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Early Buildings in Scotland.



THE Celtic word cathair in the Legend of St. Columbkille and Drostan, which is translated "town" or "city," was applied primarily by the ancient Irish to denote a class of their forts formed of circular uncemented stone walls. Dr. Petrie informs us that this is the strict meaning of the word, and that it is applied only in a secondary and figurative sense to "a city," adding that it appears to be one of a class of Irish words (of which he gives examples) descriptive of circular erections, and the same as the British Kaer.1

This last word, which enters so largely into the composition of the names of places in Brittany, was there originally applied to a fortified dwelling, and secondarily to a farm and manor-house.2 In the Chartulary of the monastery of Redon we have instances of the synonymous use of the words "Kaer" and " Villa," as in the confirmation to the abbey, A.D. 1037, of the island of St. Guitual, with its lands and pertinents, and seven "villas in Ploehidinuc id est

1 Ordnance Survey of the County of Londonderry, vol. i. p. 213. Parish of Templemore, "Townlands." 2 Chartular. de Redon, Pref. p. ccc.


Kaer en Treth, Kaer Guiscoiarn, Kaer Gleuhirian, Kaer Kerveneac,
Kaer en Mostoer, Kaer Euen, and Kaer Caradoc."

The "oppida" of the Armorican tribes in the time of Cæsar consisted of the fortresses to which the inhabitants retreated for safety. They were mostly situated on the coast, at the extremities of tongues of land or promontories, and appear to have been numerous, for we learn that although the Romans were able to take some of these "oppida," yet all their labour was thrown away, for as soon as the Veneti thought themselves no longer safe, they evacuated the oppidum which was attacked, embarked with all their goods on board their numerous vessels, and withdrew to the neighbouring oppida," the situations of which offered the same advantages for a new resistance. Of the "oppida" of the Britons, Cæsar writes, 'Oppidum autem Britanni vocant, quum sylvas impeditas vallo atque fossa munierunt, quo, incursionis hostium vitandæ causa convenire consuerunt."



The earthen wall and ditch were in other circumstances represented by ramparts of great stones on the tops of hills, as we learn from Tacitus, in the case of Caractacus.*

The dwelling-houses of the Britons appear to have been of the slightest construction. In one of Cæsar's references to them, he calls them "Casas, quæ more Gallico stramentis erant tectæ." Diodorus Siculus speaks of them as mean habitations, constructed for the most part of reeds or of wood." Strabo (in the Latin version of Xylander) says of the Gauls and Britons, "Domos e tabulis et cratibus construunt rotundos magno imposito fas

1 Chartular. de Redon, pp. 327-8.

2 De Bell. Gall. iii. xii.

3 De Bell. Gall. v. xxi.

4 Annal. lib. xii. cc. 33-35.

5 De Bello Gallico, lib. v. cap. 43.

Biblioth. Histor. lib. v. ap. Monum.
Hist. Brit. p. ii.


tigio.1 Jornandes, a writer of the sixth century, says of the Caledonians "virgeas habitant casas.


In many of the hill-forts and raths, both of England, Scotland, and Wales, vestiges of circular foundations may yet be seen, as at Caerby, Ingleborough, Yevering, Dunpelder, the Caterthuns, and the Barmekyn on Dunecht.

On very many of our uncultivated moors and hill-sides also, groups of similar circular foundations (the remains of villages) are yet to be seen, of which good examples are at Greaves Ash among the Cheviots, and at Balnabroch on the Ardle, in Perthshire.

When St. Columba first visited Brude, the Pictish King, he was residing in his dun, on the banks of the Ness; and it is plain, from the description of Adamnan, that there were buildings within the circuit of the walls.*

It is probable that the abodes of the Pictish kings resembled the royal residences of the Irish at Tara, Aileach, and Emania— viz. raths and cathairs, within which were circular houses of wood or hurdle-work." It would seem that one such residence of the Pictish kings was placed at the confluence of the Almond with the Tay, and is referred to in our annals as Rath-inueramon."

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