"Early MacThomas History: Years of Obscurity"
In considering the succession to the chiefship after the breakup of the clan, about the end of the seventeenth century, it will be convenient to recall for a moment the sons of Ian Mor. These in chronological order of their birth, were John, Alexander, James, Robert, Thomas, and Angus, all of whom are amply documented in the records of the period. Additionally, there was a child named Donald who is never mentioned as a son of Ian Mor in any contemporary document, but who is nevertheless held by tradition to have been his youngest son.
Of the six elder sons, John and Robert, respectively the eldest and fourth born, were killed in the skirmish at Drumgley in 1673, leaving no issue. Alexander, the second son, who married an Ogilvie and had a son, named Alexander, who traditionally, drowned in the Tay near Errol, while yet unmarried in 1697. Furthermore, the senior Alexander had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Duncan Mackintosh, brother of Brigadier William Mackintosh of Borlum of fifteen (1715) fame. This Alexander died in October 1687, having been passed over in the succession to the chiefship by his younger brothers: James (the third son), who succeeded as 8th Chief of the Clan in 1674. Likewise, Thomas (the fifth son), in turn succeeded as 9th Chief in 1676.
Neither of them apparently leaving male issue. Therefore, upon the death of the latter the Chiefship of the Clan, which as stated earlier, was not at the time considered worth the trouble of claiming once the family lands had been lost and the clan scattered, lay in the family of Angus, the sixth son of Ian Mor, of whom we shall now treat.
As the actual dates of their respective deaths are not known, we cannot say with any certainty whether Angus outlived his immediate elder brother, Thomas, so becoming dejure chief of the clan, but there is some tradition that he did so, and he is accordingly reckoned 10th chief. He must have been born about 1647, and had been educated at St. Andrews University, in the county of Fife, from which circumstance he is frequently found referred to as Mr. Angus. Although apparently not actually present at the skirmish at Drumgley, he had taken an active part in the feud with Broughdearg, when he would have been in his early twenties. He is found several times from 1668 onward as witness to bonds and deeds by his brothers, and seems to have been last recorded as a consenter to the alienation of the Forter lands by Thomas in 1681. Family tradition has it that he afterwards settled at Collairnie, in the Parish of Dunbog, in the north of Fife, anglicizing his Gaelic surname of McComie (i.e. MacThomaidh) as MacThomas or Thomas, and marrying a younger daughter of the already deceased laird of Denmylin, Sir James Balfour, sometime Lord Lyon King of Arms to King Charles I, having by her had two sons, Robert and John. The former, who was born in 1683, and is said to have married an Antonia McColm from Kirkmichael, and is in due course, found recorded in the Dunbog parish registers at the baptisms of his many children. From these entries may be seen the extreme fluidity of the family surname at this time, and the difficulty experienced in making a final choice. At the four baptisms occurring between November 1720 and May 1726 Robert appears as Robert Thom. In March 1728 he appears as Robert Thomas, in February 1730 as Robert Tam in Cullarnie Ground and finally, from May 1732 to June 1734, as Robert Thomas in Cullarnie. The surname Thomas was the one finally adopted, and was used by the family for upwards of eighty years.
This Robert, reckoned eleventh Chief, subsequently removed from Cullarnie and at his death on 29th April 1740, at the age of fifty-seven, is described on his tombstone in Monimail churchyard as tenant in Belhelvie. Belhelvie was a fine farm of considerable extent on the south bank of the Tay River. It lay in the parish of Flisk in Fife. Although he would have been of military age at the time of the fifteen, as would his elder sons have been during the forty-five, they do not appear to have become embroiled in the Jacobite rising, which added so richly to the history of so many other clans; doubtless remembering only too well the ruination of their family at the hands of the Stewart Restoration Parliament during the latter half of the previous century.
Robert was succeeded in 1740 by his eldest son, David Thomas, reckoned twelfth chief who, since he had been baptized on 29th July 1722, was still a minor at the time. He died on 12th January 1751, aged twenty-seven and apparently a bachelor, being succeeded by his younger brother Henry. This Henry Thomas, thirteenth dejure chief of the clan (baptized 17th, May 1724), continued to farm as tenant at Belhelvie, like his father before him. He married twice; his first wife being Margaret Miller, from Ceres, by whom he had four sons, William, Robert, David and Henry. Margaret died on 27th, November 1765, aged 37, and a little under two years later, on 14th, August 1767, Henry married Elizabeth Reid, by whom he had a further son, George, born in 1768, who was later to become a merchant in Dundee. Additionally, Henry and Elizabeth had a daughter, Christian. Henry died on 3rd January 1797, being succeeded at Belhelvie by his eldest son, William, fourteenth dejure chief, as appears from the notice of marriage of the latter and Helen Gardener, from the Muirhouse of Balhousie, Perth, two years later. It seems that William afterwards became a merchant in St. Andrews. He and his brothers all changed their surname from Thomas to Thoms, and it is William Thoms that he is recorded in the entry relating to his death at St. Andrews, on 15th, June 1843, apparently without issue. Lamentably all too little is known regarding the fate of the remaining issue of Henry Thomas's first marriage, but it has been assumed that by the time of William's death it had become extinct, and the dormant chiefship thus passed to the issue of the latter's half brother George.
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