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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 17


THE bond granted by Allaster Ower to the Laird of Glenurchay, which Duncan Ladosach so fearfully resented, is in terms as follows :—

"Bond of Alexander Vc Condoquhy."

Alexander M'Patrick Vc Condoquhy is becumyn of his awn fre will ane faythfull seruand to Collyne Campbell of Glenwrchquay and his ayris for all the dais—of his lyftyme—incontrar all—personnis, the authorite beand excepit alanerly, baytht till ryde and gang on horss and on futt, in Hieland and Lawland, upon the said Collyns expenses —And gif it happinnys ony differance—betwixt the said Collyne his ayris and M'Gregour his cheyff—the said Alexander sail nocht stand with ane of them, bot he sail be an evinly man for baytht the parties —Attour the said Alexander hes maid—the said Collyne and his ayris his—assingnais—to—his takys—of ony landis and specially of the ten merkland of Wester Morinch, now occupyit be the said Alexander and his subtennents. And also has nominat—the said Collyne and his ayris—his executoris and intromettouris with all— his gudis— mowbile and immowible that he happinis to hef the tyme of his_decess and that in cace he hef na barnis lewand at that tyme lauchtfully gottyn—For the quhilk the said Collyne and his ayris sail—defend the foirsaid Alexander in all—his just actionys—the authorite, my LordofArgyle and their actionis alanerly excepyt. Acta erant haec apud insulam de Lochthay horam circiter secundam post merediem— presentibus ibidem Alexandro Menzes de Rannocht, Joanne M'Emeweyr et magistro Willelmo Ramsay notario publico testibus—10 Julii 155°-

The public indictment of Duncan Ladasoch and his son, is supplied by the learned editor in the preface to the Black Book. Mr. Innes says:

On the 26th Nov. 1551, "The Queen's advocate set forth that:" "Duncan Laudes and Gregour his sone recently, namely, upoun Sounday the 22nd day of November instant, at sex houris at even, under silence of nycht, be way of hamesukin cam to the hous of Alaster Owir alias M'Gregoure, servand to Colyne Campbell of Glen-urquhay of the landis of Moreis, and be force tuke him furth of his said hous, and be way of murthure straik him with whingearis and crewellie slew him, and spulzeit and tuke fra him his purs, and in it the soume of fourty poundis : and incontinent thireftir past to the landis of Killing to the hous of ane pure man callit Johne M'Bayne Pipare, and thair assegit the said hous and brak the durris thairof, and be force tuke the said Johne furth of the samin, and straik his heid fra his body and crewellie slew him, and gaif him divers uther straikis with whingearis in his body."

Government having outlawed and put him to the horn, exhausted in these legal formalities the powers of vindicating its authority possessed by it per se; and the more difficult part of making the Highland robber suffer the punishment of a rebel and outlaw was devolved upon the powerful and willing enemy of the clan, Colin Campbell, Laird of Glenorchy. In virtue of the bond of submission, he was the feudal representative and avenger of the murdered Alaster Ower; for unfortunately for the administration of justice and equal protection of all subjects, whatever sounding expressions to the contrary might be found in the statute-book, and in the dicta of jurists, the most glaring crimes and misdemeanours were yet looked upon as merely affecting private parties, and were treated and settled accordingly; as violations of law and equity, they had scarcely been yet recognised to be crimes against the common welfare of society, and to be prosecuted and avenged as such. "Colene, Sext Laird of Glenurquhay," the "Cailean Liath" of Highland story, was, according to the compiler of the Black Book, and he knew well, as he wrote under the eye of Colin's son and successor, " Laird induring the space of threttie-thre zeiris, in the quhilk tyme he conquesit the few of the kingis landis and Charter-hous landis in Braydalbane the tackis quhairoffhls predi-cessouris obtenit, as is above written." In addition to this he had acquired the "superioritie of M'Nab his haill landis." He was actual possessor of the greater part, and with the exception of Struan's small Barony of Fernay or Fernan, and a few other small bits of land, was Lord superior and Bailie of the different Baronies and Lordships of Breadal-bane. With the most ample feudal privileges, and though his predecessors had land and manrent in the district for nearly a century, he was still but a stranger in a strange land, in which his footing was but precarious, and the authority granted by the King far from being satisfactorily acknowledged and obeyed. At that time the feudal charter, until the title of the holder was recognised and confirmed by the so-called vassals, according to the old Celtic custom—that is, by acknowledging or adopting him as chief, and granting him the calp of chieftainship—was little else than a piece of useless parchment. A landlord, in order to have the use and mastery of his possessions, must either conciliate or extirpate the inhabitants. The Laird of Glenorquhy was not in a position to adopt the latter alternative, and he therefore eagerly and skilfully seized upon the former. Breadalbane was at the time inhabited mostly by several old colonies or sections of distant clans, who had come under the auspices of different lord-superiors to occupy the places of those ancient inhabitants upon whom confiscation and death had fallen on account of their accession to the long-sustained and to Bruce almost fatal opposition of M'Dougall of Lorn. The inhabitants of Breadal-bane were thus made up from five or more separate sources, and except the M'Nabs—a supposed branch of the clan Gregor—none of the sections had a chieftain. This gave the Laird of Glenurchy the precious opportunity of establishing his judicial authority, and the band of manrent and calp of Ceann-Cinne naturally followed, from men alive to feelings of gratitude, for having been by the aid of the Bailie rescued from oppressors and confirmed in their rights. Every act of judicial authority added, what was both absolutely necessary for the safe exercise of that authority and the gradual vindication of feudal possession, a willing recruit to the standard of the "justiciar." It may sound strange to present landlords that, three hundred years ago, a proprietor could exercise no privilege of property till mutual kindness produced a bond of brotherhood between him and his vassals, till a democratic election confirmed the royal charter, and the calp of clanship superseded the feudal enfeffment. No suspicion appears then to have crossed the Celtic mind that despicable parchment right to the soil was sufficient to confer the personal pre-eminence which, in the absence of hereditary chiefs, they, even they, with their wild notions of unrestrained freedom, had, for the sake of internal union, and for giving edge to defensive or offensive policy, found it at all times requisite to support, but which as uniformly they had insisted upon creating for themselves, through means of a rude election, while otherwise stubbornly refusing to receive the current coins of dignity and authority, ready made to hand by the royal mint. The sons of the Gael were no Macsycophants indoctrinated in the sublime art of "booing;" feudalism, therefore, cunningly enveloped her crest in Highland tartan, and invoked obedience and love by the strict observance of clannish customs; nor was it until the middle of the eighteenth century that she finally dropped the mantle, and Highlanders bent before the hat of Gessler.

With such reasonable hopes of consolidating his rights and doubling his manrent, by the extending acknowledgment of his judicial character, it is not wonderful the Laird of Glenorchy should see with rage, and meet with animosity, whatever threatened to stop him in that progress. The M'Gregors sinned in this line beyond the hope of forgiveness. The families of the clan on Glenorchy's lands were taught to look for the redress of injuries, not to the baron-superior and his court, but to the distant and almost landless chief of the M'Gregors; nay, did they incline of their free will to choose the nearer and surer protection, the fate of Allaster Ower was an awful warning to all intending to betray Clan Alpin's pine The murderous "whingearis" stopped the progress of Glenorchy, who resolved to quench the sudden terror in the heart blood of the author. The murder was committed on the 22nd November, 1551, and four months after, the nth March, 1551 (for the new year commenced in the latter end of March), the following bond was signed—viz.:

"Be it kend till all men, us James Stewart, sone to Walter Stewart of Ballindoran, Alexander Dormond, and Malcome Dormond, yonger, to have gevin our band of manrent to Colline Campbell of Glenurqu-hay and his airis; Duncane Campbell, sone and apperand air to Archibald Campbell of Glenlioun, and his airis; for all the days of our lyvetyme in all actionis. And in speciale that we sail depone ourselffis at our haill power, wytht our kyn freyndis and part-takaris to invade and persew to the deid Duncane Laudossch M'Gregour, Gregour his sone, thair seruandis, part-takaris, and complices in all bundis and contreis quhare ever thai sail happyn to mak resydens, be reasoun that thai are our deidlie enemies and our Souerane Ladei's rebellis, &c. &c. At the He of Lochtay, nth March, 1551."

This bond may have possibly been the cause of the horrible slaughter of Drummond of Drummond-Ernoch in after years.

While the old fox appeared beset on all hands, and Glenorchy breathed nothing but death and revenge, lo! unexpectedly, a change comes o'er the spirit of the dream:—

"Be it kend till all men—Me Colyne Campbell of Glenurquhay grants me to have ressavit Duncane M'Gregour and Gregour his sone in my menteinance—in all—thair—just—actions—in so far as I may of law, and gude conscience. And atour to have forgevin—the saidis Duncane and Gregour—thair servandis complices and part-takers, the seill of luf and gude conscience moving me to the samyn, all maner of ac-tionis—and faltis that ony of them hes committit to me—providing alwais that the saidis Duncane and Gregour—fulfil thair band and manrent—maid to me and my airis in all pointis. Forquhilkis— grantis me to have given—to the saidis Duncane and Gregour—thair eschetis of all thair gudis movabill and unmovabill, quhilkis—I purchist at my Lord Governouris handis, tha beand for the tyme our Sourane Ladeis rebellis, and now ressavit to hir heines peace and my favouris—In witnes herof I—hes subscriuit this my letter of menteinance at the He of Lochtay the secund day of Maii the year of God M. vc. fifty tua yeris befor thir witnes Alexander Menzies of Rannocht, Patrick Campbell, David Toscheocht," &c.

As the names are not retained, I do not know whether or not the following legend explains the sudden change on the part of the Laird to mercy's side:—M'Gregor of Dunan, in Rannoch, had committed great herships on the lands of the Campbells in every direction, and particularly on those of Campbell of Glenorchy. The latter did all in his power to take him dead or alive ; but M'Gregor, notwithstanding, not only eluded his enemy, but continued to commit greater depredations. At last Glenorchy offered terms of amity and peace, and proposed a conference at the newly-built Castle of Balloch (Taymouth) with a certain number of friends on both sides, to settle disputes and ratify the relations of friendship into which the parties were about to enter. Glenorchy did all this deceitfully, thinking thus to capture M'Gregor and his principal followers when off their guard. M'Gregor, not suspecting the snare, set off for Balloch at the time proposed, accompanied by the number of men agreed upon. On the top of Drummond, the hill overhanging the castle and meadows of Taymouth, they encountered an old man, who, on bended knees, before a huge grey stone, appeared to be repeating his orisons in a state of great perturbation. Struck with a thing so unusual, M'Gregor, drawing near, discovered the old man was repeating the prayers for the dead, with which ever and anon the following sentence mixed—" To thee, grey stone, I tell it, but when the black bull's head appears, M'Gregor's sword can hardly save the owner's fated head. Deep the dungeon—sharp the axe—and short the shrift." M'Gregor saw at once the toils were set for him, and that the old man had taken this round-about way of apprising him of the vile conspiracy, for fear of the Laird, and in consequence of being sworn to secrecy. He proceeded on his way, however. Glenorchy received him with the most cordial appearance of kindness. Dinner was laid for them in the great hall of the castle, each Campbell having a M'Gregor on his right hand—a circumstance giving the latter a very decided advantage in the melee which followed. The introduction of the black bull's head, and a simultaneous clatter of armed men in an adjoining chamber, put the M'Gregors into an attitude of defence. Snatching the dagger stuck in the table before him, which a few moments previous he had used in cutting his meat, M'Gregor held its point within an inch of the heart of Glenorchy, while with the other hand he compressed his throat. His men following promptly the example of the leader, a scene ensued not unlike that in which Quentin Durvvard was chief actor in the hall of the Bishop of Liege, with this difference, however, that the M'Gregors carried off captive the Baron and some of his principal retainers ; the armed vassals, at the earnest request of the Baron himself, whose life the least attempt on their part to rescue him would endanger, offering no resistance. M'Gregor crossed by the boat at Ken-more, dragged his captives to the top of Drummond, and there and then forced Glenorchy to subscribe an ample pardon and remission for all past injuries, and a promise of friendship for the future. The tradition does not inform us whether the Laird kept to his promise or not; and, indeed, from the omission of names it is otherwise an uncertain guide; but it would harmonise well with the character of Duncan Ladosach, not less renowned for cunning than courage, to act the part of the M'Gregor of the story; and upon the whole, it is not improbable the remission already given was extorted in some such way from Cailean Liath of Glenurchay.

The foreseen result followed upon Duncan's death. It removed the fear which deterred the separate chieftains and leading men from submitting to fedual superiors, and thereby the ligature of clanship was broken for the time, and the clan lost for some years the commanding attitude of unbroken union, consequent upon implicit obedience to the rule and behests of the natural chief or his representative. The M'Gregor, almost yet a child, became, on the death of the Tutor, a ward of the Campbells; and on coming to man's estate, he soon discovered the self-constituted guardians had so well employed the opportunities afforded in his years of nonage, that his authority over the clan had been sadly undermined, and his personal consequence had shrunk considerably. It may be worth while to notice some of the leading M'Gregors who made their submission to Glen-orchy within a month or two after Duncan's execution.

"At the Isle of Lochtay, 3d August, 1552.—William M'Olcallum, in Rannocht, Malcum his sone, and Donald Roy M'Olcallum Glass, bindis and obleissis thame, &c. to be afald servantis to Colyne Campbell of Glenurquhay, and to his airis mail quhom thai haif elecht and chosyn for thair cheyffis and masteris, renunceand M'Gregour thair chief," &c. &c.

4th August, 1552.—Malcum M'Aynmallycht (son of'John the cursed' —probably called so on account of being excommunicated by the Church), William and Malcum M'Neill VcEwin and Duncane thair brother, renouncing M'Gregour thair chief, bind themselves to Colyne Campbell of Glenurquhay giving him thair calps ; the said Colyne being bound to defend them in thair possessions, or to give them others within his own boundis."

21st August, 1522.—" Gregour M'Gregour, son of the deceased Sir James M'Gregour, Dean of Lesmoir," &c. &c.

9th September, 1552.—Donald Beg M'Acrom, Duncane and Williame his brothers, dwelling in the bray of Weyme, bind themselves to Colyne Campbell, having overgiven the Laird of M'Gregour," &c. &c.

21st December, 1552.—"Duncan M'Andrew in . . . Duncane & Malcum his sons, renounce the Laird M'Gregour," &c. &c,

M'Gregor of Roro's bond to the same effect appears to have been lost; but from the terms of a subsequent one, granted in 1585 by the head of that house, there is every proof that "Duncan Gour " (Gour or Gear signifies short) had been as submissive as the rest. The Laird of Glenor-chy did not confine his views to simply obtaining the fealty and subjection of the M'Gregors residing on his own lands and within the bounds of his proper jurisdiction; on the contrary, three of the preceding bonds were granted by parties that in the eye of the law owed the duty of vassals to the Lairds of Struan and Weem. When the M'Gregors had a little time to recover from their consternation the bonds were no longer granted, or, if granted, were worded as the following, in far less unqualified terms: —"Bond by Duncane M'Alyster VcEwyn in Drumcastell (Rannoch) to Colyne Campbell of Glenorchy—his allegiance to the Queen's Grace and M'Gregor his chief being excepted—disponing to the said Colyne Campbell the best four-footed beast that shall be in his possession in time of his decease and latter end, and called his calp," &c. &c.


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