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S04 S05 Alt Clut transcript

Here's the transcript for our episode on Alt Clut. It won't be an exact match (because of editing and improvisation) but should answer Google's SEO queries...

There’s this mawkish old Vera Lynn song that goes “There’ll always be an England.” This song came out at the end of WW2, so it probably captures the national relief at coming through the war sort of intact.

The only problem with the song, of course, (and I’ve got bad news here) is that there won’t always be an England. And while you might be saying “well duh” it’s actually very easy to forget that this nationality thing that we cling onto is flash in the pan.

Scotland (in some form) didn’t happen until the 9th century, England 10th century, Wales 11th century. Ireland? Maybe the 12th century. And all of these dates of formation are highly debatable. Nations and national identity is an evolving thing. We look back to make sense of what we have now. But that can mean that we’re reading history backwards. 


Hindsight is looking through your legs backwards.

We think of how things are now as so inevitable that we mold history into a linear arrow pointing to where we are. But that’s not how history works.

The point is, that the history of the British and Irish isles has always been one of change, of people coming and going, of impermanence.

Today, we’re going to talk about a kingdom in modern day England and Scotland which was neither English nor Scottish. It was created before those ideas even existed. It was created by the people of the Old North who were around before England, Scotland, even before the Romans.

Today, we’re talking about one of the last great kingdoms of the ancient Britons - Alt Clut. The Rock of the Clyde.


And how it became the Kingdom of Strathclyde.


Yeah, that too. But I wanted to end on “Rock of the Clyde” because it sounds really cool.








Where was Alt Clut?

Alt Clut covered most of the southwest quarter of modern Scotland that today encompasses major cities such as Glasgow, kil-MAR-nick and Ayr. But Its ancient capital was Dunbarton.

This is an anglicised form of Dun Bretee-ann - Castle of the Britons. 

They were the Ancient Britons. The same people that the Romans discovered when they first landed in Britain in 55BC.

But after the Anglo-Saxons migrated to Britain, the Ancient Britons as independent people survived in 3 major locations – Wales, Cornwall and the Old North. They now only survive in Wales. But that’s not to say that most English people aren’t riddled with Ancient Briton DNA. We’re saturated with the stuff. But what’s a people without culture, language and heritage?

And that’s what the people of the Clyde had. Their own unique identity. The kings and people of Alt Clut spoke the ancient language of the Britons - Brythonic.


Brythonic was (and in some cases still is) spoken in Cornwall, Wales, The Old North and Breton (or Brittany) in France. It’s the language that modern Welsh evolved from. Instead of 1,2,3,4,5, the populace of Alt Clut would have said yinty, tinty, tetheri, metheri, bamf.

In modern Welsh they say…

Eleri: (or whoever)

Un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump. 

The early Medieval English historian Bede (who we met in our episodes on Mercia and the Sultanate of Rum)  wrote about a fortified city called Alcluith, the Rock on the Clyde. How metal is that?


Good evening. We are the Rock of Clyde. Yinty tinty, tetheri, metheri


It was also known as the Kingdom of the Rock. 

The Rock:

Can you smell what the rock is…



We know Alt Clut existed from archaeology, linguistics, kings lists, poetry and chronicles.

Alt Clut (or the Kingdom of the Rock) was one of the last kingdoms to succumb to invaders - it also helped stop the Anglo-Saxon march north in its tracks. 

[mysterious] Could the legendary King Arthur have been based on a Brythonic King of Alt Clut? It’s definitely a clickbaity question to ask but why not? / 

Find out by listening right to the end of this episode, following us on social media and giving us a five star review

The office - Pathetic. Is it?

After all, Alt Clut was surrounded by enemies on all sides. The Scots to the west. The Picts to the north. The Angles to the east and south. 


When was the Kingdom of Alt Clut? 

From the 5th century to about 1030 AD. Except it starts as Alt Clut and then becomes the Kingdom of Strathclyde when it loses The Rock bit and is more controlled by the Kingdom of Alba - which eventually became known as Scotland. But we’ll come to that later.

Its beginnings are shadowy. When the Romans retreated from Britain in the late 4th century, several native kingdoms popped up north of Hadrian’s Wall.

The first ruler of the Kingdom of the Rock was Coroticus, a Romanised version of Ceredig Guweldig. His claim to fame? St Patrick complained that Coroticus and his “gangsters” sold Christians into slavery to the Picts and Scots. He is referred to in the Welsh Annals as Ceredig the Wealthy, son of Cynloyp. 

Slavery really pays it seems.

He supposedly had his successors – Erbin, Kinwit, Geh-reint, Tootagual and Caw, but we don’t know much about them. Sorry. Well, except Tootagual. We think he may have reigned from 560-80. And that’s because he had a more famous son, Rhydderch Hael [hail] – who had a long reign from 580-618 AD. Probably. Maybe. We dunno.

Just as we know Corotticus from the accounts of St Patrick, we also know of King Rhydderch Hael from St Columba.

In 590, he joined a confederacy of Celtic kings and invaded south to wipe the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bern-i-cia from the map. Apparently they very nearly succeeded but infighting led to the assassination of their leader and the confederacy fell apart. 

Rock of the Clyde

You probably were involved


Oh why did you do it?

Oh Rock of the Clyde.

Remember back to the Viking Kingdom of Dublin and how rival kings were constantly screwing each other over? This story checks out.

Listen to the Viking Kingdom of Dublin Season 3 Episode 2 of Countries That Don’t Exist Anymore

Pathetic. It is?

And there are some cool but bizarre stories about him elsewhere too.

Popular medieval holy man Saint Mungo is said to have had various dealings with Rhydderch Hael.

In the dark age times times when the weather was cold

Da da da da da 

You got Strathclyde, you got bla bla bla

Ed: You know you don’t have to do a song for every thing Phil.

Phil: Ohh…… don’t I….

After knocking around with St David, the patron saint of Wales, Mungo was summoned to the Kingdom of the Rock where he apparently got the title Bishop of North Britain in 580 to found a church at the Blue Green Meadow, aka Glas-gau.

Ed: Is that Glasgow?

Phil: [brent style] yep

His adventures there are still commemorated by the symbol of Glasgow. A bird, a tree, a bell and a fish. All relating to the miracles of St Mungo. A bird that he restored to life, a tree that he gave the ability to set itself on fire whenever it fancied, the bell represents his pilgrimage to Rome. I guess long distance tourism was a bit of a miracle in the Dark Ages.


And the fish?

That relates to King Rhydderch Hael.

Apparently his wife Languoreth was having it away with a soldier and foolishly gave him a ring that her husband had given to her.


These are the perils of regifting.

When the king saw the soldier was wearing the ring, he flew into a temper and had his wife thrown into a dungeon and the soldier sentenced to death. He then seized the ring and threw it into the waters of the Clyde. 

The queen sought the advice of St Mungo who sent a fisherman out to do some fishing. Catching a salmon, the fisherman handed it to St Mungo, who had it cut open and there inside was the ring. This - ahem -  miracle impressed King Rhydderch so much that he forgave his wife and the soldier.


So actually he was fine with the affair all along. The only thing that annoyed him really was chucking the ring away?

I guess so. 

By the way, the salmon and the ring story was also recycled for Lancelot and Guinevere in the court of King Arthur. So there's another piece of "evidence" for the Arthurian legend taking place on the Clyde.


You've got the fish. You've got the ring. What more evidence do you need?


And everything ended relatively happy ever after for Rhydderch. In fact Saint Columba prophesied that he would die in bed. And that’s what happened. Spooky!

How could he have known?



As far as prophecies go, not that impressive. And I say unto you that tomorrow morning as the hour strikes 7.30, lo you will break fast. Possibly with the eating of wheat that has been shredded. Or Cocoa Pops.

The important thing is that he’s name-checked by a saint and recorded by monks. So. Rhydderch Hael. Probably a real king of Alt Clud.

And the successors of Rhydderch Hael? A buttload of princes called Dumnagual apparently. At least 5 of them. But no dates, no details, not even a Friends Reunited profile between them.

What was the religion of Alt Clut?

Despite the complaints of St Patrick, it was Christianity. Alt Clut's war against the Angles was less about "the English taking our freeeedom" and more about the Roman Catholicism that the Angles had adopted. 

See, Celtic Christianity had grown independently of the church in Rome and now that things had settled down a bit, they were none too pleased about Rome sending new missionaries to convert the pagans. And by pagans, I mean fellow Christians. 

St Wilfrid was named Bishop of Pictland - which was a tad optimistic since he couldn’t get anywhere near it. The Roman Catholic Church were even goading the Anglo-Saxons to push north and spread Catholic orthodoxy. 

Nothing spreads the religion of peace like good old fashioned violence.

But let’s lay off religion just for a second. Yes the Celtic and Catholic churches disagreed about how Easter was calculated and what colour candle was best, but at the heart of all this, religious differences were often just a nice sounding excuse for a power grab. 

Ed: Fortunately that pattern is long behind us.

Yes. Yes it is.

Despite Rome’s backing of the Angle advance; Alt Clut, along with their Pictish allies, held off the Anglo-Saxon steamroller by defeating the Northumbrian King Ecgfrith at the Battle of Nechtansmere in 685. One of the reasons we know this is that the Picts carved the Aberlemno stone commemorating the victory. In the final carving, Ecgfrith lies dead on the battlefield, birds picking out his gizzards.


No mobile phones. No internet. Just people living in the moment.

So The Rock stood. While Rhydderch Hael didn’t appear to have had any sons, there seems to be a regular string of kings - some overlapping with Kings of Pictland. But this was no Pictish takeover. In fact, we think that it was Alt Clut that were providing kings for the Picts. 

During the 7th century, The Rock was the powerhouse.

After Rhydderch Hael came Nei-thon. Neithon and his line not only held power at home but were unafraid to venture out and give other nearby powers a good drubbing on occasion. 

Then Neithon begat Beli and Beli begat Owen.And it was Owen who killed Domnall Brecc, King of Dal-ri-ada at the Battle of Strath-carron in 642.

Where was Dalriada again?

Dalriada was a Gaelic Kingdom that covered the west coast of Scotland and a corner of Northern Ireland.

So the Irish were in Scotland?

Well, in fact the Scots were from Ireland. On the whole it’s best not to think about Scotland and Ireland or even England at this point. The two islands that we now call Britain and Ireland were just one big battleground populated by various competing peoples.

But what goes up must come down. During the eighth and early ninth centuries, the Rock goes quiet. No famous monarchs, no resounding victories. And while the once warring Picts and Scots eventually allied and intermarried, Alt Clut seemed to have been be in some kind of lockdown. Or at least that’s what the historical records tell us.  Or don’t tell us.  Kind of the same thing.

Maybe during this time, Alt Clut became a touring Beegees tribute act. WE don’t know, because the records don’t exist.

But one of the reasons why we hear less from The Rock was that they were surrounded by more powerful nations. To the south were the Angles of Northumbria. And yes, while Alt Clut has stopped Northumbria's northward expansion, the Angles still ruled prosperous lands that encompassed Northern England and southern Scotland. And surrounding them on pretty much every other side were the united Scots and Picts - who seemed to be doing well for themselves - actively trading and settlement building. 

Meanwhile, evidence of Alt Clut’s prosperity is a lot more scarce.

But in 750AD, we have it from several accounts that Alt Clut went to war with the Picts - killing Talargan, King of the Picts, before losing their own king, Teudebur map Beli. The map bit, by the way, means son of.

Speaking of sons of, there seems to have been a bit of dynastic strife in Alt Clut.

Initially the throne was gained by Dyn-fwal map Teudebur - no guesses who he was map of…


King Arthur?


I said no guesses.



But then Dyn-fwal met his dyn-fwal… downfall… when The Rock was invaded by an alliance of Picts and Angles in 756. King Dyn-fwal surrendered his throne to On-uist, King of the Picts and Ead-bhert, King of Northumbria.

Bad news for Alt Clut. But bad news for Ead-bhert too, as on his way home he was ambushed and killed by his former ally, Pictish King On-uist. What a wanker!


More like King Onanist.

Shockingly, given the reliability of sources from this time, we’re not 100% sure that On-uist was the perpetrator, but he seemed the only person in the area with the strength to do it. His motive could well have been not wanting to share the Alt Clut kingship with Ead-bhert and the Northumbrian Bede suspected as much, calling On-uist a “tyrannical butcher.”

And The Scots-Picts alliance was becoming an increasing threat. Partly because they were merging into one solid mass. 


One carb heavy, deep fried mass… that’s really hard to squeeze ou…

The Scots had a literate clergy who were busy converting the Picts to their liturgy. And at the same time we have evidence of the Scots migrating from the Western seaboard throughout the land. Very Scots sounding areas were popping up further east, like Atholl or New Ireland. Their monarchies were intermarrying and their capital was founded at Dunkeld.


Not Edinburgh?


No. Edinburgh was an Anglo-Saxon settlement.


Shhh Phil. You’ll get us into trouble with the SNP.

And at the nearby Abbey of Scone was housed the stone of Scone - the sacred coronation stone of Scotland.


Stone of Scone. Personally, I’d do coronation then jam then cream.


Cream then jam!






And that’s how wars start.


It really is that easy!

Of course this merger wasn’t without its own civil wars, until Kenneth McAlpine became sort of the first Scottish King in 843. And sometime thereafter, this new kingdom got the Gaelic name of Alba and adopted the patron saint Andrew as well as his flag the Saltaire - which Scotland still has to this day. So, Scotland is formed. Sort of. A bit.

The reason that Kenneth McAlpine got to take over the north of the island was that the good old Vikings rolled in and wiped out all other contenders. Classic Vikings. And what was good news for King Ken was really bad news for Alt Clut.

From their base in Dublin…


Listen to our episode on the Viking Kingdom of Dublin for more.

…the Vikings were wreaking havoc wherever they swung their axes. In either 870 or 871 they swept in and destroyed the fortress of The Rock. According to the Annals of Ulster, friends of the podcast Olaf and Ivor besieged The Rock for 4 months before plundering and destroying it and killing its king, Arthgal.

Kenneth MacAlpine’s son, King Constantine then invaded and made himself over-king - with Rhun map Arthgal serving under him. 

The ruling elite of old Alt Clut mainly seemed to have been exiled and fled to their brethren in Wales. The Britons left behind were needed to work the land and were absorbed into the new Kingdom of Strathclyde.

The capital of Strathclyde was moved away from the now smoldering Rock to Govan - now a suburb of Glasgow.


And a shit one - according to my girlfriend

Not necessarily the views of CTDEA or its shareholders.

The once mighty Alt Clut was now Strathcylde, more of a tribute state of Alba.

So why was it rebranded as Strathclyde?

Whereas Alt Clut was a Brythonic name meaning Rock of the Clyde, Strath Clu-aith was a Gaelic name meaning valley of the Clyde. So, demotion from a mighty rock to a geographical valley. Thumbs up to thumbs down, in youtube comment speak.


Sort of how Great Brain went from GREAT Britain. To (sarcastically) Great. Britain.

But it seems like there was nearly a moment of rejuvenation for old Alt Clut. As grandson of Kenneth MacAlpine, Eochaid map Rhun became King of Strathclyde and maybe even King of all Alba. 

One source called him “the first Briton to rule over Gaels” but it didn’t last long as he was booted out by Gir-ic MacRath (lightning) who sounds super dangerous and was known to have had Britons, Norse and English house slaves.

Godammit MacRath, you may have defeated the king of the Gaels, but you can’t keep Briton, Norse and English house slaves!

But chief, I really like having slaves.

In this department we do things but the illuminated manuscript.

Illuminate this. (sets him on fire)

Ahhhhhhhh! I get it, you set me on fire after I said illuminated…. hahaha

Ed: And you can listen to more episode of MacGrath on our patroen bonus episodes

Phil: Probably. Maybe. Maybe not. I dunno. A bit.

But Strathclyde would have to learn to get on with their quote-unquote Scottish overlords, because there was a new threat to the South. This time not the Vikings but a newly minted nation that was kicking Viking butt - the English.


Arrrgh. Run! It’s those accursed English.


We’re English.


Oh yeah! Woo. Go English!

While King Alfred had been reduced to hiding in swamps, he famously led the fight back, with his children pushing the Norseman back further north…


For more, listen to our episode on Mercia.

By the time of Alfred’s grandson, England had greater ambitions. King Athelstan had ideas of uniting all of the island of Britain under his rule. And in a meeting at Eamont Bridge in Cumbria, all the big wigs of Britain submitted to Athelstan - which included Yw-ain map Dyn-fal of Strathclyde. New coins were minted proclaiming Athelstan, Rex totius Britanniae.

More bad news for Strathcylde? Not quite. Since Athelstan has smashed the Vikings of Northumbria and York, this led to a power vacuum in the area. And with England occupied down south, this gave Strathclyde the opportunity to sneakily slide into these territories moving deep into the Pennines. Probably up to about the modern town of Barnard Castle - where Dominic Cummings also sneakily slid.


Hey Phil, 2020 called. It wants its topical comedy back.


Sorry non-British listeners. This will mean nothing to you.


I like to look back to that Cummings story with 20-20 vision. [tumbleweed]


Does any of it?


Anyway the lands of The Old North were back! Sort of. A bit.

And markers of Strathclyde’s rule in the North of England are still evident - like the Cumbrian parish churches dedicated to St Mungo at Dearham near Cockermouth.



In fact, the Kings of Strathcydle were also known as kings of Cumbria. Cumbria just means “compatriots” and is similar to the Welsh word for Wales - Cymru (kum-ree).


Cymru makes total sense. Why would Wales call itself Wales? Welsh just means foreigners. They’re calling themselves foreigners!

There are a smattering of places with Brythonic place names in Cumbria. Perhaps most notably, Dunmail Raise was probably named after Dyf-nwal ab Ow-ain, King of Strathclyde.

But this new found glory (sort of) didn’t last long. While all the other kingdoms of Britain had submitted to Athelstan, turns out that they had had their fingers crossed behind their backs and they didn’t really mean it. 

And at the Battle of Brun-an-burh (near modern Merseyside) a coalition of Welsh, Scots and Norse Kings faced the English in 937. Probably among them was King of Strathclyde Yw-ain map Dyn-fwal. Unfortunately for Yw-ain, he was on the losing side.

But this wasn’t game over for Strathcylde. In fact Athelstan’s death gave them a reprieve, and it was down to his successor, Edmund the Elder, to invade Strathclyde in 944 - defeating its king Dyn-fwal III. Yet another Dyn-fwal downfall. 

In the settlement, Alt Clut was mentioned by name but only inasmuch as it was decided that its semi-independence should reach an end and it should be totally absorbed into Alba. That’s not to say that all Brythonic identity was lost in the area. Its rulers kept Brythonic names - but it was now acting under direct orders from Alba.

In the south, it was England’s turn to come under the heel of invaders - first by King Cnut of Norway and then by William the Conqueror - who set about harrying the North and pestering the Scots. 

The title King of Alba was dropped and the more recognisable Rex Scottorum, or King of Scotland was assumed. These new Scottish kings created what we think of as Scotland with the conquering of Edinburgh in 1020. 

Scottish nobles were now very non-Gaelic Lowlanders with strong English and Norman connections. With almost nothing to do with the Highlander blue Pictish war paint popularised by Braveheart.


Braveheart? Not historically accurate? Plot twist!

Shocked as you are.

Even William Wallace may not have been particularly Scottish. Wallace (or Ulas in Gaelic) means Welshman or Briton. But given that he was born and grew up in sight of The Rock, it’s probably not all that surprising.

Within Strathclyde, its Brythonic language and identity continued. In the 12th century, when Scotland’s clans were forming, many pointed back to Brythonic ancestry. Clan Galbraith’s name in Gaelic means Foreign Briton. They took the symbol of the Boar’s head - the same as the last kings of Strathclyde. 

Similarly the Kincaids, MacArthurs and the Lennoxes made much of their connections back to the Kingdom of the Rock. The surname Campbell comes from the Gaelic word cam beil or “twisted mouth”, i.e. unintelligible.

And from where they originated, this also is likely to mean that they were originally Brythonic speakers with an accent that sounded strange to Gaelic ears. 

One of the last major mentions of Alt Clut was when Scottish King David I patronised the cult of St Mungo in Glasgow in 1136.


How did he patronise them?


He was probably like - great cult guys. Mungo? Brilliant! Well done you.

The Brythonic language didn’t last past the 13th century.

Ironically, parts of Glasgow and the Clydesdale now have a strong Gaelic identity, but this only started during the Industrial Revolution when penniless Galeic migrants moved to the shipyards of the Clyde to build the British Empire’s ocean going fleet.

But this shouldn’t be a surprise. While we love to stick to a national myth, hopefully Countries That Don't Exist Anymore should remind you that nationalities and identities come and go and ebb and flow and evolve and merge and adapt. But do they ever really go away? Thanks to Scottish emigration, there are Dumbartons all over the world. Canada, New Zealand, 2 in Australia and loads in the USA.

If the legacy of a people is its names, then Alt Clut went global.

When ancient Britons first landed on the rock

They didn’t know what they were gonna be

With no Scotland, Ireland or Wales

They had no national identity

When the Saxons landed on the British Isle

It looked as if the Britons had finally had their day.

But the Britons built a fort upon the Clyde

"You shall not pass, we'll never ever go away."

And they defeated the Angles in a mighty war

Like King Arthur and his knights but for real

And Clyde Rock survived for many centuries more

And the people kept their Brythonic spiel.

And they built a fort on the Clyde

And that fort stood for some years more.

To keep the ancient Brits alive.

And this is what this history’s for.

Alt Clut!


Alt Clut!


On that windswept rock they finally made their stand.

Yinty tinty (Yinty tinty)

Yinty tinty(Yinty tinty)

Tetheri, metheri and then bamf.


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