Current Events

Just a little aside to tell you what’s been going on. As in the previous post, I have been attempting to read Michael Prestwich’s, Edward 1. It has been slightly dry and definitely not as reader friendly as Marc Morris’s, A Great and Terrible King. Although I did feel that Marc’s book had a definite sympathetic bent towards Edward. Prestwich’s book is more a confusing reword of the facts of his reign as taken from the financial accounts of the time. This of course, is useful for citing your own research but so far, does little to flesh out the person of Edward himself in the way that Marc does.Again, let me caveat that with the fact that I am only partway into the book.

While there is no doubt that the facts are essential to proving the likelihood of a certain event taking place, it does take talent to bring that to the public. It is rather distracting to have numbers written all over the place when I am reading. Hopefully sometime in the near future they will find better ways to cite sources. That being said , I like it when the writer says that prior thoughts on a subject couldn’t have been correct because ……. and there is the fact.  We can never fully know what the motivations may have been behind someone’s actions unless we were there. History is always incomplete. We are a little more certain of the outcomes of their actions. Let me say this though, it is hard to even begin to imagine the world Edward was thrown into as a young man. The term “living large” would hardly describe it. Some were up to the task , like Edward, and some were not, like his father.” It is a pity that the closest most young men will get to this kind of history is in a video game. I would recommend Marc’s book as a good basic book that can hold your interest. When I am done with Prestwich’s book I will do some comparing. If my mind isn’t boggled by then.

In other news, I had put my Irish research to bed in order to get on with the Scottish side of the family and that is how I got into this thing with Edward. He was the scourge of the Scots and I became curious about all the claims against him. However, things suddenly started to crop up. First, I got an email by an offended second cousin who felt I had portrayed her in a bad light (which I have tried to rectify), then I got an email from a lady who has worked at Garden Hill for 20 years and suddenly came upon my post Life at Garden Hill. That was the home of my great aunt and uncle who ran the South Dublin workhouse. It was converted into offices. She wanted to know if I had more info and has colleagues writing about the St. James hospital which was built over it. The house will be torn down and replaced by a pediatric wing. Then just the other day, I got a long-awaited reply from William Healy, whose great grandfather was acquainted with the Phillips family (my mom’s family). He is trying to help me locate the graves of my great grandparents and is sending information on that. Mystery there is that everyone keeps saying that 3 brothers came to Canada instead of 2. I was told the first one died when he was young but I have not found a death record for him. That leads me onto another chase to see if either of these is true. It is all unexpected but exciting! I hadn’t thought of my posts as being permanently up there for people to read years after I wrote them. Lesson learned.


The Infamous Edward

Edward I also known as ” Longshanks” and “Hammer of the Scots”, will forever live in the memory of Scots as the “villain of the piece” because of his murderous campaign to bring Scotland into union with England. The capture and decapitating of William Wallace was a measure of his intention. He was ruthless in his methods.

Edward was born at Westminster in 1239. His father Henry III (b. 1207) was the first ruler of Britain from the Angevin or Plantagenet line in France. The name Plantagenet derives from the founder of this dynasty, Geoffrey V of Anjou who used to wear a sprig of broom (genet)  in his hat. Edward’s mother was Eleanor of Provence.

Henry was a weak and ineffectual ruler who caused trouble among the English by populating his court with the French family of his wife Eleanor. His barons took exception to this and led by Simon de Montfort , Henry’s brother-in-law and Earl of Leicester, they forced him to sign the “Provisions of Oxford” a guarantee of rights for the English people. Henry soon reneged on the charter and civil war broke out. During the Battle of Lewes, Henry and his son Edward were captured and held captive. Even after this, the Barons could not agree among themselves and another war broke out. Edward escaped and joined the side of the Barons. During this war, Simon de Montfort was killed. He had laid the foundations for a parliamentary government in which the king could no longer rule alone and had been a mentor to Edward .

Edward I

Edward I

In 1254, Edward was married to Eleanor of Castille (Spain) in a political effort by Henry to retain their lands in Gascony (France). Eleanor was 13 years old and Edward was 15. She went with him on a crusade to the Palestine in 1271 where she gave birth to a daughter, Joanna and to Wales in 1284  where he was building Caernarfon castle . There she had their son Edward who would rule after his father. In the end, they had 17 children together. Edward was so devoted to her that he had “the Eleanor Crosses” built for her after she died.

Eleanor of Castille

Eleanor of Castille

While they were returning from the crusades, Henry died and Edward took the throne determined to repair the ruin of his father’s reign. He set up a system of administration and law in England reforming the ancient French land laws but retained parliament.

Edward completed the conquest of Wales, a place where the original British had been pushed to during the Norman Invasion. Thereafter, he set about building the round castle towers that now dot the countryside of Wales. Then he expelled the Jews from England and appropriated their property and money for his own use.

Had things gone differently in Scotland after the death of Alexander III, Edward might have never been involved in “The Great Cause”, Scotland’s fight for independence. Alexander had maintained a time of peace with Edward by paying homage to him but for only those lands he owned in England. Thus the lands of Scotland were not under control by Edward. Two tragedies ensued, first Alexander’s accidental death while returning from his new young wife, Yolande and secondly, the death of Margaret the Maid of Norway, on her way to be married to Edward’s son which would continue the peace between both countries.

At this point the country was thrown into chaos when as many as 14 claims were made to the Scottish throne. The barons decided to go to Edward to make a decision. This he would do only if they agreed that he was their sovereign. They agreed and Edward proceeded with all apparent legality. It was decided that John Balliol had the most legal right to the throne because he was a descendant of David I of Scotland through his mother.

John Balliol was forced to swear homage to Edward but when Edward decided that Scotland had to fight with him against the French, the country’s magnates protested. The Scots made a treaty with the French, the “Auld Alliance”,  upon the threat of an English invasion.  They  attacked Carlisle, in northwest England. Edward countered with an attack on Berwickwhich levelled the area.

Later, at the Battle of Dunbar, the Scots were defeated and John Balliol was publicly humiliated, stripped of his regalia and sent to the Tower of London. 2000 Scots nobles and clergy were forced to sigh the “Ragman Rolls” declaring their homage and fealty to Edward. By 1296, Edward had an English parliament set up in Berwick which he rebuilt and troops holding castles across Scotland.

Fighting Without and Within

When the Romans left Scotland in the early 400’s, they left behind the remains of forts along Hadrian’s Wall, a system of roads and a series of buffer states they hoped would keep order in Britain. They had more pressing issues in Europe that would eventually lead to the decline and fall of a mighty empire.

The tale of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland, being invaded by Gaelic tribes from Ireland who then absorbed the Picts, has recently been challenged by archaeologists. There is no evidence on the ground of a struggle or of a different way of life than the one already there. It is now believed that Dal Riata (Dalriada), as the area was known, had a native population who spoke the same language (Gaelic) as their neighbors across the sea in Northern Ireland (some 12 miles away). The Romans used the term “Scotti” or “pirates”  to describe the Gaels in a derogatory way. They were known for harassing the Roman merchant ships along the coast. Around 563 A.D.,  the Irish monk, Columba followed and began to convert the Picts to Christianity.

Kingdom of Dal Riata  580-600 AD

Kingdom of Dal Riata 580-600 AD

During the Viking raids, in 839, the king of Dal Riata was slain and Kenneth Mac Alpin began his fight for the throne which he won in 847. Under Kenneth, the kingdoms of the Scots and Picts would unite and become known as Alba. During the late 900’s, many violent struggles for the throne began. One of these struggles was between Duncan I and Macbeth, one of his generals, familiar to us in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.  In 1057, Macbeth was killed by Duncan’s son, Malcolm III. Malcolm allowed people in England who opposed the rule of William the Conqueror, the Norman king, to settle in Scotland. This he did under a system of feudalism whereby land was granted in exchange for things such as military service. After Malcolm’s death in 1093, the Scots continued to fight England for their freedom often becoming allies with France.

During the reign of Malcolm’s successor, Alexander III (1249-1286), there was a time of piece and prosperity for Scotland. He married Margaret, daughter of Henry III of England but refused to recognize Henry as overlord of Scotland. He then went to war against the Norwegian king Haaken to regain control of the Western Isles. Haaken died and the Treaty of Perth was signed with his successor, Magnus which granted him the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Scotland retained the Western Isles and the Isle of Man .  An agreement was also made with the MacDonald Clan who had fought with the Norwegians. They were able to keep their lands in the isles by recognizing Alexander as their overlord. From this they greatly profited and soon became “Lords of the Isles”, strong enough to remain independent of the monarchy to a great degree.

Alexander’s wife Margaret died along with the three children he had by her and this left him with only his granddaughter Margaret as heir. She was being raised in Norway with her paternal family. Alexander remarried in 1285 to Yolande de Dreux who belonged to a powerful French family. Tragically, on his way to meet her in Fife, he met with an accident which killed him. Yolande, apparently pregnant at the time, had a child who was stillborn. This left the throne to Margaret, the granddaughter. Tensions rose when many of the Scottish nobles, including Robert Bruce I, protested rule under a Norwegian queen.

Alexander III

     Alexander III

The Norwegians applied to Edward I for help in gaining the throne. Edward agreed to do this with the condition that Margaret would marry his son. To this the Scots would not agree.The problem was solved when the child Margaret died on her way from Norway to Scotland.

During this time period, we know two things about my family although further research would without doubt uncover more. One, the family of my great great grandfather, William McDowell, had its origins in Galloway, home of the Lords of Galloway. And two, that John Gartshore, ancestor of my maternal grandmother, was granted land by exgambion by Alexander II, father of the above, for land in Kirkintilloch, Scotland between the years 1211 and 1231.



Portrait of a Pictish Woman


I was actually looking for a map of the original Scottish kingdoms when I came upon this and a few other illustrations of a “pictish woman”. I found it at which is connected to the University of North Carolina. The description with it goes like this;
“Hand-colored version of Theodor de Bry’s engraving of a Pict woman (a member of an ancient Celtic people from Scotland). De Bry’s engraving, “The True Picture of a Women Picte,” was originally published as an illustration in Thomas Hariot’s 1588 book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia.
The woman stands with a long spear held upright in her left hand, and two long spears held horizontally in her right hand. She wears only a large ring around her waist, from which a curved sword hangs behind her, and a smaller ring around her neck. Much of her body appears to be painted or tattooed. In the background, two buildings stand on hillsides.

Theodor de Bry was a Flemish-born engraver and publisher who based his illustrations for Hariot’s book on the paintings of colonist John White. Most of the book’s illustrations depict the native people encountered by Hariot and White on their North American expedition, but A Brief and True Report also contains five engravings of the Picts and their neighbors in ancient Scotland. De Bry included these images “to show how that the inhabitants of the Great Bretannie have been in times past as savage as those of Virginia.” An unidentified artist applied the color to this version of de Bry’s engraving.”

It is a rather romantic drawing, typical of the period but I can’t help wondering how the original artist got his information. Another pit to jump into. Just for fun though I will add this illustration by the same person of the lady’s male counterpart.


Again, a similar description:
“The Trvve Picture of One Picte.” Theodor de Bry’s engraving of a Pict (a member of an ancient Celtic people from Scotland), published in Thomas Hariot’s 1588 book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. The Pict stands with a shield in his left hand, and a tall spear and disembodied human head in his right. Another head lies on the ground near the man’s left foot. The man wears only a large ring around his waist, from which a curved sword hangs behind him, and a smaller ring around his neck.
Theodor de Bry was a Flemish-born engraver and publisher who based his illustrations for Hariot’s book on the paintings of colonist John White. Most of the book’s illustrations depict the native people encountered by Hariot and White on their North American expedition, but A Brief and True Report also contains five engravings of the Picts and their neighbors in ancient Scotland. De Bry included these images “to show how that the inhabitants of the Great Bretannie have been in times past as savage as those of Virginia.”
The text accompanying this image reads: In times past the Picts, habitants of one part of great Bretainne, which is now named England, were savages, and did paint all their body after the manner following. They did let their hair grow as far as their shoulders, saving those which hang upon their forehead, the which they did cut. They shave all their beard except the mustaches, upon their breast were painted the head of some bird, and about the paps [nipples] as it were beams of the sun, upon the belly some fearful and monstrous face, spreading the beams very far upon the thighs. Upon the two knees some faces of lion, and upon their legs as it has been shells of fish. Upon their shoulders griffons heads, and then they have serpents about their arms: They carried about their necks one iron ring, and another about the middle of their body, about the belly, and the saids hang on a chain, a scimitar or Turkey sword, they did carry in one arm a target made of wood, and in the other hand a pick, of which the iron was after the manner of a Lick, with tassels on, and the other end with a round boule. And when they have overcome some of their enemies, they did never fail to carry away their heads with them.”

I am not sure why the author would be trying to show the similarities between the two groups of indigenous people, the North American Indian and the Picts of Scotland. 1588 was a long way from the time of the Picts. Was he trying to raise sympathy for the American Indian or have things not changed that much in that there is money in novelty. I think we are all aware of the voyeuristic tendencies of the public  perhaps he was trying to exploit that. I reserve judgement.

The Smith Family of Coatbridge, Scotland

While Richard was living life at boarding schools in Dublin, Jane, his future wife, was growing up in a bustling family of iron-workers in Coatbridge, Scotland. From Wikipedia: ” Gow is a Scottish surname. The name is derived from the Gaelic gobha, meaning ‘smith’.[1][2] The name is represented in Scottish Gaelic as Gobha.
The Gow surname is associated chiefly with the Perthshire and Inverness-shire part of the Scottish Highlands and is part of the Clan Chattan Confederation and a sept of Clan Macpherson.” In other words, the name Smith is an occupational name and was originally Gow. Clan Chattan was one of the main forces at the Battle of Culloden where Bonny Prince Charlie’s claim to the throne was defeated. There is in fact a particular story related to the Smith involvement in a battle at the North Inch of Perth in the Spey Valley. Below the Gow tartan.

The Gow ( Smith Tartan)


And the clan crest.

Gow CrestThe name Gartshore from Jane’s mother, Marion Reid Gartshore, is a “locational” name from Kirkintilloch in Dumbartonshire, Scotland. It is a very old name, recorded as early as the 13th century. At the beginning of the 19th century (which is my earliest census of the family) the lands passed over to the Murray baronets . The crest and motto are on the linked page.