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The Highlanders of Scotland
Part II -
Chapter III


The Gallgael – (continued)

Clan Donald.

THE clan Donald derive their origin from Donald II., son of Reginald. The share of his father’s possessions which fell to him appears to have been South Kintyre and Isla, but it is unquestionable that he held these possessions of his brother Roderic, as the head of the house. As the clan Donald were at this time under the sway of the Norwegians, but little is known of their history until the cession of the Isles in 1266. Donald is said by a Highland Sennachie to have gone to Rome for the purpose of obtaining remission for various atrocities of his former life, which he is reported to have obtained with little difficulty, and to have evinced his gratitude by granting lands to the monastery of Saddell, and other ecclesiastical establishments in Scotland. It was during the life of Angus Moir, his son and successor, that the expedition of Haco to the Western Isles took place, and although Angus joined him immediately on his arrival with his fleet, and assisted him during the whole war, yet, in consequence of the treaty which afterwards took place between the kings of Norway and Scotland, he does not appear to have suffered either in his territories or in his power. He appeared at the convention in 1284, when the maiden of Norway was declared heiress of the crown, when his support appears to have been purchased by a grant of Ardnamurchan, a part of the earldom of Garmoran; and also confirmed his father’s and grandfather’s grants to the abbey of Saddell, granting additional lands to them himself by not fewer than four charters. Angus left two sons, Alexander and Angus Og. Alexander acquired a considerable addition to his territories by marriage with one of the daughters and co-heiresses of Ewen de Ergadia, the last of the male descendants of Dugall, the son of Somerled; but he unfortunately joined John, the lord of Lorn, in his opposition to the accession of Robert the Bruce, and in consequence became a sharer in the ruin of that great chief. After the defeat of the lord of Lorn at Lochow, and the subsequent siege of Dunstaffnage, king Robert proceeded to crush Alexander of the Isles also. And for this purpose he crossed over the Isthmus of Tarbet and besieged Alexander in Castle Swen, his usual residence. The lord of the Isles was as little able to hold out against the power of the Bruce as the lord of Lorn had been, and he was accordingly obliged to surrender to the king, who immediately imprisoned him in Dundonald Castle, where he died. His whole possessions were forfeited and given to his brother Angus Og, who, fortunately for himself and for his clan, had adopted a different line of politics, having followed the party of the Bruce from the very beginning.

      After the disastrous defeat at Methven, and the subsequent skirmish of the lord of Lorn at Tyndrum, where the Bruce was obliged to fly, he was received by Angus in his castle of Dunaverty, and there protected until he was obliged to take refuge in the small island of Rachlin. From this period Angus attached himself to his party, and took a share in all his subsequent enterprises. He assisted in the attack upon Carrick, when “the Bruce wan his father’s hall,” and was also present at the battle of Bannockburn, where Bruce at length reaped the reward of all his former toils and dangers, on which occasion Angus with his clan seem to have formed the reserve.

                        “Ye ferd bataile ye noble king
                        Tuk till his awne governyng,
                        And had in till his company
                        Ye men of Carrik halely,
                        And off Arghile, and of Kentyre,
                        And off ye Isles, quharof wes syr
                        Angus of Isle,
and but all ya,
                        He of ye plane land had alsua
                        Off armyt men a mekyl rout,
                        His bataile stalwart wes and stout.” [Barbour.]

      As Angus had shared in Bruce’s dangers and adversity, so he now reaped the advantage of his success. The extensive territories of the Comyns, and their allies, the lords of Lorn, had fallen into his hands through their forfeiture, and he accordingly bestowed upon Angus the lordship of Lochaber, which had formerly belonged to the Comyns, together with the lands of Durrour and Glencoe, and the islands of Mull, Tiree, & c., which had formed part of the possessions of the Lorn family. Bruce, however, was quite aware that is thus increasing the already extensive possessions of the Isles’ family, he was raising up a powerful opponent to the crown; but the services of Angus in his utmost need rendered it impossible for him to withhold these grants, and believing himself secure of Angus’s attachment during his life, he endeavoured to neutralize the effects of such an addition to their power by building the castle of Tarbett in Kintyre, which he demanded permission to do as an equivalent for the grants of land he had made. Angus Og of the Isles died in the early part of the fourteenth century, leaving two sons, John, his successor, and John Og, ancestor of the Macdonalds of Glencoe.

      Although Angus had throughout his life been a steady friend to the crown, yet when, on his death, any influence, which personal attachment between the king and him might have occasioned had ceased, the causes which had formerly forced this clan into opposition to the crown, again operated to change the policy of the lords of the Isles, or rather to cause them to resume their former line of conduct. These natural causes of separation were heightened by a dispute between John and the Regent, with regard to some of the lands which had been granted by the Bruce; and John had not been long in possession of the power and dignities of his ancestors before he joined the party of Edward Baliol and the English king. In consequence of this, a formal treaty was concluded between Edward Baliol and John on the 12th of December, 1335, in which Baliol, “Quantum in se est,” yielded for ever to John and his heirs and assignees, together with the whole of his father’s possessions, all title to the lands and islands claimed by the Earl of Murray (the Regent), and also gave him the wardship of Lochaber until the majority of the heir of Atholl, at that time only three years old, by whose ancestors it had been forfeited on the accession of Robert Bruce. This indenture was confirmed by Edward III. on the 5th of October, 1336.

      The accession to Baliol’s party of so great a man as John of the Isles did not, however, prevent the recovery of Scotland, for the regents succeeded eventually in entirely freeing the country from English dominion, and were enabled in 1341 to send for David II. from France to commence his personal reign over his native kingdom, although the lord of the Isles himself was too powerful to suffer by that revolution. On the return of David II. to his country, he found it of the utmost importance to attach as many of the Scottish barons to his party as possible, and succeeded in concluding a treaty with John of the Isles, who now for the first time found himself not in opposition to the king. But a circumstance soon after occurred very much to increase John’s power, and to concentrate in his person nearly the whole of the possessions of his ancestor, Somerled. This circumstance was the slaughter of Ranald of the Isles by the earl of Ross at Perth in the year 1346, by which John of the Isles, who had married his sister Amy, became entitled to the succession, to which he immediately laid claim. although John was not at this time in opposition to David II., yet the government, notwithstanding the advantage it would derive from the support of so powerful an Highland chief as the Island lord, was well aware of the danger of thus allowing the extensive territories and great power of the Siol Cuinn, which had shaken the stability of the crown under Somerled, to become again united in the person of John, and it was determined to throw every obstacle in his way. John’s request was consequently refused, and the government seems to have taken advantage of the death of Amy as an excuse for refusing a title to their lands; and even to have asserted that the marriage upon which it was founded had been irregular, and could not therefore be recognized.

      The natural effect of this refusal was to throw John once more into opposition, and to regain for the party of Baliol one of its most powerful adherents, but the attention of the king of England having been soon after diverted from Scotland by the wars in France, and a peace having in consequence been entered into between England and Scotland, John’s opposition did not produce any consequences detrimental to the government.

      It was not long after this time that a very extraordinary change took place in the character and situation of the different factions in Scotland, which once more served to detach John of the Isles from the English interest, and to class him among the supporters of Scottish independence. Previously to the return of David II. from captivity in England in 1357, the established government and the principal barons of the kingdom had, with the exception of those periods when Edward Baliol had gained a temporary success, been invariably hostile to the English claims, while it was merely a faction of the nobility, who were in opposition to the court, that supported the cause of Baliol and of English supremacy. John, from the natural causes arising from his situation, and urged by the continued policy of the government being directed towards the reduction of his power and influence, was always forced into opposition to the administration for the time by which this policy was followed, and when the opposing faction consisted of the adherents of the English interest, the Island lord was naturally found among them, and was thus induced to enter into treaty with the king of England. On the return of David, however, the situation of parties became materially altered; the king of Scotland now ranked as Edward of England’s staunchest adherent, and secretly seconded all his endeavours to overturn the independence of Scotland, while the party which had throughout supported the throne of Scotland and the cause of independence were in consequence thrown into active opposition to the crown. The natural consequence of this change was that the lord of the Isles left the party to which he had so long adhered, as soon as it became identified with the royal faction, and was thus forced into connexion with those with whom he had been for so many years at enmity.

      The Steward of Scotland, who was at the head of this party, was of course desirous of strengthening himself by means of alliances with the most powerful barons of the country, and he therefore received the accession of so important a person with avidity, and cemented their union by procuring the marriage of the lord of the Isles with his own daughter. John now adhered steadfastly to the party of the steward, and took an active share in all its proceedings, along with the other barons by whom they were joined, but without any open manifestation of force, until the year 1366, when the country was in a state of irritation from the heavy burdens imposed upon the people in order to raise the ransom of their king, and when the jealousy of David towards the steward had at length broken out so far as to cause the former to throw his own nephew and the acknowledged successor to his throne into prison. The northern barons, who belonged to his party, broke out into open rebellion, and refused to pay their proportion of the general taxation, or attend the parliament, to which they were frequently summoned. Matters appear to have remained in this state, and the northern chiefs to have actually assumed independence for upwards of two years, until David had at last brought himself to apply to the steward as the only person capable of restoring peace to the country, and charged him to put down the rebellion.

      In consequence of this appear, the steward, who was unwilling to be considered as the disturber of the peace of the kingdom, and whose ends were better forwarded by steady opposition to the court party than by open rebellion, took every means in his power to reduce the insurgent noblemen to obedience; but although he succeeded in obtaining the submission of John of Lorn and Gillespie Campbell, and although the earls of Mar and Ross with other northern barons, whose object was gained by the restoration of the steward to freedom, voluntarily joined him in his endeavours, the lord of the Isles refused to submit, and secure in the distance, and in the inaccessible nature of his territories, set the royal power at defiance. But the state of affairs in France soon after requiring the undivided attention of the English king, he was obliged to come to terms with the Scots, and a peace having been concluded between the two countries on the most favourable terms for the latter, the Scottish government was left at liberty to turn its attention wholly towards reducing the Isles to obedience. In order to accomplish this, David II., well aware of the cause of the rebellion of the Isles, and of the danger of permitting matters to remain in their present position, at length determined, and that with a degree of energy which his character had given little reason to expect, in person to proceed against the rebels, and for this purpose commanded the attendance of the steward with the barons of the realm. But the steward, now perceiving that the continuance of the rebellion of the Isles would prove fatal to his party, by the great influence which he possessed over his son-in-law, succeeded in persuading him to meet the king at Inverness and to submit himself to his authority, and the result of this meeting was a treaty entered into between “Johannes de Yla, dominus insularum” on the one hand, and “David, Dei gratia rex Scotorum” on the other, in which John not only engaged to submit to the royal authority and to take his share of all public burdens, but also to put down all others who dared to raise themselves in opposition to the regal authority. For the fulfilment of this obligation the lord of the Isles not only gave his own oath, but offered the high steward, his father-in-law, as security, and delivered his lawful son Donald by the steward’s daughter, his grandson Angus by his eldest lawful son John, and a natural son also named Donald, into the hands of the king as hostages.

      By the accession of Robert Steward to the throne of Scotland, which took place shortly after this event, the lord of the Isles was once more brought into close connexion with the crown, and as John remained during the whole of this reign in a state of as great tranquillity as his father Angus had been during that of Robert Bruce, the policy of thus connecting these turbulent chiefs with the government by the ties of friendship and alliance, rather than that of attempting to reduce them to obedience by force and forfeiture, became very manifest. King Robert, no doubt, saw clearly enough the advantage of following the advice left by Robert Bruce for the guidance of his successors, not to allow the great territories and extensive influence of these Island lords ever again to be concentrated in the person of one individual; but the claims of John were too great to be overlooked, and accordingly Robert had been but one year on the throne, when John obtained from him a feudal title to all those lands which had formerly belonged to Ranald the son of Roderick, and which had so long been refused to him.

      In order, however, to neutralize in some degree the effect of thus investing one individual with a feudal title to such extensive territories, and believing himself secure of the attachment of John during his lifetime, king Robert determined, since he could not prevent the accumulation in one family of so much property, at least by bringing about its division among its different branches, to sow the seeds of future discord, and eventually perhaps of the ruin of the race. He found little difficulty if persuading John, in addition to the usual practice in that family of gavelling the lands among the numerous offspring, to render the children of the two marriages feudally independent of each other, a fatal measure, the consequences of which John did not apparently foresee; and accordingly, in the third year of his reign, king Robert confirmed a charter by John to Reginald, the second son of the first marriage, of the lands of Garmoran, which John had acquired by his marriage with Reginald’s mother, to be held of John’s heirs, that is to say of the descendants of the eldest son of the first marriage of whom one had been given as an hostage in 1369, and who would of course succeed to every part of John’s possessions which were not feudally destined to other quarters. Some years afterwards John resigned a great part of the western portion of his territories, consisting principally of the lands of Lochaber, Kintyre, and Knapdale, with the island of Colonsay, into the king’s hands, and received from him charters of these lands in favour of himself and his heirs by the marriage with the king’s daughter; thus rendering the children of the second marriage feudally independent of those of the first, and furnishing a subject for contention between these families which could not fail to lead to their ruin.

      After this period, we know little of the events of John’s life, and he appears to have died about the year 1386. During the rest of Robert the Second’s reign, and of the greater part of that of Robert III., the peace of the country does not appear to have been disturbed by any act of hostility from the Island chiefs, and consequently the history of the children of John is but little known; but when the dissension which took place between the principal barons of Scotland, in consequence of the marriage of the duke of Rothsay, and the consequent departure of the earl of March to the English court, caused the wars between the two countries once more to break out, and called forth the English invasion of Scotland, the intercourse between England and the Island chiefs appears to have been renewed, and the frequency of the safe conducts granted at this period by the king of England to the sons of John, shews that their relationship to the Scottish king was not sufficient to counteract the causes which naturally threw them into opposition. From the tenor of these documents, it does not appear that at this time there was any difference of rank or authority observed among the brothers. By the wise policy of Robert II. this great land had become completely divided for the time into two, who were in every respect independent of each other. Godfrey, the eldest surviving son of the first marriage, possessed the principal power on the mainland, as lord of Garmoran and Lochaber, which he transmitted to his son; and Donald, the eldest son of the second marriage, held a considerable extent of territory of the crown, which was now first known as the feudal lordship of the Isles, and which, though not superior to, was independent of the lordship of Garmoran and Lochaber. The rest of the brethren received the usual provision allotted to them by the law of gavel, and which was principally held by them as vassals of one or other of the two lords. But a circumstance soon after occurred which had the effect of raising one of the brothers to a station of power which he could not otherwise have attained, and of adding to the already too extensive possessions of the Macdonalds. This circumstance was the marriage of Donald, the eldest son of the second marriage of John, lord of the Isles, with Mary, sister of Alexander, earl of Ross. Alexander, earl of Ross, had an only daughter, Euphemia, by the daughter of the duke of Albany, whom he had married. Upon the death of Alexander, Euphemia became a nun, and committed the government of her earldom to the governor. Donald saw that if the governor was permitted in this manner to retain the actual possession of the earldom, although his right to the succession was undeniable, he would be unable to recover his inheritance from the grasp of so crafty and ambitious a nobleman. He accordingly proceeded to exert himself to obtain possession of the earldom, contending that Euphemia, by taking the veil, had become, in a legal point of view, dead; and that the earldom belonged to him in right of his wife, and accordingly he demanded to be put in possession of it. This demand was of course repelled by the governor, whose principal object appears to have been to prevent the accession of so extensive a district to the territories of the lord of the Isles, already too powerful for the security of the government, and whose conduct was more actuated by principles of expediency than of justice. Donald had no sooner received this unfavourable answer to his demand, than he determined to assert his claim by arms, since he could not obtain it from the justice of the government. And in consequence of this determination, he raised all the forces which he could command, to the amount of ten thousand men, with whom he suddenly invaded the earldom of Ross. From the inhabitants of Ross he appears to have met with no resistance, so that he speedily obtained possession of the district; but on his arrival at Dingwall, he was encountered by Angus Dow Mackay, at the head of a large body of men from Sutherland, and, after a fierce attack, the Mackays were completely routed, and their leader taken prisoner.

      Donald was now in complete possession of the earldom, but his subsequent proceedings shewed that the nominal object of his expedition was but a over to ulterior designs, for, leaving the district of Ross, he swept through Moray, and penetrated even into Aberdeenshire, at the head of his whole army. Here he was met at the village of Harlaw by the earl of Mar, at the head of an inferior army in point of numbers, but composed of Lowland gentlemen, who were better armed and disciplined than the Highland followers of Donald. It was on the 24th of July, 1411, that the celebrated battle of Harlow was fought, upon the issue of which seemed to depend the question of whether the Gaelic or Teutonic part of the population of Scotland were in future to have the supremacy.

      Of the battle the result was doubtful, as both parties claimed the victory; but in the case of the Highlanders, the absence of decided victory was equivalent to defeat in its effects, and Donald was in consequence obliged to retreat. The check which had been given to the Highland army was immediately followed up by the duke of Albany collecting additional forces, and marching in person to Dingwall. But Donald avoided hazarding another encounter, and returned with his forces to the Isles, where he remained all winter, while Albany rapidly made himself master of the earldom of Ross.

      In the ensuing summer the war was again renewed, and carried on with various success on both sides, until at length the Island king was obliged to come to terms with the governor, and a treaty was concluded at Polgilp, in Argyllshire, in which Donald agreed to give up his claim to the earldom of Ross, and to become a vassal of the Scottish crown.

      It has generally been supposed that the resignation of the earldom of Ross by Euphemia, the Nun, in favour of her grandfather, was the sole cause of this invasion; but this is impossible, for the instrument by which the earldom was resigned is dated in 1415, just four years after the battle, and it seems rather to have been an attempt on the part of Albany to give a colour of justice to the retention of the earldom, which he was enabled, by the result of the battle, to carry into effect. There is no doubt that a claim on the earldom was the ostensible cause of the invasion; but the readiness with which that claim was given up when his subsequent inroad upon the Lowlands was checked – and he might easily have retained possession of Ross, instead of retreating to the Isles; besides, the fact that in the year 1408 there was a treaty between Donald and the king of England, and that the war was no sooner at an end than a truce was concluded with England for six years – very clearly indicate that this invasion was but a part of a much more extensive and more important scheme for which the claim of the earldom served but as a pretext; and that upon the failure of the greater plan, that claim was readily resigned.

      During the rest of the regency of Albany, Donald did not again disturb the peace of the kingdom; and on the utter ruin of the Albany family, accomplished by the revenge of James I., Alexander, lord of the Isles, the son of Donald, quietly succeeded to the earldom of Ross. Unfortunately for himself, however, his succession to such extensive territories, and the acquisition of so much power, took place at a time when the individual who held the reins of government was one fully able, by his singular energy, decision of character, and personal bravery, to compete with his turbulent nobles, as well as to break down their independence and power. Towards this object James I. seems to have turned his attention at the very commencement of his reign, and, doubtful of his strength effectually to reduce the northern barons to obedience, he had recourse to stratagem. For this purpose he summoned these barons to attend a parliament to be held at Inverness, and proceeded there himself at the head of his principal nobles, and accompanied by a force which rendered resistance unavailing; and the great northern chiefs not thinking it proper to disobey the summons, were arrested as soon as they made their appearance, to the number of about forty chiefs, among whom was Alexander, earl of Ross and lord of the Isles, his mother the countess of Ross, and Alexander Mac Godfrey of Garmoran, who appeared as feudal lord of that district.

      Many of these victims of this act of treachery were forthwith executed, among whom was Alexander of Garmoran, whose whole possessions were in consequence forfeited to the crown, while the rest, together with the lord of the Isles, were detained in captivity. By the success of this expedient, the king concluded that he had effectually reduced the Highland chiefs to obedience, and accordingly, after a short captivity, he set Alexander of the Isles at liberty; but the prospect of submission was only apparent, for no sooner was the lord of the Isles free, than he flew to arms to obtain revenge for the injurious treatment he had experienced, and appeared soon after before Inverness with an arm of 10,000 men, and rased to the ground the town which had been the scene of his surprise.

      But James, from the great decision and activity of his character, was fully equal to cope with the Island lord, whose ancestors had been the terror of preceding governments; and accordingly he no sooner became aware of this invasion, than, with an energy for which his adversary was little prepared, he collected a feudal force, penetrated into Lochaber with the utmost rapidity, and overtook the Highland army before they had been able to reach the shelter of the Isles. So completely were the Highlanders surprised by this bold march, that the lord of the Isles found himself deserted before the battle by the clans Chattan and Cameron, who, doubtful of the issue of an encounter, and feeling no great cordiality for the cause of the earl of Ross, went over to the royal army. The lord of the Isles, however, did not shun the attack, but, as might be expected from the dispiriting effect of so great a desertion, the  result we s th e complete rout and dispersion of the Highland army; and so close did the pursuit of the Island lord at length become, that he found it impossible to conceal himself, and after several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a reconciliation with the king, he resolved to throw himself upon the royal mercy, and to descend to the most extraordinary piece of humiliation which is recorded in history. It was upon the occasion of a solemn festival held in the chapel of Holyrood that this proud chief, whose father and grandfather had entered into treaties and concluded peace as independent princes, appeared before the assembled Scottish court, divested of all his garment save his shirt and drawers alone, and holding a naked sword in his hand, knelt down at the feet of the monarch, and implored his clemency. In some degree his supplication was successful, for James granted him his life, but directed him to be instantly imprisoned in Tantallon Castle.

      James, however, had yet to learn that, from the peculiar nature of the system of clanship, the imprisonment of their chief did not in any way affect the strength of the clan, or render them more amendable to the royal authority. On the contrary, he was now to find that such a proceeding was more likely to incite them to revenge. And accordingly Alexander of the Isles had been only two years in captivity, when the inhabitants of the Isles once more broke out into open insurrection, and burst into Lokaber under the command of Donald Balloch, the son of his uncle Reginald, and chief of the clan Ranald. They there encountered an army which had been left in Lochaber for the purpose of overawing the Highlanders, under the command of the earls of Mar and Caithness, and after an obstinate conflict, the king’s troops were completely defeated, the earl of Caithness left dead upon the field, while the remainder were rescued with some difficulty by the earl of Mar. Donald Balloch, however, considered it hazardous to follow up his success, and having ravaged the neighbouring districts, he retired to the Isles, and subsequently to Ireland, to avoid the vengeance of so powerful an adversary as the king of Scotland.

      James now saw that the absence of the chief, so far from rendering the clan more disposed to become amenable to his will, rather roused them to acts of rebellion and revenge, and that it was better to have at the head of the clan, a chief who had become bound to him from acts of clemency, than to expose them to the influence of the other branches of the family, who were irritated by the indignity offered to the Island lord; he therefore proceeded in person to the north, for the purpose of quelling the remains of the rebellion: his expedition was attended with his usual success, by the submission of all the chiefs who had been engaged in it. Donald Balloch was, soon after this, betrayed, and his head sent to the king, upon which he at once restored the lord of the isles to liberty, granted him a free pardon for all the various acts of rebellion he had been guilty of, and also confirmed to him not only all his titles and possessions, but even granted him the lordship of Lochaber, which had been forfeited from his cousin Alexander, and given to the earl of Mar. The policy of this act was soon apparent, for although Alexander of the Isles was naturally thrown into opposition to the court, and entered into a strict league with the earls of Crawford and Douglas, who at that time headed the opposition, yet it does not appear that the peace of the country was again disturbed during his life. But on his death, the parties engaged in the league, which, although strictly preserved, had not hitherto led to any manifestations of actual insurrection, at length broke out into open rebellion, and the new lord of the Isles, who was as active an opposer of the royal party as his father had been, seized the royal castles of Inverness, Urquhart, and Ruthven, in Badenoch, and declared himself independent.

      In this state of open rebellion , John, lord of the Isles, was secretly supported by the earl of Douglas, and openly by the other barons who belonged to their party; but a circumstance soon after occurred, which, together with the murder of Douglas, and defeat of Crawford, by Huntly, not only reduced John, after having for several years maintained a species of independence, to submit to the king, and resign his lands into his hands, but moreover proved the cause of the subsequent ruin of the kingdom of the Isles, which had so long existed in a condition of partial independence. This circumstance was a rebellion in the Isles, against John, by his son Angus Og, and John was thus doomed to experience, in his own territories, the same opposition which he had so long offered to the king.

      With regards to the actual circumstances which gave rise to this extraordinary contest, there is considerable obscurity, but the causes are thus stated by an ancient Sennachie of the clan Donald: – “John succeeded his father, a meek, modest man, brought up at court in his younger years, and a scholar more fit to be a churchman, than to command so many irregular tribes of people. He endeavoured, however, still to keep them in their allegiance, by bestowing gifts on some, and promoting others with lands and possessions; by this he became prodigal, and very expensive. He had a natural son, begotten of Macduffie of Colonsay’s daughter, and Angus Og, his legitimate son, by the earl of Angus’s daughter. He gave the lands of Morvairn to Maclean, and many of his lands in the north to others, judging, by these means, to make them more faithful to h im than they were to his father. His son, Angus Og, being a bold, forward man, and high minded, observing that his father very much diminished his rents by his prodigality, thought to deprive him of all management and authority.” But, whatever was the cause of this dissension, it appears that Angus Og, who had been appointed by his father lieutenant general in all his possessions, and who had been the actual mover in all these insurrections, took advantage of his station to deprive his father of all authority whatever, and to become lord of the Isles, and Angus Og was no sooner in a situation of power than he determined to be revenged upon the earl of Atholl, for the hostility which he had invariably manifested against the lord of the Isles, and at the same time to declare himself independent; for this purpose, having collected a numerous army in the Isles, he suddenly appeared before the castle of Inverness, and having been admitted by the governor, who believed him faithful, he immediately proclaimed himself king of the Hebrides. He then invaded the district of Atholl, and arriving unexpectedly at Blair, he stormed the castle, seized the earl and countess of Atholl, and carried them prisoners to Isla, where he confined them. But the workings of superstition effected that which it would have been found perhaps difficult by any other means to obtain, for a storm of thunder and lightning having sunk the greater part of his galleys on his return to the Isles with the rich booty he had obtained, it was ascribed to the wrath of heaven, in consequence of his having plundered and attempted to burn the chapel of St. Bridget, in Atholl; and in order therefore to expiate the crime for which he now began to feel remorse, he set the earl and countess at liberty, and performed penance on the scene of his sacrilege.

      Angus Og next induced his father to enter into a treaty with the king of England and the earl of Douglas, which had for its object no less than the entire subjugation of Scotland, and its partition among the contracting parties. This remarkable treaty is dated at London, on the 13th of February, 1462, and by it the lord of the Isles agreed, upon payment of a stipulated sum of money to himself, his son, and his ally, Donald Balloch of Isla, to become the sworn vassal for ever of England, and that along with the whole body of his subjects, and to assist him in the wars in Ireland as well as elsewhere. But in addition to this, it was provided that in the event of the entire subjugation of Scotland by the earls of Ross and Douglas, the whole of the kingdom to the north of the Scottish Sea, or Firth of Forth, was to be divided equally between Douglas, the lord of the Isles, and Donald Balloch, while Douglas was to be restored to the possession of those estates between the Scottish Sea and the borders of England, from which he was now excluded. No step, however, appears to have been taken upon this extraordinary treaty, until the year 1473, at which period the lord of the Isles appears to have been in open rebellion, and to have continued so for several years. But Angus Og does not appear to have been supported in this insurrection by the other parties who had joined in the league with him, which occasioned his reduction to become a matter of less difficulty to the government.

      A parliament was held at Edinburgh in the year 1475, in which this fierce and insurgent noble was declared a traitor, and his estates confiscated to the crown; and, in order to carry this forfeiture into effect, the earls of Crawford and Atholl were directed to proceed against him with a large force. The extent of these preparations, which comprehended a formidable fleet, as well as a land army, mow convinced the earl of Ross that the proceedings of his rebellious son, which had already deprived him of all authority, were likely also to cause the utter ruin and destruction of his race, and he determined to make one effort to regain his station, and to preserve the possessions of his ancestors. The only means now left for him to effect this was, to obtain the assistance of the government, a matter by no means easy, in consequence of the rebellion into which he had been dragged by his son, and which had resulted in his forfeiture. He was therefore obliged to submit to the necessary sacrifice, and by means of a grant of lands in Knapdale, he obtained the powerful influence of the earl of Argyll, and in consequence, upon resigning his whole possessions into the hands of the crown, he received a remission for his past offences, and was reinstated in the royal favour, and in his former possessions, with the exception of the earldom of Ross, lands of Knapdale and Kintyre, and offices of sheriff of Inverness and Nairne, which were retained by the crown, while he himself was created a peer of parliament by the title of lord of the Isles.

      Soon after this, the earl of Atholl was despatched to the north, for the purpose of reinstating the earl of Ross in his possessions; and on entering the earldom, he was joined by the Mackenzies, Mackays, Frasers, Rosses, and others, but being met by Angus Og, who had hastened there at the head of the clan, at a place called Lagebread, the earl of Atholl was defeated with great slaughter, and with some difficulty made his escape. The earls of Crawford and Huntly were then sent, the one by sea, the other by land; but both expeditions were attended with equally bad success. The third expedition consisted of Argyll and Atholl, who were accompanied by the lord of the Isles, and on this occasion Argyll found means to persuade several of the families of the Isles to join their party. An interview then took place between the contending parties, which did not produce any result, and the two earls, who do not appear to have had any great cordiality towards the object of their expedition, returned. John, however, proceeded onwards through the Sound of Mull, accompanied by the Macleans, Macleods, Macneils, and others, and encountered Angus Og in a bay on the south side of the promontory of Ardnamurchan. A naval engagement immediately took place between the father and son and their respective followers, which ended in the complete overthrow of the unfortunate father, and the dispersion of his fleet. By this victory, which will long be remembered in the traditions of the country as the “Battle of the Bloody Bay,” Angus became completely established in the possession of the power and extensive territories of his clan. John appears not long after this to have become reconciled to his son, who easily regained the entire ascendancy over him which he had formerly possessed; and, accordingly, it was but five years after the date of his submission that we once more find him throwing off his allegiance to the throne, and engaging in a treaty with Edward IV., king of England, who was them preparing to invade Scotland; and from this period, during the remainder of the reign of James III., the Isles appear to have continued in a state of open resistance to the authority of the government. But the accession of James IV. in 1494, made a material change in this respect, for that energetic monarch, who in many point of view bore a strong resemblance to his ancestor the first James, took the most decided and severe measures for reducing the country to a state of peace, while the recent death of Angus Og left John in no condition to defend himself from the consequences of the rebellion into which he had been led. In these measures James was accordingly successful; it was in the sixth year of his reign that he turned his attention particularly to the state of the Highlands and Isles; and during that year, he visited them personally three times, besides having twice, in the preceding year, penetrated into the Highlands as far as Dunstaffnage and Mingarry, in Ardnamurchan, and reduced most of the Highland chiefs to obedience.

      The lord of the Isles, nevertheless, still refused to submit, and defied the royal authority. James found himself unable successfully to attack him in his strongholds, but on his return to Edinburgh, he assembled a parliament, in which the title and possessions of the lord of the Isles were declared forfeited to the crown.

      Not long after this, John of the Isles appears to have died; and as his grandson, Donald Du, was still a minor, and the other branches of the family were engaged in various dissensions among each other, there was no one at once to resume the government of the clan, and to offer effectual resistance to the king. The forfeiture and death of John had the effect of completely disorganizing the clan; while all those clans which had been dependent upon the lords of the Isles, although not connected by descent, having attained to considerable power under their protection, seized this opportunity, with one accord, of declaring themselves independent of the Macdonalds, and set about procuring from the king feudal titles to their respective lands.

      There was no longer, therefore, any prospect of the Macdonalds again obtaining the almost royal state which they had so long enjoyed, and from this period may accordingly be dated the fall of that once powerful clan; although, before the Macdonalds finally resigned the contest, they appear to have made three several attempts to place various of their branches at the head of the whole tribe; but these attempts proved equally unsuccessful, partly from the prompt measures adopted by government, but principally from the effects of their own internal dissensions, as well as from the great opposition they received from those clans formerly dependent on the Macdonalds, but whose interest it had now become to prevent the union of the tribe under one head as formerly. The first of these attempts took place shortly after the death of John of the Isles, and was made in favour of Donald Du, his grandson by his son, Angus Og. The principal parties engaged in this attempt were Alaster Macdonald, of Lochalsh, the son of Celestin, who was a brother of John, lord of the Isles, Torquil Macleod of Lewis, and Lauchlan Maclane of Doward. To Maclane was intrusted the person of Donald Du, and the task of keeping possession of the Isles, while Alaster proceeded with the greater part of the clan to Ross, with a view to recover possession of that earldom. Here he was not prepared to meet with opposition, but Mackenzie, being well aware that the loss of his newly acquired independence would follow Alaster’s success, and although far inferior in strength, resolved to make a desperate effort, in which he succeeded; for, having surprised the Macdonalds in the night time, at the village of Blairnapark, he dispersed them with great slaughter. Alaster upon this returned to the Isles, but the dissension among the islanders soon put a finishing stroke to the defeat of this first attempt. The principal families of the Isles who were opposed to the succession of Donald Du, were those of Macian of Ardnamurchan, and Macconnel of Kintyre, who were apprehensive that their own houses would suffer by the success of the rebellion. They had not, however, dared to oppose it, when fortune at first seemed to favour the enterprise; but when, after Alaster’s defeat in Ross, he returned to the Isles, to raise men, they followed his vessel to Oransay, where they overtook him, and put him to death. Maclane with his party had, in the meantime, though at first more successful, been reduced to submission by the efforts of the government. Having found little difficulty in making himself master of the Isles, he had, with the other Island chiefs, burst into Badenoch, at the head of a considerable force, wasting the country in every direction; and even set fire to the town of Inverness. An army, at the head of which were the earls of Argyll, Huntly, Crawford, and Marshall, with Lord Lovat, and other barons was led against him, but, with the usual Highland policy, he had retreated to the Isles with his plunder. James then found it necessary to dispatch a fleet under the command of Sir Andrew Wood, the most celebrated naval commander of his day, to the Isles, to co-operate with the land army, and the result of this expedition shewed that the Island chiefs had hitherto owed their immunity to the inefficient state of the Scottish navy; and that the extraordinary advance which had been made in that department now laid them at the mercy of the government. Kerneburg Castle, the last resort of the insurgents, was reduced with the utmost facility. The Maclanes and Macleods submitted, and Donald Du was taken captive and imprisoned in the castle of Inch Connel, where he was destined to remain for forty years.

      At no period, however, did the Highlanders exhibit more of the extraordinary perseverance with which they support a falling cause; for although the person whom they regarded as the legitimate heir of the Isles was in hopeless captivity, they made an attempt to place his nearest relation and presumptive heir in possession of the Isles; and accordingly it was not many years after the failure of their former insurrection, that Donald Galda, the son of that Alaster who had been the principal mover in the former rebellion, having just attained the age of majority, raised another insurrection in the Isles, in order to assert what he considered his just claim to the lordship of the Isles; but this attempt, although supported by a greater proportion of the chiefs, proved equally unsuccessful with the last. It appears that Donald Galda had no sooner declared his intention of attempting to regain the Isles, than he was joined by the powerful clan of the Macleods. He also reconciled himself with the Macconnells of Kintyre, and with this great accession of power he succeeded in obtaining possession of the Isles, and was immediately declared lord of the Isles; but he did not long enjoy his dignity, as he died a few weeks afterwards, and the only event of his short reign was his revenging his father’s death upon the Macians of Ardnamurchan, by the slaughter of their chief and his son.


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