The 17th Chief of Sanda and the Sanda Relics by Mary McDonald

It was a memorable occasion for the Council ladies of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh when Miss Carolyn Macdonald of Sanda came to Scotland hoping to deposit her family Jacobite relics in the Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh. Ten ladies made their way to the Braid Hills Hotel – probably the hotel highest amongst the city’s seven hills – to give a truly “Highland” welcome to one of our kinswomen from Canada.

Miss Macdonald offered all the relics, given to John Macdonald of Sanda by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. They are: two wine glasses, a snuff box with a miniature of Prince Charles Edward Stuart inside the lid, a silver spoon – Carolus Princeps P.R. (Charles Prince, Prince Royal) engraved on it – to the Museum of Antiquities. The Museum authorities would have accepted the collection but wanted to break it up so as to classify the items with other Jacobite relics. Miss Carolyn did not want this to happen – she had had it in mind to leave them as a Sanda Collection – and so she decided against leaving them in Scotland.

Other family heirlooms Miss Macdonald had with her on her visit to Scotland were four rings and a gold buckle. One ring of black enamel with a spray of small diamonds and hair at the back, a mourning ring for her great-great uncle, Sir John Kinneir Macdonald of Sanda. Another ring with a red stone belonging to this great-great uncle. Also another mourning ring with John MacKinnon, obit January 1737, engraved on the black enamel band. The gold buckle belonged to John Kinneir Macdonald of Sanda, obit November 1791, aged 41.

Then, of course, Miss Carolyn is the proud possessor of the Sanda Ring which came into her custody as the 17th Chief of Sanda from the 6th Infant Chief Ranald Macdonald of Sanda (descendant of Aonghas, or Angus, Illeach who founded the family about 1550). The ring is associated with the siege of the family fortress Castle of Dunaverty, built upon a large rock in the south of Kintyre and adjoining the island of Sanda (which is 2½ miles away across the Sound of Sanda). The castle was besieged by General Leslie and his army, along with the Campbells. The command devolved upon Gilleasbuig (Archibald) Macdonald of Sanda, a gallant and experienced officer who had served with Montrose, assisted by his son Gilleasbuig (Archibald) Og. They with their men, with a few of the Clan Macdougall who had joined them, fought gallantly defending tile castle against an enemy ten times their number. At length the enemy were able to cut off the supply of water so the besieged were under the necessity of surrendering, but with the understanding of personal safety. No sooner had the enemy gained admission than an indiscriminate, disgraceful bloody massacre took place. Archibald Macdonald of Sanda and his son Archibald Macdonald, younger, were killed. The latter had an infant son, Ranald Macdonald of Sanda. He was saved by his faithful nurse who contrived to escape, with young Ranald, and sought refuge in a remote cave near the Mull of Kintyre until the enemy had retired. Then she took him to his mother’s family, the Stewarts of Bute, with the family ring about his neck to identify him. The ring has been handed down from father to son since Christine Stewart, sister of the Earl of Bute married Archibald Macdonald of Sanda 294 years ago.

This historic ring has been worn by all the “Ladies of Sanda” and Miss Carolyn now wears it, significantly, about her neck.

The Council ladies of Clan Donald presented the 17th Chief Sanda with a Luckenbooth brooch as a memento of her visit to Scotland. The Luckenbooth brooches go back to the time of the Luckenbooths or “close shops” being superior to, and distinguished from, the open booths, all of which surrounded the area of Old St Giles Kirk in Edinburgh. Betrothed young people used to go with a piece of silver to the silversmiths of these Luckenbooths and have it made into a brooch as a betrothal token. (These brooches were sometimes pinned by girls on their petticoats in such a way that they could be uncovered by a flick of the skirt to show that the wearer was bespoken). The popular design usually chosen was the two hearts entwined and the design with the crown surmounting the entwined hearts was very popular during the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Darnley. The brooch was not only used by the bride, but the first born of the marriage had a brooch pinned in the shawl as a luck or good fortune brooch.

The brooch given to Miss Macdonald of Sanda was entwined hearts surmounted with a crown, which as an expression of our warm wishes for her good luck, she allowed to be pinned on her Clan Tartan sash beside her Chieftain brooch, saying that she would wear it constantly to remind her of us all.

When saying our goodbyes, Miss Carolyn generously consented to show us the Sanda Ring.

The ring, a “forefinger ring,” has a large single diamond, surrounded by smaller diamonds with a triangular diamond set in the shanks on each side. The ring is made in silver as it was more valued than gold at that period, but the back of the diamonds are sealed in gold in a design which prevents them from being as bright as they would be otherwise. It has the appearance of an ancient and mellow jewel. Indeed it is a very precious treasure. In a letter recently received from Miss Macdonald she says how happy she is to have all her family treasures back home with her in Toronto just as her brother, Donald Claude. 16th Chief of Sanda, a member of our Society, who died in 1960, had them in a case in his study.

The memories of that historic evening linger on and we are left wondering what will eventually happen to these Sanda relics, especially the highly treasured Sanda Ring.