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Clan Kincaid Historical Articles

The Origin of the Kincaid Name

etymology courtesy of Seán Liosliath Ó hAirt

The name is topographical in origin and very old. It was originally Pen Coed which is Brythonic Celtic (i.e. similar to Welsh) and meant head of the woods. Later, when Gaelic overtook that language of the Strathcylde Britons the name became half-translated into Gaelic as Ceann Caith (pronounced KyAN KAY). Much later, of course, this was anglicised into Kincaid.

A Brief History of Clan Kincaid

by Brigadier William Kincaid

The name Kincaid originated from the lands of that name in Stirlingshire, and it has been conjectured that the Kincaids were descendants of the Earls of Lennox who owned those lands in the 12th century.

The extent of the lands held by the Kincaids expanded and contracted repeatedly over the centuries, but their heart lay between the Campsie Fells and what is now the town of Kirkintilloch. At its centre sat Kincaid House, parts of the present building dating from about 1570, and to its east the house of Auchinreoch, which is said to have been known at one time as the ‘Prince’s House’, as it was occupied in succession by eldest sons of the Lairds of Kincaid, but which later became the property of a cadet of the Kincaids of Warriston.

Clan folklore has it that a Francis Kincaid led a surprise and successful attack in 1313 up the sheer cliffs of the redoubtable Edinburgh Castle, which at that time was held by the English. Although there is no hard evidence for this, there is a reference in 1582 to a seal of Stephen Kincaid with a castle on the shield, and it is possible that this is a representation of Edinburgh Castle, in recognition of its capture by the small force which is thought to have included a Kincaid, allegedly named Francis.

The earliest dependable record we have is of Robert of Kincade who served on an inquest held at Stirling on 2 October 1425. In 1447, a charter identifies Robert Kyncade de eodem as the son and heir of William Kyncade, and later charters record Robert’s sons Patrick, David and Robert. In addition to the Kincaid lands in Stirlingshire, the Kincaids in the mid-15th century owned lands in Edinburgh, Falkirk and Linlithgow, where, in 1461, John Kincaid was sheriff depute and keeper of the Royal Palace. There are many records of disputes with neighbouring land-owners in these towns and also in Kincaid where disputes with the Lennoxes and Stirlings were bloody and frequent, on at least one occasion spreading as far as the streets of Glasgow. There was even mother-in-law trouble when, in 1622, Dame Margaret Hamilton, widow of Sir James Kincaid of Kincaid, was repeatedly harassed by her brothers-in-law, Andrew and John, to such an extent that they were eventually declared rebels. Such strife was, however, nothing unusual in the Scotland of the 16th and early 17th century.

The first recorded Kincaid arms, those of George Kincaid, acting for the Abbot of Holyrood, date from 1506 and show the arms as they exist today: “A fesse ermine between two stars in chief and a castle triple towered in base”. These arms are the same as those on a seal of Edward Kincaid, Sheriff-Depute of Edinburgh, in 1521.The first arms to be recorded in Lyon Register were those of the great Edinburgh surgeon, Thomas Kincaid, who changed his crest from the traditional hand holding a broadsword to one more suitable for a surgeon – a hand holding a scalpel.

Thomas’s son, Thomas, also trained as a surgeon and studied extensively but never practised. Instead, he is known for his diary of a young man’s life in Edinburgh in 1687 and 1688. He lists the many books he read, his efforts to design a ‘tree-leg’ (an artificial limb), his successes and failures at archery contests and his theories on “The Only Way of Playing at Golve”. Indeed his instructions on playing golf are the first to have been recorded and, according to golfers today, have stood the test of time. He was also a poet, creating verses on both golf and archery in Latin.

By the end of the 17th century, lawlessness and territorial disputes had largely given way to order and more creative pursuits – at least in the central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Kincaids of Kincaid were becoming more interested in efficient farming, while many of those in Edinburgh and Falkirk began to pursue many varied careers.

In 1776, Alexander Kincaid, the King’s Printer, was elected Lord Provost of Edinburgh, a popular choice celebrated with a bonfire and fireworks, followed by a riot. His funeral in 1777 was one of great pomp, accompanied by earls, dukes and the Macer of the Lyon Court.

John of Huck is on record as living in the Falkirk area in the 17th century, and his probable descendants included several notable individuals. Thomas Kincaid, shipmaster, moved to Greenock and founded the marine engineering firm of Kincaid, which in 1964 had become the largest marine engineering concern in the country; it was nationalised in 1972, as part of British Shipbuilders.

Another probable descendant was Sir John Kincaid, who fought thoughout the Peninsular War, led the storming party at the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo and was adjutant of his battalion at Waterloo on which he commented later that, “I had never heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns.” He wrote two most entertaining books on his soldiering. After retirement from the Army, he became Superintendent at Bridewell prison, then Senior Exon at the Tower of London and finally Inspector of Prisons and Factories for Scotland.

Later, other Falkirk Kincaids saw military service in India, West Africa, the Crimean War, the Boer War and the First World War. Their kinsmen also fought in the Egyptian and Sudanese campaigns, India, the Boer War and both World Wars. Today, Eric Kincaid, a descendant of the Falkirk Kincaids, is the celebrated illustrator of children’s books.

The 17th century saw the beginning of an emigration of Kincaids, first of all to England, then to Ireland where they settled mainly in the north around Tyrone, Londonderry, Donegal and Down. Not long after many left for new lives in North America, Holland, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. Charles Augustus Kincaid was a Judge of the High Court of India and a prolific author, Samuel Marcus Kinkead a First World War fighter ace, General William Kincaid a Governor General in India, Thomas Harold 'Doc' Kinkade a key player in the famous trans-oceanic flights of the 1920s, Bradley Kincaid a prominent American folksinger, and Thomas Kinkade, 'Painter of Light,' who is the most recognized Kinkade today.

But the most famous of them was Admiral Thomas Kinkaid who commanded the US 7th Fleet in the Second World War. Described as cool, softly spoken and bushy eyebrowed, he was noted for being unruffled and precise, even under extreme pressure. Having earlier played a key part in the Battle of the Midway, he took charge of the plans for the invasion of the Philippines and had responsibility for the whole force until it was ashore. He was the recipient of two Distinguished Service Medals.

In many walks of life, Kincaids came to prominence: as railway engineers and managers in Burma, India and Egypt; as judges, State Governors and Members of Congress in the United States; as inventors, business men and professors; as soldiers, sailors and airmen; as farmers and in many other trades and professions.

Today, the geographical centre of the Kincaids is in North America where the Clan numbers thousands compared with the hundreds resident in the United Kingdom. There is, however, a very strong link between those in the New World and those in the Old, and this is fostered by the Clan Chief, Madam Arabella Kincaid of Kincaid.