Grey Cairns of Camste


[Smertus/Smerta, Smertae, Smertarum or Smertacus [Smertae = ( okänt varifrån) ] Smertae comes from the base word smer, meaning smear. The most likely explanation of this "smearing" refers to being reddened with the blood of their enemies. Its origin is probably Celtic, with some Gaulish associations.


Smart Origins in Scotland

Although our lineage has only been recorded back to the birth of John Smart Senior's father somewhere in Scotland around 1597, it is commonly known that the Smart family name goes back to the highlands of northern Scotland.

SMART is a Scottish surname derived from the original "smertae" that lived around Inverness and Loch Ness (see map). The family name of SMART first appears in Inverkeilor, Scotland in the 14th Century. Our Smarts forefathers belonged to a "sept" (tribe) under the protection of the larger McKenzie Clan.

The Pictish tribe Smeartae lived in the valley (strath) of the Oykel and probably also in the adjoining valley of the Carron to the south of it - thus from Strathcarron and Strathoykel. The name is still used in Carn Smeart, a hill on the north side of Strathcarron, in the ridge between it and Strathoykel. These are in the Caithness area of northeastern Scotland.

Pictish (Cruithni) of Scotland

Early Scotland was populated by various individual Pict tribes who were ruled by other people of Celtic origin. The Celtic knew them by the name Cruithni. Others called them Galwegians.

The Picti were ethnic Celts but not the same kind of Celts as those who came from Ireland around 400 AD to found the kingdom of Dalriada.

See large 1904 map of Caithness area

The Celtic Picts were fierce tenacious fighters--driving back and stopping the northern advance of the Roman Empire as well as other invaders. Red-haired with large limbs, they were noted for their fighting horsemanship in addition to their ability to endure cold, hunger, and hardship to outlast their toughest adversaries.

They developed a similar language to that of Celtic. Called "British" or "Brittonic" Celtic, akin to Welsh, Corrnish and Breton (scholars call it "P-Celtic"), where as modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic descend for Goidelic Gaelic (which is classified as "Q-Celtic")

A male and female Pict imaginatively depicted as "noble savages" by the Elizabethan explorer John White (c.1585), inspired by descriptions in classical sources but coloured by White's experience of Roanoke Indians he had seen on a visit to North America.

[source: Scotland by Magnus Magnusson, courtesy of the British Museum]

Aberlemno Stone


Helping the Celtic tribes repel the Romans, the Picts were a fierce and formidable adversary. After the withdrawal of Roman soldiers who couldn't vanquish them, the Picts would dominate the military and political culture of Scotland until the 9th Century AD.

The Pict were in place several centuries before Christ. St. Columba tried to convert he King of the Picts to Christianity in 600 AD at an overgrow hill-fort near Inverness. The converted looked to Iona as the head of their church. Through Christianity, they Picts eventually blended into Celtic culture.

In 672, there was an attempted Pictish uprising. But it was put down by the controlling Northumbrians with the utmost ferocity and many of the Pictish aristocracy were massacred. In 685 AD, the Picts repelled the Northumbrians in the decisive battle of Nechtansmere (Dunnichen) in Angus.

The Picts were slaughtered around 850 AD, which marks the close of the Picts as a documented ethnic or political entity. "The common people say that the Scots destroyed them entirely; but I think it is not likely that they could kill such great numbers of people." ~Sir Walter Scott, Tales of a Grandfather, Chapter 1


Other Accounts Conflict and Confuse

Dwelling in the northwest were the savage and fearsome Cereni, Smertae and Carnonacae, who all were said to smear their faces with the blood of the slain.

The territory the Caledonii inhabited lay between Dunkeld (the fort of the Caledonii) and Schiehallion (the fairy mountain of the Caledonii).

Significant Dates

see also A Timeline of Scottish History

Tribes and Locations


7000 BC - Celts arrive

80 AD - Romans arrive

84 AD - Battle of Mons Graupius

382 AD - Romans defeat the Pict

850 AD - Picts slaughtered

Caereni - Far west of Highlands

Carnonacae - Western Highlands

Cornavii - Caithness

Creones - Western Highlands

Damnonii - Near the Firth of Clyde (south near Dundee)

Smeartae - Caithness

Vacomagi - Cairngorns



Strath = a vale, a valley through which a river runs

Carn = (original meaning) a heap of stones

Cairn = shelter of stones

Cruithni = Celtic name for Pict

Sept = a family name related to a clan or larger family either through marriage or for protection.

How the Romans Viewed the Tribes of Caledonia

[source: Scotland: The Story of a Nation" by Magnus Magnusson, 2000 Grove Press, New York]

A century before they left, the Romans had given this enduring name to the main enemies in the north of Scotland: in the year 297 a Roman poet had referred to them as Picti ('painted ones'). The name stuck, and "Picts" became a generic term for the many "Calendonian" tribes who lived north of the Forth-Clyde line and who thwarted the imperial ambitions of the Romans at their ultimate frontier.

[source: See Roman History]

The northern region of Great Britain comprising present-day Scotland was known by the Romans as Caledonia, after a local Celtic tribe, the Caledones. Caledonia was inhabited by two main groups of people. The first group, people of Celtic origin, began migrating into northern England from mainland Europe in approximately 7,000 BC and continued well into the time of Caesar, in the late first century BC. The second group, known later as the Picts, are the subject of much debate and theories of their origin include: they may have been an aboriginal people who lived and evolved in Northern England, migrations from Germany and Scythia (today's Eastern Europe and Central Asia), or as a mix of aboriginal and Celtic peoples, among others.

The Romans identified and classified 17 tribes and loosely identified the territories they occupied. In addition they also observed that tribal chiefs had a religious as well as a royal function. The succession of leaders was matrilineal: it mattered more who their mother was than who their father was. This perpetuated the myth, that later romantics enhanced, that Pictish society was democratic, but it was in fact full of social different nations. Under the tribal leader there was a class who maintained Chariots and fought from them. These charioteers had the status of Baron's, owned cattle and land in their own right and usually they owned slaves who worked their land and sea are in their homes. The slaves would normally be prisoners of war, although their status was often hereditary. There may also have been raids to obtain slaves from other tribes and vulnerable coastal communities. Between the ranks of barons and slaves were the freeholders, who owned shares in the common land of each tribal group.

This is the name of peoples who lived in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The Romans used the word Caledones to describe both a single tribe and all who lived in the Great Glen between the modern towns of Inverness and Fort William. They also called all the tribes living in the north Caledonians. We know the names of some of these other tribes. They include the Cornovii and Smertae who probably lived in Caithness, the Caereni who lived in the far west of the Highlands, the Carnonacae and the Creones in the Western Highlands. The Vacomagi lived in and around the Cairngorns. Other unknown tribes lived in Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides. Warriors from many of these tribes came together to resist the Romans under a leader called Calgacus at battle of Mons Graupius in AD 84. Although the Romans won this battle, they never successfully conquered the Highlands. The Romans admired the Caledonii for their ability to endure cold, hunger and hardship. Tacitus described them as red-haired and large-limbed.

See also British Tribes at the Time of the Roman Conquest and The Roman Empire's Caladonia

A Brief Scottish History
1603 (Union of the Crowns) - 1660 (The Restoration)

In 1603, England and Scotland were united when Queen Elizabeth of England died without an heir and Scotland's King James (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) also became King of England. James promptly moved to England where he ruled until his death in 1625. Charles I ruled until his execution in England in 1649.

Religious factions governed both realms, via Parliament, under the auspices of The Solemn League and Covenant, signed in 1643. With the First Civil War in England (1642-1646) monarchy was out of vogue in England.

The staunch Presbyterians of Scotland were opposed to the more liberal influences of the English Protestants. The Jacobites, seeing the rift between the Protestants, tried to restore the deposed Monarchy to affect a government more tolerant to the Catholic faith.

In 1646, the Clan MacKenzie Chief (the Earl of Seaforth) was still in possession of the Castle Chanonry of Ross [no longer exists]. James Graham the Marquis of Montrose laid siege to the castle and took it from the MacKenzies.

In 1649 a large force of Covenanters stormed Inverness Castle. Among the commanders were Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine. They opposed the authority of the current parliament. They assaulted the town and took the castle, expelling the garrison and raising the fortifications. Parliamentary forces led by General David Leslie forced the clans back into Ross-shire. However the MacKenzies left a garrison in Inverness Castle and Leslie withdrew to deal with a rising in the south. The MacKenzies retook the Castle Chanonry of Ross from the current Parliamentary forces. However, the Parliamentary forces, led by a Colonel Kerr, soon after took the MacKenzie's Redcastle and hanged the garrison.

February 5, 1649 : Scotland proclaims Charles II as King of Great Britain. The English had just thrown off the yoke of one king and had no wish to have another. This act, in effect, smashed the Union of the Crowns.

January 1, 1651: Charles II crowned Scottish monarch.

October 15, 1651: Charles II escapes to France/Holland.

1651- 1660: The Interregnum - Cromwell rules Scotland peacefully until his death.

1660: The Restoration - Charles II is restored to the throne and begins taking revenge on those, including the Marquis of Argyll, who humiliated him during his 18 months in Scotland.

Other Links

More about The Picts
Scottish History
(An online book by Robert M. Gunn provides a detailed history with excellent pictures)

Clans & Septs of Scotland
The Bice-Smart Version of Our History?
Distribution of Smarts in Scotland 1881

Scotland Council Areas