Clan MacDonald of Keppoch

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Clan MacDonald of Keppoch
Motto Air Muir 'S Air Tir (By land and by sea)[1]
Region Highland
Arms of MacDonald of Keppoch.svg
Ranald Alasdair Macdonald of Keppoch[2]
Historic seat Keppoch Castle[3]

Clan MacDonald of Keppoch, also known as Clan Ranald of Lochaber, is a Scottish clan and a branch of Clan Donald. The Clan MacDonald of Keppoch has a chief that is recognized by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and the Court of the Lord Lyon.


Origins of the clan

The MacDonalds of Keppoch are descended from Alistair Carrach MacDonald who was a younger son of Good John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, 6th chief of Clan Donald and his second wife Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II of Scotland.[4] Aonghas Óg of Islay's son, John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, apportioned his estates between the children of his two marriages in accordance with the marriage settlement of his father-in-law Robert II of Scotland and the Lordship of Lochaber was given to Alistair Carrach MacDonald who was the third and youngest son from his second marriage.[5] Alistair Carrach MacDonald was the first MacDonald of Keppoch and Garragach.[5]

15th century and clan conflicts

Alistair Carrach MacDonald of Keppoch took an active part in supporting his brother, Domhnall of Islay, Lord of the Isles, in claiming the Earldom of Ross.[5] The result was that upon the death of Domhnall, Lord of the Isles in 1425 the Lordship of Lochaber was forfeited to the Crown and then the Crown bestowed it on the natural son of Stewart, Earl of Mar.[5] This grant was later cancelled but the Lordship of Lochaber did not revert to Alistair Carrach MacDonald but instead was given to the Lord of the Isles who subsequently granted the lands of Lochaber to the chief of Clan Mackintosh and this was confirmed by the Crown.[5] However the superiority remained with the Lord of the Isles who did restore it to Alistair Carrach MacDonald of Keppoch.[5] However this arrangement was never confirmed by the Crown and upon the forfeiture of the Lord of the Isles in 1493, Angus MacDonald, 2nd of Keppoch had to maintain his position in Lochaber by force.[5] It was defended for two and a half centuries and it was not until the downfall of the clan immediately after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 that Mackintosh become the real Lord of Lochaber.[5]

From The Highland clans of Scotland; their history and traditions (1923) by R.R. McIan. This illustration is titled "MacDonald of Keppoch".

In 1497, some of the Clan MacLaren stole cattle from the Braes of Lochaber from the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch. The MacDonalds followed them and overtook them at a place called Glenurchy where a battle took place. The MacDonalds won and recovered their cattle. However, the MacLarens then looked for assistance from Dugel Stuart of Appin. Another battle then took place where the MacLarens were now joined by the Stuarts against the MacDonalds. During the battle Dugel, the chief of Clan Stewart of Appin and the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch chief were both killed.[6]

17th and 18th centuries

The 12th Chief of the Clan Macdonald of Keppoch called Alexander along with his brother was slain in 1663 in what is remembered as in gaelic as Tobair-nan-ceann meaning the Well of Heads, not far from Invergarry. This is where the heads of seven murderers were washed before presentation to the Lord MacDonnell of Invergarry.[7]

In 1668, the MacDonalds of Keppoch fought at the Battle of Mulroy.[8]

Noted in the Black-book of Taymouth that in 1681 a bond of manrent was given by Gilleasba, chief of Keppoch, to John Glas, first Earl of Breadalbane; "such as Ceppoch's predecessors gave to the Earl's predecessors." binding Keppoch "to restrain all the inhabitants of Brae-Lochaber, and all of the name of Macdonell, from committing robberies within the Earl's bounds."[9]

During the Jacobite risings, the son of the 16th Chief of Clan MacDonald of Keppoch (Coll), was a young man named Alexanhder, who was among the men who attacked British government soldiers who were preparing a surprise assault on the Glenfinnan gathering at what is now known as the Highbridge Skirmish. This was the first strike on the government during the 1745 to 1746 uprising. The MacDonalds of Keppoch were also involved in the Siege of Fort William in March 1746. Alexander, 17th Chief of Keppoch, later died at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Alexander was succeeded by his son, Ranald, thew 18th Chief, followed by his son, Richard (19th Chief). The chiefship would become extinct in 1848 with the death of Chichester, the 21st Chief. The next chief wasn't acknowledged until 13 September 2006 when Ranald Alasdair MacDonald was acknowledged as the lawful chief by the Lyon Court, following a 30 year fight for the right to use the ancient title of Mac Mhic Raonuill.

Clan Castle

The seat of the chief of the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch was originally at Keppoch Castle which was near to Spean Bridge in Lochaber.[3] However in 1690 it passed to the Mackintoshes and the lands were disputed with the Mackintoshes, with the last clan battle being fought here.[3] However the castle had been demolished in 1663 after the Keppoch murders.[3]


The MacDonald of Keppoch tartan sett is said to have been copied from a plaid that was given to Prince Charles Edward Stuart.[5] However there is another tartan sett for which the same claim is made by the Clan Johnstone.[5]

Principal Cadet Families

Aberarder, Achnancoichean, Bohuntine, Clianaig, Cranachan, Dalchosnie, Fersit, Gellovie, Inch, Inverroy, Killiechonate, Murlagan, Tirnadris, Tulloch, Tullochrom

Principal Septs

Boyle, Burke, Doyle, Drake, Kelly, Kennedy, MacBride, MacDonell, MacGilp, MacGillivantic, MacGlasrich, MacKerrachar, MacKillop, MacMichie, MacPhilip, MacRaney, MacRonald, Mechie, Meekison, Mekie, Michael, Michie, Michieson, O'Donnell, Philip, Philp, Phillip, Phillips, Philipson, Rainnie, Ranald, Ranaldson, Ranney, Rennie, Reynolds, Reynoldson, Ronald, Ronaldson

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Clan MacDonnell of Keppoch Profile Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  2. Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs - click through to page with "MacDonald of Keppoch" in the list of chiefs Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 364. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
  4. The Family Tree of the Lords of the Isles Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 W & A.K Johnston, & G.W Bacon Ltd. The Scottish Clans & Their Tartans. Thirty-Ninth Edition. Chapter 47, (The MacDonells of Keppoch).
  6. Clan MacLaren History Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  7. Clan MacDonald - The MacDonalds of Keppoch Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  8. The Battle of Mulroy Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  9. Mackenzie, Alexander. (1880). The Celtic Magazine; a monthly periodical devoted to the literature, history, antiquities, folk lore, traditions, and the social and material interests of the Celt at home and abroad (Volume 5) p. 99.

External links