More on the Sept McCombie...
"The Clan and its Septs: McCombie"
by Roger F. Pye
During the second half of the eighteenth century the descendants of those
McCombies (i.e. MacThomaidhs), who migrated northward from Glenshee into
Aberdeenshire, began introducing a "b" into their surname, which thus became
known as McCombie. This corruption had very rarely been used earlier. However, in
its final form it was a purely regional spelling. Therefore, in the absence of any
evidence to the contrary all McCombies, whereever they may be, must be
considered to have come at some time or other from Aberdeenshire. In the survey of
the Scottish telephone directories previously mentioned in this series, of 42
McCombie subscribers a total of 27 (i.e. two-thirds of them) lived in the northeast;
25 of them in Aberdeenshire, 1 in Moray and 1 in Glasgow, 2 in Perthshire, 2 in Fife,
1 in Angus and 1 in Ayrshire.
It is of course perfectly possible that the McCombies are the descendants of several
different migrants, leaving Glenshee at different times, and as early as 1556 (i.e.
roughly in the time of Aye MacIain MacThomas, reckoned third chief of the clan)
when we find an assize upon Ferquhair McCombquhy [sic] summoned at Elgin (1).
The most important family of McCombie, of course, is the house of Easterskene.
These McCombies descended from Donald M'Komy, or M'Comy, who is found in 1696
as a tenant of a holding in Edindurnoch, now Nethertown of Tough, in the Vale of
Alford (2). This Donald is claimed, purely on strength of family tradition, to have
been the youngest son of Iain Mor, which may very well be true (3). It is
nevertheless interesting to note that roughly a generation earlier than Donald, in
1663, a certain Patrick McKommie "had a reputation as a charmer" at Kildrummie a
mere ten miles or so upstream from Alford (4). This Patrick cannot possibly have
been a son of Iain Mor. Possibly his presence there, so near in time and distance to
the ancestor of the Easterskene family, was a mere coincidence, and the two were
a product of two separate migrations from Glenshee.
This Aberdeenshire origin of the McCombies naturally applies equally to the
McCombies of Dalkilry (5), long settled in England, and it is evident that until
comparatively recently this was the belief of the family in question (5). However,
unfortunately when Mrs. Emily McCombie Fenn came to search the Aberdeenshire
parish records, she was unable to find the baptisms of Alexander and George
McCombie, the two earliest of her family to have been found in the Registers of
Heston, near London. This failure is not in the least surprising when it is considered
that the registers of many of the most likely parishes in Aberdeenshire are missing
for the relevant period (7), and it is accordingly perfectly natural to suppose that
the baptisms of these two McCombies took place in one of those parishes for which
the records are not available. However, Mrs. Fenn believing quite wrongly that the
only Aberdeenshire McCombies were those recorded in W. McCombie Smith's book,
"Memoir of the Families of M'Combie and Thoms" (8), was thereby led to assume,
again quite wrongly, that because she had not found the baptisms in Aberdeenshire
that they did not take place in Aberdeenshire. Having erronrously eliminated Donald
as a possible ancestor of her family, she cast her mind over the other sons of Iain
Mor (although why she should have been so certain that she was descended from
Iain Mor it is hard to explain). Thus, she proceeded to form the theory, in support of
which there is not the slightest vestige of evidence, that George McCombie of
Heston was the son of Alexander of Heston (9) and, by a further almost superhuman
feat of imagination, that Alexander of Heston was the son of Alexander, only son of
Alexander (10), the bypassed son of Iain Mor! [To be continued...]
1.) Dr. Black, "The Surnames of Scotland," 1946, p. 474.
2.) W. M'Combie Smith, "Memoir of the Families of M'Combie and Thoms," 1890, p.
3.) A. M. Mackintosh, "Mackintosh Families in Glenshee and Glenisla," 1916, pp.
4.) Dr. Black, "The Surnames of Scotland," 1946, p. 474.
5.) For a fuller description of this family, vid. pp. 89-91.
6.) Mrs. Fenn ("The McCombies of Dalkilry," p. 13) makes this perfectly clear, and it
is supported by the fact that when Dalkilry received his grant of arms in 1950 he
was living in a house named "Aberdeen." He subsequently removed to another house
7.) This has become perfectly apparent during recent research carried out on behalf
of Horace McCombie, of California, (who is undoubtedly descended from John,
immediate elder brother of Thomas 1st of Easterskene). Mr. McCombie, to his great
credit, is continuing this investigation of the Aberdeenshire records, so that we
should eventually be in a much better position to place the origins of the various
present-day families of the name, including that of Dalkilry.
8.) In fact he only deals with the descendants of Donald's eldest son, Robert. That
the latter was not the only son is made clear by a reference to a cousin, William
McCombie in Cairnballoch (op. cit. p. 117).
9.) The only record of the existance of this Alexander of Heston is that of his burial
in 1782. His age at the time is unknown and there is nothing whatever to suggest
that he was the father of George of Heston. He could just as easily have been his
brother, his uncle, his cousin, or even his son.
10.) The only connection between these Alexanders, upon which Mrs. Fenn
obviously palced quite disproportionate reliance, is their common Christian name.
She seems to have overlooked the fact that Alexander was one of the most common
of Scottish Christian names. [To be continued]