On the 13 September 2006 in
the heart of the Highlands of Scotland, an ancient historic ceremony was
re-enacted, when Ranald Alasdair MacDonald of Keppoch was publicly
recognised as the Chief of the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber Mac Mhic
What was important about
this event, was the fact that there was no officially recognised chief of
the clan since the demise of the last chief in 1848, although Raonuill's
great great-grandfather Raonuill Mor MacDonell was accepted as Chief by
his clan in the duthchas, of Lochaber, that is, the clan territory, at
that time. However, Raonuill Mor simply accepted his hereditary title, and
did not consider it necessary to rematriculate his Arms, or indeed his
Letters Patent in Lyon Court.
Raonuill set out to
complete the protocol. However, to enable him to do that he had to prove
beyond any doubt that he was heir to his great great-grandfather Raonuill
Mor MacDonell 22nd Chief of the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber Mac
Mhic Raonuill. That involved deep research into primary sources, held by
his family and in the State Records in Register House in Edinburgh. He
was also given assistance through the archivist in Fort Augustus Abbey,
where an earlier Abbot had undertaken personal scholastic research into
both the Glengarry line and the Keppoch line of Chiefs. Aeneas MacDonald,
the Abbot concerned, was a Glengarry clansman but was also connected
through the bloodline of the Keppoch MacDonald clan. He had therefore a
dual-interest. His complete personal file was put at the disposal of
Raonuill, to enable him to substantiate his claim to the Chiefship of
Keppoch, not just by the ancient oral tradition, but by written testimony
from the family archives. That is what was
demanded of him by the Lord Lyon.
During Raonuill's 32 years
of research, he uncovered substantial evidence to fully back his claim.
In achieving that, he had the expert help and guidance of the leading
Gaelic scholars in Scotland. The late Reverend Norman MacDonald Emeritus
Minister of Glenelg/Kintail, Rosshire, Corresponding Member of the Royal
Gustavus Academy Sweden, author of the 3rd Statistical Account of that
district, archived in National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge
Edinburgh, Life Member of the Clan Donald Society, direct descendant of
the Jacobite Chief of Sleat, Sir James MacDonald. He was held in high
esteem by Clan Donald, because of his Gaelic expertise, as this was his
native language, and his expert knowledge on Clan Donald History.
Professor William Gillies,
Gaelic Scholar and Head of the Gaelic Department School of Scottish
Studies, Edinburgh University, and Dr David Sellar Edinburgh University
Civil Law and the present authority on sloinneachan, that is, Highland
pedigrees in the Highlands of Scotland, both testified to the authenticity
of Raonuill's claim by supplying the Court of the Lord Lyon with
Mr Hugh Peskett
world-famous Genealogist researched Raonuill's pedigree over an 18 year
period, and produced the written proof to substantiate his claim. And,
finally, on the 30 January 2004 the highest court in Scotland, the Court
of Session, Edinburgh, heard the evidence presented to it by Sir Crispin
Agnew of Lochnaw QC.Bt., and the three senior judges sitting together at
that date, unanimously upheld Raonuill's legal right to the Chiefship of
the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber Mac Mhic Raonuill. As a matter of
interest, Mac Mhic Raonuill is a Gaelic Title, meaning The Son of Ranald's
Son, and is the official title of the Chiefs of the MacDonalds of Keppoch
of the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber. Only such a Chief can ever use
that title. Raonuill's family retained the shortened version of that title
in the family from generation to generation. A Gaelic Highland Chiefship
sloinneachan normally runs to 7 or eight generations. In some cases, a
shortened version is maintained by a family of the direct line for
practical purposes when naming the next in line. Usually, the important
ancestor heads the top of the sloinneadh. When a shortened version is
retained by a family, the first and the last named are always retained.
Raonuill's sloinneachan fulfils both requirements.
His line was legitimate
from start to finish, and as previously stated was recognised, as such by
the highest court in Scotland and then ratified by Lord Lyon. There can be
no argument against that whatsoever!
Raonuill's inauguration was
hosted by the Highland Council of Lochaber in their Council Chambers in
Fort William in Lochaber the clan duthchas, where a wonderful warm
Highland welcome was given to him, his clansmen, friends and supporters.
It was very well supported by all concerned. They travelled far and wide
to be there on the day, from Reno, Nevada U.S.A. from Ireland and from
various areas of Scotland. The clansmen from Donegal in Eire donned full
Highland plaid as well all the main supporters, Chieftains and family
The Keppoch Chieftains
donned the Ancient Keppoch Tartan worn by the Keppoch Clan at Culloden.
Their skeletons dug up from makeshift graves, had a faded version of that
tartan clinging to their bones. Those remains were dug up and re-interred
at a selected spot on the battlefield of Culloden, where they remain today
under the commemorative stone erected over their grave.
This stone is known as "The
Keppoch Stone" and details of that notorious battle are inscribed on its
face. Clansmen from all across the diaspora come to pay their respects and
honour those brave intrepid warriors, and a commemorative ceremony is held
The Convener of Highland
Council, Lochaber Mrs Olwyn MacDonald JP made a short welcoming speech to
which the Chief replied.
The ritual went very
smoothly. The Keppoch Bard Gilleasbuig MacLachlain 'ic Ill'easbuig 'ic
Lachlain 'ic Ill'easbuig recited the new Chief's sloinneachan going back
to Righ an Domhain, literally King of the Universe his eponymous. The
renowned fighter fought for the sheer love of fighting, for fighting
was the breath of life to him. He conquered the whole of Europe, from the
Middle East to the Atlantic coast of Spain, and gave ample proof that
mere possession of territories was not so much his objective as the sheer
thrill conquest, for he and his conquering armies never settled down for
length of time to enjoy the fruits of victory and consolidate their gains.
They had to be forever on the march conquering and to conquer. The mantle
of the great warrior who made mighty Rome tremble on its foundations, fell
on his descendants on almost every clime and age known to history."
Quotation from the late Reverend Norman MacDonald. And from him descended Conn Ceud Cathach 123AD - 173AD, literally Conn of the Hundred Battles
fame, generation by generation, through Mighty Somerled Rex Insularum, who
cleared Scotland from the Vikings, and for his bravery was murdered in his
tent at the so-called Battle of Renfrew in C1164 right down to Raonuill
The Bard then administered
the clan oath to the Chief and his clansmen. After which, Sir Crispin
Agnew of Lochnaw QC.Bt., read from the Chief's Ensigns Armorial & his
Coat of Arms, granted by and signed by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms in
Scotland. The Chief held his framed Letters Patent & Coat of Arms aloft
for all present to see. Afterwards it was placed on the Chief's
presentation table before him, so that everyone present could see and read
at closer inspection.
The Chief was then
presented with special dram of uisge bheatha,Gaelic (whisky) in a silver
cuach, Gaelic (a drinking cup). He thanked Mrs Olwyn Macdonald, JP.
Convener of the Highland Council of Lochaber, raised it in front of his
clansmen, family, friends and supporters and in a strong passionate voice
quoted his clan motto "Dia 'S Naomh Aindrea! Then drank deeply of the
"Water of Life".
The Chief then made a
further short prepared speech, in which he thanked the Committee and Staff
of Highland Council, all his clansmen, friends and supporters, those
present and those absent. This included the late Dr John E MacLennan Brain
Surgeon, Reno Nevada, Chief of the MacLennans of Glenelg & Kintail Obit
2004, his lady Barbara, and all their family, for their long and loyal
support and encouragement since 1977. And the continuing support of his
son Dr Jon G MacLennan heir to the Chiefship of the Clan MacLennan of
Glenelg & Kintail.
The Chief included his own
son Chieftain Raonuill Mor who travelled over from Reno, Nevada with his
grandson and fiancée Erin Albright, daughter of Judge Albright, Reno. And
all those present who had also travelled from various parts of Scotland
and Ireland. He thanked God Almighty for his long support retained in his
motto "Dia 's Naomh Aindrea!" Gaelic meaning "God and St. Andrew!" and
last though not least, his beautiful loving wife, loyal and ardent
supporter over the long 32 years of "a few obstacles and some minor
John C Hutchison JP.
Temporary Sheriff Area Manager Lochaber was introduced to the audience. In
honour of the Chief and of the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber, he sang
in Gaelic, the epic poem "Latha Inbhir Lochaidh" - "The Day of Inverlochy"
or Battle of Inverlochy c1645 composed by the famous Keppoch Bard, Iain
Lom MacDonald of Keppoch, Gaelic Poet Laureate, the title being bestowed
by King Charles II, and the only Gaelic Poet Laureate ever created in
Scotland by a Scottish and British Monarch.
The Chief then presented
Convener Olwyn Macdonald JP. with a present of seven inscribed and signed
copies of the history book, "Six Millennia of the Irish & Scottish
Highlanders" by Robert Bruce MacColla MacNial MacIntyre, Seanachaidh and author
from his restricted publication of 250 copies of this very fine history of
the origin of the Gael. They were sent by airmail from Oklahoma U.S.A. by
the author for that purpose. An excellent review of his book has been sent
to the author by the University of Guelph, Ontario, by one of their top
professors of the department of Scottish Studies in that university. This
in turn has been sent to the Highland Council of Lochaber. An ideal gift
for the Highland councillors. And a handsome gift in return for their
excellent Highland hospitality.
The ceremony was concluded
at 6pm, and the rest of the evening was spent in celebration in the
Alexandra Hotel Fort William, where everyone had a great time, meeting
family members and friends that they had not seen for many years, and some
for the first time ever. Memories were shared and renewed contacts for the
future. The Gaelic clann means family "And that is what clan is all
about!". This is an exact quotation from the Chief's address to the
audience at his inaugural ceremony.
Only one small incident
occurred, that was reported to the new Chief of the Honourable Clan Ranald
of Lochaber by his piper Connell MacBride, at the celebrations in the
hotel in the evening. Apparently, a disaffected, broken clansman, who had
hoped to become known as the Chief of the MacDonalds of Keppoch, had
unbeknown to the Chief, arranged for a live interview broadcast by BBC
Radio programme "Good Morning Scotland" on the very morning of the Chief's
inauguration. He has made libellous accusations, which are actionable and
will be addressed by the Chief, Mac Mhic Raonuil, as he has been
offered, and has accepted, an opportunity by BBC "Good Morning Scotland"
to redress the balance of that scurrilous unfounded libellous statement by
the person involved. Ironically, the person Rory Macdonald of Blarour,
Speanbridge, Lochaber, has no basis of a legal claim to the Chiefship of
Keppoch, being descended from Sliochd an taighe Iain dubh Bohuntin, and is
barred as a result. That line being illegitimate!
The new Chief Ranald
Alasdair MacDonald of Keppoch, has made it perfectly clear, that any
member of his clan, is free and welcome to contact him directly though
the clan web site, that he has posted online for that purpose. It also
gives the names of the official branches and Septs of the clan, as well as
a short history and other useful information. His URL is
three sons left to right, Chieftains, Raonuill Mor, Alasdair Raonuill,
Coinneach Mor Og.
Children, left to right, Raonuill Og son of Raonuill Mor, Calum Beag, son
of Alasdair Raouill.
three bloodline nephews, Chieftains George McNeilage on right talking to
John Wilson Laird of Kilwinnet, Ayrshire, left foreground, Chieftain David
McGonagle, Behind him, Chieftain John McNeilage.
Highlander in background, Hugh MacDonald Finlaggan, Retired Editor of the
Glasgow Herald F.S.A (Scotland) Gaelic Scholar, Member of Clan Donald.
Chieftains, Left to right, Coll Seamus, Alasdair Raonuill.
Presentation of Chief's Ensigns Armorial by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw
Rothesay Herald on behalf of Lord Lyon King of Arms.
speech by Councillor Olwyn Macdonald JP, Convener, Highland Council
The Lochabar Axe
speech by Councillor Olwyn Macdonald JP, Convener, Highland Council
Here is the Dais shot from the inauguration with Mac
Mhic Raonuill's caption of who's included in the shot as he makes his
At Left of dais, David McGonagle Chief’s Bannerman.
On dais: Left to
right, Coinneach Mor Og Chief’s heir presumptive. Lady Margaret
MacDonald of Keppoch, Chief’s lady. Mrs Olwyn Macdonald JP. Convener
Highland Council Lochaber. Mac Mhic Raonuil. Sir Crispin Agnew of
Lochnaw QC.Bt. Rothesay Herald Lyon Court, Chief’s Council, Hugh Peskett
Chief’s Genealogist Burke’s Peerage, David Brittain Chief’s Lawyer.
Back row: Archibald MacPherson Clan Bard, Alasdair Ranald MacDonald
Clan Sword-bearer, son of Chief (hidden) next to him Ranald Mor Master
of Ceremonies, son of Chief, next to him Coll MacDonald Clan
Sword-bearer, son of Chief, (hidden) next to him at end of row, Stanley
F Drake, Clan Limner (Heraldic Artist) brother in law of Chief.