Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Selvach

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SELVACH (d. 729), king of Scottish Dalriada, was probably a younger son of Fearchair Fada (the Long) [q. v.] He appears in the fictitious list of Buchanan under the name of Solvathius as the sixty-fourth king, and in the rectified list of Father Innes as the twentieth king of the Scots of Dalriada. Our certain knowledge is limited to a few brief entries in the ‘Annals’ of Tighernach and of Ulster. The year after the death of Fearchair Fada, which took place in 697, his fort of Dunolly was burnt, and Ainbhealach, the elder brother of Selvach (latinised as Amberkelethus, son of Findanus, by Buchanan, who reckons five kings between him and Solvathius, the latinised name of Selvach), was expelled and sent in bonds to Ireland (Annals of Ulster). In 701 Dunolly was again and more completely destroyed by Selvach, and the sept of Cathboth, a branch of the tribe of Lorn, to another branch of which Selvach belonged, was slaughtered (ib.), and in the following year the Britons were defeated by the Dalriads at a place called Livingerhat (? Loch Artetit, east of Loch Lomond). In 712 Dunaverty (Aberte) was besieged by Selvach (ib.), who in 714 rebuilt Dunolly (Annals of Tighernach). In 717 the Britons were defeated by the Dalriads at a stone called Minverce (ib.), perhaps a place called Clach na Breattan in Glen Falloch at the head of Loch Lomond. In September 719 there was a battle at Finglen in Lorn, known by tradition as ‘the battle of the brothers,’ between the two sons of Fearchair Fada, when Ainbhealach, who, we may presume, had escaped from Ireland, was slain by Selvach (ib.) In October of the same year Duncad MacBecc and the tribe of Gabhran defeated Selvach and the tribe of Lorn in a sea fight at Ardannisby (ib.) Four years later, following a common Celtic usage of unsuccessful or ageing kings, Selvach became a priest (ib.), and in the entry which records this he is called king of Dalriada. His son Dungal reigned in his stead (Synchronisms of Flann Mainistrech), but in 726 was driven from his kingdom by Eochadh, son of Eochach of the tribe of Gabhran. Again following a usual custom of Celtic chiefs, Selvach came out of his monastic retreat and endeavoured by leading his tribe to recover the kingdom of Dalriada from the rival tribe of Gabhran. But a battle fought by him in 727 with that tribe at Rosfoichen, a headland near Loch Feochan, not far from Oban, was unsuccessful, and Eochadh retained the sovereignty over Dalriada till his death in 733. In 736 two sons of Selvach, Dungal and Feradach, were taken captive by Angus MacFergus, the great monarch of the Picts, who wasted Dalriada and occupied the fort of Dunad (Annals of Tighernach). The date of the death of Selvach is given as 730 (A.D. 729) in the ‘Annals of Ulster,’ the best authority for this period.

[Some ingenious conjectures will be found in Skene's Celtic Scotland, and some apocryphal details in Buchanan; but the Irish Annals, mentioned above, are alone followed here. See also Skene's Notes to Fordun's Chronicle.]

Æ. M.