Sine Fine (Without end)

There are at least three possible derivations for the name MacGill and although one is by far the most common source, exactly which of these three an individual named MacGill derives from could only be determined by a genealogical trace, but difficult to achieve.  The least likely is the derivation that appears in Burke’s Peerage which claims that the name is of Dano-Norse origin and a common version of Gilbert.  In most cases this surname is derived from the Gaelic name ‘Mac a’Ghoil’, a form of MacGall ‘son of the stranger, Lowlander or foreigner’. 

The name was found throughout much of the Highlands and clearly not all those so named were related.  The name may be compared with the Gaelic name MacGalbraith, ‘son of the foreign Briton’.  Apart from being a name given to the descendants of strangers in a given area, the name was very common in areas where there was a notable foreign input, e.g. the Western Isles (Viking) and Galloway and the Highland borders (Britons and Saxons).  

The rirst record of this name is in 1231 when Maurice Macgeil witnessed a charter by the Earl of Lennox to the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr in Arbroath.  In 1684 Janet Mack Gil was charged with being a disorderly person in the parish of Cross-Michael.  This name may therefore be considered a form of MacGall.  In Ulster the spelling often became Magill.  

Apart from the common name in Galloway, this was also the name of an old family in Craignish in Argyllshire from at least 1473.  There was a family of this name in the Kintyre area during the 17th century, in Jura, where they were known as Clann a’ghoill.  Hugh MacGill of Jura who died c.1845-50 was known as Eoghan Mac a'ghoill.  The name is also linked to Islay and as MacGall in Caithness.