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The Scottish Nation

MACCOLL, the name of a minor clan, settled chiefly around Loch Fyne, Argyleshire, a branch of the Macdonalds, among whom Coll was a favourite Christian name. The Irish historians inform us that, on St. Patrick’s day, 1501, there was fought a battle between the O’Neills and certain Scots, in which the latter lost a son of the laird of Aig, of the family of the Macdonnells, the three sons of Coll Mac Alexander, and about sixty common soldiers. The most famous personage so named was Sir Allaster MacColl Macdonald, commonly called Coll Coitach, or the left-handed, or Kolkittoch, lieutenant-general to the great marquis of Montrose. He was of the Macdonalds of Colonsay, whence his father had been expelled by the Campbells, and settled in the county of Antrim, in the province of Ulster.

The MacColls have the same badge as the Macdonalds, the French gorm or common heather. The latter great clan are of the race of Conn, a celebrated Irish king, called Conn of the hundred battles, hence they are called MacConnel, or Macdonnell, and the name MacColl may be but a corruption of the former word.

Like many of the smaller septs who had settled in or near the territories of the Campbells, the MacColls were merged in that great race, and had scarcely an independent history of their own. They were among the clans who were arrayed against the clan Gregor, who called to their aid their distant friends, the Macphersons. Fifty of the latter at once hastened to their assistance, but on reaching Blair Athol, were informed of the battle of Glenfruin, in which the Macgregors were victorious. They accordingly retraced their steps to their own country, and in passing the dreary ridge of Drum Uachdar, they encountered a large body of the MacColls returning with a creach, or spoil, of cattle from Ross or Sutherland. A sanguinary battle took place on the side of Loch Garry, in which the Macphersons were the conquerors, with trifling loss, and the MacColls suffered severely, their leader and most of their men being killed. One of them, named Angus MacColl, displayed great strength and dexterity, and on the defeat of his clan, is said, while engaged in a hand to hand combat with a Macpherson, to have saved himself by leaping backward across a chasm so wide that even to attempt it by a forward leap was a hazardous venture.

This clan has produced a poet, whose Gaelic pieces rank very high in the Highlands; Evan M’Coll, born at Kenmore on Loch Fyne side in 1812. At a very early age he displayed an irresistible thirst for legendary lore and Gaelic poetry, and when he had reached his teens, his father, Dugald M’Coll, engaged a tutor for him, who not only taught him properly to read and understand English, but also awakened in him a taste for English literature. In the year 1837 he appeared as a contributor to the Gaelic Magazine, then published in Glasgow. His contributions were afterwards collected and published in a separate volume, entitled Clàrsach nam Beann, or the ‘Mountain Harp.’ Through the influence of Mr. Fletcher of Dunans and Mr. Campbell of Islay, M’Coll was subsequently appointed to a situation in the customs at Liverpool.

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