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Duke of Montrose in the autumn of 1714.^

Sir Donald was not present at the great Jacobite
gathering at Braemar in September, when the
standard of the Koyal House of Stuart was raised
by the Earl of Mar. Being in the secrets of the
party, and acting in concert with the Earl, he
proceeded to the Isle of Skye to raise his followers,
variously estimated as being on this occasion
between 700 and 900 men. The whole North was
soon in a ferment of rebellion. The beginning of
hostilities was signalled on the 13th of September
by Mackintosh of Borlum proclaiming King James
from the Market Cross of Inverness. About the
begiiniing of October, Sir Donald, at the head of his
men, joined the Earl of Seaforth at Brahan, and
with him proceeded to Alness, where they put to
flight the Earl of Sutherland, with the Sutherland
and Reay men, the Munroes, Rosses, and others.
Proceeding further north. Lord DufFus, supported by
the men of the Isles, proclaimed King James at
Tain. After assisting in dis|)ersing the Northern
combination. Sir Donald marched South and joined
the Earl of Mar at Perth about the end of October.
Here he took suddenly ill, and was carried away in
a litter when the forces of King George entered the
city." From Perth Sir Donald was carried all tiie
way to the Isle of Skye, but his brothers, James and

' Sleat Charter Client . - Ibid.



THE MAC DONALDS OF SLEAT. 81

William, remained at the head of the Sleat men and
fought in the right wing of Mar's army with con-
spicuous braver)^ From Sheriffmulr the Sleat men
returned to the Isles and stood out for some time,
but when King George's troops were sent to Skye
under Colonel Cholmondely, Sir Donald retired to
North Uist. In a letter dated 20th April, 1716, and
addressed to General Cadogan, Governor of Inver-
lochy. Sir Donald offered to surrender himself in terms
of the Act of Parliament recently passed, enacting
that if he and others did not surrender before the
last day of June they should stand and be adjudged
attamted of high treason. Sir Donald pleaded that
by reason of his continued indisposition he was not
in a fit state to travel to Inverlochy to surrender in
person as the Act required. Having failed to appear
personally, Sir Donald was adjudged guilty of high
treason, and his estates w^ere accordingly forfeited.^
The Commissioners of Forfeited Estates proceeded
to make a survey of the estates of Sir Donald, and
appointed William Macleod of Hammir as judicial
factor. Macleod, as might be expected, was far
from being popular in his official capacity, either in
Skye or in Uist. The people were in extreme
poverty. The state of matters in North Uist and
in the extensive district of Troternish, in Skye, was
deplorable. From a document attested by the
wadsetters and tacksmen of North Uist and given
in by Macleod of Hammir to the Forfeited Estates
Commissioners, it appears that the tenants had
lost by a plague among their live stock 745
cows, 573 horses, and 820 sheep. The sea, too,
had " overflowed several parts of the country,
breaking down many houses, to the hazard of some

1 Sleat Charter Chest.



82 THE CLAN DONALD.

lives ami the impairing of the lands." On the
Macdonakl estates in Skye the state of matters was
no better. " Tlje gentlemen of Troternish" testify
that by a similar plague among their live stock they
had lost 485 horses, 1027 cows, and 4556 sheep. If
to these lo.sses be added other and unavoidable
hardships consequent on the troubles of the time,
the condition of the people must have been truly
pitiable. Sir Donald Macdonald dying in March,
1718, his only son and heir, Donald, succeeded him
in the representation of the family. Immediately
after the death of his father, young Sir Donald,
taking advantage of an Act passed in the fifth year
of George First's reign for eidarging the time to
determine claims on the forfeited estates, presented
a petition to the Court of Session setting forth that,
as his father had surrendered to General Cadogan,
it ought to be adjudged tluit he obeyed the Act
of Parliament, and consequently had not been
attainted, nor had his estate been forfeited. The
Court decided in favour of the petitioner, finding
that the deceased Sir Donald did surrender to
General C/adogan, that his surrender was accepted,
and that, therefore, he had not been attainted, nor
had the public any right to his estate. Against
this decision the Forfeited Estates' Commissioners
appealed to the House of Lords, on the ground that
the Act required a surrendering of Sir Donald's
person ; that a submission by letter to the Com-
mander-in-Chief could never be called a surrendering
of the person ; that his pretended surrender was at
the best a subnn'ssion to prevent a military execution
against his estate ; and that, though he complained
of being unable to travel from Uist to Inverlochy,
yet he did actually travel shortly thereafter to



THE MACDONALDS OF SLEAT. 83

Bernera and Duntulm, wliicli did not appear to be
the way to Inverlochy. The House of Lords gave
judgment in favour of the appellants in May, 1720.
By this time young Sir Donald was dead. In the
interval, however, between the date of the decision
of the Court of Session in his favour and his death,
early in the year 1720, Sir Donald assumed pro-
prietary relations with the family inheritance and
intromitted with the rents of the estate. In a letter
to his agent in Edinburgh, giving him a particular
account of the state of his affairs, he says : — " I have
just done with my sett of Sleat and Trotarnes in
both which countrys I have been obliged to abate
a great part of the money rents with the entire
casualitys because of the poverty the loss of their
cattail has reduced the people to." The death of
Donald in the bloom of manhood was much regretted
by his clan and friends. Educated at the University
of Glasgow, he appears to have been a young man of
considerable culture, and to have jDOSsessed in a large
measure the large-heartedness and considerate kind-
ness towards their dependants characteristic of the
Chiefs of Sleat. The death of their beloved young
Chief at so critical a time in the history of his family
was looked upon as a great calamity by his clan and
dependants.

Sir Donald Macdonald was succeeded in the
representation of the family of Sleat by his uncle,
James Macdonald of Orinsay, who survived him
only for a few months. Sir James, besides fighting
at Killiecrankie, had led the Sleat men at Sheiifi-
muir, and it is worthy, of notice that, notwithstanding
liis rebellious conduct on these occasions, he behaved
with becoming loyalty to King George at the time
of the Spanish invasion of 1719, which ended in the



84 THE CLAN DONALD.

jittiiir of Gleushiel. In the Act of Parliament making
provision for tlie cliildren of Sir James, it is stated
tliat he not only refused to join those who were then
in rebellion, but used his best endeavours to prevent
Sir Donald's j)eople from joining in the insurrection.^
The family inheritance, however, was not restored to
him, and, before any steps were taken in this respect,
Sir James died in the autimm of 1720. The affairs
of the family were greatly involved, deprived as
they were of their estate. In these circumstances,
a petition was presented to Parliament in behalf of
the children of Sir James, when an Act was passed
authorising the King to make a grant in their
favour of £10,000 out of the estate of the late Sir
Donald. Provision was made at the same time
for the widow and children of Sir Donald.'- Pre-
parations were now made by the friends of the
family with the view of acquiring the estate, which
was advertised for sale, for behoof of the heir-male.
The wadsetters, to whom the estate was in debt to
a large extent in sums advanced by them for their
unredeemed wadsets, l^anded themselves together,
and, in their own interest as well as " for the
preservation of the family," as they put it, offered
to become security for the purchase price. The
estate being exposed for sale on the 23rd of October,
1723, Kenneth Mackenzie, Advocate, Edinburgli,
instructed by tlie wadsetters, purchased in his own
name the three baronies of Sleat, Troternish, and
North Uist for the sum of £21,000 sterling. The
rental of the estate, as surveyed by Sir Peter
Strachan, was £1550. After deducting the pro-
vision to tlie families of Sir Donald and Sir James,
and the debts due to the wadsetters and others, the

' Sleat Charter Chest. ' Ibi^.




SIR ALEXANDER MACDONALD 7tm BARONET OF SLEAT.



THE MACDONALDS OF SLEAT. .g^

purchase price of the estate was very nearly
exhausted, and only £4000 went to the public. In

1726, a contract of sale was entered into between
Kenneth Mackenzie and Sir Alexander Macdonald,
the heir- male, with consent of his curators, whereby
the whole estate that belonged to Sir Donald Mac-
donald was sold to Sir Alexander. In February,

1727, Sir Alexander Macdonald received a Crown
charter of his lands erecting the whole into a barony
to be called the Barony of Macdonald.^

Sir Alexander Macdonald was a minor when he
succeeded his father in the representation of the
family in 1720. Sir James shortly before his death
appointed as tutors and curators to his son, William
Macdonald of Borniskittaig, Alexander Macdonald
of Glenteltin, Donald Macdonald of Sarthill, Donald
Macleod of Tallisker, and Norman Macleod of Gris-
ernish. Sir Alexander Macdonald was sent to school
at Leith in L721, and afterwards to the University of
St Andrews, which he entered in 1726. During his
college curriculum at St Andrews, which extended
over a period of three years, much deference was
paid to him as a Highland chief, and he kept up an
establishment befitting his station, which included
Charles Macarthur, the family piper. The journal
kept during Sir Alexander's attendance at College
gives vivid glimpses of the society of the ancient
academic city. The entertainments given by the
young chief to the College professors, and others,
were conducted on a very sumptuous scale, taxing
the professional capacity of Charles Macarthur to its
very utmost in the earnest if vain endeavour to please
the ears of liis critical Fife audience. Sir Alexander
was made a burgess of St Andrews in 1727. At

* Sleat Charter Chest.



86 THE ("LAN DONALD.

intervals between his collet^e sessions, he travelled
extensively throutrji Highlands and Lowlands, visit-
ing in turn many of* the families of note in both
regions.^ On his coming of age, he settled down on
his property in Skye, and being a man of great tact
'and ability, he set about vigorously to improve the
family inheritance. In a memorial relating to the
management of the property, it is complained that
the wadsetters are flourishing at the expense of the
proprietor, are extravagant in their habits, and
unkind to their sub-tenants. Taking advantage of
the relations between them and their chief, they are
generally slow in making payment of their rents.
They spend far too much money on brandy, tobacco,
and fine clothes. Sir Alexander is to do all in his
power to discourage these habits, l)ut he is in the
'grip of his wadsetters. They had advanced large
sums of money for their wadsets, and these w^ould take
some time to redeem. Sir Alexander, however, was
resolved to relieve the estate of these burdens, and
free the sub-tenants from the galling yoke of the
wadsetters, under which they undoubtedly suffered."
Tn tliis connection it may not be oat of place to
make a brief reference to an afl'air which caused no
little stir at the time throughout the Western Isles,
and to some extent even in the South of Scotland, a
plut in which, in the estimation of the public, Sir
Alexander Macdonald was deeply im})licated. The
real part acted by Sir Alexander in this affair has
})robably never been told. He was accused of giving
countenance to the forced emigration of many of
his own people to the American Colonies. It was
reported that Norman Macleod, eldest son of
Donald' Macleod <>f TV-rnera, had bniught a ship

' Slcjxt Charter Chest. - Ibid.



THE MACDONALDS OP SLEAT. 87

to the Isle of Skye— ever since called " Soitheach
nan Daoine"^ — and that at the head of a rutiian
band of young men he had captured many men and
women, and forced them on board with the view of
transporting them to the American Colonies, and
selling them there as slaves. It was believed that
both Sir Alexander and Macleod had connived at, if
they had not actually given countenance openly to,
these presumably outrageous proceedings. Lady
Margaret Macdonald, writing to Justice Clerk
Milton in 1740, denies warmly that Sir Alexander
was concerned in any way, act or part, In the affair
of " Soitheach nan Daolne," nor did he know any-
thing of " thiss wicked scrape till the ship was gon.'*
Lady Margaret, very probably, was not in the secret
of the plot. The real facts of the case may be briefly
told. The estates of both Sir Alexander Macdonald
and Macleod had been for several years Infested by
thieves, and other pests of society, and all efforts to
extirpate them having failed, the chiefs took counsel
together, and resolved on the novel. If laudable,
expedient of shipping them with all possible secrecy
to the new world. This daring snd difficult task
was proposed to, and accepted by, Norman Macleod,
who, at the head of a band of resolute young men,
chosen by himself, succeeded in forcing on board a
ship provided for the purpose this superfluous
population of the Islands. All the parties to the
transaction being sworn to secrecy, the real facts of
the case probably never reached the ears of those In
authority ; but, In any case, no action was taken in
the matter. " Soitheach nan Daoine," in the course
of its voyage, was driven by a strong gale on the
North (Joctst of Ireland and wrecked there. Several
of the " emigrants " afterwards squatted on the lands



88 rilK ("LAN' DONALD.

of the Ecul c)t" Ant rim. So fiir, and no further, was
Sir Alexander Macdonald implicated in the ati'air of
" Soitheach nan Daoine."

Sir Alexander Macdonald's conduct during tlie
great crisis of the '45 has been criticised with some
severity by partisans on both sides. Sir Alexander,
as is well known, refused to join in the rebellion.
Several reasons may be given to account for the
attitude he assumed, and the first thing to be con-
sidered was whether or not the enterprise was to
succeed. It apj)eared to be utterly hoj)eless. Sir
Alexander's real attitude towards the Prince's cause
may be inferred from the answer he gave to young
Clanranald, whom Charles sent to him to persuade
him to rise in his favour. There is every reason to
believe that he spoke sincerely and honestly when
he told young Clanranald that he wished well to the
cause, but that seeing the attempt was inopportune,
the Prince so slenderly attended, and the probability
of success so remote, he could not support him.
There was another matter which must have weighed
with Sir Alexander. He could not well forget the
favour formerly shown to him by the reigning family
in restoring him to his estate, and the present
prospects of the Prince were not such as to tempt
any level-headed man to stake vast interests u))on
them. Even Lochiel hesitated, and required the
assurance of Charles that his estates, or the value of
them, would be secured to him. Glengarry, Clan-
ranald, and Lovat ke})t out of it, and sent their
eldest sons, but Sir Alexander Macdonald had no
eldest son fit to lead the clan. It has been repeatedly
stated that Sir Alexander was won over to the
Hanoverian cause by Forbes of Culloden. Forbes's
influence with the Highland chiefs has been nmch



THE MACDONALDS OF SLEAT. 89

exaggerated. It is as clear as anything can well be
if Sir Alexander could only have seen his way to
espouse the cause of the Prince, which was his
inclination, Forbes, whose sympathies were entirely
Lowland, would not have influenced him for one
moment. As it was, Forbes did his best to confirm
him in the attitude he had decided to take. No
Highland chief worthy of the name, and especially
one like Sir Alexander, with Jacobite tendencies
and Jacobite traditions, would have been guided by
President Forbes in a matter such as joining or not
joining the Prince.

Sir Alexander has been accused of being in the
Prince's counsels, gaining his confidence, pledging
himself to support him, and then violating his
pledge. But Sir Alexander promised to join pro-
vided the attempt was made with such an auxiliary
force from abroad, and such necessary supplies of
money, arms, and stores, as should give the insur-
gents some chance of success. He refused to join
when the Prince, without any of the assistance he
had engaged to him and other Highland chiefs to
bring, landed in the West of Scotland, against the
advice of many of his devoted followers, and engaged
in that rash enterprise which Sir Alexander distinctly
foresaw would fail for want of means. Had the
promises made to Sir Alexander been fulfilled, he
would have adhered to his engagements ; as it was,
the course he followed was perfectly justified by the
circumstances. As further evidence of the consistent
attitude maintained by Sir Alexander, Murray of
Brousfhton declares that the Prince wrote a letter
to him the winter preceding his landing desiring his
assistance. Sir Alexander, in reply, refused to make
any positive promise, but said that whenever he saw



90 TUE CLAN IJUNALD.

a well -concerted scheme he would readily join him.
" I can say with certainty," Murray further declares,
" that from that time he came under no further
ent^agement." It is diflicult to see how, in the face
of this definite testimony, Murray could afterwards
say — " I should he sorry to have so bad an opinion
of mankind as to think any of them capable of
attemptinf^ an apology for him."

Donald Koy Macdonald, afterwards an othcer in
the Prince's army, was at Mugstot with Sir Alex-
ander when Charles landed on the mainland. Sir
Alexander, Donald Roy informs Bic-hop Forbes,
detained him for a month, being all the time in a
state of suspense about raising his men for the
Prince. There was little likelihood of Sir Alexander
hesitating at this stage. Even after the victory of
Falkirk, when the prospects of the Prince were
brightest. Sir Alexandei' stood untiinchingly to his
resolution not to join him. At that time Donald
Koy Macdonald was sent to Sir Alexander by the
Prince with a letter subscribed by the chiefs praying
liini to raise his men immediately and join the
Prince's army. The written message was not in the
least likely to suffer by the verbal glosses put upon
it by the zealous Donald Koy, yet Sir Alexander
remained firm in his determination to go his own
way. Donald Roy himself, on iiis way back to the
Prince's camj), feasted for three days at Kyle on
King George's beef and President Forbes's Ferin-
tosh whisky, under the hospitable auspices of Sir
Alexander and the officers of his independent
companies.

Sir Alexandei- Macdonald's sympathies were
midoubtedly witii the l^rince, and, as j)roof of this,
he did what lay in his power to protect him when



THE MACDONALDS OF SLEAT. 91

he was a fugitive within lii.s bounds. Charles could
not possibly Ih'ive escaped if Sir Alexander had
been anxious to arrest him. On the contiary, he
encouraged his dependants to facilitate his escape.
The principal instruments employed in effecting
his escape were all closely connected with Sir
Alexander's family, such as Hugh Macdonald of
Armadale, Hugh Macdonald of Balesliare, Alex-
ander Macdonald of Kingsburgh, Lady Margaret
Macdonald, and Flora Macdonald.

Sir Alexander Macdonald was obliged to do
something, and he did as little as possible to helj)
the Government Two inde])endent companies
raised by him to guard the passes were maintained,
at least for some time, by himself These were more
of a hindrance, after all, than a help to the Govern-
ment, as they were all, officers and men alike, with
the single exception of Allan Macdonald of Knock,
in entire symj)athy with the Prince. After the
Battle of CuUoden, Sir Alexander on several
occasions ventured to remonstrate with the German
Butcher, Cumberland, for his own savage cruelty,
and for the wanton outrages committed in his name
on many innocent persons, whose one fault was that
they were of one blood with the rebels. Sir Alex-
ander did all that lay in his power to mitigate the
horrors of that dark and doleful time. Yet when he
died shortly thereafter some Jacobites had no better
epitaph to commemorate his generosity and their
own gratitude than this —

" If hcaTeu be plciised when siuncis cease to sin ;
If hell be pleased when sinners enter in ;
If earth be pleased to lose a truckling knave :
Then all arc pleased — Macdouald's in his grave."

Sir Alexander Macdonald, on his way to Lontltm
to wait upon Butcher Cumberland, took suddenly ill



92 THE CLAN DONALD.

at Glenelo-, and died there on the 23rd of November,
174G, greatly lamented by his many friends and
followers. On the 8th of December he was buried
with great pomj) and ceremony at Kilmore, in Sleat,
all the pipers of note in the Isles officiating at the
obsecjuies. Iletainers and friends of the family from
all })arts of the Hii^lilands attended. These were
entertained at Armadale with a hospitality on a
scale befitting an occasion so important as the burial
of tlie representative of the ancient and illustrious
Kings of Innsegall. It may be interesting to know
that the funeral expenses amounted to the large sum
of £2G45. Sir Alexander's character may be summed
up in the words of a highly-intelligent gentleman of
his own clan, and one who knew him well : — " He
was a downright honest man, true to his friend and
firm to his word. By his death we of his clan have
lost a father and the King a good subject."

Sir Alexander Macdonald's eldest son and heir,
Sir James, was a minor only five years old when his
father died. During his minority his estates and
the affairs of the family were managed principally
by Lady Margaret, his mother, a lady of many
accomplishments, who acted a prominent part in the
life of the Western Isles, and who was worthy to be
the mother of so distinguished a son. With Lady
Margaret were associated in the management of the
estates, Alexander, Earl of Eglinton ; Alexander
Mackenzie of Delvin, James Moray of Abercairney,
Professor Alexander Munro, Edinburgh, and Alex-
ander Macdonald of Kingsburgh. Sir James
Macdonald was at a very early age sent to Eton,
fn »ni which he passed to Oxford in 1759. In both
i)laccs he had an exce])tional]y distinguished career,
and gained a reputation for learning and other



THE MACDONALDS OF SLEAT. 93

accomplishments which won him early recognition
from men of talent both in his own country and on
the Continent. His extraordinary ^ifts attracted
men of genius and culture wherever he v^ent, while
his refined manners, no less than his amiable
disposition, were the admiration of all with whom
he associated in the high and cultivated circles of
society. Shortly after leaving Oxford, Sir James
travelled through many of the countries of Europe
in tlie company of the Duke of Buccleuch and
Professor Adam Smith, the well-known author of
" The Wealth of Nations." He was everywhere
received witli the utmost respect. At Paris he
discusses Hume with the French philosophers and
divides his time between the literati of the city
and the Court of Louis XV. Dr John Maclean of
Shulista, himself of considerable reputation as a man
of learning in the Western Isles, writing to John
Mackenzie of Del vine at the time of Sir James's
visit to the Continent, refers to his reception at the
Court of France. " It m.ust give exceeding joy to
us all," he says, " to hear that Sir James is parti-
cularly distinguished at so great a Court as that of
France ; but what gives me infinite satisfaction is
that he studies to apply, as much as possible, what-
ever he sees to the interest of the country and tiie
happiness of his people." John MacCodrum, too,
the unlettered bard of North Uist, scanning from
afar, " amid the melancholy main," watches the
progress of his patron and sings his tuneful rhyme —

A' neach a shiulas gacli rioghachd,
Gheibh do chliu aim am firiiin,
Eadar Louis na Fraiiigc 's am Piipa.

It was the custom at that time for gentlemen
who made the " grand tour" to be furnished with



94 THE CLAN DONALD.

introductions to eminent and distinguished fbr-
eigners, and on tlieir reception by these abroad
depended veiy largely the consideration and respect



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