This web site began as a project initiated when I was a State Commissioner of Clan Donald, USA many years ago. My name is Larry McDonald. I have been a student of Clan Donald history for over 50 years. Our five daughters and two of our granddaughters have all won many awards as Highland dancers and our oldest daughter is a certified Highland Dance Instructor. We have sponsored many Kiltmaking Workshops managed by my wife who made kilts for our daughters, granddaughters, a son, two son-in-laws, three friends, and me. We have manned the Clan Donald booth for decades and presented workshops on Clan Donald history and genealogy. I am now a retired police detective so my approach to Clan Donald history and genealogy tends to take the form of a forensic investigation. Knowing my background may help you understand my motivation to seek out the original sources, evaluate each historian’s motives, and note any inconsistencies in their conclusions. My training & experience as an interviewer & interrogator have taught me that inconsistencies from different sources do not necessarily indicate one source is incorrect. More often it is just the opposite. Slight inconsistencies actually validate that each testimony came from a different perspective. Identical, eye witness accounts from multiple sources may raise suspicion of witness tampering. Historical “witness tampering” occurs when history is manipulated by political or religious entities in order to favor the perspective of those in power. Political & religious conflict have deeply divided the Scottish clans for centuries. The history of Clan Donald, including its genealogies, literally became spoils of war only gradually returned to public knowledge with the advent of the Internet. Obviously the Internet information highway provides both accurate & inaccurate information requiring the reader verify the original sources. Source materials for this web site are linked to a key word underlined & in brown text. By simply clicking on the word you immediately go to the source page in the original document so that you may read it for yourself, draw your own conclusion, without having to rely on another.
Except for William F. Skene’s The Highlanders of Scotland most histories of the Scottish Highlands & Islands did not portray our ancestors in a favorable way. Clan Donald Vol.I, Vol. II , and Vol. III completed in 1904 were expressly commissioned to tell the story of Clan Donald from our ancestors perspective. Like most Scottish histories over the centuries the authors’ credentials were advanced degrees in divinity. This three volume work was abridged into a beautiful one volume work by Donald J. Macdonald entitled “Clan Donald“ in 1978. This web site’s approach to our history is to make readily available through the Internet the ancient recorded documents that provide our ancient Clan Donald ancestors’ perspective without filtering it through the modern political & religious bias evident in almost every history of Scotland.I do not claim this web site is absent of any of my personal bias, but I am neither pro, nor anti-Catholic, neither pro, nor anti-Protestant. I have friends that are Scottish Nationalist and friends who just as fervently argue the political status quo. I can see both perspectives as an interested outsider. My experience with genetic markers has been helpful in my personal family history research, but my experience with yDNA test results has raised doubts about its reliability in establishing the number of generations to a common ancient ancestor.
My interest is in learning what motivated my ancestors. I prefer learning from my ancestors directly through their writings. I had the opportunity of living in Scotland for two years which has helped me better understand the histories I have read and the modern national identity of Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom. I had the opportunity of returning to Scotland with my wife a few years ago. My wife and I intentionally traveled to, and videotaped the areas once considered Clan Donald lands. After discussing the opportunity with several friends in Clan Donald including past Clan Donald, USA Commissioner Ellice McDonald Jr, CBE Delaware, we concluded there was a need for a video of the traditional Clan Donald lands. The video was given to those who made a donation to the Clan Donald Lands Trust through Clan Donald Heritage, Inc. With the help of my son, Heath McDonald of HM Studios and Peter MacDonald, who was at that time resident director of Armadale castle & Gardens, we produced the Armadale Video. With the change to DVD format we were able to make copies and ship them easier, but it also became easier for almost anybody to pirate our copyrighted work. Production of the Armadale Video was stopped in 2009 due to the announcement of a professionally produced DVD “Visions of Armadale” by the Clan Donald Foundation, Inc. We express our sincere gratitude to those who enabled us to send the Clan Donald Lands Trust over $3,000.00 from donations received for the Armadale video It is now available to everyone in Flash format on this web site.
Almost all the histories of Scotland and even several histories of Clan Donald give only the perspective of Clan Donald’s foes. The movie Braveheart (in spite of some inaccuracies) told the events of Scotland from a Scottish point of view. The people were not rebelling from their “rightful King” as so often portrayed in British histories. The Scottish people were struggling to be free from the English encroachment. As Braveheart’s William Wallace put it, “Historians from England will say I am a liar, but history is written by those who hanged heroes.”So it was with Clan Donald and the Lords of the Isles. They considered themselves a separate kingdom from Scotland with a right to make alliances with kingdoms other than Scotland if it served their interests. This brought them into conflict with the Scottish crown which lead to several Clan Donald chiefs at the end of a rope and the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles. The information on this web site is either taken directly from or inspired by Donald J. Macdonald’s authoritative history of Clan Donald. Much of the content of this web site was discovered by reading Donald J. Macdonald’s sources listed in his work. The original publication of “Clan Donald” owes much to Ellice McDonald Jr, CBE Delaware the National Commissioner of Clan Donald, USA at the time. He made great effort to place a copy with every Clan Donald organization. When this web site was first created the original publication was out of print and copies difficult to acquire. Now a second edition is available in a new, beautiful printing for less than the original cost. This web site now provides links to the original histories and manuscripts Donald J. McDonald used as sources for his history now available through Internet web sites such asGoogle Books Online and on line libraries that make digital copies available free as a public service. I do not speak Gaelic, but I have recently enjoyed researching the language of our ancestors. I have gained a better understanding of their culture by learning a few words & phrases, especially the meaning of Gaelic names. I appreciate the patience of friends conversant in Gaelic who have suggested more than a few grammatical corrections.
I am also very grateful to the many friends who have emailed me their opinions about this web site. I am sure Robert Burns would have said upon viewing the Internet, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An’ foolish notion.” Whenyou see a blunder anywhere on this web site PLEASE email me and let me know. We may just have a difference of opinion. If that is the case I will continue to express my opinion and you are free to express yours. Many significant corrections and additions have been made to this web site because others have emailed me at firstname.lastname@example.org ,
Another project Clan Donald Heritage, Inc. took on has been to encourage the traditional art of kiltmaking by hand. We have sponsored annual kiltmaking workshops over the last fourteen years that have kept this art form alive and ensured hundreds of Highland Dancers and their fathers from the United States and Canada had a proper, traditional kilt. Our instructor has been Elsie Scott Stuehmeyer, author of “The Art of Kiltmaking” who began her career as a master kiltmaker in Scotland, but now resides in California. She has been cutting back on the number of Kiltmaking workshops she has done each year and finally retired in 2013. We are honored and pleased that she continued doing the workshops for us for so many years.