Moidart, or Among The Clanranalds By the Rev. Charles Macdonald (1835-1894)

In 1889, one of the most famous books on the history of the West Highlands and of Moidart and Ardnamurchan in particular was published in Oban. The author was the Rev. Father Charles Macdonald and his book – Moidart, Or Among the Clanranalds, is a collector’s item and one of the rarest publications on the Peninsula. Only a few people in the area have copies and these are treasured by their owners who would not part with them for a considerable sum of money.

Father Charles Macdonald, the son of a distiller, was born near Inverness in 1835. He was educated at Inverness High School, Blairs College, Aberdeen and in several theological colleges in France. He was appointed Parish Priest of Moidart in 1859 where he remained until he retired through ill health 33 years later. He died in Helensburgh in 1894 and is buried on Eilean Finnan, Loch Shiel, under a magnificent stone cross erected by public subscription.

Greatly revered by his parishioners and by many people of other denominations for his concern for everyone, Father Charles was a Gaelic speaker and carefully noted down many of the old legends and stories which had been handed down by tradition-bearers in the area throughout the centuries. His book is based principally around the Macdonalds of Moidart but as almost every clan was involved with the Clanranalds in one way or another, it covers a wide spectrum of the history of the area and the lives of so many of the characters who left their mark on its formation.

Exactly 100 years later, in 1989, his book was republished. The new edition contains a brief introductory note by Ranald Macdonald, Captain and 24th Chief of Clanranald; a full biographical chapter on Father Charles by Iain Thornber as well as several unpublished photographs and letters of the author. Initially, 600 numbered copies were published; later, Messrs James Thin, 53-59 South Bridge, Edinburgh, yielded to public pressure and issued a further 500 copies.

The instigator of this venture was Iain Thornber, Knock House, Morvern, by Oban, Argyll.