Scottish Genealogy

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Surname Saturday - My MacCrimmon Ancestors

I do not get a lot of time to spend on my own family history these days (it's like the old saying 'the cobbler's children go unshod' - well, my own ancestors too often remain unfound as I am so busy looking for other people's!)

But one of the lines of my family that does go back a way is that leading back to Iain Dubh MacCrimmon.  He is my great-great-great-grandfather and lived from c.1730 to 1822: not a bad lifespan really - I'll be quite happy if I make it that far!

He was twice married (some say 3 times, but I have not found much supporting evidence myself for this yet) and had a huge number of children - there must be an enormous number of descendants out there who are related to him.  

some of these children are said to be:

with his first wife 
(whose forename I cannot seem to track down, but she was a MacAskill):


with his wife, Ann Campbell, who he is said to have married in 1790 
(she is said to be of the line of the Campbells of Barbreck):

PETER MACCRIMMON (my ancestor)

(apologies to any that I have missed!  There is detailed information about these and other MacCrimmon lines at which is a site that is really worth visiting).  

"Mac Cruimin". A plate illustrated by R. R. McIan, from James Logan's The Clans of the Scottish Highlands.
There are great legends about the history of these MacCrimmons, which I must admit I love, but which are not exactly easily verifiable!  One of the most famous legends is that the family originated in what is now Italy and that the founder of the family was from Cremona.  His name was supposedly Guiseppe Bruno.  His son Petrus Bruno was supposedly born at Cremona in the late 1400s and came to Ulster.  He took the name Cremon (after the place that he came from) and on his marriage in Ireland to a daughter of the famous piping family of MacKinnon he further altered his surname to MacCrimmon to bring it nearer to that of his wife.  This is great stuff, but not that easy to verify - so I'll probably not be booking a research trip to Italy any time soon! 

It seems at least possible that the name might also come from an attempt to render an old Norse name (possibly Hroðmundr) into Gaelic by adding the 'Mac' (son of) prefix to a variation of the Norse name, but I still love the Italian story...

My ancestor, Iain Dubh was a talented piper and a staunchly religious man.  Shortly before his death he wrote a pamphlet on 'The Failure of Christianity' which was said to have greatly annoyed the local clergy - the pamphlet is said to be buried with him.  I like having an outspoken ancestor - whether I agree with his principles or not!

Iain Dubh is sometimes said to be the very last of the hereditary MacCrimmon pipers.  The MacCrimmons had filled this roll to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, Skye, since at least the time of my 5x great-grandfather Patrick Og MacCrimmon (and possibly earlier).  Much of the information on the early lines of the family was published as A History of the Clan Mac Crimmon by GCB Poulter in 1938 and many of the early 'origin myths' of the family are found in this work (now available online at the MacCrimmon Family Registry).

There are tantalising references to MacCrimmons in earlier records: a 'Patrik Mcquhirryman, piper', mentioned in the Register of the Privy Council, vol.5 (1592–99) may be another ancestor (although he appears in Perthshire, the piping connection still seems promising).  There is also a bond of manrent dating from November 29, 1574 between Colin Campbell of Glenorchy and 'John Tailzoure Makchrwmen in the Kirktoun of Balquhidder and Malccolme pyper Mackchrwmen in Craigroy' - another piper: it was the 'family trade'...

Iain Dubh would have taught at the once famous Borreraig Piping College, of which nothing now remains, but a memorial cairn stands at Borreraig - it was built in 1933 after donations being gathered from around the world - a fitting tribute to a fine family.

  © Copyright Richard Dorrell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

My own work on the MacCrimmon family is far from over - it is a project to which I return at regular intervals and I am always happy to find new family members or discover new facts about any descendants.  I suppose that a lot of people have a 'favourite line' in their ancestry...and these MacCrimmons might just be mine...


  1. Lillian McCrimmon28 April 2012 at 02:56

    Hello Kirsteen
    Love your name by the way..

    My husband's great great great great grandfather was Donald Ogg McCrimmon b c 1755 Immergradden, Glenelg, Invernesshire son of Duncan McCrimmon and unknown McQueen. He married Anna MacLeod . Donald died 1830.

    Our line of McCrimmon's were hereditary pipers to the Clan MacLeod. I have a copy of a piping tree of the McCrimmon's which contain's all of your above name's. Would be interested in hearing from you.

    1. Hi Lillian,

      It's lovely to hear from you. I don't think I have done any work on your line of the family - I wonder if our shared ancestor is Padruig Og MacCrimmon? I don't have all of my notes to hand at the moment, so I could be well off track there!

      Anyway, my lot seem to have stayed up at Galtrigall and Borreraig and are Iain Dubh (d.1822), son of Malcolm MacCrimmon (I think!), who seems to have been the son of Padruig Og MacCrimmon (alive mid 1600s-early 1700s).

      I haven't done much on the MacCrimmon's so am always pleased to hear from others on their trail - do drop me a line any time at: (my work e-mail - but I check it every day so it's the easiest way to get me)

      Best wishes

    2. I am Karen-Lee Dunlop, granddaughter of Patrick MacCrimmon. He would have been 14th hereditary piper to the MacLeod's. I have quite a bit of family history done on my MacCrimmons. We are connected through Kenneth McCrimmon. Would love to hear from you