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A History of Rannoch
EARLY FUGITIVES


The Christian saints continued to make their long and dangerous from Iona, over Drumalban and into Rannoch.  However, as a result we learn, that in the 8th century they had established churches and monasteries at Dunkeld.  At nearby Dull a flourishing centre of learning also grew up.  It continued to play a significant part in early education until 1412 when the university of St. Andrews as established.  It needed to bring some sort of light to these Dark Ages; for this was the time when the Norwegians and Danes were continually harrying the West, even making telling raids into Tayside.

The Islands early became Norse possessions and nearby Argyll was country bitterly fought over.  It was from this area that refuges poured into Rannoch to escape the cruelty of the Norse invaders and overlords.  For a hundred years or more men took refuge here.

One of these fugitives was called Gillebride.  He was the rightful Lord of the Isles but he was driven out and pursued into Rannoch.  Here he was hunted (in 1100) by the invaders.  I wonder what the people of Rannoch thought of these men dressed in their chain mail, their pointed helmets and carrying large axes…However they had to leave without him for he was hidden successfully on the hillside above Aulich and no one gave him away.  Even now there is a spring that bears his name, and the name Aulich commemorates this event.  It means ‘cave or hiding place’.

It was Gillebride’s son, Somerled, who was responsible for the beginning of the decline of Norse supremacy in the West.  He defeated them in 1155 and, although it was not until 1263 that the Norse were finally driven away, his action assured the supremacy of his descendants for generations to come.  They held rank as Kings of the Isles and Lords of Lorn.  It was from him that the great MacDonald and MacDougall Clans had their beginnings.

A brother to the second chief of the MacDougalls, John Dubh Mhor by name, had to flee to Rannoch because he had killed a man from a rival clan….the MacLeans.  He took refuge at Glenmore, a lonely glen on the south side of Schichallion.  Here where the Rannoch folk later had their sheilings he spent some time.  The cave here called Uamh Tom a’Mhor-fhuir but known by some as the Giant’s Cave, would provide him with immediate shelter but if it was as wet then and as difficult to crawl into as it is now he would be glad to leave it.  This cave is reputed to extend under Schichallion and emerge on the other side.  Perhaps he made this journey, because he is next heard of tackling a dragon that was terrorising Loch Tayside.  Perhaps if he had not destroyed it Tayside would have as many tourists as Loch Ness has now.  Although some would dispute the dragon story he undoubtedly did carry out some brave and worthy exploit because Alexander III granted a gift of Crown lands to him.  Not only this but he was chosen to take a prominent part in the Holy Wars with St. Louis of France in 1270.  As a result of his renown many of his kinsmen joined him in Loch Tayside where his descendants are still living.

It was at this time that the clans were beginning to take shape.  Earlier, the tribes of the Picts and Scots had their own district.  Various tribes formed into a province under a king…Righ, and the provinces came under the ‘capital’ of the whole kingdom over which ruled the Ard Righ…the High King.  There were seven provinces in the Celtic Kingdom whose ancient capital was said to be in Perthshire, probably Scone.  It was from these tribes that the clans developed.

No one can lay claim to Rannoch completely as its clan country for many clans have contributed to its history.  At the time with which we are dealing we do know that many had moved in from the West, most of whom were MacDougalls.  It is likely that because he knew he could expect friendship from the MacDougalls that William Wallace came to Rannoch.  However, before we examine that situation we have to look at affairs in the country generally.


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