Where Did The MacMillan Family Come From?

MacMullin – MacMillan

In his book, “The MacMillans and Their Septs”, the late Rev. Somerled MacMillan, former bard and Historian of Clan MacMillan, states:

“The name MacMillan is of ecclesiastical origin, the progenitor of the clan being one of the clergy belonging to the Culdee order of the Celtic Church. The Culdee clergy, unlike those of the Roman Church, did not practice celibacy. Their abbots differed from the Augustinians in this respect, that their office was a hereditary one and, unlike their powerful usurpers, had no lay order.

The above is directly quoted from the book, “To The Hill of Boisdale” by Father A. J. MacMillan who was born in Boisdale, Cape Breton.

The MacMillans were settled in Loch Arkaig Scotland around the year 1160 and then they moved and settled in Lawers, by Loch Tay until they were driven out around the year 1360  settling in Knapdale.

Eventually they found their way to the Western Isles through their connection with Clanranald, where tradition has it that it was a MacMillan who carried the wounded Clanranald from the Bluefield, and thus saved his life.

Another tradition according to Fr. Mcmillan’s book is that the MacMillans were cattlemen on the Clanranald lands and one of the MacMillans saw a boatload of raiders come ashore. He hid while the raiders passed by and then untied the boat and towed it out offshore. Upon the raiders return they couldn’t get their boat and were subsequently done in.

Is it MacMillan or MacMullin?

In Scotland MacMillan is widely used and it is considered the “English” version. However in the early records that go back hundreds of years, MacMullin was the common form.

All of the clan who came to Cape Breton in the nineteenth century were Gaelic speaking and went by the name MacGhillemhaoil. While they were speaking Gaelic there was no problem, but later attempts to put this name into English a complication arose.  There is no English equivalent for the sound represented by the Gaelic diphthong “ao” (two vowels together in the same word) witch occurs in the name. The sound is somewhere between the English “short i “ and “u” and a choice had to be made. In some areas some chose “i” and in the other areas they chose “u”.

On the mainland and in the Inverness and Victoria counties of Cape Breton “MacMillan” was almost always used. In Cape Breton and Richmond counties “MacMullin” was almost always used. The Mc or Mac means “son of” and this grew out of the old way of spelling which once was simply “M’” and the “c” evolved from that apostrophe.

MacMillan family tradition seems to indicate that there were either 4 or 6 brothers living in Scotland in 1798. Neither of these had ever emigrated to Cape Breton but their offspring did.

Iain (John) was the son of Eoghann who was married but his wife is unknown. Iain was born in Creagantillidh, Barra in 1822. He married Sarah MacNeil of Boisdale and settled in Rear Beaver Cove. They had six children. Michael, Annag, Rory, John, Jonathan and Jane.

Rory was my grandfather. He married Agnes MacIntyre of Boisdale and settled in Sydney.

He worked in a wood factory in Sydney and lived at 495 Charlotte St. He was caught in a machine belt and his leg was broken badly. He was taken home on a stretcher and the doctor set his leg while he was laid out on the table in the living room. He was given doses of whisky and a piece of rope was put in his teeth to keep him from harming his mouth while enduring pain. He then became a cobbler and had a little shop on George St. in Sydney.

Rory and Agnes had seven children. Sadie, Pauline, Mary, Mike, Joe T, Teresa and John.

Joseph Thomas MacMillan

At the age of 15, Joe T was hired as an apprentice at Bezanson Jewelers in Sydney for $5.00 per week. He was to learn the watch-making trade with his mentor Hector MacMillan who was from Prince Edward Island and not related. Hec and his wife Winnie became lifelong friends.

After learning his trade, Joe T and all of the family moved to Boston where they all found employment. Mike had TB and was in the Kentville sanitarium in the Annapolis Valley for a few years. He died there as a young man.

Joe T (dad) moved back to Sydney around 1925 having left a good job in Boston. His best friend was Dave Bagnall who worked with the electrical department in Sydney as a linesman.

Margaret MacMillan

Margaret MacGillivray was my mother. She was the daughter of Frank MacGillivray of Northside East Bay and Elizabeth MacDonald of Blackstone, Inverness County. The family lived in a small house next to the Assyrian church on the Esplanade in Sydney. Margaret was taught to play the piano by a professor MacKinnon and learned the instrument very well. She played the organ in the Assyrian church every week beginning when she was the ripe old age of thirteen.

She learned typing and was hired as a secretary at Burchell Agencies in Sydney.

She and Joe T found each other and a courtship evolved. They were married in September, 16th  1929 in Sacred Heart Church on George St. Sydney, NS

Best man was Ginger MacGrath and the bridesmaid was his wife Bessie. The McGraths eventually settled in Halifax. One of their sons, Doug was an actor and co-starred in the movie “Goin Down The Road” and other films. He also played in three Clint Eastwood films in the USA.

Joe and Margaret had five children. Isabel, Michael, Joseph, Raymond and Teresa.

The Great Depression

The first five years of their marriage were very taxing as the depression was in full swing. Times were tough in Sydney and dad told me he made as low as $15.00 a week repairing watches and jewelry.

He had been working with Ernie Brown who had a store of the same name and who detested paying his help as he loved the dollar. He would hold onto the dollar almost with a death grip.

One afternoon a friend of dad’s asked him to witness a signature on an insurance policy after work. He agreed. After work dad went to the office in another building and the man had a sheath of papers and showed dad the front page which was an insurance policy of some sort. Dad signed the page and another page below it without reading the lower page. After signing it the man gave dad a set of keys and told him he now owned a store  jewelry store across the street that was virtually bankrupt. There was nothing he could do as he had signed the paper.

It was impossible to do business under those conditions, however he tried his best. As the ending of the first year anniversary of the debacle approached, dad discussed the situation with a lawyer friend by the name of Caldwell. Caldwell informed him that the crooked paper he had signed had to be renewed each year or it would lapse.  A careful check at the courthouse the day after the anniversary date found that it had not been renewed. Dad went to the house of the crooked owner and threw the keys into the face of the woman who was the original owner and there went the obligation.

Dad had a good friend, Norman Matheson, who worked for De Young’s Wholesale Foods in Sydney. Norman was a fine gent who eventually retired and settled in a nice home at St. Ann’s Bay in the North River area.

Norman traveled to New Waterford often and told dad about a small store property available there. Dad took a look and rented it for $15.00 per month. The owner was Jack Beaton and the store was on Plummer Ave. a few doors up the hill from Eaton’s store.

Mom and dad rented an apartment in a building across the street from No. 12 Mine Office. Actually the building was formerly the town jail but had proved inadequate as such and so was turned into four apartments.

Mom and dad no sooner moved in to the new apartment when I was born on Aug. 15th 1935.

In 1940 dad bought a house on George St. I remember walking up to the new house as I was carrying our cat. We no sooner crossed the railroad tracks when a dog began to bark in someone’s yard. The cat went nuts, scratched me and took off never to be seen again. Russell MacNeil and Isabel bought that house many years later.

The William Davis Miners Memorial Monument stood across the street from our home on Baker Street. Our house stood to the next left of the house seen here. Dad’s store on Plummer Ave. stood just across the street behind the photographer.

Obituary Roderick MacMillan

FINAL RESPECTS PAID TO LATE ROD MCMILLAN Assembling in large numbers from all sections of Cape Breton County, friends, acquaintances and older residents paid their final respects this morning to the memory of Roderick D MacMillan, well known and highly esteemed Sydney resident, whose funeral was held from the residence of his son in law and daughter, Mr and Mrs W T Lynch, Byng Avenue. Mass of Requiem at the Church of the Sacred Heart was celebrated by Rev Dr F J Nicholson of St. F.X. University in the presence of a large congregation and prayers at the graveside were conducted by Rev Dr Malcolm MacEachern, also of the University staff. Burial was made in the family plot in Holy Cross cemetery, alongside of his wife who predeceased him 18 years ago and son Mike who died in 1929. A large procession of cars followed the hearse to the final resting place of the deceased and the countless Mass cards, floral pieces, cards, letters and telegrams of deep sympathy received testified in a tangible manner to the high respect in which the late Mr MacMillan was held by all who knew him during his 50 years residence in Sydney. The pall bearers were Bob Campbell, Remi LeBlanc, Joe McMullin, Thomas Cozzolino, Dan MacGillivray and C MacMillan.

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