BADGE: Giuthas (pinus sylvestris) pine
The Siol Alpin, descended from the early Scottish king of that name, and comprising the MacGregors, Grants, Mackinnons, MacQuarries, MacNabs, and MacAulays, have always prided themselves upon being the most ancient and noble of the Scottish clans. In the well-known Gaelic Manuscript of 1450, Clan Dhubhie is shown to be of the same descent. The prefix "dhu" in their name indicates that they were of a dark race, which corroborates their Celtic origin, in contrast with the fair-haired Norwegians who for so many centuries colonised and dominated the Western Isles. Though the 1450 Manuscript details their genealogy, little is known of their early history, except that they were the most ancient inhabitants of the island of Colonsay. With that island Oronsay is connected at low water, the two together making a pleasant domain some ten miles long by one to three miles broad. Here St.Columba and his companion St.Oran landed first on their way from Ireland in the year 563, and gave their names to the islands. Here, in consequence, a monastery of Canons Regular of St.Augustine was founded at a later day, and colonised with monks from Holyrood. The priory, which still stands on Oronsay, is, next to Iona, esteemed the finest relic of religious antiquity in the Hebrides. Martin, in his tour in the Hebrides in 1703, describing it, says: "On the south side of the church within, lie the tombs of Mac-Duffie and of the cadets of his family: there is a ship under sail and a two-handed sword engraven on the principal tombstone, and this inscription "Hic jacet Malcolumbus Mac-Duffie de Colonsay": his coat of arms and colour-staff is fixed in a stone, through which a hole is made to hold it. About a quarter of a mile on the south side of the church there is a cairn, in which there is a stone cross fixed, called Mac-Duffie's Cross, for when any of the heads of this family were to be interred, their corpses were laid on this cross for some moments on their way toward the church".
In most accounts the location of this tombstone and cross is erroneously stated to be Iona.
The Malcolm MacDuffie of Colonsay thus commemorated corresponds with a chief of this name who appears in the 1450 Manuscript, at the period to which experts assign the carving of the stone. The "ship under sail" of the description is the galley or lymphad which was the insignia of an Island chief.
Martin also says, "There is an altar in this church and there has been a modern crucifix on it, in which several precious stones were fixed. The most valuable of these is now in the custody of Mac-Duffiie in Black Raimused village, and it is used as a catholicon for diseases".
Monro, Dean of the Isles, in his description of Colonsay, says the island "was the property of ane gentle Captain called Mac Phie, but perteined of auld to clan Donald of Kintire". This writer seems, however, to have put the cart before the horse. The MacPhees came before the Macdonalds as owners of the island. In early times, as was natural on account of their geographical situation, the Chiefs of Colonsay appear to have been supporters of the Macdonald Lords of the Isles. According to the Register of the Great Seal (6, 17), on 12th April 1463, Donald MacDuffie appears as witness to a charter by John Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, executed at the Earl's castle at Dingwall. In the time of the Lords of the Isles MacPhee of Colonsay is said to have kept the records of the Isles. After the forfeiture of the last Macdonald Lord of the Isles in 1493, the MacDuffie chiefs appear to have attached themselves to the Macdonalds of Islay. In 1531, there is mention of a certain MacDuffie chief, who bore the name of Murroch, or Murdoch.
In the beginning of the seventeenth century the Lairds of Colonsay were probably at the height of their consequence. In 1609, Donald MacPhee of Colonsay was one of the twelve chiefs and gentlemen who met the Bishop of the Isles, representing the King, and at Iona gave assent to the nine celebrated "Statutes of Icolmkill". Shortly afterwards, however, the fortunes of the family seem to have taken an unhappy turn. In 1615, on the escape of Sir James Macdonald of Islay from Edinburgh Castle, he was joined by Malcolm MacPhee of Colonsay, and in the troublous times which followed, the latter was one of the chief leaders of disturbance. The business ended tragically. Along with eighteen others he was delivered up to the Earl of Argyll by Coll MacGillespie Macdonald, well known afterwards in the wars of Montrose as "Colkitto", being Ciotach or left-handed. By Argyll he was brought before the Privy Council. In the end he came to his death by violence. In the Council Records for 1623 appears an entry detailing an accusation against Colkitto of being "airt and pairt guilty of the felonie and cruell slaughter of umquhill Malcolm Macphie of Collonsay".
From that time the estates of the Chiefs appear to have passed into possession of the Macdonalds, and at a later day they became a patrimony of the Macneils, while the MacPhees became a "broken" clan, and their numbers formed only a small proportion of the inhabitants of Colonsay.
A branch of the clan then settled in Lochaber and attached itself to the Camerons, by whom it was much esteemed for its bravery. At the battle of Culloden, when the Camerons made the furious onset which nearly annihilated the Duke of Cumberland's left wing, the MacPhees furnished part of their strength, and suffered proportionately. The story is told of one of them, engaged in the attempt to prevent the dragoons getting through the wall which protected the right flank of the Highland army, that he cut down a horse and its rider, but, failing to clear himself in time, received a kick from the animal which broke his spine. He was carried from the field next day and lived long afterwards, but went through life to the last bent to the ground and hobbling on a stick.
As late as the middle of the nineteenth century the traditions of the clan were revived by a deserter from the army, named Ewen MacPhee. This individual with his wife and family took possession of an island in Loch Oich in the Great Glen, and set up as an outlaw, paying no rent, prepared to defend himself with a loaded rifle, and supporting himself by means of a herd of goats and such game and fish as he managed to secure. Still more lawless was the career of Edward Duffy, the Fenian leader in Connaught who was sentenced to fifteen year's penal servitude in 1867.
More creditable to the clan was the career of Robert Andrew Macfie, Member of Parliament for Leith Burghs, from 1868 to 1874, who was notable as an advocate of free trade, helped to found Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and published several works dealing with patents, copyright, and political questions.
SEPTS OF CLAN DUFFIE OR MACPHEE