1500s: Charters granted to vassals of the Lord of the Isles are revoked [DMM; Gregory,
1. MacAlasdairs in Scotland
During much of the 16th century, the MacAlasdairs “seem to have sheltered them- selves under the protection of the Macdonalds of Dunnyveg and the Houses of Argyll and Hamilton. They [a]re not crown vassals, but h[o]ld their possessions from Dunnyveg and Argyll, especially Dunnyveg” [Castleton, p. 166].
—“After the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles, [the Clan Allaster] attache[s] itself, for about a century, to the more powerful Clan Ian Vor” (MacDonalds of Dunnyveg) [Gregory, p. 68].
—Other MacAlasdairs become “vassals of the Campbell earls of Argyll and surviv[e] Campbell hegemony in their homelands with more success than most”, among them the Tarbert family and the Stirlingshire Alexanders” [Grant, p. 148]; see 1330s, mid-1500s.
—MacAlasdairs are raiding in Bute, where some of them settle [Grant, p. 148]; “a considerable number” also settle in Arran [DMM; CMS, p. 27], where they give bonds of manrent to the Hamiltons [Grant, ibid.]. However, several 19th century historians describe Macalister as an old, native name in these places, so it seems likely they were there before this.
—It is probably in this century that the Macalisters of Ceannlochcaolisport remove one of five ancient chapels near the parish of South Knapdale, relics of the “primitive Christianity” once found in the area, “on account of its contiguity to their house” [Stat. Acct.: S. Knapdale, pp. 313-4].
—After three generations of marriage between Macdonald South chiefs and Irish heiresses, and the settlement by that family of “several cadets of their own house as tenants in the territories of the Glens” [Gregory, p. 193], “[b]y the begin-
ning of the sixteenth century the MacDonalds of the Glens, Islay, and Kintyre rul[e] a formidable lordship in the north” of Ireland [Bardon, p. 68].
—The Clan Alasdair is “recognised as one of the leading galloglas clans during the 16th century” ["News", no. 35, p. 2]; see mid-1500s. This no doubt results from their continued alliance with the House of Dunnyveg, whose interference in Ireland is almost continuous [Gregory, pp. 193-201].
1502: 1. Donald Dhù, grandson & nearest heir of the last Lord of the Isles, is sprung from Inchconnell Castle by his clansmen, who hope to reestablish the forfeited Lordship [Feud, p. 44; MacDougall, p. 104]; see 1543/5. Gregory puts this a bit dif- ferently, saying that the combination of “all the necessary steps [being] taken prep- aratory to the expulsion of many of the vassals of the old Lordship of the Isles from their possessions” with the appearance in their midst of Donald Dhù, who has escaped from his prison and “whom they regar[d] as their hereditary Lord” serves to unite them behind him; his “adherents . . . increas[e] daily” [pp. 95-6].
2. “At the same time the commissioners ha[ve] strict injunctions to expel all broken men from these districts, which, in the state of affairs at that time, [i]s equivalent to an order to expel the whole population” [Gregory, p. 97].
1505: 1. (July) Macallasters listed as one of the principal Kintyre families
Earl of Argyll, now Crown Chamberlain of the forfeited Lordship, comes to Cean- lochport with the Bishop of Argyll and draws up a rental of the lands to settle ac- counts. “This is the earliest Kintyre rental in existence, and is of great historical value and interest, in that it gives in detail the names and extents of each holding, the names of their occupants, and the rents paid by each. From this rental we are enabled to obtain a clear picture of the principal Kintyre families in the fifteenth century.” Among those listed is MacAlasdair of Loup, occupying “the estate of that name on West Loch Tarbert, and also . . . tacks of other holdings in Kintyre. Branches [a]re the Macallasters of Tarbert, and the Clan Allaster Beg of Arran” [McKerral, p. 9; Stewart, List, p. vi]. The chief at this time is named as Alexander Makalexander [Kintyre Rentals, p. 3], who holds the lands granted to his grand- father in 1481 [Munro, pp. 218-9]. Roderick McAlester has a grant of Kilkevan in South Kintyre [Kintyre Rentals, p. 5]; this is probably Alasdair’s brother.
2. Thomas Alexander 'de Menstray' is named as an arbiter in a dispute between the Abbot of Cambuskenneth and Sir David Bruce of Clackmannan ["Fortiter", June 1982, p. 2]. This suggests that the Alexander family was already holding the Menstrie property, or part of it, at this time, though no charters have survived before 1526.
3. See 1511
1506: In this year, despite the government’s aims & a number of forfeitures, “the clans of the Isles and adjacent coasts continu[e] to occupy, many of them, perhaps, con- trary to law, their ancient possessions” [Gregory, p. 102].
2. Donald Makalester named in a land grant in Bute.
1508: (16 June) A Donald Mole Makalester is convicted of “the cruel slaughter of John Russell, Patrik Weddale, and sundry other persons” & various thefts; hanged [Pitcairn, vol. 1, p. 51].
1511: first known charter relating to Tarbert Castle/keepership [CMS, p. 19], though Mitchell [pp. 36, 73] believes the castle was given into Argyll’s keeping in 1505.
1513: (9 Sept.) Battle of Flodden: death of James IV; Scotland's leadership is "almost entirely eliminated", leaving an infant on the throne and destabilising the country overnight [Mason, p. 112]. Few MacDonalds, however, are present [Feud, p. 46]. At this point Alexander Macdonald of Dunnyveg and the Glens returns to Scotland from Antrim [McKerral, p. 14].
1515: 'John' McAlester of Loup mentioned in a charter as a “servitor of Colin, Earl of Argyll . . . to receive special protection by Regent Albany” [CMS, p. 2]. This 'John' is Angus vic Ean Dhù M’Alester, the first to be styled ‘of Loup’ (see 15th century, note #6), whose own name appears in the Register of the Privy Seal [Mitchell, pp. 72-3].
1517/18: William Alexander holds the lands of Tullibody and Menstrie from the Earl of
Argyll ["Fortiter", June 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 173].1519: 1. Name appears as “McAllestyr” [Black, p. 450].
2. Rebellion involving the Dunnyveg MacDonalds takes place this year [Feud, p. 54].
1521: Bond of friendship is agreed between an Alexander MacIain MacAlister of Glen- garry and Ewan Allanson of Lochiel, including a pledge “to lease land to each other if they [obtain] it” [Dodgshon, p. 36].
1524: Name appears as “Makallestir” [Black, p. 450].
1526: 1. James V gives to the Earl of Argyll the lands of South Knapdale and the keeping of “the Castle of Tarbert when built” [DMM].
2. (8th April) charter for the lands of Menstrie granted by the Earl of Argyll to Andrew Alexander & his wife, Catherine Graham, in liferent, and to their son Alexander in fee [Castleton, p. 173]; see 1427.
1527: Andrew Alexander of Menstrie succeeded by his son, Alexander [Castleton, p. 173].
1528: King James V, in his 17th year, assumes personal control of the government. At this point “the policy of the Government seems to have undergone a considerable change”. Among other things, all grants made during his minority are declared void. This leads inevitably to more disorder in the Highlands [Gregory, pp. 128-9].
1529: Alexander, 2nd of Loup, involved in Dunnyveg insurrection
“The Clandonald of Isla, and their present chief, . . . were probably among the number of those rewarded by the Earl of Angus with grants of Crown lands. But the late Act of Council having declared all such grants null, the efforts of Argyle to enforce an act so favourable to himself, and a sense of the injustice with which they conceiv[e] themselves to have been treated, soon dr[i]ve Alexander [Mac- Donald] of Isla and his followers into insurrection” [Gregory, p. 132; Feud, p. 54]. Along with Macleans and the Dunnyveg MacDonalds, Alexander of Loup is in- volved in an invasion of Campbell lands (Roseneath, Lennox, and Craignish), “which they ravage with fire and sword, killing at the same time many of the inhabitants”, according to the Registry of the Privy Seal [Gregory, p. 132]. For this role they all come under the displeasure of the government (23 July) ["Fortiter", Jan. 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 166].
1531: 1. (24 April) Parliament summoned to Edinburgh to pass sentence of forfeiture on those insurgents who continue in disobedience. Preparations begin for a royal expedition to the West Highlands to bring the troubles under control [Gregory, pp. 135-6].
2. (26 April) Donald McAlester named with others in a continuation of summons, ordered by parliament to appear and answer to 'certain treasonable actions' [RSP, 1531/4]. This could be the brother of Alexander of Loup, future Constable of Tar- bert. In any case, he doesn't turn up.
3. Alexander MacDonald of Islay and Hector MacLean of Duart travel to Stirling to submit to the king. By summer, the other principal chiefs, “finding that the King would gladly avoid measures of extreme severity, follo[w] the example of Alexander of Isla and Maclean of Dowart, and ma[k]e their personal submission to the Sovereign, by whom they [a]re pardoned, upon giving security for their obedience in future” [Gregory, pp. 137-8]. Unable to find security (hostages, see 1200-1400, note #6) for his future behaviour, Alexander of Loup is put to the horn along with his companions until James Macdonald, son of Alexander of Dunnyveg, is accepted by the Justice Clerk ["Fortiter", Jan. 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 166]. Note: Among the things that James Macdonald learned during his time at court was to read and write, "knowledge that most Highland chiefs lacked" at this time [J M Hill, p. 20].
1532: 1. 'John' McAlester of Loup signs bond of fealty to Earl of Argyll (document still preserved at Inverary) [CMS, p. 1].
2. John Dous (Iain Dùbh) MacAlaster of Auchandarroch (10 miles north of Tarbert) and Alexander MacAlaster are “principle witnesses to a [bond of manrent] signed at Ardcarradill (i.e., Carradale in Kintyre)” [CMS, p. 19]. Note: This Iain Dùbh is not the chief, who would be “of Loup”; Iain is common, and common names are often followed by colour descriptions like dùbh (“black”) as a means of distinguishing one bearer of the name from another. It’s possible that the bond these men witnessed was in fact the bond of fealty made by McAlester of Loup to Argyll.
1539: 1. A new attempt is made “to restore the Lordship of the Isles and Earldom of Ross to one of the old family”, this time Donald Gorm of Sleat. The “conspiracy . . . soon embrace[s] a majority of the Island chiefs” [Gregory, pp. 144-5].
2. Chief of the clan Alasdair is outlawed—along with his brother, nephew, and 300 men—for their involvement in an affray on Campbell lands in Knapdale [DMM]. Note: This was Alexander—not, as D. M. MacDonald claims, the second chief, but rather the second to be styled ‘of Loup’. (Is this in connexion with the Donald Gorm insurrection?)
1540: 1. Name appears as “McAlestare” [Black, p. 450]
2. (16 August) Alexander, Laird of Loup, granted remission for “treasonably abiding from the army at Sullaway”, i.e. Solway [Pitcairn, vol. 1, p. 255].
3. This year sees “the annexation of the Lordship of the Isles, with North and South Kintyre, inalienably to the Crown” [Gregory, pp. 148-9].
1541: (25 June) Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (vol. XVII) show Alexander McAllester of Loupe holding 4 merklands at Artardill; Renaldmoir (Ranald Mòr) McAllester rents the adjoining lands of Dewpin [Kintyre Rentals, p. 10]. Ranald is the youngest son of 'John' [i.e., Angus vic Ean Dhù]; the lands of Dewpin will later be the Torrisdale family seat. Alexander has also Armot (Amod) in Barr Glen from the Crown [CMS, pp. 21, 30].
1542: Scots are defeated by the English in the Battle of Solway Moss
1. James V dies after this battle. His successor, Mary Queen of Scots, is an infant; control of the government falls to her French mother, Mary of Guise, and her allies, most notably the Earl of Arran who serves as regent. Under this regent, “[t]he leading party in Scotland [i]s that of the Catholic clergy”, led by Cardinal Beaton and guided by “a determined opposition to the progress of the Reformation, and a devotion to the Papal see; friendship with France; hostility to England; and a resolution, which all must applaud, of preserving the ancient independence of their country”. Opposing them are “all the supporters of the Reformation; and at their head [i]s the Earl of Arran”. This Protestant opposition supports closer ties with England, including a dynastic marriage proposed by King Henry. Argyll, though not among the men of influence at this time, realises that this would mean Scotland’s absorption into England and speaks against it [Gregory, p. 154].
2. (21 February) Donald McAlester of Largie, Kintyre, along with his son John and 27 others are granted remission for “treasonably abiding from the Raid of Sull- way”, i.e., Solway, “And for all other crimes” [Pitcairn, vol. 1, p. 258]; later, a precept of remission is recorded in the register of the privy seal of Scotland for John Makalester and 15 of his clansmen (v. 1-2 [1488– 1542] RSS., II, 4454), possibly for the same crime [Black, p. 450; "Fortiter", Jan. 1982, p. 2].
1543/5: Donald Dhù rebellion
“[A] force of 1,800 MacDonald allies hit[s] the Campbell heartlands with consider- able loss of life”; this is part of another rising designed to establish Donald Dhù as Lord of the Isles (see 1502); his death (possibly of measles) “end[s] the last serious attempt to restore the Lordship of the Isles” [Feud, pp. 49-50; Gregory, p. 176]. This rebellion has the support of Henry of England, still trying to push through a marriage treaty, and it is interesting to note that James Macdonald of Islay (i.e., Dunnyveg & the Glens), almost alone among the Clan Donald, supports Argyll and the Scottish government against the Islanders (though he appears at the end to have been wavering) [Gregory, pp. 157, 171-7]. Note: Not sure where the Clan Alasdair stood, though in this period they generally followed the Dunnyveg family.
1544: Invasion of Western Highlands and Isles by English troops under the Earl of Lennox, supported by most of those Islanders backing Donald Dhù, but opposed by Argyll and Dunyveg, both of whose lands are plundered and burnt by the invaders [Gregory, pp. 166-7].
1545: 1. Roderick, supposedly the 3rd son of [Angus] vic Ean Dhù, appointed Bishop of the Isles [CMS, p. 2]. (Note: I question this, as nearly every source at the time says that Ruairidh MacAllaster was the brother of John 'MacAllaster' of Clanranald, a completely different branch of Clan Donald. More research is required.) Roderick is only Bishop for a year: "This gentleman called Roderyke . . . is by the great part of the country there, as we be informed, chosen to be bishop of the Isles, which bishopric is now void; and, as he informeth us, the lord Governor of Scotland hath nominated another. . . ." [letter from the Deputy and Council of Ireland to Henry VIII; http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=80412].
2. James McConnell (Macdonald of Dunnyveg & the Glens) receives a “huge land grant which must have included all the Crown Lands in Kintyre . . . in the Barony of Barr”; evidentally, some of these are in turn granted by Macdonald to MacAlasdairs ["News", no. 14, p. 2; McKerral, p. 14], perhaps indicating that the MacAlasdairs supported the Dunnyveg family against the rest of the MacDonald host during the Donald Dhù rebellion.
1548: Name appears as “M’Alstar”[Black, p. 450]
mid-1500s: 1. Tarbert family established: Donald, 2nd son of (Angus) vic Ean Dhù, becomes first Laird and Constable of Tarbert, an official position under the Scottish Crown [CMS, p. 2; Mitchell, p. 73], and the MacAlasdairs hold Tarbert Castle as vassals of Argyll. The Tarbert Macalisters, a cadet branch of the Loup family, date from this time; see 1511.
2. After the failure of the Donald Dhù rising, “we find no trace in the records of any attempt on the part of the Islesmen to restore the ancient dynasty of the Isles. The different branches of the family of the Isles, and the other tribes inhabiting the Lordship, bec[o]me gradually more estranged from each other, and more desirous each to extend its own power at the expense of its neighbours” [Gregory, p. 180]. Nonetheless, we see Macalasdair chiefs acting in concert with the Dunnyveg family for some time after this (qqv. 1580, 1598).
3. MacAlasdairs serve as galloglaich in the North of Ireland
“In their endeavours to maintain and to extend their Irish possessions, the Clan-
donald [a]re not only involved in frequent feuds with the Irish of Ulster, but [a]re occasionally brought into hostile contact with the English forces” [Gregory, p. 193]. “Whether in making war themselves, or in aiding the Irish chiefs to make war, they ke[ep] Ulster in constant unrest”. In 1533, the Dublin Council wrote to London in alarm that "The Scots also now inhabit busily a great part of Ulster, which is the king's inheritance, and it is greatly to be feared that unless they are soon driven out, then, bringing more of their number daily, will little by little so far encroach in acquiring and winning possessions there, with the aid of the king's disobedient Irish rebels, who do now aid them in such activity, that at length they will put the king out of his whole lordship there [G Hill, p. 37, quoting from the State Papers (English modernised)].
—“During the period 1540–72 [the MacAlasdairs are] very active in the North of Ireland which [i]s in a state of constant warfare. . . . The Clan Alasdair g[i]ve Sorley [Buidhe, the brother of James of Dunnyveg, who acts as manager on the family’s Irish estates] their most strenuous support” [Castleton, p. 166; Gregory, pp. 194-201].
—Involvement of the Loup family “in Irish affairs is indicated by the deaths, in
military action, of two men of the name – one of them described as ‘the Laird of Loup’ – in Antrim during the late 16th century” [Martin, p. 94].
—Alexanders of Antrim also ally themselves with Dunnyveg Macdonalds in sup- port of Sorley Buidhe’s attempts to drive the English from Ulster [CMS, p. 42]. Note: As noted above, it was really more a matter of the English trying to drive them out; the presence of the MacDonalds stirred up trouble, contributing to the general unrest caused by Irish opposition to the English presence in Ulster. The English objected to “the inconvenience that had arisen from a powerful Scottish subject having influence in a province already sufficiently disinclined to the English yoke” [Gregory, pp. 197-8].