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greengalloway

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Galwegian Gaelic and Wikipaedia

Galwegian Gaelic and Wikipedia

Does it matter? Probably not. Who, other than the writers is ever going to read a Wikipaedia article on Galwegian Gaelic?

Or maybe it does matter for a couple of reasons.
The first is devolution and the still some way off (unless Scottish Labour really blow it in May 2007 and the SNP seize power) prospect of independence. The worry is that from Edinburgh, Galloway / Dumfries and Galloway is viewed as a
remote and unimportant region. Which it terms of population and economic importance it is. Local politicians, the local Council and local agencies (e.g. Southern Upland Partnership) have done their best to raise the region’s profile to little avail. Anything which might further marginalise the current status of the region must be challenged.

Trying to relocate Galloway within the Scottish Gaeltacht to support the claim that Scottish Gaelic deserves support as a national rather than regional language is likely to have just such an effect. It may help advance the case for providing Gaelic medium education and bilingual signage, but since Gaelic is not a living language in Galloway, will dilute rather than support any positive sense of regional identity.

The second problem relates to this. It is quite remarkable that Galloway has survived as a distinct and distinctive region despite its inclusion within Scotland for 800 years. Why has Galloway survived?

One factor must be geography. The Southern Uplands have (and still do) separated Galloway from the rest of Scotland, whilst the Solway Firth and Irish Sea have (and still do to an extent) linked Galloway with Ireland, England and the Isle of Man.

So that the strongest (historic) culture and language influences on Galloway have come from the west, south and east - rather than the north. From ‘Hiberno-Norse’ Ireland/ Isle of Man (circa AD 880), ‘Old Welsh’ Cumbria/ Rheged ( pre- AD 650), ‘Old English’ Northumbria ( AD 650 to 880) and even ‘Gaulish’ France (circa AD 450 at Whithorn) rather than ‘Gaelic’ Scotland. Latin (e.g. late 8th century Miraculae Nynia Episcopi) and Picts (carvings on Trusty’s Hill near Gatehouse of Fleet) must also be taken into account as influences.

What the ‘Galloway as part of Scottish Gaelic culture and language region’ argument risks doing is simplifying the complexities of Galloway’s history. This in turn undermines the ‘local history/ local identity’ argument which I suggest is a vital aspect of the region’s ability to assert itself within the political and economic discourse of post-devolution/ pre-independence Scotland.

Historically there is no dispute. Gaelic was once spoken in Galloway. But does this mean that Galloway can be included as a southern outpost of the Scottish Gaeltacht (Scottish Gaelic speaking zone)? I don’t think so.

The problem is that at the time - roughly AD 900 to AD 1100- when Gaelic was probably the main language of Galloway, Galloway was not part of ‘Scotland’.

Pre- AD 900 and from around AD 670 Galloway was under Northumbrian (Old English speaking) control. Before then the language of Galloway was Brittonic/ Cumbric (related to modern Welsh not modern Gaelic). After AD 900, Galloway came under ‘Hiberno-Norse’ control, i.e. was ruled by the descendants of Vikings who had moved down the west coast of Scotland and settled in Ireland, founding Dublin. As they migrated, these Vikings became bilingual Norse/Gaelic speakers.

In the late 9th century, the indigenous Irish managed to briefly kick the ‘Hiberno-Norse’ out of Dublin, prompting an eastward migration across and around the Irish Sea. With Northumbrian power waning in Galloway, a take-over of power amongst the ruling elite took place. This in turn prompted a dual language shift - with Norse replacing Old English as the language of the ruling elite and Gaelic replacing ‘Old Welsh’ (Brittonic/ Cumbric) as the language of the common people.

Or maybe just Gaelic? Depends on dating of Galloway place names like the many ‘holms’ (usually taken as Norse speaking indicators) which still survive.

Equally some Gaelic sounding places names (e.g. Carrick) could be survivals from Old Welsh. Also, since Old Irish and Old Scottish Gaelic are virtually indistinguishable, they could be Irish. The only detailed analysis I have found (In The Uses of Placenames: ed. Simon Taylor: Scottish Cultural Press: 1996] suggests that the Gaelic of Galloway (e.g.) Bengairn was more Irish than Scots.

Only after the death of Alan of Galloway in 1234 did Galloway become part of Scotland, but by this time Scottish Gaelic was already losing ground to the Scots language.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Alistair, the teaser in your intro got me so mad I was going to call you a narrow minded twit. On reading further, however, I can see your hook worked! I'm studying modern Irish and am interested in related languages, including Galwegian, but of course, that is not your point.
Good luck with your advocacy. The Gaeltacht is your best hope I reckon - go with itbut preserve the distinctions.
Philomena (Sydney, Australia)

11:32 am  
Anonymous wjg said...

Who's going to read an article...
indeed! How do you suppose I found this little blog? That's right. Like 'twas said before, nice hook. My studies have left me to believe that Galloway was influenced greatly by Irish settlers.
regards, Walter Galloway Texas,USA

10:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the people of Scotland still persist in attempting to distinguish themselves from each other. The spread of the Gaelic language throughout Scotland is well known although in some quarters it has been attempted to hide this fact and disguise the fact that Gaelic was even spoken in Lothian! It is easy to confirm this by reviewing placenames as recorded in Parish legends. The majority of Scottish placenames have been changed from the 16th and 17th centuries, mainy merely translated or simply by dropping the initial "Bal' (town) and adding "ton" to the end of the name. The Gaelic language did however displace existing Celtic languages, ie Pictish and Cumbric. The Pictish language was a low dialect form of Gaelic / Old British. It shared similarities with both Old Gaelic and Old British (There has been a resurgence in interest in the study of the origins of Pictish and it is generally agreed to be as stated above by University of Glasgow Linguistics Department) and is similar to low and high German dialects and itself was spoken in Ulster prior to the expansion of the Gaelic speaking area there. I am not a Gaelic nationalist or even an advocate of the language, however most Scots should not continue to bear prejudice against Gaelic and then promote the use of Scots. This as we are aware was an Germanic import. We should remind ourselves that post University College DNA testing that Scotland was and has remained a majority Celtic country even in areas that we have been taught were settled by anglians from Northumbria ie Lothian and Borders.

In summary the extension of the Gaidhealtachd into Galloway should present no issue to Galwegians as it is merely the return of a Celtic language into a Celtic area. If people should object to Gaelic then teach Welsh.

1:37 am  
Anonymous Travis said...

What if Galloway had its own set of official regional languages (besides English!), including some or all of the following?:

1) Cumbric (Rebuilt like Cornish has been: http://www.talkaboutculture.com/group/soc.culture.cornish/messages/10118.html
2) Gallovidian (A Goidelic language rebuilt to be transitional between Scottish Gaelic, Manx, and Ulster Irish. It would have its own orthography based on either Scottish Gaelic spelling, or on the Manx-like Englished-based spelling that was formerly used for some Scottish Gaelic texts.
3) Gallowegian Scots (The descendant of Old Northumbrian. Given its own orthography and stressing any distinctive phonetic, lexical, and grammatical features of the South West Central Scots of Galloway: http://www.scots-online.org/grammar/swcscots.htm. This "Galloways"(?) language would take its place alongside the Lallans and Ullans literary standards. Example: Trotter R. De Bruce - Galloway Gossip or the Southern Albanich Eighty Years Ago - the Stewartry)
4) Gallowegian Norn (Rebuilding the Norse speech of Galloway, modelled on surviving Norse Galloway names and words, and also taking inspiration from any records of Hebrides Norse and Irish-Norse elements and the extant Orkney and Shetland Norn language.)

3:21 am  
Anonymous TraverseTravis at yahoo said...

P.S. There could eventually be translations of classic works such as the Bible and Shakespeare, and popular works such as Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings into the Cumbric, Galloway Scots, Galloway Gaelic, and Galloway Norse languages.

Travis

3:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I hate to bust your bubble mate I'm a fluent Manx speaker and I can tell you that Scottish Gaelic and Manx are very, very similar - 85% the same. Folk stories here from say Manx smugglers could speak to the locals in Kirkcudbright in Gaelic in the post Napoleonic period. Ulster Irish was probably much closer to Scottish Gaelic in the past as well. It is quite easy to make a fair guess at how Gallowgian Gaelic sounded in relation to Scottish Gaelic, Manx and Irish. If I was a Gallowegian and wanted to speak the language of my ancestors I'd be learning Scottish Gaelic - but a Southern dialect.
I completely understand if you think Gaelic is a waste of time as it is spoken by so few - but bi-lingual education doesn't just produce fluent Gaels, but better English speakers than English only education. Anyway - best wishes.

1:56 am  
Blogger Alistair Livingston said...

If I wanted to speak the language of the ancient inhabitants of Galloway, modern Welsh, not modern Gaelic would be the nearest Celtic tongue.

The history of smuggling on the Solway has been well documented, as is the later 18th/ early 19th century history of Kirkcudbright.
If Manx and/ or Galwegian Gaelic was used by the smugglers in Kirkcudbright, contemporary antiquarians like Joseph Train or John Nicholson would surely have reported this.

My email is alsitairliv@aol.com I would be very interested to find out more about this piece of Max folklore.

2:31 pm  
Blogger Brian said...

A hAlasdair! Feasgar math,

Well, I guess a few folk are reading the article...I find it interesting that Gaelic placenames exist throughout the "Lowlands" which leads me to this observation:
The Gaelic language was the language of prestige and power, before Malcolm and Margaret and the influx of Anglo-Norman aristocracy in Scotland. This coincides with the rapid absorbtion of the Norse into the local cultures and a resurgence of Gaelic Ireland. It is no wonder that the territory of the Goidelic dialects would be expanding in those times at the expense of Norse, British and "Inglis"...it simply was the money language then and there as English is today. (Or was recently!) As to what meaning this has today, I can only suggest that it may increase the awareness among Scots, at hame or abroad, that Gaelic is a common heritage language of us all and should be treasured and nourished instead of despised and neglected.
Le meas,
Brian Ceanadach

8:40 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

Alisdair, go read a history book..probably Richard Oram's Lordship of Galloway, for starters. You'll learn that Galloway's aristocracy spoke Gaelic well past the 14th Century. There are *hundreds* Gaelic place-names and family names; Gaelic was doing fine until the 17th Century, thank you very much. You want Galloway to forget about its heritage and pretend that only Scots is relevant to Galwegian culture, because Galloway is now a part of Scotland?
What specious logic.

6:49 am  
Blogger Stephen Scott said...

Great blog, I apologize for finding it so late. I'm actually very interested in the history of Galloway and find the politics surrounding it exciting. I actually agree with your article, as it seems Galloway was conquered and people by many different peoples. I'm curious if you could recommend any easily accessible titles on its medieval history, perhaps from Alan Fitz Roland on?

4:39 am  
Blogger Alistair Livingston said...

Stephen - you cold look for Daphne Brooke's book 'Wildmen and Holy Palces'
http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Holy-Places-Daphne-Brooke/dp/0862415586

11:32 pm  
Anonymous Janet Thompson Deaver said...

Dear Mr. Livingston, I thank you for making sure we all realise that Galloway has a different language needing to be known apart from the Irish, no offense to them. I find your history lesson well done.
In studying Robert Burns, last reported seen in Dumfries, Galloway, I’ve been attempting to translate his 15th century Galwegian fragment, which turned into “Auld Lang Syne.” Can you translate the final two lines for me? “Thairfoir this warld is very frewch and auld kyndnes is quyt foryett." I translated the first part to “Therefore this world is false…” but I want to make sure that “quyt foryett” is “quite forgot.” Thank you for all help that you can give. Janet Thompson Deaver

1:42 am  

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