It may come as something of a surprise that Alexander Carmichael did not write a great deal about either himself or his own family background. Given that he was usually interested in any given informant’s back story or, indeed, where he often took the trouble to write down some family traditions, it seems to be a bit of mystery why he did not write more about himself just as his fellow friend and Argyllshire Gael had done, John Murdoch (1818–1903), in his comprehensive five-volume autobiography. But write he did and there are interesting highlights of Carmichael lore that he saved for posterity:
Phos mo shin-seanair, Domhnull mac Eoghain, Mairi NicPhilip, nighean Iain Mhicphilip, ann an Cill a chionain, an Liosmor. Phos a mhac – mo sheanair-Gilleaspa mac Dhomhnuill, - Isebeil Nic Griogair nighean [ ] Mhic Griogair anns a Chrogan am Muile. Phos m athair Beitidh NicColla nighean Dhomhnuill ic Cholla - “Domhnull Taigh an Tobair.”
Bha tri teaghlach a Chlann Mhic Ille mhicheil ann an Liosmor a bha dol fo bhrataich Fear Glinne Faochan. B’ iad na teaghlaichean seo, Gilleaspaig Ban Chloiche leithe; Eoghan mac Dhomhnuill ann an Achadhmanduin, agus Gillesapuig mac Dhomhnuill mhic Eoghain (mo sheanair) agus comhla riu seo bha Iain Macachananaich Ann an Cill-sheathaine. (Cill-einne). B’e a b’ aobhar dha seo gun robh comh-dhaltas eadar na daoine so agus Caimbeulaich Ghlinne Faochan agus bu treasa comh-dhaltas na fuil-moran.
Fuil gu fichead
Comhaltas gu ceud.
Bha brathair mo sheanamhair – brathair Isibeil nic Griogair – posd aig piuthar Captinn Ardtuir. Bha e na Quarter master agus na Paymaster anns an 26 Cameronians.
My great-grandfather, Donald son of Ewen, married Mairi MacKillop, daughter of John MacKillop, in Cillchonnan, in Lismore. His son, my grandfather, Archibald, son of Donald, married Isobell MacGregor, daughter of [ ] MacGregor in Crogan in Mull. My father married Betty MacColl daughter of Donald MacColl – “Donald of Taigh an Tobair.”
There were three families of Carmichaels in Lismore that followed the banner of Fear Glinne Foachan. There families were, Fair-haired Archibald of Chloiche Leithe; Ewen son of Donald in Achadhmanduin, and Archibald son of Donald son of Ewen (my grandfather) and along with these was John Buchanan in Cill-shataine. The reason for this was fosterage between these people and the Campbells of Glen Faochan and fosterage was stronger than blood for many:
Blood relations to twenty degrees
Fosterage to a hundred
My grandmother’s brother – Isobel’s MacGregor’s brother – was married to the Captain of Ardtuir’s sister. He was a quartermaster and a paymaster in the 26 Cameronians.
There are intriguing lines of enquiry to follow here and more research into Carmichael’s family tree may well reveal the exact relationship that once existed between the Carmichaels of Lismore and the Campbells of Glen Feochan on mainland Argyllshire.
CW 391, fos. 175–76. This was written down by Carmichael on 22 June 1904.
Image: Photograph of Alexander Carmichael, taken in Edinburgh c. 1905.