Clan McNeill after the Act of Union and the 1700s

Colonsay, The Caribbean, North Carolina

With the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, the Stuart Dynasty was overthrown and replaced by William III and his wife Mary. As a result, the man whose father and grandfather had lost their heads at Edinburgh Castle was made the 1st Duke of Argyll by the new regime. I include the First Duke's portrait here because he managed to survive the previous century and all the enemies of the Campbells in Scotland and England. He died in bed, lucky man!

Nationally, in 1707, there was an official (not just a dynastic) Union of Scotland with England. A couple of Jacobite uprisings attempted to return the Stuarts to the British throne. In 1715 at Sheriffmuir, and again in 1746 at Culloden, these Uprisings were thoroughly defeated by the national Government. In both cases, the Duke of Argyll and his forces fought on the government's side against the Jacobite forces.

Sheriffmuir was one of those battles confusing for all concerned, as a song of the day put it:

To focus on the McNeills, there are 3 very important events during this century:
Colonsay:
In 1701, the Duke of Argyll sold the Isle of Colonsay to Malcolm McNeill, "eldest lawful son of Donald McNeill of Crerar" in exchange for his lands on east side of Loch Caolisport, and some money. If you look at the 1694 Hearth Tax records on this site, pages 37 and 38, you will find a ‘census' for that area. One has to admit that Donald McNeill of Crear, living at a ONE hearth home at Drimdrissaig (not Crear) does not look like a very prosperous person. North of his home, Lachlan McNeill lives in a TWO hearth dwelling at Ormsary. A translation of extracts from the Latin original Charter, can be found in Loder, pages 236 to 238.

Somerled MacMillan describes this transaction in greater detail in his "Families of Knapdale":
"24 January, 1672: Charter of Crear, etc. by Argyll to Donald MacNeill, lawful son of Niall oig MacNeill of Arichonan."... Donald took part in the (failed) Argyll rising, 1685, and on 8th May 1686, he is mentioned as a vassal of Argyll. In 1700, Donald came to an agreement with the Duke of Argyll and exchanged the lands of Crear and Druimdrishaig for the islands of Colonsay and Oronsay. The following year a charter was drawn up by the Duke in favour of Malcolm, Donald's eldest son and heir, to the said islands." (MacMillan, page 25)

Colonsay had been possessed by the McDuffies or McPhies, under the Lords of the Isles. The last of these, Malcolm McDuffy of Colonsay, was murdered by Colkitto McDonald (father of MacColla), whose family dominated that island until the coming of the Campbells and McNeills. (Loder, p. 287) At first, the McNeills faced a hostile reception from the locals. Like pioneers in the American West, they took refuge in a fort on Loch Sgoltaire, and proceeded to take control of Colonsay by force. Peace and prosperity followed, even through the 19th century. Colonsay was fortunate in possessing a line of capable and energetic lairds. For the story of one of these, go here

Taynish and the Caribbean:
In the Hearth Tax records of 1694, McNeill of Taynish lived in a TWO hearth dwelling (p. 41) a comparatively large home for Knapdale at the time. Taynish was the least affected by Campbell's 1661 fall: he was appointed one of the Justices of the Peace by the King in 1663. In addition, the McNeills of Taynish also had properties in Gigha.

The next news of a McNeill of Taynish is really unpleasant. Somerled MacMillan slips over the story by saying:

"Hector, 9th of Taynish. He was succeeded by his heir - Roger, who in the reign of King George III sold the estates of Gigha and Taynish.... "(MacMillan, p 24)

It seems that, in 1763, NEIL MCNEIL OF TAYNISH IN ARGYLL, a partner in the St Kitts House of McNeil, Sadler and Claxton, absconded from British St Kitts to the Danish Island of St Croix with L7,000 of the company's money. (Hamilton, p. 96) The note below seems to show that James McNeill, a Deputy Collector of Customs in Greenock kept Taynish in the family, until the heir, Roger Hamilton McNeill sold the property to Campbell of Inverneill. Gigha was sold to the Colonsay McNeills at the same time.

This Roger Hamilton McNeill would be the person who subsequently dropped "McNeill" for the Hamilton surname.

Emigration to North Carolina:
I have included here the paper by AIB Stewart about these emigrants. In 1739, a group of Kintyre Highlanders, led by a number of (mostly McNeill) tacksmen/landowners/gentry, left to settle in the Cape Fear area of North Carolina. Stewart suggests that part of the reason these people left was frustrated Jacobitism. Interesting, eh?

Next: A 19th Century Imperial Factotum: Sir John McNeill of Colonsay