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The Glengarry Branch of the MacDonalds

The GLENGARRY branch of the Macdonalds spell their name MACDONNELL. The word Dhonvill, whence the name Donald is derived, is said to signify "brown eye." The most proper way, says Mr Gregory, of spelling the name, according to the pronunciation, was that formerly employed by the Macdonalds of Dunvegan and the Glens, Who used Macdonnell. Sir James Macdonald, however, the last of this family in the direct male line, signed Makdonnall.

The family of Glengarry are descended from Alister, second son of Donald, who was the eldest son of Reginald or Ranald (progenitor also of the Clanranald), youngest son of John, lord of the Isles, by Amy, heiress of MacRory. Alexander Macdonnell, who was chief of Glengarry at the beginning of the 16th century, supported the claims of Sir Donald Macdonald of Lochalsh to the lordship of the Isles, and in November 1513 assisted him with Chisholm of Comer, in expelling the garrison and seizing the castle of Urquhart in Loch Ness. In 1527 the Earl of Argyll, lieutenant of the Isles, received from Alexander Macranald of Glengarry and North Morar, a bond of manrent or service; and 1545 he was among the lords and barons of the Isles who, at Knockfergus in Ireland, took the oath of allegiance to the king of England, "at the command of the Earl of Lennox." He married Margaret, eldest daughter of Celestine, brother of John Earl of Ross, and one of the three sisters and coheiresses of Sir Donald Macdonald of Lochalsh. His son Angus or AEneas Macdonnell of Glengarry, the representative, through his mother, of the house of Lochalsh, which had become extinct in the male line on the death of Sir Donald in 1518, married Janet, only daughter of Sir Hector Maclean of Dowart, and had a son, Donald Macdonnell of Glengarry, styled Donald Mac-Angus MacAlister.

In 1581 a serious feud broke out between the chief of Glengarry, who had inherited one half of the districts of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, and Lochbroom in Wester Ross, and Colin Mackenzie of Kintail, who was in possession of the other half. The Mackenzies, having made aggressions upon Glengarry's portion, the latter, to maintain his rights, took up his temporary residence in Lochcarron, and placed a small garrison on the castle of Strone in that district. With some of his followers he unfortunately fell into the hands of a party of the Mackenzies, and after being detained in captivity for a considerable time, only procured his release by yeilding the castle of Lochcarron to the Mackenzies. The other prisoners, including several of his near kinsmen, were put to death. On complaining to the privy council, they caused Mackenzie of Kintail to be detained for a time at Edinburgh, and subsequently in the castle of Blackness. In 1602, Glengarry, from his ignorance of the laws, was, by the craft of the clan Kenzie, as Sir Robert Gordon says,easalie intrapped within the compass thereof," on which they procured a warrant for citing him to appear before the justiciary court at Edinburgh. Glengarry, however, paid ni attention to it but went about revenging the slaughter of two of his kinsmen, whom the Mackenzies had killed after the summons had been issued. The consequence was that he and some of his followers were outlawed, and Kenneth Mackenzie, who was now lord of Kintail, procured a commission of fire and sword against Glengarry and his men, in virtue of which he invaded and wasted the district of North Morar, and carried off all the cattle. In retaliation the Macdonalds plundered the district of Applecross, and, on a subsequent occasion, they landed on the coast of Lochalsh, with the intention of burning and destroying all Mackenzie's lands, as far as Easter Ross, but their leader, Allaster MacGorrie, having been killed, they returned home. To revenge the death of his kinsman, Angus Macdonnell, the young chief of Glengarry, at the head of his followers, proceeded north to Lochcarron, where his tribe held the castle of Strone, now in ruins. After burning many of the houses in the district, and killing the inhabitants, he loaded his boats with the plunder, and prepared to return. In the absence of their chief, the Mackenzies, encouraged by the example of his lady, posted themselves at the narrow strait or kyle which separates Skye from the mainland, for the purpose of intercepting them.. Night had fallen, however, before they made their appearance, and taking advantage of the darkness, some of the Mackenzies rowed out in two boats towards a large galley, on board of which was young Glengarry, which was then passing the kyle. This they suddenly attacked with a volley of musketry and arrows. Those on board in their alarm crowding to one side, the galley overset, and all on board were thrown into the water. Such of them as were able to reach the shore were immediately despatched by the Mackenzies, and among the slain was the young chief of Glengarry himself. the rest of the Macdonnells, on reaching Strathaird in Skye, left their boats, and proceeded on foot to Morar. Finding that the chief of the Mackenzies had not returned from Mull, a large party was sent to an island near which he must pass, which he did next day in Maclean's great galley, but he contrived to elude them, and was soon out of reach of pursuit. He subsequently laid siege to the castle of Strone, which surrendered to him, and was blown up.

In 1603, "the Clanranald of Glengarry, under Allan Macranald of Lundie, made an irruption into Brae Ross, and plundered the lands of Kilchrist, and others adjacent, belonging to the Mackennzies. This foray was signalized by the merciless burning of a whole congregation in the church of Kilchrist, while Glengarry's piper marched round the building, mocking the cries of the unfortunate inmates with the well-known pibroch, which has been known, ever since, under the name of Kilchrist, as the family tune of the Clanranald of Glengarry." Eventually, Kenneth Mackenzie, afterwards Lord Kintail, succeeded in obtaining a crown charter to the disputed districts of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, and others, dated in 1607.

Donald MacAngus of Glengarry died in 1603. By his wife, Margaret, daughter of Alexander Macdonald, Captain of Clanranald, he had, besides Angus above mentioned, two other sons, Alexander, who died soon after his father, and Donald Macdonnell of Scothouse.

Alexander, by his wife, Jean, daughter of Allan Cameron of Lochiel, had a son, ’neas Macdonnell of Glengarry, who was one of the first in 1644 to join the royalist army under Montrose, and never left that great commander, "for which," says Bishop Wishart, "he deserves a singular commendation for his bravery and steady loyalty to the king, and his peculiar attachment to Montrose." Glengarry also adhered faithfully to the cause of CharlesII., and was forfeited by Cromwell in 1651. As a reward for his faithful services he was at the Restoration created a peer by the title of Lord Macdonnell and Aross, by patent dated at Whitehall, 20th December 1660, the honours being limited to the heirs male of his body. This led him to claim not only the chiefship of Clanranald, but likewise that of the whole Clandonald, as being the representative of Donald, the common ancestor of the clan: and on 18th July 1672, the privy council issued an order, commanding him as chief to exhibit before the council several persons of the name of Macdonald, to find caution to keep the peace.

The three branches of the Clanranald engaged in all the attempts which were made for the restoration of the Stuarts. On 27th August 1715, Glengarry was one of the chiefs who attended the pretended grand hunting match at Braemar, appointed by the Earl of Mar, previous to the breaking out of the rebellion of that year. After the suppression of the rebellion, the chief of Glengarry made his submission to General Cadogan at Inverness. He died in 1724. By his wife, Lady Mary Mackenzie, daughter of the third Earl of Seaforth, he had a son, John Macdonnell, who succeeded him.

In 1745, six hundred of the Macdonnells of Glengarry joined Prince Charles, under the command of Macdonnell of Lochgarry, who afterwards escaped to France with the prince, and were at the battles of Preston, Falkirk, and Culloden. The chief himself seems not to have engaged in the rebellion. He was however arrested, and sent to London.

General Sir James Macdonnell, G.C.B., who distinguished himself when lieut.-col. in the guards, by the bravery with which he held the buildings of Hougomont, at the battle of Waterloo, was third son of Duncan Macdonnell, Esq. of Glengarry. He was born at the family seat, Inverness-shire, and died May 15, 1857.

Colonel Alexander Ranaldson Macdonnell of Glengarry, who, in January 1822, married Rebecca, second daughter of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, baronet, was the last genuine specimen of a Highland chief. His character in its more favourable features was drawn by Sir Walter Scott, in his romance of Waverley, as Fergus MacIvor. He always wore the dress and adhered to the style of living of his ancestors, and when away from home in any of the Highland towns, he was followed by a body of retainers, who were regularly posted as sentinels at his door. He revived the claims of his family to the chiefship of the Macdonalds, styling himself also of Clanranald. In January 1828 he perished in endeavouring to escape from a steamer which had gone ashore. As his estate was very much mortgaged and encumbered, his son was compelled to dispose of it, and to emigrate to Australia, with his family and clan. The estate was purchased by the Marquis of Huntly from the chief, and in 1840 it was sold to Lord Ward (Earl of Dudley, Feb. 13, 1860,) for œ91,000. In 1860 his lordship sold it to Edward Ellice, Esq. of Glenquoich, for 120,000.

The principal families descended from the house of Glengarry, were the Macdonnells of Barrisdale, in Knoydart, Greenfield, and Lundie.

Learn more about this clan

Clan MacDonald Index


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