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Conflicts of the Clans

Troubles in the West Isles: Clan Donald and the Siol Tormoit in 1601

Donald Gorm Macdonald of the Sleat had married Sir Rory Macleod of the Harris's sister, and for some displeasure or jealousy conceived against her, he did repudiate her; whereupon Sir Rory Macleod sent a message to Donald Gorm, desiring him to take home his sister. Donald Gorm not only refused to obey his request, but also determined divorcement against her; which when he had obtained, he married Kenneth Mackenzie, Laird of Kintail's sister. Sir Rory Macleod took this disgrace (as he thought it) so highly, that, assembling his countrymen and followers without delay, he invaded, with fire and sword, a part of Donald Gorm's lands in the Isle of Skye, which lands Sir Rory claimed to appertain to himself. Donald Gorm, impatient of this injury, convened his forces, and went into the Harris, which he wasted and spoiled, carried away their store and bestial, and killed some of the inhabitants. This again did so stir up Rory Macleod and his kin, the Siol Tormoit, that they took a journey into the Isle of Uist (which appertaineth to Donald Gorm), and landing there, Sir Rory sent his cousin, Donald Glas Macleod, with some 40 men, to spoil the island, and to take a prey of goods out of the precinct of Kiltrynaid, where the people had put all their goods to be preserved as a sanctuary, being a church. John Macian-Macjames (a kinsman of Donald Gorm's) being desired by him to stay in the island, accompanied with 20 others, rencountered with Donald Glas Macleod. This small company of the Clan Donald behaved themselves so valiantly, that, after a sharp skirmish, they killed Donald Glas Macleod, with the most part of his company, and so rescued the goods. Sir Rory, seeing the bad success of his kinsmen, retired home for that time.

Thus both parties were bent headlong against others with a spirit full of revenge and fury, and so continued mutually infesting one another with spoils and cruel slaughters, to the utter ruin and desolation of both their countries, until the inhabitants were forces to eat horses, dogs, cats and other filthy beasts. In end, Donald Gorm assembled his whole forces the year of God, 1601, to try the event of battle, and came to invade Sir Rory's lands, thinking there to draw his enemies to fight. Sir Rory Macleod was then in Argyle, craving aid and advice from the Earl of Argyll against the Clan Donald. Alexander Macleod (Sir Rory's brother) resolves to fight with Donald Gorm, though his brother was absent; so, assembling all the inhabitants of his brother's lands, with the whole race of the Siol Tormoit, and some of the Siol Torquil, out of the Lewis, he encamped beside a hill called Ben-a-Chuilinn, in the Isle of Skye, with a resolution to fight against Donald Gorm and the Clan Donald the next morning, which were no sooner come but there ensued a cruel and terrible skirmish, which lasted the most part of the day, both contending for the victory with great obstinacy. The Clan Donald, in the end, overthrew their enemies, hurt Alexander Macleod, and took him prisoner, with Neil MacAlister Roy, and 30 others of the chiefest men among the Siol Tormoit and Tormot MacTormoit, with many others. After this skirmish there followed a reconciliation betwixt them, by the mediation of old Angus Macdonald of Kintyre, the Laird of Coll, and others. Then Donald Gorm delivered unto Sir Rory Macleod all the prisoners taken at Ben-a-Chuilinn together with his brother, Alexander Macleod; since which time they have continued in peace and quietness.


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