Welcome to the Macgowan or the "Mac an Ghobhainn" Family Website
Macgowan coat of arms Motto: Juncta arma decori Translation: Arms united to merit.
Welcome to our website
Macgowan Tartan

There is perhaps no stronger evocation of kindred and expression of national pride than the wearing of Scottish tartan.

It was believed that ‘a man in a kilt is a man and a half’ and the association between tartan and the Scottish Clan has spanned, not just time, but everything from war, ceremony, music and romance, to, especially in olden days, sheer practicality for wear and warmth!
Tartans are woven into the very heart of Scottish culture.
Around 1600, the ‘feileadh mor’, or ‘big kilt, appeared as the forerunner of today’s modern ‘little kilt’, the ‘feileadh beg’. The former was simply a long piece of ‘plaid’ (which anciently just meant a blanket) which was folded before each wear into pleats and wrapped around the waist and over the shoulder. It is thought that the ‘little kilt’ found favour over time in battle as it enabled the wearer to move more freely and by the middle of the 18th century it had become increasingly popular, not least
because the pleats were stitched in to save time.

As their priority was keeping warm and not what they looked like, Scots anciently would wear a mish-mash of different patterned plaids. It was the plant badges, worn in their caps,
that clan members used as the symbol of identification of their clans. It was only over time that tartans gradually began to take over this function, thanks largely to the military who, in 1739, regimented the final six independent Highland companies into
the Black Watch and adopted the famous tartan as their uniform.
The number of identifiable tartans is now considerable and kilts are worn with pride at all kinds of social and official events. If your name is that of a clan with its own tartan, then life is simple!

Things can be more complicated however if your name does not bear an obvious link to a clan. There is a belief, for example, that you should wear the tartan of your mother’s
name but, in truth, there are no hard and fast rules.

Our Story Begines With "Alasdair Mac A' Ghobhainn" & Dalry

In a book titled “East Galloway Sketches” Alexander Trotter M.D. wrote:-

The Rev. Alexander M’Gowan was, according to the “Literary History of Galloway,” born of humble parents in the parish of Dalry. The surname, however, is an old one, the clan M’Gowan having been one of those located in Nithsdale in early times under the potent family of Edgar, and bore a scotch thistle as crest, with the motto ”Juncta arma decori”
(arms united to glory), a reference to the fighting propensities of the race.

Rev. Alexander M’Gowan was born circa 1744, and after a hard struggle with adverse circumstances, was duly licensed to preach the Gospel but having no interest to procure a kirk, he supported himself by teaching and, on a vacancy occurring, accepted the situation of master of the Free Grammar School of his native parish in 1772, where he remained ten years, during the latter portion of which period he also acted as tutor to the family of Newall’s of Earlston.
It was a famous academy in those days, scholars attending it from distant parts. The minister of Dalry having died in 1782, Mr. Newall, who was the living, presented Mr. M’Gowan to it and he was duly ordained the following year, soon afterwards marrying Mr. Newall’s niece, a young girl of 17 or 18 years of age.

(According to records Mary Newall was b:Jan 1770, m: Oct 1785 & d:Jun 1867 so that places her age at 15 years on her wedding day)

Alexander was an excellent Hebrew scholar, composed a learned work on “Elocution,” which remained in MSS., and published two sermons on the deaths of his neighbouring ministers, John Gillespie and William Gillespie, both of Kells. A poetical prize epitaph on Gordon of Kenmure’s huntsman, for which he received a guinea, may be seen cut out on a gravestone in Kells kirkyard. His “Statistical Account of Dalry,” written in 1788, is one of the best in that work. In it he mentions that his Manse was built in 1784, but had never been water tight and that his stripend (annual income) was 93 pound, with 5 pound for communion elements. He also states the Glebe consisted of 11 acres, and at one time it was almost a mass of rocks, but he had dug or blasted these out and put on it’s surface a compost of earth, dung and lime, the later brought from Kirkcudbright, the result being that he had made it worth twice more that it’s former value and got grand crops, which the people looked on as a kind of miracle. He also gives a learned disquisition on the value of manuring land, at that period little practiced.

In the “Galloway Herds” poem it is said Mr M’Gowan was of “primitive mauld, and dyked and mended his ain shoon”, and this is strictly correct. He might also have been seen occasionally in the peat moss, without shoes or stockings, stripped to the shirt, and was almost without a competitor in casting and wheeling Peats or carrying them on his back.

His early habits of working hard and rising with the sun made him despise the conventionalities of his cloth, and his small income and large family compelled him to practice every method of economy.

Anecdotes are current concerning his primitive simplicity of character. On one occasion, for example, he was engaged to preach at Buittle Kirk, but was late in arriving at that place.
 A elder was sent to see if he was approaching, who met an old countryman dressed in hoddan grey, with a Tam o’ shanter bonnet on his head, and a grey plaid over his shoulder, covered with dust, and barefooted, with his shoes in his hand. “Saw ye,” he said, “a minister on the road as ye cam’ alang?” “Wha is’t ye’re seekin’?” was the reply. “If it’s old Saunders M’Gowan ye want, wha’s tae preach this day at Buittle Kirk, I’m the man!” The Elder set him down as a joker trying to make a fool of him, indulged in some strong language, and went further along the road. Mr M’Gowan put on his shoes and stockings, entered the pulpit, and preached a rousing sermon, to the delight of the audience and the chagrin of the elder, who, after an ineffectual search, returned to tell the congregation no preacher need be expected that day.

At one period of his life he was noted for the extraordinary time he was able to preach, and his sermons seemed to never tire his hearers. It is said that, wishful to put down a yearly drunken series of orgies called Carsphairn Fair, he preached during the entire evening of that day at the place of that name, and kept his audience in hand until the public-houses were closed for the night.

In his last sermons he become confused, and preached and prayed at the wrong times, mixing up one exercise with another. He died in his 82’d year of his age, and was greatly lamented by his people, to whom he had become endeared by his blameless life and sympathy with their afflictions.

He was buried in the Dalry kirkyard in proximity to the large square mausoleum of his wife’s relatives, the Newalls of Earlston and Barskeoch, where two tall headstones, covered with inscriptions, record the demise of many of his children, some of whom were clergymen, and others surgeons in the Royal Navy and elsewhere.

From a poetical tribute to his memory, by Peter M’Kinnel, an extract follows as expressive of the general feeling in the district at his loss:-

There is a lone sequestered spot,

By placid Ken’s meandering stream,

A spot that time shall ne’er efface

From recollection’s brightest gleam.

O’ershadowed by old sycamores,

There rests the pious and the good,

While many a tear his loss deplores,

And consecrates his solitude.

His requiem the wild birds sing

At early morn or evening mild,

From nature’s harp his dirge notes ring

Meet elegies for natures child.

Lone spot, round thee may flowers still bloom,

And breezes mildly thee gently fan;

The heart is mouldering in the tomb

That glowed with love to God and man.

Macgowan family headstones next to the Newall Mausoleum

Alexander "Sawney" Macgowan was born: circa 1745 on the Knockreoch (a farm) in the parish of Kells, Kirkcudbrightshire and educated at the University of Edinburgh. For some time he was the tutor in the family of John Newall of Barskeoch (a farm) and was also the schoolmaster of this parish from 1773-75, licensed by the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright on, 2 Aug 1775 and presented by John Newall.

He was ordained a Presbytery Minister on 3 July 1783 and died 12 Oct 1826.

Alexander and Mary Newall married: 10 Oct 1785 Mary was  baptised: 20 Jan 1770, died: 28 June 1867 in Kirkcudbright,

Mary was the daughter of James Newall of Stranfasket (a farm) and had issue: –
John Newall, b:Apr 1790, d:31 Jan 1791, aged 9 months;

James, Rev., b:27 May 1787, Dalry, teacher, Liverpool, d:14 Apr 1856, Adelaide, South Australia, and married Susannah Jackson, 28 Jun 1819; (more below)

John, surgeon, R.N., b:1793, d:18 Mar 1819 at Liverpool, m: Mary Aird;

William, b: Sept 1795, Dalry, d:22 Oct 1795;

Joseph Henderson, surgeon, R.N., b: 1797, Dalry, d: 1854, St. Heliers, Jersey;

Thomas Newall, M.D., Manchester, b:1800, Dalry d:6 Jan. 1846;

David, b:1803, d:2 Dec. 1803;

Antonietta Stewart, b:1785 Dalry, d:c1875, m:11 Dec 1833 to John Thorburn, at Derby Square, Liverpool;

George Knight, a wine merchant, Manchester, b:1813, Dalry, d:12 Jun 1878, Earlston Park, Willsbridge, Bristol, m: Elizabeth Dawson, 3 May 1845, St. John Church, Cheshire;

Mary, m:24 Jun 1823, at Liverpool to James Glover a writing master at the Macgowan Academy in Hope Street, Liverpool;

Anna, [author of Poems (Edinburgh, 1855)], d:19 Apr 1865, Kirkcudbright;

Patricia Heron, m:6 Apr 1829 Robert "Lovey" Malcolmson;

Wilhelmina, b:1806, Dalry, [author of Tales Founded on Fact (Edinburgh, 1855)];

Alexandrina Oswald, b:c1816, Dalry, m:28 Jun 1843 to John Steadman Christie, Jr. Esquire, in the Parish of Troqueer, Kirkcudbrightshire;

Jane Margaret, b: c1821, m: ---- Edmonstone;

Agnes Murray, d;13 Dec. 1873.

- Google Books Result: At the Manse of Dalry, the wife of the Rev Alexander Macgowan, a daughter, their seventeenth child." (Yet to be confirmed)

Publications – Sermon on the death of Mr John Gillespie, Min. of Kells (Edinburgh, 1806); Sermon on the Death of William Gillespie, Min. of Kells (Edinburgh, 1825); Account of the Parish (Sinclair’s Stat. Acc., xiii.). He printed the prospectus of an elaborate work on Elocution, but this was never published. – [Barbour’s Tributes to Scottish Genius; Murray’s Hist. of Galloway, 280; The Galloway Herds, 45; East Galloway Sketches, 353.]

(An edited version on the Dalry Parish in the Fasti Ecclesiaea Scoticanae)


Of all that has been written about Rev. Alexander Macgowan the authors have all done what I have just done and that is to reproduce a version of the Fasti Ecclesaiea Scoicanae.  To be written about by so many people goes to show the importance placed on his existence in the Kirkcudbrightshire community.


Rev. James Macgowan and Susannah Jackson c1850's

 James and Susannah were married: 28 Jun 1819 in the St John's church, Liverpool, Lancashire, Susannah Jackson was from Walton on the Hill, Westmoreland.

They lived firstly at a house in Bold Place, Liverpool for four years before building a three story house with cellars beneath it in 1822, it was built as a private residence but also used as a school accommodating 50 to 60 scholars from 4 to 16 years of age. 
A story has surfaced about James and his school in a newspaper, "The Leeds Mercury" dated Sat 4 Nov 1826 and later a book titled "Liverpool Tales" where James had rented out a cellar beneath his school house to a gang of body snachers. While James was at first implicated in the case the truth came out in the subsequent coroners inquiry. The story of body snatching is recounted for tourists on a nightly tour of Liverpool.

There isn't much else known of them until James, Susannah and their eleven children sailed aboard the Planter for Australia on Sunday 25 November 1838. The Planter was a wooden 3 masted, fully rigged barque but due to the barques poor design, lack of wind and a mutiny prior to landing at Rio De Jenero they didn't arrive in Port Adelaide until 16 May 1839.

Susannah, b:25 Jun 1820 in Liverpool, England, died a spinster, 18 Jan 1869, Adelaide, South Australia;

Agnes Newall, b:22 Mar 1823, d:22 Sep 1861, Hobart Tasmania, M:20 Mar 1844, Thomas Christie Smart, M.D;

Mary Ann, b:12 Apr 1824, d; in England, m:26 Jun 1841, Adelaide to Christopher Brown Rodwell Esquire B.A;

Elizabeth, b:30 Apr 1835, Liverpool, d:29 Feb 1892, Adelaide, South Australia;

Helen, b:19 Aug 1826, Liverpool, m:22 Feb 1851, Edward Collingwood Esquire; d:6 Apr 1874, on the ship Elizabeth,

Ann Isabella, b:18 Aug 1827, Liverpool, d:10 Aug 1911, Adelaide, South Australia;

James, b:11 Aug 1828, Liverpool, d:10 Oct 1886, Parkside, South Australia, m:16 Nov 1853, Trinity church, North Terrace, Adelaide to Mary Ann Burns, b:c1829, Surrey, England, d:26 Oct 1905, Waterloo, South Australia; (more below)

Mary Glover, b:16 Sep 1829, Liverpool, d:7 Jun 1926, Adelaide, South Australia, m: 4 Dec 1856, George Gledstanes Wollanston;

Jean Welsh, b:26 Jan 1832, Liverpool, d:21 Oct 1904, Kent Town, South Australia;

Jessie Newall, b:23 May 1833, Liverpool, d:5 Oct 1917, Hackney, South Australia, m:9 Sep 1856, Samuel Andrew Sprigg;

John Thorburn, b:23 Sep 1836, Liverpool, d:23 Feb 1895, Corowa, New South Wales, m:23 Sep 1867, Annie Wynn.


Great Grandfather James Macgowan

James, b:11 Aug 1828 in Liverpool, d:10 Oct 1886, Parkside, South Australia, was the seventh child, m:16 Nov 1853 in Adelaide to Mary Ann Burns, b:1831 in Carshalton, Surrey d:26 Oct 1905, Waterloo, South Australia.

Susan Mary Ann, b:4 Jul 1857, Strathalbyn, South Australia, d:17 Aug 1861, New Hamburg, South Australia.

Agnes, b:11 Apr 1859, Sandergrove, South Australia, d:22 Sep 1861, New Hamburg.

Alexander Jackson, b:2 Aug 1861, New Hamburg, d:27 Aug 1861, New Hamburg.

Mary Ann, b:20 Aug 1862, m 17 Apr 1886 to Henry Lambert, d:1938 near Auburn, South Australia.

James, b:30 Oct 1864, Lower Finniss, South Australia, m:30 Oct 1890 to Emily Montgomery, d:7 May 1934, Adelaide, South Australia.

Helen, b:22 Nov 1866, Point Sturt, South Australia, m:22 Sep 1886 to Louis Napolean Sibley, d:18 Nov 1954.

Edward Jackson, b:9 Apr 1869, Lower Finniss, m:26 Jul 1893 to Elizabeth Ann Ricketts, d:14 Jan 1925, Cleve, South Australia.

George, b:23 Jun 1873, Point Sturt, d: 23 Jun 1873, Point Sturt.

Percival George Rodwell, b:c1877, Tothills Belt, South Australia, d:16 Aug 1942, Adelaide. m:1 Jan 1900 to Elizabeth Sarah May Baker.


Y - DNA Test

DNA project

I have completed a Y-DNA 37 marker test with Family Tree DNA and I’ve published the results on www.Ysearch.org under the surname Macgowan. Anyone who visits this site and is a direct male descendant of the same Macgowan ancestors or shares a close variation and has also completed a Y-DNA test, is encouraged to share their information in an attempt to identify matches.

The Y chromosome passes from father to son virtually unchanged from generation to generation. It is therefore possible to identify long lost cousins and calculate with a high degree of probability how many generations ago we shared a most recent common ancestor!

My haplogroup is R1b1a2a1a1b4b (R-M269). This group is shared by almost half the male population in Western Europe and in the British Isles it accounts for about 70% of the male population. Migration means that this group is also present in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. The individual nucleotides within this chromosome mutate over time and it is therefore possible to pinpoint with a high degree of accuracy which family one belongs to despite the millions of individuals who are within this particular group.

This haplogroup is believed to have originated in Ireland from the Irish king Niall Noigiallach aka "Niall of the Nine Hostages" who was one of the greatest Irish kings. Niall reigned from the late 4th Century AD to the early 5th Century AD.  His dynasty lasted for centuries, continuing up until the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland at the end of the 16th century. He was said to have consolidated his power by leading raids on the Roman Empire and taking hostages from rival Irish royal families, Scotland, England and the European mainland, thus earning the name Niall of the Nine Hostages. Saint Patrick was said to have been kidnapped as a young slave and brought to Ireland from Wales and that slave would later escape, and go on to become Ireland’s patron saint. It is alleged that Niall had fathered many offspring which explains why today, there are countless thousands, possibly millions of people who share his genetic material.

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