Leaders in the Free Church

From the WEEKLY SCOTMAN, Thursday, February 14, 1963


ADHERENTS of almost every Highland Clan have helped to establish "New Scotlands" in various parts of the world. But no clansmen have traveled further afield than the MacPhails.
We find them in Canada, where the first woman M.P. in Canadian history was a MacPhail.
There are many in North Carolina U.S.A. where the name is spelled McFall, McPhaul or Polson and where a clan gathering is held each October. They are prominent in Nova Scotia, New Zealand and Australia; and in California, U.S.A., the name appears in its original form, "Cattanach."
The name is a patronymic, "son of Paul." Like other Gaelic patronymics such as MacNeill, MacDonald, MacInnes, MacKenzie, MacLeod and MacKinnon - all of whom are derived from the names of clan heroes - the name deserves to be properly spelled with a capital. One Paul Cattanach is believed to be the progenitor of the family.
It was he who moved east from Lochaber into Badenoch at the same time that Eva, daughter and sole heir of the chief of Clan Chattan, went eastward to marry Angus, the 6th Mackintosh, about 1292.


According to one historian, Paul Cattanach was the ancestor of Paul Gow, who is described in the Mackintosh Kinrara manuscript as " good sir of Sir Andrew MacPhail, the priest,"
Dr Jean Dunlop in her history of the Clan Mackintosh, said the marriage of Eva and Angus laid the foundations of the historical Clan Chattan, of which the MacPhails were traditionally "of the blood" or founder members.
Despite the fact that these Cattanachs " (as well as the Macphersons) were original members of the federation, Sir Aeneas Mackintosh's writings relegate the MacPhails to fourteenth position on the list of tribes which took the protection of Mackintosh about 1500.
Earliest of the name on record was one Gilliesmore McPhale, who appeared at an inquest in Inverness in 1414. Seventy-four years thereafter Niven McPhaill was a charter witness at Sonnachan, Argyll; and in 1490 Donald McPawle witnessed an indenture between Duncan Mackintosh, Captain of Clan Chattan and Hugh Rose, Baron of Kilravock.
The ancestral home of MacPhails is Inverairnie, Inverness-shire. Here the first chief of the clan was Gillies MacPhall, who married Margaret Mackintosh. She bore him two sons John and Paul, and four daughters.
Gillies is on record in 1496 when David Dunbar of Dores accused him and others of wrongfully occupying the lands of Dores "for the space of one year."
After Gillies, the chiefs of Inverairnie are on record rather sketchily. Mention is made of Donald MacDonald MacPhail in 1558; John Reoch McPhail appears in the same year and in 1560 Sir John MacPhail is one of the procurators in the Sheriff Court in Inverness.
Following the Reformation, MacPhails appear often as ecclesiastics, a calling which continues until this day. Many of the clan in North America and in Australia have been men "of the cloth,'' and in Scotland - particularly in the Isle of Lewis-some of the leading ministers of the
Free Church bear the name.
MacPhails for a time were numerous in Lewis in the area of Carloway, particularly in the vicinity of Callanish, site of the famed Druidical Standing Stones.

Their hereditary right to Inverairnie was gained by the MacPhails in 1631. For 1000 Scots, Duncan MacPhail was granted a wadset and long tack of Inverairnie in May of that year. The lands of Inverairnie face the River Nairn and lie within the barony of Strathnairn in the Pariah of Daviot and Dunlichty.
The lands are watered by the River Airnie, which falls into the Nairn adjoining Lower Inverairnie; and the property lies on high ground between Strathnaim and Strathdearn. The Inverairnie estates also include the lands of Duglass and Duletter in Strathdearn facing the River Findhorn and the South.


In 1689, Paul MacPhail, probably a grandson of Duncan, appeared as chief. He married as his first wife, Elspeth Shaw of Tordarroch who gave him two sons, Duncsn and Roderick. His second wife was Jean Forbes, "niece to the laird of Culloden" and by her he had a son, John, described in 1765 as surveyor of the customs at Fort William.
Paul MacPhail was ' succeeded by his 'second, but eldest surviving son. Robert, in 1721, This son died in 1743 and his heir was Alexander MacPhail last of Inverairnie, who lost the estates reportedly through violence.
In his own words MacPhail claimed that Farquhar MacGillivray, without having any special mandate, and whose superior was away in Georgia, "came with a party of 12 men, armed with guns and staves, and upon the high road attacked the petitioner (Alexander MacPhail) and by strong hand held him about two hours in the snow, by force and violence without having a captain or any warrant or messenger or office of the law with him."
As septs or tenants of the Clan Mackintosh, whose tartan they are entitled to wear, the MacPhails took a part in the long history of rebellion involving this clan.
After Clan Chattan supporters were captured for their part in the Rising of 1715, emigration became a welcome substitute for arrest or death. Some MacPhails reportedly joined with the Mackintoshes who went to Darien, Georgia, about 1735.


Emigration also followed the '45 - when one John Mcphail was among the "rebels" who surrendered to the laird of Grant. This accounts for the appearance of McFalls and McPhauls in North Carolina.
An early battle of the American War of Independence took place at McFall's Miill (on Raft Swamp) in Hoke County, North Carolina. Near this site was the Raft Swamp Church, now known as Antioch Presbyterian Church where McFalls hold their annual reunion.
Certain MacPhails owe allegiance to the Camerons and to the MacKays in Sutherland. "The Book of SutherIand" records a feud between the MacPhaiIs and the Murrays.