Monday, October 31, 2011

Tribute To A Nag

A ‘Nag’ isn’t always used as a derogatory term. Definitely not when referring to the ‘Galloway Nag’ – an extinct horse breed, once native to Scotland and northern England. It was a well known type of pony, first noted in English literature when Shakespeare referred to ‘Galloway Nags’ in Henry IV part II.
What makes this particular breed of horse worth mentioning? Let me take you back...

~ From the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century on both sides of the border between England and Scotland, a place where the land had been ravaged continually by marauding armies, there existed people who’d suffered greatly, people who adapted to a time of lawlessness and strife, who turned to raiding to survive and made it a way of life.
They are known as the Border Reivers.
Autumn saw the herds brought down, fat and healthy, from the summer pastures to the inbye fields. Autumn also heralded the beginning of the raiding season. Successful raids carried out by the border reivers depended on - knowledge of the land, the competence of those one rode with and the skill with one’s weapon of choice.
BUT, as Alistair Moffat, historian and author of the masterpiece, ‘The Reivers’, wrote: ‘What delivered a party of reivers to their quarry, what indeed made their whole way of life possible was an animal too little remarked upon by historians, the remarkable pony known as the Galloway Nag.’
The Galloway Nag was said to have good looks, a wide deep chest, of a bright bay or brown color, with black legs, small head and neck and stood almost fourteen hands high. Its qualities were its surefootedness - a necessity, considering the mountainous byways and inhospitable valleys they traveled, often by moonlight on rain-swept November nights. Its speed - a blessing when being pursued, or in pursuit. But perhaps its best quality was its stoutness – strong of character, brave, bold, determined, enduring.
Sadly, due to crossbreeding, the Galloway Nag became extinct in the nineteenth century.
If you ever get the chance to visit Scotland, perhaps pop in to Galashiels to see the superb bronze statue of a rearing Galloway Nag carrying a fully armed border reiver outside the old town hall.
Transportation. Worker. Warrior. Friend.
A four-legged Hero.

  Image courtesy Undiscovered Scotland 

Journey Home
Leg throbbing, stained blood-red. Tired. Head hurts. Mind cloudy, shades of gray. “Take me home, lad.” Stretch along sturdy neck, coarse brown mane scratching whiskered cheek. Cold, dirty fingers linked, locked. Blessed rest. Steady rock and sway. Night. Day. Blurred. Steady rock and sway. Night. Dawn’s chill blanket. Body aching. Stillness. Lids heavy. Eyes slowly open. Stone croft. Wife running. Heart sighs. Shiver ripples beneath me. Tighten hold. “Thanks, lad.” Whisper words. Mouth curves. Home…
© Allison Butler


Cassandra Samuels said...

How fascinating Allison. I never knew about the history of the Galloway Nag although I think most people have heard the expression.

thank you for a great post.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Cassandra,

It is fascinating and it makes me think of precisely how much the hardened people of those times must have relied on their horses. Thanks for popping in:)

Cheryl Leigh said...

Hi, Allison,

The Galloway Nag sounded like an incredible horse. What a shame it became extinct!

Anonymous said...

A very power piece Allison. I felt as though i was riding it home myself.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Cheryl,

Incredible indeed. They were eventually seen as instruments of war and by the end of the reiving era, it was forbidden to own a pony over a certain value. Thanks for stopping by:)

Allison Butler said...

Hi Anonymous,

What a lovely thing to say. Hmm! Perhaps you're not so anonymous after all. Thank you for making my day:) Ride on xx

Elle Fynllay said...

Hi Alison,

The Galloway Nag sounds like the pefect Highland horse. So sad to think it no longer exists. Your tale has made me think on the other periods of history when men were defined by their steeds. The Austalian light horse and the Battle of Beersheba, the Mongol hordes tearing bare back across the steppes, the American cowboy and his horse, just to name a few. Truly as you say
"Transportation. Worker. Warrior. Friend.
A four-legged hero."

Allison Butler said...

Hi Elle,

You're so right. There are so many fascinating instances throughout history where men put their confidence and their lives in their horses hands, so to speak:) I think these men would truly have appreciated their mounts and vice versa. Thanks for popping in:)

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a shame and how sad is it that thye no longer exist.
Great post, Alli!
Tam :D

Allison Butler said...

Hi Tam,

It is sad they no longer exist. I think knowing and remembering they played such a huge role at a particular time in history is what counts now. Thanks so much for dropping by:)

Christina Phillips said...

Alli, what a wonderful post, I loved learning about the Galloway Nags. What a shame they became extinct. Thanks for sharing :-)

Allison Butler said...

Hi Christina,

Thanks! Yes, it's such a shame they're extinct. Thank you for popping in:)

Melissa said...

Hi Alli,

such a heart-warming tribute to a long-gone icon of the Scottish borders:) Your concluding poem was just beautiful!


Allison Butler said...

Hi Melissa,

Thank You! I'm pleased you found my tribute heart-warming, as it was meant to be. I'm glad you enjoyed my wee poem, too:) Thanks so much for popping in:)

Anna Campbell said...

Allison, what a great post. I had no idea about the Galloway nag (and you're talking to someone who was completely horse mad in her long ago youth!). How sad the breed died out, especially as they sound like wonderful horses. Loved the poem!

Allison Butler said...

Hi Anna,

It's lovely to see you here:)

I think most young girls suffer a little horse madness. They're such majestic creatures. It's very sad this particular breed no longer exists.

I'm chuffed you loved my poem - wearing stupid grin here *g*

Thanks so much for popping by:)

Iona Jones said...

Hi Allison
Fascinating post and horrified to admit I'd never heard of the Galloway Nag either. In light of the fact that my parents are Scottish and we can apparently trace our lineage back to some rather famous sheep stealers from the Highlands, I should be ashamed.
Love the poem too!

Suzi said...

Wonderful post about the horses.
Loved learning about them.

Allison Butler said...

Dear Iona, you shouldn't be ashamed at all LOL. You should however thoroughly investigate your fascinating family tree *nudge*wink* I can only imagine what treasures you'd find.
Thanks for your kind words about the post and thanks for dropping in:)

Allison Butler said...

Hi Suzi,

I'm glad you loved learning about these remarkable horses. I did too:)
Thanks so much for popping in:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Allison,
I know very little to nothing about horses except that they are lovely looking animals and usually, very,very big. LOL

I am veryfortunate that I have several friends who have and are horse-crazy. And when I need advice in that direction, being that Historical writers can very rarely get away with NOT mentioning a horse somewhere in a story, it is comforting to know they have the answers for me.

I loved your post and your topic was really interesting and moving.
Just as in Medieval times when A knight's mighty steed was his savior many times as well as his best friend.
Thanks for sharing with us.
Now I've got to go back to Scotland LOL

Allison Butler said...

Hi Mary,

I now know who to ask if I have a query about horses *g*

You're so right about Historical writers mentioning horses somewhere within the pages of their story. It highlights how necessary horses have been throughout history. I believe many a special bond was formed between a man and his steed.

I'm so pleased you enjoyed my tribute. And I'm with you - now I've got to go back to Scotland:)
Thanks for dropping by:)

Sheridan Kent said...

I loved the story but the poem was spectacular.


Allison Butler said...

Hi Sheridan,

Thank you so much:) I'm happy you enjoyed the story and my poem. Thanks for stopping in:)