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Competing origin stories about Myretoun: Godfrey v. Patrick

Doug McCullough

In a prior post we explained that the James Iredell oral tradition that the McCullochs descend from Clan O’Neill is impossible based on current Y DNA information. But that Iredell tradition also suggests that the next Laird of Myretoun after Cullo O’Neill was Godfrey McCulloch.

The Iredell oral tradition covers hundreds of years. It’s likely the O’Neill origin myth was added to the story over time. If we excise the obviously incorrect aspects of the Iredell tradition, perhaps the rest of the family tradition has merit.

What do we know about Godfrey?

The only evidence of a Godfrey McCulloch born around 1300 is the Iredell oral tradition. We have shown that the oral tradition is flawed in suggesting that the McCullochs descend from the Clandeboy O’Neills. (This O’Neill origin myth likely is the product of this McCulloch line being in Ulster since the early 17th century). However, other aspects of the Iredell tradition are accurate. Laird Alexander McCulloch of Myreton did descend from Henry McCulloch of Killasser and his wife (and cousin) Margaret McCulloch of Myreton. In “A History of the Galloway Family of McCullochs,” Walter Jameson McCulloch does not attempt to suggest the line of Henry McCulloch of Killasser prior to his father, Henry Mcculloch of Killasser, the elder. The Iredell tradition, however, suggests that this Killasser line descends from Norman McCulloch of Myreton (died about 1445). Both traditions recognize that Norman McCulloch was a Laird of Myreton, which is documented in a charter reference pertaining to Norman’s grant of Ardwell lands to his brother Archibald McCulloch.

The Walter Jameson McCulloch genealogy indicates that Norman McCulloch was a descendant of Sir Patrick McCulloch (born about 1300). By contrast, the Iredell tradition suggests that Norman was a descendant of Godfrey McCulloch (who presumably would have been born about 1300).


In the absence of 13th century charters or wills, we are left to speculate about the McCulloch of Myreton origins based on documentary evidence from the 14th century.

We know that McCullochs lands were forfeited to King Robert the Bruce due to Sir Patrick’s support of the Balliol Kings. As early as Michael and Thomas McCulloch petition King Edward III for restoration of their lands. (This Thomas might be a son and heir of Sheriff Thomas. An undated charter signed by Sheriff Thomas and Thomas mac Ceyl’ seem to indicate Sheriff Thomas had a son with the same name). From about 1341, Sir Patrick McCulloch received payments until about 1362 from the English crown until his lands were restored. The lands seem to be restored around 1363 when Sir Patrick is granted safe passage back to Galloway. According to Andrew McCulloch, during the forfeiture interval, the McCulloch’s Myreton lands were give to John Carrick in lifefrent. This John Carrick was likely the same John Carrick who was King David’s secretary and chancellor.

Carrick’s liferent may indicate that Kings Robert I and David II did not redistribute title (sasine) to the McCulloch estates during the forfeiture interval. However, writing in “History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway” P.H. McKerlie relays an apparent oral tradition that the McCullochs were in possesssion of Myreton in the 1330s. It’s not clear if McKerlie is referencing the Godfrey McCulloch tradition here.

According to McKerlie, the first recorded owner of Myreton was Sir Thomas McCulloch as of 1390. Following the Walter Jameson McCulloch genealogy, this would indicate that Sir Thomas McCulloch was the son and heir to Sir Patrick. If lands were restored to Sir Patrick, then Sir Thomas was the next Laird of Myreton, it follows that Sir Thomas was his heir.

Where could Godfrey fit in?

While the Walter Jameson McCulloch genealogy is based on greater documentary evidence than the Iredell tradition, it still has gaps. Perhaps both traditions have elements of truth, but the pieces haven’t been put together correctly yet.

We know that Thomas McCulloch, Sheriff of Wigtown was a responsible, trusted adult by 1285. In that year he was entrusted to deliver 320 heads of cattle to close out a transaction arising from the estate Sir John Balliol. Given the value of the cattle and the high status of the parties involved, there’s no reason to assume that Thomas was a young man in his 20s. If we suppose Thomas to be born around 1250 or so, and suppose that Sir Patrick was born around 1300, there could easily be an intervening generation. We can assume that Thomas was a prominent land owner since he signed the Ragman Roll in 1296. By 1305 Thomas is named Sheriff of Wigtown. Sheriff would have been a position of authority, such as governor or mayor.

The Iredell tradition holds that Godfrey McCulloch was a laird of Myretoun. However, Michael, Thomas and Sir Patrick, but not Godfrey, petition King Edward III for restoration of McCulloch lands around 1343.

Godfrey McCulloch

There is an expression in genealogical circles that you should “trust the family.” The Iredell tradition that Henry McCulloch of Killasser descended from a Godfrey McCulloch may be accurate. However, Y DNA information eliminates the possibility that the McCullochs (including the McCullochs of Killasser) descended from Clandeboy O’Neill. Moreover, current Y DNA data would indicate that the Killasser line would have a common male ancestor with the Myreton/Ardwell line about 800 or more years before present. This is about a century and a half earlier than indicated by the Iredell tradition. Interestingly, this would be about the time we would estimate the birth of Sir Thomas McCulloch, Sheriff of Wigtown (circa 1220). It’s also about the time that Scots started adopting surnames.

None of this disproves that Godfrey McCulloch existed. However, the Iredell tradition is not correct about Godfrey’s ancestral line. And currently, there do not appear to be any available records indicating what lands Godfrey may have owned.

Credit: Horatio McCulloch

Updated March 7, 2022