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General History of the Highlands
David II and Feud between Clan Chattan & Camerons


David II, Lord of the Isles, Macintosh, the chief of the clan Chattan, insurection in 1366 by Earl of Ross, Hugh de Ross, John of the Isles, John of Lorn, and John de Haye, feud between the clan Chattan and the Camerons involving also the Macphersons and Davidsons and an account of a set stage battle.

The feeble and effeminate reign of David II was disturbed by another revolt by the Lord of the Isles, who was backed in his attempt to throw off his dependence by a great number of the Highland chiefs. David, with "an unwonted energy of character, commanded the attendance of the steward, with the prelates and barons of the realm, and surrounded by this formidable body of vassals and retainers, proceeded against the rebels in person. The expedition was completely successful. The rebel prince, John of the Isles, with a numerous train of those wild Highland chieftains who followed his banner, and has supported him in his attempt to throw off his dependence, met the king at Inverness, and submitted to his authority. He engaged in the most solemn manner, for himself and his vassals, that they should yield themselves faithful and obesient subjects to David, their liege lord; and not only give due and prompt obedience to the ministers and officers of the king in suit and service, as well as in the payment of taxes and public burdens, but that they would coerce and put down all others, of whatever rank or degree, who dared to raise themselves in opposition to the royal authority, and would pursue and banish them from their territories; for the fulfilment of which obligation the Lord of the Isles not only gave his own oath, under the penalty of forfeiting his whole principality if it was broken, but offered the high-steward, his father-in-law, as his security, and delivered his lawful son, also names Donald, as hostages for the strict performance of the articles of the treaty". The deed by which John of the Isles bound himself to the performance of these stipulations is dated 15th November, 1369.

To enable him the better to succeed in reducing the inhabitants of the Highlands and islands to the obedience of the laws, it is stated by an old historian, that David used artifice by dividing the chiefs, and promising high rewards to those who should slay or capture their brother chiefs. The writer says that this diabolical plan, by implanting the seeds of disunion and war amongst the chiefs, succeeded; and that they gradually destroyed one another, a statement, to say the least of it, highly improbable. Certain it is, however, that it was in this reign that the practice of paying manrent began, when the powerful wished for followers, and the weak wanted protection, a circumstance which shows that the government was too weak to afford protection to the oppressed, or to quell the disputes of rival clans.

In the year 1333, John Munroe, the tutor of Foulis, in travelling homeward, on his journey from Edinburgh to Ross, stopped on a meadow in Stratherdale that he and his servants might get some repose. While they were asleep, the owner of the meadow cut off the tails of their horses. Being resolved to wipe off this insult, he immediately, on his return home to Ross, summoned his whole kinsmen and followers, and, after informing them how he had been used, craved their aid to revenge the injury. The clan, of course, complied; and, having selected 350 of the best and ablest men among them, he returned to Stratherdale, which he wasted and spoiled; killed some of the inhabitants, and carried off their cattle. In passing by the isle of May, on his return home, Macintosh, the chief of the clan Chattan, being urged by some person who bore Monroe a grudge, sent a message to him demanding a share of the spoil. This was customary among the Highlanders when a party drove cattle which had been so taken through a gentlemen's land, and the part so exacted was called a Staoig Rathaid, or Staoig Creich, that is, a Road Collop, Monroe, not being disposed to quarrel, offered Macintosh a reasonable share, but this he was advised not to accept, and demanded the half of the booty. Monroe refused to comply with such an unreasonable demand, and proceeded on his journey. Macintosh, determined to enforce compliance, immediately collected his clansmen, and went in pursuit of Monroe, whom he overtook at Clach-na-Haire, near Inverness. As soon as Monroe saw Macintosh approaching, he sent home five of his men to Ferrindonald with the cattle, and prepared for action. But Macintosh paid dearly for his rapacity and rashness, for he and the greater part of his men were killed in the conflict. Several of the Monroes also were slain, and John Monroe himself was left for dead in the field of battle, and might have died if the predecessor of Lord Lovat had not carried him to his house in the neighbourhood, where he was cured of his wounds. One of his hands was so mutilated, that he lost the use of it the remainder of his life, on which account he was afterwards called John Bac-laimb, or Ciotach.

Besides the feuds of the clans in the reign of David II, the Highlanders appear to have been disturbed by a formidable insurrection against the government, for, in a parliament which was held at Scone, in the year 1366, a resolution was entered into to seize the rebels in Argyle, Athole, Bedenoch, Lochaber, and Ross, and all others who had risen up against the royal authority, and to compel them to submit to the laws. The chief leaders in this commotion (of which the bare mention in the parliamentary record is the only account which has reached us), were the Earl of Ross, Hugh de Ross, John of the Isles, John of Lorn, and John de Haye, who were all summoned to attend the parliament and give in their submission, but they all refused to do so in the most decided manner; and as the government was too weak to compel them, they were suffered to remain independent.

In the year 1386, a feud having taken place between the clan Chattan and the Camerons, a battle took place in which a great number of the clan Chattan were killed, and the Camerons were nearly cut off to a man. The occasion of the quarrel was as follows. The lands of Macintosh in Lochaber (According to that eminent antiquary, the Rev Donald Macintosh, non-jurying episcopal clergyman, in his historical illustrations of his Collections of Gaelic Proverbs, published in 1785, the ancestor of Macintosh became head of the clan Chattan in this way. During these contests for the Scottish crown, which succeeded the death of King Alexander III, and favoured the pretensions of the King of the Isles, the latter styling himself "King", had, in 1291, sent his nephew Angus Macintosh of Macintosh to Dougall Dail (Blind) MacGillichattan, chief of the clan Chattan, or Macphersons, to acquaint him that "the king" was to pay him a visit. Macpherson or MacGillichattan, as he was named, in honour of the founder of the family Gillichattan Mor, having an only child, a daughter, who, he dreaded, might attract an inconvenient degree of royal notice, offered her in marriage to Macintosh along with his lands, and the station of the chief of the clan Chattan. Macintosh accepted the offer, and was received as chief of the lady's clan) in Lochaber, were possessed by the Camerons, who were so tardy in the payment of their rents that Macintosh was frequently obliged to levy them by force by carrying off his tennants' cattle. The Camerons were so irritated at having their cattle poinded and taken away, that they resolved to make reprisals, preparatory to which they marched into Badenoch to the number of about 400 men, under the command of Charles Macgilony. As soon as Macintosh became acquainted with this movement he called his clan and friends, the Macphersons and Davidsons, together. His force was superior to that of the Camerons, but a dispute arose among the chiefs which almost proved fatal to them. To macintosh, as captain of the clan Chattan, the command of the centre of the army was assigned with the consent of all parties; but a difference took place between Cluny and Invernahavon, each claiming the command of the right wing. Cluny demanded it as the chief of the ancient clan Chattan, of which the Davidsons of Invernahavon were only a branch; but Invernahavon contended that to him, as the oldest branch, the command of the right wing belonged, according to the custom of the clans. The Camerons came up during this quarrel about precedency, on which Macintosh, as umpire, decided against the claim of Cluny. This was a most imprudent award, as the Macphersons exceeded both the Macintoshes   and Davidsons in numbers, and they were, besides, in the country of the Macphersons. These last were so offended at the decision of Macintish that they withdrew from the field, and became, for a time, spectators of the action. The battle soon commenced, and was fought with great obstinacy. Many of the Macintoshes, and almost all the Davidsons, were cut off by the superior number of the Camerons. The Macphersons seeing their friends and neighbours almost overpowered, could no longer restrain themselves, and friendship got the better of their wounded pride. They, therefore, at this perilous crisis, rushed in upon the Camerons, who, from exhaustion and the loss they had sustained, were easily defeated. The few that escaped, with their leader, were pursued from Invernahavon, the place of battle, three miles above Ruthven, to Badenoch. Charles Macgilony was killed on a hill in Glenbenchir, which was long called Torr-Thearlaich ie Charles'-hill.

In the opinion of Shaw this quarrel about precedency was the origin of the celebrated judicial conflict, which took place on the North Inch of Perth, before Robert III, his queen, Annabella Drummond, and the Scottish nobility, and some foreigners of distinction, in the year 1396, and of which a variety of accounts have been given by our ancient historians. The parties to this combat were the Macphersons, properly the clan Chattan, and the Davidsons of Invernahavon, called in the Gaelic Clann-Dhaibhidh. The Davidsons were not, as some writers have supposed, a separate clan, but a branch of the clan Chattan. These rival tribes had for a long period kept up a deadly enmity with one another, which was difficult to be restrained; but after the award by Macintosh against the Macphersons, that enmity broke out into open strife, and for ten years the Macphersons and the Davidsons carried on a war of extermination, and kept the country in uproar.

To put an end to these disorders, it is said that Robert III sent Dunbar, Earl of Moray, and Lindsay of Glenesk, afterwards Earl of Crawford, two of the leading men of the kingdom, to endeavour to effect an amicable arrangement between the two contending parties; but having failed in their attempt, they proposed that the differences should be decided in open combat before the king. Tytler is of opinion that, the notions of the Norman knights having by this time become familiar to the fierce mountaineers, they adopted the singular idea of deciding their quarrel by a combat of 30 against 30. Burton, however, with his usual sagacity, remarks that, "for a whole race to submit to the ordeal of battle would imply the very highest devotion to those rules of chivalry which were an extravagant fashion in all the countries under the Norman influence, but were utterly unknown to the Highlanders, who submitted when they must submit, and retaliated when they could. That such an adjustment could be effected among them is about as incredible as a story about a parliamentary debate in Persia, or a jury trial in Timbuctoo". The beautiful and perfectly level meadow on the banks of the Tay at Perth, know as the North Inch, was fixed on, and the Monday before Michaelmas was the day appointed for the combat. According to Sir Robert Gordon, who is followed by Sir Robert Douglas and Mr Mackintosh, it was agreed that no weapon but the broad sword was to be employed, but Wyntoun, who lived about the time, adds bows, battle-axes, and daggers.

"All thai entrit in Barreris,
With Bow and Axe, Knyf and Swerd,
To deal amang them their last Werd".

The numbers on each side have been variously reported. By mistaking the word triceni, used by Boece and Buchanan, for treceni, some writers have multiplied them to 300. Bower, the continuator of Fordun and Wyntoun, however, mentions expressly 60 in all, or 30 on either side.

On the appointed day the combatants made their appearance on the North Inch of Perth, to decide, in presence of the king, his queen, and a large concourse of the nobility, their respective claims to superiority. Barriers had been arected on the ground to prevent the spectators from encroaching, and the king and his party took their stations upon a platform from which they could easily view the combat. At length the warriors, armed with sword and target, bows and arrows, short knives and battle-axes, advanced within the barriers, and eyes one another with looks of deadly revenge. When about to engage, a circumstance occurred which postponed it altogether. According to some accounts, one of the Macphersons fell sick; but Bower says, that when the troops had been marshalled, one of the Macphersons, panicstruck, slipped through the crowd, plunged into the Tay and swam across, and, though pursued by thousands, effected his escape. Sir Robert Gordon merely observes, that, "at their entrie into the field, the clan Chattan lacked one of their number, who was privilie stolne away, not willing to be pertaker of so deir a bargane". A man being now wanting on one side, a pause ensured, and a proposal was made that one of the Davidsons should retire, that the number on both sides might be equal, but they refused. As the combat could not proceed from this inequality of numbers, the king was about to break up the assembly, when a diminutive and crooked, but fierce man, named Henry Wynd, a burgher of Perth, better known to readers of Scott as Hal o' the Wynd, and an armourer by trade, sprung within the barriers, and, as related by Bower, thus addressed the assembly: "Here am I. Will any one fee me to engage with these hirelings in this stage play? For half a mark will I try the game, provided, if I escape alive, I have my board of one of you so long as I live. Greater love, as it is said, hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. What, then, shall be my reward, who stake my life for the foes of the commonwealth and realm?". This demand of Gow Crom, "Crooked Smith", as Henry was familiarly styled, adds Bower, was granted by the king and nobles. A murderous conflict now began. The armourer, bending his bow, and sending the first arrow among the opposite party, killed one of them. After showers of arrows had been discharged on both sides, the combatants, with fury in their looks, and revenge in their hearts, rushed upon one another, and a terrific scene ensued, which appalled the heart of many a valorous knight who witnessed the bloody tragedy. The violent thrusts of the daggers, and the tremendous gashes inflicted by the two handed swords and battle-axes, hastened the work of butchery and death. "Heads were cloven asunder, limbs were lopped from the trunck. The meadow was soon flooded with blood, and covered with dead and wounded men".

After the crooked armourer had killed his man, as already related from Bower, it is said that he either sat down or drew aside, which being observed by the leader of Cluny's band, he asked his reason for thus stopping; on which Wynd said, "Because I have fulfilled my bargain, and earned by wages". - "The man", exclaimed the other, "who keeps no reckoning of his good deeds, without reckoning shall be repaid", an observation which tempted the armourer to earn, in the multiplied deaths of his opponents, a sum exceeding by as many times the origional stipulation. This speech of the leader has been formed into the Gaelic adage,

"Am fear nach cunntadh rium
Cha chunntainn ris"

which Macintosh thus renders,

"The man that reckons not with me
I will not reckon with him"

Victory at last declared for the Macphersons, but not until 29 of the Davidsons had fallen prostrate in the arms of death. NIneteen of Cluny's men also bit the dust, and the remaining 11, with the exception of Henry Wynd, who by his excellence as a swordsman had mainly contributed to gain the day, were all grievously wounded. The survivor of the clan Davidson escaped unhurt. Mackintosh following Buchanan, relates that this man, after all his companions had fallen, threw himself into the Tay, and making the opposite band, escaped; but this is most likely a new version of Bower's account of the affrighted champion before the commencement of the action.

The leader of the clan Kay or Davidsons is called by Bower Schea-beg, and by Wyntoun, Scha-Ferquharis son. Boece calls him Stratberge. Who Christi-Mac-Iain, or Christi-Jonson was genealogically, we are not informed; but one thing is pretty clear, that he, not Schea-beg, or Shaw Oig, - for these are obviously one and the same, - commanded the clan Chattan, or "Clann-a-Chait". Both the principals seem to have been absent, or spectators merely of the battle; and as few of the leading men of the clan, it is believed, were parties in the combat, the savage policy of the government, which, it is said, had taken this method to rid itself of the chief men of the clan, by making them destroy one another, was completely defeated. This affair seems to have produced a good effect, as the Highlanders remained quiet for a considerable time thereafter.


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