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Arran of the Bens, The Glens and the Brave
Chapter VIII. Old Families in Arran


On the mainland of Scotland, highland and lowland, the old historic names have gradually been rooted out, just as in England the old "Statesmen" of Westmorland and Cumberland have been bought or sold out by the few great landholders. The whole tendency has been for the possession of the land to become concentrated in the hands of a very few. The Johnstones no longer hold Annandale as "kindly tenants" or small lairds ; the Galloway clans are mixed up with the rest of the community; the lairds of Kintyre might be numbered on your fingers; and the MacVicars, Munros, MacNicols, MacKellars, Maclnturners, and others have long disappeared from Loch Fyne. The very names have in many cases vanished, and all the old traditions of the countryside which they inherited from their fathers have gone with them.

In Arran and in Bute things were somewhat different, and as reward for service rendered to the Bruces and the Stewarts the old Brandani were supported in their possessions by the kings to which the two islands belonged from time to time. At the date of the Bute charter of 1506 the Butemen are shown to have been possessed of lands, and there is every reason to believe that the people of Arran, with whom they had been closely associated in all their exploits, held, in an identical manner, the lands which they had probably first received from the Somer-ledian chiefs, the design of Robert Bruce to keep the islands as a recruiting ground for the Scottish army being clearly shown in his will.

So it has happened that amongst the people of Arran and Bute are still represented the old Barons, who date from the days of Bruce and Robert II., and in many cases from the time of Somerled. The old Gaelic proverb says: "Clann Bhridean agus clann Ennain, na cloinne a's sine ann an Arrinn," and amongst the old names are also Mac-Louie (MacLoy or Fullarton), MacCook (in Gaelic, MacCug), MacDavid or Davidson, MacGilker, MacAllister, Stewart, Hunter, Kelso, Kerr, Kennedy, MacMhurrich or MacVurich (which has been whittled down to Murchie and Currie), MacMaster, Brown (MacBraon or MacBrayne), MacNicol, Love, Crawford, Hamilton, MacNish, while MacMillan, MacKillop, MacKenzie, Shaw, Thomson, Robertson, Bannatyne, and Mac-Kelvie are later but yet old names in the island. Nearly all these families are still represented in Arran, though their names date back longer than those of half the members of the House of Lords.

Mr. Patrick Murray, late factor of the Arran estates, writing in 1890, says: "One thing I have had brought home to me in looking back over these old records is the frequency with which I recognise names in the rental of today in that of one hundred years ago. In some cases the same names—both surname and Christian—appear in the very same farms as they did last century. Any of these Arran tenants I refer to would have no difficulty in compiling their pedigree for the Herald's College whenever that should be wanted."

In Arran and Bute the relations between chief and people had in old times been exceptionally close, as will be seen by the account of the Battle of the Stones in another chapter. There had long been a middle class of gentry in both islands. A visitor to the island in 1628 says: "Neither is there any isle like to it for brave gentry, good archers, and hill-hovering hunters." These were, it seems from the surnames, originally descendants of Somerled, like the MacBrides, MacKirdys, MacAllisters, and Bannatynes, and of officers and others attached to the household of Somerled, like the MacKinnons, MacVurichs, and probably the MacCugs, Hunters, and also the MacGilchattans and MacGildowies, who seem to have originated in Kintyre.

According to the tradition, at the time of Bruce, they were confirmed in their possessions, and got new grants, while later the Stewarts and others joined their ranks ; their duty was to provide a force of twenty-four men to form the king's bodyguard. They certainly were transferred with all their rights on the passing of the island of Arran to the Lord Hamilton, who had married the king's sister, Jane. In the sixteenth century, as is shown by historical documents, they seem to have held by military service of the Hamiltons. The old tradition is that the holders of the charters, which the older generation of Arran men affirm were identical with those granted to MacLouie, got into debt owing to the small annual tribute to the superior not having been claimed for many years, and that the Hamilton family impounded the charters. Be that as it may, it is certain that the descendants of these men were called "Baron" within the recollections of persons now living, and this title was used only by military tenants of the Crown. The Rev. Neil MacBride of Lamlash, a nephew of the Rev. Alexander MacBride, author of the New Statistical Account of Kilmory Parish, wrote in 1890: "Bruce's Arran friends who received gifts of land in the island bore the names you have given, as I have often heard, and a descendant of one of them, M'Kinnon, who died at Brodick in my own day, was better known as 'The Baron' than by his own name."

Local tradition is, and has always been, very strong on the point. MacArthur says, writing in 1870: "A few centuries ago the lands of the island were divided amongst several petty chiefs or barons, and standing stones were raised as landmarks to define the boundaries of their possessions, and prevent the encroachment of neighbouring chiefs . . . and among the dells and over the heathery moors these rude monuments of the island chiefs may still be seen, mutely eloquent of the . . . old times. By the roadside between Brodick and Lamlash there stand three massive blocks of red sandstone, which are said to mark the spot where the lands of three of the old proprietors of Arran met." Pennant, who during his stay in the island in 1771 was shown about by the parish minister, Mr. Lindsay, and visited Fullarton of Kilmich-ael, and no doubt got his information largely from him, says: "Arran was the property of the Crown. Robert Bruce returned thither during his distresses, and met with protection from his faithful vassals. Numbers of them followed his fortunes; and after the battle of Bannockburn he rewarded several, such as the MacCooks, MacKinnons, MacBrides, and MacLouies or Fullartons with different charters of lands in their native country." Other writers add the names of the Stewarts and Hunters to this list.

Pennant goes on to say: "About the year 1334 the island seems to have formed part of the estate of Robert Stewart, Great Steward of Scotland, afterwards Robert II. At that time "(the natives)" tookup arms to support the cause of their master, who afterwards, in reward, not only granted at their request an immunity from their annual tribute of corn, but added several new privileges, and a donation to all the inhabitants that were present."


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