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The word shire is of Old English origin and meant office, charge, administration. The Norman Conquest introduced the word county - through French from the Latin comitatus, which in mediaeval documents designates the shire. County is the district ruled by a count, the king's comes, the equivalent of the older English term earl. This system of local administration entered Scotland as part of the Anglo-Norman influence that strongly affected our country after the year 1100.
Galloway to-day, the Grey Galloway of literature, comprises the counties of Wigtown and Kirkcudbright. From east to west it extends from the "Brig en' o' Dumfries to the Braes o' Glenapp," or almost to the Braes, the western boundary of Wigtownshire at this part being, in point of fact, the Galloway Burn. In ancient times the Province of Galloway is said to have extended also over parts of the adjacent counties. But for hundreds of years the name has been identified solely with the "Stewartry " of Kirkcudbright and the "Shire" of Wigtown.
The origin of these terms dates back to 1369, when Archibald the Grim, third Earl of Douglas, received the lordship of Galloway, and the whole of the Crown lands between the Nith and the Cree. Archibald appointed, a steward to collect his revenues and administer justice, whence the name Stewartry. In the following year he obtained Wigtownshire by purchase from the Earl of Wigtown. This district continued to be administered by the King's Sheriff, and has been known ever since as the Shire. According to Skene in his Celtic Scotland the word Galloway is formed by the combination of the two words Gall, a stranger, and Gaidhel, the Gaels. Gallgaidhel was the name given to the mixed Norse and Gaels in the Hebrides, Man, Kintyre and Galloway. To the last district the designation came latterly to be restricted. The word Gallgaidhel appears in Welsh as Galhvyddel (where dd is pronounced as th), whence arose the forms Gallwitheia, Gallwitha, Gallovidia, and Galloway.
The name Kirkcudbright means Cuthbert's Kirk. The same meaning belongs to the Gaelic term Kilcudbrit. Bede records a visit of St Cuthbert to the Niduari, the men of the region of the Nith.
Wigtown means bay-town, the first syllable being from the Scandinavian vik, a bay, a creek.
Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire were two of the three counties on whose boundaries, county and parish, no change was made by the Commissioners under the Act of 1889.
SOURCE: Learmonth, William. Kircudbrightshire. Cambridge: University Press, 1920.
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