Select Black Miscellany


Here are some Black stories and accounts over the years:


Blacks of the Lamont Clan

Those bearing the surname of Black in Scotland have often been seen as part of the Lamont clans of southern Argyll. This relates, not so much to evidence of any change of name from Lamont to Black, but to the traditional connection to the clan Lamont of a family called MacGiolla Dhuibh or “son of the black lad,” which was anglicized as Black.  The name has occurred in various parts of the western and southern Highlands of Scotland in several anglicized forms and its bearers believed themselves to be Lamonts, although not always living under their influence.

Writing of the family in Perthshire in 1661 Sir James Lamont in
his Declaration of the True Extraction of the MacIldowies alias Lamont said that “all the Macilldowies are my true native kindly people and kinsmen.”  In Argyll the name has been much shortened to the form Huie and this has also been anglicized as Black.   Both the Huie and Black names have been fairly common names in Campbelltown, Argyll.

There was a letter dated 1723 written to the Laird of Lamont by a John Black from Belfast in Ulster which went as follows:

“I being descended from the ancient name of Black, from Scotland for some ages, but my father and many relations removed by death, and to other countries,  God is pleased yet to continue me a survivor, although very infirm and about
seventy-six years of age.
I have been an inhabitant of this place for about 60 years, except some intervals when I went abroad to France, Holland, and the West Indies all which time I have been exercised in merchandising. The original the Black had in the honorable family of the ancient family of Lamont and likewise your coat-of-arms. From this we can learn that the Blacks were merchants, traveled abroad a lot, were probably very wealthy and had the name of Lamont changed to Black.


Black Fishermen in Campbelltown

emergence of Blacks in the fishing community in Campbelltown, Argyll can be traced to Daniel Black who arrived there from county Antrim in Ulster in the early 1850’s.  His younger brother Duncan followed him there, became a seaman, but later drowned.

Daniel’s first skiff of which there is a record was the Maggie in 1869,  He and his wife Margaret raised five sons – Archibald, Duncan, Daniel, John, and James – all of whom grew up to be fishermen.



Mary Black and Rathlin Island

Mary Black the Irish folk singer has her roots in Rathlin, the remote island off the northernmost tip of county Antrim.  Her grandmother was still living there when she was growing up in a poor working class area of Dublin.  She remarked:

“I even believed that we belonged to the privileged class as we went to visit our grandmother’s farm every summer knowing that most kids in Dublin had never seen a cow.”

Her father Kevin had left the island in the late 1940’s in search of work.  He was a plasterer by trade.  In his spare time he would play the fiddle while his wife sang at local dance halls in Dublin. This was where Mary and her younger sister Frances, who also achieved success as a singer, got their musical upbringing.

About Rathlin Frances recalled:

“We’d be up very early to get the train to Belfast and then it was several bus journeys to Ballycastle.  From there you could see the island.  The final part of the journey was a very
treacherous boat trip.

The farmhouse was at the upper end of the island.  So my aunt would pick us up in her car.  At the farm there were cows, sheep and chickens everywhere. I’d get up early each morning to help milk the cows and then I’d spend the day exploring the island.

The house is still in the family.  I go there three or four times a year.  It’s my spiritual home, a haven and retreat.  There are now only about eighty people left on the island.


Daniel Black in Massachusetts

Daniel Black appears to have first come to Boxford in Essex county,
Massachusetts as a servant in 1659.  A year later he was charged with courting his future wife Faith Bridges against her father’s wishes.   They latter married, again without her father’s permission, but they did not live easily together.   In 1664, they were both sentenced to sit in the stocks, he for abusing her and she “for gadding abroad.”

Daniel Black was later recorded as a poor laborer who cut wood and did piecework for the local ironworks.


The Rev. Sam Black and His Trouble with Yankee Soldiers

Sam Black was born and grew up in Rupert, Greenbrier county in West Virginia.  He kept a farm along the Meadow river there.  But he was for most of his life a well-known Methodist circuit rider across vast spaces of Appalachia.

During the Civil War the Yankees had little liking for the Rev. Sam Black.  The Methodist minister was a strong Southern sympathizer. For most of the war years he constantly kept his faithful horse saddled and hitched at the gate in order to make a quick get-away when the Union soldiers came.

On one occasion, his daughter recalled, the Yankees caught up with him, yet he made his escape on horseback up the hollow above his home.  The Yankees gave chase but lost their prey when the minister circled back quickly on top of a knoll overlooking the home.  There he sat and watched the Yankee soldiers ransack the house.  He often related afterwards that “my horse showed good sense on that occasion.”  Had the animal neighed he would have been trapped.

But things did not fare so well down at the Black farm house. Mrs. Black saw the Union soldiers coming and quickly hid the maple sugar in the fireplace. She pretended to be making a fire when the soldiers entered her home.  While they were there the embers in the grate ignited the sugar and the whole supply was burned.  Meanwhile the family had hidden all their canned fruit in a board-and-sod covered trench in the yard.  One of the soldiers accidentally stepped on the trench, a board tilted and the family larder was uncovered and confiscated.

The old log house which the Rev. Black built as a young man burnt down in 1908.


Swartz and Schwartz

The “s” sound shifted to “sh” in southern High German areas and by the end of the 19th century the spelling had been fixed as Schwartz in High German transcription.  However, families migrating to America before this time were more likely to use the older Swartz spelling.  A later variant Swarts sometimes appeared. These surnames would often give way to Black in 18th century America.


William Black – from Scotland to Canada

William Black was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1727.  His father apparently had some sort of independent income as William kept a
pack of hounds in his youth and employed himself in the chase. At
21 he began working as a travelling salesman and he met his future wife Elizabeth Stocks in Yorkshire.  They took up residence in Huddersfield where he worked in the linen and woolen drapery business.

But William had itchy feet.  In early 1774 he set sail for Nova Scotia in Canada with the intent of seeing the country before making any commitment to emigrate. However, it seemed that, once there, he quickly made up his mind.   After arriving at Halifax, he proceeded to Amherst in Cumberland county where he purchased an estate. Then, after returning to England, he brought his wife Elizabeth, four sons, and a daughter to Nova Scotia the next year.  Sadly, Elizabeth died within a year of their arrival.

William married another Elizabeth that year and purchased a larger estate in Dorchester, New Brunswick. He had six children by his first wife and six by his second.  He survived his second wife too, by several years.

At the age of 88 he rode on horseback from Dorchester to Amherst, a distance of thirty miles, to visit his sons living there.  He was a remarkably well proportioned man and retained an erect and dignified bearing to old age.  He died in the year 1820 at the advanced age of 93 years.


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