Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Ayr family

Our earliest Ayrshire clan references are in the village of Kirkmichael which is some nine or ten miles inland from the nearest coastal town, the capital of the county, Ayr itself. The families in Kirkmichael and indeed in Dalmellington, to which some moved, must have been employed in agriculture. This was not so in Ayr where we find the second earliest Old Parish Records (OPRs) for the clan. It was not agriculture but the sea which provided employment, and we know this from the earliest Ayr baptism, of Agnes daughter of Robert McIlhago and Bessie Johnstone. The OPR reads 'Agnes Mcilhago daughter lawful to Robert Mcilhago, fisher in newtoune of Ayr and Bessie Johnstone born the 5th October 1685 baptized on Sunday thereafter; Witness John Mcilhago grandfather to the child and John Gibson, Couper in Ayr.' This is a particularly valuable entry as it names three generations of the family. We can assume that Robert and Bessie were married no later than 1685 and so were probably born around 1660. If we assume that Robert's parents were married about 1655, they would have been born not later than, say, 1630, which means that John, Agnes' grandfather was born earlier than the earliest Kirkmichael OPR. Did he move to the coast from Kirkmichael? Perhaps he was the son or the grandson of Robert M'Ilhago who at the end of the previous century (1597) was found in Tradidnell, further south in Galloway.

Robert and Bessie had three more children, all baptised in Ayr, and in each case one of the witnesses was John Gibson. He may simply have been a family friend, though he may have been related. Perhaps his wife was a sister of either Robert or Bessie. Sadly grandfather John does not appear again, which may indicate that he died before the second child was born in 1687. The three OPR entries, with interesting surname variants, are as follows. 30 May 1687 Robert son of Robert and Bessie McIlhague baptized Ayr. A first son would usually have been named for his paternal grandfather, but that 'honour' was reserved for their second son. Maybe Bessie's father was Robert or perhaps they were remembering that great-grandfather (from 1597) was Robert. After Agnes and Robert came Mary: 'Mary Mcilhagow, Dau.t law.ll to Robert Mcilhagow fisher in Newtoune and Befsie Jo.nstoune spouse born April 20 Baptized 28 dito by Mr. Robert Hamilton Jibland min.t. Witness James Hutcheson baker and Jo.n Gibson, Couper'. Their fourth child was John: 'John Mcilhagow, son law.ll to Robert Mcilhagow fisher in Newtoune and Befsie Johnstoune spouse was born on friday June 12th 1691 Baptized on Sabbath 21 of June.. by Mr. Enlos (?)'. At present we have no references to any of the four offspring of Robert and Bessie marrying, though approximately three generations 'down the line' we have our next coastal family appearing about eight or nine miles to the north at Irvine, which may well be a continuation of the Ayr family. At least one of those generations is bridged by the references we have to our other inland location, the village of Dalmellington.

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