International Men’s Day 2023

Posted on: 19th November 2023

We are celebrating International Men’s Day 2023 by sharing a glimpse of the impact of three men on Clan Donald and Armadale’s history. We collect material relating to the lives of Clansfolk and the estate on Skye and while we have only touched on a few examples here, within the treasures of the Museum of the Isles there are countless stories of hard work, bravery and lasting legacy.

Read on to learn more about each of the very different legacies left by William Barron, General Sir James MacDonell, and Matthew Stobie.

William Barron, Armadale Home Farm Manager

William Barron was the Farm Manager at Armadale for around a decade from 1876. Originally from Moray, William and his wife Marjory brought up their family near Inverness in the 1850s before moving to Skye.

By 1879, William is working as Farm Manager at Armadale. From our archive records, we have learned more about his work. Managing the timber, forestry, produce, and stock of the farm was a tall order.

The work included negotiating the prices for sale of timber, recovering from the damage caused to the plantations by storms, cutting and transporting wood across the estates on Skye, and arranging the supplies of coal to Armadale Castle and estate cottages. As part of this work, William Barron was in regular contact with the estate’s factor (Alexander Macdonald, Solicitor, Portree) and you can read some extracts from his letters below.

The work of William Barron and many others was vital in caring for the estate, and we celebrate this work as we look around Armadale today.

General Sir James MacDonell (1778-1857) GCB KCH

General Sir James MacDonell was the third son of Duncan, 14th Chief of the MacDonells of Glengarry and younger brother of Alasdair Ranaldson, 15th Chief.

General Sir James had a decorated military career but is perhaps best remembered for his command of infantry commanding Hougoumont, a strategically important location close to the site of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. For his sterling leadership he was complimented by the Duke of Wellington and has been called, ‘The Hero of Hougoumont’ and ‘the Bravest Man in the British Army’.

The portrait of General Sir James by Henry Raeburn pictured below is on display in the Museum of the Isles. It is thought to have been commissioned to mark his promotion to Lt Col of the 78th Foot (Rosshire Buffs) in 1809.

There are many such stories of valour and bravery in the fascinating lives of Clansmen which can be explored in the Museum of the Isles.

Matthew Stobie, Surveyor

Black’s Surnames of Scotland describes Mathew Stobie as a ‘land surveyor in Edinburgh, in the beginning of the eighteenth century’.

In the 1760s, Sir James Macdonald commissioned Stobie, now living in the Scottish Borders, to survey his estates on Skye and produce plans from these surveys.

It would not have been realised at the time that almost 300 years later these plans would continue to be carefully preserved as prized and admired records of Skye’s history. With incredible accuracy they capture the farms, grazing, townships and coastlines of the Macdonald Estates on Skye. They remain one of the most requested parts of our archive collections and have helped hundreds of researchers to learn about their local area, ancestry and the changing uses of land on Skye.

Extracts below show the areas of Kilmuir and Harrapool, Strath from the maps made by Matthew Stobie.

The lives of these three men are only a taste of the fascinating stories of the people connected to Clan Donald and Armadale. Their work and legacies have can be seen by this impact on our history, and providing inspiration within our museum and archive collections.

Do you have any stories to share of men who have contributed to the ever evolving legacy of Clan Donald and Armadale? Let us know via our social media pages to help us celebrate International Men’s Day.