Inner Isles

Image of Lachlan MacPhail.  Unless there was someone of the same name from Crossipol,  this was the kelp-gather of that name who gave evidence for Kilmoluaig and Balevuilin in Tiree to the Napier Commission in 1883
Picture is courtesy of An Iodhlann and Keith Dash.

‘Kelping was the reduction of seaweed to ash to extract salts, potash and soda for factories that sprung up during the Industrial Revolution. Demand was vital to the manufacture of explosives and an initial price of one guinea a ton rapidly doubled. By the time of the French Revolution, when imports of barilla were impossible, it had reached a peak of £20 per ton. Kelping was labour intensive and the need for labour led to the introduction of crofting by 1818. Lands were barely sufficient to support a family and kelping was the only way to raise rent. With the end of the wars, demand reduced and, following pressure from soap manufacturers, import taxes on salt and barilla were removed in 1826. The price of kelp collapsed to an average of £2 per ton’.  Angus MacMillan, ‘The Sea is Wide’.

As well as the Small Isles, this site is now also opening up to the inner Hebrides for certain topics of shared interest.  Mull, Islay, Iona and other inner islands share many of the same proud traditions as the Outer Hebrides. Associated websites for these islands continue to be the Argyllshire Genweb site and Isle of Tiree Genealogy.


Raasay (Scottish Gaelic: Ratharsair) is an island between the Isle of Skye and the mainland of Scotland. It is separated from Skye by the Sound of Raasay and from Applecross by the Inner Sound. Traditionally the home of Clan MacSween, the island was ruled by the MacLeods from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Subsequently a series of private landlords held title to the island, which is now largely in public ownership. In 1843 the last laird, John Macleod, was deep in debt and chose to emigrate to Tasmania having sold Raasay for 35,000 guineas to George Rainy. After the failure of the potato harvests in the 1840s the new owner decided to convert as much arable land as possible to sheep farming. This required the removal of the islanders and his solution was to ban marriage. Several townships were cleared including Hallaig and Screapadal. Two boat loads of emigrants left for Australia in 1852 as a result and another 165 left for the same destination in 1865. The estate was then sold to Edward Wood and conflicts between the laird and the islanders grew as he decided to turn the island over to sporting purposes.   A portion of the island served as a prisoner-of-war camp for Germans during the World War I. who were used to work the iron mine.

Raasay is famous for being the birthplace of the poet Sorley MacLean, an important figure in the Scottish literary renaissance and the eloquence of his words capture the beauty of his native island: 

Bu tu camhanaich air a’ Chuilitheann
‘s latha suilbhir air a’Chlaraich
grian air a h-uilinn anns an or-shruth
agus ros geal bristeadh faire

Rather than have an English translation handed to them, visitors to this page can flex their languistic muscles and use the SMO Gaelic Dictionary (link at the top right hand of this page) to translate the verse for themselves.



Everyone has heard of the Cutty Sark but less well known is that the Island of Tiree has produced the finest sailors, the best being Donald MacKinnon who won the most famous tea clipper race of all time in 1866.  London tea importers paid a premium for the first China tea of the season to arrive in London and a fleet of fast tea clippers was built and lined up each year for the dash home to London.

On May 30th, 1866, 16 clippers were ready at the Pagoda Anchorage, Foo Chow Foo. The Fiery Cross was away first, followed by the Ariel, the favourite, and two hours later the Taeping, captained by Donald MacKinnon and loaded with 1,108,709 pounds of tea. Donald MacKinnon’s boat, The Taeping, arrived at London’s East India Dock half an hour ahead of its nearest rival, 16,000 miles and 99 days after leaving China.

Tiree lies  southwest of Coll and crofting, alongside tourism, are the main sources of employment for the islanders.  It is twenty-two miles west of the nearest point on the Scottish mainland, is at the same latitude as southern Alaska and is at the same longitude as the border between Spain and Portugal.  A walk of forty six miles would take you around its coastline, much of it along white beaches of shell sand.  It is the most fertile of the Hebrides.

Like all the other Western Isles, Tiree suffered from the Highland Clearances and, in 1847, the Marquis of Lorne transported 340 tenants to Canada. Between 1847 and 1853, 1354 people emigrated from Tiree  or 27% of its entire population which was about 10% of the 16,000 people that emigrated from the Highlands and Islands as a whole during this period.

In September 1806 the ship “Spencer” landed at Prince Edward Island with over one hundred people from the island of Colonsay. Travelling in large  extended families they had responded to a local laird, John McNeill, who offered to “improve” their lives and to the Earl of Selkirk who offered land across the Atlantic. Selkirk wanted Gaelic-speaking emigrants to block colonial America on the verge of expansion. His promotion of Prince Edward Island led to the “Baldoon” settlement in the Great Lakes and to the “Red River” settlement at Lake Winnipeg. Success of the Colonsay settlers started a “chain of migration” into Canada that depopulated the isolated, tiny island.

Early 19th century emigrations from Gaelic Scotland often involved planners and sponsors reacting to the politics, personalities and changes in the era of Jefferson and Napoleon. The 5th Earl of Selkirk was an energetic young Scotsman, little more than a year from extended time in North America, who was rumoured to be the next Minister to the young United States. Impatient over his confirmation, Selkirk did not hide his strong opinions about the Americans, “a set of lawless vagabonds, straggling upon the frontiers of our provinces.” He had a very favourable opinion of Western Islanders whom he saw as ideal pioneers and he announced that “our own colonies should be peopled by these men whose manners and principles are consonant to our own government.”

St Kilda
St. Kilda, the remotest once-inhabited place in the British Isles,  lies some 110 miles west of the Scottish mainland. It is a small archipelago of islands and to the north of the main island, Hirta, are the remains of the Tigh na Banaghaisgich, or House of the Female Warriors. Descriptions of the house and St Kildian folklore has led to speculation of an iron age matriarchal culture, first recorded by Martin Martin in 1698.

On the islands, consisting of 1575 acres of Hirta, a further 244 acres on Soay & 79 acres on Dun, the 180 islanders had developed a self-sufficient communal economy based on seabird (meat, oil & eggs), Soay sheep, fishing, and small scale crofting. A form of primitive socialism prevailed on the island. All grazing land was held in common. All property on which they depended for their livelihood was held in common; including boats, climbing ropes and fowling gear. All the island’s produce of seabirds and fish was divided equally according to the number of households on the island, with provision made for the sick and elderly.

The main settlement on the island, at village bay, was rebuilt in 1836-8. It consisted of 25 stone built cottages with barns & outbuildings in typical Hebridean style. The islands are also dotted with distinctive stone built/turf roofed cleits, or storehouses. Decisions concerning all matters were made by an informal meeting that took place each weekday morning – known as the `St Kilda Parliament’ it consisted of all the adult males on the island. It had no rules, no chairman and ‘members’ arrived in there own time. Once assembled the ‘parliament’ would consider the work to be done that day. 

Whilst some of their customs showed a possible early Christian influence,  the beliefs of the islanders were seen as a mixture of ‘popery and druidism,’ prompting the Church of Scotland to send out a series of missionaries from 1705 onwards. However in 1844 the islanders were won over to the doctrines of the Free Church and from 1863-1889 came under the severe rule of a Rev John Mackay whose adherence to a strict Christian doctrine played a large part in the eventual downfall of the island republic. Mackay’s autocratic rule undermined the traditions that had grown up on the island to such an extent that religious worship often left little time to carry out the essential tasks necessary for survival on the island.

In the late 1800s the island economy was given a boost by becoming part of the Victorian cruise itinery. This introduction to the cash economy (the tourists bought tweeds, knitwear & sheepskins) further undermined the subsistence economy of the island and also led to emigration from the island to the mainland. As the cruise ships declined in the early1900’s the islands dwindling population was supported by trawlermen fishing the seas around the island and from public funds.

On 10 May 1930, a petition was signed by 20 islanders `We the undersigned . . . hereby respectfully pray and petition Her [sic] Majesty’s Government to assist us all to leave the island this year and to find homes and occupation for us on the mainland.’  The evacuation took place on 29 August 1930. The Surgeon of HMS Harebell recorded the death of the community:”…..all the houses were locked and the people taken on board. Shortly afterward they were looking their last at St Kilda as the Harebell, quickly increasing speed, left the island a blur on the horizon. Contrary to expectations they had been very cheerful throughout, though obviously very tired, but with the first actual separation came the first signs of emotion, and men, women and children wept unrestrainedly as the last farewells were said.” A. Pomfret

So ended the longest surviving ‘Communal Republic’ on British soil. Somewhat ironically many of islanders found work with the Forestry Commission at Ardtornish in Morvern, where these refugees from a treeless island found that their climbing skills were in demand to tend trees.


29 responses to “Inner Isles

  1. Don MacFarlane

    December 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    From Debbie Lappeyrouse

    I have McEachins from Scotland – a John b. 1715, married to Mary b. 1720. They were my 6x great-grandparents. I’m descended from their John b. 1740 in Kintyre and his wife Mary Sarah Currie b. 1750, same location. They both migrated to America and they tie into my MacLean (McLain) line through the marriage of their daughter Mary Elizabeth. She was born in America and she married Angus McLean b. 1765 in the Isle of Skye. They were my gggg-grandparents. Angus was the son of Daniel MacLean and Elizabeth Nicholson.

  2. Don MacFarlane

    September 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm

  3. Don MacFarlane

    May 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Playing the Devil’s Advocate

    Eileen (Celticknot), in my sister website Derry Genweb, has given very careful, well-balanced and fair analyses of the different characters in my book ‘The Sea is Wide’. I will now try to turn these on their head to give a contrary,probably imbalanced, and unfair alternative just to see how they look.


    Governor Macquarie

    The Governor was not much of a saint, in fact he was a bit of a rogue. He was always a thorn in the flesh and an embarassment to the Establishment. So keen was he to get out of the mess he created in Australia that he resigned his post three months early, out of a fit of pique. This was a decision he soon regretted as he had to go begging to get his pension reinstated as he had since fallen on (for him) hard times, leaving his wife in a relative state of impoverishment. This whole episode does him no credit and portrays him as an insecure martinet, greedy for recognition and for approval.

    His nemesis and replacement, Governor Bigge, is regarded by posterity as being the baddie who tried to ruin Macquarie’s reputation. In fact, Bigge was probably more like a Sir Humphrey, a rather starchy but efficient civil servant, who saw Macquarie as nothing more than an enthusiastic, well-meaning but bumbling amateur – as someone who was promoted beyond his capabilities. There was much support within the British establishment for this view and it had begun to see Macquarie’s ‘experiment’ as an anachronistic embarrassment.

    These convicts should never have been there in Australia in the first place, their very presence was a slur on the British justice system, and Macquarie was intent on rehabilitating them! Macquarie knew this right well but his attitude was ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish!”. He colluded with the corrupt Irish and English judiciary systems, unlike that of the Scottish legal system which was much more fair-minded, by accepting and treating as felons the thousands of Irish convicts who had committed little more than minor misdemeanours. In the process, these convicts were separated for life from their families as no arrangements were put in place to rehabilitate them – such as providing them with free passage home or reuniting them with their wives and children. To add to the injustice, he forced the convicts to ‘live in sin’ or be married in a Protestant church (not even his own church or theirs as he was not Church of England – any church would do as long as it was not Catholic) and he was intolerant of priests who would have provided an alternative to his proselytising.

    He cared too little for his own family of origin. He did not go near his aged mother who was left with no visible means of support nor did he check out her welfare for close on twenty years. Even when he did return to Britain after eight years absence he gallivanted in London for a full year before returning home, despite the appeals from his sick uncle on his deathbed.

    Do I like this man? No, definitely not as I see him as a sycophantic, grubbing, puffed-up, bitter, disillusioned, jumped-up bigot. Do I hold this against him? No, as he was just a product of his times. Was he a good example of a Celt? Yes, but not one I would wish to be compared to today if he still behaved the same way. Should Australians be proud of him? They profess to be but this is probably just a gloss – very few Australians try to track down their convict ancestors, the very people who built the colony almost from scratch.

  4. Don MacFarlane

    December 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Black and Blue in Colonsay

    A number of these families emigrated to PEI in the early 1800s. None of these names are recognisably Gaelic or Highland at first sight but they represent a sizeable portion of Colonsay residents in the early 1800s and before. The project for this site for the forthcoming Faoilteach is to try to discover the origins of these names, and how they came to be en-masse in a relative backwater like Colonsay; also to what extent they were immersed in Gaelic culture and identity. An underlying question is, if their origims were not rooted in Colonsay, to what extent were they amenable or susceptible to the blandishments of Lord Selkirk and his emigration scheme as described in ‘New Celts from Old Horizons’.

    Amos (Perthshire and East Lothian)
    Bell (Lanarkshire)
    Black (Lanark, Argyll, Aberdeen)
    Blue (Argyll)
    Bowie (Argyll, Aberdeen)
    Brown (Lanark, Ayr)
    Crawford (Lanark, Ayr)
    Darrach (Lanark, Argyll, Ayr)
    Dobson (Lanark)
    Docherty (Lanark, Dumbarton)
    Edie (Fife)
    Fisher (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Galbraith (Lanark, Argyll)
    Gilchrist (Lanark, Dumbarton)
    Graham (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Henderson (Lanark, Perthshire)
    Huchison (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Jamison (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Johnston (Lanark, Dumbarton)
    Livingstone (Lanark, Argyllshire)
    Locharty viz. Lochart or Lockhart
    McCalman (Argyll)
    McDuffie viz. MacPhee
    McGowan (Lanark, Perthshire)
    McHector viz. MacEachen
    McHepheder ? McIlfedder
    McIngeart ? MacInceard (son of the handyman)
    McInvin ? MacKinnon
    McLorgas ? (son of Lawrence – Irish derivation)
    McLugash viz. MacLucas (Lanark)
    Munn (Lanark, Argyll)
    Niven (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Oliver (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Patterson (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton, Perthshire)
    Perrie (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Reid (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Russell (Lanark)
    Sinclair (Lanark, Argyll)
    Tear (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Vass (Ross and Cromarty)
    Walker (Lanark, Ayr, Dumbarton)
    Watson (Lanark, Ayr)

    Editorial Comment
    In brackets after each name is its place of origin, mostly in the Scottish midlands up towards Dumbarton. A good half of these names also appear to have drifted over to Colonsay from neighbouring Knapdale on the Argyllshire mainland (see map). A number of these names are possibly or probably septs of Clan MacMillan which was the major clan in Knapdale (Gilchrist, Bell, Buie and Walker); of Clan Cameron (MacFale); of Clan Campbell (McCalder); of Clan Cumming (Niven, Russell); of Clan Fraser (Oliver); of Clan Grant (Bowie, Buie); of Clan Gunn (Jamison); of Clan Lamont (Brown, Black, MacLucas); of Clan MacDonald (Galbraith, Hutchison); of Clan MacDougall (Livingstone, MacLugash) of Clan MacFarlane (Galbraith); of Clan MacIntyre (Tear); of Clan MacLachlan (Gilchrist); of Clan MacLaren (Paterson); or of Clan Ross (Tear, Vass) . All in all, there appears to be plenty evidence of a counter-drift, not only from proximal and neighbouring territory, but up to the Highlands from the Lowlands. This argues against what Prof Tom Devine implies in his book, ‘Clearance and Improvement’, that the traffic was all one-way.

    • Don MacFarlane

      December 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Odd Houses in Colonsay

      The 1841 Census for Colonsay paints a very odd picture of the household compositions in Colonsay. Some of the households appear to be almost like communes.

      Some examples:
      #1 Oronsay – Single or widowed (?) English woman, Ann McNeill (35) with six children aged 1-10; with male tutor aged 20; two mature manservants (neither local) and nine unrelated female servants (eight local, one English) named MacLachlan, MacMillan, Currie, MacDonald, Doherty, MacNeill and Shaw.

      #2 MacNeill household, possibly an outhouse from property #1 – MacNeill spouses, Katrine (40) and Malcolm (50) with three children (8,5 and 1) with (?) widowed mother-in-law, Ann MacEachern (70); widowed or abandoned (?) sister-in-law, Isabella Blue (40) with adult child, Flory (25); and three female servants, MacMillan (25) with 2 year old child; also Blue and MacFadyen (both 15).

      #3 Labourers Cottage (?) – eight workers, four aged 10-15 (including MacGillivray,aged 20; and younger brother, aged 10; Campbell,aged 25, and younger brother,aged 15; and MacLucas (15), Bowie and Blue (13).

      For more strange household compositions of the same, see Colonsay Census 1841. Speculations on family makeup and circumstances as cases in point are invited on the following:
      1. MacNeill family from Ardskernish
      2. MacNeill family from Machrins Clova
      3. Campbell family from Machrins Clova
      4. Shaw family from Balevurich
      5. MacPhail (MacFale) family from Baleraominmore
      6. Martin family from Scalisaig
      7. Ross family from Scalisaig
      8. MacFale family from Balnaharde
      9. MacMillan family from Urigaig
      10. MacLucas family from Urigaig

      • Donald Cuthbertson Russell Campbell

        September 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

        info on #3 Campbell. Also information on Peter Campbell, son of the schoolmaster at Kilchattan? Any info would help. Peter had Daniel and John (my father).

    • Don MacFarlane

      December 14, 2011 at 7:56 pm

      Colonsay Folk Bred Better, from ‘Population Structure of Depreciated Communities: Colonsay and Jura’, Biodemography and Social Biology, author Prof John W Sheets (1980).

      If I understand this paper correctly, Colonsay folk over five generations (up till 1977) bred faster, younger and longer than their Jura neighbours. They also inbred twice as often, though not commonly with first or second cousins, from a common line of ‘founding’ ancestors. This trend was offset by periodic emigration (usually to Canada) and increasing marital admixture with immigrants. Economic hardship and bad harvests also protected against further inbreeding – perhaps Malthus was right after all?

  5. donfad

    November 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    The Case of Christina MacPhail, Proceedings of Tiree Kirk Sessions 1769-72

    These transcripted extracts from the Tiree Parish Register 1766–1774, by Keith Dash and Anne Hentschel, to be found in full in, are reproduced with their permission.

    Dec 31 Christian MacPhail, wife to Peter Sinclair, at present in Lorne, appeared at Ballamhulin, before Minister and Elders, in Session formally met, having been summoned on a report that had spread of her being with child in adultery. After prayers and on being interrogated, she acknowledged the fact, and she declared that John MacLeod in Mursta was the father of her pregnancy; that he had carnal dealings with her about the middle of April; that neither he, nor any other mortal, had to do with her since. John Macleod obstinately refused the charge and, being cited to appear next Sedarunt in the place, he refused to comply; upon which the Session fined him five shillings Sterling [about one week’s wages] and it ordered the Beadle and Ground-Officer to uplift the fine next day.

    Jan 21 Appearing before Minister and Elders, at a formal meeting at Ballamhulin, John MacLeod in Mursta was charged by Christian MacPhail with being the father of her pregnancy, as on December 31. MacLeod solemnly denied the guilt, though he admitted to seemingly having been solicited by her in April last, flying from her arms, after some endearments and freedoms had been used, like the virtuous Joseph of old.

    Feb 9 Appearing before minister and elders in Session at a formal meeting at Ballamhulin, Christian MacPhail on a charge for adultery positively averred as formerly that John MacLean was the father of her late pregnancy, which he as stiffly denied.

    Jan 8 Appearing before the minister and Session, at a formal meeting at Ballamhulin, Christian McPhail solemnly deponed that John McLeod was the father of her late pregnancy, upon which MacLeod was adjudged guilty and he was ordered to do penance before the Congregation till he was absolved by the Session.

    Editorial Comment
    The main offence heard by the Presbyterian Kirk Session seems to have been adultery and fornication. The penalty for adultery was to stand dressed in sackcloth, bare headed and bare feet, at the Kirk door; then to sit on the Stool of Repentance for perhaps six months or longer, in front of the congregation and the minister. Fornication and lewd behaviour were often punished by the men being forced to make public penance and by the women being ducked in the foulest water available and perhaps being banished from the town. Misbehaviour in the countryside was often not detected until pregnancy was obvious.

    In the MacPhail/ MacLeod case, the charge against Christian (Christina) was straightforward in that her husband, Peter (note that he went by the name Sinclair as it was usual for the wife to continue to go by her maiden name), was away on the Argyll mainland (Lorne) having possibly abandoned her as marital relations had ceased since the previous April. Christina had the misfortune to have lost the pregnancy, presumably through miscarriage, but this seems to have evoked no sympathy as the interrogation of her continued for a further two years. The possible penalty for Christina, as for all women compromised in this way, was always to be more severe than for the man, as she faced possible banishment or ostracisation by the community; the man had only to face a fine and the loss of his good name. John MacLeod continued to profess his innocence, claiming that he had resisted her attempts at seduction.

    • donfad

      November 9, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Misleading Entries in Tiree Marriage and Baptismal Records 1766-1774?

      Family researchers should be aware of the following possible mistranslations or obsolete forms of surnames.

      Quite apart from the endemic use of Mc instead of Mac (Gaelic form where available is in brackets):

      MacFadyen (MacPhaidin-son of little Peter) – McPhaiden
      Montgomery (MacUalraig- perhaps son of Ulrick the Norseman?)- McUalrig, McCuarlig, McVolric
      Munn (N/A – perhaps variation on MacIlleMeadhoin, son of the middle son?) – Nun
      MacQuarrie (MacGhorraidh-son of Godfrey the Norseman) – McCorry, McKeory
      Currie or MacPherson (MacMhuirich) – McVorich
      Johnstone or MacDonald (MacIain) – McIan (McTan)
      MacMillan (MacIlleMhaoil, son of the bald or tonsured son) – McIlvyle
      MacEachen (MacEachain, son of Hector; different to MacEachern, son of the horsemaster) – McCahan, McCaen
      MacCalman – McIlmun (same as Munn?)

      Editorial Comment:
      The mystery is the ham-fisted way some of these names were recorded. It begs the question of the literacy of the recorders or that a convention had not yet been arrived at how to translate these names into English. Some of these names may have came to be in Tiree as followers of the Lords of the Isles (MacDonalds), these being notably Curry (MacMhuirich), MacEachen and MacIain; all names that gave allegiance or followed the fortunes of the MacDonalds

      • Angus Macmillan

        November 9, 2011 at 9:41 pm

        A few alternative thoughts on these surnames. MacFadden was not the same as MacFadyen/MacFadzean nor was it anything to do with anyone called Peter. MacFadden from whom the Argyll kin descended was a boat builder from Ireland, who was a servant of Lame John MacDugall of Lorne and involved in the Battle of the Pass of Brander when Lame John ambushed Robert The Bruce about 1309. Peter of course is Pedair and became MacPhetir or MacPhedran, pronounced something like MacEaderain and so self evidently not easily becoming MacFadden. I suspect the ‘an’ end was not a diminutive but a plural applied to a family group.

        The MacQuarries were descended from Guaire born about 1100, brother of Fingon ancestor of the MacKinnons, both together with the tonsured ancestor of the MacMillans, being sons of Bishop Cormac of Dunkeld. The comment about ham fisted recording is confirmed by the pretty random use of the two separate surnames MacEachran and MacEachan, and of the distinct names MacMurchy and MacMuirich.

        • donfad

          November 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

          I suspect Angus is probably correct in his analysis of the name MacFadden and how it differs from MacFadyen, a name often to be found cheek-by-jowl alongside MacFadden.

          There is nonetheless a widespread belief, perpetrated by Wikipedia and others, that the two names are the same but some disagreement as to whether the name is originally Irish or Scottish – similar to the confusion around the name MacNevin (MacNiven) which is prevalent in the Inner Isles but thought by some to come from County Galway.

          Interested MacFaddens/MacFadyens can volunteer to enrol on the ongoing McFadden yDNA haplotype study to tease out their true origins.

  6. donfad

    November 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Overseas Cemeteries of Tiree Emigrants
    Courtesy of Keith Dash

    Little Narrows, Nova Scotia – Carmichael, Campbell, MacDonald, MacFadyen
    Brock Township, Ontario – Grant, Kelso, MacIntyre, MacLean
    Pictou Island, Nova Scotia – MacCallum, MacDonald
    Artemesia Township, Ontario – MacDonald, MacEachern
    Hamilton, Victoria AUS – MacDougall
    Hawkes Bay, New Zealand – MacFarlane, MacLean

  7. Don MacFarlane

    February 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Leave it to the Youth

  8. Don MacFarlane

    January 15, 2010 at 7:34 am

    The Gaelic language was commonly and widely spoken in Ulster up until the early 1800s, so much so that Presbyterian ministers sent over from Scotland, usually from Argyll and Kintyre, were expected to be able to speak Gaelic to be able to communicate with their flocks. A sample of Gaelic poetry from Antrim shows how alike Irish and Scots Gaelic still were. The poem was written on behalf of emigrants from Antrim to North America.

    Mo sheacht mallacht ar an tsaol,
    Is carai e go mor na an t-eag;
    Mheall se me o mo mhuinti phein,
    Mar mheallfai an t-uan bhon chaora.
    A mbeadh agam ach coit is ramh,
    Na go n-iomairinn ar dhroim an tsnaimh,
    Ag duil as Dia go ruiginn slan
    Is go bhfaighinn bas in Eirinn.

    Sean MacAmbrois 1798-1848

    Translation: I curse the world seven times over, it is more treacherous than the plague; It lured me from my own folk, just as the lamb is lured from the sheep. If only I had a small boat and oar, I would row upon the crest of the wave, entrusting to God to arrive safely and to find Death in Ireland.

  9. Don MacFarlane

    January 14, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    From Andrew Beachum

    I wanted to run a scenario past you to see if you had any explanation. I have been researching my ancestors, William and Margaret MacKeachey, who settled with the Highlanders and Islanders in colonial North Carolina (1760’s). The surname appears to be local to Wigtownshire, and is usually spelled McKeachie (or various other butcheries). It appears they lived in Antrim for a while (20 years) prior to coming to North Carolina. They were documented Gaelic-speakers, and the family spoke Gaelic until the mid-19th century, after 100 years in America. They were very tight with the Highlanders and Islanders in the North Carolina settlement, always living next to, marrying and migrating with families like the McLeods, McNeills, MacDonalds, Buidhes, McFarlands and McPhersons. Some of these folks were from Skye, and some were from Kintyre. As far as I can tell, the MacKeachies (later changed name to Keahey) were the only non-Highlanders that were included in the group and spoke Gaelic everyday. Is this abnormal? I thought most people from Ulster during that period spoke Ullans or English, but not Gaelic. Do you have any insight into a specific group of people who historically might fit into this scenario? Please excuse my ignorance, but I am a victim of the U.S. public school system! Thanks for providing this forum and for your input!

    • Don MacFarlane

      January 16, 2010 at 11:46 am

      The following are unusual septs of Clan Donald that still exist, many of them transported to Northern Ireland:


      • Angus Macmillan

        January 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm

        Setting aside the competition among the major clans in Victorian times to outdo each other in numbers of septs claimed, it is fascinating how the names on the list arose. It is easy to see that Rioch, pock marked, could have arisen anywhere though there was a specific family so identified, that of Angus Riabhach (MacDonald) which was closely involved in the murder of Dougall VI of Clanranald in 1520. I suspect that McHugh, McCutcheon, Hutchinson and conceivably Houston stemmed from the use of Uistean/Hugh as a name in the Sleat family from its conquest of parts of Skye in 1469 through the Sleat family historian Hugh in North Uist centuries later. Likewise Godfrey/Gorry was the name of a substantial group of descendants of Godfrey of the Isles, brother of the Ranald/Reginald from which Clanranald took its name still earlier.

        However, it was very common for those compiling lists to be pretty cavalier about the distinction between septs, theoretically blood-related to the main clan, and associated i.e. allied or client clans. One of those on the list is Leitch, stemming from Leech, a medical man, behind which were lurking the Beaton medical clan, from Ireland and originally taken into Islay by the Lords of the Isles, the Leitch name somehow settling on a branch in Kintyre before finding itself as Leitches Creek in Cape Breton. No sept there but a closley associated clan. Anyone have thoughts on the other names? Angus

  10. Don MacFarlane

    May 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I’m looking for John and Thomas McNeill families. John was born on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides,Scotland.He emigrated to Northern Ireland in 1798 to Glassdrummond, Ballynahinch, Co. Down. He married either Sarah or Catherine in 1806 but I have no date for her birth or her death. Her father was Thomas? Murray. Her children were Robert 1807, Thomas 1809, Sarah 1812, John 1816, MaryJane 1818, Christopher 1820 [my great great grandfather]. THOMAS 1809 married Mary Rippard or Rackpard in 1840. Thomas was a blacksmith in Northern Ireland. His wife was born in 1820.Thomas in Griffiths Survey of 1851 was age 42. He and his wife and children left for Prince Edward Island, somewhere between 1871 and 1873.

    There are only two Rippards recorded for County Down in that period:
    Rippard Hugh, Ballymacaramery, Saintfield and Rippard Hugh, Creevyargon, Kilmore. These two places are of almost spitting distance of each other.
    The nearest McNeills (2 families) were from Listooder in Kilmore and Ouley in Saintfield.

    • Roberta Irvine

      November 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Anything to Blakely McNeill? If I was at home in Glassdrummond I’d be able to look it up

  11. Don MacFarlane

    January 24, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Complete Version of ‘Null thar an Aiseig’, Jura Boat Song

    Fonn (Chorus)
    Theid mi null gu tir mo rúin,
    Theid mi null thar an aiseig,
    Theid mi null gu tir mo ruin,
    S’mor mo shunnd a’ tilleadh dhachaidh.

    Theid mi null ann thar a chaoil
    Far a’ bheil mo dhaoin a fanachd,
    Gheibh mi faillt bho’m mhathair chaoin,
    ‘Nuair bu mhaoth mi ‘s i rinn m’altrum.

    Chi mi ‘m bàta fo a siuil
    A tighinn dluth do na chala,
    Chi mi m’athair aig an stiùir,
    Cha bhi curam orm bho’n chas—shruth.

    As a’ bheinn gun toir mi fiadh,
    Gheibh mi iasg as an abhainn,
    Le mo ghunna mar is miann
    Gheibh mi liath—chearc is lacha.

    Bidh mo chridhe leum le mùirn,
    ‘S mor mo shunnd is chan airsneul,
    Chan ‘eil coimeas tir mo ruin
    Ann an dùthaich eil’ air thalamh.

    English Translation:
    I will go with delight to the land of my desire, I will go by ferry; I will go across the kyle, to where my folk are waiting, I will get a welcome from my mother, who nursed me gently when an infant; I can see their skiff under sail, coming near to the quayside, I can see my father at the helm, no need for fear from any wave; I will take deer from the hills, I will take fish from the river, with my gun and as I please, I will get grouse and duck aplenty; My heart will leap with delight, great will be my joy and not sorrow, there is nowhere else to compare, in the whole wide world.

  12. Angus Macmillan

    November 25, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Surely quite a few of these names have known derivations, not necessarily indigenous to Mull but close enough to be common there?

    MacFadden was an Irish boat builder imported by the MacDougalls of Lorne at the time of the Bruce. One derivation at least of Currie was that it was the Anglicised form of MacMhuirichs descended from Muredach Albanach and Islay based while they were Bards to the Lords of the Isles. The MacCallums were surely part and parcel with the Malcolms and were, like the MacQuarries who had Mull, of the siol mac Charmaig, descendants of an Gilleasbuig Mor, the great Bishop of Dunkeld, descendant of MacBeth father Airbertach. The location of the Maceachern horse lords was surely Kintyre rather than Mull. As for the Blacks, things are a bit uncertain but the MacIldubhie on Gometra connection withe the MacPhees of Colonsay seems much the most likely connection. As for sons of Angus and Donald, there are quite enough of us to spawn surnames here and there.

    The interesting thing about Mull, I always think, is the way half was the territory of Somerled and his ancestors while the southern half seems to have been part of Airbertach’s ‘twelve treba among the Norse’ and the final step in the run of Clann Morgain/Bishop Cormac clans running from Perthshire via the MacNabbs, MacGregors, MacMillans, Malcolms, MacKinnons to the MacGuaires or MacQuarries in Mull.

    Anyone have any thoughts or corrections on these?

  13. donfad

    November 22, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    The commonest names to be found in Mull in the 1800s as recorded in



    Those surnames with asterisks were the most indigenous to Mull, but with some spread to neighbouring Inner Hebrides, little or none to the Western Isles. The most indigenous to Mull was the surname Fletcher, just as unexpected but indigenous as the surname Blue to Colonsay.

    Some of those names have Irish equivalents, so it is a moot point whether they were at some point immigrants or merely the product of a shared language (more likely). Those names include MacFadyen (McFadden) – thought to mean son of little Patrick (Paidean); MacLachlan (McLoughlin) – son of the stranger or Viking; MacCallum (McCollum); MacEachern (McGachern) – son of the horsemaster; Currie (Corry); MacColl (McColl); MacInnes (McGuinness) – son of Angus (Aonghas, Aenghus).

  14. donfad

    September 11, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    People Power in Gigha

    The island of Gigha was put on the market for sale in August 2001 by the Holt family. After much debate and encouragement by the local MSP, it was agreed to launch a bid by the community to buy the island. With the help of the Scottish Land Fund, who were able to offer the Trust 3.525million, together with a grant from H.I.E of £500,000, it was enough to secure the Island.

    However, a condition of the grant for the isle of Gigha Heritage Trust was to pay back £1 million of the grant from the Scottish Land Fund by March 2004, £200,000 had to be raised through their own fundraising efforts. An onerous task for a community with a population of just over 100 people!

    In true Gigha style, the islanders rose to the challenge and, on 15 th March 2002, the island was handed over to the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust. A fundraising Committee was formed and the task began to pay back £1,000,000 on 15 th March 2004.

    After much fundraising ranging from soup ‘n’ sandwich days, ceilidhs, sponsored slims, quiz nights, sponsored rows around the island and many more ventures, the £1,000,000 was paid back to the Scottish Land fund on 15 th March 2004. The sale of Achamore House raised the largest proportion of this.

    The achievements by this small island community have been exemplary.

  15. Angus Macmillan

    March 25, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    MacEachthighearn it is but thought to predate surnames and to be the identifier for a Celtic tribe in Kintyre, Argyll. Both the authors of Clan Donald and Alasdair Maclean, in his Gaelic Society of Inverness article, confirm the derivation of MacEachan [or in its more normal modern form, MacEachen] as deriving from Hector; the only difference is that the first source advances a rather shadowy Hector MacDonald as the named father, while MacLean, perhaps not surprisingly but apparently wilth a better audit trail, traces the family to a Hector Buidhe, a MacLean, whose descendants were in Druimindarroch before arriving in the Uists.

    The authoritative Beaton source is John Bannerman, Lord Kildonan and of South Uist stock, who has written the history of the medical Beatons. It is difficult to argue with his conclusion that the application of a Norman source to the medical clan is spurious. There was an Anglo-Norman family of the name in the Angus area much earlier but, apparently, none of the medical lines used Beaton until the end of the 16th Century; until then they were MacBethadh, Leitch, Mac-an Ollaidh and all variants. Having begun to use the Scotticised ‘Beaton’, James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow became Ambassador in Paris at the same time that a Phillipe de Bethune became Ambassador at the Scottish Court. Thereafter, the Archbishop’s brother began to call himself Bethune and it was not until towards the end of the 17th Century that the medical families, first the Beatons of Culnaskea in Easter Ross and then the Beatons of Husabost, physicians to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, began to affect the name. I am not sure how widely the reference to a British TV comedy will resonate but it all smacks of the snob Hyacinth Bucket, who insisted on being called Bouquet.

  16. donfad

    March 24, 2008 at 11:15 am

    An alternative version for the origin of the Bethunes is that Clan Beaton as a whole came from Bethune in Pas de Calais in France. Some members of the clan preferred to keep to the original version of the name rather than have it anglicised. The most famous Bethune was a medic and he is honoured as a national hero in China where several hospitals are named after him.

    Medical practice in South Uist must have been very primitive in the Beatons’ time and ‘An Dotair Ban’ was associated strongly with herbal medicine. As a boy and when I declared my interest in becoming a doctor, I myself received from an old woman in Howmore a basic introduction to the folk uses of local flora for medical purposes.

    MacEachern is thought to derive from ‘Mac Each-Thighearn’ and is translated as Son of the Horse Master. Similar to Hound Master, being a Horse Master was a prestigious position as horses were much valued by chieftains. The name has an equivalent in Ireland where it appears as McGahern and the best-known of the name are John McGahern, famous novelist, and Bertie Aherne, Taoiseach of Ireland. It is unclear whether the name travelled from Scotland to Ireland with the Gallowglasses or vice versa. The name MacEachen may be more more straightforward as Eachann is Gaelic for Hector (?).

  17. Angus Macmillan

    March 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    The Beatons were not a sept but, until the early 1700s, the equivalent of the MacMhuirich bards in that they maintained through the generations a professional skill. They originally came to Islay from Ireland, perhaps as part of the Tocher of O’Cahan. In their case their skill was medicine. There were four medics practising in South Uist in the 1680s and both the MacDonalds of Sleat and the MacLeods of Dunvegan had dedicated families in residence, in Trotternish and Husabost respectively. It was the former who seem to have used the name Bethune as an upmarket alternative to the Gaelic surname MacBeth, which was normally Anglicised Beaton but, in Argyll, became Leitch.

    Likewise, the MacRury family were armourers to the MacDonalds in Skye and in time established themselves in North Uist and became known as bards as well as smiths, whence two main families colonised Benbecula.

    Currie was simply an Anglicised form of MacMhuirich in the southern parts of South Uist, Eriskay and Barra. MacEachern and Maceachen were two different families. I am not sure that the former ever spread to the islands from Argyll. The latter were identified as MacDonalds by the authors of the History of Clan Donald but modern thinking has them as MacLeans who came to South Uist and Benbecula from Arisaig/Moidart, two famous branches being tacksmen of Howbeg in South Uist and Dunganichy in Benbecula.

    MacConnell and Connell were just (Mac)Donald as heard but whether they constituted septs or simply random outbreaks of erratic spelling, I am not sure.

    That picks a few off, I hope.

  18. donfad

    March 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I think Angus is correct. A small list of other names that do not appear to be indigenous at first sight to the Hebrides but which may in fact be septs of Clanranald includes:

    Beaton, Bethune, Connell, Darroch, Donaldson, Galbraith, Gillis, Houston, Hutchinson, MacBeth, MacCodrum, MacConnell, MacCuish, MacCutcheon, MacEachern, MacGowan, MacRury, MacSorley, MacSporran, Murchison, Rioch, Currie and MacIsaac.

  19. donfad

    November 22, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Brought to us by SMO

    Tha fear beairteach airson dearbhadh gur urrainn do dhaoine an latha an-diugh tighinn beò go Hearta (St. Kilda). Tha e airson dusan duine a thrusadh a nì dachaigh, beatha ‘s bith-beò dhaibh fhèin ‘s a chruthaicheas coimhearsnachd ùr a mhaireas às an dèidh. English translation. A rich person (from Canada, unnamed) who has recently bought St Kilda wishes to prove it possible for a small community of people to make a home today on the deserted island and to make a subsistence there.

    ‘S e seo a’ cheist – cò thèid agus carson? Tha feum air daoine le diofar sgilean is buadhan a thaghadh. (This is the question – who would volunteer and why? People with a range of different skills and aptitudes should apply.)

    Smaointean air seo (some thoughts on this):

    • dè am feum a nì gach duine (what skills has each person)?
    • dè an cron a dh’fhaodadh iad dèanamh (what harm could they do)?
    • carson ‘s ciamar a bhiodh iad feumail (why and how could they be useful)?
    • am biodh feum annta ann an dòighean eile seach dòighean practaigeach (do they have other skills)?
    • am biodh àite ann do bhodaich ‘s do chailleachan is dhan chloinn bhig (would elderly people and small
    children be welcome) ?
    • chan ann ag obair fad na h-ùine a bhiodh iad – ciamar a dhèanadh iad dibhearsan (how would they pass the
    time when not working)?
    • ma thaghas sibh aon duine à càraid no teaghlach, saoil an gabh an duine eile ris a’ chothrom (would
    unattached people be taken advantage of)?


    Aonghas Bàn MacMhathain, Angus Mathieson(42). Bàrd is sgrìobhaiche sgeulachdan. Uaireigin ag obair na shaor a’ togail àirneis taighe is thogalaichean ùra. Poet and writer, was once a builder.

    Catrìona Nic a’ Bhriuthainn, Catherine Brown (38). Neach-naidheachd. Ag obair ann an rèidio agus telebhisean, agus roimhe sin air pàipear-naidheachd. Current-affairs media and newspaper journalist.

    Ceit-Anna NicDhùghaill, Kate-Anne MacDougall (45). Bean-taighe. Ag obair ann am bùth mus do phòs i. Shop assistant before getting married.

    Seòras MacDhùghaill, George MacDougall (50). Fear bùtha. An duine aig Ceit-Anna. Tha bùth bheag aige far am bi e fhèin ag obair. Bha a bhean ag obair ann mus do phòs iad, ach chan eil e airson ‘s gum bi mnathan pòsta ag obair taobh a-muigh an dachaigh. Husband to Anna. Small shopkeeper and prefers his wife to keep house rather than work.

    Donnchadh MacSuain, Duncan MacSween (39). Ag obair ann an garaids. Chaill e a bhean o chionn ceithir bliadhna. Tha dithis chloinne aige – Marsaili (8) agus Niall (6). Garage hand and recently widowed with two small children.

    Eachann MacAmhlaigh, Hector MacAulay (24). Connstabal poilis an Obar Dheathain. Rinn e cùrsa oilthigh ann an coilltearachd.
    Police constable in Edinburgh with college qualification in forestry (there are no trees in St. Kilda).

    Seònaid Mhoireach, Janet Murray (23). Leannan Eachainn. Gruagaire. Thogadh i sa bhaile mhòr. Tha nighean aice fhèin ‘s Eachann – Melanie (2). Tha dùil aice ri leanabh. City-bred hairdresser with a very young daughter and expectant mother.

    Eilidh Chamshron, Helen Cameron (28). Bha i pòsta aig tuathanach cruidh is chaorach ann an Cataibh mus do dhealaich i ris. Rinn i fhèin cùrsa ann am biathadh is còcaireachd. Tha dùil aice ri leanabh. Cook and estranged wife of a small-time livestock Caithness farmer who is an expectant mother.

    Iagan Bochanan, Jack Buchanan (47) Sagart. Bha e na thidsear Saidheans ann an àrdsgoil mus deach e a-steach dhan t-sagartachd. Priest who was before that a Science teacher.

    Maighread Ghrannd, Margaret Grant (26). Nurs do dhaoine le trioblaidean inntinn. Cha do rinn i cùrsa ann an nursadh àbhaisteach. Mental Health nurse with no general nursing experience (might be needed).

    Màiri Ghreumach, Mary Graham (43). Dannsair aig Ballet na h-Alba agus tidsear spòrs ann an àrdsgoiltean. Dancer with Scottish Ballet and secondary school teacher.

    Calum Greumach, Callum Graham (24). Mac Màiri. Draibhear bus agus fear-càraidh einnseanan. Son to Mary, bus driver and car mechanic (no roads on St. Kilda).

    Iseabail NicLeòid, Isabel MacLeod (23). Leannan Chaluim. Gàirnealair ann am pàircean baile mhòir. Eòlach air toirt fàs air luibhean is glasraich. Callum’s fiancee. Landscape and vegetable gardener from the big city.

    Niall Greumach, Neil Graham (21). Mac Màiri. Oileanach a’ dèanamh ceòl anns an oilthigh. Music student.

    Murchadh MacIllFhinnein, Murdo MacLennan (64). Ministear anns an Eaglais Shaoir. Bha e na sheirbhiseach stàite mus deach a-steach dhan mhinistearalachd. One-time civil servant and now a Free Church minister.

    Peigi NicIllFhinnein, Peggy MacLennan (60). Bean Mhurchaidh. Tidsear bunsgoile mus do leig i dhith a dreuchd na bu thràithe am-bliadhna. Murdo’s wife and recently retired primary school teacher.

    Seòras MacIllFhinnein, George MacLennan (33). Mac Mhurchaidh ‘s Peigi. Chan urrainn dha obair air sàilleabh tubaist nuair a bha e na dheugair. ‘S ann air èiginn a nì e coiseachd. Invalided from heavy-machinery accident at work and barely able to walk.

    Seumas Stiùbhart, James Stewart (36). Dotair. A’ togail bhàtaichean ‘s a’ cluiche a’ bhocsa na thìde fhèin. Tha e gay. Medical doctor and gay. Hobbies are boat-building (might need one) and accordion-playing.

    Dòmhnall Iain MacFhionghain, Donald John MacKinnon (34). Croitear. A bharrachd air a’ chroitearachd tha e air a bhith an cois àrach-èisg. Crofter and fish-breeder (plenty fish round St. Kilda, puffins too).

    Sìne Robasdan, Jane Robertson(22). Rùnaire aig manaidsear companaidh. Sgilean cunntasachd is coimpiutarachd. Company secretary proficient in accounting and computing.

    Alasdair MacMhaoilein, Alistair MacMillan (27). Ag obair ann an teicneòlas fiosrachaidh. Leannan Sìne. Jane’s fiancee and assistant in technical college.

    Ùisdean Caimbeul, Hugh Campbell(54). Bha e fichead bliadhna ag òl ‘s ga chur a shlàinte ann an cunnart. Clachair. Ag iarraidh cothrom air beatha ùr a dhèanamh dha fhèin. Serious drinker and alcoholic for twenty years and wants to make a new start. Stonemason.

    Agnes Dhòmhnallach, Agnes MacDonald(52). Piuthar Ùisdein. Còcaire ann an ospadal fad còrr is 30 bliadhna. Car trom air an deoch. Sister to Hugh and still a heavy drinker. Cook in hospital canteen for thirty years.

    Lachlann Dòmhnallach, Lachlan MacDonald(55). An duine aig Agnes. Smàladair agus eòlach air Ciad Fhuasgladh. Car trom air an deoch. Married to Agnes and still a heavy drinker.

    Ùna NicAonghais, Una MacInnes(57). Glanadair sgoile. Dealaichte ris an duine aice. Tha clann aice ach tha an teaghlaichean fhèin aca a-nis. School cleaner with grown-up children and separated from husband.

  20. londonderry

    October 20, 2007 at 9:22 am

    I’m looking for John and Thomas McNeill families. John was born on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides,Scotland.He emigrated to Northern Ireland in 1798 to Glassdrummond, Ballynahinch, Co. Down. He married either Sarah or Catherine in 1806 but I have no date for her birth or her death. Her father was Thomas? Murray. Her children were Robert 1807, Thomas 1809, Sarah 1812, John 1816, MaryJane 1818, Christopher 1820 [my great great grandfather]. THOMAS 1809 married Mary Rippard or Rackpard in 1840. Thomas was a blacksmith in Northern Ireland. His wife was born in 1820.Thomas in Griffiths Survey of 1851 was age 42. He and his wife and children left for Prince Edward Island, somewhere between 1871 and 1873.


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