD the Britons must have breathed
a sigh of relief when Olaf returned
to Ireland to curb Irish attacks on
Viking Dublin. Never the less, Olaf
swiftly returned to achieve one of
his greatest feats.
and his brother Ivarr laid siege
to the formidable rock fortress
of Dumbarton. For four months
the starving Britons held out,
until the true death blow - the
fortresss well dried up.
At that point the Vikings broke
in, plundering the kingdom of
its treasures and taking a great
host of Britons to Ireland
as slaves on a fleet of 200 ships.
The taking of Dumbarton was a
terrific achievement: Olaf was
famed in Icelandic Sagas as the
in the Western Sea.
As was normal in the dark Ages,
Olafs luck didnt hold.
Within a year he was dead, probably
killed at the hands of Constantine
I, King of Pictland.
the Britons worse was to follow. Their
king, Artgal, had escaped Dumbartons
destruction, perhaps fleeing to the
seeming safety of Pictland; but there
he too met his end, slain, it was
said, on the counsel of Constantine.
was the end of the road for the Kingdom
of Dumbarton but not for the Britons
as a people. A new kingdom, further
up the river, 'Strathclyde', would
Duald Mac-Firbis’s account of the storming
of the Briton’s fortress of Dumbarton in 870
for Govan Old Parish Church Factsheet
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