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Eire, the Isles, Alba and Galloway

      The Seannachies (the clan bards or storytellers) carry the family line through several generations including Godfruich (or Godfrey Tosach) Ruler of the Isles; through Hugh the Fair Haired, who was inaugurated Ruler of the Isles by Colum Cille (St. Columba) in Iona in 574, through Ethach of the Yellow Locks, and Aedan of the Golden Hilted Sword, down to Etach III who died in 733 having first united the Isles.  Rulership did not necessarily follow father to oldest son.  Rulers were chosen from the ablest member of the family through the extended family of brothers, uncles, cousins, and nephews through the system known as tanistry. Tanistry ensures the one best-equipped to serve succeeds in the line, rather than by simply being the next in line. Our ancient family line appears as follows:

     Prince Fiacha Fermara (abt 200 B.C.)
     Olioll Earon (abt 180 B.C.)
     Fearach (abt 160 B.C.)
     Forgo (abt 140 B.C.)
     Maine Wor (abt 120 B.C.)
     Arnold (don Adilla) (abt 100 B.C.)
     Kathrean (abt 80 B.C.)
     Trean (abt 60 B.C.)
     Rosin (abt 40 B.C.)
     Sin (abt 20 B.C.)
     Deagha (abt 1 A.D.)
     Jarr (abt 20 A.D.)
     Olioll Amglonnach (abt 40 A.D.)
     Eugenius (abt 60 A.D.)
     Edersceol (abt 80 A.D.)
     Connair Mor (abt 100 A.D.)
     Cabry Fionn Mor (abt 120 A.D.)
     Daire Dorn Mor (abt 140 A.D.)
     Cambry Cromcheann (abt 160 A.D.)
     Lughach Allatunn (abt 180 A.D.)
     Naghu Laimhe (abt 200 A.D.)
     Conaire Mor King of Eire (abt 220 A.D.).
     Cairpre Riata King of Dal Riata (240 A.D.) (son of Conaire Mor).
     Conor Erc of the Hundred Hostages (abt 400 A.D.) King of Dal Riata (descendant of Cairpre Riata).
     Colla Uais came Erc (d. 502 A.D.), the King of the Irish Dal Riata. (descendant of Conor Erc).
     Fergus Mor Mac Erc (son of Colla Uais came Erc).  The First King of Scots of  Dalriada (d. 501).
     Domangart King of Scots of Dalriada (d. 507) (son of Fergus Mor Mac Erc). Wife:  Feidelm Fotchain, daughter of Brian mac Eochaid Mugmedon - ancestor of the Kings of Airgialla, in northern Ireland.  Domangart was succeeded by his son Comgall (d. 538).
     Gabran King of Scots of Argyll (d. 558) (son of Domangart). Succeeded to the kingship upon his brother Comgall (d. 538) death.  Gabran's forces were defeated by the Picts in 558, he died that same year, and was succeeded by his brother Comgall's  son Conall (d. 574).  Gabran gave his name to the Cenel nGabrain, one of the four divisions of the Dal Riata.  Most of the Kings of Dal Riata, and later Scotland, were drawn from the Cenel nGabrain.  Gabran's Wife: Ingenach (or Lleian), daughter of Brychan Prince of Manau.
     Aedan (of the Golden Hilted Sword) King of Scots of Argyll (d. 606) (son of Gabran). Aedan succeeded to the kingship upon his cousin Conall's death in 574.  In 575, Aedan attended the Convention of Druim Cett in Ireland, which apparently convened to decide the political relationship between Dal Riata and the Kings of the Northern Ui Neill in Ireland, whose power was growing.  In 581, he led an expedition to the Orkney islands, and he won a victory at the Isle of Man in  582.  In 590, he won a battle against the Maetae, his British neighbors, but lost two sons in the battle.  In 596, in the first battle between Scots and English, two more of his sons were slain.  In 600, he led an army against the English of Northumbria, but was decisively defeated at Degsastan.  King Aedan  was victorious in a battle against the Picts sometime between 596 and 606.
     Eochaidh Buid (Etach of the Yellow Locks) King of Scots of Argyll (d. 629) (son of Aedan).  Eochaidh succeeded to the kingship upon his father Aedan's death in 606. Eochaidh's reign appears to have been quiet until the end, but in 627, the forces of Dal Riata, led by Eochaid's successor, Connad Cerr, were victorious in a battle in Ireland.
     Domnall Brecc “the Speckled” King of Scots of Argyll (d. 642) (son of Eochaidh Buid).  Domnall Brecc succeeded to the kingship in 629, when his predecessor, Connad Cerr, was killed in Ireland after a 3-month reign.  Domnall was either  incompetent, unlucky, or both; he never won a battle.  His first defeat came in 635 in a battle which was possibly against the Picts.  In 637, he was defeated at the battle of Mag Rath in Ireland, and from this point on, the Kings of Dal Riata completely lost control of their Irish possessions.  It was probably at about this point, that Domnall was demoted to the position of joint King with his 3rd cousin Ferchar, son of Connad Cerr.  Domnall was defeated yet again, possibly by the Picts, in 638.  He finally met his death in 642, at the hands of the Britons of Strathclyde.  He was succeeded by his      joint King Ferchar.
     Domangart King of Scots of Argyll (d. 673) (son of Domnall Brecc) succeeded to the kingship in 660, when the joint kingship of his uncle Conall Crandomna and Dunchad son of Duban ended with Conall's death.  Nothing about Domangart's reign is mentioned by the sources until he was killed in 673, and succeeded by his cousin Maelduin.
     Eochaidh “Crook Nose” King of Scots of Argyll (d. 697) (son of Domangart). Eochaidh succeeded to a kingship in turmoil in 697.  In 695, Domnall Donn, the king of Dal Riata and Eochaidh's father's cousin was killed by the Cenel Loairn (Lorn), a rival branch of the Dal Riata.  The Cenel Loairn claimant, Ferchar Fota, was then recognized as King of Dal Riata. When Ferchar died in 697, Eochaidh briefly held the      kingship, until he, in turn, was killed by the Cenel Loairn.  Ferchar's son Ainbcellach  succeeded in the kingship.
     Eochaidh King of Scots (d. 733)  (son of Eochaidh “Crook Nose”).  Eochaidh became King of Dal Riata in 726, when his Cenel Loairn predecessor was ousted from the kingship.  He survived a Cenel Loairn attack on his authority in 727, led by Selbach son of Ferchar Fota, and managed to hold his position without challenge until his death in 733.  Following Eochaidh's death, it appears that the kingship was shared between his brother Alpin, and Muiredach, the Cenel Loairn claimant, until the Dal Riata was subjugated by Oengus, King of the Picts, in 736.
     Fergus (son of Eochaidh, d. 733).
     Maine (son of Fergus) (abt 750).
     Godfrey (Godfruich) “Toshach” (Ruler) of the Isles (abt 780) (son of Maine).
     Niallghusa (son of Godfrey “Toshach”) (abt 815).
     Suibne (son of Niallghusa) (abt 845).
     Mearrdha (son of Suibne) (abt 900).
     Solaim (son of Mearrdha) (abt 930).
     Gilledomnan (son of Solaim) (abt. 973)
     Gillebride Mac Gilli (son of Gilledomnan) (d. 1030)
      King Somerled of the Isles and Man (d. 1064) (son of Gillebride Mac Gilli). King Somerled's wife Ragnhildis, was the daughter of King Olave the Red, King of Man,
      Prince Fergus de Galloway (d. 1096) was a cousin of King Somerled through Gilledomnan and was the 1st Lord of Galloway. He was possibly a son of King Olave the Red, King of Man and therefore also Somerled's brother-in-law through Somerled's wife Ragnhildis. Prince Fergus' wife was Princess (Joan) Elizabeth, a natural daughter of Henry I, King of England and his mistress Sybilla Corbet of France.

     We will stop the line here at Prince Fergus - the progenitor of the de Galloways (MacDowalls), and with King Somerled - whose sons were the progenitors of Clan Dougall (MacDougall) and Clan Ranald (MacDonald).  

     Hailes in his Annals related that in 973, Marcus (Niallghusa), King of the Isles, Kenneth Mac Alpin, King of the Scots, and Malcolm, King of the Cambri, entered into a bond for mutual defense. Then followed Gilledomnan (Gilli) descendant of King Marcus, and the grandfather of  both Prince Fergus de Galloway and King Somerled.  Gilledomnan was driven from the Isles by the Norse, and died in Ireland, where he had taken refuge.  One of his sons, Gillebride, (MacGilli) who had gone to Ireland with his father, obtained the help of the Irish of Clan Cholla, and, landing in Argyll, made a gallant attempt to expel the invaders. The Norse proved too strong, and Gillebride was forced to hide in the woods and caves of Morden.  

     "At this time in the 12th century, when the fortunes of the Clan were at their lowest ebb, there arose a savior in the person of one of the most celebrated of Celtic Heroes, Somerled, the son of Gillebride (MacGilli)".  He was living with his father in the caves of Morden and is described in an ancient chronicle as A well-tempered man, in body shapely, of a fair and piercing eye, of middle stature and quick discernment.”

Somerled the King, Lord of the Isles

      His early years were passed in hunting and fishing; “…his looking glass was the stream; his drinking cup the heel of his shoe; he would rather spear a salmon than spear a foe; he cared more to caress the skins of seals and otters than the shining hair of women. At present he was as a torch or beacon - unlit.  The hour was coming when he would be changed, when he would blaze like a burnished torch, or a beacon on a hilltop against which the wind is blowing.”  But when the Isles' men, over whom his ancestors had ruled, were in dire need of a leader Somerled came forward in his true character.  A local tradition in Skye tells that the Islesmen held council at which they decided to offer Somerled the chiefship, to be his and his descendants forever.

     They found Somerled fishing, and made their offer to him. Somerled replied, “Islesmen, there is a newly run salmon in the black pool yonder.  If I catch him, I will go with you as your Chief; if I catch him not, I shall remain where I am.”  The Islesmen, a race who believed implicitly in omens, were content, and Somerled cast his line over the black pool.  Soon after a shining salmon leapt into the sunlight, and the skillful angler had the silvery fish on the river bank.  The Islesmen acclaimed him their leader, and as such he sailed back with them “over the sea to Skye”, where the people joyously proclaimed that the Lord of the Isles had come.

     Somerled went on to defeat the Norse invaders and expelled the Danes from Mull and Morverin.  He took the title Thane or Regulus of Argyll.  He married Ragnhildis, the daughter of Olave the Red, King of Man and the Isles in 1140. Somerled and his cousin Maurice McNeal had conspired to get the fair Ragnhildis on board Somerled's boat separated from her father the King. Somerled and Maurice removed caulking plugs from the hull of his boat and replaced them with plain rope plugs. When the Royal party came aboard and the ship set sail, the rope plugs began to leak, as expected. The Royal party, thinking the ship would sink, transferred to another boat, all except Somerled and Ragnhildis, who he kept behind with him while the others cross-decked to the other vessel. Once the Royal party was gone, Somerled replaced the leaking plugs with the original ones and “saved” the ship and his beloved Ragnhildis from the watery deep. This is how Somerled won the hand of his wife, the daughter of King Olave the Red.

    After Olave the Red's murder in 1154 by Olave's nephews, Somerled seized the Kingdom of the Isles from Olave's tyrannical son Godred becoming Righ Innesegall (King of the Isles) and later defeated Godfrey to become King of Man and the Isles. King Somerled was stabbed in the heart and murdered in 1164 by his nephew Maurice MacNeill (a different Maurice, not his cousin), who had been hired for this dastardly deed by King Malcolm IV of Scotland.  MacNeill upon seeing the disdain and disrespect displayed to the dead body of Somerled by one of King Malcolm's guards, seized the man, cut out his heart, and then committed suicide out of his extreme guilt over having killed the great King Somerled.

     Legend has it that Somerled is buried on Iona, “With regal pomp and ceremony the body of the King of the Isles was buried...In Iona's piles, Where rest from mortal coil the mighty of the Isles.”  Family tradition, however, says that the Monastery of Saddel was the final resting place of the great king.  The Lordship of the Isles was passed to the MacDonalds, who shared a feud with the MacDougalls despite their common ancestry.  Other clans involved in MacDougall feuds include the Stewarts and Campbells, to whom the possession of Argyll and Lorn was passed for lack of a MacDougall male heir.  Prior to the dispossessions, the ancient and powerful Clan MacDougall controlled a full 1/3 of Scotland. The MacDougalls retained Galloway in southwestern Scotland, but go by the surname MacDowall as descendants of Prince Fergus and the ancient Lords of Galloway.

The Lords of Galloway

    Prince Fergus de Galloway (born 1096) was a contemporary and close relative of King Somerled, both being direct descendants through Godfraidh (Godfrey) mac Fergus, Lord of the Isles who died in 853 A.D.  Some other sources list Prince Fergus as a son of Olave the Red, King of Man and father-in-law of King Somerled, making Fergus not only Somerled's cousin through his grandfather Gilledomnan “Gilli” ) but also his brother-in-law through Somerled's wife Ragnhildis, the daughter of King Olave the Red. The MacDowalls of Galloway are the senior descendants in the male line of the princely house of Fergus, first of the ancient Lords of Galloway and the Rulers of Cumbria who maintained native leadership adopting Normanization under King David I of Scotland (1124-1153). Today the family is known as the MacDowalls. The Chief of the MacDowalls of Garthland (senior stirp) holds the title as Baron of Garthland and Castlesemple.

    Galloway is an ancient division of the southwestern corner of Scotland.  Galloway was to the Gaelic speaker, the land of the “Gall” (stranger), where the old Pictish language was spoken.  The name Galloway persisted as the Gaelic people came across from Ireland displacing the earlier inhabitants, mostly local tribes, Anglo-Saxon invaders and Norse settlers.  The Rinns of Galloway and the coast of Northern Ireland are only 18 miles apart.  The two areas shared a mutual language and celtic culture for centuries. Galloway still remains a pastoral land, lonely and uncultivated in many areas.  Gallowegians or (Gallovidans) have always considered themselves a race apart and are fiercely independent to this day. They are the legendary “Wild Scots” of Galloway and are known in history as being fierce warriors.  

COPYRIGHT © 2000 Leo B. McDowell

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