The Chronicle of Ken Muir
A CLOSER LOOK AT GALLOWAY
The land of Gall-Gaidhel, or Galloway as it is known to the Anglo-Normans, is located in the southwest corner of mainland Scotland. It is called Gaddgedlar by the Norse, Galwyddel by the Welsh, and Galwitensium in Latin. The natives of the lands are Galwegians (Galwalenses in latin) and tend to have a rough reputation abroad. In nearby Dunfres, a ‘Galuvet’ is the local term for ‘a thief’.
The principal language of Galloway is Gaelic, though of a style slightly different from the gaelic of the Scots. Galloway’s gaels are descended from later Norse-Irish immigrants. The name of the country, Gall-Gaidhel, reflects this difference: it means ‘the land of the stranger gaels’. The gaels are only the most recent inhabitants, however, for stretching back through the ages it has also been the home of Norse, Northumbrian Angles, Britons, Romans, and even Picts. All of these people have left their mark on the landscape, and the names they gave to places still linger.
The Kingdom of Galloway was forged by a warrior named Fergus in the early part of the century. He rose to power alongside his contemporary, David I of Scotland, and played the game of politics in England, Ireland, and the isles. He re-established the Episcopal See of Whitherne which had previously existed under the Northumbrians but declined in later years. He also founded both Dundrennan Abbey and the Priory at Whitherne. Ultimately, though, he would stretch himself too far. He became alienated from his own sons and ran afoul of David’s successor, Mael Coluim IV, who invaded Galloway and defeated Fergus. Mael Coluim was reluctant to kill Fergus in cold blood after his defeat and so Fergus was forced into retirement at Holyrood Abbey instead. The land of Galloway became divided between Fergus’ two sons and heirs, Uchtred and Gille Brigte, a situation which helped to weaken the political strength of Galloway which had grown quite strong under Fergus.
Fergus also had a daughter, Affrica, who married Olaf Godredsson, King of Mann and the Isles. The current king of the Isles, Godred Olafsson, is thus Fregu’s grandson and the nephew of both Uchtred and Gille Brigte.