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Clan Donald Magazine No 4 (1968) Online

Book Reviews & Recommended Reading.

Morvern Transformed By Philip Gaskell. Cambridge University Press. 65/-.

A valuable study of the social and economic upheavals which affected the western seaboard districts in the 19th century, giving as a case history the Morvern experience of the clearances, the frequent changes in land ownership and the varied reaction of owners to the lure of higher rents for depopulated sheep runs as revealed in the evidence extracted by the Napier Crofters Commission in 1883. The Macdonalds of Glenaladale and of Borrodale bought estates in Morvern around 1800, and although neither family settled on these estates they had sold out to others before any of the more drastic clearances for sheep farming were undertaken by subsequent owners. There is a fascinating wealth of local detail for anyone who knows and loves Morvern. R.M.G.

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Argyll Estate Instructions, 1771-1805 by the Scottish History Society, edited by E.R. Cregeen. MA, 1964. Fourth Series, Vol. I (Mull, Morvern and Tiree).

The Scottish History Society continues to produce research work of great value, in spite of the rising costs of publication which are apt to be crippling. This evidence of the close control maintained by the 5th Duke of Argyll over his factors in the period following his drastic termination of the remaining tacksmen's leases gives a vivid picture of how the shift from feudal service or clan allegiance to a cash economy was being brought about, at least on the Argyll estates. Even the woods were assessed for the value of the timber, bark, grazing and fuel wood normally removed by the local tenants. -R.M.G

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Captain Malcolm MacLeod of Raasay By Mary Martin. Privately printed.

Miss Martin has done a service to Jacobite historians in rescuing this valuable biographical sketch of a MacLeod who served Prince Charles well and survived the awful test of the Thames prison ships. She might have a few copies left.


Ships of the '45 By John S. Gibson. Hutchinson,1967. 35/-.

Sir James Fergusson of Kilkerran in his preface points out that this book shows the French contribution in quantities of arms and money was much larger than has previously been presented, also that five separate attempts were made by French vessels to rescue the fugitive prince, the sixth being by l'Heureux and le Prince de Conti, which removed the prince to freedom, and Coll MacDonell, Junior of Barrisdale to imprisonment in France. Barrisdale's double dealings were more feared by Prince Charles Edward than any Hanoverian commander or Highlanders in government uniforms, so the Prince's closing gesture on leaving Scotland was to put Coll of Barrisdale in irons and pop him into Morlaix prison on arrival in France; Coll can hardly have been the originator of blackmail, but he was a perfectionist in his way and developed the techniques of blackmail as a Highland art. The weight of evidence incriminating Coll in Gibson's book has to be considered against the testimony of Coll's character in Volume III of the Clan Donald authentic history of 1904.

Out of the many more honourable mentions for Clan Donald the following may be of interest:

The naval battle in Loch nan Uamh on 3rd May 1746, between the French ships le Mars and La Bellone on the one side and the British Greyhound and Baltimore constitutes the closing action of the rising, and was watched from the shore by several hundreds of the local men, newly returned from Culloden and gathered round MacDonald of Borradale's house and the newly landed French armaments and brandy. A few days later young Clanranald and some hundreds of his men put up a stout resistance to search parties from H.M.S. Furnace.

The tale of destruction covers the burning of Barrisdale's house on Loch Nevis, newly built with 18 fireplaces in its rooms; Alan MacDonald of Morar's house; also Donald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart's, Donald himself being then a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle; Kinlochmoidart's brother and 30 men captured on Canna at the house of Laig were all shipped to Jamaica after suffering horrid indignities.

Clanranald's son was recognised by the men of the Mackenzie Militia and was made prisoner. Alexander MacDonald of Boisdale, captured previously and a prisoner on board the Baltimore during the naval battle, was later transferred to the H.M.S. Furnace and the tender attentions of Captain Fergussone, whose militiamen destroyed Clanranald's house at Nunton in Uist.

The author is to be congratulated on the production of so much new evidence from the French National Archives. The French navy and their hired privateers made many gallant sorties in support of the Rebellion, but one conclusion is inescapable, namely that British naval interference on both east and west coasts reduced so seriously the effectiveness of French help that the Jacobite army was forced to engage at Culloden rather than prolong a guerrilla war which they might have won. -R.M.G.

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Extract from H. J. Paton: The Claim of Scotland. Geo. Allen & Unwin, 42/-. 1968.

Page 168:

"It is true that the Highlands in many places are not well adapted to the growing of grain, and land which has long been neglected is bound to deteriorate. Yet the glens used to support a much larger population when methods of agriculture were more primitive than they are today. They also used to rear many cattle, and recent experiments show that they could do so again, to the great advantage of Scotland and of Britain as a whole. Modern science is developing methods for making peat-land into pastures, and the modest application of these methods in the Highlands has already met with some success. The area as a whole is said to be the best in Europe for the growing of conifers, and with the necessary pulp-mills it could save the heavy cost of British imports from Scandinavia. Here in the modern jargon we have a region of " unrealised potential." The situation might be transformed with more research and with an adequate system of transport; but the Highlands are at present too poor to provide all this for themselves."

And at Page 272:

Perhaps I may be allowed to end by adopting as my own the words of a private letter sent to me by one of the wisest men in Scotland - Sir Thomas Taylor, Principal of Aberdeen University - shortly before his untimely death:

"Personally I am so sick of the mess that is being made of my native country that I should be glad of anything that would arouse contention and even passion, rather than that things be allowed to slide."

Professor Paton's book is a MUST for every thinking Scot, but you must also see that your English friends read it, too. - R.M.G.

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The Highland Clans By Sir lain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Albany Herald: with photographs by David Ricks. Published by Barrie and Rockliff,London, 1967. 63/-.

This is a sumptuous book, lavishly illustrated with colour plates, some of which have a hardly discernible connection with the text. It is not a "disciplined work of scholarship," according to the author, but the cream of 30 years of jottings. Much use is made of the background of Norse sagas, and their interpretation is liberally applied to a good many clans other than those of the western isles, whose entitlement to Norse ancestry is reasonably well established. But the end paper giving a conjectural tree of all those entitled to a galley in their arms is a masterpiece of the heraldic talents.

One intriguing titbit is on page 162, a photo of a rock effigy punched out with blunt hammering of the figure of a gallowglass with an obvious galley arms and some less obvious other embellishments worked onto the gallowglass' jerkin. This was found some years ago on a rock about 30 miles from Boston, Massachusetts, near a bend of the Merrimac River, and in every recognisable detail appears to be contemporary with the Texa (Islay) cross stone of Ranald Clanranald dated 1386. Sir Iain Moncreiffe's guess is that the figure is of a Gunn who accompanied Jarl Henry Sinclair on his western voyage of 1398. There have been rumours of a hand carved somewhere amongst the crude devices, as reported by our American observers, but scanning by one Sean Morrison, an Islesman student from Cambridge who visited the rock carving, has not confirmed this. Very sad, because it would have been fun to claim a Clan Donald registration in America some 90 years ahead of Columbus!

Purchase this book from at our Clan Donald Bookshop.


Scotland and Australia, 1788-1850 By David S. MacMillan. Clarendon Press, 1967.

Professor MacMillan of Sydney University deals with the emigration, commercial activities and investment sources from Scotland which helped to establish Australia as a new base for fresh endeavour. He outlines the difficulties and frustrations met and overcome by the three early Australian companies floated by groups of Edinburgh and Aberdeen men. Under emigration he gives valuable details in following groups from the highlands and islands for instance the British King sailed from Tobermory in October, 1838 with 332 people on board, of whom 146 were Macdonalds; on arrival in Sydney they caused consternation by insisting that they all be settled as one group. but this was solved by one Andrew Lang, a Scot on the Hunter River, undertaking to settle the whole lot.

By 1841 government had stopped all subsidies for emigration, but in the first half of 1840 ten ships cleared the Clyde for Australia, including the Perfect bound for Port Philip (Victoria) with Glengarry, his family and entourage, twenty in number, " the most wealthy emigrants we should suppose that ever left the Clyde."-R.M.G.


Recommended Reading.

The Story of Tartan: Lt. Col. I.B. Cameron Taylor, published by An Comunn Gaidhealach, 65 West Regent Street, Glasgow, C2, and Aberstaff House, Inverness. A very attractively printed and informative pamphlet. Price 9d.

The Macdonalds of Glenalladale: Iain R. Mackay, printed by The Highland Herald Ltd, 1 Friars Street, Inverness. On sale at the NTS Information Centre, Glenfinnan.

Flora Macdonald: Her Life in the Highlands and America: Elizabeth Gray Vining. Geoffrey Poles, 1967. 25/-.

The Field of Sighing: a Highland Boyhood: Donald Cameron. Longmans, 1966. 30/-.

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