Continental Macdonalds by Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton.

We are occupied so much with our Clan Donald Societies here in UK and overseas that we are apt to forget that, in addition to the thousands of our clansfolk in Canada, America, Australia, and New Zealand, there are others on the continent of Europe. Some of these are well known to us by their visits to this old country. Some have joined our Society in Edinburgh and think it worth their while even if only to get our quarterly Newsletters. Just another example of how imlportant it is to make and maintain communication within the Clan. Here are one or two examples of what we mean.

Sweden. Some 15 years ago we ware contacted by a family over there who were seeking to verity a family tradition. Their historian, Miss Inga Thomee, who has since died, was their leader, and sent us their family book which bears the arms of Lord Macdonald! Briefly their story is that, when Angus Og, brother of the last Chief of the Islay & Dunnyveg Macdonalds, was treacherously executed for treason in 1615, his widow, Katherine Campbell of Danna, and her two small boys were hailed before the Privy Council to be “ransacked for treason”. They did not appear, naturally enough. Our Swedish friends have the tradition in their family that the mother and boys escaped to Holland; and changed their name. No-one knows what happened to the unfortunate lady but the boys took ship for Sweden. They were wrecked at Torekov in Scania. The elder brother died there, and the younger was befriended by a master-mason from Helsingborg named Hans. The boy later married his master’s daughter and founded a large family, full details of which are in their family book.

One member of this family is a young man now in business of his own in England, who visits us frequently. The head of the family, John Erik Thome, is a wealthy business man in Helsinki, who was over here some years ago and visited us. Another couple of the same family have been here too on a visit to Skye.

Holland. Mr William Willekes Macdonald, resident in Bergen, N. Holland is a life member of the Edinburgh Society, and has visited us gathering information about the Clan, and recording the members of his family which is quite a large one.

Paul Zanders-MacAlester too is a member of this Society and has full details of his connection with the MacAlastairs of Loup. In fact he has been able to fill in some gaps in our genealogy of that important family. We hope he may be over here next year. In the meantime he is just another of those real pen-friends we have made over the years. Strangely he is now resident in W. Germany, having left his family home at the Hague to his mother. It seems no-one is allowed to have two homes in Holland!

France. Our research into the history of the famous Marechal Macdonald, Napoleon’s Highland Field-Marshal, led us to France at the invitation of the Vicomte Dean de Luigne, a descendant in a female line, males having died out in the person of Fergus, third Duke of Tarentum. Maurice is very proud of his descent and has many relics of the Marshal. The blood is strong?

Belgium. This is probably the strangest instance of the old Clan living on in the hearts of its members even after 200 years in a foreign land. One day this summer a gentleman rang me up and gave his name as Guy Magdonelle seeking to make contact with the Clan Donald in Scotland. He came and we found he was a member of a “clan” in Belgium who owed their origin to a soldier of fortune – a MacDonell of Glengarry who went to Ireland thence to the Low Countries where he married on the 18th August 1793 at Dochamp a Mlle. Marie-Marguarite Parmentier. His name on the marriage certificate is given as Stanislas Joseph Magdonelle. From that union descended many branches who still cherish their origin in Scotland. By the spelling, now slightly changed, one might easily connect them with the Glengarry MacDonells. They take it so seriously that they had a rally of the descendants of Stanislas Magdonelle at Meireux on Sunday the 15th September of 1974. Some 170 members attended of whom 8 men and 13 ladies bore the name of Magdonelle. Guy showed me with pride the signature of the Secretary to the Treasury on a Belgian note of high denomination – that signature was “Magdonelle”.

Italy. In Florence there live the widow and son of the late Baron Porcelli, author of the book “The White Cockade”. The Baron and his wife visited us some years ago, and we learned much about how strong the Highland blood can be. The present Baron was here in the summer and comes from time to time. How comes it that a Sicilian Baron is an ardent member of Clan Donald? The present Baron (Ranald’s) great grand-father married Sara the youngest sister of Admiral Sir Reginald Macdonald, 21st Chief of Clan Ranald in 1848; and the connection with and love of Scotland has persisted ever since.

Another interesting link is the Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore which some of you have visited, I believe. These Botanical Gardens were founded and developed by Captain Neil MacEachran who died in 1964. After some research we have been in touch with the present Director of what has become an Ente Giardini Botanici given to the Italian State as a Trust, and is maintained by them in a very beautiful manner, as reports by visitors attest. Their paper bears a coat of arms obviously based on the Clan Ranald coat – a black galley on a field gold and silver with as crest a hand holding a dagger vertically, and a motto “Per Mare Per Terras“. I am told the gardeners carry that crest on their jackets.

We have now instanced Macdonalds in Sweden, Finland, Holland, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium in this brief survey. There must be many more still to be found, and any such who read this are asked to contact me with details of their link with our Clan. The moral of all this? Surely that clanship is a very real and rewarding fact, even in this materialistic age!