The Chief

On the Cutting Room Floor

Extended Author’s Note:

:: Castleswene/Castle Sween is reputed to be one of the oldest stone castles in western Scotland, thought to have been built in the early 12th Century. It takes some determination to visit, as it’s a long drive along a single lane road. The sight that greets you on arrival is one you have to see to believe: there is literally a “caravan” park (we call them trailers) right next to the castle. Kind of ruins the effect a little! Like the MacGregors, the MacSweens (the clan is said to be descended from “Suibhne,” a son of an Irish O’Neill prince who once held part of Argyll) appear to have been on the wrong side of the Wars of Independence. After his victory, Robert Bruce displaced the clan, giving the castle to Angus of Islay (a MacDonald). But not for long. By the 1350s the castle was in . . . you guess it, Campbell hands. So what happened to the MacSweens? Some moved to Ireland to become gallowglass soldiers and eventually settled there, others stayed in Scotland to become part of the Clan Chattan Confederation.

:: “Gallowglass” mercenaries have been mentioned quite a few times in my books (Highlander Unmasked and Highland Scoundrel in particular), and will also play a part in my new HIGHLAND GUARD series. Gallowglass comes from the (Irish) Gaelic “Galloglaigh” and literally means foreign youth, but came to mean foreign soldier. It was the name applied to the elite Norse-Scot warriors from the Western Isles who came to fight in Ireland from the Mid-Thirteenth Century to the end of the Sixteenth Century. Wikipedia has a nice explanation. Basically, due to the lack of standing armies, the Gallowglass became a mainstay of Irish warfare, as well as a very lucrative export from the Isles. Many clans (i.e. MacDonalds) built their fortunes off them. Rory MacLeod (from Highlander Untamed) was a Gallowglass mercenary in Ireland for a time with Donald Gorm Mor of Sleat (also in Highlander Untamed). At this point they were called “Redshanks,” apparently answering the age-old question of just what do Highlanders wear under their “kilts?”

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