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The Regarde Bien

Issue No. 1


The variant surnames Millican, Milligan, Millikan, Milliken, Millikin, Mulliken, Mullikin and in some cases, Mullican and Mulligan, share a common derivative and are of early origin in Scotland. Since the publication of George F. Black’s book Surnames of Scotland, in 1946, there has been a significant reappraisal of traditional assumptions, which generally attenuate the derivative of these surnames to the Irish O’Maolagain, a double diminutive of the Gaelic maol (-oc-an), the little bald or shaven one, probably an allusion to the ancient Gaelic tonsure [1]. In Ireland, the old surname O’Maolagain evolved independently in more than one place, though, it is generally assumed the chiefs of the Sept came from County Donegal. It can be shown that in Scotland, the eponym, patronymic and style of these surnames, evolved independently of Ireland, and are of early origin in Dumfriesshire, where they are derivatives of the Gaelic-Brythonic eponym, Malgon or Molgan, similar to Old Irish Maelgon and Old Welsh Maelgun. There can be no doubt about the patronymics, for when Malgon's son, Macrath, rendered homage to Edward I (1272-1307), king of England, in 1296, he is styled “Macrath ap Molegan”, the Welsh ‘ap’, a contraction of ‘map’, meaning ‘son of’. This article endeavours to explain how the above surnames evolved from the style ‘ap-Molegan’ and the surname ‘Amuligane’, a kindred name, probably meaning the descendant or son of Molegane. The old Gaelic-Brythonic surname Amuligane, used interchangeably with ‘Mullikine’ its Scots form, is one of the oldest patronymic surnames in Dumfriesshire, and although, it has long since disappeared from common use, it still evokes images of a bygone age, almost lost to history.

Gilmalagon of Lesmahagow

There are at least two other references to the name Molegan. The first refers to Gilmalagon witness to a charter granted by Arnold, abbot of Kelso, to Theobald Fleming for certain lands belonging to the Priory of Lesmahagow in Douglasdale. This district lies in the Upper Clyde valley in Lanarkshire, once part of the old kingdom of Strathclyde, which in Scotland extended south from Dumbartonshire to Dumfriesshire. It is believed the Priory was originally founded by the Culdee or Celi De Church and was dedicated to the Welsh St. Machute, suggesting the clerics who served at the alter tomb of St. Machute, where portions of his relics lay buried, were probably bilingual and spoke both Gaelic and Old Welsh [2]. The Priory itself was gifted in 1144 by David I (1124-53), king of Scots, to the Tironensian monks of Kelso Abbey in Roxburghshire, a Benedictine order, that fostered crafts and handiwork, and thus attracted artisans, who could pursue their secular avocations in the discipline of a cloister. The charter granted to Theobald Fleming was made sometime between 1147 and 1160, when Arnold is known to have been abbot of Kelso, and witnessed by Baldwin de Bigger, sheriff of Lanark, his stepson, John de Crawford, Gilbride mac Giderede, Gilmalagon mac Kelli and Gilbert, cleric. The charter, as it is recorded in the ‘Liber S. Marie Calchou’, was produced in facsimile by the Bannatyne Club and is here reproduced and translated below:



[Heading] Abbot Arnald on the land of Duueglas with divisions.

Abbot Arnald with the convent of Kalkow (Kelso) sends greeting to all sons and followers of holy Mother Church. Know that we with our common council have given granted and by this our present charter have confirmed to Theobald Fleming and his heirs our land of Duueglas by its right divisions from the ditch of Polnele beyond up to the water of Duglax and from the ditch of Polnele beyond itself the customary width and length of a fall, from there to the Hirdelau from there to Theuifford in Mosminin Elcorroc and thus along to the black ford and so as the road runs to Crosseford. In fee and heritage freely and peacefully fully and honourably in mills waters stanks woods planes fields meadows and in all other easements rendering annually 2 merks one at the feast of St. Martins and the other at Pentecost. With these witnesses Balwin of Bigir, John of Crauford, Gylbryde Macgiderede, Gilmalagon Mac kelli, Gilbert clerk and many others.

[Liber S. Marie de Calchou 1113-1567 (Bannatyne Club, 1846), Vol. I., no. 107]

In his book on The History of the Celtic Place Names of Scotland , Prof. W. J. Watson thought the name Gilmalagon had been copied in error for Gilmahagou, the main element in the old topographical name ‘Gilmahaguistoun’, which lies in the parish of Lesmahagow and is mentioned in a charter dated between 1208-18 [3]. Whilst this might be the case, it is equally possible the names Gilmalagon and Gilmahagou are different. Prof. Watson certainly came to this view when comparing the names Mahagu and Machutus, the Latin name of the saint, which he concluded were independent and different. He observed that in King David’s charter of 1144, the saint’s name is consistently spelt as Sanctus Machutus, whilst the Priory is called Lesmahagu. In Wales, there was a church of Machutus in the Deanery of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, called in Welsh, Lann Mocha, which Prof. Watson suggests can be compared with Lesmachu, another rendering for Lesmahagu. In France, St. Machutus is St. Malo, called in the vernacular St. Mahu and Latinised as Maclovius [4]. Prof. Watson also suggested the name of Gilmagu, a tenant in the parish of Lesmahagow, was a shorten form of Gilmahagu, which George F. Black took to mean the servant of St. Mochuda, another name for St. Carthage of Lismore [5].

From about the twelfth century onwards, the word ‘Gille’, contracted to ‘Gil’, was used to replace the older Gaelic word ‘Mael’, ‘Mail’ and later ‘Maol’, meaning bald, servant or devotee, commonly prefixed to a saint’s name [6]. Thus, Maelbridge, meaning the servant of St. Bridget or St. Bride, the patron saint of the earls of Douglas, becomes Gillebridge or Gilbride as in the name of Gilbride mac Giderede. Similarly, the personal name Gilmalagon can either mean servant of St. Malagon or the tonsured one. George F. Black observes that the word ‘Mael’ dates from pagan times and is found in the Ogham Inscriptions in Ireland. Among the early Gaels it meant “shaveling” or “close-cropped”, a mark of servitude - the nobles of the tribe always wore their hair long. In later times, it came to indicate a particular relationship, the devotee of, and was used by the Druids, who bore the tonsure of the ‘Secundus Ordo’, that is, the anterior half of the head was made bare, but the occiput was untouched, in which the founder was reckoned. After the conversation of the Gaels and Old Britons to Christianity, the order of St. Columba continued to use it until 718, when it was dropped because of its association with the Druids and paganism. In Christian times, the word ‘Mael’ was typically prefixed to the name of saints revered by the Old Celtic Church, and used as personal names. The addition of the ‘Mael’ implied that the person so named was under the saint’s charge, or born on his day. By the twelfth century, we find the word ‘Mael’ being shortened to ‘Mal’ as in Malmure, servant of St. Mary and Malpeder, servant of St. Peter. The same pattern can be observed in the names Gilmalagon and Malgon, reinforcing the belief that these names are indeed of great antiquity.

Twelfth century Scotland was a country made up of different groups of people, e.g. the Scots, French, English, Galwegians (Galloway) and Welsh (Britons), both native and feudal incomers, and each with their own culture and linguistic differences. With such as diversity, it is little wonder opinions vary over the etymology of Lesmahagow and Gilmalagon. One of the last direct references to the Brythonic or Welsh speaking peoples of the old kingdom of Strathclyde, who were almost certainly bilingual and spoke a mixture of Gaelic and Welsh, is found in a charter addressed by Malcolm IV (1157-65), to his justiciars, barons, sheriffs, servants, and others dwelling within the bishopric of Glasgow, the ‘Francis, Anglicis, Scottis, Walensibus and Gauelensibus’ [7]. Place-name studies by Prof. Watson and John MacQueen, reveal a fairly high proportion of Welsh place-names both within the Clyde valley district and parts of Galloway, where Gaelic (Norse-Irish) was the predominate language, particularly in the upper levels of society [8]. In Dumfriesshire, Nithsdale appears to have been one of the last strongholds of Welsh semi-independence, before its final collapse in 1160. It not only preserved its Brythonic name of Strathnith, but had as its lord Dunegal, who from the Brythonic form of his name, might be considered as a member of a royal Strathclyde British family [9].

Dunegal represents the old Welsh Dumngual, and corresponds in origin to the Gaelic Domnall. Dunegal’s two sons, Radulf and Dovenald, ruled Nithsdale jointly from about 1136 onwards, and like Fergus, a native prince and lord of Galloway, the brothers appear to have been regarded as native princes. After Malcolm IV’s crushing defeat of the Galwegians in 1160, who were evidently supported by Dunegal’s sons, the racial name Walensibus disappears from crown charters. In one very telling grant made by Malcolm IV to Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh about 1161, confirming the lands of Galtway and Dunrod in Galloway, he includes a clause giving all would-be-travellers going into Galloway safe passage and protection, a situation that undoubtedly reflected the uneasy relationship between the native princes of Galloway and the Scottish crown [10]. As this charter is addressed to Fergus's sons, Uchtred and Gilbert, to whom Malcolm IV divided the lordship of Galloway, and Radulf and Dovenald, and all the king’s good men of Galloway and Clydesdale, by implication the lordship of Dunegal’s sons appears to have been absorbed into the jurisdiction of Clydesdale, administrated by Baldwin, sheriff of Lanark.

Molegan the Eponymous Ancestor

There is no record of such a saint, at least of that name, in the medieval records that have come down to us from the Dark Ages, both in Ireland and Britain. However, James Hewison alludes to a possible missionary or monk whose memory appears to have survived in the district of Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire. In the old Kirkyard of Dalgarnock, near Thornhill, there were monuments or headstones erected to the memory of several Muliganes, who died in the 1600s, such as, “IHON MVLIGAN, 1640” and “IAMES MVLIGAN, 1650”. Of these men, Hewison suggests they were of an ‘ancient British family’, the Ap-mulligans, Amulligans, Muligans, later Milligans, whose surname is an 'echo from the church and its tonsured clerics’ [11]. The second reference in the Kelso Liber, places the name ‘Malgon’ within the same district, and is the only known contemporary record to Macrath’s father, Molgan, one of several witnesses to a gift by which Edgar son of Dovenald, lord of Nithsdale, granted the old Church of Morton, near Thornhill to Kelso Abbey. The charter gifting Morton bears the names of five witnesses, Gilchrist, Judices of Strathnith, Matthew of Penport, Edgar’s clerk, Richard de Havevilla, Malgon and Sir Hugh, chaplain to William I (1165-1214), king of Scots. The Morton charter has been translated below:

[Heading] Charter on the Church of Mortun in Strethtun

To all sons and defenders of Holy Mother Church. Eadgar son of Dusenald of Streheuid, everlasting greetings in the Lord. Let all know in the present and future that I have conferred granted and confirmed this present charter to God and St Marie and the Church of Kelcho and the monks serving God there, in free and perpetual alms for the good of my soul and the souls of all my ancestors and successors, the Church of Mortun in Strethtun with lands and teinds and all ecclesiastical in come and all its rights and pertinents which it has or possesses there peacefully quietly freely and honorably just as any free alms in the realm of Scotland were had and possessed as freely and honorably. With these witnesses Killecest Judice of Stehtinth Mathew my clerk, Richard of Havevilla, Malgon, Sir Hugh chaplain to the King and others.

[Liber S. Marie de Calchou 1113-1567 (Bannatyne Club, 1846), Vol. I., no. 347]

This charter was probably written at Edinburgh Castle, where William I is known to have resided during the latter years of his reign. It was one of two grants made to Kelso Abbey, the second being for the Church of Closeburn. Edgar also granted the Church of Dalgarnock, which lies between Morton and Closeburn, to Holyrood Abbey. Hugh Sansmache is known to have made an earlier grant of Morton Church to Kelso Abbey, together with one ploughgate of land, between 1173 and 1177 [12]. According to Edgar’s charter, Mortun, an old English name, ‘mor’, meaning wasteland, and tun, an enclosure with dwellings on it, lay in Strathtun, also spelt as Straddune. As a name, Strathtun has long since disappeared from common use in Nithsdale, but could either have been an alternative name for Strathnith, also known as Strathnud, or a sub-division of Nithdale held by the king of Scots. The Morton charter can be approximately dated to the year 1212, when Edgar was granted a charter for his brother’s lands in Nithsdale. The baronies of Morton, Dalgarnock and Closeburn evidently belonged to Ewen, Edgar’s brother, and on his death, passed to Edgar who at that time had to do homage both to the king of Scots and England for his brother’s lands. The record of such a meeting has been preserved, not with the king of Scots, but King John of England (1199-1216) at Nottingham on 8th July 1212. It is recorded the king received the homage of ‘Edgar son of Dovenald and his son Fergus, who took themselves, their men, their lands, tenures and possession into the king’s protection’ and in return, warranted them as his own domains against all injuries. The same day, King John granted Edgar the reasonable gift made by his father, Henry II (1154-89), “of his own land, and all the land which Ewarn his brother held in Straddune of the king of Scotland the day he died”[13].

The granting of a feudal charter, either by a king or a baron, was a formal and ceremonial act, made on occasions when many of his family where assembled, usually at a banquet, as they were the people who would be most concerned in the grant and who might be needed as witnesses if it were contested. The witnesses to Edgar’s charter, Gilchrist, Judices of Strathnith and Richard de Havevilla certainly appear to have been two of his principle retainers and trusted kinsmen or followers. This could also be said of Malgon, whose name, like Gilchrist, suggests he was a member of a native family. It is a striking thought that Malgon, along with Gilchrist and Richard de Havevilla, together, might have travelled with Edgar as far south as Nottingham, a long journey in those days, to meet King John, and perhaps took part in some of his military campaigns fought eiter in Ireland or Britain. As Molegan named his only known son, Macrath, meaning ‘son of Grace’, it is possible he may have married the daughter of ‘Macrath, deacon de Carrick’ circa 1202 [14]. This cleric is thought to be the same ‘Macraith de Ospitali’, witness to a gift of the church of Dunrod to Holyrood Abbey by Fergus, lord of Galloway, shortly after he abdicated the lordship circa 1160 [15].

Ecclesiastical links between the great abbeys and their parish churches is to be expected and there is no reason to doubt that the links between the Priory of Lesmahagow and the Kelso run churches in Nithsdale, such as Morton, were any less. If the spelling of Gilmalagon is correct, there is a strong likelihood Molgan may have been descended from Gilmalagon MacKelli or a branch of the same family. There is no indication in the Morton charter to suggest that Molegan was a cleric, rather, it suggests he may have been related to Edgar, or been one of his tenants-in-chief. The place-name of Strathmilligan and Cormilligan in Shinnel Glen, point to Molgan, at the very least, being a tenant-in-chief. These two farmtouns are located in that part of the barony of Glencairn extending into the parish of Tynron, an old Welsh name, din rhon, meaning lance fort, and are spelt as "Stronemelygane" and "Cormyligane" in the Earl of Glencairn’s great charter of 1511 [16]. The farmtoun of Strathmilligan, meaning, Milligan’s vale, opens out into a rugged valley, traversed by the Kirkconnel burn, a tributary of the Shinnel Water, that winds its way upwards to the hill that bears the name of Cormilligan, meaning Milligan’s round hill, which is set in the midst of a rolling landscape of seemingly mountainous terrain. It is hard not to imagine that Molgan once owned this valley, given the deep impression his name has left on it.


In the high middles ages, the parishes of Glencairn, Tynron and Penpont are likely to have formed part of the old deanery of Glencairn, first mentioned in 1178, when Pope Alexander III (1159-81) granted to Jocelyn, bishop of Glasgow (1174-99), a papal bull confirming the possessions of his see, which amongst others, included the deaneries of ‘Carrick, Glenkarn, Stradnud [Strathnith] and Desnes’ [17]. In his great charter to the abbey of Kelso, dated about 1193, King William, otherwise known as the Lion, confirmed a grant made by David I, his grandfather, to Kelso for ‘an annual render of 30 cows and as many swine out the [King’s] cain from the land which the sons of Duuenaldus (Edgar and Ewen) held in exchange for the render which the monks [of Kelso] used to receive from the cain of the land which Radulfus son of Dunegal and Duunenaldus his brother held, and of the land which Gillepatrick their brother held in Glenkarn’ [18]. Edgar granted his eldest son, Fergus, the barony of Glencairn before 1220; he was later knighted Sir Fergus de Glencairn [19]. However, for reasons that are not quite clear, his sister Affrica came to inherit the barony of Glencairn and lordship of Nithsdale, probably about 1229 [20]. By her marriage to Richard Comyn [of Dalswinton], the lordship eventually passed to the Comyns of Badenoch [21].

Macrath ap Molegan

The Comyns were one of the most powerful noble families in Scotland, and during the disputed succession of 1291-92 for the Scottish throne, they supported the succession of John Balliol, who became king of Scots in 1292. Four years later in 1296, when Balliol issued his rally call to arms against his overlord, King Edward I of England, the Comyns and their supporters formed the backbone of his army. The Earl of Buchan, John Comyn, and his cousin, John Comyn elder of Badenoch, brother-in-law of John Balliol, were among the first to rally and call out their armed forces, which were assembled on 22nd March outside Selkirk from where they launched an attack on Carlisle. By the 5th of April, John Balliol had formally renounced his homage to Edward I, who in turn advanced into Scotland with an army and laid siege to Berwick Upon Tweed. After sacking the town and massacring the inhabitants, Edward I moved northward to Dunbar, where he routed the Scots. It can be inferred from the Ragman Roll, which lists the names of about fifteen hundred Scottish subjects, all secular and ecclesiastical landholders who rendered homage to Edward I at Berwick on 28th August 1296, that Macrath ap Molegan had been a Balliol-Comyn supporter [22]. Macrath was one of twenty three men, several of them leading barons in the sheriffdom of Dumfries, who together made the long journey to Berwick and included, Sir Henry de Mundeville, Thomas de Coleville, Andrew de Charters, Mariot de Sutton, Patrick de Buittle, Dovenald Fitz Can, Walter de Twynholm, Thomas de Kirkconnel, Thomas de Bardonan, Robert de Moffat, and Gillemichael Mac Ethe, all of whom directly or indirectly appear to have been loyal to the cause of John Balliol.

On the 3rd September 1296, Edward I granted a writ addressed to the sheriff of Dumfries, ordering him to restore to ‘Makerathe Molgan’ his lands, probably confiscated earlier that year. Walter de Twynholm, Thomas de Kirkconnel, Thomas Durant, William Polmadoc and Euphemia, widow of William of Horndene, also had their lands restored on the same day [23]. One wonders, if perhaps, these men had been implicated in the attack on the town of Carlisle, which was then under the control of Robert de Bruce, lord of Annandale. The use of the Welsh word ‘ap’ is extremely rare in Scotland, making the reference to Macrath’s name in the Ragman Roll all the more significant; it implies he was bilingual and spoke a form of Gaelic and Welsh. It also identifies him with a patronymic name, common amongst the native families of Scotland, and proves that Molegan’s name had not yet evolved into a surname. We can only speculate as to the location of Macrath’s land, but on balance, the evidence points to Nithsdale. In his book, Black wrongly states Macrath came from Wigtown. Macrath was almost certainly a feudal baron, and judging from the list of names in the Ragman Roll, he must have been a man of considerable standing. He may have been one several local barons, who with Dovenald Fitz Can and Gillemichael Mac Ethe, native lords and chiefs, received a formal letter from Edward I thanking them for putting down a rebellion the following year (1297) in Galloway.

The McRaths of Laught

In Scotland, the practice of using surnames is of late origin; they evolved slowly and often appear in changed or corrupt forms [24]. Amongst the indigenous peoples of Nithsdale, surnames begin to emerge towards the end of thirteenth century and appear to have been used first by landed families. One of the earliest instances can be traced to Richard Edgar who possessed Sanquhar Castle early in the reign of Robert the Bruce (1309-29), and is thought to have descended from Edgar, lord of Nithsdale [25]. He was the father of Donald Edgar granted the captaincy of the Clan MacGowan (Clan MacEwen) by David II (1329-71) in 1343 [26]. Another Nithsdale family, who claim descent from Fergus of Glencairn, are the Fergussons of Craigdarroch. Their first known ancestor, John Fergusson, laird of Craigdarroch, was granted the Mill of Dalmaclellan and land of Jedburgh, in the barony of Glencairn, before 1346 [27]. The personal name Macrath begins to emerge as a surname in 1376, when Patrick McRey, a variation of McRath, appears as a tenant in Tibbers in the parish of Penpont [28]. It is very likely Patrick was the father of Fergus McRei, sergeant to Edward de Crawford, proprietor of the lands of the town of Dalgarnock and Langcroft in the barony of Tibbers circa 1400 [29], and near relation to John McRath, laird of Laught, which lies near Morton Church.

Until 1405-8, John McRath of Laught had been proprietor of the lands of Lag Bardonnan, Bardonnan-Broachmyherach and the half merk land of the Mains of Bardonnan in the parish of Dunscore, said to be ‘lying in “fractam baronian” among the lands of the monks of Melrose Abbey. John was obliged to sell them to his kinsman, Gilbert Grierson of Ard, which lies in the parish of Tynron. The land of Bardonnan appears to have originally belonged to either Patrick or Thomas of Bardonnan, possibly the kinsmen of Roger of Dunscore who also rendered homage to Edward I at Berwick in 1296. An extract copy of the original charter recording the sale of Bardonnan by John is preserved in the Calendar of Lag Charters, which records that Gilbert was to perform the due and accustomed services to the superior of the lands. As he had no seal of his own, to append, John had to procure the seal of Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, sheriff of Dumfries. The charter bears the names of seven witnesses: William, abbot of Holywood, Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, knights, Patrick Grierson, Cuthbert, his son, and Sir Alexander de Penanghushope, who attested as notary [30].

John McRath evidently died before he could complete the sale of his property, as the charter of resignation granted by Henry Sinclair, earl of Orkney, to his kinsman, Gilbert Grierson of Ard, bears witness that Cuthbert McRath resigned the property in favour of Gilbert. He and his heirs were to hold the lands of Lag Bardonnan, Bardonnan-Broachmyherach and the half-merk land of the Mains of Bardonnan, for the payment of one pair of gilt spurs at the Castle of Dumfries, as blench ferm. The charter is dated at Dumfries 20th December 1408 and witnessed by William Sinclair, the granter’s esquire, Eustace Maxwell of Strathardil, Stephen de Crichton of Carnis, Alexander Brown and David Scott [31]. It seems likely, John McRath may have been one of those captured at Humbleton Hill in 1402, and held hostage by the English. The money paid by Gilbert Grierson appears to have been used to secure either John or Cuthbert McRath’s release from prison in England. The battle of Humbleton Hill had been a devastating defeat for the Scots, who lost many of their able knights, whilst many others were taken hostage including Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas, who spent the next six years imprisoned in England. He was only released after securing hostages in exchange for his liberty, which included his two sons, Archibald and James, and half brother Sir William Douglas of Nithsdale.

The Grierson family first sprung into prominence under George, tenth earl of Dunbar, who granted Gilbert Grierson the lands of Ard and Tynron, in the parish of Tynron, for the service of baillie in the barony of Tibbers sometime before 1400. He then entered the service of the Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas, probably after George resigned the lordship of Annandale in favour of Archibald in return for the lordship of Dunbar in 1409. He is described in several documents as being the earl’s esquire and shield bearer, for which service he received in payment the grant of the lands of Dalton and Dormont in Annandale and the land of Drumjohn in Galloway [32]. The names of nine of the Earl’s chief councillors and officers of Galloway are appended to Archibald’s great charter to Gilbert for the land of Drumjohn: Sir William Douglas of Nithsdale, Sir John Herries of Terregles, Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn and Sir Robert Herries, all his kinsmen, and lastly his esquires, Herbert Corry, John Durant and Thomas Porter. Sir William Douglas, Archibald’s illegitimate son, had come to possess the lordship of Nithsdale through his marriage to the daughter of King Robert II (1371-90). It is said of Sir William, a dark-shinned giant like his father and grandfather, that he stood so high in knightly renown that the king, over looking the slur of bastardy, gave him in marriage to his younger daughter Edgidia, popularly called the lady Gellis, and as dowry the lordship of Nithsdale in 1388.

It is not certain how John McRath of Laught was related to Gilbert Grierson, the elder, of Ard. He may either have married Gilbert’s sister, or perhaps a sister of John Durant of Troqueer, near Dumfries, one of the esquires named in Douglas’s great charter to Gilbert, for the land of Drumjohn. Gilbert is known to have married an unnamed sister of this unfortunate esquire who was evidently taken prisoner and as a result, obliged to wadset all his lands in Shinnel Glen to his sister's son, Gilbert Grierson, for ‘four and twenty nobles of gold lent me in my misery to my ransom’ in 1419 [33]. The young man in question was Gilbert’s eldest son, better known as Gilbert Grierson of Lag. He married Isabel, the daughter of Sir Duncan Kirkpatrick of Torthorwald, at the parish kirk of Dunscore on 14th November 1412, before “many noble and trustworthy persons of either sex and a large number of common people” who witnessed their marriage by Master John Herde, parson of the parish kirk of Kirkpatrick. According to Gilbert’s marriage contract, he was a parishioner of the kirk of Troqueer and son of Gilbert Grierson, styled “lord of Lag” [34]. Gilbert, the elder, had evidently built a tower house in Lag Bardonnan by 1412, where his son and young bride settled and raised their three sons; Vedast, who succeeded his father in 1444, Gilbert who received the land of Kirkbriderig in Annandale and John Grierson of whom little is known.

A family of the surname McRath continued to live in the district of Nithsdale long after the sale of the lands of Lag Bardonnan in 1408. There is mention of Gillespie Makracht one of several witnesses to an sasine granted to Alexander Roryson of Bardennoch in the barony of Glencairn in 1455, also witnessed by Richard Edgar, his son Uchtred, Thomas Schutlington of Stanhouse and many others [35]. The personal name McRath is still visible today in the form of Crawston Hill, Makcraweshill (1625) and McRathishill (1526), which overlooks the old ruined tower of Lag [36]. Like John McRath, John Durant of Troqueer also found himself in debt to Gilbert Grierson of Lag, a debt that he was unable to repay. The 1419 wadset, that is, a pledge of lands in security perfected by sasine but with a right of recovery on payment by the debtor, belonging to John passed to Gilbert sometime prior to 1437. It is known that in 1419, the district of Nithsdale was plunged into political unrest after the death of William Douglas, second lord of Nithsdale, a situation that may have resulted John Durant’s imprisonment or him being taken hostage. The lordship, at that time, had passed to William’s sister, Egidia, and her husband, Henry, earl of Orkney, but the couple, whose holding was surrounded by those of the fourth earl of Douglas, had trouble obtaining their right from the local men sympathetic to the Douglas Earl [37].

The Surname of Amuligane

The brutal murder of James I (1424-37), king of Scotland, in the Dominican Friary of Perth on the night of 21st February 1437, left Scotland without a king and a seven-year-old child without a father, James II (1437-60), the future heir to the throne. In May of that year, the fifth earl of Douglas, Archibald, was appointed Lieutenant general of the realm, an office that he held until his death in 1439. Shortly after he became Lieutenant general, Douglas quickly moved to exert his authority over the lordship of Nithsdale, the property of his cousin, Egidia, now the Dowager Countess of Orkney [38]. According to the Dowager’s complaint to the Council, early in 1438, the Lieutenant had been plundering her Nithsdale lordship and either had, or planned, to hold royal courts in the lordship. Such interference renewed local rivalries, and may well explain why Gilbert Grierson of Lag took steps to secure his right to Durant’s 1419 wedset, by means of a notarial instrument executed at the hand of Thomas Burn, notary public and presbyter of the diocese of Glasgow, on 9th October 1437. This document records the earliest known reference to the surname of Amuligane in Scotland, an extract of which is give below:

October 9, 1437. Instrument taken at the instance of Gilbert Grersoune, lord of Lag, on a letter of confirmation, dated at Kilmaris, Martinmas 1419, by Robert Cunynghame, lord of Kilmawris, confirming a letter of wadset in the following terms, viz: - “Be it kend till all me be thir presentes letters me Johan Durand of Betwixt the watteris till have wadsette all my lands of Glenschynelle with the pertinence, by and within the lordshipe of Glencarne in the schirevedome of Drumfres till Giboune Grersoun my systersone for four and twenty nobles of gold lent me in my grete myster to my Rannsome Quherfor I giffe and grannttis the saidis landis with all manere of profitis that pertenis to thame or may pertene in tyme to cum fra me and myne ayris to the said Giboune his ayris, executoris and assignis quhil that I or myne ayris male gottin or my body pay the forsaid soume apon a day in the kyrke of Troquere but fraude or gile to the said Giboune or his certane assignes. In the witness of the quhilk thing I haffe sett to my sele at Drumfries on Thursday next befor Martynmes day (9th November) the yhere of our Lord a thousand four hundreth and nyntene” - Done at the tower of Lag at the hand of Thomas de Burne, Presbyter of the diocese of Glasgow, notary public. Witnesses Gilbert de Cunynghame son and heir of James de Cuninghame, lord of Bonningtoun, Roger de Gordoune, lord of Louchinver, Sir Robert de Eskdale chaplain and rector of Drumgrei, Cuthbert Amuiligane, Thomas Durand and Walter Patriksoune.

[Calendar of Charters, National Archives of Scotland, Vol. II, no. 299]

A second manuscript survives that records the name of Cuthbert Amuligane, and again, it is a title deed, belonging to Gilbert Grierson of Lag. He granted the land of Larglanglee in the parish of Urr in Kirkcudbrightshire to his uncle, Thomas Durant, one of the men named in his 1437 notarial instrument. Gilbert’s charter, dated 2nd September, 1440, was sealed at the tower of Lag, in the presence of the following witnesses: his eldest son, Vedast Grierson, Gilbert’s brother William Grierson, laird of Dalton, his nephew, Cuthbert son of Patrick Grierson and Walter son of William Grierson, Alexander Wamphrey, “Cuthbert [Am]uligane”, Thomas Burn, chaplain and notary public, Sir Robert Eskdale and Donald Porter [39]. Witness lists can provide a rich source of genealogy information, and in some cases, provide the only reference to an ancestor. Taken together, these two manuscripts suggest Cuthbert Amuligane was a kinsman of Gilbert, and was well placed to be either his uncle or brother-in-law. We know Thomas Durant was Gilbert’s uncle, suggesting Cuthbert Amuligane may have married an unnamed sister or daughter of Gilbert’s father, Gilbert Grierson of Ard.

These two manuscripts record the earliest known references to the old surname Amuligane in Scotland and clearly show that by 1437, it was an established surname. More importantly, they not only provide direct evidence linking Molegan's name to the old surname of Amuligane, but also to the lands of Cormilligan and Strathmilligan in Shinnel Glen. The land acquired by Gilbert Grierson in 1419, comprised the 5 merkland of Tererran, and 7˝ merkland of Corriedow, Murmulloch, Cormilligan, Crostane and Margmony, which at some point prior to 1419 had been purchased by the Durant family, perhaps in much the same way, Gilbert acquired them from John Durant of Troqueer. The land of Strathmilligan was one of the pertinents of the 10 merkland of Shinnel, which comprised the 50s. land of Appin, 16s. 8d. land of Kilmark, 2˝ merkland of Strathmilligan, 2˝ merkland of Margmonie and Clochquhanoch, held by the Wilsons of Croglin and Kirkpatricks of Ellisland. It seems likely, that at some point in the fourteenth Century, all these sub-divisions made up a single property, evidently sold in two parts, to families with early links to the Amuliganes. So how then did the patronymic and style 'ap-Molegan' evolve into the surname Amuligane and its variant form Mullikine, which as already evidenced, evolved independently in Nithsdale from an eponymous ancestor?

Prof. Watson suggests the initial 'A' in Amuligane may represent the Welsh 'ap' rather than the Irish 'O' or 'Ua', which literally mean the ‘grandson of’, a view shared by Black, who notes the Welsh (Cymric) 'ap', afterwards reduced to 'A' [40]. The Welsh word for son is 'ap' or 'ab' (originally map or mab), depending on whether it precedes a vowel or a consonant. When prefixed to a given name for example, the style 'ab' Evan, becomes Bevan, and ap Mailgun, becomes Amailgun. Welsh patronymic names can either appear with or without the word 'ap', a style that typically appears over two or three given names. Four-generation names are less common. These are not surnames, which in Wales developed much later than England and Scotland. Early examples of the patronymic and style exist in Wales, such as, Madoc ap Mailgun, hanged for the murder of William de Mora, and ‘Rhys ab Vaughan son of Rhys ab Mailgun’, which in the same text is contracted to ‘Rhys Vaughan son of Rhys Amelgun’, the ‘ab’, being shortened to ‘A’. Rhys’ ancestor, Mailgun ap Rhys, was lord of Ceredigion 1199-1230, and is styled by King John of England as ‘Mailgon son of Rhys’ in a charter dated 11th April 1199 [41]. Mailgun ap Owain, who ruled the heartland of Gwynedd and Island of Anglesey in North Wales between 1170 and 1173, is known to have held land in Dublin, Ireland. In 1218, his nephew Llewellyn Prince of Wales contested the right to Mailgun’s land, as his heir, against Adam le Savonier, a freeman in Dublin [42].

The personal name Mailgun is legendry in North Wales and possesses connotations, that are explicitly pagan, stretching as far back as Mailgun Hir(the Tall), king of Gwynedd, one of the most powerful rulers of early sixth century Britain. He is regarded by some to be the original King Arthur, especially by Gildas, who rebuked Maelgun severely in his Ruin of Britain and called him the “dragon of the island”, a reference to the title of Pendragon or high king [43]. His name is spelt “Mailcun” in the Annales Cambriae and “Maelgwyn” in the Welsh Genealogies [44]. According to these old genealogies, Mailgun was the great grandson of Cunedda, a Briton of Lothian in Scotland. He is said to have migrated to North Wales about 450. In Wales, the word ‘Mael’ is also taken to mean, prince or noble, with the second element, ‘gun’ or ‘gwyn, meaning white or fair. It is generally assumed by scholars that Mailgun, king of Gwynedd, was the father of the Pictish king, Brude son of Maelgon, who in the eighth year of his reign (circa 563) was converted to Christianity by St. Columba, also called St. Columcille, founder of Derry Abbey in the North of Ireland in 545. In the Scottish-Irish records, Brude’s father’s name is spelt as Maelcon or Maelchon, whilst the venerable Bede calls him ‘Bridio, son of Meilochon’ [45]. The death of “Fergussan son of Maelcon” in 702 is thought to have taken place somewhere in Scotland [46]. In 752, another Pict bearing the name of ‘Brude son of Maelchon’ was slain in battle at Asreith in Circenn, where Angus son of Fergus defeated a rival leader from within the Pichish dynasty, thought by some to be Brude son of Maelchon [47]. The name Maelchon survives to this day in the placename Stronmilchan in Strath Orchy, Argyllshire.

On the Isle of Skye, the placenames ‘Cnoc Mhalagan’ and 'Loch Valican, Mhaileagan’ bear a striking resemblance to the Old Gaelic surname Maelagain, found in the North West of Ireland. This old surname is a derivative of “Maelgoan, son of Eochaidh, lord of Cinel-Boghane”, who died in A.D. 846 [48]. The territory of Boghaine lies in the district of Banagh in County Donegal in the North of Ireland. The Sept of O’Maolagain, called by O’Duggan the “high-minded Siol Maolagain”, is of distinguished origin in the Raphoe district of County Donegal in the province of Ulster. It’s chiefs were lords of a territory called Tir MacCarthain about 1197 [49]. Some of the Siol or Seed of Maolagain appear to have been prominent clerics at Derry Abbey, where Muircertach Ua Millugain, lector of Derry in 1207, was elected abbot in 1220. His kinsman John Ua Millugain succeeded him as lector of Derry [50]. In the unpublished genealogies of the Book of Lecan, the 'Ui Maelacain' are said to have been descended from Mauain (Moen) son of Muiredach son of Eogain, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, founder of Ireland’s greatest Gaelic dynasty in the sixth century, the Ui Neills [51]. The Ua Maolagain were dispossessed by the MacSweenys after the Norman-English invasion and not as Edward MacLysaght asserts, at the plantation of Ulster [52]. Peadar Livingstone suggests the Ua Maolagain of Raphoe seem to have settled in Magherasteffany and Clankelly in County Fermanagh, and probably gave their name to Mullowulligan and Eshywulligan, townlands near Clones [53]. In the Annals of Ulster, the Ua Maolagain of County Fermanagh, are called the ‘Muinter’ or family of Maelagain. One of its sons Gilla-Padraig, son of Maghus, son of Domnell Ua Mailigein the Tall was slain in 1485. The Annals also record the deaths of Brian Ua Maelagain, in 1439, Cathal Ua Mailegain in 1441, and Domnall Ua Mailigen in 1446, who appear to have been sons of the Muinter Maelagain [54].

Several O’Mulligan families are known to have emerged independently of each other in Ireland, before the fourteenth century. The powerful chiefs of O’Reilly ruled East Breifne, which embraced County Cavan and parts of Meath in the province of Connaught. In 1293, the celebrated Giolla Iona Roe O’Reilly (1293-1330) succeeded his brother, Matthew O’Reilly, as prince of East Breifne and during his reign, Maoilire O’Maolagain flourished as Giolla’s chief poet [55]. The O’ Maolagain are traced to Maolagan, son of Cumgan, a descendant of Brain son of Cairbre an-Daimh-Airgid, king of Arigialla [56]. In the Book of Fenagh, an undated genealogy mentions Maelagan grandson of Neidhe, eldest son of Onchu, reputedly descended from the legendary Fergus Mac Roigh and Queen Medhbh [57]. In the province of Leinster, Molior Omolegane appears in Dublin in 1264 [58]. Richard de Malegan and Will. Rath, two of twenty-five Irish soldiers, were granted a pardon at Kildare in 1302, of all ‘trespasses done by them on the Octave of St. Michael last’. Richard had fought against the Scots in the army of Edward I during his summer campaigns of 1300 and 1301, and had recently returned from the “last war in Scotland” [59]. The genealogies of the Cenel Deissi mention the name of ‘Maelacain mac Dinertaich, whilst the name of ‘Maelucain mac Finguine’ appears in genealogies of the Cenel Benntraige, whose territory included County Kilkenny where Bartholomew Folyn murdered Adam Omolgan, a native of Kilkenny, in 1324 [60]. These examples serve to illustrate the diversity of the name Maelagain in Ireland, which with almost few exceptions, are prefixed by the word ‘Ua’ or initial ‘O’, and not the Welsh word for son.

In his book Galloway Gossip, Trotter refers to an old tradition still believed by some folk, at the turn of the 1900s, that those with the surname beginning with an 'A' - it should be said that the 'A' was dropped from Amuligane early in the 1600s - came originally from Ireland, an observation based on their physical features. These people are described as “awesome Eerish-lookin”! He goes on to mention a rather peculiar or to use his own word ‘queer’ belief that whilst the Irish used the first letter in the word 'Ua', modified to 'O', the Galwegians used the second letter 'A', prefixed to a given name [61]. Could this old tradition contain an element of truth, perhaps explained in terms of a local accommodation reached between the native Gaelic and Brythonic-speaking peoples of Scotland? Trotter is not the only scholar to suggest the initial 'A' appears to mean ‘descendant of’, Black also ascribes a similar meaning to Ahair, Acannan and Adrain and such like. MacLysaght thought the prefix 'A' in the Irish surname Ahern, an anglicised form of old Irish ‘O’ hEachthigheirn, meant the same. In his book Some Ulster Surnames , Padrig Mac Giolla Domhnaigh clearly believed the initial 'A' meant the same as the Irish 'O'. In his comment on the surnames Milligan and Milliken, he goes one step further than most scholars, and substitutes the initial 'O' for 'A' by suggesting these surnames were of the ‘O’ Septs in Galloway, and were common in Dumfriesshire [62].

The earliest example of the initial 'A' being used in Scotland, is illustrated in Gillenef Accoultan who witnessed a gift by Roger de Skelbrooke, a knight of Earl Duncan of Carrick, to Melrose Abbey circa 1196. He is the same, Gillenef Okeueltal witness to a gift of certain lands in Kersban, now called Carsphairn, by Thomas Collville de Kers to the Melrose Abbey sometime between 1202-1206. This gift was also witnessed by Alan son of Roland, lord of Galloway, Fergus son of Uchtred, Edgar son of Dovenald, lord of Nithsdale, Duncan son of Gilbert, earl of Carrick, and Gillescop MacIhagain (sic. Macihacain), steward of Carrick [63]. The old name Accoultan is found in Galloway as late as 1513, when Thomas Acoltane was accused of oppressing Sir David Kennedy [64]. Maurice Acarson, appointed bailiff of the Isle of Man in 1256 by Alexander III (1249-86), king of Scots, is the same Mauricius Okarefair mentioned in the Chronicle of Lanercost [65]. Maurice probably headed a family group that included Robert Carson, a cleric, who witnessed a charter to the abbey of Cultram, circa 1276, and as Sir Robert de Carson, parson of Kirkandrews in Kirkcudbrightshire, rendered homage to Edward I in 1296. There are several other notable examples, such as, the Ahannays, Agnews, Adonnans and Askoloks in Wigtownshire, the Asloans and Acannans in Kirkcudbrightshire, the Ahairs in Ayrshire, and the Adrains on the Island of Kintyre. It is singularly peculiar that in Scotland, the Irish 'O', although, used interchangeably with the Welsh 'A' early in history, never became an established element in a surname.

There is no reason to think the Welsh 'ap' in Macrath’s name meant anything less than ‘son of’, and when shortened to 'A', to form the style Amuligane, it probably meant the same thing as the Welsh Amelgun. In the Welsh example, it is possible to observe how the patronymic name Amelgun could easily have evolved into a surname if applied to a Scottish context. The four-generation patronymic name of ‘Rhys Vaughan son of Rhys Amelgun’ could in Scotland have simply been reduced to Rhys Amelgun, thus indicating Rhys was the descendant of Amelgan. The patronymic and style of the name Amelgun, thus, points to the surname Amuligane evolving much the same way. This would make sense, if the process is viewed in terms of a kin-based society, defined by patronymics. However, if we are to believe Trotter’s tradition, the prefix 'A' could in the Galloway context have come to mean the ‘descendant of’, as in the case of Cuthbert Amuligane of 1437, whose surname indicates, he was the descendant of Molegan. With few exceptions the ‘A’ family groups appear to have held hereditary lands belonging to their ancestor, such as, the Agnews of Lochnaw and Ahannays of Sorbie, who became important landowners in Wigtownshire. Furthermore, each family group appears to have been headed by a laird, the family’s recognised chief. It is possible, therefore, that Cuthbert Amuligane or perhaps Donald Muligane, mentioned below, might well have become head of the old kindred of Molegan by 1440.

October 27, 1440. Instrument narrating that Thomas Kirkpatrick, laird of Closeburn, George Kirkpatrick, Morris Dalrympille, James Sandelandis, Thomas Crechton, John Stewart, Michael Rorysone, George Jenkysone, William Portare, Donald Portare, Gilbert Jonsone, John Patryksone, younger, Donald Mulikane, Andrew Crechtone, Alexander Abernethye, John Dycksone, Cuthbert Grersone, John Minnyhew, John Inglis of Langwelle, Henry Wilyhiamsone, Fergus Danaldsone, William Roxburghe, John Patricksone, elder, Thomas Carmichele, Donald Hunter, were chosen as assize by William Douglas, knt., laird of Drumlangrige, in plea between James Twede, laird of Drumelyhare and Gilbert McMath, laird of Dalpede, over marches. Notary James Cunynghame, clerk. Glasgow diocese: Witnesses. John Crechtone, esquire, Patrick Gledstanys and Patrick Blak.

[Papers of the Duke of Buccleuch N.R.A.(S). 1275, Bundle 538. nos 132-40]

Surnames like Amuligane can also be spelt with or without the prefix A as in the case of Donald Muligane, a juror, in 1440. Only freeholders, in other words, men who possessed a feudal holding, could sit on an assize at the sheriff’s court to render jury service. A feudal holding, strictly speaking, is a feudal arrangement whereby the vassal holds land, sub-infeudated of the superior (the landowner) in heritage so long as he pays a feu-duty and observes any feudal obligations, which usually included ‘suit of court’. This required that freeholders attend court when summoned by the sheriff’s clerk - if a freeholder failed to turn up; he was fined - for the purpose of bringing together a body of men skilled in law and legal procedure to act as jurors or assessors. Nearly all the jurors listed in the case between James Tweed and Gilbert McMath lived within a five to ten mile radius of Penpont, where the sheriff court of Dumfries appears to have met in Nithsdale [66]. We have already come across the names of Cuthbert Grierson and Donald Porter in the 1440 notarial instrument, other known jurors include, Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, Michael Roryson of Bardennoch and Donald Hunter of Ballaggan. The Scotticised ‘Mulikane’ is one of the first examples illustrating the linguistic differences between Mullikine and Amuligane, the former representing the Scots form and latter the Gaelic-Brythonic form. In the Scots tongue, the “g” is pronounce as “k”, and explains why the surname Amuligane is peculiar to Galloway and parts of Nithsdale.

Early examples of the variant form Mullikine exist for both Scotland and England. In 1358, David II (1329-71), king of Scots, re-organised the royal mint by granting Adam Tor, burgess of Edinburgh, and Jacobi (James) Mulekyn of Florence in Italy, “master moneyor”, the privilege of making and the exchanging of all money in Scotland [67]. The Florentines were then the best workers in previous metals and experts in book-keeping. They were also famed for their enterprising merchants whose commodities, such as wool, silk, leather and spices, were much sought after throughout the commercial centres of Europe. In one charter, Jacobi is called Jacobi Meallus, presumably his Italian surname. The accounts of Jacobi Mulekyn survive for the year 1364, when Bonagius, another Italian moneyor, replaced him at the royal mint in Edinburgh. There is no evidence to suggest Jacobi Mulekyn ever remained in Scotland, but probably returned to his native land once his task of re-organising the royal mint was completed. There is also record in the same accounts to Donato (David) Mulekyn, paid a certain sum of money for ornaments bought by the King in 1364. In England, there is record of John Mullakyn, who with John Wakerynge, was directed by Adam Drake, parson of Thorp Moreux, and John Harold of London, woolman, to levy a certain sum of money in Norfolk in 1403 [68].

One of the best examples to illustrate how the variant surnames Amuligane and Mullikine were used interchangeably in Scotland can be illustrated in the name of Thomas Amuligane, a chaplain and notary public of Leith in Edinburgh. There are thirteen references to his name in the Protocol Books of James Young of Canongate [69]. Thomas appears first on 27th July 1485, when as “Thomas Mulikyn” he witnessed a grant of land by Robert, Abbot of the Monastery of Holyrood, where Thomas served at the chaplainacy of the Convent of St. Andrews. Between 1488-1497, he witnessed eight documents as "Sir Thomas Mulikyne", but from 1501 onwards, his name is spelt solely as “Sir Thomas Amuligane”. He is last mentioned on record in 1512. Thomas was appointed chaplain of the Chapel of St. Nicholas in North Leith on 19th January 1497, and appears to have served there until his death probably at the battle of Flodden in 1513. It seems very likely that this Thomas is the same Sir Thomas Amuligane, chaplain and notary public of Wigtown. This cleric witnessed a charter granting Gilbert McDowall, laird of Remiston, certain lands in the parish of Kirkcown on 26th May 1471. He was still a chaplain and notary public of Wigtown in 1474 [70]. On 16th August 1485, King James III (1460-1488) granted a charter at Edinburgh to Gilbert McDowall of Remiston, confirming the original grant made in 1471, witnessed by Sir Thomas Amuligane, chaplain and notary public of Wigtown. The charter of confirmation granted by King James was made within three weeks of the first charter witnessed by Thomas Mulikyn on 27th July 1485. In the middles ages, the complimentary title “Sir” was placed before the Christian name of an ordinary priest to denote that he had not graduated from a University.


The origins of the old surnames of Mullikine and Amuligane are steeped in antiquity and as already demonstrated in this article, evolved independently of Ireland. The old surname Amuligane has long since disappeared from common use, but it’s variant form Mullikin is still used as a given name in North America, where some of the surname settled in the 1600s. As the old Gaelic and Scots languages gradually died out in the Lowlands of Scotland, being gradually replaced by English, these surnames took on new styles with Mullikine taking the form of Millikin or Milliken, whilst the variant form Muligane mainly used in Dumfriesshire and Galloway, on the whole was changed to Milligan, which is by far the predominant form in use today. In the North of England, where many of the surname settled, from the late 1500s onwards, the surname took the form of Millican. These are of course only minor differences and like most things, there are always exceptions to the rule, for example, some the Scottish Mullikins and Muliganes, who settled in Counties Down and Antrim in Ireland, changed their surname to Mulligan. In American, today, the variation is even greater e.g. Millikan, Mullican and Mulliken. It is hoped that through the medium of Clan Society, formed on the 28th August 2001, the process of recovery already begun, will continue, and that in time, the Society will grow to become the official representative of the old family of Mullikine/Amuligane in Scotland.

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October, 2001.