Scottish clan profile: MacDonald

The Modern Macdonald tartan. Picture: submitted
The Modern Macdonald tartan. Picture: submitted
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The clan Donald is indisputably the largest of all the Highland clans and has many important branches. The clan was dominant in the western coasts of Scotland for many centuries leading up to the eventual end of the clan system in 1746.

Titles – Lordship of the isles, Earl of Ross, Lord of Islay

Clan motto – per mare per terras (By sea and by land)

Notable lords - Donald of Islay grandson of Sommerled Angus who fought beside Robert the Bruce andJohn of Islay. Lord of the Isles

Sub septs – the MacAllisters and the McDonnels of Antrim (irish) also see the MacDougalls, descendants of Sommerled

Notable castles – Finlaggan castle, Islay Armadale castle, Skye Claig castle, Jura

Current clan base – Isle of Skye, Sleat in the grounds of Armadale castle

The name of Clan Donald originated from the first Donald, grandson of Sommerled, who was king of the isles and supposed descendant of Conn of the hundred battles, high king of Ireland. Sommerlad married Ragnhildis who was of Norwegian royalty, and supposedly of the House of Ivar.

This Norse-Gaelic heritage was a key factor in the Clan’s early development and eventually led to them controlling most of the land in Scotland’s western sea board, from the butt of Lewis in the north to Mull of Kintyre in the south.

Two of Donald’s most prominent sons Angus and Alasdair, became prominent figures. Alasdair went to establish the clan Alistair or McAllister and Angus’ son Angus Og went on to fight beside Robert the Bruce, securing the clan more lands in the King’s ensuing victory over the English.

The clan had many noticeable branches including the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald, the MacDonalds of Sleat (Southern Skye) and Clan MacDonald of Keppoch.

The clan fought in many noticeable engagements, including long struggles over both the Earl of Ross and the Lord of the Isles titles. They were also heavily involved in the Jacobean uprisings, even after a civil war between the MacDonald clans and the Massacre at Glencoe threatened to diminish them the century before.

By the end of the Clan system in 1746, the clan had splintered and fractured into several independent and individual clans in their own right.

In 1947 Alexander MacDonald once again was granted right to become High chief, he was succeeded by his son Godfrey.

The clan Donald centre was established on the island of Skye in the grounds of Armadale castle.