Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page

CLAN MACQUARIE

BADGE: Giuthas (pinus sylvestris) pine

SLOGAN; An t-Arm breac dearg

PIBROCH: An t-Arm breac dearg

In Scottish school-books there used to be, and perhaps there is yet, no more popular poem than "Lord Ullin's Daughter". One would seek far for a Scotsman who does not know the lines:

A chieftain to the Highlands bound
Cries, "Boatman, do not tarry,
And I'll give thee a silver pound
To row us o'er the ferry".

"Now who be ye, would cross Lochgyle,
This dark and stormy water ?"
"O I'm the chief of Ulva's isle,
And this Lord Ullin's daughter".

Thomas Campbell got the inspiration for the poem when resident as a tutor near Crinan on the west coast of Knapdale, where every day before his eyes raged the stormy waters of the Sound of Jura, and he could almost hear the roar of the famous whirlpool of Corrievreckan. Whether he had in his mind any actual tradition of these legend-haunted shores is not known, but, so far as the present writer is aware, there is no incident to correspond with the poem in the actual history of the MacQuaries, who were "Chiefs of Ulva's Isle".

The island of Ulva itself, with its wonderful columnar terraces, lies on the west coast of Mull, in the great bay which has for its inner continuation the beautiful Loch na Keal, immortalised as Lochgyle in Campbell's poem. From time immemorial this island was the home of the MacQuarie chiefs. Like the MacGregors of the central Highlands, whose exploits and sufferings are so much better known, those chiefs could make the proud boast, "Is Rioghal mo dhream", my race is royal, for both traced their descent from Gregor, son of Alpin, king of Scots, who was beheaded by the Picts, in sight of his own army, on Dundee Law in the year 837. The second son of Gregor was named Cor or Gor-bred, Latinised as Godfredus or Godfrey, and transmitted by the Culdee chroniclers as MacGotherie, MacGofra, and MacGorrie. The proper Gaelic spelling is said to be MacGuarai, and from this are derived the common modern forms of MacQuarie in Scotland and MacGuaran or MacGuire in Ireland.

In the chapel of St.Oran on Iona is still to be seen the effigy of one of the ancient MacQuarie chiefs. It is of unknown date, but is executed in superior style, and the mere fact of its existence among the tombs of kings and chiefs in that most sacred shrine declares that at one period the MacQuaries were among the notables of first importance in the Western Isles.

The great man of the race in early times appears to have been Cormac Mar, who was Chief in the reign of Alexander II. When that king was making his great endeavour, in the middle of the thirteenth century, to overthrow the Norwegian power in the Western Highlands and Isles, he was joined by Cormac with a force of three birlinns or galleys of sixteen oars each. This loyalty to the Scottish king brought disaster upon the MacQuarie chief. On Alexander's death at Dalrigh in the island of Kerrera in 1249, his great expedition to "plant his standard on the walls of Thurso" was abandoned, and those among the islesmen who had taken his side were left to the vengeance of their neighbours who supported Norway. MacQuarie was attacked, defeated, and slain, and his island domain subjected to all the horrors of western savagery of that time. From the general slaughter and ruin the chief's two sons, Alan and Gregor, found refuge in Ireland. The latter settled in that country, and the name of his descendants there is said alternatively to be derived from the personal characteristic from which he was surnamed, of "garbh", or the rough. This Irish branch afterwards, under the Earls of Enniskillin, became exceedingly powerful in the sister isle.

Meantime in Scotland itself the tables had been turned by the defeat of the Norwegian King Hakon at the battle of Largs in 1263, and the MacQuarie chief was enabled to come to his own again. In the wars of Bruce for the independence of Scotland, Eachuin, or Hector, who was chief at that time, consistently with the tradition of his family, took the patriotic side, and led his clan at the battle of Bannockburn. The same thing cannot be said, however, of the later chiefs of the sixteenth century. Another Eachuin, who was chief in the days of James IV, was among the turbulent islesmen whom that king was forced to take strong measures to bring to obedience, and made more than one personal expedition to the Hebrides to subdue. The judicial records of 1504 contain repeated summonses to "MacCorry of Ullowaa" to appear before Parliament to answer a charge of rebellion. MacQuarry, in his distant island fastness, laughed at these summonses, and no serious effort to arrest him seems ever to have been made by Government. In 1517, four years after the battle of Flodden and the death of James, when the country was occupied by the bickerings of the Douglases and other families who sought power by obtaining possession of the person of the Queen-Mother and the boy-king James V, Lachlan MacLean of Duart took occasion to secure a remission for his misdeeds, and at the same time stipulated for a similar favour to the "Chief of Ulva's Isle".

This chief married a daughter of MacNiel of Tainish, and the bride's dowry, which remains on record, reflects a curious light on the tastes and social circumstances of the time. It consisted of a piebald horse, with two men and two women. The latter appear to have kept somewhat to themselves amid their new surroundings on Ulva, and their descendants were long recognised there as a separate race.

In 1545, during the childhood of Queen Mary, when Henry VIII was making a strong effort to harass and overthrow the Scottish Government, Donald MacQuarie, son of the last-named Chief, was one of thirteen heads of clans denounced for entering into traitorous correspondence with the English king. Henry's schemes, however, came to nothing, and in the disturbed state of Scotland at that time nothing appears to have been done to punish the island chief.

It was probably during that troubled century that the incident occurred which is still commemorated in the name of a wild headland on the south coast of Mull. One of the Maclaine chiefs of Lochbuie, the tradition runs, had seized a certain Garry or MacGorrie, and inflicted upon him an unusually severe punishment by flogging. When the punishment was over, and MacGorrie was restored to liberty, he took a fearful vengeance. Seizing Lochbuie's infant son and heir he rushed to the top of the precipice, where he threatened to throw the child over unless Lochbuie consented to undergo the same chastisement as he had suffered. In the midst of all his clansmen the agonised parent was forced to bare his back and submit to the torture, his exulting enemy, when the blows slackened, constantly shouting out "More ! More!" When at last Maclaine sank fainting under the stripes, and MacGorry's vengeance seemed complete, he turned, and, the boy in his arms, with a yell leapt over the precipice to destruction. From this incident the headland is still known as Gorrie's Leap.

To the same period belongs the story of the famous pirate of the Island seas, Alan a Sop. Alan was the natural son of Maclean of Duart by a beautiful girl of his clan. She afterwards married Maclean of Torloisk on the western coast of Mull. Torloisk treated his stepson badly, and on one occasion thrust into his hands a burning cake which his mother was baking for him, so that he fled from the house. Years afterwards, having become the chief of a pirate flotilla, and hearing his mother was dead, he returned to avenge himself on his cruel stepfather. The crafty Torloisk, however, received him well, and, gaining his goodwill, suggested that he should attack and slay Macquarie of Ulva, and seize that island. By this means he hoped to get rid of Macquarie, against whom he had a grudge. The Chief of Ulva, however, also received Alan hospitably, and when the latter, on leaving, said the hospitality had cost him dear, and confessed what his errand had been, Macquarie turned the tables on his enemy, Torloisk, by reminding Alan of the incident of the burning cake, and suggesting this as a proper object of vengeance. Thereupon the pirate returned to Mull, brained Torloisk with a battle-axe as he came down the beach to hear of Macquarie's death, and took possession of his estate.

In the seventeenth century Donald's son, Alan, took part on the side of Charles II in the attempt of that young monarch to recover for himself his father's throne in Scotland. After the defeat of the Covenanting army by Cromwell at Dunbar, Charles had been crowned by Argyll at Scone, and assuming personal command of the Scottish army, had held Cromwell at bay before Stirling for a month. The Protector then tried the plan of turning the Scottish flank by sending a force under Colonel Overton into Fife. To defeat this attempt Charles sent forward a contingent under two officers, Holborn and Brown, and a battle took place on the north shore of the Forth at Inverkeithing. In that encounter Holborn showed himself a knave and perhaps a traitor, and though Brown fought bravely, he was defeated and his force was cut to pieces. Among those who fell was Alan MacQuarie, with most of his followers from far-off Ulva.

From that time the fortunes of the MacQuarie Chiefs seem to have taken a downward turn. The last of the line to inherit Ulva was Lachlan, the sixteenth chief. In 1778, finding his financial embarrassments overpowering, he sold his estates to pay his debts, and though sixty-three years of age, entered the army, He died in 1818 at the great age of 103.

The greatest of the race, however, was still to play his part in history. Major-General Lachlan MacQuarie was either the eldest son or the nearest cadet of the sixteenth Chief. Entering the army in 1777 he saw active service in India as the sieges of Cannanore and Seringapatam, and from 1809 till 1821 was Governor of New South Wales. There he became famous by encouraging exploration, by ameliorating the condition of the convicts, by the erection of public buildings and works, and by laying out the town of Sydney. In his honour the rivers Lachlan and Macquarie received their names, as well as an island south of Tasmania discovered in 1811. His policy regarding the convicts, however, was severely criticised in the House of Commons, and he was recalled in 1821. Then he bought back Ulva, and when he died in London in 1824 his body was carried north and buried with his ancestors. He married, first, Miss Baillie of Jerviswood, and secondly, a daughter of John Campbell of Airds, and he was succeeded by Lachlan, his son by the latter, Lachlan, however, died without issue, and the estate of Ulva passed to another name.

SEPTS OF CLAN MACQUARIE

MacCorrie MacGauran MacGorrie MacGuire Macquaire Macquhirr Macquire MacWhirr Wharrie

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com