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The emergence of the Glasgow surname in medieval Scotland is a fascinating story that weaves together the lives of influential clergymen, powerful political families, and the complex religious and social landscape of the time. At the heart of this narrative is Gamelin, a prominent figure whose career and connections provide a compelling lens through which to explore the origins and early development of the Glasgow name. By delving into Gamelin's life, his political allegiances, and the wider context of 13th-century Scotland, we can gain valuable insights into the world in which the Glasgow surname first appeared and the factors that shaped its evolution over the centuries.

Gamelin: A Life in the Church and Politics

Early Career and Rise to Prominence

Gamelin's path to power began in the early 13th century when he emerged as a prominent clerk under the reign of Alexander II. By 1245, he had already attained the position of papal chaplain, a role that brought him into close contact with the highest echelons of the church hierarchy. Around this time, he also held the church of Kilbucho in Peeblesshire, a benefice that would later prove significant in connecting him to important political families.

As Gamelin's career progressed, he continued to accumulate offices and responsibilities. In April 1245, he was recorded as a canon of Glasgow, and by the early 1250s, he had become the royal chancellor, succeeding Robert, abbot of Dunfermline. His influence extended beyond the realm of secular politics, as he also served as the chancellor of Moray from around 1250 to 1257.

Bishop of St Andrews and Political Upheaval

Gamelin's rise reached its apex in 1255 when he was elected bishop of St Andrews, a position that made him one of the most powerful clergymen in Scotland. He was consecrated at St Andrews on 26 December of that year, but his tenure was not without controversy. During the minority reign of Alexander III, Gamelin found himself embroiled in the political turmoil that engulfed the kingdom.

At this time, Scotland was divided between two main factions: the Comyns, a powerful family with extensive landholdings and political influence, and their rivals, led by Alan Durward. Gamelin's allegiance lay firmly with the Comyns, a connection that likely stemmed from his grandmother's lineage[1]. This alignment put him at odds with the Durward faction, and he soon found himself exiled at the Curia, the papal court.

Despite this setback, Gamelin's fortunes were revived in 1258 when the Scottish government once again came under Comyn control. He returned to Scotland and resumed his duties as bishop of St Andrews, a position he held until his death at Inchmurdo, near St Andrews, on 29 April 1271.

The Comyn Connection

Gamelin's close ties to the Comyn family were a defining feature of his political career. The Comyns were one of the most powerful noble families in 13th-century Scotland, with vast estates and a strong influence over the government. Gamelin's association with this family was multifaceted, as evidenced by his links to the church of Kilbucho and his connections to key figures like Gilbert, son of Richer, and Adam Fitz Gilbert.

The church of Kilbucho, which Gamelin held during the 1240s, was a key piece in the puzzle of his political allegiances. Records from this period hint at Gamelin's position as parson of Kilbucho and his ties to the families of Adam Fitz Gilbert and the Grahams, as well as the Comyns[2][3]. This web of connections suggests that Gamelin's early career was closely intertwined with the interests of these influential families, particularly the Comyns.

Gamelin's staunch support for the Comyns during the minority of Alexander III underscores the depth of his commitment to this family. The Comyns were locked in a bitter struggle with the Durward faction for control of the young king and the governance of the realm. Gamelin's unwavering loyalty to the Comyns, even in the face of exile, demonstrates the strength of his political convictions and the importance of these familial bonds.

It is worth noting that the Comyns' political dominance in 13th-century Scotland was not always accurately represented in later historical accounts. Anti-Comyn chroniclers like John Fordun and literary historians writing during the Stewart dynasty often portrayed the family in a negative light, seeking to bolster the reputations of rival figures like Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. However, the historical record makes it clear that the Comyns were a formidable force in Scottish politics, and Gamelin's alignment with this family was a key factor in his own rise to power[4].

The House of Walter

Walter Capellanus and the Glasgow Diocese

The early history of the Glasgow surname is inextricably linked to the influence of Walter Capellanus, who served as bishop of Glasgow from 1208 to 1232. Walter was a pivotal figure in the development of the diocese, and his tenure saw significant growth in the church's power and prestige. As bishop, he would have had a substantial household, comprising clergymen, officials, and other members of his entourage.

It is within this context that we find the first documented appearance of the Glasgow surname. In 1258, Master John de Glasgu is recorded as a chaplain of Bishop Gamelin and a member of the household of Walter, who is referred to as the cardinal of Glasgow. This connection suggests that the Glasgow name originated among individuals associated with the religious establishment in Glasgow, particularly those in the orbit of Walter Capellanus and his successors.

Legacy and Influence

The influence of Walter Capellanus and his household extended well beyond his own lifetime. The recurrence of the name "Walter" and its variants in association with individuals bearing the Glasgow surname hints at an ongoing connection to the bishop's legacy. For example, William de Glasgu, who was gifted by the abbot and convent of Kilwinning and Kelso in the late 14th century, may have been named in honor of the earlier Walter.

Moreover, the frequent appearance of Glasgow surname holders in clerical positions, particularly within the dioceses of Glasgow, Kilwinning, and Kelso, further underscores the idea that the "House of Walter" refers to the ecclesiastical establishment shaped by Walter Capellanus's influence. These institutions had ties to the Tironensian order, a reformed branch of the Benedictines that played a significant role in the religious life of medieval Scotland.

The Capallanus surname itself, derived from the Latin word for "chaplain," is another indication of the close association between the Glasgow name and the clerical world of the 13th century. The four notable individuals bearing this name, including Walter Capellanus himself, were all prominent figures in the Scottish church, highlighting the intertwining of religious and political power during this period.

While the precise nature of the "House of Walter" may remain somewhat speculative, the available evidence points to a strong connection between the Glasgow surname and the powerful ecclesiastical circle associated with Walter Capellanus and his lasting influence on the diocese of Glasgow. This interpretation offers a compelling framework for understanding the origins and early development of the Glasgow name, firmly rooting it in the religious and political landscape of medieval Scotland.

Notable Walters

The prevalence of the name "Walter" among individuals associated with the Glasgow surname and the broader clerical world of 13th-century Scotland is striking. In addition to Walter Capellanus himself, we find references to several other notable Walters who may have had connections to the early Glasgow lineage:

  • Walter Fitzalan (d. 1177): The High Steward of Scotland, whose charter to the monks of Melrose in the year of his death hints at the intertwining of religious patronage and political power in the 12th century.
  • Walter Comyn: A member of the influential Comyn family, which had close ties to Gamelin and the church of Kilbucho.
  • Walter of Glasgow (1291): A master, possibly associated with the diocese of Glasgow[5].
  • Walter Wardlaw (14th century): A member of the powerful Wardlaw family, who served as bishop of Glasgow and pseudocardinal[6]. The connection between Master John de Glasgow and the Wardlaws in 1380 suggests a possible link between the Glasgow surname and this influential clerical dynasty[7].

These examples demonstrate the recurring presence of the name "Walter" in the social and religious networks that gave rise to the Glasgow surname. While the specific nature of these connections remains unclear, the pattern suggests that the Glasgow name emerged within a milieu shaped by the influence of powerful clergymen and their associated families, many of whom bore the name "Walter."

Flemish Origins and Continental Connections

The Comyn Family

The Comyn family, which played such a crucial role in Gamelin's career and the politics of 13th-century Scotland, may provide a link to the Flemish roots of the Glasgow surname. The Comyns were descended from a Flemish nobleman, Robert de Comines, who came to England during the Norman Conquest. The family later established itself in Scotland, where they became one of the most powerful noble houses.

The Comyns' association with other Flemish-descended families, such as the FitzAlans, and their patronage of religious houses like Melrose Abbey, which had strong continental connections, suggest that they may have maintained ties to their Flemish heritage. Given Gamelin's close relationship with the Comyns, it is possible that the Glasgow surname emerged within a milieu influenced by Flemish culture and networks.

Adam Fitz Gilbert and Gilbert Son of Richer

Another potential avenue for exploring the Flemish origins of the Glasgow surname lies in the figures of Adam Fitz Gilbert and his father, Gilbert son of Richer. Adam Fitz Gilbert was the lord of Kilbucho, the church which Gamelin held in the 1240s, and the family had connections to the Comyns and the Grahams.

The use of the "Fitz" prefix in Adam's name, denoting "son of," is a Norman naming convention, which may hint at a continental background for the family. Gilbert son of Richer, Adam's father, also bears a name that suggests possible Norman or Flemish roots. Further research into the origins and connections of this family could shed light on the potential Flemish influences in the area where the Glasgow surname first emerged.

Continental Religious Orders

The presence of continental religious orders, such as the Tironensians, in the monasteries and churches associated with the early Glasgow surname is another indication of possible Flemish connections. The Tironensians, a reformed branch of the Benedictines, originated in France but had a significant presence in Scotland, particularly in the diocese of Glasgow.

The abbeys of Kilwinning and Kelso, which had ties to individuals bearing the Glasgow name, such as William de Glasgu in the late 14th century, were both associated with the Tironensian order. The movement of clergymen and ideas between these institutions and their continental counterparts may have facilitated the exchange of cultural influences, including naming practices and family networks.

While the evidence for the Flemish origins of the Glasgow surname remains circumstantial, the confluence of factors – the Comyn family's Flemish roots, the potential continental connections of families like that of Adam Fitz Gilbert, and the presence of European religious orders in the Glasgow diocese – suggests that the name may have emerged within a context shaped by Flemish influence. Further research into these connections could yield valuable insights into the early history of the Glasgow surname and its place within the broader cultural landscape of medieval Scotland.

The Hawick Connection

Early References to "de Hawick"

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Glasgow surname's early history is its apparent connection to the town of Hawick in Roxburghshire. From the 12th to the 15th centuries, there are numerous references to clergymen and landholders bearing the appellation "de Hawick," suggesting a strong link between this locality and the emergence of the Glasgow name.

Among the notable individuals with this designation are Adam de Hawick (1220-1243), Alexander de Hawick (c. 1200), and John de Hawick (1355-1365). The latter, who was presented to the church of Hawick by Edward III of England, may be the same person as John Fleming, who held the church until 1363. The use of the "de Hawick" surname by both clergymen and secular figures hints at the intertwining of religious and political power in the region.

The Significance of Hawick

The town of Hawick itself has a long and rich history, with evidence of human settlement dating back to the Mesolithic period. By the Middle Ages, Hawick had become an important center for the textile industry, particularly the production of knitwear and woolen goods. The town's strategic location on the River Teviot, along with its proximity to the English border, made it a significant hub for trade and communication.

The connection between the Glasgow surname and Hawick raises interesting questions about the origins and early development of the name. It is possible that the "de Hawick" appellation was used by individuals who had ties to the town, either through birth, residency, or landholding. The prominence of clergymen among those bearing the name suggests that the church in Hawick may have played a role in the emergence of the Glasgow surname.

Implications for the Glasgow Surname

The Hawick connection offers a compelling line of inquiry for further research into the early history of the Glasgow surname. By exploring the lives and networks of individuals like Adam de Hawick, Alexander de Hawick, and John de Hawick, we may gain valuable insights into the social, religious, and political contexts that gave rise to the Glasgow name.

Moreover, the association with Hawick highlights the importance of regional identity and local connections in the development of surnames during the medieval period. The use of the "de Hawick" designation suggests that the Glasgow name may have originated as a locative surname, denoting an individual's association with a particular place.

The Hawick connection also underscores the complex interplay between religious and secular power in medieval Scotland. The presence of clergymen bearing the "de Hawick" appellation, alongside landholders and other secular figures, hints at the close ties between the church and the ruling elite in the Border region.

Further research into the Hawick connection could shed light on the early history of the Glasgow surname and its place within the broader cultural and political landscape of medieval Scotland. By tracing the lives and networks of individuals associated with Hawick and the "de Hawick" designation, we may gain a clearer understanding of the factors that shaped the emergence and evolution of the Glasgow name.


The early history of the Glasgow surname is a complex tapestry woven from the lives of influential clergymen, powerful noble families, and the shifting political and religious landscape of medieval Scotland. At the heart of this story is the figure of Gamelin, whose career and connections offer a fascinating glimpse into the world in which the Glasgow name first emerged.

Through his close ties to the Comyn family, his role in the church and government, and his associations with key religious establishments like the diocese of Glasgow and the abbey of Kelso, Gamelin embodies the intricate web of relationships that shaped the development of the Glasgow surname. His story also highlights the importance of regional identities and local connections, as evidenced by the links between the Glasgow name and places like Kilbucho and Hawick.

The recurrence of the name "Walter" among individuals associated with the early Glasgow lineage points to the influence of powerful ecclesiastical figures like Walter Capellanus, whose legacy helped to shape the religious and political milieu in which the surname took root. The potential Flemish origins of the name, hinted at by the connections to families like the Comyns and the presence of continental religious orders in Scotland, add another layer of complexity to the story.

While many questions remain about the precise origins and evolution of the Glasgow surname, the evidence presented here offers a tantalizing glimpse into the rich and diverse world of medieval Scotland. By situating the name within the broader context of the period's religious, political, and cultural currents, we can begin to unravel the intricate threads that bind together the early history of this fascinating surname.

As research into the Glasgow name continues, it is clear that there is much still to be discovered. From the shadowy figure of Walter Capellanus to the intriguing connections with Hawick and the Scottish Borders, the story of the Glasgow surname is one that invites further exploration and analysis.

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