‘Ian Adamson, are you listening?’ by Daniel Collins

Just on the origin or original meaning of the word “Gael”; according to the scholar John T. Koch in his book ‘Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia’, the word – in the form of “Guoidel” – was borrowed from a Primitive Welsh form that became an Old Welsh term, roughly meaning “forest person”, “wild man” or later “warrior”. He doesn’t mention “raider” as having been a meaning then, even though it does appear to be the present import of the modern Welsh derivative. I’m by no means an expert in the etymology of such words, but just thought that worth mentioning.


Anyhow, from what I can make out (http://newsnet.scot/archive/whats-in-a-name/), it was the Romano-Britons in Britain, who referred to the Irish tribesmen who settled in northern Britain from the fifth century onward as the “Goidel”. They used the term “Scotti” (after whom Scotland was named) to refer to these settlers, who came from Ireland, when writing in Latin. These terms weren’t used in reference to any raiders of Ireland, as far as I can gather, but were used rather to define early Irish settlers in Britain.


The last time I encountered Ian’s fantasy version of history – in a Facebook comments section under a post of Jude’s over a year ago (https://www.facebook.com/jude.collins.92/posts/10153867178212673?comment_id=10153867254247673&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D) – I posted two fairly lengthy responses or dissections of his colourful theories that might be worth posting here again as they’d still be relevant to what Ian has written above.


Here was the first comment I posted:


And the second: https://www.facebook.com/jude.collins.92/posts/10153867178212673?comment_id=10153867254247673&reply_comment_id=10153870315532673&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D


I’ll paste their content below also…




Ian Adamson; why do learned scholars of the fields you try to manipulate suggest your theories, or imaginations even, ought to be classified somewhere between folk/foundational mythology and pseudo-history? The work of respected academics directly contradicts your theories.


The Pritani (or Britons) *were* a Celtic people. Even if one was to accept solely for the sake of argument that what you propose was true – that “an original Pritani people were expelled from Ireland by later-invading Gaels” – it wouldn’t render Ireland’s Celtic and Gaelic history meaningless or insignificant.



There’s an interesting analysis of some of your claims (described as “myth” and “obviously vulnerable”) here:https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=7S29-ASD1HgC&lpg=PA297&ots=fCokBflXv3&dq=ian%20adamson%20theories&pg=PA297#v=onepage&q=ian%20adamson%20theories&f=false


Further analysis here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5Ll3Bazh66IC&lpg=PA97&ots=7vmkbVLWs-&dq=ian%20adamson%20theories&pg=PA97#v=onepage&q&f=false


And here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Us0UUqj5abgC&lpg=PA96&ots=YeKSGJxBgc&dq=ian%20adamson%20theories&pg=PA96#v=onepage&q&f=false


That publication outlines how archaeologists have “widely rejected” your theories and specifically mentions one who has referred to your work as “fiction”. It tells of how serious historians are “equally suspicious”; some specifically-quoted have described your writings as “invented history”, “reactionary”, “frankly outrageous” and a “crude switch on the invader discourse [of nationalism]”. These are international archaeologists and historians; not merely Irish historians who you may try and dismiss as being “compromised by a nationalist agenda”. Why do they all so roundly refute your work? Is it really all one big nationalist/”violent republican” agenda?…


Your undertakings have been clearly politically-motivated and represent a spurious attempt either to portray the Ulster-Scots people as re-claiming a lost “British” home-land or to give the impression that the island of Ireland is actually British in heritage. Your “findings” appear to be loosely based on T.F. O’Rahilly’s controversial and refuted historical model (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O%27Rahilly%27s_historical_model) of invasions or mass movements, which does not receive any serious degree of support amongst modern historians, both within Ireland and beyond. Celtic-specialist linguist-historians such as Kenneth H. Jackson and John T. Koch, for example, have seriously undermined the model.


The Goidelic and Brittonic branches of Insular Celtic are thought to have evolved separately but simultaneously on either side of the Irish Sea, in Ireland and Britain respectively, with the Goidelic branch being the more archaic of the two:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insular_Celtic_languages#Insular_Celtic_hypothesis


This view is supported by respected linguists such as Warren Cowgill, Kim McCone and Peter Schrijver.


You’ve referred to the Cruthin as being pre-Gaelic, Pictish (in order to connect them with the Picts in Scotland) or “anciently British”, presumably to bolster some notion that they are the ancestors of the modern-day Ulster-Scots people. You presumably assert they were Brittonic-speaking? This is a controversial claim and is disputed by serious historians who assert with near-certainty that the Cruthin were, in fact, Gaelic-speaking and had no connection with the Picts, as is demonstrated by the records: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruthin#Relationship_to_the_Picts


Also, it is thought that this name was not self-referential. In the Irish context, it would seem that the term Cruthin basically meant various assimilated Gaelic-speaking groups whose more “recent” background would have been Brittonic-speaking in Britain.


Indeed, archaeologists J.P. Mallory and T.E. McNeill are quoted in the second and third publications to which I have linked above as stating that “the Cruthin as a distinct ethnic group are archaeologically invisible, that is, there is not a single object or site that an archaeologist can declare to be distinctly Cruthin”. That’s damning for your theory that there existed a homogeneous or monolithic Cruthin population.


“Cruthin” (from “Qritani”) is a Goidelic term; it is indeed the Q-Celtic cognate or variant of the P-Celtic “Pritani” (later Romanised/Latinised to Brittani), but Brittonic isn’t thought to have been spoken in Ireland, nor did it influence Irish Gaelic to any significant degree. Both terms came from an earlier Insular Celtic form “Kʷritenī”, which meant “painted/tattooed people”.


Q-Celtic did not evolve out of P-Celtic; the Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Celtic predecessor to both the ‘q’ of Primitive Irish and the new ‘p’ sound of Common Brittonic (from which Welsh, Cornish and Breton evolved) was the ‘kʷ’ phoneme. For example, the Proto-Celtic for “head” was “kʷennos”. That became “qennos” in Primitive Irish and later “ceann” in Modern Irish, whereas it became “pennos” in Common Brittonic and later “pen” in Welsh.


The Q/P dichotomy is now viewed as a much too simplified or superficial, if not an untenable, means of distinguishing branches of the Celtic languages. The supposed Q/P separation is useful only when we wish to group the Celtic languages according to the way they handle the aforementioned phoneme.




Ian Adamson; here is the opinion of historian Peter Beresford Ellis with regard to your theories: http://www.connollyassociation.org.uk/about/revisionism-irish-historical-writing/


“According to Dr. Adamson, the Cruthin were the original inhabitants of Ireland, arriving long before the Gaels. The Gaels came and drove the Cruthin to Scotland but, during the 17th century Plantations of Ulster, the Cruthin returned to take their rightful place in the Irish scheme of things.


This, at one stroke gave the unionists a new justification for being in Ireland. They were the original inhabitants and not merely the descendants of the colonial settlements. It is rather like the philosophy of Zionism. They were no longer newcomers settling on the lands of the dispossessed natives but a ‘chosen people’ who had returned to their ‘Promised Land’.


Dr, Adamson even tries to shore up his theory by examples of blood groupings to show that the Irish are composed of two nations – the nationalist Catholics (the Gaels) and the Ulster Protestants (the Cruthin).


Of course, Dr. Adamson has done a tremendous amount of ‘revisionism’ with what is known about the Picts, even to the point of simply ignoring it. The Cruthin is the Goidelic Celtic form of Preteni, which is a Brythonic Celtic name. The Preteni, known as Picti, or ‘the painted people’, were an offshoot of the Continental Celts who arrived in northern Scotland some centuries BC, according to Professor Kenneth Jackson, one of the leading Celtic scholars of this century.


There are no texts in the ‘Pictish language’ but some scanty recordings of personal names and place-names show them to be (according to Professor Jackson) “unquestionably Celtic, and moreover what is called P-Celtic, that is, sprung from the Continental Celtic milieu from which the Britons also came and not from the Q-Celtic, which was the source of the Irish and Scottish Gaelic”.


Now this immediately sends Dr. Adamson’s slightly awry because, according to accepted Celtic scholarship. Q-Celtic (Goidelic) is more the archaic from of Celtic and speakers of this form were the first to reach these islands many centuries before the speakers of the P-Celtic (Brythonic) form. Moreover, in contradiction to Adamson’s ‘race theory’, both his Cruthin and the Gaels shared a common Celtic inheritance.”


Some further thoughts from a poster ‘Thranduil’ on Politics.ie: http://www.politics.ie/forum/history/76484-cruthin-2.html#post1765682


“[Cruthin is] a Gaelic word which was used to refer to P-Celtic speakers i think. P-Celtic was spoken in Britain and to the best of my knowledge only Q-Celtic in Ireland, there may have been P-Celtic speakers originally in Ireland too but they would not have been ‘pushed out’ but assimilated, as every group to enter Ireland was… Well not quite every one, Adamson’s people would be the obvious exception. We must not confuse a people or bloodlines with language here, even supposing the Gaelic language replaced a P-Celtic language that was here, this does not mean the people and their bloodlines were ‘cast out’, merely that their language was changed. Nor does it necessarily mean the P-Celtic one was here first… as i understand it Q-Celtic languages like Irish are believed to be more archaic (unchanged from the old root Celtic language), when a language is more archaic it may signify a very long period in isolation from other languages because the more contact you have with others the more bits of other languages become blended in to it leading to a branching (as when the original Celtic branched into Q and P parts), it doesn’t mean it is ‘older’… merely more unchanged.



Even assuming that [the Cruthin] were ‘expelled’ 1500 or so years ago, how could anyone claim these plantation people (so many of whom bear Anglo-Saxon as well as Irish names) are the same ones expelled? The right to return after 1500 years also sounds eerily like some kind of loyalist Zionism.”


Ptolemy and other ancient Roman and Greek geographers indeed remotely referred to Ireland and Britain as the “Pritannic Isles”, although this was not understood to be a collective self-referential term used by the inhabitants.


Indeed, these geographers even categorised what they thought was an island they referred to as Thule amongst their “Pritannic Isles”. This is now thought to have been Iceland, the Faroe Islands or possibly even a part of coastal Norway, which goes to demonstrate that their labels were often grounded more in vague presumptions and hearsay than any in-depth or intimate knowledge of specific lingua-cultural traits, nuances or differences of the regions they were mapping. It’s entirely possible they first encountered the Pretani of Britain, it being closer to their own location, and later encountered the Goidels/Gaels, slightly further afield in Ireland, but assumed both cultures “Pritannic” or rooted in the culture they had encountered first on account of the shared Celtic similarities between the two.


Just because Roman geographers, who were neither linguists nor necessary experts on the specific cultures of the places or entities they were documenting, referred, from the pedestal of what happened to be Europe’s dominant or most influential writing culture at the time, to Ireland in such terms doesn’t mean Ireland was Brittonnic, in full or in part, or, as you claimed the other day, “anciently British”. It would be more correct to say these early and limited geographers were referring to the general Insular Celtic culture when they used the term rather than to a British culture connected with the modern-day understanding of the term.


This term was not used again for centuries to apply to Ireland until John Dee, who drew maps for explorers under the direction of the English crown, sought to resurrect it in modern form – “British Isles” – in order to justify the colonial claim of the crown over the islands of Britain and Ireland along with the so-called “British Ocean” beyond. Essentially, its introduction was a politically-motivated means of justifying English Protestant imperial interests. It also amounted to an artificial appropriation by the latterly-Protestant Anglo-Saxon culture of what was originally a Celtic-referential term, so it is completely disingenuous to rhetorically conflate two distinct cultures from separate periods of history or to suggest that there is a direct evolutionary or substantive link that is anything other than superficial between the term “British Isles” as it is used today and the term “Pritannic Isles” as it was used in proto-history by some Roman and Greek geographers. There is no historical myth linking the isles despite the habit of the early geographers; this is affirmed by historian John Morrell.


3 Responses to ‘Ian Adamson, are you listening?’ by Daniel Collins

  1. Scott Rutherford June 16, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    A fantastic documentary about the connection between these two isles.

    I would recommend William Crawleys Imagining Ulster series.

  2. Barry Doherty June 16, 2017 at 11:39 pm #

    Howdy Daniel, that was really rather good, maith thú. Enjoyed that rebuttal.

  3. fiosrach June 17, 2017 at 10:08 am #

    As the BBC would say ‘ of course Mr Adamson would deny this’. He gives an impression of a historian who works back from the answer.