When the Frenchmen come over
to put him to flight,
who will stand up for Malcolm
and the rabble that surrounds him?

Malcolm is a wicked man,
and for ever will I say it of him.

Every one of them will be fierce
In their desire to strike him,
and I myself will be there,
blowing the flames of the conflict.

Malcolm is a wicked man,
and for ever will I say it of him.

Behind me, behind me,
Behind me is this township;
Behind me is the place
Where I long spent my growing years.

Malcolm is a wicked man,
and for ever will I say it of him.

Cattle can no longer be seen in a fold
Nor can the milkmaid's son be heard;
Where there once were people,
there are now yellow-coloured sheep.

Malcolm is a wicked man,
and for ever will I say it of him.


Nuair a thig na Frangaich A-nall ga chur ruagadh, Co sheasas Malcolm 'S a'ghraisg tha mun cuairt dha?

Gur olc an duine Malcolm
'S gu brath tha mi radh dheth.

Bidh gach aon dhiubh fiadhaich Ag iarraidh a bhualadh, 'S bidh mise mi fhein ann 'S mi seideadh na tuasaid

Gur olc an duine Malcolm
'S gu brath tha mi radh dheth.

Mo chulaibh, mo chulaibh, Mo chulaibh ris a'bhaile seo, Mo chulaibh ris an aite - 'S ann far an d' araich fada mi

Gur olc an duine Malcolm
'S gu brath tha mi radh dheth.

Chan fhaicear spreidh air buaile, 'S cha chluinnear duan aig banaraich; Far an robh na daoine, 'S ann tha na caoraich bhuidhe ann.

Gur olc an duine Malcolm
'S gu brath tha mi radh dheth.

This poem is contained in a speech given by the Rev. Donald McCallum in London, 1885, at a conference of crofter delegates. The poem and the speech was reported in the "Oban Times" 3 January, 1885, and included the following:

Who has not heard of the heart-rending eviction at Arichonan? Eighteen families were here, on one day, thrown adrift on the cold world. When they resisted the brutality of Martin, the leader of the laird's army, who came to turn them out and burn their houses, the fell law of the landlords stepped between. The tyrant and the scourger were let free; the innocent and the downtrodden were locked up for years in the prison of Inveraray."

(The Law was not as harsh as the Rev McCallum remembered, but the heroic Arichonan resistance provided an ideal for such as he, for years to come. There is no living thing on Arichonan hill today - not even a sheep.)


Go here for a news story in the Glasgow Herald, of the 3 of July 1848. Although these events may not have filtered to the Arichonan highlands, it is probable that the Factor of the Poltalloch Estates, and Officialdom from Inveraray were avid readers of such newspapers. The year was 1848, and turbulence and "revolution" reigned throughout Europe. Thus, some of the panic - so evident in their reactions - becomes understandable.

Intro of the Arichonan Section
Where is Arichonan, anyway?
Index to Surnames
Go to Home Page

I visited Arichonan in the fall of 2002. Even with a magnificent 'Landranger' map it was difficult to find (there was only a very small sign tastefully blending into the roadside trees) and we had to ask at a nearby house for directions. You walk a short distance along a path off the road, and then up a very steep hill, all green and overgrown, a wilderness, and a pretty one at that. At the top of the hill, you come upon the remains of Arichonan. My first thought was that the people who first settled here found an excellent defensive location on which to build their homes. To the south, there is a wonderful view of Caol Scotnish, a finger of the sea reaching north from Loch Sween.

Tumbling over the crown of Arichonan hill lie the empty stone shells of houses, like those everywhere in the Western Highlands. But this place has a History, it did not go quietly to its demise. It has therefore achieved the status of 'tourist attraction', meaning that the Government maintains the site's paths, and provides an informative plaque commemorating the Clearance that occurred here in July of 1848.

The name Arichonan is a combination of the Gaelic "Airidh", itself borrowed from Old Norse, "Erg", meaning "Hill Pasture" or "Shieling". The "Chonan" part is a personal name, "Chonainn", or for those of us who go to adventure movies, "Conan." Thus, Arichonan was once upon a time Conan's Shieling, providing summer pasture for Conan's cattle. (Conan may or may not have been a Barbarian, but he knew a good view when he found one.)

Arichonan existed at least as long ago as the 1600s, when it appeared on the famous Blaue Map of Knapdalia . Its lairds were McNeills and their Campbell spouses, as were Taynish and other settlements in the Loch Sween area. In fact, back in 1659, it is noted in the Register of Sasines for Argyll that Malcolm McNeill (spouse of Catherine Campbell) was "Fiar of Archonan".

But times changed and the McNeill lairds went into bankruptcy like many other 18th century Knapdale lairds. Daniel MacNiell of Gigha sold Arichonan, (along with nearby Ervarie, Ardnoa, Lecknaban, and Ariluig) to John Stevenson, who "flipped" this estate to Neil Malcolm of Poltalloch by 1800. ( The Malcolm fortune was made in the Caribbean in the 1700s, and it continues to exist - in a very diminished condition - to the present day. Duntrune Castle is presently owned and occupied by a Malcolm of Poltalloch.)

What did all this mean, though, to the people living in Arichonan? J. F. Campbell, in his collection, "Popular Tales of the West Highlands" (originally published in 1860) noted that:

In the Highlands, as elsewhere, society is arranged in layers, like the climates of the world. The dweller on an Indian plain little dreams that there is a region of perpetual frost in the air above him; the Esquimaux does not suspect the slumbering volcano under his feet; and the dwellers in the upper and lower strata of society, everywhere, know as little of each other's ways of life as men of the plain know of the mountaineers in the snow."

I think that all these real estate transactions among the lairds were of little or no interest to Arichonan's people. Very likely, they went on believing that they lived in McNeill Territory. And among them, there was a MacMillan family, and everyone knew that the MacMillans were of an important lineage, for wasn't there a MacMillan's Tower on the Castle Sween, showing to all that would listen that the MacMillans had high status in Knapdale Parish, North and South?

In Arichonan itself, 3 of the 4 Tenant families noted in the 1798/1800 housing Inventory (ordered by the incoming Poltalloch Laird) were still living there some 50 years later: the McMillans; the McLeans (who had a MacMillan mother); and the Johnstons. By 1831, the Peter Campbell family had settled in Arichonan itself, and were counted among the "Tenants" by 1841. It is probable that this Peter was related to John Campbell of North Leeknaban, or even Archibald Campbell, Tacksman of Ariluig, both mentioned in the Inventory of 1800.

In addition, the Arichonan Campbells, MacMillans and the MacLeans had " standing" in 1848 Knapdale, because they held leases on their land, formal agreements with the Laird, and therefore they had legal rights defined in law. They were not mere cotters or labourers.

The Highlanders - cotters and tenants - wrung a living out of their hills and waters by fishing and cattle raising, and some grain and (latterly) potatoes. Further, the young people spent part of the year in the lowlands, working at harvesting and other jobs, to earn cash, which they brought back to their homes. Out of this, the Laird received his share, sometimes in kind, as much as possible in money, on "Rent Day," held annually on Whitsunday (which occurred on the 7th Sunday after Easter).

If, in 1848, the 'lower strata' on Arichonan Hill were living lives pretty much like those of their ancestors, the 'upper strata' were giddy with advanced ideas and improving notions, and dreams of implementing them upon the lower strata. In Scotland, a man like Malcolm of Poltalloch, with his dominating position in mid Argyll, could cause changes in the land and population that very probably were rivalled only by those caused during the massive Viking incursions of the 8th and 9th centuries.

The most up-to-date of notions among British Landowners involved applying reason and manufacturing theory to farming. It was perfectly obvious to the knowledgeable onlooker that the Highlanders' traditional methods of production were outrageously inefficient and primitive. Better animal husbandry was urged, stone houses instead of the old nasty turf houses were built by the Landowners for 'their' peasantry and of course, high rents were set, always higher rents. It was a case of 'doing good' to the poor while 'doing well' for oneself.

By the 1820s, large numbers of people were leaving Poltalloch lands for Upper Canada and Australia.

It is clearly useful to have an intellectual justification for such activity, and Thomas Malthus had provided one to all "improvers': population since the 18th century was increasing geometrically, but land could only increase its production of food arithmetically. Hence, UNLESS SOMETHING WAS DONE, there would be famine and distress through the land.

In 1848, there WAS a famine, of course: the famous Irish Potato Famine. It certainly affected Knapdale, where potatoes turned to stinking black slime in the fields. Mass starvation did not visit Knapdale, however. I suspect this good fortune can be traced in part to the presbyterian kirk organization: it was better able to react to the small local crises before they could accumulate into a major crisis. Also, there was greater diversity of crops in Knapdale than was usual in Ireland. The South Knapdale Parochial Board Minutes mention the potato famine crisis only in the context of lowering the paupers' allowances in 1851, as the prices for "meal" had decreased from the year before.

Any way you looked at it, however, things were bad in the Highlands. Aside from black slimy potatoes, cattle prices were poor between 1847 and 1851. And in 1846, the herring fishery was a comparative failure. Then, there was the cholera epidemic: in Kilberry estate, to the east of Arichonan, there was a day set aside (November 1, 1849) in honour of a 'cholera fast.'

Along with these moral and intellectual justifications, the upper strata had legal justification to proceed with their plans: for did they not 'own' these estates, clearly spelled out in records kept in Inveraray and Edinburgh? In bald terms, the landowners knew that they could combine several of those small inefficient farms cluttering up their estates, into one large sheep run, and at the same time... Charge a higher rent!

Not coincidentally of course, by clearing the land of all those excess poor people, one could at the same time erase poverty from the Western Highlands. This was a concept that one could support with enthusiasm, and if necessary, with the full force of the Law.

In 1846, the Marquis of Lorne (soon after, the 8th Duke of Argyll) noted:

"... the laziness, ignorance, and intractability induced by an over-population subsisting on potatoes, and having small possessions of land is such as to increase one's dread of the system, and one's anxiety to put an end to it, the more one sees of its effects. On our estates, I am convinced that no such relief can be given without extensive emigration, and to this I am directing every effort...." (Quoted by James M Cameron in his Dissertation)

Thus, in the spring of 1848, the Poltalloch Estates notified the tenants in Arichonan Township that their leases were terminated that Whitsunday. In the words of the "Summons of Removing" dated 4th April, 1848, would they please

"... flit and Remove themselves, their Wives, Bairns, Families, Servants, Subtenants, Cottars, Dependants, goods and gear, furth..."

They had until Whitsunday, 27 May, 1848, to do so.

Mr. William Martin, the Factor for the Poltalloch Estates claimed he spent some time in "frequent communings with the said parties and offered to provide houses for them on the Estate of Poltalloch..." It seems, however, that the Arichonan people did not agree that it would be a 'good thing' if they would just move on, away from their homes. When on June 13th, Sheriff Officer John Gillies proceeded to enforce that "Summons of Removing' and eject said tenants, he was

"... Assaulted by Sticks, Stones and other weapons to the imminent risk of our lives, and all the way receiving the most abusive, threatening language, and to such a height was this unlawful conduct carried on by the said Tenants, and others there assembled, that I found it impossible to carry the same Warrant into Execution..."

It was not until July 7 that the full force of law and order came to Arichonan. Poltalloch's Factor, William Martin, and some 30 of Poltalloch's servants joined Captain McKay, the Superintendent of Police for Argyll and 9 of his officers to enforce that Summons of Removing.

Some 100 "grown men and women" were there on Arichonan Hill to meet them. Assistance had come from neighbouring farms in support of the beleaguered tenants. They were armed with sticks and stones, and in the ensuing riot, Mr. Martin was "knocked down, struck and dragged by the hair..." and John Stewart, Police Officer from Lochgilphead, received a severe cut on his temple from a stone that was thrown at him.

Five people who appeared to be ringleaders were arrested and marched two miles to Bellanoch Inn. But "... the crowd followed them and increased to 200" and threatened to follow and harass them all the way to Lochgilphead. According to Mr. J. MacLaurin, the Sheriff Substitute of Argyll,

"In passing along from Bellanach there are narrow wooded defiles through which the road to Lochgilphead passes. In these defiles, great crowds were assembled at suitable points with heaps of stones collected to hurl upon the Police, had they brought the prisoners along...."

It was all quite terrifying, and Superintendent McKay accepted a bail bond from two local businessmen who promised to produce the prisoners when requested by the authorities.

In the excitement, the Sheriff and Mr. Martin and Supt McKay were convinced that military aid would be required to put down this rebellion. The Crown's Agent in Edinburgh, John C. Brodie on the other hand, wondered what could ..."...have created such unusual disturbance among a hitherto well behaved, orderly, moral population..." and blamed it all on John McLaurin ,Argyll's Sheriff Substitute, who - as far as Brodie was concerned - should have been present in Arichonan at a time when "...his character and position would give additional weight..." to the Law's strength.

The legal papers included in the first part of this book reveal the course taken by the Law that summer and fall of 1848. Witnesses and participants gave evidence; people were indicted and accused of mobbing, rioting and obstructing and deforcing officers of the law; a jury was chosen and sworn in; the defendants were found guilty and were sentenced to a few months in Inveraray Jail.

But who among the many people involved in that riot were actually indicted and jailed?

There is one very interesting note from George Deas, Advocat Depute, to Duncan MacLullich, the Procurator Fiscal (17 August):

"Although the two McMillans admit enough to make them amenable to the law, it will probably be necessary to proceed either against them or any of the other parties, none of whom are proved to have actually struck any of the officers or their assistants. It is stated that one or the other of the ... girls Campbells threw the stone at Stewart, the officer, but it is not said which of the two did so and of course, neither of them could be convicted of that special act. The mother seems the proper party to be selected out of this family, and as selection is, of course, necessary in such a case, it does not very well appear why as many parties should have been put under charge beyond what were contemplated on the order of 31 July."

And "select" they did, to the point where I wonder if the Law felt ashamed of its own actions. On the other hand, it is well to remember that 1848 was a Year of Revolution throughout Europe, so there may have been some Fear in the air.

Of the McMillan family, the Tenant's wife, Mary Munro; his three sons, Peter, Angus and Niel; and his daughter Sarah were heavily involved in the riot. Only Niel, Junior was actually indicted. He was sentenced to 8 months in jail.

Of the McLean family, both the brothers, Allan and Duncan, were active in the uprising. Their mother was a McMillan. In the summer of 1848, Allan was the father of infant twins, and his wife was pregnant (she gave birth that fall.) Duncan, on the other hand, had no children. And it was Duncan who was indicted and sentenced to 4 months in jail (the jury thought he had not appeared to be active, and therefore recommended leniency.) Allan, by the way, remained in Arichonan - as a cottar. His wife had a son in October 1848. May of 1849, the twins and the baby were baptized in the Parish Church, after which this family emigrated to Upper Canada.

The farm at Gallachoille, south of Arichonan, produced 3 possibilities for indictment: Duncan McLellan (a Tenant whose wife was a McMillan); his son Dugald; and Mary Adams, an employee of his brother, who seems to have had no local relatives. Dugald McLellan and Mary Adams were indicted and sentenced to 8 months in jail.

As to the Campbell Tenants, Catherine McLachlan, widow of Peter Campbell, was front and centre during the riot, and had tried to throttle Mr. Martin. Her daughters, Catherine and Christian Campbell, were also very obviously active participants. Of these three, only Catherine McLachlan or Campbell was indicted and sentenced to 8 months in Inveraray Jail. Perhaps the 'agitation' shown by the two girls helped their case. On the other hand, Catherine McLachlan or Campbell was not a 'native' of Arichonan (she had been born in Kilmartin Parish), and her status within Knapdale - as a Tenant as well as socially - was dependent upon her deceased husband.

The second part of this book consists of various transcriptions and copies of primary materials, in order to provide a background to Arichonan and its history.

In the third part, you will find lists of names: names of people concerned in one way or another with the Arichonan Event; and names of people who lived in Arichonan in 1798, 1841 and where some of them lived in 1851. (I depend upon genealogist descendants to let us know what happened to the Allan McLean family....)

Some final thoughts:

Dugald McLachlan the only Tenant at Arichonan after 1848, was a member of the Free Church, and not the Established Church of Scotland, the one that had been a faithful keeper of parish records and morals in Knapdale for hundreds of years.


The theories justifying the Arichonan clearance led to the empty Western Highlands of today. (I wonder what 'advanced thinking' is being applied to the Highlands today?)


I know absolutely nothing about the African Slavery story, but I would bet that Chiefs who sold off their people had a number of excellent intellectual justifications for doing so.


Although it all turned out to be the best thing for my ancestors, that they were 'cleared' from the Highlands, it was NOT the best thing for the Highlands. The land is empty now.

Heather McFarlane, 2004