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The Macnab by Raeburn



The MacNab Portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1917 was the highest price ever paid for the portrait of a man

This photograph of Raeburn's famous The Macnab portrait was a wedding present from Bayly, Rosemary, Clare, Grant and Mark Tanner to His Royal Highness, Charles, the Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall who married 9 April 2005.


Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823)
Portrait Painter.


Raeburn was born in modest surroundings in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his elder brother and schooled at Heriot's Hospital. At 15 he became an apprentice goldsmith and began painting miniatures. In 1784 Raeburn left Scotland to study in Italy. On his return to Edinburgh in 1787 he set up a studio and became famous for his portraits of many of the society figures of the day.


The 7 July 1917 edition of The Times reported:

£25,410 for a Raeburn, The Portrait of the Macnab.


The highest price ever paid at auction for the portrait of a man, either in this or probably any other country, was realised yesterday at Christies for Raeburn's splendid whole length picture of Francis Macnab, 12th and last Laird of Macnab. Bidding started at 5,000 guineas and by stages varying from 100 to 1,000 guineas, reached 24,200 guineas the purchaser being Sir T. Dewar, with Mr A. Reid of Glasgow, as the under bidder, and Mr Lockett Agnew, Mr Sulley and Mr R. Davis in competition.


The Macnab is shown in the uniform of Lieutenant Colonel of the Breadalbane Fencibles - a green jacket, red tartan vest and tartan stockings. The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy of 1819, and has since been on view at various local exhibitions, notably in Rome in 1911, while reproductions have made it familiar to the general public. Lockhart, in his 'life' of Sir Walter Scott, states that 'This personage spent his life almost entirely in a district where a boat was the usual conveyance.' The portrait was amongst the pictures collected by John second Marquis of Breadalbane (1796-1862), and was now sold as the property of Major the Hon T.G.B. Morgan-Grenville-Gavin, M. C.


For many years the famous "life-size" The Macnab that Raeburn painted in 1802 hung in Dewar's London office. It is understood that in 2005 when this photograph was framed The Macnab was on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, but ownership remained with DIAGEO plc, the Japanese company that purchased John Dewar & Sons Ltd.


The Macnab may be viewed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.


Me and the massive Macnab portrait

In 2010, Ellen and I visited Kelvingrove in Glasgow, Scotland to see Raeburn's Macnab portrait in the flesh.




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The remarkable history of Francis MacNab and the relationship with The Duchess of Cornwall.


Saint Fillan

Clan-an-Aba or the Macnabs, (however spelt) like six other clans by tradition, claim descent from the younger son of Kenneth McAlpin, the King of the Scots, who united the Picts and the Scots in 843AD. The Macnabs' originators were Abbots of St Fillan's Glendochart monastery and are part of the great Gaelic breed descended from the ancient Princess of Dalriada and Ulster. St. Fillan of Strathfillan was a Prince of this Royal house.


St. Fillan of Strathfillan, with whom the Macnabs are connected, must not be confused with St. Fillan of Rath Erenn who passed over 22nd June 520 AD and after whom the village of St. Fillan was named.


St. Fillan of Strathfillan preached, taught and healed in the Breadalbane area late in the 7th Century. The name Fillan means 'wolf cub' or 'little wolf.' According to folklore, while Fillan of Strathfillan fame was ploughing the fields a wolf attacked and killed one of his oxen, so the monk knelt in prayer and the wolf meekly allowed itself to be yoked to the plough. Another story has it that when St. Fillan of Strathfillan arrived in Killin, the villagers were living in fear of an enormous boar with horns the size of ploughshares. St. Fillan immediately set out to hunt the beast and killed it by bringing a club down on its head with all of his strength.


Quoting from Saint Fillan - The Man and The Myth, a pamphlet sold at the Breadalbane Folklore Centre and Tourist Information Office in Killin, 'The killing of terrifying beasts is not uncommon in Scottish hagiography (the life story of saints). St Columba killed a boar on Skye in similar circumstances. The saint is therefore presented as more than godly, he is also a great hero, a man of enormous strength and courage. In this way the tradition of the mythical hero in Gaelic culture (the Ossian tradition) is carried through into religious life.'


St. Fillan of Strathfillan is said to have been born in Ireland with a stone in his mouth and his father Prince Federach was so distraught that he threw his baby into a lake to drown. By divine intervention the abandoned baby was found by Bishop Ibar who brought him up as his own child and introduced him to Christianity. Later Fillan went to Iona and joined the Monastery of St. Columba. The St. Columba monks were the first to convert the Scots to the new faith.


Legend has it that one evening after the bell had rung for supper and the monks were gathered in the St. Columba Refectory, Fillan was missing so Davuit, a lay priest, went to find him and hopefully learn what the legendary Fillan did in solitude. Davuit was taken aback to see Fillan sitting at a table writing by a light that streamed from his left arm. Next day the monastery's tame crane pecked out Davuit's eyes in punishment for being a "peeping Tom" but after Davuit asked for forgiveness, Fillan restored Davuit's sight.


St. Fillan of Strathfillan had a collection of eight river-washed stones which he used for healing. A big round stone which appears to have eyes and a smiling mouth was used to treat eyesight, hearing and other head problems. A stone with one indentation like a belly button was used to treat the front of the body and the stone of similar shape, but without the belly button, was used to treat the back. The other five stones were used to treat other parts of the body. St. Fillan treated the sick that came to him by rubbing the appropriate stone three times over the afflicted area in a clockwise direction, then three times anti-clockwise and then three times round the whole body.


After St. Fillan of Strathfillan passed over, the stones were carefully preserved and the custodian continued the practice of healing with them. In the middle of the nineteenth century the stones were in the care of an old woman who lived on the bank of the river. After the old woman passed over, a niche was prepared in the wall of the Killin Mill in which the stones were placed. The mill is now the Breadalbane Folklore Centre and Tourist Information Office and the healing stones still lie there on a bed of river wrack, straw and twigs, which are changed every Christmas Eve. The healing powers of these stones were believed in unreservedly for twelve hundred years after St Fillan's passing. Many miracles of healing were attributed to St. Fillan of Strathfillan and to holy wells associated with him. One of these wells is in a cave in the cliff face at Pittenweem. In 1935 this cave was rededicated by the Bishop of St. Andrews as a shrine and it is still a place of worship. The ruins of St Fillan's chapel and priory are on a farm between Tyndrum and Crianlarich. St. Fillan's 'pool' and 'stone bed', which were said to cure the insane, are still there.


Records show that St. Fillan of Strathfillan passed over 9th January 777 on the Julian calendar which is 20th January 703 AD on the Gregorian calendar. The 20th January is observed as his Saint's day. Shortly before passing over, St. Fillan of Strathfillan called five of the most faithful lay brothers to his bedside and charged them as custodians or dewars with the keeping for all time of five precious relics of his work. This they promised to do and in exchange they were to be given an hereditary croft and an annual gift of meal. The current whereabouts is unknown of St Fillan's Fergy or portable altar, his Meser, the manuscript he was writing and The Mayne.


St. Fillan of Strathfillan requested that his left arm bone and hand, known as The Mayne, be kept as a relic in a silver case. In 1306 Scotland's king, Robert the Bruce, credited the intercession of St Fillan to assist his escape from a greatly superior force led by Alasdair McDougal at Dalrigh near Tyndrum. Eight years later on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce requested the dewar of The Mayne to bring it to him in his tent. However the dewar only brought the empty case, fearing that the arm bone and hand might be lost in battle. The night before the battle while Robert the Bruce was praying, he heard a loud crack coming from the silver case so he called the dewar and together they opened it and found the arm bone and hand were inside. The dewar told his story which inspired Robert the Bruce and his men to victory and freedom for Scotland from English rule. As a thanks offering for the victory, King Robert erected a church at Tyndrum and dedicated it to St. Fillan.


The Quigrich was St. Fillan's pastoral staff or crozier. Only its head remains and that is on display in the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. In years gone by the quigrich was taken to distant places where it was considered to have magical properties in the recovery of stolen goods. The fact that the family having custody of the quigrich should possess such a potent relic was not popular with the Priors of Strathfillan and in 1549 there was an attempt to compel 'Malise Doir of Quigrich to deliver and present to the kirkis of Strathphillan certain reliques, and nocht to be taken furth agane without the licence of the said prioure.' Failure to agree was to lead to excommunication. However the Lords of the Council threw out the decree and Malise Doir retained the relic.


The Bernane or 'Little Capped One' was St. Fillan's bell which was carried in the sacred pageant at King James IV's Coronation in 1488. Legend has it that this bell would come to St. Fillan whenever he called it. Since 1869 the bell has been in the custody of the Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh.


The Macnabs

Killin is a small Perthshire village at the head of Loch Tay in the Scottish highlands location known as Breadalbane. "Beauty lies in the lap of Terror" was the way author Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) described the area in Fair Maid of Perth published in 1828.


Clan Macnab was centred in Killin and its 'homelands' stretched from Tyndrum west into Argyll and east down Glendochart, but its land holdings changed depending on which side the clan supported in fierce ongoing feuding. On occasions the only land that the Macnabs possessed was the small burial island of Innis Bhuidhe because the Macnab chiefs didn't always pick the winning side.


In 1306 the Macnabs joined Alasdair McDougal at Dalrigh against Robert the Bruce, but they were defeated by him in 1314 at Bannockburn. As a result the Macnab lands were forfeited and their writs burned so the records of early clan history are lost.


What is known is that Acts of Parliament were passed in 1587 and 1594 for dealing with the "turbulent clans" one of which was stated as being the Macnabs.


It is also known that just before Christmas 1612, the Neishs, who were occupying the ruins of an old castle on an island at the south end of Loch Earn, ambushed and robbed the servants bringing the Macnabs' Christmas provisions, which included good whisky from Perth. The Macnabs were based at Eilean Ran castle on an island at the head of Loch Tay on the north bank of the River Lochay. When Finlay, the 12th Macnab Chief, was told of the loss, he was furious and called his sons to him and said "Tonight's the night if the lads are the lads." That night in retaliation, in darkness, in blizzard conditions, in four feet of snow and over the two thousand foot pass, the lads carried their boat on their shoulders overland from Loch Tay to Loch Earn. Led by Smooth John, the four Macnab brothers arrived at four in the morning and sunk the Neishs' boat then beat on the door of the Loch Earn castle three times before the old Neish summoned up courage and asked who was there and their mission. The reply came as the question, "Whom would you least desire?" Terrified, the Neish answered "Iain Min". Neish would not have been pleased with the response, "He it is and a rough man you will find him tonight." As the Neishs had consumed a lot of the liquid booty, they were in no condition to defend and the Macnabs quickly slaughtered all of the men. Following the massacre the jubilant Macnab brothers retraced their journey. Just before the top of the pass they found their boat too heavy to carry so they set it down in the snow and kept heading for home. When they arrived at Eilean Ran and were challenged by the lookout, Smooth John shouted out "Gun Eagle", literally, "Fear Nought" or as the Clan motto has it "Timor Omnis Abesto". As Smooth John entered the hall at Eilean Ran he was asked what was in the sack on his shoulder so he rolled out some of the Neishs' heads including that of the Neish chief and replied to his proud father and Macnab chief, "boules for the bairns." History does not record if the children played with the Neish heads as balls but the massacre at Loch Earn is commemorated in the Macnab Clan Crest and the chief's coat of arms.


Smooth John, a Friar of Bovain and also known as Iain Min, had a fearsome reputation for making swift executions. He was of great service to the Marquis of Montrose at the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645 and afterwards commanded the garrison of Montrose's Castle at Kincardie. Smooth John held up against General Leslie until provisions ran out and then he managed to get the whole garrison of 300 men clear but was himself captured, tried and sentenced to death. However, Smooth John managed to escape from prison in Edinburgh but met his end in 1653 in a clash with a party of Commonwealth troops who were rustling cattle near Killin. The legendary Smooth John was outlived by his father. In 1655 Finlay gave a charter of the Macnab lands to his grandson Alexander who was Smooth John's son. Eilean Ran Castle, like many others in Scotland, was destroyed in 1654 by Cromwellian forces. Kinnell House, near Killin then became the MacNab base.


Francis Macnab, the 16th Macnab chief, was the subject of Raeburn's famous 1802 portrait, The Macnab. He was a giant man six foot three in height and of Herculean strength so was known as Francis More - Big Francis. He was also known as a riotously extravagant man, living in the old feudal manner ignoring alike mountainous debts and clamouring creditors. Big Francis was born in 1734 and passed over in 1816 owing the huge sum of £35,000, having drunk, gambled and womanised his way through what was left of the family fortune.


Heron, who toured Perthshire in 1792, wrote "The Macnab produced the best whisky to be found in Scotland." Heron was referring to Big Francis who, amongst other things, enjoyed drinking the superior whisky produced by his own illicit still from a nine gallon jug called The Bachelor.


One evening a creditor was seen coming up his drive so Big Francis hid and gave orders that the visitor be given as much whisky as he could swallow and be told that the Laird would be back in the morning. Next morning the visitor awoke with a splitting headache and, looking out of the window of Kinnell House, saw what looked like a city-clad gentleman, not unlike himself, swinging by the neck from a tree. Clan lore has it that when the visitor asked "What is the grisly sight?" the Chief's housekeeper responded, "That's just a wee bit Baillie boy who asked the Macnab for payment of bills, sir. Now will you no' tell us whit your ain business is, sir, for the Macnab is due back soon." Shortly after, the visitor was seen hurrying down the driveway on his way back to Edinburgh and the dummy was taken from the tree.


Clan lore also has it that one day Big Francis greeted a visitor with, "The Highlands are no place for a man with breeches on!" Another day Big Francis saw two boys fighting in Killin's main street and asked them why. One of the boys responded, "I said I was the Chief's son and he said he was." Big Francis winked at the boys' mothers as he replied, "Ah boys, dinnae fight over that, ye both are." Big Francis is reputed to have fathered at least 32 children.


It is said that Big Francis once proposed to a lady by offering her as an enticement the chance to have her final resting place in the most beautiful burial ground in Scotland, Innis Bhuidhe. Obviously the enticement wasn't sufficient as he never married.


Many of the Macnab Clan's chiefs are buried in a high stone wall enclosure in the eastern corner of Innis Bhuidhe, also known as Inchbuie, a picturesque little island of about two acres just below the Falls of Dochart on the River Dochart. Innis Bhuidhe is carpeted in short yellow moss and is accessed from a gate on a bridge leading into Killin. Clan lore has it that The Lady of Lawers, a Scottish seer, prophesised in about 1680 that a broken branch from a Scots pine beech growing on Innis Bhuidhe would fall on another Scots pine beech and then grow as a grafted branch of that tree and when this happened The Macnab would lose his lands. Believe it or not in 1820 there was a wild storm and a branch from one fir fell onto another and grew as a graft. In 1823 a writ of foreclosure was issued against the estate and Archibald, the 17th Macnab chief and nephew of Francis, escaped from the creditors by fleeing to London and then Canada. In 1828 the fourth Earl of Breadalbane, principal creditor of the Macnab estates, exercised his right of purchase, and in 1849 the remaining Macnabs were evicted to make room for the breeding of Capercailzie, large black old world grouse, that gentlemen were willing to pay a lot of money to shoot during the season.


The grafted fir branch was still alive in 1949 when Archibald Corrie Macnab, the 22nd Macnab chief, bought back Kinnell House and 7,000 acres, including Innis Bhuidhe. Again, believe it or not, within two years of Innis Bhuidhe being back in Macnab hands, the famous grafted branch died.


In 2005 when this photograph was framed, the two old Scots pines, one with the dead branch, still stood proudly near the burial enclosure; the Macnab Memorial Trust was in place to ensure that possession of Innis Bhuidhe remains in perpetuity as a burial place for Macnab chiefs and their families; J C Macnab of Macnab, the 23rd Macnab chief, resides in Fyfe, as Kinnell House and its surrounding estate were sold in 1978 to pay death duties and is the homepage of Clan Macnab Society Inc.


In reality, few Macnabs have lived in the Breadalbane area since the 1820s.


In May 1825, 85 Macnab men, women and children arrived in Montreal, Canada to settle on an 81,000 acre estate in a valley of the Ottawa River that Archibald, the 17th Macnab chief, named Macnab. The early years in the settlement were full of discomforts and disappointments as Archibald had promised more than he could provide and everything went from bad to worse. Archibald's wife had left him when he fled from Scotland to Canada but made him a small allowance. In 1853 Archibald fled from Canada, became a bigamist in London, moved to France and passed over there in 1860. Other Macnabs in Canada created and enjoyed affluence. In 1830 Allan Napier Macnab of the Dundurn Branch started planning the building of Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario. He was made a baronet and knighted by Queen Victoria in 1838. In the House of Lords, the Duke of Wellington said that it was owing to the 'loyalty, zeal and active intelligence of Sir Allan Macnab that the Canadas had been preserved for the British Crown.' Sir Allan went on to become the Premier of the United Canadas 1854-1856. From Dundurn Castle, in 1855 his daughter Sophia married William Coutts Keppel, 7th Earl of Albermarel. Sophia and William had ten children and their youngest son George married Alice who became the last and was said to be the most glamorous mistress of King Edward VII. Alice and Colonel Hon. George Keppel are the great great grandparents of Her Royal Highness, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.


Other Macnabs moved to Australia, France, the United States of America, New Zealand and elsewhere. Bayly Tanner (who arranged for photographs of the Raeburn masterpiece to be displayed in two identical frames that had originally displayed other pictures and hung in his Tanner great grandparents' house), is a great great grandson of Catherine (née Macnab 1817-1898) and Peter Clarke (1814-1907) who were both from Killin.


Peter was a champion at tossing the caber at Highland Games. Before coming to New Zealand with his family in 1865, Peter was a member of Queen Victoria's bodyguard at Balmoral Castle. The story goes that on the way to New Zealand Peter added the "e" to Clark to make "Clarke" his surname.


Bayly's mother was christened Margaret Clarke Paterson and she had an uncle, Clarke Paterson. Margaret married Jack Tanner and their daughter, christened Gail Clarke Tanner, married Dick Wilson. The Wilson children are Stuart and Michael. Bayly married Rosemary Shaw and their children are Clare, Grant and Mark.


This is one of the two photographs of Raeburn's The Macnab in the abovementioned identical antique frames. Both have this notation framed on the back. The one that is to hang in Bayly and Rosemary Tanner's hallway at 33 Mitchell Street, Wellington, New Zealand, incorporates the original of the letter below and the other was gifted by Bayly, Rosemary, Clare, Grant and Mark Tanner to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall as a wedding present.


In response to the offer of one of The Macnab photographs and this notation as a wedding present, the Duchess of Cornwall replied:

Letter from the Duchess of York Camilla

The letter sent with the wedding present read:


4 October 2005


Dear Camilla


Rosemary, Clare, Grant, Mark and I were thrilled that you chose to accept our offer to send our family photograph as a wedding present to you and His Royal Highness Prince Charles. Today by separate mail we have posted it to you and attach the postal receipt in case it doesn't arrive. We also attach a copy of the notation framed on the back of the photograph and a copy of An Outline of The History of Clan Macnab and Its Lands published by The Macnab Memorial Trust. You will be particularly interested in the section about the Dundurn Branch on pages 22 - 24.


We oldies aren't the only members of our households in communication . .


Mark recently had the pleasure of attending a dinner at Government House, Wellington in honour of Prince William and was privileged to sit two along from him at the "top table". Mark couldn't believe his luck and wondered if the reason for the seating arrangement was because both William and he have spent time in Africa. Setting out last September with second hand equipment and virtually a zero budget, Mark led the first unbroken self-powered journey down the Blue Nile from its source in Ethiopia to the mouth of the Nile arriving at Rosetta, Egypt on the Mediterranean 29 January 2005.


At one stage during the evening William asked Mark if he could possibly eat the mountain of dessert he had served himself and in response to one of Mark's questions, William said that his grandmother didn't have time to cook.


During his visit Prince William brought so much joy to the people of New Zealand.


We are looking forward to you and Charles coming to New Zealand sometime.


Incidentally, have you ever been to Killin? It is said that Francis Macnab once proposed to a lady by offering as an enticement, the chance to have her final resting place in the most beautiful burial ground in Scotland, Innis Bhuidhe, Killin. Innis Bhuidhe is certainly beautiful, but obviously not beautiful enough as the enticement wasn't sufficient as he never married the mother of any of his 32 children or anyone else! The Killin area is very tranquil and for me its appeal is further enhanced by Saint Fillan's influence. As you will see in the notation on the back of The Macnab, St Fillan of Glendochart preached, taught and healed in the Breadalbane area late in the 7th Century. His bell was carried at King James IV's Coronation in 1488. Perhaps it could be borrowed from the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh and be carried at the next Coronation . . . . .


We trust that you will get as much joy out of your copy of "The Macnab" as we do from ours. The notation on the back, correcting and incorporating more details than previously advised, is the same on both and the identical frames, which were cut down slightly, originally displayed other pictures and hung in my Tanner great grandparents' house. In both cases Raeburn's masterpiece and the notation were lovingly placed behind glass by Janice Morgan and her team at Art Frames Ltd of Porirua.


Kindest regards from your very distant relation,


Bayly Tanner.


On receipt of the wedding present, the Duchess of Cornwall replied:

Letter from Camilla Duchess of Cornwall after receiving the letter


This version of the Macnab history was compiled by Bayly Tanner (of the Macnab clan, distant relative to the Duchess of York and father of Mark Tanner).


For extensive information about the Macnab clan, click here to visit the Clan Macnab Society.




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