MacDonnell of Glengarry
Clan MacDonell of Glengarry is a branch of Clan Donald taking its name from Glen Garry where the river Garry runs eastwards through Loch Garry to join the Great Glen about 16 miles (25 km) north of Fort William. The principal families descended from the house of Glengarry were the McDonells of Barrisdale, in Knoydart, Greenfield, and Lundie.
Origins of the clan
The MacDonells of Glengarry claim descent from Donald, one of the five sons of Ranald (d.1386), chief of Clanranald. The parents of Ranald (d.1386) were John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, 6th chief of Clan Donald and Ami MacRuairi the heiress to the chiefship of Clanranald.
The two distant relatives, John of Islay and Amie MacRuairi both descend from Ranald (d.1207), son of King Somerled. They married and their son Ranald (d.1386) became chief of Clanranald. Ranald 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 Robert II of Scotland. They had a son called Donald who became the next chief of Clan Donald.
Ranald (d.1386) had five sons. One of these five, Alan (d.1430) succeeded him as chief. Another of the five sons, Donald (d.1420) became chief of the MacDonells of Glengarry.
16th century & clan conflicts
Glengarry first played an independent part in the politics of Clan Donald when in 1539 the Macdonald chief received a feudal charter from the Scottish crown. Glengarry chose to follow Donald Gorm of Sleat in an attempt to reclaim Lordship of the Isles which collapsed with a failed assault on Eilean Donan Castle in which Donald died. Along with other chiefs, Glengarry was tricked into attending on King James V of Scotland at Portree where they were captured and imprisoned in Edinburgh until the King died in 1542.
In 1544 the MacDonells of Glengarry fought against the Clan Fraser at the Battle of the Shirts.
In 1545 Alexander MacRanald of Glengarry and North Morar was one of the lords and barons of the Isles who pledged allegiance to the king of England.
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.
By the middle of the 16th century the Clan Matheson had greatly diminished in size and influence, and John Mathesons son Dougal possessed no more than a third of the ancient Matheson property on Lochalsh. Even that property he was in danger of losing by engaging in a dangerous feud on his own account with ‘Clan MacDonell of Glengarry. This powerful chief had established himself on the shores of Loch Carron at hand, and he presently seized Matheson and threw him into prison, where he died. This incident brought about the final ruin of the Clan Matheson as a powerful clan.
With a view to avenge his fathers death, and recover his lost territory; Dougal Matheson’s son, Murdoch Buidhe Matheson, relinquished all his remaining property, excepting the farms of Balmacara and Fernaig, to the chief of the Clan MacKenzie of Kintail, in return for the services of an armed force with which to attack the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry. The lands thus handed over were never recovered from the MacDonells. Neither Mathesons generalship or the force given to him by Clan MacKenzie seems to have been enough to the task of forcing terms upon MacDonells of Glengarry.
Later Murdoch Matheson’s son, Ruari, the next Clan Matheson chief, had more satisfaction, when, as part of the following of the Clan MacKenzie chief in 1602, he set out to punish the MacDonells of Glengarry. On this occasion Glengarrys stronghold of Strome Castle, on Loch Carron, was stormed and destroyed. By this time the Mathesons appear to have been merely the “kindly tenants” of the Clan MacKenzie compared to the more powerful clan they once were. In course of time that kindly tenancy, or occupation on condition of rendering certain services, was changed into a regular rent payment, and Balmacara and the other Matheson properties passed from the hands of the chiefs of that name for ever. The family was afterwards represented by the Mathesons of Bennetsfield.
By 1581 the MacDonells of Glengarry controlled extensive territory and became involved in feuding and battles with Clan Mackenzie which led to them burning a church and the trapped congregation while the Glengarry piper marched round the building playing a tune still called Kilchrist after the name of the place.
The Battle of Morar was fought on 1602 between the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry and the Clan Mackenzie.
Donald, 8th of Glengarry, reportedly lived for more than a hundred years and was clan chief for over seventy years. In 1627 he succeeded in obtaining a charter under the Great Seal to make his lands a free barony. In 1649 he failed to appear before the Privy Council in Edinburgh to answer charges of harbouring fugitives from the Isles, and was denounced as a rebel.
The Civil War
In the Wars of the Three Kingdoms Glengarry supported the Royalist side. Aeneas the 9th Chief was out with James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose in 1645 and followed King Charles II to his final defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. For his pains he had his new house of Invergarry burned by General George Monck and his lands forfeited by Oliver Cromwell, but had them returned at the Restoration, gaining the title of Lord MacDonell and Aross and chiefship of Clanranald and the whole of Clan Donald. As he died without issue his peerage became extinct.
The clans under Glengarry took the Jacobite side in the Jacobite Risings. In 1689 Alastair Dubh Macranald commanded the clan at the Battle of Killiecrankie.
In the 1715 rising Glengarry attended the pretended “grand hunting match” at Braemar arranged by the John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar and followed him to fight at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.
The 13th chief was on his way from France to join the 1745 rebellion when he was captured by an English frigate and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1747.
However, six hundred of the Macdonells of Glengarry joined Prince Charles under the command of MacDonell of Lochgarry and were involved in many of the battles including the Highbridge Skirmish which was the first engagement between Government and Jacobite troops during the uprising of 1745 to 1746. The Macdonells of Glengarry also fought at the Clifton Moor Skirmish and Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 where they were victorious. The following year they also fought at the Battle of Falkirk (1746), and the Battle of Culloden.
Colonel Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry
Portrait by Henry Raeburn of Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry in 1812.
Main article: Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry
Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell was the personality whose character and behaviour gave Walter Scott the model for the haughty and flamboyant Highland chieftain Fergus MacIvor in the pioneering historical novel Waverley of 1810. As was customary for the chief of a clan, he was often called simply “Glengarry.” In June 1815 he formed his own Society of True Highlanders in bitter opposition to the Celtic Society of Edinburgh. During the visit of King George IV to Scotland he arrogantly made several unauthorised appearances, to the annoyance of Walter Scott and the other organisers.
Under his authority timber was felled for sale, the cleared land was leased to sheep farmers and many of his clansmen were forced from the land by increasing rents and evictions, with the great majority forced to go to British North America in part of what was later known as the Highland Clearances.
Bishop Alexander Macdonell
Main article: Bishop Alexander Macdonell
In contrast to Alasdair Ranaldson, his contemporary Alexander Macdonell became a Roman Catholic priest whose missionary duty in Brae Lochaber led him to help his displaced clansmen. First he tried getting them employment in the Lowlands, then in 1794 he organised formation of the Glengarry Fencible regiment under the command of Alasdair Ranaldson, with Father Macdonell appointed chaplain. When the regiment was disbanded Father Macdonell appealed to the government to grant its members land in Upper Canada but this was not realized until much later. He himself came to Upper Canada Glengarry County in 1804 and in 1826 was elevated to Bishop of Regiopolis Kingston
Castles and clan seat
Invergarry Castle which is situated on the Raven’s Rock was the seat of the Chief of Clan MacDonell of Glengarry.
Strome Castle was also owned by the MacDonells of Glengarry until 1602.
Clan motto and pipe music
Motto: Cragan an Fhithich (The rock of the raven).
Pipe Music: Glengarry Foot Stomp.
The current chief of the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry is Aeneas Ranald Euan MacDonell, 23rd Chief of Chief of Macdonell of Glengarry. The following is a list of the chiefs who have headed the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry, they descend from the early chiefs of Clan Ranald and the high Clan Donald.
Name (+ Gaelic Name)
Dates of chieftency
Ranald of the Isles, 1st chief.
(Raghnall Nan Eileen)
1380 - 1386
Chief of both Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry and Clan Ranald. Married a daughter of Walter Stewart, Earl of Athol.
Donald MacRanald or Ranaldson, 2nd chief.
Second son of Ranald of the Isles (his elder brother Allan succeeded as chief of Clan Ranald). Donald first married a daughter of the chief of Clan MacIver from which his first son John and secondly married a daughter of Lord Fraser of Lovat from which his second son, Alexander of the Woods.
John MacDonald, 3rd chief.
(Iain MacDhomhnaill Mhic Raghnail)
Of which little is known, succeeded by his younger half-brother, Alexander.
Alexander of the Woods, 4th chief
(Alasdair Na Collie)
Married Mary, a daughter of Hector MacLean of Duart.
John Ranaldsoune, 5th chief.
(Iain MacAlasdair Mhic Dhomhnaill)
Married his cousin, a daughter of Cameron of Lochiel, whos mother was a daughter of Hector Mor MacLean of Duart. John the 5th chief of Glengarry was killed by Fraser of Lovat after being invited to a meeting with him.
Alexander Rnaldson, 6th chief .
(Alasdair Mac Iain Mhich Alasdair)
Fought at the Battle of the Shirts against Clan Fraser in 1544. Married Margarat MacDonald, daughter of MacDonald of Lochalsh. One of seventeen chiefs who formed Donalds council, his signature appears a commission of the Lord of the Isles of Scotland to a treaty with the King of England in 1545.
Angus Mac Alasdair, 7th chief
Married firstly Janet, daughter of Hector Og MacLean of Duart, secondly Margarat, daughter of MacLeod of Dunvegan and thirdly Mary, daughter of MacKenzie of Kintail.
Donald Mac Angus, 8th chief
(Donhnall Mac Aonhais)
Married firstly Helen, daughter of Grant 4th of Freuchie, secondly Margaret, daughter of Allan MacDonald, 9th chief of Clan Ranald.
Alexander Aneas, Lord MacDonald and Aros, 9th chief (Aonglos Mac Alasdair Dheirg)
Fought under James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose at the Battle of Inverlochy (1645) and the Battle of Auldearn. Later fought under the Earl of Glencairn during the Royalist rising of 1651 to 1654. Succeeded by his cousin.
Ranald MacDonell, 2nd of Scotus, 10th chief.
Cousin of previous chief. Married Flora, daughter of John MacLeod of Drynoch.
Alasdair Dubh, 1st of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 11th chief. (Alasdair Dubh Ghlinne Garraidh)
Fought at the Battle of Killiecrankie under Graham of Cleverhouse in 1689, Battle of Sheriffmuir 1715 but was not with his clansmen at the Battle of Glenshiel in 1719. Married firstly Ann, daughter of Fraser of Lovat, secondly Mary, daughter of Kenneth Mor MacKenzie, 3rd Earl of Seaforth from whom his successor.
John, 2nd of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 12th chief. (Iain Mac Alasdair Dubh)
1721 - 1754
Fought at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. Married firstly Margaret, daughter of Colin MacKenzie of Hilton from whom his successor. Married secondly Helen, daughter of John Gordon of Glenbucket.
Alexander, 3rd of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 13th chief. (Alasdair Ruadh)
Succeeded by his nephew.
Duncan, 4th of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 14th chief. (Donnchadh MacAonghais)
Succeeded his uncle. Married Marjory, daughter of Sir Ludovick Grant of Dalvey. 3rd son was General Sir James MacDonell; CB, KCH, KCB, GCB (1778 1857).
Alasdair Ranaldson, 5th of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 15th chief. (Alasdair Fiadhaich)
Married Rebecca, daughter of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo.
Aneas Ranaldson, 6th of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 16th chief.
Married a daughter of Rt. Rev William Beneet.
Alexander Ranaldson, 7th of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 17th chief.
Succeeded by his younger brother.
Charles Ranaldson, 8th of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 18th chief.
Married Agnes Campbell.
Aneas Ranald, 9th of Titular, Lord MacDonald, 19th chief. (Aonghas Raoniall)
Succeeded posthumously. Married Juian Charlotte, daughter of Archdeacon Wade of Bombay.
Aneas Ranald Wesdrop, 10th of Titular, 20th chief. (Aonghas Raonall Westdrop)
Married Cathrine, daughter of Henry Herris Creed.
Aneas Ranald, 11th of Titular, 21st chief. (Aonghas Raonill)
Married Dorah Edith, daughter of Dr H.W Hartford.
Aneas Ranald Donald, 12th of Titular, 22nd chief. (Aonghas Ronall Domnhall)