Alexander MacDonald

Biography of Alexander MacDonald

Alexander MacDonald, or Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, is said to have studied at the University of Glasgow around 1710-16 before becoming a trainee lawyer, a school master and then a catechist. Unfortunately Alexander left no trace of his studies here as it was not compulsory to register at the University until 1858.

He was involved in the 1745 Jacobite rising, during which he acted as Gaelic interpreter and tutor for Bonnie Prince Charlie, and was present at the raising of the standard at Glenfinnan. Flora MacDonald was also the poet's first cousin.

Alexander was born at Dalilea on the north bank of Loch Shiel c.1698 and his father, Maighistir Alasdair ('Master Alexander', also Alexander MacDonald in English) was a native of South Uist and graduated from the University MA 1674. He later became the Episcopalian minister of the parish of Islandfinnan.

Alexander MacDonald was a great Gaelic poet and lexicographer and his collection of poems: The Resurrection of the Ancient Scottish Tongue, was the first secular work to be printed in Gaelic. His longest poem: 'The Galley of Clanranald', from c.1750, runs to more than 500 lines. He also published the first ever Gaelic English vocabulary in c.1741.

After the battle of Culloden MacDonald fled, hiding in caves and woods, and a few years later lived in Edinburgh, where his poetry had been published, and also where it had been, reputedly, burned by the public hangman.


Alexander MacDonald
Born 1698.
Died 1770.
University Link: Student
GU Degree:
Occupation categories: poets
Record last updated: 26th Jun 2015

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