Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill

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Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill
Born c. Late 12th century
Died 1247 (?)
Ballyshannon (?)
Cause of death Battle (?)
Other names Ruairi, son of Ranald
Title Lord of Kintyre
Ruler of Garmoran (?)
Term fl. 1214-?1247
Successor Dubhghall
Spouse(s) Unknown
Children Dubhghall, Ailean

Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill was a 13th-century Scottish magnate. The son of Raghnall, son of Somerled, he appears to have spent his career fighting in both Ireland and in Scotland. It has been argued that he became hostile to both the Scottish and English crowns, fighting the Scottish crown in the MacWilliam revolts and dying against the English at the Battle of Ballyshannon in 1247.



Kintyre, the probable heartland of Ruaidhri before the intrusion of Donnchadh of Argyll into the area

Hugh MacDonald of Sleat's 17th-century History of the Macdonalds reported a tradition that Ruaidhri's father Raghnall was married to a daughter or sister of the early 14th-century hero Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray. Sellar suggests that his mother may have been a daughter of William fitz Duncan, on the basis that there is a possibility the tradition had confused a later and famous Earl of Moray with an earlier one.[1]

His father Raghnall, carrying the legacy of his own father Somerled, was a powerful Argyll and Hebridean magnate who, depending on context, bore the titles "King of the Isles", "Lord of Argyll and Kintyre", and "lord of the Hebrides (Inchegal).[2] His father's legacy was such that he became the ancestor figure of both the Clan Ruaidhri and the Clan Donald.[2]

Sketch of his known career[edit]

Ruaidhri's heartland appears to have lain initially in Kintyre, as he bore the title "Lord of Kintyre" (dominus de Kyntire).[2]

Ruaídhrí appears on record for the first time when, in 1214, he accompanied Tomás Mac Uchtraigh, son of Lochlann of Galloway, on a raid upon the Irish city of Derry:

Tomás mac Uchtraigh & Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill plundered Daire completely and took the treasures of the Community of Daire and of the North of Ireland besides from out the midst of the church of the Monastery.[3]

In 1212, Tomás had raided Derry with a fleet with seventy-six ships, and it is probable that Ruaídhrí was the unnamed "son of Raghnall" who had accompanied Tomás then.[4]

For the rest of Ruaidhri's life, there is little unambiguous evidence of his activities.[5] R. Andrew McDonald argued that Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill was the 'Roderick' who fought in the MacWilliam rebellion against King Alexander II of Scotland between 1223 and 1230, a suggestion Alex Woolf called "attractive".[6]

The River Erne at modern Ballyshannon, possible location of Ruaidhri's death

Alex Woolf suggested further that Ruaidhri's motivations stemmed from Ruaidhri's hostility to Scottish support for Óláfr, son of Goðrøðr Óláfsson; Ruaidhri may have been allied through marriage to Goðrøðr Óláfsson's other son, Óláfr's half-brother and rival Rögnvaldr, king of Mann; more to the point, Óláfr appears to have repudiated Ruaidhri's kinswoman for a daughter of Ferchar, Earl of Ross, all while King Alexander II was promoting the power of Donnchadh mac Dubhghaill in the west-coast of Scotland, Ruaidhri's base.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

Assuming he survived the final defeat of the MacWilliams in 1230, the remainder of Ruaidhri's life is obscure. However, reporting the year 1247, the Annals of Loch Cé related that:

Mac Somhairle, king of Airer-Gaeidhel, and the nobles of the Cenel-Conaill besides, were slain.[8]

Woolf has argued that Ruaidhri was the Mac Somhairle who died in this battle, fighting the English at Ballyshannon.[9] Sellar also thought, for other reasons, that the "dead man at Ballyshannon" was Ruaidhri.[10] McDonald believed that it referred to Donnchadh mac Dubhghaill, while Duffy suggested Domhnall mac Raghnaill.[11]

Ruaidhri's son Dubhghall continued his father's legacy, hostile to the Scottish crown while fighting the English in Ireland, notably killing Jordan d'Exeter off Connaught in 1258.[12] Ruaidhri's ancestors held Garmoran and much of the north-west Scottish coast until the early 14th century, when the MacRuaidhri heiress Amie married Eoin of Islay, who took Amie's lands and became the first MacDonald Lord of the Isles.[13]


  1. ^ Sellar, "Hebridean Sea-Kings", p. 200.
  2. ^ a b c Sellar, "Hebridean Sea-Kings", p. 194, table ii.
  3. ^ Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1214.2 (trans)
  4. ^ Woolf, "Dead Man", pp. 79-80; see also Anderson, Early Sources, vol. ii, pp. 393, 395.
  5. ^ See Woolf, "Dean Man", p. 80.
  6. ^ McDonald, Kingdom of the Isles, p. 82; Woolf, "Dead Man", p. 80; see also Anderson, Early Sources, vol. ii, p. 471.
  7. ^ Woolf, "Dead Man", pp. 80-2.
  8. ^ Annals of Loch Cé, s.a. 1247.7, available here.
  9. ^ Woolf, "Dead Man", pp. 77-85.
  10. ^ Sellar, "Hebridean Sea Kings", pp. 200-1.
  11. ^ McDonald, Kingdom of the Isles, p. 94; Duffy, "Bruce Brothers", p. 56.
  12. ^ Woolf, "Dead Man", p. 85.
  13. ^ McDonald, Kingdom of the Isles, p. 189.


  • Anderson, Alan Orr (1922), Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286 ii, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 
  • Duffy, Seán (2002), "The Bruce Brothers and the Irish Sea World, 1306-29", in Duffy, Seán, Robert the Bruce's Irish Wars: The Invasions of Ireland, 1306-1329, Stroud: Tempus, pp. 45–70, ISBN 0-7524-1974-9 
  • McDonald, R. Andrew (1997), The Kingdom of the Isles: Scotland's Western Seaboard, c. 1100-c. 1336, Scottish Historical Review Monograph Series, No. 4, East Linton: Tuckwell Press, ISBN 1-898410-85-2 
  • Sellar, W. D. H. (2000), "Hebridean Sea-Kings: The Successors of Somerled, 1164-1316", in Cowan, E. J.; McDonald, R. Andrew, Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Medieval Era, Edinburgh: Tuckwell Press, pp. 187–218, ISBN 0-85976-608-X 
  • Woolf, Alex (2004), "The Age of Sea-Kings: 900-1300", in Omand, Donald, The Argyll Book, Edinburgh: Birlinn, pp. 94–109 
  • Woolf, Alex (2007), "A Dead Man at Ballyshannon", in Duffy, Seán, The World of the Galloglass: War and Society in the North Sea Region, 1150-1600, Dublin: Four Courts Press, pp. 77–85, ISBN 1-85182-946-6