Select McDonald Miscellany

Here are some MacDonald stories and accounts over the years:

Somerled and MacDonald

Studies by the Oxford genetic scientist Brian Sykes in 2005 have showed that the Somerled who is credited with driving the Vikings out of western Scotland in the 12th century was not, as legend would have it, a Celtic hero from a long line of Irish kings but was - as his Y-chromosome shows - of Norse origin.

Somerled may have 500,000 living descendants, second only to Genghis Khan.  The key person for the MacDonald descent was John, Lord of the Isles, who was known as "Good John" and who died in 1386.  He was the progenitor of most of the Somerled descendants.  DNA testing has shown that all of the MacDonald clan chieftains were genetic descendants of Somerled, as are roughly a quarter of all those who bear the MacDonald name.

Lord of the Isles

The clan takes its name from Donald, the 3rd Lord of the Isles and grandson of Somerled, who lived until 1269.  It was Donald's great grandson Angus Og, the 6th Lord of the Isles, who sheltered Robert the Bruce at the lowest ebb of his career.  Later, leading a small group of Islemen, Angus Og was instrumental in Bruce's defeat of the English at Bannockburn. 

Angus Og's grandson Donald, the 8th Lord of the Isles, commanded an army of 10,000 men, including every clan of the Highlands and Isles.  They regarded the MacDonalds chiefs as heads of the ancient "race of Conn" and lineal heirs of the ancient kings of the Dalriadic Scots going back to the 6th century.

Donald of Harlaw's son and grandson were both Earls of Ross and Lords of the Isles, commanding both Argyll and Inverness as well as Antrim in northern Ireland (as MacDonnell).  The Earldom was lost in 1471.  But the Lordship of the Isles was not absorbed by Scotland until the middle of the 16th century. 

Armadale Castle

The MacDonalds arrived in Skye from the Southern Hebrides in the 15th century.  They occupied Dunscaith and Knock castle, both within a few miles of Armadale.

By 1650 there were two farmhouses at Armadale; but after 1690 the family moved back to Duntulm castle at the northern end of Skye.  The farm and gardens at Armadale were looked after by various other MacDonalds.  The famous Flora MacDonald was married at Armadale on November 6, 1750.

In about 1790 the first Lord MacDonald returned to build a new mansion house, part of which remains as the white section of the building seen today.

Reader Feedback - Massacre at Glencoe

I was looking at the MacDonald info where it mentioned Glencoe and listed 78 people slaughtered. I was led to believe from a previous study that it was 38 people.  But then I totally forgot about the 40 women and children who froze or starved. These are the 78 people who suffered a form of horrible death at the hands of the Campbells.  

I have Campbells in my family tree and I am trying to figure when the McDonalds went to PEI and where my Campbells went to.

Angela (

MacDonalds and Culloden

Much has been made of the story or legend that the MacDonalds, on being refused the premier position on the right of the line (which, it is said, they had claimed since Bannockburn), sulked and refused to charge.

Sir Walter Scott related how MacDonell of Keppoch advanced to the charge with a bitter exclamation, "Mo dhia, an do thrieg clann mo chinnidh mi?" or "My God, have the children of my tribe foresaken me?"  However, Andrew Lang has maintained that the MacDonalds did not foresake their leader.  If Keppoch used the expression, it was instead a hasty and irritable one during a momentary hesitation.

Clan Donald may not have added to their laurels during that fateful day.  But they deserved no ignominy. Young Clanranald himself was badly wounded.  All three regiments lost many officers and men, including MacDonald of Scotus, killed with twenty of his men around him, and Keppel's brother Donald.

Reader Feedback - MacDonalds and Culloden

Just found your website and wanted to write in with a correction.  I'm preparing a book dealing solely with the MacDonalds' part in the battle.  Its working title is The Culloden Assassination and is focused on Keppoch himself.  I've bought a copy of Tales of a Grandfather and Scott doesn't quote Keppoch in Gaelic, only in English.

So that begs the question: "Where does the Gaelic quote come from?"

You may also be interested to know that Scott says the reason why the clansmen suffered so heavily was because they had been told to expect a march, not a battle, and thus had stowed away their heavy targes.

George F. Campbell (

The Glenaladale Settlers

Glenaladale is a settlement in South Uist in the Western Isles.  The islanders there were being forced out by Colin MacDonald, the tacksman of Boisdale.  The story goes that he had a very religious wife who was trying to force the Catholics there to become Protestant.  They beat the people to church with a yellow rod and Protestantism came to be called the religion of the yellow stick. 

In February 1772, Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale went to Greenock and chartered the Alexander. Three months later this vessel, with 210 emigrants, set sail for St. John, New Brunswick.  One hundred of these were from Uist and 110 from the mainland.  The family heads included Donald and Angus MacDonald from Boisdale and John MacDonald from Stonybrig.  They were accompanied by Father James MacDonald and by a Dr. Roderick MacDonald, who owing to his medical prowess and their own prudence, successfuly combated the cases of fever which occurred. 

They arrived safely in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the end of seven weeks and dropped anchor in what is now known as the harbor of Charlottetown, opposite to a spot that had been partially cleared of woods in preparation for this new colony.

Eminent Canadian MacDonalds

USA (New York)
Canadian politician
PEI (West River)
PEI politician
1800 c.
Toronto merchant
John S.
Ontario (Glengarry)
Ontario Premier
John A.
Canadian Prime Minister
USA (New York)
Canadian senator
Donald A.
Ontario (Glengarry)
Ontario Lt. Governor

brother of John S.
PEI (St. Andrews)
Catholic bishop
USA (Oregon)
English teacher in Japan
Canadian politician
Nova Scotia (Antigonish)
Nova Scotia judge
Nova Scotia (Pictou)
Nova Scotia judge
PEI (Three Rivers)
PEI judge
William F.
PEI (Tracadie)
Tobacco manufacturer
Nova Scotia (Antigonish)
Catholic bishop

Archibald MacDonald and the Hudson Bay Company

Archibald McDonald grew up in Invergarry, Invernessshire where his father was the head forester to Edward Ellice.  There he learnt to shoot, fish, hunt, and stalk the deer under the expert guidance of his father.

Edward Ellice also recruited for the Hudson Bay Company.  As he commented later, "I took great care to send out the best men we could find, principally from the north of Scotland.  They went out first as apprentices, then were made clerks, and gradually advanced to higher positions in the service."  Archibald MacDonald was enlisted for this company.

Archibald sailed for North America in the summer of 1854 on the Prince of Wales, a sailing ship of 600 tons, on the annual voyage from London to York Factory via Hudson Strait and Bay. 

The influence of the fur traders stretched at that time from Labrador to the mouth of the Columbia river.  Except for the Red river settlement, the territory was entirely populated by feuding tribes of nomadic Indians.  Trading posts were positioned at intervals of 200-300 mile distances on waterways navigable by canoes and rowing boats.  Large numbers of Indians were employed as voyageurs and hunters.  They were not easy to handle and it required men of strong character, tact, good judgment and fair dealing to win their respect and to exercise discipline over them.  Such was the test that awaited a young recruit from Scotland.

Hector McDonald, Early New Zealand Trader and Settler

Hector McDonald had emigrated at the age of six with his family from Scotland to Tasmania in 1818.  At an early age he joined a whaling vessel and in 1832 established a shore-whaling station at Kapiti Island in New Zealand.  When the colonial settlement of Port Nicholson (Wellington) was established in 1840, he turned to trading.  He ran two schooners between his store at Otaki and the new settlement, trading in Maori produce.

He had met the local Maori chieftain, Te Rauparaha, and the two developed a mutual respect.  He married his niece, Te Kopi, but she died while giving birth to their only son, Hugh.  Hugh was raised by Hector and his second wife Agnes, who were to have five daughters and five sons of their own.  The family grew up bilingual.

In 1858, when a coach service began along the coast between Wanganui and Wellington, Hector McDonald built an accommodation house and changing stables at the mouth of the Hokio Stream.  Agnes and Hector ran the accommodation house for eleven years.  More than a convenient stop for travellers, it provided a link between the developing colonial society and the coastal Maori villages of Horowhenua.  In December 1876 Hector McDonald was elected to the first Manawatu County Council as the member for Horowhenua Riding. However, he died eihteen months later, after having collapsed in the street outside an Otaki hotel.  He left an estate of just 47.

By the end of the 1880s the Horowhenua region had been opened up to European settlement.  To the new settlers the McDonalds were figures of romance and the acknowledged authorities on things Maori.  In a period when the area was still predominantly Maori, they had adapted themselves to the dominant culture and provided an important link between Maori society and the immigrant population.

Return to Top of Page
Return to McDonald Main Page