Associated People: MacLean, Mr Donald "the Pilot", Ruaig (1727 - )


Photograph of a memorial plaque erected on the wall of Kirkapol Cemetery  by the family of Elizabeth Devlin, Australia, in 2015, whose family had Ruaig MacLean ancestory. The people named on the plaque are believed to be related to Donald (The Pilot) MacLean, Ruaig (b. 1727) from the branch of Charles MacLean and Ann MacLeod. Elizabeth Devlin (Leezie Barr) was a foster child of Alexander MacLean and Ann MacLeod who had four children of their own: Mary Ann, Hector and Donald.



Letter from Charles MacLean, Edinburgh, to Duncan Gillespie, Gott, dated 2006, regarding enclosed texts and information about Charles’ 4x great grandfather Donald ‘The Pilot’ MacLean, Ruaig (born 1727), who piloted the French ship sent to rescue Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.


Two photocopies of a newspaper article ‘Some Historic MacLeans of Tiree – link with Prince Charlie’ from the Daily Express, 1930. The article begins with Malcolm MacLean of Hynish House and his cousin, Allan of Ruaig, whose ancestor was Donald ‘The Pilot’ MacLean of Ruaig (born 1727) who piloted the ship that rescued Bonnie Prince Charlie after Culloden in 1746.

Click here to view 2016.6.3


Photocopy of a typed account of the Donald ‘The Pilot’ MacLean story published by his descendent (4x great grandson), Charles MacLean, Edinburgh, in the Clan MacLean magazine around 1986. The account is based on Charles’ great-great-grandfather’s hand-written account of the event written around 1900 (see 2016.6.1), and includes notes and analyses of the handwritten account.

Click here to view 2016.6.2  and here 2016.6.2 magazine


Photocopy of a hand-written account of the story of Donald ‘The Pilot’ MacLean, Ruaig (born 1727), who piloted Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rescue ship after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The seven-page letter was written on small pieces of paper around 1900 by Donald’s grandson, also Donald MacLean (1817-1907), who lived at Hynish House. It begins “the following is what report I heard from my father over 70 years ago”.

Click here to view 2016.6.1

Tiree in 100 Objects – 8 – Donald the Pilot

In our archives is a copy of a fascinating handwritten text by Donald MacLean of Hynish House, who died in 1907. In it he describes the adventures of his grandfather, also Donald MacLean, in September 1746.

Bonny Prince Charlie had been on run for five months following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Keeping one step ahead of the redcoats, the prince was sheltered by sympathisers around the Highlands and Hebrides. Eventually the French sent the frigate L’ Heureux to rescue his party from Loch nan Uamh south of Mallaig. Donald MacLean’s text is as follows (the spelling has been left largely in its original form):

‘The following is what report I heard from my father over 70 years ago. A French frigate, anchored in Got Bay east of Scarinish sent a boat ashore on the sandy beach. [They] captured a man Niel Mac Faden and wished him piolate [pilot] them to Lochnarnuagh [Loch nan Uamh]. He told them he knew nothing of the coast, but pointed to my grandfather’s house and told them that Donald MacLean, Ruaig, Tyree knew the coast better than any man about the place. My gran Father went with them on condition they would land him at home on there return. They were 2 days at Lochnarnuagh. On there return, instead of takeing the south side of Coll and Tiree, they made for the north side straight for Barra Head. When my glanfather observed there course he understood that France was there destination. As it was very dark at the east end of Coll, my father advised Mac Faden to slip in a boat that hung at the stern and lay at the bottom. When near a cluster of small island at the east of Coll my granfather entered the small boat, cut the ropes and made for the small rocks before they put the frigate about and got a boat launched they were away among the rocks. They pulled away to the south and landed on south west of Coll at Port na Liugeadh, near MacLean’s castle. MacLean claimed the boat. My granfather never forgot the loss of the boat. He and MacFaden had to cross the ferry between Coll and Tyree. The report of their motion became known before they returned. MacFadyen [was] not interfered with as it was known he was carried against his will, but my granfather was led to a cave in Vaul on the north side of Tiree where he remained for 9 months. His health give way. His father brought him home and went with him to Tobermory. On the way the packet [ferry] from Tobermory past them with [a] pardon for all below a Captain in Charley’s army. My glanfather was surrendered to the [indecipherable] but they never let him of[f] the pardon. He was send the army, it must have been the Black Watch, or what we now call the 42 [nd Highland Regiment]. A lot of young gentlemen [in] the country. He was observed by [Allan] MacLean of Drum [sic, possibly Drimnin]. When Drum heard his tale he told him he would soon release him for 2 years. When MacLean met him again he was much surprised but he got off in a few days.’ Donald MacLean left the army, returned to Tiree and lived to be nearly 80, dying around 1800.

This piece was the basis for an article in the Daily Express in 1930. ‘Donald the Pilot’, as he became known, has a large number of descendants around the world, one of whom, Charles MacLean of Edinburgh, has done much to publicise the story. The events are certainly plausible. During the 1745 uprising many on Tiree were still extremely hostile to the Campbell acquisition of the island in 1679. They supported the Jacobite cause, threatening, as one report had it, ‘to sacrifice the factor…they have constantly been upon the flutter’. Donald MacLean may well not have needed much persuading to serve Bonny Prince Charlie. The anchoring of a French frigate in Gott Bay, however, is likely to have created a stir, and it is hard to believe that Campbell loyalists would not have tried to alert the authorities, who were engaged in a huge manhunt. There is also another ‘Donald the Pilot’, Donald MacCleod of Galtrigill, Skye, who sailed the prince across to the Outer Isles. He has been named ‘The Faithful Palinurus’ after a Roman mythical figure. Although he was quite an old man, Donald MacCleod of Galtrigill was captured in Benbecula and held on a prison ship in London before being released.

Dr John Holliday, 2016

The History of Tiree in 100 Objects


Scanned letter from Mary F MacArthur, Balinoe, to Lorraine Fletcher, Oregon, 1976

Printed scan of handwritten letter from Mary F MacArthur, Balinoe, to Lorraine Fletcher, Oregon, dated 1976, and emailed information regarding the family trees of both correspondents from Glenda Franklin, Canada, dated 27/3/2012 and Louise MacDougall 28/3/12. Includes a family tree for Hugh MacArthur & Mary MacLean of Sandaig and the death certificate for Alexander MacArthur (1855-1927). Mary MacArthur is descended from Donald `the Pilot` MacLean, and has links to Flo and Andy Straker`s MacArthur line.


Email about completion of “Donald the Pilot” project

Printed email to An Iodhlann about the completion and online publication of the “Donald the Pilot” project. Donald MacLean of Ruaig piloted the ship taking the escaping Bonnie Prince Charlie to France after the ill-fated Uprising of 1745. Contains links to the genealogy of Donald the Pilot (ancestors and descendants), the database, and story.


Photocopied newspaper article `The Island of Tiree` by A MacLean Sinclair

Newspaper article by A MacLean Sinclair containing three stories of Tiree: (1) How Neil MacFadyen and Donald MacLean were seized by the crew of a French brig and forced to pilot the ship to Lochnanuagh where Prince Charlie and 130 of his followers embarked for France, (2) An attempt to trace the ancestry of Dr James MacLean of Balephuill from Hector Roy, ninth laird of Coll, (3) Biographical information about the Rev. John Sinclair from the Gott area.

Click here to view 1997.60.1