Macphederan In Clan Campbell Book

A sept of the Clan Campbell1

The name derives from the Gaelic form of Paterson - MacPheaderain - or ‘Son of little Peter’. The original of the name is said to have been a MacAulay, according to Buchanan of Auchmar.

The family long held the lands of Sonachan on Loch Awe together with the lucrative office of ferrymen over Loch Awe from Portsonachan on the east side to Taychreggan on the west, the portership extending ‘between Teatle Water and the rivulet called Beochlych on the east bank and the rivulet called Ganevan and the Water of Aw on the west side’. (83) (Argyll Archives, 1098.)

The reason for this grant is given in two legends; in one, it was for MacPhederan's service in ferrying Robert the Bruce back to Scotland from his refuge on Rathlin Island; the other says it was for rescuing the son of the Campbell Chief whose galley capsized on Loch Awe when he nearly drowned. It is not impossible for both incidents to have been based on fact.

In 1439 (84) (Black has made a slip and gives the date as 1349.) ‘Domenicus M'Federan’ had confirmation from Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe of the 1 merkland of Sonachan and the ferry. In 1488 at Sonachan a notarial transcript (official copy) was made for ‘Morich McFedren’ of this charter. In 1501, ‘Gillemory M'Fedane’ received a charter of confirmation from the 2nd Earl of Argyll. In 1590, ‘Duncan Glas McFederan’ resigned the lands and office of Porter to the 7th Earl for a regrant in favour of his son ‘Gillemory’. The precept of sasine on this charter mentions that the family first had a grant of these from Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe in 1439 ‘as their evidents gave proof’. (85) (A/T.)

This at first sight may support the tradition that it was saving Sir Duncan's son that earned them their position although it is quite possible that this was the first written charter in the MacPhederans' possession.

The MacPhederans quarrelled bitterly with their neighbours and had a bloody skirmish with them at the burn between Upper Sonachan and Portsonachan. Eventually in 1619, the lands were handed over by ‘Duncan Glas McPhedren’ to Ewin M'Corquodale of Phantilands acting as attorney for ‘Duncan Campbell M'Dowell V'Inryda’ - Duncan Campbell, son of Dougald son of the Knight [of Cawdor] - in implementation of a contract of sale made by his grandson ‘Donald M'Gilmore V'Phedran’. (86) (A/T.)

The family is said to have moved to Lochfyneside and to have become mariners.

Another family of MacFederans, possibly of the same kindred were famous as smiths in Benderloch. They appear in the famous quatrain

Bogha dh'iubhar Easragain, Bow of the yew of Easragan,
Ite firein Locha Treig, Feather of the eagle of Loch Treig,
Ceir Bhuidhe Bhaile nan gaillean, The yellow wax of Baille-nan-gaillean
Smeoirn o'n cheard MacPheiderean. Arrowhead from the craftsman MacPheidirean.
The MacPhederans had their forge at Ferlochan in Benderloch, near Barcaldine House
Their swords were said to be of outstanding finish and quality. The Burn of the Easragan is near Ardchattan Priory, further up Loch Etive. (87) (Carmichael, Carmina Gaedelica ii, 359.)

It may well be one of this kindred who is buried further south down at Keills in Knapdale where a tombstone of 14th-15th century dated is inscribed in Latin

Hic jacet Cormacus MacPhaterin Here lies Cormac MacPhedran
Both Keills and the Church at Kilmory on the other side of Loch Sween are particularly noted for the concentration of wealthy craftsmen buried there. They would appear to have originated there when Castle Sween was the base of the powerful MacSween Lords and to have remained in the area after the castle itself had changed hands. A smith would have been an essential part of such a community and Cormac would seem to be a very likely candidate. (88) (Bannerman and Steer, Monumental Sculpture, 146.)