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Genealogical Sketches


In the olden days, when the Clan system was in vogue in the Highlands of Scotland, the Bagpipes held the place of honour in the “time of peace and of war”. Its strains inspired the Scottish warrior to deeds of unsurpassed valour, and down to our own day, its war-blasts were sounded on every battle-field where the supremacy of Britain was maintained, while it occupied its honoured place as well in the halls of gaiety and festivity, and to its strains the dead were mournfully borne to their last resting place.

It is not then surprising that the Chiefs of the various Clans vied with one another in having the most accomplished Piper. The MacCrimmons of the Macleods were probably the most famous, but tradition has it that Roderick Macneil Piper to the Lairds of Barra was possessed of musical gifts not excelled even by the McCrimmons.

Descended from this gifted Piper were the Macneils, who came to Cape Breton from the island of Barra in the early days of the nineteenth century, and who were then, and whose descendants, scattered here and there all over the United States and Canada, are to this day known as “The Pipers”. Roderick , the celebrated Piper, has a son John. In the year 1805 two of John’s sons, Hector and Roderick came to Pictou, N.S., and later to the shores of the Bras d’Or Lake, and settled at a place ever since held and occupied by their descendants and known as Piper’s Cove. A full account of these early settlers and their descendants, noted for great physical strength and many admirable qualities of head and heart that give them a standing in every community in which they are, will be found at page 61 of Mackenzie’s History of Christmas Island Parish. Later, another brother of Hector and Rory came to this country and settled at Washabuck in the County of Victoria. This man was Neil, commonly known as “Neil Geal” (White Neil). He had two sons and four daughter, and the History of this well known family will be dealt with in a later one of these sketches.

The Donald Macneil Family

In the year 1817, another brother of Hector and Rory, a son of John, grandson of Roderick, the gifted Piper of the Macneil Chiefs of Barra arrived in Cape Breton, and with Murdock MacKenzie, married to his only daughter, Lucy, settled on lands at Washabuck. Although this family received mention in the MacKenzie History, some of its members having become prominent in several districts of the County of Victoria, it is deemed proper to give its history more in detail than Mackenzie did.

Donald Macneil (Domhnull Piobaire) was married to a sister of another Donald Macneil (known as Domhull MacNeill), who came to Cape Breton the same yearand settled at Shunacadie, in the County of Cape Breton on lands later occupied (in 1821) by the families known as Clann Thearlach. Domhnull MacNeill sold his land to Tearlach (Charles), a connection of his own, and went across the Lake to Gillis Point and there settled on lands adjacent to those of his brother Eachunn Mac Neill (Hector MacNeil). Domhnull Piobaire’s wife, sister of Domhnull and Eachunn MacNeill, was a talented woman and it was her privilege to nurse more than one of the family of the Chief, the sixth Roderick of Barra, the son and ancestor of Roderick the 5th, who was killed at the taking of Quebec in 1759. The 6th Roderick was married to Jane, daughter of Ewen Cameron of Fassifern, by whom he had two sons (one of whom was General Maxneil of Barra, the last resident Chiefand three daughters, one of whom was named Louisa, nursed by the wife Domhnull Piobaire, who named her first daughter Lucy (already mentioned) after her. This name Lucy was and is to this day found among the descendants of Donald. Mrs. MacNeil was held in high esteem by the members of the family and household of the Chief, and one of her descendants today (1937) has in her possession a souvenir of that friendship, a sewer’s companion, gift from the maids of the household of the Chief to Mrs. Macneil when she was leaving Barra for Cape Breton in 1817. Donald Macneil (Domhnull Piobaire) had one already mentioned and eight sons; Murdock, Hector, Michael, John, James, Roderick, Charles and Philip.

The Family of Murdock, son of Donald Macneil (Domhnull Piobaire).

This Murdock was generally known as “Murchadh Beag” (Little Murdock). He was, as was his grandfather, John, son of Roderick, engaged as a page in the household of the Chief. He married a maid in the Castle, a Miss Nellie Robertson, whose father was the Secretary of the Kirk Sessions of Barra. She embraced the Catholic religion. Hector the son of Murdock was known as Black Hector. He was a ship-carpenter and was employed at Arichat, where, in those days there was much ship-building. There he married Virginia, daughter of Philip Marmaud. Leaving Arichat, he became a resident of Baddeck, and he died at Washabuck in the year......

He had several sons and daughters, one of whom, Jane, became a religious. When a mere child, Jennie, as she was known, was adopted by her cousin Mrs. Josephine C. Macneil of Grand Narrows, of whom reference will be here made later. The child received her early education at Christmas Island, and later at St. Bernard’s College, Antigonish. She entered the Novitiate of the Congregation de Notre Dame in September1885. The greater portion of her religious life of forty six years was spent on missions in the United States. In 1931, Sister St. Joseph Copertino, as she was named in religion, took ill at St. Alban’s, Vermont. In compliance with her own wish, she was rushed to the Mother House in Montreal, where she died a beautiful death on the 31st . day of July of that year at the age of seventy years. John, son of Murdock, married Ann daughter of Roderick Macneil, son of Neil Macneil (Gael), already mentioned . He died. Michael, another son of Murdock, was married to another daughter of Neil Geal. He died at Christmas 1872. Both had families, and particulars of these two sons of Murdock and their descendants will be found in the sketch devoted to Neil (Geal) Macneil.

Ann, daughter of Murdock, was married to John MacDonald (Soldier) of Grand Narrows. They had a family of sons and daughters. Sarah married James Campbell (Son of Darby or Diarmaid) of Jamesville in the County of Victoria, and particulars of the family will be found in the chapter to that branch o the Campbells. One son of John Mcdonald, Michael, was a draw-tender on the Grand Narrows Bridg, and in a storm he was swept off and drown in the year ... Two other sons, Neil and Dan B. are in Boston. Neil is married to Sarah, a daughter of the late Donald Mackinnon (Allan)of Mackinnon’s Harbour. She died in Gloucestrer in the year.... Their daughter is married to William, son of Michael Mcneil, son of Angus Macneil (Eoin) of Washabuct. William is Superintendent of the Engraving Department of the Boston Post, and Rev. Francis Macneil of Roxbury is brother of William.

Dan R. MacDonald taught school at Escasoni, in the County of Cape Breton, where he married a Miss Macphee. They went to Boston where he became an expert house-finisher for his cousins, the celebrated contracting firm of McNeil Bros. A son is a successful medical practitioner in the city of Boston. There was another son of John Mcdonaldand several daughters, all of whom are dead except Miss Nellie, who is now (1937) living in the old homestead at an advanced age.

Mary, daughter of Murdock, was married to Alexander Macneil commonly as “Sandy Mor” at Big Beach. Two sons James s. and Stephen B. still live at that place.

Margaret, daughter of Murdock , married Paul, son of Neil Maclean of Washabuck, while Sarah, another daughter, married Hector, another son of Neil. Both had families and furthur particulars will be found in the chapter devoted to the Macleans of Washabuck, descendants of Lauchlin Maclean, one of the first settlers and to whose memory a beautiful monument was unveiled, with becoming ceremony, at Washabuck., in August 1934.

Lucy, daughter of Murdock, married Michael Macneil (Eoin) of Washabuck. Of their family , John became connected with the firm of McNeil Bros., already mentioned. In his latter years he returned to Cape Breton and superintended the building of the Sydney Lyceum and several other buildings in that city. He died in the year..... He had a son Neil, a graduate of St. F.X. University, Antigonish, and he is now (1937) and has been for a number of years associate editor of the New York Times.

Family of Hector MacNeil (Eachann Mac Domhnull Phiobaire)

Hector, son of Donald Macneil, established himself at Castle Bay, then known as Aumaguadeen Pond, in the County of Cape Breton, where he carried on a lucrative business in making wooden frames of ploughs. He married Jessie, daughter of John Macintyre, of Big Pond in the County of Cape Breton. He had one son and several daughters, all of whom are now dead. A more extended notice will be found in Mackenzie’s History of Christmas Island Parish.

The Family of John MacIntyre of Big Pond.

“John MacIntyre, a blacksmith by trade and better known Ian Gobha, emigrated with his family, then consisting of one daughter one year old. He emigrated from the island of Barra in the year 1802 and located at a place know as Troy, in the County of Inverness. Twenty-six years later, in 1828, he with his family moved to Big Pond, in the County of Cape Breton. His wife (name left blank) was a daughter of Hector MacNeil, known in Barra as Eachann Og (Young Hector), who was Tanist and acted as Chief during the absence of Chief Roderick at the siege of Quebec. Another daughter of Hector Og was married to Donald Macneil, whose descendants are at Big Beach, in the County of Cape Breton. A sister of this Donald Macneil (Murdock) was married to Hector MacKenzie, to whom reference will be made later in this sketch. A daughter of this Donald Macneil, Elizabeth (Elassid Mhor) was married to Roderick Macneil (Ruairidh Mac Chalum Phiobaire) of Benacadie, in the County of Cape Breton; while this Roderick's brother, James (Seumas MacCalum) also of Benacadie (but later of Low Point), was married to a daughter of Hector Bane (Eachann Bane), a son of Eachann Og. Another daughter of Eachann Og was married to John Macneil son of Donald Macneil (Og) of Big Beach, and thus became the mother of Alexander Macneil (Sandy Mor) of Big Beach, already mentioned as having married Mary, daughter of Murdock Beag.” Here follows is another connection between the Macintyre family and the family of Domhnull Piobaire.

The Family of Michael MacNeil (Michael Gobha).

Michael Macneil, son of Donald Macneil (Domhnull Piobaire) was born in the island of Barra in the year 1803. He became a blacksmith and was know as Michael Gobha. He was located at the Northside of Grand Narrow, known since 1873 as Iona, in the County of Victoria. On one occasion, in the autumn of 1833, he went on a visit to his brother Hector at Castle Bay, and it happened that Hector’s wife sister, Jane Macintyre, was visiting there at the same time. A match was made, and before either had an opportunity of returning to respective homes, they were married. The season of the year, when everyone was extremely busy at harvesting, was not suitable for the real big wedding that was customary at that time amoung the well-to-do. So it was in June following, when planting season was over, that the wedding was held at the home of John MacIntyre, Big Pond, and Banais Mhicheil Ghoba agus Sine Ian Ghoba. was an event that was long remembered, it being attended by friends and acquaintances far and near. It may here be mentioned that Hector, son of John Macintyre continued until his death to occupy the old homestead at Big Pond. One daughter is Sister St. Mary Hector of the Congregation de Notre Dame,. One son, Hugh, is a prominent business man in Glace Bay, and James is a steel-worker in Sydney and has been for 1935-1937 Grand Night of the Sydney council of the Knights of Columbus.

Following the big wedding at Big Pon, Michael Macneil (Micheil Gobha) and his bride made their home at Iona as already mentioned, where they continued to reside until the year 1862, when the family moved to Baddeck. It may be of interest to note that their residence at Iona was situated on the lower side of the road at present (1937) in front of the residence of Frank John S., within ten feet of the dwelling of Arthur Campbell. The Forge was where the highway now crosses the C.N.R. Michael Macneil Gobha , died at Baddeck, June 14th, 1866, and his wife predeceased him at Baddeck December11th, 1862, at the age of 58 years. Both are buried with all members of their family at Iona.


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