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Aussie builder claims MacLeod chief status

MacLeod of the Outback, aka The Talisker, is a direct descendant By Maxwell McLeod

A builder from the Australian outback has claimed that he is the rightful chief of the Clan MacLeod.

Guy MacLeod came forward after learning of the death of the 29th and last chief, John MacLeod of MacLeod, who was buried just last month on Skye.

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The controversial chieftain once tried to sell the island's famous Cuillin mountains to pay for repairs to the MacLeod family seat, Dunvegan Castle, also on Skye.

As John MacLeod's son Hugh has yet to be officially recognised as being the holder of the arms of the chief, and therefore the new and 30th chief, the position of head of the MacLeod clan technically lies vacant.

Leading clan genealogists have agreed that 54-year-old Guy MacLeod, also known as "The Talisker", has a claim, though none are convinced that he has the right to now become chief.

Guy MacLeod made his initial claims on the Sunday Herald's website, following an internet report about MacLeod of MacLeod's death. In a subsequent interview, the Australian explained that he has no interest in coming over to Scotland to become chief, but would like his alleged right to the title to be acknowledged.

"I am more interested in the bloodline than taking over a ruined castle or hitting the headlines. I am keen that the bloodline shouldn't be lost," he said - although legally ownership of Dunvegan Castle does not go with the chieftanship.

Guy MacLeod's claim is based on being the direct male descendant of a 17th century chief, Rory Mor. The present chiefs are descended from Dame Flora MacLeod, the first female chief.

He asked why John MacLeod was made chief when he had to change his name from Woolridge-Gordon to to take on the job.

"How could John have been the chief of the MacLeods when he wasn't even a MacLeod?" he said.

Leading MacLeod historian Dr Alexander MacLeod said Guy MacLeod was a genuine descendant of a former clan chief. "There is absolutely no question that the Talisker family represent a direct line to the Rory Mhor," he said. "However there is equally no question when one looks at contributions made by Dame Flora and Chief John MacLeod as to where the chieftanship lies."

Fellow MacLeod genealogist Ruari Halford-MacLeod agreed. "No-one doubts that Talisker is descended in the direct line from from Sir Rory Mor MacLeod, 15th chief, who died in 1626 and that the Talisker family, right up until the 1820s was viewed as next in line to the chiefly line," he said.

The Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, has the final say on who will become chief. A spokesperson said this weekend: "The fact that the person descends in the male line from an earlier chief does not mean they necessarily have the right to be preferred to someone descended through a female line."

But Guy MacLeod's efforts won't go unrewarded. Diageo, owner of Talisker whisky, offered to send a free bottle of their product to "the Talisker" and to welcome him to their distillery in Skye. The bottle is to be collected by his daughter Fiona, who is coming to Scotland to visit the castle next month.

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