Clan Macfie - History


The 19th century historian W. F. Skene, stated that members of Clan Macfie were the ancient inhabitants of Colonsay. He also wrote that the clan was one of the seven clans of Siol Alpin, and that "their genealogy, which is preserved in the manuscript of 1450, evinces their connexion by descent with the Macgregors and Mackinnons". The seven clans of Siol Alpin could, according to Skene, trace their descent from Alpin, father of the traditional first King of Scots: Cináed mac Ailpín. However, even while stating all this, he wrote that there was nothing known about the early history of Clan Macfie. Over a century after Skene, W. D. H. Sellar wrote that according to later Gaelic tradition, Dubside, ancestor of Clan Macfie, fostered Aonghas Mór, Lord of Islay (Sellar describes Aonghas Mór as the first MacDonald).

Martin, in his A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland of 1703, wrote that on the south side of the church of St. Columba on Oronsay, were the tombstones of MacDuffie (or Macfie, a former chief of the clan) and the cadets of his family. The principal stone bore the engraving of a birlinn, two handed claymore and the inscription "Hic jacit Malcolumbus MacDuffie de Collonsay" ("Here lies Malcolumbus MacDuffie of Colonsay"). The burial place of the Macfies was a small chapel, on the south side of the church on Oronsay. Another stone is for Sir Donald MacDuffie, who was abbot of Oronsay when Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, toured the Western Isles in 1549.

According to a manuscript, written in the 17th century, pertaining to the coronation of the Lords of the Isles, and the Council of the Isles, "MacDuffie, or MacPhie of Colonsay, kept the records of the Isles". In 1463 Macfie of Colonsay was a member of the Council of the Isles, listed as Donald Macduffie, a witness to a charter by John of Islay, Earl of Ross, the last Lord of the Isles, dated 12 April at the Earl's castle of Dingwall. After the fall of the Lordship of the Isles the Macfies followed the MacDonalds of Islay. In 1531, the chief of the clan, "Morphe Makphe de Colwisnay", and many other west highland chiefs were cited for treason and summoned to Parliament as supporters of the rebellious Alexander MacDonald of Dunivaig and the Glens. This Macfie chief died in 1539 and his impressive tombstone can still be seen (pictured left).

Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, in his A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland Called Hybrides, in 1549, described the island of Jura as partly controlled by Maclean of Duart, Maclaine of Lochbuie, and Macfie of Colonsay. In describing the island of Colonsay, Monro wrote that it had once been held by Macdonald of Kintyre, but was then currently ruled by a "gentle capitane, callit M’Duffyhe" — gentle meaning 'well-born', and captain being the old styling of 'chief'.

By 1587, atrocities committed between warring west highland clans had escalated to such an extent that Parliament devised what is known as the General Band in an effort to quell hostilities. The band was signed by landowners throughout the Scottish highlands, borders and the islands, requiring them to be responsible for the men who lived within their lands. The signing chiefs were required to come up with sureties equal to their wealth and lands for the peaceful conduct of their followers. In it the laird of Colonsay, "M'Fee of Collowsay" (Murdoch Macfie of Colonsay), is listed as one of the landlords in the Scottish highlands and islands where broken men (or lawless men) dwelt. Despite the Governments actions to secure the peace, about this time Lachlan Mor MacLean of Duart ravaged the MacDonald islands of Islay and Gigha, slaughtering 500—600 men. Maclean of Duart then besieged Angus MacDonald of Dunivaig and the Glens at his Castle Dunivaig. The siege was only lifted when Macdonald of Dunivaig and the Glens agreed with Maclean of Duart to surrender half of his lands on Islay. However, despite his agreement with the Macleans, Macdonald of Dunivaig and the Glens then invaded the Maclean islands of Mull, Tiree, Coll and Luing. Angus Macdonald of Dunivaig and the Glens was aided in the action by Donald Gorm Mor Macdonald of Sleat and many west highland clans such as the Macdonalds of Clanranald, MacIains of Ardnamurchan, Macleods of Lewis, MacNeills of Gigha, MacAlisters of Loup and also the Macfies of Colonsay. Supporting Maclean of Duart were the Macleods of Harris and Dunvegan, MacNeils of Barra, Mackinnons of Strathrodle and the Macquarries of Ulva.

In 1609, "Donald Mcfie in Collonsaye" was present at the assembly of island chiefs and gentlemen, who met with the Bishop of the Isles at Iona, when the nine Statutes of Icolmkill were enacted, which were to bring the Western Isles under the control of the Scottish Parliament.

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