Monday, 3 November 2008

The Galloglass Today


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 Ulster. Most Gallóglaigh families have roots that originate in the southern Hebrides or west 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

7 comments:

John McKean said...

I read your blog with interest. My McKean ancestors came from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. I know the McKean surname is sometimes spelled McKane and that McCain is an old fashioned spelling of the surname. I have always understood that my McKean (MacIain) ancestors came originally from Argyll in Scotland. Some members of the MacIain clan moved to the north of Ireland during the Protestant Plantations of the 1600s. My McKean ancestors from Co. Tyrone were Presbyterians as it appears were most of the other McKean families in Ulster. It is my first time to read that the McKeans were a Gallowglass family. Are you sure of this? Weren't the Gallowglasses Catholics who settled in Ireland before the 1600s?

John McKean

Barry R McCain said...

John, it is very likely we are distant cousins, as the Tyrone McKeans are the same family as mine.

The answer is complex. Our McKean family, we know from the DNA testing did come from mid Argyll. The Gaelic form of the surname is Mac Eáin. Mac Iain is a modern name post 1700. Long story into the etymology there, I've got a book coming out on it. The family, like all Argyll families, were Catholic, as all Scots were in fact. Circa 1560s you had the Presbyterian faith appearing in Argyll. We know that many of our McKean did convert to the Presbyterian faith by the 1630s; some did remain Catholic, and others converted to the Established Church. It is very hard to tell the exact year the McKeans left Argyll for Ulster, but from my research I think it was 1568 or so.

We are doing most of this research via DNA testing. In the McKean family of Tyrone/Donegal, most are Presbyterian, but we also have Catholic and Anglicans in our family to this day.

I would probably call us 'Redshanks' if I wrote that again. We are in the same kinship group as the Gallóglaigh, but due to our history, the fact we came to Ulster circa 1568, etc., Redshanks is a better term in 'English.'

There was no 'Mac Iain' clan in our case, we are not related to any known clan; again this is from extensive DNA testing. We are part of a Gaelic kinship group, from mid Argyll. Go to our website to read more or wait for the book.

You can look at the DNA results by going to the www.ulsterheritage.com website, just follow the links.

Cheers,

Barry

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I descend from Maolmuire MacDonnell who served as chieftain of the MacDomhnaill Galloglaigh family South of the Blackwater. He died in the service of Sir Phelim O'Neill about 1647. Maolmuire descended from the first Chieftain of MacDomhnaill Galloglaigh named Torlough Barrach who slain in 1435 in the service of O'Neill. Torlough descended from Somhairle, Lord of the Argyle.

We now have conflicting DNA news that the paternal or the Y chromosome is of Viking origin, while others claim it of Gaelic origin. Could you shed more light on this debate.

Tom McDonnell

ScouterCharlie said...

My grandmother descended from Brian Macdonald, who was from an old Galloglass family. He had been a Lieutenant in Francis O'Toole's Regiment of Irish Volunteers in service of James VII whose Jacobite revolt failed in 1691. Brian then emigrated with his family to New Castle (now Delaware) in the colonial province of Pennsylvania in America.

The family story is that Brian was a son of Alasdair Ruadh Macdomhnuill, 12th MacIain, murdered chief of the Glencoe Macdonalds. I found the discussion on the Gallowglass connection with the names of McKean, MacIain and McCain to be very interesting. I wonder if any of you know detailed information on the Glencoe Macdonalds. Were they mercenaries serving as Gallóglaighs or "Redshanks" in Ireland ? Had Alasdair Ruadh served in Ireland as a young man ? Could Brian have been a natural son of the Glencoe Chief ?

Surely this small clan was fierce. Grey John Campbell of Glenorchy, 1st Earl of Breadalbane and Holland could attest to that fact.

If any of you have information on the Glencoe Clan in Ireland, I would be most interested to hear from you.

Charlie Morrison
morrisonch@aol.com

ian r macdonnell said...

Galloglaigh means: - gall = foreign + glaigh = young male; ie, foreign young warrior in Ireland. They, also being Gaelic, were only termed “foreign” in Ireland because of the Insi-Gall, Hebridean Norse bloodline (post c.800AD). They, the first truly professional military of Ireland (the “berserker” Fianna weren’t), were firstly the hereditary Commanders or Constables, of Norse-Hebridean Scots “armoured” heavy infantry.
These hereditary commanders are directly descended from Gaelic-Norse aristocracy of Argyll & the Isles. These commanders were noble; they were high ranking, important men. At first many of the arrangements were temporary, eg, a quick assignation job on a leadership rival, some were seasonal forays or a campaign, (& hired by the quarter) but this quickly developed into permanent arrangements when their true worth became fully recognised.
They grew in numbers within their own extended Commander's (eg, Macdonnell) families (many ‘wives’, sons), – "If the father be a Galloglass, the son be a Galloglass” (Barnaby Rich) - but also by bringing over other Hebrideans for basic rank & file axemen, eg, some suitable McDonald seasonal Redshanks who stayed (circa 1400- say to 1550) and the later “New Scots”, (say circa 1560-1650). And from circa 1400, as time went on and with expansion, by also hiring promising big irish “locals” (starting as the horseboys).
WE MUST BE CLEAR AS TO WHO ARE THE FEW ORIGINAL EXTENDED "NOBLE" HERIDITARY COMMANDER FAMILIES - AND WHO ARE THE LATER RECRUITS TO THE BASIC RANK OF "AXEMAN". THEY ARE DIFFERENT AND HAVE DIFFERENT TIMEFRAMES/PERIODS/LABELS. ANY BIG BRAVE "JO-BLOW" FROM ANYWHERE COULD LATER BE A GRUNT AXEMAN IN A "BATTLE"! - AND BE CALLED A GALLOGLASS. BUT ONLY THE ORIGINAL "NOBLE" COMMANDERS ARE THE TRUE HERIDITARY GALLOGLAIGH DYNASTIC FAMIILIES. (TRACEABLE BY DNA TO SOMERLED FOR EXAMPLE, THRU CLAN DONALD, DOUGALL, RAURI CHIEFS; - McCABE, MACSWEENEY)
Aristocratic Hebridean family leaders stopped coming to Ireland around 1400 to set up Galloglaigh dynasties. It was the less well-harnessed and armed “redshanks” (Catholic of course) that came from the Hebrides after 1400 as mercenaries. They were effective, much less expensive and so could be hired seasonally in large numbers. (eg, from Clan Ranald.) THEY ARE ONLY A (rank & file) GALLOGLASS AXEMAN - IF THEY JOINED AN OLD GALLOGLAIGH HERIDITARY COMPANY - BEFORE SAY 1590 AT THE LATEST. The "New Scots" (Protestant) came even later -1560 to 1640's civil war; Ulster plantations. THEY ARE NOT, NEVER! GALLOGLASS (incl 'Scots-Irish'.)

CAN YOU PLEASE CONTACT ME BARRY - MAYBE I CAN SEND MY ARTICLES FOR YOUR SITE. I'D LOVE TO TALK TO TOM MCDONNELL, FROM "SOUTH OF THE BLACKWATER!" TOM ,“Galloglass under the Blackwater” SHOULD BE NORSE 'Y' DNA (R1a) BEING DESCENDED FROM SOMERLED! (BARRING ANY "straying" ALONG THE WAY!)

BARRY-WE HAVE EMAILED BEFORE...MANY YEARS AGO.
CHEERS, IAN MACDONNELL.(MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.)

ian r macdonnell said...

WHO ARE THE FEW ORIGINAL EXTENDED "NOBLE" HERIDITARY COMMANDER FAMILIES

ScouterCharlie said...

I posted a comment in April 2010 which included information about Lt Brian MacDonald which erroneously stated that he descended from Alasdair Ruadh, MacIain, 12th Chief of the Glencoe MacDonalds.

This has since been disproven. Brian descended from Alexander MacDonnell, the Constable of Wicklow, of a longstanding Gallowglas kindred family which had been in Ireland since before 1350.

I still think it is possible that the (unrelated) MacIain Macdonalds of Glencoe may have been "Redshank" fighters recruited by Clan Iain Mhor or others to fight the native Irish and other Scottish Clans who were contesting for the Glinns of Antrim and other lands.