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SUMERLED or SOMERLED, Lord of the Isles (d. 1164), was, according to the Celtic tradition, the son of Gillebrede, son of Gilladoman, sixth in descent from Godfrey MacFergus, called in the Irish chronicle Toshach of the Isles; but some suppose him of Norse origin. His father, a reputed thane of Argyll, is said to have been expelled from his possessions, and forced to conceal himself for a time in Morven; but having placed his son at the head of the men of Morven to resist a band of Norse pirates, the son defeated them, and the prestige thus won enabled him afterwards not only to regain his father's possessions, but to make himself master of the greater part of Argyll, of which he claimed to be lord or regulus. Along with the pretender to the maarmorship of Ross, he rebelled against Malcolm IV in 1153, but found it necessary to come to terms with him. About 1140 he had married Ragnhildis or Effrica, daughter of Olave the Red, king of Man, by whom he had three sons: Dugall, Reginald or Ranald, and Angus. By a former marriage he had a son Gillecolm; and, according to the ‘Chronicle of Man,’ he had a fifth son, Olave. After the death of Olave, king of Man, Thorfin, son of Ottar, one of the lords of Man, resolved to depose Godfred the Black, king of Man, as an oppressor, and offered to Somerled, if he would assist him, to make his son Dugall king in Godfred's stead. Somerled was nothing loth, and Thorfin carried Dugall through all the isles, except Man, and forced the inhabitants to acknowledge him, hostages being taken for their obedience. Thereupon Godfred collected a fleet and proceeded against the galleys of the rebels, reinforced and commanded by Somerled. As the result of a bloody and indecisive battle fought in 1156, Godfred was induced to come to terms by ceding to the sons of Somerled the south isles and retaining to himself the north isles and Man. Two years later Somerled invaded Man with fifty-three ships, and laid waste the whole island, Godfred being compelled to flee to Norway. The power wielded by Somerled aroused the jealousy of Malcolm IV, who demanded that Somerled should resign his possessions to him, and hold them in future as a vassal of the king of Scots. This Somerled declined to do, and, war being declared, he in 1164 sailed with 160 galleys up the Clyde and landed his forces near Renfrew. Hardly, however, had they disembarked, when they were attacked and put to flight with great slaughter, Somerled and his son Gillecolm being among the slain. According to one account, King Malcolm sent a boat to convey the corpse to Icolmkill, where it was buried at the royal expense, but according to another account it was buried in the church of Sadall in Kintyre, where Reginald, the son of Somerled, afterwards erected a monastery. According to Celtic tradition, while a son of Gillecolm became superior of Argyll, the isles were divided among his other three sons, Dugall, Reginald, and Angus.

[Chronica de Mailros, and Chronicon Cœnobii Sanctæ Crucis Edinburgensis in the Bannatyne Club; Chronicle of Man, ed. Munch; Wyntoun's Chronicle; Skene's Celtic Scotland; Gregory's History of the Western Highlands.]

T. F. H.