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The Island Clans During Six Centuries
Chapter V. - Internal and External Warfare


CESSION OF ISLES BY NORWAY TO SCOTLAND—THE LORDSHIP OF THE ISLES—INTERNAL WARS BEFORE 1266— EXTERNAL WARS IN 13th, 14th, 15th, AND 16th CENTURIES—INTERNAL WARS IN 15th AND 16th CENTURIES—CONDITION OF THE COUNTRY—WARS ON BEHALF OF THE STUART KINGS.

Up to 1266, while the Norse Kings still ruled in Man and the Isles, the Islands were the scene of much internal warfare. In 1158, Somerled reduced the Kingdom of Man to the verge of ruin. In 1230 (says the Saga of King Haakon) there was great "unrest in the Syderies," due to the efforts of Olaf the Black to regain his rightful inheritance. In the same Saga we are told that in the summer of 1262, Haakon received a letter from the King of Man. This informed him that the Scots had invaded Skye, burnt houses and churches there, killed men and women, and spitted little children on their spears. It was this letter which caused Haakon to decide on his own invasion of Scotland, which took place in 1263.

After the fall of the Norse Kingdom, the Western Clans were constantly at war, but it was no longer internal warfare, it was external warfare waged in parts of Scotland far removed from the Western Isles. This was certainly the case at the end of the thirteenth century.

We are apt to imagine that Robert Bruce won the Crown at Bannockburn, and we forget that during many years he was engaged in a desperate struggle, in the course of which scores of battles and skirmishes were fought with varying success. It is more than probable that men from the Hebrides were engaged in all of these; it is certain that many of them had their share in the crowning victory of Bannockburn. John Major, a 16th century writer, says "That great-souled King, Robert Bruce, gives this counsel in his last will and testament, that the Kings should never part themselves from these Islands, inasmuch as they could thence have cattle in plenty, and stout warriors." These words shew how warmly the King appreciated the help which the Islanders had given.

The history of Scotland during the remainder of the fourteenth century is one long record of desperate battles. Dup-plin, Halidon Hill, Neville's Cross are only three out of the many that might be named.

At this time each of the Island Chiefs was a vassal of one or other of the four mesne Lords amongst whom the Western Isles were then divided. All of these Barons were taking part in the wars to which I have referred. It is certain that, when they were themselves engaged in warfare, they summoned their vassals to join the array of their Baronies, and fight under their banners, and, I think, it is no less certain that, since they possessed ample power to enforce their commands, their orders were obeyed. It is true that the old chroniclers never mention the names of particular clans which were engaged in the battles they describe, probably because they regarded even the most powerful clans as no more than units in the array of their superior Lord.

As time went on, by a remarkable series of accidents, the four Baronies which Alexander III. had created were united into one, and the Islay Chief became Lord of the Isles. After the triumph of Robert Bruce, John de Ergadia, who had been one of the bitterest enemies of the King, was forfeited, and his estates were divided between Angus of Islay and Allan Mac-Ruari. A little later the latter was killed in a quarrel with the Earl of Ross. He left no male heir, his sister Amy became his heiress, and brought all her estates to her husband, the "good Lord John of Islay." It was then that the latter assumed the proud title of Dominus Insularum, and became the first Lord of the Isles.

In his son's time some of the clans, notably the MacLeods, refused to acknowledge the authority of the Island Lord, and between 1390 and 1400 some desperate fighting took place between him and these recalcitrant clans, but, by the beginning of the 15th century, by persuasion or force, all the Island Chiefs had been brought to accept him as their superior Lord, and he was practically an independent sovereign for nearly a hundred years. Although some of the clans had unwillingly acknowledged the Island Lord as their superior, as time went on the successive Lords of the Isles earned the whole-hearted affection and devotion of their vassals, and probably the period during which they ruled over the Islands was a golden age in West Highland history.

The relations between the Island Lords and the Chiefs should be studied. Each of them, though he acknowledged the Island Lord as his superior, and followed him in his wars, remained the absolute ruler of all the people who lived in his own country. The Island Lordship was a confederacy, made up of a number of semi-independent clans, under a head who never acted without the advice of his Council. This Council consisted of seventeen Chiefs, who met at first in Islay, afterwards in Eigg, to settle such great questions as peace and war, and to deal with all matters, external and internal, in which the interests of the Lordship as a whole were involved.

It is possible that the Lordship of the Isles at different times may have included a larger or a smaller number of clans, and, when its Lord was also Earl of Ross, the mainland Chiefs in that Earldom owed him obedience, but seventeen was the number of Chiefs who in 1545 entered into negotiations with Henry VIII., and swore allegiance to him. These are named in a State paper published by Tytler, and given in Gregory's history, page 170. Besides Donald Dubh, who claimed to be Lord of the Isles, were Hector Maclean of Doward. Murdoch MacLean of Loch Buy. Allan MacLean of Torlusk John MacLean of Coll. John MacLean of Ardgour. Donald MacLean of Kengarloch. John MacQuarrie of Ulva. John MacAllaster, Captain of Clan Ranald. Angus MacDonald, brother german of James Macdonald. Archibald MacDonald of Sleat. Alexander MacIan of Ardnamurchan. Angus Ranaldson of Knoydert. Alexander Ranaldson MacDonald of Glengarry. Rorie MacLeod of Lewis. Alexander MacLeod of Dunvegan. Gilleganan MacNeill of Barray. Ewin MacKinnon of Straguordell.

The MacQuarries followed the MacLeans. I have therefore placed them in the column in which MacLean Chiefs are mentioned. The MacIans were a branch of the MacDonalds.

This list enables us to form an idea of the territory included in the Lordship of the Isles. All the Western Islands belonged to the Lordship, and some territory on the mainland, namely, Garmoran, which included Moydart, Arisaig, Morar, and Knoydart, Ardgour, Ardnamurchan, Glenelg, Assynt, and Gairloch, which belonged to the MacLeods. Though Glengarry's country lies inland, he was a descendant of Somerled, and belonged to the great Clan Donald, so he acted with the Island Lord.

The formation of this powerful confederacy is the most important event in the history of the Western Clans, and distinguishes them from those on the mainland. The latter were joined together in such unions as that which formed the Clan Chattan, but none of these equalled in power the Lordship of the Isles, neither were they so firmly united as were the Western Clans.

Early in the fifteenth century the Lord of the Isles obtained a great accession of power. A little earlier, the O'Beolans, Earls of Ross, had become extinct in the male line. Mary Leslie, the grand-daughter of the last Earl, had become the heiress, and eventually her son Alexander, the Lord of the Isles, became Earl of Ross. The Regent was most unwilling to see this great earldom united to the Lordship of the Isles, realising that the possession of such vast power by one man would be a source of great danger to the kingdom at large. For this reason he resisted the claims of the Island Lord by all the means in his power, and the result was the Battle of Harlaw, which was fought in 1411. The Lord of the Isles after the battle became the de facto possessor of the Earldom, and in 1425 his claim was acknowledged by James I.

As time passed the Regent's fears were abundantly justified. These great feudatories of the Crown were filled with a new ambition ; they sought to make themselves absolutely independent, and to become monarchs themselves, owing obedience to no man. To attain this object, again and again they rose in rebellion against the King, and the consequence was that, during the whole of this troubled period, the Western clans were engaged in external warfare, just as they had been in earlier days.

In all these battles, at Bannockburn, Harlaw, Inverness, Inverlochy, and many other places, the Islanders were not opposed to rival clans armed, equipped & trained like themselves, but to armies, largely composed of cavalry, in which the knights, the men-at-arms, and the horses were protected by armour, which was well-nigh impenetrable by their missiles. As an old writer puts it, they had to attack a mobile wall of living steel.

We are told how they did it at Harlaw. They charged the wall of steel with splendid courage. Many were cut down, but the survivors fought their way into the very midst of the hostile army, ham-strung the horses with their dirks, grappled with the fallen riders as they struggled on the ground, sought out the joints in their harness, and through these they drove their daggers home, showing themselves to be a match even for the magnificent chivalry of Scotland. At Harlaw they lost 900 men, but, when night put a stop to the carnage, among them lay, dead and cold, 500 of Mar's mail-clad knights and men-at-arms.

Another important matter remains to be noted. When a mediaeval Baron was constantly at war, his first thought was to maintain the fighting strength of his Barony at the highest possible level. Nothing would tend to diminish this more than dissentions among his vassals, and therefore he would exert himself to the utmost to prevent them from fighting with each other, or from entering into feuds with their neighbours.

It is probable that the four Barons did this in early days; it is certain that the Lord of the Isles did so at a later period. He employed two methods: he mediated between any of the Chiefs who were quarrelling with each other, using all his authority to prevent a war from breaking out; and when he did not himself require their services in his own wars, in order to keep the turbulent spirits over whom he ruled occupied, he organised a series of raids on the Orkneys. These began in 1418, and were the subjects of bitter complaints from the Earls of those islands. The most important of them took place in 1460, when MacLeod of Dunvegan, "and the young gentlemen of the Isles " went on such an expedition.

Consequently I believe that, while the Island chiefs were under the control of feudal superiors who were really able to exercise full authority over them—that is, roughly speaking, between the years 1275 and 1475—though the clans were frequently engaged in external warfare, the Western Isles were enjoying peace and quiet.

I only know of two occasions on which the tranquility of the Islands was seriously disturbed during the fourteenth century. About 1320 the MacLeods were at war with the Frasers, and between 1390 and 1400 the Lord of the Isles was consolidating his confederacy, and severe fighting took place between him and the Dunvegan Chief, who had refused to acknowledge him as his superior Lord. In 1431 the Royal forces invaded Skye and occupied Sleat, but I am under the impression that during the first three-quarters of the fifteenth century there were no serious clan feuds. There may have been some minor disturbances; indeed, the records of a few have come down to us, but the authority exercised by the Lord of the Isles and his Council was powerful enough to prevent any serious outbreaks from taking place. Scott, in his "Tales of a Grandfather," draws an appalling picture of the conditions of anarchy and misery in which most of the kingdom was then plunged, and, strange as it seems to us with our preconceived ideas as to unceasing warfare in the Highlands, I think that probably the Western Isles were in a more peaceful and prosperous state at this period than any other district in the realm.

But this state of affairs was not destined to last. About 1475, the Island Lordship was rent in twain. The intrigues in which John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, had been engaged with Edward of England a few years earlier, came to the knowledge of the Scottish Government. The Earl was pronounced a traitor, and his estates were forfeited. He submitted to the King, he was pardoned, and he was restored to the Island Lordship, but was forced to surrender the Earldom of Ross.

At this submission his son and heir, Angus, was furious, and rose in rebellion against his father. Some of the clans supported the old Lord ; some, specially the different branches of the great Clan Donald, took sides with his son. After many less important battles between the rival clans, about 1480—the exact date is uncertain—a great naval battle was fought in a bay on the north coast of Mull, since known as the Bloody Bay, in which all the West Highland clans were engaged on one side or the other. In this battle the old Lord of the Isles was defeated and taken prisoner. Angus, the old Lord's victorious son, hastened to take vengeance on all those who had supported his father. He, however, was assassinated by an Irish harper some time before 1490. The old Lord of the Isles then recovered his estates, but gave over his authority to his nephew, Sir Alexander of Lochalsh, who rose in rebellion, and endeavoured to regain the Earldom of Ross. This led to the final forfeiture of the Island Lordship in 1493. The old Lord then retired into the Monastery of Paisley, where he died in 1498.

Legally the Lordship of the Isles at this time ceased to exist; but it was the one all-absorbing desire of the Island Chiefs to see it restored in the person of Donald Dubh, the son of Angus Oig. He was at the time of the forfeiture a prisoner in the hands of the Government, but their loyalty to him was no less remarkable than that which their successors displayed towards the Royal House of Stuart, and during the fifty years which followed the forfeiture they rose in rebellion four times against the King, hoping that by doing so they would bring about the restoration of the Island Lordship. This, however, was the one thing the King was determined to prevent; all the risings were suppressed, and after the Lords of the Isles became extinct in the direct line, no further efforts were made to restore the ancient Lordship.

Meanwhile a new and terrible era had begun in the history of the Isles. In the civil war between John, Lord of the Isles, and his son, great injuries and wrongs had been inflicted and endured; the Chiefs were full of angry passions against each other; there was no Lord of the Isles to mediate between them, and the dreadful period, during which the clan feuds were raging, began, and lasted during the next 120 years.

It would be impossible to make a complete list of these feuds, but the following record will give some idea of what the state of affairs in the Islands was. Concerning all of these feuds, except three, there is authentic documentary evidence. Those three depend on tradition, and I have marked them with an asterisk:—

* About 1480.—Clan Ranald attacked the MacLeods in Skye.
* About 1483.—The MacDonalds invaded and conquered Trotternish.
In 1501.—The MacLeans and the Camerons were at war.
1501-1506.—Donald Dubh's insurrection was going on.
1513-1519.—Sir Donald of Loch Alsh was in rebellion.
1528.—War broke out between the MacLeods of Dunvegan and the MacDonalds of Sleat.
1529.—The Macdonalds and MacLeans attacked the Campbells.
1539.—The MacDonalds of Sleat and the Mackenzies of Kintail were at mortal strife.
1539.—The MacDonalds of Islay and the MacLeans of Dowart commenced a long war.
1544.—The Frasers and Clan Ranald fought the Battle of Kinloch Lochy.
1545.—Donald Dubh's rebellion took place.
1561.—MacLean of Dowart was in arms against MacLean of Coll.
1561-1564.—For a long time the lands of Rinns, in Islay, had been in dispute between the MacLeans of Dowart and the MacDonalds of Islay. There had been fighting between them in 1539. This was now renewed.
1569.—Mackintosh and Keppoch were at war.
1581.—Glengarry and Kintail fell out.
* 1581.—A frightful feud, which lasted a long time, was raging between the MacLeods of Dunvegan and Clan Ranald. 1585.—War between the Camerons and the Mackintoshes was raging.
1585.—The feud between the MacLeans and MacDonalds of Islay broke out afresh, and, as the MacLeods and the Camerons joined the former, and the MacDonalds of Sleat the latter, this was, perhaps, the most terrible feud of all.
1588.—The MacLeans attacked the MacIans.
1595.—About this time MacLeod of Dunvegan invaded Coigeach and Loch Broom, estates belonging to Kintail.
1598.—The MacAllasters and the MacDonalds were at variance.
1599.—The MacDonalds of Sleat and the MacLeods of Dunvegan were engaged for a long time in a war, which reduced both clans to the verge of ruin.

Besides these wars between rival clans, in individual communities there were several cases of disputed succession, which caused civil wars to take place. In one of these the Chief of the Camerons was murdered; in another Ian Dubh, a monster of inquity, committed a succession of murders in order to make himself Chief at Dunvegan. But the worst of all occurred in Lewis, where anarchy reigned for something like 40 years, and unheard-of atrocities were committed.

These wars were prosecuted with relentless ferocity, and the slaughter on the field of battle was tremendous. It will suffice to describe three battles, the records of which have come down to us.

About 1530, Donald Gruamach of Sleat, and Allan of Moydart, the Clan Ranald Chief, invaded the MacLeod country in Skye. They landed at Loch Eynort, ravaged Minginish, Bracadale, and Duirinish up to the very gates of Dunvegan, and swept on into Glendale. Alasdair Crottach, the Chief of the MacLeods, was in Harris when the invasion took place, but, as soon as he heard the news, he hastened to the scene of action, and called his clan together to meet the foe. He was joined by MacLeod of Lewis, so four of the most powerful clans in the Islands were engaged in this strife.

Macleod occupied an impregnable position facing the MacDonalds, and lay there for ten days till his last reinforcements had come up. Then he attacked the enemy. A tremendous struggle ensued, and things went badly for the MacLeods, hundreds of them were killed, and irretrievable disaster seemed imminent. The Chief's mother was present, and she ordered the fairy flag [According to tradition this flag had been given to MacLeod by the fairies in the fourteenth century with the promise that on three occasions, the waving of it would bring supernatural power to save the clan in times of great peril. It is still preserved at Dunvegan. Full details concerning the flag are given in the " MacLeods of Dunvegan." The battles of Glendale and Trompan are also described in this work.] to be displayed. The sight of the wizard banner of their clan gave the MacLeods fresh spirit; they renewed the combat with intense fury, and both sides suffered great losses. Allan of Moydart broke the MacLeod line, cutting off the Chief and the band of survivors who guarded the magic flag from the rest of the clan. But, at this moment, Donald Gruamach was killed by Murdo MacCaskill. The head of the MacDonald Chief was cut off, and raised on a spear, so that all men could see it. Immediately the MacLeod pipers played the MacDonald Lament. At the sound of this ill omened music, the MacDonalds were seized with a panic and began to give way on all sides. Allan of Moidart made desperate efforts to rally them, fighting himself with the utmost valour. He quickly avenged Donald's death, killing MacCaskill and his three brothers with his own sword; but all his efforts were vain, and he was compelled to retreat with the remnant of his followers. The MacLeods were so weakened by their losses that they could not pursue their enemies, and the MacDonalds eventually reached Loch Eynort, and embarked in their galleys.

Such was the slaughter in this battle, that the ravens, which stood on "Creagan nan Fitheach" (the Rock of the Ravens) drank the blood and ate the flesh of the slain, who were piled in heaps around, without descending from their airy perch. The seannachies say that this was the most tremendous battle which was ever fought in the Western Isles, and that both victors and vanquished were crippled for years by the losses they had sustained.

In his history (page 161), Gregory describes a battle, which was fought in 1544 at Loch Lochy, between Lord Lovat and Clan Ranald:—"The contest began with the discharge of arrows at a distance, but, when their shafts were spent, both parties rushed to the combat, and attacking each other furiously with their two-handed swords and battle axes, a dreadful slaughter ensued." The Frasers were defeated, surrounded, and cut to pieces. Out of three hundred men, only one gentleman, Fraser of Foyers, and four clansmen survived this bloody day, and the Macdonalds lost almost as heavily.

About 1580, Clan Ranald, with a large force, landed at Trompan, in Skye. He found the MacLeods in church. He surrounded the sacred building, threw burning brands on the thatched roof, and set it on fire. The whole congregation lost their lives, some being burnt, some being cut down as they rushed out. One woman escaped, and carried the news to Dunvegan. The Chief gathered all the men he could, and rushed forward to meet the enemy. A terrific battle took place. One tradition says that the fairy flag was again waved. The MacDonalds were driven back, and tried to launch their galleys. One was launched, and her crew escaped, but the tide was low, the galleys were high and dry in the bay, and it was impossible to get them into the water. The MacDonalds put up a desperate defence, but large reinforcements had come up to join the MacLeods; the former were greatly outnumbered, and before the night came they were all killed. Their bodies were laid in a long row beneath a dyke, and the dyke overturned upon them. The battle is called "Blar Milleadh Garaidh," The Battle of the Destruction of the Dyke.

These descriptions may give us some idea of what clan warfare was like. One would have thought that such battles as these would have satisfied the souls of the most ardent warriors, but it is on record that many of the islanders, not content with all this fighting at home, went to Ireland to take part in the wars which were constantly going on there. In 1545, a Highland army assisted Surrey, who commanded the troops of Henry VIII. in that country ; and in 1595, Hugh MacDonald of Sleat, and Rory MacLeod of Dunvegan each took 500 men to aid the Red O'Donnell and Shane O'Neil in their rebellion against Queen Elizabeth.

I gather that such expeditions to Ireland were not uncommon from a report on the state of the Islands, which was written about 1590, for the information of James VI. In this report the following rule is given :—"And in raising or furthbringing of thair men, ony time of zeir, to quhatsumever cuntrie or weiris (wars), na labourers of the ground are permittit to steir furth of the cuntrie, quhatever their maister have ado, except only gentlemen quhilkis labouris not, that the labour of teiling thair ground, and wynning thair corns may not be left undone, albeit thai byde furth ane haill zeir, as offtymes it happins quhen any of thair particular islands has to do with Irland or neighbours."

When we remember that one Lord of the Isles took 10,000 men with him to Harlaw in 1411; that another took 4000 men with him to Ireland in 1545, and that there were 1000 MacLeods at Worcerster, it becomes difficult to believe that this rule was habitually obeyed, and that only "gentlemen" were engaged on those distant expeditions.

While these frightful feuds were raging the Islands were in a terrible state, and the sufferings endured by the people were appalling.

In the raids which were constantly taking place, the homes of the people were burnt, their growing crops destroyed, their cattle and other live stock killed or carried off. Famine often stared them in the face, and they had to kill and eat their horses, dogs, and cats, to maintain life Hand-fasting had to a great extent superseded marriage. Under this curious custom an agreement was made between two Chiefs that the son of one should live with the daughter of another as her husband for a year and a day ! If there were issue, or a prospect of issue, the union became permanent; if there was no issue, each of the parties was at liberty to terminate the arrangement, and marry, or hand-fast, some one else. Though these irregular unions had not been blessed by the Church, the issue of them was held to be legitimate.

This not only aimed a blow at the sanctity of marriage, but was a fruitful cause of clan wars. When Donald Gorm MacDonald sent home his handfasted wife, who was a sister of MacLeod of Dunvegan, the latter declared that, though there had been no bonfires to celebrate the marriage, there should be some very fine ones to celebrate the divorce, and a feud was begun which brought both clans to the verge of ruin.

The Highlands had become a second cave of Adullam, to which resorted, as of old, "everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented," and, it may be added, criminals of all descriptions, who had made their own countries too hot to hold them. The Chiefs were glad to welcome these turbulent spirits, as they added to the fighting strength of their clans, but, as they quartered them on their tenants, their presence was a heavy burden on the people of the country, and caused many difficulties.

Christianity had almost ceased to exist, most of the churches were burnt, and most of the clergy driven away.

As a consequence of all this the once kindly Highlanders had become possessed by an evil spirit of hatred and revenge, which showed itself in the dark deeds of revolting cruelty, deliberately planned and carried out in cold blood, concerning which so many dreadful stories are told. I do not love horrors, but to show how terrible the conditions were under which our forbears lived I relate three of these stories.

A party of twenty men who were crossing the Minch in a galley were forced to put into Loch Stockernish, on the east coast of Harris. Alasdair Dubh MacLeod, who lived there without asking who they were, received them with the greatest hospitality. At supper one of them let out that they were Clan Ranald MacDonalds. On hearing this their host slipped out, roused six of his men, and posted them well armed outside his door. He then came back and told his guests that, now he knew that they belonged to a hostile clan, he could no longer harbour them. The door was low and narrow, so that only one at a time could leave the house, and as each of these men passed out into the darkness he was struck down and killed by an unseen enemy.

Another tale relates how the MacGhittichs, a lawless tribe who lived in Harris, attacked the home of a man against whom they had a grudge. The man escaped, but, returning next day, found his wife and family all lying dead amid the smoking embers of his home. A fire still smouldered beneath a tripod which had been erected outside the house. Over this was hanging a pot; in the pot were the remains of his infant grandson, who had been killed, cut in pieces, and boiled over the fire.

A party of MacLeods, who had been captured by the MacDonalds, were flung into a dungeon, and starved to death. It is said that they ate each other till not one was left. The story of the massacre of Eigg is so well-known that I need not do more than refer to it.

Criminals were punished with horrible severity. There are records of men being flogged to death, or flayed alive, of their homes being burnt, and their wives and children, down to the babe in arms, being utterly exterminated. A man who had planned the murder of Donald Gorm was dropped into a fearful dungeon at Duntulm, and left to die a hideous death from thirst.

I imagine that, during the sixteenth century, such a frightful state of anarchy prevailed in the country, that any trade there may have been at an earlier period was killed. The destruction wrought by the incessant raids of hostile clans must have been such that there was nothing to export, and, if there is nothing to export, nothing can be imported, for it is only by exports that imports can be paid for.

There was yet another cause at work which must have tended to check trade. Piracy on the high seas was now very common. About 1590, MacNeill of Barra went with a fleet of galleys to the coast of Ireland, where he did such dire mischief that complaints were made to Queen Elizabeth. She, in her turn, complained to the Scottish King. James employed Rory Mackenzie, afterwards tutor of Kintail, and he,
by a trick, succeeded in capturing MacNeill. The chief was brought before the King, and, when charged with the piracies he had committed on Elizabeth's subjects, replied that he thought that he was doing the King a service by "annoying the woman who had killed his mother." His ready wit saved his life. In 1604, Rory MacLeod of Dunvegan had to pay £500 for "certaine wairs, guids and geir reft and spulzeit and tane from a bark in Loch Hourn in April 1587."

In 1625, Clan Ranald seized a Leith ship near Barra Head. As late as 1636 the same Chief plundered an English vessel, called the Susannah.

But were the Islands of the West really in such a dreadful state? There are four descriptions of them written in the 16th century, one by Macgregor, Dean of Lismore; one by Monro, also Dean of Lismore; and two by anonymous authors. One of these mentions the massacre at Eigg, but with this exception, they say nothing about the condition in which the country was, and, indeed, they give so favourable an impression of the state of affairs there that one author, after reading them, expresses the opinion that the 16th century was the "golden age in West Highland History." But all four were writing a description of the Western Isles, not a history, and they probably thought that the condition of the country was beside the questions they wished to discuss.

One can imagine that a modern traveller, visiting some islands in the Pacific, though he knew they had been the scene of terrific battles between native tribes, might entirely pass over these, and only relate his own experiences. I do not think, therefore, that the silence of these writers as to the terrible conditions which I have described is any proof that they did not exist, and, indeed, the evidence is so overwhelming, that I do not consider that there can be any doubt on the subject.

The pacification of the West Highlands will be described in the next chapter. In order to complete the story of clan warfare, it is necessary to briefly refer to the campaigns, beginning in 1644, in which the clansmen fought with such splendid courage and devotion in the cause of the Royal House of Stuart. They were now again engaged in external warfare.

The history of these most gallant attempts to restore their rightful Kings to the throne has been written again and again, and it need not be repeated here, but the following very short sketch will bring home to the minds of my readers the wholehearted devotion of the Western clans to the Royalist cause. Leaving out of account one or two less important efforts, such as the one which ended so disastrously at Loch Garry in 1654, and the still more unfortunate attempt in 1719, the clans were engaged in five really serious attempts on behalf of the Stuarts.

In 1644, the brilliant campaigns under Montrose made the great Marquess Master of Scotland, and filled him with hopes that he would be able to march into England, and establish his Royal master again on the throne, hopes which were dashed to the ground by the crushing defeat at Philiphaugh.

In 1651, a Highland army was with Charles II. in the South of Scotland, shared in the defeat at Dunbar, marched with the King into England, and was almost destroyed at Worcester, losing 13,000 men.

In 1689, many of the Chiefs responded to the appeals of James II., then in Ireland, and, under the command of Dundee, began the campaign so splendidly by winning the Battle of Killiecrankie. But, having lost their brilliant leader in that battle, their subsequent efforts under less capable commanders accomplished little or nothing.

In 1715 the Royal Standard was again raised at Braemar, and an army of Highlanders was gathered together, which, under Montrose or Dundee, might have done great things, but which, under Mar, accomplished nothing.

In 1745, the last, and perhaps the greatest, effort of all, was made. The Prince occupied Edinburgh, he marched into England as far as Derby. Some writers maintain that, had he pushed on to London, the Crown would have been won; and yet it all ended in disaster at Culloden.

The Camerons and MacDonalds of Clanranald were engaged in all of these glorious, if unfortunate, enterprises. The Macleans took part in the first four, and were only prevented from joining Prince Charles in 1745 by the arrest of their Chief at Edinburgh in June 1745, charged with being in the service of the French King.

The Mackinnons joined in all, excepting the campaign which ended at Worcester.

The Mackenzies had their share in the battles fought by Montrose, they joined Lord Mar in 1715, and again rose in 1719.

The Macdonalds of Sleat were with Montrose, were present at Worcester, and fought under Lord Mar.

The MacLeods lost so heavily at Worcester that it was agreed among the other clans that they should not be asked to take part in any further enterprises till they had had time to recover. For various reasons they never again drew the sword in the cause of the Stuarts.

The loyalty of the Highlanders to the Stuarts is one of the most amazing paradoxes in history. For more than two centuries they had been constantly in a state of rebellion against Kings who belonged to the house of Stuart. In 1545 they had actually renounced their allegiance to one of these monarchs, and very reluctantly they had submitted to the Royal authority early in the seventeenth century. Then suddenly they turned round, they became intensely loyal, and were ready to sacrifice anything and everything in the King's service.

And it was not only the Chiefs who were full of loyalty to their King. Even among the clans which did not join the Prince in 1745, the feeling was intensely strong. Sir A. MacDonald, writing on September 5, 1745, says:—"I need not tell you the difficulty of recruiting 100 men. The men here are almost as fond of the young gentleman as their wives and daughters are." The young gentleman was the Prince, and Sir Alexander was trying to raise men to fight against him.

I am not sure that the paradox is as remarkable as it seems at first sight. The spirit of loyalty to a superior was deeply rooted in the character of the Islanders. In the 14th century, King Robert Bruce and his successors had no more faithful subjects than they. In the following century they transferred their allegiance to their own immediate superior, the Lord of the Isles, and they remained faithful to him and his successors, not merely till the Lordship was forfeited, but until there was no scion of the house of Somerled in the direct line who claimed the dignity.

Though some of the Chiefs were firmly attached to Mary Queen of Scots, for a time the flame of loyalty burnt low in their hearts. But, when they saw their King fighting for his Crown against enemies, whose religious and political opinions they detested, when they saw him laying down his life on the scaffold, when they saw his son robbed of his inheritance, and driven into exile, all the generosity and romance in their natures caused the flame of devotion to the King to kindle anew in their hearts.

We need not be surprised that, when they beheld another King driven from his throne to find refuge at St Germains, their devotion to him, to his son, and to his grandson, became with them the passion of their lives, and that, again and yet again, they strove to place their Royal Master on the throne.

Why was it that none of these enterprises succeeded? Probably ultimate success was not possible in any of them. The forces which were arrayed against the Stuarts on all these occasions were so strong that a few thousand Highlanders, however brave they might be, could not hope to overcome them. But there were contributory causes in the character of a Highland army. Their valour was indisputable, but the pride of the Chiefs, and the jealousy of each other which prevailed among them, made it very difficult for a general in command to exercise due control over them. Tradition says that at Harlaw the MacLeods refused to fight unless they were given the post of honour on the right wing, and, more than 300 years later, something of the same sort occurred, when the MacDonalds were put on the left wing of the Prince's army at Culloden. This is only one instance of the difficulties which were constantly arising. The officer in command of a Highland army required, not only military capacity, but infinite tact and judgment. Montrose and Dundee possessed these gifts. Buchan, Cannon, Middleton, Mar, even Lord George Murray, did not possess them, and, for lack of them, their leadership failed.

Another source of weakness in a Highland army was the desire of the men, when a battle had been won, to go home for a time, to see their families, to secure their crops, to dispose of any spoil they might have taken. Even Montrose could not prevent them from doing this. It was because so many men had left the army that he was defeated at Philiphaugh. Even if this habit did not lead to a defeat, it often made it impossible to secure the fruits of a victory, and was a source of weakness, which it is difficult to overestimate.

The failure of these efforts, certainly the failure in the '45, has given us a more splendid page of history than their success could have done. Had he been victorious the Prince might have been a stately figure as, robed in silk and satin, he stood in the Court of his triumphant father at St James's. But he showed himself a veritable hero as, clad in a ragged kilt, he sat in the boat of Donald MacLeod, of Gualtregill, his devoted pilot, bearing incredible hardships with unfailing courage, and cheering the spirits of his men with songs and jests, or again a little later as, clad this time in the dress of a Highland maid-servant, with Flora Macdonald as his companion, he crossed the Minch, and, by her help and guidance, eluded his foes.

But if the Prince was a splendid figure, all those who helped him were splendid figures, too. Not only Flora MacDonald, Donald MacLeod, and a host of others, without whose aid he must have been captured; but all those who knew where he was, and who could have earned the £30,000 which the Government had offered for his capture. That no single Highlander tried to earn this shameful money is a source of pride to us all.

The fighting days of the Highlanders by no means came to an end at Culloden. In every war which has been waged since 1760, they have rendered splendid service to King and country. But they have been fighting as soldiers in the regular army, and the 16th of April 1746 was the last day on which they went into battle as clans, under the command of their Chiefs, wearing their distinctive tartans, and practising their old methods of warfare.

In 1745, the officers of the independent companies raised by MacLeod of Dunvegan were all of them his own clansmen. In 1780 the officers in the battalion raised and commanded by his grandson, were all of them professional soldiers transferred from other battalions to train the Highlanders according to the rules of the drill-book. This well illustrates the change which had taken place.


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