Later 19th Century

1839:  1. “In the district of Strathaird, in which divine service is performed every third Sabbath, a comfortable church [i]s . . . fitted up by the Trustees of Mr. Macalister. But previous to this there was no church in that district; and [the previous minister] when he preached there, officiated in the recess or cavity of a rock, for a period of fifty-two years” [NSA, vol. 14, p. 312]. Note: interesting that the previous owner of the estate never saw fit to do this, even though he lived there.

2. Charles McAlester of Loup and Kennox and his wife attend the Eglinton Tournament, where they have seats in the grandstand; afterwards, Charles serves as one of the stewards at the banquet [Charles’s attendance is mentioned in numerous publications of the time and since; the details of his role there are said to come from Accounts of the Tournament at Eglinton Castle in August 1839, vol. II, p. 73; I have not yet located this publication].

1840: “The property of Strathaird . . . is now represented by [Alexander Macalister’s] grandson, Mr. Macalister of Loup, in Argyleshire” [NSA, vol. 14, p. 305]. Macalister’s grandson, now proprietor of Strathaird, is in fact Alexander of Torrisdale. Keith, here incorrectly designated ‘of Loup’, is his nephew and does not own the Strathaird estate. Note: Although Keith has purchased most of the Loup lands by this time, the designation properly belongs to the chiefly family. See 1847.

1842: 1. Loup family : New Statistical Account report for the parish of Stewarton in Ayrshire names among the resident landowners C. S. McAlister, Esq., of Kennox, whose modern building is one of four deemed by the author ‘most worthy of notice’ in the parish [NSA vol. 5, pp. 732, 734].

2. Macalister-Hall family established at Tangy : James Macalister-Hall (eldest son of Grace Macalister-Hall), having previously purchased estates of Killean from an unrelated Hall family, now purchases the Tangy estate and takes title of James Macalister-Hall of Killean and Tangy [CMS, p. 24].

1843: Clan Alasdair lands in Kintyre : Glenbarr, Loup, and Glentangy estates are in the possession of Macalisters, and agricultural improvements to beautify the Loup estate are underway [NSA: Killean & Kilchenzie, p. 391; Kilcalmonell & Kilberry, p. 412]. Alexander MacAlister is still in possession of Torrisdale [NSA: Saddell & Skipness, p. 449; see 1864], but Alexander Morison is the “new laird” of Balinakill [NSA: Kilcalmonell & Kilberry, ibid.].

1844: “Gothic Revival” wing of Glenbarr Abbey, started by Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham, is completed by Keith Macalister [CMS, p. 34]. Of the substantial landowners in Killean & Kilchenzie parish, Keith is one of only two who reside in the parish, and the only one who lives there year round [NSA: Killean & Kilchenzie, p. 391].

1846–49: Potato Blight; many from Kintyre parishes emigrate : With large segments of the Highland population almost completely dependent on the potato, the failure of the 1846 crop is a catastrophe. Quick action by government and charitable agencies, combined with the efforts of landlords (some of whom experience financial ruin in the process), spare Scotland the horrors seen in Ireland[1], but many from the Kintyre parishes emigrate.

1847: 1. (29 July) Charles McAlester recognised as chief of Clan Alasdair : The MacAlasdair matriculates arms (entered in the Lord Lyon register, vol. 4, Folio 105) and is recognised as “heir male and representative of the ancient family of the Macalesters of Loup” by the Lord Lyon [Report, pp. 9–10; Castleton, p. 173].

2. (7 Oct.) Death of Charles, 12th of Loup : Ayr Advertiser gives notice of the death of “Lieut. Colonel Charles Somerville Macalester, of Loup and Kennox” [Report, p. 10; Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 184, p. 95]

1852: In this year 44 families are ‘cleared’ from Keppoch township on the Strathaird estate. According to evidence heard by the Napier Commission, most of these families are sent to Australia; those who refuse to go settle in the neighbouring Elgoll township, where they live as cottars and add to the overcrowding there [Napier et al., Report, pp. 223, 230; T. Mullock, ‘Compulsory Emigration – Strathaird, Skye’ (Inverness Advertiser, 1 July 1850): 228-235.]

1854: 1. (17 May) Birth of Donald (later Sir Donald) Macalister, descendant of 9th laird of Tarbert and later chancellor and president of Glasgow University [CMS, p. 12]

2. Serious outbreak of cholera in northern Kintyre which ends the fishing season; villagers apparently believe that the epidemic is “‘a judgement of Providence on trawling’, a method of herring fishing which [was] recently . . . proscribed, but which [i]s carried on defiantly by the men of Tarbert”. According to local oral tradition, the ‘plague’ is brought by an infected ship, the summer’s intense heat allows it to spread, and many people die [Martin, pp. 111-2].

1857: Directory of Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Seats, Villages, etc., etc., in Scotland: Giving the counties in which they are situated, the post-town to which each is attached, and the name of the resident, with Copious Miscellaneous Lists (Edinburgh: Sutherland and Knox, 1857) lists Major Somerville M’Allister, proprietor, Kennox House in Stewarton [p. 86], James Macalester of Chapelton, near Stewarton [p. 37; despite the spelling, this is M’Allister of Kennox’s son]; Robert Macalister in Rothesay (Bute) [p. 7]; James D. Macalister, farmer, in Kilcattan (Bute) [p. 87]; William and John Macalaster, thread manufacturers in Paisley [p. 120]; Rev. D. Macalister of Stitchell, four miles from Kelso [p. 139]; Norman M. M’Alister, MD, at Straithaird (Skye) [p. 140]; and Archibald Macalister of West Clyth Cottage in Caithness [p. 151]. Glenbarr Abbey near Tarbert in Argyle is listed, but the questionnaire sent regarding its residents was not returned [p. 69].

1863: (July) Battle of Gettysburg (U.S. Civil War)

Union troops defeat General Lee’s Confederates after three days of fighting.  Among the Union soldiers is Lt. Col. Robert McAllister, who is badly wounded; among the Confederate soldiers is Private Levi McAlister.  Both men survive the war [McAllister, “Gettysburg”, pp. 169–170].

—James McAllister’s Farm and Mills (see 1827), only a mile from the battlefield and now the home of his daughters Mary and Martha, becomes a makeshift Union hospital [ibid., pp. 170–171].

1864: Torrisdale estate sold by Alexander McAllister (see 1843) to Col. D. R. Buchanan-Jardine; it is later rented by Peter McAllister Hall [CMS, p. 24]. But see note at 1872.

1867: Major Matthew Charles Brodie Macalister (son of Keith) purchases Crubasdale estate from a MacDonald, who had bought it from the Duke of Argyll [CMS, pp. 22, 38]. The Loup and Balinakill estates are sold to Sir William MacKinnon [‘Balinakill House History‘]. 

1868: Birth of Charles, later 15th of Loup

1871: Birth of William Henry Somerville McAlester, brother of the 15th chief and father of the 16th

1872: 1.  Estates of Keith Macalister of Glenbarr and Rosshill now extend to over 17,000 acres in Kintyre [CMS, p. 22].

2. According to Hector Mackenzie and “News” [no. 14, p. 3] the Strathaird estate is sold in this year to William (later Sir William) MacKinnon of Kintyre, grandson of a Catherine MacAlester of Campbeltown. However, in 1884 the report of the Napier Commission names Alexander Macalister as proprietor of this property and Torrisdale.

1877: Royal Charter of Incorporation granted for the Library Association, due mostly to the initiative of John Young Walker MacAlister of the Tarbert family. MacAlister is something of a library pioneer, advocating methods and values that are familiar to modern librarians and writing extensively on the subject. He is well known in intellectual circles, counting among his friends the writer Mark Twain, whose personal archive includes their correspondence. The Library Association continues for a century before being incorporated into the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals.

1881: Gregory reports that Col. Somerville Macallaster is “the present heir-male of the old family of Loup”, and that despite the loss of the Loup family’s lands, “[m]any of the name are still to be found in Kintyre and the neighbouring districts” [p. 418].

1886: Tarbert Castle described by Dugald Mitchell as “a stately and picturesque ruin” [Mitchell, p. 17].

1891: (6 Jan.) Death of Charles Somerville McAlester, 13th of Loup, at Kennox, Stewarton. According to The West Country and Galloway Journal (8 January 1891), Colonel M’Alester was the chief of the M’Alesters of Loup in Kintyre, Argyleshire, a family of high and ancient lineage. . . . [A]uthority was given to the late Colonel’s father to bear the arms and supporters of the ancient family of Loup (or Loop) as Chief of the Clan Alester [Report, pp. 10–11].

1892: As late as this year, “52.3 percent of the rural population [of Kintyre] live[s] in one- and two-roomed houses”, many with no sanitation at all. By this time, however, the Highland practice of keeping livestock under the same roof as people has largely ended [Martin, p. 128].

1896: I. Hamilton-Mitchell is quoted in an Edinburgh document as saying “there is no better landlord in Kintyre than Major Macalister of Glenbarr” [“Fortiter”, April 1982, p. 5].

1899: (January) “Campbeltown’s new Library and Museum was formally handed over to the town by its donor, James MacAlister-Hall of Tangy and Killean”. MacAlister-Hall had offered to fund the entire project three years earlier when local civic groups declared the absence of a free public library to be “an affront to civic dignity”. On the 20th of this month, MacAlister-Hall was awarded the Freedom of Campbeltown [“Campbeltown’s New Library and Museum, 1899″, Michael Davis, in Kintyre Magazine, Issue 45: Spring 1999].

late 1800s: By this time,Old families, such as the MacAlisters of Glenbarr . . . [have] parted with their estates [TSA: Saddell & Skipness, p. 265].  Note: This probably means the McAlesters of Loup, who held most of the Clan Alasdair lands at one time or another. The current Glenbarr family was not, in 1799, an ‘old family’, and it did purchase some of its lands from the McAlesters of Loup. In any case, most of the Glenbarr estate is not in this parish and had already come into possession of the current Macalisters of Glenbarr, who continue to hold these lands into the 21st century. 


[1]Roughly one third of the Irish population starved to death during the 1840s; another third emigrated (many to the U.S.); there are contemporary accounts of cannibalism.  The ‘Great Famine’ radically altered Irish society and culture and its psychological impact is felt to this day.

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

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