Nomenclature

A fancy title for how things are named! There has long been mystery regarding how the older generation, our aunts and uncles from Dad's generation, were named. It seems to have been more of a McKay tradition than Coull (Mum's side) to have someone named at birth and in later life for them to adopt a totally unrelated nickname. See Roger & Lizzie's story for more information. The following description may help to explain. NB: It may just be that this one older McKay generation enjoyed usage of abbreviations or nicknames instead of given Christian names sometimes. Not unusual. The following narrative on surname aliases does not relate specifically to the McKay family but was widely known to occur generally.

The use of an alias has proved to be one of the most intriguing matters to resolve and the final answer has yet to be found.

It is on record that a number of children were given an alias (or alternative surname) on being baptised and this tends to disprove the theory that the alias was adopted to hide the true identity. The alias given to the children in question appears to have been a family name which had also been used as a dual surname in previous generations of the family. Marjory Stuart, the wife of William McKay (who founded Lockers around 1844) was referred to in one instance as Marjory Stuart McAlay, this being the alternative name of many other members of that same Stuart family.

The following link shows the Burials Register for Keith Cemetery for the year 1829. There are several entries for McKays, at least two of which are different Williams and one of those being William McKay of Lockers:- Click on Burials Register 1829. NB: May take a few seconds to load - it's big. Hints: Do a 'Find' on McKay to go straight to the entries of interest. There are two sections to the document. The first lists the registered lair owners, the second shows more specific data e.g. in some cases ages are shown. When finished viewing the register, use the browser 'back' button to come back to this page.

The above register and others may be referred to elsewhere on this site, but at this point I believe it shows my great-uncle George McKay who lived with us briefly at North Bogbain, and who died in 1951. I understand he served for several years with the Police force in Shanghai, China, and may never have married.


It is possible that these additional names (aliases) referred to above were originally adopted to differentiate between the different branches of one family, or there may even have been a patronymic element in their use. The practice was certainly widespread in the Catholic community in the braes of Glenlivet but it is not known whether this prevailed elsewhere.

Children of unmarried mothers were also sometime known by the mother's name and sometime by that of the reputed father. Another interesting feature of old Scottish nomenclature is that married women known by their own name and not that of their husband. For example, Elizabeth Thom, the wife of Peter Mckay, would be described simply as Elizabeth Thom. The prefix Mrs. was unknown and when it did come to be used was given its unabbreviated form - Mistress (used in the WW2 Montgrew poem on this site). This usage can still be heard occasionally from the older members of the rural community.

With regard to William, the earliest recorded McKay, the situation is somewhat confused as he is variously described as McKay alias Duff, Duff, McKay and Duff alias McKay. Only one other person of the name of Duff has been traced in the Braes of Glenlivet, and that was one Donald Duff, a road contractor in the 19th century. A number of Duffs have however been recorded in other areas of Banffshire, including William Duff of Braco, who became the earl of Fife.

Another William Duff is said to have appeared before the presbytery of Keith to answer the charge of murdering a woman at a 'penny brydall' (a traditional wedding celebration lasting several days) whilst he was under the influence of drink.

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