Lachlan MacQuarrie, the last chief to live on the island, claimed that his clan had possessed Ulva since the 9th Century; and although the chiefs are not on public record until the mid-15th Century, they can produce a pedigree of sorts going back to the thirteenth. They even claim kinship with Saint Columba.
General Lachlan MacQuarrie, the most famous member of the clan, was possibly born at Ormaig on the Mull side after his parents moved there from Ulva. After a military career, he became the first Govenor of New South Wales and Australians still make pilgrimages to his mausoleum at Gruline on Mull.
He was not the only MacQuarrie to lay down the plough for the sword. The men of Ulva were known in sonorous Gaelic as ‘the fierce, fearless, great-feated MacQuarries’. Their war cry was ‘The Red Tartan Army’ and they took part in many far flung battles – at Inverkeithing, Bannockburn, in the colonies.
Graves of MacQuarries at Culloden are on the right hand side where other Mull men rest. They followed the MacLeans who joined Prince Charles under MacLean of Drimnin at Stirling. An Ulva man carried the banner back from Culloden. With it wrapped around his body, he swam home across the sound. David Livingston was a descendant of this warrior.
Lachlan’s over-generous nature may have been his downfall – he had to sell Ulva in 1777 to pay his debts. However, the majority of Ulva’s crofters were still from his clan. To this day many MacQuarries from all over the world visit Ulva to find their roots. Alas, there are no MacQuarries resident on Ulva today.
You can walk to the ruins of Ormaig from the ferry. This six mile walk is on track, and gives stunning views to the south.
However, the links between Ulva and Australia continue to this day.