m. daughter of Henry I (see NORMANDY)
d. 1161

Fergus of Galloway first appears in the historical sources in 1136. His origins and his parentage, however, are something of a mystery. Over the years, Fergus’ origins have been the subject of much discussion and even more fanciful fictional elaboration by historical writers.

One theory is that Fergus was descended from a great pedigree of Gall-Gaidhel kings, who might have been known as Clann Dubgaill, claiming descent from a certain Dubgall. Adding believability to this view is the fact that the chief branch of descendants of Somairle mac Gilla Brigte took the name MacDougall, while the cognate name MacDouall was popular in Galloway. However, since the Argyll name comes only from after Fergus' time, this theory cannot be accepted.

A similar theory traces Fergus from a certain man called "Gilli," a Gall-Gaidhel "Jarl" of the Western Isles. The reasoning in this case is that the Roman de Fergus, an early 13th century French language Arthurian romance, names its eponymous hero's father as Soumilloit (Somairle). The argument is that the latter was descended from the Jarl Gilli, and therefore that both Somairles had Jarl Gilli as a common ancestor. Likewise, yet another theory identifies Fergus' father with the obscure Sumarlidi Hauldr, a character in the Orkneyinga Saga.

Writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had advanced the idea that Fergus was the childhood companion of David I at the Anglo-Norman court of King Henry I of England. This idea was given credence by his marriage to the daughter of King Henry I, his good relationship with David, and his friendliness towards Anglo-Norman culture.

In reality such a relationship is pure fiction. Fergus was almost certainly a native Galwegian. The Roman de Fergus may not be entitled to general reliability in matters of historical correctness, but Soumilloit is unlikely to have been totally made up. Moreover, Somairle (anglicized either as Somerled or Sorley) is a thoroughly Gall-Gaidhel name, and makes perfect sense in the context. In light of the absence of other evidence, we have to accept that Fergus' father probably bore the name Somairle. Other than that, we simply cannot say anything about Fergus' origins for sure.

Contrary to some popular conceptions, there is no evidence that Galloway was ever part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Thus Galloway (west of the Nith at least) lay outside of the traditional area claimed by the Kingdom of Alba, Strathclyde's successor state in the area. Galloway, often defined as all of the area to the south and west of the Clyde and west of the River Annan, lay outside of traditional Scottish territory. Though it formed part of the northern mainland of Britain, Galloway was just as much a part of the Irish Sea; part of that "Hiberno-Norse" world of the Gall-Gaidhel lords of the Isle of Man, Dublin and the Hebrides. For instance, the ex-King of Dublin and Man, Echmarcach mac Ragnaill, had the title Rex Innarenn ("King of Rhinns") attributed to him on his death in 1065. The western sections of Galloway had been firmly aligned with the Isle of Man, and Norse and Gaelic-Norse settlement names from the 10th and 11th centuries are spread all along the coastal lands of south-western "Scotland" and north-western "England."

In the late 11th century, the Norwegian King Magnus III Berrføtt "Barelegs" led a campaign of subjugation in the Irish Sea world. In 1097, he sent his vassal, Ingimundr, to take control of the Kingdoms of Man and the Isles. However, when this man was killed, Magnus himself launched the first of his two invasions, the campaigns of 1098-1099 and of 1102-1103. In the former campaign, he took control of the Western Isles of Scotland, and deposed King Lagmann of Man. This campaign also brought him to Wales, where he killed the Earl of Chester and the Earl of Shrewsbury, who were at war with the Prince of Gwynedd. In this campaign, Magnus almost certainly brought Galloway under his suzerainty too. Magnus, moreover, gained the recognition of these conquests from the then-king of Alba, Etgair mac Maíl Coluim.

On his second campaign, Magnus went to Man, and with a huge fleet attacked Dublin and attempted to bring the submission of Muircertach mac Toirrdelbach, the Ui Briain King of Munster. The campaign resulted in an alliance between the two kings, and the arranged marriage of Magnus' son Siguðr to Muircertach's daughter Bláthmin. The alliance mitigated the threat of Domnall mac Lochlainn, King of Ailech, bringing stability to the Irish Sea world, and security to Magnus' new Irish Sea "Empire." However, it all went wrong when Magnus was killed on his way back to Norway on a minor raid in Ulster. Much of Magnus' work lay in ruins.

In the view of the main authority on medieval Galloway, Richard Oram, these events provide the key to understanding the origins of the Fergusian Kingdom of Galloway. It was this power vacuum, he suggests, that facilitated the creation of the Kingdom of Galloway, the kingdom which Fergus came to lead and apparently created. The Roman infers that Fergus' father, Somairle, was a poor warrior who benefitted greatly by marriage to a noblewoman, from whom Fergus inherited power. Perhaps then, Fergus' father was a self-made warrior who married into the House of Man; perhaps Fergus inherited and further consolidated his position, building the kingdom out of the ruins left by the death of Magnus Barelegs.

Fergus' likely power base was the area of Galloway between the rivers Dee and Cree. It has been suggested by Oram that he advanced his power in the west through marriage to an unknown heiress. The primary basis of this reasoning is that upon Fergus' death, Gille Brigte got the western part. Gille Brigte was the older son, but because he was not the product of marriage to Fergus' royal wife, he was regarded as the lesser. The fact that he got the west when he should have gotten nothing has led Oram to believe that he got the west because of his mother.

Fergus may have married an illegitimate daughter of Henri Beauclerc, King Henry I of England. Her name, however, is unknown. One of the candidates is Sibylla, the widow of King Alaxandair I mac Maíl Choluim of Scotland, but there is little evidence for this. Another candidate could be Elisabeth; but likewise, there is little evidence. If he did marry a daughter of Henry I, the marriage can be interpreted as part of the forward policy of Henry I in the northwest of his dominions and the Irish Sea zone in general, which was engineered in the second decade of the 12th century. It may have been during this time that Fergus began calling himself rex Galwitensium "King of Galloway". However, while his possible father-in-law lived, Fergus, like King David I of Scotland, seems to have remained a faithful "vassal" to Henry. Uctred, son of Fergus of Galloway, is referred to as a cousin of King Henry II (1) a relationship which is best explained on the supposition that Fergus married a bastard daughter of Henry I. The suggestion in the Scots Peerage that Gilbert, Uctred's brother, had a different mother is contradicted by no. 480, where King John calls Duncan of Carrick, grandson of Fergus; cousin of Uctred; his cousin, thus making Uctred and Gilbert brothers by the same mother.

As part of Fergus’ pretensions in the Irish Sea world, Fergus made himself the father-in-law of the Manx king by marrying off his daughter Affraic to King Óláfr I Gothfrithsson of Man. Óláfr was in many ways a client of the English and Scottish Kings, and so within this new Anglo-Celtic Irish Sea system, Fergus could establish a dominant position. This position lasted until the death of Óláfr in 1153 at the hands of his brother’s sons, who had been brought up in Dublin, and were waiting in the wings. (2)

The following is from the article entitled "Lochfergus" by James Afleck:

" No one looking at the little green knoll on the right hand side of the road at Lochfergus would ever dream that it was the cradle of Galloway history, and the birthplace from which sprang all our ancient Norman castles, abbeys, priories, and churches, whose ruins are now sacred to antiquarians. Yet this is so. In olden times this little green field was a loch, and the large knoll in the centre was an island, partly natural and partly artificial. On it stood the first Norman castle or palace, built by Fergus, the first Lord of Galloway. This castle or palace was built somewhere between the years 1138 and 1140. The site, which is now barely visible, alone remains, and proves that it must have been an oblong building of great dimensions. It stood on the centre of the large island, 1140 feet in circumference, and was surrounded by a wall, with towers at each of the four corners in true Norman fashion. The southern end of the island seems to have been intersected by a moat or ditch, dividing the building proper from the courtyard. This may have been the stableyard, for it is shown as a separate island on old maps. At that period it must have been a place of great strength, as it was also surrounded by the loch. Near the southern end of the loch there was another little island, partly natural and partly artificial. Tradition says that this island was used for stabling accommodation, and, therefore, it has been called Stable Isle." To the practical eye of the antiquarian, however, or the archaeologist, its form-height, build, and inaccessibility-proves that such a theory is quite untenable, and that it must have been an island fortress prior to the more resplendent palace on its larger neighbour, Palace Isle.”

"So far as I can glean from trustworthy records, Fergus must have taken up his residence on Palace Isle “ a year or so after the Battle of the Standard in 1138. He was born somewhere about the year 1096. Those were troublous times in Galloway. In 1096 the inhabitants were just emerging from the galling yoke of the ruthless Norsemen. Edgar had ascended the Scottish throne, and he was succeeded in 1107 by his brother Alexander, but when Edgar died he divided up the Scottish Kingdom. To his younger brother, David, he left the whole of the district south of the Firth of Forth, except the Lothians. David took up his residence at Carlisle, and assumed the title of Earl. The accession of David as supreme ruler of Galloway is important, because it was during his regime that we find, for the first time, the official name “ Galloway “ applied to our ancient province. Fergus was one of David's favourite companions and courtiers, which is amply proved by his witnessing many of the King's charters. He was also a “persona grata “ at the English Court, so much so that he married the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry I., and thus became allied to English Royalty. And, as King Henry I. of England married David's sister, Fergus was thus also by marriage allied to the Scottish King. By Elizabeth he had two sons and one daughter-viz., Uchtred and Gilbert, and Affrica. She married Olave, King of Man. To anyone who has studied the history of Galloway carefully it is quite evident from the career and actions of Fergus that he was not a Gallovidian by birth, but one of the many Norman favourites by whom David was surrounded, and to which favourites he was very lavish with grants of land. The most of our historical accounts perpetuate the error that Fergus was of the line of native Galloway princes or rulers. I am afraid, however, that all the facts to be deduced from a careful study of his history go to prove that he was a Norman. In 1130, Angus, Earl of Moray, raised the Standard of Insurrection, and entered Scotland proper with 5000 men, with the intention of reducing the whole kingdom to subjection."

"Mackenzie, Sir Herbert Maxwell, and other writers have concluded that Fergus was implicated in this rebellion, and thus forfeited the confidence and trust of David I. I cannot see what Fergus had to gain by such an action. In fact he had everything to lose. The greater probability is that it was the rebellion or insurrection by Malcolm M'Eth in 1134 to 1137 that he joined, because it was also joined by Somerled, the Regulus of Argyll, who was related to him by marriage. This is borne out by the fact that he also joined the second insurrection in 1154 by the sons of Malcolm M'Eth and Somerled, which insurrection led to his downfall."

Monument at the site of the Battle of the Standard

"In 1135 Henry I., the King of England, died, and David I. invaded England in support of the cause of his niece, Matilda, who was the daughter of the English King. This invasion culminated in the great Battle of the Standard. This battle is interesting and important, because it shows the desperate savage nature of the Gallovidians at that period. The “ Wild Scots of Galloway,'' as they were called, were pressed into the service of the King, led by their two chiefs, Ulric and Duvenald. A Monastic historian thus described the Gallovidian contingent as “that detestable army, more atrocious than Pagans, reverencing neither God nor man, plundered the whole province of Northumberland, destroyed villages, burned towns, churches, and houses. They spared neither age nor sex, murdering infants in their cradles, and other innocents at the breasts, with the mothers themselves, thrusting them through with their lances, or the points of their swords, and glutting themselves with the misery they inflicted.'' They met the English army on Catton Moor, near Northallerton, in 1138, and here the desperate and decisive battle was fought, called the “ Battle of the Standard.” The Galwegians claimed the honour of leading the van, notwithstanding the opposition of the King and his advisers. “ They commenced the attack,” says Hailes, “by rushing in a wedge-like shape on the enemy, with savage vociferations, loud yells, and infuriated valour.” Hovedon says that “their war-cry was Albanich Albanich !” to which the English retorted Vry ! Vry ! meaning the opprobrious epithet, “Irish !'' The onset was appalling, and they broke through the ranks of the spearmen, but after the battle had raged for nearly two hours they were reduced to a state of utter confusion. Both their chiefs, Ulric and Dunvenald, were slain. The English were victorious, and peace was concluded in 1139. Fergus seems not to have been at this battle, which shows that he had riot yet been appointed ruler of Galloway, nor even a hereditary prince, or he would have led the Gallovidian contingent."

"It was about this time, however, that he once more made friends with the King, and was appointed Lord of Galloway in succession to Ulric and Dunvenald. The cunning ruse by which he obtained the King's pardon for his former insurrection is well worthy of record. I take the following facts from the History of the Priory of St. Mary's erected on the Isle of Trahil, i.e., St. Mary's Isle, Kirkcudbright :- “ Fergus, Earl and lord of Galloway, having failed in his duty to His Majesty, and committed a grievous fault, at which the King, evidently very angry, determined to put the law in force vigorously against him. At last, in a change of habit, he repaired to Alwyn, the Abbot of the Monastry of Holyrood, the King's Confessor and confidential secretary, for advice and assistance. The Abbot compassionating him, contrived that Fergus should assume the habit of a Canon Regular, and thus, God directing, should, along with his brethren, obtain the King's pardon for his offence, through supplication under a religious habit.'' The ruse was successful, and he not only obtained the King's pardon, but also “ The Kiss of Peace." The King and he, therefore, became reconciled. To the assistance thus rendered, and coupled with the King's extreme religious fervour, we may safely advance as cogent reasons for the many abbeys which in after years Fergus founded in Galloway."

Whithorn Priory

"Fergus was now supreme ruler of Galloway, and resided at his Castle or Palace of Lochfergus. Thus we may fix the building of the castle or palace at this period. For many years he devoted his time and attention to the founding of religious houses. The first one he founded was at Saulseat, in the parish of Inch, about three miles from Stranraer, which he handed over to Monks from Premontre in Picardy. The next was the Priory of Whithorn. Some fragments of this Priory still remain, notably the beautiful south door of late Norman work. The west tower stood in the time of Symson, when he wrote his large description of Galloway in 1684.

Tongland Abbey

"Tongland Abbey followed next in the order of building, then St. Maria de Trayll, now known as St. Mary's Isle, Kirkcudbright, and lastly Dundrennan, which is a very fine piece of early pointed work. The Norman style of architecture and the Monks he placed in these Abbeys all go to prove that he was not a Gallovidian by birth, because the religion of the Gallovidians differed materially from that of the Abbeys. There seems no doubt that Fergus must have been a man of deep religious feeling, but at the same time we cannot but recognise the fact that in the founding of these Abbeys he was simply carrying out the orders of King David, nicknamed the “ Prince of Monk feeders,'' or “ The sore sanct to the Crown," and thus in some measure making atonement for the grievous offence which he had formerly committed against his Sovereign. Fergus Castle at this period must have been a very important place. It was the favourite home of his wife, the Princess Elizabeth, whose courtly manners and kindly disposition did much to tone down the semi-civilised inhabitants."

Dundrennan Abbey

"During the subsequent part of the reign of David there is nothing of importance to chronicle regarding Fergus or Lochfergus. David died in 1153, and was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm IV., then a minor. He was the first King who was crowned at Scone. Somerled and several others of the northern chiefs were dissatisfied with the succession, and taking advantage of the extreme youth of the King, and the distracted councils which prevailed at Court, rose in insurrection, and put forward a son of the former Pretender, MacHeth, Domnall mac Maíl Choluim. Fergus at first did not join them, because we find that he seized the claimant Donald when he sought sanctuary at Whithorn, and sent him to prison at Roxburgh, where his father, the elder M'Eth, was also confined. However, the English King Henry II. having persuaded Malcolm to resign that part of his territory south of the Tweed and go to France to assist him in fighting his battles there, the Gallovidians refused to have an English King to reign over them, so they, under Fergus, joined Somerled. The young Scottish King hurried home, and took up arms to chastise the Gallovidians, but the impenetrable forests, the treacherous morasses, and the rugged hills of Galloway were practically inaccessible, except to those who knew them intimately. Twice Malcolm entered Galloway, but had to retire beaten and discomfited. The third time, however, he doubled his forces, and by this means, in addition to propitiating some of the rebels, he prevailed, and Somerled became reconciled. Fergus, thus deserted by his former friends, resigned the Lordship of Galloway, or what is more probable, deprived of his office, and retired once more to the Abbey of Holyrood, where he became a Canon Regular, and it is said ended his days in the following year through grief and sorrow. Before he died, however, he bestowed on Holyrood Abbey the village and church of Dunrodden (Dunrod, near Kirkcudbright). There seems little doubt that Fergus was a wise and beneficent ruler, and that Galloway made great progress under his sway. And to any impartial historian who takes the trouble to enquire into the reasons or motives which prompted him to take up arms against his Sovereign will not only find extenuating circumstances, but in these unsettled times very good reasons for his actions. In these old times “ might was right,'' and the succession to the throne was not always in accordance with justice."(3)

Holyrood Abbey

Fergus was involved in the resurrection of the Bishopric of Whithorn, an ancient Galwegian See first established by the Northumbrians under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York. The last Bishop of Whithorn, Beadwulf, had been noted in c. 803. In the following two and a half centuries, Galloway, seems to have been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Man in the west, with Durham and Glasgow in the east. On 9 December 1125 Pope Honorius II wrote to the Bishop-elect of Whithorn, ordering him to appear before the Archbishop of York. The would-be Bishop was a cleric called Gille Aldan (Gille Aldain), and the Archbishop was Thurstan. York had been coming under increasing pressure from the ambitions of Canterbury, and the northern English metropolitan had only two suffragans (Durham and Man). He needed three in fact to hold proper Archiepiscopal elections. It is likely that York and Fergus did a deal. The involvement of King David I can be discounted on the grounds of his anti-York policies, and his total inclination to appoint English or French clerics, and not Gaelic ones like Gille Aldan. The deal ensured the Galwegian church would not undermine Fergus’ independence of both Man or Scotland, and secured an identity for the new kingdom in the framework of northern Britain and the Isles. A further point to be noted is that the sources record that the warrior-Bishop Wimund attacked another Bishop, an attack aimed to try and bring the other bishop under his control. Scholars such as Andrew MacDonald and Richard Oram agree that this Bishop was in fact Gille Aldan of Whithorn. It is likely then that the elevation of Whithorn incurred the wrath of the Bishop of the Isles, indicating perhaps something of the status of the Galwegian church before Fergus’ reign.(4)

Knight in the Roman de Fergus

Around the beginning of the 13th century, someone in Scotland composed in French an Arthurian romance dedicated to the Galwegian King. This is the so-called Roman de Fergus. The Roman de Fergus, as it happens, is the earliest piece of non-Celtic vernacular literature to emerge from Scotland. According to tradition, the author was a man called Guillaume le Clerc (William the Clerk). Some scholars have hypothesized that it was written for the inauguration of Fergus' descendant, Alan mac Lochlainn or perhaps more appropriately in this context, Alan, fils de Roland. More recently, D.D.R. Owen, a St Andrews scholar of medieval French, has proposed that the author was William Malveisin. William was at one point a royal clerk, to King William I before becoming Bishop of Glasgow and St Andrews. The Roman gratifies Fergus' descendants by making him a Perceval-like knight of King Arthur. The Roman circulated all over the Frankish world of northwestern Europe for centuries to come. It is a tribute to Fergus' legendary status as a monarch and as the founding father of Galloway.(5)


·  2I. GILBERT- d. 1 Jan. 1184/5

·  3II. UCHTRED- murdered 22 Sept. 1176, Loch Fergus (See GALLOWAY)


(1) Gesta Henrici Secundi Benedicici Abbatis- ed. stubbs rolls ser.i 80
(3) Lochfergus - James Afleck in "Transactions and Journal of the Proceedings of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society" from the 1908-9 Session- Vol. XXI, p.182ff
(5) Ibid

The Scot's Peerage- Vol. II, p. 421
The Scottish Nation- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880
Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan O. Anderson, Ed., David Nutt, London, 1908- p. 159
Fergus of Galloway- Guillaume le Clerc, tr. D.D.R. Owen, London, 1991
Outlaws of Medieval Scotland: Challenges to the Canmore Kings, 1058-1266- R.A. McDonald, East Linton, 2003
The Lordship of Galloway- Richard Oram, Edinburgh, 2000
The Reign of William the Lion: Kingship and Culture, 1143-1214- D.D.R. Owen, East Linton, 1997
The Quest for Galiene. A Study of Guillaume le Clerc's Arthurian Romance Fergus- Roel Zemel, Amsterdam-Münster 2006


m. ? d. of Donnchad, Mormaer of Fife
d. 1 Jan. 1184/5

In the struggle that arose after the death of Fergus between Gille Brigte and Uchtred, Gille Brigte emerged the stronger. Nevertheless, such a situation was not inevitable. Gille Brigte was the older son, but because he was not the product of marriage to Fergus' royal wife, he was regarded as the lesser in feudal law. The partitioning of Galloway left Gille Brigte with the western part, the part less exposed to the arms of the Scottish and English Kings.

We do not know for certain to whom Gille Brigte was married. Richard Oram suggests the strong likelihood that his main wife was a daughter of Donnchad II, Mormaer or Earl of Fife and the most important native lord in Scotland. The introduction of the name Donnchad (or Duncan) into the family naming pattern is some evidence of this, as is the later marriage of Gille Brigte's great-granddaughter Marjorie to the Fife petty-lord Adam de Kilconquhar.(5)

Only three years after the succession of Uchtred, Galloway was once more in arms. Malcolm, King of Scotland, died in 1165, and his brother William, better known as “William the Lion,'' succeeded to the throne. One of his first acts was to demand the restitution of the southern part of Scotland, which had been so unwisely granted to the King of England. Under Uchtred the “Wild Scots of Galloway” rose to a man in favour of William, and marched into England in 1174. By a series of forced marches, however, the English, with only a small company of 400 horsemen, surprised the Scottish army, and captured the Scottish King. The moment the Gallovidians saw that their King was a prisoner they threw off their allegiance, and returned in confusion to their homes in Galloway and attacked and demolished the Royal castles, murdered the Anglo-Normans who had settled in their mountains and expelled the King's officers.. It is said or thought that Gilbert and Uchtred quarrelled at that engagement over the succession to the Lordship of Galloway. Hence the confusion. It is also asserted that Gilbert accused Uchtred of treachery at the battle. At anyrate Uchtred had to fly home to Fergus Castle for protection. An internecine rebellion in Galloway was the result. Under Gilbert the natives murdered all the Saxon and Norman subjects in Galloway they could lay hands on. Not only that, but they became treacherous towards each other, and began to fight amongst themselves for the spoils.

Benedict of Peterborough reported that:

“ When they (the brothers) heard that their lord the king of Scotland was taken, they immediately returned with their Galwegians to their own lands, and at once expelled from Galloway all the bailiffs and guards whom the king of Scotland had set over them; and all the English and French whom they could seize they slew; and all the defences and castles which the king of Scotland had established in their land they besieged, captured and destroyed, and slew all whom they took within them(7)

Threave Castle

The two brothers then began fighting among themselves and on 22 Sept. 1176 while Uchtred was in his castle on the Island of Dee (Threave Castle), Gilbert's brother Máel Coluim surprised him, cut out his tongue, put out his eyes, castrated him and then killed him. Gilbert, realising the enormity of his crimes, tried in the most cowardly manner to obtain the protection of the English King, and thus secure himself against the vengeance of the Scottish Government. Gilbert offered to pay Henry II a yearly tribute of 2000 merks silver, 500 cows and 500 swine.(1) The English King accordingly sent Roger Hoveden and Robert de Val to Galloway to accept the homage of the two brothers, and to assure them of his protection. When they arrived, of course, they found that Gilbert had not only murdered his brother, but also had put a great number of Norman subjects to death, therefore they refused to have any dealings with him. Upon his release from prison in 1177 William the Lion invaded Galoway and subdued Gilbert, but instead of executing justice, contented himself with exacting a pecuniary satisfaction. In 1176 Gilbert came to York with King William and was received by King Henry. There he left his son Duncan as hostage for his friendship, and in 1180 he was charged in the English Exchequer with the then enourmous sum of £919, 9s.(2) In 1184 he is found under the protection of England making devastating raids into Scotland.(3) He was arrested by Henry Kennedy, the forerunner of the noble name in Ayrshire. Terms were again proposed, but Gilbert's ambition was insatiable, and he refused them, so long as they did not recognise the independence of Galloway. On 5 July 1185 after Gilbert's death Uchtred's son Roland attacked and dispersed Gilbert's followers and obtained possession of all Galloway. This was opposed by Henry II who marched to Carlisle, but satisfied with William's acknowledgment of his paramount right Henry left the settlement of the question to William who granted the district of Carrick to Gilbert's son.

Gille Brigte's reign is characterized by a large degree of hostility towards the Scottish kings. Unlike his brother Uchtred, he was no friend to incoming Normans. He maintained a Gaelic following. Such a policy made him popular in the province, but alienated him from his nominal Franco-Gaelic overlords, King Máel Coluim IV and then King William. William cultivated the loyalty of Uchtred's son Lochlann (Roland), using him as a card in the game for control over the Galwegian lordship. In the 1180s, tension between Gille Brigte and William was high, with Gilla Brigte being known to have made frequent raids into the Scottish controlled territory of eastern Galloway. When Gille Brigte died in 1185, he was at war with William. Gille Brigte's timely death, with Donnchad still in Henry II's custody, eased the way for William to install Lochlann as Gille Brigte's successor.(6)


·  4I. DUNCAN- m.c.1200 AVELINA FITZ-WALTER, d. 13 June 1250

·  II. Máel Coluim-

·  ?III. Gillokonel- Gillokonel Manthac "the stammerer" may have been another son of Gilbert as in 1233 he was described as brother to the Earl of Carrick and gives evidence in a dispute as to lands on the Clyde on behalf of the monks of Paisley(4). Ref:

(1) Dal. Ann.- i, 142; The Scot's Peerage- Vol. 2, pp.421-2
(2) Cal. Docs. Scot.- I, No 955
(3) The Scot's Peerage- Vol. II, p. 422
(4) Reg. de Passelet- 166-8
(6) Ibid
(7) Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers: AD 500 to 1286- A.O. Anderson, London, 1908- p. 256

"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880
The Lordship of Galloway- Richard Oram, Edinburgh, 2000


m.c.1200 AVELINA, d. of Alan Fitz-Walter, High Steward of Scotland
d. 13 June 1250

As a result of Gille-Brighde's conflict with Uhtred and the Scottish monarch William the Lion, Donnchadh became a hostage of King Henry II of England. He probably remained in England for almost a decade before returning north on the death of his father. Although denied succession to all the lands of the Gall-Gaidhil, he was granted lordship over Carrick in the north-west.(4)

The death of Gille-Brighde in 1185 prompted Donnchadh's cousin Lochlann, supported by the Scottish king, to attempt a takeover, thus threatening Donnchadh's inheritance.(5) At that time Donnchadh was still a hostage in the care of Hugh de Morwic.(6)

The Gesta Annalia I claimed that Donnchadh's patrimony was defended by chieftains called Somhairle ("Samuel"), Gille-Patraic, and Eanric Mac Cennetig ("Henry Mac Kennedy").(7) Lochlann and his army met these men in battle on 4 July 1185 and, according to the Chronicle of Melrose, killed Gille-Patraic and a substantial number of his warriors. Another battle took place on 30 September, and although Lochlann's forces were probably victorious, killing opponent leader Gille-Coluim, the encounter led to the death of Lochlann's unnamed brother.(8) Lochlann's activities provoked a response from King Henry who, according to historian Richard Oram, "was not prepared to accept a fait accompli that disinherited the son of a useful vassal, flew in the face of the settlement which he had imposed ... and deprived him of influence over a vitally strategic zone on the north-west periphery of his realm".(9)

According to Hoveden, in May 1186 Henry ordered the king and magnates of Scotland to subdue Lochlann; in response Lochlann "collected numerous horse and foot and obstructed the entrances to Galloway and its roads to what extent he could". Richard Oram did not believe that the Scots really intended to do this, as Lochlann was their dependent and probably acted with their consent; this, Oram argued, explains why Henry himself raised an army and marched north to Carlisle. When Henry arrived he instructed King William and his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon, to come to Carlisle, and to bring Lochlann with them.(10)

Lochlann ignored Henry's summons until an embassy consisting of Hugh de Puiset, Bishop of Durham and Justiciar Ranulf de Glanville provided him with hostages as a guarantee of his safety; when he agreed to travel to Carlisle with the king's ambassadors. Hoveden wrote that Lochlann was allowed to keep the land that his father Uhtred had held "on the day he was alive and dead", but that the land of Gille-Brighde that was claimed by Donnchadh, son of Gille-Brighde, would be settled in Henry's court, to which Lochlann would be summoned. Lochlann agreed to these terms. King William and Earl David swore an oath to enforce the agreement, with Jocelin, Bishop of Glasgow, instructed to excommunicate any party that should breach their oath. There is no record of any subsequent court hearing, but the Gesta Annalia I relates that Donnchadh was granted Carrick on condition of peace with Lochlann, and emphasises the role of King William (as opposed to Henry) in resolving the conflict.(11)

Roger of Hoveden's Chronica, which recorded that in 1200 Donnchadh:

Carried off (rapuit) Avelina, daughter of Alan fitz Walter, lord of Renfrew, before William king of Scotland returned from England to his own land. And hence that king was exceeding wroth; and he took from Alan fitz Walter twenty-four pledges that he would preserve the peace with his and with his land, and take the law about his law.(1)

The marriage bound Donnchadh closer to the Anglo-French circles of the northern part of the region south of the Forth, while from Alan's point of view it was part of a series of moves to expand his territory further into former Gall-Gaidhil lands, moves that had included an alliance a few years earlier with another Firth of Clyde Gaelic prince, Raghnall mac Somhairle (Rognvaldr, son of Sumarliði or Somerled). Alan, who died four years later, fell into disgrace with King William and disappeared from royal circles, but his son Walter (nicknamed Óg, "the little" or "younger" in several Melrose charters) recovered the family's position, and by the late 1210s held, along with the Galloway family, a dominant position in the councils of William's successor Alexander II. (12)

Around 1200 Earl Donnchadh allowed the monks of Melrose Abbey use of saltpans from his land at Turnberry.(13) Between 1189 and 1198 he had granted the church of Maybothelbeg ("Little Maybole") and the lands of Beath (Bethóc) to this Cistercian house.(14) The grant is mentioned by the Chronicle of Melrose, under the year 1193:

Donnchadh, son of Gille-Brighde, of Galloway, gave to God and St Mary and the monks of Melrose a certain part of their land in Carrick that is called Maybole, in perpetual alms, for the salvation of his soul, and the souls of all his relatives; in presence of bishop Jocelin, and many other witnesses.(15)

There are records of patronage towards the nunnery of North Berwick, a house founded by Donnchadh's probable maternal grandfather or great-grandfather Donnchadh I of Fife.(16) He gave that house the rectorship of the church of St Cuthbert of Maybole sometime between 1189 and 1250.(17) In addition to Maybole, he gave the church of St Brigit at Kirkbride to the nuns, as well as a grant of 3 marks from a place called Barrebeth.(18) Relations with the bishop of Glasgow, within whose diocese Carrick lay, are also attested. For instance, on 21 July 1225, at Ayr in Kyle, Donnchadh made a promise of tithes to Walter, Bishop of Glasgow.(19)

Donnchadh's most important long-term patronage was a series of gifts to the Cluniac Abbey of Paisley that led to the foundation of a monastery at Crossraguel (Crois Riaghail). At some date before 1227 he granted Crossraguel and a place called Suthblan to Paisley, a grant confirmed by Pope Honorius III on 23 January 1227.(20) A royal confirmation by King Alexander III of Scotland dated to 25 August 1236 shows that Donnchadh granted the monastery the churches of Kirkoswald (Turnberry), Straiton and Dalquharran (Old Dailly). He may also have given the churches of Girvan and Kirkcudbright-Innertig (Ballantrae).(21)

It is clear from several sources that Donnchadh made these grants on the condition that the Abbey of Paisley established a Cluniac house in Carrick, but that the Abbey did not fulfil this condition, arguing that it was not obliged to do so. The Bishop of Glasgow intervened in 1244 and determined that a house of Cluniac monks from Paisley should indeed be founded there, that the house should be exempt from the jurisdiction of Paisley save recognition of the common Cluniac Order, but that the Abbot of Paisley could visit the house annually. After the foundation Paisley was to hand over its Carrick properties to the newly established monastery.(22)

A papal bull of 11 July 1265 reveals that Paisley Abbey built only a small oratory served by Paisley monks. Twenty years after the bishop's ruling Paisley complained to the papacy, which led Pope Clement IV to issue two bulls, dated 11 June 1265 and 6 February 1266, appointing mandatories to settle the dispute; the results of their deliberations are unknown. Crossraguel was not finally founded until about two decades after Donnchadh's death, probably by 1270; its first abbot, Abbot Patrick, is attested between 1274 and 1292.(23)

Crossraguel Abbey

The earliest information on Donnchadh's and indeed Gall-Gaidhil involvement in Ulster comes from Roger of Hoveden's entry about the death of Jordan de Courcy, John's brother. It related that in 1197, after Jordan's death, John sought vengeance and fought a battle with the petty-kings of Ireland, of whom he put some to flight, slew others, and subjugated their territories; of which he gave no small part to Donnchadh, son of Gille-Brighde, the son of Fergus, who, at the time that the said John was about to engage with the Irish, came to assist him with no small body of troops. No more light is shed upon Donnchadh's involvement at this point. (24)

Donnchadh's interests in the area were damaged when de Courcy lost his territory in eastern Ulster to his rival Hugh de Lacy in 1203. John de Courcy, with help from his wife's brother King Rognvaldr Guðrøðarson (Raghnall mac Gofraidh) and perhaps from Donnchadh, tried to regain his principality, but was initially unsuccessful. De Courcy's fortunes were boosted when Hugh de Lacy (then Earl of Ulster) and his associate William III de Briouze, themselves fell foul of John; the king campaigned in Ireland against them in 1210, a campaign that forced de Briouze to return to Wales and de Lacy to flee to St Andrews in Scotland.(25)

English records attest to Donnchadh's continued involvement in Ireland. One document, after describing how William de Briouze became the king's enemy in England and Ireland, records that after John arrived in Ireland in July 1210 :

"[William de Briouze's] wife [Matilda] fled to Scotland with William and Reinald her sons, and her private retinue, in the company of Hugh de Lacy, and when the king was at Carrickfergus castle, a certain friend and cousin of his of Galloway, namely Donnchadh of Carrick, reported to the king that he had taken her and her daughter the wife of Roger de Mortimer, and William junior, with his wife and two sons, but Hugh de Lacy and Reinald escaped."(2)

The Histoire des Ducs de Normandie recorded that William and Matilda had voyaged to the Isle of Man, en route from Ireland to Galloway, where they were captured. Matilda was imprisoned by the king, and died of starvation.(26)

Another document, this one preserved in an Irish memoranda roll dating to the reign of King Henry VI (reigned 1422–1461), records that after John's Irish expedition of 1210, Donnchadh controlled extensive territory in County Antrim, namely the settlements of Larne and Glenarm with 50 carucates of land in between, a territory similar to the later barony of Upper Glenarm. King John had given or recognised Donnchadh's possession of this territory, and that of Donnchadh's nephew Alaxandair (Alexander), as a reward for his help; similarly, John had given Donnchadh's cousins Ailean and Tómas, sons of Lochlann, a huge lordship equivalent to 140 knight's fees that included most of northern County Antrim and County Londonderry, the reward for use of their soldiers and galleys.(27)

By 1219 however Donnchadh and his nephew appear to have lost all or most of his Irish land; a document of that year related that the Justiciar of Ireland, Geoffrey de Marisco, had dispossessed ("disseised") them believing they had conspired against the king in the rebellion of 1215–6. The king, Henry III, found that this was not true and ordered the Justiciar to restore Donnchadh and his nephew to their lands. By 1224, Donnchadh had still not regained these lands and de Lacy's adherents were gaining more ground in the region. King Henry III repeated his earlier but ineffective instructions: he ordered Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin and new Justiciar of Ireland, to restore to Donnchadh "the remaining part of the land given to him by King John in Ireland, unless anyone held it by his father's own precept".(28)

Later in the same year Donnchadh wrote to King Henry. His letter was as follows:

[Donnchadh] Thanks him for the mandate which he directed by him to the Justiciar of Ireland, to restore his land there, of which he had been disseized on account of the English war; but as the land has not yet been restored, he asks the King to give by him a more effectual command to the Justiciar.(29)

Henry's response was a writ to his Justiciar:

King John granted to Donnchadh of Carrick, land in Ulster called Balgeithelauche [probably Ballygalley, county Antrim]. He says Hugh de Lacy disseized him and gave it to another. The King commands the Earl to inquire who has it, and its tenure; and if his right is insufficient, to give Donnchadh the land during the king's pleasure. At Bedford.(30)

It is unlikely that Donnchadh ever regained his territory; after Hugh was formally restored to the Earldom of Ulster in 1227, Donnchadh's land was probably controlled by the Bisset family. Historian Séan Duffy argues that the Bissets (later known as the "Bissets of the Glens") helped Hugh de Lacy, and probably ended up with Donnchadh's territory as a reward. These were Anglo-Norman nobles who were settling in northern Scotland at this time in the lordship of the Aird (An Àird) in the aftermath of the destruction of the Meic Uilleim and would quickly become Gaelicised.(31)

He was created Earl of Carrick by Alexander II between 1225 and 1230 on condition that he resigned all claim to the lordship of Galloway. The descendants of Duncan and his son Neil took the same of de Carrick. His seal, as attached to various original charters, bears the device of a griffin or dragon.(3)

Duncan's Seal

Donnchadh's career is not well documented in the surviving sources. Charters provide a little information about some of his activities, but overall their usefulness is limited because no charter-collections (called cartularies) from the Gaelic south-west have survived the Middle Ages, and the only surviving charters relevant to Donnchadh's career come from the heavily Normanised English-speaking area to the east.


·  5I. CAILEAN MacDONNCHAIDH- m. d. of Niall Ruadh O'Neill, king of Tir Eoghain, d. before 1250

·  II. John- of Straiton

·  III. Alexander-

·  IV. Ailean- parson of Kirkemanen


(1) Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan Orr Anderson, Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1991- p. 325; Annals of the Reigns of Malcolm and William, Kings of Scotland, A.D.1153–1214 / collected, with notes and an index- Archibald Campbell Lawrie, MacLehose, Glasgow, 1910- pp.326-7
(2) Cal. Docs. Scot- I, No. 480
(3) The Scots Peerage- Vol. II, pp.422-3
(5) The Lordship of Galloway- Richard Oram, Edinburgh, 2000- pp.100-1
(6) Annals of the Reigns of Malcolm and William, Kings of Scotland, A.D.1153–1214 / collected, with notes and an index- Archibald Campbell Lawrie, MacLehose, Glasgow, 1910- p. 218
(7) The Lordship of Galloway- Richard Oram, Edinburgh, 2000- p.100
(8) Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan Orr Anderson, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1922- 309-10
(9) The Lordship of Galloway- Richard Oram, Edinburgh, 2000- p.100
(10) Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan Orr Anderson, Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1991- pp.289-90; Scotichronicon by Walter Bower, in Latin and English, Scotichronicon by Walter Bower: New Edition in Latin and English with Notes and Indexes- David J. Corner, A.B. Scott, W. William, Eds, Aberdeen University Press, 1994- Vol. IV, pp.366-7
(11) Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan Orr Anderson, Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1991- p. 289; Scotichronicon by Walter Bower, in Latin and English, Scotichronicon by Walter Bower: New Edition in Latin and English with Notes and Indexes- David J. Corner, A.B. Scott, W. William, Eds, Aberdeen University Press, 1994- Vol. IV, pp.366-9; Cal. Docs. Scot.- Nos. 874, 878, 879
(12) The Lordship of Galloway- Richard Oram, Edinburgh, 2000- pp.132-3; Liber Sancte Marie de Melros, Munimenta Vetustiora Monasterii de Melros- Cosmo Innes, Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1837- Vol. II, nos. 452–55, pp. 420–23
(13) Melrose Abbey- Richard Oram, Richard Fawcett, Tempus, Stroud, 2004- p. 243; Liber Sancte Marie de Melros, Munimenta Vetustiora Monasterii de Melros- Cosmo Innes, Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1837- Vol. II, no. 37, p. 29
(14) Liber Sancte Marie de Melros, Munimenta Vetustiora Monasterii de Melros- Cosmo Innes, Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1837- Vol. I, nos. 29 and 30, pp. 20–24
(15) Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan Orr Anderson, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1922- p. 330
(16) Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Isle of Man- Ian B. Cowan, David E. Easson, Longman, London, 1976- p. 147; Melrose Abbey- Richard Oram, Richard Fawcett, Tempus, Stroud, 2004- pp. 231–32
(17) Carte Monialium de Northberwic: Prioratus Cisterciensis B. Marie de Northberwic Munimenta Vetusta que Supersunt- Cosmo Innes, Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1847- No. 13-4, pp. 13-4; Fasti Ecclesiae Scotinanae Medii Aevi ad annum 1638- D.E.R. Watt, A.L. Murray, Eds., The Scottish Record Society, New Series, Volume 25,The Scottish Record Society, Edinburgh, 2003- p. 238
(18) The Parishes of Medieval Scotland- Ian B. Cowan, Scottish Record Society, Neill & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh, 1967- vol. 93, p. 118; Carte Monialium de Northberwic: Prioratus Cisterciensis B. Marie de Northberwic Munimenta Vetusta que Supersunt- Cosmo Innes, Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1847- nos. 1, 28, pp. 3, 30–31
(19) Innes, Cosmo, ed. (1843), Registrum Episcopatus Glasguensis; Munimenta Ecclesie Metropolitane Glasguensis a Sede Restaurata Seculo Incunte Xii ad Reformatam Religionem- Cosmo Innes, Ed., The Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1843- Vol. I, no. 139, pp. 117–18
(20) Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Isle of Man- Ian B. Cowan, David E. Easson, Longman, London, 1976- pp. 63–64
(21) The Parishes of Medieval Scotland- Ian B. Cowan, Scottish Record Society, Neill & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh, 1967- vol. 93, pp. 35-6, 73, 120, 123, 189–90
(22) Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Isle of Man- Ian B. Cowan, David E. Easson, Longman, London, 1976- p. 64;The Parishes of Medieval Scotland- Ian B. Cowan, Scottish Record Society, Neill & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh, 1967- vol. 93, p. 123
(23) Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Isle of Man- Ian B. Cowan, David E. Easson, Longman, London, 1976- pp. 63-4
(24) The Annals of Roger de Hoveden: Comprising the History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201 / Translated from the Latin with Notes and Illustrations- Henry T. Riley, H. G. Bohn, London, 1853- Vol. II, p. 404
(25) Smith, B. (2004), Lacy, Hugh de, earl of Ulster (d. 1242), magnate and soldier, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,
(26) Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286- Alan Orr Anderson, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1922- Vol. II, p. 387; Annals of the Reigns of Malcolm and William, Kings of Scotland, A.D.1153–1214 / collected, with notes and an index- Archibald Campbell Lawrie, MacLehose, Glasgow, 1910- p. 327; Manx Kingship in its Irish Sea Setting, 1187–1229 : King Rognvaldr and the Crovan Dynasty- R. Andrew McDonald, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2007- p. 132
(27) The Lords of Galloway, Earls of Carrick, and the Bissets of the Glens: Scottish Settlement in Thirteenth-Century Ulster- Sean Duffy, in David Edwards', Regions and Rulers in Ireland, 1100–1650, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2004- pp. 37–8
(28) Calendar of Documents, Vol. I, nos. 737, 874
(29) Ibid- no. 878
(30) Ibid- no. 879
(31) The Lords of Galloway, Earls of Carrick, and the Bissets of the Glens: Scottish Settlement in Thirteenth-Century Ulster- Sean Duffy, in David Edwards', Regions and Rulers in Ireland, 1100–1650, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2004- pp. 39–42, 50

"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


m. ______, d. of Niall Ruadh O'Neill, king of the Tir Eoghain
d. before 1250

The traditional view, going back to the 19th century, is that Donnchadh's son and heir was Niall. This view has been criticised by genealogist Andrew MacEwen, who has argued that Niall was not the son of Donnchadh, but rather his grandson, a view embraced by leading Scottish medievalist Professor G. W. S. Barrow. According to this argument, Donnchadh's son and intended heir was Cailean (alias Nicholaus of Carrick), who as his son and heir, issued a charter in Donnchadh's lifetime, but seemingly predeceased him.

It was further suggested that Cailean's wife, Earl Niall's mother, was a daughter of the Tir Eoghain king Niall Ruadh Ó Neill, tying in with Donnchadh's Irish activities, accounting for the use of the name Niall, and explaining the strong alliance with the Ó Neill held by Niall's grandsons.

Cailean appears to have had a daughter, Afraig, who married Gilleasbaig of Menstrie, a Clackmannanshire baron who was the first attested man to bare the surname "Campbell". With this lady, Gilleasbaig fathered Cailean Mór, the ancestor of the later Earls of Argyll.


·  6I. NIALL- m. MARGARET STEWART, d. 1256

·  Afraig- m. Gilleasbaig of Menstrie


The Scots Peerage : Founded on Wood's Edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, Containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of that Kingdom- James Balfour Paul, D. Douglas, Edinburgh, 1904-14
Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland- G.W.S. Barrow, Edinburgh University Press, 2005
The Campbells, 1250–1513- Stephen Boardman, John Donald, Edinburgh, 2006
"Survival and Success: The Kennedys of Dunure"- Hector L. MacQueen, in Steve Boardman's and Alasdair Ross', The Exercise of Power in Medieval Scotland, C.1200–1500, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2003- pp. 67–94
"The Earliest Campbells — Norman, Briton, or Gael"- David Sellar, in Scottish Studies- Vol. 17 (1973), pp. 109–26


d. 1256

In 1255 a commission was granted by Henry III for receiving "Niel Earl of Karricke" and other Scots into his protection. Nigel was one of the Regents of Scotland and guardian of Alexander III and his Queen, appointed at Roxburgh 20 Sept. 1255.

Neil was a great benefactor to the Church, especially to the monasteries of Crossraguel and to Sandale in Kintyre.

Níall made a grant which assured that his nephew, Lachlan and successors would have all the powers in respect to the ceann ceneóil (head of kin). This grant was confirmed by King Alexander III. It ensured that the structure of Carrick's Gaelic society would remain undisturbed in the event that no direct male heir was available to succeed him as earl.


·  5I. MARGARET- m.1. Adam de Kilconcath (d. in crusade of Louis IX at Acre, Palestine in 1270), 2. ROBERT De BRUS, d. before 1292

·  II-IV- daughters referred to in the pleadings of the Competitor in 1291. Margaret is simply said to be the oldest of the four.


"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880
Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland- G.W.S. Barrow, Edinburgh University Press, 2005
"Survival and Success: The Kennedys of Dunure"- Hector L. MacQueen, in Steve Boardman's and Alasdair Ross', The Exercise of Power in Medieval Scotland, C.1200–1500, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2003- pp. 67–94

Return to Home Page