From Academic Kids

See George Galloway for the British Member of Parliament.

Galloway (Scottish Gaelic, Gall-ghaidhealaibh) today refers to the former counties of Wigtownshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in southwest Scotland. It is part of the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland. The name is also given to a hardy breed of black, hornless beef cattle native to the region (and also to the more distinctive 'Belted Galloway' or 'Beltie').


Geography and Landform

Galloway comprises that part of Scotland southwards from the Southern Upland watershed and westward from the River Nith. Three main river valleys, the Urr, the Ken/Dee, and the Cree, all running north-south, provide much of the good arable land, although there is also some arable land on the coast. Generally however the landscape is rugged and much of the soil is shallow. The generally south slope and southern coast make for mild and wet climate, and there is a great deal of good pasture.

Historically Galloway has been famous both for horses and for cattle rearing, and milk and beef production are both still major industries. There is also substantial timber production and some fisheries. The combination of hills and high rainfall make Galloway ideal for hydroelectric power production, and the Galloway Hydro Power scheme was begun in 1929. Since then, electricity generation has been a significant industry. More recently wind turbines have been installed at a number of locations on the watershed, and a large offshore wind-power plant is planned, increasing Galloway's 'green energy' production.

The northern part of Galloway is exceedingly rugged and forms the largest remaining wilderness in Britain south of the Highlands.


Some scholars have proposed that the name 'Galloway' derives from The Gallgaidhill. Daphne Brooke, an eminent local placenames scholar, believed that the name was derived from 'Caleddon', the Brythonic form of the name written in Latin 'Caledonia'. The mutation would have gone 'Caleddon', 'Callewyddon', 'Callewydd', 'Galloway', a mutation pattern which can be traced in other Brythonic placenames.


The Romans named the inhabitants of Galloway the Novantae. According to tradition, before the end of Roman rule in Britain, St. Ninian established a church at Whithorn in Galloway in 397 which remained an important place of pilgrimage until the Reformation.


In the west, the city of Rerigonium (literally 'very royal place'), shown on Ptolemy's map of the world, later referred to in the Welsh_Triads as 'Penryn Rionyt' and remembered as one of the 'three thrones of Britain' was probably the caput of the post Roman kingdom of Rheged. Its exact position is uncertain except that it was 'on Loch Ryan', close to modern day Stranraer; it is possible that it is the modern settlement of Dunragit (Dun Rheged).


Galloway remained a Brythonic-speaking region until the late 7th century when it was taken over by the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia. Local historian Daphne Brooke has suggested that the Anglians took over the more fertile land and religious centres like Whithorn, leaving the native inhabitants the less fertile upland areas.

The Gallgaidhill

The Annals of Ulster has entries in the years 856, 857 and 859 describing activities of mercenary warbands referred to as 'Gallgaidhill' (literally, 'foreign gaels'). It is possible but by no means certain that these warbands may have originated from Galloway, and there is no real historical support for the suggestions either that the Gallgaidhill were a new group of mixed Scandinavian/Gaelic origin, or that such a group achieved hegemony in Galloway, although it is certain that Galloway did have Gaelic and Scandinavian - as well as Brythonic and Anglian - settlement during this period.

Fergus of Galloway

If it had not been for Fergus of Galloway (ruled 1120-1161) 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 of Galloway shifted their allegiance between Scottish and English kings.

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.

Medieval History

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, leading to a very sharp decline in population. This is evidenced by a large number of new Gaelic placenames appearing post 1320 indicating a considerable migration of new settlers from Ireland.

Following the Wars of Independence, Galloway became the fief of the Earls of Douglas. Whithorn remained an important cult centre, and all the medieval Kings of Scots made pilgrimage there.


A great deal of the modern work on the early and medieval history of Galloway has been done by Daphne Brooke; her work is published in a number of monographs and in

Brooke, D: Wild Men and Holy Places: Canongate Press, Edinburgh, 1994: ISBN 0862414792

Her unpublished papers and notes are available in Kirkcudbright Museum.


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