The Journal of The Clan McAlister of America
By Ian McDonald
Tarbert, Argyll PA29 6XL Scotland, UK
1984 - 1985
(For Ted K. McAlister)
All rights reserved
Ever since the Clan McAlister of America (CMA) was founded
in 1990, its principal effort has been to research and construct
genealogies for each American and Canadian family whose
progenitors were named McAlister, or a spelling variation
of it. There are now over 200 such family lines in the CMA.
Many years before the CMA came into existence, McAlisters
from the United States have visited Scotland and Ireland
in search of their ancestral families. One such visit was
made in the 1980s by Ted K. and Barbara McAlister. Ted's
line has been identified as AM01, (Andrew Matthew and Nancy
West McAllister) but at that time, he believed that he was
descended from the A01 line (Angus and Margaret Boyce McAllister).
One of his efforts to find out more was to commission Captain
Ian MacDonald of Clachan, Tarbert, in Kintyre to write studies
of the McAlisters who lived in the area of Scotland from
which most our ilk originated. One of those articles appears
Research conducted by CMA members has consisted of assembling
and comparing information about the McAlister families in
Scotland from many sources. In summary, we have learned
that the Clan Alasdair was founded in the thirteenth century
by Alasdair Mor, second son of Donald of the Isles, founder
of the Clan Donald. We have also learned that there are
four septs, or separate families, in the Clan MacAlasdair
(son of Alasdair): Loup; Alexanders of Menstrie; Tarbert;
At first, the family was known as the McAlisters of Loup,
a name first used by Alexander MacAlasdair, a grandson of
The Tarbert McAlister sept was founded by Donald Macalister,
second son of Angus Vic Ianh Dubh (Angus John) of the Loup,
an eighth generation descendant of Alasdair Mor. Finally,
the Glenbarr McAlister sept was founded by Ranald Mor MacAlister
of Dewpin in the sixteenth century. No genealogical work
has yet been done by the CMA on the Alexander of Menstrie
The following article uses some Scottish terms that may
be unfamiliar to some readers. For instance, a "sasine"
is the act of giving possession of feudal real property.
A "precept of clare constat" is an instrument by which legal
ownership of land is transferred. Legally, it is a deed
executed by a subject-superior for the purpose of completing
the title as his vassal's heir to the lands held by the
deceased vassal, under the grantor of the precept. These
are admittedly obscure terms which mean very little to a
modern American. They are used by Scottish researchers for
precise meaning. The abbreviation 2/ means two shillings.
The "MS" abbreviation used in the list of references means
manuscript. The place names in the references are towns
in Kintyre where the Scottish MacAlisters lived before their
descendants came to America. Ballinakill was the home of
Coll McAllister, a son of Ronald McAllister of Dunskeig.
Coll sold the place to Colin Campbell of Skipness on his
departure for North Carolina in 1739.
A Famous Colonizer
from Tarbert McAlisters
McAlister, son of Coll McAlester of Balinakill.
As described in a previous article in the Journal
(see Volume 1, No. 2), Archibald McAlister of Tarbert, in
1698, purchased the estate of Balinakill, Clachan and later
it was purchased by his younger brother Ronald McAlister of
Dunskeig in 1717. He and his wife had a family of at least three
sons: Coll, John and Robert. John became a surgeon, but little
can be found of Robert who, however, was recorded as witness
to a document at Lochgair in 1724, in respect of a declaration
by Hector McAlister of Loup. Coll, the eldest, sold Balinakill
in 1739, and emigrated to North Carolina. At this time, 5 Scottish
gentlemen and some 90 poor families totaling 350 souls in all,
sailed from Campbelltown and Gigha on 6 June 1739 on the ship
"Thistle" of Saltcoats, Ayrshire. The old Campbelltown Customs
records show the ship to be "embarking passengers for Cape Fair."
The other four gentlemen were McNeills and Campbells and were
mostly relations by marriage.
Recent research uncovered the complete document signed by
Coll McAlester and later by Janet McNeill, his spouse, at
Skerrols in Islay on 10 May 1739. An old letter which has
survived records the ship at Gigha taking on more passengers.
This was written by John McAlister of Cown to his relatives
in North Carolina. In 1740 all these gentlemen were given
large land grants and exemption from taxes together with a
money grant to help establish themselves in their new country.
This was the first large emigration of Scots settlers to America
recorded, and all came from the mainland of Kintyre and the
adjacent islands of Islay, Gigha and Jura.
Coll McAlister and Janet McNeill had a family of two sons:
Alexander, born in 1715, and Hector born in 1716, together
with three daughters, Grissella, who died unmarried, Isabella,
who married Farquhard Campbell and Mary, who married Hector
McNeill. Alexander McAlister was thrice married. His first
wife died shortly after their marriage and was buried at sea
on a return voyage to Carolina in 1740. They had no children.
His second wife was Flora McNeill, a daughter of Neill McNeill
and Grissella Campbell. They had four children: Coll, Grissella,
Janet and Neill. His third wife was Jane Colvin who was, according
to historians, born at sea when her parents emigrated in 1740.
This marriage was recorded on July 14, 1763. In letters preserved
between Alexander and his brother Hector on the island of
Arran, he gives details of his family. Alexander, later Colonel
Alexander McAlister, became a great patriot and became a prominent
figure in North Carolina, becoming a member of the N.C. Senate
in 1787. A monument erected to his memory commemorates his
Hector McAlister returned to Scotland after selling off his
estates and settled on the island of Arran, adjacent to east
Kintyre. The Jacobite rebellion was soon to break out all
over western Scotland and he, being true to the Stuart cause,
was given money to raise a force of men to support Prince
Charles Edward Stuart. This force was unable to leave the
island since Archibald McAlister of Tarbert was an ardent
Hanoverian, and despite the fact that his Clan Chief Angus
McAlester of Loup supported the Jacobite cause, Tarbert allowed
Lord Loudon's regiment to be stationed at Tarbert to prevent
anyone from sailing to join Prince Charles. Hector McAlister
was denounced as a rebel and Government forces ordered to
apprehend him. Those apprehended were to be imprisoned in
Dumbarton Castle near Glasgow. After many months in hiding
among the hills of Arran, he evaded capture and was later
pardoned. On one occasion he was hiding underneath some straw
bales in a barn when soldiers searched it, but although they
prodded the bales with their pikes, he was not detected or
injured. He was later pardoned in 1746 and married Mary Fullarton
of Corseby, Ayrshire, a daughter of an old Norman family.
This family had extensive lands near Ayr. He was given the
tenancy of the farms of Monyquil and Glaister, and became
a prominent member of the island community. He was also a
member of the committee instrumental in getting a ferry service
from Arran to the mainland. The family born in Arran consisted
of one son, Charles, and five daughters.
Charles McAlister was drowned in 1774 when, on a journey from
Arran to Islay with one of his sisters, he had a sword fight
with the captain of the ship who had molested his sister.
His body was recovered near Davaar Island, Campbelltown, and
is buried in the family vault in Kilbride Cemetery, Lamlash,
together with his father Hector, two sisters and brother-in-law
Neil Shannon of Lephenstrath, Kintyre. Hector died in 1790,
aged 74 years. He wrote a lament for his son who (I should
have added) was thrown overboard on the orders of the Captain,
who was named James Hamilton. The inscription on the stone
in Kilbride, Lamlash, Arran reads, " The burying tomb of Hector
McAlister, Esquire of Springbank died A.D. 1790 aged 74 years,
and Elizabeth McAlister, his daughter she died 1769 aged 23
years. Also Charles McAlester his son died 1774 aged 24 years."
Springbank House, where Hector was living in 1780, still stands
in a prominent position above Brodick Bay, and this old two
storied house with its farm buildings and carved name on the
west wall remains a monument to the last of the descendants
of the male line of Ronald McAlester of Dunskeig. The lament,
translated from the Gaelic reads:
and shapely thy form and royal thy speech,
In truth was
thy pleasure, thy displeasure in deceit,
hair so wavy, curly and bunchy,
blue eye so winning in thy head.
a lady dressed in silk and grandeur,
and Islay and Kintyre of the kine,
the world to have thee as their own,
all in sorrow so young thou didst die.
father and thy mother are each day under grief,
in the world to compensate the loss,
reach the place where all sorrow is dispelled,
bitter tear will ever moisten their cheek.
the pity on those who true companions don't choose,
fear the Lord on sea or on land,
To him his
bread would be sure and his water be pure,
And at the
end of his days he happy would be.
Sources of reference
Donald - Vol. 1,2 & 3 - Revs. A. MacDonald
- Clan Donald
- Donald J. MacDonald of Castletown.
- The Book
of Islay - Courtesy of J. R. MacDonald of Largie.
Old Parish Records - Register House, Edinburgh.
of Sasines (Argyll). Argyll & Bute District Council,
per Mr. M. MacDonald, Archivist.
Kirk Session Records - Unpublished MS.
- Kintyre Antiquarian
Society Library - " ".
- Glasgow University
- List of Students - Argyll & Bute District Archives.
- Clan Donald
Family tree by John Brown - genealogist to the Prince
Regent, Prince Albert - Courtesy of J. R. M. MacDonald of
- The Map Room
- National Library, Edinburgh.
- Kintyre in
the 17th Century - A. McKerral.
- Record of
Commissions of Supply, Argyll (1744) - Argyll &
Bute District Archives.
- Loup MS,
1573 - 1950 - Unpublished MS.
MS, 1698 - 1867 - " ".
of the Forty five
- Unpublished Glenbarr MS - Courtesy of Angus Macalister
- Loup Estate
rental books - Unpublished MS.
Estate rental book - Unpublished MS.
- Glencoe Museum
- MacDonald Family Tree - Miss B. Fairweather.
Estate, Loup Estate, Balinakill Estate and Inveryne Estate
- Unpublished MS by G. Langlands, Surveyor.
- Records of
Synod of Argyll, 1639 - 1651 - Duncan C. MacTavish.
- Sir Donald
McAlister of Tarbert - Lady Edith McAlister. Book supplied
by Mr. C. Sutherland, Tarbert.
- Torrisdale Family
Tree - Courtesy of D.S. Macalister - Hall of Torrisdale.
- Glenbarr Family
Tree - Courtesy of Angus C. Macalister of Glenbarr.
letters and McNeill letters - Courtesy of Ben M. Huckabay,
Jr., Antlers, Oklahoma, USA.