Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Highlanders of Scotland
Part II -
Chapter VI

II. – Moray.

THE Maormors of Moray were, during the tenth and eleventh centuries, by far the most powerful chiefs in Scotland; their immense territories extended from the eastern nearly to the western seas, and their power and influence over the whole of the north of Scotland. They were the only chiefs who attempted, during this period to resist the encroachments of the Norwegians, and although that resistance was unsuccessful, yet in consequence of a connexion which was formed between the head of their race, and the Norwegian earl, the very success of the Norwegians ultimately contributed to increase the power of the Maormors of Moray, and to extend over Scotland the tribes dependent upon them. Three of these Maormors succeeded in attaining the crown of Scotland, and until the fall of their race, before the increasing power of the kings of the line of Malcolm Kenmore, they may be considered as kings of the Highlands.

It has been previously remarked, that the Highland clans are divided by the old Highland genealogies into five great classes, and that one of these consists of the Macphersons, Macintoshes, and Macnaughtans; to these there is reason to add, as we shall afterwards see, the Camerons, Macleans, Macmillans, and Monroes; and this great division, which extends from Inverness even as far as Cowall and Kintyre, is proved by the same manuscript to be descended from the ancient inhabitants of Moray, for among the genealogies of these clans, it contains the genealogy of the ancient Maormors of Moray, and connects the other clans with that line. The old name of this tribe has also been preserved to us by Tighernac, who calls Finlay Macrory, who was undoubtedly Maormor of Moray, “Maormor mhic Croeb.” By the defeat and death of Donald Macmalcolm, king of Scotland, and Maolsnectan Maclulaigh, king of Moray, by Malcolm Kenmore in the year 1085, the line of the ancient Maormors seems to have become extinct, and from that period the consequence of that powerful tribe began to decline. After the death of Maolsnectan, the first person whom we find in possession of this district is Angus, who in the Ulster Annals, is styled earl of Moray and son of Lulach’s daughter; Lulach was the father of Maolsnechtan, and Angus was thus the son of his sister.

Although these annals do not mention who this Angus was, yet we are enabled, by the assistance of the invaluable MS. so often quoted, to discover that he was the head of an ancient branch of the same family, for when Wimund, the English monk, who claimed the earldom of Moray in the reign of David II., asserted that he was the son of this Angus, he assumed in consequence the name of Malcolm Macheth. As his supposed father’s name was Angus, it is plain that the name Macheth which he assumed, was Angus’s family name, particularly as Wimund’s son, Kenneth, also called himself Kenneth Macheth. Among the comites, however, who witness charters in the first years of David the First’s reign appears frequently Head, Hed, and Ed, with the word “Comes” after it, and he appears along with the earls of almost all the other earldoms, so that he could scarcely have been earl of any other district than Moray. His date is circa 1125, Angus is killed in 1130, and if we add the fact of Angus’s family name being Macheth, there can be little doubt that Head was his father, and the husband of Lulach’s daughter, and that from him his descendants took the name of Macheth. At this period, feudal succession, by which alone Head could have derived any right from his wife, was altogether unknown in Scotland, and as he was the first of the Maormors of Moray who exchanged that name for the Saxon title of earl, it follows of necessity that his right to the position of Maormor must have been derived through the Highland law of succession; we should therefore expect to find this earl the head of some family closely connected with the former earls, to whom the earldom could have come by the operation of a strictly male succession.

It so happens however, that the grandson of Gillichattan, the founder of the clan Chattan, by far the most important of those clans, whose descent from the ancient Maormors of Moray is established by the manuscript, is called by the manuscript, Heth, and that from a calculation of generations he is exactly contemporary with the children of Lulach. As this is so very uncommon a name, there can be little doubt, but that Heth was the same person who was the father of Angus, and who married the daughter of Lulach, and that he was hereditary chief of clan Chattan, the principal branch of the Moray tribe. He thus possessed a title to the earldom of Moray from his own descent, as well as from his connexion with the family of the previous Maormors. The tribes of Moray had no sooner in some degree recovered their strength after the blow they had received in the reign of Malcolm Kenmore, than their new Maormor commenced that course of determined opposition to the government of the feudal successors of Malcolm, which was not finally overcome for upwards of a hundred years, and the same adherence to the rights of the heirs of the throne, according to the Highland principles of succession, which the former Maormors had maintained for their own.

The attempt of the Moray tribes in the reign of Alexander I., which must have taken place during the possession of the earldom by Head, has already been alluded to, and on the death of Alexander I., a still more formidable attempt was made by Angus the next earl, in the reign of his successor David I., in the year 1130, when Angus, after having obtained possession of the northern districts of Scotland, advanced at the head of a numerous army into Forfarshire. At this time it appears that David was at the court of Henry, king of England, but Edward, the defeated and slew the earl of Moray at Strickathrow, and after this event David seems to have taken the most prompt measures to quell the Moravians. In consequence of these measures the Moravians remained quiet for the unusual period of upwards of twelve years, but at the end of that time they were again excited to revolt by one of the most singular occurrences of the history of that period.

An English monk, who had hitherto been known under the name of Wimund, and who had risen to be bishop of Man, suddenly announced himself to be the son of Angus, earl of Moray, who had been slain at Strickathrow, and thereupon prepared to assert his right to that earldom. Having collected together some ships in the Isle of Man, and having been joined by numerous adventurers, he appeared among the Western Isles, where he was immediately received by Somerled, who, actuated either by policy or conviction, acknowledged his right, and also evinced his sincerity by bestowing upon him his sister in marriage. Wimund, having assumed the name of Malcolm Macheth, now proceeded to invade the shores of Scotland, where he was joined by many of the northern chiefs, and even received the support of the Norwegian earl of Orkney, who declared him to be the earl of Moray, and married his sister. The assistance of the northern chiefs, and the natural advantages which the mountainous character of the country afforded to the prosecution of his enterprise, enabled Wimund for several years to sustain a war with David I. of Scotland, retiring to the mountains or to his ships when pressed by the royal army, and again renewing his depredations as soon as it was withdrawn. At length, however, he was betrayed and delivered up to David, who, in the spirit of eastern barbarity, caused his eyes to be put out, and imprisoned him in Rokesburgh Castle.

Historians have generally considered Wimund to be an impostor; but when, in addition to the improbability of any such imposition having either been conceived or likely to have been attempted with any prospect of success, we reflect, that the circumstance of his assuming the name of Malcolm Macheth proves at least that Angus had children, and if so, that they must of necessity have fled from the wrath of David; that Wimund not only received assistance from the Gaelic chiefs, but even from the earl of Orkney, all of them openly countenancing his pretensions; and that in the Norse Sagas he is distinctly styled Malcolm, earl of Moray, without any surmise of his title to that dignity being doubtful or called in question by any one at the time, – we must admit that Wimund’s claim may have been well founded.

When Wimund fell into the hands of his opponent, his sons appear to have sought refuge with Somerled, their uncle; and that ambitious chief seems to have made their cause a pretext upon several occasions for invading Scotland. But as these invasions were generally succeeded by a peace, they were not productive of any advantage to his nephews. One of these youths, named Donald, was, in the year 1156, discovered lurking in Galloway, where he was secured, and imprisoned along with his father in Rokesburgh Castle. In the following year Malcolm appears to have come to terms with Wimund, who, upon being released from prison, resumed the cowl, and retired to the monastery of Biland, in Yorkshire.

But there still remained one of the sons of Wimund at liberty, whose name was Kenneth, and who, undeterred by the fate of his father and brother, resolved to make another attempt for the recovery of his inheritance; and taking advantage of the insurrection of the Scottish earls in favour of William of Egremont, he easily succeeded in exciting the Moravians once more to revolt. The unexpected success with which Malcolm crushed the conspiracy enabled him likewise, after a violent struggle, effectually to subdue these restless assailants; and in order to prevent the recurrence of farther insurrections upon the part of the Moravians, he resolved to reduce their strength by removing many of the hostile clans, and peopling the districts with strangers. The inhabitants of the northern portion were principally either driven out or removed to the crown lands of Braedalbane, in Perthshire, and the conquered district was bestowed upon the Norman families of Bisset, Thirlstane, and Lauder. A great part of the present county of Elgin was likewise depopulated, and strangers introduced, among whom was the Flemish family of Innes, while the whole earldom was bestowed upon the earl of Mar.

By these measures the Moravians were so completely crushed, that during the remainder of this and the following reign, they did not again attempt to disturb the peace of the country. Kenneth in the meantime having made his escape after his defeat by Malcolm, and hopeless of obtaining farther support in Scotland, took refuge in Ireland, and solicited assistance from the Irish. He was there joined by Donald Macwilliam, who claimed the throne of Scotland in right of his great-grandfather, Duncan, Malcolm Kenmore’s eldest son, and having collected a numerous body of Irish followers, the two adventurers proceeded to invade Scotland, and made an inroad into Moray. They were there met by Ferchard Macantagart, the earl of Ross, who had judged it prudent for him to join the King’s party; the invaders were defeated, and both of the leaders slain. By this defeat, and the consequent death of Kenneth, it appears that the family of Angus became extinct; but the Highland law of succession had the effect of transmitting the claims of the family, together with the chiefship of the whole tribe, to the next branch of the clan, and accordingly we find that thirteen years after this event, a certain Gillespic [This Gillespic has been most improperly confounded with Gillespic mac Scolane, of the Mac William family, slain in 1221. Fordun, the only authority for both rebellions, carefully distinguishes between them.] raised another insurrection in Moray. In his progress he burned some wooden castles which had probably been erected for the purpose of containing garrisons to overawe the country; he surprised and slew a baron called Thomas of Thirlstane, to whom Malcolm IV. had given the district of Abertarff, and afterwards burnt Inverness. The king proceeded against him in person, but unsuccessfully; and in the following year William Comyn, earl of Buchan, then justiciary of Scotland, marched with his numerous vassalage upon the same enterprise, dispersed the insurgents, and slew Gillespic with his two sons. As we find that, immediately after this event, Walter Comyn, the son of the earl of Buchan, becomes possessed of the districts of Badenoch and Lochaber, while it is certain that these districts were previously possessed by the natives, we cannot doubt that this Gillespic was lord of that extensive territory, and that on his death Comyn received a grant of them from the crown as the reward of his services in suppressing the insurrection and slaying its head. Alexander II. followed up this success by his usual policy, and erected the portion of the earldom of Moray, which was not now under the stern rule of the Bissets, Comyns, and other Norman barons, into the separate sheriffdoms of Elgin and Nairn. The authority of government was thus so effectually established, that the Moravians did not again attempt any further resistance; and thus ended with the death of Gillespic the last of that series of persevering efforts which the earls of Moray had made for upwards of one hundred years to preserve their native inheritance.

The extinction of the native earls of Moray now threw the various clans formerly united under their sway into independence, and the most powerful of these was the clan Chattan.

Clan Chattan.

When the almost universal extinction of the Highland earls threw the Highland clans into the independent and disunited state in which they latterly existed, we find few of them in possession of such extensive territories as the clan Chattan. The whole of Badenoch, with greater part of Lochaber, and the districts of Strathnairn and Strathdearn, were inhabited by the various septs of this clan, and previous to the grant made to Comyn, these districts were held of the crown by the chief of the clan.

From the earliest period this clan has been divided into two great branches, respectively following as leaders Macpherson of Cluny and Macintosh of Macintosh, both of whom claim the chiefship of the whole tribe. The descent of the former family from the old chiefs of the clan has never been doubted, but the latter family has hitherto considered itself as possessing a different descent from the rest of the clan Chattan. The earl of Fife, of the name of Macduff, is claimed as its ancestor, alleging that the chiefship of the clan Chattan was obtained about the end of the thirteenth century by marriage with Eva, the daughter and heiress of Gillepatrick, the son of Dugall dall, son of Gillichattan, and chief of the clan.

But independently of the manifest unlikelihood of a tale so clearly opposed to the Highland principles of succession and clanship, the mere fact of this family styling themselves captains of the clan, claiming a foreign origin, and asserting a marriage with the heiress of its chief, leads to the strong presumption that they were the oldest cadets of the clan, by whom the chiefship had been usurped, while the manuscript of 1450 puts it beyond doubt that this story is not only an invention, but one subsequent to the date of the MS., and that the Macintoshes are as radically a branch of the clan Chattan as the Macphersons; for that invaluable record of Highland genealogies deduces the Macphersons and the Macintoshes from two brothers, sons of Gillechattan Mor, the great founder of the clan Chattan. That there has long existed a keen dispute with regard to the chiefship of the clan Chattan between the Macphersons and Macintoshes is certain; and while the Macphersons have hitherto rested their claims upon tradition alone, the Macintoshes have triumphantly brought forward charters and documents of every description in support of their alleged title. But the case is now altered; and the investigations which we have made into the history of the tribe of Moray, as well as into the history and nature of Highland tradition, shew that the fact of the Macphersons being the lineal and feudal representatives of the ancient chiefs of clan Chattan rests upon historic authority, and that they possess that right by blood to the chiefship, of which no charters from the crown, and no usurpation, however successful and continued, can deprive them.

The MS. of 1450 puts it beyond all doubt that the Macphersons and the Macintoshes are descended from Neachtan and Neill, the two sons of Gillechattan Mor, the founder of the race; while the title of captain, the assertion of a foreign origin, and of a marriage with the heiress of the former chiefs, as certainly point out that the Macintoshes were a usurping branch, and that the Macphersons, whose descent from the old chiefs is not denied, alone possessed the right of blood to that hereditary dignity. The history of the earls of Moray is equally conclusive, that the descendants of Neachtan, from whom the Macphersons deduce their origin, were the eldest branch and chiefs of the clan. The son of Neachtan is Head, or Heth, and although he married the sister of the last Maormor of Moray, yet, that in his own person he possessed a right to the earldom independently of his marriage, appears from the fact that he must have succeeded in 1085, before the title of earl or the feudal succession was introduced His grandson, by his eldest son, Angus, was Malcolm MacHeth, whose title to the earldom and consequently to the chiefship of his clan was acknowledged by all the Gaelic part of the population of Scotland, and even by the Norwegian earl of Orkney, while his grandson by his younger son, Suibne, was Muirich, from whom the Macphersons take their name of the clan Vuirich. On the death of the last descendant of Angus, his claims were taken by Gillespic, and as he unquestionably possessed the districts of Badenoch and Lochaber before the feudal barons acquired possession of it, he must have been chief of the clan Chattan, the ancient possessors of these districts. This is singularly corroborated by the fact that the oldest traditions styled Gillichattan the grandfather of Gillipatrick, whose daughter is said to have married Macintosh, Mac Gillespic or son of Gillespic, while he must have lived at that very time. Gillespic was certainly not a descendant of Angus, earl of Moray, but his claim to the earldom proves that he must have been a descendant of Head. The identity of the Macheth family with the chiefs of the clan Chattan is therefore clearly established, and, at the same time, the descent of the clan Vuirich, or Macphersons, from these chiefs, is proved by the MS. of 1450.

This statement, supported as it is by the MS., and by documentary evidence of an antiquity far greater than any which the Macintoshes can produce, at once establishes the hereditary title of the Macphersons of Cluny to the chiefship of clan Chattan, and that of the Macintoshes to their original position of oldest cadets of the clan.

The circumstances which led to the establishment of the Macintoshes as captains of clan Chattan can likewise be traced, and tend still more strongly to confirm the position which has been adopted.

As the whole territory of Moray was at this period in the possession of different Lowland barons, in virtue of their feudal rights only, we know but little of the history of the various clans inhabiting that district till the fourteenth century; nevertheless it is certain that the clan Chattan, with its different clans, continued to acknowledge the rule of one common chief as late as that period; for the historian, John Major, after mentioning that the two tribes of thee clan Chattan and clan Cameron had deserted Alexander of the isles after his defeat by King James I., in the year 1429, adds, “These two tribes are of the same stock, and followed one head of their race as chief.” From other sources we know that these clans were at this time separate from each other, and were actually engaged in mutual hostilities. But, notwithstanding, the passage distinctly proves that these clans had very shortly before followed one chief as head of their respective races.

It appears, therefore, that some event must have occurred about this time to occasion disunion among the different branches of the clan, and it is impossible to avoid being struck with the remarkable coincidence in point of time between this rupture and the singular conflict between the chosen champions of the two clans upon the North Inch of Perth, in the year 1396, which the works of Sir Walter Scott have recently made so generally familiar, but which has nevertheless baffled every enquirer into its cause or as to the lineage of its actors.

According to the oldest authorities the names of these clans were clan Yha and the clan Quhele, not the clan Kay and the clan Chattan, as they have generally been called. At the end of the contest it was found that only one of the clan Yha had survived, while eleven of the clan Quhele were still existing, although severely wounded, upon which it was determined by the king that the clan Quhele were the victors. Now there are but three clans in which any tradition of this conflict is to be found, that of the Camerons, the Macphersons, and the Macintoshes, and it is obvious that the memory of so remarkable a circumstance could never have been suffered to escape the enduring character of Highland tradition. The circumstances which attended the conflict, however, clearly indicate the Macphersons and the Macintoshes as the actors. From the brief but contemporary accounts which have reaches us we can only learn two facts connected with its cause; first that the dispute had broken out very shortly before, and secondly, that the singular mode of determining it was carried into effect by Sir David Lindsay and the earl of Moray. In ascertaining who the clans were who were engaged in this conflict, we must therefore look for some change in their situation immediately before the conflict, and for some especial connexion with the two noblemen who were principally interested in it. these are to be found in the clan Chattan only; for, first, by the death of the Wolfe of Badenoch, in 1394, that district, which was nearly equally inhabited by the Macphersons and the Macintoshes, came in to the crown, and thus those clans were suddenly relieved, but two years before the conflict, from the oppressive government of that ferocious baron; and the attention of the clan would be at once turned from the necessity of defending themselves from the tyranny of their feudal superior, to their own dissensions, which, if such existed among them, would then break out; and secondly, it so happens that at that very period, the remaining possessions of these two families were held of these two barons, as their feudal superiors, the Macphersons holding the greater part of Strathnairn, under Sir David Lindsay, and the Macintoshes being vassals of the Earl of Moray, in Strathdearn. Every circumstance, therefore, leads us to suppose the Macphersons and Macintoshes to have been the parties engaged in that celebrated conflict. Soon after this period the chief of the Macintoshes assumes the title of captain of clan Chattan, but the Macphersons have always resisted that claim of precedence, and at this period also, the Camerons seem to have separated from the clan Chattan. I am inclined to assume from these circumstances that the Macintoshes were the clan Quhele. In the MS. of 1450, the Macphersons are stated to be descended of a son of Heth, and brother of Angus, earl of Moray, and it will be observed, that the name, Heth, is a corruption of the same Gaelic name which has been changed by these historians to Yha. Clan Heth must have been the most ancient name of the Macphersons, and it follows, that they were the clan Yha of the conflict. The leader of the clan Yha is styled by the old authorities, Sha Fercharson, that of the clan Quhele, Gilchrist Johnsone, and in the old MS. histories of the Macintoshes we find Gilchrist Mac Jan, at the period, while, according to the MS. of 1450, the chief of the Macphersons was Shaw, and his great-grandfather’s name is Ferchar, from whom he probably took the patronymic of Fercharson. From all this we may reasonably deduce, that previous to the fifteenth century the various tribes forming the clan Chattan obeyed the rule of one chief, the lineal descendant and representative of Gillechattan Mor, the founder of the clan Chattan; that in consequence of the rebellion of Gillespic, then chief of that race, the territories of the principal branch were forfeited and given to the Comyn, and consequently that the family of the chief gradually sunk in power, while that of the oldest cadet of the clan, i.e., Macintosh, who was in consequence, after the chief, the most powerful, and whose principal lands were held under the easy tenure of the bishop of Moray and the good earl of Moray, gradually rose in power, until at length they claimed the chiefship; and from this cause arose the first disunion among the branches of this extensive tribe.

They became divided into distinct factions; on the one side there was ranged the Macphersons and their dependants, together with the Camerons; on the other side were the Macintoshes, with the numerous families who had sprung from that branch of the clan Chattan; and they were about to settle their difference by open war, when the interference of Sir David Lindsay and the earl of Moray produced the extraordinary conflict which resulted in the defeat of the faction adhering to the family of the ancient chiefs, and to the establishment of the Macintoshes as captains of clan Chattan.

In this manner the Macintoshes became the de facto chiefs of the clan, and consequently acquired the title of Captain, a title which at once indicates the absence of any right by blood to the chiefship, and from this very circumstance is their name derived; Toshoch being unquestionably the title anciently applied to the oldest cadets of the different clans, and having no connexion whatever with the Saxon title of Thane, as has generally been asserted.

The conflict by which the Macintoshes who appears in the records, is Malcolm Macintosh, who obtained from the lord of the Isles, in 1447, a grant of the office of baillie or steward of the lordship of Lochaber; and the same office was given to his son Duncan Macintosh, in 1466, along with the lands of Keppoch, and others in Lochaber.

It is probable that he likewise obtained from the same lord that part of Lochaber lying between Keppoch and Lochaber, for, on the forfeiture of the lord of the Isles in 1475, he obtained a charter from James III.: “Duncano Macintosh, capitano de clan Chattan, terrarum de Moymore, Fern, Chamglassen, Stroneroy, Auchenheroy, & c.,” dated 4 July, 1476; and afterwards, in 1493, he obtained a charter from James IV., “terrarum de Keppoch Innerorgan, & c., cum officio Ballivatus earundem.”

Macintosh having probably rendered the government considerable assistance on that occasion, these grants were the cause of long and bitter feuds between the Macintoshes and the Camerons and the Macdonalds of Keppoch, the actual occupiers of the land.

From this period may be dated the commencement of the rise of the Macintoshes to the great influence and consideration which they afterwards possessed. Two causes, however, combined to render their progress to power slow and difficult, and at times even to reduce the clan to considerable apparent difficulties. These causes were – first, the dissensions among the Macintoshes themselves; and, secondly, the continued feud which they had with Huntly, in consequence of their strict adherence to the Earl of Moray. The dissensions in the clan commenced in the early part of the sixteenth century, with the accession of William Macintosh, of Dunnachton, to the chiefship. His title to that dignity appears to have been opposed by John Roy Macintosh, the head of another branch of the family; and after having in vain attempted to wrest the chiefship by force from William, John Roy at length murdered him at Inverness, in the year 1515. The perpetrator of this treacherous deed did not, however, attain his object, for, having been closely pursued by the followers of William Macintosh, he was overtaken at Glenesk and slain, while Lachlan, the brother of the murdered chief, was placed in possession of the government of the clan. But Lachlan was doomed to experience the same fate as his brother, for, according to Lesly, “sum wicked persones being impatient of vertuous leving, stirrit up ane of his awn principal kynnesmen, callit James Malcolmsone, quha cruellie and treasonablie slew his said chief.” On Lachlan’s death, his son was under age, and therefore the clan, in accordance with the ancient system of succession, chose Hector, a bastard brother, to be their chief.

The Earl of Moray, who was the young chief’s uncle, became alarmed for his safety, and, in order to secure him against his brother’s ambition, he carried him off, to be brought up by his mother’s relations. But Hector was determined to repossess himself of the person of the young heir, and with that view invaded the lands of the Earl of Moray, at the head of the clan. He besieged the Castle of Petty, which he took, and put the Ogilvies, to whom it belonged, to the sword. Upon this, the Earl obtained a commission from the King, and having raised his retainers, he attacked the Macintoshes, and seized 300 of them, whom he instantly executed. Hector escaped, and fled to the King, to whom he surrendered himself, and received from him a remission of his former offences, but he was soon after slain in St. Andrews, and the young heir, William Macintosh, after having been brought up by the Earl of Moray, was put in possession of his inheritance.

According to Leslie, “William wes sua well braught up be the meanes of the earl of Murray and the laird of Phindlater, in vertue, honestie, and civil policye, that after he had received the government of his countrie, he was a moirrour of vertue to all the Heiland captains in Scotland; bot fortune did envye his felicitie, and the wicket practises of the dissoluit lives of his awne kin sufferit him nocht to remaine long amang them; bot the same factious companie that raise againis his fader wes the cause of his destructionne.”

Soon after the accession of William Macintosh to the chiefship, the feud between the Macintoshes and the earls of Huntly commenced, and it appears to have been instigated by the acts of Lachlan Macintosh, the son of the murderer of the last chief, who had been received into favour, but who was still bent on the destruction of the family of the chief. But however the feud may have originated, a subject upon which the accounts given in the different families are much at variance, it would appear that Macintosh commenced the hostilities by surprising and burning the castle of Auchindoun. Huntly immediately moved against the clan with all the retainers which his extensive territories could furnish, and a fierce though short struggle ensued, in which any clan less powerful than the Macintoshes would have been completely crushed; as it was, Macintosh found himself so unequal to sustain the conflict, that, despairing of obtaining any mercy from Huntly, he determined to apply to his lady, and for that purpose presented himself before her at a time when Huntly was absent, and surrendered himself to her will. The marchioness, however, was as inexorable as her husband could have been, and no sooner saw Macintosh within her power, than she caused his head to be struck off.

The death of William Macintosh occasioned no farther loss to the clan, but, on the contrary, relieved them from the continuance of the prosecution of the feud with Huntly; for that nobleman found himself immediately opposed by so strong a party of the nobility who were related to Macintosh, that he was obliged to cease from farther hostilities against them, and also to place the son of the murdered chief in possession of the whole of his father’s territories. The government afterwards found the advantage of restoring Macintosh to his patrimony, and preserving so powerful an opponent to Huntly in the north; for when the Queen nearly fell into Huntly’s hands at Inverness, in 1562, when that ambitious nobleman wished to compel her majesty to marry his second son, John Gordon, of Findlater, the timely assistance of Macintosh assisted in defeating this plan. Soon after this, the feud between Huntly and Macintosh once more broke out, and this circumstance was the cause of the final separation of the Macphersons from the Macintoshes, and the loud assertion by the former of their right to the chiefship, which they have ever since maintained; for Huntly, unable to meet the united force of the clan Chattan, took advantage in the claims of the Macphersons to cause a division of the clan, and in consequence of the support of this powerful nobleman, the Macphersons were enabled to assert their right to the chiefship, and to declare themselves independent of the Macintoshes, if they could not compel the latter to acknowledge them as their chief. The history of the Macphersons, posterior to the unfortunate conflict on the North Inch of Perth, becomes exceedingly obscure. As they hold their lands of subject superiors, we lose the assistance of the records to guide us, neither do they appear in history independently of the rest of the clan. And it is only when, at a late period, they began to assert their claims to the chiefship, that they again emerge from the darkness by which their previous history was obscured. Previous to this period, finding themselves in point of strength altogether unable to offer any opposition to the Macintoshes, they had yielded an unwilling submission to the head of that family, and had followed him as the leader of the clan; but even during this period they endeavoured to give to that submission as much as might be of the character of a league, and as if their adherence was in the capacity of an ally, and not as a dependent branch of the clan. In consequence of Huntly’s support, they now declared themselves independent, and refused all further obedience to the captain of clan Chattan, as Macintosh has been styled.

In this they succeeded as long as the feud continued between Huntly and Macintosh, but when at length Huntly became reconciled to his adversary, and consequently gave up his unfortunate ally Macpherson, when he could derive no further benefit from him, the Macphersons found themselves unable to withstand Macintosh, and many of them were obliged in 1609 to sign a bond, along with all the other branches of the clan Chattan, acknowledging Macintosh as their chief. But the long continued hostilities, in which Macintosh soon after became engaged with the Camerons and other Lochaber clans, enabled Macpherson again to separate from him; and during the whole of these wars Macintosh was obliged to accept of his assistance as of that of an ally merely, until at length, in 1672, Duncan Macpherson, of Cluny, threw off all connexion with Macintosh, refused to acknowledge his authority as chieftain of the clan, and applied to Lyon office to have his arms matriculated as “Laird of Clunie Macphersone, and the only and true representer of the ancient and honorable familie of the clan Chattane,” which he obtained; and soon after, when the privy council required all the Highland chiefs to give security for the peaceable behaviour of their respective clans, Macpherson obtained himself bound for his clan under the designation of Lord of Cluny and chief of the Macphersons; but his legal proceedings were not so fortunate as his resistance by arms had been, for no sooner was Macintosh aware of what had taken place than he applied to the privy council and the Lyon office to have his own title declared, and those titles given to Macpherson recalled.

Both parties were now called upon to produce evidence of their assertions, but while Macintosh could produce deeds during a long course of years, in which he was designated captain of clan Chattan, and also the unfortunate bond of Manrent which had been given in 1609, Macpherson had nothing to bring forward but tradition, and the argument arising from his representation of the ancient chiefs, which was but little understood by the feudalists of those days. The council at length gave a decision, which, perhaps, was as just a one as in the circumstances of the case could be expected from them. The judgment was in the following terms: “The lords of privy council, upon consideration of a petition presented by Duncan Macpherson of Cluny, and the Laird of Macintosh, doe ordain McIntosh to give bond in these terms, viz., for those of his clan, his vassals, those descendit of his family, his men, tenants, and servants, or dwelling upon his ground; and ordaine Cluny to give bond for those of his name of Macpherson, descendit of his family, and his men, tenants, and servants, but prejudice always to the Laird of McIntosh, bonds of relief against such of the name of Macpherson, who are his vassals, (Subd.) Rothes.” Upon this decision the arms were likewise recalled, and those of the Macphersons again matriculated as those of Macpherson of Cluny.

After this the Macintoshes remained in quiet possession of their hereditary territories, frequently at feud with Huntly and at other times at peace, and they appear to have constantly maintained the high station which they had acquired among the Highland clans with respect to power and extent of territory. Their feuds with the Camerons, with the accounts of which the earlier parts of their traditionary history abound, terminated by the place of that clan becoming supplied by another whose possessions in the Braes of Lochaber placed them too near to the Macintoshes to avoid collision, and their natural disposition was of too turbulent a character not to give speedy cause of feud betwixt them. This clan was that of the Macdonalds of Keppoch, and the circumstance which gave rise to the feud was this, the Macdonalds had no other right to the lands they inhabited than that of long possession, while the Macintoshes held a feudal title to the property which they had obtained from the lord of the Isles, and which had been confirmed by the crown on their forfeiture. This feud continued for several years with various success, but was finally brought to a close by the last considerable clan battle which was fought in the Highlands. Macintosh had come to the determination of making an effort to obtain something more than a mere feudal title to these lands, and with that view, if possible, to dispossess the Macdonalds. He accordingly raised as many of the clan as still adhered to him, notwithstanding the separation which had taken place not long before between the Macintoshes and the Macphersons, and marched towards Keppoch with the assistance of an independent company of soldiers furnished him by the government.

On his arrival at Keppoch he found the place deserted, and he was engaged in constructing a fort in Glenroy in order to leave a garrison behind him, believing himself secure from any opposition in the meantime when he learnt that the Macdonalds of Keppoch had assembled together with their kindred tribes of Glengarry and Glenco, and were stationed in great numbers at a place called Mulroy, for the purpose of attacking him at daybreak. Macintosh immediately resolved upon anticipating this design, and forthwith marched upon the enemy, whom he found prepared for the conflict. The Macdonalds were stationed on the upper ridge, under coll Macdonald of Keppoch, and the Macintoshes had nearly surmounted the height of Mulroy when the battle began. The contest, though fierce and maintained with great obstinacy on both sides, was not of long duration, and ended in the defeat of the Macintoshes, the capture of their chief, and the death of the commander of the independent company, But the battle had not been long closed when a large body of the Macphersons, who, considering that the honour of clan Chattan was compromised, had forgotten all former feelings of rivalry, suddenly appeared and prepared to assail the victors, Keppoch, although victorious, was in no condition to renew the contest with a fresh party, and he therefore agreed to surrender Macintosh to them, who, accordingly, had the double humiliation of having been captured by the Macdonalds, whom he despised as mere refractory tenants, and rescued by the Macphersons, whom he had treated with so little forbearance or consideration.

The Macphersons did not take any advantage of the chance which had placed Macintosh in their hands, but escorted him safely to his own estates, and from that time forward Keppoch remained undisturbed in his possessions, while the Macintoshes and Macphersons continued as separate and independent clans, the one possessing the title of captain, and the other claiming that of chief of clan Chattan, for notwithstanding the decision of the privy council, the Macphersons have ever since maintained themselves altogether distinct from the Macintoshes, and took an active share in the insurrection of 1715 and 1745 as a separate clan, refusing to acknowledge the title of Macintosh to be either chief or captain of clan Chattan, and asserting their own preferable title. In the latter insurrection the name of Macpherson has become celebrated for the distinguished part which their chief took in that ill-fated expedition, but perhaps still more so for the conduct of the clan to their chief after the defeat of Culloden had terminated the hopes of the Stuarts, and exposed Cluny to the vengeance of the government.

There is perhaps no instance in which the attachment of the clan to their chief was so very strikingly manifested, as in the case of the Macphersons of Cluny after the disaster of “the forty-five.” The chief having been deeply engaged in that insurrection, his life became of course forfeited to the laws, but neither the hope of reward nor the fear of danger could induce any one of his people to betray him. For nine years he lived concealed in a cave at a short distance from his own house; it was situated in the front of a woody precipice, of which the trees and shelving rocks completely concealed the entrance. This cave had been dug out by his own people, who worked by night, and conveyed the stones and rubbish into a neighbouring lake, in order that no vestige of their labour might appear and lead to the discovery of the retreat. In this asylum he continued to live secure, receiving by night the occasional visits of his friends, and sometimes by day, when time had begun to slacken the rigour of pursuit.

Upwards of one hundred persons were privy to his concealment, and a reward of one thousand pounds sterling was offered to any one who should give information against him; and, besides, as it was known that he was somewhere concealed upon his own estate, a detachment of eighty men was constantly stationed there, independent of the occasional parties that traversed the country throughout, with a view to intimidate his tenantry and induce them by force or persuasion to disclose the place of his concealment; but although the soldiers were animated by the hope of reward, and their officers by the promise of promotion for the apprehension of this proscribed individual, yet so true were his people, so inflexibly strict to their promise of secrecy, and so dexterous in conveying to him the necessaries he required in his long confinement, that not a trace of him could be discovered, nor an individual base enough to give a hint to his detriment. Many anecdotes are still related in the country of the narrow escapes he made in eluding the vigilance of the soldiery, and of the fidelity and diligence displayed by his clan in concealing him, until, after ten years of this dreary existence, he escaped to France, and there died in the following year. [Stewart’s Sketches.]

After his death, the estate was restored to the present family, in whose possession it remains, and who are the lineal representatives of the ancient chiefs of the clan Chattan.


Parted per fess, or, and azure, a lymphad or galley, her sails furled, her oars in action, of the first; in the dexter chief point a hand coupee, grasping a dagger pointed upwards, gules, for killing Cummine Lord Badenoch: in the sinister point a crosslet, fitchee, gules.



Principal Seat.

Strathnairn and Badenoch.

Oldest Cadet.

Macintosh of Macintosh is oldest cadet, and was captain of the clan for a period of two centuries.


Cluny Macpherson.


In 1704, 1400. In 1715, 1020. In 1745, 1700.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus