A Chiefly Obituary

On this day in 1891, Charles McAlester, 13th of Loup, died at Stewarton in Ayr. Many published sources (such as Burke’s Peerage and its ilk) give the date as 9 January. However, the death certificate puts it on the 6th, and an obituary appeared in the West Country and Galloway Journal on the 8th.[1] According to this obituary, “Colonel M’Alester was the chief of the M’Alesters of Loup in Kintyre, Argyleshire, a family of high and ancient lineage. . . . [A]uthority was given to the late Colonel’s father to bear the arms and supporters of the ancient family of Loup (or Loop) as Chief of the Clan Alester”. 

Charles was born in 1797, son of the chief whose marriage to an heiress had saved the family’s fortunes. He married an Irishwoman, Mary Brabazon Lyon, in 1828 and they had five children: Anne-Catherine, Charles, Jessie, Mary and Edward (who seems to have lived with his grandparents). By 1830 Charles was Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of Ayrshire. Like his father, he served in the Ayrshire militia, becoming Lieutenant-Colonel in 1835. In 1847 he succeeded his father as McAlester of Loup and Kennnox, chief of the clan.

Despite the social prominence that came with being heir of a landed family and chief of one of the clans, Charles’s life wasn’t free of trouble. By 1841, he and his wife were apparently living apart, and in 1843 she sued him for custody of the children and alimony.[2]Although her suit was unsuccessful, the family had splintered: By the early 1850s, Anne-Catherine and Jessie had died and Charles the younger was away in the military; Edward, the youngest child, was still at Kennox with his grandmother, leaving Charles with only his daughter Mary for family. After she left home, he spent two decades living with a cook and domestic servant.

The last decade of his life is unknown to me. Charles does not appear in the 1881 census in Scotland, nor do either of his sons.[3] The cook and the domestic with whom he had lived for so long have both moved on. 

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013

[1]Information about the death certificate and obituary come from ‘Clan McAlester’, a report of research carried out for the Loup family in 1988 to establish the descent of Charles Godfrey Somerville McAlester; a copy of this report was provided by the current chief, William McAlister, 17th of Loup. 
[2]The Scots Revised Reports: Cases reported only in the Scottish Jurist, 1829 to 1865, No. 17, XVI Jurist 86, 2nd Division, pp. 407-8.  
[3]Edward was living in India, where he spent the rest of his life; Charles’s grandchildren – the children of Charles the younger – were in Edinburgh staying with what appear to be relatives of their mother.

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