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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches

(Frontispiece and page 289).

The Glenlyon Brooch, represented in the frontispiece, and referred to at page 289, is described by Thomas Pennant in his "Tour in Scotland," anno 1771. He states that Colonel Campbell of Glenlyon, showed him "a very antient brotche, which the Highlanders use like the fibula of the Romans to fasten their vest; it is made of silver, is round, with a bar cross the middle, from whence are two tongues to fasten the folds of the garments; one side is studded with pearl or coarse gems in a very rude manner ; on the other the names of the three kings of Cologne, Gaspar, Melchior, Balthazar, with the word Consummatum. It was probably a consecrated brotche, and worn, not only for use, but as an amulet. Keysler's account of the virtues attributed to their names confirms my opinion. He says that they were written on slips of paper in this form, worn as preservatives against the falling sickness :—

"Gaspar fert Myrrham, Thus Melchior, Balthazar Aurum,
Solvitur a morbo Christipietate caduco."

That is to say:—

"Gaspar brings myrrh, Melchior incense, Balthazar gold,
By the mercy of Christ one is set free from the falling sickness."

With reference to the walking-staff also represented on the frontispiece, Mr. Pennant makes the following observations :—" Saw at the house of Colonel Campbell of Glenlyon, a curious walking-staff, belonging to one of his ancestors ; it was iron cased in leather, five feet long ; at the top a neat pair of extended wings like a caduceus ; but, on being shaken, a poniard, two feet nine inches long, darted out."


Glenlyon tradition strongly points to these round forts, having been all lofty and roofed edifices, but the diameter of the Cashlie forts is too great for any beam to cover it. Others are so small that they could have been topped easily enough by a beehive roof.

ST. EONAN (Page 5).

St. Eonan is St. Adamnan, the biographer of St. Columba, and Abbot of Iona. St. Adamnan was expelled by his monks because he yielded to Rome on the tonsure and Easter questions. It is not so sure that he ever got restored to his place in Iona, or that it was there he was first buried. After a time, indeed, his bones are found now in Iona and then in Ireland. But his first place of burial might have been Dull. There is no doubt that an abbey and church were established there in St. Adam-nan's honour. Adamnan means "little Adam"—in Gaelic Adhamhnan, which sound pretty much the same as Eonan. No sooner had I told the legend in the form in which it was usually recited, than Iain Mor Mac Rob gave another version of it to me in rather old Gaelic which I translated as follows:—Calum of Kells brought a company of Gillean De, servants of God, or Culdees—from Erinn to preach the Peace-message to the Gael of the West. In Ii, the little isle at the nose of Mull, the holy men took up their abode. There they built a church and a common habitation, and there they opened schools, and Calum of Kells was their chief or Abba. When these Gillean De had converted most of the chiefs, and great numbers of the people of the Gael of the West, Calum of Kells called the Gillean De together, and said, "Who of you will cross Drumalban and preach to the men of Alban the Peace-message of our Lord?" And twelve of the Gillean De rose forthwith, offering to go; and Calum of Kells blessed them; and they set out and marched together, even until they reached the cairn of Drumalban, and there they separated, each following a different stream and pass into the country of Alban. Eonan was one of the twelve, and from the cairn of Drumalban he followed the pass which led him to Glenlyon; but it was not then called Glenlyon at all. Its name was "Gleann dubh crom nan garbh chlach"—black crooked glen of large stones. Eonan built a church, and preached the Peace-message; and at first the men of the Glen would listen to him not, but preferred the ways of their fathers. Eonan then built a mill turned by water, and there had been no such mill in the Glen ever before and all the grain had till then be ground by "clacban brathan" (querns); and the people of the Glen began to think much of him, and to listen to him, and to be baptized. He lived among them until they were all made Christians, and they honoured him greatly ; and when he was dying, they asked, "Where he wished to be buried?" He replied to them that as soon as he had given up his soul they should place his body on a bier, and run "lunnan"—bearing sticks—through rings of withs— "dullan"—attached to the bier, and then taking him up they should carry him down the water, until a ring of withs—"dul"—broke. And when the first "dul" of the bier broke, then he wished them to bury him. So when Eonan gave up his soul the men of the Glen did as he told them. And soon after they passed the running together of the rivers Lyon and Tay, the first ring broke, and there they buried him, and named the spot "Dul." The name of Eonan was great among the people of Alban, and the Gillean De of the land of Alban, who were many of them his disciples, built a church over his grave, and a common house and schools in its near vicinity. After that the high king of Alban gave to the Gillean De of Dul, and the father or abba they had set over themselves, a city of refuge girth, which was marked out by large stones, and also a large lordship, which, until this day, is called Appin-Dhul (Abthania de Dul?) or the Abba-Land of Dul. Great waxed the fame of the schools kept' by the Gillean De of Dul. To them flocked the sons of kings, princes, and heroes in the land of Alban ; and Dul and St. Eonan were to the people of Alban what Calum of Kells and the little Ii at the nose of Mull were to the Gael of the West. Afterwards troubles arose and changes came. The common home and the schools were removedfrom Dul to Dunchaillion(Dunkeld),andafter-wards to Kilribhein (St. Andrews), where the schools are yet, although the Gillean De went out of sight long long ago, Old John had also a semi-poetic account of the stopping of the plague, which I did not translate, as it was in substance just the same as that which I had already given. I should think the Glenlyon people must have been accustomed in Catholic times, to services on St. Eonan's day, of which the above legend used to be part. St. Adamnan died in 703.


The etymological spelling given by Mr John Cameron, who forty years ago was schoolmaster at Innervar, is adopted here. It yields a natural enough meaning, but the country people always call this rock Craig-fhiannaidh, that is the " Rock of the Feinne," which conforms quite as well to the undoubted fact that it was a place on which judicial and other solemn meetings were held in very ancient times, and continued to be held until about 1480, or some years later when Stewart of Garth and the Clan Iver quarrelled and fought as related by General Stewart. On the top of this rock where the judge sat, there is what is called the footmark of Peallaidh, or St. Palladius, who was sent from Rome to convert the Irish in 432, but who, not being well received in the neighbouring isle, came to the land of the Picts where he died. Aberfeldy, Obair, or Aber-Pheallaidh receives its name from this early saint, who towards the east coast turns into Paldy, and even into Paddy. St. Eonan's cross, which marked the spot where he stopped, or was supposed to have stoped the plague, is a little to the west of the rock by the roadside. Some fanatic broke off the arms and top of it, probably at the time of the covenant; but on the broken shaft a rude figure of a cross was incised by some one who cherished old traditions. Inverinnian, some miles to the east of Cray-fhiannaidh, and on the other side of the river, is apparently named after St. Ninian, but the water-fall there is called after Peallaidh or Palladius, and so is a stone seat to which formerly miraculous qualities were attributed. At Innervar was a chapel dedicated to a doubtful saint. The little burial place which marks the spot has now received the name of Claodh-Ghunna, which is perhaps the degraded form into which "Claodh-Ghuinoch" has degenerated. Below the churchyard is a sacred well or "tiobart," There was an "annait" or relic chapel at Balnahannait, and another at the very head of the Glen near the ridge of Drumalban, but to what saints these were dedicated deponent cannot say.


We may accept the tradition without hesitation that it was St. Eonan, or Adamnan, who, in his years of exile from the Monastery of Iona, built the Chapel of "Branboth" Breanvo, or, as it is now called, "Brennudh," near the Bridge of Balgie. Notwithstanding the prior claims of Saints Palladius, Ninian, and others, Adamnan made himself, without any mistake, the patron Saint of Glenlyon. The traditions about him remained so vividly clear and strong, notwithstanding many ways of rehearsing them in detail, that he must have had a living personal connection with the place, and done things attributed to him, such as the building of the chapel on the rising ground called still "Druim-na-h-eaglais," just where the farm-house of Kerrumore now stands, and putting a mill on the stream of the neighbouring side-glen at Milton Eonan. It is supposed that he dedicated his chapel to St. Brandan, of voyaging and travelling fame, but this is a little doubtful. in the third volume of Celtic Scotland, page 271, Dr. Skene, quoting from the chartulary of the Priory of St. Andrews, says:—"In the time of Alexander the Third, Dul and Foterkel" (Dull and Fortingall, including Foss and Glenlyon), "remained still Crown lands, but the Church of Dul, with its Chapels of Foss and Branboth, in Glenlyon, belonged to Malcolm, Earl of Athole, who, after the death of William, his cleric, granted them to the Priory of St. Andrews." The Chapel of Branboth was removed from Druim-na-h-eaglais to the present churchyard by Black John after 1368, because, owing to the bog between the old and new sites, his wife, Janet, the cousin of King David Bruce, complained that she could not in all weathers go to her devotions without wetting her feet. St. Eonan built his Chapel near the only stone circle in Glenlyon. The stones of this circle have been removed within my memory. The place is called "Clachaig."


The very first Laird of Glenlyon was William Olifant, who received a grant of the ^40 lands thereof from King Robert Bruce. Till then, Glenlyon had always been Crown land. At page 558 of Vol. II. Exchequer Rolls, John of Inchmartin, Sheriff of Perth, debits himself for forty shillings received for the forty pound lands, quas dominus Willeltnus Olifant, tenet in Clenlymm, which Sir William Olifant holds in Glenlyon.


The Register of the Great Seal records, in 1368, the giving of Glenlyon, by King David Bruce, to John of Lome, and his wife, Janet, who is described as being the King's cousin. The grant is confirmed in 1372, apparently on Janet's death. It is here the story of the " dalta " ought to come in ; unless, indeed, the connection of Campbell's stepson was with John of Lome's successor. John of Lome, to whom David Bruce granted Glenlyon, was a Macdougal, but his daughter and heiress carried most of his property to her husband, John Stewart, Lord of Lome, who, perhaps, was, after all, the Black John of Glenlyon tradition, and the father of seven sons. The first Campbell Laird of Glen-orchy, Cailean Dtibh no. Roimhe, "Black Colin of Rome," married the eldest of the three daughters of the last Stewart Lord of Lome, and his son, Sir Duncan, inherited through his mother a duchas or hereditary right to Glenlyon. James the Third, however, granted, in 1477, Glenlyon and Glenquaich on lease to Stewart of Garth. The lease of nineteen years terminated in 1495, and on the 7th September, 1502, Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy received a Crown charter of the disputed barony for himself in liferent, and in fee for his younger son, Archibald, called


This "Pale Archibald" was only a boy when his father, "The Good Knight," fell at Flodden. Archibald married the heiress of Kil-moriche, and some bard composed a ballad of no great merit, some verses of which came down orally from 1520 to my own time. It opened thus :—

Ghilleasbaig mhic Dhonnachaidh,
Thilg thu 'n urchair ud ceart,
Killamhairrche 's Gleannliomhunn,
Dh' aon sgriob ann ad chalrt.


WHILE we have a good deal of literature, both prose and verse, in English and Gaelic about the long war waged by the Clan Gregor against the State, and the persecution they suffered in consequence of that war, it still remains for Mr. Skene, or some other historical antiquary, to throw light upon the origin of the war, and of the clan itself. The Mac-gregors claim descent from Kenneth and Alpin, but, as far as we can learn from records, their surname only dates from the beginning of the fifteenth century. No doubt the Dean of Lismore, or his curate, puts down in the Chronicle of Fortingall the death of John Gregory—that is, son of Gregor—of Glenorchy in 1390, but we suspect very strongly that this was a reflex name, and that John's son, Gregor, who died in 1414, was the chief from whom his tribe took their surname. But by what designation were they known before? The Robertsons, who were called Clan Donnachaidh from the time of Bannockburn till 1440, then called themselves after their chief, Robert, of fighting celebrity. Such changes of clan surnames were, indeed, rather conmon ; but the curious thing about the Macgregors is that their history antecedent to the end of the fourteenth century cannot be traced at all, and that in the next century they are found to be a very large scattered tribe warring with society, and developing a great deal of heroism and poetry in their state of lawless savagery. Donnacha Beag—little Duncan— he grandfather of that John who died in 1390, and who therefore probably lived as late as 1370, was the first of the line of chiefs of whom the bard, Mac Gilliondaig, "am fear dan," ever heard. Now Mac Gilliondaig composed his song in praise of Malcolm, the then chief of the clan, at least twenty years before the Dean of Lismore's brother Duncan wrote down the pedigree of John, the grandson of Malcolm, "from the books of the genealogists of the Kings," as he says, and it is Duncan whom we first find putting forth the claim of descent from King Kenneth Mac Alpin, of which tfie older bard makes no mention whatever. Duncan's pedigree is absurd on the face of it. Backward from the then living chief, Black John ("who died in 1519), he gives the links right enough to Donnacha Beag. Here they are:—"John the son of Patrick, the son of Malcolm, the son of Black John, the son of John, the son of Gregor, the son of John, the son of Malcolm he son of Duncan the Little"—eight generations in one hundred and fifty years. And how does he link Duncan with Kenneth Mac Alpin? As follows:—"Duncan the son of Duncan from Stirling, the son of Gilfillan, the son of Hugh of Orchay (Glenorchay), the son of Kenneth, the son of Alpin, and this Kenneth was head King of Scotland in truth at that time; and this John is the eleventh man from Kenneth of whom I spoke." While the eight later descents are crowded into one hundred and fifty years, the other four between Duncan the Little and King Kenneth were generously allowed five hundred years among them. The Irish genealogies given by Mr. Skene are wonderfully correct in most instances up to the thirteenth or even twelfth century, but that of the Macgregors, which differs considerably from the above pedigree, is not of much value except as regards the grouping of clans into stocks. Let us always bear in mind that clans only began to be formed when the old Celtic system began to break down, and the Celtic Kings were followed by Kings of Fife and the Lothians.

At the end of the fifteenth century there were three leading families of the clan, namely the Macgregors of Glenstrae, who had long been connected with Glenorchy, and the Macgregors of Roro in Glenlyon and of Bealach in Breadalbane. As to the latter two, the Macgregors of Roro were tenants, or rather what the Irish would call "middlemen," who farmed from the feudal lord, Menzies of Weem, the Glenlyon "Toiseachd" granted to his ancestors by Robert or David Bruce. They were cadets of the Glenorchy family, and their settlement in Glenlyon cannot be placed earlier than the year 1368, when King David granted that Glen to John of Lome, " and our cousin Janet his wife." The local tradition is constant that John of Lome, or " Iain Dubh nan Iann," first brought in this family as his henchmen. The history of the Bealach Macgregors is obscure. From indications in charters, we should say they were people who squatted on the lands of the monks of Scone, and gave a vast deal of trouble before they were forcibly evicted in the sixteenth century. The Glenstrae Macgregors were, when light falls upon them, feudal vassals of the Earl of Argyll, but although poor in regard to landed possessions, they were chiefs or captains of a great clan—so great that it must have taken centuries to form it. The clan poems found in the Dean of Lismore's collection show clearly enough that the war with feudal laws, and the raids and slaughters that attended these, were in full swing during the fourteenth century, although Scottish history, while saying much about the Mac-donalds and others, is perfectly silent about the Macgregors. We may, however, fully believe that they had a hand in every revolt and tumult within the Highland line from the battle of Harlaw down to the Reformation. And what could have placed them in this state of permanent rebellion to law and order? We believe they had suffered at one time a loss of patrimonial rights and status, which made them savage against authority and feudal tenures; and that loss could only have taken place in the reign of Robert Bruce, when the King's lands, watered by the Tay, began to be given out under feudal charters. It does not at all follow, because after Bannockburn the leading family is found planted in Glenorchy, that the clan had previously been there, or that it. was the original cradle of their race. The Macgregor chieftains were probably "Toiseachs," or captains, or kindly tenants of the Crown on the King's lands, who, in the War of Independence struggle, forfeited their duchas or patrimonial rights by going against Bruce and fighting on the side of Macdougal of Lome and the English King. This theory of dispossession would account for the future history of the clan, if it could be substantiated. It would also supply a reason for the somewhat curious anomaly of the clan being found chiefly in Perthshire at later dates, while the chieftains lived in Glenorchy. Mr. Donald Gregory assumed, indeed, that the "John of Glenorchy" living in 1286-94 was a Macgregor chief, but that John and his successors, we believe, were not Macgregors at all, but cadets of the house of Macdougal of Lome; and if Macdougals and Macgregors fought shoulder to shoulder during the Brucian war, it might be well expected that the "Toiseach" driven out of Perthshire should get refuge and land from the Macdougals, where his services would be of most avail to their faction. Mac Gilliondaig, "am fear dan," is really the most reliable and oldest authority we have in regard to the traditional history handed down from generation to generation among the clan themselves. Now Mac Gilliondaig begins his song by asserting that from the beginning of their order "Toisichean" were the equals of feudal lords or barons—the lairds of subsequent times :—

"Buaidh Thighearn air thoisichibh
A ta o thus an cinne."

Mac Gilliondaig says nothing about the Royal descent which is so prominently put forward afterwards, but he distinctly refers the origin of the race back to Gallew, or Galloway. He mentions first that they took the beginning of their inheritance or fame—the word is uncertain —from that place, and in the concluding lines of his song he calls Malcolm

"Mac Griogair bos barr chorcuir,
Mac Derwai! buidhe o Ghallew."

The fictions of the genealogists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—which culminated in the charter impositions of that perversely ingenious scholar, George Earl of Cromarty—were so many and so gross that we are now-a-days too much disposed to overlook the nuggets of true facts and clues to historical difficulties which can be found in the earlier and more trustworthy clan traditions. All unwritten traditions jumble things considerably together and make havoc with chronology, but yet there is generally an element of truth to be found in every popular tradition which came down from of old, and was not adopted from side sources like the mistakes of outside histories and the fallacies of antiquaries. It is quite possible, with the help of Mac Gilliondaig's references to the Gallowegian origin of the Macgregors to make out a fair historical case for their connection and probable kinship with Kenneth and Alpin, although not at all for their descent from these princes. Mr. Skene proves very clearly that Kenneth and his father were very closely associated with the Gael of Galloway and Carrick, and that it was from that region they obtained their armies. "What could be more natural and more politic for Kenneth, therefore, when he obtained the throne of Scone, than to put his own soldiers and friends as kindly tenants on the Crown lands? and if he did so, we need not be surprised that afterwards, as long as that settlement lasted, they had no history of their own ; for their history would be merged in that of the King's, whose Household Troops they were. These kindly tenants were, in fact something more than the King's bodyguard, for they were all that represented a standing army. It was only on great occasions that the array of the Kingdom was mustered, but without a competent force always at hand the kings could not have done, in those rough times, the work they did. But tenants so exercised in the use of arms from generation to generation would become a military caste with hereditary instincts for fight, and when driven by their own fault or mistake into revolt, they would be sure to give much trouble, and fight against fate for old customs and forfeited privileges. The supposition that the Macgregors were old kindly military tenants of the Crown, who for four hundred and sixty years enjoyed their Celtic customs, and that having taken the wrong side in the War of Independence they forfeited their "duchas," and saw themselves displaced by feudal proprietors, accounts for their after conduct, and the hankering for reversion to a past and irrecoverable state of things which threw them, as free lances or allies on the sides of rebels like Macdonald of the Isles, Neil Stewart of Garth, the Earl of Huntly, and scores of other troublers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and which later on made them strong adherents of the Stuart cause, although in the days gone by they had given the sovereigns of that House infinite trouble.

Mac Gilliondaig says of Duncan the Little that he left as an inheritance to Clan Gregor their heroism :—

Dh'fhag mar chuid dilib
Bo Chloinne Ghriogair an gaisge.

But what kind of heroism? That of spoiling. Duncan the little, he says, was "great by his spoils." English invasions, the captivity of the King, and the other chaotic troubles of David Bruce's reign must have afforded a man of Duncan's turn a fine opportunity for exercising his talents. But general history takes no notice of him nor of his successors in the next century, who also, the bards tell us, gained cattle and gold by the heroism of spoliation. This silence of history, we think, must be due to the fact that they fought as free lances under the banners of feudal chiefs. In the sixteenth century they changed their tactics and took to fighting and foraying openly on their own hand. The chief, Black John, who died in 1529, married a young wealthy widow—Helen Campbell, daughter of Colin of Glenorchy—whom he captured by force and fraud. But if he "ravished" Helen she forgave him, and probably had he lived longer he would have settled down as a steady going feudal laird. He died unfortunately, leaving an infant son, Alexander, who fell under the influence of his relative, that wildest of all the wild Macgregors, Donnacha Ladosach—Duncan Laidus of the Testament satire—and so the young chief took to a life of atrocities, which included such events as the slaying of twenty-six Balquhidder Maclaurins in Passion week, the burning of the Royal hunting lodge of Trochree, and many slaughters, captures, and raids. The chief died and Duncan disappeared—by "justification" of law—between 1546 and 1551. Alexander left a young son, Gregor—"Griogair ban nan basa geala'' of the most pathetic of all laments—who married a daughter of the Laird of Glenlyon, Donnacha Ruadh na feile. Gregor was chief, alias " Laird Macgregor," when he and his clan were taken in hand for their "oppressions" by Queen Mary. Gregor was a hero in the opinion of more people than his devoted wife ; but the wildness of his blood prevailed, and after several opportunities for amendment had been given him, he was hunted down by the feudal array of most of Perthshire and Argyllshire, and brought to the block at Kenmore in 1570. His last misdeeds were the slaughter and oppression of people of his own clan who refused to pay him chief's calpa and follow him in his raids. This trouble was not a new one. When Duncan Ladosach acted as tutor for the former chief he "warred with his own nation," that is, with peaceful, law abiding Macgregors who refused to be led into the commission of enormities, and placed themselves under the protection of the law and their feudal proprietors.


The notice of Hospitable Red Duncan's death is almost the last entry in The Chronicle of Fortingall began by Sir James MacGregor, vicar of Fortingall and Dean of Lismore, about 1500, and continued by his curate. The old scribe who wrote Duncan's obituary notice was a Roman Catholic, but while knowing that the dead laird had "followed the sect of the heretics," he expressed a strong hope in regard to his salvation, because he was a hilarious soul and a cheerful giver.


I know I had some proof once of Glenlyon having suffered there several times during Colin Gorach's time from Clanranald and Glencoe raiders. I have lost the reference. Probably the first time was when Carnban Castle was set on fire. The following entry in the Register of the Privy Council records the second raid, which happened a year or two before that conducted by Dougal which ended in the capture of the spoilers and their wholesale execution :—

"St. Andrews, August 20, 1583.—Complaint of Colin Campbell ot Glenlyon, as follows :—Alexander McCreland, John Dow M'Creland, Alexander McAine Dow Mhic Kreneld, Neil McConeill Mhic Coneill, Alexander McAmemiss, Angus McAn Dow, Donald Mclnnuss, Alexander McAlexander McGorrie, John Dow McConeill McCreneld Alexander McCain McAin Mhic Coneill, Donald McGerrie, William McConeill Mhic Gorme, Ewin McAin Mhic Coneill, John Dow McNeill Mhic Harther, Fercher Dow McConeill Mhic Alster, Donald McArther, John Dow McConeill McNeill, Rory McConeill Mhic Neill, Lachlan McTerlich Mhic Lachlin, — Nocheroy, John Mclnlay Roy, John Dow Mclnoss, with their complices, to the number of three score persons or thereby, with bow, darloch, and other weapons invasive, came upon the 24th day of June last bypast, by the break of day, and masterfully reft, spulzied, and away took from the said complainer, and Duncan Reoch, John Glass McEvin McDonald Dowy, and Donald McConald Reoch, his[servants, furth of his lands of Glenlyon and Glencalyie, four score head of ky, eleven horses and mares, together with the whole insight and plenishing of their houses; as also they not satiated with the said open oppression committed by them as said is, struck and dang the women of the said lands, and cutted the hair of their head.—Charge having been given to the persons complained of to appear and answer under pain of rebellion, and they not appearing, while the complainer appears by James Campbell of Ardkinglas, his procurator, the Lords order all the culprits to be denounced rebels." When Colin was asked after the slaughter if he would put his hand to, that is sign, a statement confessing his guilt, he replied at once that he would put his hand and foot to the confession in question. "An cuir sibh ar lamh ris an aideachadh so?'' asked the limb of the law who was sent] on the rather perilous errand. "Cuiridh, cuiridh, a laochain, an da chuid ma lamh's mo chas,' replied Colin, without hesitation.


Colin, when he succeeded his father—hospitable Duncan, friend of bards—in 1579, had a higher character than most of the rough barons of the time. His education had not been neglected. In the wars of his time he had displayed warrior qualities which attracted the notice of the men at the head of affairs. But it would seem he "got a clour on the head" in one of the encounters connected with the Lennox-Arran period of confusion, which unbalanced his mental equilibrium without at all interfering with the occasional display of great cleverness, and the constant possession of a defensive and offensive capacity, combined with acute cunning, which made him dangerous to his foes and sometimes to his friends. In 1585 Colin was a widower. He had just finished building his Castle of Meggernie, and thought he should marry another wife. His first wife had been a daughter of Cailean Liath of Glenorchy, and therefore a second cousin of his own. Except in the matter of his wholesale revenge on the Abraich, mentioned before, Colin's madness had been kept within bounds as long as his first wife lived. She was not very long in the grave before he tried to fill her vacant place by the outrageous wooing described in the following complaint recorded in the Register of the Privy Council:—

"Falkland, September 16, 1587.—Complaint of Dame Agnes Sinclair, Countess of Errol, as follows :—While in October last, she was living quietly in Inchestuthill, Colin Campbell of Glenlyon, with convocation of men, bodin in feir of weir, to the number of one hundred, came to the said place under cloud and silence of night, and after they had assieged the same a certain space, they treasonably raised fire at the gates thereof, where through she was constrained, for fear of the fury of fire, and for the preservation of her own life, to come forth ; at which time the said Colin Campbell and his complices put violent hands on the said complainer, revissed her (took her forcibly away, abducted her) and led her as captive and prisoner with them the space of twelve miles, of intention to have used her according to his filthy appetite and lust, or otherwise to have used some extremity against her; and had not failed so to have done, were it not by the providence of God she was delivered and freed of him by the Earl of Athole and his servants. Like as at that same time they cruelly hurt and wounded Alexander Hay, her servant, with a sword upon the hand, and John Mernis, another of her servants, with an arrow upon the face. The Countess of Errol appearing by John Bisset, her servant and procurator, but Colin Campbell failing to appear, the Lords order him to be denounced rebel."

Dame Agnes Sinclair was a daughter of the Earl of Caithness who died in 1583, and the widow of Andrew, Earl of Errol, who died in 1585. She was Earl Andrew's second wife. He was a man above fifty when he died, Dame Agnes was probably only half her old lord's age. Very soon after Mad Colin's attempt to abduct her she married Alexander Gordon, Strathdon, and removed to the neighbourhood of Aberdeen. They had indeed a long litigation about the possession of a house in Aberdeen itself, and had to give caution they would not injure their opponents by taking the law into their own hand. After being put to the horn in September, 1587, Cailean Gorach "remained contempnanlie unrelaxed." So the Countess obtained letters, charging him and the keepers of his dwelling houses (the castles of Meggernie and Carnban) to render the same to the executioner of the said letters, and also ordering him to enter within the castle of Blackness within a certain time under the pain of treason. He dis. obeyed of course, and then the Countess craved and obtained his Majesty's commission for pursuit of him by fire and sword. Surely the madman will now yield and make atonement meet. He is not, like law breakers in the distant Highlands and the Isles, beyond the reach of justice. He lives within fifty miles both of Stirling and of Perth. The King himself comes every year to hunt the deer in the forest of Matnlorn, which lies across the heads of Glenlochay, Glenlyon, and Glenorchy. Yes, but there's the rub. It is just because the King knows him very well that Cailean Gorach is never brought to real stern account for his misdeeds and contemptuous conduct. King James fell very early into the bad habit of interfering with the course of justice, and of assuming to himself the dispensing power which completed the national indictment against his grandson and namesake, and more than anything else caused the removal of the Stuart dynasty. We find the Lords of the Council over and over again, as in the case of Cailean Gorach, declaring the royal intervention null and void, and yet unable in most cases, when the King himself did not repent of his hasty action, to set the crooked straight. On July 21st, 1591, six years after the attempt to abduct her, the relentless Countess complains to the Council that to stay the commission of fire and sword, Colin Campbell of Glenlyon, "by the means of some shameless and indiscreet persons, preferring their own private gain and commodity to His Highness's honour, privily, without his Majesty's knowledge" —a mere lie for decency's sake—"obtained a letter under the King's subscription and signet relaxing him from the horn for any cause bygone. Iri justice to the complainers, and others having action against him, and also for relieving his Highness of the daily fasherie of indiscreet and inopportune suitors of such like letters," the Countess, through her procurator, urged "the said letter ought to be declared null." Colin was charged to appear and produce the privy letter of relaxation. He failed, as usual, to obey. The Countess and her spouse appeared by James Harvie, their procurator and the Lords "decerned the said letter of relaxation to have been surreptitiously obtained of his Majesty, and therefore to be null, and ordained the said letters of horning, caption, and treason against Colin Campbell of Glenlyon, and the commission following thereupon, to be put to further execution in all points."

Most of Cailean Gorach's pranks were more amusing than dangerous. On one occasion, perhaps in connection with the Countess of Errol's process, he gave a splendid funeral to two sheriff-officers who served writs upon him. Colin took the papers without demur, gave the limbs of the law a good dinner, and then, binding them on biers like dead bodies, and calling his men and pipers together, he marched at the head of the mocking procession, to the wail of the bag-pipes, for ten miles, until he finally hurled biers and occupants, without any danger to the latters' lives or limbs, in Alt-a-Ghobhlain, the burn which bounded his barony. Some thirty years ago I asked an old Glenlyon man, after he had related to me a whole string of Cailean Gorach's pranks, whether he was not in the end placed under restraint. His reply was:—" Cha deach Cailean riamh a chuir an laimh. Bha'n Righ na charaid's na chul-taic dha. 'Sa Mhoire ! bu duine aoidheil, fialaidh, fiachail Cailean, agus ge do chaidh cartuathal na cheann am meadhon aois gu latha a bhais cha d' fhuair mac mathar a chuid a b' fhearr dhe."


After the entry of 1591, we find nothing more in the Privy Council Register about the process of the Countess of Errol. It is doubtful whether she ever got any satisfaction. Itis quite certain the commission of fire and sword was never executed. But in the years 1589 and 1590 Cailean Gorach was one of the most conspicuous actors in the feudal war between Lord Ogilvie of Airlie and the Earl of Argyle—Lord Ogilvie puts Colin and his brother Archibald and Donald M'Tarlich, from the Laird of Glenorchy's bounds, down among his chief foes in the war which, he says, wrecked his house. And here follows a special complaint, which proves that in feudal war, if not in forays, Colin could snap up cattle as well as the Glencoe and Clanranald men, who had swept the Glenlyon sheilings a few years earlier:—

"Holyrood House, Nov. 5, 1591.—Complaint by William M'Nicol in Little Fortour, as follows:—In the beginning of the late troubles between the Earl of Argyll and Lord Ogilvie, when the broken men of Argyll and other parts of the Hielands came down within Angus, the complainer was spuilyied of all his goods, including sheep, nolt, and horses, with the exception of 70 cows and oxen only, which he sent to Glenshie for safety. But Colin Campbell of Glenlyon, being advertised hereof, associated unto himself forty of the said broken men and sorners, and came to Glenshie, where he violently reft and away took the said 70 cows and oxen ; and although the complainer has often craved restitution, yet the said Colin not only avows the deed and refuses restitution, but schores (threatens) him with further injury and malice, where through he, being sometimes an honest householder and entertainer of a great household and family, is now brought to misery and poverty. The complainer appearing personally, Colin Campbell of Glenlyon, for failing to appear, was denounced rebel."

Colin's sister was the wife of that Gregor Macgregor, chief of his clan, who, in consequence of peremptory orders from the Regent and Council, was hunted down by the array of Athole and Breadalbane in 1570, and executed at Kenmore in presence of the Earl of Athole, Justice-General, and of the whole baronage of the district. Duncan Roy of Glenlyon and Colin, his son, were obliged to be present with the rest, and the Macgregor's heart-broken widow, in her pathetic song to her babe, thus spoke of father and brother :—

"'S truagh nach robh m'athair aim an galar
Agus Cailean aim am plaigh."

She was unjust in her grief. Her father and her brother were true and kind friends to herself and her two boys, Alexander and John, after the storm. The boys were brought up wisely and well until Ewen, their clan tutor, took them away from Glenlyon, at their grandfather's death, and initiated them into the wild ways of their predecessors. The barbarous murder of John Drummond, one of his Glen-artney foresters, in 1589—roused an unusual flame of vindictive animosity in the usually placid breast of King James, which made the second persecution of the clan Gregor hotter than the first one. But Cailean Gorach would not join in the hunting down, although the persecuted had, in an accidental fray, brought about, it was suspected, by the machinations of Glenorchy, killed three of his men. He befriended not only his sister's sons, the young chief Allastair and Ian Dubh his brother, but went out of his way, and used all sorts of pncommon devices to protect the whole persecuted surname. Many of them lurked in the rocks and corries of his rugged hills, for the unrsuers remembered the fate of the Abraich raiders, and disliked invading the clever madman's lands, even under the royal commission. As it was "broken men" he had with him in the Glenshee affair, and as the lifting of Nicol's cattle was not a thing in Colin's own line, we may conclude that "broken" Macgregors had their fingers in that pie pretty deeply, and so repaid Colin's previous kindness to them. But his nephew and the Clan Gregor, as a whole, had nothing to do with the feudal war between Ogilvie and Argyle.


Colin died at the end of 1596, or in the early part of 1597. We get our last glimpse of him in the following entry in the Privy Council Register:—

" Edinburgh, July 22, 1596.

Complaint by Sir Duncane Campbell of Glenurquhy, forester of the forest of Mayne Lome (properly Mam-Lome), as follows :—Coline Campbell of Glenlyoun, Donald M'Conachy Vic Coniland, Donald M'Instalker, John M'Veane, John M'Vean, his brother John M'Robert M'Kinly,------M'Robert Graseche, John M'Gillichrist Duncan Reoch, and Donald Reoch his son, yearly in the summer seasoun comis and repairis to the said forest, biggis sheillis within and aboute the same, and remains the maist parte of the summer seasoun at the said forest, schuiting and slaying in grite nowmer the deir and wylde beastis within the same forest, and will not be stayed thairfra in tyme coming, unless commission be given to the said complener to destroy, dimoleis and cast doun the saidis scheillis.—Sir Duncane appearing by Mr. John Archibald, his procurator, and Coline Campbell appearing by his son, the Lords grant commission to the complainer to the effect foresaid, because the said Coline, by his procurator, could show no cause in the contrary, and none of the other defenders had appeared to make any defence in the matter."


The Caithness name for this fight between the Campbells and the Sinclairs is "The battle of Altnamarlach," of which a Caithness correspondent gave the subjoined account in the Northern Chronicle of July 1st, 1885.—

The following does not pretend to be an exact historical account of the last of Scottish battles, fought for private ends and personal purposes, but is merely a reproduction of the legendary information concerning that event which still lingers in Caithness. It might be interesting if any one acquainted with Breadalbane traditions could supply some account of the combat, as common in that district in the present day, or even "within the memory of man." By such means light might be thrown on some particulars now obscure, and a stepping-stone made for more extended investigation.

Campbell of Glenorchy and Sinclair of Keiss were rivals for the title of Earl of Caithness, and for the then extensive estates which went therewith. As Keiss continued resolutely to oppose Campbell's pretensions, the latter invaded Caithness with a force said to have consisted of five hundred Campbells and Macintyres, and sixty regular troops. The scabbard of a sabre—not of a claymore—was, some years ago, dug up on the site of the engagement, the form of which would seem to point to the presence of the regular military. This sheath, which was made of steel, had evidently been used to ward off the sweep of a broadsword, and had been deeply cut into. The blade which it had enclosed must have been of extraordinary breadth, with a very decided curve—not at all such a weapon as we are in the habit of associating with the Highlander of the period.

This expedition of five hundred and sixty men was commanded by Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. Some accounts say that the invading force took shipping, and made the journey to Caithness by sea, and that not without danger of shipwreck in the Pentland Firth. Others maintain that the Campbells employed but one vessel, for the transport—not of men, but of whisky. This ship was judiciously wrecked near Wick, where Keiss had drawn together some Sinclairs, Gunns, and others, into whose hands the spirits fell, with results which did not tend to their advantage in the day of battle. If the first account be correct, the place where the expedition landed must have been Berriedale or its vicinity, for it seems to be very generally admitted that the Campbells encamped, during their first night in Caithness, at Braemore, where the Gunns supplied them with fodder for their horses. This hospitality was ill requited, for, so runs a tradition common in Strathmore, the invaders, on resuming their march, drove off numerous cattle belonging to their entertainers. Gunn of Braemore was at the time confined to his bed, suffering from fever, but when he heard of the treatment his people had received, he took horse, and, with as many men as he could gather on the spur of the moment, made a rapid march after the Campbells, and managed to cut off and secure the captured cattle, without sustaining any very severe loss. The night during which the strangers encamped at Braemore (nth August, 1680) was ushered in by a hard and unseasonable frost, which is still spoken of by old people as the natural accompaniment of the Campbells, whose chieftain is from that circumstance sometimes referred to as "grey frosty John."

Next evening saw the invaders encamped near the Hill of Tannoch, near Wick, to reach which they must have undertaken a long and weary march, through bogs and mires, bad enough at the present day, but which must have been infinitely softer and more watery in the seventeenth century, when road making and draining were unknown sciences.

Early next morning, the Campbells moved on the burn of Altnamar-lach, posting a number of men on the high ground towards Wick, as if they were the whole force, while the main body remained hid in a neighbouring hollow, ready to start up and take the Sinclairs in flank at any moment when such might appear necessary.

Keiss had but 400 men under his banner, few of whom were very fit for the impending shock, as their brains were not yet clear from the effects of their late debauch. Drawing up in some sort of order, a stiff dram was served out to the clansmen, who then advanced, hearing that the Campbells were in motion as if intending to march on the hamlet of Keiss. This movement, however, was but a feint, taken part in by but a few, its real purpose being but to draw the Sinclairs into the ambush near the burn. This manoeuvre had the desired effect, for Keiss immediately ordered an attack. The Caithness men found no difficulty in sweeping before them that part of the enemy's forces which stood in the way and was visible. Having no knowledge of the reinforcements in their immediate neighbourhood, Sinclair's men pursued the flying Campbells into the hollow, where the reserves, leaping upon the pursuers, turned victory into panic-stricken rout. Bullet, broadsword, and arrow followed the unfortunate adherents of Keiss down the glen, and over the sluggish stream of Wick, the channel of which was so choked by the slain and wounded, that the victors passed dry-shod over the river, and continued to cut down the flying Caithness men for some distance on the other side of the water. Sinclair of Keiss, seeing that all was lost, rode off the ground, attended by a few gentlemen who remained faithful to him. Thus ended the Culloden of Caithness.

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