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to Islay to assist the Bishop of the Isles in the
reduction, or in procuring the surrender, of the


foitress of Dunuyveg. The Bishop was probably
calciilatino- on tli<^ fonner frleiidsliip l:>etween tbe
families of Sleat and Dunnyveg to l)i'ing al)Oiit a
voluntary surrender ; but the attempt ended in
failure, and Donald Gorme and his escort returned
to the North Isles.

In January, 1G15, Ptory Mor Macleod is still
casting liungry eyes at the lands of Sleat and North
Uist, out of which, he complains to the C^ouncil, the
C^lan Donald liad most violentl}' " detrude his for-
bears." He requested "justice" against Donald
Gorme ; but, as this meant that the (Jhief of Sleat
should virtually be stri})ped bare of all his lands,
such one-sided equity was not likely to be carried out.
This was the year of Sir James Macdonald's escape
from captivity, and in the course of his movements
through the Isles lie is said to have visited Skye
and had an interview with Donald Gorme. The
latter did not personally join Sir James, but many of
his clansmen actively espoused his cause. In a
letter from Sir Rory Macleod to Lord Binning,
dated June 18th, 1615, he accuses the Sleat family;
the Chief; Donald Og, his nephew and heir, and
their wives and vassals of receiving and entertaining-
Coil Mac Gillespick, a leader in the Dunnyveg
rebellion.' No doubt, in making these repre-
sentations the astute Rory had Sleat, Troternish,
and North Uist in his mind's eye. The reader
may be reminded that the five years' lease of Troter-
nish granted to Donald Gorme in 151)0 had long
expired, and there is no evidence that it had l)een
renewed, or that a more permanent title had been
bestowed. About this time Donald Gorme, like a
number of the othei- Highland Chiefs, was, no doubt,

' Macleod Papers.


under suspicion of complicity in Sir James Mac-
donald's rebellion — an event that had so distui-l)ed
the politics of Celtic Scotland that the annual
compearance of the chiefs before the Privy Council
in Scotland was for some time interrupted. In July,
16 L6, they were all summoned to Edinburgh to
subscribe new and more stringent conditions of
feudal tenure. Donald Gorme was on his way to
Edinburgh when he was seized with sudden illness
at the Chanonry of Ross. A certificate, signed by
the Chancellor of Ross and others, testifying to
Donald Gorme's sickness, and his being still laid up
at Chanonry, was forwarded to the Council, and
received on the 11th July. His absence was, in
these circumstances, excused ; but he was ordered,
if his health permitted, to come to Edinburgh before
his return to the Isles. It appears that he had to
remain for some time at Chanonry ; for a fortnight
later the names of his chieftains were, according to
statute, given in to the Council, not by himself, but
by other chiefs. By the 26th August the Chief of
Sleat seems to have so far recovered from his indis-
position as to have got the length of Edinburgh, and
implemented the proceedings that had been taken in
his absence. He found the sureties required for his
peaceable conduct ; was allowed a retinue of six
gentlemen ; an annual consumption of four tun of
wine ; was every year to exhibit to the Council
three of his principal kinsmen ; and named Duntalm
Castle, in Troternish, as his principal residence.
This last arrangement is a strange comment upon
the value of charters in that ap'e. as it will be
remembered that, only two years before, Troternish
and its Castle of Duntulm had been granted by
Crown disposition to Rory Mor Macleod. This was


Donald Goime's last visit to the Scottish Capital.
Though not hy any means advanced in years, he
already shewed signs of breaking up, a fact to which,
no doubt, the broils and troubles of his early life had
materially conduced. As a chief he was bold, rest-
less, and ambitious, but it evidently took him all his
force and resolution to hold his ancestral acres
against his grasping and ambitious neighbour. He
died in December, 1616. He left no heirs of his own
body, and was succeeded by the son of his brother,
Archibald, " Domhnull Gorm Og Mac Ghilleasbuig

In the summer of 1617 the young Chief of Sleat
attended the Court of James VI. in Edinburgh, and
must have been knighted shortly before then, for he
is described in the contemporary Privy Council
Record as Sir Donald Gorme of Sleat. ^ There was
every need for his taking precautions to secure the
property, for Sir Ilory Macleod was again beginning
to show symptoms of aggressiveness regarding the
Macdonald lands in Skye and Uist. As early as
April Sir Donald complains to the Council that
Macleod has begun to give trouble in those regions,
and he asks the President to protect him in his
rights.^ It is singular that he bases his right on the
charter of 1597, and not on the more recent one of
1614. On 6th May, 1617, Sir Donald was served
heir to his uncle in the lands which had been owned
by the latter in Skye and Uist, with the exception
of the Barony of Troternish. The following year
there was a settlement of the litigation which had
gone on for so long a time between the late Chief
and Bory Mor. On lL>th March, 1618, the Chiefs of

'Rec. r.C, 17tli July, 1617.
■■' Act Ddiii. Con.



Sleat and Dunvegan resigned into the King's hands
the lands of Sleat and North Uist, of which both had
charters, and Sir Donald resigned the lands of Skeir-
hough and Benbecula. Upon this resignation a new-
charter was given to Sir Donald Gorme for all the
lands he possessed in Skye and Uist, with the
exception of Troternish.^ It was decreed that a
certain sum of money should be paid to Sir Rory
Macleod in lieu of all his claims, and that he should
have possession of the lands of Troternish until
these claims were satisfied. Thereafter the lands in
question were to revert to Sir Donald and his heirs.
In February, 1621, Sir Donald Gorme and other
chiefs were summoned to appear before the Privy
Council to give security for the peace of their clans
and for future obedience ; but, owing to a severe
illness from which he suffered at the time, his
presence in Edinburgh was excused. In 1622 a
serious difference arose between the Chiefs of Sleat
and Clanranald over the lands of Skeirhough, of
which the former was superior ; but the settlement
of this dispute has already been fully detailed.'^ In
1625 Sir Donald was created a Baronet of Nova
Scotia, with a clause of precedency making him the
second of that order, though several others were
created before him, Sir Robert Gordon, tutor of
Sutherland, being first. In 1633 we find Sir Donald
receiving a grant of the Island of Canna, which had
formerly belonged to the Monastery of lona ; but it
does not appear that he or any of his successors
enjoyed actual possession. At the commencement of
the great Civil War, in 1639, the King signed a
Commission appointing the Earl of Antrim and

^ Sleat Charter Chest.
'Clau Boiiald, Vol. II., pp. 320, 321.


Sir Donald (jloriii Macdonald, " conjiiiictlie and
scverallie," His Majesty's Lieutenants and Coni-
niissioners witliin tlie whole Highlands and Isles of
Scotland for the purpose of arresting the King's
enemies throughout the kingdom. This Commission
was issued hy Charles from a place called Birks, near
Berwick on the Tweed, where he had encamped to
await the result of a deputation from the Covenanting
Army, which also lay in that vicinity. In the King's
letter to Sir Donald — accompanying the Commissioii
— he promised to bestow on him the lands of Ardna-
muichan and Strathordlll, with the islands of Hum,
Muck, and Cknna, which were to accrue by the
expected forfeiture of Argyll and the Chief of the
Mackinnons, " seeing that the said Sir Donald Mac-
donald of Sleat stood out for the good of His
Majesty's service, and was resolved to un.dergo the
hazard of his personal estates for the same." This
promise His Majesty undertook to ratify to Sir
Donald and his heirs in any manner they might think
proper, provided he used his best endeavours for the
King's service at this time according to his Commis-
sion.^ So(jn after this time the Scottish C^onnnittee
of Estates, having written a letter to the King of
France requesting him to mediate between King
Charles and them. Col. John Munro of Assynt, to
whom the delivery of this letter was entrusted, gave
it up to Sir Donald Macdonald, by whom it was
handed to King Charles." This Col. Munro, having
been afterwards imprisoned by Parliament for his
breach of trust, presented a petition desiring to be
set at liberty ; but, before this was granted, a Com-
mission of four noblemen was appointed to examine

' Lodgu's Peerage. Hills Macdoiialds of AiiLiiin. Appeiuli.x.
-Balf., Aim. IlL, 76.


Sir Donald, who was cited to a[)peai' before them for
that purpose.^ This was not the only reason for
bringing Sir Donald before Parliament. In 1640 he,
along wath other Scottish noblemen, w^ent to England
to countenance and assist His Majesty, and this at
the King's own request. For this alleged offence
also he and others were charged to appear before the
Covenanting Parliament in Scotland to answer as
incendiaries and deserters of their country. What
further active part — if any — Sir Donald took in the
warlike proceedings of these troubled years history
does not record, but his action does not seem to have
entailed more than one compearance in the Scottish
Capital in 1641, after which he was permitted to
return home without further molestation. In 1642
Sir Donald, along with other islanders, was sum-
moned to appear before the Council, when the
obligations that were in force in the reign of
James VI. were renewed. He died the following
year — 1643. He may be said to have been the first
of his family who was an out-and-out supporter of
Scottish nationality as represented by the Stewart
dynasty, and he transmitted the same spirit of
unflinchinji^ loyalty to several generations of his

' Act Pari, v., 412.




Sir James Macdunald succeeds liis father, Sir Dunald. — His attitude
towards the cause of Kiiiy diaries I. — Supports the cause
of Charles II. — The men of the Isles at AVorcestcr. — Sir
James's conduct under the Commonwealth.— His domestic
policy. — His relations with the (Jovernment of Charles II. at
the llestoration. — Receives a Crown Charter of his lands in
Skye and Uist. — Appointed SheritI' of the Western Isles. —
Troubles in Lochaber. — Domestic dithculties. — Sir James
matriculates arms. — His death. — Sir Donald Macdonald
succeeds his father, Sir James. — He suj^ports James VII. —
The Sleat men at Killiecrankie. — Their subsequent move-
ments. — Forfeiture of the young Chief of Sleat. — Sir Donald
refuses to submit to the Government of William of Orange. —
Defeats the Government force sent against him to the Isle
of Skye. — Sir Donald finally takes the oath of allegiance,
and submits to the Government. — Death of Sir Donald. —
Succeeded by his son, Domhnv.ll a' Choyaidh. — Sir Donald
joins the Earl of Mar. — The Sleat men at Sheritt'muir. —
Forfeiture of Sir Donald. — His death. — Succeeded by his son,
Donald. — Sir Donald enters into {possession of the Estate. —
His death. — Succeeded by his uncle, James Macdonald of
Orinsay. — His conduct at the time of Spanish Invasion of
1719. — Death of Sir James. — Succeeded by his son. Sir Alex-
ander, a minor. — The Estate purchased from the Forfeited
Estates' Connnissioners for behoof oi Sir Ale.xander. — Sir
Alexander at St Andrews. — His relations with his tenants. —
Suif/itiir/i nun Dd'iine. — Sir Alexander's conduct during the
licbellion of 1715. — Deatii and liurial of Sir .Mexander. —
Sir James, liis s(jn, succeeds.- -Julucated at Eton and Oxford. —
His travels on the C'ontinent. — His reputation for learning. —
His relations with bis peoi)le. — His popularity. — His accident
in North List. — His death at Home. — Succeeded by his


brother, Alexander. — Sir Alexander as a landlord. — His
quarrel with Boswell. — Created a Peer of Ireland. — Raises
a regiment. — His death. — Succeeded l)y his son, Alexander
Wentworth, as second lord. — liaises the llegiment of the
Isles. — His death. — Succeeded by his brother, Godfrey. —
Controversy with Glengarry. — His death. — Succeeded by his
son, Godfrey, as fourth lord. — Somerled, fifth lord. — Ronald
Arcliibald, sixth lord.

Sir James Macdonald of Sleat had barely succeeded
his father, Sir Donald, in 1644, when the civil com-
motions of which the Marquis of Montrose was the
central figure broke out in Scotland. He appears to
have held aloof at first, probably more from con-
siderations of prudence than any lack of loyalty to
the cause of King Charles. He was accused, how-
ever, by the partizans of the King of not being
very hearty in his support of the royal cause
at any time, and it is certain, whatever his
reasons may have been, that he did not appear
personally in the field. On the arrival of Alastair
Macdonald with the Irish auxiliaries of the Marquis
of Antrim on the West Coast in the autumn of
1644, he offered the command to Sir James, but the
latter excused himself from accepting this honour on
the ground, as he alleged, of the smallness of the
Irish force. ^ Alastair Macdonald appears afterwards,
while on one or other of his recruiting expeditions
to the West Highlands and Islands, to have prevailed
upon Sir James to send a contingent of his clan to
join the royal forces. After the engagement at
Inverlochy, Montrose marched northwards. From
Castle Stewart he writes to the Laird of Grant,
shortly before the action at Auldearn, informing him
that, among others, 400 of Sir James Macdonald's

^ Mac^'uiri(!h.


men had joiiicd him.' As to who commanded the
Sleat contingent, or what [)ait they played, during
the remainder of the Montrose campaign, family
records and the historians of the period are alike
silent. The })robability is that they fought under
the immediate command of Dorjald Macdonald of
Castleton, Sir James's hrothei-. The Sleat men
continued in arms for some time after the deleat
of Montrose at Philiphaugh. Wlien he again came
North to re-organise an army for the King, Sir
James's men wei-e among the few that rallied to the
royal standard. They took part with the Royalist
leader in the siege of Inverness, which Montrose
was obliged to abandon on the approach of the
Covenanting Army under Middleton. When the
King surrendered to the Scottish Army at Newark,
and ordered Montrose to disband his forces, the
Macdonalds of Skye and Uist returned to their
homes. Sir James Macdonald now made terms
with the Committee of Estates for himself and
his principal followers who had taken part in the
late insurrection. Major-General Middleton, in
pursuance of the powers giv^en to him by Parlia-
ment, gave an assurance to Sir James and his
friends that he and they " sail be free of all cejisure
pain or punishment in thair lyftes or fortunes for
anie deed done by thame or anie of thame in the late
rebellion."" Sir James's friends and followers who
liad been conspicuous in the late rebellion were
Donald Macdonald of Castleton, Donald Macdonald
of Arnishmore, Angus Macdonald of Sartill, Neil
Maclean of Boreray, Ronald Macdonald of Barrick,
Somerled MacNicol of Dreemyl, Alexander Mac-

' Cliiot5 lit' (JiiUil. -■ Sleat Charter Chest.


donald of Skirinish, and Kenneth Macqueen of

Middleton, in so readily reniitting the penalty
due to the political transgressions of Sir James
Macdonald and the captains of his host, had, no
doubt, in view the securing of their services for the
Scottish Committee of Estates in their now changed
attitude towards the ro3^al cause. The King had
opened negotiations with them, and "engaged" to
become the covenanted monarch of his Scottish
subjects, [n return for his concessions, the Estates
espoused the King's cause, and an army under
the Duke of Hamilton was sent across the
border to rescue him from the grip of his
English enemies. In his " engagement against
England," as it is called, Sir James Macdonald was
deeply implicated. The men of the Isles, who had
mustered in large numbers, joined Hamilton's force,
and shared his defeat at Preston. After the expedi-
tion against England had failed, the engagers were
replaced in the Government by a new Committee of
Estates, composed of the Church Part^', with Argyle
at their head, and, at a meeting early in 1649, Sir
James Macdonald was cited to find caution for his
good behaviour.- Of this citation Sir James took no
notice, and only waited for another opportunity to
strike a blow for the royal cause.

King Charles II. arrived in Scotland in the
summer of 1650, and being acknowledged by the
dominant faction, he was crowned at Scone in the
beginning of the following year. Charles now
appeared for a brief period in the character of a
Covenanted King. In expectation of Cromwell's
advance, he appealed for support to his Highland

' Sleat Charter Cliest. - Ibid.


adiieients, juhI to Sir James MactLjuald, among
others, he gave a commission to levy a regiment of
his clan in Skye and Uist. Sir James completed
his levy in January, 1051, and his regiment in due
course joined the royal standard.' Whetlier Sir
James led his men in person, or delegated the com-
mand to one of the cadets of his family, does not
appear, nor can it be ascertained with any degree of
certainty what the subsequent movements of the
men of the Isles were. On the disastrous day of
Worcester they formed part of the Highland wing
of the royal army at the head of which the King
himself fought with great bravery. Sir James Mac-
donald's regiment and the Macleods suffered severely
in this engagement, only a small remnant of both
regiments returning to the Isles. The defeat of the
royal forces at Worcester was followed by the rule
of the Commonwealth in Scotland. Cromwell was
now master of the situation, and King Charles fled
to the Continent. The afl^airs of the King being in
a desperate state. Sir James Macdonald accepted
the situation, and yielded with the best grace he
could to the rule of the Usurper. After this he
remained quietly at home, and, although much
pressed, refused to join in the attempts of the Earl
of Glencairn and others in 1653. He is obliged,
indeed, to ask the protection of the Government
against the threats of his former friends and allies.
Glengarry, above all, made himself conspicuous as a
loyalist, and strenuous efforts were made by him in
the Isles to impress Sir James and others into the
King's service. Sir James, writing from Duntulm
to Colonel Fitch, Governor of Inverness, informs
him that " Glengarry and others are drawn to an

' Sleat Charter Chest.


bead to disturb tbe peace of tbe country."' Neitlier
he, nor any of bis followers, has any sucb intention,
and be bopes he may be protected by tbe Govern-
ment in tbe event of an invasion of bis island
territories by tbe Royalist forces. In reply to this
communication, tbe officer in command at Inverness
assures him of his receiving every consideration at
the bands of the Government, and in proof of this
be sent bim a written protection in tbe following
terms : — " These are to require you to forbear to
prejudice any of tbe inhabitants of the Island of
North Uist belonging to Sir James Macdonald of
Sleat, either by taking away of their horses, sheep,
cattle, or goods, or offering violence."^

Sir James Macdonald commended himself to the
Cromwellian Government by tbe great prudence
and ability with which be behaved in a difficult and
delicate situation. His correspondence and inter-
course with that Government leave no doubt as to
tbe high estimation in which be was held. By one
high in authority he is referred to as " tbe great
man in the Hebrides, a man of very great ability
and judgment." In a letter full of pious expressions
by Argyle to Lilburne, one of the Cromwellian
officers, he commends Sir James for his sincerity
and desire to live peaceably, and concludes by
declaring his high estimation of his character and
ability : he is " considerable in tbe Highlands and
Islands." In spite of all the efforts made by Glen-
garry, and others, to disturb the peace of tbe
Highlands, tbe Cromwellian Government succeeded,
by a combination of firmness and lenit}^ in main-
taining order among the clans. Of all attempts
ever hitherto made by the English to rule in Scot-

1 Clarke MSS. - Ibid.


land, that of C^mnnvt'll was without any doubt the
most successful. It would be indeed difficult
to find anywhere or at any time a military govern-
ment whose conduct in the administration of
justice and the maintenance of peace and order
was so humane. Though often greatly provoked,
no harsh proceedings can fairly be traced to the
otHcers of the Cromwellian Executive. They only
demanded security for the peaceable conduct of the
chiefs, and readily accepted their bonds for one
another. Sir James Macdonald was apparently the
most highly respected of these, and the one in whom
the Government placed the greatest confidence.
While he required no security for himself he was
obliged to find security for others. In September,
1653, he became security in the sum of £6000
sterling to the Keepers of the Liberties of England
for the personal appearance of Rorie Macleod of
Dun vegan before Colonel Lilburne, the Commander-
in-Chief in Scotland.^ Sir James at the same time
bound himself in a like sum for the good behaviour
of the Chief of Clanranald, while later it required
the combined assurance of Sir James, Macleod,
Clanranald, Morar, and Benbecula, to satisfy the
Government for the pfood conduct of Gleno-arrv^
Glengarry, who had in the interval " deported
himself peaceablie and quytlie and given all due
obedience to his Highnesse Oliver Lord Protector,"
gave his bond of relief to Sir James in 1656.^

Sir James Macdonald's affairs appear to have been
in a flourishing state at this period. The family of
Clanranald, who had not been so fortunate, had now
become deeply involved on account of the part they
had acted during the recent civil wars and other

' Sle.1t Chill tcrClie.-t. -' ILi.l. ' H-M.


disturbances. The friendly assistance- which Sir
James was able to render to his kinsmen at this
juncture, and his prudent example and wise counsel,
had the effect at least of keeping them out of the.
Glencairn rising. To relieve them of their pecuniary
embarrassments, and " for the weel and standing of
their house," John and Donald, elder and younger
of Clanranald, were obliged to wadset to Sir James
their lands of Moidart and Arisaig for the sum of
£40,000 Scots.'

Taking advantage of the security afforded by the
Cromwellian Government, Sir James Macdonald
turned his attention to the affairs of his family and
estates. In 1657, he executed a deed of entail of
his lands of Skye and Uist in favour of his eldest
son, Donald, failing whom and the other sons and
brothers of Sir James, in favour of the nearest male
heir of the family of Macdonald. The lands detailed
in this deed were the 20 pound land of old extent
of Sleat, the 40 pound land of old extent of North
Uist, and the 30 merkland of Skirhough. '1 he
money rent of Sir James Macdonalcl's vast estates
at that time amounted only to £6050 Scots yearly,
as the same were valued by the Commissioners of
Assessments of the Sheriffdoms of Inverness and
Ross at Chanonry.^' In the year 1644, when Sir
James succeeded his father, Sir Donald, the money
rent was £10,133 Scots. In addition to this there
was the rent ]md in kind, besides military and
other services. The population of these extensive
estates was estimated at 12,000, in consequence of
which Sir James occupied a prominent position
among the chiefs, while the command of so large a
following made him a power to reckon with in the

^ Sleat Charter Chest. - Ibid.



Hii;l)laii(ls. Ill liis letters and other papers, pre-
served in the Charter Chest of Lord Macdonald,
there is abundant evidence of his outstanding abiHty

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