Text: Tormod MacLeòid Fosterage Contract

This contract was written in Gaelic in 1614 for Sir Ruairidh Mór MacLeòid, chieftain of the MacLeods of Dunvegan 1590-1626, for his son Tormod (anglicized as “Norman”). One of the four witnesses to this contract, Toirdealbhach Ó Muirgheasa, was a member of a poetic dynasty who was attached to the MacLeods. Besides Tormod, the contract also mentions Sir Ruairidh’s appointed heir, Eòin, who in fact succeeded him.

The following text was translated by Michael Newton from the edition in Cameron, Celtic Law, 224-5.

This is the condition and agreement under which MacLeod is giving his son Tormod to Eòin son of MacKenzie, and this is the condition under which Eòin has him: if it happens that Eòin dies first, his wife will keep the child until she gets a husband for herself, but the guardianship of the child will go to Aonghus son of MacKenzie so long as he remains unmarried, and as soon as a man marries her, Angus will get the child from that time forward for the duration of his life. If his brother, Domhnall the son of MacKenzie, lives longer than Aonghus, Domhnall shall get the child in like manner.

MacLeod will have a child’s worth of the assets during the lifetime of the three – himself, his son the heir (Eòin the son of MacLeod), and Tormod this foster-son of Eòin the son of MacKenzie – against Eòin, and against Aonghus son of MacKenzie, and Domhnall son of MacKenzie, and against the two sons of Domhnall the son of Murdoch, namely, Ruairidh and Murchadh, and against the two sons of Donnchadh the son of Domhnall, namely, Eòin and Domhnall, and against Brian son of MacMhuirich, and against Gille Chaluim MacPherson.

This is the property which Eòin son of MacKenzie put in the possession of the child Tormod: four mares, and another four which MacLeod put in his possession, along with three mares which he promised to him when he took him in his care. Eòin son of MacKenzie shall be the caretaker of these seven mares which MacLeod gave to the child, so that they may flourish for his foster-son. MacLeod shall likewise be caretaker of the four mares which Eòin son of MacKenzie gave to his foster-son so that they may flourish for him in like manner.

These are the witnesses to this: Mr. Eóghan MacSuibhne, minister of Diùirinis; Domhnall son of Black Paul; Eòin MacColgain, minister of Bracadale; Toirdealbhach Ó Muirgheasa; on the eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and fourteen.

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