Scottish Gaelic: Gall-Ghàidhealaibh
Galeway, Galoee, Galvoie, Walweitha, Walweithe
Galloway is a historic region located in southwestern Scotland.
Galloway’s location and role can vary in the Arthurian texts, depending on the specific tale and the author’s interpretation. Galloway should not be confused with Galway, which is a county in Ireland.
In Layamon, Arthur pacified in the early days of his reign. Chrétien de Troyes describes it as a
harsh and cruel land, where the people are faithless.
It was guarded by Orguelleuse of the Narrow Passage, who vowed to never let any knight leave the country alive.
Malory only mentions Galway as part of a personal name – as, for instance, Sir Galleron of Galway, who challenged Gawaine for the ownership of several properties nearby. Galleron who, however, is listed among twelve knights, “and all they were of Scotland,” either of Gawaine’s kin or well-wishers to his family. Gawain’s associations with Galloway in these romances may preserve some memory of a legend in which Gawaine was its ruler, a notion that appears in William of Malmesbury. In Escanor it is ruled by Count Brandis. There was strong connection between Ireland and Scotland in the early days.
The last Arthurian adventures Chrétien de Troyes wrote take place in the marches of Galloway. Just over the Galloway border lies the city, which may be the Guiromelant’s Orqueneseles, to which the Haughty Maid of Logres sends knights for her palfrey.
Also near the border – unsure on which side – we find Ygerne’s (Igraine) Rock of Canguin. A note of D.D.R. Owen’s remarks that in Chrétien’s time Galloway had a regretable reputation, and that four mss, include a couplet describing it as an evil land with perverse people. I cannot see that the perversity of its population in general is borne out by Gawaine’s adventures, nor that the unpleasant individuals whom he encounters near Galloway are any worse than villains elsewhere.
Galloway | 400-700 AD
Galloway was inhabited by various Celtic tribes in the fifth century, and the region likely had connections with both the wider British Isles and neighboring Ireland. It was a distinct and often independent region within the larger territory of Scotland.
The Roman Empire’s withdrawal from Britain in the early fifth century marked the beginning of a period of increased political fragmentation. Galloway, like other parts of Scotland, saw the emergence of local rulers and petty kingdoms. The region was influenced by Gaelic-speaking tribes and was often part of larger confederations.
By the seventh century, the Kingdom of Northumbria, centered in what is now northeastern England, began exerting influence over parts of southern Scotland, including Galloway. This era saw interactions between Anglo-Saxon and native British cultures. In the early mid-seventh century, the Kingdom of Rheged emerged as a significant power in the region. It is believed that Galloway was a part of the Kingdom of Rheged, which covered areas in what is now northern England and southern Scotland. The exact extent of Galloway’s involvement with Rheged is debated among historians.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions battles between the Northumbrians and various British kingdoms, including the kingdom of Galloway, in the seventh to eighth centuries. These conflicts were part of the larger political and military struggles in the British Isles during this period.
Toward the end of the eighth century and into the ninth century, Viking raids and invasions affected many parts of the British Isles, including Galloway. These incursions brought new challenges to the political stability of the region.
Gesta Regum Anglorum | William of Malmesbury, 1125
Brut | Layamon, late 12th century to mid-13th century
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle | 9th century
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Escanor | Girart d’Amiens, c. 1280
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470