Clan McNeill

The Extent of their Lands in the Southern Hebrides.

There is an detailed description of the McNeills in Knapdale to be found on pages 22 to 26, in Rev. Somerled MacMillan's "The Families of Knapdale" as well as an overview of that work here.

The McNeills were fundamentally a West Highland seafaring clan. Their lands (as indicated in the 1751 map below) spread from south Kintyre, through the island of Gigha, north to Knapdale. Obviously, Gigha had strategic importance, sitting as it does alongside Kintyre and between Ireland and Mid Argyll. However, in 1751, a valuation list of proprietors of Argyllshire, reveals the following lineup (Campbell, vol 1, appendix 2, p 213):

Why was Taynish so valuable? Certainly, there is no great McNeill stronghold remaining on that Peninsula. The answer lies in the Keills stone pier. In the heyday of cattle raising on the Hebrides, most of the cattle raised on Islay, Colonsay and Jura were ferried over the Jura sound to Keills, from which point, they were driven north to the tryst in Kilmichael. The numbers were considerable: in 1787, at Port Askaig on Islay, a holding corral of about 60 acres in area existed for cattle waiting to be ferried north to Jura. The presence of prehistoric standing stones along the drovers' road from Keills north indicates that it is of a very great age.(see pages 21 and 22) Therefore, one can assume that it was the domination of the Keills stone pier that was the basis of Taynish's wealth.

Also, Taynish is on the south west corner of Loch Sween. Across that Loch, within sight of Taynish is the 'key to Knapdale', Castle Sween. The moving poem by Effric McCorquodale quoted here was a lament for her husband, Hector Torquil McNeill of Taynish.

The close association of the Grahams (or McIlvernocks) with the McNeills is interesting enough to note on the map. Catherine Czerkawska notes that there is a holy well on Gigha. The last guardians of the well were two old women, going by the names of Galbraith and Graham respectively (see p. 63.) Further, at the Carsaig Cemetery there is a record of a bloody event that occurred in 1500s. This was the time of the great McLean McNeill vendetta. In a nutshell, Kenneth McLean from Mull murdered McNeill of Taynish. In response, McIlvernock (or Graham) of Knapdale Oib murdered Kenneth.

The Next Page: Symbols of the southern Clan McNeill