MacDonald of Ardnamurchan

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The MacDonalds of Ardnamurchan also known as MacIain of Ardnamurchan are a branch of Clan Donald.


Origins of the Clan[edit]

The founder of the Macdonalds of Ardnamurchan was Iain Sprangach MacDonald (d.1340), the third son of Angus Mor MacDonald (d.1292), 4th chief of the Clan Donald.[1]

Iain Sprangach MacDonald was also known as John the Bold. His brother was a great ally of King Robert the Bruce. His early affiliations appear to have been with the English and it is not clear whether his original grant of Ardnamurchan came from the 'puppet' king John Balliol or his illustrious brother. The MacDonalds of Ardnamurchan became known as the MacIains.

15th Century[edit]

Alexander MacDonald, the third chief of the MacIains is believed to have been killed during the Battle of Harlaw in 1411. Alexander's son John led the clan at the Battle of Inverlochy (1431). After this he was awarded lands on the isles of Islay and Jura.

The MacIains supported the MacDonald Lordship of the Isles until, in 1493, the fourth and last Lord of the Isles forfeited his title to King James IV. By 1494 the King had garrisoned and provisioned Dunaverty Castle. It is said that the MacDonalds led by Sir John MacDonald, who the king had recently knighted, retook the castle before the King had even departed to Stirling and that the dead body of the King's castle governor was hung over the castle walls in sight of the King and his departing entourage. Sir John Macdonald however was later captured by MacDonald (or MacIain) of Ardnamurchan. He was tried and hung on the Burgh Muir.

In 1497 Sir Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh rebelled against the King and invaded the lands of Ross-shire where he was defeated in battle by the Clan Munro and Clan MacKenzie. Alexander himself escaped southwards amongst the Isles until he was caught on the Isle of Oronsay and put to death by MacIain of Ardnamurchan.

16th Century[edit]

In In 1515 the Mingarry Castle was besieged by the Clan MacDonald of Lochalsh and again two years later when they finally took the castle.

Other treacherous deeds against MacDonald of Lochalsh and treachory which led to the execution of the chief of the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg and his son eventually led to the death of John MacIain at the hands of his avenging kinsmen in 1518.

The 8th chief of the MacDonalds or MacIains of Ardnamurchan led his clan in support of the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald against the Clan Fraser and Fraser of Lovat in the Battle of the Shirts in 1544. It is said that only eight MacDonalds and five Frasers survived.

17th Century[edit]

By 1618 the MacDonalds or MacIains of Ardnamurchan had lost their lands through duplicity of the Clan Campbell. The fortunes of the clan declined and they were forced to go elsewhere. Many settled in Moidart under the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald while others migrated east to Badenoch.


  • Mingarry Castle was the original seat for the chief of Clan MacDonald of Ardnamurchan.

Clan Septs[edit]

Septs of Clan MacDonald of Ardnamurchan include the following. Other branches of the Clan MacDonald have different septs.

  • Johnson
  • Kean
  • Keene

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Family Tree of the Lords of the Isles - Finlaggan Trust

External links[edit]