Sunday, February 24, 2013

Argyll and the Gall Gael

The society in Argyll, and parts of the west Highlands in general, was unique in the Gaelic world, because of the influence of the Norse.  The Norse settled in Argyll, they did not replace the indigenous Gaelic population, but rather they joined to it, and created a unique people called the Gall-Gael, or 'foreign Gaels.'  This unique people also had a significant cultural and technological input from Norse, specially Viking, society.  The old Scottish kingdom of Dál Riata was the epicenter of Gall-Gael society.  (also spelled Gall Gàidheil in modern Scot's Gaelic) It was this society that the Gallóglaigh and related Redshank warrior castes flourished.  Their organization and accoutrement of war was Viking in origin. 

The Gall-Gael were more Gaelic in that the Norse influence was small in numbers, and it can be said they were more a case of native Gaels going 'Viking.'   We do know that the DNA results of many Argyll families from historical Gallóglaigh and Redshanks kinships, are native Gaelic in origin.

The Gall-Gael are the subject of recent historical research.   Below is a link to an article by a young Scottish historian that address Gall Gael people and society in mid Argyll.

Link: From Dalriata to Gall-Gaidheil

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Redshank Captain Pay

The Redshanks took service in Ulster and in other places for the money. Being a Redshank soldier was profitable. Most of the Redshanks came from Argyll, Lennox,  and the Hebrides, but more than a few came from the southwest Borders Lowlands.   In the sixteenth century, during their heyday, the pay was good and grew in the second half of the century as the wars in Ulster between the Irish and the Elizabethan English grew in size and scope.

By 1575 a Redshank consapal (constable or captain) was on the same pay-scale as a Gallóglaigh captain according the Calendar of State Papers concerning Ireland.  The pay-scale during this time was on the increase because demand was greater than the supply.  In 1553 a Gallóglach received the equivalent of 4d (pence) per day, but by 1562 the pay had risen to 8d a day.  The Consapal received considerably higher wages.  This was done via deadpays or the wages of a soldier in a córugud (company) that went to the consapal.  The standard córugud was 100 men on paper, but the actual number of men would be 87 and the pay of the 13 absent men would go to the constable as deadpays.  

The consapal received his pay and 13 addition soldiers' pay which was a substantial wage in the day.  The pay was received in a variety of ways. It could be cattle, or goods, or food, etc., or coin realm. If in coin realm there was considerable difference between pay in Scots coinage, Irish coinage, and English coinage.  Scots money in particular was considerably debased and worth much less than English money. 

The pay of the Redshanks increased throughout the 1500s.  They were in very high demand as the wars against the Elizabethan English escalated and as the century progress so did the pay scale of the mercenary Redshanks. The scale of pay fluctuated considerably, but here is an example of daily wages of soldier in the 1500s:

Captain 8s ($390)   
sub captain 4s ($192)
Leeche (medic) 4s ($192)
sergeant 1s ($48)
soldier 8d ($32) 
For perspective, the yearly income of a country squire at this time was around 100 to 150 pounds.  A Redshank consapal could expect at least 72 pounds for a half year's work, plus would often have other benefits, such as a horse to ride, a pack horse, and arms, supplied to him.  This would put him on par with the gentry of his age.  A particularly well placed and successful Redshank consapal could earn more than this figure and rise to the ranks of an elevated country squire or more.  

Donnchadh Mór, Redshank Captain

burial stone of Donnchadh Mór Mac Eáin Mhic Lachlainn
It is often difficult to link any of the magnificent Gaelic burial stones in Argyll with historical figures, but in the case of the stone above, history has been kind to us and Donnchadh Mór appears several times in the primary sources of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  He was active from the mid 1400s until circa 1515 and so the stone above was probably carved in 1515.   While the stone is much weathered today, fortunately, it was surveyed and a transcript was made of the text on the stone in 1875, by the well know writer Captain T P White, and appears in his Archaelogical Sketches in Scotland, Knapdale and Gigha.  Donnchadh Mór is an important figure in the history of the Redshank migration to Ulster in the 1500s because he and his descendants were captains and bailiffs for the powerful Earls of Argyll and it was these Earls that orchestrated the movement of so many Redshanks to Ireland.

The inscription on the stone is in Latin, and reads Hic iacet Duncanus Mor M'Cane.  Captain White commented, 'This appears to be one of those rare instances where we are enabled to identify a mediaeval tombstone in the West Highland with a substantive individual of who there is documentary record.'  Indeed so, Donnchadh Mór appears in the Scottish crown records and in the Caimbeul family records several times. Also on the stone, across the top is the 'clan' name Lachlan.

Donnchadh Mór was the son of Ailean Mac Eáin Riabhach Mhic Lachlainn of the House of Dunadd.  Ailean was granted extensive lands in what is now Kilmichael Glassary Parish in 1434.  He had four sons and each establish their own House within the parish.  The four Houses and their locations were 1) Dónal of Dunadd, the ruling line, 2) Donnchadh Mór of Dunemuck, 3) Eáin Riabhach of Killiemuchanock, and 4) Giolla Críost of Creig an Taribh. 

While the clan association of this family was Clann Mhic Lachlainn, the surnames used by these related families followed Gaelic traditional patronymics.  In several records the family is referred by the name Mac Eáin Riabhach, after the father of Ailean, who obtained the original grant of land.  Some of the surnames associated with this family are Mac Ailpín, Mac Dónaill, Mac Donnchaidh, Mac Eáin, and Mac an Leagha (anglicised forms McAlpin, McDonald, Duncan, McKean, and McLea).

The family was closely associated with the Earls of Argyll and appear in Caimbeul family records.  Their main function were Captains, but each House had other duties as well such as Tacsmen (administrator lands, in this case lands of the Earl of Argyll) and physicians.   As military captains they served both in Argyll and in the many places the Caimbeul hand reached in the 1500s.