Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

MacDonells of Barisdale

It is but right that the Gaelic Society of Inverness should, with other objects, endeavour to preserve memorials of families in the Highlands once of importance, who, from lapse of time, have been scattered or become extinct.

The two most important offshoots of Glengarry were those of Scotus and Barisdale, springing respectively from Angus and Archibald, second and fifth sons of Reginald, counted 17th of Glengarry. Lochgarry was of the third son. Through the failure of the direct male line, Æneas Ronald Macdonell, the last proprietor of Scotus, succeeded to the chiefship, his grandson being now chief. The history of the Scotus branch is pretty generally known, as is that of Lochgarry.

Of the once important family of Barisdale, little has been recorded, and even the name of the last Archibald Macdonell of Barisdale, though he left a considerable fortune, is not recorded in the ancient churchyard of Kilchoan. Kilchoan, now united with Glenelg, was anciently an independent parish, dedicated to St Coan. This saint was held in great repute, and Mr Mackenzie, in his history of the Glengarries, when referring to the 15th chief, commonly called “Donald Mac Angus,” who died, aged over 100 years, 2nd February, 1645, the day the battle of Inverlochy was fought, says that “the Rev. John Mackenzie of Dingwall charged Glengarry, with other offences, as ‘ being an idolater, who had a man in Loch Broom making images, in testimony of which he (Mackenzie) carried South the image of St Coan, which Glengarry worshipped, called in Edinburgh Glengarry’s god, and which was burnt at the Town Cross.’”

The parish of Kilchoan extended from Loch Houra on the north-west to Loch Morar on the south-east, and was at one time solely the property of Glengarry, comprehending the districts of Knoydart betwixt Loch Houm and Loch Nevis, and North Morar twixt Loch Nevis and Loch Morar. North Morar was sold a long time ago to the Lovat family, who still retain it, but Knoydart proper was only sold within our own times. Barisdale was the extreme north-west portion of the Glengarry property, and is one of the surest and most beautiful farms on the west coast. It has miles upon miles of frontage to the sea-loch, sloping upwards to great heights, of which the finest is the well known “Mam Barisdale.”

My attention was more particularly drawn to the family from having become possessed many years ago of letters written by Coll Macdonell, father of the last Barisdale, extending over the period from 1786 to 1816. Anyone who peruses those letters would be struck with the sagacity, knowledge, and innate power of the writer. From them, other documents connected with the family, and information kindly supplied to me by Mr Sheriff-Clerk Macandrew, ex-Provost Fraser of Inverness, and Mr Fraser, Barnhill of Glenelg, I have framed this paper. I have also referred to a very scarce little book entitled “Memoirs of Archibald Macdonald of Barisdale, 1754,” and infer that the compiler was Mr Andrew Henderson, who wrote, with other works, “Life of Dr Archibald Cameron.” The work is hostile and partial—a mere catch-penny production, not to be relied on, and of it Provost Fraser tells me that he saw in the house of Barisdale a copy, on the margins of which were written, in the handwriting of Barisdale, emphatic contradictions of many of the assertions therein made.

I do not find that Archibald, the first Barisdale, had any written title to the property, and it was not until the year 1725 that Coll Macdonell, the second Barisdale, received a charter.

Of Archibald, who fought at Killiecrankie, it is said that he was an excellent scholar, able to argue in Greek with learned divines. He was alive in 1736.

Coll, the second Barisdale (the famous “Coll-Ban”), was the most noted of his race. He married Helen, daughter of George Mackenzie of Ballamuckie, who was one of the officials on the West Coast estates of Seaforth. Coll was in great favour with his cousin and chief, John Macdonell, nineteenth of Glengarry, who, besides granting Barisdale, gave him different charters to the Kytries, Cullachies, and Inverguseran, some of which were afterwards renounced. In these he is styled eldest lawful son to Archibald Macdonell of Barisdale. He built a large house at Barisdale, which was burnt shortly after the battle of Culloden by a party of Ross-shire militia. The writer of the memoirs describes it “ as beautifully covered with blue slate, and having eighteen fire rooms, besides as many more without chimnies.” There can be little doubt that Coll was neither more nor less than a robber of cattle on a great scale. The writer of the memoirs describes some of his transactions, and mentions that he had a great instrument of torture erected near his house to compel disclosures. On the other hand, he warmly protected all those who were faithful to and stood by him. An instance of the devotion of his people is shown in the case of his piper, who was confined in Castle Moil, and who composed the well-known plaintive air “Colla-Mo-Run.” At least, I have always understood that the Coll mentioned in the air was this Coll of Barisdale; but Mr Fraser has just informed me that the people in Knoydart say that it was not Coll Barisdale, but Coll “ Kiotach.”

In the valuable collection made by the late Mr John Anderson, W.S., who died about fifty years ago, for an intended history of the Highland clans, at page 150 of the manuscript he says:— “Barisdale is supposed to have furnished Scott with the original for Fergus Maclvor in ‘Waverley' being a man of polished behaviour, fine address, and remarkably handsome. Barisdale raised £500 per annum from his art of imposing black mail; and, whilst strictly faithful to his own followers, he punished with the severest rigour any associates of another that interfered with them.”

At length, Coll's proceedings, particularly a lift or reclamation, through his means, as he alleged, of cattle stolen from Perthshire, off a part of the Cameron country of Lochaber, which, curiously, notwithstanding their own depredations in Moray, the Camerons did not at all relish when applied to themselves, brought the authorities down upon him. From the memoirs, it would seem that Coll and his people committed a direct theft in Lochaber; that he was tried for the offence in 1730, and got off by witnesses* perjuring themselves in his defence. I cannot find any trace of such a trial. Coll, described as “younger of Barisdale,” was certainly tried in 1736 before the High Court of Justiciary, at the instance of Archibald, John, and Angus Mac-Ian-Allistere, alias Fletchers, in Bartarurich, in Glenorchy, and Gilbert Mac Alpine there, with concourse of Duncan Forbes, His Majesty’s advocate. The charge against him was being “ guilty and accessory, or art and part of soliciting and inticing and the fraudulent suborning and eliciting diverse persons to bear false witness against their knowledge and conscience ... by rewards, promises, threats, and other corrupt means, to bear such false witness in a process he then told them was intended to be brought against the pursuers, and which process was accordingly brought, when he imagined he had prevailed with those upon whom he practised to comply with his request in conspiring, by false witnessing, to defame and ruin the pursuers.” It was further alleged that the panel, “by subornation of witnesses, had endeavoured to found a charge against them for being art and part in several depredations committed upon James Menzies of Culdares and his tenants.” Coll’s defence discloses a strange story. “Whether the disputes that have sometime ago risen among the heritors in Breadalbane and Glenlyon, touching their marches, have given any occasion to the depredations and robberies from the grounds of one of the heritors, the pannell shall not here determine. This, however, is certain, that these depredations have of late been more frequent, in so much that the persons from whom the cattle have been stole were like to be altogether ruined, and their country V cast waste. And although, from time to time, some of the cattle

I have been recovered by the owners from the remote parts of the Highlands, yet this was attended with very heavy charges, more than the value of what was ordinarily recovered; and it being impracticable so frequently to carry off such quantities of cattle from one heritor’s possession, by persons wholly unacquainted in the country, without the assistance of some one or other in the | neighbourhood, it naturally occurred that the proper remedy for preventing of such practises would be to endeavour to discover by whose assistance in the south part of the country it was that these depredations were committed on the property of a single gentleman, while his neighbours around remained unhurt; that the assistants and outhoundere being detected and punished, and thereby the thieves and robbers deprived of protection and encouragement, their lawless practises might at least meet with greater difficulties for the future.”

In February, 1734, “the pannell, being at Edinburgh about his lawful affairs, had occasion in coffee-houses and such publick places to s?e the gentleman who had suffered by the depredations, with whom before that time he had not the least acquaintance, and the conversation having turned upon the gentleman’s sufferings, nothing further past, but that the pannell, like an honest man,

I heartily regreted the damage, and that any persons in the neighbourhood where he lived should have been guilty of practises by which the same was occasioned.

“In August, 1734, new depredations having been committed, the pannell had a message from Mr Menzies of Culdares, upon the generall acquaintance contracted in the manner above sett forth, representing the loss he had sustained, and praying the pannell’s assistance in finding out the cattle, which were supposed to have been lodged in his neighbourhood, and, in pursuance thereof, the pannell did apply himself to his cousine MacDonell of Glengary, who frankly gave his concurrance in making the discovery; and the cattle being accordingly found, one parcell of them in Glengary country, and another parcell in the country which belongs to Cameron of Lochiel, they were furthwith returned to Mr Menzies, under the care of John Cameron, Peter Macnaughton, and other tenants in Rannach, the persons who were sent in order to recover the same.

At the Fair of Crief, which commenced the 29th of September, 1734, Mr Menzies and the pannell had occasion to meet, where Mr Menzies gave the pannell thanks for the service he had done him, and earnestly desired he would continue his friendship and assistance in the like discoveries when any such misfortune should thereafter fall out, which the pannell having promised, he had very soon occasion for endeavouring to perform.

“For, about the middle of October thereafter, a good number of cattle having been stole from Mr Menzies and his tennants grounds, severall of the saids tennants went in pursuit of the cattle by the tract of their feet, which led through grounds belonging to the M‘lnlesters, the prosecutors, near by their houses, and so going forward upon the tract, which stopped at the Braes of Lochaber, in a place belonging to MacDonell of Keppoch. The persons who followed the tract came into the country belonging to Lochiel and Glengary in search of their cattle, and having applied themselves to all the gentlemen in these countries, and, among others, to the pannell, he did use his endeavour to discover where the stolen cattle were, and being informed that some of them were in Lochiel’s country, he wrote to Mr Cameron of Clunes, Lochiel’s Baillie (Lochiel himself not being in the country for the time), and, upon enquiry, the cattle having been discovered in Lochiel’s country, so many of them as were extant were returned to the tennants who had followed the tract, and promises given that the price of the remainder, which had been killed, should be paid.

“It was during the enquiry after the last depredation that Evan More M‘Phie and Kenneth Kennedy, with some others, were discovered to have been concerned in making the same, and, upon challenge, they not only acknowledged their own guilt to Mr Cameron of Clunes and to Mr MacDonell of Shian, but further informed these gentlemen that the M‘Inlesters, now prosecutors, were accessary thereto, and this report having been carried back to Mr Menzies by the tennants who returned with the cattle, he desired of the pannell that he would bring along with him to Culvullin in Rannoch Mackafie and Kennedy, that he might have an opportunity more narrowly to enquire into the circumstances of the Maclnlesters accession, which accordingly was done, and the said Mackafie and Kennedy, in presence of several gehtlemen of good character and repute, did voluntarily and openly inform of the particulars of the said M‘Inlesters, their accession and out-houndingr, and that one of them had been requireing his share of some of the booties.”

The trial took place on the 10th of February, 1736, when the jury, by a plurality of voices, found the prisoner not guilty. Whether this is the trial referred to by the memoirs, I cannot say, but one thing is certain, that the Camerons showed in the future great hostility to Barisdale. Firstly, they seized him and his son in 1746, and shipped them off prisoners to France, for reasons which Archibald, third Barisdale, in his defence, did not choose to particularise; and, secondly, the only unofficial witness for the Cromi against the above Archibald was Cameron of Innerskilli-voulin.

Coll thereafter was on his better behaviour. He did not lose the confidence of his chief, and on the breaking out of the insurrection of 1745 he was appointed one of the colonels of the Glengarry regiment. He was accompanied by his eldest son Archibald, then a youth of about twenty. The memoirs describe him as born on the 25th December, 1725, but he says himself he was only out of school at the rising. The writer of the memoirs is severe upon Barisdale for not being active and to the front as occasion required. He is frequently found in communication with Lord Lovat. Shortly before the battle of Culloden, Barisdale had been sent to the northern counties to neutralise any efforts of the Earl of Loudoun, the Earl of Sutherland, and other Hanoverians to re-assert themselves, they being then, m a sense, hiding in the North. The writer of the memoirs states that Barisdale was at Beauly in the morning, and might have come up timeously to the battle. This is, however, contradicted. It is known that the resolution to fight was hurriedly arrived at, and as the hour of dinner at that time would be one o’clock, the fact of Barisdale dining at Bailie Alexander Mackenzie’s house in Dingwall the very day of the battle, and having come from the east, would indicate he had not received intimation to attend. The affidavits bring before us not only the name of Barisdale, but that of Rob Roy’s son, styled Colonel Macgregor of Glengyle, and of Macleod of Raza. They were given to me years ago by Captain Dunbar Dunbar, and are most interesting:—

“At Dingwall, September 27th, 1748, compeared John Brown, late factor to Sir Harrie Munro of Fowlis, who, being solemnly sworn and interrogated, depones—That for a whole month, viz., between the middle of March and middle of April of the year 1746, he, the deponent, had frequent opportunities of seeing the person then called Glengyle, a colonel in the rebel army, but whether his surname was Macgregor or Grame, he knows not. That he saw Coll Macdonald of Barisdale ride at the head of his own men the very day the battle of Culloden was fought, and that he and his men marched all to the west, on the road to Dingwall; and that the regiment of Macgregors, with their colonel (Glengyle), marched a little after Barrisdale and his men ; and this is the truth as he shall answer to God.

(Signed) “ John Brown.

( „ ) “ Hugh Rose.”

“Compeared Alexander Mackenzie, present Baillie of Dingwall, who, being sworn and interrogated, depones—That some day in March (as he thinks), seventeen hundred and forty-six, he saw Glengyle dining with the late Earl of Cromarty at his, the deponent’s, house. That Glengyle and his regiment were all in arms, and, a& the deponent heard, were then in pursuit of Lord Loudoun and his men. Also, that Barrisdale was several times at deponent’s house, and, in particular, that Macleod of Raza and Barrisdale dined at his house the very day the battle of Culloden was fought; and this is the truth as he shall answer to God.

(Signed) “ Alexander Mackenzie.

( „ ) “ Hugh Rose.”

“Compeared Colin Mackenzie, late Baillie of Dingwall, who, being solemnly sworn and interrogated, depones—That on some days between the middle of March and middle of April, seventeen hundred and forty-six, when the late Earl of Cit>martie led a party of the rebel army from Inverness to Sutherland in pursuit (as he heard) of Lord Loudoun, the deponent saw Coll M‘Donald of Barrisdale and M‘Leod of Raza in arms, and wearing white cockades, as they passed through the town of Dingwall with their men. That he also saw at that time, and in the same circumstances, a man called Glengyle, but with whom the deponent had no personal acquaintance ; and this is the truth as he shall answer to God.

(Signed) “Col. Mackenzie.

( „ ) “ Hugh Rose.”

“Compeared William Fraser, late Baillie of Dingwall, who, being solemnly sworn and interrogated, depones—That on some days between the middle of March and middle of April, seventeen hundred and forty-six, when the late Earl of Cromartie marched with a party of the rebel army from Inverness to Sutherland, he, the deponent, saw Coll M‘Donald of Barrisdale and M‘Gregor of Glengyle in arms, and wearing white cockades; that Glengyle was his lodger, and stayed eight or ten days in his (the deponent’s) house ; and this is the truth as he shall answer to God.

(Signed) “William Fraser.

( „ ) “ Hugh Rose.”

The after history of Coll Macdonell may be shortly given. Though he was not attainted, the name of his son Archibald was included in the Act—a suspicious circumstance, and affording some corroboration of the charge made against Coll that he was inclined to betray Prince Charlie. The documents bearing on this point among the Stuart papers, printed in Browned Highlands, are so well known that I merely refer to them. It is said he surrendered at Fort-Augustus, and was discharged, but was so much hated that he went abroad to vindicate himself; and, returning some years afterwards, he found his house burnt and cattle driven away. The writer of the memoirs, so hostile to Barisdale, had evidently some pique against Mr Rose, minister of Nairn, a purchaser of some of the cattle, against whom he makes the gravest charges. Coll was afterwards apprehended, and confined in Edinburgh Castle, where he died of fever, after several years1 confinement, being so heavy that it is said six soldiers could hardly carry the coffin. Thus ended the career of the famous “Coll Ban.”

I now come to Archibald Macdonell, the third Barisdale, included in the Act of Attainder, and described as “Archibald Macdonald, son to Coll Macdonald of Barisdale.” He appears to have held the appointment of major, but there is little known to justify his being singled out as one of the not numerous body against whom the Act was passed. He is said to have been born on the 25th of December, 1725, and, if that were correct, he wr»uld have been in his 21st year. Archibald himself made the following statement in course of the high treason proceedings against him in 1754:—“I cannot understand myself to be the person attainted by this Act of Parliament. I was then a boy, lately returned from school, under the influence of a father who was unluckily engaged in the Rebellion, 17 45. If he had had not been able to justify or atone both for his own conduct and mine, can it be supposed that he should have passed unattainted, and that I, his minor son, should be destined for punishment.” This was just and powerful pleading.

Next, as to what occurred after the battle of Culloden, it would seem that the father and son separated, and, Coll having soon made his peace with the Government, Archibald appears to have acted with great prudence. He says:—“Soon after his Royal Highness’s victory over the rebels at Culloden, the prisoner heard that his father had made his peace with the Government, and that he had been received in or near the camp at Fort-Augustus; secondly, that the prisoner, being afterwards informed that an Act of Attainder was passing about that time, in which names might be inserted which might possibly be mistaken for his, he, the prisoner, went in quest of his father, and found him at his house of Inverie in Knoydart, and told him his intention of surrendering, and that his father thereupon went along with him to a place called Kinlochindal, in the Isle of Skye, and shire of Inverness, where they understood Sir Alexander McDonald of Slate then was, and the prisoner knew him to be not only repute a Justice of Peace in that county, but also to be then at the head of a militia party employed in His Majesty’s service.

“That upon one or other of the days of June, 1746, at least on or before 12th July that year, the prisoner did, in company with his father, who had gone by himself the day before to see the said Sir Alexander M‘Donald, repair to the said place of Kinlochindall, where the said Sir Alexander M‘Donald then was, with a considerable party of militia under his command, and did surrender and deliver himself up to the said Sir Alexander M‘Donald. The prisoner also sayeth that the said Sir Alexander M‘Donald was in His Majesty’s nomination of Justice of Peace for the shire of Inverness subsisting in the year 1746 ; that Sir Alexander did not committ the defendant to prison, but allowed him his liberty upon the defendant’s giving his parole to render and submitt himself again to justice when called for.

That in June, 1746, the prisoner got from Lord Albemarle a pass, which he made use of on several occasions, and showed to many different persons in His Majesty’s service.

“That the prisoner went to his father’s house of Inverie, where he was seized with a fever, and was confined to his bed for some weeks.

“That in the month of August, 1746, he went with his father to the countrys of Moydart and Arisaig, where he and his father were both seized by some people of the name of Cameron, who had taken offence at the prisoner and his father, for reasons unnecessary to be here mentioned, and carried them both on board a French privateer, then lying off that coast, where they were put in irons, and carried over to France.

“The prisoner also sayeth, as a fact notourly known, that he and his father were kept in close custody in France, first at St Malo’s, and afterwards at Saumeur, for about a twelvemonth, after which he made his escape, and returned to the North of Scotland.

“That his father, having likewise made his escape, returned to Scotland; and in the year 1749 both of them were apprehended by a party of the King’s forces That his father was carried prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh, where he died, after a long confinement; but that the prisoner, upon a just representation of the facts above sett forth, was immediately dismissed, and since that time lived peaceably and openly at Inverie, or in the neighbourhood thereof, till the month of July last, when he was again apprehended, and carried prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh.”

Here it may be noticed that, since the time of Eneas, who was created Lord Macdonell and Aros by Charles II., the Glengarry family and its offshoots, Scotus, Lochgarry, and Barisdale, invariably spelt their surname “Macdonell.” I may say I put only one “r” in Barisdale, that being the mode used by Coll, fonrth Barisdale.

Barisdale found it necessary in his position of danger to endeavour to disown even his name and designation, and to plead that his father was not “Macdonald of Barisdale,” as in the Act, but “Macdonell of Inverie.” This defence was, perhaps, rightly repelled; but the other, that he had duly surrendered, was relevant, and ought to have been remitted to proof.

The Lords of Session of that period were partisans in the highest degree, strained the law, and sentenced Archibald Macdonell to an ignominious death, with those attendant horrors in the case of traitors. Barisdale offered in support of his defence of due surrender upwards of thirty witnesses, including Lord Loudoun; Macleod; Donald Macdonell, his late servant; Donald Macdonald, sometime servant to Coll Macdonell of Inverie; Donald M'Dougal, alias M‘Ianoig, piper at Inverie; Allan M'Dougall, the piper's son; Mr Muir, secretary to the Laird of M‘Leod; Mr McDonald, valet de chambre to the deceased Sir Alexander Macdonald of Sleat; and Roderick M‘Donald, writer in Brora, in the Isle of Skye ; but, as I said before, the Lords present, and let their names be here registered, ad perpetuam memoriam^ viz., Lord Justice Clerk Erskine (who spoke so unfeelingly when Dr Archibald Cameron was before him), Lord Min to, Lord Strichen, Lord Elchies, Lord Drummore, and Lord Kilkerran, pronounced this shameful judgment:—

“Found the said Archibald McDonald his plea of surrender, as formerly and now pled, and specially sett forth in the said condescendance, is not relevant or sufficiently qualified in terms of, and as required by, the Act of Attainder, and therefore repells the defence founded thereon, and refuse the prisoner any proof thereof.”

The next step was to prove the identity of the prisoner at the bar with the person named in the Attainder, and this was done for the Crown by Alexander Cameron, Vic-Coul, tacksman of Inerouskillivouline; Lieutenant Donald M‘Donald, late of Lord Loudoun’s Highland regiment; Ensign James Small, late of the same regiment; and Major Alexander Mackay, of Colonel Howard’s regiment of foot.

The final doom was pronounced upon 22nd March, to take effect 22nd May, 1754. The youth of the accused, the fact that no execution for treason had taken place in Edinburgh since 1681 (when an Englishman was executed for being accessory to the Rye House Plot), and the panic connected with Dr Cameron’s seizure and execution having allayed, all tended to create a feeling in Barisdale’s favour, and, through the intercession of friends, the following letter of reprieve was sent on the 10th May :—

“Whitehall, May 10th, 1754.

“My Lord,—I am commanded to signify to you the King’s pleasure that the sentence of death which was passed by the Lords of Justiciary, in the month of March last, upon Archibald Mac-Donald of Barrisdale, an attainted rebell, now prisoner in the Castle of Edinburgh (and which was to have taken place on the 22nd of this instant May), shall not be put in execution till His Majesty’s pleasure be signified for that purpose.—I am, my lord, your lordship’s most obedient humble servant,

(Signed) “ Holdernessk.”

This letter could not have taken ten days to reach Edinburgh, as such were generally expressed, but the Justice Clerk probably did not inform the prisoner on receipt, at least did not record it till the 20th May, when doom was postponed till the 23rd October. On the 12th August the order of respite is till 27th November, 1754. On the 25th November he is respited during His Majesty’s pleasure; and on the 29th March, 1762, a letter of remission is recorded, which remission is dated at Westminster, 1st March, 1762.

Mr Fraser mentions that there is a tradition in Knoydart that it was through his wife’s intercession with the King Barisdale was reprieved, and that the notice only came to the authorities a few minutes before it would have been too late. The dates above given show that this pleasant tradition is inaccurate. Indeed, it is doubtful if he were married at the time of his trial. His wife was Flora Macleod, daughter of Norman Macleod (“Tormaid na mirt”), the first of the Diynoch Macleods, who settled in Glenelg, at Eileanreoch.

The following glowing inscription was placed by his son upon Norman’s tomb in Glenelg:—

Normano Macleod de Drynoch, viro inter suob primario ; inter alien oe laudalisaimo ; spertate fidei ; HoBpit&litatis exemplo ; inopum atque infelicium asylo; Homini ad amicitiam nato, Parent i dulcissimo ; De omnibus bene; de liberis optime merito ; Donaldus filius lubentissime posuit anno aerae Vulgaris.

After Archibald’s discharge in 1762, I lose sight of him for four-and-twenty years.

In 1786 Mr John Knox was appointed to survey the western coasts, &c., at the instance of the British Society, for extending tie fisheries; and he published his tour the following year. Having arrived at Loch Hourn, where a great shoal of herring and herring vessels, called “busses,” were, Mr Knox says :—

“The shore was covered with little hovels or tents, which serve as temporary lodgings to the natives, who flock to these fisheries, and who, in their turn, were full of complaints against the bussmen. This year Mr Macdonald, junior, of Barrisdale, a gentleman of great bodily strength, and who is both loved and feared in this loch, attempted in vain to preserve peace and good order. By him I had an invitation to his father’s house at Barrisdale, a pleasant little bay on the south side of the loch. This gentleman had been in the last rebellion, was taken prisoner, and confined nine years in the Castle of Edinburgh, from which he wa& relieved through the intercession of friends. He lives in silent retirement upon a slender income, and seems by his appearance, conversation, and deportment, to have merited a better fate. He is about six feet high, proportionately made, and was reckoned one of the handsomest men of the age. He is still a prisoner, in a more enlarged sense, and has no society, excepting his own family and that of Mr Macleod of Amisdale. Living on opposite sides of the loch, their communications are not frequent.”

In the year 1786 Archibald Macdonell of Barisdale and Duncan Macdonell of Glengarry entered into a submission of all questions betwixt them, and particularly relating to the lands of Inverie and others, to the Right Hon. Henry Dundas, who in 1790 pronounced a decree for £800 in favour of Barisdale, but who had to give up all claim to lands. After 1790 the Barisdale family were merely tenants. Before this decree was given, both Archibald of Barisdale and Duncan of Glengarry had died. Archibald left Flora Macleod his widow, one son, Coll, the fourth Barisdale, and two daughters, Catherine, and Flora, married to Donald Macleod of Ratagan.

Knox speaks of Coll, the fourth Barisdale, as a man both loved and feared. He and his son Archibald, the fifth and last Barisdale, were magistrates of the county, and Coll dispensed justice with a firm hand. Provost Fraser, who was tenant of Barisdale, tells me that Coll used to hold courts at fixed periods on a little island near Freochland, about a mile from the house. He always sat with his feet in a hole dug for the purp6se, with the people all around, the spot having been pointed out to the Provost. He had also fishing rights and interests to guard.

In a letter, 4th April, 1786, he says :—“When I was at Invergarry, I spoke to Glengarry for two or three letters in my behalf for a continuation of the office I held under the late honourable Board of Commissioners, but which is now carried on under a Board of Trustees. My former deputation was from the Point of Ardnamurchan to Gairloch North.”

Twenty-five years afterwards, in a letter dated 4th January, 1811, Coll says:—“I had a letter by last post from the Secretary of the Board of Trustees for Fisheries, desiring me to call for & new substitution from your Sheriff Clerk. Be so good as call for it, and send it to me, with Mr Kinloch’s statement of charges. I have also to beg your advice in the form of procedure; for example, one or more enter a petition to me of being defrauded or hurt in any other way by one or more people. Is it proper for me to give a warrant on the back of the petition to the sheriff-officer to summon the people complained of before me? And give me the form of the warrant, and the form of a decreet to be given after examination of the parties. And if they do not then pay the sum demanded, how soon can they be poinded, and what is the form to be used by the sheriff-officer for poinding, or is he to get a warrant from me and the form? I depend upon hearing from you by second post at furthest, as I have several petitions on my bands.”

This extract will give an idea how busily engaged Coll Macdonell was kept. He was also a very active officer of the reserved forces, and complains bitterly of being charged in 1809 for a riding horse, while exempt as a “field officer.”

It has been already mentioned that the fine house of Barisdale was burnt, in 1746, and the temporary place erected for Archibald became so ruinous and insufficient that Coll moved to Auchter-tyre in Lochalsh about 1790, which continued to be his chief residence. Glengarry rather wished that Barisdale should reside there, and, in a letter of the year 1810, Coll says :—“Glengarry always wishes me to build at Barisdale. It is my ambition to do so, if circumstances would admit. The lease is, however, getting short, but there is no doubt but my chief and friend has it in view to continue us before he would desire me to build.” They did agree, and the last Barisdale was on the old place after the estate was sold. Provost Fraser says that the house is one of two storeys, with attics and suitable outhouses, comfortable enough if well looked after. Barisdale is an early place. Coll mentions in a letter of 1808 that the whole crop had been sown and everything finished by the 3rd April. Though closely hemmed in on three sides with high mountains, it commands a view on the one side to Skye, where the Isle Omsay lighthouse is at night a prominent object; on the other, the view goes to the head of Loch Houm and the high enclosing mountains, whose eastern waters, running into Glenquoich, find their outlet at Inverness. This water-shed is actually no more than three miles from Loch Hourn. There are some fine old trees, larches, limes, <fca, of considerable age near the house.

I now give some specimens of Coll Macdonells letters, and have selected them as they deal with subjects perhaps more pressing now than at the beginning of the century. Writing early in the year 1811, Barisdale says:—

“Glengarry seems willing to give me Barisdale on something like my terms, but under restrictions. These restrictions may be so harsh that they may put an end to the business. Lee and Munial he wishes put up to public roup. But if I do not get them for my offer, I am determined to hold off. I made an offer that I don't think he will get from any person except the like of White. Times are most alarming. Who will ouy over stock when our manufacturers are ruined ? Three years will, I believe, make an awful change in this country. Glenelg is sold, the present race must leave it; our first-rate farmers have taken the alarm. Sorry as I should be to leave my country, it is better for me to do so in time than beggar myself and disappoint my landlord My neighbour Ardintoul is speaking of it, and many more of his class. If a man had but fifty acres, it is some comfort that he is improving them for his own family.”

Later on, same year, he says:—"Some of my nearer friends have views of trying the new world. Lands in the Highlands are become now a greater burthen than anything else. The proprietors who do not know the value of them trust to a Brown or Black to value them, who, to ingratiate himself, without the least knowledge of even the poorest farm in the Highlands, puts on a rent that he is sure will agree with the landlord's feelings. Such was the case in Skye last year, and in the Lews. Behold the consequence ! the very people who took the lands are going off to America, and Macleod now must give the lands to a set of beggars ! Such will soon be the case in many other parts of the Highlands ; the best people will take themselves away, while they have any means left, and leave plenty room for ‘ Mr Brown* and his employers.”

Five years later, in 1816, he says:—“Glengarry did not use to be so harsh with his tenants, and, without putting them to the expense of a lawsuit, I think his factor could have settled at home. I assure you this is not a year to push farmers, and sequestrations will not drive money out of them, and it is not an easy matter now to get new ones in their places. I find it is the same over most of the Highlands, and if landlords are not resolved to nurse their tenants, they will soon have plenty of waste land.”

The last circumstance connected with Coll, the fourth Barisdale, I intend referring to, is the riot which occurred at his mother's funeral.

The venerable Mrs Flora Macleod survived her husband, the 3rd Barisdale, upwards of twenty-five years, dying at an advanced age at Auchtertyre, early in the month of February, 1815. It seems to have arisen from an old ill-feeling or feud betwixt the people of Glenelg proper and Lochalsh ; and Mr Fraser of Barnhill writes me that the affair is still spoken of in the west, and that it began “ by a fight between a Glenelg man, Domhnull Mac Ailein, and a foxhunter in Lochalsh from Lochaber, named MacMaster.

The Lochalh party had to take to their boats, and the Glenelg men stoned them off the shore.”

Coll Barisdale was very much displeased, and did all he could to bring the offending Glenelg men to justice. One of several letters on the subject will sufficiently indicate what occurred. The interment would appear to have been at Glenelg, and not at Kilchoan, and it is to that part of the parish of Glenelg called Glenelg, Coll, in his wrath, suggests Bibles should be sent.

“Auchtertyre, 10th February, 1815.

“This will be handed you by MacMaster, and enclosed you will find Archy’s (Coll's eldest son) declaration, taken before Mr Macrae, Ardintoul, who came here yesterday, by the desire of the Sheriff-Substitute of Ross, to take the declaration of boat crew who attended the gentlemen of the country. I have a notion that Archy might be a little flustered at the time, he having charge of one of the tables. What makes me think so is his jumping out of the boat to recover the oar amongst a parcel of barbarians, who seemed intent on taking away their lives ; but he looked on all the gentlemen in the boat as under his protection, they having gone there upon our account and by our invitation. And so intent was he to procure the oar and get the boat away out of reach of the stones that he cannot say whether he got his head cut by their sticks or the stones. I was at the time in the house with some friends who chose to sit longer, and did not hear of this unprovoked attempt to murder till next morning. I went to Beolary that night, a distance of at least three miles, and, the night being very dark, I brought one of my servants with me with a lantern, and, to show you the savage disposition of the people, when my servant was returning back again to the public-house with the lantern in his hand, he was met by two or three of the Glenelg men, who challenged him as one of my servants and a Lochalsh man, and, without any further conversation, gave him some blows, and was obliged to run away for his life, and find his way, by private roads, to the rest of my servants. Mr John M‘Ra, minister of Glenshiel, will inform you, if you please to ask him the question, how they abused his horse in the stable, while he was at dinner with the company. The poor brute had for many days horrid marks of Glenelg kindness. Such ferocity is only now, thank God, to be met with on the coast of Africa; and if yon advertize for a subscription to purchase a parcel of Bibles for that part of the parish of Glenelg called Glenelg, I will pay for the advertisement, and I wish you to do it.”

I have no information as to the date of Barisdale’s death. The only memorial in Kilchoan is Coll M'Donell of Barrisdale.

By His Sod.

I have now come to the fifth and last Barisdale, Archibald Macdonell. He had a younger brother William in the India Company’s service, who died abroad. Nothing is more pleasing in Coll Barisdale’s correspondence than the strong paternal feeling evinced. In 1816 Coll gets the Laird of Mackintosh to write to Sir James Mackintosh and Raasay to write to Earl Moira on behalf of his son William, then in Bombay. Archibald, the fifth Barisdale, was from his youth of a shy and retiring disposition, which grew more and more upon him as he advanced in years, and remained a bachelor. Coll, as early as 1807, apologises for his son Archie not calling upon an old friend at Inverness, and says : —“ I found much fault with Archie for not calling on you. He was quite alarmed with the appearance of the weather, and he knew I would be anxious about him. He only was an hour at Inverness, yet, I say myself, in that hour he should have seen you. When he left this, I wished him, and he wished it himself, to go to Invergarry and spend a few days there, but his cousin, Mrs MacGregor, would not part with him, and, as she then expected to leave the country for India, he was, on account of his Ratagan friends, the easier imposed on. He is young, poor man, but he is a good-hearted lad, free of any vice, thank God, and, I trust* when he has time to get acquainted with his friends, they will think of him as I do.”

Even in his father’s time, Archibald lived much at Barisdale and latterly there exclusively. In 1820, when Glengarry was creating Inverness Academy votes, one of the number was “Archibald Macdonell, younger of Barisdale.” He was very kind to the poor, and much respected, not only for his own merits, but as the last of his race He never went from home except on two occasions in the year, viz., to the Inverness Wool Market and to his banker at Fort-William. He always dealt with the same purchaser, never touching on the subject until late on the Saturday night, when the bargain was struck in these words:—Seller— “ You’ll be wanting the wedders and ewes as usual?” Purchaser —“Oh, well, we will try to do with them.”

In the year 1863, Barisdale, then about eighty years of age, gave up the farm, and was succeeded by Provost Fraser. He died shortly afterwards, possessed of considerable wealth.

Provost Fraser tells an excellent story of a late well-known surgeon in the North, and which Barisdale, who had a horror of evictions, used himself to relate with much satisfaction. It occurred in 1853, at the time of what is called the Knoydart evictions by the Glengarry trustees. It was stated that there were several people ill who could not be removed, but, it being doubted by the evictors whether there might not be a good deal of shamming, it was thought advisable to have a doctor present at the evictions, who would certify those fit or un6t. The whole affair created intense ill-feeling on the West Coast, and that a doctor was coming was known beforehand, and his visit not altogether appreciated. The doctor was on horseback, and, it is understood, travelled all the distance from Inverness. Invergarry was comparatively easy of access. Tomdown, ten miles further, was a stiff part. From thence it is at least 23 miles to the top of the mountains, and from the next water-shed, along Loch Houm to the house of Barisdale, ten miles further. The doctor’s destination was Inverie, on Loch Nevis, over the Barisdale range, a distance of twelve miles, over the worst possible bridle-road of bad construction. There was no accommodation after passing Tomdown, and, as the road passes the house of Barisdale, no doubt the doctor thought lie would get the much-needed refreshment. But it was not to be. Barisdale was hospitable enough when he chose, but on this occasion he had resolved to mark his disapprobation of the threatened evictions in every form. Sitting in his usual place, at 4 gable window, which commands the road to Loch Hourn head, he espied a mounted traveller coming slowly, foot-sorely, along. When within a little distance of the house (I now quote Provost Fraser’s words), “ Barisdale went out to meet him, and, in the most kind manner, saluted him, and in the usual style remarked, Ton’ll be going to Inverie?’ This the doctor admitted, and then Barisdale, in the most frank way, accompanied him, and told him that the road was straight before him, that he could not go wrong, and, after the river was crossed, there would be no difficulty. This road, however, was particularly steep and high, being over ‘Maam Barisdale,’ and on the worthy doctor protesting that he would like to rest after such a long journey, Barisdale pretended not to hear of any fatigue, insisting that the road was straight before him, and, having seen him a good way past the house, abruptly left, wishing him good-bye. The reason of this was more than niggardliness—he did not wish to show any hospitality to anyone connected with the Glengarry evictions, and always boasted of having been able to shew the doctor on his road without entering his house.”

All the B&risdales, except Coll the second, rest in Kilchoan, and, although their names are not commemorated, they are not forgotten by the few remnants of people still in Knoydart.

Perhaps in no part of the Highlands have there been greater changes within the last hundred years than in Knoydart and the two Morars. Then there were numerous resident gentlemen like Barisdale, Scotus, Armisdale, Morar, Colin-Tray, Ranald-Scammadale, Archibald-Sandaig, Hugh-Meople, James-Guidale, and many others in the rank of gentlemen. The people were numerous, and lived primitively and inexpensively. The local representative of Glengarry in Knoydart, John Mackinnon, at Ardnashishinish, asks in 1796 that young “Glengarry give him the allowance that his father gave to uplift his rents, that is, whisky for the meetings, and that the tenants must appear at the appointed day, when proclaimed, as soon as to a factor.” Surely an inexpensive official.

The times, indeed, are changed in “the country” of Knoydart, as its people loved to designate it No longer shall such as the gay and dashing, but extravagant, Æneas-Scotus (who married the accomplished Ann Fraser of Culbokie), accompanied by a noisy and merry band of followers, together with his deerhounds, Ranger and Bran; his slowhounds, Drummer, Mountain, Finder, Wilks, and Daisy; his mongrels, Red Mountain and Ranger; his terriers, Groag, Claret, Conan, Lyon, Coisy, Brocky, and Conis, be seen ranging over “the country,” eagerly engaged in “hunting the fox.” No longer does a Glengarry, with a numerous retinue, headed by Allan Dali, hold high festival in Glendulochan. No longer shall the shepherd or herd-boy, overpowered by sleep after his mid-day repast, awake in trembling, to find the noontide hag, “Glaslich,” glaring upon him with fixed and malevolent eye, whose hated presence can only be ridded by invocation and the sign of the cross. Yes, these are gone; the ancient peoples are gone. But the mountains, the streams, the lakes, remain—now as then, and then as now—Things of beauty; joys for ever.



This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus