The Third Leader: Clannishness

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The Independent Online

Stirring and skirling in the glen: the MacDonalds of Keppoch have a chieftain again after 150 years, a blink in the clan's history ended by yesterday's installation of Ranald MacDonald. Splendid, even if traditionalists might wish for a more resonant figure than a retired hearing-aid specialist from Edinburgh. Progressives, of course, will deny it the slightest importance.

We could point out that members of the many septs, or subsidiary families, owing allegiance to the Clan Donald include David Bowie, Rupert Murdoch and our most famous former postman, Alan Johnson. Sadly for the prospective influence of the new chief, however, none of them falls under Keppoch.

Still, at worst, yesterday's event should remind us, whenever we cast a critical eye elsewhere, that these islands have premiership status when it comes to the imaginative prosecution of what outsiders might consider petty tribal disputes.

MacDonalds, Campbells and the rest vied inside and out with a vigour matched only by the English nobility, producing such alarming incidents as Glencoe and the Well of Heads, where those particular parts of the seven murderers of the 12th Keppoch chief were washed before presentation. And should you consider this all past, note that despite lengthy legal action, not all the clan accepts Ranald MacDonald, and that he has described the objections as "codswallop". Which reminds me: you will also be wondering about the history of the founders of the large restaurant chain proudly bearing the clan's name. Irish, apparently, which should at least rule out any challenge from Ronald McDonald.