MACDONALD OF BOISDALE
Where do I start?
In the early 90s, I received a birth certificate of an ancestor that would change my life. John Henry Cornelius BOISDALE HENDER MOFFATT was my husband’s great grandfather. He was born in 1875 in Liverpool and died in Toronto in 1957.
He was a slater who, along with his wife, helped care for an apartment building in downtown Toronto as superintendents. There was nothing in his life to indicate that he was descended from a VERY important family….except his name. His middle names BOISDALE AND HENDER would start me on this incredible journey of discovery.
When I realized that our John’s grandfather was a “gentleman” and a “fund holder” (meaning he lived off his own means or money), I started really digging for more information. Before home computers and the internet, I went to my local LDS family history center and found out that his grandfather had many children and he always referred to himself as Hugh MACDONALD of BOISDALE, esq. This is when I realized he was given his middle name to show that he was a Boisdale Macdonald. Then later I found out that Hugh MACDONALD of BOISDALE married a Mary HENDER and his 4th middle name put it was together. He was the grandson of the last Laird of Boisdale who had left Scotland and eventually settled in Liverpool in the 1840s.
The above painting is of HUGH’s father ALEXANDER MACDONALD III of BOISDALE. He gained the rank of Captain in the service of the 71st Regiment.1 He fought in the American War of Independence between 1775 and 1783.1 He retired from the military, with the rank of Colonel. He married Marion Maclean, daughter of Hugh Maclean, 14th of Coll and Jannet Macleod, on 11 June 1783 at South Uist, Scotland. He was also the son of Colin Macdonald II of Boisdale who is infamous for having tried to make his tenants convert to Protestantism and they refused and left en masse for Nova Scotia and PEI.
Colin’s father is famous for meeting Bonnie Prince Charlie on the shore of South Uist when the Prince came to gather more troops for his cause and having told him to not bother because he didn’t think he’d get enough support.
The famous Flora Macdonald who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from capture by dressing him as a girl in 1746 was related to the Boisdale clan and here is an article written explaining her role in the Jacobite Rebellion.
Flora MacDonald became a Jacobite heroine when she helped Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, to evade capture. She grew up in the household of the chief of the MacDonalds of Clanranald, supporters of the Jacobite cause.
In 1746, after defeat at the Battle of Culloden, the fugitive Charles Edward Stuart arrived on Benbecula. He was being hunted down by the Hanovarians. Flora was 24-years-old when she was asked by the Jacobite Captain O’Neill to help Charles to escape.
After a little hesitation Flora decided to help the Prince. She managed to get a pass to travel from the Outer Hebrides to the mainland from Hugh MacDonald (her stepfather and commander of the local militia). Flora was permitted to take two servants and a crew of six boatmen.
Charles Edward Stuart was disguised as Betty Burke, an Irish spinning maid. They sailed from Benbecula to Skye in a small boat on 27 June 1746.
Flora MacDonald was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Charles Edward Stuart sailed to France. Flora was released in 1747 and was married three years later. She emigrated to North Carolina with her husband and raised a family. In 1779 she returned to Scotland. The merchant ship she sailed on was attacked by privateers and Flora was injured when she refused to take shelter below deck.
Flora MacDonald died in 1790 and was buried on the Isle of Skye. Romantic Jacobite legends were told of young Flora and the handsome Prince Charlie, and the Skye Boat Song was published in 1884, recalling the Prince’s escape.
On his son Hugh’s gravestone, Hugh mentions that he is the nephew of Sir Hector Maclean, Grand Knight of the Bath. This was further proof of the family connection to the Boisdale line which is now the line whose chief is currently Captain Ranald A. Macdonald, 24th of Clanranald who is also a descendant of the Boisdale line.
The current clan chief of Clanranald was given the title because the direct male descendant line from Hugh was declared extinct in 1944.
A few years ago, I found out that IT DID NOT GO EXTINCT. Hugh had a son who died in 1902, who’s 1st son died in 1939, who’s 1st son died in 1969, who’s son is currently living in Liverpool. What’s really cool is that our Hugh Macdonald IV of Boisdale named his son Charles Edward Stuart Macdonald after Bonnie Prince Charlie! It’s THIS son who’s descendant lives in Liverpool today.
Now I have an issue where the Court of the Lord Lyon who decides WHO will be given the chieftain title has given it to a branch that is not a direct line from the above Hugh. The person who should have it only found out about it when I discovered his ancestry and told him about it.
I wrote an article for a local Genealogical Society a few years ago. Interesting to me how nothing but a few rumbles has happened since it went to print. The history books say one thing but my research says another. I’m a genealogist and have all my sources and proof.
Part of me thinks that this is such a major bit of information that no one really knows what to do with or want to touch it. I guess it will surface when the next in line to succession is due to inherit the title!
I was amazed when I put this collection of photos together. Alexander III of Boisdale (1760-1818), Hector Macdonald-Buchanan (his brother), Writer of the Signet and friend of Sir Walter Scott, Norman Charles Macdonald (1910-1969) and the current direct male descendant. I see an uncanny resemblance to them all, especially in the eyes, nose and mouth areas!
What do you think? Any Macdonald of Clanranald out there?
A fascinating post and one that illustrates why family history is such an absorbing hobby, I enjoyed reading especially about the link with Charles Edward Stuart and Flora Macdonald. .
Family History Fun
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It IS fascinating and it always perplexes me that all the Macdonalds out there that are part of Clanranald are not up in arms about getting proper person in place to be the new clan chief.