Irish Invasions of Britain
In spite of the apparently isolated position of the Irish, they seemed to have kept up contact with many foreign countries. Many foreign mercenaries were employed in Irish wars and foreign matrimonial alliances were common among the Irish royal families. The Irish, although not a sea going nation were well equipped for sea transit and quite expert in the art. The Book of Acaill contains sea-laws and defines the rights and duties of foreign trading vessels.
In the year 222 Cormacs fleet sailed the seas for three years. Niall brought his fleet when he invaded Britain. St Patrick as a slave boy, quit his slavery and arrived at the sea just in time to find a ship about to sail for foreign lands. When Columbanus is deported from France, they readily find a ship just about to sail to Ireland. These happenings imply that there must have been fairly regular travel between Ireland and other lands.
In pre-Christian days, all Irish foreign military expeditions were into Alba and Britain.
The Romans never once ventured into Ireland - it was considered though - the want of a strong and permanent autocratic central authority in Ireland, commanding the respect and obedience of the various sub-kingdoms and unifying Irelands power, always left the nation open to the great danger of foreign conquest. Yet the Romans never attacked Ireland - their discovery of the fierceness of Irish fighters may have played a part in dissuading them from the Irish venture. The recklessness and persistency of Irish fighters taught them to respect Irish fighters and Irish commanders. The Romans even recruited Irish regiments for Continental service.
Though the Irish nation was weak for defence, it was strong for offence. It was only the Romans discipline and numbers that overcame the Irish attacks in Britain. When the Romans were called home, it was the Irish and Picts who drove them south and eventually out of Britain. Britain was now left at the mercy of her northern and western neighbours, and suffered greatly.
The Irish Kingdom of Scotland
The terms Scotia and Scot were first applied to Ireland and Irishmen,
but later came to be applied to Irelands northeastern neighbour, Alba and its inhabitants.
Our most ancient poets and seanachies claim that an early name for Eirinn, Scotia, was derived from Scota, queen-mother of the Milesians. The poet Egesippus tells how "Scotia which links itself to no land, trembles at their name" - the term Scotia is, by Continental writers, applied to Ireland more often than any other name. And Scot is the term by these writers most constantly applied to a native of Eirinn. Orosius, the third century geographer, uses "Hibernia the nation of the Scoti". An Irish exile on the continent, the celebrated Marianus Scotus referred to his countrymen as Scots.
The modern name of Ireland seems to have originated with the Northmen, in about the seventh century - being probably formed from Eire, they called it Ir or Ire, and after that the English called it Ireland, and its natives Irish. For several centuries longer, however, these terms were not adopted by Continental writers, who still continued to speak of Scotia and the Scot, and designated the Irish scholars on the Continent by the term Scotus. The new name Ireland was on the Continent, first used only in the eleventh century (by Adam De Breme).
To Alba (the present Scotland) was transferred the term Scotia, and to its people the term Scot, because the Scoti of Hibernia, having again and again colonised there, built in it a strong kingdom, which gave the Scotic (Irish) people dominance there, and soon made the Scotic kings the kings of the whole country.
The Picts naturally jealous of these usurpers on their soil, continued exerting the utmost pressure upon them, in the hope of crushing them out, till Niall of the Nine Hostages, going to their assistance with an army, overcame and drove back the Picts, establishing the Scotic kingdom in Alba on a solid foundation, and, it is said, got the submission of the Picts and the tribute of all Alba. Now that the Scotic people got complete dominance over all or the main part of the country, it began to be called Scotia - at first Scotia Minor, in contradistinction to Eire, which was called Scotia Major - but gradually the title Scotia fell away from Eire, and solely came to signify Alba.
In the eleventh century a number of leading English families who fled or were driven from the south, flocked into southeastern Scotland and came into favour at court. When, at the end of the eleventh century, Malcolms son, Edgar, English both by name and nature, was crowned king - the Gaelicism of royalty and of the court waned more rapidly, till in the thirteenth century it went out altogether; and the last of the Irish royal line became extinct with Alexander the Third, who died without heir in 1287.
So, though the greater portion of the country was, and still is, Gaelic - with Gaelic manners, customs, dress and language, still holding in the Highlands and the Islands - the end of the thirteenth century saw the end of the Scotic (Irish) rule in Alba.
The Centuries of the Saints
The news impetus and aim that Patrick gave to the Irish nation, turning
it from war-love to ideals much higher, wrought in the island a phenomenal transformation.
While foreign warring and raiding ceased, and internal warring became more rare, tens of
thousands of every rank and class in the nation vied with one another, not, as formerly,
for skill in handling war weapons, but for ease in conning the Scriptures; not for gaining
fame in fighting, but for gathering favour in the sight of God. The religious development
and spiritual revolution were extraordinary.
Christianity and learning went hand in hand in Ireland. Almost every one of her multitude of holy men became scholars, and every holy scholar became a teacher.
Those centuries had three orders of saints, namely : the Patrician or secular clergy, missionaries who travelled and preached Christ to all the land during the hundred years succeeding the coming of Patrick ; the monastic saints, who, during the next hundred years, cultivated Christianity in, and radiated it from, their monastic establishments and monastic schools ; and the anchorites, the hermit saints, who, succeeding the great ones of the second order, cultivated Christ in solitude. On lonely islands, on wild mountain tops and in the impenetrable wilderness.
One of the most honoured and most beloved of the second order was Finian of Clonard. For, from his famous school at Cluain-erard - Clonard, on the river Boyne - went forth the twelve saints who were styled the Twelve Apostles of Eirinn : the two Ciarans, the two Brendans, the two Colms, Mobi, Ruadan, Lasserian, Ciannech, Senach and Ninnid of Loch Erne.