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A Short History

Off the west coast of Scotland lie the Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides consist of, from the north, Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra and others. The Inner Hebrides consist of Raasay, Skye, Mull, Jura, Islay and a large number of smaller islands. In olden times the peninsula of Kintyre was also considered part of the Hebrides. The islands of Arran and Bute lie east of Kintyre in the Firth of Clyde.

The surface of these islands is principally low rolling mountains largely covered with heather. The valleys are wide and often covered with bracken but also afford sparse grazing for cattle and sheep. The mountains in Scotland are of the same age and nature as the Appalachians in eastern North America but, having been glaciated and exposed to much more weathering from the gales of the Atlantic, have rounded contours and U-shaped valleys. The highest mountains of the Scottish Highlands are mostly between 3,000 and 4,000 feet in height. On the islands they are between 2,000 and 3,000 feet and in Kintyre they range between 800 and 1,500 feet. On most of the islands there are large stretches only a few hundred feet above sea level on which are grown crops of barley and oats. Many parts of these lowlands also supply peat for burning in the houses and in the distilleries.

The climate of the islands is stormy in winter and cloudy in summer but has less rain than much of the mainland. The southern islands, especially, are affected by the Gulf Stream and in sheltered spots rhododendrons, bamboos, and some kinds of palm trees can be grown.
The peninsula of Kintyre is separated from the more hilly Knapdale to the north by the inlet of West Loch Tarbert, which extends inland for about ten miles, leaving an isthmus of only a mile. At the entrance of the Loch, on the south shore, is the Hill of Dunskeig, about 500 feet high. From the top of this prominence with its Pictish forts, one gets on a clear day, a fine view of Jura, Gigha, and beyond to Islay.

Man first began to settle in the southern Hebrides some time after the glaciers disappeared, probably about 4,000 B.C. The Gulf Stream warmed the waters and provided an abundance of shell fish along the shallow shores, salmon in the streams and herring in the sea waters and inlets. Sea birds of many kinds fed on this food and early man ate both fish and fowl. The remains of this occupation can be seen in the middens of shells left on the raised beaches on the islands and mainland. In the New Stone Age (2700 to 1300 B.C.) men took effective possession of the land, pasturing their herds, practising a simple agriculture, and interring their noble dead in impressive chambered cairns. The transition to the Bronze Age (1300 to 200 B.C.) was very gradual, stone and bronze weapons and implements, older and newer styles of pottery, domestic economics and burial rites overlapping for a considerable time. The standing stones which can be found in many places in the islands are attributed to this period. The earliest people probably came in successive migrations from south-western Europe up the Irish Sea. Early Bronze Age people may have done the same. However later migrations have come from the Rhineland across Britain.

With the opening of the early Iron Age (200 B.C. to 500 A.D.) a military aristocracy of Celtic origin came from the continent and swept over Britain from east to west and crossed the Irish Sea to dominate the land and impose its way of life on the numerous indigenous peoples. These people are credited with the numerous 'duns' or forts around the coast and the hill fortifications. These Gaelic-speaking Celts were a vigorous and tempestuous people, and under the name of 'Scots', were raiding Roman Britain and colonizing the western seaboard from Wales to the Hebrides.

The first home of the Scots was Ireland and the Romans knew them as enemies as were the Picts of the north of Britain. One of the petty kingdoms of the Scots in Erin was Dalriada, roughly modern Antrim. The sea passage from Ireland to the Mull of Kintyre is less than twelve miles and it is likely that a settlement of Scots from Ireland may have been made during the Roman period. Tradition is that about 500 A.D. three sons of Erc, King of Dalriada-in- Erin, Fergus, Loarn, and Angus, crossed the North Channel to establish the new Dalriada-in-Alban (modern Argyll). Angus occupied Islay and Jura, Loarn occupied Lorn, named after its founder, and Fergus took Cowal, Knapdale and Kintyre. By the time of Bede, in 731, the Scots of Dalriada possessed the western seaboard and the islands of Scotland as far as Applecross north of Skye. Thus at that time present-day Scotland was divided into four peoples: the Picts of the northern and eastern Highlands, the Scots of Dalriada, and the lowlands having Angles and Saxons in the eastern parts and Celtic Britons in the western lowlands. All through Scottish history these divisions of the population can be traced. The Highlanders were the primitive people living on the edges of civilization with their backs to the sea, scraping a bare living from the poorest of farms, while the Lowlanders, the products of more recent migration, benefited from the rich farmlands and border highlands. As Scots they also warred with the English but they could also take advantage of the civilizing influences of England and Europe and the benefit of trade and commerce.

In 843 Kenneth mac Alpin (son of Alpin), king of Dalriada, became king of the Picts also, thus uniting the two kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots. There were a number of elements which worked to the advantage of Kenneth mac Alpin in this event. The Picts had recently suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Norse. The succession of the rulers of the Picts was through the female line and his mother or grandmother may have been a Pictish princess. Pictland was being infiltrated by Gaelic stock, Gaelic speech, and Gaelic culture. There was also a religious conquest of Pictland by the Scots. The Scots were Christians and they brought their beliefs with them and in their evangelism adapted many of the pagan beliefs to Christianity. Thus as they progressively adopted Christianity the native inhabitants accepted Gaelic speech and culture and inter-married with the Gaels so that in time their separate origins were quite forgotten. Pictland became Scotland.

In the last decades of the 8th century Viking raiders appeared in the western seas and they were soon followed by Norwegian settlers. The Norse settlements were of two types. On the one hand there were large-scale military expeditions bent on outright conquest and the establishment of new states and, on the other hand, colonizing families arriving in one, two or three ships of moderate size, immigrants such as came to Canada in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These immigrants were not much different from the Hebridean Scots in their way of life and from the first there was inter-marriage between the leading families and intermingling of Christian and pagan cultures. One of the major developments of this mingling of the Gael and Gall in the Hebrides was the rise of the Kingdom of the Isles with its capital in the Isle of Man. Thus from the late 10th century, the rulers of this insular realm dominated the western seas and were attended in their expeditions by the leading men of the islands. Norwegian sovereignty, as distinguished from the 9th and 10th century colonization, originated with the expedition of Magnus Barelegs (he wore the kilt) in 1098. From then on the Kings of the Isles reigned as vassals of the Norwegian crown, though the over-lordship was often merely nominal, until the Cession of the Sudreys (as the Hebrides were called) to Scotland in 1266.

In 1140 Somerled a petty 'king' of Argyll married Ragnhild, daughter of King Olaf the Red of the Isles. Somerled's name is Norse but that of his father, Gille Brighde, is Gaelic. Gille Brighde is said to have been driven from his lands but Somerled regained them and conquered so large a part of the west that he was known as Regulus of Argyll. When some of the Hebridean chiefs revolted against the tyranny of Godred, Olaf's son and successor, they turned to Somerled, who, with his own resources and theirs, forced Godred to a division of the Kingdom of the Isles. From 1160 both Godred and Somerled ruled in the Sudreys under the supremacy of Norway. In 1164 Somerled took a large fleet of galleys up the Clyde to invade the Scottish Lowlands against King Malcolm IV and met defeat and death.

Macdonalds may well be proud of the name they bear. Clan Donald is the largest of the Highland Clans. It has played a more distinguished part than that of any clan in the history of Scotland. Beyond all this, Clan Donald has a unique claim to the interest and reverence of all those who loved the Gaels, their language and their high traditions, and who mourn their decline, for under the old Lords of the Isles, the chiefs of Clan Donald, a last Gaelic society existed in Scotland. At the time of their greatest power as Lords of the Isles and Earls of Ross, they were firmly established from Islay to the Butt of Lewis. They also held Kintyre, Lochaber, Ardnamurchan, Garmoran, Morvern, and much else besides.

According to the seanachies (historians), the Lord of the Isles was descended from Conn of the Hundred Battles, High King of Ireland about 125 A.D., from Colla Uais, who is said to have been an Irish prince who ruled in the Islands before the establishment of Dalriada, and from Fergus MacErc, himself, the founder of that kingdom. The pedigree is incomplete and rests only on tradition but was firmly believed in by the clan in the Gaelic revival after the decline of Norse power.

With Somerled we are on firm historical ground. He laid the foundations on which the power of Clan Donald rose. After Somerled's death his mainland possessions were divided among his sons of whom he had several besides those of the Princess of Man. Man itself reverted to a re-established Kingdom of Man, but the islands south of Ardnamurchan were divided among the three sons of this marriage. Dougall received Mull with the adjacent islands as well as Lorn. He was the founder of the Macdougalls and his line was known as the Lords of Lorn. Reginald had Islay, Kintyre and a share of Arran. His line was known as the Lords of Islay. Angus had the rest of Arran and Bute. When Angus and his sons were killed, Reginald took his lands. Reginald had two sons, Donald, Lord of Islay, who has given his name to Clan Donald and who occupied Islay and Kintyre, and Ruairidh, who claimed the lands once owned by Angus. His descendants were known as the MacRuairidhs. For the next hundred years the situation was complicated by the fact that the descendants of Somerled had to deal with the final struggle between the King of Norway and the King of Scotland for supremacy in the Western Isles. Finally in 1266, they were ceded by Norway to Scotland.

The Scottish King, Alexander III, confirmed the Lords of Lorn and Islay in their possessions. However, at the deaths of Alexander and his grand-daughter, The Maid of Norway, Balliol and Robert the Bruce were claimants to the Scottish throne. The Lord of Lorn and Alexander, Lord of Islay, supported Balliol while Angus Og sheltered Bruce when his fortunes were lowest and supported him decisively at Bannockburn. Angus Og was granted the lands of Macdougall of Lorn and those of his brother Alexander. It may be noted here that Robert the Bruce also gave rich rewards to Campbell of Lochow, a name of ill omen for Clan Donald! John, son of Angus Og, not only enlarged his possessions by considerable royal grants but made two successful marriages. The first was with Amy, the heiress of the MacRuairidhs, the second with Margaret, a daughter of King Robert II. John's possessions included all of the Western Isles, except Skye, north of Kintyre, Kintyre itself and other mainlands. In 1354, John assumed the title 'Dominus Insularum' - Lord of the Isles. That he should have, himself, assumed this title marks his special position and claims. Thus whenever they felt themselves able to do so, the Lords of the Isles assumed more than the position of an ordinary subject of the Scots Crown.

The Lordship of the Isles lasted from 1354 until its forfeiture in 1493. There were four Lords of the Isles, John, Donald, Alexander and a second John. They each in turn fell foul of the Scots Crown at times, and they did not hesitate to intrigue with the King of England. So powerful were the Lords of the Isles that they could overrun and occupy large parts of northern Scotland. No less than seven times they or their lieutenants streamed across the Highlands and captured Inverness. On the other hand, when a considerable amount of the man-power of Scotland was mobilized against them, the Lords of the Isles were obliged to come to terms, sometimes as in the case of Alexander and the second John, most ignominiously. In 1476, the Lord of the Isles, to make peace, was obliged to resign the Earldom of Ross and Kintyre, and the title was for the first time conferred upon him by the King. The proud younger members of the family were furious and his nephew, Alexander of Loch Alsh, at the head of a large force, tried to regain the Earldom by arms. He was defeated and in 1493 the Lordship of the Isles was forfeited. Today it is held by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.

Successive heads of the family had made provision for younger sons by granting them lands to hold under themselves and large parts of the Lordship were occupied by chiefs of other clans as vassals of the Lord of the Isles. Among these were Maclleods, Mackinnons, Macphees, MacNeils, and Macleans. To make these provisions proved a severe tax on even the resources of the Lords of the Isles. Some lands were granted successively to different owners, leading to feuds. Bitter jealousy developed between cadets of Clan Donald and the most favoured vassals. Nevertheless the kinfolk of the Lord of the Isles and the island chiefs showed a wonderful fidelity to the Lord of the Isles in his rebellions against the King. On the other hand certain of the mainland vassals such as the Mackintoshes and Camerons, would sometimes follow the Lord of the Isles, and the chiefs of other clans such as the Mackays, the Munroes, the Frasers, and above all, the Mackenzies and the Campbells, were bitterly opposed to the Lord of the Isles. The two latter laid the foundations of the great positions to which they rose on the ruins of the old Lordship.

After the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles, James IV offered the chiefs Crown Charters for their lands and nearly all accepted. But in 1499 for some reason he revoked them and entrusted Argyll (Campbell) in the south and Huntly (Gordon) in the north with the letting of the lands and wide administrative powers. Unfortunately, for the next hundred years the Privy Council continued this disastrous policy. The fact that these were interested parties and tended to gain after every uprising by the clans they were employed to suppress, offered temptations that the leaders of the Campbells, in particular accepted with enthusiasm. The lands of the chiefs were held on short leases or charters that were again and again revoked and nearly all the clans were embittered by the government granting the same lands to different and rival chiefs. Rival claims to fertile lands were at the root of most of the bitter feuds that raged during the sixteenth century. It is not always realized how severe was the economic pressure on the chiefs, on their clansmen, and above all, on the wretched 'broken men' who had lost the land that was their only means of lawful subsistence.

In spite of their bitter feuds, the branches of Clan Donald and their island vassals were willing to combine again and again in supporting, at extreme risk to themselves, the various attempts to revive the Lordship of the Isles. The last of these occurred in 1545. About the same time the religious revolution began and the third quarter of that century was characterized in the whole of Scotland by the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her quarrels with John Knox. Her son became King in 1578 after successive regencies by Moray, Lennox, Mar, and Morton, and in 1603, he became King of England also. While the country, itself, became more settled, dire economic necessity forced some clans, Macdonells of Keppoch and the Macdonalds of Glencoe, among them, to increase their raiding proclevities. The Earls of Argyll and their Campbell relatives were establishing themselves firmly over most of Argyll, including Islay and Kintyre. Many of the clans, including the Macdonalds, now supported the House of Stuart. The Campbells were Protestant and most of the Macdonalds were Roman Catholic, so they found themselves on opposite sides in the Civil Wars of the 17th century and the uprisings of the 18th century. The massacre at Glencoe in 1692 and their part in the Battle of Culloden in 1745, are regarded in Scotland today as shameful blots on the reputation of the Campbells.

The Campbells also trace their line back by tradition to Conn of the Hundred Battles, and to Diarmid O'Duibhne who slew a boar of monstrous size. In a time when many Scots were decrying Celtic ancestry and attempting to prove Norman ancestry the Campbells claimed descent from an ancestor who was said to have gone to France and married a niece of William the Conqueror. He returned with him as 'de Campo Bello' the latin form of his wife's name of 'beauchamp'. More recently it is said that the name Campbell is derived from the Gaelic ' cam beul ' meaning a wry or crooked mouth, just as Cameron comes from 'cam ron' a crooked nose. In any case Campbell was spelled ' Cambel 'until 1500.

In a wide area of mainland Argyll which had not been included in the Island Lordship, were a number of clans whose only superior was the Crown. Before the Wars of Independence, these had been overs-hadowed by the Macdougalls of Lorn, the Macsweyns of Knapdale, and the Lamonts in Cowal. However these clans supported Balliol and suffered in consequence. The Campbells supported Bruce, whose victory brought to them a position among their neighbours that set them on the march to the mastery of Argyll. According to the terms of the Royal Charter of 1368, the Campbells descend from Duncan MacDuibhne of Lochow. The chiefs bore the appellation of MacCailein Mor, Cailein Mor being the first Campbell of Lochow of whom there is definite knowledge. His son Sir Neil, and Sir Neil's son, Sir Colin, were comrades-in-arms of Bruce. To Sir Colin, Bruce granted the lands of Lochow and Ariskeodnish (now Kilmartin) of which his family had not had full possession. Henceforth the Campbell chiefs styled themselves Lords of Lochow. Lochow comprises the whole of mid-Argyll between Lorn and Loch Fyne except the districts of Glassary and Craignish. Craignish was secured by Sir Colin's successor. Gradually their lands extended at the expense of their neighbours and in 1457 Colin, the fifth Lord, was created Earl of Argyll after the surrender of Knapdale by the Lord of the Isles, Campbell lands were extended down to the north part of Kintyre including Skipness Castle.

The Reverend Donald Budge in his book on Jura quotes John Buchan who writes in "Montrose" as follows:

In seventeenth century Scotland Clan Campbell stood by itself as a separate race, almost a separate state, whose politics were determined by the whim of its ruling prince. Built upon the ruins of many little septs, it excelled in numbers and wealth every other Highland clan; indeed if we except the Gordons, it surpassed in importance all the rest put together. It was near enough to the Lowlands to have shared in such civilisation as was going, including the new religion. On the other hand, its territory was a compact block, well guarded on all sides from its neighbours, so that it enjoyed the peace and confidence of a separate people. With its immense sea-coast its doors were open to the wider world, and the Campbell gentry acquired at foreign universities and in foreign wars a training which few landward gentlemen could boast; while Flemish velvets and the silks and wines of France came more readily and cheaply to its little towns than to the burghers of Perth and Edinburgh.

The country, though less fertile than the Lowlands, was a champaign compared to Lochaber and Kintail. Thousands of black cattle flourished on its juicy hill pastures, and farms and sheilings were thick along the pleasant glens that sloped to Loch Fyne and Loch Awe. In the town of Inverary the clan had its natural capital, and from Inverary ran the Lowland road through Cowal and Dumbarton for such as preferred a land journey. Compared with other clans the Campbells were prosperous and civilised; accordingly, by their neighbours they were detested and feared. They had eaten up the little peoples of Benderloch and Morvern, and their long arm was stretching north and east into Lochaber and Strathtay. Every Maclean and Stewart who could see the hills of Lorn from his doorstep had uneasy thoughts about his own barren acres. The Campbells had a knack of winning by bow and spear and then holding for all time by seal and parchment.

This short history will give some idea of the conditions in the western part of Scotland in the time of the Darroch ministers in whom we are interested. The Lords of the Isles had been succeeded by the Macdonalds of Dunnyveg and the Glens. By 1614 Islay was in the hands of the Campbells of Calder. The direct line of these Macdonalds disappeared with the death of Sir James in 1626 but persisted through cousins in the Earls of Antrim in Ireland. The Macdonalds of Largie still held lands in Kintyre. They were forfeited in 1649 for participation in the Civil War but restored in 1661. From then on the fortunes of Clan Donald flowed and ebbed through the activities of the northern branches of the Clan - Sleat, Clanranald, Glengarry, Glencoe, etc. Some of these participated with disastrous results in the uprisings in 1715 and 1745. There was much wrangling among the Macdonald septs over the rights of succession. There were claims and counter-claims regarding the chiefship of the clan. It was not settled until 1947, when Macdonald of Macdonald Lord Macdonald, was awarded by the Lyon Court the position of supreme chief of Clan Donald.

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