Home R-M222 in Southwest Scotland


In the southwest (SW) of Scotland and in other areas of Scotland, there appear to be clusters of surnames that share the M222+ Y chromosome. This Y chromosome was defined by EthnoAncestry in March 2007, as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), called R1b1a2a1a1b4b (previously R1b1b2a1b5b) in FTDNA SNP Tree and R1b1a2a1a2c1a1a1 in the ISOGG Y-DNA SNP Tree. It has been estimated that this particular Y chromosome is carried by more than 6 per cent of all Scottish men today, or to put it another way, by around 150,000 Scottish males. In their book ’The Scots: A Genetic Journey’, Alistair Moffat and James F. Wilson, go on to claim these Scottish men are direct descendants of Niall, High King of the Irish, who lived around 1500 years ago. The frequency of the M222 group is illustrated by a map using pie charts created from nearly 3000 Y chromosome samples across the British Isles and Ireland. To my knowledge, the report and database used to calculate these estimates have never been made public for other researchers to evaluate. This has left an obvious gap in terms of current and future research into the Age of the M222 Y chromosome and the claim made about the origins of its reputed progenitor.  To other researchers, there is growing evidence to suggest this SNP is older than the legendry Niall of the Nine of Hostages, who was first linked to the M222 Y chromosome in 2006.


There are at least ten surnames in the R-M222 Haplogroup Project that appear to share a common genetic heritage and early history that is suggestive of a Gall Ghaidheil background.  However, before going on to consider these surnames, I will outline the current understanding of Galloway’s early history and the likely origins of its Gaelic speaking people, who gave Galloway its name.  Fergus de Galloway, who died in 1161, is the earliest traceable Galwegian chief and the last native king of the Gall Gaidheil. The territory he ruled over was roughly co-terminus with those counties that came to be known as Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire. His parentage and ancestry remain obscure to modern historians, but his royal status has long been recognised.  Amongst Scottish and Irish historians alike, it is also recognised most or all of Wigtownshire in the eleventh century was known as na Renna, and was part of a wider Viking Dublin based hegemony, stretching from the Isle of Man to the Western Isles. With this in mind, it can no longer be taken for granted that the region held by Fergus in the first half of the twelfth century, defined the boundaries of that territory occupied by the Gall Ghaidheil, foreign gaels of mixed Gaelic-Scandinavian origin, a century or so earlier.

In the twelfth century, David I, king of Scots, is known to have ruled at least four other districts in SW Scotland, which in one charter are described as the four kadrez of that Galloway (de illa Galweia, i.e. of that part of Galloway) held by David in the lifetime of his elder brother Alexander, who was king of Scotland between 1107 and 1124.  The four districts in question seem to have covered, Carrick, Kyle and Cunningham in Ayrshire, and Strathgryfe in Renfrewshire. At least two other districts are known to have been detached from Galloway, i.e. Nithsdale and Annandale, and these with the others might have formed a much larger region, that in the tenth century, is believed to have been centralised in and around the Firth of the Clyde.  It has been argued, its boundaries on the mainland were gradually extended southward taking in much of what is now Ayrshire, followed by further territorial gains made at the expense of the Britons of Strathclyde into Nithsdale and Annandale during the eleventh century. All this demonstrates, there was an important geographical shift in the boundaries of the Gall Ghaidheil between the tenth and twelfth century, before its core was finally established along the Solway Firth under the lordship of the De Galloway family.


One of the earliest sources to mention the names Gall Ghaidheil and Na Renna as separate territories in Scotland, is the Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee, also known as the Martyrology of Tallaght, an Irish abbey located near Dublin. Oengus’s martyrology is thought to date from as early as 790 though some scholars suggest a later date to 830. It is written in prose and contains two sections for each day of the year, one general and one for Irish saints.  The earliest manuscript copies of the martyrology contain marginalia, notes on each saint with some believed to have been added as early as the tenth century. According to the martyrology, St Blaan or Blane was bishop of Cenngarad, modern Kingarth on the Isle of Bute. Cenn Garad then can be firmly located in Gallgaidelaib and as Thomas Clancy observes, Bute was considered as Gall Ghaidheil  territory not much later than 900.


St. Bláán of Kingarth in the Island of Bute (obit August 10, 590)

Martyrology of Oengus (10th Century)

Blaan cain Cinn Garad

[T] Fair Blaan of Cenn Garad

Notation in Martyrology

The Franciscan MS

Blaan .i. espoc Chinn garadh Dul (sic) Blaan a primhchathair o Chinn garadh do .i. a n-Gallgaidelaib.

[T] Blaan, i.e. bishop of Cenngarad, and Dun Blaain (Dunblane) was his chief monastery, and of Cenngarad was he, i.e. in Galloway.

[Stokes, Whitley: Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee (London, 1905)]

The old abbey of Cenn Garad lay in the territory of the Cenel Comgall in Dal Riata. In the Annals of Ulster, the obits of five bishops and abbots of Cenn Garad are noted from 660 down to 790. It is significant that the same Annal also records the death of the last named king of Dal Riata, Dorm Corci two years later in 792. The old kingdom of Dal Riata embraced the territories of Cenel Grabain, Cenel Comgall and Cenel Loarn in modern Arygleshire.  

AU 660: Obit of Daniél, bishop of Cenn Garad.

AU 689: Obit of Iolán, bishop of Cenn Garad.

AU 737: Obit of Rónán, abbot of Cenn Garad.

AU 776: Obit of Mael Manach, abbot of Cenn Garad.

AU 790: Obit of Nóe, abbot of Cenn Garad.

AU 792: Obit of Dorm Corci, king of Dál Riata.

The notation in the martyrology of Oengus also locates two place-names in Na Renna, Dun Rechet and Whithorn in Wigtownshire. In the first, Colman Duib (black) is described as coming from Cuilenn isna Rennaibh .i. o Dhun Reichet - Cuilenn in the Renna i.e. from Dun Rechet, which has been identified with Dunragit in the Rhinns, Gaelic rinn, meaning points or headlands, with the English plural -s.  Dunragit is the ‘fort of Rheged’.  The second refers to Ninian of Futerna isna Rannaib – Whithorn in the Renna.  Futerna is Whithorn in the Machars, Gaelic Machairs, low-lying fertile plain, which in the tenth century apparently was part of Na Renna. Dun Rechet and Futerna firmly give Na Renna or Renna a geographical context in Wigtownshire.  

St. Colman Duib of Cuilenn in Renna (obit November 25)

Martyrology of Oengus (10th Century)

La Colman duib Chuilinn

[T] With Colman Duib of Cuileen.

Notation to Colman Duib of Cuilenn

The Franciscan MS

Colman duib Chuilind isna Rennaibh .i. o Dhun Reichet o Beluch Conghais il-Laghnibh et ab aliis [locis]. Luidh Comhghall Bennchair de thigh athar Colmain duibh Chuilinn. Bean aimrit occa. Cuinnchidh dano in cleirech dubh scribind don mnai aimrit. Atnaghar. Comperd Colman de, unde Colman duib cuilind est.

[T] Colman of the ink (duib) of Cuilenn in the Renna, i.e. from Dun Rechet and from Belach Conglais in Leinster, and from other places. Comgall of Bangor went to the house of Colman duib Chuilinn’s father, who had a barren wife. Then the cleric asks writing-ink of the barren wife. It is given (and she tastes it). Thereof Colman is conceived. Hence he was called Colman of the ink of Cuilenn.

St. Ninnan of Whithorn in Renna (obit September 28)

Martyrology of Oengus (10th Century)

Da Findio geldai it gessi im cech cobair, clear mar Marchill umail, Iunaill la lith lobair.

[T] The two bright Findios are to be asked for every aid: the great train of humble Marcellus; with the festival of infirm Junillus.

Notation to the two Findias

Laud 610

No Findia gillda, id est Finden Cluana hIraird memoratur hic. No Gillae nomen sancti, no d Findia. Alii dicunt combad he dobeth i Futerna isna Rannaib si uerum est.

[T] Or Findia gillda, i.e. Finden of Clonard is commorated here. Or Gillae is the name of a saint. Or two Finias. Some say that it is he who used to be in Whithorn in the Renna, si uerum est.


Dunragit and Whithorn are both pre-Viking settlements and of the two, under the Anglo-Saxons, Whithorn was an important Christian centre dedicated to St. Ninian.  At what point the Vikings started to colonise the Rhinns and Machars has gone recorded, but it seems Whithorn was still a place of sanctuary, when the monks of Lindisfarne in Northumbria found refuge there sometime between 875 and 882. Their monastery had been sacked by the Danes in 875, forcing them to spend the next seven years wandering through the northeast of England, Cumbria, Galloway and Yorkshire, seeking out food and shelter. During this period the Danes and Norse ravaged much of the country; and one could well image them attacking the Anglo-Saxon settlements in what would eventually become a Viking territory, probably sometime in the first half of the tenth century.

There is a unique entry in the Annals of Ulster of a battle in 913 ‘on the Saxon coast’ between the Vikings and the new fleet of the Ulaid, which culminated in their defeat. This Annalistic note appears to be the first reference to Scandinavian presence in Galloway. The name of one of the Ulaid leader’s killed in the battle is recorded: Cumuscach son of Mael Mocheirge son of Indrechtach, king of Leth Cathail, Lecale in Co. Down. Whatever motives lay behind the expedition, the new fleet seem to have directed their efforts against the Norse, who were reasserting themselves on the Irish sea board. Since the Ulaid coastline in Co. Down is only about 18 miles from the Rhinns of Galloway, it is likely it was still viewed as being in Saxonland by the Irish annalist in 913.   A century later, we learn from the Annals of Loch Cé, the Vikings were firmly in control, as a war-band was sent from Na Renna to support their Viking kinsmen in Dublin, where they fought against the famous Brian Boru, high king of Ireland, and his Irish army at the battle of Clontarf in 1014.

AU 913.5

Cathroined re n-gentibh for fairinn nochoblaigh de Ultaibh i n-airiur Saxan dú i torchradur ili, .i. Cumuscach m. Mael Mochorghi m. righ Leithi Cathail.

[T] The heathens inflicted a battle-rout on the crew of a new fleet of the Ulaid, on the coast of England, and many fell, including Cumuscach son of Mael Mocheirgi, son of the king of Leth Cathail.

Note: Saxan here has been translated England, however, England is Angliam.

Na Renna, as a distinct territory is also listed separately from Gall Ghaidheil in the Vita of Gruffydd ap Cynan, king of Gwynedd, who died in 1137. He was the son of Cynan ap Iago and Ragnhild, daughter of Olaf son of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, a Viking king of Dublin. In the Vita, Gruffydd’s material grandfather, Olaf is credited with being over-king of several kingdoms including ‘Renna’ and ‘Galwei’, the Latin equivalent to the Gaelic name Gall Ghaidheil.  

HGC 1034

Bonhed Gruffudd o barth y vam: Fruffudd vrenhin, m Regnell, verch Avleod, vrenhin dinas Dulyn a phymhet ran ywerdon ac enys Vanav, a hanoed gynt o deyrnas Prydein. A brenhin oed ar lawer o enyssed ereill, Denmarc, a Galwei, a Renneu, a Mon, a Gvyned a gvyned ene lle y gwnaeth avloed castell cadarn ae dom ae fos etwas en amlvc ac aelwit castell avloed vrenhin.

[T] Gruffudd’s pedigree on his mother side: king Gruffudd, son of Ragnallt, daughter of Olaf, king of the city of Dublin, and a fifth part of Ireland and the Isle of Man, who came of yore from the kingdom of Britain. And he was king over many other islands, Denmark and Galloway and the Rinns, and Man, and Anglesey, and Gwynedd, where Olaf built a strong castle with its mound and ditch still visible and called “The Castle of King Olaf”.

Note: Vita Griffinin filii Conani is in Peniarth MS 17 which dates to the middle of the thirteenth century. See Jones, Arthur: The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan (Manchester, 1910), pp. 104-5, and Russell, Paul: Vita Griffini Filii Conani (Cardiff, 2005), p. 55, 129-130.

In the Irish Annals, Olaf’s name is also spelt as Amlaib or Amhlaeibh.  Olaf died in 1034, the same year the annals record the obituaries of Malcolm son of Cinaed, king of Scots, and Suibne son of Cinaed, king of the Gall Ghaidheil.

AU 1034: Mael Coluim son of Cinaed, king of Scotland, died.

AU 1034: Amlaíb son of Sitriuc was killed by the Saxons on his way to Rome.

AU 1034: Suibne m. Cinaedha, ri Gall-Gaidhel, mortuus est.

             [T] Suibne son of Cinaed, king of the Gallgaedil, died.

Suibne (Sweeney), king of the Gall Ghaidheil, was a contemporary of Olaf son of Sigtrygg Silkbeard and Malcolm son of Cinaed, otherwise Malcolm II, king of Scots from 1005 until his death in 1034.  It has been suggested by Benjamin Hudson, Suibne son of Cinead (Kenneth) may have been a brother of Malcolm II. This theory has been rejected by some historians, though, Thomas Clancy has proposed it should be resurrected again, if only to re-examine and reject the suggestion. The names Suibne and Cinead are certainly Gaelic personal names and were used widely throughout the Gaelic speaking world both in Ireland and Scotland. In particular, Cinead frequently appears in the royal lineages of the kings of Scots from Cinead mac Alpin onwards. Consequently, there is a real possibility Suibne and his father Cinead spoke Gaelic as their first language and arguably, their names demonstrate a lineage that might well parallel the kings of Scots.  Perhaps, Hudson’s suggestion should not be demised so lightly.

At the time of Suibne son of Cinead’s death in 1034, Echmarcach mac Ragnall is believed to have been king of Renna. He was certainly called such when the chronicler Marianus Scottus (d.c.1082), described him as rex inna renn, king of the Rhinns, when he died on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1065. Echmarcach is undoubtedly the same Iehmarc, one of the three kings who submitted to Cnut, the Danish King of England, when he journeyed north into Scotland in 1031 to receive the submission of Malcolm II, king of Scots, and MacBeth, also described as being a king. Benjamin Hudson has suggested Echmarcach’s father was Ragnall son of Gofraid, king of Innse Gall. Gofraid died in 989.  He has also proposed MacCongal, king of Na Renna, who was slain in 1094, could be Fingal son of Gofraid, king of the Isles. If this suggestion is correct, Renna was more than likely lost to the Vikings about this time or it could have fallen sometime before this date, possibly about the time the Gall Ghaidheil expanded into Strathclyde, also known as Cumbria, the land of the Britons. The centre of Gall Ghaidheil power had arguably shifted by then, though, where exactly Suibne’s fort was located in unknown. It has been suggested by Andrew Jennings and Arne Kruse, little Dunagoil (Dun na gall, fort of the foreigners) close by Kingarth on Bute was the royal centre of the Gall Ghaidheil in the ninth century.

As far as can be traced, not a single copy of a genealogy has survived that records Suibne son of Cinead’s lineage or gives the names of the men who would succeed him as kings of the Gall Ghaidheil. This has left a huge gap in understanding of the Gall Ghaidheil elite and their kindred in the eleventh century. Similarly, not a single genealogy has survived for Fergus de Galloway, which has created a vacuum and uncertainty as to his ancestral blood ties with Suibne son of Cinead.  He can neither be ruled out nor ruled in completely, leaving Fergus’s ancestry obscured.  The Gall Ghaidheil themselves were a people of mixed Gaelic-Scandinavian origin, who brought with them their language, culture and laws into parts of SW Scotland that previously had been part of the territory of the Britons and Anglo-Saxons. It is extremely unlikely though they completely dislodged the native Britons and Anglo-Saxons, as there is evidence to show they survived in pockets under the Gall Ghaidheil in places like Carrick in Ayrshire.

By 1070, when Malcolm III (1058-93), king of Scots, led his armies against the Northumbrians, he had men from Galloway, who according to the chronicler are said to have been his vassals. These men came probably from the wider south-western regions, rather than that territory now defined as Galloway. No record has survived to show how and when the king of Scots was able to assert his authority over the Gall Ghaidheil nor what became of its ruling class, who seem to have survived the political upheavals long enough to forge new political alliances and to establish themselves under Fergus.  His DNA haplogroup is unknown.  However, since the Gall Ghaidheil were foreign gaels of mixed Gaelic-Scandinavian origin, the presence of the M222 SNP in Fergus’s Galloway should add new insights and hopefully, shed more light on the ancestral relationships between the M222+ in SW Scotland and other parts of Scotland and Ireland.


The Milligan/Milliken DNA Project preserves the earliest genealogical paper trail in SW Scotland.  The Milligans of Dempsterton in Nithsdale (see Map 1) can be traced back to the first half of the sixteenth century, and traditionally to McRath Amuligane who first appears as head or chief of the Amuligane kindred in 1296.  Until then, Scotland was bereft of any comprehensive listing to its landowners. In 1296, Edward I, king of England, summoned all the prominent Scottish landowners, churchmen and burgesses to swear allegiance to him at a parliament held at Berwick-on-Tweed on August 28, 1296. The names of those people who submitted to him are given in the deeds of submission and fealty (commonly known as the Ragman Rolls), which list the names of several men in SW Scotland, whose lineage surnames are significant to the M222+ lineage and their origins in Galloway and other parts in the SW Scotland.  Foremost in this list are the names of Michael or Gillemichael MacEthe and McRath ap Molegan, otherwise McRath Amuligane. Both were native chiefs and local barons within the sheriffdom of Dumfries, which in 1296 covered Annandale, Nithsdale and Kirkcudbrightshire, as far west as the parish of Minnigaff. These lineage ancestors and others, who appear in documents relating the thirteenth century and later, will be considered alongside present day DNA research.

The style of the surname Amuligane is indicative of a lineage-name with the prefix “A” sharing a similar meaning to the Irish “O”, which is found in family surnames of early origin in Ireland. In SW Scotland, some of the earliest “A” type lineage-names also appear with the Irish ‘O’, e.g. Acoueltan spelt as Okeueltal in the late 1190s in Carrick in South Ayrshire.  Although, called ap Molegan, in a list of men restored to the lands on September 3, 1296, at the same Parliament, the king issued a writ to the sheriff of Dumfriesshire to restore “Makerathe Molgan” to his lands.  The writ itself has not survived but the name Molgan can be identified with Malgon, who lived a generation or so earlier and witnessed a charter of Edgar son of Dovenald, lord of Nithsdale, in or about 1210.  McRath’s land had been forfeited by Edward I, for his support to John Balliol, king of Scotland.

The Amuligane lineage shares an early history with another old Nithsdale kindred, the Grierson family of Lag in Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire. Although, the Grierson family history can be traced to a date no earlier than 1376, its genetic ties with the Amuliganes provides an intriguing backdrop into the early history of the M222 SNP in what many people might consider a remote area outside the Irish hegemony of NW Ireland, where for many the origins of the M222 is located.  David Grierson’s study into the Grierson DNA modal has complimented our own and has added another tier to the genealogical paper trail going back to 1376 and beyond. For a more detailed study on the Amuligane-Grierson DNA research clicking this link.  Both the Milligan/Milliken and Grierson DNA Projects provide a firm basis on which to draw comparisons with other M222+ DNA Projects, which have already been highlighted in my Map in ‘A Dated Plylogenetic Tree of M222 SNP haplotypes’.  Significantly, both surnames preserve oral traditions that were committed to writing, in the nineteenth century, and are independent of each other. Each of these is considered later in this page along with some found elsewhere in Scotland.

The McGhies, McGees, Maghees

In Galloway, the variant surnames McGhie or McGee are derived from the old Gaelic form Mac Eth, a form of Irish Mag Aoidh or Scottish Mac Aedh, anglicised to ‘son of Hugh’.  Aoidh was a popular Celtic name, meaning ‘fire’. Early chroniclers wrote the name Ed, Eth or Heth often as Y or Iye, which with the intrusion of ‘g’ or ‘k’ became McGeth or McKy.  In the Gaelic alphabet, there is no letter ‘k’, which is interesting, as the intrusion of the ‘k’ in McKy later McKie, has created some confusion over the spelling of several clan names in Scotland where the  element ‘Y’ is contained in the name, e.g. McKay.  For the purpose of this article, I have separated the surname McGhie from McKie, which in early times were often used interchangeably in Galloway.

The name McGhie is first recorded in the Rolls of Submission and Fealty, commonly called the Ragman Roll, on 28 August, 1296, when ‘Gilmighel Mac Ethe’ is listed amongst the landowners of the ‘county of Dumfries’. With ‘Dovenald Mac Can’ (McGillolane) and ‘Maurcie de Stubhile’,’ Gille Michel Mac Gethe’ received a personal acknowledgement from King Edward for retaking a number of castles in Galloway in 1297. Abstracts of the earliest McGhie records in Galloway can be viewed on this link.  Although the McGhies only emerge a distinct family in 1296, when Gillemichael MacEth rendered homage to Edward I of England, the old place-name Balmaghie in Kirkcudbrightshire, is probably older.

Balmaghie means ‘Mag Eth’s baile’.  Baile is not only the most frequent but also the most instructive of Gaelic settlement terms, for whether it is translated as ‘village’, ‘hamlet’, ‘town’, ‘home’, or ‘farm’, it always refers to a permanent type of human settlement, the inference being that, wherever it occurs, it is indicative of a well-settled Gaelic speaking population, as it takes quite a number of people speaking a certain language to create, use, and sustain place-names in that language. The little village or farmtoun of Baile-Mag-Eth must have existed as a Gaelic settlement long before the thirteenth century and owes it’s name to some now obscure McEth, whose lineage and ancestry appears to descend from the equally obscure Clan Afren, spelt ‘Clenafren’ in a Norman French document, probably a translation of an original article written at Wigtown in 1298.  This document provides a unique glimpse into what might well be one of Galloway’s oldest clans and is the only extant document in Galloway that preserves the names of its chief men or heads of families.  

In his article, What’s in a Name? Reflections on the names and origin of the Clenafren of Galloway, Dr. Donald McWhannell has corrected several transcription errors found in Bain’s transcript. In the transcript given below, the corrections have been highlighted in italics.

‘Letters of certain inhabitants of Scotland’

‘Gillenef McGilleherf, Neel McEthe, Gillecryst McEthe, Dungal Mc gilleneras, Duncan McGillauenan, Adam McGilleconil, Gillespic McEnri, Cuthbert McEnri, Kalman McKelli, Michael his brother, Hoen McEl-he, Cuthbert his brother, Achmacath McGilmotha, Michael McGilmotha, the chief men (greinours) of the lineage of Clenafren, declare that having aided John de Balliol late K. of Scotland, in his war and “fole enprise” against the K. of England, who is about to send his army into Galloway to chastise them, they for themselves and their lineage confess their fault, come to his peace, and swear on the Saints to assist him against Balliol and all others; and have given hostages’.

‘Done at Wigeton, Monday next after St. John Baptist’s day [24 June] 1296’

There is one notable name missing from this list, ‘Gilmighel Mac Ethe’, at the time, then in the service of Edward, king of England. He might well have played a key role in bringing the men of the Clan Afren to heal and help restore them to the king’s peace in 1297. Gillemichael was still alive and in active service with ‘Dovenald Mac Can’ in 1304. After King Robert came to the throne Scotland, the fortunes of the McGhies appear to have suffered and not until after the king’s death, do we find the next series of names. In 1331, ‘Gilbert McGeth’ was collector of customs in the burgh of Kirkcudbright.  He is followed in 1339 by ‘Michael McGeth’, who with Sir Eustace Maxwell of Caerlervock near Dumfries and Duncan McDowall of Wigtownshire, received from King Edward II of England letters of pardon; all where subsequently admitted to the king’s peace after having joined the Scots campaign against Edward Balliol’s claim to throne of Scotland. He was son of John Balliol, who reigned as king of Scots between 1292 and 1296.

Michael McGeth’s defection to the English cause in 1339, probably lasted no longer than that of Maxwell and McDowall, who switched sides soon after King David returned to Scotland from France in 1344. It is possible Michael is the same man whose lineage name is spelt as ‘Michael McGorth’, if it is accepted ‘McGorth’ is simply another transcript error for McGeth or McGeith. If the case, Michael’s appointment by King David to the captaincy of the ‘Kenclanen’ or ‘Kenelman’, suggests he was back in royal favour. Other clan leaders in the southwest of Scotland, received similar appointments between 1344 and 1346, including, Gilbert McGillolane, chief of the Clan Connan in Galloway and son of the late Dovenald mac Can McGillolane, taken prisoner at the battle at the Fords of the River Dee on June 29, 1308, by Edward Bruce, brother of King Robert, against Dovenald and those men who remained loyal to the Balliol cause. Perhaps Gillemichael was amongst those killed by Edward Bruce.

From Gillemichael, Gilbert and Michael McGeth, the history of McGhies of Balmaghie is traced, including, their cadet branches, who appear in the following order; the McGhies of Plunton in the parish of Borgue, the McGhies of Portyerrock in the parish of Whithorn, the McGhies in the burgh of Kirkcudbright, the McGhies of Airie and Airds in the parish of Balmaghie, and the McGhies of Castlehill in the parish of Troqueer.  

DNA Genealogy In the R-M222 DNA Project, McGee DNA Project and the Son-of-Aodh DNA Project, there are a growing number of McGhie and McGhee testees who have been predicted or confirmed M222+. There is at least one possible family group currently trying to establish a definite genealogical paper trail to “John Maghee”, who died in 1617 and is buried in Old Leckpatrick graveyard in Co. Tyrone.  He was a Scottish settler on the estate of the earl of Abercorn, James Hamilton, in Strabane in Co. Tyrone, where David Mcghee, probably his son, was the seneschal on Hamilton’s estate for about 50 years.  He was a Roman Catholic, until he conformed to the Church of Ireland in 1650. He died in 1678 and in his will, he is called David Macghee of Loghmony.  Many Scottish Roman Catholics settled on Hamilton’s estate in Co. Tyrone, and there is circumstantial evidence to suggest John Maghee may have been the same John McGhee, notary public of Dumfries, who fled Scotland after he was declared an out-law by King James in 1608 for refusing to denounce his adherence to the Roman Catholic faith.  

The Mckies, McKees, McKys

The history of the McKies in Galloway has been traced directly to the parish of Minnigaff in Kirkcudbrightshire and the story of their origins goes back to the reign of Robert the Bruce.  In his book A Large Description of Galloway, Andrew Symson narrates a well rehearsed tradition about King Robert.  When fleeing the English garrison in Carrick in 1307, he found sanctuary in the Galloway Hills, where he met the widow of Craigencallie in the parish of Minnigaff. Here, he recruited her three sons all born by different husbands. The eldest son was a McKie, the second a Murdoch and youngest a McLurg, and all three are said to have served the king throughout the remaining years of the war. After King Robert fully established himself on the throne, it is said, he granted them the land between the Penkill and Palnure burn in the parish of Minnigaff with the eldest son, McKie, obtaining the land afterwards formed into the barony of Larg. Murdoch, the second son, received that portion called Cumloden, and the third son McLurg, receive Kirouchtrie, part of which is now Machermore. In his book on The Bruce, Barbour (c.1372) also refers to the King’s meeting with the widow, but he only mentions two unnamed sons.

Significantly, the lineage names Murdoch and McLurg both appear in the Ragman Rolls of 1296 and are directly tied to the southwest of Scotland.  In the Ragman Rolls, Gillemichael McEthe is followed by “Macrath ap Molegan” and McRath is followed by “John Murthok” in a list of men from the sheriffdom of Dumfries.  Murdoch is an anglicised form of the Gaelic name Muireadach or Muireadaigh. The name of “Gilbert Maklurke” also appears amongst a list of men drawn from the earldom of Carrick in south Ayrshire. Lurg in McLurg or McClurg, meaning ‘son of Lurg’, is Gaelic for ‘footman’. Both these men evidence the fact, the lineage names Murdoch and McLurg already existed in the southwest of Scotland sometime before 1296, though, it would appear neither belonged to the kindred of the Clan Afren.

The surname McKie first appears in 1330 in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, which notes a payment received from 'Cudberti McMaky in vicecomitatu de Wygton’, who paid a certain sum of money for 'relief', one of the feudal causalities payable by an heir before entering and taking up a feudal tenure. This suggests, Cuthbert was an heir and inherited land in the sheriffdom of Wigtown probably from his father. McMaky is mac Maky, a style similar to mac mac Ky, usually taken to mean the grandson of Ky.  This formula is found elsewhere in Galloway as early as twelfth century and coupled together, it indicates the beginnings of a lineage name that would go on to become a fixed surname.  Before the creation of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in or after 1372, the boundary between the sheriffdoms of Wigtown and Dumfries, at different times, shifted from the river Cree on the west of Minnigaff to include the whole of the parish. It is therefore possible, Cuthbert inherited the land of Larg in this parish.



Related to this study is the question; could the McKies in the parish of Minnigaff have been descended from Neel McEthe and Gillecryst McEthe in the Clan Afren? Academic studies have tended to seek out the origins of the McKies in areas outside of Galloway, often to the determent of evidence that points to a localised explanation.  For example, some historians have attempted to connect the McKies with the MacKays of Strathnaver in Sutherland, in the far north of Scotland. The progenitor of this family, Iye MacEth was born about 1210 and is said to have been the first chief of the Clan MacKay. He was Chamberlain to Walter de Baltrode, Bishop of Caithness, and had three sons: Iye Mor, Morgan, and Martin. The youngest son, Martin is said to have settled in Galloway, where he founded the Galloway branch of the MacKays of Strathnaver.

Another link has been drawn with the McKays in Kintyre, who are said to be descended from Gilchrist M’Ay, whose name survives in two early documents (see no. 1 & 2). Between 1315 and 1325, King Robert created the sherrifdom of Argyll, and about 1325 or 1326, Tarbert in North Kintrye, already a royal castle, became a burgh and centre for the new sheriffdom. In the exchequer accounts of 1326, taken at Tarbet, there is a note of a payment by Gilchrist M’Ay to John de Leny, constable of Tarbert. Three years later in 1329, the king granted Gilchrist, called Gilchrist Mac Ymar Mc Ay, certain lands in Kintyre in return for his service and homage. This charter was granted at Monreith in Wigtownshire, near St. Ninian's Cave, on March 31, 1329, when the king was on a pilgrimage to St. Ninian's shrine at Whithorn. The names of two of Gilchrist’s sons are also mentioned in this grant, Gilchrist minor filius Gilchrist Mac Ymar Mc Ay, and Ymar senior filius Gilchrist Mac Ymar Mc Ay.  The appearance of the McKays in 1326 at Tarbert and the grant of lands in North Kintyre in 1329, suggest they either originated from Kintyre or where settled there by the king. The pedigree of the McKays in Kintrye is found under the Genealogy of the clan Aodh [Ay] in the 1467 Gaelic Manuscript.

Cuthbert’s name is not mentioned in Gilchrist’s charter, as one of his sons. Instead, he appears to have been a contemporary of Gilchrist and/or his two sons, succeeding to lands in the sheriffdom of Wigtownshire rather than in Argyllshire. The story of the widow of Craigencallie and her sons, points to Cuthbert’s lineage being tied to a district close to the old lineage of Clan Afren or perhaps, they were already from the same district. As P. H. McKerlie in his History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway observed, prior to Robert’s grant of the barony of Larg, the McKies are not known to have been landowners in Galloway. This however doesn’t mean they were not already living in the area prior to then, simply, they like many other families never held their land directly from the crown by charter. The original charter granting the barony of Larg to the McKies has not survived: had it survived, it would no doubt have given the name of the founding ancestor and spelling of the surname.

Amongst other things, this study aims to clarify if the McKies and McGhies in Galloway share a common ancestor in the Clan Afren, and if it is possible the McKies descend from ‘Neel McEthe’ and/or ‘Gillecryst McEthe’ chief men in the Clan Afren. This clan might well be one of the oldest clans in Galloway with a founding ancestor thought to have lived sometime in the tenth century or perhaps even earlier.  If the oldest, it might also hold a clue as to the origins of the R-M222 Haplogroup in Scotland and to the McKies of Larg. Certainly, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, we find the surname McKie well established in Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire, so much so, that the number of families bearing this variant surname out number the McGhies.

DNA Genealogy: In the R-M222 DNA Project, McKee DNA Project and the Son-of-Aodh DNA Project, there are a growing number of McKie and McKee testees who have been predicted or confirmed M222+. One testee in each DNA Projects can be traced directly to James McKie, who lived in and around the parish of Rerrick in Kirkcudbrightshire in the mid 1700s. Other testees whose ancestry can be linked to the Scottish settlement in Ulster, appear to have settled there from the southwest of Scotland. Future genealogically search may well confirm family traditions.  Significantly, there is a unique haplotype or core cluster for the M222+ McKee, McKie, McGhee that shares certain allele values with at least two other surnames known originate in SW Scotland, McComb or McColm and Walker.  It is:






An old South Ayrshire name first mentioned in the Ragman Roll of 1296, when ‘Gilbert Maklurke’ gave homage and fealty to Edward I, king of England. His seal bears a squirrel leaping, S’ Gilb’ti Maclurg. The next direct reference, after the story of the widow of Craigencallie, is found in 1465 when Thomas McLurg witnessed a sasine of Gilbert Kennedy of Coiff in the parish of Kirkoswald. In 1492, Donald Mcklurg and Fergus, his son, witnessed a grant by Thomas Kennedy of Bargany. From 1500 onwards, there is an increase in the number of references and like other native families in the southwest of Scotland, the McLurg’s standing as landowners, appears to have been one of decline. In the 1600s, some would emigrate to Ulster and others to North America in the 1700s.

DNA: In Ysearch, three McLurg results have been tested M222+ each traced to William McLurg in Wigtownshire.


There is another interesting cluster of STRs that share a recLOH at YCAIIa-b = 19-19, a multi-copy marker associated with a group of surnames, including McConkey, McGee and McLurg found in SW Scotland. All three surnames have known antecedents, Gilbert MacCoignache, Gilmichael MacEthe and Gilbert Maklurke, who are all listed in the Ragman Roll of 1296 with the names MacCoignache and MacEthe listed from the sheriffdom of Dumfries and Maklurke from the sheriffdom of Ayr. I have already commented McEthe/McGhie and McLurk/McLurg, and like these surnames, McConchie can be found in SW Scotland in areas neighbouring McGhies, McKies, McLurgs and McHargs. The surname is derived from the old Gaelic patronymic MacDonnachaidh, meaning, son of Duncan, and is found in other parts of Scotland, such as, Argyllshire and Perthshire, where the Clan Donnachaidh are found in the old earldom of Atholl.

The location of the lands held by Gilbert MacConchie aka MacDonnachaidhs in Galloway in 1296 is now lost, but there is some evidence to suggest his lands were located in Kirkcudbrightshire. In 1347, ‘Malcolm McConyge’ was one twelve jurors who sat on an Inquisition held at Dumfries enquiring into the claims of John de Malton served heir to his father Henry de Malton. Interestingly, after the lordship of Galloway was forfeited from the earls of Douglas by the crown in 1455, the McConchies do not appear in the royal rentals of 1456 and 1457. We next catch a glimpse of them in 1485, when John Davidson, Gilbert Maklure, John Makconchye and Ewan Maklure witnessed grant of Thomas Kennedy of Blairquhan in Ayrshire for the lands of Little Dundrod in Kirkcudbrightshire on January 12, 1485. Gilbert Makconquhy was a tenant of Glenquicken and Dargawell (the two and half merkland old extent) in the barony of the ‘Ferry de Cree’ in the parish of Kirkmabreck in Kirkcudbrightshire in 1545.   Next we find ‘Thomas Makcongwe’ witnessing an instrument of resignation by John Durant of the lands of Nether Carse in the barony of Sweetheart in Kirkcudbright in 1550.

DNA Genealogy: The McConchie DNA research is part of the Clan Donnachaidh DNA Project. One of the testees in this group has a lineage traced back to John McConchie in Kirkbride in the parish of Anwoth in 1755.  There is a very strong possibility John McConchie descends from an extend family of McConchies found in the parishioner lists of Kirkmabreck in 1684. Of the 27 McConchie names found in the parishioner lists of Kirkcudbrightshire in 1684, 20 of them appear in the parish of Kirkmabreck, which immediately bound the parish of Anwoth (see Map under McCord). One DNA test in this group has been confirmed DF85+ and DF97 negative. Since DF85+ is shared with the McConachies of Kingarth in the Island of Bute, further research is needed to establish the relationship between these two families.  






The McAdams of Waterhead in the parish of Carsphairn in Kirkcudbrightshire are another old established family and their history is given in more detail on the Lineage of McAdam of Waterhead.  The McAdams first appear in the district in 1508 when Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar was accused of oppressing an unnamed McAdam. He might well have been Andrew McAdam the earliest known ancestor of this branch, who appears in a series of documents between 1511 and 1512.  His son, ‘John Makadam son of Andrew’ was pardoned at Wigtown on November 18, 1511, for the murdered of ‘John Makadam of Burn’.  Andrew held lands in Ayrshire, where we find him agreeing to quit claim his rights over the lands of Overgrief and Gelt on January 7, 1512, if James Dunbar of Cumnock paid the £20 owed to Andrew. He was succeeded by his son ‘John McCadam’, who on February 21, 1513, was infeft by John Crawford of Drongan, baillie of James Dunbar of Cumnock, of the two merklands of ‘Over Gerrif’ and of the half merkland of the lands of Wellis of Gelt lying with the barony of Cumnock. Another son, Donald McAdam of Erwy in the hall of Terringzean near Cumnock, who loaned Andrew Campbell in Terringzean £20 in 1513. Like the McCords, the McAdams are likely to have lived between Galloway and Ayrshire, a common enough pattern found in other families.

Donald appears to be the same ‘Donald McCaddam’ who resigned the lands of Over Longford in the parish of Carsphairn into the hands of Lawrence Grierson of Kirkbriderig, tutor and attorney of John Grierson of Lag on May 28, 1517. Amongst the witnesses to this document was a William Amuligane, who belonged to a branch of the Amuliganes of Blackmyre in the parish of Penpont in Nithsdale. This family held the lands of Over Holm of Dalquhairn in the parish of Carsphairn.  This places the McAdams, Amuliganes and Griersons all within close proximity to each other.  The McAdams lived at Waterhead (see no. 7 on the map under McCord) until it was finally lost to the family in the late 1700s. The story of how it was lost is told under ‘James McAdam and the Lost of Waterhead’ by David McClure.

DNA Genealogy: In the McAdam DNA Project, there is a small cluster of DNA tests with one confirmed M222+ traced from James McAdam (born about 1662) and Margaret Reid of Waterhead (see Kit no. 165907). There is also another branch of the McAdams from the Arisaig area in Lochaber in Invernesshire, who are confirmed M222+ but seem to belong to the Highland branch of the M222+ Haplogroup. The haplotype for the McAdams of Waterhead is below.





The MacDowalls, MacDowells or McDouels

In his Surnames of Scotland, George F. Black denotes MacDowall as a derivative of the Gaelic name MacDhughaill, meaning ‘son of Dubghall’, and in Scotland it is a variant of MacDougall.  It is generally accepted the transliteration of the “ug” in Dougall to “w” in Dowall was introduced by the English, who had difficulty pronouncing the Gaelic version. In Scots Gaelic, Dubghall is from dubh, meaning ‘black’, and gall, ‘foreigner’ or ‘stranger’, and it is suggestive of a Viking or Dane.  MacDowall and its later form MacDowell is most common in Galloway, where the name of the ancestor of the Clan MacDowall has eluded both family and academic historians.  Three possible eponyms have been proposed and each is briefly considered in this article, before moving on to examine the earliest references.  However, before doing so, it goes without saying too much, the Clan MacDowall should not be confused with the Clan Dougall of Argyle and Lorn, who descend from the Dougall son of Somerled, lord of Argyle, whose father, Somerled was killed in 1164.  

The Clan Dowall’s own tradition asserts the MacDowalls descended from the elusive ‘Duegald de Galloway’, thought to be a younger son of Uchtred son of Fergus, lord of Galloway.  Tradition also asserts that the MacDowall ancestor was killed in battle fighting alongside his famous brother Roland son of Uchtred, who mounted an attack against a certain Gillecolm, a tyrant who had set himself up as a ruler in western Galloway.  Roland defeated and killed Gillecolm and many of his men in a battle fought on September 30, 1185, that also claimed the life of his unnamed brother and some of his own men.  Earlier in July 1185, the chronicles narrate that Roland invaded Galloway at the head of an army to reclaim his patrimony after the death of his uncle, Gilbert son of Fergus, who in September 1174 had murdered his brother Uchtred son of Fergus and deprived Roland of his patrimony.

Richard Oram has proposed an alternative lineage traced through Fergus son of Uchtred.  In his book, The Lordship of Galloway, Oram summarises the main arguments in his book. He points to the fact, the personal names Fergus and Uchtred occur within the MacDowall family in the fourteenth century, a strong family naming tradition that supports a traditional blood link with the lords of Galloway.  On its own this would mean little, until it is appreciated that the MacDowalls emerge as a key political force at time when the native Galwegians under pressure from outside, would have naturally sought the support of its own native leadership.  It has also been observed that from the defeat of John Balliol in 1296 until the establishment of Douglas power in the 1360s, the MacDowalls were the single most important family in Galloway. Their position as leaders of the Galwegians was recognised by both the Scottish and English, who frequently turned to them to win or preserve their allegiance.

Likely many other landed families in Scotland, the MacDowalls in Wigtownshire make their first appearance on August 28, 1296, in the Rolls of Submission and Fealty, commonly called the Ragman Roll, when ‘Fergus MacDowilt’ and ‘Dougal Macdowyl’ are listed amongst the landowners of ‘the county of Wigtown’.  A few days earlier, ‘Fergus McDuhile’ was one of thirteen jurors at the inquest post mortem into the heritage of Lady Elena la Zouche, the widow of Sir Adam la Zouche and daughter of Roger de Quincy and Elena de Galloway. It is singularly significant that in all the extant references to the name between 1296 and 1356, both Scottish and English sources, we find the surname consistently following the style MacDowall with the name spelt in contemporary records, as McDuhile, MacDowilt, Macdowyl, Makduel, McDowal, Makedowel, Macdoual and Makedowel.

Updated 15 June, 2013: 10 November, 2013: 29 January, 2019.

In the Annals of Ireland, there is another reference to the Gall Ghaidheil. In 1154, Muircheartach son of Niall, king of Aileach, and the Cenel Eoghain sent people from Ireland across the sea to hire the fleets of the Gall-Ghaidheil, who are listed of Arann, Cinn Tíre, Manann ocus centair Alban archena.  This passage is generally translated, of Arran, of Kintyre, of Man, and of the border of Alba.  Thomas Clancy has argued the wording centair Alban archena, could be translated ‘near’ territory of Alba, as the region in question could include Bute, Kyle and Carrick. The passage however adds little to our understanding of Galloway ruled by Fergus, but demonstrates that areas like Kintyre and Arran, were still considered home to the Gall Ghaidheil and significantly, both are close to the Island of Bute, which in the tenth century can firmly be tied to the Gall Ghaidheil.


Map 1 Names in red are areas dating from the tenth century

Map 3 Nithsdale & Kirkcudbrightshire

1. Tyrnon (Amuligane/Grierson)

2. Balmaghie (McGhie)

3. Plunton (McGhie)

4. Larg/Minnigaff (McKie)

5. Craigencallie (the widow)