Galloway - Middle Ages

Middle Ages

Galloway probably remained a Brythonic dominated region until the late 7th century when it was taken over by the English kingdom of Bernicia. Local historian Daphne Brooke has suggested that the English took over the more fertile land and religious centres like Whithorn, leaving the native inhabitants the less fertile upland areas. English dominance was supplanted by Norse-Gaelic (Gall-Gaidel) peoples between the 9th and the 11th century. This can be seen in the context of widespread Norse domination of the Irish Sea, including extensive settlement in the Isle of Man and in the now English region of Cumbria immediately south of Galloway.

If it had not been for Fergus of Galloway who established himself in Galloway, the region would rapidly have been absorbed by Scotland. This did not happen because Fergus, his sons, grandsons and great-grandson Alan, Lord of Galloway shifted their allegiance between Scottish and English kings. During a period of Scottish allegiance a Galloway contingent followed David King of Scots in his invasion of England and led the attack in his defeat at the Battle of the Standard (1138).

Alan died in 1234. He had three daughters and an illegitimate son Thomas. The 'Community of Galloway' wanted Thomas as their 'king'. Alexander III of Scotland supported the daughters (or rather their husbands) and invaded Galloway. The Community of Galloway was defeated, and Galloway divided up between Alan's daughters, thus bringing Galloway's independent existence to an end.

Alan's eldest daughter, Derbhorgail, married John de Balliol, and their son (also John) became one of the candidates for the Scottish Crown. Consequently, Scotland's Wars of Independence were disproportionately fought in Galloway.

There were a large number of new Gaelic placenames being coined post 1320 (e.g. Balmaclellan), because Galloway retained a substantial Gaelic speaking population for several centuries more. Following the Wars of Independence, Galloway became the fief of Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas and his heirs. Whithorn remained an important cultural centre, and all the medieval Kings of Scots made pilgrimages there.

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