Galloway Commerce and Society

Galloway is mostly a husbanding region. The main monasteries, at peak operation, can field 3000-4000 sheep each, producing 15 to 20 sacks of wool annually, which is sent to Flanders or Italy via England.
Kerseban, Monygof, and many of the regions in the Galloway Hills have thriving iron and silver-mining districts, as do the Lothair hills on the far side of the Nidd valley. Lead is also mined in abundance, principally as a byproduct of the silver mines. Gold is panned for in the rivers. Copper and Iron deposits are also found in more coastal regions, and salt-panning is performed on the coast in suitable places.

Burghs: There are no burghs is Galloway.
Touns: There are hardly any settlements large enough to be called Touns in all of Galloway. Kirkcudbright qualifies, as might Innermessan in the west and the toun which has grown around the cathedral and priory of Whithern. Both Dumfries and Ayr just over the borders are also touns.
Vills: Vills are the main settlement type in Galloway, and the countryside is dotted with many of various sizes.

Galloway, overall, is relatively poor in knights at this time. When the Lords of Galloway contribute troops for campaign, those are principally composed of lightly armed skirmishing foot soldiers trained in the use of the long spear, small round shield, and the bow. They are usually lightly armoured, if at all, and have been known to strip down before battle to maximize their speed and ferocity. Galwegian forces are typically employed as skirmishers or marines. They are particularly adept at sea-borne battle. During land battles it is their place to sweep the field of enemy skirmishers and the clear the way for knights and heavier troops. In fact, Galwegian forces consider it to be their place by right to be in the vanguard of the Scottish army. Counted among their forces are both berserks and war-dogs who howl and bay in the most fearful manner before a battle. Since the Battle of the Standard in 1138 where Galloway served in the vanguard of the Scottish forces against the English, certain Anglo-Norman writers have taken it upon themselves to defame the Galwegians as disordery heathen barbarians.

In Galloway, the Gaelic forinsec service is in use, whereby all landowners, irrespective of rank, are eligible for the performance of military duties. This is despite the fact that Galloway is well known for the breeding of horses.

The local horses are known as ‘The Galloway Nag’ which have “good looks, a wide, deep chest and a tendency to pace rather than trot.” They are particularly suited to travel in rough terrain of Galloway and the Southern Uplands. These ponies are principally used a pack horses, but also make good riding war horses and will become a particular favourite of the Border Reivers in later times.

Desnes Ioan and Niddsdale (AKA Nithdale, Strathnidd, or Strathnith) are lands controlled by William of Scotland. These lands are policed by bailiffs and wardens under the command of Roger de Minto, Sheriff of Dunfres. The motte and bailey type Dunfres Castle is located to the south of the toun of that name and watches over the lowest crossing of the river Nith from Galloway. The garrison of the castle is drawn by castleguard service from the tenants of the lands around, on both sides of the Nith river.

In Scottish lands the laws were based on the Leges inter Brettos et Scottos or ‘Laws of the Brets and Scots’, a legal codification drawn up by King David I which was also based on weregild. According to Scottish law, local lords are required to establish a pit and gallows for the execution of justice. The gallows is for the execution of men, while the pit is for the execution of women. The rights and obligations of women are guaranteed and punishments and payments are assessed according to social status. The landed knights were responsible for enacting this law within their territory. Clergy and those living and working on church lands were subject to Canon Law.

Galloway follows a native law code which draws upon Gaelic law codes, rather than the Northumbrian-derived laws of Scotland. Desnes Ioan, however, as it is technically governed by the King of Scotland, follows Scottish law.

Native law is the responsibility of the Ceann Cineail, or head of the kindred. Enforcement on the ground is by a group of ‘kethres’ which are referred to by the Normans as ‘surdit de segeant’ (‘surdit’ meaning ‘to speak upon’ someone an accusation). The kethres travel from settlement to settlement. They have the right to sorryn and frithalos, or ‘quartering and attedance’, which amounted to one night’s hospitality in the communities they visited. They also had the right to accuse members of their kindred of crimes and to carry out summary justice. Those accused bore the burden of proof and could prove their innocence through compurgation (getting several people to swear for them) or by trial of combat. Those who were found guilty usually had to pay some form of compensation (forms of which were cro, galanas, gelchachl, and kelchir – all forms of weregild) and it was understood that both the kethres and the Ceann benefited from a portion of the payment collected from the guilty. Kethres were not bound by political boundaries, but by kinship boundaries.


  • Members of the kindred, and perhaps particularly the heads of communities, gave calps (gifts) to the Ceann Cineail in exchange for his protection. In Galloway, calps were given during the lifetime of family. This is different from the northern Gaels, who gave it only on death and typically in the form of 1/8 of the inherited herd.
  • Fosterage was practiced widely in Galloway, even by the kings. The practice often led to foster brothers being closer to each other than blood brothers (witness the relationship between Uchtred and Gillebrigte, for example) and was frowned upon by the church.
  • The sanctity of the marriage in sexual relations was somewhat looser among the Gaels and Gaelic men had not trouble recognizing children born out of wedlock as their legitimate children. This practice was also frowned upon by the church.

Most Galwegians are people of Cumbrian descent who now speak Gaelic, but a few native Galwegians belong to one of these minorities:
Fingauls are a tall, often blone people from the coastal regions and said the be descended from the Irish Norse.
Gossoks are short, dark-haired inhabitants of, primarily, Farines who are said to be descended from the Cruithne.


Gillenef McGillherf Neel McEthe Gillecryst McEthe
Dungal McGilleueras Duncan McGilauena Adam McGilleconil
Eillsepic McEuri Cuthbert McEuri Kalman McKelli, Michael his brother
Hoen McEthe Cuthbert McEthe Auchmacath McGilmotha
Michael McGilmocha Gillenem Accoueltan Gilladugh
Gilleoswald mac Gilleanders Gillenef mac Coleman Edgar mac Murchan
Gilledounegi Gillechrist mac Makin Murdac mac Gillemartin
Gillemernoc mac Gilleanders Raderic mac Gillescop Gilcohel Oracherne
Recher mec mac Charil Gilbert mac Gillefin Godred mac Mares

The following are thought to be descended from Brythonic ‘Ap -’ names, which have much the same meaning in Cumbric as ‘Mac’ or ‘Ua’ does in Gaelic.

Adair Apree Ahair
Ahanney Aboe Acarson
Acultan ApMolegan

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