Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior

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  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior



    FERGUS CA N is an expert on armed conflict in the medieval Celticwest and a prolific historical writer scholarand museum professional. His

    Gaelicforebears were involved in many of the eventsdetailed inthis book.H has also written a bookabout Scottish arms and armour and presented

    do ur n n ta ry about battles of the Scottish War for Independencefeaturedon t h Blu my r I as of raveheart

    II \ Hit AI l iv s nd works inDonegal I relI Illltur 11 hi tory illustration from Black

    r U nlv r lty .

    WARRIOR 143

    G LLOGL SS125 16

    Gaelic Mercenary Warrior

    FERGUS NN N ILLUSTRATED Y SE N O BROGAIN ri s i to r Marcus Cowper

  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    Firstpublished inGreatBritain in2010 by OspreyPublishingMidland House,West Way Botley, OxfordOX2 OPH UK44-0223rd St Suite219,Long IslandCity, NY 11101, USAE-mail:[email protected]

    2010OspreyPublishing Ltd.

    Allrightsreserved.Apart fromany fairdealing for thepurpose of privatestudy,research,criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright,Designsand PatentsAct, 19B8 nopa r t of thispublication maybereproduced,stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted inany formor by anymeans,electroniC, electrical,chemical,mechanical,optical,photocopying recording or otherwise, without the prior written permissionof the copyright owner.Enquiries should beaddressed to the Publishers.

    A CIP catalogue record forthis book is available from the British Library.

    ISBN-13:978 1B4603 S77 7

    E-book ISBN:9781 849082686

    Editorial by lliosPublishing Ltd,Oxford, UK Map Studio,RomseyPage layoutby: Mark HoltIndexby: MikeParkinTypesetin Sabonand MyriadProOriginated by: PDQ MediaPrintedin China th roughWorldprin t Ltd

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    OspreyDirect,The 800k Service Ltd,Distribution Centre,ColchesterRoad,Frating Green, Colchester, Essex C077DWE-mail:[email protected]


    This book is dedicated to the memory of mygrandmother JoanCannan,nee Ross 1918-2002),whose ancestorwas wounded atDundal kservingwith EdwardBrucein the14th century. Cuiridh mi clach r docham


    My thanks to CormacBourke,Curator of MedievalAntiquities, UlsterMuseum; my mother Crescy;Dublin CityCouncil;the Departmentof Environment,Heritage and Local Government,Republic of Ireland;Fergus Gillespie,Chief Herald of Ireland;EthanHayesKalemjian;Lambeth PalaceLibrary;Tom Newton;Bob Paisley;BrendanSmith,Reader in History,Bristol University;David Swift;and as alwaysmy wife Heather.


    LemuelBlack,Nikolai Bogdanovic, DavidBrogan,Thomas 8rogan,FergusCannan,Marcus Cowper,Conor Doherty,Eoghan Doherty,MichealDoherty,Ridhcheall Doherty,Vivienne Doherty,Felim MacGabhann,CronMacKay,John McCavitt, HelenMcDonagh, Mike McNally,VincentO Donnell,Christopher Pannell, BoydRankin, Tom Sweeney,Dave SwiftandLynneWilliams.


    Readersmay care to notethat theoriginalpaintings f romwhich thecolour platesin this book were preparedare available for private sale.Allreproduction copyright whatsoever is retained by the Publishers.Allenquiries shouldbe addressedto:

    Sean 0 Br6gain,Srathan Ghallaigh,An Clochan, Leifear,TirChonaill,Ireland

    ThePublishersregret thatthey canenter into no correspondence uponthismatter.


    OspreyPublishing are supporting theWoodlandTrust, the UK s leadingwoodland conservationcharity,by funding thededication of trees.





    Home to I re land . Irish galloglass


    The hereditary t r a d i t i o n . England s foul over-sight


    C l ot h in g . A r m ou r . Weapons


    Contracts and bonds of vassalage. Freelance galloglass Ran ks and unit structureThe cons l Pay and ra t ions . i e t Bil let s and accommodation. Discipline in the ranksAccom m oda ti o n f o r t he officers


    Irish armies. Raiding. The dynamics of the r a id . M a k in g c a mp


    Before the b a t t l e . Surpri se and night attacks. Standing g u a rd . Va n gu a rd a n d attackTo hand b lo ws . The defensive screen. Rearguard ac t ions . AmbushesVictory over the English: Meath 1423 Gal log lass against gal log lass: Knockdoe 1504Loyalty t o t he end: Monasternenagh 1579


    ium hum nit tis Fa mi n e a n d homic ide . Vassals and empire buildersThe lo rd s gal log lass Into government service . Constables of the Pale

    Retirement and rew ard . Like anatomies o f dea th The gal log lass and the keys to heaven















  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior



    Inauguration of the chief of theO Neilisat Tullaghogein anEnglish map of c.1600. A two-handed axe, he ld a lof ton theleft, indicatesthe presence ofO Neill sMacDonnell constableof galloglass at the ceremony.MacDomhnaill MacDonnell)andMac Sfthigh MacSheehy)galloglasswere descended

    from the MacDona Ids, a preeminentpower in the WesternIsles. Alreadydeepiy involvedinirishaffairs by the time of theBruce invasion, many joinedwith the Scots assault onIreland. Other MacDonaldsopposed the Bruce brothersbut seem also to have been onbadterms withthe anti-BruceMacDougalis. TheseMacDonaIds probabiy foundthemselvesin reducedcircumstancesand becamegalloglassin Ireland. NationalMaritime Museum, London)

    Home to IrelandA rr iv ing in the ir l ongs hips in the middle yea rs of the 13th century, thegal loglass se tt led first in the north of Ireland before spreading out acrossthe land. Immediately the advance of the English was checked. Scots quicklyacquired a reputation for being instigators of r ev ol t i n I re la nd - or as theEnglish general Sir Henry Bagenal put i t m uc h l at er i n 1 59 2, f or be in g t he fi rebrand and nurse of rebellion in Ireland. Scottish galloglass, generally

    Highland noblemen of a rather minor, restlessly ambitious or disgraced sort,l iked to be flat tered by the Irish bards as exi led heroes re turning to rescuethe Irish motherland . The reality was that most of them simply saw Irelandas a playground for their ambit ion and a n ew land to e xp lo it . No r did theyhave much interest in the plight of the ordinary Irish people. The Irish peoplethey were interes ted in were the chiefs and lords of t he c ount ry - those w ithmoney and power to give them.

    The English occupation of Ire land began when Dermot MacMurrough,King of Leinster, was deposed by a neighbouring chiefin 1166. Foolishly, butunderstandably, Dermot appealed to England for help. Soon, land-hungryEnglish and Welsh knights were p o u rin g in to Ireland. A terrible war ofconquest had begun. Thenative chiefs fought back but, lackinga s ingle kingto rally behind, suffered defeat after defeat. By the middle of the nextcenturythe English had succeeded in establishing a permanent enclave around Dublinknown as t he P al e , f ro m t he La ti n fo r s t ak e . T h e I ri sh c hief s fac ed astark choice: perish or bring yet more fore ign fighters into their country.The foreigners they turned to were the galloglass.

    Battle of Kinsale: O Neill and O Donnell defeated.

    Deat h o f Elizabeth I; James VI of Scotland becomeKingJames I of Scotland, England and Ireland.

    Flight of the Earls ; O Neill (Earl of Tyrone) , Rory Donnell(Earl of Tyrconnel) and Cuconnachy Maguire (Lord ofFermanagh) leave Ulsterfor the European Continent,never to return.

    Plantation of Ulster begins.

    Thomas Gainsford comments in h Glory of nglandThe name of galloglass is in a manner extinct .

    Highland and Island Scots were warriors to the bone. Their ances tors were amix of warl ike Celtic tr ibesmen and Viking soldier-seafarers , and the twocultures had fused togetherto create a violent society of tempe tuous, ruddys kinned men . Li fe in the se par ts w a bas ed a round s ub i t ence a gr ic ul tu re ,fishing, hunting,fighting and feuding. This wasa world in which conflict wasa part of dai ly li fe. For a y oung H ighlande r w ho had not inherited land orposition, prospects were few. Everyday life was so hazardous - whether as afisherman riding thewaves or a peasant famer driving his meagreflock acrosswind-lashed moors - that it wa n o g re at l eap i nt o t h e unknown to become asoldier. Forthose up to thechallenge,it was worth taking a chancein Ireland.

    Yet many of the first galloglass - including the MacSweeneys, MacDoweJlsa nd many M ac Do nnel ls - w ere not men choosing to seek their fortunes inIreland, but exiles who had been ejected or otherwisefallen foul of theKing ofScots. Meanwhile, other MacDonnells (the MacSheehys were a MacDonnelloffshoot) and the MacRorys were enthus ias t ic proponents of Robert and

    Edward Bruce s vision of an Ireland free of Eng li sh rul e, s eein ri chpickings to be had ifthe An I -Iri hbarons could be driven fr m th irestates . Ire land offer d th 111 boththeprospectof power ndl, n I andthe opportunity to parti i, I in a(to Scottisheyes) h I i I j ai n tt he En gli sh - a d I ,llll , tiveproposi t ion for an sScot. T he ot h I >1 ; lt ri be , t he Ma ,I , ,\1 mc remysterious, bu I , S n i l , C I ,I I tbranch of th W \I \ 1.\ I 0 Isof Harris th ro l ,II h foundlittle room f 1 111 ir l \ \ 11 .lIl1lltlllnSat home. Th , 10 0 \ 111111 11l.lkt:their own wa II I III I all Imercenan in \ .11 111111 II






    ween, Scotland.Thebhne MacSweeney)

    wereoriginally powerfuldersin Knapdalein

    where they built CastleHowever,in 1262theens as the name isScotland) losttheir

    with royalbacking, to theof Menteith.Moving

    d, they sought revengeg with England duringfor Scottish

    dence. In 1310Edwardglandbestowedeon three brothers-of Argyll - if they could

    ack. Itwas animpossiblethe MacSweens roseto become agreatn Ireland asries. Crown Copyright:ommission ontheand Historical

    nts of Scotland)


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior




    Thelocation of the galloglasskindreds inIreland andprincipalassociatedlordships. Author simage)


    hi fath r croft with impunity. Like probably the majori ty of gallogla ,hi from the o ut h o r midlands of I re la nd , p ic ke d up by an e nterpr i i ng c io nof one of the great gal logl a c la ns , mov ing outhward from the originalmercenary trongholds in the north.

    A g li mp e of the low ocial origin - perhap o ft en de perat ely s o - ofIri h galloglass is given in a prohibition of nat ive I ri h manne r mad in 1571


    Southern uplands


    i s t ~ ~MACRORY ~

    ~ M A C R O R Y arra 4

  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    13th-centuryIrishmenfightingwith axes. from Gerald ofWales account of Ireland. Author sdrawing)

    Scots inyour smooth ship,to plunderonthe high searhapsodized one poemconcerningthe MacSweeneys.This galley birlinn onMacleod s tomb at Rodel is thekind of vessel that transportedwarriorsbetween Scotlandto Ireland. Crown Copyright:Royal Commissionon theAncientand HistoricalMonuments of Scotland)

    o questions would be asked of o u r a s pi ra n tgalloglass. H is p asr is of no c on ce rn t o theconstable. What concerned the constablesrrength and ize. These, along with courage,w re rhe essential qualifications for agalloglass. n Iri h poem compo ed inhonour o f D on al MacSweeney fl 57 -1619), last inaugurated MacSw eney Fanad ,rates Donal c ho s e o nl y the rronge t men of

    Fanad, C o un t y D o n gal, to be his warriors. As abrigade of hand-picked bodyguards,galloglass neededto be men of great height and mu cI . For a starr, theirmain weapon, the mighty rwo-handed axe, requiredtr m ndous stamina to be wielded effectively. Butabove a ll e lse, the gal loglass were cho en fortheir size and strength in order to f or m a nimpressive physical barr icade to their lord, anotion echoed in the 14 th centu ry by t he Uls te r landowner irRobert Savage of th Ards who cautioned: Better a cas t le of b on e th an ac a t ie of stones.

    Galloglass certainly struck t h En gl is h as physically impo ing men. JohnDymmok, wh o served in Ireland with rhe Ear l of Essex at t he e nd of the1500s, recalled galloglass as p i c ke d a n d selected men of great and mightybodies . Richard tan ihursr 1547-1618) , an Anglo-Irish memb r of the Innsof Court, described galloglass Galeglasios he called them in Latin) as railof stature, big of limb, burly of body, well and s t rong ly t imbered and o fm o re t h an ordinary srrength of limb . Again, t he c on t a ble s w e re spoilt forchoice s ince th medieval I ri sh were clearly a lofty and strongly made people,Dymmok finding them clear and well-favoured in comple i on, wi rh rai land corpulen t bodies . It wa now up t o t he c o ns ta b le t o t u rn these hulkingbru tes in to a working unit of galloglass.


    The hereditary traditionBarnabyRich d.1617),an Engli hman who hadfought galloglass, observed: f the f a th e r h a thbeen a gal loglass , the son will be a galloglass.n Gaelic Scotland and Ireland occupations

    were of ten heredit a ry, bu t Rich s statementonly really holds true when it comes to rheofficers. Th y were likely to come from a familyof gallogla and could consider themselvesmembers of the wider Gaelic professionalclass of hereditary bards, hi torians, lawgivers,smiths, phy icians and orh r , each o f w ho mwas ertled on l an d b y a c hi ef in exchange forhis particular skill. Th u , in 1607 Sir JohnDuncan l isted for rhe governm nt some of those lands given to certain sept privileged amongt he I r ish , that is the land of the chroniclers,rhymer and galloglass .

    om e Ir i h r ec ru it s were of gentle birth; all, however, look to have beenpennil s drift r , moving up a nd d ow n t he country, l iving by their wits andtheir words. Poverty and misfo r tune a t trac ted bo th sid of Ireland to theprofe s ion, and the Earl of Kildar f i rs t cons tab le of g al lo g la ss w as a n

    nglo-Irish m a n n a me d B ar r et t w h o b ei n g exiled o ut o f Connaught wroteSir Thoma Luttrell in 1537) , became a galloglass officer in c o mm a nd o f24 axemen. Edmund p en e r c.1552-99) q u it e w r on g ly c o ns id e re d t hegalloglass to b of ancient English stock - nevertheless, among a i t of kernreceiving the King s pardon in 1546 was the u piciou y Engli h- oundingRo b rt, so n of Thomas B row ne, kern, or galloglass .

    Casualty rate among galloglass were always high, but I r e la n d w a awashwith ju t t he r ig ht kind of l oo se y ou ng m en , t o borrow penser phra e,that galloglas captains were looking for: brigands, young r or ba tard sonsof noblemen, runaway servants, stabl -boys and labourer, k er n f r om theretinues of broken lo rd , prizefighters, wild m en , p e rh a p s ev n th e o ddEnglish adventurer or deserter turned renegade; a r a gt a g p a ck of violentand de perate men.

    O nce w ord gets ou t tha t galloglass are encamped i n the area , ou r imaginary

    Irish farm-boy will come forward to humbly offer hi servic to thecommander or constable of the Scots. A galloglass constable w a i nv a ri a bl ya terrifying H ighland au tocra t demand ing total obedience f ro m h is m en ; hiword w a s a b s olu te . On the o ther hand, he was likely to in pire re p ec t a n dl oy al ty, f or t he i mp le reason that his competence as a f ie ld offi cer would bobvious. A c on t a ble a lwa y s led h is m en f ro m t he front, in sharp c ntrast tothe cautious I ri h l or ds who, as theEarl of Essex observed in 1599 , da re neverpu t themselves t o a n y h a za r d , g et ti n g t he ir kern a n d h ir e li ng s t o d o thefighting fo r th em .

    ad warrior armed with anded axe fromthe tomb

    xander Macleod, 1528, Stt s Church, Rodel, Harris,d. CrownCopyright:Commission on thetand Historical

    ments of Scotland)

  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    of a battleaxe,bly from the 16thy,found in the riverThe Scandinavians of the galloglass axeearlyvisible in thedesign

    weapon. Photographuced courtesy of the

    es of National Museumsern Ireland)

    of a battleaxe oflass type, from

    ghbeg,County Tyrone,entury. A poem saysere act of taking anto hand was enoughke ravens and crowsroverthe head ofgh MacSweeney

    ably d.1 S44 gratefulattheygetfrom theter . Photographuced courtesy of

    ustees of Nationalums Northern Ireland)

    Our recruit , meanwhile, has no militarybackground. Like most I ri shme n, he c an

    handle a sword o r b ow a nd is no meanbare-knuckle fighter, but his technique is

    . patchy and he has no knowledge oftactics. The minimum age for a gal loglass

    was probably 16 or so, since an English document entitledA description o the pow r o Irishmen and c ompi le d in the

    1480s, stated of Irish soldiery in general: Their s ons l ea rn to men of war from the age of 16 yea rs a nd continually practised in

    toils thereof. Furthermore, arms-bearing age is s tatedto be 16 to 60 ing ra nt s rec eive d by the M ac Donnel l s f rom the Crown fo r t he manor of

    Tinnakil l , which even in the reign of Charles I came with the condit ion thatthey must maintaincontinually twelve expert axe bearers, called Galloglassfor government service.

    England s foul over sightNo strictly formal system of training existed.

    Ins tead, men tended to drift into gal loglass orkern service as a consequence of some relatedtrade, skill or way of life they already practised.Most Ir ishmen led rough b ru ti sh lives a ndw it h a b it of guidance just about always madeexcellent soldiers - Essex warned Elizabeth I thatonly vet eran s oldi er s s hould be use d a ga in st t he hard common men of O Ne il l s r ebel a rmy.Spenser said that kern ceithearnach light nativeI ri sh in fa nt ryman w ere o ft en rec ru it ed f romthe ranks of horse-boys or grooms employed byinns and gentlemen. Their employers were oftenEnglishmen, which Spenser called a foul over-sight ,s ince they learned from their masters how to shootand other useful mili tary ski lls, making them all themore adept at cutting English throats when they grewup to become kern.

    TRAINING c 1450Mastering the heavy two handed axewas the first priority of every new galloglass recruit. Here,underthe eagleeye of aveteranweaponsmaster, two aspirantgalloglass train w i t h w o o d enpoles - arareconcession to safety. Veteraninstructors must have drilled theirnew recruitsruthlessly;there are no accounts of poor weapons skills among galloglass.Stanihurst called them powerful swordsmen , meaning theywere both skilledand strong in the use of arms. Galloglassstood out in Ireland fortheir discipline and doughty staying power too, and theymusthavelearnedsome kind of drill, perhapspractisingaxe movements en masse,and learning to advanceandfall back in formation.

    Instructors werefathers, cousinsand uncles.They wererarely strangers, making fora familiar,if conservative, training environment. Gainsford n o t ed t h e Irishbards livein a kindred, the fatherinstructing the son or brother,and hehis cousin orfriend - the same wasalmostcertainly trueof galloglass who belonged to one of the established mercenaryfamilies.They learned their tradefrom childhood and formed the profession s officer class, growing up in self-sufficient kindredsof galloglass,s urrounded by other galloglass and their families. Those not born to the professioncould be adoptedinto it, receiving their trainingin the sameclose-knit atmosphere of clanand kindred.

  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    ollieCastle, nearObanotland,wasa seat ofDougall of Lorn.Onceoneepremierfamilies inthe

    hlands,the MacDubhghaillwere i tter enemies ofert Bruce. AftersupportingComyn, Bruce s rival forcottish throne who Bruce

    d with his own hand),andEdward II who Bruce

    ated), the MacDougal s

    eleft broken andlandless.ymadea fresh start s

    oglass in Ireland, theire becoming MacDowell.

    hor s photograph)

    ome galloglass were them ve probablyex-kern who h ad p ro gr es se d t o a morehonourable 0 it w as c on si de re d t o be ag al lo gl a ) grade o f wa r rio rho o d . M n oftheir or t m ig ht s pe nd o nl y a season in agallogla company before moving on , eitherto a n ot h er c om p an y o r a different line ofw o rk . A t the am e time, apprenticeship andfosterage were normal methods of educationin Ga lic o ci et y and it is perfectly po iblet ha t o ur Iri h recruit, in his early teen butalready large a n d h o wi n g p ot en ti al , wil l betaken on as a n apprentice warrior.

    Sir Anthony St Leger c.1496-1559 , LordD epu ty of r l and, repor ted to Henry VIII thatgalloglass werealway accompanied by boys ,a n d D y mm o k said each galloglass h ad a manfor his ha rne bearer a nd a boy to c a rr y h i

    provi ion . Th e galloglass attendants arecalled knave by the power of Irishmenreport, knave meaning th en a s now a10wer-c1as rascal, bu t a ls o a m al e se rvan t o rboy. It i likely t ha t a t leas t some of the e b o y w ere trainee galloglass, a na lo go u t osquire. Tw o at tendants sometimes on e - norigid tandard ex is ted to be followed, only

    traditions and a galloglass together made a spar , the standard sub-unitw it hi n t he c o mp a ny, and o-named becau e the galloglass axe wa i t e lfnicknamed a spar in the en e of a c ro s -beam.

    A nd s o b eg in s a l on g period of apprentice h ip a s ou r recruit i t ak en o nas a page a nd c oo k t o a matur gallogla as one-third of a par within aw ork ing company of axe men. Whil training is largely a matter of learningon t h e j o b, s pe ci al is t skill a r e r e qu i re d o f o ur a sp ir an t gallogla . In agalJoglass camp, somewhere in the Irish c o un t ry s id e b e yo n d t h e r ach ofEnglish interference, he is taught the u e of the two-handed a xe , t hebroadsword and the spear, a w \ a the use and maintenance of armour.As an Ir ishman, his instinct a re t o ambush, harry and s ki rm i h ra the r thanengage - in the words of the power o f Irishmen report the Iri h mad : Goodwatchers in t he n ig h t, as go d oldier by night as other by day. ow

    veteran galloglass would t each th young I r ish lad ho w t o s ta n d a n d fight int he cold l ight of day.

    Training is dangerou , b loody a n d h ar d , b u t ou r recruit is beginning to feelpart of s o me t hi n g m o re than a military unit. He is b ec om in g , n o less,a member of a family empire and a hereditary caste of warrior. T h e o t he rtrainees h ai l f ro m d is pa ra te c la ns a nd r eg io ns of t h e c o un t ry, and theconstable irons ou t t he e d if fe re nc es b y imparting a s en se of l oya lty to hifamily name. H is name becomes thei r profess ional ident ity. We th refore f indthat galloglass erving in C ounty C ork in 1584 wer e m en wit h u nm i takablyIrish names like Mollaghlen O Do wg a n , Ea ry wa n m hane Y oniganeand Will iam m D ermody Y Skannell - but all served under the proud aliaof M Swine s g al lo gl a . t does not take the young farm l ad long to realizethat it would b be tte r to die than bring dishonour t o t h at nam .

    The c on st ab le i p le a ed wit h ou r recruit s progress and aged about 1 5 he isr ea s ign d t o s e rv e a s a h a r ne ss -b ea re r t o a g al lo gl a . This is a rea l t es t of ou rrecruit abilities because the harness-bearer is e xp ec t d to g o i nt o a ct io n wit hthe gallogla ,act ing as a javelin-thrower and skirmisher for his master. Whennot in ac tion he must clean and carry the galloglass armour and weapons or harne - a n h o no u r n o t a chorein Gaelic society. Ou r young recruit is quicklydeveloping into a hardened, self-reliant survivor, de pite his age. He has a lsostarted t o a d o p t the haughty mannerisms of the constable and his c ot s, wh o hehas heard heaping scorn and ridicule on civilians, the labouring classes, and theEnglish and their jumped-up nobi l ity - meresocia l c limb r only able, at best,to t race thei r famil ies as far back a the pirat ical orman.

    PPE R N E

    At las t the I ri sh farm-boy b ec om e a S co t and i accepted into thegal loglassranks. The constable was r ight to pot hi potential, as he h as now grown intoa tal l and massively strong man. On completion of hi training he is obliged to

    make w hat S tan ihurst called a grea t devou t oa th magma religione jurat thathe wil l n ev er turn his b ac k o n t he enemy, regardless of the circumstances.Al ready cult iva ting a s teely di sregard for d ath, everything about him speaksof trength and Gaelic male pride. He may well have grown a heavy moustache,perhaps with beard, and probably styles his long hair into the Irish thick fringeknown a a g lib , w hi ch s o outraged the Tudors that they legi lated against it.

    William Camden l ef t a vivid account of the con ternation caused by thearrival of Shane eil l in London in 1562, having come with his galloglassto negotiate with Elizabeth A n d n o w S h a ne eill came from Ireland, tok ee p t h promise he h ad m ad e a y ea r b ef or e, w it h a n c or t o f galloglassa rmed w ith batrle-axes, bare-headed, with flowing cu rl , yellow shirts dyedwith aHron, large sleeves, short tunics and rough cloak , whom the Englishfollowed wi th as much w onderment as i f they came from hina or merica.

    lothinT h ou g h t he galloglass maintained a Scottish ethos a s a war ri or, h is clotheswer essentially pan-Gaelic a tt i re . A sa ff ron-co loured h irt , as mentioned byCamden, wil l be the basic item of clothing for ou r novice galloglass. Knownin Gaelica the leine croich, i twas of ten no thing more than a golden-colouredsmock wi th wide s leeves useful for concealing weapon and p lunder . Thef in e t , h owev er, were normous, f lowing garments , r ic hl y d y d a nd m ad e

    f ro m a s m uc h a s 3 0m o f material, whichcould be length n d or shortened bythe taking up or le tt ing dow n of su rplus c lo th at the wai t a c co r di n g t ocondition of climate.

    Mo t galloglass ap p ar t o h av e worn hose, but many, inc lud ing the ira t tendants , w en t redshank or barelegged, l ike most Ga lic c ots and Irish.Their hoes were n o b et te r than those suffered by everyon se of the age,being pieces of hide usually reaching no higher than the ank le and tied withleather lace. Th e grip they offered was poor and it was often more practicalt o f ight barefooted.

    When O l l t of armour, our galloglass w ea rs o v er hi a ff roned leine athickly embroidered jacket reaching the waist hence amden s reference to short tunic ) . In the 16th century these jackets a re s ho wn t o have slashedsleeve and being embroidered with scroll ing floral design. At night, he wraps

    Theeffigy of GiollaBhrighdeMacFhionghein GilbrideMacKinnon), c.1330-S0, lonaAbbey Museum,Scotland.Dressedin a basi net with cowlof mail,gauntletsand longquilted coat, this finefigureoffersa vividsnapshot of theappearance of a 14th-centurygalloglass. CrownCopyright:Royal Commission on theAncient and HistoricalMonuments of Scotland)


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    Portions of riveted mail werefoundon the same crannogas theLough Henneyhelmet see overleaf),together withthe remains of an immenselytall Irish chieftain. Photographreproducedcourtesy of theTrustees of National MuseumsNorthernIreland)

    Thewarriors on the O Connortomb at Roscommonwearthe characteristic galloglass harness of basinets,mail andquilted coats. PhotographicUnit,Department ofEnvironmental HeritageandLocal Government, Ireland)

    style of att i re . A wider range of equipment is detailed in a highly significantbond made in a b ou t 1 38 0 between Turlough aoch ( the One-Eyed )MacSweeney and Turlough O Donnell chief of Tyrconnell. As part of thedeal, recorded in the early 16th-century o ok of the MacSweeneys, the ClanSweeney pledged to supply only properly equipped galloglass, the minimumstandard being set at a c oa t of mail [luireach] a nd h oo d of mail [scabal] or a jack seca a nd a helme t [cuinnbeirt] .

    Though jacks (Grantorto s coat o f i r on plate ) were worn by some, themajority of g al lo gl as s in a ny u ni t w ere a lw ays c la d in mai l. In 1428 JohnSwayne, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, noted the activitiesof eightbattles of footmen arrayed in the guise of this country, that is, everyman aketon, haubergeon, pisane, basinet . The reason for the predominanceof mail was simple. First, mail was traditionally the preferred a rmou r o f theHighland gentleman; second, galloglass constables appear to haveoften keptstockpiles of mail shirts to issue to theirmen on enlistment.

    r I lOll n ( mantle to English writers), which was thick, I lmor l ikea hairy rugthan a cloak. Waterford is said to

    lit I lor lhe manufacture of the brat. Stanihurst recalled a friend

    I I

    II I It r fo rd rug on a f ro sty morning in London - it s p il e w as so

    1111 k th.\ m l liff pran g at him, deeminghe had been a bear .

    All armed in a co at o f iron plate,Of great defence to ward the deadly fear,And on his head a s teel cap he did wearOf colour rusty brown butsureand s t rong;

    And in his hand an hugepole-axe did bear,With which he wont to fight, to justify his wrong

    rm o u r

    l avily armed and physically overbearing, our farm-boy turned galloglasswill seemto theEnglish a fairy-tale giant made real. Spenser cast theevil giantGrantorto in the distinctmould of a galloglass in his Faerie Queene (Book Vpublished 1596). A colonial administrator in Ireland as well as a poet, Spenserhad galloglass all around h im to ins pi re the c re at ion of a nightmare ogre, huge and hideous with grea t ski ll in s ingle fight :

    Spenser described the real-life giants, those footmen they call galloglasses ,in A Vie w o f the Present State of Ireland (1596 ) a s a s oldi er a rmed in a longshirt of mail down to the calf of t he l eg, w ith a long b road a xe in h is han d .Spenser was right , and a s imple s te el cap (Irish: clogad, cathbharr orcuinnbeirt), a shirt of mail luireach) and an axe tuagh) remained the classicgalloglass battle-gear for three centuries. Not allgalloglass conformed to this

    te15th-centuryfiguresgalloglassadorn the baseFelim O Connor s tombRoscommonabbey.hotographicUnit,partment of Environmentalritage and Local

    overnment, Ireland)


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior



    Thewideand opencountrysideof Knockdoe, County Galway,scene of the battlein 1504. Sean 6 Br6gain)

    Galloglass helmets, in particular, followed Continental t r ends. While thefirst gaJloglass probably wore domed spanglehelms , by Swayne s t ime theyhad progressed to ( in his own words) bas ine ts . These are t he tal l, pointedhelmets which appear, generally with a pisane, in so much West Highland andIrish figure sculpture from the mid-14th to mid-16th century. They resembleso closely the basinets made in G ermany and Italy that we must conclude thatmany, perhaps even most , were made there a nd e x po r te d t o Ireland.

    Basinets were still t he m os t common ga lloglass he lmet w hen St Legersummarized galloglass for Henry VIII in 1543 as f o o tm e n . .. harnessed inmail and basinets . After th is date the basinet s long tenure came t o a c lo se ,and at the start o f t he 1 7t h c en tu ry R ic h a nd Dymmok defined the typica lgaJloglass helmet of t he ir d ay as a skull , meaning a simple metal caprounded in the shape of t he w e ar e r s skul l . Even so, from the mid-16thcentu ry many galloglass made use of secre tsh ipments o f mor ions , burgone tsand cabasse ts f rom ca tho lic Spain and Italy. Other 16th-century galloglassmay have worn segmented or quilted headpieces, some probably constructed almost certainly b y I ri sh s mi th s) l ik e j ac ks , a s a s er ie s of iron plates rivetedor th readed on to a backing of fabric or leather.

    GalJoglass constables were more than sufficiently wealthy an d connectedto make their own p u rc h as e s f r om foreign including English) armsmerchan ts . U nfor tuna tely, imports o f e q ui p me nt could be erratic andunreliable: in the reign of R ichard II the English intercepted a ce rta in bargeloaded by ce r ta in merchan ts with wi n s , a le , armour, artillery and othergoods and cha tte ls to a id a nd comfort t he King s I r ish enemies . Suppl ieso f a rm o u r were rep len ished w ith p lunder, and the nnals of onnachtrecord d in 1416 a v ic to ry over t he Engl ish o f M e at h , w he re by manyprisoners, horses, suits o f a r mo u r a nd a rm were a c qu i re d . T h e O B ri ncaptured in 1499 , the Annals o f Ulster say, sixte n core of luireacha fromthe Butlers of Ormond, a h au l w hi ch w o ul d h av e p le as ed a n y c o ns ta b leworried about ho w to ba lance the supp ly and loss of mail.

    Sometimes the galloglass found that he h im se lf w as u sed as a source ofmilitary equipment. In 1445 Turlough MacDow el l and hi galloglass ufferedthe indignity of being captured and stripped of their armour, weapons, moneyand clothes by MacGeoghagan m en . I n s p it e of such unreliable mechanismsof supply, thegal loglass wasas a rule extremelywell equipp d - m or e s o t ha nthe average Irish soldier, and much mor so than th o ft en m is er ab ly u pp li dEnglish soldier in I r l an d.

    Mail was expensive to m ak e a n d th constable sstockpile was in n o w ayconsidered pub l ic or s ha re d p ro pe rt y; s om e c on st ab le m ay h av e e ve n

    levied a charge for the hire of a mail shir t . The MacSweeney-O Donnellcon trac t in factstated that if a ny o f MacSweeney s galloglass lost their

    equ ipment , the constab le w r it ten as consabal) w ould impose a f ineof a shil l ing for a miss ing a x e a n d a groat for a spear. MacSweeney

    w as t o p o ck e t this fine himself, presumably in order to buy newequipment, though no fine was t o be made for a miss ing helmet

    except the galloglass brain .one of t hese i t ems were ever made to a uniform type an d

    t h er e w as c o ns i de r ab l e v a ri a ti o n in the erradh militaryequipment) from on e galloglass to the next according top rsona l taste and w e al th . W h en ou r rec ru i t has enoughwages saved he might purchase his own mail shirt or jack,but for now we can e x pe c t h im , as a newly qual i fiedgalloglass, to be wearing a heavy luireach of riveted ironr ings - reaching to the e lbow s or wrists, a nd t o ju t aboveor below the k ne es - a nd d ra wn from t he a rs en a l of

    t he c on st ab le . Wo rn o ve r a qu i lted tun ic , h is m ai l shirtprovides a h ig h degree of pro tec t ion and - an importantconsideration f or t he mobile galloglass - is flexible enought o a ll ow free movement o f the limbs.

    T h e q ui lt ed t un ic o r a k et o n cotun to I r ishmen) wasanother m ai ns ta y o f t he g al lo gl as s ( an d i nd ee d S co tt is h)

    armoury. Th is superb piece of kit took the form of a leather or fabric coatstuffed with w ool and sti tchedinto vertical quil ts. Every galloglass wore o n e o fthese. On it own i t could stop a s wo r d b lo w o r even, at a dis t ance , an ar row.Its defensive s t reng th w as such that many galloglass wore o nl y a cotun forbodily protection; it was also w armand ,f r om w ax i ng o r pitching, waterproof.Some galloglass added a mantle orcoif of mail to the ensemble, orprotected their neck and shoulderswith a pisane of mail scabal)attached to their helmet.

    M uc h o f this armour wouldhave been made by nativeI ri sh s m it hs , often hereditaryprofessionals, working t o a h ig h,

    though doubt s conservativestandard. But the gal loglass wasnever a quixotic anachronism,ora throwback t o a Viking way ofwar. For centuries, the galJoglassrepresented the cutt ing-edge eli tein Irish warfare. His armour wasnearly always modern, keeping arough pace wi th wider Europeandevelopments in mili tary design,ev en if th e ba ic f o rm a t o f hisb at tl ed re s - h el me t, m ai l shirta n d a xe - did not much change.

    his splendid ironhelmet,h bronze nasal and row

    coration, was foundonright s Island on Loughenney, County Down, andobablydatesfrom out

    00. Photograph reproducedurtesy of the TrusteesNationalMuseums

    orthern Ireland)

    asinet,late 14thor early 15thntury,possibly German, now

    Dean Castle,Kilmarnock,otland. Helmets of this type

    eremuch used bygalloglassdwest Scotsnoblemen. astrshireArts and Museums,

  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    6th-centuryaxe-head fromlonteevy,CountyTyrone

    now inthe National MuseumsNorthernIreland, Belfast).

    ormedfrom asinglepiecefolded iron andoverlaid

    ith decorationin silver foil,matches exactly with

    ontemporarydepictionsnd descriptions of the axessedby galloglass. Drawingy DierdreCrone. After

    Bourke, 2001)

    5th-centurycarving of awarriordisplaying the arms of

    utler,Jerpoint Abbey, CountyKilkenny. Author s drawing)

    WeaponsMore than any other piece of his equipment, i t was the axe that symbolizedthe battlefield p ow e r o f t he gal logl as s. In Sco tl and the Norse legacy off ight ing as heavy infantry with two-handed weapons was alive and s trong,and the gal loglass were, in this respect , direct heirs to the Norse tradi tion.

    The galloglass axe was itselforiginally derived from the long-handled Dane axes of the Vikings, though bythe 16th century i t had come toresemble a poleaxe or halberd in Dymmok s opinion.

    St Leger said of the galloglass that everyone of them had a n a xe , ca lled a spar , which resembled th e axe of t he Tow er , by w hich heprobably meant the executioner s two-handed a xe i n t he Tow er ofLondon. It is cl ear, however, t ha t n ot every gal loglass wielded atwo-handed axe, and Dymmok actually said that t he axe w as t heweapon galloglass most use . A description, if a somewhat formulaicone, of galloglassweaponry is given by the nn ls of the FourMastersin recounting a clash between MacSheehys and MacSweeneys in 1568,who made trial of the temper of their sharp spears, the strength oftheir battle-axes, the keenness of their swords, and the hardness oftheir helmets .

    The spear craoiseach was undoubtedly a major a lternat ive to theaxe. Fromthe early 16th century, but to a lesserextent, thetwo-handedsword was another. The Uls ter annals say nothing of the weapons ofAlan and R u aidh ri M ac Le an , k il le d in 1486 w hi le s erving w ithMacCabe galloglass, but a MacLean in Ire land cannot have been verydifferently equipped to his kinsmenin Scotland. MacLeansin Scotlandwere described in the 1570s by Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie as armedfor b at tl e w ith bows and halflangs [hand-and-a-half swords] andhaubergeons of mail . Many redshank mercenaries went to Irelandwith halflang and two-handed swords.Sir Richard Bingham reportedin 1586 that hehad kil led and drowned more than1,000 New Scots inConnacht, taking 30 0 or 400 of their longswords, with many of theirbows and skulls [iron caps] . . . o ut o f the water .

    On t he w ho le , t he two-handed sword is a weapon more accuratelyassociated with the seasonal Highland soldier of fortune than the galloglass.Some galloglass used them: two-handed swords weremade in Ireland and anexample survives in private hands which matches closely that carried byoneof the wa r men of Ireland drawn by Albrecht Durer. Nonetheless, it is clearthat two-handed s wo rd s w er e n ev er a common galloglass weapon andgalloglass were nearly always considered axemen by their contemporaries.The galloglass axe had a ceremonial significance, being borne in parade asi tw a s in 1460 when Henry MacCabe died of s ickness and was , say theFourMasters : carriedto Cavan to be interred there, attended by two hundred andeighty galloglass armed with axes. On balance, it is probably the case thatthe two-handed axe was the galloglass p ar ad e w ea po n o n virtually alloccasions, and his battle weapon on most , but not all, occasions.

    It is likely, then, that our Irish galloglass will fight with a double-handedbroadaxe. The galloglass axe came in no standard type: Dymmok describedi t t o be somewhat like a shoemaker s knife probably straight like a scalpelblade), and Stanihurst called them double-bladed hatchets, almost sharperthan razors, fixed on shafts of more than ordinary length . t is Stanihurst slast observat ion - that galloglass axes had shafts of more than ordinarylength - which was the weapon s defining characteris tic. True to i ts Nordicroots , the gal loglass axe-head usual ly lacked a beak or spearhead, so that itwas , as Dymmok put it, without a pike .

    Nevertheless, when wielded in great numbers thegalloglass axes appearedmuch the same: a ll were mounted on abnormally long hafts - some s ix fee t1.8m) in length according to Dymmok - with a terri fyingly large axe-head.

    Rich was therefore able to simply call this weapon the galloglass axe . Theywere doubtless generally of Irish manufacture, though little is known abouttheir production. t was an awesome weapon to behold, Stanihurst wri t ingthat when t he y s tr ik e t hey i nf li ct a d re ad fu l wound while Dymmokrecounted that the galloglass axe was always deadly where it lighteth .

    Effigy of a mail-clad warriorat Glinsk, CountyGalway,late15th century. Author s draWing)

    CarrickfergusCastle, mainresidence of th Earls of Ulster.Moryson called the town a frontier town towardsScotland . Itscastle held outagainstEdwardBrucefrom thesummer of 1315 to September1316. Bob Paisley)

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  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    war states that each galloglass received on e beef [i.e. a cow] for his wagesand two beefs for his feeding and diet for every quarter-year. Though the wages of a Scot is like meaning Ne w Scots ), rank-and-file kern were paidin 1575 onlya s ingleheifer to thevalue of eight shillings for eachquarter-yearin service.

    DietI t w as u p t o e ac h g al lo gl as s t o do what he wished with t hi s p ay i n k in d,bearing in mind that his c at tl e h ad t o c ov er payment an d f oo d f or hisattendants. The galloglass, a large man with a manly appetite , was suppliedwith food bes ides beef as p a rt o f his wages. The ordinary Irish die t of thetime was based on oatmeal, roots, cresses, dairy produce, meats and whiskey- a s imple a n d natural diet. Black puddingwas a favourite treat. When timeswere bad animals were bled for sustenance, Fynes Moryson 1566-1630),secre tary to Elizabeth I s Lord Deputy, noting that dying horses were eatenboth for pleasure and for l ac k of m ea t. To k ee p h im s ui ta bl y h ug e andheavyweight, the galloglass enjoyed a marvellously rich diet, chiefly feeding ,

    Anonymous woodcut of Irishwarriors, DRAVN AFTER THEQVICKE fromlife), datedto the reign of Henry VIIIAshmolean Museum of

    Art and Archaeology)

    MacSweeney armsfrom anarmorial of the 17th century.Outsiders to the spirit ofEuropean chivalryand courtlyculture,Gaelscame late toheraldryand rarelyadheredfully to its rules or ideals.Though mercenary and oftenopportunisticin outlook,galloglasswere proud of theirown culture andwereonlyprepared to dopt Englishlanguage, customs andmannerisms- such as heraldry- w he n it becameclear th tthe oldGaelic way of lifewasgone for ever. Office of theChiefHerald of Ireland)


    Pay and rat ionsWhen our galloglass and his battle enter into the service of a lord e it he rIrish or Anglo-Irish, there was little difference between the two), a period ofnegotiation over terms of pay and condit ions would ensue . The constablewould normallyexpectpay and victuals for 100-120 galloglass, even thoughhe general ly only actual ly supplied 80-90 galloglass. The remainder werea llow ed to h im as deadpays or non-existent men whose pay and vic tualstheconstable took as his own salary. English state papers outlining the wagesof Irish men of war in 1575 record that in a company o f 1 0 0 galloglass thec onst ab le w as permi tt ed 13 dea d pays c ompa re d w i th e ight per 100 mena llow ed for a capta in of kern), o n t op of s ix men s a l lowance of victuals.In other words, t he c onst ab le s s al ary w as rou tine ly at l ea st t en , a ndsometimes as much as twenty t imes that of the common galloglass.

    We hearfrom the sameEnglish papers of 1575 that a galloglass constablew as a ls o to rece iv e a w arho rs e a nd a horse for e ve ryda y transport for eachquarter of service; a mail shirtmight sometimes be given in place of the latterhorse. y the date of this document the pre-eminence of the galloglass wasbeing eroded by gunners and by Ne w Scots seasonal Highland infantry),a nd in 1 575 the c ap ta in s of these rival troop types were permit ted the samenumber of deadpays per 100-man company. Until then, thegalloglass wages,privileges and general standing within an army were virtually unmatched.

    s f or t he w ag es tuarastal t he ms elve s, t he se general ly c ame in thestandard Irish currency: cattle. In 1553 a galloglass was to be p aid 4d. a day ;increased to 8d. in 1562. Though actual coinage did occasionallypass hands,galloglass were nearly always paid in goods to the value of his s al ar y - i ncat t le , meal, butter and other vic tuals. The record of wages of Irish men of

    The consabal Battles were commanded by a constableor consabal, a term imported into theIrish language by Anglo-Norman settlementand meaning, as it does in English,a head officer or governor. Those lords fortunate enough to have mult iplebattles of galloglass appointed one man to act as marshal of all galloglass andother full-time, professionalmilitary forces household kern, gunners, horsemenand thelike). A lord usuallyawarded the position of constable on a hereditarybas is if the gal loglass set tled down in the service of a s ingle c lan; amongfreelance gal loglass , the pos i tion remained hereditary, pass ing from onegeneration to the next, without any authority beyond family tradition.

    O ne p oe m dedicated to Donal MacSweeney of F an ad s ta te s he h ad a n ogham inscription on h is a xe w hose bounty is v ic to ry , a nd i t may bethat the constable s rank was sometimes s ignified by special decorationor inscriptions on h is a xe . In the mid -16th c en tu ry c omes a referen ce to agalloglass guide with a silver spear or axe, and the hil t thereof hanging ful lof silk clearly this adornment on his weapon held some secret significanceamong his people. In a more general sense, a constable s office was certainlysymbolized by his axe, MacSweeney bardic verse claiming Ireland is unitedby the s len de r ax e . In ba tt le , t he c on st ab le f ou gh t i n t he front ranksaccompanied by a bagpiper. The Image Irelande depicts a galloglass piperas an unarmoured man who brings his instrument a long for raiding as wellas for bat tles . The cons table was also l ikely to have by hi s s ide a s t anda rd mergeda a nd a warrior to bear i t. A poem concerning Donal MacSweeneytells of his sa tin banner of golden birds , which had been embroidered byhis wife, Grainne.

    An Irishsword from LoughNeagh,16th century.Its blades probably aGerman import,ut the openring-pommels adistinctivelyIrishdesignnnovation. Photographeproducedcourtesy of the

    Trustees of NationalMuseumsNorthern Ireland)

    26 27

  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior



    ffigy unknown warriorKilninian,Mull, Scotland,rly t mid-16th century.

    his powerful figure wearshelmetsimilar t thatfound

    Lough Henney,besidesottin aketon and mantlemail. Royal Commission

    n theAncientandHistoricalonuments Scotland

    wrote Stanihur t, o n beef, p o rk a n d b u tt e r . Traditionally, English oldierswere also fed on beef, without which they were thought u n ab le to fight; it wat he o ld ie r s m ea t. Th e g a ll og la s s w a h ed all this m e at d o wn with h is free mether of milk, and h e a rty q u a n ti tie of ale and whiskey; Moryson said thela tt e r w a s consumed by the Irish, b o th w o me n and men, high born and low, til they be as drunk as beggars .

    Both the galloglass wages and p ro vi si on w e re levied a a tax by the lorde m pl oy in g t he m f ro m his feudal tenants , a system known as bual l acht or bonaght in i ts Anglicized form. It is, therefore, very carefully specified whowill upply thi bonagh t in a c on t ra ct d at ed 2 2 July 1560 b e tw e en t heMacDonnell of Lein ter and no less an employer than E li z ab e th l s L o rdLieutenant of Ireland:

    By the lord lieutenant:

    Trusty and well-beloved we greet you well: And where for the service of thequeen s highness we have thought good at this p resent to enter tain threehundred spar of her majesty s galloglass under your conduct for one quarterof a y ea r: we l et you wi t that we have directed our several mandates untoO B yr ne and u nt o O Molloy a nd un to t he c ap ta in s of t he Ana ly It heO Farrell] to furnish you of your bonaght for thesame accordingly, the whichmandates you shall receive herewith to be delivered unto them, and thereforewill and charge you and every of you t o a sem bl e and p repa re y ou r sai dnumber ofspars of galloglass and with all expedition receive your said bonaghtappointed and furthermore be with them in readiness to her majesty erviceasyou shall from us have commandment. Hereofsee you fail nOt in any ways.

    To Ie ander, son ofTurlough; Turlough MacDonnell; Colla, on ofTurlough,and the re t of the captains of the queen s majesty s gal logla , and to everyof them.

    Billets and accommodationTh e Irish l or ds hi p w er e largely s u bs i st e nc e e c o n om ie , andso fre food and lodging were a l og ical means of payment.Accommodation for th e g a llo gla s w a s s u pp li ed by t he l or demploying him, wh o would billet the battle among th e h o m s ofhi v as sa ls . Mercenaries had traditionally been maintained inIreland by b o n a gh t , b u t th e system became more oppr ive onceth Iri h lo rd s b e ga n to compete w i th e a c h other as to wh o couldm a inta in th e la rg e t number of galloglass. Th e worst offendersw e re t he Anglo-Irish and Ol d English lords. Like the D uk e o fYork in Shakespeare s Henry VI they found what a pui ant andmighty power w a s h a d from keeping galloglass and tout kerns .While bonaght was a ta collected o n b e h al f of the ca n table , they t m no w d ev e lo pe d i nt o c o yn e and l ive ry , f rom th Irish

    coimnheadh (to mean billeting) with the English livery meaningvictualling). Co yn e a n d livery cut ou t th e m id d le m a n : the generalp o pu la c e w a s no w expected to feed, h ou se , p a y and wait onth e g a llo gla ss an d hi attendants themselves - literally fromth ir own pockets and t ra i gh t i nt o t he g al lo gl as s r ou gh a n dungrat fu hand.

    Sir John Davies 1569-1626), A ttorn e y G e ne ral of land,d cribed coyne an d li v r y as th e most wicked and mi c hi v ou scu tom . He noted it wa an Irish system in origin, f or they usedto lay b o n ag h t u p o n their peopl an d n ever gav e t he i r s ol di er a nyother pay , but h a d to a c k no w le d g e that w he n t he E ng li h hadlearned it t he y . .. m ad e it m o re in to ler a ble . Wi th b re a th ta kin gthoughtle ne ,Anglo-lri h m a g na te s im po s ed w h o le a rm ie ofunmanageable galloglass and k rn o n t he ir te na nt ry . nd it gotwa r e sti l l: w h en J a me s Butl r d.1452), 4th Earl o f O r m on d ,quart r d gal log la and kernty throughout his lands in Tipperaryand Kilkenny he granted each oldier permission t o t ak e a cuidoidhche cuddy ) or t he r ig ht to a ni ght S f oo d, d ri nk a ndenterta inment from the hou e of ev ry freeholder.

    If ou r I r is h g a l lo g la an d his battle ha d been hired ona l on g- te rm b as is , t he y m ay well be settled away f ro m t heg n ral p o pu l ac e o n de ignat d t ax - fr e e f a rm s , c o m pl e te w it hlabour rs. More usua ll y, hi bill t would be a p e a sa n t s b o th y,characteristically a circular or hiv -shaped s t ruc tu re of wick rand wood p la ste r ed w i th m u d and lime, and a r o of o f thatch . Itsinhabitant would be p a ant who spent t he i r d is m al andd grad d days tending liv tock a nd g r ow in g a little corn .A l re a dy p o or , t he a r ri va l o f o ur galloglass an d his attendanta lo ng w i th all th e ir g e a r w o u ld be an appalling imposition .

    For o u r l o wb o rn Iri h galloglass th is is a fantastically goodlife. He has ervants who c o ok f or him. He is feared and obeyedb y a ll . When off d ut y, h e p nd hi t im e fe as t in g , lo un g in g ,singing and wrestling. He i a para ite who consumes everythingin sight, and the hospitality of hi ho t i unlikely to satisfy him.Th e c a t tl e of neighbouring farm a lw ay s p o se d a tempting targetfor t he g re e dy g al lo gl a ; on e William linch of ewcastle ,Count) Dublin , complained in 1562 tha t 13 of his c o ws h a d beenstolen by a single gallogla s.


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


    Figurefrom the early16th-century tomb slab ofone of the MacSweeneys of anagh at Killybegs, Donegal. Author s drawing)



    iscipline in the ranksNo surprise, then, that desertion among galloglass never appears to havebeen a problem. The constables did little to restrain their men, leaving themto bully and steal as they wished. s early as 1297 O Neill of Tyrone,MacMahon of Oriel and Maguire of Fermanagh promised the Archbishopof Armagh that n fu ture they would prevent their Scots and satelli tes[i.e. galloglass, attendants and kern] from trespassing on the archbishop sland and harassinghis tenants. Henry VIII spoke against the practice inverystrong terms in 1541, decreeing that N o lord, captain or gentleman shallexact any impositions called coyne and l ivery from the tenants of othersunless authorized to do so by the Lord Deputy and government. No onewaslistening, and George Brown, Archbishop of Dublin, complained during thesame period of the Earl of Ormond s cont inua l coyne and livery, calledextor tion . Ormond had previously quietened down criticism of hisbehaviour by paying a visit to the Irish council accompanied by a companyof galloglass

    Misdeeds towards c iv il ians g en er al ly cou nted f or l it tl e - o ne GorreMackan the galloglass was let offwith a pardon for the murder of CatherineDa le in 1 54 5 - but i t was a capital offence for a galloglass to disobey hisconstable or employer. Discipline within the unit was brutal and harsh: onegalloglass serving the Earl of D esmo nd w as n ai led to a post in 1 55 8 f ordrawing his weapon in camp w hen told not to; the n ex t d ay another washanged for the theft of a mail shirt.

    ccommodation for the officersConstables were often granted land bytheir employer on which, ifthey settleddown, they could build castles (usually solemn towers built in the Scottishstyle) and lead the life of a clan chief in miniature. When land was grantedto a constab le it was as payment for h is role as a supplier of galloglass, forwhich reason the English called Ballygawley, held by the MacDonnells in theservice of the O Neills, the galloglass country . Land granted to a constablealso provided a convenient source of manpower for the recruitment of newgalloglass volunteers .


    A galloglass was rarely, if ever,a welcome addition to an Irishhousehold. In a poorcountry,thegalloglass thought nothing of eating everythingin sightand takingwhateverhe took afancyto.He wa s usuallybilleted on adifferent household for each quarter of the year th t hewas retained;

    he had to be, forby the end of his stay hehad usuallystrippedthe house of hishost bare.Thepracticespread even to the Pale andby the mid-16th century,a galloglass might well findhimsel fbilleted on anEnglish family. n English housewas likely to bemuch thesame as those of thenative Irish, ut w i th t h e o d d English flourish- bedlinen andmore furniture.Thegalloglasswasnot interested in ethnicorigins; he did not discriminate.Staying with an English familymerelymeanttherewas more to steal. In 1572, Sir ThomasSmith sproject forthe colonization of theArdsdescribed the reality of having agalloglass as a lodger:

    Coyneand livery is this. There will comea kern ora galloglass, which bethe Irishsoldiers, to lieina churl s house; while he is there, hewill be master of the house;he will not only havemeat, ut moneyalsoallowed him,and at his departure,the best thing he shall see inthe churl s house,be it linen cloth, ashirt,mantle,or such like.Thus is thechurl eaten up .

    Herewe see the house of an English family w i t h in t h e Pale in the process of being eaten up bya royal MacDonnell galloglassand hisboy.Thegalloglasswears his tlin as ordinaryclothingSpenser was horrified to find th t Irishsoldiers wandered out in theirquilted coats oth athomeand in towns andcivil places .

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    Theruins of OlderfleetCastle,guarding Lameharbour.Originallycalled Curran Castle,it waslater seized y theCrown.The MacDonnelis ofAntrim madeseveraldetermined ut unsuccessfulefforts to claim it. Bob Paisley)

    MacSweeney galloglassfromJohn Goghe s 1567map of Ireland, wearingmailand wh t look tobemorions or cabassets,and right) acrested skull . Author sdrawing)

    When the MacDonnells of Leinsterenteredgovernmentservice they wereretainedin es se nti al ly t he s am e way. El iz ab et h Ig ran ted C olla ( or alvagh) MacDonn 998 acre (404 hectares) in Laois a par to f anappointment a Co n table o f H e r Majesty'sGalloglass'. It appears that the MacDonnellsactua lly occupied 10,000 acres 4,047hec ta re ) o f l an d - t he y we re n o d o ub t eagerto exploit the Crown s ignorance o f w h at itwas actuallygranting In return, Colla was topay rent of 12. 9s. 6d. , and 'keep 12 ScottishgallogJa s', with others maintained elsewhereo n t he e t at e u ch a s t he f ou r to besupportedon the 320 acre (130 hectares)granted to hisson Hugh.

    Th e galloglass constable was, therefore,usually technically landless, being a feudall an dh ol de r r at he r t ha n la nd ow ne r. irGeorge Carew noted at th e c lo e of the 16thcentury that there were MacSweeneysresident in arbery without inheritance,living o n b on ag ht a nd o th er a ll ow an ce s,being k pt by the Mac ar thysa mercenaryf ol lo we rs f or t he ir d ef en ce '. This hardlyserved to diminish thei r power and thegalloglass captains, 'five b re th re n a nd t he

    on s of t w o o t he r b re th re n o f o n e lineage,called McSwyne wh o L o rd D ep u ty SirHenry Sidney met at Cork in 1 5 76 , w er ewithout land b ut o f such credit they wouldmake the greatest lords of the province bothin fear of them and glad of their friendship'.


    Ireland wa a coun try permanent ly a t w ar - if not with the English then w ithi tself , as rival chiefs engaged in viciou blood feuds for regional supremacy.Most o f t he time, the E ng li sh wer e ju t ano ther par tic ipan t in t he perpetualcycle of intertribal str ife. F r our I ri h g al lo gl as li fe on campaign will be ar u de a w ak e n in g a f te r the feudal bli of coyne and livery. He n ow has toprove he is worth all those privilege and all that beef. t t he commencementof hostilities, the chief w ou ld o r de r a rising out gairmsluaigh or generalmuster of his people, as h e gathered together hi advi er and counsellors ina general assembly. Many of his va al s w er e l ik ely to simply ignore the callto arms, d e p it e the ob ligat ion ow ed by every able-bodied man (save learnedprofessionals and clergy) to erve in th h o t ing . B u t not the galloglassthey were a lways on h an d , a n d a lw ay ready for action.

    ris rmi s

    s Dynunok noted, I ri h annie consi t d o f t h r e basic troop types: Horsemen,Galloglass and Kern. ' In status, thegallogla rank db tw en thehorsemen andkern. The galloglass, however, was the only o n e o f t he thre troop types whosetraining a n d a r ms wer e u it ed to fighting pitched batt le . Kern and horsemen,though va liant and confrontational, were b a ically k ir mi h er s and raiders,rather than solid battlefield troops, and usual ly only part - tim oldiers .

    The shag-ha i red cra fty kern Shakespeare , enry V Part 2) w as t heordinary able-bodied freeman turned warrior. Almost indestructibly tough,kern c o ns t it u te d t he b u lk of every I r ish army, b i n g arm dwith javelins, spears, glaives, sw ords , d i rks , short-bow,a n d l at er firearms. o me h ad targes, padded jerkins, capsand helmet, but they opted for speed and surprise, andthe ir legendary ferocity, r a th e r t h an armour to seethem through . A selection of the s tead ies t of theirnumb r were retained by chiefs on bonaght as / h ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ h o us e ho l d k e rn ceithearn tigh , a kind of / p / ~ .

    police force of military thug . ' Next w er e t he c av a lr y marcshluag ,

    mo t pre tigious of the three types of Irishsoldier. They were all members of thenobility; o me w er e al 0 m r ce na ri s.I re la nd h a a lw ay produc d fine hor esand Iri hmen wer cons idered superb riders,generally bett r than t heEngli sh - they hadto be given that th y r od e w i th o ut t ir ru p sand with only a s tu ff ed c u h io n f o r a a dd le .They were equipped wi th mai l h i rt , j ac k ,quilted jerkin, targe , a nd a n iron skullcapor padded head guard. A sw ord w ith a toutc h op p in g b la de , d i rk a n d l ig ht l an ce - h el do ve r t he h ead during t he c ha rge and no tcou ched u nd er the arm becau e of theabsence of tirru p - were their preferr da rm s. E ac h h a d wit h h im a g ro o m o r quiret o b ri ng u p a spare horse f or h is m a t erduring battle.

    Theruins of ighe rn oilfForestManor ,variouslycalled

    Tinnakill, Tynekille,Tennekillein English) inthe Queen sCounty of Laois - seat of theMacDonnelis of Leinster for 200years. Author s drawing)

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    ci t pnolfor tt)epoottutansctl', n o r r n r c r p r t l l ~ l e a ~ ,llMrallol' to ttlr fire,to l a l a b o u t l l l c a ~ . Col're' 1L11nt aun [nUllllnlUlllflnollt, tonnflle rlJ illalll1lPf)1,~ tOlrp lp, r1)erclIIJ fill. t JCltfcronngIorpIpC 1

    C J: nn t1)ll\lcoJUllll)lIl1of1 0nCc ot cattell annofllolt:C ~ e pOll1tlltbaclittot1jC lIlOOb,from\l)ljtlvetljQ cawbdo/f.


    These three service arms - kern light ho r e an d galloglass - and from the15th century New Scots, formed th bas is of all Irish armies both Gaelic and

    nglo-Irish until t he e nd of t he G a lic military establishment in the early17th century. A the on ly available heavy infantry in Ireland galloglass werea rare a n d e x pe n ive elite. t the top of t he pil e were m en l ik e t he E ar l ofDesmond who e w a rt i me s tr e ng t h t h e power of rishmen u rv ey g av es uc ci nc tl y a : 40 0 horse 8 ba t of Gal l, 1 ba t of crosbow men and gunners3000 kern. This level of military pow er w as excep tiona l and a chief wouldcount himself lucky i fhe could field a single battle of g al lo gl a . Most couldraise a b o ut 1 0 0 -2 0 0 kern 20--40 ho r e a nd n o galloglass at all.

    RaidingMost warfare in medieval Ireland con i ted of raids forcatt le. Catt l rustl ing wassomething of a national obsession in I r l an d, and thegalloglass had a particularrole to play in the creach or raid: to form a rearguard to a ll ow t he wif t and saferemoval of tolen livestock. For ou r I ri sh gal loglass thi s wil l b his f ir st t as te ofaction. The numbers of men involved in such expeditions were usually fairlysmall: in 1455 the Ulster annals give the strength of a raiding party as 140 footsoldiers and 12 horsemen; two years later, we hear of a preyingexpedition o f 6 0infantry and six hor emen. Thiswa w a r a t its most small- cale, fa t moving andpersonal. The target m ig ht b e a lo cal a el ic r iv al or an Anglo-Irish or Englishsettlement. It m ad e n o difference i f th re were ca tt le to be had.

    Th e dynamics of the raidIrish raiding parties hit fast a nd h ar d. Surprise was alway of the utmostimportance, and so at d a wn o r du k, bare-footed kern, gallogla and horsemenwould march bri k ly across a wi lderne of bogs and mist-wrapp d moorlanduntil arriving at the target area: the farms of a n e ne my clan. Th e kern thenquickly round up t he c at tl e an d b ur n a nd pillage t he h o me s of the localinhabitants. Any fighting that need to be done is handled by t he horsemenwho as dashing young n o ble m en a re keen t o s h ow o ff their bravery and skill.Th e galloglass, meanwhile wait in their battle axes at t he ready, l es t a rel ie fforce should arrive to rescue the lifted carrie. If this happens the galloglassimmediately form into a defensive formation creeningthe hor emen and kernwho drive away the cattle before the galloglass themselve make a slowfighting withdrawal.

    Losses among galloglass were low during raiding operation. N verrheless,r a id ing w a s c e r ta inly no t r is k f ree. Dis a t er overcame the MacCab s o n o neraid in 1433 after conflic t erupted among the MacRannells and one faction,s ay t he Four Ma t r , took the sons o f M a ho n MacCabe i nt o t he ir p a y toassist t he m . T h e M a cC a be s a nd th e ir r a id ing p a rry passed into Moy, whichthey b u rn t a n d looted. But a s t he y prepared to withdraw the Four Maste rscon tinue they w ere overtaken by a s t ro n g b o dy of troops . The sons ofMahon f or me d a r arguard and th r e of them Ross Donough and Bryan, were slain on the po t with many other ' . Rory, the eldest brother, was takenpr isoner ha l f dead . O nly Tur lough the fifth on w hose moth r was Unadaughter of Sean O Reilly made it to afety.

    Y t it w as w or th t he r is k, s in ce a good raid m e an t p l un d er a n d a n ic esupp lement to the galloglass cattle-ba ed income. We hear from the FourMasters that in 1571 James F i tzmaur ice took K ilmallock at d aw n w it h a furious arrack made by the warlike t ro op of the Clann Sweeney a n d C la nn

    heehy' (this time fighting on the same side) w ho proceeded to divide among

    themselves the town s gold, silveL; variou r iches and valuablejewels,which thefather would have acknowledged to his heir, or the mother to her daughter. .. '

    Making campGalloglass liked t o t hi nk of themselves a men wh o reve ll ed in phys ica lhard hi p. I t was l uc ky t he y fel t th is w ay b ec au e t h er e w er e few homecomforts to be had w h ile th ey were on campaign. Moryson wrote ratheramu ingly, of t he w il d Irish': I t r us t n o m an e xp ec ts a m on g these gallantsany b d , much less featherbeds and sheets. The unit our recruit serves in is

    upported by a small baggage train pull ed by packhorses or oxen; beyondthat he and his comrades will have to ro ug h it and live off th lan d. We knowhowever, that hi h armies took tents w ith th em . Th e according to the 16thc ntury o ok o f the MacSweeneys of anad w re const ructed from spearsu d a s te nt -po les : Ev e ry man withdraws hi pear from what constitutedhi leeping-quarters last night.

    Besides a tent what the galloglass took with him on c a mp a ig n w a s acarefully considered selection of items that by and larg h could wear, if no tcarry easily. Thus his mantle doubled as a bedroll an i tem which Sir WilliamHerbert a Munster colonial promoter described in 1585 as serving unto theI ri sh a to a hedgehog his skin or to a snail her she ll for a garment by d ay a n da house by night . In t he same way, t he b o ws and javelins of hi arrendantsprovided a mean of hunting for dinner as wel l a f or f ig ht in g. He needed nocutlery, bowls or plates. A knife and a piece of cowhide taken from the beasthe at d o wn t o e at w ou l d suffice, Moryson observing ho w the Irish w ould se tth ir meat upon a bundle of grass, and use the am gra for napkins to wipeth ir hand '.

    A t,lcretrrrvesout ofSJinu fIlch denne, a pameofp/owilngmnlC)1,Q Joll ~ 1 1 t [ f l l l lto rlJe

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    t was by fighting battles that the galloglass really earned his keep. Pitchedb at tl es w er e r ar e in I re land and , by European standards generally smallaffairs ; a typical I rish battle might be several hundred men on either sideclashing with lightning speed in a series of running battles. These encounterswould the main event o f o ur galloglass life and his main opportunity tocarve out a name for himselfas a great mercenary warrior.

    efore the battleThe night before battle, wild boasts were made and much drink consumedto boost falter ing confidence. A poem in the MacSweeney Book is fullof scorn for the man who promises death but never travels to confrontyou . Tongues , the poem continues, r un after drinking, promising to repel youin the battlefield . The ook of Howth a chronicle of the St Lawrencefamily, speaks of Ulick Burke s soldiers passing the night before Knockdoeas wager ing, dr inking and playing at cards and bragging wh o shouldhave this prisonerand that prisoner . Soon it would seen what lay behindthose boasts.

    Surprise and night attacksVeterans were more likely to remain silent and sober since a t tack of tencame at night. At Knockavoe 1522) the O Neills marched into Tyrconnellwith a l ar ge army including MacSheehy and MacDonnell galloglass.The O Donnell s though outnumbered had their own MacSweeneysand skirmished skilfully until makinga surprise assault on the O Neill campin t he d ea d of night. Fighting raged in the blackness, the Four Mastersvividly recounting how soldiers came into collision with one another. ..Scarcely did anyone of them on either side k no w w it h w ho m he shouldengage in combat . The O Neills were routed with the loss of upwards of900 warriors.

    Standing guardTo guard against night attacks, our galloglass and his fellow axemen taketur ns to maintain a watchful v ig il through the night. Appropriately, theMacDonnell arms bear the motto tou ours pr ts - always ready . This claimwas put to the test in 1557 w hen, the F ou r Mas te rs r ecor d, a p ar ty o fMacSweeneys was sent to reconnoitre the camp of the MacDonnells. TheMacDonnells stood guard around the tent of their leader, Shane, son of thechief of the O Neills. Under cover of darkness the MacSweeneys advancedundetected by the MacDonnells:

    CATTLE RAID c 1480Raiding wasa way of life for theGaelic nobility. An anonymous poemdedicated to DonalMacSweeney of Fanad is tinged with regret th t Donal s freewheeling adolescence spentk i ll ing and loo tingmustcome to n end n o w t h t he is Lord of Fanad to which he succeededin 1570: A feature of his t i t le is th t he may not plunder . Raiding and reiving w s alwaysayoung man s game. n th is p latesto lencat t le are drivenaway bykernanda chiefta inonhorseback.Clad in the characteristic basinets and armour of the age aparty of galloglassw it impassivelyin their battle weaponsat the ready lest areliefforce should arrive torescuethe Iiftedlivestock.

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    Irish two-handed sword overalllength: 124.5cm), 16thcentury,privatecollection. Author sdrawing)


    unti l they c a me t o the great central fire at t he e n tra nc e t o the on of eilltent ... a h ug e torch, thicker than a man s body, wa constantly flaming at a

    h o rt d is t an c e . . . a n d sixty grim and redoubtable galloglass with sharp, keenaxes, terrible and ready for action ... were watching and guarding the son ofO Neill.

    Vanguard a n d a t ta c kThe maste r po t Eochaidh 6 hEoghusa recalled ho w Ewen 6 g MacSweeneyof t heTr f Tuatha d.1596) was ntrusted wit h a h ea vy respon ibil i ty by theO Donnells . Th is responsib il i ty w as to take the van a n d r e arg ua r d oft h e a r my . Here w as t he g al lo gl a s pr i ma r y battlefield role: to lead thevanguard in t he a t tack , and form the rearguard in retreat. Whatever the sizeof the force they e rv ed , th ei r role r em ai ne d t he sa me . o n equently, whenFitzmaurice s MacSweeneys prepared to assail the MacSheehy in 1568 weare told by the Four Maste rs tha t F i tzmaur ice p laced in o r de r a n d a r ra y thesmall friendly forces that he had wi th him, a nd t he Clan Sweeney wer placedin t he van t o m a ke t he o n se t .

    To hand blowsBefore coming to hand blows with t heenemy, galloglass l ik d to di orientatea n d h a rr y t he e n em y w ith th ei r harne -bearers, w h o w ou l d be sent ou t likebeater on a hunt, wi th thei r ski rmi hing weapons. After hurling their javelins St Leger said they carried a set of three) the attendants would fall backb e hi n d t h e g al lo g la . At that point the ga lloglass closed in. Whenevergallogla were involv d, ba t tle w as guaranteed to be furious, deadly an dquick. First w o ul d c o m a short, a gg re ive charge with bellowing war criesand pipes blaring. The demonic momentum of the galloglass style of attackthen becomes apparent, as the galloglass continueto press forward, smashingt h ro u gh t he oppo ing lines and causing te rr ible s laugh ter with their axes,s p ea r a nd s wo r ds .

    T h e o u tc o m e w as n ev er l on g in the deciding; a blizzard of ax e blowsan d t he b at tl e w a over. As Stanihurst w ro t e: I n every sharp an d severeengagement, should they c o me t o close fighting, they e it he r o on kill, or arekilled. Dymmok agreed: Th greatest force of the ba tt le consisteth in them,choo ing ra the r to die t ha n t o yield; 0 that when it c o me th t o h ar d y blows,they are quickly lain, or win the f ie ld . the galloglass became wounded inthe fighting o r g ot into difficulty his attendant w o ul d c o me e n t r i n to t hefray, using any javelins or arrow he had le ft - if not, with dirk an d spear.

    all went well a n d t he galloglass remained on his fee t, the attendant s job waskeep well b ac k a nd m ak e sure hi master s f la nk t ay ed cl ea r, allowing hisma ter a clearchannel either side of him in which t o g o t o w o rk with his ax eor o ther doub le -handed w eapon .

    Th e defensive screen t he g al lo gl as w er e o n t he receiving end o f a n a tt ac k, their attendantswo uld ag ain kir mish with the approaching enemy, throwing theirdarts until, a St Leger pu t it, t h ey c om e to th e h an d t ri pe . T he n thegalloglass would f or m a rock- ol id wal l of tw o-handed w eaponry, ho ldingfirm at a n y c o st - no t an enviabl pos it ion , bu t Ewen 6g MacSweeney ofth Trf Tuatha w a p ra is ed by hEoghusa for taking the ga p of dangerwhen all other refuse . No one in I re la nd c ou ld h ol d his ground indefence l ike a galloglass.

    On Irish tactic was to deploy a defensive wal l of galloglass incon junc tion w ith an a t tack ing fo rmat ion of cavalry. Th e nnals Connacht tell of a valiant last s ta nd m a de by t wo battalion ofgal loglas , namely theClan Donnell under Turlough MacDonnell andthe Ian Do w under Alexander MacDowell , in a t ru gg le w it h t heClanricard in 1419. The action began with an a t tack on the C1anricardby horsemen, but th were hurled back tow ards their galloglawho held their ground and fough t on . Suddenly, the galloglas andsheltering horsemen were attacked f ro m t he rear, a s well a fr om t hefront by lanricard own MacSweeney galloglass. Eventually, theirlines collapsed, but t h y f ou gh t to the last. Among the dead, the nnals Connacht reported, were that doughty champion never beforeovercome in battle or combat or onset Alexander MacDowell, hi twosons a n d m a ny o t he r gentle and simple .

    Gallogla mad occasional use of horses t he ms el v . In 1556 thehorse of Turlough Ma c abe wa i nj ur ed a s h e and his comrades - amix of English f o ot m en a n d g al lo gl as s a n d other Irishmenwithdrew from a n a ct io n again t ew Scots. Galloglass officerscertainly used horse for tran port, as did the lord s gallogla discussed below), bu t under normal circumstances the gallogla wa

    a n i nf a nt ry m an , a n d p r ou d o f it. He was, after all, a heavily armouredinfantryman, or as pen r pu t i t, t he pedes gravis armature

    Rearguard actionsThough b loodth i rs ty and proud, galloglass did no t always fight tot he d ea th . G al lo gl as s were p r ag m at i c t ac ti ci an s a n d adept atconduc t ing an order ly fighting retreat - indeed, the rearguard wa agalloglass speciali ty, since it did no t b reak his oath to always fac t heenemy. compelled to withdraw, galloglass would calmly f or m u pinto an orderly rearguard, screening thecava lry and o ther impor tan tunits in order to allow their e cap from the field.

    The ga llog lass r cord for self-sacrifice on the battlefield iunparalleled in m ed i val I ri sh h is to ry. Gal lo gl as s h el d t he ir n r ve incircumstances of almo t unimaginable stress. In 1434 the remnant ofa n O D o nn e ll a rm y, b a dly maul d by the English, w e re e s c or ted tosafety by Turlough Ruadh the Red ), son of Turlough th e One-Eyed ,and his MacSweeney gallogla s As St Leger sa id of galloglass: th esort of m en be tho e t ha t d o n ot lightly abandon the i Id, bu t bide thebrunt to the death.

    AmbushesGalloglass were adaptable to most scenarios presented by irregular, low-leveltribal warfare, as wa endemic in Ireland, but they had to be u ed careful ly.

    Ithough no t as heavily armoured as theEngli sh or nglo-Irish knight, theire q u ip m e nt w as n o ne th el es s t o o c u mb e rs o me to allow a speedy retreat. Arather confused account o f w ha t was probably a r a th e r c o nf u ed actionsurvives in Lamb th Palace archives, telling ho w in 1563 Shane eillambushed t he Ear l of Sussex s men. After a brief fight eill men took totheir heels. Th e chase wa on and the Irish were pursued until they again fellinto cover, setting another ambush a standard I ri sh ploy) w i th c e rt a inhargobushe , wounding the English standard bearer. Then S h an men f l edto the b o g , b u t in thi one small skirmish from 15 to 2 COt galloglass had

    Late-medieval graveslabdepictinga sword with acharacteristic Highland hilt;Nereabolls,Islay,Scotland. CrownCopyright: oy lCommission on the Ancientand HistoricalMonumentso Scotland)


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    rishwarriors byAlbrecht Durer,1521. Durer was in thNetherlands in 1520-21,wherehemay have encounteredrishmenserving th Hapsburgs

    as mercenaries.Theextremelyprecise andaccurate renderingo th arms and quipm nto these warriors - almostcertainlyex-galloglass and theirattendants- strongly suggeststhat Durer madethissketch

    from life.Theonly glaringinaccuracy is th exaggeratedsize o th two-handed sword.Berlin / Kupferstichkabinett,5taatlicheMuseen zu Berlin /Image:J6rg P Anders


    been killed or drowned, and one taken prisoner his fate is not recorded).Their heavy equipment, and perhaps their s ize too , had probably countedagainst them, unlike the light kern and horsemen who had been able to f leefrom the English to the safety of their bogs.

    Victory over the nglish Meath 42 3Fewmen could besta galloglass in single combat. Unfortunately, the Englishw er e n o mean fighters themselves. Galloglass had a profound sense ofpersonal prestige and to e seen to overcome an enemy champion, especiallyan Eng li sh o ne , g reat ly enh an ced a w ar rior s s tand in g w ithin h is u ni t.The English troop types who stood a good chanceagainst the galloglass wereknights the galloglass nearest equivalent in status) and doughty yeomanhalberdiers and billmen the galloglass nearest equivalent in equipment).

    A tough combat took place between galloglass and the English in Meathin 1423. There, Mulmurry MacSweeney of Banagh led his galloglass intoaction s par tofan army of O Donnells, O Neillsand those the Four Masterscall simply th e Irish of Ulster in general . Somewhereprobably in the northeast of Meath, they clashed with government forces sent out from the Pale.The Four Masters claim the Lord Deputy was theknight who was the chiefcommander of the English army , and that Mulmurry MacSweeney slew theLord Deputy inmortal combat. In fact, we know that the Lord Deputy wasnot present in this action, but clearly an important English knight had beenseen to fall in combat with Mulmurry and his unstoppable vanguard.

    At this point the English lines broke under the weight of MacSweeney sassault, many d ying as they w er e p ur su ed by a mass of galloglass, kern,skirmishers and horsemen. TheFour Mastersconcludethe story y telling usthat the Irish obtained great spoils o n t ha t occasion, and left Dundalk and all the English in the vicinityunder tribute. The fighting had been little morethan a glorified skirmish - such was the nature of warfare in the medievalIrish lordship - but for Mulmurry it had been a def in ing moment, and hisreputation was secured.

    Galloglass against galloglass Knockdoe 5 4Knockdoe Cnoc Tuagh, little hill of the axes ) was the largest battle everfought between Irishmen, and most of the f ig ht in g w as h an dled by thegalloglass. Ferocious rivalries existed between galloglass clans, and atKnockdoe family and professional pride were at stake. The background to thebattle was that Ulick Burke of Clanricard was at war with his neighbours, theO Kellys, who were allies of the Burkes of Mayo. Parliamenthad prohibitedtheIrishlords from making war without the Lord Deputy s licence, so whenUlick razed three O Kelly castles and seized Galway town, the O Kellysappealed to the Lord Deputy.

    The Lord Deputy was at this time Gearoid Mor - or to English speakers,Gerald Fitzgerald, 8th Earl of K ilda re - and the mos t p ow er fu l man inIreland. Kildare gathered together a substantial private army, including hisown MacDonnell galloglass atleast 120 of them by c.1500 , and assembleda confederation of clans, many o f w ho m employed galloglass: O Kellys,Mayo Burkes with MacSweeneys), O Donnells with MacSweeneys),O Neills with MacDonnells), MacMahons with MacCabes), Magennises,O Reillys withMacCabes), O Connors with MacDonnells), O Dermots andother Gaelic, Anglo-Irishand English soldiers from the Pale- a total of about6,000 men. Ulick s armywas probably slightly smaller: perhaps 4,000 men.Besides his private MacSweeneys and Burke clansmen, he was joined by theO Briens ofThomond and their MacSweeneys), Macnamaras, O Kennedys,O Carrolls of Ely and others from Munster.

    Some 3km f rom Galway town, on 19 August, the two armies collided.According to the Book of Howth Kildare placed his archers on either side ofa single huge div is ion of Palesmen armed with bills a nd o th er infantryweapons. The galloglass and GaelicIrish were apparentlyplaced on the righth an d o f this central division, and the cavalry on the left. Summoning his Captain of Galloglass , Kildare ordered the galloglass to move to the frontof the cen tr al d iv is io n, in o rd er to f or m the v an of the a rmy. I am glad,rep lied the captain in the words of the Book of Howth y ou c an d o m e nomore honour by God s blood , at which point, he took the axe in his handand began to flourish .

    In the following battle, neither the Palesmen nor Irish cavalry played anysignificant role- it is said that not a single Englishmanwas hurt at Knockdoe.Ulick had also put his galloglass in the front ranks of his army, and they nowcame on to the terrifying clamour of their war cries. Kildare s English archerslet loose clouds of arrows. Many f ell, h an ds w er e f ixed by arr ow s to axehafts, but they pressed on. Reaching Kildare s lines, the fight that followedwas little more than a slogging-match between two equallydetermined forcesof galloglass.

    After hours of hand-to-hand fighting, sheer weight of numbers began tocount against Ulick s galloglass. Falling back in small groups they regrouped


  • 8/12/2019 Galloglass 1250-1600 Gaelic Mercenary Warrior


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    along the bank of the riv C lare , w here t he y w e re r ut hl e ss l y cut downby their pursuer, Ulick had lost. About half of his army - 2 , 00 0 o r so men- lay dead, P er ha p 1 ,0 00 o f Kildare m en p er i he d; w e h av e n o w ay ofknowing for su We know, however, that ca u al t ie s among gallogla onboth side w e re e x t re m e ly heavy, th e U lste r annals writing that w h e re th ere were nine battle of galloglass in compact array th ere e s c ap e d no t alive ofthem b u t o n e th in b a t tl e alone .

    Loyalty to the end: Monasternenagh 1579Th e image of galloglass as m er ce na ri w ho f ou gh t sol el y f or money isdifficult to square w it h t h ei r suicidal p rformanc at Monasternenagha performance that flew completely in the face of all selfish instincts. In 1579,Sir John Fitzgerald, the Earl of D esmond s brother, was in rebellion againstthe C r ow n , O n 3 October, n e ar t he r ui ne d mona tery of Monasternneagh inouth-westIreland, Sir John brought som 2 , 00 0 D e m o nd w ar r io r s in to th e

    field, including the family MacSheehy. Arrayed again t t he m w e re 1,000 oro well-trained Engli hmen commanded by the hard-bitten Sir ichola

    Malby: gunners, halberdiers , p ikemen an d a s ma ll re e rv e of cavalry.The ba tt le b e g an w i th a determined charge by the MacSheehy gallogla s.

    Rich was th re an d did no t t h in k m u ch of th e g a llo gla s s onslaught, laterwriting that th e service of galloglass in the field w a s n e i th e r good aga ins thorsemen, no r able to endure an encounter with pikes . It was against pikes,drawn up in o rde r ly q u a re s , that the MacSheehy now expended themselv s.A ft er t he p ychological impact of the f i rs t I r ish charge had been shakeno ff , i t b e ca m e c l ea r t he r e w a s nothing th e g a llo gla ss c o u ld do to break theEnglish squares.

    In desperation, the MacSheehys began rushing fo rward in a ries offrenzied bu t fruitle allies. Th e bodies of MacSheehys piled up a c ros s th efield, alongside perhap a quar te r o f the Iri h a rm y. Where the galloglass andIri h h ad m an ag ed to force