This important family was originally a part of the great Clan Donald (MacDonald). It became a clan in its own right about the 13th century, and can trace its history back to Alastair More, son of Donald of the Isles, great-grandson of the famous Somerled. The clan territory was principally in Kintyre but also became strong in Bute, Arran and Skye.

Alastair first appears as a witness to a charter granted by his brother Angus, Lord of the Isles, to the Abbey of Paisley around 1253. The lands of Lowb later to be the chiefly designation of Loup, are mentioned in a charter by James III confirming lands in Kintyre to the Lord of the Isles in 1481. Charles Macalister was made Constable of Tarbert Castle, Steward of Kintyre. Tarbert Castle was a stronghold on Loch Fyne at the head of the Kintyre Peninsular and was built by Robert the Bruce. Charles received a grant of lands as well. He was succeeded as chief by his son John who was the first to be styled "of the Loub". This principal family, the Macalisters of Loup whose chieftain in 1493 was Ian Dubh continued to figure prominently in the history of Kintyre. Their name appears in the general band of King James IV in 1587.

Godfrey Macalister of Loup received a charter from the Earl of Argyll in 1591 which was held to 1745. Alexander Macalister of Loup supported James VII and fought under Vice Count Dundee at Killiecranke, and the following year, at the Battle of Boyne. His son Hector died without issue and was succeeded by his brother Charles, who married a daughter of Lamont of Lamont. Charles XII of Loup married Janet Somerville, heiress of Kennox and assumed the name and arms of Somerville in addition to his own.

In 1600 the Island of Arran was invaded by the Macalisters who seized the house and estates of John Montgomery of Skelmorlie plundering possessions valued at 12,000 Scots. Two years later Archibald Macalister, the heir of Tarbert, led his men along with other clans of north Kintyre to raid the prosperous Island of Bute. It is said that a force of 1200 men ravaged the Stewart possessions. Archibald Macalister was denounced as a rebel and in 1605 he and his kinsmen John Macalister, tutor of Loup, were ordered to appear before the Privy Council, and fined a surety on pain of being denounced as rebels. Alexander Macalister, along with Angus Og, leader of the Macdonalds of Islay, were found guilty of treason, and after incarceration in the prison of the toll booth in Edinburgh, were hanged. However by 1623 the Macalisters of Loup were one of the Justices of the Peace for Argyllshire. About 1730 Ranald Macalister, a young lad of 15, left the Kintyre area and settled in Vaternich, Isle of Skye.

By 1706 Tarbert had passed from the Macalisters into the possession of the Macleans. The line continued to flourish on their lands of Loup. A youger son Duncan settled in Holland where he rose to a high rank in the army. His descendants can still be traced to this day. The chiefly family (Loup) went bankrupt in 1810, and the present chief lives in England.

The Macalisters of Glenbarr whose descendants presently operate the Clan Macalister certre at Glenbarr Abbey, Argyll. The progenitator of the Macalisters of Glenbarr, Colonel Matthew Macalister, who served with great distinction with the East India Company during the Indian Sepoy wars, and was wounded nine times during the Battle of Seringapatan, was captured and carried from the field thought dead and attended to by Hyda Ali personal medics because of his courage, recovered, and for his trouble was imprisoned in the dungeon caves for the next two years until rescued by his brother General Keith Macalister of Torriesdale.

Both Matthew and Keith as well as Colonel Norman Macalister, Governor of Prince of Wales Island, now Penang, 1807-1810, were all younger brothers to Alexander Macalister of Strathaird, Isle of Skye, senior male of the Strathaird line of Macalisters. All of the aforementioned were part of a family of 14 born to Ranald Macalister of Skerrinish, Isle of Skye, and Anne Macdonald on Kingsburgh, eldest daughter of Alexander Macdonald of Kingsburgh to whose house Flora Macdonald (a cousin) led Bonnie Prince Charles Edward Stuart disguised as an Irish maid-servant, Betty Burke, after the disasterous defeat at Culloden in April 1746. Flora Macdonald was bridesmaid at the wedding of Ranald Macalister and Anne Macdonald. The Prince was later taken to Strathaird on the Sleat Peninsular at that time owned by Mackinnon of Mackinnon and concealed in a secret cave on the estate with a price of 30,000 on his head. He was later to make good his escape to Italy defying all the best efforts of Cumberland's murderous army. There are four branches of the Clan Macalister, these being:

  1. the Macalisters of Loup, Kintyre;

  2. the Macalisters of Strathaird, Isle of Skye;

  3. the Macalisters of Glenbarr, Argyll the site of the present Macalister Clan Centre; and

  4. the Macalisters of Tarbert, at the head of the Kintyre Peninsular.

The Macalister Clan Centre is presently operated by Angus Charles Macalister, 5th Laird of Glenbarr Abbey and is situated half-way down the Kintyre Peninsular a short distance from the Mull of Kintyre.


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