Loup Lands Lost (sort of . . .)

On this day in 1803, William McNeill of Hayfield was seised in (registered as owner of) the Loup lands of Portachoillan, Corran, Margard, Shirgrim, and Shenakeill with the mill, on disposition by trustees for the creditors of Angus McAlester 11th of Loup; McNeill also purchased three merklands of Dunskaig and two merklands of Lemnamuick from Angus’s widow, Jane McDonald, and the wife of their son Charles (these properties were also held by Angus’s trustees.) Angus and Charles had appointed trustees for the Loup lands eight years earlier, giving them the right to sell any or all of the estate in order to pay Angus’s debts.[1] By this time, the Loup family had already settled in Ayrshire, having acquired the Kennox estate by marriage (see Macalister of Loup and Kennox.)

Local historian Ian MacDonald explains the loss of the Loup lands as the result of the family’s support for the Jacobite cause in the ’45, saying that “Generally all of the old Highland estates who supported the House of Stuart failed with the second Jacobite rebellion”.[2] However, the forfeited estates of Jacobite families had been restored to their heirs by 1784, nearly two decades before this occurred. Furthermore forfeited lairds would not have had the luxury of appointing trustees to dispose of their lands or profiting from the sales. 

A more likely explanation is given by Alexander Fraser, who notes that the late 18th century saw the beginnings of “an economic landslide in Mid-Argyll . . . . The accumulated difficulties of more than one hundred years proved insupportable, and the landed families . . . failed, one after another”.[3] Historian T. M. Devine agrees: “Manifestly, the minor lairds were under considerable economic pressure before the 1750s.”[4]

But new families were rising in Kintyre as the old ones disappeared. Within five years of MacNeill’s acquisition, most of the Loup lands were purchased by Keith Macalister of the Kingsburgh family, who was building up what became the Glenbarr estate.[5] In 1984 part of that estate was donated to the clan by Keith’s descendant, Angus Macalister of Glenbarr; it now serves as the Macalister Clan Centre.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012

[1] “Clan McAlester” Report, p. 5

[2] personal correspondance with Ian MacDonald, Oct. 2000

[3] North Knapdale in the XVII and XVIIIth Centuries, p. 81. 

[4] Scotland‘s Empire and the Shaping of the Americas, p. 67

[5]  For some time after this, apparently assuming that the designation went with the property, Keith and his close relatives titled themselves ‘of Loup’. (see, e.g., NSA, vol. 14, p. 305). However, in 1847, the Lord Lyon recognised Charles McAlester of Loup and Kennox as the “heir male and representative of the ancient family of the Macalesters of Loup.” (“Clan McAlester” Report, pp. 9–10; Castleton, p. 173), decreeing that the designation ‘of Loup’ remained with that family despite the loss of the Loup lands.


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