1554: Mary of Guise succeeds Arran as Regent.
1555: 1. Mary of Guise renews efforts to pacify the Highlands. Among other things, Argyle and Athole are granted commissions over the Isles [Gregory, pp. 184-5]. “There can . . . be little doubt that the Regent would soon have made her authority felt, even by those Islanders most removed from the seat of justice, had not her attention been, after this time, exclusively occupied by the progress of the Reform- ation in Scotland” [Gregory, p. 186].
2. Religious state of the Highlands: “Although the Reformation was undoubtedly one of the most important events in Scottish history, yet its progress is to be traced almost exclusively in the history of the Lowlands. . . . It is not to be supposed . . . that the great Highland barons were slow to follow the example of their Lowland neighbours in seizing the lands and revenues of the church. . . . But in such proceeding the bulk of the Highland population, if we except the vassals of the Earl of Argyle, seem to have taken little interest; and many of them long continued to adhere, as a portion still do, to the worship of their fathers” [Gregory, p. 187]. In other words, most of the Highlanders at this time are still Catholic.
c. 1558: Alistair Og mac Donald, captain of Sorley Buidhe’s galloglasses, from about this time known as Alistair of Kenbane and Inchcrane castles near Ballycastle (An- trim); he is the ancestor of the MacAllisters of Kenbane; from his grandson John descend the Moycraig MacAllisters, from John’s brother Patrick the MacAllisters of Clintagh [CMS, p. 48]. Note: These families are therefore properly Clan Donald and not Clan Alasdair.
1561–85: During this period “the general history of the Highlands and Isles possesses little interest. Repeated failures seem to have made the western clans sensible of the impossibility of reestablishing, in any shape, the old Lordship of the Isles; and they gradually lear[n] to prefer holding their lands under the sovereign directly, to being vassals of any subject, however powerful” [Gregory, p. 189]. Ireland, as pre- viously noted, is a different matter entirely.
1564: Feud between the Macleans and the Macdonalds of Islay and Kintyre hots up; the Macleans are occupying land in the Rinns of Islay, which they claim to hold as crown tenants, but in this year the Privy Council supports the claim of Macdonald that he is, in fact the legal tenant, and “that the Macleans, if they continu[e] to re- main on the lands, must hold them of Macdonald, under the same conditions of personal and other services as the rest of Macdonald’s vassals in Isla h[o]ld their lands” [Gregory, p. 191].
1563: About this year, a family of Macalisters are installed in the lands of Shiskine (Arran) as 'henchmen' for the Hamiltons, whose power is on the rise and who have "struck an alliance with the MacAlisters" [W. M. Mackenzie, p. 87].
1565: 1. By this year the hostility between the Macleans and Macdonald of Islay is such that “they [a]re compelled to find sureties each to the amount of ten thousand pounds, for their abstinence from mutual hostilities” [Gregory, p. 192].
2. (2 May) battle of Glentaistie At the request of Sorley Buidhe Macdonald, James of Isla comes from Scotland with a significant force to assist him. “Soon after landing, they [a]re surprised by a party of the O’Neills . . . and in the conflict which ensue[s], the Scots [a]re defeated with considerable slaughter. James Macdonald [i]s mortally wounded, and his brother Angus [i]s slain; while Sorley Buy f[alls] into the hands of the victor, with many of his followers” [Gregory, pp. 289-90, 192; M1565.4]. (Interestingly, there is evidence that the Earl of Argyll attempted to intercede for the liberation of Sorley Buidhe Macdonald [Gregory, p. 290].) Though Sorley Buidhe is later released, “after the death of James Macdonald, this family never regain[s] its former power” [Gregory, p. 201].
1567: birth of William (later Sir William) Alexander in Menstrie Castle [Grant, p. 148; Castleton, p. 173; Donaldson/Morpeth, p. 148; Keay, p. 24]; see 1621, 1625.
1568: 1. Sorley Buidhe, who after the death of his brother seized the Ulster estates for himself, “[i]s successful over the English government on all fronts, and succeed[s] in occupying almost all the garrisons on the coasts of Antrim” [Castleton, p. 166; Gregory, pp. 221-2]. His supporters include many MacAlasdairs (see 1500s, #2)
2. (8 Feb.) Mention in the Calendar of State Papers relating to Ireland of "the Clan Allesters, who manure the land of Monery and Cary" [Hamilton, Calendar, p. 363]; I think these are a separate clan from the main Clan Alasdair, but they appear to have supported Sorley Boy just as the larger group did.
1569: 1. (19 Feb.) State papers record the deaths of “a number of the Clan Alasdair” including “Scottish Captains of the Clan Alasdair” (Randal, Donough, and Gilleasbuig are named) in a battle between Owen MacGilleasbuig (apparently commander of a detachment of Sorley Buidhe’s Scottish troops) and English forces. “We are unable to give the battle a name or location, or to determine exactly the result” [Castleton, p. 166], although presumably it took place somewhere in the north of Ireland. A 3rd March letter from Sir W. Fitzwilliams to Sir William Cecill describes a battle that took place "near to a castle in Claneboy, of Sir Brian M'Felim's, called Castlereagh, being from Knockfergus in the way towards Dublin about ten miles, and three miles or thereabouts from Belfast", in which "400 Scots with certain Irish" were overthrown [Hamilton, Calendar, pp. 402-3]. He includes a list of "Names of the Scottish captains and Irish gentlemen slain", exactly the phrase used in the 19th Feb. entry, so this could be a reference to the same battle, though not having access to the original State Papers, I don't have particular names.
2. Name appears as “Mcillaistrie” [Black, p. 450]
1571: Africk McQuhollastar mentioned in a charter of wadset (Scrymgeour Family Docs., p. 71) [Black, p. 450].
1572: (27 February) Hector, 3rd of Loup (“ ‘Aghen M'Owen Duffe McAlasteran [e.g., Eachain mac Iain Dùbh], otherwise called the Lord of Loope’ ”) slain at the Battle of Knockfergus ["Fortiter", Jan. 1982, p. 3; Martin, p. 94], in which “a body of Scottish Highlanders [a]re defeated by Cheston, Captain of the English forces” [Castleton, p. 166; Hamilton, Calendar, p. 466]; the MacAlasdair chief is “more esteemed than Sorley Buy,” according to the chronicler ["Fortiter", ibid.; Castleton, ibid.; Hamilton, ibid.; Gregory puts this battle in 1575 (pp. 221-2), but Irish State papers have it in this year]; see 1573.
1573: Alexander mac Eachainn Macalester succeeds as 4th of Loup [Castleton, p. 166; DMM (although he gets the names backwards)]; he obtains a charter from the Earl of Argyll. Note: mac Eachainn means ‘son of Hector’; see 1572.
1576: Name appears as “Makallastair” [Black, p. 450]
1577: Campbells attack Clan Donald territories [Feud, p. xi]. (Are any MacAlasdair lands involved?)
1578: 1. James VI, aged 12, nominally assumes control of the Government; in fact, however, Captain James Stewart (later Earl of Arran) is the primary power in the state [Gregory, p. 215].
2. Assumption by Lauchlan Maclean of the chieftainship of his clan. Maclean has already proven himself a man not afraid of bloodshed and not overly troubled by the laws, and “[u]nder a chief disposed to act in so violent and illegal a manner the Macleans could not long avoid a collision with the Macdonalds of Isla regarding the disputed district in that island” [Gregory, pp. 217-8].
1579: King James and the Privy council command Lauchlan Maclean of Dowart [Duart] and Angus Macdonald of Dunnyveg “to subscribe, within a certain limited period, assurances of indemnity to each other, under the penalty of treason. This le[ads] to a temporary suspension of hostilities between the two clans, and to the marriage of Macdonald with the sister of Maclean” [Gregory, p. 218].
1580: 1. the MacAlasdairs enter into a bond with Angus Macdonald of Dunnyveg, “which illustrates the dependence of the family on that powerful branch of the Clan Donald” [Castleton, p. 166]
2. Charles, 2nd Laird and Constable of Tarbert, is granted charter of feu ferme for lands of Balinakill from his cousin, Alexander MacAlister, the Vicar of Kilcal-monell [CMS, p. 2; Castleton, p. 166]; Hector (later 3rd Laird and Constable) is living in Tarbert Castle at this time [CMS, p. 3].
3. According to the “Origines Parochiales”, Charles M’Alister is the possessor of the Tarbert lands in this year [Mitchell, p. 73].
4. Death of the laird of Menstrie (father of William Alexander); William’s grand-uncle, James, is designated guardian of the children and is hereafter known as the Tutor of Menstrie [Castleton, p. 173].
1581: (20 April) Angus Macdonald of Islay "renew[s] his father's obligation by bond to John, Lord Hamilton.” This document "includes many names of the people inhabiting . . . the lands of Machrimore, Machribeg, and others on the west side of Arran, and Parish of Kilmorie", among them the leaders of the Clan Alasdair Beag ('Sliochd Iain Our vic Allister'), who “appear to have sought protection of Angus" [Fraser-Mackintosh, pp. 34-5].
1582: Probable death date of Roderick, Bishop of the Isles (son of Angus vic Ean Dhù, 1st of Loup) [I'm not sure of the source for this.] See my note at 1545.
1585: 1. Name appears as “Makeallyster” [Black, p. 450]
2. King James VI, now 19, assumes “more of the cares of Government than could have been expected at his age” [Gregory, p. 229].3. (2 November) Walter MacAlester is among those 'repairing to [King James] at
Stirling' and 'being in [his] company'; the 'honest and comely demeanour' of these
men convince the king that they are 'his obedient lawful and trusty subjects', and
as a result, forfeitures and other penalties against them are overturned by an act
of Parliament in December [RPS, 1587/7/70. Date accessed: 27 Sept. 2011].
4. Angus of Dunnyveg and his mother are engaged in negotiation with the Lord Deputy of Ireland in hopes of recovering the family lands from Sorley Buidhe. “Before, however, this treaty [i]s concluded, Macdonald and his mother [a]re summoned to the Scottish court; and the increasing difficulties in which this chief [i]s soon after involved, thr[o]w his Irish estates entirely into the hands of Sorley Buy, from whom Angus never [i]s able to recover them” [Gregory, p. 225].
1585-7: Macdonald of Sleat and Maclean have a misunderstanding that leads to a flare-up in their feud. Angus of Dunnyveg, Maclean’s brother-in-law, attempts to mediate, but Maclean uses the situation to renew his feud with Dunnyveg over the Rinns of Islay [Gregory, pp. 230-2]. “They alternately devastat[e] each other’s lands, pillaging, slaying, and burning. . . . Their adherents also t[ake] sides. Following the Macdon- alds [a]re the Clanranald, Clanian of Ardnamurchan, Macleods of Lewis, Macneills of Gigha, Macallasters of Loup, and Macfies of Colonsay. . . . The whole of the West Highlands [i]s set aflame ” [McKerral, p. 15, emphasis mine; Gregory, pp. 234-6].
1587: General Band [bond] of King James VI:
—“The records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reveal the inhabitants of [Kintyre] as a violent people. . . . Many of the disorders [a]re caused by con- tinuing rancours, resulting from clan feuds. . . . The Government d[oes] its best, Parliament passing in 1587, what was known as ‘The General Band’ or Bond” [Fraser, pp. 9, 16, 18]. This “very important Act of Parliament” is intended to “main- tai[n] good order both on the Borders and in the Highlands and Isles. The plan on which this Act . . . chiefly proceed[s], [i]s, to make it imperative on all landlords, bailies, and chiefs of clans, to find sureties to a large amount, proportioned to their wealth and the number of their vassals or clansmen, for the peaceable and orderly behaviour of those under them” [Gregory, p. 237].
—Alexander MacAlester of Loup is one of the Highland landlords and bailies listed in this Act of Parliament, which requires those named to deliver hostages as a pledge against their good behaviour and the behaviour of their clansmen and other followers [MacKinnon, p. 162; "Fortiter", Jan. 1982, p. 3; Castleton, p. 166; Fraser, p. 18]. Note: The list itself has 'Laird of Lowip'; editorial notes in the Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis specify that this is 'Alexander Macallaster of Loupe, in Kintyre' [Collectanea, p. 37; p. 44, note #84].
1588: first mention of Glenbarr family
John of Barr (“Johannes alias Ewyn Bane M’Ane M’Alexander”) listed as one of those commissioned by James VI as judiciary against the chief of Clan Cameron “and others who had incurred the displeasure of the Government”; this is the first mention of the Glenbarr family ["Fortiter", April 1982, p. 5; Castleton, p. 166], whose landholdings greatly increase in the late 1500s–mid-1600s [CMS, p. 21].
1589: 1. Sir James Campbell of Ardkinglas is required to sign a bond of caution for his kinsman Donald of Kilmore and Donald’s son Dougall, who “[a]re particularly aggressive and unruly, and g[i]ve much trouble to the family of Tarbert”; this is essentially a restraining order to keep them from bothering Archibald of Tarbert, his tenants, and his servants [Castleton, p. 167]. Note: Archibald is at this point the heir of Tarbert, not the laird (see 1599, #1; 1600, #1; 1602).
2. Macdonald of Dunnyveg and Maclean are arrested in Edinburgh. They are “liberated on paying fines. . . . James Macdonald, son of Angus, [i]s retained as a hostage, and Campbell of Calder [i]s made surety for Angus Macdonald, and Campbell of Ardkinglas for Maclean.” However, less than five years later, Dunny- veg is back in rebellion [McKerral, p. 15].
1590s: Angus Macdonald of Kintyre (Dunnyveg), although chiefly residing at Lochhead, fortifies the castle of Dunaverty, “as it [i]s the principal channel of communication between him and Antrim” [New Stat. Acct.: Southend, p. 424].
1591: 1. Charter for Tarbert lands received by Godfrey, 5th of Loup, from the Earl of Argyll [Clan, p. 204; Castleton, p. 167]. (This is the first record we have of Godfrey; he may have succeeded earlier.) He is a minor, and his inheritance thus comes under the authority of his uncle, Charles, thereafter known as the Tutor of Loup; see 1598.
2. (25 September) John dhu vic Allister vic Ranald "binds himself and them [his sons and foster son] as servants and obedient to John, Lord Hamilton" [Fraser-Mackintosh, p. 35; Castleton, p. 167]. The Kintyre MacAlasdairs have no need of this alliance, but those in Bute and Arran “occup[y] the position of a stranger sept, and such a bond [i]s expedient in a region where the heads of the House of Hamilton [a]re lords of the soil” [Castleton, ibid.]. The document tells us that Archibald Mac- donald, one of the sons of Angus of Dunnyveg, is the foster son of John MacAlas- dair of Arran [Fraser-Mackintosh, ibid.], which suggests that these MacAlasdairs [a]re close to the Dunnyveg family.
1594: Summons of treason served on Angus Macdonald and he is forfeited [McKerral, p. 15; Gregory, p. 256]. Nonetheless, some years later he is still known as Lord of Kin- tyre, and in 1605 “he [i]s in actual possession of a good part of its lands . . . but probably only as a Crown tenant” [McKerral, p. 16].
1596: 1. Scottish government prepares a military expedition to handle the lawlessness in the Western Highlands. This leads to “the speedy subjection of all the chiefs except Angus Macdonald, so that the expedition bec[omes] one directed against him and his Kintyre vassals.” Angus’s son James is allowed to return to try to talk sense into his father, and Angus, “hoping to get better terms, . . . surrender[s] all his lands to his son” [McKerral, p. 16; Gregory, p. 265]. “This, as being the act of a man already deprived by forfeiture of all his former rights, [i]s of course not recog- nised by the Privy Council” [Gregory, p. 281]. Among those attesting to Angus’s letter of renunciation is Godfrey, 5th of Loup [Castleton, p. 167].
2. (1 November) Record of a court session held on this day lists the following as holding land in Kintyre: Laird of Loup, Ranald Macalister, Hector Macalister (possibly of Tarbert - there was a Hector of that family living at the time - but Hector is a common name among the Macalisters, so it could be someone else; it isn't the chief, who at this point was Godfrey), and Alaster M'Alester [MacPhail, pp. 75-78].
1597: 1. "Gorrie [Godfrey] vic Allister of Lupe" and "Archibald McAllister of Crossage" are among those witnessing a Bond between Sir James MacDonald and Ronald McConnell mac Iain. "The witnesses [a]re all men of note" [Fraser-Mackintosh, p. 64].
2. (18 March) date of a precept of sasine by which William of Menstrie is granted the Mains of Menstrie in feu by the Earl of Argyll; future grants will give him the lands and barony of Menstrie [Castleton, p. 173].
3. By this time, “Kintyre ha[s] been marked down as one of three rebellious areas of the Gaelic west requiring particular attention” [Martin, p. 1]. An Act of Parliament is passed in this year approving the erection of three Royal burghs in the Highlands, though they are not in fact established at this point [Gregory, p. 277].
4. Angus of Dunnyveg is required to “find security for the arrears of the Crown rents, to remove his clan and followers from Kintyre and the Rinns of Islay, to confine himself to other parts of Islay, and to surrender the Castle of Dunnyveg to the King’s men before 20th May” [McKerral, p. 17]. He is then allowed to return to the Isles, “in order to test his sincerity, by his performance of certain conditions. A considerable time having elapsed without the fulfilment of these conditions, his son, Sir James Macdonald, [i]s permitted to go from Court to visit him in Kintyre— it being supposed that the influence of Sir James w[ill] insure his father’s obedi-ence.” James, however, has ideas of his own [Gregory, p. 280].
1598: (9 January) Askomil incident
“[I]t is probable that Angus soon repented the facility with which he had stripped himself of his possessions, when he found that this act was productive of no direct benefit to himself or his tribe. The transaction, however, was not forgot by Sir James, who . . . now endeavour[s] to take the estate into his own hands, and deprive his father of all influence. A quarrel among the Macallasters of Loupe favour[s] his designs, and seems to have suggested to him the idea of procuring his father’s death, as if by accident. . . .” [Gregory, pp. 280-1; but see note 11, which puts a different light on James's motivations]. Fraser-Mackintosh, who puts the incident in January of 1597, reports that the Askomil incident began "by the desire of the Laird of Loupe, then at great enmity with the Tutor of Loupe who happened to be visiting Angus Macdonald at Askomell” [p. 54]; other sources, including transcripts of James Macdonald's trial, report that Charles, the Tutor of Loup, has already been killed by Godfrey, and it is Charles’s sons who take refuge with Mac- donald. In any case, Godfrey, along with James MacDonald and several hundred armed retainers—“200–300 barbarous wikked and bludie Hieland men" according to records of the trial [Pitcairn, vol. III, p. 6]—besieges MacDonald’s house. “On refusal of Angus to surrender the Tutor or open the doors, [they] set fire to the house, to the imminent danger of those within" [Fraser-Mackintosh, p. 54; McKerral, pp. 17-18; Gregory, pp. 280-1]. The MacDonalds escape, though Angus is badly burned and is then held prisoner by his son; Castleton claims that “records are silent concerning the fate of the Tutor’s sons or their subsequent relations with their wrathful kinsman” [p. 167], but Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials suggest that nobody is actually killed in this raid [III, pp. 5-6]. James, who “now t[akes] the command of his clan, . . . conduct[s] himself with such violence in his new capacity” that in June another Royal expedition is planned to Kintyre. In the end, it does not appear to have been put into effect [Gregory, p. 282]. James is eventually sentenced to death for the incident (a sentence that is never carried out), but Godfrey evidently escapes prosecution [Clan, p. 204; "Fortiter", Jan. 1982, p. 3; McKerral, p. 20], despite his apparent role as instigator. . .suggesting that the object of the prosecution was more to bring down the house of Dunnyveg than simply to mete out justice.
1599: 1. Hector of Tarbert feuding with neighbours in Arran, which MacAlasdairs invade and plunder [Clan, p. 204; "Fortiter", Feb. 1982, p. 2; Castleton, p. 167].
2. “The house and lands of Knockransay in Arran [a]re invaded and captured by the Clan Alasdair” while the laird, John Montgomery of Skelmorlie, is in the Lowlands; Montgomery’s wife and children are taken prisoner and his possessions are seized. In redress, Alexander, son of the late Tutor of Loup, [i]s to be held by Angus of Dunnyveg in security for reparation. “We have no information as to the punishment inflicted upon Alexander for his violence in the isle of Arran”, but he evidently never surrenders to Dunnyveg, and Montgomery— the victim!—is eventually charged with rebellion for not delivering him. Defending himself in court, Montgomery describes the Clan Alasdair as “sic unhappie people” whose force was too great for him to resist [Castleton, pp. 167-8]. Note: Is this Alexander one of the Tutor’s sons involved in the Askomil fire, or is this another son?
1600: 1. Hector of Tarbert imprisoned for misdemeanors related to 1599 raids on Arran
2. Angus McAlester is a follower of Murdow McCloyd in an attack on the galley of the laird of Balcomie (Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, xiv., p. cxxiii: 1. Series. v. 1–14 [1545–1625]; 2. Series. v. 1–8 [1625–1660]; 3. Series. v. 1–14 [1661–1689], Edinburgh: 1877–1933) [Black, p. 450].