GalGael are a working community founded in the 1990s based in Glasgow, Scotland, that work together on demanding common tasks that demonstrate ways of living with more humanity in our times.
The GalGael - or the Gaelic spelling, Gal Gaidheal - were an ethnic mix of peoples living in Scotland. By the C9th this mix of people had become so settled, they became known as the GalGael - the 'Gall' being the foreigner and the 'Gael' being the heartland people. The name 'GalGael' is a way of re-rooting notions of identity and belonging in ways that are inclusive, not exclusive. The Gal Gaidheal of history were associated with the iconic Hebridean galley or birlinn, which became their emblem.
The community quickly realised they could achieve many of their social, cultural and ecological aims by involving the community in building boats. For them, boats are both a metaphor for transformation (as we journey from one place to another) - and tools for achieving their purpose.
"It has to do with the ritual," said the late Colin Macleod, "of involving the community in building something that has part of them in it. All these planks somehow go together and make a boat. And that boat somehow can hold us, take us all on a voyage. The voyage of a busted-up community to a better, more hopeful future."
When GalGael started out, Colin soon realised that they could achieve many of our social, cultural and ecological objectives involving communities in boat building. GalGael restores that relationship within the heart of the city of Glasgow by building boats that can take people on voyages that connect up to Scotland's stunning west coast.
Building and rowing wooden boats generate skills, agency and connection to Scotland's traditions and coastal heritage:
Anchor & Sail 2014-2018
Developed in partnership with Clyde Maritime Trust to preserve Scotland's fast disappearing maritime heritage, in particular the intangible heritage stored in the skills involved in building traditional boats and boat building heritage.
Over the course of the project, Anchor & Sail offered skills development opportunities to x131 people, trained x7 'apprentices' as boat builders, restored one boat and saw x4 traditional boats built.
The project was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, William Grant Foundation, Hugh Fraser Foundation, Agnes Hunter Trust, MacRobert Trust, Barcapel Foundation, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation and the Radcliffe Foundation
GalGael's 30ft long Orcuan was built in 2001 to an ancient Scottish prototype. She is an interpretation of the historic galleys of the West Coast: the Birlinn, Scotland's traditional Gaelic longboat.
These boats were effectively banned by the repressive Statutes of Iona, 400 years ago. Once, they would have provided the main form of transport in a mountainous island region, linking the constellation of settlements on the West Coast of Scotland and beyond to the coasts of Ireland and Isle of Man.
Today, GalGael use Orcuan and their other boats to open sail training opportunities to the local community, linking urban and rural communities and enabling access to Scotland's unique natural heritage.
Timber & Firewood
GalGael produce a number of Scottish hardwoods, often by working with partners within Historic Environment Scotland and Glasgow City Council to bring locally produced timber for sale to the public and for them to use in their products. They can sell air or kiln dried timber. Our stock usually includes oak, ash, elm, cherry, holy and sycamore.
Our timber is milled on our their own Woodmizer portable sawmill.
They also have a fully equipped machine shop, so once you've selected a piece of timber, they can machine to your exact requirements. Further details here.
The ongoing effect of govenment austerity policies,together with the pressure of Brexit, has put pressure on all poverty-related funding sources and has impacted on GalGael's participants and volunteers.
GalGael's response has been to try and become more self-funding by setting up a trading subsidiary, GalGael Enterprises, and reorganising as a scalable organisation.
They need financial resources; expertise and on-going support in key areas such as communications, fundraising and public giving; access to helpful connections and networks and donations to help keep costs low.
May 2021: The GalGael Trust has lent their replica longboat Orcuan to The Polar Academy, so that a group of Scottish teenagers whose polar expedition to Greenland had to be postponed due to Covid, can undertake a new expedition in Scotland. Full story