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Book of Scottish Story

The name of Colkittoch often occurs in the history of the great rebellion in the reign of Charles I. By some he is denominated Macdonald of Colkittoch, by others Colkittoch, and by many he is confounded with his son. His name was Coll, or Colle, Macdonald: he was a native of Ireland. His father was Archibald Macdonell, who was an illegitimate son of the Earl of Antrim. With the aid of his partisans, Coll took violent possession of the island of Colonsay, one of the Hebrides, having driven away the Macfees, who had held it for many centuries. Coll was denominated Kittoch, or, more correctly, Ciotach, from his being left-handed. Coll had distinguished himself in the unhappy disturbances in lreland, and when Lord Antrim sent troops to Scotland as auxiliaries in the royal cause, he served as an officer under his own son, Allister, or Alexander, who had the chief command of the corps. The father and son were well qualified for this service, both of them being well known in the Highlands, and connected by blood or marriage with some of the best families in that country.

Coll was noted for his strength and prowess, though tainted with the cruelty too familiar to his countrymen at that time. He fought in all the battles in which the Irish auxiliaries were engaged under Montrose; he was also concerned in their plundering expeditions in Argyllshire, where private revenge was unfortunately added to the horrors of war. Many of the lyric compositions of those days extol his bravery and his bloody vengeance on his antagonists, the Campbells, though it seems he was on very friendly terms with some of that name.

Coll had possession of the Castle of Duntroon, and having placed a garrison in it, he went to another quarter ; but in his absence it was taken by stratagem. He was ignorant of this misfortune, and on his return he steered his boat direct for the castle. His own piper was then a prisoner there; and knowing his master’s boat, to warn him of his danger, he played a tune which he composed for the purpose; and so accurately did the sound correspond with the meaning, that Coll understood the intention, and avoided the castle.

After the defeat of Montrose at Philiphaugh, and the retreat of his son Alexander to Ireland, Coll was left in command of the castle of Dunaovaig, the ancient seat of the Macdonalds of Islay. The garrison consisted of 150 men; but the pipes which conveyed the water being cut by the enemy, on the assurance of Sir David Leslie, who commanded the parliamentary forces, Coll was induced to go out of the castle to hold parley with his old friend Campbell of Dunstaffnage. Leslie basely broke his word, and made Coll prisoner.

The Marquis of Argyle was present on the occasion, and was blamed for this. After the Restoration, when Argyle was brought to trial, he was accused of the heinous crime of having ordered this garrison to be put on a rock, surrounded by the sea, to perish without food or water. He denied all knowledge of any such thing; and the proof on this point does not appear satisfactory, nor could we find any tradition in that country of such an atrocious action.

Coll was committed to the custody of the captain of Dunstaffnage, in whose castle he was confined, and the tower where he lay is still named after him. That gentleman being no doubt sensible of the dishonourable treatment his prisoner had received, gave him every possible indulgence. He permitted Coll to walk about the place, but he had cause to repent his lenity The Marquis of Argyle charged him with misconduct; and dreading the well known severity of his chief, Dunstaffnage denied it. Argyle swore that if Coll should be found at large, the captain would be severely punished, and a messenger was despatched to ascertain the fact. Dunstaffnage being at Inveraray at the time, ordered his foster-brother to set off with all speed, and outrun the other, which he did; and on coming in sight of the castle, he cried out, " Coll in irons ! Coll in irons !" Coll was occupied in superintending the shearing of corn at the time, and was the first who heard the cries. Conjecturing what the cause might be, he instantly retired to his dungeon, and with his own hands put on the irons. He was soon after this brought to trial before the sheriff of Argyle, in the castle where he was confined. Maclean of Ardgour, who originally had been on the royal side, was one of the jury; and wishing to display his zeal for the republican cause, which, with many others, be then espoused, asked Coll if he had been present at the battle of Inverlochy; the prisoner boldy replied, "By my baptism! I was so, carle, and did more service there than thyself." He was condemned to die, and was executed, by hanging from the mast of his own boat, laid across the cleft of a rock. [Coll's execution took place in 1647.] He suffered death without dismay, requesting that his body might be laid so near that of his friend, the captain of Dunstaffnage, that they might exchange snuff-boxes in their graves; and this request was complied with. The fate of Collkittoch was amply avenged : at the Restoration, his death and sufferings formed some of the most serious and fatal charges against the Marquis of Argyle. —" Traditions of the Western Highlands,” in the London Literary Gazette.

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