Saturday, 14 March 2009

The Seventeenth Century: Scotland

Last month I summarised the references to the three clan members who appear in the 16th Century in the part of Ayrshire, Scotland called Carrick. They were Michael Macylhaggow in 1527, Patrick McIlhagon in 1553 and Robert M'Ilhago in 1597. For the most part the 17th Century keeps us in the County of Ayr and mostly in one village, that of Kirkmichael. Kirkmichael is important to us for two reasons: the Parish Records there contain the earliest birth and marriage references we have to the clan and in the kirkyard there is the earliest gravestone which refers to a clan member who was born in the 17th Century.

The gravestone includes the name of Helen who, we know from the paper records, was born 6th August 1672. She was the daughter of Thomas and Jonet (nee Murchie) McElhagow. On the stone her surname is (incredibly) spelled MCKLHAGU, which clearly was what the sculptor 'heard' in the local accent of the day. Helen married David Mitchell almost at the end of the century, on 26th December 1697. It was the Mitchell family who erected the stone.

The parish records go back two or perhaps three generations before Helen. The earliest record is dated 11th July  1638, the baptism of David, son of Thomas McIlhagow, in Kirkmichael church. Of the names in the records two others are probably Thomas' children, namely Thomas and Agnes who married William Baird. David married William's sister, Katherin Baird. David and Katherin had five children, the third of whom, Jennet or Jonet, leaves us our earliest clan Will in Scotland. Jonet's executor was her nephew James Gibson, son of her younger sister Annable (sic). Annable had married a James Gibson, a couper in Ayr town. In Ayr in 1685 he had been one of two sponsors at the baptism of Agnes, the eldest child of Robert and Bessie (nee Johnstone) McIlhago. Robert was a 'fisher'. The second sponsor at the baptism is particularly interesting for he declared himself as Agnes' grandfather. In the record his first name is difficult to read but he is probably John McIlhago. Both he and his children lived before there were any paper records made. We may observe that if this family followed the Scottish naming pattern for their children, and given that a generation spans approximately 25 years, it is just possible that John, father of Robert McIlhago and grandfather of Agnes, was in fact the son of Robert M'Ilhago whom we met at the end of the sixteenth century (in 1597).  

If we now return to the person in the earliest parish record, David McIlhagow and his elder brother Thomas, we can estimate that as the century turned, Thomas would probably have been in his late 50s and David in his mid 50s. Now in 1691 the civil authorities raised a new tax based on the number of fireplaces in your house. It was called the Hearth Tax and in Kirkmichael three houses occupied by clan members were taxed. Thomas McIlhago in Barnhill was charged for one fireplace. David McIlhago in Barndona was also charged for one fireplace. Finally Adam Neiving in Threave 'and John McIlhago there' was charged for two fireplaces. Now David had an eldest son John who would have been about 25 in 1691 and could well have been living with Adam Neiving, perhaps employed by him, in Threave. So the Hearth Tax provides us with some confirmation of the picture of the clan in Kirkmichael that we have from a gravestone and from the parish records.

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