Norman Macleod of Macleod

Norman Macleod was the 23rd Chief of Clan Macleod, referred to as 'The General'. He was the son of John Macleod and Amelia Brodie. His grandfather, the 22nd chief, was known as Norman 'the Wicked Man' or 'the Red Man'. He earned the name Wicked because it was claimed that he locked his first wife in a dungeon and starved her to death. He was also merciless in destroying the livestock and land of Jacobite supporters on the island of Raasay, also called Macleod, after the Rebellion of 1745. In his youth he was extremely profligate and bankrupted the family, leaving a debt of 50,000 pounds.

Norman 'The General' Macleod played a considerable part in the early history of the British in India. He was born in Brodie House, Moray on 4 Mar 1754. He was educated at St Andrews and Oxford and took up residence in Dunvegan Castle, the ancient seat on the Isle of Skye. There he famously entertained Dr Johnson and Boswell when they toured the Western Isles. He was keen to be a good clan leader but he was saddled with his grandfather's debt. In 1775 he left these troubles behind him and joined the army, purchasing a captaincy on 7 Dec in Fraser's Highlanders (the old 71st). He sailed to America in 1776 but he and his wife were captured in Boston Harbour and taken to George Washington. They were well treated and in 1778 they were released and returned home. He was next a major in the old 73rd (Macleod's) Highlanders and on 21 Mar 1780 he was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Battalion, 42nd Highlanders.

In Dec 1780 the newly raised battalion sailed to the Cape of Good Hope but were redirected to India. Macleod's ship was delayed and he reached Madras in March 1782. During the voyage the battalion lost 5 officers and 116 who died of scurvy and fever. At Ponanee he commanded an expeditionary force that fought the French and beat off a determined attack by a numerically larger army. The 42nd, together with Native Infantry attacked and captured Bednore on 23 Jan 1783, in the struggle against Tippoo Sahib.

The battalion was part of the garrison at Mangalore when it was besieged by Tippoo. The siege lasted from May 1783 to 30 Jan 1784 and was a terrible ordeal for the defenders who starved and were eventually forced to surrender. Macleod, who was not inside Mangalore displayed peculiar and harsh behaviour. On two occasions he sailed into the bay with provisions and reinforcements but he did not deliver these life-savers because he was adhering strictly to the terms of an armistice which he expected Tippoo to abide by. The defenders watched as his ships sailed away, leaving them to forage for whatever food they could find. Horses, dogs, snakes, rats and mice were the diet of the people and garrison of Mangalore. The battalion earned the nickname of 'the Mangalores' and later was split from the 42nd to become the 73rd Regiment on 18 April 1786.

The portrait is by John Zoffany and was painted in India between 1783 and 1786. There is a scene from a camp in India in the background. His uniform is surprising in that it is not very Scottish, but the bonnet has a diced band and. Although not possible to see in this monochrome reproduction, has black ostrich feathers. He left the regiment when it became the 73rd and returned to Scotland in 1789. He was MP for Inverness from 1790 until 1796 but then stood for Milbourne Port which he lost, along with an expenditure of 15,000 pounds which he could ill afford. At this time he did not involve himself in military life but he did become a lieutenant-general in 1796.

He was married twice, first to Mary Mackenzie of Suddie with whom he had a son and daughter, and then to Sarah Stackhouse with whom he had three daughters and a son, John who was the 24th of Macleod. He suffered ill-health in later life and died on a trip to Guernsey in August 1801.

This information and photo is taken from an article by Major A McK Annand which was published in 1967 in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research Vol XLV page 226. The date of Norman Macleod's death is in question. Major Annand and others put it as August 1801 but claims that he died in 1831 and that it was his son Norman, by his first marriage, who died in 1801, killed in the explosion of HMS Queen Charlotte.

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by Stephen Luscombe