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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


E, Page 35. Feuds—Garth and Macivor

Of such feuds, many instances might be adduced. I shall select only one, which may serve to exemplify the apparently trivial causes from which they sometimes arose, in periods when men could not resort to the laws for protection, and the deadly and often fatal animosity with which they were maintained. After the middle of the fifteenth century, a quarrel occurred between Stewart of Garth and, a clan named Macivor, who then possessed the greater part of Glen-lyon. The Laird of Garth had been nursed by a woman of the clan Macdiarmid, which was then, and is still, pretty numerous in Glen-lyon and Breadalbane. This woman had two sons, one of whom, foster-brother to the laird, having been much injured by Macivor in a dispute, threatened to apply for redress to his foster-brother. Accordingly, the two brothers immediately set out for that purpose to the Castle of Garth, twelve or fourteen miles distant. In those days, a foster-brother was regarded as one of the family; and Macivor, well aware that the quarrel of the Macdiarmids would be espoused by his neighbour, ordered a pursuit. The young men being hard pressed, threw themselves into a deep pool of the river Lyon, where they hoped that their pursuers would not venture to follow them. The foster-brother was, however, desperately wounded with an arrow, and drowned in the pool, which still retains the name of Linne Donnel, or Donald's Pool. The other succeeded in reaching Garth. Resolved to avenge his friend's death, the laird collected his followers, and marched to Glenlyon. Macivor mustered his men, and met the invaders about the middle of the glen. The chieftains stepped forward between the two bands, in the hope of settling the affair amicably. Garth wore a plaid the one side of which was red, and the other dark-coloured tartan, and, on proceeding to the conference, he told his men, that, if the result was amicable, the darker side of the plaid should remain outward as it was ; if otherwise, he would give the signal of attack by turning out the red side. They were still engaged in the conference, when Macivor whistled loud, and a number of armed men started up from the adjoining rocks and bushes, where they had been concealed, while the main body were drawn up in front. "Who are these," said Stewart, "and for what purpose are they there?" "They are only a herd of my roes that are frisking about the rocks," replied Macivor. "In that case," said the other, "it is time for me to call my hounds." Then turning his plaid he rejoined his men, who were watching his motions, and instantly advanced. Both parties rushed forward to the combat; the Macivors gave way, and were pursued eight miles farther up the glen. Here they turned to make a last effort, but were again driven back with great loss. The survivors fled across the mountains to another part of the country, and were for some time not permitted to return. Macivor's land was, in the mean time, seized by the victors, and law confirmed what the sword had won. [Charters under the Great Seal were passed by James III., dated at Edinburgh, 24th January 1177, and addressed " To John Stewart of Garth and Fothergill, and Neil Stewart, his son and heir, of the lands of Fothergill (now Fortingal), Ap-nadull, Temper, and others in Rannoch; Glenquaich, Wester Strathbrane, and Glen-lioun, in the county of Perth."—Records, General Register House.]

The names of the river and glen still continue memorials of this Sanguinary fray. Dhui and Glen Dhui were their former names. When the Stewarts were returning from the last pursuit, they washed their swords in the river, which was discoloured a considerable way down on one side by the blood. "This stream, " exclaimed the chieftain, "shall no longer be called Dhui, but Leiven (leiven is to wipe or lave), and the glen shall be called Glenleiven." Before the combat commenced, Stewart's men pulled off a kind of sandals, bound round the ancles with thongs, and called in Gaelic cuaran. These they laid aside, close to a small rock, which to this day is called Lech-na-cuaran, the stone or slab of the sandals. The spot where they drew their swords is called Ruskich, to uncover or unsheath; the field where the rencounter commenced Laggan-na-calh, the field of battle, and the spot where the last stand was made, Camus-na-earn, from the cairns or mounds of stones which cover the graves, and which, from their quantity, show the considerable number slain, which, tradition says, amounted to 140 on the part of the Macivors.

In 1816, a sword and battle-axe, now in my possession, were dug up at Laggan-na-cath. The first is in the form of a small sword, and remarkable for its elegance and proportions, being equal to any model of the present day. The blade is long, but, as may be supposed, much destroyed by rust. The axe, more decayed than the sword, is the same as was anciently used by the Highlanders when they closed in the fight. The sword is so far curious, as it shows that the Highlanders of that age had small swords.

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