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Amelia Volume 2 chapter 32

Young Balhaldies' Memorial to Counsel, 1799

[page 415]
ALTHOUGH framed at a much later date, the following Memorial may show the services to the Stuart Cause, of the Balhaldies family, and clear up still further the election of Alexander as Chief in 1714.

“Memorial
"for William MacGregor Esquire of Balhaldies Captain in his Majesty's 65th Regi¬ment of Foot with consent of Sir William Stirling of Ardoch Bart., William Graham Esq. of Orchil, Laurence Oliphant Esquire of Gask, and Ebenezer Oliphant Esq. of Condie his Curators.

"The Memorialist and his predecessors for a period of six generations [1]   from father to son considered themselves to be the chiefs of the Clan MacGregor but a gentleman having lately appeared who lays claim to that honour in preference to the family of Balhaldie the Memorialist is now to submit the state of his case to Counsel learned in the Law for advice how to conduct himself in vindicating or securing the right handed down to him by his ancestors.

"The Memorialist is sensible that the right of chieftainship is not now what it was in those days, when the different branches of the Clan held their land under the chief by the tenure of Ward and when the chief was not only their leader and protector in war but by the enjoyment and exercise of a civil and often a criminal jurisdiction was in some degree the arbiter and disposer of their lives and fortunes.

"Those powers have ceased but in many parts of the country there is still con-nected with the idea of chieftainship a certain degree of attachment and respect. In the case of a confusion in the State many of the Clan would still follow their chief, and it is accounted an honour to be chief independent of solid advantage. In the case too of common levies for his Majesty's sersice, if the chieftain takes the field himself the younger part of the Clan or those immediately connected with his family, [page 416] will take the field along with him without other inducement than a sense of duty and the desire of serving their Chieftain.

"Mr Douglas in his 'Baronage' gives a history of the chieftains of the Clan MacGregor which however is not to be wholly relied upon as the Memorialist will have occasion to show in the sequel.
"Mr Douglas begins his account with Gregor third son to King Alpin who reigned about 787 and he carries it down almost wholly in a direct line from father to son to Alexander the 16th Laird of MacGregor who was murdered in the reign of King James VI.
"This Alexander according to Douglas having no lawful issue his bastard son Gregor took the title of chief and Mr Douglas accordingly sets him down as the 17th chief but deserts his children and runs back to John MacGregor the 13th chief in order to trace the pedigree of the Memorialist's competitor from him in the collateral line. "The Memorialist shall first state his own title to the chieftainship and shall then take the liberty to make some observations on the claim of his rival.

"Upon what authority Mr Douglas sets down Gregor the son of Alexander as a bastard is not explained by him, the Memorialist has been at pains to enquire into that matter and he could not even find a tradition in support of it. [2]   On the other hand it appears from various Circumstances that Gregor was the lawful son of his father Alexander. In the first place he not only enjoyed the chieftainship but Douglas himself acknowledges that his son Evan claimed as his successor and after him his brother's son Malcolm, also that Malcolme's son Gregor laid claim to the same distinction as did likewise Gregor's nephew Archibald MacGregor of Kilmannan It was singular if these gentlemen were of a bastard race that 5 of them in succession should have enjoyed the right of chieftainship 2dly Mr Buchanan of Auchmar in his history of the Clans does not treat this branch as bastards but observes that the principal branch "became extinct in the reign of King Charles II. the chiefship devolving upon Malcolm MacGregor descended of a collateral branch of the Chief's Family whose son Gregor MacGregor in the reign of King William dying without issue was succeeded by Archi¬bald MacGregor of Kilmannan" This is evidently the family whom Douglas bastardises tho' Mr Buchannan's account of them is more compendious than his.

“Mr Buchannan proceeds that "Archibald MacGregor of Kilmannan's male issue being all dead and those few who pretend nearest relation to him of mean repute and circumstances, made as is reported a formal renunciation of the chieftain¬ship in favour of Gregor MacGregor of Glengyll who is lineally descended of a son of the Laird of MacGregor" with which agrees Mr Douglas who says [page 417] " to one of whom Glengylle, it was pretended Archibald who had no heirs male gave a renunciation of the chiefship."

"The report which had reached both authors was incorrect tho' not entirely void of foundation. It was hardly a resignation but also an election of a new chief by the principal families of the name by whom two solemn meetings were held for that purpose and who were doubtless surrounded by the whole body of the Clan on so interesting and important an occasion, the period of time in both authors agrees, also with the fact which the Memorialist is now going to state.

"By a formal Bond of Clanship bearing to be granted by the Heads of Families of the Clan MacGregor and others of the same Clan the said subscribers and every one of us, &c

The full text is given elsewhere, (page 271-2) but the following remark is added by the Memorialist.
"The Clan appear to have been most anxious to provide against any future election which they seemed to have been sensible was not congenial to the notion of chieftainship and might be attended with evil and distracting consequences tho' absolutely necessary upon that occasion as appears from the narrative of the Deed," referring to the disturbed state of the country. &c.

"The Deed was thus subscribed at Inchcallan upon the 20th July 1714, and at Dunblane upon the 27th of the same month. John Cameron of Locheil and Mr Daniel Comrie minister at Inchcallan, the writer of it, being witnesses. The Clan who had been prohibited by the Act of Charles I from bearing the name of MacGregor had assumed the names of those great families under whose protection they lived such as Drummond, Murray, Graham, Stewart and the like, yet upon this occasion they all subscribed by the name of MacGregor; Alexander MscGregor of Balhaldies bring at this time advanced in life his son William a gentleman of talents and information was the person looked up to. It was he who signed the acceptance to the Bond of Clanship and he and his descendants were ever afterwards con¬sidered as Chiefs.

"The family of MacGregor having lost their landed possessions at a very remote period it is impossible now to trace them by sasines and services There are some documents still left applicable to the Chief of the Clan.

"Of this description are the Commissions granted to the Laird of MacGregor in 1645. mentioned elsewhere.

"Of this kind there are many documents in favour of the Memorialist's family. His Ancestor William of Balhaldie tho' attached to the Stewart cause did not take the Field in 1715 but allowed the Clan to follow Glengyle and his Tutor Rob Roy. At the same time the Earl of Mar makes mention of him in a letter to General Gordon of the 4th October 1715. in which his Lordship says "1 have ordered, as you desired,

[page 418]
Glengylle, Rob Roy, Balhaldie, and the MacGregors with them to join you and to follow the orders you give them.

“After the attempt miscarried, Alexander kept up a correspondence and intercourse with the friends of the Stewart family and had educated his son William with the view to the service of King James VIII as he imagined him to be, by whose desire William Went over to Paris in December 1739 and from thence to Rome in February 1740 where, says the family narrative of his proceedings, he had been expected by the King of Britain his master as one intimately known to the State and inclination of his Majesty's friends in Scotland and fully instructed in what they were willing and able to do for his restoration particularly the chief scots highlanders of which the Sleur De MacGregor is one. "From Rome William was sent to Paris with dispatches to Lord Sempill by whom he was in the beginning of May 1740 introduced to Cardinal Fleury Chief Minister of his most Christian Majesty. Upon his representation the Cardinal, by the King's command sent the Marshal De Clermont to England under pretence of private business or pleasure to report upon the state of the party there and after the Marshall's return dispatched MacGregor to Scotland with an assurance that he would furnish 6000 men with money arms and ammunition in proportion, in case the Scots should choose to act alone or independent of the party in England who were not in readiness to take the field. This the Scots Leaders undertook with ardour and Balhaldies carried back with him an Instrument to that purpose under their bonds and seals which was deposited in the Bureau des affaires etrangères at Paris. [3]  

“Mr MacGregor afterwards went and came several times between Paris and Rome having been for years engaged in most important and interesting negotiations with some of the first characters of the times in that interest But it would not be proper to detail these negotiations here, suffice it to say that he gave entire Satisfaction to his employer by whom Alexander his Father was created a knight Baronet of his ancient kingdom of Scotland, the patent herewith shewn dated 14th March 1740 which proceeds upon 'the conviction of constant and unshaken loyalty as well as the eminent services done and performed by him to us on all occasions from his early youth to an advanced old age.’

"The Patent expresses a hope that the title thereby conferred will 'descend to out trusty and well beloved William MacGregor his eldest son of whose loyalty and attachment to our Royal Person and cause we have essential proofs by his signal servises and indefatiguable endeavour to promote our interest and service.'

"William was afterwards appointed a Colonel by the Commission herewith shewn……

"William did not come over to Scotland in 1745 to put himself at the head of his Clan which led uninformed people to consider Glengylle as chief, but the [page 419] Memorialist cannot find that his competitors ancestor was ever regarded as such. In the absence of their Chief the MacGregors ranged themselves under different heads The principal part rose with Glengylle, Glencarnoch levied the next body and James MacGregor Rob Roy's son raised a third. Glengylle marched into Argyllshire to facilitate the junction of MacLauchlan and his Clan but when GlenGylle joined the army he bore the title of Colonel, Glencarnoch that of Lieutenant Colonel and James Roy MacGregor that of Major: and none of them had written commissions so far as the Memorialist can learn. [4]   They did not even fight as a separate body, Glencarnoch fell in with the Keppoch's Regiment of MacDonalds and James MacGregor who went by the name of Drummond fell in with the Duke of Perth's Regiment as did Glengylle with Keppoch's, after he joined according to a sketch or lye draft which is given in the Scots Magazine of the order of Battle both of Falkirk and Culloden; There is no mention of the MacGregors as a separate body and although it is said in the Magazine that one body of the MacGregors with Glencarnoch and the rest of the MacGregors with the Duke of Perth's men under James Drummond were in the left wing of the Highland Army at the Battle of Preston it may still be doubted if a scheme of the Battle had been given, whether we should have seen the MacGregors drawn up as a separate body of men.

"William was all this time universally acknowledged as Chief The Memorialist is possessed of not fewer than a dozen of Letters from James Roy MacGregor all of which are addressed to the said William MacGregor the said Memorialist's Grand father as Chief of the name. He has also some letters of the same kind from another Refugee residing in France.

"Many persons would seem to have fallen into the same mistake that Buchanan made and Douglas humoured, that Glengylle had been accounted the Chief.

"On this subject it appears that James Roy MacGregor had written to Glengylle him self who was his Cousin german and that he received the following answer:-
"'Glengylle 20th May 1754. Dear Cousin I received yours dated from London the 24th March and am not a little surprised of my old friend Colonel Sulivan to give himself any concern with respect to our Clan. I remember that John Murray, Secretary and O Sulivan spoke to me & desired I would take upon me the title of Chief. You may remember that in the presence of these two gentlemen and the Duke of Perth I solemnly declared Balhaldies was unanimously allowed to be Chief by the voice of the whole Clan and for my part I desired no more than my birthright and deu. You may tell Sullivan had the prince carried along with him Balhaldies to Scotland probably he would see him at the head of a more numerous Clan than any appeared at that time I hope if ever an opportunity offer that our Clan will behave neighbour like if not exceed, several, who, I understand have met with more favourable returns for [page 420] their services, Make offer of my best compliments to Bohadies and let him know from me that I expect he entertains more favourable Sentiments than I would, from that to which I ought to adhere. I refer you farther to what Ronald has wrote you and I am dear Cousin your affectionate Cus and servant signed James Graham of Glengylle. It falls to be noticed that this gentleman who was a successful Leader in almost every enterprise that he had strength to undertake is the same Gregor MacGregor who with his uncle Rob Roy commanded such of the Clan as took the field in 1715. and after the suppression of the Rebellion in 1745 he took the name of James Graham. [5]   This declaration therefore made upon such an occasion is a very striking circum stance in the Memorialist's favour.

"There is preserved among the Memorialist's papers a Contract of Lease of a house and garden &c possessed by his Grandfather at Corbeil in 1758 in which contract he gets the title of Sieur [6]   and his Lady that of Dame de MacGregor. This Deed is subscribed W de MacGregor, Janet Oliphant de MacGregor, it is material in shewing that he like his ancestors took upon him the title of Chief.

It is needless to multiply proofs and the Memorialist shall only mention two writings more, Cameron of Locheil was Colonel of the Regiment of Albany which he had been allowed to raise by the King of France and which consisted mostly of the Scots Refugees, Locheil had made choice of Macpherson of Clunie to be his Lieutenant Colonel but Clunie choosing to remain in Scotland tho' in danger of his life, Locheil applied by letter to Monsieur le Comte D'Angenson with the King's permission to appoint Balhaldies Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment in Clunie's place. The Memorialist is possessed of copies of that Memorial and letter which last after doing justice to Balhaldies' merit and services concludes in these words 'Au reste Monsieur de MacGregor est chef do tribe de son nom qui est un des plus braves et nombreux de notre pais ce qui m'aidera beaucoup à completer et a entretenir le Regiment toujours rempli de bons sujets. Comme il m'a été, d'un très grand secours jusqu'a present depuis que le Roi m'a honoré de son agrement pour la levee de mon Regiment.'

"Upon the death of Locheil in November 1748 the Memorialist's Grandfather communicated the accounts of it to his Prince at Rome, whose answer dated the 3d December 1748 is still preserved. While the answer contains a most affecting picture of the distress of the fallen monarch it shews at the same time the esteem and respect in which the Receiver was held by him. After mentioning that the King had recommended young Locheil to the Court of France for his father's Regiment the letter concludes thus.
[page 421] 'The Prince in his present situation can best judge of what use it may he and I shall always approve of what you may do in that respect by his directions I desire Lochyel's lady, his brother and his son may find here my compliments on their late loss, which I sincerely share with them and have nothing else to add at present but to assure you of my Constant frienship and regard for yourself.'

"From the change of sentiment that afterwards took place in the Highlands more particularly after the accession of his present Majesty to the Throne there has happily been little occasion for the Chief to distinguish himself from the common men. In 1766 the said William MacGregor sent home his infant son the late Alexander MacGregor of Balhaldies, to be educated in his own country. Alexander afterwards entered young into his Majesty's service rose to a Captain in the 65th Regiment of Foot and lost his life in the West Indies in 1794 defending his King and Country.

"The right of chiefship having thus opened to the Memorialist his honourable Curators agree with him in thinking it a duty which he owes to himself as well as the Clan to vindicate his title to it.

"The Memorialist flatters himself there cannot a doubt remain either that his ancestor was solemnly elected Chief in 1714 upon the Resignation of old Archibald MacGregor of Kilmannan in whom the right of Blood was and whose male issue had by that time failed, or that his predecessors above named were regarded as Chiefs and acted up to the character, it only remains therefore to make some observations tending to show that the title of his competitor is not preferable to his."

It is unnecessary to copy out these observations, the Memorialist detects certain errors, which have been elsewhere allowed, but he had not the means of sifting the subject thoroughly. [7]  

The Memorial continues farther on-
"The Memorialist cannot doubt of the validity and effect of his ancestor's election, which has been since confirmed by the possession of the title for near a century [8]   during which time it will be permitted to observe that no person has appeared who can show a preferable right.

"It is said that the competitor on his coming home from India twelve or thirteen years ago was called upon by 800 or 1000 of the Clan to assume the title of Chief and that upon his last return to his native country within these years he has received an address from 360 of the name offering to follow him as their Chieftain to any part of the kingdom in case of invasion.

"In answer to this the Memorialist has been informed that the gentleman has been of signal service to many persons of the name at home and abroad and that [page 422] others of them would be glad to follow him in hopes of deriving advantage from it. But all this is foreign to the point of right.

"There is no room for an election and although the same persons were again either to solicit him to take upon him the title or were to hail him as already their Chief he could not thereby be their Chief unless the right were vested in him. The Memorialist finds that the Arms and supporters of the Chief were engraved by his ancestors on the Family plate and he is also possessed of the Banners under which the Clan anciently fought.

"In these circumstances he wishes to be advised by his honoured and right Honourable Counsel
"1st Whether the Memorialist has a right to use and bear the arms, title and designation of MacGregor of that Ilk.
"2dly Whether he can hinder any other person from using and bearing the said Arms title and designation.
"3dly What the best and most effectual method is for the Memorialist to vindi-cate his right to the said Arms, title and designation or to the character of Chief of the House if he has no right to the Arms."

Two letters added as testimony to Balhaldies Memorial.
“Patrick Drummond MacGregor Declares That the year 1745 when the declarent resided at Mull of Feddall, he was called out by James Drummood MacGregor of Balnacuil and taken away by him to meet his Chief William Drummond MacGregor of Balhadies and went the length of Down with him for that purpose. that Balhaldie the Chief was then every day expected to arrive from France but he never came home, that the MacGregors of the parish of Comrie, as their Chief did not arrive, went out under Drummond of Perth and Murray of Glencarnoch so far as the declarant thinks and went out also under Drummond of Perth; and after the house of Rorry [9]   became extinct Drummond of Balhaldie was held by the deponent and all the MacGregors as far as the declarent ever heard to be the Chief of the MacGregors; says that the declarent believes that either Alexander or Patrick Comrie in Tullyvennechar was along with declarent when he went down as above mentioned, and will be able he believes to corroberate the above. Declares he was acquainted with Alexander MacGregor father to William Drummond and laboured the Milne of Balhaldie for behoof of the said Alexander MacGregor in the year 1741 that by this time the Rory family was extinct and Alexander was held as the Chief of the MacGregors. The Declarent is 82 years of Age.
Pat: Drummond.
"Orchill 26th February 1799."

[page 423]
Hugh MacEwan aged eighty who was servant to Batnamulle (Balnacuil?) in the 1745 and two years afterwards corroborates every fact set down in Patrick Drum-mond's declaration and remembers perfectly well going with his master to join Balhaldie as Chieff of the MacGregors then, and taking the said Patrick Drummond out of the Milne of Feddal and carrying him to Down along with them for said purpose. But the said Patrick Drummond went no further than Down, and he the Declarent went the length of Derbie which is supposed to he about a day's journey only from London. Hugh MacEwan.
“Orchill Feb: 28 1799."

Opinion on the Memorial for William MacGregor of Balhaldies and his Curators.
"I have considered this Memorial with the various papers and documents therein referred to. If it is judged by the Memorialist and his friends to be a matter worth their while to establish his right to assume and bear the name and arms of the Family of MacGregor and to exclude others from interfering with his supposed rights, I apprehend that it would be competent for him to obtain both these objects by complaint to the Lyon Office who has the primary and original jurisdiction in all matters of genealogy and descent, and the form of proceeding would be directed by what took place in a dispute of this kind, the year 1759 and subsequent years, between the Families of Dundas of Dundas and Dundas of Fingask, which after having originated in the Lyon Court was removed by advoca¬tion into the Court of Session and appears to have undergone a full discussion before their Lordships from the most eminent Counsel then at the bar.

"But I apprehend that upon the evidence now laid before me the Memorialist could not make Out such a case as could be entertained in the Lyon Court, or in which, if entertained, he could ultimately succeed. He must be able in any supposed complaint at his instance to State that he is the Lineal successor by descent to the head or chief of the Family, and that others descended of Cadets of that Family are endeavouring to usurp the distinction to which he is exclusively intitled. It is evident however that this the Memorialist can not do, on the contrary the most material document laid before me, namely the Bond dated 20 and 27th July 1714, would in its production distinctly prove the very reverse, and that whoever may be head of the Family, he obviously is not so by descent tho' his predecessor was by this very anomalous proceeding voted at the time into the Chieftainship, this may, whilst the other families chose to acknowledge him as their head, entitle the Memorialist by their courtesy to that appellation, But I apprehend can convey no legal effect whatsoever which the Lyon Court could pay any regard to. This of itself appears to be an unsurmountable objection to the instituting any such proceedings, as having it in his power to state and prove [page 424] that he was by descent the head of a family. It is therefore perhaps unnecessary to observe farther that although a variety of documents laid before me are extremely curious and fit to be preserved in the private repositories of the Memorialist and his family, yet they are of such a nature as could not be held in evidence in any Court of Law, and would in my opinion be rejected as inadmis¬sable. Even although they contained, which they do not, evidence of the Memorialist's family being esteemed and reputed head of the Family of Mac¬Gregor by descent and not by election, upon the whole I am clearly of opinion that, however unfounded the claims of other competitors may be, the Memorialist would not succeed in making good his preferable title to this distinction, and that it would be unadvisable in him to involve himself in any lawsuit on the subject.
"The opinion of (Signed) R Dundas.
"George Square "24 July 1799."


[1] The Great Grandfather of William Oliphant MacGregor, the memorialist, was the person elected, therefore the number of generations was four not six.

[2] This matter is fully explained in the History of the Clan Gregor, vol.1., and it is there proved that Gregor was not the son of Alexander, or Alastair, but the lawful son of his brother John Dhu nan Luarag.

[3] See Balhaldies Memoir, p359

[4] an error

[5] Gregor of Glengyle had adopted the name of Graham for many years. -Ed.

[6] Although the Memorialist appears to understand French he makes here a curious mistake. “Sieur” is the diminutive of Monsieur, and is applicable to anyone, while "de," although implying a certain distinction, has no possible resemblance to that of a Highland Chief.-Ed,

[7] Rather than defend her case, Amelia simply asserts that in her opinion Balhaldie made some mistakes in criticising her own families’ case but she won’t reveal these mistakes! – Editor 2002)

[8] From 1714

[9] Balhaldies was a cadet of the House of Roro, but the House of Roro did not become extinct.