Kennedys of 'Glencoe and Beyond'

written by Iain Kennedy 10th September 2006

Copyright © 2007 Iain Kennedy


I have just acquired a copy of Iain Macdonald's 2005 book 'Glencoe and Beyond : The sheep-farming years 1780-1830' published by John Donald, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd. This is a very detailed examination of some Highland families from Glencoe and Lochaber, primarily Macdonalds and Camerons, and an attempt to dispell the notion that all the sheep farming activities of this period were lead by Southerners.

There are 11 individual Kennedys referred to in the text including the famous Kennedy tacksmen of Leanachan and a not particularly flattering account of the Kennedys of Glengarry. The biggest single account though is reserved for the Reverend John Kennedy of Ruthven (near Kingussie). This fascinating gentleman had three wives (Christina McPherson, Elizabeth McPherson and Jean Macdonald) and as well as teaching at Ruthven also resided in East Florida and, towards the end of his life c. 1801, central Glasgow. He became a substantial land owner and a joint tacksman with Lt. Evan Macpherson, but later ditched his partner when the latter's fortunes waned.

There is also coverage of both Leanachan and Brackletter and their non-Kennedy tacksmen:

'From 1769 Angus Macdonald of Achtriachtan was principal tacksman of three of the Duke of Gordon's farms;  Kilmanivaig, Brackletter and Inverlochy. The MacDonells of Keppoch had held 'a great part of the Braes of Lochaber' but in 1769 the Duke of Gordon removed Ronald MacDonell of Keppoch from Kilmanivaig and Brackletter. Angus Macdonald of Achtriachtan then obtained them'.

Since the Kennedys were later moved to Brackletter it's a pity this account doesn't go any further forward. The primary sources for the above quote are:

NAS GD 44/25/2 Rentals of Lochaber with lists of men residing on the Duke of Gordon's lands in Lochaber. Item 54 Lochaber tacksmen in the parish of Kilmanivaig (1769)

NAS GD 44/26/9/26 Memorial for the Duke of Gordon about Keppoch's farms (1799).

What makes this book a joy to read and refer to is that it is heavily referenced, with virtually every statement cross-linked, usually to the relevant record at the National Archives in Scotland. Of course, the key papers that help in this area of Scotland are those of the Gordons and Mackintoshes who held the Lochaber lands south and north of the River Spean respectively. (Note that Brackletter and Leanachan are immediately south of this river and thus belonged to the Gordons).

The book will be of interest to anyone following the Kennedys, Macdonalds, McPhersons and Camerons of this area.

In short, it's another excellent book from Scottish publisher Birlinn Ltd and their catalogue entry for it is here. If they re-organise their catalogue their main site is here.