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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 20


THE general commission of 1589 was to endure for the space of three years; but as the commissioners, who had not all the same interest in the extinction of the Clan Gregor as Glenorchy, exhibited apparent backwardness in the matter, a particular commission was granted to Sir Duncan, July, 1591, in which the clan as a whole are described as rebels, and at the horn for diverse horrible offences. Fire and sword were denounced against the harbourers of the clan; power was given to convocate the lieges of Breadalbane, and the neighbouring districts, to follow up the pursuit; and the surrounding noblemen and barons were commanded, under heavy penalties, to aid Sir Duncan. It had been now twice severely experienced, that the expedient of making them foreswear and up-give their chief by bonds, completely failed to gain the fidelity of the M'Gregors, and to make them true vassals of the Campbells. In this commission, therefore, the system was condemned by ' the supreme authority. The bonds of maintenance subsisting between Sir Duncan and the principals of the clan were cancelled, and all such engagements forbidden for the future. With such ample powers, Glenorchy was yet far from being master of Clan Alpin's fate. He, and his truculent cousin, the Laird of Lawers, chased them, it is true, from Breadalbane, surprised and slew some, and made others prisoners; but the great body escaped into districts, where, notwithstanding the royal authority, he did not care to follow them. The Laird of Glenlyon, moved both by the claims of recent relationship and hereditary fosterage, openly set at nought the mandates and defied the vengeance of Glenorchy, nay, divorced from bed and board the sister of Lawers, his second wife, because, as formerly mentioned, she madly schemed to betray a company of M'Gregors for whom her husband had prepared a hospitable feast. Menzies connived at if he did not aid the flight of the fugitives to Rannoch. Argyle also, who found the clan very useful in prosecuting, with safety to himself, bloody feuds against his enemies, did not wish such hearty success to his kinsmen, Glenorchy, as to shut up absolutely the passes to the West. Sir Duncan, therefore, relinquished for a time the scheme of extermination, and, within a year after his commission was issued, obtained leave from the king to enter into new bonds of manrent and forgiveness with the rebels. Failing thus in the bolder course, Sir Duncan, for the first time, humbled himself to propitiate the M'Gregors, by surrendering a portion of their escheats. A family of M'Gregors derived from the house of Roro, known by the-name of M'Quhewin or M'Queens, settled in Fortingall before 1498. In course of time, they came into possession of the lands of Duneaves. As already noticed, the representative of this family—Donald Oig M'Quhewin, associate of the grandson of Duncan Ladasoch—was beheaded at Kenmore by Colin of Glenorchy, 1574. His lands fell into the hands of Colin and his successors by escheat. About 1594, these lands were restored by Sir Duncan to the nephew of Donald Oig; for, on the 8th August of that year, we find "Patrik M'Queine, minister of God's word at Rothesay, ratines all former bonds of manrent granted by Patrik Oig M'Queine his father, Donald Oig his father's brother, and others their friends and forebears, to Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenurchay, knight, and his predecessors, and that because he had sufficient proof of Sir Duncan's goodwill, especially in giving him possession of the lands of Easter Tenaif (Duneaves), which he could not enjoy without the assistance of Sir Duncan; and obliges himself and his heirs to give to Sir Duncan hosting, hunting, and all other due service, performed by his predecessors out of the lands of Easter and Wester Tenaif, Auchattr, and other lands possessed by him; to give Sir Duncan calp and bairn's part of gear, and not to dispose of said lands without Sir Duncan's consent, else such deed to be ipso facto null and void."

Patrik, in the course of six years, was deprived of the lands thus restored. Sir Duncan, however, did not find it so cheap or pleasant to keep false reckoning with the minister of Rothesay, and his brother-complainer, the Baron of "Curquhyn," as with the more warlike and less astute principals of the clan. A memoratidum to the following effect appears in the Black Book:—

"The said Sir Duncan vves wardit in the Castell of Edinbruch in moneth of Junii, in the zeir of God 1601, throch the occasioun of cer-tane fals leisand forged inventis of ane Donald Monteith, alias Barroun Curquhyn, and ane uther callit Patrik McOuene, ane deboysched and depryved minister, quhilks fals and forged inventiounis and calum-neis alledgit, nochwithstanding they wer never qualefeit nor provin, zit in respect of the pooir and gredie courteouris for the tyme, the said Sir Duncan was detenit in warde till he payit to the king his courteouris fourtie thousand markis."

Between 1593 and 1600, several schemes were proposed for training and civilizing the clan without going to extremity. In 1596, Allaster Roy appeared before the King and Council at Dunfermline, took the oath of allegiance to be his Majesty's "house-hald" man, and bound himself for the good behaviour of his clan. On this, and several other occasions, the chief exhibited a sincere desire to become a quiet and obedient subject; but the incessant encroaching by the landlords of the M'Gregors upon rights which his foolish followers thought no feudal charters could abrogate, and the lawlessness in which a century of persecution had hardened them, precipitated him into courses from which there was no extrication. These measures failing, Argyle was appointed, with the most ample powers, his Majesty's Lieutenant and Justice in the whole bounds inhabited by the clan. The strangest thing in the transaction is, that James bound his royal hands, by a clause in the commission, promising he would not hear the suits of, or grant favour or pardon to the M'Gregors or any one of them, without the concurrence of the Earl. The fount of royal mercy being thus shut up, the clan fell entirely under the management of Argyle, who, if he did not persecute them according to the tenor of his commission, did what was ultimately more fatal—use them as the tools of revengeful policy, and then betray them. The Battle of Glenfruin, in 1603, though, as formerly noticed, partly brought about by an affront offered to the M'Gregors, was in no slight way fought at the instigation of the King's Lieutenant. In this conflict fell John Dubh, the brother of the chief.

The undisguised abhorrence of James VI. to bloodshed and weapons of war is described by all contemporaries. On more than one occasion of extreme emergency he did show sparks of hereditary courage and resolution ; but usually his constitutional timidity very poorly compensated for the pacific character he affected. After the conflict of Glenfruin, the enemies of the Clan Gregor skilfully used the weakness of the monarch to obtain a series of enactments disgraceful to the statute-book of Scotland. Eleven score widows of the Colquhouns appeared before James at Stirling, arrayed in mourning, riding on white palfreys, and each bearing on a spear the bloody shirt of her husband. An Act of Privy-Council, dated 3rd April, 1603, proscribes the name of the clan, and denounces death to any calling himself Gregor or M'Gregor. Another Act of Council, dated 24th June, 1613, forbids, on pain of death, those formerly called M'Gregors to assemble together in greater numbers than four. An Act of Parliament, 1617, chap. 26, continued these laws, and extended them to the rising generation, because then numbers of the children of those who had fallen by the persecution were coming of age, and threatened, if permitted to assume the dreadful patronymic, to make the clan as formidable as ever.

Argyle, the first to tempt the poor chief to villainy, was also the first to betray him. By agreement with Argyle, the Laird of Ardkinglas, on the 2nd October, 1603, having invited M'Gregor to a banquet in his house, which was built on an island of Loch Fyne, then and there made him prisoner, and put him into a boat with five men to guard him, besides the rowers, to be sent to the Earl. M'Gregor, when half-across, got his hands loosed, struck the one next to him overboard, leaped after him into the water, and escaped by swimming. Much to his honour, Allaster of Glenstrae was more solicitous about the peace and security of his clan than his personal safety. Knowing well the misrepresentations by which James had been led to sanction the severe measures against them, he gave himself up to Argyle upon condition of his allowing him to pass into England to lay his case before the King, and to give hostages for the peaceable behaviour of the M'Gregors. No sooner, however, had he reached Berwick, than he was arrested by the Earl, brought back to Edinburgh, condemned, and put to death, together with the hostages, although, as Calder-wood observes, "reputed honest for their own pairts." The manner in which Argyle paltered with truth, keeping the word of promise to the ear and breaking it to the hope, shows that he had everything to fear from an interview between M'Gregor and the sovereign, and corroborates the disagreeable truth of the

Laird of Makgregour's Declaration,"
(Producit the time of conviction).

"I Allaster M'Gregour of Glenstrae, confesse heir, before God, that I have been persuadit, movit, and intysit, as I am now presentlie accusit and troublit for : olse, gif I had usit counsall or command of the man that has intysit me, I wad have done and committit sundrie heich Murthouris mair; ffor trewlie, sen I was first his Majesteis man, I culd never be at ane eise, by my Lord of Argyll's falshete and inven-tiones ; for he causit M'Claine and Clanchamrowne commett herschip and slauchter in my roum of Rennoche, the quhilk causit my pure men therefter to bege and steill; also therefter, he moweit my brother and some of my freindis to commit baith herschip and slauchter upon the Laird of Luss : Alsua, he persuadit myselfe, with message, to weir aganis the Laird of Boquhanene, quhilk I did refuise, for the quhilk I was contenowalie bostit that he sould be my unfreind; and quhen I did refuise his desire on that point, then he intysit me with uther messengeris, as be the Laird of M'Knachtane and utheris of my freindis, to weir and truble the Laird of Luss, quhilk I behuffit to do for his fals boutgaittis. Then, quhen he saw I was at ane strait, he cawsit me trow he was my guid friend ; but I did persave he was slaw therin. Then I made my moyan to pleis his Majestie and Lords of Counsall, baith of service and obedience, to puneische faultouris and to saif innosent men; and quhen Argyll was made foresein thereof, he intysit me to stay and start fra they conditiouns, causing me to understand that I was dissavit, bot with fair wordis; to put me in ane snair, that he mychtgett thelandis of Kintyre in feyell fra his Majestie, begane to put at me and my kin, the quhilk Argyll inventit maist schamfullie, and persuadit the Laird of Ardkinlaiss to dissave me, quha was the man I did maist trest into; but God did relief me in the mean tyme to libertie maist narrowlie. Nevertheless, Argyll maid the open brutt, that Ardkinlaiss did all that falsheid by his knowledge, quhilk he did intyse me with oft and sundrie messages, that he wald mak my peace and saif my lyfe and landis, only to puneiss certane faultouris of my kin, and my innosent freindis to renounce thair sir-name, and to leif peaseablie. Upone the quhilk conditiounis he was sworne be ane ayth to his freindis, and they sworne to me, and als Ihaifhis warrand and handwrytt thereupone. The quhilk promeis, gif they be honestlie keepit, I let God be Judge ! And at oure meeting, in our awin chalmer, he was sworne to be in witness of his awin friend. Attour, I confess before God, that he did all his craftie diligence to intyse me to slay and destroy the Laird of Ardinkaipull, Mackally, for ony ganes, kyndness, or friendship that mycht he do or gif me ; the quhilk I did refuis, in respect of my faithfull promeis made to Mackallay of before. Also, he did all the diligence he culd to move me to slay the Laird of Ardkinglaiss in lyk manner; but I never grantit thereto, thro the quhilk he did envy me gretumly. And t now, seing God and man seis it is greediness of wardlie gier quhilk causis him to putt at me and my kin, and not the weill of the realme, nor to pacifie the saymn, nor to his Majestie's honour, bot to putt down innosent men, to cause pure bairnes and infanttes beg, and pure wemen to perisch for hunger, quhen they are heriet of their geir, the quhilk I pray God that thair faultis lycht not upon his Majestie heirefter, nor upone his successione. Quherfor I wald beseek God that his Majestie knew the verity, that at this hour I wald be content to tak banishment, with all my kin that was at the Laird of Lussis slauchter, and all utheris of thame that ony fault can be laid to their charge. And his Majestie, of his mercie, to let pure innosent men and young baiinies pass to libertie, and learn to leif as innosent men : The quhilk I wald fulfill bot ony kynd of faill, quhilk wald be mair to the will of God and his Majestie's honour nor the greidie crewall form that is devysit, only for love of geir, having nather respect to God nor honesty."

What a fearful echo of the good old times! The face of affairs had been gradually changing since the marriage of Malcolm Ceannmore with Margaret of England. Custom and usage had been displaced by positive laws; the voice of the monarch and national council rose superior to the separate and opposing clamours of distinctive straths and glens; and the Regiam and its cognate regulations at length received the solidity of things real, and no longer remained what they were centuries after being ushered into the world, the uncertain prophecies of things yet to be. Clanship retired from the public stage, surrendered to antagonistic principles the theoretical connection between the subject and the king, and limited its operations to the relation of baron and follower, scorning still to acknowledge the latter as the vassal of the former. The progressive change was effected without danger where the ancient families retained their old possessions, where the chief of the tribe could still be a chief to those of his surname, and, without a conflict of hostile elements, be a feudal baron in relation to the monarch and his laws. The clans who lost their lands were alone those who stuck to the old traditions, the ancient free institutions of the forest, with a pertinacity which rendered it necessary for feudalism either to destroy or be destroyed. An Act of Parliament, passed 1587, attempted, by stringent regulations, to crush the last efforts of clanship, by declaring thefts committed by landed men {creachs) to be treason, and punishable by death ; by ordering the landlords of persons acknowledging another chief to refuse them all help, and to remove them from their bounds, or give caution for them—which they would be unwilling to grant for men obeying the behests of another; and, moreover, by ordaining that the captains, chiefs and chieftains of clans, both Border and Highland, be noted in a roll, and obliged, under pain of fire and sword, to surrender to the King and Council certain pledges or hostages, liable to suffer death if redress of injuries were not made by the persons for whom they lay. A pendant to this Act of some interest, as showing the weakened state of the clan system in 1587, is, "The Roll of the Clannes that hes Captaines and Chieftaines, quhom on they depende, oftimes against the willes of their Landes-Lordes, alsweill on the Bordoures as Hielandes; and of sum special persons of Braunches of the saidis Clannes." Seventeen surnames on the Borders are marked down in the black list, and the following from the "Hielandes & lies" bear them company—viz., "Buchannanes; Makfarlanes of the Arroquhair; Mak-knabes; Grahames of Menteith; Stewarts of Balquhidder; Clanne-Gregore; Clan Lauren; Campbells of Lochinel; Campbells of Inneran; Clan-dowall of Lome; Stewartes of Lome or of Appin; Clan-Mackeane Awright; Stewartes of Athoil, and partes adjacent; Menzies in Athoil and Apnadull; Clane-mak-Thomas in Glensche; Fergussones; Spaldinges; Makintosches in Athoil; Clan-Chamron; Clan-Rannald in Loch-Aber; Clan-Rannald of Knoydart, Moydart, and Glengarry; Clan-Lewid of the Lewis; Clan-Lewid of Harrichs; Clan-Neill; Clan-Kinnon; Clan-Leane; Clan-Chattane; Grantes; Frasers; Clan-Keinzie; Clan-Avercis; Munroes; Murrayes in Sutherland." The list contains nearly the whole purely Celtic clans. The aim of the Act was not more the putting down of spoliation than of bringing the whole of Scotland under uniform laws, abolishing the affinity-tie, and making the territorial arrangement supreme. Ihe Government was so intent upon not allowing a door of escape from these stringent enactments, that in the same Parliament (1587) a supplementary Act was passed, ordering Highlanders and Borderers to be removed from the "In-land quhair they ar planted, and presently dwellis or haunts, to the parts quhair they were borne ; except their Land-lordes, quhair they presently dwell, will become soverty for them, to make them answerable to the Law as the Lowland and obedient men, under the pains conteined in the Acts of Parliament." With most of the tribes above specified, the external obedience required by the Act was not so difficult to give. As possessors of land, and bailies on their own property, the chiefs easily assumed towards the King the feudal relation insisted upon; while at home, and in presence of their surname, the Celtic customs remained paramount. The M'Gregors could not give obedience: they had already been deprived of their land possessions, and they could not be feudalised without surrendering their clan existence, since territory, the proper base of the feudal system, remained no longer with their chief.

The King, working through the organization of feudalism, was in effect aiming at consolidating the central or kingly authority into an absolute despotism. But in the meantime a contrary element, more menacing to the hopes of autocrats than the affinity-tie of clanship in its most vigorous days, operated among men. When a child in the cradle, the Reformation had hailed James with the titles of sovereignty, and placed a crown upon his baby brow;. and yet in struggling with that power he spent his whole life in vain. Highland clanship was proscribed and hunted, and contemporaneously the Lowlands were leagued into one large clan against the monarch and his policy, by a principle derived from the deepest springs of human feeling. In the days of Charles the storm burst; and the maxims of kingcraft, which James had so strenuously laboured to establish, were contemptuously tossed to the winds. Is it not strange, that the house of Stuart, reduced to beggary and want, and their maxims of government become a political myth, did not find in the circle of the clans so virulently attacked the most envenomed of their foes, and the firmest allies of the large rebellious clan of religion? Look at the preceding list, and compare it with those following Montrose, Dundee, Mar, and "Bonnie Prince Charlie;" and say, are they not the same? Clanship was not to be put down by proscription and persecution; but in the day of trial it freely bled for its persecutors, and when the star of Stuart finally waned, it cheerfully surrendered life in their service amidst the horrors of Culloden! It is a small specimen of that ever-recurring mystery in the political life of our race—the plans of man crushed by the long-sweeping operation of providential laws. The panoramic mutability, and the perpetual culminating and falling of antagonistic principles, are apt to induce the momentary conviction that the foundation of private morals alone is immutable, and that in public affairs expediency, the tame bending to the pressure of emergencies as they arise, best subserve the good of the creature, and best harmonize with the laws of the Creator. But it is the nearness of objects which gives them a perplexing magnitude, and blinds us to their relative size and position. The farther we go down the historical gallery, the more do we perceive purpose and order in the vista of the past, the more are we obliged to admire the gifts of mercy and beneficence to the whole race, wrung by the providence of heaven from the efforts of men, though the intentions of the immediate agents were hopelessly baffled.


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