Are these the earliest pictures of a McKeegan?
This is Alexandre MacDonald whose father was Neil McEachen (McKeegan?) of South Uist. The McEachens like the McKeegans of North Uist were a sept of Clan MacDonald.
Did Keegan originate in Clan MacEachen?
We generally accept that Keegan, like Egan, is derived from MacAodhagain (Macegan). My gut feeling is that this is true. Keegans have always been considered synonymous with MacAodhagains and early DNA results confirm this is likely to be true.... But what if the name came from another source?
Could the McKeegans of North Uist be derived from the MacEachens of South Uist?
Could the Keegans of Louth be derived from the Keighans (MacEachens) of Ulster?
Certainly it is likely that some of the Isle of Man Keegans (Keighan) originated with Mac Eachen, and when the first MacAodhagain migrated to the Isles of Coll and Uist it was recorded that the name was "already there".
Also, Derry Keighan in Antrim refers to "Keighan's Grove".
There is however a final possibility that the MacAodhagains went to Scotland and came back again and that while the Keegans (Keighans) may have been derived from the MacEachens - actually the MacEachens were derived from the MacAodhagains!
We must point out that the old Scottish family of MacEachern (sept of Maclean) is distinct from the MacEachens (sept of MacDonald).
Before the twelfth century, the family had branched out and spread over into the Kingdom of Man, where because of the early mention of the name in the Manx Chronicles and place names, some etymologist refer to it as a Celtic patronymic of purely native origin. Here, their surname is again variously spelt and often with a K, also since 1611, some branches have dropped the prefix Mc entirely, but their descendents on going to Ireland shortly thereafter, resumed in time the use of both C and the Mc. The name therefore could be seen as Keegan.
McKeighan the Jacobite
In 1825, the newspaper 'Inverness Courier' carried reports of a visit to South Uist of one of Napoleon's Marshalls, the Duke of Tarentum. This was not, however, a chance appearance of someone of some importance in France doing a bit of sight-seeing. In fact, the Duke had gone to South Uist to tread on the ground where his father, Neil MacEachen had been born, in the township of Howbeg.
The Duke of Tarentum was Alexandre Jacques Joseph Etienne MacDonald, a Marshall and Peer of France. He was heavily involved in Napoleon's campaigns in Europe in 1809 and was the victor at the Battle of Wagram in July of that year.
He was promoted to Marshall of France on the battlefield by the Emperor. His father, Neil MacEachen who later changed his name to MacDonald, was a close companion of Prince Charles Edward when the latter was in the Western Isles after the disastrous Battle of Culloden in 1746.
Neil MacEachen was born in Howbeg in South Uist in 1719. He left the island to go to France to be educated for the priesthood but decided that a life in holy orders was not for him.
He returned to South Uist to find himself caught up in the 1745 Jacobite attempt to regain the British throne for the Old Pretender, Prince Charlie's father.
After Culloden, the Prince and his companions roamed all over the Western Isles, between South Uist and Stornoway, in an effort to find a ship which would take the Prince to France and to safety.
That event was to be achieved with the assistance of Flora MacDonald, one of the heroines of the day, who managed to get the Prince over to Skye and freedom.
MacEachen was a valuable member of the Prince's party, being able, as a fluent French speaker, to converse with him in confidence.
The Prince did reach his freedom in France, to where MacEachen also went to join up in one of the number of Scots regiments based in that country. When he changed his surname to MacDonald, he said it was because the Prince had once said that he always felt safer with MacDonalds around him. In any case, MacEachen had MacDonald blood in him.
MacEachen's army career was not spectacular. In later life, when his son, the future Duke was born, he found himself in poor circumstances.
His son, however, did much better.
When the Duke visited South Uist there was a bit of a problem in communication as his nearest kinsfolk spoke only Gaelic, of which the Duke had none, and his English was not much better. Eventually, the Duke, having visited his ancestral home, left South Uist with some stones and earth from the ruined walls of his father's house. These he had buried with him in French earth at his burial place in Courcelles-le-Roi in France.
Of local interest is the fact that there are still some MacEachens in Uist living today who have a kinship link to Marshall MacDonald, the Duke of Tarentum.
Pictured below:Alexandre Jacques Joseph Etienne MacDonald, Duke of Tarentum, Marshal and Peer of France, son of Neil MacEachen of South Uist.
MacEachens return to Ireland
For the McEachen family, the tenture of the lands of Mergmongach in Kintyre was seemingly very troubled and temporary, for early in 1600, the family left all and along with other related families, they journeyed the eighteen miles across the North Channel to County Antrim, Ireland, where they were apparently well received, and supplied with lands by John Naghten, Esquire, agent for his cousin, the Earl of Antrim.
Could the McCaughans arriving in Ireland in 1600 account for the sudden surge in Keegans in circa 1620?
John MaCaughan, the thirty-fourth head of his house and representative of the name and family, was sometimes recorded as McGaghan and/or McCaghan. He was MacEachain Mor, and the first of Ballyverdagh, Glenshesk, County Antrim. He was born about 1612 at Mergmonogach, Parish of Morven, Scotland. He occupied through 1669 the lands at Farranmacarter recorded then at Ballyverdagh from the Gaelic Dunbardach, i.e. The Warden's Castle (or Fort).
Alexander McCaughan was born about 1639 at Ballyverdagh, and he succeeded his father in 1672 in the occupancy of his lands and as the MacEachain Mor.
John McCaughan, his eldest son, was born about 1662 at Ballyverdagh.
Laughlin McCaughan was born 1696 at Ballyverdagh, and as the eldest living son succeeded his father in 1730, and is mentioned in a County Antrim Roll of Surnames for 1734, as Laughy McCagen (McCahan) of Ballyverdagh.
Here we see a McCaughan using the spelling McCagen. Could this have been anglicised to Cagan, Kagan and Keegan?
Chiefs of the Clan McEachen (conjectural)
The earliest and latest chiefs in the lineage are the subject of some controversy so we present here only the 23rd to 34th chiefs:
23: Sir Hector McEachen
24: Laghlin McEachen
25: Maurice McEachen
26: Duncan McEachen
27: Roland McEachen
28: Fergus McEachen
29: John McEachen
30: Fergus McEachen
31: John McEachen
32: James McEachen
33: Andrew McEachen
34: Archibald McEachen or MacCaghan (moved to Ireland 1600AD)
Sons of Archibald MacCaghan:
- John MacCaghan
- Alexander MacCaghan
- Gillichrist MacCaghan
- Lochlin MacCaghan
- Angus MacCaghan
- Daniel MacCaghan (possibly father of Daniel Keigeen resident in Isle of Man in 1697)
- Ogan MacCaghan (could this be the Egan McKeigan who folklore remembers as a seal hunter?)
- Donald MacCaghan
We have theorised elsewhere that the origin of the Keegan sept was Owen MacAodhagain (Hegaine) of Ross who may have signed his name as Kegaine in 1602. But could these MacCaghans have been the true origin of the name? A generation or two after the MacCaghans came back to Ireland (and after Owen signed his name Kegaine) there is recorded the first Keegans:
- Henry Kegan 1620, Dublin
- Dudly Keegan 1620, Esker, Dublin
- William Keegan, 1620, Crumlin
- Walter Kegan 1620, Dublin
- Robert Kegan 1627
- Una Keighan, 1620
- Murtagh Keegan? 1624?
- Walter Kegan II 1642, Dublin
- Ann Keegan 1640, Dublin
- Rowland Keegan 1650, Dublin
- William Keggin, 1644, Greenwich, England
- Henry Keggin II, 1647, Greenwich, England
- William Keggin II, 1649, Greenwich, England
- Ann Keggin II, 1652, Greenwich, England
- Thomas Keagan, 1650, Dublin
- Margaret Keigeen, 1659, Isle of Man
- John Keagan, 1670, Dublin
- Jane Keagan, 1684, Dublin
- Derby Kegan 1681, Dublin
- Robert Keegan II, 1685, Drogheda
The history of the McEachain clan is somewhat mired in controversy.
See this page: http://www.kaighin.com/FamilyHistory/Origins/Origins5.htm
McEachain as a sept of Clan MacDonald
Like the McKeegans of North Uist, the McEachains are a sept of Clan MacDonald.
In George Fraser Black’s The Surnames of Scotland; Their Origin, Meaning, and History (NY Public Library, 1946). His entries for McEachain and McEachern are given below (edited):
Maceachan, Maceachain, Maceachen, Maceachin, Macachin, Macechan, Macceachan. G. MacEachainn ‘son of Eachan.’ The Maceachans of the present day are said to be Macdonalds, but many of them in Arisaig and Uist so long used their patronymic as their surname that the practice has become settled. The late Allan R. Macdonald of Waternish says it is very doubtful in the MacEachens are really Macdonalds, and that there is good reason to believe that they are really Macleans (The Truth about Flora Macdonald, p.14n). Gillecrist Mecachin witnessed a charter by Roger de Scallebroc of lands in Carric in the reign of William the Lion (Melros, I, p. 26)... Andrew M’Cachin was rector of Ardmuchy, 1506 (ER., xii, p. 709), and Archibald McCachin was a tenant in Colonsay in same year (ibid.)....John M’Gauchane was burgess of Edinburgh, 1540... and William Reoch M’Aychin gave his bond of manrent to the earl of Huntlie, 1543 (SVM, IV, p. 260)....Many Maceachans emigrated to Nova Scotia and to Prince Edward Island and their descendants are now numerous there...." [The name appears as] McAchine 1635, Makcachane 1605, McEchan 1718, M’Eachine 1705, MacIkin (in Polloundowie) 1662, M’Kiachan 1724. Also Englished Auchaneson. See also MACGEACHAN
"Maceachern, Macreachearn, Macechern, Maceachran. G. MacEach-thigh-earna, ‘son of the horse-lord.’ The name goes back to OIr. when it appears as Ech-tigern. On the shaft of the cross at Kilkerran near Campbeltown, Kintyre, is the inscription: Hec est: crvx: Coleni: Mc: Heachyrna: et Katirine: uxoris: eivs (Drummond, Sculptured monuments of Iona, pl. lxxxi). This is probably Colin MacEachern, who was the chief of the Macecherns in 1499. Charles M’Caichrane held lands in Kintyre, 1605 (HP., III, p. 84). The name Anna Cheacharna is for Ann Maceachearn and Iain Ceachairne is for John Maceachearn... MacAcharn and McAcherne 1506, McAchern 1505, Makauchern 1507,M’Caichrane 1605, Makcacherne 1515, M’Caikorn 1694, McCauchquharn 1515, M’Caychirn c. 1512, McCCochran 1684, M’Eacharin 1647,M’Eacharne 1596, M’Gacharne, M’Kecherane, McKechern, M’Kechran, M’Kechrane and M’Kechren all 1605. Epidion Akron is the name of the Mull of Kintyre in the Geography of Ptolemy, c. 140 A.D. The root of the name is epos, horse; the Epidii, a British tribe, were the ‘horse folk,’ and it is interesting to note that Kintyre in historic times has always been claimed as the home of the Maceacherns or Macecherns.
Below are excerpts from a letter written by the Rev. Dougald McEachern of the Manse, Coll, Scotland, dated 23 August 1903.
"My old School-master, Dr. Alexander McBain of Inverness, author of the Gaelic Etymological Dictionary, and the leading living authority on Gaelic matters, derives the name from Each-Thighearna, Horse-Lord. I once asked him if he had any special grounds for that derivation, of if it were a mere surmise. He answered that he had documentary evidence for the correctness of the derivation. In his dictionary he gives the first recorded mention of the name as Ethtigern, if I remember rightly, a little after the year 800, found in an Irish manuscript.
"MacEachern is the most common way of spelling the name. My own name in my birth certificate is Mac Eachern, but my father changed it later to McEchern, for a reason that I forgot. We are of the Morven McEacherns. I have seen the name on our stones in the Keil Churchyard at Morven, and on the old ones it is variously spelt, sometimes McKacharan, the ‘K’ obviously is simply the ‘C’ of the Mac repeated. The point to notice is that the ‘R’ comes always in the last syllable. This distinguished the name from MacEachen (Son of the Houseman or Son of Hector). Our name brings in the word tighearma, MacEach-tighearn, Son of the Horse Lord.
"The name McKachnie is an Englishing of MacEachen, and sometimes of MacEachern but erroneously . . . The point to notice is that all Mackechnies are McEacherns and that McEachan is a different name.
"I am not at all sure that the McEacherns are a sept of the Clan Donald. There have been McDonalds, who have called themselves McEachan from an ancestor Hector McDonald and I think that there are such MacEachans in Uist, but these are not MacEacherns. The MacEacherns have for long been found in two main divisions, viz: in Islay and in Mull (and in Kintyre and Morven adjacent to these respectively). What authority there is for making these a sept of the McDonalds, I do not know.... The McEacherns were famous of old for their work in iron. They were, I have been told, the iron miners of old, and I have read that they were famous makers of the claymore."
The Weekly Scotsman of Thursday, 3 September ran the following item: "Stories of the Clans: The McEacherns" by Allan Douglas.
I know a family of McEacherns who are ‘daft’ on horses. They have a right to be. They are descended from great horsemen; and their full name in Gaelic is Mac each thigh earna meaning son of the horse leader or horse lord. The peninsula of Kintyre is their ancestral homeland, and it is interesting to learn that long before the Dalriadic Scots arrived from Ireland, Kintyre was peopled by a horse-tribe whom the Romans called the Epidii — from epos, horse. The area’s soil was less suited for crops than for grazing which explains how Kintyre became famous for raising horses. An ancient Gaelic saying describes Knapdale, north of Kintyre, as a place where ‘they put skill into the horse,’ meaning they trained horses there. Knap itself may be a contraction of Capull, an Old Gaelic word for horse.
"On file at the National Library, Edinburgh, is a brief history by Mr. A. McKerral, which claims McEacherns held the Kintyre lands of Killellan until about the mid-eighteenth century, first under the McDonald Lords of the Isles, then by Crown charter, and finally under the Campbells of Argyll.
"Kintyre is but a short distance from the Isle of Islay where McEacherns were hereditary amourers to the Lords of the Isles. As sword-smiths, they forged perhaps the finest broadswords in all the Highlands. An old Statistical Account says they received the Islay lands of Coul or Cull from MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, in exchange for a flounder! As a sept of Clan Donald, they made their great broadswords on a site just southwest of present-day Kilchoman Church, behind a rock-face known as Creag Uinnsinn. "Many grave-slabs in Kilchoman Churchyard, site of the famed Kilchoman Cross, are embossed with carved examples of these swords.
"McEacherns must have taken an active part in the Battle of Gruineart Strand where McLeans of Mull invaded Clan Donald lands. Not many years ago an Islay crofter unearthed a McEachern broadsword on the site of the conflict."
MacEachain descended from McKeegan of Uist?
Could it be that the MacEachains of South Uist (not to be confused with the MacEacherns of Jura) were the descendants of the MacKeighans of North Uist? Who then moved back to Ireland?