The Troubles of the Lewis
Rory Macleod of the Lewis had three wives. He married, first,
Barbara Stewart, daughter to the Lord Methven, by whom he had Torquil Oighre, who died
before his father, without issue. After Barbara Stewart's death, Rory married Mackenzie's
daughter, who bore Torquil Connaldagh, whom Rory would not acknowledge as his son, but
held him always a bastard; and, repudiating his mother, he married Maclean's sister, by
whom he had Torquil Dow and Tormot. Besides these, Rory had three base sons -- Neil
Macleod, Rory Og, and Murdo Macleod.
After the death of old Rory Macleod, his son, Torquil Dow
Macleod (excluding his brother Torquil Connaldagh as a bastard), doth take possession of
the Lewis, and is acknowledged by the inhabitants as the lawful inheritor of that Island.
Torquil Connaldagh (by some called Torquil of the Cogaidh) perceiving himself thus put bye
the inheritance of the Lewis, hath recourse to his mother's kindred, the Clan-Mackenzie,
and desires their support to recover the same.
The Lord Kintail, Torquil Connaldagh, his brother -- Murdo
Macleod, and the Brieve of the Lewis, met altogether in Ross, to advise by what means
Torquil Connaldagh might obtain the possession of the Lewis, which they were out of all
hope to effect so long as Torquil Dow was alive; whereupon the Brieve of the Lewis
undertook to slay his master, Torquil Dow, which he brings thus to pass:-- The Brieve,
being accompanied with the most part of his tribe (the Clan-vic-Gill-Mhoire), went in his
galley to the Isle of Rona; and by the way, he apprehended a Dutch ship, which he brought
by force along with him to the Lewis; he invites his master, Torquil Dow, to a banquet in
the ship; Torquil Dow (suspecting no deceit) went thither, accompanied with seven of the
best of his friends, and sat down in the ship, expecting some drink; instead of wine, they
bring cards; thus were they all apprehended and bound by the Brieve and his kindred, who
brought them to the Lord of Kintail's bounds, and there beheaded them every man, in July,
Neither did this advance Torquil Connaldagh to the possession
of the Lewis; for his brother, Neil Macleod, opposed himself, and pursued the Brieve and
his kin in a part of the of the Island called Ness, which they had fortified, where he
killed divers of them, and made them leave the strength. Thus did Neil Macleod possess the
Island, to the behoof of his brother, Tormot, and the children of Torquil Dow, whom he
acknowledged to be righteous heirs if the Island. Torquil Connaldagh had now lost both his
sons, John and Neil, and had married his daughter to Rory Mackenzie (Lord Kintail's
brother), giving her in marriage the lands of Colgeach.
Hereupon, Kintail began to think and advise by what means he
might purchase to himself the inheritance of that Island, having now Torquil Connaldagh
and bis brother, Murdo Macleod, altogether at his devotion, and having Tormot Macleod in
his custody, whom he took from the schools; so that he had no one to oppose his designs
but Neil Macleod, whom he might easily overthrow. Kintail deals earnestly with Torquil
Connaldagh, and, in end, persuades him to resign the right of the Island into his favour,
and to deliver him all the old rights and evidents of the Lewis.
In the meantime, the barons and gentlemen of Fife, hearing
these troubles, were enticed, by the persuasion of some that had been there, and by the
report of the fertility of the Island, to undertake a difficult and hard enterprise. They
conclude to send a colony thither, and to civilise (if it were possible) the inhabitants
of the Island. To this effect, they obtain, from the King, a gift of the Lewis, the year
1599, or thereabouts, which was alleged to be then at his disposal.
Thereupon, the adventurers, being joined together in Fife,
assembled a company of soldiers, with artificers of all sorts, and did transport them into
the Lewis, where they erected houses and buildings, till, in end, they made a pretty
little town, in a proper and convenient place fit for the purpose, and there they encamped
themselves. Neil Macleod and Murdo (the sons of old Rory) withstood the undertakers. Murdo
Macleod invaded the Laird of Balcolmy, whom he apprehended, together with his ship; and
killed all his men; so, having detained him six months in captivity in the Lewis, he
released him upon his promise to pay him a ransom.
Now, Neil Macleod was grieved in heart to see his brother,
Murdo, entertain the Brieve and his tribe, being the chief instruments of their brother,
Torquil Dow's slaughter; and, thereupon, Neil apprehended his brother, Murdo, which, when
the undertakers heard, they sent a message to Neil, showing that, if he would deliver
until them his brother Murdo, they would agree with himself, give him a portion of the
Island, and assist him to revenge the slaughter of his brother, Torquil Dow. Whereunto
Neil hearkened, delivered his brother, Murdo, to the undertakers; then went Neil with them
to Edinburgh, and had his pardon from the King for all his byepast offences. Murdo Macleod
was executed at St. Andrews.
Thus was the Earl of Kintail in despair to purchase or obtain
the Lewis; and therefore he lends all his wits to cross the undertakers; he setteth Tormot
Macleod at liberty, thinking that, at his arrival in the Island, all the inhabitants would
stir in his favour against the undertakers; which they did indeed, as the natural
inclination is of all these Islanders and Highlanders, who, of all other people, are most
bent and willing to hazard and adventure themselves, their lives, and all they have, for
their lords and masters.
The King was informed, by the undertakers, that the Lord of
Kintail was a crosser and hinderer of their enterprise; whereupon he was brought into
question, and committed to ward in the Castle of Edinburgh, from whence he was released,
without the trial of an assize, by the Lord Chancellor's means. Neil Macleod, returning
into the Lewis, with the undertakers, fell at variance with them; whereupon, he went about
to invade their camp, and they began in like manner, to lay a snare for him. The Laird of
Wormistoun, choosing a very dark night, sent a company to apprehend Neil; who, perceiving
them coming, invaded them, and chased them, with slaughter, to their camp.
By this time, came Tormot Macleod into the Island, at whose
arrival the inhabitants speedily assembled, and came to him as to their lord and master.
Thereupon, Tormot, accompanied with his brother, Neil, invaded the camp of the
undertakers, forced it, burnt the fort, killed most part of their men, took their
commanders prisoners, and released them after eight months' captivity. Thus, for a while,
Tormot Macleod commanded in that Island, until the undertakers returned again to Lewis,
being assisted by the forces of all the neighbouring countries, by virtue of the King's
commission, directed against Tormot Macleod and his kin, the Siol-Torquil.
How soon their forces were landed on the Island, Tormot
Macleod rendered himself to the undertakers, upon their promise to carry him safe to
London, and to obtain him a remission for his byepast crimes; but Neil Macleod stood out,
and would not submit himself. Tormot being come to London, the King gives him a pardon;
but, withal, he sent him home into Scotland, to be kept in ward at Edinburgh, where he
remained until the month of March, 1615, that the King gave him liberty to pass into
Holland, where he ended his days. Tormot thus warded in Edinburgh, the adventurers did
settle themselves again, for a little while, in the Lewis, where, at last, the undertakers
began to weary; many of the adventurers and partners drew back from the enterprise; some,
for lack of means, were not able; others died; others had great occasion and business
elsewhere to abstract them; many of them began to decline and decay in their estates; and
so, being continually vexed by Neil Macleod, they left the Island, and returned to Fife.
The Lord of Kintail, perceiving all things thus fall out to
his mind, did now show himself open in the matter. He passed a gift of the Island in his
own name, under His Majesty's great seal, by the Lord Chancellor's means, by virtue of the
old right which Torquil Connaldagh had before resigned in his favour. Some of the
adventurers complained hereof to the King's Majesty, who was highly displeased with
Kintail, and made him resign his right into His Majesty's hands; which right, being now at
His Majesty's disposition, he gave the same to three of the undertakers, to wit, the Lord
Balmerino, Sir James Spence of Wormistoun, and Sir George Hay; who, now, having all the
right in their persons, assembled their forces together, with the aid of the most part of
all the neighbouring counties; and so, under the conduct of Sir George Hay and Sir James
Spence, they invaded the Lewis again, not only to settle a colony there, but also to
search for Neil Macleod.
The Lord Kintail (yet hunting after the Lewis) did,
underhand, assist Neil, and publicly did aid the undertakers by virtue of the King's
commission; Kintail sent a supply of victuals, in a ship from Ross, to the adventurers. In
the meantime, he sent quietly to Neil Macleod, desiring him to take the ship by the way,
that the undertakers, trusting to these victuals, and being disappointed thereof, might be
forced to return, and abandon the Island; which fell out accordingly; for Sir James Spence
and Sir George Hay, failing to apprehend Neil, and being scarce of victuals to furnish
their army, began to weary, and so dismissed all the neighbouring forces. Sir George Hay
and Wormistoun then retired into Fife, leaving some men in the Island to defend and keep
the fort until they sent them a fresh supply of men and victuals; whereupon, Neil, being
assisted by his nephew, Malcolm Macleod (the son of Rory Og), invaded the undertakers'
camp, burnt the same, apprehended all those which were left behind in the Island, and sent
them home safely; since which time they never returned again into the Lewis.
Then did the Lord Balmerino, Sir George Hay, and Sir James
Spence, begin to weary of the Lewis, and sold their title of that Island to the Lord of
Kintail for a sum of money; whereby, in end, after great trouble and much blood, he
obtained the Island. And thus did this enterprise of the Fife undertakers come to no
effect, after they had spent much time, and most part of their means, about it.
Kintail was glad that he had now, at last, caught his
long-expected prey; and thereupon he went into the Island, where he was no sooner landed
but all the inhabitants yielded unto him, except Neil Macleod, and some few others. The
inhabitants yielded the more willingly to Kintail because he was their neighbour, and
might still vex them with continual excursions if they did stand out against him; which
they were not able to do. Neil Macleod was now forced to retire to a rock, within the sea,
called Berrissay, which he kept for the space of three years.
During the time of his stay in the fort of Berrissay, there
arrived an English pirate in the Lewis, who had a ship furnished with great wealth; this
pirate (called Peter Lowe) entered into friendship and familiarity with Neil, being both
rebels; at last, Neil took him prisoner with all his men, whom he sent, together with the
ship, to the Council of Scotland, thinking, thereby, to get his own pardon, and his
brother, Tormot, released out of prison; but neither of them did he obtain; and all the
Englishmen, with their captain, Peter Lowe, were hanged at Leith, the year 1612.
Neil Macleod, being wearied to remain in the fort of
Berrissay, abandoned the same, and, dispersing all his company several ways, he retired
into Harris, where he remained a certain while in secret; then he rendered himself unto
his cousin, Sir Rory Macleod, whom he entreated to carry him into England to His Majesty;
which Sir Rory undertook to do; and, coming to Glasgow, with a resolution to embark then
for England, he was charged there, under the pain of treason, to deliver Neil, whom he
presented before the Council at Edinburgh, where he was executed in April, 1613.
After the death of Neil, his nephew, Malcolm Macleod (the son
of Rory Og), escaping from the Tutor of Kintail, associated himself to the Clan Donald, in
Isla and Kintyre, during their troubles against the Campbells, in the years 1614, 1615,
and 1616; at which time Malcolm made a journey from Kintyre to the Lewis, and there killed
two gentlemen of the Clans Mackenzie; then he went into Spain, and there remained in Sir
James Macdonald's company, with whom he is now again returned into England, in the year