The Willisons emigrated from Scotland to Ripon in Yorkshire, England, and in the mid-1800s stayed one generation in Canada. They settled in Hillsgreen, north-east of London, Ontario, prior to moving on to the USA and a permanent settlement. Sir John Willison's son Walter married my grandmother Vivyan Boulton whose father Frederick had married Amy Dickson. My Aunt Birch described the Willisons as a 'family of literate farmers' and our Willison family history is dominated by Boultons, Johnsons, and Dicksons. Boulton of Moulton was a wealthy landowner in Stixwold, England. During Henry III's reign, Thomas de Bolton was sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1263. D'Arcy was the first to emigrate to Canada, c1800. This family sampling is less Griers (Ruth Grier was the Ontario Minister of Health), and many Boulton cousins. Bolton is now a large thriving industrial English city, between Manchester and Liverpool. The Boultons emigrated when the sun literally 'Never set on the British Empire'.
James Boulton married into the powerful Campbell family, called Lowlanders by the Highland Mackenzies. Campbells were staunch allies of the English. Campbells raised a Regiment called the Black Watch (de-facto police) because ‘they watched the Scots in the black highlands’. Sir William Johnson's granddaughter, Mary, married Colin Campbell, who became Field Marshal, Lord Clyde and the hero of Balaclava and the Indian Mutiny.
Both the Boultons and Dicksons were members of the Upper Canada Family Compact, a group of colonial families, which directed local affairs, in the tradition of the English aristocracy. Being so close to the American Republic and the flow of liberal ideals created considerable tension and led to a Rebellion in Toronto led by William Lyon Mackenzie. These families with the Clauses were instrumental prior to and during the American Revolution, but played critical roles in the development of Canadian history. Much of their influence was felt during the confused War of 1812 between America and Britain, much of which was fought in colonial Upper Canada. The leading Willison family relationship is to Sir William Johnson. Sir William affected our continental history, lived with Indians, fathered over 700 children, and shaped events by defeating the French in battle in both 1755 and 1759. Moreover, the Johnsons descend directly from the O'Neill family.
These are the O'Neill arms, They consist of three pieces: three stars, a red hand, and a fish. Of course there are many explanations as to the symbolism; but I believe that the three stars capture the Biblical three wise men who followed the star to the Christ. The O'Neills did protect the Christian church and acted as guardians of church property. The red hand purports to justify the O'Neill claim to the Irish high-kingship by alluding to a story about an O'Neill chief who won a race to touch Ireland first by cutting off his hand and throwing it ahead of his competitor to touch and claim Ireland. The fish purports to solidify the O'Neill claim by pointing to their antiquity, having migrated across the sea from Spain. These arms are professionally drawn and give a sense of the visual impact arms made a millennium ago.
"The O'Neills are descendants of the Ui Neill, themselves the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, living about 400AD. The O'Neills take their actual surname from Niall Glundubh (Black-knee) who was slain fighting the Danes in 919 and not from Niall of the Nine Hostages as so many imagine. The mighty Ui Neill dynasty divided into two in the 400's, the Northern Ui Neill remained in the north while the Southern Ui Neill moved to Meath and the eastern midlands - they took it in turns to be Kings of Tara and, later, High-Kings of Ireland."  It is no surprise that the O'Neills married the FitzGeralds, they were both powerful Irish families. Equally, the O'Neills married their fellow Celts; the Scots, Welsh, and Cornish cousins.
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