Quaerentes in Extremis
Or Tomás Mac Uchtraigh, was a Gall-Gaidhil prince and adventurer and brother of Alan, Lord of Galloway.
Thomas was the son of Lochlann mac Uchtraigh [Roland fitz Uhtred] (died 1200), king of the Gall-Gaidhil, and the brother of Alan of Galloway [Ailean]. His mother was Helen de Morville (died 1217), daughter of Richard de Morville, Anglo-Norman lord of Cunninghame and Lauderdale.
Alan, being the elder son, became ruler of Galloway after Lochlann’s death, and Thomas had to work with his brother and build a career elsewhere.
Sometime before 1210 Thomas married to Isabella [Iseabail], daughter of Henry [Éinri], mormaer of Atholl, giving Thomas an interest in Scotland north of the Forth. Isabella was Henry’s heiress, and subsequently succeeded to Atholl with Thomas taking the style of “Mormaer” or “Earl” in her name. However, this landlocked earldom provided mainly resources for him to captain his ships. He has a large fleet of his own and and command more ships from Galloway, which he has done at the request of the Kings of Scotland and England. His heart lies toward the western sea and adventure.
Thomas attended the coronation of the new Scottish king, Alexander II, at Scone on 6 December 1214.During the 1210s he confirmed and witnessed charters of Coupar Angus Abbey, and c. 1227 issues a confirmation to Dunfermline Abbey of its rights regarding the church of Moulin in Atholl
Thomas has spent much of his career fighting in Ireland, starting from 1212 when, accompanied by sons of Raghnall mac Somhairle, he led a raid on the Cineál Eoghain city of Derry with seventy-six ships, sacking the city. In 1214, accompanied by Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill, Thomas led another attack on Derry, sacking the city again and looting the church.
Tír Eoghain at the time had two rival kin-groups, the Inishowen-based Mac Lochlainn group and the Ó Néill based south of Sperrin Mountains. Thomas intent was going after the O’ Neills and shoring up his land gratns from King John of England in Northern Ireland. During Thomas’s 1212 raid on Derry, the men of Tír Conaill had simultaneously attacked the Cineál Eoghain in Inishowen. His attacks may also have been in support of the Scottish Crown against the McWilliam (Meic Uilleim) usupers who were also based out of Ulster. There have been some connection between Meic Uilleim activities and Thomas’s campaigns against Derry, with the Meic Uilleim perhaps being sheltered and supported by the Ó Néill, Aodh Méith.
King John granted Thomas land west of the River Bann in much of what are now counties Antrim, Londonderry and Tyrone and to Thomas’s brother Alan. Thomas himself was granted the core territories of Tír Eoghain in 1213, but the grant was “speculative” and Thomas has had to wage war to try to claim these lands. With English help, he constructed a castle at Coleraine, and the English appointed him keeper of the castle at Antrim in 1215. Last year (1219) he went to England in order to do homage to the new king of England, Henry III.