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MacGregor of Dunan



AMONG a number of MSS. left by my grand-uncle, Captain John Macgregor of the 24th Foot, bearing on the Clan Gregor, and forming part of the materials collected by him with the view of compiling a complete history of the clan, I find short memoirs of the families of Dunan and Ardlarich.

A fuller and more systematic account of these families, as well as of others of the Clan Gregor constituting a portion of the contemplated history, was, until lately, in my father's possession. Whether the volume was accidentally destroyed or lost I know not, but certain it is the book has disappeared unaccountably from the place in which it had been deposited, and where it had lain securely for twenty or thirty years.

The author of the subjoined account of the Macgregors of Dunan and Ardlarich is Lieutenant Alexander Macgregor of Wester Tempar, Rannoch, a persona! friend of the captain, who had employed him in the early part of the present century to collect from the current traditions of the district, and all authentic sources, such information as could be obtained relative to the families of Macgregor in Rannoch.

In the Highlands sixty or seventy years ago traditionary lore was of the utmost value. People committed little to writing. They had to trust almost entirely to memory. By exercise through successive generations this faculty became comprehensive in range, quick to receive impressions, and tenacious in retaining them. The storing up in the memory and the handing down from generation to generation of historical tales, poetical effusions, genealogies, and anecdotes ­ even to the more remarkable incidents of every-day life must have tended to the development in the people of a hereditary mnemonic faculty, to which I believe many a modern son of the Gael is unconsciously indebted for his laurels in the keen competitive examinations of the present day. What but hereditary influence could have produced the wondrous memories of the old Highland bards and sennachies, to say nothing of the many aged people who were veritable living encyclopedias as far as history, genealogy, and poetry were concerned ? Their day is nearly past, and few of the old race survive. True, they are now anachronisms. The brain that labours big with verse or prose can in these days be safely delivered by the pen ; but how many valuable stores of knowledge have been lost in the past during the transition period between the use of manuscript and the oral transmission of traditionary tales and poems from father to son, from mother to daughter.

In the full belief that the traditions current among aged and intelligent people at the date at which the following was written are well worthy attention and preservation, and in the hope that they may be of interest, if not to Highlanders generally, at least to members of the Clan Gregor, I subjoin the memoirs, transcribing almost verbatim the papers before me, and omitting only such genealogical details as are tedious and unimportant.

Glenstrae and Glenlyon no longer belong to the Macgregors, neither do they now possess Dunan or Ardlarich, but the memories of the ancient families, to whom once belonged these and many other lands both in Perthshire and Argyleshire, still touch a vein of sympathy in the breasts of the numerous, albeit widely scattered,clan, who ever retain in their motto, 'Srioghal mo dhream, a perennial reminder of their proud descent. R. C.


In the absence of any satisfactory account of the first settlers of this family, beyond their having been cadets of the family of Roro, I shall begin with John Dubh, who is said to have been third in direct succession.

III. John Mac landuy, in Dunan, and Patrick, his brother, were two of the pledges proposed by Alexander Macgregor of Glenstrae to the Earl of Argyll, and are said to have suffered in Edinburgh in 1604- Whether they were married or have left any children is a thing which cannot be ascertained at this remote period. Neither can I learn with certainty who this John Mac Dhonchuy vic Ianduy, who is mentioned in the record 4th Feb., 1589, is, but conclude that he must have been their father, and second of Dunan, and Doncha their grandfather and first of Dunan, making lan duy their progenitor of Roro. The line of Dunan would therefore run :

I. Duncan Macgregor of Dunan, son of lain Dubh Macgregor of Roro.

II. John Macgregor John Mac Donchuy vic landuy.)

III. John Mac Ianduy mentioned above. This John was succeeded by his brother.

IV. Duncan Mac Ianduy in Rannoch, so called in the Decreta, 1612, at which time he was a prisoner in the Laird of Grant's hands. Duncan Mac Ianduy, in Camuserochd, occurs in the record as chieftain of the clan Vic Alistar in Dunan in 1616 and 1619. He appears to have been a man of good account in his clan, and is termed in the record repeatedly one of the principals of that name. lt is said that he, along with his brothers, John and Patrick, accompanied their chief to the battle of Glenfruin, and that on their being denounced he in consequence fled to Ireland, accompanied by Doncha Abrach and Doncha buidhe­ mac-a-Chomhich (a lad, who had been adopted into his father's family and brought up with him), where they remained in voluntary exile for seven years, considered in those days equal to seven years' banishment in ours.

The said Doncha Mac landuy was married to a daughter of Cameron of Gleneaves, and after the battle of Glenfruin, upon being hotly pursued by his enemies, he sent his wife to her brother to see if he would afford him any shelter, but Gleneaves, having along with others accepted the commission to extirpate the whole race of Macgregor, gave as his advice that both she and her husband had better cut their own throats - poor consolation indeed ! The poor woman returned in a state of exasperation at the reception accorded her, which she straightway communicated to her persecuted husband. He thereupon set off for Ireland as above related, but what year I cannot find out, although it must have been very shortly after the hattle of Glenfruin. When he was thus forced to go away, he left his miserable wife in his possessions of Camuserochd, and during his absence the Laird of Menzies (they were not knighted till1665), who, although kept out of possession, had obtained a Crown charter of those lands, long before, gave a grant of Macgregor's lands to a man of the name of Kennedy from Lochaber (known as Gillandhurst-beg), from whom the Cean-Ghillandhurst in Rannoch are descended. My informant remembers to have seen when a boy a son of this Gillandhurst­ beg, a very aged man.

It appears that Duncan Mac Ianduy's wife still remained on the possession, and was much oppressed by Gillandhurst, who obliged her to perform the most servile works for her livelihood. Upon her husband's return home, accompanicd by his comrades in exile - Doncha Abrach and Doncha Buidhe - he found his wife engaged at pulling heather for Gillandhurst at a place called Stron-ruidh-Chloimh, above Camuserochd More, upon which she acquainted him of her usage from Gillandhurst since he went away - for which, in revenge, it is said, her husband houghed sixteen of Gillandhurst's milch cows. Hearing of this, Gillandhurst set off to Castle Menzies to complain to his Iandlord of Duncan's conduct, to which place Macgregor followed him, and, getting admittance into the audience chamber, the Laird of Menzies is said to have accosted him thus ­ ''Suidh. a sios a Mhic Grigair is leig le Gillandhurst suidhe suas." To which Duncan responded - " Suidh thusa sios a Ghillandhurst bhig is Ieig le MacGrigair suidhe suas," and, suiting his action to the word, took hold of him by the scruff of the neck and threw him to the door.

On this occasion the Laird of Menzies is said to have offered him an exclusive right to his possessions on very moderate terms, which Macgregor rejected disdainfully. But, having brought Gillandhurst under proper subjection, or expelled him, he continued to occupy the lands as before unmolested. An anecdote is related of this Duncan when in lreland - 'Tis said that upon one occasion, while shifting his clothes, a dairy­maid, who happened to come into the room and see him, gave a dreadful scream, which alarmed him so much, that he, fearing the worst, instantly demanded the cause, when she replied that she had been in her younger days a nurse in the family of Macgregor of Dunan, one of whose boys had a black spot, such as she had observed on his shoulder, the recollection of which had affected her so much as to have made her scream. He then acknowledged himself to her as the very identical person ; and betore he departed she gave him a charmed stone or Clach­ buadhach which possessed the virtue of protecting his person in battle from the weapons of an enemy. How far the truth of the above anecdote can be relied on I leave to others to judge. Duncan was succeeded by his son.

V. Patrick Mac Dhoncha vic Ianduy in Dunan in Rannoch, so called in the Record of the Privy Council. His name occurs in the Leny papers in September, 1655. He purchased the wadset of the two merk land of Dunan and the four merk land of Kinnachlader on the 22nd April, 1675, under reversion of 5000 merks and the sasine. This wadset from Sir Alexander Menzies is recorded 8th December, 1675.

Patrick was thrice married - first to a daughter of Macdonald of Achtriachdan, by whom he had two daughters, both married to Camerons in Slisgarbh; - secondly he married a daughter of Gregor Mac Dhoncha vic Geal-Challum in Lassentullich, by whom he had four sons - (1) lan Dubh Og, who succeeded him, (2) Duncan, (3) Gregor, (4) Callum. He married thirdly a daughter of John Macgregor or Ardlarich, whose name is mentioned in the Decree against the tenants of Slismine, dated the 24th May,1695, and called (it must be by mistake) lan dubh Mac Dhonch vic Alister. By her he had one son, Neil, and one daughter. He had also three illegitimate sons, but whether they were older or younger than the rest of the family is uncertain. (1) John More, (2) Donald, (3) Patrick. They all married, and left a numerous progeny.

As his eldest son, lan Dubh Og, succeeded him, I shall proceed with his second son, Duncan, called Doncha Og. He was married to Catherine, daughter of Gilespa Ruadh of Ardlarich, by whom he had two sons, Alexander and Patrick, and one daughter, Mary. Alexander (referred to hereafter as VIII. of Dunan) was married to Janet Cameron from Camuserochd, by whom he had a son, Alexander, and two daughters, one of whom died young - the other was married to a Mr.John Macgregor from Strathfillan, who resided at Kinnachlacher where, being a strong, powerful man, he was invested with a civil commission to suppress thieves and freebooters, to which at last he became a victim, for not long after he was killed in his bed by two men who had slept with him (his near neighbours and relatives of his wife). His house was set fire to, and his body burnt to a cinder, while they escaped with the incredible tale that he had risen and had handed to them his purse and dirk, and had afterwards lain down in his bed. Yet so lax was the law administered in those days that both of these men were allowed to live the remainder of their days in the country unmolested.

Gregor, the third son of Patrick and of Dunan, married a lady of the name of Marjory Menzies, by whom he had a family, all of whom .died young.

Callum, fourth son of Patrick, married a daughter of Tearlach Og Mackinnon of Scalpa, by whom he had one son, Duncan, who died a military pensioner in Edinburgh without any issue.

Neil, fifth son of Patrick, was married to Catherine, daughter of Ewan Macgregor in Camuserochd, by whom he had issue - several sons, who all died young, and two daughters, Catherine, who died young, and Rachel. This Rachel married Alexander Macgregor of Ardlarich (Alister Mac Gilespa) and of whom at length under the Macgregors of Ardlarich.

We shall now return to Patrick's eldest son, who succeeded him in the representation.

VI. lan Dubh Og Mac Phadrick, who was married to a daughter of Mac-Mhic-Mhartin na Heitrich (Cameron of Letterfinlay), by whom he had one son, Duncan. It was this lan Dubh whom his uncle, Donald Macgregor Mac Dhoncha vic Geal Challum, deprived of his cattle, which he carried to Lassentullich and marked with his own burning iron. The cause assigned for this unfriendly step towards his nephew is that they had become joint-securities in a sum of money for some person who had allowed them the pleasure of paying the piper, and the said Donald being first compelled to pay the whole, was obliged in his turn to adopt these harsh measures with his nephew (who had given his uncle fair defiance) before he would agree to pay his proportion of it. But Donald, who was better informed, instead of opposing, force to force, took legal steps to recover his payment, and had carried off the cattle by a fair poind. John was succeeded in the representation by his only son.

VII. Duncan, as appears by a Bond of Clanship, dated 20th and 27th July, 1714, and signed by Duncan Macgregor in Dunan and several others of the heads of families of the clan, electing Macgregor of Balhaddies to be their chief.

It appears that his mother, after his father's death, had married Mr. Campbell of Roro, in Glenlyon, to whom she had a family of children. Her eldest son, as above, had resided for sorne time at Dunan, and had married Margaret, daughter of Macgregor of Drumlich, in Balquhidder, by whom he had no family. Becoming poor from the circumstance of his father's cattle having been carried away, and also of his having joined the Rebellion of 1715, he Ieft Dunan and went to reside with his step-father's family in Roro, where he died, and where his brothers intended to have buried him unknown to his friends in Rannoch. The latter, however, having heard of his death by mere chance, had, with Alister Mac Dhoncha Oig at their head, set out for his body, and they were just in time to have met the funeral on its way to the intended place of interment, when they took possession thereof and carried him to Killichonan, where he was buried.

lt was this Duncan who lost Dunan irrecoverably to the Laird of Menzies, and he was the last who resided there. He dying childless was succeeded in the representation by

VIII. Alister Mac Dhoncha Oig vic Phadrick (V. of Dunan), who married Janet Cameron from Camuserochd. By her he had one son and two daughters. He was succeeded by his only son in the representation.

IX. Alister Mac Alister vic Dhoncha Oig, who never married, and in whom the legitimate line of the family of Dunan became extinct, as far as can be collected from Rannoch traditions.

The above account was related by John Macgregor in lnverhaddon, who was born in Ardlarich in April, 1745, and is now 83 years of age, but of sound and perfect memory, and by other aged people who corroborated his relation, and wrote down by his son Lieutenant Macgregor, at lnnerhaddon, in February, 1828, with no other view than to preserve from oblivion those interesting sketches of the history of that ancient family. Copied from the original manuscript and extended down to the year 1837 by the said Lieutenant Macgregor, with a view of including the young progeny that have arisen since the original was taken down. (Signed) ALEXANDER MACGREGOR. Wester Tempar, 14th January, 1837.

[Here follow anecdotes of the Dunan family. The story of Rachel Macgregor's abduction from Dunan seems to have made a deep impression on the minds of the people, and it still lives fresh in the traditions of Rannoch and Lochaber. The capture of the fair maid of Dunan - the wild dramatic scene in the lonely sheiling at Lochtreig side, where she rejected the hand and heart of the Laird of Keppoch, and plighted her troth to the handsome young scion of the house of Letterfinlay - the magnanimous resignation of Mac Mhic Raonil, his sumptuous entertainment of his rival at Keppoch House, followed in the morning by the marriage pagent, is a theme weil calculated to rouse the Celtic muse. The story appeared in an abridged, and perhaps in sorne respects more accurate form, in the Celtic Magazine, Vol. IX., in connection with the history of the Macmartin Camerons of Rannoch, but it may not be amiss to give the Lieutenant's version of it here.]


Patrick Macgregor, V. of Dunan, had a sister, Rachel, who, when a young girl, was one day driving her father's calves to the hill (saodacha nan laogh), when a party of Lochaber men happened to be returning home from the south, and who, being struck with her beauty, and knowing that something might be made of their prize, took it into their wise heads to carry her off, which they did by main force, with a view to marry her unto sorne certain gentle old bachelor in Lochaber, but whom, when she saw, she refused to marry on any account whatever. He is said to have been Mac Mhic-Raonil na Ceapach (Macdonald of Keppoch), and different reasons are assigned for her rejection of him, one being that he was advanced in years. The interview between Rachel and her would-be-lover took place in a lonely sheiling by the side of Lochtreig in the mountains between Dunan and Keppoch. All fair means were tried to overcome her obstinacy but to no purpose, when one less principled than the rest proposed, by way of punishing her, that she should be ravished and then allowed to go home. A second objected to this brutish proposai, and by way of amendment moved that all the gentlemen present should be drawn up in line, and that she should be allowed to choose for herseIf; and, that as they had carried her there against her will, whoever should happen to be the object of her choice, would be obliged to marry her, and be no worse used than they intended to use her. Sorne say that this humane motion was dictated by a relative of her mother's, who was sister to Cameron of Gleneaves, but be that as it may, her choice fell upon Cameron of Blarachadrin, a very handsome youth, of the family of Mac-vic-Mhartin (Letter­finlay) and she is said to have been so contented with her lot that she never thought proper to pay a visit to her parents at Dunan thereafter.

In the course of a considerable time, however, her husband, who was a drover, was passing to the south by Dunan with his cattle, accompanied by several others of the same profession, and it being late, he sent his servant to his father-in-law (whom till this time he had never seen), to solicit a night's grass for their droves, which was readily granted them, and themselves invited to a night's lodgings. The servant, seeing that he had succeeded so welil, told Dunan that his son-in-law was there, and pointed out the handsomest amongst them as he, when they were all hospitably entertained. At parting next morning he requested his son-in-law to call on his return, when he presented him with twenty milk cows and a bull as a marriage portion and out of gratitude for saving his daughter's honour. It seems he had a family by her, as one of his sons John sometime thereafter came to see his uncle Patrick to Dunan, with whom he settled, and was the first of the Camerons of that tribe who came to Rannoch. This John (Mac- Mhic-ic-Mhartain) or, as he was called in Rannoch, lan Ban Abrach, was, it would appear, in high favour with his uncle Patrick, who, on his deathbed, is said to have beseeched his nephew to marry his widow, a daughter of John Macgregor of Ardlarich, whom Patrick in his old age had taken as his third wife. On his nephew's consenting to this arrangement, Patrick promised to bequeath him one half of his possessions, Ieaving his lands of Dunan, Kinnachlacher, and Camuserochd in equal portions to his son and nephew.

It is said that a sister or niece of Rachel Macgregor of Dunan went after sorne time to Lochaber to see her, and, she being a handsome young girl, a brother of Mac Mhic Raonil, a noted freebooter, known by the name of Gaumhin Ceannfhin, who lived at Lochtreig had, out of revenge for the insult offered to his brother, either carried her off from Blarachaorin or, which is more probable, intercepted her on her return, and retained her at Loch­ treig, where she was for sorne time unknown to her friends ; and that her brothers (which makes me conclude her a niece) hearing thereof, went to take her from him, and be revenged for the insult. From this she dissuaded them, as it was not likely she would ever get another husband after being so long with him, and therefore she preferred remaining where she was. Her gaumhin (stirk) sometime thereafter, in consideration that he had got nothing by her, made a foray and carried off all her brother's goats from Dunan, which, as soon as they learned, they went to Lochtreig in pursuit. When she saw them arrive, knowing their desperate temper, and that they were never properly reconciled on her account, and dreading the consequence of their visit, she fell into a fit and died immediately. Her brothers carried back the goats, but are said to have taken no further revenge at that time. She left no family. Many more .anecdotes are related of that family.