Kin & Roots
Origins of the family-name Gault.

My mother always told me she had heard that the Gaults originated from France. May be that is not so far fetced. My first association was the famous french general and later president Charles de Gaulle. Gaul is the English name for the roman provinces of Gallia (today's France and Belgium). The Gauls (or galli in latin) is the name the romans attributed to the roaring celtic tribes who had settled down here. Julius Cæsar aquired his fame from subjugating the gauls in the Gallic wars (58 - 50 BC). The name Gaul is derived from the Latin word gallus meaning cock/rooster. May be they saw them as a proud people (proud as a rooster), or as a ferocious and battle-enduring people (ferocious as a rooster), or may be their flushing red hair gave the Romans associations to the flushing red cock comb.

The Romans had previously attached the name galli to another subgroup in their society - the ceremonial high priests in the Phrygian religious cult of Cybele - the mother Goddess. This mysterious cult was introduced in Rome in the year 205 BC, but roman citizens were not allowed to worship Cybele until the reign of Claudius (ca. 50 AD). The reason for this was that the Romans found the cult's ceremonial practices too wild and ecstatic. There was however a temple consecrated to Cybele on the Palatino heights where the Imperial family lived, and the main temple was situated where The Church of St. Peter now stands! The adherents of this cult arranged the most savaged feasts and processions in the streets of Rome. Accompanied by horns and cymbals, they performed the most outrageous and bizarre rituals imaginable, including self injury and self castration. The high priests (or galli ) themselves were all self castrated young men. After castration they threw their genitals into wells in front of statues of Cybele, and female members of the cult made purses of the remnants! In short they behaved like madmen (in Norwegian = galning)! The old Norse word galen really means "influenced by enchanting songs", and probably stems from the mutual origin gallus.

The Romans' first encounters with the roaring Celtic hordes of the north and west must have been equally terrifying - both visually and auditory. The Celts were equipped with enormous sound bearing horns (carnyx) and helmets adorned with beasts.

Cockfighting was a popular and widely spread pastime activity among the citizens of ancient Greece and Rome, where people bred roosters for this purpose. It was the rooster's aggressive qualities they wished to procreate, and small knives were often attached to the roosters' legs before entering the cockfighting arena. It was a fight of life or death. It is not improbable that the Romans associated their first encounters with the Celts with these cockfights. All through history the cock has figured as a potent symbol in heraldic art, flags, banners and emblems.

In the 3rd Century BC some Celts (Gauls) managed to get as far as present day Turkey. South of the Black Sea in mid Turkey they founded a state – Galatia. Gaelic were spoken by the inhabitants there up to 400 DC !

Here is an excerpt from MacBain's Gaelic-English Dictionary :
A Lowlander, stranger, Irish Gall, a stranger, Englishman, Early Irish gall, foreigner; from Gallus, a Gaul, the Gauls being the first strangers to visit or be visited by the Irish in Pre-Roman and Roman times (Zimmer). Stokes takes a different view; he gives as basis for gall, stranger, gallo-s, Welsh gal, enemy, foe : ghaslo-? root ghas, Latin hos-tis, English guest. Hence he derives Gallus, a Gaul, so named from some Celtic dialect.

It seems some Gaul(t)s later (around the 11th Century) were adopted into the Scottish Clan MacDonald of the Isles. A branch of the MacDonald Gaults later (14th century) established themselves as fishermen in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.

The German tribes in Roman times (teutonians = deutsch) called the Celts (Gauls) wallah. Derivations of this name is found in today's Vallonia (Belgium) and Wales.

It is not inconceivable that people in ancient times classified all foreigners threatening the community under a common name. During the Crusades the Arabs named all the invaders faranj, not only those coming from France. In present day Thailand all foreigners are called falang. It is probable that this expression originally refered to the threat from French Indo-China.
In the 9th century the Hebrides and the Western Isles served as places of refuge for the norwegian chieftains and local kings fleeding from Harold the Fair Haired during his attempt to attain sovereignty over all of Norway. They soon established strongholds at different places around the Isles, and soon performed viking raids on the norwegian, irish and caledonian (Alban) shores.

The pictish peoples of todays Scotland named themselves Alban Gael. Historians agree that they were of the same race as the Cruithne of Ireland, and whose language was a type of modern scottish Gaelic (Q-celtic). The northern Picts were unaffected of the union between the irish scots (Dalriads) and the southern picts in 844 under Kenneth MacAlpin. Included in the territory occupied of the northern Picts, or Alban Gael, were the Western Isles (or Sudereyar = "islands of the south" in Norse). The Western Isles were known to the Alban Gael as Insel-Gall or Gall Gael (Island of the Strangers).

Nobody really knows exactly when Norse people began to settle down and inhabit the Isles, but probably it was a gradual process starting perhaps with trading contacts between the old Icelanders and the Alban Gaels. In the Saga of the Orkney Islands the name gaddgeddlar appears, clearly a norse distortion of the irish denomination gallgáidil meaning "strange irish people". In a Norwegian dictionary one can read the following about the Gaddgedles (Gall Gaels).

The Gaddgedles were originally a mixed population og Irish and Norwegian people – the name appearing for the first time in the 9th century. They are portrayed as wild warriors, worse than the Norwegians (Vikings). They engaged in battles on both sides, sometimes they joined the norwegians in battles against the Irish, and sometimes vice versa. They seem to have spoken both languages, or a mixture of them. The irish-norwegian Gall Gaels or Gaddgedles are not mentioned after the 9th century, but approximately 150 years later the name is attached to the inhabitants of Galloway in Western Scotland - a Norse stronghold of the Viking era.

So - who knows - may be there still runs some Viking blood
in the veins of the Gaults ?