Editor: Angus Martin



The Loynachans - Saga of a Kintyre Family
Jerry Loynachan

I don't remember when it was that I first got the itch to explore my ancestral history but I imagine, like many, my inspiration came from the 1977 release of the movie Roots. But, as frequently happens, I soon discovered that I had missed the opportunity to go directly to the source, as my grandparents were no longer alive. I knew I was of European descent, so immediately convinced myself that there was a Duke or Earl in my lineage.

More than likely my noble ancestor narrowly escaped with his life as his enemies swarmed over the ramparts of his castle and he hopped on a ship to the Americas. With only the clothes on his back, he was forced to leave his vast fortune behind, which was sitting there ready to be claimed by the only surviving heir. My next step was to send my $10 to an historical research centre for my crest and verification of my suspicions. I received my crest, which oddly looked very similar to my friend Dave's, and I was intrigued to learn in the document of the Gaelic origin of the Loynachan surname. I was informed that my name originated from the patronymic form O'Loynachan, which denoted, 'Grandson of or descendent of Luingeachain'; and it was most likely derived from Irish Gaelic. One perplexing note also indicated that bearers of the Loynachan name had elected, for reasons unknown, to change their name to Lang. The research further explained that, beginning in the fifth century, Gaelic-speaking people began settling in Scotland and became the dominant culture, especially in Kintyre due to its close proximity to Ireland. I also learned that I have a direct link with Clan Donald.

Immediately, I have a sense of belonging as I am a clan member. However, after a bit of inquiry, I find that this association is probably more fluff than substance. According to the aforementioned research centre, the clan hierarchy would have afforded my family a measure of protection and patronage, allowed us the use of their arms and tartans and treated us as one of the family, though I doubt very much that we received an invitation to the annual pig roast. I think it boils down to the fact that the Campbells owned the land my ancestors were farming; we paid rent, if not in the currency of the time at least in farm goods or sweat and we fought their battles for them. It is popularly claimed that the 5th Duke of Argyll commanded a force of his own people that exceeded in strength the existing armies of France and England, making him an international power. In the Campbeltown Courier of October 7th, 1922, an article reports that only 51 years after the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Argyll was fearful that the Highlanders might not be enthusiastic in their defence of the realm, and the west coast of Scotland seemed particularly vulnerable. Fearing an invasion by Napoleon, he sent out instructions to one of his Deputy Lieutenants with orders to organize and rally the troops. Dated Southend, 20th June, 1797, the document read: 'We whose names are hereunto subscribing being animated with the firmest loyalty and fidelity to our most Gracious Sovereign King George, and feeling the warmest attachment to our present happy constitution hereby engage and oblige ourselves to appear on foot or on Horseback, as specified at our respective names and on receiving Arms from Major Malcom MacNeil of Carskey as Depute Lieut. of the District, to act under him, without pay, in the Suppression of Riots and quelling of all illegal or tumultuous Meetings tending to disturb the Peace and tranquility of the Country, or to resist the attacks of any foreign enemy.' Included in the list of recruits is one Donald Loinachan, Glenhervy, who was to serve on horseback. By now, of this I am convinced, no shadow of my early ancestors crossed the doorstep of a Duke or Earl.

Through some contacts of my mother, I did learn that my family emigrated to America in 1836 and settled in Washington County, Ohio. David Loynachan and Isabella Breckenridge, of Eden farm, set sail from Scotland with nine children, no doubt joining other Scottish emigrants who had made the journey ahead of them. Armed with this information, my wife Joanne, my mother and I decided to investigate this family link and spent a few days in Washington County, researching. After many hours, we managed to find David's will in the County records, located his and Isabella's headstones in the Veto cemetery and located a farm that was still occupied by a Loynachan descendant. Disappointed by our failure to gather much more information, we then decided to trace the path of three of the sons, David, Edward, my great-grandfather, and Hugh, who homesteaded in Iowa during the 1850s. We made contact with a Loynachan who still farms the original homestead around Knoxville, Iowa. He couldn't provide any more insight but suggested we contact a retired school teacher named Helen Adair. Helen turned out to be the unofficial holder of the family archives as she possessed a wealth of information including original letters dated in the 1850s, written by Isabella and daughter, Jane, to Edward and David, and return correspondence from them as well. She had most of the obituaries of the children, which contained biographical sketches of their families, and most precious - a picture of five of the siblings, including the only known picture of my great-great grandfather Edward. Basically at this time my research stopped, giving me time to digest the information from Helen and enabling me the opportunity to put together a picture album of our trip, which I distributed to anyone who showed an interest in the family history.

Many years later, I was surfing the internet and found a genealogy site, I plugged in 'Loynachan', pressed enter, and out popped 180 entries of births, christenings and marriages bearing my surname. I was overwhelmed! With this data I was consequently able to trace David's ancestry back to his parents, a Neil O'Loynachan and Catherine Milloy, learned of his siblings and obtained the birth records of most of my Scottish family. In addition, I noticed the concentration of families in the Kintyre region and more specifically in Campbeltown and Southend. Now high on my list of things to do was a trip to Scotland and perhaps meet some of my family members still residing there.

Finally, in 2001, I did just that, as Joanne and I, along with some good friends and travel companions, the Van Galders, started a three-week tour of the UK, including a week in Scotland. Unfortunately, we were able to schedule only a single day to visit the Argyll region which gave us just enough time to visit Campbeltown, explore Keil Cemetery and find Eden farm. I wanted to introduce myself to the present owners at Eden and perhaps visit the sites occupied by my ancient family, but the owners had a yellow tape across their drive in response to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. I didn't want to add to their anxiety so we drove on. However, the trip was not a complete washout as two important events occurred: 1) While in Campbeltown I purchased a book entitled Kintyre: The Hidden Past, written by Angus Martin, and 2) during my internet research, I made contact with Andrew Forrest of Elderslie, Scotland, who was also searching for information on the Loynachans (Langs) on his mother's side. During our stay in Scotland, we had the pleasure of spending considerable time with him and his wife, Kirsteen, and a very dear friendship has blossomed from this chance encounter.

By now I had collected enough documentation to substantiate the existence of Loynachans in Argyll at least in the early 1600s. However, it seems I had encountered the proverbial brick wall eventually reached by most researchers, in my case due in no small part to the loss of parish records in a fire when Rev Campbell apparently fell asleep leaving the candles on. Fortunately, my daughter, Laura Mogk, developed an interest in the family history and she found she possessed a real talent for this type of endeavor. We both threw ourselves into the research and soon, largely due to Laura's efforts, a better understanding of our history began to emerge. At some point our discussions evolved from a casual wouldn't it be nice to visit the sites we were reading about, to finding ourselves, 35,000 feet high, over the Atlantic on our way to Scotland. And so it was, several days later, that we were standing in the middle of a Southend ruin of a stone building which once housed one of our ancestors. We gazed out on the open hillside that was cleared by generations of manual labour and we could still see the outlines of the dykes which defined the fields and served as the repository for rocks that were removed by hand. We were struck by the fact that where fields of oats and barley once grew, sheep now dotted the landscape. As never before, this experience intensified the realization that our family history paralleled the rise and fall of the Gaelic culture in Scotland.

In 1820, a petition was presented to the Duke of Argyll by the tenants in Southend of Kintyre in which they were requesting a reduction in the rack rent they were being charged. The petition states that due to the decreased price they were receiving for the grain they were selling, the tenant was barely able to feed his family let alone pay the rent. What is not stated in the petition is the system in place where the lease of the farm would expire every 19 years and would be open to the highest bidder, causing the rents to substantially increase overnight. Listed along with 47 other tenant-farmers were the names of John and Neil Loynachan. Landlords held all the power and if the tenant was unable to pay the rent or could not meet the conditions of the contract, he was unceremoniously forced from the property. Whether this was a devious and conscientious plan on the part of the landowner may be open to debate, but the consequence is not. Professor Tom Devine of Aberdeen University states: 'By 1820 an entire social class of cottars - peasant farmers who had traditional claim on the land in return for rent or service to a landlord and who made up a third of the population - simply disappeared. Although the eradication of the population in the Lowlands was not as brutal as in the Highlands, it was just as decisive. It is therefore suggested that the term Lowland Clearance would be a legitimate term to use when discussing the events of the day. Many thousands of Scots were forced from their homes by landlords more interested in profit than people, long established communities were razed to the ground and an entire stratum of society was eradicated in the course of a few decades. Clearance by stealth.'

As early as the 14th century there seemed to be established a divided Highland-Lowland nation. John of Fordun wrote: 'The people of the coast are of domestic and civilized habits, trusty, patient, and urbane, decent in their attire, affable, and peaceful, devout in Divine worship, yet always ready to resist a wrong at the hands of their enemies .. The highlanders and people of the islands, on the other hand, are a savage and untamed nation, rude and independent, given to rapine, ease-loving, clever and quick to learn, comely in person, but unsightly in dress, hostile to the English people and language, and, owing to the diversity of speech, even to their own nation and exceedingly cruel.' No doubt these prejudices to a lesser degree prevailed into the 19th century and perhaps tempered any protests against the displacement of an entire generation of a people, since they were of Gaelic origin and it was perceived as being for the good of all. Therefore, with no other options available to them, a poor rural population was forced to look for employment in the cities or emigrate. They carried with them a manner of speech which perhaps presented itself as a handicap in the opportunities of employment, and, in the case of our family, many who remained in Scotland changed their name to Lang; however, those who chose to emigrate to Canada or America retained the surname. A quick scan of the 1841 Argyll census reveals 11 individuals with the Lang surname and 70 named Loynachan. In 1901, the census identifies 75 Langs and not one Loynachan.

In the United States, the families who settled in Ohio and in Canada provided a nucleus which has introduced the Loynachan surname to no fewer than 15 states. Some are farmers, but many of the descendents have moved into other occupations, taking advantage of the opportunities available to them. I find it hard to believe that I am only three generations removed from the events which drove our family to a new country. In retrospect, the events which occurred in Kintyre were unavoidable and history has supported the positive benefits of the reorganization of the farms resulting in one of the more profitable agricultural regions of Europe. However, one must also recognize the trauma experienced by the individuals displaced and the distress they felt in having to leave their homeland and venture into an unknown future. I am acutely aware that today I stand tall on the shoulders of those who have come before me, and I owe no small debt to the initiative and courage of a family who stepped on the deck of a wooden ship and dared to make the passage to a new land. May 22, 2009

When Jerry Loynachan, a retired teacher, born in 1939 in Oskaloosa, Iowa, contacted me earlier this year to say that he and his daughter Laura would be visiting Kintyre and could they meet me, I was delighted to agree, not least because I would be meeting not only two individuals who had obviously already done a good deal of research into their Kintyre origins and gained a more than rudimentary understanding of genealogical and historical issues, but who were also the bearers of an old Kintyre surname which, until that point, I assumed had become extinct and existed only in the irrelevant form of 'Lang'. Post-medieval records in Kintyre reveal that the 0 prefix to surnames here was remarkably common, which must surely point to an Irish influence, hardly surprising given the proximity of Ulster to southern Kintyre and the historical and cultural links between these two Gaelic-speaking communities. Of that class of surname, only 0 Brolachan / Brolachan which became 'Brodie' - 0 Loynachan / Loynachan, and 0 May survived into the 19th century, and only 0 May now remains in Kintyre; but to 0 May can now be added Loynachan, alive and well across the Atlantic. The cover illustration of Jerry Loynachan's daughter Laura in Keil Graveyard, Southend, was taken by Jerry during their trip in April, 2009. Editor

Copyright belongs to the authors unless otherwise stated.

The Kintyre Antiquarian & Natural History Society was founded in 1921 and exists to promote the history, archaeology and natural history of the peninsula.
It organises monthly lectures in Campbeltown - from October to April, annually - and has published its journal, 'The Kintyre Magazine', twice a year since 1977, in addition to a range of books on diverse subjects relating to Kintyre.

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