Saturday, December 15, 2018

An Excellent Christmas Present

An Excellent Christmas Present. On Sale On Amazon. If you like things Irish, Scottish, a Gaelic princess, the biography of an Irish family, a brush with a Bean Sí... This is Your Christmas Gift. 

Link:  Finding the McCains

Barry R McCain

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Lughnasa 2018

Modern advertisement for a Lughnasa festival in Ireland

Here we are again, another year and the return of Lughnasa.  Lughnasa is one of the oldest festivals we have in the Isles.  In modern Gaelic spelling, it is Lúnasa, in Scots Gaelic, Lùnastal, and in Manx Gaelic Luanistyn.  I like the spelling Lughnasa myself.   

The festival is observed in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and throughout the Diaspora of the Gaelic people.  The etymology of Lughnasa is from the Old Gaelic, Lug (the god) = násad (assembly). Lughnasa is the start of the Harvest season.

Lughnasa has been celebrated for at least three thousand years and probably much longer.  Traditionally it is held on 1 August and the surrounding days.  This is the time between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.  Lughnasa is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Samhain, Imbolc, and Lá Bealtaine.
An Tarbh (The Bull)

Lughnasa is mentioned in the earliest Gaelic literature and was ancient even by early Christian times.  The festival is named from the god Lugh, who is one of the ancient gods of the Gael.  Lughnasa includes religious ceremonies, ritual sporting contests, matchmaking, visits to holy wells and Faerie trees,  and special market days.  Since ancient times, there festival included the tasting of the ‘first fruits’ and elaborate feasts, the sacrifice of a bull, servings of bilberries, and a ritual play and dance where Lugh takes and protects the harvest for the people of the tribes. 

A pre Christian image of Lugh from France

Lughnasa enjoyed great popularity well into the 20th century, but waned in mid-century, as modernity put stress upon these old customs... but, fortunately, Lughnasa has seen a great revival in the last few years.  Lughnasa  festival, fairs, and activities are growing in popularity.  The festival survives under different names, such as Crom Dubh Sunday, Garland Sunday, Bilberry Sunday, Mountain Sunday.  Lughnasa has been incorporated in Christian ritual with Saint Patrick filling in for Lugh, in the pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday in July.

the Lughnasa fire

In Irish myth Lughnasa was begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast and athletic competition to commemorate the death of Tailtiu,  his foster mother.  The legends tell us that she died of exhaustion after clearing the fields of Ireland for agriculture. Tailtiu was the wife of the last Fir Bolg king of Ireland, before the coming of the Tuath Dé Danann.  

Enjoy your Lughnasa... I cooked a beef brisket for the celebration and will have a wee fire out in the fire pit tonight.   We remember our ancestors on such occasions, always a good thing to do. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Irish And Scottish Female Ancestor Surnames

Irish and Scots Female Ancestor Names in Primary Sources

Finding the name of a male ancestor is fairly straight forward.  It will appear in some anglicized or phonetic spelling of the original Gaelic surname.  Most people are familiar with male surnames prefixes; Ó means “descendant of” and Mac means “son of.”   Mag is an alternative spelling of Mac and was sometimes used when the name that follows it began with a vowel.   

The ladies used a similar prefix system. Girls and unmarried women with an Ó surname are written Ní.  A Mac prefix surname is written as Nic.

A married woman would take her husband's surname, but the prefix form was different than the male form.  Ó became and Mac became Mhic.  

This name change did not always hide the surname of the woman’s father however.  In traditional Gaelic society some women retained their father's surname due to the strong sense of family and clan affiliation.  This was done when the woman was the daughter of a land holding family and had high status within society.

 Two examples from the mid to late 1500s that I located in my own research are:  Fionnuala Nic Eáin married Dónaill Mac Ailín.  Her “married name” was Fionnuala Mhic Ailín.  In actuality, she retained her maiden name in the community and is listed by that name in the records.  Her name appears crudely anglicised as Finvall Nikean.  Here is an entry from the Argyll records: 

In the same year (1572) Finvall Nikean, the wife of Donald M'Alane V'Donile of Dunnad, resigned to James Scrymgeoure of Dudhope constable of Dundee the twenty shillinglands of Carnyame, the said Donald warranting the constable free of all harm in respect of the lands from the heirs of the deceased Lauchlane M'Donald V'Alane.

This data allowed me to connect Fionnuala Nic Eáin to the House of Dónaill Mac Ailín's cousin, who was Donnchadh Rua Mac Ailín, who used the clan surname of Mac Eáin. (the man's name in the above document 'Donald M'Alane V'Donile' is Dónaill Mac Ailín Mhic Dhónaill, the 'Mhic' here meaning grandson or descendant of.) 

As you progress with your genetic genealogy research you will eventually reach a point where records were not written in modern English.   The records are often in Gaelic or written in an English dialect, such as Lallans or Hiberno-English, with the surname anglicised into a phonetic Gaelic form.
Dun Na Muc in Kilmichael Glassar

Another example connected with the family of Donnchadh Rua Mac Ailín, is Aifric Nic Dhonnachaidh Rua the wife of Malcolm Scrymgeour.  Again, this Gaelic woman does not use her husband’s surname, but rather a surname that identifies her clan.  In this case once again, to the family of Donnchadh Rua Mac Ailín of Dun na muc. He was a thane in Glassary.  In the actual record her name is recorded as “Effreta nein Donche roy.”

With men’s names this does not present too much difficulty if you are familiar with their Gaelic forms. Do not overlook the possibility of locating a female ancestor from this time period.  Most records and pre 1600 genealogies tend to feature only male names.  However, in some cases the name of a female ancestor will appear, but you will need to know how to recognize the surname when you see it.

When you get on the trail of your Irish and Scottish ancestors be aware of both male and female Gaelic surname forms.  You might make a great find.

Barry R McCain on Amazon

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice 2018

This is the Summer Solstice today.   It is the Midsummer festival which is often celebrated with a bonfire.  Saint John the Baptist was associated with the festival in Christian times and there were prayers for God's blessing upon the corps at the height of the growing season.  Of course, the festival is much older than St John and dates back to pagan times.  St John was a relative newcomer to the Midsummer event and it was none other than An Dagda, also know as Cromm, who used to bless the crops. 

In astronomical speak, it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere... and the shortest night of the year.  Midsummer is, and has been, a prominent cultural event in ancient Europe and still going strong in the 21st Century.  

Sucellus (Dagda's cognate in Gaul)
Midsummer is celebrated on or near the Summer's Solstice throughout Northern Europe.  Festivals and celebrations are held from 19 June to 25 June.  Midsummer festivals are held throughout Ireland on the weekend closest to the actual Solstice day.  Bonefires lit on the hill tops are a tradition. 

It customary to have a fire on the eve, or on the night, of the Solstice and advisable to run and jump over the fire to evoke the blessings of Dagda.  A toast to the Solstice, to Dagda and to ole St John as well, all advisable.  A bonfire is best, but a small fire in a fire-pit we do splendidly.  And for those apartment dwellers, it is fine to just light the candle and open the wine and make your toast.

So, Shake a Leg and Pull a Cork and Welcome in the Solstice!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Laggan Redshanks

Dave Swift from the Claoíbh in Redshank attire
(Link to Claoíbh on Facebook)

In the sixteenth century Scottish Highlanders settled in the Laggan district of east Donegal. They were called Redshanks. Their story is told in the book The Laggan Redshanks.  The history of the Laggan Redshanks has many fascinating elements which include Clann Chaimbeul and their dynamic leader the fifth Earl of Argyll, Gaelic sexual intrigues, English Machiavellian maneuvers, and the Redshanks themselves.

The Redshank settlement in the Laggan took place in the tumultuous years during the sixteenth century that were dominated by Elizabethan English attempts to bring Ulster under the control of the Crown.  The Redshanks were vital players in these affairs and it was their military skills that delayed the conquest of Ulster until the beginning of the next century.  The Laggan Redshanks were part of a military build up to protect and support Clann Uí Dhónaill (clan O'Donnell).  They settled on Clann Uí Dhónaill lands in east Donegal that border the Foyle River.  One of their main functions was to protect the river harbours on the Foyle.

The Redshanks came primarily from mid Argyll.  The first cousin of the Earl of Argyll was the famous Iníon Dubh and it was she that organised the Redshank military forces that supported the O'Donnell clan.  Iníon Dubh married the taoiseach (chief) of Clann Uí Dhónaill in 1569 and this set the stage for the Redshank settlement.

Magh Gaibhlín, Porthall, Donegal, castle of Iníon Dubh
The Laggan Redshanks remained on their lands in Portlough precinct after the Plantation began in 1610.  Their Campbell connections, Reformed faith, along with their reputation as elite fighting men, made them acceptable to the incoming Stewarts who took over the east Donegal lands of Iníon Dubh.  The Redshanks were Gaels in every sense, but could be considered British subjects in an ecumenical sense, complete with appropriate loyalties, and a version of the Protestant faith.  In the Portlough area, the incoming Planter Scots came from Ayrshire and Lennox.  Lennox included lands in the Scottish Gaeltacht and parts of Ayrshire were still Gaelic speaking in the early 1600s.  The Scots from these areas were familiar with Gaelic language and customs and were ethnically similar to the Campbell Redshanks.

Many of the descendants of the Laggan Redshanks migrated to the English Colonies during the Ulster Migration and became part of the Scots-Irish people. Of interest to the genealogist, the book includes appendices of the Portlough muster rolls and surnames of the Redshanks and notes on their point of origin in Scotland.

Link: The Laggan Redshanks 

Link: Barry R McCain 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Cultural Continuum II

Walking up to the summit of Loughcrew
This photo taken on the same day as I had the strange experience at Loughcrew in County Meath, at Sliabh na Callí, which is the main hill at the site. It is the abode of Béara, who is a Bean Sí (faerie woman) and one of the Tuatha Dé.  There is a passage tomb on top, in which at the equinox sunrise, the rays of the sun shine down and illuminate the inner chamber.  There are the graves of extremely ancient dead kings, queens, and warriors there.  I give a full account of my strange and singular experience at Loughcrew in my book 'Finding the McCains.'  

These Celtic faeries are not your wee, cute type, of the Victorian era children's books.  They are not small, and do not have wings, and are not cute. They are tall, fair, powerful beings of light, that are dangerous to be around.  Mysterious beings from another world of existence, who occasionally, still have interaction with our world.  There are several interesting theories about their existence. I will go into these matters in my next book in some detail where I explore the phenomenon of Faeries from a perspective of quantum physics and morhpic resonance and self organising fields of existence.    

Béara is remembered throughout Ireland and Scotland, in the old Gaelic homelands. She is, or has become in legend, a primordial nature spirit and Queen of Winter.  She can appear as an old woman or as a beautiful young maiden, tall and fair.  

Cailleach Béara is called Cally Berry in Ulster English and has other names in other regions.  You will also hear Gentle Annie, Old Woman of the Mountains, and she is known as Caill Bhuere in Argyll.  Cailleach is often translated as the Hag or Witch, but Cailleach really just means the Veiled One.  The word Cailleach is used in several Irish terms.  A Cailleach Phráta is a shrivelled potato and a Cailleach Oiche is an owl.  A Cailleach Feasa is a wise woman or fortune teller and a Cailleach Dhubh is the term for a nun. 

The mystery of Loughcrew and my experience there added to my understanding of the people and culture from which my family originated.  Béara is still remembered in Kilmichael Glassary where the McCain family originated.  Stories of her were told around the McCain hearths for centuries.  These stories of the Old Faith did not please everyone however.  

In 1560s, Seon Carsuel, Bishop and pastor to the fifth Earl of Argyll, complained about the Gaels in mid Argyll, where my family lived, just a short couple of miles from the Bishop's residence.  In his writings, Bishop Carsuel cited the stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann as the survival of paganism among the Gaels there.  Bishop Carsuel lived at Carnasserie Castle, and he could literally look out to the smoke from the hearth fires of McCain homes where the stories of Béara and the other Tuatha Dé Danann were being told.  The Bishop was not please with the survival of Gaelic pagan lore .

To quote Bishop Carsuel, ... darkness of sin and ignorance and design of those who teach and write and cultivate Gaelic, that they are more designed, and more accustomed, to compose vain, seductive, lying and worldly tales about the Tuatha Dé Danann and the sons of Mil and the heroes and Fionn Mac Cumhail and his warriors and to cultivated and piece together much else which I will not enumerate of tell here, for the purpose of winning for themselves the vain rewards of the world.

Bishop Carsuel wrote that in 1567.  Two short years later my own family left mid Argyll and moved to Donegal.  They were part of the the Gaelic military build up connected with Iníon Dubh and her marriage to the chief of the Ó Dónaill clan.

Myrddin (Merlin) the Druid of the Old Faith
Carsuel, in his writings on the beliefs of the Gaels, was describing a cultural continuum that was still alive in the 1500s and had it roots in the Bronze Age (or earlier).   At Loughcrew, I had experienced something that would have been familiar to my McCain ancestors that lived near him.  What would the good Bishop think if he knew centuries later that at least some Gaels still enjoyed the 'vain, seductive, lying and worldly tales' of the Tuatha Dé Danann?  No offense meant to the good Bishop, but it is reassuring to know that tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann still live and I had been fortunate enough to participate in one.  

Placing an 'intention' on a Faerie Tree
I have loved Celtic myths since I was a young boy.  It is not only my McCain family that I have this love, the other lines in my family are also from Ireland on my paternal side and from Wales on my maternal side.  My father's mother's father's line, the Tweedy family, has the Second Sight. I have been aware of the Second Sight since I was a young boy.  I am researching the Second Sight now for upcoming writing projects.  As many know I had a stroke back in late September, which laid me low for six months.  I am back writing and researching now and I have another personal experience to include in my research.  A Tweedy cousin of mine had a Second Sight experience last summer.  The vision was a portent about me and related to my health... and a month or so later, the event happened.  This gets into the topic of morphic resonance, i.e. the nuts and bolts of how Second Sight works.

Old beliefs, our tales of our people, our tribes, etc., it still lives after all this time.   We are our ancestors.  

© 2018 Barry R McCain

Barry R McCain on Amazon

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Lone Star Flag Part II

Mary Long's Long Star Flag 1819

In The Lone Star Flag Part I, we learned that the Lone Star flag dates back to 1810 and events in Louisiana.   It is evident that the icon of the Lone Star lived beyond the 1810-1811 Republic of West Florida.  It returned just a few years later, again in Louisiana, among the same group of settlers and citizens.

James Long was a US Army surgeon and served with distinction in the War of 1812 and was present at the famous Battle of New Orleans (January 1815).  After his US Army service, he became a filibuster who led an expedition to seize control of the province of Texas from the Spanish ( a filibuster is a man who wages war upon a foreign country, meaning the man by himself and not operating on behalf of another country's government).

The border between New Spain and the United States was disputed at that time.  The Anglo-Celtic settlers planned a filibustering expedition to outright conquer the province of Texas, a province in northern New Spain.  James Long's comrade in this adventure was José Félix Trespalacios, a citizen of New Spain, who had been imprisoned for instigating a revolt against Spanish rule in México.  The two men gathered some 200 militiamen from their headquarters in Natchez, Mississippi.  

Jim Bowie and Ben Milam, two well known figures in Texas history, were in Long's militia group.  Both Bowie and Milam had prominent roles in the Texas Revolution in 1835-1836.   Long also attempted to recruit the famous French pirate, Jean Lafitte, but his attempts were unsuccessful.  Long's forces were primarily Anglo-Celt frontiersmen and several former French soldiers; a typical Deep South amalgam.

Long's Lone Star flag, version II; 1820

By June 1819 the Long Expedition arrived in Texas. The small army was initially successful and established a republic of sorts.  It did last longer than the ill fated Republic of West Florida. However, as the Spanish organised themselves to confront Long, the republic began to lose impetus. The men became restless and there was no method of expanding upon their success.  The Spanish organised their militia to confront Long's forces.  A number of the Long's men returned to Louisiana.  The Long affair did not end well.  Spanish military units confronted the remaining men in Long's force and quickly routed them.  Long escaped to Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Long was persistent. On his return to Louisiana, he began raising funds to equip a second invasion into New Spain.  In April 1820, he joined members from his first expedition on the Boliva Peninsula (in present day Galveston County, Texas).  He had 300 troops and brought with him his pregnant wife Jane.  There his expedition remained for a year, but only controlled the land under their feet.  Long seized Presidio La Bahía in an attempt to force the action.  The Spanish military counterattacked and forced Long and his men to surrender four days later.  Long was imprisoned in several Mexican towns and eventually sent to Mexico City.  There he was shot to death by a Mexican guard on 8 April 1822.

After Long's misadventure in Texas the Lone Star was next used in the mid 1830s.  It is interesting, that the Lone Star was again used by the same group of settlers and frontiersmen.  It is obvious, they liked the icon, knew its history, and continued to use it.   As the impetus toward revolution gained support in the province of Texas, the Lone Star icon returned. 

The Lone Star is on the Gonzales Banner (the Come and Take It flag), on the Scott Lone Star Independence flag (1835), and on the Golidad flag (1836).  The red Long Lone Star flag was also used in the 1842 Summervell Expedition when Texas troops crossed the Rio Grande and fought in Mier, Mexico.  

Replica of the Come And Take It flag 1835

The cannon that appears on the Come And Take It flag was used briefly at the beginning of the Texian revolution against the Mexican government in October of 1835.  There are two schools of thought on the cannon's fate.  I would urge the reader to explore the topic further.  The important point being, the Gonzales cannon was used in the first skirmish in the Texian revolution, and was a feature on the Come And Take It flag along with the Lone Star. 

Captain William Scott's flag 1835

The Troutman flag was designed by Joanna Troutman, in a response for aid for the cause of Texas in 1835.  Troutman made the flag for the Georgia Battalion of volunteers going to support Texas in their struggle against Mexico.  The flag had two inscriptions, 'Liberty or Death,' on one side, and Ubi Libertas Habitat, Ibi Nostra Patria Est'  (Where Liberty Dwells, There Is Our Fatherland).  The flag was unfurled at Velasco, Texas, on 8 January 1836.  It was used as the Texas national flag after the news of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Troutman Flag 1836

Burnet Flag 1836

The Burnet Flag was used in December of 1836 and later became the national flag of the Republic of Texas.  The Burnet Flag continued on as the Texas state flag until 1879, when it was incorporated into the present day Texas state flag.

Other splendid examples of the Lone Star in use from the mid 1800s include the excellent Republic of Mississippi flag in 1861.  It was the flag of Mississippi after secession from the United States and prior to joining the Confederacy.  It is a very handsome flag with a Lone Star on a blue canton and a magnolia tree on a white field.  After the WBTS this flag returned as the Mississippi state flag, and remained so until the late 1800s.

And then there is the Bonnie Blue Flag, which interestingly enough, has never been an 'official'  flag of any government outside of Texas.  It became popular in the early 1860s in the build up to the Southern secession movement.  The Bonnie Blue Flag remained a symbol of Southern independence, albeit, an unofficial one.  The Bonnie Blue flag continues to be popular and one still sees it use.  It is flown at private homes, at events, picnics, over decks with barbecues going on, at any festive occasion, etc.  It represents the same qualities that all the manifestations of the Lone Star flag represent.... Liberty and Freedom.   It is a good symbol and attractive flag.

The Bonnie Blue Flag

© Barry R McCain

Barry R McCain on Amazon

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Lone Star Flag, part 1

Republic of West Florida 1810-1811

I have a great interest our heritage and people.  This includes many different aspects of them from ancestry, to culture, society, history, etc. and with that preamble,  I focus on an early banner used by the Anglo-Celts.  This chapter of their history takes place in what is now the state of Louisiana.  A flag with a single star, a Lone Star, had its beginning in 1810 in the short lived Republic of West Florida.  It was and is a simple design, a single white star in a blue field.  

For those not familiar with the Anglo-Celts, they are the Irish, Scots, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Scots-Irish, and English, in any form or combination.  The term normally refers to these people in their Diaspora in the USA, Canada, and Australia, and the other places they settled around the world. Anglo-Celt is also applied to the descendants of these people.

I first heard the term Anglo-Celt used by Texas historian T R Fehrenbach, who wrote Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans.  He used the term to describe that large group of indigenous Americans, meaning those early settlers and their descendants.   Most modern historians incorrectly apply the term Scots-Irish to this group.  However, they were diverse people, but within the context of the British Isles and Ireland.  They developed into a people with a shared heritage, values, related ethnicity, etc. T R Fehrenbach used the term to describe the people that settled in Texas from 1820 into the early 1900s.  And that is where the story of their banner comes in.  The Anglo-Celts originated the Lone Star flag as their symbol in 1810 in Louisiana.

After the America Revolutionary War, Spain regained control of the territory of West Florida.  This was located in east Louisiana, across southern Mississippi, southern Alabama into the western Florida Panhandle.  Anglo-Celtic settlers flooded into this area in the early 1800s.  These families were of Irish, Scottish, Scots-Irish, English, and Welsh ancestry.  Some were new immigrants and many were descendants of families that had migrated to the Colonies in the 1700s. There was an issue with so many Anglo-Celts settling in this area.  West Florida was under Spanish rule and these were extremely independent minded Anglo-Celts. The situation was not unlike the one they found in Texas just fifteen years later.  

West Florida 1800

The Anglo-Celts had conflicts with the Spanish officials in West Florida.  The settlers took action to remove themselves from Spanish rule.  With the large Scots-Irish component present, a revolution was inevitable.   

From June to September 1810 leaders in the settler communities held secret meetings which eventually escalated to open conventions.  These took place in the Baton Rouge District of what is now Louisiana.  A consensus was reached and the settlers moved to establish an independent Republic of West Florida, with its capital located at St Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.  On the morning of 23 September 1810, the Anglo-Celtic militia attacked Fort San Carlos in Baton Rouge.  The Spanish troops were ready and firefight ensued.  The Anglo-Celt militia prevailed and gained control of the area from Spain.  

The militia used the first Lone Star flag on that day.  The flag was a single five pointed star on a blue field. The flag was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Issac Johnson, who commanded the Feliciana cavalry, the militia force that made the attack.  The exact shade of blue in the flag's field is not known, but was believed to be a lighter blue than a navy blue. The flag was popular from its beginning.

Area in control by Republic of West Florida 1810
The flag endured and variations of the flag have been in use since that day.  However, the Republic of West Florida was short lived.  After their successful take over of West Florida, the leaders of the revolt became mired in politics.  The United States refused to recognise the new republic.  

On 27 October 1810, United States president, James Madison, proclaimed that the USA should take possession of the new republic on the dubious basis that it was part of the Louisiana Purchase.  The lands of the new republic were located east of the Mississippi River, which were not part of the Louisiana Purchase.  

Governments, being governments, the USA managed to read the various treaties and agreements in such a way that it was suggested (sort of) that the lands east of the Mississippi River could in fact, more or less, be included in the Louisiana Purchase and therefore, could be annexed into the United States.   It was not legal, but it was effective.

Fulwar Skipworth governor Republic of West Florida
By this time, the Republic of West Florida had chosen a governor, Fulwar Skipworth (keeping the long standing tradition of Southerners having unique names).  President Madison ordered William Claiborne, the USA military governor of Orleans Territory to take possession of the Republic of West Florida.  The West Floridians refused to submit.  

Governor Fulwar Skipworth proclaimed that he and his men would 'surround the Flag Staff and die in its defense.'  Bold talk and they meant it, and it was a bonnie flag.  Governor Skipworth did have some support from the French, but alas, it was in the form of words and an opinion only.  The French negotiator of the Louisiana Purchase, François Barbé-Marbois, agreed that the Baton Rouge district, or the Republic of West Florida, was considered part of Florida, as it was east of the Mississippi River.  But, might makes right, and it became a moot point.

USA military governor Claiborne ordered 300 United States soldiers from Fort Adams under Colonel Lenard Covington to move into the fledgling West Florida Republic.  On 6 December 1810, Colonel Covington and his troops moved into Baton Rouge.  Matters escalated quickly. The militia of the new republic were not looking forward to a war with the United States.  On 10 December 1810,  Governor Skipworth and his legislature entered negotiations with the USA.  Given the circumstances, i.e. an overwhelming show of military force,  Governor Skipworth accepted President Madison's annexation proclamation. Congress passed a joint resolution which was approved on 15 January 1811. 

So came the end of the short lived Republic of West Florida.  But, its Lone Star banner lived on and is still in use.

© 2018 Barry R McCain

Barry R McCain on Amazon

Monday, April 30, 2018


Beltane is the anglicised name of the Gaelic May Day festival.  May Day is on 1 May and is held on or near the halfway mark between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It is one of the oldest and most ancient festival days.  It is widely observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, and in modern times has spread to the Diaspora.  In Irish Gaelic it is called Lá Bealtaine, in Scottish Gaelic, Là Bealltainn, an in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn.  Beltane is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Samhain, Imbolc, and Lughnasa. 

It is not a 'fire festival,' but fire is a integral part of the festivities.  Prior to modern times it was a festival to mark and celebrate the moving of livestock to summer pastures, to honour the Old Ways and old gods, and evoke blessing of fertility of the tribe and the life giving cattle.  It was pastoral in its focus. 

Beltane is mentioned in the earliest written Gaelic literature when Christian monks began to write down Gaelic lore and myths in early medieval times.  The medieval accounts were ancient even then and date back before Christianity was introduced to the Gaelic homelands. 

On the Beltane Eve the festival began.  The people gathered to feast, have drink, and make offerings to the Aos Sí, who are the old gods of the Gaels.  Byres, the windows and doors of homes, etc., were decorated with flowers.  It was a joyous festival ushering in the bountiful time when the days grew longer, the sun shined more, and the weather grew warmer.

Beltane survived the coming of Christianity and continued on for centuries, despite the attempts of overly zealous Christian officials who wanted to stop the practice, as they were fully aware of the origins of Beltane.  By the 20th century the festival had almost died out and was only celebrated and practiced in certain areas in Ireland, Scotland, and Man.  However, in the late 20th century there was a revival of Beltane festivities.  The focus of Beltane changed some in these more modern times, but the main core beliefs did remain.  The concept of the season change, the coming of the sun, and the start of the season of growth and plenty, etc., remain.

Fire was and is an integral part of Beltane.  All fires were put out on Beltane Eve and then rekindled starting with the lighting of the bonfire.  It was this holy flame from which the 'new' flames of the the folk began.  It was the 'force fire' and sacred.   Many will recognise the fire ritual as the same ritual used in the Catholic Church and several other Christian denominations in the Easter lighting of the Paschal candle.  The Paschal candle ritual was probably borrowed from the European Old Faiths. There are many old pastoral customs practiced on Beltane Eve.  There are too many Beltane nuances and rituals to describe here, but there is one core aspect of the ritual.  This is a Deiseal procession around the sacred fire.  Deiseal means 'right-hand direction' or Sunwise (clockwise).   The Deiseal procession around the sacred fire was a Blessing of the Cosmos upon all. 

Beltane is still celebrated and the practice is growing.  It is now held not only in the Gaelic homeland, but in the Diaspora, and has been incorporated into similar May Eve and May Day celebrations in Europe.  While many see Beltane as just a good time with a bonfire, there is also a growing interest in the spiritual aspects of the festival.  The concepts of the a new growing season, the connection to the Old Ways of ancestors, and reflection upon life, are also now part of Beltane for a growing number of people.

a sacred fire of Bealtaine
So... Do enjoy Beltane.  A bonfire is best way to partake of course and with a Deiseal (clockwise) procession around the sacred fire.  Followed by toasts to the Old Ways, to Ancestors, to the coming season of Summer.  If you lack the means of a bonfire, a candle will do, or even a wee fire in your fire-pit.  Connect with your Ancestors and the Old Ways, as these are very good things. 

Sláinte ar Lá Bealtaine

Post Script: there are many excellent books on Gaelic folkways and Old Ways and I encourage all to explore these... and for those with a little patience, I will be putting out a small book on the Gaelic Old Faith in future, as my current writing projects are finished.

© 2018 Barry R McCain 

Barry R McCain on Amazon

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Gall-Gael

Gall Ghaeil Lord circa AD 1000

During the reign of Coinneach Mac Ailpín (AD 844-860) a people appeared in mid Argyll who were closely connected to Norwegian vikings.  These people joined with these vikings on their expeditions and they were called the Gall Ghaeil.  The name itself is a combination of the word Gall meaning a 'stranger'  or 'foreigner.'   The second element in the name is 'Gael'  i.e. a Gaelic speaking Celt. Gall-Gael is the anglicised form of the Gaelic term Gall-Ghaeil. They were literally the 'Foreign Gaels.'

Mid Argyll was the epicentre of Gall Ghaeil society. Later in their history they were also connected with the Kingdom of Galloway (Dumfries and Galloway, and southern Ayrshire) in present day southwest Scotland.  In this area of Scotland they were called the Galwyddel, which is the Cymreag Celtic (Welsh) form of Gall-Ghaeil.   There was both a Gaelic and Cumbric component to Gall-Ghaeil society.  The Gall Ghaeil were a fascinating part of the history of Old North in the dynamic Viking age.

The Gall-Ghaeil were generally Celtic in ethnicity with some Norse admixture.  They were influenced by their exposure to Norse vikings.  They essentially became Gaelic Vikings. They adopted Norse accoutrements of war and shipbuilding.  The Gall-Ghaeil developed a strong warrior caste based society.

Gall Ghaeil Lord and warrior circa 1000 AD

In medieval primary sources we are only given negative reports on the Gall Ghaeil for the most part.  There are reports of their kings, their raids, and of their employment with Irish chiefs.  The Church considered them pagan and condemned them.  The Gall Ghaeil were active from the late 9th Century into the 12th Century. The Gall Ghaeil lived in a twilight world between pagan and Christian, between Gael and Norse. 

Their descendants gave rise to the families and clans that became the Gallóglaigh and later the Redshanks. Many of these families and clans migrated to Ireland; the Gallóglaigh circa AD 1300 to 1450 and the Redshanks in the 1500s.  

In some cases, Viking was a profession, not an ethnicity.  In parts of Argyll, Galloway, and northern Ireland, some Gaels went viking and became Gall-Ghaeil. 

© 2018 Barry R McCain 

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