Clan MacDonald of Keppoch

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Clan MacDonald of Keppoch
Clann Dòmhnaill na Ceapaich, Clann Mhic Raghnaill na Ceapaich[1]
MottoAir Muir 's air Tìr (By sea and by land )[2]
Arms of MacDonald of Keppoch.svg
Ranald Alasdair Macdonald of Keppoch[3]
Historic seatKeppoch Castle[4]
Rival clans

Clan MacDonald of Keppoch (Scottish Gaelic: Clann Dòmhnaill na Ceapaich [ˈkʰl̪ˠãũn̪ˠ ˈt̪õː.ɪʎ nə ˈkʲʰɛʰpɪç]), 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[edit]

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.[5] 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.[6] Alistair Carrach MacDonald was the first MacDonald of Keppoch and Garragach.[6]

15th century and clan conflicts[edit]

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.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6] However, the superiority remained with the Lord of the Isles who did restore it to Alistair Carrach MacDonald of Keppoch.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6]

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

In 1497 or 1498 the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch defeated the Clan Stewart of Appin and the Clan MacLaren at the Battle of Black Mount in which both the chiefs of Appin and Keppoch were killed.[7][8]

17th century[edit]

Alexander MacDonald, 12th of Keppoch, along with his brother was slain in 1663 in what is known as the Keppoch murders.[9] The heads of the seven murderers were washed at Tobair-nan-ceann (Scottish Gaelic for the "Well of Heads"), before presentation to the Lord MacDonell of Invergarry.[10]

In 1668, the MacDonalds of Keppoch fought at the Battle of Mulroy where they defeated the Clan Mackintosh.[11]

In 1689, the MacDonalds of Keppoch laid siege to the town of Inverness.[12]

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."[13]

18th century and Jacobite risings[edit]

During the Jacobite rising of 1715 the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch were indirectly involved in the siege of Inverness (1715).[14] General Wade's report on the Highlands in 1724, estimated the clan strength at 220 men.[15]

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, the clan chief, Alexander Macdonald, 17th of Keppoch, 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 rising. 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.[16]

Alexander was succeeded by his son, Ranald, the 18th Chief, followed by his son, Richard (19th Chief). The chiefship would become dormant in 1848 with the death of Chichester, the 21st Chief. The next chief wasn't acknowledged until 13 September 2006 when Ranald Alasdair MacDonald of Keppoch 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. His descent from Donald Gorm, younger brother of Archibald 15th Chief (c. 1680) was accepted by the Court.[17]

20th century[edit]

John de Lotbinière MacDonald (c. 1857 – 1935), paternal grandson of John MacDonald of Garth was the 22nd clan chief.[18] Maternally, his grandfather was Robert Unwin Harwood, and Michel-Eustache-Gaspard-Alain Chartier de Lotbinière was his great-grandfather.

Clan Castle[edit]

Keppoch House which replaced Keppoch 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.[4] In 1690 it passed to the Mackintoshes. The lands were then disputed with the Mackintoshes, with the last clan battle being fought here.[4] The castle itself had been demolished in 1663 after the Keppoch murders.[4]


The MacDonald of Keppoch tartan sett is said to have been copied from a plaid that was given to Prince Charles Edward Stuart.[6] However, there is another tartan sett for which the same claim is made by the Clan Johnstone.[6]


  1. ^ Mac an Tàilleir, Iain. "Ainmean Pearsanta" (docx). Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  2. ^ Clan MacDonnell of Keppoch Profile Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  3. ^ Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs - click through to page with "MacDonald of Keppoch" in the list of chiefs Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Coventry, Martin (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. p. 364. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
  5. ^ The Family Tree of the Lords of the Isles Archived 4 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Chapter 47 (The MacDonells of Keppoch)". The Scottish Clans & Their Tartans (Thirty-Ninth ed.). Edinburgh: W. & A.K. Johnston, & G.W Bacon Ltd. 1960.
  7. ^ "Clan MacLaren Histories (two versions)". Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  8. ^ Lee, Henry James (1920). History of the Stewart or Stuart Family. pp. 88–89.
  9. ^ MacCulloc., Donald B (1996). Romantic Lochaber. Lines Publishing. pp. 200–201.
  10. ^ "Clan MacDonald - The MacDonalds of Keppoch". Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  11. ^ "The Battle of Mulroy". Retrieved 13 October 2013..
  12. ^ Fraser, Alexander; Fraser, James (1879). Transactions of the Inverness Scientific Society and Field Club. Vol. 1. pp. 210–211.
  13. ^ 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. Vol. 5. p. 99.
  14. ^ Fraser, Sarah (2012). The Last Highlander: Scotland's Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel & Double Agent. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-00-722950-5.
  15. ^ Johnston, Thomas Brumby; Robertson, James Alexander; Dickson, William Kirk (1899). "General Wade's Report". Historical Geography of the Clans of Scotland. Edinburgh and London: W. & A.K. Johnston. p. 26. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  16. ^ Macdonald, Angus; Macdonald, Archibald (1900). The Clan Donald. Vol. 2. Inverness: The Northern Counties Publishing Company, Ltd. pp. 664–666.
  17. ^ Macdonald of Keppoch Petitioner (No. 2) 1994 SLT (Lyon Ct) 2; Macdonald of Keppoch v Lord Advocate 2004 S.C. 483 (Court of Session decision on appeal) (accessed 11/04/2018)
  18. ^ McDonell, James K.; Campbell, Robert Bennett (1997). Lords of the North. General Store Publishing House. p. 91. ISBN 9781896182711.

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