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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2004
The Other 70%


By Judith Lloyd

Galloway, home of  the “Belties”, the  Black Douglases, John Balliol, Robert Burns, Gretna Green (the destination of eloping couples), Thomas Carlyle (noted writer and historian), Archibald the Grim, Lady Devorgilla, and birthplace of John Paul Jones, “Father of the American Navy” along with Dumfries is the third largest area in Scotland.   It also has at its most southwestern point at the end of a peninsula, which juts into the Irish Sea, the Mull of Galloway, which has the distinction of being the southern most point of Scotland.

Its geography varies from over 200 miles of coastline (where many shipwrecks lie or float) with the topography varying from cliffs to seashores in the west to hilly, rugged terrain in the east.

 From its western cliffs you can see Ireland, England, and Wales.   Galloway is very rural and its current product is chiefly dairy.  It is here that the belted Galloway, known as Belties, was developed in the 16th century.  This beef cow is noted for the wide band of white circling its belly with the rest of its body being a black, dun, or red color. 

The climate is unusual for Scotland and many beautiful gardens such as Threave Gardens (a popular tourist attraction) are found here. 

There are many rivers, lochs, reservoirs, and of course, the long coastline, so fishing is also one of Galloway’s industries.  Its rivers include the Border Esk, the Annan, Nith, Cree, and Bladnoch as well as smaller rivers such as the Urr, Dee, and the Water of Luce where a fish called tope is found. 

I’ve written earlier about the areas of the Annan (home of the older Bruces) and the Nith.

John Balliol was noted in Scotland’s history when he was chosen by Edward I to be king, over Robert the Bruce, after the death of the Maiden of Norway on her way to receive the crown of England. 

Apparently both John and Robert were entitled by birth to claim the crown.  Both the Galloway and Dumfries area people supported John over Robert. 

John swore loyalty to Edward and to England.

Archibald the Grim was a Douglas (the illegitimate son of James, the Douglas entrusted with the heart of Robert the Bruce), born around 1320.   He was known as a statesman and soldier.  In 1384 he defeated the English at Lochmaben Castle (one of the Bruce’s homes) thus clearing Annandale of the last of the English at that time.   He held the titles of Lord of Galloway and Earl of Douglas. 

To mark the occasion of receiving the title of the Lord of Galloway he built Threave Castle on an island in the middle of the River Dee.  It was here that he died on Christmas Eve, 1400.

 Two centuries later the Covenanters besieged the castle and when it was abandoned they caused all floors, iron, and wood to be removed.    The remains of the castle still stand on its little island in the Dee in Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfrieshire.

Lady Devorgilla is best known for carrying her embalmed husband’s heart with her until she died.  She had an abbey built in New Abbey near Dumfries in his memory.  When she died she was buried there with her husband’s heart. The monks subsequently renamed the abbey from New Abbey to Sweetheart Abbey. Lady Devargilla’s tomb can still be seen there.

Robert Burns lived in Galloway for a good part of his life and wrote many of his poems there.

With such a large coastline and with its proximity to Ireland, Galloway was very likely have been the exit point for many Scots fleeing their homes and persecution, famine, etc.

Not much is heard or read about Galloway, but the area has contributed a great deal throughout Scotland’s history, just not as vividly nor infamously as the Highlands, Edinburgh, the Borders and other more ‘colorful’ areas of Scotland. .


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