Further to my recent post about the apparent historical revisionism by the Clan Donald as far as the Macdonald/Macdonell of Keppoch Chiefs are concerned, I recently found out some more about my ancestor “Angus Ban of Inch by Kathleen McDonald, Keppoch, Okoia, New Zealand” in the Clan Donald Magazine No 7 (1977) Online (see here). She points out that much has been written about “Alexander of Culloden and the phase of Scottish history through which he lived and died, but as little or nothing is known of the period of his life when he returned from France about 1719 and lived in Skye, the birthright of his eldest child, Angus Ban (born during this time) has proved rather a debatable question with historians”:
“Truth is an elusive quality when one tries to unravel history so, in order to evoke the flavour of the era into which Angus Ban was born, it would seem desirable to study fully the customs and laws of the period, its culture, characteristics and achievements. History tells us that handfasting, a system of trial marriage, was a tribal custom within the Scottish clan society. The parties contracted to live together for a year and a day and if there was no issue of their union the parties were then at liberty to dissolve the contract. If, however, a child was born during this time the father became responsible for the mother and child, thus regulating the union. The significance of this type of relationship cannot be underrated and the symbols of tribal order overlooked because they are not of our present day culture. Marriage laws as we know them were then totally non-existent.”
Kathleen McDonald’s account shows that the mother died shortly after Angus’ birth and the father became responsible for him, thereby “following the concept of a valid relationship of love and trust within a tribal order”. She says there can be little doubt, that had the mother lived “she would have been written in the annals of history as the wife of Alexander Keppoch of Culloden“:
“It might not have been considered a political marriage for the young Keppoch as marriages of convenience played their own pan in these affairs but nevertheless it has the hallmarks of being a valid one. Keppoch at that time was not committed to another, nor did he avail himself of the custom of fosterage which consisted of an infant, particularly an illegitimate one, being sent to be reared in another family of the clan. The father kept his child close by him throughout his life and brought him up in the love and intimacy of his family home. It does appear therefore as if Angus Ban, instead of being illegitimate, rather succeeded to the burdensome heritage of a tribal marriage union for it must not be overlooked that he was born and nurtured amid the influences of a system now passed.”
According to Kathleen McDonald’s account the family tradition has it that in every way the boy was treated as the dearly loved eldest son and that his stepmother recognized this by her devotion and acceptance in placing her eight young children and herself under the influence and protection of Angus Ban after her husband’s death. She also points out that it’s recorded in family history by the late Josephine M. MacDonell of Keppoch that:
“Angus acted a father to the family. They made no attempt to dispute his place as Chief, and his brother Ranald in 1757 entered the 78th or Frazer’s Highlanders, not as Keppoch but ‘Son of Keppoch’ ten years after his father’s death, which showed he looked on Angus as rightful Chief, Angus resigned to his brother about 1759 because he having taken part in the rising for Prince Charles Edward, his life was under attainder, and to try and save the lands, by his advice Ranald applied for a grant of the Keppoch lands through the Duke of Gordon, then Lord of Lochaber; this he obtained, and retained them till his (Ranald’s) death, when MacKintosh got hold of them thro’ his long deferred Charter obtained after the first battle of Inverlochy.”
Given that the issue of legitimacy is by all accounts the product of the Norman feudal system as it appeared in England and then I’d agree with those that say it has no place in the Scots Clan system since the Norman influence in Scotland manifested itself differently than it did in England. Apparently, in the Keppoch Clan history there is precedence, as far as I am aware from the Clan Donald Forums (see here), for an illegitimate child being made heir and subsequently Chief of one of the branches of the Clan.
In which case I find it hard to understand why Angus Ban and his grandson are not still considered to be Keppoch Chiefs. Perhaps my post on the Clan Forum will help clarify this.