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The Scottish Nation
MacDonald of Clanranald


MACDONALD of CLANRANALD, (additional). The statement that John Moydartach, of John of Moydart, who became Captain of the Clanranald in 1530, was a natural son of Allastor or Alexander Allanson, appears to be founded on an assumption that has been followed by almost every succeeding writer on the Highland clans, without being once satisfactorily proved. On the death of Ranald Bane, the 5th chief, John of Moydart was acknowledged by the clan Captain of Clanranald. Ranald Galda, or the stranger, being a minor, living with his mother’s father, Lord Lovat, John, as next heir, managed and led the clan, and on the death of Ranald he became chief, but did not change the title under which he was known, viz., Captain of Clanranald. His mother, a Macintosh, and a chief’s daughter, has her fair name established in the records of her own family, as well as in those of the Clanranald.

In 1824, an attempt was made by Alexander Macdonell of Glengarry, by an action in the court of session, to deprive Ranald George Macdonald of Clanranald, the direct descendant and representative of the Macdonald of Castletirrim or Islandtirrim, of the chiefship of the clan Donald, and to claim it for himself, in which he signally failed. Macdonald of Clanranald traces a lineal descent from the Macdonalds, kings of the Isles. About the end of the 14th century, the Clanranald lost many of its possessions. But it still retained extensive estates, and the admitted supremacy over the clan Macdonald, its head being uniformly addressed as Captain or Chief of Macdonald, or, as it is expressed in public instruments, Dux or Princeps familiae de Clanronald. Their principal castle, or messuage, was the strong fortification of Castletirrim, or Islandtirrim, situated on a rocky promontory of Moydart. The family of Macdonald of Islandtirrim have always been acknowledged as Captains and Chiefs of Clanranald. In the records of the privy seal there occurs the following entry of a charter, granted July 2, 1534: -- “Carta Joanni Macallaster de Elanterim, Capitano de Clanranald, et Mariote Mac Keane, suae spousae, in conjuncta infeudatione, et haeredibus inter ipsos legitime procreand.” The Captain of the Clanranald here referred to was John Moydartach, above mentioned, the eldest son of Allastor Allanson, usually assumed to have been his natural son. His grandson, another John, in making up his titled, served himself heir to his grandfather, John Moydartach, Captain of Clanranald, and to this service the then Glengarry was a witness.

In the Privy Seal records, of date Aug. 26, 1548, there is an entry of a respite to various Highland chiefs and lairds for their treasonable absence from the Queen’s army during the invasion of Scotland by the English under the lord-protector Somerset, and among those are included both the chief of the Clanranald, being the John Moydart Macalester of Castletirrim, said without adequate grounds to be illegitimate, and to whom the charter of 1534 was granted, and the laird of Glengarry, who are severally named and designed in these terms: “Ane respitt maid to Johne Myundwarte, Capitaine of Clanranald, Angus Macalester, his brother, Rorye Macalester, Allane Macalester, sone to the said Johne Myundwarte, Alester Mac Ane Vic Alester of Glengarrie,” &c.

It has been remarked by Browne, that if the descendants of Donald, from whom the clan received its name, or even of John of the Isles, who flourished in the reign of David II., are to be held as constituting one clan, then, according to the Highland principles of clanship, the jus sanguinis rested in the male representative of John. By Amy, his first wife, daughter of Roderick of the Isles, John had 3 sons, John, Godfrey, and Ranald, but the last of these only left descendants, and it is from him that the Clanranald derive their origin. Lord Macdonald, the representative of the Macdonalds of Sleat, is said to descend from his second marriage.

Among the clans who fought at Bannockburn were the Macdonalds, under Angus, Lord of the Isles. They formed the reserve, and did good service to the cause of Scottish independence in that memorable battle. The Clanranald obtained their motto from the words “My Hope is Constant in thee,” addressed by Robert the Bruce to their ancestor Angus, on his making the final charge on the English.

The number of men which the Clanranald were able to bring into the field, given by President Forbes, viz., 700, is not a criterion of their force. The distance of the islands and want of swift boars, prevented, in the later wars of Montrose, Mar, and 1745, their men from being brought across, and therefore the muster-roll was from the mainland estates alone, little more than a third of the extent of the whole.

After the battle of Culloden, young Clanranald remained for some time in concealment in Moidart, waiting for an opportunity of escaping to the continent, and soon after got to Braham Castle, the seat of the earl of Seaforth, where he met the young lady to whom he was betrothed, Mary, a daughter of Mr. Basil Hamilton of Baldoon, sister of the 4th earl of Selkirk, whose mother was a sister of his grandmother. This young lady he now married, and then proceeded to the Bay of Cromarty, where they embarked for London, under the name of Mr. and Mrs. Black. Soon after they got safely to the continent. He may truly be said to have acted a disinterested part towards the Prince, as he was the only chief who would not accept a bond from him for his assistance. By the Prince, on his arrival in France, he was introduced to Louis XV., declaring that he was the only person who had served him without fee or reward. Soon after he got some military government from the court of France, and continued so employed until he became acquainted with Marshal Saxe, who appointed him his aide-de-camp. In the bill of attainder against the chiefs who had been engaged in the rebellion, which received the royal assent, June 4, 1746, Ranald Macdonald, younger of Clanranald, was, by mistake, named Donald. His friends took advantage of this, and after some years’ delay he succeeded in recovering his estates. On 28th Nov. 1753, his father, who was then still alive, renounced his liferent in his favour. The younger Clanranald’s wife, the lady above mentioned, Mary, daughter of Mr. Basil Hamilton, died 11th May 1750, and had a son, Charles James Somerlett, who died at the age of 5 years. He married, 2dly, Flora, daughter of Mackinnon of Mackinnon; issue, 2 sons and 3 daughters. Sons; 1. John, 2. James, lieutenant-colonel in the army. Daughters; 1. and 2. Margaret and Mary, both unmarried, 3. Penelope, wife of Lord Belhaven and Stenton.

John Macdonald, the elder son, by the 2d marriage, 17th chief, succeeded his father while still a mere youth. He afterwards obtained a commission and served as captain in the 2d dragoon guards. He died in 1794, at the early age of 29. He married, 1st, Katherine, daughter of Right Hon. Robert M’Queen of Braxfield, Lord Justice Clerk, issue, 3 sons. 1. Reginald or Ranald George, 2. Robert Johnstone, 3. Donald. He married 2dly, Jean, daughter of Colin Macdonald, Esq. of Boisdale, his 2d cousin, grand-child of Alexander, 2d son of Donald, 14th chief of the family, with issue.

Reginald or Ranald George Macdonald, the eldest son, 18th chief, was educated at Edinburgh and at Eton College. On coming of age he received the command of the Uist or Long Island regiment of Inverness-shire local militia. In 1812, he married Lady Caroline Ann Edgecumbe, daughter of Richard, 2d earl of Mount Edgecumbe, Devonshire; issue, 1 son and 5 daughters.

He is the 25th in the direct descent from Somerlett, King of the Isles, and Lord of Argyle and Kintyre, undoubted progenitor of all the Macdonalds in Scotland, and of course chief of that great and powerful clan.

Reginald John Macdonald, his only son, was born in 1820. He early entered the navy, and was made a post-captain in 1854. He was in command of a vessel on the west coast of Africa at the time of the Crimean war, and from July 1859 to August 1862 he commanded the western district of Scotland. He married in June 1855, the Hon. Adelaide Louisa, daughter of Lord Vernon; issue, 2 sons, Allan Douglas, born in April 1856, Angus Roderick, born in April 1858; and a daughter, Adelaide Effrida.


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