The McWh*rter Database contains
on over 200 presently unconnected McWh*rter lines in Scotland.
Many, if not most, of these lines are linked,
but I don't presently know the connections.
Several articles on McWh*rter research in Scotland,
first published in the McWh*rter Genealogy Newsletter,
are offered below.
For a map of the counties of Scotland
click on the map below!
The McWhirter Family
of Blairquhan Castle
STRAITON by AYRSHIRE
Extract from " Famous Scottish Houses" Published circa
BLAIRQUHAN, STRAITON, AYRSHIRE
Reprinted from the McWh*rter
Volume 4, Issue 4 (November 2000)
The following text was reformatted by John McWhirter, Dundee, Scotland in December
1999 following a visit to Blairquhan Castle, Straiton, Scotland earlier that year. The
original text was presented to him by the present laird of Blairquhan Castle, James Hunter-Blair whose generosity is
STRAITON is only a little, quaint, and quiet village, with that charm which is to be
found in out-of-the-way places. It has a church with all the characteristic ugliness of
the buildings of the Scottish Reformation, but redeemed from complete condemnation by a
pre-Reformation east end. And less than two miles from the village is the delightful
house, Blairquhan pronounced Blair whon," with the accent on the second
syllable, as nearly as spelling will indicate - a real modern castle, with a bit of the
ancient castle embodied in it.
Blairquhan is finely situated on the banks of the River Girvan, the house being on the
left bank and the river flowing through the grounds. The main frontage faces the south,
with the ground rising from the front, and falling from the back of the house to the
river, which winds its course for about four miles before it leaves the demesne. The
avenue is entered by a handsome bridge and lodge, and is conducted along the river-bank a
distance of nearly three miles before it arrives at the house. This gives the visitor a
most pleasing impression. As the avenue draws near the house it passes under a row of
lime-trees, old and lofty and dark.
The present house was built about the year 1820 by Sir David Hunter-Blair, Baronet, who
was Deputy-Lieutenant and Convener of the County of Ayr; and the architect was William
Burn, of Edinburgh. The former house was an irregular building of large extent, a great
part of it erected in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, about the year 1570. It was a
total ruin at the time when it was taken down to make room for the present edifice, the
only part which had withstood the ravages of time being a square tower of great strength
and thickness, the "McQuirter Tower." Doubtless it was the original keep,
erected for defence, and surviving when the additions which had been made for comfort had
crumbled into pieces. The name of the tower was a record that the family of McQuirter had
been connected in very early days with Blairquhan.
The front of the present house measures about 160 feet in line. A handsome porch stands
out 24 feet in front of the line. At the east end is a series of low buildings surrounding
the kitchen courtyard, and containing a part of the old house which was rebuilt. Its most
interesting feature is the beautifully arched old gateway, with a finely carved
coat-of-arms above it. The inscription on the court gate contains the motto In Domino
confido, and the statement, "At this tyme is Jone Kenedy Lard of Blarquhain, and
Margret Keith his vyfe in the year of.
." (probably about 1570).
The main entrance-hall, known as "The Saloon," is about 60 feet in height. A
beautiful staircase rises from it, dividing at a half-landing, and continued as two
staircases to a gallery from which passages communicate with all parts of the house, and
upon which open various rooms.
The billiard-room opens from the left of the saloon; a little further on we come to the
drawing-room on the left; and a wide doorway connects billiard-room and drawing-room, the
former looking out to the south and the latter to the north and west. On the opposite side
of the saloon are the dining-room and the library, running towards the east end of the
house, which communicates with the ancient buildings.
As viewed on the south front the building is two storeys in height, but the slope down
to the river on the north side gives another storey there. A rustic bridge where the River
Girvan presents the appearance of a quiet pool makes a typical sylvan scene.
Of the families which have held Blairquhan, four are well known by
nameMacWhirter, Kennedy, Whitefoord, and Hunter-Blair. An interesting tale tells of
the passing of the estate from the MacWhirters and is the theme of a poem. Put in ordinary
prose, it is written in a paper dated January 20, 1820, which was prepared for Sir David
Hunter-Blair of that day.
The document reads: "Regnault Macwhurter, the last of the old race of the
Macwhurters of Blairquhan, had twin daughters, one of whom was married to Sir Ulrich
Macwhurter, who had been long in the service of the French king, and had been knighted by
that prince for some valorous action. The other was joined in wedlock to a son of John,
second Lord Kennedy, by his second wife Elizabeth Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Huntly.
Upon the death of old Macwhurter these two gentlemen claimed the barony of Blairquhan,
each for himself on account, as both said, of his lady having been born first. As this
circumstance could not by any means be determined, a bloody foray would in all probability
have ensued had not the relations on each side prevailed upon them to submit their claims
to the King, James III who, although very young, had the character of being a wise and
"After much hesitation and many a stipulation they both agreed to do so, and for
that purpose proceeded to Edinburgh; but how to decide impartially a question where both
parties seemed to have an equal right His Majesty was for some time at a loss to know. At
last he came to the resolution that one of them should walk and the other ride from
Edinburgh to Blairquhan, and he who should first kindle a fire in the castle should keep
possession, not only of it, but likewise of all the land appertaining thereto; and to make
the chance equal they were to draw each a straw out of a stack, and he who should pull the
longest should ride. This fell to young Kennedy, who was consequently considered by many
as having already gained the estate; but others, who knew Sir Ulrichs great strength
and unbending resolution, were of a contrary opinion.
"There being no public road at that time from Edinburgh direct to Blairquhan, each
took the route which fancy pointed out as being the straightest. Sir Ulrich was attended
by many of the relations of young Kennedy on horseback, who were deputed by the King to
see him perform his journey in the manner prescribed. Young Kennedy was not accompanied by
any person, as none would undertake to ride as fast as he was likely to do; but he was
preceded by His Majesty and a few nobles who wished to be at Blairquhan before either of
the sticklers for the estate should arrive, in order that they might act as stewards of
"But just as the King was going to cross the water of Girvan near Straiton, from
that circumstance called the Kings Hill to this day, he observed a great smoke
suddenly arise from the highest chimney of the castle of Blairquhan, and being certain it
could not be Kennedy that had raised it, as he was at that moment still a few yards in the
rear of His Majestys company, he exclaimed, My kingdom to a bodle that yon
reek is raised either by the deil or by his ain bairn, Ulrich Macwhurter."
This is only about half of the account. Macwhurter obtained the award, but became such
a terror to the neighbourhood that in course of time means were taken to get rid of him,
and young Kennedy then came into the estate. The story is open to criticism but may be
true, although it is known that John Kennedy was in possession in 1444, while James III
reigned between 1460 and 1488.
The estate passed to the Whitefoords in 1623, by a legal process which the Kennedys
resisted, keeping possession for many years against the law. The Whitefoords held until
Sir John was ruined by his connection with the Douglas and Heron Bank, after which the
curators of Sir David Hunter-Blair bought the property about the end of the seventeenth
century. The present laird is Captain Edward Hunter-Blair, R.N. He retired from the Royal
Navy in 1898, but rejoined in 1914 and served at the naval centres of intelligence during
the war, at Invergordon, Sheerness, and Greenock. The baronet is his elder brother Sir
David Oswald Hunter-Blair, formerly Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery at Fort Augustus.
The family is descended from the Hunters of Hunterston and the Blairs of Dunskey, and
through the latter family, also from the Kennedys who held Blairquhan long ago. "
The above text was reformatted by John McWhirter, Dundee, Scotland in December 1999
following a visit to Blairquhan Castle, Straiton, Scotland earlier that year. The original
text was presented to him by the present laird of Blairquhan Castle, James Hunter-Blair
whose generosity is acknowledged.
John McWhirter, Dundee, Scotland
Back to Colmonell
Reprinted from the McWh*rter
Volume 1, Issue 1 (February 1997)
County of Ayrshire, Scotland, about 23 miles south of the City of Ayr and three miles
inland from the coast, lies a little village called Colmonell. No relative of mine ever
mentioned Colmonell and I had never heard of the village until the day in 1976 when my
wife, Barbara, and I used a delayed honeymoon in Scotland to do some genealogy searching.
the birth record of my grandfather James McWhirter [db#332] in the coastal town of
Girvan located about 17 miles south of Ayr. That record revealed that his parents, Alexander
[db#322] and Sarah (ms Hamilton) McWhirter [db#328] had been married by a
Duncan Davies, minister of the Free Church of Colmonell. Girvan is found on most
maps of Scotland, but only a local map of Ayrshire and the assistance of the Registrar of
the Town of Girvan could get me to Colmonell.
Colmonell nestles in the valley of
the Stinchar River behind a range of hills that rise directly from the Irish sea to a
height of almost 900 feet.
reached the crest of the hills, we felt ourselves being transported back in time hundreds
of years. When we stood with the narrow paved road at our back the panorama revealed
nothing that identified the landscape as belonging to the 20th century.
roads, telephone lines, smokestacks, industries, automobiles or television antennas were
visible as far as our eyes could see. We only saw rolling hills, dotted everywhere with
sheep and broken stone dikes (walls), and scattered ruins of ancient towers that resembled
lighthouses more than castles.
drove, the peace and aura of an earlier time descended upon us much as the mists descended
upon two American travelers approaching the village of Brigadoon in the Broadway musical
of the same name.
grandfather had removed with his parents from Girvan to Paisley when just an infant. James
trained to become a stonemason like his father . He married Helen Robertson McKellar [db#343]
in Paisley, Scotland on 17-Jun-1910 and sailed with her for America a week later. They
made the journey from Glasgow to Boston, Massachusetts aboard the S.S. Parisian arriving
in America on 3-Jul-1910. It was not until fifty years later, on the occasion of his
golden wedding anniversary, that James set foot in Scotland again.
I was, more than a dozen years after his death, entering the village of his parents. The
whitewashed cottage walls on the single village lane did not seem to recognize any
homecoming. However, since then, the village and the valley of the Stinchar River have
become an inseparable part of my being.
My initial visit to Colmonell was
a short one, merely long enough to take a quick look about the village and realize that
the name McWhirter was a common one among the gravestones in the village kirkyard. It was
the first place I had ever been in my life where McWhirter was a "common" name.
Our visit and exploration was cut short by the lateness of the day and the realization
that we had a journey back to Paisley ahead of us. But I would have tarried longer had I
realized that it would be seventeen years (and two children) later that I would have the
chance to explore the graveyard more closely.
August of 1993 that Barbara, myself, and our sons Jason and Justin went back to Scotland.
At the first opportunity Barbara and I left the kids to their own devices (with second
cousins still living in Paisley) and set off for Girvan and Colmonell once again. This
time we reached Colmonell by travelling up river from the mouth of the Stinchar at
Ballantrae. The journey from Ballantrae covers a distance of five miles along a single
lane road that makes passing an oncoming car something of an adventure.
On this visit Barbara and I
undertook a more thorough search of the gravestones about the kirkyard. In particular I
was looking for those of Margaret (ms Campbell) McWhirter [db#321] my
grandfathers grandmother, and her infant daughter Margaret [db#5164] who were
buried in the kirkyard according to their death certificates which I had located at
Register House in Edinburgh. We found no stones commemorating the life of either,
suggesting that there are likely more McWhirters buried in the kirkyard than gravestones
not finding what we came looking for, Barbara and I systematically covered the entire
kirkyard recording gravestone inscriptions of all the McWhirters mentioned there. Many of
the gravestones were of course quite worn and some inscriptions were indecipherable in
oldest of the kirkyards gravestones was one which read - "This is the place
where lyes the last of William McWhirtor [db#13179] and Janet McGill [db#13180]
his spouse who died both in the year 1682 John McWhirtor [db#13181] their son who
[illegible]." On the back of the same gravestone was the following - "Here
lyes the corps of Andrew McUirtor [db#13182] who died August 2
raise this issue in a later article, but I strongly believe that the McWh*rter surname
originated in the southwest part of Scotland, perhaps within the winding glens of the
valley of the Stinchar River.
surname traveled across the narrow sea to the north of Ireland in the early 1600s when
Scot settlers were encouraged by the English crown to displace the native Irish. About a
hundred years later many McWh*rters removed from the north of Ireland for the promises of
the American frontier. Other McWh*rters removed directly from Scotland to America leaving
behind their homes in Colmonell, Ballantrae and Wigton.
issues of this newsletter I will report in detail the gravestones that Barbara and I found
on our visit to Colmonell as well as those that we found at the town of Ballantrae five
miles down river. Perhaps the information recorded there will unlock a secret or two for
Kirkyard at Colmonell
Reprinted from the McWh*rter
Volume 1, Issue 2 (May 1997)
County of Ayrshire, Scotland, five miles up the Stinchar River from the coastal town of
Ballantrae, lies the village of Colmonell. The Kirk there is surrounded by gravestones
commemorating over 300 years of the inhabitants of Colmonell. Common among the surnames of
persons buried there is that of MCWHIRTER.
The oldest gravestone in the
kirkyard which bears the surname is that of Andrew McUirtor [db#13182] whose date
of death is recorded as 1675. After more than 320 years the name and the date are still
quite visible on the marker. On the opposite side of the marker are recorded the deaths of
William McWhirtor [db#13179] and Janet McGill [db#13180] "his
wife" who both died in 1682. Immediately next to the gravestone of Andrew, William
and Janet is one which indicates "Wm Mc 1758" and also "Here lies the Corps
of Gilbert McUirtor". Other gravestones bearing the surname McWhirter continue
through to the first half of the twentieth century.
of North American McWh*rter families have Colmonell connections. Gravestone inscriptions
found at Colmonell bearing the McWh*rter surname are reported here in the hopes that they
will prove of value to some McWh*rter researchers and of interest to others.
"This is the place
where lyes the L
ast of William
McWhirtor and JA
NET McGill His spouse
who died both in
the year 1682 JO
their son who..."
the corps of
tor who died
August 2 1675..."
|"Wm Mc 1758
Here lies the
Corps of Gilbe
"In Memory of
who died at Redbun
18th Nov 1840
also his wife
who died 13th April
1839 aged 55
their son Thomas
who died Heathgot_
27th Jan 1868
aged 47 years
their dater Mary
died at Re_burr
aged 82 years"
"In Memory of
who died 20th August 1872
aged 63 years
also his daughter Agnes
died 20th October 1873 aged 15 years
also his wife
died 7th Jany 1874 aged 62 years
also James McWhirter
who died at 7 Cochino St.
21st Oct. 1918, aged 43 years
Janet Gray Kerr McWhirter
who died at
7 Cochino St., Clydebank
29th Jan. 1931, aged 85 years"
"In loving memory of
Late Farmer Ballaird
Who died at Craigbrae 11th Jan 1901
Aged 83 years
Also of Margaret Milroy his wife
who died at Craigbrae
25th May, 1903 aged 82 years
Also of Janet McMillan,
beloved wife of John McWhirter,
who died at Glasgow, 25th May 1910
aged 49 years
Also the above John McWhirter
Who died at Ballaird
10th August 1910 aged 54 years"
"Erected by William McWhirter
in memory of his beloved wife
Annie Nelson Shaw who died
12th August 1900 aged 46 years
the above William McWhirter
died 14th July 1909 aged 55 years.
Their children Annie died
17th Nov. 1915 aged 24 years
Robin died 3rd Nov. 191(6)
Aged 28 years"
in loving remembrance
of her dear husband
Who died at Kirkholm Farm, Ballantrae
13th March 1899 aged 46 years
Also his wife
Died at Glenturk Wigtown
9th March 1937 aged 85 years"
"This is the burial place of
Hugh Galaway in Braidsain
who died 24th May 1802 aged 85
Also, Jeannet McWhirter his Wife
who died 27th July 1777 aged 56,
also Hugh Galaway their son
who died 13th Jan 1801 aged 50 Also
James Galaway their son who died
29th July 1818 aged 70 Also
Elizabeth Grange his wife who
died 10th Oct. 18(3)5 aged 83. and
Hugh Gallaway their son who
died 8th Jun 1853 Aged 68"
In Memory of her Father
who died in Feb 18(3)1
Aged (8)1 years
Helen McWhirter, his spouse
who died 12 March 1837
aged 88 years
And of their children
John, Gilbert, Hugh and (Danniel) [or Jannet]
And her husb J......
McClure who died...
Mary McClymont who died ....1861 aged 8(6) years"
"Sacred to the memory of
Gilbert Milroy Late Farmer in
Drumskeogh, who died 18th December
1869 Aged 72 years.
His wife Margaret Doak Died in
And his wife Janet McWhirter
died in 1883
His son Gilbert Farmer, Lochend
Died at Barrhill 31st of Aug 1914
Aged 87 years
his wife Agnes Howan
died 5th Octr 1914
aged 81 years..."
By The Family
in Memory of their Father
who died at Stonebridge, Barrhill
On 5th October, 1899, aged 84 years
died at Stonebridge, Barrhill, 15th March 1900
aged 89 years
their daughter; died aged 1 year
died; aged 39 years
died 7th May 1921, aged 76 years"
Erected in Memory of
who died at Muirhead ....
10th Feb 1876 Aged 68 years
Also his wife
who died 3rd May 1911
Aged 88 years
also their great grandson
who was drowned in Stinchar
12th April 1908, aged 3 1/2 years
husband of Agnes Ferguson
died 21st Jan 1921
aged 72 years
also Agnes Ferguson
wife of David McWhirter
who died 19th Dec. 1924
aged 77 years"
Since the date of the original publication of this article two (2) other
"McWhirter" gravestone inscriptions have been reported as being recorded from
(Thanks to Douglas A. McWhirter of Toronto, Canada)
Erected by John and Andrew
McWhirter in memory of their father Andrew McWhirter who died Aug.28, 1758. Also Martha
McCluer his spouse who died Aug. 4th, 1794
Erected by James McWhirter in
memory of his sister Jane McWhirter who died 3 Oct., 1844 aged 50. Also John McWhirter his
son who died 1 May, 1855 aged 14. Archibald D. McWhirter died 10 Jan., 1856 aged 1 year.
Also Robert McWhirter died 13 Jan., 1870 aged 32 years. Janet died 28, Feb. 1920 aged 88
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