"The Clan MacNeil of Barra is said to be one of the oldest and proudest in Scotland, with a history, recorded and legendary, that is incredibly fantastic. The MaNeils fought everybody and everything, their neighbour clans, the Vikings, the kings of Scotland, the English, and the North Atlantic storms; and meanwhile they extricated an uncertain livelihood from fishing and piracy on their turbulent waters and from the thin, sterile soil of their wind-swept island. As Grandfather often remarked with pride, with them it was a real case of survival of the fittest, for only the strong, the brave and the intelligent could survive the rigours of their climate and the hardships of their life.
"According to Clan legends, the MacNeils descended from Niall (or Neil) of Scythia, who like Joseph was minister to the Pharoah of Egypt, gave his name to the River Niall, or Nile, and married the Princess Scota, the daughter of the Pharoah who rescued Moses from the bulrushes, by whom he had a daughter Gaedhal, or Gael. Whether you credit legends or not, here you have the origins of the MacNeils, the Scots and the Gaels.
"Of the antiquity of the MacNeils there can be no doubt whatever, for it is proverbial in Scotland that `The MacNeils had their ain boat at the Flood,' a tribute to their old age and to their seamanship and independence, all of which were common knowledge among their fellow Scots."
Excerpt from "The Highland Heart of Nova Scotia"
-- by Neil MacNeil, Cape Breton