Clan MacDonell of Glengarry

Clan MacDonell of Glengarry (Scottish Gaelic: Clann Dòmhnaill Ghlinne Garaidh) is a Scottish clan and is a branch of the larger Clan Donald.[3] The clan takes its name from Glen Garry where the river Garry runs eastwards through Loch Garry to join the Great Glen about 16 miles (25 km) north of Fort William, Highland.

MacDonell of Glengarry
Clann Dòmhnaill Ghlinne Garaidh[1]
MottoCreag an Fhitich (The Raven's Rock)[2]
RegionScottish Highlands
Plant badgeHeath[2]
Pipe musicGlengarry Foot Stomp.
Aeneas Ranald Euan MacDonell, 23rd Chief of Chief of Macdonell of Glengarry
Historic seatStrome Castle
Invergarry Castle


Origins of the clan

Glengarry is in Lochaber which was part of the ancient Kingdom of Moray that was ruled by the Picts.[3] Ranald was the son of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, and Ranald himself had five sons.[3] One of them was Alan, the progenitor of the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald and another was Donald.[3] Donald married twice: firstly Laleve, daughter of the chief of Clan MacIver, by whom he had one son named John.[3] Donald married secondly a daughter of the chief of the Clan Fraser of Lovat by whom he had two more sons, Alexander and Angus.[3] The first son, John, died without heirs and was therefore succeeded by his half-brother Alexander.[3] Alexander is sometimes considered the first true chief of Glengarry but is usually regarded as the fourth.[3]

15th and 16th centuries

Glengarry did not play an important part in the politics of Clan Donald until the late fifteenth century.[3] Traditional rights of the chiefs were being replaced with feudal relationships in which the Crown was the ultimate superior, as part of the royal policy to pacify the Scottish Highlands.[3] Most of the chiefs submitted to James V of Scotland and even the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald accepted charters in 1494.[3] However Alexander of Glengarry did not receive a charter, suggesting that he continued to have a rebellious attitude at this time.[3] Finally in 1531 he submitted to royal authority and was pardoned for past offences.[3] He received a Crown charter on 9 March 1539 for the lands of Glengarry, Morar, half the lands of Loch Alsh, Lochcarron, Loch Broom and also Strome Castle.[3] This did not stop Alexander following Donald Gorm Macdonald of Sleat in trying to reclaim the Lordship of the Isles.[3] Donald Gorm was killed attacking Eilean Donan Castle and the rebellion collapsed.[3]

Subsequently Alexander of Glengarry was amongst the island chiefs who were tricked into meeting James V at Portree and was imprisoned at Edinburgh where he remained until the king died in 1542.[3] Glengarry himself died in 1590.[3] His son was Angus who was politically astute and used the influence of his father-in-law, the chief of Clan Grant, to gain a charter from James VI of Scotland, regaining his ancestral estates in 1574.[3]

In a bond of manrent, dated 1571, between Angus MacAlester of Glengarry and Clan Grant, Glengarry makes an exception in favour "of ye auctoritie of our soverane and his Chief of Clanranald only ". This is held by Clanranald of Moydart as an acknowledgment by Glengarry of the Captain of Clanranald as his chief.[4]

17th century

The Battle of Morar was fought in 1602 between the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry and Clan Mackenzie.[5] Angus was succeeded by Donald, 8th chief of the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry who is reputed to have lived for over one hundred years.[3] Invited in 1626 by Lord Ochiltree, the Lord Chancellor of Scotland to discuss Royal policy for the Western Isles, he disagreed with the proposals and was imprisoned for a time.[3] Despite this, in March 1627 he obtained a charter under the great seal that erected Glengarry into a free barony.[3]

When the 1638-1652 Wars of the Three Kingdoms began, Donald was too old for active campaigning so effective leadership passed to his son, Aeneas, 9th chief of the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry.[3] He served under James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose throughout his 1644-1645 campaign and protected him after the Battle of Philiphaugh.[3] Aeneas also fought in the Anglo-Scottish War and forfeited his estates when Scotland was incorporated into the 1653 to 1659 Protectorate. They were returned after the 1660 Restoration and he received the title Lord Macdonell and Aros.[3]

Ranald MacDonell replaced Aeneas as 10th chief in 1680; by this time, the Glengarry MacDonells were among the 2% of Scots who remained Catholics, mostly in remote Gaelic-speaking areas like the Highlands and Islands. After James II & VII was expelled in the 1688 Glorious Revolution in Scotland, Ranald led the Catholic Jacobite faction and during the 1689 Rising, the Scots Parliament confiscated his lands although he continued to hold Invergarry Castle.[6] By late 1691, Invergarry was closely besieged and the Scottish government was determined to 'make an example' of the Macdonells. However, after agreeing to pardon Ranald, they switched targets to the Glencoe MacDonalds, which resulted in the Glencoe Massacre.[7]

18th century and Jacobite risings

During the Jacobite rising of 1715 the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry fought for the Stuart cause at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.[3] When the captain of the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald was killed, Glengarry is said to have rallied his men by throwing up his bonnet and crying Revenge today and mourning tomorrow; in 1716, James Francis Edward Stuart made him Lord Macdonell in the Jacobite peerage.[3]

MacDonnell of Glengarry's Regiment served throughout the 1745 Rising, initially led by Aeneas, Glengarry's second son; he was accidentally shot dead after Falkirk and replaced by his kinsman Lochgarry who commanded at the Battle of Culloden. His elder brother Alastair, later 13th Glengarry was captured by a British frigate in November 1745 when travelling from France to join the Rising. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was released in 1747 and continued to be active in Jacobite plotting but at some point became a British government double agent.[8] His reasons are still disputed but in 1897, Scottish historian Andrew Lang confirmed his identity as 'Pickle the Spy.'[9]

In the late 18th Century, the majority of the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry emigrated to the historic Glengarry County, Ontario (which is named after the Clan) as a result of the Highland Clearances as well as settling in parts of Nova Scotia (New Scotland) and other economic conditions to look for a better life and to also preserve their Scottish Highland Culture.

Colonel Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry

Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell was the personality whose character and behaviour gave Walter Scott the model for the haughty and flamboyant Highland chieftain Fergus MacIvor in the pioneering historical novel Waverley of 1814. As was customary for the chief of a clan, he was often called simply "Glengarry." In June 1815 he formed the Society of True Highlanders which eventually came to bitterly oppose the Celtic Society of Edinburgh. During the visit of King George IV to Scotland he arrogantly made several unauthorised appearances, to the annoyance of Walter Scott and the other organisers.

Under his authority timber was felled for sale, the cleared land was leased to sheep farmers and many of his clansmen were forced from the land by increasing rents and evictions, with the great majority forced to go to British North America (His clan primarily in Glengarry County, Ontario) in part of what was later known as the Highland Clearances.

Bishop Alexander Macdonell

In contrast to Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry, his contemporary Alexander Macdonell became a Roman Catholic priest whose missionary duty in Brae Lochaber led him to help his displaced clansmen. First he tried getting them employment in the Lowlands, then in 1794 he organised formation of the Glengarry Fencible regiment under the command of Alexander Ranaldson, with Father Macdonell appointed chaplain. When the regiment was disbanded Father Macdonell appealed to the government to grant its members land in Upper Canada but this was not realised until much later. He himself came to Upper Canada, settled in Glengarry County in 1804 and in 1826 was elevated to Bishop of Regiopolis Kingston.


  • Invergarry Castle which is situated on the Raven's Rock was the seat of the Chief of Clan MacDonell of Glengarry.
  • Strome Castle was also the previous seat of the MacDonells of Glengarry until 1602.


  • The current chief of Clan MacDonell of Glengarry is Aeneas Ranald Euan MacDonell, 23rd Chief.[10]

See also

Notes and references

  1. Mac an Tàilleir, Iain. "Ainmean Pearsanta" (docx). Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  2. Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry Profile Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  3. Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 214 – 215.
  4. Mackenzie (1881), p. 307; p. 308.
  5. 'Conflicts of the Clans' published in 1764 by the Foulis press, written from a manuscript wrote in the reign of James VI of Scotland.
  6. Love, Dane (2007). Jacobite Stories. End of Chapter 3: Neil Wilson Publishing. ISBN 1903238862.
  7. Cobbett, William (1814). Cobbett's Complete Collection Of State Trials And Proceedings For High Treason And Other Crimes And Misdemeanors (2011 ed.). Nabu Press. p. 904. ISBN 1175882445.
  8. Davenport-Hines, Richard (2019). Enemies Within;. Williams Collins. p. 36. ISBN 978-0007516698.
  9. Lang, Andrew (1897). Pickle the spy; or, The incognito of Prince Charles. Longmans Green.
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