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

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.


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