History of Clan MacArthur


(Gaelic Artair), a branch of the clan Campbell, which formerly inhabited the shores of Loch Awe, opposite the island of Inishail, and long disputed the chieftainship of the Campbells with the powerful family of Argyle. Mr. Skene, in his Highlanders of Scotland, (vol. ii p. 282,) says, "It is certain that until the reign of Robert the Bruce the Campbells did not possess an heritable right to any property in Argylshire. The situation of the MacArthur branch at this time was very different, for we find them in possession of a very extensive territory in the earldom of Garmoran, the original seat of the Campbells. It is, therefore, impossible to doubt that MacArthur was at this time at the head of the clan, and this position he appears to have maintained untill the reign of James I." MacArthur adhered to the cause of Robert the Bruce, and received, as his reward, a considerable portion of the forfeited territory of MacDugall of Lorn, Bruce's great enemy. He obtained also the keeping of the castle of Dunstaffnage. After the marriage of Sir Neil Campbell with the king's sister, the power and possessions of the Campbell branch rapidly increased, and in the reign of David II. they appear to have first put forward their claims to the chieftainship, but were successfully resisted by MacArthur, who obtained a charter "Arthuro Campbell quod nulli subjicitur pro terris nisi regi."

In the reign of James I. the chief's name was John MacArthur, and so great was his following that he could bring 1,000 men into the field. In 1427 that king, in a progress towards the north, held a parliament at Inverness, to which he summoned all the Highland chiefs, and among others who then felt his vengeance was John MacArthur, who was beheaded, and his whole lands forfeited. From that period the cheiftainship is said to have been lost to the MacArthurs; the family subsequently obtained Strachur in Cowal and portions of Glenfalloch and Glendochart in Perthshire.

Many of the name of MacArthur are still found about Dunstaffnage, but they have long been merely tenants to the Campbells. The MacArthurs were hereditary pipers to the MacDonalds of the Isles, and the last of the race was piper to the Highland Society. He composed many pieces of bagpipe music, which were highly esteemed by competent judges. A portrait of Archibald MacArthur, a native of the Island of Mull, who died in 1834, piper to Sir Reginald Macdonald Stewart Seton of Touch and Staffa, baronet, is in Kay's Edinburgh Portraits.

The Scottish Nation, by Wm. Anderson, pub A. Fullerton & Co, 1863 (vol. ii. p. 709)

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