Entry in Scottish Surnames by Donald Whyte


MAcWILLlAM/WILLIAMSON The earliest MacWilllams of note were of the blood royal. Malcolm Canmore, King of Scots (1057-93), had a son Duncan, probably by Ingebiorge, widow of the northern jarl, Thorfin. Some historians state that she was his first wife, while others, including Lord Hailes, considered Duncan to be illegitimate. He was probably a hostage in England from 1072-87, and knighted by King William Rufus on his release. Duncan expelled his uncle Donald Bane, who had asserted his claim to the throne after the death of King Malcolm and Queen Margaret, in 1093; their children being all under age. In 1094 Duncan reigned, but was assassinated and Donald Bane again occupied the throne until ousted in 1097 to allow Edgar; son of Malcolm and Margaret, to be King of Scots.

The descendants of Duncan II, in more than one generation, put forward claims to the Scottish crown. Duncan's son William Fitz Duncan, claimed, and he had two sons, William and Donald, surnamed MacWilliam. Donald invaded Ross and Moray, but was defeated and killed in 1187 at Mangarve, Inverness, by forces led by Roland of Galloway. Donald MacWilliam left at least two sons:

Donald Ban, slain in an insurrection in Moray in 1215, and Guthred. The latter led a revolt in the north in 1211, and was captured by an army commanded by an English nobleman:

probably Saier de Quincy, Earl of Winchester. Guthred was executed at Kincardine and hung up by the feet. It seems there was a government attempt to exterminate the MacWilliams, and there is a confused account of a rising in 1230, and of an infant of the race having its brains dashed out against the market cross at Forfar.

The name William became prolific in England after the Norman Conquest and, in spite of the fate of the above MacWilliams, was also popular in Scotland, resulting in various families of MacWilliams, Williamsons and Wilsons, not of common ancestry. Many MacWilliams and Williamsons lived in Glenlivet, and are found there in old records as MacWillie, MacWullie, MacKullie and MacVillie. The Glenlivet tribe became attached to Clan Macpherson, and others are supposed to be of MacFarlane ancestry, but this is disputed. It is also said that a branch of the MacLeods of Dunvegan, descended from William, 5th chief, who died ca. 1402, took the name MacWilliam, and were known as Clann Mhic Uilleim. The Robertsons of Pittagowan, early in the 16th century, were known as MacWilliams. In the south-west the name often took the form of Macuilam and MacQuilliam.

In 1317, John Williamson held land in Peebles, and Adam, son of William, rendered the accounts there in 1343. Between 1620 and 1680, the burgh was frequently represented by Williamsons. James Williamson, Provost of Peebles in 1638, signed the National Covenant, and James of Hutcheonfield recorded arms, 1672-78. He purchased the estate of Cardrona, on which many members of the family resided. Major Gen. William Williamson, who died in 1815, served with the Honourable East India Company.

Thomas Williamson, an archer in the Scots Guard in France in 1495, obtained property there, and ca. 1506 married Marguerite, heiress of Guillaume Raolt, seigneur of Mesil Hermey, and his descendants flourished. The pedigree of the family traces Thomas from Duncan Williamson who, in 1381, married Alice MacKenzie of the Kintail family.

John David McWilliam, educated at Leith Academy and Napier University, is Labour MP for Blaydon.

Tom Paterson - Last updated 25 Jan 2019