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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter XI. Ardnamurchan


ARDNAMURCIIAN forms one of the parishes of Inverness- shire, yet not an inch of the portion in that county formed a part of the original parish. The high-handed, uncalled for, and eccentric dismemberment of Inverness-shire by Lord Lorne in 1632, swept away to Argyleshire the whole ancient parish of Ardnamurchan, which comprehended most of a great peninsula, terminating at the point of Ardnamurchan, the western extremity of the mainland of Scotland, and commencing at a line connecting Loch Shiel and Loch Sunart, where these lochs approach nearest to each other. Ardnamurchan in Inverness-shire, as now divided, extends from Loch Shiel to Loch Morar, and was included in the Lordship of Gartmoran. Those of the original inhabitants who interest themselves in its past history love to call it and Knoydart, the "Rough Bounds" of old "Garbhcrioch," and it was possessed in especial by Clanranald, with its cadets of Morar, Glenalladale, and Kinlochmoydart, a handsome and warlike race.

Events in early life or circumstances at that period, insignificant perhaps in themselves, lay the basis for future action and conduct, and I may be pardoned for recording that to the circumstance of my visiting the Clanranald country during a memorable year much of my sympathy towards the poorer occupants of the Highlands and Islands in after life is due.

In the autumn of 1849 I, then a clerk in a law office, was sent on an errand of trust to South Morar. From the estate of Arisaig, and in particular from the Rhue, a great number of people had been evicted, who were either too late to be deported that year, or unwilling to emigrate. Mrs Macdonell, widow of Colonel Donald Macdonell of Scotos and mother of Eneas R. Macdonell of Morar, was then tenant of the farm of Traigh, South Morar, and in the extreme distress of the evicted people, allowed them to take shelter on her farm, prompted not only by her goodness of heart—for even amongst the universally hospitable denizens of the west Mainland, the Rhue family were conspicuous—but the fact that most of the people she knew thoroughly, her late father being at one time tenant of Rhue, and I rather think she was born there. I saw two things—the places from where the people had been removed, also where for a time they were sheltered, and being a makeshift in name of a temporary home, necessarily crowded, and with flimsy protection. Yet the people were so far contented, if not cheerful, blessing their benefactress, who scrimped herself and household for their relief. This I saw and do not forget, though nearly fifty years have since passed.

Another circumstance and I shall have done with personal reminiscences. On the journey in question, at the inn of Kinchreggan, the late Angus Macdonald of Glenalladale, who arid his predecessors so long lived in handsome style in the fine old house and place of Borrodale, met us and insisted on our dining at his house, as we would in any case be passing his door. I need not say that we were treated with true Highland hospitality, and were not allowed to leave until late, after hearing some exquisite music—vocal and instrumental—from the ladies, and having several "turns" on the floor of the particularly handsome drawing-room, The laird was specially genial, and could hardly be persuaded to abstain from remounting his pony and giving us a bit of Highland convoy in our progress to Traigh. Alas, alas, how Borrodale has fallen! The Glenalladales had to leave, and the Valuation Roll tells the world that the House of Borrodale is sub-divided, and presently tenanted by four retainers, paying rents of £12, £8, £4, and £3 respectively.

The oldest paper among my Clanranald collections is the service of John Macdonald vic Allan vic lain to his father Sir Donald vic Allan vic lain of Clanranald. The Inquest was held at Inverness on the i8th September, 1627, before Alexander Paterson, Sheriff-Depute; and John Dougall, merchant in Edinburgh; James Fraser of Keith- hill; James Fraser, burgess of Inverness; Andrew Fraser, merchant, burgess there; James Abraham, David Cuthbert, Thomas Robertson, James Cumming, and Alexander Abraham, all burgesses of Inverness; Robert Innes, Alexander Hood, and Patrick Hay, burgesses of Chanonry, and David Logan, burgess of Inverness, members of Inquest. The only lands on the mainland referred to, are 3 merks of Moydart, 7 rnerks of Arisaig, and the superiority of the 14 merks land of South Morar, all the other lands being in the Isles. The Retour shows that Sir Donald Macdonald was grandson of the famous John Macallister of Moydart (lain Muidartach) and that Sir Donald died in the month of December, 1619. The lands in Moydart consisted of 27 merks land, and those of Arisaig seem to have been divided into portions, one of 7 merks and the other of 24 merks of old extent. All the estates appear to have been held of the Earl of Argyll, but Ranald Macdonald was enrolled a freeholder in 1767; his son John, in 1789; and Ranald George Macdonald, son of John and late Cianranald, in 1809.

About 1805 the superiorities were purchased, and Clanranald shortly after began to give off freeholds, and to split his cess valuations. No regular rental seems to have been in possession of the family until the year 1798, when Ranald George Macdonald and his tutors followed out what was then common—the plan of establishing a "Judicial Rental;" that is, witnesses and officials deponed on oath what the rents in use to be paid were. Let us take the Arisaig rent, therefore, in its order-

The Church of Arisaig was at Kilmarie and is now an interesting ruin. The Church-yard might be better attended to as a whole, though some parts are very neat. Here the Morar family are buried. The Clanranalds of old were interred at Eileanfinnon, afterwards in Howmore, South Uist. There is notice of Elias, Parson of Arisaig as early as 1250, and mention made of various chaplains up to the Reformation.


I visited the grand ruin of Eilean Tyrim Castle in 1886, having the good fortune of such a cicerone as the late venerated and loved Father Charles Macdonald of Mingarry. His published account of the country, in which he so long lived, is most fascinating in its vivid description of places and people within the Rough Bounds. Peace to my deceased friend's ashes and respect to his memory! The Castle, said to have been built by Arnie nin Ruarie, who was buried at Eileanfinnon, witnessed many a scene. The name of Eilean Tyrim for a time gave the Clanranalds their designation, and under the name of "Tenandry of Castle Tyrirn" all the Clanranald lands were erected into a Barony, rendering one sasine at the Castle sufficient for the whole estate, including the outlying islands of Eigg and Canna. The Castle and a small portion of land still belongs to the family, and a good deal of the old estate could be and ought to be reclaimed by them. The walls of the Castle have been repaired and strengthened. On a voyage in 1892 from Drumindarroch in Arisaig, to Eilean Tyrim, we almost flew over the water, the wind being highly favourable. Next day, however, Morar's men had to row every yard, first to Eigg and thence to Ardyasser in Skye, the wind dead ahead and sails useless, occupying fourteen hours. Before the men, whose patience and good spirits I will never forget, could have reached their homes at Arisaig, after landing me at Ardvasser, they must have been seventeen hours at work. And yet the West Coast men are characterised as indolent and spiritless.

Ronald Macdonald of the '45 died in the autumn of 1776, and was succeeded by his son John, who did not live long, dying in 1794, leaving his son Reginald George in pupillarity. This Reginald George Macdonald had a long minority, and succeeded to a vast unembarrassed estate. The rent roll, from kelp and other sources, increased greatly, yet thoughtlessness, extravagance, and folly brought him to grief at an early age, so that by him the estates on the mainland and in the isles were sold. He will perhaps be best remembered from his controversy with Glengarry as to superiority in title, which now seems to readers so foolish, though the then combatants were desperately in earnest.

When the late Clanranald began to fall into financial difficulties, every step was taken to put up rents, and removals became common. I have not observed until about 18io any evictions of consequence, except one in 1780 when 13 heads of families—Donald Chisholm, Kenneth Macinnes, Alexander Maceachan, Andrew Macdonald, Donald Maceachan, Angus Macdonald, Ewen Gillies, Roderick Macdonald, Ranald Macdonald and Donald Macdonald were, with the exception of Chisholm, evicted from Ardnafuaran alone.

A younger son of Ronald Macdonald of the '45 named James was most unfortunate. In i8o6 he is described as 38 years of age, having a wife and son. He would therefore have been born in 1768. Partly educated in France, he entered the army an ensign in 1783, afterwards served as Lieutenant in the 19th Regiment, and raising his quota, was appointed a Captain in the 73rd, in 1791. He served in the East and West Indies, and received a dangerous wound in the head, the ball passing through his mouth and remaining in his neck. In 1803 he became Major of the 93rd, and latterly its Lieutenant-Colonel.

In 1805, On the voyage to Europe from the East Indies, he seems to have incurred the ill-will of Colonel Monypenny and some of the other officers, and he was tried by Court Martial in 1805 upon eight charges, the seventh being for unwarrantable and insulting language to the Adjutant of the 93rd in calling him "a damned villainous scoundrel." Colonel Monypenny, the real prosecutor, did not appear, though summoned as a witness by the accused. The Court seems to have been biassed, and by a majority found Colonel Macdonald guilty. His counsel were Mr William Adam and Mr Randle Jackson. He was infamously used, for though he alleged that Colonel Monypenny's presence was essential, a bogus certificate of sickness was accepted as a sufficient excuse for his absence, and delay of the trial until his recovery was refused.


The mainland cadets of Clanranald, Morar, Kinlochmoydart, and Glenaladale, were all strong Jacobites, and so intimately mixed up with the movements of Prince Charles from first to last that they are inseparably and most honourably connected with the Rising of the '45. Glenaladale fortunately stands stronger than ever, but it is much to be regretted that the name of Macdonald of Kinlochmoydart has but quite recently disappeared from among the landowners of Inverness-shire. The memoirs of Lochgarry stale that in the capture of Edinburgh, a notable event, the attacking detachment consisted of Lochiel, Glengarry, Keppoch, and Clanranald, and while Lochiel led his own clan, Lochgarry commanded Glengarry; Tirindiich, Keppoch; and Glenaladale, Clanranald. Lochgarry mentions with satisfaction that they obtained possession without the stroke of a sword.

In the Prince's wanderings after the battle of Culloden, Lochgarry notes—

"That after landing from Skye, at Mallaig, in July, most of Cumberland's army was detached, and a line made of them near the coast and parties put on every pass, so that it appeared impossible he (the Prince) could get through them undiscovered. At this time, H.R.H. had sent for or accidentally met with Macdonald of Glenaladale and two or three more, and luckily made their escape through the guards in the night time. They travelled two or three days through the hills, till at last Glenaladale lost knowledge of the ground, and knew not where he was going. They were then on the hills which march betwixt Glengarry and Seaforth, when luckily they met four Glengarry Macdonalds, who had been obliged to shun the enemy and take to the hills with their wives, children, and cattle. They, notwithstanding of their Prince's disguise, knew him, though he appeared quite a different person from what they had seen him at the head of his army ; and with tears in their eyes, they fell on their knees and thanked God that his Royal person was safe. They knew also Glenaladale, who told them he had lost his way and did not know where to go, and asked them which was the safest route for H.R.H. They immediately said they would abandon their wives and everything that was dear to them, and as they knew the hills, they would do what was in their power to find out for H.R.H. a safe lurking place, and bring H.R.H what provision the country can afford ; upon which they conducted H.R.H. to a cave, in one of the greatest hills in Scotland, within 15 or 16 miles of Cumberland's camp at Fort-Augustus. One of these four men vent day about for intelligence and necessaries for H.R.H., and so secret and cautious they were in their office that they never vent near their wives and families from the minute they met their Prince, and their poor wives concluded they were either killed, or taken by the enemy. They knew well the reward declared to give for apprehending or destroying H.R.H.; but all the bribes in the world could not make them betray that trust. I believe no other nation in the world can produce common men who would do the like. H.R.H. enquired if they could send one out and bring me to him. At this time the enemy lay behind me and them, and rendered it impossible for mc to cross over the waters, which were prodigiously high, by the great falls of rain about that time. There were three different attacks made upon me, as the enemy knew where I skulked. I faced them fairly every time, and beat them off, by which they lost several killed and wounded. This was but a small affair, but the only blood drawn from the enemy, after the battle of Culloden.

"The Prince had stayed between twenty days and a month in this cave, and by this time your four men who were with him got intelligence of this and where I skulked, upon which H.R.H. came directly near that place, and sent one of them for me. This was in August, I cannot remember the day of the month. I came directly where H.R.H. was, and was overjoyed to kiss his hand; it gave me new courage to see H.R.H. safe, and I really believed once I had the happiness to meet H.R.H. he would be afterwards safe in spite of his enemies. This night we had no kind of provision, but a wild deer one of your men killed near the hut. Next day Glenaladale kissed H.R.H. hand, took leave, and went home to his own house near the West Coast: H.R.H. entrusting him that in case there came ships from France, he should acquaint him, and give him a trace to find him, in case that happened."

In 1805, the total rental was, as would have been already seen, only about £130, but the Glenaladale estate is now large and valuable. From the sources of the Finnon to the march on Lochshiel side with Lord Howard, is an extensive stretch, and some of the mountains, particularly Ben Odhar mor, Ben Odhar beg, and Ben Chaoirinn, make a grand appearance, viewed on a clear autumn afternoon, from the Terraces of Torlundy.

The propriety of a late "outing" to Prince Charles' monument is open to question, but if it does good in calling attention to the renovation of the monument, it will have done some good. The needful restoration falls properly on the public, and it would be unfair to saddle this on the Glenaladales. [Since the above was written, it has been announced that Glenaladale has, much to his credit, undertaken to do what is necessary.]

I subjoin a copy of one of Mr Alexander Macdonald's letters, not that it is of the least interest in itself, but as coming from the true hearted gentleman who, 86 years ago, erected this monument, which has been visited by thousands, and oft depicted by pen and pencil. Alexander was cut off in the flower of his age, in 1814, aged 28 years:-

Drimnin House, 28th October, 1809.

"Dear Sir,—Would you have the goodness to pay the enclosed sum to the collector of the cess.

"I shall be answerable for the same amount to your order at Dalness on demand.

"Having no convenient way of remitting the within mentioned sum to Inverness induces me to put you to this trouble.

"My mother unites in best wishes and believe me always, dear sir, your obedient servant. (Signed) ALEXR. MACDONALD."

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