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Part 1 of CLANS OF SHISKINE

PAST AND PRESENT

Compiled and read by
Mr. Charles Robertson, Burncliff, Shiskine, to the
Natives of Arran in Glasgow, March, 1936.

Printed by
THE BUTEMAN, LTD., 10 and 12 Castle Street,
ROTHESAY

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CLANS OF SHISKINE---PAST AND PRESENT.

10th March, 1936

Mr Chairman and friends:- It gives me the greatest pleasure to
be here this evening. I invariably read the reports of your meetings,
and they seldom fail to strike a sympathetic note, as each and all of
us are intensely interested in all that concerns our native Island. I
am especially pleased to have in the chair this evening my friend and
kinsman, Duncan Thomson. In fixing the title of my address, I had at
the back of my mind the feeling than nothing could interest my
audience more than to hear something (to use a Scripture phrase) of
the rock from whence most of us were hewn. The subject must have a
local setting. I therefore, at the outset, crave the indulgence of
those from other parts of the Island. Yet I hope my whole survey will
make a general appeal.

Now, Arran is Scotland in miniature. The various clans
throughout the centuries have been associated with separate locations.
For instance, Argyllshire is the home of the Campbells, M'Alisters,
M'Larens, Stuarts of Appin. Dumbartonshire-M'Farlanes, M'Gregors.
Perthshire-Robertsons, M'Nabs and Murrays. Inverness-Frasers, M'Leods.
Banffshire-M'Kinnon, M'Intosh, M'Pherson. Buteshire-Stewarts and
Bannatynes, and so on. Likewise in Arran the same names have been
associated with the same district for centuries. In my own district,
including Machrie, we find M'Alisters, Bannatynes, Curries,
Robertsons, M'Kenzies and Murchies, and to a lesser extent the
M'Masters, M'Gregors, M'Kelvies, etc. In the southend district we get
the M'Kinnons, Cooks, Stuarts, M'Donalds, M'Neils. Whiting Bay-
Hamiltons, M'Kelvies. Brodick with Davidsons, Fullartons. M'Brides in
Lamlash. Corrie-M'Killops and Kelsos, and of course in the north end
of the Island, Kerrs. Those are the names that we invariably connect
with the districts just named. For instance, you won't find a
Robertson or a Bannatyne in any part of the south end of the Island.
Likewise, you won't find a M'Neil or Cook in Shiskine at the present
day. Many of the Scottish clans never seem to have at any time a
representative in Arran, viz., MacLeod, Grant, M'Farlane, M'Dougall,
Cameron or M'Lean.

My object in compiling this survey is not so much to trace the
genealogy of the various clans, but rather to my mind, what is more
important, to get the relative positions of different periods, to come
up to the present day, and give my opinion of their chance of survival
or otherwise.

On the east side of the Island, owing to its closer proximity to
the mainland, old honoured names are disappearing much more rapidly
than with us on the west side. In the beginning of the last century
Lamlash had almost one-third of its population M'Brides. What is the
position to-day? There is only one male M'Bride under 50 on the east
side of Arran, and that one is a child of nine. Let us hope, in the
words of the Scripture, that the little becomes a thousand. The last
male Fullerton passed away two years ago. The Davidsons are reduced to
a minimum. It makes one sad when reading reports in the public press
of the various functions that there is little or no mention of those
old names that we so long associated with those districts. A friend of
mine, a native of Brodick, for many years an exile from his native
Island, returned to visit the scene of his boyhood. He was accompanied
by his brother, also for long an exile. They went down to the burn in
which they had paddled with their bare feet, looked at the trees they
climbed, called to mind many of their boyhood ploys. Then one said to
the other, "Let us see if we see any resemblance to those we knew in
the children we meet." They met a nice boy, and enquired his name.
What was their surprise and disappointment when the boy replied John
Kelly. They both felt the same sensations, as if a jug of cold water
had been poured down their spine. Fortunately that state of affairs
only applies in very small degree to the west side. Some of the
families then could trace a pedigree as long as any Peer in the House
of Lords.

I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to base my findings on
documentary evidence. I owe my thanks to Mr Laidler for giving me
access to the Estate Rent Roll; to the Rev. Mr M'Leod Wright, Kilmory,
for access to the Session Records; and for a like privilege to the
Free Church, Shiskine; also to Mr Wm. Robertson, Banlikan. Traditional
evidence cannot always be relied on. I have often heard many varied
versions of incidences and pedigrees as well that were quite
contradictory. I am often tickled when I hear of some folks tracing
their genealogy. Their claim would be very amusing if they were not so
fantastically inaccurate.

I am now coming to the clans of Shiskine. First the M'Alisters,
the clan that is no longer associated with Shiskine than any other.
They hailed from Kintyre along with the M'Donalds, and for a long time
were a thorn in the flesh to the early dwellers in Arran. Many of them
may have settled there. Another report says somewhat unkindly that
they came to Arran to fill the places left vacant by a great plague
that visited to Island in 1666. The writer goes on to say that it was
most fitting that such a forerunner should prepare a place for those
who were so long a plague in the Island themselves. I do not hold with
that theory, for in the Kilmory records we find them all over
Shiskine. I was struck with the frequency the christian name Florence
appeared in the female section of the clan. We come to a Florence
M'Alister in Auchincar, one in Torbeg, one in Birchburn, and another
in Ballygown. That lovely name has disappeared from the clan. In fact,
there isn't a single female of that name in Shiskine to-day,
abbreviated Flora.

In 1776 we find a M'Alister, a taxman in Kilpatrick; one in
Torbeg, one in Feorline, one in Ballygown, and the best known of them
all, Hector M'Alister, taxman of Glaister and Monyquil. This gentleman
is credited with being involved in the '45 which ended disastrously at
Culloden, and he had to go into hiding for some time. He was one of
the two sent by the people of Shiskine to represent their interests at
a meeting called by the factor Burrell, to consider steps to be taken
to ensure better communication with the mainland. The descendants of
the said Hector have been in the glen till about 27 years ago. The
last tenant being also a Hector. In the Arran Rent Roll of 1812, James
M'Allister, Monyquill, is the only tenant with Esquire to his name.
Provost M'Allister, Troon, and Mr Constable, Rothesay, are descend
from the same man (Worthie M'Allister). The first M'Allister we have
record of is one Ranald M'Allister, who rented a line of farms on the
west side of Arran from Lochranza to Machrie Bay. Unhappily those
farms were the most exposed to the raiders from Kintyre. When we first
come across his name in 1440, he is 3 1/2 years behind with his rent;
1447 repeats the tale, rent held back by Ranald M'Allister. We now
come to 1458, when he departed his life. For 15 years he was tenant of
nine farms, for four years he was lessee of the whole Island. It would
appear that he never paid rent all those years. Yet he died without
property, with those words for his epitaph-" He had nothing to
distrain." In my boyhood days the M'Alisters were the most numerous
clan in Shiskine. They occupied positions of trust in our public
bodies. In fact, they ruled us both temporally and spiritually. A
M'Alister would take as naturally to a Kirk Session as a Kerr or Kelso
from Lochranza, would take to the water. Now, what is the position to-
day apart from one family, the prospect of having any M'Alisters in
either Shiskine or Machrie in the near future is very remote.

CURRIES.---The name Currie is alleged to be a reduced form of
MacMhurrich. Tradition has it that like some of the old Arran families
they had charters of the lands of Feorline. This, I am afraid, is
unsupported by evidence. Down to the end of the eighteenth century the
name Currie does not appear in Feorline at all. In 1796 they came to
Feorline. (Tormore Curries.) One was a taxman in Kilpatrick, one in
Feorline, another in Clachan. There were several in Tormore at the
same period.

Arran in all its long history has never thrown up a poet of any
standing, though we have a few rhymers. There were one or two of the
Curries who made brave attempts. One of them was called "Gobha Beag"
(the wee smith). The other was Donald Currie.

Poaching in Arran was always looked upon as a heinous crime. The
Gobha Beag (first of these Curries) wrote a very pathetic poem of his
eviction from Arran for poaching-the following is a translation from
Gaelic of four of the verses:-

In the calm summer morn, ere the sun with his rays,
Would waken in beauty our valleys and braes,
With my take in my skiff I so gladly would come,
To the shade of the Castle where nestled my home.

Dear Beallach nam Mean, how my heartstrings were torn,
When banished the spot where my darling was born,
'Tis my fate in the Lowlands to nourish my wrongs,
Since fortune once placed too near to the Longs.

The factor ordained in the pride of his power,
My kin should disown me if e'en for an hour,
They'd shelter or aid me, his ire they would feel,
Be stripped of their farms, and crushed by his heels.

But those who expelled me from Arran shall be
Without sheep on the moorland, or cow on the lea;
While I openhanded shall live in Tormore,
To drink my cup yet, and eat of my store.

There is ample evidence of the survival of this clan.

BANNATYNES. The Bannatynes, more than any of the others, are purely
a Shiskine clan. They came to Arran from Bute. In an old record of
1400 we find the names of four Bannatynes acting on a jury in
Rothesay. Tradition says that the first Bannatyne came to Arran to
settle was a Ronald Bannatyne. He landed at Corrie, the place being
still known as Rudha Raonal. In the early days there must have been
among them men of scholastic attainments. The Kilmory Session records
give in 1701 the Rev. Dugald Bannatyne, minister, and a few years
later a Hector Bannatyne, schoolmaster. In 1776 one of the clan was
taxman in Feorline. I find in the Estate books an entry regarding the
building of a steading at Tighenfraoch, and a grant given by the
Estate for thatching with heather. Incidentally, the thatcher's name
was John Sloss. The Bannatynes were noted horsemen, good judges,
expert in the saddle. One of the clan has started a riding school at
Blackwaterfoot. The young generation of Bannatynes keep up the family
reputation. It is a pure joy to watch them poise in the saddle. At one
time they had the reputation of being slick in a horse deal. A woman
at Lochranza warned her son as he set out for Shiskine Fair to have no
dealings with the "Nazaree." Notwithstanding this advice the poor
fellow got badly bitten. In those far-off days slick work in a deal
was looked upon rather as a virtue that a vice. In not a few cases
they got the worse of the bargain. There was an Ebenezer and a Ronald.
It is from the issue of the latter that your chairman and I made
contact in the past. My great-grandmother was his grandmother's aunt.
There is something unique in this family. There was 29 years between
the first and the last birth in the family, the same mother. Now, Mr
Chairman, with knowledge such as this before us, whatever misgivings
we may have regarding the clan, there can be no doubt whatever
regarding the fertility of the breed. Like the Curries, their
prospects of survival are excellent.

ROBERTSONS. This, as you all know, is my own clan. Nobody seems to
know when they came to Arran. At one time they were Clan Duncan.
Tradition has them also associated with Robert the Bruce. You can take
that for what it is worth. In 1719 I find an ancestor of mine, Wm.
M'Rob, severely censured by the Kirk Session for grinding corn on the
Fast Day. In the 1830 Rent Roll we get five families in Torbeg, one in
Kilpatrick, one in Feorline, and one in Tormore. One of this clan was
noted for physical strength, namely Strong Jock. If the reports we
hear can be relied on this man's strength in Dominie Sampson's
phraseology was "prodigious." Now, you may ask me what the prospects
are regarding the survival of this clan. We have at the moment more
young men of marriageable age in the district than any of the others.
With so many potential progenitors in our midst, the prospect of
survival is favourable.

M'KENZIES. We do not know exactly when the clan came to the Island.
There is a Donald M'Kenzie mentioned in the Session records 200 years
ago. There was a Patrick M'Kenzie taxman in Shedog in 1776. The first
M'Kenzie settled in Tormore in 1796. His christian name is Gilbert.
Evidently the first Sym settled there the same year. When I was a boy
there were eight families of the name in Machrie alone. In the Free
Church records of 1845 we find Peter and Alexander M'Kenzie,
grandfather and great-grandfather of your secretary, members of
Session. Now, the prospect of survival of this old and honoured name
is less favourable than any of the others I have mentioned. There is
only one M'Kenzie under 40 in the whole district. Unless in the near
future (I say this in all seriousness) there is a distinct and
definite movement among the drybones of those that remain, that old
and honoured clan will have joined the company of the Crawfords,
M'Gregors, Cooks, etc., and become only a memory. I trust those blunt
and outspoken statements will have the desired effect.

End of part 1