LEAVES FROM OUR TREE:
Descendants of David Porterfield, Sr., continued
following history of the Porterfield family in Scotland
was researched and contributed by Thomas James "Tommy"
Hooks, a 4th great grandson of David Porterfield, Sr.,
through both the Thomas James Porterfield line and the
David Porterfield, Jr., line (edited by Diane Carrington
Bradford, a 4th great granddaughter through the David
Porterfield, Jr., line and second cousin of Tommy Hooks).]
Kilmacolm and the Porterfields
Oh! Kilmacolm is a funny wee place;
And a funny wee set of people,
And a kirk without a steeple.
in the seventeenth century, young William Porterfield left
Kilmacolm, Scotland for Ireland. His older brother, Alexander,
had inherited the family estate of Duchal when his grandfather
John died. A generation later, Williams son john left
County Donegal, Ireland, with his wife and family for america.
They were the ancestors of the porterfields that settled in
Madison County, Georgia after the American Revolution.
family had a long and colorful history in the area known as
Rrenfrewshire, which Is just west of Glasgow. What follows
is a brief history of the area, and the Porterfield family.
This information is mainly taken from a small book by Elizabeth
Main, A Kirk Without a Steeple, Being a History of the
Old Kirk and Parish of Kilmacolm.
It is known that
the area near Kilmacolm was inhabited by settlers in the stone
age. Traces of Their pottery and flint tools have been found
dating to 1600 BC Bronze age people emigrated to the area,
bringing with them improved pottery, agriculture, and stock
breeding. They built "crannogs" nearby, which were
man-made islands in lakes, on which they built their fortified
dwellings. The crannogs were connected to the shore by causeways,
allowing them to hunt or farm on the shore during the day
and retire to their protected homes at night, or in times
of danger from intruders.
The Romans came
to Scotland in the first century AD A system of roads and
forts were constructed, including a cavalry fort at Whitemoss,
from where they patrolled across Kilmacolm and the surrounding
area. The Romans found the northern tribes very difficult
to subdue, and finally the Emperor Hadrian built a wall across
the island, which was manned and patrolled to keep the wilder
neighbors to the north at bay. By 411 AD, the Romans withdrew,
yet through them the state religion of Christianity was introduced
to the country. In the fourth century AD, Constantine, who
was raised on Hadrians Wall, had become emperor and
was converted to Christianity, making it the official religion
of the empire in 330 AD the Roman church was the one stabilizing
element in the dark ages to follow.
It was the practice
of the Romans to take children of the local chiefs to Rome,
where they were held as hostages, insuring the continued allegiance
of their families to Rome. While there, they were educated
in Roman ways and the Catholic Church. One such hostage, Ninian,
became a bishop and returned to Scotland, where he began his
own school for priests. One of his pupils was St. Patrick,
who carried the faith to Ireland. Another pupil was named
Columba, who became a prominent cleric, and for whom a church
was built and named the Church of Columba, Kil-ma-colm, on
which site the present church, or kirk, stands today in Kilmacolm.
The church was built around 570 a.d, and was probably a "mud
and wattle" hut. A timber building followed, and then
the thirteenth century stone chapel, which forms a part of
the present church. Around and under this church, our Porterfield
ancestors were buried.
Norman Invasion and Feudalism
Between the departure
of the Romans and the conquest of England and Scotland by
William the Conqueror in 1066 AD, the various peoples of Britain,
the Picts, Scots, Britons, and Angles, held sway in their
areas of the island. With the unification of the country by
the Normans, the feudal system was introduced, through which
nobles were granted land in return for allegiance to the king.
One of the sons of a Norman knight who came over with the
conqueror, Walter Fitz Alan, gave a portion of his lands in
Renfrewshire to one Ralph de lIsle, who built a castle
with moat and keep at the junction of two rivers near Kilmacolm,
which he called "Duchal".
was enclosed by a stone wall 70 yards long by 30 yards wide.
A ditch was dug later joining the two rivers, making it, in
effect, an island. It remained the stronghold of the Lyles
(from de lIsle) until it was purchased by one John Porterfield
in 1544. The Porterfields traced their ancestry to Alan de
Porter, a follower of Fitz Alan. By 1450, the family name
had become Porterfield.
history includes tales of ghosts, skirmishes with local families,
and even a siege by King James iv of Scotland when the Lyles
had backed an insurrection against him. James had two large
cannons drug across Scotland to subdue his enemies. One of
the cannons was called "Mons Meg", now in Edinburgh
Castle. The other must have been used against the Lyles, for
thereafter it was called "Duchal". The Porterfields
occupied Duchal Castle until 1710, when "New Duchal"
was constructed. By then, young William had departed for Ireland.
Notable Porterfields of Kilmacolm
The history of
Scotland is filled with political and religious strife. In
fact, politics and religion became inseparable after the Reformation,
when the Catholic Church was replaced by the Church of England
as the official state church in England. Scots, however, saw
very little difference in the Church of England and the old
church, and either refused to abandon Catholicism, or embraced
the stern Presbyterian faith of John Knox.
The people of
Kilmacolm were moving steadily toward the Protestant
faith. Part of this was undoubtedly an attempt to free themselves
from the clergys constant demands of tithes. Some nobles,
including Lord Lyle of Duchal, had their own priests and chapels.
In 1560, the Scots Parliament passed acts abolishing the jurisdiction
of the papacy and declaring the celebration of the mass to
With the death
of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, James VI of Scotland
ascended to the throne And became King James I of England.
James was the first of four Stuart kings who tried to force
the Scots to abandon the Presbyterian faith for the Church
of England, which was a thinly-veiled version of Catholicism.
After years of dispute, in 1638 thousands of Scots signed
the National Covenant, by which they affirmed loyalty to the
king, but rejected the idea of any type of customs being imposed
on the church except by the church Itself. These "covenanters"
eventually became outlawed, even though the king, Charles
Ii, had signed the agreement. The Porterfields were staunch
covenanters, and Duchal was known as a place of refuge for
others of the same belief.
Porterfield, Lord of Duchal, 1620-1675
The 1662 Act of
Glasgow, requiring an oath of allegiance to the king in all
matters, civil and religious, resulted in the ousting of the
minister in Kilmacolm, who refused to take the oath. The minister
was welcomed by Alexander at Duchal, and allowed to hold his
services on the estate. These outdoor meetings , called "conventicles",
were a rejection of the church, which now imposed fines for
failure to attend services. Covenanting became a capital crime
under the last Stuart, James vii, and many Presbyterians paid
the penalty. Alexander died at Duchal in 1675 at the age of
84 (Porterfields were noted for their long lives), and was
buried in the Porterfield tomb on the south side of the church,
probably under the pew used by his family.
Porterfield, Lord of Duchal, 1675-1690
At the time of
his fathers death, John Porterfield Was 62 years old,
with white hair and beard. He wept Openly at his fathers
funeral. Though a peaceable Man, his support of the
covenanters brought him Into trouble with the government.
He was fined £84,000 (pounds) for supporting conventicles
and summoned by the high commission for failing to
attend church. For this, he was fined an additional £500.
however, remained a haven for covenanters and was closely
watched by the authorities. One night a spy arrived at Duchal
disguised as a gypsy woman. Admitted to the kitchen for refreshment,
the cook noticed the size of the boots on the intruders
feet. She was alone at the time, since the other household
members were at a conventicle. She began to ply the visitor
with strong drink, and by the time the other members returned,
he was so drunk that he was incapable of escape. He was thrown
into the river and left to make his own escape.
In 1684, John
and his son, Alexander, were indicted in Edinburgh on apparently
false charges. John was condemned to death, his estate sequestered
on behalf of his judge, and both father and son were thrown
into prison. Some years later, Alexander was released, but
died at Duchal a year later. John, the gray-haired father,
was eventually released but compelled to stay in Edinburgh,
under very harsh conditions. After the Glorious Revolution
of 1688, he was partially indemnified for his losses, but
his estate at Duchal was greatly reduced. He died there at
the age of 77. His two sons having predeceased him,
he was succeeded by his grandson, Alexander. It was during
this time that our ancestor, William, left for Ireland. This
last Alexander Porterfield, Lord Of Duchal from 1790-1743,
spent a great deal of his life in disputes with the church
in Kilmacolm. After one incident, in which he slandered the
priest as being a drunkard and a womanizer, Alexander was
suspended as an elder, and it was twelve years before he could
bring himself to sue for forgiveness and restoration of his
eldership. His contentious attitude may have been caused by
the persecution of his father and grandfather at the hands
of the church.
The wife of Alexander
Porterfield found the old castle to be very damp and otherwise
unsuitable. So, in 1710, he built a summer house down the
River Gryfe, using many of the stones from the old castle.
When part of the old castle was dismantled, a number of human
bones were found in an upper room.
died, he was followed for only nine years by his son, to be
succeeded by his nephew, Boyd Porterfield. In 1768, Boyd Porterfield
rebuilt and enlarged the summer house, converting it into
a wing of the new house. Boyd also developed the gardens and
orchards, and built a stone bridge across the river to give
access to them. He also planted trees at each point of the
compass around the house, many of which exist today, rising
to great heights.
Boyd died in 1795,
and his son, William, died in 1815 without an heir. This gave
rise to a series of succession disputes. The last Porterfield
master of Duchal was James Corbett Porterfield, who died without
heirs In 1855.
The estate passed
to the Stewart family, and was bought in 1910 by a George
Wallace. In 1915, a Lord Maclay purchased the property, and
his son now occupies the home along with his family. The gardens
and orchards exist in largely unkempt condition, and the house
required extensive repairs through the years.
Old Kirk Cemetery
John Porterfield, who bought Duchal in 1560, members of the
family were buried in the cemetery at the old church in Kilmacolm.
When the church was expanded in 1903, the Porterfield tomb
was covered over. The old doorway to the tomb was placed in
the wall of the church, on which was inscribed "Bureit
Heir Lyis That Deth Defyis of Porterfields The Race- Quho
Be The Spirit to Christ Uniteare Heirs Of Glor Through Grace-
Porterfields In Ireland
During the seventeenth
century, the English crown expanded the plantation system
of dispossessing Irish landowners of their lands, and "planting"
English and Scottish settlers in Northern Ireland. This was
done, in part, to eliminate the Catholic influence, since
the Scots who came to the country were Protestants.
The earliest records
of Porterfields in Ireland were found in the Hearth Money
Roll for 1665, in the Taughboyne Parish in County Donegal.
Listed is a Patrick, a William, and a John Porterfield. Family
history states that William was born in 1645 in Ireland, and
his son, John, in 1675. This is in conflict with the information
above from Mrs. Mains book. One possible explanation
is that the younger son of the above-mentioned John Porterfield,
Lord of Duchal from 1675-1690, had already emigrated to Ireland,
and that his son, William, was born there, never having lived
in Scotland. This is almost certainly our family ancestors,
although the dates do not fit exactly. There are four Porterfield
families listed today In the Northern Ireland telephone directory.
remains a small village, consisting of a few shops in the
main town, and homes spreading out on quiet, well-maintained
streets. The road that leads up the hill from town to the
golf course is "Porterfield Road". A possible explanation
of the name of the road is that covenanters held their conventicles
in a rocky amphitheater which is part of the fourteenth hole
of the golf course. One unique feature of the town is that
it has no pub, or public house, perhaps a legacy of the stern
old covenanters of centuries past.
and graphics created by Diane Carrington Bradford
2000, 2004,2005, 2019, Diane Carrington Bradford, All rights
This Web Site was Created Jul 9, 2000; major revision Jun
2005, Jul 2019.
August 23, 2019 7:47 PM
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