Week 11: Lucky

Unlike the “lucky man” in this song, my 8th great-grandfather Philip MacIntire was a lucky man indeed

“Lucky” is a tough word.  In a way, I’m lucky every day because my house doesn’t blow up, I don’t fall and break a hip, and I can pay my bills and predict a sustainable future.  I know that many people are not that lucky. 

I am certainly lucky that my ancestors did the things that they did.  Coupled with their actions, their luck ensured that they would meet and marry the people that they did and bear the children that they did.  Without their luck“I” would not exist and would not be able to ponder the impact of their luck .  Sounds convoluted even to talk about it.

I have ancestors who survived and thrived (or at least avoided disaster) by being at the right place at the right time – or, at the very least, by avoiding being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Planning to address this week’s prompt led me to think about whether there were situations when anyone in my tree won something or achieved something they had not earned in some fashion.  I don’t know of any lottery winnings, unexpected inheritances, gold strikes, or anything like this that would genuinely be simply “lucky.”

Mary Chapin Carpenter knows what it means to feel lucky

I have to go back to my 8th great-grandfather Philip MacIntire (1630-1719) to find evidence of just straight-out luck. (By the way, the surname is spelled any number of ways.  I’m going to settle on MacIntire when I’m talking about Philip and his brothers.)  Here’s Philip’s story:

Philip was born in 1630 in Glencoe, Scotland to the ancient and established Clan Mac Intyre.  A quick review of the history of England, Scotland, and Ireland reminds us that the 1640s were a decade of Civil War.  The Battle of Dunbar (September 3, 1650) was an important battle in that war, and the Mac Intyres took part in this battle.  King Charles II had been proclaimed King of Scots on February 5, 1649 (although that didn’t “take” until 1660), and the stage was set: English Parliamentarian forces under Oliver Cromwell crossed the border to engage the Scots (led by David Leslie, who was loyal to the King).  The Mac Intyres were part of Leslie’s force of Scots.  The Scots were ultimately defeated by Cromwell’s Army; an estimated 5,000 Scottish prisoners were captured by Cromwell’s Army and were force-marched southward to Durham Cathedral (more than 100 miles away). Seventy percent of the prisoners died either on the march or during their imprisonment at Durham; the remaining 1,400 captives were tried for treason.

Cromwell and his Council of State feared that ransoming or exchanging these prisoners would give them the freedom to return to the Scottish Army and fight again.  Neither did they want to deport them to Europe or Ireland, for fear they would join the armies of the Commonwealth’s enemies.  They finally decided to send most prisoners to English colonies in the Americas – particularly Barbados, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

This is where Philip got lucky.  First, one account of this process says that the Council wanted to set an example for any possible other Cromwell opponents, so they executed one of every ten prisoners. Philip and his two brothers (Robert and Malcolm [Micum]) were not among the group that was executed, so in December of 1650, they boarded the Unity, a ship headed for the colonies.  They arrived in Massachusetts in the winter of 1650/51 to begin their lives as indentured servants in the colony.

This is a partial list of the 150 Dunbar prisoners transported to Massachusetts on the “Unity.”.  The three MacIntire brothers are in the red box at the top of the list.

One source provides detailed information about what happened to these prisoners.  Robert MacIntire went to work at the ironworks in Lynn, Massachusetts.  Malcom (Micum) MacIntire was sent to Berwick, Maine, to work at the sawmill there.  Philip MacIntire (my 8th great-grandfather), was sent to the Saugus Iron Works in Essex, Massachusetts.   (For more detail on this battle and its aftermath, see https://spows.org/battle-of-dunbar/battle-of-dunbar-prisoners-of-war/battle-of-dunbar-prisoner-profiles/

So let’s recap Philip’s recurrent good luck:

  • He survived the Battle of Dunbar and the subsequent march to Durham
  • He survived imprisonment at Durham
  • He was not selected to be executed when Cromwell’s Council of State decided to make an example of a portion of the prisoners
  • His brothers also survived
  • The three brothers survived the voyage to Massachusetts.
  • Philip secured reasonable employment at an ironworks
  • He was freed after completing his indenture
  • He bought land, got married, and raised a family in Reading, Massachusetts
  • He lived to the age of 89.

Philip’s lived a prosperous and successful life in Massachusetts.  He married Mary Nichols in Reading in 1666, and they had eight children, including my 7th great-grandmother Sarah MacIntire, who was their fifth child.  I descend from Philip through my Ellefritz family line; my grandmother, Orpha Ellefritz Arnold (1897-1986) was his 6th great-granddaughter.


Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

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