Clan MacNicol (MacNeacail) Septs
The Original Gaelic form of the name MacNeacail has over 80 variations in spelling. This is due to Anglicising the name after the Jacobite Rebellions, as well as many emigrants from Scotland changing their names on arrival in their new country, as did many people who migrated to the Scottish lowlands in search of work. Shortening or dropping the prefix “Mc” or “Mac”, or Anglicising a Gaelic surname, or indeed changing the surname altogether for a similar sounding English one, which would be easier to pronounce and would conceal one’s origins, was common occurrence.
MacNichol is also down as an accepted sept of Clan Campbell
The name MacNichol in its various spellings and anglicised as Nichol or Nicolson is widespread in Scotland, and is particularly well-known in the case of the Nicolsons or MacNeacails of Scorrybreac.
The attribution of this name to Clan Campbell applies uniquely to the kindred of this name long settled in Glenorchy and in Glenshira. Their origin is unknown. Local tradition apparently had it that the family were originally MacPhees sprung from one Nicol McPhee who left Lochaber in the sixteenth century.
There were indeed MacNichols in Lochaber. They descended from the MacPheesof Colonsay and had held their lands in Lochaber since before the 1493 forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles. (73) (MacMillan, Bygone Lochaber, 96.) The names in the MacNichol of Socach line repeat names commonly in use by the MacPhees.
Duke Niall of Argyll on the other hand noted that he thought they were MacNaughtons of Dunderave. This, however, may derive from a too-hasty reading of one of the unpublished Dewar Manuscripts which tells a tale of one Thomas Ruadh Mac Sheumas Ruadh mhic Sheumais -dhuibh mhic Dhonachie Mhic Ghiobhaine -mhoire a Mhorara who came to a sticky end in a skirmish with the MacGregors. He was the ancestor of James MacNichol in Achalader and was said to have been of MacNaughton origin but the crucial point which for once eluded Duke Niall is that he was apparently MacNichol’s maternal ancestor.
Be that as it may, the MacNichols were long in Socach in Glenorchy. The first to settle there was Nicol who married MacTavish of Dunardry’s daughter. His brother Duncan settled in Achnafannich. In 1593, Nicol’s son, ‘Gillepatrick mac Nicol mac Duncan Riabhach’ in Socach was given a charter of the lands of Elrigmore in Glenshira by MacNaughton of Dunderave. This property was taken on by Gillepatrick’s younger son, Nicol Ban MacNichol. (74) (Gillies, ‘Some Thoughts on the Toschederach, Scottish Gaelic Studies xvii, 340.) The name Elrig denotes the narrow pass which formed the culmination of a deer drive where the fleeing beasts, collected together gradually over a period of days and a huge territory, were concentrated in a narrow pass where they faced the arrows and swords of the hunters waiting for them. The MacNichols also acquired the next door Elrigbeg.