Clan Donald in America by Reginald H. Macdonald

Major (Retd.) Reginald H. Macdonald OBE of Pittsburgh, High Commissioner of Clan Donald in the United States, is a direct descendant of Flora Macdonald.

The Clan Donald Society of America was started at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and later activated in North Carolina, and more recently in Texas, where there are several large family groups of Macdonalds.

The movement to activate the Clan in the United States commenced with the grant of a Commission on 31st August 1954 by Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald. The appointment of High Commissioner (Ard Toshachdeor) of Clan Donald in the United States is not hereditary, but is held for a period of five years, unless previously recalled, and carries with it the right to recommend to the Chief worthy clansmen for the rank of Commissioner (Toshachdeor) of states or appropriate districts for a similar period of time, unless recalled. Accordingly, I recommended to Lord Macdonald for the appointment as Commissioner of North and South Carolina Donald Frank MacDonald of Charlotte, North Carolina, and he was so commissioned on 26th December 1954. There are now Commissioners in New York, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington and Missouri.

It should be noted that were I to resign as High Commissioner or the office be vacated for some other reason, Lord Macdonald would immediately appoint another High Commissioner so the chain of Clan command is secure for the future.

Lord Macdonald advised me to proceed slowly in organising the Clan, as nothing, in his opinion, could be gained by undue haste and everything could be lost by a false start. His advice proved most wise, and the activation of the Clan was proceeded with earlier than had been intended only because there arose an opportunity for Clan Donald to sponsor the Pipers and the Band of HM Scots Guards in Pittsburgh and in Charlotte. This could not be done on short notice and a considerable monetary guarantee was necessary for their appearance. Our Chief agreed that this unusual occasion warranted an earlier start than had been contemplated. Consequently the first meeting of the Clan Society was successfully convened at Flora Macdonald College, Red Springs, North Carolina, on 23rd April 1955. The eventual sponsorship by the Clan of the stirring appearance of the Scots Guards in Pittsburgh and later in Charlotte was highly successful and of considerable benefit to Clan Donald.

It should be of interest to members of the Clan to know that the Scots Guards did not permit opening ceremonies anywhere in the United States except the two for Clan Donald, and their provision of three Pipers for me on each occasion was consequent upon the presence of Lord Macdonald’s personal banner, which he has graciously permitted his High Commissioner to display on appropriate occasions. It will quite probably not be displayed again until his Lordship visits us. The honour of Banner-Bearer (Gilliebrataich) fell to Donald MacDonald, Commissioner of the North and South Carolina District.

The work necessary to bring about a proper legal posture for the Clan Donald Society in America has consumed much time and entailed considerable correspondence between our lawyers, Kirkpatrick, Pomeroy, Lockhart & Johnson of Pittsburgh. Lord Macdonald in Skye and the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh. It was as late as October 1955 before we felt we were in possession of the necessary rulings covering familial clanship and could draw up the required papers, which fell into two parts:

(1) The Trust Deed for The Clan Donald Educational and Charitable Trust, and
(2) The Articles of Incorporation for the Clan Society, and its By-laws.

Most clan societies in the United States have either failed or, at best, have not flourished.

Searching for reasons, Lord Macdonald and I believed that there were two. First, some societies had not realised that the Clan is a patriarchal and not a fraternal organisation. It is not based, like Masonry, on the crafts. The whole essence, attraction and power of the Clan organisation lies in its being a patriarchal survival embodied in the Gaelic definition of Chief – Ceann Cinnidh which is legally a position hereditary or passing from patriarch to patriarch.

The Clan subsists as a legal entity under its Chief. In essence it is a Father and Children relationship, as you well know, and this must be recognised and preserved. Secondly, these societies had lacked a real object in life to keep up interest within the Clan. It is all very well to have Ceilidhs, Tartan Balls, Burns Dinners, Highland Games, etc., and these social functions are necessary and worthwhile parts of Clanship. But something above and beyond them seemed necessary. To meet this need it was decided to form The Clan Donald Educational and Charitable Trust, which should be a challenge to all Clansmen and can be made applicable to any part of the world where the Clan is numbered.

Because of the complicated decisions obtained from the Lord Lyon concerning the Clan Society, it seemed best to proceed with the Trust first, and this has proved to be a wise policy, if only for the reason that there had to be a time lapse between execution of the Deed of Trust and the solicitation of funds.

After the Deed Trust was accepted by Lord Macdonald, who honoured the Trust by becoming its Patron, the document was executed by me on 15th December 1955, and thereafter was signed by all Trustees and an original recorded in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on 17th February 1956. Conformed copies of this Trust are in the hands of the Edinburgh Trustees and may be seen by any member of the Clan.

The present Trustees of The Clan Donald Educational and Charitable Trust – of which there must be not less than seven and may be as many as fifteen- are:

Reginald H. Macdonald OBE (President).
Sheriff-Principal T.P. Macdonald QC (Vice-President).
Peter G. Macdonald Esq. WS, Edinburgh;
Donald J. McDonald Esq. MA LLD, Inverness;
Robert M. McDonald Esq.MC QC, Edinburgh;
Stuart Nyc Hutchison Jr. Esq., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
J. Talbot Johnson Esq., Aberdeen, North Carolina;
DeLoss K. MacDonald, Seattle, Washington;
Godfrey Macdonald, New York;
H. Malcolm Macdonald, PhD, Austin, Texas;
John M. McDonald, Chicago, Illinois;
Ranald H. Macdonald, New York;
Robert E. MacDonald OBE, St. Louis, Missouri;

John Ure Anderson Jr. of the legal firm of Kirkpatrick, Pomeroy. Lockhart & Johnson, was approved by the Trustees as Secretary and accepted this important post. He has been associated with the Trust from its inception and has carried much of the burden of the work, displaying a keen knowledge of the unusual problems involved. In Scotland, George D. MacDonald Banks, a member of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, is Honorary Secretary; Linford S. Macdonald, Pittsburgh, is Treasurer.

The Trust welcomes contributions from the Clan, and it is hoped all clansmen will make it their duty to seek funds for the Trust. Obviously for some considerable time we must be on the receiving rather than the giving end. Cheques should be made payable to The Clan Donald Educational and Charitable Trust at either the Edinburgh or Pittsburgh offices of the Trust.

Turning now to the organisation of the Clan Society, here again there have been many legal problems and the work has been difficult but rewarding. To graft true clanship on to democratic institutions has exercised our legal minds. Again it has entailed much correspondence with the Lord Lyon King of Arms on points of Clan law. It is believed the final documents will meet with general approval.

Another problem arose in the obtaining of Clan badges. It became evident that the present badge of Clan Donald was not now correct in the light of Lord Macdonald of Macdonald’s Matriculation of 11th April 1947 in the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The Lord Lyon agreed with the substance of our representation to him and, with the approval of Lord Macdonald, a new badge was drawn in proper heraldic form by the Lord Lyon. It departs little from the old badge we know so well, but now includes the three strawberry-leaved coronet of Macdonald of Macdonald. We have, in the Clan muniment room in Pittsburgh, a copy of this badge done in colour by the Lord Lyon’s office and signed by Lord Macdonald and have presented a duplicate to the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh.