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MacIntyre Clan History & Video

1976 MacIntyre Family from Bannockburn and Inverness Maryland Return to Scotland

Glen Etive

Son of the carpenter. A traditional account dates the origins of the name to the early twelfth century, when Somerled was establishing his lordship in the Western Isles. After Olav the Red, Norse King of Man and the Isles, resisted Somerled's ambitions, he then resorted to diplomacy, and sought the hand of the king's daughter, Ragnhild, in marriage. Somerled's nephew, Macarill or Maurice, assured his uncle that he could devise a scheme to win the bride. It is said that Macarill sabotaged Olav's galley by boring holes in the hull, which he then plugged with tallow. He contrived to be a passenger on the king's galley, and went well supplied with wooden plugs. Heavy seas washed out the tallow and the galley began to flounder, at which point Macarill promised to save the kings life if he would promise his daughters hand to Somerled. The pact was sealed, and the plugs used to stop the leaks. Macarill was thereafter known as the "wright or carpenter", and found high favour with his uncle.

Macarill's descendents later established themselves on the mainland where, according to legend, they were warned by a spirit only to settle where a white cow in their herd came to rest. The land they settled was the rich and fertile Glen Noe by Ben Cruachan on Loch Etiveside. By the end of the thirteenth century the Macintyres were foresters to the Lord of Lorn, an office they held through the passing of the lordship from the Macdougalls to the Stewarts and finally the Campbells.

As the family records have been lost, the Macintyre chiefs cannot be listed with any accuracy, but the first chief of record was Duncan, who married a daughter of Campbell of Bercaldine. Duncan died in 1695 and was buried in Ardchattan Priory in a tomb worthy of his rank. Through the Barcaldine connection, the Macintyre chiefs claim descent from Robert the Bruce. The civil war in Scotland provided a convenient excuse for many clans to settle old scores. The Earl of Argyll was not only leader of the Covenanter faction in the Scottish Parliament, but he was also the implacable foe of many clans whose fortunes had been eclipsed by the rise of the Campbells. The earl's lands were ravaged, but royalist forces commanded by Alasdair Macdonald, Colkitto, spared Gen Noe on the grounds that the Macintyres were kinsmen. Many Macintyres subsequently joined Colkitto's army, including the chief's piper. The chief, however, was with Argyll at Inverlochy in February 1645 when the Campbells were surprised by Montrose and routed.

Glen Etive (151091 bytes)
Glen Etive, looking over Loch Etive towards Glen Coe.
The lands of the MacIntyres & the Campbells.

James, the third chief, was born around 1727. He was sponsored by the Campbell Earl of Breadalbane and studied law, being regarded as a good scholar and a poet. On his father's death he returned to Glen Noe. When Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan in 1745, James would have joined him but for the influence of his Campbell wife and neighbours. Many clansmen, however, slipped away and fought for the house of Hanover at the Battle of Falkirk in 1746. A monument to the poet's memory was erected in 1859 near Loch Awe.

The Macintyres originally held their lands by right of the sword, but they had acquired feudal obligations to the Campbells. The payments were purely symbolic until the early eighteenth century, when Campbell of Breadalbane persuaded the Macintyre chief to pay a cash rent. The rent was then progressively raised to a point where Donald, the fourth recorded chief, was unable to pay, and he emigrated to America in 1783, leaving his brother Duncan, to manage the estate. Duncan struggled on until 1806, when he too left the glen. The chiefly line continued to honour their Scottish origins in America, preserving the amorial great seal, signet ring and quaffing cup. In 1955 Alasdair Macintyre of Camus-na-h-erie recorded arms in the Lyon Court as cadet of the chiefly house of Macintyre. The shield was quite different from that which clan historians believed to be correct. This unhappy state of affairs was corrected in 1991, when James Wallace Macintyre of Glenoe, ninth of the recorded chiefs, matriculated the correct undifferenced arms. The Macintyres once more take their seat on the Council of Clan Chiefs, and even Duncan Ban's lonely monument is more accessible, with a Forrestry Commission stopping place from which it may be viewed.

The current chief is Donald Russell MacIntyre, 10th recorded chief of Glenoe (really 30th from the first chief), but is a very private person who does not wish to be involved with the Clan.  We do have a chieftain, Ian Malcolm MacIntyre, 17th of Camus-na-h-Erie, who lives in Edinburgh.

Another Account of the Clan MacIntyre

MacIntyreThe MacIntyres were known as Mac An t-Saoir, meaning the children of the carpenter and came initially from the Hebrides settling in Lorn in the 14th century. It is claimed in an old tradition that the family were formally Macdonald. One day at sea a galley sprung a leak and one of the Macdonalds forced his thumb into the hole and cut it off, thus enabling the boat to reach its destination safely. He was henceforth known as "An t-saoir" and his descendants Macan t-saoir. Whatever the exact origins of the clan they seem to have become established in Glenoe, Argyllshire around 1300, where they became feudal inferiors to the Campbells of Glenorchy. This family were considered the principal branch until 1806 when they were forced to part with their lands and emigrated to America. The MacIntyres were also connected with several other clans, they were hereditary foresters to the Stewarts of Lorn, and ten were killed or wounded in the Appin regiment at Culloden in 1746. A branch of the clan followed the Campbells of Craignish, while another moved to Badenoch, and in 1496 were admitted as a sept of Clan Chattan by William 13th Chief of the MacKintoshes. MacIntyres of Rannoch were hereditary pipers to the Menzies of Weem, while another branch held the same office to the MacDonalds of Clanranald. One of the most famous of Gaelic poets was Duncan MacIntyre, Donnacha Ban nan Oran, born in Glenorchy in 1724. He was imprisoned for a poem he wrote against the Act of Proscription of the Highland dress and died in Edinburgh in 1812. In 1991, James MacIntyre of Glenoe, who lives in the United States of America, was officially recognised by the Lord Lyon as Chief of Clan MacIntyre. Prior to his claim being recognised, the chiefship had been vacant since the 19th century.

Another snippet from Larry McIntyre

While researching something else, came across the following in Adam, F., and Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon, King of Arms, 'Clans, Septs and Regiments of Scotland', 5th edn., 1955, p 252, "James, 3rd of Glenoe, .. married Anne, daughter of Duncan Campbell of Barcadine. ... James's eldest son, Donald, M.D., and Chief of Macintyre, emigrated to New York 1783 where he married Esther Haines. Dying 1792, he was succeeded by his eldest son, James, born at Newburgh, Orange Co., NY, 1785, who returned to Scotland 1806 and married Anne, daughter of Peter Campbell of Corries. Failing to retain Glenoe, he returned to the US, settling at Fulton Co., NY, and died 1887, leaving by his wife Phoebe Shepherd, a family of whom the eldest son, James, next Chief of the Clan, was born 1864. He and his brothers are said to have flourished in business; but their whereabouts is meantime unknown, and the chiefship has never been legally established [note: this is 1955].

Here's a bit from a Colin McIntyre

The White Cow?
by Colin McIntyre, (

The Clach an Laoigh Bhiata or Stone of the White Calf can still be seen in Glen Noe at Ordnance Survey map reference 103.318 (Landranger series number 50). It is situated just below the summit of the Lairig Noe. You should come off the A85 road onto the B8077. A path then leads more or less straight to the stone from a bridge.

I've often travelled to the Loch Awe / Glen Etive area, mainly to climb Cruachan. To tell you the truth, I've never actually been to the Clach an Laoigh Bhiata, although I've known where it is for years. It's one of those things I've been meaning to do for a while.

If you do intend to visit the stone I would recommend that you take a water proof jacket and wear a stout pair of shoes or walking boots. It's a 5 km walk from the bridge on the B road to the stone.

If your in the Glen Noe area you could also visit the site of the Larach a Bo Bainne or Township of the White Cow (Map ref: 056.342). Local legend has it that the MacIntyres hailed from the Western Isles. Prompted by a prophecy that fortune would be theirs if they followed a white fairy cow and settled where it finally rested, they eventually found their way to Glen Noe. Again, this is also approximately a 5 km walk.

Also, you can travel deep inside Cruachan courtesy of Scottish Power who run a Hydro Electric Power Station deep inside the mountain. The visitor centre is on the A85 at the foot of Cruachan on the shore of Loch Awe.

Here is another mention of a McIntyre kindly sent in by Ranald McIntyre

The Kilchurn Heritage
The Black Book of Taymouth
Limited Edition
Feu Charters and Tacks. – 1687 Page 426/427 section 17

COMMISSION by John Earl of Breadalbane, to John M’Intyr in Glacsgour, to be forrester of the south side of the forrest of Corichiba for keeping the marches thereof, he being bound not to have any Sheillings nor to pasture any goods within the old limits thereof, and to stop all passengers travelling through it with guns; to free himself, his family, and any who lodge with him of eating venison, except the umbles and entrails of such as shall be killed for the Earl’s use; to kill in seasonable time of year, that is, from Midsummer to Hallowmas, the number of sixteen deer to be sent to the officer of Finlarg, the chamberlin of Glenurchy detaining from him a boll of meal for every deer he is short of the number; and he is to receive all the deer and roes in the forrest at the sight of the chamberlin and honest men in the country, and the chamberlin is to write on the back of the tack the number so received that it may be known how the deer have increased under his care; for which the Earl allows John the shealing of Blaraven, the said John being bound to sheal himself upon the borders and extremities of the forrest, where his predecessors did, in order to keep off broken men and destroyers of deer; and the said John is to have eight bolls meal out of Achnofavnich. Signed at Castle Kelchurne, 30 March 1687.

Another mention of MacIntyre's in relation to Rob Roy McGregor

Rob Roy still maintained a considerable band of his Watch, and when the need arose could call up a large body of his clan. An instance arose in August 1722, when the MacIntyres, who occupied a township at Invercarnaig (also called Easter Inverlochlarig, since it lay at the head of Loch Doine), were dunned for arrears of rent by Ian Og of Glencarnaig. The MacIntyres had had a bad year in 1721 to 1722, and had been unable to meet the rent due in kind or money. Iain Og had won the court's adjudication of property, and was now about to descend, bearing letters of horning and caption, with messengers-at-arms, sheriff's officers, and a body of armed men, to evict the MacIntyres and seize their stock and furnishings. In such dire straits, Donald MacIntyre called to see Rob. He appealed for help.

Rob listened to the tale. If he acted, that would mean yet another open clash with the law, and perhaps with Atholl. He had no longer wish for this - furthermore, if he took up the lease of MacIntyre's land himself, it would make provision for his son Duncan, or Ranald. But the appeal was not one he could refuse. He knew too well the physical and mental hurt to a family of eviction and loss of stock. When he heard that eviction had been timed for next Wednesday, he called for his gillies, and summoned a hundred men for Tuesday afternoon. His force must be overwhelming to avoid bloodshed.

On Tuesday night, Rob laid an ambush on the shores of Loch Voil, positioned his men, bivouacked, and put out scouts. Iain Og walked straight into the trap next morning. He had 35 men strung out on the track when Rob Roy jumped them at gun - and sword point. The law officers surrendered and were taken hostage, together with three if Iain Og's men. The main body was turned back. Rob released his prisoners next day, after they had sworn on oath not to return.

Atholl's baillie, Robert Stewart in Balquidder, reported direct to the duke:

'Ballqwidder, 11 August 1722. may it please yr Gr. These are signifying that upon Wednesday last, being the 8th instant, John Campbell of Glencharnek did come to the lands of Easter Innerlochlareg shoon in ye morning with  thirty armed men, two messengers, and two other sub officers, for to uplift the whole goods of the said town & Robert Roy McGregor having a kindnesse and favour for the MacIntyres of Innercharnek, notwithstanding of the favour he had to his own kindred, those of Innerlochlareg, did lie a night before John Campbell came with his men, in ambush with his lads, and seeing John Campbell come with his men, went out to meet them, & apprehended ye two messangers and two sub officers, with other three of the partie, and disarmed them & took them prisoners & kept a guard upon them 24 hours and at last kept their arms & did let them go, taking a promisory oath of them that they would never come again upon that occasione.

Atholl chose to take no action, Perhaps he too thought the law unjust in this instance. He was ageing - he had only two years to live - and must have thought twice of another, unrewarding encounter. The Justiciary at Parliament House in Edinburgh were helpless to act without Atholl or the army. Enforcement lapsed. Rob reigned supreme in his glen.

Another snippet from

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but for some time I've speculated that there was probably a kinship or common descent with the O Brolchains of the Cenel Eoghain with the Irish Mac an t-Saoirs, based on two annal entries, the first of which calls an O Brolchain 'the prime t-Saoir' of Ireland, then a slightly later entry which names a Mac an t-Saoir, presumably the son or ancestor of this first O Brolchain. 

Interestingly enough, there were connections with Iona in this O Brolchain family.  One, then Bishop of Derry, was asked by Somerled to take over the abbacy of Iona - a later O Brolchain carved an inscription in a church at Iona, stating that he had built the building.  Black's Surnames of Scotland list a number of other Irish O Brolchains who appear in later Scottish records - and states that the surname is of Irish origin.

With the O Brolchains at Iona, could their kinsmen the Irish Mac an t-Saoirs have been far behind?  The history of the MacIntyres of Scotland is about as misty as can be.  All they seem to know for sure is that they sailed to their present homelands from an island to the west accompanied by a mysterious white cow and a prophecy about settling where the cow rested. 

The white cow symbolism occurs frequently in Celtic mythology and is probably impossible to trace with certainty.  But it is at least interesting to note that St. Bridgit of Ireland was associated with a white cow; that she built a nunnery at Kildare, and is most strongly associated with that area; and that the second O Brolchain Mac an t-Saoir referred to above, was Bishop of Kildare.

In short, I wonder if the Scottish Mac an t-Saoirs could have been Irish Mac an t-Saoirs, who sailed to their present homeland from Iona (or Ireland) around 1200 A.D. or a little later. Click here for further information on this.

Click here for map of general area

The Empty Glens
An epic journey to find Scotland's lost Highlanders. Great stories, great locations, great scenery, great music and great people.

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