McEwan Descendants from Islay
The descendants of Archibald McEwan who emigrated to New Zealand: a very brief history
Archibald McEwing was born on 15th October 1807, the son of Donald McEwing and Janet Calder at
Oa Islay. Islay is an island of the Scottish Inner Herbrides famous for its Scotch Wiskey. The
McEwans were tenant farmers renting their small patch of land from the “laird” a Campbell. There
were several families located at the coastal edge of the Mull of Oa, a rocky peninsula jutting into
the Irish sea where on a clear day Northern Ireland was visible only 25 miles away. The Campbell’
s had taken over this Islay from the McDonalds with David Campbell of Shawfield purchasing it in
1726. It is not known whether McEwan’s were on the Island before that time, however, records
appear soon after.
The view from the farm Archibald lived near Upper Killeyan, Mull of Oa, Islay, Argyll Scotland
The McEwan’s (Gaelic MacEoghainn or son of Ewan) were a broken clan, orally they were
descended from Dal Riadic Irish that settled in Cowal and Knapdale in Arygll on the West coast of
Scotland around 1000AD. The current name is a transliteration from the original Gaelic. In our
known family history of the last 200 years the name has been spelt as McEwing, McEwen and
Archibald McEwan and his family’s first language was Gaelic. This may surprise some but Islay is
one of the remaining refuge’s of this language even today.
Archibald McEwan married Cathrine Campbell on 23rd Feb 1833 in the Kildaton Parish Church on
the Mull. They had 8 children, Janet, Peggy, John, Duglad, Donald, Duncan, Archibald and Neil.
Archibald lost his tenancy sometime between 1841 and 1851. This was a difficult period, the potato
famine hit Ireland, it was the time of the Highland Clearances, and The “laird” also went bankrupt.
Consequently, the population of Islay started dropping rapidly from its peak of over 15,000 to
around 3000 today. After Archibald lost his tenancy he became a weaver but still based on the
Mull. This must have been a bleak and hard existence, scraping a living with his wife and children.
Over the next 20 years his family drifted away down to Paisley, near Glasgow and its environs.
Archibald followed soon after his wife died on the 11th Sept 1869 at the age of 62 where he
settled close to several of his sons and daughters at 1 Ewing St Kilbarchan. He died on 21st Jan
1875. There are no McEwan’s living on Islay now descended from these families and in fact there is
only one family that can trace its ancestors back more than 100 years still living on a farm where
our ancestors lived on the Oa. The region has declined from more than 100 houses to about 4!
Archibald’s youngest son: Neil who emigrated to New Zealand
Two of his sons John and Neil had also shifted south and were making a living as ploughman on
the farms around Glasgow. Neil the youngest son (born 26th Dec 1854) met and married Janet
Ferguson on 21st Nov 1876. Janet’s mother was a Munro and her family had a farm, Janet was a
widower having been married to her cousin James Walker whose father had married her mother’s
sister (14th June 1872) but he had died in a mine accident where he was ran over by a railway
wagon on 17th Sept 1872. Neil and Janet had two sons Archibald and Robert before emigrating to
New Zealand in 1878 with his brother John.
John met and married Catherine Christina Bain on 2nd Oct 1873 in Oamaru soon after arriving in
New Zealand. They finally settled on a farm “Nobbies” across the river from Roxburgh. They had 5
Archibald Born 2 May 1880 no record of death
William John Born 20 Feb 1883 no record of death
Walter (Wattie) Born 30 Nov 1886 died 19th July 1970 no issue
Catherine Born 25 Jan 1889 died 1977 married John Thomas Murphy 25th Oct 1943
Ann Born 14 Jul 1893 died 4 Jan 1971 married Alexander Greenlees 2nd
June 1925 2 Children
John’s family is a bit of a mystery. John died on 14th March 1923 soon after his wife who died on
12th February 1919. The children continued on the farm but the farm was presumably sold early on
during the depression and the family disbanded. Wattie became a rabbitter and often was around
Wyndham where his sister lived and in buried in the Wyndham cemetery. Where Archibald and
William finally ended up is unknown but oral history from my father suggested that at least one of
them emigrated to Australia.
Neil after arriving in New Zealand originally worked as a ploughman near Fortrose, then purchased
a farm at Tokanui in 1882. Later he leased this farm and purchased another in the Wyndham valley
in 1904 called “Carie” in Redan. Parts of these two farms still remain in the ownership of Neil’s
descendants. Neil was heavily involved in the development of both Tokanui and Redan. His family
expanded greatly to finally 13 children. He died on 29 Aug 1932. His descendants from Janet were:
Archibald Born 20 Dec 1876 died ? married Elisabeth Logie 23 Apr 1902
Robert Ferguson Born 4 May 1878 died 19 Aug 1960 married Margery Clark Leith 28 Dec
Jane Born 6 March 1880 died 15 Feb 1936 married William Crosbie 27 Jul 1904
Neil Born 11 Oct 1881 died 1953 married Sarah Ann McDonald 7 Oct 1908
Daniel Born 1 May 1883 died 1936 married Jane (Jeannie) Fisher 26 Apr 1910
John (Jock) Born 6 Sep 1885 died 5th Apr 1914
Jessie Ferguson Born 1887 died 1967 married John (Jack) Muir 1909
Duncan Born 15 May 1889 died 15 Aug 1955 married Agnes Stalker McKelvie 29
George Munro Born 25 Jan 1891 died 18 May 1974 married Ivy May Bews 25 Aug 1923
Catherine C (Katie) Born 27 Dec 1894 died 1926 married Douglas Leckie May 1922
After Janet’s death Neil remarried to Grace Duncan (born 1878 died 22nd Nov 1942) on 24th March
1908 and they had three children:
Margaret Elisabeth (Rita) Born 31 Mar 1910 died 1991 married George Thompson McNally
Florence Lavinia (Flossie) Born 19 Aug 1911 died 1952 married Arthur Petrie Gibson
Peter Duncan Born 31 Jan 1918 died 2009? married Edna May Shuttleworth 1947
J McEwan’s Genealogical files