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Clan MacDougall
Part Two

Bruce, after his defeat at Methven, on the 19th of June 1306, withdrew to the moutainous parts of Breadalbane, and approached the borders of Argyleshire. His followers did not exceed three hundred men, who, disheartened by defeat, and exhausted by privation, were not in condition to encounter a superior force. In this situation, however, he was attacked by Macdougall of Lorn, at the head of a thousand men, part of whom were Macnabs, who had joined the party of John Baliol; and, after a severe conflict, he was compelled to abandon the field. In the retreat from Dalree, where the battle had been fought, the king was hotly pursued, and especially by three of the clansmen of Lorn, probably personal attendants or henchmen of the Macdougalls, who appear to have resolved to slay the Bruce or die. These followed the retreating party, and when King Robert entered a narrow pass, threw themselves suddenly upon him. The king turning hastily round, cleft the skull of one with his battleaxe. "The second had grasped the stirrup, and Robert fixed and held him there by pressing down his foot, so that the captive was dragged along the ground as if chained to the horse. In the meantime, the third assailant had sprung from the hillside to the back of the horse, and sat behind the king. The latter turned half round and forced the Highlander forward to the front of the saddle, where 'he clave the head to the harns.' The second assailant was still hanging by the stirrup, and Robert now struck at him vigorously, and slew him at the first blow."

Whether the story is true or not, and it is by no means improbable, it shows the reputation for gigantic strength which the doughty Bruce had in his day. It is said to have been in this contest that the king lost the magnificent brooch, since famous as the "brooch of Lorn." This highly-prized trophy was long preserved as a remarkable relic in the family of Macdougall of Dunolly, and after having been carried off during the siege of Dunolly Castle, the family residence, it was, about forty years ago, again restored to the family. In his day of adversity the Macdougalls were the most persevering and dangerous of all King Robert's enemies.

But the time for retribution at length arrived. When Robert Bruce had firmly established himself on the throne of Scotland, one of the first objects to which he directed his attention, was to crush his old enemies the Macdougalls, and to revenge the many injuries he had suffered at their hands. With this view, he marched into Argyleshire, determined to lay waste the country , and take possession of Lorn. On advancing, he found John of Lorn and his followers posted in a formidable defile between Ben Cruachan and Loch Awe, which it seemed impossible to force, and almost hopeless to turn. But having sent a party to ascend the mountain, gain the heights, and threaten the enemy's rear, Bruce immediately attacked them in front, with the utmost fury. For a time the Macdougalls sustained the onset bravely; but at length, perceiving themselves in danger of being assailed in the rear, as well as the front, and thus completely isolated in the defile, they betook themselves to flight.

Unable to escape from the mountain gorge, they were slaughtered without mercy, and by this reverse, their power was completely broken. Bruce then laid waste Argyleshire, besieged and took the castle of Dunstaffinage, and received the submission of Alister of Lorn, the father of John, who now fled to England. Alsiter was allowed to retain the district of Lorn: but the rest of his possessions were forfeited and given to Angus of Isla, who had all along remained faithful to the king's interests.

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