Willie Matheson (Mac Gille Chaluim) wrote in his Families of Lewis series that Nicolson was “perhaps the oldest surname in Lewis” and that the Macleods came into possession of the island by marriage into the family. The name disappears and does not surface again until the 18th century, when Angus Nicolson is on record as a joint-tacksman of Little Bernera and later sole tacksman of Kirivig. His younger son Donald had the tack at Kirivig after him and the elder son, John, was tacksman of Carnish and Ardroil. John was perpetually at odds with his rival in Uig, Donald Og Macaulay of Brenish, and they disputed grazing territory, coming to blows over Ceann Chuisill. Donald Og died suddenly in his boat while transporting corn from Brenish to Pennydonald and John commented “Seallaibh ‘na phocaidean ach a bheil sgath a dh’fheur Cheann Chuisill ann.”
Carnish and Ardroil were separated in 1780 and the latter was given to Kenneth Nicolson, whom Matheson supposes to be a second son of John. His elder son, Angus, trained as a cooper and fishcurer in Leith and settled in Stornoway, founding, according to tradition, the fish-curing industry there. Angus was initiated into Fortrose Lodge in Stornoway on 15 December 1804. He was immensely successful and when he died in 1824 he left in his will £100 to each of the four parishes of Lewis for the relief of the poor.
His son Roderick was a merchant and shipowner, with ships trading in the Baltic, Spain and Portugal, and also had sheepfarms at Tolsta, Coll and Uig, perhaps Erista. His was the bequest that gave Baile na Cille the church bell. His six sons were scattered around the globe, working in the south of Scotland, England, New Orleans, Australia, South Africa and, in the case of Alexander Morison Nicolson, Shanghai. Alexander was killed when a ship’s boiler exploded, and he left the bequest that founded the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.
There is an unconnected family of Nicolsons in Uig, who had originally been Macritchies but changed their name. Malcolm Nicolson, born c1750, resided in Carnish. He had at least two sons: Norman, born c1770, who was a tenant on Vuia Mhor in c1809-1840 and Kenneth, born 1786, who emigrated to Canada in 1841 with his family. Norman left Vuia shortly before it was cleared in 1841 and was a tenant in Carnish, until it too was cleared. He was living with his daughter Peggy at the time and when she and her family removed to Canada in 1851, Norman went to his son Malcolm at Àirigh na Beiste near Stornoway. He died in 1860 and was buried at Baile na Cille. The Nicolsons living latterly in Crowlista were of this family, descended from Norman’s son Murdo.
Tradition maintains that the Nicolsons in South Lochs come from the original Uig stock.