Saturday, October 15, 2011

One Big Happy Family

The story of our family's origin takes us from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, over to Antrim County, Northern Ireland, and back to lowland Scotland. It is easy to view the later Scotland McQuistons (et. al.) as a different branch from those in Ulster (Northern Ireland).

However, a closer look at the location of the earliest McQuistons recorded in the lowlands places them near the Stranraer ferry, which, for centuries led to the Larne/Carrickfergus area of Antrim, and, in more recent years, to Belfast. This is the shortest travel distance between these two countries. The closest distance between the countries is actually only about 12 miles, though the ferry travels a bit further.

Larne is where Andrew Jackson's  family and the South Carolina branch of McQuistons all left from, upon immigrating to America. Carrickfergus and Belfast have hosted many McQuiston families. The McQuiston Church is located in south Belfast and holds the record for the largest ever Presbyterian Congregation. The old McQuiston School became the Belfast School of Music. Ian McQuiston has held several high positions in protecting the architecture of Ulster. Billy "Twister" McQuiston was a Ulster Defense League fighter who turned peacemaker after a few years in prison and has been a driving force in that area. Eddie McQuiston's ancestors were reasonably famous drummers in a Fife and Drum group from Antrim. The point is the family has been well-established in the area around the western Irish port of the ferry.

We know, for a fact, that Hugh of Sleat's grandson left the Isle of Skye for Northern Ireland around April 30, 1565, to serve under the McDonnell leader of Antrim. Additional records exist of the family at Ballycastle, home to the McDonnell leader, and in the Bann Valley that straddles Antrim and Londonderry Counties.

On the eastern side of the ferry, in lowland Scotland, we find Jim McQuiston, a principal historian at Dundonald Castle. In Troon, just 30 miles west of Glasgow, exists the golf award known as the McQuiston Cup – Troon being where the first ever "open" golf tournament was held.

My ancestor, Robert McCuiston, was born in Paisley, Scotland, also located west of Glasgow, towards the coast. Our progenitor, Hugh of Sleat (Uisdean) died at Paisley Abbey. Somerled, forefather to so many clans, including ours, died at the location of the Glasgow Airport, which is in fact on the very edge of Paisley.

Just today I was looking over some information and realized something hiding in plain sight all this time.

The second oldest "official" record Leona found on our name was for a John who was living in the parish of Inch, Scotland. I went online to find that he lived only about four miles from the Stranraer Ferry. In a later record, John lists a James as his father, and also as a brother. About the same time, in Ulster, we find a James McQuiston in the service of the McDonnell Earl of Antrim. This is almost certainly one of the same men named James, since these people did not consider Antrim and the west coast of Scotland as necessarily separate from each other.

With religious and political persecution intermittent in either country, the quickest escape was to the other country, via a short trip across the water. Imagine County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and County Ayr, Scotland as two adjoining counties connected by a short boat ride and it becomes obvious that these are not two separate branches of the family, but the exact same family.

Robert was born on the Scotland side in 1710. His brother, James, was born in Londonderry, (just on the edge of Antrim), in 1700. Originally from Scotland, the Jackson's held political power near Londonderry, at Coleraine, and Andrew Jackson, senior, left from Larne.

Add to all of this the island of Islay, which lies to the north of the ferry route. Good King John of Islay was Hugh of Sleat's great grandfather. Islay and Antrim were home to Clan Donald South, while Clan Uisdean represented Clan Donald North from the Isle of Skye. The area of Islay near the famous Mull of Kintyre became home to many McQuistons as Clan Donald South found itself in serious trouble in Antrim. The old McDonnell center of power on Islay became Campbelltown, and our John, mentioned above, is married to a Campbell woman.

Antrim, Ayr, and Islay formed a triangle of escape, and perhaps opportunity, for our family as it held onto its Gaelic identity in a culture bent on adopting the English language and customs.

The short travel distance, the Gaelic and McDonald/McDonnell heritage, the Presbyterian background, the Paisley Abbey connection, all point to one big happy family. Our DNA pretty much verifies that we all came out of the same mould - a mould that covered the very realm of the old Scottish/Irish kingdom of Dalriada.

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