Born: November 11, 1941;

Died: January 30, 2021.


THE fact that Ranald MacDonell of Glengarry, 23rd Chief of Glengarry, lived some 500 miles from his ancient chiefly seat counted for little when it came to representing his clansfolk. A born traveller all his days, he cheerfully would depart his Surrey home and make his way north to lead events that mattered to him and those whom he represented.

One such event took place on a snowy January day in 2018 when, as one of four patrons of the 1745 Association, he unveiled a plaque on Falkirk High Street at the entrance to Falkirk Trinity Churchyard, where his collateral ancestor Aeneas, younger son of the 12th Glengarry, is interred.

Aeneas was accidentally shot by his own side following the Jacobite victory at Falkirk Muir on January 17, 1746, when the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart convincingly defeated Hanoverian troops under General Henry Hawley.

The plaque unveiling also saw Glengarry being shown over the battle site by Michael Nevin, chairman of the 1745 Association. Said Mr Nevin: “Glengarry served the association with unfailing courtesy and loyalty. He and [his wife] Carolyn presided at our annual dinner in 2017 and always gave their time to the association generously and without recompense”.

Two of the patrons of the Association have now died within a month of each other – clan chiefs Glengarry, at the age of 79, and Sir William Macpherson of Cluny.

Aeneas Ranald Euan MacDonell inherited one of Scotland’s more unusually entwined chiefships. He was one of four members of the High Council of Clan Donald, a grouping of the major independent branches of Clan Donald chaired by Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald and 34th hereditary Chief of Clan Donald.

The other three are Ranald MacDonald of Clanranald, 24th Captain and Chief of Clanranald; Sir Ian Macdonald of Sleat, 25th Chief of Sleat and 17th Baronet; and Randal McDonnell, 14th Earl of Antrim and Chief of the McDonnells of Antrim.

Glengarry was born in Dublin; his Irish mother, Diana nee Keane, was pregnant with him when she fled the perils of war-time England for her home in the city. His father, the acclaimed RAF fighter pilot Air Commodore Aeneas Ranald Donald MacDonell, 22nd of Glengarry, commanded a Spitfire squadron during the Battle of Britain. He was shot down and taken prisoner and the news that he had survived took so long to reach her that Diana thought she had been left a widow.

Educated in post-war Dorset, Ranald showed his academic mettle by studying modern languages at St John’s College, Cambridge. Eschewing academia, he entered business, travelling the world as a director of an international metals company and as president of Euroalliages, the association of European ferro-alloy producers.

The pleasant enigma of Glengarry is that for someone so thoroughly anglicised (he was the fourth generation to be educated and raised in England) he wrapped himself in the history and culture of Scotland, albeit "...while remaining as roast beef as Old England”, as one friend remarked. Succeeding as chief in 1999, he took his responsibilities seriously, proved learned in Clan Donald history, wore the kilt well and, in his unassuming manner, rarely missed a major clan event.

In 2005, he took part in a ceremony in Glencoe when a Macdonald clan herald was installed into office for the first time in 510 years. In a ceremony filled with pageantry, Edinburgh solicitor Adam Bruce was sworn as Finlaggan Pursuivant in front of a gathering of 100 Macdonald clansfolk and their supporters, headed by Lord Macdonald, with Glengarry one of the assisting chiefs in anointing the new pursuivant by sprinkling wine on his head.

The 13th titular Lord MacDonell picked his ancestry well, tracing his lineage back to John, Lord of the Isles (a title now held by Prince Charles) and before that to the 12th-century King Somerled.

Longevity ran in his line. Donald, 8th of Glengarry, was a centenarian, and chief for over 70 years. A century later, clans under Glengarry took the Jacobite side in both major Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745.

A collateral ancestor who gained infamy was Col Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell, 15th of Glengarry. Swathed in tartan, he had his full-length portrait painted by Sir Henry Raeburn. His arrogance and flamboyance gave Sir Walter Scott the model for the haughty Highland chief, Fergus MacIvor, in his pioneering historical 1810 novel, Waverley.

In the geographic Glengarry, the titular Glengarry cleared land for lease to sheep farmers, and through rent rises and evictions, forced his clansmen to emigrate, mostly to North America. The very different, unassuming, 23rd Glengarry gave of his time teaching English to immigrants from the extended European Union. A music lover, he used to sing first bass with a local choral society near his home in Reigate.

Glengarry died after a long battle with cancer. By his divorced wife Ann (nee Hind), he has two daughters, Fiona Jane and Victoria Ann. He is survived by his children and grandchildren, and his second wife, Carolyn nee Richardson. He is succeeded in the chiefship as 24th Glengarry by his younger brother Patrick, a science graduate who lives in Yukon, Canada.