A native of Dundee, Scotland, he was skilled as a chandler and with the bagpipes.  He also served as a soldier.  He spoke English and Scots Gaelic. He was the Watcher assigned to the pirate Angus Cromarty from 1736 to 1740.

In 1741 he was assigned to Watch: Duncan MacLeod.  In November 1754, the Watcher Tribunal declared McNeil dead having received no communication from him for a year.  He had last said he was to be returning to Scotland from Constantinople for reassignment.  As no other communication followed, they could only assume he met with misfortune on his way home.  Chapel bells were rung in his memory.

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