McQuilkin is a Gaelic surname found in both Ireland and Scotland.It is one of those Gaelic names that are difficult to research because it is very old indeed. So old that often even the Gaelic speaking community have lost track of its original form and meaning. One clue though is the pronunciation of the name which has been handed down from one generation to another. McQuilkin was pronounced in times as Mac Culkin. This pronunciation was used both in Ireland and Scotland, and was also the pronunciation by the early Gaelic speakers coming into Cape Fear, North Carolina. The earliest was Neill McCulkin in 1771 on Drowning Creek. John M. Wilkinson who was a great grandson of this Neill wrote in 1893, "My great grandfather was born and raised in the highlands of Scotland, date not known, and belonged to the Clan McKulkin, he later took the name of Wilkinson. My grandfather was born in the 17th century and came into the Carolina's with a good many of our kin."
McQuilkin is sometimes associated with the name Wilkinson because quite a few changed their name to that, which is evident in John M. Wilkinson's letter. Perhaps this is because the Gaelic form Mac Cholgain was sometimes Anglicized to the name Wilkinson, it could have been the sound in Gaelic or perhaps just politico-social pressures to adopt a more English sounding name. This appears to be the reason to the pointless confusion. Obviously, the Gaelic McCholgain predates the name Wilkinson by a thousand years.
There is another valuable clue in addition to the original pronunciation, which is the geographic locations where the name is found. The name is native to the parts of Northern Ireland, in the counties of Derry and Donegal, and then in Kintyre and in South Isles close by. In these areas there is a historic record of the name being used both in Latin and Gaelic. When all clues are considered together they point the origin of McQuilkin as being the old Gaelic name of McCholgan, meaning"son of the swordman" with root being colgg, an old Irish word for "sword". This puts the meaning in conflict with what is found in the Scottish and Irish surname books, which often link McQuilkin to the name Wilkin, a diminutive of William. But historic records show that McQuilkin very much predates the use of Wilkin in the Gaelic speaking world. The Annals of Ulster, Rawilison's Genealogies, O'Hart's Irish Pedigree's, The Book of Leinster, and the voluminous work of The Four Master's have no record of the name Wilkin in Latin or in Gaelic. There are also no records of the name Uilcan or MacUlilcan, from which some researchers say the name came. So, one must rely on what history is written, other than what someone thinks that something stems from . That is why that from records it is my position that the name McQuilkin came from the earlier name of McCholgain/McColgan, and that it was not recognizable in its later Anglicized form.
An early form of the name Colgu appears in Irish records back to 400 AD. This name was used as a given name and surname. It is also the name of saints in the early Celtic Church, the Cheile Dei, which predates the Roman Church. Gaels adopted hereditary surnames earlier than most European people, and the name Mc Colgu, and later the later form Mc Colgan, were already established by the year 1000 AD. It is from the Gaelic families who took this name that the Northern Irish and Kintyre McQuilkin's descend. There is a continuous line of records concerning the McColgan family; the name is found early in Kintyre where it has the following Anglicized spellings: McCullkan, McCalkin, Mcuilcean, and, much later, McQuilkin, and in the 1790's, Wilkinson. The first three on record were Allen Mcculkyn, Donald bane McCulkyne, and Gillasp McCulkyne; these are on the tenants list in Kintyre in 1636 . The most famous of the name was Colcu Mac Ua Dunechada, to whom the Emperor Charlemagne sent gifts, and was a lay-fer-lerginn, or chief professor, in the school at Clonmacnois in Ireland. The name is used in most of the Irish clan genealogies; a particular one is of the O'Neill's which shows one Naill Frassach who was the ancestor of the O'Kane's, and O'Brain's of Ulster and who had a son named "Colca; a quo CULKIN". In the Ulster hero saga, "Cattle Raid of Cooley", there is the great and mighty Mend Sal Cholgain .
The O'Colgan's of County Offaley and the O'Colgan's/McColgan's stem from different origins. The Offaley clan is from the O'Conner's, and the McColgans of Derry and Donegal stem from the Celleach, who had a son Colca, a quo Clann Colgain of Ulster. The McDonnell's of Clan Kelly also are descended from this Celleach, who came from Colla da Croich of the great Clan Colla. In 776, this "Colcca son of Celleach" was King of the Ua Cermhthain, a clan of the Oirghilla. The McColgans were later Chiefs of the Ui MacCarthainn, until dispossessed by the Cinel Eoghain. The O'Kanes are the clan which probably replaced them and they then became a broken clan. They are later Airchinneach's in Donaghmore in County Donegal, either under the O'Donnell's or the O'Doherty's. The title now in English is spelled Erenagh; the meaning of the title is a sept that retains hereditary church lands and were educated men in Latin and Gaelic. This position was a very important one, and they were used to settle disputes between clans and neighbors. These families were often exempt from war and their lands served as a sanctuary for the Gaels. Unfortunately, the English had no respect for Celtic law and these lands and families fell prey to English armies. Brain Bonner in his book, "Where Aileach Guards", says, "The last named sept McColgan's held a distinguished place in Inis Eogain for many generation in the ecclesiastical and educational fields."
Some listings of the name from the Annals of Ulster are: Cenal Faeladh mac Colgan, Colgu mac Blaithe, Aodh mColgan, toisech Airgiall, Ferdhomhach ua Clucan, Rombart din mc Colcen, Muiredhach ua Cluccain, abbott Cennanaa. In 1532 in Armagh, Hugh McColkin made an indenture with Magister O'Kane of the Catholic Church. The Papal Bulls of 1428-1468 list Maurice Ochalgain and Dermit McColcen, who were canons in the churches in Tuam and Kildare, and Cennfaolad mac Colcen, King of Connacht. There was several McColgan's with Sir Cahir O'Doherty in his revolt in which he attacked and burned the city of Derry. The O'Kane's, O'Hanlon's, O'Donnell's, and O'Gallagher's joined in this revolt. In 1601 there one Allen O'Colgain who was a minster at Durness, Ille of Skye, and was a witness to a bond friendship between Donald Gorme McDonald of Slate and Rory Mor McLeod . Thirteen years later he is a witness to a "Contract Marriage" between John Moydert, son of Clan Ranald, and Marion, daughter of Rory Mor McLeod; Allan signs as minster at Durness, Allan Mac Olgaine; he signed as a witness, Allan mac Colgaine. Also signing was Allan McRanald, John McRonald, L. McFiongh Lauclane McKynone of Straith Ordill, Hew Camerone, and Donald Macalline. In 1626, Allan was the minster at Kilchoan, Arnamurchan. It is possible that the McQuilkin's in Kintyre are descended from this Allen since he was of the Protestant faith and the name Allen even today is widely used among the McQuilkin's, but this is only speculation. In 1614 John McColgan, minster at Bracadah, Ille of Skye, was witness along with Ewen McQueen and Turlouch O'Murghessa a Bard, to the fostering of Norman McLeod to John Campbell. Turlach taught the classic Gaelic to McLeod and was from Inishowen, County Donegal, the home of the McColgans. Ewen McQueen is mentioned in the Synod of Argyll records for the Presbyterian Church numerous times. One can see the McColgan's were a very respected clan and family by these records.
>From the land records of Kintyre there are only two early purchase's of property. One was by Angus McGulkin at Cuildrynoch in 1701, and the other was by Duncan at Cuildrynoch in 1771, the last being purchased from MacAllister of Loup. The immigrants to North Carolina on the Cape Fear are said to descended from this family, though one relative of the author's immigrant grandfather says he was born on the Ille of Jura in 1760. The early records in Kintyre show the clan to be living first on the property of MacAllister's of Loup, and then on McDonald of Largie's property. They later branch out to the lands of the McMillans, McNeill's, and the Campbell clan. The northern end of the Kintyre was one of the last Gaelic speaking regions and Gaelic was spoken there into this century. So, one knows that the settler's to North Carolina were fluent in English and Gaelic, and were acquainted with the old traditions.
In the "List of Rebels" in 1685, there were: Allen mcqeelkin, Duncan mcQuilkin, Malcolm mcQuilkin, Ard Mcquilquan (the name 'Ard" means tall, not Archibald), Dun mcquilquan, Angus mc quilquan, and Ard Mc ulken. At Knapdale, there were Allen McQuilkin and Angus McQuilkin; the Gigha men were Duncan McQuilkin (yr) and Malcolm McQuilkin (yr). Duncan mcCuilcean and Ranald McGluckian are listed as Jacbite prisoners in 1746. The pardon list for men of O'Doherty's Rebellion were: Donach Mckollgan, Gilmorie McColgan, Hugh McColkin, Cathal Mac Colgan , Diarmend Mac Colgan, Eoghan Mc Colgain, Shane dubh mc Colgan, and Donnell m'Colgan McColgan.
Ian McDonald, President of the Kintyre Magizine, say's, "That the name was early pronounced "Mc Coolkin", and that the name appeared there first." There was an article in the "Greenock Telgraph" in 1928 that refers to Hector McLean's History in which he refers to the name "McQuilkin" as "McColgan", the way highland people pronounce it, and coming from Colca, McColgan, McCuilkan, and finally McQuilkin.
In closing, one must also remember the other Ulster names in Kintyre: O'Loynachan, O'Brennan, O'Shannon, O'Hanely, O'Brolachain, McCluskey, O'Drain, and the kin folks of the McColgans, O'Kellys, and O'Mays. These names being there lends more historical weight to the name since they were all from Northern Ireland. One interesting fact about Kintyre that I find very interesting is that there was three historically ecclesiastical clans living there, the MacCalman's, O'Brolachin's, O'May''s and McColgan/McCulkin's. We are a Gaelic people with a remarkable past, and have been done a grave injustice by those early researcher's who never really tried to figure out where McQuilkin really came from. I hope this has finally shed some light on the subject. One other note: the coat of arms that is shown in books is not of the McColgan's of Ulster, but of County Offaly and King County Ireland. There has never been any arms granted to the Ulster clan as far as I can determine.