Teàrlach MacAlexander, Steward of Kintyre

On this day in 1481, Teàrlach MacAlexander (Charles Macalister) received a charter for 40 merklands in Kintyre from King James III, who was parcelling out the lands he had taken from John Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, upon that chief’s first submission to the Crown in 1475. Although most of the lands included in this grant are easy to identify on a map today (e.g., Macquhuirymore of Dounaverty is Machrimore in Southend parish), a few are less clear and their locations are still debated. As a result, the geographical extent of Charles’s grant is hard to determine.[1]

However, this charter gave Charles “a wider jurisdiction” than that of simple landholder. Charles was appointed Steward of Kintyre, which meant he was answerable directly to the Crown rather than to a higher landlord such as Macdonald, and he had some degree of legal authority over those who lived on these lands. The fact that, shortly after the mighty Lord of the Isles was brought to his knees (literally) in Edinburgh, “we find a member of clan Donald receiving a crown appointment as steward of Kintyre” is interesting. It suggests that at this point the various branches of the Clan Donald were seen as semi-separate units quite capable of acting independently. Other Macdonald chieftains, such as Macian of Ardnamurchan and Macdonald of Dunyvaig, also gained new charters and increased authority.[2] 

It appears that the Macalister Stewardry survived the final forfeiture of 1493, as Alexander Makalexander is called ‘the Steward’ in the Kintyre Rentals of 1505 and is holding the lands “pretaining to the Steward”. By 1510, the Earl of Argyll had possession of all the lands in Kintyre, North and South, and in 1515, Angus vic Ean Dhù Macalister appears on record as a Servitor of Argyll, suggesting that the family’s influence had decreased substantially. In the Rentals of 1541, none of the lands “pertaining to the Steward” appear to be held by this clan and the head of the family is simply called McAllester of Loup. Still, the Loup family’s prominence is indicated by the fact that they are among those specifically named in 1653 as having “big houses” on the land they hold, and that “Lowpes hous” is the location chosen by several local tacksmen to submit their tacks to Argyll in that year.[3]

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012


[1] The grant did not include Tarbert castle, with which a branch of the clan was later associated.

[2] Munro, Acts of the Lords of the Isles, pp. xxvii, li

[3] Stewart, List of Inhabitants upon the Duke of Argyle’s Property in Kintyre in 1792, pp. 3, 6,  49, 54.