Early 18th Century

1700s: 1. “For most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries around 50 . . . clans can be identified as autonomous entities in the unfolding political relationship with the Royal House of Stuart”, according to Allan Macinnes, one of which is the Clann Alasdair [pp. 2, 247-8].

2. (Scotland—date unknown) Tarbert estate of Urins, consisting of four farms, is sold to a Mr. McFarlan [CMS, p. 19].

3. (Ireland—early) Clintagh MacAllisters (Antrim) move from Moycraig to Kildress (near Cookstown); from Kildress they split into Magheraglass, Roughan, and Beragh branches [CMS, p. 48]; see c. 1558.

4. Writings such as Peter MacIntosh’s History of Kintyre (published 1857) and various travellers’ manuscripts show that even as late as the 18th century, “the social intercourse between Kintyre and the north of Ireland [is] sustained by bonds of kinship and a common culture” [Martin, p. 2]. These works also go some way to explain the famed hospitality of Highlanders: Visitors were not only the source of songs and tales that could entertain on dark winter nights, but “also bearers of news, and the importance of that service cannot be fully realised without an appreciation of the extreme – and seldom relieved – isolation in which a great part of the rural population then existed. Roads were crude and transport primitive; letter-post and newspapers had hardly yet reached them. . . . MacIntosh records a tradition that ‘a vagrant taking his round’ of the communities between Machrihanish and Southend could rely on ‘hospitable entertainment’ for four months, which seems not in the least implausible” [ibid., p. 3].

5. The religious situation in the Highlands at this point is quite varied: “In the eighteenth century, the East Highlands [a]re largely Episcopal by religion, the Central Highlands Presbyterian, western Inverness Roman Catholic” [MacLeod, p. 10]. However “Roman Catholicism ha[s] largely vanished – or been extirpated, more accurately – from Kintyre” by this century [Martin, p. 101].

c. 1700: John McAlester [elsewhere Macalister] of Ardnakill and Torrisdale, living at Arinanuan (head of Barr Glen), is tacksman of these properties [CMS, p. 32].

1704: 1. (5 August) Alexander of Loup and Archibald of Tarbert named Commissioners of Supply for Argyll [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3; Feb. 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 171; RSP, 1704/7/69]

2. (10 October) Archibald M’Alister of Tarbert deeds two merklands in Kilcalmonell parish to Angus Campbell, younger of Skipness, irredeemably, for 4,000 merks. This disposition includes the lands of Balinakill [Paton, Abstracts, vol. 1, p. 165].

1705: (14 September) “Archibald Mackalester of Tarbert” granted permission by one of the last acts of the Scottish Parliament (before it ceases to exist in 1707) to establish “four yearly fairs and a weekly mercat at the toun of East Tarbert”[1] [Mitchell, pp. 73, 77; Castleton, p. 171; RSP, 1705/6/170].

1706: Loss of Tarbert Castle : By this time, the ruinous castle has passed to the Macleans: “The maintenance of the Castle over the years proving so expensive the McAlester’s [sic] ceased to live in it and instead built a more appropriate residence” nearby, on the Barrmore penninsula [CMS, p. 9; Clan, p. 205; “Fortiter”, Feb. 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 171; Mitchell, pp. 79-80].

1715–16: “The ‘Fifteen” (Jacobite Rebellion) : “There can be little doubt that, so far as the MacDonald group of clans was concerned, the ’15 was not really about the restoration of the Stuart dynasty and it certainly was not about Scottish nationhood, freedom or self-determination, for the Old Pretender[2] stood for none of those things. It might have been partially about restoring the Roman Catholic church, . . . but this is unlikely to have been a major motivation. Much more it was to do with a last ditch attempt to . . . restore the power and glory of the ancient chiefdoms now that castles and galleys were no longer such useful tools of warfare” [Feud, p. 95, emphasis mine]. Richard B. Sher adds that “the close association of the Argathelian[3] interest with the government served to encourage Jacobite sentiments among rival Highland clans who resented the growing power of Clan Campbell” [Sher, p. 186]. A list made in this year of the heritors of Argyll indicates that Macalister of Loup and Macalister of Tarbert are among those believed to have signed an address of welcome sent to James VII [Inventory of Lamont Papers, p. 332].

1716:  1. Part of Tarbert estate sold to Campbell of Blythswood (some sources believe this occurred before 1685) [CMS, p. 19]

2. (24 October) 8 merkland of Kinlochkelisport and Achahoish and 4 merkland of Ellary wadsetted by Ronald Macalister of Kinlochkelisport to an Archibald Campbell and his son John, for a payment of 500 merks yearly. [The Clan Campbell (vol. 3): Abstracts of Entries relating to Campbells in the Sheriff Court Books of Argyll at Inveraray, p. 210; Stat. Acct., XIX, p. 312] Wadsetting of properties was commonly an attempt to pay off debts, and Ronald, like many minor landholders at this point, had substantial debts; the intention was almost always to redeem the properties once a family’s financial situation improved, but in many cases the lands were permanently lost. That seems to be the case here: Ronald is ‘lately of Lochhead’ in 1722, by 1725 he is simply ‘Ronald M’Alester’; the family disappears from the records after this. The Statistical Account says he is the “last of the race”.

1717:  1. Clan Alasdair established in the Netherlands : Duncan of Loup (youngest of the 8th laird’s sons) marries a Dutchwoman, Johanna; their descendants remain in Holland [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 4; Castleton, p. 171].

2. More Tarbert lands sold to Campbell of Blythswood (some sources believe this occurred before 1685) [CMS, p. 19]

3. Ronald McAlester of Dunskeig purchases the estate of Balinakill, Clachan, from his brother-in-law, Angus Campbell of Skipness [CMS, p. 5].

1719: (10 June) Jacobite defeat at Glenshiel : “There [i]s a good turnout of MacDonalds . . . at the battle of Glenshiel . . . , but the Highland charge [i]s completely wasted and the battle end[s] in a fairly pathetic if not too bloody defeat” [Feud, p. 95].

early 1720s:  Probable succession of Hector, 9th of Loup [Commissariot Record of Argyll/Register of Testaments, p. 15; Dobson, Scottish Highlanders, p. 23].

1724:  Charles MacAlasdair of Tarbert petitions the Synod of Argyll for help in bringing education to the area. The petition, which is preserved in Inverary Castle, says:

“Unto the Very Reverend the Moderator and Promanant Members of the Provincial Synod of Argyll. The petition of Charles MacAlaster of Tarbert. Humbly sheweth: That in the town of Tarbat there are two hundred exammable persons who have many children very fit for School but are so poor that they are neither able to send their children to any place where education may be had, nor to maintain a Schoolmaster at the place but in order to encourage learning there your petitioner is willing to contribute for that purpose something and it is expected that the Reverend Synod will, out of their publick fund, give their assistance for so good a design which must fail should they deny it. May it therefore please you wisdoms to take this promptly to your consideration and grant out of your funds so much as you think will answer our end. And your petitioner shall ever pray. Charles MacAlaster, 1724.” [CMS, pp. 8-9]

1725: (18 January) Charles McAlester of Tarbert mentioned in Sheriff’s Court records. The records also mention Hector McAlester of Loup, “eldest son of the late Alexander McAlester” (which suggests that Alexander was dead by the beginning of this year), and Robert [probably Ronald] McAlester of Ballinakile [Dobson, Migration, pp. 53-4].

1730s–40s: Charles, Captain and 8th Laird of Tarbert, is farming on “an extensive scale” and rents land on Islay as well as Kintyre (from Duke of Argyll) [CMS, p. 6; Smith, pp.  545-6, 549, 554].

1733: The Day Book of Daniel Campbell of Shawfield mentions several McAlesters as  tenants in Islay: Charles McAlester, in Ballychillen and Storgag (parish of Kilarrow & Kilmeny), Proaid, Balyneil, and Arvolhalm (parish of Kildalton) [Note: This is the Captain of Tarbert, who is renting lands on Islay at this time]; Coll McAlester, “late baillie” of Islay, who farms at Stoin (Kildalton parish), at Portnellan, and at Skerrols and Avinogy (Kilarrow & Kilmeny); Donald McAlester farms at Stromnishmore (Kildalton parish) [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

1736: Alexander McAlester or McAllister emigrates from Islay to North Carolina; he is later a member of the Provincial Congress (1775–1776) [Settlers, vol. II, p. 90; Carolinas, p. 116].

1737: (16 December) Commisary Court records show that the testament of Archibald McAlester of Tarbert, parish of Kilcalmonell, is confirmed on this date [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

1738: Thirty families from Kintyre and surrounding islands emigrate to New York; they are followed in 1739 and ’40 by others—altogether 423 emigrants to N.Y. from this area [Settlers, vol. II, pp. 29, 90; Carolinas, p. 116].

1739: 1. Cape Fear settlement : Coll McAlester, son of Ronald of Dunskeig and “tacksman of Balinakill Estate”, is one of five prominent men who arrange to settle Scots along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina; these men receive large land grants and tax exemptions to help them establish themselves in their new country [CMS (2), p. 30]. Coll sells his lease to his cousin Colin Campbell of Skipness [CMS(2), p. 29]. (Though there is no hard evidence, it has been suggested that the reason behind the McAlesters’ emigration was related to the expansion of the Argyll family in Kintyre [Murdoch, “Hector McAllister . . .”, p. 4].) They leave from Campbeltown on 6 June 1739 aboard the ship Thistle (of Saltcoats, Ayrshire) with about ninety poor families—all together 350 people—from Kintyre and Gigha [CMS(2), p. 29; Settlers, vol. I, p. 112; vol. II, p. 90]. MacInnes says:

[T]he Argyll Colony originally projected in 1739 was based on small plantations around the Cape Fear River which exploited tar, turpentine and tobacco as well as the more familiar cattle, flax and timber. Although supported and sustained by tacksmen and tenants who lost out in tenurial reforms as competitive bidding was implemented throughout [Scotland], this colony was principally an entrepreneurial undertaking of landlords from mid-Argyll and Kintyre whose commercial aspirations were frustrated by the restrictive feudal superiority of the House of Argyll. (Clanship, p. 229)

Coll recieves a large land grant on the headright system (in which those who brought over less well-off immigrants were granted a certain amount of land per each person settled on the land). With the other leaders of the settlement, he is named by the state legislature as a magistrate for Bladen County, NC.

2. (4 December) Death of last Earl of Stirling: Henry Alexander, 5th earl of Stirling, dies childless. Though several have come forward, no claimant to the title has been recognised by the Lord Lyon [CMS, pp. 44-5; “Fortiter”, June 1982, p. 2; Montcrieffe, p. 63; Castleton, p. 178].  

1739–41: 1. During this period, “many families emigrat[e] from this parish [i.e., N. Knapdale] to found the Argyll colony at Cape Fear in North Carolina” [TSA: N. Knapdale, p. 243; Dobson names many such emigrants].

2. “There [a]re already . . . MacDonalds and Campbells settling in Bladen County, by the Cape Fear River in North Carolina” [Feud, p. 97]. 

1741:  1. Charles McAlester of Tarbert named in the Day Book of Daniel Campbell of Shawfield as farming lands in the parish of Kildalton, Islay. Coll McAlester is mentioned as tenant in Portnellan, Eolobolls, Mill of Kilarrow, and Knockens [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

2. Death of the 8th laird of Tarbert, who is buried in the churchyard of Tarbert; Archibald succeeds as 9th laird [CMS, p. 6; Mitchell, pp. 73-4].

3. (18 December) Commissary Court records show that the testament of Charles McAlester of Tarbert is confirmed on this day [Dobson, Migration, p. 53], but see 1746.

1742:  Ranald Macalister married Anne MacDonald of Kingsburgh : Ranald Macalister, b. 1715, third son of John Macalister of Ardnakill and Torrisdale Glen, marries Anne MacDonald, whose father, Alexander Macdonald of Kingsburgh, is Chamberlain of Trotternish and factor for MacDonald of Sleat. Ranald farms at Skirrinish and is factor on the Trotternish estate [Burke’s, ‘McAlister of Loup & Kennox’; A & A Macdonald, p. 196]; see 1745–6, #4; 1750.

1743:  Potato introduced to the Hebrides : The potato requires less land and produces greater volume of crop than previous staples; this contributes to a rise in population that soon renders many communities able “to grow and eat little else” [Keay, p. 785]. By the time of the first Statistical Account (1799), numerous Highland parish reports specifically mention the reliance of tenant farmers on the potato for sustenance and the lack of other crops. In the Highlands as in Ireland, this eventually leads to disaster; see 1836-7, 1846- 9.

1744: (July) Voyage recorded of the Daniel of Campbeltown, under shipmaster Ronald McAlester, from Campbeltown to Belfast [Dobson, Migration, p. 54].

1745–6: “The ‘Forty-Five” (final Jacobite rising) : The Jacobites advance almost as far south as London before hesitancy leads to their being forced into retreat by Hanoverian forces under General Cumberland. Contrary to popular belief, the ’45 was not a fight for Scottish independence, nor was it a struggle between Highlanders and Lowlanders. The Stuart Pretenders sought to regain the throne of Britain as a whole, not just Scotland’s, and more Scots supported the Hanoverians than the Jacobites, fearing the victory of a ‘popish’ king [MacLeod, p. 8]. Although Jacobite forces were disproportionately Highland, there were certainly Lowland and even English Jacobites as well—parts of the Scottish lowland northeast, for example, were considered hotbeds of Jacobite sympathy, and Bruce Seton lists numerous Englishmen who deserted the Hanoverian army in order to fight for the prince. Furthermore, several prominent Highland clans, including most (not all) of the Campbells, Rosses and Mackays, fought for the Hanoverians.[4] The Stuart forces (Jacobites) were primarily Catholic and Episcopalian[5], the Hanoverians mostly Protestant—though religion in the UK, even today, often has as much to do with political identity as with personal beliefs.

1. The Clan Alasdair is divided : The chief[6] is a Jacobite, but Archibald of Tarbert supports the Hanoverians [Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 4] and allows Lord Loudoun to station his regiment at Tarbert for the purpose of preventing known Jacobites like Loup and MacDonald of Largie from sailing to join the “Bonnie Prince”[7]; Hector McAlister of Arran (son of Coll who emigrated in 1739) raises a force of men to support Prince Charles, but they cannot get past Loudoun [CMS(2), pp. 30-1; W M Mackenzie, p. 111].

2. According to the Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army, 1745–6, Allan vic Murdo McAllister of Glenfinnan serv[es] in the regiment led by MacDonald of Clanranald, and seven MacAlasdairs serv[e] under Glengarry [Muster Roll, pp. 141, 154]. In February, Archibald McAlister is “arrested in Apindale in Perthshire on suspicion of being a rebel, but declares he is from Glengary and had no relationship with the rebels. Says he will get a certificate of loyalty from the Presbyterian minister in Glengary” [‘Declarations of rebel prisoners at Perth’, Reference: B59/30/72(1)].

3. Culloden (16 April 1746) : “[T]he bloodiest of the Jacobite engagements and the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil” sets roughly 9000 Hanoverians against perhaps 4500 sleep-deprived and hungry Jacobites. “The battle [i]s all over in an hour . . . but the slaughter continue[s] until nightfall and resume[s] again next day; and for weeks thereafter the round-up and the bloody reprisals continu[e].”[8] Hanoverian losses are about 300; Jacobite losses (on and off the field) closer to 2000 [Keay, pp. 204–205]. Survivors (including the Bonnie Prince, who escapes back to France) scatter and hide [though many of the Highland survivors reassembled at Ruthven barracks, prepared to fight on, which is quite remarkable, considering what they’d just survived; Charles Stuart announced that all was lost and gave them orders to save their own lives], and the Jacobite dream finally comes to an end. Clan Alasdair as a whole does not fight at Culloden, but the Loup family supports the Jacobite cause, and there are MacAlisters among the Clan Donald contingent [Muster Roll, pp. 141, 154; CMS(2), p. 27; see 1745-6, #3, 5; Edward McAllister of Stevenage, England, tells me that the new visitor’s centre at Culloden has a battle plan in which the Clan Alasdair is listed with MacDonald of Glengarry].

4. (5 May 1746) Six of the clan are among about 70 members of Glengarry’s regiment who surrender in Inverness on this day and the next [Muster Roll, p. 154]. Seton does not tell us what happened to these MacAlasdairs, but the majority of those who surrender are transported, most of them to Barbados or Antigua [Prisoners].

5. The Kingsburgh family is “involved perilously in the wanderings of Prince Charles Edward before his escape to France” [News”, no. 14, p. 3]; the prince, who arrives at the Trotternish estate late at night, disguised as Flora MacDonald’s maid, departs the following day wearing one of Ranald Macalister’s kilts [Kingsburgh document; Douglas/Stead, p. 106].[9] (At the time of the ’45, the Clan Alasdair is evidently still wearing the MacDonald tartan [News”, no. 30, p. 1].)

1746:  1. (13 February) Commissary Court records show the testament of Charles McAlester of Tarbert is confirmed on this day [Dobson, Migration, p. 53]; note: this testament is also recorded as confirmed in December of 1741. If this is the 8th laird, 1741 would make most sense as that is the year that he died. However, perhaps the family’s bankruptcy and the sale of its lands in 1746 required that it be reviewed?

2. Tarbert family goes bankruptaccording to Mitchell, most of its lands are sold to Lord Stonefield (whose descendants are still in possession)[Mitchell, p. 83, but see 1751]. Many of the Tarbert Macalisters remain in the area. Others emigrate to the colonies [CMS, pp. 10–19]; still others appear later as merchants and shipowners in Glasgow and  Campbeltown [CMS, pp. 10, 37; Dobson, Migration, pp. 52-4]. Ian MacDonald suggested that “[t]he main reason for the loss of the estates [i]s very probably the requirements of the 1511 charter . . .” which called for MacAlasdairs to keep up Tarbert Castle, host the Earl of Argyll at their own expence, and provide boats and men for ferrying the King [CMS, pp. 9–10— although some contemporary locals suggested that the debts result from “[Archibald’s] wine merchant’s bills”! [Mitchell, p. 78]. Archibald, the last laird, becomes a merchant in Campbeltown (see 1752)[CMS, p. 15; CMS(2), p. 38]; principal line of descent after the 9th laird cannot be traced with any certainty, although descendants of this family are numerous. Descendants of Archibald’s brother Matthew will later be recognised as the representatives of the Tarbert line. According to the Lord Lyon, Duncan MacAlister of Tarbert married Janet Macalister of Strathaird, and their descendants are the Strathaird Macalisters (making the Strathaird family a branch of the Tarberts), but where this Duncan fits in the Tarbert descent is unclear to me. He is too young to be Duncan, son of Charles the 8th laird.

2. Kingsburgh Manuscript written (original handwritten copy is at Glenbarr Abbey); author’s name isn’t given, but it was probably Anne Macalister [CMS(2), p. 1].

1747:  1. Name of Ranald Macalister appears as factor of Strathaird estate in Skye [CMS(2), p. 1].

2. (7 December) Commissary Court records confirmed the testament of Coll McAlester of Islay [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

1748:  (5 May) Alexander McAlester appears in the Services of Heirs (National Archives of Scotland) as heir to his brother Coll, ‘late baillie of Islay’ [Dobson, Migration, p. 52].

1749:  (7 September) Commissary Court records again confirmed the testament of Coll McAlester of Islay [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

1750: Allan MacDonald of Kingsburgh, brother-in-law of Ranald Macalister (see 1742; 1745–6), marries Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald [Keay, p. 649].


[1]“mercat at the toun”— Scots: “market in the town”

[2]James VII/II’s son, James Francis Edward Stuart, was known as the Old Pretender by those who considered the new dynasty legitimate. His son, Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”), was the Young Pretender (see 1745– 6).

[3] ‘Argathelians’ – the political faction that followed the Dukes of Argyll [Donaldson/Morpeth, p. 9]

[4]It is nonetheless true that the Highlanders suffered more than most for their part in the rebellion, which gave the authorities an excuse to finally do away with the “wild Irish” clans and their culture once and for all. In this they were not entirely successful—clans still exist in some form, Gaelic is still spoken, and laws banning the wearing of tartan and other symbols of Highland culture were eventually revoked; but the Jacobite defeat at Culloden Moor was the beginning of the end for the clans as a real force in Highland life.

[5]“[I]t has been calculated that well over 75 percent of the manpower mobilized for the Stuarts consisted of Episcopalians,” according to Andrew Mackillop of the University of Aberdeen [Oxford Companion to Scottish History, ed. Michael Lynch (Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 350].

[6]This was probably Angus, 11th of Loup [CMS, p. 10]; though his father Charles was probably alive at least until 1746. Ronald Black lists ‘MacAlister of Loup’ among “the Jacobites of Argyllshire” that Glengyle hoped to raise for the Prince when he headed towards Kintyre on 4 November 1745 [Campbells of the Ark, vol. 1, p. 157]

[7] Sir James Fergusson of Kilkerran, Argyll in the Forty-Five (London: Faber & Faber, 1951), pp. 25-6.

[8]See ‘Barbarities after Culloden’ in Forbes, Jacobite Memoirs, for contemporary accounts of Cumberland’s treatment of the enemy—and many innocent Highlanders—after the battle.

[9]Ranald himself spent the night elsewhere, supposedly so that he could honestly say he was not involved. Ranald belonged to a militia raised by MacDonald of Sleat, which Douglas & Stead take as evidence of opposition to the Jacobite cause [p. 101]. However, the Sleat family had always been Jacobites [Grant, p. 159; Clan, p. 213; SRO, p. 1]. Sleat kept his people out of the ’45 because he was “appalled by the prince’s lack of preparations” [Clan, ibid., Forbes, p. 424], but he did not actively support the government [ibid., pp. 440–1, 465]. Furthermore, Ranald’s father-in-law, MacDonald of Kingsburgh, who was captain of this militia, actively hid the prince, at great risk to himself [ibid., p. 459], and other militia members were involved in smuggling the prince off the island. Ranald’s role in the ’45 requires more research, but clearly his association with Sleat’s militia cannot be taken as evidence of anti-Jacobite sentiment. The fact remains that he knew where the prince was that night, and despite a price of £30,000 on the Pretender’s head did not turn him in to authorities.

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

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