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Old King Cole

Coel Hen "Old King Cole" Duxbritannoum Godebog of Rheged GWYR-Y-GOGLEDD was born about 320 and died about 410. Coel Hen was almost certainly a native Britain whose forebears had probably been high-ranking individuals amongst the Romano-British nobility. He was likely to be either from the British tribe of the Brigantes or, more likely, the Votadini.

In the late fourth century and early fifth century the northern frontier of the Roman empire, which had retrenched along Hadrian's Wall, came under fierce attack from the Picts to the north. Following the withdrawal of support from Rome in 410, the British were left to fend for themselves. The extent of Coel's "kingdom" is uncertain. It is possible that it extended as far south as York, perhaps to a line between the Humber and the Mersey, and possible as far north as the Antonine Wall between the Forth and the Clyde. What is now Scotland was originally inhabited by the Pictish race. It was during Coel's time that immigrant Irishmen from the Scotti tribe began to settle the Western coast around Argyle. Coel, fearing that the two peoples would unite against the British, sent raiding parties across his northern border to stir up discord between them. The plan, however, backfired for the Picts and the Scots were not taken in. Coel merely succeeded in pushing the two even closer together, and they began to attack the British Kingdom of Strathclyde. Coel declared all out war and moved north to expel the invaders. The Picts and Scots fled to the hills ahead of Coel's army, who eventually set up camp at what became Coylton alongside the Water of Coyle (Ayrshire).

For a long time, the British were triumphant, while the Scots and Picts starved. Desperate for some relief, however, the enemy advanced an all-or-nothing attack on Coel's stronghold. Coel and his men were taken by surprise, overrun and scattered to the winds. It is said that Coel wandered the unknown countryside until he eventually got caught in a bog at Coilsfield (in Tarbolton, Ayrshire) and drowned. Coel was first buried in a mound there before being removed to the church at Coylton. The year was about AD 420. After his death, Coel's Northern Kingdom was divided between two of his sons, Ceneu and Gorbanian. He married YSTRADWEL VERCHGADEON who was born about 350.