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A History of Rannoch
The Stewarts

‘By the wee birchen corries lie patches of green,
Whee gardens and bare-headed bairnies have been,
But the huts now are rickles of stones nettle-grown
And the once human homes, e’en their names are unknown’. 

Principal Shairp, who was a frequent visitor to Rannoch a hundred years ago, sums up in his little poem the situation of a place that used to be.  All the clansmen, the MacDougalls, the Robertsons, the MacGregors, the Camerons, the Menzies and the MacDonalds have departed and left nothing but rickles of stones, and so it was also with the Stewarts.

When a Stewart ascended the throne of Scotland it was natural that the King’s kith and kin should benefit.  The first Stewart King, Robert II, in 1379, the year of his accession, gave his son Alexander Stewart the lands which included ‘Lassintullich, Crossmount, Tulichcroske, and Kynachan’ in Rannoch.  He became known as the Wolf of Badencoh, not without cause because by all accounts he was a vicious and cruel man who lived by murder and rapine.  I do not think he had much to do with Rannoch…..there was nothing for him to steal or plunder here.  He went for richer gains such as existed in Forres and Elgin where the towns and the cathedral of Elgin were burnt to the ground.  He was finally killed in battle near Blairgowrie in 1392 and buried in Dunkeld Cathedral where his tomb is.  The inscription on it must have been engraved by someone with a sense of humour for it says about this man, who was surely the biggest blackguard of his time, ‘Hic jacet Dominus Alexander, Dominus de Badenoch, bonae memoriae’ ‘Here lies Lord Alexander, Lord of Badenoch, of good memory!’

The early Stewarts in Rannoch carried on in a similar lawless fashion as the Wolf.  They led bands of wild Rannoch tribesmen on cattle raids far and wide and one of them, Neil Stewart, who lived at Garth, by some means or other acquired more land in Rannoch. He laid claim to the north side of the Loch, called Slios Min, land which the Menzies regarded as theirs.  After frequent fights the sovereign was brought in by the Menzies and he decided in favour of them.  This was in 1477. 

It was sometime after this that Stewarts of Appin arrived in Rannoch.  They settled in Innerghadden, Bunrannoch, Tempar and Strathgarry and at first they, like the rest of the Rannoch clansmen, led anything but a peaceful life.  It was called the time of ‘misruell in Atoill’ when murders and oppression were common.  It was so bad that the Privy Council ordered that a watch be set out to guard the country.

The Stewarts did not have a clan chief in Rannoch and they usually joined the Robertsons in the various risings and rebellions in support of the House of Stewart.  When they went to battle they carried with them the banner ‘Bratach na Mogan’, meaning the ‘Banner of the Stocking’.  They carried this as a compliment to the bravery of their woman, for one day when the men were away in the hills Bunrannoch was attacked by a strong force of raiders.  The raid was so sudden that the women had no time to provide themselves with weapons, so they took off their stockings, put sufficient stones in them and used them as cudgels.  So successful were they that they drove off the attackers who left empty handed.

It is sad that there are so few names to record of the many Stewarts of the Bunrannoch area who gave their lives in the ‘15 and the ‘45.  It is sad that the villages were deserted of all but the women folk whose men found their graves at Culloden and elsewhere.  There was one, Allan Stewart of Innerhadden, called Great Allen, who was a poet…some say a much better one than Struan Robertson.  He strode on to the hill which bears his name now, Dun Allan, and chose it as his burying place so that on Judgement Day he and his race might come back and see their old lands stretched out before them.  He was not killed at Culloden but after the battle he managed to hide himself successfully in the district and he and Stewart of Crossmount evaded capture until the hue and cry died down.  They eventually got their lands back but their houses had been burnt down as reprisals.  Stewart of Kynachan was killed, also Neil Stewart of Tempar, James Stewart, brother of Tullochcroisk, and sixteen other of the Athollmen fell and will no doubt be with Big Allan and the other Rannoch Stewarts on Judgement Day, and with all their brave tenants who fought in vain for their royal kinsman. 

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