Clan MacKinnon; Condensed from Memoirs of the Clan Fingon; D. D. MacKinnon, 1884
Compiled by: Alan McNie - 1986 - Cascade Publishing Company, Jedburgh, Scotland
During the government of the Lords of the Isles, which commenced on the abandonment of their conquests by the Norwegians to the King of Scotland, A.D. 1266, and terminated at the forfeiture of the last lord, A.D. 1493 (temp. James III), but little can be gathered concerning the deeds of the clan, as, in consequence of their connection with the Macdonald's, many a bold enterprise was doubtless attributed to that powerful tribe which held sway over the lesser tribes, and which would naturally include their actions amongst their own.
It was in the far famed Isle of Iona in the Reilig Orain (S. Oran's Chapel), within which sanctuary, says Monro Dean of the Isles, "lye the maist part of the Lords of the Isles, with their lynage; M'Kynnon and M'Quarie with their lynage, with sundry other inhabitants of the haill isles, because this sanctuary was wont to be the sepulture of the best men of the iles, and also of our kinges." Near the south end of this chapel is the tomb of Abbot MacKinnon's father. It consists of a plain black stone, a block of micaceous schistus intermixed with hornblende, and with an inscription in the old British character. On the wall above the tomb the Abbot erected one of those elaborately sculptured crosses still remaining in the Island, and inscribed upon it "Haec est crux Lauchlani Macfingone et ejus filii Johannis Abbatis de Hy (Iona); facta an. Dom. MCCCCLXXXIX." And beneath it is engraved a lymphad or galley, as some think, in connection with the former occupation of the island by the Norwegians, for the device was a favorite one amongst those people. Far more probably, however, it was then, as now, a portion of the chief's coat of arms derived perhaps from the constant association of this clan with a seafaring life. The broken shaft alone remains, of which an engraving is appended.
"Traveler!" says a quaint writer, "To give you the root of those who enrich the dust of this tomb, I shall require to bespeak your patience. The MacKinnon's are of the Alpinian family, who from A.D. 834, till death of Alexander III A.D. 1285, swayed the Scottish scepter. Kenneth the great, the 69th king, took the patronymie of Kenneth Macalpine from his brave and murdered father. (King Alpin who was killed at Dunkel Bridge 831-4, by Brudus and the Picts and beheaded, but his body was taken to Icolmkill and buried here.) King Alpin's third son was called Prince Gregor, the head of that clan. Prince Gregor had a son called Donn-gheal, latinized Dongallus, who in his turn had a son called Findan, or Fingon; and this is the root of that princely tribe the Macfingans or MacKinnon's."
The altar slab of the Cathedral itself came from MacKinnon's country of Strath. It was one of the finest pieces of marble ever seen, being granulated and pure white. No trace of it now remains. Close to the altar on the north side of the choir, is a tomb stone of black marble quite entire, on which is a very fine recumbent figure of the Abbot Macfingon, as large as life, in his sacred robes, with a crozier in one hand, and the other lifted up to his chin, elbowing two lions at one end, and spurning two at the other. This elegant tomb stone which has always been considered the stateliest in the island, is supported by four pedestals about one foot high, and round the margin is the inscription, "Hic jacet Johannes Macfingone Abbas de Hy (Iona,) qui obiit anno Domini millessimo quingentessimo (1500), cujus animae propitietur DEUS altissimus. Amen."
On the forfeiture of the last Lord of the Isles, A.D. 1493, already referred to, the name of the then chief is uncertain, but he became independent, though his clan was so small, that he never attained any great power in consequence. In the disturbances in the Isles, which continued during the 16th century, the name of Sir Lauchlan MacKinnon occurs very frequently and he appears, notwithstanding the comparatively small extent of his possessions, to have been a man of consideration in his time. From this time forth the clan took a part in all the political events in which the Highlanders of Scotland were engaged. On March 19, 1503-4, (temp. James IV) MacKinnon is mentioned among other Chiefs in the Acts of Parliament, to be written to , to act against Lachlan Maclean of Dowart and Ewin Alklanson of Locheil forfeited for treason.
In 1515, (temp. James V) we find that Neill MacKinnon of Mishnish was at the head of the clan, and in 1517, he, in conjunction with Maclean of Dowart, petitioned the Regent and Council for free remission of all offences, to themselves ant their "part-takers." This remission was granted on March 12th, 1517. It was in the rebellion of Sir Donald Macdonald of Lochalsh that they had taken up arms.
The twenty-third Chief, Ewen Radh nan Cath, of Straghuordill, was summoned before Parliament and charged with rebellion by acts dated, April 26th, 1531, and September 9th, 1545, (temps. James V and Mary). The summons was finally deserted, Aug. 4th, 1546. On March 22nd, 1541, Ewen Radh nan Cath received a remission for being with the Macdonald's of Slate and others at an attach upon the castle of Ellandonan; in the same remission are included, Neill McEwin, M'Lauchlan, Donald M'Ewin, M'Lauchlan and Niell M'Ewin and M'Kerlich, who from their names may very possibly be MacKinnon's, but this of course is uncertain.
On August 2nd, 1542, the same chief upon his own resignation, received from the king a charter of the twenty merk lands of Meysnes, (Mishnish) in Mull, and the twenty merk lands of Strathredole in Skye, to be held in free tenantry and sasine, taken at the principal messuage of Strathredole, to suffice for the whole lands. The distinction is to himself and the heirs male of his body, lawfully begotten, whom failing, to his nearest and lawful male heirs whomsoever; by which heirs female and assignees seem to be excluded. The same chief, Ewen, is named as one of the Barons and Council of the Isles, (seventeen in number), who proceeded, on August 5th, 1545, to Knockfergus in Ireland, with 4000 men and 180 galleys to treat with King Henry VIII of England, under the directions of the Earl of Lennox, whom they declared to be the true Regent and second person in the realm of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots being then three years of age. On Feb. 6th, 1546, Ewin, the MacKinnon chief, as one of the special friends of Hector McLean of Dowart, receives a respite for nineteen years for the treasonable assistance given by him to the Earl of Lennox and the English in 1545. In 1561 the monastery of St Colomba was suppressed and Iona became abbotless and a ruin. We may suppose that from this time forth the "pennie" land of Kilmorie (MacKinnon's country in Mull) was exempted from the penny rental which it had to pay to the "abbacie of Ecolmkill." On Dec. 7th 1562, Donald McKynnyne, Neill Achwayne McKynnyne and John Dhu Mackynnye are included in a remission to the Macdonald's of Slate and their friends, for devastation committed in the Kisles of Mull, Tiree and Coll. It must have been about this date that sanguinary conflict of Culivi or Coolin took place, between the MacLeod's and the Macdonald's in which John Og, the second son of the twenty-fourth Chief Lachlan Dubh, is recorded amongst the slain.
We now come to the description of a curious kind of bond, into which it was customary in troublous times, for clansmen and friends to enter. This was called a bond of "Manrent" and was drawn up and signed for the sake of mutual assistance. An instance of such a bond is preserved to us in the Baronage of Scotland, and dated June 6th, 1571. From the names of the witnesses there can be little doubt that 1571 is a mistake, and 1671 the proper date. It is entered into between Lauchlan MacKinnon of Strathardill, and James MacGregor of MacGrefor, "for the special love and amitie between these person, and condescending that they are descended lawfully fra taw breethern of auld descent, quhairfore, and for certain onerous causes moving, we witt ye, we to be bond and obleisit, like as be the tenor hereof, we faithfully bind and obleise us and our successors, our kin friends and followers, faithfully to serve ane anither in all causes with our men and servents, against all who live or die." This document was witnessed on the one part by Lauchlan and Charles MacKinnon of Gambell, by Hector and Lauchlan Macgregor of Bornig on the other. This further proves what I have before alluded to, that the Macgregor's and MacKinnon's are of one descent, the other clans who are associated with them in the great Siol Alpine being the Grants, MacNabs, Macphies, Macquarries and Macaulays. Strangely enough they were situated at distance from each other. At all times have they claimed the distinction of being the noblest and most ancient of the Highland Clans. "S'rioghail mo dhream," (my race is royal), was the proud motto of the Macgregor's; and the other Highland clans have for centuries acquiesced in it. In A.D. 1578, (temp. James VI) and order from the Privy Council was sent to Donald MacKinnon of Strathordell, probably a brother of the Chief as well as to Maclean of Duart, forbidding them to assist Colin, sixth Earl of Argyle in an expedition against the Laired of Glengarry. These decided measures seem to have checked the Earl's proceedings.
Resuming our chronological order, we find that in the year 1587 one of the greatest feuds that ever raged between Highland clans, commenced between the MacLean's and Macdonald's. It is recorded, that at length Macdonald (through mediation) agreed, on receiving a promise of pardon for his crimes, to allow his prisoner MacLean to be set free, but eight hostages of rank had to be given, and among them were Lauchlan and Meill, sons of Lauchlan MacKinnon of Starthordell. MacLean, regardless of the safety of his hostages, wasted Macdonald's lands during his absence in Ireland, whereon Macdonald retaliated, but luckily not on the hostages, who were ultimately demanded and taken by force from Macdonald (who was then outlawed), for he refused to deliver them up to the king and council. On March 20, 1589, Lauchlane McKynnon of Strathardill receives a Remission, along with Dowart, Barra, Ardgour and McQuarrie, for devastations committed in the isles of Rum, Eig, and Canna. On December 16, 1590, Lauchlane McKynnon of Strathardill is charged to find Caution for the good behaviour of himself and his clan to the amount of ¬£2000 in terms of the Act of Parliament. On June 22, 1591, the same Lauchlane receives, with Dowart, Barra, Macleod of Dunvegan, Ardgour and MacQuarrie, a Remission for all slaughter committed against the Macdonald's of Kintyre and Islay.
In A.D. 1598, the feud of 1587 was resumed. Sir James Macdonald (successor of the outlaw) encountered Sir Lauchlan MacLean in a tremendous battle at Lochgruinart, when Maclean, 80 of his kin and 200 common soldiers were killed. Hector MacLean, his son and successor, obtained a "commission of fire and sword" against Macdonald, and invading Islay, accompanied by MacKinnon and his clan, encountered the Macdonald's at a place called Bern Gige, defeated them and ravaged the whole island. On January 8, 1601, Lauchlande McKynnon or Starthardill (the son, it is believed, of the preceding Lauchlane) enters into a bond of friendship with Archibald, seventh Earl of Argyle. On February, 25, 1606, the said Lauchlane appears before the Privy Council and obliges himself to appear personally before them whenever he shall be charged, upon sixty days' warning, under the penalty of 10,000 merks.
At the end of July, A.D. 1609, the Bishop of the Isles, as commissioner for King James VI, went to Iona, and there all the chief men of the isles submitted themselves to him in the most unreserved manner as the king's representative. The chiefs were twelve in number, viz., MacDonald of Dunyveg, Lauchlan MacKinnon of the Ilk, Gorme of Sleat, Vic Ian Captian of the Clanranald, McLeod of Harris, the Macleans of Duart, Coll and Lochbuy, Lauchlan and Allan, cousins of Duart, the MacQuarrie of Ulva, and the MacPhie of Colonsay. The bishop, taking advantage of the unanimity that prevailed, held a court, at which the famous and important Statutes of Icolmkill were enacted, as follows.
In A.D. 1610, the King signified, through the Privy Council, his approval of the act of the Bishop; and assembled the six principal out to the twelve Islanders in Edinburgh, on 28th June, to hear His Majesty's pleasure declared to them. These were the Macdonald of Dunyveg, the MacKinnon of Strathordell, the Macdonald of Sleat, (Gorme), Vic Ian Macdonald, captain of Clanranald, the MacLean of Dowart, and the McLeod of Harris, to whom was afterwards added, Cameron of Lochiel. They then gave sureties to a large amount for their re-appearance before the Council in May, 1611, and promised to live together in peace, love and amitie, and to assist the commissioners to quell disturbances. On August 3rd, 1614, Lauchlan appears again before the council, comes under several additional obligations, and ratifies the proceedings at Icolmkill in 1609. On April 26th, 1615, Sir Lauchlan MacKinnon is appointed one of the commissioners of fire and sword against the Macdonald's of Kintyre and Islay. On June 22nd, he is appointed to concur with the Macleans in keeping the country free from the incursions of the Macdonald's, between the Row of Ardnamurchan and the March of Lorn. In the rebellion of Sir James Macdonald in the same year, the King gave orders, that amongst others the Laired of MacKinnon should be provided with 200 men for the defense of his coasts. On October 6th, he is written to not to "rest" any of the fugitive Macdonald's. Fifteen days later in the same year, the six representative Islanders, including the Laird of MacKinnon, made their appearance before the Privy Council. The formality had been interrupted by the rebellion. They were now required to bind themselves as sureties for each other.
During the civil wars, the MacKinnon's declared for the crown and joined the standard of Montrose; under him they fought in the desperate battle of Inverlochy, February 2, 1645, and the victory of Auldearn, May 5, 1645. Concerning the latter field a curious incident has been preserved. A Highland eye witness narrates: "At a critical moment, a hero, named Ranald, the son of Donald, the son of Angus MacKinnon in Mull, was keeping the pikemen at bay with his shield on his left arm, and his gun in his other hand presented at them. Some bowmen ran past him, letting fly their arrows with deadly effect among the Gordon soldiers; and one of these archers who, on looking over his shoulder, saw the pikemen kept at bay by Ranald, suddenly turned his hand and shot him in the face, the arrow penetrating one cheek and appearing out at the other. Ranald's dirk was lost, and his bow useless; so, throwing away his gun and stretching out his shield to save himself from the pikes, the warlike islander attempted to draw his sword, but it would not come; he tried it again, and the cross hilt twisted about; a third time made the attempt, using his shield hand to hold the sheath, and succeeded, but at the expense of five pike wounds in his breast. In this state he reached the entrance to the garden (broken ground consisting of enclosures, rocks and brushwood in front of the village of Auldearne, consigned to the charge of the gallant Alastair Macdonald, with one hundred of his own clan and the MacKinnon's, the rest of his command consisting of three hundred half-hearted Gordons; it was to this little band Montrose entrusted the defense of the Royal Standard which he usually carried before himself), closely followed by the enemy's pikement.
It was about this date that a sad disaster befell on branch of the clan. Lauchlan Mˆ„r MacKinnon, the chief's son, was brought up, owing to the bond of friendship entered into between the families in 1601, by the Earl of Argyle at Inverary; but having married a daughter of the Maclean of Duart, Lauchlan was induced to join that chief in a descent on the lands of his former benefactor with a body of two hundred men. On their approach, being recognized by their badge of pine, the Campbells were so incensed that they would give no quarter, when a sanguinary rout took place, in which the MacKinnon's were fairly cut up.
The fate of the gallant but unfortunate Montrose did not, however, induce the MacKinnon's to forsake the royal cause. In 1650, we find Lauchlan MacKinnon, chief of the clan, receiving letters of service to raise a regiment of his clan, of which he was, of course, appointed colonel, and, leading them south, he joined the army of Charles II, and fought with distinguished bravery at the battle of Worchester, September 3rd, 1651. The life of the King was saved by the chief of MacKinnon, and in recognition of this service, Charles II created him a Knight Banneret on the field of battle. Soon after this, the Royal troops were taken in rear, and being hemmed in between two forces, were almost annihilated. It is uncertain whether MacKinnon was taken prisoner or escaped, but he is known to have eventually returned to his estates in Skye and to have been alive as late as 1688.
The clan must have been now so attenuated by the destruction of the greater portion of its men in the bloody struggles in which it took part during those six fatal years from 1645-51, that it is not surprising we can find no record of its doings till A.D. 1715. Again was its loyalty to the House of Stuart put to the test, and again was it found ready to shed the last drop of its sons' blood in the good old cause.
In the secret Stuart Papers of 1709, an account of the state of feeling and capability of each clan is given.
The tribes are thus tabulated: -
The MacKinnon's with twelve others are mentioned as "loyal", and able to bring to the field, "very good men."
In 1715, Ian dubh the chief of MacKinnon (grandson of Lauchlan Mˆ„r, his father Ian having died vitˆ¢ parentis) was summoned by the Lord Advocate in the Hanovarian interest, to appear at Edinburgh, under the pain of a year's imprisonment, to give bail for his allegiance to George I and the government. He rushed immediately into insurrection for the Stuart cause, and gathering on hundred and fifty of his clan joined MacKenzie Earl of Seaforth, in time ot fight side by side with his neighbor MacDonald of Sleat, at the battle of Sheriffmuir, September, 1715. The chief of MacKinnon was attainted for the part he took in the rebellion, but received a pardon on January 4th, 1727.
Either from a feeling that his loyal intentions had been underrated and his interest overlooked, or what is far more probable, from an unconquerable attachment to the Stuart cause, Ian dubh (John the black), thirtieth chieftain of the clan MacKinnon, rose at the summons of Prince Charles Edward and joined him with on hundred men, which number was subsequently increased to two hundred and fifty, or even, as some think, to three hundred. Either figure bears an immense proportion to the total strength of this little clan.
I shall pass at once to the famous march into England which commenced from Carlisle on November 20th, 1745. It is a curious fact, that whilst nearly half the Highland clans were not represented at all in this expedition, of the rest scarcely one retained the number which the muster-roll shows before the army set out from Edinburgh; many from each clan having deserted and gone to their homes, some to secure their plunder, others refusing to march to such a great distance from their native land. There were two honorable exceptions, however, and two only. These were the Macdonald's of Glencoe and the MacKinnon's of Strath. Each of these clans showed an increase of twenty men, when the march from Carlisle to Derby commenced. Of these, there only accompanied him into England, Clan-Ranald, the Macdonald's of Glengarry, Keppoch and Glencoe, MacKinnon, Stuart of Appin, Cameron, Grant of Glenmoriston, Macpherson, and Robertson of Struan, ten in number.
In the following year, after the disastrous retreat in the depths of winter, the victory of Falkirk, and the rout of the Scoto-English army at Moy, Lord George Murray assembled the principal officers of the army, amongst whom is mentioned the chief of MacKinnon, at Tain, on 15th of April, in presence of the Prince, and decided upon those operations which terminated in the fatal field of Culloden.
After the battle, some 1,200 fugitives, amongst whom were the MacKinnon's, directed by the talent and animated by the spirit, of Lord George Murray, retreated in fair order to Ruthven.
We now come to the most interesting feature of the whole campaign - the wanderings of Prince Charlie for five months amidst the wilds of the Highlands, until he finally effected his escape to France - to the eternal credit of those faithful adherents of the Stuart cause be it said that although a reward of ¬£30,000 was set upon the head of the Prince, and although his places of concealment were known to between two hundred and three hundred poor peasants during the vicissitudes of his wanderings, not one was found base enough to betray his trust. The MacKinnon's, I am proud to record, bore a prominent part in the arrangements for his escape as soon as he reached the confines of their country.
Malcolm Macleod took the Prince, at his own request, to Ellagol, near Kilmaree, in MacKinnon's country. As day dawned they met two of the MacKinnon clan who had been engaged in the insurrection.
Malcolm now conducted the Prince to the house of his brother-in-law, John MacKinnon, who had served as a captain in the Highland army. MacKinnon happened not to be at home, but the travelers were warmly received by his whife, Charles being passed off as a certain Lewie Caw, the son of a surgeon in Crieff who had been engaged in the Rising, and was now known to be lying perdu among his relations in Skye. Mrs MacKinnon expressed much concern at the condition of her brother Malcolm's companion, and observed that she saw something very uncommon about him (as Lewie Caw). "Poor man," she said, "I pity him; at the same time my heart warms to a man of his appearance." That night, while Mrs MacKinnon (who had now been taken into confidence) kept watch on the top of a neighboring hill, Charles, instead of resting, was found by Malcolm, on awaking, seated in the next room dandling and singing to Mrs MacKinnon's infant, with an old woman looking on. "Who knows," said Charles, "but the little fellow may be a captain in my service yet?" "You mean," indignantly replied the old woman, who was not in the secret, "that you may possibly be an old sergeant in his company!"
Both Malcolm and the Prince were anxious that the Laird of MacKinnon should not know the secret, because, "though he be a mighty, honesty, stout, good man," yet through his old age and the infirmities attending it, they thought he was not so well cut out for the difficulties of the Prince's present situation. Malcolm, however, soon yielded to the contrary opinion expressed by John MacKinnon, who, in the meantime, had returned home; but the Prince, ever suspicious of his best friends as he was ever confident in his worst, took a great deal of persuasion, from John and Malcolm, before he would yield himself entirely to old MacKinnon, who, Malcolm said, would be very careful of him and exceeding true and firm to his trust.
In the course of the day, however, the old chief of MacKinnon was informed that the Prince was in his neighborhood. At once he hastened to pay his respect. MacKinnon recommended Charles to proceed to the mainland under his guidance that very night, as the militia scouts were especially active in his country of Strath, and every moment was of importance. Charles and his companions landed at 4 a.m. near a place called Little Mallack, on the southern side of Loch Nevis. But the change was not for the better. The militia were quartered in the immediate neighborhood, and it thus became most dangerous for the Prince and his friends to attempt to penetrate into the interior. For three days they remained at the spot where they had first landed, without fire or shelter, not daring to move. On the fourth day, they entered their boat, and coasted along the broken shores of Loch Nevis, in the hope of finding some cave which would protect them from the inclemency of the weather. Steering round one of the petty promontories of the Loch, they fouled against a boat moored to a rock, and the next moment saw five men standing on the shore whose bonnets, marked with a red cross, proclaimed them to belong to the militia. Charles was fortunately lying at the bottom of the boat taking his rest, with the plaid of MacKinnon thrown over him. They hesitated for a moment on their oars, and were almost immediately perceived. "Where do you come from?" cried the militia men. "From Sleat," answered MacKinnon; and no sooner was the word given than the watermen settle down to their work, and rowed rapidly along the Loch. But the militia men were not to be thus cheated. Like lightning they leaped into their boat, cast loose the painter, and in another minute were in full chase. For the first fifteen minutes the pursuit was keen and they perceptibly gained on the fugitives; but, nothing daunted, the oarsmen of the Prince bent bravely to their oars, and their superior skill began at length to tell, so that before another fifteen minutes had elapsed, they had the satisfaction of finding themselves draw gradually and then rapidly away, and coming to a part of the Lock where the firs and underwood grew thick down to the water's edge, they shot their boat into the covert and hid themselves from the foe. Charles landed and ran up a hill from whence he perceived the discomfited militia men returning from their fruitless pursuit.
Escorted by the MacKinnon's, Charles now made his way towards Borrodaile, the seat of Angus MacDonald. Here, as the aid of his two faithful friends was now superfluous, and as it was unwise to accumulate in large numbers lest the attention of the enemy be attracted, the Prince bade them farewell, and placed himself unreservedly in the hands of his new protector. On the very next day, July 18th, however, the news of the capture of MacKinnon reached him, and Donald Cameron of Glenpean removed him from Borrodaile for greater security and took him to the braes of Glenmoriston and Strathglass, a few miles further eastward, where the famous "Seven men of Glenmoriston," Patrick Grant, John and Alexander Macdonell, Alexander, Donald and Hugh Chisholm, and Grigor Macgregor, preserved him in an inaccessible cave for three week still he joined Cameron of Lochiel and MacPherson of Cluny at the "Cage" on Mount Benalder in the wilds of Badenoch; and with them, young Clanranald, John Roy Stuart, other chieftains, and one hundred and seven common men, embarked in Loch Nanuagh on board a French man-of -war which, with another, was sent expressly for his deliverance.
The chief of MacKinnon was taken prisoner in MacDonald of Morar's house the day after parting with Charles. For a year he was a prisoner at Tilbury Fort and in the Tower of London, and was one among eighty principal Highlanders who had been attainted and were excepted from the act of indemnity passed in June, 1747. On being tried for his life, however, at the close of that year, he obtained a pardon, in consideration of his advanced years and of the spirit of chivalry rather than of rebellion which he evinced, and Sir Dudley Ryder, the Attorney General, pronounced his release. As he was about to leave the court, the Judge called him back, saying, "Tell me, if Prince Charles were again in your power, what would you do?" The stout old Highlander replied, with very marked emphasis, "I would do to the Prince as you have done this day to me, - I would send him back to his own country."
The death of the old chief was thus noticed in the journals of the time: "May 7, 1756. - Died at his house of Kilmorie, in the Isle of Skye, John MacKinnon of that ilk, i.e. the old Laird of MacKinnon, in 75th year of his age, leaving issue two sons and a daughter, all born after 71st year of his age."
For the remainder of the century, few events in connection with the family are chronicled; the little property left to them in Skye was purchased in 1765 by the Trustees of the great and good Sir James MacDonald then a minor, from the Trustees of MacKinnon of MacKinnon when a minor also.