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The MacArthurs of Skye

            Listen, Oh Listen!

    The antiquity of this ancient clan from Loch Awe is enshrined in the old Gaelic verse which, translated, runs:

The hills and streams and MacAlpin
But whence came forth MacArthur?
     This means that even centuries ago, the MacArthur origins were lost in antiquity, and that the MacArthurs had always been there - that is, they were believed to be original settlers on the land. Another ancient saying went “There is nothing older, unless the hills, MacArthur and the Devil.”
     At a very early date as well, some of the MacArthurs came to the Isle of Skye, where they became heriditary pipers to the Lords of the Isles.

     According to A HISTORY OF SKYE, Charles MacArthur the piper was son of Angus MacArthur, who was  a hereditary piper to the Macdonalds. The Macdonalds maintained a piper in each of their three Baronies, namely Sleat, Trotternish, and North Uist.
     “In Trotternish lived the principal pipers of that clan, the MacArthurs, who maintained the hereditary succession here for several generations. They farmed as a freehold the district of Peingown, in Kilmuir, where a hillock, called Cnoc Phail, is still pointed out as the rendezvous where these pipers and their pupils delighted to practice.
    On the 14th of November 1715, Angus MacArthur piped the Macdonalds of Skye to the onset of the battle of Sheriffmuir, while his son, Charles, practised his profession in the service of Sir Alexander Macdonald during the student days of the latter in St. Andrews, much ot the entertainment of the Lords of Fife.” - A HISTORY OF SKYE, by Alexander Nicholson.
     It is not known when the Piper Angus MacArthur died, but son Charles succeeded him as hereditary piper to the Macdonalds. Charles was every bit as talented as his father, being described by the 18th century traveller Pennant as A master of his instrument."
    The Piper Charles MacArthur is buried in the Kilmuir Churchyard in Skye, only a few steps away from the tomb of the celebrated Flora Macdonald. His tombstone is unusual, to say the least! Sadly, it is completely open to the elements, and over the years, the writing has all but disappeared on it now. On the stone, is written the Epitaph:

    “Here lyes the remains of Charles Mackarter whose fame as an honest man and remarkable piper will survive this generation for his manners were easy and regular as his music and thus the melody of his fingers will...”

copyright 1997, Karen Linneberg
     And here, for some inexplicable reason, the words inscribed upon the tombstone come to an abrupt end.  It is said, that the MacArthurs on Skye became extinct in the year 1800, when the last of them, Angus MacArthur , who was probable son of Charles, departed for London. Did Angus not pay the engraver to finish the stone? Did Angus leave the island, forgetfull of the fact that his father’s tombstone remained unfinished? No one on the island knows the answer to this story of the unfinished epitaph on the tombstone of the piper Charles MacArthur.
    As I stood gazing down at the stone, I had an irresistible urge to finish the words. They went like this:   “Here lyes the remains of Charles Mackarter whose fame as an honest man and remarkable piper will survive this generation for his manners were easy and regular as his music and thus the melody of his fingers will..."

"end, and his children's children will be robbed of their heritage, language and culture. But far across the seas and down through the years, yet they will still remember , to return one day, to say a prayer, and finish the stone of Piper Charles MacKarter."

To the make of a piper go seven years ...
At the end of his seven years one born to it will stand at the start of knowledge, and leaning a fond ear
     to the drone he may have parley with old folks of old affairs.
Playing the tune of the 'Fairy Harp', he can hear his fore folk, plaided in skins,
     towsy-headed and terrible, grunting at the oars and snoring in the caves,
he has his own whittle and club in 'The Desperate Battle' ... where the
     white-haired sea-rovers are on the shore, and a stain's on the edge of the tide; or, trying his art on Laments,
he can stand by the cairn of kings, ken
     the colour of Fingal's hair, and see the moon-glint on the hook of the Druids.'
                       - NEIL MUNRO - (1864 - 1930)

                                                THE MACARTHUR PIPERS OF SKYE
Angus the piper M'arthur b. C1665, islay, lived Peingown in Kilmuir, Angus died in 1745, Scotland.  He
piped the Macdonalds to the battle of  Sheriffmuir, He had 3 sons, Charles, Ian and Neil.
Children of Angus the Piper M'arthur:
I. Charles the piper M'arthur b. C1706, Hungladder in Kilmuir died 1780 Kilmuir Skye. He was the last hereditary piper at Duntulum to the Macdonald Lords of the Isles.
"Other pipers who were taught by the MacCrimmons were the noted MacArthurs, who came to Skye from Ulva near Mull and were taken on as hereditary pipers by the Lords of the Isles then resident in Duntulm. One of the most famous of the MacArthurs was called Charles, and it is said that he often went with the chief to Edinburgh and to Ayrshire where her met and befriended the noted poet of that part - Robert Burns. It is said locally that MacArthur passed on to Burns many of the local song tunes and that Burns adapted them and used some of them for his own songs. Charles MacArthur is buried in Kilmuir Cemetery and over his grave is a memorial stone with an incomplete inscription. Legend says that this was caused by the tragic death of his son who was paying for the sculpture of the stone."
What history of Clan Arthur would be complete without mention of the famed MacArthur pipers, hereditary pipers for the MacDonald's. They were recognized throughout the land in excellence, next to the MacCrimmons, and kept a school for piping at Peingown,  near Hunglader and Kilmuir.

From an early time, Clan MacArthur became famous for the number and quality of its pipers. Following the dispersement of the clan after the beheading of Chief Ian, the piping branches were spread widely throughout the Inner Isles, principally at Mull, Ulva, and Islay. By the end of the 17th Century, Skye MacArthur pipers were firmly established at Hunglader on the Trotternish Peninsula., between Kilmuir and Duntulm Castle. The first piper mentioned was Angus (approximately 1665-1745). His son, Charles (c1668-c1768), would become the most famous of the MacArthur pipers.  He studied 11 years under Patrick Og MacCrimmon, the most celebrated piper of his day. Charles had two sons, Donald and Alexander, both good pipers. Charles died  in the late 1700s and was buried at Peingown in the same cemetery as Flora MacDonald. At the time of Charles death, Donald commissioned a carved headstone. The stone read,  "Here lies the remains of Charles MacKarter whose fame as an honest man and a remarkable piper will survive this generation.  For his manners were easy and regular as his music and the melody of his fingers will." The stone was never finished because Donald drowned while bringing a boatload of cattle from Uist to Skye,   leaving the mason unpaid. Therefore the mason abandoned the task. The popularity of  MacArthur and MacCrimmon piping ushered in the bagpipes as Scotland's national instrument, replacing the clarsch or Celtic Harp. Perhaps, the most influential MacArthur piper was also our last hereditary piper to the Lords of the Isles. Angus, son of Charles' brother Ian Ban succeeded his uncle as piper to Lord MacDonald.  Shortly before his death he was responsible for a manuscript of 30 piobaireachds (pronounced 'peebrocks'), six composed by family members. Apparently Angus would play the tunes on a practice chanter while John MacGregor, himself an accomplished musician, set down the tunes in staff notation. These tunes were recorded in the key of C, five notes lower than the now standard key. The current universally accepted key was later standardized by Donald MacDonald and Angus MacKay.  Upon Angus MacArthur's death in the spring of 1820, his cousin Alexander, Charles' surviving son, petitioned Lord MacDonald for the position of piper, but was denied. He then immigrated to America.  xx( Angus macarthur, teacher to piper donald macdonald was laying on his deathbed, beside him was john Macgreggor III piper to the highland society of london, who was writing down everything he said. also present was andrew robertson society painter and musician from aberdeen. and so the highland society of london’s MS came into being (
There was a story told of one of the MacArthur pipers who played so well and gave such satisfaction to MacDonald, that he was offered a high reward should he change his surname to MacDonald. The piper's reply was "No. You will always find me ready to follow your banner, wear your tartan and crest, and play your clan music, but my name must be MacArthur."

Abercairney's Salute
 This piobaireachd was composed by Charles MacArthur, before spoken of, on the following occasion. James Murray, Esq. of Abercairny, a delightful property about four miles from Crieff, in the county of Perth, married Lady Christian Montgomery, daughter of the Earl of Eglinton; and Sir Alexander MacDonald of the Isles married her sister Lady Margaret. This connexion produced a friendship and many' reciprocal visits, and Abercairny became very fond of the Pipes, and had MacArthur, his brother-in-law's Piper, a frequent guest at his own seat. Having enlarged, and much improved the mansion, a grand dinner was given, when every one praised the elegance of the new buildings, particularly the dining-room, which was allowed to be in every respect perfect. (This room is in what is now called the old castle. Its dimensions are 33 feet by 21, and 15 feet in height; and it .is lighted by four very large windows.)  " The room and entertainment are not," observed the hospitable proprietor, " altogether complete; one thing is wanting to render them so, to some of us perhaps—Charles MacArthur, to animate the feast with his presence, and with the stirring notes of his great Pipe."

1826 Captain Neil MacLeod, who died in 1844 and knew Iain Dubh MacCrimmon and the elder Simon Fraser, wrote a remarkable "History of the MacCrimmons and the Great Pipe" but the edition was quickly suppressed because it contained opinions which were offensive to the clergy and other people of that time. It is believed that only two copies were saved from destruction. Both went to Australia. One belonging to Gesto's son Norman, who died at Melbourne c. 1847. That copy is said to be in Canada at the present time. The other volume was in the possession of Mr. Simon Fraser of Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia, a descendant of the hereditary pipers to the Lords Lovat, who died in 1934. Mr. Fraser's paternal grandmother was a first cousin of Gesto, and his maternal grandfather was a son of the celebrated Charles MacArthur, hereditary piper to the MacDonalds of the Isles and a pupil of Padruig Og MacCrimmon. Simon Alexander Fraser (1845 - 1934) was born into a family with strong piping traditions. His father, Hugh, had been taught by Iain Dubh MacCrimmon in Skye. His mother was the Grand-daughter of Charles MacArthur, who had been extensively taught by Patrick Og MacCrimmon. She may have been a descendant of the MacCrimmon family herself. She was not a piper, but she knew lots of canntaireachd and piping history, which she taught to her son. Her son was brought up to manage some big farms around Mansfield. He was an expert rider of horses. His leather and whip-making were renowned. He made and repaired violins and bagpipes, too. When he was about forty years old he started taking bagpipe lessons from Peter Bruce, the leading piper of the famous Bruce family who lived on a farm at Benalla. The Bruce family migrated from Glenelg in Scotland in the 1830's They had been taught the music from Donald Ruadh MacCrimmon and Captain Neil MacLeod of Gesto. They migrated to Australia in the 1830's, Simon Fraser was Peter Bruce's only pupil. They both knew the canntaireachd and the secret MacCrimmon traditions, so it was easy for Simon to take up the pipes

Charles M'arthur married ? with children;
 A1. Catherine M'arthur b. 1700'S, skye married Old Donald Nicholson. Catherine apparently died in Skye
      and her husband Old Donald Nicholson  emigrated with their grown up children to PEI
       They had 7 beautiful daughters and 2  sons Malcolm and Charles

 A2. Donald M'arthur  b. C1765, skye, m. Margaret Unknown, b. 1791, Scotland, d. Canada.
        Donald drowned between skye and uist. With children;
        B1. Duncan M'arthur born 1813 Scotland married in Canada Catherine Unknown born Ireland died after 1870
                Duncan died 1870 Canada, buried  Annon Cem, Sydenham Twp, Canada  With children
                C1. Duncan M'arthur
                C2. Anne L. M'arthur
                C3. Catherine M'arthur
                C4. Two other children
        B2. Angus M'arthur pioneer of Sydenham born 1814 Scotland married Margaret Ferguson on May 1843, ??New
               Monkland, LAK ?? With children;
                  C1. Alexander McArthur
                  C2. James McArthur
                  C3. Sarah McArthur
                  C4.+John McArthur
                  C5. Thomas McArthur
                  C6. Mary Agnes McArthur
                  C7. Duncan McArthur
                  C8. Margaret McArthur
                  C9.+Peter McArthur
                  C10.+Angus MacArthur

        B3. James M'arthur born 1816, Scotland died Canada  married Isabella Southerland in 1855 Canada with children
              C1. Christiva McArthur born after 1855, Canada
              C2.+Margaret McArthur born after 1855 Canada died after 1880 Canada with children
                        D1. George McArthur born after 1875, Canada
              C3. Isabella McArthur
              C4. John McArthur
              C5. William McArthur
              C6. James McArthur
              C7. Sarah McArthur
              C8. Jane McArthur
              C9.+Alexander McArthur born after 1875 Canada died after 1910 Canada married Grace Helen Vail
                    about 1908 Canada with children;
                         D1.+James Alexander McArthur born  9 Apr 1909, Owen Sound, Ontario Canada died after 1994, Canada
                               married Elizabeth Forrest Grant with children
                                  E1. Marsali Jane McArthur
                                  E2.+James Kevin McArthur
                                  E3.+Peter Grant McArthur
                                  E4. Lex Colin McArthur BIRTH: 1 Jun 1959
                                  E5. James Kevin McArthur born  29 Jan 1949, Vancouver, B.C., CAN

                         D2. Helen McArthur born about 1910, Canada died after 1994, Canada

A3. Alexander M'arthur born c1760 Skye, died Canada.He failed to become piper to Clan Donald, so became a
       violinist He married ? with children;
        B1. Alexander M'arthur born may 8 1807 North Carolina USA married Sept 22 1827 in North Carolina Sarah
              Benton. Alexander died March 14 1868 Carroll, TN, USA With children;
                C1. Margaret Jane M'arthur born dec 3 1829 North Carolina
                C2. John Benton M'arthur born april 3 1832 Carroll TN married Mary Catherine Butler.
                       John died before feb 8 1899 in Carroll TN
                C3. William Alexander M'arthur born oct 23 1836 Carroll TN married 1st Nettie Espy Butler.
                       William died oct 31  1918 Pleasant Hill, Cass Co Missourie
                C4. Daniel Martin M'arthur born oct 23 1836 Carroll TN married 1st Mary Anne Matlock married 2ndly
                       Sophronia Annette Wilkens. Daniel died oct 3 1899 (date of one marriage was Aug 18 1889(
               C5. Mary Anne M'arthur born nov 15 1838 Carroll TN married G.L. Jones. Mary died nov 15 1854 Mt Comfort
               C6. James A. M'arthur born march 1841 Carroll TN died in civil war near Lagrane Tennessee
               C7. Henry Vile M'arthur born dec 22 1844 Carroll TN married Elizabeth Lily Jones.
                      Henry died jan 24 1903 Oregon Co, MS, USA

     B2. Alexander M'arthur  b. 1812, Scotland, fought in MacKenzie Rebellion  m. Janet Gillies, b. 1828,
            of Bognor, d. April  8 1908,  Sydenham ontario, buried: Annon, ontario cemetery.
             Alexander died may 7 1889, buried:  Annon, ontario cemetery. With children;
           C1. Captain Archibald M'arthur  b. April 13 1855, m. Lucy M'gregor, b. 1855, d. 1943, of
                   owen sound.  Captain Archibald died Nov 9 1913, drowned in great lakes storm.
           C2. Donald M'arthur
            C3. John A. M'arthur
            C4. Catherine M'arthur
            C5. Anne M'arthur
            C6. Janet M'arthur
            C7. Mary M'arthur

    B4. John M'arthur
    B5. Peter M'arthur
    B6. Five other children

II. John (ian) Ban M'arthur son of Angus Macarthur b. C1708, Scotland, m. Marion M'lean, b. Scotland.  John died 1779, He was a piper to Sir Alexander macdonald. Children of John Ian Ban M'arthur and Marion M'lean:

 A1. Angus  M'arthur b. C1750, Scotland, d. 1820, london england - "Lady Macdonald's Lament" - This fine piobaireachd, was composed in 1790 by Angus MacArthur, the family Piper, on the death of Elizabeth Diana, Lady of Alexander, first Lord MacDonald, who died 18th October 1789. It is taken from the original MSS. in possession of the Highland Society of London.

 A2. Charles M'arthur b. C1755, Scotland, m.?. Charles died after 1781, Canada.
      B1. Charles M'arthur d. Canada.
      B2. Dugald M'arthur  b. 1813, Scotland, m. before 1840, in Scotland, Rachel unknown, b. 1817,
             Scotland, d. Canada.  Dugald died AFT 1851, Canada.With children;
               C1. Isabella M'arthur  b. 1840, Scotland, d. Canada.
               C2. Alexander M'arthur  b. 1842, Scotland, m. before 1885, in Canada, Sarah Colville Alexander.
                    died June 8 1900, Moosomin Sask, Canada with children;
                        D1. Maggie MacArthur
                        D2. Dempsy MacArthur
                        D3. Charles MacArthur
                        D4. Russell MacArthur
                        D5. Henry MacArthur
                        D6. Baby MacArthur

               C3. Neil M'arthur b. 1844, Scotland, d. Canada.
               C4. Charles M'arthur b. 1846, Scotland died canada
               C5. Margaret M'arthur  b. 1848, Canada, d. Canada.
               C6. Dugald M'arthur b. 1850, Scotland, d. Canada.
               C7. John C. M'arthur  b. Jan 25 1852, Canada, m. Jan 1880, in Canada, Miss M'corkindale
                    John died after 1884, Canada. With children;
                      D1. Jennie MacArthur
                      D2. George S. M. MacArthur
                      D3. William MacArthur

    B3. Five other children
III. Neil M'arthur b. C1710, Scotland, d. 1762, west indies son of Angus M'arthur married ? with children;
 A. John M'arthur b. C1750, Scotland, d. 1790, Edinburgh.


Macarthur Emigrants from Skye
1700's MACARTHUR, ALEXANDER, prob from Skye to Ch'town PEI in 1803 on the Polly. Petitioner for Dr. Macaulay in 1811.
Source: Scottish Settlers to Canada before Confederation ref # 4804

1700'S MACARTHUR, CATHERINE, of Skye, to PEI on the Polly in 1803. She married DONALD NICHOLSON of Skye. She is quite possibly a daughter of the Piper Charles Macarthur. With children among others;
1.Catherine Nicholson m. John Gillis of Orwell Cove PEI with children.
2.Flora Nicholson m. Donald Macleod of the Kendrom Macleods of Skye with children.
Source: Macarthur family archives,

To Family of Donald Nicholson of PEI

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