In the eleventh century, Anrothan, son of Kin Aodh O’Neill married a princess of Dalriada and it was from this union that sprang the house of Torquil of Taynish. In 1530 Torquil MacNeill of Gigha was described as the chief of the clan, but when Gigha passed to the Campbells Colonsay became the seat of the chiefs, with the brothers Neill MacNeill and John Og MacNeill trying to re-establish the fortunes of the house.
However, as the power of the mighty Campbells increased, so the effectiveness of the house of Colonsay declined, and the chiefship of the clan passed from Colonsay to Barra. In 1780 Donald MacNeill of Colonsay repurchased the island of Gigha and a period of island prosperity began. Donald was an enlightened chief, introducing a successful new pattern of crofting and also building new houses for the crofters, many with chimney stacks!
Donald’s son, Alexander, sold the island to his brother Duncan, the celebrated Lord Justice-General, who was created Lord Colonsay in 1867. The present chief of the clan MacNeill of Colonsay resides in New Zealand.