Sir Allan Maclean, Bt succeeded his brother1 as the 19th Chief of the Clan Maclean4 and 3rd Baronet of Morvern on the 20th of July in 1651, but was not legally recoginized as the 15th Laird of Duart until January of 16622 when he came of age.
Though Sir Allan’s lifetime was relatively free from war and violent confilcts, his challenge was a ruthless legal battle with two unscruppulous Earls of Argyll for the survival of his clan.
- 3rd Baronet of Morvern11
Sir Allan was born in 1647,6 the second son of Sir Lachlan and Mary née MacLeod.1 Mary was the second daughter of Sir Roderick Macleod of MacLeod.1 Sir Allan had four siblings. His older brother, Hector Roy, who preceeded him in the Chiefship, was killed in the Battle of Inverkeithing.1 He had three sisters. Isabella married Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, Mary married Lachlan MacKinnon, and Marian died in her youth.1
At the age of nineteen, Sir Allan married Julian MacLeod of Dunvegan in Skye.8 Julian was the daughter of John MacLeod of MacLeod. Sir Allan and Julian had only one child, John, the heir to Duart and successor in the Chiefship.1
As Sir Allan was only four years old when his father was killed at Inverkeithing, he was under the guardianship of his uncles Donald of Brolas and Hector of Lochbuie.1 The young Sir Allan was tutored by his uncle Donald of Brolas2 until he came of age. The guardians shared responsibility to manage the estate of Duart, but were more focused on paying down the debt Sir Allan’s father owed to Argyll for funding the Maclean forces at Inverkeithing.1 They were able to repay over a third of the debt owed to Argyll.1 Later in designating official curators for the Duart estate, Sir Allan had to recognize that not having official curators caused
his estate and fortune had beeen mismanaged.6 Neither tenants nor debtors would
pay to him their rents until such times as he be lawfullie authorized with curators for whom they may receive sufficient discharges.9 Though the guardians were wise to eagerly free the Macleans from Argyll’s grasp, they had difficulty managing both their own estates and the estate of Duart.
Sir Allan’s early life was a time of great political uncertainty. Though the crowns of Scotland and England had been united for nearly half a century, the Act of Union was still another half century away leaving the Scots fearful of rule by their agressive English neighbors. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms were nearing their conclusion and military action in Scotland had come to an end by the time Sir Allan was 10 years of age.
The Cromwellian Commonwealth
For better or worse, the Macleans remained fiercly loyal to the Scottish Crown, fighting for both Charles I and Charles II against Oliver Cromwell’s English forces. Cromwell’s defeat of Charles I’s forces at the Battle of Worcester on September 3rd in 1651 marked the end of Scottish action in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.2 Cromwell’s forces slew 3,000 Scots and took 10,000 prisoners, who were either shipped off to work plantations in the English Colonies of the Americas and West Indies, or sold directly into slavery.2
Following the Battle of Worcester the Highland Clans, led by Glencairn, organized a rebellion against Cromwell’s forces that remained in Scotland. Donald Maclean of Brolas, Sir Allan’s tutor, was among its leaders. The rebells were within days of executing their plans when news arrived of Cromwell’s defeat of the Dutch ending the First Anglo-Dutch War. Realizing Cromwell was no loger distracted abroad, the rebellion had no hope of success and was abandoned.2
Having defeated the Scots militarily, Cromwell now wanted to secure peace under his Protectorate of the new Commonwealth. On September 3rd of 1653, Colonel Cobbert entered Mull and took possession of Duart Castle under Cromwell’s authority.2 Hearing of the arrival of Parliamentary Forces the Marquess of Argyll, who unlike his neighbors supported Cromwell, was quick to appear on Mull to offer Col. Cobbert his support and insight regarding the politics of the region.2 Col. Cobbet combelled the Macleans to promise that they would
live peaceably, obey the authority of Parliament, and pay sess. A sess (similar to a tax or levy) was assessed to Argyllshire by the Parliament of England. On Argyll’s urging, Col. Cobbert also compelled the Macleans to promise that they would not pay any rent to the tutor of Duart, Donald of Brolas who was the most powerful chieftain at the time, because he was in rebellion against Cromwell.2 Argyll also convinced Col. Cobbert to garrison his forces in Duart. Col. Cobbert appointed Captain Emerson the govenor of the garrison at Duart and ordered Capt. Emerson to
reduce the people of Mull to obedience to the Lord Protector.8
Cromwell’s Protectorate of the Commonwealth was short-lived. In September of 1658, Cromwell died and his son Richard Cromwell succeeded him. Richard governed the Commonwealth for only eight months before being forced to resign the Protectorate.8 General George Monck, the English governor of Scotland, marched his army of Parliamentary forces into London and re-established the Long Parliament; Monck’s action was an important step in restoring order and eventually the Monarchy.2 Two years after years Cromwell’s death, Charles II was restored to the throne,8 and the tides turnned again in the Maclean’s favor.
Archiblad Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, 8th Earl of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, was the de facto head of the government for the English Parliament durring the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. His peevish personality earned him the nickname
Gruamach with the Macleans on Mull.8 Col. Cobbert observed that Argyll had never fully recovered from his estates being overrun by MacColla and Montrose in January 1645,8 and continue to hold a grudge against royalists.
Argyll understood that shifting political landscape could either end his influence in the region or extend his power significantly, so he tried to position himself for the best outcome in either case. He was closely aligned to the English Parliament who had executed Charles I and overthrown Charles II, while he made sure his son, Archibald Campbell fought with the royalists against Cromwell. It was his desire to play both sides of the fence that made it easy for him to fund his royalist neighbors.
Understanding the precarious position of Argyll among his royalist neigbors, Cromwell paid him £12,000 Scots in return for an agreement to do everything within his power to subjugate Scotland to the Commonwealth government.1 A seneachie noted,
Alas for Scotland! her prostrate state must indeed have been deplorable, when the trembling coward of Argyle could be thought a worthy purchase.3
Though Argyll was never successfull in fully routing the Macleans from Duart, he was able to help bend them to the will of the English and away from the Scottish Crown. He also successfully cut of the revenue stream of Donald of Brolas, preventing the Macleans from participating further in Glencairn’s rising.2 The shrewed Argyll also succeeded in forcing the Macleans to garrison the military of their English enemies.
In 1651, Sir Allan’s father bonded a debt of £60,000 Scots with Argyll1 in order to equip his army to fight Cromwell. By 1659 Argyll had renewed his attacks on the Macleans by inflating the original debt. Argyll refused to acknowledge the £22,000 Scots that Sir Allan’s guardians had paid toward the debt between 1652-1659.1 Argyll augmented the debts considerably,1 and in 1659 he obtained a decreet of adjudication for £85,000 Scots against Duart estate.Donald of Brolas responded with a complaint to the Parliament of Scotland in 1660 against Argyll’s inflation,2 providing evidence disproving Argyll’s claim that he had received no payments toward the original debt. The King’s Advocate sided with Donald of Brolas and, by authority of Parliament, stopped Argyll’s decreet against the Duart estate.2
After Cromwell’s victory at Worcester, Argyll learned those who adhered to Cromwell’s Government were entitled to a financial reward. Seeing the opportunity for an immediate financial gain, Argyll turned his attention from the Maclean debt to pursue a grant from Cromwell.1 However Argyll never lived to collect either. In 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne, and Argyll’s fate was sealed. In supporting Cromwell he committed many crimes against the Scottish Crown. Argyll was sentenced to death and forfieted his titles and lands, and on the 27th of May in 1661, he was beheaded at the Cross of Edinburgh.1 His head was fixed atop the same pike that 10 years earlier held the head of his arch enemy, Montross.1 Argyll’s attempt to play both sides of the politicial fence ultimately cost him his life.6
Sir Allan reached the age of majority in 1661 and was legally recoginized as Laird of Duart in January of 1662.2 By this time the political climate had settled, the Monarchy had been restored, and the forfieture and execution of Argyll allowed the Macleans to leave at peace for a few years.2.
The Strathglass Witches
During Sir Allan’s first year as Laird of Duart he was called upon to protect his clanspeople beyond the bounds of the Maclean estates. Early in 1662 commissions were granted to Sir George MacKenzie, Hew Fraser of Belladrum the 8thLord Lovat, and others to try witches in Conveth parish, Inverness-shire.10 By July thier commissions were expanded to include the include tenants of the Chisholm lands in Strathglass. These witch trials, at least those endorsed by the expanded commissions, appear to have been a curel scheme by Alexander Chisholm of Commer, the 17th Chief of his clan, to clear tenants from his land.10
The accused women were
barbrouslie tortured . . . by waking, hanging them up by the thombes, burning the soles of their feet at the fyre, drawing of others at horse taills and binding of them with widdies about the neck and feet and carrying them so alongst on horseback to prison, wherby and by other tortur one of them hath become distracted, another by their cruelty is departed this lyfe, and all of them have confest whatever they were pleasit to demand of them.11
Sir Allan petitioned the Privy Council of Scotland to interceed on behalf of the Maclean women in Strathglass accused of witchcraft.2 In his petition, filed as
Sir Rory Allan Maclean, Sir Allan explained that the women, whose ancestors had occupied the lands for some two or three hundred years,2 were being
illegally and cruelly treated by Alexander Chisholm of Commer, who
having conceavit ane inveterat hatred against the suplicants because he could not gett them removed from their lands and possessions in the legall way.12
The Privy Council considered Sir Allan’s petition on the 3rd of July in 166211 and prevented Chisoholm from neither banishing nor putting to death the “Strathglass witches.”2 Unfortunately the Privy Council’s decision came too late for several of the unfortunate victims allegedly died in prison never having been
brought to confession.12
In 1663, Sir Allan decided to expand Duart and build the extension on the north side of the castle.4 The three-story addition measured 47 feet long by 15.5 feet wide.4 Today the Dining Room is located in Sir Allan’s addition.
Ensnared by Argyll
Though Sir Allan’s life was relatively free from armed conflict with the Campbells, he did have to deal with the usual harrassment that occurred between the highlanders. He hoped for a peacefull existance with his neighbors, Sir Allan dealt quickly and firmly with those who threatened to disrupt that hope. On one occasion he was summoned by the Privy Council for pursuing several miscreant Ardnaniurchan Campbells into Lorn to deal summary justice upon them without involving their Chief.1 The official records of the event refer to
Sir William Allan McLain of Dowart, though the name
William was never used by the MacLean seneachies.1 With only minor exceptions, it appears that the Highlands were generally tranquil as Sir Allan desired.1 Unfortunately,
the old arrogance was to commence again by the same hereditary foe of the house of MacLean.1
The 9th Earl of Argyll
In 1661 the titles of Argyll were vacant having been forfiet by the Marquess of Argyll before his execution. His son, also named Archibald Campbell was sentenced to death by the Parliament of Scotland on the 26th of August in 1662 for the crime of leasing-making, or creating dissension between the King and his subjects.2 Though Parliament tried an sentenced the Campbell it left the responsibility for carrying out their sentence to the King, Charles II who allowed the Campbell to remain in the Old Tolbooth prison in Edinburgh.2
Though young, the Campbell had made some powerful friends, which included John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale who had been appointed Secretary of State for Scotland after the restoration of the Monarchy. Maitland’s intersession on the Campbell’s behalf and the fact that the Campbell had fought with the royalists against his father6 convinced Charles II to grant him a pardon.3
On June 4th of 1663 the King pardoned the Campbell and restored him to the honours and estates of his grandfather. Campbell was styled,King appointed him to the Privy Council of Scotland and made him one of the Commissioners of the Treasury.2
Though restored in land and honours, the 9th Earl of Argyll found his estate deeply in debt and near ruin. Argyll’s father had driven his estate into serious debt well before 1650, and was briefly arrested for his debts in 1655. He had also made several loans to his royalist neighbors durring the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The estate had collected no income since his father was imprisoned and executed nearly four years earlier. Due to the Campbell’s long tendency to oppose the Crown of Scotland, Argyll’s tenants and debtors were less than cooperative.
Argyll’s Desperation, Debt, and Deceit
Argyll desperately needed to raise money to save his own estate. The quickest path to solvency was to collect debts that were due the estate. The Macleans, having been blocked from participating in Glencairn’s rising had not been as damaged economically as other neighboring clans. The fact that the Macleans had made payments toward the debt untill the Marquess’s imprisonment indicated to Argyll that they had enough money to solve his problems. He decided to press the Maclean’s debt as far as he could, and feaverishly set about buying all the debts he could find against the Duart estate. His used the strategy his father mastered, consolidate his rivals debt, making them difficult to argue, then augmented them considerably.1 Argyll pressed his father’s injuncted claim of £85,000 Scots against Sir Allan;1 and even attempted to force the £20,000 Scots debt of Clanranald—a confederation only the Macleans of Urquart and Kingairloch were associated with—onto Sir Allan.2
Sir Allan attempted to work out a settlement of the debt3 which was now clearly being wrongfully inflated at Argyll’s whim. Sir Allan knew that his father bonded a debt of £60,000 Scots and his guardians had paid down £22,000 Scots and Sir Allan had paid down an additional £8,000 Scots of the debt, leaving a balance of £30,000 Scots. Yet Argyll was pressing a claim of £85,000 Scots, the same claim that had already been injuncted by the Parliament of Scotland. Stalling the settlement, Argyll postponed any agreement on serveral occasions,1 pretending that he was not certain of the amounts already paid.3
ordered Lauderdale to see that Maclean have justice
Seeing no hope for an end to Argyll’s deceit, Sir Allan agreed to refer the matter to the Scottish Council for arbitration.3 Argyll pretended to favor this proposition, but made the arbitration more and more difficult by finding or inventing new debts that could be added to his claim against Sir Allan.1 Argyll succeeded in making the claim so convoluted that it never could be considered by the Scottish Council.
In 1672, Sir Allan traveled to London, by way of Ireland, to take up the matter directly King Charles II,2 who graciously received him.3 The King listened attentively to Sir Allan’s detailed account of the cause of original debt, the Marquess’s inflation of it, and the methods Argyll had used to augment the claim.1. Remembering that John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale and Secretary of State for Scotland, had vouched for Argyll, the King summoned him to provide insight to the situation.2 Fortunately, Lauderdale was in London when the King summoned him.2 King quickly discerned that Lauderdale’s predesposition in favor of Argyll more than clouded his judgement and cut off his testimony after only a few minutes.1 The King
sternly and peremptorily ordered Lauderdale to see that Maclean have justice.3
Lauderdale’s favor for Argyll indeed clouded his judgement, for upon returning to Scotland, Lauderdale disobeyed the King’s order and validated Argyll’s claim.3 This allowed Argyll to delay the settlement as the King ordered long enough to boost the claim from £30,000 Scots to an astronimical £120,000 Scots.5 Argyll and Lauderdale clearly colluded on the inflation of Argyll’s claim. In a letter to Lauderdale dated June 25th of 1664, Argyll stated that the total combined debts owed him by all of his neightbors only amounted to £66,000 Scots.2 This admission directly from Argyll is clear proof that he inflated his claim of debt against Maclean for twice the amount owed by all of his neighbors combined. Argyll’s final claim of debt against the Duart estate totaled £120,000 Scots,2 and it was endorced by Lauderdale.
Before the end of 1672, Sir Allan and Argyll agreed to terms negotiated by Lauderdale. The cunning colluders were able to hide the true amount of the debt from Sir Allan,1 leading him to believe that he owed only £30,000 Scots plus some interest.3 Under Lauderdale’s terms the rents of the Duart estate, less £500 Scots for maintenance, would be made payable yearly to Argyle until the bond was settled.1 Believing the bond was only £30,000 Scots and the annoyance would only last a few years, Sir Allan readily agreed to the terms.1 Argyll initiated a court action in Edinburgh against Sir Allan on the 17th of February in 1672, but Sir Allan would be dead before Argyll obtained Letters of Ejection against the Duart estate on the 25th of July, 1674.6
The Macleans were babes in arms when it came to state politics especially in the corrupt form of Lauderdale and the 9th Earl.8 The entire matter was so artfully handled by Argyll and Lauderdale that Sir Allan died a complete stranger to their plot.1 In the end Argyll obtained indirect controll, including the power to control rents, of Duart, Morvern, Tiree, and other lands belonging to Sir Allan’s estate.2 Argyll’s consolidation of the Maclean debts was so convoluted that it would take a century to untangle. The Macleans would ultimately lose the Duart estate, but keep the Duart titles and Brolas lands.8
The most unfortunate reality is that if Sir Allan’s guardians had siezed the occasion of the Marquess’s execution to assert the Maclean position in the Marquess’s legal suit against them at the time of his execution, the entire confict could have been avoided and their debt would likely have been erradicated.8
Sir Allan died in 1674.8 Though the cause of untimely his death is unknown, nothing suspicious was noted about it. It is interesting to note that Sir Allan died at the age of 27 as did his elder brother, and predicessor in the chiefship.5 The estate and titles of Duart fell to Sir Allan’s son Sir John,2 who like his father became chief at the tender age of four.7
- 1. Maclean, J.P. A History of the Clan MacLean from Its First Settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the Present Period. Cincinnati: R. Clarke, 1889. Print, 176-185.
- 2. Mclean, A. Sinclair. The Clan Gillean. Haszard and Moore: Charlottetown, 1899. Print, p196-201.
- 3. Seneachie. An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Clan Maclean from Its First Settlemnt at Castle Duart in the Isle of Mull to the Present Period. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1838. Print, p167-173.
- 4. Maclean, J.P. Renaissance of the Clan Maclean. Columbus, Ohio: The F.J. Heer Printing Co, 1913. Print, p41.
- 5. Hoey, Brian. MacLean of Duart: The Biography of 'Chips' Maclean. Twickenham: Country Life, 1986. Print, p164.
- 6. Maclean-Bristol, Nicholas, From Clan to Regiment. South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword, 2007. Print, 626.
- 7. Hardy, Mary. A Brief History of the Ancestry and Posterity of Allan Maclean, 1715-1786, Vernon, Colony of Connecticut. Berkeley, California: Manquand, Printing Co., 1905. Print, p20.
- 8. Currie, Jo. Mull: The Island & Its People. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2000. Print, p14-16.
- 9. Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vii (1661-1669), 20.
- 10. Henderson, L. “Witch-hunting and witch belief in the Gàidhealtachd.” Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Print, p95-118.
- 11. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, 3rd ser., i, Print, p233-4.
- 12. Mackay, William. “The Strathglass witches of 1662,” Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 9 (1879-80). Print, p113-121.
Article by Kane McLean, 12 September, 2015; released under the Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Unported License.