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with which they weie received at home. Young
wntlemen, therefore, entered on their travels abroad
with far different views and intentions than prevail
at the present time. So far from passing their time
in places of entertainment, and travelling from place
to place in quest of gross pleasures, they spent it in
the society of foreign families of taste and dis-
tinction, amongst whom they were expected to cut
a creditable figure. So far from approaching the
tour with feelings of contempt for the foreigner,
they were taught that Europe as a whole was the
large school of taste and good manners, and that in
a wider field than our Island can afford lay the test
of the success or failure of the education they had
previously received.

Sir James Macdonald, on his return from his
Continental tour, took the management of his
extensive property into his own hands, to the
im})rovement of which, as well as to the social and
material advancement of his people, he devoted
himself with much energy and ability. Ill health,
unfortunately, soon stayed his improving hand, and
the plans which he had devised for the benefit of
his people were frustrated. To what extent the
enlifrhtened schemes which Sir James had formed
for ameliorating the condition of his people took any
practical sha})e does not appear. The family
archives fuiJiish no clue as to what the improve-
ments were which he had contemplated. His ])lans
were probably never even reduced to writing. The
young chief undoubtedly deeply interested himself
in all that concerned the welfare of his people. He


valued all tliat was l)est In the social system wliich
had been nourished under the fostering x^h of his
family. The lano-uaoje and literature of the Gael
were not to him what they have become loo often
to Highland chiefs since — things to be despised.
Though an Oxford bred student, his was too robust
a personality to be spoiled by an P^nglish education.
No one took a deeper or more intelligent interest in
the controversy that raged round the Blind Bard of
Selma. He was well versed in the lore of the
Feinne. For hours together he would listen to
John MacCodrum and other recitei's of Ossianic
ballads pouring out their wealth of tale and song.
Such a man, and he a Highland chief of the first
importance, could hardly fail to commend himself to
a people so loyal and warm-hearted as the people of
the Isles. He appreciated the institutions of the
Gael, and had he been spared he would have been
foremost in defending them. " Though I can do
little," he writes Dr Blair of Edinburgh, '•' nothing
shall be wanting to fight Ossian's cause that lies in
my power."

Shortly after lie came of age, Sir James Mac-
donald, as an earnest of his appreciation of native
talent, appointed John MacCodrum as Ijis family
bard in succession to Duncan McBury, in Troter-
nish, the last family bard. The song composed by
MacCodrum on his appointment as laureate in
praise of Sir James is struck in a lofty key, and
fully justifies his patron's selection of him for that
office. The emoluments bestowed by Sir James on
his bard amounted to the annual sum of £2 os, with
5 bolls of meal, 5 stones of cljeese, and a croft renX
free for life.


Sir James Macdonakl, tlioiii^h a man of hand-
some appearance, began early in life to show
symptoms of a delicate constitnt ion, not improved,
it may he snrmistMl, hy his studious hahits. An
accident which hefell him while on a visit to North
Uist in 17G4 so undermined his delicate frame that
he was ohlioed finally to seek refuge in a warm
climate abroad. While out shooting with a party
of Skye and Uist gentlemen in his own forest of
Mointeachmhor, in North Uist, Sir James was shot
in the leg through the accidental discharge of
Colonel Macleod of Talisker's gun. He was at once
carried across the hill to the house of his cousin,
Ewen Macdonakl of Vallay, where he was attended
by Neil Beaton, surgeon, in North Uist. The
North Uist people showed their warm attachment
to Sir James on this occasion in a remarkable way.
Hearinor exatr<rerated accounts of the accident, and
suspecting foul play, they proceeded in a body to
Vallay and demanded the life, no less, of Colonel
Macleod of Talisker. Ewen Macdonald of Vallay,
and the other gentlemen of Sir James's party,
laboured in vain to convince them of the entire
innocence of Colonel Macleod of any intention to
injure Sir James. They would not be satisfied until
Sir James himself was brought in a blanket to the
window of his room to assure them that no blame
was to be attached to Colonel Macleod, and that
the affair was entirely the result of an accident. On
i)eing assured that the accident was a slight one,
and that Sir James would soon l)e well again, the
North Uist men, after partaking of co})ious libations
of* Ferintosh," found their way home the best way
tliey could. Sir James was confined at Vallay for a
coP-siderable time, during which Ewi-n Macdonald



beguiled the tedium of the sick chamhei' l)y com-
posing several j)i(>haireach (Is and playing them with
admirable taste on the bag-pipe. Two of thtse
have been preserved — " Ciimha na Coise," Mnd
"Sir James Macdonald of the Isles's Salute," both
of which are I'eckoned by competent judges to be
excellent tunes.

The remainder of Sir James Macdonald's life may
be briefly told. In the winter of 1765 the state of
his health, which had been precarious for some time,
obliged him to seek relief from the severe climate of
his own country in the more .cfenial air of the South
of Italy. His illness at length taking a serious turn,
he found his way to Rome, where he obtained the
best medical skill which the city could aflbrd. He,
however, gradually grew worse, and, after suffering
nuich pain, borne with great resignation and forti-
tude, he died at Rome on the 26th of July, 1766, in
the 25th year of his age. During his stay in Rome,
the most distinguished members of the Papal Court
vied with each other in their respectful attentions
to the invalid Chief, and after his death,
" notwithstanding the difference of religion, such
extraordinary honours were paid to his memory as
had never graced that of any other Biitish subject
since the death of Sir Philip Sydney." During his
illness the Pope himself sent a messenger daily to
enquire for him, and when he died he commanded
that he should be buried in consecrated ground and
accorded a public funeral. Cardinal Piccolomini
composed a Latin elegy in memory of Sir James.
The death of Sir James Macdonald was nuich
lamented by his family and people in the Isles, who,
with good reason, looked upon it as the greatest
calamity that could happen to them. Dr John



Maclean of Shulista, writing to John Mackenzie of
Delvine on receivinor the news of Sir James's death,
gives expression to feehngs which all experienced at
the time. "Your letter," he writes, "brinoingthe sad
accounts of Sir James Macdonald's d(^atli T received
in course of last post. What a disappointment
after the great happiness which we promised our
selves by his return, poor, unfortunate people tha^
we are, and very few of us sensible of the loss we
have suftered. The youngest of us will never see a
person of a warmer heart, better principles, or more
inclined to do all the good in his power. It is
natural, indeed, for me to wish all his family \vell,
hut sure I am that T shall never see any man for
whom I can have such a strong attachment, as I do
not expect to be acquainted with such s person all
the days of my life." Many similar tributes have
been paid to the memory of Sir James Macdonald,
both by his own countrymen and by distinguished
foreigners, and all agree in according to him the
distinction of havinof l)een. in the lanofuag-e of
General Stewart of Garth. " one of the most
accomplished men of his own or almost of anv
other country." For his learning and mam'
accomplishments, Sir James is usually styled "The
Scottish Marcellus."

Lady Margaret Macdonald, " in testimony of her
love and the constant tenderness and affection which,
even to his last moments, he showed for her," erected
a beautiful monument to the memory of her son in
the Parish Church of Sleat, bearing a suitable inscrip-
tion written by his college friend, Lord Lyttleton.
A more lasting monument by far was that raised in
the lofty rhyme of John MacCodrum, the peasant
bard of North Uist, whose beautiful elegy in memory


of bis patron Is surpassed by few such compositions
in any lanojuage.

Sir James Macdonald was succeeded in the
representation of the family and in the estates by
his brother, Alexander. Sir Alexander was educated
at Eton and in the University of St Andrews, and
had a distinguished career at both places. In 1761,
he received a commission in tbe Coldstream Guards,
but be retired from the army on his succession t\>
the property. To his new duties as a landed pro-
prietor Sir Alexander devoted bimself with much
energy and ability. He took the entii'e manage-
ment of his estates upon himself, and held the reins
with a very firm hand. He made no attempt to
follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. He
appears to have been a man of an altogether
different temperament from Sir James. His
sympathies and tastes were, if not wholly English,
at least entirely anti-Celtic. For nothing dis-
tinctively Highland did this chief care. In his
relations with his tenants he looked upon him-
self simply as a landlord, and in no sense as the
chief of a clan, unless Indeed that position was to
be held as merely honorary and conve3'^ing a certain
dignity to the holder of It. So far as that dignity
bestowed any social advantage In England, or any-
where out of the Highlands, did Sn- Alexander
value It and no further. He never made the least
attempt to perform any of the duties of chiefshlp.
No other than those of strictly commercial relations
can by an}^ Ingenuity be discovered as existing
between him and his clan. At the very outset of
his career he made himself obnoxious by raising the
rents of his principal tenants, all except those who
held their lands by wadset. He was no less exacting


with his smaller tenants. Many of these were
evicted from their holdings, while several of the
tacksmen, both in Skye and in Uist, were obliged
to give up their leases and emigrate. When Bos-
well, in cc»mpnny with Dr Samuel Johnson, visited
the Isle of Skye in 177.S, he found an emigrant ship
at Portree ready to carry awav Sir Alexander's tacks-
men and their families. Boswell discovered that Sir
Alexander was considered anything but an ideal chief;
he even accuses him of want of hospitality when he
and the great lexicographer visited him at Armadale.
Boswell afterwards got Into considerable trouble
over statements he made, both in public and in
private, reflecting on Sir Alexander's social char-
acter, and a duel was averted at the eleventh hour
by the ample apology which the Prince of Biog-
raphers made to the " English-bred Chieftain."

In 1776, Sir Alexander Macdonald was created a
peer of Ireland by the style and title of Lord
Macdonald of Sleat. In the followlncr year he
offered to raise a regiment on his estates in the Isles
for His Majesty's service, and his offer was accepted
by the Government. Letters of service were
accordlnglv trranted to him. and the reo-Iment was
finally embodied in March, 1778, and inspected by
General Skene at Inverness. The total strength of
the regiment, which was named the 76th, or
Macdonald's Highlanders, was 1086 men, 750 of
whom were raised l)y Lord Macdonald In Skye and
North Uist. His lordship was offered the command
of the regiment, but he declined it, and recom-
mended John Macdonell of Lochgarry for the post.
From Inverness the regiment removed to Fort
George, where it remained for a year under the
connnand of Major Donaldson. In the spring of


1779, the regiment embarked for New York, and
after serving with distinction in the American War,
it returned home and was disbanded at Stirling in
March, 1784.

Lord Macdonald, wlio was keenly interested in
politics, became a candidate in 1782 for the repre-
sentation of Inverness-shire in Parliament, but he
was not successful in secui-ing the seat. He con-
tinued, however, to take an active interest in the
affairs of the county, and in 1794 he raised three
volunteer companies in Skye and Uist for the
defence of the country and the relief of the regular
army. Lord Macdonald was a highly cultured and
accomplished gentleman, and though unpopular in
the Isles on account of his anti- Celtic tendencies and
hard dealings as a landlord, he was respected for his
high character, tact, and business capacity. He
was reckoned, among his other accomplishments,
one of the best amateur players on the violin of his
day. He composed several pieces of music for this
instrument, some of which have been very popular
in the Western Isles, such as " Lord Macdonald 's
Keel,'' "Mrs Mackinnon of Corry,'' and "Mrs
Macleod ot Ellanreoch."

Lord Macdonald died on the 12th of September,
1795, a comparatively young man, and was succeeded
by his eldest son, Alexander Wentworth, as second
lord. This Chief, like his father, was educated at
Eton and St Andrews, and was kind, generous, and
amiable. Being naturally shy, and of a retired
disposition, he associated but little witli his people
in the Isles, though the relations between him and
his tenants were of the most cordial kind. Anything
that had for its object the comfort and advancement
of his tenantry had his hearty support. Tliere is


only one sense in which Lord Macdonald is to be
held responsible tor the evictions which took place
in his time in Skye and Uist. He should have
made it impossible for the mana^'ers of his property
to evict tenants without his knowledge and consent.
Lord Macdonald knew notliing of the disgraceful
evictions of Clachan and others in North Uist until
the evicted, who were the most prosperous tenants
on the estate, had been already driven out of the
country. Lord Macdonald, it should be added,
lived for the most part in Eiigland, and sometimes

In 1798 Lord Macdonald received permission
from King George III. to raise for His Majesty's
service a regiment on his estates in the Isles. The
Islanders were somewhat slow in responding to the
call to arms on this occasion. Very considerable
pressure, indeed, was brought to bear upon them
before the full complement of men required was
obtained. The Highlanders as a body never enlisted
willingly, though when they did take up arms they
fought like heroes. " The Ilegiment of the Isles,"
as it was very appropriately called, was embodied at
Inverness, and inspected there by General Leith-
Hay on June 4th, 1799. It saw no active service,
and was reduced at Fort-George in July, 1802.

Lord Macdonald spent Jarge sums in improve-
ments on his estates, and erected the fine mansion
house of Armadale, in the parish of Sleat, the
principal residence of his family. His lordship died
unmarried, in London, on the 19th June, 1824, when
he was succeeded by his brother, Godfrey.

Godfrey, third Lord Macdonald, entered the
army in 1794, saw a good deal of service, and
finally attained the rank of Lieutenant-General.



Very soon after his succession to 1:,he family
honours and estates, he was dragged into a some-
what exciting controversy with Glengarry over the
chiefship of the clan. The aggressor, it need hardly
be said, was Glengarr}^ A fierce epistolary corres-
pondence took place between them, both privately
and in the newspapers. The result might have
been disastrous to one or both. The controversy
at length came to such a height that Lord Mac-
donald had all but called Glengarry " out," when
friends on both sides interfered, and the dreaded
duel was averted. In 1826 Lord Macdonald stood
as a Parliamentary candidate for Inverness-shire,
but was defeated, Charles Gi'ant of Glenelg carrying
the seat by a large majority. Lord Macdonald died
on the 12th of October, 1832, and was succeeded by
his son, Godfrey William, as fourth lord. Large
portions of the family inheritance were sold by this
Chief, including North Uist, and Kilmuir in Troter-
nish, with its ancient Castle of Duntulm. He
died in 1863, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
Somerled, as fifth lord, who was succeeded in 1874
by his brother, Ronald Archibald, the present peer.




Fall of lordship of Isles. — Feudal and Celtic tenures. — Ik»ud of
Kindred. — Differentiation of ottices. — Legal system.— The
Cinn-Tigbc ond their holdings. — The tribe. — Agricultiuc. —
Trading. — Fishing. — Arms and clothing. — .Statutes of
I Columkill.^ — Modern Tacksman emerging. — Incidence of
Cowdeicheis and Calpes. — Social state of chiefr<. — Hunting
and arms. — Restriction on chiefs' retainers, (Jalleys, Arms,
unsuccessfully attempted. — Hereditary and other ofhces. —
Marischall-tighe, Cup-bearer, Bard, Harper, Piper, Physician,
Armourer, Miller. — Celtic customs. — Hanrlfasting. — Marriage
contracts. — Fosterage.— Rise of modern tenures. — Tacksmen.
— Wadsetters. — Feu-farmers. — Steclbow tenants. — Small
tenants. — Introduction of Kelp. — Of the potato. — Educa-
tional conditi<jn of Isles in 16th century. — Donald Dubhs
barons. — (iaelic culture. — Carsewell's prayer-book. — Legen-
dary lore. — Educational ])olicy of Government. — Culture
among Tacksmen. — Attitude of Clans to crown. — Mistaken
policy of appointing Lieutenants. — Change of Islesmcu's
attitude explained. — Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions —
L)isarniing and unclothing Acts. — l)issolution of Clans.—
Rise in land. — Commercial policy of chiefs. — Emigration. —
New townships on Clunranald Estates. — Formation of Fencible
Regiments in the Isles.

After the fall of tlie lordship of the Isles and the
failure of the last efforts to restore it, the various
tribes witliin the Clan Donald confederacy came at
unce into liistorical ])roniinence. What occurred on
the mainland in tin* case of the ancient Mor-
niaordoms is now repeated in the Isles. The Clan
Donald families while under the shield of the parent
house were larjjfelv inHuenced hv Celtic ideals, and


the various attempts to restore the fallen dynasty
sprang- from reluctance to come under a difterent
and alien type of culture. After the fall of tlu*
House of Isla the social and political life of thf
great oii'shoots were modelled on the parent stem.
During the greater part of the IGth century the
Clan Donald North were destitute of regular titles,
and their teniu'e of the lands they occupied was less
upon the system of the feudal charter and more upon
the ])atriarchal principle of '"duchas" or " kyndness"
as it was styled in the low^land tongue of those
times. It is clearly stated in the charter to Donald
Gorme of Sleat in 1597 that, owiup' to troublous
times, the titles and evidents w^ere destroyed, whicli
means that from the time of John, the son of Hugh,
who alienated the estates about the end of the
15th century, the family of Sleat had no feudal
tenure, while in the case of Clanranald, tliough John
Moydartach got a charter in 1532, it was annulled
ten years later. Hence, during a great part of the
16th century, both these great houses and their
Clans lived their own life and fulfilled their own
ideals according to the unwritten laws ol the
ancient tribal system which was at the basis of
their political existence.

Of course we are not to suppose that feudalism
was entirely absent eitlier from the lordship of the
Isles or the subordinate families, as in the case of
the former certain oblifrations of service were con-
ditions of holding land from the Crown. Further,
these two types of culture possess a good deal of
superficial similaritv. There was, however, this
radical distinction between them. The feudal
system was maintained on the principle of service,
Ward and Relief and othei" casualties payable by


the vassal to the superior. The Clan system was
maintained on the principle of kin or blood relation -
shi)). and the interests of one were the interests of
;ill. Ill one respect the two were alike, and in the
course of ages showed a tendency to coalesce,
namely, that the feudal baron, as well as the High-
land chief, exercised an hereditary jurisdiction, and
exacted service from their vassals. Beneath the
general resemblance the difterences of organisation
were deep and marked, and proceeded on principles
radically opposed.

Despite the power of feudalism and the frequent
absence of legal charters during the 16tli century,
the Clan Donald adhered to their position, and they
did so on the principle with which the}'' were most
I'amiliar : they occupied their " kindly rowmes "
just because it had been the land of their kith and
kin for generations. This, in f\ict, was the claim
advanced by Donald Gorme Mor, and admitted by
the Crown authorities in 1597. The Chief and his
Clan — Tuath and Tighearn — were connected by
nature's bond of kindred which, unlike the feudal
bond, was incapable of dissolution. Both were alike
knitted to the soil, and no Government attempted
so revolutionary a measure as to uproot or dissolve
the social organism. Thus it was that, despite
Crown Charters to the family of Sleat for lands in
Benbscula and South Uist, and to the Macleods of
Dunvegan for the lands of Sleat. Trotternish, and
North Uist, neither the one nor the other ever
gained real possession as against the Clanranald on
the one hand or the Clan Uisdein on the other.
The Gaelic principle asserted itself triumphantly in
the face of feudal titles.


Primogeniture was a cardinal tenet of feudalism.
yet in the 16th century we find it again and again
broken throuo-h, the feudal heir beino- set aside for
one more acceptable to the community. Questions
of legitimacy or the reverse were not too critically
scanned. If the claimant to the chiefship was brave
and princely and of the blood of the nobility, he met
the necessities of the case, and secured the con-
fidence and safety of the Clan. In the families of
Clanranald and Keppocli the feudal principle of
succession was repeatedly broken through. We
dwell on these well-known facts simply to illustrate
our contention that the predominant element in the
social life of the Clan Donald was Celtic in the
16th century, and that, although their position was
feudally precarious, their occupancy was practically

The occupancy of land among Celtic peoples in
early times being on the principle of comnunial
rather than individual or priv^ate ownership, the
relation of the heads of families or tribes to the land
was official, the Mormaors being greater and Maors
or Thanes lesser officers. This principle we' find in
later time^ in those bailiaries or Stewartries which
afterward developed into actual proprietorship. All
the power was originally vested in the head of the
I'ace, but offices in time became differentiated and
transmitted on the hereditary principle which so
deeply coloured the entire Celtic organisation. The
affairs of clans were administered by a Court or
Mod composed of assessors or jurors, consisting of
the heads of families, like the elders of the Israel-
itish tribes, of a judge, deemster, or bi'eitheanih. for
whom a portion of land was hereditarily provided,
and in later times a clerk of court, who kept a


record of the business. So much akin to this was
the baron and his court, with his power of pit and
ij^allows -the capital punishment of drowning and
hanging - — that the two systems easily amalgamated.

A com})lete legal system existed under the lord-
ship of the Isles with a su})reme court and a series
of inferior judicatoiies. In the charter by Angus
Og to the Abbey of lona in 1485, we find the name
of Hulialmiis, the " Chief Judge of the Isles, as
witnessing the deed, and the presence of such an
official in the entourage of the Master of the Isles is
both interestinii" and suiiiiestive. Gaelic Courts of
Assize were held on hillocks to make them more

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