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Gallowglasses An Gall Óglaigh

Gallowglasses An Gall Óglaigh

The ability of the O'Cahans to strike at the Irish lordship was strengthened by their employment of mercenaries from the highlands and the islands of Scotland, these were galloglaigh, meaning "foreign warriors", anglicised as gallowglasses wore mail which reached to their knees and fought in tradition Viking style, wielding a short, broad battle axe or sword, bare-headed, fair-haired a wolf skin flung across their shoulders. The first recorded arrival of the Galloglas was in 1259. Prince Aed O'Connor of Connaught, son of King Feidhlim married a princess, daughter of Dubhgall MacRory King of the Hebrides. As part of her dowry she brought with her a force of 160 Galloglas. The gallowglasses were hebrideans (The Hebrides) of mixed Norse-Gaelic blood, Galloglas were Gaelic speaking Scots. The number of scottish mercenaries increased dramatically in the wars of the 16th century, reaching an estimated 25000 between 1560s and 1590s, and placing an intolerable burden on the host population. They were quartered throughout the providence, most notably in convenient locations like the Inishowen peninsula and O'cathain country around Coleraine.

Weapons in use by the Galloglas in their traditional duties

Each gallowglass had a manservant to carry his coat of mail and a boy who looked after the food and did the cooking. The Gallowglass warriors stiffened the ranks of the native irish foot soldier or kerne. The MacSweenys were a successful gallowgall family, which acquired land in Donegal for their military services.
A number of Galloglas families became established in Ireland primarily with the Kings of Ulster (O'Neill and O'Donnell). Galloglas was a hereditary occupation passed with family septs from father to sun. The initial settlements were in Ulster.

Lesser known Galloglas families are :

The Clan of O'Mullan, which are still a numberous people in the 16th century in the country of O'Cahan, was formerly in the ranks of the O'Cahan Gallowglasses, but, becoming powerful themselves, withdrew their serves to the O'Cahans, and when opportunity presented itself often fought against their previous masters. The Battle of Ballyclose, 1523 AD now in the surburbs of Limavady saw a fierce encounter between the O'Mullans on one side and the O'Cahans and McCloskey on the other.


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