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Track 7: The Gallowglasses

Track 7. The GallowglassesStrathspey and Marches - Tha Mi Sgith / Zennor’s Tor / Mrs Martha Knowles

The term Galloglas is an Anglicisation of the Irish, Gallóglaigh ("foreign soldiers").

The galloglasses were a mercenary warrior élite among Gaelic-Norse clans residing in the highlands and Western Isles of Scotland from the mid 13th century to the end of the 16th century. Compared to the native Irish warrior, the Galloglas was heavily armed and armoured and therefore more suited to fight against the mounted English knights. In return for military service, galloglas contingents were given land and settled in Irish lordships, where they were entitled to receive supplies from the local population.

Though the Galloglas ceased as a military unit in the 17th century, their family names (e.g. MacSweeney, MacDonnell, MacCabe) live on to this day - often concentrated in areas where their ancestors were settled in the service of Irish lordships.

The social and cultural relationship between the Scottish and Irish in the middle ages cannot be doubted and is shown clearly in the traditional music of both countries. As Brendan Breathnach states in his book Folk Music and Dances of Ireland, “A very strong case can be made for ascribing a Scots ancestory to our reels”.

This set of tunes gives the impression of the battles and skirmishes which were being fought throughout Ireland during the Williamite War and the involvement of Scotsmen in the fighting. The first tune in this set (Tha Mi Sgith – I Am Weary) is a Strathspey - a tune type that originated in the area surrounding the River Spey in Scotland. The second tune is a march with a Scottish feel composed by a member of Gan Anim. Following this is a march composed by the legendary Scottish accordion player Phil Cunningham. It was written in honour of his grandmother.


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