Mcnicol Sept Of Clan Campbell

The name MacNichol in its various spellings and anglicised as Nichol or Nicolson is widespread in Scotland, and is particularly well-known in the case of the Nicolsons or MacNeacails of Scorrybreac.

The attribution of this name to Clan Campbell applies uniquely to the kindred of this name long settled in Glenorchy and in Glenshira. Their origin is unknown. Local tradition apparently had it that the family were originally MacPhees sprung from one Nicol McPhee who left Lochaber in the sixteenth century.

There were indeed MacNichols in Lochaber. They descended from the MacPhees of Colonsay and had held their lands in Lochaber since before the 1493 forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles. (73) (MacMillan, Bygone Lochaber, 96.) The names in the MacNichol of Socach line repeat names commonly in use by the MacPhees.

Duke Niall of Argyll on the other hand noted that he thought they were MacNaughtons of Dunderave. This, however, may derive from a too-hasty reading of one of the unpublished Dewar Manuscripts which tells a tale of one Thomas Ruadh Mac Sheumas Ruadh mhic Sheumais -dhuibh mhic Dhonachie Mhic Ghiobhaine -mhoire a Mhorara who came to a sticky end in a skirmish with the MacGregors. He was the ancestor of James MacNichol in Achalader and was said to have been of MacNaughton origin but the crucial point which for once eluded Duke Niall is that he was apparently MacNichol’s maternal ancestor.

Be that as it may, the MacNichols were long in Socach in Glenorchy. The first to settle there was Nicol who married MacTavish of Dunardry’s daughter. His brother Duncan settled in Achnafannich. In 1593, Nicol’s son, ‘Gillepatrick mac Nicol mac Duncan Riabhach’ in Socach was given a charter of the lands of Elrigmore in Glenshira by MacNaughton of Dunderave. This property was taken on by Gillepatrick’s younger son, Nicol Ban MacNichol. (74) (Gillies, ‘Some Thoughts on the Toschederach, Scottish Gaelic Studies xvii, 340.) The name Elrig denotes the narrow pass which formed the culmination of a deer drive where the fleeing beasts, collected together gradually over a period of days and a huge territory, were concentrated in a narrow pass where they faced the arrows and swords of the hunters waiting for them. The MacNichols also acquired the next door Elrigbeg.

Famous in his day was the Gaelic Scholar, the Reverend Donald MacNichol, (1735-1802) Minister of Lismore, whose spirited defence in his ‘Remarks on Dr. Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides’ of the authenticity of the Poems of Ossian which had been rubbished by the great Doctor caused that worthy to ‘growl hideously’. (75) (Sellar and Maclean, The Highland Clan MacNeacail, 25-26.) A poet himself, with his family, the Glenorchy MacNichols, long celebrated for their knowledge of the ancient songs and poems of the Highlands, the Reverend Donald was a friend of the renowned bard, Duncan Ban Macintyre whom he assisted in writing out his songs.

This combination of the Church and a reputation for knowledge of and skill in poetry suggests that this family of MacNichols may have been a hereditary professional kindred. This may be further supported by mention in 1618 of ‘Donald M’ilpatrick Leiche M’Nycle’ in Achnaraiff (recte Achnafannich ?) (76) (Campbell, Argyll Sasines ii, 9.) who is clearly the same as ‘Donald M’Gilpatrick Leiche’, servitor to George Loudoun, who has sasine of Inverliver the same year. This mention appears to combine both medical and clerical expertise since a ‘servitor’ was much more of a personal assistant than his title might appear to imply.