A Macalister Murder

At some time late in 1597, Godfrey Macalister of Loup killed his former guardian, the Tutor of Loup. Godfrey had succeeded to the chieftainship as a minor, and he was placed under the care of a guardian, thereafter known as the Tutor of Loup. According to the record of the 1609 trial of James Macdonald of Dunnyveg, “the sons of the late Tutor of Loup were in [James Macdonald’s] father’s house of Askomil, in Kintyre, and . . . the Laird of Loup (who had slain their father) was very desirous to have their lives”.[1]

According to clan legend, as related by several later writers, Godfrey wished to be married to the daughter of a nearby laird, but his Tutor thought the young lady better suited to one of his own sons. Apparently something was done to nix the relationship between Godfrey and his intended, because the Tutor and his family, fearing retribution, fled the area. Some time later, after Godfrey had come of age, the Tutor seems to have decided it was safe to return. When Godfrey caught wind of this, he met his former guardian en route and stabbed him to death. The Tutor’s sons sought the protection of Angus Macdonald of Dunyvaig, who was the strongest of the local lairds and a traditional ally of the Macalister clan.

How much of this is true and how much romantic embellishment, of course, cannot be known. We only know that the killing occurred. Though he was writing of a completely unrelated story in the history of his own clan, Alistair Campbell of Airds’ conclusion applies equally well to our story of Godfrey Macalister and his Tutor: “As so often happens with tales of this sort, there is no historical evidence to support it, but it is not impossible that something of the kind might have happened.”[2]

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2011

[1]Robert Pitcairn, Esq.,  Criminal Trials in Scotland, from AD 1488 to 1624, vol. III, pp. 5-6. The Tutor’s sons were not killed, in the end.
[2]A. Campbell of Airds, A History of Clan Campbell (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2000), vol. 1, p. 31.

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