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Conflicts of the Clans

The Conflict of Druimnacour

The year of God 1427, Thomas Mackay (otherwise Macneil), possessor of the lands of Creich, Spanzedell, and Polrossie, in Sutherland, had perceived some displeasure against the laird of Freswick, called Mowat, whom Thomas Macneil did eagerly pursue, and killed him near the town of Tain, in Ross, within the Chapel of St. Duffus, and burnt also that chapel unto which this Mowat had retired himself as to a sanctuary.

The King hearing of this cruel fact, he causes to proclaim and denounce Thomas Macneil rebel, and promised his land to any that would apprehend him. Angus Murray (the son of Alexander Murray of Cubin, above-mentioned), understanding the King's proclamation, had secret conference with Morgan and Neil Mackay, brethern to this Thomas. Angus offered unto them, if they would assist him to apprehend their brother, that he would give them his own two daughters in marriage, and also assist them to get the peaceful possession of Strathnaver, which they did claim as due to them, and (as he thought) they might easily obtain the same, with little or no resistance at all, seeing that Neil Wasse Mackay (the son of Angus Dow) lay prisoner in the Bass, and Angus Dow himself was unable (by reason of the weakness of his body at that time) to withstand them.

Morgan Mackay and Neil Mackay do condescend and yield to the bargain; and presently, thereupon, they did apprehend their brother, Thomas, at Spanzedell, in Sutherland, and delivered him to Angus Murray, who presented him to the King, at whose command Thomas Macneil was executed at Inverness; and the lands of Polrossie and Spanzedell, which he did possess, were given to Angus Murray for this service; which lands his successors do possess until this day [1764]. Angus Murray, for performance of his promise made to Neil and Morgan Mackay, gave him his two daughters in marriage.

Then Angus deals with Robert, Earl of Sutherland, that he might have his attollerance to convene some men in Sutherland, therewith to accompany his two sons-in-laws to obtain the possession of Strathnaver. Earl Robert grants him his demand; so Angus having gathering a company of resolute men, he went with these two brethern to invade Strathnaver. Angus Dow Mackay hearing of their approach, convened his countrymen, and, because he was unable himself in person to resist them, he made his bastard son (John Aberigh) leader of his men. They encountered at Druim-nacoub, two miles from Tongue -- Mackay's chief dwelling-place.

There ensued a cruel and sharp conflict, valiantly fought a long time, with great slaughter, so that, in the end, there remained but few alive on either side. Neil Mackay, Morgan Mackay, and their father-in-law (Angus Murray), were there slain. John Aberigh, having lost all his men, was left for dead on the field, and was afterwards recovered; yet he was mutilated all the rest of his days. Angus Dow Mackay, being brought thither to view the place of the conflict, and searching for the dead corpses of his cousins, Morgan and Neil, was there killed with the shot of an arrow, by a Sutherland man, that was lurking in a bush hard by, after his fellows had been slain. This John Aberigh was afterwards so hardly pursued by the Earl of Sutherland, that he was constrained, for the safety of his life, to flee into the Isles.

The Scottish historians, in describing this conflict, do mistake the place, the persons, and the fact; and do quite change the whole state of the history. For the person -- Angus Dow Mackay of Strathnaver is, by some of them called Angus Duff and by others, Angus Duff of Strathern. For the place -- they make Angus Duff of Strathern to come from Strathern (some say from Strathnaver), to Moray and Caithness, as if these shires did join together. For the fact -- they would have Angus Duff to come for a prey of goods out of Caithness and Moray, which two shires do not march together, having a great arm of the sea interjected betwixt them, called Moray Firth and having Ross and Sutherland betwixt them by land. But the truth of this conflict and the occasion thereof I have here set down.


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