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MacGregor of Ardlarich

 


A MEMOIR OF THE FAMILY OF ARDLARICH. (By R W. D. CAMERON, M.D.]

IT is universally allowedy the oldest Macgregors in Rannoch in their traditional history that the family of Ardlarich is no other than the identical family of Macgregor, although it is not easy at this remote period to ascertain with any degree of certainty when or how they got possession there, and whoever will take the trouble to consult Douglas' Scottish Baronage will see what a miserable patchwork is made there to engraft the family of Breac-shliabh on the stem of Glenstrae.

It is, however, affirmed that a succession of the Lairds of Macgregor lived in Ardlarich ; that from Ardlarich Alister Ruadh of Glenstrae marched with his men to the memorable battle of Glenfruin ; that the principal Macgregors of Rannoch were amongst the pledges proposed to the Earl of Argyll for the good behaviour of the clan ; that it was one of the Lairds of Macgregor who built the island of Loch Rannoch, which is an immense cairn of stones bound together with rafters of wood crossing each other, and that he built a storehouse in it ; that when Major Macgregor, last of Glenstrae, died in lreland leaving considerable property, his heir being advertised for, Robert Mac Dhoncha Mhic Gilespa Ruadh of Ardlarich claimed the property, and was by his Grace the Duke of Athole, Sir Robert Menzies of that ilk, and most of the other gentlemen of note in the Highlands of Perthshire, certified to be the true and legitimate heir and representative of the family of Macgregor, and it is at least presumed that they were then in the knowledge of the fact before they would subscribe such a document. Nor can it be supposed that they would ever countenance any false pretender in a matter in which they were not the least interested, although the lineal descent of that family cannot now be traced with any degree of accuracy before that of

I. Gilespic Macgregor of Ardlarich, who was married, and left a son, John, who succeeded him, and Donald, of whom more afterwards.

II. John, who was also married, and left two sons and three daughters. (1) Gilespa ruadh, who succeeded him; (2) Ewan. One of the daughters eloped with Macdonald of Achnancoithichan. The second was married first to Patrick Macgregor of Dunan, and secondly to lan Ban Cameron of Camuserochd. The third daughter married Macgregor of Leragan. His second son, Ewan, married Janet, daughter to the Laird of Duileter, by whom he had two sons, John and Duncan. Duncan settled in Badenoch or Strathspey, but left no issue.

Ewan's wife is said to have been a bad lot, and to have carried on an intrigue with one Gregor More in Learan, when they both wished Ewan out of the way ; and on the occasion of a funeral passing from the west of Erochd to Killichonan, a noted thief of the name of Stewart, vulgarly called Mac Dhoncha Mhic lan Uidhir, was observed sitting on a hill-head east of Erochd, upon which the said Ewan, Gregor More, and others pursued him. He first crossed the river of Erochd to the west and up the hill, and, being hotly pursued, he recrossed again to the east above Ardlarich, near the march of Killichonan, all the while hotly pursued. Ewan led the van of the pursuit, with Gregor More at his heels egging him on, and as they were near the said march Ewan fired at the thief and broke his thigh, upon which the thief fell, and called to Ewan to keep back or he would shoot him, but Grigor still pressed him on to his ruin, upon which the thief shot and killed him on the spot. Whether the thief died of his wounds or was killed by his pursuers I know not, but he was buried by the burn side, near the spot where his grave is still to be seen, and Ewan was buried at Killichonan. His brother, Gilespa ruadh, was from home at the time, and was much offended that they were not both buried in the same grave, whether in the church-yard or at the burn side.

Ewan's widow afterwards married her paramour, Gregor More, who was eventually hanged in Crieff. His wife had been jealous of himself and her servant maid, and had actually cropped off one of her maid's ears in one of her fits, which became proverbial in the country, Nighean lan duibh ruaidh thug a chluas do shearbhanta.

Gregor, on being apprehended, was carried to Castle Menzies, to which his wife followed him, and interceded strongly with Lady Cirstan Campbell, wife of Sir Alexander Menzies, for his life. It appears that her ladyship amused her for some time with hope of success, while they carried him out at a back door and sent him off to Crieff, which, coming to his wife's knowledge, she set out immediately after him. but he was executed before she arrived. On her return home she took Castle Menzies on her way, and on her bare knees on the threshold of the castle, imprecated a curse on the family of Menzies, the cause of her misfortunes, that an heir should never be born on the estate. Neither Sir Robert nor his successor, Sir John, had any heirs born to them, but it appears that the spell is now broken, as Sir Neil Menzies has had two sons and two daughters born to hirn since he became heir, and two other daughters in his father's lifetime. I do not know what family this Gregor was of, or whether he left any children.

Ewan's eldest son John was married to a woman of the family of Leragan, by whom he had no children. He was of a cross, troublesome temper, and very fond of punning, and many droll anecdotes are related of him.

John Macgregor of Ardlarich was succeded in the representation by his eldest son.

III. Gilespa Ruadh of Ardlarich, who married first Annabella Stewart, daughter of Dougal Mac Tighearna na h-Apin (Stewart of Appin), by whom he had two daughters. He married, secondly, a daughter of John Macgregor of Drumlich in Balquhidder, by whom he had two sons, Duncan and John, and several daughters. He married, thirdly, Ann nighean lan duibh Mhic Grigair, by whom he had Alexander (afterwards referred to as VI. of Ardlarich), ElizabÍth, and Marjory. His son, John, was for sorne time in the Black Watch after it was first raised.

Gilespa was succeeded by his eldest son,

IV. Duncan MacGilespa, who was thrice married - first to Elizabeth, daughter of Gregor Mac Dhoncha Mhic Geai Challum, by whom he had one son, John, who died young; secondly, to Jean, daughter of Patrick, brother to John of Drumlich, by whom he had three daughters ; thirdly to Mary, daughter of Gilespa Macdonald of Dalness, by whom he had three sons, Robert, Gilespa, and James, and two daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. Gilespa died young. James went to the army, and was married, but whether he left any children is unknown. He was succeeded by his eldest son,

V. Robert Macgregor of Ardlarich. He joined the Stewart interests when but young, and was a Captain in Prince Charles Edward's army in the rebellion of 1745, in the battalion under the command of Major Menzies of Shian, and Callum Macgregor, Liaran, was his lieutenant. Robert was a very tall, handsome, young man.

Sir Robert Menzies, jealous of his style enjoying the title of Ardlarich, removed himself and his mother to Kinnachlacher, where he gave him half a merk of land gratis, with a promise that how soon he would be in a position to stock it he would get another half merk on the same terms, for life, in consideration of his having removed from Ardlarich without any trouble. It was about this time that Major Macgregor of Glenstrae died in Ireland, at least that his legitimate heir was advertised for, and that the certificate formerly alluded to was given to Robert by the Duke of Athole, Sir Robert Menzies, and others in the county, that he was the lineal heir of that family, wtth which he proceeded to Ireland, as far as Achtero in Balquhidder, where he fell ill and died unmarried.

The circumstance of this Certificate, together with the fact that Macgregor of Balhadies had offered 2000 merks Scots to his father for his individual consent to the chieftainship at the meeting of the clan at Blair Athole in July, 1714. confirms me in the belief that they were the lineal representatives of the Lairds of Macgregor as well as of Ardlarich ; and it is further probable from the circumstance of Robert's father having gone to Lord Breadalbane to claim the title deeds of the lands of Glenstrae, which had fallen into his hands, and which his Lordship had laid on the table to present to him, when Duncan, unfortunately, said something which displeased Breadalbane so much that he laid them up again. I am not aware that they were ever claimed thereafter except by the notorious Rob Roy, who was told by his Lordship that he should never lay his foul fingers over them as he knew himself who had the best right to them.

The manner in which the Breadalbane family got possession of these charters is related as follows :-James Macgregor of Glenstrae had courted the Laird of Breadalbane's daughter, in which he was encouraged by her father with the dark design of getting possession of his estate, which lay in the bosom of his own in Glenorchy. James was invited on a particular night for the purpose of producing his charters for examination previous to a marriage contract being drawn up, and as he approached Taymouth he was met by an old man, who asked him if he was not going on such an errand. He answered in the affirmative, on which the old man cautioned him to be on his guard, it being intended to poison him. He told him that after dinner each in the company was to be served with a bottle of wine, and begged of him not to taste his own until he made one of the others taste it first, there being a scheme to have it mixed with strong poison. James replied that it did not become him to be so suspicious when he apprehended no danger, and proceeded on his way. Matters fell out just as the old man told him, and poor James fell a victim to his own incredulity, and his charters remained in possession of the Laird of Breadalbane. This Robert having died childless, and both his brothers being dead, he was succeeded by his uncle,

VI., Alister Mac≠ gilespa of Ardlarich, who married Rachel, daughter of Neil Macgregor of the family of Dunan, by whom he had one son, Gilespa Ban, and eight daughters (1) Catherine, (2) Mary, (3) ,. Margaret, (4} Ann, (5} Elizabeth, (6} Rachel, (7} Janet, (8) Marjory. With the exception of Rachel and Janet all were married, and their descendants are numerous.

Gilespa Ban married Margaret Burden, by whom he had two sons James (named for the James Macgregor of Glenstrae, who was poisoned at Taymouth) and Gregor, both of whom died young. He had also two daughters, Catherine and Mary, who married and had issue.

Gilespa Ban and his sons having died before his father, and he having no other male issue, the representation of the family became extinct in that branch in him, and now devolved on the descendants of Donald, second son of Gilespa, first of these memoirs, as will be seen. afterwards.

At the time when the late Sir John Macgregor Murray sent Messrs. John and Duncan Macgregor from Balquhidder through the Highlands to collect the suffrages of the clan to his being their chief (he did not ask it as a right, but as a boon), they were primarily directed to the Rannoch Macgregors, who peremptorily refused their consent. But, upon their making a second attempt, with orders to proceed no farther if they were refused again in Rannoch, the messengers proceeded and convened the whole clan in the burial ground of Killichonan. Malcolm Macgregor in Liaran, who took a lead amongst them, was particularly averse to signing the bond from the fear of incurring the displeasure of the family of Menzies, and opposed it so strenuously that the clan began to disperse without doing anything, when his son, Captain Robert Macgregor, of the 10th Foot, asked for the bond, and upon one of the gravestones signed it. He was followed in this by Peter Macgregor in Liaran, and by Gregor Macgregor in Cardoch, and. then, considering that he had neither son nor grandson to claim it, by Alister MacGilespa, who designed himself "representative of Macgregor and of Ardlarich," and, addressing the clan, said that as he had now surrendered his right to the chieftainship, no other had a right to withhold theirs. All present then signed on his invitation. Callum Macgregor was gone off by this time, and had no opportunity afforded him of signing the bond ever after.

Alister MacGilespa then delivered to the said messengers, to be presented to Sir John, the document which was attested by the Duke of Athole and others in favour of his nephew when he intended going to lreland, which had fallen into his hands at his nephew's demise. I am not aware that the property left by Major Macgregor in Ireland was ever after claimed, and of course prescription falls upon it now. Alister MacGilespa died about the year 1788, aged 88 years, and Gilespa ruadh, his father, died about the year 1720, an aged man.

On the death of Alister MacGilespa and his male issue, the representation of Ardlarich, and consequently of Macgregor, is allowed to have devolved on

VII. lan Mac Phadrich, son of Padric More, the fourth in descent from Donald, 2nd son of Gilespa, first of these memoirs. lan Mac Phadrich was a man of invincible courage and powerful strength, and many anecdotes are related of his prowess and daring feats, both in this country and in America, to which he emigrated when a young man, and settled in the province of New York until the breaking out of the American war. On the breaking out of the war he was offered a captain's commission in the Republican army, but he preferred joining the British, for which his property and effects were confiscated, and himself obliged to decamp. His loyalty was rewarded by a captain's commission by the British also, in which capacity he was generally employed with the Foragers, which so annoyed the Americans that a reward was offered for his head, and he had many narrow escapes from them. He owed his life more than once to the swiftness of his horse, and on one occasion his horse's main was perforated in several places by the American balls, but like Tam O'Shanter's mare he carried off his master whole and unscaithed.

The British army were on one occasion much straitened in their camp for provisions, being surrounded by the enemy's land forces on the one side, which cut off their forages, and the French fleet lay moored before them, nor were they in a condition to attack either till reinforced. In this dilemma a council of war was called to devise what was best to be done, when an honourable surrender was resolved upon. At length, John proposed, if allowed a proper party, to attempt some of the enemy's transports before they would make a shameful surrender. The attempt was considered quite hopeless, but he was allowed a party of his own selection, and, owing to the darkness of a boisterous winter night, they succeeded in cutting the cables, and carrying off unobserved one of the enemy's transports laden with oxen. John's name for daring exploits was by this time proverbial in both camps, and the consternation of the French in the morning on discovering their own loss, and on seeing their ship safely rnoored in the possession of the British, was bordering on madness. The French Admiral is said to have exclaimed in his frenzy that there was not a man in the British camp who would dare to make the attempt had the notorious Mac Alpine kept away.

At the commencement of hostilities it was held out by the British, as an inducement for the inhabitants to join their standard, that they should be indemnified for any losses they might sustain in consequence, and as John was plundered seven times his claims were very considerable. He lost no time in lodging them, but from their magnitude they were at first refused, which obliged him to come over to London three several times ; but on procuring testimonials of his eminent services from the general officers who commanded, his claims were not only paid in full, but himself further rewarded with a captain's half-pay for life. He afterwards published an account of all his difficulties, and the share he had had in the war. He was alive of late and in good circumstances near the town of Halifax, and if alive till now (1837), he is 88 years of age. He was four times married, and is said to have a numerous family of sons. A great many anecdotes are related of him, but the above is sufficient for my purpose to illustrate his martial character.

There is another family of Macgregors in Rannoch who maintain that they are descended from that of Ardlarich, which I intend to trace out yet if I can.

(Signed) ALEXANDER MACGREGOR. Wester Tempar, 2nd February, 1837.


*There is extant a certificate in favour of Alister MacGilespa of Ardlarich, of which this a copy-" That Alexander Macgregor, &c, in Wester Killichonan, is. according to the information of the most knowtng people in this country, the fifth by lineal succession from James Mac Gregor, who first came out of tbe family of Macgregor (commonly called of Ardlarich), in Rannoch, in the parish ot Fortingall, is attested at Kinloch Rannoch the seventh day of January, 1787 years." (Signed John Moncrieff, minister of Rannoch and Foss. The James referred to in this document must therefore have been the grandfather of Gilespic I. of the memoirs. He was probably the son of Gregor Macgregor, proprietor of the Middle division of Slismine, consistlng of Ardlarich and other villages as far as Aldcheardie, who died in the Island ot Loch Rannoch in July, 1526. This Gregor is mentioned in the Dean of Lismore's manuscript as being the son of John .Macgregor alias McEwine McAllister of Glenstrae, and as having been buried in Dysart, Glenurchy, in a stone coffin on the north side ot the High Altar of Glenstrae.

James was succeeded in Ardlarich by John Dubh Macgregor, as would appear from an entry in the Register of Decrees, dated 24th May, 1595-" Alexander Menzies of that ilk against Alexander Macgregor of Glenstra, pretended tenant and occupier of the 32 merk land of Rannoch by himself and sub-tenant under-written." Among the names subscribed appears that of John Dubh McConachdie Vic Allister, as occupier of the 6 merk land of Ardlarich.