THE MacNeils of Barra and the McNeills of Gigha are Celtic, and according to some sennachies trace their common origin to Neil Og. Neil, the founder of the clan, lived about 1300. The earliest mention of a charter to a MacNeil of Barra named Gilleonan is of date 1427. Gilleonan, the 9th of Barra, is on record in 1545. The Chapel of St. Barr was the burial-place of the MacNeils of Barra. In 1587 Queen Elizabeth complained that Roderick MacNeil of Barra had seized an English ship. Roderick did not appear at Edinburgh when summoned, but he was captured by MacKenzie of Kintail, and conveyed to Edinburgh. Barra was forfeited and given to Kintail. The superiority of Barra passed to Sir James MacDonald of Sleat until 1688. In 1650 MacNeil of Barra was among the “Scottish Colonells of Horsse.” In 1688 Roderick MacNeil, 14th of Barra, obtained a Crown charter of Barra, making it a free barony. Several MacNeils named Roderick succeeded. In 1840 Barra was sold to Colonel John Gordon of Cluny. The 45th Chief, Robert Lister MacNeil of Barra, recovered the island of Barra and Kismull Castle, the island fortress of the chiefs.
SO far back as 1472 the McNeills of Gigha were Keepers of the Castle of Sweyn, in North Knapdale, Argyllshire. The Lord of the Isles was their overlord. Neil McNeill was Chief of the clan or branch-clan in the first half of the sixteenth century. He had a son, Neil, from whom the McNeills of Taynish are descended. Another son, John Og, was the ancestor of the McNeills of Gallachoille and of Crerar, afterwards of Colonsay. James MacDonald of Islay purchased Gigha in 1554. It was acquired later by John Campbell of Calder, who sold it in 1590 to Hector McNeill of Taynish. Gigha and Taynish were owned by his descendants till 1780. In that year Alexander McNeill of Colonsay purchased Gigha. In addition to the Taynish family, there were McNeills of Gallachoille, Caraskey, Tir-Fergus. In the seventeenth century Torquil, of the House of Tir Fergus, married the heiress of the Mackays, and acquired the lands of Ugadale, in Kintyre. Sir John McNeill, K.C.B., LL.D., Envoy at the Court of Persia, 1831, belonged to the Colonsay branch. Hector McNeill, who wrote “Come under my Plaidie,” was a member of the Clan McNeill. He died at Edinburgh in 1818. The children of the house of McNeill were, according to old Highland custom, taught their genealogy in Gaelic on Sunday morning.