BADGE: Giuthas (pinus sylvestris) pine
SLOGAN: Cuimhnich bas Alpin
A poetical derivation of the name Mackinnon has been suggested from MacIonmhuinn, the Son of Love, and the monkish writers of feudal centuries Latinised it as Findanus. Several Finans or Finons are to be found in the list of Culdee saints, and one of the Pictish kings, of the year 645 was named Loceni MacFhinnon or Mac'innon. But universal tradition attributes the name and the origin of the clan to Fingon, grandson of Gregor, son of Alpin, King of Scots, beheaded by the Picts on Dundee Law in the year 834. This tradition is supported by the fact that the clan badge is the same as that of other clans claiming descent from Gregor and Alpin, and also by two bonds of manrent executed in the seventeenth century. In one of these, of the year 1606, Lauchlan Mackinnon of Strathardle and Finlay Macnab of Bowain having met at Uir in Breadalbane, declared that "being come of ane house, and being of ane surname and lineage", bound themselves to support each other in all time coming. In the other, at Kilmory in 1671, James MacGregor of that ilk and Lauchlan MacFingon of Strathardle, "condescending that they are descended lawfullie frae twa brether of auld descent", obliged themselves, their successors, kin, and friends to support each other against all men, the King only excepted.
The tradition runs that the original Fingon brought his following from the mainland to the island of Mull, and that he also owned Mackinnon's or Findanus' Castle in Skye. The early chiefs also owned lands in the island of Arran. Gribun, in Mull, appears to have been their original seat, and their property in this island was of considerable extent. They had lands as well in the island of Tiree, Strathardle in Skye, which was afterwards to become their chief seat, they acquired through a custom then very prevalent among the Highland and Island chiefs. A Mackinnon heir had been sent to Skye to be "fostered" or brought up in the house of Gillies, the owner of that extensive property. Gillies had an only son and a nephew, and on one occasion these two young men, while hunting on the island of Pabay, quarrelled and came to blows. In the conflict both of them were slain. Being then without heirs, Gillies, having become attached to young Mackinnon, left him the whole of his estate. To this Mackinnon by excambion added the islands of Pabay and Scalpa. Apparently at an early date the clan was powerful enough to be a menace to the Macdougall Lords of Lorn. According to Gregory, "The first authentic notice of this ancient tribe is to be found in an indenture between the Lord of the Isles and the Lord of Lorn. The latter stipulates, in surrendering the Island of Mull and other lands to the Lord of the Isles, that the keeping of the castle of Kerneburg, in the Treshnish Isles, is not to be given to any of the race of Clan Finnon". Under the Lords of the Isles, the Mackinnons were hereditary custodians of the standards of weights and measures.
The first check which the fortunes of the family received was brought about by an act of the Mackinnon chief himself. On the death in 1380 of John, Lord of the Isles, Mackinnon took arms in an endeavour to secure the succession for his younger son, Ian Mor. In this attempt Mackinnon was joined by the Macleans and Macleods, but their united forces proved unsuccessful against the elder son, Donald, who vindicated his right to the Lordship of the Isles. Iain Mor, afterwards known as "the Tanister", was driven into exile in Ireland, but was afterwards pardoned and founded the Clan Iain Mhor, or Clan Donald South, of Islay and Kintyre. Mackinnon was less happy. As leader of the formidable insurrection he was put to death.
Meanwhile the Clan Maclean had increased in power in the island of Mull, and almost inevitably came into rivalry and collision with the Mackinnons. Lachlan Lubanach, first of the Macleans of Duart, had become Steward to the Lord of the Isles, had married his daughter Mary, and had received charters of Duart, Brolas, and other lands, and apparently there was bad blood between him, his brother, Hector Reaganach, and Mackinnon. The climax came on a day in the year 1400, when the Lord of the Isles, who had been hunting in Mull, set out to return to Ardtornish Castle, his stronghold on the opposite shore of the Sound of Mull. As Mackinnon was stepping into his galley to follow, Lachlan and Hector Maclean fell upon him and slew him. They then disarmed his men, and hastening after the Lord of the Isles seized his galley and forced him to grant them an indemnity for the deed.
Of the feud with the Macleans which followed many incidents are related. On one occasion the young Chief of the Mackinnons was forced to seek refuge in Ireland. There the Earl of Antrim gave him forty young gentlemen to support him. The party landed at Camus na fola, the Bloody Bay a couple of miles north-west of Tobermory in Mull, and to discover the whereabouts of his enemies Mackinnon paid a visit to an old woman of his clan who lived in a certain lonely glen. He told her he had forty men to carry out an attack. She replied, "Do as I tell you, and you will have possession of your lands by sunrise". Following her counsel he took to the woods with his party, where each man cut and stripped a caber. Surrounding Ledaig House, where Duart and Lochbuie lay asleep, they planted their cabers in the ground, the Chief placing his before the door with his naked sword hung on it. In the morning the astonished Macleans, realising who had been their visitor, and that he could easily have taken their lives if he had wished, sent for Mackinnon and restored his lands.
On another occasion the Mackinnon chief, then a mere lad, was entrusted to the care of Maclean of Brolas, who was his godfather, who took charge of his titles and charters. By and by, hearing that Maclean had gone to Edinburgh to settle his affairs, and had returned, Mackinnon went to see him. At Brolas, however, he found at the door-side a burning stick, the sign that there was sickness in the house and that no visitors were being admitted. On returning next day he found, that Maclean was dead, and when he asked the new laird for his papers the latter said he knew nothing about them, but was quite sure that, if his father had them it was because Mackinnon owed him money, and that, if ever he found them he should keep papers and lands together. The papers were never returned.
An appeal to arms was not more fortunate. In a desperate battle between the two clans at Doire Shuaig, the day was going for the Mackinnons when one of them who had married a Maclean deserted with all his followers. Mackinnon fled to a cavern fastness at Gribun, but presently Maclean discovered it and proceeded to smoke the place. Some of the Mackinnons, however, managed to get a boat in time, rowed him to Staffa and hid him in the great cavern there which is still known from this fact as Mackinnon's Cave, till he could escape to Skye. In this way the Mackinnons lost their lands of Gribun and Inchkenneth, as well as Mishnish, their later possession near Tobermory.
In those stormy and eventful centuries several of the race became Abbots of Iona. The last of them was John, who, with his father, Lachlan, raised the sculptured monument known as Mackinnon's Cross, over the graves of his family in the Reilig Oran, and whose effigy is still to be seen on an altar tomb in the chancel of the cathedral. He died in the year 1500.
Thenceforth the seat of the Mackinnon chiefs was at Strathardle in Skye. The twenty-sixth of the line, Sir Lachlan, was a man of much importance in the islands, and in 1628, the year before his death, his estate was erected into a barony by Charles I.
A few years later, in 1639, the Covenanting Government under Argyll considered it desirable to check the pretensions of the Island chiefs. Accordingly in a court held at Iona, it was enacted that Mackinnon and others of his rank should sustain and entertain no more than three gentlemen in their retinue. None must carry hagbuts or pistols, and only the chiefs and their immediate households were permitted to wear swords and armour. A chief was to keep no more than one birlinn or galley of eighteen oars; no bards or seannachies were to be retained, and gentlemen of Mackinnon's rank were to use no more than one tun of wine in a year.
In the Civil Wars of Charles I, the Mackinnons were staunchly loyal. Joining the gallant Marquess of Montrose in 1645, they played a brilliant part at the desperate battles of Auldearn and Inverlochy, in the latter of which Argyll's force was cut to pieces with a loss of fifteen hundred men.
The chief of that time, Lachlan Mor Mackinnon, had been brought up at Inveraray by Argyll, but had married a daughter of Maclean of Duart. In 1649 he was induced by that chief to join in an attack with two hundred followers on the lands of his former guardian. The enterprise proved disastrous. Recognising the assailants by the badge in their bonnets, the Campbeils attacked furiously, giving no quarter, and the Mackinnons were cut to pieces.
Two years later, the young King, Charles II, having landed in Scotland, Mackinnon raised a battalion from his lands in Skye, and marched to Worcester. There he is said to have saved the King's life and to have been knighted on the field in consequence, but the honour was not confirmed at the Restoration.
In the Jacobite rising of 1715 the Mackinnons joined the Earl of Mar and took part at the battle of Sheriffmuir, and in 1745-6 they marched to Derby with Prince Charles Edward, and helped to win the battle of Falkirk, Half of them fell at Culloden. The other half on the same day completely broke up Lord Loudoun's force in Sutherlandshire.
In the romantic adventures of the Prince which followed, Mackinnon bore an outstanding part. It was on 2nd July that Charles took refuge with them in Skye. That night they rowed him over to the mainland, and after many adventures handed him safely to Angus Macdonald at Borrodale, Next day Mackinnon was taken prisoner, and after a year's confinement in Tilbury Fort, was tried for his life. He had been attainted, and was excepted from the Act of Indemnity passed in 1747, but was pardoned on account of his years and of the fact that he had acted rather from a spirit of chivalry than of rebellion. As he was leaving the court the Attorney-General asked him, "If King George were in your power, as you have been in his, what would you do ?" To which Mackinnon replied, "I would do to him, as he has this day done to me; I would send him back to his own country".
As a result of these events the Mackinnons had to part with Strathardle in 1765. Since then they have been landless in the ancient country of their clan, and the last Chief of the senior line died unmarried and in reduced circumstances in 1808. He was the great-grandson of John, elder son of Lachlan Mor, who fought for Charles II at the battle of Worcester. On that event the chiefship passed to the representative of Lachlan Mor's second son Donald. At Worcester this Donald was taken prisoner. On his release he went to Antigua in the West Indies, where, by a common corruption he was called Daniel, and it was his great-great-grandson, William Alexander Mackinnon, who became thirty-third Chief in 1808. He sat in Parliament almost uninterruptedly from 1819 till 1865. His representative the present Chief, who resides at Gollanfield near Inverness, is an enthusiast for all things Highland. His wife is the elder daughter of the late Lord Hood of Avalon and a niece of Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, Baronet of Duart; and of his sons the elder at the beginning of the war of 1914 held a commission in the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders, and the second was a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
In the tale of members of the clan who have distinguished themselves in the service of their country in recent times, must be included Major-General Henry Mackinnon, who fell leading his brigade at Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812, and Colonel Daniel Mackinnon who commanded the Coldstream Guards at Waterloo and held the farm of Hougomont till he fell severely wounded. He afterwards wrote the History of the Coldstream Guards. Others have been General George Henry Mackinnon of the Grenadiers, who fought in the Kaffir War of 1846-7, and became Chief Commissioner of British Kaffraria; Colonel Lionel Mackinnon of the Coldstreams, killed at Inkerman; and Colonel William Alexander Mackinnon, who distinguished himself in the Indian Mutiny, while in another field was Sir William Mackinnon, Baronet, founder of the British India Steam Navigation Company.
SEPTS OF CLAN MACKINNON