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Gauley:  Possible Origin of the Word

       I’ve been interested in determining the origin of the word “Gauley” for decades and have seen several explanations, but none of these had the proverbial “ring of truth” when carefully considered.  There was a recent break, however.

       Mike Scheuer and I have been exchanging books as periodic gifts for about ten years.  I provide reading material on the American Civil War, with an emphasis on West Virginia, and Mike provides some excellent material on general history, such as a Aurel Stein’s great book, On Alexander’s Track to the Indus

       Just prior to my departure for Central Asia, Mike asked if I had ever read John Buchan’s Greenmantle and he passed me a three volume compilation of Buchan’s best novels, including his Mr. Standfast.  During the six months I was away from my home, Buchan’s books were quite welcome additions to my evening reading.  [And I’m sure you are now wondering what John Buchan, a spy novelist who wrote about espionage in World War I, had to do with the origin of the word Gauley.]

       The following information regarding “Mr. Standfast” is from Wikipedia:

       Set in the later years of World War I, Brigadier-General Hannay is recalled from active service on the Western Front to undertake a secret mission hunting for a dangerous German agent at large in Britain. He is forced to work undercover disguised as a pacifist, roaming the country incognito to investigate the deadly spy and his agents, and then heads to the Swiss Alps to save Europe from being overwhelmed by the German army….

       The title is taken from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, to which there are many other references in the book; Hannay uses a copy of Pilgrim's Progress to decipher coded messages from his contacts, and letters from his friend Peter Pienaar.

       Dick Hannay, under forty and already a successful Brigadier-General with good prospects of advancement, is called out of uniform by his old comrade, spymaster Sir Walter Bullivant, and sent to Fosse Manor in the Cotswolds to receive further instructions. He must pose as a South African, an objector to the war, and once more takes on the name Cornelius Brandt (which he had used on his adventures in Germany in Greenmantle). He is upset by the idea of such a pose, but comforted by thoughts of his friend Peter Pienaar, briefly a successful airman and now a prisoner in Germany, and by the beauty of the Cotswold countryside.

       At Fosse, he meets two middle-aged spinsters, their cousin Launcelot Wake, a conscientious objector, and their niece Mary Lamington, a girl whose prettiness had struck Hannay earlier, while visiting a shell-shocked friend in the hospital where she works. It emerges that she is his contact, but she can tell him little more than that he must immerse himself in the world of pacifists and objectors, picking up "atmosphere". She gives him a label to paste inside his watch, an address where he will be staying, and advises him to pick up a copy of Pilgrim's Progress.

       Hannay goes to Glasgow, and contacts a trade union man named Amos, through whom he moves into Gresson's circles. He speaks at a meeting which descends into violence, and finds himself in at Gresson's side in a street fight.

Now, the interesting material from Buchan’s book connects Amos to the origin of the word, Gauley.  Hannay is operating in the alias “Brand,” A South African:

Andrew Amos [A chapter heading]

    I took the train three days later from King's Cross to Edinburgh.  I went to the Pentland Hotel in Princes Street and left there a suit-case containing some clean linen and a change of clothes.  I had been thinking the thing out, and had come to the conclusion that I must have a base somewhere and a fresh outfit.  Then in well-worn tweeds and with no more luggage than a small trench kit-bag, I descended upon the city of Glasgow.

    I walked from the station to the address which Blenkiron had given me.  It was a hot summer evening, and the streets were filled with bareheaded women and weary-looking artisans.  As I made my way down the Dumbarton Road I was amazed at the number of able-bodied fellows about, considering that you couldn't stir a mile on any British front without bumping up against a Glasgow battalion.  Then I realized that there were such things as munitions and ships, and I wondered no more.

    A stout and dishevelled lady at a close-mouth directed me to Mr Amos's dwelling.  'Twa stairs up.  Andra will be in noo, havin' his tea.  He's no yin for overtime.  He's generally hame on the chap of six.'  I ascended the stairs with a sinking heart, for like all South Africans I have a horror of dirt.  The place was pretty filthy, but at each landing there were two doors with well-polished handles and brass plates.  On one I read the name of Andrew Amos.

    A man in his shirt-sleeves opened to me, a little man, without a collar, and with an unbuttoned waistcoat.  That was all I saw of him in the dim light, but he held out a paw like a gorilla's and drew me in.

    The sitting-room, which looked over many chimneys to a pale yellow sky against which two factory stalks stood out sharply, gave me light enough to observe him fully.  He was about five feet four, broad-shouldered, and with a great towsy head of grizzled hair.  He wore spectacles, and his face was like some old-fashioned Scots minister's, for he had heavy eyebrows and whiskers which joined each other under his jaw, while his chin and enormous upper lip were clean-shaven.  His eyes were steely grey and very solemn, but full of smouldering energy.  His voice was enormous and would have shaken the walls if he had not had the habit of speaking with half-closed lips.  He had not a sound tooth in his head.

    A saucer full of tea and a plate which had once contained ham and eggs were on the table.  He nodded towards them and asked me if I had fed.

    'Ye'll no eat onything? Well, some would offer ye a dram, but this house is staunch teetotal.  I door ye'll have to try the nearest public if ye're thirsty.'

    I disclaimed any bodily wants, and produced my pipe, at which he started to fill an old clay.  'Mr Brand's your name?' he asked in his gusty voice.  'I was expectin' ye, but Dod! man ye're late!'

    He extricated from his trousers pocket an ancient silver watch, and regarded it with disfavour.  'The dashed thing has stoppit. What do ye make the time, Mr Brand?'

    He proceeded to prise open the lid of his watch with the knife he had used to cut his tobacco, and, as he examined the works, he turned the back of the case towards me.  On the inside I saw pasted Mary Lamington's purple-and-white wafer.

    I held my watch so that he could see the same token.  His keen eyes, raised for a second, noted it, and he shut his own with a snap and returned it to his pocket.  His manner lost its wariness and became almost genial.

    'Ye've come up to see Glasgow, Mr Brand? Well, it's a steerin' bit, and there's honest folk bides in it, and some not so honest.  They tell me ye're from South Africa.  That's a long gait away, but I ken something aboot South Africa, for I had a cousin's son oot there for his lungs.  He was in a shop in Main Street, Bloomfountain.  They called him Peter Dobson.  Ye would maybe mind of him.'

    Then he discoursed of the Clyde.  He was an incomer, he told me, from the Borders, his native place being the town of Galashiels, or, as he called it, 'Gawly'.  

         Galashiels is located 30 miles south of Edinburg on the border between England and Scotland and a river, the Gala Water, flows through the middle of the town.  This area, the Borders, provided an enormous number of Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachians in the mid-1700’s and one of them may have named the river that joined New River in today’s Fayette County after his home region, Gala, while pronouncing it Gawly.  

        This possibility was confirmed by Helen Darling on at the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre who advised:  “I have checked various books on the history of Galashiels but I am afraid I have been unable to find written history of the pronunciation of "Gala" or "Galashiels".  I have certainly heard older natives of Galashiels use the pronunciation "Gaw-ly". It is certainly possible that a native of Galashiels may have gone to West Virginia and named an area after his home.  "Gala" the shortened form of the name is very commonly used and is also the name of a river that flows through Galashiels.  This is the Gala Water.”   

               Wikipedia is again very helpful:

       The Gala Water (Lowland Scots: Gala Watter; Scottish Gaelic An Geal Ath) is a river in the Scottish Borders and tributary of the River Tweed. It is sometimes known as the "Gala", which nickname is also shared with Galashiels, which it flows through. The "Braw Lads O Gala Watter" is a song about people from Galashiels. 

       And so two authors separated by nearly a century may have helped solve a minor mystery they didn’t know existed. 

David L. Phillips - Leesburg, Virginia November, 2007



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