above a German sketch of Gallóglaigh warriors with two attendants, from the 1500s
The Galloglass, more properly called the Gallóglaigh (said Gall-og-glee) were a hereditary warrior caste that were active in Gaelic society from the early medieval period right up into the early 1600s. Gallóglaigh families are found throughout all of
Ireland, but have their greatest concentration in . Most Gallóglaigh families have roots that originate in the southern Hebrides or west Ulster Highlands, especially mid Argyll.
The surnames of the Gallóglaigh are easily recognizable as being both Irish and Scottish, some of the more common Gallóglaigh surnames are: McAllan, McAlister, McCabe, McCain, Campbell, McDonnell, McDougall, McLachlan, McClain, Gallogly, McNeil, McCrory, McSweeny, McSheely, McGinley, just to name a few.
Historians in the past have speculated as to whether these families were Norse that had become Gaelicised or perhaps Gaelic families that had adopted certain Norse technologies and military tactics. As the Ulster Heritage DNA Project (www.ulsterheritage.com) has progressed many men that are descendants of Gallóglaigh families have participated in Y Chromosome testing and certain patterns have started to form among these families.
We know now that most of the Gallóglaigh families are Gaelic in paternal ancestry, not Norse, and they tend to be from kinship groups indigenous to east
Ulster, Argyll, and the southern Hebrides. For the most part then they can be seen as indigenous Gaelic families that were influenced by the Vikings and they adopted Viking ways of military organization, training, weapons, etc.
Like other Gaelic families’ medieval genealogies, the genealogies of the Gallóglaigh elites were written for status and political reasons, that it was most desirable to show Niall of the Nine Hostages as their progenitor. We now know that most Gallóglaigh families are not part of the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages haplogroup.
Anyone that believes that are of Gallóglaigh ancestry are urged to participate in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project. One of the goals of the project is to locate the historical Gallóglaigh families and learn as much as possible about them using genetic genealogy. Already several Gallóglaigh kinship groups have been located by the UHDP.
Barry R McCain © 2008