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Lairds and Lands of Loch Tayside
Macnab Lands


TO the east of Lix lies a portion of the old patrimony of the Macnabs, of Macnab.

It is now over seventy years since Archibald Macnab, the last undoubted chief and laird of that Ilk, quitted Glendochart, with a number of his clan, to seek his fortune in another land. His inheritance consisted mostly of his uncle’s debts; and having been offered a considerable tract of country in Canada, on condition of his peopling it within a given period, he was induced to sever his connection with the glen where his ancestors had held sway for so many generations.

His predecessor, Francis Macnab, the well-known laird, had impoverished the estates beyond hope of recovery. A list of his debts made up in 1812, four years previous to his death, shewed his liabilities at nearly thirty-five thousand pounds—an enormous sum considering the times. There was scarcely a farmer on Loch Tayside to whom he was not indebted, and one of his largest creditors was John, fourth Earl of Breadalbane. He died on 25th May, 1816, in his 82nd year.

Archibald Macnab emigrated in 1821, but it was not till seven years later that the remnant of the family patrimony was disposed of by decree of the Court of Session. The estates then consisted of Macnab Lands, Bovain, and Wester Ardnagaul, and were acquired by the Earl of Breadalbane, who entered on possession at Whitsunday, 1828. There were also disposed of at the same time Macnab’s superiorities over Ewer (including Auchessan), Suie, Craignavie and Arrifinlay. The lands of Ewer had previously been sold to Mr. Edward Place, of Loch-dochart, Suie to Mr. Colin Macnab, and Craignavie to Dr. Daniel Dewar, and all were held under Macnab, the first at a blench duty of one penny Scots, and the second and third at one shilling and four shillings respectively per annum. Bovain (including Craitchur), Ewer, and Auchessan, were originally ward lands, but were latterly held blench of the Crown by Macnab for the payment of a pair of gloves.

The Macnabs traditionally claimed descent from an Abbot of Glendochart, the name itself signifying son of the Abbot, but so far as we are aware there is no trace of a monastic establishment there. As early as the time of David I., mention is made of the Macnabs, but nothing much is known of them till about two centuries later, when they joined Macdougall, of Lorn, and fought against Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Dalree in Strathfillan, in 1306, and afterwards at Bannockburn. For this they were deprived of most of their lands, and their homes were swept with fire and sword. A considerable portion of Glendochart is said to have belonged to them, but they were left with little more than the lands of Bovain.

Gilbert Macnab, the founder of the family of that Ilk, got a charter of his lands under the Great Seal in 1336. He was succeeded by his son, Finlay. Patrick, the third laird, was in 1464, confirmed in the “ Ferbaloschip ” of Auchlyne, by the Prior of the Charterhouse at Perth—an office which he and some of his predecessors seem to have enjoyed, and ten years later we find the Prior readily granting him a new charter of the lands of Auchlyne upon the representation that he had lost his old titles. One of the witnesses to this document—which was dated at Perth, ist October, 1474—was a Mr. Patrick Scott, Rector of Ardewnan, i.e., Ardeonaig, on Loch Tayside. Patrick died at Auchlyne in 1488, having the year previous granted to his son, Finlay, his lands in Glendochart, by charter signed at Killin, and witnessed, among others, by Sir Duncan Campbell, of Glenorchy, and Sir John Murray, Prior of Strathfillan. This was afterwards confirmed by James III. at Edinburgh, on 21st March, 1487. Finlay, the fourth laird, also got from James IV. the lands of Ewer and Leiragan in 1503; and from the Prior of the Charterhouse, he got the grant of a croft in Killin. Finlay seems to have been the favourite Christian name of the family, for we find the next three lairds so named. Mariot Campbell, widow of Finlay Macnab, fifth laird, got the liferent of the lands of Ewer and Leiragan, which at her death, in 1526, went to her second son, John, in terms of a charter in his favour. It was during the time of the sixth laird that Sir Colin Campbell, of Glenorchy is said to have “conquessit the superioritie of McNab his haill landis.” He also acquired the properties of Auchlyne—afterwards given to a younger son of the house, from whom descended the Campbells, of Auchlyne—Easter Ardchyle and Downich, as well as Bovain, as appears from a charter by Finlay Macnab, dated 24th November, 1552, and confirmed by Mary Queen of Scots, 27th June, 1553. The seventh laird had twelve sons, at whose hands is laid the almost utter extermination of the Neishes at Loch Earn, an incident commemorated on the coat-of-arms of the house. Their motto, Timor omnis abesto, is said to have originated then. John, the eldest of the sons—“smooth John,” as he was called—succeeded as eighth laird, and married a daughter of Campbell, of Glenlyon. He attached himself to the cause of Charles the Martyr, and in 1645 he joined Montrose, along with his followers, and took part in the Battle of Kilsyth.

He held the Castle of Kincardine against General Lesley, until provisions failing, he endeavoured to escape under cover of night, but had the misfortune to be captured along with one of his men. The rest of the garrison, numbering about 300, got clear away. He was brought to Edinburgh, and there condemned to death, but on the eve of the day of execution, he contrived to escape. He fell fighting at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. During the Commonwealth his lands were pillaged and his Castle of Islandran destroyed by fire. The former were seized by Campbell, of Glenorchy, to recompense himself for the ravages which he represented were made upon his property by Macnab. The lands were, however, restored to the family in 1661, on the supplication of the widow and Alexander, the ninth laird then a youth of fourteen years; and in all probability Bovain was redeemed at that time. Alexander married Elizabeth, sister of Sir Alexander Menzies, Baronet of Weem, by whom he had a son, Robert, the tenth laird.1 Robert married Anne, sister of the first Earl of Breadalbane, and had several children. He was survived by his wife, who died at Lochdochart, 6th September, 1765, and by two sons, John and Archibald. Both served in the Black Watch. John was taken prisoner at Prestonpans, on 21st September, 1745, and was confined in Doune Castle till the Rebellion was over. Most of the clan, however, took the field for Prince Charlie, and fought at Culloden with the Duke of Perth’s men. Archibald became a Lieutenant-General, and died at Edinburgh in 1791. John married Jean, the only sister of Francis Buchanan, of Arnprior, by whom he had Francis, the twelfth laird, and Robert. Mrs. Macnab died at Kinnell, on 20th April, 1789, and at her death the forfeited estate of Arnprior, restored but a short time previously, came into the family. Francis Macnab was Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Breadal-bane Volunteers, and there was one alive till within a few years ago who had a vivid recollection of seeing him riding up and down in front of that regiment, when it was paraded in Kenmore Park, and exhorting the men to fight for their king and country if need be, in Gaelic of anything but a choice description. He was an extraordinary character, and kept up the feudal customs of a Highland chief. He was never married, and was succeeded by Archibald, his nephew, the son of Dr. Robert Macnab in Bovain.

[The following incident in connection with this laird is mentioned in the MS. of Breadalbane traditions, before referred to:—“A robber from the north having brought a creach from Strathearn was met with at the south end of the bridge of Dochart, by the then laird of McNab, who was married to one of the seven daughters of Sir John Campbell, of Glenurchay, and who was grandfather to the late Francis McNab, of McNab, and he having refused the robber and his party access thro’ his land, the robber drew his sword and attacked McNab, who, tho’ very stout, was obliged to retire, whereupon Donul Mandach McNab, then in Sleich of Kinnell, stood in his chiefs place, and obliged the robber to deliver up his sword. The people of that neighbourhood having convened, the robber and his strong party were obliged to give up the creach, which was returned to the owners.]

After remaining in Canada a number of years, Archibald returned to Scotland in 1853, and on 12th August, i860, at the age of 83 years, he died at Lannion, Cotes du Nord, France, where he was buried. He left a widow, who died at Florence in 1868, and one daughter, the sole survivor of a family of eight children.

The six-merk land of Kinauldzie, Kinald, or Kinnell, and the two-merk land of Acharn, are known as Macnab Lands. The former includes, on the south side of the river Dochart, in addition to the land attached to Kinnell House—the old seat of the chiefs—the farm and grazings of Sleoch, and the possessions at Clachaig House and Gray Street. On the north side of the Dochart, the Macnabs had also possessions, comprehending the houses and ground beside the present Post-Office, Millmore, houses and land there, and the “ Miller’s and Baker’s ” crofts, marching with Craignavie, with rights on the commonty of Monomore. The islands in the Dochart, Garbh Innis, and Innis Bhuidhe, also formed part of their lands. In the latter is the old burying-ground of the Macnabs. A walled enclosure keeps sacred the spot where the chiefs and their kinsfolk lie, outside of which the retainers and clansmen were buried.1 There is a belief in the district that Innis Bhuidhe still belongs to the clan, but such is not the case; neither have they even a right of burial there, for the island, with its dead, was sold without any reservation of the kind whatever. Although the whole of the lands lie in the parish of Killin, a small teind duty is exigible from Sleoch to the minister of Kenmore.

Within the two-merk land of Acharn there is a triangular piece of land of about eighty acres in extent which does not form part of Macnab Lands, but which has been merged in the farm of Acharn. This is the separate and distinct property of Croitendeor, or Dewar’s Croft, which, prior to 1755, belonged to a family of that name, who had the hereditary keeping of the crozier of St. Fillan. They also possessed Euich and Craigwokin, near Killin. Sir Colin Campbell, sixth laird of Glenorchy, purchased these lands in 1575, but the Dewars still remained as tenants in Glendochart down to the last century. A fifth part of Acharn hill grazing belonged to Croitendeor. Amidst other lands which belonged to the Macnabs, there were crofts of the Dewars. Within the ten-merk land of Auchlyne, which includes Wester Ardchyle, now called Liangarstan, there was Dewarnafergus croft, and in the twenty-shilling land of Suie was Dewarvernans croft.

‘At the west end of Innis Bhuidhe, to which access is got from the bridge of Dochart, are two pillars of masonry standing apart, parallel to which a structure, having three archways, extends the breadth of the island. Close to the burying-ground, on the west side is an entrenchment, also extending across the island, having the remains of a stone and lime wall on the east side. Within the walled enclosure there are four gravestones, three flat and one upright. On one of the former there is a recumbent figure in armour rudely cut, and beneath this stone many of the chiefs are said to be buried. On the left, another stone has round the margin (t)his bvriel (appertai)nes to fin(l)ay MAKNAB OF BAVAIN. The letters here given within parentheses are not now decipherable. The third is supposed to mark the grave of Elizabeth Menzies, wife of Alexander, ninth laird of Macnab. The upright stone bears the following inscription :—“ Sacred to the memory of Colin Macnab, Esq., late of Suie, who died 6th April, 1832, aged 69 years. This humble tribute of affection is erected by his brother, Allan Macnab, Ardeonaig.” On the back of the stone are his coat-of-arms, helmet, crest, and motto, with the date 1834. On the outside of the west wall is a memorial tablet:—“ In Memory of a man, an honour to his name, Lieut. Allan McNab, 92nd Regt., who, after serving his country in Holland, Portugal, and Spain, at last on the Field of Almeida, gloriously fell; 5 May, 1811. This stone has been erected by his affectionate cousin, Archibald McNab.” Of the stones in the general place of interment only two bear inscriptions.


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