3 MacQuarrie
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The Scottish Nation
MacQuarrie


MACQUARRIE (Clann Guarie), the name of a minor clan which possessed the small island of Ulva, one of the Argyleshire Hebrides, with a portion of mull, and the badge of which was the pine. The Gaelic M> of 1450 deduces their descent from Guarie of Godfrey, called by the Highland Sennachies, Gor or Gorbred, said to have been “a brother of Fingon, ancestor of the Mackinnons, and Anrias or Andrew, ancestor of the Macgregors.” This is the belief of Mr. Skene, who adds, “The history of the Macquarries resembles that of the Mackinnons in many respects; like them they had migrated far from the head-quarters of their race; they became dependent on the lords of the Isles, and followed them as if they had become a branch of the clan.”

According to a history of the family, by one of its members, in 1249 Cormac Mhor, then “chief of Ulva’s isle,” joined Alexander II., with his followers and three galleys of sixteen oars each, in his expedition against the western islands, and after that monarch’s death in the island of Kerrera, was attacked by Haco of Norway, defeated and slain. His two sons. Allan and Gregor, were compelled to take refuge in Ireland, where the latter, surnamed Carbh or the rough, is said to have founded the powerful tribe of the MacGuires, the chief of which at one time possessed the title of Lord Inniskillen. Allan returned to Scotland, and his descendant, Hector Macquarrie of Ulva, chief in the time of Robert the Bruce, fought with his clan at Bannockburn.

The first chief of whom there is any notice in the public records was John Macquarrie of Ulva, who died in 1473. (Reg. of Great Seal, 31, No. 159.) His son, Dunslaff, was chief when the last lord of the Isles was forfeited twenty years afterwards. After that event, the Macquarries, like the other vassal tribes of the Macdonalds, became independent. In war, however, they followed the banner of their neighbour Maclean of Dowart. With the latter, Dunslaff supported the claims of Donald Dubh to the lordship of the Isles, in the beginning of the 16th century, and in 1504, “MacGorry of Ullowaa” was summoned, with some other chiefs, before the Estates of the kingdom to answer for his share in Donald Dubh’s rebellion. The submission of Maclean of Dowart, in the following year, implied also that of Macquarrie, and in 1517, when the former chief obtained his own remission, he stipulated for that of the chief of Ulva and two other chiefs. Dunslaff married a daughter of Macneill of Taynish, the bride’s tocher or dower consisting of a piebald horse, with two men and two women.

His son, John Macquarrie of Ulva, was one of the barons and council of the Isles who in 1545 supported the pretensions of Donald Dubh, on his second escape from his forth years’ imprisonment. He was also one of the thirteen chiefs, who were denounced the same year for carrying on a traitorous correspondence with the king of England, with the view of transferring their allegiance to him. In 1609 Gillespock Macquarrie of Ulva was one of the island chiefs present in the island of Iona when the nine “Statutes of Icolmkill” were passed. Allan Macquarrie of Ulva was slain, with most of his followers, at the battle of Inverkeithing against the English parliamentary troops, 20th July 1651, when the Scots army was defeated, and a free passage opened to Cromwell to the whole north of Scotland.

According to tradition one of the chiefs of Ulva preserved his life and estate by the exercise of a timely hospitality under the following circumstances; Maclean of Dowart had a natural son by a beautiful young woman of his own clan, and the boy having been born in a barn was named, from his birth-place. Allan-a-Sop, or Allan of the straw. The girl afterwards became the wife of Maclean of Torloisk, residing in Mull, but though he loved the mother he cared nothing for her boy, and when the latter came to see her, he was very unkind to him. One morning the lady saw from her window her son approaching and hastened to put a cake on the fire for his breakfast. Her husband noticed this, and snatching the cake hot from the girdle, thrust it into his stepson’s hands, forcibly clasping them on the burning bread. The lad’s hands were severely burnt, and in consequence he refrained from going again to Torloisk. As he grew up Allan became a mariner, and joined the Danish pirates who infested the western isles. From his courage he soon got the command of one galley, and subsequently of a flotilla, and made his name both feared and famous. Of him it may be said that –

“Sir Ralph the Rover sailed away,
He scoured the seas for many a day,
And now, grown rich with plunder’d store,
He steers his way for Scotland’s shore.”

The thought of his mother brought him back once more to the island of Mull, and one morning he anchored his galleys in front of the house of Torloisk. His mother had been long dead, but his stepfather hastened to the shore, and welcomed him with apparent kindness. The crafty old man had a feud with Macquarrie of Ulva, and thought this a favourable opportunity to execute his vengeance on that chief. With this object he suggested to Allan that it was time he should settle on land, and said that he could easily get possession of the island of Ulva, by only putting to death the laird, who was old and useless. Allan agreed to the proposal, and, setting sail next morning, appeared before Macquarrie’s house. The chief of Ulva was greatly alarmed when he saw the pirate galleys, but he resolved to receive their commander hospitably, in the hope that good treatment would induce him to go away, without plundering his house or doing him any injury. He caused a splendid feast to be prepared, and welcomed Allan to Ulva with every appearance of sincerity. After feasting together the whole day, in the evening the pirate-chief, when about to retire to his ships, thanked the chief for his entertainment, remarking, at the same time, that it had cost him dear. “How so?” said Macquarrie, “when I bestowed this entertainment upon you in free good will.” “It is true,” said Allan, who, notwithstanding his being a pirate, seems to have been of a frank and generous disposition, “but it has disarranged all my plans, and quite altered the purpose for which I came hither, which was to put you to death, seize your castle and lands, and settle myself here in your stead.” Macquarrie replied that he was sure such a suggestion was not his own, but must have originated with his stepfather, old Torloisk, who was his personal enemy. He then reminded him that he had made but an indifferent husband to his mother, and was a cruel stepfather to himself, adding, “Consider this matter better, Allan, and you will see that the estate and harbour of Torloisk lie as conveniently for you as those of Ulva, and if you must make a settlement by force, it is much better you should do so at the expense of the old churl, who never showed you kindness, than of a friend like me who always loved and honoured you.”

Allan-a-Sop, remembering his scorched fingers, straightway sailed back to Torloisk, and meeting his stepfather, who came eagerly expecting to hear of Macquarrie’s death, thus accosted him: “You hoary old villain, you instigated me to murder a better man than yourself. Have you forgotten how you scorched my fingers twenty years ago with a burning cake? The day has come when that breakfast must be paid for.” So saying, with one stroke of his battle-axe he cut down his stepfather, took possession of his castle and property, and established there that branch of the clan Maclean afterwards represented by Mr. Clephane Maclean.

Hector, brother of Allan Macquarrie of Ulva, and second son of Donald the 12th chief of the Macquarries, by his wife, a daughter of Lauchlan Oig Maclean, founder of the Macleans of Torloisk, obtained from his father the lands of Ormaig in Ulva, and was the first of the Macquarries of Ormaig. This family frequently intermarried with the Macleans, both of Lochbuy and Dowart. Lauchlan, Donald’s third son, was ancestor of the Macquarries of Laggan, and John, the fourth son, of those of Ballighartan.

Lauchlan Macquarrie of Ulva, the 16th chief in regular succession, was compelled to dispose of his lands for behoof of his creditors, and in 1778, at the age of 63, he entered the army. He served in the American war, and died in 1818, at the age of 103, without male issue. He was the last chief of the Macquarries, and the proprietor of Ulva when Dr. Samuel Johnson and Mr. Boswell visited that island in 1773.

The room where the Doctor spent the night is yet shown in the old mansion of the Macquarries. Dr. Johnson and the chief, whom he was surprised to find a person of great politeness and intelligence, had a conversation about the usage known by the name of Mercheta mulierum, which formerly existed in Ulva, and was a fine paid to the chief by his vassals on the marriage of a virgin. In answer to the doctor’s reference to Blackstone, who has expressed his disbelief that any such claim on the part of landlords ever existed, Macquarrie informed the English sage that the eldest children of marriages were not esteemed amongst the Gael as among other nations, most of whom adhered to distinct laws of primogeniture, on account of the parentage of the eldest child, from the above-mentioned custom, being rendered doubtful; hence, brothers were very commonly preferred to the proper heirs apparent. He likewise told him that he himself had been in the habit of demanding a sheep, on occasion of every marriage in Ulva, for which he had substituted a fine of five shillings in money. Dr. Johnson was very forcibly impressed with the following instance of second sight related to him by the Macquarrie chief. He said that once when he was in Edinburgh, an old female domestic of the family in Ulva foretold that he would return home on a certain day, with a new servant in a livery of red and green, which he accordingly did; but he declared that the idea of the servant and the livery occurred to him only when he was in Edinburgh, and that the woman could know nothing of his intentions at the time.

A large portion of the ancient patrimonial property was repurchased by General Macquarrie, long governor of New south Wales, and from whom Macquarrie county, Macquarrie river, and Port Macquarrie in that colony, Macquarrie’s harbour, and Macquarrie island in the South Pacific, derive their name. He was the eldest cadet of his family, and was twice married, first, to Miss Baillie of Jerviswood, and secondly, to a daughter of Sir John Campbell of Airds, by whom he had an only son, Lachlan, who died without issue.

The island of Ulva is about two miles long, averaging a mile and a quarter in breadth, and contains about 600 inhabitants. The name is derived from the Scandinavian Ulffur, and means the island of wolves, these animals having anciently abounded there.


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