BADGE: Fraoch gorm (Sea vulgaris) common heath.
SLOGAN: Craig an fitheach.
PIBROCH: Failte Mhic Alastair, Cille chriosd, and Blar Sron.
is not many years since there lived in an old house with high-walled garden
in the heart of Rothesay, two old maiden ladies whose pride and regret were
that they were the last in this country of the great old house of the
MacDonells of Glengarry. They were women of noble appearance and strong
character, and one of them at least took a considerable part in public
affairs. Many stories regarding them were told in the town. Among these one
may be cited as characteristic. When the late Marquess of Bute, as a young
man, called upon them on the eve of his marriage to a daughter of the great
Roman Catholic house of Howard, it had become known that he was likely
himself to become a member of the Church of Rome. Of this proceeding the
Misses MacDonell did not approve, and they took the opportunity to inform
him that if he did enter the Roman Communion they would "no longer be
able to call at Mount Stuart." Among the treasures which the survivor
of them took delight in preserving was a tall Shepherds crook of hazel
which had been sent home to her by her nephew, the young Chief of the Clan
in Canada. That hazel staff represented the tragedy of the race, for after
the death in 1828 of the seventeenth Chief of Glengarry, who is said to have
been the model in part of Pergus Macivor in Sir Walter Scotts Waverley,
his impoverished successor, gathering together between 500 and 600 of
his clansmen, emigrated with them in a body to Canada, where they still
perpetuate the traditions of the race which had its headquarters on the
lovely shores of Loch Oich in the Great Glen.
On the shore of Loch Oich still stand the ruins of the noble and
picturesque ancient stronghold of Invergarry, which was the seat of the
chief. Among the many memories of its days of magnificence and hospitality,
the last is not the least striking. It was the day of his defeat at
Culloden, and Prince Charles Edward was in full flight before the "Red
Soldiers" of the Butcher Duke of Cumberland. Hungry and almost alone he
reached Invergarry, and was there entertained to a meal which consisted of a
brace of salmon which had been taken from the loch by the forester only an
hour or two before. That was the last hospitality which the noble old house
of Invergarry was to afford, for a few days afterwards the "Red
Soldiers" came ravaging down the loch, making the country of the clans
a desert with fire and sword, and by order of the Duke of Cumberland,
Invergarry Castle was burned to the ground.
Of the noble old race which had its home here the history is romantic in
the extreme. Like the other two great branches of the clan, the MacDonalds
of the Isles and of Clanranald, which contest with Glengarry the supreme
chiefship of the name, the MacDonells are directly descended from Reginald,
the younger son of the famous Somerled, King of the Isles in the twelfth
century. Their patronymic of MacDonald they took from Donald, the elder of
Reginalds two sons. A common ancestor of all three houses was Donalds
grandson, Angus Og, who supported King Robert the Bruce in the Wars of
Succession, entertained him in his castle of Dunavertie, at the south end of
Kintyre, when he was fleeing for safety to the Island of Rachryn, and on
whom in consequence Bruces grandson, King Robert II., bestowed the
territories of Morvern, Ardnamurchan, and Lochaber, forfeited by the
Macdougals, descendants of Somerleds elder son, who had sided with Baliol
and Comyn against the House of Bruce.
A privilege claimed by all the MacDonalds in common was the right to the
post of honour on the right in all Scottish armies on the day of battle.
This right, it is said, was conferred upon them by King Robert the Bruce in
recognition of the part they played on the field of Bannockburn, and the
ignoring of it, they declare, brought about the disastrous issues of the
battles of Harlaw and Culloden. On other occasions, as at Prestonpans and
Falkirk, when accorded their proper position on the right of the Scottish
armies, they performed prodigies of valour.
Angus Ogs son, John, first Lord of the Isles, had by his first
marriage three sons, John, Godfrey, and Ranald; and it is from the third of
these, who inherited Moidart and Glengarry, that the families of Glengarry
and Clanranald are descended. John of the Isles, however, repudiated his
first wife, married the Princess Margaret, a daughter of King Robert II.,
and settled the Lordship of the Isles upon his family by her. From her
second son John are descended the MacDonells, Earls of Antrim, and from her
third son Alexander, the MacDonalds of Keppoch. Of her eldest son, Donald of
the Isles, who fought the battle of Harlaw, the legitimate line seems to
have come to an end with John, fourth and last Lord of the Isles, who died a
beggar in Dundee or a monk at Paisley Abbey in 1498; and the later heads of
the house of the Isles are descended from Johns half brother, Hugh
MacDonald of Sleat.
[In the peerages, Celestine and Hugh, the elder brothers of the last Lord
of the Isles are described as illegitimate, but there is room to believe
that they may have been the offspring of hand-fast marriages. The evidence
on the subject is well recounted in an able work, MacDonald of the Isles,
by A. M. W. Stirling, published by John Murray, 1913, Appendix I."It
has been asserted both that Hugh was Alexanders son by his wife Elizabeth
Seton, and that his mother was a daughter of Gillepatrick Roy, a descendant
of the OBeolan Earls of Ross. So far as is known, the evidence in either
case is not conclusive. Nevertheless, there is every reason to regard him as
legitimate. In various charters, both Hugh of Sleat and Celestine of
Lochalsh are designed by John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, simply
as" frater," without any qualifying word, e.g., the charter
confirmed by James IV. in 1495 is granted to Carissimo fratri nostro
Hugoni Alexandri de Insulis Domino de Slete, and one of the witnesses is
Celestino de Insulis de Lochalch fratre nostro (Reg. Mag. Sig., Vol.
xiii., No. 186). A contrary opinion was at one time expressed in consequence
of Hugh and Celestine being designed by John,Earl of Ross and
Lord of the Isles, in a charter granted in 1470, as fratribus
carnalibus. But a fuller knowledge of ancient writs has rendered any
such inference of little or no value. Carnalis, it is now well known,
is frequently applied to persons whose legitimacy is not open to question. A
curious instance of the application of this word even to a brother uterine
may be noted.
"After the death of James I. of Scotland his widow, Joanna Beaufort
(daughter of the Earl of Somerset), was married in 1439 to Sir James
Stewart, known as the Black Knight of Lorn. They had three sons who were:
(1) John; (2) James, afterwards Earl of Buchan; (3) Andrew, who became
Bishop of Moray. These three were thus half-brothers to King James II. of
Scotland. The eldest, John, who was created Earl of Atholl on 25th March,
1459-60, received a charter of Balvany from King James II., fratri suo
Johanni Stewart comiti Atholia. Here it will be seen, he is simply styled
frater. On 18th March, 1481-82, in a re-grant of the Earldom of
Atholl from King James III., he is designed frater carnalis (not of the
blood royal) quondam progenitoris sui Jacobi secundi.
"The position, so far as is known, seems to be fairly stated by
Donald Gregory, in his History o/ the Western Highlands and Isles of
Scotland (1881 Ed., Vol. ii., pp. 40-1) as follows:
By his Countess, Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Seton, Lord of
Gordon and Huntly, Alexander, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, had issue,
John, his successor. He had likewise two other legitimate sons (but whether
by the same mother or not is uncertain), Celestine, Lord of Lochalche, and
Hugh, Lord of Sleatand he adds in a footnote: I call these sons
legitimate, notwithstanding that Celestine is called "Filius naturalis"
by Earl Alexander (Ch. in Ch. Chest of Macintosh, 1447) and "frater
carnalis "by Earl John (Reg. of Great Seal, vi., 116, 1463),
etc., etc. They are, however, both called "frater" without any
qualification by Earl John (Reg. of Great Seal, vi., 116; xiii., 186). The
history of Celestine and Hugh and their descendants. . . sufficiently shows
that they were considered legitimate, and that consequently the words "naturalis"
and "carnalis" taken by themselves, and without the adjunct "bastardus,"
do not necessarily imply bastardy. It is probable that they were used to
designate the issue of those handfast or left-handed marriages which appear
to have been so common in the Highlands and Isles. Both "naturalis"
and "carnalis" are occasionally applied to individuals known to be
legitimate in the strictest sense of the word. . . .
- "A further question which might have been of importance, viz., as
to the respective seniority of Hugh and Celestine, has now only an academic
interest, through the extinction in the male line of the family of Lochalsh."]
From these facts the reader can judge for himself of the justice of the
claims made by the heads of the three houses, of the Isles, Glengarry, and
Clanranald, to be supreme chief of the MacDonalds.
By way of evidence that their house was regarded as the head of the great
MacDonald race, the Glengarry family cite many facts. Among these is the
circumstance that in 1587, when the Scottish Parliament passed an Act for
the keeping of the peace in the Highlands, MacDonald of Glengarry and
Knoidart was made responsible for the peaceable behaviour of those of his
For a time Glengarry was regarded as the deer forest belonging to the
royal castle of Inverlochy, and the MacDonalds held as royal tenants, but
they afterwards obtained a crown charter. In the year of Flodden they took
part with MacDonald of Lochalsh in an attack on the royal castle of Urquhart,
on Loch Ness.
This connection led to one of the fiercest of the Highland feuds.
Alexander MacDonald, sixth Chief of Glengarry, married Margaret, daughter of
Sir Donald of Lochalsh, and when the latter died in 1519 he left half of his
estate, Lochalsh, Loch Carron, and Attadale, with Strome Castle, to the
pair. The other half was purchased by Mackenzie of Kintail. Soon the two
were at each others throats. Mackenzies forester in Glen Affaric
killed a Macdonald poacher. The MacDonalds in return murdered the brother of
Fionnla Dubh of Gairloch. The Mackenzies next trapped Glengarry himself at
Kishorn, slew his followers in cold blood, and seized his castle of Strome.
His uncles also were murdered with all their people except two sons.
Glengarry was released by the Privy Council, but the sons of his uncles grew
up to waste Applecross with fire and sword, while Glengarrys own son,
Angus Og, harried Kintail, killed every man, woman, and child he could find,
and drove a great spoil south to Glengarry. Mackenzie in return procured a
commission of fire and sword, and with seventeen hundred men harried the
MacDonald territory as far as Moray, and drove away the greatest spoil ever
seen in the Highlands. Angus Og retaliated by ravaging Glenshiel and
Letterfearn as far as Loch Duich, while his cousins again burned Applecross.
During the raid one of them, forsaken by his followers, set his back to a
rock and defended himself magnificently till a Mackenzie, climbing the rock,
hurled a boulder on his head. The feud came to an end with two of the most
famous incidents in Highland history. In November, 1602, Angus Og with
seventeen birlinns set out to harry Loch Carron. As he returned, in passing
through Kyle Akin he was attacked by a Mackenzie galley sent out from
Eileandonan by the heroic Lady of Kintail, his birlinn struck a rock and
capsized, and all his sixty warriors, with Angus Dubh himself, were slain.
The final event took place in the following year, when the MacDonalds
invaded Easter Ross, burned the church of Kilchrist with a party of
Mackenzies inside, while their pipers marched round the blazing pile playing
the tune which became the pibroch of the clan. But the lands of Loch Carron
and Lochalsh were lost to Glengarry.
AEneas the ninth Chief was out with Montrose in 1645 and for his pains
had his new house of Invergarry burned by General Monk; but was afterwards
compensated by Charles II. who made him Lord MacDonell and Aros. A notable
figure in the campaign was Ian Lom, the famous bard of the house of Keppoch.
At the battle of Inverlochy, in which the forces of Argyll were utterly
defeated and cut to pieces by the Royalist clansmen under Montrose, Ian Lom
placed himself on the battlements of the old castle to stimulate the
royalist clansmen and witness the incidents which he was afterwards to weave
into stirring verse. After the death of Montrose he composed a lament in his
honour. At the Restoration he became a sort of Highland poet laureate, and
was pensioned by Government. He lived to be present at the battle of
Killiecrankie in 1689, and to celebrate the triumph of the Highlanders in
his poem, "Rinrory." But perhaps the most striking episode in his
career was that which brought him into direct touch with the Glengarry
Chief. The incident has already been recounted in the article on the
MacDonalds of Keppoch.
In 1672, as Chief of the MacDonalds, Lord MacDonell and Aros was ordained
to find caution for the good behaviour of "the whole name and
clan." He died without issue in 1682, and the title accordingly became
extinct. At a later day, "James VIII.," the Old Chevalier, granted
a warrant for the restoration of the peerage, but as he never became king de
facto, this did not take effect. Only, since the date of the peerage the
family has adopted MacDonell as the spelling of its name.
Lord MacDonell and Aros was succeeded as chief by his cousin, Ranald of
Scotas. At the revolution in 1689, as befitted the tradition of his family,
the next chief, Alastair Dubh MacRanald, took the side of the Stewarts, and
commanded the clan at Killiecrankie. Lord Macaulay in his History describes
how, "at the head of one large battalion towered the stately form of
Glengarry, who bore in his hand the Royal Standard of James VII," Later
he was seen mowing down two men at every stroke of his broad sword. On that
occasion the Chiefs brother, Donald Gorm, performed heroic deeds, and,
when attacked by an overwhelming number of the red-coated soldiers, he
continued to catch their pikeheads in his target, and hew off the poles,
till at last he fell, when no fewer than twelve pikeheads were found fixed
in his buckler.
Glengarry himself afterwards reluctantly took the oath of allegiance to
William III. in 1691, and when that monarch and his successor, Queen Anne,
had passed away, the chief might have continued in allegiance to George I.
As a matter of fact, his name appeared first among the signatures to the
loyal address of the Highland chiefs, which was presented by the Earl of Mar
to the new king when he landed at Greenwich in 1714. But King George
slighted the document, and turned his back on the Earl. The latter,
thereupon, scenting danger to himself, fled disguised in a coaling vessel to
the north, and called the great meeting of the chiefs which became known as
the "Hunting of Mar." At the meeting at Braemar, Glengarry
attended to ascertain the Earls plans, and let him know what the
Highlanders were prepared to do for King James. At that time the clan could
furnish 800 fighting men, and Glengarry led them throughout the campaign and
fought at Sheriffmuir. For this he had his house burned down, and was so
reduced that he had to let his woods to an English company for iron
smelting. He was afterwards, in 1720, appointed a trustee for managing the
Chevaliers affairs in Scotland, and he died in 1724.
At the time of Prince Charles Edwards landing in 1745 the head of the
clan was one of the most ardent supporters of the Stewart cause. It was at
Invergarry that Prince Charles lay and gathered his forces on the night
before setting out to encounter General Cope at Corryarrack, and it was
here, as we have seen, that on the night after Culloden the Prince enjoyed
his first substantial meal, and for the political opinions and active
services of the chief, the house was presently given to the flames.
At Falkirk Angus MacDonald, the Chiefs second son, who led his
clansmen, was killed by the accidental discharge of a musket, and the
incident is said to have so discouraged the clansmen that they did not
regain their native spirit. At Culloden, as already mentioned, the
MacDonalds were not appointed to their usual place of honour on the right,
and in consequence stood sullenly aloof when the Highland army was ordered
to charge. Their leader, MacDonald of Keppoch, advancing alone, fell with
the bitter words on his lips, "Have the children of my tribe forsaken
me?" and MacDonell of Scotas, who was reckoned the bravest man of the
clan in the Princes army, and had fifty men under his command, fell with
his lieutenant, ensign, sergeant, corporal, and eighteen privates.
A very different personage was his elder son, Alastair Ruadh, who was to
succeed as thirteenth Chief of Glengarry nine years later. This is the
individual who remained known to posterity by the unenviable name of
"Pickle, the Spy." Like Murray of Broughton, who was the Princes
secretary, he lies under the suspicion of having played a double part from
first to last. In 1738, when he was perhaps thirteen years of age, the
estates being heavily burdened and the free income only £330 sterling, he
went to France, and in 1743 he joined Lord Drummonds regiment of Royal
Scots Guards in the French service. Before the landing of Prince Charles
Edward in Scotland in 1745, he was employed by the Highland chiefs on a
secret mission to the Prince. He was, however, captured by the English, and
imprisoned in the Tower of London from 1745 till 1747. Finally, from 1749
till 1754, when he succeeded as Chief of the Clan, he acted, under the
pseudonym of "Pickle," as a spy on the Prince. The whole history
of his exploits was in recent years brought to light in a volume by the late
Andrew Lang, under the title of "Pickle, the Spy." Alastair Ruadh
was one of the most polished men of his time, in outward appearance one of
the most chivalrous, and in reality perhaps the most unscrupulous. He was
probably the original of Stevensons " Master of Ballantrae."
At the time of the latest Jacobite rebellion the clan was reckoned to be
Duncan, the next chief, restored the family fortunes by marrying an
heiress and introducing sheep-farming on his estates, but his policy led to
the emigration of large numbers of his clansmen. From £700 per annum in
1761 his rental rose to £5,000 before the end of the century.
Not the least notable of the long line of Glengarry chiefs was his son,
the last who retained a footing in the Highlands, Alexander Ranaldson
MacDonell. A colonel, and major of the Glengarry Fencibles, he was an
enthusiastic upholder of the old Highland games, and gave prizes yearly to
the winners at the great sports at Inverness and Fort William. He set much
store upon keeping up the historic memories and feudal splendours of his
house. It was he who set up the monument at the Well of the Heads in 1812,
his own name being inserted upon it as "Colonel MDonell of
Glengarry, XVII. Mac-mhic-Alaister." When Gustavus, eldest son of the
King of Sweden, deposed in 1809, during his education in Edinburgh, made an
excursion to the district, "Glengarry awaited the Princes arrival at
the boundary of his property with a numerous following in full Highland
garb, with bagpipes, broadswords, and targets, and a barrel of whisky."
Likewise, when George IV. paid his visit to Edinburgh in 1822, Glengarry
took a body of his clansmen to the city, where they excited the wonder and
admiration of the people. In his youth he had killed in a duel a young
officer who at a county ball was a rival for the hand of Miss Forbes of
Culloden, and later in life he picked a quarrel with a doctor at Fort
Augustus who in consequence was severely mauled by his henchman. For this he
was fined £2,000. The Chief made a point of maintaining the dress
and style of living of his ancestors. He travelled with the Luchd-crios, or
body-guard, and when he took up his quarters at any house these were posted
as sentinels with military regularity. His death, alas! was tragic. The
steamer Stirling Castle, in which he was a passenger on a day in
1828, having run ashore opposite Fort William in Loch Linnhe, the Chief with
rash impetuosity leaped overboard, and was killed instantly on a rock. His
brother, Sir James MacDonell, who died in 1857, was a distinguished soldier
in the Napoleonic Wars. After fighting in Naples, Sicily, and Egypt, he took
part at the Peninsula, and was engaged at Waterloo. He afterwards commanded
in Canada for three years, became a general in 1854, and G.C.B. in 1855.
The lavishness of the seventeenth chief, Alexander Ranaldson, however,
left his son and successor in serious difficulties, and, in 1828, the estate
was sold to the Marquess of Huntly, from whom it passed successively to the
Earl of Dudley and to Honourable Edward Ellice. The Knoydart portion was
sold in 1853 to James Baird of Cambusdom.
Meanwhile, as already mentioned, the Chief transferred himself with a
large body of his clan to Upper Canada. For this enterprise the way had been
prepared by a very notable personage and member of the tribe, Alexander
MacDonell, first Roman Catholic Bishop of Upper Canada. Educated at the
Scots College at Valladolid, and ordained in 1777, this individual, while a
mission priest in his native district, helped to embody the clansmen into
the first Glengarry Fencibles, and when the regiment was disbanded in 1801
he obtained for the men a grant of land in Canada. There he again raised a
regiment of Glengarry Fencibles, which was of much service in Upper Canada
during the war with the United States in 1812. He himself organised the
colony, and carried on valuable missionary work there, being made Vicar
Apostolic of Upper Canada in 1819, and Bishop of Regiopolis or Kingston in
1826. He lived to see the young Chief come over with the body of his clan,
and at his death in 1840 was buried in his own Cathedral at Kingston.
The British public has of late been reminded of the existence of this
colony of pure-blooded Scottish Highlanders in Canada by the appearance of a
series of stories of Canadian life, of which the first and principal was
"The Man from Glengarry."
During the great war of 1914 not a few of the Canadian Highlanders, who
so magnificently played their part in the conflict, paid a visit to the
ancient stronghold of the MacDonells on Loch Oich, to view for themselves
the scene amid which the chiefs who prided themselves in the name of Mac-Mhic-Alaister
lived in feudal state, and to stand on the rocky headland of Creagan Nam
Fitheach, whose name was the slogan of the clan.
With the death of Charles Ranaldson MacDonell, the eighteenth Chief, in
1868, the line of the notorious Alastair Ruadh (Pickle the Spy) came to an
end. The successor to the chiefship was AEneas Ranald MacDonell of Scotas,
descendant of the brave MacDonell of Scotas who fell at Culloden, and
himself great-grandfather of the present Chief, British Vice-Consul at Baku
Septs of Clan MacDonell of Glengary: Alexander, Sanderson.