Hugh of Sleat

Hugh of Sleat

Hugh of Sleat (died 1498) was an illegitimate son [ [ - Person Page 14697 ] ] of Alexander MacDonald, 10th Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles. Hugh was known as Uisdean in Gaelic [Pronounced as Ooshdn or Ocean.] , and from him came the family McUisdean [Has since been written McQuiston, McCuistion, McCuiston, [McQuestion] , McQuesten, and other spellings. Also from Uisdean have come some families with the names Houston, Hutchinson, Hewison, Huston, McCutcheon, Austin and various spellings of the same.] Hugh was a member of the Highland and Island Clan Donald. Hugh's clan would become known as Clan Uisdean, or Clan Donald North, while the McDonnells of County Antrim, Ireland were known as Clan Donald South. (See Clan MacDonald of Sleat.)

Hugh was most likely born in 1436, when his father married his mother, the daughter of Gillepatrick Roy, son of Rory, son of the Green Abbot of Applecross, of the O'Bealon family, former Earls of Ross. The O'Bealon family also has been known as Ross and Rose, and has connections to the Leslie family through marriage.

Hugh was most likely born in Dingwall Castle, just outside Inverness, Scotland, the same castle where MacBeth of Scotland, of Shakespeare fame, was born. This was long the seat of the Earls of Ross. He most likely died at Paisley Abbey, in Paisley, Scotland, in 1498, and was buried at a place called Sand, on the island of North Uist. Presently this burial ground is called Clachan Shannda, Clachan meaning "a small village with a church", and Shannda meaning "Sand" or "Sand Island" from the Norse.

John, last Lord of the Isles from the McDonald line, was the brother of Hugh and received his title in 1449, when Alexander died at Dingwall. There is some controversy over the exact date but it appears John gave Hugh a charter to the lands of Sleat on the Isle of Skye, off the western coast of Scotland, during the year 1449. John would have been about 15 years old and would have needed the blessing of his council. Hugh was likely 13 years old when he first became Hugh of Sleat.

Sleat is pronounced "slate" and this is proven by an old saying, within the McDonald clan, that "In the house of McDonald, the Sleats are on top." This is a humorous comparison of roof slates to the family of Sleat, which still leads Clan Donald to this very day.

Some historians say Hugh did not become "of Sleat" until 1469, however he witnessed a charter for John in 1461, disproving this theory. Hugh received a royal confirmation, by proclamation, of his Sleat land, in 1476, and a written confirmation, from the King of Scotland, in 1495.

There is an interesting story concerning Hugh and the Earl of the Orkney islands, off the north coast of Scotland. While Hugh was still a pre-teen, his father, Alexander, was carousing with the Earl of Orkney and well into the night, the Earl invited Alexander to breakfast in the morning. Alexander boasted that he would have breakfast ready first.

The two men finally retired, however not before the Earl sent 12 men out to make sure no one sold firewood or meat to McDonald's party of men. However, one of Alexander's loyal followers secured some wood for the fire and a deer for a venison breakfast. When the Earl received his early-morning invite for a McDonald breakfast, he was furious. He growled, "Do you think to equal or cope with me in power and authority?"

Alexander explained that he had a young son at home, Hugh, who could in fact equal the Earl in power and would someday prove it. Hugh went to the Orkneys to attack the Earl several years later, in 1460. Alexander was probably trying to insult the Earl by saying his young son, still a minor, could match the Earl in "power and authority". It just took a while for Hugh to become old enough to fulfill the threat.

It was after the Orkney incident that Hugh "got a son by the daughter of Gunn" in Caithness - this being Donald Gallach (meaning of Caithness). Donald was Hugh's second son, and was the progenitor of the McQuiston, and associated names. Hugh's first son, John, died without issue. Hugh had six sons by six different women. Some from the Harris family also descend from Hugh, through his son Donald of Harris. Hugh also had at least one daughter.


All of Hugh's sons died violent deaths in the contest over his title, Chief of Clan Donald of Sleat. However, his line has carried down through Clan Donald to the present day. Lord Godfrey Macdonald is Chief of all Clan Donald, and Sir Ian Macdonald is Chief of Sleat. Sir Ian is also Premier Baron of Nova Scotia. Both men descend from Hugh.

Donald Gallach's son, Alexander, took the names of Hugh to Ireland, in 1565, to fight for his first cousin, Sorley Boy McDonnell, leader of Clan Donald South. Sorley Boy "and others" were the earliest known people to be noted as being "of the Scotch-Irish race", in a manifesto from Queen Elizabeth I, of 1573. In Ireland, the McQuiston, Hutchinson, and Houston names thrived as early members of the Scotch-Irish race, until immigration began, in earnest, to America.

The McQuiston Church, which still stands in Belfast, was once the largest Presbyterian congregation, with over 1600 children in Sunday School. McQuistons currently play major roles in peace efforts in Northern Ireland and the preservation of ancient Irish architecture. A McQuiston in Scotland is also instrumental in the historic preservation of DunDonald Castle. In America, the legacy and family line of Uisdean is still alive and well.

From Hugh's line came Captain Jack McQuesten, Father of Alaska, Father of the Yukon. Jack was a principal grubstaker for hundreds of Yukon gold miners. He was a friend of the great American author, Jack London; he helped the Smithsonian collect rare samples of animals from Alaska; he was considered the expert on the border between Alaska and the Yukon Territory; and there is some evidence that Yukon Jack whiskey is named for him.

Hugh's descendants also played a substantial role in the American Revolutionary War. James McQuiston was a "spy on the western frontier" of Pennsylvania, for the Colonial Army. His first cousin, Thomas McCuistion, fought at the first battle of the Revolution, at Alamance County, North Carolina, in 1771. Thomas and his family fought at the last big battle of the Revolution, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, (also in North Carolina) where one quarter of Cornwallis's crack troops were decimated. Cornwallis took over the McCuistion homestead as his headquarters, just before the battle, as indicated in his own tactical log of the campaign.

There is also evidence that President Andrew Jackson may have had connections to Hugh of Sleat's family through his mother's Hutchinson name, and through his likely great grandmother, Jean McCuistion. Jackson also has another Clan Donald name in his lineage, that of Mary McRandall, so it seems without a doubt that he was of Clan Donald in one way or another. His best friend and protege, Sam Houston, was also very likely of Hugh of Sleat's family, as perhaps was Stephen Austin, another great Texas hero. Robert McCuistion, son of Thomas, was the first financier of Texas, giving Sam Houston a McCuistion family treasure worth approximately $25,000, in the money of the day, in return for 10,000 acres (40 km²) of Texas, the deed for which still exists.

His Sleat land was in the hands of the McDonalds of Sleat line until 1971, approximately 522 years. The Clan Donald Center on Skye still stands on Sleat land.


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