Print of the remains of Ardtornish Castle in Morvern. Built by the MacDonalds in the 1300s and was in use until the 17th century. Magnus Barefoot, the King of Norway, sailed across the North Sea in 1098 to re-establish his country’s power in Celtic lands. He made an agreement with Edgar, King of Scots, that he would settle for all the islands of the west coast he could reach whilst his boat’s rudder was in a fixed position. He then proceeded to have his boat towed around by his men and claimed not only the isles but the peninsula that is Kintyre.
Fifty years later King Somerled took Kintyre and the islands back. When King Somerled was killed fighting Malcolm IV in 1164, he was succeeded by his son Dougall. From Dougall would come the Clan MacDougall and from Dougall’s son Ranald came a grandson Donald, progenitor of the mighty Clan Donald.
In 1424, James I returned from English imprisonment to begin his Scottish reign with a sweep of executions, imprisonments and punishment for all who had not supported him. In 1427 he summoned the powerful of the Highlands to a parliament in Inverness.
In place of his father Donald, Alasdair MacDonald and his mother the Countess of Ross went to Inverness and were immediately imprisoned. Others, their cousin Alasdair MacDonald of Garmoran among them, were executed. When he was released, Alasdair of the Isles immediately raised a rebellion in 1429 and burned Inverness.
James I jailed him again in Tantallon. After two years the men of the Isles rose again and James I agreed to free Alasdair on his word of obedience. He became Earl of Ross in 1435 and his people had a prosperous era where literature, history, Greek and Arabic sciences flourished.
When Alasdair died, however, his son John entered into the secret Treaty of Ardtornish with England’s Henry VIII in 1462. The arrangement was that should England defeat the Stewarts, then English-speaking lowland Scotland would be ruled by the Douglases. All the Gaelic-speaking North would be ruled by himself, with the King of England as his sovereign. In 1476 the treaty was discovered and John of the Isles lost his mainland possessions.
By 1495 the Lordship was revoked and anarchy and violence swept into the Highlands as the Campbells, Gordons and others tore off strips of MacDonald land for themselves.
A Gaelic poet sang:-
It is no joy without Clan Donald
It is no strength to be without them
For sorrow and sadness I have forsaken
wisdom and learning.