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Conflicts of the Clans

The Troubles Between the Earls of Huntly and Moray

The instruments of this trouble were the Laird of Grant and Sir John Campbell of Calder, knight. The Knight of Calder had spent the most part of this time in Court, where he was familiar with Chancellor Maitland, from whom he received instructions to engender differences between Huntly and Moray; which commission he accomplished very learnedly, and inflamed the one against the other, by the Laird of Grant's means.

Thus, James Gordon (eldest son to Alexander Gordon of Lismore), accompanied with some of his friends, went to Ballindalloch, in Strathspey, to assist his aunt, the widow of that place, against John Grant, tutor of Ballindalloch, who went about to do her son injury, and to detain her rents from her. James Gordon coming thirther, all was restored until the widow, a small matter excepted; which, not understanding, he would have from the tutor; thinking it a disgrace to him and to his family if his aunt should lose the least part of her due. After some constestation, there was a beating of servants on either side; and, being put asunder at that time, James Gordon and his company retired home.

Hereupon the family of Lismore do persuade John Gordon (brother to Sir Thomas Gordon of Cluny) to marry the widow of Ballindalloch, which he did. The tutor of Ballindalloch, grudging that any of the surname Gordon should dwell among them, fell at variance with John Gordon, by the laird of Grant's permission, and killed one of John Gordon's servants; whereat John Gordon was so incensed, and pursued so eagerly the tutor and such of the Grants as would assist, harbour, or maintain him or his servants, that he got them outlawed, and made rebels by the laws of the Kingdom; and, further, he moved his chief, the Earl of Huntly, to search and follow them by virtue of a Commission as Sheriff of that shire. Huntly besieges the house of Ballindalloch, and takes it by force the 2nd day of November, 1590; but the tutor escaped.

Then began Calder and Grant to work their premeditated plot, and do stir up the Clan Chattan and their Chief, Mackintosh, to join with the Grants; they persuade also the Earls of Athole and Moray to assist them against Huntly. They show the Earl of Moray that how he had a fit of opportunity and occasion to make himself strong in these north parts, and to make head against the House of Huntly; that they and all their friends would assist him to the uttermost of their power; that Chancellor Maitland would work at Court to this effect against Huntly; so that now he should not slip this occasion, lest afterward he should never have the like opportunity in his time.

Hereupon the Earls of Moray and Athole, the Dunbars, the Clan Chattan, the Grants, and the Laird of Calder, with all their faction, met at Forres to consult of their affairs, where they were all sworn in one league together, some of the Dunbars refusing to join with them.

Huntly, understanding that the Earls of Moray and Athole did intend to make a faction against him, assembled his friends with all diligence, and rides to Forres, with a resolution to dissolve their Convention.

Moray and Athole, hearing of Huntly's coming towards them, leave Forres and flee to Darnaway, the Earl of Moray;s chief dwelling-place. The Earl of Huntly follows them thither; but, before his coming, the Earl of Athole, the Lairds of Mackintosh, Grant, Calder and the Sheriff of Moray had left the house and were fled to the mountains; only the Earl of Moray stayed, and had before provided all things necessary for his defence. Huntly, coming within sight of the house, he sent John Gordon before-mentioned, with some men to view the same; but John, approaching more hardily than warily, was shot from the house, and slain with a piece by one of the Earl of Moray's servants. Huntly, perceiving the House of Darnaway furnished with all things necessary for a long siege, and understanding also that the most part of his enemies were fled to the mountains, left the house and dissolved his company, the 24th of November, 1590.

The Earl of Huntly thereupon hastens to the Court, and doth reconcile himself to Chancellor Maitland, who shortly thereafter (not so much for the favour he bore to Huntly as for the hatred he had conceived against the Earl of Moray for Bothwell's cause), did purchase a commission to Huntly against the Earl of Moray, caring little in the meantime what should become either of Moray or Huntly.

The year of God, 1591, Huntly sent Allan Macdonuill-Duibh into Badenoch against the Clan Chattan; after a sharp skirmish, the Clan Chattan were chased, and above fifty of them slain. Then Huntly sent MacRonald against the Grants, whom MacRonald invaded in Strathspey, killed eighteen of them, and wasted all Ballindalloch's lands. The year of God, 1591, the 27th of December, the first raid of the Abbey was enterprised by the Earl of Bothwell; but, failing of his purpose, he was forced to flee away, and so escaped. The Duke of Lennox and the Earl of Huntly were sent into the West with a commission against Bothwell, and such as did harbour him; but Bothwell escaped before their coming. Then took the Earl of Moray his fatal and last journey from Darnaway south to Dunibristle, where he did harbour and recept the Earl of Bothwell. Huntly being now at Court, which then sojourned at Edinburgh, urges Chancellor Maitland for his commission against the Earl of Moray; and, having obtained the same, he takes journey with forty gentlemen from Edinburgh to the Queen's Ferry, and from thence to Dunibristle, where he invades the Earl of Moray. Huntly, before his approach to the house, sent Captain John Gordon (brother to Willliam Gordon, laird of Gight) to desire the Earl of Moray to give over the house and to render himself, which was not only refused, but also Captain John Gordon was deadly hurt by a piece of one by one of the Earl of Moray's servants at his very first approach to the gates; whereupon they set fire to the house and forced the entry.

Huntly commanded the Earl of Moray to be taken alive, but the laird of Cluny, whose brother was slain at Darnaway, and the laird of Gight, who had his brother lying deadly wounded before his eyes, overtaking Moray, as he was escaping out of the house, killed him among the rocks upon the seaside. There was also the Sheriff of Moray slain by Innes of Invermarkie, which happened the 7th day of February, 1591. Presently hereupon Huntly returned into the North, and left Captain John Gordon at Inverkeithing until he recovered of his wound, when he was taken by the Earl of Moray's friends and executed at Edinburgh, being scarce able to live one day longer for his wound received at Dunibristle. Sir John Campbell of Calder, Knight, who was the worker and cause of their troubles, and of the miseries that ensued thereupon, was afterwards pitifully slain by his own surname in Argyle.

The Earl of Huntly was charged by the Lord St. Colme (the late slain Earl of Moray's brother) to underly the censure of the law for the slaughter of Dunibristle. Huntly compeared at Edinburgh at the day appointed, being ready to abide the trial of an assize; and, unto such time as his peers were assembled to that effect, he did offer to remain in ward in any place the King would appoint him; whereupon he was warded in the Blackness, the 12th day of March, 1591, and was released the 20th day of the same month, upon security and caution given by him that he should enter again upon six day's warning whensoever he should be charged to that effect.

After the Earl of Moray's slaughter at Dunibristle, the Clan Chattan (who of all that faction most eagerly endeavoured to revenge his death) did assemble their forces under the conduct of Angus Macdonald, William's son, and came to Strathdisse and Glenmuck, where they spoiled and invaded the Earl of Huntly's lands and killed four gentlemen of the surname of Gordon, among whom was the old Baron of Breaghly, whose death and manner thereof was much lamented, being very aged and much given to hospitality. He was slain by them in his own house, after he had made them good cheer and welcome, never suspecting them, or expecting any such reward for his kindly entertainment, which happened, the first day of November, 1592.

In revenge whereof, the Earl of Huntly, having gotten a commission against them, assembled his power and raid into Petty (which was then in possession of the Clan Chattan), where he wasted and spoiled all the Clan Chattan's lands, and killed divers of them; but, as the Earl of Huntly had returned home from Petty, he was advertised that William Mackintosh, with 800 of Clan Chattan, were spoiling his lands of Cabrich; whereupon Huntly and his uncle, Sir Patrick Gordon of Achindown, with some few horsemen, made speed towards the enemy, desiring the rest of his company to follow him with all possible diligence, knowing that, if once he were within sight of them, they would desist from spoiling the country. Huntly overtook the Clan Chattan before they left the bounds of Cabrich, upon the head of a hill called Steeplegate, where, without staying for the rest of his men, he invaded them with those few he had; after a sharp conflict he overthrew them, chased them, killed 60 of their ablest men, and hurt William Mackintosh with divers others of his company.

Shortly afterward the Earl of Huntly convened his forces and went the second time into Petty, causing Alexander Gordon of Abergeldie, Huntly's bailie in Badenoch for the time, bring down his Highlandmen of Lochaber, Badenoch, and Strathdown, to meet him at Inverness, desiring him also, in his journey towards Inverness, to direct some men of Clan Ranald's into Strathspey and Badenoch, to spoil and waste the land of Grant and Mackintosh's lands, which was done; and afterward Abergeldie and MacRanald, with the Highlandmen, met Huntly at Inverness, from whence (joining altogether) they invaded Petty, where they wasted, burnt, and spoiled all the rebels' lands and possessions, killed a number of them, and then returned home into their countries.

Whilst the North of Scotland was thus in a combustion, the Spanish Blanks were discovered, and Mr. George Carr, Doctor of the Laws, was apprehended in the Isle of Cumbrae, and brought back to Edinburgh, 1592. Afterward, the year of God, 1594, the Popish Earls, Angus, Huntly, and Errol, were, at the earnest suit of the Queen of England's ambassador, forfeited at a Parliament held at Edinburgh the penult of May, 1594. Then was the King moved to make the Earl of Argyll, His Majesty's Lieutenant in the North of Scotland, to invade the Earls of Huntly and Errol.

Argyll, being glad of this employment (having received money from the Queen of England for this purpose), makes great preparation for the journey, and addresses himself quickly forward; thinking thereby to have a good occasion to revenge his brother-in-law, the Earl of Moray's death; so on he went, with full assurance of a certain victory, accompanied with the Earl of Tullibardine, Sir Lachlan Maclean, and divers Islanders, Mackintosh, Grant, and Clan Gregor, Macneill of Barra, with all their friends and dependers, together with the whole surname of Campbell, with sundry others, whom either greediness of prey or malice against the Gordons, had thrust forward in that expedition; in all, above 10,000 men.

And, coming through all the mountainous countries of that part of Scotland, they arrived at Ruthven of Badenoch, the 27th of September, the year 1594, which house they besieged, because it appertained to Huntly; but it was so well defended by the Clan Pherson (Huntly's servants) that Argyll was forced to give over the siege and to address himself towards the Lowlands; where the Lord Forbes, with his kin, the Frasers, the Dunbars, the Clan Kenzie, the Irvines, the Ogilvies, the Leslies, the Munroes, and divers other surnames of the North, should have met him as the King's Lieutenant, and so join with his forces against Huntly.

Argyll came thus to Drummin, in Strathdown, and encamped hard thereby, the 2nd of October. Huntly and Errol, hearing of this great preparation made against them, lacked neither courage nor resolution; they assemble all such as would follow them and their fortune in this extremity. Errol came unto the Earl of Huntly to Strathbogie with 100 or 120 of resolute gentlemen; and so, having there joined with Huntly's forces, they march forward from thence to Carnburgh, and then to Achindown, with 1500 horsemen, the 3rd of October; parting from Achindown, Huntly sent Captain Thomas Carr and some of the family of Tillieboudie (Gordon), to spy the fields and view the enemy. These gentlemen, meeting by chance with Argyll's spies, killed them all, except one whom they saved and examined, and by him understood that Argyll was at hand. This accident much encouraged the Earl of Huntly's men, taking this as a presage of an ensuing victory; whereupon Huntly and Errol do resolve to fight with Argyll before he should join with the Lord Forbes and the rest of his forces; so they march towards the enemy, who, by this time, was at Glenlivet, in the mountains of Strathavon.

The Earl of Argyll, understanding that Huntly was at hand, who (as he believed) durst not show his countenance against such an army, he was somewhat astonished, and would gladly have delayed the battle until he had met with the Lord Forbes; but, perceiving them to draw near, and trusting to his great number, he began to order his battle, and to encourage his people with the hope of prey, and the enemy's small forces to resist them. He gave the commandment and leading of his vanguard to Sir Lachlan MacLean and to Achinbreck, which did consist of 4000 men, whereof 2000 men were hagbutters. Argyll himself and Tullibardine followed with all the rest of the army. The Earl of Errol and Sir Patrick Gordon of Achindown, accompanied with the Laird of Gight, Bonnietoun Wood, and Captain Carr, led the Earl of Huntly's vanguard, which consisted of 300 gentlemen; Huntly followed them with the rest of his company, having the Laird of Cluny (Gordon), upon his right hand, and Abergeldie upon the left hand; and, as he began to march forward, he encouraged his men, shewing them that there was no remedy, but either to obtain the victory, or to die with their weapons in their hands, in defence of whatsoever they held dearest in this world.

Argyll, his army being all footmen, and assailed, had the advantage of the ground; for they were arrayed in battle upon the top of a steep, rough and craggy mountain, at the descent whereof the ground was foggy, mossy, and full of peatpots, exceeding dangerous for horse. Huntly's forces consisted all in horsemen, and were constrained to ride first through the mossy ground at the foot of the hill, and then to ride up against that heathy, rough mountain, to pursue the enemy, who did there attend them.

Before that Errol and Achindown gave the first charge, Huntly caused Captain Andrew Grey (now Colonel of the English and Scottish in Bohemia) to shoot three field-pieces of ordnance at the enemy, which bred a confused tumult among them, by the slaughter of MacNeill of Barra, an Islander, and one of the most valiant men of that party. Huntly's vanguard, seeing the enemy disordered, presently gave the charge; the Earl of Errol, with the most part of the vanguard, turned their sides towards the enemy, and so went a little about, directly towards Argyll, leaving Maclean and the vanguard upon their left hand, being forced thereto by the steepness of the hill, and the thick shot of the enemy; but Achindown, with the rest of his company, did gallop up against the hill towards Maclean; so that Achindown himself was the first man that invaded the enemy, and the first that was slain by them, having lost himself by his too much forwardness.

The fight was cruel and furious for a while. Achindown's servants and followers, perceiving their master fall, raged among their enemies, as if they had resolved to revenge his death, and to accompany him in dying. Maclean, again playing the part of the good commander, compassed Huntly's vanguard and enclosed them betwixt him and Argyll, having engaged themselves so far that now there was no hope of retreat; so that they were in danger to be all cut to pieces, if Huntly had not come speedily to their support, where he was in great danger of his life, his horse being slain under him; but being presently horsed again by Invermarkie, he rushed in among the enemies. Thus the battle was again renewed with great fury, and continued two hours.

In end, Argyll with his main battle began to decline, and then to flee apace, leaving Maclean still fighting in the field; who, seeing himself thus destitute of succours, and his men either fled or slain, retired in good order with the small company he had about him, and saved himself by flight; having behaved himself in the battle, not only like a good commander, but also like a valiant soldier.

Huntly and his horsemen followed the chase beyond the brook of Aldehonlihan, killing the enemies, till the steepness of the next mountains did stay them, being inaccessible for horsemen. Argyll's ensign was found in the place of battle, and brought back with them to Strathbogie.

The Earl of Argyll lost in this battle his two cousins, Archibald Campbell of Lochnell, and his brother, James Campbell, with divers of Achinbreck's friends, MacNeill of Barra, and 700 common soldiers.

Neither was the battle pleasing to the Earl of Huntly, for, besides that the Earl of Errol, the Laird of Gight, and the most part of all his company were hurt and wounded, Sir Patrick Gordon of Achindown, his uncle, a wise, valiant, and resolute knight, with 14 others, were there slain. All their hurt men were carried that night to Achindown, where most part of them stayed until they were recovered. This battle was fought on Thursday, the 3rd day of October, 1594.

The Lord Forbes, the lairds of Buchan and Drum, assembled all their friends and followers, with intention to join Argyll; but, hearing of his overthrow, they conclude to join with the Dunbars, and the rest of the forces coming from the provinces of Moray and Ross, and so to invade the Gordons when they came from the battle, thinking it now an easy matter to overthrow them, and to revenge old quarrels. To this effect the whole surname of Forbes, with most part of the Leslies and the Irvines, met at Druminour (the Lord Forbes's dwelling) and so went on, thinking to overtake Argyll, and to cause him to return and renew the battle against the Gordons and their partakers; but, as they marched forward, a gentleman called Irvine was killed with the shot of a pistol, in the dark of the night, hard by the Lord Forbes, the author of which shot was never yet known until this day; for presently all their pistols were searched and found to be full. This unexpected accident bred such a confusion and amazement to the minds of the Forbeses and their followers, being now all afraid of one another, that they dissolved their companies, and returned home. The rest of the clans in the North, such as the Dunbars, the Frasers, the Munroes, and the Clan Kenzie, being convened at Forres in Moray, were stayed by the policy of Dunbar of Moyness, who was then tutor to the Sheriff of Moray, and favoured the Earl of Huntly, Sir Patrick Gordon of Achindown having married his mother.

Whilst the Earl of Argyll was thus employed against Huntly, the King came to Dundee, where he expected the issue of that battle; which, when he had heard, His Majesty took journey north toward Strathbogie. In this voyage His Majesty, by the instigation of Huntly and Errol's greatest enemies, permitted (though unwillingly) divers houses to be thrown down, such as the house of Strathbogie, which appertained to Huntly, the house of Slaines, in Buchan, appertaining to the Earl of Errol, the house of Culsamond, in Garioch, appertaining to the Laird of Newton Gordon, the house of Bagays, in Angus, appertaining to Sir Walter Lindsay, and the house of Craig, in Angus, appertaining to Sir John Ogilvy, son to the Lord Ogilvy.

In this meantime that the King was at Strathbogie, the Earl of Huntly, with divers of his friends, went into Sutherland and Caithness; and, when His Majesty returned to Edinburgh, Huntly left the Kingdom, and travelled through Germany, France and Flanders; having stayed abroad one year and five months, he was recalled again by the King; and, at his return, both he, Angus, and Errol were again restored to their former honours and dignities, at a Parliament held in Edinburgh in November, 1597; and further, His Majesty honoured the Earl of Huntly with the honour of Marquis, the year 1599. All quarrels betwixt him and the Earls of Argyll and Moray were taken away by the marriage of Argyll's eldest daughter, to George, Lord Gordon, Huntly's eldest son, and by the marriage of Lady Anne Gordon, Huntly's daughter to James, Earl of Moray, son to him that was slain at Dunibristle.


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