The High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs Appoints a Piper

The High Council of Clan Donald, being: The Right Honourable Godfrey James Macdonald of Macdonald, Lord Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald; The Much Honoured Sir Ian Bosville Macdonald of Sleat, Baronet of Nova Scotia, Chief of Clan Uisdein; The Much Honoured Aeneas Ranald Euan MacDonell of Glengarry, Chief of Glengarry; The Much Honoured Ranald Alexander Macdonald of Clanranald, the Captain and Chief of Clanranald; and The Right Honourable Alexander Randal Mark MacDonnell, the Earl of Antrim, Chief of Antrim; is pleased to announce:

The appointment of Archibald Duncan Ogilvie (Archie) McIntyre as Piper to the High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs.

Archie McIntyre is a long-serving member of Clan Donald. The McIntyres or Macintyres (Mhic an t-Saoir) were originally Macdonalds. Tradition tells us that the first man so named was one of the Chief’s bodyguards who, together with his fellow bodyguards, were rowing the Chief at sea when the bung came out and got hidden from view. With the boat sinking, he instantly stuck his thumb in the hole, cut it off with his dirk and went back to his oar and rowing, thus saving all aboard from certain death. Thereafter he was named An t-Saoir, the (ship’s) carpenter. His sons became Mhic an t-Saoir and so the McIntyres were founded. [1]

As time passed, the McIntyres became numerous enough to form their own independent clan and set off to do so. They took boat and on making shore, the new Chief said that where the lead white cow lay down to rest would be their land. She took the herd and the Clan up the north side of Ben Cruachan along Loch Etive until they came to Glenoe where she lay down to rest. The McIntyres made that their home and there they remained for the following many centuries.

The picture below is of Loch Etive in Argyllshire with Ben Cruachan as the backdrop, taken from Archie’s sister Kirsty’s house. The McIntyres fought alongside their neighbours, the Stuarts of Appin, in the ’45. The Suaicheantas or Badge of the McIntyres is that of the Macdonalds, Fraoch Gorm, common heather.

A family of McIntyres were hereditary pipers to the Chiefs of Clanranald and in 1983, Archie was invited by the present Chief and Captain of Clanranald to take up that position again. He did so, thus re-entering Clan Donald proper.

Archie was brought up on the mountain-side of Ben Cruachan, and on leaving school, he joined the British Army and was a professional soldier from 1957 through 1964. He was commissioned from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and the Royal Military Police. He soldiered in the United Kingdom, North Africa, Cyprus, Portugal, and Kenya.

Archie has studied the pipes from the age of six; initially taught by his father and later by the renowned Pipe Major Donald MacLeod of the Seaforth Highlanders, whose pupil he remained from 1957 until Pipe Major MacLeod’s death in 1984. Pipe Major MacLeod put Archie in for his first piping competition and he won a number of prizes at the Highland Games.

On leaving the army, Archie went into international business and travelled the world amongst other capacities as Sales Director of British Telecom International, always taking his practice chanter, and frequently his full bagpipes, with him.

Archie has composed many pipe tunes, a number of them for senior Clan Donald members. He is at present composing a tune to be called The High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs, to be played to announce the Chiefs’ presence when they meet in High Council.

After the Chief and his heirs, Archie, as First Gentleman of the Household, is the senior member of the Household of Clanranald, a position he has held for some 25-years.  Two years ago was further appointed Head of Clanranald Protocol.

On hearing the news of his appointment, Archie said “I am very honoured with the appointment of Piper to the High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs, which I believe to be the greatest piping honour one could wish for.”

14 September 2005.

Footnote: We may have an example of McIntyre modesty here, or perhaps post-modern coyness regarding what I would describe as commendable chicanery in the service of one’s King! Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton on the marriage of Somerled and Ragnhild Olafsdottir relates that:

Olaf the Red must have recognised that the rise of the young Somerled was a force to be reckoned with. When the young Gaelic patriot sent messages to him desiring the hand of his daughter in marriage, the proud king at first refused disdainfully, telling him that the fair Ragnhilda’s hand was to be bestowed upon someone much more important. Somerled bided his time—but not for long.

It chanced that on an occasion when Olaf was on a voyage north with a few ships to administer justice in Skye, his galley was at anchor in the lee of the Point of Ardnamurchan. Somerled too was in his galley in the same bay, probably by design. The story goes that in Somerled’s crew there was a skilful ship-wright, one Maurice MacNeil, who suggested a plan to make Olaf see reason in regard to the disposal of Ragnhilda’s hand. The Gaelic chief agreed; and the Saor Sleibhteach (Sleat Carpenter) swam across under cover of darkness, bored several holes along the garboard strake of Olaf’s galley, stuffed them with tallow and retreated.

The two chiefs set sail for Skye next morning, the galleys rounded the headland and as they pitched and rolled in the Atlantic swell the tallow soon gave way and Olaf’s galley began to sink. The haughty King hailed Somerled and requested help, but he refused any assistance until Olaf agreed to the marriage of Ragnhilda. Reluctantly the promise was given; and the carpenter of Sleat dived over the side and plugged the holes with wooden pins which he had thoughtfully provided.

Thus were the fortunes of the Maclntyres assured, for Maurice was held high in the esteem of the ruling family from that time. As late as the 18th century, the famous bard, Duncan Ban Macintyre (Mac an t-Saoir), refers to the Saor Sleibhteach as his ancestor.

A romantic story, perhaps, but like some others there may be a grain of truth in it. In 1140 Somerled did marry his fair bride, and all Macdonalds who claim descent from that union, and there must be many thousands, may also claim to have the blood of this romantic princess in their veins.

This would mean that the MacIntyres pre-date the MacDonalds by 2 generations. The main house of the MacIntyres of Glen Noe were certainly loyal to the MacSorley Kingdom and Macdonald Lordship of the Isles throughout. RKWM