Genealogical sketch of the Rev. W. Kennedy M'Kay

Source: Belfast News-Letter, 17 June 1836 (pg. 4): Genealogical sketch of the Rev. W. Kennedy M'Kay. Digital copy online at The British Newspaper Archive, (accessed 2014-02-24, by subscription). Transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick. Please cite your sources.

(i) Transcriber's remarks and editorial marks appear [within square brackets.]
(ii) Additional notes are hyperlinked to the bottom of this page.
(iii) Link to blog article.


In our last number [1] we briefly invited public attention to the “Mystero-Hermenensis” [2] of the Rev. W. Kennedy M’Kay, in which will be found a number of literary and theological curiosities well worthy of general notice. The work is dedicated to his Majesty himself, and into this dedication a condensed history of his Majesty’s family has been introduced. A second dedication to the “Ultonian Philological Antiquary is also prefixed, in which the author has appropriately done for himself an office similar to that which he has performed for William IV. namely, the furnishing of a genealogical account of his own descent. We know that the Kennedies, both of Scotland and Ireland, had derived their origin from Brian Boroimbe, the royal hero of Clontarf, but we did not know that our learned author could so satisfactorily have traced his collateral descent to Cormac Cas and Oliol Olumh, the former of whom flourished in the fourth and the latter in the beginning of the third century of the Christian era. The name of the famous Culdee prophet Beag-Mac-De, referred to by our author as one of his olden time relatives, may perhaps need explanation to merely English readers. “Beag-Mac-De,” then may mean either Beag the Son of God, or the little Son of God——an appellation to which the extraordinary measure of inspiration enjoyed by the Prophet must have given rise. With these introductory remarks, which our limited space has rendered unavoidably brief, we present to our readers Mr. M’Kay’s antiquarian sketch of his descent in his own words. He says——

“I was born at Brigh, near Stewartstown, in the county of Tyrone, A.D. 1802, on the 4th of November. Having finished my collegiate course of education at Glasgow, I was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Tyrone, in 1824, and ordained to the charge of the Presbyterian congregation of Portglenone, in June, 1826, by the Presbytery of Ballymena. By my father, the late Rev. Thomas M’Kay [3], I possess Celtic origin; his grandfather, Alexander M’Kay, of Convoy, was grand-nephew of the famous General M’Kay [4], who fought under King William the Third, and whom God employed to execute his vengeance upon Claver-house, the bloody prosecutor of the Scottish Presbyterians.[5] This Alexander M’Kay, was son to Hugh M’Kay, of Rea, in the northern highlands of Scotland; and being persecuted in Scotland for his attachment to Presbyterianism, and suffering from the troubles in which he, in common with the other branches of that brave Highland clan, had been involved, by its opposition to the Cromwellian usurpation, he fled to Ireland in 1683, and settled at Convoy, in Donegal.

“But, by my mother [Jane Kennedy],[6] I possess Scottish and Irish descent conjoined, which associates itself with the Bailles [Bailies] of Donaghendry, a branch of the house of Lamington, in Scotland; with the Richardsons of Augher, the Lindsays of Loughrea, the Saundersons of Cavan, and the Jacksons of Coleraine; together with the family of Dobbs, Moore, and Stuart, of Stuart-hall. These were conspicuous in the plantation of Ulster, and zealous advocates of Presbyterianism, in former days, save the family of Lindsay, which always adhered to the Church of England. I esteem it, however, useful for the illustration of my ministerial mission in the province of Ulster, to demonstrate my descent maternally through the line of the Kennedys, as the mission and ordination of the Presbytery of Tyrone, by which I was licensed to preach the Gospel, is handed down through them. Therefore I here state, that my grandfather, the Rev. William Kennedy, forty-six years minister of Carland, was son to the Rev. John Kennedy, minister of Benburb congregation for fifty years: this John Kennedy, together with his brother, Thomas Kennedy, minister of Brigh until 1742, who baptized the late Lord Castlestuart in the Brigh meeting house, were sons to the Rev. Thomas Kennedy, first minister of Carland. With respect to him, I here state, that being empowered to preach by the Presbytery of Ayr, he came to Ireland by the appointment of the extraordinary commission of the Kirk in the summer of 1648; and being a nephew to John, the fifth Earl of Cassills [sic],[7] and cousin-german to John, the sixth commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, whose family was by matrimonial alliance connected with that of the Earl of Stirling; he was appointed as chaplain under General Monroe; and being ordained by the Presbytery with the army, was inducted by Archbishop Usher into the parish of Donoughmore, in Tyrone, in 1646, and ejected in 1660; thenceforward he continued to preach as a nonconformist minister at Carland Bridge, enduring persecution and imprisonment for righteousness’ sake. At the approach of Lord Galmoy with the advanced guard of King James’s army to Dungannon, he was forced to retire to the house of his brother, the Rev. G. Kennedy, the ejected and persecuted minister of Dundonald and Girvan, and there having remained some time, he went to Glasgow in 1688, was received by the Presbytery, and installed by it in the College Kirk, because of his singular gifts and eloquence, by the universal choice of the people; and in 1693 he returned to Ireland, and, at the earnest desire of his Irish congregation, resumed his charge of them. The people of Glasgow parted with him with deep regret; but as he came to Ireland at first with the design of propagating the Gospel, he felt bound to return to embrace the opening in God’s providence of doing more good in Ireland. He died in 1714, having preached the Gospel in Glasgow, Donoughmore, and Carland, seventy years.

“I have now only to make two other remarks connected with this Thomas Kennedy. The first refers to the family from which he was sprung, and the second to that of his wife. With regard to the first, I observe, that he was the eldest son of Sir Alexander Kennedy, of Craigaoch, legal nephew to John the fifth Earl of Cassilis [8], and great-grand-nephew to the celebrated William or Quintin Kennedy, Abbot of Crossraguel, who opposed John Knox in a controversial discussion on the sacrifice of the Mass, at Maybole, which lasted three days. But though Quintin Kennedy was the best disputator in Scotland, he was overcome by the Reformer. This circumstance induced him and his brother Gilbert, the third Earl of Cassilis, to forsake Popery, and he thenceforward defended and patronised the Reformation. The Cassilis family are sprung from James Kennedy, of Dunure; his ancestors were Crusaders, and derived their origin from Brian Kennedy, king of Ireland, having retired from that kingdom, to Carrick, in Scotland, about 1160.

“Now, with regard to his wife, he was married to a Miss Mary O’Brien, only child and daughter to Captain O’Brien, of the Bawn [The Bonn townland], near Pomeroy, in Tyrone. This Captain O’Brien was of the same family with the Marquis of Thomond, and traced back his descent to Cormac Cass and Oliol Olum, the former a king of Munster in 360, who professed Christianity ninety years before the mission of Patrick, according to its first Presbyterian establishment in Ireland; and the latter was also king of Munster, and a celebrated poet, and professed the Christianity of the same stamp in the year 200 after Christ, two hundred and forty-four years before Patrick.

“From this account, it will appear that I derive my descent from a Gaulish, Scottish, and Irish-Milesian origin, and that I have a right to the exercise of freedom to preach the Gospel among the simple of Milisian Irish, if God should call me to it, without being taxed by the Irish priesthood as an alien stranger, invading the privileges of the Irish, and possessing no sympathy for them, as not of their kindred origin. I believe God sometimes casts his solitary in families, while rebels inhabit a dry and parched land; and I rejoice that I am able to show, that the celebrated Beag-Mac-De also sprung from Connel, and Cormac Cass, maintained the same principles in religion as I do, from 500 to 551; and that as an old Culdes, well skilled in the prophecy of Scripture, imbued with attachment to past forms of Christianity, he foresaw the judgments of God coming upon Ireland in consequence of the apostacy from the pure principles of the Gospel, and the introduction of corruptions that followed the change of government in the Irish Church concomitant to the Patrician mission. A relative of his, descended from the Eachar Baldearg, went along with the current in apostacy, and became, by the name of Brennan or O’Brien, the first diocesan bishop of Clonfert; but his views were nearly the same as those of the Church of England, but different from those of Beg-Mac-De, who died about twenty-six years before. This latter left behind prophecies, some of which are still extant in Irish poems; his fame and acute observation of the judgments of god, which he found were to be poured out after 666, when the first minister of Christendom should become a fallen star, and introduce the ravages and desolations of locusts coming in upon the sanctuary, led him to be called by the Irish the Great Prophet, Beg-Mac-De; and when God scourged the Irish by the invasion of the Danes, about three centuries after his day, as a judgment inflicted upon them for having departed from their first love in the recognition of papal doctrine and a foreign discipline,——the more superstitious Irish, from the tenth century to the present, call him by the name of a prophet; whereas he only pronounced and thundered out the judgments of God, by a a [sic] minute and narrow investigation of the Word of God, especially the prophetic parts. From this continued narrative, my readers who are genealogical antiquarians will perceive the reason why I use the name Kennedy as a praenomen to that of M’Kay; because it is indicative of my maternal descent, and useful to distinguish me from other persons of that name, either in Ireland or elsewhere.

“William Kennedy M’Kay.”



Belfast News-Letter, 14 June 1836. Advertisement: "Just Published, Price 2s., Volume I. of The Mystero-Hermenensis, ..." Digital copy online at the British Newspaper Archive, (accessed 2016-07-10). See the next note for the correct title of Rev. Mr. M'Kay's publication.


M'Kay, W. Kennedy. The Mystero-Lermeneusis: being an explanation of the prophetic symbols of the Apocalypse. Belfast: M'Comb & Greer, 1836. Title confirmed to WorldCat, online at (accessed 2016-07-10).


Thomas M'Kay, M.A. (1788-1822) was ordained at Ballyclug, later known as Brigh, on the 1st August, 1788. He was the author of: Six Addresses proper for Sacramental Occasions (36pp.), pub. Belfast 1786; and, A Sermon from Psalm cxii. 6, preached at Bray† before the Orangemen of Killyman, Cookstown, Pomeroy, and Coagh Districts, on the 1st of July, O.S (8vo, 22pp), pub. Dungannon 1799. Rev. Mr. M'Kay died on the 19th December 1822.‡ Source: Witherow, Thomas. Historical and Literary Memorials of Presbyterianism in Ireland, 1623-1800. London and Belfast: William Mullan and Son, 1880. † Brigh. ‡ Another source cites the year, 1821 (University of Glasgow. A Roll of the Graduates of the University from 31st December, 1727 to 31st December, 1897 (pub. J. MacLehose & Sons, 1898).


General Hugh Mackay (c.1640-1692) of Scourie, Sutherlandshire.


John Graham (1648-1689), 7th Laird of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee.


Jane Kennedy was the daughter of the Rev. William Kennedy (1724-1801), minister of Carland, and Martha, daughter of Robert Bailie, Esq., of Donaghendry. The following death notice was published in the 20th March 1832 edition of the Belfast News-Letter: "On the 10th inst. at her place of residence near Stewartstown, under the lively influence of a justifying faith, and exhibiting the full and placid assurances of a blessed immortality, Jane, relict of the late Rev. Thomas M’Kay, Presbyterian Minister of Bray,† and, by her father, the Rev. Wm. Kennedy, of Carland, a descendant of the venerable Thomas Kennedy, Nonconformist Minister of the parish of Donaghmore, 1660, and founder of the Presbytery of Tyrone." † Brigh. Source: Belfast News-Letter, 20 March 1832. Death notice for Jane M’Kay née Kennedy. Digital copy online at The British Newspaper Archive, (accessed 2016-01-16, by subscription).


This is the earliest record found, by this writer, of the Kennedys' claim of descent from the second son of Gilbert, 5th Earl of Cassillis—also named Gilbert, whom they further asserted held the title of Colonel and possessed Ardmillan Castle. Readers may wish to refer to the 8th July 2016 blog article on this subject.


From Burke's Peerage (1878,2001) and Paterson's History of Ayr (1852), it would appear that Sir Alexander Kennedy of Craigoch was first cousin to John, 6th Earl.

Please cite your sources.

❦               ❦               ❦

© Alison Kilpatrick, 2016. All rights reserved.
Copyright notice

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

Contact   |  Copyright notice  |   Privacy statement   |   Site map

© Alison Kilpatrick 2014–2019. All rights reserved.