Chapter 2: The McGilchrists of 17th & 18th Century Kintyre

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Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula is extremely rich in both natural beauty and history. The Norse King Magnus II ("Barefoot"), referring to the land as an island, asserted in 1098 that it was "the best of all the isles excepting only Man." From Tarbert in the north to the rocky tip of the Mull of Kintyre in the south is a distance of forty miles, and from the tip of the Mull to the nearest point along the coast of County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a distance of less than twelve miles. Evidence indicates that Kintyre has been continuously occupied from the time of recorded history. The name itself is from the Gaelic language: ceann meaning "a head," and tir meaning "land." Campbeltown, with a population approximating six thousand, is the largest city on the peninsula, and possesses one of Britain’s finest harbors.


On June 12, 1616, a bond was recorded in Campbeltown by "John McIllecreist of Gartgreallan and others to Archibald Campbell of Kildolvan (believed to be Kildonnen) for L800 Scotch"; the bond was dated October 24, 1616. He is again found on the same farm of Gartgreallan (also, listed as Gartluisk) in a later 1636 listing. It is the 1616 listing taken from the KINTYRE RENTALS 1505 - 1717 that represents the earliest recorded date that a family member was known to be settled on a Kintyre farm. The "Archibald Campbell" is most assuredly the Archibald Campbell of Glencarradale in the upper northeast portion of the Kintyre Peninsula. It was his daughter according to Andrew McKerral in his book: KINTYRE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY who married Archibald Oig MacDonald of Sanda. Though Archibald Oig, along with his father Archibald Mor of Sanda, had in fact become Campbell vassals, it would not deter their aligning themselves with the others of their clan in support of King Charles I which culminated in the loss of their lives in the horrible massacre of Dunaverty that occurred in south Kintyre in 1647.


Because of the good relationship that the influential Stuarts of Bute had with both the powerful Campbell clan as well as the MacDonalds of Sanda there is every reason to suspect that John McIllecreist (McGilchrist) may have been a part of the McGilchrist family that emerged on the Isle of Bute in the 16th century. It was this family that claimed descent from the early Lairds of Arrochar (lands northwest of Loch Lomond), and as such were descended from Gilchrist, the fourth son of the 2ed Earl of Lennox. From Gilchrist of Arrochar would also come in direct descent, the Clan MacFarlane.


It was in 1607 that Archibald, 7th Earl of Argyll and chief of Clan Campbell was granted a charter to all Kintyre lands. It quickly became his desire to populate his newly acquired holding with new hardworking farming stock who shared his commitment to the Presbyterian faith and who did not bear the names of MacDonald (or, MacConnell), MacLean, MacLeod, MacAllaster, or MacNeill. He first turned to the Isle of Bute and the Cumbrae Islands where he secured numbers of Highlanders before turning nearly forty years later to the regions of Ayrshire and Renfrewshire, east of the Firth of Clyde, where large numbers of Scots Lowlanders responded to his offer.

From Mr. John Gray, a highly regarded research historian living in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, comes word indicating that the McGilchrists were in Kintyre as early as the l3th century -- nearly three centuries before the Earl of Argyll’s ambitious plantation program. Others, he asserts, came in the l4th century along with the MacFarlanes when Malcolm, the clan’s chief, held the lands of Kilblaan and served as Mair of Kintyre for the Earl of Menteith. By 1377, Kintyre had reverted back to MacDonald ownership and the MacFarlanes were replaced as mairs by the MacAlisters who according to Mr. Gray’s findings held the same lands as those originally held by the MacFarlanes/McGilchrists. There thus develops reason that would suggest a strong link between the McGilchrists who emerged in Kintyre and the ancient Gilchrist Lairds of Arrochar who also became progenitor of Clan MacFarlane.


Another possible connection appears in the following land charter found by Mr. Ian MacDonald of the Kintyre Antiquarian Society in the society’s archival library in Campbeltown:


23rd and 24th NOVEMBER 1620: Sasine of the 40 merkland of BALEGREGGAN, the 20 merkland of PENNSERACHE, and the 20 merkland of ACHOWROWE in Kintyre given by JOHN STEWART in BALEGREGGAN as Bailie to ALEXANDER OIG MACDONALD in SMERBIE on a sale charter to him by ARCHIBALD OIG MACDONALD of MACHRIERIOCH which was signed at ROTHESAY, ISLE OF BUTE on 8th July 1620 before JOHN MONTGOMERY of SUMAKRIES, THOMAS STEWART and JOHN GLAIS notaries in ROTHESAY, DUNCAN MCGILCHRIST servitor to the grantee and DONALD GILCHRIST, notary public in ROTHESAY.

[With Duncan McGilchrist employed as servitor to Alexander Oig MacDonald and Donald Gilchrist, a notary public in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, there is the distinct probability of a family relationship – possibly a father-son.]




In 1653, notice was made in the Marquis of Argyll’s estate file of an Archibald McGilchrist serving as farmer in the previous MacDonald farms of Cattadilmoir, Lebenacaber, and Gartbean-nachsturach in Kilcolmkil Parish in the extreme south of Kintyre. A close examination of the following map reveals that Pennserache (Pennysearach) and Achowrowe (Aucharua), farms involved in the above land transaction, were little more than a mile from Cattadilmoir (Cattadale), thus raising the possibility that Archibald on Cattadilmoir was a son of Duncan, who was servitor for Alexander Oig MacDonald of Smerbie. Mr. Ian MacDonald states that it was not uncommon for a servitor to be granted a lease (tack) of land for his services. Archibald is again found listed as farmer in Cattadilmoir in 1666 and again in 1678. But, in 1683 Angus McGilchrist was the farmer in Cattadilmoir and Lephencavir (Lebenacaber), and found farming Strone farm further west was a Duncan McGilchrist. That the two men were probable brothers and sons of Archibald is given support by their being listed in the KINTYRE HEARTH TAX REPORT of 1694 as both farming Cattadilmoir. That a son would be named Duncan gives further support to the possible father-son relationship between Duncan of Smerbie and Archibald of Cattadilmoir. By 1709, the farms of Cattadilmoir and Lephencaver were being farmed by Robert and James Maxwell, Scots Lowlanders.

Click here for a full size map of Kintyre in the 1600's, includes notations of Gilchrist farms

Click here for a full size map of Kintyre in the 1600's

On yet another Kilcolmkil Parish farm, Glanadilluachtrach, located just west of Cattadilmoir, was Donald McGilchrist whose name, along with that of Donald McMurchie, was listed in the 1694 Hearth Tax Report. The close proximity of the two farms raises the distinct possibility that the three McGilchrists were brothers; and the use of the name "Donald" may be yet another tie to the Isle of Bute family in as much as the name was in frequent use among them. The name of Donald McGilchrist appears again in 1729, along with Malcolm and Archibald Fleming, as farmer on Ballybrennan, a farm located approximately one mile north of Cattadilmoir.


In 1758, in what has been the last appearance of the name in Kilcolmkil Parish, a nineteen year lease to the farm of North Machrimore, adjoining Cattadilmoir on the east, was provided John McGilchrist and Andrew Ralston – John being very likely a descendant of either Angus or Duncan who had acquired the lease to Cattadilmoir. By 1777, his name was no longer listed.




In 1609, two years after Archibald, 7th Earl of Argyll was granted a charter to all of Kintyre, Charles McLauchlan V’Eachen and his father Lauchlan McLauchlan of Killarow became leases of the church lands of Kilchenzie in central Kintyre. Through the remainder of the seventeenth century the McEachen (or, McEachin) family became one of Kintyre’s most influential families, having strong established ties to both the Campbells and the MacDonalds. Charles McEachin was a cousin of Alexander Oig MacDonald of Smerbie, whose wife, Moir (or, Sarah) McAllester, was the sister of Hector McAllester, the Laird of Loop and chief of Clan McAllester. Charles was appointed factor by Lord Lorne to administer his Skeirchanyie (Kilchenzie) lands (Lord Lorne would later be entitled the Marquis of Argyll). By 1666, the McEachins had acquired the lease to the central Kintyre farms of Tangy, Lagalgarve, Killocraw, Putechantie, Corputechan, and Killarow all within the united Parish of Killean and Kilchenzie. The support which they provided the ill-fated 1685 Rebellion led by Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll, cost the family its lands and forced their flight to the safety of northern Ireland where they changed their name to McCaughan.


From the Hearth Tax Report of 1694 comes information regarding the existence of three more McGilchrists with each living on a separate McEachin farm. Farming the farms of Tangytavil and Lagalgarve was Murchie McGilchrist (also listed as Murdoch); he is again found listed in 1709. In as much as no family has ever been associated with him, nor the name "Murchie" used in later families, it has been assumed that he may have remained a bachelor.

Click here for more about "The Kintyre Hearth Tax Report of 1694 and a full size image

Click here for more about "The Kintyre Hearth Tax Report of 1694 and a full size image

Bordering Tangytavil and Lagalgarve on the north was Killocraw where Archibald McGilchrist was farmer. By 1729, Killocraw was farmed by six tenants one of which was Neil McGilchrist, who was most assuredly a son of Archibald. In 1759, Neil and fellow tenant, Donald McIllmaluag (Milloy), were displaced and their responsibilities were given to Duncan Smith and Neil Kelly.


The family line of Archibald of Killocraw continued, alternating the names of Archibald and Neil over the next several generations. Neil’s son, Archibald, became the farmer in neighboring Drumore from 1735 through 1756; then by 1781, Neil, the son of Archibald of Drumore had acquired the lease. Another son of Archibald of Drumore, also named Archibald, became farmer in neighboring Margmonagach farm, and he in turn was followed by his son, Alexander, who married Kate McNeish in 1804.


In yet another extension of the family of Archibald of Killocraw there was Duncan and John McGilchrist, quite possibly a father-son relationship, who in 1757, along with John Currie and Patrick Stewart secured a nineteen year lease to two merklands of the four merkland farm of Corputechan. This large farm bordered Killocraw on the immediate south and according to the Argyll estate record, the two McGilchrists were in Killocraw at the time the lease was filed, making it appear probable that Duncan was another son of Neil of Killocraw. In 1775, the lease was renewed by John McGilchrist and John Martin, but without Duncan – a possible indication of his death. It was with the discovery of John McGilchrist’s Kilchenzie Cemetery gravemarker that it has been determined that he was born in 1721 and died in 1790, and that he married Elizabeth Bannatyne.


Shortly after the 1775 lease renewal, William Gilchrist was recorded as being farmer in Corputechan, evidencing a passing of the lease from John to his son. William, born in 1758, died about 1813; he married Mary Milloy on 28th August 1784. Their oldest son whose name was John died young; and from their fourth son, Archibald born in 1794, descends, it is believed, the "The Fishing Gilchrists of Campbeltown"– a large family that came to settle in Campbeltown in the second half of the nineteenth century and who derived their living from the fishing industry. Support for this theory is provided from the fact that the progenitor of this family was known to be named Archibald, and that in 1820 he married Rachel McKendrick in Killean and Kilchenzie Parish; Rachel was the daughter of John and Mary Fleming McKendrick. It is also known that a John McKendrick was farming in North Killocraw farm in 1795. Similarity of names between the Campbeltown fishing Gilchrists and the Corputechan farm Gilchrists – particularly: "William", "Donald", and "Agnes" (also recorded as Ann and Nancy) – lend still further support.


Following his father’s death, Lachlan Gilchrist, William’s next oldest son, held the lease to what was now listed as North Corputechan farm. Born in 1788, he married Christian Munro, and they became parents of eleven children, two of whom, Donald and Lauchlan, migrated to Tuscola County, Michigan in the second half of the nineteenth century. Lauchlan moved to Tuscola County in 1863, after spending eleven years in Ohio; Donald migrated with his family in 1872. By 1851, Lachlan, their father, had moved from Corputechan to Dalaruan Street in Campbeltown where he worked as a carter.


Farming the McEachin-leased farm of Killarow was John, the third of the three McGilchrists. Of the three, Archibald of Killocraw and Murchie of Tangytavil, John of Killarow was the only one whose name was found in the 1692 List of Fencible Men, though the list may not have been all inclusive. (This was a list of men between the ages of sixteen and sixty who were able and available to fight in the defense of western Scotland.) Following is the inscription found on John McGilchrist’s grave slab found adjacent to the ruins of the ancient chapel in the Kilchenzie Cemetery located just west of Campbeltown on the A-83 highway. The slab is found in a section that was quite obviously reserved for the McGilchrists; the inscription was inscribed in an unusual clockwise manner:

Click on the image for a full size view


Click here, or on the image for a full size view & more detail

It has been accepted that John McGilchrist was both "elder" and "father", and, according to the dates recorded, thirty-eight years of age when John "the younger" was born. The fact that they were both placed in the same grave was not an uncommon custom. Malcolm was a son who died unmarried according to Mr. Ian MacDonald’s findings. The existence of a large stone grave slab would, according to Mr. MacDonald, provide clear evidence that the family possessed a considerable social standing in the community.


In a significant discovery by Mr. Ian MacDonald there was found in the Register of Wills for the Parish of Killean and Kilchenzie an inventory left by the announced wife of John McGilchrist of Killarow; her name was Mary McNeill and her death occurred in 1687. The very filing of such a testament was most uncommon in this period of history and much more so by a women.


Mary McNeill McGilchrist was very likely the sister of the Archibald McNeill, who according to the 1694 Hearth Tax Report, was also a farmer on Killarow farm. In comparing the dates of Mary’s death with that of John’s birth, he would have been about thirty-four years of age, and therefore, would have married again – thus accounting for only the names of Jonet (Janet) and Christian being included in the testament as their children. John, the younger, born in 169l, would have been born four years after Mary’s death, again evidencing the fact that John Sr. remarried. It has not been determined from which Kintyre McNeill family Mary came.


In yet another interesting discovery, Judge A.I.B. Stewart of Campbeltown found record of a court case that took place on Dec. 29, 1711 in Campbeltown (Taken from THE JUSTICIARY RECORDS OF ARGYLLS AND THE ISLES, pages 289-292). Charged with kidnapping Katharine Cauldwall from her home in Ardnacroish on the night of Oct. 26, was Donald McNiell (McNeill) in Killarow. He then, without the consent of her parents, had Mr. Patrick Campbell, minister at Killean, proclaim them married. Indicted as accomplices in the crime were six other men, described as "a train of loose and idle people all of whom were armed with swords, gunns, pistolis, durks and other weapons…." Three of six accomplices made signed confessions; they were Patrick McKennan, described as being about forty years of age, married, and servitor to Donald McNeill in Killarow. Archibald Bannatyne, also in Killarow, was described as being about twenty-nine and unmarried. John McIlchreist, also in Killarow, was described as being about twenty-four years of age and unmarried. Indicating the existence of a close relationship between him and Donald McNeill, it was disclosed in the testimony that John was the only other one to have prior knowledge of the scheme. John was also the only one to sign his own confession, giving evidence that he was literate. An interesting discrepancy that the case raises is with regard to the date of John’s birth; his testimony would indicate 1687, the year Mary McNeill died, but his grave slab suggests 1691.


In what may well be regarded as the most important find concerning the McGilchrists of Killean and Kilchenzie Parish was the discovery made by research genealogist Mrs. Rosemary Bigwood of a dispute between two reputable Kintyre mill operators in the year 1674. The story was presented by Judge A.I.B. Stewart in the summer, 1995 issue (#37) of the Kintyre Antiquarian Society Magazine, and entitled: "Tangy Mill". The incident that occurred between Lachlan McNeill, proprietor of Killeonan Mill, and Charles McEachin, the second to bear that name and proprietor of Tangy Mill, revealed the identity of a number of farmers on the McEachin-leased farms of central Kintyre. Of great significance was the discovery of NEILL McILCHREIST who according to his deposition in behalf of Charles McEachin stated that he was born in 1614 and had farmed on Killarow and Lagalgarve. It would thus readily appear that Neill McIlchreist was the father of John McIlchreist (McGilchrist) of Killarow (the spelling of the family name even being the same), and as such the father of Murchie in Tangytavil and Lagalgarve and Archibald in Killocraw. It can now be explained why Archibald in Killocraw named his oldest son Neill, followed by a continued alternation of the names of Archibald and Neil over the next several generations. This would likely indicate that Archibald in Killocraw was his father’s oldest son, and therefore may have been named for his father’s possible older brother – Archibald of Cattadilmoir, thus establishing both men as sons of Duncan McGilchrist, servitor to Alexander Oig MacDonald of Smerbie. The theory is provided increased support when again it is noted that Alexander Oig MacDonald and Charles McEachin, the father of the Charles McEachin involved in the mill dispute, were very close cousins. It therefore would have been entirely possible for a son of Duncan McGilchrist to become a farmer on a McEachin - leased farm.




The appearance of a McGilchrist family in the upper Kintyre parish of Kilcalmonell in the early 1700’s further illustrates the family’s steady northward movement, farm by farm, up the western side of the peninsula. These were the lands leased by the Clan McAlester. Although the chief resided in Ardpatrick across West Loch Tarbert in Kilberry Parish, the clan possessed rights to the Kilcalmonell lands of Loup, Balinakill and Ronachan. The village of Clachan became the parish seat for the church and in the adjoining cemetery are buried some of the early chiefs.


Balnakiel (or, Balinakill) Estate on which the McGilchrist family first appeared in Kilcalmonell Parish was located about a mile east of the village of Clachan. Early record reveals that in 1262 tithes for the large estate which included "two merklands of Balinakill together with the two merklands of Achadadunan together with the mill, salmon fishing, hunting, hawking and other pertinents, were given to the monks of Paisley Abbey." The donation it was noted was made by Walter Stewart, 5th Earl of Menteith, who was married to the younger daughter of Mauritius, 3rd Earl of Menteith, who in turn was the son of Gilchrist, 2ed of Menteith. Walter Stewart was at the time serving as Heritable Justiciar of Kintyre.


In 1478 the estate was part of the lands granted to the Clan MacDonald by King James III. But in 1632 it became a part of the ever expanding lands of the Campbells of Argyll who extended the lease to Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck. From him Archibald McAlester of Tarbert, a cadet second in importance only to the clan chief Alexander McAlester, acquired the lease in 1698. But in 1717 Archibald turned the estate over to his brother, Ronald McAlester of Dunskeig and his son Coll for 6,500 merks. Both Archibald and Ronald McAlester’s carved grave stones are today preserved under the awning on the northern wall of the parish cemetery. The inscription found on Ronald’s stone states: "This is the ‘buriel place of Ronald McAlester of Dunskieg and Mary McNeil his spouse and children --- 1707."

Click here for a full size image of Langland's 1792 Map for the Duke of Argyll

Click here for a full size image of Langland's 1792 Map for the Duke of Argyll

Following the death of his father, Coll, who was married to Jeanet McNeill, sold his lease in 1739 in order to finance his family’s passage to North Carolina where he obtained a large grant of land one year later in Cumberland County. He was one of the "five Scotch gentlemen" who led the first recorded emigration of Scottish people (The Argyll Colony) to the Cape Fear. It was Coll’s son, Alexander, born in 1714 on Balnakiel Estate, who would become the great patriot colonel during the American Revolution, and the man to whom the subsequent "McAlester Letter" was addressed.


Acquiring the lease from Coll was his cousin Angus Campbell of Skipness, then shortly thereafter Colin Campbell of Skipness who held the land until his death. At this point the estate was acquired by his brother-in-law, Mr. William Boyd who was married to Grizel Campbell of Skipness. In 1765, with the death of Mr. William Boyd, his son John became the estate’s manager, and it was he who wrote the "McAlester Letter" to his second cousin, Colonel Alexander McAlester of Cumberland County, North Carolina in 1771. John Boyd remained unmarried, thus upon his death the estate of Balnakiel passed to Mr. John McAlester from the Tarbert McAlester branch of the clan.


Farming North Loch Kiarran, a farm located on the eastern side of Loch Kiarran a large inland body of water on Balnakiel Estate, was the family of Angus Gilchrist including his father. Although the farm house long ago disappeared, it is known that the stone used in its construction can now be seen in the many dykes (stonewalls that form the sheep enclosures) that cross the area. Although much of the original farm is today under forest, old rig marks are still visible where the land was under cultivation for many years. (A "rig" was the breadth a man could sow grain – or about fifteen feet across.) It would be from this farm that two of Angus’ sons, John (born in 1740) and Malcolm (born in 1744), would in the year 1770 migrate to North Carolina. Of interest is the fact that over two centuries later most who bear the Gilchrist name in the southeastern United States, including Texas, can claim descent from one of these two brothers.


Though relatively little has been found regarding this family, it can be determined that there existed an unmistakable commitment on its part to the church and to education. There can be little doubt that the Angus Gilchrist who was designated as one of the four church elders on a 1754 Kilcalmonell Parish Church statement on file in Edinburgh under Kintyre Presbytery Records was the same man as the farmer in North Loch Kiarran, and the father of John and Malcolm. Found on Malcolm Gilchrist’s gravemarker in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery near Columbia, Tennessee is the inscription: "SON OF ANGUS." And, it is also with little doubt that the Angus Gilchrist selected by the church in 1782 as one of the "three honest men" to carry out the church’s business was an older son of Angus (Sr.). It is this Angus who, serving as church treasurer, wrote the financial report on Jan. 15, 1782.


From an extremely old gravemarker standing in the Kilcalmonell Parish Cemetery, adjacent to the church comes the following inscription:





The inscription raises the question: Could Duncan Gilchrist of Drumleck (also listed as Drimnaleck and Drumnaleck) farm have been Angus Sr.’s oldest son and an older brother of Angus (the younger), John and Malcolm? In 1787 Duncan Gilchrist was recorded on a church session report as being "farmer in Drumnaleck"; and it is also known that shortly after John and Malcolm’s emigration to North Carolina the Gilchrist family did in fact move to Drumleck farm – a farm with much more arable land located approximately a mile and a half north of Loch Kiarran. In a statement made in the late 1700’s by the ground officer (gamekeeper) in Clachan to the factor it was noted that: "several farmers are worth nothing, and intend fleeing this country for America." He identified them as being "Duncan Gilchrist of Drumleck and his two neighbors" – one of whom was believed to be a Graham.


In 1812 farming Larachnafiach, adjacent to Drumleck, was another Angus Gilchrist who quite probably was a son of either Duncan of Drumleck or Angus the church treasurer. It is known that from this Angus and his wife Elizabeth McKeith came sons who migrated to Ontario, Canada and to Australia. Mr. Ian MacDonald notes that several years ago a Gilchrist family from Ontario came to Clachan searching for information concerning their ancestor, Peter Gilchrist, who, they stated arrived with first mates papers giving indication that he was a seaman; it was also stated that he had emigrated in the early 1800’s from Kilcalmonell Parish. On April 2, 1814, a daughter named Euphemia (Effie), born in 1793, married Archibald McPhail, a farmer in Drumleck. Also discovered was the excerpt from a letter dated 1830 stating that: "Gilchrist in Larachnafiach and a Graham have fled the country for America." Larachnafiach farm was in 1800 combined with Drumleck farm to create Sranafanaig (also called Strathnafeannag).


On February 12, 1770 in the Highland Church of Campbeltown John Gilchrist, the son of Angus Sr., married Effie McMillan the daughter of Gilbert and Christian Taylor McMillan; Gilbert was the son of Donald and Margaret McMillan of Drumore farm located a few miles south of Clachan. The newly married couple, along with Malcolm who was four years younger than John and single, apparently embarked immediately for North Carolina in that on May 3, 1770 John purchased his first tract of land in what was then Bladen County. With favorable conditions traveling time on an ocean crossing was an approximate two and a half to three months.


Though most Scots who emigrated were quite poor, the authoritative LUMBER RIVER SCOTS by Dr. Edwin Purcell, states on page 464: "This Gilchrist family came to America with much more of the world’s goods than most of the Scotch people who came to this section. They seemed unusually well supplied with such things as clothing, books, and the best household furnishings of the day."


The Gilchrist brothers also brought with them a letter of introduction to Colonel Alexander McAlester of Cumberland County written by the colonel’s second cousin Mr. John Boyd, who now held the lease to Balnakiel Estate:


Balnakile June 21, 1770

Dear Sir,

This ‘wile be delivered to you (by) Malcom MacIlchrist who with a ‘Bother of his ‘Caled John & Iver MacMurchy who is married to a sister of theirs are gone for America, and to that part of it where you remain ‘Caled Cape Fair in North Carolina, and they ‘Importund me to ‘recommend them to your protection & Care to See to get ‘themSelvles in a good way to their Satisfaction, I hereby ‘Chearfully Embrace the opportunity to write you by them & more Especially as I ‘flatter myself you Exert yourself to the ‘outmost of your power for their ‘behoof which I shall look upon as a Singular favour done me, our Countrymen are all upon the wing of leaving us & going for that New World of America if they go on at this rate we shall here have a thin Country of Inhabitants.

The MacGilchrists are Clever pretty lads and are ‘fite for Sea or land both of them ‘has good Education and are pretty much master of Numbers & writes a good hand & would pass for Gentlemen their Father I am persuaded you know for their Grandfather lived in Lochkiarran a place you knew very ‘wile in your young days. I hope they ‘wile turn ‘wile out, & that you’d have reason to be ‘oblidged to me for their ‘reccomendation I have No News worthy of your Notice from This Country to give My Father ‘dy’d the Second of ‘Aprile your Brother Hector from Arran was here at his Burial. He has always some ‘destant thoughts of going to America. I long much to hear from you & let me ‘Intreat you to give me a particular account from you of the Country & if the Accounts pleases me [it’s] more than probable that I may see The Country someday or then if I am spared.

I heartily Congratulate you upon the thoughts of Meeting with so many of your Country people this year in America, I wish you & them a happy Meeting and am with the greatest Sincerity regard & Esteem

Dear Sir

Your most Affectionate Cousin & very Humble Ser.

John Boyd


A close analysis of the "McAlester Letter" written by Mr. John Boyd along with the names that were presented in the 1674 mill dispute as being farmers on the McEachin - leased farms in central Kintyre and the inscription found on John McGilchrist Kilchenzie grave slab may well provide important clues as to the origin of the Gilchrist family that emerged in Kilcalmonell Parish in the early 1700’s. Determining the identity of the grandfather has long been regarded as the key to unraveling the mystery. And, of the six McGilchrists found recorded in the 1694 Kintyre Hearth Tax Report as farmers on Kintyre farms, John in Killarow has come to be regarded as the most likely "candidate."


"Their father I am persuaded you know for their grandfather lived in Loch Kiarran a place you knew very well in your young days. . ."


The excerpt from Mr. John Boyd’s letter establishes the fact that the brother’s grandfather, according to the verb tense, was dead at the time of their emigration, but their father was still alive. The nature of the excerpt gives no indication that Col. McAlester ever knew the grandfather, as indeed would have been the case in that he was born on Balnakiel Estate in 1714, the year following the death of John McGilchrist in 1713.


In 1687, Mary McNeill wife of John McGilchrist died having left a testament of her possessions dated July 7, 1686. John, born in 1653 according to his Kilchenzie grave slab, would have been about thirty-four years of age when Mary died and would therefore have been of age to remarry. This point is confirmed by the fact that Mary recorded only two children, Jonet (Janet) and Christian, yet it is known that John had at least two sons – John, the Younger, born in 1691 and Malcolm, a son who remained unmarried.


Is it possible that Angus Gilchrist (Sr.) of Kilcalmonell Parish could have been another son born to John (Sr.) in Killarow and his second wife? In 1754 Angus was listed as one of the four elders of the Kilcalmonell Parish Church in Clachan giving evidence of his having reached a mature age. Had Angus been born about 1694, John (Sr.) would have been about forty-one, John (Jr.) would have been three, and by 1754, Angus would have been sixty. In as much as Duncan, who moved the family to Drumleck farm following John and Malcolm’s departure appears to be the older son born in 1726, Angus would have been about thirty-two at Duncan’s birth. Angus would also have been about fifty when his last child, Malcolm, was born in 1744, and would have been about seventy-six when the brothers emigrated in 1770.


In analyzing the names of the farmers who provided depositions in the 1674 Kilchenzie mill dispute one discovers that living on Killarow farm was not only Neil McGilchrist but also Hector McAlester and Neil McBride (Mcbriden). Two generations later McBrides and Gilchrists were living on neighboring farms on the McAlester-leased Balnakiel Estate in upper Kintyre. Is it possible that John (Sr.) in Killarow and John McBride in Tangytavil, who was quite probably a son of Neil McBride, moved with their families to Kilcalmonell Parish in the early 1700’s? Concerning this point Mr. Ian MacDonald of Clachan states that following the forfeiture of the McEachin-leased farms in central Kintyre due to that family’s support of the 9th Earl of Argyll’s unsuccessful 1685 rebellion "the McGilchrists and McBrides as tenants would probably have prudently removed themselves and taken refuge in Kilcalmonell where they were unlikely to be molested by the McAlesters, the local land owners who supported King James VII (James II of England) --- the Stewart line of kings." And, it should be remembered that the McGilchrists had a tradition of Stewart support.


It has been noted that John McGilchrist (Sr.) died in 1713 and John (Jr.) died in 1715. The Kilchenzie grave slab that bears this information also includes that "both [were] once in Kilarow" thereby presenting the distinct possibility that they may not have been living on Killarow farm at the time in which they died. Focusing on this possibility Mr. MacDonald writes: "John McGilchrist may well have been taken back to Kilchenzie for burial from Clachan; it was an old Highland custom to do this." Angus therefore at the theoretical age of nineteen would have been able to assist his widowed mother in caring for the farm.


Though not entirely confirmed, the name "Malcolm" was found only in the families of John McGilchrist in Killarow and the later family of Angus Gilchrist in North Loch Kiarran on Balnakiel Estate. Regarding this point, Mr. MacDonald writes: "I would be of the opinion that the use of Malcolm as a forename would come from the McNeill side of the family."

Click on the image for a full size view of Clachan, Kintyre

Click on the image for a full size view of Clachan, Kintyre


Hard-fast evidence that would completely confirm the theory relating the family of John of Killarow to that of Angus’ in North Loch Kiarran continues to elude the researcher, and may continue to do so because of the lack of early estate records for upper Kintyre. Nevertheless, based on existing findings, Mr. MacDonald affirms: "I firmly believe John McGilchrist (in Killarow) would be grandfather of John and Malcolm [who emigrated to North Carolina in 1770]"


The preponderance of "John Gilchrists" from the families descended from Angus Gilchrist might also be considered as another possible tie. One such John Gilchrist was born in the 1750’s and in that he became a farmer on Drumleck there is the strong probability that he was a son of Duncan who was born in 1726. According to Killean and Kilchenzie Old Parish Record he acquired the farm of Achaglass, then later Bradge – both farms being in Killean and Kilchenzie Parish. That his wife was Catharine McMurchy of the neighboring McMurchy farm of Braintian is noted by the fact that her name is given with the births of their last two children. (The family’s genealogy is presented under the name of Kintyre’s Farming Gilchrists)


From John and Catharine McMurchy Gilchrist came yet another John Gilchrist – born on Drumleck farm July 19, 1785. He married Margaret (Peggy) McBride on Feb. 19, 1811; she was born Feb. 1786 at Tangy Estate, Parish of Killean and Kilchenzie. In the same year of 1811 he became farmer in Killarow evidencing what would appear to be the return of two families to a farm on which both families’ ancestors once lived. He later became farmer of the newer, larger and much more productive Balevain farm. They both died on Dec. 21, 1836 and are buried in the Kilchenzie Cemetery along with several of their children.


With the close of the nineteenth century two distinct Gilchrist families had emerged in Kintyre; they were known simply as the "Fishing Gilchrists" who it is believed descended from the Killocraw/ Corputechan family, and the "Farming Gilchrists" who it is known were directly descended from the Kilcalmonell Parish Gilchrists. But, with the close of the twentieth century the family name of Gilchrist has all but disappeared from Kintyre. The "Farming Gilchrist" line ended in 1973 with the death of John Alexander Gilchrist of East Trodigal farm who was the great, great grandson of the John Gilchrist of Balevain farm (born 1785), and quite probably the great, great, great, great, great grandson of Angus Gilchrist, the farmer of North Loch Kiarran farm on Balnakiel Estate.


It can thus be determined that the Gilchrists were not a flamboyant, charismatic people, yet when the need for responsible leadership arose, they would accept the challenge. They were a family accustomed to hard work, as well as one that placed great emphases on integrity, the family, education, and the church. And, wherever they settled it was clearly apparent that they were well-liked and respected by those with whom they came in contact.

Click here for the Family Relationship chart of Kintyre Gilchrists

Click here for the Family Relationship chart of Kintyre Gilchrists

Click here for a lovely sketch called, "Leaving Campbeltown, 1770"

Click here for a lovely sketch called, "Leaving Campbeltown, 1770"

Click here to read an article called, "Farming in 17th Century Kintrye"

Click here to read an article called, "Farming in 17th Century Kintrye"

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