Kenneth Kean


knoydart,a history, denis rixson, 2011

Location: Road to the Isles and Knoydart
the jacobites, ships and boats, travel by sea

The story of Spanish John

Few realise that the Mallaig-based cargo boat Spanish John serving the Small isles takes its name from Colonel John MacDonell.

Born in Crowlin, Knoydart, a cadet of the Scotus MacDonells, he was sent to Rome at the age of twelve in 1740 to study for the priesthood. Three years later, he joined the Irish Brigade fighting in Italy for the Spanish Army. Hearing of the Jacobite rising, he rushed home, entrusted with important letters and money for Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Landed at Lochbroom just after the Jacobites' defeat, Spanish John was arrested, detailed for nine months in Fort William and eventually released. Returning to Knoydart, he started to actively recruit for emigration to America. In 1773, he sailed on the Pearl from Fort-William with 600 of their people for the Mohawk valley in New York state.

Two years later, Spanish John took arms on the British side of the War of Independence. After their defeat in 1783, he fled north to Canada where he was given grants of land for his armed service.

Survived by three daughters and four sons, Spanish John died in Ontario at the ripe old age of 82, buried in the St Andrew’s Pioneer graveyard, having completed his colourful autobiography at the request of his family.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.