Angus MacDonnell, xx or xxii of Keppoch?

I’ve included an extract below from MacDonald Bards: from Mediaeval Times written by Keith Norman MacDonald, M.D. in 1900. It includes a sketch of my great great great Grandfather Angus MacDonell of Keppoch, together with a poem of his. What’s interesting is that K.N. Macdonald refers to Angus as XXll of Keppoch, and says that represented the chieftainship from 1831 until the time of his death in 1855. I’ve written at length about how his chieftainship no longer seems to be recognised by Clan Donald (see here), which is interesting as there’s plenty of records from the time that show that he was considered to have been by at least some of his clan.


The subject of this sketch, Augus MacDonell, xxii. of Keppoch,* was a grandson of Barbara, daughter of “the gallant Keppoch,” of “the forty-five,” and of the Rev. Patrick MacDonald of Kilmore and Kilbride, the author of the famous collection of Highland airs published in 1784.

He represented the chieftainship from 1831 until the time of his death. He married Christina MacNab, of the MacNab’s of Inishowen, Mwho was a grand-daughter of Charlotte, the youngest daughter of the famous hero of Culloden already mentioned, and, therefore, a second cousin of his own, by whom he had a large family. He was a very handsome man—tail, fair, wellknit together—and inherited some of the best traits of his distinguished ancestors. A staunch Jacobite, of course, and full of the ardour of his patriotic race he would have been an ideal chief, and no doubt if occasion had arisen during his time he would have been found “aye ready” for any emergency, and would have shown that the blood of the Keppochs had not in the slightest degree degenerated. He wrote several pieces of poetry, chiefly in a humorous or satirical vein,
all of which, except one, have been mislaid or lost. He also saved some traditional papers relating to the family, which were in the possession of his uncle, John MacDonald of Inch, and who was on the eve of burning them a short time before his death. The specimen of his versification appended does not reproduce all he could
have done. It was simply written one evening after dinner to create some amusement for his guests, among whom was the author of the subject for which the lines were written. The following are parts of the poem in question, being a reply to adverse criticisms on a prayer-book written by the Rev. Father Rankine, the priest at Badenoch, and after at Moidart.


Ye critics spare your savage look,
Have mercy on poor Rankin’s book,
What! though there’s here and there a blunder,
Jaw-breaking words like distant thunder.
Know then, renown was not his aim,
Nor glory, yet, nor sounding fame,
Ye that see his faults too many,
His book -was made to gain the penny.
Don’t twit him with a deed so foul,
As gaining to his creed one soul.
Then critic spare his crippled verse,
To clink the Geordies in his purse,
In labour tossed, his infant brain
Conceived a thought brought forth with pain.
And Rankin is a man of feeling,
Tho’ Owen says he has been stealing
From leaves that lay on shelves for years,
Bronzed by the smoke that moves our tears ;
Where the spider wove in peaceful toil,
Since Owen did possess the soil.
Poor insect he must shift position,
The subject now of inquisition;
The cankered worm his work traduced,
Behold the web he has produced.
M.A. is added to his name,
Not by merit—’tis pilfered fame.
Owen lost his title and his book,
The one he lent, the other Rankin took.
Curious that the title page
Didn’t esi-ape the critics rage :
All the notice that it claims
Is that it’s wronfj in all its aims ;
And still we see it spreading wide,
Fast gaining ground on every side.
We wonder how this came to pass,
Yet no ! behold Sir Hudibras ;
A great brain turned topsy turvey,
When of his work we take a survey.
Verbs and nouns placed far asunder,
As Colossus’ legs where ships sail under;
He spurned all rules of moods and tense,
Because they’re used by men of sense.
From whence his words, that ill-spelt rabble,
Were they used at the tower of Babel ?
A Gaelic book in broad Scotch idiom,
Like the hotch-potch that mortals feed on.
As changeable in confoundations
As the souls in transmigration ;
No points or periods where they should
That would be given if he could.
Where’er there’s doubt in prose or song,
He’s always sure to take the wrong ;
A tortured fancy groans a sound,
Like Titans fighting under ground.
Who then put in his head that foible
Queen Bess’ ghost with Cranmer’s bible.
Lucre! the man pretends to scorn,
His book is bought like bill-reform.
The people stared with greedy look
Lured by the bait that hid the hook ;
What motley crew of b-b-b-bastards
Were to their view on paper plastered ;
Pandora’s box sent out all evils.
But here they’re back to fight tho Devil;
For this he had some credit gained
Before he g >t them so well trained.
His lines are all so out of measure.
That none can read them now with pleasure,
So very like the one that made them.
That none can doubt who ever read them.
To-day with something he’s quite full,
To-morrow he is another’s tool.
At times he is our Lord Protector,
And now, a Peter’s pence collector.
A church he’ll build, yet do not doubt it,
Some other view will drive that out yet;
A shining nature full of notion,
To find perchance perpetual motion,
That’s found if he’d but take the trouble
To look but once in his own noddle.
One thing is grafted on his creed,
We will not pass it without heed.
So very like old Rothiemurchus,
Who, on the Spey, lived near his ” duchas.’
Let what Bishop chose be in
He’s Vicar of Bray—is Rankin ;
What more faults let others tell,
I shall bid him now farewell

One who could write the above on the spur of the moment must have had more in him that only required drawing out, some political excitement would have done it. Many of our best songs were produced during the Jacobite period, and it only required something of the kind to induce our author to cultivate the muses with greater success than the poem on the prayer book.

Christina MacDonnell (Née McNab)

This sketch would not be complete without some mention of our poet’s helpmate, who was left a widow with a young family at too early an age. Mrs MacDonell, who has battled with life nobly and cheerfully, is still hale and hearty and long may she continue so. She has perhaps done more for Highland music than any other lady in the Highlands. She has preserved the best arrangements of many old Highland airs
that otherwise would have perished, and improved others. Within the last thirty years she has been consulted by several airangersof Highland music, and her stamp is marked upon the majority of their choice pieces—”Cailleach Beinn na Bric,”
” rodh Chailein,” ” Tha Dhriùchd fhèin air barr gach meangan ” (a fairy song), ” Och nan och mo lèir cràdh,” “A n nochd gur faoin mo chadal domh,” “Bodaich nam brigis,” ” Struan Robertson’s Salute,” “Tha ‘n cuan a’ cuir eagal air clann nan Gàidheal,” and several others in the “Gesto Collection of Highland Music” are her arrangements. Like the Gesto family in Skye, all her pieces are of the best, and nothing secondclass is to be found in her repertoire, and she plays them all beautifully. Though her forte lay in slow airs, marches, and pibrochs, yet she was some years ago a powerful strathspey player. The writer never heard a better exponent of “Righ nam port”—the king of reels—the reel of Tnlloch—and the prince of strathspeys, “Delvin side.” It is no wonder, therefore, that such a talented couple should have a clever son and clever daughters, but more of some of them presently.

Christina MacDonell (née MacNab) 1902

The Times, Saturday, Feb 3, 1906 DEATH                       
MACDONNELL – On the 30th Jan, at 60 Sternhold-avenue, London, Christina MacNab, widow of the late Angus MacDonell, of Keppoch, Inverness-shire, aged 89.   R.I.P.   Interment on the 6th inst., Brue Lochaber.   Scotch papers please copy.


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