Donald Roy MacDonald, Dòmhnall Ruadh, (b 1708) was the son of Ranald MacDonald, tacksman of Baleshare. Donald’s early education was at Orbost, Skye under the schoolmaster John MacPherson. Donald later followed in the steps of his schoolmaster by studying at Teampall na Trianaid in Carinish.
As suggested in Trinity Temple, Carnish, North Uist: its abiding influence in the realms of culture and romance:
‘He must have been an apt pupil, for by the time he quitted his studies, Donald proved himself to be master of both Greek and Latin and he took special delight in composing verses in the latter tongue.’
Donald was staying with his friend Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat at Monkstadt, Kilmuir on Skye when they heard of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s landing in Eriskay in July 1745. Keen to support the Prince, but initially restrained by Sir Alexander, Donald enlisted a few weeks later, initially as an ensign in the Keppoch regiment. Following the Battle of Falkirk Muir in January 1746, he was promoted to Captain in the Clanranald regiment. Donald was charged with delivering a letter from the Highland chiefs in the Prince’s army to Sir Alexander, urging that the clan be raised in support.
Donald returned to the mainland, where, during the battle of Culloden on 16th April 1746 he was badly injured. Despite his injuries, he made his way back to Skye, where as described in The Clan Donald, he:
‘composed a Latin ode to the wounded limb, faultless both in diction and metre.’
A few weeks later, abetted by Sir Alexander’s wife Lady Margaret, he met Flora MacDonald in Portree. By this time the Prince, having escaped capture at Culloden, had become a fugitive in Uist. There the Prince was introduced to Flora, who had smuggled him over to Skye, disguised as her maid. Together Donald and Flora waited at the Royal Hotel in Portree until the Prince arrived, having walked from Kingsburgh. Flora said her goodbyes, and it was Donald who took the Prince to the beach nearby, to make his way towards Raasay.
Donald later returned to North Uist where he taught children of local landowners, and by 1764 took ownership of the farm at Kyles Berneray.
His name is mentioned in the Grianam case, a dispute between the MacLeods and MacDonalds over rights to kelp in the Sound of Harris.
Further details of Donald’s career can be found in The Lyon in mourning, especially volume two. Robert Forbes, the compiler of this collection, in 1948 described Donald as “a tall, sturdy man about six foot high, exceedingly well shaped and about forty years of age”.
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- Brothers Keeper Reference:
- Teacher; Soldier; Farmer
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