Revisiting the MacColls/McColls of Kenmore and Ontario

Last week I presented my readers with a confusing question arising from letters between two cousins. The jury is still out on whether Catherine McCorquodale later McColl does indeed belong to my family, being a daughter of Duncan MacQuorquodale.

My investigations have sent me down the rabbit hole of discovery so I thought I’d set out some details on this family, irrespective of whether they turn out to be kin.

Dugald McColl married Mary Cameron in Argyll and had the following children:

John born 18 May 1795

Helen born 12 Oct 1797

Donald born 25 Dec 1799

Allan born 24 Dec 1801

Dugald born 25 Jan 1804

Hugh born 21 Sept 1808 (later known as Evan)

Archibald born 12 Jan 1811

Initially I was chasing the primary records trying to determine where the family members had gone, and especially the fate of Allan McColl who married my hypothetical 3xgreat aunt Catherine McCorquodale in 1829. One thing led to another, as it does when you go down that research rabbit hole, and with a hot tip from my Canadian cousin, I discovered some interesting information on Allan’s emigration to Ontario.

4 Kenmore men, Duncan McArthur, Allan McColl, Robert McGilp and Duncan Campbell, Junior, who emigrated to America in 1850, //”the Duke buying their cattle and crops for £92-4-6d and paying their passage money of £36. //” Did this happen for any other men in the surround area? Why did these 4 men go? Did they sail with anyone else?[i]

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a look through the Duke of Argyll’s archives in Inveraray to see what else could be found about these men and their families?

Perhaps there’s a clue why Allan McColl’s family emigrated. Other references tell us that Allan’s father, and his unmarried children had emigrated to British North America (later Canada) in 1831. It would be thanks to Allan’s brother Evan’s (baptised Hugh), who had an incredible poetic reputation, that so much detail has been preserved[ii].

Once again, I was so busy sleuthing out the primary records that when I turned to Google I was blown away to discover that Evan was well recognised as a Gaelic poet being called the Bàrd Loch Fìne (Poet of Loch Fyne) and later the “Gaelic Poet of Canada”. Evan is absolutely no genetic relation of mine but what a thrill to find out his reputation. A number of sites describe his and Allan’s parents thus:

Dugald MacColl who was possessed of “the richest store of Celtic song of any man living in his part of the country.[iii]” His mother, Mary Cameron, “was noted for her storehouse of traditional tales, legendary and fairy tales.” She was also said to be something of an ‘improvisatrice’ or maker-up of tales.[iv]

Dugald Maccoll was possessed of a manly presence, fine personal appearance and great natural intelligence…nothing delighted him more than to see the patriot flame fanned in the bosom of his young family….”. He was descended from “the Maccolls of Galdruim”…and “possessed superior natural endowments – physical as well as mental – and was reputed to be altogether as fine a specimen of the Highlanders as could be found in the whole county of Argyll in his day”. Dugald continued to wear Highland dress “long after it had ceased to be used by any other of the adult population of his native parish[v]. His wife, Mary Cameron, was the daughter of Domhnull mor a Gharbhchoirre of the Cowal district.

How fortunate were their children to have such a rich cultural heritage. Dugald was so committed to his children’s education that he is said to have provided a private tutor for his children and also to have purchased a bulk lot of books from a traveller looking for a sale. Of their home it was said “As one might expect, their house was one of the favourites for local ceilidhs[vi]. If Evan was the beneficiary of this forward thinking, then it’s without doubt that Allan would have been also, being only three years older. Suddenly it became clearer how it came about that Allan would work as a teacher in Canada, and his own son would become a medical practitioner.

It wasn’t only a life of song and poetry for the six boys in the family as they were required to help on the family tenant farm and during the winter herring season on Loch Fyne. Dugald also had a contract to repair the roads in some of the county and the sons also became road labourers on those projects.

Let’s return to the focus of my search – the family of Allan McColl and Catherine (Kathrine) McCorquodale. The couple had the following children, all born in Inveraray, Argyll before they left Scotland:

Mary (born 1830), Duncan (born 1831), Dugald (born 1833), Nancy (born 1835), Hugh/Evan (born 1838), Julia Mary/JulieAnn (born 1841), Fanny (born 1844) and a child with an indecipherable name, born about 1845.

Duncan#4 McColl’s 1851 letter to his cousin Duncan McCorquodale (son of Hugh) at Inveraray Castle refers to his family as being at Seymour in the Trent River area. This is confirmed by the 1851 census in which they family are shown with Archibald McColl, a farmer, almost certainly Allan’s Uncle Archibald who is also referred to in the letter.  Duncan mentions working with his father (Allan), and that his mother (Catherine) is in “better health than she has been for these ten years past”. He also refers to his uncle’s emigration from Liverpool “Uncle Evan came here the beginning of October he was only 28 days coming from Liverpool to New York and he’s at present up where John is[vii]. Other references refer to Evan’s earlier visit to Upper Canada stating he stayed with his brother at the Trent River[viii].

McCOLL Dugald Inverness Courier 26 Oct 1848 p2

Obituary Dugald MacColl, Inverness Courier 26 October 1848.

In Duncan #4’s letter to his cousin in 1857, there is no mention of whether his parents are still alive. He says that his brothers are at Kingston, which is where his uncle Evan is residing after immigrating. His sister Nancy has apparently relocated to the USA, perhaps no further than across the Great Lakes.

To date I have been unable to locate a death for Duncan’s parents, Allan and Catherine, or of his grandmother Mary. I had been hoping that a death for Catherine might reveal anything about her McCorquodale parents.  However, grandfather Dugald’s obituary travels as far as Scotland, largely due to his son’s poetic eminence. I have to wonder how someone who was such a Scottish patriot chose to emigrate to British America (later Canada) in 1831, taking his unmarried children with him.

It appears this saga will continue over a couple of posts. It seems silly to have done so much sleuthing, attempting to coordinate it in my head, and then leave it undocumented.

McColl map Canada

Some of the places (starred) where the MacColl family lived.

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[i] http://glenaray.wikidot.com/kenmore-village

[ii] http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/maccoll_evan_12E.html

[iii] Alexander Mackenzie, ‘Evan MacColl – the Bard of Loch Fyne’, in The Celtic Magazine, Inverness: A & W Mackenzie, 1881, Volume VI, p.54. This is a three part biography: (1) No. LXII, December 1880, pp,. 54–58; (2) No. LXIII, January 1881, pp. 95–103; (3) No. LXIV, February 1881, pp. 139–145 (an extract from MacColl’s diary for 1838–39 of a tour of the Highlands).

[iv] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evan_MacColl and other sites.

[v] The couple were said to have six sons and two daughters so I have missed one. A, M. (1880). EVAN MACCOLL-THE “BARD OF LOCHFYNE.”. The Celtic Magazine, 6(62), 54-58. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.rp.nla.gov.au/docview/3215323?accountid=12694

[vi] https://dasg.ac.uk/corpus/textmeta.php?text=88&uT=y

[vii] Transcript of letters held by my Canadian cousin, Sheila.

[viii] Alexander Mackenzie, ‘Evan MacColl – the Bard of Loch Fyne’ op cit.