The MacDonells of Lochgarry

This prominent family is descended from Ranald MacDonell, 10th of Glengarry and 2nd of Scotus. Ranald, with the concurrence of Alexander, his eldest son and heir apparent granted under sasine, dated 16th December, 1696, the five penny lands of Sandaig in Knoydart to John, his “second lawful son now in life…. following on precept of sasine contained in the contract of wadset, dated 22nd November, 1693, between Ronald and Alexander of Glengarrie and the said John McDonell” [Scottish Record Office, Gen. Reg. of Sasines 3/71 (318-321)]. Neither John MacDonell of Sandaig nor his sons, Donald and Angus, signed the address to George I, the Elector of Hanover, in 1714. John died in 1725 when he was succeeded as 2nd of Sandaig, by his elder son.

Donald, 2nd of Sandaig was a man of great talent and was appointed by his cousin german and Chief, John MacDonell of Glengarry, Factor of the Glengarry estates, a position which he held from 1733 until 1744. Due to his immense business acumen Donald obtained from Glengarry in wadset, the lands of Abertarff, Ardochy, Ballachean, Badantoig, Cullachy, Glenlee and Wester Aberchalder. In 1736 he obtained the lands of Innerhadden in Perthshire, in feu, from James, Duke of Athole and in 1738 agreed, with Allan Stewart, wadsetter of Innerhadden to make an excambion of the purchases they had each recently made from Athole. Stewart gave up his right to Drumachine and Drumchaisteal to Donald while the latter relinquished his right to Innerhadden in favour of Stewart, and the Duke granted each of them new feu rights. Donald continued to acquire more property in Perthshire, comprising the lands of Dalnafhraoich, Dalanlongart, Dalantiruaine, Dalnacardoch, Dalnaspidal, Dalnamein, Pitcastle and Tomnakildonach, and assumed the designation “of Lochgarry” from Loch Garry, in Perthshire, described in The New Statistical Account of Scotland as “situated in Drumuachdar (Drumochter) and very near the boundary-line of the counties of Perth and Inverness… It is surrounded by very high hills, and thus appears to be as it were in a den, – hence the etymology of the name. Garaidh is a common Gaelic word, signifying a den. The lake is about six miles in circumference and., abounds in large and excellent trout.” Another source, however, states that the name of this Loch Garry, which must not be confused with its namesake in Inverness-shire on the Glengarry estates, was originally rendered Goirid, Anglicised as gorrie, meaning short, applying to a small loch or widening of the river in front of a knoll on which Lochgarry House stood.

In 1737, Donald married Isobel, second daughter of John Gordon of Glenbucket (“Old Glenbucket”), whose elder sister, Helen, had married John MacDonell of Glengarry in 1728. He became actively engaged in the Watch for the prevention of cattle lifting and depredations in the Highlands and requested the Duke of Athole to use his influence to procure for him a lieutenancy in the Army. Although a staunch Jacobite, Lochgarry could not at that time have foreseen the events which were to take place a few years later in 1745-46. Commissary Bisset wrote on 14th June, 1742 to his master, the Duke of Athole that

“Shiandeck (Sandaig) hath behaved exceedingly well in our wath (watch). Since he sett out the same, about three weeks agoe, there hath not since that time a six pence worth stole out of any part of Athole, altho’ no less than fourteen severall herdships were driven from the braes of Angus and Mearns through the Forrests of Marre (Marr) and Badenoch to Rannoch and Lochaber. Shiandeck haveing given a cerrtificate that he’ll seize all of them that will daur pass or repass through any of the hills of Atholl…”

In 1744 Glengarry, Keppoch and Lochiel drew up and signed an agreement for the prevention of thefts and depredations by some of their dependents and among the deputes appointed by Glengarry were Donald MacDonell of Lochgarry and his brother Angus MacDonell of Greenfield.

Donald at last obtained his desired commission in June 1745 when he was gazetted Lieutenant in the Highland regiment then raised under the command of the Earl of Loudon but the arrival in Scotland of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was to put an end to Lochgarry’s aspirations for advancement in the British Army. His Memorial to Young Glengarry, written after the failure of the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46 gives a clear view of the events from a Glengarry point of view and it is considered not inappropriate to quote therefrom in this article.

After the Prince had landed on the Scottish mainland, Keppoch and Lochiel held a meeting with Lochgarry and Glenbucket, Angus, Glengarry’s second son having gone to call on Robertson of Struan whose niece he had married. Those Chiefs informed Lochgarry that if

“Glengarie’s men wou’d not join, they would return to the Prince and plainly tell him that their joining wou’d only expose his Royll person with any men they could make.”

Lochgarry knew the intentions of Alexander [Alasdair Ruadh, or Red(haired) Alexander], Glengarry’s eldest son, who was then in France serving as an officer in the French Army, which were that his

“people shou’d be ready to receive His Royll Hs. at Laggan Achedroom (Achadrom) and conduct his Royll person to the castle of Innergarie…”

At their meeting they received information that three companies of Government troops were to march from Inverness to Fort William and another three companies from Ruthven Barracks in Badenoch were to escort provisions to Fort Augustus. Lochgarry undertook to attack the party going to Fort Augustus and lay in ambush with a party of Glengarry men for three days at the top of the Corryarrick Pass. The expected companies failed to appear but Lochgarry had the consolation of taking prisoner one, Captain Sweetenham, officer commanding at Ruthven Barracks, who passed by on 14th August (old style), on his way to Fort William where his services as an engineer were required. Lochgarry handed over his prisoner to Glenbucket, his father-in-law, who delivered him to the Prince. Lochgarry relates:

“Upon the 19th Augt. the Royll standard was set up in Glenfinnan. On the 26th… his R.Hs. with Clanranald, Lochiel’s and Keppoch’s men, came to Laggan Auchentroom (Achadrom) Yr. brother (i.e. Angus), who had met H.R.Hs. at Ratlich, came up to me at Laggan where I had all the Glengary men, conveen’d. H.R.Hs. arrived there at 8 o’clock at night, where I had the happiness to kiss his hand, and then marched with him to the Castle of Innergarie and had the command of his guard that night. That same day young Scotus and young and old Barrisdales arrived at Auchendroom (Achadrom) with your Cnoidart (Knoydart) and Morar men, who made a very handsome appearance before the Prince, being compleatly armed, and most of them had targes”.

Lochgarry was appointed a member of the seventeen man council formed by the Prince after the victory over Sir John Cope’s army at Prestonpans and during the march south into England Lochgarry assumed the command of the Glengarry Regiment in the absence of Glengarry’s second son, Angus, who had returned with Barrisdale to the North in search of further recruits. The retreat from Derby began on Black Friday, 6th December, 1745 and is described by Lochgarry thus:

“Lord George Murray, who always had the rear, chose our regiment for the rearguard, tho’ it was not our turn. When we came to Kendal, we had accounts of the enemy’s being close in our rear; and our regiment having…likewise the charge of the artillery… the rear could not reach Chap (Shap) that night, (17th December)… Lord George took up our quarters in a little village, where we rested that night on our arms, without throwing a stitch of cloaths, as we were sure the enemy was very near us. Next day…. for want of proper horses the artillery was very fashious, and a last load with cannon shot happening to break on the road, upon Lord George’s giving a hearty dram to the men, they carried some one, some two, some three of the shot, with all their arms and accoutrements… All this day the enemy’s horse were in our rear, but made no attack. This night we came to Chap, and after placing our guards and sentinelles, Lord George, the other gentlemen, and I, took up our quarters about 8 o’clock at night. Some of the enemy’s horse had come up and attacked our guards, which occasion’d our being the second night under arms… About half way to Penrith we saw at some distance, the numbers of about 5 or 600 horse, whom we took to be part of our own army; but upon coming near us they made a form to attack us. There were militia sent to interrupt our march; but by a detachment sent to attack them giving them a smart fire, which kill’d two or three of them, they were routed, and fled,… so we marched on until we came to Clifton, within two short miles of Penrith, where the Prince and his army lay. Here Lord George gott account that some of the enemy were come to the house of Lowtherhall, about a mile’s distance on our left. He desired me to ask the men (as he knew they were fatigued) if they were willing to attack that house. They answer’d me that they were most willing. Upon which we marched and surrounded the house, and only found in it one officer, with a footman of the Duke of Cumberland’s whom he had sent before to take up quarters for him. Upon our return to Clifton, we perceived the enemy to the number of about 3000 horse, advance by this time within lA of a mile of Clifton. Cluny and his McPhersons, to about the number of 300 men, happened to be at this village, Lord George ordered them on one post on the side of the road, and our regiment (500 strong) on another on the other side. It was then about nightset, when the enemy, being all horse, dismounted – I can’t condescend on their number (Lord George says 500), being then dark – and attack’d the McPhersons, who received them, and after a close fire for some time on both sides, the enemy were repulsed. Upon this they sent a stronger body to attack us both, which came directly upon us, and it being then quite dark…..we only heard the noise of their boots, and could plainly discern their yellow belts. We first received their full fire, which did us little damage. We immediately gave them ours, and then attacked them sword in hand, and obliged them to retreat with a considerable loss… We brot all the artillery safe, and lost very few men at the attack at Clifton. I received a small wound there myself in the knee, and no other gentleman touched…”

Lochgarry again took over the command of the Glengarry Regiment after the accidental death of its Colonel, Angus, Glengarry’s second son, on 20th January, 1746, the nominal commmand then passing to James (later of Glenmeddle), Glengarry’s third son, a mere boy. Regarding the Battle of Culloden, Lochgarry says:

“The McDonells had the left that day, the Prince having agreed to give the right to Lord George and his Atholmen. Upon which Clanronald, Keppoch, and I spoke to his R.Hs. upon the subject, and he begg’d he wou’d allow us our former right, but he intreated us for his sake we wou’d not dispute it, as he had already agreed to give it to Lord George and his Atholmen; and I heard H.R.Hs. say that he resented it much, and he shou’d never doe the like if he had occasion for it. Your Regt. that I had the honr. to command at this battle was about 500 strong, and that same day your people of Glenmorrison were on their march to join us, on the other side of Lochness”.

Lochgarry’s brother, Angus of Greenfield, was wounded in the battle but escaped.

When the Jacobites assembled as planned at Glenmallie, to attempt to continue the war, their force was only about one third of the expected number, being about 400 men of which one half were Lochiel’s and the remainder provided mainly by Lochgarry and Barrisdale. According to Murray of Broughton, Lochgarry proposed to lie in wait with six or seven of his best marksmen to ambush Cumberland on the road between Fort Augustus and Fort William and that he would probably have succeeded had not he – Murray – prevented him from so doing. Lochgarry makes no mention of this in his Narrative. After seeing that his men had been paid, he left, promising to return within a few days and at the same time to, observe Loudon’s movements; but he was unable to keep either promise as Loudon was already marching through Glengarry with the intention of entrapping the force with Lochiel and Barrisdale.

Lochgarry was among the last to hold out and offer resistance against the Hanoverian Government forces. He with about a dozen trusted followers set themselves with determination to defend his cattle in Glen Cia-aig, near the east end of Loch Arkaig, where they had been driven for safety. “There were three different attacks made on me, as the enemy knew where I skulked; I faced them fairly every time and beat them off, by which they lost severalls killed and wounded, this was but a small affair, but the only blood drawn from the enemy after the Battle o’ Culloden” wrote Lochgarry. His exploits are given in more detail by Patrick Grant, leader of the celebrated Men of Glenmoriston thus:

“Some time after the battle of Culloden (about the beginning of June) some bickerings happened between some parties of redcoats and Lochgary who had along with him about a dozen stout, resolute fellows, taking care of his cattle, that in Glenkiaig, Lochgary, and his said attendants killed three redcoats in defending his own cattle, and that about eight days thereafter they killed, much about the same place, eight redcoats more, and chased the party to the distance of some miles, Lochgary, finding such difficulty in preserving his own cattle, sold them afterwards to Clunes Cameron.”

Lochgarry soon after joined the Prince in his wanderings on the mainland. Ever an optimist he offered to have the Glengarry men ready within forty eight hours and to attack and surprise the garrison at Fort Augustus, which was about 800 strong, in his efforts to persuade the Prince to agree to renew the campaign and might well have succeeded but for the fact that neither Locheil nor Cluny considered it possible on account of the strength of the enemy in the country and it was instead decided that the best course would be to find the most expedient means of going over to France and on 19th September, 1746 he embarked with the Prince and other Jacobite gentlemen. The Prince procured for him a lieutenant-colonelcy in the French service and a pension of 3000 livres. His wife and numerous young family, after the burning of Lochgarry House and the devastation of their property by the Butcher’s soldiers, made their home at Cullachy, of which property Lochgarry had been wadsetter since 1738, although Alasdair Ruadh, 13th of Glengarry, later unsuccessfully pleaded to the Government that this wadset had been redeemed, until they were eventually able to join him in France.

Lochgarry returned to Scotland again and again, in spite of being attainted, risking his life in his efforts to whip up enthusiasm among the clans for another rising in favour of the House of Stuart, a hope which, alas, was never to be realised. When, with Dr. Archibald Cameron, he visited Scotland in 1753 in connection with the Elibank Plot, he narrowly escaped capture and returned to France. According to family tradition, when he heard that his eldest son John had agreed to return to Britain and join the British Army, he is said to have followed him to Calais and after failing to persuade him to change his mind, pronounced the following curse:

“My curse on any of my race who puts his foot again on British shore; my double curse on he, who of my race may submit to the Guelph (i.e. the House of Hanover) and my deadliest curse on he who may try again to regain Lochgarry!”

He then threw his dirk after his son, and turned his back for ever on him he had loved the best.

Some time after the disbandment of the Scots Brigade in French service Lochgarry, who was Lieutenant-Colonel of Ogilvie’s Regiment, took sevice with Portugal. The Prince sent his congratulations to his most loyal adherent. Alexander, his second son, who held a commission in his father’s regiment also joined the Portuguese Army.

Donald, 2nd of Sandaig and Lochgarry died at Paris. His elder son John had obtained a commission in Ogilvie’s Regiment in 1747 but, as stated above, he decided to return to Britain about 1754 and probably with the help of his Chief, Alasdair Ruadh, obtained a commission in the British Army. On 18th May, 1757, “Captain John MacDonell, of General Frazer’s regiment” before leaving for America made Glengarry his “factor and attorney, and executor and legatee”. John, Younger of Lochgarry, served with Frazer’s Highlanders under Wolfe and was wounded at Quebec in 1759, fighting against his former allies, the French. He had attained the rank of Major in his regiment, when Lord MacDonald of Slate raised the 76th (MacDonald’s) Highlanders in 1777 and Lochgarry, which by the death of his father he had now become, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel-Commandant of the new regiment. Before he could take up his appointment, however, he was taken prisoner on board ship for America, a strange coincidence reminscent of an incident, in November 1745, in which his late Chief and benefactor had met a similar fate. The family estates were restored to Colonel John, 3rd of Lochgarry, in 1784 and he had a fine modern house built on the site of the old one which had been destroyed in 1746 but the effects of the Curse began to be felt. His fine health began to fail and strange occurences in the house such as the ringing of bells, knocking at the door by unseen hands and glimpses of a shadowy figure, thought, perhaps to be the ghost of his father come to haunt him, played so much upon his nerves that he was forced to shut it up and take up residence in London where he died, unmarried on 5th October 1760.

The second son, Alexander, 4th o Lochgarry entered the Portuguese service in 1764, becoming Captain in 1780, Colonel in 1794 and Lieutenant-General in 1796, from which time he held office in the Royal Palace. He was naturalised as a Portuguese subject in 1808. He married firstly, an Irish lady, Elizabeth Archbold, by whom he had one son, Archibald John, who entered the 3rd Regiment of Foot as Ensign and became Lieutenant-Colonel of the 113th Regiment. He married Sarah, daughter of James Reynolds, Birmingham, with issue, three daughters and died in 1798. Alexander married secondly, Dona Maria Jose Jorge da Costa, daughter of the Count of Soure by whom he had one son, Anthony Maria. General Alexander MacDonell of Lochgarry died in 1812, after which his widow came to Scotland with her son, who succeeded to Lochgarry.

The new laird, who had been nominated a page of honour in the Portuguese Royal Palace, in recognition of his noble ancestry, inherited a royal pension which had been conferred on his mother in 1802. After taking possession of Lochgarry, Anthony Maria entered the British Army as an Ensign in the 35th Regiment and fought at Waterloo for which he received a medal. He later became a Captain in the 10th Hussars and in 1828 sold what remained of the Lochgarry Estate back to the Athole Family, a portion having, in 1788, been sold to the Duke of Athole for £4870 by his uncle, Colonel John MacDonell, 3rd of Lochgarry. It was said that the Curse laid by his grandfather on any who returned to Lochgarry continued to haunt the family. Captain Anthony MacDonell, 5th of Lochgarry married, in 1820, Cassandra Eliza MacDonald, daughter of Major Ross Darby by whom he had a son, Alexander Anthony and two daughters who died unmarried. He died at Kew in April, 1831 at the age of 33 and was succeeded by his son.

Alexander Anthony, 6th of Lochgarry was born at Perth on 1 lth January, 1822 and entered the Indian Army in 1840. He was an Ensign in the 40th Bengal Native Infantry in 1841 and in 1842 received the Kandahar Medal. He was promoted Captain in 1852, Major in 1859, Lieutenant-Colonel in 1862, and Colonel in 1867. He married in 1852, Margaret Jane, eldest daughter of Lachlan MacLean of Rum by his wife Isabella, daughter of Captain MacKenzie of Hartfield, by whom he had:- 1. Arthur Anthony; 2. Henry Edward; 3. Sophia Adelaide Hastings and 4. Flora Lindsay, who married, in 1882, David George Ritchie, Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, later Professor of Logic at the University of St. Andrews, with issue, Flora Aitken. Colonel Alexander MacDonell died at Mussouri, India, on 4th June, 1870 when he was succeeded by his elder son.

Arthur Anthony MacDonell, 7th of Lochgarry was born in India in 1854 and educated at Gottingen where he also attended the University. He matriculated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1876, gaining a classical exhibition there and three scholarships in the University, for German, Sanskrit and Chinese. He graduated with classical honours in 1880 and was appointed Taylorian Teacher of German at the University. He was appointed Deputy Professor of Sanskrit in 1888 and Boden Professor of Sanskrit in 1899. In 1883 he became Ph.D. in the University of Leipzig. He edited various Sanskrit texts, wrote a Sanskrit grammar, compiled a Sanskrit dictionary, published a work on Vedic Mythology and a history of Sanskrit. He is said to have visited Lochgarry in 1920 for the purpose of testing the validity of the Curse and to have attempted to spend the night on the site of the old house but due to the disturbance in the form of knocking on non-existent doors, ringing of non-existent bells and a general feeling of unease he was obliged to abandon the site before dawn. He married, in 1890, Mary Louise, youngest daughter of William Lowson of Balthayoch, Perthshire, by whom he had: 1. Alastair Somerled, born in 1893, who died young; 2. Flora Lindsay, born in 1891 and 3. Mona Isobel, born in 1895. Professor Arthur MacDonell died in 1930, when he was succeeded in the representation of the family by his brother.

Henry Edward MacDonell, 8th of Lochgarry was born in London in 1864 and was educated at the Military Academy, Dresden, and the Oxford Military College. He emigrated to Canada where he became associated with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He settled in Nelson, British Columbia and married in 1886, Ethel, daughter of Colonel Taylor, Winnipeg, Manitoba, by whom he had: 1. Flora, who died in 1894 and 2. John Alexander, his successor.

John Alexander MacDonell, 9th of Lochgarry was born in 1901 and entered the Royal Military College of Canada. He served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, taking part in several missions over France and was Officer Commanding at Torquay Air Base attaining the rank of Group Captain. He was Manager and Secretary of St. James Club, a men’s food and beverage club in Montreal, from about 1950 until 1969. He was elected Joint-President of the Clan Donald Society of Canada on its formation in Toronto in 1961. He married Marjory Parlow of Ottawa, Ontario, by whom he had, Ian Allan, his successor.

Ian Allan MacDonell, 10th of Lochgarry was born in Montreal in 1932 and graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada and McGill University. He served for a short time with the Canadian Black Watch and in 1959 qualified as a Chartered Accountant, in which year he moved to San Francisco to take up a post as a Certified Public Accountant. He later moved to Sacramento where he took up an appointment with a prominent accounting, financial and data processing firm. He married Jill Booth of Tilton, New Hampshire, U.S.A. by whom he has:- 1. John Booth, born in 1961 at San Francisco, California; 2. James Taylor, born in 1964 at Sacramento, California; 3. Katharine Sue, born in 1967 at Sacramento, California; 4. Lucinda Ann, born in 1971 at Lake Tahoe, California.

The future of this renowned family would therefore appear to be assured.


1. Captain Anthony Maria MacDonell, 5th of Lochgarry.
2. Colonel Alexander Anthony MacDonell, 6th of Lochgarry.
3. Professor Arthur Anthony MacDonell, 7th of Lochgarry.
4. Group Captain John Alexander MacDonell, 9th of Lochgarry.
5. Ian Allan MacDonell, 10th of Lochgarry.