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About the study

The McIl(w)raith study has now been going for a number of years - although I have taken it to own the one-name study side of the research. The reasearch to date has concentarted on all aspects of the McIl(w)raith name from it's origins which were potentially on Skye, through to it's farming and landowning in South Ayrshire for 500 years, covenanting, settling in Ballantrae for fishing, politics in Ayr, Shipping lines to Australia right through to Ireland and Canadian branches. All connections welcome.

Variant names

McIl(w)raith has numberous variations, from simple changes of the 'W' being there or not, the 'Mc' being raplaced with 'Mak' or 'Mack', through to shorter variants of Mcilrath or McElrath, linking through to another ONS of 'Mcilwrick'. Earlier variants are wide reaching from MakGilhauch, Make Gille Reue , McAlereache. The list is endless.

Name origin

The origin of McIlwraith is debated - from Muireadach Albannach being bard to the McDonald's of Sleet, and starting 18 generations of Bards to the McDonalds, through to It derives from the Gaelic Mac gille Riabhaich, and translates literally as the son of the follower (gille) of the brindled one! As to who the brindled one was is not proven, but he may have been a holy man, since 'gille' can mean servant, but more usually in ancient times described a friend or follower.

Historical occurrences of the name

The McIlwraith family name is full of historical incidents and significance. Closely related to the Kennedy's and the Boyd's of Ayrshire meant that they were involved in many historical notes. This included the first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of John Make Gille Reue. He was a Scottish hostage, held in Carlisle Castle, during the reign of the Interregnum Government of Scotland, 1296 - 1306. The first mention of a McIlwraith for Nele, a follower of the earl of Cassillis, who was respited for murder on 18.4.1526. In more modern times Jane McIlwraith, daughter of Auchenflower, Ballantrae married John Dean and emigrated to New Zealand where she become one of the earliest pioneers. John McIlwraith was very heavily into Ayr Politics 1830 - 1845, his grandson Sir Thomas being three times Premier of Queensland and the family shipping line McIlwraith Mceachern being the first to transport frozen meet to Australia. Numerous others have ended up on the pages of history.

Name frequency

It is told that initially there were 48 McIlwraiths settled in South Ayrshire around 13-1400's - this may be fact or folklore. We also know that the Irish McIlwraith family started with 3 brothers who came from Scotalnd. However we do know that they are now distributed widely around the globe. No actual study has been completed for the number of McIlwraiths at any point in time.


Across a number of family members a vast amount of data is held, from previously written documents, family history which has been documented and passed on, through to numerous sasines, will's, testaments, letters etc.