What’s in a name: The history of ‘Dalriada’

The following is an excerpt from a local newspaper I sometimes write for, following the announcement 11 days ago , of the Health Minister in Northern Ireland’s decision to close (supposedly temporarily, but everyone knows it will be permanent most likely if it goes ahead) the Dalriada Community Hospital in Ballycastle, County Antrim.

It is currently being fought by the local people in Ballycastle and surrounding areas.

pic: belfasttelegraph.co.uk
Meanwhile, here is a wee article about the reason it is called Dalriada Hospital….


What’s in a name: The history of Dalriada

Thursday, 6 November 2014

SO WHAT’S in a name? Why is the hospital in Ballycastle even called the Dalriada hospital anyway?
Dalriada Hospital has been in existence in the town since the time of the Irish Potato famine, and has been a massive part of the ongoing health and social wellbeing of people in the area specifically since 1843.
The current hospital building was opened on the site across the car park from the original, by none other than the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O’Neill, in 1963.
But you may have asked, why is it called Dalriada Hospital? Especially when there is a school by the same name in a different local town. Well, I decided to do a little further history digging about the hospital’s name.
There were actually two ancient kingdoms of ‘Dalriada’ – or ‘Dál Riata,’ as its name is in Gaelic.
These two Dalriadas are to be found in present day northwest Northern Ireland, and that of western Scotland.
The Kingdom of Dál Riata is the Gaelic kingdom that, at least from the 5th century AD, extended on both sides of the North Channel and composed the northern part of the present County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and part of the Inner Hebrides and Argyll, in Scotland. Therefore, Ballycastle being so close to Scotland, was part of that ancient kingdom.
The kingdom also extended as far inland and further than what is current Ballymoney and hence the name of the local grammar school there.
During a recent summer trip to Iona, I had the privilege of seeing the interconnectedness much more personally, and indeed Iona itself reminded me in many ways of Rathlin Island.
The crystal clear blue waters in Iona on August and little quaint roads, with stunning, rugged rural beauty all reminded me of similar rare untouched beauty of Rathlin Island.
In earlier times, Argyll had received extensive immigration from the Irish of Northern Ireland (known as “Scoti”), and had become an Irish (i.e., “Scottish”) area. In the latter half of the 5th century, the ruling family of Irish Dalriada crossed into Scottish Dalriada and made Dunadd and Dunolly its chief strongholds. Irish Dalriada gradually declined; and after the Viking invasions early in the 9th century, it lost all political identity.
The political history of the Dalriada in Britain is traced from the time of Fergus Mor (d. 501), who moved the seat of the royal dynasty of Dalriada from Ireland to northern Britain.
Therefore, fascinatingly, Ballycastle has major ancient links with the north of Britain, which I for one did know until recently.
Scottish Dalriada was confined to the western coast of modern Scotland, including Arran, Jura, Islay, Mull, and numerous other smaller islands, with its seat at Dunadd in Argyll.

The links, therefore, between the north coast of the emerald isle and the Scottish coast are thus very strong, and irrevocably inter-linked.

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