Unruly Clans or Whose Castle is it Anyway?

72 Armandale Castle Skye

(Armadale Castle Ruins, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

If you’re looking for ancestors from the Isle of Skye and their last name is Macdonald, the place to go is the Clan Donald Library on the premises of Armadale Castle. The castle itself is a little drafty, as you can see from the above picture. The grounds and the view are beautiful. There are the formal gardens—lovely, but the wooded area was my favorite.

23 Armandale Forest Path

(Path into the Armadale Castle woods, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

As you enter through the vine tunnel, the spider tree appears. It creeped me out to walk under, as you can imagine, but I must say I’ve been considering a story to accompany this creepy spider tree standing guard over the woods.

47 Spider Tree Armandale Forest

(Spider tree in the woods near Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Terri Hale)

Jim wandered around the grounds taking photos and well, wandering, while I made my way to the library to do a bit of research. I was met by a delightful woman, Margaret Macdonald, in charge of the library. She was as helpful as the records allowed. By that I mean my ancestors immigrated to America around 1774, a time when very few written records were kept on Skye. I did have the father’s name of my ancestor, but not his mother’s. I also had his three brothers who came to America with him. The names were common to the Sleat area (southern Skye). Of course, I think they only used about six first names during that time period, so how would anyone know really?

25 Sound of Sleat from Armandale

(View of the Sound of Sleat and the Hills of Knoydart from Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

I did read a great book while in the library about the Macdonald Clan and the various surnames associated with this clan through blood kinship or allies. I found that the two families my Macdonald ancestors married into when they came to America were from the West Marches of Scotland. The Littles and the Carruthers were basically run out of the country by the English king because they were UNRULY.  This explains so many things. I could have claimed heredity for my unruly early years. But I’m getting off course here (see there it is—unruly story telling), In spite of all these fascinating family discoveries, I found nothing about what part of Skye my Macdonald ancestors originated from. So I made it up! There it is. That’s why I love writing fiction. I took a few facts and turned it into a fairy tale. So even though my ancestors were probably from southern Skye, I decided to place the Macdonald’s in my novel up north, near the Faerie Glen. And why wouldn’t I?

Of course, the dream of the stone manor (the premise for this novel) as I’ve written in an earlier post is not on my mother’s side of the family (Macdonalds), but on my father’s (Sherrills). Since Dad’s the one I share the dream with, it’s very likely that the stone manor of MY dream is actually in southwestern England, where my father’s ancestors were from. Also a tad unruly in their own right. The original ancestor was being transported to Barbados to work on a sugar plantation, but for some reason, which we will never know but I intend to write a whopping good story about, the ships captain put him and four other prisoners off the boat in North Carolina. My ancestor, a weaver who was imprisoned for we don’t know what in England, became one of the original Conestoga Fur Traders of early American history.

Okay, so much for the genealogy lesson. I read somewhere that every fiftyish-year-old woman is either writing her first novel or researching her ancestors. Always being one to follow the crowd (note sarcastic tone), I decided to do both. Party on!

2 thoughts on “Unruly Clans or Whose Castle is it Anyway?

  1. Love your unruly story about your story! Had to laugh because my sister 55 ish has researched our genealogy (Mayflower!) this past year however neither one of us is writing a novel and I just watch as she researches! I throw in good comments!

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