Macalisters of Askomilbeg

On this day in 1609, the Earl of Argyll, “attempting to replace the former displaced tenants of his in Kintyre . . . gave a charter of Askomilbeg to John Boyle, younger of Ballochmartin”. Among the conditions included was one that forbade Boyle to sublet to anyone of the names Macdonald, Maclean, Macalister, or Macneil.[1] Ironically, this grant led within 50 years to a Macalister family holding not simply part, but all of the Askomilbeg property.

The restrictions on Boyle’s charter were not, as might now be assumed, a case of Argyll trying to squeeze out the Macdonalds (or anyone else). The lands in question already belonged to him, and the former tenants had been displaced not by him but by the government’s repeated attempts to stop the Macdonald-Maclean feud, which had wreaked havoc on Kintyre for half a century. Both of the warring chiefs were kinsmen of Argyll, and the earl had in fact interceded with the king numerous times on their behalf. But the king (James VI) had had enough, and, as he would also do in Ulster, he had decided to effect a ‘plantation’ in Kintyre, hoping an influx of ‘civilised’ (i.e., English-speaking, Protestant, and loyal) tenants would finally bring this area under royal control. Regardless of Argyll’s personal feelings, he held his own lands only as a subject of the king, and he was smart enough to abide – at least on paper – by the king’s wishes.

Although the grant was made in 1609, John Boyle of Ballochmartin did not finally take possession of the Askomilbeg property until 1618 – perhaps indicating the difficulty of actually clearing out the previous tenants.[2] In time, he passed the property on to his son. Evidently, however, there were no grandsons, or at least none that survived; with the death of Boyle’s son, the lands fell to a granddaughter, Finuella. Finuella had married Archibald Macalister[3], and so the property came to him. Archibald was thereafter known as Macalister of Askomilbeg, as were at least three generations of his family after him. These Macalisters remained in possession of Askomilbeg until 1745.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012

[1] Campbell, A History of Clan Campbell, vol. 2, p. 151.
[2] Campbell, ibid.
[3] The identity of this Archibald is unclear to me. The name Archibald was used much more widely by the Tarbert family than by the Loup line, but it did occur from time to time. It’s also possible that this Archibald belonged to one of the lesser Macalister families in Kintyre, or perhaps to the Clann Alasdair Bheag.