Text: Islay Charter of 1408

Although the Clan Donald Lords of the Isles wrote numerous land grant charters in Latin, and there was probably also a tradition of oral charters, this is the sole surviving charter written in Gaelic. This charter grants lands in the Rinns of Islay (in the inner Hebrides) to Brian MacAoidh [anglicized as “Mackay”] in the year 1408. There is a seal of wax over the signature of MacDonald.

The following text was translated by Michael Newton from the edition in Cameron, Celtic Law, 218-19.

I, MacDonald, do hereby grant and give eleven and a half marks of land, from myself and from my heirs, to Brian Vicar Mackay and his heirs after him for ever and ever, for his services to myself and my father before me. This arrangement is made on the condition that he himself and his heirs shall give to me and to my heirs after me four beef cattle, ready to be slaughtered, for my house each year. In the case that those cows cannot be obtained, the above Brian and his heirs shall give to me and my heirs after me forty-two marks for the same said cows.

On the same grounds, I bind myself and my heirs after me, to the end of the world, these lands, together with the produce of the sea and land, to the above Brian Vicar Mackay and to his heirs for ever after him to defend and maintain. These are the lands I have given to him and his heirs for ever: Baile- Vicar, Machaire, Leargariabhoighe, Ciontragha, Graftol, Tocamol, Wgasgog, the two Gleannastols, Cracobus, Cornubus, and Baile-Neaghtoin.

In order that there may be meaning, force, and substance in this grant I am giving, I again bind myself and my heirs forever under this contract: to defend and maintain the aforementioned Brian, and his heirs after him, to the end of the world, by putting my hand and my seal down here, in the presence of the witnesses given below, on the sixth day of the month of Beltane [May 1], and this year of the Birth of Christ, one thousand four hundred and eight.

Eòin MacDhomhnaill
Pat Mac a’ Bhriuin
Fearghus MacBeatha
Aodh MacCei

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