Macdonald/Macdonell of Keppoch Chiefs – Historical Revisionism?

I’d recently found that my great great great grandfather Angus MacDonald/McDonnell was either 20th or 22nd Chief of Keppoch depending on where I looked. So, for example, Stirnet has him listed as Angus Macdonald, 20th of Keppoch (b 1800-1, d 28.02.1855). My cousin Hamish MacLaren has him listed as Angus (20th of Keppoch) MacDonell and cites Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage (1968), and Burke’s Peerage under “Maitland”, and Burke’s Landed Gentry (1937) under “Macdonell of Keppock”. I was a little confused as The Jacobite Peerage: Baronetage, Knightage & Grants of Honour (1904) mentions that Angus succeeded his cousin Sir Chichester MacDonell as 22nd Chief of Keppoch in 1838 (see here). Well, the Clan Donald site makes no mention of my ancestor Angus being either 20th or 22nd of Keppoch on the The Chiefs of Clan Donald page. So I decided to dig a little deeper.

I started by looking at the way Clan Donald and Stirnet show the order of Keppoch Chiefs side by side. They pretty much tally until the 10th Chief although spelling and dates are not identical (see table below):

Clan Donald Stirnet
Alasdair Carrach MacDonald1st of Keppoch Alexander (‘Alastair Carrach’)MacDonald (a 1431)

1st of Keppoch

Angus of Fersit MacDonald (-c.1470)2nd of Keppoch Angus Macdonald/Macdonell (a 1452)2nd of Keppoch
Donald MacDonald (-1497)3rd of Keppoch Donald Macdonald/Macdonell (d 1496)3rd of Keppoch
Iain Aluinn MacDonald (deposed 1498)4th of Keppoch John Macdonald4th of Keppoch
Alasdair nan Gleann MacDonald(-1498)

5th of Keppoch

Alastair Macdonald/Macdonell(d c1498-9)

5th of Keppoch

Donald Glas MacDonald(-c.1513)

6th of Keppoch

Donald Glas Macdonald/Macdonell(d c1517)

6th of Keppoch

Ranald Mor MacDonald(-1547)

7th of Keppoch

Ranald Macdonald/Macdonell(d 1547)

7th of Keppoch

Alasdair of Boloyne MacDonald(-1554)

8th of Keppoch

Alexander Buloyne Macdonald/Macdonell(d 1549)

8th of Keppoch

Ranald* Og MacDonald(-1587)

9th of Keppoch

Ranald Og Macdonald /Macdonell(a 1577)

9th of Keppoch

Alasdair nan Cleas MacDonald(-1635)

10th of Keppoch

Alastair ‘Nan Cleas’ Macdonald(d c1640)

10th of Keppoch

Stirnet then has Donald Glas Macdonald, (d c1656-7) as the 11th of Keppoch, who is actually second son of Alastair ‘Nan Cleas’ Macdonald (10th Keppoch). Clan Donald, however, has his older brother as being Ranald Og MacDonald (-1641) the 11th Chief of Keppoch although they do show Donald Glas Macdonald as 12th of Keppoch.

Stirnet sheds some light on this discrepancy by mentioning that it’s claimed that “Ranald was father of Angus Og (d 1640) who may have been father of Angus of Achnancoichean, father of Seaun Angus of Kenknock, a descendant of whom claimed to be Chief of Keppoch with that claim still being investigated in 1952″. Stirnet decides to use a source which shows Ranald as dsp (descessit sine prole; died without issue). Seeing that both Clan Donald and Stirnet seem to agree that Donald Glas Macdonald was either 11th or 12th Chief Keppoch and that he was succeeded by both his offspring and his younger brother Alasdair Buie MacDonald and his offspring, I’m not sure why it matters historically as to whether Ranald did or did not have any himself.

Anyway, apart from Clan Donald inserting in Ranald Og MacDonald as 11th of Keppoch, there isn’t a huge difference between their progression of Keppoch Chiefs and those on Stirnet . That said I’m assuming that the Alexander MacDonald that the Clan Donald have listed as the 13th of Keppoch is the same person that Stirnet have as Alastair Macdonald 12th of Keppoch, and also that Alexander Macdonell (-1746) 17th of Keppoch that Clan Donald have listed is the same person that Stirnet have listed as Alastair Macdonald/Macdonell (d Culloden 16.04.1746) 16th of Keppoch (see table below).

Clan Donald Stirnet
Alasdair nan Cleas MacDonald(-1635)

10th of Keppoch

Alastair ‘Nan Cleas’ Macdonald(d c1640)

10th of Keppoch

|

Ranald Og MacDonald (-1641)

[1st son of the above]

11th of Keppoch

|

Donald Glas Macdonald (d c1656-7)

[2nd son of the above]

11th of Keppoch

|

Donald Glas MacDonald (-1649)

[younger brother of the above]

12th of Keppoch

|

Alastair Macdonald

[son of the above]

12th of Keppoch

|

Alexander MacDonald (-1663)

[???]

13th of Keppoch

|

Alastair Buidhe Macdonald (-c.1665)

[younger brother Donald Glas]

13th of Keppoch

|

Alasdair* Buie MacDonald (-c.1669)

[younger brother Donald Glas]

14th of Keppoch

|

Archibald Macdonald (- c1688)

[2nd son(?) of above]

14th of Keppoch

|

Archibald Macdonell (-1682)
[poss 2nd son(?) of above]

15th of Keppoch

|

Coll Macdonald (b c1670, d c1723)

[son of above]

15th of Keppoch

|

Coll Macdonald (-1729)

[son of above]

16th of Keppoch

|

Alastair Macdonald (Macdonell)

(d Culloden 16.04.1746)

[son of above]

16th of Keppoch

|

Alexander Macdonell (-1746)

[poss. son of above]

17th of Keppoch

According to Stirnet the 17th Chief of Keppoch was my ancestor Angus Macdonell or Macdonald of Insch. Stirnet suggest that Angus was the illegitimate son of Alastair (16th of Keppoch) and succeeded is father as head of his clan until Alastair’s legitimate son Ranald came of age. Clan Donald don’t acknowledge this and have Ranald succeeding his father as 18th Chief of Keppoch.

What’s confusing me here is that you would have thought that the battle of Culloden provides an important historical event that would help establish who or who was not Chief at the time, and therefore discussion about previous genealogy and legitimacy would strike me as being by and large irrelevant. What would have been important is who the clan followed as chief at the time, not what historians, genealogists or lawyers decide about who ‘begat’ whom where and when over two centuries later. So I’m assuming that both Clan Donald and Stirnet seem to agree that the the 16th or 17th Chief led the clan into battle at Culloden and that he was either called Alexander or Alastair. In which case it’s what happens after that seems to be important and this is where Clan Donald and Stirnet seem to differ. Clan Donald show the following succession:

Alexander Macdonell (-1746)

17th of Keppoch

|
Major Ranald Macdonell (-1788)18th of Keppoch
|
Alexander Macdonell (-1808)
[younger brother of Ranald above]19th of Keppoch
|
Richard Macdonell (-1819)[son of Ranald above] 20th of Keppoch
|
Chichester Macdonell (-1848)
[son of Alexander above]21st of Keppoch

This succession seems to tally with The Jacobite Peerage: Baronetage, Knightage & Grants of Honour (1904) I mentioned above, which shows that my great great great grandfather Angus succeeded his cousin Sir Chichester MacDonell as 22nd Chief of Keppoch in 1838 (see here). However, Clan Donald seem to have now decided that Ranald Alasdair MacDonald, who as only inaugurated in 2006, is in fact the 22nd of Keppoch (see here).

Interestingly, Stirnet shows the succession as follows and this seems to tally with other sources on Scottish nobility as cited by cousin Hamish (see above):

Alastair Macdonald/Macdonell

(d Culloden 16.04.1746)

16th of Keppoch

|
Angus Macdonell/Macdonald of Insch(d after 1819)
[illegitamate son of the above]
17th of Keppoch
|
Ranald Macdonald(d 1795-8, Colonel)[son of Alastair above]18th of Keppoch
|
Richard Macdonald(d unm 1817)[son of Ranald above]
19th of Keppoch
|
Angus Macdonald(b 1800-1, d 28.02.1855)[son of Angus above]
20th of Keppoch

It’s probably worth showing a table how my great great great grandfather Angus is descended from the Alexander/Alastair (16th/17th Chief of Keppoch?) who died at Culloden by both his father Donald Macdonell of Keppoch and his mother Anne MacDonald:

Alastair/Alexander(died at Culloden?)

16th/17th of Keppoch?

m. Jessie Stewart

(dau of Robert Stewart, 8th of Appin)

Alastair/Alexander(died at Culloden?)

16th/17th of Keppoch?

m. Jessie Stewart

(dau of Robert Stewart, 8th of Appin)

|

Angus ‘ban’ Macdonell of Inch

[natural son of the above]

17th of Keppoch?

m. Christina Macdonald

of Achnacoichine

|

Barbara MacDonell of Keppoch

[daughter of the above]

m. Patrick (Rev of Kilmore) MacDonald

|

Donald Macdonell of Keppoch

[son of the above]

m. Anne MacDonald

|

Anne MacDonald

[daughter of the above]

m. Donald Macdonell of Keppoch

|

Angus MacDonald/MacDonell

20th/22nd of Keppoch?

[son of the above]

m. Christina McNab
of Shenaghairt

|

Angus MacDonald/MacDonell

20th/22nd of Keppoch?

[son of the above]

m. Christina McNab
of Shenaghairt

I’ve also seen a reference from a lecture in 1884 by the Rev. Dr. McDonald that suggests that Angus’ wife Christina McNab was also a great grandchild of McDonald of Keppoch, who was killed at Culloden (see here):

The McDonell family who occupied the modern Keppoch House, when I visited them, the old mansion being burned in 1746, were descended from Keppoch by the female line. The late Angus McDonell of Inch, and his wife, Christina McNab, of Badenoch, who is still living, were both the great grandchildren of McDonald of Keppoch, who was killed at Culloden, being descended from two daughters of old Keppoch. Mrs. McDonell, a most gifted and accomplished lady, was then living at Keppoch, and had in family one son, Donald, then in India and, I think, eight daughters living, all married except the two youngest. Although they were on the old Keppoch estate, they were paying rent to McIntosh of McIntosh, the present proprietor. Mrs. McDonell has since removed to London, where I believe she still resides.

Certainly they were the last MacDonald/McDonnell of Keppoch’s to be living at Keppoch House which according to Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) site was built by Ranald Macdonell (who the RCAHMS site describe as the 17th Chief of Keppoch, to replace the earlier house destroyed after the `45. Presumably this was by Cumberland Troops who according to RCAHMS site destroyed the famous Garadh nam Pearan – Pear Garden – of Keppoch in 1746 although apparently one pear tree is said to have survived (see here).

It appears Angus was a good man who died in l855 from smallpox which he caught whilst caring for the victims of an epidemic in Glasgow (see here). His son Donald Nicholas Macdonell died without issue and is seen by some accounts as being the 21st Chief of Keppoch.

The Clan Donald no longer seem to accept that my great great great grandfather Angus was either the 20th and 22nd Chief of Keppoch despite earlier sources including The Jacobite Peerage: Baronetage, Knightage & Grants of Honour by the Marquis of Ruvigny & Raineval (1904) seem to suggest that this was acknowledged at the time. I’m not attempting to dispute the legitimacy of the current Chief, only ask why the Clan Donald have seemingly decided to re-write history. I would argue that the Chief was whoever the clan decided was chief at the time regardless of any ongoing disputes. If a new chief is inaugurated later down the line then I would have thought he would have simply been added to the list rather than retrospectively decide that some previous chiefs were or were not legitimate or not. So why isn’t the current chief simply the 22nd or 24th depending on which succession you decide to use?

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7 thoughts on “Macdonald/Macdonell of Keppoch Chiefs – Historical Revisionism?

  1. Greetings,

    I am a professional genealogist with a particular interest in MacDonald / MacDonell of Keppoch in that I, too, thought that I was related to Angus Ban of Insch; however, as it turned out, I am of Glengarry.

    But, in pursuing my interest in Keppoch, I have acquired several books on the Clan and an extensive genealogical recording that may help you resolve your quandary.

    Cheers,

    Graham

    Graham Evan MacDonell
    Principal Researcher
    The Great Glen Genealogical Research Centre
    Suite 324 – 24 Station Square
    Inverness, Inverness-shire
    Scotland, UK IV1 1LD

    greatglen45@btinternet.com

    077 992 70210

  2. Love your page on the Keppoch Macdonalds. I noticed a little duplication on the Clan Donald Line – It had me confuesd at first in regard to the second table Alasdair* Buie MacDonald (-c.1669) [younger brother Donald Glas] 14th of Keppoch shows up twice in the list.

  3. In “Wild Scots” by Michael Fry, Allen and Flora (the Jacobite heroine) MacDonald of Kingsburgh, cousin to Alexander, led 50 family into Charleston S.C.; then up to Fayetteville N.C. They settled, then fought as Loyalists in 1776, with a promise to Allen that he might expect restitution of lands and property if England won. When England lost, Allen and Flora returned, but were refused restitution, disappearing into history. The rest stayed in, and “adapted” to American life. Two were brothers named McCaleb, whose father was killed at Culloden. One branch spread thru Kentucky, Indiana and into Illinois. The other from.N.C., thru Civil War, Arkansas sheriff, Texas Ranger, Wagonmaster of settlers to Idaho (Jessie McCaleb), founder of Mackey, Idaho;who Mount McCaleb is named after. Does any of this match up with, or add to your research??

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