Re: Orkney connection?

Glynn Currie

Good evening.

I am not sure if this is relevant, but will post it here in case someone finds it interesting.


It is from an article written by Dr. David H.Caldwell entitled “The Ilich- People of Scotland”.


he MacEacherns

There is a tradition that the MacEacherns of Islay were smiths to the Lords of the Isles. There is a medieval grave-slab at Finlaggan that may commemorate a member of this family. It is uninscribed, but has a fine representation of an anvil. Islay sword hilts, made by these smiths, are famous in Gaelic tradition, though I have yet to establish what they were like. There are no surviving medieval documents with the names of MacEachern smiths. Indeed the only smith on Islay surnamed MacEachern that can be traced is John McEachern in Killarow, given a tack in the late eighteenth century [29].

   An early eighteenth-century history of the Campbells of Craignish says that this family of hereditary smiths were at that time commonly called Clan Gowan (from Gaelic gobhainn, a smith or blacksmith), and incidentally, says there was another branch of them long established in Morvern, in mainland Argyll [30]. It is possible that the Malcolm McGown who appears as the tenant of Tighcargaman in the Parish of Kildalton in 1541 is one of these smiths. Donald MacGuin of Esknish in the Parish of Killarow was one of the men of Islay who petitioned the Privy Council about 1600 in support of Angus MacDonald of Dunyvaig and his son James[31]. Tighcargaman and Esknish still had MacGowan tenants in 1631, and there were others elsewhere on the island at Kilbride (Kildalton P.), Tiervaagain and Ballighillan (both Killarow P.). Gillycreist Gow Smyth, tenant of Carnbeg (Killarow P.), might be a practising smith, and possibly of the same kindred. It is likely that many Islay folk of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, surnamed Smith, are descendants of the MacEacherns and MacGowans.

   There is another Islay family of interest in this context, the MacNocards. Their name is derived from the Gaelic for the son of the ceard, meaning a smith or metalworker, often with the sense of someone who worked in copper and silver, rather than iron. There was a Gilcrist McNarkerde in Braid (Kilchoman P.) in 1541 and several tenants with this surname occur in later rentals on various Islay lands, including Gearach in the Parish of Kilchoman (Donald McNokard in 1733 and 1741). It is believed that at a later date MacNokards in Argyll generally adopted the name Sinclair [32], and Sinclairs do indeed turn up in Islay rentals of the eighteenth century.

   The lands of Braid and Gearach are adjacent to each other, and the former possibly included, or was certainly near, Caonis Gall, said to have been the home of the MacEachern smiths [33]. There is also a small valley called the Gleann na Ceardaich (glen of the smiddy) less than a mile to the north. It is possible that the MacNokards were also descended from the MacEachern smiths of the Lords of the Isles. It is worth pointing out that the tenants of Gearach in 1733 included Donald McNokard, Archibald McKecheran and Donald Smith, perhaps all distantly related [34].


Sent from Mail for Windows 10


From: Sue Visser
Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2021 9:05 PM
Subject: Re: [Islay] Orkney connection?


Hi Toni


Are you talking of John Sinclair who married Catherine McCuaig 7 Sept 1777 in Kilarrow (but NOTP)?  If so, I don’t have John’s history prior to the marriage.  Yes, I too have 4 brothers (and 2 sisters plus 2 other possible sisters). 


I’ve been following this thread of Orkney→Islay connections with interest as it’s new to me.


Was Orkney involved in Culloden?  Did they have to flee as many others did, perhaps taking new names?  Perhaps someone with greater historical knowledge might be able to shed some light on these possibilities.


It’s good news to see some of the ‘charter’ SCT-ISLAY members back in the posting fray






From: tsinclair@...

Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2021 9:07 PM


Subject: Re: [Islay] Orkney connection?


Thanks Johan.  I think you've also corresponded a bit with this gentleman, so I won't go into the details.  However, he is very certain that his Mullindry Sinclairs were definitely not tenant farmers.  However, "The Daybook of Daniel Campbell of Shawfield,",compiled by Freda Ramsay, and "The Book of Islay" edited by Gregory Smith indicate that Mullindry was always a Campbell-owned farm.

Sue V.  - To my knowledge, there were 4 Sinclair brothers.  One of them - John, married a Catherine McCuaig of Kildalton parish (I think you had her in some of your family research).  Did you ever come across any information to indicate that Catherine married into a Sinclair family with Orkney origins?


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