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The Lords of the Isles [Hardcover]

Ronald Williams
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (Aug 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701122684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701122683
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 998,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


From the establishment of the Kingdom of Dalriada in Argyll by Fergus Mor in AD 500, through to the forfeiture of the Lordship at the end of the 15th century, this is Scotland's history told in narrative style. The book also examines the depredations of the Vikings and the Battle of Clontarf. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Ronald Williams is a gifted historian and House of Lochar is proud to have published three of his titles to date --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Joy Without Clan Donald 8 Jan 2010
Ronald Williams book detailing the Clan Donald and the early Scottish kingdom is an excellent read, one of the most reader-friendly accounts on the subject to date. Most is easy to follow as the great clan emerges from the smoke of the Viking and Gaelic/Pictish wars that forged the foundations of our nation today. Some of the many Viking names and kings mentioned are, however slightly confusing and it is possible to lose track of who did what at various times but it does not detract from the enjoyment of the read.

Williams encapsulates the brutality of early warfare and the savagery of the Viking raiders with vivid descriptions in a style which keeps the reader glued. Reminds me slightly of Prebble in the way the story is told i.e in the style of a novel and the obvious passion the author has for Scotland's remarkable and often dark history.

All is not fighting or suffering however as Williams concentrates on the emergence of a culture formed by the various peoples who brought about the Gaelic world which the Clan Donald ultimately came in time to lead. The beauty of the world created and described by the author with the poetry, songs, art and traditions that contributed to it brings the time to life for the reader. Heroic figures such as Somerled and Donald of the Isles are prominent in the piece and the reader will no doubt form their own opinions of the Lordship as a result.

And the myth that the Clan Donald was defeated at the battle of Harlaw is laid to rest. As mentioned in the book, "Donald had the victory but the regent had the printer." The same could be said of much of Scottish history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive & Gripping History 23 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ronald Williams has constructed an excellent overview of the people and events of Gaelic Scotland, providing a terrific introduction to Clan Donald and to the Lordship of the Western Isles.

This history book is written in an unusually poetic manner and is an incredibly easy read. It not only covers the important players of each of the eras it covers, it gives enough of an insight into the culture and livelihoods of those who resided in the area at times between the middle of the first milennia AD and the final collapse of the Lordship in the 16th century.

Some might see the work as being from a Gaelic supporting viewpoint but Williams does not shy away from exposing some of the mistakes made by some of the Lords and distances himself from romanticised characterisations of some particularly aggressive characters such as Angus Og of Bloody Bay fame. The fierce rivalries between the MacDonalds and the Stewarts runs through most of the narrative and at times the tale becomes clearly the history of Scotland though given the significance of the Lords of the Isles at times, this is understandable.

The world that Williams brings to life is filled with heroic pageantry and brutal reality of what was a harsh and difficult place to live. From the early communities that formed in the west of Scotland through to the eventual forfeiture and collapse of the lordship, Williams draws from a wide range of sources to spell out the various triumphs and disasters, the rivalries between clans and even within them.

I was a little surprised to hear so little of the Campbells though perhaps not disappointed to see them be sidelined by the narrative.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hebrides and Western Scotland from 500-1500 AD 8 Jan 2001
By James Paris - Published on
The full title of this book is THE LORDS OF THE ISLES: THE CLAN DONALD AND THE EARLY KINGDOM OF THE SCOTS. At first glance, it is far more than its title indicates. It covers a thousand years of history in the Hebrides and the adjoining parts of Western Scotland, first under the Celtic Kingdom of Dalriada beginning around 500 AD; secondly under Viking and mixed-blood Viking/Celtic kingships from around 800-1250 AD; finally under the Lordship of the Isles centered at Loch Finlaggan in Islay until the forfeiture of the Lordship around 1500 AD.
For one who, like me, is enthralled by Scottish history, this is a page-turner of the first order. I first became interested in the Lords of the Isles from reading Nigel Tranter's historical novels; then, I visited the Isles myself in 1999. Now, after having read this book, I feel energized enough to return to Scotland and become even more informed thanks to this excellent history on a subject about which little is known.
One particularly excellent aspect of Williams's book is its detailed coverage of parallel events in Ireland, Norway, and England which affected the Isles. We see such heroic figures as St Columba of Iona, Aedan the Fair-Haired of Dalriada, Brian Boru, Somerled MacGillibride, Angus Og (friend and chief support of Robert the Bruce), and warlord Donald Balloch.
This reprint edition is published by House of Lochar located on the Isle of Colonsay in the Hebrides. It's worth taking some pains to lay hands on this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 23 Sep 2003
By Max Power - Published on
Ronald William's magnum opus is a refreshing example of attention given to a long denied and ignored subject.
The grip of total Anglocentric versions of history is weaking, and this was an early stride into understanding this particular story in a more objective way. I congradulate Ronald Williams on such an outstanding and informative book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The origin and lives of the Lords of the Isles 7 Dec 2005
By Shawn Marchinek - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An amazing and informative tale. My Grandmother was a McDonald and she used to tell me stories of our clan and I never understood why the McDonald clan was so amazing. Growing up in the US, I thought it was a place for happy meals and milk shakes. Not so. Mr. Williams does a complete job of explaining the past history and heritage of Somerled and his sons. Then each chapter after that is dedicated to the life of each Lord of the Isles until there fall due to greed and strife with the Stewart Kings. A must have for all Clansmen of the Clan Donald and a lesson in why the MacDonalds will continue to due great things. Get this book.
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