Person details

MacQueen, Donald

AKA: Macquin, McQueen , Donald Macqueen of Kilmuir , Macqueen , Don: Macqueen

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Notes: MacQueen, Donald, c.1715-1785. Rev Donald MacQueen was Presbyterian minister of Kilmuir in Skye, and according to the Fasti, 'probably the best known and most distinguished minister in the Highlands in his time'. We don't know which university he attended, but he was ordained in 1740, and his first wife was Betsy Martin, a neice of the celebrated Skye author Martin Martin. Although as a minister he sought to purge his parishioners of superstitious beliefs, Macqueen was a considerable authority on Gaelic history, folklore and antiquities, and in 1760 assisted James Macpherson to collect Ossianic fragments. Dohmnall Uilleam Stuibhart writes that while McQueen could certainly read Gaelic orthography, and owned old manuscripts, later donated to the Society of Antiquaries, he was 'one of the last educated generation to write Gaelic with English orthography...[causing] headaches for his Gaelic speaking correspondents'. MacQueen missed Pennant when he visited Kilmuir in 1772, but soon established an important correspondence with him, much of which survives in the Warwick County Archives and in the NLW. Above all he furnished him with an important 'Dissertatation on the Government of the People in the Western Isles', published as an appendix to Pennant's Tour in Scotland 1772, as well a information on local superstitions, notably second sight and the 'Gruagach' or brownie. In Sept 1773 he spent three weeks travelling around Skye with Johnson and Boswell, furnishing them with antiquarian information, and was the butt of Johnson's desire to prove the inauthentiticy of Ossian. (Macqueen refused to give the Doctor satisfaction on this matter.) Boswell described him as 'a decent minister, an elderly man with his own black hair, courteous and rather slow of speech, but candid, sensible, and well-informed, nay, learned'. Johnson is recorded by Boswell as saying 'this is a critical man, sir. there must be as great vigour of mind to make him cultivate learning so much in the Isle of Skye, where he might do without it. It is wonderful how many of the new publications he has'. [TH, p. 153] From 1777 to his death Macqueen corresponded with Rev John Stuart of Luss, commenting on his Gaelic translations of the Bible.

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