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Clan MacDonald


CLAN DONALD derive their name from Donald of Islay, grandson of the mighty Somerled, King of the Isles and Lord of Argyll & Kintyre . The High Chiefs bore the patronymic "Mac Dhomnaill", (son of Donald) and by the 16th century this began to be used as a surname for the whole kindred. During the 13th and 14th centuries the Clan, as Lords of the Isles, were at the height of their power, and as Earls of Ross they also held Ross-shire and parts of Inverness-shire. After the ruin of their "Sea-Kingdom" in 1493 the leading branches of the old Macdonald royal house became separate chiefships: Clanranald, Glengarry, Sleat (Clan Donald North), Isla (Clan Donald South), Ardnamurchan, Keppoch, Glencoe and Loupe (MacAlister) During the 1500s, Clan Donald was at war with the Macleans over the trade route to Ireland and with the Macleods over lands in Skye. But by 1600 the Campbells emerged as Clan Donald South's most powerful enemy, driving them from Kintyre and Islay to survive in the Glens of Antrim where Sorley Buy has seized power after the death of his brother, and chief, James of Dunnyvaig. Their most notable victories over the Campbells came during Montrose's campaigns of the 17th century, when they routed the forces of Argyll at Inverlochy in 1645. Through the centuries the High Chiefship of Clan Donald has been a coveted title and the honour has passed between various houses defined de jure in the manner most expedient to those in power. Technicalities of inheritance have also played their part and clouded the issue - at one time, the chiefs of the various houses agreed to allow the 'turn of a coin' to decide who should be 'High Chief' when ere they met on official occasion. However, in 1947, Lyon Court recognised the claim of Alexander Godfrey, 7th Lord MacDonald of Sleat (a legal fiction) as High Chief. Clan Donald is divided into some nine independent branches whose historic chiefships subsist under the present High Chief. Godfrey James Macdonald of Macdonald, 8th Lord Macdonald. 

The MacDONALDS of ARDNAMURCHAN: Sometimes, and perhaps more correctly, referred to as the MacIans of Ardnamurchan because they trace descent from Iain Sprangach (John the Bold), the 3rd son of Angus Mor of the Isles, and brother of Bruce's ally, Angus Og. His early affiliations appear to have been with the English cause and it is uncertain whether his original grant of Ardnamurchan came from the 'puppet' Baliol, or from his illustrious brother. The MacIains supported the Macdonald Lordship of the Isles until it was forfeited to the Crown in 1493, and their early history is largely merged with that of the principal family. Alexander, 3rd Chief, is said to have been killed while fighting with the Islesmen at Harlaw in 1411, while his son, John, was present with Donald Balloch at Inverlochy in 1431, after which he was awarded lands in Islay and Jura which were later confirmed by one of many royal charters granted in 1499 to John, 6th Chief, whose treacherous deeds against the Macdonalds of Dunnyveg and Sir Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh, led to his death at the hands of his avenging kinsmen in 1518. The 8th Chief fought with his Clanranald kinsmen at Blar Leine in 1544 when Ranald Gallda was removed from the usurped chiefship of Clanranald. After the loss of their lands c.1618, through the duplicity of the Campbells, the fortunes of the Clan Iain declined until they were obliged seek their fortunes elsewhere in Scotland. Some became involved in piratical acts but, by 1625, many had settled in Moidart under Clanranald, while others migrated East to Badenoch.

THE MACDONALDS OF CLANRANALD descend from Ranald, 2nd son of 'Good John' of Islay, by his first wife, Amy MacRuari, heiress of her line. From his father he received a charter of the North Isles and Garmoran, with other lands in Sunart, Ardgour and Lochaber. And it is from Ranald that the House of Glengarry also trace descent. Alan, 2nd of Clanranald, fought at Harlaw in 1411, while his son, Ruairi, fought beside the famous Donald Balloch at Inverlochy in 1431. Dugall,the 6th Chief, proved so unpopular with his clan that in 1520 he was replaced by his uncle, Alexander - his issue must have been equally obnoxious to the clan for they were given lands in Morar in compensation. After Alexander's death c.1530 his son, John Moidartach (of Moidart), was forced to contest his inheritance with his father's half-brother, Ranald Gallda, who had usurped the chiefship while John was held prisoner in Edinburgh - by connivance between the state and other interested parties. When James V died in 1542 the Regent Arran released John who at once returned to lay claim to his title. The matter was settled at Blar Leine in 1544 where Ranald and his allies, the Frasers under their chief, were totally defeated. Ranald, Lovat, and his son, all perished. John regained the chiefship and possessions of Clanranald, including Castle Tioram in Moidart, which remained the ancestral seat until it was captured and garrisoned after Killiecrankie, and burned down shortly before 1715 - on Clanranald's orders - to prevent its re-use as a garrison by the Government forces. During the Civil War of the 17th century, the clan supported Montrose, and in 1689, Alan (14th Chief) was 'out' with Dundee at Killiecrankie - but was later killed at Sheriffmuir in Jacobite Rising of 1715. He was succeeded by his exiled brother Ranald, on whose death without issue, in 1725, the chiefship passed to his cousin, Donald of Benbecula, who became 16th of Clanranald. 

THE MacDONALDS (MacDONNELLS) of DUNNYVAIG and the GLENS are descended from John Mor Tanister, second son of "Good John of Islay", 1st Lord of the Isles, by his second marriage with the Princess Margaret, daughter of Robert II. By his marriage with Margery Bisset, heiress of the Seven Glens of Antrim he added these Irish territories to those he already possessed in Islay and Kintyre. He and his descendants became known as the Lords of Dunnyvaig (their seat in Isla) and the Glens (in Antrim). John Mor was assasinated by James Campbell, a government agent, in 1427. His son, Donald Balloch, 2nd Chief, fought and won the first Battle of Inverlochy in 1431, in support of his cousin, Alexander, 3rd Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross against the Royal forces under the Earls of Mar and Caithness, supported by the Camerons and Mackintoshes, who had earlier deserted the Lords of the Isles. The 3rd Chief, Sir John Mor with his heir, John Cathanach and three grandsons were apprehended through the treachery of MacIain of Ardnamurchan and executed in Edinburgh, for treason. On the death of James MacDonald, 6th of Dunnyvaig in 1565, the Antrim Glens were seized by one of his younger brothers, Somerled, known as Sorley Buy, whom James had made "Lord of the Route", for himself, thus severing his relations with the House of Dunnyvaig. Sorley Buy later swore allegiance to Elizabeth Tudor for the Glens and his son, Ranald (or Randal) was created Earl of Antrim in 1620 by James VI. Much quarrelling took place between Angus, 8th of Dunnyvaig, and his eldest son Sir James, largely due to the intrigues of the Campbells. Sir James fought and won the Battle of Gruinneart Strand on Isla in 1595 against an invasion force of MacLeans under their notorious chief Sir Lachlan Maclean of Duart, who was killed. Further Campbell intrigue brought about the downfall of Sir James and the House of Dunnyvaig and by 1620 they had lost control of Isla and Kintyre. Briefly, during the Wars of Montrose, Islay and Kintyre were again in the hands of Clan Iain Mhoir, or Clan Donald South, as they were known - to distinguish them from the MacDonalds of Sleat, Clan Donald North. Sir James MacDonald, last recognised chief of Clan Donald South, died in London (1626). 

MACDONALD OF GLENCOE: The Clan Iain Abrach are best remembered as the victims of the infamous massacre perpetrated in 1692, but their ancestry can be traced back to Iain 'Abrach' (from his fosterage in Lochaber), a natural son of Angus Og, the 14th century Chief of Clan Donald who fought with Bruce at Bannockburn. Tradition records that Iain's marriage to the daughter of the MacEanruig (MacHenry) 'head man' in Glencoe brought these lands to the Macdonalds. Ever a hostile environment, Glencoe bred a race of hardy men who were obliged, by the sparseness of the soil, to augment their larder by 'lifting' cattle from their neighbours, with such activities gaining them an unsavoury reputation. Their allegiance to the Stuart cause in the 17th century further riled the Government and, in 1692, their having failed to comply with the terms of an amnesty, a 'plot' was enacted to rid the Highlands of a 'troublesome brood'. Under Campbell of Glenlyon, a force of the Argyll Regiment was quartered on the unsuspecting clan and, on a given order some 14 days later, they began the slaughter of the ageing 'MacIain' and some 38 of his small clan. MacIain had intended to sign the oath of allegiance to King William but savage snow storms prevented him, and even though his attempt was known to the Government, the Earl of Stair as Secretary of State for Scotland, had made it clear that an example was to be made of the Glencoe MacDonalds. Many of the clan escaped the slaughter, only to perish in the surrounding hills for want of food or shelter. The Chief's sons escaped into the blizzards but the clan, though temporarily demoralised, recovered and took part in the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745-46. The tartan often sold as 'MacIain/MacDonald of Glencoe' is also sold as 'MacDonald of Ardnamurchan' - through the confusion of both being 'MacIains'. The pattern is first noted in a Glengarry portrait - present usage dates from a book dated 1842. Clan tradition dictates that the kindred should wear the TARTAN of 'Clan Donald' illustrated here as are the CREST and MOTTO. No Chief is now identified, and the Clan are represented by the High Chief of Clan Donald. 

THE MACDONALDS OF GLENGARRY are frequently known as MacDonnell of Glengarry, indeed there are various spellings of this name depending on the source (including 'Donel, 'Donnel, 'Donell) but all are descended from Donald of Knoydart, 2nd son of Ranald (progenitor of Clanranald). When the Lordship of the Isles was absorbed by the Crown in 1493 the unity of the MacDonalds failed and the branches were left as independent clans. Prolonged and extensive disputes regarding seniority and legitimacy ensued among the families of Clan Donald until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, when the title of 'Lord MacDonell and Aros' was bestowed on Eneas, 9th of Glengarry and heir to the line of Celestine of Lochalsh. Glengarry was recognised by the Government as Chief of Clan Donald, but the chiefship again fell dormant when he died in 1680 devoid of male issue and only the Glengarry chiefship passed to his cousin, MacDonald of Scotus. As representative of a fiercely Jacobite clan, the heir to the chiefship in 1745 was elected to carry an address of support to Prince Charlie in France, but was captured en route and held in the Tower of London for the duration of the Rising and, although the Chief remained aloof from any involvement, the clan under his 2nd son, Angus, gave an account of themselves second to none in the martial events of the time. Their contribution did not go un-noticed by 'Butcher' Cumberland and the Glengarry lands received considerable attention from his marauding troops. The extravagance of the 15th Chief, Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry, friend of Sir Walter Scott and subject of Raeburn's famous portrait, led to the sale of the ancestral lands but the now ruinous Invergarry Castle, the 'Well of the Heads' and the family burial ground remained with the family. His son (16th chief) emigrated with his family and many of his clan, but returned to settle in Knoydart. On the deaths of his two sons, the 17th & 18th chiefs, without issue, (the latter in 1868), the chiefship passed to Aeneas, 7th of Scotus.

THE MACDONALDS (MACDONELLS) OF KEPPOCH (also known as the Clan Ranald of Lochaber) descend from Alasdair 'Carrach' who was, in common with the progenitors of Clanranald and Glengarry, a son of 'Good John of Islay' de jure Lord of the Isles. Their lands lay mostly in Glen Spean and Glen Roy in Lochaber, which had been granted to Angus Og of the Isles in 1309. Alasdair was forfeited for his part in the insurrection of Donald Balloch in 1431, and by one of the complicated arrangements typical of the period, the Lord of the Isles granted these lands by charter in 1443, to Malcolm Mackintosh, Chief of Clan Chattan, though Keppoch retained superiority. This led to continuing feuds between the MacDonells and Mackintoshes which culminated in what was reputedly the last clan battle to be fought in the Highlands, that of Mulroy in 1688. The chief's patronymic 'Mac-ic-Raonuill' is derived from Ranald Mor, 7th of Keppoch, who took part, with his Clanranald kinsmen and Cameron of Lochiel, in the battle against Ranald Gallda, and the Frasers under Lovat at Blar Leine in 1544. Through the treachery of Mackintosh, Keppoch and Lochiel were betrayed and captured, and were executed in Elgin in 1547. In the civil wars of the 17th century the clan actively supported the Royalist cause under Donald Glas, 12th Chief, whose sons, Alexander and Ranald, became victims of the infamous Keppoch Murder in 1663. Coll, 16th of Keppoch, was 'out' with Dundee in 1689, and fought for the Jacobites in the Rising of 1715, while his son, Alexander, fell at Culloden in the Rising of 1745/6. Of the many Canadian lineages, more than one descend from Alasdair nan Cleas, 10th of Keppoch. The last Chief of Keppoch in the direct line died in 1889 and the chiefship of Keppoch is presently under adjudication at Lyon Court - as yet no decision has been given and the clan are presently represented by the High Chief of Clan Donald. CREST & MOTTO: Since no arms have been matriculated at Lyon Court for Keppoch there cannot in law be either crest or motto. 

THE MACDONALDS OF SLEAT, also known as "Clann Uisdein", or "Clan Donald North", derive from Hugh, who in 1469 received from his brother, the last Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross, a large grant of lands including those of Sleat in Skye with the ancient Castle of Dunscaith, still the "ancestral seat" of the present Sleat Chief and of Lord Macdonald. Dunscaith was abandoned in the late 16th century in favour of Duntulm Castle in Trotternish, a district in the north of Skye obtained by conquest from the MacLeods of Dunvegan. Ownership was contested until, in 1618, the matter was finally resolved in favour of Sir Donald Gorm Og, 8th Chief of Sleat, who was created a Baronet in 1625. Donald Gorm, 5th Chief, in 1539, made a final attempt to restore the Lordship of the Isles in his own person but was mortally wounded while attempting to capture Eilean Donan castle. The clan actively supported Montrose in the Civil Wars of the 17th century, and in 1689, fought under Dundee at Killiecrankie. The estates were forfeited for their part in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The lands were restored to Sir Alexander, 7th Baronet, and subsequently erected into the free Barony of Macdonald in 1727. Sir Alexander took no direct part in the 1745 Rising but, although in private he was a Jacobite sympathiser, both he and MacLeod of Harris allowed troops they had raised for the Hanoverian cause to commit outrages against other Jacobite lairds, but later turned a 'blind eye' while many clansmen aided Prince Charlie during his flight. The 9th Baronet, was created Lord Macdonald of Slate, in County Antrim, in 1776, (a legal fiction). Due to the matrimonial complications of the 3rd Lord, the MacDonald peerage passed to his second son, while the eldest took the name Bosville of Thorpe, whose Yorkshire estates had been inherited through the wife of the 1st Lord MacDonald. In 1910 Alexander Bosville of Thorpe successfully claimed the Nova Scotia Baronetcy of Sleat and became Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat, 14th Baronet and 22nd Chief of Sleat.


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