A galloglass was a professional warrior hired by an Irish chief. The practice of employing such men became common in the decades following the Norman invasion, when it became obvious that heavily armed and mail-clad fighters were needed to contest the battlefield. One Irish contemporary described how the Gaels of Ireland had gone into battle “clad in fine linen garments, the foreigners in one mass of iron.”
Several Irish families became famous for their work as galloglasses. One was the MacSuibhne family, an irony because Suibhne is a Gaelic word meaning pleasant. The surname was most often Anglicized as MacSweeney or MacSwiney, but occasionally as MacWhinney and, later, Mawhinney. Carrying whichever form of the surname, hundreds of these folks washed up on American shores during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Charles Mawhinney was born in Lake view, Oregon, a pleasant town of some 2,500 souls that sits astride Highway 395 about a dozen miles north of the California line. The nearly mile-high community is the commercial center for a surrounding area devoted to hay farming, cattle ranching, and timber harvesting. It was here that Mawhinney grew up, hunting and trapping in his free time. His father, a Marine sniper in World War II, trained him to shoot at an early age. The young Mawhinney became a deadeye.
Upon graduation from high school in 1967 Mawhinney...