Galloglas: Hebridean and West Highland Mercenary Warrior Kindreds in Medieval Ireland

Galloglas: Hebridean and West Highland Mercenary Warrior Kindreds in Medieval Ireland

Galloglas: Hebridean and West Highland Mercenary Warrior Kindreds in Medieval Ireland

Galloglas: Hebridean and West Highland Mercenary Warrior Kindreds in Medieval Ireland

Synopsis

This account of the galloglas is written from a decidedly Scottish perspective, tracing the origins of six kindreds and investigating the circumstances which brought about their relocation to Ireland. It goes on to examine the galloglas as warriors, pointing to their distinctly Norse character.

Excerpt

Thinking back now over the ten years since I first learned anything of the galloglas – and at a time when I had no thought of writing a book about them – so many things come to mind which would seem to have seeded themselves there as future sources of ‘inspiration’. One or two paintings by the fine military illustrator Angus McBride have long been fixed in the memory, and such time as I have spent in Ireland, although far too little, has left some sense of its landscape, accompanied by the music of its placenames, in there too. The prospect of the coastline of Antrim and Donegal seen across the North Channel from the Rhinns of Islay is always so clear in the imagination, but more haunting still are gaunt images of Gaelic warriors remembered from medieval grave-slabs throughout the West Highlands, and most especially from those in the roofless chapel at Kildalton.

In truth, though, it can only have been the preparation of my last book which somehow brought all those fragments together to inspire this new one, so there is good reason to introduce Galloglas as the natural successor (rather than any sort of ‘sequel’) to Somerled and the emergence of Gaelic Scotland. I have certainly come to think of it as such and not just because four of the six kindreds who form its subject were able to claim descent from the great Somerled of Argyll. The more important common ground shared by the two books lies in their reflection of my interest in the Norse component of the Celtic-Scandinavian fusion binding the deepest cultural roots of modern Gaelic Scotland. The previous book proposed Somerled as the historical figure most representative of the first fully-fledged emergence of that cultural fusion. This one will suggest the Hebridean and West Highland mercenary warrior kindreds who settled in Ireland in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to make so remarkable an impact on the subsequent course of medieval Irish military history as a later – if not, indeed, the last distinct – example of that same phenomenon.

It was the eminent Irish scholar and politician Eoin MacNeill who first pointed to the importance of the galloglas in his Phases of Irish History . . .

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