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Conflicts of the Clans

The Death of Sir Lauchlan Maclean in 1598

Sir Lauchlan Maclean's ambition, together with his desire of revenge, thrust him on to claim the inheritance of the whole Isle of Isla, being always the possession and ancient inheritance of the Clan Donald, all which Maclean thought easily now to compass, Sir James Macdonald (the just inheritor thereof) being young, and his father, Angus Macdonald, aged. Sir Lauchlan assembled his whole forces, and, in warlike manner, invaded Isla, to take possession thereof by virtue of a new right which he had then lately obtained, which Sir James Macdonald (Maclean's sister's son) understanding, he convened his friends, and went likewise into the same island (being his own and his forebears' possession) to interrupt, if it were possible, the proceedings of his unkind uncle, Maclean. Being both arrived in the island, such as did love them and desired peace, did mediate a long time betwixt them, and took great pains in essaying to agree them.

Sir James (being the more reasonable of the two) was content to let his uncle have the half of the island during his lifetime, although he had no just title thereto, providing he would take it in the same fashion as his predecessors, the Clan Lean, had it even before his time, to wit, holden of the Clan Donald; and, moreover, he offered to submit the controversy to the King's Majesty's arbitrament, thereby to eschew all debate with his uncle. But Maclean, running headlong to his own mischief, much against the opinion of his friends, who advised him to the contrary, did refuse all offers of peace, unless his nephew would then presently resign unto him the title and possession of the whole island. Whereupon they do resolve and prepare to fight, Sir James being far inferior in number of men, but some of these he had with him were lately before trained in the wars of Ireland. Thus there ensued a cruel and sharp battle, at the head of Loch-Gruinart, in Isla, courageously fought a long time on either side.

Sir James, in the beginning, caused his vanguard to make a compass in fashion of a retreat, thereby to get the sun at his back, and the advantage of a hill which was hard by. In the end, Sir James having repulsed the enemies' vanguard, and forcing their main battle, Maclean was slain, courageously fighting, together with 80 of the most principal men of his kin, and 200 common soldiers lying dead about him. His son, Lauchlan Barrach Maclean (being sore wounded) was chased with the rest of his men even to their boats and vessels.

Sir James Macdonald was dangerously wounded, whereof he hardly recovered afterward, for he was shot with an arrow through the body, and was left the most part of the ensuing night for dead amongst the slain bodies. There were slain of the Clan Donald about 30 in all, and above 60 wounded, which happened in the year of God, a598. And thus the war began by Maclean, without reason, the year of God, 1585, ended now, this year, by his death.

Maclean had three responses from a witch before he undertook his journey into Isla; first, desiring him not to land there upon Thursday; the next was forbidding him to drink of the water of the well beside Gruinart; and thirdly, she told him that one called Maclean would be slain at Gruinart. The first he transgressed unwillingly, bring driven into that island by a tempest on a Thursday. The second he transgressed negligently, and drank of that water before he knew the name of the place, and so he died at Gruinart, as was foretold him, but doubtfully, and as commonly all such responses be.

These broils and uproars did so move the King against the Macdonalds, that His Majesty afterwards finding the inheritance both of Kintyre and Isla to beat his own disposition, he gave all these lands to the Earl of Argyll and the Campbells; whereupon proceeded the troubles that arose since betwixt the Campbells and the Clan Donald in Kintyre and Isla, after Her Majesty's coming to the Crown of England, which I omit to relate; only thus far, that Sir James Macdonald was, by Argyll's means, warded in the Castle of Edinburgh, and was kept there a long time; from whence he escaped by the means and diligence of his cousin, MacRanald, who fled with Sir James into Spain and Flanders, where they were entertained by the Spaniards; from whence they are now (upon the Earl of Argyll's flight thither to the King of Spain) both recalled home by His Majesty, the year of God, 1620, and are now in England, at this time [1748], with the King, who hath given Sir James a yearly pension of 1000 merks sterling, and a yearly pension of 200 merks sterling to MacRanald, together with a pardon for all their bye-gone offences.


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