Friday, 22 January 2010

Lochaber for the MacDonalds?

A really belated story this, but I've just been drawn to a fascinating news story from the Times which I missed in December, which goes right to heart of clan identity and land tenure.

The chief of the MacDonalds of Keppoch, 79 year old Ranald MacDonald (Mac Mhic Raonuill), is fighting to have all of the lands of Lochaber returned to him! His argument lies in the fact that he believes the lands were snatched from the clan's traditional ownership through the advent of feudalism in Scotland, having previously been held by the Keppoch MacDonalds according to the rites of 'ur duthchas', an old form of hereditary land tenure which was not included within the Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) Act. MacDonald has launched a petition to have his claim investigated by MSPs, equating the system to that of 'allodial' or 'udal' tenure (outright ownership) in Shetland and Orkney, which still exists followng the Act. He is also arguing that his clan were an indigenous people, and that his case therefore parallels that of indigenous tribes in Australia, New Zealand and America.

The implications, if the claim is upheld, are simply enormous. If upheld, how much of Scottish clan territory will be in a similar boat? Many clan chiefs became feudal superiors, but were other clans dispossessed in a similar way?

The Times article is located at, whilst Scots Law News has coverage at MacDonald has himself recorded his thoughts on the matter as part of an address for the Gathering and placed them online via a downloadable MP3 recording at

The committee has apparently requested assistance from the Scottish government, Registers of Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Land Court on the matter.

It is not known how many rolls of Andrex have been requested by Scotland's top officials...!

(With thanks to Graham MacDonnell of the Great Glen Genealogical Research Centre in Inverness).

Scotland's Greatest Story

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