Book Reviews

The Clan Ranald of Knoydart & Glengarry by Norman H. MacDonald FSA Scot.

A new history of the Glengarry MacDonells has been written by Norman MacDonald. The name of the author is reason enough to desire to own this book. Norman MacDonald is dedicated to the history, lore and culture of the Gael in general and the Clan Donald in particular.

His previous book on the Keppoch MacDonells is now sold out and this fact is lamented by many clansfolk around the world.

This is the first Glengarry history to appear for ninety eight years and Norman MacDonald has gone ”back to basics” in his efforts to present as complete a coverage as possible within the confines of one hundred and ninety nine pages.

Residing in Edinburgh where there are excellent resources available to the student of Highland history, Norman has taken full advantage of these facilities. His painstaking research is mirrored in this authoritative work.

Set in a “reign by reign” format, the book takes the reader through the experiences of Ranald of the Isles and Garmoran and each successive Glengarry chief to the 22nd and present chief, Aeneas Ranald Donald MacDonell of Glengarry.

Some histories can be somewhat heavy reading to the general reader, but this work is lightened by many entertaining passages and a generous number of coloured and black and white illustrations.

This publication is a must, not only for Glengarry clansfolk but for all members of Clan Donald who are genuinely interested in their heritage. It must also provide fascinating reading for members of those other clans which have enjoyed the friendship or experienced the wrath of the men of Glengarry over the centuries.

From the pen of Norman H. MacDonald we had firstly, The Clan Ranald of Lochaber. Now we have, The Clan Ranald of Knoydart & Glengarry. It is hoped that other branches of Clan Donald will be favoured by similar treatment by this knowledgeable clansman. A. Grahame MacDonald FSA Scot.

Highland Warrior – Alasdair MacColla and the Highland Problem in the 17th Century by David Stevenson.

The author of this most welcome book, who is a lecturer in history at the University of Aberdeen, analyses the changes which took place in the Highlands in the 17th century by using Gaelic poetry, prose and oral tradition together with the more conventional historical sources, to trace the career of Montrose’s Lieutenant-General (the author calls him Major-General) Sir Alexander MacDonald, better known by his Gaelic name of Alasdair MacColla Chiotaich, i.e., Alexander, son of Coll the Ambidexterous, probably the most celebrated of all the Clan Donald warriors. He emerges as a man who before, during and after his year with Montrose, fought for his family and clan and for the Highland and Irish Gaelic world against Lowland and English superiority. His inspiration gave Montrose a Highland and Irish Gaelic Army; and by introducing the Highland Charge he provided the Highlanders with the devastating military tactic which brought them repeated victory on the battlefield from 1644 to 1746, with the exception of Culloden where the circumstances were very different. No serious student of Highland or Clan Donald history should be without a copy. Published by John Donald, Edinburgh, hardback only, 324 pages. N.H.M.

Buy this book from at our Clan Donald Bookshop.

With Sword and Harp by William Currie of Balilone FSA Scot.

William McMurdo Currie is 30th Chief and last in the line of a very unusual family. His Clan, the MacMhuirrich, (pronounced MacVurrich, which was later anglicised into “A’Currich” and then “Currie”) was unique in Highland history. As hereditary Bards to the Clan Donald, they held one of the most important positions in Gaeldom, They were men of letters, warriors, poets. advisers, genealogists and historians as well as musicians of great skill.

The first part of the book covers the period from the 12th century to the fall of the MacDonald Lordship of the (Western) Isles in 1493. From this time the connection with the literary schools of Ireland maintained by the MacMhurrich ceased. The patronage of learning in the Isles passed away and the Isles and Western Highlands became the scene of inter-clan feuds and conflicts.

The story is continued in the second part of the book through the Jacobite period, the revival of interest in things Highland under Sir Walter Scott and up to modern times.

The author is father-to-son descendant of the first Bard (and red-headed like many of his warrior ancestors). With a thousand years of story telling in his blood, his book provides not only a unique record but a living reminder of the power of memory to re­create the glories of the past.

The stories in this book will appeal to Curries and MacDonalds everywhere, especially those with an interest in the Scottish/Irish connexion, the history of the Western Isles, the lands of Kintyre and Cowal. The book has also a wide appeal because of its description of everyday life under the original system and the sheer magic of the early Bardic poetry from which there are frequent quotations.

In a Foreword the present Lord MacDonald, High Chief of the MacDonalds, says, “this book is the definitive work on Clan Mhuirrich and is one that should find a place on every MacDonald bookshelf”. Obtainable from: Heatherbank Press.

Never Say Die – The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia by Julia McDonald Davis.

This is the exciting story of a McDonald family whose founder, Angus McDonald from Glengarry, Inverness-shire, after having escaped from the Battle of Culloden, settled in Virginia. The authoress, in lively style, traces his adventures and those of his descendants in America, with George Washington, fighting Indians, the British in the War of 1812 and for the Confederacy against the Union in the American Civil War, fur trading on the Missouri,  rebuilding  San  Francisco after the earthquake, involvement in creating Boulder Dam and in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Julia McDonald Davis has written some twenty well researched books, including “Swords of the Vikings”, “Stonewall Jackson” and “No Other White Men” and a play about the trial of John Brown, traditionally presented in the Charles Town, West Virginia Court House, near Winchester where he was tried and hanged. Her books reflect her life in Denmark and Britain where her father was US Ambassador.

Never Say Die is the story of the authoress’ own family who “in their adventures, struggles, disasters and triumphs” helped to make their country’s history and cannot fail to captivate the imagination of all who read it. Obtainable from American History Press. N.H.M.

Buy this book from at our Clan Donald Bookshop.

The Wandering Highlander – Hugh Macpherson’s fascinating autobiography. 

This is a highly interesting book covering his early days in the Highlands of Scotland, followed by his emigration to Canada, where he lived for twenty-one years, entering into the life of Port Dover, Ontario for three years and afterwards that of St Catharines, the Garden City of Canada, eventually returning to his native land.

Hugh’s activities, embracing the church, business, music and sport will bring back memories to many of his friends and acquaintances at home and overseas. He has brought out the very close connection between Canada, USA and Scotland in so many fields, common origins playing a vital part.

His visits to South Africa, too, are highlighted, as is a traumatic tour of the battlefields of France and Flanders where so many sons of the Commonwealth lie in the beautifully-kept silent cities. He tells of his father’s heart-rendering experience in 1916, when he was leading his men forward along a communication trench to relieve a company of the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, when he met a stretcher party carrying the body of Captain John Lauder, son of the famous Scottish singer, Sir Harry Lauder, who had just been killed by a German sniper.

That, and many other experiences make up a book that is a “must” in the home of everyone who is interested in Scotland, Canada, USA and South Africa, with emphasis on the history, music, dress, culture and traditions of the land of the bens and the glens, the hills and the heather.

The book comprises eighteen chapters, eighteen pictures and has two hundred and five pages. Obtainable from the publishers and many bookshops. Net profits in aid of research into kidney diseases. Publishers: Hugh Macpherson (Scotland) Limited, Highland Outfitters, Edinburgh.