Later 18th Century

1750: Valuation of Kintyre for 1751 shows Angus of Loup and Archibald of Tarbert as 24th and 53rd, respectively, in a list of 248 local landholders [Campbell of Airds, History, vol. 1, pp. 213-9]. This shows that the Tarbert family is still in possession of at least some of their property; their position on the list suggests that perhaps most of the sales took place later than 1746, qv.

1752:  death of last Tarbert laird : Archibald Macalister, merchant in Campbeltown, dies. Ian MacDonald believes this is probably the 9th [and last] laird of Tarbert [CMS, p. 15; CMS(2), p. 38].

1753:  (6 November) On this day, James Mohr Macgregor confessed to authorities in London that a rising was being planned in the West in support of the defeated Pretender (Charles Stuart). “Macdonald of Largie has proposed that there will rise, from that end of Argyleshire, 2,500 men, including the Duke of Hamilton’s men from Arran, to wit Macdonalds of Largye, the MacNeils, M’Alisters, Lamonds, and Maclawchlans” as well as any men that Sir James Campbell of Auchinbreak is able to raise [Inventory of Lamont Papers, item 1245, p. 362]. These septs were to march to Perthshire where they would meet up with “the North Country Clans” and an Irish contingent – altogether about 14,000 men. Based on other evidence, and the dubious integrity of Macgregor, Andrew Lang calls these claims “transparent falsehoods” [Pickle the Spy, or the Incognito of Prince Charles (Longmans, Green & Co., 1897), pp. 244-5], but it is interesting that even at this late date, Macalisters were included in rumours of Jacobite activity.

1754: Hector McAlester, son of Dr McAlester, is hired as a sailor for a voyage from Jura to the Cape Fear settlement, and from there to the West Indies and back home. Admiralty Court records show that in fact he deserts at Cape fear, where he has friends [Dobson, Migration, pp. 53-4].

1756: 1. (9 September)  Angus McAlester of Loup admitted as a burgess of Inveraray [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

2. New Yorker William Alexander petitions the House of Lords to be recognised as Earl of Stirling [CMS, p. 44].

1757:  John McAlester of Ardnakill and Torrisdale, together with his grandson [or possibly son] John, receives perpetual feu of the lands of Cour and Srindale from Campbell of Stonefield; the younger John has no heirs [CMS, p. 32].  Note: This may be the father and nephew of Ranald of Kingsburgh; see 1742.

1758: 1. An Alexander McAlester, writer in Campbeltown, named in the Admiralty Court records [Dobson, Migration, p. 52]; he is mentioned again in 1764.

2. Admiralty Court records mention Coll McAlester, probably a sailor on the Christian of Campbeltown, and Duncan McAlester, a merchant in Campbeltown [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

1762:  1. Tarbert Family sued : Argyll takes court action against the creditors of Macalister of Tarbert for terms of 1511 charter; [CMS, p. 10]. Mitchell explains the suit as follows:

While the M’Alisters were yet in prosperous circumstances, they had built for themselves the mansion-house at Barmore . . ., and the castle being no longer required to serve its original purpose of a fort, its condition was neglected, contrary to the stipulations of the old charter. . . . In prosecuting his suit before the Lords of Session, Argyll admitted that the obligation contained in the charter to keep and defend the castle for the use of the Superior could not now be lawfully enacted, while he also agreed to pass from the clause obliging the vassal to support the fabric and maintain it wind and water tight for the reception and entertainment of the Superior gratis, provided the vassal became bound to uphold the mansion house lately built on the feu in the same manner and for the same lawful purpose. The clause referring to the boat and rowers he also insisted on, and contended that these several prestations should be performed and declared real burdens on the estate. For the creditors it was objected that the obligations of keeping up a house and a boat for receiving and entertaining the Superior, and for transporting him from one place to another, fell under an Act of George I, which discharges all personal services and attendance of vassals on their Superior, and ordains the same to be converted into an annual value in money.  

Argyll argues that the obligations abolished by that act are only those that enabled the superiors to convocate their vassals. A preamble to the statute specifies that other services are still binding. The court rules in Argyll’s favour [Mitchell, pp. 79– 82].[1]

2. (May)  Peter Macalister, later an officer in H. M. Revenue Service, born on island of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde; he marries Grisel (or Grace) Stewart. Three of their children are born in Cumbrae, the younger three in Campbeltown. Youngest daughter, Grace, marries William Hall, a Campbeltown merchant [CMS, p. 24; Dobson, Migration, p. 52;Fortiter”, Aug. 1982, p. 3].

3.  Death of Ranald of Kingsburgh (see 1742; 1745–6, #4; 1747); his family returns to Kintyre [CMS, p. 33; CMS(2), p. 2].

4. The claim of William Alexander of N.Y. to the earldom of Stirling is rejected; he “nonetheless adopt[s] the name of Lord Stirling on his own authority” [CMS, pp. 44–5].

1765:  1.  birth of Charles McAlester, later 12th of Loup

2.   Alexander McAlester, merchant, is mentioned in the Admiralty Court records this year (this is Alexander, son of Ranald of Skye) [Dobson, Migration, p. 52]; see also 1771, 1774.

1767-8: Admiralty Court records name an Archibald McAlester as master of the Jean; in March of the following year Mr McAlester is named in the Exchequer records as master of the Lockhart of Tarbert, sailing from Greenock of Newfoundland [Dobson, Migration, p. 53].

1769:  Admiralty Court records mention Charles McAlester and Lauchlan McAlester, both ship-masters in Tarbert, and Donald McAlester, a sailor in Gigha [Dobson, Migration, pp. 53-4].

1771:  (8 April) Alexander McAlester, merchant in Campbeltown, is named in the Services of Heirs as heir to his father Ronald [Ranald] of Skerinish, Skye [Dobson, Migration, p. 52]. This is the future Alexander of Strathaird.

1774:   Alexander McAlester, merchant, named in the Admiralty Court records as coowner of the sloop Alexander of Campbeltown [Dobson, Migration, p. 52].

1775–1778: American War of Independence

1.  At least 29 MacAlasdairs fight for independence from Britain, and many others fight for King George—including Lt. General Archibald MacAlester of the British Highland Division, who contributes to the British victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill [information courtesy of the Clan McAlister of America].

2.  William Alexander of N.Y. (see 1762, #4) fights in Washington’s army in the American War, playing key roles in several important battles before retiring to Albany (N.Y.), where he spends the rest of his life trying to get his title recognised [CMS, pp. 44–5].

3.  According to Donald Maclean, Campbeltown alone contributes 1,000 volunteers to the British navy during the American War [“The Effect of the 1745 Rising on the Social and Economic Condition of the Highlands”, in The Celtic Review, vol. 10, no. 37 (Dec. 1914): 21].

1776:  (21 March) Death of Anne of the Ballycastle MacAllisters (Ulster); Ballycastle devolves to her husband Col. Hugh Boyn [CMS, p. 48]; see c. 1558; 1646, #1.

1780: Matthew MacAlester (later 1st laird of Rosshill and Glenbarr) captured after Battle of Conjeveram in India [CMS, p. 34]; he spends four years as a POW.

1784:  Matthew MacAlester rescued from captivity by the British unit of his brother Keith [CMS, p. 34].

1786:  Alexander MacAlister (eldest son of Ranald of Kingsburgh) purchases lands of Strathaird in Skye—this appears to be the first purchase of lands by a member of the Kingsburgh family. Alexander also inherits lands of Barr and Cour in Kintyre [CMS, pp. 33–34; CMS(2), p. 2; “News”, no. 14, p. 3; NSA, vol. 14, p. 305]. The Strathaird estate “consists of 16,000 acres, of which about 300 is arable, and the remainder green and hill pasture” [NSA, vol. 14, p. 309]. Mr. Macalister “prove[s] a most kind and indulgent proprietor”, accordng to the parish minister [NSA, vol. 14, p. 305].

1789:   By this time “not a single acre [in South Knapdale] is . . . in the possession of the [Tarbert] Macalasters”, who were once “by far the most considerable family” in the parish [Stat. Acct.: S. Knapdale, p. 313]. In fact, “during the closing decades of the eighteenth century, one group of landed gentry passe[s] away and [i]s replacd by another. The probably reason for the wealth and vigour of the succeeding families [i]s that they [a]re more in touch with the new enterprises of the times and . . . able to reap the profits of such fields of service and opportunity as India and Jamaica. . . . They undert[ake] extensive reconstruction, . . . promot[e] the building of new  roads, hel[p] modernise agricultural methods, ope[n] up the district and br[ing] it more closely in touch with the outside world. With the development of this silent revolution, the old, closely-knit society of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries disintegrate[s]. . . . Without doubt, the new times [a]re better for the individual than the old, yet one is conscious of regret for a change which [i]s contemporary with and in part akin to the break-up of the clan system” [Fraser, pp. 86-7]; see 1600s,#1.

1790: 1. (19 July) List of Argyllshire freeholders drawn up at a meeting held on this day at Inveraray for the purposes of electing a shire commissioner to attend the upcoming session of Parliament names Angus Macalister of Loup among their number. This means that the Loup family held at least their primary lands directly of the Crown, rather than as tenants of Argyll or another local magnate [Rolls of the Freeholders of the Different Counties of Scotland’, in A. Mackenzie, A View of the Political State of Scotland at the Late General Election (Edinburgh: Mundell & Son, 1790), p. 49]. 

2. (2 August) first US census lists the number of MacAlasdair heads of families in the following states: Maine (4), New Hampshire (15), Vermont (3), Massachusetts (1), Rhode Island (0), Connecticut (0), New York (5), Pennsylvania (33), Maryland (16), North Carolina (21), South Carolina (13); Virginia’s total is estimated at 21, using 1787 state totals for 78 counties [McAlisters in the First U.S. Census”, p. 33].

1792:  1. (28 March) Loup family leaves Kintyre : Charles McAlester (later 12th of Loup) marries Janet Somerville, an heiress who brings him the estate of Kennox in Ayrshire. Thereafter, the seat of Clan Alasdair’s chiefs is at Kennox [Grant, p. 148; Report, p. 8; Keay, p. 643; Gregory, p. 418].

2. Emigration from Kintyre continues: according to the Historical Register for June of this year, “Since Whitsunday last . . . upwards of 600 persons, old and young, have left Kintyre and gone to Glasgow, Paisley, etc., in order to be employed at the cotton works of these and neighbouring places” [Donald Maclean, “The Effect of the 1745 Rising on the Social and Economic Condition of the Highlands”, in The Celtic Review, vol. 10, no. 37 (Dec. 1914): 19]. 

3. List of rentals of Argyll’s properties in Kintyre shows “some names which appear in the 1505 rental, . . . and still flourish today. They include McAlister. . . .” [Steward, “List”, p. vi].

1794:  Johanna, daughter of Angus, 11th of Loup, marries John Macalister of Balinakill.

1795:  1. (5 Nov.) Loup lands relinquished : Trust disposition registered by Angus McAlester of Loup with his son Charles in favour of Alexander Nairne as trustee for Angus’s lands. This gives Nairne the right to sell any or all of the lands in order to pay Angus’s debts [Report, p. 5][2]; see 1798, 1803.

2. Robert McCallister, ancestor of the New Zealand McCallisters, born in Ireland [correspondence with Janet McCallister].

1796:  1. Lt. Col. Charles McAlester, 12th of Loup, succeeds his father, Angus [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 4].

2. Glenbarr family established : Col. Matthew Macalister, sixth son of Ranald Macalister of Torrisdale & Skirrinish and Anne MacDonald of Kingsburgh, purchases the lands of Glenbarr from Col. Charles Campbell: He purchase[s] Rosshill and over the next twenty years also the lands of Barr and many adjacent farms to make up the Glenbarr estate [CMS, pp. 21–22].

1797:   birth of Charles McAlester, later 13th of Loup

1798: 1. (2 Aug.) Loup property of Ardpatrick disponed to Walter Campbell of Shawfield “heritably and irredeemably” [Report, p. 5]

2. (28 Sept.) John Campbell of Stonefield seised of (i.e., acquires) the properties of Drumnaleck,Lackmore, Scotomiln and tiends (all in Kilcalmonell parish) on disposition by the trustees of Angus of Loup [Report, p. 5]

3. (Summer) Rebellion by the United Irishmen breaks out; after several months, the rising is defeated, but Michael Dwyer and a handful of comrades take to the Wicklow wilderness where they spent the next few months engaged in guerrilla warfare against royalist forces. Among them is Sam McAllister, a deserter from the Antrim militia.

1799: 1. (15 Feb.) Siege of Derrynamuck : Dwyer’s force, having taken shelter in three cottages in Wicklow, are surrounded by Royalist forces. Those hiding in two of the cottages quickly surrender or are killed. With three of his friends, Dwyer holds out in the third cottage. When two of the four are killed, a badly wounded Sam McAllister opens the door and walks out of the cottage, drawing the enemy’s fire so that Dwyer can escape. McAllister dies instantly, but Dwyer is able to get away [Lawlor, ‘Michael Dwyer’, 1 August 2006].

2. Statistical Account of Scotland report for the parish of Strath (Isle of Skye) names the parish’s two heritors as Lord Macdonald and Mr. Macalaster of Strathaird [vol. 16, p. 225].


[1]Other families in the area had similar problems; for example, Campbell of Auchenbreck lost his estate in this same year because of debts to the House of Argyll [Fraser, p. 81]; see 1795.

[2]Ian MacDonald ties the loss of Loup lands to the family’s support of the Jacobite cause in the ’45, saying that “Generally all of the old Highland estates who supported the House of Stuart failed with the second Jacobite rebellion” [Ian MacDonald correspondence, Oct. 2000]. However, the forfeited estates of Jacobite families had been restored by 1784, more than a decade before this occurred. Furthermore this is something Angus and Charles did themselves, which would not be the case in a forfeiture. A more likely explanation is given by Alexander Fraser, who notes that the late 18th century saw the beginnings of “an economic landslide in Mid-Argyll . . . . The accumulated difficulties of more than one hundred years proved insupportable, and the landed families . . . failed, one after another” [p. 81]. This period is marked by “the disappearance of many traditional landed families from the west Highlands. Those who did survive were often forced to sell large parts of their patrimony” (C. Dalglish, “Rural Settlement in the Age of Reason”, PhD thesis, Glasgow University, p. 311).

Compilation/Commentary © 2009-2016 by Lynn McAlister, MA, FSA (Scot)

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