The Kennedy septs of Clan Cameron and Clan MacDonald

updated 19.11.06 (links)

Copyright © 2007 Iain Kennedy

The Camerons

On page 192 of his history of the Cameron Clan, John Stewart writes this:

"Kennedys or MacUlrics of Lianachan (MacWalricks)

Some authorities state that the Kennedys of Lianachan were followers of Lochiel, others that they followed Keppoch. In all probability they varied their allegiances as best suited them. It is said they descend from Ulrich, who fled from Carrick at an early date, and settled in Lochaber.

Lianachan lies some 2 miles south of the Spean Bridge/Fort William road, the turning being a mile west of Spean Bridge".

However, there is a fascinating variant of this story in Donald Whyte's Scottish Surnames (Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh 2000):

"An interesting group of Kennedys, said to be from Lochaber, settled around Dull, in Perthshire, ca. 1550 and it seems likely they were of Celtic ancestry. The Kennedys of Lochaber are known in Gaelic as Mac Ualraig (McWalrick)."

This is the only time I have heard mention of this sept outside of the immediate vicinity of Lochaber and Lianachan and fits in with the theory I am exploring that this sept moved into Rannoch and included my ancestor Angus Kennedy. There are only two possible routes from Lochaber to Dull and the more likely of the two would pass over Rannoch Moor. I will be attempting to contact Donald Whyte to find out where he got this information from.

For further information about Cameron septs follow this link to the official Cameron septs index.

There is also an excellent genealogical Cameron site which features many Camerons and Kennedys from Rannoch and Fortingall parish as well as Lochaber.

Update March 11th, 2006.

The subject of routes south from Lochaber and Fort William gets extensive coverage in A.R.B. Haldane's book 'The Drove Roads of Scotland', particularly in Appendix B 'Report and Estimates by Thos Telford relative to the Rannoch Road' from the 5th Report of the Commissioners for Highland Roads and Bridges, 1811. Here is a brief taste of what Telford had to say in his proposal to speed up Highland cattle droves travelling to the cattle markets of Crieff and Falkirk:

(I prefer to follow these narratives using the OS 1:250000 maps 'Road 1', 'Road 2' and 'Road 3' but the overlap is just in the area of study and none show the whole route described. 'Road 2' covers Fort William and Rannoch Moor east to the eastern ends of Loch Rannoch and Glen Lyon).

'Immediately to the south of Fort William the communication is difficult and circuitous; for it is either by crossing steep ridges on the old Military Road by the top of Loch Leven and over the Devil's Staircase, or more to the westward by crossing the Ferry of Ballachulish and proceeding up the rugged pass of Glencoe to the King's House at the west side of the Moor of Rannoch. From thence the communication continues, across the Black Mount to Tyndrum, and afterwards eastward down Glendochart towards Killin, at the head of Loch-Tay, three miles short of which it turns southward to Callander and Crieff. The road up Glencoe, though preferable to the Devil's Staircase, is one of the most rugged in the Highlands... in this direction it is impossible to avoid this dreadful pass, because the country to the southward is equally rugged. From the junction of these two bad roads at the top of Glencoe, cattle pass on to the King's House, eastward of which is an extensive open district, which in such a rugged country may be comparatively called a plain; it is named the Moor of Rannoch. The Military Road passes by the western extremity of this plain across the sloping skirts of a hill well known by the name of the Black Mount.

[Telford now reveals his new plan ...]

'It commences near High Bridge and passes considerably to the east of Ben Nevis by the side of Loch Treag and across the Moor of Rannoch direct to Killin.'

Haldane has this to say in commentary, though: 'It is probably that this route had long been used by droving and less legitimate traffic' - it appears to have a bad reputation as a route for cattle thieves.

And the MacDonalds too? (research updated 25.3.06)

Latest (25.3.06)

Some important information has been gleaned from the excellent book:

The Clan Ranald of Knoydart and Glengarry (a history of the MacDonalds or MacDonells of Glengarry) by Norman H. MacDonald FRSA. FSA Scot

2nd edition 1995

Let me summarise some of the material I unearthed (a bit tricky as there is no index in the book).

"Principal septs of Glengarry


In Gaelic MacUalgraig. This name is said to be derived from Ulrick or Walrick Kennedy, a scion of the Kennedys of Dunure, Ayrshire, who fled to Lochaber early in the 16th century and from whome the Glengarry and Lochaber Kennedys are descended. They were among the most loyal followers of Glengarry."

On page 59 the author relates of an incident from 1672:

The Privy Council however were determined that someone should be made responsible for the numerous outrages which were being committed by various parties of MacDonalds and passed an Act dated 18th July 1672 in which Lord MacDonell was ordained and commanded as Chief of the Name and Clan of MacDonald to be answerable for the peace of the clan and to exhibit before the Council in October following, the undernoted persons: Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch, ... Kennedy of Lianachan, ...

The most important section I found is on p79 where the author quotes from the anonymous Government surveyor of the Highlands

The Highlands in the early 18th century

An impression of the times with regard to Glengarry's tenants, as seen by the Whig outsider, can be obtained form the following extract from an anonymous treatise, the author of which may have been, according to Andrew Lang, a Mr. Bruce, who had been instructed by the Hanoverian government c 1749 to investigate certain estates in the Highlands.

'as I proceeded on the coast southward I came to Knoidart which is a perfect den of thieves and robbers! Glengarry is the Proprietor of this country and it is inhabited by his clan who are all papists. ... Glengarry could raise about 500 strong fierce fellows who are all McDonalds except a small tribe of 30 or 40 men called McWalricks, who have taken the name of Kennedy. They have it is imagined, taken sanctuary here some 100 years ago after having committed some crime for which they were obliged to fly their own country (Note: the name is said to be derived from the old Gaelic personal name Ualgarg or Ualgharg - High Temper - confused with the Teutonic Ulrich, Ualrig Kennedy of the family of Dunure on account of a fatal quarrel fled to escape the law to the wilds of Lochaber during the 16th century. His descendants spread throughout the district and to Glengary).'

There is more on the Kennedys in several of the appendices:

In Appendix IV

Letter to Colonel Alasdair Ranaldso MacDonell of Glengarry from the Men of his company in the Strathspey Fencibles prior to their joining the Glengarry Fencibles, 6 named Kennedy privates are listed as signatories.

In Appendix V

Rental of the Estate of Glengarry conform to a Judicial Rental thereof made out Anno 1762

(covering the four Baronies of Knoidart, Morar, Glengarry and Abertaff) - the barony of Glengarry lists no fewer than 13 male Kennedys as farm tenants.

Earlier notes (to 19.3.06)

According to both the Cameron and MacDonald clans, some of the Lochaber Kennedys/MacWalricks changed their allegiance to the MacDonald Clan. As with the Cameron link, I am now pursuing this back to the original sources where possible. Having perused the three largest MacDonald histories on the open shelves of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh I find little mention of this matter, save this:

'Alexander Macdonald ('Alastair Buidhe') d. 1665/9 by his first wife had

Allan, Archibald, Alexander,

then married a daughter of John Macdonell of Glengarry having issue

Donald Gorm ancestor of the family of Clinaig

Ranald na Dalach who died without issue

also 4 daughters who married respectively Macdonald of Fersit, Macdonald of Glencoe, Macdonald of Ardnadi and Kennedy of Linachan Mor'

in History of the MacDonalds by Alexander Mackenzie, 1881.

Linachan as mentioned above is where Ulrich Kennedy is supposed to have settled.

This information was gleaned by searching the indexes of the books then reading the sections on Keppoch. I mention on my page on Prisoners of the '45 that one Kennedy was captured and imprisoned fighting for Keppoch and Cameron in their history also suggest a connection with him.

There is more on the search for Ulric and the early Leanachan Kennedys here.