The Patrick McDonald Collection


Late last year I went to a rather magical cultural gathering of second cousins that have common Maitland and McDonnell of Keppoch ancestors. I took my mother along as she had been to the weddings of the parents of both sets of cousins. Not only did they offer a fantastic spread and mulled wine on cold winters day, but played music and read poetry including the The Wee Town of Effen. I didn’t bring much more than myself, some booze, chocolates and stories about their ancestors. But my mother read some of her poems and now attends poetry reading with one of my cousins she met there.

It was exactly how I’d imagined our McDonnell of Keppoch ancestors would have arranged a gathering for kith and kin. As I explained, their grandfather’s aunt Alice Claire MacDonnell of Keppoch was Bardess to the Clan Donald Society:


In the History of the clan Donald, the families of MacDonald, McDonald and McDonnell by Henry James Lee (1864), she is described as follows:

Our famous and well-known clan bardese Miss Alice Clarie MacDonell, is the 8th and youngest daughter of Angus XXII. of Keppoch, and maintains the reputation of her clan and family, and illustrious ancestors from whom she inherited poetic gifts of a high order.

I’ve written more about her here and here and her Lays of the Heather book of poems is available for download, although I would love to get my hands on an actual copy.

I thought they might also be interested in their great great great grandfather The Rev. Patrick MacDonald of Kilmore (1729-1824):


He was the “first and one of the greatest collectors of Gaelic music” (more here). I can’t find free copy of his ‘A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs never hitherto published‘ (1784), but you can buy a copy from Amazon. My cousin has done just that, so I hope to hear either a recording or recital soon.

I did find a small sample of two “highly unusual tunes” from the Rev Patrick McDonald’s Highland Vocal Airs (sample: Skye Dance and Harris Dance). They’re from  William Jackson’s album Notes from a Hebridean Island.

Two highly unusual tunes from the Rev Patrick McDonald’s Highland Vocal Airs, published in 1784. This collection of song airs and dance tunes was one of the first to present Highland music in its purest form, free from complex and often unsuitable ‘drawing room’ arrangements.

I am pretty sure that the Mrs Ramsay of Barnton Scottish Reel is dedicated to Alison Ramsay (of Barnton) who married Sir John Marjoribank (see music and hear sample here):

I’ve written more about how these common ancestors fit in via the Maitland family here. But to quickly join the dots, the granddaughter of Alison Ramsay of Barnton and Sir John Marjoribank was Alice Ann Nisbet who married my cousin’s great great grandfather George Ramsay Maitland:

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