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The material provided on these Neill Family pages was researched jointly over a period of time by Allen Harbrow and Robin Neill, with great help from various members of the Neill family. Special thanks to Betty Neill and Nancy Cairns (nee Neill). Allen and Robin also put together a book on the Neill family history with considerably more detail than what is shown on this website. This is available on request by clicking on 'Contact Us' above and sending an email 

The research goes back to the early 1800's in Tandragee, County Armagh, Northern Ireland starting with Robert and Mary Neill, but the main focus is on Thomas Neill, son of the above, who left Ireland in the late 1850's, following his sister, Mary Davison (nee Neill) who arrived in New Zealand with her family in 1861. 


                                          Neill Family Crest

Ballymore is the Parish encompassing Tandragee which lies a few miles south of Portadown in County Armagh.  The building of a canal from Newry to Lough Neagh in the 1730's brought prosperity to the area with the  establishment of textile and manufacturing industries.

The main street of Tandragee curves up a hill to a baronial style castle that was built about 1837 by the sixth Duke of Manchester.  In the 1950's the castle became a potato crisp factory, such is the importance of the potato, Ireland's staple food from the mid-17th century.  Not far from Tandragee, to the south, is Scarva which is where the infamous 'Battle of the Boyne' was fought in 1690.

In the 1840's the general picture of Ireland was one of poverty and misery. Many people were emigrating to the new world - America, Australia and New Zealand.  They went looking for work first as 'Sailpin', a landless wandering labourer whose only capital was his health, his strength and, if he could afford it, his spade.  They had few skills to call on, but they were used to hard work.

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The Irish took with them a rich tradition in folk music, which accompanied them in everything they did.  Whether it was working or walking, the songs many in Gaelic, rang through the air.  In those same colonies, gold was being discovered in large amounts and this was work which gave freedom and independance, which the Irishmen (and probably Thomas Neill) were really seeking, plus of course, the chance of finding a fortune.

The first Neill  Families in our story :
    Robert and Mary Neill of Tandragee     |     Thomas Neill   |    Mary Davison (nee Neill)  

Last updated 13 August 2017