NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY
Towards the end of the 15th century, following the forfeiture of the Lord of the Isles, the former MacDonald lands were brought directly under the crown. It is mainly from these crown records, either directly or in the case of the Earl of Argyle's administration of Kintyre, from transcripts made by the 10th Duke from papers held at Inveraray, that the early land holdings of the MacShennoigs can be traced.
The family origins were thought to have been in Ireland and to have been linked with an entry in the Annals of Ulster recording the death from plague at Tuaim da Ghulann of one "Amlaim MacShenaigh accomplished emperor of melody in 1371". However it has been suggested more recently that the family were indeed indigenous to Kintyre and derived their name locally from the church dedicated to St Sennan at Kilmashenochan.  This argument seems fairly convincing and there were indeed strong enough links between Kintyre and the north of Ireland to explain 'Amlaim', if he was of the same family, and one or two other intrusive Irish names in the pedigree. Whatever the case, the first recorded appearance of the family in a Scottish context was probably a 'Duncan McOhanak' who witnessed a notarial instrument at Finlaggan on the 14 June 1456. 
The earliest firm reference to the family as harpers comes from the Exchequer Rental for 1505 when "Muriach McMaschenach citheriste" was shown holding the four merkland of "Brunerican, Amod, Drumnarianch, Dalsmeran, Lag na Damh and Innean Coig Cailleiche". In the quasi Latin records of the period the term 'citherist' seemed to cover harp, croud (or cruit) and lute but in this case it can confidently be taken to mean a metal strung clarsach similar to the two surviving contemporary examples now housed at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. Four merklands were a sizeable holding but compared to the eight merkland held by 'Johannes McMurech Albany' the Kintyre representative of the MacMhuirich Bardic family, provides a good example of the relative status of the harper vis the poets in Gaelic Society. 
It is about this period when a representative of the harpers family acquired the land of Lephenstrath and half of Lyel. Between 1502-1505 these had been held by Gillecallum McMurrich one of the Bardic family and possibly identified with the poet Giolla Coluim mac an Ollaimh, however from 1506 they pass into the hands of 'Gillecallum McCosenach', and remained with this branch of the family until late in the 18th century. 
It is GilleCallum, described as 'gillcollm Mcoschenock in Kyntyr' who appears along with the other members of the family in a name list of musicians included in the Book of the Dean of Lismore, a collection of Gaelic poetry and other material made around 1512-26. Muireach citharist who according to the Exchequer rentals was still holding his lands in 1528, as befits the head of his kindred is listed in the Dean's book simply as 'Mcoschennak a brounerre'.  Exactly when he died is unclear, since the Exchequer rolls for 1541 also list the holder of Brunerican et al, as just 'McIlschanoch' , while Lyel and Lephenstrath were possessed by 'Ivoy McIlschannoch' and Pubil and Intergy by 'Donaldo McIlcallum McIlschannoch'.  According to the Dean's list Muireach's son is named Aodh Riabhach but the next named tenant of Brunerican comes from the Argyle Transcripts for 1543 where he is described as 'Ache Mcosennok', at least that is what it seems to read. Perhaps if the original document can be found at Inveraray it might prove to be a mis-reading for Aodh. Whatever the case the rental was remitted by command of the King, the full entry reading - "Brouneregyn, Drumhyreicke, Dalsmeryll, Lagnadurif, Innerkneiekalliche, Amoit iiij mark v? 10d land. Set to Ache McOsennok for iiij lib viij? money, iiij bolls malt, vj stonis mele v stons cheis, ane muttone, ane weddir, gewin and remittit to ye said Ache, be ye command of the Kingis hieness order his handwrit and signet".
It is possibly the same 'Ache McOsennok' who was also holding 'Mauchrebeg' but paying the full rent. The other members of the family included in this rental were 'Duncan McGilcallum VcOsennok at Pubill and Innigrosye' (occupied by Gilchrist McIlshaunoch in 1605), and 'McMolane Mcosennok at Auchenaslessaig' (described as waste with no rental set). At Pubill, Donald McGilliecallum of the 1541 rental would seem to have been replaced by his kinsman Duncan, but it is curious that there is no mention of Lyel and Lephenstrath, the other major holding. Certainly this property seems to have remained in the family's hands and was held by one 'Murdoch M'Cochennoch' when the next surviving list of Kintyre tenants appears in 1596.
This list of 1596 also provides the name of the senior member of the family holding the Brunerican lands at that time, who is given as 'Duncan McCochennach', probably the same 'Duncan M'Ilshenoch' still in possession in 1605. However by 1619 the rentals revert to addressing the holder of Brunerican as just 'McOssenok' and with a rental of £106-13-4d. It would seem that it was no longer being held rent free . In 1605 one of the two merklands was held by 'Duncan M'Schenoch', possibly the same who also held Brunerican. In that year Gilbert occupied part of the 2 merkland of Machribeg valued at 20 shillings, the rest being waste. By 1619 Lephenstrath was held by 'Murrachie Mceanry VcOssenok' and paid a rental of £57, half that of the four merklands of Brunerican et al, which suggests that both parts of the two merkland of Lailt and Lephenstrath, now combined under one name, were again fully productive. 
Three more members of the family appear at this time, Hew, holding Mucklock at a rental of £25, 'Muriacke oig' holding 'achenaslisaig' at £20, and Gi11ecallum holding part of Knockreachmoir. Hew was the father of Malcolm McO'senog minister of Kilchievan circa 1630 who transferred to the combined parishes of Kilchenzie, Killean and Kilmalrubh and died sometime between 24 April 1639 and 10 October 1640. The entry in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae gives his father as M'Uistein Og of the family of Lephenstrath and it is therefore tempting to identify Uistein or Hew senior with the holder of Keremanach in 1596 and 1605. He may have been a younger son of the Lephenstrath line; the name Hew does not appear in the main line until late in the 17th century. 
'Minister McOschennok and Gilles' his brother jointly held Glak, Strone, and Mucklock in 1636 and it is probably the Minister, who as 'Malcolme M'Osenog' appears on a list of Kintyre tenants who subscribed 4 merks each to Lord Lorn at Kinlochkilcherane on 17th October 1636. The Minister signed his own name but the only other member of the family to appear on the list was 'Murioch oig McOsennog' who seems to be among the names who could not write.
By 1636 the lands of 'Brunerikine, Amod, Auchenaslaisag, Lagnadaive, Inincokaleoch and Dalsmuriall' now described as a 2 merkland were in the hands of 'Murriock oig the harper takisman thereof idem in will', and it would seem that there had been a major change in the harpers land holding. Drumanreannach, which was situated between Lailt and Lephenstrath, near the modern Lephenstrath Bridge and formerly had been among the lands associated with Brunerican, was now missing and although replaced by Achnaslishaig the overall effect was to reduce the value of the harpers lands from four to two merk land. It has been noted previously that Achnaslishaig was held by 'Muriake oig' in 1619 for £20 and it was possibly as compensation for the loss of Drumanreannach that the Argyll rentals of 1625 and 1627 (twice) contain the entries: 'Allowit to murrioch Mcschennocken harper during my Lordis will the maillis of Auchinlessen xx lib', indicating that for some of this period at least, part of the harpers rental was remitted. 
The events of 1647 and in particular the seige of Dunaverty Castle, from which the neighbouring Brunerican could not have escaped involvement, must have led to considerable devastation from which Brunerican may not have recovered for some years. It is probably for that reason that Brunerican does not appear in a Judicial Rental made in 1653. In fact the family may have suffered as well as the land, for the only MacShenoigs recorded in this rental were 'Morich in Lemnastra', leased lands past five years, 'Duncan in Kepregan possessed from 1651' and a Duncan in Amod. But in another 1653 rental John and Archibald are shown in Gartvean Ichlarach.
It is from this period that the family seems to have lost the original Harpers lands of Brunerican and probably their status as professional musicians, having turned to other occupations or become just ordinary agricultural tenants. Indeed, by circa 1671 only one of the family 'Malcolm McOsenog' was in possession of a tack, that of Lephenstrath and even that land was not as it once was: 'This room was 2 merkland but, being spoiled by the water is sett at the extent of a 20 shilling land, as to Public Burdens only'. According to this rental made by Argyle's Chamberlain in 1678, the '2 merkland 5sh 10d land of Amot, Inlcokcullock, Drumnarinock, Dalsmerril and Laggandave' had been sett to Dugald Campbell for 19 y from 1673 at £85, The '2 merkland o Brunerikin sett to Ralstoune for 21 years from 1669 at £90d, the '2 merkland of Strone and Ballemacumbray possessed by MacCumbray sionce 1671', the '1 merkland of Mucklock to John Hendrie from 1671 and Inverey and Pubil to John Campbell since 1671'.
Although the period covered started with a 'Muriach Harper (citheriste)' in 1505 and ended with 'Murrioch oig Harper' in 1636 it is worth considering the links between them, and their relative status and backgrounds as harpers in Kintyre. The first clearly identified musician in Kintyre was one 'Giola Criost Bruilingeach' two of whose poems are preserved in the 'Book of the Dean of Lismore' compiled circa 1513-25. From the internal evidence of the poems, both addressed to Irish patrons, Giolla Criost (fl 1458) would appear to have been a harper, for he first requests a harp in payment and in the second poem confirms its receipt. He is described as 'Bard in Leymn' which is thought to suggest that he came from Leim on the Island of Gigha and that he may have been a member of a family called MacBhreatnaich (or Galbraith). That he was called Bruilingeach and was a musician is significant, for in a poem by the 13th century Irish File Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe concerning the difference between the trained poet and the bard, the work of the latter is likened to a 'Crooked lay' and is classed with the work produced by a lower grade of poet called a bruillng who employed a simplified form of metre called bruilingeacht.
If Giolla Criost was a member of the MacBhreatnaich family, then he was probably related to a family of harpers who first come into view In the Exchequer Rentals for 1471 when they held the lands of Knockan and Clutag near Wigtown in Galloway. Three members of the family are on record between 1471-1513, first Martin, John and then Roland (or Lachlan) and although during this period they were tenants of the crown and occasionally appeared in the Treasurers accounts at court it is possible that they may have previously been associated with Whithorn under earlier Douglas patronage and that descendants remained in the area after 1513. . Whlthorn may perhaps provide the link between Galloway and Kintyre for the church at Candida Casa held several lands in Kintyre, including Kilmashenachan. It is quite possible that the MacBhreatnaich's harpers to the crown and the Macshennoig harpers to the Lords of the Isles were familiars. The Earl of Douglas and the Lord of the Isles had been political bedfellows and at that time Galloway was part of the Gaelic speaking world. By 1505 when Muriach Citheriste appeared on record, that Gaelic world was about to undergo some major upheavals. Following the forfeiture of John Lord of the Isles in 1493, his lands were taken under the crown, although royal control was not established for some years. Initially the administration of Kintyre was undertaken on behalf of the crown by the Earl of Argyle. Often overshadowed by the antagonism created towards the end of the sixteenth century when the Campbells moved to fill the power vacuum left by the loss of the Lordship, the early Campbell administration was conducted with sympathy towards the MacDonalds and their former tenants. MacDonald of Dunyveg and Argyle who were related by marriage, were in fact said to have worked well together. .
The MacMhuirich poets however may not have been entirely happy with this situation; their eight merklands which included Cattadale were still in the possession of John MacMhuirich in 1541, and again in 1543 when, 'Cattadill and Gartmor' were set to 'John McMurrich and his son Cawill' (Cathal) but some time between then and 1596 the MacMhuirich poets moved from Kintyre to serve the MacDonalds of Clanranald. Although descendants of the family remained in Kintyre and probably include the 18th century musician and poet William McMurchy, the mainstream of the Bardic tradition had moved north.
Yet the MacShennoig harpers stayed in Kintyre: what function did they now have? Since one member of the family at least was still able to function as a harper circa 1620-36, the instrumental skill had clearly been passed on. At this time when Murrioch oig, albeit with a reduced land holding is clearly described as a musician, it is probably noteworthy that 'MacMarqueis' a member of another bardic family who held the three merkland of Laggan, has the description poet appended to his name.
It would seem that the link between poet and harper in that part of the Gaelic world remained alive into the first half of the 17th century, but this does not necessarily mean that all was well. It is probably significant that it is during the period of the departure of the MacMhurichs that the MacShennoig family started moving into other professions. There is mention of 'Gillechreist Mcoshennag ye dempster in Kyntyre' circa 1610-1636, Malcolm McOsenog the minister (who witnessed a charter by Andro Bishop of Lismore in 1622) and Duncan Leyche M'llshinnocht who was perhaps the most important of them all. On 24 August 1583 at the town of Ayr, George Hamilton one of the burgesses of Ayr undertook to pay George Gibson the sum of 'Poirscoir fiftene merkis for the price of one tun of wine received from Gibson by Duncan Leyche M'llshinnocht in Kintyre'. Duncan along with Duncan M'llshinnocht his son undertook to reimburse the said George Hamilton. From the description of 'Leyche' it would seem that one MacShennoig at least had turned to the practice of medicine.
This evidence of the two Duncans, father and son, may explain a curious problem with the 1596 Kintyre Inventory, where, apart from the Duncan MacShennoig shown holding the Brunerican lands, there is another of that name described as Duncan Morshown holding 1 merkland of the 12 merkland of 'Auchnaglach, Lagnacrage, Kerefower, Ballemannoch, Teronell, Dounglas, Glenramskilmore, Strone and Gillenzadule (Glenadale)'. Donald Mor's merkland was probably Strone which appears sometime later in the hands of the Minister Malcolm. The other five joint tenants are listed, although with one merkland unaccounted for, and among them, holding two merkland, is one 'Rannald M'Alaster Herper'.
It is tempting to identify the father and son of 1583 in Ayr with the two Duncans of 1596, with Duncan Mor (or Senior) having resigned the Brunerican lands to his son. If the practice of medicine was employed by more than one generation it would seem to have been given up before 1636 when Kintyre was being covered by Duncan one of the Maclachlan medical family who held the 5 1\2 merkland of 'Kildalleg, Molmartine, Ballemeanach, Knokwik, and Auchachone'. The appearance of the harper Ranald M'Alaster raises the question, were any of the contemporary McShennoig's practising as professional harpers at that period, one interpretation of the fact that only 'Ranald' was described as a harper being that there were no others.
An explanation may perhaps be found in the widow 'Aine McOshennok' at Lephenstrath in 1636. Unfortunately her late husband's name is not recorded but though the possibility that she had married a McShennoig cousin can not be ruled out, the small size of the very local family may have rendered such relationships too close. Therefore, the most probable route for her to have obtained Lephenstrath would have been through her father. It is possible that she was the wife of Ranald M'Alester, from his name a member of another local family, and who, to have trained as a harper at that time and place would almost certainly have been the product of the MacShennoigs, one of Gaeldoms principle harping families. At a time when the male members of this family seem to have been diversifying into other fields, when the demand for a harpers services which closely related to that of the poets had run into the doldrums, the continuity of tradition which led to the 'Murrich oig the harper' may temporarily have diverted via a daughter of the line, or her husband'?
The period of decline in the MacShennoig's status, which commenced in the 17th century continued into the 18th. Apart from the holders of Lephenstrath all the other members of the family appear as small subtenants, albeit sometimes on holdings formerly possessed by their forebears. One of these small holders, Neil McShennog, part holder of 'Penlachlin' which was very close to Kilmashennachan where the family originated, died in 1731 leaving his widow Ann Heymann in possession. It is indeed a curious, but apparently unconnected coincidence that the leading modern exponent of the wire-strung clarsach played with the fingernails and using an intricate damping technique should be an American Harper called Ann Heymann.
Editor's Note: In a decree taken by the Earl of Argyll for removal of Kintyre tenants in 1609 (Acts and Decreets Vol 245 fol 216) the following names are included: Duncane McUschenage in Ammot, Brunerikin and Achnaliseg, Gillichallul McUshenoig in Lepenstray and Gilkris McUshenage in Machribeg, while in a similar Decree (Vol 330 fol 79) in 1619 the only one of the family mentioned is Gillicallul McSchenache who shared Knockriochlore, Glenlurrel and Uchterane with two other tenants at a rent of £110. Lepenstrath and Brunerican etc are not mentioned. The Society has in its Library a transcription made by me in 1953 of a list of tenants in Kintyre. I dated it as 1636 but I have come to the conclusion that it is earlier. Unlike most other lists it does not give the tacksmen, but lists the names of the actual occupiers of the ground. Duncan Mcosennog shares Auchinaslissaig with three others: Eoin, Neil, Duncan and his son Nurrich share Brunerikyn et al with seven others. Hew and Derloud with one other are in Mukloche; Gillicallim Mcever vc o'shennog, Duncan and Murrachie (probably a McShannon) were three of the four named tenants. Could Gilliecallim have been the son of the Ivoy listed in 1541? Gilleis and Nurriche occupied the two merkland of Machribeg, Nalcoile was one of three tenants in Glenramkilliore. The list was presumably compiled after Kintyre passed to the Earl in 1607 and possibly between the years 1617 and 1636 when his younger son Lord Kintyre was in possession.
Mrs. Bigwood's two articles (Issue 26 and 27) give a most useful guide to Genealogical Research in Scotland. It may be helpful to give some idea of the local sources which are to be found in the Society's Library. This library is contained in an upper room of the Public Library, the keys to which may be obtained by members from the Librarian. Researchers may obtain the keys to the Society's bookcases and filing cabinets from Mr. Norman Newton, the Society's Librarian, at 11 Lochend St, Campbeltown.
The society is fortunate in having many early lists of tenents of farms in Kintyre, and of inhabitants of the town. These go back to 1505. Thanks to the kindness of our Honorary Vice President Lt. Col. Victor Clark and Mrs. Louise Curry of Texas these have been indexed.
Enquirers may also find names in the late Duncan C. McTavish's 'Commons of Argyll' which lists rebels who rose with the 9th Earl of Argyll in, 1685 and Fencible Men, that is males between the ages of 15 and 60 liable to military service in 1692. We also have a list of householders liable to payment of the Hearth Tax in 1694.
The Library contains copies of the Scottish History Society's two volumes of the Minutes of the Synod of Argyll covering the period 1639-1661 which makes reference not only to saints such as ministers and elders but to some sinners.
More sinners as well as jurymen and witnesses are to be found in the Stair Society's 'Argyll Justiciary Records', the two volumes of which cover the period 1664-1742.
A valuable source is a list of leases on the Argyll Estate painstakingly compiled by the late Duncan Colville and again indexed by our Texan friends, both as to personal and place names. Leases for some farms go back to 1729 and most to the 1750s.
The late Archibald McEachran of Kilblaan left his notebooks to the Society and they contain lists of tenants in the Macharioch area while Carskey estate is covered by the published 'MacNeill of Carskey, his estate journal 1703-1743' edited by the late Captain Frank Forbes Mackay.
The Public Library also holds the Scottish Record Society's 'Commissariot Records of Argyll' being a Register of Wills confirmed between 1674 and 1800. Unfortunately they do not hold the companion volume containing the Records of the Isles, including Bute, Arran and the Argyllshire islands nor the Register of Inventories in respect of estates of persons who died intestate.
Our Society's Library has a List of Militiamen for 1804 and among the papers of the late Sheriff Macmaster Campbell are various Militia lists. We also have quite a number of 19th century merchants' Account Books.
It is to be hoped that anyone coming across such old records and thinking of throwing them out will first offer them to the Society.
Perhaps the writer may mention that the Scottish Record Society hope to publish in 1991 a "List of the Inhabitants of the Duke of Argyll's Estates in Kintyre in 1792" containing 6130 names with ages, which he has edited for the Society.
These are some of the local sources available to members of the Society.
With regard to the Register of Sasines, the Act of 1617 provided for two registers - a General Register of Sasines for the whole of Scotland and Particular Registers for local districts. The relevant register for this area is the Particular Register of Sasines for Argyle, Dumbarton, Bute, Arran and Tarbert. There is a published, printed index giving the names of all parties to recorded deeds from 1617-1780, though we do not have it as yet in Campbeltown.
There are also two most useful volumes by Herbert Campbell, dealing with the General Register and Particular Register dealing with Argyll. These are particularly useful because they give the names and designation of witnesses and relationships are often mentioned. The nearest library to Campbeltown which houses a copy is Dumbarton. The volumes are not on the shelves and have to be asked for.
Although the majority of deeds were registered in this Particular Register the General Register which is only available in Edinburgh must also be consulted. In 1868 the Particular Registers were abolished and a new General Register was introduced with a Division for each county. Enquiries therefor have to be directed to the Division of the General Register of Sasines for the County of Argyll at Register House, Edinburgh.
Mrs. Bigwood also mentioned Poor Relief and our good friend the ever helpful Murdo MacDonald holds Parish Records in the Archives at Lochgilphead in which I have found more than one ancestor. What can be done with this material is demonstrated by Mr. Angus Martin in Appendix I of 'Kintyre: the Hidden Past'. In fact it would be worth anyone's time to consult the indices of that volume and of 'Kintyre Country Life' by the same author.
The writer is always willing to give any advice or help he can to enquirers.
Copyright belongs to the authors unless otherwise stated.
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