One more version carries the legend to the extreme northern and eastern Gaelic frontier. It varies somewhat from the others, but the main incidents are the
same. The story is called THE BOAR OF BEN LAIGHAL, and is thus told:--
There lived once upon a: time a king in Sutherland, whose land was ravaged by a boar of great size and ferocity. This boar had a den or cave in Ben Laighal (Pr Loyal), full of the bones of men and cattle.
It came to pass that the king swore a great oath, saying he would give his only daughter to the man who should rid the country of this monster. Then came Fingal, Ossian, Oscar, and I know not who besides, and tried in vain to kill the boar, whose bristles were a foot long, his tusks great and white, and whose eyes glowed like beltain fires. But when Diarmid saw the king's daughter, whose robes were white, and beheld her blue eyes, and her long yellow hair, as she stood in the gateway, he said to himself, "that come what would he would win her." So he went out ere it was yet dawn, and when be came to the boar's lair he saw the monster lying, as large and black as a boat when its keel is turned up on the shore; drawing a shot from his bow he killed it on the spot. All the king's men turned out and pulled the carcase home with shouts to the palace; and the king's daughter stood in the gate, beautiful as the May morn. But the king's heart was evil when he saw that the boar was dead. He went back from his word secretly, saying to Diarmid that he should not have his daughter till he had measured (by paces) the body of his fallen foe, once from the head to the tail, and once again backward from the tail to the snout. That would Diarmaid gladly do, and the wedding should be the morrow's morning. He paced the beast from tip to tail without harm or hindrance, but on measuring it backwards the long poisonous bristles pierced his foot, and in the night Diarmid sickened and
died. His grave and the den of the boar may be seen in Ben "Loyal" to this day.
This seems a different and a sadder legend than the one which gives the Campbells their boar's head crest; nearly as tragical as the fate of Adonis; but it is common in the west of this county to call the Campbells MacDiarmid.--C. D., Sutherland.
It may be interesting to shew this legend of "Diarmaid," as the word is spelt now-a-days, in another shape.
The following is taken from a MS. which came from Cawdor Castle, and is now in my possession; it is called,
GENEALOGY ABRIDGEMENT OF THE VERY ANTIENT AND NOBLE FAMILY OF ARGYLL, 1779."
The writer explains that--
In the following account we have had regard to the genealogical tree done by Niel MacEwen, as be received the same from Eachern MacEwen, his ffather, as he had the same from Artr. MacEwen, his grandfather, and their ancestors and predecessors, senachies and pensioners to great ffamilys, who, for many ages were employed to make up and keep such Records in their accustomed way of Irish Rhymes; and the account left by Mr. Alexr. Colvin, who had access to the papers of the ffamily, and Pedro Mexva, a Spaniard, who wrote the origin of diverse and sundry nations, in his book entitled the Treasury of Antiquities."
The first statement is as follows:--
"The Campbells were of old, in the Irish language, called Clan Odinbbn or Oduimhn (bh and mh being pronounced as the Roman v), id est, the sons, children, or posteritye of Duimhn, knights of the MacDuimhns; particularly from Diarmid MacDuimhn, who makes such a figure in the Irish history, that from him they are sometimes called Siol Dirmed, i.e., Diarmid's seed, or Sliochd Diarmid, i.e., Diarmod's offspring."
In the next paragraph it is said--
"Yet to this day (1779), in the Irish language or Gaelic, they (the Campbells) are called both by the name of Campbell and O'Duimhn."
I may add that at this day, 1861, the name of Campbell is very rarely used in speaking Gaelic. A man is called Kaim-bel-ach, a Campbelite, or the Campbelltonian, but individually, he is Iain Ruagh, Russet John; if he has the common burnt Sienna beard, Iain fada; long John, if he be tall; Iain na Airde bige, John of the little hill, if his farm be so called; or John MacAllister, if his father's name be Alexander. In short, surnames are not yet in full use within the Highland bounds.
In the next paragraph the rhymes of the "Senachies" of the Argyll family are again called "Irish," and thus it appears that in the mind of this writer Irish and Gaelic meant one and the same language in 1779, as I hold that they are in fact now. The story goes on thus:--
"Although the common and ordinary method of reckoning the genealogy of the sirname of Campbell or Clan O'Duimhn is to begin at Arthur of the round table, king of the Britons, as a person very great and famous in history, yet we shall begin it some ages before him, by shewing the occasion of his accession to the crown of the Britons, as Boethius and Buchanan have it in their History of Scotland."
And accordingly the writer begins with Constantine, grandfather to King Arthur.
The half mythical heroes of Welsh and Breton tales, and of mediæval romances; and personages who still figure in Irish and Scotch Gaelic popular tales, as something more than mere mortals:--Arthur and Diarmaid, primeval Celtic worthies, whose very existence the historian ignores, are thus brought together by a family
genealogist, and most of these west-country genealogies agree with him in claiming a descent from King Arthur for "Mac Callen Mor."
The fact proves nothing, and is of little interest in itself, but when brought to bear upon Celtic mythology it acquires an interest, for it shews that peasants' stories are sufficiently old to have found their way into family history in Scotland, as well as into what is called the Fenian literature of Ireland. The Irish theory crowds whole centuries of adventure into the lifetime of a single generation of one family, of which Fionn was the head, and which was exterminated, as it is said, about A.D. 277 or 294, at the battle of Gabhra in Ireland. The Scotch genealogist boldly asserts that
"It is plain that the family can trace their predecessors from father to son for upwards of 1360 years."
and produces Diarmaid as one of a Scotch family all alive in 913. He goes on to shew how King Arthur brought Ireland under tribute, and received it at Cathair Ler-eon, now West Chester.
The next worthy is
"Smoroie Mor, or as others have it, Sir Moroie Mor, 'a son of King Arthur,' of whom great and strange things are told in the Irish traditions. He was born at Dumbarton Castle, on the south side of the fort, in the place called the Red Hall, or in Irish, Tour na-hella dheirg, i.e., the Tour of the Red Hall. He was called to his by-name, The fool of the Forest; he was a wild and undaunted person, and married a sister of King Andar's, the forty-ninth king of the Scots, and was contemporary with Columbus pius; called in the Gaelic Colmkill, or Calum na-kill, because, when he retired from company they were always sure to find him in his cell at prayer."
Now there are a great many poems and stories still extant in Gaelic, some printed, others still as traditions,
in which a "great fool" plays the chief part. I would refer to No. xxxv., vol. ii., and to the "Lay of the Great Fool" in this volume. A long version of the last has been printed already.
There is besides an Arthurian tradition in England of a buried army and a sleeping king, and a wizard who appears occasionally about Alderley edge, not far from Chester, and this has a counterpart in a story got from Islay, which localizes the very same legend in another shape at Dumbarton; and that tradition of warriors sleeping a magic sleep in a cave is known in Barra and in the Isle of Man, in Spain, and over nearly the whole of Europe; and here again tradition and genealogy point to a common origin for Celtic tribes, and to a north-western route, and to a common mythology; for to the best of my knowledge this legend is unknown beyond the Celts in the north. Having brought King Arthur to Dumbarton, the genealogist takes to dates (which I give as I found them), and goes on with a list of worthies, most of whom are unknown to fame.
"VI. Ferither-our, i.e., Dun Ferither, A.D. 620.
"VII. Duimhn-Mor, who married a daughter of Duke Murdoch of Moravize, or Murray, or Elgin."
and gave a name to the family, which has been variously explained.
"Odinbhin" and Mac-Oduimhn might suggest a Scandinavian descent, and some old sea-rover for an ancestor, who called himself a son of Odin. It has been suggested that the warriors of Fionn were fair Norsemen. Some Campbells are proud of the "ginger-hackle" which commonly adorns their chins, and claim to be Northmen; but if the name be Gaelic, as I believe it to be, I am compelled to translate Diumhn-Mor, as the
[paragraph continues] Great Brown. The Browns are a numerous and respectable clan, and there is no cause to be ashamed of the connection; for Brown is synonymous with Don, and there are Browns and Dons of high degree.
"VIII. Arthur Oig MacDuimhn, i.e., Young Arthur, son of Brown, 684.
"IX. Ferither eile MacDuimhn. The other Ferither, son of Brown, 730.
"X. Duimhn falt derig MacDuimhn. Brown of the red hair son of Brown, 786, who married the grand-daughter of Connal Gulban, one of the sons of Neal na Nidgheallach, king of Ireland, who was so called because he had nine chains, fetters, or prisons, for confining captives taken in the wars. This Neal was father to Longirius, who reigned when St. Patrick came to Ireland."
So here comes in another hero of Gaelic romance, Connal Gulban, of whom there are more stories told in Gaelic at the present day than of any other individual, Fionn always excepted. As St. Patrick here makes his appearance on the stage with Diarmaid and Connal Gulban, and as he brought Christianity, and mayhap civilization to Ireland, it seems reasonable to suppose that such an event would stimulate the bards; and that about the name of St. Patrick all the floating legends of the old Pagan history and mythology would group themselves, as they are in fact found to do, in the Irish dialogues between St. Patrick and Ossian. In these, the old blind poet tells the glories of his departed race, and argues with the saint in a very discontented and rebellious spirit, to say the least of it. Osin, whose tribe was exterminated about 277, converses with St. Patrick, who was born about 372, flourished in 430, and, according to this genealogy, was contemporary with Longirius and Connal Gulban.
XI. Ferither finruo, i.e., reddish white MacDuimhn, son of Brown.
"XII. Duimhn dherig, i.e., Brown the red, 860.
"XIII. Duimhn donn, i.e., Brown Brown, 904, was contemporary with Constantine, seventy-fifth king of the Scots."
"XIV. Diarmaid Mac Duimhn, 943."
And having arrived at this Dirmaid, to whom all popular traditions trace the Campbell clan, the writer breaks off into a digression on the origin of surnames. Of Dirmaid he says:--
"This Dirmaid MacDuimhn, from whom the Campbells were called Siol Diarmaid, i.e., Diarmaid's seed, gained great reputation in Ireland, and in all their traditions there is honourable mention made of him for his conduct, valour, and loyalty. He was contemporary with Malcolm the first, seventy-sixth king of the Scots. He had to wife, Graine, niece to Cormac Vic Art Vic Chuin Cheud Chathach, and thus his son was great-grandchild to that famous Irish monarch, Conn Cheud Chathach, so called because he fought one hundred battles."
Diarmaid, say the Irish writers, was one of the Fenians, and they were exterminated A.D. 277; that is, 666 years before the date of the Dirmaid and Graine of the genealogy.
And then we are told how Dirmaid and Graine had two sons--
"Arthur Armderig, 977 (red arms), and Duimhn Dedgheal, Brown white tooth, who had to his son Gilcolm or Malcolm MacDuimhn, who, after he had married a daughter of the lords of Carrick, by whom he had three sons, of whom afterwards, and after her death, in the reign of Kenneth the Third, the eightieth king of the Scots, the said Malcolm MacDuimhn went to Normandy in France and married the heretrix of Beauchamp, i.e., campus bellus, or pleasant field, sister's daughter to William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, afterwards King of England, of which lady he had three sons, who were called Campbells after the name of their lauds in Normandy."
Further on we are told how the representative of the French branch came over and married the heiress of a knight of Lochawe, Evah, and how the clan took the name of Campus bellus; and how, centuries later, French worthies were entertained at Inverary, and acknowledged themselves to be of the same race and descent as their entertainer. And other genealogical incidents are related in the same quaint style down to the writer's time, and to John Duke of Argyll.
"44. John Campbell, XXVIII. Campbell, XX. MacCallen Mor, V. Duke, 1768; who (amongst other deeds) caused remove the old burgh of Inverary, but has reared up a much prettyer and more fashionable burgh royal, about a furlong south of the palace, upon the Gallow failean point."
So here are Diarmaid and Graidhne, the hero and heroine of so many Gaelic myths, stories, poems, and proverbs, the Venus and Adonis of Gaelic mythology, brought into juxtaposition with King Arthur and his knights, honestly married and planted in Scotland, A.D. 943, as Mr. and Mrs. Brown; a family tree grafted on their stock, and the growth of the tree itself all set forth as true family history in 1789.
There probably were people who bore these names. There are hundreds of Dermotts, and Dermids, and Donns, and Dons, and Guns, Mae-Dermotts and MacDiarmaids, still to be found in Ireland and in Scotland. There are Gwynnes in Wales, and there are many similar family names in France which have been booked into the family tree, which springs from Oduimhn; but it is surely time to give up the attempt to convert Celtic mythology into comparatively modern history, and to fix a time and place for the slaying of Diarmaid by the venomous boar of Beingulban.
In a learned note in the Transactions of the Ossianic
[paragraph continues] Society (vol. v., p. 62, 1860), I find that the Celtic legends about magic boars which pervade Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, have already attracted the notice of Irish scholars, and that they are taking a wide view of their popular lore. The sacred swine of the ancient Celts are supposed to have given rise to this tradition. It is suggested that there was a "Porcine worship which was analogous to, if not identical with, the existing worship of the Hindoo deity Vishnoo, in his avatar as a boar." And that Diarmaid was a reformer who tried to abolish the worship of pigs, and died in the attempt.
To me it seems perfectly hopeless to attempt to explain a legend which is at least as old as the loves of Venus and Adonis, by referring it to any one time or place.
It is like making Hercules a doctor or a drainer, and the Hydra sulphuretted hydrogen embodied in an epidemic, and cured with steel.
Let this tale of Diarmaid rather be taken as one phase of a myth which pervades half the world, and which is still extant in the Highlands of Scotland, and in Ireland, amongst all classes of the Gaelic population. Let all that can be got concerning it be gathered from the most unsuspecting and the most unlearned witnesses; and when the traditions are compared with what is known to the learned, there is some chance of digging knowledge out of these old mines of fable. At all events, I have now shewn the same legend in a poem, a popular tale, a proverb, a family tradition, and a family history; I have shewn it in Ireland, Cantyre, Islay, Lorn, Skye, the Long Island, and Sutherland; and I believe it to be an ancient pagan myth, which belonged especially to a tribe of Celts who took possession
of Argyll, and which has been transferred to the family of the chief of the most numerous clan, and perhaps to the real leader of the tribe, together with every thing else which a race of family historians thought likely to adorn their favourite topic.
There would seem to be two distinct forms of the myth; one the wildest and best known to the people, the other more rational and best known to the educated, classes. 1
102:1 Since this was written I have seen two versions of the Lay of Diarmaid, one of 1786, the other written about 1530. I refer to them elsewhere.