Saturday, 21 January 2012

Clan Occupations

This morning we had the monthly meeting of our local Family History Group with the theme of 'the occupations of our ancestors'. I spoke first about our clan in a way I thought would interest the group and then I spoke about my own McIlhagga line. Here's part one:

One of the things members of the Guild of One Names Studies is encouraged to do is to publish a Name Profile. Anyone can read the profile of any of the 2000 registered names on the Guild website. One of the sections of the Profile is called 'Historical Occurences', and it's your opportunity to come up with any notable people with your surname, or one of its registered variants. I prefaced my list of seven people with the sentence, 'Very few of the "clan" have any claim to fame'. This is very true of my own McIlhagga line (I'll comment next time). In fact none of my seven are (to the best of my knowledge) in my own ancestral line, but you might like to know who I included. I'll list them, then add a word about each of their occupations.

1. [I have to say that some doubt has been cast on my first one since I published the profile, which is a pity, as] Gillescop McI(l)hagain was Steward to the Earl of Carrick in 1196;
2. Michael Macylhaggow was a witness to the Laing Charters in 1527;
3. James McElhago was an Incorporator of The Bridgetown Library in New Jersey in 1765;
4. John McElhagga won the Military Medal in the First World War;
5. Lt. Cdr. Liston Burns McIlhagga was mentioned in despatches in World War II;
6. James Spence McIlhagga was one of the first Aldermen elected for the town of Ballymena;
7. Robert McIlhagger has been Professor of Engineering in the University of Ulster since 1991.

Only numbers one and seven tell you what their job was or is.

1. The Steward of Carrick, as he was called, I imagine looked after all the household and land owned by the Earl of Carrick, whose name in 1196 was Duncan son of Gilbert. Incidentally a century later Robert the Bruce was the Earl of Carrick.
2. Interestingly it was in Carrick, in the same part of Ayrshire, that Michael Macylhaggow appears 300 years later. I have no idea what his occupation was, but his surname has three points of interest for me - see my last blog!
3. Jame McElhago in New Jersey. I haven't known for certain until very recently what his occupation was. I have recently discovered he was a Sea Captain by finding his name in a 1787 Belfast Newspaper as Captain of a Cargo Boat plying between Scottish and Irish ports. He lived in Scotland. His boat was called 'Mary' which is the only clue I have to the possible name of his nearest female relative, whether that was his wife or his mother. His trip to New Jersey must have been a young man's adventure before he returned and settled down to carrying a variety of goods on his boat, including salt, cork wood, fruit, salmon and linen cloth.
4. John McElhagga wan a Military Medal while he was in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. I've looked for a citation to tell me why, but haven't found one.
5. Lt. Cdr. Liston Burns McIlhagga was mentioned in Despatches when he was a humble First Lieutenant. In 1942 he was in command of a Gun Boat in an engagement with 6 German R-boats. Three were sunk and 36 Germans taken prisoner. Liston was wounded and returned home to Canada where he had an illustrious career as a radio and TV announcer and producer. Apparently he got to produce Royal Visits from 1971 to 1983. It is said he had an amazing memory and was a fantastic story-teller, and was also an extremely good cook.
6. James Spence McIlhagga, one of the first Aldermen of Ballymena was a Manager for the National Savings Bank, and was a Councillor for many years in the toughest area of the town, called Harryville.
7. Finally Prof. Robert McIlhagger. The 'er' branch of the clan claims a lot of academics, all scientists. This branch is particularly interesting because it goes back not to a male progenitor, but to a female progenitor born in 1795. In addition to engineer Robert, it includes a Nuclear Scientist and two present day textile scientists.

Next time I'll comment on my own line.

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