Galloway: The Lost Province of Gaelic Scotland

Edited by Michael Ansell, Ronald Black & Ted Cowan 


Galloway and Carrick (Kirkcudbrightshire, Wigtownshire, South Ayrshire) form the south-western corner of Scotland. Though cut off by the Lowlands and the sea from the rest of the Gaelic-speaking world, the area has a proud Gaelic past – hence the name Galloway, Gallabha, in older Gaelic Gallghaoidhealaibh, meaning ‘where foreign Gaels live’. Galloway and Carrick are in every sense part of the Highlands.

Galloway: The Lost Province of Gaelic Scotland, edited by Michael Ansell, Ronald Black and the late Professor Ted Cowan (448 pp., ISBN 978-1-3999-2692-8), is available as of September 2022 at £19.99. It is a collection of ground-breaking essays by ten leading Scottish scholars which sets out, above all, to answer some key questions. When was Gaelic spoken in Galloway and Carrick? Where did it last longest? What was it like? What do we know of the people who spoke it?

As a result, a startling new consensus emerges. Until recently it was thought that Gaelic arrived in the region about AD 500, lasted over a thousand years and was dead by 1600. Galloway: The Lost Province of Gaelic Scotland shows that the language did not arrive till AD 870 at the earliest, but survived in pockets to as late as 1770, within the lifetime of Robert Burns. Surprisingly, it seems to have lasted longest in the coastal parishes of Carrick, a little less long in Wigtownshire, and a little less long again in the Glenkens of Kirkcudbrightshire. For the rest of the region the evidence is undateable, but consists of a priceless heritage of words, surnames and place-names which is carefully examined in the book. The contributors are Thomas Clancy, Donald McWhannell, Richard Oram, Hector MacQueen, Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Aonghas MacCoinnich, Michael Ansell, Ronald Black, James Brown and the late Alistair Livingston.

Galloway: The Lost Province of Gaelic Scotland is a must-read for residents or natives of Galloway or Carrick who would like to enjoy a fuller understanding of their region’s heritage, for academic historians with an interest in the region, for place-names enthusiasts, and for the many people everywhere who care about the history and survival of the Gaelic language – including the connections between Gaelic and Scots, and between the Gaelic of Galloway and the Gaelic of the Highlands, Ireland and the Isle of Man. The book is fully indexed and well illustrated in colour and black and white, with an abundance of maps.


  • Chapter 1. Place-Names and Gaelic in Galloway: Names containing cill and kirk. By Thomas Owen Clancy
  • Chapter 2. The Origins of the Galloway Cenéla. By Donald C. McWhannell
  • Chapter 3. Dabhach and Ceathramh-Names: Fragments of a Lost Assessment System? By Richard Oram
  • Chapter 4. The Laws of Galloway Revisited. By Hector MacQueen
  • Chapter 5. The Gaelic Element in the Lexicon of Galloway Scots. By Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh
  • Chapter 6. Looking for a Gàidhealtachd in the South-West: Identifying Gaels in the Historical Record, c. 1400–1805. By Aonghas MacCoinnich
  • Chapter 7. Re-evaluating the Gaelic Mountain Toponymy of the Galloway Highlands. By Michael Ansell
  • Chapter 8. The Gaelic Literature of Galloway: ‘Òran Bagraidh’ and Willie Matheson. By Ronald Black
  • Chapter 9. Nic and Mac: Gaelic Lingering in Eighteenth-Century Carrick. By James Brown
  • Chapter 10. Galloway Gaelic and Place-Names: Linguistic Characteristics and Dialect Affinities. By Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh
  • Chapter 11. Gaelic to Scots in Galloway. By Alistair Livingston

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