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Macnabs and the English Civil War

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

The English Civil War (1642-1651) between the Monarchy and Parliament ended in 1651 with the Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), which led to King Charles II fleeing the country and Cromwell establishing a Parliamentary Republic.  That Republic ended in 1660 with the return of Charles II at the nation's request.

King Charles I was the son of James VI of Scotland and I of Britain , who united the crowns of England and Scotland in 1607, which eventually led to the union of the two Parliaments under Queen Anne in 1706/7 -  hence the term "The United Kingdom".    When Charles I was beheaded in 1649 and Charles II continued the fight against Cromwell and for the Monarchy, the Scots came to the support of Charles II as he was still "King of Scots" as well as of England in their thinking.   The Macnabs were one of the clans heavily involved under Chief Smooth John Macnab (!) who was later killed in 1653.   This was as disastrous for the Scottish Clans as was the Battle of Culloden, with thousands of men from the Camerons, Macleods, MacGregors, Mackinnons, Macnabs and other clans never returning home. The survivors were either killed or transported - and if they did return home many died of starvation.   The Duke of Hamilton who led the Scottish troops is buried in the Cathedral, and was recently visited by the present Duke - the senior Scottish Peer of the realm.

Courtesy of:

John Cleland Everest

Canon of Worcester Cathedral UK

Great-Grandson of Mary Jane Lothian Macnab of Campbeltown & Edinburgh

with thanks to "Cromwell's  Crowning Mercy" by Malcolm Atkin

A few brief additional notes:

1) Although Smooth John (Iain Min in Gaelic) was sometimes styled as the Chief of Clan Macnab, including in Government papers, he was technically never Chief, as he predeceased his father, Finlay 12th Chief. He was undoubtedly War Chieftain of the Clan, and may have acted as Chief in some circumstances, presumably with his father’s blessing.

2) Although many early Clan histories state that Smooth John died at the Battle of Worcester, in fact he survived until 1653, when he was killed in a skirmish with English troops near Killin.

3) In 1654, likely as a direct result of the Clan’s involvement in the Civil War, the Macnab castle, Eilean Ran (Ellanryne), was burnt, and thereafter the Chiefs adopted Kinnell House as their chief residence.

4) Oral tradition has it that Smooth John led a fighting force of 300 Macnab clansmen at Worcester. Who those men were is largely unknown, though there is evidence that Finlay MacAlister Macnab of Innishewan (who was married to Smooth John’s full sister) and Archibald Macnab of Acharn, together with their sons, were closely allied with Smooth John at the time. We also have direct evidence of one Macnab who was transported to America after being captured at Worcester – James Makanab, who arrived in Boston aboard the John and Sarah May 13, 1652 and was sold into indentured servitude. (Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantations 1650-1775, David Dobson)

Loraine Smith

Shennachie to the Chief of Clan Macnab

For anyone who might like to read more, Malcolm Atkin’s book is available on Amazon and Abebooks, both new and used (though currently out of stock on the US Amazon site).

Battle of Worcester memorial.

Photo credit : Annette Lynch

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