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Arran of the Bens, The Glens and the Brave
Chapter III. Arran's Romances, King Robert Bruce, Cromwell and Arran

Many races have left their mark on Arran, have spilt their blood to hold it, have left their romances behind upon its hill-tops and its shores to redeem it from the commercialism of our time. The men of the Stone Age, of the Bronze period, the early Keltic period, did each some little to emancipate it from barbarism, till the splendid Dalriadic colonists came and finally broke its chains, making it partaker for a time of the noblest civilisation the world has yet known. But alas! its very wealth brought the Norse sea-rover who destroyed all, all but the righting, clannish instinct of the "Kelt" which was to overcome the Northman in the end, so that not one fragment of all his conquests should remain to him. Of course, it is always more easy to destroy than to create, and so a rough hammer may shatter the Portland vase, a rough sword the monastery of Iona, and all the promise of good that lay in Dalriada.

Arran was at that time no wilderness; it was only six miles distant from the capital of a race who had been Christians for some 500 years, and whose blood it undoubtedly shared: a race who were skilled in the arts as their forbears in Ireland had been for centuries, and possessed some of the learning and the refinement which had made Ireland famous, and attracted to her shores scholars from every nation. The immense difference between them and the Norse intruders is curiously illustrated in the following passage from Mr. Henderson's Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland—"The kindly temperament of King Brian of Munster, heightened by his belief probably, was noticeable to the Saga writer, and I may adduce it as a parallel to the softening influence which contact with the West men sooner or later produced in the fierce followers of Odin. 'He (Brian),' says the Saga, 'was the best-natured of all kings; thrice would he forgive all outlaws the same offence before he had them tried by the law, and from this it will be seen what a king he must have been.'"


Arran is also famous as the place where Robert Bruce sought shelter when in hiding from the soldiers of Edward of England. Tradition has it that to avoid his pursuers he moved about the island, sheltering at one time in the famous King's Cave at Drumadoon, and at another at the ancient prehistoric fort in beautiful Glen Cloy, called Tor na' shian, or Mound of the Fairies, from which a view is obtained of the whole of the glen. There, too, it is said, when hunted by bloodhounds, he used to take exercise by wading up and down the Glen Cloy burn at High Glen Cloy, where it runs under the fine woods of Kilmichael, the home of the MacLouies or Fullartons.

Whether or not the name of Glenrickard, which lies above the grounds of Kilmichael, refers to the story of Bruce in Glen Cloy, I cannot say, but the name seems to have no connection with the word "Rickard," as the Ordnance Department seem to have supposed. The pronunciation of a friend, who has lived in the glen all his life of some sixty or more years, is "Glenreegart," a name derived probably from the Gaelic words glen and righ andgart, which give us the glen of the king's sanctuary or enclosure. The name may, of course, be of earlier origin than the time of Bruce, and might have been acquired from some legend invented to account for the great, twenty feet long, chambered cairn in which were buried our remote forbears, chiefs, and kings. It is now a children's plaything.

"Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away."

The site of the original Kilmichael house was on the spot where Dr. Robertson-Fullarton has erected his observatory, and the ruins of Kilmichael Church were still visible a little to the north-east of this spot, close to the Glen Cloy burn, in Pennant's time.

Arran has also long been regarded as the scene of the exploits of Fion (Fune) or Finn, and many place names tell of him and his followers, and of Ossian and Malvina. Indeed, many persons have held that the much disputed name, Arran, is from Ar Finn, the land of Finn, while others state that it is from Ar rinn, or land of the peaks; but the evidence seems insufficient to warrant a decided judgment in favour of either of these theories. It is clear that Fion and Ossian never had an existence in actual fact, but are of purely mythological origin, like the great Gaelic legend in which they figure; but so strong was the influence of the old mythology in the West at one time, and so saturated were the Arran people with the legends of the Feinne, that one is inclined to favour the definition of Ar Finn. The name of the hill Suidhe Feargus, in Glen Sannox, is that of Fion's son, and its beautiful outline is well worthy of the great romance linked with its name.


During the wars of Charles I. the Hamiltons stood for the King, but Brodick Castle was held at different times by both parties, and when the Earl of Stafford was about to reduce the West of Scotland to obedience, Argyll, with the Covenanters, took possession of Brodick. In 1644 the Marquis was created Duke of Hamilton for his services to Charles, but paid for his loyalty with his head when the Parliament finally overthrew the King. The Dutch ships were at that time hovering about the Outer Hebrides, and Cromwell's government had fear of them seizing the islands. They therefore garrisoned Brodick, and built the tower on the north-east side. The islanders, however, were enraged at the execution of their chief, and resented also the rough manners of the soldiery, who insulted their wives and daughters. They therefore set a trap for them when they were out foraging, and after chasing them along the Corrie shore, caught them at Sannox, and put them to the sword, the last being slain, according to tradition, at the "Killing Stone," on the Sannox shore. The next duke fought and died for Charles II. at Worcester, and with him were present the islanders, together with the other Highland clans.

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