Lochlann (earlier Laithlind) is an uncertainly located land in Classical Gaelic literature and in the history of Early Medieval Ireland. In the modern Gaelic and Welsh ("Llychlyn") languages it signifies Scandinavia, and more specifically Norway. In Irish Gaelic it has the additional sense of robber or raider.

The male name Lachlan is a variant of Lochlann, and the family names McLoughlin and Maclachlan come from this root.

Historical uses

The earliest recorded use of the word may be the arrival of Amlaíb "son of the king of Laithlind" in Ireland, noted by the "Annals of Ulster" in 853. While certainly of Scandinavian origin—Amlaíb is the Old Irish representation of the Old Norse name "Oláfr"—the question of Amlaíb's immediate origins is debated. While the traditional view has identified Laithlind with Norway, some have preferred to locate it in a Norse-dominated part of Great Britain, perhaps the Hebrides or the Northern Isles. [Woolf, Alex, "From Pictland to Alba 789–1070", pp. 107–108 & 286–289. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-7486-1234-5]

Whatever the meaning of Laithlind and Lochlann in Ireland in the ninth century, it may have referred to different places later. The "Lebor Bretnach"—a Gaelic adaption of the "Historia Brittonum" perhaps compiled at Abernethy—makes Hengist's daughter "the fairest of the women of all Lochlann". [The phrase is an addition to the "Lebor Bretnach" and thus cannot be compared to the original "Historia".] In 1058 Magnus Haraldsson is called "the son of the king of Lochlann", and his nephew Magnus Barefoot is the "king of Lochlann" in the reports of the great western expedition four decades later. ["Annals of Tigernach", s.a. 1058, s.a 1102; Woolf, "From Pictland to Alba 789–1070", pp. 266–267.]

The adventures of Prince Breacan of Lochlann are part of the mythology of the naming of the Gulf of Corryvreckan (Lang-gd|Coirebhreacain), a whirlpool between the islands of Jura and Scarba on the west coast of Scotland. The story goes that the tidal race was named after this Norse Prince "said to be son to the King of Denmark" who was shipwrecked there with a fleet of fifty ships. Breacan is reputed to be buried in a cave at "Bagh nam Muc" (bay of the swine) at the north-western tip of Jura. [Nyland, Edo (2006) " [http://books.google.com/books?id=t8YSXA719LMC&pg=PA128&lpg=PA128&dq=breacan+of+lochlann&source=web&ots=pmWprUE63u&sig=4wjavOwIwJJW2jimZp5kPrbgEh0 Odysseus and the Sea Peoples: A Bronze Age History of Scotland] ". Oxford. Trafford. p128.] [Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004) "The Scottish Islands". Edinburgh. Canongate. p.51.] [According to Haswell-Smith (2004) Adomnan's "Life of St Columba" suggests this calamity occurred between Rathlin Island and the Antrim coast. W.H. Murray corroborates the view that the original story may have referred to this latter location, quoting the 10th century "Glossary" of Cormac who describes the tale of "Brecan, son of Maine, son of Nial Naoighhiallach". Murray, W.H. (1966) "The Hebrides". London. Heinemann. pp 71-2.] [Martin, Martin (1703) " [http://www.appins.org/martin.htm A Voyage to St. Kilda] " in "A Description of The Western Islands of Scotland", Appin Regiment/Appin Historical Society. Retrieved 3 March 2007.]

The same story is associated with the "Bealach a' Choin Ghlais" (pass of the grey dog), a tidal race further north between Scarba and Lunga. The prince's dog managed to swim to land and went in search of his master. Failing to find him on Jura or Scarba he tried to leap across the strait to Lunga, but missed his footing on Eilean a' Bhealaich which sits in the middle of the channel between the two islands. He slipped into the raging current and drowned as well, giving his own name in turn to the strait where he fell. [Buckley, Mike [http://www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk/jura_easter_04/art_jura_easter_2004.htm "Jura & the Corryvreckan ~ tales and legends from an Easter Expedition in 2004"] ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk Retrieved 26 February 2007.]

Literary uses

Lochlann is the land of the Fomorians, in the Irish "Lebor Gabála Érenn". A Scandinavian Lochlann appears in later Irish tales, generally concerning the King of Lochlann—sometimes called Colgán—or his sons, such as in the tales of Lugh and the Fenian Cycle. [MacKillop, James, "Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology", s.v. "Llychlyn" & "Lochlainn". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-860967-1]


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