The Clan Donald and the Forty-Five by the Editor

It is a well-known fact that when Prince Charles Edward landed in Scotland in 1745 with only seven companions – the seven men of Moidart – even the most ardent Jacobites among the Highland chiefs received the news with dismay and hoped that he could be persuaded to return to France until a more favourable opportunity and the assurance of military support from France presented itself. It soon became clear, however, that the ambitious and strong-willed young prince was adamant and that any attempts to persuade him otherwise would meet with failure.

Of the seven companions who landed with the Prince, two were members of Clan Donald – Sir John MacDonald, or MacDonnell, an Irish cavalry officer in the French Army and Aeneas MacDonald, a Paris banker and brother of Donald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart. The others were William Murray, Marquis of Tullibardine, regarded by the Jacobites as the Duke of Atholl, three more Irishmen, Sir Thomas Sheridan, Colonel John William O’Sullivan and George Kelly, a Protestant clergyman, and an Englishman, Colonel Francis Strickland.

They had set sail from France on 5th July, 1745 on board the du Teillay and after an encounter with a British man-of war, the Lion, on 9th July, in which the Elizabeth, the accompanying ship was severely damaged and forced to return to Brest, arrived off the Isle of Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides, on 23rd July. The Prince landed in Eriskay on the beach which has since borne the name Coilleag a’ Phrionnsa – the Princes’s Strand. Above this beach is a pink convolvulus which the Prince is said to have planted at the time to commemorate his arrival. This plant grows only in Eriskay in spite of attempts to grow it elsewhere. That night it rained heavily while the Prince and his companions sheltered in the rude dwelling of Angus MacDonald, the tacksman of the island. The fire being set in the middle of the room and a hole in the roof acting as a chimney, the normal custom in the Isles, the room soon became filled with smoke which caused the Prince to go out for fresh air; which amazed his host who took him, to task for being so fidgety. Having spent the night in Eriskay, the Prince returned to the du Teillay the following morning.

Learning that Clanranald was in South Uist with his brother, Boisdale and that Young Clanranald was in Moidart on the mainland, a messenger was sent requesting an interview with Boisdale who soon after came on board. Boisdale, who was known to exercise great influence over his brother and chief, Clanranald, flatly refused to offer any assistance to the Prince and advised him to go home. “I am come home, sir” said Charles, but try as he may he was unable to persuade Boisdale to change his mind.

When Charles mentioned Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat and MacLeod of Dunvegan as chiefs upon whom he could depend to bring twelve hundred broadswords to the field, Boisdale gave him the unwelcome news that these chiefs had not only resolved not to support a rising but might be found to act against it. Charles, although bitterly disappointed at Boisdale’s attitude, persisted in his plan and sent a messenger to Sir Alexander MacDonald while Aeneas MacDonald set out for the mainland to inform his brother, Kinlochmoidart, of the Prince’s arrival.

The following day, 25th July, the du Teillay, having sailed across the Minch, anchored in Loch nan Uamh, opposite the house of Angus MacDonald of Borrodale, Alexander MacDonald of Boisdale having returned home with the intention of preventing his brother and the Uist men from becoming involved. The following day, Kinlochmoidart arrived to pay his respects to the Prince who made him a Colonel and A.D.C., and sent him south to summon John Murray of Broughton, James Drummond, the Jacobite Duke of Perth and Lochiel. The Prince remained in the neighbourhood of Borrodale for a fortnight until 10th August during which time there was much activity. Among those who arrived to greet him were Ranald MacDonald, Younger of Clanranald, Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale, Kinlochmoidart’s brothers, Allan and Ranald, Angus MacDonald of Dalelea and the Clanranald Chronicler of the Lochart Papers who was almost certainly Dalelea’s brother Alexander, Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, the famous bard. It has been said that Hugh MacDonald of Armadale, step-father of the celebrated Flora MacDonald also paid his respects to the Prince at Borrodale.

Charles and Young Clanranald spent three hours together in the Prince’s cabin in private discussion during which the Young Chevalier succeeded in winning over the young chief to his point of view, for after they broke up, the latter, accompanied by Kinlochmoidart’s brother, Allan, immediately set out for Skye to summon Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat and Norman MacLeod of Dunvegan, the original messenger sent from Eriskay having returned without any reply from these chiefs. Glenaladale was instructed to assemble a body of Clanranald’s clansmen to act as a bodyguard for the Prince. There followed a constant stream of visitors among whom were Donald MacDonell of Scotus, representing Glengarry, Alexander MacDonell of Keppoch, Alexander MacDonald of Glencoe and Morar’s brother, Hugh MacDonald, Bishop of Diana and Vicar Apostolic of the Highland district. All implored the Prince to abandon the enterprise and return to France but he refused, even when Young Clanranald returned with the unwelcome news that Sir Alexander MacDonald and Norman MacLeod had, like Boisdale, declined their support. Their decision has often been regarded as a wise one in that their properties and people were spared from the atrocities and devastation committed by the Duke of Cumberland’s army after Culloden but the very fact of their failure to rise not only deprived the Prince of a very large body of men but gave a great psychological boost to the efforts of the Lord President, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, to prevent as many as possible of the chiefs with Jacobite sympathies from bringing out their clansmen. Sir Alexander’s behaviour can also be justified in at least one other respect, in that his agreement to raise his clan was conditional on the arrival of a substantial French force but MacLeod had pledged himself to bring out his men regardless of such support and he not only failed to keep his promise but took steps to inform the Lord President of the Prince’s arrival.

The deadlock was broken when Young Clanranald suddenly decided to raise his clan. Whether this was due to the well-known incident described by Hume in his history that while the discussions were taking place, the Prince turned to “young Ranald MacDonald, a brother of Kinloch Moidart” and exclaimed, “will you not assist me?” “I will! I will!” cried Ranald, “though no other man in the Highlands should draw his sword I am ready to die for you!” cannot now be ascertained. The incident has not been recorded in any of the existing accounts by eye-witnesses and it is worthy of mention that Ranald MacDonald, brother of Kinlochmoidart, had received from Clanranald, in 1730, a tack of Daliburgh in South Uist and could hardly, therefore, have been a young man in 1745.

Lochiel sent his brother, Dr. Archibald Cameron to urge the Prince to return but Charles then despatched Scotus to Achnacarry “to persuade Lochiel to do his duty.” Lochiel obeyed the summons and after failing to persuade the Prince to change his mind agreed to raise his clan on condition that Charles gave security for the full value of his estate should the attempt prove abortive and on Glengarry undertaking, in writing to raise his clan, which he did, under command of his second son, Angus, and his cousin Lochgarry. Lochiel’s conditions for raising his clan may have been prudent but the Clan Donald chiefs made no such stipulation.

The die was then cast and arrangements were made to raise the Standard of King James VIII at Glenfinnan on Monday, 19th August. On 11th August the Prince and his party with their baggage and artillery left Borrodale by sea for Kinlochmoidart while his bodyguard of fifty of Clanranald’s men marched by the shore route. The sea party having reached Glenuig, landed in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd of local people who insisted on dancing a spirited reel in the Prince’s honour, which has since been known as the Eight Men of Moidart.

From Glenuig they walked to Caolas and continued their journey by sea to Kinlochmoidart House where the Prince remained until 17th August. Meanwhile, on 14th August, Captain Sweetenham of Guise’s regiment, who commanded the garrison at Ruthven Barracks, was taken in ambush by a party of Glengarry’s men commanded by Donald MacDonell of Lochgarry, at the head of the Corryarrack Pass, while on his way to take command at Fort William.

On 16th August, the first outbreak of hostilities occurred when Donald MacDonell of Tirnadris, under orders from Keppoch, his chief, with a party of only eleven men and a piper, succeeded by stratagem in preventing two companies of the 1st Royal Regiment of Foot (now the Royal Scots) from crossing the High Bridge over the River Spean on their way  to reinforce the garrison of Fort William. The baffled regulars were obliged to retreat, followed by Keppoch and Tirnadris with a gradually increasing number of their clansmen at a discreet distance, until their route was blocked at Laggan Achadrome by a body of Glengarry’s men and after a short engagement in which the redcoats sustained several casualties, their commanding officer, Captain Scott agreed to Keppoch’s demand for their surrender.

On 18th August the Prince and his party, now joined by Murray of Broughton marched to Dalelea and travelled by boat up Loch Shiel to Glenaladale where they were met by John Gordon of Glenbuchat, “Old Glenbucket,” Glengarry’s father-in-law, who presented the Prince with his first prisoner, Captain Sweetenham, captured four days previously by Glenbuchat’s other son-in-law, Lochgarry.

From Glenaladale, the Prince with his party and bodyguard continued their journey by boat up Loch Shiel to Glenfinnan where they were met by Allan MacDonald of Morar with a further 150 Clanranald men. It was, however, a disappointing scene, Charles having envisaged a great gathering of the clans awaiting him when in fact he had found only the additional 150 Clanranald men and a few humble people of the district there to greet him. Then, in the afternoon, 19th August, the sound of bagpipes was heard in the distance and a dark mass of men was seen approaching them from the neighbouring hills. As the party drew nearer it soon became clear that it consisted of two marching columns of fully-armed Highlanders with Lochiel at their head and a body of unarmed Hanoverian soldiers between them – being the prisoners taken by Keppoch and his men, three days before. Some time later, Keppoch arrived with 300 clansmen.

The Prince was presented by Tirnadris with Captain Scott’s fine white gelding. Charles now had over 1200 men and the Royal Standard was then displayed on a carefully chosen eminence by Tullibardine, the de jure Duke of Atholl. Thereafter the Standard is said to have been given into the safe keeping of Keppoch’s brother Donald. There was now no turning back, the Forty-Five had begun.

On 26th August, the Prince spent the night at Invergarry Castle, guarded by a party of Glengarry’s men under the command of Lochgarry (Glengarry having already gone to Atholl, it is said, for the dual purpose of taking advice from the de facto Duke and misleading the authorities) and the following day the army was augmented at Aberchalder by more of Glengarry’s men from Knoydart and North Morar under Scotus and Coll MacDonell of Barrisdale, and his son Archibald, making 400 in all. The MacDonalds of Glencoe, or at least a contingent of them and the Grants of Glenmoriston also joined the army at this juncture but according to Murray of Broughton, who was present, some of Keppoch’s men deserted on account of a private quarrel with Keppoch, their Chief, who, being a strict Protestant had not thought it prudent that their Priest should accompany them.

On 4th September, the Prince and his army entered Perth where they remained until the 10th of that month. On the evening of their arrival Keppoch and Young Clanranald were despatched by Charles with a foraging party around 450 strong to Dundee which they entered the following morning and reached the harbour without opposition, where they captured two vessels containing arms and ammunition which were sent to the Prince. They left the town eight or nine days later after having proclaimed King James VIII and collected some public money.

Lord George Murray and the Duke of Perth were appointed Lieutenant Generals, O’Sullivan, Quarter-Master-General and Sir John MacDonald, an ex-officer of Caribineers, Inspector of Cavalry.

On 12th September the army camped in the park of Keir between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan and the following morning, now strengthened by reinforcements brought by the Duke of Perth, the Clan Donnachaidh (i.e. the Robertsons), some detachments of MacGregors and a further 60 Glencoe MacDonalds, marched to Doune and then swung southwards to cross the River Forth at the Fords of Frew.

On 16th September the army marched through Winchburgh and Kirkliston on its route towards Edinburgh and halted for two hours by the mansion of Tods Hall (now Fox Hall) on the River Almond. Nearby lay the house of Newliston, one of the country seats of the Earl of Stair, whose grandfather had been responsible for the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Now, by a strange coincidence, according to tradition, the grandson of the murdered Chief with his clansmen were observed by the Prince to be close by the house and in order to prevent any act of revenge which might bring discredit upon his army, proposed that the Glencoe men should be kept at a distance from the house. The proposal was received by Maclain with the greatest indignation as a reflection upon him and his clan’s honour and declared that if they were considered so dishonourable as to take revenge on an innocent man, they were not fit to remain with honourable men, nor to support an honourable cause and that if it was implemented he and his clansmen would immediately return home. The Prince, realising that he had made a misjudgement of Highland character, instantly rescinded his instructions and instead, to pacify the indignant chief, ordered the Glencoe men to mount guard over the Earl of Stair’s house during the halt.

During the night of 16th September a deputation was sent by the magistrates of the city of Edinburgh to the Prince at Slateford to ask for time to consider his demand for the city’s surrender. The Prince, aware that the ships carrying General Cope’s army had reached Dunbar and suspecting the magistrates of try ing to delay matters, refused their request and after their departure, sent a party of 900 mainly Camerons and MacDonalds under Lochiel, Glenaladale, Lochgarry and Tirnadris with Murray of Broughton, who knew Edinburgh well, as guide, to capture the city, which they were able toaccomplish, by gainingentry through the Netherbow Gate, which had been opened to allow the exit of the carriage in which the deputation to the Prince had returned, to the stables in the Canongate, without a shot being fired.

When the army was encamped at Duddingston prior to their march, to meet Cope, the Prince consulted the chiefs regarding the probable behaviour of their men when opposed to regular troops. Keppoch was requested to reply on their behalf and quickly assured the Prince that he need have no fear for although few of the men had been in battle before he was confident that from love of the cause in which they were engaged and from the affection they bore their chiefs, they would not fail to follow their leaders when ordered to do so.

The Jacobite Army met Cope’s Hanoverians at Prestonpans, or Gladsmuir, as the Jacobites preferred to call the battle, on 21st September. Cope’s army consisted of 2572 men of which 567 were cavalry. The Jacobite Army has been estimated at 2550 men of which 50 were cavalry. The two sides were therefore roughly equal in number with the exception of Cope’s vast superiority in cavalry, although this proved to be of no advantage in the ensuing conflict. The four Clan Donald regiments of Clanranald, Glengarry, Keppoch and Glencoe, who formed the right wing of the front line of the Prince’s Army, consisted of between 950 and 1000 men, more than one third of the total. Taken almost unawares in the early morning, Cope’s Army, when met by the Highland charge of the Jacobite front line, gave way and the cavalry with their general fled.The action was over in seven or eight minutes during which the Highlanders did much execution. Seldom in the annals of war has there been so signal a victory. Among those killed was Keppoch’s brother, Archibald and Angus MacDonald of Achtriachtan, who commanded the Glencoe regiment but the bulk of the casualties were on the Hanoverian side. It is possible that sometime after the battle, prior to the march into England that the Glencoe men, on account of the smallness of their number, were merged into Keppoch’s regiment.

On the retreat from Derby, the Glengarry Regiment under the command of Lochgarry, along with the MacPherson and Appin Regiments formed the rearguard of the Jacobite Army, which, under the command of Lord George Murray, repulsed a strong body of Cumberland’s dragoons at Clifton near Penrith on 18th December.

The Prince, with the Army, marched north from Carlisle on 20th December leaving a garrison in the town and castle. Among those left at Carlisle was Keppoch’s unruly nephew, Captain Donald MacDonell of Corriechoille who was taken prisoner when the town fell to Cumberland and later sent south for execution on Kennington Common, on 22nd August, 1746.

At the Battle of Falkirk, fought on 17th January, 1746, the Clan Donald regiments of Clanranald, Glengarry and Keppoch, the last of which included the Glencoe men, consisting of 1800 men or more, formed the right wing of the front line of the Jacobite Army of around 8,250, of which 740 were cavalry. The Hanoverian Army under General Hawley has been estimated at between 8000 and 9000 men, including three regiments of cavalry. Once again the men of Clan Donald distinguished themselves and but for the adverse weather conditions, the Prince’s Army would probably have repeated their success at Prestonpans. As it was they had to settle for a modest victory, Hawley’s army having been able to retreat with moderate casualties.

Young Clanranald narrowly escaped death when he was pinned to the ground by the carcase of a dead horse but was fortunately rescued by a clansman who, after a successful struggle with a dismounted dragoon whom he eventually despatched, came to his assistance.

Tirnadris, the hero of the action at High Bridge, however, was not so fortunate. In his enthusiasm to pursue the enemy, he became separated from the Keppoch Regiment and on his return, due to the poor light, mistook a body of Barrel’s Regiment for Lord John Drummond’s Regiment and the French picquets, which he boldly approached and questioned their inaction. Having discovered his mistake when it was too late to withdraw, he unsuccessfully attempted to pass himself off as a Campbell but being recognised and taken prisoner, was sent first to Edinburgh Castle and later transferred to Carlisle Castle from which he was taken, along with the gallant Kinlochmoidart, who had already been captured at Lesmahagow, for execution on 18th October, 1746 at Harraby, about a mile from Carlisle and their heads exhibited on the Scotch Gate of the town.

Unfortunately the “Long hall” in the inner ward of Carlisle Castle wherein the Jacobite prisoners were confined in 1746 was demolished prior to 1827 and no description or measurements of the original building were ever recorded.

A further serious misfortune was the accidental shooting of young Angus MacDonell of Glengarry in the streets of Falkirk, on 19th January, at the hands of one of Clanranald’s men who had as part of his share of spoil, an enemy musket which had been loaded with a double charge. The man extracted one of the balls and thinking that the weapon then contained powder only, fired through a window into the street to clear the barrel. Unfortunately the un-extracted ball struck Young Glengarry who was engaged in conversation in the street and he fell mortally wounded. Nothing would appease the Glengarry men than the instant execution of the culprit and Young Clanranald, in order to prevent a feud between the Glengarry men and his own, reluctantly agreed that the poor man be shot. The carrying out of this sentence did not, however, prevent the immediate desertion of some of the Glengarry men.

Early in March, 1746 the Prince sent a strong force from Inverness under Brigadier Stapleton to attack Fort Augustus. This force included Lochiel and Keppoch with their clans and after a two day siege, the fort was taken. They then proceeded to Fort William with the same intention but were unsuccessful. Keppoch and Lochiel were preparing to take reprisals against the Campbells who, in their absence, had attacked their undefended lands, “burning houses, stripping women and children and exposing them in the open field to the severity of the weather, houghing cattle and killing horses” and they hoped “to prevail upon his Highness to hang a Campbell for every house that will hereafter be burned by them.” The approach of Cumberland, however, made it necessary for the Prince to summon their recall.

While Keppoch and Lochiel were in Lochaber, a large force under the Earl of Cromartie which included the Clanranald Regiment and the two battalions of the Glengarry Regiment (the largest in the Army) under Lochgarry and Barrisdale respectively pursued Lord Loudon’s force north into Sutherland where it was dispersed.

The three Clan Donald regiments of Clanranald, Glengarry and Keppoch, including the Glencoe men but excluding Barrisdale’s battalion, which had not yet returned from Sutherland, took part in the abortive night march to Nairn on 15th April, in an attempt to surprise the army of Cumberland while celebrating their general’s birthday. The march took longer than expected and with the approach of daylight and the element of surprise being lost, Lord George Murray and the other leaders at the front decided to retreat to their starting ground on Culloden Moor. This serious miscalculation by Lord George Murray, the originator of the night attack, regarding the time required to complete the march and the resulting exhaustion suffered by those who took part in it must have greatly affected the condition and morale of the Highlanders prior to the battle of Culloden which was fought a few hours later.

At Culloden, just about everything that could have gone wrong for the Prince and his army did so. The ground which had been chosen by O’Sullivan was totally unsuitable, being open moorland with much marsh and no high ground from which to mount the accustomed Highland charge. In addition to the poor state of the men, the Jacobites were outnumbered almost two to one and were without effective cavalry or artillery. Many of their men were still in the north and other units would not arrive in time to take part. Lord George Murray had disapproved of the choice of ground yet, uncharacteristically, on this occasion, had accepted the decision to fight.

He had also demanded that the place of honour, formerly held by the Clan Donald regiments, on the right wing of the front line should be given to the Atholl Brigade, raised mainly from his own family estates, which had previously throughout the campaign been placed in the second line along with the other less reliable units. This naturally displeased the MacDonalds who claimed the position as their right, granted to them by Robert Bruce for their valour at Bannockburn and their leaders protested vigorously to the Prince but Charles, in order to avoid further friction with Lord George asked them to agree for his sake which they reluctantly did. The Clan Donald regiments, therefore, formed the left wing of the front line that day.

There is no truth in the statement by Lord Elcho that the MacDonalds went off the field without firing a shot nor in those of the nineteenth century writers that Keppoch alone rushed forward while his Clan refused to follow. Eyewitness accounts make it clear that Keppoch and his brother Donald were both killed or mortally-wounded in the advance of the MacDonalds who had much further to go, over boggy ground, to reach the Hanoverian line than the Jacobite right wing. All three Clan Donald regiments suffered heavy casualties. Scotus fell with his Lieutenant, Ensign, Sergeant, Corporal and eighteen privates all killed where they stood, in the Glengarry regiment alone. When the Jacobite right wing was repulsed, the MacDonalds on the left had no option but to join in the general retreat or be outflanked and cut off.

After the battle, the ancestral lands of Clanranald, Glengarry, Keppoch and Glencoe were pillaged and burnt by Butcher Cumberland’s men and few reprisals were taken against them due to the disorganised state of the loyal clans once the Prince had decided not to continue the war. One exception was Lochgarry, who refused to give up hope of continuing hostilities but after holding out for a time with a small band of followers, he too was forced to abandon his activities and seek exile on the Continent.

The Prince found his way to Borrodale and with Clan Donald help reached South Uist where he found safety fora time with Clanranald’s people until he made his famous crossing, disguised as Betty Burke, with Flora MacDonald and Neil MacEachen, father of Napoleon’s Marshal MacDonald, Duke of Tarentum, to Skye. It was Flora’s step-father Hugh MacDonald of Armadale who suggested the Betty Burke disguise and while the commander of one of the Independent Companies, supposedly searching for the Prince, turned a blind eye to the Prince’s escape. Indeed, although he was not at home but at Fort Augustus with Cumberland when the Prince landed near his house of Mugstot, Sir Alexander MacDonald was under suspicion by the Hanoverian authorities for his failure to pursue vigorously the search for the Prince and it is clear that his inaction contributed to the Prince’s eventual escape to France.

When the Stewarts were on the throne Clan Donald was seldom in their favour and lost much in attempting to maintain its leading position in the Western Highlands and Isles, yet when these princes were in exile it was involved in every attempt to restore them.

Sources include:

A Memoir of the Forty-Five, by The Chevalier de Johnslone, ed. by Brian Rawson (1970 ed.)
A Short Account of the Affairs of Scotland by David, Lord Elcho, ed. by the Hon. Evan Charteris (1907)
History of the Rebellion of 1745, by Robert Chambers (1869 ed.)
Itinerary of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, by W.B. Blaikie (1897)
Memorials of John Murray of Broughton, ed. by R. Fitzroy Bell (1898)
Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army, ed. by the 1745 Association (1984)
Sketches of the Highlanders of Scotland, by Colonel David Stewart of Garth (1822)
The Clan Donald, by the Revs. A. & A. MacDonald (1896-1904)
The Clan Ranald of Knoydart and Glengarry, by Norman H. MacDonald (1979)
The Clan Ranald of Lochaber by Norman H. MacDonald (1971)
The Life and Adventures of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, by W. Drummond Norie (1903-4)
The Lyon in Mourning, coll. by Bishop Robert Forbes, ed. by Henry Paton (1896)
The While Cockade, by The Baron Porcelli (1948)