Thompson is MacTavish

Home | History of Clan MacTavish-The Book | The Truth - Thompson is MacTavish | Dumfriesshire Thomsons Revealed | Writing History | About Tavis Coor (Ancient Relatives) | Manuscript History of Craignish | Tweed's House of Argyll and Branches | Buchanan's Origin of the Highland Clans | Campbeltonian | The Right to Clan Membership | The Chief, the clan and its organization | The Scottish Chief | Joining a Clan or Clan Society? | Clan MacTavish Incorporated | Accepted Names and Septs | Resurrection of the Clan MacTavish | MacTavish - A Distinct Clan | MacTavish Chiefs | MacTamhais Mor, Chief of Clan MacTavish | MacTavish Arms | Crest Badge of Clan MacTavish | MacTavish Tartans | About the Lands of Dunardry and of Knapdale | Frequently Asked Questions | Baron MacTavish | Clan MacTavish - A Brief History | A MacTavish History Tutorial | A Myth Vanquished | Three Legends about Clan MacTavish | A Humorous Highland Song | Simon McTavish of Garthbeg | Their Country was the Cradle of Scotland | Clan MacTavish - Who We Are | Officially Sanctioned Clan MacTavish Websites | What is Your Tartan Pages | Officers of the Chief's Household | LINKS

Thomson MacTavish T Thompson is MacTavish 
MacTavish is Thomson or Thompson
Most of the MacTavish surname facts presented here may be found documented elsewhere on the Internet, the rest may be verified at a good research Library, or consult with the Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, Scotland for verification.
Sources are provided.
Thomson and Thompson are Anglicized forms of the Gaelic names attributed to MacThomas (Mac Tomaidh) and MacTavish (Mac Tamhais).
The ancient Irish name of MacTavish  is
Mac Giollatgamhias (phonetic tranliteration), often written in English as MacGiollatsamhais, or Mac Giolla Shamhais.
The Clan MacThomas is confederated with the Clan Chattan.
The MacTavish in Argyll and Perthshire were followers of the Clan Campbell from 1533 AD onwards, but were found elsewhere, as well. The MacTavish are an independent clan.
The Name Thomson itself when not an Anglicized form of either MacThomas or MacTavish is from the Lowlands or Borders of Scotland, but these Thomson families were not all related, and did not form a distinct clan, but were often followers of other major Lowland families, clans or lairds.
Shadows of the Ancient Name
of MacGilletsamahais of Donegal, Ireland
The MacGilletsamhais appear as the  surname associated with the ancient
Kingdom of Guill and IrGuill (Rosguill and Hornhead) now part of County  Donegal, Ireland.
The Meaning of the Name:
Son of the Devotee of St. Thomas the Apostle
The MacTavishes claim descent from the line of Kings of the Kingdom of IrGuill and Ros Guill, via descent from Conn of the Hundred Battles, being a tribe of Picts (Cruithne) mentioned in the second century by Ptolemy in his map materials. They were the Windukatii (Ouenniknioi) Picts, who later fell under the dynastic Ui Niells of the North.
Ceart Ui Neill
(The Rights of O'Neill)
(A list of tributes claimed by THE O'NEILL from ancient times)
by Myles Dillon 

1. This is the customary right and lordship of O Neill over the province of Ulster.

His right from O Domhnaill; that he come with his full muster from Tarbh Chinn Chasla to Eas Ruaidh without regard to any benefit or adversity that might befall them. And these are the chiefs who come with O Domhnaill: O Baoighill from Tir Bhoghaine and Tir nAimhir, and O Maolghaoithe from Tuath I Mhaolghaoithe, and Mac Giolla Shamhais from Ros Buill (Ros Guill) , and O Breislein from Fanaid, and O Maoilegain from Magh gCaoraind, and O Muireadhiagh and O Conaill from Tuath Bhladhach, and O Toircheart from Cluain Eidheile and Mac Dhubhain from Tir Eanna, and Mag Fhionnachtaigh from Ard Mheg Fhionnachtaigh, and O Dochartaigh from Ard Miodhair and Mag Fhearghail from Tir Bhreasail, and Mag Loinnseachain from Gleann Finne. And if those families should die out, the dutry of hosting rests upon the tribes themselves, except the three free tribes of Muinter Chanannan in the territory of the Ui Chonaill themselves. And whenever the UI Chonaill should break away from their allegiance to O Neill, O Neill shall have what is his own judge shall award. And if cows increase among the Ui Chonaill, two in-calf cows are due each year. Provision for two hundred is the normal billeting to which the Ui Neill are entitled from the Ui Chonaill from Tarbh Chinn Chasla to Eas Ruaidh.

Irish Pedigrees, The origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, by J. O’Hart gives a list of old Irish names not shown in the Scottish pedigrees, such as MacFirbis, but many of these names or their variations appear in Scotland's history. The list (partial) from page 855 is given following:


Irish Pedigrees




As many of the ancient Irish sirnames are not recorded in O'Clery's, or in Mac- Firbis's Genealogies, or in the Linea AiUiqua, or in the Betham Genealogical Collections, we have collected from "The Topographical Poems of O'Dugan and O'Heerin," " The Tribes and Customs of Hy-Fiachra," and other works published by the Celtic and Archaeological Societies in Ireland, the following Irish family names, and the modern anglicised forms which they assumed:




The Name                           Has been modernised



Clan Shane (a Sept of     

the O'Farrells)                    …   Shaen.

MacAindria                          Andrews, MacAndrew, Anderson.

MacBlosky                           MacClosky, Closky. 


MacCarrghanma                   Carron, MacCarron, MacCarroon, MacCarhon, and Carson.

MacCiounaith                     MacKenna (of Meath Hy-Niall).

MacConboirne                     Bourns.

MacConin                            Kennyon, Cannig.

MacCoshy                            Foote (“cos:” Irish, the foot).

MacCrossan                         Crosby, Crobie.

MaeFmnbliair                       Maginver, Gaynor.

MacGallogly                         Ingoldsby.

MacGilla Sinin                      Synan.

MacGillicuskly                      Cushley.

MacGilla Kenny                   Kilkenny.

MacGilla tSamhais*             MacIlTavish, MacTavish.

MacGillimore                        Merryman.

MacGiolla Phoil                   MacGilfoyle, Gilfoyle, Paul.

MacUuiggan                         Maguiggan, Goodwin, Godwin.


*MacGilla tSamhais…MacIlTavish/MacilTamhais/MacTamhais:

Written in the Gaelic Unical alphabet (not English) the name appears as Mac Goilla tGais.

The consonant appearing as an English 's' in Soilla (Gilla) and tSomais (tgamhais) is genetive, and silent in the Gaelic. Th mh or dotted m is a V. If written as MacGilliaSamhais, as is sometimes seen, the 's' is still silent and gives Mac-Gill-Avish in sound: an alternate spelling of MacTavish frequently found in Scotland as MacAvish or MacAvis. In the old Gaelic Unical Alphabet, an extension of the old Latin Alphabet, the S as it appears in English transliteration of MacGilla tSamhais, is actaully the Gaelic consanant G, which has no sound, and is therefore silent. When spoken, the name is either sounded as Mac Gill Tavis or Mac Illa Tavis. It is often seen as MacGillehose, Mcilhose MacLehaus, right along side more modern spellings such as McThavish, or McTavish, and Englished as Tamson, where the Gille (servant, devotee, or follower) has been dropped. Other Gaelic surnames were also abbreviated in this manner. The Commons of Argyll, by Duncan. C. MacTavish, published 1935, shows the name both with and without  Il  (gille). Excerpts from Commons of Argyll follow.

Dr. George Calder, Glasgow University, published A GAELIC GRAMMAR a close examination of the Gaelic Language.

The selected pages show that Thom(p)son is MacTavish.

You may find “A Gaelic Grammar” at”




Lecturer in Celtic, University of Glasgow.


Alex. MacLaren & Sons,
360-362 Argyle Street


p. 8
“….Many of the derivations which he suggests are surprising, but, as Dr. Calder does not express hesitation on the matter, we must assume from his certainty that the surprise is due to our ignorance rather than to any far-fetched subtlety." — " Glasgow Herald."

"The name Colquhoun, whose pronunciation puzzles English people, is, so far as its derivation goes, as much of a puzzle to Scotsmen. Who would imagine it is a corrupted Gaelic equivalent of Thomson? In his Gaelic Grammar published the other day. Dr. George Calder seems to have little difficulty in proving that the MacTavishes, Holmes, MacCosh's, and MacCombies and the M'Couns of Galloway, as well as the Colquhouns and Maclehoses, are really all ' sons of Thomas.' " — " Glasgow News."

p. 19

3. In a few proper name, mac son, projects the final c which eclipses the following consonant, and the pretonic unstressed ma of mac is dropped, e.g.

MacDhomhnill Macdonald Ma Connel Conell
MacMhuirich Murdoch Ma Cuirich Currie
MacThomhais Thomson Ma Comhais Cosh ……


p. 143
Tomas, Tomas, Tomhus ; Mac Thaimhs, Mac Thamhais MacTavish, Tawse ; Cause ; MacCosh, Cosh, Cash ; Mac-a- Chombaich, Mac Thomai(dh) MacCombie for which is substituted Colquhoun, i.e. G. Mac-Thomh-an, Comhan, McCoun (Galloway) ; Thompson, Holmes ; Mac gille Thomhas Maclehose; Cornish (Man).
Surviving Argyllshire Records
List of Rebels and Fencible Men

Lists of names are broken down by Region, then sub-division, followed by name(s) of person(s).

These names were taken for surviving lists, by Duncan. C. MacTavish, a native of Lochgilphead, and the list are exclusive for Argyllshire, and do not represent other shires. Not all regions in Argyllshire are represented (i.e. Morvern, Ardnamurchan, etc.), and hence not all persons who participated in the rebellion are mentioned.

Following are the Rebels in Argyll (1685), from Glassary, Tarbert, et cetera (relative to MacTavish), and pertaining to the Earl of Argyll’s Rising, part in the Monmouth Rebellion. Many refused to turn out, unless forced to do so under threat of expulsion from their farms. Many such persons are thus not listed. The following extracts contain MacTavish and Stevenson/Stephenson name variations, with a few others. Following the Rebels of 1685 are Fencible Men (eligible for war) enumerated in 1692. Again not all regions are represented, and thusly, many names of the residents do not appear.

These are all Highlanders. Lowlanders (of which there are relatively few, are named is separate lists. These lists also show that members of a clan did not all live on the lands of their chief, and that others not of the clan did.

1. List of Rebels, 1685

Kintyr (Kintyre)
Kilblain paroch
Coraphen: Donald Mc cavish
Kilchiven, Killcaubnach: William Thomson
Kilcheran, Kildonan: John Thomson

North Kintyr
Killean paroch
Reudell (Rhudall): Archibald Mc sporran
Margimonach: Tavish Mc cavish

With Capt. of Skipnidge (sic Skipness)
Skipnidge: Donald Mc sporran

Kilberrie paroch
Tiretigan: Lauchlan Mc tavish, John Mc tavish, Ard Mc tavish, Duncan Mc ea vc tais, Ard Mc Tais his bryr
Kilberrie: Neill Mc tavish, John Mc tavish, Duncan Mc phadrick alias Mc tavish, John Mc tavish, Quentin Stevinson
Shenaghart: John Mc tavish, Alexr Mc tavish
Achdianellan: Rorie Mc tavish

Knapdeall (Knapdale) paroch, Argyll
Lochhead keilsport: John Mc tavish
Downirosney (Dunrostan): Duncan Mc tavish (MacTavish land)
Ulva: Donald Mc gilhuash
Kilmichell in Inverlussa: Dougall Steinsone
Downans (Dunans): Duncan Mc tavish (MacTavish land)
Dunardarie: Donald Mc tavish of Dunardarie Heiritor Execut (executed)
Strondour: John mc tavish
Kildishalan: Donald Mc cavish

Paroch of Kilmichell in Glassarie (Kilmichael Glassary)
Gartangore: Rorie Mc tavish certificate (* cited as Rorie mc Tavis in Gartingour)
Crearea: Neill Mc tavish (* cited as Neill mc Cavish in Creara), Patrick Mc tavish (* cited as Patrick mc Cavish)
Achoish: John Mc cavish (*cited as John mc Cavish)
Monydriane: Archibald Mc cavish (*cited as Ard Mc cavish in Monidren)
Craigmurell: Alexdr Mc cavish (*cited as Alexr Mc cavish there)
Uyla: James Steivinson (*cited as James Stevison in Uyla)
Kiktowun Kilmeichell: Robert Seinson, John Stevinson (*cited as John Stevinson in kirktoun of kilmichell)
Torblaren: William Stevinson (*cited as Wm Steinson there)
Kilbryd: Lauchlan Mc cavish
Glasvar: John Mc cavish
Leckwarie: John Steivinson
Ffernoch (Fernoch): Neill Mc cavish (*cited as Neill mc Kavish), John Stevinson (* cited as John Stevinsone there)

Kilmartin paroch
Barlia: Alexr Mc cavish,
Ardphurclad: Dougall Mc cavish, Donald Mc cavish

Melphort parcoh
Kilmelphort: Malcom Mc tavish

Craignes paroch
Leirchanmore: John Mc cavish

Dunoon and Kilmun paroches in Cowall
Orchyeard: John Mc homas
Towart: Gilbert Mc cavish

Strachur and Stralachlan (Strathlachlan) paroch
Lick: Tavish Mc Cavish

Men alleged to be rebels (or accessories) by Duncan Mc dougall in Laganmore:
Ard Mc cavish in Ardinstur, Malcom Mc cavish his son yr, Donald Mc cavish yr

List of Rebels from Gigha, 1685 (who appear to have fled Glassary or Kintyre):
Duncan Mc Tavish in Margmonagich, Donald Mc Tavish yr, Ard Mc Tavish in Ardlay

List of Rebels who forfeited their Stock (Cattle/horses, etc..) 12 OCT 1685, at Court held by the Marquis of Atholl (besides those cited above).
Lauchlan mc cavish there [ i.e. in Lagg] - but who does not appear with John Mc chruther in Lagg in the list of rebels. See above listed rebels (*cited as…) who forfeited stock.

2. List of Fencible Men between 16 and 60 in the various parishes of Argyll, 1692 (Men not listed previously. The rest of Argyll records regarding such men are deemed lost. This is an inconclusive list.

(Note: In the lists of Fencible men, there are only three Lowlanders of the name Thomson (including Tomsone), who appear in a separate list. All those listed here are Highlanders.)

Lismore: John Mc Illihaish (1), John McIllihaish (2) (This name modernly is MacLehose or Macelhose, an old form of Mac Gille Tavish).

Baldeodan (Lands of Campbell of Inverawe)
Dalincro: Johne mc Cavish

Lands of Duncan Campbell brother to Inverawe
Craignish and Braelorn:
John mc Tavish, Alexr mc Tavish, Dougall mc Tavish

Rewarie Tamson (i.e. Rorie Thomson), Dougald Tampson, Hew Mc Cavish, Donald Mc Cavish, Dougald Mc Cavish, James Stinsone (these people are Highlanders, not Lowlanders. Lowlanders are enumerated in a separate section and so designated.)

Garvalt: Duncan mc Thavish
Ederlingbeg: Ard mc Thavish (ab:seik)
Lagg: Lauchlan mc Thavish, Hew mc Thavish (ab:seik)
Tarblaren: Alexr Mc Cavish

Ballimore Kilmichell:
John Stinson elder (*deleted), John Stinson younger, William Stinson (Stinson, Stinsone, etc. = Stevenson/Stephenson)
Kilmichell: John Stinson
Achihoise: Alexr mc Thavish, Donald mc Thavish, Lauchlan McThavish
Auchinbrack ( Auchnabreck): Alexr mc Cavish, Donald mc Cavish
Two Monidraines: Alexr mc Tavish, Hew mc Tavish (ab: at Lochabir)
Kilmory: Lauchlan mc Thavish (Ab:seik), Donald mc Tavish
Douincholgin: John mcThavish
Kilmichelbeg: Lauchlan mc Thavish
Auchinba: Hew mc Thavish
Kilmichelbeg: Patt: mc Thavish
Barnakeill (Barnakill): Neill mc Thavish
Auchinshelach (Auchnashelloch): George Stinson (Stevenson/Stephenson)
Neithri Keames: John Stinsone (Stevenson/Stephenson)
Glesvar: Jo: mc Cavish
Stronalbanach: Donald mc Thavish
Crerea: Neill mc Cavish
Garvachie: Alexr mc Thavish
Inverheas: Rory mc Cavish, Neill mc Cavish
Blarintypart: Duncan mc Tavish
Dunardarie: Patrick Christie, Gilbert Mc Lartich, James Boyd
Dunanes (Dunans): Donald mc Wruone (sic McRyan), John mc Capline
Barenluiskane (Barrinloskin): Cormick Mc Cormick, Angus Mc Ilvernick, Donald Mc Inlvernick, John Mc Neill
Blarintypart: Duncan Mc Tavish
Barbea: Angus Mc Ilchash (sic MacIlTavish, MacLehose/McIlhaus, MacCash)
Ardbege: Malcolme Mc Chosh (sic MacIltavish, MacHose, MacLehose, MacIlhaus, MacCash)
Kilbege: Duncan Stinsone (Stevenson/Stephenson)
Castell Suine (Castle Sween): Ard Mc Ilchommie (sic MacIlTavish)

(Note: Dunans, Barrinloskin and Dunardarie are owned by MacTavish of Dunardarie.) Of interest is that old styles of MacGilletavish like Mc Il chash/Mc Ilchommie (MacLehose) exist along side more modern variations like mc Cavish, mc Thavish, and mc Tavish, and even Thomson. Stevenson or Stephenson variations are also obvious, and spelled differently, even in the same paroch.

Tarbert’s Lands
Achendaroch: Duncan mc Tavish
Brackley John mc Tavish
Breanffeorlin: Hugh mc Tavish
Barmore: Donald Thomson
Tarbert: Alexr Thomson

Duncan roy mc Cavis, Rorie mc Cavis, Thomas mc Cavis , Patt: mc Cavis, Jon mc Cavis, Jon mc Cavis (2), Duncan mc Cavis, Dugald mc Cavis. Ard mc Cavis, Lauchlan mc Cavis, John mc Cavis (3), Alexr Stinsone, James Stinsone

Blythswood’s and Skipness’s Lands
Lauchlane mc Avish, Ewin mc Avish, Pat mc Avish, Johne mc Avish, Duncane mc Avish

Killean, Saddell and Kilchenzie
Killean paroch Stockadell and garvalt: Pattrick mc Sporran,
Margmonagich: Duncan mc Cavish
Drumlea: Pattrick mc Sporran

Burg of Campbeltoun (Campbeltown)
James Tamson
Patrick mc Kaish

Kilfinan: Donald Tamsone, Duncan Tamsone, Duncan mc Thomas

Barron mc Gorry’s interest
Stronyarrig: Ard mc Comas

Dunoon and Kilmun
Orchard’s Land
Orchard: Archbald Mc Komish

Paroch: A parochial division of a church parish.
Surname Facts
MacTavish, MacComas, MacCawis, Tawes, Tawis, Thomson or Thompson.
-with sources-

Thomsons are certainly MacTavishes.

The MacTavish - Equally known as Thomsons.

“…the Thomas-sons of the Highlands are generally said to have been descended from Tavus-cor, (1) the bold and celebrated bastard son of one of the chiefs of Lochaw. Hence they are equally well known, and as often called M'Tavish, as Thomson, in Argyleshire.” (History of the County of Ayr, with a genealogical account of the families of Ayrshire, Vol. I, by James Paterson, Dick, J., Stevenson, T.G., Historical and Antiquarian Bookseller, Edinburgh, 1847, p 40) 1- Paterson writes Tavus vice Tavis.

Shadow Names or Aliases

From the Craignish Manuscript is read:

1100 Collin Moall math had 2 Botord (l) sones, famous in ther day for mighty warriours, viz. Taviss Corr and Ivcr Crom of whom descended 2 numerous Clans the McTavishes or Tomsons (2), and the McIvers, both which are now much decayed ; yet many of them extant to this day. He married a Niece of K. Alexander the first, by whom he had 3 sones viz. Duncan the Eldest who [The year] 1140 Inheired the Lordship of Lochow, Donnald-Don or brown haired died without issue the 2d, and Dugall of Craignish the 3d. (Manuscript History of Craignish by Herbert Campbell, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, Fourth Volume, Scottish History Society, 1926, p 225)
1- Botord is Bastard, but used mistakenly, emphasis provided.
2- Tomson (Thomson/Thompson) is a shadow or alias of MacTavish, used interchangeably.

“A curious case of double names belongs to families who bear them on the pretext of an alias. Documents abound in which the same name occurs not once, which might have been an accident, but continually accompanied by its shadow. Thus, under the date of 1535 already we meet with a “Richard Jackson, alias Keneren.” In Scotland the custom prevailed for some time to use the Gaelic name with the English translation superadded. Men called themselves McTavish alias Thomson 1. McCalmon alias Dorr, or Gow alias Smith. Hence, probably, arose the eccentric, and otherwise inexplicable custom of some families to write themselves by one name and to call themselves by another, as with the Enroughty’s, who are called Derby. The alias was gradually omitted, and the two names remained to be used for two different purposes.”
(STUDIES IN ENGLISH; OR, Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Language, Professor of Modern Languages, M. Schele de Vere, LL.D. 1867, Scribner & Co., N.Y.)
1-Bold text supplied, M(a)ctavish families often used the Thomson name as an alternative, particularly in Kintyre and South Knapdale, in Perthshire, and even in North America.
The Thomsons on the Isle of Arran are descended from one Lauchlan MacTavish who was brought to Arran from Skipness about 1667.  Many of these Arran Thomsons moved to Glasgow, and some went to the Americans. (See: The Book of Arran)

“MacTavish, Thompson, etc. – The MacTavishes, Tawessons, Thompsons, etc., are said to derive their origin from “Taus Corr,” an illegitimate son of one of the Lords of Lochow, who lived in the days of King Alexander II.” (The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, Third Edition, Frank Adam, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, W. & A. K. Johnston, London and Edinburgh, 1934, p 131)

Corrupted and Latin Spellings

TAWES: The name Tawes is a corruption of MacTavish which means son of Thomas in Gaelic. (Thirty Four Families of Old Somerset County, Maryland, Woodrow T. Wilson, Pub. Gateway Press, 1974, p 394)

Domine Thome Tawis (or Sire Thomas Tavish/Tamhais) is listed in 1456 &1491 as a Chamberlain for the Earl of Argyll. (Rotuli Scaccarii Regum Scotorum, Court of the Exchequer, Vol. VI.). Likely the title Domine refers to a vicarage not the priesthood. Tawis is used referring to the same family.
In the case of Johnne Bisset in Aberdeenshire, 1506, Andrew Tawis bears witness under oath that he heard Robert Lumisdaill say that he struck Johnne Bisset and took his horse. (Records of the Sheriff Court of Aberdeenshire, Vol. I, David Littlejohn, Sheriff Clerk of Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen, for the New Spalding Club, 1904, p 65)

Alexandro Maktawis is the Latin form used for Alexander MacTavish, one of the warrior/knights who accompanied John Campbell, Thane of Cawdor, to slay Mclean of Duart, after Mclean tied his wife, Lady Elizabeth Campbell, sister to Cawdor, to a rock that lies between the Isle of Lismore and the coast of Mull, now called the “Lady’s Rock”. Alexander is listed in the Latin remission of John of Cawdor. (Book of the Thanes of Cawder, Cosmo Innes, Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1859, p 147; and History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland, D. Gregory, Hamilton and Adams, Glasgow, 1881, p 128)

VcCaus, McCaus, and McCawis is also a Gaelic-Latinizing of MacTamhais as found in the Sasine of 1533 for the lands of Dunardry (Argyll Transcripts, Niall Diarmid Campbell, later 10th Duke of Argyll)

As early as 1554 there was a tack of One-eighth merkland of Dowlater in Glendaruel, which had been occupied by Duncan Mackellar, but granted by Archibald, 4th Earl of Argyll, to Ewin McGillechrist VcCaus (English; John McGillchrist MacTavish) and his male heirs. (Argyll Transcripts, Vol 5, No 76).

In 1644 at Perth is found John Taus, and in the same document, the same man listed as Johne Tawis. (Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Vol. VIII, Brown, H. M. General Register House, Edinburgh, 1908, p 107)

TAWS: Taws, Tawis, Tawes, Tawse, as surnames in their relationship to MacTavish appear unrelated to the taws strap (a short whip). The dialectic use for the taws strap comes from English, to taw, meaning to tan, as in a hide, hence the saying, “tan your hide”. In Scotland and Ireland it is a still called by this name, its use was commonly found in schools were a headmaster or teacher used it on students who failed to follow standards of conduct. In language it migrated to the Scottish lowlands, and hence the taws is a strap that is used for punishment. (A French and English Dictionary, Joseph Wilson, Robinson, London, 1833, p 255; English Literature, David Daiches, Mark Van Doren, pub. Prentice-Hall, 1965, p 16; and A Dictionary of Lowland Scotch, By Charles Mackay L.L.D., Tocknork & Co., Boston, 1888, p149)

The ancient meaning, use and spelling of the root of MacTavish,
Son of Thomas in Gaelic.

Dewar Manuscripts, John Dewar, 1964 Edition, Glasgow, Maclean, MacKechnie, pub., W. MacLellan, p 288: Tamhas Crom.
The story-teller is pointing out that the name MacTavish comes from Tamhas, Thomas. MacBain agrees with him as far as to say that MacTavish is from M’Thamhais, son of Thomas. In the Book of the Dean of Lismore, Clyne Tawis appears in 1488, 1494 the forms of M’Cause and M’Cawis appear, all forms of Mac Thamhais.
(Note: Dewar exchanges the bynames of Ivor Crom and his brother Tavis (Tamhas) Coor. Crom vice Coor, may be the correct byname of Tavis.) [Emphasis is supplied] { The Dewar Manuscripts, collected originally in Gaelic by John Dewar for the 8th Duke of Argyll, translated into English by Hector Maclean of Islay, edited by the Rev. John MacKechnie, Glasgow, 1964. }

In 1646 Chief Malcolm MacNauchtan of Dunderave commanded a garrison in the defence of the Skipness Castle for the Campbell’s who were besieged by Colkitto MacDonald’s (Clanranald) army. From the Papers of Duchess Ina Campbell at Inverary Castle is a poem about those days, describing a MacTavish/Thomson hero who overcame a siege machine used against Skipness Castle. Alistair Campbell of Airds in his second volume of A History of Clan Campbell, pp 238 & 239, reveals the poem thusly,

“…they had a siege engine or gun called Muc Nimhe or ‘Deadly Sow’.
The hero of the day was a MacTavish – perhaps the laird of Dunardry, perhaps not – who destroyed the Muc Nimhe.
[Campbell of Airds provides this fragment of the poem]

The Thomson who was in the castle
Was the best of their Thomsons,
He set the Muc Nimhe in a blaze
And he brought the crushed iron home.

Here is a rare and interesting mention of the name.”

NOTE: In truth the use of Thomson vice MacTavish is not rare at all, and in that era we would have probably seen McCawis used, vice MacTavish.

The Scottish Clans and their Tartans, Whyte & Innes, 1944, W. & A. K. Johnston Ltd., Edinburgh & London, pp. 21, 22.

P. 21 MacTavish G. MacThaimhs for MacThamhais, “Son of Thomas,” or Sc. Tammas.

p 22 Thomas. G. Tmas, Tmhas, Hence MacTavish and MacCombie, also Tomason.

Celtic Baby Names: Traditional Names from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, 1997, Sierra, Folkprint, Oakland, p.32

Tmas, Tmhas m. (TAW-muhs) The Gaelic form of Thomas.

Americana, American Historical Company, National Americana Society, New York, American Historical Society, John Austin Stevens, 1906, p. 328

MacTause or MacTavish, from, Gaelic MacTamhais, son of Tamhus, i.e. Thomas, also MacThomas, Taweson, Thomas, Thomason, Thompson.

The Wordsworth Dictionary of First Names, Macleod, Freedman, Ware : Wordsworth Editions, 1995, p. 219

Tomas Scottish Gaelic form of Thomas.
Toms Irish Gaelic form of Thomas.

Transactions of The Gaelic Soceity of Inverness. Vol XXII, 1897-98, GSI, 1900 Inverness, p. 163

“St. Thomas Gaelic is now Tomas; but older dialects had Tamhas, whence M‘Tavish. Gil-Tavish appears as M‘Laws and M‘Lehose. Gilles Makgilhouse was keeper of the Royal Park at Stirling, 1479, Pat. Makgilhois, Kippen 1510, J Makgilhewous, Menteith, 1465 and 1622 …..”

Prnomina; or, The etymology of the principal Christian names of Great Britain and Ireland, Charnock, Hill, London, 1882 pp. 115, 119 lists:

p. 115 TAMHUS A Gaelic form of Thomas.
p. 119 TMAS. A Gaelic form of Thomas.

It is clearly established by linguists and scholars in the aforementioned sources that anciently, the now modern Gaelic form of Tmas or Tomas was written early on as Tamhas or Tamhus, and later Tamhais, hence the name MacTamhais/MacThamhais and it was taken from Saint Thomas the Apostle. The modern spelling in English is MacTavish.
Since Tamhas is confirmed in these learned texts to mean Thomas in the Gaelic, and ‘Mac’ bears the meaning ‘son of’, there is no mistaking that MacTavish means a ‘Son of Thomas’. This is borne out in publication after publication, by author after author, and to refute the basis and root of the name is to discount the learned credibility of multiple scholars and researchers on this topic. When Anglicized MacTamhus, MacTamhais, or even MacTmas they become Thomson or Thompson. These shadow names or aliases appear in recorded documents and other texts, in Scotland, England, Canada, and even in the United States. For a further explanation of the meaning and names which appear derived from Thomas in Scotland, see Black, The Surnames of Scotland, published by the New York Public Library, various editions.

The intrusive letter ‘p’ in Thompson, can be seen in the same light as that in Simpson (probably Simonson, Symson or Simson) or Campbell (originally Cambal, Kambel, Cambale, Cambaile, and Le Camille, etc.) where it is a sliding or transitional consonant (The Surnames of Scotland, Black, Published by New York Public Library, 1999, p lv, and Simpson, a Family of the American Frontier, John Simpson, Gateway Press, 1983, p 1)

“... the intrusive ‘p’ does not appear until the latter half of the fifteenth century.” (Journal of the Clan Campbell Society (United States of America), Pub. CCSUSA– 1996, p 10.)

“Even the 'p' in the name Thompson is an intrusive ‘p’. Extra sounds are added as the vocal organs move from one sound to another.” (Blooming English, Kate Burridge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England, 2004, p 32)

While the Disciple and Apostle of Christ, Saint Thomas, is described in the Bible as Thomas the Twin, the Aramaic the word for twin is Tau'ma, written as תאומא. In the case of the Bible passages, John 11:16; 20:24; and 21:2, “Thomas the twin” is a tautology, an unnecessary (and usually unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different words that effectively say the same thing twice (often originally from different languages). But Thomas was correctly named Jude or Judas Thomas, or Judas the Twin (Ref: Epistle of Jude, The epistle is titled as written by "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James" (NRSV). The tautology of Thomas eventually became the name by which Jude/Judas the Twin is most commonly recognized, being Thomas, and as canonized, Saint Thomas.

The Book of Thomas according to Syrian tradition also names Thomas, Judas Thomas, or Jude Thomas, literally Jude the Twin. The Nag Hammadi "sayings" Gospel of Thomas begins: "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded."

However, the word for twin is found in the Gaelic is not Thomas or Tomas. A Pronouncing Gaelic Dictionary by Neil M‘Alpine, published 1866, shows “leth-aon” as twin. This publication can be found at the University of Aberdeen.
It is clear that Tavish or Tamhais is not the Gaelic word for a twin. If a twin patronymic were to be found in Scotland it would read MacLeathaon, but no such name has ever existed in Scotland or the Gaelic speaking world. The root and foundation of Tavish or Tamhas, is taken from Saint Thomas, used as a proper name in the context of Biblical text. He is also known as Jude or Judas Thomas, and “doubting Thomas”. The Gaelic name Tamhas (Thomas) is not taken from the meaning or implication of the saint’s name in Greek, but rather from the name of Thomas (Aramaic) itself. In the ancient Greek Didymus, used to describe St. Thomas, bears the meaning of twin. Thomas Didymus (Thomas the Twin) is seen in the original Greek New Testament scriptures, which delineates between the name of Thomas, and the adjective used to describe him, the twin.

There is a distinction between the meaning of the name “Thomas the twin” used both in Aramaic and Greek, and the basis of the name as it came to be used in the Gaelic. Tamhus means Thomas, it is the literal Thomas. Tamhus does not mean leth-aon. In the ancient languages of Aramaic and Greek ,Thomas becomes synonymous with twin, but in the Gaelic Tamhus (Thomas) came to be used as the actual name of the saint.
Saint Thomas bore the name Jude or Judas Thomas. Didymus is the adjective that describes Thomas (or Judas) as a twin. In the Gaelic usage Tamhus and the later Tamhais, is purely Thomas but not does not conform to Didymus or Leth-aon in either Greek or the Gaelic. Didymus and leth-aon are synonymous with twin, while Tamhus becomes synonymous with Thomas as a proper name, with no bearing on the Greek or Aramaic meaning. The Gospel says : Thomas the Twin, (i.e. Thomas as a given name, and Twin as the amplifiying adjective).
With any Scots or Gaelic patronymic using Thomas as its root, prefixed with Mac, its meaning is ‘Son of Thomas’. Thomas’ English equivalents associated with MacTavish are often seen as Taweson, Tawesson, Taweison, MacTawes, Tawes, Thomas, Thomson and Thompson, etc... In lowland Scots, Thomas can appear as Tammas and Thammas. All bear the meaning Thomas.


The Sheriff Court Records at Campbeltown, Argyllshire tell a tale of MacTavish and Thomson.

From Issue 35 of the Magazine of the Kintyre Antiquarian and Natural History Society, Campbeltown, Argyllshire, Ian McDonald writes regarding The Kintyre Smugglers:

… 1824 shows that it was necessary to go to the extreme north of Kintyre to try to arrest the main culprits in North Kintyre. In the case of Archibald McTavish or Thomson who was engaged in the making of illicit whisky near Scotmill, parish of Kilcalmonell, when the company were surprised by the gaugers, McTavish fled from the site with the complete worm, a vital part in the process, chased by the assistants but he being fleet of foot outdistanced his pursuers and reached Skipness from whence he got on board a boat and escaped to the island of Arran.

Without the worm the gaugers were unable to prove that illicit whisky was being made. This old site can still be seen and the writer obtained the story from the late Angus McPhail who resided at Scotmill and died in 1989 at the age of 94 years.

Ian McDonald writes in the LARGIESIDE DISTILLERS, Issue 19 of the Magazine of the Kintyre Antiquarian and Natural History Society, Campbeltown, Argyllshire:

By 1850 with the introduction of large distilleries smuggling being suppressed severely it was only carried out in inaccessible areas. The last recorded account in Clachan area was at Achaglass burn, where Revenue men surprised a party at work. The shepherd in Scotmill, Archibald McTavish or Thomson, shown on wanted lists, quickly removed the vital parts and ran off pursued by several Revenue officers. "Come back, Thomson, we know you", they shouted but he being fleet of foot made for Skipness from where he took a boat to Arran, then crossing to the mainland he remained in the Borders for almost seven years before returning.

Thomson was the Anglicized form of McTavish, though use of the alias was not uniform in coverage or timing. There are and were Thomsons in the Southend area, in Campbeltown itself, and in the nearby parish of Killean and Kilkenzie (Skipness area) and elsewhere, who appear, moreover, to be MacTavishes when comparing lineages in the Old Parish Registers (OPR). McTavish/Thomsons in the Southend area, are shown in the Duke of Argyll's census of his properties in Kintyre in 1792. One group of them were once located at Dailmore, Southend (still a working farm now called Dalmore).

MacTavish is Thomson
Use of the shadow name.

Flora McTAVISH was born 1822 Skipness, Argyll, and married James LINDSAY in 1851 at Kilcalmonell and Kilberry parish , the listing is McTAVISH. James and Flora’s first child was Gilbert Lindsay born 1852. Little Gilbert died age 4 1/2yrs old in Tarbert, Argyll. Parents given names in the record are James LINDSAY and Flora THOMSON (the McTavish name reflects the alias of Thomson in the Tarbert record).

John THOMSON married Barbra MCCOLL in 1814 at Kilcalmonell & Kilberry
Their Children were listed as:
2 born in Kilcalmonell & Kilberry Parish
1. Flory THOMSON 1815
2. Donald THOMSON 1817
And 3 born in South Knapdale,
3. Duncan McTAVISH 1820
4. Matilda McTAVISH 1824
5. John McTAVISH 1827

Here again we see the names McTavish and Thomson used interchangeably.

From OPR records, years 1783-1854, FHC film # 1041076, Old Skipness Parochial Register
Archibald THOMSON aka McTAVISH m. Mary Livingston on 22 Feb 1803, source OPR p. 153
Their children were:
John, baptized. 25 Mar 1804, OPR p. 113
Kath(a)rine, baptized. 17 Mar 1807, source OPR p. 122
unnamed daughter, baptized. (probably died) 19 Dec 1808, source
OPR p. 125
Mary, baptized. 3 Feb 1811, source OPR p. 129
Archibald, baptized 20 Dec 1812, source OPR p. 133
Alexander, baptized 1 May 1815, source OPR p. 138
Dugal, baptized 23 Nov 1817, source OPR p. 145
Margaret, baptized 12 Nov 1820, source OPR p. 3

Sourced from record comparisons in Kilcalmonell and Kilberry, Tarbert, and South Knapdale, Argyll.

From a Tombstone in old Skipness, Argyllshire, graveyard is this inscription:
"Here lies the remains of Archibald McTavish, late farmer at Altghalbhais who departed this life on the tenth day of June, 1790, aged 55 years, and of his wife Catherine Taylor, who died 8 June, 1832, aged 88 years. And Mary Livingston, wife of Archibald Thomson, Jr. tenant at Cullendrach.”

Archilbald McTAVISH’s son is noted in the memorial inscription as Archibald THOMSON Jr.
Note: Altghalbhais is pronounced Altghalv'-ais.

From the book: The Scottish Clans and their Tartans, Edinburgh, 1944, originally published by W. and A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh, p. 21 we find:
“MacTavish, G. MacThimhs for MacThamhais, “Son of Thomas,” or Sc. Tammas.”
(Note: G.=Gaelic, and Sc.=Scots)

From the Publication of the THE KINTYRE ANTIQUARIAN & NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY, Campbeltown, Argyllshire, The Kintyre Magazine, Issue 28, April 1999, Ian Stewart and Ian McDonald write, “McAvish is the same as McTavish Anglicised to Thomson.”

Sarah Galbraith's Research

Sarah Galbraith, herself a Kintyre native, in researching her McTAVISH/THOMSON connection in Argyll found the following:
One of her Killean ancestor families, an eldest son, John, was baptised as John McTAVISH in 1835, and his younger siblings were all baptized as Thomsons. “We were helped in our research by the fact that we had a family Bible with birth and baptism dates of John THOMSON. In the Killean parish register we found John McTAVISH with exactly the same dates and parents.”

In her presentation to the Clwyd Family History Society in 2002 Sarah Galbraith shows the following connections.

-1835, Killean & Kilkenzie OPR (519/ 0020 0118) Argyll Records
John, lawful son to John McTavish and Sarah Currie, Craigruiadh, born 19th June, baptized 23rd June.

-Family Bible: John Thomson (Barr Shop) born 19 Jun 1835, baptised 23 Jun 1835, married Barbara Black.
(Note: the Killean & Kilkenzie OPR record dates match the Family Bible dates.)

-Memorial Inscription - Killean, Kintyre: In memory of … John Thomson aged 38 years his wife Barbra Black aged 35 & their children Ephemia 7, Lachlan 5, John 3 & Sarah 1 all of whom perished at sea 19 Nov 1874 in the ill-fated ship “Cospatrick”

As noted, John McTavish/Thomson is born John McTavish and dies at sea, with his family, and is memorialized as John Thomson.

My thanks to Sarah Galbraith for supplying the above information from her research. (PT)

In KINTYRE: The Hidden Past, by Angus Martin, John Donald Publishers, Edinburgh, 1984, 1999, Mr. Martin substantiates the use of Shadow Names by MacTavishes, in Glenbarr, Muasdale and Skipness areas of Kintyre. In Appendix II, p. 215, Martin refers to THOMSONs as MacTAVISHES, noting that the Anglicised names frequently co-existed with the older forms such as MacCavis, MacTavis, and McComas; and provides a significant number of examples. A few examples follow here: Peter Thomson or MacTavish was noted in Kilcalmonell & Kilberry Parish in 1855: John Thomson was in Beachmore, and Archibald MacTavish in Stramolloch in 1797.

There are many, many of the names M(a)cTavish, Thomson, Thompson, Tawes, Tawis and Tawessons listed in the Parish registers in Scotland. While the name Thomson is widespread in Scotland as a whole, it is reasonable to conclude that most of the name in Argyllshire (including Cowal, Arran, Bute, and the Isles), Perthshire, Aryshire, and elswhere, originate in MacTavish, but only research can confirm. With determined effort, comparisons of records, and where available, gravestone inscriptions or family letters or Bibles, can bring the family researcher to the time and place where the family name changed from M(a)cTavish to the alias of Thomson.
As the above records indicate, sometimes both names were used in the same family unit. There was no hard and fast rule in the use of M(A)CTAVISH or THOMSON, they were interchangeable, and at times the name may have switched back and forth. Only after the 1730s and 40s do we find that some families finally seem to have settled on one fixed version of the name, using either Thomson, Thompson or M(a)cTavish, no longer exchanging one for the other. Thompson is usually seen about 1760 to 1790 as a variant of a Thomson, but the additional intrusive ‘p’ is a more prominent adaptation for families who had left Scotland. Not all bearing the Thompson name are of Clan MacTavish. Many of the name originate from England, and is probably the source of the Border bandits of this name, who followed the Beatision and Armstrong Border Chiefs. These English Thompsons are also found in Ireland. Others are of Scandinavian descent.

In 1794, the Roll of the 98th Argyllshire Highlanders (Argyll & Sutherland) lists the following MacTavishes and Thompsons:

McTavish, Donald; McTavish, Duncan; McTavish, Peter; Thompson, James; Thompson, John; Thompson, John (2); Thompson, Joseph; Thompson, Robert; Thompson, Peter; Thompson, Thomas. (The Roll of the 98th from the The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum at Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland.)

Examples from Canada

Gilbert Cook in Quebec, Canada was the husband of Catherine McTavish. The following records of this family reveal:

When, in 1835, Gilbert Cook and his brothers, natives of Cantyre (sic Kintyre), took up lots, Larocque's was the only house in St-Louis. Robert Sellar (The History of the County of Huntingdon: And of the Seigniories of Chateauguay & Beauharnois, Robert Sellar, Pub. Canadian Gleaner 1975, p. 328)

Gilbert Cook, was from Kintyre and married Catherine McTavish, daug. of Archibald McTavish and Mary McDougall. Noted below are recorded texts showing the use of aliases.

From the Abstracts of the Notary Books of Louis Sarault in Quebec, Canada we find:

-June 23, 1846 The McTavish Family Settles in Quebec
Mary McDougall widow of Archibald McTavish; children-Edward, Alexander, Dougall, Flora & Catherine McTavish, wife of Gilbert Cook

-Apr 5, 1849 Will recorded for:
Daniel Kinghorn; Miss Flora Thompson alias Flora McTavish; Dougall Thompson her brother

Second Will recorded by Notary W. F. Lighthall, Quebec.
No 501 June 2, 1852 Will
Daniel Kinghorn; his present wife Flora McTavish or Thomson; his 1st wife the late Mary Baxter

Above we see the use of three names, the actual surname McTavish, and two aliases, or shadows used for the same person. Flora McTavish is alias Flora Thompson, alias Flora Thomson. Flora McTavish's brother, Dougall, is noted as a Thompson.


The Truth of finding your relatives lies in research.