Hugh McPhail

The 1851 Census records showed that Hugh McPhail lived at Glenbyre House, Loch Buie with his widowed mother, grandmother and brother and sisters as follows:

  • Isabella McPhail, head of house, widow, aged 36 born in KiIninian.
  • Anne, her mother-in-law, aged 62, born in Salen
  • Hugh, her son aged14, born in Torosay
  • Mary, her daughter aged 12, born in Torosay
  • Nancy, her daughter aged 10, born in Kinlochspelvie
  • Archibald, her son aged 8, born in Kinlochspelvie"

Hugh's father, John, had died in 1842 aged 33 and his grandfather Archibald (Anne's husband) had died in 1837 aged 56.

Ten years later in 1861 the family was still at Glenbyre House but Hugh's mother Isabella had died in 1856 aged 42. His grandmother Anne (nee McPherson) continued to live with the family and Hugh aged 24 was shown as head of house. Anne died in 1875 aged 87.

In 1869 Hugh aged 32 married Catherine Jane MacPhail aged 20. While it was said that they were cousins, it appears from the family tree that they were at least second cousins. Their first child Catherine Carmichael was born at Glenbyre on the 13th October 1870.

In 1871 Hugh was recorded as head of house at Glenbyre and had three servants. Hugh at that time farmed not only Glenbyre, but the adjoining farm Cameron. He farmed sheep and cattle and grew grain, as no doubt his forebears did for centuries before him. In 1872 the family moved to 0akbank where their eldest son John Stuart was born on 31 March 1872. Isa Stuart was born in 1874 and my father John Archibald was born on 2 October 1875. The Valuation Roll of 1876-77 showed that Hugh McPhail occupied 0akbank and Upper Achracroish, at a rental of £248, per annum. According to P.A. MacNab in his booklet, "Mull & Iona" a tenant who paid £50 or more was known as a Tacksman (a tack was a form of lease) and he dealt directly with the landowner. Tacksmen were of families of influence and good social background.

Hugh would have been a Tacksman. The other classes of tenants were crofters whose leases did not exceed £20 p.a. and Cottars, by far the most numerous who did not have leases.

McPhails were numerous on Mull and the cemetery at Pennygowan near Salen bears witness to this. Known as the "McPhail Cemetery" many of our forebears are buried there. One of the tombstones records that Donald McPhail who died in 1836 had ancestors (our ancestors) in Glenforsa for upwards of 800 years. Donald was Catherine Jane MacPhails grandfather and possibly Hugh McPhail's great grandfather. Hugh's parents and grandparents are commemorated by marble plaques on the outside wall of the ruins of a chapel in the cemetery.

On I November 1865 Hugh received a Commission as Second Lieutenant in the Ninth Argyllshire Artillery Volunteers. This parchment signed by the then Duke of Argyll was brought to New Zealand by Hugh together with his sword and a painting of himself in uniform and his kilt.

A reference to Hugh and a description of life on Mull can be found in the biography of Coll MacDonald.

The family left the Isle of Mull for New Zealand in 1878. They were registered as "paying passengers" on the Timaru which departed form Glasgow and arrived in Port Chalmers in Otago, New Zealand. The passenger list recorded the following:

  • Hugh McPhail aged 42
  • Catherine - his wife aged 28
  • Catherine Carmichael aged 7
  • John Stuart aged 6
  • Isabella aged 4
  • John Archibald aged 2
  • Margaret aged 1

The long sea voyage would have taken about four months.

(Compiled by John A McPhail)