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Ranald Alasdair MacDonald of Keppoch
Inauguration of the Chief of the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber Mac Mhic Raonuill

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 Raonuill.

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 supporting affidavits.

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 members.

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 there annually.

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 himself.

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 difficulties".

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

My 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.

Chief's 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 QC. Bt.,
Rothesay Herald on behalf of Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Welcoming speech by Councillor Olwyn Macdonald JP, Convener, Highland Council Lochaber

The Lochabar Axe

Welcoming speech by Councillor Olwyn Macdonald JP, Convener, Highland Council Lochaber

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 speech.

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.

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