.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

No Grave for King Galdus

Cairnholy I- King Galdus' Grave?

Torhouse stone circle -King Galdus' Grave ?

No Grave for King Galdus

William of Malmesbury wrote in 1125 that 'King Arthur's grave is nowhere seen, whence antiquity of fables still claims that he will return'.  Around the same time, but far from the mists of Avalon, another graveless king was forging a kingdom. The king was Fergus and the kingdom he made is still called Galloway. It lies in the deep south-west of what is now called Scotland. Galloway may yet, under the cloak of a National Park, become a kingdom once more.

Fergus died in exile at Holyrood Abbey (Edinburgh) in 1161. Probably he is buried there, but no-one knows. Fergus was forced into exile by Malcolm IV of Scotland who invaded Galloway in 1160.

I have been looking for any Galloway folktales, legends or traditional songs which mention King Fergus, but there are none. The people of Fergus’ kingdom were Gaelic speakers. Gaelic survived in Galloway for 400 years after Fergus death, but the Gaelic of Galloway was an oral culture. Once the language died, all the stories and songs, the myths and legends of Gaelic Galloway, passed over into silence.

Then I remembered King Galdus. Torhouse stone circle in Wigtownshire and the Cairnholy chambered cairns in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright are both supposed to have been the burial place of King Galdus. The stories linked to his graves say that Galdus was a king who fought against the Romans and drove them out of Galloway, which takes its name from him.

Perhaps, I wondered, had the shift from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway turned the historic Fergus into the mythical Galdus?

I have now researched King Galdus. It turns out that he is not the creation of Galloway folklore, but a literary invention. In 1527, Hector Boece published the Historia Gentis Scotorum (History of the Scottish People). In this work Galdus appears for the first time as a Scottish king who fought against the Romans.

What Boece did was take Calgacus, who features as a leader of the Caledonians in Tacitus’ history of his father-in-law Agricola’s invasion of Scotland in the first century AD and makes him into a Scottish king. Boece included sections of Tacitus narrative and then added a ’what happened next’ section in which Galdus becomes king of Scotland  for 35 years and drives the Romans out.

Calgacus may not have existed, but even if he did, he never became king of Scotland and did not drive out the Romans.

Boece wrote in Latin, but his book was translated into Scots verse and Scots prose. It was also translated into English by Holinshed. I have also found a modern translation into English. The various versions of Boece’s text concerning King Galdus’ death can be found below.

What Boece says is that after he reigned for 35 years, Galdus died in 131 AD and was buried in an elaborate  tomb.  He then says that the province of Brigantia was renamed Galdia in his honour and that, garbled over the years, this became Galloway.

It is not clear that the tomb is in Galloway, but Boece then says that Galdus’ grandson Mogallus became king of Scotland and visited his grandfather’s tomb in Galdia, that is Galloway. (See final quotation form Boece at end)

It seems likely then that what happened was that  readers of Boece in Wigtownshire looking for the remains of an elaborate tomb decided that the Torhouse stone circle best fitted his description. Readers in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright decided that Cairnholy I was the better location. By the 1660, this literary detective work had become part of Galloway’s popular history and the two locations were both described as King Galdus’ grave.

As late as 1841, William Mackenzie included the Galdus story in his ‘History of Galloway’. As folklore, the story of King Galdus and his Grave(s) still survives. However, in 1926 R C Reid wrote ‘The Legend of King Galdus’ [DGNHAS Transactions] which established that the stories were a literary invention based on readings of Hector Boece as the creator of Galdus, rather than local folk tradition.

What follows from this deconstruction of King Galdus and his grave(s) is the possibility/ probability that the language shift from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway led to the loss of  anything which might be called a ‘people’s history of Galloway’. That any tales and stories, songs and poetry which may have existed in the Gaelic oral heritage of Galloway did not survive the transition to Scots as the language of Galloway’s people. By the seventeenth century, the people of Galloway knew their Bible history but not their own.

This leads on to a key question. The story of King Galdus and his grave(s) shows that at least some people in Galloway were familiar with the Scottish history of Hector Boece by the seventeenth century. Along with Galdus, as ‘Angus, Thane of Galloway’, Fergus of Galloway is mentioned by Boece, along with Fergus’ son Gilbert (Gille Brigte), Alan of Galloway, King Edward Balliol and Archibald the Grim as Lord of Galloway. But how far did familiarity with such narratives extend?

1. The oral culture of Gaelic Galloway is lost.
2. The oral culture of Scots Galloway, apart from fragments in Symson from 1684, was not recorded until the late eighteenth / early nineteenth centuries.
3. Even by Symson’s time, what might appear to be authentic folk traditions turn out to be drawn from Scottish historical writings accessible only by an educated elite.

From this it seems likely that the people of Galloway lost any direct contact with their own history. Then, through a ‘top-down’  process, references to Galloway in histories written from a Scottish perspective, were transferred back into popular awareness in Galloway. The several stories involving Robert the Bruce in Galloway [ discussed  previously  http://greengalloway.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/regional-romanticism-and-invention-of.html ] fit into this suggestion.

The transfer of Scottish histories to Galloway has made it difficult for people living in Galloway to understand their history. For histories written from a Scottish perspective, the story of Galloway is rarely significant.

Henceforth King Galdus ruled for a number of years with wonderful happiness, having overcome the fortune that had been so savage to himself. Finally, after the wars had been finished and he had painstakingly devoted himself to making the Scottish commonwealth more bright and noble, its people equipped with better manners, having been undermined by a protracted spell of ill health, dearer than life itself to his nobles and commoners, and superior to all his ancestors in the greatness of his accomplishments, in the thirty-fifth year of his reign he died at Epiacum. This was about the third year of the principate of the emperor Hadrian, the year 5502 of Creation, and the year 132 of our Salvation.

 His body was borne in full estate, formal and sorrowful, with many men in deep mourning, to a nearby field, where, in accordance with the instructions he had given in life, a very ornate tomb was built for him, constructed in the national manner from great stones, on the largest of which was carved his image with an inscription telling how he had freed his nation from Roman arms. Many obelisks were set up next to the tomb, as was the custom then, as a memorial of his excellent virtue in war. So that the memory of so great a king might never fade from men’s minds, as a way of reminding posterity of the excellent achievements of Galdus, by decree of the elders. the name of the district of Brigantia was changed, and henceforth called Galdia in his honour, for it was there that he made an ending to the Roman war, which had been protracted for so many years. With a slight change in the word (as happens with old things), the name of this district endures in our time, for it is called Galloway.

Source :  http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/boece/

Of the Deith of King Galdus.
Syne gude Galdus, this nobill worthie king,
Efter threttie and fyve leir of his ring,
Ane hundreth als and threttie efter oure Lord,
At Epiac, in pece and gude concord
He tuke his leif and bad thame all gude nycht.
For wo of him thair weipit mony knycht,
And mony ladie quliit as quhalis bane,
The lordis all and commonis als ilkane.
Syne till his graif thai haif him grathit sone,
With all honour sould till ane king be done ;
With sence and singing, and sic sacrifice,
Solempnitlie as that tyme wes the gyiss.
The lordis all, as to thair cheif and heid,
So greit honour did him efter his deid,
Tha landis all callit Brigantia,
Efter his name is callit Galdia.
So that his name most knychtlie till advance,
Sail euer remane in till rememberance.
To signifie efter to euerie man,
Into that place the Romanis last he wan ;
As le ma reid quha lykis for to luke.
Loving to God, heir endis the ferd buke.

Source : https://archive.org/details/buikofcronicliso01boec

Galdus ragne mony yeris efter in gret felicite, and occupyit his pepill in virtewis laubouris and exercition ; and deceissit at Epiak, the XXXV yeir of his regne, maist vailyeant prince that evir rang above the Scottis : fra the incarnation of God, cm yeris; fra the beginning of the warld, v.m.ccc.ii yeris. His body was buryit beside Epiak, with funerall pompe, and gret lament of pepill. To quhome ane maist precius sepulture was rasit : in quhilk was ingravin, how he recoverit his realme, be soverane manheid, fra the Romanis. Mony huge pillaris war rasit about his sepulture, to testify his precellent virtew, and glore of chevalry ; and, that his memory sail nevir peris, be decreit of Parliament was commandit, that tlie landis namit afore Brigance, sal be callit, in time cumming, Galdia ; becaus this nobil prince maid ane end of all his weris in thay partis. In our dayes, that region is callit Galvidia, be corruption of langage ; that is to say, Galloway.

Source : https://archive.org/details/historychronicle01boec

Thus Galdus applieng all his studie and diligence to aduance the common-wealth and quiet state of his countrie, lined manie yeeres so highlie in the feuour of all his subiects, that the like hath beene but seldome heard of: finallie, to their great griefe and displeasure he ended his life, more deere to them than their owne, at Epiake, in the 35 yeere of his reigne, which was about the 15 yeere of the empire of Adrian, the 4098 yeere after the worlds creation, and from the birth of our Sauiour LSI, and was buried with great lamentation in most pompous maner, and laid in a goodlie toome which was raised with mightie huge stones, hauing a great number of obelisks set vp round about it according to the maner. Furthermore, to the end his memorie should euer indure, the countrie where he fought last with the Romans was called Galdia, after his name, which by addition of a few letters is now called Galloway, and before that time Brigantia, as the Scots doo hold : but how that seemeth to agree with a truth, ye may read in the historie of England.

Source : https://archive.org/details/chroniclesofengl05holiuoft

 Stung by this insult, Mogallus called on the gods to witness that the treaty had been broken and his embassy disdained, and prayed that they turn the destruction of this war against those who had fomented it. Not much later, having collected those things he would need on the march, he moved from Siluria, where a multitude assembled from all Scottish districts had assembled, to Galdia. When he had arrive there, as a gesture of respect for the dead he joined his nation’s elders in a visit to the tomb of his illustrious grandfather King Galdus. And there performing the rites of the dead with the help of the Druids, who presided over religious matters in those parts, and had solemnly uttered many pious prayers in accordance with national tradition, he sank to the ground and said, “Galdus, invincible king, you who with such great exertion restored the ill-starred kingdoms of the Scots and Picts who all but destroyed by the Romans’ unjust arms, and, thanks to the gods’ kindness, overcame our enemy, the most wealthy conquerors of the world, and by your bravery and excellence drove them from these homes of ours, having cast off the yoke of servitude, we embraced you in life with a indescribably great love. And now we come to this your tomb, an enduring place of refuge for all Scotsmen in times of adversity, and fall at your dead feet (or rather, we prostrate ourselves before your shade), praying with our querulous voices that you will supply us with your help, since we are placed in great danger. For we are being harried by the same enemies you once conquered, and we earnestly pray, if you have any virtue or any power among the gods, when it comes to a fight you not allow the victory to fall to those desecrators of the pubic faith, since we, your posterity, are being beset in this very impious war. Nor will you allow these unjust enemies, conquered by you so often, freely to depart, in possession of their lives and fortunes. For your name cannot help but be a terror to them.”
6. When King Mogallus had pronounced these words, the surrounding multitude addressed the same prayers to the gods with much confused shouting. They clung to the statue of King Galdus, which was decorated with many garlands, as was the pagan custom, and offered many pious prayers and rituals for a happy departure and return. And fanatic women assisted at the ceremonies, scourging themselves with lashes, and joined with the Druid priests in spewing forth dire imprecations with their hands raised to high heaven, greatly cursing Caesar’s person and his Roman empire.

Source :  http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/boece/

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Gaelic Kingdom Restored?

Proposed Galloway National Park.
Note the Rhinns of Galloway will be included

The Rebirth of Gaelic Galloway?

A Gaelic Galloway Conference will be held on 8 September 2018 in New Galloway. I will be giving a talk on the language change from Gaelic to Scots in Galloway. I was starting to think about what I will say when I found the above map showing the possible boundaries of a National Park for Galloway.

The map shows a ‘Galloway’ which extends into Ayrshire (South Ayrshire, formerly Carrick and East Ayrshire, formerly King’s Kyle) and Dumfriesshire (Nithsdale). The towns of Dumfries and Ayr would be excluded from this ‘greater’ Galloway.  Dumfries and Ayr were made Royal burghs in 1186 and 1204 respectively.

From a historical perspective, the Galloway National Park is fascinating. For the first time since the twelfth century, the boundaries of Galloway will have expanded rather than contracted. The National Park boundaries will also represent the area where place name evidence shows that Gaelic survived longest in  Lowland Scotland.

The Galloway National Park discussion paper does not mention the Galloway’s lost Gaelic heritage, but it does suggest (page 37, para 6.31) that:

Notwithstanding the boundaries, we consider that the sub-title “The Kingdom of Galloway” might encompass the physical and cultural unity of the area.

Technically, Galloway was only ever a kingdom during the life time of Fergus of Galloway (died 1161). As I explain below the ‘lesser Galloway’ ruled by Fergus survived as the Lordship of Galloway down to 1455 (minus Carrick after 1185).  It was only after 1455 that the Scots were finally able to impose their language, law and kings on Galloway. The last link between the people of Galloway and Fergus’ kingdom to survive was their Gaelic language.

This is a very important point but also a complex and confusing one. For many people the survival of Gaelic in Scotland today is closely connected to the survival of a distinctive Scottish identity. But in Galloway, the survival of Gaelic into fifteenth century was part of the former kingdom’s resistance to Scottish power and authority. The loss of Gaelic in the sixteenth century followed Galloway’s final absorption into Scotland.

In my next post I will explore these complexities and confusions. For now here is the first of what will be many versions of the talk I will give in New Galloway next September.

Greater Galloway circa 1100 plus languages circa 1200. 

Although the people called Gall-Ghàidheil are first mentioned in Irish annals circa 850 AD, Galloway as the territory inhabited by the Gaelic speaking Gall-Ghàidheil is not recorded until the early twelfth century. When it is mentioned it refers to an area taking in modern Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Nithsdale as well as what we now call Galloway- see map above.

The original kingdom of Scotland -Alba- was north of the Forth. The kingdom of Strathclyde controlled the Clyde and Clydesdale. The rest of southern Scotland was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. The Vikings disrupted this pattern, allowing the kings of Alba to extend their power south- apart from the area controlled by the Gall-Ghàidheil in the south-west. When David I became kings of Scots in 1124, the south-west was still not part of his kingdom.

By the time David died in 1153, most of Greater Galloway was under his control, apart from Fergus of Galloway’s kingdom. In 1160, David’s son King Malcolm IV invaded Galloway and Fergus was forced into exile in Holyrood Abbey where he died in 1161.

Fergus’ sons Gilbrigte and Uhtred then ruled as joint Lords of Galloway until 1174 when Uhtred was killed by Gilbrigte. Gilbrigte then ruled on his own until his death in 1185 when Uhtred’s son Lachlann/ Roland gained control. Gilbrigte’ son Donnchadh was bought off by being made Earl of Carrick. Carrick had until then been part of Galloway. Lachlann/ Roland died in 1200 and his son Alan became Lord of Galloway.

The Annals of Ulster described Alan as ‘ri’ or king of the Gall-Ghàidheil on his death in 1234.  That Galloway was not fuly integrated into Scotland is shown by what happened next. King Alexander II invaded Galloway and split the former kingdom up between the husbands of Alan’s three daughters. Alan’s legitimate son had predeceased him. The still powerful Gaelic kindreds- the McDowalls, McCullochs and McLellans- had wanted Alan’s illegitimate son Thomas to become the new Lord of Galloway.

Alan’s youngest daughter Devorgilla had married John Balliol. John Balliol died in 1269. By the time of her death in 1290, Devorgilla had re-assembled the divided Lordship of Galloway.

Studying  the list of witnesses to Devorgilla’s charters, Richard Oram observed that unlike the charters of her father and grandfather, many of the witnesses were drawn from the leading Gaelic (Celtic as Oram calls them) kindreds of Galloway.

If doubts remain about the essentially Celtic nature of the families holding significant estates in Galloway in the Middle Ages, the steadily increasing volume of documentation from the second half of the fourteenth century onwards dispels any lingering question. Such families surface as the long-established leaders of society, not as a resurgent Celtic underclass. What is displayed…is the continuing  identification of leading native families with the dynasty founded by Fergus, and especially Dervorgilla's line which was dominant in Galloway from the mid-1260s… Dervorgilla offered continuity with the great days of the lordship and inherited the loyalty of her ancestors' native supporters… Despite all the 'Normanised' aspects of their characters, the lords of Galloway were Celtic lords, and it was on their Celtic aristocracy and people that Dervorgilla, like her father, grandfather and great-grandfather before her, depended for their power and position.

Source: Richard Oram. ‘A Family Business? Colonisation and Settlement in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Galloway’ The Scottish Historical Review, Volume LXXII, 2: No. 194: October 1993, page 145.

Over the next 80 years the role of the ‘leading native families’ in preserving the integrity of Galloway became vital. Without them, the struggle between Robert Bruce and his son David and Devorgilla’ son John Balliol and his son Edward for the Scottish Crown could have led to the break up of Galloway.

The Bruce - Balliol struggle is part of Scottish history and the period known as the ‘Wars of Scottish Independence’. King Robert I died in 1329. His son and successor King David II was only 5 years old when his father died. In 1332, King John Balliol’s son Edward declared himself King of Scots. King Edward Balliol lacked support in Scotland and had to rely on the help of King Edward III of England. In 1356, Balliol gave up his claim to the Scottish Crown.

The one area of Scotland where Edward Balliol did have support was Galloway. The support came from Galloway’s Gaelic kindreds, who considered Balliol  their own ‘special lord’. Even after Edward Balliol had renounced his claim to the Crown, Galloway remained hostile to David II and the Scots. As Michael Penman put it ‘royal authority in Galloway remained unconvincing. Until the latter half of the next decade David was unable to raise revenue or hold justice ayres in this region which remained largely under the influence of native kindreds beyond the pale.’

After Edward Balliol’s death in 1364, David II proposed gifting the troublesome province to John of Gaunt, one of King Edward III of England’s sons. This bold plan fell through. In 1368, Archibald the Grim, an illegitimate son of Robert I’s loyal supporter James Douglas, was appointed warden of the West March of the Scottish border. His main job was to evict English soldiers from the castles they held in Annandale. He accomplished this by 1384.

In the meantime Archibald had become Lord of Galloway. He gained control of eastern Galloway by 1369 and then bought western Galloway for £500 sterling from Thomas Fleming, Earl of Wigtown in 1372. David II is supposed to have granted Archibald eastern Galloway after he drove the English out of the district, but the English did not hold any castle in Galloway. Thomas Fleming sold him western Galloway because  of the ‘enmity’ between him and ‘the greater native inhabitants’.

Charter by Thomas Flemyng, Earl of Wygtoun, by which of his own free will, in his great and urgent necessity, and especially on account of the great and grievous enmity that had otherwise arisen between him and the greater native inhabitants of his foresaid earldom, he demits, alienates and sells, for himself and his heirs, to Sir Archebald of Douglas, knight, lord of Galloway on the east side of the water of Crech, all his earldom of Wygtoun aforesaid… For which alienation and sale of the earldom the said Thomas acknowledges to have received in his great and urgent necessity, and for paying his debts in divers places, from Sir Archebald, five hundred pounds sterling, good and legal money, of which he discharges Sir Archebald, his heirs and executors. Dated at Edinburgh, 16 February 1372.
Source: William Fraser The Douglas Book , Vol. III, Edinburgh, 1885, page 396, entry 327

Once in power Archibald allowed the McDowalls to retain their lands in Wigtownshire and successfully defended the traditional ‘leges Galwidiensis’ (the traditional laws of Galloway) when an attempt was made to suppress them in 1384. The heads of kindreds were able to retain their importance and became vital allies, with the McDowalls and McCullochs providing men and ships for Archibald’s  military expeditions.

The recreation of the Lordship of Galloway by Archibald Douglas was crucial for the survival of Gaelic in Galloway. It preserved the region’s territorial integrity along with its traditional laws and customs. In exchange for providing him with troops, Archibald allowed the ’kenkynoll’ , the heads of kin to retain their customary authority.

Threave Castle- built for Archibald the Grim after he became Lord of Galloway

On the other hand, the administrative language of the Douglas lordship which ruled Galloway from Threave castle until 1455 was Scots. After 1388, when Archibald became the third earl of Douglas, Gaelic Galloway was only part of a predominantly Scots speaking earldom. David II had planted Scots speakers like the Dunbar family in Galloway and the Douglas Lords of Galloway continued this process, introducing the Gordon family into the Glenkens.

The end of the Lordship of Galloway came in 1455. The Douglas family were seen as a threat to his power by King James II. Threave castle was besieged in the summer of 1455 but held out until the defenders were bribed into surrender.

Galloway was split into two, divided into the Shire of Wigtown governed by a sheriff and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, governed by a steward. The existence of the Lordship of Galloway had helped to keep Gaelic alive in Galloway, but now Galloway was no more than a geographical expression and there was nothing to left to hold back the advance of the Scots language.

How long did Gaelic survive in Galloway after 1455? It is very difficult to say. As early as 1438, the baron court of Whithorn was conducting its affairs in Scots.

Al that this present letter heris or seis, wit ye us Thomas McIlhauchausy, prior of Quitheren, til haf giffen an inquwist on our baron court of Qwithern of the best and the worthiest thar beand, til Paton McMarty, of the Schapel of Sanct Molinor and the croft lian in our land of Culmalow, the qwilk inqwist sworn fand that the said Paton McMartyn was nerest ayr and lachfull to the said Schapell and croft wyth the pertinens and til haf gus in the comon of Culmalow til aegt som and a neit and hir folowaris and a sow and hir brud and a gus and hir brud. In witnes of the qwilk thing at the inqwest of diverse gentil and sundry otheris thar beand we haf set our sel at qwitthern the xi day of the moneth of Juni the year of our Lord mc ccccmo and acht and thirty yer, before thir witnes- Rolland Kenedy, Eben Galnusson and also Eben McGaryl and mony others.

Source :RC Reid, editor,  The Wigtownshire Charters, Edinburgh, 1960, page 23, entry 7

The Wigtown burgh court books survive from 1513 and their language has been analysed by Dr Joanna Kopaczyk (formerly Bugaj), now of Glasgow University. Dr Kopaczyk’s analysis  shows  the language used was Scots and none of the witnesses needed to have their speech translated from Gaelic.  Source: Middle Scots Inflectional Systems in the south-west of Scotland, J Bugaj, Frankfurt, 2004, p. 80.

By the time John Knox preached the Reformation to the common people of Galloway and Nithsdale in 1560, he had no problem making himself understood. This is significant since, as the events of the seventeenth century showed, the Reformation became deeply rooted in Galloway. However, with the support of the Maxwell Lords and later Earls of Nithsdale, the Roman Catholic faith survived in eastern Galloway. This survival is well documented but this resistance to the Reformation is not linked to the persistence of Gaelic.

If the spread of the Reformation had been hindered by a language problem, that is if the ’common people’ of Galloway had been unable to understand preaching in Scots or readings from Bibles written in English, this would have been a significant problem for the Reformers. That it was not strongly suggests that Gaelic was, if not already extinct by 1560, then very close to extinction.

The Reformation was also a religious revival which deeply affected everyday life. The parish church became a key social institution and knowledge of the Bible was seen as essential. Children  and adults were expected to know key points of the Reformed faith and literacy was encouraged to enable this understanding. Family bibles became treasured possessions.

If Scots was already spoken and written in Whithorn in 1438 (see above) then it was likely to have been spoken and written in the burghs of Wigtown and Kirkcudbright by then as well. By 1513, the records of Wigtown burgh court show that Scots had become well established. The absence of Gaelic speakers requiring a translator in the Wigtown burgh court records suggests Scots had become the ordinary language of the surrounding area.

Gaelic is therefore most likely to have survived in the more remote upland districts of Galloway, in the places furthest from the burghs. These were also the most thinly populated areas of Galloway, home to as few as five or six thousand people scattered over several hundred square miles. While these upland communities were remote from the burghs, they were not isolated from the market economy of the burghs. The livestock farms of the uplands relied on the arable farms of the lowlands for essential supplies which they could not grow themselves.

[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. 

Source : Andrew Symson, A Large Description of Galloway, composed 1682, written 1694, published Edinburgh, 1823, p.30

Before 1455, the Lordship of Galloway held farms in both the upland and lowland areas of Galloway. Supporting their livestock farming upland tenants from the surplus produced by their lowland arable farming tenants would have been an administrative rather than market process.

After 1455, such transfers may have been continued by the Crown, but as the Crown sold off the farms forfeited by James Douglas, the ninth Earl of Douglas and last Lord of Galloway, such lowland/upland transfers would have to have been done via markets like the Minnigaff one. This necessity would have drawn the Gaelic speakers of  the uplands closer to the Scots speakers of the lowlands and their markets and helped spread Gaelic / Scots bilingualism into even the most remote parts of Galloway by the early sixteenth century.

Gaelic could still have survived as the everyday language spoken at home / on the farm in the uplands, with Scots reserved for market days, as late as the 1560s. But the Reformation was able to reach into the places the market economy could not. Even before there was a Bible in every farmhouse, the language of the new religion would have been present.

 To end on a speculative note, I wonder if the Calvinist Presbyterianism which was adopted in Galloway acted as a substitute for the loss of a distinctive Galwegian/ Gallovidian identity. As I discussed in my previous post, Galloway seems to have been re-invented by romantic antiquarians in the period 1770-1830 http://greengalloway.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/regional-romanticism-and-invention-of.html

However, the language of the  traditional tales and songs they ’discovered’ or invented was Scots. By the eighteenth century, the (Gall) Gaelic Galloway first recorded in the early twelfth century as the kingdom of Fergus was lost and forgotten.

However, although Fergus’ kingdom did not outlive him, Galloway as a distinct territory with its own lords, laws and language resisted being absorbed into the kingdom of Scots for another 300 years. The last McDowall ‘hed of kyne [kin] in Galwaye’ resigned in 1473. In Carrick (South Ayrshire), which had been part of Galloway, the last kenkynoll (head of kin) was Gilbert Kennedy who died in 1479. James Douglas, the last Lord of Galloway, died in 1488. The traditional Laws of Galloway were abolished by the Scottish parliament in 1490 since they were ‘inconsistent with common (Scots) law.’

Source: Hector McQueen ‘The Laws of Galloway’ in R Oram and G Stell, editors,  Galloway Land and Lordship, Edinburgh, 1991]

If the Gaelic language had survived in Galloway, a sense of Galwegian/Gallovidian identity might have survived as well. But as the language faded away, whatever cultural coherence had been built up over the centuries would also have been lost.

Without the Gaelic language as a link between the land, its history and its people, the now Scots speaking inhabitants of Galloway were effectively alienated and dispossessed from their previous identity as Galwegians/Gallovidians.

I need to research the question more deeply, but I think it is possible that the Reformation provided an alternative, religious, sense of identity for the people of Galloway and that this goes some way towards explaining why they were prepared to defend their religious beliefs so strongly in the seventeenth century.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Regional romanticism and the invention of Galloway

I met Gerald McKeever recently and we had a very interesting discussion about the project he is working on 'Regional Romanticism: Dumfriesshire and Galloway 1770-1830’ 

I have jotted down some thoughts inspired by the conversation.

Concluding his study of the early medieval lordship of Galloway, Richard Oram commented-

Myth and tradition play a strong part in modern Galwegian thinking on the history of their land and people…This picture, created over the past 150 years by antiquarian commentators and powerfully reinforced by popular and populist writers, is an attractive but gross distortion of historical reality. Much of the tradition is spurious, or builds from elaborate hypotheses with little or no basis in fact. (The Lordship of Galloway, 2000, p. 264)

Did the ‘romantic imagination’ in the period 1770-1830 contribute to the myths and traditions of Galloway?  As a political, rather than geographical, expression, Galloway ceased to exist in 1455 with the end of the Douglas lordship of Galloway. After this, Galloway was divided into a Shire of Wigtown and a Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Threave castle ceased to be the administrative centre for Galloway.

The Douglas administration was Scots speaking and the decline of Gaelic in Galloway began under Douglas rule. As early as 1438, Scots was the language of the baron-court of Whithorn. By 1512, the records of the Wigtown Burgh Court were written in Scots and contain no Gaelic and no translations from Gaelic. By the time John Knox preached to the ‘common people of Galloway and Nithsdale’ in 1560 he was able to do so without difficulty in Scots.
[Based on my 2011 article for the DGNHAS Transactions https://www.academia.edu/1534013/The_Decline_of_Gaelic_in_Galloway_1370-1500 ]

Did Gaelic survive longer in the more remote upland communities of Galloway, Carrick and Nithsdale? It is possible, but Andrew Symson in his ‘Large Description of Galloway’ (composed 1682, published 1823) does not mention any such survival. My assumption is that the loss of the Gaelic language led to the loss of the Gaelic culture -the songs, traditions and folklore - of Galloway, Carrick and Nithsdale. On the other hand if any fragments of the region’s Gaelic past had survived they might be present among the traditional songs and folklore recorded in the period of the study. The difficulty will be how to distinguish any such survivals within the literature.

There are three traditional tales from Galloway involving King Robert 1. In John Barbour’s Unique Traditions, Chiefly Connected with the West and South of Scotland (1833) the origin of the large cairn on Corserine is linked to King Robert I and the wife of the miller at Polmaddy. In James Denniston’s ‘The Battle of Craignilder’ (1832) there is a lengthy footnote concerning King Robert I and a widow with three sons by three different husbands who lived at Craigencallie. The footnote is taken from a description of Minnigaff parish composed c.1724 and which was published as an appendix to Symons’s Large Description of Galloway in 1823. In 1822, Simon Sprotte recounted a family tradition involving King RobertI and the Motte of Urr in the Dumfries Courier (1 October 1822).

All three stories are set in the period following the murder of John Comyn in Dumfries when Bruce was a fugitive in Galloway and feature women who recognise Bruce as their rightful king and are rewarded with gifts of land. However, Galloway was the region where support for the rival Balliol family was strongest so the stories are unlikely to date from the early fourteenth century.

Denniston’s ‘The Battle of Craignilder’ involves Archibald Douglas, the builder of Threave castle, Denniston claimed that a Mrs Heron of Creebridge recounted the original version which he then  re-structured -‘where a stanza was limping about  in a mutilated fashion, we may have occasionally supplied it with a leg…’ Denniston’s application of the romantic imagination to the improvement of tradition was matched near Threave castle by Alexander Gordon of nearby Greenlaw.

Shown on Roy’s 1755 Military Survey as a stream meandering across the marshes between Carlingwark loch and the river Dee above Threave island, in 1765 Gordon had the Carlingwark burn replaced by a mile and half of canal. Cutting in a straight line across the marshes, the canal is a striking example of how the traditional landscape was being rationalised at the same time as it was being romanticised.

Gordon’s canal was built to convey shell marl from Carlingwark loch to fertilise the fields which lay along side it. Farm by farm, estate by estate, surveyors with their theodolites and measuring chains marked out and mapped the regular grid-like pattern of fields which replaced the irregular enclosures of the traditional landscape.

The cruck framed and thatch roofed farm steadings and cottars’ crofts were demolished and replaced by solid stone walled and slate roofed buildings and separate, more elaborate, farm houses.
Even before his death in 1846, Tannymaas cottage where poet William Nicholson had been born in 1783 had been demolished and a new Tannymaas built. The replacement building still stands, but is itself now abandoned.

New towns like Gatehouse of Fleet, Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas were built and existing towns, like Kirkcudbright, remodelled. Altogether 85 new towns and villages were built between 1730 and 1830 across Dumfriesshire and Galloway, linked together by new roads and bridges. Old harbours were improved and new ports built and rivers- the Nith and Fleet- were straightened to improve navigation.

The modernisation of Galloway and Dumfriesshire required a huge investment by landowners. Several of the first improvers, including Robert Maxwell from the Stewartry, Secretary to the Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture between 1723 and 1747, suffered financial losses. It was only as food prices rose in the later part of the eighteenth century and the first part of the nineteenth century, especially during the Napoleonic Wars, that the improvement became economically viable.

The underlying process which increased food prices was the demand for food created by industrialisation and urbanisation in west central Scotland and north west England. By 1830, the modernisation of Dumfriesshire and Galloway was effectively complete. The old landscape of traditional subsistence farming had been replaced by a modern farmed landscape producing a surplus of food. But in contrast to the dynamic and chaotic industrial landscapes of Lanarkshire and Lancashire, the rationalised agriculture landscape of the region was already outdated.

Modernity had moved on and a pace of life still dictated by the annual cycle of ploughing, planting and harvesting seemed slow when compared with the pace of industrial production.

This shift in the idea of modernity is confusing. As Brian Bonnyman pointed out in The Third Duke of Buccleuch and Adam Smith ( Edinburgh, 2014, pp 65-7), the agricultural improvement of Dumfriesshire and Galloway was practical expression of the Scottish Enlightenment’s political economy. Smith argued that agriculture added greater value to the wealth of a country and than manufacturing or commerce.

The landowners of Dumfriesshire and Galloway, including the duke of Buccleuch, increased the productive value of the land and physically improved the conditions of the rural workforce. However, as Chris Whatley explained in an interview for a BBC Radio Scotland series on the Lowland Clearances, the Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724 was also a factor.
A lot of the activities of the landowners in the second half of the eighteenth century are designed to preclude, to pre-empt a repeat of what happened in Galloway. That is one reason why people were re-housed and not just thrown off the land. An alternative was created to pacify people.
  Improving the conditions of the rural workforce did have a pacifying effect. The political radicalism of the region in the seventeenth century, and which had influenced the Galloway Levellers, faded away in the second half of the eighteenth century. Although the transformation of the landscape and the lives of the people in the second half of the eighteenth century was more profound than the changes which had provoked the Galloway Levellers, there was no repeat of 1724.

Even in the uplands, where whole communities like Polmaddy were abandoned, a process very similar to the Highland Clearances passed over in silence. The first Ordnance Survey map of Galloway, surveyed in the 1840s, shows across lowland and upland areas, dozens of farms ‘in ruins’ and many more for which documentary evidence exists, including earlier maps, had already disappeared without trace by then.

In The Origin of Scottish Nationhood (Pluto, 2000, chapters 7-9) Neil Davidson discusses the Highland/ Lowland  divide in Scotland and the role of the romantic imagination from James Macpherson to Walter Scott in the process of making the Highlands part of Scotland’s national identity.  This process happened at the same time as the Highland Clearances were weakening the distinctive Gaelic identity of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. For example, Duncan Ban Macintyre composed ‘Oran nam Balgairean’ (The Song of the Foxes) circa 1790-1804. The poem was inspired by the Clearances and contains the lines (in William Neill’s  translation).

The customs that were followed
They have perished now in Gaeldom

By 1770 in Galloway and Dumfriesshire, unlike the Highlands, the continuity with the past provided by Gaelic had been lost. The process of enlightened improvement did not produce the sense of cultural loss expressed by Macintyre in ‘Oran nam Balgairean’.

What did, eventually, emerge was the discovery of ‘Galloway’ as  geographically and historically distinct region. This was almost in spite of Walter Scott. Joseph Train provided Scott with many tales of Galloway (and artefacts, including the Torrs Pony Cap), several of which found their way into his novels. However, Galloway is not present as a separate region in Scott’s work.

One of Train’s discoveries was the existence of the Deil’s Dyke, the remains of a substantial wall which ran from Loch Ryan through the Galloway Hills to Nithsdale and then down to Lochmaben in Annandale. For Train, this showed that Galloway had existed as separate province in post-Roman Britain. It would have been one of the antiquities discussed in the ‘History of Galloway’ he and James Denniston planned to write. More recent research has found traces of early medieval linear earthworks in Nithsdale but the rest of the Deil’s Dyke has vanished, almost as if it never existed in the first place.

What would Denniston and Train’s ‘History of Galloway’ have contained? Probably very little which would have met with Richard Oram’s approval. Yet even if it had been mainly a work of the antiquarian imagination, as the first parts of McKenzie’s 1841 ‘History of Galloway’ were, the unwritten book is revealing. Unlike Dumfriesshire, the idea that Galloway could have a history shows that more than 350 years after the medieval Lordship of Galloway had ended, something of Fergus of Galloway’s ‘failed kingdom’ as Richard Oram has called it, remained.

But did the idea of ‘Galloway’ survive  as part of folk traditions and popular history among its inhabitants? Or did ‘Galloway’ re-emerge as a product of the romantic imagination? A careful examination of the folklore collected between 1770 and 1830 may reveal some traces of Fergus’ kingdom, but Andrew Symson’s ‘Large Description of Galloway’ does not mention Fergus at all, although it does mention the mythical ‘King Galdus’, who reappears again in McKenzie’s ’History of Galloway’ .

It seems likely that the idea of ‘Galloway’ as a distinctive region probably did emerge first within the romantic imagination before McKenzie began the slow process of turning myth into history- when Fergus of Galloway makes his appearance 167 pages in to his book. Dumfries and Dumfriesshire had to wait until William McDowall’s history of the burgh and county in 1886. Republished in 1986, it stands in splendid isolation in contrast to the many books on Galloway and its history which have been published.

A final thought. By 1830 the developmental trajectories of central and southern Scotland were diverging. The south was becoming a rural periphery, as it remains, to the more dynamic economy of central Scotland. Before this division, was there a common rural culture across the south (outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow)?

Were there differences between communities/ people living in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire and those living in Galloway and Dumfriesshire, or in what is now the Scottish Borders? If there were localised identities, how different were they from each other?

If they were more similar than different, were the shared identities 'Scottish’? If they were, how did this rural Lowland (but including the Southern Uplands) Scotland relate to the Gaelic Scotland of the pre-Clearance Highlands and Islands?

I am thinking here of a settlement like Polmaddy in Galloway in comparison to a similar settlement in the Highlands. When Polmaddy was founded, the people living there would have been Gaelic speakers, but by the time it was abandoned circa 1800 they were Scots speakers. But the material culture, the pattern of agriculture had not changed, and so it would have been similar to a pre-Clearance Highland settlement.  

If ‘the basis for Scottish nationhood was laid between 1746 and 1820’ as Neil Davidson (2000, p. 200) has argued, then ‘Scottish nationhood’ was the product of the dissolution of an older Scotland by clearance, improvement and then industrialisation. How was this new community imagined by its inhabitants? Confusingly, I think it was imagined not as a new nation, but as an ancient one, as  the traditional, feudal Scotland the Scottish Enlightenment had set out to banish through improvement.  It is as if the romantic antiquarians took the surviving fragments of the older Scotland and fashioned them into a simalcrum, filling in the gaps with the aid of the imagination.

On a smaller scale, the re-invention of ‘Galloway’ was part of a similar process. The smaller scale means that the process can be more easily followed.  And for all Richard Oram’s criticism of the regional romanticism which imagined a Galloway (and a Dumfriesshire?) which never existed, the impulses which led to the re-invention of ‘Galloway’  are no less part of the region’s history than Fergus of Galloway and his failed kingdom.