Later 17th Century

1640s: 1. Death of Godfrey, 5th of Tarbert

2. At this time Kintyre is “in a state of transition. . . . Connexion with Ireland [i]s still close. Old Celtic customs and superstitions di[e] hard” [Fraser, p. 29].

1641: Irish Rebellion, in which Ulster MacDonnells and their allies play a major role; “within a few weeks much of the Ulster plantation [is] swept away” [Stevenson, Highland, p. 74; McKerral, p. 42].[1] The rising is described by the Privy Council of Scotland as “the great rebellion in Ireland with which diverse of the Clan Donald, specially Coll McGillespick’s [Colkitto’s] sonnes and others followers of the Earl of Antrim, have joyned themselves” [McKerral, p. 38]. It is very likely that some MacAlasdairs, who have been fighting for their Irish kinsmen for centuries, are also enlisted in this rebellion.

1642:  King Charles I gives lands of Tarbert to George Campbell, Sheriff of Tarbert [CMS, p. 4].

1643:  (May)  Hector Macalister of Loup  on record as an elder of the Kirk in Argyll [Minutes of the Synod of Argyll, vol. I, p. 65].

1643–4: Alasdair MacColla’s second raid in the Western Isles; he brings several hundred men with him, most of them Irish MacDonnells and their allies; they are driven out by the Earl of Argyll and his clansmen by the spring of 1644 [Stevenson, Highland, pp. 99-101].

1644–47: Wars of Religion

Note: The Wars of the Covenant (in the Scottish Lowlands), MacColla’s rebellion (in the Scottish Highlands), the Civil War in England, and the ongoing conflict in Ireland were separate in origin and aim, but they quickly overlapped, with combatants in each taking sides and forming alliances with combatants in the others. McKerral notes that “[t]he events of the next four or five years in Kintyre may be described as the backwash of the great civil war then being waged in England and Scotland” [p. 42]; see 1651.

1. Wars of the Covenant

  • King Charles I, already under attack by the English Parliament and having alienated the Scots with (among other things) tax increases and his support of episcopacy in the church of Scotland, attempts to impose the Anglican prayerbook on the Scottish kirk. The Presbyterian Scottish Covenanters see this as a challenge by Charles to God’s supremacy over even the King; the more radical of them, led by the Earl of Argyll, go on a murderous rampage across the south of Scotland. They quickly find common cause with the English Parliament in its attempt to overthrow (or at least severely restrict) the king. The Marquis of Montrose leads Charles’s forces against the Covenanters.
  • MacDonalds and their west Highland allies, under the leadership of Alasdair MacColla MacDonald (see 1639; 1640, #2), form Montrose’s northern wing [Keay, p. 648]. The Clan Alasdair as a whole sides with Montrose [MacKinnon, p. 162; McKerrall, p. 47]: Allan MacInnes calls them “acknowledged adherents of MacColla and the Royalist forces on the western seaboard” [British Confederate, p. 299]; the chief’s position is unclear.[2]

2. Rebellion by Alasdair MacColla, in which “a mixture of Irish MacDonnells and Scottish MacDonalds beg[i]n burning and looting, releasing years of pent-up jealousy and hatred. . . . MacColla . . . spen[ds] nearly two years in . . . massive depredations of Campbell territory” [Thomson, Feud, pp. 73-4; “News”, no. 14, p. 2; Stevenson, Highland, chapter 6; Fraser, p. 114].

  • “The western Gaels . . . [a]re aware of the Civil War in England and of the Covenanters’ league with the [English] Parliament, even though the constitutional issues [a]re only dimly understood.  But while their own sense of tradition, the respect for kingship, or indeed their religion—for many of the Highlanders [a]re still Catholic—inclined them to the royal cause, their overriding motive [i]s to be revenged upon the Campbells” [Williams, p. 114]; the ultimate goal for MacColla was the recovery of Clan Donald’s preeminence in the Western Highlands and the Isles [Stevenson, Highland, p. 147; Paterson, p. 8].
  • MacColla and his followers “ravag[e] the whole district of Knapdale with fire and sword” [New Stat. Acct.: N. Knapdale, p. 638]; Argyll’s forces do the same in revenge. “The total losses suffered by the [Campbells and MacDonalds] under Alastair [MacColla] and Archibald [Earl of Argyll] [are] in the region of 10,000, with massive devastation of their homes and land” [Thomson, Feud, p. 77]. “[T]he Western Highlands and Isles as a whole t[ake] years to recover from the systematic destruction and killing that ha[s] taken place” [Stevenson, Highland, p. 240].

1644:  1. Probably in this year, Alasdair MacColla marries the daughter of Hector McAlester, 6th of Loup [Stevenson, Highland, p. 220; Burke’s, ‘McDonnell of Kilsharvan’; Williams (p. 197) gives the date as 1646, but their first son is born in 1645]. Fraser-Mackintosh reports that MacColla “married one of the daughters of Macallister of Loupe, which family suffered severely through the connection” [pp. 78-9], though he fails to say how they suffer (unless he is amongst those who confuse Loup with Hector of Glenlussa and thus believe him to have been hanged after Dunaverty). 

2. (24 July) Hector McAlester of Loup appointed by Charles I to be one of the commissioners for the sheriffdom of Argyll, serving as a committee of war [RSP, 1644/6/225].

3. A commission of fire and sword is given to the Marquis of Argyll by the Scottish Estates, empowering him to prosecute Royalist forces on the western seaboard. This commission remains current through the summer of 1647, allowing Argyll to use it during his 1661 trial as a defence against the charge that he allowed the massacres in that year of the Lamonts (in Cowal), the Macdougalls (at Dunaverty) and the Macalisters of the Lochhead garrison, all three clans being “acknowledged adherents of MacColla and the Royalist forces” [A. MacInnes, British Confederate, p. 299].

1645:  1. (2 February) Battle of Inverlochy : Argyll is defeated; at this point Coll Kittoch (Colkitto) MacDonald, the father of Alasdair MacColla, invades and takes possession of Kintyre [New Stat. Acct.: Southend, p. 425]. “One of [the Macalister clan] particularly distinguishe[s] himself” in this battle [Wm. Anderson, The Scottish Nation, or the Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours and Biographical History of the People of Scotland (1877), vol. II, p. 708]. In his collection of local Kintyre traditions, Lord Archibald Campbell quotes N M K Robertson: “Three individual soldiers in Montrose’s army slew 60 men with their own hands. George MacAlister killed 21; Robertson, a blacksmith from Atholl, 19; and MacColla 20” [Campbell, Records of Argyll, p. 209].

2. (13 September) Battle of Philiphaugh : After the battle of Kilsyth, MacColla “detache[s] himself and his force from [Montrose] . . . and then proceed[s] to wage a private war against his old enemies the Campbells, and to make one more attempt to win back the Macdonalds’ old patrimony of Islay and Kintyre” [McKerral, p. 43; Fraser, p. 33]. Shortly thereafter, Montrose suffers a major defeat at the hands of the Covenanters at Philiphaugh. Though MacColla’s forces in fact left for a variety of reasons completely unrelated to the royalist cause or Montrose himself, their “desertion” is used by Montrose (and most of his biographers) as a convenient excuse for the loss at Philiphaugh [Stevenson, Highland, pp. 204ff.].

3. Birth of Coll macAlasdair macColla MacDonald, son of MacColla, grandson of Hector McAlester of Loup (see 1644); from him descend the McDonnells of Kilsharvan [Stevenson, Highland, p. 220; Burke’s, ‘McDonnell of Kilsharvan’].

1646: 1. Under MacColla, “Argyll’s country . . . [i]s raided from end to end. Houses [a]re burnt down, their inhabitants slain, the crops destroyed, and the cattle driven off.” In September, the presbytery of Argyll is “under the power of the rebells” [Minutes of the Synod of Argyll, vol. I, p. 99]; by the end of this year, “Kintyre [i]s a smoking ruin” [McKerral, p. 44]. (This must be an exaggeration as some of the houses at least are still standing, e.g., Old Largie Castle – see 1647, #2.)

2. Charles I surrenders to the Covenanters and orders Montrose and MacColla to lay down their arms. “This . . . mean[s] that the main Scottish army under General Leslie c[an] return from England to deal with the rebels” [Thomson, Feud, p. 76; Stevenson, Highland, p. 229]. MacColla begins his retreat, but he “and most of his followers remai[n] in arms . . . in defiance of both king and covenanters” [Stevenson, Highland, p. 227; New Stat. Acct.: Southend, p. 425; McKerral, p. 43].

1647: 1. General Leslie’s army advances into Kintyre in pursuit of MacColla’s forces, ravaging and burning MacDonald and MacAlasdair lands, among others, in west Kintyre [CMS, pp. 21, 31; “News”, no. 14, p. 2]. According to Ian MacDonald, Leslie was sent to punish MacDonald of Largie, who had burned down Inverary, home of the Argyll family; see 1649, #2.The point has been made that in order to do this, Leslie had to get past the isthmus at Tarbert, the defence of which had been entrusted to the MacAlasdairs of Loup by MacColla [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3; Stevenson, Highland, p. 234]. Why they did not keep him out is unclear. Some historians assert that the MacAlasdairs failed to make a “do-or-die effort” because the chief’s wife was a Campbell [DMM, Ian MacDonald correspondence]. But McKerral disputes this, and I have my doubts (see note #2).

  • Stevenson offers another suggestion: “It is said that [MacColla] ordered the MacAllisters of Loup to guard the passes but they refused to raise the siege of Skipness Castle to do so” [Stevenson, Highland, p. 234; “Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3]. Skipness was one of the Campbell strongholds that MacColla had been trying to capture [Third Stat. Acct.: Saddell & Skipness, p. 264; Roberts, pp. 91-2]. A poem composed by a witness to the siege specifically names ‘Macalister of the Loup’ as one of the besiegers [Campbell, vol. 2, p. 239].
  • Contemporary reports seem to suggest that MacColla’s forces were unaware of how close Leslie’s forces were: The French diplomat Montereul reports in a letter home that “Alexander Macdonald . . . believed that David Leslie was yet somewhat prevented by the Gordons, . . . and hence [did not take] the trouble to guard the entry of the peninsula of Kintyre in which he had withdrawn. . . .” [Fotheringham, p. 151]. Sir James Turner, Leslie’s adjutant-general, believed it was divine providence that allowed Leslie access to Kintyre, because in light of the forces MacColla had with him, “I think he might have routed us, at least we should not have entered Kintyre but by a miracle” [Turner, p. 45]. In fact, “[w]e know that a number of the Mackays of North Kintyre, and also of the Macallasters of Loup, followed Sir Alexander Macdonald, and that some of them met their deaths at this time[McKerral, p. 47, emphasis mine].

2. (24 May) Rhunahaorine : Having entered Kintyre, General Leslie’s army camps at Dunskeig Hill some 12 miles south of Tarbert and takes part in the battle of Rhunahaorine Moss the following day [Ian MacDonald correspondence].

  • Alasdair MacColla spends the night before this battle in Old Largie Castle, home of his allies the MacDonalds of Largie [Stevenson, Highland, p. 235]; the castle, which stands on rising ground near Rhunahaorine village, is razed to the ground after the battle [Ian MacDonald correspondence].
  • Montereul writes that forty of Leslie’s men meet “three hundred of Macdonald’s men, both cavalry and infantry, and having received order from David Leslie to charge them, those forty men f[a]ll upon the former so vigorously that after having killed eighty of them they . . . obliged the remainder to retire in disorder towards the main body of their army. . . .” [Fotheringham, p. 151]. Gen. Leslie reports that 60– 80 of MacColla’s men are killed at Rhunahaorine [Stevenson, Highland, p. 234], while “more than 500″ are able to withdraw across the sea to the islands of Gigha and Islay; others go to Ireland, and 300-400 take refuge in Dunaverty Keep [Ian MacDonald correspondence; Thomson, Feud, p. 76; CMS (2), p. 44; Turner, p. 45]. Stevenson suggests that the escape of so many so quickly raises the possibility that Alasdair was already in the process of withdrawing from Kintyre: “Perhaps Alasdair’s encounter with Leslie was simply a delaying operation, undertaken with only part of his forces and designed to cover the escape of most of the rest of his men” [Highland, p. 236].
  • An attempt by Leslie to send cavalry to cut off forces guarding Rhunahaorine Point fails because they are impeded by boggy ground on the way, and it is not possible for him to summon government ships from Loch Sween in Knapdale to cut off their retreat [Ian MacDonald correspondence; Fraser, pp. 33-4]; “Leslie c[an] not press home his advantage immediately, for night [i]s falling and he need[s] to wait for his infantry to catch up with him. . . . Leslie himself [i]s angry that his lackof ships enable[s] so many rebels to escape” [Stevenson, Highland, pp. 235-6].

3. According to Montereul, the skirmish at Rhunahaorine causes “so much confusion and fear that the same night two chiefs of the clans, Macneil and Macalister — for this is how they call the powerful families—sent to David Leslie making offer to him to abandon Macdonald, with all their followers, if they were assured of their lives and of their property, which the Marquis of Argyle . . . promised them” [Fotheringham, p. 151]. (Although these chiefs were singled out by Montereul, Stevenson [Highland Warrior, p. 236] points out that “Many of the Kintyre country people came to Argyll and Leslie asking for pardon” at this time.) This suggests not only that Hector had not remained uninvolved, as is usually claimed, but that he realised the cause was lost and acted as quickly as possible to protect his clan’s position. According to David Leslie himself, the offer was not deemed sincere and was thus not accepted [McKerral, pp. 45-46; Stevenson, Highland Warrior, p. 236]. Note: It’s hard to know how much credence to give Montereul’s report. By his own admission, he was in Edinburgh at the time of these events and reported them secondhand, and he makes factual errors in other places. However, the fact that MacAlasdair is mentioned by name suggests that he must have done something at this point to bring attention to himself. James Turner points out that Argyll struggled for two days with indecision about how to handle the siege at Dunaverty, that he was very much against killing the castle’s defenders, and that even had he wished the massacre, he was only a colonel and did not have the authority to order it [p. 46]. This being the case, he probably also lacked the authority to make such deals with these clan chiefs.

4. (June) Massacre at Dunaverty Keep : After Rhunahaorine, “about 300 [Royalists] sta[y] behind in Dunaverty Castle, probably because they belon[g] to Kintyre and ha[ve] nowhere else to go. But Leslie capture[s] the rock-top castle with ease” [Thomson, Feud, p. 76]; Stevenson agrees that “[t]hose who died were mostly from Kintyre itself” [Highland, p. 237]. “Being reduced to great distress by the want of water, [MacColla’s men[3]] [a]re persuaded to surrender at discretion, after which they [a]re barbarously massacred” [Stat. Acct.: Southend, pp. 365-6]. MacAlasdairs are among those killed at Dunaverty [CMS(2), pp. 44-5; Williams, p. 200]. (It is not, however, the end of Clan Alasdair involvement in support of the king—see 1650, #2; 1651.)

“The massacre which took place . . . has always been surrounded by controversy as to both the numbers killed and whether or not they had been promised quarter. . . . According to the only truly contemporary account of the massacre by a covenanter who was present, Thomas Henderson, 300 prisoners were killed, but eighty of the men of the castle were spared and sent to serve in the French army” [Stevenson, Highland, pp. 236-7].

5. Surrender of Lochhead Garrison : During the siege of Dunaverty, the Royalist garrison at Lochhead (in Campbeltown) surrenders. “This garrison, mainly of MacAllisters . . . [is] initially allowed to disperse.” After the massacre of the Dunaverty group, “sixteen of the leading MacAllister gentry [are] recalled from parole and hanged, their estates being forfeited to the house of Argyll” [A. MacInnes, British Confederate, p. 218; Anon, The grand indictment, pp. 5-6]. I have been unable so far to identify these ‘leading gentry’; McKerral comments that “of these men only one name is given” [McKerral, p. 56], so I’m not sure where everyone gets the idea that they were ‘mostly MacAllisters’. We do know, though, that a Hector Macalister, along with his sons, is among those hanged by Leslie at Whimhill near Campbeltown in the massacre’s wake [DMM; Stevenson, Highland, p. 237; Williams, p. 200]. Williams believes that this Hector was the clan chief; Stevenson is less certain, saying he was “evidently Alasdair’s father-in-law”. McKerral disagrees, noting that “[t]here were several Hectors of that name, large tacksmen in South Kintyre a little before this date” and the Hector hanged is “more likely to have been one of the others” than Loup [p. 56]. In fact, Hector of Loup is still alive in 1649 (qv.); he is named in parliamentary records as late as 1661 [RSP, 1661/1/160; McKerral, pp. 55-56]. Tradition, and local historian Ian MacDonald, say the Macalister hanged after Dunaverty was in fact Hector Macalister of Glenlussa [Ian MacDonald correspondence; Burke’s ‘McAlister of Loup & Kennox’; Campbell, Records of Argyll, pp. 225-6].  

6. Charles I turned over to the English by the Scottish Covenanters; hoping to ensure some of their own goals under the new government, they seek to win favour with the English Parliamentarians by giving them the king.

7. MacDonald and MacAlasdair lands are forfeited in favour of Argyll after MacColla’s forces are defeated. Argyll lets them out to new tenants, many of them Campbells [CMS, p. 31; “News”, no. 14, p. 2]. These forfeitures remain in effect until 1661 [Ian MacDonald correspondence]. This expedition “end[s] MacDonald control of the district” [C. Dalglish, “Rural Settlement in the Age of Reason”, PhD thesis, Glasgow University, 2000]. “All the Western Highlands and Isles as far north as Mull [a]re now under Campbell control. . . .” [Stevenson, Highland, p. 240]. Note: MacAlister of Loup seems not to have lost his lands, as he is still called MacAlister of Loup when he appears in parliamentary records in March 1648, qv. Possibly he has a new lease from Argyll?

8. (13 November) Death of MacColla : MacColla, having been taken prisoner by the English at Knock-na-ness in Ireland, is executed without trial [Keay, p. 648; Thomson, Feud, p. 76; Ian MacDonald correspondence; Fraser, p. 39; Burke’s ‘McDonnell of Kilsharvan‘].

9. At some point this year, MacColla’s second son, Archibald (or Gillespie) is born [Stevenson, Highland, p. 220].

1648:   1. ‘Plague’ in Kintyre : 100-plus years of conflict have left Kintyre devastated and vulnerable to the plague, which “follow[s] Leslie’s army into Kintyre” [Stevenson, Highland, p. 240; Stat. Acct.: Campbeltown, p. 545; New Stat. Acct.: Southend, p. 427]. Recent scholarship suggests that this ‘plague’ was more likely to have been an outbreak of typhus fever than the bubonic plague, but “nothing approaching such a scale of suffering and death recur[s] until the ninteenth century plagues of cholera” [Martin, p. 111; Maiden, ‘Pestilence’].            

2. (2 March) Hector MacAlister of Loup named a commissioner of war for Argyllshire in an act of parliament [RSP, 1648/3/79], proving he is not the Hector executed after Dunavery. 

3. Charles I executed. Most Scots, even the anti-royalist Covenanters who had surrendered him to the English, are appalled [Keay, p. 190; Cameron et al., p. 219]. Royalist effort now turns to support his successor, Charles II, against the English parliament now under the command of Oliver Cromwell.

1649: By this year there is an “endemic exhaustion throughout Scotland after a decade of continuous demands for ideological commitment, financial supply and military recruitment, aggravated by civil war and bubonic plague between 1644 and 1647” [MacInnes, British Confederate, p. 248].

1. “Hector mc Alister of Lowpe” is one of two “ruleing elders” appointed by the Synod of Argyll to go with several ministers “unto Arran” and check up on a minister named John Knox. The synod is concerned about Knox’s behaviour and wants him questioned about his role in the recent rebellion [Synod of Argyll, I: 126].           

2. MacAlasdairs ‘blacklisted’ with other Royalists by Argyll : Scottish Parliament orders the forfeiture of the MacDonald of Largie family of their Kintyre lands for their role in the 1647 rebellion; these lands are granted to the Earl of Argyll, who gives them in tack[4] to Dugald Campbell of Inverawe on the following conditions: Dugald is required to reside at the village of Rhunahaorine, maintain law and order, and to take as tenant on the lands no one bearing the names McDonald, McAlester, McKay, McIan, nor any islander, without the Earl’s written permission [Ian MacDonald correspondence, emphasis mine]. 

3. Probable year of death of Henry Alexander, third earl of Stirling [Stevenson, Origins, p. 72]

1650: 1. Kintyre plantation and clearances : “[I]n an effort to repopulate his family-owned lands in Kintyre . . . Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll, beg[ins] the importation of large numbers of English-speaking Scots lowlanders from Ayrshire—their loyalty to the Earl above reproach” [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3]. Despite earlier attempts at colonisation, moderately successful in the case of Campbeltown, “[m]ajor colonisation by Lowland lairds and their followers beg[ins]” in this year [Martin, p. 2]. MacAlasdair families are among those evicted to make room for the newcomers; most settle in Arran or Ayrshire [Fortiter”, ibid.]. In fact, Ian MacDonald believes that there were more clearances in Kintyre than currently available documentation indicates.

2. Some MacAlasdairs are part of the Scottish army that invades England in support of Charles II; see 1651.

1651:   1. (3 Sept.) Battle of Worcester :  Worcester, a Royalist stronghold in the English Civil War, is the site of that war’s final battle: Charles II and his Scottish army are routed by Cromwell. Charles flees to Europe; among the Royalists captured at Worcester: Alister MacAllister, Daniel (or Donal) MacAllister, John MacAllister [Dobson, Original Scots Colonists, pp. 100-1; Scottish Settlers, vol. V, p. 145; Scots Banished, p. 94].

2. “Scots Highlanders and prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar are transported to Massachusetts and Virginia” [Schaefer, p. 11].

3. (13 Dec.) Dougall Campbell of Inverawe “given a nineteen-year tack of the fifty-three merklands of Largie in Kintyre. . . . A condition was not to set any part of the lands to anyone named MacDonald, Macalister, MacKay or MacEan or any islander without [Argyll’s] written consent [Campbell, vol. 2, p. 260].

3. (Dec.) Royalist POWs Alister MacAllister, Daniel (or Donal) MacAllister, and John MacAllister are transported from London to New England [Dobson, Original Scots Colonists, pp. 100-1]. These men are the earliest MacAlasdair immigrants on record to the future United States, as far as I know.

1652:   1. (26 April) Marquess of Argyll gives Campbell of Lochnell “a fifteen-year tack of Ardnamurchan and Sunart, together with the castle of Mingary. The rent was to be 4,500 merks a year and there were restrictions on subletting to anyone who was called MacDonald, MacRonald, Macalister, MacEan and Mackay [Campbell, vol. 2, p. 262].

2. (23 May) Royalist POWs Daniel McAlastair and John MacAlastair are transported from Gravesend (Eng.) to Boston, Mass. [Dobson, Scottish Settlers, vol. V, p. 145; Scots Banished, p. 94].

3. Scots Highlanders and prisoners from the Battle of Worcester are transported to Bermuda and Jamaica” [Schaefer, p. 11].

1654: Hector Macalster, Gowry Macalster, and John Macalster in Westmoreland Co., Va., are named among the early Virginia immigrants [Dobson, Original Scots Colonists, pp. 100-1]. Based on the timing of their emigration, Dobson believes these men were most likely Cromwellian transportees [ibid., pp. v-vi]. They are named in two separate headright grants [Nell M. Nugent, Cavaliers & Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, vol. 1: 1623-1666 (Library of Virginia, 1992), pp. 290, 340], but the properties are contiguous, so it may have been a joint venture; on the other hand, regulation was such that it’s possible these men (and the others named with them) were claimed by two separate landowners.

1657: Godfrey, future 7th of Loup, signs bond of obligation to Donald MacDonald of Clanranald [“Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3]

1660: Monarchy restored : Cromwellian rule of Britain comes to an end and Charles II takes the British throne. He reestablishes the Episcopal church as Scotland’s national kirk.

1661:   1. MacAlasdair lands restored : The Marquess of Argyll is executed by Charles II; among the charges laid against him is the “slaughter under trust of the Lamonts in 1646 and the MacDougalls and the MacAllisters in 1647” [A. MacInnes, British Confederate, p. 297], despite the fact that he was not the only, or even the primary, instigator of these killings and many of the charges against him are trumped up. MacDonald and MacAlasdair lands forfeited in the 1640s are restored [Ian MacDonald correspondence]. 

2. Hector McAlester of Loup appears in parliamentary records for the last time, as a Commissioner of Supply for the county of Argyll [Castleton, p. 171; “Fortiter”, Jan. 1982, p. 3; RSP, 1661/1/160]. This suggests that despite his friendship with Argyll, he is not considered to have collaborated with the Cromwellian regime [MacInnes, British Confederate, p. 293].

1662: (1 October) Gory McAllaster of Loup named to a Commission for Apprehending Vagabonds in Kintyre [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, series 3, vol. 1, pp. 145-6].

1663: The MacAlasdair and the chieftain of Tarbert are appointed Justices of Peace in their districts under an act of Parliament [Castleton, p. 171]. It appears that their personal names were illegible to the transcriber, so we do not know exactly who these men are, but Gorrie appears to have succeeded in 1661 or 1662, and Ranald is laird of Tarbert in 1664.

1664: Ronald McAllaster, captan of Tarbett” among those named “commissioners of Excyse in the shireffdom of Argyle” [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, series 3, vol. 1, p. 617].

1665:  Ronald MacAlister of Kinloch is one of the ‘gentlemen heritors’ of Mid-Argyll and Lorne who “volunteered to pay £40 Scots out of each merkland” to the Earl of Argyll, ” ‘in testimony of our dure affectioune to the said familie and our fellow feeling of the burdens theirof. . . .’ ” [Campbell, History, vol. III, pp. 9-10]. This is the first mention I have found of Macalisters in connexion to this property, though the Statistical Account of 1799 says “Macmaster [sic] of Ceannlochcaolisport, Achahoish, and Ellary, became masters of these lands, at a very early period, by the murder of Macavery, the ancient proprietor. [Stat. Acct., vol. 19, p. 311].

1667: Assessment on land revived in this year as the ‘cess’: “landowners in every shire who allotted it were known as the ‘commissioners of supply’ and these provided the basis of county government until late in the nineteenth century” [Mitchison, A History of Scotland, p. 295]. Ranald, Laird of Tarbert, who evidently succeeded in the 1640s, is on record as commissioner of supply for Argyllshire, in relation to an Act of the Convention of the Estates that voted a sum of money to the King [Castleton, p. 171; Mitchell, p. 73; CMS puts this in 1668]. 

1668:   lands of Ranald of Tarbert appraised at a debt of 4,706 merks [Beaton, p. 15]

1669:   1. Twelve MacAlasdairs are recorded in the Glens of Antrim in this year [Martin, p. 94].

2. (22 July) Magistrates of Rothesay (Bute) banish the town’s jailor for his role in allowing the Laird of Loup (at this point, Godfrey McAlester, 7th of Loup) to escape the Rothesay Tolbooth, where he was imprisoned for an unspecified crime (probably debt) before “a great body of armed Highlanders arrived privately in the night-time, attacked the magistrates, broke open the prison, and rescued the prisoner” [Reid, History of the County of Bute . . . , p. 110].

1673: (14 May)John M’Allister of Kenlochkelsport” named among the assise sitting at the Court of Inverary to hear the case of John Crawford and Mary NicLachlane, accused of adultery [Justiciary Records of Argyll and the Isles, 1664-1705, vol. I, pp. 16-17].

1678:  1. Lands laid waste after Dunaverty have been “partly reoccupied by Macalister tenants having tacks from the Earl of Argyll”. Some of these families remain Argyll’s tenants for more than 100 years [CMS, p. 21].

2. Glenbarr lands lost : Of the lands reallocated by Earl of Argyll, Godfrey McAlester, Laird of Loup, regains Killagruir but loses all other lands previously held by Barr Glen McAlesters [CMS, p. 31; “News”, no. 14, p. 2].

3. Ranald, Laird of Tarbert, on record again as Commissioner of Supply for Argyll [Mitchell, p. 73], as is ‘Gory Mcalaster’ of Loup [RPS, 1678/6/22].

circa 1680:  According to one of the earliest accounts of Scotland’s families, “Mcdonald of Lowp is descended of Alexr one of the sons of Mcdonald of Yla, for [whi]ch they are called Mcallesters” [Sir George Mackenzie, The Families of Scotland, trans. & ed. by J. Irvine and J. Munroe (Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society, 2008), p. 130].

1681: 1. Archibald succeeds as Captain and 7th laird of Tarbert [CMS, p. 4]. NOTE: CMS puts this at 1685, but see 2.

2. (12-14 August) Sasine registered by Archibald Macalister ‘lawful son to the deceast Ronald McAllester of tarbert’ for his father’s lands [Argyll Particular Register of Sasines, 1673-176, vol. 1 (3 July 1673 – 15 December 1681), folio 378].

1682:  Name appears as “McCalister”[Black, p. 450]

1683: (4-5 Sept.) Sheriff Court meets in Tarbert; among those ‘summoned to compeir’ are ten Macalisters (various spellings), including the brother of the laird of Loup. Their ‘crimes’ vary; several of them, including Loup’s brother, are in trouble for listening to Mr. John Darroch, a ‘disorderly’ (i.e., Presbyterian) minister[5] [MacDonald/Stewart, “Sheriff Court, Tarbert, 1683”].

1684/5: 1. Rentals for the Waternish estate in Skye show a Donald MacAlister as tacksman over the townships of Trumpanbeg [“little Trumpan”], which he holds alone, and Trumpanmore [“great Trumpan”], which has 11–13 tenants [Dodgshon, p. 134].

2. (June) “Hector McAlister, son to Kenlochkeillisport” named on a Privy Council list of those permitted to act as cattle drovers from June to October of this year [Campbell, vol. 3, pp. 38-9].

1685:  1. (3 January) testament of Elizabeth Campbell registered in Argyll. Elizabeth was the wife of John M’Alester of Ceannlochcaolisport.

2. (May) Argyll Rebellion : “When Charles II die[s] with no legitimate offspring in 1685, Earl [of Argyll] Archibald c[an]not tolerate the idea of the Catholic James, Duke of York, succeeding and neither c[an] the old king’s bastard son, the Duke of Monmouth. Together they concoc[t] a rather hare-brained joint invasion plan—Monmouth to land in the southwest of England and Campbell in Argyll. . . . [L]ike a number of subsequent invasions by Scottish exiles, this attempt [i]s woefully ill-prepared. . . . [N]ot all the Campbells joi[n] the cause, not even Argyll’s own elder son” [Thomson, Feud, pp. 79-80; Mitchell, p. 62]. In fact, most of those who do join him are Lowlanders living in the area, and some are motivated more by the mottoes “For the Protestant Religion” and “Against Popery and Prelacy” than by personal loyalty to Argyll [Stewart,  “Argyll Rebellion“]. “Argyll, writing from Campbeltown where his force landed, [tries] to win to his side . . . MacAlister of Loup” [DMM], but instead of passing on the summons to other local gentry, the MacAlasdairs chief sends it to the Privy Council [Hopkins]. Macalister of Ceannlochcaolisport, alone among the clan, joins Argyll [Campbell, vol. 3, p. 56]. “Argyll [i]s arrested near Renfrew and executed”[6] [Thomson, Feud, p. 80; DMM; Mitchell, p. 67]

3. All of the properties held by the Earl of Argyll are annexed to the Crown, including that of Macalister of Tarbert [RPS, 1685/4/79]; however, Macalister remains in possession, presumably now holding directly of the Crown.

4. The execution of Argyll is “the signal for another great Highland invasion of Campbell territory and the MacDonalds naturally pla[y] a major part in this. Three more castles—Dunstaffnage, Dunoon and Carrick—[a]re sacked. Massive quantities of livestock [a]re removed from south Argyll to restock Islay, Glencoe and Keppoch” [Thomson, Feud, p. 80; Stewart, “Argyll Rebellion”]. This time “[r]evenge on the Campbells c[an] be exacted under the colour of justice” because of Argyll’s recent rebellion [Fraser, p. 49]. Still, much of this was “naked opportunism. . . . The Macleans, MacNeills, MacAllisters, and Keppoch MacDonalds [a]re all reported to have continued raiding long after Argyll’s defeat in June” [Kennedy, thesis, pp. 100-101].

5. Macalister of Tarbert “also seize[s] the opportunity which present[s] of enriching himself by making frequent raids on the territory of his former feudal superiors. Issuing from the shelter of [Tarbert] castle, Innellen and Colintraive on the one hand, and Inverary on the other [a]re laid under contribution. On one occasion, during June and July . . . , articles of a most miscellaneous character, valued at £773 6s 8d Scots, [a]re ‘lifted’ from ‘Neil Campbell of Ellengreig’ and his tenants at Colintraive and its neighbourhood” by Tarbert, his followers, and “their accomplices. . . . Everything that they c[an] lay their hands on seems to have been included in their booty”, from food and weapons to household furniture. After this they continu[e] on to other Campbell lands, killing livestock and stealing  [Mitchell, pp. 75-6].

1686:   Name appears as “McCallaster” [Black, p. 450]

1688: 1. “Glorious Revolution” installs William of Orange and his wife Mary as monarchs, deposing Mary’s father, the Catholic James VII/II.[7] “With this event, the rebels of 1685 bec[o]me the ascendant party of 1689. In August of that year, the forfeiture of the Earl of Argyll [i]s rescinded” [Fraser, p. 54], and Campbell lands annexed to the Crown after the Argyll Rebellion in 1685 are completely restored [Mitchell, p. 67; Fraser, pp. 54-5].

2. (6 Nov.) A number of the ‘non-Campbell clans’ of Kintyre sign an address of loyalty to King James VII; among them are Alexander Macalister of Loup and Archibald Macalister of Tarbert [Hopkins, “Loup Hill”; Inventory of Lamont Papers, p. 332, item 1132]

3. Valuation of Argyll shows estates of McAlester, 8th of Loup, forfeited [Ian MacDonald correspondence], probably because of his support for the ousted King James (see 1689).“[T]he fact that heads of the family do not appear as acting in any public capacity in their district, either as Justices or Commissioners of Supply, is an indication that the shadow of the Revolution rest[s] on them, along with all loyal adherents of the House of Stewart” [Castleton, p. 171].

1689/90: Jacobite Rising 

1. This first attempt at Stuart counter-revolution seem[s] to demonstrate above all else the unpopularity of Jacobitism in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution. Claverhouse . . . manage[s] to attract fewer than 2,000 men. Most of these [a]re drawn from a small number of West Highland clans. . . . Almost certainly there may [be] more latent sympathy for the cause, but not many [a]re yet prepared to risk life and property by rising in armed defence of Scotland’s ancient royal dynasty” [Devine, pp. 32-3].  “On this occasion the natives of Kintyre and that Neighbourhood, in accordance with their wonted enmity to the Campbells . . . r[i]se in arms, but [a]re subdued after a few skirmishes” [Mitchell, pp. 68-9]. Among the “small number of West Highland clans” is that of McAlester of Loup, who “set[s] off to join the Viscount of Dundee” along with MacNeill of Gallachoille and MacDonald of Largie and is “probably present at the muster at Dalmacome in Lochaber in May, 1689″ [Fraser, p. 60].

2. (16th May) Battle of Loup Hill : Last battle fought in Kintyre, between the Hanoverian forces and the Jacobites (including MacDonald of Largie, McNeill of Gallachoille, and McAlester, 8th of Loup)[8] [Ian MacDonald correspondence]. Gallachoille’s lands are forfeit [Fraser, p. 60], as are McAlester of Loup’s. Also taking part in this battle are the Macalister lairds of Tarbert, Balinakill and Ceannlochcaolisport. All of them afterwards flee to James VII in Ireland [Hopkins, “Loup Hill”].

3. Battle of Killiecrankie (27 July, Perthshire) : Alexander, 8th of Loup, having returned from Ireland, fights on Jacobite side [Castleton, p. 171; Keay, p. 643; MacKinnon, p. 259]. According to The Grameid (a Latin poem written in 1691 by James Philip of Almerieclose):

“The hero, Loupe, was one most faithful to the King, among those whom the rebel land of Argyll begat. The mighty M’Alister, second to none in warlike spirit, summons his clan from the paternal fields. He speeds his course over rocks and sea, and with agile step crosses the mountains” [pp. 154-5].

Macalister serves with Archibald Macdonald of Largie, Largie’s Tutor, and Macneil of Gallachoille in the regiment led by Sir Alexander Maclean [Hopkins, “Loup Hill”]. Both of the Largies are killed.[9] 

4. Battle of Dunkeld (21 Aug., Perthshire) : “At 7 a.m. the battle began. . . . From east of the Gallowhill, a hundred of Sir Alexander Maclean’s regiment, the usual shock troops,  carrying swords, and protected by helmets, half armour and targets, ran forward towards Shiochies Hill. The rest of the regiment followed with firelocks, giving covering fire, and behind them came a larger force, perhaps Sir John Maclean’s” [Hopkins, Glencoe, p. 187]. The Highlanders however were not accustomed to fighting in towns and were soundly defeated. Sir Alexander Maclean was nearly killed, and his leg was shattered; “His crippling began the disintegration of his regiment [Hopkins, “Loup Hill”].

5. (9 Sept.) “John McAllaster of Balnakellie [and] Archibald McAlaster of Tarbett” surrender to the authorities and, along with many others, take the Oath of Allegiance required of everyone [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, III, vol. XIV, pp. 235-6]. This might have been in response to the Jacobite defeat at Dunkeld the previous month, a time of great discouragement for the Highland Jacobites, or to Sir Alexander Maclean’s injury.

6. (December) “Alexander McAlister of Loup” is among those named in the Privy Council register as having “bein in actuall rebellione and armes against ther Majesties government and lawes or at least accessory to and airt and part of the crymes of treason and rebellione and many of them are continueing to perpetrat and carie on their wicked disegnes against their Majesties interest and for disturbeing the publict peace of the kingdome”. Also named are Macdonald of Largie and McNeill of Gallachoille along with many others [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, III, vol. XV, pp. 2-3]. Those so named, if caught, were to be brought to trial.

7. (1 May 1690) Alexander Macalister of Loup (and possibly Ceannlochcaolisport) is present with Major-General Buchan at the Battle of Cromdale [Anderson, vol. II, p. 708]; the Jacobite forces are routed and scattered, but the “McAlisters of Loup and Kinloch and Macdonald of Largie . . . retur[n] defiantly to their homes” [Hopkins, Glencoe . . ., p. 234].

8. (27 June 1690) Alexander of Loup and Macalister of Ceannlochcaolisport, along with Macdonald of Largie, surrender to the authorities and take the Oath of Allegiance[10] [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, III, vol. XV, pp. 267, 727]. Hopkins [“Loup Hill”] claims this happened “by May” and Ian MacDonald seems to have thought it considerably later, but the Privy Council Record is the authoritative source.

7. Battle of the Boyne (1 July, Ireland): Tradition holds that Alexander, 8th of Loup, having “escaped to Ireland . . . then fought for James VII at the Battle of the Boyne” [Keay, p. 643]. However, Dr Paul Hopkins points out that this is unlikely as he had taken the Oath of Allegiance only days earlier [Hopkins, “Loup Hill”].

1693: (19 Sept) Archibald Macalister of Tarbert on record as executor of the estate of John Dow Macalister of Balinakill [Commissariot of Argyle: Inventories, p. 13].

1694: (2 Feb) Hearth tax lists for Knapdale and Kintyre are presented to the authorities by Alexander McArthur. There are nine Macalister hearths listed in Kintyre and 11 in Knapdale, but the list contains serious omissions, most notably that of the Tarbert family. [National Archives of Scotland: Taxation (http://www.nas.gov.uk/ guides/taxation.asp)]

1696: Loup is granted 6 merklands of Ranichan and Dun-An-Ultich in Clachan by Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck [Argyll Register of Sasines, vol. 3, folios 13-14].

1697:  the Tarbert lands are “disponed in feuferme perpetually” by Archibald, 7th of Tarbert, to the Campbells of Auchinbreck, in order to pay off debt [Beaton, p. 15].

1698:  1. (7 Nov.) Charter of Loup recognises Alexander McAlester (8th) of Loup as rightful heir to his grandfather, Hector McAlester of Loup [A & A MacDonald, vol. 3, p. 187; CMS, p. 29]. 

2. Archibald MacAlister of Tarbert purchases estate of Balinakill, Clachan (in Kilcalmonel parish) from Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchibreck [CMS, pp. 4-5].

1699:  1. Earl of Argyll given “fullest powers against the MacDonalds and their adherents” and appointed keeper of Tarbert Castle [DMM]

2.  In this year, twelve of the name Macalister are recorded in the Glens of Antrim [Martin, p. 94].  

late 1600s: “mac” is dropped from the name of the Ayrshire MacAlexanders (descendants of Godfrey, son of Alasdair Mòr) around this time [Black, p. 16].


[1] Ulster Plantation: attempt by King James VI/I and his successors to bring the more unruly parts of Ireland under English control. Hoping to either ‘civilise’ or drive out the mostly Catholic Gaelic Irish (including the Antrim MacDonnells), he forfeited their lands and gave them to Protestant settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands. Though there were setbacks, such as the Irish Rebellion, in the end the settlers stayed and the Gaels became a resentful minority. The 20th-century ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland stem from this culture clash, which really has very little to do with personal religious belief; see 1609.
[2] The traditionally held view is that Hector of Loup attempted to remain neutral because he was married to a Campbell. However, by this point all of the leading Highland families in Kintyre were connected to the Campbells – being either Argyll’s feudal vassals or “bound to him by other ties”; many of them turned on him anyway [McKerral, p. 46]. Furthermore, Hector’s daughter had married Alasdair MacColla (see 1644, #2), which gave him an equal tie to the other side. The evidence I’ve been able to find suggests that Hector displayed a keen sense of the politics of survival. He seems to have waited initially to see how things would go, siding with his clan (and MacColla) after MacColla’s forces returned to Kintyre, and then managing to switch back after MacColla left for Ireland. Other royalists who tried to convince the authorities that they had acted under duress didn’t succeed, so perhaps Hector’s pre-conflict friendship with Argyll worked in his favour. In any case, for the rest of his life he shows up in positions of responsibility both civil and religious. See 1644, #2; 1647, #3.
[3] These included not only Macdonalds and Macalisters but also Macdougalls and others [Keay, p. 652]
[4] A tack was a lease; most tacksmen in the Highland areas were clan nobles who leased large portions of a chief’s land and then sublet to other tenants. In a pre-cash economy, the tacksman served as a middleman, representing the chief to the clansmen (or the laird to the tenants) and the clansmen to the chief. In the dying years of the ‘clan system’, tacksmen became redundant and were often viewed by outsiders as parasites. During the 18th century, and especially after the rising of 1745, tacksmen “espoused emigration and with varying success urged their tenants to accompany them” [Keay, p. 924]. In fact, a great deal of Highland emigration was tacksmen-led—see 1739, £2, for a Macalister example.
[5] Between1660, when Charles II was restored to his throne, and 1689, when James VII was ousted, it was illegal to listen to non-Episcopalian clergy.
[6] This is the son of the earl executed by Charles II in 1661.
[7] King James VII of Scotland was King James II of England. Although he was generally well regarded by his subjects and tolerant of a variety of religious practice, his Catholicism made him suspect. The birth to him of an heir raised the spectre of a future, less tolerant Catholic kings, and a group of English lords invited William (the husband of James’s daughter Mary) to replace him. He was the last of the Stuart kings, though two Stuart queens succeeded him.
[8] Williamites supported William and Mary of Orange; Jacobites (from Jacobus, the Latin form of James) supported the House of Stuart.
[9] Also fighting for King James at Killiecrankie was 18-year-old Rob Roy MacGregor, later a legendary outlaw and folk hero [Keay, 655]. 

[10] Jacobite lairds were ordered to swear allegiance to the new monarchs by 1 January 1692 or face serious consequences. Most of them did do, but only after writing to the exiled James VII/II for permission (which he granted). 

Compilation/Commentary © 2009-2015 by Lynn McAlister

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