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April 1978 IndexBulletins Index

Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
1978 - April

The only Caithness Landholders "of that Ilk"
D. B. Miller

To have a surname the same as one's lands is the hallmark of aristocratic lineage. In medieval Scotland there were about one hundred and forty such families, but as the centuries passed they dwindled in numbers for one reason or another. Many of them ended with an heiress, who on marriage brought a line of strangers into the succession, although sometimes the heirs reverted to the old name and carried it on. Some were sold for reasons now unknown, and once divorced from their land the lines vanished into obscurity. A number have survived to the present day.

The origin of the Coghills of Coghill in Caithness is lost in the mists of antiquity, but in nearly all the other Scottish families "of that Ilk" their origins can be traced back to the time when in Scotland most surnames were adopted somewhere around 1100 - 1130 AD. In nearly all cases the surname was taken from the lands and seldom the other way round, although this is not unknown.

The first mention of a member of the Coghill family by name is Alexander Coghill of that Ilk who died in 1630. His son David Coghill of that Ilk, on succeeding his father, got a charter from William Lord Sinclair in that year. In 1638 he got another from John, Master of Berriedale (grandson of the fifth Earl of Caithness) and again in 1650 he was infeft (a Scottish legal term used to denote the granting of symbolic possession of land) in the lands of Scottag in Watten, by the sixth Earl of Caithness. Thereafter a Thomas Coghill of Coghill received a precept in relation to lands from the same Earl. A Barbara Coghill, a daughter or sister of Coghill of that Ilk, married a James Oswald, a Bailie of Wick. Finally in 1671 a charter from the sixth Earl confirmed a disposition to David Coghill of that Ilk. He was probably a son of Thomas.

The estate of Coghill (now spelled Cogle) included the present day lands of Cogle, Gersa and Scottack. Old records sometimes refer to the estate as "Coglefute".

About 1700 the last Coghill sold the lands to Manson of Bridgend, Watten, and shortly afterwards they were acquired by the Anstruthers of Balcaskie, Fife, who are the present owners.

The lands of Cogle are traversed by the burn of Cogle, and this would add proof to the theory that the name is from the Norse "Kop-gil" meaning the "misty burn".

There is, or was, an English aristocratic family, the Coghills of Coghill near Knaresborough in Yorkshire. They are believed to be of Norman descent deriving from Serlo de Burg who came over with the Conqueror, but although a great many old Scottish families are descended from the younger sons of Anglo-Norman barons there has never been any indication that the northern Coghills are anything else other than native to the soil of Caithness.

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