[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Description of Scottish Soldiers in
The Life of Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill

by Sharon L. Krossa

©1997-2000 by Sharon L. Krossa. All rights reserved

Last updated 1 Jan 2000

This passage in The Life of Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill describes the attire of Hebridean soldiers in the service of Ó Domhnaill in Ireland in 1594 (although the manuscript was written later). Domhnall Gorm and MacLeod are the leaders of the Scots. This is the earliest known description of a belted plaid in Gaelic, and arguably the earliest clear description of a belted plaid in any language.

Original MS.

Unfortunately, at the moment I don't know where the original manuscript(s) may be found.

Ó Clerigh, Lughaidh, The Life of Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, ed. Paul Walsh and Colm Ó Lochlainn, vol. 42, Irish Texts Society (Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland, 1948). (1 Jan 2000 )

Transcription of the original Gaelic:
"Ceileabhrais Domhnall Gorm dUa Dhomhnoill 7 fosragaibh a brathair ba soam occa go ccóig cédaibh laoch dóccbaidh armtha 7 do lochraidh leidmhigh. Airisidh Mac Leoid an coimhlíon céttna 7 fostais Ua Domhnaill iad díbh linaibh. Ba suaichnidh on ietsomh hi tréchumuscc Fer Fene la saine a narm 7 a nerraidh a naladh 7 a nerlabhra ar asedh ba hédgudh dhóibh dianechtair breacbruit ioldathacha i forciupal gó nesccataiv 7 oircnib a ccresa tara náirdnibh allamuigh dia mbrataibh drong dhiobh co ccloidhmhibh benndornchuir itiet nóra mileta ósa fformnaibh. Ba héiccen don laech a dhi laimh do thabairt i naonfhabhall ind urdurn a chloidimh an tan no benadh a béim de. Araill dhíob go bfiodhbhacaibh féths[h]noightibh feidhmnertmhara go sreangshnáithib secrighni siothc[h]náipe 7 go saighdibh srúibhgéra siaineteacha."

English translation:
"Domhnall Gorm took leave of O Domhnaill and left with him his youngest brother and five hundred armed soldiers and active warriors. MacLeod remained with the same number and O Domhnaill retained both of them. They were recognised among the Irish soldiers by the distinction of their arms and clothing, their habits and language, for their exterior dress was mottled cloaks of many colours with a fringe to their shins and calves, their belts were over their loins outside their cloaks. Many of them had swords with hafts of horn, large and warlike, over their shoulders. It was necessary for the soldier to grip the very haft of his sword with both hands when he would strike a blow with it. Others of them had bows of carved wood strong for use, with well seasoned strings of hemp, and arrows sharp-pointed, whizzing in flight."

My thanks to Heather Rose Jones for providing these quotations.

Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, 1994 ed. (Glasgow: Gairm Publications, 1994). (1 Jan 2000 )

"The earliest Gaelic description of Scots wearing such a costume occurs in Lughaidh O'Clerigh's Life of Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill (Irish Text Society, vol. 42, pt. I, 73), describing Hebrideans in 1594: 'Their exterior dress was mottled cloaks of many colours with a fringe to their shins and calves; their belts were over their loins outside their cloaks.' Although he used brat in the term breachbhrait ioldathacha, O'Cleirigh was contrasting a costume that differed by this time from the dress of the Irish and appears to have been describing the féileadh mór." (s.v. "kilt", p. 144)

[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!
  Web MedievalScotland.org