Diack Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Diack Surname Meaning

George Fraser Black wrote in his 1946 book The Surnames of Scotland: “The surname Diack appeared for the first time in Aberdeenshire around the close of the 17th century,  principally about the parish of Logie-Durno.  A tradition among bearers of the name is that the family came from Denmark.  Diack is said to have been the Aberdeenshire form of Dick.”   

Diack is also a West African surname, with much larger numbers.  Its meaning there is different.

Diack Surname Resources on The Internet

Diack Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Aberdeenshire) and West Africa
  • to America, South Africa and New Zealand

ScotlandThe Diack surname has come from a specific location in Aberdeenshire, the parish of Chapel of Garioch (formerly Logie-Durno) located six miles northwest of Inverurie.  Three Diack families – those of John, Alexander and James Diack – were listed there in the 1696 poll.

The birth of Patrick Diack was reported at the Chapel of Garioch in 1769, followed by the birth of eight more Diacks there in the next fifty years.

Other Diacks were born at Rayne a few miles to the north and some further away near Fyvie.  James Diack was recorded at Rayne in the early 1700’s; while Robert Diack of Rayne died in a railway accident in 1882.  James Diack, born around 1780, was a farmer who died at New Pitsligo near Peterhead in 1844.  In the 1891 census there were 180 Diacks listed in Aberdeenshire. 

America.  Alfred Diack had learnt his trade as a granite mason in Aberdeen and crossed to America in the late 1890’s.  He began a business of granite memorials in Quincy, Massachusetts.

West Africa.  The surname Diack in Senegal means “sword” in the local language.  This name is also found in Mauritania; while it is spelt “Jack” in the Gambia.  Prominent Senegalese Diacks have been:

  • Abdoulaye Diack from Kaolack, leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (SDS) who died in 2009.
  • and Lamine Diack from Dakar, the President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from 1999 to 2015.

South Africa.  Charles Diack departed Scotland for South Africa sometime in the 1840’s.  He married and settled down as a teacher at Bredasdorp in the Western Cape.  Francis Diack left Aberdeen, aged twenty-three, for Cape Town in 1880.  He was only to live a further ten years, but married twice.  His son Francis moved to Rhodesia.  

The Diack name also appeared in Johannesburg. The rugby player Robbie Diack was born there; while James Diack runs the Coobs restaurant based on produce from his family farm in the Magalies mountains.

New Zealand.  Diacks also emigrated to the South Island of New Zealand.

James Diack, a blacksmith, departed Aberdeenshire in 1866 and married Eliza Geddes in Dunedin two years later.  They raised their thirteen children in Palmerston.  James died there in 1898, followed by his younger brother William in 1907.  

James’s son William died of fatal injuries in 1935.  As the Otago Evening Post reported:  “William Diack, aged 54, a farmer of Glenham, died in Southland hospital as the result of internal injuries received when a dray fell on him.  He was driving the dray through a gate when a wheel caught in a post.  The dray capsized over a steep embankment, pinning Mr. Diack underneath.”

Meanwhile Francis Diack married Susan Sherlock in Invercargill in 1881.  They raised eleven children there.  Three of their sons ran a building business in Napier.  And grandson Basil Diack started a brewery company there.

Diack Surname Miscellany

The Diack Name According to Basil Diack.  Basil Diack in a recent interview in New Zealand gave the following explanation of the Diack name.

“There is a story which I have never actually seen in writing but told to me – that our name Diack came from the Dutch word van Diack.  In those early years the Dutch were not popular with the local people and they were advised to change their name.  They took the ‘van’ off it and they put an ‘i’ in it (it could have been spelt v-a-n D-a-c-k).  But to my knowledge I’ve never met anyone else except my aunt who gave me that information.”

The Death of Robert Diack of Rayne.  The Dundee Evening Telegraph of December 16, 1882 reported as follows:

“Yesterday afternoon, at about half-past four o’clock, a melancholy accident occurred at the Ferryhill junction in Aberdeen which resulted in the instantaneous death of Mr. Robert Diack, a cattle agent of the Caledonian Railway Company.

Mr. Diack had been in the employment of the Caledonian Railway Company for fifteen years and had for some 23 years been engaged in railway service. He was kind and obliging man, and, holding the appointment he did, was known over a wide district.  The deceased, aged about fifty, was a widower and has left a grown-up daughter to mourn his untimely end.”

Reader Feedback.  Maisie Diack in Glasgow?  In 1946 I lived for a few months in Dennistoun, Glasgow and was friends with Maisie Diack who was part of a family of about two parents and two boys and Maisie.  They were a very kind family whose mother had been a nurse. On Saturdays their father used to take me with them to Alexandra Park. He gave us a chocolate bar (there was sweet rationing then) and sometimes we went to a film.

Does anyone know what happened to that family?  Is there any way you can trace what happened to Maisie?

Margaret Blair (msblair@hotmail.ca)

Reader Feedback – Diacks in New Zealand.  The James Diack who came to New Zealand in 1866 was my great great grandfather.

I remember my grandfather Fred Black and I driving in Palmerston, Otago and him pointing out to me a building where my grandmother’s grandfather, an Ellison, worked as a blacksmith.  But he was obviously wrong as it was James Diack’s workplace in fact.

James had 13 children, not 14 as shown.  I believe the family had a very strong Christian faith generation after generation, as indeed I do.  I did actually attempt to convince grandfather Fred at times to believe in the Bible but he wasn’t having it, saying it was just mind over matter.

Shane Pengelly (shpengelly@gmail.com).

Diack Names

  • Sir Alexander Diack was the senior financial commissioner for the Punjab in the early 1900’s. 
  • Lamine Diack from Senegal was the President of the IAAF from 1999 to 2015 who came under investigation due to bribery allegations.

Diack Numbers Today

  • 500 in the UK (most numerous in Aberdeenshire)
  • 400 elsewhere (most numerous in New Zealand)

Diack and Like Surnames

These are surnames which have a small number of people bearing that name but are included here – for the curiosity of the name, its history, or because of some famous person who bears that name.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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