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The Lairds of Glenlyon: Historical Sketches
Chapter 6


WHEN Dundee fled from the Convention, "Coll of the Cows," the head of the M'Donalds of Keppoch, was pursuing with relentless fury the broken host of the Mackintoshes, his ancient foes, and was, on the arrival of the Viscount in the north, threatening to sack Inverness. On receiving a large sum of money from the town, as compensation for alleged injuries, Coll and the citizens were reconciled through the intervention of Dundee and both joined in supporting the jacobite interest. An attempt was made to include the Mackintoshes in the general reconciliation, but Coll rated his friendship at such a high value as to render the attempt abortive. The Keppoch Chieftain was so enraged at the refractory spirit of Mackintosh, that, with the forced connivance of the high-souled Graham, he drove away all his cattle, most of which were kept among his own retainers. When Coll took such liberty under the eye of an energetic general, whose dearest plans were thereby put in peril, how could he be controlled by the weak, unpopular Cannan? Soon after the battle of Killiecrankie, several of the clans left the white standard to go to their several homes with the spoils gathered during the campaign. Coll of Keppoch left with his own men, and the M'lans of Glencoe, his confederates, in October. Determined to gather their winter mart in going home, and aware they could not do so with any propriety or hope of success in the land of the Robert
sons, who had fought with them under Dundee, they came round by Glenlyon, and gratified their love of plunder and their inveterate hatred to the Campbells, by harrying the little property still possessed by the poor Laird of Glenlyon. The Laird was completely off his guard ; relying on Can-nan's protection, the raid of Keppoch was the very last thing he feared. No opposition was offered to the marauders. The women and cattle were just home from the sheilings, and the men were peaceably engaged in getting in the last of the harvest. No sign preceded the storm. The rapacity of the M'Donalds was unexampled. In one of the huts they found an infant in a basket cradle, wrapt in a blanket. The child was turned out naked on the clay floor, and the blanket taken away. One of the Glenlyon men at the massacre of Glencoe—perhaps, except the Laird, the only man of them there—as he was slaughtering one of the MTans with the sword, used, it is said, at each successive thrust, the expressions of savage revenge—"There for Catherine's blanket!" "There for Colin's cows!" Colin was the brother of the Laird. Cambuslay, one of the Brae farms, was the portion allotted him by his father, and, as it lay conveniently in the way of the M'Donalds, they swept it clean. This was not the first time that Colin's cows were "lifted" by the M'Donalds of Glencoe and Lochaber. Robert of Glenlyon and his brother Colin were minors in 1644-45, when Montrose ravaged and burned Breadalbane and all the other lands of their maternal grandfather, Sir Robert Campbell of Glenorchy. The uncle of the boys, John Tutor of Glenlyon, who afterwards bought the estate of Duneaves, and founded a family there, was their legal guardian; but they lived mostly with their mother and her second husband, Patrick Roy M'Gregor, the landless chief of his clan, at Meggernie Castle, during their minority. Now Patrick Roy, with a thousand of his clan, joined Montrose; and so Montrose spared Glenlyon when he despoiled and burned Breadalbane. But the confederate robbers of Glencoe and Keppoch—or a small band of them at least— violated the orders of Montrose, and swept away the cows of young Colin, and some also belonging to John the Tutor, which were grazing on Colin's lands. The "banarach bheag," or little dairy-maid, Nic Cree, or M'Cree, who had charge of the calves, hid them in the rath of Cambuslay, and secretly followed the robbers to Glenmeuran with the double intention of recovering the cows and calling out the country. The poor girl was discovered and killed by the robbers. They had got hold of the chief dairy-maid, or "banarach mhor" at first, and taken her captive with them along with the cows. In her captivity this famed but nameless poetess composed the beautiful song, or lullaby, of Crodh Chailein, or "Colin's Cows," which has ever since been used as a charm to make fractious cows give their milk, and soothe crying babes to sleep. The little dairymaid must have succeeded before being killed in sending back information about the robbers and their trail, for it seems they were pursued, and most, if not all, of the cattle recovered before they could be got into the Glencoe "Thieves' Corrie," Very probably, the clan M'Gregor who owed much to the family of Glenlyon, and whose chief was, at this time, restored to position and fair affluence by his marriage with the well-dowered widow of Archibald Campbell, younger of Glenlyon, helped to hunt down the thieves and to recover Colin's cattle. But the raid, although unsuccessful, was a breach of faith under trust, and it swelled the already long list of grievous injuries suffered by Glenlyon at the hands of the M'Donalds of Glencoe and their kinsmen of Lochaber. Whenever Glenlyon cattle were "lifted" they were first, unless re-captured on the way, driven to Glencoe, where they were kept until they could be safely distributed among the confederates. There was, therefore, a feud of centuries between the two glens. The modern historians of the massacre of Glencoe aggravate Robert of Glenlyon's guilt by laying stress on the fact that Alexander, the son of M'lan, was married to his niece. The blackest part of the whole business was the treachery planned by the Government, of which Glenlyon had no notice until the last moment. But as to the matrimonial relationship, it was thus the matter stood : Jean Campbell, daughter of Sir Robert Campbell of Glenorchy, married when very young, Archibald, the heir of Glenlyon, and was left a widow with two sons, Robert and Colin, when about twenty-five years old. Shortly afterwards, she married Patrick Roy M'Gregor, to whom she bore two sons and two daughters. After Patrick's death, she married Stewart of Appin, and by him had children also. It was to the Appin family of Glenlyon's mother that Alexander's wife belonged. The much married lady lived long, and the heavy settlements made upon her by her first husband and his father, along with the spend-thrift habits of her son Robert, ruined sadly the, till then, fairly flourishing Campbells of Glenlyon.

The "creach" of 1689 was not recovered like that of 1645. The cattle and the spoils were safely got to Glencoe, and there divided. The following is the list of goods and gear of which Glenlyon and his tenants were robbed on this occasion. It is interesting on many accounts, and of especial importance to the historian of the Glencoe massacre:—







Gallin for whatever reason it is entered in this list, did not at this time belong to Campbell, but was part of the property sold to Lord Murray. I do not see how Gallin was spulzied and the rest of Lord Murray's lands spared, as it is known was the case. I believe, therefore, the last item refers to some other foray, which took place before the estate was sold, and that it was entered at the foot of the more recent claim, as the only desperate chance of obtaining satisfaction. In 1695 an action at civil law was commenced against Coll of Keppoch by the Lady Glenlyon in the absence of her husband, but I believe a long bill of costs against her was the only result; for, though a verdict was easily obtained, "Coll of the Cows," was not the man to obey implicitly the decree of a judge. Excluding Gallin from the list, the other farms were held by Campbell in right of his wife, whose jointure they were, and they formed the whole of his possessions in Glenlyon. The foray left the laird and his tenants on the brink of starvation. And that would have been undoubtedly their fate next year, as, for want of horses, most of the land lay untitled, had not the laird's son-in-law, Alexander Campbell of Ardeonaig, stretched his credit with the Laird of Ochtertyre, from whom he procured meal and grain for Campbell and his dependents. Any one, by running his eye over the foregoing list, will understand at once the thorough way in which the Highland robbers swept a glen. Here, at one fell swoop, a poor landlord and his few dependents lose their whole stock—all they had in the world-1—36 horses, 240 cows, 993 sheep, 133 goats, and whatever was portable of their little household furniture. The money value was estimated at £7,540 17s. 11d. Scots money, which was a large sum indeed in those days. Campbell, driven in his old age— he bordered on 60—to earn his daily bread, resumed his sword and became a soldier of the Revolution. Early in the year 1690, he obtained a company in the Earl of Argyle's Regiment of Foot.


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