Clan MacDonald history - Scotland Magazine

Clan MacDonald history

One of the oldest Scottish clans, Clan MacDonald was once so powerful they ruled much of western Scotland

Clan MacDonald (or Clan Donald) is one of Scotland’s largest clans, with over 40 tartans and incorporates the senior branches of Keppoch, Sleat, Clanranald, Glengarry and Glencoe.

Its origins, like those of Clan MacDougall, go back to Somerled, a warrior born about 1113. He was styled Lord of the Isles, and was killed at the Battle of Renfrew. His son was Dòmhnall Mac Raghnuill, whose son, in turn, gave the clan its name. The MacDonald lands covered most of western Scotland and the northwest seaboard, and the clan was so powerful that its chief wielded almost as much power as the king.

The Maclan MacDonalds will forever be known for the fate that befell them at the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692, but the MacDonalds were no angels, frequently attacking and capturing Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, for instance – on one occasion in 1545 they stripped Urquhart of its furniture, canon and gate.

Perhaps the best known MacDonald was Flora, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie cross from the island of Benbecula to Skye after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Finlaggan Castle on Islay, and Armadale Castle on Skye, are considered the spiritual homes of the clan.

The current High Chief of Clan Donald is Godfrey James Macdonald of Macdonald, 8th Baron Macdonald.

There are many official MacDonald tartans depending on the clan sept. The main ones are MacDonald Ancient, MacDonald Modern and MacDonald Weathered.
There are numerous family crests, including “Or, a hand in armour fess ways holding a cross-crosslet fitchee gules” and “argent, a lion rampant gules, armed and langued azure”. The motto is “Per Mare per Terras” (“by sea and by land”).

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