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The clans that come first into classification are those whose progenitor is said by the genealogists to have been the fabulous Irish King Conn "of the hundred battles". They are mostly all located in the Western Islands and Highlands, and are said to have been descended from the Gallgael, or Gaelic pirates or rovers, who are said to have been so called to distinguish them from the Norwegian and Danish Fingall and Dugall, or white and black strangers or rovers. Some advocate strongly the unmixed Gaelic descent of these clans, as indeed he does of almost all the other clans. Some endeavour to maintain that the whole of these western clans are of purely Pictish descent, not being mixed with even that of the Dalriadic Scots. Others are inclined, however, to agree in thinking that the founders of these clans were to a large extent of Irish extraction, though clearly distinguishable from the primitive or Dalriadic Scots, and that from the time of the Scottish conquest they formed intimate relationships with the Northern Picts. "From whatever race", to quote the judicious remarks of Mr Gregory, "whether Pictish or Scottish, the inhabitants of the Isles, in the reign of Kenneth MacAlpine, were derived, it is clear that the settlements and wars of the Scandinavians in the Hebrides, from the time of Olave the Red, a period of upwards of two centuries, must have produced a very considerable change in the population.
As in all cases of conquest, this change must have been most preceptible in the higher ranks, owing to the natural tendency of invaders to secure their new possessions, where practicable, by matrimonial alliances with the natives. That in the Hebrides a mixture of the Celtic and Scandinavian blood was thus effected at an early period seems highly probable, and by no means inconsistent with the ultimate prevalence of the Celtic language in the mixed race, as all history sufficiently demonstrates. These remarks regarding the population of the Isles apply equally to that of the adjacent mainland districts, which, being so accessible by numerous arms of the sea, could hardly be expected to preserve the blood of their inhabitants unmixed. The extent to which this mixture was carried is a more difficult question, and one which must be left in a great measure to conjecture; but, on the whole, the Celtic race appears to have predominated.
It is of more importance to know which of the Scandinavian tribes it was that infused the greatest portion of northern blood into the population of the Isles. The Irish annalists divide the piratical bands, which, in the ninth and following centuries infested Ireland, into two great tribes, styled by these writers Fiongall, or white foreigners, and Dubhgall, or black foreigners. These are believed to represent, the former the Norwegians, the latter the Danes; and the distinction in the names is supposed to have arisen from a diversity, either in their clothing or in the sails of their vessels. These tribes had generally seperate leaders; but they were occasionally united under one king; and although both bent first on ravaging the Irish shores, and afterwards on seizing portions of the Irish territories, they frequently turned their arms against each other. The Gaelic title of Righ Fhiongall, or King of the Fiongall, so frequently applied to the Lords of the Isles, seem to prove that Olave the Red, from whom they were descended in the female line, was so styled, and that, consequently, his subjects in the Isles, in so far as they were not Celtic, were Fiongall or Norwegians. It has been remarked by one writer, whose opinion is entitled to weight, that the names of places in the exterior Hebrides, or the Long Island, derived from the Scandinavian tongue, resemble the names of places in Orkney, Shetland, and Caithness.
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