109131: Hugh MacDonald

Hugh (d c1601), Uisdean MacGhilleasbuig Chleirich, was the younger son of Archibald MacDonald of Sleat.

Hugh was sent by his uncle, clan chief Donald Gorm Mòr MacDonald, to become factor of North Uist, based at Dun an Stìcir. At this time substantial areas of North Uist were held by the MacVicar family, many of whom were lecturers at Teampall na Trianaid. By 1581, with the Reformation well underway on the mainland, the authorities were eager to spread their message to Uist but realized this would be difficult due to the influential MacVicars. Hugh’s role was to dispossess the MacVicars of their lands.

In the autumn of 1581, with Donald MacVicar, Am Piocair Mòr, away on the mainland, Hugh and his men took the opportunity to attack his sons. First they travelled to Carinish, where they slaughtered the eldest son, Donald, setting fire to his buildings and burning his documents. Hugh then, under pretence of friendship, invited the remaining three brothers to a banquet at his stronghold Dun an Stìcir. There, in cold blood, they were slain.

The MacVicars’ sister composed a lament to her brothers’ memory. This is just one version, available from Tobar an Dualchais.

Hugh, regarded as a powerful and treacherous man, plotted against his uncle, Donald Gorm Mòr, who had no children. The title of Clan Chief would, in due course, pass to Hugh’s older brother, Donald Gorm Òg.  Hugh resolved to usurp the title.

His plot was to culminate at a feast to celebrate the completion of his new residence on Skye, close to which he had built a fort, Caisteal Uisdein. However, Hugh inadvertently sent two letters, one to his hired assassin, and the other to the clan chief, to the other correspondent. Donald Gorm Mòr, now aware of his nephew’s treachery, sent a party led by clansman Donald MacDonald, Dòmhnall mac Iain mhic Sheumais, to arrest Hugh, who was found taking refuge at Dun an Stìcir, disguised as a woman. Hugh he was soon captured and taken to Duntulm Castle on Skye and thrown into a dungeon with a meal of salt beef. There, with a jug devoid of water, he died of thirst.


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