Early 17th Century

1600s: 1. This century sees the Campbell takeover of Kintyre. The MacAlasdairs of Tarbert at this time

“posses[s] almost all the lands around Tarbert, and along the coast of Lochfine and Lochgilp, to the extremity of the parish. They [a]re interrupted in the possession of their property by the Macivers, a restless tribe of the Campbells. . . . The inroads of these invaders [a]re, for some time, extreme-ly vexatious to their southern neighbours; till at length they [a]re overcome, and almost extirpated in two bloody conflicts; first with the Macneils, . . . and afterwards with the Macalasters on the shore of Lochfine. The sanguinary policy which deprived the Macdonalds of Cantire, gradually diminishe[s] the authority of the Macalasters” [Stat. Acct.: S. Knapdale, p. 312; Mitchell, pp. 74-5].

In fact, the Campbell takeover seems to have been a gradual, (mostly) legal acquisition of lands that other clans forfeited because of their own lawlessness, although James Macdonald blamed Argyll and Calder for most of his misfortunes, and “[i]t was the opinion, too, of one of the contemporary officers of state for Scotland . . . that the frequent insurrections in the South Isles which occurred in the first fifteen years of the seventeenth century were encouraged, if not originated, by Argyle and the Campbells for their own purposes” [Gregory, p. 289; see e.g. 1602/3].

2. Religion : Many West Highlanders are still Catholic in the seventeenth century: “there is ample evidence to indicate . . . a lingering religious link with Ireland” [Martin, p. 101; Fraser, p. 29; Williams, p. 114].

3. Menstrie family established in Antrim : A family of Alexanders claiming descent from the house of Menstrie settles in Ireland in the 17th century; its heads ultimately become earls of Caledon [Grant, p. 148; Montcreiffe, p. 63].

1602/3: Tarbert raids on Bute : The heir-apparent of Tarbert (Archibald), along with Campbel of Auchinbreck, Colin Campbel of Kilberry, and McNeill of Taynish, leads 1,200 men in raids on Bute [Way & Squire, p. 205; Mitchell, pp. 73, 75; Fraser, pp. 12-3]; according to Castleton, the raiders are apparently aided and abetted, covertly, by the Earl of Argyll; Fraser says that “most of them” are “the Earl of Argyll’s men”. On their arrival they procee[d] first to damage the property of Marion Stewart, and to harry her lands of Wester Kames. Thence they pas[s] on to the lands of Ninian Stewart, Sheriff of the County, where all sorts of atrocities [a]re committed. The raiders being vassals of Argyll, that nobleman [i]s accountable to the Council for their behaviour, and when he and they [a]re summoned to appear and fai[l] to do so, all of them—the Earl, Archibald MacAlasdair, and the other delinquents—[a]re ordered to be denounced as rebels. With this denunciation, which [i]s apparently inoperative so far as punishing the guilty [i]s concerned, the episode appears to have closed” [Castleton, p. 168; Way & Squire, p. 24; Fraser, pp. 13-4].

1601: (29 May) Thomas McAllester of Drummaquhen (Perthshire) and several others are convicted of ‘lese-majesty’ for having ‘treasonably’ counterfeited money. Their goods and lands are forfeit and they are ‘executed to the death’ [RSP, 1604/4/22].

1603: 1. Union of Crowns[1]: William Alexander of Menstrie follows James VI to London, where he serves as tutor to the crown prince, Henry [“News”, no. 31, p. 2; “Fortiter”, June 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 174].

2. At this time the king’s attention is “so much occupied in preparing for his peaceable accession to the throne of England, that the disorders in every part of the Highlands and Isles [a]re allowed to increase to a serious height” [Gregory, p. 303]. Once on the throne, however, with increased resources at his disposal, James VI/I begins again to attempt to tame the Highlands [ibid., p. 304].

3. A Ferquhar Mackallister is on record in Dunzean Crov (Records of Inverness, II, p. 6; ed. by William Mackay and H.C.Boyd [Aberdeen: 1911-14], 2 vol.) [Black, p. 450].

1605:  1. (13th June) many MacAlasdair lands lost : Privy Council orders “Joannis McAlaster, tutor of Loupe” and “[    ] McAllaster of Loupe[2], along with other Highland lairds, “to find sureties for the payment of Crown rents, on pain of having their titles declared null and void, and being denounced as rebels.” Loup is, apparently, one of the few who turn up as ordered, and he “receive[s] titles from Argyll for his lands of Loup and others during th[is] year” [Castleton, p. 169; Way & Squire, p. 205; Gregory, p. 308; Smith, p. 115-6]. The Council record lists Godfrey of Loup among several chiefs made responsible for keeping other Kintyre lairds in line; this allows him to keep the lands for which he has charters from Argyll, but his other possessions are forfeited to the Crown.

2. By this year, McAllister or McAlester “is . . . becoming fixed as a surname” in Kintyre [A I B Stewart, “Evolution of Gaelic Surnames in Kintyre”, Kintyre Magazine, issue 24 (December 1988)].

1606: 1. Death of Godfrey of Loup [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3]

2. Despite Angus MacDonald’s payment of arrears and various offers of settlement to the government, in November Lord Scone and the Earl of Argyll draw up conditions under which the Crown lands of Kintyre are to be given in feu to Argyll. The Earl, in addition to rental payment for the land, pledges himself to make his new tenants behave themselves. He also pledges to oust any broken men by the name of Macdonald or Maclean, and to let no lands to anyone of the name Macdonald. In this way “the vexed question [i]s settled at last, Argyll receiving a legal title to the lands of Kintyre which, as Sir James Macdonald stated, had been in the possession of his forebears for six hundred years” [McKerral, p. 19; Gregory, pp. 310-11].

1607:  1. (24 Sept.) Charter granted to William of Menstrie gives him “the minerals and metals of every kind with the lands and barony of Menstrie, one-tenth of the proceeds being payable to the sovereign” [Castleton, p. 174].

2. “Sir William Erskine of Balgonie, commonly called the Parson of Campsie, receive[s] a Royal warrant for an Exchequer pension of £200 a year to be shared with his son-in-law, William Alexander, and it [i]s stipulated that after Erskine’s death half the amount should continue to be payable to his son-in-law” [Castleton, p. 174].

3. In this year, “the Crown lands of Kintyre pas[s] finally from the hereditary control of Clan Donald into the hands of Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll.” This enables the government to act on its 1597 decision to effect the plantation of Kintyre [Martin, p. 1; Webb]; William Camden’s Britannia says of Kintyre, “It is inhabited by the family of MacConell [Macdonald], which has lordship here but at the pleasure of the Earl of Argyll”; he also notes that the “Irish language . . . is in use over this whole area” , p. [The Blaeu Atlas of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/atlas/blaeu/browse/940), p. 58].

4. Burgh of Campbeltown established. John and Julia Keay consider this the beginning of the Kintyre Plantation, as do Angus Martin and Andrew McKerral: “The erection of the Burgh of Lochhead . . . [i]s undoubtedly the first step in the Lowland Plantation of Kintyre. . . . Such evidence as we possess points to the earliest incomers to Lochhead being from Bute and the Cumbraes. The Ayrshire and Renfrewshire contingent came later” [McKerral, pp. 26-7].

1608: William Alexander and a relative, Walter Alexander, are granted authority to uplift all arrears of taxes due the Crown for a set period of time, on the sum of which they [a]re to receive a commission of one half [Castleton, p. 174]. Whether or not they ever benefit from this is unknown.

1609:  Attack on the traditional Gaelic way of life begins this year with the institution of the Statutes of Iona and the plantations of Ulster and Kintyre:

1. Statutes of Iona : This ‘agreement’ is essentially forced upon the most powerful (and troublesome) of the west Highland chiefs, including MacDonald of Dunyvaig and his foe Maclean. Its long-term effects are devastating to Gaelic culture, some elements of which are banned outright, among them the tradition of lavish hospitality, keeping bards, bearing arms, and sheltering fugitives. Ultimately more significant are the requirements that the chiefs provide Protestant ministers for their people and that their heirs (sons or daughters) be educated in the Lowlands, where they will learn English and (it is hoped by the government) be converted to Protestant religion. Thus begins a cultural divide that eventually alienates the chiefs from their clansmen, leading to the later, often brutal, Highland Clearances (see note at 1852). “There is no room to doubt that the chiefs who follo[w] Montrose in the great civil war [a]re actuated by a very different spirit from their fathers; and it is well worthy of notice that this difference [i]s produced in the course of a single generation, by the operation of measures which first beg[i]n to take effect after the year 1609 [Gregory, p. 333].

2. Plantations in Ulster and Kintyre : By now it is clear to the powers that be that “Ireland and Scotland [a]re part of the same ‘problem’ that thwart[s] conquest. Gaelic chieftains in Ireland [a]re dependent upon professional mercenaries from Gaelic Scotland. . . . Not only d[oes] one branch of the Clan Donald control the Scottish coastline across from Ulster, another branch [i]s highly successful in expanding their lands in northern Ireland itself” [Newton, p. 60].

  • As a result, Ulster, the crucial link between Irish and Scottish Gaeldom, [i]s broken, and the “planting of burghs filled with loyal Protestant subjects [i]s planned, and in a few cases carried out, in the Highlands.” This is not an unqualified success: “Not only d[o] attempts between 1598 and 1609 . . . to colonize the Isle of Lewis fail, but the attempt to replace Gaels by Lowlanders in Kintyre result[s] in many of the Lowlanders going native. On the whole, however, the plantations [a]re effective” [Newton, ibid.].
  • “The Lowland colonisation of Kintyre [i]s carried out with relatively little risk. That plantation [i]s essentially a political action, and may in its objectives – if not its consequences – be compared with the contemporaneous and ultimately disastrous settlement of English and Lowland Scots on forfeited lands in Ulster” [Martin, p. 1; Keay, p. 556].
  • In this year, Argyll obtains “a Decreet of the Lords of Council to eject a list of Kintyre tenants. There [a]re fifty-three names in the list, and all the old tenants—Macneills, Macallasters, Mackays, Macoshenags, Maceachans, and Maceachrans and others are included” [McKerral, p. 27, emphasis mine]. George Hill, in his book Macdonnells of Antrim (Belfast, 1873), describes a “‘clean sweep’ of all the old inhabitants of Kintyre” [p. 206]. Although this would suggest that a general clearance was made at this point, subsequent rentals, where the names of the old Highland tenants “occur side by side with those of Lowlanders” indicate that such did not take place, and some of these old families are later granted charters for their lands from the Earl’s successors [McKerral, ibid.; C. Dalglish “Rural Settlement in the Age of Reason”, PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2000]. 
  • Two charters for lands in Kintyre are granted by Argyll to John Boyll of Ballochmartin in Greater Cumbrae; these charters are now held by the National Library of Scotland. Among the obligations accepted by Boyll is a clause forbidding him “either to lease or to feu any of the lands of his grant to persons bearing the names of Macconnell or Macdonald, Maclean, Macleod, Macallaster, or Macneill” [McKerral, p. 27, emphasis mine; Campbell, vol. 2, p. 151]. The charter for Askomilbeg is granted 31 August, but the actual handing over of the property did not take place for another nine years, “an indication that the process of civilising his new lands [i]s not an easy one” [Campbell, ibid.].

1612:  Death of Crown Prince Henry; Sir William of Menstrie is appointed tutor to Henry’s brother, the future Charles I [“News”, no. 31, p. 2].

1614:  1. one “Ihone dow” [Iain Dùbh] Mcalaster is described by the Earl of Dunfermline as “the greatest limmer and brokin[3] man in all the north” (Highland Papers, III, p. 172; ed. by J. R. N. Macphail [Edinburgh: 1914–34] 4 vol.) [Black, p. 450]. Note: This name is usually given to the chief, but not exclusively; at this point Godfrey is dead and Hector not yet formally recognised, which explains the absence of the Loup family from the goings on at the time but also makes it likely that this reference is to someone else.

2. (November) Final downfall of the House of Dunyvaig, in which MacAlasdairs are involved. Alexander, “the hero of the Knockransay raid” [i.e., a son of the late Tutor of Loup; see 1599] is supposed to assist Argyll in the capture of the Dunnyveg castle in the name of the king; upon arrival he switches sides, joining Angus Og, leader of the Islay Macdonalds, in defending the castle.[4] He is the principal member of Clan Alasdair involved in this incident, and “[a]lthough Alexander does not appear as a party to the bond [that ends the siege], . . . his share in the rebellion is shewn in the evidence he g[ives] before the Council in 1615, for the vindication of Angus Og, and he share[s] in the punishments inflicted upon the rebels” [Castleton, p. 169; Pitcairn, vol. III, p. 364]. He is not, however, the only one of this clan to become involved. In his deposition, Angus Og mentioned “sevin or aucht of the Clan Allaster” who arrived during the seige with Sir James Macdonald’s son, Donald Gorm [Smith, p. 266], and there were probably others.

1615: 1. MacAlasdair allies continue in rebellion : While the Privy Council ponder what to do about the recent rebellion, James Macdonald escapes from Edinburgh Castle. “He return[s] to his clansmen in the west and procede[s] to Islay, where he and his followers ret[ake] the Castle of Dunnyveg. Then he passe[s] through Kintyre, inciting his followers to revolt” [McKerral, p. 20]. Eventually the government manages to suppress the rebellion, which King James uses as a pretext to finally get rid of the Islay family and their followers. Ultimately all of the land possessed by the Clan Donald South and its allies, including the Clan Alasdair, is given to Argyll. James Macdonald escapes to Ireland with many of his followers, including MacAlasdairs [Gregory, p. 388; Smith, p. 350]. “After receiving the Castle of Dunyveg and fort of Lochgorme, Argyle succeed[s] in apprehending ten of the principal inhabitants of Isla who [took] part with Sir James. These [a]re instantly brought to trial and executed” [Gregory, p. 387].           

2. (July) Alexander and Angus MacAlister, kinsmen of the chief, hanged.  These MacAlisters are found guilty of high treason for the Dunnyveg incident and hanged in Edinburgh, along with Angus Og MacDonald (of the Dunnyveg family); the chief’s youth prevents his involvement. Their lands are forfeited [Pitcairn, vol. III, pp. 364-5; Way & Squire, p. 205; Castleton, p. 169; Stevenson, Highland, p. 41; Gregory, p 374]. Ranald Og MacAllister, Sorley MacAllister, Angus MacAchane MacAllister, and Donald MacAllister Wrik are “charged with complicity in the taking of Dunnyveg” [Castleton, p. 169] Note: Is this the Angus mentioned in the Privy Council Register of 1600? “Thus terminate[s] the last great struggle made by the once powerful Clandonald of Isla and Kintyre, to retain from the grasp of the Campbells these ancient possessions of their tribe” [Gregory, p 390].

1617:  1. Hector of Loup obtains precept of clare constant[5] from the Earl of Argyllinvesting in him the lands of Loup and others.

2. Donald Macalister of Barr is among those commissioned to pursue and apprehend Alan Cameron of Locheil and his clansmen, “who [a]re at the horn for armed convention and slaughter, and various acts of lawlessness” [Castleton, p. 169; “Fortiter”, April 1982, p. 5].

1618: (December) Macalister lairds “named among the principal nobility of Argyll” : The principal nobles of the area “appea[r] before the Council with proposals for keeping the peace within Argyll” [Castleton, p. 169] during the absence of the 8th Earl. In fact, it is the leaders of Clan Campbell, now the primary landholders in Argyll, who are summoned. They divide the county into districts, each the responsibility of one of their clan. Campbell of Kilberry is made responsible for Kintyre, “with MacDonald of Largie, the MacAlister lairds of Loup and Tarbert, and the MacNeill lairds of Taynish and Carskey to help him” [Campbell, History, vol. II, p. 175; MacKinnon, p. 162]. Although this hardly qualifies as naming these men ‘principal nobility’, it does shed interesting light on the state of things in Kintyre at this time. Aside from Kilberry himself, all of these men represent clans often considered traditional enemies of the Campbells; clearly at this time they are all on the same side. More important for Macalisters perhaps is the inclusion of the Tarbert laird, suggesting that the Tarbert family is now seen as a separate branch of the clan, significant in its own right.

1620: 1. (11 March) Marriage of Hector, 6th of Loup, to Margaret Campbell, daughter of Colin Campbell of Kilberry (same as that involved in the Bute raids of 1602?) recorded in the Sasines Register of Argyll [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3; Ian MacDonald correspondence].

2. Coll Ciotach MacDonald (of the Colonsay family, a branch of the Dunyvaigs) presents as surety for his promise to live peaceably on his lands Alexander MacDonald of Largie and Hector MacAllister of Loup [Stevenson, Highland, p. 51]. Through most of this century, these three families are found repeatedly in league, for good or ill (see, for ex., 1644, #2; 1647, #2; 1689/90, #1).

3. (16 June) A Neill McEan McAllaster is one of three men found guilty of drowning Donald McAllaster vic Ean vic Henrie [Pitcairn, vol. III, p. 489].

1621: Sir William Alexander named Viscount of Canada and Baronet of Nova Scotia by James VI/I, who also grants him about 40,000 square miles in eastern Canada for the development of the Nova Scotia colony [CMS, p. 43; “Fortiter”, June 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 174].

1623:  1. McAlester of Loup named one of Argyllshire’s Justices of the Peace [Way & Squire, p. 205; Castleton, p. 169].

2. Godfrey, future 5th of Tarbert, engaged in feuds with “a number of landowners in Renfrew and Ayr”against whom forays [a]re conducted on quite an extensive scale” [Castleton, p. 169; “Fortiter”, Feb. 1982, p. 2]. On 7 September bonds of caution are signed that “Godfrey [i]s not to molest these Lowland lieges or their families”, and to keep several others “from molesting Godfrey MacAlister, fiar of Tarbert, and his servants”; on 5 November Godfrey is ordered again to leave certain lairds alone [Castleton, p. 170].

1625: Charles I, to whom William Alexander was tutor, succeeds James VI/I; he appoints Sir William Alexander Chief Secretary for Scotland[6] and (in a charter dated 12 July) Lieutenant of Nova Scotia [CMS, p. 43; Castleton, p. 154].

1626:   Sir James Macdonald of Dunnyveg dies in London; he is “the last of the male line of the old leading family of the Macdonalds of Kintyre” [McKerral, pp. 21-22; Roberts, p. 5]. After this, the Clan Donald South is represented in Ulster by the MacDonald Earls of Antrim.

1627:   1. Sir William Alexander made Keeper of the Signet [“News”, no. 33, p. 2; Castleton, p. 175]

2. (14 January) Wm. Alexander acquires Irish citizenship and obtains a grant of 1000 acres in Co. Armagh, “following the example of several Ayrshire landowners who had sought to improve their shattered fortunes by acquiring lands in the province of Ulster” [Castleton, p. 175].

3. (5 December) Godfrey, heir-apparent of Tarbert, is granted a bond disponing (turning over legally) certain lands in Glassary parish to his father Archibald as part of a contract with Hector and Margaret Campbell MacAlister (probably of Loup) [Castleton, p. 170].

4. A “curious expedition” sets sail from the harbour at Lochhead: “a company of Highland archers, raised by the Laird of Macnachtan, and intended to be employed in the Duke of Buckingham’s expedition for the relief of La Rochelle in France. . . . [A]mong the soldiers [a]re some . . . bearing such well-known local names as Macsporran, Maclarty, Macmillan, Macneill, and Macallaster. . . . We do not know where the expedition went to, but we are told that it was too late for La Rochelle” [McKerral, p. 32, emphasis mine].

1628: 1. (22 March) William Alexander, the younger, of Menstrie knighted and appointed governor of Nova Scotia [“News”, no. 33, p. 3]           

2. Sir Wm. Alexander receives new charter for Menstrie lands and another charter for lands and barony of Tullibody [Castleton, p. 175].

1629: 1. (23 April) Port Royal (Nova Scotia) ceded to France as part of the Treaty of Susa. Although the Scots settled there are supposed to leave, William Alexander fights this order for several years (see 1632, #1) [Alexander, William, Earl of Stirling’, in Dictionary of Canadian Biograpy on-line]. 

2. Anthony Alexander (second son of Sir William) appointed joint general surveyor and master of works in Scotland, under Sir James Murray of Kilbaberton. Anthony had ‘acquired skill in architecture’, travelling abroad to do so [Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, p. 61].

1630: (14 September) Sir William of Menstrie made Viscount of Stirling and Lord Alexander of Tullibody [“News”, no. 33, p. 2; Montrcrieffe, p. 63; Castleton, p. 176]

1631: 1. Archibald Macalister, 4th of Tarbert, visits his kinsman, Sir Wm. Alexander, at his castle in Menstrie; Alexander convinces Tarbert to acknowledge him as chief of the Clan Alasdair. “This [i]s, of course, entirely a product of [Sir William]’s vanity, and ha[s] no genealogical basis whatsoever” [Way & Squire, p. 205]; the Loup family certainly never acknowledges Sir William as chief [Way & Squire, ibid.; Grant, p. 148; “News”, no. 32, p. 2; no. 33, p. 2; Castleton, pp. 171, 176].

2. Archibald, 4th of Tarbert, signs Gift of Escheat on the lands of Tarbert, effectively giving them to the Crown for an indefinite period of time [CMS, pp. 3-4].

3. (10 August) Archibald of Tarbert and Sir William of Menstrie elected burgesses of Stirling [“News”, no. 33, pp. 2-3; Castleton, pp. 170, 176]

1632:  1. (29 March) Treaty of St. Germaine-en-Laye finally forces the end of the Scots colony of Nova Scotia; William Alexander is promised recompense for the loss of these lands, but “neither he nor his successors ever actually receiv[es] payment” [Castleton, pp. 175-6; Schaefer, p. 8], and his finances never recover.

2. In this year, Archibald M’Allester is served heir to his brother Hector of Balinakill “in the two marks of old extent of the lands of Kilcalmannell, called Ballenakeill, with the mill, the acre called Dallenaschenkill, and the acre lying around the chapel of Skibnische – apparently the old churchlands of Kilcalmonell and Skipness” [Origines Parochiales Scotiae, p. 29]. This is Archibald of Tarbert.

1633:  1. (14 June) William Alexander created Earl of Stirling [Montrcrieffe, p. 63]

2. Sheriffdom of Tarbert merged into the Sheriffdom of Argyll [McKerral, p. 7]

1634: 1. Lord Stirling granted charter of lands and town of Tillicoultry [Castleton, p. 176]

2. (January) grant by the king to Sir James Murray and Anthony Alexander gives them “jurisdiction over all trades even remotely connected with building” throughout Scotland [Stevenson, Origins, pp. 63, 67].

3. (July) Anthony Alexander and his elder brother William, Lord Alexander, become members of the masonic Lodge of Mary’s Chapel, Edinburgh [Stevenson, Origins, p. 63].

4. (29 November) death of Sir James Murray; Anthony Alexander succeeds as sole general surveyor and master of works in Scotland [Stevenson, Origins, p. 61; Hope, Diary, p. 16].

1635:   Anthony Alexander knighted [Stevenson, Origins, p. 64].

1636: MacAlasdairs holding many Kintyre properties : Document recording the tenants and feuars in Kintyre mentions the MacAlasdairs as holding “extensive areas of land all over Kintyre”; Hector McAllester is tacksman of 8 merklands of Crosseck (Crossaig); Hector na h-inch[7] McAlester is tacksman of 12 merklands of Ardnacross (12 merklands), Barmonagach (4 merklands), and Achatadowie (2 merklands) [Kintyre Records, p. 49]; Gorrie Mcallister is tacksman of Kilrewane and Knokstapill (3 merklands) [ibid., p. 51]; Hector McAllister of Lowpe is tacksman of Amot, Kilmalug, and Garvalt (2 merklands) [ibid., p. 54].

1637:  (17 September) Death in London of Anthony, 2nd son of Sir William Alexander [“News”, no. 33, p. 4; “Fortiter”, June 1982, p. 2; Stevenson, Origins, p. 66]; Lord Stirling’s third son, Henry, is appointed to Anthony’s position as master of works in Scotland; several months later he is admitted to the masonic Lodge of Edinburgh [Stevenson, ibid.].

1638:  1. (18 May) Death in London of Sir William Alexander, eldest son of Sir William of Menstrie [“News”, no. 33, p. 4; Stevenson, Origins, p. 72]

2. Downfall of the Alexanders of Menstrie begins in this year with the rise to ascendancy of the Covenanters.[8] Henry, the oldest surviving son, probably leaves Scotland in this year; his father has lived in London for years [Stevenson, Origins, p. 72].

1639:   1. Coll Kittoch MacDonald loses his lands in Colonsay for his refusal to sign the Covenant. Members of the Clan Iain Mhòr (the MacDonalds of Dunnyveg, to whom the Colonsay branch is related), who have been living on his lands since losing Islay, are driven out too; Col Kittoch is taken prisoner by Argyll [Keay, p. 648], but others, including Alasdair MacColla[9], escape to their MacDonnell kinsmen in Antrim [Stevenson, Highland Warrior, p. 70].

2. Sir William Alexander mortgages the Menstrie properties to his brother-in-law, Robert Murray (who forecloses after William’s death the following year) [Robert Menzies Fergusson, Logie: A Parish History, p. 171]. At this point, Alexander is on the verge of bankruptcy from the failure of the Nova Scotia scheme.

late 1630s: 1. Gorrie Og (Godfrey) of Tarbert succeeds his father, although “Godfrey had effectively acted as chieftain while his father Archibald was still alive” [Beaton, p. 14].

2. Godfrey carries on “a running battle across the Firth of Clyde with the landowners on the mainland of Renfrewshire and Ayrshire” [CMS, p. 4]. Note: Is this a continuance of the 1623 feuds?

1640: 1. (12 Feb.) Death of Sir William Alexander of Menstriefollowed shortly by the death of his grandson, the second Earl. Henry Alexander becomes the third earl, but by this time the family’s estates have been lost, and he is no longer master of works. “The rest of his life is so obscure that it is not known for certain when he died, though it was probably in or before 1649” [Stevenson, Origins, p. 72].  

2.  Return of Alasdair MacColla to Scotland in his first attempt to win back MacDonald lands in Islay and Kintyre; Thomson says that many of MacColla’s men are killed [Feud, pp. 71-2], but Stevenson, who says MacColla brings eighty men with him, makes no mention of any losses [Highland Warrior, p. 73].

  • “Since MacDonald was a kinsman of the MacDonalds of Dunniveg and the Glens, the unfair treatment of Angus Og at Dunnyveg in 1615, and the exploits of Donald Campbell in the Irish wars, [a]re among his many reasons for animosity to the people of Argyll” [Fraser, p. 31]; note: in fact, his animosity was to the Campbells and the Crown—he and many of his men were “people of Argyll”. Fraser’s sources are nearly all Scottish government, Presbyterian, and Campbell; their perspective is inevitably hostile to the interests and activities of the MacDonalds.
  • “Alasdair’s raid was a private venture, a matter of clan rather than royalist versus covenanter (though he may have received some help from the Earl of Antrim)”; after this failure, he settles in Antrim [Stevenson, Highland Warrior, p. 73; see 1644-47], and fights for the MacDonnells there.

[1] The Union of Crowns occurred when King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne at the death of his cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, becoming King James I of England. Thereafter, Scotland and England had the same king, but they were ruled by him as completely separate kingdoms; not until the 1707 Act of Union were they merged, along with Wales, to form the kingdom of Great Britain.
[2] Castelton names these men as Archibald of Loup and John, Tutor of Loup. The name Archibald was used by the Tarbert family but not usually by the MacAlasdairs of Loup.  The copy of this document (Register of the Privy Council, Skene abridgement, vii., p. 59) in the Book of Islay gives the names as I have quoted above. I have no idea who John, tutor of Loup might have been. As Godfrey of Loup was an adult (and had murdered his own tutor in 1598), it’s hard to know why there would be a tutor at all. However, “McAllaster of Loupe” has to be Godfrey.
[3] Broken men were those who, for one reason or another, were not affiliated with any clan. Because of their potential for making trouble, broken men were legally obligated to attach themselves to the nearest clan chief. Limmer described a low, base man.
[4] The Bishop, to whom the castle was supposed to be surrendered, reported all this to the Privy Council, complaining at his mistreatment by the Clandonald, but his letter states clearly that he believed the instigator of all the trouble was in fact Argyll, who hoped to keep the Clandonald at odds with the government and thereby prevent their reacquisition of the Islay lands. Further investigation by the government found that this was indeed the case. However, they proposed in response to retake Dunnyveg by force and grant the lands to Argyll! This prompted the Bishop to write that “Neither can I, nor any man who knows the estate of that country, think it either good or profitable to His Majesty or this realm, to make the name of Campbell greater in the Isles than they are already; nor yet to root out one pestiferous clan, and plant in another little better” [Gregory, pp. 354-6]. 
[5] Precept of Clare Constat was issued by a landholder to formally establish as his vassal one “who was ‘clearly understood’ to be the heir of his predecessor” [Donaldson/Morpeth, p. 175].
[6] Scotland’s interests were represented at the court “by a Scottish Secretary of State, but as the holder of that post, William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, a career politician and minor poet, lived in London, he could hardly be said to be in touch with everyday Scottish affairs of state.” [Royle, p. 42]
[7] na h-inch: (Gaelic) “of the island”—probably Arran
[8] There were several so-called covenants that attempted to prevent Charles I’s re-imposition of episcopacy; the first was relatively simple and supported by the majority of the Scots; the last was so extreme that “for the first time in Scottish history massive cruelties were inflicted . . . in the name of God” [Smout, p. 63]. In the context of Scottish history, “Covenanters” usually means subscribers to the later covenant. Although English historians have generally represented Scotland as being uniformly Presbyterian and anti-Royalist, several large sections of Scotland’s population supported the king. “[T]he burghs of Aberdeen, Crail and St Andrews refused to sign, and in the western Highlands and the largely Catholic and Episcopalian northeast there was trenchant resistance to the outbreak of Presbyterian zeal.” [Royle, pp. 66-67]
[9] Alasdair MacColla is the Gaelic name of Sir Alexander Macdonald, ally of the Earl of Montrose in Scotland’s Wars of Religion (see 1644–47). Son of Col Kittoch and a close relative of the forfeited Dunnyveg family (he may have been the grandson or cousin of Sir James MacDonald), his primary goal in conflicts both Irish and Scottish was to regain lands lost by his clan. Michael Newton calls him “the last great pan-Gaelic warrior hero” (p. 62).

Compilation/Commentary © 2009-2015 by Lynn McAlister, MA, FSA (Scot)

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