Hopefully this site will advance our understanding of the Western Isles or Scottish Hebrides and its great people. No one person has all the answers and we all can contribute to a better understanding of its history and major events in that history that have had an effect on the wider world.
Tha sinn an dochas gun toir an larach-lin seo barrachd eolais air na daoine, cumanta agus uasal, a bha maireann ’s a Ghaidhealtachd anns a linn a naoi-deug agus air an iomadh eiginneas a thug oire sgapadh feadh an t-saoghal, siar agus sear.
Dr Donald MacFarlane (bho Beinn na’ Faoghla*)
Beinn na’ Faoghla is Gaelic for the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides which is sandwiched between North and South Uist. The origin of the name has never been satisfactorily resolved but it is generally thought to come from Peighinn (for pennyland) – not from Beann or Ben for mountain as Benbecula is flat – and Fadhail for ford. Hence Benbecula would mean Pennyland of the Ford. So far, so good, but perhaps not. A pennyland was a Norse measure for one-twentieth of a Dabhach (or ounceland) which in turn was about 1.5 square miles. A pennyland would therefore come to only about five acres. Small as Benbecula may be, it is considerably larger than that, at over thirty square miles. Perhaps, then, the name for Benbecula is an extrapolation from a much smaller area adjoining a ford (of which there are at least two, Benbecula being a very watery island). The name seems to have stuck for at least six hundred years and Benbecula inhabitants are known as Badhlaich or Ford People. To add into the mix, a very similar and almost identical name, Beanna Beola (known as Twelve Pins in English), is to be found in Connemara on the west coast of Ireland.
This website is the original work of the website administrator and is developed from scratch but it is affiliated with the WesternIslesGenWeb Project . As such it is recognised by ScotlandGenWeb, BritishIslesGenWeb and WorldGenWeb.
All good Celts will want to know that the edited volume ‘The Sea is Wide – New Celts from Old Horizons’ (editor Donald MacFarlane), a companion book to this website, is available for free for a limited period as a fundraiser for Children in Crossfire – see details at
It is very noticeable that visitors are taking advantage of this offer but without making the token gesture to the Charity or at the very least checking out the Children in Crossfire website. This is against the spirit of the gesture which will otherwise be withdrawn soon and denied to others. Meanwhile, it can be downloaded as a Kindle ebook from Amazon (£2 donation welcome), downloadable onto Kindle, iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, Blackberry, Android etc.
New Y-DNA research has revealed that the clan MacLeod and MacNeils of Barra share a common ancestor. L165 is a new marker discovered by Dr Jim Wilson of Edinburgh University and in the Western Isles indicates Norse Viking ancestry. There are two groups emerging in the results: Cluster one includes the MacNeils of Barra, Buies of Jura, Carmichaels of Lismore and a group of MacDonalds who have been scattered to the Northern Highlands. The second cluster is dominated by the MacLeods. The project can be found at http://www.familytreedna.com/public/R-L165Project/
TESTIMONIAL Jan Fisher
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy this site. My family and I just returned from a 3-week visit to the Outer Hebrides and highlands of Scotland. I utilized this site, its links; the invaluable direction of Angus MacMillan and Don MacFarlane to help plan our trip, connect with family that hasn’t connected in 5 generations; continually get a better feel for the social fabric and the history of the Uists. We loved the Iron Age history, we loved the Viking influences, we loved the new-found family connection, we loved the country. Thank you very, very much for giving us the context we needed to make the most of our trip. You truly provide a great service to we who are away.
BEST VISITOR QUERY
How can you tell apart a MacDonald from a MacDougall from a MacAlister by their DNA profile??
Answer: From Andrew MacEacharn.
Each family or clan group eventually forms its own sub-branch and these branches are typically represented by at least one unique marker. In theory it should be possible to separate them but as yet no one has found more than 7 markers for the MacDougalls (Prof Sykes, 2004). With respect to R1a1 haplotypes, MacDonalds are quite easy to tell apart as they mostly carry a mutation from Lord John of the Isles (circa 1350AD); MacAlisters do not carry this mutation; and MacDougall data is not yet available. Therefore, MacAlisters are separable from MacDonalds but MacDougalls are not separable as yet.
If you look at the markers for Clan Donald R1a1 haplotypes, you will see a combination of two markers, DYS458 and DYS459a. Clan Donald have the combination of 16/8 for these markers, except for the Highland branch which has 15/8. Many more haplotypes in 67-marker format are needed for this to be definite about the Scottish Branch as a whole. With R1b1 haplotypes, ie. not ‘true MacDonalds’ (sic), it is practically impossible to tell the difference between these different clans. The most that can be said is that all the Clan MacDonald (Scottish Branch, Highland sub-branch), apart from ‘daughtered out’ and adoptees carry a SNP mutation which is not carried by lowland clans. The MacAlisters generally sit in the Scottish (Highland sub-branch) branch as well, as do the Alexanders, but there also appears to be a lowland sub-branch.
The relevance of this question is apparent from the Clan Donald Website as the progenitors of these clans were all descended within three generations from Somerled, Lord of the Isles. For a fuller account and for explanation of the technical terms, see the detailed discussion in the Archives page of this website. Other authorities may not necessarily concur with the answer given here. Also, as shown in the TMRCA chart (time to the most recent common ancestor) the deduced common Norse Lineage of the clusters, including MacNeils of Barra, Buies of Jura, Blacks (branch of MacDonald) of Uist and Carmichaels of Lismore, long precedes the Norse invasion of the Western Isles circa 750 AD. Were the Vikings merely on a visit to their Scottish cousins!
It would be helpful to the website and to gauge interests if visitors without a query in the form of a post could complete the survey:
Beware: The test as to whether you have Celtic blood in you is whether or not you are touched by Julie Fowlis’s rendition of ‘Bothan Airigh Am Braigh Raithneach ’ from Transatlantic Sessions Series 9. If you are not Celtic, this will sound like a dirge (Bruce Molsky, the fiddler with the beard from New York, looks like he is having a bad dose of earache!); if you are it will melt your heart.
Extensive discussion from visitors and links on the following topics (and more) can be foundin this site with the use of the scroll bar or enter button. I would be grateful if visitors could alert me to any broken links as there are so many it is otherwise hard to keep track of them.
Agnes O’Cahan, Airbeartach, Am Bata Buidhe, Alberta Displacements, An Sloinneadh, Arran Gaelic, Arran Surnames, Australian Pioneers, Barbados and Jamaican Scots, Bard Mhealboist, Bard Thorluim, Bethune Physicians, Beatons of Trotternish, Blast of Bagpipes, Blundell Memoirs, Bornishuachdrach, Bows and Arrows, Buies, Bunessan Shaws, Bunavoneadar MacInneses, Uist Burkes, Campbelltown MacKechnies, Capercaillie, Carmina Gadelica, Catholicism, Chamberlain of Kintyre, Chiefships, Clann Mhannain, Clanranalds, Colonel Gordon of Cluny, Colonsay Breeders, Colonsay Census, Covenanters, Crofter Removal, Darrochs, Displaced Surnames, Domhnall Ruadh Choruna, Donnchadh Ban nan Orain, Dungiven O’Kanes, Earl of Antrim, Eilean Anabuich, Elders of Oronsay, Eoghan Mor Justique, Episcopalianism, Ethnic Background, Executions, Father Alan MacDonald, Father Ranald Rankin, Field Marshal Etienne MacDonald, Fletchers of Glenorchy, MacCodrum’s Seal-Wife, Fairy World, Flora MacDonald, Flora MacNeil, Franciscan Friars, Fraser Highlanders, Frere, Cape Breton Gaelic, Gaelic Revival, Gallowglasses, Garmoran, Gilleasbuig Mor, Glenaladale Pioneers, Glenelg Ships, Glenorchy, Godfrey Crubach, Godfrey of Oriel, Greshornish House, Grimsay Boatbuilders, Guernsey Garrisons, Haldane Missions, Handfasts, Haplotypes, Hector MacDonald Buchanan, Highland Host, Hiorta, Hugh Boisdale, Mull Irish, Insular Celts, Iochdar MacIsaacs, Non-Jacobite Clans, Jacobite Prisoners, Jura McCraneys, Killegray Shaws,Kintyre Ralstons, Kirk Sessions, Manrent, Lady Cathcart, Language Disempowerment, Lewisfolk in Patagonia, Lismore Seminary, Livingstones, Lord Selkirk Scheme, Uist McCormicks, MacDonald Atrocities, MacDonald of Boisdale, MacDonald Poetry Collection, MacDonald of Tirnadreish, MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, MacDonald Motto, Kirkibost MacDonalds, MacDonalds of Vallay, MacDonald Septs, MacEacherns, MacFaddens of Tiree and Islay, MacFarlanes of Edinbane, MacGlashan, Glencarnock MacGregors, MacIains, PEI MacIntyres, Eigg MacIsaacs, Moidart MacIsaacs, MacKinnons of Strathardle, MacLean Sinclair Papers, MacLellans of Gramsdale, MacMhuirichs, MacPhedran, Mac Talla, Monkstadt Pilot, Mrs Handyside, Uist MacQuiens, Mairi Mhor nan Orain, Malapropisms, Mathesons of Cuinabunag,Merino Sheep, Metagama, Morar Emigrants, Morrisons of Illinois, Muster Rolls, Napier Commission, Norse Placenames, O’Donnells of Islay, Ontario Assisted Passages, Patrick MacPherson, PEI Emigrant Ships, Presbyterians, Price of Kelp, Prince Charlie’s Pilot, Prince Seathan, Queen of Songs, Rhenigidale MacKinnons, Rory MacNeill the Turbulent, Roscommon Hanleys, Steinscholl Martins, Lewis Medical Men, Lord Lyon, Migration Theories, MacGees, Moidart Pipers, Oxford County Uistmen, Pictou Arrivals, Raasay MacLeods, Reformation, Saginaw Morrisons, Scorrybreac Nicholsons, Slavery, SMO Dictionary, Soft Consonants, Somerled mac Ghillebrighde, Statutes of Iona, Stool of Repentance, Tacksmen, Taighean Tughaidh, The Lulan, The Pomona, The Three Collas, Tilbury Fort, Tiree Baptisms, Tocher, Uist Factors, Uist O’Henleys, Uist Schoolmasters, War Memorials.
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