MacDonald of Sleat

The MacDonalds of Sleat are a branch of the Clan Donald or MacDonald.






Origins of the clan

The Macdonalds of Sleat are descendants of Hugh MacDonald (d.1498) who was a younger son of Alexander of Islay, Earl of Ross, 3rd Lord of the Isles and 8th chief of Clan Donald.

Hugh had ability and power and sat on the council of the Isles. During the 1400s attempts were made by various people to reclaim the MacDonald’s mainland possessions. However Hugh obtained a charter to retain his lands. His son John MacDonald inherited these lands from him.



16th century and clan conflicts

By the 16th century the power of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles had warned. The Clan Matheson no longer supported the MacDonalds but were now in allegiance with the Clan MacKenzie. Chief Iain Dubh Matheson died whilst defending the Castle on Eilean Donan island against the Clan MacDonald of Sleat for the Clan MacRae and Clan MacKenzie in 1539.

The Battle of the Western Isles, 1586, Fought on the Isle of Jura, between the Clan MacDonald of Sleat and the Clan MacLean.



The Macdonald of Sleat brothers

John had five sons, each to a different woman. These Macdonalds threw the clan into a period of destructive evil. One of these sons called Black Archibald is described as having a soul as dark as his complexion. With two of the other half brothers he conspired to murder the eldest of the half brothers who he strangled.

Black Archibald invited another of the half brothers called Donald Hearach to dinner to see his newly built gallery. During the dinner he stabbed Donald in the back. In the violent reprisals that followed the Black Archibald was the only one of the half brothers to survive.

However Black Archibald was later murderd by his nephews Donald and Ranald Grumach. This Donald then became Chief of the Clan MacDonalds of Sleat in 1518.



17th century and clan conflicts

The Battle of Siol Tormoit was fought in 1601 between the Clan MacDonald of Sleat and the Clan MacLeod.

The Clan MacDonald of Sleat branch became known as Clan Donald North to distinguish themselves from the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg branch who became known as Clan Donald South.

In 1608 after a century of feuding which included battles against the Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacLean all of the relevant MacDonald Chiefs were called to a meeting with Lord Ochiltree who was the King’s representative. Here they discussed the future Royal intentions for governing the Isles. The Chiefs did not agree with the King and were all thrown into prison. Donald the Chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat was incacerated in the Blackness Castle. His release was granted when he at last submitted to the King. Donald died in 1616 and then Sir Donald MacLeod, his nephew succeeded as the chief and became the first Baronet of Sleat.

In 1689 the chief led 500 men of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat at the Battle of Killiecrankie, in support of John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee where they were victorious.



18th century and Jacobite uprisings

Unlike other branches of the Clan Donald the Clan MacDonald of Sleat did not take any part in the Jacobite Uprisings. As a result the Sleat possessions remained secure and intact.




The seat of the Chief of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat was at Dunscaith Castle which is now a ruin.



Clan chief

The current chief of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat is Sir Ian Bosville Macdonald, 17th Baronet of Sleat.



Clan profile

      Clan Crest: A hand in armour in fess, holding by the point a cross crosslet fitchy, gules.

      Clan Motto: Per mar per terras, (Latin), By sea and land.

      Clan Badge: Heath.

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