Traditional Boat Building

The Connell boat building family in Lismore, were they members of the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill ?

D.C. McWhannell (24/04/14)1.0 IntroductionThe well known and fondly remembered Lismore resident Donald Black, a founder member of Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mór, stated that;

“On Lismore in the 19th.century and into the early part of the 20th.century there lived and worked a family of traditional boat builders of the name “Connell”. They had obviously dropped the “Mac” as did many other highlanders. They were known locally as “na Connellaich”. The saw pit and work shop they used is well preserved and can be seen to this day at Port Moluag on the eastern shore of the island. The last member of the Connells to ply his trade was Malcolm, who like others of his time was a crofter, the name of which was Polandaidhan. He was known locally as Calum Connall, he had cousins, Duncan and Connall Connall who tenanted another croft at Baillenangobhan, the latter was known as “Connall Ruadh”. I can remember clearly seeing Calum’s enormous “rip saw” on the rafters of his then deserted crofthouse. This would be as late as the 1950’s and could very well be still there as the building still stands. He was the last Precenter to “read the line” in Clachan Church and was said to possess a tenor voice of magnificent quality. His only daughter, Sahra, was married to John MacDougall an old neighbour of ours. They were childless and she died in 1961.

Callum’s cousin, Duncan Connall, was “Ground Officer” to the Duke of Argyll for many years in the early part of this century though no longer a tenant on Argyll land. This was the clue which directed my thoughts to the possibility of a link with the MacGilleChonnel, the traditional boat builders to the Campbells. Duncan had a reputation for being ultra conscientious in the pursuit of his duties. He was also Attendance Officer to the Lismore schools. Connall Ruadh was one of those chosen to give evidence to the Napier Commission when they visited Lismore in 1883. When questioned by Lord Selkirk as to when he sold his stirks he replied in his usual abrupt manner “May sir”. The next question put to him was, “What price does one get for a stirk in May?”  Connall’s reply was “I’ll not know that ‘till I sell it! “ He was in no way overawed.

On the face of it “Oral Tradition” would certainly point to the Connall’s of Lismore being a branch of this ancient line of traditional boat builders. So too would many of the family forenames, i.e. Duncan, Malcolm and Donald. They were also tenants on what was originally Campbell land, these bits and pieces of information would seem something more than sheer coincidence” (1).

Connall Ruadh was aged 77 years on 13th.August 1883 when giving evidence to the Napier Commission. Connel Connel / Connall Ruadh died aged 89 on 11th.January 1895. He must have been born sometime between August 1805 and August 1806.

The following information on Connel births/christenings and deaths on Lismore may be found from the International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) and various other family history web sites.

13th. May 1778 christening of Donald son of Connel Connil and Mary McColl

14th.January 1784 birth of Donald son of Neil Connel and Anne Graham (Kilandrist)

1805 to 1806 birth of Connel Connel (Connall Ruadh) son of Donald Connel and Jane Cameron

12nd. December 1808 christening of Donald son of James Connel and Sarah McCallum (Balure)

12nd. December 1828 christening of Donald son of James Connel and Sarah McCallum (Balure)

17th.December 1836 birth of Anne daughter of James Connel and Sarah McCallum (Balure)

15th. March1838 birth of Connel son of James Connel and Sarah McCallum (Balure) and 16th. April 1838 christening of Connel son of James Connel and Sarah McCallum (Balure)

2nd. March 1841 christening of Malcolm son of James Connel and Sarah McCallum (Balure)

11th. January 1895 death of Connel Connel (Connall Ruadh), his son Donald Connel was present at his death

16th. January 1904 birth of Donald son of Duncan Connel and Catherine McPherson, Balnagowan (Donald sadly died of tuberculosis aged only 17 in 1921)

23rd. November 1909 Hector McPherson son of Duncan Connel and Catherine McPherson (Balnagowan)

13th. October 1911 Mary Jane daughter of Duncan Connel and Catherine McPherson (Balnagowan)

It is the case that circa 1728 a “John McIlchonnill” was the miller at “Baligrundale” (Breadalbane Muniments National Archives Scotland, GD112/2/106 No.52) possibly giving further support to the likelihood that the Lismore Connells were indeed members of the “Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill”kindred. This would however only allow for some fifty years, or say two or three generations, for the transformation of McIlchonnel to Connel to have taken place. This perhaps seems somewhat unlikely within a Gaelic speaking community. There are some further difficulties as the Lismore surname Connel might have derived from McConnel / MacDhomhnaill or even from the Lorne place-name Connel / A’Chonghail. Conversely the fact that there were three boat building/carpenter families on Lismore in 1841 with surnames McDonald, at Port Ramsey formerly at Kilcheran and Achnacroish, McIntyre, at Sailean and later at Achnacroish, and Connel at Port Moluag (Baileouchdarach) might suggest that there is less reason to think that the Connels in Lismore were Mac Dhomhnaill and more reason to think that they were Mac Gille Chonaill. The Lismore Connells or na Connallaich, were engaged in boatbuilding into the early years of the twentieth century (2).

It is worth mentioning that in 1635 Mac an t-SaoirMac Gille Thomhais andMac Gille Chonaill shipwrights were all working together building a birlinn for Campbell of Glenorchy. Historically there were other boat-wrights in Argyll and Perthshire, as well as those belonging to the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill and ClannMhic Gille Lùcais hereditary shipwright families. Individual boat-wrights whose surnames were, Ure (possibly a Mac Iomhair), Mac an t-Saoir, and Mac Gille Thomhais are mentioned in various Argyll and Perthshire related documents held in the National Archives Scotland.

The surname Mac Gille Chonaill has been transcribed in a great variety of ways however in Perthshire it can be shown to have transformed over time into McIllchonnell and finally to McWhannell. The surname McWhannell has of occasion been believed to derive from Mac Dhomhnaill while Mac Gille Chonaillhas been taken to represent Mac Gille Dhomhnaill.

2.0 Gille Chonaill andSt.Conall

The particular Gille Chonaill who was the eponym of the Argyll and PerthshireClann Mhic Gille Chonaill has yet to be identified. The baptismal name “Gille Chonaill” is on record in south west Scotland from before 1200 while the surname Mac Gille Chonaill occurs from the early 13th Century. Surnames of the form “son of the devotee of a saint” allow for the possibility of a multiplicity of male founders of quite different families all bearing the same surname. In cases where there are numerous saints of the same name and either their geographical spread or the geographical spread of their cults is a wide one then the possibility of distinct families all bearing the same surname is likely to increase. When a particular saint can be shown to be closely associated with one particular family group it is often the case that the family in question will have been coarbs or erenaughs of that saint.

Identifying the particular St. Conall being remembered in the Argyll and Perthshire surname Mac Gille Chonaill is problematic in the context of both Scotland and Ireland. There is some conflation and confusion between the names Conall and Comgall. There are seven Irish saints named Conall listed in the Martyrology of Donegal and in other Irish martyrologies. The Martyrology of Donegal also lists a total of seven saints named Comgall including the famous St. Comgall, Abbot of Bangor. Further confusion arises because the apparently different names Conall, Congual and Conual are in fact versions of the same original name Cunoualos. There is also a St.Conval to consider and that while the name Conval might also derive from Cunoualos its root may have been from a completely different name Cuno-maglos.

Dr. Rachel Butter (Dept. Of Celtic,University of Glasgow) has investigated the cults, feast days, fairs, buildings, artefacts and place-names relating to the various Sts. Conall of both Scotland and Ireland. Dr.Butter has articulated a case for the existence of a single individual underlying many of the commemorations to a St. Conall in Scotland, called variously Congual, Conual orConall depending on the language of the devotees. The cults of Conall mac Aeda in Co. Down and Conall of Inishkeel in Co. Donegal may have their origins in the same individual. Place-names linked to a St.Conall presently exist in Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire and Galloway (3).

It is possible that anciently a particular St.Conall may have been venerated in Lorne. If so, being born on the saint’s day or being born into a family that venerated that St.Conall would tend to lead to a male child being baptised Gille Chonaill. Alternatively the given name may have arrived in Argyll through the baptism of a son of a marriage between a groom from Argyll and a bride from south west Scotland. During the 12th.Century and early13th.Century the baptismal name Gille Chonaill was popular among prominent families in south west of Scotland. Affraic (or Aithbhric) probably a sister of Niall, Earl of Carrick and daughter of Cailean mac Dhonnchaidh, Earl of Carrick and grand-daughter of Donnchadh mac Gillebrighde, Earl of Carrick married Gilleasbaig Caimbeul of Menstrie (fl. 1266) with issue Sir Cailean Mór Caimbeul (k.1296), Bailie of Loch Awe and Ardscotnish. Subsequent to this marriage Colin and Neil became popular Campbell given names. It has also been proposed that Affraic may have been a daughter of Niall of Carrick rather than his sister but what is certain is that she was a member of the ruling Carrick family and ultimately descended from Fergus of Galloway, Righ Gall-Ghàidheil. Since a Gille Chonaill,nicknamed Gille Chonaill Manntach (fl.1233 approx.), was a brother ofDonnchadh Earl of Carrick and so a grand-uncle of Affraic (see Reg. Passelet) his baptismal name might, through the influence of Affraic, have become known in Argyll. The family of Carrick were perhaps devotees of the cult of the particular St.Conall linked to south west Scotland and Affraic herself could have venerated the saint thus introducing, or refreshing, the cult of a St.Conall in Argyll.

Recently Ronald Black has deduced, from a study of the Mac Firbisighmanuscripts and texts, that “Rioghnach ingean Gamhail mormair Cairrgge” should be read as “Rioghnach inghean g(h)enamhail mormair Cairrgge”. This steward, or lord, of Carrick was most probably Niall (Earl of Carrick, 1250-56).Rioghnach,the ingean genamhail (lovable daughter), married Giolla Colaim mac Maoil Íosa (fl.1296) an ancestor of the Macleans. In this period the ancestors of the MacLeans were linked to Kintyre and Knapdale (4).

This means that during the 13th.Century there were at least two important marriages joining a groom connected with Argyll and a bride from the ruling family of Carrick. These marriages between high status individuals highlight the potential cultural and societal links between Argyll and Carrick during the 13th.Century.

3.0 Wrights in Gaelic Society

Maritime activity, both as a means of transport and as a vehicle for the application of power, has been central to the history of the Gaels in Scotland since the fifth century. It is known from early Irish law tracts that the profession of wright was highly regarded in early Gaelic society and conferred considerable status.

In addition to the hereditary shipwrights to the Campbells there were a number of Mac Gille Chonaill millers in Argyll and there is an ancient connection between mill-wright and ship-wright as noted in the ancient Irish Law Tracts.

In early Ireland there were four main qualifications required to reach the highest rank of wright of which building a boat was one; the others were the building of a church, the construction of a mill and the manufacture of articles in yew wood. If skilled in more than these four a skilled wright could attain an honour price of twenty sets which put him on a level equivalent to a lord of the second grade and well above that of a senior judge or a doctor (5).

A most interesting facet of Gaelic culture is that of the hereditary learned and professional orders. These consisted of families who specialised in providing legal experts, physicians, poets, musicians, ecclesiastics, smiths and armourers, stonemasons and sculptors and indeed wrights. These families both supported and were dependent on the patronage of the major magnate families. Persons drawn from these professional orders were closely associated with the chiefly household and were considered to be a part of the gentry (daoine-uaisle) of the clan. The chief’s servitors were often recruited from these learned families. In Argyll there were some twenty-one such professional families, including two families of shipwrights, the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill and the Clann Mhic Gille Lùcais, who served the Campbells.

Although the position in society of these hereditary learned families was being eroded by the 17th.Century it can be seen from the surviving original boatbuilding cash accounts that the Mac Gille Chonaill shipwrights were still actively employed throughout the 17th.Century in support of both the Campbells of Argyll and the Campbells of Breadalbane. They also provided servitors to the Campbells, particularly to the Glenorchy / Breadalbane family.

4.0 The Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill

The Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill, are traceable in the Breadalbane Muniments, the National Archives Scotland (N.A.S.), GD112 in the N.A.S. catalogue, the Argyll Archives (private Archive at Inveraray Castle), the Argyll Transcripts (copy available at the University of Glasgow), the Barcaldine Papers (GD170), the MacGregor Papers (GD50), the Drummond of Comrie Papers (MS78 in the A.K.Bell Library, Perth), the Maxtone of Cultoquhey Papers (GD155), the Stewart of Ardvorlich Papers (Stewart Society Library, Edinburgh), the Black Book of Taymouth and Chronicle of Fortingall (B.B.T.) and in Crown Documents, other public records and various miscellaneous sources (6).

The shipbuilding families of the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill were based on Loch Awe, near Inverawe on Loch Etive and at Dunstaffnage. It would appear that the Mac Gille Chonaill family in their capacity as shipbuilders were associated with the Campbell of Argyll, Campbell of Craignish and Campbell of Glenurquhay (later of Breadalbane) families. Grave slabs (circa 15th century) commemorating what are almost certainly Mac Gille Chonaill shipwrights are located at Kilmarie, Craignish and Inishail, Loch Awe. Both slabs display a typical west highland sword with depressed quillions, a boat with high prow and stern and a shipwrights axe and adze or hammer. The Inishail slab features a helmeted crew and a helmsman who may be wearing a liripipe. The period of the Earldom of Argyll was from 1457 to 1701 and documents exist relating to the boatbuilding activities of members of the Mac Gille Chonaill family during the late seventeenth century and on into the 18th.Century. It is recorded that in 1697 a Mac Gille Chonaill boat-wright was in charge of Breadalbane’s “great boat”. It might therefore be possible to suggest that members of the kindred also skippered some of Argyll’s vessels. As late as 1764 “a retainer John McIlchonnel, a boat-carpenter” is on record at Inveraray. He also served as the town piper and became a burgess of Inveraray. In contrast to the information available on the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill little has yet been discovered concerning the Clann Mhic Gille Lùcais other than that their shipbuilding activities were located on Loch Fyne and that they continued to build boats for the Dukes of Argyll until around 1780.

A servitor was a close confidant of a Gaelic chieftain. The Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill provided a chaplain and servitors to the Breadalbanes and servitors to the Campbells of Strachur, of Craignish, of Jura and of Torrie. They also appear to have interacted with the Campbells of Inverawe particularly with John Dow McCondochy (Iain Dubh nan creach), Tutor of Inverawe, as in 1597 “Johnne Dow M’Condoquhy, Johnne Dow M’Gilliquhonnell and Patrik M’Awishe” were denounced rebels in relation to despoiling property belonging to Charles Campbell in “Ardowaneck Braidalbane”. Charles Campbell was servant to the laird of Abercairney.

5.0 Mac Gille Chonaill boat builders’ accounts to Campbell of Glenorchy and Campbell of Argyll

During the seventeenth century naval activity was a necessary support to Campbell military campaigns and documentation exists recording the boat and galley building activities of the McIlchonnels at this time. The McIlchonnels often worked away from their home base and built birlinns and boats at other locations in Argyll such as on Seil and at Achnaba on Loch Etive. They also cut timber for boats, masts and oars at various locations around Argyll and in Lochaber.

(i) An account for Campbell of Glenorchy’s new birlinn in 1635 indicates an initial cost which appears to have equalled approximately 30% of the net annual income from his Argyll lands making this birlinn a prestige item. The detailed accounts for this birlinn are recorded in the “Roll of Braygilmes” in the Breadalbane Muniments. A “Donald Odhar” (sallow Donald, no surname given), “Donald McanTyre, Callum, Duncane and Eoin McIllehauis” and “Duncan McIllechonill” were all listed as working on this oak built birlinn. There was a “principal shipwright and his man”, assisted by the principal shipwright’s father plus five or six skilled wrights and three boys, all involved in felling and converting the trees and working the timbers, planking (probably clove boards), mast, spar and oars for the birlinn. A smith was employed to manufacture clench nails, roves and an anchor chain. An unknown number of local tenants assisted the skilled workforce in providing extra labour. The oak timber for thebirlinn was cut in “Glenwiring” (probably the area around Allt a’Bhiorain, Glen Etive) in Glen Orchy and at Coiregoill near Dalmally. The builders were rewarded with clothes, shoes, cheese, butter, ale, meal, malt, three wedder lambs, meat, aquavitae and some money. The birlinn seems to have been built at or near Achnaba, Loch Etive, as the tacksman there was given money to buy ale. Notably this birlinn was completed, from growing trees to a finished vessel, in one month. The birlinn will have been of at least sixteen oars, the minimum size required to fulfil the Galley Service required of Glenorchy for his Argyll lands. It seems highly likely that this very birlinn was used to make three trips to Ireland in 1642 when at the instruction of Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll, Sir Robert Campbell of Glenorchy organised a galley/birlinn to take Inverliever’s Company to Ireland.

There exists a memorandum by Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll, to Duncan Fisher, June 1674, “There must be a house mad up lykewayes for the 12 oared birlin at Inveraray and if it can be mad to hold a biger boat or mair boats it is the better”.

(ii) 1678, 2nd September at Inveraray, to “Captain of Insh Connell” (Innis Chonnell Castle, Loch Awe). “You sall upon sight delyver to Donald McIlchonnel boatwright for the maintenance of his men in cutting of some timber in our wood of Dowart Lochow (Dubh Ard, Loch Awe) ane halfe boll of meall and the samen sall be allowed to zie in your accompt. Given at Inveraray the 2 of Sept.1678, Argyll”

“Endorsed paid by the martay (maor tighe, major domo) of Innconnell”, (Innis Chonnell Castle, Loch Awe).

Archibald Campbell, 9th. Earl of Argyll, (1629-85), gained possession of Mull and other Maclean lands. In 1678 he organised a notable expedition, employing a fleet of one galley, four birlinnean and seventeen other boats, including five “scouts” (probably eight oared, single masted, vessels), against the Macleans of Duart. In 1678 the Earl of Argyll personally owned at least a twenty-oared galley, a fourteen-oared birlinn and a twelve-oared birlinn. 

(iii) 1679, 7th. February at Inveraray                                                                                                                                                           “Precept by Archibald, Earl of Argyll to Mr.William Spebns his Chamberlain, to pay Donnald McIllchonnell boatwright £72 Scots resting to him by the Earl” Signed, Argyll

“Discharged at Inveraray on 6th March 1679” Colin Campbell N.P. signs, as “Donnald McIllchonnell could not write”

Notably Donald McIllchonnell’s mark was a neat and evocative symbol representing a broad axe.

(iv) Again in1679, 15th.March at Inveraray

Discharge by Donald McIllchonill boatwright to Mr. William Spens, Servitor to the Earl of Argyll, of £72, “for to go to Lochaber, (Lochaber was well known for its oak woods), to buy clowe boords (clove boards) for the building of ane great birling for his Lordships use for which sum the granter is comptable to the Earl. Witnesses Alexander Campbell writer hereof and Alexander Bennet   Donald McIllchonill his mark”

The 1679 date indicates a late use, in both British and European terms, of cloven rather than pit sawn boards and is indicative of not only the survival of a very old traditional practice but more importantly of the clear intention to build a lightly constructed high quality rowing and sailing vessel in the Scandinavian tradition. Splitting logs with wedges and dressing the resulting clove boards with axes to form planks achieves the most structurally efficient clinker planking possible and was a key element in the success of Viking shipbuilding.

The requirement in 1679 is for “ane great birling” i.e., a birlinn of eighteen oars. The Earl of Argyll, in 1679, could it seems readily afford to have owned a twenty oared galley, a fourteen oared birlinn, a twelve oared birlinn and a new “great birling”, probably of eighteen oars. The total initial cost of these four vessels probably amounted to around £Scots1, 000 which was perhaps equivalent to some 20% of the Earl’s surplus annual income in the mid to late 17th.Century and probably less than 2.0% of the Earl’s gross annual income in 1694. Remarkably the combined original capital costs of these four prestigious vessels, which were both useful troop transports and assault craft, probably amounted to only 8.3% of the Earl’s personal allowance in 1707.

On 15th.April 1680 Donald received another payment of £54-16s-4d and in April 1681 work was still going on to complete the “great birling”. The total paid to Donald had now reached £126-6s-8d. Donald was now bound to deliver thebirlinn by 1st. July 1681 or pay back all the money plus a penalty of £30. This edict appears to have had the desired effect as there is no further correspondence on the matter.

An undated letter, but one that can be shown to be sometime prior to 1685, from Sir Colin Campbell of Ardkinglas incorporates a request, “cause Donald Oig McIlchonnel make all dispatch in dressing the boat and let him take help to him”.

(v) In1691 there are Mac Gille Chonaill accounts to Campbell of Argyll for

(a) Cutting oars, cutting “entrails” for a birlinn and building a “yoill at the Earl of Argyll’s desire”

(b) Buying oak and fir deals for Argyll’s birlinn

(vi) In 1692, 2nd.April at Inveraray there is a receipt by “Donnald McIlchonnel, Boatwright in Lorne, for cutting timber for the Earl’s work at Tobbermorie and Dunstaffnage”.

“I, Donald Mcilchonnill, Boatwright in Lorne, grant me to have receaved from Coline (Cailean) Campbell. Chamberlaine to the Earle of Argyll the soume of fourtie pound scotes money for cutting of timber to be poles for the work at Tobbermorie and bringing the samen to Dunstaffnage to the number twenty quhich I am (to) bring to Dunstaffnage accordingly with all convenient dilligence as witness my hand at Inveraray 2 April 1692. Witnesses, John Campbell, sone to Walter Campbell of Skipnidge (Campbell of Skipness) and Coline Campbell in Inveraray writer heirof”        Donald signs with his mark.

(vii) Also in1692, “Accompt dew to Donnald McIlchonnell boat wryt. Firstly for cutting and squareing of 120 Iests (joists) in Lochnell’s (Campbell of Lochnell) woods  Item for cutting in Mcconchie’s (Mac Dhonnchaidh, Campbell of Inverawe) woods of 80 Iests (joists). Item for cutting makeing and bomging down the ten oars for my Lord’s birling. Item to the men of the countrey for drawing of the timber in Glenkinglys (Glenkinglas, Loch Etive) to the water   Total Amount £77- 15s”

In 1692 Donald Oig, Duncan and Donald McIlechonil, (aged past sixty and almost certainly Donald Oig’s father) were living in Inverawe while a Callum MIlechonnill was at the same date living across the river Awe at Killispickerill (todays Taynuilt).

(viii) Glenorchy’s new twelve-oared “great boat” of 1695 cost around 19% of Breadalbane’s net income from his Argyll lands and was a significant investment. The account for the materials used for this “great boat” is in the Barcaldine Muniments. The “great boat” was built by Domhnall Oig Mac Gille Chonaill at or near Clachan Seil. The cost of the materials used amounted to £189 -16s. The “great boat” was constructed using both oak boards and fir planks. The planks may have been rip sawn and could indicate a change in technique compared to the 1635 birlinn. It is likely that this “great boat” was a “work boat” and may even be “the great boat” which a “McLechonell” boatwright took to “Izdeall” (Easdale) for slate in 1697. The slate freighted was almost certainly required for works being carried out at Kilchurn Castle from 1690 to 1698. The slate was probably used to roof two new barrack blocks.

(ix) In May 1695 Donald Oig McIlchonnill, boatwright in Lorne, submitted a bill to Argyll totalling £74 for his wages and those of three other carpenters plus the materials used, tar, pitch, clench nails and roves and two long joists also for cutting twelve oars for the birlinn plus an additional 24 oars, making a mast for the birlinn and “dressing my Lordes birline”.

(x) Account of charges mending the big boat at Ardie in August 1700 by Donald McIlchonel boatwright

(xi) On 6th. September 1705 Dugall Campbell of Rudell writes to Breadalbane stating, “McIlchonell was to go the previous year to Lochaber to cast boards in Locheyll’s woods for Breadalbane’s use. Will enquire after this”

A particularly interesting comparison of the costs of the boats described above is with the value of the testaments of small farmers in Argyll. Shaw has published a sample of such testaments for the period 1675 to 1708 extracted from documents held in the National Archives of Scotland  and this indicates that a small tenant farmer left an average estate valued at £Scots130; approximately half the cost of a small birlinn or a twelve-oared boat (7).

The Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill were not employed solely as boat-wrights. As with other professionally skilled kindreds in the Gaeltachd their activities spread more widely. As well as acting as servitors to the Campbells of Glenorchy and to various other Campbell families some became foresters to the Earl of Tullibardine. These activities were commented on in articles in West Highland Notes & Queries and in the Scottish Genealogist. Further research then allowed a more complete description to be given of the kindred’s activities as servitors to the Campbells of Glenorchy together with a review of their activities in Argyll and particularly in Perthshire, when interacting with the Campbell, Murray, Drummond, Stewart of Ardvorlich, MacGregor and Maxtone families(8).

6.0 The Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill in Argyll and Perthshire

The first instance of an individual bearing the Mac Gille Chonaill surname in Perthshire is found in a Crown Remission of 1488. The document indicates that, “Duncane Reoch Makgill Quhammyll” / Donnchadh Riabhach Mac Gille Chonaill (d.1526)a close associate of Campbell of Glenorchy, was active in Glenorchy’s interest in 1482.The familial and geographical origins of Donnchadh Riabhach are unfortunately not known. It may be surmised that he was not a Campbell. Equally, for whatever reason, it appears that he held a significant position within the Campbell power structures. In the context of the time and given the evidence of a Dougal Makkendwell, i.e. Dubhgall Mac an Mhaoil (or possibly Mac Iain Mhaoil ), who was most probably a MacGregor, appearing as the final name on the document, it is possible to suggest that Donnchadh Riabhach was a member of a well established Argyll based family. 

7.0 Donnchadh Riabhach Mac Gille Chonaill (b. circa 1450, d.1526)

Donnchadh Riabhach Mac Gille Chonaill(d.20th.April 1526, see Chronicle of Fortingall in the B.B.T.) wasan associate of Campbell of Glenurquhay. He was the fourteenth person, out of a total of eighteen persons listed, including Argyll and Glenorchy the first and second persons on the list, who were given remission by the Crown for their involvement in the capture of James III at “The Raid of Lauder” in 1482. (GD112/3/6, see also MacGregor, M.D.W., “A View from Fortingall”, pub.Scottish Gaelic Studies, 22, 2006). Donnchadh Riabhach was a prominent person in local Breadalbane society. His actions are recorded on various occasions in the Breadalbane Muniments. It is clear that he was very close politically to Duncan Campbell, 2nd.of Glenorchy being in the company of Colin, 1st. Earl of Argyll, and Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy when they appear to have taken part in the seizure of James III at Lauder in 1482. Within the Glenorchy lairdship Donnchadh Riabhach acted as a bailie at the eastern end of Loch Tay and was empowered to give sasine. After his death a further reference appears, in 1541, to a “Duncan Reochistoun” located at the south eastern end of Loch Tay (GD112/5/4 Item 385).The status ofDonnchadh Riabhach within the retinue of Duncan Campbell, 2nd.Laird of Glenorchy is perhaps also indicated in the text of a Gaelic poem. Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, had a considerable interest in poetry combined, in his case, with the ability to compose poetry of some merit. These intellectual and cultural activities placed him at the centre of the Gaelic literary and artistic world of Breadalbane and beyond both as patron of the Fortingall MacGregors, the compilers of the Book of the Dean of Lismore (B.D.L.) and as an active participant in their poetic circle. It is possible to suggest that one of Duncan Campbell’s famous bawdy Gaelic poems in the B.D.L. may have been addressed in a good humoured way to Donnchadh Riabhach. An alternative view of whom the poem was addressed to plus the text of the poem and a translation are given in MacLeod, W., “Duanaire na Sracaire”, 262.

8.0 Possible relatives and descendants of Donnchadh Riabhach

It is not known whether the following persons, were or were not, relatives or descendants of Donnchadh Riabhach however in 1533 a Donald Makgilchonill was a witness in Bute (see Register of the Great Seal Vol. III, James V.) while in 1544 a Niall McIlleconill was a servitor to Campbell of Craignish and witness to a sasine for Campbell of Craignish (see “The Manuscript History of Craignish” and Argyll Archives, Inventory of Barbreck Writs). A Donald McDonchy VcIllchonill is listed as in Melfort in 1581 and an Ian McGillephadrick VcIllechonnell in Dunstaffnage in 1576 (see Argyll Transcripts).A list of later Argyll based MacGilleChonaills, up to 1801 by date, is given in Appendix “A” below. Further detail concerning the Perthshire families and some information on the Galloway and Isle of Man groups who share the surname is given in the article, “’Twixt Caimbeulaich and Griogairaich”, West Highland Notes & Queries , April 2009.

Members of the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill, who are likely to have been descendants, or close relatives, of Donnchadh Riabhach,acted as servitors to Campbell of Glenorchy. In 1547 sir Malcolm McGilleQuhonill (Maol-Coluim Mac Gille Chonaill), servitor and chaplain to John Campbell of Glenurquhay and curate of Strathfillan, is recorded as married to Catherine NcGillegarive (Nc Gille Garbh) with sons Archibald, John, Malcolm and Duncan (this lady’s name is transcribed, probably in error, as Makgillegarine in the N.A.S. transcript). In 1547 the lands of Braiklie near Dalmally were resigned to John Campbell of Glenurquhay by Gregor Paterson (MacGregor) his servant. Malcolm McGilleQuhonill was then given the two merklands of Braiklie by Campbell of Glenurquhay in 1565 (Origines Parochiales (Glenorchy) 142/3) for a yearly payment of £8 Scots at the usual terms. “Braiklie” had previously been held by the MacGregors of Brackley as constables of Kilchurn Castle since circa 1440. These lands were now “granted in heritage” to Malcolm and at his death were to pass to Archibald McGilleQuhonill (Gill-easbuig Mac Gille Chonaill) servitor to Colin Campbellof Glenorchy(Cailean Liath), with the remainder successively to John, Malcolm and Duncan his brothers. In 1569 Duncan Campbell (Donnchadh Dubh na Churraich) fiar of Glenurquhay, with the consent of his father Colin, liferenter, and of his curator William, Lord Ruthven, leased the same lands to Archibald and his brothers. These lands were later, in 1573, exchanged at the behest of the Cailean Liath, Laird of Glenorchy, for Tullich Easter, Loch Tay (GD112/1/202) such that Braiklie was returned to the MacGregors of Brackley, namely to Gregor McAne on the same conditions and with the remainder to his heir John McGregor and his brothers Duncan, Patrick, Alexander and Gregor. The MacGregors then continued as the constables of Kilchurn Castle on behalf of Campbell of Glenorchy until 1595 and then as feuars of the 2 merklands of Braiklie until sometime after 1683 (GD112/75/106). Many such entanglements between the MacGilleQuhonillsand the MacGregors were to be repeated through to at least the late 17th.Century.

The descendants of Malcolm McGillequhonill, servitor and chaplain to Colin Campbell of Glenurquhay , to whom Glenurquhay granted the lands of Braiklie in 1565, are traceable up to around the mid 1600s. Malcolm married a Catherine McGillegarive with issue Archibald, John, Malcolm and Duncan. Archibald moved to Tullich, Loch Tay and died some time before 1582. Archibald in turn had issue William Mc Gillespie and Duncan Mc Gillespie Mc Gillechonnel. William married a Katherine McNocarde and resided at Easter Tullich and was alive until at least 1621 while Duncan occupied Tullich Nedder and was at Tullich/Ardtalnaig until at least 1624. A “Baron Duncan McIllechonill” is recorded at Ardtalnaig in 1638 and it is the case that a Duncan McIllechonnell, probably the same man, was “Officer of the Officiary of Ardtalnaig” under Campbell of Glenorchy in 1625. A Duncan McIllechonill, probably the same individual, is also given as a vassal of Glenorchy and based at Kenmore (N.A.S. GD112/16/26 Calp Books, see also B.B.T. p.400).

Other possible descendants of Malcolm, the chaplain, include John Dow Mc Illechonyle recorded in Ardtalnaig in 1638. This John Dow may be the same man as the John Dow McGillequhonill who was denounced a rebel in 1595 along with John Dow McCondoquhy (Campbell), tutor of Inverawe and is perhaps also that John Dow Mc Iloquhonill who was servitor to Evir Campbell of Strachur in 1596. A Malcolm McGilquhoneill is found at Ardrostan near St Fillans, Loch Earn in 1574.This Malcolm, who may have been the third son of Malcolm the chaplain, had three sons Malcolm, Donald and Patrick and the whole of this family were accused by the crown of “criminality, receiving and sorning “. Robert Drummond together with other leading Drummonds was expected to take action against them and their associates. A Duncan Mc Ilhonill, possibly Malcolm the chaplain’s youngest son, was involved in the raid on Drumquhassil (1592) which was led among others by “Allaster Steuart in Ardvorlik “. Another Duncan McIlhonil was residing at Dunans, by Ardvorlich, in 1664 while a Donald McGillichoneill was “haeres” to his brother Patrick in “Porte de Locherne” in 1688. This appears to indicate an interesting turn of events for in 1688 the feudal superior of “Porte de Locherne” was the Drummond Earl of Perth. In 1706 a John Mc Gillechonnel is listed as a Balquhidder fencible man serving under Captain John Stewart. Yet another Duncan McIlchonnel and his wife Katherine McNab occupied the farm of Littleport, St Fillans, in the early 1700′s. They had at least two sons, Alexander McIlchonnel,”alias Donaldson “, born 25Aug 1726 and John born in 1728. The “alias Donaldson” found in the Old Parish Registers against Alexander’s name may imply descent from that Donald identified with “Porte de Locherne” in 1688. Members of this family continued at Littleport until 1854. The last two male representatives to have occupied Littleport were both known locally as “Baron” McWhannel. John McWhannel writer and partner in the Perth law firm of Moncrieff and McWhannel, who is mentioned in the book “The Maxtones of Cultoquhey”, was a member of the Littleport family.

It is probable that John Bayne McGillequhonyle in Auchnavadie, Parish of Dull, in 1559 (probably modern Auchnafauld in Glen Quaich) belonged to an offshoot from the Braiklie/Tullich family group. He might even have been the second son of sir Malcolm. In 1565 Johne Bane MacGillequhonyle is mentioned in a letter from George Hay, 7th.Earl of Errol, to Colin Campbell of Glenurquhay (GD112/39/4/26). The individuals, described as Johnne Bayne McGillquhonen in Wester Auchinvade together with William his son and a Patrick McGillquhonen in Auchinvade (also given as Auchnavade, R.S.S. V, i, 684, 20th.Sept 1559), were found to be MacGillechonaillsby Prof. J. Dawson (see “Campbell Letters” pub. Edinburgh). These persons were escheated in relation to the murder of Murdoych Gillespik in Glenquhrych (Glen Quaich). This murder was carried out during the first period of the Campbell / MacGregor feud however the particular circumstances surrounding this killing are not known.

9.0 Mac Gille Chonaill foresters to the Earl of Tullibardine 

Hunting was an important activity for the highland nobility and required control and maintenance of the hunting areas by foresters. A John Roy McGillichonill and his sons Duncane, Donnald and Williame,” alleged foresters” in the forest of Glenalmond are recorded in 1637.This family do not appear to have had any connections with the Breadalbane Campbells but were it seems foresters to the Earl of Tullibardine, a Murray. There is also a record of Jon McIllchonill on the property of Robert Stewart of Fincastle in 1667. A William Roy McGillechonnell of Findowie, Strath Braan, who may well be the son of John Roy, married a sister (probably the eldest sister) of John Maxton of Cultoquhey sometime before 1650. A Robert Roy clearly a relative of William Roy is on record in 1664. William Roy had issue Duncan Roy recorded as in Auchilhanzie 1673 and John Roy recorded as of Kincardine – Crieff in 1679 while a John Roy Mc Illchonnell of Dowald was “haeres” to his father William Roy of Dowald in 1669. 

10.0 John McGilliechonell and the notorious “Gilderoy”

On 5th.April 1636 at the Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, John McGilliechonell was “banished” due to being an associate of Patrick Gilroy McGregor (“Gilderoy”), a member of the MacGregor of Roro family. On this occasion the other seven accused were “hangit” but John’s claim to have been coerced into crimes of theft, sorning and oppression by the MacGregors was accepted and he alone escaped hanging. Unfortunately the extant records of the trial do not indicate where he was banished from, or where he was banished to, or indeed for how long a period his banishment was to last (N.A.S. JC 2-7-00318-00322 & JC 26-11-1-1-00001-00011).

11.0 John Roy McGilliechonnell, Captain for east Glenalmond.

Following on the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, a Jacobite Rising orchestrated by John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, took place. Campaigning in Scotland led to the Battle of Killiecrankie, 27th. July 1689, during which Claverhouse was killed and later to the Battle of Dunkeld on 21st. August 1689. Lord Murray, son of the Duke of Atholl and a supporter of William of Orange,had cause to provide protection for his property and tenantry. So it came about, that on 29th. June, Lord Murray ordered “John Roy (MacGillieChonnell) in Milne Rodgie be one of our Captains in Glen Almond and William Roy (McGillieChonnell) in Downie his Lieutenant for the east end of the cuntrie”(“Chronicles of the Atholl and Tullibardine families”, Vol. 1, 283-284).

12.0 MacGilleChonaills and the MacGregor of Kilmannan incident

Circa 1694 John Roy McGilliechonnell and his father, William Roy McGilliechonnell, were (as given above) living at Miln of Rodgie near Buchanty, Glenalmond.  On the 1st. of October 1694 MacGregor of Kilmannan, at that time the Chief of the Clan Gregor, came to William Roy’s at the Bridge End of Haly Milne and sent for Alexander Menzies at Buchanty, John Roy at Milnerodgie and William Roy who was in his fields. The assembled party consumed six pints of ale and three gills and then Kilmannan took to his horse to ride to Milnerodgie.  On arriving there he met with Milnerogie’s wife and Milnerodgie who had come on foot. It appears that Kilmannan on leaving and having slipped in the “leed” chased after his servant Malcolm McCurrich brandishing his sword. Kilmannan already had a reputation for hotheadedness and hard drinking; character traits which had seemingly manifested themselves most strongly after the death of his wife. So it was that somewhat later, at a point somewhere between Milnerodgie and Little Dounie and probably under the influence of drink, Kilmannan most regrettably shot dead his servant Malcolm McCurrich. Life did not go well for Kilmannan after this most tragic incident as he was forced to go into exile in Ireland where he later died.  (“Chronicles of the Atholl & Tullibardine families”,Vol. 2, 351-354).

13.0 The Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill in Kintyre and Islay

In 1636 the following persons occupied lands in Kintyre. A MacGillechonell was tacksman of the 4 merklands of the Mull (Kintyre). Donald Makgilechonille had a tack of 8s-4d of land in South Kintyre from James Campbell, Donald Oig and Malcolm McGillechonell occupied “Ballimackchonnelliche” near the Mull of Kintyre. Probably the same Donald Oig and Malcolm McGillechonnell were also in Auchnasaull (by Carskey, near the Mull of Kintyre).

A Donald McIlchonnel and his brother Archibald were among those murdered in the notorious massacre at Dunaverty in 1647. In Kintyre the settlement known as Ballimacilchonnell is again noted in 1679 when Duncan McIchonnell in Ballimacilchonnell was accused of murdering Archibald McIlglash. Duncan’s wife was a Doratie Campbell (Argyll Justiciary Records). Another Donald McIlchonell, tacksman in the Molle (the Mull), is recorded in 1683.

In Islay a James McIllchonil was living at the changehouse of Kintour in 1686. In 1730 a Neil McIlchonnel was in Lagvulline, Kildalton, while a Duncan McIlchonill occupied part of Nerebolls in 1733. 

14.0 Gille Chonaill and Mac Gille Chonaill in Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Isle of Man

In 1200 approx. but possibly before 1144, a Gillemore son of Gilleconelgave a gift to the Church of St. Machute, Lesmahagow, (see Kelso Liber). This appears to be the earliest extant evidence for the name Gille Chonaill. Gillemore was also a heritor for Fincurrocks by Lesmahagow.

In 1212 Gylconellis given as a son of Edgar son of Dofnald, possibly that Duvenald of Sanqhar, Ellioc and Dunscore, the son of Dunegal of Strathnith (see Liber Sancte Crucis and Liber Kelso).

In 1214 approx. Gillechrist MacGilcunill, was a witness to a charter of Affrica of Dunscore, the great grand-daughter of Dunegal of Strathnith (see Melros Liber).

In 1233 approx. Gillekonel “Manthac” (Gille Chonaill Manntach) is stated to be the brother of Duncan Earl of Carrick (see Reg. Passelet).

In 1266, Gillemore, a son of William Gyleconel, was steward of Lesmahagow.

In 1295 approx., an Adam MacGilleconil was “one of the chief men of the Clenafren in Galloway”. The dominant surname within the Clenafren was MacEthe, modern McGhie in Galloway, possessed by four persons (2 individuals plus 2 brothers) out of the fourteen men listed. (National Archives E 39/17/8 and “Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland”,ed. Bain, J., pub. Edinburgh, 1881-84, Vol. II, 253).

In 1422 approx., a Patricke MacLyonyll participated in the uprising in the Isle of Man on behalf of the Church Party (Manx Documents, Manx National Heritage). This is the earliest evidence forthe surname Mac Gille Chonaill in the Isle of Man. The surname, in various spellings, then continued to be recorded in the Manx records until at least 1540.

In 1460 Andrew McGilquhonel is recorded in Kirkcudbright while in 1473 an Andrew Makkynquhonaleis recordedin Wigton. He is probably the same man as the Andrew McGilquhonelrecorded in 1460. Also in 1473 a Thom M’quhonale was given remission for his crimes. This is probably the earliest instance of the surname Mac Gille Chonaill being given as “McWhannell”.

In 1498 Gilbert Makgilchonil was a “capellanus”, in Wigton.

“Mac Gille Chonaill” continued to be recorded in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway. The surname in south west Scotland, mutated to McWhannell (as in Perthshire) and later toWhannell. The later McWhannells found in the Isle of Man may have stemmed from Kirkcudbright. In one instance there is evidence of a direct link with Kirkcudbright since in 1812 Lewis Llewellin McWhannell, sailor, Ramsey, became heir to his uncle, Adam McWhannell, merchant in Kirkcudbright.

15.0 Present day members of the “Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill”, possible variant surnames, and Y-DNA studies.

It is of some interest that the Mac Gille Chonnells both acquired their surname at an early date and then, as can be seen from the historical record, preserved their surname tenaciously. This is a relatively unusual situation in the context of the Gaeltachd. Typically even individuals of some significance would use patronymics rather than surnames. The consistent use of their surname by the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill is presently inexplicable as it has so far proved impossible to identify “Gille Chonaill”, the eponym of the kindred, such that his status and the particular reason why his memory should be preserved might be established.

The spread of the Argyll and Perthshire Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill seems to match the geographical spread of Campbell power in Argyll, Lorne, Kintyre, and Islay and particularly in Perthshire. Unlike the MacGregors a significant number of Mac Gille Chonnells seem to have migrated west as well as east with the Campbell expansion. The Mac Gille Chonnells did not suffer the sudden “falling out of favour” after say 1550 that so damaged the Clan Gregor. This probably reflects the fact that unlike the MacGregors the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaillpresented no threat to Campbell power.

The social status of many of the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill slowly diminished over time. This effect is seen in both Scottish and Irish Gaeldom where smaller families and kindreds were generally “squeezed out of power” by larger more powerful families or kindreds. When the Clan Gregor were perceived as a challenging power by the Glenorchy Campbells they were subjected to unrelenting pressure by Cailean Liath and Donnchadh Dubh, the 6th.and 7th.Lairds of Glenorchy. Somewhat later the processes of social change within the Scottish Highlands accelerated during the period when “the Chiefs turned themselves into Landlords” and the traditional forms of society faded away.Iain Glas the 11th. Laird of Glenorchy and 1st. Earl of Breadalbane was a one such vigorous modernising landowner.

As early as the sixteen hundreds one MacGilleChonaill had moved south since a Patrick McGillechoneill, a chirurgeon in Edinburgh, married Agnes Bell, on 17th.Sept. 1611, and had issue Jonet and Margaret (twins) b. 1612 and James b.1620. A Donald McIlchonnell, Sergeant Quartermaster in His Majesty’s 77th.Regiment of Foot (Montgomerie’s Highlanders), died intestate in New York in late 1763 or early 1764. A letter of administration dated 27th. January 1764 was lodged by a Donald Fisher. This Donald Fisher, probably a Mac an Iasgairfrom Argyll or Perthshire, may well have been the Donald Fisher from Killin who seemingly had also served in North America in the 77th.Regiment of Foot, finally settling in Canada and dying in Montreal in 1799 (9). As is well known many persons from Argyll and Perthshire emigrated to North America and also to central Scotland, to England and later to Australia and New Zealand.

Presently McWhannell families, who are ultimately of Perthshire origin, are known to exist in Scotland, England, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. Certain of the Scottish, English and New Zealand persons are known to be descendants of the Perthshire “Littleport” family. The “Littleport” family group appears likely to be descended from Malcolm McGilleQuhonill , servitor and chaplain to Campbell of Glenorchy and so probably from Donnchadh Riabhach Mac Gille Chonaill.

There are some North American McWhannells who may have their origins in Argyll or Perthshire but might equally have had their origins in Ayrshire, Galloway or the Isle of Man. Some antipodean McWhannells and Whannells may perhaps also have originated from south west Scotland or the Isle of Man.

As part of a “rare surname” study, Julia Abernethy at the University of London, carried out Y-chromosome testing on a limited number of McWhannell males, whose origins and locations remain confidential. This research indicated, at least for those tested, that the present day “extended kindred” had one, or possibly two, founder males. The “genetically older” founder male having an R1b type Y-chromosome, a haplotype associated with Scotland and the western edges of Europe and the other possible founder male having a Y-chromosome characterised as either “British or Scandinavian”.

Further tests and calculations carried out under the auspices of the Clan Gregor DNA Project indicated a possible common origin for a “Littleport” R1b1a2 R-M269 McWhannell and the present chiefly line of the Clan Gregor (MacGregor of Glencarnoch) but at a date, initially estimated to be between 900 and 1100, well before the existence of the Clan Gregor plus the existence of a“Scandinavian” I1 I-M253 McWhannell. Both the McWhannell males tested within the Clan Gregor DNA Project have documented family histories, based on the Old Parish Registers, starting in the early 1700’s at Littleport, St. Fillans, Perthshire and Findo Gask, Perthshire respectively. Recent tests, again within the Clan Gregor DNA Project, have revealed that the “Littleport” McWhannell has both L1065+ and L1335+ SNPs. There may be the possibility that the time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of the “Littleport” McWhannell and the present Clan Gregor chief is as little as some 750 years i.e. sometime in the mid 1200s. Such a dating, if substantiated, would place this common ancestor around the time of Aodha Urchadhaigh, Hugh of Glen Orchy (fl.1211 to 1270 approx.). However it is  important to note that among the cohort of persons who have both taken a Y-chromosome test and had their results published on the World Wide Web, the current Chief of Clan Gregor, certain other MacGregors, a McKinlay, the “Littleport” McWhannell, some MacRaes , two Valentines , and a good number of other individuals with a range of well known Scottish surnames all have very similar Y-DNA results and probably share a common, if unknown, male ancestor sometime in the range 900 to 1000 AD. Some might even share a common male ancestor who was alive in the high middle ages i.e.1001 to 1300 AD. Future “Illumina” chip based SNP testing may yet reveal further useful genetic genealogy information and improved estimates for these TMRCA values.

Persons with the surname Whannell may also be considered to be part of the extant “Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill” as indeed might some Perthshire and Argyllshire McConnells and some Argyllshire “Connells” particularly any Connels descending from the boat-building family formerly in Lismore and known collectively as “Na Conallaich”. The North American McVannells who came from North Kintyre and some Argyllshire MacCannells from Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Tiree and a proportion of the Manx Cannells might also be considered as being potentially members of the “Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill”. It is likely that careful genealogical research combined with Y-chromosome testing would also show that a good number of present day “Roys”, “Connells” and “Donaldsons”, whose family origins are traceable to the Glenalmond and upper Strathearn areas of Perthshire, are also members of the “Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill”.

There are now more McWhannell /Mac Gille Chonaill families in the Commonwealth and other overseas countries than in Britain. The author of this article would therefore be very pleased to hear from any persons who might wish to provide further factual information or comment that might amplify or improve on the history of this Argyll and Perthshire kindred or indeed contribute to the histories of their namesakes in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and in the Isle of Man.

16.0 The Lismore Connels and other Argyll “Connells”

Presently it is not possible to determine if the Lismore Connels, who are recorded from 1778 to 1961, were or were not related to John McIlchonnill miller at “Baligrundale” in 1728. Further progress might be possible if documented information about them for the period between 1728 and 1778 were to be discovered. It is also the case that there are many other persons surnamed “Connell” in the records for Argyll indeed there are currently one hundred and twenty one Connel, eighty eight Connell and two Conell entries plus one Connall entry listed on the I.G.I. data base in relation to Argyll.

Remarkably, in November 1694, one William Conell travelled from Argyllshire to Finlarig Castle “with the parrot, he expects 20 dollars” seemingly the parrot was for Campbell of Breadalbane (GD112/67/12).

A John Connell was the ferryman at Shian, Loch Creran, circa 1785 while a Duncan Connell is noted in Tobermory in 1790 and 1795 (GD174). These two persons may have been related to the Lismore Connels.

In the 1841 Census of Argyll two Connell families were living at Kiel Crofts, Benderloch. There were five persons in the family of Neil Connell (aged 65) and seven persons in the family of another Neil Connell (aged 45). They were probably father and son and they and their children may have been related to the Lismore Connels. There was also a twelve year old Neil Connell, a servant and probably a son of one of the Kiel Crofts’ families at “Shenvale” (Shenavallie, Benderloch).

In the absence of sound documentation genetic genealogy techniques have the potential to provide useful factual information about possible family groups and their relatedness. Y-DNA and SNP testing of any proven male descendents of the Lismore “Conallaich” might assist in confirming or negating the possibility that the Lismore Connels were a branch of the Argyll and Perthshire Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill. Male volunteers who might meet the requirements of potentially being “Connallaich”, or members of the“Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill” and are willing to place their documentary evidence and genetic genealogy results in the public domain please step forward! 

Appendix “A”; later MacGilleChonnells in Argyll and Breadalbane, listed by date

In Argyll from 1574 to 1801 the following members of the Clann Mhic Gille Chonaill are recorded.

1574 Duncan Makillechonnill in Carnebane (witness to instrument of sasine for a Third of Braelorn, see GD112/2/109)

1576 Ian McGillephadrick VcIllechonill in Dunstaffnage (boatbulder?)

1581 Donald McDonchy VcIlleChonill in Melfort

1618 Ewin McGilechonell in Auchinschalline (Achadh Innis Chalainn)

1620 Donald McIlchonill miller at Kilchanichkill, Lorne

1636 A MacGillechonell was tacksman of the 4 merklands of the Mull (Kintyre).

1636 Donald Makgilechonille had a tack of 8s-4d land in South Kintyre from James Campbell.

1636 Donald Oig & Malcolm McGillechonell in “Ballimackchonnelliche” near Mull of Kintyre

1636 Donald Oig & Malcolm McGillechonnell in Auchnasaull (by Carskey, near the Mull of Kintyre)

1636 John Dow McLechoniell in Auchallader

1638 Ewin McGillechonile in Auchinchalden (4 merkland and the laird of Glenorchy’s “bouhouss”), Ewin did not have to pay rent to Glenorchy and had two guns.

1647 Donald & Archibald McGillechonnell killed in the massacre at Dunaverty

1654 Niall McGillechonill witness in Oban (ref. land transaction)

1660 Patricke McIllechonill, servant to Campbell of Jura

1660 Patrick McIlchonill and Mary NcIntyre cohabiting in adultery, with many children, in Ardchattan Parish

1667 Patrick McIllechonill, servant to Campbell of Torrie

1675 Donald McIlechonell wright in Row-willan (Rubha Mhoulin?) had his bull stolen (Argyll Justiciary Records).

1679 Duncan McIchonnell in Ballimacilchonnell (near Mull of Kintyre) accused of murdering Archibald McIlglash. Duncan’s wife was a Doratie Campbell (Argyll Justiciary Records).

1683 Donald McIlchonell tacksman of the Mull, Kintyre

1686 James McIlchonill in changehouse of Kintour, Islay

1690 (approx.) Donald McIllechonill wright in “Row-willan”

1692 Duncan Mcilechonill plus Donald & Donald Oig McIllechonnell, boatbuilders, (father & son) in Inverawe also Calum McIllechonnell in Killespickerill (now Taynuilt)

1694 John McIlchonnell in “Ardchonnileatrich” (Hearth Tax Records, Argyll)

1722 Duncan McIlchonnell in Inverawe fined 100 merks Scots (see Argyll Justiciary Records).

1726 John McIlchonell, boatwright

1728 (approx.) John McIlchonnill, miller at Balligrundle, Lismore, Argyll

1730 Neil McIlchonnel in Lagvulline, Kildalton, Islay

1733 Duncan McIlchonill in Nerebolls, Islay

Before 1745 and after 1730 Donald and Daniel McIlchonnel at the Bonawe Sawmill (Inveresragan Papers in the Archives at Ardchattan Priory)

1759 John McIllchonnel born 02/12/1759 and James McIllchonnel born 14/06/1759, Ardchattan Parish

1764 John McIlchonell, a retainer of Argyll, a boat carpenter, the town piper and a burgess of Inveraray

1765 Malcolm McIlchonnell at Corranardgour (Corran) his wife was Catherine McIlriach.

1801 Anne McIlchonnel born 05/05/1801, Ardchattan Parish


(1) Black, D., West Highland Notes & Queries, April 1996, Series 2, No.15, 20-21.

(2) Lismore Gaelic Heritage

(3) Dr. Rachel Butter’s preliminary findings were presented in her March 2012 Govan Lecture “The Cult of St. Conval in Inchinnan and the south west of Scotland” (to be published by The Friends of Govan Old).

(4) Maclean-Bristol, N., “The First Macleans”, West Highland Notes & Queries, Series 3, No. 24, January 2014, 23 (Also a private communication from Ronald Black).

(5) Kelly, F., “A Guide to Early Irish Law”, (Dublin, 1988), 61.

(6) Campbell of Airds, A., and McWhannell, D. C., “The MacGillechonnells, a family of hereditary boatbuilders”, West Highland Notes & Queries, July 1995, Series 2, No.14, 3-9 ; MacInnes, Rev. J., “West highland sea power in the middle ages”, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Vol. XLVIII, 1973-74, 527 ; McWhannell, D.C., “Ship service and indigenous sea power in the west of Scotland”, West Highland Notes & Queries, Aug. 2000, Series 4, Vol.1, 3-18 ; McWhannell, D.C., “The galleys of Argyll”, The Mariners Mirror, Feb. 2002,Vol. 88, No.1, 14-32.

(7) Shaw, F.J., “The Northern and Western Isles of Scotland”, (Edinburgh, 1980), 135

(8) McWhannell, D.C., “’Twixt Caimbeulaich and Griogairaich – TheMacGilleChonaillkindredunder Campbell Lordship; together with the kindred’s later history”, West Highland Notes & Queries, April 2009, Series 3, No.13, 3-25.

(9) White, K., & Fisher, E., “The Other Daughters of the Revolution”, ed. Halevi, S., pub. SUNY Press, New York, 2012, 106-7 and New York Probate Records 1629-1971 (images also New York Letters of Administration 1763-1768