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The Scottish Nation

M’KERRELL, the surname of an old Ayrshire family which possesses the estate of Hillhouse near Irvine, and claims to be of Norman origin, as the name Kiriel occurs on the roll of Battle Abbey. It is believed, however, that the family is from Galloway, and an offshoot from the stock of the M’Kerlies (see previous article). The first of the name on Scottish record, Sir John M’Kirel, distinguished himself at the battle of Otterburn, 19th August, 1388, by wounding and taking prisoner Ronel de Percie, who held the second command in the English host. From the circumstance that the Hillhouse family carry the same armorial bearings that Sir John Mackirel acquired by his prowess in that battle, it is conjectured, on good grounds, that he was their ancestor.

      According to tradition the M’Kerrells came from Ireland, and have possessed the estate of Hillhouse since the days of Robert the Bruce. It appears, however, that, at one period, that estate belonged to the High Steward of Scotland, and afterwards to the Cathcart family, as it was amongst the lands (Colynane, Hillhouse and Holmyss in Ayrshire) granted by the crown to John, 2d Lord Cathcart, by renewed charter in 1505, having been forfeited by Alan, Lord Cathcart, his grandfather, for the alienation of the greater part of the same, without consent of the king. It is likely, therefore, that the M’Kerrells held it from the Cathcarts as superiors.

      The first of the family who is known to have been proprietor of the estate, William M’Kerrell of Hillhouse, sheriff-clerk of Ayr, died in October 1629. His great-great-grandson, John M’Kerrell of Hillhouse, married Elizabeth, daughter of William Fairlie of Fairlie, by his wife, Jane, only daughter of the last Sir William Mure of Rowallan. The fourth in descent from him, William M’Kerrell of Hillhouse, who died in 1821, raised at Paisley the first volunteer corps embodied in Scotland, during the French revolutionary war, His eldest son, John M’Kerrell, was placed when very young in the civil service of the East India Company, and for nine years was master of the mint at Madras. On his death, unmarried, in 1835, he was succeeded by his brother, Henry M’Kerrell of Hillhouse, formerly a merchant in Liverpool.

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