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A Darroch Search

In 1960 when my father, William F. Darroch, died I found among his papers some notes about his father's and mother's family and relatives. Among the names and dates of birth of his grandparents and great grandparents was a note that 'in the cemetery in Clachan, Argyll is a 'Darroch' stone that is the oldest in the parish'. We had known that my grandfather, John Darroch, was born in Clachan but were uncertain where this was because 'clachan' has several meanings in Gaelic. It can mean 'a pile of stones' also 'a group of stone houses', hence a 'village'. A common expression in Scottish literature is such a one as 'from the hill he could look over the little clachan in the valley'. Also there are several places called 'Clachan' in the Highlands of Scotland. Reference to the atlas in the public library showed that there was a 'Clachan' in Kintyre, Argyllshire. Someone mentioned that there was a Scottish Ancestry Research Society which searched records for ancestors born in Scotland. For a few dollars they obtained the marriage records of my grandfather, John Darroch, my great grandfather, Archibald Darroch, and my great-great-grandfather, John Darroch. They also obtained the names and dates of birth of their children. Unfortunately the records do not go back beyond 1777 and therefore the earliest date they could obtain was the marriage of John Darroch and Mary MacAlpin in 1787. They also provided from the census records the fact that in 1851 Archibald Darroch with his wife and some of his children lived on Dunskeig Farm, Clachan, Argyllshire. (John Darroch, his oldest son, had come to Canada in 1849).

Another source of information about Scottish names is Black's "Surnames of Scotland". This book gives the probable origin of the names and to estimate the age of the name or when it was first used it refers to historical papers of early times, court cases, or church papers. In various spellings the name 'Darroch' goes back to about 1400. One record mentions that 'M. Darroch was parson of Kilberrie in Kintyre in 1629'.

Armed with the above information in a vague sort of way my wife, Janet, and I drove into Clachan, Kintyre, on a Sunday afternoon in August, 1966. First we easily found the little church of the parish of Kilcalmonell in the centre of the village. It sits, entirely surrounded by grave stones, within its stone wall with iron gates. The pillars of the gates are a war memorial to the dead of the two world wars and on the gates themselves are a mounted mediaeval warrior and a galley of the Macdonald Lords of the Isles.

We started looking for stones with 'Darroch' on them. Some of the stones were so old that they were eroded down to a foot or so high. It was impossible to tell when they were erected.
Also there was a small shed erected by the north wall of the yard that protected a half dozen or so of very old Celtic grave slabs that were carved with ancient warriors in armour, Celtic crosses and old claymores. These were obviously very old and had probably been taken from a burial crypt elsewhere.

After several turns around the cemetery, we were just about to give up when we came upon a flat grave slab with very faint lettering. It read -

Kilcalmonell who died
10th March 1638 aged 63
and Served the cure


A translation of the latin according to the book 'The Ancient Monuments of Argyll 'is
' Here lies Maurice Darroch -who
taught the people faithfully
the glad tidings of God '
' Remember death

This then was the grave of the old parson named in Black's 'Surnames of Scotland'. I first thought that Archibald Darroch was my great grandfather and J was his brother James. Since then I have learned that they were his nephews John and Archibald, the sons of Duncan Darroch. Next to the grave slab was the worn stump of a very old upright monument and next to that was a stone inscribed 'Erected by the family of Mary Darroch in memory of their MOTHER who died 30th July 1862 aged 64 years'. Later inquiries showed that this grave was that of Mary Darroch sister of Archibald Darroch. She had married Dougald McAlpine, who was 20 years her senior. In 1851 she was a widow with four children between six and twelve years old. It was customary in Scotland for married women to use their maiden names as well as that of their husbands.

It seems obvious that Mulmorich Darroch must have belonged to our family of Darrochs or they would not have taken pains and expense to renew the lettering on the old stone. According to the census Archibald Darroch had been the precentor in the church as was his son John Darroch. They must have been proud of this ancestor of theirs when the tradition of the stone was handed down in the family after they came to Canada

The next question was 'How were they connected with Mulmorich Darroch?' (The name 'Mulmorich' was anglicised to 'Morris' and he is usually referred to by that name in church records). The definite family records stop at 1787. There might be a possibility of tracing them from Mulmorich forward rather than from John Darroch backward.

From various sources it appears that Mulmorich was succeeded in Kilcalmonell by his son Dugald Darroch. Positions of this kind were often handed down from father to son. Another son, John Darroch, was minister at various times in Gigha, Jura, Southend and Arran. John had a son Henry. Dugald had a son John Darroch, who was minister in Glenarm in Ireland and Craignish in Aryll. This John Darroch had a son, William, who was minister in Kilchrenan. He probably also had other sons, John, Archibald, Robert and Dugald. Thus it is altogether likely one of the children or grandchildren of these Darrochs became the father of the John Darroch who was married to Mary MacAlpin in 1787.

After I found out about these people I sent their names and information to all of the people by the name of Darroch in the Glasgow and west of Scotland phone books, 72 in all, to find out if they had any knowledge that would connect these ministers with each other and with our John Darroch. About 20 replied to a questionnaire in a post-paid envelope and none could help in any way. In fact they had little knowledge of their own ancestors. It can be assumed that those who did not reply could not help either.

Some information regarding these old ministers will be given elsewhere but let us return to the cemetery in Clachan. When we left the cemetery I asked a woman where Dunskeig Farm was. I expected a small plot of land with a small stone house. However she waved her arm across the whole hillside to the north and pointed to a substantial house in the middle. It turned out to be about 400 acres mostly grazing land largely covered with heather. She suggested that we visit Mr. MacDougall who had been raised on the farm. He lived in what was called the old Manse with his sister and brother. They were about 90 years old. He could not tell us much about the house of 125 years ago because the present house is only about 100 years old. There had been another before it. In fact there had been a village called Dunskeig beyond the hill on the shore of West Loch Tarbert a long time ago. I asked him, 'What does 'Dunskeig' mean?/ He said, 'It means 'the hill of mockery.' On the top of that hill are two forts about 2,000 years old. When the Picts got up in there they felt secure enough to mock the Ulster men who came over from Ireland to attack them.

'The next day when we climbed the hill, there were two circles of stones and from these could be seen on a clear day Ireland away to the south, and closer in, the islands of Jura, Gigha, Cara and Islay. Across the loch were the hills of Knapdale which are much higher than those of Kintyre. At present Dunskeig Farm is owned by Mr. Begg, who was the headmaster of Cheam School which Prince Charles attended. Apparently be bought it recently as an investment for about 10,000 pounds and rents it mainly for pasture for about 400 pounds a year. I do not know who pays the taxes, etc. A hundred years ago much of the land there-abouts was owned by Sir William Mackinnon of Balinakill and Loup who was the founder of the East Africa Company. His niece Mrs. Pollock and her sons still own a large estate west of Clachan. Balinakill Castle built by Sir William Mackinnon east of Clachan was used for a time as a hotel. I think that Archibald Darroch did not live in the main house on Dunskeig Farm but in a smaller house that has now disappeared which was situated overlooking the sea at the base of Dunskeig hill. He was described in the census records as 'Customary weaver and precentor'. In the census of 1841 he lived at Cregnavullin. Enquiries about this place informed us that it was a house, probably stone and not very big, across the present highway from the village of Clachan. Apparently the school had been there also and they were torn down when the highway was built to by-pass the village.

At present there are no Darrochs living in the vicinity of Clachan. The nearest is Miss Katie Darroch who has lived all her life on the estate of Largie at Tayinloan, about 12 miles down the west coast of Kintyre opposite the island of Gigha. Her father before her also lived there and she did not know of any relationship of any of the Darrochs who had lived in Clachan 125 years ago. However she said that some of her father's people had lived many years ago at a place called Talatoll in the hills south of Clachan. It has now disappeared. The Macdonalds of Largie are one of the few families descended from the Lords of the Isles who managed to keep their estates intact when most of the Macdonald properties were forfeited to the Campbells

In the summer of 1967 I returned to Scotland accompanied by my cousin, Jack Ross. We visited the cemetery of Kilearnadil, near Keils about two miles from Craighouse in Jura. A large proportion of the graves in this little cemetery are marked with the names of old Jura families - Buie, Shaw, and Darroch. About a dozen could be deciphered as Darroch. Other cemeteries also have Darroch stones. Since then through the Church of the Latter Day Saints here in Toronto I examined a microfilm of the old Jura records and there were very many Darroch names recorded in the Births, Marriages and Deaths during the 1700's and the early 1800's. Today ther are only three or four families of thre name left, although a number have Darroch ancestors. Several people by the name of Darroch live in Islay and several in Campbeltown in Kintyre. It appears that almost all the Darroch people have left the places of their origin, Jura, Islay and Kintyre.

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