The MacLeods of Trumpan Reconsidered

Major Neil MacLeod

In addition to their Galtrigill and Raasay ancestry, Roderick MacLeod(Ruairaidh na Tì) and his son Alexander Mathers MacLeod, outlined a descent from the MacLeods of Trumpan in Waternish on the Isle of Skye. Writing in 1893, Roderick MacLeod stated that his “ancestors had Trumpan in Waternish for many generations”. Roderick’s brother, Major Neil MacLeod, a Crimean War veteran and Gaelic poet, also contributed, his account of the Battle of Waternish, published in Alexander MacKenzie’s “History of the Macleods”(1889) names two 16th century members of the family. The relevant lines are quoted below:

“One was John, son of Alexander MacLeod of Trumpan, who was in full armour, and did great execution, but a body of Macdonalds closed round him, as they could not stand before him, and ran their daggers through him in several places at the joints of his armour.”

“The other was Roderick MacLeod of Unish, a place situated at the point of Waternish. He was a powerful warrior, commonly called Ruairidh Mac Iain Bhatornish or Roderick son of John of Waternish. His name is still continued in Major MacLeod’s family. He also was in full armour, and did terrible execution, no one being able to resist the heavy sweep of his sword and powerful arm. But the Macdonalds rushed upon him in a body as their only chance, just as they did on his nephew, John MacLeod”.

Those mentioned above were related as follows:

1. – John of Waternish had sons:

(1) Alexander of Trumpan, who had a son:

A1 John MacLeod(Killed at the Battle of Waternish)

(2) Roderick of Unish(Killed at the Battle of Waternish)

The earliest existing records for Trumpan, which date from the beginning of the 17th century, show that it was occupied by an Alasdair Ban, son of Alasdair Ruadh. Consequently, official genealogies have presented the Trumpan family as being a branch of the clan Alasdair Ruaidh – descendants of Norman, younger son of William Cleireach. However, the clan Alasdair Ruadh are never mentioned by the Trumpan family in their genealogical notes.

The following from Roderick of Edinburgh, provides us with the family’s more likely origin: “My father came from an old family of the Macleod’s of Lewis or Clan Torcall, who owned Waternish in the Isle of Skye for generations”. Significantly, this statement tallies with the origin traditionally given for the MacLeods of Waternish, a family said to be descended from a niece of Macleod of Lewis.

In his notes Roderick of Edinburgh outlined his descent as follows: Roderick – John Ban – Murdoch – Allan – Murdoch. His son Alexander Mathers, went back another generation: Alexander Mathers – Roderick – John Ban – Murdoch – Allan – Murdoch – Alexander. This last man he named as “Alister Dhu an Dadhidh, literally singeing Sandy because he set fire all the houses between Claggan and Dunvegan – a near relative of Dunvegan with whom he quarrelled”.

Alister Dhu an Dadhidh, having been a near relative of Dunvegan, is unlikely to have been the father of the second Murdoch in Alex Mathers pedigree, he was probably a much earlier ancestor. A more likely candidate is Alexander of Trumpan, son of John of Waternish(a near relative of Dunvegan) mentioned by Major Neil in his narrative of the Battle of Waternish(see above). The reference to the quarrel with Dunvegan probably refers to the enmity between the Dunvegan and Waternish families in the 16th century, which culminated in the almost total destruction of the latter. The only surviving male was Norman, youngest son of an Alexander of Pabbay, who was himself a son of Iain a chuil bhain or John of Waternish(a grandson of the first John of Waternish).

The first records for Pabbay, from the early 17th century, show that it was occupied by Neil, another son of Alasdair Ruadh. It seems therefore, in the aftermath of the Waternish family’s demise(late 16th century), their lands were transferred to the clan Alasdair Ruaidh. Alexander of Pabbay, whose son Norman was the sole survivor and from whom all subsequent MacLeods of Waternish descend, Alasdair Dhu an Dadhidh, progenitor of the MacLeods of Trumpan and Alexander of Trumpan, the ancestor mentioned by Major Neil, are most likely all references to the same man – a son of a John of Waternish and a near relative of Dunvegan, with whom he quarrelled.

In time, this man’s grandsons were welcomed back to the MacLeod lands by Rory Mor. One of them, Alexander, called Alasdair Mor, had three sons: William, who fought and was killed at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Alexander Og of Glendale and Donald Glas of Drynoch. In the rentals of 1683-86 Trumpanmor was occupied by a Norman MacLeod or Tormod Mac Uilleam. It is highly probable this Norman was a son of William, son of Alasdair Mor of Liosail. Roderick of Edinburgh’s great great grandfather Murdoch is the next to appear on record at Trumpanmor in 1724, with amongst others Allan and Alexander(possibly a son of Donald, the son of Alasdair Ban, who was in Trumpanbeg 1683-86). Murdoch and Allan were probably sons of Norman, on record 1683-86.

Acknowledgements: Mrs. Marjorie MacInnes, Claigan Isle of Skye and Dr. Alex C. McLeod, Nashville, Tennessee.

Dunvegan Head and Ardmore Point From Trumpan