Research into MacDonalds of Innes a' Chulun
by Malcolm McDonald

A visitor to the Moidart Local History Group site, sends greetings from Australia, where his family went in1839 and attaches an interesting paper tracing his McDonald ancestors in Moidart.

Anyone with helpful responses to his questions could respond on the main site Guestbook / Message Board.


Moidart Local History Group.

Dear friends, maybe kinfolk,

I have been researching Scottish/ Clan Donald History for some time and in particular that relating to my family line.

The certified information is that John MacDonald of the 15th Regiment of Foot, served in Canada and returned wounded to Britian to be discharged as an out-pensioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1770. He married Janet Stewart and had children of Christian, 1779 b.Fort William, and Margaret 1780 and Dugald 10.3.1782 who were born when they resided at Corran.
Dugald was a merchant in Glenuig before he moved to Kyles Mor in 1807 and married Margaret MacDonald of/in Innes a' Chulun in 1809.

The family emigrated to Australia on the 'British King' in 1838 arriving in Sydney Australia in February 1839.

The following is from my research over 15 years, and a couple of visits to Scotland.

I have recorded the research and then made certain deductions as to possible connections or situations, [as is the case with the probable distilling of whisky on Innes a' Chulun].

I would appreciate any information as to these families and their probable lifestyle in the 1700's and early 1800's.

I would also be pleased to receive any constructive comment on my deductions.

I would appreciate any guidance as to where I might gain further information on my kin, ie where Ewan MacDonald, tenant Farmer, may be buried ? and where any records may exist ?

I look forward to communicating with you and sharing any information I might have on folk who emigrated to Australia from Moidart.

Yours faithfully,
Malcolm McDonald.


Ewan Macdonald of Innes a' Chulun, was, we believe, a Tacksman tenant farmer in Moidart; his daughter is recorded in a family letter of 1809 as "of Iniskune."

Research of Moidart rentals establish the family of Ewan of Innes a' Chulun, as tenants in Moidart from 1747. Inventories show that there were Ewans and 'sons of Ewan' prior to 1684.

Tenants and rental records for the periods from 1686 to 1798, the 1770 Inventories and the 1841 census, the only Ewen MacDonalds listed are :-

1684 27/9/1686, Finwal nein Dugald V'Ean V'Ruary in Inshrory, died
July 84, given up by Donald Mc Ewan her husband, in name of
Ewen McDougald VcEan VcRory, executor dative. nv.c.p.115
Ewan Ban, tenant Ulgary Roll of men from Clanranald's Estate
1747 Ewan McDonald tenant 1/4 part of Issiroy. c.p.9
1755 Ewan McDonald tenant Issiroy.
1764 Ewen McDonald, by Tack from Ranald Yr.,part of Inchrory.
[with * John MacDonald and John Corbet] c.p.9.
1770 Ewan McDonald tenant in Caolas Mor. [check p.20]
  Ewan McDonald tenant Caolas Ian Oig.
1773 Ewan McDonald tenant Ulgary [* equal with John] p.14.
1778 & 1779 Ewan McDonald " "
1784 & 1785 Ewan McDonald " Caolas Mor.c.p.26.
  Ewan McDonald " Caolas Ian Oig.
1786 Ewan McDonald Sr.rental on croft at Ulgary.c.p.145
1786 Ewan McDonald Jr.rental on croft at Ulgary.
1786 Ewan McDonald rental on croft at Assary.
note: tenants of Assary also possessed a 1\2 of Duilad.
1809 Margaret, daughter of Ewan Macdonald of Innes a' Chulun,
tenant farmer and wife Margery MacDonald, married Dugald McDonald.

In the Roll of men from Clanranalds mainland estates in 1745:- out of 92 men, 39 were named MacDonald, but only one was named Ewan, [Ulgary.] mac.

The above facts show only one Ewen continually who is a tenant from 1745 to
1786; then there is two, Ewan Sr. and Jr., so the line is established before 1684 to 1809, [tenancy was gained by proof of kinship.]

Ewan MacDonald and John MacDonald were equal tenants of Inchrory in 1747,
and Ewan MacDonald, John MacDonald and John Corbet, were associated in the
rental of Inchrory in 1764; these families were again associated in marriages in 1837, which supports it being the same line of Ewan of Innes a' Chulun. ref.p's.110, 116.

History, and the records of the Old Parochial Registers of marriages and
births, provide the story of these families.

A previous chapter, [The Great Glen], provides an introduction to the
McDonald families who were established in Ross shire in the 1400's, and who
farmed at Kilmorack, Abriachan, Dores and Urquhart in the 1700's

After the Battle of Culloden the well known [suviving] supporters of Prince
Edward Stewart, the Chieftans and Tacksmen of Moidart, had to flee from
Cumberland's troops, for if captured they would be imprisoned or hung.

This left the main farms in Moidart without principal tenants.

At the same time in 1746, the Crown appointed Commissioners to administer
the Forfeited Estates, and Factors to supervise local tenancy arrangements.

Family members of Donald and Reginald now had to take action to retain
lands and crofts which had been managed by the family for generations.

Ewen Ban was a tenant of Ulgary before the '45, and when he returned, he
and John McDonald, took up tenancy on the Moidart croft of Issiroy
[Inchrory] in 1747, and had the lease renewed by tack from Ranald the
Younger in 1764; this was shared with John Corbett, a relative by marriage.

Note : Scottish researcher, Colin MacDonald of Ontario, has established
that John Corbett came from Ross shire; that in 1773 he submitted an
estimate for the repair of Kinlochmoidart House; he lived at Port a Bhata
in 1791; Donald MacDonald of Lochans and John Corbett were reported by the
Estate manager in 1801 on a matter relating to the tenants of Lochans, Glen
Moidart, which was the property of the Clanranald Chieftain.

# Parish of Petty: 10/4/1642 Johne Corbet had a bairne bap named Christane;
witness William McGillechrist and David McNab.
[Henry 1st, had an illegimate daughter to Sybille Corbet, sister of Renaud
de Dunsterville of Normandy. This daughter Sybilla was married to Alexander
1st. of Scotland.]

John Corbett had two sons, Allan b.abt.1773, and John b.abt.1784, and a
daughter Mary.

The sons Allan and John were called to testify at the same investigation in
1836, as Dugald McDonald of Kyles Mor. [Note: Investigation into the stealing of shell sand]

Mary Corbett married Angus McDonald of Port a Bhata, and their son Donald
married Marcella, daughter of Dugald McDonald in 1837, in Moidart.

In 1931 a James MacDonald of North Side East bay in Canada, [Seumas Mhic Domnuill Bhan Vich Dhomnuill Bhain na Coire], reported that he was related
to Corbett on his maternal side.

We conclude that the Elizabeth Corbett who married Alexander McDonald on
5/6/1753, [probable maternal grandfather of Margaret of Innes a' Chulun], was possibly the sister of John Corbett from Ross shire.

Families connected to Inchrory/ Inneroy and Ulgary :

1. 1684 [Reg.PC vol.8,p.573] records Keppoch names :
John Loome (Iain Lom ?) in Craigbeg, in Donald Gorme's land of Lochaber,
his master being Donald Gorme of Inneroy.

2. Testament Dative of 27th. September 1686.

Testament Dative of Finnual Nein Dugald Vc Iain Vc Ruary in Inshrory, in
the parish of Oilanfinan who died in July 1684, given up by Donald McEwin,
her husband,in the name of Ewen Mc Dugald Vc Iain Vc Rory,[Roderick],
Executor Dative, goods pertaining to the deceased : fifteen great cows,
£200; three year olds £27; two year olds £12; two stirks £6; horses and
mares £33/6/8; two bolls of meal £10/13/4d; utencils etc.£18/13/4d. no
debts owing to the deceased; debts owed by the deceased : rent and teinds
£15; servants fees £26/8d; funeral expenses £6/13/4d; [Cautioner not named.]

Deduction :

From the patronymics used in the above, we obtain the definite information
that in 1684 there were two families related to a Ewan:

(a) One who could be traced back through Ewan, to his father Dugald, to his
father Iain, to his father Rory [Roderick], born in the 1500's.

(b) The same inventory records Donald McEwan Donald son of Ewan, Ulgary.

It should be noted that this Inventory refers to the lands of Inshrory, the
same lands our ancester Ewan McDonald with John McDonald, made claims to
the Estate Evaluation Commission in 1761, that each had possessed 1/4 part
of Inshrory since 1747, and had right of tenancy through kinship.

Margaret Cameron, widow of Ranald III, was the principal tenant of Inchrory until she died in 1760.

Tearlach MacFarlane is researching the MacDonalds of Ulgary being family of Donald Gorme of Borrodale, son of Angus X Clanranald.[ref. to 10]

By 1770 Ewan Mc Ewan Vc Dugald also rented land at Caolas Mor, Caolas Ian
Oig and at Ulgary.

In 1784 & 1785 Ewan McDonald, tenant of Kyles Ian Og, and Ewan McDonald,
tenant of Kyles Mor, were listed as processing kelp, which yielded a good
income; this would be father and son. c.p.26 & mac.

From the above we believe that the son Ewan married in 1784 and after
marriage was known as Ewan Jr.; in 1786 they are on record as Senior and
Junior as tenants at Ulgary and Assary.
Note : after 1790 Ulgary, Assary and Glenforslan were made deer farms.

About this time Ewan Macdonald resided in the Tacksman's dwelling on the family
land of Innes a' Chulun, at Caolas, Moidart, with his wife Margaret and family.

1809 Margaret Macdonald of Innes a' Chulun [Iniskune], married Dugald McDonald, Caolas Mor,[son of John McDonald, out pensioner of the 15th.Regiment of Foot], by Father Norman MacDonald. opr.

Further records of the same day :-

Testament Dative of 27th September 1686 :-
Testament Dative and inventory of Euin Mc Dugald Vc Innes in Ulgary, who
died November 1684, given up by his son Lauchlin Mc Ewen Vc Dugald as
Executive Dative; goods belonging to the deceased and Margaret McDonald his
relict, John Mc Ewen Vc Dugald in Ulgary became cautioner.

Added to the Testament evidence is the Privy Council records of 1602 relating to the Siol Dhugail Ruadh,[seed of the line of Dugal the Red which our research shows as that of Dugal of Sunart], in and about Inverlair:

Dowgall Mc Rory,
Alister Mc Dougall Mc Rory,
Dowgall Oig, his brother,
Johne Mc Dowgall Vc Rory.

Tradition has members of Siol Dugal Ruadh settling in Glenforslan and Ulgary with relatives, after 1665.


'Innes a' Chulun,' is a separate meadow with one dwelling discovered in July 1996 by Tearlach MacFarlane FSA Scot. of Glenfinnan, when studying an early Admiralty Chart of Loch Moidart dated 1860; he had found the 'Iniskune' as recorded from the entry in the family Bible, for which we had been searching for 25 years, at last.

Opinion is that the soundings,[depths], of the channel and kelp flats were current for 1860, BUT, the names of farms and crofts would have been taken from much earlier maps, because the names used were of the 1700's, e.g. :-
Note: Innes a' Chulun was used in 1809 when Margaret married Dugald.

1. Porst a Dunan, [port of the dunghill], is consistant with the shipping of kelp, [fertiliser], in the 1700's from this point; there is no gaelic for fertiliser.

Duin is the name used in the 1800's, meaning Port of the Fort, referring to a large rock on a nearby hill.

2. rental records of the 1700's refer to Caolas Mor, Caolas beg and Craig beg; but the records of the 1800's refer to Kyles, Kyles Mor, Kyles beg.

No reference to Innes a Chulun had been found on previous maps, nor is it listed in any record of rental or tack; it's importance to be recorded on an Admiralty chart would relate to it's local standing as the dwelling of the Tacksman for the area [ Ewen Macdonald]; trees prevent it's visibility from Loch Moidart.

The size of the dwelling with separate byres, built on usable land [not on a useless rocky hillock], suggests a substantial farm, and a resident of some standing,
ie-, 'of the family.' cdc

The place and dwelling was known to an aged local member of Moidart whose father took them, as children, to Innes a' Chulun to collect holly.

The author and Tearlack MacFarlane inspected Innes a Chulun in October of 1997 after a large oak tree had been cut at the rear of the dwelling and a rowan tree, saplings and bracken, cut from the middle and perimeter.

The dwelling is constructed of unmortared stonework ; it has two window openings and a doorway; a press is recessed in the east wall; the interior is approximately 42 feet by 21 feet; the top of the walls is at least 5 foot 8 inches at the higher points, and 5 foot mainly, with fallen stone work on both inside and outside; the dwelling faces ESE.

It is on arable land extending past the byre,[10 by 5 yards, with only one door opening 4 foot high, with stone lintel in place], 20 yards away, and sweeping gently away to the front and to the right where a second byre stands 100 yards away.

To the rear is Torr More, but a defile runs through this hill to Caolas Mor; a grain drying kiln is situated in the middle of the defile, [now covered with over a century of moss], with only the fire box clean and dry, [being protected from the moisture], and the foundations of a wall or floor between the kiln and dwelling; a second drying kiln is between the dwelling and the further byre, [note the map on page 83].
NB: it has since been established that the mortared stone walls of a building on Caolas Mor is that of a Custom House.

The brook, 50 yards from the dwelling,[of pure, sweet, fresh burn water], is recorded as 'Allt na Innes Chulun' so that we have the 'a' dropped from the title on the very same map.

The Bible entry was from a Moidart church Register with 'Iniskune' as the english spelling of the sound,[the phonetic], of InnesChulun; this was recorded by Katie and Ronald McDonald, from memory of that Bible entry :-
"some names we could not understand, but we put them down as we thought." p.84.

The only names which could have been difficult to understand could only have been the name recorded as "Iniskune" and for "Dr" preceding Norman McDonald. p.84.

We have explained how Iniskune = InnesChulun; the "Dr" is as simple :-

Volune 2 of "The Catholic Highlands" records 'Mr.Norman McDonald' as priest of Moidart from 1792 to 1829; he died in Scardoish in 1834.

'Mr.' and 'Dr.' was used for someone who had graduated at a University.


I have examined the ruins of the 6 dwellings on Caolas Mor as a toon, [small village], and the square cornered walls of the more recent building, in conjunction with the two drying kilns, one in the narrow defile through Torr More and Innes a Chulun on the other side of the hill, with the other in the open meadow and the burn running into Loch Moidart.

Uisge beatha, the water of life, required certain ingredients and conditions pure, sweet, mountain water filtered through layers of ageless peat, an even, cool temperature for fermentation, secluded area away from robbers and the authorities, a lookout vantage point, a close quiet anchorage, a quantity of good quality malt barley grain, and a drying kiln.

Innes a Chulun had all of these except for the barley grain, this would have been shipped in from Uist and Locharber. [ 8]

The 'creation' of the Water of Life was an art form known to a select number and required the process of germination, fermentation and distillation,[and finally ingestion.]

The malt barley grain was soaked in burn water for three days to start germination, then the grain was spread out; when the sprouts were about half the length of the grain, the germination process was halted by spreading the 'green malt' over the floor of the grain drying kiln and heating the kiln; the dried malt was then placed in casks with pure mountain water to allow fermentation; at the completion of fermentation, the fluid was distilled off and the 'Water of Life' was casked and sealed.

The final product of Whisky was then traded with the birlinns bringing in the barley grain; Uisge beatha had many uses, as :- a curer of ills; a reliever of pain; an antiseptic for wounds; warmth on a frosty morn or an icy night; enjoyment in the evening it was truly "The Water of Life."

8. With the evidence ofthe Custom House on Caolas Mor, plus the drying kilns and the foundations of a storehouse behind 'Innes a' Chulun' it is obvious that the tenant of 'Innes a' Chulun was a whisky distiller. Further research has identified the more recent, square cornered stone and mortar building at Caolas Mor as a Customs House; due to Legislation of the 1780's, Excisemen were stationed there to claim excise duty on any and all whisky distilled by licenced manufacturers and to close down and destroy any illegal still.

With the evidence of the Custom House on Caolas Mor, plus the drying kilns and foundations of a storehouse behind Innes a' Chulun,[and no others], it is obvious that the tenant of Innes a' Chulun was a whisky distiller within the legal Whisky trade in the late 1770's on.

It would not take any foresight to see a connection between Dougal McDonald, Merchant of Glenuig before 1807, and Ewan Macdonald of Innes a' Chulun, farmer and Whisky Distiller.


Moidart was not remote as far as access from sea or loch, for about thirteen years after St.Columba arrived on Iona, Tighernach records that in 731AD the battle of Loch da Eiges, [which historians place in Morven], was fought between the Picts and the Dalriads, in which the Picts were defeated and driven back across Loch Suinart and farther north.

There is an account of the Danes establishing a camp on the heights of Dolin; the local tribe mounted an attack on the Danes but were driven back, fighting a rearguard action all the way to Langal.

Moidart is recorded in the 'Life of St.Columba,' by Adamnan; in one account it records that Columba and five companions fished in the River Shiel and caught salmon, one of ' magnificent size.'

The other account was when twelve boats left Iona to cut trees for timber to maintain the buildings on Iona; they returned 'laden with cargoes of oak from the mouth of the river Shiel.'

On his regular patrols along the West coast, Somerled would have noticed the chimney smoke from the dwelling of Innes a' Chulun when sailing up Loch Moidart, this would draw notice to the mouth of Allt na Innes Chulun as a place to berth his galley and to draw fresh water for the crew.

This was also one of the places that Somerled had routed Vikings from one of their base camps, and chased them back to strongholds in Ireland.

Note: (1) Moidart = (Norse) Muydeort = mud fiord; (2) Arisaig = Ari's Bay;
(3) Acharacle = (N) Ath Tharracail = Torquil's Ford.

That Moidart was central to the defence of the territories of Clan Donald, and their antecedents, at different periods in time, is demonstrated by evidence of a vitrified fort on Eilean nan Gobhar, [off shore from Roshven], and another vitrified fort near Rahoy.

There is evidence that the site of Castle Tioram was occupied by Iron Age people and possibly Bronze Age people, undoubtably as a Dun or Fort; this provides dating in the 4th 5th century. N.M.S.