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Clan MacLeod Parliament 2018 Dunvegan, Scotland

The clan Leod or MacLeod is one of the most considerable clans of the Western Isles, and is divided into two branches independent of each other, the Macleods of Harris and the Macleods of Lewis.

To the progenitors of this clan, a Norwegian origin has commonly been assigned. They are also supposed to be of the same stock as the Campbells, according to a family history referred to by Mr Skene, which dates no farther back than the early part of the 16th century.

The genealogy claimed for them asserts that the ancestor of the chiefs of the clan, and he who have it its clan name, was Loyd or Leod, eldest son of King Olave the Black, brother of Magnus, the last king of Man and the Isles. This Leod is said to have had two sons: Tormod, prgenitor of the Macleods of Harris, hence called the Siol Tormod, or race of Tormod; and Torquil, of those of Lewis, called the Siol Torquil, or race of Torquil. Although, however, Mr Skene and others are of opinion that there is no authority whatever for such a descent, and "The Chronicle of Man" gives no countenance to it, we think the probabilities are in its favour, from the manifestly Norwegian names borne by the founders of the clan, namely, Tormod or Gorman and Torquil, and from their position in the Isles, from the very commencement of their known history. The clan itself, there can be no doubt, are mainly the descendants of the ancient Celtic inhabitants of the western isles.

Tormod's grandson, Malcolm, got a charter from David II, of two-thirds of Glenelg, on the mainland, a portion of the forfeited lands of the Bissets, in consideration for which he was to provide a galley of 36 oars, for the king's use whenever required. This is the earliest charter in possession of the Macleods. The same Malcolm obtained the lands of Skye which were long in possession of his descendants, by marriage with a daughter of MacArailt, said to have been one of the Norwegian nobles of the Isles. From the name, however, we would be inclined to take this MacArailt for a Celt. The sennachies made sad slips.

Brochs at Glenelg and thanks to David Hammond for sending in these pictures

Macleod of Harris, originally designated "de Glenelg", that being the first and principle possession of the family, seems to have been the proper chief of the clan Leod. The island, or rather peninsula of Harris, which is adjacent to Lewis, belonged, at an early period, to the Macruaries of Garmoran and the North Isles, under whom the chief of the Siol Tormod appears to have possed it. From this family, the superiority of the North Isles passed to the Macdonalds of Isla by marriage, and thus Harris came to form a part of the lordship of the Isles. In the isle of Skye the Siol Tormod possessed the districts of Dunvegan, Duirinish, Bracadale, Lyndale, Trotternish, and Minganish, being about two-thirds of the whole island. Their principal seat was Dunvegan, hence the chief was often styled of that place.

The first charter of the MacLeods of Lewis, or Siol Torquil, is also one by King David II. It contained a royal grant to Torquil Macleod of the barony of Assynt, on the north-western coast of Sutherlandshire. This barony, however, he is said to have obtained by marriage with the heiress, whose name was Macnicol. It was held from the crown. In that charter he has no designation, hence it is thought that he had then no other property. The Lewis Macleods held that island as vassals of the Macdoanlds of Isla from 1344, and soon came to rival the Harris branch of the Macleods in power and extent of territory, and even to dispute the chiefship with them. Their armorial bearings, however, were different, the family of Harris having a castle, while that of Lewis had a burning mount. The possessions of the Siol Torquil were very extensive, comprehending the isles of Lewis and Rasay, the district of Waterness in Skye, and those of Assynt, Cogeach, and Gairloch, on the mainland.

To return to the Harris branch. The grandson of the above mentioned Malcolm, William Macleod, surnamed Achlerach, or the clerk, from being in his youth designed for the church, was one of the most daring chiefs of his time. Having incurred the resentment of his superior, the Lord of the Isles, that powerful chief invaded his territory with a large force, but was defeated at a place called Lochsligachan. He was, however, one of the principal supports of the last Lord of the Isles in his disputes with his turbulent and rebellious son, Angus, and was killed, in 1481, at the battle of the Bloody Bay, where also the eldest son of Roderick Macleod of the Lewis was morally wounded. The son of William of Harris, Alexander Macleod, called Allaster Crottach, or the Humpbacked, was the head of the Siol Tormod, at the time of the forfeiture of the lordship of the Isles in 1493, when Roderick, grandson of the above named Roderick, was chief of the Siol Torquil. This Roderick's father, Torquil, the second son of the first Roderick, was the principal supporter of Donald Dubh, when he escaped from prison and raised the banner of insurrection in 1501, for the purpose of regaining the lordship of the Isles, for which he was forfeited. He married Katherine, daughter of the first Earl of Argyll, the sister of Donald Dubh's mother. The forfeited estate of Lewis was restored in 1511 to Malcolm Torquil's brother. Alexander the Humpback got a charter, under the great seal, of all his lands in the Isles, from James IV, dated 15th June, 1468, under the condition of keeping in readiness for the king's use one ship of 26 oars and two of 16. He had also a charter from James V of lands of Glenelg, dates 13th February, 1539.

With the macdonalds of Sleat, the Harris macleods had a feud regarding the lands and office of bailiary of Trotternish, in the isle of Skye, held by them under several crown charters. The feud was embittered by Macleod having also obtained a heritable grant of the lands of Sleat and North Uist; and the Siol Torquil, who had also some claim to the Trotternish bailiary and a portion of the lands, siding with the Macdonalds, the two leading branches of the Macleods came to be in opposition to each other. Under Donald Gruamach ("grim-looking") aided by the uterine brother of their chief, John MacTorquil Macleod, son of Torquil Macleod of the Lewis, forfeited in 1506, the Macdonalds succeeded in expelling Macleod of Harris or Dunvegan from Trotternish, as well as in preventing him from taking possession of Sleat and North Uist. The death of his uncle, Malcolm Macleod, and the minority of his son, enabled Torquil, with the assistance of Donald Gruamach, in his turn, to seize the whole barony of Lewis, which, with the leadership of the Siol Torquil, he held during his life. His daughter and heiress married Doanld Gorme of Sleat, a claimant for the lordship of the Isles, and the son and successor of Donald Gruamach. An agreement was entered into between Donald Gorme and Ruari or Roderick macleod, son of Malcolm, the last lawful possessor of the Lewis, whereby Roderick was allowed to enter into possession of that island, and in return Roderick became bound to assist in putting Donald Gorme in possession of Trotternish, against all the efforts of the chief of Harris or Dunvegan, who had again obtained possession of that district. In May 1539, accordingly, Trotternish was invaded and laid waste by Donald Gorme and his allies of the Siol Torquil; but the death soon after of Donald Gorme, by an arrow wound in his foot, under the walls of Mackenzie of Kintail's castle of Ellandonan, put an end to his rebellion and his pretensions together. When the powerful fleet of James V arrived at the isle of Lewis the following year, Roderick Macleod and his principal kinsmen met the king, and were made to accompany him in his farther progress through the Isles. On its reaching Skye, Alexander Macleod of Dunvegan was also constrained to embark in the royal fleet. With the other captive chiefs they were sent to Edinburgh, and only liberated on giving hostages for their obedience to the laws.

Alexander the Humpback, chief of the Harris Macleods, died at an advanced age in the reign of Queen Mary. He had three sons, William, Donald and Tormod, who all succeeded to the estates and authority of their family. He had also two daughters, the elder of whom was thrice married, and every time to a Macdonald. Her first husband was James, second son of the fourth laird of Sleat. Her second was Allan MacIan, captain of the Clanranald; and he third husband was Macdonald of Keppoch. The youngest daughter became the wife of Maclean of Lochbuy.

Willian Macleod of Harris had a daughter, mary, who, on his death in 1554, became under a particular destination, his sole heiress in the estates of Harris, Dunvegan, and Glenelg. His claim to the properties of Sleat, Trotternish, and North Uist, of which he was the nominal proprietor, but which were held by the clandonald, was inherited by his next brother and successor, Donald. This state of things placed the latter in a very anomalous position, which may be explained in Mr Greogory's words: "The Siol Tormod," he says, "was now placed in a position, which, though quite intelligible on the principles of feudal law, was totally opposed to the Celtic customs that still prevailed, to a great extent, throughout the Highlands and Isles. A female and a minor was the legal prepretrix of the ancient possessions of the tribe, which by her marriage, might be conveyed to another and a hostile family; whilst her uncle, the natural leader of the clan according to ancient custom, was left without any means to keep up the dignity of a chief, or to support the clan against its enemies. His claims on the estates possessed by the Clandonald were worse than nugatory, as they threatened to involve him in a feud with that powerful and warlike tribe, in case he should take any steps to enforce them. In these circumstances, Donald Macleod seized, apparently with the consent of his clan, the estates which legally belonged to his niece, the heiress; and thus, in practice, the feudal law was made to yield to ancient and inveterate custom. Donald did not enjoy these estates long, being murdered in Trotternish, by a relation of his own, John Oig Macleod, who, failing Tormod, the only remaining brother of Donald, would have become the heir male of the family. John Oig next plotted the distruction of Tormod, who was at the time a student in the university of Glasgow; but in this he was foiled by the interposition of the Earl of Argyll. He continued, notwithstanding, to retain possession of the estates of the heiress, and of the command of the clan, till his death in 1559". The heiress of Harris was one of Queen Mary's maids of honour, and the Earl of Argyll, having ultimately become her guardian, she was given by him in marriage to his kinsman, Duncan Campbell, younger of Auchinbreck. Through the previous efforts of the earl, Tormod Macleod, on receiving a legal title to Harris and the other estates, renounced in favour of Argyll all his claims to the lands of the Clandonald, and paid 1000 merks towards the dowry of his niece. he also have his bond of service to Argyll for himself and his clan. Mary Macleod, in consequence, made a complete surrender to her uncle of her title to the lands of Harris, Dunvegan, and Glenelg, and Argyll obtained for him a crown charter of these estates, dated 4th August, 1579. Tormod adhered firmly to the interest of Queen Mary, and died in 1584. He was succeeded by his eldest son, William, under whom the Harris Macleods assisted the Macleans in their feuds with the Macdonalds of Isla and Skye, while the Lewis Macleoads supported the latter. On his death in 1590, his brother, Roderick, the Rory Mor of tradition, became chief of the Harris Mcleods.

In December 1597, an act of the Estates had been passed, by which it was made imperative upon all the chieftains and landlords in the Highlands and Isles, to produce their title-deeds before the lords of Exchequer on the 15th of the following May, under the pain of forfeiture. The heads of the two branches of the Macleods disregarded the act, and a gift of their estates was granted to a number of Fife gentlemen, for the purposes of colonisation. They first began with the Lewis, in which the experiment failed. Roderick Macleod, on his part, exerted himself to get the forfeiture of his lands of Harris, Dunvegan, and Glenelg, removed, and ultimately succeeded, having obtained a remission from the king, dated 4th May 1610. He was knighted by King James VI, by whom he was much esteemed, and had several friendly letters from his majesty; also, a particular license, dated 16th June, 1616, to go to London, to the court, at any time he pleased. By his wife, a daughter of Macdonald of Glengarry, he had, with six daughters, five sons, viz, John, his heir; Sir Roderick, progenitor of the Macleods of Talisker; Sir Norman of the Macleods of Berera and Muiravonside; William of the Macleods of Hamer; and Donald of those of Grisernish.

The history of the Siol Torquil, or Lewis Macleods, as it approached its close, was most disastrous. Roderick, the chief of this branch in 1569, got involved in a deadly feud with the Mackenzies, which ended only with the destruction of his whole family. He had married a daughter of John Mackenzie of Kintail, and a son whom she bore, and who was named Torquil Connanach, from his residence among his mother's relations in Strathconnan, was disowned by him, on account of the alleged adultary of his mother with the breve or Celtic judge of the Lewis. She eloped with John MacGillechallum of Rasay, a cousin of Roderick, and was, in consequence, divorced. He took for his second wife, in 1541, Brbara Stewart, daughter of Andrew Lord Avondale, and by this lady had a son, likewise named Torquil, and surnamed Oighre, or the Heir, to distinguish him from the other Torquil. About 1566, the former, with 200 attendants, was drowned in a tempest, when sailing from Lewis to Skye, and Torquil Connanach immediately took up arms to vindicate what he conceived to be his rights. In his pretensions he was supported by the Mackenzies. Roderick was apprehended and detailed four years as a prisoner in the castle of Stornaway. The feud between the Macdonalds and Mackenzies was put an end to by the mediation of the Regent Moray. Before being released from his captivity, the old chief was brought before the Regent and his privy council, and compelled to resign his estate into the hands of the crown, taking a new destination of it to himself in liferent, and after his death to Torquil Connanach, as his son and heir apparent. On regaining his liberty, however, he revoked all that he had done when a prisoner, on the ground of coercion. This led to new commotions, and in 1576 both Roderick and Torquil were summoned to Edinburgh, and reconciled in presence of the privy council, when the latter was again acknowledged as heir apparent to the Lewis, and received as such the district of Cogeach and other lands. The old chief some time afterwards took for his third wife, a sister of Lauchlan Maclean of Dowart, and has by her two sons, named Torquil Dubh and Tormond. Having again disinherited Torquil Connacnach, that young chief once more took up arms, and was supported by two illegitimate sons of Roderick, named Tormod Uigach and Murdoch, while three others, Donald, Rory Oig, and Neill, joined with their father. He apprehended the old chief, Roderick Macleod, and killed a number of his men. All the charters and title deeds of the Lewis were carried off by Torquil, and handed over to the Mackenzies. The charge of the castle of Stornaway, with the chief, a prisoner in it, was committed to John Macleod, the son of Torquil Connanach, but he was attacked by Rory Oig and killed, when Roderick macleod was released, and possessed the island in peace during the remainder of his life.

On his death he was succeeded by his son Torquil Dubh, who married a sister of Sir Roderick Macleod of Harris. Torquil Dubh was by stratagem apprehended by the breve of Lewis, and carried to the country of the Mackenzies, into the presence of Lord Kintail, who ordered Torquil Dubn and his companions to be beheaded. This took place in July 1597.

Torquil Dubh left three young sons, and their uncle Neill, a bastard brother of their father, took, in their behalf, the command of the isle of Lewis. Their cause was also supported by the Macleods of Harris and the Macleans. The dissensions in the Lewis, followed by the forfeiture of that island, in consequence of the non-production of the title-deeds, as required by the act of the Estates of 1597, already mentioned, afforded the king an opportunity of trying to carry into effect his abortive project of colonisation already referred to. The colonists were at last compelled to abandon their enterprise.

The title to the Lewis having been acquired by Kenneth Mackenzie, Lord Kintail, he lost no time in taking possession of the island, expelling Neill Macleod, with his nephews, Malcolm, Willian and Roderick, sons of Rory Oig, who, with about thirty others, took refuge on Berrisay, an insulated rock on the west coast of Lewis. Here they maintained themselves for nearly three years, but were at length driven from it by the Mackenzies. Neill surrendered to Roderick Macleod of Harris, who, on being charged, under pain of treason, to deliver him to the privy council at Edinburgh, gave him up, with his son Donald. Neill was brought to trial, convicted, and executed, and is said to have died "very Christianlie" in April 1613. Donald, his son, was banished from Scotland, and died in Holland. Roderick and William, two of the sons of Rory Oig, were seized by the tutor of Kintail, and executed. Malcolm, the other son, apprehended at the same time, made his escape, and continued to harass the Mackenzies for years. He was prominently engaged in Sir James Macdonald's rebellion in 1615, and afterwards went to Flanders, but in 1616 was once more in the Lewis, where he killed two gentlemen of the Mackenzies. He subsequently went to Spain, whence he returned with Sir James Macdonald in 1620. In 1622 and 1626, commissions of fire and sword were granted to Lord Kintail and his clan against "Malcolm MacRuari Macleod". Nothing more is known of him.

On the extinction of the main line of the Lewis, the representation of the family devolved on the Macleods of Rasay, afterwards referred to. The title of Lord Macleod was the second title of the Mackenzies, Earls of Cromarty.

At the battle of Worcester in 1651, the Macleods fought on the side of Charles II, and so great was the slaughter amongst them that it was agreed by the other clans that they should not engage in any other conflict until they had recovered their losses. The Harris estates were sequestrated by Cromwell, but the chief of the Macleods was at last, in May 1665, admitted into the protection of the Commonwealth by General Monk, on his finding security for his peaceable behaviour under the penalty of £6,000 sterling, and paying a fine of £2,500. Both his uncles, however, were expressly excepted.

At the Revolution, Macleod of Macleod, which became the designation of the laird of Harris, as chief of the clan, was favourable to the cause of James II. In 1715 the effective force of the Macleods was 1,000 men, and in 1745, 900. The chief, by the advice of President Forbes, did not join in the rebellion of the latter year, and so saved his estates, but many of his clansmen, burning with zeal for the cause of Prince Charles, fought in the ranks of the rebel army.

It has been mentioned that the bad treatment which a daughter of the chief of the Macleods experienced from her husband, the captain of the Clanranald, had caused them to take the first opportunity of inflicting a signal vengeance on the Macdonalds. The merciless act of Macleod, by which the entire population of an island was cut off at once, is described by Mr Skene, and is shortly thus. Towards the close of the 16th Century, a small number of Macleods accidentally landed on the island of Eigg, and were hospitably received by the inhabitants. Offering, however, some incivilities to the young women of the island, they were, by the male relatives of the latter, bound hand and foot, thrown into a boat, and sent adrift. Being met and rescued by a party of their own clansmen, they were brought to Dunvegan, the residence of their chief, to whom they told their story. Instantly manning his galleys, Macleod hastened to Eigg. On descrying his approach, the islanders, with their wives and children, to the number of 200 persons, took refuge in a large cave, situated in a retired and secret place. Here for two days they remained undiscovered, but having unfortunately sent out a scout to see if the Macleods were gone, their retreat was detected, but they refused surrender. A stream of water fell over the entrance to the cave, and partly concealed it. This Macleod caused to be turned from its course, and then ordered all the wood and other combustibles which could be found to be piled up around its mouth, and set fire to, when all within the cave were suffocated.

The Siol Tormod continued to possess Harris, Dunvegan, and Glenelg till near the close of the 18th century. The former and the latter estates have now passed into other hands. A considerable portion of Harris is the property of the Earl of Dummore, and many of its inhabitants have emigrated to Cape Breton and Canada. The climate of the island is said to be favourable to longevity. Martin, in his account of the Western Isles, says he knew several in Harris of 90 years of age. One Lady Macleod, who passed the most of here time here, lived to 103, had then a comely head of hair and good teeth, and enjoyed a perfect understanding till the week she died. Her son, Sir Norman Macleod, died at 96, and his grandson, Donald Macleod of Bernera, at 91. Clenelg became the property first of Charles Grant, Lord Glenelg, and afterwards of Mr Baillie. From the family of Bernera, one of the principle branches of the Harris Macleods, sprung the Macleods of Luskinder, of which Sir William Macleod Bannatyne, a lord of session, was a cadet.

The first of the house of Rasy, the late proprietor of which is the representative of the Lewis branch of the Macleods, was Malcolm Garbh Macleod, the second son of Malcolm, eighth chief of the Lewis. In the reign of James V he obtained from his father in patrimony the island of Rasay, which lies between Skye and the Ross-shire district of Applecross. In 1569 the whole of the Rasay family, except one infant, were barbarously massacred by one of their own kinsmen, under the following circumstances. John MacGhilliechallum Macleod of Rasay, called Ian na Tuaidh, or John with the axe, who had carried off Janet Mackenzie, the first wife of his chief, Roderick Macleod of the Lewis, married her, after her divorce, and had by her several sons and one daughter. The latter became the wife of Alexander Roy Mackenzie, a grandson of Hector or Eachen Roy, the first of the Mackenzies of Gairloch, a marriage which have great offence to his clan, the Siol vie Gillechallum, as the latter had long been at feud with that particular branch of the Mackenzies. On Janet Mackenzie's death, he of the axe married a sister of a kinsman of his own, Ruari Macallan Macleod, who, from his venomous disposition, was surnamed Nimhneach. The latter, to obtain Rasay for his nephew, his sister's son, resolved to cut off both his brother-in-law and his sons by the first marriage. He accordingly invited them to a feast in the island of Isay in Skye, and after it was over he left the apartment. Then, causing them to be sent for one by one, he had each of them assassinated as they came out. He was, however, balked in his object, as Rasay became the property of Malcolm or Ghilliechallum Garbh Macallaster Macleod, then a child, belonging to the direct line of the Rasay branch, who was with his foster-father at the time. Rasay no longer belongs to the Macleods, they having been compelled to part with their patrimony some years ago.

The Macleods of Assynt, one of whom betrayed the great Montrose in 1650, were also a branch of the Macleods of Lewis. That estate, towards the end of the 17th century, became the property of the Mackenzies, and the family is now represented by Macleod of Geanies. The Macleods of Cadboll are cadets of those of Assynt.

Another Account of the Clan

MacLeod of Harris:
Craobh aiteann (juniperis communis) juniper bush.
MacLeod of Lewis: Lus nam Braoileag (Vaccinium vitis idea) red whortleberry.
PIBR0CH: Iomradh Mhic Leoid.

MacLeodMANY hundreds of visitors to the Outer Hebrides to-day —yachtsmen and passengers by Messrs. MacBrayne’s steamers—are familiar with the noble old towers of Dunvegan at the head of Loch Bracadale on the western side of Skye. The ancient seat of the MacLeods towering on its rocks is not only the most romantic dwelling in the Isles, but the oldest inhabited mansion in Scotland, having been one of the sea-eyries built by the Norse rovers in the ninth or tenth century, and continuously inhabited to the present day. Nothing more picturesque could well be imagined than its cluster of square towers and embattled walls rising above the wild crags of the shore, and there is nothing more interesting in the record of the Western Isles than the story of the chiefs of MacLeod who, for so many centuries, have made it their stronghold and home. Probably no better description of the castle is to be found than that given by Sir Walter Scott in his diary of the voyage he made in the yacht of the Lighthouse Commissioners in August, 1814. This runs as follows:

"Wake under the Castle of Dunvegan in the Loch of Folliart. I had sent a card to the Laird of MacLeod in the morning, who came off before we were dressed, and carried us to his castle to breakfast. A part of Dunvegan is very old; ‘its birth tradition notes not.’ Another large tower was built by the same Alister MacLeod whose burial-place and monument we saw yesterday at Rodel. He had a Gaelic surname, signifying the Humpbacked. Roderick More (knighted by James VI.) erected a long edifice combining these two ancient towers; and other pieces of building, forming a square, were accomplished at different times. The whole castle occupies a precipitous mass of rock overhanging the lake, divided by two or three islands in that place, which form a snug little harbour under the walls. There is a court-yard looking out upon the sea, protected by a battery—at least a succession of embrasures, for only two guns are pointed, and these unfit for service. The ancient entrance rose up a flight of steps cut in the rock, and passed into this courtyard through a portal, but this is now demolished. You land under the castle, and, walking round, find yourself in front of it. This was originally inaccessible, for a brook coming down on the one side, a chasm of the rocks on the other, and a ditch in front, made it impervious. But the late MacLeod built a bridge over the stream, and the present laird is executing an entrance suitable to the character of this remarkable fortalice, by making a portal between two advanced towers and an outer court, from which he proposes to throw a drawbridge over to the high rock in front of the castle. This, if well executed, cannot fail to have a good and characteristic effect."

On the first night of his visit Scott slept in the haunted chamber of the castle, which is still pointed out, and he gives an account of his impressions in the last of his "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft." He had previously slept in the haunted chamber of the ancient castle of Glamis in Strathmore, and his impressions here were somewhat similar. " Amid such tales of ancient tradition," he says, "I had from MacLeod and his lady the courteous offer of the haunted apartment of the castle, about which, as a stranger, I might be supposed interested. Accordingly I took possession of it about the witching hour. Except, perhaps, some tapestry hangings, and the extreme thickness of the walls, which argued great antiquity, nothing could have been more comfortable than the interior of the apartment; but if you looked from the windows, the view was such as to correspond with the highest tone of superstition. An autumnal blast, sometimes clear, sometimes driving mist before it, swept along the troubled billows of the lake, which it occasionally concealed, and by fits disclosed. The waves rushed in wild disorder on the shore, and covered with foam the steep pile of rocks, which, rising from the sea in forms something resembling the human figure, have obtained the name of MacLeod’s Maidens, and, in such a night, seemed no bad representative of the Norwegian goddesses, called Choosers of the Slain, or Riders of the Storm. There was something of the dignity of danger in the scene; for, on a platform beneath the windows, lay an ancient battery of cannon, which had sometimes been used against privateers even of late years. The distant scene was a view of that part of the Quillen mountains which are called, from their form, MacLeod’s Dining-Tables. The voice of an angry cascade, termed the Nurse of Rorie Mhor, because that chief slept best in its vicinity, was heard from time to time mingling its notes with those of wind and wave. Such was the haunted room at Dunvegan."

Among the characteristic relics in the castle, which Scott saw, and which are still treasured there, were the drinking horn of Rorie Mhor, an ox’s horn tipped with silver, which each chief of the MacLeods, on coming of age, was expected to drain at a single draught; the Dunvegan cup, a beautifully chased and ornamented silver chalice of the fifteenth century, which Scott by a misreading of the inscription round its rim made out to date from 500 years earlier; and the famous Fairy Flag said to have been given to a Chief of the MacLeods either by an Irish princess or a fairy bride, but which is most likely a trophy brought home from one of the crusades by some early warrior. "It is a pennon of silk with something like round red rough berries wrought upon it, and its properties," as, described by Scott, were that "produced in battle it multiplied the number of the MacLeods; spread on the nuptial bed it ensured fertility; and, lastly, it brought herring into the loch." According to tradition the flag has already been twice displayed, and produced its expected results. When displayed for the third time it will have the same effect, but it and its bearer will forthwith disappear from earth.

The Chief of MacLeod of Scott’s time was busily engaged in planting trees and improving his estate. "If he does not hurry too fast," said the novelist, "he cannot fail to be of service to his people. He seems to think and act much like the chief, without the fanfaronade of the character." When Scott and his party left they were accompanied to the yacht by MacLeod himself, with his piper playing in the bows in proper style, and were sent off with a salute of seven guns from the castle. The episode concludes with the entry, " the Chief returns ashore with his piper playing ‘The MacLeods’ Gathering,’ heard to advantage along the calm and placid loch, and dying as it retreated from us."

Fifty years before Scott’s time Dunvegan was visited by Dr. Samuel Johnson and his biographer Boswell, both of whom have left characteristic records of their impressions of the place. Also at a more recent day a brief visit was paid by the poet Alexander Smith, who has left some account of it in his well-known book, A Summer in Skye. More recently still, a very full and excellent account of the castle and its chiefs is to be found in Canon MacCulloch’s charming volume, The Misty Isle of Skye.

According to popular tradition, cited in Douglas’s Baronage, the MacLeods were descended from the Norwegian kings of Man; but there is equally strong reason to believe that, in the male line at least, they belonged to the ancient Celtic inhabitants of the country. They come first out of the mists of the past as allodial owners of Glenelg, the possession of which was confirmed to them in the person of Malcolm, son of Tormod, by David II. in the fourteenth century, in a charter under which the chief obliged himself to provide a galley of thirty-six oars for the king’s use when required. Dunvegan and the lands of Skye came into MacLeod’s possession by marriage with a daughter of MacRaild, the heiress of a Norwegian chief. At the same time, the MacLeod chiefs appear to have been owners of lands in Harris and the Lewis.

A younger brother of Tormod, already mentioned, Torquil MacLeod of the Lewis, married the heiress of the Chief of the MacNicols, and through her came into possession of the district of Assynt and other lands in Wester Ross, for which he obtained a charter from David II. His descendants became independent chiefs, and were known as the Siol Thorcuil or Race of Torquil, while the descendants of his elder brother were known as the Siol Thormod or Race of Tormod. At a later day the MacLeods of Assynt were represented by MacLeod of Raasa. These MacLeods of Lewis and Assynt had their own history, which was stirring enough. There is in particular the much-disputed episode of the arrest of the great Marquess of Montrose in 1651, which by some is held to have cast a stain upon the name, and by others is believed not to have been the work of MacLeod of Assynt at all, but of his wife or one of his clansmen in the ordinary course of duty in his absence.

Meanwhile the MacLeods of MacLeod, the race of Tormod, with their seat at Dunvegan, played a most notable part in the history of the Western Isles. They were among the chiefs who fought on the side of Bruce, and a son of the Chief accompanied Donald of the Isles in the raid which ended at the battle of Harlaw in 1411. A typical incident of that history was the feud with the MacKays, of which the most outstanding incident was a bloody battle on the marches of Ross and Sutherland in the first years of the fifteenth century, from which the only survivor on MacLeod’s side was a solitary clansman who made his way, seriously wounded, home to his native Lewis, told his tale and died in the telling of it. Another famous feud was that which followed the marriage of MacLeod of the Lewis with the widow of the Chief of the Mathiesons of Lochalsh, executed by James I. at Edinburgh in 1427. Disputes arose between MacLeod and his stepsons, the young Mathiesons. John, the elder of these, sought the protection of his maternal grandfather, Chief of the MacIntosh’s, and by and by, with the help of the latter, returned to claim his possessions. He attacked the castle of Lochalsh in which MacLeod and his wife defended themselves. When the stronghold was set on fire Mathieson, anxious to save his mother, stationed himself at the gate, and gave orders that she was to be allowed to pass. When she did so in the darkness and tumult, it was not noticed that she was taking with her, hidden under the wide folds of her arisaid or belted plaid the person of her husband, MacLeod himself. Presently the latter returned with a force of his own men from the Lewis, but was repulsed by young Mathieson, chiefly by the help of his bowmen, from which fact the battle is still called Blar nan Saigheadear. Making still another attempt to recapture the castle, MacLeod was slain and the feud ended.

One of the great battles in which the MacLeods engaged with their enemies of the Isles is commemorated in the name of the Bloody Bay, on the coast of Mull, two miles north of Tobermory, where the Macdonalds, under Angus Og, son of the last Lord of the Isles, about 1484, overthrew the fleet of James III., fitted out by the Earls of Atholl and Argyll, and Macleod of Harris was slain.

The MacLeods, however, were still to perform an act of friendship towards the MacDonalds. At the end of the fifteenth century, when James IV. was endeavouring to put an end to the constant clan troubles in the Hebrides, caused by the efforts to revive the broken power of the Lord of the Isles, Torquil MacLeod of the Lewis was the most notable of the chiefs who resisted the efforts of the king’s lieutenants, first the Earl of Argyll and afterwards the Earl of Huntly. It was only by the efforts of James IV. himself that the Islesmen were finally brought to peaceful submission. Last of them all, Torquil MacLeod—who, by the way, was Argyll’s brother-in-law, and had been forfeited by command of Parliament—retired to his stronghold of Stornoway Castle. He had with him his relative, Donald Dubh, son of that Angus Og who had won the battle of the Bloody Bay, and claimant of the Lordship of the Isles. But in the end Stornoway Castle was captured by the Earl of Huntly, Donald Dubh driven to Ireland, and the insurrection of the Islesmen brought to an end.

Perhaps the most tragic incident connected with Dunvegan took place in the middle of the sixteenth century. In 1552 William, the ninth chief, died. In the absence of his two brothers, Donald and Torquil, the clansmen acknowledged as chief Ian the Fair-haired, a descendant of the sixth Chief of the MacLeods. On the return of Donald a meeting was held at Lyndale, when Ian the Fair-haired was again chosen chief. Donald thereupon retired to Kingsburgh. Here he was approached by Ian Dubh, a son of Ian the Fair-haired, with offers of friendship, and, being enticed to a meeting at midnight, was forthwith slain, with six of his followers. Ian the Fair-haired ordered the arrest of Ian Dubh, but died before it could be effected. His eldest son Tormod was dead, but had left three sons, to whom Donald Breac, the brother of Ian Dubh, was guardian. When Donald Breac and the three boys returned from the funeral they found Dunvegan in possession of Ian Dubh, with the boys’ mother a prisoner within. On Donald demanding possession, the doorway at the top of the narrow stair above the landing-place opened, and Ian Dubh appeared in full armour. Donald rushed up to the attack, but was presently slain. The three sons of Tormod were also put to the sword by Ian Dubh, who proceeded to shut up his remaining brothers, with the wives and children of the other leaders of the clan, in the castle dungeons.

The Campbells now stepped in as guardians of Mary, the only child of the ninth chief, William. They landed with a large force at Roag in Loch Bracadale, met Ian Dubh in the church of Kilmuir, and arranged terms. Ian Dubh then invited the eleven Campbell chieftains to a feast at Dunvegan. The feast is said to have taken place in what is now the drawing-room of the castle. There each Campbell found himself seated between two MacLeods. At the end of the feast, instead of a cup of wine, a cup of blood was set before each guest, and forthwith at the signal each Campbell was stabbed in the throat by a MacLeod.

The final scene in the drama took place in 1559. Torquil MacLeod, brother of the ninth Chief, then arrived to claim the chiefship, and a warder, Torquil MacSween, was induced to betray the castle. Hearing a noise, Ian Dubh sprang from bed. Seeing all was lost he fled to his galley and escaped to Harris. Thence he made his way to Ireland, where presently he was seized by the O’Donnell chief, and horribly slain by having a red-hot iron thrust through his bowels.

But the main feuds of the MacLeods were with the MacDonalds of the Isles, who were their own near neighbours in Skye. Already in the days of King Robert III. they had signally defeated that powerful clan, but it was towards the close of the sixteenth century that the most notable events in the feud occurred. In the latter part of the century the MacLeans of Mull were at bitter feud with the MacDonalds of Islay. In that feud they were generously helped by the MacLeods. One of the traditions of Dunvegan of that time is told in A Summer in Skye. On a certain wild night MacDonald of Sleat was driven on his barge into the loch, and forced to ask shelter from MacLeod. He was admitted with his piper and twelve followers, but at dinner, noticing the ominous boar’s head upon the table, refused to leave his men and sit above the salt. Over the wine after dinner some bad blood was occasioned by MacDonald’s boasting about his dirk and his powers of using it, and a serious tragedy might have occurred but for a sweetheart of one of the MacDonalds, who, as she passed her lover with a dish, whispered to him to beware of the barn in which he was to sleep. The man told his master, and, instead of going to sleep on the heaps of heather which had been prepared for them in the barn, the MacDonalds spent the night in a cave outside. At midnight the barn was a mass of flame, and the MacLeods thought they had killed their enemies; but presently, much to their astonishment they saw MacDonald march past the castle with his twelve men, his piper playing a defiance to Dunvegan, and, before anything could be done, the barge set sail and sped down the loch.

In the course of the warfare with the MacDonalds the most terrible event took place on the Isle of Eigg. The tradition runs that a small party of MacLeods had landed on that island, and ill-treated some of the women. They were seized, bound hand and foot, and set adrift in their own boat, but managed, to reach Dunvegan. Forthwith, to avenge them, the MacLeod Chief sailed for Eigg. Seeing his overwhelming force the inhabitants of the island, some 200 in number, took shelter in a great cave which had a single narrow entrance. Their plan seemed successful. Macleod searched the island, but failed to find them, and at last set sail. Looking back, however, the MacLeods spied a man on the top of the island. Returning immediately, by means of his footsteps in a sprinkling of snow which had fallen, they traced him to the mouth of the cave. There they demanded that the persons who had set their men adrift should be given up for punishment. This was refused; whereupon MacLeod ordered his men to gather heather and brushwood. This was piled against the mouth of the cave and set on fire, and the blaze was kept up until all within were suffocated to death.

By way of retaliation for this massacre, on a Sunday when the MacLeods of Vaternish were at service in the church at Trumpan, a body of MacDonalds from Uist, having landed at Ardmore, set fire to the fane, and burnt it with all its worshippers except one woman, who escaped through a window. The MacDonald galleys, however, and the smoke of the burning, had been seen from Dunvegan, and MacLeod had sent out the Fiery Cross. As he came within sight, the MacDonalds rushed to their boats; but the tide had left them high and dry, and as they struggled to launch them the MacLeods rushed to the attack, and everyone of the MacDonalds was slain. The bodies of the dead were laid in a long row beside a turf dyke at the spot, and the dyke was overthrown upon them, from which fact the battle is known as Blar Milleadh Garaidh, the Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke. A few years later the MacDonalds made another raid and swept off all MacLeod’s cattle; but they were overtaken near the same spot, a terrible fight took place, and nearly everyone of the MacDonalds was killed. It is said that on each side, on this last occasion, a blacksmith remained fighting in full armour. The MacLeod blacksmith was beginning to faint from loss of blood when his wife came upon the scene, and with a cry struck the enemy with her distaff. MacDonald turned his head, and at the moment was run through and slain. In the same battle a son of MacLeod of Unish was fighting valiantly when a MacDonald rushed at him, and hewed off his legs at the knees. Nevertheless MacLeod continued to fight standing on his stumps, and the spot where at last he fell is still known after him as the Knoll of the Son of Ian.

Again, at Cnoc a Chrochaidh, the hanging-hill in the same neighbourhoed, another act of justice took place. A son of Judge Morrison of the Lewis had been on a visit to Dunvegan, and afterwards on Asay island had killed some MacLeods. He was pursued and overtaken here, and hanged on three of his own oars. Before the hanging he was told to kneel and say his prayers, and long afterwards some silver coins found in a crevice of the rocks were believed to have been treasure concealed by him during his devotions.

It was at one of the battles near Trumpan that the fairy flag is believed to have been last displayed.

Perhaps most famous of the MacLeod chiefs was Roderick or Ruarie More of Dunvegan, from whom the waterfall beside the castle takes its name. Along with his contemporary, Roderick MacLeod of the Lewis, he had resisted the order of King James VI. that all landowners in the Highlands must produce their charters. Accordingly the property of the two chiefs was declared forfeited, and an attempt was made to settle Lewis and Skye by a syndicate from the East of Scotland. The Fife Adventurers reached the Western Isles late in 1598, but they were not long allowed to remain at peace. In the Lewis, Neil MacLeod rushed the settlement at dead of night and slew fifty of the colonists, and after a renewed attack and slaughter the rest were forced to depart home. A second attempt of the same kind was made in 1605, and a third in 1609, with the same disastrous consequences. Also in 1607 an attempt was made to form a contract with the Marquess of Huntly to effect the civilisation of Lewis and Skye by exterminating the inhabitants, and it only failed because the Privy Council would not accept Huntly’s offer of £400 Scots for the island. At the same time, Spens of Wormiston, who had received a grant of Dunvegan, was prevented by the MacLeod chief from obtaining possession, and at last in 1610 MacLeod was enabled to procure a free pardon, and was knighted by King James. It was this Chief who built Rorie More’s Tower, and placed on it the effigies of himself and his lady, a daughter of Glengarry. He also added much to the family estates, and did his best to put an end to the ancient feuds with his neighbours.

In the Civil Wars the clan fought on the Royalist side, and at the battle of Worcester it suffered so severely that the other clans agreed it should not be asked to join any warlike expedition until its strength was restored. As a result of his loyalty, in 1655 MacLeod was fined £2,500, and obliged to give security to the amount of £6,000 sterling for his obedience to the Commonwealth.

The MacLeods were reported by General Wade in 1715 to be 1,000 strong; and in 1745 MacLeod, it was said, could put 900 men in the field. He did not, however, join Prince Charlie, though many of his clansmen fought on the Jacobite side.

A strange episode of that time, in which MacLeod was concerned, was the abduction of the unhappy Lady Grange. The lady’s husband, a judge of the Court of Session, was a brother of the Jacobite Earl of Mar. The marriage was most unhappy, and the lady is said to have threatened to reveal her husband’s Jacobite plots. Then in 1731 it was given out that Lady Grange had died, and there was a mock funeral in Edinburgh. Meanwhile, with the aid of the MacLeod Chief and Lord Lovat, she was carried off, kept first on the Isle of Heiskar, to the west of North Uist, and afterwards at the lonely St. Kilda. In 1741 she managed to send letters to her law agent, Hope of Rankeillor, and the latter fitted out an armed vessel for her rescue. MacLeod, however, was forewarned, and had Lady Grange removed first to Harris and afterwards to Skye, where she wandered imbecile for some seven years. At last, in 1745, the year of Charles Edward’s landing, she died. Another mock funeral then took place at Durinish, but she was really buried at Trumpan, where the Earl of Mar set up a monument to her memory a few years ago. Among the papers at Dunvegan are still extant the accounts of the unfortunate lady’s board and funeral.

In later days the MacLeod chiefs have been noted for their benevolence, their endeavours for the improving of their estates, and their interest in the welfare of their clansmen. Among them none has been held in more affectionate regard than the present owner of Dunvegan. No Chief in the Highlands more faithfully cherishes the best traditions of the past, or more faithfully fulfils the obligations of the present, and none is more beloved by his people, or more worthy of their affection and esteem.

Septs of Clan MacLeod of Harris: Beaton, Bethune, Beton, MacCaig, MacClure, MacCrimmon, MacCuaig, MacHarrold, Macraild, Norman.

Septs of Clan MacLeod of Lewis: Callum, Lewis, MacAskill, MacAulay, MacCallum, MacCaskill, MacCorkindale, MacCorquodale, MacLewis, MacNicol, Malcolmson, Nicholl, Nicol, Nicoll, Nickolson, Nicolson, Tolmie.

Here is part of an interesting letter from Dave McLure...

I am a McClure of Oregon, of the Sept MacClure of MacLeod, of the Clan Macleod of MacLeod, whose ancestral home lies in Castle Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.  I wear the tartan of MacLeod of Macleod, and hold to the battle cry of the Clan MacLeod, "Hold Fast!"

After the troubles of the late 1700's, in which Scotland again tried to free itself from the oppression of the English Kings (see historical references in the movie, "Rob Roy"), many of the nobles of Scotland fled to Ireland for their lives. . .only to find, once they were settled and had married a wee lass (which is how MacClure became McClure!) that the potato famines (said to have been caused by the selfsame English Kings) drove them out of Ireland.  Like millions of other Irish, the sons of Scotland emigrated. . .many to the New World in the early to mid 1800s.  Many went as indentured servants (slaves), for which Ireland and Scotland are still awaiting President Clinton's apology.

Unlike most Irish, who emigrated to New York or Boston, the Scots went primarily to Philadelphia.  From there, they split into two groups.  One went west, through Pennsylvania to settle the rich bottom lands of the Ohio Valley, then onward into Iowa, then across the plains to settle in the forests of Oregon.  These are the families of Clan MacLeod in Oregon, the furthest descendents of the Clan in the Colonies, and my own family through Ralph McClure of Salem, a direct descendent of Robert McClure of MacLeod, who first came to America and established McClure's Gap in Western Pennsylvania.

The other half went south, through Alexandria, VA. . .to North Carolina... onward to South Carolina and eastern Tennessee.  There, they were directly responsible not only for what we think of as "southern hospitality," but also for the US Civil War.  

Okay, that requires some explanation.  The southern culture we can easily understand. . .civility, respect for women, honor and chivalry were directly from Scotland and Scottish tradition, which merged into the South to give us Martha Stewart and Jesse Helms today.  And also, perhaps, Newt Gingrich. 

But few Americans today understand that the US Civil War never was about slavery. . .which became an issue only in 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg, when Lincoln freed the slaves (but only in the southern states).  The Civil War actually was begun two years earlier over the issue of state's rights against a powerful central government.  The Republicans under Lincoln had decreed that the sovereignty of states was forfeit, and that the central government would rule.  The Scots of the south took exception.

The Scots had heard all that before, in 700 years of tyranny under the English Kings.   So it was no mistake that the Scots of South Carolina, led by Sen. Calhoun, led that state to be the first to succeed, and to fire upon Fort Sumpter, beginning the Civil War.  The rest is history, and the love of Scots to fight for a lost cause. . .