MacDonald of Clanranald

Clan Macdonald of Clanranald is a Scottish clan. The clan is one of several branches of Clan Donald. The clan chief of Clan Macdonald of Clanranald is designated Captain of Clanranald. Both chief and clan are recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.


Origins of the clan

Clan Macdonald of Clanranald descends from Raghnall (d.1207), son of King Somerled (d.1164). Raghnall’s eldest son Domhnall became chief of the head Clan Donald while his second son Ruairi became chief of Clanranald. By the early 14th century the direct male line of the chieftainship of Clanranald had died out.

John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, 6th chief of Clan Donald inherited lands between the Great Glen and the Outer Hebrides through his marriage to Amie MacRuari, the female heiress to the Lordship of Garmoran and chieftainship of Clanranald.

The two distant relatives John of Islay and Amie MacRuari both descended from the first Ranald who died in 1207, son of Somerled. Together they had a son called Ranald (d.1386) who took over as chief of Clanranald and was also expected to succeed his father John of Islay as chief of Clan Donald. However, John of Islay later married Margaret Stewart, the daughter of King Robert II of Scotland and they had a son called Donald who succeeded John of Islay as chief of the head Clan Donald.

In 1373, Ranald (d.1386) received a charter confirmed to him by his father John of Islay, Lord of the Isles. The charter was for the greater part of the MacRuari inheritance including the districts of Moidart, Arisaig and Lochaber.

Ranald had five sons. The eldest was called Alan (d.1430) who succeeded as Chief of the Clanranald. Alan’s younger brother Donald became Chief of the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry.

In a bond of manrent, dated 1571, between Angus MacAlester of Glengarry and Clan Grant, Glengarry makes an exception in favour “of ye auctoritie of our soverane and his Chief of Clanranald only “. This is held by Clanranald of Moydart as an acknowledgment by Glengarry of the Captain of Clanranald as his chief.



15th century

Alan MacRanald as he was known died in his Castle Tioram in 1419. He was succeeded by his son Roderick who was a staunch supporter of MacDonald Lord of the Isles. Roderick died in 1481 and was succeeded by his son, Allan Macruari. Allan took part in the Battle of Bloody Bay.

Allan was a capable and warlike chief. He led raids into Lochaber and Badenoch in 1491 which culminated in the capture of Inverness Castle.

Raid on Ross-shire 1491, Ewen Cameron, 13th Chief of Clan Cameron with a large force of Camerons, joined by Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh, Clanranald of Garmoran and Lochaber and the Chattan Confederation - who they must have made peace with on a raid into the county of Ross-shire. During the raid, they clashed with the Clan MacKenzie of Kintail. They then advanced from Lochaber to Badennoch where they were even joined by the Clan Mackintosh. They then proceeded to Inverness where they stormed Inverness Castle and Mackintosh placed a garrison in it. The Lords of Lochalsh appear at this time to have had strong claims upon the Camerons to follow them in the field. They were superiors under the Lord of the Isles of the lands of Lochiel in Lochaber, in addition to the claims of a close marriage alliance (Ewen married a daughter of Celestine of Lochalsh). This would serve to explain the quite unusual mutual participation under a common banner between the Camerons and Mackintoshes in this raid.

The Clanranald adjusted to the realities of Royal power. On the first visit of King James IV of Scotland to the Highlands, Allen MacRuari chief of Clanranald, was one of the few chiefs to render him homage.



16th century

In 1509, Alan MacRuari was tried, convicted, and executed in the presence of the King at Blair Atholl but for what crime is not known.

Alan’s eldest son, Ranald Bane, married a daughter of Lord Lovat. He obtained a charter for the lands of Moidart Arisaig in December 14, 1540. He died soon afterwards in 1451. He had one son, Ranald Galda, who was fosterd by his mother’s relations in the Clan Fraser of Lovat.

On the death of Ranald Bane, the 5th chief of Clanranald, the clan resolved to defeat his son’s right to succeed as chief. This was because his mother’s relations in the Clan Fraser of Lovat and the Clan Fraser itself had joind the Earl of Huntly who was chief of Clan Gordon in fighting against the Clan Donald or MacDonald.

The Clanranald people themselves had chosen the next heir, John Moydartach (or John Moydart), Ranald’s cousin. However, before this plan could be executed, Ranald, assisted by the Clan Fraser and Clan Fraser of Lovat, marched into Catletirrim and placed Ranald in possession of the lands.

The Clanranald, assisted by the MacDonalds of Keppoch and Clan Cameron, then laid waste and plunderd the districts of Abertarf and Stratherrick belonging to Clan Fraser and Clan Fraser of Lovat. They then laid waste the lands of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, property of the Clan Grant and the Earl of Huntly of Clan Gordon.

Clanranald , the MacDonalds of Keppoch, and Clan Cameron raised a substantial force in what became known as the Battle of the Shirts against Clan Fraser and Clan Fraser of Lovat. 300 Frasers were ambushed on their march home by 500 MacDonalds. Only five Frasers and eight MacDonalds are said to have survived the bloody engagement. Both the Lovat Chief, Lord Lovat and his son and heir were amongst the dead and were buried at Beauly Priory. Despite this, the Frasers were stronger than ever before within a hundred years.



17th century & The Civil War

During the Civil War, the MacDonalds of Clanranald supported the Royalist cause and distinguished themselves when they served under James Graham the 1st Marquess of Montrose.

The 14 year old chief of the MacDonalds of Clanranald led 500 clan men at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.



18th century & Jacobite uprisings

Clanranald fought at the Battle of Sheriffmuir during the initial early risings of 1715 where their chief was killed.



Clanranald tartan, as published in the Vestiarium Scoticum in 1842.

In the later Jacobite uprisings of 1745 to 1746, the MacDonalds of Clanranald were amongst the Macdonalds who fought on the honoured right wing at the Battle of Prestonpans and the Battle of Falkirk (1746). However, at the Battle of Culloden, the three Macdonald regiments of Clanranald, Clan MacDonell of Glengarry, and the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch formed the left wing. It was probably their feeling of dissatisfaction at being placed on the left of the line that caused the Macdonald regiments to leave the field in disgust at lack of acknowledgement of their honourable position among the highland clans.




The seat of the Clanranald chief was at Castle Tioram. Castle Tioram was seized by Government forces around 1692 when Clan Chief Allan of Clanranald joined the Jacobite Court in France, despite having sworn allegiance to the British Crown. A small garrison was stationed in the Castle until the Jacobite Uprising of 1715 when Allan Macdonald recaptured and torched the castle, purportedly to keep it out of the hands of the government forces. It has been unoccupied since that time, although there are some accounts suggesting it was partially inhabitated thereafter, including storage of firearms from the De Tuillay in the 1745 Jacobite Uprising and Lady Grange’s account of her kidnapping.



Clan profile

      Clan chief: Ranald Alexander Macdonald of Clanranald, 24th Chief and Captain of Clanranald, Mac Mhic Ailein.

      Crest badge: Note: the crest badge is made up of the chief’s heraldic crest and motto,

                        Chief’s crest: On a castle triple towered, an arm in armour, embowed, holding a sword, proper.

                        Chief’s motto: My hope is constant in thee.

      Clan badge: Heath.

      Clan slogan: Dh’aindeoin co’theireadh e (translation from Gaelic: “Gainsay who dare”).

      Pipe music: Spaidsearachd Mhic Mhic Ailein (translation from Gaelic: “Clanranald’s March”).



Septs of Clanranald

Septs of Clan MacDonald of Clanranald may include the following:






















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