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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Gaelic to Scots in Galloway draft

 This is a first draft of my contribution  to the Gaelic Galloway Conference 8 Septmber 2018 on the transition from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway. Over the next few weeks it will be revised to fit my 30 minute time slot and to take account of counter-arguments to my proposal that even before 1560 the south-west of Scotland was no longer solidly Gaelic speaking as Gaelic poet, scholar and teacher William Neill stated in 1983. 

Researching the Lowland Clearances / Galloway Levellers ten years ago I was shocked to realise how completely the historic (12th century to early 18th century) local landscape had been erased between 1760 and 1800. In the Highlands, many of the ruins of townships evicted during the Clearances remain as silent witnesses. In the Galloway lowlands, nothing survives of the cottars' (rural workers) crofts since the stones they were built of were used to create enclosures around the land they had been driven from.

In the Highlands, the fierce invective of Gaelic poets helped to keep the memory of what had been lost through Clearance alive. In Galloway only one ballad, composed in Scots, commemorates the Galloway Levellers resistance to Clearance in 1724.

But even this act of defiance masks a deeper tragedy. For more than half a millennium, Gaelic was the language of Galloway until it was displaced by Scots. Researching this change, I expected to discover that some traces of Galloway's Gaelic heritage had survived in folk memory, if only as myth and legend. I found that nothing had survived. The loss of Gaelic led to an erasure of Galloway's cultural heritage as complete as the erasure of Galloway's physical heritage.

In Galloway, the past really is another country.

In 1972, I had the opportunity to learn Gaelic at Castle Douglas High School. The class was taught by William Neill who was a teacher at the school as well as being a Gaelic poet and scholar. Mr Neill, as I still think of him, had been born in Prestwick in 1922. As a teenager he would visit the harbour at Ayr where he was fascinated to hear Gaelic being spoken by fishermen from the Western Isles and set out to learn their language.

Although I failed to learn very much Gaelic from William Neill, I recall him telling us that Gaelic was still spoken in Galloway in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. In article he wrote for the Galloway News in 1983 about Gaelic farm names

he said " Before 1560, the whole of the south-west was solidly Gaelic speaking according to modern scholarship.”  1560 is a date associated with the Reformation in Scotland suggesting that William Neill saw the Reformation as bringing about the transition from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway. This afternoon I will argue that the Reformation marked the end of the transition from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway not its beginning

The Galloway News article shows Mr Neill standing in front of the sign for Drumskelly, one of several farms with Gaelic names in Crossmichael parish. Before 1560, the farms in Crossmichael parish belonged to Lincluden collegiate church.

A rental roll for Lincluden in 1557 lists the farms owned and their tenants. Among the farms listed are Hillowton and Gerranton, both near Castle Douglas. Michael Hillow was a tenant of Hillowtown and John and Ninane Garrane were tenants in Gerranton. Chapmanton is also listed, but there were no Chapmans living there. Along with Blackpark, these are all Scots farm names which show that in Crossmichael parish at least, the people had ceased to be solidly Gaelic speaking sometime before 1560.

image Lincluden rental roll

In neighbouring Kelton parish a list of farms compiled in 1456 includes two farms with Scots names- Carlingwark and Whitepark. However, the same list shows that next to Whitepark but in Buittle parish were the farms of Cuil and Corra, both Gaelic farm names. In 1324 king Robert I granted Buittle to James Douglas and the charter describes the boundaries of Buittle. Torrs in Kelton is mentioned but not Whitepark nor Cuil and Corra which were then still part of a large farm now called Breoch.

Image Cuil corra map

Cuil and Corra are still not included as separate farms in a Buittle rental roll from 1375 so must have been formed and given their Gaelic names sometime between then and 1456. Carlingwark and Whitepark will have been given their Scots names in this same period. They were part of the arable grange lands attached to Threave castle which constructed for Archibald the Grim after he gained control of eastern Galloway in 1369 and bought western Galloway from Thomas Fleming, earl of Wigtown for £500 in 1372.

Archibald, like his father James Douglas, was a Bruce loyalist. His task was to rein in the Gaelic kindreds of Galloway who had supported Edward Balliol against Robert the Bruce's son king David II. Archibald's success is shown on his seal where two 'wild men of Galloway' are support his coat of arms.

Image archibald seal

What did Douglas rule mean for the leading Gaelic families of Galloway?

For Sir John McCulloch of Mochrum parish it meant losing his lands to a Scot from Midlothian. At Lincluden in September 1414, McCulloch resigned his lands to Archibald, 4th earl of Douglas, lord of Galloway and Annandale and son of Archibald the Grim.

In October 1414, Archibald directed Uhtred McDowall, sheriff of Wigtown to transfer McCulloch's lands to William Hay of Locharwart, which is in Midlothian. Hay had been appointed sheriff of Peebles by Archibald in 1407.

But in 1418, Hay complained to Archibald that he 'could nocht gett payt his mailis ' due to the 'etting', which means the grazing of cattle or horses on growing crops of grass or grain' of his lands which as a result were 'skaithit', that is harmed. Archibald responded by instructing Robert Crichton of Sanquhar and his 'fellow Mcgyewe' , who were his officers on the west side of the Cree to 'distress' those responsible until they fully amended their fault. John McCulloch is the person most likely to be responsible for the etting and so would have been 'distressed' by Archibald's officers.

Image douglas record

Evidence that Gaelic survived the period of Douglas rule comes from two sources. From 1487 there is a complaint that John Brown, the Scots speaking vicar of Kirkcolm 'does not understand and cannot speak intelligibly the language (that is Gaelic) of the place in which it is situate, to the detriment of souls…'

The second source is research by John Bannerman and others which revealed the existence of at least three generation of clarsach players in Wigtownshire between 1471 and 1513. The last of these was Roland or Lachlann McBratney who played for king James IV and may also have been employed by the prior of Whithorn. In one of the royal treasurer's accounts of payments to Lachlann, he is described as an Irish, that is Gaelic, harper. In another from 1503, he was paid 5 crowns for a journey to 'the isles'.

Image whithorn kintyre gigha

Significantly, another branch of his family were renowned harpists living on Gigha and Bannerman speculates that Lachlann is likely to have visited them. It has even been suggested that the Gigha branch of the family originally came from Galloway via the Priory of Whithorn's lands in south Kintyre. Unfortunately, although Gigha was part of a cultural network which linked Gaelic Scotland and Ireland in the fifteenth century, Galloway does not seem to have been included in the network.

One explanation for this may be that by the later fifteenth century Gaelic Galloway was becoming more Scottish.

A major influence on the shift from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway were the burghs of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Wigtown and Whithorn. In the far west there was also Innermessan until it was supplanted by Stranraer in the seventeenth century.

Part of the burghs' importance are their locations. Kirkcudbright lies at the southern end of a broad strip of good quality farm land roughly 8 miles wide by 30 miles long, stretching from the Fleet to the Nith at Dumfries and taking in the flood plains of the Dee and the Urr. A narrower strip of good quality land runs along the coast from Kirkcudbright to the Nith estuary and up to Dumfries.

In 1755, even before the towns of Gatehouse, Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie had been established, 70% of the population of the Stewartry lived in this lowland area which was predominantly an arable farming district.

Map image

In 1684 parish lists of all the inhabitants of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff over the age of 12 were compiled. The lists give the number of occupants of over 650 farms as well as the burghs and the village of Minnigaff.

Even for the overwhelmingly upland, highland even, parish of Minnigaff, 54% of the population lived in Minnigaff village and farms on the fertile carse land beside the Cree.

In Wigtownshire, only 10% of the population lived in farms on poorer quality land, spread across the upper parts of Inch, New Luce, Kirkcowan and Penninghame parishes.

40% of the Wigtownshire population lived in the Machars parishes of Mochrun, Glasserton, Kirkinner, Sorbie, Wigtown and Whithorn. Although only 7% of the total Wigtownshire population lived in the burghs of Wigtown and Whithorn, they formed 19% of the population of the Machars.

Map image

The Wigtown Burgh Court books survive for the years 1513 to 1534. They are written in Scots and have been analysed by linguist Joanna Kopakzyk who concluded that the language used was typical of the Scots written and spoken across Lowland Scotland in the sixteenth century. She also noted that ‘the Burgh Court Book has no passages written in Gaelic or translated into or from Gaelic. There is no mention of interpreters needed for trials or for documents, therefore one may infer that Scots was a well established means of communication, at least at the administrative level in the burgh.’

book image

If Scots was already well established in Wigtown by 1513, how far did that influence extend? In his recent book on place names in the the Moors and Machars of Wigtownshire, John McQueen showed that farms recorded in Penninghame parish as the Scots Meikle and Little Elrik in 1506 were then recorded as the Gaelic Heilrikmore and Neilrikbeg in 1507. He commented that this suggests that Gaelic as well as Scots was probably spoken in the area at this time.

The farms are 9 miles north west of Wigtown. If Gaelic was still spoken in upper Penninghame in 1507, it must have been in retreat since their Gaelic names were not used again and it is as Meikle and Little Eldrig that the farms became known.

Eldrig map

Significantly, a circle with a radius of 9 miles centred on Wigtown takes in most of the Machars as well as the more fertile parts of Penninghame and Kirkcowan. When the burgh of Whithorn and is immediate area is included, this means that by the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Scots language was well established in the Machars.

On the other hand, we know that the population of Kirkcolm parish in the Rhinns was still Gaelic speaking in 1487. In 1684, the Rhinns, excluding Inch parish, accounted for 29% of Wigtownshire's population. Although the burgh of Innermessan was in Inch, it would not have been as large in 1500 as Stranraer was in 1684, when Stranraer already had a population greater than Whithorn's.

As a small burgh, Innermessan's linguistic influence was limited and did not extend very far into the Rhinns. However, an indication that the market economy was expanding comes from 1495 when the village of Ballinclach, now Glenluce, became a burgh of barony with a weekly market.

Map image innermessan glenluce

In the Stewartry, the size and importance of Dumfries is likely to have made Scots the dominant language west of the Urr for some time before 1500. Much closer in size to Wigtown than Dumfries, Kirkcudbright's Scots footprint would have covered an area between the Fleet and the Urr and stretched up to the edge of the Glenkens. As a consequence of the combined influence of Dumfries and Kirkcudbright, in 1500 up to 70% of the population of the Stewartry were potentially Scots speakers.

If the balance between Gaelic and Scots use had begun to shift in favour of Scots between 1455 and 1500, what happened over the next 60 years? Written evidence for the use of Scots increases since more legal documents and letters survive. For example, in the protocol book of Herbert Anderson, dated 23 May 1541 Alexander Gordon of Ardis, now Airds, in the Glenkens made a declaration in Scots concerning the disposal of the estate of the deceased Ninian Glendinning of Parton.

Protcal book image

Perhaps, as a non-native family, the Gordons of the Glenkens had never been Gaelic speakers, but the family of Thomas McDowall of Glenluce certainly were. In 1556, Thomas represented his grandmother Janet McDowall at the Baron Court of Glenluce where she was accused of passing on her tenancy of Sinniness farm to another person without permission. The case lasted several days and the record of the proceedings shows it was conducted in Scots. While Janet McDowall could have grown up in a Gaelic speaking household, her grandson was a fluent Scots speaker able to hold his own in the baron court and even managed to get the case transferred to Edinburgh. Yet as the grandson of a tenant farmer, he was of low social status.

Sinniness image

Could Thomas McDowall have spoken Gaelic as well as Scots? Quite possibly he did. However, the Scots language in Galloway was soon to get a powerful ally- the Reformed Church.

Alexander Gordon of Airds is reputed to have pioneered the Refomation Galloway in the 1530s when he secretly read from an English translation of the bible to his family and his tenants in Airds wood. However, this was an essentially private affair, very different from the national Reformation which began in 1560.

airds of kells image

The Reformation in Scotland was deeply influenced by Calvinism. Robert Kingdon has described Calvinism as

a serious attempt to control human behaviour in all its variety. It meant that the church had a responsibility not only to present true Christian doctrine but also to shape true Christian behaviour. And this responsibility, Calvinists believed, could not be left to individuals or to governments. It had to be assumed, to as great a degree as possible, by the church… which became a remarkably intrusive institution, penetrating every aspect of life.

In other words, the new Calvinist faith was about much more than simply requiring the faithful to attend church on Sunday. It also sought to extend its influence into the home, to shape and influence family life. Men, women and children were all expected to have an understanding of the Christian faith and to be able to demonstrate that understanding by reciting the key principles of the Reformed religion.

Image john knox

If the expansion of Scots had pushed Gaelic from the public sphere into the private sphere of home and family in remoter areas, then the effect of the Reformation was the intrusion of Scots and bible English into even these last refuges of the language. Since this intrusion was driven by powerful religious beliefs, it had the ability to overwhelm what was already a language in retreat.

What happened next is very interesting. Across Galloway and the wider south-west, the new religion put down very strong roots. So strong were those roots that despite the best efforts of successive Stuart kings backed up by periods of violent suppression in the seventeenth century, the new religion endured. As a political, that is anti-Jacobite, movement it was still influential in 1715 and was drawn on by the Galloway Levellers in their uprising of 1724.

It is possible that the ideological fervour of Calvinism allowed it to become a substitute for the traditional culture and identity which Galloway had lost. Gaelic had been an essential part of Galloway's culture for centuries and had survived the political dissolution of the lordship of Galloway. Over generations, Gaelic had become embodied in the landscape. The Gaelic names of farms, rivers and hills inextricably entangled the region's natural heritage with its cultural heritage.

Neither the Scots language nor a Scottish identity provided an adequate replacement for what had been the overlapping identities of language, land and people. At a critical point, when Gaelic Galloway was fading away but before Scots Galloway was fully established, the Calvinists were able to step in with their vision of a Godly Galloway.

Tragically, the Reformers revolutionary aspirations make 1560 something of a Year Zero. By the seventeenth century, the people of Galloway had become more familiar with biblical history than their own. Even if some parts of Galloway's traditional Gaelic lore had been preserved in Scots, the indifference - even hostility- of the new faith to such superstitious folk tales would have hindered their transmission.

Image national covenant

The complete erasure of Galloway's Gaelic history from popular consciousness is starkly revealed by Andrew Symson's 'Large Description of Galloway' which he began compiling in 1684. While the Large Description is packed full of contemporary information about seventeenth century Galloway, the 1000 years which separate St Ninian from the murder of Thomas McLellan of Bombie by 'the Black Douglas' in 1453 are a blank.

It was left to William McKenzie to recover the past with his 'History of Galloway' printed and published by John Nicholson in Kirkcudbright in 1841. By then, the process of agricultural improvement- the Lowland Clearances- had swept away the medieval fermtouns, the cottars and their crofts - even the fields of rig and furrow that had been cultivated for centuries were obliterated.

Image gerranton today

The totality of the physical erasure of Galloway's past was brought home to me when I began researching the Galloway Levellers and discovered that no traces of the Galloway landscape that they knew have survived. Researching the transition from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway I have found a similar cultural erasure of Galloway's Gaelic past.

Of course, just as specialists in data recovery can retrieve and restore information apparently erased from a computer's hard drive, so the expert knowledge of historians has recovered most of what Galloway's people had forgotten of our past. But sadly, even tragically, little of this knowledge has passed over into popular awareness.

However, rather then end on a downbeat note I will attempt some optimism. There is a campaign to make Galloway a national park. A key element of the campaign focusses on the cultural heritage of the 'Kingdom of Galloway'- which of course was a Gaelic speaking kingdom.

Image nat park

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Gaelic and Geography

                                              Language map Gaelic and Scots

Today Gaelic is associated with the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. But from place name evidence we know that it was once spoken across nearly all of Scotland, including the Lowlands. However, from the twelfth century onwards, Scots expanded from the south – east to become the language of the Lowlands.

                                           Highland Lowland map

A key difference between the Lowlands and the Highlands is soil/ land quality. As this map from 1944 shows, most of the Highlands is not suitable for arable farming.

                                          Land type/use map OS 1944

Arable farming requires more labour but can support higher population densities.

                                    Population density map OS 1944.

Although Galloway/ south-west Scotland is part of the Lowlands it includes part of the Southern Uplands. The Southern Uplands are a not suitable for arable farming as the large area of yellow (rough grazing) on this map shows.

Galloway and Carrick (south Ayrshire) were still Gaelic speaking into the sixteenth century, 200 or more years after Gaelic had died out in the rest of the Lowlands.

Did Gaelic survive longer in south-west Scotland because it was a (relatively) remote and mountainous district like the Highlands? I don't think so because, unlike the Highlands, Galloway also has significant areas suitable for arable farming. These were also the areas where most of the people lived.

The evidence for this comes from 1684, that is before the Lowland Clearances of the eighteenth century had affected Galloway. In 1684 Galloway was a 'rebellious province', where Presbyterian Covenanters were engaged in a conflict with the government of Charles II. To help the authorities identify the rebels, all the parish minsters in Wigtownshire plus Minnigaff in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright had to draw up a list of all the people in each parish over the age of 12.

This was done on a farm by farm basis, so we know how many people were living on each farm as well as the numbers of people living in the burghs (towns) of Whithorn, Wigtown and Stranraer.

Wigtownshire, the western part of Galloway, can be divided into three parts- the Rhinns in the west, the Machars in the east and the Moors in the north. The Moors are made up of four of Wigtownshire's 16 parishes- from west to east Inch, New Luce, Kirkcowan and Penninghame.

What I have done is go through the parish lists for these parishes and used eighteenth century maps to locate the farms named. I then divided them into 'upland' and 'lowland' farms and counted the occupants.

Excluding Minnigaff, the total number of people over the age of 12 in Wigtownshire in 1684 was 8538. Of these, 818 lived on upland farms. This was 9.6% of the 1684 population. [See below for breakdown of figures]

Can this roughly 10% / 90% upland/ lowland population divide in 1684 be projected back into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? I believe it can. Although after 1666, when Wigtownshire landowners began taking advantage of an English ban on the import of Irish cattle to sell cattle from Wigtownshire to England, the structure of agriculture in Wigtownshire was still essentially medieval in 1684. Nor were there any other social or economic changes which might have altered the overall balance of population.

The concentration of population in the arable lowlands means that they were critical for the survival of Gaelic in Wigtownshire. Once Scots rather than Gaelic became the everyday language of the arable lowlands, any Gaelic speakers in the thinly populated uplands would have become a minority.

How quickly Gaelic gave way to Scots in the Wigtownshire uplands would depend on how closely integrated the upland and lowland communities were.

                                       Douglas Galloway lands map

What the map shows is that the Douglas lords of Galloway had land in the arable lowlands and pastoral uplands. The map is based on a list of former Douglas lordship lands compiled by the abbot of Dundrennan for James II in 1456. The rental value of each farm is given, taken from now lost Douglas rental rolls. The loss of Douglas lordship records means we don't know exactly how their upland and lowlands estates were managed, but they were managed to generate income from the rents and from the livestock and grain they produced through the integration of lowland and upland resources.

In Wigtownshire, Glenluce abbey's lands took in the uplands of New Luce parish and the lowlands of Old Luce parish. In this case it was the Cistercians of Glenluce abbey who oversaw the integration of upland and lowland zones.

Socially, the upland and lowland areas were linked by ties of kinship and marriage. Significantly, until Glenluce was split in to two parishes in 1646, the parishes of Inch, Glenluce, Kirkcowan and Penninghame all contained a mix of upland and lowland areas.

Likewise in the Stewartry, until the new parish of Carsphairn was created in 1647 out of parts of Kells and Dalry parishes, there were no purely upland parishes in eastern Galloway. Although Minnigaff, Kells and Dalry are all quite mountainous parishes, their churches and main settlements are all located close to the largest patches of good quality land available -beside the Cree with Minnigaff and the Ken for Dalry and Kells.

                                              Galloway land quality

Scots in arable lowlands

In 1684, 40% of the population of Wigtownshire lived in the Machars. Within the Machars, 18% of the population lived in the two burghs of Wigtown and Whithorn. After the fall of the House of Douglas in 1455, Wigtown re-emerged as the main administrative centre for the county, as it had been before Archibald the Grim bought Wigtownshire from the Earl of Wigtown in 1372. Whithorn, with its links to St Ninian, attracted pilgrims from England, Ireland,Spain and France as well as other parts of Scotland.

At Whithorn, the use of Scots is recorded in 1438. At Wigtown, the burgh court records survive from 1513 and are in Scots. The Machars are therefore likely to have been the first district in Wigtownshire where Scots replaced Gaelic as the most commonly used language.

In 1684, 35% of the population of Wigtownshire lived in the Rhinns. This figure includes Stranraer, which became a burgh of barony in 1596 and a royal burgh in 1617. The late date for the foundation of Stranraer may have held back the Gaelic to Scots transition in the Rhinns.

For example in Kirkcolm parish in the Rhinns. Here in 1487 Robert Campbell of Corsewall complained that John Brown, vicar of Kirkcolm “who has for divers years held the said vicarage, does not understand and cannot speak intelligibly the language (ydioma) of the place in which it is situate, to the detriment of souls…”

However, before the development of Stranraer, the non-royal burgh of Innermessan was the chief settlement in the Rhinns. From the records of two lawyers, William Gardner and James Glover, we have some knowledge of Innermessan circa 1600.

Through their good (and gratuitous) offices we meet John Kennedy, armourer, as well as John McWhirk and Martin McCullie, who were more peacefully occupied as shoe-maker and tailor respectively. Corn miller Michael Wallace would obviously be a key member of the community but the occupations of John Cunningham and Niven McGilbar are not known to us. However they were burgesses and so men of consequence since they could engage in a trade or have a shop. This elevated them above William Walker, Norman McNeillie, and John Rollane, who as mere indwellers could do neither.

There is also evidence that Innermessan had a small port.

That the evidence about the names and occupations of some of Innermessan's inhabitants comes from the records of two lawyers helps to explain why Scots rather than Gaelic became the language of Galloway's burghs.

Professor Hector McQueen, who will be one of the speakers at the Gaelic in Galloway conference in September. In 2002 he wrote a very useful paper “LAWS AND LANGUAGES: Some Historical Notes from Scotland”. In it he discusses the shift from Latin and French to Scots in the language of the Scottish legal system during the fourteenth century.

The situation in Galloway is complicated by existence of the Douglas lordship of Galloway 1369 to 1455. Hector McQueen has also written on the traditional 'Laws of Galloway'. These were preserved by the Douglas lords of Galloway, but were replaced by Scots law after 1455. The last vestiges of traditional law in Galloway and Carrick were finally abolished in 1490.

The language of the Douglas administration in Galloway was Scots not Gaelic nor Latin. Unfortunately we don't know very much about how the Galloway burghs developed during the period of Douglas rule. However, the fact that Kirkcudbright became a royal burgh in 1453 and Wigtown in 1457 suggests that both had retained their pre-Douglas importance.

The craft and trades people, merchants and shop-keepers of Immermessam and the other Galloway burghs needed a legal framework to carry on their businesses. They also needed customers. The great Douglas lords and ladies did not need the services provided by Galloway's burghs, nor could their wealth and power be bound by laws. However, after king James II brought Douglas rule in Galloway to an end in 1455, old Galloway families like McDowalls, McCullochs and McLellans competed with the Agnew, Kennedy, Maxwell and Gordon families for power and influence.

The many tower houses which dot the landscape were the products of the post-Douglas era. These many lesser lords patronised the merchants and traders of the burghs, providing them with income which was drawn in turn from the rents and produce of the land. At the same time the Crown retained the many Douglas lands as a valuable source of income.

                        Orchardton tower house, built after 1455

No one family was ever able to dominate Galloway as the Douglases had done. The Crown and pre-Reformation church were the biggest landowners in Galloway. The Diocese of Galloway/ Whithorn lost its link to the Archbishops of York in 1359 and became part of the Scottish church in 1430. It was linked to St Andrews in 1472 and then Glasgow in 1492.

During the later fifteenth century then, the process of integrating Galloway with Scotland, which had begun in 1160 when king Fergus of Galloway was forced into exile at Holyrood abbey, was finally completed.

Although Gaelic was still the language of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Scots was the language of Lowland Scotland, of its legal system and of its Parliament. James IV, who was to die at the battle of Flodden in 1513, was the last kings of Scots known to have spoken Gaelic. [See previous post http://greengalloway.blogspot.com/2018/04/gaelic-harp-players-galloway-and-gigha.html ]

Unlike the Highlands and Islands, there is nothing in the historical record to suggest that the transition from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway was enforced or otherwise part of a deliberate policy of 'cultural genocide'.

Rather the transition was part of a series of regional cultural and linguistic shifts which began in the seventh century when a Brittonic speaking area came under the influence of Old English speakers and the kingdom of Northumbria. After Northumbrian power was disrupted by the Vikings in the ninth century, the region became part of the Irish Sea territories of Dublin based Vikings in the tenth and eleventh centuries.

Up until this point, the focus of settlement and political control over the region was on the most fertile areas along the coast and river valleys.

This changed with the arrival of a distinctive ethnic group first noted by Irish chroniclers in the mid-ninth century – the Gall-Ghàidheil or 'Viking-Gaels'. They probably emerged first in Dál Riata- green area on map below.


before moving south and east across the Firth of Clyde and then down towards the Solway Firth. In the twelfth century they became identified with and gave their name to the geographical area still called Galloway. Here their Gaelic speech supplanted Brittonic, Old English and Norse to become the language of first an independent kingdom and then a semi-autonomous lordship.

As discussed previously Galloway and its people ended up on the losing side of a prolonged civil war which overlapped with the wars of Scottish independence.

The death of Edward Balliol in 1365 broke the last, tenuous, link between Galloway and its native rulers. While the Douglas lordship of Galloway established by Archibald the Grim conserved the region's territorial integrity, the Douglas family were Scots speakers.

Significantly, in the 1360s Galloway and its Gaelic kindreds remained a problem province for David II, to the extent that he was willing to gift Galloway to John of Gaunt as part of a peace treaty with England. But by the 1450s, Galloway itself was no longer the problem for James II. Rather his concern was the danger posed by the Douglas family. Galloway was only part of their extensive land holdings.
In the 1360s, something of the distinctive spirit of the Gall-Ghàidheil survived among the McDowalls, McCullochs and McLellans. Their support had been critical for Edward Balliol's ability to maintain a foothold in Scotland. As 'heads of kin' (kenkynnol) the chief family members had able to muster their armed followers to support Balliol as their ancestors had done for Fergus, his sons, grandsons and great-grandson Alan.

But in 1473, the then head of kin of the McDowall family gave up the position in exchange for a cash payment from the Scottish crown.

When Victorian antiquarian Peter McKerlie began compiling his five volume study 'Lands and their Owners in Galloway', he found that very few records of land ownership existed from before 1455. I will look at this in more depth in the next post.

For the present, my speculation is that the heads of kin were involved in the operation of Galloway's traditional system of laws and that this would have been an oral system carried out in Gaelic. Galloway under its Douglas lords was a regality.

As the term indicates, regalities were held with quasi-royal powers, like medieval English palatinates. From the fourteenth century onwards, they were created by grants in liberam regalitatem, which greatly extended normal baronial powers by adding jurisdiction over the four pleas of the crown plus immunity from interference with the regality or its inhabitants by royal officers.

No charter specifically granting the lordship of Galloway in regality exists. But David II’s charter to Archibald Douglas in 1369 stated he was to hold it not only in barony but also as Robert I’s brother Edward Bruce had possessed it (RMS, i, no. 329) – which was no doubt the equivalent of regality. Galloway, moreover, had special laws and liberties, which were recognised on Archibald’s behalf in 1384 (APS, i, 551).

                                                   Regalities map

The end of Douglas rule in 1455 ended Galloway's status as a regality and its 'special laws and liberties' were extinguished by the Scottish parliament in 1490. Presumably, what ever traditional legal status the heads of kin had retained under the Douglas lords of Galloway also ended during this period (see above). The status of Gaelic as the legal language of Galloway would also have been lost, replaced by Scots law and the Scots language.

It is still difficult to get a clear idea of how the shift from Gaelic to Scots occurred in Galloway. Scots developed from the Old English of Northumbria after Northumbrian territory in what is now south-east
was taken over by the Gaelic speaking kingdom of Scotia. If Galloway had still been part of the kingdom of Northumbria, it might have become part of Scotia as well and never become a Gaelic speaking region. Instead, first the Dublin Vikings and then the Gall-Ghàidheil displaced the Northumbrians in what was to become Galloway.

Even then, without Fergus of Galloway, the region could have been absorbed into David I 's Scotland in the early twelfth century. Scots would have then replaced Gaelic much earlier in Galloway, as it did in Dumfriesshire, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire.

In the later thirteenth century, if John Balliol had only become lord of Galloway not king of Scots as well, another opportunity for Galloway to gradually lose its Gaelic distinctiveness would have occurred.

In the fourteenth century, if Edward Balliol had not tried to reclaim his father's throne, David II could have completed his father and uncle's work, settling loyal Scots speaking Bruce supporters in Galloway and dminishing the influence of its Gaelic kindreds.

Finally, without Archibald the Grim's intervention, the lordship of Galloway would not have been re-established and its distinctive laws and customs would not have been preserved for another 120 years.

Of all these, probably the most significant for the survival of Gaelic in Galloway was Fergus' creation of 'Galloway' as a political and geographical entity in the early twelfth century. Once Galloway existed as a coherent, geographically determined region with its mix of coastal, lowland and upland zones, its people were able to develop a distinctive economic and cultural identity within its borders, with the loss of Carrick after 1186 being balanced by the earlier addition of the district between the Urr and the Nith.

Before Fergus' intervention there is no trace of a coherent political/cultural entity in the area. There was a 'kingdom of the Rhinns' linked to the Dublin Vikings which extended into the Machars to include Whithorn, but it did not extend further east or north. Earlier, apart from Whithorn, the region does not appear in records of the kingdom of Northumbria. Even earlier, the relationship -if any- between Galloway and the shadowy British kingdom of Rheged is unclear.

The Gall-Ghàidheil did more than give their name to Galloway, they created and sustained Galloway over the course of 500 years, as thousands of Gaelic place names still testify. In the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, there were still 650 farms with Gaelic names when the Ordnance Survey mapped them in 1850.

Only 30% were in the upland parishes of Minnigaff, Kells, Carsphairn and Dalry. There weren't just more farms in the lowlands. Since most were arable farms, they needed more workers than the livestock farms of the uplands. In medieval Galloway, most Gaelic speakers lived on the arable farms of the lowlands.

In the Stewartry most of the land (soil) with the capacity to support arable farming was with ten miles of either the burgh of Dumfries or the burgh of Kirkcudbright. In Wigtownshire, all of the Machars was within ten miles of the burghs of Wigtown and Whithorn. Most of the Rhinns were within ten miles of Innermessan before it was superseded by Stranraer after 1600.

In the Highlands, the majority of the population lived more than (much more than) ten miles from a burgh. Apart from around Inverness and the Moray Firth, there were only small patches of land suitable for arable farming.

These geographical factors suggest that the survival of Gaelic in Galloway into the fifteenth century was remarkable and suggests that there were other factors at work.

                                          Gaelic 1400 and 1500 map

The most likely change of circumstances affecting the survival of Gaelic in Galloway was the break created by the end of Galloway as a lordship and the loss of its legal status as a regality in 1455. The political and cultural/ linguistic continuity between the kingdom established by Fergus of Galloway and the lordship re-created by Archibald the Grim was lost. Over the next 100 years Gaelic was replaced by Scots first in the lowland districts and then even in the uplands of Galloway.

Tragically, because the culture and traditions of Gaelic Galloway were oral, as the language was lost, so was 600 years of history.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Galloway: Gaelic's Lost Province

Monday, May 21, 2018

Gaelic and Land Use Part One

Gaelic and land use. Part One.

As I have been writing this post, I have realised it covers a huge area-physically and historically. What I have done is stopped halfway through the more detailed section, where I am trying to work out how many people would have lived on the remote upland farms where Gaelic will have lingered longest.

The same information can be used to get idea of the ratio of upland to lowland population distribution, including proximity to the burghs/ towns where we know Scots had become established by 1500. Once I have done this, it will become Part Two of this post.

Thinking about the shift from Gaelic to Scots as the language of Galloway, key questions are when and how did Scots achieve ‘critical mass’? By critical mass I mean a tipping point where the majority of the population had become Scots speakers and Gaelic became the language of a minority.

As I have discussed previously, there is written evidence that Scots rather than Latin was used as the administrative language of the Douglas lordship of Galloway from the 1390s and of the baron court of Whithorn priory by 1438. The Wigtown Burgh Court Book records from 1513 to 1536 show the use of Scots. The Kirkcudbright burgh records only survive from 1576, but are also in Scots. The Stranraer burgh records date from 1588 and again are in Scots.

Ayr became a royal burgh in 1205. The Ayr burgh accounts 1534-1624 . They were transcribed and published in 1936.
Dumfries became a royal burgh in 1186. The local archives have burgh records dating back to 1395.

Burghs were administrative and market centres for surrounding areas. They were also part of the advance of feudalism in Scotland, where land ownership derived from royal charters - for example king David I charter of 1124 which confirmed the ownership of Annandale by the Bruce family. The burghs were the first towns in Scotland. The burghs were places where the Scots language developed and spread from.

Whithorn was an exception, since it had become a town-like industrial and trading centre by the eleventh century with Irish Sea Viking connections. Whithorn had been an important religious centre since the fifth century. Kirkcudbright may have its origins as a Viking era trading centre.

Whithorn’s importance as a religious centre has been the subject of archaeological investigation. This provides an insight into land use in the surrounding area of the Wigtownshire Machars. A significant discovery made at Whithorn was the use of plough pebbles between the sixth and ninth centuries. Plough pebbles are small hard stones used to give wooden ploughs a better cutting edge. The Whithorn plough pebbles were a surprise, since they were 500 years older than previous examples found. [DGNHAS 1990]

Plough pebbles from Yorkshire

When the plough pebbles were in use, the local language would have been Brittonic and then the Old English of the Northumbrian church at Whithorn. Gaelic would have arrived in the Machars when it became part of the Irish Sea Viking world in the tenth century. The Viking-Gaelic Gall-Ghàidheil arrived by a different route, probably originating in Argyll before moving east and south into Ayrshire and then Galloway.

Two place name elements -airigh and eileirg, found locally as arie or airy and elrig or elrick - are both Gaelic and indicate land use. Airigh in Scots Gaelic meant ‘summer pasture’, areas where livestock were grazed on moor and hill land during the summer months. Eileirg means a deer trap, natural features wider at one end than the other which deer could be driven into and then killed.

In Mochrum parish on the west side of the Machars peninsula, on the edge of an area of poorer quality land, the farms of Airylick and Airyolland are adjacent to Eldrig loch, fell and farm. The eileirg would have been on Eldrig Fell which then gave its name to the farm and loch. Further east in Kirkinner parish, Whithorn Priory owned the farms of Meikle and Little Airies.

Map key: blue dots, Priory of Whithorn lands.
Red E -eileirg
Red X - airigh farms
Yellow M - mottes
Purple L- Lordship of Galloway farms.

Previously ruler of Viking Dublin, at the time of his death in 1065, Echmacarch Mac Ragnall was described as ‘king of the Rhinns’. The territory he ruled included Whithorn and the Machars as well as the Rhinns of Galloway.

The people who were to give their name to Galloway were the Gall-Ghàidheil. See Clancy, T.O. (2008) The Gall-Ghàidheil and Galloway. Journal of Scottish Name Studies(2), pp. 19-50.

In 1128, Gilla Aldan was installed as the Bishop of Whithorn, probably at the instigation of Fergus of Galloway. Although Fergus was not described (or even mentioned?) in the Annals of Ulster as king of the Gall-Ghàidheil, his great-grandson Alan was described as such by the Annals at his death in 1234.

The implication being that sometime between 1065 and 1128, the Gall-Ghàidheil became the dominant power in Galloway and Gaelic the dominant language. Under the rule of Fergus and his descendants, for the first time Galloway emerges as a distinct and important kingdom/province, with Whithorn as its religious centre.

The wealth and power of Galloway’s medieval rulers came from the land and the people it supported. The more effectively the land was used, the greater the wealth and power of its rulers. The airigh and eileirg place names, which are found in the Rhinns of Galloway, across the main Galloway uplands, on the slopes of Cairnsmore of Fleet, Screel/Bengairn and Crifell hills as well as the Machars, show how the resources of the poorer quality soils were used.

The use of plough pebbles had ended before the kingdom/lordship of Galloway emerged. However, the link between religion and agricultural improvement was continued with the plantation of abbeys (as well as priories and a nunnery) across Galloway by Fergus and his successors in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Cistercians at Dundrennan, Glenluce and New Abbey (Holm Cultram in Cumberland also had land in Galloway) were the main beneficiaries with the Premonstratensians at Whithorn, Saulseat and Tongland while Lincluden was a Benedictine nunnery.

In parallel with grants of land to the Church, lowland Galloway is dotted with many Norman style mottes (pudding shaped earth mounds) showing where non-religious grants of land were made. Some may have been built by existing, Gaelic speaking, landowners. The others were built for the Scottish or northern English descendants of Normans. For example the motte at Sorbie in the Machars [on map above] was built for the de Vieuxpont family of Westmorland who were related by marriage to the de Morvilles, also from Westmorland. Richard de Morville’s daughter Elena was married to Roland / Lachlann, Fergus of Galloway’s grandson.

The mottes were not part of a ‘Norman conquest’ of Galloway. They can best be seen, along with the abbeys, as an attempt to ‘modernise and improve’ Galloway by its rulers. A key technological development was the introduction of heavy, oxen drawn ploughs. These were made of wood, but used iron rather than pebbles along the cutting edge. [Note: I have tried to find a date for the introduction of these ‘new’ ploughs in Galloway. The nearest I have found is a link between the de Moreville family and ‘plough irons’ at Lauder in south east Scotland circa 1170.]

The new ploughs allowed more land to be cultivated, increasing the amount of oats and barley which could be grown. By increasing the surplus of arable crops produced in the lowland areas, it was possible to support more livestock-cattle, sheep, horses and goats -farmers in the uplands. The distribution of the Lordship of Galloway lands recorded in 1456 show a mix of lowland and upland farms which would have facilitated the integration of arable and livestock farming. The pattern persisted. Writing in the 1680s, Andrew Symson of Kirkinner parish stated that

[Minnigaff village] hath a very considerable market every Saturday, frequented by the moormen of Carrick, Monnygaffe, and other moor places, who buy there great quantities of meal and malt, brought thither out of the parishes of Whitherne, Glaston, Sorbie, Mochrum, Kirkinner &c. [Large Description of Galloway, Edinburgh, 1823]

Did the motte makers settle English or Scots speaking tenants /peasants equipped with new and improved ploughs and teams of oxen around their ’caputs’? The motte near Gelston parish is on the farm of Ingleston (Ingles / Inglis = English). There are Inglestons near mottes in Borgue, New Abbey and Twynholm parishes as well. However, other Ingleston farms in Irongray and Kirkgunzeon parishes are not near mottes, although they are near older (Iron Age) forts. Most Galloway mottes do not have Inglestons near by.

For the central Stewartry I have mapped the mottes and the nearest farms with Gaelic names.

Gaelic farms green * plus mottes 

On arable farms, the need to use a team of six or eight oxen to plough the land led to multiple tenancies, with each tenant owning an ox or having a part share in an ox. Arable farming was labour intensive. To extend the area of arable farming required population growth. Scotland experienced a period of warmer and drier conditions from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. This would have increased crop yields so the people, including children were better fed and more likely to survive childhood. This led to population growth.

With more people available to work the land, the area under arable cultivation could be increased, producing more food and further population growth. By the beginning of the fourteenth century then, Galloway’s arable lowlands would have supported what would have been historically its largest population- and who would have been Gaelic speakers. The upland farms would also have been occupied by Gaelic speakers, but relatively fewer.

Unfortunately, apart from a rental roll for Buittle parish from 1374, there is no detailed information about the population of Galloway until 1684. In that year, as part of attempts to suppress dissident Covenanters, a list of all the inhabitants of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff over the age of 12 was drawn up by parish ministers.

At 741, Minnigaff in the Stewartry had the highest population, but at 140 square miles it was also the largest parish so had a population density of only 5 people (over the age of 12) per square mile. Sorbie parish in the Machars had a population of 437 and an area of 15 square miles, giving it a population density of 29 people (over the age of 12) per square mile.

Kirkcowan parish has an area of 56 square miles and had a population of 491 in 1684, giving 9 people (over the age of 12) per square mile. In the northernmost part of Kirkcowan was the
Barony of Sleudinle. It covered approximately 10 square miles and had 55 inhabitants over the age of 12. It contained the highest hill in Wigtownshire, Craigairie, 1050 feet.

Barony of Sleudinnle

1. Barrnbrake (2)
Rodger McQuaker
Janet Wilson

2. Craigairy (3)
James Stroyen
Mart. McChiney
Janet Milroy

3. Alderickallabrichan (4)
William McCa
Janet McTear
Gilbert McCa
Mart. Heron

3. Highdirry (5)
Tho. Milweyen
Marion McCa
Helen McClemin
Pat McBride
Janet McQuaker

4. Laigdirry (5)
John McLure
Janet McMiken
Marion Walker
Janey Milroy
Tho. McNily

5. Craigmuddy (6)
Robert Mcnily
Janet Kie
James McNily
Katherin McNily
Mart. McNily
Mart. McQuaker

6. Killyalkirk (5)
Gilbert McLaughlen
Gilbert McKibbon
Marion McWilliam
And. McLaughlen
Isobell Blain

7. Dirvannay (4)
James Stroyen
Chirstian McMurry
Alexr. Stroyen
Janet Stroyen

8. Munondowy (3)
George McMurry
Anaple McCa
Janet McMurry

9. Dirvaghly (4)
John McTear
Janet McMurry
Henry Wallace
Marion Wallace

10. Dirnark (3)
John McMurry
Isobell McLaughlen
Gilbert McMurry

11. Aldericknair (6)
Alexander Kie
Janet Mochoule
Janet Heron
John Stroyen
Janet McWilliam
Mart. McCraich

12. Nether Alderick (3)
Gilbert McCraken
Janet Stewart
Robert McCracken

13. Inshanks (2)
Robert McCraken
Janet McKuinn

As Sleudunnull, the Barony of Sleudinle is included in the list of lands forfeited to the Scottish Crown by the Douglas Lordship of Galloway- Exchequer Rolls Vol. VI 1456, page 193 - 'Et de xv li. de firmis terrarum de Sleundunnull.'

Forest of Buchan 

The northernmost part of Minnigaff parish was the Forest of Buchan, covering roughly 40 square miles, containing 11 farms and 46 inhabitants over the age of 12. The Forest of Buchan included the highest hill the south of Scotland, Merrick at 2677 feet. Before 1455, Forest of Buchan belonged to Douglas Lordship of Galloway.

1. Palgouen (6)
John M'Kie in Palgouen
Elizebeth Dunbar, his spouss.
Alexr. McTier there.
John Mcjampse there.
Grisell McClelland there.
John McKie there.

2. Kirkcastle (4)
Michael McTagart in Kirkcastle.
Cathren Gordan, his spouss.
Alexr. M'Goun.
Grisell Wilson, his spouss.

3. Kirriereoch (4)
Gilbert McCutchen in Kirrireoch.
Marron McKie, his spouss.
Pattrick McClelland.
Janet McMillan, his spouss.

4. Kirrimoir (11)
John McGoun in Kirrimoir.
Janet McClamont, his spouss.
Hilling McGoun there.
Rott. Gordon.
Isobell McClamont, his spouss.
John McClamont.
John Jamieson.
Patt McCluire.
Janet Thomson.
Jaen Murray.
Janet Cairnes.

5. Kirriekennan (2)
Gilbert McKie in Kirriekennan.
Jaen McKie, his spouss.

6. Kilkerrock (4)
John Gordan in Kilkerrock.
Jealls Gordan, his spouss.
Margrat Findly there.
Alexr. Gordan there.

7. Stroan (6)
John McMillan in Stroan.
Jaen Heroun, his spouss.
Antony Wilson.
Isobel McGoune.
Androu Gordan.
Cathrain McClurge.

8. Eskeunhan (2)
John McKie in Eskeunhan
Grisel Milroy, his spous

9. Kirauchrie (2)
James Murray in Kirauchrie.
Hilling Gordan, his spouss.

10. Glenheid (2)
James Gordan in Glenheid.
Jaen McMillan, his spouss.

11. Buchan (3)
Thomas Gordan in Buchan.
------ McCutchen, his spouss.
------- McYelvour there.

B = burgh with population. Red + individual farms with number of inhabitants. Black boxes show Sleudinnel and Forest of Buchan. 

The map is an attempt to illustrate the greater population density of the mainly arable farming lowlands. Once Scots had become the everyday language of the thousands who lived in the more densely populated parishes, it would have been difficult for Gaelic to survive among the hundreds who lived in the more thinly populated uplands.

The natural lines of communication, river valleys and passes, run north-west to south-east. A community of Gaelic speakers in and around the Barony of Sleudinnle would have been isolated from a similar community in the Forest of Buchan who in turn would have had a difficult journey over the hills to Carsphairn.

I am now slowly going through the Wigtownshire and Minnigaff Parish Lists 1684 parish by parish, looking at the relative distribution of small (1-10 occupants) middle sized (11-20 occupants) and large (21 + occupants) farms.

For the northern parishes containing upland areas the results are:

Inch [50 square miles, 625 persons, 175 = 28% in upland area]
54 small, 16 middle sized, 3 large farms.

Glenluce [98 square miles, 614 persons]
56 small, 19 middle sized, 7 large farms.

Kirkcowan [56 square miles, 491 persons]
62 small, 11 middle sized, 1 large farms.

Penningham [54 square miles, 589 persons]
42 small, 12 middle sized, 6 large farms.

Minnigaff [140 square miles, 741 persons]
72 small, 17 middle sized and no large farms

For comparison:

Glasserton in the Machars [22 square miles, 423 persons]
7 small, 17 middle sized and 4 large farms.

Kirkinner in the Machars [28 square miles, 628 persons]
22 small, 21 middle sized and 6 large farms.

Kirkcolm in the Rhinns [22 square miles, 501 persons]
8 small, 11 middle sized and 4 large farms.

Kirkmaiden in the Rhinns [23 square miles, 621 persons]
15 small, 9 middle sized and 14 large farms.