Clan Arthur

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The MacArthurs of Tirevadich on Loch Awe   

Reprint of "The MacArthurs of Tirevadich On Loch Awe", by Lady Mary McGrigor, FSA Scot, Loch Awe Resident and Historian.  

The historian Frank Adam, whose book on "The Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands" was revised by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms, in 1952, states: "The Clan Arthur is one the oldest clans of Argyll, and its duthus was on the shores of Loch Awe where its chief also held Innestraynich. This particular clan was known from others of the name Arthur as the  Clann-Artair-na-Tir-a-Chladich (= of the shore-land).  The title Mac-ic-Artair suggests that the Clan Arthur of Tirracladich were originally a branch of a major line. Staunch supporter of the Bruce, Mac-ic-Artair was rewarded with grants of land forfeited by the MacDougalls, but a century later this influential position was lost." The same historians then explain that "There has been a good deal of confusion between the foregoing Clan Arthur and another of the same patronymic - the MacArthur-Campbells, one of the branches of Clan Campbell, who are not an independent clan."

Neal Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll, wrote categorically that "In fact beyond all reach of written records this ancient family springs from a common remote origin like the Campbells, being the O'Duibhnes, they had been Martys to the Lords of Lochow, from whom as very old vassals they held their lands.  They are not the same family as the Campbells of Strachur, who were descended from a Sir Arthur Campbell in the reign of Robert the Bruce, but had branched off centuries earlier and never used any other name but that of MacArthur, and they are always spoken of as "bearing the name and arms of Clan Arthur."  According to legend the MacArthurs, because of their adherence to Bruce, were persecuted by resentful MacDougalls to the point where they had to accept the superiority of the Campbells to gain protection.  Subsequently when the chiefs gathered at Inveraray MacArthur of Tirevadich was forced to resign his accustomed place at the head of the table to Sir Colin Campbell of Loch Awe.

   The controversy over the ancestry of the MacArthurs of Loch Awe re-emerges in 1428 when John or Ian Macarthur was one of the three men executed by James I of Scotland at his parliament in Inverness.

   Adam and Innes state the "Ian, chief of the Clan Arthur of Tirracladich, was one of the chiefs of Argyll who was put to death by James I."

   Donald J. MacDonald of Castleton, however, in his "Clan Donald" (1978) says that "John MacArthur, a member of the house of Campbell, advanced a claim to a portion of the land of Garmoran ... upon a charter by Christina, daughter of Alan MacRauiri, to Arthur, son of Sir Arthur Campbell, Knight, early in the 14th century".  This would certainly imply that the unfortunate John MacArthur was descended in some way from Sir Arthur Campbell, whatever his earlier ancestry.

   The Macarthur lands on the north shore of Loch Awe were centered round their house of Tirevadich - the name means Hayfield - where the ruined mansion of that name now stands.  The island of Inishail formed a link to their property on the south shore which comprised the present Cladich Estate and the farm of Accurach in Upper Glen Aray.

   During the 16th century the MacArthurs' hereditary position as Captains or Officers of Over Lower Loch Awe seems to have been furiously resented by their neighbors, the Campbells of Inverawe.  Conflict of some sort took place, for a charter in the Archives of Inveraray Castle, dated 1567, confirms that a pardon was granted to the Campbells of  Inverawe for "the drowning of Clan Arthur".

   The location is described as "somewhere on Loch Awe; the word "drowning" suggests that the MacArthurs, in trying to defend themselves, were driven into the loch. (Some thirty years ago our son Jamie, then a little boy, unearthed an ancient sword on the south shore of Inishail).

   Subsequently a charter of 10th January 1569 clarifies the situation.  Granted by Archibald, 5th Earl of Argyll to Iain (or John) MacArthur Tirivadich and his heirs male... it confirms their possession of "all and haill the Office of Baillgiarie (sic) of all and sundry the lands and heritages lying in the side of Over Lochow pertaining and belonging to Clan Arthur with their haill pertinents viz All and sundry the lands of Barbraik (Barbreck), Auchnagaun (Achnacarron?), Larachban, Teirwidych (Tiravadich), Mowey (Bovuy), Drumurk, Capechin (Keppochan), Bocardie (Boccaird), Caupurruck (Accurach?) and Ardbrecknish with haill pertinents (This charter proceeds on the resignation of Archibald Campbell of Inneraw (Inverawe) and Dugald Campbell his son.)  To be holden of the Earl and giving to him and his heirs two parts of the profit of the said Court and doing and administering justice only". On March 8 1634 a charter confirming possession of the same lands held by "his fore grandsire" was given to Iain's grandson, also Iain, by Archibald Lord Lorne (later the Marquess of Argyll).  Younger sons and other relations of the family, installed in the various properties, were called, as then was common, by the place names.

  The terms of the charter illustrate the feudal services involved.  The reddendo, including the office of Sergeant or Mair of Loch Awe, carried the obligation to provide yearly payment in kind as well as some money in rent.  Significantly "a hall, chamber and kitchen" had to be provided on the then island of Inistrynich for the use of the Lord Lorne.  More importantly "the grantee and hsi heirs were also obliged to come and ride with Lord Lorne and his levis (sic) in forensic services, viz. hunting, besieging of enemies both in hosts and with enemies as the rest of the tenants do when enemies chance to be".

   In 1625 the rentals of the Argyll Estates show MacArthur of Tirrewadich as the Captain and Marty of Innistrynich and Officer of Over Lochow.  Succeeding generation continued in this hereditary office, and in 1680 we find Johnne MacArthur rendering his accounts to the 9th Earl of Argyll.

   Five years later, in 1685, when Argyll, who had risen with Monmouth against the Catholic James VII and II, was captured and executed, the land of the MacArthurs on Lochaweside was cruelly ravaged by the "Anthollmen" (as the army of occupation was named).

     The loss at Boccaird, where the laird's beasts ran with those of his tacksmen, was claimed to be no less than 2,223.6s8d.  The "Athollmen" also destroyed the mill at MacArthur's farm of Bovuy and all else that they could find.

     John MacArthur, who apparently lived to a very old age, may have had some compensation, but his grandson Patrick, described as Fiar of Tirivadich in 1709, was also to see his land destroyed.  In 1715 the two great Campbell houses were divided when Breadalbane rose for James VIII (The Old Pretender) and Argyll for the reigning Queen Anne.  Breadalbane despatched an army, commanded by Colin Campbell of Glendaruel, to attack Inveraray, and inevitably the Highland soldiers looted all they could find.

     In 1744, when Patrick himself was dead, his brother Duncan, bed-ridden after a stroke, petitioned Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll, for assistance on the grounds that he had "embraced all opportunities of serving His Grace's family, being in command of parties searching for thieves and constantly with the Guards sent to convey recruits for the late Duke's regiment.  In 1715 Your Grace appointed me Lieutenant in the Baron McCorquodale's Company of Militia where I remained on my own charges till the Company was dismissed."

     Further to this Patrick's son Duncan, also appealing to the Duke, pointed out that in 1685 his father had been forfeited for his adherence to the Argyll family, and that they had run into great arrears of feu duties etc.  Also "in 1715, the Highland  Clans not only took free quarters for some nights in their march to and from Inveraray but also destroyed houses and corns by which we contracted additional debt."  Admitting that the late Duke had accepted payment of 3000 merks in token of 5000 merks which were due, he still insisted that he had "scarce subsistence for himself and a family of seven small children" and though he has come to this town (Inveraray) to reside for the schooling of his children he is not well able to afford them education.  As "ane old vassal and cadet of the family" he prays to be assigned some office and emolument about the Duke's concerns or elsewhere and "if Your Grace would be graciously pleased to take notice of your petitioner's son, a youth of sixteen years, to recommend him to any office of employment that could be bread to him".

     Duncan seems to have moved with his children to Inveraray after Christian, daughter of his first marriage, sent there to board with a couple while she went to the grammar school, had scandalised the locality by eloping with a young man to Ireland.

     The strain of providing for his family, adding to the burden of his debt, appears to have been the main reason why Duncan now resigned his hereditary land of Keppochan, Drumuirk, Barrandryan and Bovuy, on Lochaweside, to his superior the Duke of Argyll.   Nonetheless he retained his hereditary position as Captain or Marty of Over Loch Awe, and as such he must have raised the fencible men when Prince Charles Edward landed in Scotland in 1745.  Probably he marched at their head to the Cross at Inverearay, assembly point of the army raised on the Duke's command.

     Following the suppression of the Rising in 1746, the government abolished hereditary jurisdiction in Scotland, and the old order, whereby men held land from the great chiefs largely on a military basis, virtually came to an end.  Estates had to be profitable and inevitably rents were raised.

     Subsequently Patrick MacArthur, some thirty years later, sold the rest of his land.  Told that he had forgotten the island of Inishail, he reputedly said sadly "Let the tail go with the head!".  Previous to disposing of the last of his estate on Lochaweside Patrick emigrated to Jamaica, apparently in the hopes of retrieving his fortune; but he died there - it would seem soon after his arrival - in February 1771.

     The sale of Tirevadich appears to have taken time to complete, for Arthur MacArthur of Malvern, Pennsylvania, writing to the Lord Lyon in 1981, told him that it remained the principal Clan Address until c.1776.

     Patrick MacArthur, styled "of Inistrynich" (duke Neil said this was synonymous with Tirevadich) and said by Neil Munro to be the "last chief of the Sept", married Mary Campbell of Craignish c.1752.  They had two children, a daughter Lilly born about 1752 and Charles born in 1755.  Charles, who became a midshipman, died unmarried in India between 1786 and 1788.  Lilly, who must have stayed in Scotland, married Neil MacArthur in 1775.  Neil was a tenant of Campbell of Sonachan at Balliemeanoch and also lived at Kames on Loch Awe.  They had eight children of whom the eldest, Patrick (Peter) was born in 1777; his sister Anne was the ancestor of Neil Munro.  Mrs. Lesley Bratton (Neil's granddaughter) kindly gave this information, which would seem to establish that, in the absence of new evidence, the male line of the MacArthurs of Tirevadich and Inistrynich on Loch Awe has now become extinct.

     The writer is immensely indebted to Rae MacGregor of Inveraray for her help in supplying photocopies from the Argyll charters.

We wish to thank Lady Mary McGrigor for her kind permission to reprint her article.  She is a renowned author and has a book about a history of Argyll that is excellent reading.  

The book is titled: 

Argyll, Land of Blood and Beauty

Only a few copies are available through:

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A new printing is due in 2005.

Other books by Lady McGriger:

Sir James McGrigor -The Scalpel and the Sword - The Autobiography of the father of Army Medicine.  Edited by Mary McGrigor.
Published by The Scottish Cultural Press. Unit 13d The Newbattle Abbey Business Annexe.
Newbattle Road Dalkeith. Scotland. EH22 2 LJ.
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Tele: 0131 660 6366           Fax: 0131 660 6414
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Dalmally and the Glens
Published House of Lochar
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Argyll Scotland. PA 61 7YR.
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Price in UK 4-99.

History of South Lochaweside
Published by House of Lochar as above. price in UK 4-25


Lady McGriger's latest book is "Defiant and Dismasted at Trafalgar," the Life and Times of Admiral Sir William Hargood, released in April, 2004 and available at:

Pen & Sword Books Ltd.- 47 Church Street- Barnsley- South Yorkshire. S70 2AS- U.K.

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