The surviving correspondence of four MacDougall chiefs provides an authentic record of the concerns and vicissitudes of the family during a time of major change in the way of life in the Highlands, and of the impact of local, national and international events upon it. What emerges is a remarkable patchwork of family life - love and romance, social occasions and quiet domesticity, illness, disasters, battles, quarrels, journeys and home affairs.
Covering a hundred and fifty years, the story begins with the Jacobite Iain Ciar, 22nd Chief of the MacDougalls, who was exiled for his part in the 1715 rising. His son Alexander stayed at home during the 1745 rising, the ancestral lands having just been restored to him, though his brother was out with Prince Charles Edward - the letters reveal the delicacy of the situation. He was the last chief to live at Dunollie Castle, the ancestral home of the MacDougalls until the house was built below. His son Patrick spent most of his life in Edinburgh as a lawyer before returning to succeed his father. His son John served in the navy in many parts of the world, becoming an admiral before retiring to Dunollie.
The book deals not only with the heads of the family, but also with their wives and daughters who feature prominently in the correspondence, giving an insight into the domestic arrangements and social conditions of the time - surprisingly, perhaps, the subject of a washing machine crops up as early as 1791. In the absence of their husbands, the wives had to manage their affairs - Iain Ciar's wife having to defend Dunollie Castle.