The Curse of Lochgarry by Donald J. Macdonald

My curse on any of my race who puts foot again on British soil; and my double curse on him who submits to the Guelph; and my deadliest curse on him who may try to regain Lochgarry!

This is the Curse. How did it come to be pronounced? How has it worked out in history? These questions come very naturally, and the answer to the first can be supplied quite satisfactorily; the answer to the second is only partially complete but, so far, strangely accurate.

For the founder of the line of Lochgarry we go back to John Macdonell of Sandaig, brother of the famous Alasdair Dubh, Chief of Glengarry, who fought so well at Killiecrankie and Sheriffmuir. John was with his brothers, the Chief and Donald Gorm, at these battles. He married twice and had two sons, Donald, who succeeded him, and Angus of Greenfield.

Donald was born about 1680 and married Isabella Gordon of Glenlivet with issue, three sons, one of whom died in infancy. Donald was a good businessman, as well as a great warrior. He was, in 1733, Chamberlain to the Glengarry estate.

In 1738 he bought from the Duke of Atholl the estate of Lochgarry, which comprised the lands of Dalnaspidal, Dalnacardoch and others. … It should be noted that the name … “of Lochgarry” has nothing to do with the loch in the Inverness-shire glen, which runs west from Invergarry and from which the Chief takes his name. It was taken from Loch Garry in Perthshire, south of the main road and railway between Perth and Inverness, the source of the River Garry which flows through the Pass of Killiecrankie to the new Loch Faskally although, as a result of hydro-electric development, most of the water from the loch now passes by tunnel to Loch Ericht and thence to the Tummel Valley.

Barely two months before the Prince raised his standard in Glenfinnan, Lochgarry took a commission in Lord Louden’s Regiment, but, as soon as he heard of the Prince’s arrival, he left his command and joined the rising. Thus, he risked his life and property completely, as he could expect no clemency if taken prisoner. He served bravely throughout the campaign was wounded at Clifton, and took command of the Glengarry Regiment at Falkirk after the accidental death of Angus, second son of Glengarry. He stayed with the Prince to the bitter end, and embarked with him at Loch nan Uamh for France never to return.

Donald was a stern warrior and proud of his race. He could not bear to live under Hanoverian rule, even if he had been allowed to. He lived in Paris, always wore Highland dress and brought up his family there, for his wife had joined him. He entered the French Army as a colonel and was expressly excluded from the Act of Indemnity of 1747. Return was for him impossible; nor could he condone the return of any of his family to a land where such injustices had been committed.

John, his eldest son, also became a colonel in the French Army; but hearing of the Indemnity Act, he longed to see his native land again and left without telling his father.

The old man heard of his departure and overtook his son at Calais. John would not listen to his father’s orders. Donald, enraged, drew his dirk, and, flinging it after his son, pronounced the Curse. Broken-hearted he died not long after.

John became a colonel in the British Army and commanded the 76th Macdonald Highlanders at the request of Lord Macdonald who raised them. He remained in possession of Lochgarry and built a new house on the site of that burned in 1746.

But the weight of the Curse seemed to descend upon him. His health failed. The sights and sounds of the past seemed to haunt him. The ghost of his father was one manifestation. Bells rang, knocking was heard and shadowy figures flitted through the rooms. He was in the end obliged to shut the house and return to France where he died about 1790. He had never married so the descent came down through his younger brother.

Alexander, John’s brother, refused to risk the Curse and never returned to his country. He entered the Portuguese service and rose to high rank. He married Dona Maria Jose Jorge da Costa, daughter of the Count Soure, and had by her a son who succeeded him. During Alexander’s lifetime the house of Lochgarry was vacant.

John. the eldest son by a previous marriage, was Colonel of the 113th Regiment, married and had three daughters. He owned the estate and house, but does not seem to have had much joy there, for he sold most of it back to the Duke of Atholl in 1788, and died in 1798.

Anthony Maria, 2nd son of Alexander, returned to Scotland with his mother, the Dona Maria Jose, after the death of his father. He served with the 35th Regiment at Waterloo and spent most of his life in the Army so probably did not live much at Lochgarry House. If he did, again there seemed to be little peace there, for he sold the remainder of the estate with the house in 1828, and died at Kew in 1831 leaving a son and two daughters.

Alexander Anthony, only son of Anthony Maria, who was born in 1822, spent all his life in the Indian Army, so did not give the Curse much chance of falling upon him. He married and had two sons. He became Colonel in 1857 and died in India in 1870.

Arthur Anthony, eldest son of Alexander and 7th Lochgarry, was born in 1854 and became a Professor of Oriental Languages at Oxford with a worldwide reputation. During his lifetime the Curse once more comes to light. He decided to see whether there was anything in the stories he had heard from his family.

In 1920 he spent the night at the site of the old house. There was so much disturbance during that night; knocking on non-existent doors, ringing of non-existent bells, and a general air of unease that he left the place before dawn. The Professor was not one to have been unduly disturbed by psychic phenomena; and yet he could not last the night out. Surely there is something in it?

As far as we can tell today the Curse is still there. The present Lochgarry (nephew of the Professor), Wing Commander John A. Macdonnel, is resident in Montreal. His son, Ian, is in California. By a quirk of fate when in this country a few years ago, he went north to visit Invergarry and Loch Garry but missed seeing the Perthshire Loch Garry associated with the Curse.

Would any wish that the present members of the family should try out the efficiency of the Curse merely for curiosity? It would seem to be tempting Providence to do so.