Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Robert Louis Stevenson!

Today is Robert Louis Stevenson's 160th birthday!

Perhaps best known for Treasure Island, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson is a giant in Scottish literature.  Born in Edinburgh on November 13th, 1850, Stevenson would go on to write about a wide range on topics, everything from children's literature to horror.  Co' latha breith sona Robert!

Even Google is celebrating!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Government of Canada Officially recognizes April 6th as Tartan Day

Tartan Day was first establish in Nova Scotia during the 1980s, and since then has been formally proclaimed in every province in the country.  We can now add the federal government to that list, thanks to the hard work and dedication of many Scots from every province in Canada.

April 6th was chosen as the date to celebrate Tartan Day as it coincides with the day of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

The Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia lists the dates of official adoption throughout Canada:

  • Nova Scotia - 6 April 1987
  • Ontario - 19 December 1991
  • British Columbia - 25 March 1992
  • Prince Edward Island - 2 April 1992
  • Saskatchewan - 6 April 1992
  • Manitoba - 6 April 1992
  • Alberta - 6 April 1992
  • New Brunswick - 6 April 1993
  • Newfoundland & Labrador - 6 April 1995
  • Québec - 18 December 2003

Pictures from Cill Chriosd (Kilchrist)

Ardean MacKinnon (Membership Secretary, Clan MacKinnon Atlantic) has graciously shared some of her photos from her 2003 trip to Skye with her husband Don (Past President, Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick).  They were not able to stay for long as they were part of a larger tour, but they were able to take quite a few lovely pictures of this ancient MacKinnon site.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cill Chriosd (Kilchrist)

There is always a sense of sadness when viewing old and decaying structures - places that used to be vibrant and full of life, but either due to violence or neglect are now crumbling by the wayside.  Fortunately historical societies are working to preserve some of these buildings from future degradation, and one can hope that one day they can be fully restored.

One of these buildings is the venerable MacKinnon church at Kilchrist on the Isle of Skye.  Kilchrist comes from the Gaelic Cill Chriosd, meaning Christ's Church, and there are still people today who use the old Gaelic name rather than the current Anglicization.  The Church itself was built in the late 1500s, replacing an earlier medieval structure that had stood there before.

Cill Chriosd as it appeared on a postcard, likely from the early 20th century.

The church was abandoned in the early 1840s, and the congregation moved to the newer parish church in Broadford.  Today if you stop by for a visit, it is not uncommon to see sheep walking in amongst the graves of the churchyard.  For those interested in seeing some more recent pictures, the Wikipedia article on Cill Chriosd has a number of photographs taken this spring by Mike Peel.  The Church is on the MacKinnon map, for those interested in seeing an aerial view, or finding out its exact location.

If you have any photographs of the church, or any information that you would like to share, please contact the webmaster.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Charles Edward Stewart - Jacobite Print

The National Library of Scotland has been slowly increasing the materials available through their digital archive.  Among these documents are a collection of Jacobite era prints and broadsides, including this picture of Bonnie Prince Charlie - Charles Edward Stewart.

According to the site, the portrait was originally thought to be the Duke of Cumberland.   The MacKinnons were historcally quite strong Jacobite supporters, the Chief Iain Dubh supported the Stewarts during the '15 and the '45 risings.  The MacKinnons hid the Prince in a cave during his famous escape, after which the MacKinnon Chief and his wife were subsequently imprisoned, though they were later released years later on compassionate grounds.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Clan MacKinnon - Notice of Meeting

Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick

268 Sewell Street, Fredericton, NB E3A 3G6

14 September 2010

Dear Members:

As you know Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick has been going through a difficult time over the last
couple of years. We held an emergency meeting on the 20 of June 2009 with over 20 members present,
and at this meeting a unanimous motion was passed stating that Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick
would continue as an organization. Unfortunately that is where things ended; we have been trying very
hard to have an election of officers since that last meeting. I am sad to report we have been unable to
find individuals to fill two key Executive positions. A few of our current executive team have served the
organization for a number of years and are ready to move on. This it is making it very difficult to conduct
the day to day business of Clan Mackinnon of New Brunswick: We have no recent newsletter, we did not
have a Clan Tent at the New Brunswick Highland Games, nor have we invoiced anyone their 2010-11
membership as we were unsure if the organization was going to continue.

I am happy to report we just might have found a breath of fresh air. Recently a meeting was held where
Treasurer Burton Carlisle, Membership Secretary Ardean MacKinnon, and I the Inter-president were
present to discuss what we were going to do. Also present at this meeting were Andrew MacKinnon and
Colin MacKinnon, members who were invited to attend and enter into the discussion on the future of Clan
MacKinnon of New Brunswick.

I am happy to report that Andrew is willing to allow his name to stand for President of Clan MacKinnon.
We have decided to merge the Membership Secretary and Recording Secretary together for at least a
one year period and Ardean will let her name stand for that position for one year. We are now looking for
a person to take on the positions of Vice-president and Treasurer.

We also discussed if the time has come to expand the area that Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick
covers. The MacKinnon experience throughout Atlantic Canada is so intertwined that this seems to be a
logical step moving forward. This expansion will mean a name change to Clan MacKinnon Atlantic, and a
preliminary website has been established that can be reached at
All present agreed that we do not currently have the interest, support, or population in New Brunswick to
continue and survive. Our membership is not increasing and without members we do not have an
adequate revenue base or enough volunteers. With that said, if we want to breathe life back into this
society we need to reorganize and restructure.

We will be holding a General Meeting of Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick on October 16th, 2010 at
1:00 the Governor’s Room at the Crown Plaza. At this meeting we will be discussing all of these
issues and we will be asking you, our membership, for your feedback. Together we will make a decision
on how to proceed. We have a number of suggestions that we will present to interested members who
attend, and we hope that the meeting will have a good turn out from you our members. We look forward
to seeing you there.

Thank you,

Dan Taylor

Clan MacKinnon of New Brunswick

268 Sewell Street, Fredericton, NB E3A 3G6

Notice of Meeting

Saturday, 16 October 2010 at 1:00 p.m.

Governor’s Room, Crowne Plaza Fredericton
Lord Beaverbrook
659 Queen Street, Fredericton, NB

1:00 p.m cash lunch from hotel menu

2:00 p.m. General Meeting

(see letter for items to be discussed)

Those members planning to attend, please confirm by calling 472-2871
or email…….

MacKinnon Pass, New Zealand

MacKinnon's make an impact wherever we go, and from the earliest emigrations MacKinnons have been making their way to every part of the world that was available to them.  One of these 19th century emigrants was Quintin MacKinnon, a man who would make his name in the early European explorations of New Zealand.

Quintin was born in Scotland in 1851, but soon became restless.   Before he reached the age of 20, he had already volunteered to fight for French army during the brief Franco-Prussian War in 1870.  After the French surrender, Quintin did not tarry long in Scotland before emigrating from his native Argyll to Otago New Zealand.  There he became a surveyor, and performed a number of exploratory expeditions, particularly in the vicinity of Lake Te Anau (Maori for 'cave of swirling waters').

He is best known for being the first European, along with  Ernest Mitchell, to travel overland from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound.  The Maori had been using the trail there for generations, and today it is known as the Milford track, with the tallest point named in Quintin's honour, MacKinnon Pass.  Quintin made his living giving guided tours of the Milford track, as well as being the government mail carrier between Milford Sound and Lake Te Anau.   The duration of the trip was reduced to six days after much effort on Quintin's part to expand and develop the trail.  On November 29th 1892, Quintin boarded a boat to cross Lake Te Anau before making yet another of his routine trips, but his boat never arrived.  A search expedition was organized, but his body was never found, only the remain of the wrecked vessel.

The Gaelic Society of New Zealand, along with Quintin's friend Thomas MacKenzie began raising money to build a memorial cairn, and in 1914 it was erected at MacKinnon Pass.  Today over 14,000 people each year make their way across the Milford track, the trail the Quintin loved.

Photo by Henry Work.  Quintin MacKinnon Statue, plaque reads:

Quintin MacKinnon
In 1888
MacKinnon and Ernest Mitchell
were the first Europeans
to travel overland from
Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound

Their route became the world famous
-Milford Track-

Photo by randomruth.  Quintin MacKinnon Memorial Cairn
The Inscription reads:

By the Gaelic Society of N.Z. and
the Otago Rugby Football Union
Assisted by the Government
In Honour of
Quintin MacKinnon
Who discovered this pass in 1888 and
Who in 1892 drowned in Lake Te Anau

Photo by wehardy.  "View from MacKinnon Saddle down into the Arthur Valley towards Quintin Lodge"

Quintin MacKinnon was a true Victorian in the sense that he liked to spell his name in various ways!  He occasionally spelled his first name Quintin, Quinten, and Quinton.  He alternatively spelled his last name MacKinnon, McKinnon, Mackinnon, and Mckinnon.

*September 15th, 2010 - Update* MacKinnon Pass has been added to the MacKinnon Map.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

MacKinnon Cross, Iona

Flickr users "marcusandsue" have posted a beautiful picture of the MacKinnon Cross at Iona. The inscription is in latin, but the English Translation is "This is the cross of Lachlan MacKinnon and his son John, Abbot of Hy, made in the Year of Our Lord 1489."

The stonework is a wonderful example of medieval West Highland sculpture, and the Birlinn is an excellent representation of the Gaelic vessels that plied in amongst the Isles of the Hebrides.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"MacKinnon / McKinnon DNA project"

Clan Donald has been running a DNA project for a number of years now, and has so far revealed a number of fascinating results.  In this case the DNA project has helped resolve a centuries old question regarding the paternity of Somerled (Somhairle), Gaelic hero, ancestor of the MacDonalds and a giant in the history of the Western Isles.  The Y-DNA testing has shown that his paternal ancestry was Norse rather than Gaelic, and it is estimated that he has over 500,000 descendants living today, more than any other known individual aside from Ghengis Khan.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a MacKinnon DNA project in the works.  Though still in its infancy, some of the early results certainly look promising.  Hopefully the project will continue to grow, and I'll be keeping an eye on it in case there is any other news of note.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walking Tour of Finlaggan

During the time of the medieval Lordship of the Isles, Finlaggan could easily be considered the 'capital' of the Isles.  Finlagan was divided into two parts, Eilean Mor (Large Island) and Eilean na Comhairle (Council Island).

Eilean Mor was the living area, and included the great hall of Clan Donald as well as a Chapel and other structures.   Eilean na Comhairle was where the Council of the Isles would meet, which can thought of as a 'parliament' or sorts where disputes could be settled, and other important issues could be discussed and addressed.

The Mackinnon clan was amply represented during these council meetings, as the MacKinnon Chief was a valued member of the council.  During much of this period MacKinnons were also the abbots of Iona, and thus had two seats at the council table.

If you'd like to find out more about Finlaggan and what it was like during its heyday, the BBC has posted Neil Oliver's walking tour of Finlaggan over at their Open University website.  It's formulated similar to radio show in some ways, including commentaries from locals, archaeologists, and historians.  It's worth a listen if you have the time, though it is rather lengthy at nearly fourty minutes in length.  If you have an Ipod or another device that plays MP3s you can download the file and listen to it at your convenience.

(Also, if you visit the first pair of links I posted above, they contain maps of the Isles in question if you wish to follow along as the tour goes on - Finlaggan has also been added to the MacKinnon map).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gaelic Names for Plants

Recently I stumbled across an excellent website entitled An English to Gaelic Primer of Plant Names.  The website is very straightforward providing the common name, the scientific name, as well as the gaelic name of the plant in question.  As an added bonus the website also include an English translation of the Gaelic word, which is quite handy for those of us not fluent in the Highland tongue!

Particularly relevant to the Mackinnons is St. John's Wort, one of the plant badges of our clan.  The Gaelic name is 'eala bhuidhe' meaning 'yellow appearance' which seems to be a very practical name for a plant with such a distinguished yellow flower.  There are a few other gems as well, and most of the other plants also seem to have very practical names.

For those who would like a wee bit of extra information, the Gaelic college on Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, has uploaded an older volume from their collection entitled Gaelic Plant Names: Study of Their Uses and Lore.  You can reach their digitised collection here, or if you would prefer a direct link to the PDF click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dun Ara Presentation - A Slideshow by Colin M. MacKinnon

Here is the last of the Mackinnon castles, explorable in slideshow form.  Dun Ara is likely the least well known of the Mackinnon castles, and though there is very little left today the promontory where it stood is still very imposing.  Enjoy the tour!

Dun Ara Presentation
View more presentations from Clan Mackinnon Atlantic.

If you would like to view the slideshow fullscreen, access the menu via the lower left control button.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cranachan - A Traditional Scottish Dessert

Ardean M. MacKinnon sent in this delicious sounding recipe for Cranachan, and it sounds like a real delight - Enjoy!

"Cranachan: is a traditionally Scottish dessert. Many Scots still use the
name "crowdie cream" because, in the past, a soft Scottish cheese called crowdie
was used in the place of cream.

(Serves two)

»Approx 300g raspberries (strawberries can also be used).
»280ml (10floz) double cream.
»2 tablespoons good quality honey.
»2 tablespoons single malt whisky.
»2-3 tablespoons of oatmeal.


1. Place the oatmeal in a cool, dry pan and turn on the heat to simmer. Stirring
occasionally, toast the oatmeal until it is golden brown. This process could take
between 10-20 minutes.

2. Once the oatmeal is brown, turn off the heat and let it cool in the pan.

3. Place the cream in a bowl and whisk up until soft and relatively thick.

4. Add the honey and single malt whisky and fold it in with a whisk, until it is soft
and creamy.

5. Pick out some of the best raspberries for decoration and add three or four to the
bottom of each serving glass, leaving a few for final decoration.

6. Add the rest of the raspberries to the cream mixture and fold in carefully,
breaking up a few of the raspberries to obtain a slight colouring to the cream.

7. Spoon the mixture into the serving glasses, then add cream to the top to make an
even base for the oatmeal.

8. By now the oatmeal will be cooler. Using a teaspoon, evenly sprinkle the oatmeal
over the dessert. Add a raspberry for the finishing touch and chill for about three
hours, or overnight.

Cranachan can be served on its own, or with double cream and more raspberries. For
an extra treat, make up the cream and add the raspberries as in 3, 4 and 6 above.
Then freeze in a container for a yogurty fresh ice cream."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Woodprint of Scottish Soldiers - 1631

It's always fascinating to see how clothing styles evolve over time, the clothing of Highlanders being no exception!

This image shows four Highlanders who were serving in Mackay's Regiment of Foot during the Thirty Year's War. They fought for the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus during his continental campaigns, and it is estimated that during the 1630s 20,000 Scots served in the Swedish Army.

Scotland and the Thirty Years War, Ed. Steve Murdoch p. 191

Likely none of these individuals are Mackinnon's, but it is a contemporary portrait of how Highlanders dressed during this time period. Given the number of Scots who served in the Swedish army, it's not too unlikely to imagine there may have been at least a handful of Mackinnons serving with the King of Sweden.

If you know of any Mackinnons who served in the Thirty Year's War and would like to let us know, please contact the webmaster.

Derivative work from NYPL Digital Gallery Scan from A Short History of the English People, published 1893-1895.

*Update* Aug 26th, 2010:
On a whim I decided to see if I could find any MacKinnons who served in the continental armies during this time period, and providentially happened upon Steve Murdoch's Scotland, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe Database.   The database is a listing of individuals from Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland who were known to be active in the Baltic region between 1580 and 1707.  Unfortunately instead of posting a comprehensive list from the muster roles they have instead limited themselves to officers, nobility, merchants, and those that also appear in church records and the like.  Nonetheless it is a fascinating and monumental work, and in spite of the limitations of the nearly 8000 records, two MacKinnons do appear:

The first, Thomas MacKinnon (MiaKinnin) (ID 4001) Is listed as serving as an officer in the Russian army between 1632 and 1634.   Apparently he was "a Nobleman from Tain in Ross,"  and according to the database he "He arrived in Moscow from Pskov with other Scottish officers and probably fought at Smolensk."

If this is the case then Thomas was involved in the Smolensk War, and formed part of the Tsarist Russian forces sent to recapture the city.  Russia had ceded the city to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1618 and with the recent death of the Commonwealth's ruler in 1632, decided to take the initiative.  Unfortunately for Thomas, the Tsarist forces were ultimately defeated, and surrendered on February 25th 1634.

The second MacKinnon is a wee bit more enigmatic, and in this case we do not even know his first name (ID 5494).  According to the database "A Scot named Mackennan (surname) was noted in Kedany, Lithuania during the 17th century."  Whether he was a soldier, merchant, student, or simple traveler we do not know.

*Update August 26, 2010 Part II*

Another interesting reference comes from Robert Scott Fittis' Sports and Pastimes of Scotland, pg 128 (emphasis my own):

"When Charles I was mustering soldiers for the French war, in 1627, he requested the Laird of Glenorchy, Black Duncan of the Cowl, to assist in levying a body of 200 Celtic archers, having heard great praise of their skill.  At that time a strong body of Highland bowmen, commanded by Alexander M'Naughton of that Ilk, and accompanied by a number of the clan Mackinnon, with harpers and pipers, embarked for France to bear part in the war."

Though there is very little chance that any of the Highlaners portrayed in this woodcut are MacKinnons, likely the MacKinnons that departed with M'Naughton for France dressed very similarly to those in the woodcut above.

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that the war being referenced was the Anglo-French War (1627-1629).  Perhaps there were a fair few more Mackinnons gallivanting in Europe at this time than I had previously imagined!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dunakin Presentation - A Slideshow by Colin M. MacKinnon

Colin MacKinnon has made another of his slideshows available - this time the focus is on the better known of the MacKinnon castles, Dunakin. Locally known as Castle/Caisteal Maol, the fortification has an important place in MacKinnon history - enjoy the visit!

Dunakin presentation

If you would like to view the slideshow fullscreen, access the menu via the lower left control button.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Google Map of Clan Mackinnon Sites

This map will be a continual work in progress, but the ultimate goal is to provide map of sites that are historically significant to the Clan Mackinnon diaspora. At the moment I have only added a few sites in Scotland, but hope to expand to other areas including Atlantic Canada as time goes on.

If you have any sites that you would like to see included please send an email to the webmaster. Ideally coordinates or some other means of identifying the exact location would be helpful, as well as a short description regarding its significance.

Red Markers refer to Castles, Fortifications, or other military sites.
Blue Markers refer to site of a religious nature.
Green Markers refer to buildings of a significant nature.
Yellow Markers refer to any other site relevant to Mackinnon history.

Other colours will be added as needed.

Markers are placed near the site in question rather than directly on top so as not to obstruct the view.

View Clan MacKinnon Map in a larger map

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dun Ringill Presentation - A Slideshow by Colin M. MacKinnon

Clan Mackinnon Atlantic member Colin M. MacKinnon has created a slideshow about the Mackinnon 'castle' of Dun Ringill. As most people will not get the chance to travel to its remote location, this is a real treat - enjoy this armchair visit!

Dunringill Presentation

If you would like to view the slideshow fullscreen, access the menu via the lower left control button.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Scottish Tartan Museum - Tartan Resources

The Scottish Tartan Museum in North Carolina has been collecting information on tartans and their history for decades. Their most recent contribution to the public has been the creation of an original tartan source material resource page. The purpose of their website is to "make available to the public primary source material dealing with the subject of tartan and Highland dress," and boy have they succeeded! Though they have only made five volumes available so far, they include some of the earliest printed tartans setts, including the 1842 Vestiarium Scoticum.

Four of the volumes contain variations on the MacKinnon tartan, including the below picture from a mid nineteeth century sample book. Many other clans are included as well, and we are quite fortunate that they have provided the public this window into the past.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Clan Mackinnon F.A.Q.

(1) What is the meaning of the name Mackinnon?

The name Mackinnon comes from the gaelic MacFhionghuin meaning "Son of Fingon," or more literally "Son of the Fair Born." Click here for more information on Mackinnon names.

(2) What is the motto of Clan Mackinnon?

Audentes Fortuna Juvat - This latin phrase means "Fortune Assists the Daring," though it is also alternatively translated as "Fortune Favours the Bold."

(3) What is the Slogan of Clan Mackinnon?

Cuimhnich bàs Ailpein - This Gaelic phrase means "Remember the death of Alpin."

Alpin was the father of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), and according to tradition Kenneth is considered to be the first King of the Scots.  According to legend Alpin rebelled against the King of the Picts, and after intial success Alpin was eventually defeated in battle and subsequently beheaded.

The word 'Slogan' comes from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm meaning "battle cry."

(4) What is the Mackinnon Clan Crest/Badge?

Anyone who bears the name Mackinnon or one of its septs is entitled to wear and display the Clan Crest/Badge.

Heraldic terminology:  A boar's head erased and holding in its mouth the shank of a deer all Proper.

According to legend the Mackinnon Chief was hunting stag along the coast of Loch Scavaig.  After successfully bringing down his prey, the Chief retired to a cave for shelter.  During the night, while preparing part of the deer for supper a wild boar made its way into the cave and charged at the Mackinnon Chief.  Having only the time to grab the shank bone from the deer carcass, the Chief drove the bone into the boar's mouth.  This action saved his life, and granted him the precious moments needed to dispatch the attacking animal.

(5)  What are the Mackinnon plant badges?  

The Mackinnon plant badges are St. John's Wort (hypericum perforatum) and Scot's Pine (pinus sylvestris).

There is speculation that one plant badge represents the Mackinnon districts in Mull while the other represents the Mackinnon districts in Skye, but this is unproven.

Plant badges were traditionally worn like a cockade, on the hat or lapel.

St. John's Wort is also sometime's known as St. Columba's (Colum Cille) flower, as according to tradition St. Columba carried the flower with him due to the respect and regard he had for St. John.

(6)  What are the Coat of Arms for the Mackinnon Chief?  Can I wear them?

According the Court of the Lord Lyon, the Armorial Bearings  may only be worn by the Mackinnon Chief.

Heraldic Terminology:  Quarterly, 
1st, Vert, a boar's head erased Argent, holding in its mouth the shank bone of a deer Proper, for the name of MacKinnon; 
2nd, Azure, a castle triple-towered and embattled Argent, masoned Sable, windows and portcullis gules, for MacLeod; 
3rd, Or, a lymphad (or birlinn) the oars saltirewise Sable; 
4th, Argent, a dexter hand couped fesswise Proper, holding a cross crosslet fitchley Sable (the two last for MacDonald);
Supporters:  Dexter, a lion; Sinister, a leopard

Certain older versions of the armorial also contain Alpin's severed head, as a reinforcement of the Clan slogan (for instance the armorial from Celtic Monthly).