The Clan Kennedy is said
to originate from a branch of the Celtic Lords of Galloway and they are associated with
the Carrick district of Ayrshire in the far south-west of Scotland. John Kennedy of Dunure
and Cassillis married the heiress of the Carrick earls. Their grandson, James Kennedy who
married King Robert III's daughter, had two sons. As the grandsons of the King one was
created Lord Kennedy in 1457 and the other, James, was appointed Bishop of St. Andrews and
became advisor to James II. After the accidental death of James II by a cannon in 1400,
Bishop Kennedy assisted his widow in governing and educating the infant James III. He was
also regarded as the co-founder of St. Andrews University. Following his death in 1465,
his brother Lord Kennedy took part in the palace revolution that made him one of the
Regents until James III came of age. This did not however recommend him to the King, but
his sucessor, the 3rd Earl, did find favour with James IV and was created Earl of
Cassillis in 1509. He was later to fall with his King at Flodden in 1513. His successors
also died violently; the 2nd Earl was murdered by Campbell of Loudon and the 3rd died
mysteriously returning from Mary Queen of Scots marriage to the Dauphin. The 4th Earl, in
his quest for more lands is remembered for "roasting the Abbot of Crossraguel"
over a slow fire in his castle at Dunure to force him to surrender the title to the abbey
properties. The 6th Earl is also renowned for his merciless treatment. For when his wife
fell in love with Johnnie Faa, the gypsy King, also known as Sir John Faa of Dunbar as
granted by James V to his ancestors, they eloped together. However they were unfortunately
caught by the outraged Earl who hanged Johnnie Faa in front of her eyes and imprisoned her
for the rest of her life. The 8th Earl had no children and the title passed to the
Kennedys of Culzean descended from the younger son of the 3rd Earl. Archibald fought in
the American War of Independence and his son the 12th was created Marquess of Ailsa in
1806. Culzean Castle, the seat of the Kennedys was designed by Robert Adam and is now
owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
I have a theory for you
concerning the origin of the Kennedies. I have posted this postulation with
the Kennedy Society of North America also. (I'm in the States) For all of my
life people have questioned how my name could be Scottish in origin when
most think it to be exclusively Irish. Therefore, I have done some
independent study on the subject.
All the histories of the Kennedy name in Scotland have focused on early
manuscripts that spell the name with a "K". Their conclusions briefly are
that the name originated in Southwestern Scotland (Carrick) around 1200 AD.
However, all of these histories ignore the 10th Century "Book of Deer".
(which is now in Cambridge University, reportedly looted by the English
during the Scottish Wars of Independence!) This Latin folio has early 12th
Century Gaelic notes added to the spaces besides the columns and at the end.
These Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer describe the founding of a Monastery
in present day Aberdeenshire by Saint Drostan and Columba. It also annotates
land grants in the area during the reign of David I (1124-1153). The
document is notable as the oldest existing example of Gaelic written in
Scotland (except for stone inscriptions) and is in Old Irish and an early
form of Scots Gaelic.
Among the land owners in that place and time was one Cormac mac Cennedig. (Cennedig
was apparently Cormac's father's given name as mac means "son of".)
It is well known that the Irish Annals call the high king Brian Boru; Brian
mac Cennetig as Cennetig was Brian's father's name. The Annals also mention
other Cennetigs seemingly unrelated to the Dal Cais tribe of Brian Boru and
The two are identical names as Scots Gaelic often uses a "d" where the Irish
has a "t".
It is clearly evident to me that the given name Cennetig or Cennedig was
quite common in Gaelic speaking areas during the middle ages (as were names
like Donnchadh or Muiredach) and accounts for its arising independently as a
surname in the forms "MacKennedy" or "MacCennetig" all over this Gaelic
cultural matrix from Moray to Munster.
So now when people ask me how can Kennedy be a Scottish name I can reply
confidently that it was a common given name that arose as a surname in
diverse areas of both Gaelic speaking Scotland and Ireland during the middle
Thank you for listening!