Page:A book of the west; being an introduction to Devon and Cornwall.djvu/26

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4
THE WESTERN FOLK

body of invading Irish. When pressed by the Saxons, then the retreating Britons poured into Wales; but the substratum of the population was alien in tongue and in blood and in religion.

It was the same in Dumnonia—Devon and Cornwall. It was occupied at some unknown time, perhaps four centuries before Christ, by the Britons, who became lords and masters, but the original people did not disappear, they became their "hewers of wood and drawers of water."

Then came the great scourge of the Saxon invasion. Devon remained as a place of refuge for the Britons who fled before the weapons of these barbarians, till happily the Saxons accepted Christianity, when their methods became less ferocious. They did not exterminate the subject people. But what had more to do with the mitigation of their cruelty than their Christianity, was that they had ceased to be mere wandering hordes, and had become colonists. As such they needed serfs. They were not themselves experienced agriculturalists, and they suffered the original population to remain in the land—the dusky Ivernians as serfs, and the freemen, the conquered Britons, were turned into tenant farmers.

This is precisely what took place in Ireland. The conquering Gadhaels or Milesians, always spoken of as golden-haired, tall and white-skinned, had subdued the former races, the Firbolgs and others, and had welded them into one people whom they called the Aithech Tuatha, i.e. the Rentpaying Tribes; the Classic writers rendered this Attacotti.

In the first two centuries of our era there ensued