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The Lairds of Glenlyon: Historical Sketches
Chapter 19


BY the death of Gregor, the clan was left again without a head or rallying point. Some immediately granted anew bonds of manrent and submission to the barons on whose lands they resided. Another party, headed by Patrick, grandson of Duncan Ladosach, scornfully refused any compromise, and struck redoubled blows of vengeance on the traitors to the spirit of clanship, who yielded to the demands of Glenorchy or any other. Three months after the execution of the chief, the band, led by Patrick, came upon a company of Glenorchy's men in Glenfalloch, and slew eighteen of them and their captain. Two weeks after this exploit, the same lawless leader committed the following atrocity on two of the principals of the Stronfernan M'Gregors, who had granted bonds to Cailean Liath :—

"The xxiiij da of September, the yer of God ane thousand five hundyr sexte xij yeris, Allestyr M'Allestyr and his son, ane yonge barne of sevin yer aid, callyt Gregor, and Duncan, brodyr tyl Allestyr, al slain in Stronferna be Patryk Dow M'Gregor V'Condoquhy Lawdossyt, with his complesis, and be the drath of Allestyr Gald M'V'Gregor. The saidis Allestyr and his son and brodyr zyrdyth in Fortyrgill the awcht and xx da of September, Si bene fecit sic habirit."

Black Patrick wished clearly to grasp the vicarious sceptre of regent or tutor of the clan, wielded by his father during the minority of the preceding chief; but the clan as a whole refusing to support his pretensions, he never got beyond being captain of the "broken men." With the help of these, he kept up for a few years a widespread system of spoliation and outrage through the districts of Strathearn, Breadalbane, Athole and Lennox. The feudal barons cut off his band in detail. One of his principal subordinates, Donald Dow M'Conil V'Quhewin, was "heddyt at Ken-more be Collyn Campbell of Glenurquhay, the sevint da of Apryl, 1574." This man possessed the lands of Duneaves in Fortingall, and we shall have to say more of one of his descendants in the sequel. On the 4th October, 1574, Patrick himself was slain in Balquhidder by the "Clandowil-chayr," a section of his own surname who disapproved of his violent proceedings. His followers, inured to predatory habits and a life of warfare with all men, seemed to have kept together, and to have become known afterwards by the designation of M'Eaghs, or "children of the mist"

The interregnum between Black Patrick's death, 1574, and 1588, when Allaster Roy, eldest son of the ill-fated Chief of Glenstrae, came of age, was diligently improved by Colin of Glenorchy and his son, "Black Duncan with the cowl" who succeeded him in 1583. The M'Gregors of Roro renewed the old bonds of manrent to "Black Duncan" at Balloch, 5th July, 1585. "Bond of Gregour Makcon-aquhie V'Gregour in Roro, Alestir M'Ewin V'Conquhie there, Gregour Makolchallum in Innerbar in Glenlyon : Duncan Makgregour, his son in Kildie, and William Mak-gregour son to the said Gregour there, to Duncan Campbell of Glenurquhay, showing, that their forbears had granted the like bond to the deceased Coleine Campbell of Clenur-quhay, and obliging themselves, if it should happen that Makgregour, by himself or accomplices, should break upon the said Duncan or his heirs, their lands, tenants, and possessions, to renounce him as their chief, and to take part with the said Duncan against him." But the experience of the last feud had convinced Glenorchy of the evanescent effect of these bonds when a question affecting the honour of the clan or the prerogatives of the chief was the matter in debate; and he was therefore anxious to add to the assurance of voluntary submission the better-recognised title and right of lord-superior. As formerly mentioned, the superiority of the lands occupied, on "middleman" tenure, by the house of Roro was vested in the family of Menzies. The substance of the bond given below shows by what unscrupulous means Glenorchy sought to wrest from the Laird of Weem the right which he held of him already as tenant:—

"Johne, Earl of Athole, binds himself not to appoint nor agree with James Menzies of that Ilk in regard to any controversy, until Glenur-quhay should first obtain in feu or long tacks from Menzies his lands lying on the west side of the water of Lyoun, holden of him by the said Duncane ; and that he would not reset, nor allow to be resetted within his bounds, any goods belonging to James Menzies or his tenants, or show them any favour ; that if the said James Menzies should pursue the said Duncane, or be pursued by him, he would assist the said Duncane with all his forces; and that he should give the like assistance against the Clangregour if they should render aid to Menzies. At Dunkeld, 25th June, 1585."

By a mutual bond, dated 20th March, 1584, he got Strowan to bind himself to "cause all his tenants of the lands and barony of Ferney serve the Earl of Argyle and Duncan Campbell in hosting and hunting." On the breaking out of the next horrible feud, this bond was amplified or changed into another, dated at Balloch, 16th October, 1590, bearing that "Donald Robertson of Strowan, finding that divers of the Clangregour occupied his lands and barony of Fernay, in the lordship of Descheor and Toyer, and Sheriffdome of Perth, against his will, so that he could not well remove them, binds himself and his heirs, if, by the assistance of Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenurquhay, he can remove them orderly, to put in their stead tenants bound to serve the said Sir Duncane in hosting, hunting, and obedience, as the tenants of the said lands did previously, the said Sir Duncane being bound to defend the said tenants in their possessions."

Allaster Roy being of age in 1589, claimed feudal enfeoffment of his property of Glenstrae. Glenorchy, the lord-superior, refused to grant the investiture. It would disarrange the whole policy of the Laird of Glenorchy should the chief of the Clan Gregor continue to hold the messuage of Stronmelochan, and have a legal base of operation for his numerous and devoted followers. The affront put upon him in this matter precipitated the chief and those of his clan, who had since the last feud scrupulously kept aloof, into sharing and adopting the rash counsels and rasher deeds of the "brokin men," now styled "children of the mist," or M'Eaghs.

In September, 1589, the M'Eaghs surprised John Drummond of Drummond-Ernoch in the forest of Glenartney and cut off his head. Probably the band of "brokin men" thought this a very justifiable vengeance for the aid given by the Drummonds in pursuing their first and ablest leader, "Duncan Ladosach, to the deid," or there might have been more recent feuds unrevenged; but the slaughter was indefensible even by the very loose code of justice which the M'Gregors themselves acknowledged, for Drummond Ernoch was at that very time doubly under the assurance of the clan. Worse still was the atrocity of bringing the dead man's head to the house of Ardvorlich, and stuffing the mouth with the bread and cheese given them by his sister. The consequences to the lady, and the child of whom she was about to become a mother, have been described in the pleasant Legend of Montrose, by Sir Walter Scott. Treated for nearly a century like wolves and beasts of prey, it was not reasonable to think the "brokin men" should conduct themselves like civilised creatures; but this deed was so unmanly and execrable—so violently opposed to the irregular chivalry which the clan, in the darkest phases of existence, manifested as a whole—that we are forced to conclude some inexplicable and occult reasons led them into adopting the atrocious murder. The chief and principals of the clan had no hand in its perpetration, yet no sooner did they become aware of the slaughter than they gathered to the church of Balquhidder, and there in a most appalling manner made the deed of blood their own. The quarrel was one of extermination, and it was perhaps fitting that the reunion of the clan under a young chief, already affronted by the powerful enemy of his race in the tenderest point, and burning for revenge on his own account, on account of his clan, and of his father's fate, should be cemented by the blood of a foeman; but the strange thing was, that the quiet bond-granters, who had been obedient vassals to their different over-lords for twenty years, should, on such an apparently trivial quarrel, throw their engagements to the wind, and at once brave those dangers which the whole tenor of their lives showed they were pretty willing to shun, But wonder as we may, the list of 200 clansmen mentioned nommatim in the commission of fire and sword issued by the Secret Council on this occasion, leaves no doubt of its being a general movement of the clan, in which the principals of the "three houses" participated.

The nature of the proceedings by which the clan adopted the guilt of the " brokin men " is described in an Act of Privy-Council, dated Edinburgh, 4th February, 1589, in these terms:—

"Likeas, after ye murder committed, ye authors yrof cutted off ye said umqull Jo. Drummond's head, and carried the same to the Laird of M'Gregour, who, and the haill surname, of M'Gregours, purposely convened upoun the Sunday yrafter at the Kirk of Buchquhidder, qr they caused the said umqull John's head to be presented to ym, and yr avowing ye sd murder to have been committed by their communion, council, and determination, laid yr hands upoun the pow, and, in eith-nick and barbarous manner, swear to defend ye authors of ye sd murder, in maist proud contempt of our Sovrn Lord and his authoritie, and in evil example to other wicked lymmaris to do ye like, gif ys sail be suffered to remain unpunisched."

I append Sir Alexander Boswell's poetical description of the same scene, as probably more interesting to most readers:—The head of Drummond is on the altar, and over it is thrown the banner of the tribe. The Chief advances—

"And pausing, on the banner gazed:
Then cried in scorn, his finger raised,
'This was the boon of Scotland's king:'
And with a quick and angry fling,
Tossing the pageant screen away,
The dead man's head before him lay.
Unmoved he scanned the visage o'er,
The clotted locks were dark with gore,
The features with convulsion grim,
The eyes contorted, sunk, and dim,
But unappall'd in angry mood,
With lowering brow, unmoved he stood.
Upon the head his bared right hand
He laid, the other grasped his brand;
Then, kneeling, cried, ' o heaven I swear
This deed of death I own and share;
As truly fully mine as though
This my right hand had dealt the blow.
Come, then, our foemen, one, come all;
If to revenge this caitiffs fall
One blade is bared, one bow is drawn,
Mine everlasting peace I pawn,
To claim from them, or claim from him,
In retribution, limb for limb.
In sudden fray, or open strife
This steel shall render life for life.'
He ceased; and at his beckoning nod,
The clansmen to the altar trod;
Andoiot a whisper breathed around,
And nought was heard of mortal sound,
Save from the clanking arms they bore,
That rattled on the marble floor;
And each, as he approached in haste,
Upon the scalp his right hand placed:
With livid lip, and gathered brow,
Each uttered, in his turn, the vow.
(Macgregor) watched the passing scene,
And searched them through with glances keen,
Then dashed a tear-drop from his eye—
Unbid it came—he knew not why.
Exulting high, he towering stood:
'Kinsmen,' he cried, of Alpin's blood,
And worthy of Clan Alpin's name,
Unstained by cowardice and shame,
E'en do, spare nocht, in time of ill,
Shall be Clan Alpin's legend still.' "

The following "bond to pursue the Clan M'Gregor for the murder of John Drummond" is formed in conformity with the Act of Privy Council :—

"Be it kend til all men, us undirsubscryvers, understanding be money—actis—maid nocht onlie be—the Kings Maiesties—progeni-touris, bat alsa be his Maiesties self, baith in Parliament and Privie Counsel, anent the daylie mourthouris, slauchteris, herschipis, and thiftis committit be clannis of hieland men upone the inhabitantes of the laiche countries, speciallie be the Clan of M'Gregouris—Lyke as laitlie the said Clan of M'Gregour, in the moneth of September last bipast, maist creuallie slew and murtherit Johne Drumond of Drum-nerenocht in Glenarknay, being under thair doubil assurance, the ane grantit—be My Lord Huntlie in thair name to my Lord of Montroiss, assuring that he and all his, and in speacial the said Johne Drummond, suid be unharmit in body and geir—ay and quhil the said assurance suld be upgiffin and dischargit on, to my Lord of Montroiss be the said Erie of Huntlie, quhilk onnavyss wes sa done afoir the said slauchter nor yit sensyne; the uthir assurance being granted and given be------in name of that hail clan, to my Lord of Inchaffray and all his kin, freindis, and surname, upone the Monunday befoir the said slauchter, sua that nather of the forsaid assurances was then outrun: The said Johne being directit be his Chief, at his Maiestie's commandment, for getting of vennisoune, to have send to Edinburght to his Maiestie's mariage, the said clan cuttit and of-tuik his heid, and thair-after convenand the rest of that clan, and setting down the heid befoir thame, tharby causing thame authoreiss the said creuel murthour, lykas thai have done, mening thairby to continue the lyke or greter, gif thai be not prevented. - - - We undirsubscryvand, beand sua ten-dir of blud alliance and nychtbouris, being sua oft of our freindis, ten-nentis, and seruandis slane, murtherit, and herriet be the said clan of befoir, and of mynd to revinge the said creuel murthour and bluide of the said John Drummond hes bundin—ilk ane of us—to tak treu and efald pairt togidder for perseuing of the said clan and committaris of the said murthour—quhairevir thai may be apprehendit; and gif thai sail happin to frequent or invade oney ane of us, we al sail repair and hald our forcis to the partie invadit; and we bind us, upon our honour and lautie, that nane of us sail appoint or agre witht the said clan, by the advyss of the rest of the subsryveris. In witnes quhairof, we have subsryvit this present witht our handis, at Mugdoge, Inispeffre, and Drummond, and Balloch, the xx, xxiiij, and thrattie dayis of Octobir, 1589, befoir thir witnes, Robert Grahame of Auchinclocht, William Drummond of Pitcarrnis.

" Drummond.
" Duncan Campbell, of Glenurquhay.
" J HONE, Earl of Montroiss.
" INCHEFFRAY."


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