WHEN Eunice Olumide was growing up in Edinburgh’s Westerhails in the early 1990s African Scots were hardly spoiled for choice when it came to role models.

So when she came across suggestions that Scotland had a black king around the 10th century AD she was intrigued.

She immediately saw the potential for promoting a message underlining those things that link the peoples of different countries rather than divide them, particularly at a time when she was becoming uneasy about some of the responses to the global refugee crisis.

Which is why she’s keen to find out everything she can about the story and possibly even produce a TV documentary on the subject

You could argue that Olumide has become an impressive good role model for African Scots herself.

She’s best known as a supermodel, discovered when she was just 15 and, she says, a “tomboy’’ and now a veteran of high profile shoots all over the world and glamour spreads in Dazed and Confused, Vogue and other high-end magazines.

Her world extends from fashion to music (she’s worked as a DJ with Grace Jones, Damian Marley and The Roots, among others, and recently hosted a couple of dance music shows on BBC Scotland) to film. Her film credits include a part in the new movie Absolutely Fabulous and when we talked towards the end of 2015 she was debating going to the London premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

But there’s another side to Olumide, which took her to Glasgow University and then, with a first class honours degree in BA Communication and Mass Media under her belt, to complete a postgrad degree in film studies at Queen Mary University of London and an MA after studying at the University of Pennsylvania.

“My parents came from Nigeria – my father was in the navy, which is what brought us to Scotland,’’ she says, adding with some understatement “I really like academic study’’.

During the electrifying atmosphere of the 2014 referendum campaign, when much of Scotland was captivated by the prospect of redefining the country, Olumide started to do research into Scottish and world history and came across online reports suggesting that Scotland had a black king or kings. Some suggest that King Kenneth II, who reigned from 962 until 967, was known as Kenneth Dubh and some interpretations of the word Dubh suggest it meant black.

Kenneth’s son, King Kenneth III, was known as Kenneth The Brown, and is listed at number 36 on a website, 100greatblackbriton.com, which claims to be Britain’s most popular site on the black presence and achievement and to have attracted 25million hits since its launch in 2003. It was relaunched in 2014. Definitive evidence to support such claims is hard to come by. Little has been written about that period of Scottish history and even that is contradictory.

The site which supplied Olumide with much of the information is Rasta Livewire, which describes itself as “a leading blog on Rastafarian that provides in-depth and varying viewpoints from Rastas in Africa and African Diaspora”.

The website features articles which aim to show African people had reached England, Scotland, Ireland , Europe and Saudi Arabia far earlier than official histories suggest.

Its report on Kenneth Dubh quotes Sex and Race by JA Rogers as saying: “ it is a matter of history that many seafaring Warriors were North African, travelled via Iberia into Europe, and joined in many cultures and held power and position.

“Niger Val Dubh [another name by which Kenneth was known] lived and reigned over certain black divisions in Scotland, and some historians state that a race known as ‘the sons of the blacks’ succeeded him.”

Joel Augustus Rogers (born in 1880, died in 1966) spent much of his life challenging accepted histories of Europe, putting forward evidence that suggested Africans had played a crucial role in moulding European civilisations.

It is his primary point – that racial divisions are absurd when we all belong to just one race, the human one – that has inspired Olumide.

‘’This aspect of history is increasingly important because as a society we are becoming less tolerant and more parochial,’’ she says. ‘’A society where people do not see themselves as part of one human race and view those from another part of the world as the other or dangerous.

‘’Many people in the west simply view themselves as white Caucasians and do not realise that we all come from African people, backed up by modern scientists.

‘’African people came here in early history. When the Moors came here they brought ideas and scientific techniques which had never been seen before such as the periodic table.’’

But even some critics who might support such Olumide’s beliefs say that to then argue that Scotland had a black King is a bit of a stretch. They point out that the word Dubh may mean black but it can also refer to hair colour or indeed to “black intent’’.

Olumide counters that dark hair was not so rare that a reference to it would be included in a king’s name. She also points to works of art dating from even before the 10th century AD that depict Scots with African characteristics. In particular she points to Bridgeness Slab found in Bo’ness In 1869, which formed part of the Antonine Wall created by the Romans in the second century AD.

But Dr Fraser Hunter, Principal Curator of Archaeology at National Museums Scotland, dismissed suggestions that figures of Scots on the slab display African characteristics.

He said: “The Bridgeness Slab marked the east end of the Antonine Wall, in West Lothian. It dates from around 142 AD and features stylised carvings of Roman citizens and local inhabitants. There is no evidence to suggest that these figures are of African origin.

“In the second century the Romans recruited troops from North Africa, dispatching them to fight across Europe.

We know that some came to Scotland because a number of North African tagine-type dishes from this period have been uncovered in Roman sites in Scotland. A fragment of one of these dishes is on display in the National Museum of Scotland.”

NEVERTHELESS Olumide is suspicious of what she sees as the rewriting of history to exclude the contribution of Africa as one effect of colonialism.

‘’Colonialism hid Africanism and we are still suffering from the effects of that and of slavery,” she says. “People think that slavery was so long ago but people of colour had to fight for civil rights in America as recently as the 1960s.’’

Olumide also argues that some accounts of past events predate the written word and had therefore been passed on as folklore.

She said: ‘We should not presume that just because something was not recorded by Western civilisation that it did not happen ... after all history is always written by the successors.’’

She tells an interesting story to expand on the theory that slavery affected how the white world view African descendants and even how they view themselves. It’s contained in a speech said to have been given by Willie Lynch, a slaver in the West Indies, to advise slave owners in Virginia on how to manage their slaves.

In the account of his speech he suggests using a “divide-and-conquer mentality” by horribly torturing and killing the strongest of the male slaves in front of all the others. This, he is supposed to have argued, would so terrify the others, and particularly the women, they would effectively police themselves to avoid more retribution.

Most historians now believe the story is a hoax, and that Lynch and the speech are fictions. But that hasn’t undermined its overall effect.

The librarian who first posted the speech online on a server at the University of Missouri-St Louis in 1993 was later convinced it was a forgery but left on the server because she believed “even as an inauthentic document, it says something about the former and current state of Africa America”.

That view has been supported by some – although very far from all – contemporary commentators.

But Perhaps something similar could be said for the story of Scotland’s black king.

We’ll probably never know the truth. How can we ever be sure?

But perhaps the story tells us a valuable truth about our history and our present. Africa has contributed more to our civilisation than has been given credit.

We might not know exactly when Africans first walked on our land but it’s safe to assume it was far earlier than was once accepted.

If stories of the past like this and the search for evidence promotes unity and the shared values of simply being human, then surely it’s helped us all.