The Macfie Stone (Clan Macfie Memorial)
The Macfie Stone (Clan Macfie Memorial)

A weathered and worn standing stone near Balerominmore, in the southeastern corner of Colonsay, is a reminder of one of the darkest days in the history of Colonsay, when the last Chief of Clan Macfie was tied to the stone and killed by a renegade mercenary.

The stone stands on the site of an old burial ground in a field known as Pairc na h-eaglais (field of the church), just north of Balerominmore farmhouse. The Macfie Stone, thought to be a broken fragment of a much taller stone, may have later been used as an early Christian cross.

After the chief's death, the clan was dispersed and their lands were taken away. It took over 350 years for the clan to be formally reinstituted and 370 years before a group of clansmen and women returned to their traditional homeland of Colonsay.

The east face of the stone
The east face of the stone

Clan Macfie

Clan Macfie is one of the oldest known clans in Scotland. The ancestral homeland of Clan Macfie was the island of Colonsay and neighbouring Oronsay. The chief of Clan Macfie acted as the hereditary Custodian of the Records for the Macdonald Lords of the Isles.

The Macfies suffered for their support of the Lords of the Isles when the Scottish Crown broke up the Lordship in the late 15th century.

The Last Clan Chief

The last chief of Clan Macfie (also known as MacDuffie, MacDhubhsith, and variations of Macfie spellings such as Macphee and Macfee) was Malcolm. In 1615 Chief Malcolm Macfie supported an uprising against the Crown by Sir James Macdonald.

In 1623 Malcolm was captured at Balaruminmore (Balerominmore) by a mercenary named Colla Ciotach MacDonald. Macdonald tied Malcolm to an ancient standing stone known as Carraig Mhic a’ Phi and had him summarily shot. The leaderless clan was dispersed and its lands seized.

It was not until 27 May 1981 that Clan Macfie was reactivated and formally recognised as an active clan. The 27th of May was proclaimed Clan Macfie Day. It proved impossible to trace a direct descendant of Chief Malcolm, so in lieu of a chief, a Clan Commander, or Ceann-Cath, was named.

The Macfie Stone commemorative plaque
The Macfie Stone commemorative plaque

The Macfie Stone

The Macfie Stone stands within a railed enclosure. It originally stood on a low rise 10m to the north-east, but it was damaged by cattle and knocked over in 1918. It lay on the ground until it was repaired and re-erected in 1934, only to be knocked down again in 1960.

The stone was repaired again, and braced with a pair of iron struts in 1977. It was erected upside down, with the original top now embedded in a mortared base. The outline of a large cross can be found on the upper part of the stone, with a large central boss.

Inside the enclosure is a cross-marked stone discovered embedded in the earth in 1979.

Dr Earle Macphee commemoration plaque
Dr Earle Macphee commemoration plaque

On the base of the Macfie Stone is a plaque that reads as follows:

Carrah Mhic a Phi
In 1623 Malcolm, last Chief of our clan, was murdered at this stone by a renegade Macdonald. Damaged over the centuries it was repaired by Ulf Macfie Hagman, Sweden, Charles Macphee, Australia and Duncan Macphee, Scotland. The plot of ground was given to the Clan Macfie by Lord Strathcona and fenced by gifts from clan folk.

On 10th May 1977 Ulf Hagman and Dr. Earle Macphee, Canada, a clan historian, dedicated the memorial to our clan.

Colonsay men Hugh McDougall, Angus Clark, Duncan McDougall, Peter MacAllister, Dion Alexander assisted in this project.

Inside the enclosure that protects the memorial is a second plaque in memory of Dr. Earle Douglas Macphee, the first Clan Commander.

Dr. Earle Douglas Macphee
This plaque is dedicated to the honour and memory of Dr. Earle Douglas Macphee M.M., M.A., M Ed., LL. D.D.U.C., D.C.L., Emeritus Dean University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.B., Canada, First Commander of Clan Macfie November 6, 1981 to September 25, 1982 whose vision and energy brought new life, purpose and recognition to our ancient clan.

Erected by his clansmen throughout the world December 1984.

Getting There

From Scalasaig take the B8086 and turn off on the B8085 to Garvard. About 500m before you reach the end of the road at Garvarvard there is a gravel road off to the left, signposted to Carraig Mhic a’ Phi. The road heads east for just over 1km before you see the remains of the old chapel and burial ground on your right. A footpath leads to an enclosure protecting the Macfie Stone.

About The Macfie Stone, Colonsay
Address: Balerominmore, B8085, Scalasaig, Isle of Colonsay, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site - Memorial
Location: Take the B8085 towards Garvard and turn off on the track to Balerominmore. The Macfie Stone is within a railed enclosure after about 1km.
Website: The Macfie Stone, Colonsay
Location map
OS: NR384914
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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