The 1718 Immigrants


James Galbraith, Gudman of Balgair



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James Galbraith, Gudman of Balgair

Various lines of Galbraiths moved from Scotland to Ireland during the Plantation. Among the earliest was a family from Balgair, a district near Fintry in Scotland and close to the Culcreuch Castle, home of the last Galbraith chiefs. The Balgair Galbraiths were a cadet line of those chiefs. Humphrey Galbraith of Balgair and his wife Isabel Cunningham had two sons, James (born c1560) and John (born c1565). James married Mary Buchanan of Ibert in 1593 and had with her four sons, James, Robert, Humphrey, and William (and perhaps more), and one possible daughter. This James Galbraith of Balgair moved his family to Donegal in Ulster in 1614/15. There is no record of Mary Buchanan in the Galbraith Donegal history. Possibly she passed away before the move to Ireland.


On 17 August 1616 a James Galbraith Sr. and a James Galbraith Jr. of Rateine, a townland in Donegal, were granted denization. (Scotland and England, including Ireland, were two separate countries. Denization conferred the rights of English citizenship on Scottish settlers in Ireland.) Those who have studied the history of the Galbraiths during the Plantation, including me, believe that these two James Galbraiths were James Galbraith of Balgair, the father, and his oldest son, another James. The younger James would have been born a year or two after his parents' 1593 marriage and would have been just 2l. As was normal in such proceedings, the names of minor sons and a wife, if she were still alive, would not have been listed, but they would have been included in the denization.
In a 1945 book on the Wrays, a leading Donegal family, author Charlotte Violet Trench discussed "a very ancient tombstone that lies in the churchyard of Mullibrack in County Armagh," which was inscribed, "James Galbraith, Gudman of Balgair who departed this Lyfe the 3 of No. Anno domini 1618." (Mullibrack adjoined the large land grant at Markethill in Armagh given to Sir Archibald Acheson.) In an article in a 1985 issue of the Red Tower 40 years later an article based on research by Patricia D' Arcy, a respected English researcher in Galbraith genealogy, reported that the gravestone actually read "James Acheson Galbraith, Gudman of Balgair" and stated further that this James Galbraith was a tenant on the Acheson land grant. Some believed that this was the senior James Galbraith who had received denization 2 years earlier in Donegal. I was skeptical because James Galbraith of Balgair was well-born and I did not believe would have been an ordinary tenant on Sir Archibald Acheson's land grant. Not only was I skeptical that James Galbraith was a tenant, but I also doubted his name as reported in 1985. While today it is common for an individual to bear two family names (as my middle name is Galbraith and my last name Colwell), such a use of two family names for a man was unknown in those times.
It was also suggested that he was not an ordinary tenant but rather the land agent or overseer on that land grant, another suggestion of which I was skeptical because there was no evidence whatsoever that he ever held such a position.
Pat D'Arcy never saw the gravestone, I later learned, but talked with a retired, elderly former warden of the Mullibrack church, who reported that he remembered the "Acheson Galbraith" inscription on the gravestone, which had itself long since disappeared. But the archaic spelling of the inscription reported by Trench seemed more credible. Trench, however, didn't say she had seen the gravestone. Where had her information come from?

Finally it dawned on me. In the in the late 1800s and early 1900s a small army of volunteers went to thousands of Irish graveyards and copied all the gravestone inscriptions they found before those inscriptions were lost to time and the elements. Most often those inscriptions were printed in a series of volumes entitled "Memorials of the Dead" published from 1888 to 1930. I thought information about the gravestone of James Galbraith, Gudman of Balgair might be found in one of those volumes. However, T.G.F. Paterson



(b.1888 d.1971), later the first curator of the Armagh County Museum in Ulster from 1935 to 1963, wrote separately and extensively about the Mullibrack church. With the help of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City I obtained the film which contained more than 100 pages of notes he made regarding that church, including lists of those buried there, gravestone inscriptions and other memorials to those who had passed away, and much church history, lists of all the vestrymen church expenses, and so forth.
When I looked at that film, sure enough, Trench's report of the inscription was correct and James Galbraith did not have Acheson as his middle name. Mr. Paterson made a drawing of the gravestone of James Galbraith, which is reproduced here. This drawing was probably made in 1926 before he became curator of the museum,
The inscription on the tombstone reads: "HAER LAYIS IN TOJM THE BODY OF JAMIS GALBRAIT GUUDMAN OF BALGAIR WHA DEPARTIT THIS LYFE IN THE 3 OF NO ANNO DOMINI 1618 ANNO AETATIS SUE," (The last three words mean "in the year of his age," I suspect those who carved tombstone inscriptions were often illiterate - note the backwards "n" which is the third such error I have seen in Galbraith gravestone inscriptions of the 1600s, Someone gave those inscribers a pattern and they simply carved it.
Probably it was standard practice to inscribe "Anno Aetatis Sue" on all graves; so it was done here. And then the carver found out James Galbraith's birth date was unknown, so there is a blank space on the tombstone.
On the tombstone there are the three bears' heads, The Galbraith coat of arms contains a bear's head; so these three bears' heads may indicate that the individual buried here was of a chiefly line, which was true of the Balgair Galbraiths; there was also an hourglass; a skull and crossed bones; and the words "MEMENTO MORI" ("Remember you shall die").
In his neat (and somewhat difficult to decipher) handwriting Mr. Paterson wrote "GALBRAITH OF BALGAIR;" "Guudman;" "All who held their lands of a subject [meaning unclear], though they were of very large, and their superiours [ancestors?] very noble were only called Good-men from the old French word Bon-homme, which was the title of the master of the family." "[Science of Heraldry, Pages 13 and 14]." "The Galbraiths of Balgair came from Stirlingshire in Scotland." Then he gave some references to the history of James Galbraith.
(I had earlier found the word "Goodman" in The Oxford Universal Dictionary described as, among other things, "A man of substance, not of gentle birth; a yeoman, etc.;" and I was therefore skeptical that this James Galbraith was the son of Humphrey of Balgair and his wife, Isabel Cunningham. But I was wrong. Mr. Paterson's explanation of the word elevates somewhat the social position of James Galbraith, the Gudman.)
If this 1618 James Galbraith of Balgair was the elder of the two James Galbraiths who received denization in 1616 in Donegal, what was he doing far from home in Armagh? Discussing this point one day with Bill Gilbreath, he suggested offhand that perhaps James Galbraith was simply visiting Sir Archibald Acheson when he died. That seems to me possible, for there was clearly some family connection between the Achesons and the Galbraiths at that time.
Sir Archibald Acheson died in 1634 in Letterkenny, a town in Donegal. He had no landholdings and no known business in Donegal, 65-70 miles from his home in Armagh; perhaps he had gone there to visit brothers James Galbraith (now of Magevelin,, a mile or so from Rateine) and Robert Galbraith (now of Dowish, perhaps 2 miles from Rateine), the sons of James Galbraith of Balgair. Both of their homes were near Letterkenny. In fact, James Galbraith of Mageve1in signed the 1634 funeral certificate of Sir Archibald Acheson as "a kinsman." If Archibald Acheson could possibly die while visiting those Galbraiths, perhaps their father had died in 1618 while visiting Acheson.
In 1638 James and Robert's younger brother, Humphrey, signed the funeral certificate of Sir Patrick Acheson, Archibald's son, "as being his kinsman." Some years later Sir George Acheson, second son of Archibald, served as overseer for the will of James Galbraith of Ramoran, the son of Robert Galbraith of Dowish. All are clues that there was a bond or family connection between those Achesons and Galbraiths. Exactly what that bond was had yet to be discovered.
Who had ordered this gravestone carved with the inscription and various symbols? If James, the Gudman, had in fact died on a visit to Sir Archibald Acheson, perhaps one or more of his sons had accompanied him and directed the making of the gravestone.
After considering all possibilities, including the reference to "James Galbraith of the House of Bogeare" in Bartram Galbraith's memorandum, I now think that James Galbraith, Gudman of Balgair, who died in 1618, was the son of Humphrey Galbraith of Balgair and Isabel Cunningham, the father of at least four sons of his own, and a direct ancestor of the 1718 Pennsylvania Galbraiths.



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