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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 15


"The sworde and fir-tree croceit beneath ane croun
Are fatall signes appropriat to this race,
By some foreseing fellow well set doun,
Meet for such lymmars spoilzeing everie place.
The croun presents the King's most royall Grace,
Ane rychteous judge with skill wha does decree
That they, and all such cut-throats, should embrace
His severe censure for their villanie:
To wit, gif ony frae his sworde goes free
On-execute, continuing in the wrang,
He will erect ane gallows of that trie,
And theirupon them in ane wuddie hang.
Sae far's my wits can serve, I can nocht ken
Ane better badge for such a sort of men.


One thing yet rests that should their arms befit,
(f with Sanct Johnston's ribbons they were knit."

Black Book of Taymouth.

THE above is the sarcastic description given by Master William Bowie of the heraldic symbols of the ancient Clan Gregor—"their signal for fight, which from monarchs they drew." The legend reads very differently in the hands of a M'Gregor:—

"Sliochd nan righrean duchasach
Bha shios an Dun-Staibhnis,
Aig an robh crunn na-h' Alb o thus
'S aig a bheil c'.uchas fathasd air."

The M'Gregors, as is well known, claim descent from the Dunstaffnage kings,that is from Gregor,a descendantof Kenneth M'Alpin. During the whole period of the Scots-Celtic kings, they would appear, according to their own traditions, to have held extensive possessions in Argyleshire and Perthshire. Glenorchy was the seat of the chief for ages. "John de Glenurchay," the then chief, was taken'prisoner by Edwaid I. in the battle of Dunbar, 1296, but his possessions were restored to him on condition of serving Edward in his French wars. "In the public instruments," says Mr. Gregory, "connected with the fate of the Scottish leaders captured at Dunbar, John de Glenurchay is ranked as one of the Magnates Scolics—a proof that his possessions holding of the crown were far from inconsiderable." The last of the M'Gregors of Glenorchy, original chiefs of the clan, died in 1390. In the Dean of Lismore's Obituary, written before 1550, the following entry of his death appears:—"Obitus Johannis Gregorii de Glenvrquhay, apud Glenvrquhay: Et sepultus in Dysart esc parte borientali Altaris Summi xix Aprilis, Anno Domini Mmocccolxxxx." "Death of John M'Gregor of Glenurchay at Glenurchay: and he was buried at Clachan-an-Disart, on the north side of the High Altar, the 19th April, 1390." But record evidence contradicting Mr. Gregory, and the clan traditions shows that John of Glenorchy was of the race of Somerled and that the M'Gregors were never feudal owners of that glen.

Glenlyon, the Braes of Rannoch, and considerable parts of Breadalbane, or as then styled the "Lordship of Discheour and Toyer," were largely held at one time by M'Gregors, but only as kindly tenants. It sounds, however, like an abuse of words to call persons "kindly tenants" who appear to have squatted on these lands, and perhaps violently dispossessed others without asking the concurrence or wishing to know the will of the Crown. Length of sufferance had given security, and the frequent change of over-lords and bailies as well as revocation of Crown lands at the end of each minority, or on the occasion of civil commotions, bred an undue contempt for royal charters, and an overweening trust in coir-a-chlaidheamh, "right of the sword; " and thus the M'Gregors allowed the time to escape when the precious "paper rights" might have been easily obtained, and subjected themselves in time coming to over-lords, who sat too secure in the saddle for being pulled down by any opposition offered by a broken and landless race, and who were determined and knew how to enforce their charter privileges to the last iota.

We gather from the Black Book that the "right chiefs " became extinct before 1500. For a long period the head men of the different branches of the clan contended, as it would appear, for pre-eminence. It was only after the excesses of private men of the clan brought disgrace upon the whole name, and the formidable combinations of the Campbells, Stewarts, Menzieses, &c, under colour of punishing the perpetrators of these excesses, warned the M'Gregors that they were all on the brink of ruin, that "John Dubh" of Glenstrae was reluctantly acknowledged chief. The house of Roro appears to have claimed the honour on account of priority of descent, while the house of Glenstrae advanced the plea of proximity of blood. The Dean of Lismore and the curate of Fortingall agree in their notice of John of Glenstrac's death. It is to be borne in mind that the dean and curate were both of the M'Gregors of Roro, and would, it is to be presumed, favour the pretensions of that house. His death is thus entered:—"Death of John M'Gregor M'Ewine, Captain of the Gregorian tribe of Glenstrae, who died of good memory at Achallader, in Glenurchay, on Easter day, the 12th of April, in the year 1528. He was buried in Dysart, as others of his name used to be." From this it is evident the laird of Glenstrae was acknowledged but by a section of the clan; and neither he nor any of his predecessors appears to have held land of the Crown, or of feudal superiors by charters. But they must have been Thanes or Toisich in Glenurchay before the time of feudal charters. It is in the time of disputes about the chieftainship, the M'Gregors of Roro are first found associated with John of Lome, and as tenants of the Crown possessing the Roro Toiseachd.

As genealogical descent stands for the Highland clans in place .of more accurate chronology, it is right perhaps that the genealogy of the chiefs of Glenstrae, or, as they were generally called, the Lairds of M'Gregor, should be given in this place, for otherwise any notice in the sequel would not be easily understood. It is copied from the Black Book of Taymouth, page 64:—

"Johne Makewin M'Allaster M'Gregour, in anno (1516?)—ravischit Helene Campbell, dochter to Sir Colene Campbell of Glenurquhay, knicht. This Helene wes widow and Lady of Lochbuy, and she was ravischit. The foirsaid Johne wes not righteous air to the M'Gregour, but wes principall of the Clan-Doulcheir.

"This Johne M'Ewin begat upon the foirsaid Helene, Allaster M'Gregor of Glenstray, wha marriet ane dochter of the Laird of Ard-kinglass, being widow to M'Nachtane of Dundaraw.

"This Allaster of Glenstray begat upon the said dochter of the Laird of Ardkinglass John M'Gregor of Glenstray, and Gregour Roy his brother. The said Johne diet of the hurt of ane arrow going be-tvvix Glenlyon and Rannoch.

"Gregour Roy, his brother, succeeded him. The said Gregour Roy mariet the Laird of Glenlyon's (Duncan Campbell's) dochter, and begat upon hir AUaster Roy M'Gregour, and Johne Dow M'Gregour his brother. This foirsaid Gregour Roy M'Gregour wes execute be Colene Campbell of Glenurquhay (7th April, 1570).

"Allaster Roy M'Gregour succeidit to the foirsaid Gregour his father, and had no chUdren bot ane dochter. This AUaster Roy M'Gregour wes execute and hangit at the mercat croce of Edinburgh, and forfaultit, in anno 1604.

"Johne Dow M'Gregour, brother to the said AUaster M'Gregour, mariet ane dochter of the Laird of Strowan Murrayis, and begat upon hir Gregour, Patrik, and Ewin M'Gregouris. This Johne Dow M'Gregour wes slaine in Glenfrune be the Laird of Luss anno 1602.

"Gregour M'Gregour, sone to the foirsaid Johne Dow M'Gregour, that wes slaine in Glenfrune, succeidit air to AUaster Roy M'Gregour his uncle. This Gregour, with consent of Patrik and Ewin M'Gregouris his brother, disponit to Sir Duncan Campbell, sevint Laird of Glenurquhay, the landis of Stronmelochan and Glenstray, for the soume of ten thousandis pundis money, 1624,"

So much for the M'Gregors of Glenstrae; but it may be noticed in passing, that the Dean of Lismore tells us the above-mentioned John Makewin was the eleventh person in descent from "Kenneth, High King of Albin," and that "Duncan Doyroclych M'Dowle Vc. Oyne Reywich, had written out this from the books of the Shenheych of the kings, which had been made before the year 1512." What does he mean by the Senachie of the Kings? Duncan "the servitor" was the brother of the Dean of Lismore.

The family of M'Gregors of Roro held that Toiseachd, it is traditionally said, for seven generations. They were, to begin with, in some way so closely connected with John of Lome, a M'Dougall, that they subsequently got their traditions mixed up, and supposed Black John to be a Clan Gregor chief.

It appears the M'Gregors of Roro formed a distinct family many generations prior to the beginning of the sixteenth century. Before it was even granted out by feudal charter, they held, as "kindly tenants," that part of Glenlyon which had been afterwards included in the barony of Men-zies, and over which, from 1502 to about 1680, the Lairds of Weem were the over-lords. After having colonised Ran-noch under favour of the Stewarts' of Garth, the Roro chieftains severed that connection, and were friendly enough with Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Duncan Campbell, in whose favour James IV. erected the threescore markland possessed once by John of Lome into a separate Barony, called the Barony of Glenlyon. The M'Gregors of Ran-noch, Morinch, Fernan, and Fortingall, owed allegiance to the Cean-tighe of Roro, either directly as being descendants, or collaterally as sprung from the Feinne of Iain-dubh-nan-lann," of which band the M'Gregors of Roro, on usual clannish principles, became the captains. The first M'Gregor of Roro, of whom there is any authentic account, is—

I. Gregor, who settled in Roro about the time of his father's death, 1415, and was succeeded by his son.

II. Duncan Beg M'Gregor, known by the surname of Donacha Lionach. According to the Dean of Lismore's Obituary, and the Chronicle of Fortingall, he died at Roro, 1477. He had many sons, but here it is only necessary to mention two—1st, Gregor his heir; 2nd, John, styled in the Chronicle of Fortingall John "Duncanson," who died at Bellycht (Taymouth), and was buried at Inchadin, 10th March, 1491 ; and his widow, Katrine Cardny, daughter of the Laird of Foss, was buried in the church of Dull before the step of the Great Altar, 14th August, 1493. Their relative, Sir James M'Gregor, Vicar of Fortingall, notary public, and Dean of Lismore, was the first collector of Gaelic poetry that we know of. A volume of poems collected by him has been for a long time in the archives of the Highland Society. It has been inspected from time to time for special purposes, and the result communicated ; and last year, if I mistake not, an interesting lecture was delivered by Lord Neaves on the Osseanic controversy, which was mostly founded, in the peculiar lines of its argument, upon the report made by a Gaelic minister of Edinburgh upon the matter contained in this work ; but not one attempt has, it seems, yet been made to give the volume in its entireness—without adding to or taking from, and that is the only way in which a subject of the kind can be justly dealt with—to the public of Scotland so long tantalised about it. The Chronicle, written in Latin, and occupying but a few leaves of the original volume, has been printed, and contains matter of the highest interest for local genealogists. It is to be noticed in passing, that the principals of the M'Gregors of Leragan and Dunan in Rannoch, and the M'Gregors of Morinch and Fernan in Breadalbane, were severally descended from different sons of Duncan Beg.

III. Gregor M'Gregor Duncanson died at Roro, April, 1515, and was buried at Killin. He was married to a daughter of the Laird of Weem, and, as it would appear, held of his father-in-law, for during his time Roro had been included in the Barony of Menzies. This Gregor had several sons—ist, Duncan, his heir; 2nd, James, ancestor of the Gregories of Kinardie; 3rd, John, surnamed Ian Mallich, on account of his large eyebrows, ancestor of the M'Gregor-Drummonds of Balhaldie. Mallet the poet was also a descendant of Ian Mattich.

IV. Duncan M'Gregor, who succeeded his father, is several times noticed in the Chronicle of Fortingall. He is mentioned in the proclamation against several of the Clan Gregor, 10th January, 1563. He was married to a daughter of Rannald M'Couilglas of Keppoch. The proscriptions fell with great severity upon Duncan and his family. He died in captivity. One of his sons (Ewen) died of wounds received in a skirmish with the persecutors of the clan, at Croftgarrow, parish of Fortingall, 16th January, 1554, and was buried in the choir of Branvo, Glenlyon, as the curate of Fortingall observes, "cum maxima lamentatione virorum et mulierum" that being, I suppose, the best Latin paraphrase he could muster for Corronach. John Dhu More, another son, and an eminent warrior of the clan, died in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, 28th July, 1612. A grandson, Duncan in Fernan, and his cousin Allaster in Croftgarrow, son of the Ewen above mentioned, and several others of their kith and kin, were hanged with their chieftain, Gregor of Roro, and Chief Allaster of Glenstrae, for having been at the battle of Glenfruin, as well as for several enormities committed against the lands and tenants of Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, 28th July, 1612. "John Dhu," M'Allaster Breac, a grandson of Duncan, styled of Stonfer-nan, occurs in the records along with his brother in 1589 and 1602,and likewise by himself, in the bond given to the Earl of Argyle in 1601, as a descendant of "Duncan Leonach." He was killed by John Campbell, brother of Sir James Campbell of Lawers, to whom a commission of fire and sword had been granted against the M'Gregors by Argyle, the King's Lieutenant. Campbell presented the head of "John Dhu " to the Privy Council in 1611. At the time of his death, M'Gregor had a feu of the lands of Stonfernan from Strowan Robertson, and Campbell pursued Strowan before the Council for a nineteen years' lease of his victim's feu, in terms of an Act of Council promising such tack in favour of the slayer of every outlaw M'Gregor who happened to possess lands. Strowan was adjudged to pay Campbell a compensation, and ordered to eject the widow and bairns of M'Gregor", with servants and tenants.

V. Gregor M'Gregor, eldest son of Duncan, occurs with his nephew, "John Dhu," in a commission of fire and sword, dated 4th February, 1589, against a number of the Clan Gregor for the murder of Drummond of Drummond-Ernoch, the unfortunate forester of Glenartney. Gregor had a large family, most of whom sank under the- vengeance of the persecutors. Gregor himself was "hangit and quarterit" at Edinburgh in 1604, with the Chief "Alester Roy M'Gregor of Glenstrae," and many other principals of the clan. He was succeeded by his son.

VI. Duncan M'Gregor, alias Gordon of Roro, who, on the 24th February, 1613, as the only means to protect himself from being utterly ruined under the guise of law and order by the enemies of his name and race, granted a renunciation of his lands of Roro in favour of Duncan Men-zies of Comrie. In 1633 he made a second renunciation in favour of Alexander Menzies, son of Duncan, and took a wadset of the Mains of Roro in security for ;£i,o00 Scots, being balance due him of the price of the property. On the 22nd May, 1630, "Duncan M'Gregor, alias Gordon," and John Dhu M'Gregor, alias Sinclair, his brother, signed a bond and letter of slaine, whereby they became bound for all the M'Gregors of their own house of Roro, to keep the peace with Robert Buchanan of Leny, and his friends, on condition the latter should pay 1,300 merks, as an as-sithment for the slaughter of three of their friends, which sum had been agreed upon by arbiters mutually chosen by both parties. Duncan had married a daughter of Duncan Campbell, Laird of Glenlyon, and was succeeded by his son.

VII. Alexander M'Gregor, who fell in the battle of Inverlochy, fighting under Montrose, 2nd February, 1645, and was succeeded by his brother.

VIII. Gregor M'Gregor of Roro, who followed Montrose through all his campaigns. On the 25th April, 1673, he obtained of Commissary John Campbell, of Glendaruel, his maternal uncle, a renewal of the Mortgage Right of the Mains of Roro, the purchase money being the same as in the transaction of 1633.

IX. Gregor M'Gregor, alias "John Gordon" of Roro, succeeded his father. He joined in the Rebellion of 1715, where through his estate was sadly burdened. He was succeeded by his son.

X. Duncan M'Gregor, alias Campbell, the last M'Gregor of Roro. He followed Prince Charles in 1745, and in consequence was so much impoverished as to be under the necessity of acting as clerk to his uncle, Robertson of Tullybelton, at Perth. The wadset on the Mains of Roro was paid off by the Earl of Breadalbane, who obtained a renunciation in his favour, 1st April, 1760, signed by Duncan Campbell, alias M'Gregor, and others, at Perth, where it is recorded. His two sons left for India, and were not afterwards heard of. Dr. James M'Gregor of Fonab, who is lineally descended from Duncan, uncle of the last M'Gregor of Roro, in consequence of the failure of the main stem, appears at present to be the representative of this ancient branch of the Clan Gregor.

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