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The Clan Ranald of Lochaber


The MACDONALDS of GARRAGACH and KEPPOCH, called the CLAN RANALD of LOCHABER, were descended from Alexander, or Allaster Carrach, third son of John, Lord of the Isles, and Lady Margaret Stewart. He was forfeited for joining the insurrection of the Islanders, under Donald Balloch, in 1431, and the greater part of his lands were bestowed upon Duncan Mackintosh, captain of the clan Chattan, which proved the cause of a fierce and lasting feud between the Mackintoshes and the Macdonalds. It was from Ranald, the fourth in descent from Allaster Carrach, that the tribe received the name of the Clanranald of Lochaber.

In 1498, the then chief of the tribe, Donald, elder brother of Allaster MacAngus, grandson of Allaster Carrach, was killed in a battle with Dougal Stewart, first of Appin. His son John, who succeeded him, having delivered up to Mackintosh, chief of the clan Chattan, as steward of Lochaber, one of the tribe who had committed some crime, and had fled to him for protection, rendered himself unpopular among his clan, and was deposed from the chiefship. His cousin and heir-male presumptive , Donald Glas MacAllaster, was elected chief in his place. During the reign of James IV., says Mr Gregory, this tribe continues to hold their lands in Lochaber, as occupants merely, and without a legal claim to the heritage. In 1546 Ranald Macdonald Glas, who appears to have been the son of Donald Glas MacAllaster, and the captain of the clan Cameron, being present at the slaughter of Lord Lovat and the Frasers at the battle of Kinloch-lochy, and having also supported all the rebellions of the Earl of Lennox, concealed themselves in Lochaber, when the Earl of Huntly entered that district with a considerable force and laid it waste, taking many of the inhabitants prisoners. Having been apprehended by William Mackintosh, captain of the clan Chattan, the two chiefs were delivered over to Huntly, who conveyed them to Perth, where they were detained in prison for some time. They were afterwards tried at Elgin for high treason, and being found guilty, were beheaded in 1547.

Allaster MacRanald of Keppoch and his eldest son assisted Sir James Macdonald in his escape from Edinburgh Castle in 1615, and was with him at the head of his clan during his subsequent rebellion. On its suppression, he fled towards Kintyre, and narrowly escaped being taken with the loss of his vessels and some of his men.

In the great civil war the Clanranald of Lochaber were very active on the king's side. Soon after the Restoration, Alexander Macdonald Glas, the young chief of Keppoch, and his brother were murdered by some of their own discontented followers. Coll Macdonald was the next chief. Previous to the Revolution of 1688, the feud between his clan and the Mackintoshes, regarding the lands he occupied, led to the last clan battle that was ever fought in the Highlands. The Mackintoshes having invaded Lochaber, were defeated on a height called Mulroy. So violent had been Keppoch's armed proceedings before this event that the government had issued a commission of fire and sword against him. After the defeat of the Mackintoshes, he advanced to Inverness, to wreak his vengeance on the inhabitants of that town for supporting the former against him, if they did not purchase his forbearance by paying a large sum as a fine. Dundee, however, anxious to secure the friendship of the people of Inverness, granted Keppoch his own bond in behalf of the town, obliging himself to see Keppoch paid 2000 dollars, as a compensation for the losses and injuries he alleged he had sustained from the Mackintoshes. Keppoch brought to the aid of Dundee 1000 Highlanders and as Mackintosh refused to attend a friendly interview solicited by Dundee, Keppoch, at the desire of the latter, drove away his cattle. We are told that Dundee " used to call him Coll of the cowes, because he found them out when they were driven to the hills out of the way." He fought at the battle of Killiecrankie, and, on the breaking out of the rebellion of 1715, he joined the Earl of Mar, with whom he fought at Sheriffmuir. His son, Alexander Macdonald of Keppoch, on the arrival of Prince Charles in Scotland in 1745, at once declared for him, and at a meeting of the chiefs to consult as to the course they should pursue, he gave it as his opinion that as the prince had risked his person, and generously thrown himself into the hands of his friends, they were bound, in duty at least, to raise men instantly for the protection of his person, whatever might be the consequences.

At the battle of Culloden, on the three Macdonald regiments giving way, Keppoch, seeing himself abandoned by his clan, advanced with his drawn sword in one hand and his pistol in the other, but was brought to the ground by a musket shot. Donald Roy Macdonald, a captain in Clanranald's regiment, followed him, and entreated him not to throw away his life, assuring him that his wound was not mortal, and that he might easily rejoin his regiment in the retreat, but Keppoch, after recommending him to take care of himself, received another shot, which killed him on the spot. There are still numerous cadets of this family in Lochaber, but the principal house, says Mr. Gregory, if not yet extinct, has lost all influence in that district. Latterly they changed their name to Macdonnell.


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