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


K, Page 72. Bows and Arrows

Two which occurred in the reign of Charles II. were among the last instances of bowmen being employed in the Highlands. After a long and protracted feud between the Lairds of Mackintosh and Lochiel, commencing in a claim of the former to lands held by the latter, Mackintosh, to enforce his claim, raised his clan, and assisted by the Macphersons, marched to Lochaber with 1,500 men. He was met by Lochiel with 1,200 men, of whom 300 were Macgregors. About 300 were armed with bows. When preparing to engage, the Earl of Breadalbane, who was nearly related to both chief's, came in sight, with 500 men, and sent them notice, that if either of them refused to agree to the terms which he had to propose, he would throw his force into the opposite scale. This was a strong argument, and not easily refuted. After some hesitation, his offer of mediation was accepted, and the feud amicably and finally settled.

The other instance happened about the same time, in a contest be-ween the Macdonalds of Glenco and the Breadalbane men. The former being on their return from a foray in the low country, attempted to pass through Breadalbane without giving due notice, or paying the accustomed compliment to the Earl, who, a short time previous, had been raised to that rank. A number of his Lordship's followers, and a great many others, who were assembled at the castle of Finlarig to celebrate the marriage of a daughter of the family, enraged at this insult, instantly rushed to arms, and following the Macdonalds, with more ardour than prudence, attacked them on the top of a hill north from the village of Killin, where they had taken post to defend their cattle. The assailants were driven back with great loss, principally caused by the arrows of the Lochaber men. It is said that nineteen young gentlemen of the name of Campbell, immediate descendants of the family, fell on that day. Colonel Menzies of Culdares, who had been an active partisan under the Marquis of Argyll and the Covenanters in the civil wars, and whose prudent advice of attacking in flank the hot-headed youth despised, had nine arrow wounds in his legs and thighs. These wounds he received in retreating across the river Lochy, and when ascending the hill on the opposite side of the valley. Though the arrows were well aimed, they lost much of their force by the distance ; consequently the wounds were slight.

The yew was the common material of the bows of the Highlanders,

"who drew,
And almost joined the horns of the tough yew."

Within the church-yard of Fortingal, Perthshire, the ruins of an enormous yew-tree still remain. The stem is now separated into two parts; the principal, although only a mere shell, the centre being entirely decayed, measures thirty-two feet in circumference. Colonel Campbell of Glenlyon, and my grandfather, used to say, that when they were boys, (about the year 1725,) the parts now separated were united, when the whole stem measured fifty-six feet in circumference This venerable relic, which appears so respectable in its decay, has suffered much from delapidations. Tradition says, that warriors at one time, cut their bows from it; latterly dirk-makers, shoemakers and others, made handles from it for their dirks, awls, and other instruments; and it has suffered greatly from the curiosity of modern tourist?.

In the original charter for building the church of Perone, in Piccardy dated in the year 684, a clause was inserted, directing the proper preservation of a yew-tree, which was in existence in the year

1790, nearly 1100 years after this notice of it in the charter, - a remarkable instance of the durability of this species of wood.

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