Obituaries (1984)

Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton FSA Scot.

Donald John Macdonald, 12th of Castleton, Clan Donald historian, Honorary Vice-President and a past President and Honorary Secretary of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh and a past Vice-President of the 1745 Association died peacefully at his home in Skye on 12th February, 1984.

Born in Edinburgh in May 1897, Donald J. was educated at the city’s Royal High School where he was influenced by the Rector William J. Watson, the eminent Gaelic scholar and writer who later became Professor of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh Having entered the University, Donald’s studies were interrupted by the First World War in which he served as an officer in the Royal Artillery in Egypt and Salonika until his demobilisation in 1919.

After some time spent at his father’s home in the manse of Arisaig, he decided that his future prospects would be better served by going abroad, and he accordingly joined his elder brother in Kenya under the Soldier Settlement scheme offered by the government for the development of the colony. There he farmed and prospered until his great love for his native land brought him back to Scotland where he settled eventually in Edinburgh, the city of his birth, and where his family received the benefits of a Scottish education.

Once established in Scotia’s capital, it was not long before he began to take an active part in the affairs of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, of which he became a very enthusiastic member of the Council. He was elected Honorary Secretary in succession to Mr Gilbert McWhannell in 1954, a position which he was to fill for 11 years, during which he was most active in organising the various functions and outings of the Society and above all, by his world-wide correspondence with clansmen and women mainly on genealogical matters and Clan history. During his term of office he served the Society along with such eminent presidents as Donald S. Macdonald WS, Sir Peter G. Macdonald, Sheriff Hector McKechnie QC, and Sheriff T. P. McDonald QC. He won the friendship and respect of the chiefs of the various branches of the Clan and was instrumental in bringing them together, particularly at the Annual Gatherings of the Society. He was largely responsible for encouraging the formation of the Clan Donald Society of Canada and his advice and guidance were sought by the organisers of the Clan Donald Society of America (now Clan Donald USA) in its early years.

A keen clan genealogist, his great pride was a large book begun by his grandfather, showing the descent of man from Adam by reference to the scriptures, continued by his father and finally by himself, linking up the somewhat fanciful ancestors of the Siol Cuinn and Clann Cholla and thence onto the firmer ground of modern family genealogies of the various branches and cadet houses of Clan Donald. He continued to update this unique and valuable volume practically to the end of his long life.

In the literary field he edited the quarterly newsletters of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh throughout his term as Secretary and during the early years of his terms as President, of which he served for three, of three years each, in succession. He was an outstanding and popular President and had served the Society in that capacity, ably supported by his devoted and able wife “Bunty” from whom he was inseparable, for longer than anyone else. This long and loyal service was recognised by the Society at the Annual Gathering of 1974, immediately after his retirement from that high office, when he and Bunty were the guests of honour and received presentations on behalf of the Society from the Chief of Glengarry who, on that occasion, paid tribute to the couple for the great debt owed them by the Clan and the Society. He edited two numbers – 5 and 6 – of “Clan Donald Magazine”, and provided much information for other issues. In 1965 he published his first book: Slaughter Under Trust, a factual account of the Massacre of Glencoe, which was an instant success and has since been reprinted in the USA as a paperback. Much of his time since then was dedicated to the preparation of his second and last volume: Clan Donald, published in 1978, a definitive history of the Clan, which will surely remain as his everlasting memorial.

After the death of the 7th Lord Macdonald in 1971, when it became necessary for the MacDonald lands in Skye to be sold in order to meet the death duties and other debts with which the estate was burdened, it was at Donald J.’s suggestion that a charitable trust should be set up and a worldwide appeal to clansmen launched to save the Clan lands from passing into the hands of a stranger. The ultimate result was the formation of the Clan Donald Lands Trust and the establishment of the Clan Donald Centre at Armadale Castle in Sleat.

A fair minded, friendly man and fatherly figure who won the hearts and respect of nearly all who met him, Donald J. was a thorough Jacobite, immensely proud of his descent from the Lords of the Isles through the MacDonalds of Sleat and of his direct ancestor and family progenitor Donald, 1st of Castleton, second son of Sir Donald, 1st Baronet of Sleat, a distinguished soldier, who as tutor (i.e. the Scottish equivalent of the English guardian) to the young Chief, commanded the men of Sleat at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.

The day after his passing, being the annual remembrance of the Massacre of Glencoe (13th February), with which he had been so closely associated, the present President of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh requested that the piper play an additional lament at the Memorial, after the wreath-laying ceremony, for Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton.

He is survived by his wife, son and three daughters, and many grandchildren. To them we offer our deep sympathy. -N.H.M.

Sir Peter G. Macdonald DL JP WS.

It’s with deep regret that we announce the passing, peacefully, of Sir Peter Macdonald, 18 Hermitage Gardens, Edinburgh, aged 85 years, on 21st July 1983. Sir Peter, who was President of the Society from 1952 to 1954, was born at Darnaway in Moray educated at Forres Academy, served with the Lovat Scouts in World War I and, entering the legal profession, became a partner in the well known Edinburgh firm of W.&J. Burness, which firm he kept going during World War II, when he served in the Home Guard. He was central to the formation and flotation of United Biscuits, a merger of McVittie & Price and MacFarlane Lang & Co., of which group he was first chairman from 1948 to 1967. He also served as chairman of the Caledonian Insurance Company and Baxter’s of Fochabers, and was a director of the Guardian Royal Exchange and many other companies. His commitment to church and State was total and the extent of his enormous generosity to fellow clansmen and others in need will never be fully appreciated. For most of his life he was an active elder of Greyfriars Kirk. He is survived by his wife, son and two daughters to whom we offer our deepest sympathy. -N.H.M.

Lawrence P. McDonald.

Lawrence Patton McDonald, Washington DC Commissioner of Clan Donald USA, was among the passengers on board the Korean Airways Flight 007 which was shot down by Soviet aircraft on 1st September, 1983. He had been Congressman for Atlanta, Georgia, since 1974, and will be remembered by all who attended the 1981 AGM of Clan Donald USA at Stone Mountain. He had formerly practised as a physician with his father and brother in Atlanta and served as a Navy flight surgeon and was chairman of the John Birch Society. He kindly met and entertained a young member of the Drums and Pipes of the 1st Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders, Alasdair McDonald, who is a member of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, when the band was in the United States. We offer our sympathy to his wife and family. -N.H.M.

The Rev. Donald C. Caskie OBE MA DD OCF.

The Rev. Dr Donald Currie Caskie, who became known as The Tartan Pimpernel on account of his exploits in helping around 2,000 British servicemen to escape from France during the Second World War, died on 27th December1983, in his 82nd year. Born on the isle of Islay in 1902, he was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris in 1940 before he escaped to Marseilles and chose to remain and organise resistance. While in prison camps, facing torture and a death sentence, he spoke and wrote in Gaelic to baffle his captors. He was the only Briton among French Resistance fighters to be honoured by the Allied governments in 1945. His classic story The Tartan Pimpernel, published in 1957, was about to be reissued for the first time for many years. He was arrested in July 1941 but released and went to Grenoble and although working under close supervision continued his underground activities. Arrested again in April 1943, he was subjected to torture in POW camps and saved from death by the intercession of a German prison chaplain. He was liberated from an internment camp at St. Denis, France, in 1944, and returned to Paris. He received the OBE and an honorary doctorate of divinity from the University of Edinburgh in 1945. He later became minister of Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay North and retired due to ill health in 1968, settling in Edinburgh when he joined the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh and served on the Council and as Chaplain. He was most enthusiastic about his native Gaelic and was sure to be found among the audience at every major concert and most of the ceilidhs held by the city’s Highland societies. -N.H.M.

Isabel Frances Grant MBE LLD.

Dr I.F. Grant, one of Scotland’s most respected authoresses and historians, passed away in Edinburgh in September 1983 at the grand old age of 96. Well known to the older generation among the Society’s members, Dr Grant became aware of the importance of folk museums in the 1920s after a visit to Scandinavia. In 1930 she helped organise a Highland Exhibition in Inverness which ran for two months. In 1936 she moved her growing collection to an old Free Church building on Iona moving to Laggan in Badenoch in 1938 and to Kingussie in 1944 where she founded and managed on her own, without grants or subsidies, a Highland folk museum which she     named “Am Fasgadh”  the Shelter – “because it was to shelter homely, ancient Highland things from destruction.” Her published works include: Social and Economic Development of Scotland before 1603; In the Tracks of Montrose; Everyday Life in Old Scotland; Social and Economic History of Scotland; Highland Folkways, and short histories of the, Clans Donald, Grant and Leod, in the Johnston and Bacon Series, but her greatest contribution to Clan Donald was her major work: The Lordship of the Isles – Wanderings in the Lost Lordship, published in 1937 but now happily, reprinted and obtainable from The Edinburgh Bookshop, 57 George Street, Edinburgh, and other booksellers price £14. The University of Edinburgh conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature (LL.D.) upon her in 1948 and she was also made a Member of the British Empire (MBE). The writer had the pleasure some years ago of entertaining Dr Grant accompanied by Mr and Mrs Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton in his home for an evening of slides on Isla. For her services Clan Donald in the field of literature, Dr Grant was made an Honorary Member of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh. -N.H.M.