Nicholson (No.1) family genealogy

Arms: For the Armorial Bearings of the several branches of this family, see Burke's "Armory."

NIOCHOLL, brother of Teige who is No. 91 on the "Coffey" pedigree, was the ancestor of MacNicaill, sometimes written NacNiocoil, and MacNioclais; anglicised MacNichol, MacNicol,[1] Nicholls, Nicholas, MacNicholas, Nicholson, Nicolson, Nicols, Nicson, and Nixon.

91. Niocholl ("nicaill:" Irish, "ni," not, and "caill," to lose; Heb. "calah," he faileth): son of Cobthach; first of the family who settled in Scotland.

92. Ard: his son.

93. Asmain: his son.

94. Arailt: his son.

95. Turc Athcliath (athcliath: Irish, "Dublin"): his son; meaning Turc of Dublin.

96. Amlaeimh: his son.

97. Taidg [Teige]: his son.

98. Carfin: his son.

99. Aillin: his son.

100. Poil: his son.

101. Fogail: his son.

102. Muireadach: his son.

103. Arailt (2): his son.

104. Erlile: his son.

105. Fuileadh: his son.

106. Erbhle (or Erlerle): his son.

107. Sdacaill ("staid:" Irish, an estate; "caill," to lose): his son.

108. Torstan: his son.

109. Tortin: his son.

110. Torcill: his son.

111. Seaill: his son.

112. Gillemare: his son.

113. Gregall: his son.

114. Mcaill: his son.

115. Neaill: his son.

116. Aigh: his son.

117. Nicaill (2): his son.

118. Eoin (or John): his son.

119. Eogan: his son.

120. Eion (2):[2] his son.

121. Alexander: his son.

122. Donald: his son; had a brother named Neil.

123. Malcolm: son of Donald.

124. Donald MacNicol: his son; Chief of the Clan in the Isle of Skye, in the reigns of King Charles I. and II.; was thrice married and had twenty-three children; one of the wives was Margaret Morrison, of Lewis.

125. Malcolm: his son; Chief of his Clan; married the poetess Mary MacLeod, sister of John Garbh MacLeod, the tallest Highlander in his time. Of the brothers and. sisters of this Malcolm we have ascertained the names of the following: 1. Donald; 2. William; 3. Rev. Alexander, who twice married into the family of "The MacDonald, of the Isles;" 4. Patrick, who married Grizel Frazer, a near relative of the then Lord Lovat; 5. George; 6. John, who died unmarried; 7. James; 8. Jane, who was married to MacKinnon, of Corrie; 9. Rachel, married to Ronald MacDonald; 10. Mary, married to Alexander, McQueen; and 11. Neill, who married Kate MacDonald.

126. John: son of Malcolm: married Anne MacLean; had a brother Angus.

127. Malcolm: son of John; married Jessie MacDonald.

128. Donald: his son; married Margaret MacDonald; died 1797.

129. John: his son; married Marion Davidson; died 1850.

130. Norman Nicholson, the Chief of the Clan; his son: living in Camelford, Cambeltown, Tasmania, A.D. 1880.


[1] MacNicol: In a lately published work, purporting to give the "History of the Scottish Clans," it is stated that this Clan was of Norwegian orgin. No doubt the Clan, from time to time, may have made several marriage alliances with Danish and Norwegian families; but the Clan MacNicol was of Irish extraction! Gregall MacNicol, who is No. 113 on this pedigree, acquired historic notability by his opposition to and defeat of the Danes and Norwegians: a fact, which in itself, would go to prove that the Clan MacNicol is not of Danish or Norwegian descent.

In connection with this subject we have lately been favoured with the following—

"Notes anent Clan MacNicol"

By William Nicolson, of Millaquin Refinery, Bundaberg, Queensland:

1. THE badge of the Clan is a sprig of oak, in memory of their ancestor Daire.—See O'HART'S Pedigrees; Annals of the Four Masters, &c.

2. The Daireinians or Dairinoi have been identified as the Kairinoi of Ptolemy, and as the Clan now known as MacNicol or Nicolson, anglicé Nicholson.

3. The adoption of the Clan name of O'Niochol or MacNicol was the result of the fealty of the Daireinians to Brian Boru, who having ordained that every sept should adopt some particular surname, in order to preserve correctly the history and genealogy of the different tribes, the majority of them adopted that of O'Niochol, one of their chiefs celebrated to this day for his unbounded hospitality. Niochol is No. 91 on the Stem of the Clan.

4. Clan MacNeachtain, now MacNaughten, and Clan MacNeachdail now MacNicol or Nicolson, have from time immemorial been in such close contact, that they have often had their chief in common, and their Tartan is so remarkably similar as to point out some special reason for the close affinity existing between them. O'Dugan names O'Taireceirt (Daire) as chief of Clanna Neachtain; and in the Annals of the Four Masters, O'Taireceirt is given also as chief of Clanna Snedgile, otherwise Snackroll: Snackroll being Nicol or Nicolson.

5. The persistence of some Nicolsons as to Danish descent, and the equally persistent assertion of other Nicolsons as to the Irish lineage of the Clan can be satisfactorily accounted for, and these apparently contradictory statements reconciled: For example—Ottar Snedgile, or Snackroll, or Nicolson, an Irish prince and Earl of the Western Hebrides, became King over the Danes in Dublin, from A.D. 1146 to 1148, by choice of the Danes to whom he was allied by ties of relationship, and there are other instances of the sort;—moreover, the settlement of Nicolsons in Cumberland and in Northumberland appears to be directly traceable to the period when Irish princes formed matrimonial alliances with the princesses of Danish lineage;—nevertheless, in spite of the Danish affinities of some of the chiefs of Clan MacNicol or O'Niochol, the majority of the Nicolsons seem to have fought for Brian Boru at Clontarf.

6. In the year 1204, Sitrig O'Sruithen, Archineach of Congbhala, chief of Clan Congbhala, chief of Clan Snedgile, died and was buried in the church built by himself. It would appear that in him Fuileadh, No. 105 on the Stem of the Nicolsons (Fuileadh the destitute), lost a friend and protector. Giollareigh was the next chief of Clan Snedgile and of Clan Fingin, but who are Clanna Fingin?

105. Fuileadh, the destitute, 106. Erblile, and 107. Sdacail, the Estate loser, were all contemporaries of and near of kin to the celebrated Andrew Nicolson who was, as was Ottar Snackoll, a Hebridean chief and high in authority amongst the Danish princes. Fuileadh, Erblile, and Sdacaill appear to have been on the Irish because losing side in Clan matters: hence the flight and destruction that portion of the Clan, from time to time removing from Ireland and settling in Skye, in Cumberland, in Northumberland, &c, becoming of necessity increasingly allied to the Danish party. Even the names of the members of the Stem of the Nicolsons, as traced by O'Hart, prove this solution of the Irish and Danish traditions of the Clan MacNicol to be correct.

101. Fogail the fugitive.

102.Muireadach at the time of the death of Sitrig O'Sruithen was, as his name implies, a chief of Clan MacNicol or Snedgile, who had taken to a sea-fearing life, and was probably supporting himself and his adherents by piracy with the help of Danish allies.

103. Arailt, or Harold his son, as his name implies must have had a Danish mother, for " Harold" is not an Irish name; his mother was most probably a Dublin Danish princess.

104. Erlile, his son, was probably reared in Skye; for in his youthful days the country of the O'Niochol in Ireland was ravaged by English and Irish alike. In A.D. 1212 Giolla Fialach O'Boyle, with a party of the Kinnel Connell, plundered some of the Kinel Owen, who were under the protection of the O'Taireceirt. O'Taireceirt overtook them, and in the conflict which ensued, was slain.

105. Fuileadh, his son: of the period in which he lived the Four Masters write that then no man spared his neighbour, but took advantage of his misfortunes, and spoiled and plundered him; and that many women, children, and helpless persons perished of cold and famine during the wars of this period. Nor were matters any more favourable to him and his clansmen in Syke, where the Nicolsons were appealing to Norwegians and Danes for help against the Scots of the mainland, who continually made incursions into the Western Hebrides, slaying women and children, even placing babes on the points of their spears and shaking them till they were pierced through and fell down the shaft of the spears to their hands, when they threw them away lifeless. These horrible excesses led to King Hacon's Expedition, and at Largs Andrew Nicolson, one of the most gigantic men of his day, fought at the head of a body of Danes and Norwegian and Skye men, gaining for himself renown which lasts to this day. It is recorded that prior to the battle he cut down one of his foes slicing him in halves lengthways, i.e. from the crown of his head to the seat in the saddle, so that his adversary dropped instantly half on one side of the horse he was riding, and half on the other side. In spite of prodigies of valour the Skyemen, Danes, and Norwegians were routed, but under Andrew Nicolson's guidance (he being in command of Hacon's fleet) they reassembled in Skye where the allies were abundantly supplied with provisions.

Here then in the history of the times we have the clue to the Irish and Danish traditions of Clan MacNicol—Fogail, the fugitive, becomes such by reason of his unsuccessful opposition to Invaders of Ireland—-Muireadach, his son, seeks on the waters the safety he cannot find on land, and thenceforward the Nicolsons and Danes are closely allied.

From the time of Sdacail, the Estate loser, dates, we believe, the following proverb:—

Bumasdair de chlann Mhic Neachdaill agus amadan de chlann Mhic Cuin. (A fool of the Nicholsons and an idiot of the McQuinn);

A proverb evidently fixing some event in the career of the chiefs of each Clan, whereby the Clan rights were prejudicially affected by them as representatives of the septs.

This view of the case is confirmed by the fact of the well known break, here occuring in the chief ship of Clan MacNicol, i.e.

108. Torstan McLeod, contemporary with 105, Fuileadh.

109. Torcin: his son; contemporary with 106. Erlile.

110.Torcill: his son; contemporary with 107, Sdacaill.

This Torcill is the Torcill who married the heiress of the Nicolson chiefs, whose family in the male line became, according to Fullarton, at that date extinct. And it is important to note that the son of Torcill and of this heiress is named Scaill, probably the original form of the name of Sdacaill the Estate loser. It is evident that the peculiar form of the genealogy in the original Gaelic:—

Scaill, ic Torcill, ic Totin, ic Torstain McSdacaill, ic Erlile O'Fuileadh, ic Erlile MacArailt, ic Muireadach, ic Fogail, is intended to convey some such solution of the succession as this:—

Scaill the first then has his dynasty perpetuated in Scaill the second,—Scaill being the true form of the name. That there is nothing far-fetched in the hypothesis above advanced will be clear to all who are familiar with Celtic and Hebraic play upon the pronounciation and signification of names. O'Hart gives Nicail or Nicol to be equivalent of one who "loseth not;" i.e. Scaill and Sdacaill to be equivalent to "Estate loser." Sdacaill's Heiress knew all this and named her son accordingly;—just as in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, those who believe him to be the Messias call him Jeschua, but the Jews rejecting him call him Jeschu. They carefully leave out the "a," because by so doing they indicate that he could not save himself much less save his people; moreover, by omitting the "a" the Cabbalists were able to give an evil significance to the name: the remaining letters being held forth as equivalent to "His name and remembrance shall perish."

Lastly, upon the foregoing basis sundry difficulties of chronology are removed, and all the conflicting elements of the Clan history are reconciled. Moreover, the reason for Torcill's son by the Heiress being named Scaill, as a per contra to Sdacaill, is the more evident on comparison of Celtic land laws with the record contained in Numbers XXXVI.

No. 95. Torc Athcliath: It is supposed that the Castle of Athcliath, near Sligo, demolished in A.D. 1317, was built by Torc.

No. 69. Con-a-cille: From a careful comparison of dates and periods of generation, it becomes evident that Con-a-cille was contemporary with Laeghaire McNiall, first Christian King of Ireland; and that he gained his name by reason of his church building for Saint Patrick, by whose ministry he was converted.

73. Cobthach Fionn (fair-haired victor) probably acquired soubriquet under Fergus Mór Mac Earca when that founder of the Milesian Monarchy in Scotland went thither to fight the Picts. He would certainly head a substantial army of Daireinians who could at no other date have had sufficient motive for emigrating from Ireland to Scotland in sufficient numbers to found the colony of Dairinoi or Kairinoi, since identified as the Clan MacNicol.—See my Notes, 1, 2 & 3, supra.

88. Niochol Snackoll Snedgile: That the Clan was divided at Clontarf seems certain. Brian Boru declined the offer of troops made by the King of Ulster in consequence of former feuds between them, but accepted the aid of Sitrig, the Dane, against the Danes; and as Torc Athcliath (or Torc of Dublin) was certainly one of Brian Boru's supporters, and as Sitrig is a name not unfrequent in Nicolson genealogies, the inference may be justifiable that this Sitrig and Torc were kinsmen.

101. Fogail the fugitive: Excepting that the Four Masters mention the O'Taireceirt heads of Clan MacNicol or Sneidgile as patriots, I have found nothing to show which of the chiefs opposing the English Invasion Fogail could have been.

[2] Eoin: According to some records the three names between this Eoin and Donald, No. 124, are as follows:—No. 121 Nicaill (3); No. 122, Andreas; and No. 123, Nicaill (4). This Nicaill (4), who was called the "Outlaw," had a son No. 124, who was called Donald Mór, who had a son William, No. 125. It would however, appear that the members of this Clan had a great partiality for marrying into their own families; from which cause the names of the sons-in-law, in those three generations may have been inserted for those of the sons, or, vice versa: being of the same sirname.