Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Normans or Northumbrians?

Normans or Northumbrians?

It seems simple enough. I found that a place called Irisbutil was not Burned island on Loch Ken but Orchardton in Buittle. So I did some checking and found that a set of 25 place names used to show Anglian / Northumbrian settlements in Galloway (the Stewartry) overlapped with a list of Norman mottes and/ or lands held by Anglo- Normans from Cumbria between 1150 and 1300.

The sources for the Anglian place names are documents, mostly to do with gifts to the Church. The documents were written for the Anglo- Normans. Did the Anglo-Normans take over land first settled by Northumbrians? Perhaps. Alternatively the place names may not be the Old English of the Northumbrians, but the Middle English (aka Older Scots) of the Cumbrian Anglo- Normans.

If so, then instead of the place name evidence pointing to eighth/ ninth widespread settlement in the Stewartry by Northumbrians, it reflects the twelfth/ thirteenth century settlement of Cumbrian Anglo-Normans. The evidence for the later settlements is firm - the mottes and the charter evidence. The evidence for the earlier settlements is not so strong.

So far so good. But then I wanted to know what the Cumbrian Anglo-Normans were doing in the Stewartry. Were they there as colonisers? Were they their to add their military strength to the lords of Galloway’s armies? Or was there another reason?

Since most of the mottes they built do not have baileys (larger, surrounding enclosures where a knight’s troops lived) they were not for colonising. The lords of Galloway’s main military strength was their ability to call up large numbers (1000 +) of foot soldiers or man galleys so the military angle doesn’t seem critical - so, I speculated, perhaps the aim was to introduce new agricultural techniques. That is, oxen drawn wooden ploughs with iron tips.

Problem is trying to find supporting evidence for this theory. Which is what I am now working on. Also trying to work out relationship between the lands of the Anglo-Normans and the lands of the Gaelic clans - which is tricky since no written records of such land holdings, so having to look at where there are Gaelic farm names near the mottes…

So still a work in progress.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Burned Island again

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Map of medieval south west Scotland