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THE present work has been undertaken at the suggestion 
of the Lewis and Harris Association of Glasgow. It is 
the first attempt which has yet been made to collect, and 
present in book form, existing records of past events in the 
Outer Isles. Obvious difficulties surrounded the under- 
taking, in consequence of the dearth of known material to 
work upon ; but after careful research, these difficulties 
were largely overcome. It is not, however, pretended that 
the record is complete. The activity in historical research 
which marks the present day, may bring to light fresh facts 
bearing upon the Outer Hebrides ; and these may fill gaps 
left by the present work. But whatever the defects of the 
book in consequence either of insufficient information, or 
the drawbacks incidental to the breaking of new ground 
by an inexperienced historian I can at least claim that 
an honest attempt has been made to discover all available 
material bearing upon the subject, and to ensure accuracy 
in its handling. As far as possible, I have gone to 
original sources for my information, and the history has 
been largely compiled from the national records. The 
chief events are given with a fulness of detail which, in 
a general history of the Highlands, would be, if not 
impossible, at least lacking in proportion ; but, on the 
other hand, an effort has been made to avoid insularity of 


In the preparation of this history, I have kept before me 
one main object, viz., to get at the truth. In doing so, I 
have had, in some instances, to face the highest test of 
impartiality to which a Highland historian can be subjected ; 
and that is, to criticise the chiefs of his own clan. My 
conclusions may in some cases be mistaken, but the facts 
from which they are deduced are fairly stated. 

To Mr. D. Murray Rose, whose unique knowledge of 
Highland historical material has invariably been placed 
at my disposal with the utmost willingness, and who has 
furnished me with one of the illustrations ; to Mr. John 
Parker Anderson, late of the British Museum, for assist- 
ance in the collection of material ; to my brother, Mr. C. G. 
Mackenzie, Stornoway, and to Mr. Archibald Chisholm, 
Lochmaddy, for statistics relating to the Outer Isles, and 
to the latter for the use of several excellent photographs ; 
to Mr. John Mackay, editor of the Celtic Monthly \ Glasgow, 
for information supplied in reference to illustrations and 
other matters ; to Messrs. Jack, publishers, Edinburgh, for 
permission to reproduce an illustration from Keltic's Scot- 
tish Highlands ; to Mr. Eneas Mackay, Stirling, for the 
loan of an illustration " block " ; to Major Matheson of 
the Lews, for the use of photographs ; and to the Rev. 
R. C. Macleod of Macleod, for copies of documents in 
Dunvegan Castle ; to all these helpers, I desire to express 
my grateful thanks. I wish, also, to acknowledge the 
courtesy of Sir Arthur Mitchell, who gave me an oppor- 
tunity of examining his volumes of Lewis traditions which 
were collected by the late Captain Thomas, R.N. The 
more important of these traditions appear in Captain 
Thomas's papers on the Macaulays of Uig and the 
Morisons of Ness, printed in the Proceedings of the Society 
of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vols. XII. and XIV. 


My thanks are due, in a special way, to my fellow- 
Lewisrnen, the Rev. William Morrison, M.A., Carr-Bridge, 
and Mr. Malcolm Macdonald, Glasgow. The one as a 
scientist, and the other as an artist, have generously con- 
tributed to whatever merits this book may possess. Mr. 
Morrison's reputation as a naturalist has travelled beyond 
his native island, while Mr. Macdonald is a talented young 
artist, whose marine and landscape work is full of promise. 

The index, printed at the end of the book, has been 
compiled by my wife. 

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to 
accept a copy of this history, thus manifesting his interest 
in the remote island of his dominions which, with the 
Queen, he honoured by a visit last September. 

London, 1903. 



The early inhabitants of the Long IslandHistory in stones The Callernish 

'ircles The Brochs History in place-names The Dalriads and the Picts 

-The Gall-Gaidheil The Vikings Origin of the names "Hebrides," 

"Lewis," "Harris," "Uist," " Benbecula," and " Barra " 




Early references to the Hebrides Solinus on the Ebudae Saint Columba 
d the Northern Picts Ethica The Northmen and the Christian Church 
ic Fingalls and the Dugalls The " Islands of the Foreigners" The Norse 
>lonies in the Hebrides Ketil Flatneb The Hebrides under the Orcadian 
[arldom The battle of Clontarf The Manx dynasty Godred Crovan The 
st expedition of King Magnus of Norway Ingemund and the Lewismen 
'he second expedition of King Magnus Magnus and the kilt Olave the Red 
Olave and Somerled The division of the Hebrides 


The Norse pirates in the Outer Hebrides Sweyn of Gairsay The regency 
of Reginald Godredson Reginald and Olave the Black Olave gets Lewis 
from Reginald The " Dragon of the Isles " devastates Lewis Is defeated by 
Olave and Paul Balkasson Deposition and death of Reginald Olave and 
the Sudreyan chiefs at the Court of Norway Tormod of Lewis Godred Don 
is killed in Lewis The three eldest sons of Olave the Black and their rule 
Ewen of Lome Rupture between Norway and Scotland The expedition of 
King Hakon The battle of Largs The Long Island becomes incorporated 
with Scotland Manners and customs of the Norsemen The hersir Thralls 
The title of " King " Land tenure Things The Christianising of the 
Norsemen Their amusements and sports Their ships Valhalla and Heaven 
Marriage customs " Exposing " and fostering children Burial customs 
Norse morality An appreciation of the Norsemen Their descendants at the 
Butt of Lewis 



The clans of the Outer Hebrides and their origins The Macleods of Lewis 
and Harris The Macnicols or Nicolsons The Morisons of Ness The Mac- 
aulays of Uig The Macivers The Macaskills The numerical strength of 
Lewis families at the present day The Macneills of Barra 





The Outer Hebrides under the O'Beolan Earls of Ross The Macruaries 
of Garmoran and the North Isles The chiefs of the Long Island and the 
War of Independence Lewis is granted to John of the Isles Ranald Macruari 
is slain by the Earl of Ross The career of John of the Isles His children 
and the disputed succession Lewis reverts to the Earldom of Ross The 
story of John Roy of Uig The "ploy" at Tuiteam Tarbhach The disputed 
succession to the Earldom of Ross and the Battle of Harlaw James I. cages 
the chiefs The career of John Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross The 
revolt of his son Angus Og The battle of the Bloody Bay The assassination 
of Angus Og The insurrection of Alexander of Lochalsh The birth of 
Donald Dubh The Lords of the Isles and their vassals The raids from 
the Outer Hebrides on the Orkneys and Shetlands 67 


James IV. and the Hebrides His grants to the heritors of the Outer 
Isles The insurrection of Donald Dubh Torquil Macleod of Lewis is 
declared a rebel The King attempts to break up the Hebridean con- 
federacy The progress of the insurrection The coalition breaks up Torquil 
Macleod holds out His possessions are forfeited to the Crown Huntly 
invades Lewis and captures Stornoway Castle Lewis granted to Malcolm 
brother of Torquil Macleod Insurrection of Donald Gallda John Mac- 
Torquil seizes Lewis His alliance with Donald Gruamach The Islesmen 
and the House of Argyll Ruari Macleod and Donald Gorm ravage Trotternish 
and attack Eilean Donain Castle The expedition of James V. to the Isles 
and its results Henry VIII. and the Hebrides Re-appearance of Donald 
Dubh He and his followers transfer their allegiance to England The re- 
bellion ends in a fiasco Death of Donald Dubh James Macdonald of 
Dunyveg and the succession to the Lordship of the Isles Attempts to 
prevent a recurrence of disorders in the Isles Macleod of Lewis proves 
stublx>rn Argyll unsuccessfully bombards Stornoway Castle Argyll and 
Macleod come to terms ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 107 


Ruari Macleod of Lewis and his family affairs Torquil Conanach seizes and 
keeps his father in captivity Father and son are temporarily reconciled 
Ruari repudiates the agreement Another temporary reconciliation The 
quarrel breaks out afresh Torquil Conanach captures Stornoway Castle and 
leaves his son John in charge Assassination of John Disorders in the 
Hebrides The chiefs fined They are required to find caution for their good 
rule The battle of Glenlivat Macleod of Harris and Macdonald of North 
Uist and the Ulster expedition The repression of disorder in the Outer 
Isles Torquil Conanach and Torquil Dubh and their partisans Torquil Dubh 
ravages Coigeach and Loch Broom The conspiracy against Torquil Dubh 
His capture and execution The impression created by his death 148 


The Acts of 1597 Contract between King James VI. and the Fife Adven- 
turers Analysis of its conditions Its objects reviewed Donald Gorm ravages 
Lewis Is defeated by Neil Macleod The Adventurers sail for Lewis They 
capture the island Their unenviable situation Murdoch Macleod captures 
Balcomie Murdoch as a shrewd man of business Neil Macleod attacks the 



colonists The hostility of Mackenzie of Kintail towards the Lowlanders 
Lennox and Huntly charged to assist the Adventurers Balcomie's release 
and death Neil betrays his brother Murdoch Execution of Murdoch at 
St. Andrews Agreement between Kintail and the Adventurers Macleod of 
Harris and the Privy Council Ratification of the grant of Lewis The social 
framework of the colony in Lewis The progress of the colonists Neil Macleod 
quarrels with them Diamond cut diamond The discomfiture of the colonists 
Tormod Macleod appears upon the scene The colonists attacked and forced 
to surrender The failure of the first attempt to subdue Lewis Generous 
treatment of Torquil Conanach by Tormod The Brieve of Lewis killed by 
John Macleod Dispute between Macleod of Harris and Macdonald of North 
Uist Defeat of the Macleods in North Uist Destitution of the common 
people Donald Gorm invades Macleod's lands in Skye The Macleods 
again defeated The Privy Council interferes A reconciliation effected The 
lieutenancies of Lennox and Huntly ... ... ... ... ... ... 171 


The King devotes his attention to Lewis Arrangements for a second 
invasion of the island Macleod of Harris and Macdonald of North Uist again 
quarrel Commission appointed to reduce the Outer Hebrides and Skye 
Neil Macleod commits an act of piracy Second expedition to Lewis 
Tormod Macleod submits Goes to London Is imprisoned in Edinburgh 
Castle Enters the service of the Prince of Orange His character The 
troubles of the Lewis colonists Macneill of Barra and the Captain of 
ClanRanald attack the Lowlanders Kintail gets a charter of Lewis which is 
subsequently annulled Negotiations with Huntly for conquering the North 
Isles Fresh rising in Lewis Neil Macleod makes a night attack on the 
colonists Renewal of negotiations with Huntly for extirpating the Hebrideans 
The negotiations are broken off and Huntly is disgraced Argyll prevents 
a rising in the Hebrides Macleod of Harris captures Stornoway Castle 
Kintail is authorised to invade Lewis The break-up of the Lowland 
colony ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 210 


Charters to Balmerino, Spens and Hay Preparations to reduce the Hebrides 
to good order The Statutes of Icolmkill Renewal of Lewis troubles 
Kintail's stratagem Neil Macleod attacks the colonists The last of the Fife 
Adventurers Kintail commissioned to seize Neil and his followers The 
Tutor of Kintail reduces Lewis The island passes into the hands of the 
Mackenzies Neil Macleod and his followers take refuge on Birsay Neil 
and the pirates He hands them over to justice Neil and his followers 
forced to leave Birsay Rory Mor delivers Neil up Neil's trial and execution 
The Macleods continue to resist the Mackenzies The career of Malcolm 
MacRuari Og His exploits in the Long Island The last of the Siol 
Torquil 236 


Disputes between the chiefs of Harris and Uist The Privy Council and 
the chiefs Rory Mor as a letter writer His correspondence with the King 
and Lord Binning The Macdonalds of Islay and the Campbells The clipping 
of the eagles' wings The chiefs and their tenantry The uprooting of the 
Gaelic language The lack of education in the Isles The drinking habits of 



the Islesmen Clanranald gives trouble The drinking habits again Rory 
Mor and the Privy Council Macneill of Barra as a pirate He is captured by 
the Tutor of Kintail Macneill's joke Clanranald seizes Boisdale Piracy on 
the Barra coast Macneill's family feud Clanranald's lawlessness ... ... 266 


Malcolm Macleod disappears from the scene Lord Kintail created Earl of 
Seaforth Death of Rory Mor The Justiciaryship of the Isles Seaforth 
endeavours to obtain a charter of erection for Stornoway The fight between 
Seaforth and the Royal burghs The burghs block the charter Proposals 
for an English fishery in Lewis The charter is cancelled The Scottish 
fisheries The inception of the British Fishery Corporation Negotiations 
with the burghs The charter of the Company of the General Fishery of 
Great Britain and Ireland The Earl of Portland establishes a branch in 
Lewis The Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery follows suit Death and 
character of the first Lord Seaforth His successor and " ground-leaves " in 
Lewis The King claims Lewis The troubles of the English settlers in the 
island Captain Muir and Lewis The King feus the island to Seaforth 
Stornoway resigned into the hands of the King Should Stornoway be recog- 
nised as a Royal burgh ? The end of the fishing venture in the Long Island 
Later Fishery Companies The second Earl of Seaforth and the Covenant 
The battle of Auldearn Seaforth compelled to do penance He joins the 
Earl of Lanark with 4,000 men He retires to the Continent Defeat and 
execution of Montrose The Long Islanders at the battle of \Yorcester 
Death and character of Seaforth 290 


The Commonwealth and the Highlands Balcarres proposes to cede Lewis 
to the Dutch The third Earl of Seaforth seizes English sailors in Stornoway 
Lilburn resolves to make an example of him Preparations for invading 
Lewis Seaforth's plans for resistance Progress of the insurrection in the 
Highlands Cobbet subdues Lewis The Outer Hebrides and Skye virtually 
annexed to the Commonwealth Correspondence with Cromwell concerning 
Lewis The King and his promises The Earldom of Ross The rising in the 
Highlands is nipped in the bud Cromwell's concern about Lewis Talisker 
gives trouble to the English Seaforth and Colonel Norman Macleod attempt 
to re-capture Lewis Their failure The Englishmen and the Macleods of 
Lewis massacre Seaforth's adherents Glencairn and Middleton Guerilla 
tactics End of the insurrection Seaforth and the King Seaforth submits 
The English garrison evacuates Lewis Seaforth and the Earl of Moray 
Death of Seaforth The fourth Earl of Seaforth and the Jacobites Long 
Islanders at Killiecrankie Seaforth crosses from Ireland The progress of 
the Jacobite rising Seaforth surrenders to General Mackay A fresh rising 
takes place Viscount Tarbat's proposals The massacre of Glencoe Colonel 
Hill and the lords of Uist Tarbat's commission to put down a fresh rising 
Seaforth dies in Paris 340 


The rising of 1715 The fifth Earl of Seaforth is attainted He takes up 
arms His march to join Mar The battle of Sheriffmuir Seaforth submits 
He again takes up arms Flies to Lewis Colonel Cholmondeley reduces 
Lewis Seaforth sorry plight The inception of the rising of 1719 The 
Councils of War n Stornoway The Jacobite leaders leave Lewis The 



fight at Glenshiel The leaders of the rising and their subsequent careers 

Seaforth counsels his tenantry to pay no rent to the Government Daniel 

Murchison outwits the factors The Mackenzies and the Seaforth Estates 
Seaforth is pardoned He receives a grant of the arrears of the Lewis feu- 
duty Removal of his disabilities Sale of the Seaforth Estates Remarks on 
the Seaforths A review of their Jacobitism Stornoway and its Custom House 

Proposal to remove the Custom House to Loch Broom Death of William 

Earl of Seaforth in Lewis Is succeeded by his son Kenneth, Lord Fortrose 

The public activity of Lord Fortrose ... ... ... ... ... 394 


The rising of 1745 Prince Charles Edward lands at Eriskay He wins 
over the chiefs Duncan Forbes saves the situation for the Government The 
prophecy of Coinneach Odhar Lord Fortrose prevents his tenantry from rising 
The attitude of the heritors of Harris, North Uist, and Barra The Highland 
Independent Companies The flowing tide of success and the ebb tide 
Culloden The Prince decides to seek refuge in the Long Island He lands 
at Rossinish Proceeds to Scalpa The Prince and the Rev. Aulay Macau- 
layDonald Macleod attempts to hire a vessel in Stornoway The bargain 
falls through The Prince goes to Arnish Alarm in Stornoway The 
dilemma of the Stornowegians The Prince is compelled to leave Arnish He 
lands at lubhard Proceeds to Scalpa Benbecula Coradale The Prince's 
Boswell How Charles passed his time Another fruitless attempt to find 
a ship Critical situation of the Prince Goes to Wiay and Rossinish 
Back to Coradale Loch Boisdale Each man for himself Coradale once 
more Flora Macdonald The plan of rescue Back to Rossinish The pro- 
gress of the plan "Betty Burke" The Prince sails from the Long 
Island A perilous voyage The personality of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" 
The fate of his attendants The Prince sails for France The later career of 
Flora Macdonald 426 


The effects of Culloden A social upheaval in the Long Island The 
emigration fever Discontent in Lewis How the factors made fortunes 
Kidnapping in Lewis Steps taken to prevent emigration Emigration from 
Uist Emigration from Barra The raising of Highland regiments Lord 
Seaforth succeeded by Colonel Mackenzie-Humberston The last Lord 
Seaforth Captain Macleod of Harris and his improvements The Lewis and 
Harris boundaries Lord Seaforth as a recruiting officer A distinguished 
proprietor Lady Hood Mr. Stewart-Mackenzie Charter to the Stornoway 
feuars Sale of Lewis, excluding the parish of Stornoway The island passes 
into the hands of the Mathesons Proprietary changes in Harris In Barra 
In South Uist and Benbecula In North Uist 471 


Descriptions of the Outer Hebrides : John of Fordun Andrew Wyntoun 
John Major Hector Boece Donald Monro Bishop Leslie Official accounts 
of Lewis Captain John Dymes Reports of Lewis to Cromwell Richard 
Blome John Morison of Bragar Report by an unknown author Martin 
Martin John Adair Matthew Symson "The Highland of Scotland in 
1750" "A Voyage to Shetland, the Orkney Islands, and the Western 
Isles of Scotland '* Captain Barlow Dr. John Walker The S.P.C.K. 
Dr. James Anderson John Knox Rev. John Lane Buchanan " General 

xviii CONTENTS. 


View of the Agriculture of the Central Highlands and Islands " The Old 
Statistical Account Rev. James Headrick John Leyden James Macdonald 
Nicholas Carlisle Dr. John Macculloch Lord Teignmouth Professor 
Macgillivray The New Statistical Account Sir John Macneill Sherift" 
Nicolson Casual visitors The Crofters Commission Visit of the King and 
Queen to Stornoway 497 


Ecclesiology of the Outer Isles Religion Care of the poor Education 
Trade and commerce The fishing industry Stornoway shipping Privateers 
n the Minch Illicit distilling The mails Archaic criminal procedure 
Stornoway at the beginning of the nineteenth century Celtic feudalism 
The classes and the masses The tacksmen The system of agriculture 
The introduction of the potato Kelp and its vicissitudes Voluntary emigra- 
tion Compulsory emigration The present attitude towards emigration 
Statistics of population The Land Question Conclusion 517 


Notes on the Outer Hebrides: Geology Physical Features Botany- 
Vertebrate Animals Birds Fishes 557 


Appendix. COPIES OF MSS. 

A The Isles of Scotland (1595) 583 

B Proposed invasion of Lewis (1602) ... 584 

C The Lewis fisheries (undated James I.) 585 

D Stornoway's charter of incorporation (1629) 586 

E The Lewis fisheries (1629), &c 589 

F Description of Lewis by Captain Dymes (1630) 591 

G Fishing colonies in the Hebrides (1632) 595 

H Papers relating to the "Forty-five" 595 

I Letters, etc., from Captain Barlow, an Officer stationed in the 

Long Island (1753) 598 


To face 

Malcolm Macdonald) Stamped on front cover 

STORNOWAY IN 1903 Frontispiece 

THE CALLERNISH STONES, LEWIS (From a drawing by Mr. Malcolm 

Macdonald) ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... xxii 


Malcolm Macdonald) ... ... ... ... ... ... ... xxviii 

EFFIGY IN Ui CHURCH, LEWIS (From a photograph lent by Major 

Matheson) 107 


by Mr. Archibald A. Chisholm, Lochmaddy) 206 

DUNVEGAN CASTLE, SKYE (From a photograph by the Rev. R. C. 

Macleod of Macleod) 263 


by Mr. Archibald A. Chisholm) 285 



graph lent by Mr. D. Murray Rose) ... ... ... ... 425 





ing by Mr. Malcolm Macdonald) 450 



FLORA MACDONALD (By permission of Mr. Eneas Mackay, Stirling) 470 


LOCHMADDY, NORTH UIST (From a photograph by Mr. Archibald 

A. Chisholm) 510 

LEWS CASTLE' ... 516 


drawing by Mr. Malcolm Macdonald) 518 


by Mr. Malcolm Macdonald) 519 

STORNOWAY IN 1819 (From an engraving by William Daniell) ... 542 


by Mr. Archibald A. Chisholm) 555 


WHEN Lord Hailes compiled his annals of Scotland, he 
commenced with the accession of Malcolm III., declaring 
that previous to that period, historical facts were so 
involved in obscurity and intermingled with fable, as to 
render the process of elucidation and disentanglement a 
hopeless task. If this be true of Scotland, it is doubly 
true of that outlying portion of the country called the 
Western Isles or the Hebrides, and particularly true of 
the outer section of the group, known as the Long 
Island. The material at the disposal of the historian of 
the Outer Hebrides is of the most meagre description, 
so far as it concerns early events. When the history 
of Scotland emerged from the region of imagination 
and was placed upon a basis of solid fact, the Western 
Isles still remained a comparatively unknown land to 
the honest investigator, and in a large degree, those 
islands so remain even at the present day. 

Who and what were the earliest inhabitants of the 
Hebrides? It is hardly necessary to say that in the 
present state of our knowledge, a conclusive answer 
to this question cannot be given. Were we able to 
state definitely to what race the primitive inhabitants of 
the Highlands of Scotland belonged ; what language 
they spoke; what their manners and customs were; we 
should probably have little difficulty in assigning a similar 
race, a similar language, and similar manners and customs 
to the pre-historic Hebrides. For satisfactory proofs, 
however, of Highland, as of Hebridean origins, we grope 
in the dark; history furnishes us with none. Those who 
have laboured with so much learning, assiduity, and in 


some cases, acrimoniousness, to prove the correctness of 
their theories on this subject, appear in most instances 
to have reversed the only sound process of reasoning. 
Instead of deriving their conclusions from evidence, 
direct or indirect, they seem to have formed their con- 
clusions first and selected their evidence afterwards. 
The result has been a partial statement of their case, 
involving a want of candour which fails to carry convic- 
tion. After all, an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory. 

In default of historical records, we turn perforce to 
tradition. Tradition is not history, but when sifted with 
discrimination, it may, and frequently does, bristle with 
suggestions which are not without a certain value. But the 
traditions of the Hebrides which relate to pre-historic 
times are largely composed of myths, and there is little 
assistance to be derived from them. 

It may be urged that we have in the Outer Hebrides, 
memorials of the long past which have existed through 
the centuries right down to the present time; books in 
stone; monuments which contain more trustworthy records 
even than written annals ; relics which render the antiquary 
independent of the historian. True; but where antiquaries 
disagree, who shall decide? In the standing stones of 
Callernish, for example, we have a book which would do 
more to enlighten us on the primitive conditions of life in 
the Island of Lewis than all other evidences put together, 
were it possible to decipher its language. But the book is 
almost entirely sealed, and in spite of all efforts to open it, 
sealed it remains to the present day. The antiquary, how- 
ever, has come to our aid in enabling us in a small measure 
to answer the question, "what do these stones mean"? We 
know that within the great Callernish circle,* in the year 
1858, a circular cairn was discovered; that in the centre of 
the cairn was found a chamber, divided into two compart- 
ments, with a passage leading to the outside of the cairn ; 
that minute fragments of human bones, which had 
apparently been subjected to the action of fire, were 

* There are two smaller and little known circles in the same vicinity. 



brought to light; and that these fragments were cont lined 
in a black unctuous substance, which expert opinion con- 
sidered to be a combination of peaty and animal matter. 
These are all the positive facts that are known about this 
remarkable structure the most remarkable, perhaps, of 
its kind in Scotland and Archaeology has nothing further 
to say except to draw conclusions which may not be 
universally accepted. The discoveries which have been 
made clearly show, however, that the Callernish circle 
was a grave enclosure, and it is more than probable that 
the opinion of archaeologists is correct, in assigning to 
this and similar circles a sepulchral origin. The Gaelic 
name Tursachan (the place of sadness or sorrow) of the 
remains near Loch Bernera appears to offer corroborative 
evidence of this view. 

Modern antiquaries argue that the Callernish stones 
belong either to the Stone or the Bronze Age. Dr. Joseph 
Anderson in his Pagan Scotland, affirms that the circle 
is in Scotland the most characteristic mark of a Bronze 
Age funeral, and that in the case of the Callernish stones, 
the idea of the cairn has given way to the idea of the 
circle. On the other hand, the chambered grave with the 
passage leading to the outside is certainly characteristic 
of the Stone Age, to which period have been unhesitatingly 
assigned the "giants' chambers" or passage-graves of 
Denmark, Sweden and Ireland. These graves are some- 
times termed semi-cruciform, and it is conceivable that 
the peculiar shape of the Callernish structure may be an 
exaggerated representation of this idea; the form of the 
grave bears a certain analogy to the form of the stone- 
setting. Or, it may be that the cruciform shape is 
accidental.* It is generally agreed that it cannot possibly 
be a symbol of the Christian religion. 

It appears to be well-authenticated that the custom 
prevailed among early nations of raising around the 
graves of noted warriors, a specific number of stones, 

* The author gathers, from a conversation with Dr. Anderson, that he holds 
this view. 

B 2 


representing, according to some writers, the number of 
men whom they had slain in battle during their lifetime. 
Wormius mentions this custom as appertaining to 
Scandinavia, and according to Olaus Magnus (who was 
Archbishop of Upsal about the middle of the seventeenth 
century), the shape of the stones, whether long, square, 
round, or wedge-shaped, had a signification which differed 
with the form. Hector Boece says that Reutha, who, 
according to Scottish chronology, lived in the second 
century B.C., was the first Scots king to "put nobill men 
for their vailyeant dedes in memory" by commanding 
that "mony hie stones" be set about the sepulture of 
" every nobill man as was slain be him of Britonis." "In 
memory hereof," he goes on to say, "sundry of thaim 
remain yet in the Hielands that the pepill may know sic 
men were vailyeant in thair dayis." He adds that these 
sepulchres were consequently held in great reverence by 
the people. If the custom to which allusion has just 
been made, regulated the number of stones of which the 
Callernish remains are composed, the warrior whose bones 
were found in the "black unctuous substance" must indeed 
have been a mighty man of valour. Lewis traditions con- 
nect these standing stones with devotional worship, and 
in some instances with magic : " men converted into stone 
by an enchanter." 

When we go a step further, and try to ascertain and 
this, from the historian's point of view, is really the 
important point what manner of people they were who 
built these tombs, with their stone enclosures, we find 
ourselves hopelessly nonplussed. Modern research has 
endeavoured to identify them with a Finnish or Ugrian 
race of the Bronze Age, who preceded the Celts in these 
islands. The tombs are just as likely to have been the 
work of a neolithic race, whose origin is lost in the depths 
of antiquity. The aboriginal inhabitants of Lewis were 
almost certainly a pre-Celtic people and spoke a non- 
Aryan language. Dr. Beddoe, the well-known ethnologist, 
who visited Lewis some years ago, traced three distinct 


types in the island, two of which are easily recognisable as, 
respectively, Celtic and Scandinavian. Beddoe (The Races 
of Britain, page 240) describes the third type as a "short, 
thick-set, snub-nosed, dark-haired, often even dark-eyed, 
race, probably aboriginal, possibly Finnish, whose centre 
seems to be at Barvas." This ethnologist also discovered 
traces of an Iberian type, which suggested to him that the 
view held by Professor Rhys, that the Picts were Iberians, 
was probably correct. Whether Finnic or Iberic, the 
aborigines of the Long Island probably spoke a Turanian 
tongue. Tradition supports the view that a race of low 
stature so-called fairies and pigmies inhabited Lewis in 
pre-historic times, and the underground Weems of the 
Long Island, like the "Picts' Houses" of Orkney, which 
bear a curious resemblance to the Lapp huts of which 
travellers tell us, may conceivably have been their dwel- 
lings.* The "bee-hive" houses are probably of a later 

Stone circles are found in various parts of the world : 
Scandinavia, India, and even Australia, all furnishing 
examples. In this country, to take the most notable 
instances, there are Stonehenge and, coming nearer home, 
Stennis in Orkney. The Lewis tradition about enchanted 
men finds its counter-part in similar stories about Carnac 
in France, the Rollrich stones in Oxfordshire, and the 
Dance Maine in Cornwall. But observation of the customs 
prevailing at the present day in India, leads to the 
irresistible conclusion that the main purpose of all these 
circles was inhumation, combined with religious rites, the 
latter being a corollary of the former. Ancestor-worship, 
in its different phases, is practically universal. 

It has been suggested that the Callernish Stones do not 
date further back than the Norse occupation of Lewis. 
When the excavations were made, it was observed that the 
growth of peat-moss over the grave averaged about six 

* Train, the Manx historian, states that when Magnus Bareleg invaded 
Man in 1098, he found the people living in underground huts ' ' like the 
Firbolgs " of Ireland. These " burrows " were obviously hiding-places. 


feet. The rate of the growth of peat-moss is said to be 
about one foot in a century, upon which basis, the date of 
the structure would be about the thirteenth century. The 
name Callernish if derived from Kjalarr* one of Odin's 
many names, and ness, a cape or headland would seem to 
suggest that the circle was used by the Norsemen as a temple 
to their supreme warrior-god ; but that it is only six 
hundred, or even a thousand years old, is an idea which 
antiquaries consider to be untenable. It is likely, however, 
that the Norsemen used the structure for religious exercises, 
and more than probable that it was their Tingvoll, where 
the freemen held their solemn assemblies for judicial and 
legislative deliberations. In Scandinavia, similar enclosures 
were used for such purposes, and sometimes as duelling- 

Whether or not the Callernish and the other circles in 
the Long Island were used by the Druids if the cult of 
Druidism ever flourished in the Hebrides is a point which 
there is no means of deciding. The popular belief which 
connects these remains with Druidism, is simply a variant 
of the tradition which ascribes the erection of the structures 
to enchanters or magicians, for whom the word " Druid " 
is a generic term. But even tradition supports the view 
that the single menhirs, such as the Thrushel Stone at 
Barvas, were erected, like the bautastones of Scandinavia, 
as memorials of battles. 

The apotheosis of the Callernish stones was reached 
when Toland, an Irishman and a Presbyterian, who was 
born in 1670 and died in 1722, wrote his History of 
tfie Druids^ a famous work in its time, and one which 
is still occasionally quoted. Toland had been reading 
Martin's account of the Callernish remains, and seized 
upon that description as yielding strong proof of his pet 
theories about the Druidic cult. He found no difficulty 
in believing that the "temple stood astronomically" (a 

* This is, perhaps, a more likely derivation than " Keel " Cape, the root of 
which is Kjdlr. There was a Kjalarnes Thing in Iceland and a place 
of the same name in Greenland. The Greenland headland is derived from 
Kjdlr, and was so named in commemoration of a particular incident. 


view also held by modern antiquarians), "denoting the 
twelve signs of the Zodiac, the four principal winds sub- 
divided each into four others, by which, and the nineteen 
stones on each side the avenue, betokening the cycle of 
nineteen years." He goes on to say that he " can prove 
it to have been dedicated principally to the sun, but 
subordinately to the seasons and elements, particularly to 
the sea and the winds, as appears by the rudder in the 
middle." The resemblance of the central stone to a 
rudder was a fancy of Martin's, who little foresaw that it 
would be seized upon by a prophet of the Druids to guide 
his reasoning faculties into an abyss of conjecture. If 
Toland made so much of the fanciful rudder in the Lewis 
circle, one wonders what he would have made of the ship- 
form graves in Scandinavia, where in some cases the position 
even of the mast is distinctly indicated. But Toland 
went further than enumerating mere generalities. He 
convinced himself, and probably convinced others, that the 
Callernish stones are neither more nor less than the remains 
of the Temple of Apollo in the Hyperborean island so 
celebrated in Greek literature. He claimed Hecateus as 
an authority for this theory, and perhaps had as much 
reason on his side as those who have located the Hyper- 
borean temple of the ancient Greeks at, respectively, 
Anglesea and Stonehenge. According to Toland, then, 
the Hyperboreans of the Ancients were Lewismen, and 
Apollo's arrow was hidden in the island of Lewis a legend 
which recalls the story of Thor and his lost hammer in 
Scandinavian mythology. Was it not in the Hyperborean 
island that Apollo's temple made of wings stood ? And 
what clearer proof can there be that this temple was at 
Callernish, when one considers the number of seabirds that 
swarm in the neighbourhood of Loch Bernera ? So Mr. 
Toland argued. Lest, however, this application should 
appear to the critical somewhat far-fetched, he suggested 
that the temple of wings might have meant a " winged " 
temple, in which case, the shape of the Callernish structure 
would obviously supply the allusion. In the same strain 


of reasoning, Toland did not hesitate to make the Druid 
Abaris a Lewisman ; Abaris who paid a visit to Pytha- 
goras, by whom he was taught the mysteries of the number 
seven. It is unkind of Archaeology, with its contempt for 
romantic speculation, to demolish so pretty a theory, but 
the honour of appropriating the Callernish remains as the 
famous Temple of Apollo ; of adding the name of Abaris 
to the list of celebrated Hebrideans ; and of claiming 
descent from the Hyperboreans of old, who lived " in a 
land of perpetual sunshine, where the swans sang like 
nightingales, and life was an unending banquet " must, one 
fears, be denied to Lewismen alike by fact and by reason. 
Life in Lewis at the present day, far from being an " un- 
ending banquet," is too frequently an unending want, and 
the sunshine, far from being " perpetual," is too frequently 
of a fitful character, both from a climatic and a material 
point of view. 

No less elusive, from an historical standpoint, than the 
Callernish stones are those peculiar erections on the Long 
Island which are indifferently called Pictish forts, or 
brochs, and Danish burghs. They are a puzzle alike to the 
antiquary and to the historian. Who built them, and for 
what purpose they were erected still remains a mystery, 
and in all probability the problem will never be solved 
with absolute certainty. The nurhags of Sardinia, which, 
it has been suggested, may have been used by the Phoeni- 
cians for sun-worship, bear a certain resemblance to the 
Scottish brochs and Irish round towers, but it is suffi- 
ciently clear that the brochs were not intended for 
religious exercises. The generally accepted theory is 
that they were used for defensive purposes ; perhaps as 
watch-towers to guard against a surprise, and garrisoned 
against attack. It has also been suggested that they may 
have been utilised as places in which to keep military 
arms, and Dr. Johnson thought that they may have been 
used for securing the cattle, when an attack threatened from 
the outside. According to the Lewis tradition, Dun Carlo- 
way, the principal broch in the island, was built in the fourth 


century by a giant named Darg Mac Nu-Aran. It was 
utilised as a fort during a feud at the end of the sixteenth 
century between the Morisons of Ness and the Macaulays 
of Uig. We know also that Moussa in Shetland, which is 
the most notable example of these brochs in Scotland, was 
used on two different occasions by Norwegian chiefs, once 
about the year 900, and again in 1 153, as a place of refuge. 
It is not clear that the brochs could, under any circum- 
stances, have been effective fortresses for active hostilities, 
but they seem to have been sufficiently well-adapted for 
passive resistance, and that, for want of a better explana- 
tion, may be accepted as the most plausible theory of their 
use. But even assuming the correctness of that sup- 
position, we are no nearer a solution of the difficulty of 
ascertaining when, and by whom, these brochs were built. 
Dr. McCulloch and those who agree with him have con- 
tended that they were constructed by the Norsemen, while 
others have held, just as confidently, the contrary view. 
No such remains have been found in Scandinavia, but 
on the other hand, the Scottish brochs are confined to 
localities where Scandinavian settlements are known to 
have been formed. The necessity for building forts of 
this kind did not exist in Northern Europe, but on the 
hypothesis that they were built by the Norsemen for pro- 
tection against the attacks of the natives, or against the 
depredations of their own countrymen, the Norse pirates r 
there is something to be said for the Scandinavian theory, 
which the traditional giant-origin also supports. The fact, 
however, that tradition gives them the name of Pictish, as 
well as Danish forts, is suggestive. It is, perhaps, after all, 
more reasonable to suppose that the Norsemen were the 
aggressors, and the Picts the defenders, than the contrary 
view. This likelihood is particularly applicable to the 
Long Island, where there is every reason to believe that 
the Scandinavians met with little or no resistance in effect- 
ing their permanent settlements. In all probability,? the 
Outer Hebrides, at the time of the Norse occupation, were 
sparsely peopled, if indeed they had not been practically 


depopulated by the constant incursions of the Vikings, or 
by other causes. An explanation more or less plausible 
of the different designations " Pictish " and " Danish" (the 
latter word embracing Scandinavians generally), is afforded 
by the suggestion that the forts may have been built by 
the Picts as a means of repelling, or at least offering passive 
resistance to, the hordes of Northern pirates who, there is 
evidence to show, must have swarmed in the Hebrides 
long before the strong rule of Harold Harfager forced 
them, in the ninth century, to form permanent settlements 
there. Subsequently, the brochs may have been used by 
the settlers as means of defence against the rovers from 
the fiords of Norway who, when in search of booty, were 
not always accustomed to exercise a nice discrimination 
between their own countrymen and foreigners. But all 
this is pure conjecture, although the known facts are not 
opposed to its acceptance as a working hypothesis. 

When we turn to etymology for assistance in groping 
our way through the darkness which surrounds early events 
in the Long Island, we find ourselves on more solid 
ground. Etymology is always an interesting amusement, 
but it is also capable of proving a valuable handmaiden of 
history, and the place-names of the Outer Hebrides 
emphatically belong to the latter category. We find here 
a set of circumstances which is perhaps without parallel 
elsewhere in the British Isles. The language of the great 
bulk of the people is Gaelic, but the place-names are chiefly 
Scandinavian. In Lewis, for example, there are about four 
times as many Norse names as there are of purely Gaelic 
origin, and in Barvas and Uig, the preponderance is over- 
whelming.* But this fact, remarkable in itself, is rendered 
still more noteworthy by the circumstance that the Scandi- 
navian names are not confined to the coast, where they 
might reasonably be expected, but extend to the interior, 
and embrace rivers and mountains, the names of which 
more particularly of rivers in accordance with the recog- 

* Captain Thomas states, as the result of his investigations, that in Barvas 
the proportions are as twenty-seven to one, and in Uig as thirty-five to four. 


nised rules of etymology, generally afford a clue to the 
origin of the primitive inhabitants of a country. What, 
then, are we to understand from the conditions which apply 
to the place-names of the Long Island ? It is generally 
assumed that the Celts of the Outer Hebrides were partially 
or entirely extirpated by the Norse invaders, and that a 
general re-naming of places thereupon took place. These 
assumptions, however, rest upon the further supposition 
that there was a pre-existing Celtic race to extirpate, but 
the evidence in support of that belief is by no means 
conclusive, unless we accept the theory that the Picts 
(CruithnigJi) were Celts. 

We have the assertions of John of Fordun, reiterated by 
later Scottish historians, that the Hebrides were in the 
possession of the Scoto-Irish for many centuries before the 
Norse settlements took place. Fordun is most emphatic 
in his statement that the Hebrides passed into the hands 
of the Scots in the time of Ethdacus or Ethacius Rothay, 
great grandson of Simon Brek, 500 years before Fergus I., 
son of Feredach, came over from Ireland at the instigation 
of the Caledonian Scots. As this Fergus is stated to have 
commenced to reign 330 B.C., we are consequently asked to 
believe that the Scoto-Irish came into possession of the 
Western Isles about 830 B.C. But Fordun's early annals 
are admittedly such a mass of fiction as to be perfectly 
valueless ; and Hector Boece, and even George Buchanan, 
are merely echoes of Fordun in their treatment of this 
period. Edward I., of England, the Hammer of Scotland, 
had carried off and destroyed the ancient records of Scot- 
land, thus paving the way for his subsequent claim to the 
Scottish throne. From the fragmentary records which 
remained, Fordun, a Scottish priest who lived in the 
fourteenth century, strove to construct a chronology of 
Scottish kings, which he fondly hoped would establish the 
antiquity of the Scottish nation, and enable the patriotic 
party to refute the arguments trumped up by the English 
king and his successors in support of their preposterous 
claim. Fordun is believed to have travelled in Ireland 


for the purpose of consulting the ancient records of that 
country, and his chronicles bear ample evidence of the 
mythic qualities by which the early history of the sister 
island is so flagrantly characterised. To his patriotic zeal 
were subordinated all considerations of accuracy, and 
modern historians are unanimous in rejecting as baseless 
that portion of his chronicles which is now under con- 

We may, however, accept with a greater degree of con- 
fidence, the historical accuracy of the accounts given of the 
friendly relations which existed, prior to the third century 
of our era, between the Pictish tribes who occupied the 
parts of modern Scotland (or Alban as it was then called) 
nearest to the coast of Ireland, and the Milesian Scots of 
the latter country ; and we may readily believe that this 
intercourse led to more or less unimportant emigrations of 
the Scots to the Southern islands of the Hebrides, as well 
as to the adjacent mainland. Probably these occupations 
were accomplished, sometimes by friendly treaty, sometimes 
by force, but they do not in any case appear to have been 
of long duration ; and the accounts of this early colony 
show that the settlers were finally forced, by the jealousy 
of their Pictish neighbours, to relinquish their possessions 
and return to the parent country. It is related, with what 
degree of truth it is impossible to determine, that about 
the middle of the third century, a band of Scots under the 
leadership of one Cairbre Riada, landed in Argyllshire,. 
where they formed a colony which was called Dalriada 
after the name of its founder. This colony, if founded, 
probably received accessions at various intervals from 
Ireland, but once more the enmity of the Picts led to the 
disruption and the final abandonment of the settlement. 
About the beginning of the sixth century, however, a 
determined and successful effort was made by the Scots to 
effect a permanent footing in Alban. Under the joint 
leadership of Fergus, Lorn, and Angus, the three sons of 
Ere, the invaders settled on the coast of the modern 
Argyll and the adjacent islands. From Fergus son of 


Ere sprang the race of Scottish kings which, in the person 
of Kenneth MacAlpin, crushed the Pictish monarchy in the 
ninth century, gradually established the predominance of 
Scottic power in the whole of Alban, and imposed on the 
country its modern name of Scotland. 

It may be safely assumed, therefore, that the Southern 
Hebrides were in the possession of the Dalriadic Scots 
prior to any permanent occupation by the Scandinavian 
invaders who subsequently brought those islands, equally 
with the Outer Hebrides, under their sway. But the 
incidence of the place-names in the Southern section, as 
compared with those of the Outer Hebrides, induce the 
belief that a different set of conditions existed in the two 
groups. In Islay, for example, the proportions of place- 
names are as one Norse to two Gaelic, whereas in Lewis, 
as we have seen, the proportions are as four Norse to one 
Gaelic ; and as Chalmers points out in his Caledonia, 
these place-names are of such a character as to indicate 
that the Norse settlements in the Northern Hebrides 
preceded those in the Southern islands. We may reason- 
ably deduce from the fact that in the middle of the 
ninth century a mixed Gaelic and Scandinavian race of 
pirates (the GaU-Gaidheif) was paramount in the Southern 
Hebrides, the conclusion that a considerable period of 
time must have elapsed between the first appearance of 
the Norse rovers and their piratical coalition with their 
Gaelic predecessors. Time alone could weld into this 
unholy alliance two peoples so diametrically different in 
racial and religious instincts as the pagan Scandinavians 
and the Christian Gaels. There is nothing in the Irish 
annals, or any other records, to support the belief that the 
Gall-Gael, when they first appear in history, exercised 
dominion over the Outer Hebrides. The facts seem 
to support the conclusion that they were confined to 
the Argyllshire coast, together, probably, with Galloway 
(which at that time extended from the Solway to the 
Clyde) and the islands nearest to Ireland. It is reason- 
able to believe that the Norsemen who conquered, and 


subsequently coalesced with, the Gaels of the Southern 
Hebrides worked their way South from the Orkneys and 
the Outer Hebrides. 

The Sagas distinctly state, that long before the per- 
manent settlements of the Norwegians in the Orkneys 
and Hebrides were effected, those islands were the 
rendez-vous of Vikings, and one account says that prior 
to the formation of Norse colonies, the Hebrides were 
uninhabited. This statement, if applied to the Outer 
section of the group, appears to suggest that the Pictish 
population, sparse as it probably was, only existed as the 
thralls of the ferocious sea-rovers. We know that there 
were in Norway regular slave markets where the captive 
Picts and Scots were bought and sold, and it is probable 
that a considerable proportion of the Picts in the Outer 
Hebrides had been thus disposed of from time to time. 
It is tolerably clear that the Saxon confederation which 
gave so much trouble to the Roman arms in Britain 
included the Scandinavians. According to Boece, the 
Danes were in Scotland at the time of Agricola. The 
Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, tells us of incursions 
by the Northmen to these islands long before the eighth 
century, which is the period usually assigned to the first 
appearance of the Scandinavians on our coasts. Irish 
tradition relates, that centuries prior to the commence- 
ment of the Christian era, the Hebrides were ruled by 
the Fomorians or sea-kings, who are generally believed 
to have been Scandinavian rovers, although, from some 
accounts, they might have been Phoenicians. We read 
of a great expedition to Ireland under the two Fomorian 
chiefs, Balor of the Evil Eye, " King of the Islands," and 
Tudech son of De-Domnand, who collected all the men 
and ships lying from Scandinavia westwards, " so that 
they formed an unbroken bridge of ships and boats from 
the Hebrides to the northwest coast of Erinn." This 
expedition, we are told, ended in the defeat of the 
Fomorians at the great battle of Moytura. We may 
believe as much or as little of this as we choose, but the 


tradition tends to confirm the belief that the Hebrides 
were overrun by Scandinavian pirates at a period long 
anterior to the eighth century. Pinkerton, who wrote his 
history of Scotland a hundred years ago, and who was 
the great champion of the Teutonic origin of the Picts, 
believed that the latter came from Norway about 300 B.C. 
and established a monarchy in the Hebrides ; that the 
Pictish kings down to 400 A.D. were merely princes of 
the Hebrides, Drust being probably the first Sovereign 
of all the Picts ; and that the Hebrides were left almost 
desert when the Pictish inhabitants moved into the more 
fertile parts of the mainland. Without accepting altogether 
Pinkerton's arguments as to the origin of the Picts, and 
making due allowance for his pro-Gothic and anti-Celtic 
prejudices, there is reason to think that his conclusions 
as to the scanty nature of the Pictish population, at the 
time of the Norse occupation, are in the main correct. 

The foregoing considerations, which are strengthened 
by the geographical situation of the Outer Hebrides,, 
appear to offer a satisfactory explanation of the remark- 
able preponderance, and the no less remarkable incidence, 
of Scandinavian place-names in those islands. If the 
arguments which have been stated are accepted, it will 
not be difficult to believe (ist) that the Norsemen found 
the Long Island inhabited by a Pictish people, few in 
number, whom they speedily reduced to a state of 
thraldom ; and (2nd) that the Scottic influx, carrying 
with it the Gaelic language, which subsists in many of 
the place-names, and in the common tongue of the 
majority of the inhabitants of the present day, came 
perhaps partly during, but chiefly subsequent to, the 
Norse occupation. That the language of the Picts was 
not Gaelic is suggested by the fact that St. Columbus 
was compelled to employ the services of an interpreter 
when seeking to convert the aged Pictish chieftain 
Artbranan in the Island of Skye, as well as from other 
facts that might be adduced. The few place-names in 
the Long Island which are neither Scandinavian, Gaelic,, 


nor English, may belong to the Pictish vocabulary, but 
the nature and classification of that language are still a 
puzzle to philologists. 

It is unnecessary to enter into a detailed discussion of 
place-names in the Outer Hebrides, other than those of the 
islands which compose the group. The word " Hebrides " 
itself is puzzling, etymologists not being in agreement* 
In the best editions of Pliny and the manuscripts of 
highest authority, the name appears as " Haebudes " or 
" Hebudes," the modern form having, however, been also 
used both by Pliny, and in an edition of Solinus. From 
" Hebudes " was evolved the form " Ebudae," used by the 
writers of the first and second centuries. If one more 
guess may be added to the list of origins, it is that the 
word " Hebrides " may mean the Islands of Brude, Bruidi, 
Bridei, or Buidhe. There are no fewer than thirty Brudes 
in the first series of Pictish kings, and six Bruidis or 
Brideis in the second. The islands have also been called 
Beteoricae, Inchades, Ebonides, and Leucades. They were 
known, too, as Iniscead, and Innis Cat, i.e. the Hundred 
Isles, and the Islands of the Catani. 

" Lewis " is a hard etymological nut to crack. The sur- 
mises which have been made about the derivation of the 
name are almost as varied as the forms in which, at different 
times, it has appeared.! The most satisfactory explanation 
appears to be that it is of eponymous origin, a theory 
frequently falsified in connexion with other place-names, 

* Boece derives the name from Hibernia, or from King Hiber ; Camden, 
from Ebeid, signifying without corn ; Dr. Macpherson, from Ey-budh, the 
islands of corn, or from Saint Bridget ; Pinkerton and Laing from Ey-Bud 
or Ey-Buth, island-habitation. 

t John Major derived " Sky and Luys" from "twilight and light" ; Martin, 
Captain Thomas, and Sir Herbert Maxwell derived Lewis from " Leog " a 
marsh ; Pinkerton, from the " less " or low parts, in contradistinction to Harris, 
the "heights " ; Dr. McCulloch, from "Loda the Scandinavian deity" (Odin) ; 
Johnstone, from "the residence of Liot " (Enrl of Orkney); Taylor, from 
"wharf or landing place"; and Baxter, from " Claunis," meaning an arm- 
shaped island. The name has appeared in such varied garbs as Leodus (the 
earliest form), Ljodxis and Ljodhus (during the Norse occupation), Lodoux 
(1292), and Lewethy (1335). Later it assumed the forms of Leogus, Leoghuis, 
Leoghas, Leoghys, Luis, Loise, Loyvis, Looyss, Louiss, Leuissa, Luys, Levisia, 
Lewys, and Lewes. In the Chronicles of Man, it appears as Lodhus, Lodws, 
and Leodus. 


but sometimes, as in the present instance, the only theory 
tenable. The earliest known form is " Leodus," which 
appears in a Gaelic (Irish) account of the battle of Clon- 
tarf (1014) supposed to have been written by a contem- 
porary, and the same form appears in an Irish manuscript 
of 1150. Camden, dropping the Latin termination, called 
the island " Leod." Naturally enough, the Norse form 
"Ljodiis" or "Ljodhus," has given rise to the suggestion 
that the word means the residence of Leod, the pro- 
genitor of the Siol Torquil. Seeing, however, that Lewis 
was called " Leodus " about two centuries and a half 
before the time of Leod, the eponym must be sought 

In the History of the Picts, written by Henry Maule, 
who lived during the reign of Charles I., or by Sir James 
Balfour, Lyon King-of-Arms it is doubtful which the 
existence is mentioned of an account by " ancient monkish 
and abbay writers," which declares that the eponymus of 
Lewis was one Leutha, the last of three Pictish kings who 
ruled in Orkney. Leutha, they state, conquered Lewis 
from the Cornani, and named the island " Leuthes " after 
himself. The Cornani may be identified with the Car- 
nonacae or Carini, the tribe which possessed the west coast 
of Ross-shire at the period of the Roman occupation of 
Britain. It is probable that there is a basis of fact for this 
supposed invasion of Lewis, and that a chief named Leutha 
perhaps Elatha, the Fomorian pirate of Irish tradition 
who ruled over the Hebrides actually gave his name to 
the island. "Leutha" and "Leod" are practically iden- 
tical, the dental aspirate " th " being the equivalent of " d," 
while " Leodus " is simply the Latin form of " Leod " ; 
and the " Lj6dus " of the Norsemen is " Leodus," with the 
difference of one letter. The efforts made to derive a 
plausible signification, other than that already mentioned, 
from the literal meaning of Ljodus or LjodJnis which 
may be translated as " song-house," or " sounding-house," 
or " suffragan house " have been unsuccessful for the 
same reason as it has been impossible to derive any 



sense from the Norse name for Skye, viz., "Skid," which 
means, literally, "a piece of board." In both cases, these 
forms were obviously the Norse rendering of pre-existing 

The modern " Lewis " is not a corruption of the earliest 
form of " Leodus " ; it is, in point of fact, its English (or 
Welsh) equivalent. The name of the Pictish King Loth, 
who is supposed to have given his name to the Lothians, 
appears in the Welsh annals as " Llew," and " Lothus " 
is thus " Lewis." Loth or Hlod, Leodus or Leod, Lloyd, 
Ludwig, Louis, and Lewis, are all identical names. Is it 
possible that Ossian's " streamy Lutha " had an existence 
in fact after all, and that the Island of Lewis was the home 
of the fair Malvina, Toscar's daughter ? The only other 
place-name in Lewis which need be noticed is that of its 
capital, Stornoway, and there need be little hesitation in 
deriving it from the Icelandic stjbrna = to govern, and 
vdgr a bay, thus denoting that the centre of the Norse 
administration lay at Stornoway. 

"Harris" is unquestionably of Scandinavian origin. Just 
as Birsay and Harray in the Orkneys formed, until modern 
times, one parish under the name of Bergisherad (meaning 
hunting-territory), and just as the topography of Iceland 
furnishes similar examples, so were Lewis and Harris com- 
bined during the Norse occupation, and known, probably, 
by the appellation of Ljodusherad, the abbreviated form of 
Lj6dus comprehending both. "Harris" is therefore a cor- 
ruption of Jierad, and herad means a province or terri- 
tory ruled by a hersir who was not only the hereditary 
head of the community, but its "prophet, priest, and king." 
In the charters relating to Harris, it is called " Ardmanach 
in herag (a corruption of htrad) de Lewis," and occasionally 
" Ardmanach de Lewis," the name " Ardmanach " 
which was also the old name of the Black Isle in Ross- 
shire being probably derived from the monastery at 
Rodil. In the Red Book of Clan Ranald, Harris appears 

* The Sagas mention a place-name in Sweden named " Ljodus," but it 
would be rash to assume that it had a common origin with " Leodus." 


as "heradh," which is the most correct form of the old 
name to be found anywhere.* 

" Uist " is either of Pictish or Scandinavian derivation. 
The name of Uist or Vist occurs in the first series of 
Pictish kings, and may furnish an explanation of the name 
of the two Hebridean islands. The Norse and earliest 
known name was " Ivist," which may mean Ey-vist y the 
Island of Vist (the Pictish King), or may be literally trans- 
lated as "dwelling-place." Munch, who translated the 
Chronicles of Man, took the latter view, and inferred from 
it that Uist formed the seat of the Norse government in 
the Long Island. Pinkerton and Dr. McCulloch believed 
that Uist meant the " West " island, with reference to its 
geographical position in the group, and a charter by 
David II., where the name appears as "Ywest," would 
appear to support that contention. Captain Thomas 
thought that the name might have come from Ifheirste, 
Uist thus signifying " crossing " island. All these deriva- 
tions are more or less plausible, and it is impossible to 
say positively which is right ; but the first-named seems, 
on the whole, the most likely, f Originally Uist may have 
comprehended not only Benbecula, but Barra as well. 

The origin of the word " Benbecula " is difficult to deter- 
mine with certainty, but it appears to be a hybrid, composed 
of Gaelic and Norse roots. The name of the island appears 
as "Beanbeacla" (1495) and "Buchagla" (Dean Monro in the 
sixteenth century), the latter being probably derived from the 
Gaelic beinn-na-faoghail mountain of the ford. It figures 
also in such garbs as Benbekielaw, Benvalgha, Vynvawle, 
Bendbagle, Beanweall, and Beandmoyll. The last word 
offers some explanation of the origin of the present form. 
It is obviously derived from the Gaelic beinn= a mountain 
and the Gaelic ?;/#<?/ = bare or bald. A relic of the latter 

* Harris appears in the forms of Heradh, Haugh, Herrie, Herries, Herreik, 
Herag and Herage, Harrych, Haria, Hary, Haray and Harray, Hareis, and 

t Bishop Leslie calls Uist "Eusta," Camden " Wust," and Blaeu " Evst." 
In the Scottish records and elsewhere, it appears in such forms as Ouyst, 
Owiste, Ovyste, Wyoist, Huwyste, Guiste, Wistus, Vistey, Ywist, Ywst, Ewyst, 
West, and Ust. 

C 2 


/liable is discoverable in the " ul " of the modern name, 
which may thus be a compound of four syllables, Ben- 
bec-ul-a, signifying the island of the small bare mountain, 
the Norse element in which consists of the last syllable only. 
Ruaival is the only hill in the island, and this circumstance 
readily suggests the derivation just noticed. 

It is probable that Barra is derived from the Icelandic 
bara, a wave-billow, or a wave raised by the wind, Barray 
thus signifying the " storm-tossed island," a singularly ap- 
propriate designation. Giraldus Cambrensis, the Welsh his- 
torian, tells us that his family name of de Barre was derived 
from the Island of Barra, and thus from its patron saint, 
Bishop Finn Barr of Cork, who died in 623. The place- 
name is popularly believed to be connected with Saint Barr, 
but it is much more likely that Burray in the Orkneys, 
Burra in the Shetlands, and Barra in the Outer Hebrides, 
have all a common origin, each of them being, in point of 
fact, a " storm-tossed " island. This derivation is more 
satisfactory than Colonel Robertson's "island of the 
extremity " which is from the Gaelic barr^ a point ; and 
Canon Taylor's Norse bar-ey, "bare island," is hardly 
more convincing. Still less convincing is the derivation 
from borgarey, "the island of the burgh or fort." Early 
forms of Barra are Barrich, Barreh and Barre ; and Barray 
was a very common rendering. 

From these excursions into the tangled region of 
etymology, the predominance of Norse influences in the 
Long Island, a thousand years ago, will be apparent. 
Even at the present day, ethnological traces of the Norse 
occupation are so obvious as to confirm in no uncertain 
way the teaching of etymology. Worsaae, the Danish 
antiquarian, states that when he visited Lewis, he was 
struck by the difference of racial types represented in the 
island. At Ness, he says he could have fancied himself in 
Scandinavia, were it not for the language and the dwellings. 





So Jar as is known, the first Greek writer who gave any 
account of the British Islands was Pytheas, who was a con- 
temporary of Alexander the Great, and our knowledge of 
that account is chiefly derived from the writings of hostile 
critics, notably Strabo, who regarded his descriptions as a 
mass of fables. Pytheas mentions the Island of Thule, 
which subsequently became so fruitful a source of specula- 
tion to the geographers and historians of old. This island 
has been variously identified with Iceland, the Shetlands, 
and the Orkneys, while one topographer and antiquary, 
Robert Gordon of Straloch, has stoutly maintained in a 
dissertation on the subject, that the ancient Thule was no 
other than the Island of Lewis ; an opinion which, Bishop 
Leslie states, was held in his time (sixteenth century). The 
fact seems to be that the ideas of the Greek and Roman 
writers as to the whereabouts of Thule were of the vaguest 
description, and that the name was applied indiscriminately 
to the most northerly island known to them at different 
historical periods. It is conceivable, therefore, that the 
Island of Lewis may have been the earliest Thule of the 
Greeks, and that with the extension of geographical know- 
ledge, the name may have been subsequently applied to 
Orkney, to Shetland, and finally to Iceland. 

The first to mention the Orcades (the modern Orkneys) 
was Pomponius Mela, a Spanish writer who flourished 
about the middle of the first century. He also refers to a 


group of seven islands, to which he gave the name of 
Haemodae, a corruption, possibly, of Haebudes, the modern 
Hebrides, although Pliny the Elder differentiates between 
the two. Pliny, who lived about the same period, was the 
first to enumerate the Haebudes, consisting, according to 
him, of thirty islands. Ptolemy, who wrote a century later, 
gave the names of five Ebudae, two bearing the name of 
Ebuda, and the others the names of Ricina, Maleus, and 
Epidium. Ptolemy also mentions Scetis, which is almost 
certainly Skye. The identification of Ptolemy's Ebudae 
has led to a difference of opinion. In Dr. William Smith's 
Ancient Atlas, Rum is Ricina, Mull is Maleus, I slay is 
Epidium, Lewis is Ebuda, and Skye Ebuda Altera, while 
Arran appears as Regaina ; but it is only necessary here to 
examine the identification of Lewis with Ebuda. Starting 
with the assumption that Maleus must stand for Mull, 
Dr. Skene proceeds to show, from the relative position of 
the islands on Ptolemy's map, that West and East Ebuda 
must have been Islay and Jura. The position of the 
Hebrides in Ptolemy's map is ludicrously distorted by his 
configuration of the North of Scotland, which is placed 
much further to the east the result, it has been suggested, 
of an accident than its true situation. Making allowance 
for this error, it will be found that one of the Ebudae of 
Ptolemy occupies a position in relation to the other islands, 
which would warrant the supposition that Lewis may have 
been meant. But it is idle to speculate on the geographical 
knowledge of a writer who probably derived his informa- 
tion from the Romans who had circumnavigated Britain. 
Richard of Cirencester, a monk of the fourteenth century, 
mentions five Ebudae, which have been identified with 
Lewis, Skye, the two Uists, and Coll, with Tiree. Inciden- 
tally, it may be mentioned that Ptolemy described Thule 
as an island of not less than 55 geographical miles from 
north to south, which approximately agrees with the length 
of Lewis-with-H arris. But Bunbury thought that his 
description showed that the Shetland group of islands 
must have been meant. 


We have no evidence, direct or indirect, that the Romans 
visited the Long Island. We know, however, that in the 
first century, a Roman fleet, by the direction of Agricola, 
sailed northwards on a voyage of discovery, stopped at the 
Orkneys, and proceeded by the Hebrides round the west 
coast of Britain, arriving at the point on the east coast 
probably the Firthi of Forth or Firth of Tay from 
which it started. This is the first recorded voyage that 
proved Britain to be an island. It is not improbable that 
the Long Island was visited during this voyage, but with 
that probability we must rest content. We learn from 
Bede that the Orkneys were added to the Roman Empire 
by Claudius during his expedition to Britain, but there is 
nothing said about the Hebrides. 

Solinus, who wrote in the third century, gives an interest- 
ing account of five Ebudae, which Camden thought were 
Lewis, the two Uists, Benbecula, and Barra the Long 
Island in fact. Skene, however, is not of that opinion, but 
there appears to be cumulative evidence to bear out the 
hypothesis that the name Ebuda may have been applied 
to Lewis. According to Solinus, the government of the 
Ebudae was a curious mixture of monarchy and com- 
munism. " The King," he says, " has no property ; all 
things belong to the community ; and there are certain 
laws to oblige him to do justice. And that avarice may 
not depart from truth, he is taught justice by poverty, 
having nothing of his own but living on the public." 
It is curious and significant to notice that the King, 
according to this historian, practised a degraded form 
of polygamy, and was not succeeded by his son, thus 
affording an illustration of the peculiarities of the 
Pictish form of succession to the throne. Solinus fur- 
ther states that the inhabitants of those islands lived 
entirely on fish and milk, the use of corn being unknown 
to them. From the latter circumstance, Camden derived 
his meaning of the word " Hebrides," which has already 
been noticed. It is not unlikely that the account given by 
Solinus is, in the main, correct, although, as Dr. John 


Macpherson points out,* an author who, like Solinus, wrote 
about men and women whose feet were like hoofs and 
whose ears were big enough to cover their whole bodies, is 
hardly entitled to unquestioning belief. 

After the time of Solinus, there is a long gap in the 
history of the Hebrides which there is no possibility of 
filling in ; records of any description are non-existent. 
An active imagination can readily enough supply the 
missing data, and probably the ancient historians of Ire- 
land would have experienced little difficulty in supplying 
a list of kings and a chronology of events which would 
have enriched our fancy, if they did not enlarge our know- 
ledge ; but modern history does not permit of such 
excursions into the realms of the fabulous. 

One event of surpassing importance took place in the 
Hebrides during the sixth and seventh centuries, and that 
was the conversion to Christianity of the Northern Picts. In 
the year 563, St. Columba (Colum Cille) came from Ireland 
to minister to the spiritual wants of his fellow Scots who 
were settled in Dalriada. But the great apostle had also a 
higher end in view : he determined to be the missionary of 
the Northern Picts, as St. Ninian had been of those in the 
South. He was not content to be merely the instructor 
and the ecclesiastical Superior of Christians ; he aimed at 
proselytising Pagans. In the monastery which he set up 
in lona, he gathered around him a band of devoted 
missionaries, who were destined to plant the banner of the 
Cross throughout the length and breadth of the Pictish 
territories in the North. 

The monastic order which he instituted was better fitted 
for that object than the diocesan authority which ultimately 
superseded it. The Columbans were simple, earnest men, 
whose aims were not shackled by ecclesiastical fetters, and 
whose missions were not marred by priestly pretensions. 
Abbas and Presbyter such were the titles of St. Columba 
and his successors. Disclaiming equality with episcopal 
rank, the Abbot of lona nevertheless exercised an influence 

* Dissertation on the Ancient Caledonians. 


to which no Bishop could lay claim. Ordained by episcopal 
authority, the monks rendered conventual obedience to the 
Abbot, to whose jurisdiction the Bishop himself was sub- 
ject. From this monastic society in the lonely Hebridean 
island, there streamed forth a purer flow of religion, a 
clearer radiance of primitive Christianity, than was possible 
in the Anglo-Saxon Church, with its pretentious hierarchy 
and its subserviency to Rome. While the Church in Eng- 
land laboured over tneological subtleties, the monks of lona 
erected huts and built wooden churches ; while the Anglo- 
Saxon priesthood received instruction on trifling and even 
immodest subjects, the Columbans taught the heathen the 
Word of Life. Puerilities were far removed from these 
earnest men their work was too pressing, their aims too 
important, to admit of them. Their tonsure was not 
orthodox, neither was their observance of Easter yet they 
converted the Picts. Their methods were unobtrusive, 
their mode of living was simplicity itself yet their names 
are held in veneration to this day. 

St. Columba himself struck at the roots the fast 
withering roots of Druidism, the religion of magic, by 
proceeding boldly to the Court of Brude, the Pictish King, 
on the banks of the Ness. His mission was entirely 
successful. The power of Paganism was broken, and the 
Picts became a Christian nation. Planting a monastery 
here and another there with judicious care, St. Columba 
left behind him schools of Christian instruction, from 
which issued missioners filled with apostolic fervour, who 
carried the Gospel to the remotest parts of the Highlands 
and Isles. We need not stop to discuss the point whether 
it was Conall, the King of Dalriada, or Brude, the Pictish 
monarch, who gifted lona to St. Columba. Bede is our 
authority for the latter statement, and we must assume 
that the Picts laid claim to the sovereignty of the South, 
as well as the North, Hebrides. 

There is sufficient evidence to suggest that either St. 
Columba himself, or his immediate disciples, established 
churches in the Outer Hebrides. In Lewis, there were 


no less than three churches called after him, the walls 
of one of which, at Eye (originally Ui, a peninsula), are 
standing at the present day. In Bernera, close to North 
Uist, and in North Uist itself ; in South Uist, and in St. 
Kilda, were chapels similarly named ; and in Benbecula 
there are strong evidences of a close connexion with the 
central monastery in lona. 

In Adamnan's Life of St. Columba, which was written 
in the seventh century, there are frequent references to 
an island named " Ethica," which appears as an adjective, 
coupled with the substantive insula or terra. It is de- 
scribed as being at a considerable distance from lona, and 
accessible by the open sea, or by a course along the lesser 
islands. It had a monastery at a harbour called Campus 
Lujtge, over which Baithene, St. Columba's chief eccle- 
siastic, and subsequently his successor, presided, and 
to which penitential cases were sent from the mother 
church. Besides this monastery, the island contained 
several other religious communities under various presi- 
dents, and one in particular called Artchain, which was 
founded by a follower of St. Columba, named Findchan. 
It resembled the Columban model in having a Presbyter 
as Superior, who, in that capacity, exercised jurisdiction 
over a Bishop, although incapable of performing episcopal 
functions. By Colman and Innes, this description was 
held to apply to Shetland, but Pinkerton states that Ethica 
was probably Lewis, and this view has been adopted 
in Black's County Atlas of Scotland. Skene, however, 
endeavoured to prove that the island meant by Adamnan 
was Tiree, and Reeves in his translation of Adamnan, 
agrees with this opinion. 

It may be safely assumed from the known character of 
the pagan Northmen, that they made short work of the 
religious communities which they found in the Outer 
Hebrides. The men who plundered the mother church 
in lona, and ruthlessly slaughtered her monks, were not 
likely to spare the daughter churches wherever they found 
them. It has been suggested with a good deal of reason, 


that the merciless ferocity with which the Norsemen 
pursued the ecclesiastical establishments of Britain and 
Ireland, was of a retaliatory character. It has been shown 
that they never interfered with the Christian religion until 
the persecution by Charlemagne of the pagan Saxons, and 
the destruction of their temples and idols, had aroused 
within the breasts of Odin's followers a feeling of implac- 
able hatred towards the Christian name. The " great and 
good prince " Charlemagne had ordained that the Saxons 
should choose between Christianity and death a form 
of conversion, which, in subsequent years, was imitated 
by the Northmen themselves in dealing with their pagan 
countrymen. In pursuance of this militant spirit, the 
Royal missionary is stated to have beheaded no less than 
4,500 recalcitrant Saxons in one day, thinking, perhaps, 
to obtain the favour of Heaven by so meritorious an act. 
Such was Christianity as exemplified by this pious 
Emperor of the West, and such was the spirit in which 
" conversions " were effected in those days. The smoking 
ruins of many a sacred building ; the expiring groans of 
many a devoted monk ; the despairing shrieks of many a 
violated nun ; these were the prices paid for the summary 
methods of converting the heathen which Charlemagne, 
the pillar of Christianity, adopted. And it is not too 
much to assume that the Outer Hebrides paid a portion 
of the prices in the destruction of the Columban churches, 
and the slaughter of the officiating clergy. But the 
probable disposal of the native Christians, some to the 
slave marts of Norway, and others to the condition of 
thraldom which their conquerors doubtless imposed upon 
them, may have led to the seeds of their religion being 
planted in new soil. In process of time, these seeds may 
have brought forth part of the fruit which so abundantly 
ripened towards the close of the tenth century. 

About the end of the eighth century, the Scandinavians 
made their first recorded appearance on the coast of 
Ireland. The Irish Annals indicate that immediately 
before this event, which marked an epoch of great impor- 


tance in the history oflreland, the Northmen had devastated 
" all the islands of Britain." From this we may conclude 
that the tide of invasion proceeded from the Orkneys along 
the line of the Hebrides, and perhaps the Isle of Man, until 
finally it reached the shores of that fertile country which 
was the goal of the Northmen's desires. In the year 794, 
Sci, or Skye, was pillaged and wasted, and it is highly pro- 
bable that at the same period, stirring events were taking 
place in the Outer Hebrides. It is almost certain that 
previous to the eighth century, the Long Island was a 
resort of Vikings, but whether or not before that period any 
permanent settlement by Scandinavians had been effected 
can only be conjectured. It is reasonable, however, to sup- 
pose that the Northmen who first appeared on the Irish 
coast were bands of piratical adventurers from the 
Orkneys, and, perhaps, from the Long Island, bent on 
finding richer booty than those lands afforded. 

The Irish Annals are full of records of the mischief 
wrought, during the ninth century, by the Scandinavians, 
who are indifferently styled " Gentiles," and " Galls," or 
foreigners. We find a distinction made in the year 850 
between these Gentiles and Galls. The Annals of Ulster 
record " the coming of the Dub-gennti to Ath-cliath 
(Dublin) who made great slaughter of the Finn-gallaib." 
And in the following year, according to the same authority, 
" eight score ships of Find-gentib came to fight against the 
Dub-gennti at Snamh-aigneach," when a great battle took 
place, which lasted for three days and three nights, result- 
ing in the ultimate victory of the Dub-gennti. These 
opposing bands are usually described as " Dubhghoill " or 
" Dugalls," and " Finnghoil " or " Fingalls " : the dark and the 
fair foreigners. The Norsemen have been identified with the 
Fingalls, and the Danes with the Dugalls. It is difficult to 
see on what grounds this distinction has been made. If 
we assume that "Fingall" really means " fair foreigner," and 
Dugall " dark foreigner," we must discover satisfactory 
reasons for associating the idea of fairness with the Nor- 
wegians, and that of darkness with the Danes. Various 


explanations have been hazarded to account for the dis- 
tinction, but they are all purely conjectural, and therefore, 
as proofs, valueless. The suggestion that the Norwegians 
were a fair race which we know and the Danes a dark 
race which we do not know will hardly be accepted. 
We read of Northmen called " Gorm-glasa " who fought at 
the battle of Clontarf. If the same argument be applied to 
them that is sought to be applied to the Fingalls and 
Dugalls, we must believe that the Gorm-glasa were a race 
whose distinguishing characteristic was the possession of 
greenish-blue hair, a colour which finds no counterpart in 
these days. Equally unsatisfactory are the suggestions 
that the distinguishing marks of the Norwegians and 
Danes lay in the colour of their clothing, their shields, or 
the sails of their ships. Pinkerton states that Mr. Thorkelin, 
"a learned native of Iceland," informed him that the 
old dress of the Norwegians, and especially of the pirates 
and mariners, was black, as in Iceland. But this statement 
is in direct opposition to the generally accepted theory, 
which makes the Danes the black foreigners, and the 
Norwegians the fair foreigners. In later Irish history, we 
find frequent references to the Danes and Norwegians, and 
Keating writes of " the Normans," as distinct from both, 
but gradually all sections of the Scandinavians became 
merged in the generic name of " Danes," which probably 
denoted, in process of time, any foreigners hailing originally 
from the North of Europe. 

The seanachies tell us that Somerled defeated " a large 
army of Lochlans and Fingalls, and cleared the whole west 
side of Alban from the Lochlans, except the islands of the 
Finnlochlans called Innsegall." But in the Red Book of 
Clan Ranald, the Lord of the Isles is termed Rigk 
Fiongall, or King of the Fingalls ; a statement which 
implies the subjection of the Fingalls to his rule. The 
term " Lochlannaigh," or "Lochlans" (sea-warriors), origin- 
ally applied to the Scandinavian rovers, appears to have 
received a wider signification in later years. The Dugalls 
figure on several subsequent occasions in the Irish Annals 


and always as piratical adventurers ; now at York, where 
they defeated the North Saxons, again in Alban, where 
they slaughtered the Picts, and later than either event 
in Ireland, once more battling with their old enemies, the 
Fingalls. We read of one Ragnall, or Reginald, who, 
early in the tenth century, was King of the Dugalls ; after 
which, Dubgall, and later, Dugall, appear only as the names 
of persons ; and in the tenth century, Fiongall also appears 
as a personal name.* The modern names of Dugald, 
MacDougal, and MacDowell, are probably derived from 
Dubgall. Similarly, the Lochlans of the past re-appear 
in the modern garb of MacLauchlan in Scotland, and 
McLoughlin in Ireland. On the whole, it seems probable 
that the Fingalls and Dugalls were rival tribes of Norsemen 
who had a standing feud. Their names appear to have 
been originally derived from the Celtic appellatives of their 

The Rev. J. Johnstone, who was Chaplain to H.M. 
Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Denmark in 1782, 
gives us a rehearsal by a Scandinavian pirate (seventh 
century) during his dying moments, of his maraud- 
ing exploits in the Hebrides. This warrior describes how 
he and his comrades went " spoil to seek," but apparently 
they were disappointed in the extent of the resistance with 
which they met, " until in Skye, soldiers we found, brothers 
in valour, and wrought their doom " ; a generous tribute to 
foemen worthy of their steel, notwithstanding the pithy 
allusion to the outcome of the encounter. The death-song 
of the semi-mythic Regnar Lodbroc also refers to the 
" delightful " strife of Scaia (Skye). 

The first King of the Isles of whom there is mention was 
one Godfrey MacFergus, whose name suggests a Norse- 
Celtic origin. His death occurred in 853. Two years 
afterwards, there was a great war between the " Gentiles," 
and Maelsechnall, an Irish king " with whom were the 

* In the Annals of Ulster, Dungall (Donngal) and Gormgal appear as 
personal names as early as the eighth century. The name " Donald " is pro- 
bably derived from the former. 


Gall-gaidel," the mixed race of Norwegians and Celts who 
inhabited the South Hebrides. The Irish called the 
Hebrides " Innsigall," or Islands of the Foreigners, thus 
indicating the predominance of the Norsemen. Up to this 
period, the Northmen had come to the Hebrides chiefly, if 
not entirely, as roving bands in search of plunder, but we 
find them soon afterwards as exiles from the Mother-land, 
seeking permanent settlements in a new country. 

The Battle of Hafursfiord, which was fought in the year 
885 (or according to some historians in 872), was fraught 
with important issues. The results of that great sea-fight 
were the invasion of Russia and Normandy, the depreda- 
tions on the coast of Britain, Ireland, and Spain, and the 
colonisation of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands, 
the Orkneys, and the Hebrides, by Norwegian adventurers. 
By the victory which he gained over the coalition of petty 
kings who had rebelled against his absolutism, Harald 
Harfager consolidated his sovereignty over the whole of 
Norway, and established a monarchy which brooked no 
rivals. The piratical-patriarchal era in Norway was for 
ever past ; the iron hand of the conqueror pressed heavily 
on ancient institutions ; the system of government was 
revolutionised ; the independence of the jFy/to'-kings was 
for ever broken ; and the reins of supreme power were 
grasped by a man whom, if tradition is to be believed, the 
sneer of a woman launched upon a career of ambition and 
despotism, which had previously no parallel in Norwegian 
history. A strong man was this fair-haired Harald ; but 
so were the piratical princes whom he dispossessed of their 
ancient privileges. Disdaining to lick the hand that had 
smitten them, they preferred, like the Pilgrim Fathers if 
the irony of the comparison be permitted to leave the 
land of their forbears, and carve out for themselves fresh 
fortunes in the land of the stranger, where their intense 
love of liberty and, it may be added, their predatory 
instincts were to receive freer play than was possible 
under the new monarchy. And so it came to pass that 
the rebellion against Harald, which culminated in the 




decisive sea-fight of Hafursfiord, gave an impetus to Norse 
colonisation which marked a new era in the history of the 
Hebrides. These islands were admirably adapted for the 
purposes of the colonists, whose means of livelihood during 
the summer months was of a character which, in those 
days, was considered to be not merely eminently respect- 
able, but the only fitting occupation for him who aspired 
to the name of warrior. The whole of the islands extend- 
ing from the Shetlands to the Isle of Man were dominated 
by the Scandinavians, and the Celtic inhabitants of the 
Hebrides appear to have proved apt pupils in the Norse 
school of piracy. 

The successive immigrations of the Norsemen to the 
islands soon constituted a source of annoyance, if not of 
danger, to the monarch whose iron rule had forced them 
from the mother-country. Gaining confidence with their 
increased numbers, they openly harassed the coasts of 
Norway and, eluding pursuit, retired to the Scottish islands, 
which afforded them ample security and protection from 
attack. It was in vain that King Harald searched among 
the isles and outskerries of the Norwegian coasts for 
his tormentors ; the wary Vikings managed to escape his 
vengeance by putting out to sea on his approach. The 
King at length determined to extirpate these pests once 
for all. Fitting out a powerful expedition, he set sail for 
their haunts. The Shetlands were the first objective of his 
attack. There, according to the terse phraseology of one 
of the Sagas, he " slew all the Vikings who might not flee 
from him." Proceeding to the Orkneys, he " cleared them 
utterly of Vikings." Thereafter, the same account goes 
on to say, " he sailed to the South Isles (Hebrides) and 
harried there, and slew many Vikings who were captains 
of bands there. There had he many battles, and ever 
gained the day." After his clearance of the Hebrides, 
Harald appears to have done some freebooting on his own 
account, for we are told that before proceeding to the Isle 
of Man, where the expedition terminated, " he harried in 
Scotland." From this expedition of Harald Fairhair (or 


[airfair) arose the assumption of sovereignty, by his 
successors on the throne of Norway, to the Shetlands, 
the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and the Isle of Man. The 
exact date of the expedition has not been clearly estab- 
lished, but it was probably about 888. 

Among the Norwegian kinglets who became the im- 
placable foes of Harald, was one Ketil, son of Bjorn Buna, 
called in the Sagas Ketil Flatneb or Flatnose, who was a 
famous hersir in Norway. The Sagas disagree in describing 
the circumstances under which Ketil left his native country. 
According to one account, he was despatched with an army 
by Harald to suppress the unruly Vikings of the Scottish 
islands, and having established his authority, he formed 
alliances with " the mightiest chiefs in the West," sent back 
the army to Norway, and threw off his allegiance to the 
Norwegian King. The other, and the more probable version, 
is that he was one of those whom the high-handed pro- 
ceedings of Harald drove into voluntary exile. It is 
stated that he summoned a Thing of his kinsmen and 
took counsel with them, placing before them the choice of 
resistance to the yoke of Harald, or of leaving the country. 
His sons, Bjorn and Helgi, wished to go to Iceland, as 
they had heard that the land was good, " with plenty of 
game and fish." Ketil was opposed to this suggestion, 
preferring to go westward, " where he knew many places, 
as he had ravaged widely there." Westward accordingly 
he went. 

It is not difficult to identify Ketil Bjornson with Caitill 
Find, or Cathal Finn, chief of the Gall-gael, who was 
defeated in Munster in 857 by Olaf the White. The author 
of the War of the Gaedhill with the Gaill, an ancient 
and apparently authentic Irish tract translated by Dr. Todd, 
states that Caitill Find was killed at the Munster fight, 
which would at once dispose of any attempt to identify 
the leader of the Gall-Gael with the Norwegian Ketil. 
The Annals of Ulster offer no corroboration of the state- 
ment in the tract, and the evidences of identification are 
too strong to be ignored. Ketil's daughter, Aude, or 



Autha " the deep-minded," was married to Olaf the White. 
Here we have a clear intimation that the former rivals 
had patched up their quarrel in the usual way, matrimony 
being a convenient means of reconciliation and the seal of 
an alliance. When forced to exile, the aged pirate looked 
back with a pathetic interest on his adventures in the West, 
where he had " ravaged widely " in his younger days, and 
in establishing an independent monarchy over the chain of 
islands extending from the Shetlands to Man, he doubtless 
received both the countenance and assistance of his powerful 
son-in-law, the King of Dublin. Ketil's sovereignty, how- 
ever, was of short duration, for he appears to have died 
soon after its establishment. 

He was succeeded by his son Helgi, whose dominions 
afforded a welcome refuge to his sister Aude and her son 
Thorstein the Red, after the death of Olaf the White. 
Helgi the Lean, who had married Ketil's daughter Thorun, 
also found, with his wife, a safe asylum there. The 
Eyrbyggia Saga states that Helgi's brother Bjorn, whose 
lands had been forfeited by Harald Fairhair in retaliation 
for the revolt of Ketil Flatnose, came " west-over-the-sea " 
for protection, and was warmly welcomed by Helgi." The 
latter, with some of his relatives, appears to have been 
converted to Christianity. Seeing that they had cast off 
the faith of their fathers, Bjorn " had no heart to dwell " 
with them, and stayed the winter with his sister Aude and 
Thorstein, her son, who had probably not come under the 
same Christianising influences amongst the Dublin Ostmen 
as had her brother Helgi in the Hebrides. From the 
Hebrides Bjorn proceeded to Iceland, where he was fol- 
lowed by Helgi the Lean with his wife and family. This 
Helgi had been fostered for two winters in the Hebrides, 
where he seems to have been half-starved (whence his 
soubriquet), and had to be taken to Ireland to complete 
his fosterage. He is described as a Christian settler in 
Iceland, but his creed was a mixed one : nominally a 
believer in the Founder of Christianity, he nevertheless 
invoked Thor for aid in sea voyages and difficulties ; 


a hybrid creed which was very common among the 
Norwegians in the early days of their Christianity. Aude, 
the widow of Olaf the White, was another emigrant to 
Iceland ; it is clear, indeed, that Iceland was colonised by 
its first settlers chiefly from the Hebrides, rather than from 
Norway. The emigrations of Ketil Flatneb's descendants 
show that the sovereignty established by that powerful 
Viking fell to pieces soon after his death. It is probable 
that his son Helgi and all his relatives were chased out 
of the Hebrides by Harald Harfager during his punitive 
expedition ; and thus the dynasty of the flatnosed warrior, 
which he set up in opposition to the despot of Norway, 
ended abruptly in the person of his son. 

One of King Harald's principal commanders in his 
expedition was Rognevald (Ranald) Jarl of Moeri, a man 
remarkable for bravery and wisdom, and a staunch adherent 
of the King, who trusted him implicitly. It was one thing 
to conquer the islands : it was another thing to secure the 
conquests and maintain the authority of Norway. Ivar, 
son of Rognevald, having fallen in one of the fights which 
occurred during the expedition, Harald decided to recom- 
pense Rognevald for his loss, and at the same time secure 
his newly acquired dominions, by offering to appoint the 
trusty Jarl as his Viceroy over the islands. Rognevald, 
however, declined the offer, preferring his Norwegian 
Jarldom, but he recommended his brother Sigurd to the 
King as a fitting substitute. To this Harald agreed, and 
Sigurd was appointed first Jarl, or Earl, of the Orkneys. 

There is reason to believe that this Jarldom carried with 
it supreme authority over the whole of the islands from 
the Shetlands to Man, and that lieutenants were appointed 
to govern the Hebrides, who acknowledged Sigurd as their 
Superior, and paid him tribute as representing their Royal 
master. One Jarl Tryggvi was appointed governor of 
the Western Islands, and after him, Asbjorn Skerjablesi, 
both of whom were killed by the Vikings, who swarmed 
back to their old haunts as soon as King Harald returned 
to Norway. Asbjorn was attacked and slain by two 

D 2 


relatives of Ketil Flatneb, who captured the governor's 
wife, and daughter, and sold the latter as a slave. It is 
highly probable that after their expulsion from the Hebrides, 
the adherents of Ketil betook themselves to a life of piracy, 
possibly under the leadership of Ketil's son-in-law, Thor- 
stein the Red, a man of commanding abilities, who was 
destined to cut an important figure in the history of 

The Outer Hebrides must have lain under the domi- 
nation of Thorstein the Red until his death about 900, 
when the ties which bound them to the Orcadian Jarldom 
began to weaken, and the overlordship of Norway was suf- 
fered, temporarily, to fall into abeyance. The Irish Annals 
relate incursions during the tenth century of a powerful 
tribe of Norwegians from the islands whom they call 
"Lagmans"; in other words, the followers of the lawmen, 
the chief judges of the islands, and the presidents of the 
General Assemblies. These Lagmans are referred to as 
allies of Magnus, son of Harald, a leader of the Danes of 
Limerick, who ultimately became King of Man 'and the 
Hebrides. About the end of the tenth century, Sigurd, 
Jarl of Orkney, successfully re-asserted the claims of the 
Jarldom over the Hebrides, and appointed his brother- 
in-law, Gilli, his lieutenant in the South Isles. The 
Orcadian domination, however, was of short duration, and 
the Hebrides, or their southern portion, once more became 
linked to the sovereignty of Man, Gilli being defeated 
by Kenneth, brother of Reginald of Man. Kenneth's son, 
Suibne, described in the Irish Annals as " son of Cinaedh, 
King of the Gallgaidhel," succeeded Reginald in the govern- 
ment of Man and its appendages. 

Both Sigurd and Suibne took part in the battle of 
Clontarf (1014), which broke the Scandinavian power in 
Ireland. Clontarf was the culminating point of a racial 
contest for supremacy between the subject Celts and the 
dominant Teutons in that country. It was the Bannock- 
burn of Ireland, and, like the great battle which sealed the 
independence of Scotland, victory lay with the patriots. 


The Scandinavians throughout the British Isles flocked tc 
the assistance of their countrymen. According to an Irish 
annalist, who is thought to have been a contemporary of 
Brian Boroimhe, Sigurd, " Earl of the Ore islands and of 
other islands," was among the first to lead in person to 
the field of battle, " an assembled army of ignorant, bar- 
barous, thoughtless, irreclaimable, unsociable foreigners of 
the Ore islands, and of the Cat (Caithness) islands ; from 
Manann (Man), and from Sci (Skye), and from Leodus 
(Lewis), from Cenn Tire (Kintyre), and from Airir-gaidhel 
(Argyll)." There was also "an immense army from the 
Innsi-gall"; a distinction which seems to imply that the 
North and South Hebrides were under separate lordships, 
the North Isles being still, apparently, subject to the 
Orcadian Jarldom. Both Sigurd of Orkney and the patriot 
King, Brian Boroimhe, were killed at Clontarf ; and among 
the slain was also one Amlaff (Olaf)" King of the Hebrides," 
who was apparently Suibne's lieutenant in the South Isles. 

In 1034, the whole of the Hebrides again came under 
Orcadian supremacy, Thorfinn, son of Sigurd, the most 
powerful of the series of Jarls, having wrested Suibne's 
Scottish possessions from him. In the contest between the 
rivals, Suibne was probably slain, for his death coincides 
with the acquisition of the Isles by Thorfinn, who is 
generally supposed to have made himself master of Scot- 
land as far south as the Firth of Tay.* Upon his death, in 
1064, Norse domination on the Scottish mainland was 
dissipated, and Thorfinn's possessions reverted to their 
original owners. 

The dynasty of Godred Crovan, King of Man and the 
Hebrides, was established between 1075 and 1080. This 
adventurer, who was a son of Harald the Black of Iceland, 
repaid the hospitality of Fingal, the reigning King of Man, 
by wresting the island from his possession. Turning his 
attention to Ireland, he subdued Dublin and forced a great 
part of the province of Leinster to submission. The 

* Dr. MacBain, however, believes that his conquests did not extend beyond 
Beauly Valley. 


conquest of the Hebrides followed. From Arran to Lewis 
the whole of the islands fell under his power, and his 
conquests may have extended to the Orkneys and Shet- 
lands. He is described by Torfseus, the Norwegian his- 
torian, as " King of the Nordereys," from which we are to 
understand either the Orkney and Shetland groups, or the 
northern islands of the Hebrides. It is not easy to dis- 
cover whether the name " Nordereys," or North Islands, 
was originally applied to the Orkneys and Shetlands, and 
the word " Sudreys " (Sudreyyar\ or South Islands, to the 
whole of the Hebrides. Torfaeus makes a clear distinction 
between Orkney, the North Isles, and the Western Isles, 
and refers in a certain passage to the " North Isles such as 
Lewis." The truth seems to be that the name "Nordereys" 
was applied originally to the Orkney and Shetland 
Islands, and later, to the Northern Hebrides ; while the 
name " Sudreys " was, by the Sagas, used to denote the 
whole of the Hebrides. As we shall see later, a division 
of the Hebrides took place in the twelfth century, and from 
that period there can be no doubt that the designation 
" Nordereys," or North Isles, was generally applied to the 
northern section of the Hebrides, including the Long 
Island, Skye, and the other islands which were in- 
cluded in the northern division ; while the " Sudreys," or 
South Isles, embraced the section lying to the south of 
Ardn?murchan. We shall adopt this distinction for the 
sake of convenience. But to return to the conquest of the 
Hebrides by Godred Crovan. 

That conquest was no half-hearted affair : it was 
thorough. The governorship of the Northern Hebrides 
was entrusted to his eldest son, Lagman, who had his 
seat in the Long Island, for he is called by the Sagas 
11 Ivistar Gramr," or Prince of Uist. He was Godred's 
lawman, and it is probable that the name by which he is 
known to history was his official title, not his personal 
name. The Scots of the West appear to have harassed 
Godred's territories, for he was obliged to equip a fleet for 
the purpose of chastising them. So thoroughly cowed 


were they by his onslaught, that they were forced to 
submit to his decree which, if the Manx tradition is to 
be believed, provided that no Scot should build a boat 
above three streaks high ; or, according to Camden's 
version, should drive more than three nails in any boat. 
By this means, the islands were secured against the attacks 
of the mainlanders. 

In the year 1093 occurred the first of the three ex- 
peditions of Magnus Bareleg, King of Norway, to the 
Hebrides and Man. The confusion in the accounts 
of the first two expeditions (the second of which took 
place in 1098) and of the events which succeeded them, 
is so great as to render almost hopeless any attempt to 
reconcile them. But it is possible by a process of selec- 
tion to arrive at least approximately at the main facts 
in their chronological order. The third expedition of 
Magnus in 1103, in the course of which he met his death, 
was directed against Ireland, and has only an indirect 
connexion with the Hebrides. But it was otherwise with 
the two which preceded it. 

It is evident that Godred Crovan had renounced, if he 
had ever acknowledged, the claims of Norway to the 
suzerainty of Man and the Hebrides. The time came 
for Magnus to enforce his claims, and compel the Isles- 
men to submit to his authority. This he did in the usual 
drastic manner of the Norse Kings. Proceeding to the 
Long Island, he encountered little or no resistance there. 
Lagman fled before him, thinking to reach Ireland, where 
alone there was a chance of safety. He was caught on the 
coast of Skye and loaded with chains. Magnus then pro- 
ceeded to the South Isles, bringing them under subjection, 
and finally the Isle of Man was reached. But the terror of 
his arms had preceded him : the inhabitants had fled to 
Galloway ; and when the Norwegians landed, unopposed, 
they found the island almost deserted. Godred Crovan 
disappears from history at this point. From the Irish 
Annals, we learn that he died of the plague, in Islay, in 


The old Scottish historians, Fordun and his successors, 
assert that the Hebrides were given to King Magnus by 
Donald Bane, the brother and successor of Malcolm Cean- 
more, as a reward for services rendered by Magnus. It 
appears certain that during the expedition of 1093, Magnus 
assisted Donald in his usurpation of the throne of Scot- 
land. The explanation of their friendship may perhaps be 
found in the fact that Donald, who had lived among the 
Norwegians of the Hebrides for a considerable time, may 
have been regarded as being, in a sense, a subject, tem- 
porarily, of Norway. To render active assistance to 
Donald in seizing the vacant throne of Scotland, would, 
under these circumstances, have been an enterprise after 
Magnus's own heart. But it is barely credible that his 
motives were absolutely disinterested, and that his offer of 
help was dictated by friendship alone. What form the 
gratitude of Donald Bane took, is not quite clear. For- 
dun's explanation is unsatisfactory. His contention that 
the Hebrides were at this period, and had been from time 
immemorial, under the Scottish Crown, will not bear 
examination. We have seen that Magnus entered upon 
his expedition with the object of restoring the supremacy 
of Norway in the Isles, a supremacy which, since the time 
of Harald Fairhair, had at intervals been allowed to 
become inoperative, but had never been surrendered. 
If the Isles, therefore, were ceded to Magnus by Donald 
Bane, the barren nature of the gift must have appealed 
to the recipient's sense of humour, if he had any ; for it 
was virtually a present to the Norwegian King of what 
already belonged to him. Doubtless, however, the con- 
tinued friendship of Donald Bane the King with the anti- 
foreign policy was of importance to Magnus in preserving 
the integrity of his island-dominions. There may have 
been assurances given on the part of Donald, that the 
suzerainty of Norway over the Isles would be respected, 
and perhaps actively maintained, by the Scottish Crown. 
In any case, it is impossible, from the evidence before 
us, to admit the assumption that the Norsemen derived 


their right to the Isles from a grant by the Scottish 

The expedition of 1093 was entirely successful in its 
results, and Magnus returned to Norway, leaving, ap- 
parently, the ex-governor, Lagman, now a vassal of the 
Norwegian Crown, to rule in Man and the Isles as his 
Viceroy. The Northern Hebrides, being so far removed 
from the seat of government, appear to have soon become 
troublesome, for we find that Magnus sent from Norway, 
in 1097, a governor named Ingemund to rule over them. 
He could not have made a worse selection. No sooner 
had Ingemund arrived in Lewis, than he sent messengers 
to the chief men of the North Isles, commanding them 
to appear before him and acknowledge him as their 
prince. Clearly, he had not come from Norway to serve 
his Royal master, but to enjoy himself. The worst 
governor who ever mismanaged a colonial possession 
of Great Britain, in the days when England used her 
colonies as a dumping ground for convicts, was an 
angel of light compared with Ingemund. He and the 
kindred spirits who accompanied him from Norway, 
behaved like a band of pirates, instead of a company of 
duly-accredited law-givers. They gave themselves up to 
revelry, robbery, and rape, and respected no law, human or 
Divine. But they had inflammable material to deal with, 
and the smouldering rage of the dishonoured Levvismen 
soon broke out into a fierce flame of terrible vengeance. 
The Hebridean chiefs had come to submit, but they 
remained to slay. They planned to slaughter the Nor- 
wegians during the night, and thus rid themselves of their 
oppressors. Ingemund and his retinue were caught like 
rats in a trap ; their house was set on fire ; escape there 
was none ; the vengeful swords of the islanders despatched 
those who fled from the merciless flames ; and not one of 
the licentious crew survived. Thus perished ignobly the 
governor whom Magnus had sent to attend to his interests 
in the Outer Hebrides. 

Magnus of Norway was not the man to submit tamely 


to this summary treatment of his representative. Things 
had not been going well in his island dominions. Paul 
and Erlend, the Jarls of Orkney, had not been giving 
satisfaction to their liege lord ; Lagman had apparently 
not shown the gratitude which the clemency of Magnus 
might have been expected to produce ; and to crown all, 
his deputy had been burnt alive by the contumacious 
Lewismen. Nothing short of a clean sweep would satisfy 
him this time. And so, the great expedition of 1098, con- 
sisting of 60 large well-built ships, and manned by trained 
warriors, left the shores of Norway on a punitive and 
re-organising mission. 

Hakon, son of Jarl Paul of Orkney, had visited the Court 
of Norway, and urged Magnus to undertake the expedition, 
hoping doubtless to reap some material benefits for him- 
self, while venting his jealous spite on his uncle, Erlend, 
and his sons. But whatever the ulterior motives of Hakon, 
it is evident that Magnus needed no extraneous induce- 
ment to undertake his great scheme of revenge and 

On arriving at the Orkneys, Magnus deposed the Jarls 
Paul and Erlend, and sent them to Norway, appointing in 
their stead his own son Sigurd, with a Council of advisers 
to assist him in the government of the Orkneys and 
Shetlands. From the Orkneys he sailed to Lewis, where 
he took a gruesome revenge for the slaughter of Ingemund 
and his companions. A skald named Bjorn Cripplehand, 
who accompanied Magnus on this expedition, has left the 
following account of the devastation wrought by his 
master in the Long Island: 

"Fire played in the fig trees of Liodhus (Lewis); it 
mounted up to heaven. Far and wide the people were 
driven to flight. The fire gushed out of the houses. The 
liberal King went with the fire over Ivist (Uist). The 
buendar (chief men) lost life and property. The King 
gained much gold."* 

* This is the version given in the Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis. The 
version of Morris and Magnusson is more ornate. 


There is a tragedy in these few terse statements. With 
pitiless ferocity, Magnus harried with fire and sword the 
unfortunate Long Islanders, leaving a desolated country 
and a slaughtered people to tell their silent tale of his 
memorable visit. It is not too much to say that the 
whole face of the Long Island was changed more com- 
pletely by the massacre of 1098 than it had ever been 
by any previous event ; and it is certain that no subse- 
quent invasion of the Outer Hebrides had such far- 
reaching results.* 

Magnus pressed southwards, leaving behind him a track 
of blood and fire. Skye, Tiree, Mull, Islay, and Kintyre 
all felt the weight of his heavy hand, and the deposition 
of Lagman formed the culminating act in his campaign 
of vengeance and spoliation. 

While engaged upon his great expedition of 1098, 
Magnus succeeded in obtaining from Edgar, the reigning 
King of Scotland, an acknowledgment of his right to 
the Hebrides. He had already acquired that right, not 
only by virtue of the long subjection of the Isles to 
Norway, but by reason of the most cogent argument that 
could be advanced, viz., conquest by fire and sword. 
Confirmation by the Scottish Crown, however, obviated 
the risk of awkward questions subsequently arising, and 
sealed the vassalage of the Isles to the Crown of Norway. 
King Edgar "ceded" all those Western Isles, between 
which and the mainland, the Norwegian King could go 
in a boat with a rudder. The story is told, that Magnus 
took advantage of this loose stipulation, to add Kintyre 
to his dominions; accomplishing that stroke of business 
by means of a trick, which savours of a pettifogging 
attorney rather than of a warlike King. It is said that, 
seating himself at the helm, he caused a boat to be 
dragged across the isthmus of Loch Tarbert, thus ful- 
filling the letter, but not the spirit, of Edgar's incautious 
offer. This story bears a remarkable resemblance to 

* The Lewis tradition, which connects the burning of the trees in the island 
: th the Norwegians, has reference, doubtless, to this incident. 


one mentioned in the Sagas, where we read of Beiti, a 
mythological Sea-King, having acquired certain islands 
which lay on the port side of his galley, by means of a 
trick identical with that said to have been played by 
Magnus on King Edgar. We must believe, therefore, that 
the Sagaic account of Beiti's exploit has been transferred 
to the credit of Magnus, in order, possibly, to explain the 
severance of Kintyre from the possessions of the Scottish 
Crown ; or that Magnus, taking a leaf from the book of 
the mythic Sea-King, actually emulated his feat and 
imposed upon the trustfulness of the amiable Edgar. We 
know that Robert Bruce afterwards performed a similar 
exploit at the same place; and Tarbert in Harris derives 
its name from similar methods of bridging the narrow 
neck of land which divides North from South Harris. 
What is more to the point, as a matter of history, is the 
fact that during his journey of blood and fire in the South 
Isles, "men in Cantire bowed beneath the sword edge." 
This simple statement is of itself sufficient to account 
for the incorporation of Kintyre with the Hebridean 
possessions of the Crown of Norway. 

But the Scottish Highlanders have at least one reason 
for keeping a warm corner in their hearts for this 
Norwegian monarch. Having subjugated the Isles, he 
passed the winter of 1098 in the Southern Hebrides, 
where he and his men adopted the native dress. Thus 
did Magnus gain the name of "Barefod" (Bareleg or 
Barefoot), by which he is known in Norse history. 
Highlanders may forgive much to the man who discarded 
his accustomed attire in favour of the so-called "garb of 
old Gaul." It is a practice which has been followed in 
modern times by visitors to the Highlands, with more or 
less striking effects ; but this is the first, and perhaps the 
only instance on record, of a foreign King having worn 
the Highland dress while sojourning in the Scottish 
islands. Who, with this august example before him, 
shall deny either the antiquity or the picturesqueness of 
the kilt ? It is easy to retort that Magnus was, after all, 


a semi-barbarian. But as his martial feats proclaim the 
warrior, so his sartorial instincts proclaim the artist. 
Magnus introduced the use of the kilt to Norway, where 
it appears to have been worn for a century afterwards. 
Holinshed, who lived in the sixteenth century, informs 
us that during the great expedition of Magnus, he 
ordained laws and constitutions which were used by the 
inhabitants " unto these days " an interesting statement 
alike to the historian and the jurist. 

On the death of Magnus, the feeble Lagman seems 
to have once more (in 1103) resumed the sovereignty of 
Man and the Isles. But his brother Harald proved a 
thorn in his side. Suspecting Harald of plotting against 
him, Lagman seized his brother, put out his eyes, and 
otherwise mutilated him in accordance with the barbarous 
practice of those times. Repenting of his cruelty, he 
resigned the Crown and proceeded to Jerusalem to 
expiate his offence. On arrival there, or, according to 
some accounts, while on his way to the Holy Land, he 
died in the year 1 1 10, after an inglorious reign of seven 

Godred Crovan's youngest son, Olaf or Olave, who is 
known by the name of " the Red," also as " Kleining," and 
" Bitlingr " from his small stature, was a minor in 1 1 1 1 
when his dominions fell, either by conquest or popular 
choice,* into the power of Donald, son of Taidg, an 
Irishman who proved a despot, and was soon deposed. 
In 1114, Olave assumed the reins of government, after a 
useful training in the field and at the Courts of William 
Rufus and Henry I. of England. For forty years he 
governed his possessions wisely and well, his diplomatic 
relations, not only with his Superior of Norway, but with 
the neighbouring countries of England, Scotland, and 
Ireland, being of the friendliest character. He was 
treacherously murdered in 1154 by his nephew Reginald, 

* The Manx historians say he was selected by King Murtough of Ireland 
at the request of the people of Man. The Annals of Innisfallen state that 
he " acquired the kingdom of Insegall by force." 


who, with his two brothers, took possession of Man, 
massacred Olave's adherents, and divided the island 
among their own followers. From this state of anarchy, 
deliverance came by means of Godred, Olave's son, who ' 
was called from the Court of Norway by the chiefs of 
the Hebrides and his maternal grandfather, the lord of 
Galloway, to take possession of his inheritance. The 
usurpers were deposed and punished, and Godred com- 
menced his career with everything in his favour. 

Godred's influence and power gradually increased, and 
with them, his vanity. He began to be overbearing in his 
manner and despotic in his rule. He made enemies of 
some of his most powerful supporters in Man, by turning 
them out of their estates, and he estranged the affection 
of the common people by the harshness of his rule. A 
spirit of deep discontent was the inevitable result, and 
his enemies, headed by Thorfinn son of Ottar, an old 
competitor of Godred for the throne of Dublin, carefully 
fanned the flame of resentment. In order to enlist the 
sympathy and the active assistance of Somerled of 
Argyll, Thorfinn paid a visit to that ambitious chief. By 
a cunning appeal to Somerled's cupidity, he induced him 
to support the conspiracy against Godred. The fatuous 
policy pursued by the latter gave a handle to his enemies, 
which they were not slow to seize ; the toils were now 
gradually closing around him. Somerled appears to have 
already been in possession of Bute and Arran. Dr. Skene 
states that these islands were conquered by David I. of 
Scotland in 1135, and were added to the dominions 
of Somerled, who, according to the seanachies, had 
previously expelled the Norwegians from Morvern, Locha- 
ber, and Argyll. Once Somerled had obtained a footing 
in the Isles, he determined that the whole of the Hebrides 
should be his. But he lacked the power to defy the King 
of the Isles, and had to bide his time. His marriage 
with Ragnhilda, daughter of Olave the Red, was a part of 
the diplomatic means by which he sought to strengthen 
his preparations. But his ambition in another direction 



temporarily interfered with his designs on the Hebrides. 
Setting up a claim, into the merits of which we need not 
enter, to the Earldom of Moray, on behalf of his grand- 
sons, his plans were frustrated, and he himself was obliged 
to take refuge for a time in Ireland. Peace was at length 
(in 1153) concluded between him and Malcolm IV. of 
Scotland, an event which was considered to be of so much 
importance as to form an epoch in the dating of Scottish 
charters. And now came Somerled's great opportunity for 
seizing the whole of the Hebrides. It was arranged that 
his fellow-conspirator, Thorfinn, should conduct Somerled's 
son, Dugall, throughout the Isles, proclaim the latter 
King, and call upon the people to acknowledge his 
authority and to give hostages for their allegiance. But 
the majority of the Hebridean chiefs remained faithful to 
Godred, and among the faithful, was one Paul Balkasson, 
described as "Sheriff" of Skye, who, as events showed, 
was Godred's best friend. Well was he named Balk the 
beam or supporter for he proved a veritable tower of 
strength in the time of need. This is perhaps the earliest 
reference in Scottish history to the existence of the office 
of Sheriff. The first notices on record are contained in 
the Acts of David I., about the middle of the twelfth 
century, the period now under review. The Sheriffdom 
of Inverness appears to have at that time included the 
whole country north of the Grampians, and it might be 
inferred that the Sheriffdom of Skye was then, as it is at 
the present day, subsidiary to that of Inverness. But as 
this assumption would imply that Skye was, at the middle 
of the twelfth century, subject to the jurisdiction of the 
Scottish Crown which we know was not the case we 
must conclude that the office of Sheriff, as held by Paul 
Balkasson, was different from that to which the modern 
name attaches. In all probability, Balkasson was the 
military, as well as the civil governor of Skye, holding 
is office as the representative of Godred. 
On his refusal to swear allegiance to Dugall, Balkasson 
fled to the Isle of Man, where he acquainted Godred with 


the alarming nature of the plot which had been formed to 
undermine his authority. Godred immediately set sail for 
the Hebrides, determined to crush Somerled and nip the 
conspiracy in the bud. Somerled, with a fleet of eighty 
galleys, was ready for him. When the fleets met, a battle 
was fought which was maintained with dogged deter- 
mination by both sides. Godred, conscious that he was 
fighting for his very life, refused to acknowledge defeat ; 
Somerled, with the Hebrides at stake, offered an equally 
stubborn resistance. Night fell on the exhausted com- 
batants with victory still hanging in the balance. Morning 
brought reflection and terms of peace. Sturdy fighters 
both, Godred and Somerled had learned in that hard- 
fought battle to respect one another ; and mutual respect 
paved the way to mutual concessions. By a treaty which 
constituted a landmark in the history of the Isles, the rival 
leaders, who had many common characteristics, agreed to 
divide the Hebrides, Somerled's share comprising the 
islands south of Ardnamurchan, while Godred retained 
those north of that point. This notable agreement was 
made in 1156, from which date, the South Isles passed 
permanently from the dominion of the Kings of Man.* 

* The Highland seanachies relate that Aula Ruadh (Olave the Red) 
invaded the West Highlands, and was repulsed by the natives under their 
leader, Somerled, who received the Western Isles as a reward for his great 
services. The tales of the seanachies, however, cannot always be accepted 
as history. Somerled met defeat and death at Renfrew in 1164. 

2 9 


ON the death of Somerled, the sovereignty of Man and 
the Nordereys from this period the application of the 
latter word to the Northern Hebrides is indisputable was 
seized, during Godred's absence in Norway, by Reginald, a 
natural son of Olave the Red, the Sudreys falling to the 
share of Dugall, Somerled's son. Godred hastened from 
Norway, and deposed and punished, with the usual cruel 
accessories, the usurper. Before his death, which occurred 
in 1187, Godred made a tour through his Hebridean 
possessions where his presence was much needed and 
was absent from Man for about two years. That the 
Long Island was at that time a nest of pirates seems to be 
suggested by the fact that Ljotolf, a powerful chief in 
Lewis, was the bosom friend of Sweyn Asleifsson of 
Gairsay, one of the last, and certainly one of the most 
famous, of the Vikings. Sweyn's brother, Gunni, took 
refuge with Ljotolf, after a quarrel with Harald, Jarl of 
Orkney, and we find the rover himself at a later period 
enjoying the hospitality of his friend in Lewis, where he 
stayed "a long time." He repaid this hospitality by 
seizing a vessel belonging to Fogl, Ljotolf s son, who was 
on his way from Lewis to join the retinue of the Jarl of 
Orkney. Sweyn of Gairsay was a remarkable personality. 
He was a warrior and a seer ; a pirate and a courtier ; a 
powerful friend and a dangerous foe. Notwithstanding 
his reputation, he was warmly welcomed at the Court 
of the pious King David I., who compensated the rover's 
victims, and offered to bestow upon Sweyn himself what- 
ever honours he might desire. But according to Sweyn's 
philosophy, it was better to reign at sea than serve on 


land. About 1160, this famous freebooter, with all his 
men, was killed in an ambuscade at Dublin, which he had 
captured and looted. 

Before his death, Godred of Man nominated as his 
successor, his son Olave, who is known as Olave the Black. 
But the Manxmen elected Olave's natural brother, 
Reginald, to act as Regent during his minority. The 
first campaign of the Regent, undertaken in 1205 on 
behalf of his patron, John de Courcy, against his enemy, 
Hugh de Lacy, Earl of Ulster, ended in disaster. About 
100 vessels, most of them from the Hebrides, sailed for 
Strandford Haven, where the invaders landed and be- 
sieged Rath Castle, but being attacked in the rear by 
Walter de Lacy, with an army of Gallow-glasses (Gillean- 
glasa) they were forced to retire with heavy loss. Five 
years after this defeat, Angus, the third son of Somerled 
the Great, made a bold attempt to snatch the Nordereys 
from Reginald's rule, but was repulsed in Skye, and was 
afterwards defeated and killed in Man.* 

The looseness of the ties that bound Norway to the 
Isles is exemplified by the fact that Reginald had become 
a vassal of the English King, whether for the Hebrides as 
well as for Irish fiefs which he probably held, is not quite 
clear. In recognition of his homage, he was to receive an 
annual knight's fee, payable at Drogheda, of two tuns of 
wine and 120 quarters of corn. He was also appointed 
" Admiral of the Seas " which may mean the Irish 
Channel and on the principle of setting a thief to catch a 
thief, probably no better choice could have been made for 
the suppression of piracy. In 1219 he surrendered the 
overlordship of Man to the Pope, agreeing to pay as the 
reward of his protection by the all-powerful See of Rome, 
the sum of 12 merks annually to Furness Abbey, an 
institution of which Olave the Red had been a liberal 
benefactor. This submission to the Papacy may have 
been a temporary expedient, but it served its purpose of 

* According to some accounts he was killed in Skye. 


securing safety at the expense of independence.* In 1211 
King John of England sent Fulko de Cantelupe to Man 
for the purpose of punishing Reginald for his share in 
the rebellion of De Courcy. Reginald fled to Lewis for 
safety, returning to Man after De Cantelupe's departure. 

We now return to Olave, the rightful heir to Man and 
the Nordereys. Youth was a fault which time removed, 
and Reginald had not occupied the throne many years 
before he realised that his half-brother who is described 
by Sacheverell as "a master of refined qualities, mild, just, 
sedate, pious, liberal, and handsome the darling of the 
ladies " would soon prove a thorn in his side, if not put 
out of the way. A man of all the virtues and all the 
talents, such as Olave was pictured by the historian of the 
seventeenth century, was indeed a formidable rival in any 
case, and was doubly dangerous by reason of his un- 
doubted right to the throne. Not daring to take the 
shortest, the most obvious, and from his standpoint, the 
most desirable means, of ridding himself of his brother, 
Reginald determined to get him as far away from Man 
as possible. With that object, he made him a present of 
Lewis, and sent him north to govern the island. That 
Olave did not appreciate the Island of Lewis is clear from 
the Chronicles of Man. Camden describes the gift and its 
reception in the following terms, viz. : 

" Reginald gave to his brother Olave the Isle of Lodhus, 
which is counted larger than any of the other islands, but 
thinly peopled, because it is mountainous and stony, and 
almost unfit for tillage in all parts. The inhabitants live 
generally by hunting and fishing. Olave thereupon went 
to take possession of this island and dwelt there in a poor 

* The following extracts from the Syllabus of Rymer^s Foedera illustrate 
the subserviency of Reginald to the King of England and the Pope. 

Feb. 8, 1205. The King (of England) takes into his protection Reginald, 
lung of Man, his lands, and men. 

May 16, 1212. Reginald, King of the Isles, notifies that he has become 
the King's liegeman. 

Sept. 21, 1219. Reginald, King of the Isles, surrenders the Isle of Man to 
the Pope to be held by him in fee. 

Sept. 24, 1219. Letters of protection for Reginald, he having done homage 
to the King, 

E 2 


condition. But finding it too little to maintain him and 
his army, he went boldly to his brother Reginald, who then 
lived on the islands, and addressed him thus to him : ' My 
brother and my sovereign, you know very well that the 
Kingdom of the Isles was mine by right of inheritance, but 
since God hath made you King over it, I neither will envy 
your happiness nor grudge to see the crown upon your 
head. I only beg of you so much land in these islands as 
may honourably maintain me ; for I am not able to live 
upon the island Lodhus which you gave me.'" 

Reginald's reply to this touching appeal was charac- 
teristic of the man. Promising to consult his Council 
and give an answer on the following day, he quickly 
made arrangements to dispose of his troublesome brother 
permanently. If Olave found Lewis too small for him, 
he would find him a still more confined abode. Besides 
being a vassal of the English Crown, Reginald appears to 
have cultivated friendly relations with William the Lion 
of Scotland. Believing in the principle of making use of 
one's friends, he bethought himself of utilising the good 
offices of the Scottish King, in connexion with his designs 
upon Olave's liberty. And so it came to pass that the 
unhappy younger brother found himself immured as a 
prisoner in Marchmont Castle, that being Reginald's form 
of reply to his complaint. For seven years (1207-1214) 
Olave was kept in chains in his Scottish prison. His 
release coincided with the death of William the Lion and 
the accession of Alexander II., who, to celebrate his 
coronation, ordered that all prisoners in his kingdom 
should be set at liberty. On gaining his freedom, Olave 
paid a visit to the shrine of St. James of Compostella, 
where he offered up thanks for his deliverance ; he then 
proceeded to the Isle of Man. Once more, therefore, 
Reginald found himself confronted by his brother and 
a recrudescence of his old fears. 

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, and readily 
lies the tongue that claims it unlawfully. Reginald dis- 
sembled his fears and professed his love. The ingenuous 


Olave, untaught by experience, accepted his contrition, 
and for a short time the brothers lived on terms of affec- 
tion, apparently real in Olave's case, certainly assumed in 
the case of Reginald. That crafty ruler soon devised a 
fresh plan for ridding himself of his incubus. Olave was 
a mere child in the hands of Reginald, and it was without 
much difficulty that his consent to marry Lavon (or Lauon, 
or Joan), sister of Reginald's wife, was obtained. Accord- 
ing to Sacheverell, the father of the sisters was the lord 
of Kintyre, from which statement it may be inferred that 
they were daughters of Somerled, grandson of Somerled 
the Great. Reginald's wedding present to Olave was a 
fresh grant of the Island of Lewis, with the empty title 
of King to glorify his possession. Olave had learned by 
this time that life in Lewis was preferable to confinement 
in a prison, and had no desire to re-awaken his brother's 
resentment. To Lewis, therefore, he repaired with his 
bride, reserving the accomplishment of whatever larger 
aspirations he may have entertained until a more con- 
venient season. 

Soon after his arrival in Lewis, he received a visit from 
his sister's son, Ranald, Bishop of the Sudreys, who was 
then engaged on an episcopal supervision of the churches 
in the Isles.* Olave received his relative in a manner 
befitting a king, and invited him to a sumptuous banquet 
which he had prepared. But the Bishop declined his 
hospitality, on the ground that his marriage was illicit and 
could not be recognised by the Church. " Art thou not 
sensible," he asked, "that thou wast formerly wedded to 
the cousin of the woman who is now thy consort ? " Olave 
confessed that previous to his marriage with Lavon, he had 
formed an irregular union with her cousin, but he was now 
ready to make full submission to the ruling of the Church. 
Bishop Ranald thereupon promptly annulled his marriage 
with Lavon. The readiness with which he listened to the 
representations of the Bishop, arouses the suspicion that 

* While the Bishop was with Olave, the latter exacted a tax from two 
Icelanders who were driven ashore at Sandera. This suggests that Olave 
was master of the whole of the Outer Hebrides. 


Olave was glad to have an excuse for getting rid of the 
wife whom his brother had chosen for him ; and if her 
character resembled that of her sister, Reginald's wife, the 
desire is intelligible. On the other hand, the scruples of 
Bishop Ranald were probably based on political considera- 
tions rather than on ecclesiastical law, or on moral rectitude. 
Being a nephew of Olave, he may conceivably have had 
visions of a future crown an earthly one for himself, in 
the event of his uncle dying without issue. Still more 
probable is it that the hand of the crafty Reginald pulled 
the strings of a carefully laid plot, of which the divorce, 
like the marriage, of Lavon was one of the foreseen and 
pre-arranged incidents. For the treatment by Olave of 
his wife's sister now gave him a handle to accomplish the 
destruction of that unwary youth, who, soon after his 
abandonment of Lavon, married Christina, daughter of 
Ferchard O'Beolan, otherwise Mac-an-t'sagairt, or, son of 
the priest (of Applecross), Earl of Ross. 

Burning to avenge her sister's dishonour, Reginald's wife 
sent a message to her son Godred, who was then in Skye, 
to proceed to Lewis and kill Olave. It is not difficult to 
surmise at whose instigation this bloodthirsty mission was 
resolved upon ; if successful, Reginald would be freed once 
for all from the bugbear of his existence. The popularity 
of Olave had been increasing as that of his brother had 
been diminishing ; but here at length were alike the 
pretext and the opportunity of removing for ever his rival 
from his path. Godred, whose name, the " Dragon of the 
Isles," appears to have been not inappropriate, gathered 
together his followers, and in obedience to the command 
of his amiable parent, sailed for Lewis. But he was just 
too late to effect his murderous purpose, for Olave, who 
had become aware of his danger, probably through the 
instrumentality of his friend Balkasson (who must have 
been the son of King Godred's supporter), embarked in an 
open boat, crossed the Minch,* and reached the castle of 

* Manche, i.e., channel or strait. The Minch appears to have been the 
Skottland Fjord of the Sagas. 


lis father-in-law, the Earl of Ross, in safety. Baulked of 
his prey, the disappointed Dragon of the Isles vented his 
rage on the inhabitants of Lewis, who must have been 
few in number, seeing they were unable to protect their 
idolised master from his would-be murderer. Godred 
pillaged the island and slaughtered the principal adherents 
of his uncle, thus showing that there was something more 
than private revenge at the root of the whole undertaking. 

Meanwhile, Paul Balkasson had discreetly left Skye and 
taken refuge with the Earl of Ross, arriving probably 
according to arrangement about the same time as Olave 
A consultation took place, at which the Earl of Ross and 
Balkasson urged Olave to throw off his allegiance to 
Reginald, and make a bold bid for the crown which 
rightfully belonged to him. The promised support of his 
powerful father-in-law, added to the conviction that his 
life was no longer safe from his brother's malevolence, 
decided Olave to put his fortune to the touch. The first 
offensive movement in the projected campaign was 
directed against Godred Don, who was then (1223) in 
St. Colum's isle, or Trodda, in the north of Skye, near 
which Olave and his friends remained in concealment 
for some days. They then proceeded with five ships to 
Trodda, and drew a cordon of vessels around the island 
to prevent the escape of Godred. Although taken by 
surprise, the latter made a stubborn resistance against 
the invaders, but, surrounded on all sides, he was obliged 
to give way ; the defeat of his followers became a rout ; 
and the rout became a general slaughter. Those who 
could, escaped to the church, whose sacred walls gave 
them protection. Failing to reach the sanctuary, Godred 
fell into the hands of Paul Balkasson, who, without Olave's 
knowledge or consent, mutilated him and is said to have 
put out his eyes. But the blinding must have been only 
partial, for Godred appears later in the character of a 
particularly alert, if short-sighted, individual. It is pro- 
bable that this act of retribution was as much a political 
move on the part of Balkasson, as an act of private 


vengeance. Fearing, perhaps, that Olaye's courage might 
fail him at the last moment, and determined to make the 
breach between him and Reginald irreparable, he took 
the most effective means of accomplishing that end. 

Olave had burnt his boats with a vengeance, and there 
was nothing for it but to take the next step, which was 
obviously the invasion of Man. He therefore matured 
his plans with the greatest expedition, and, to ensure the 
fidelity of the Hebrideans, took hostages from all their 
leaders. In 1224, he sailed for Man with thirty galleys, 
but his hostility was disarmed by the smooth tongue of 
Reginald, who offered him half of the Isles as a basis 
of peace, an offer which Olave accepted. But Reginald 
having deceived the Manxmen by preparing, with the 
assistance of Allan, lord of Galloway, to annul the agree- 
ment, the islanders threw off their allegiance, and sent 
for Olave, who was installed in his brother's place. 
Reginald invaded Man with his ally of Galloway, and 
after patching up an illusory peace with his brother, 
remained in the island for the purpose of fomenting a 
conspiracy against him. He was ultimately killed in a 
fight between Olave's party and the faction which he 
had succeeded in forming to support his own claims. 
According to the Qrkneyinga Saga, Reginald was one 
of the most famous warriors in the West of Europe. 
Emulating the example of the Vikings, he once passed 
three successive years on board his ship without entering a 
house. He conquered, or purchased, Caithness from Harald, 
Jarl of Orkney. He was an able man, but his ambition 
was limitless, and he was destitute of scruples or honour. 

After the death of Reginald, Olave deemed it politic 
to pay a visit to the Court of Norway, at Bergen, to do 
homage to his Superior, and to seek his help against 
the growing power of Allan of Galloway. He was well 
received by Hakon, and entertained right royally. 
Evidently affairs in the Hebrides generally were getting 
into a critical state. According to the account which 
has been preserved of Olave's mission to Bergen, he 


informed his Royal master that the lord of Galloway had 
openly avowed his intention, not only of subduing the 
whole of the Hebrides, but of attacking Norway herself. 
At the Norwegian Court, Olave found three Sudreyan 
chiefs described as " kings " who, having failed to pay 
tribute to Hakon for their possessions in the Hebrides, had 
apparently been summoned to his Court to answer for 
their contumacy. These were Dugall Scrag or Shrill- 
voice, and Duncan (sons of Dugall, son of Somerled the 
Great), and Somerled their cousin, son of Gillecolum who 
was killed during his father's attempted conquest of 
Scotland. The submission of the Sudreyan chiefs 
appears to have come too late, for Hakon had already 
appointed one Uspak whom he honoured by conferring 
his own name upon him to act as his Viceroy in the 
Sudreys, and the disappointed Somerledians had to 
return home empty-handed. But they were not prepared 
to submit tamely to being ousted by Uspak-Hakon, and 
they resolved to fight. Anticipating their resentment and 
their resistance, the King of Norway got ready a powerful 
fleet to enforce the rule of his favourite. Olave the 
Black was commanded to co-operate with Uspak, and 
with that object, sailed from Norway with Paul Bal- 
kasson, who had probably accompanied him to the 
Norwegian Court. Reinforcements were obtained in the 
Orkneys, and probably also in the Nordereys, and the 
combined fleets, under the joint command of Uspak and 
Olave, proceeded to the Sudreys to attack the trio of 
Somerledians who awaited them in the Sound of Islay. 
In the meantime, Balka, a son of Balkasson, and a loyal 
Sudreyan chief named Ottar Snaekollsson (Snowball) 
went to Skye, where they attacked a Lewis chief named 
Torquil, son of Tormod (Munch calls him " Torquil 
MacDermot " ), and killed him with two of his sons. The 
third son, Tormod, managed to escape by jumping into 
a cask floating in the water, which drifted across to the 
mainland, whence he reached Lewis in safety. 

The campaign against the Somerledian chiefs was 


entirely successful, the latter sustaining a severe defeat 
in the Sound of Islay, whence the Norsemen, under Olave 
and Uspak the latter of whom turned out to be the 
long-lost brother of Dugall and Duncan sailed to Bute, 
where they stormed a castle garrisoned by Scots. From 
Bute, where Uspak was killed, Olave returned to Man, 
and his men passed the winter in the island. On the 
return voyage to Norway, they made a descent on Kintyre, 
and on reaching Lewis, they attacked Tormod, whose 
father Torquil fell in Skye, and chased him out of the 
island, capturing his wife and all his possessions. We 
are left in doubt as to the identity of Torquil and Tormod. 
That Torquil's possessions lay in Lewis is evident ; that 
Tormod's home was in that island is also clear ; but 
what their offence was against the Norwegian Crown, or 
against the authority of its vassals, is not specifically 
stated. Munch suggests that they may have been op- 
posed to the rule of Godred Don, Reginald's son, into 
whose possession his uncle gave the Nordereys on his 
resumption of the sovereignty of Man. This is not an 
improbable view, but it does not explain the attack on 
Torquil in Skye, unless we suppose that the latter, taking 
advantage of the absence of Paul Balkasson, had been 
raiding his property ; the fact that Balka the younger 
went out of his way to fight Torquil in Skye, seems to 
lend colour to that suggestion. 

Whatever the cause of the attack by the Norwegians 
on Lewis, it is certain that shortly after their departure, 
Godred proceeded to take revenge on his old enemy, 
Paul Balkasson, who had years before mutilated him. 
Godred's headquarters appear to have been in Lewis, and 
the inference is that no sooner had his authority been 
established in the Long Island by the Norwegian force, 
than he attacked Balkasson in Skye. The simple fact 
known to us is that he killed Balkasson. A few days 
afterwards, Brown Godred was himself slain in Lewis. 
On the death of his nephew, Olave resumed the direct 
rule of the Nordereys. 


Olave the Black was in some respects the best ruler that 
Man and the Hebrides ever possessed. His was not a 
virile nor an ambitious character; yet when duty called, 
he showed that he could wield the sword as well as offer 
the olive branch. One would suppose that this easy- 
going, gentlemanly kinglet was hardly the sort of ruler 
required for his turbulent subjects ; yet he retained their 
allegiance to the last. He died in 1237, and his throne 
was successively filled by his three eldest sons, Harald, 
Reginald, and Magnus. 

In the first year of his rule, Harald paid a visit to 
his Hebridean possessions, leaving his cousin, Lauchlan, 
to govern Man during his absence. Lauchlan proved 
unfaithful to his trust, and Harald hurried back to 
assert his authority. His deputy fled from the island, 
accompanied by Godred, his foster son who is said to 
have been a son of Olave the Black and with about 
forty adherents, both were drowned off the coast of 

In 1240, Harald refused to do homage to his suzerain. 
A force sent from Norway invaded Man and reduced its 
ruler to obedience, the revenues of the island being appro- 
priated to the Norwegian Crown. The quarrel was made 
up by Harald marrying Cecilia, King Hakon's daughter, 
but the ill-fated couple were drowned on the voyage from 
Bergen to Man. 

The next King of Man and the Nordereys was Harald's 
brother, Reginald, who, only a few days after his accession 
in 1250, was killed by Harald, son of Godred Don, and his 
supposed natural brother, a knight named Ivar. The heir 
was Reginald's brother, Magnus, who was then in Lewis 
with his father-in-law, Ewen of Lome, or John, King of 
the Isles, as he is sometimes called. Harald MacGodred 
seized the reins of government but was summoned to 
Norway by King Hakon, who threw him into prison. 
Ewen of Lome was in the difficult position of being a 
vassal of the Scottish Crown for his possessions in Argyll, 
while owing allegiance to Hakon for his possessions in the 


Hebrides. Alexander II. of Scotland, who had designs on 
Man and the Hebrides, and was vainly endeavouring to 
negotiate their cession by Hakon, was particularly anxious 
to detach Ewen from the Norwegian interest. But all his 
efforts proved unavailing ; neither threats nor promises 
would induce Ewen to throw off his allegiance to Hakon. 
The King determined to use compulsion, and Ewen in 
alarm fled to Lewis for safety. Alexander pursued him, 
but died of a fever in the Sound of Kerrera, near Oban. 
Such was the position when Ewen, in his capacity of 
Administrator of the Hebrides during an interregnum, 
found himself called upon to repair from Lewis to Man 
to prepare for the accession of his son-in-law. The Manx- 
men, suspecting his motives, and resenting his assumption 
of the regency, drove him from the island. Magnus was 
in 1252 unanimously elected by the islanders as their ruler, 
and in 1254, his title of " King of the Isles " was confirmed 
by his suzerain. 

In pursuance of his father's policy in respect of the 
Hebrides, Alexander III. of Scotland re-opened negotia- 
tions with Norway, but Hakon remained obdurate, and a 
rupture between the two Kings was only avoided by the 
friendly mediation of England. In 1262, matters reached 
a crisis, which was brought about by the depredations of 
William, Earl of Ross, son of Ferchard Mac-an-t'sagairt, 
and other chiefs of the West, with the connivance, prob- 
ably, of the Scottish King. Skye was ravaged, and the 
invaders were accused of committing such barbarities as 
child-spearing, thus rivalling the atrocities of the Norse 
pirates, with whom the tossing of infants from spear to 
spear was a common practice. The complaints which 
reached Hakon, and the well-grounded belief that further 
depredations were contemplated, left him no recourse but 
to organise an expedition for the purpose of re-asserting 
the authority of Norway, and protecting her subjects in the 
Hebrides. The time had come for a final trial of strength 
between Norway and Scotland. 

In the spring of 1263, Hakon commenced his prepara- 


tions, and on the ?th July, the fleet sailed from Bergen. 
A good deal of time was wasted in the Shetlands and 
Orkneys, due partly to a difference of opinion between 
Hakon and his lieutenants as to the disposition of his 
forces. The fleet reached Lewis in August, and at Skye, 
Magnus of Man was waiting with reinforcements, which 
probably comprised a levy from the Long Island. At 
Gigha, King Hakon had an interview with Ewen of Lome, 
who had in the interval renounced his allegiance to the 
Norwegian Crown, and desired to be relieved of the fiefs 
which he held from it. Recognising the probity of E wen's 
sentiments, Hakon treated him with consideration, and 
later, the noble lord of Lome, whose honourable character 
remained unimpaired throughout, endeavoured to perform 
useful services as a peace-maker. The most active and 
influential of the Hebridean chiefs who joined the Nor- 
wegian forces was Dugall, son of Ruari, son of Reginald, 
son of Somerled the Great ; with his father and his brother, 
Allan, he represented the Bute family, which was subse- 
quently known as the Macruaries of Garmoran and the 
North Isles. Old Ruari was particularly embittered against 
the Scottish Crown, which had deprived him of Bute and 
driven him to a life of piracy. His alliance with the Nor- 
wegians is therefore intelligible, inasmuch as it afforded 
him the means of revenge, of which, it may be added, 
he amply availed himself. 

The battle of Largs was preceded by a series of pour- 
parlers which proved fruitless, except in gaining time for 
the Scots, a result which was altogether in their favour, for 
the summer was drawing to a close and bad weather was 
imminent. The indecision of Hakon proved fatal, for at 
the critical juncture, a great storm arose which shattered 
his fleet, and so crippled his resources as to compel him to 
seek the safety of Lamlash Harbour. The battle, if it 
deserves that name, consisted of a series of skirmishes 
between detached bodies of Norwegians who managed to 
effect a landing, and overwhelming numbers of Scots ; and 
the Norsemen showed to advantage equally with the Scots. 


It is probable that from first to last, the number of 
Norwegians engaged in these skirmishes did not exceed 
1,500, and the loss of 24,000 men, which, according to some 
Scottish historians, they suffered, is a wild exaggeration. 
But the political results of the conflict were far-reaching, for 
the Hebrides were finally severed from the Norwegian 
Crown, and incorporated with the Kingdom of Scotland. 
The aged King Hakon reached Kirk wall, where a fever, 
supervening upon his crushing misfortune, carried him off, 
on 1 5th December, 1263. His remains found a final 
resting place in the Cathedral of Bergen. 

Alexander III. followed up his success with energy. 
He brought Magnus of Man to his knees, and in 1264 
sent a force to the Hebrides to reduce them to submission. 
Some of the chiefs were hanged, others sought safety in 
flight, and bribes secured the allegiance of the remainder. 
In the following year, Magnus of Norway, Hakon's son 
and successor, opened negotiations with the Scottish King 
for the final settlement of the Hebridean question. He 
offered to resign Bute and Arran, while retaining possession 
of the other islands, but this offer was naturally rejected. 
Finally, 'in 1266, the whole of the islands (excluding the 
Orkneys and Shetlands)with the patronage of the Bishopric 
of the Isles, were ceded to Scotland, in consideration of 
4,000 merks of silver, to be paid in annual instalments, 
each of 1,000 merks, and thereafter an annual quit-rent of 
loo merks. A note to the treaty stipulated that the pre- 
vailing custom of enthralling a conquered people should 
not be observed in this instance. By this provision, Magnus 
secured the Norsemen in the Isles against a state of servi- 
tude which, to their proud spirits, would have been the 
most galling feature of what probably seemed to them 
a disgraceful surrender. 

The Perth Treaty was sealed by the betrothal of Erik, 
son of Magnus, to Margaret, daughter of Alexander. The 
marriage dower, however, was apparently not paid, for in 
1299-1300, Hakon V. of Norway claimed the arrears, and 
with them, the resumption of Norway's sovereignty over 



the Sudreys. Application was made to England to aid the 
Norwegians in expelling the Scots from the islands, but 
the appeal fell upon deaf ears. In 1312, the treaty was 
ratified by Hakon and Robert Bruce, and finally, in 1426, 
by James I. of Scotland and Erik VIII. of Pomerania, 
King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. But the annual 
tribute of 100 merks known as the " Annual of Norway " 
was not punctually paid, and in course of time, the arrears, 
with fines, amounted to a large sum. Finally, the marriage 
of James III. with Margaret, daughter of Christian I., King 
of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, was utilised to settle 
the account between the two countries. In return for the 
dowry settled by James on his wife, his father-in-law agreed 
to relinquish all claims, both past and prospective, in 
respect of the tribute ; pledged the Orkneys for the sum of 
50,000 florins ; and agreed to pay a further sum of 10,000 
florins before the departure of his daughter for Scotland. 
But the impecunious King was able to find only 2,000 
florins towards payment of the stipulated sum, and for the 
balance of 8,000 florins, was obliged to pledge the Shet- 
lands as he had mortgaged the Orkneys. These pledges 
have never been redeemed, and if, as was held in 1668, the 
right of redemption is imprescribable, it is conceivable that 
it may be put in force some day in the very dim future, 
when the British Empire begins to break up ! 

The accounts of the contemporary manners and customs 
of the Norsemen in the Mother country, in Iceland, and in 
the Orkneys and Shetlands, as derived from unimpeachable 
sources, form a sure basis for ascertaining the conditions of 
life, as they prevailed in the Outer Hebrides during the 
Norse occupation. 

Each district or herad was governed by a hirsir y whose 
office was at once patriarchal, military, pontifical, and 
hereditary. By Harold Fairhair, the power and indepen- 
dence of the hersir in Norway were for ever destroyed, and 
the exodus which took place, as the outcome of his strong 
rule, marked the extinction of the privileges of the htrad 
and the litrsir in the Mother country, and their introduction 


to her colonies. The boendr were the independent land- 
owners in the community, where all were classed as " free " 
or " unfree." They formed the backbone of the colonies ; 
their voices carried greatest weight at the Things and in 
the election of their rulers ; and they were trained for 
service in war alike on land and sea. The thralls were, of 
course, the lowest grade of society, and it may be safely 
assumed that a large proportion of this class in the Outer 
Hebrides consisted of the natives whom the Norsemen 
found and overcame. The slave trade was a recognised 
institution among the Norwegians ; they bought and sold 
their captives like so many cattle. Thralls were frequently 
employed by their masters to do their morally dirty work, 
such as cutting throats and " exposing " children. Under 
certain conditions, such as specific work or marked bravery 
in the field, it was possible for the thrall to acquire his 

We have seen that the title of " King " was held not only 
by the Viceroys of Man, but by certain of the Sudreyan 
chiefs. The regal title borne by the governors of Man 
found its justification in the power which was actually 
vested in them ; but notwithstanding the various attempts 
made by these kinglets to assert their independence, it is 
clear that their very existence was bound up with the 
overlordship of Norway, which implied protection from 
absorption by their powerful neighbours. The assumption 
of the kingly dignity by the Hebridean chiefs rested upon 
a different basis. In Norway, there were different classes 
of " kings " : Sea-kings who never slept beneath a " sooty 
rafter," and never drank at the " hearth- corner " ; Fylki an< 
Herad-kings who were territorial magnates ; Host-kings 
who, as the name denotes, were leaders of warriors the 
term being frequently interchangeable with Sea-kings ; 
and Skatt or Tax-kings. The lords of the Hebrides were 
Skatt-kings, the term implying their tributary relationship 
to Norway. Skatt * was a land tax originated by Harald 

* The words " skate " and sgadatt (the Gaelic name for herring) may possibly 
be related to the fish tax. 


r airhair ; and teinds were exacted after the introduction of 
Christianity. Although nominally valued in money, taxes 
were paid in produce, fish, &c. It is perhaps unnecessary 
to say that the word Vik-ings, or " men of the bays," has 
no connexion with kingship. The Vikings followed the 
profession of piracy, which was considered no less honour- 
able an occupation than cattle-lifting during the clan 
period in the Highlands. 

The allodial system of land-tenure (Icelandic bdal= 
ancestral possessions) which prevailed was the antithesis 
of feudalism ; it was based upon entire independence of 
Superiors and was completed by undisturbed possession of 
the land. The odallers were peasant nobles who possessed 
their lands simply by primal occupancy. Their title was 
absolute and inalienable, and their rights were transmitted 
to their children and jealously guarded from infringement. 
A man might take service with another and even sink to 
the position of a thrall, without forfeiting his right to the 
possession of his odal. The only " rent " known to the 
odaller was an assessment for public services. 

The odalsjord comprised the tun or township with its bol 
or chief farm (hence Eribol, &c.) enclosed by its hill dyke 
which separated its inner field from its soettur or common 
outpasture (hence Shader, Sheshader, Linshader and other 
similar names in Lewis). The rights of the community in 
respect of these commons were carefully preserved by the 
herad. Every settler had the right to make use of the 
wood and water on them, to fish in them, to hunt and trap 
animals, to cut timber and mow grass, and to build smithies 
and hunting huts. The rights of previous users of the 
common land had to be observed by new-comers. The 
settler was expected to fence his property within twelve 
months. Outside his homefield, he owned as out-grounds 
all the surrounding land as far as he could throw his 
knife. Deer enclosures could be made on common land, 
and here again the hunting privileges of previous settlers 
had to be respected. Fishing-grounds were common pro- 
perty, but there were probably certain restrictions imposed 


in respect both of fishing and seal catching, which were 
intended for the general good. A close time was doubtless 
observed ; we know, at any rate, that the law of seal- 
catching contained this provision. 

In modern times, the question of " commons " has again 
and again formed in the Outer Hebrides a bone of con- 
tention between the people and their proprietors. Believing 
that, from time immemorial, their forefathers possessed 
inalienable rights in those lands, the crofters have resented 
any attempts to encroach upon their privileges. It would 
not be difficult to produce strong presumptive evidence 
in support of these traditional claims. That the rights 
existed during the Norse occupation is more than likely, 
and that they were subsequently respected by their feudal 
Superiors is suggested by the persistence of the tradition. 

The judicial and legislative functions exercised by 
the Things of Norway were of a thoroughly democratic 
character. Representative government was dear to the 
hearts of the Norsemen. In its essence, the system of 
representation bears a striking analogy to the Presbyterian 
method of Church government, and its similarity to the 
legislative system of the United States of America is still 
more remarkable. The principle of local government was 
much in favour with the Norse colonists : the District and 
Parish Councils and Parochial Boards of the present day 
had their prototypes in the Norse colonies a thousand years 
ago. Meetings for settling local affairs were known by 
different names, according to the nature of the business to 
be transacted. Thus, the Hof-Thing dealt with religious 
matters ; the Hus-Thing with domestic affairs ; the Log- 
Thing was a Court of Law ; the Leidar-Thing a War 
Council ; the Hreppa-mot an assemblage of the skatt breth- 
ren of ^hrepp or skathald', and a Her ads-Things, meeting of 
the inhabitants of a Jierad* The functions of the Al- Thing, 
or Allsherjar-Thing (Thing of all the hosts) were the most 

* The union of several townships formed a hrepp, the community sharing 
the pasture (moar or moor) and the skatt exacted from strangers. A combina- 
tion of hrepps formed a htrad. 


important of all. As its name denotes, it was an assembly 
of all the freemen met together at stated intervals for 
deliberative, legislative, and judicial purposes. At the 
Al-Thing, only the land-owning boendr had a right to 
be heard, but the voting was equal ; one man one vote, 
rather than one value one vote, was the principle that 

Originally, the A I- Thing enacted and administered the 
laws, and regulated taxation ; in the latter respect, by 
voting or withholding supplies, it occupied an analogous 
position to that of the British House of Commons, and 
its power in determining peace or war was by this means 
paramount. But its legislative functions were subsequently 
rendered to a large extent unnecessary by the compilation 
of a Book of the Laws, and in later times, its duties were 
mainly restricted to matters of finance, administration, and 
justice. The name Al-Thing itself seems to have given 
place to the less imposing one of Log (or Law) Thing. 
The people were summoned to the Things and to war by 
an arrow, and subsequently by a cross, and were accom- 
modated in booths (whence the Hebridean " bothies "). 

Christianity was legally established in Iceland in the 
year 1000 A.D., but long before that date the Norsemen 
in the Outer Hebrides had become Christians, though 
there is evidence to show that the change of form was 
frequently unaccompanied by a change of belief. The 
Christianity of the converted Norsemen was at first a 
curious amalgam : they professed the new faith but clung 
to their pagan superstitions. They were good Christians 
when everything was going well, but in times of danger, 
especially at sea, they invoked the aid of Thor. The 
Christian priests sought to engraft their religion on the 
old beliefs, trusting in the efficacy of the former to destroy, 
in course of time, the traces of Paganism which remained. 
Curious relics of this grafting process are seen in the princi- 
pal Christian festivals, the names of the days of the week, 
and in other forms. And some of the superstitions of the 
Northmen, such as the belief in witchcraft, the working of 

F 2 


spells, and the faith in omens and dreams, are far from 
being extinct in the Long Island even at the present day. 

In their lighter moments the Norsemen were boon 
companions, but refining influences were present which 
tempered the grossness of their physical appetites. The 
skald recited his poems ; the sagaman told his stories ; 
the musician played his harp or his fiddle. Athletic sports 
had an important place in the community, the chief 
exercises being wrestling, leaping, and swimming, games 
of ball, hunting, and falconry. Chess-playing, riddles, 
feats of jugglery, and horse fights, were favourite amuse- 
ments. The splendid set of chessmen, chiefly made of 
walrus-tusk, which were found in 1831 at Uig in Lewis, 
and which are now in the British Museum, probably dates 
from the Norse occupation. Two of the figures are repre- 
sented in the act of biting their shields, a common practice 
with Norse champions, when overtaken by a fit of berserk 

As a fighter, the Norseman was unexcelled, either on 
land or sea. He loved his sword as his child, sometimes 
retaining its genealogy, and giving it a distinctive name. 
The axe, the bow, and the sling, were his other weapons 
of offence ; the coat of mail, the shield, and the helmet, 
constituted his means of defence. His ships varied in size 
and shape as in use. The longships which were some- 
times sheathed with iron above the sea level were the 
most powerful ; the skutas (whence the sgoths of the Long 
Island) were the swiftest of the war-vessels. The size of 
a ship and her fighting strength were gauged by the number 
of oars, or the number of benches, which she carried. 
Kaupship was the generic name for trading vessels, one 
kind of cargo ship being called byrding (burden), of which 
name, the "birling" of the Hebrideans, during the clan 
days, may be a corruption. The merchant-ships were dis- 
tinguished from the war-vessels by the absence of war- 
pennants, dragons at the stem and stern, and shields hung 
over the side. As a rule, they enjoyed immunity from 
the attentions of the Vikings, who considered it unmanly 


to attack a trading vessel at sea. The Norsemen, warriors 
though they were, entertained no stupid prejudice against 
trade ; on the contrary, they regarded it as an honourable 
calling. Harald Fairhair's son, Bjorn, was a famous kaup- 
man or merchant. 

In their pagan days, the Northmen had a horror of 
dying a natural death, a certain entry to Valhalla await- 
ing him who died gloriously on the battlefield. The Sagas 
are full of their reckless daring and absolute indifference 
to danger. It is probable that for some time after their 
nominal conversion to Christianity, the influence of the 
Valhalla belief was universally present with them, the 
name of Heaven being substituted for Valhalla without 
any essential change in the association of ideas. The 
pagan Valkyrias doubtless became transformed into 
Christian angels ; and the twin occupations of drinking 
and fighting in Valhalla were perhaps the only ideas 
relating to the future world of rewards which were sub- 
stantially modified by the teaching of the Christian priests. 

The marriage, baptism, and burial customs of the 
Norsemen are full of interest. If the standard of civili- 
sation to which a community has attained be measured by 
the status of its women, these rough warriors must take a 
high place. Marriage was usually a business affair, the term 
brud-kaup. or bride-buying, being suggestive of its nature. 
Certain characteristics of the betrothal bear a similarity to 
the custom known as " bundling," which is still practised 
in the Long Island. The breaking of a betrothal was 
punished by outlawry. Marriage on insufficient means was 
strictly forbidden, the punishment being " lesser " outlawry 
if any children were born ; nor were marriages of rela- 
tions to the fifth degree permissible. A wife held 
property in her own right, and property acquired after 
marriage was shared between husband and wife under 
fixed conditions ; after they had been married for twenty 
years, they were partners according to law. The strictness 
of the marriage tie as a rule was carefully observed, but 
Divorce was procurable for infidelity on the part of the 


wife, or ill-treatment on the part of the husband. Women 
who wore breeches literally and men who wore any 
approach to women's clothing were liable to be divorced ; 
and in Iceland, divorce on account of extreme poverty 
after marriage was lawful. Separation was conditioned by 
well-defined laws, which were based upon the principle that 
the agreement must be mutual, otherwise the offending 
party was mulcted in the loss of property. Extravagance 
on the part of women was checked by a salutary law ; but 
a woman who earned her own living and there were such 
in those days had a right to please herself in such matters. 
Polygamy was rare among the Norsemen, being confined 
to the great chiefs, who must occasionally have found it to 
be a doubtful privilege. 

The abandonment of children by exposure was frequently 
practised, the causes being deformity, family discord, the 
presence of ill-omens, or the poverty of the parents.^ The 
Spartans similarly provided for a survival of the fittest and 
the elimination of the unfit. The custom of " exposing " 
children long prevailed in Lewis, and isolated instances 
have been known in comparatively modern times. The 
naming of a child by the Norsemen was a matter of great 
importance, the chief object being to avoid an unlucky 
name, and to choose one calculated to bring good fortune 
with it. Hence the prevalence of names prefixed by that 
of the god Thor. Fostering children was common among 
the Norse chiefs, as it was among the Highland chiefs of 
later days, and in both cases, fosterhood formed one of 
the strongest possible ties. There is a striking analogy 
between the tales in the Sagas and the traditions of the 
Highlands, relating to the unselfish love which existed 
between foster-brothers. Among the Norsemen, there are 
instances of men becoming foster-brothers as the result of 
mutual admiration for mutual prowess, the ceremony of 
fosterhood taking the form of a pledge, accompanied by a 
commingling of blood. 

The burial customs of the Norsemen were in some 
respects peculiar to them. Fire was regarded as a puri- 


fying agent, by means of which the dead were rendered fit 
to be received into the presence of Odin. It was the belief 
that the warrior whose body was burned on a funeral pyre 
would go to Valhalla, with such of his possessions as were 
consumed with him. Hence it was customary for the favour- 
ite horses, dogs, falcons, and sometimes the thralls, of the 
dead to be burned or " mounded " (buried) with him, in 
order to enable him to make an entry into Valhalla befitting 
his rank and fame. Burial in ships was practised, so far 
as is known, by no people except the Norsemen. In 
some instances for example, the ship found at Gokstad 
the vessel with its mortuary chamber was mounded. The 
usual practice, however, was to set fire to the ship and send 
her out to sea, a sight calculated to impress even the fierce 

The Norse code of morality is set forth in the Hdvdmal 
(Song of the High), the authorship of which is attributed 
to Odin himself. He who practised the apothegms of the 
Hdvdmal must have been a pattern of wisdom, for many 
of them are pregnant with the philosophy of life. The 
Norse criminal laws contained provisions which might be 
copied with advantage in these days. There were no bank- 
ruptcy laws to shelter the reckless, the incompetent, or the 
dishonest trader. Adulteration of food was placed on the 
same footing as robbery and arson ; the punishment in each 
case was severe. A wise discrimination was shown in the 
treatment of criminals. The swindler was outlawed, but 
the man who stole food in order to sustain life escaped 
punishment altogether. The crimes visited with the 
severest punishment were murder, perjury, seduction, adul- 
tery, and the violation of the sanctity of blood-relationship. 
Family feuds were frequent, but revenge for injuries com- 
mitted was frequently satisfied by the system of fines 
which characterised Gothic legislation ; the aggrieved 
family having the right to exact compensation (weregild). 

Grave misconceptions sometimes exist as to the character 
and institutions of the Norsemen of the Viking Age. 
Rough, strong men ; quick to resent an insult ; relentless 


foes but staunch friends ; men of action rather than men 
of speech ; superstitious to a degree, yet eminently practical ; 
glorifying physical prowess, yet not despising mental 
attainments ; cruel, remorseless, and domineering, yet 
truthful, honourable, and generous ; men of many moods ; 
children of Nature ; such are some of the characteristics 
and incongruities presented by a study of the " hardy 
Norsemen " of yore. Incomparable sailors, they submitted 
to the voice of authority, but resented the hand of tyranny ; 
the wide expanse of ocean, canopied by the blue vault of 
Heaven, was their home ; and children of such a home 
refused to permit the shackling of their liberties. De- 
mocracy was the only form of government which they 
would tolerate ; government by and for the people was their 
political creed ; a love of justice was ingrained in their 
nature ; and despotism and oppression were abhorrent to 
their souls. Truly there was much to admire in these Sons 
of the Sea. They were emphatically men; and if a softening 
of their manners, a repression of their passions, a smoothing 
of the rough corners of their character, would have served 
to present them in a more favourable light to history, they 
were at least saved from the enervating luxuries, the 
calculating craftiness, and the blunted sense of honour, so 
prevalent among more refined contemporaries. While 
their ferocity is to be deplored, their virtues are to be com- 
mended. The former is blazoned on the pages of history ; 
the latter are too frequently overlooked. 

That the present inhabitants of the Long Island have 
inherited many of the characteristics of their Norse fore- 
fathers goes without saying. Physically, the Lewismen of 
the Norse type are the superiors of their fellow-islanders. 
It would indeed be difficult to find finer specimens of 
manhood anywhere than the Butt of Lewis fishermen and 
crofters, who retain in a remarkable degree the Norse phy- 
siognomy of their progenitors. That the Norse character 
has impressed itself in a marked degree upon the tempera- 
ment of the Long Islander admits of no reasonable 
doubt. That the fatalistic tendencies, the melancholia, 


the peculiar outlook upon life, so frequently observed in 
the Outer Hebrides, are not attributable to "Celtic 
gloom," but to the Norse strain in the blood, is probably 
as true as the assertion that many of the prevalent super- 
stitions are traceable to the same origin. The hard condi- 
tions of life ; the joyless existence of a grinding poverty ; 
the melancholy sough of the restless sea which dashes 
against their rock-bound coast ; these are influences which, 
acting upon a temperament naturally prone to moodiness, 
have accentuated the inherited tendency, and produced the 
" gloom " which is as little akin to the Celtic nature, as is 
the light-hearted Irishman to the grave Hebridean. Dr. 
Beddoe, a careful observer, states that " it is curious that 
wherever in the North of Scotland Scandinavian blood 
abounds, hypochondriasis, hysteria, and other nervous dis- 
orders are remarkably frequent," and he mentions an 
account of a hysterical epidemic in Shetland (quoted in 
Hecker's Epidemics of the Middle Ages). Whatever effect 
the Norse blood may have upon the temperament of the 
Long Islanders, it is at least certain that their love of 
the sea ; their unsurpassed qualities unlike those of the 
Celts as sailors and fishermen ; their contempt for the 
dangers of their calling ; are largely attributable to their 
descent from those warriors who, a thousand years ago, 
were the undisputed monarchs and the fear-inspiring 
scourges of the Atlantic Ocean.* 

* The principal works consulted in connexion with the foregoing sections 
are : Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Wilson's Pre- 
historic Annals, Dr. Anderson's Pagan Scotland, Nilsson's Primitive 
Inhabitants of Scandinavia, Worsa^'s Primitive Antiguitic* of Denmark, 
Johnstone's Antiquitates, Bunbury's History of Ancient Geography, the Irish 
Annals (Ulster and Four Masters], the Irish historians (Keating, Todd, 
O'Curry, D' Alton, and Haliday), Adamnan's Columba, Skene's Celtic Scot- 
land, Pinkerton's History of Scotland, Robertson's Early Kings, Chalmers' 
Caledonia, Chronicles of Man (Camden and Munch), Torfceus, the Histories 
of the Isle of Man by Sacheverell, Train and Moore, the Norse Sagas relating 
to the British Islands, and Du Chaillu's Viking Age. 


HEBRIDEAN genealogy is a useful handmaiden to Hebri- 
dean history : what is wanting in the highways of history, 
is sometimes found in the byways of genealogy. The pride 
of pedigree had a tendency to become a fetish in the 
Hebrides ; he whose family tree did not attain a certain 
standard of luxuriance and age was a pariah among the 
elect. Precedence at table was regulated by purity of 
blood ; the seats of honour were reserved for the men 
whose pedigrees were as long as their swords. The 
seanachies, endowed with the gift of a fertile imagination, 
found no difficulty in supplying links in the genealogical 
chain, where these were missing ; and the bards seconded 
their efforts by feeding the chiefs upon the same pabulum 
of family pride. Unhappy was he who had no ancestors. 

A striking proof of the pride of pedigree is contained in 
a story told by Hugh Macdonald, the Sleat seanachie. In 
the fifteenth century, a great feast was given by John of the 
Isles, Earl of Ross, to his vassals, among whom were 
Macleocl of Lewis and Macleod of Harris. The guests 
were arranged in order of precedence by Macdonald of 
Moidart, who concluded his duties by declaring that he 
would now sit down, as his was the best and the oldest cf 
the surnames represented at the feast. Turning to the 
Macleods, the Macleans, and the Macneills, whom he had 
left standing, he added : " As for these fellows who have 
raised up their heads of late, and are upstarts ; whose 
pedigrees we know not, nor even they themselves, let them 
sit as they please." The insult cost the speaker dear, for 
his lands were ravaged by Macleod of Harris on his way 
home. Reprisals followed, and thus a question of genea- 
logy became a casus belli between two clans. 


If the origin of the Macleods was a puzzle in the 
fifteenth century, it has been equally a puzzle up to the 
present day. Who was the mysterious Leod, the pro- 
genitor of the clan, and when did he live ? Various in- 
vestigators have advanced various theories, but they are all 
guess work.* With one exception, they declare that the 
clan is of Scandinavian origin ; but the exception is an 
important one. Dr. Skene, who pinned his faith to the 
Kilbride manuscript (circa 1540) discovered by him, 
stoutly maintained that the Macleods are of Celtic origin. 
But even in the Kilbride MS., as well as in the MS. of 
McFirbis, the Irish genealogist, the Celtic names are inter- 
spersed with those of Scandinavian forbears. These 
genealogies are apparently at complete variance with one 
another, an alternative explanation of which may possibly 
be that one is in the male, and the other in the female, 
line. Taking the first three names : the Kilbride genealogy 
makes Leod the son of Oloig, son of Oib, son of Oilmoir ; 
another genealogy quoted by McFirbis (that of the Mac- 
leans) makes him the son of Gillemuire, son of Raice, son 
of Olbair Snoice (son of Gillemuire). The traditional 
account in the Macleod family is that Leod was the son of 
Olave the Black, King of Man and the Outer Hebrides, by 
Christina, daughter of Farquhar O'Beolan, Earl of Ross. 
Which of these versions, if any, is correct ? Can it be, 
after all, that Olave the Black, Oloig, and Gillemuire, are 
one and the same person ? 

It is not difficult to believe that Oloig is simply Olave 
Og, or Young Olave, while Oilmoir in the Kilbride MS. 
and Olbair in the Irish genealogy may well stand for 
Olave Mor, or Olave the Great; in other words, Olave 
(Og) the Black, and his grandfather Olave (Mor) the Red. 
The names Gillemuire and Raice may conceivably be the 
Celtic appellations for Olave the Black, his father, and his 

* Johnstone's surmise was Liot Jarl of Orkney ; Pope's (the translator of 
Tor&eus), Liot the Niding ; while Captain Thomas endeavoured to identify 
Leod with Ljotolf, a Norwegian chief who lived in Lewis and who was a 
friend of Sweyn of Gairsay, the famous pirate. All three lived in the twelfth 


great-grandfather. " Muire " appears to be St. Mourie or 
Maelrubha (rather than the Virgin Mary) of whose name 
Rice (Raice) is known to be a variant. Such compound 
names as Gille-Muire, Gille-Colum, Gille-Anrias, Gille- 
Bride, and similar appellatives, were of frequent occurrence 
among the Celtic Christians during the Norse domination 
of the Hebrides ; and after the conversion of the Norsemen 
to Christianity, they may have been applied by the Celts to 
Norwegians of rank in the Isles, who were distinguished 
for their devotion to the saints under whose patronage 
they had placed themselves. In heathen times, it was a 
common practice among the Norsemen to adopt the name 
of the god Thor as a talisman against danger ; for example, 
Thor-kall (Torquil i.e. Thor's servant) and Thor-mod 
(Tormod t.e. brave like Thor), and the same idea may be 
traced in the personal names derived from those of Chris- 
tian saints. St. Mourie, who was venerated in the Long 
Island, as well as on the west coast of Ross and in 
Sutherland, was likely enough the patron saint of Olave 
the Black and his predecessors when they sojourned in 
the North Isles. The church of St. Maelrubha at Eorra- 
pidh, Ness, which is commonly called St. Olafs, was very 
probably founded by Olave the Black during his residence 
in Lewis. The local tradition is that it was built by a 
" Norse King " named Olaf, and the name of its founder is 
applied to it even more frequently than that of the saint to 
whom it was dedicated. 

Whether it is possible to reconcile the apparently con- 
flicting genealogies or not, the weight of evidence in 
support of a Scandinavian origin of the clan is over- 
whelming. Such purely Norse names as Torquil and 
Tormod,* which persist among the Macleods to the 
present day ; the eponym " Leod " which is the same as 
the Norse " Liot," and which appears in the Saxon 
Chronicle under the Teutonic forms of Leod-wald and 

* It is a curious circumstance that whereas " Torquil '' has no English 
or Gaelic equivalent, "Tormod" has been Englished as "Norman" i.e. 
Northman or Norwegian. 


Leod-ulf ; the heraldic proofs which exist at Dunvegan, a 
stone panel, ascribed to the seventeenth century, bearing 
the arms of Man* ; and most important of all, the 
unbroken tradition in the family of Macleod of Macleod ; 
all bear strongly against the Celtic theory. 

The only Leod known to early Scottish history is a 
lay abbot of Brechin, whose son, " Gylandrys MacLod," 
a man of some consequence, figures in charters of 1227 
and 1232. Unless, however, we suppose that this Leod, 
whose estates were forfeited, settled in the Hebrides when 
Malcolm IV. dispersed his troublesome subjects in Moray, 
there is nothing to connect the abbot of Brechin with 
the great clan of Lewis and Harris. On the whole, the 
tradition of the Macleods, which attributes their origin to 
Olave the Black, affords the only theory that appears to 
be tenable. 

Paul McTyre, a famous freebooter who lived in the 
second half of the fourteenth century, is stated to have 
been a great-grandson of Olave the Black and of 
Christina, daughter of the Earl of Ross.f The father of 
Paul was Leod MacGilleandrais who, from his ferocious 
disposition, was appropriately nicknamed " Tyre " or " the 
Wolf." Leod was the chief instrument in the execution 
at Inverness, in 1346, of Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail 
(" Coinneach na Sroine ") whose son Murdoch (" Black 
Murdoch of the Cave") fled, when a youth, for refuge, 
to his uncle, Macleod of Lewis. Returning some years 
afterwards, with 120 Lewismen, Murdoch met and slew 
Leod MacGilleandrais at Featha Leoid, or Leod's Bog, 
in Kenlochewe. The only member of Leod's party who 
escaped was his son Paul, the notorious cateran of later 
years. Paul's daughter married Walter Ross of Balna- 
gown, and her dowry consisted of the lands of Strath- 
carron, Strathoykell, and Westray. 

The three legs were to use an Irishism the arms of Man as early 

5 the fourteenth century. They represented the svastica which the Christian 

cross superseded in Scandinavian countries. Previous to the fourteenth 

century, the arms of Man were a galley, which figures prominently in the 

arms of the Hebridean clans. 

t The Earls of Ross, p. 8, by F. N. Reid. 


This brings us to another tradition, the genuineness of 
which was accepted by Dr. Skene himself; it dates at 
least as far back as the sixteenth century. This tradition 
states that three brothers came out of Denmark (or 
Norway) Leod, Guin, and Leandris ; that Leod conquered 
Lewis, and gave rise to the Clan MacLeod ; and that from 
Leandris was descended Paul McTyre, who gave his lands 
of Strathoykell, Strathcarron, and Westray, to Walter Ross 
of Balnagown. It has been shown that Paul was the son 
of Leod " the Wolf," the son of Leandris, the son of Olave 
the Black, history thus tallying with tradition. If, there- 
fore, this portion of the tradition is confirmed by historical 
proof, it may be reasonably assumed that the portion 
which affirms that Leod was a brother of Leandris is also 
historically correct ; and if that be admitted, it follows 
that Leod was a son of Olave the Black. 

Lewis tradition offers confirmation of this view. Captain 
Dymes (1630) was told that Leod was the son of a 
" Danish Kinge." John Morison of Bragar (circa 1680) 
states that Torquil Macleod, the first of that name, was 
the son of " Claudius the son of Olipheous," said to be a 
son of the King of Norway. These are simply variants 
of the tradition which makes Leod a son of Olave the 

As far back as 1630, it was supposed that Leod had 
given his name to the Island of Lewis, and the mistake, 
which was natural enough, seeing that both names are 
identical, has been frequently repeated in modern times. 
If an opinion may be hazarded, it is that Leod was born 
in Lewis during his father's occupancy of the island, and 
derived his name from his birth-place. Tradition tells us 
that he was fostered by his father's friend, Paul Balkasson, 
governor of Skye, who gave him Harris, which Olave the 
Black may have ceded to Balkasson ; and that the Earl 
of Ross, his maternal grandfather, gave him part of the 
barony of Glenelg. Leod is said to have married the 
daughter of a Norseman in Skye, MacRaild Armuinn 
(Mac Harald the lord) and to have received as his 


wife's dowry, Dunvegan, Minginish, Bracadale, Duirinish, 

Lyndale, and part of Trotternish. On his death, his 

possessions were divided between his sons Torquil, who 

got Lewis, and Tormod, who got Harris and the Skye 

property. In the absence of positive proof either way, 

it would serve no good purpose to discuss which was 

the senior branch of the clan, the Siol Torquil or the Siol 

Tormod (" seed " of Torquil and Tormod) ; there are good 

arguments on both sides ; but Macleod of Harris was long 

recognised as being " of that ilk." The armorial bearings 

of the Macleods of Harris are a castle triple-towered, while 

the Macleods of Lewis had a mountain in flames.* The 

arms of the Siol Torquil, with the three legs of Man, 

were quartered with the Mackenzie arms by Sir George 

Mackenzie of Tarbat (the descendant of Torquil Conanach 

Macleod) ; and the burning mountain formed the crest 

of the Seaforth family, and, with the appropriate motto 

Luceo non uro, still figures in the armorial bearings of the 

Mackenzies.f John Buchanan of Auchmar affirms that 

Leod was the Norwegian governor of the Isles in the reign 

of William the Lion, and that his sons were permitted by 

Alexander III. to remain in possession of their estates as 

they were in high favour. Leod could not have been born 

before the death of William the Lion (1214), but it is 

quite possible that he may have acted as his father's 

lieutenant in Lewis during the latter part of the reign 

of Alexander II., who died in 1249. A copy of a charter 

in the Clan Ranald Charter Chest, dated igth January, 

1245, and witnessed by " Macleod of Lewis and Macleod 

of Harris," has been quoted in support of the theory that 

the origin of the Macleods must be placed further back 

than the period we have assigned to it. Undoubtedly 

this would be the case if the charter were genuine, or if 

* In Stodart's Scottish Arms, there are several drawings of Macleod 
arms (both branches) the earliest being circa 1450-5. 

\ Sir George Mackenzie (the first Earl of Cromartie) calls himself "a 

ittle chief of the only Norwegian family remaining in Scotland, viz., the 

race of Olaus, one of the last Royalists of Man, and of his son Leodus who 

was heritor of the Island of Lewes." (Eraser's Earls of Cromartie, Vol. I., 

p. clxi.). 


genuine, accurate. But this charter, on the face of it, is 
either spurious, or the date is wrong ; and in either case is 
valueless, as proof of the antiquity of the Macleods. It 
purports to be a document conveying certain lands from 
" Donald King of the Isles " to John Bisset of the Aird, 
and signed at Donald's " Castle of Dingwall." In the 
year 1245, there was no such person as Donald King of 
the Isles who had a castle at Dingwall, for this description 
cannot apply to the grandson of Somerled. If Donald of 
Harlaw is meant, then the charter is pre-dated more than 
a century and a half. All the evidence points to the con- 
clusion that the progenitor of the Macleods lived about 
the middle of the thirteenth century ; a view which was 
held by Macfarlane, the genealogist.* 

It would be rash to assume that the Macleods are the 
oldest clan indigenous to Lewis. On the contrary, John 
Morison of Bragar states that the three oldest families 
were the Morisons, the Macaulays, and the Macnicols or 
Nicolsons. To the Morisons he gives a Norse descent 
their founder Mores (Maurice), according to him, being the 
son of Kennan, natural son of a king of Norway. The 
Macaulays, he says, were descended from an Irishman, 
Iskair (Issachar or Zachary)t Macaulay. The Macnicols, 
he affirms, were slaughtered by Torquil, son of Leod, after 
he had violently espoused the only daughter of their chief; 
and by these means he came into possession of the whole of 
Lewis, with the Earl of Ross as his Superior. That Torquil 
did not inherit the whole of the island appears to be 
probable, for according to another tradition, his grandson, 
also named Torquil, acquired sole possession by running 
down in the Minch the birling of the chief of the 
Macnaughtons, who was drowned, and whose lands in 
Lewis Torquil thereupon seized. This tradition states 
that the Macnaughtons were in Lewis three centuries 

* Contemporary with Shaw, fourth of his name, who died in 1265, were 
Gillean and Leod, progenitors of the Macleans and Macleods (Scott. Hist. 
Soc., Vol. XXXIII., p. 164). 

t The name Zachary is rendered in Gaelic as " Issachari." ' Irskar' is 
Icelandic for "Irish." 


before the Macleods, but there is reason to believe that 
the Macnaughtons have been confused with the Mac- 
nicols (MacNachtans and MacNechtals) and that the 
Macnaughtons never had a footing in Lewis. Tradition 
supports the view that the old castle of Stornoway was 
built by the Macnicols before the days of the Macleods. 

Torquil, third chief in descent from Leod, had a charter 

from David II. of four davochs of land in Assynt, together 

with the fortress therein, and according to tradition, he 

came into possession of this property by marrying the 

heiress of the Macnicols. All this seems to point to the 

fact that the Macnicols or Nicolsons were in the Long 

Island and in Assynt at a remote period, and had 

important possessions there before the Clan Macleod had 

an existence. It is highly probable that they were 

descended from a Norse settler named Nicolasson, who 

was one of the most influential of the boendr. The 

Sleat seanachie tells us that Olave the Red, who lived in 

the twelfth century, killed the chief of the Macnicols in 

North Uist. A manuscript of 1467 traces the descent of 

the Nicolsons from one Gregill, son of Gillemuire, and 

states that the traditional progenitor of the clan is a certain 

Krycul, who is supposed to have lived in the thirteenth 

century ; but the Nicolsons of the Outer Hebrides are, as 

we have seen, probably of much more ancient lineage than 

this tradition represents them to be.* 

It is likely that the Morisons, as suggested by the 
Bragar genealogist, are also descended from Norse for- 
bears. It is far from improbable, indeed, that they were a 
sept of the Macleods. John Morison states the belief 
that the progenitor of the Macleods, and the father of the 
progenitor of the Morisons, were both sons of the " King 
of Noravay," or in other words, the Norse King of Man 
and the North Isles. The Gaelic name of the Morisons 
Clan MacGillemhoire or Gillemuire when taken in con- 
junction with the preceding remarks about Saint Mourie 

* The Sleat seanachie refers to " the ancient Danes of the Isles, namely 
the Macduffies and Macnagills." 



and the Kings of Man appears to support the view that 
the relations between the Macleods and the Morisons were 
of an intimate nature. The name Morison is an English 
rendering of the word Gillemuire servant or devotee of 
Mourie and the original form survives in the modern 
name of Gilmour. Perhaps the strongest argument for the 
Macleod-Morison connexion consists in the fact that 
during the time the Macleods possessed Lewis, the chiefs 
of the Morisons whose residence was at Habost, Ness 
held the office of Supreme Judge of the island. This office 
was analogous to that of the lagmann or lawman in Norse 
times, except that it was hereditary, instead of elective, 
resembling in that respect the office of the godar y the 
district judges and priests in the Norse colonies. It can 
hardly be supposed that the chiefs of the Siol Torquil 
would permit such far-reaching authority to be vested in 
any clan whose interests were not thoroughly bound up 
with their own. The rupture which took place between 
the two families at the end of the sixteenth century of 
which particulars are given elsewhere in this volume was 
the first serious difference between them, of which there is 
any record. The Brieve (breitheamh = a judge), according 
to Sir Robert Gordon, was " a kind of judge among the 
islanders who hath an absolute judicatory, unto whose 
authority and censure they willingly submit themselves, 
and never do appeal from his sentence when he determines 
any debatable question in controversy between party and 
party." According to the seanachies, the Lords of the 
Isles had a Brieve in every island, the chief Brieve residing 
in Islay. The hereditary nature of this office was a serious 
flaw in the system. It placed immense power in the 
hands of men, whose qualifications as arbitrators must 
have been of an unequal nature ; and whose judgments 
can hardly have been invariably free from bias. The 
chiefs of the Morisons in Lewis the latter are sometimes 
called the Clan na Breitheamh enjoyed the privileges of 
the judgeship for many generations, until their final down- 
all early in the seventeenth century. The arms of the 


Morisons of Dersay (or Darcie) in Fife, the Morisons of 
Bogney, and the Morisons of Prestongrange, are three 
Moors' heads, an obvious pun on the word Morison, 
although tradition supplies a version of its own. Whether 
or not these Morisons are descended from the Lewis 
family it is difficult to say, but tradition seems to support 
the suggestion. It is worthy of remark that a son of the 
laird of Darcie (Learmont) went to Lewis, at the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, to negotiate for the release of 
the Fife adventurers who were held as hostages. It is 
possible that this circumstance may form a link between 
the Morisons of Darcie and the Morisons of Lewis. The 
Lewis Morisons are known to have formed colonies in the 
North of Scotland, no less than sixty families of them 
having, according to tradition, been transported to 
Durness and Old Shores by one of their chiefs who 
married a daughter of the Bishop of Caithness, receiving 
as her dowry the lands in question. 

The Macaulays of Uig were a family of Norse extrac- 
tion, and had no connexion with the Macaulays of 
Ardencaple, Dumbartonshire ; but it is very probable 
that the Loch Broom Macaulays and their namesakes 
in Lewis were descended from a common progenitor. 
The name Macaulay is the equivalent of the Norse 
Olafsson. It is impossible to identify the progenitor of 
the clan. Sir George Trevelyan tells us that the tradition 
in Lord Macaulay's family was that they were descended 
from " Olaus Magnus, King of Norway." Captain Thomas 
tried to find an ancestor for them in the person of Olvir 
Rosta, who lived in the twelfth century. It is curious to 
find the tradition of descent from a Norse King applying 
alike to the Macleods, the Morisons, and the Macaulays 
of Lewis. It suggests a common origin, and that the 
Macaulays, like the Morisons, may have been a sept of 
the Macleods ; but with that suggestion we must rest 
content, for there are no positive facts to go upon. 

The feuds between the Macaulays and the Morisons 
bulk largely in Lewis tradition. A great battle which 

G 2 


was fought between them at Barvas, is traditionally 
believed to be commemorated by the Thrushel stone, 
the large menhir in that parish, which the Morisons are 
said to have erected to mark their victory over their 
hereditary foes ; not, it may be added, a very likely 
story. Torquil Macleod, grandson of Torquil L, son 
of Leod, is believed to have acted as mediator in the 
quarrel ; if that be so, the feud between the Morisons 
and the Macaulays must date as far back as about the 
middle of the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth 
century, according to tradition, the Macaulays and a 
family of the Macleods who resided at Pabbay, Uig, had 
a blood-feud, from which the Macaulays, in the person 
of John Roy, ultimately emerged victorious. The story 
of John Roy Macaulay is told elsewhere in these pages. 

The Macivers, another well-known clan in Lewis, can 
hardly be regarded as indigenous to the soil. They are 
bracketed with the Morisons and Macaulays by the 
author of The Highlands of Scotland in 1750. He 
says : " The common inhabitants of Lewis are Morisons, 
McAulays and McKivers, but when they go from home, 
all who live under Seaforth call themselves Mackenzies." 
The Macivers, or most of them, seem to have come 
over to the island with the Mackenzies, as did several 
families, such as the Macraes and others, whose descen- 
dants are to be found there. The Macivers (Mac Ivar) 
are of Scandinavian origin* as are also apparently the 
Macaskills, a clan or sept whose chief habitat seems to 
be Lewis. "Ascall, son of Torcall, King of Ath-cliath" 
figures in the Annals of Ulster in 1171. In 1311, one 
" Gilbert Macaskil " is mentioned in connexion with 
certain lands in the Bishopric of Durham. 

In 1890-1, a return was made of the surnames of school 
children in three of the parishes of Lewis, from which the 
following extract is taken, showing those names whose 

* By McFirbis's genealogy, the Macleods are traced back to "Old Ivor 
the Great of the Judgments, from whom are descended the Siol-Sin-Iomhair 
in Albain and in Erin and in Lochlann." 


numbers exceed a hundred. The Macleods head the list 
in each parish ; the Morisons are second in Barvas ; the 
Mackenzies in Lochs ; and the Macdonalds in Uig. No 
return was made of the parish of Stornoway. 

Macleod 585 Maclean 155 

Macdonald 364 Smith 132 

Morison ... ... 239 

Mackenzie 184 

Mackay 166 

Maciver 127 

Macaulay 106 

The origin of the Macdonalds of North and South Uist 
and Benbecula is too well known to call for discussion 
here. The descendants of Somerled found their way in 
large numbers to Lewis, as appears from the fact that 
they are numerically second among the surnames in the 
list given above. 

The Macneills of Barra are without doubt of very 
ancient lineage. Martin tells us that according to the 
genealogists of his day, the chief of the Macneills was 
the thirty-fourth of his name who had possessed Barra 
in unbroken descent, and Dr. Walker asserts that the 
family were in possession of vouchers for about thirty 
descents. The Old Statistical Account states that the 
Macneills came from Ireland, and were in possession of 
Barra "before the Danes"; that "the Danish governor 
made alliance with them by marrying a daughter of one 
of their chiefs ; that their castle of Kisimul," according 
to tradition, " was built upwards of 500 years ago " *>., 
about the thirteenth century. All this points to their 
being in Barra at an early date as early as the ninth or 
tenth century if Dr. Walker's "vouchers" are reliable 
and it may be safely assumed that they were in possession 
of their patrimony during the Norse occupation of the 
Long Island. It is impossible to trace their progenitor, 
but it seems likely that he was a Northman named Njal 
Macneill being the same as Nilsson perhaps the Njal of 
the race of Ketil Flatneb who ruled in the Hebrides 
during the tenth century. According to the Old 
Statistical Account, the Macneills of Barra were always 


acknowledged as chiefs of the clan in Scotland. Nisbet, 
quoting from James Espline, Marchmont-Herald in 1630, 
calls Macneill of Barra " of that ilk." The Macneills of 
Gigha are said to be descended from Torquil Macneill 
filius Nigelli who, in the early part of the fifteenth 
century, received from the Lord of the Isles a charter of 
the lands of Gigha and Taynish, with the constabulary 
of Castle Sweyn in Knapdale. The progenitors of the 
Macneills of Barra and Gigha, it is alleged, were brothers, 
but there is abundant evidence to show that the two 
families were distinct from one another, and were not 
descended from a common ancestor. The local impor- 
tance of the chiefs of the Barra Macneills is humorously 
alluded to by James Wilson, in his Voyage Round the 
Coasts of Scotland and the Isles, published in 1842. It 
is related, says Wilson, that in ancient times it was 
customary for a herald to sound a horn from the battle- 
ments of the castle, and proclaim aloud in Gaelic: "Hear, 
oh ye people, and listen, oh ye nations! The great 
Macneill of Barra having finished his meal, the princes 
of the earth may dine ! " A good story, which the sceptic 
should leave undisturbed. In 1750, according to the 
author of the document published by Mr. Lang,* the 
pride and the poverty of the Barra Macneills were 
alike a byword among their neighbours. During the 
clan period, they figure as " part-takers " of the 
Macleans of Duart. The close relations which existed 
between the two families is perhaps suggested by the 
frequency of the name " Gilleonan "t among the Mac- 
neills, as well as by the similarity of their armorial 
bearings with those of the Macleans. 

* The Highlands of Scotland in 1750. 

f This name may possibly be related to the Maclennans rather than to the 


WHEN the Norwegian contingent from the Outer 
Hebrides joined Hakon s expedition, the Celtic inhabitants, 
according to tradition, planned a general massacre of those 
who were left. The Lewis Celts, so the tradition runs, 
invited the Norwegians to a great feast, the guests being so 
arranged that at a given signal, the Celts were able to dirk 
them where they sat without resistance. And in Barra, a 
heap of bones was in modern times unearthed, which were 
said to be the remains of the last "Danes" (Norwegians) 
murdered there after Largs. 

Whatever truth there may be in this tradition, it is 
reasonable to suppose that after the cession of the Isles, 
the preponderance of Norsemen in the Long Island disap- 
peared, and that they were replaced to a large extent by an 
influx of Scottish settlers from the mainland. These Celtic 
immigrants, coalescing with whatever kindred elements, if 
any, had preceded the advent of the Norsemen, or filtered 
into the islands during the Norse occupation, acquired an 
ascendancy over the Norwegians who remained which they 
have retained to the present day. No trace of the Norse 
language, except in place-names and in certain Gaelic 
words, now remains to tell of the race that possessed the 
Outer Hebrides for centuries. In course of time, a partial 
fusion of the two races was consummated. That the blend 
was not universal is proved by concrete examples to the. 
contrary. The people at the Butt of Lewis, for instance, 
were until comparatively recent times, regarded as a foreign 
colony by the rest of the islanders ; and at the present 
day, the Norse characteristics of the people in the parish of 
Ness are peculiarly conspicuous. The language of the 


Celts was imposed upon the Norsemen, but ethnology still 
tells its tale. 

That the Norwegians who elected to remain in the 
Hebrides were unwilling subjects of Scotland, appears 
from a mandate of 1282, by which the King of Norway 
ordered them to do homage to the King of Scotland as 
their lord. The disaffection in Lewis and Skye was 
quelled by William Earl of Ross, who received a Crown 
grant of those islands.* 

While Lewis thus became an appanage of the Earldom 
of Ross, Uist (North and South Uist, and Benbecula) passed 
into the hands of Dugall and Allan, sons of old Ruari 
the ex-pirate, who, on swearing allegiance to the Scottish 
Crown, and resigning their claims to Bute, were granted 
these lands in compensation, with the Earl of Ross as their 

On the death of Dugall, his brother Allan (an illegiti- 
mate son of Ruari) became the sole possessor of the 
property, to which were subsequently added Moiclart, 
Morar, Arisaig, and Knoydart in Garmoran. This family 
is consequently known in history as the Macruaries of 
Garmoran and the North Isles. In 1309, the Island of 
Barra was added to their possessions, being a grant from 
Robert Bruce in favour of Roderick MacAllan, as a reward 
for his patriotic services. In 1344, David Bruce confirmed 
the grant to Ranald Mac Roderick.^ 

It has been generally supposed that Harris passed to the 
Macruaries, but apart from the improbability of this sup- 
position, the evidence is altogether opposed to it. The 
assumption is founded on a charter by Robert Bruce dated 
(circa) 1320, which enumerates the properties of the 
Macruaries. It includes a grant of the island of " Hug " 
(? Hog or Mug, i.e. Muck), which has been held to mean 

* Reid's Earls of Ross, p. 8. 

f In 1292 the lands of the Earldom in North Argyll, which were formed 
into the Sheriffdom of Skye, included Lewis (with Harris), Uist, and Barra. 
(Acts of Parliament ', Vol. I., p. 447-) 

% Origines Parochiales Robertson's Index, p. 48. In order to avoid con- 
fusion where that might arise, parental names are in the following page.s 
differentiated from patronymic designations by the use of capital letters. 


Harris. In the charters of David II. relating to the 
Hebrides, there is no mention of this island. In the list 
of charters by Robert II., the island of Heryce or Herce 
appears, which has also been taken to represent Harris. 
In his Index to Missing Charters, Robertson transcribes 
this name as Heryte, Hert, and Hyrte, and applies it to 
Hirta, or St. Kilda, which is probably correct, as it is known 
that St. Kilda belonged to the Macruaries. 

The inferential proofs are strong that Harris passed, as a 
portion of Lewis, to the Earl of Ross, and that the former 
became disjoined from the latter, only when Tormod, son 
of Leod, inherited it as part of his patrimony. There is no 
proof that the southern part of Lewis, i.e. the modern 
Harris, ever belonged to the Macruaries, except as tempo- 
rary lessees of the Earl of Ross. 

We get a passing glimpse of the doings of the 
Macruaries towards the end of the thirteenth century. 
Allan MacRuari attended the Scottish Parliament which 
in 1284 settled the Crown on the Maid of Norway, daughter 
of Erik King of Norway, and of Margaret, daughter of 
Alexander III. of Scotland. Soon afterwards (1285-86), 
Allan committed an act of piracy on a Spanish ship with 
a valuable cargo, which was driven ashore on the Outer 
Hebrides. The captain appealed to King Alexander for 
justice, with what result we are not informed. 

The death of the Maid of Norway, and the subsequent 
squabbles between the rival claimants to the throne of 
Scotland, were events to which the chiefs of the Hebrides 
were not indifferent. During the interregnum, we find 
Edward I. of England, in pursuance of his scheme for 
annexing Scotland to the English Crown, directing his atten- 
tion to the Isles. In 1290, he commissioned the Bishop 
of Durham to receive the men of the Isles to his " peace," 
in other words, to detach them from the national cause. 
The commission appears to have been successful in the 
South Isles, for in 1 292, Alexander of Argyll (de Ergadid),* 

* Supposed to be a son of Ewen of Lome, though Skene contradicts that 


Angus Mor, son of the progenitor of the Macdonalds, and 
his son Alexander, all entered into engagements with the 
King of England to " keep the peace." 

During the short and inglorious reign of John Baliol, 
King Edward's puppet, there were commotions in the 
Outer Hebrides and Skye. The three sons of Allan 
MacRuari, Roderick, Ranald, and Lauchlan, refused to 
acknowledge the authority of Baliol, and William (II.) 
Earl of Ross was commissioned to make war upon them. 
The Earl of Ross spent a thousand pounds upon the 
campaign a fact which, subsequently, he was not slow 
to emphasise and ultimately succeeded in capturing 
Roderick and Lauchlan, whom he brought as prisoners to 
the King. As a reward for this service, he received a grant 
of the lands of Dingwall and Ferintosh. In 1296, however, 
the Earl detached himself from the English interest, and 
led a force against his quondam friends. The Scottish 
defeat at Dunbar was followed by the Earl's capture and 
imprisonment for seven years in the Tower of London. 
He was then released in order to further the English cause 
in the Highlands, receiving the office of Warden north of 
the Spey, and a grant of the Isles (les terres des ylys).* 
Meanwhile, the Hebrides were again thorns in the English 
side. From the Ragman Roll, we find that at Elgin, in 
July, 1296, Alexander Macdougall (de Ergadia) swore 
fealty to Edward of England, and that Ranald MacAllan 
submitted at Berwick. In the same year Alexander 
Macdonald (de Insulis) was empowered as Edward's 
bailiff to seize Kintyre, escheated by John Baliol ; while 
Alexander, Earl of Menteith, was commissioned to take 
over for the English King the castle, isles, and lands of 
Alexander Macdougall and of his son John of Lome. In 
the following year, a statement, emanating probably from 
Alexander Macdonald, was made to Edward concerning 
the lawless doings of Macdougall, who, it was asserted, 
after his release from prison and taking the oath of fealty 

* Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland Vol. IV., p. 400. This grant 
was doubtless confined to Lewis and Skye. 


to England, had wasted the writer's lands and slain his 
people. The letter further states that Roderick and 
Ranald MacAllan had invaded the King's lands of " Sky " 
and " Leogus," and committed great depredations therein. 
They killed, so it asserts, " the men living in those islands 
and oppressed the women with violence, and caused the 
ships in the King's service under immunities of the Church 
to be burnt. And the said islands were so devastated by 
the aforesaid (Roderick and Ranald) that the King could 
get little or nothing from them on his demand."* Edward 
was therefore begged by the writer to command the nobles 
of Argyll and Ross to aid him in keeping the peace. 
Macdougall successfully replied to the charges made against 
him, and was again received into favour by the English 
King. Roderick MacAllan (" Rodric Mac Rogri") was 
captured by Alexander Macdonald, but he subsequently 
escaped, or was released. 

In 1301, fresh trouble was brewing in the Isles, and an 
expedition, commanded by Hugh Bisset, with the co- 
operation of Angus Og Macdonald, and John (jilins 
Suffne) of Knapdale, was despatched to bring the 
islanders under subjection to England. Alexander Mac- 
dougall was at that time regarded with suspicion, and 
Edward was asked for his advice as to the treatment of 
the suspect, and for his help, if Macdougall had to be 
proceeded against as an enemy. There are no further 
details of this expedition, except that Angus Og, while 
awaiting orders for his fleet at Bute or Kintyre, begged 
the King's favour for the sons of Roderick MacAllan who 
were in his power, stating, as the grounds of his request 
for a "native fee," that they had been friendly to the 
English cause. 

The correspondence between Edward of England and 
Pope Boniface, which followed the defeat at Falkirk of the 
heroic William Wallace, was concurrent with a remarkable 
commission which the English King sent to the Hebrides 

* Letter in the Public Record Office (Stevenson, Vol. II., p. 188). 


to pacify the inhabitants. The fleet of the Cinque Torts 
sailed for the Isles charged with this mission. The admiral 
was empowered to receive into his favour, Alexander Mac- 
dougall and his sons, John and Duncan, his son-in-law 
Lauchlan MacAllan, and all their servants ; also all the 
peasantry and middle class inhabitants of the Isles, 
" barons, banerets, and other rich and great lords " being 
however excluded.* 

It is impossible to refuse to recognise the shrewdness of 
the perception which instigated this order. The English 
King clearly realised a fact that became increasingly 
apparent in the later history of the Hebrides, viz., that the 
wars, rebellions, and feuds of the Isles were fomented in 
no wise by the common people, but by the " rich and great 
lords" to serve their own ends. The lords who on this 
occasion resisted the domination of England may have 
been actuated by patriotic motives ; but even the best of 
the patriots always excepting such disinterested stalwarts 
as the noble Wallace were found on the side of the 
oppressors of their country before they saw fit to embrace 
the national cause. 

The Earl of Ross was a notable example of these turn- 
coats. His new-born zeal as England's warden outran his 
sense of decency. Thus, in 1305-6, he violated the sanc- 
tuary of St. Duthac at Tain, by seizing and delivering to 
the English, the wife of Robert Bruce and Marjory, his 
daughter by a former marriage. This outrage was avenged 
a year later by the Bruce himself, who invaded and 
ravaged Ross-shire, compelled the Earl of Ross to make 
his submission, and with characteristic magnanimity, 
forgave the man who had injured him so deeply. The 
latter, however, continued to be a vassal of England, for 
we find him writing a piteous letter to his master, enumerat- 
ing his losses at the hands of Bruce, excusing himself for 
having arranged a truce with the victor, and whining for 
further favours at English hands. 

* Cal. of Doc., Vol. II., p. 307. 


In 1307-8, the Earl leased his Hebridean properties to 
Lauchlan MacAllan,* who was now a partisan of England, 
his allegiance to the national cause having perhaps been 
undermined by his father-in-law, Alexander Macdougall ; 
or, he may have discovered that it paid better to be on the 
winning side. The Earl of Ross required money, hence 
his lease of Lewis and Skye to Lauchlan MacAllan. The 
latter proved a bad tenant, for he refused to pay any rent. 
The Earl appealed to the English King, but Edward II, 
was at that time engaged upon far weightier matters than 
the settlement of Hebridean disputes : there is no record 
of his having taken any steps to punish or oust MacAllan. 

It is not unlikely that these events paved the way to the 
final submission, in 1309, of the Earl of Ross to Bruce,t 
who gave him a fresh grant of his possessions. His recon- 
ciliation with King Robert was sealed by the marriage 
of his son and successor, Hugh, with Maud, the sister of 
Bruce, a marriage which resulted in a series of charters to 
Hugh, including a grant of Skye ; Lewis, however, remain- 
ing in the possession of the Earl, his father. 

The army which, in 1308, was met and defeated by 
Edward Bruce at Deer, in Buchan, appears to have been 
commanded by Ranald MacAllan, who was taken prisoenr. 
There is much obscurity about the matter, some historians 
asserting that Bruce's enemies were Galwegians, but from 
Highland sources we learn that "Donald or Ronald" of 
the Isles raised an army in the Hebrides, and marched 
against Robert Bruce, who was about that time conducting 
a campaign in Aberdeenshire. This description can apply 
to no other than MacAllan. That the Hebrides were 
divided in their sympathies during the dark days which 
preceded the successes of Bruce admits of no doubt. The 
bitter hostility of the Macdougalls, founded as it was on 
personal grounds, is well known, while Alexander 
Macdonald, who was married to a daughter of Ewen of 

* Col. of Doc., Vol. IV., p. 400. 

t His deed of submission appears in the Notes to Sir Walter Scott's Lord 
of the Isles. 


Lome, identified himself with the interests of his wife's 
family. His brother, Angus Og (the hero of the Lord of 
the Isles), left the pro-English party, and became one of the 
most devoted partisans of Bruce. Roderick MacAllan 
ranged himself on the same side, while his brother Ranald 
and, probably, Lauchlan, seem to have attached themselves 
to the English interest. Bruce's defeat at Dalree in 1 306 
by the Macdougalls was avenged by the King's expedition 
into Argyllshire, where, by his consummate generalship, he 
routed his opponents, captured the castle of Dunstaffnage, 
and reduced Alexander Macdougall to submission, his son 
John of Lome escaping by flight into England. The over- 
throw of the Macdougalls effectively crushed the opposition 
to Bruce in the Hebrides. 

To the great victory of Bannockburn, which was the 
crowning blow to the pretensions of England, a powerful 
contingent of Highlanders and Islesmen, under the leader- 
ship of Angus Og, materially contributed. Scotland was 
forced to strain every nerve in order to repel the over- 
whelming forces of the invader ; and it cannot be doubted 
that the fighting material of the Outer Hebrides was drawn 
upon when the call to arms resounded throughout the 
length and breadth of the land. That Scott's " Clans of 
Wist and all who hear the Minch's roar on the Long Island's 
lonely shore,"* did their share of fighting at Bannockburn, 
under the leadership of the Earl of Ross and Roderick 
MacAllan, may be safely assumed, though there is no 
specific mention of them. 

To the victors the spoils. Bruce rewarded his supporters 
in a right royal fashion. Angus Og received a grant of his 
brother's forfeited properties, and shared in the partition 
of the lands of the House of Lome, a portion of which also 
fell to the lot of Roderick MacAllan, who, as representing 
his sister Christina, the legal heiress, became the acknow- 
ledged head of the Macruaries of Garmoran and the North 

From the time that Lewis (with Harris) passed into the 

* The Lord of the hies. 


hands of the Earl of Ross, until the reign of David It., 
there is no record of the doings of Leod of Lewis or his im- 
mediate successors. The heads, both of the Siol Torquil 
and the Siol Tormod, being vassals of the Earls of Ross, 
their history is necessarily merged in that of their overlords. 
Torquil, son of Leod, who succeeded his father in the 
possession of Lewis, married Dorothea, a daughter of 
his Superior, William Earl of Ross, and died during the 
reign of Robert Bruce. His daughter, Finguala, married 
Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail. Thus the Macleods of 
Lewis were closely connected by marriage with two of the 
most notable families in the Highlands. During the reign of 
Bruce, the lords of the Outer Hebrides remained faithful to 
the Crown, until Ruari Mac Allan,* about 1325, for some 
unexplained reason, fomented a conspiracy, which resulted 
in the forfeiture of the whole of his possessions. They 
were, however, afterwards restored by Edward Baliol to 
Ruari's son, Ranald. 

The death of the wise and gallant Bruce in 1329 was the 
signal for a series of disasters to Scottish arms, Scottish 
prestige, and Scottish liberties, which culminated in the 
successful re-assertion of England's claim to the Superiority 
of her high-spirited neighbour. The humiliating defeat of 
a large Scottish army by a handful of English adventurers 
at Dupplin Moor placed the Crown of Scotland on the head 
of Edward Baliol, a brave son of a timorous father. The 
not less humiliating fiasco of Halidon Hill where Hugh 
O'Beolan Earl of Ross was killedt virtually left Edward 
III. of England the Dictator of Scotland. Baliol had been 
forced into the arms of England by the bad faith of Sir 
Archibald Douglas and other Scottish nobles, and the 
English King was only too thankful to have the oppor- 
tunity of reviving the old claims of his country to the 
over-lordship of the sister kingdom. After Halidon Hill, 

* Robertson states in his Early Kings that the forfeited chief was Allan 
MacRuari, but this appears to be an inaccurate transposition of names. 

t He wore the supposed shirt of St. Duthac as a talisman. It, however, 
proved ineffective ! 


Baliol became the creature of England : nominally King 
of Scotland, he was really the Viceroy of Edward III. 
Anxious to buttress his throne by securing and cementing 
by charters the friendship of the discontented elements 
within his realm, he looked for. and found in the Hebrides, 
an ally ready to his hand. John of the Isles inherited the 
property, but not the loyalty to the Bruce's family, of 
his father, Angus Og. A dispute with the Regent about 
certain lands left him a ready listener to Baliol's repre- 
sentations. He deserted the Nationalists and joined his 
fortunes with those of Baliol and the pro-English party. 
And he had his reward. By an indenture dated Perth, I2th 
September, 133 5, which was subsequently confirmed by the 
King of England, certain lands, including the Island of 
Lewethy (Lewis) were granted by " Sir Edward King of 
Scots " to John of the Isles " for his good service."* From 
certain letters which passed relative to a safe conduct for 
the Lord of the Isles to the English Court, it is evident 
that the Hebridean chief was summoned to England to do 
homage to his new master. 

Thus it happened that Lewis and Harris passed from the 
O'Beolan Earls of Ross into the hands of the Lords of the 
Isles.l Mr. Gregory states that the Siol Torquil held 
Lewis as vassals of the House of Islay from the year 
1344, when the grant of 1335 was confirmed by David II. J 
A curious error has crept into Highland histories, which 
affirm that David II. conferred upon Alexander, son of 
Duncan MacNaughton, lands in Lewis, " being part of the 
forfeited possessions of John of the Isles." The forfeited 
lands in question were those of John, son of Duncan, son 
of Alexander dc Insults, who had no possessions in Lewis. 
Torquil Macleod (I.) of Lewis was succeeded by his son 
Tormod, who may have been in possession of Lewis when 
the cession to the Lord of the Isles took place. Nothing 

* Cal. of Doc., Vol. III., p. 213. 

t In 1367 the rents of "terre de Lewis" were in the hands of John of the 
Isles, and were due to the Exchequer. (Acts of Parliament, Vol. I., pp. 528, 529.) 
+ Acts of Parliament, Supp. b. 6. 


whatever is known of the history of Tormod, whose son 
Torquil lived in the reigns of David II. and Robert II. 

When the short-lived power of Edward Baliol came to 
an end, and the rightful sovereign, David II., came to his 
own, the cards of the Hebridean lords were shuffled afresh. 
The Steward of Scotland and the other nobles of the 
National party directed their enmity against the adherents 
of Baliol, and John of the Isles trembled for the safety of 
his extensive dominions. He was not disposed, however, 
to submit tamely to any shearing process, and the resist- 
ance which he offered to his opponents was both obstinate 
and successful. He was ably seconded by Ranald Mac- 
Ruari of the North Isles, whose sister he had married, and 
thus the whole of the Long Island, as represented by its 
chiefs, was solid against the Crown. Troubles with England 
created a diversion in favour of the stubborn Hebrideans, 
and King David was compelled to forego his attempt to 
reduce them. The support of a powerful vassal like John 
of the Isles was at that critical period of surpassing value 
to the Scottish King, and he determined to purchase it by 
striking a bargain with him. He pardoned both the Lord 
of the Isles and Ranald MacRuari, and in 1344 confirmed 
them in their possessions. Ranald accompanied the King 
in his expedition to England, which terminated at the 
disastrous battle of Neville's Cross. 

The increased prestige which these incidents conferred 
upon the Lord of the Isles stimulated the ambition of that 
chief ; he realised his strength, and was not slow to push 
his advantage. Securing from the Pope a dispensation of 
divorce from his first wife, he sought and obtained in 
marriage, the hand of Margaret, daughter of his quondam 
enemy, the Steward of Scotland, who afterwards reigned 
as Robert II.* His alliance with the Royal House gave a 
further impetus to the growing power of John of the Isles, 

* A letter from the Pope to the Bishop of St. Andrews dated July, 1 350, grants 
a dispensation to John of the Isles and Margaret, daughter of " Robert, called 
Steward (Senescallus), to intermarry, they being related in the third and fourth 
degrees of affinity." (Papal Letters, Vol. III., p. 381.) 


while the Steward acquired the interest of the turbulent 
Hebrideans in furthering his schemes. Secretly encouraged 
by his father-in-law, the Lord of the Isles was one of the 
foremost of the refractory barons who rebelled against the 
King's authority. They refused to pay the tax imposed 
upon them for payment of the King's ransom to England ; 
they refused to attend the Parliament summoned by their 
Sovereign.* The conclusion of hostilities between England 
and Scotland gave David the opportunity he desired of 
taming the clans. Preparing to invade the Hebrides with 
an overwhelming force, which he intended to command in 
person, he was dissuaded from his purpose by the influence 
of the Steward, who feared his own interests would suffer 
by the continuance of the rebellion. His son-in-law was 
at the same time persuaded by the Steward to meet the 
King at Inverness and submit to his authority. The sub- 
mission of the Lord of the Isles was complete ; he not only 
took the oath of allegiance, but engaged to act as Policeman 
of the Hebrides for his Royal master. Till the end of his 
reign, however, the rebellious spirits in the Hebrides were 
a source of anxiety to David II.; and one of his latest acts 
was to sow among the clans the seeds of dissension, which 
he fondly hoped would spring up into noxious weeds, 
calculated to choke the vitality of any organised rising 
against the authority of the Crown. This was the beginning 
of that policy of discord, which was afterwards applied so 
frequently to the Highlands and Isles by the Kings of 
Scotland. It was easy to foment strife among the quarrel- 
some clans ; to perpetuate ancient feuds ; and to reduce 
the fighting strength of the Highlands by such a cunningly 
devised method of extermination. The policy succeeded 
up to a point. Inter-clan warfare was stimulated ; family 
feuds were multiplied ; and blood flowed like water. But 

* In 1368 the King of Norway ordered payment of the 100 merks due to 
him annually for the Isles (the arrears, no doubt), but was asked for his for- 
bearance until King David's ransom should be paid. The King of Scotland 
was to reduce the islanders to obedience and compel payment of the annual 
<luty due by them. The King of Norway was to be told that some of the 
islands were in the hands of the English. (Acts of Parliament, Vol. I., p. 507.) 


in after years, this policy recoiled upon the heads of those 
who promoted it. 

The charters of David II. which affect the Long Island 
are three in number. John of the Isles was confirmed in 
his possession of Lewis ; Ranald MacRuari in his posses- 
sion of Uist and Barra ; while Torquil Macleod received a 
grant of Assynt in Sutherlandshire by his marriage (accord- 
ing to tradition) with Margaret Macnicol, the heiress of 
that property.* The earliest charter to the Macleods of 
Harris was granted in this reign (about 1343). It conveyed 
to the Siol Tormod two-thirds of Glenelg, a property which 
subsequently formed a fruitful source of trouble between 
the Macleods and the Erasers. But the right of the 
Macleods to Harris was never disputed. 

The lord of Uist and Barra was not fated to enjoy his 
possessions long. He quarrelled with his Superior, William, 
Earl of Ross, and the feud ended with his death at the 
hands of the latter. In 1346, David Bruce summoned his 
barons to meet him at Perth, preparatory to an invasion of 
England. Among others, the Earl of Ross and Ranald 
MacRuari obeyed the summons. Ranald, with his followers, 
took up his quarters in the monastery of Elcho, and thither 
repaired the Earl of Ross in the dead of night, bent on 
silencing for ever his troublesome vassal. MacRuari and 
seven of his men were slain, and the Earl of Ross forthwith 
returned home. Thus perished in the male line the last of 
the Macruaries of the North Isles. Ranald was married 
to a daughter of Malcolm Macleod of Harris, son of Tormod, 
son of Leod, some of whose " rights," according to Hugh 
Macdonald, the Sleat historian, he purchased from the 
King. According to the same authority, a "brother's son" 
of Ranald's grandfather was married to an heiress of the 
Morisons of Lewis. 

By the death of Ranald, the possessions of the Mac- 
ruaries fell to his sister Amy (also called Ann and Algiva), 
the wife of John of the Isles. The latter immediately laid 

* Robertson's Index, pp. 48, 99 and 100. 

H 2 


claim to the property, but was opposed by the Crown. The 
Lord of the Isles overcame all opposition after his accus- 
tomed fashion. Although a man of ability and a good 
Churchman, he cannot be commended as a pattern either 
of chivalry or of loyalty. Now a partisan of Baliol ; now a 
pillar of the patriots ; once more a supporter of Baliol ; 
yet again a Nationalist : he veered round as the wind of 
political aggrandisement directed his sympathies. But his 
treatment of his first wife which appears to be well- 
authenticated was the shabbiest of all his acts. Having 
secured her property, he divorced her, as we have seen, for 
no apparent reason other than to enable him to marry a 
daughter of the Steward of Scotland. The seanachies 
endeavour to shield him from obloquy by asserting that 
Amy Macruari was his concubine, but this is apparently a 
mis-statement ; and the evidence seems to show that his 
sons by his first wife were deprived of their just rights, in 
order that these might be conferred upon the grandsons of 
the King of Scotland.* 

By each of his two wives, John of the Isles had three 
sons. Amy Macruari bore him John (who pre-deceased 
his father), Ranald, and Godfrey ; and a daughter Mary, 
who married Maclean of Duart. By the daughter of 
Robert II. his sons were : Donald, his successor as Lord 
of the Isles; John Mor (the Tanister), from whom descended 
the Macdonalds of Dunyveg in Islay and the Glens in 
Antrim ; and Alastair Carrach, from whom the Macdonalds 
of Keppoch trace their descent. There was another son 
Angus, of whose descendants there is no record ; it is 
uncertain whether he was the fruit of the first or the second 

The children of Amy Macruari being legitimate, his 
eldest son by his first marriage was his feudal heir as Lord 

* The author relies here, to some extent, upon the accuracy of Gregory and 
other writers in respect of the Papal dispensation of divorce, a copy of which 
he (the author) has not seen. But the inferential proofs of the legitimacy of 
Amy Macruari's sons are strong. 

f The seanachies disagree in the number and names of John's sons ; but that 
Ranald and Godfrey were his sons by his first wife, and Donald, John, and 
Alexander, by his second wife, is undisputed. 


of the Isles. It has been held by Mr. Gregory and others, 
that Godfrey was the elder of the two surviving sons by 
the heiress of the Macruaries. In this view, they are sup- 
ported by the Sleat seanachie, who states that Godfrey, the 
elder son, received from his father lands in North Uist 
and Benbecula, one half of South Uist, Boisdale, Canna, 
Sleat, and Knoydart ; while Ranald was allotted the rest 
of South Uist, Eigg, Rum, Moidart, Morar, and Arisaig. 
Their mother, a pious woman, built Trinity Church in 
North Uist, the castle at Borve in Benbecula, and an 
oratory in Grimsay ; all at the expense of her husband, 
who mortified eight merklands in North Uist to the church 
and two farms in Benbecula. In the next sentence, the 
seanachie tells us that " at last he (John of the Isles) 
abandoned Algive (his wife) by the advice of his Council 
and familiar friends." He adds that Godfrey left four sons, 
Ranald, John, Angus, and Archibald, but that Ranald, their 
uncle, took hold of all their share of South Uist. 

So much for the version of the Sleat historian, to whom 
accuracy was of less importance than success in be-littling 
the Clan Ranald. The only support, however, which his 
account receives from unimpeachable sources is a charter 
granted in 1388 to the Monastery of Inchaffray, in which 
the donor, Godfrey, is designated Godfridus de Insula, 
Dominus de Uist* But this assumption of lordship by 
Godfrey is explained by the fact that after the death of 
Ranald, his children were dispossessed of Uist by their 

On the other side, we have the version of MacVurich, 
who was as desirous of magnifying the importance of the 
Clan Ranald and, incidentally, of Ranald its progenitor 
as Hugh Macdonald was of humbling its pride. Accord- 
ing to MacVurich, as set forth in the Red Book of Clan 
Ranald, the " men of the isles " regarded Ranald as the 
legitimate heir to the Lordship of the Isles, and therefore 
the eldest son of John. When we turn to indisputable 

* Registrum de Inchaffery^ p. 51. 


evidence, we find that it is altogether on MacVurich's 
side. In 1373, Ranald received a grant of the Macruari 
lands, to be held from his father and his heirs ; these lands 
having previously been conveyed to John of the Isles by 
his father-in-law Robert II., thus confirming his possession 
of them through his first wife.* There is, on the other 
hand, no official record of any grant of lands to Godfrey. 
The obvious inference is that Ranald was the elder, and 
Godfrey the younger son, and that the grant was made to 
salve the wounded feelings of Ranald for having been 
unjustly deprived of his birthright as Lord of the Isles, in 
favour of his half-brother Donald. 

Mr. Gregory has endeavoured to meet the difficulty 
created by the charter to Ranald, by suggesting that 
although Godfrey was the elder of the two, he refused to 
acquiesce in the unjust proposals of his father, and was 
therefore ostracised by the latter, who gave the more pliant 
Ranald the lands in question. This explanation, however, 
is hardly admissible as an argument, however plausible it 
may be as a theory. 

For some unexplained reason, Lewis and Harris seem 
to have passed temporarily out of the hands of the Lords 
of the Isles, and to have again become incorporated with 
the Earldom of Ross. This appears from the following 

Euphemia, Countess of Ross in her own right, was the 
daughter of William, Earl of Ross, Justiciar of Scotland 
and brother-in-law of Robert II. who had married his 
sister, Euphemia. The first husband of the Countess was 
Sir Walter Lesley, who, in right of his wife, became Earl 
of Ross. Her second husband was Alexander, Earl of 
Buchan, the notorious Wolf of Badenoch, who was the 
fourth son of Robert II. By a Crown charter dated 25th 
July, 1382, Skye and Lewis became the joint property of 
the Earl of Buchan and his wife, the Countess of Ross.f 
It is possible that the grant of Lewis to John of the Isles 

* Registrum Magni Sigilli (1306-1424), pp. 90, 117 and 125. 

t Robertson's lndex> p. 124. Reg. Mag. Sig. (1306-1424), p. 165. 


by Edward Baliol was set aside on the representations of 
William, Earl of Ross, whose powerful influence may have 
prevailed with the Court in effecting the restoration of the 
insular properties of the Earldom. The introduction of 
the Lesley and Stewart elements into the affairs of that 
Earldom, subsequently led to a dispute concerning the 
succession to the title, which culminated at the battle of 

There is little to tell of events in the Outer Hebrides 
during the period under review. It is true that there are 
traditions extant, which serve to demonstrate the fact that 
the Long Island was not exempt from the clan feuds which 
kept the other islands of the Hebrides in a state of perpetual 
turmoil. One of the traditions of the Macaulays of Lewis 
appears to be so well authenticated, that its main features 
may be accepted as historical facts. During the second half 
of the fourteenth century, a feud existed between the 
Macaulays of Uig and the Macleods of the same district, 
the head of the latter family being Norman, said to have 
been a brother of the chief (? Torquil II. of Lewis). The 
latter had given his kinsmen for their support, the whole 
rental of Uig, and it may be assumed that this was the 
root cause of the feud. The dispute between the two 
families at length led to the extermination of the Macaulays, 
with the exception of a youth, John Roy, and Malcolm, his 
natural brother. John Roy fled to Maclean of Lochbuie, 
who undertook his education. When he reached manhood, 
he returned to Lewis to take his revenge on the Macleods. 
Appearing suddenly in Uig, he killed Norman Macleod, 
son of old Norman, before he could " leap the wall of the 
sanctuary" to which he ran for protection, and then 
proceeded to despatch two of Norman's brothers. Having 
thus disposed of the Macleods, he set out for Stornoway 
with his brother Malcolm. At Cnoc-na-Croich, opposite 
Stornoway, they met the only remaining son of old 
Norman Macleod, who fled from the wrathful Macaulays 
and attempted to reach his uncle's castle at Stornoway 
by swimming across the bay. His uncle, the chief, saw 


the whole affair from the castle, but refused to give 
protection to the poor wretch who, wounded in the head 
by an arrow and exhausted though he was, managed to 
regain the opposite side of the bay, where he was at 
once killed by the merciless Macaulays. These events 
are supposed to have occurred at the end of the fourteenth, 
or the beginning of the fifteenth century. The tradition 
goes on to say that Macleod of Lewis gave John Roy a 
lease for life of Crolista and Balnakil ; that John gave 
Balnakil to his brother, and that he himself settled at 
Crolista ; that soon afterwards he married a daughter of 
his patron, Maclean of Lochbuie, by whom he had an 
only son, Dugald.* From John Roy was descended 
Donald Cam Macaulay, whom we shall meet in the 
seventeenth century, and from the same stock came, in 
due time, the brilliant historian, essayist, and statesman, 
Lord Macaulay. 

Soon after the opening of the fifteenth century, the first 
recorded conflict of the Macleods of Lewis with a mainland 
clan was fought, resulting in the overthrow of the Lewismen. 
Torquil Macleod, who married Margaret Macnicol, was 
succeeded about the end of the fourteenth century as 
chief of the Siol Torquil, by his son Roderick. According 
to Douglas, whose Baronage is the principal authority for 
the genealogy of the family, Roderick was the only son 
of Torquil, but the Earl of Cromartie states that Malcolm 
Macleod, who figured in the following events, was a son of 
Torquil. Roderick was probably a son of Malcolm. 

A sister of Malcolm was married to Angus Mackay of 
Strathnaver, by whom the latter had two sons, Angus 
Dubh and Rory Gald. On the death of Angus, his 
younger brother Houcheon (Hugh) Dubh Mackay became 
tutor to his nephews, the tutorship, as was usual in such 
cases, including the management of their property. Com- 
plaints reached Malcolm Macleod that the widow of Angus 
was harshly treated by the tutor, and Malcolm's solicitude 

* Traditions of the Macaulays. 


for the welfare of his sister being touched, he left Lewis 
with a chosen band of followers to investigate the matter. 
Apparently the reports which had reached him were only 
too well-founded. Whatever the precise object of his visit 
may have been, it proved unsuccessful, for on his way home 
he laid waste Strathnaver and a great part of Breachat 
in Sutherland, and carried off a quantity of booty. 
But he was not suffered to cross the Minch unmolested. 
The Earl of Sutherland being apprised of the raid, sent 
Alexander Murray of Cubin " with a number of stout 
and resolute men " in pursuit of the Macleods. Murray 
joined forces with Houcheon Dubh, and the combined com- 
panies overtook the Lewismen at Tuiteam Tarbhach on 
the borders of Ross and Sutherland. The object of the 
pursuers was to recover the goods and cattle which the 
Macleods had carried off, but the Lewismen resisting, a 
sanguinary battle took place. Both sides fought with 
desperate valour, but in the end, the Sutherland men, 
who had apparently the advantage in numbers, prevailed. 
Malcolm Macleod and the whole of his followers were 
killed, with the exception of one man, who only lived long 
enough to carry the dire news to Lewis when he died of his 

Five years after the conflict of Tuiteam Tarbhach, which 
derives its name (field of great slaughter) from the event 
just narrated, the battle of Harlaw was fought. To 
attempt, as some historians have done, to magnify the im- 
portance of Harlaw into a struggle for supremacy between 
Highlander and Lowlander, is a misrepresentation of facts. 
These may be briefly stated as follows. Euphemia, 

The local tradition differs from this account in some essential points. It 
relates that Macleod's daughter (not his sister) was married to Ian Caol (not 
Angus) Mackay ; that the quarrel arose in lan's liietime, who ill-treated his wife 
owing to the insufficiency of her dowry; that Macleod, the bow-legged chief 
of Lewis, crossed the Minch to avenge his daughter's injuries ; that he was 
defeated and wounded at Tuiteam Tarbhach by Ian Caol, who pursued him 
to Leckmelm where Macleod died of his wounds and the Lewismen were 
again routed. The tradition also gives one of the Lewismen credit for perform- 
ing prodigies of valour ; the usual concomitant of these feuds. The account 
in the text is taken from the Conflicts of the Clans. (Miscellanea Scotica^ 


Countess of Ross in her own right, had by her first husband 
two children, the elder being Alexander, afterwards Earl of 
Ross, and the younger being Margaret, who became the 
wife of Donald, Lord of the Isles. Alexander married a 
daughter of the Duke of Albany, and the only issue from 
this marriage was Euphemia, who became Countess of 
Ross. Following the example of her grandmother, who, 
after the death, without issue, of the Wolf of Badenoch, be- 
came Abbess of Elcho, the second Euphemia surrendered 
the pomps and vanities of the world for the seclusion and 
peace of a convent. She became a nun, and by so doing, 
effectively extinguished the male succession to the Earldom 
of Ross. The crafty Duke of Albany was not slow to take 
advantage of the situation thus created. At his instigation, 
Euphemia was induced to renounce the Earldom in favour 
of her uncle, John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, who afterwards 
gained distinction in the service of France, and fell fighting 
against the English at the bloody battle of Verneuil in 
1425. Donald of the Isles not unnaturally refused to 
acquiesce in this arrangement. Conceiving that he had 
through his wife a prior right to the Earldom, he 
protested against the legality of the proceeding, and 
claimed the title and the estate for himself. His argument 
that the Countess of Ross had no right to dispose of the 
Earldom, and that by her action in taking the veil, she had 
forfeited the title and estate and had become legally 
" dead," was clearly sound.* After an impartial examina- 
tion of the whole facts of the case, it is only possible to 
come to one conclusion : that the Lord of the Isles, by his 
wife, was the rightful heir to the title and property in dis- 
pute. Even George Buchanan, who was certainly not 
pre-disposed in favour of Highlanders, is fain to admit that 
Donald was the rightful heir, and that Ross was " taken 
from him by the Governor under some legal pretext." 

The Governor of Scotland was not likely to acknowledge 
the claim of the Hebridean chief, after he had succeeded 

* Donald was far from being an ignorant barbarian : he had been educated 
at Oxford University. 


in gaining his ends. In effect, he told the Lord of the 
Isles that if he wanted the Earldom, he would have to 
fight for it. The challenge was accepted. Assuring him- 
self of the support of an English fleet, superior to anything 
Scotland could pit against it, Donald gathered in the 
Hebrides an army of warriors armed with bows and arrows, 
pole-axes, knives, and swords, and swooped down upon 
Ross. His victorious arms carried all before them. An 
unsuccessful resistance was offered at Dingwall by Angus 
Dubh Mackay of Farr and his brother Rory Gald (the 
nephews of Malcolm Macleod of Lewis), who posed as 
loyalists, but after a gallant fight, Angus was taken 
prisoner, and Rory, with many of his followers, was killed. 

Encouraged by his initial success against the Mackays, 
Donald determined to carry out a threat he had often 
made to burn the town of Aberdeen. Assembling all his 
available men at Inverness, and receiving re-inforcements 
on the way, he marched unopposed through Moray, and 
ravaged Strathbogie and the district of Garioch, striking 
terror into the hearts of the Aberdonians, who gave 
themselves up for lost. But the Lord of the Isles got 
no further than Garioch. A small but well-equipped 
army commanded by the Earl of Mar, marched to meet 
him and oppose his progress. Mar knew the character 
and fighting qualities of his opponents well. In his 
younger days, he himself at the head of some of the most 
daring and desperate of the Highlanders, had harried, 
plundered, and slaughtered inoffensive Lowlanders without 
mercy. But the capture of the murdered Earl of Mar's 
castle ; the winning of the widowed Countess's hand with 
his predecessor's title and lands ; an extended experience 
in the French wars and at the French Court ; all these 
circumstances combined, had changed the Wolf of Bade- 
noch's bastard, the ex-cateran, the ex-soldier of fortune, 
into a skilful commander of trained troops, a courtly 
pattern of chivalry, a bulwark of the throne, a terror to 
evildoers, and an upholder of law and order. 

The battle of Harlaw was one of the fiercest encounters 


which even the history of Scotland records, and that is 
saying a good deal. The mail-clad knights under Mar's 
command, not inferior in courage to their opponents, and 
vastly superior in the skilled use of arms, despised the 
Highland army as a rabble of savages. The Highlanders, 
absolutely without fear, and imbued with a hereditary 
hatred of the Sasgtinnacli (Lowlander or Englishman), 
repaid the contempt of their foes with interest. The Lord 
of the Isles commanded the main body of his army, con- 
sisting of the men from the Hebrides, with whom were 
Roderick Macleod of Lewis and John Macleod of Harris 
with their followers. On the right wing of the army were 
the Macleans, and on the left the Mackintoshes, while the 
reserve, under John, brother of the Lord of the Isles, 
consisted of the Mackenzies and the Camerons. 

The battle commenced with the usual torrential rush 
of the Highlanders, who threw themselves upon the wall 
of steel opposed to them, only to be repelled by the 
steadiness of the defence. And then the knights of Mar 
took the offensive, and great was the slaughter on both 
sides. The Highlanders stood their ground and fell where 
they fought. Lowland battle-axes crashed through High- 
land skulls, and Highland swords found openings in 
Lowland armour. When a Highlander fell, a comrade 
took his place ; when a Lowlander was disabled, his loss 
was irreparable. Superior numbers and desperate valour 
were pitted against superior weapons and grim determina- 
tion. The ill-armed Celt opposed his greater agility to 
the mail-clad Saxon's greater security. The thundering 
charge of the Lowland cavalry hewed a pathway through 
the thick ranks of the Highland footmen ; but the daggers 
of the Highlanders hamstrung the horses, and then drank 
the blood of the fallen riders. The carnage ceased only 
with darkness, and when morning broke on the quiet 
village of Harlaw, 900 Highlanders and over 500 Lowland 
men-at-arms lay dead on the field. The losses of Mar 
included many representatives of the leading families in 
Angus and the Mearns, together with the Provost and 


most of the burgesses of Aberdeen who had accompanied 
the Lowland army ; while the Lord of the Isles lost the 
chiefs of the Macleans and the Mackintoshes. 

Harlaw is usually described as a drawn battle, and so 
indeed it was, if gauged by its results. The seanachies 
claim a victory for the Lord of the Isles, and in this they 
are borne out by Irish records. There is some obscurity 
about the events which immediately followed the battle. 
By at least one Lowland historian,* it is stated that " both 
sides claimed the victory, but Donald kept the field and 
made great slaughter that day." The commonly accepted 
version, however, is that the Lord of the Isles retreated 
before daybreak, leaving Mar with the remnant of his 
army in possession of the field. If the Highland army 
really consisted of 10,000 men (a number which is probably 
in excess of the entire fighting strength at that period of 
the Highlands and Isles), it is clear that after a loss of less 
than a tenth of its strength, it cannot have been incapaci- 
tated from renewing the conflict, while it is obvious that 
Mar's forces were almost annihilated. It is probable that 
in accordance with their usual custom, the Highlanders 
were eager to return home with their booty, and that even 
the influence of the Lord of the Isles was not sufficiently 
strong to keep them together and pursue his forward 
movement. However, the fact remains that Donald did 
not burn Aberdeen, and the resistance offered by Mar at 
least defeated that project. That the Highland army was 
severely handled is evident ; that it received a check is 
also clear from the result ; but that it suffered a defeat in 
the ordinary acceptance of the word, is not borne out by 
the evidence, which supports the contrary view. The Lord 
of the Isles, in short, was crippled, while his antagonist 
was incapacitated from further attack, if not indeed from 
further resistance. 

The memory of Harlaw lingered for many a day in the 
music and poetry of the Scottish people. To this fact 

* Douglas, (" An Impartial Hand"), p. 43. 


may be attributed the undue importance, from a racial 
point of view, which has been assigned to it by Dr. Hill 
Burton and even by Dr. Skene. Secondary accessories 
have usurped the place of primary causes ; the personnel 
of the combatants has over-shadowed the quarrel in which 
they fought ; and thus a battle, which originated in a 
dispute over a Highland Earldom, has been magnified 
into a struggle for supremacy between the Celtic and 
Teutonic elements of the Scottish people. It is neverthe- 
less a striking commentary on the welding processes 
wrought by Time, that the descendants of the men who 
fought at Harlaw men so essentially different in race, 
language, sentiment, and civilisation should at the present 
day meet one another on an equal platform in the peaceful 
walks of life, and should fight together shoulder to shoulder 
as brothers-in-arms in a common cause, in every country, 
and in every clime, where the British flag is unfurled. 

Whatever the ultimate results of Harlaw, its immediate 
effects were for a time fatal to the claims of the Lord of 
the Isles. The Duke of Albany, then Regent of Scotland, 
was roused to action. He collected an army before which 
resistance on Donald's part was futile, and the whole of 
Ross was quickly recovered from the possession of the 
Lord of the Isles. The Earl of Mar commenced to build 
the Castle of Inverness for the defence of the country 
against future invasions by his opponent of Harlaw. The 
latter took refuge in the Hebrides, where he was safe 
during the winter months. In the summer of the follow- 
ing year, the contest was renewed with varying successes, 
but finally the proud Hebridean was forced to bow his 
neck in submission, resign his claim to the Earldom of 
Ross, and become a vassal of the Scottish Crown. At 
Loch Gilp in Argyllshire, a treaty embodying these con- 
ditions was consummated,* and for a short period the 

* This treaty is stated by the historians of Clan Donald to be a fiction 
of Fordun. The authors doubtless mean Walter Bower, who continued 
Fordun's chronicles. Bower, who died in 1449, was presumably conversant 
with the circumstances, and there is no reason to doubt his statement. 


Highlands and Isles were at rest. Donald of the Isles 
never recovered the Earldom of Ross ; that was reserved 
for his son Alexander. 

When James I. returned, in 1424, from his captivity in 
England to his native country, he found the northern part 
of the kingdom in a state of chaos. Might reigned supreme ; 
right was relegated to limbo ; law and order hid their 
diminished heads. James I. was no coward, but the task 
of restoring good government was such as to make even a 
strong heart quail before its magnitude; yet the vigorous 
mind of the poet-king was equal to the emergency. His 
was a chivalrous nature, but chivalry had no place in his 
plans for quelling the insubordinate Highlanders. Regard- 
ing them as outside the pale of honourable dealings, he 
employed the arts of treachery to attain his ends. In 
1427 he held a Parliament at Inverness, and summoned 
the Highland chiefs to attend. Unsuspicious of danger, 
trusting in the honour of their King, the principal chiefs 
obeyed the call and assembled at Inverness. But they 
soon discovered that James had played them false ; for 
they found themselves in a trap. They were all seized, 
put in irons and imprisoned, each in a separate compart- 
ment, communication with one another, or with their 
followers, being thus prevented. Some of the most 
troublesome were subjected to a mock trial and imme- 
diately executed, among them being Alexander Macruari, 
whose properties were forfeited to the Crown, and John 
MacArthur of the Campbell family, who had laid claim 
to a portion of Garmoran and the North Isles. The 
remainder, including Alexander, son of Donald, Lord of 
the Isles who, on the downfall of the Albany family, had 
peaceably succeeded to the Earldom of Ross and his 
mother, the Dowager Countess of Ross (described by 
Drummond of Hawthornden as " a mannish implacable 
woman "), were imprisoned for different periods according 
to the alleged nature of their offences. And thus by a 
stroke of treachery which does little credit to the memory 
of James I., the power of the chiefs was for a time 


effectively broken. The King crowed over the success of 
his plot the penalty of his success came later. 

The imprisonment and subsequent release of the Earl 
of Ross by James were followed by the insurrection of 
that turbulent chief, which had unfortunate results for 
himself. He was forced to make a humiliating submission 
which saved his life but not his liberty. Scarcely two 
years had passed after his confinement in Tantallon 
Castle, when his cousin, Donald Balloch, headed a formid- 
able rebellion, which spread throughout the length and 
breadth of the Hebrides. The energy of the King 
again proved more than a match for the Islesmen, who, 
after initial successes, finally succumbed to the vigorous 
measures which James directed against them. A head, 
said to be that of Donald Balloch, was presented to the 
King, and the insurrection came to an end ; the real 
Donald Balloch, however, proved a very lively corpse in 
later years. By a wise act of clemency, James released 
the prisoner of Tantallon and restored his titles and pos- 
sessions, to which was added the lordship of Lochaber. 
Alexander, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, continued, 
outwardly at least, a peaceable subject for the remainder 
of his life. And thus the policy of the King had its reward. 
One of Alexander's sons was Hugh, the founder of the 
Sleat branch of the Macdonalds. As that family in after 
years professed to have a claim to the possession of 
Lewis, and actually owned North Uist, it may be well here 
to go back to its inception. 

During the lifetime of John of the Isles, his son, Johi 
Mor the Tanister, endeavoured to seize the whole of hii 
father's estate south of Ardnamurchan, and succeeded ii 
obtaining the co-operation of the Macleans and of tl 
Macleods of Harris ; Macleod of Lewis, with Macneill of 
Barra and several other chiefs, remaining faithful to the 
Lord of the Isles. A strong force was sent against John 
Mor, who fled in confusion, and the insurrection was easily 
put down. He who incited John Mor to rebel against his 
father was Finnon (Kinnon), a son of the last O'Beolan Earl 


of Ross, and known as the " Green Abbot " ; he belonged 
to the powerful Applecross family of lay abbots, from 
whom the O'Beolan Earls of Ross sprang. A grandson 
of the " Green Abbot " was Patrick O'Beolan, the " Red 
Priest," who had Carloway and the Church lands in Lewis 
as part of his possessions. When the Lewismen set out 
on the campaign which terminated at the battle of Harlaw, 
the "Red Priest" accompanied Torquil and Tormod, 
the sons of Roderick Macleod, with one " Lochluinn 
MacGillemhaoil"; and these four "went out of the army 
before any part of the main force with them." The 
Macleods survived Harlaw, but their companions were 
killed. A daughter of the " Red Priest " became either 
the concubine or the hand-fast wife of Alexander, Earl 
of Ross, and their son, Hugh of Sleat (according to 
MacVurich), got as a portion of his patrimony the third 
part of Lewis. Hugh of Sleat married, as his first wife, a 
daughter of Macian of Ardnamurchan, by whom he had a 
son, John, who became his heir and successor. His second 
wife was a daughter of Macleod of Harris, and his son by 
this wife was consequently known as Donald Heroch. 
Another son by a daughter of the Coroner of Caithness, 
named Gunn, was called Donald Gallich, or the stranger, 
from being brought up by his mother's people in Caith- 
ness. After the death of Hugh of Sleat, Donald Gallich's 
mother married Torquil Macleod of Lewis. Both Donald 
Heroch and Donald Gallich were murdered through the 
instrumentality of their half-brother Gillespic, or Archibald, 
who afterwards suffered for the crime. Donald Gallich 
left a son, Donald Gruamach (the grim), whose son by 
Catriona of the ClanRanald was the first Donald Gorm 
(the illustrious) of Sleat. We shall meet Donald Gruamach 
and Donald Gorm later on. 

The claims of the Sleat family to Uist were well founded. 
By a charter dated 28th June, 1449, John of the Isles con- 
veyed a grant of lands in Uist and Benbecula to his brother 
Hugh, the names of Ruari Macleod of Lewis and William 
Macleod of Glenelg appearing as witnesses. This grant 


was confirmed by a Crown charter dated loth November, 
1495. On the death, in 1460, of Alexander, the last promi- 
nent representative of the Siol Godfrey, that family dwindled 
into insignificance, and the Siol Ranald prospered on its 

The Earl of Cromartie states that Alexander Lord of 
the Isles granted, in 1432, a charter to Torquil (should be 
Roderick I.) Macleod of Lewis of his lands, to be held for 
homage and service, which lands he had previously resigned 
into the hands of the King in favour of Alexander. The 
Earl also says that Alexander's successor John, in 1464, 
by a precept of dare constat> declared Roderick Macleod 
(II.) heir to Torquil (III.) in the possession of Lewis 
and Waternish. That the Macleods of Lewis held their 
lands as vassals of the Lords of the Isles is beyond dispute. 

In the same year as the Inverness Parliament was held 
(1427), Gilleonan Roderick Murchard Macneill received 
from Alexander, Lord of the Isles, a charter of Barra and 
Boisdale in South Uist (confirmed by the Crown in 1495), 
one of the conditions of which was that in the event of a 
failure of legitimate heirs, the lands were to be divided 
between the sons of Roderick, Gilleonan's father, by the 
daughter of Ferchard Maclean. For, in the year 1372, the 
possession of Barra had passed from the Macruaries to 
John of the Isles, through the instrumentality of his father- 
in-law Robert II., and was thus at the disposal of the Lords 
of the Isles. As we have seen, the Macleans of Duart and 
the Macneills of Barra were closely connected by marriage, 
but a feud existed between John Garve Maclean of Coll 
and Gilleonan Macneill of Barra, which ended in the death 
of the latter at the hands of Maclean in Coll. There is a 
tradition to the effect that Macneill married, as his second 
wife, the widow of Lachlan Maclean of Duart (the daughter 
of John Macleod of Harris) and attempted to take posses- 
sion of Coll, the inheritance of Lachlan's son, John Garve 
by Macleod's daughter. This is given as the origin of the 
dispute between Macneill and Maclean of Coll, but it is 
elsewhere stated that, on the contrary, the feud arose from 


an attempt on the part of Maclean to deprive Macneill of 
the Island of Barra. The former seems to be the more 
likely story. 

John, the eldest son and successor of Alexander of the 
Isles, failed to appreciate the lessons which were so dearly 
bought by his father. Early in his career, he proved a 
troublesome subject of James III. It is to his credit, 
either as a patriot or as a diplomatist, that during the siege 
of Roxburgh, he proceeded to the Royal camp with a body 
of followers whose services he offered to the King. On the 
death of James III. at Roxburgh, Scotland was plunged 
into confusion, and the Lord of the Isles seized the oppor- 
tunity to return to his old habits of lawlessness. His 
illegitimate son, Angus Og, acting as his father's lieutenant, 
marched to Inverness, seized the castle, expelled the 
garrison, proclaimed his father King of the Isles, and 
terrorised the inhabitants of Inverness-shire (comprehend- 
ing the modern counties of Inverness, Ross, Caithness, and 
Sutherland) into obedience to his rule.* From the Parlia- 
mentary records, we learn that in 1475 he was charged 
with making his bastard son his lieutenant "in insurrec- 
tionary convocations of the lieges," from which it may be 
inferred that father and son were steeped to the lips in 
treasonable practices. These were obviously the outcome 
of a treaty, dated i8th February, 1462, entered into by 
Edward IV. of England en the one part, and John of the 
Isles, Donald Balloch of Islay, and the Earl of Douglas on 
the other. By this remarkable agreement, England secured 
powerful allies whose reward was to be nothing less than 
the division of Scotland, the North falling to the Mac- 
donalds, and the South or that portion of it which Douglas 
had formerly possessed to their companion in treason. 
Moreover, a stipulated sum was to be paid to John of the 
Isles, in consideration of his vassalage to England and his 
assistance, as a vassal, in the Irish and other wars of that 
country. This curious treaty bore no fruit. It was one 

* Some authorities say that John headed the expedition, but the evidence 
seems to show that Angus was the leader. 


thing for the English King to partition a country which 
had yet to be conquered ; it was quite another matter to 
provide the means of effecting the conquest. No serious 
attempt appears to have ever been made in that 
direction, and for some years after the conclusion of the 
agreement, there is no record of any overt acts of rebellion 
on the part of the Lord of the Isles. In the following 
decade, however, he appears to have again attracted the 
attention of the Government, and by the year 1476, it is 
evident that some knowledge of the treaty with England 
had been brought to light. Declared a traitor by a Parlia- 
ment held in Edinburgh in 1476, the Earl of Ross had to 
pay the price of his treason. His estates were forfeited, 
and a force was got ready to give effect to the forfeiture. 
These proceedings brought the Lord of the Isles to his 
knees, and by the mediation of the Earl of Argyll,* a 
pardon was secured for him. With the exception of the 
lands of Knapdale, the Sheriffships of Inverness and 
Nairn, and most important of all the Earldom of Ross, 
all of which were retained by the Crown, his titles and 
possessions were restored to him, and he himself was made 
a Lord of Parliament under the style of "John de Isla, Lord 
of the Isles." 

Like his father before him, John of the Isles had now 
learned his lesson. But his son, Angus Og, having been 
brought up in the rebellious school of his father and grand- 
father, was now following in their footsteps ; unlike them, he 
had not yet felt the iron heel of authority pressing on his 
neck. The father was cowed by the vigorous action of the 
Crown ; the son defied father and Crown alike. His energy 
and daring were rewarded by a series of striking successes. 
The Earl of Atholl, who co-operated with the Mackenzies 
against him, suffered a severe defeat at Lagabread, the Earl 
himself escaping with difficulty from the field. The Earls of 
Crawford and Huntly met with no better success. A third 
expedition under the Earls of Argyll and Atholl and John 

* The Earl of Atholl is by some historians named as his mediator ; by others 
the Earl of Huntly. 


of the Isles himself, completely failed in its object : Angus 
Og defied them all. By this time his prowess had inspired 
such wholesome respect that the two Earls were none too 
eager to come to close quarters with him, and they retired 
baffled by their active foe, thus virtually acknowledging 
defeat. The father of the rebel was now left to cope with 
the situation single-handed. It was a novel position foi 
John of the Isles to be the representative of law and order, 
hunting his own son, Angus the rebel. It is possible that he 
wished to impress the Government with his loyalty. It 
is possible that he himself was held responsible for the 
enormities of his hopeful offspring. But it is clear that the 
latter had proved an undutiful son, as well as a recalcitrant 
subject. MacVurich relates that a disagreement had arisen 
between father and son about a division of territory, and 
that John had given Knapdale to "MacCailin" (the Earl of 
Argyll) the father-in-law of Angus, for going with him 
before the King to complain of his son ;* and it is also sug- 
gested that he had been over-liberal to the heads of Hebri- 
dean clans other than the Clan Donald. Be that as it may, 
it is certain that the Hebridean chiefs became embroiled in 
the quarrel, the Macdonalds taking the part of Angus, and 
the other clans ranging themselves on the side of their 
Superior, the Lord of the Isles. After his desertion by 
Argyll and Atholl, John continued the pursuit of Angus 
Og. His followers were chiefly Macleans, Macleods, and 
Macneills. William Dubh Macleod of Harris led his clans- 
men, and with him was his nephew, the son and heir of 
Roderick Macleod of Lewis. The men of Barra were led by 
Gilleonan Macneill, grandson of the Gilleonan who was 
killed in Coll. And thus every section of the Long Island 
was represented at the final struggle between John of the 
Isles and his son. 

The two forces met in a bay south of Ardnamurchan 
Point Mr. Gregory says a bay in Mull where a stiff 

* In 1481, Colin, first Earl of Argyll, received a grant of lands in Knapdale, 
along with the keeping of Castle Sweyn, which had previously been held by 
he Lord of the Isles. 


fight, known in Highland tradition as the battle of the 
Bloody Bay, took place. Both sides were composed of 
skilful seamen descendants largely of those unequalled 
sea-warriors, the Vikings and both were stimulated by 
their leadership. The result was a decisive victory for 
Angus Og, and a crushing defeat for his father's allies. 
Of the latter, William Macleod of Harris was killed ; the 
galley of his nephew, with all the Lewismen, was captured, 
and the heir of Roderick was himself mortally wounded 
by two arrows, succumbing to his injuries soon afterwards 
at Dunvegan. 

The outcome of this battle was immediate and con- 
clusive : the unfortunate John of the Isles was rendered 
helpless in the contest with his formidable son. The Clan 
Donald, ready to acknowledge the superiority of personal 
prowess over less material considerations, acquiesced in 
the seizure by Angus of his father's possessions, and in his 
assumption of the chiefship of the clan. 

It is unnecessary to follow much further the fortunes of 
John of the Isles and his masterful offspring. Misfortune 
dogged the footsteps of the father to the end. About the 
time of his final trial of strength with Angus Og, he ap- 
pears to have turned to England for help. Negotiations 
were certainly on foot in 1481 to effect an alliance 
between the English King and his " cousin " of the Isles ; 
but these came to nothing, although it is evident that 
his correspondence with England was maintained. In 
1493, owing doubtless to the discovery of this relation- 
ship, he forfeited his title of Lord of the Isles, and ii 
the following year he appeared before the King and mad< 
his final submission. Retiring to the Abbey of Paisley, 
he died there in 1498 ; a peaceful end to a stormy life. 

His son did not long survive his victory at Bloody Bay. 
He was assassinated at Inverness by his own harper, one 
Art O'Carby or MacCairbre, who MacVurich tells us 
with uncompromising fidelity cut his throat " with a long 
knife." According to the Sleat seanachie, the murder was 
committed at the joint instigation of Mackenzie of Kintail 


and the daughter of Rory Dubh Macleod, tutor of the heir 
of Lewis. This Rory Dubh, it appears, had seized Lewis 
for himself, but was dispossessed by Angus Og, who restored 
the island to its rightful owner. 

It is difficult to discover on what grounds Mr. Gregory 
makes the statement, that Angus Og undertook an ex- 
pedition against the Earl of Atholl, in revenge for carry- 
ing off his infant son, afterwards known as Donald Dubh. 
It is very doubtful if Angus ever saw his son, either as 
an infant or an adult. That the raid of Atholl took place 
is undisputed ; there is, however, no authority, but the 
reverse, for associating it with the kidnapping of Donald 
Dubh. Even the accounts of the raid are confused. Accord- 
ing to some authorities, the chief actor was not Angus Og 
the son, but John of the Isles, the father. The seanachies, 
however, are probably correct in stating that Angus was 
the leader of this expedition, which may have been under- 
taken after the consolidation of the power of that restless 
warrior. It is certain that the district of Atholl was actually 
ravaged ; that Blair Castle was taken or evacuated by the 
Earl of x\tholl ; and that the Earl with his Countess was 
forced to take refuge in the sanctuary of St. Bride, which 
the wild Hebrideans failed to respect. On their way home, 
the marauders encountered a storm, which destroyed most 
of the galleys with their rich freight. According to all 
accounts, the survivors, seized with the superstitious fear 
that the disaster betokened the wrath of St. Bridget, re- 
turned as penitents to the scene of their sacrilege, bare- 
footed, clad in their shirts, and bearing gifts to mollify 
the offended saint. George Buchanan affirms that their 
leader whom he calls* Donald the Islander" is said tc 
have gone distracted from that day, either with grief at 
the loss of his army with the plunder, or tortured by a 
consciousness of his former crimes and the remembrance 
of his sacrilege," whereupon the Earl and Countess of 

* Bishop Lesley also calls him " Donald." In both cases the reference is 
probably to the patronymic of the clan ; or it may be that Angus has been 
confused with the aged Donald Balloch, who appears to have been a passive, 
if not an active, participator in some of the events iust recorded. 


Atholl, with their children, were released, and the pre- 
parations at Court for an expedition, apparently to the 
Hebrides, were stopped. The Sleat seanachie notices this 
report, which was current in the country, and stigmatises 
it as a falsehood. The probabilities are that the temper 
of Angus, at all times uncertain, became ungovernable in 
later years, and from this circumstance arose the story of 
his madness. 

It is impossible to give a chronological sequence of 
events in connexion with the career of Angus Og. The 
facts are so obscure that Highland historians have been 
obliged to resort to conjecture. The raid of Atholl may 
or may not have taken place after the battle of the Bloody 
Bay, but it appears likely that it succeeded that event 
which seems to have occurred somewhere about 1481.* 
It is probable, too, that the murder of Angus took place 
not later than 1485. It is fairly certain that he was 
dead before 1491, for in that year, Alexander of Lochalsh, 
son and successor of Celestine, an illegitimate son of 
Alexander Lord of the Isles, assumed, apparently with 
the consent of his uncle John, the title of Earl of Ross 
and Lord of the Isles : a claim which would hardly 
have been made, or, if made, sustained by the Hebrideans 
had Angus Og been alive. The insurrection of Alexander 
was short-lived. Assisted by the Clan Chattan, he took 
the Castle of Inverness, plundered the lands of Sir 
Alexander Urquhart, Sheriff of Cromarty, and returning 
to the west with a division of his army, ravaged the 
lands of Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, with whom 
Alexander had a private feud. Alexander, who was 
assisted by the Clan Ranald and the Camerons, was 
totally routed by the Mackenzies at the battle of 
Blar-na-Pairc, and he himself was taken prisoner. This 
reverse temporarily put an end to his aspirations, and 
may have contributed to the final forfeiture of John of the 

t Scottish historians imply that the raid took place immediately after the 
subjugation of Inverness-shire, but the Sleat seanachie states that it occurred 
after Bloody Bay. 


Isles. After his release by the Mackenzies, Alexander 
revived his claims, and in 1497 again organised a rising, 
which was terminated by his death in the Island of Oron- 
say, by the instrumentality of Macian of Ardnamurchan. 

But Angus Og left a son, known in Highland history 
as Donald Dubh ; who, as will be related, was the next 
claimant to the Lordship of the Isles, and with whose 
fortunes Torquil Macleod of Lewis became closely identi- 
fied. The facts connected with the birth and early days 
j of Donald Dubh are not clear. Here again Highland 
I historians have floundered in the bog of uncertainty, and 
I have so far not succeeded in finding a sure footing. The 
I facts are of importance, inasmuch as if correctly known, 
they would tend to throw light upon events which remain 
obscure. The official records furnish no data to go upon, 
and recourse has consequently been had to the seanachies. 
The Sleat and Clan Ranald historians are at variance in 
their accounts, but the version of Hugh Macdonald has 
hitherto been accepted, while that of MacVurich has been 
ignored. And yet it can be proved that the version of 
the latter is, in part at least, confirmed by a letter from 
Donald Dubh himself. The Sleat seanachie states that 
Donald, when an infant, was carried off by the Earl of 
Atholl at the instigation of the Earl of Argyll, into whose 
charge the child was committed ; and that Argyll kept him 
as a captive in his Castle of Inchconnel in Lochawe until 
his escape (in 1501). This is the account adopted by Mr. 
Gregory, who has been followed by all succeeding High- 
land historians. The Clan Ranald seanachie, on the other 
hand, states that " the daughter of MacCailin (Colin first 
Earl of Argyll) the wife of Angus, was pregnant at the 
time he was killed, and she was kept in custody until she 
was confined, and she bore a son, and Donald was given, 
as a name to him. He was kept in custody until he 
arrived at the age of thirty years, when the men of Glen- 
coe brought him out by a Fenian exploit." Confirming 
the principal point in this account are the words of Donald 
Dubh himself. In a letter to King Henry VIII. dated 


5th August, 1545, he describes himself as having been 
captured in materno uteris, which is sufficiently conclusive 
in bearing out the statement of MacVurich, the only 
obvious error in his account being Donald's age on his 
escape from captivity, a detail of minor importance. It is 
very probable, therefore, that MacVurich is also correct 
in stating that Donald Dubh was born after the murder of 
his father. Assuming, therefore, that Angus Og was killed 
about 1485, Donald Dubh would have been a lad of about 
sixteen years of age on his escape from prison in 1501, 
a very likely supposition. He died in 1545-6, and thus 
would have been about sixty years of age at the time 
of his death. 

In view of the hypothesis that Donald himself was 
captured by the Earl of Atholl and imprisoned by the 
Earl of Argyll, it has been found difficult by the supporters 
of this theory to assign a likely reason for the abduction. 
It is supposed by them that the Earl of Argyll schemed to 
secure the Lordship of the Isles for himself, and it is con- 
fidently affirmed that the alleged kidnapping of Donald 
Dubh was the outcome of a plot to keep him out of his 
inheritance. The Earl of Argyll is called hard names for 
his supposed greed and treachery, but although he was 
probably no better than most of his compeers, the charges 
against him in the present instance must be held as " not 

The most reasonable view to take of the matter is, that 
on the death of Angus Og, the Earl of Argyll took charge 
of his daughter, the widow of Angus ; that on the birth of 
her son, the Earl naturally became the child's guardian, 
and that he kept him in close confinement, fearing, for 
political reasons, lest he should get into the hands of the 
Hebridean chiefs. It is idle to speculate what his ultimate 
intentions were with respect to his grandson ; his death, 
which occurred in 1493, left the boy in the care of his son 
Archibald, second Earl of Argyll. That the policy of 
Donald's uncle was not favourable to his future assumption 
of the Lordship of the Isles, may be inferred from the fact 


that he suffered, if he did not instigate, the Crown to declare 
his nephew illegitimate. Here there is surer ground for 
the suggestion of sinister scheming, but when an analysis 
of motives has to take the place of historical records, a 
door is at once opened for inaccuracy of statement. All 
we do know and can know is, that from first to last, Donald 
Dubh was described in official documents as the bastard 
son of Angus of the Isles. There is nothing to show that 
the union of Angus with the daughter of Colin, Earl of 
Argyll, was of an irregular nature; and it can only be 
assumed that by means of some legal jugglery, and for 
political reasons which are not obscure, the marriage was 
declared invalid and its issue illegitimate. That the men 
of the Hebrides acknowledged the legitimacy of Donald, 
is clear from subsequent events which will presently be 

With the death of the last Earl of Ross and Lord of the 
Isles, the connexion between the Macdonalds as Superiors, 
and the chiefs of the Macleods of Lewis as vassals, came 
to an end. 

It may well be doubted whether even at this period, the 
inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides were thoroughly Scottish 
in feeling and sentiment. The influences of the Norse 
occupation had not yet lost their force. The language of 
the people was Celtic, but the blood of the Northmen flowed 
through their veins. The descendants of those who, two 
centuries previously, were forced to submit to Scottish 
rule, must have bulked largely in the population of those 
islands. Their distance from the central authority ; their 
lack of touch with the machinery of government and with 
the great political movements which agitated the mainland ; 
their want of racial sympathy with the governing classes 
of the kingdom ; all these and other causes which might 
be named, accentuated the isolation of their geographical 
situation, and militated against the development of a truly 
national feeling. When to these considerations is added 
the fact, that a state of uncompromising hostility existed 
between the Gaelic-speaking Islander and the English- 


speaking Lowlander ; between the men of the North who 
despised the civilisation of the South, and the men of the 
South who sneered at the barbarism of the North ; it is not 
surprising that the Hebrideans should have as their per- 
manent ideal, the solidarity of their race to resist the 
aggression of the Saxon. How often that solidarity was 
broken by the clan feuds which desolated the Hebrides is 
only too evident. The policy of the Crown was to prevent 
cohesion, for it was rightly judged that the strength which 
union imparted to the clans, equipped them with so for- 
midable a weapon of defence as to be a permanent source 
of danger to the State. 

As for the Lords of the Isles themselves, their history is 
the most eloquent testimony of their character. They were 
brave, energetic, and hospitable. But they were ambitious, 
ruthless, and not overburdened with scruples. They were 
not, however, a whit worse in those respects than the great 
barons of the South. And in explanation, if not in defence, 
of their treasonable practices with England, it may be 
urged that the independent sovereignty over the Isles 
which they both assumed and exercised, placed them in a 
position of detachment which was occupied by no other 
subjects of the Scottish Crown. They probably still re- 
garded themselves as the representatives of the Norse 
Viceroys, who had ruled the Hebrides in a state of complete 
independence, subject only to the benevolent suzerainty 
of Norway. As such, and as the acknowledged Kings of 
the Isles, there was sufficient temptation for them to throw 
off their allegiance from Scotland when it suited their 
ambitious purposes to do so. 

About the year 1460, a great invasion of Orkney by 
Hebrideans took place. That raids to the Orkneys were 
of frequent occurrence is undoubted. In the Preface to the 
Exchequer Rolls (Vol. 8) it is stated that they must have 
taken place annually before the death of James II. From 
a letter dated 28th June, 1418, written by William Tulloch, 
Bishop of Orkney, to King Christiern of Denmark, and 
from a manifesto of an earlier date issued by the Orca- 


dians, it is evident that these raids were instigated by 
the Lords of the Isles. The Earl of Caithness tried to 
come to an arrangement with the Lord of the Isles to put 
a stop to them, and well he might, for from all accounts 
they were of a peculiarly savage character. It is suggested 
that the Hebrideans burned, plundered, and ravaged the 
country, massacred the inhabitants without respecting age 
or sex, and carried off whatever cattle or other property 
they could lay hands upon. Hugh Macdonald in his nar- 
rative of the raid of 1460, states that John of the Isles 
sent his son Hugh of Sleat " with all the young heritors of 
land to harass the people of Orkney," thus confirming the 
Orcadian accounts as to the complicity of the Earls of 
Ross. William Macleod of Harris was one of the " heritors " 
who accompanied Hugh of Sleat, and it appears from the 
Orcadian tradition, that the invaders were mainly drawn 
from the Long Island. According to the Sleat seanachie, 
the Orcadians were prepared to give the raiders a warm 
reception on landing, but the Hebrideans dis-embarked 
elsewhere than expected, and were ready for the attack 
when it came. The Orcadians were totally routed, among 
the slain being the Earl of Orkney, who was killed by 
Murdo MacCotter, one of the followers of Macleod of 
Harris. Hugh of Sleat and his party then ravaged the 
country, and returned home with the plunder. The " young 
heritors " had a profitable and successful hership. 

John Bellenden (Jo Ben) writing in 1529, refers to one 
of these fights between the Lewismen and the Orcadians, 
which took place in a valley of Westray, known as the 
" Bloody Tuacks," or the " Place of Tenure." The Lewis- 
men were engaged upon one of their usual marauding 
expeditions, but the men of Westray offered a stout 
resistance, and routed the invaders, killing all of them. 
According to Jo Ben, one of the Lewismen had both legs 
cut off, but continued to fight on his stumps. The legless 
man fighting on his stumps figures in the Chevy Chase 
ballad, and in more than one Highland tradition. 

That the Long Islanders extended their unwelcome visits 


to the Shetlands is clear from the Shetland traditions. The 
Rev. George Low, who travelled through the Orkneys and 
Shetlands in 1774, relates a tradition of Foula, an island at 
the southern extremity of the Shetlands, according to which 
the Lewismen as the invaders were invariably called 
pillaged Foula and burnt the wood, lest it should be a 
shelter to the natives on future occasions. The Foula 
tradition goes on to say that the Lewismen crossed from 
that island to Sumburgh Head, at the extreme south of 
Mainland, where they were defeated in a great battle. Low 
himself, on visiting Sumburgh, dug up remains which con- 
firmed the tradition : and he found that the spots where the 
sand blew off and revealed human bones, were called by the 
natives " the Lewismen's graves." 

Dr. Samuel Hibbert, who also wrote a description of the 
Shetland Islands, refers to the same tradition, and gives 
fuller details. He states that the Lewismen were opposed 
by one of the Sinclairs of Brow, who marshalled the men 
of Dunrossness on the Plains of Sumburgh, and attacked 
the invaders on landing. A stiff fight ensued, which re- 
sulted in the total defeat of the Lewismen, all of whom 
were killed and buried in the links of Sumburgh. This, 
says Dr. Hibbert, was the last of many battles between the 
Lewismen and the .Shetlanders. In the parish of Sand- 
sting, on the west coast of Mainland, Dr. Hibbert found 
the remains of an enclosure on the banks of the coast, 
which, according to tradition, was constructed by the Lewis- 
men for the purpose of holding their booty previous to their 
departure home. A nice piratical reputation these accounts 
attach to the Lewismen of old. Verily, the instincts of 
their Viking ancestors were strong within them. 




[To face page 107, 


THE close of the fifteenth century found the Hebrides in 
a state of political unrest. The death of Angus Og and the 
political effacement of his father left the Hebridean clans 
without a guiding spirit to unite them in policy, or an 
acknowledged head to lead them in war. The dissolution 
of the Lordship of the Isles paved the way to a state of 
anarchy, with which the Government was powerless to 
cope. In 1491, the Isles and other " broken parts" of the 
kingdom seriously engaged the attention of Parliament, 
and vigorous measures for suppressing their disorders 
seemed to be within sight. 

In James IV. Scotland possessed a king who, early in his 
career, gave promise of great determination of character. 
The pacification of the Hebrides was a task which, from 
its very difficulties, proved attractive to his reforming 
spirit. The subjugation of the intractable Islesmen had 
proved an insoluble problem to his predecessors ; and it 
was left to this energetic young man to succeed where they 
had failed. 

No sooner had the King attained his majority, than a 
general revocation of all grants made by him during his 
minority, was decided upon. By an Act of Parliament, 
passed in June 1493, legal effect was given to that decision. 
In the same year, James initiated his plan for the reduction 
of the Hebrides, by organising an expedition to receive in 
person the homage of the chiefs. In the following year, 
he headed two expeditions with a similar object, and in 
H95> yet another visit was paid to the West. These 
vigorous measures soon bore fruit, in the submission of the 
most turbulent chiefs of the Isles. In 1494, Roderick 
Macleod of Lewis who appears on record in 1478 and 


1494 as a witness to charters submitted to the King's 
authority, and in the following year his example was 
followed by Allan Macruari of Clan Ranald and Gilleonan 
Macneill of Barra, to the latter of whom James confirmed 
the grant of Barra and Boisdale in 1427 by Alexander 
Lord of the Isles.* 

The next steps in the pacification of the Hebrides were 
of a drastic character. By an Act of the Lords of Council, 
the responsibility for the execution of summonses and 
other writs throughout the Isles was thrown upon the 
chiefs, who were thus unable to evade the operation of the 
civil actions which were in course of preparation. Then 
followed, on i6th March, 1497-8, a second revocation of 
charters, which seems to have specially affected the grants 
to the Hebridean chiefs during the previous five years. 
It is difficult to assign a satisfactory reason for this 
revocation, unless it was the outcome of the renewed 
insurrection under Alexander of Lochalsh. In the 
Treasurer's Accounts, there appears an entry dated 2Oth 
March, 1497-8, for money paid to "Lord Gordounis man that 
passit in His to all the hedis men of the cuntree with the 
King's writingis " ; and in the same year, there is a further 
item of expenditure for " ane to pass to McLoyd in the 
lies." These errands were doubtless connected with the 
revocation of charters made at Duchal. 

Among those who profited by the revocation, were 
Archibald, Earl of Argyll, Alexander, Lord Gordon the 
Marquis of Huntly's eldest son Duncan Stewart of 
Appin, and Macian of Ardnamurchan, who had all posed 
as loyal subjects, and had been in frequent communication 
with the King on matters relating to the Hebrides. 

The King was at Kilkiaran Castle (Campbeltown) in 
June, 1498, where he dispensed his favours in the form of 
charters to various chiefs, among whom were Torquil 
Macleod of Lewis son and successor of Ruari and 
Alexander Macleod of Harris (Alastair Crotach or the 

* Reg. Mag.Sig. (1424-1513), No. 2,287. 


Humpback). Macleod of Harris was a trusted friend of 
the King throughout his career, while Torquil of Lewis 
who was married to Catharine, sister of the Earl of Argyll 
had powerful influence at his back to secure for him a 
share of the Royal plums. To Alexander Macleod, James 
granted by charter dated i$th June, 1498, " Ardmanach in 
herag de Lewis " (Harris) also two unciates of the lands of 
Trotternish and the Bailliary of that district, these lands 
being at the disposal of the Crown by the forfeiture of 
John of the Isles.* To Torquil Macleod of Lewis, he 
granted by charter dated 28th June, 1498, certain lands in 
Skye, including eight merks of Trotternish, together with 
the office of Bailie. This grant was made to Torquil and 
his heirs by Catharine of Argyll, failing whom they were 
to revert to the Crown.* By a charter dated 3rd August, 
1498, lands in Uist (inter alia) were granted to Ranald 
MacAllan of Moidart, " for services rendered in peace and 
war by land and sea " to the King ; and two days after- 
wards, Ranald received a further grant of territory in Uist, 
resigned in his favour by John, son and heir of Hugh of 
Sleat.* On the same date (5th August), the King granted 
a charter of lands (inter alia) in Benbecula to Angus 
Reochson Macranald.* These properties in Uist and 
Benbecula had belonged to Hugh of Sleat, having been 
held by him from his brother, John, dim Lord of the 

And thus the chiefs of the Long Island rose to greatness 
on the ruins of the Lordship of the Isles. As subsequent 
events show, they failed to appreciate the advantage of 
holding from the Crown, preferring the Superiority of their 
native kinglets to that of the Sovereign of Scotland. One 
of the attempts at pacification made by the King at 
Kilkiaran was to settle a long-standing feud between the 
Clan Ranald and the Clan Huistein of Sleat over their 
properties in Garmoran and the Long Island. In 1495, 
Hugh of Sleat was confirmed by the Crown in the posses- 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1424-1513), Nos. 2,420, 2,424, 2,437-9. 



sions which he had previously held from John of the Isles* 
the charter of confirmation was witnessed by Macleod of 
Lewis and Macleod of Harris and his son and heir John 
was now either deprived of those lands, or voluntarily 
resigned them in order to exclude his brothers from the 
succession. But notwithstanding the transfer to the Clan 
Ranald, they do not appear to have ever obtained actual 
possession of the lands in North Uist from the Sleat family, 
thus showing how ineffective a Crown charter sometimes 
proved, when applied to the distant and inaccessible islands 
across the Minch. 

At length the Hebrides appeared to be permanently 
pacified, but it was the calm which preceded the storm. 
The last year of the fifteenth century was signalised by a 
complete change in the policy of James IV. in relation to 
the Isles ; a change from wise moderation to revolutionary 
severity. His revocation of 1497-8 was, in effect, annulled 
by the grants, during the following year, to those of the 
chiefs who submitted to his authority. That his original 
policy was first to cow the chiefs into obedience, and then 
convert them into loyal subjects by timely grants of lands, 
cannot well be doubted. But apparently his clemency 
failed to have the desired effect. Otherwise, it is impos- 
sible to understand the far-reaching measure of 1499. For 
in that year, the King granted a commission to the Earl of 
Argyll and others, to lease for a period of three years, the 
properties embraced in the Lordship of the Isles, Islay, 
North Uist, and South Kintyre alone excepted ; and 
Argyll was simultaneously invested with a commission of 
lieutenancy over the Hebrides. 

This proceeding could have but one result. The chiefs 
of the Hebrides, recognising their danger, banded together 
for their mutual defence, and awaited the blow which 
threatened them. No immediate action appears to have 
been taken by the King. The measure was that of a hot- 
neaded youth, who, irritated by the failure of his clemency, 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1424-1513), No. 2,286. 


threw patience to the winds, and with it, all attempts at 
conciliation. Perhaps it was hoped that the appointment 
of the Commission would cause such dismay in the 
Hebrides, as would bring the Islesmen to their knees, beg- 
ging for pardon. Whether or not such was the case, it was 
not until 1501 that the Commissioners began to get to 
work. In that year, the necessary legal steps were taken 
for expelling " broken " men from the disaffected districts, 
and replacing them with " true," i.e. loyal, men. This was 
the most formidable task which the Crown had yet under- 
taken, for it virtually meant the expulsion of the most war- 
like, the most determined, and the least amenable subjects 
within the length and breadth of the Scottish dominions. 

And then Donald Dubh escaped from the Castle of 
Inchconnel and fled to his uncle, Torquil Macleod of 
Lewis. It is impossible to dissociate his liberation from 
the preparations then in progress for the foolish war of ex- 
termination about to be waged in the Hebrides. The events 
synchronise so closely as to suggest that the men of 
Glencoe, who effected Donald's release, were acting under 
instructions from the confederation of chiefs which had 
been formed. The Macians themselves were among the 
"broken" men who had been displaced; and it is not un- 
likely that their action was part of a plot, hatched by the 
malcontents, for taking the offensive as the best means of 
defence, and the means which best accorded with their 
traditions. The arrival of Donald Dubh in Lewis was the 
slogan which sounded the call to arms. Here was their 
natural leader for an insurrection, the direct heir of the last 
Lord of the Isles, who had died in Paisley Abbey two 
years before. For the legitimacy of Donald Dubh was 
never doubted by the men of the Hebrides. Whatever 
legal quibble may have converted the son of Angus Og 
into a bastard received no recognition by the Islesmen 
who, with their pride of descent and intimate knowledge of 
genealogical intricacies, can hardly have been deceived 
into a false belief in the justice of Donald's claims. But 
above all, he was the representative of the old order of 

K 2 


things, that order to which they clung with the conservatism 
of their race. 

Torquil Macleod was one of the guiding spirits in the 
plan which resulted in the liberation of Donald Dubh. He 
was the acknowledged leader in the events which followed 
the escape. The relationship in which he stood to the 
young aspirant gave him a claim to act for Donald and to 
direct the policy of the confederation. The remote Island 
of Lewis afforded an excellent asylum for the fugitive ; he 
was safe with his uncle in the Castle of Stornoway until 
plans were matured for the forthcoming campaign. 

Meanwhile, the King and his Council had not been idle. 
The escape of Donald Dubh and the consequent ripening 
of the dangerous situation in the Hebrides called for 
energetic action. It was evident that as long as Donald 
Dubh remained at large, so long would the growing 
disaffection focus around him, and gather in strength if not 
promptly checked. Torquil Macleod was charged to 
deliver up his guest, and was warned that non-compliance 
with the order would lead to his forfeiture. He refused to 
violate the laws of hospitality ; he declined to hand over 
Donald Dubh. Charged to appear before the Council to 
answer for his contumacy, Macleod remained obdurate. 
He was consequently denounced as a rebel, and his estates 
were forfeited to the Crown. But with nearly the whole 
strength of the Hebrides at his back, he could afford to 
regard his forfeiture with equanimity, for at that juncture, 
against so powerful a combination, the Crown was unable 
to enforce its decrees. 

In the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, there are 
certain entries which have a bearing upon the steps taken 
to bring about the submission of Macleod. On 3rd 
November, 1501, one Gillepatrick Cor was sent to Lewis 
" with the Kingis writingis." We know from a proclama- 
tion of 3rd February, 1 505-6, how, on a subsequent occasion, 
this messenger was received. One of Torquil's offences on 
the later date is declared to have been " the treasonable 
reiving and withholding of his Highness's letters from his 


Officer of Arms called Gilpatrick Cor who executed the 
same on 27 October last." Apparently, as time went on, 
both the King's messages and those who carried them, 
were received with increasingly scant ceremony at Storno- 
way Castle. On 2Oth November, 1501, a messenger was 
despatched " with letters " to Macleod of Lewis. On 3rd 
December, Donald Mac Vicar was paid a certain sum, in 
connexion with the summons issued on Torquil to appear 
before the Lords in Council. On i6th December, a 
further sum was paid MacVicar for his expenses " to pas in 
the Lewis with summondis on Torquhile Macloyd," at 
the King's instance. On iQth December, a sum of ten 
pounds was paid Macleod of Harris. And there is a 
further item, in 1502, for a doublet of fustian and a pair of 
hose to MacVicar, " quhen he cam fra the Lewis." 

From subsequent entries in the Treasurer's Accounts, it 
is evident that MacVicar was an emissary of Macleod of 
Harris, and we know that he subsequently received a 
substantial reward for his services. It is obvious that 
Alastair Crotach chose to remain outside the Hebridean 

The significance of the fact that Macleod of Harris 
and Torquil of Lewis both received, under the Kilkiaran 
charters, possessions in, and the Bailliary of, Trotternish, 
will not have escaped notice. It is not impossible that 
this was an artful stroke of policy on the part of the King, 
who may have wished to foster jealousy between the two 
chiefs, and thus prevent a coalition between them. If that 
was his purpose, it proved successful, for we find Alastair 
Crotach acting for the Crown against the stubborn Torquil. 
But neither the threats of the authorities, nor the per- 
suasiveness of MacVicar, could shake the lord of Lewis : 
he would neither deliver up Donald Dubh nor cross the 
Minch to answer for his conduct. 

The King now adopted strong measures to break up 
the Hebridean confederacy, which was daily growing in 
strength. Next to Torquil Macleod, Maclean of Duart 
was the principal leader of the insurrection. After the 


forfeiture of the Lords of the Isles, the Macneills of Barra 
attached themselves to the Duart family, and the detach- 
ment of Duart from the cause of Donald Dubh would also 
involve that of his " part-taker " Macneill. James made 
strong efforts to win Duart over to his cause, and similarly 
endeavoured to secure the allegiance of Cameron of Lochiel ; 
but the attempt proved unsuccessful in both cases. 

Torquil Macleod had by this time delivered Donald 
Dubh into the care of Maclean, a circumstance which 
increased the importance of securing Duart's detachment 
from the coalition. Failing in this attempt, the King 
tried another plan. By appealing to the cupidity of the 
loyal and quasi-loyal chiefs, he sought to stimulate their 
antagonism towards the rebels. It was the old story 
of setting Highlander against Highlander the policy 
of despair which his predecessors had so frequently em- 
ployed. The King who now occupied the throne had 
departed from these traditional lines, but we now find him, 
after admittedly great provocation, reverting to the ways 
of his predecessors. But on this occasion, the policy failed 
to bear the desired fruit. On the contrary, its only effect 
appears to have been to consolidate the alliance of the 

In the Acts of Parliament, there appears a memorandum 
dated igth March, 1503, which is so instructive that it is 
here quoted in part, the spelling being modernised. 

" Macian (of Ardnamurchan), Maclean of Lochbuie, 
4 Grete ' Macleod (of Harris), Ranald Allanson (of Clan 
Ranald), Macneill of Barra, ' McKinewin ' (MacKinnon of 
Strathswordale), ' McCorrie ' (Macquarrie of Ulva), and 
most surprising of all Torquil Macleod of Lewis, are 
charged to proceed against the forfeited Lachlan Maclean 
of Duart and Ewen Allanson (Cameron of Lochiel) to 
take and inbring the same and harry, destroy, and burn 
their lands. And if they apprehend and take and bring to 
our Sovereign lord any of the head men, they shall have 
the half of all their lands. And if they take and inbring 
any other head man, and other men their accomplices, the 


takers shall be rewarded therefor, as the person taken is of 
value in land and goods. And who assist them, or do 
not use their diligence to capture or destroy them, shall be 
reputed as partakers with them, and be accused and pur- 
sued for treason and forfeited as the rebels, and punished 
by our Sovereign lord at his coming to these parts. And 
the said persons (shall) certify our Sovereign lord imme- 
diately, what way they think most expedient to be done 
for the destruction of the said rebels." 

A note appended to this memorandum states that pro- 
clamation, in accordance with the above, is to be made in 
Latin and addressed to those concerned. The Earl of 
Huntly undertook to send letters to Clanranald and Mac- 
kinnon, the Earl of Argyll to Macian and Maclean of 
Lochbuie, and the Bishop of Ross to the Macleods of 
Lewis and Harris. 

Here we find Torquil Macleod in strange company. 
We left him an attainted rebel : he re-appears as a loyalist 
charged with police work. What events had led to such 
a remarkable change of fortune we are not informed. We 
can only assume that the King pardoned Torquil in order 
to secure his powerful co-operation against his former 
associates. Apparently for a similar reason, Macneill of 
Barra was received into the Royal favour, and was ordered 
to carry fire and sword into the possessions of his ally of 

That James and his councillors expected their orders to 
be obeyed, under these circumstances, is a curious com- 
mentary on Lowland opinion of Highland honour of that 
period. It was evidently assumed that Highland cupidity 
was not proof against Lowland promises of reward. That 
the assumption was entirely ill-founded ; that the units of 
the confederacy became more closely knitted together than 
ever ; redounds to the credit of the Hebrides in general, 
and the Long Island in particular 

At the same time as these vigorous measures were 
directed against Duart and Lochiel, the Earl of Huntly 
undertook, if provided with a ship and artillery, to reduce 


and garrison Strome and Eilean Donain Castles, affirming 
that the capture of these strongholds was necessary for the 
" danting of the Isles." From this it is evident that 
Mackenzie of Kintail was a supporter, either actively or 
passively, of the Hebridean confederation. It is remark- 
able that a proposal of this nature should have been made, 
at the very time that the King was in friendly relations 
with the chiefs of the Long Island. It seems to suggest 
that a display of force may have been deemed necessary 
to confirm their dubious loyalty. It was not until the end 
of the year that Huntly's offer was accepted. A great 
naval expedition to the Hebrides was, however, in contem- 
plation, for all parts of the realm were ordered to prepare 
ships to pass to the Isles. 

These proceedings synchronised with an Act of Parlia- 
ment, dated nth March, 1503, having as its object the 
more effective repression of lawlessness in the Northern 
Highlands and Isles the latter, according to the Statutes, 
to be ruled by " the King's own laws and the common 
laws of the realm and by no other laws." This suggestive 
statement doubtless refers to the administration of rough 
and ready justice by the local judges under the Lords 
of the Isles. The Sheriffdom of Inverness at this time 
included Ross, Caithness, and Sutherland. It was now 
proposed to appoint a Sheriff for Ross, and another for 
Caithness (including Sutherland) because, as the Act puts 
it, there had been " great lacke and fault of justice in the 
north parts as Caithness and Ross, for fault of the division 
of the Schirefedome of Innerness, quhilk is over greate, 
and thay parts are sa far distant from the said burgh of 
Innerness." There is nothing to show that the Isles were 
included in any mainland Sheriffdoms before this period. 
The Sheriffdom of Skye was erected in 1292 and em- 
braced the whole of the Long Island. But the dispensa- 
tion of justice by the native judges must, in the incessantly 
disturbed state of those parts, have necessarily possessed 
peculiar features foreign to the spirit of the common law. 
It was decided to change all that. Concurrently with the 


Act relating to Ross and Caithness, another was passed 
which commented severely on the great want of justice 
in the Hebrides, " wherethrow the people are almost gane 
wilde." Accordingly, the Act provided for the appoint- 
ment of Justices, those of the North Isles to have their 
seat and place of justice in Inverness or Dingwall, " as the 
matters occurris to be decerned by the said Justices,"* 
while the seats of justice for the South Isles were to be 
at Tarbert and Loch Kilkiaran (Campbeltown). The con- 
ditions which prevailed at the commencement of the six- 
teenth century called for a measure like the Act of 1503, 
to provide for the better administration of justice in the 
Northern Hebrides. But that Inverness and Dingwall, at 
the commencement of the twentieth century, should still 
be the centres of wisdom which direct the machinery of 
county affairs in Skye and the Long Island, is an obvious 
anomaly ; and that the Long Island should still be included, 
partly in Ross-shire, and partly in Inverness-shire, is a 
proof of the necessity for rectifying so incongruous a state 
of matters. Lewis became part of Ross-shire through the 
influence of the Earl of Seaforth, who naturally desired 
to have all his estates included in one county. And from 
1 66 1 to the present day, this division of the Long Island, 
with all its inconveniences, has remained unchanged. 

The preparations for reducing them to obedience, both 
by force of arms and by the terrors of the law, had their 
due effect on the Islesmen. They saw that the moment 
for action had come. Late in December, 1503, they 
assumed the offensive. They sought, but apparently 
without avail, assistance both from England and Ireland. 
With the youthful Donald Dubh at their head, and Mac- 
leod of Lewis as one of their leaders, they spread over 
Lochaber the property of Huntly like a swarm of 

* It was not, however, until 1661 that the bounds of Ross-shire were settled 
as they now exist, and that Lewis, owing to its possession by the Seaforths, 
was included in that county. After defining the bounds of Ross and Inver- 
ness, the Act goes on to say : " And that the shire of Ross comprehend the 
ylland of Lewis perteaning to the Earle of Seaforth." The Sheriff- courts of 
Ross-shire were to be held at " the burgh of Dingwall, Tayne, or Fforterose, 
as the Shirreff shall think fit." (Acts of ParL, Vol. VII., pp. 124-5.) 


locusts, desolating the whole country in the line of their 
march. Bute and Arran were similarly devastated, and 
so thorough was the work of destruction in those islands 
that the poverty-stricken tenants of the Crown sub- 
sequently received a remission of their rents for the three 
previous years. 

The insurrection had now assumed formidable propor- 
tions, and the whole fighting strength at the disposal of 
the Crown was drawn upon for its suppression. The pre- 
parations for the despatch of ships to the Isles were 
pushed forward ; the services of the famous Sir Andrew 
Wood and Robert Barton were requisitioned ; and the 
King himself reviewed the fleet at Dumbarton. The army 
was placed under the leadership of the Earls of Argyll 
and Huntly, and Lord Lovat. Huntly took charge of a 
division to carry out his project of reducing the Castles 
of Strome and Eilean Donain. Apparently he got the 
artillery he wanted, for according to the Treasurer's Ac- 
counts, a supply of gunpowder was sent to him on ipth 
January, 1503-4. There are no details of the siege of the 
castles, but from subsequent events, it appears that Huntly 
succeeded in obtaining possession of them. Nor are there 
particulars of the results of the general campaign against 
the Hebrides, but it is inferentially evident that the back 
of the rebellion was broken. 

During 1504, Macleod of Harris in the North, and the 
Earl of Argyll and Macian of Ardnamurchan in the South, 
exerted themselves to induce the Hebridean chiefs to 
submit ; while the Earl of Arran received two commis- 
sions against the Isles. 

Notwithstanding Torquil Macleod's re-appearance as a 
rebel, the King was apparently still disposed to deal gently 
with him. His powerful influence ; his relationship to the 
Earl of Argyll ; and possibly his attractive personality 
may have swayed a generous monarch like James IV. ; 
but above all, it was politic to keep him and Maclean 
of Duart on opposite sides. And so we find that in 
the autumn of 1504, Alastair Crotach's emissary, Mac- 


Vicar, was once more engaged in negotiations. At the 
end of 1504, and the beginning of 1505, these negotiations 
appear to have been of an important nature, judging by 
the fact that on his return from Lewis to the King, who 
was then in the North, MacVicar remained with James for 
three weeks. 

Having paved the way for a second invasion of the 
Hebrides, the King sent a force in 1505 to complete the 
work. These attentions of James to the Isles were getting 
too close to be comfortable, and some of the chiefs in 
the South Hebrides began to waver. Maclean of Duart 
was the first to give in, and his submission was followed 
by that of Macneill of Barra, who had twice been out- 
lawed, once in 1504 and again in 1505. Maclean of Loch- 
buie, Macquarrie, and Donald Macranaldbane of Largie 
submitted during the latter year. 

The submission of Duart marked the beginning of the 
end. Torquil Macleod could now be dealt with more 
easily. Feeling himself secure in his Castle of Stornoway, 
he continued to defy the authorities. On I5th December, 
1505, he was summoned to appear in Edinburgh to answer 
for his sins. He treated the command with contempt. 
Failing to appear when the time-limit 2Oth January 
had expired, he was again summoned. When the second 
time-limit 3rd February had arrived, with the unre- 
pentant Torquil still at home in Lewis, the inevitable for- 
feiture followed. The certificate of proclamation and the 
declaration of forfeiture are such interesting documents 
that they deserve to be given in full, the spelling and part 
of the wording being modernised. The following is the 
certificate* : 

" The 23rd day of the month of December, the year of 
God 1505, I, John Ogilvy, Sheriff depute of Inverness, 
passed with these our Sovereign lord's letters, and sought 
Torquil Macleod of the Lewis, and < becaus I cuth nocht 
apprehend him personaly nor there was na sur passage to 

* Acts ofFarl., Vol. II., p. 263. 


me till his duelling place' (sic) I passed to the market 
cross of the burgh of Inverness at eleven a.m. and there 
by open proclamation made at the market cross, I sum- 
moned warned and charged the said Torquil Macleod of 
the Lewis, to appear before our king or his justices in the 
Tolbooth of Edinburgh, the 3rd day of February, to 
answer to our Sovereign lord or his justice, for taking part 
and assisting * Donald Ila,' bastard son of Angus of the 
Isles, bastard, taking part with him and invading our 
Sovereign lord's lieges of the Isles, and destroying them, 
to the effect that the said Donald should be Lord of the 
Isles, and upon all points and articles in these our Sovereign 
lord's letters, and after the form of the same. And this 
I did before these witnesses" (here follow the names of 
the burgesses of Inverness who witnessed the proclama- 
tion), " and for the further witnessing of this execution, 
I have affixed my signet to these presents." 

The proof of the summons having been duly executed, 
was read in Parliament, and in accordance with the usual 
procedure, the Estates were asked by the King's Advocate 
whether or not Torquil Macleod had committed treason. 
The Estates, being " advisit ripelye," declared that Torquil 
had committed "open and manifest tresone" in the follow- 
ing manner : 

" That is to say, for the treasonable art and part and 
assistance given to ' Donald Yla bastard sone of umquhile 
Angus of the His, also bastard sone of umquhile John Lord 
of the His,' by insurrection, and taking his part, to the 
intent that the said Donald should take upon him the 
King's property and to be Lord of the Isles. And for 
the treasonable delivering of the said Donald to Lauchlan 
Maclean of Duart to the intent foresaid, and for the 
treasonable withholding him from his Highness and not 
delivering of him, contrary to the commands of diverse 
letters directed to him thereupon. And for the treasonable 
reiving and withholding of his Highness' letters from his 
officer of arms called Gilpatrik Cor, who executed the 
same on 2/th October last. And for the treasonable 


.leagues and bands with our Sovereign lord's rebels, in 
treasonable wise, as contained in the summons before 
expressed. And thereafter it was given for sentence by 
the mouth of John Jardine Dempster of Parliament for 
the time." 

It was therefore decreed by Parliament "that Torquil 

Macleod of the Lewis has committed treason against our 

Sovereign lord and his realm according to the summons, 

I for which he has forfeited to the King : ' his life, his lands, 

this gudes, offices, and all other his possessionis quhat 

jsumevir he had within the realme of Scotland or Ylis, 

euermar to remane with our Sovereign lord, his aieres and 

! successores, for his tressonable offence.' " 

In face of so formidable an indictment, it is evident 
; that Torquil Macleod had exercised commendable prudence 
in declining to answer the summons. But the toils were 
now closing around him. The first to defy the Govern- 
ment, he appears to have been the last member of the 
confederacy to hold out, and he proved the most trouble- 
some member to subdue. His obstinacy necessitated a 
third campaign in 1506, under the Earl of Huntly. The 
preparations for this campaign in Lewis were of a com- 
prehensive character. A vessel called the Raven was 
chartered from one Thomas Hathowy, and another vessel 
belonging to one David Logan, was freighted for the same 
employment. Two " craaris " or coasting boats also 
formed part of the expedition, their obvious use being 
to land soldiers in bays inaccessible to the larger ships. 
Guns were requisitioned from Edinburgh Castle, and 
skilled gunners accompanied them. Masons and ship- 
wrights were also employed, though it is difficult to 
conjecture for what purpose the former were sent, unless 
it was to construct forts in anticipation of a prolonged 
campaign.* Huntly was joined in the North by Aodh 
(" Odoni ") Mackay of Strathnaver, whose contingent 

* Treasurer's Accounts, Vol. III., pp. 347, 349, 350, and 383-4. In 1506 
Torquil Macleod captured a Spanish ship off Lewis, but the captain and crew 
were unharmed. (Treas. Accounts, Vol. III., 343, Vol. IV., p. 317.) 


appears to have rendered valuable assistance in the re- 
duction of Lewis. On arrival at Stornoway, Huntly 
bombarded the castle, which, after a prolonged siege, was 
captured. Donald Dubh who, after Maclean's submission, 
had again taken refuge in Stornoway, was carried South 
in triumph, and imprisoned in Edinburgh and subsequently 
in Stirling Castle. Torquil Macleod's fate is uncertain, 
but he seems to have escaped and to have lived until 
about 1511. 

This Torquil was perhaps the most remarkable chief of 
the Lewis Macleods. The Dean of Lismore quotes the 
eulogy of a contemporary bard, from which, after making 
due allowance for the usual extravagance of language, it 
is evident that Torquil was a man of whom Lewis was 
proud. Thus the bard (who was probably attached to the 
chiefs household) : " I say of him and say in truth since I 
have come so well to know him, that never was there of 
his age better king who ruled in Lewis." And again : 
" Not braver of his age was Cuchullin nor hardier was he 
than Torquil him of the ready vigorous arm, who boldly 
breaks through any breach." And so on in the same 

The Earl of Huntly now became the most powerful 
nobleman in the North, and the Northern Hebrides were 
placed under his jurisdiction, while the South Isles were 
handed over to the lieutenancy of the Earl of Argyll. 
And thus ended the insurrection of Donald Dubh. It 
was not without beneficial results to the Hebrides, for it 
convinced the Government that their scheme of displacing 
the Islesmen in a wholesale fashion was bound to fail, 
and it was accordingly abandoned. A century later, the 
plan was re-introduced in a more insidious form, but, as 
we shall see, the attempt again proved a disastrous 

Mackay of Strathnaver was rewarded for his services in 
Lewis by a charter dated 6th March, 1508, which granted 

* The eulogy is given in full in the Dean of Lism ore's book ; it is 
interesting specimen of its kind. 


! him Assynt and Coigeach in life-rent, the forfeited pro- 
perties of Torquil Macleod olim de Lewis* On 2Qth 
April, 1508, the King having the disposal of Lewis and 
Waternish in his hands, instructed Macleod of Harris, 
Ranald of Clan Ranald and the Bishop of Caithness to let 
those lands for a term of five years to suitable tenants, and 
on /th June of the same year, they were ordered to proceed 
to Lewis on the same business, and to follow the directions 
of the Earl of Huntly in the matter.f These instructions 
had no practical result, for on 29th June, 1511, a Crown 
charter of Lewis, Waternish, Assynt and Coigeach was 
granted to Malcolm Macleod, Torquil's brother, the barony 
and lordship of Lewis with the Castle of " Stornochway " 
being incorporated in one " liberain."* Torquil Macleod 
left by his second wife (the widow of Donald Gallich, and 
the mother of Donald Gruamach of Sleat) a son named 
John, who was thus excluded from the succession, but who 
took forcible possession of Lewis some years afterwards. 

The pacification of the Hebrides inspired the Islesmen 
with a wholesome respect for King James IV. In view of 
the provocation which he had received, it must be admitted 
that the King dealt generously with the vanquished rebels. 
Generosity has ever appealed to Highlanders, and the 
present occasion was no exception to the rule. After the 
insurrection was quelled, the King had no more devoted 
subjects in his realm than the Hebrideans. Besides his 
personal bravery as a man, and his generosity as a monarch, 
James possessed a further qualification which went far to 
endear him to his Celtico-Norse subjects. According to 
the Spanish Ambassador, Don Pedro de Ayala, who had 
a warm admiration for the King, the latter spoke "the 
language of the savages who live in some parts of Scotland 
and on the islands." He was probably the last King of 
Scotland or Great Britain who spoke Gaelic. De Ayala 
also states that James went in the summer of 1497 "to 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1424-1513), Nos. 3,202 and 3,578. 
t In May, 1508, the King sent his falconer to Lewis for hawks. (Treas. 
Accounts, Vol. IV., p. 118.) 


many of the islands and presided at the Courts of Law," an 
interesting statement in view of the Act of Parliament of 
1503. It is certain that the King knew his Highlands 
well, and particularly the town of Tain ; at one period of 
his life, he paid an annual pilgrimage to the shrine of St. 
Duthac. The newborn attachment of the Highlanders to 
their Sovereign found its chief expression at the fatal field 
of Flodden, where they fought side by side with their 
former enemies, Argyll and Huntly, both of whom fell 
with the King on that dark day which threw the whole of 
Scotland into the deepest mourning. According to Mr. 
Tytler, the Macleods were among the Highlanders who 
fought at Flodden, and from a contemporary writer, we 
learn that among the Scots slain was the Bishop of the 
Isles. The clans displayed their usual bravery, but their 
impetuous onslaught was unavailing against the steadiness 
of the English, who routed them with great slaughter. 

The disaster at Flodden plunged the country into a 
state of anarchy, which offered a tempting opportunity 
for another insurrection in the Hebrides. As before, the 
Lordship of the Isles formed the ostensible cause, but it is 
not necessary to look very far below the surface to perceive 
that there were other and deeper reasons. The gathering 
of the clans at Flodden was not due to patriotism for the 
Hebrideans openly avowed themselves to be the enemies 
of Scotland but to the personal influence of James IV. 
The death of that gallant and chivalrous monarch whose 
exaggerated spirit of chivalry cost him and his country 
so dear released the Hebrideans from their temporary 
allegiance, and two months after they charged the English 
ranks at Flodden, they were virtually assisting England by 
harassing the distracted Government of Scotland. 

The leader of the fresh rising in 1513 was Donald, son 
of Alexander of Lochalsh by a daughter of the Earl of 
Moray ; he is known in Highland history as Donald Gauld 
or Gallda (the stranger) from the fact that he was educated 
in the Lowlands. He was knighted on the field of Flodden 
by his guardian the King. The Sleat seanachie relates 


how Donald Gallda went to Lewis, accompanied by Malcolm 
Macleod's son MacGillecolum of Raasay and enlisted 
the support of the chief of the Siol Torquil, who convened 
a meeting at Kyleakin of his brother chiefs, to discuss the 
question of the succession to the Lordship of the Isles. 
The choice lay between Donald Gruamach, grandson of 
Hugh of Sleat, and Donald Gallda, grandson of Celestine 
of Lochalsh, the latter, like Hugh of Sleat, being either an 
illegitimate or a handfast son of Alexander, Earl of Ross 
and Lord of the Isles. Donald Gruamach, however, refused 
to put forward his claim while Donald Dubh was alive, 
and Donald Gallda, who had no such scruples, was ulti- 
mately proclaimed Lord of the Isles at Morvern. 

The insurrection which was the outcome of the decision 
to enforce the claims of Donald Gallda, proceeded un- 
checked until 1515, when active steps were taken by John, 
Duke of Albany, for its suppression. Colin, third Earl of 
Argyll, and Macian of Ardnamurchan were the instruments 
chosen for that purpose, and as the result of their joint 
efforts, the rising collapsed. A free pardon was given to 
all except the leaders, who, however, had enriched them- 
selves with sufficient booty to compensate them for the 
Regent's displeasure. Donald Gallda and his fellow con- 
spirators seem to have escaped punishment ; the former, 
who is called " Monsieur de Ylis," was indeed summoned 
in 1516 to join the army then about to proceed against 
Alexander, Earl of Home, the powerful and refractory 
Warden of the Scottish Border, with whom, there is 
some reason to suppose, Donald Gallda was acting by 

Early in 1517, Donald Gallda again headed an insurrec- 
tion in the Hebrides, one of his first acts being to gratify 
his revenge against Macian of Ardnamurchan, whose castle 
was burnt and whose lands were ravaged. A disagreement 
with his colleagues resulted in the detachment of Macleod 
of Harris, Maclean of Duart, and Gilleonan Macneill of 
Barra, all of whom submitted to the Regent. Maclean 
was particularly bitter against his former leader, in whose 



veins ran " the wicked blood of the Isles," and he urged 
the adoption of extreme measures. Argyll was commis- 
sioned to pursue the rebels with fire and sword, and expel 
them from the Isles, of which on 8th March, 1516, he 
obtained the lieutenancy.* The slaughter of the Macians 
in 1518-19 at Craig-an-Airgid (Silver Craig) which, the 
seanachie MacVurich states, was the result of a coalition 
between Macleod of Lewis and Macdonald of Dunyveg 
against them was the closing incident in this renewed 
rising, which terminated with the death of its promoter, 
the pseudo-Lord of the Isles, at Tiree (or Mull) a few 
weeks after the fight at Silver Craig. Donald Gallda left 
no children. 

On the death of Malcolm Macleod of Lewis, which 
occurred about 1528, his nephew, TorquiPs son, John, took 
possession of Lewis with the assistance of Donald Grua- 
mach ; Roderick, Malcolm's son, being thus excluded from 
the succession, apparently by force. About the same time, 
John of Lewis helped his colleague, Donald Gruamach, 
to expel the Siol Tormod from Trotternish. A charter of 
23rd August, 1505, had conveyed Sleat and other lands in 
Skye and North Uist to Ranald, son of Allan MacRuari 
of Clan Ranald. Father and son met a mysterious death, 
the former at Blair- Atholl in 1509, and the latter at Perth 
in 1513. About 1506, Archibald Dubh, the illegitimate son 
of Hugh of Sleat, who had murdered his half-brothers 
Donald Gallich and Donald Heroch, assumed the headship 
of the Sleat family. He was expelled from the North Isles 
by Ranald MacAllan and became a pirate ; obtained a free 
pardon by betraying his associates ; was Bailie of Trotter- 
nish in 1510 ; and was killed a few years later by the sons 
of Donald Gallich and Donald Heroch. Such was the posi- 
tion of the Clan Ranald and Clan Huistein when, in 1516, 
Alastair Crotach of Harris got a tack of the whole of Trot- 
ternish, and in 1517 received, as a reward for throwing 

* Appendix Report IV., Hist. Mss. Com., p. 487. Bute and Arran were alone 
excluded from the lieutenancy. "The land of Malcolm Macleod of Lewis" 
is specially mentioned. 


over Donald Gallda, a lease of the same lands from the 
Regent for a period of eleven years, his subsequent 
tenancy to be at the will of the Regent. A later heritable 
grant by the Earl of Angus, of Sleat and North Uist, 
further increased the power of Alastair Crotach. 

It was in these circumstances that Donald Gruamach and 
John of Lewis invaded Skye, and drove the Macleods 
from Trotternish. On nth March, 1528, summonses were 
issued against both, and they were mulcted in a smart fine 
of money and stock, payable to Alastair Crotach. Thus the 
latter recovered Trotternish, but it does not appear that he 
ever attempted to give effect to the charter by which he 
acquired Sleat and North Uist The Clan Huistein, in the 
person of Donald Gruamach, retained possession, charters 
to their rivals notwithstanding. 

About this time John MacTorquil paid a hostile visit 
to Assynt, where he fought a battle with Donald " Cam," 
chief of the Macleods of Assynt, who were cadets of the 
Siol Torquil. The origin of the quarrel is not stated. The 
Lewismen got the worst of the fight, their chief being taken 
prisoner. Donald Cam was, however, mortally wounded, 
and died soon afterwards. 

The Act of 1528, which declared the non-availability of 
the grants made in the Isles and adjacent mainland by the 
Earl of Angus, and which provided that in future only such 
infeftments as should receive the approval of Colin Earl of 
Argyll and the Lords of Council would be valid, naturally 
created much discontent among the grantees. The prestige 
of the Earl of Argyll was enhanced by the power conferred 
upon him by this Act, and he appears to have pushed his 
advantage until the patience of the Hebridean chiefs 
reached breaking point. In 1529, the irritation of the 
chiefs led to an open rupture between them and Argyll, 
the malcontents being led in their opposition to the Camp- 
bells by Alexander Macdonald of Dunyveg. The Isles- 
men were only too glad to have a pretext for striking a 
blow at their hereditary enemies, the House of Argyll, and 
Macdonald received their whole-hearted backing. The 

L 2 


insurrection was initiated by an attack by Macdonald, 
assisted by the Macleans, on the lands of the Campbells, 
which they ravaged with fire and sword. Argyll turned to 
the Crown for assistance, and a herald was despatched to 
Islay for the purpose of ordering the rebels to* lay down 
their arms ; but the King (James V.) did not propose to 
proceed to extreme measures if they were found amen- 
able to reason. In the result, it was found impracticable 
to come to terms, and Argyll, who was in high favour 
for his services against the House of Douglas, received 
the Royal sanction to suppress the rebellion by force. 
This was exactly what Argyll wanted. For some reason, 
however, the preparations for an expedition were delayed, 
and it was not until the spring of the following year 
that they approached completion. The Crown launched 
its usual summonses against the refractory Islesmen. 
On 26th April, "Johane McCloyd de Lewis, Donaldo 
Gromych, McDonald Gallich de Dunskawich (Dunscaich), 
and Alexro Makcloyd de Dunvegane" were, among others, 
thus summoned, and two days afterwards, similar sum- 
monses were issued. The ostensible purpose of these pro- 
ceedings was apparently harmless enough, for it was 
desired that the chiefs should assemble " to commune 
with his Majesty for good rule of the Isles." But the 
Hebridean lords had a wholesome suspicion of Royal con- 
ferences, and in the light of past experience, this is not 
surprising. And these suspicions were not removed by 
the continued preparations which were on foot for reducing 
them to obedience. A levy of men was laid on the loyalist 
of certain districts, and a levy of provisions on various Low- 
land burghs. These outward signs of the purpose of th< 
Crown were not without their effect. On 9th May, nine ol 
the leaders, including Macleod of Lewis, Macleod of Harris, 
Donald Gruamach, and Macneill of Barra, sent in their sub- 
mission through Maclean of Duart* Their submission w; 

* Gregory (p. 134) states that nine of the chiefs submitted, but in the note 
at the foot of the page, giving their names, only eight are mentioned. Tl 
ninth must have been Duart's ally, Macneill of Barra. 


accepted, but their presence was still required before 2Oth 
June at the King's Court, where they were to remain during 
the Royal pleasure. Notwithstanding the safeguarding of 
their lives and property under the King's guarantee, for a 
period of twenty days after their departure home, the 
chiefs were still suspicious. On 26th May, and again on 
9th June, John Macleod of Lewis, with two other chiefs, 
Maclean of Lochbuie and John Canochson (? John 'of 
Keppoch), was once more summoned. 

While the preparations for subjugating the Islesmen were 
ripening, a set-back occurred by the death of the Earl of 
Argyll. His son and successor, Archibald, received the 
lieutenancy of the South Hebrides, while the North Isles 
and North Highlands were placed under the jurisdiction of 
the King's natural brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray. 
The outcome of this dual control was a proposal on the 
part of Argyll and Moray to compel the Hebridean chiefs 
to take their lands on lease from themselves, the lessors 
engaging to guarantee the feu-duties payable to the Crown, 
and Moray offering to bear the whole expense of the pro- 
jected campaign in the North Isles, if unsuccessful. This 
unscrupulous scheme for partitioning the Hebrides between 
the two ambitious nobles was nullified by the wise decision 
of the chiefs to submit to the King, rather than risk a con- 
flict with his lieutenants. Foiled in one direction, Argyll 
endeavoured, by a series of irritating acts, to goad the chiefs 
into rebellion, but again he failed. He then endeavoured 
to effect the ruin of Macdonald of Dunyveg, but was unable 
to substantiate the charges which he brought against him. 
Not only so, but Macdonald's rejoinder placed his opponent 
in such an unfavourable light that, as the result of an 
inquiry, Argyll was imprisoned for a short period, and 
during the remainder of the reign of James V., lay under a 
cloud. So ended the Argyll-Moray plan for dominating 
the Hebrides. The events of 1530-1 may have had some 
bearing upon a grant of Moidart, Arisaig, Eigg and thirty 
merksland in Uist, conveyed by charter dated nth 
February, 1531-2, to "John MacAlester" for " good ser- 


vices."* The recipient of this grant was the famous John 
Moidartach, Captain of Clan Ranald, the illegitimate son of 
Alastair, second son of Allan MacRuari. John Moidartach's 
father was the uncle of Dougall (son of Ranald MacAllan 
who died, or was executed in 1513), whose cruelties so 
alienated his clansmen that they put him to death, and 
elected Alastair in his stead, to the exclusion of Ranald 
Gallda, a son of Allan MacRuari by his second wife, a 
daughter of Lord Lovat. The exclusion of Ranald Gallda 
led to a bitter feud between the Clan Ranald and the 
Frasers, which culminated, in 1 544, in the bloody fight of 
Blar-na-leine,f at which the Frasers were almost decimated, 
among the slain being Lord Lovat, his son and heir, and 
Ranald Gallda himself. 

In 1539, Ruari Macleod of Lewis (son of Malcolm) who 
succeeded John MacTorquil, joined the head of the Sleat 
family in a second attempt to wrest Trotternish from 
Macleod of Harris. Donald Gruamach had by this time 
been gathered to his fathers, and his son Donald Gorm 
succeeded him as chief of the Clan Huistein. Donald Gorm 
hankered after the lands in Skye which his father had 
seized, but had failed to hold. He found a ready and 
powerful ally in Ruari Macleod, who had probably formed 
with him an offensive and defensive alliance, in considera- 
tion of Donald Gorm resigning his claims to the possession 
of Lewis. For he had such a claim, and it was sufficiently 
strong to merit compensation for its renunciation. He was 
married to Margaret, the only child of John the predecessor 
of Ruari, and was thus entitled through his wife to lay 
claim to her father's possessions. As we shall see, this 
claim, although allowed to remain inoperative during the 
lifetime of Ruari, was covertly revived when the question 
of his successor came to be considered. 

Passing over to the mainland from Trotternish, which 
they ravaged, Donald Gorm and Ruari Macleod took 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1513-1546), No. 1,131. 

t The " Field of Shirts, "so-called from the combatants, owing to the sultry 
state of the weather, having thrown off their coats and fought in their shirts. 


advantage of the absence of John Mackenzie of Kintail to 
desolate Kenlochewe ; and they then attempted to capture 
Mackenzie's Castle of Eilean Donain, which was defended 
by only a small garrison.* But the campaign and Donald 
Gorm's life were together ended by a barbed arrow, sped 
by the hand of an intrepid archer, Duncan Macrae, one of 
the defenders of the castle. Donald was wounded in the 
foot, and the wound, owing to his own impatience and the 
lack of an elementary knowledge of surgery on the part of 
his followers, proved fatal. According to the account given 
in the History of the Mackenzies (pp. 135-7), the attack on 
Eilean Donain Castle was the last of a series of raids made 
by Macdonald of Sleat on Mackenzie's country ; Kintail 
in retaliation sending his son, Kenneth, to Skye on two 
separate occasions, to ravage Donald Gorm's lands of 
Sleat. After the death of Donald, his allies burnt the 
Mackenzies' boats and returned home a sorry ending to 
a fruitless campaign. 

That the King was aware of these disturbances, and 
alive to the danger of further trouble in the Hebrides, may 
be inferred from the fact that in 1 540, summonses of treason 
were issued against Ruari Macleod of Lewis, Alexander 
Macleod of Dunvegan, John of Moidart, Cameron of 
Lochiel, and Macneill of Barra ; and in the year 1540^ 
James led in person an expedition to the Isles. Buchanan 
tells us that " the King resolved to circumnavigate Scot- 
land and reduce the fierce spirit of the islanders to the 
obedience of the laws " ; and this statement is borne out by 
Bishop Lesley, and by Lindsay of Pitscottie, as well as by 
the actual proceedings which took place. On the other 
hand, we are informed in a history of Scotland published 
in 1749 by " An Impartial Hand," that the object of the 
voyage was to enable the King to make himself acquainted 

* According to Mackenzie's History of the Macktnzics, the castle was de- 
fended by three men only, of whom one the Governor was killed. 

t Scottish historians appear to be in error in the different dates which 
they give to the voyage of James V. to the Western Isles. Extracts from the 
Treasurer's Accounts which appear in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials prove that 
it took place in 1540. 


with the state of the fishery, " and to enquire fully into the 
abuses and violence committed by the English, especially 
the merchants of London who carried on a considerable 
fishery at the time on these coasts, and in the other northern 
parts of the German Ocean." The Lubeckers conducted at 
this period, with the help of the English, an illicit trade on 
the coast of Scotland, " encroaching upon the property of 
the Scots nation by carrying on their fishing upon their 
coast, without leave either asked or given " ; and these 
proceedings, according to our historian, had formed the 
subject of diplomatic correspondence between the Courts 
of England and Scotland. This matter may well have 
engaged the attention of the Scottish King during his 
famous voyage, and we know that a complete survey of 
the coasts was made by Alexander Lindsay, a capable 
pilot employed for the expedition. That the main 
object was to quell the disorders in the Hebrides there 
can be no doubt. This was not the first visit of James to 
the Isles. In 1536, he left the Forth with five ships on a 
mysterious voyage, the destination of which was generally 
supposed to be France. The King, however, was out on 
one of his adventurous pranks. Instead of steering for 
France, he ordered the ships northwards, and " sailed about 
Skye and Lewis and the Isles." James V. was a genuine 
" sailor-king." 

In May, 1540, a fleet of twelve ships, well equipped 
with artillery, and manned by picked sailors, left Leith 
under the supreme command of James. Six of the ships 
were for the " Kyng and hys trayne," three were for the 
provisions, while the remaining three carried, respectively, 
Cardinal Beaton, the Earl of Huntly, and the Earl of 
Arran, a notable absentee being the Earl of Argyll, who 
was apparently still in disgrace. The Cardinal had with 
him a force of 500 men from Fife and Angus, and Huntly 
and Arran had a following of 1,000 men. These numbers 
were augmented by the members of the Royal suite, 
besides " many barons and gentlemen " with their servants ; 
so it is clear that James was well prepared for armed 


opposition. In point of fact, there was no resistance 
offered. The expedition was from first to last a huge 
picnic for its participants, who doubtless experienced the 
same feelings of curiosity about the remote objective of 
their voyage, as might any band of modern excursionists 
joining a personally-conducted tour to the islands of the 
South Pacific. 

The fleet sailed along the east coast to the Orkneys 
where provisions were requisitioned, and where the King 
was entertained by Robert Maxwell, Bishop of Orkney. 
The next stopping-place was the coast of Sutherland, 
where Donald Mackay of Strathnaver was seized. The 
fleet then crossed the Minch to Stornoway.* Ruari 
Macleod, one of the most troublesome chiefs in the 
Hebrides, together with " the principallis of his kin," was 
compelled willy-nilly to appear before the King, and was 
forced to bid farewell to Lewis for a season. Macleod of 
Harris was next summoned from Harris (some accounts 
say from Dunvegan) to the King's presence, and Macneill 
of Barra had to obey a similar command. At Loch 
Duich, John Mackenzie of Kintail became an unwilling 
passenger, and at Trotternish, the King made quite a haul of 
Macdonalds, John Moidartach of Clan Ranald, Alexander 
of Glengarry, and others " quha allegit thame to be of the 
principalle bluide and lordis of the lies " doubtless the 
Sleat Macdonalds being the recipients of the Royal 
attention. Mr. Gregory suggests that the Macdonalds 
hoped to secure the favour of the King by meeting him 
half-way, thus accounting for their collective presence in 
Skye. If that was their hope, it does not appear to have 
been quite realised, for some of them at least were forced 
to accompany the expedition southwards/I* In the Southern 
Hebrides, Hector Maclean of Duart and James Macdonald 

* Stornovvay has been visited by only two reigning Sovereigns : by James V. 
in 1540 and by King Edward, with the Queen, on 2nd September, 1902. 
The objects of these visits differed as widely as did the nature of the reception 
accorded to the two monarchs. 

t As is well known, the town of Portree (the King's Port) owes its name to 
the visit of James V. to Skye. 


of Dunyveg, the two principal chiefs, were detained as 
captives on board the fleet. The King disembarked at 
Dumbarton, and sent the ships, with their Hebridean 
prizes, back to Leith by the way they came. 

It cannot be supposed that the sole occupation of the 
King during his voyage was to kidnap chiefs and study 
the Gaelic language. To many of his followers, the whole 
affair may have proved of no greater gravity than a 
summer excursion, but James, with all his faults, was a 
ruler who had the best interests of all his subjects at heart. 
The suggestion about the settlement of questions connected 
with the fishing has already been noticed, and according 
to Pitscottie, the King " held justice courts and punished 
both thief and traitor according to their demerit." If the 
pictures of the Hebrides drawn by contemporary travellers 
are truthful, his time must have been fully occupied. 
Pitscottie also makes the statement that James " caused 
great men to show their holdings, and found many of the 
said lands in non-entry." These were promptly confiscated 
to the Crown.* 

There are no definite particulars of the ultimate fate of 
the captured chiefs, but we know that some were set at 
liberty on giving hostages for their peaceful demeanour. 
Contemporary evidence serves to show that the principal 
men were kept in confinement until after the King's death, 
as pledges for the good behaviour of their clansmen. 
Lesley tells us that as the result of the captivity of the 
chiefs, great quietness prevailed in the Isles, and that the 
rents of the Crown lands were regularly paid to the 
Exchequer; a new experience evidently. William Drum- 
mond of Hawthornden states that "this voyage bread 
great fear in those islanders and savages, and brought long 
peace and quietness to those countreys thereafter." 

Whether Ruari Macleod was kept in confinement or not, 
it is clear that he soon regained the Royal favour. In 

* On 2nd April, 1538, Ruari Macleod received a grant of the non-entry 
and other dues of the lands and barony of Lewis from 3Oth June, 1511, to 


1541, James granted him and his affianced spouse, Barbara 
Stewart, daughter of the Lord Chancellor (Andrew, Lord 
Avondale), the lands, island, and barony of Lewis, with the 
: castle and other lands resigned by Ruari for that purpose ; 
whereupon the whole was erected anew into the free 
: barony of Lewis. It may be convenient to state here that 
Ruari's first wife was Janet, an illegitimate daughter of 
John Mackenzie of Kintail, her first husband being Mackay 
!of Reay. After divorcing Janet Mackenzie under circum- 
| stances which will be noticed later on, Ruari married 
| Barbara Stewart in 1541. 

The premature death of James V. in 1542 placed Scot- 
Hand at the mercy of rival parties which, during the minority 
of Mary Queen of Scots, kept the country in a perpetual 
; state of domestic strife. The real master of Scotland 
during the regency of the Earl of Arran was the able but 
unscrupulous Cardinal Beaton, who used the great nobles 
as puppets to serve his own purposes. As the head of 
the Roman Catholic clergy, who were at that time the 
dominant party in the State, Beaton possessed sufficient 
influence to mould the Church and its adherents to his 
resolute will. His natural abilities as a statesman, as well 
as a Churchman, left him without a rival in shaping the 
policy of the country in foreign affairs. The Earl of 
Arran, the next heir to the Crown and the nominal 
Regent, was regarded by the Protestant party as their 
natural leader against the designs of the Cardinal. A 
weak and indolent man, Arran was a mere child in the 
hands of the crafty prelate, who took steps to counteract 
his influence by bringing over from France, Matthew 
Stewart, Earl of Lennox, a rival for the regency, and a 
claimant, like Arran, to the succession, through their 
common descent from the House of Stewart. The advent 
of Lennox upon the scene had important results, both for 
himself and for the country. 

Henry VIII. of England had been quick to turn the 
distracted state of the sister kingdom to his own advan- 
tage. The disastrous defeat of the Scots at Solway paved 


the way for pressing his cherished design of adding Scot- 
land to his own dominions, by means of a marriage between 
his son Edward, and Mary, the infant daughter of James V. 
To this end Henry used the arts of diplomacy, and suc- 
ceeded in forming a faction, the members of which were 
pledged to further his aims. Whatever Cardinal Beaton's 
faults may have been and he was a man to stick at 
nothing to accomplish his ends he was at least consistent 
in his enmity to England and his friendship for France. 
Recognising that the independence of Scotland, the 
ascendancy of the Romish religion, and his own unrivalled 
influence and power were equally threatened by the pro- 
posed marriage, he resisted strenuously the schemes of the 
pro-English party, and looked to France, his early home 
and the ancient ally of Scotland, to save his country. 
Unhappy Scotland thus became the prey of two opposing 
factions, representing, respectively, French and English 
interests. Lennox came over to his native country with 
strong French proclivities, and was hailed as a powerful 
adherent of the French party. But he soon discovered 
that he had been used as a mere tool by the astute prelate, 
whose purpose he had served by intimidating Arran into 
repudiation of his English friends, resistance to the project 
of Henry VIII., reconciliation with the Cardinal himself, 
and renunciation of the Protestant religion. Having thus 
gained his ends, the Cardinal ignored Lennox, whom he 
had previously flattered with his attentions, and with a 
promise of the hand of the Queen- Dowager in marriage. 
The shifty policy of the prelate threw Lennox into the 
arms of the English party, and ultimately into the service 
of the English King. 

The bearing of these events upon the Hebrides will now 
be noticed. As early as the year 1 542, the attention of 
Henry VIII. had been drawn to the Isles by means of 
a letter of extraordinary interest,* written to the King by 
one John Elder, a Scotsman who appears to have been an 

* The Bannatyne, Miscellany, Vol. I., pp. 7~iS. 


xile in England, on account of his politics, or his religion, 
or both. Elder, who was a native of Caithness, and had 
been a student at St. Andrews, Aberdeen, and Glasgow, 
tells the King that he was brought up and educated in the 
West Isles, " namede the Sky and the Lewis, where I have 
bene often tymes with my friend is in ther longe galies 
arrywing to dyvers and syndrie places in Scotland where 
they had a do." He strongly counselled Henry to invade 
Scotland, assuring him of the support of the Highland 
chiefs " the Yrische lordes of Scotland commonly callit 
the Reddshanckes and by historiographouris Pictis " 
who, he states, had been greatly impressed by the King's 
magnanimous treatment of the rebels in Ireland. Elder's 
letter formed the introduction to a " plotte " or plan of 
Scotland which he forwarded to Henry, containing a des- 
cription " of all the notable townes, castels and abbeis," 
together with "the situacion of all the principal yles 
marched with the same callid Orkney and Schetland, and 
of the out yles commonly namede the Sky and the Lewys." 
The writer of this remarkable letter, who calls himself a 
Redshank the Highlanders were so called, he states, from 
their custom of making buskins of deershide has a good 
word to say for his fellow Redshanks. He asserts that 
they surpass the Lowlanders in " faith, honesty, policy and 
wit," an ex-parte statement which, however, probably con- 
tains more truth than the ignorant and prejudiced opinions 
regarding the Highlanders expressed by Lowland writers 
of those and later times. Elder was bitterly opposed to 
Cardinal Beaton and his party, and whatever may be 
thought of his want of patriotism in counselling an invasion 
of his native country, he makes clear his desire that the 
union of the two kingdoms should be based on the 
marriage which Henry was striving so sedulously to bring 
about. The Scots generally were not averse from this 
marriage : they liked the match, but objected to the 
manner of wooing. 

The English Ambassador in Scotland, Sir Ralph Sadler, 
an astute diplomatist, did not lose sight of the uses to 


which the Islesmen might be put in checkmating the 
Cardinal and furthering the plans of the pro-English party. 
It may be we cannot tell that he was instrumental in 
effecting by bribery or otherwise the release of Donald 
Dubh from confinement, but certain it is that the escape 
of Donald coincided with a remarkable movement in the 
Hebrides directed against the National party. Sadler kept 
his Royal master well posted in all that went on behind 
the scenes in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland, and 
his letters are instructive reading, as showing the utter 
want of cohesion, the grasping selfishness, the lack of 
patriotism, and the mutual distrust which prevailed among 
the Scottish nobles of his time. The Earls of Argyll and 
Huntly were exceptions among these time-servers. They 
at least never forgot that they were Scotsmen first and 
partisans afterwards. It is only bare justice to say that 
Argyll and Huntly acted the part of true patriots, who 
had no axe to grind by acquiescence in, or opposition to, 
the ambitious views of Henry VIII. They were therefore 
marked men by the English party : dangerous opponents, 
whose actions had to be carefully watched, and whose 
influence had to be skilfully counteracted. 

The re-appearance of Donald Dubh in the Hebrides 
once more unsheathed the broadswords. His old sup- 
porters again rallied round him, and menaced their old 
enemies, the Campbells. A truce, however, was arranged 
between Argyll and the self-styled " Earl of the Isles," 
which lasted until May-Day, 1543. But Argyll made 
preparations for the inevitable trial of strength. According 
to Sadler, the news was current in Edinburgh, that Donald 
Dubh had decided to take part with the Earl of Lennox 
" against all Scotishmen his enemies," and was getting 
ready to attack Argyll and Huntly. In June, 1543, active 
hostilities were in progress, Argyll in the South and Huntly 
in the North, being fully occupied with the " Irishmen " 

Between June and August, the Hebrideans received a 
valuable accession to their strength. The Regent, insti- 


gated by the Earl of Glencairn the latter being under the 
influence of the English Ambassador decided to release 
the chiefs who had been confined in the Castles of Edin- 
burgh and Dunbar since 1 540. We are left in no doubt as 
to the object of Arran, who at this period was completely 
dominated by the English party. Sadler tells us that " the 
Governor hath now let them loose and sent them home 
i only of policy to keep the Earl of Argyll occupied. . . . 
I So that, as the Governor and others here tell me, the Earl 
of Argyll shall have his hands so full, that he shall have 
no leisure to look hithervvards." No sooner had the chiefs 
reached their homes, than a force of 1,800 Islesmen ravaged 
the country of the Campbells and their allies, and reaped 
a rich harvest in spoil. Sadler comments on this raid : 
" And yet the said Governor took bonds of the said Irish- 
men when he put them to liberty, that they shall not make 
any stir or breach in their country, but at such time as he 
shall appoint them. But how they shall observe these 
bonds now since they be at liberty, it is hard to say, for 
they be noted such perilous persons as it is thought it 
shall not lie in this Earl of Argyll's power to daunt them, 
nor yet in the Governor's to set that country again in a 
stay and quietness a great while. But once the Earl of 
Argyll shall by this means be so matched at home as he 
shall not dare nor be able to go from home, he shall have 
so much ado to keep his own ; and this is done of policy 
as aforesaid."* 

The policy proved in the result short-sighted in the 
extreme, as far as Arran was concerned, for it ultimately 
recoiled on his own head. In a state of society where men 
changed their politics as readily as their coats, it was dan- 
gerous for these shifty faction-mongers to adopt a course 
of action having far-reaching consequences, lest the food of 
to-day should prove the poison of to-morrow. The Earl 
of Arran changed sides soon afterwards, and reaped the 
fruits of his policy. He dug a pit for Argyll, into which the 

* Utters and Negotiations of Sir Ralph Sadler, pp. 334-5. 


latter fell, but he himself tumbled in after him. It was in 
vain that the Regent tried to win over Donald Dubh and his 
followers to his anti-English policy ; the only chief of note 
to side with him was James Macdonald of Dunyveg, and, 
as subsequent events proved, his adherence was at best 
half-hearted, if nothing worse. 

Meanwhile, Donald Dubh and his followers, acting in 
conjunction with the Earl of Lennox, commenced opera- 
tions against Argyll and Huntly, securing by this means 
the friendship and support of Henry VIII., until finally, 
they listened to his representations, and consented to 
transfer their allegiance to the English Crown. It must 
be acknowledged that so far at least as their leader is 
concerned, English gold was a determining factor in 
this decision. But before condemning the Islesmen for 
their traitorous conduct, it may be permissible to examine 
their attitude from their own standpoint. The claims of 
Scotland as their native land had always lain lightly 
on their shoulders; so lightly, in fact, as to be scarcely 
felt. They regarded the Lowlanders as an alien race, 
permanent fusion with whom was distasteful to their 
instincts. From every point of view but their own, they 
owed loyalty and faithful service to the country of which 
the Hebrides had, for nearly three centuries, formed an 
integral part. But above their duty to Scotland, they 
placed their hereditary attachment to the Lords of the 
Isles, who had in the past exercised unquestioned supremacy 
over them, a supremacy which they acknowledged in a 
way that the Crown had never been able to secure by 
favours, or enforce by punishment. How far they were 
influenced by the motives attributed to them by Elder 
the hope of reward from a master who showered favours 
on his rebellious Celtic subjects cannot be known. That 
they expected generous treatment at the hands of the 
English King is not unlikely, but there is nothing to show 
that they embarked upon the enterprise for the sake of 
what they could get out of it. They were financed by 
England, it is true, but it is obvious that the mercenary 


spirit was subservient to their loyalty to the pseudo-Lord 
of the Isles. As for Donald Dubh himself, he had nothing- 
for which to thank Scotland save the walls of a prison, and 
his bitterness against her is at least intelligible. That 
the clans permitted themselves to be made the instruments 
of his revenge may be deplored, but it was neither the first 
nor the last time in their history that they suffered in the 
cause of loyalty, mistaken though it may have been. But 
this much may be said for the Hebrideans : they took 
service with England openly, while many of their Lowland 
countrymen worked for her secretly, while professing to 
be patriotic Scotsmen. 

From the records of the Privy Council of England, we 
find that Donald Dubh received, in May 1545, a sum of 
250 from the English King, and that in the following 
month, in consequence of the reports of Lennox as to the 
good services of Donald in the " avauncement of his 
Grace's affayres in those parties " (the Hebrides), he was 
granted by Henry a further sum of 1,000 ducats, with a 
yearly pension of 2,000 ducats. On 28th July, a commis- 
sion was granted by Donald Dubh, with the advice and 
consent of his barons and Council of the Isles, to two com- 
missioners to treat with the English King under the direction 
of the Earl of Lennox. The Council consisted of seventeen 
members (not one of whom could sign his name), the repre- 
sentatives of the Long Island being Ruari Macleod of 
Lewis, Alastair Macleod of Harris, John Moidartach of 
Clan-Ranald, Archibald Macdonald, Captain of the Clan 
Huistein, and Gilliganan (or Gilleonan) Macneill of Barra. 
The remarkable document constituting this commission 
sets forth, inter alia, that the Lord of the Isles disclaimed 
all allegiance to Scotland, of which realm he described 
himself and his ancestors as " auld enemies," and that he 
entered willingly into the service of England, binding him- 
self to assist the Earl of Lennox with 8,000 men. It is 
perhaps unfortunate for the reputation of Donald Dubh 
that this offer followed, instead of preceding, the payment 
of English gold and the gift of a comfortable pension. It 



gives an undoubted opening to the cynic, and especially to 
those historians who delight in finding weak joints in the 
Celtic armour. The two commissioners, Rory Mac Alastair, 
" Bishop Elect of the Isles " (brother of John Moidartach 
and Dean of Morvern), and Patrick Maclean, brother of 
Duart, were empowered to enter into a treaty with the 
Earl of Lennox for the forthcoming campaign. We find 
from the English records that on the arrival of the com- 
missioners, they conferred on matters of common interest 
with the King and Lennox, to the latter of whom they had 
brought letters from " sundry gentlemen of the Isles." 
All was now in readiness for striking a blow against 
Scotland. On 4th September, 1545, letters were addressed 
by the English Privy Council to Ireland " signifying the 
compact made with the Lord of the Isles of Scotland for 
annoyance of the Scots, and for the preparation of 2,000 
Irisk kerne to go with Lord Ormond under the Earl of 
Lennox, lieutenant for the enterprise. To Chester letters 
were written for preparation of ships for the 2,000 men, 
and likewise a letter to one Mr. Bulkeley for the prepara- 
tion of ' oone sumpter's shippe ' lying at Beaumaris to serve 
at the coming of Lennox at Chester." And on I3th 
September, there is a " warrant for payments to the Earl 
of Lennox, the Bishop Elect of the Isles (' in rewarde ') to 
the Lord Maclane's brother, and to Patrick Colquhoun " (a 
confidential vassal of Lennox).* If Donald Dubh sinned 
as a mercenary, he sinned in good company. 

The correspondence with England coming to light, the 
Regent and his Council took action. On I7th August, 
1545) Macleod of Lewis and Macleod of Harris with forty 
others had a remission from that date to ist November, 
that they might go to the Regent and Lords of Council on 
their affairs. On 9th September, summonses of treason 
were issued against the Macleods and their fellow-con- 

* On I4th July, 1546, an order was sent to the Justice of Ireland "for 
delivery to such person as should be sent by the Earl of Lennox (of) the bodies 
of Patrick Maclean, the Bishop Elect of the Isles, and such his servants as 
were left in custody in Ireland." (Acts of the Privy Council of England^ 
p. 483-) 


spirators. On 28th September, " Roderick McCloid of 
Lewis " and the " remanent of his colleagues " were again 
ordered to appear to answer the charges of treason and 
Ihe-majeste. The form of this summons is significant : it 
distinctly suggests that Ruari of Lewis was the arch-rebel, 
the chief supporter of Donald Dubh, as was Torquil of 
Lewis forty years previously. On ist October, 1545, 3rd 
February, 1545-6, 6th April, 24th May, 1st and 3Oth July 
1 546, the summons was repeated, but brought no response. 
Meanwhile, Donald Dubh had passed over to 
Knockfergus in Ireland with 180 galleys and 4,000 men. 
The despatch from the Irish Privy Council announcing 
their arrival describes them as " very tall men clothed for 
the most part in habergeons of mail, armed with long 
swords and longbows but with few guns." It was expected 
that the Earl of Lennox, with the 2,000 Irishmen under the 
Earl of Ormond, would co-operate at Knockfergus with the 
Hebrideans ; but Lennox being summoned to the camp of 
the Earl of Hertford, then about to invade Scotland from 
the Border, a postponement of the contemplated campaign 
became necessary. After waiting some time in vain for 
Lennox, Donald Dubh returned to Scotland. This was 
the beginning of the end. The campaign, which had been 
initiated with such unwonted harmony between clans some 
of which were normally hostile to one another, terminated 
with a miserable squabble about money. MacVurich 
informs us that a ship came to Mull from England, carry- 
ing the sinews of war for the prosecution of the campaign. 
The money was given to Maclean of Duart for distribution 
among the chiefs, but Duart's disbursement of the cash 
gave rise to discontent, which led to the disruption of the 
army and to the end of the rebellion, so far as the Islesmen 
were concerned. From first to last, there is little in the 
incidents of this insurrection which redounds to the credit 
of the Hebridean chiefs, except their blind devotion to the 
Head of the House of Clan Donald. On the arrival of 
Lennox in Ireland, he found that all his plans had been 
disarranged and his hopes dissipated, by the action of 

M 2 


Donald Dubh and his followers. He re-opened negotia- 
tions with the Lord of the Isles, but the latter was 
apparently powerless to stimulate anew the enthusiasm of 
the chiefs, who sulked in their castles. He died soon after- 
wards : according to Tytler, he found " an obscure grave 
in his own dominions," but according to MacVurich, who 
probably knew better, he went to Ireland to raise men, 
but died on his way to Dublin, at Drogheda, of a fever. 
He left one illegitimate son whom, on his death-bed, he 
commended to the care of his patron, Henry of England. 
Donald Dubh is one of the most pathetic figures in 
Highland history. From his birth to his death, his foot- 
steps were dogged by misfortune. The last representative 
of the Lords of the Isles, in the main line, spent his declining 
years in prison, and died a pensioner of Henry VIII., who 
paid 400 for his funeral expenses.* 

The succession to the Lordship of the Isles the in- 
alienable annexation of that title to the Crown in 1540 
did not weigh with the Islesmen now devolved upon 
James Macdonald of Dunyveg. The male representation 
of the forfeited Lordship and the forfeited Earldom of 
Ross centred in the Clan Huistein, but its chief, Donald 
Gormson, was a minor, and the influence of the family was 
less considerable than that of Islay. James Macdonald 
had hitherto posed as a partisan of the Regent and the 
national cause, but as Mr. Gregory put it, his " patriotism 
seems to have evaporated on his perceiving a possibility 
of obtaining the pension of 2,000 crowns promised to his 
predecessor." He appears to have received the support of 
the various branches of Clan Donald, but his pretensions 
were opposed by the majority of the other chiefs, par- 
ticularly by the Macleods both of Lewis and Harris, and 
among the minor clans, by Macneill of Barra. The mal- 

* As for Lennox, he continued to have a chequered career in the service of 
England. Queen Mary petted him. She sent the Dean of Durham to him on 
one occasion when he was ill "to comfort him by godly and learned counsel." 
Good Queen Bess sent him to the Tower. He ultimately returned to Scotland, 
and his son, Lord Darnley, became the unfortunate husband of Mary Queen of 


contents endeavoured to make their peace with the Regent, 
and their efforts were successful. James Macdonald had 
no intention of serving England without receiving valuable 
consideration. But his application to be placed on the 
pension list of Henry VIII. met with either a chilling 
response, or with none at all : he never got his pension. 
And so his new-born attachment to England evaporated 
as quickly as did his questionable patriotism. The assassi- 
nation of Cardinal Beaton and other political events 
of great importance which were happening in Scotland, 
claimed the attention of King Henry, who was, besides, 
probably too disgusted with the result of his previous 
dealings with the Hebrides to listen to fresh overtures 
from that quarter. No steps were taken by the Regent 
and his Council to enforce the processes for treason which 
had been instituted against the chiefs concerned in the 
recent rebellion a policy probably dictated more by force 
of circumstances than by considerations of leniency. A 
state of peace now prevailed in the Hebrides which was 
undisturbed for some years. The Islesmen were learning 
that friendship with the powers that be had its compen- 
sations, and that their normal attitude of worrying the 
Government had its disadvantages. It is noteworthy 
that this period of comparative quiet in the Hebrides 
coincided with the final abandonment of native claims to 
the Lordship of the Isles. James Macdonald of Islay 
soon dropped an empty title, which brought no profit 
and much embarrassment. He was the last Macdonald to 
take up arms for the recovery of the forfeited Lordship of 
the Isles. Henceforward, the Islesmen found a vent for 
their quarrelsome nature in inter-clan feuds, which seem 
to have been stimulated by the absence of organised 
insurrections. And from this period dates the gradual 
diminution in the Highlands and Isles of the once para- 
mount influence and power of Clan Donald. 

As a sign of the times, it is remarkable that at the 
battle of Pinkie in 1547, a number of Islesmen fought 
against the Protector Somerset on the same side as their 


hereditary enemy, the Earl of Argyll. Lindsey of Pits- 
cottie states that the right wing of the Scottish army was 
commanded by the Earl with " West Highlanders," while 
on the left were " Macleod, Macgregor, and the Islesmen." 
The Macleod here mentioned was the head of the Siol 
Tormod no doubt Alastair Crotach, who died in the 
same year, and was buried in the monastery of Rodil in 
Harris. We are expressly informed that Ruari Macleod 
of Lewis was absent from the battle. This is surprising, 
in view of the fact that he and some of his dependents 
among them William, son of Hugh Morison the Brieve 
of Lewis had received a remission for treasonable assis- 
tance given to " Mathew formerly Earl of Lennox." About 
the same time (1546), Macneill of Barra obtained a remis- 
sion for assisting the English in burning the Islands of 
Bute and Arran. 

In 1551-2, a well-meant attempt was made by the 
Regent at the instigation of the Queen-Dowager, to 
prevent a recurrence of the disorders which had in the 
past periodically broken out in the Highlands and Isles. 
With this object in view, the chiefs were invited to meet 
the Regent at the Justice Courts which he held at Aber- 
deen and Inverness.* Most of the leaders of the recent 
rising were quite willing to agree to the conditions laid 
down by the Regent, but some proved stubborn. On 
2nd June, 1554, a commission was granted to the Earls 
of Huntly and Argyll " to pas with fyre and sword to the 
utter extermination of the Clanrannald, Donald Gorme, 
Macloyde of the Lews and thair complices that sends not 
and enters thair pledges as they ar chairged."f Argyll 
was provided with a ship and artillery to batter Stornoway 
Castle and the strongholds of the Clan Ranald and the Clan 
Huistein. The Earl proceeded to Lewis and laid siege to 
the castle, but the walls of the old building successfully 

* One Patrick Davidson was paid ten pounds by the King's Treasurer on 
23rd July, 1551, to go to Lewis "to charge McCleude of the Lewis and 
Hucheon of the Lewis (the Brieve) to come to my Lord Governor (the Earl 
of Arran) at the aire of Inverness." 

t Register of the Privy Council, Vol. XIV., p. 12. 


resisted the bombardment, and the attempt to subdue the 
Macleods appears to have failed. Beyond the fact that 
the artillery proved ineffective against Storrioway Castle, 
there are no particulars whatever of Argyll's campaign in 
the Hebrides, or of its results.* 

In April, 1555, a process of treason the nature of which 
is not specified was commenced against Ruari Macleod. 
In June of the same year, a commission over the Isles was 
given to the Earls of Argyll and Atholl. In the same 
month, articles were offered " be Macloyde of the Lews 
for his obedience and red res of wrangs and the Erie of 
Argyll as cautioner for him." This suggests that what 
Argyll was unable to effect by force, he accomplished by 

* " The house of Stornava in the Lewes is fallen, albeit it had biddin the 
canon be the Erie of Argyle of auld." (Information by James Primrose. 
Register of the Privy Council, Vol. X., p. 821.) 



WE now come to what may be termed the prologue of a 
tragedy in which the Macleods of Lewis were the actors. 
It is a tragedy which for grimness, bloodthirstiness, and 
general subversion of the laws alike of Nature and the 
Decalogue, has been rarely equalled in history. 

Sir Robert Gordon states that Ruari Macleod's first wife 
was Barbara Stewart, daughter of Lord Avondale, whom 
Ruari married in 1541. This, however, appears to be an 
error, for Torquil Conanach, a son of Ruari by Janet 
Mackenzie, is mentioned as engaged in active life prior to 
1554, and Barbara Stewart "Lady Lewis" appears on 
record in 1566. It is evident that Janet Mackenzie was 
Macleod's first wife. The generally accepted account is 
that she eloped with John Macgillecolum of Raasay, but it 
is fair to mention the version which states that she fled 
from Lewis to Coigeach, to escape from the ill-treatment 
of her husband, who had tired of the lady's somewhat 
mature charms. According to this account, Ruari sent a 
large birling after her, which ran down the boat of the 
fugitive, drowning her and all her companions. But there 
is no doubt that Janet Mackenzie did actually marry John 
of Raasay (" Ian na Tuaighe," or John of the Axe) after she 
had been divorced by Ruari of Lewis. Determined that 
he would keep Janet's son, Torquil Conanach so called 
from his residence with his mother's relations in Strath- 
carron out of the succession to the estates, Ruari dis- 
owned and disinherited him, alleging that he was the son 
of Hucheon (or Hugh) Morison, the Brieve of Lewis. The 
Dunvegan Charter-Chest contains a document dated 22nd 
August, 1566, according to which, a statement was made 


by Hugh Morison, "breoun " (Brehon) " of Lewis," who 
was then " in ye poynte of deathe," to his confessor, " Sir 
Patrick Makmaister of Barwas," acknowledging the pater- 
njty of Torquil Conanach. Deathbed confessions are by 
their nature open to suspicion, and it is difficult to say 
whether pressure may not have been brought to bear, to 
extract a declaration which would prove gratifying to 
Ruari Macleod, and still more gratifying to Donald Gorm 
Macdonald of Sleat. And for the following reason. 

By his second wife, Barbara Stewart, Ruari Macleod 
had a son, also named Torquil, who, to distinguish him 
from the disinherited brother, Torquil Conanach, was 
known as Torquil Oighre, or the heir. This Torquil, who 
is described as " a young chief of great promise," was the 
subject of a communication from Mary, Queen of Scots, 
which deserves to be quoted in full. The Queen's letter is 
as follows, the spelling being modernised : 

" Torquil Macleod : We greet you well. We are in- 
formed that some of the Isles are desirous to have you 
allied to them by marriage ; and because you have that 
honour to be by the Stewart blood, we thought expedient 
to give you advertisement, that it is our will and pleasure 
that you ally yourself to no party in marriage without our 
advice, and until we declare our opinion to yourself therein. 
Subscribed with our hand at Inveraray the 24th of July, 


Whether Torquil Oighre ever married or not we cannot 
tell. About three years after the above letter was addressed 
to him, he was drowned in the Minch, with sixty of his 
followers, when on his way to Trotternish or Waternish ; 
another version being that he was driven by a storm on 
the Assynt coast, where he and his followers were slain by 
Donald Bayne who had usurped the lands of Assynt. He 
left no male issue, and the succession to the estates thus 
rested between his brother Torquil Conanach the dis- 
owned and disinherited and Donald Gorm Macdonald of 

* Fraser's Earls of Cromartie> Vol. I., p. xxxiv. 


Sleat, whose mother was, as we have seen, the daughter 
of John MacTorquil of Lewis. The confession of the 
Brieve of Lewis as to the paternity of Torquil Conanach, 
appears to have been made immediately after the death of 
Torquil Oighre, and it was of paramount importance to 
Donald Gorm, who forthwith founded upon it his claim 
to the succession. Torquil Conanach and his friends on 
the mainland were meanwhile congratulating themselves 
on the way being clear by the removal of Torquil Oighre. 
Ruari Macleod may have been a truculent ruffian, but he 
appears to have possessed a saving sense of grim humour. 
He disappointed both parties by marrying, between 1 566 
and 1570, for the third time and with male issue. The 
third lady who had the peculiar privilege of being the 
partner of his joys and sorrows was Janet, a daughter of 
Hector Maclean of Duart, and by her, his sons were two in 
number, Torquil and Tormod. Ruari had at least one 
fixed idea : that his eldest son by each wife should be 
named "Torquil." This third Torquil is distinguished from 
the others by the soubriquet " Dubh." In addition to 
these lawfully-begotten Torquils and Tormod we may as 
well detail the whole of Ruari's progeny while we are on 
the subject the old chief had a bastard brood of five sons, 
to wit, Tormod Uigach (of Uig), Murdoch, Donald, Rory 
Og, and Neil. It may be convenient to notice here, that 
the first two attached themselves to the cause of Torquil 
Conanach, while the other three supported their father, in 
the family quarrels which were now about to commence. 

Ruari Macleod appears on record in 1565, when, by a 
proclamation dated 2Oth September, he was summoned 
with others to join the Earl of Atholl in Lome, to take 
service against the coalition of nobles, headed by the Earl 
of Moray, who opposed the marriage of Queen Mary with 
Henry Darnley. The early discomfiture of the protesters, 
however, rendered the assistance of the Hebridean clans 
unnecessary. Torquil Conanach commenced, soon after 
this, to enforce his claims to Lewis, and was backed by 
Colin Mackenzie of Kintail. He had married Margaret, a 


daughter of Angus Macdonell of Glengarry,* and by so 
doing, had further strengthened his hands. About 1568, 
he managed to get his father into his possession, and kept 
him in captivity for four years, only releasing him on Ruari 
undertaking to acknowledge Torquil as his lawful son and 
heir. Ruari complained bitterly of his treatment by Torquil 
and his accomplices, asserting that his " lugeing " was 
entered by them at night and burnt, and that he himself 
was kept in captivity in the hills and in caves, and almost 
starved to death by cold and hunger.! On 2ist June, 
1569, Torquil's name appears in connexion with an affray 
at Loch Carron Glengarry's, afterwards Mackenzie's, 
country in which the heir, wife and family and principal 
kinsmen of "John Mclan Mor " were killed. Colin Mac- 
kenzie undertook to cause Torquil Conanach to get a list 
of the slain, upon receipt of which, Robert Munro of Foulis 
bound himself to deliver to Mackenzie or Torquil, a sum 
of 200 merks placed in his hands by certain merchants of 
Edinburgh, " as for the assyithment of the slauchteris 
committit at Loch Carron." Apparently this somewhat 
cryptic entry in the Privy Council records has reference to 
a fishing fray at Loch Carron. 

On 1st August, 1569, before the Regent (the Earl of 
Moray) and the Secret Council, a decreet arbitral was 
signed by Colin Mackenzie and Donald Gorm, by which 
(inter alia], provision was made for the protection of 
Donald Gorm against Torquil Conanach. Failing the 
discontinuance of the latter's harassing tactics, Mackenzie 
was charged to withdraw his protection from him, and 
" pursue, invade, and expel " him from his lands. This 
shows that Torquil Conanach was wont to make excursions 
over the sea to Skye for the purpose of worrying his 
rival ; a dangerous game, in which Torquil had the 
decided advantage of being without any land to ravage. 
The Mackenzies supported him, not only because his 

* She was a widow of one of the Cuthberts of Inverness, by whom she 
became the progenitrix of Colbert, the famous minister of Louis XIV. of 

t Traditions of the Morisons of Ness. 


mother was a Mackenzie, but on account of the enmity 
which existed between them and the Gairloch branch of 
the Siol Torquil an enmity which had recently been 
strengthened by the atrocities of Ruari Macleod (" the 
Venomous ") of Gairloch, who had murdered, among 
others, the sons of Janet Mackenzie by Ian na Tuaighe 
of Raasay. 

After a captivity of four years, Ruari Macleod was 
induced to acknowledge in the most practical manner the 
legitimacy of Torquil Conanach. Being brought as a 
prisoner before the Earl of Mar, who succeeded the Earl 
of Lennox as Regent (the latter having had but a short 
tenure of office after the assassination of the Earl of 
Moray), he was forced to resign his estates to the Crown. 
Torquil Conanach then received by charter dated I4th 
February, 1571-2, a grant of the whole property, com- 
prising Lewis, Assynt, Coigeach, and Waternish, with 
a life rent to Ruari, who formally resigned his interest to 
Torquil. The latter is designated his lawful son and heir, 
thus setting the Royal seal on his legitimacy, which how- 
ever, it is unnecessary to say, was no proof of the correct- 
ness of the designation. The charter provided, that failing 
legal male heirs of Torquil, the estates were to go to 
Malcolm Macleod of Raasay, failing whom, to the nearest 
legitimate male heirs of Torquil, bearing the name and 
arms of Macleod.* The charter was granted on condition 
of Ruari and Torquil remaining good and obedient servants 
of the Crown. Thus the quarrel between father and son 
appeared to be satisfactorily settled, Mackenzie of Kintail 
being probably instrumental in securing so favourable a 
settlement for his protege. But the peace thus patched 
up proved to be a hollow affair. No sooner was Ruari 
released from prison, than by an instrument of revocation, 
dated 2nd June, I572,t he withdrew all promises made 
during his captivity, on the ground of coercion and the 
unfilial conduct of Torquil. The plea of force majeure 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1546-1580), No. 2,019. 

t The document is in the Dunvegan Charter-Chest. 


may not have been good in law, but it was sufficiently 
good for Ruari's elastic conscience. The fruit of this 
revocation was a recrudescence of the old quarrel. 

Ruari Macleod next appears on record in 1573 when, 
by an obligation dated 26th April, he bound himself to 
John Campbell, Bishop of the Isles, to bring in the Bishop's 
fruits, rents, and emoluments, and to cause all others under 
his authority to do likewise. He also promised to be 
obedient " anent all good ordinances, laws, and constitu- 
tions, and corrections concerning the Kirk, as the acts and 
constitution of the Reformed Kirk of Scotland bears, and 
was used in the last Bishop's time." * The document was 
written by Ronald Angusson, parson of Uig, at the com- 
mand of " ane honourable man, Roderick McCloid of the 
Lewis, becaus he culd not writt himself, his hand led on 
the pen." To find Ruari a good Churchman fully com- 
pensates for his ignorance of penmanship. The truth, 
however, is only too patent ; if his writing was bad, his 
morals were worse. Mr. Alexander Mackenzie, in his 
History of the Mackenzies, calls him " an unprincipled 
villain." This is a little hard on old Ruari ; he may 
possibly have been a villain, but he had principles : for, 
by the testimony of parson Ronald Angusson, was he 
not " ane honourable man ? " And was he not a dutiful 
adherent of the Reformed Kirk of Scotland ? 

By 1576, the dispute between Ruari and Torquil 
Conanach had reached so aggravated a form, that the 
Regent (the Earl of Morton, who had succeeded the Earl 
of Mar) and the Privy Council summoned both parties 
to their presence to answer for their lawlessness. On 
26th June, 1576, Ruari and Torquil became "actit and 
obleist" for themselves and their kin, friends, servants, 
tenants, assistants, and part-takers to " behave thameselffis 
as dewtifull and obedient subjectes " ; to keep the King's 
peace and good order in the country in future ; to refrain 
from molesting his Majesty's subjects in their lawful trade 

* Collectanea de Rebus Albanici^ pp. 6-8. 


of fishing in the lochs of the Lewis or others in the 
North Isles ; not to raise any " towist " or imposition upon 
them, but to treat them as the Sovereign's good subjects ; 
and to supply them with meat, drink, and other necessaries, 
at reasonable charges.* This document is suggestive : it 
serves to show that strangers fishing at Lewis had had an 
equivocal reception at the hands of Ruari. The Regent 
managed to patch up once more the quarrel between father 
and son. But the latter was again recognised as the heir- 
apparent, and as such, received from his father, Coigeach 
and other lands, for his support during his lifetime. The 
Earl of Argyll became surety in the sum of five thousand 
pounds for Ruari's appearance, when required, before the 
Regent and the Lords of Council. In 1576-7, security had 
to be given for Tormod Uigach and Torquil Conanach to 
appear before the Regent and Council to answer charges 
made against them. 

The peaceful relations again established between Ruari 
and Torquil Conanach were not of long duration. The 
old quarrel was resumed, and about 1585, Lewis was torn 
asunder by the family strife, as well as by feuds with main- 
landers. Tormod Uigach had figured not long before in a 
fight at Carloway, between a force of Assynt men under 
Rory Hucheonson, and a body of Lewismen under Tormod's 
leadership. There was a stiff contest between the two 
parties, but victory ultimately rested with the Lewismen, 
who routed the Assynt invaders, and compelled their leader 
to fly for his life. The cause of the quarrel is not stated. 
Tormod, the hero of this fight, became a violent partisan 
of Torquil Conanach, and as such, was killed by his brother 
Donald, another of the illegitimate brood, but a supporter 
of his father. Murdoch, who was also one of Ruari's 
bastards, but an opponent of his father, thereupon seized 
Donald, and handed him over to Torquil Conanach at 
Coigeach for punishment. He managed, however, to 
escape from Coigeach, and returning to Lewis, retaliated j 

* Reg. of Privy Council, Vol. II., p. 534. 


on Murdoch by seizing and delivering him to old Ruari, 
who imprisoned him in Stornoway Castle. Feeling that 
he was in honour bound to release his supporter, and 
resolved to bring matters to a definite issue, Torquil 
collected a force, with which he attacked the castle, 
captured it after a short siege, liberated Murdoch, and 
imprisoned the old chief, after killing a number of his 
men. He then left his son John as Constable of the castle 
and as his representative in Lewis, and returned to the 
mainland, carrying with him all the charters and other 
documents of the family which, later, he deposited with 
Mackenzie of Kintail. What has become of these papers 
it is difficult to say; all attempts to trace them have so far 

That John MacTorquil received legal recognition of his 

position is evident from a letter, dated 2oth September, 

1585, relating to the gift to John Macleod ("oy of Roderick 

Macleod ") of the escheat and life rent of all goods, &c., 

which had pertained to Ruari. The document sets forth 

the circumstances under which the old chief had forfeited 

his rights to the Crown. It appears that on 22nd May, 

1583, he was denounced as a rebel and put to the horn, for 

failing to find surety that he would appear before the 

Justice and his deputes to answer charges against him of 

pursuing Torquil Macleod, his son and apparent heir, as 

! well as of " diverse slaughters and crimes." Old Ruari 

was obviously regarded at Edinburgh as a notorious 

ruffian, while his son Torquil Conanach, whose record is 

{anything but blameless, was looked upon as an injured 

! son, who had the misfortune to be cursed with an unnatural 

j parent. But Torquil Conanach had probably powerful 

friends at Court, while at this time, there was possibly no 

I one to say a good word for the quarrelsome old chief, his 


John MacTorquil, who is described as " a brave young 
gentleman," seems to have proved a lenient jailer to his 
igrandfather. He tried to make things as easy as possible 
for the old man, and succeeded so well that the two lived 


together in Stornoway Castle on terms of cordiality, if not, 
indeed, of genuine friendship. He strove to pacify the 
island, and his methods of pacification were sufficiently 
diplomatic to secure a tacit acknowledgment of his authority. 
A disturbing factor, however, still existed in the persons of 
his natural uncles, Donald and Rory Og, and so long as 
they remained as thorns in his side, John recognised that 
there would be no permanent peace in Lewis. He there- 
fore resolved to banish them from the island. Donald and 
Rory Og, on learning his intention, determined to assassi- 
nate him. But they were obliged to resort to strategy 
in order to give them their opportunity. They revealed 
their plot to " one ill race of people who lived there called 
Clan Illoyhenan" (Macleans or Maclennans) who entered 
into their plans. Having concealed their men, who were 
armed with bows and arrows, at seven different points 
between the castle and Sandwick, near Stornoway, the con- 
spirators sent one of their adherents to John MacTorquil, 
with a message that seven swans had been seen on the loch 
of Sandwick, and that he was likely to have good sport if 
he came out. Being a keen sportsman, John eagerly em- 
braced the opportunity, and left the castle, accompanied 
only by two men from Kenlochewe. His grandfather, 
scenting danger, tried, but in vain, to dissuade him, telling 
him that never before had a swan been seen on that loch, 
and that he feared there was treachery in the air. This 
incident reveals old Ruari in a favourable light. It shows 
that he must have been really attached to his grandson, 
and that his kindlier feelings were proof against the mani- 
fest advantages which would accrue to himself, if the heir 
of Torquil Conanach (and his own jailer) were put out of 
the way. A wholly " unprincipled villain " would hardly 
have allowed his feelings of humanity to overcome his baser 
inclinations. The headstrong young man reached Sand- 
wick, only to find that his grandfather's forebodings had j 
been but too accurate. The men concealed at Sandwick 
shot a flight of arrows at John and his companions, where- 
upon the latter took to their heels and fled to the castle. 


As they passed the points at which the other assassins lay 
hidden, a shower of arrows met them. The Kenlochewe 
men were shot dead, but John managed to reach the castle 
in an exhausted condition, with several arrows sticking in 
his body, " whereof," says our chronicler, " he immediately 
died, to the great misfortune of all his friends and the 
utter ruin of that whole family." Thus, says Sir Robert 
Gordon, " was old Rorie Macleod made againe commander 
of that island, which he did possesse dureing the rest of his 
troublesome dayes." 

The assassination of his son was a serious blow to 
Torquil Conanach. Revenge was the first consideration, 
and that was duly exacted. Donald MacRuari, one of the 
ringleaders of the plot, fell into the hands of Torquil, who 
promptly had him executed at Dingwall. Rory Og escaped 
his vengeance, but he too fell a victim, later on, to his 
quarrelsome disposition. The death of John MacTorquil 
was an unfortunate occurrence, for old Ruari liked him, 
and was probably reconciled to the succession falling to 
him. But between Ruari and the youth's father there 
could be no permanent reconciliation. It is obvious that 
the old chief cordially detested Janet Mackenzie's son, and 
it appears that no sooner did he regain his power in Lewis 
than, influenced by his adherents, he appointed Torquil 
Dubh to rule with him as his colleague and successor; 
thus repudiating his former undertaking to acknowledge 
Torquil Conanach as his lawful son and heir. This roused 
the latter to action. It was unfortunate for him that the 
two great families with which he was connected by ties ol 
blood and marriage i.e. the Mackenzies of Kintail and 
the Macdonnells of Glengarry were at that time at feud 
with one another, No material help was therefore obtain- 
able from them, but he succeeded in setting up in Lewis 
a faction in opposition to Torquil Dubh, and skirmishes 
between the two parties were of daily occurrence. 

In April, 1585, an order was promulgated by the 
Council, charging Maclean of Duart, Donald Gorm of Sleat, 
Ruari Macleod of Lewis, and Tormod Macleod of Harris 



who, by the way, was by this time in his grave ! 
" personalie gif thai can be apprehendit," otherwise by 
open proclamation at the market crosses of Inverness, 
Dumbarton, Inveraray, and other places, to appear before 
the Council to answer under the pain of rebellion 
" tuicheing the gude reull and quieting of the His and 
Hielandis." This invitation is curiously ingenuous : it 
arouses the suspicion that the stern Lords of Council were, 
after all, not devoid of a sense of humour. How it was 
received by the chiefs we are not informed ; but it may 
be taken for granted that they treated the proclamation 
with derision. That they could be " personalie appre- 
hendit " was clearly not anticipated : there is great virtue 
in a " gif." And yet, on 29th September, 1585, John 
Gordon of Petlurg gave caution in the sum of 5,000 merks 
to enter Ruari Macleod of Lewis, " presentlie deliverit to 
the said John, to be transported to George Erll of 
Huntley" before the Privy Council or the Justice, upon 
fifteen days warning. From this it would appear that the 
old chief had actually got into the clutches of the law, but 
we find no record of the subsequent proceedings, if any, 
against him. 

In 1586, a complaint was made by the united burghs 
against a number of Highland chiefs, for obstructing the 
fishings in the northern parts of the kingdom, and for 
exacting extortionate dues from the fishermen. Among 
the chiefs so charged are found the names of Ruari Macleod 
of Lewis, Torquil Macleod of Coigeach (Torquil Conanach), 
Macleod of Harris, Donald Gorm of Sleat, and Colin 
Mackenzie of Kintail. The culprits were ordered under 
pain of rebellion to answer these charges, and to find 
caution for their future good behaviour. Having failed to 
appear, they were forthwith denounced as rebels. 

The order of 1585 was probably the outcome of a 
deadly feud between Clan Donald and Maclean of Duart, 
into which practically the whole of the chiefs of the 
Hebrides had been drawn. It is unnecessary to explain 
minutely the origin of this feud. Suffice it to say that 


Lauchlan Mor Maclean of Duart,* and Angus Macdonald 
of Dunyveg a well- matched pair in the arts of treachery 
came into collision over certain disputed districts, and the 
breach was widened by subsequent events. These were 
accompanied by acts of perfidy, which showed a savage 
disregard alike for the laws of hospitality and the dictates 
of humanity. Donald Gorm Mor of Sleat son and 
successor of Donald Gormson was drawn into the 
quarrel, and ranged himself on the side of Macdonald of 
Dunyveg, whose partisans also included the Macleods of 
Lewis, the Clan Ranald, the Clan Ian of Ardnamurchan, 
the Macneills of Gigha, the Macalastairs of Loup, the 
Macfies of Colonsay, and other families of lesser note. 
The Macleans were supported by the Macleods of Harris, 
the Macneills of Barra, the Mackinnons, and the 
Macquarries. In a letter dated i8th September, 1585, 
addressed by the King to " traist friend," William Macleod 
of Harris, the latter is requested to assist his " well belovit 
Lauchlane McClayne of Doward " ..." a faithfull 
trew and obedient subject " against Clan Donald ; so it is 
obvious on which side of the dispute the Royal sympathies 
lay. Maclean of Duart was married to a daughter of the 
Earl of Glencairn, whose influence was probably exerted 
on his behalf. 

The disorders in the Hebrides at length reached a point 
at which the Government found it imperative to interfere. 
The revenues of the Crown were affected, and that fact, to 
a monarch whose financial resources were strained by 
extravagance, was an unforgivable crime. Accordingly, 
on i6th April, 1587, Macdonald of Dunyveg and others were 
charged to deliver up certain hostages for Maclean who 
were in their possession. Angus Macdonald of Dunyveg, 
Lauchlan Maclean of Duart, Donald Gorm of Sleat, Allan 
Macdonald of Moidart and Angus his son, John Macian of 
Ardnamurchan, Roderick Macneill of Barra, William 
Macleod of Harris, Roderick Macleod of Lewis, and 

* Maclean was educated on the Continent, where, we are told, he learned 
"civility and good manners." 

N 2 


Torquil Macleod " his son," and all other chieftains of the 
clans were charged " personalie," or at their dwelling 
places if they could be apprehended, otherwise by open 
proclamation, to " contane " themselves in quietness, 
abstain from armed gatherings, and from attempting any- 
thing whereby they might offend anew against " his 
Hienes." Ultimately, the ringleaders in the quarrel 
settled their differences, temporarily, with the Crown, 
by a liberal payment of fines, a form of punishment 
which strongly appealed to the cupidity of James VI. 

In July of the same year, an Act of Parliament was 
passed, requiring all landlords and bailies on whose lands 
" broken men have dwelt and presently dwell " to find 
sufficient sureties, within fifteen days after being charged, 
under pain of rebellion, that they and all for whom they are 
bound to answer by the general bond shall keep good rule 
in the country, and also that they shall make themselves 
and other men answerable to justice. In the list of 
Highland landlords enumerated under this Act, are found 
the names of " McCleud of the Lewes, McCloid of the 
Harrich, Torquill McCloyd of Togoyth (Coigeach), 
MacNeill of Barrey and the Laird of Knoydert " 
(Clanranald). In the roll of clans that have "captains, 
chiefs, and chieftains on whom they depend, oft-times 
against the will of their landlords, as well on the Borders 
as the Highlands, and of some special persons of branches 
of the said clans," are found the "Clan Lewid of the Lewis, 
Clan Lewd of Harray, Clan Neill and the Clanrannald of 
Knoydert, Modert and Glengardy " (Glengarry).* On i$th 
December, 1 590, a charge was delivered to a number of 
Highland landlords and heads of clans, to find caution for 
good rule in their districts, as appointed by Act of Parlia- 
ment, and among the names are found those of Torquil 
Macleod of Lewisf (ten thousand pounds caution), Ruari 

* Acts of Parliament, Vol. III., p. 467. 

t It would appear that at this time Ruari Macleod was under the ban 
of forfeiture. 


[acleod, Tutor of Harris (ten thousand merks), and 
)onald Gorm of Sleat (ten thousand merks). 

In March, 1589-90, the names of Donald Gorm of 
>leat and Donald (should be William) Macleod of 
[arris, appear in company with those of Angus Mac- 
maid of Dunyveg and Lauchlan Maclean of Duart, on 
ie re-constituted Commission for putting in force the 
iCts against the Jesuits and seminary priests. These 
chiefs were appointed Commissioners in the Isles. It 
reads somewhat oddly to find them posing as representa- 
tives of a religious party. Religious feeling at this time 
ran high in Scotland. The Protestants were peculiarly 
embittered against the Roman Catholics, and the strife 
was intensified by the discovery of a supposed plot to 
suppress, with the aid of Spanish troops, the Protestant 
religion, or obtain full toleration for the Popish faith. The 
incident known as the "Spanish Blanks" gave the Presby- 
terian ministers a handle against their enemies, which 
they worked assiduously. The Earls of Huntly, Angus, 
and Errol, the leaders of the Catholics, were, with their 
adherents, solemnly excommunicated by the Kirk, and 
notwithstanding the shilly-shallying policy of the King, 
were ordered to stand their trial for complicity in the 
Jesuit plot. On their refusal to do so, they were put to 
the horn. But in a list dated i6th March, 1592-3, of 
persons released from the horn, we find the names of these 
three noblemen, together with certain Hebridean chiefs, 
including Ruari Macleod of Lewis, Torquil Macleod of 
Coigeach, Ruari Macleod, Tutor of Harris, Donald Gorm 
of Sleat, Clanranald, and Macneill of Barra. The Catholic 
Earls, however, who were thus received to "the King's 
peace," were not suffered to remain long unmolested. 
Their enemies proved too powerful for them in spite of 
the King's benevolent attitude towards them. Their 
continued refusal to stand their trial led to an expedition 
being sent against them under the young Earl of Argyll, 
with whom were the Macleans, Macneills, Macgregors, 
Mackintoshes, and Grants. The Earls of Huntly and 


Errol, with a much inferior force, met them near Glenlivat, 
where a battle was fought which resulted in the total 
discomfiture of Argyll. A son of Macneill of Barra, who 
is described as " ane of the most valiant men of the party," 
was killed by a discharge of artillery, which is said to have 
" bred a confused tumult " among the Islesmen. Maclean 
of Duart, who commanded the van of Argyll's army, 
proved, with all his faults, a brave and capable captain. 
If properly supported, it is probable that he would have 
succeeded in changing the fortunes of the day. As it was, 
he stood firm amid the general confusion, and retired from 
the field in good order with his Hebrideans. The victory 
of Huntly and Errol did not save them from the conse- 
quences of their contumacy. Vigorous measures were 
directed against them by the Crown, and they were forced 
to fly the country. They were soon afterwards permitted 
to return to Scotland, and were received into the Royal 

While these events were taking place, Donald Gorm of 
Sleat, who was again forfeited in 1594, and Roderick 
Macleod of Harris (Rory Mor) were busy in another 
direction. These chiefs, each with 500 men at his back, 
passed over to Ulster to assist Red Hugh O'Donnell, who 
was then in open rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, in 
which he was afterwards joined by Hugh, Earl of Tyrone. 
On their way to Ireland, the Hebrideans were attacked 
and worsted by English ships of war. This defeat so 
rankled in the breast of Macleod of Harris, that after the 
Macdonalds had returned to Scotland, he remained in 
. Ireland to revenge himself on the English for the losses 
sustained by him. Throughout this Irish campaign, the 
chiefs of the Hebrides were divided by their sympathy 
with the Irish, and their readiness to accept English gold 
for their services to Queen Elizabeth. Lauchlan Mor 
Maclean of Duart was particularly active in the service 
of England, his exertions being probably stimulated by 
a gift of 1,000 English crowns and the promise of a 
pension. In conjunction with Argyll, he was largely 


instrumental in preventing further accessions of Islesmen 
to the ranks of the Irish rebels. Donald Gorm Mor, who 
is called in the English records the " Lord of the Isles," 
offered in 1598 to disclose to the Queen of England, for a 
consideration, the "secret courses" of Tyrone, and of 
the lately restored Earls of Huntly, Angus, and Errol.* 
The expedition to Ulster was a fiasco, and brought neither 
honour to the Macdonalds and Macleods themselves, nor 
material assistance to their Irish allies. The vigorous 
policy of England successfully frustrated the object of 
the campaign. 

It needs no great stretch of the imagination to realise 
that Lewis was not at this time the abode of tranquillity. 
Ruari Macleod appears to have died about the year 1595, 
having reached, according to a Lewis tradition, the great 
age of 94.t His son, Torquil Dubh, who seems to have 
been, during the last few years of his father's life, the 
acting chief of the Siol Torquil, succeeded him with the 
consent of the clan. His bastard brother, Rory Og, having 
quarrelled with him, was banished from Lewis, and con- 
signed to the tender mercies of Torquil's uncle, Maclean 
of Duart, from whom, however, he escaped, only to perish 
miserably in a snowstorm. Thus did Black Torquil rid 
himself of troublesome relatives. The succession of 
Torquil Dubh was naturally not regarded with equanimity 
by his rival, Torquil Conanach, who, so far as charters 
and agreements with his reputed father could legalise his 
claims, was the undoubted heir to the estates. 

In 1 594, an Act of Parliament was passed, having as its 
object, the punishment of "thift, reif, oppressioun, and 
sorning." Among the clans concerned are found the 

* Donald Gormson, the predecessor of Donald Gorm Mor, had long main- 
tained friendly relations with England. On one occasion, when on a visit to 
Queen Mary of England, he was presented with some garments which had 
belonged to Edward VI. In 1572 (about twenty years later), he told Queen 
Elizabeth that he was still wearing them ! He was ready in 1572 to give 
his services to England " with all his power." (Cal. of State Papers (Foreign 
Series, 1572-4), pp. 48-9.) 

t According to an official statement dated 1595, he was alive in that year. 
The same statement calls Torquil Dubh (Og) a bastard and usurper. (See 
Appendix A.) 


Macleods of Lewis and Harris, the Clan Ranald, the Clan 
Donald, south and north, and the Clan Neill. Notwith- 
standing, so the preamble runs, the sundry Acts made by 
the King and his predecessors, for punishing theft, reiff, 
oppression, and sorning, the clans named still practised 
their cruelties and daily "heirschippes."* The Act was 
intended to put a stop to such practices, as well as to 
end the system of sorning (sjourner\ or commandeering 
free quarters, then so prevalent in the Highlands and 
Isles. There was evidently a good deal of truth in these 
assertions, exaggerated though they may have been. It 
is difficult, from the evidence, to resist the conclusion that 
the Long Island, at the end of the sixteenth century, 
was a hotbed of disorder and oppression. 

The chief supporters of Torquil Conanach were the 
Morisons of Ness, under their leader John, the Brieve of 
Lewis, son of Hugh Morison, whose relations with Ruari 
Macleod's wife had been of so compromising a character, 
if his own confession is to be believed. Among the most 
active partisans of Torquil Dubh were the Macaulays of 
Uig, whose leader, Donald Cam (so called because he was 
blind of an eye), bulks so largely in Lewis tradition. In 
1596, active hostilities between the two Torquils appear to 
have taken place, and the Macleods were included in the 
list of turbulent chiefs against whom the King proposed to 
proceed in person, a task to which, as events proved, his 
spirit was unequal. Certain of the chiefs, among whom were 
Ruari Macleod of Harris, promptly made their submission, 
and upon the rival claimants of Lewis offering to agree to an 
increase of duties and other requirements of the Exchequer, 
they were also removed from the list of disobedient clans. 
Each of the Torquils doubtless hoped, by his ready 
acquiescence in these demands, to receive legal recogni- 
tion of his claims, but in this hope Torquil Dubh was 
disappointed. By a charter dated loth August, 1596, 
his rival was infeft in Lewis, the only reservation to the 

* Acts of Part., Vol. IV., p. 71. Hership, i.e., cattle-lifting. 


Crown being the Castle of Stornoway with the twenty 
merklands adjoining, which, in the grants of the island, 
always formed an appanage of the castle.* 

Both competitors had strengthened their hands by 
powerful alliances. On attaining his majority, Torquil 
Dubh married a sister of Rory Mor of Harris, while the 
eldest daughter of Torquil Conanach was married to 
Roderick, brother of Mackenzie of Kintail. Neil, the 
second son of Torquil Conanach, had died of a fever at 
Coigeach, and Torquil was thus left without a male heir. 
Under these circumstances, he threw himself into the arms 
of the Mackenzies, who espoused his quarrel with Torquil 
Dubh, and afforded him in secret that support which it 
did not then suit their policy to give openly. Torquil 
Dubh, for his part, continued to defy his rival, and kept 
possession of Lewis, with the consent of his clansmen, with 
whom he was very popular. Resolved to carry the war 
into the enemy's country, he invaded Coigeach and Loch 
Broom with a powerful force, and ravaged these territories 
with merciless ferocity. 

A complaint to the Privy Council, dated nth February, 
1 596-7, by Torquil Conanach (who describes himself as of 
" the Lewis ") and by Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, 
against " Torquill Dow McCleude usurpar of the Lewis," 
gives a highly coloured picture of this invasion. The com- 
plaint states that, accompanied by a force of " Hieland 
brokin men," numbering about seven or eight hundred, 
Torquil Dubh had " committit sic barbarous and monstrous 
crueltie as the lyk hes not bene hard of, spairing nowther 
man wyffe nor barne quhome they micht apprehend," so 
that a great number of his Majesty's true subjects are 
" cruellie murdreist and slane, the haill boundis foirsaidis 
displenneist and layd waist, and the haill bestiall and 
guidis thairof goirit and slane." Mackenzie, being himself 
a member of the Council, may be presumed to have 
emphasised these charges in a way which boded ill for 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1593-1608), No. 465. 


Torquil Dubh. The latter, being summoned to answer the 
charges, was, not unnaturally, unwilling to trust himself to 
the tender mercies of a Court, where his case had probably 
been pre-judged. He therefore disobeyed the summons, 
and was consequently declared a rebel. His father-in-law, 
Rory Mor, was on 2ist March, 1596-7, compelled to bind 
himself in the sum of ten thousand merks, "be the faith 
and treuth of his body," to acknowledge the supremacy of 
the King, and to make his men obey the King's lieutenant 
in " repressing of the insolence " of the inhabitants of the 
Isles and Highlands, the hostage for his obedience being 
Donald, son of John Macleod of Raasay. It is probable 
that Rory Mor had assisted his son-in-law in the raid on 
Coigeach and Loch Broom. 

Rebel or no rebel, Torquil Dubh retained possession of 
Lewis, and the other Torquil was riot a whit nearer the 
consummation of his desires. Some decisive step had to be 
taken, and a secret meeting was held between Torquil 
Conanach, Mackenzie of Kintail, Murdoch, the bastard son 
of old Ruari, and the Brieve of Lewis, to concert measures 
for ousting the man in possession. It was decided that 
there was only one way out of the difficulty, and that was 
to get rid once for all of Black Torquil. " Bot," says Sir 
Robert Gordon, "ther laiked one to execute the interpryse " 
and considering the nature of the enterprise, this is not 
surprising. In consideration, however, of a large reward, 
the Brieve was at length induced to undertake the dirty 
work of Torquil Conanach, who had neither the means, nor 
perhaps the pluck, to enforce his claims in an open and 
honourable manner. And this is how the treacherous 
plan was carried out. 

The Brieve, who seems to have varied his judicial duties 
with acts of downright piracy, was one day sailing with his 
men in his great galley towards Rona, when he fell in with 
a Dutch ship carrying a cargo of wine. We are told with 
suggestive simplicity that he " took " the Dutchman. The 
ship was brought to Ness, the Brieve's head-quarters being 
at Habost. This capture led to important issues. Here 


was an opportunity for John Morison to implement his 
agreement with Torquil Conanach and his friends. With 
a show of cordial hospitality, he invited Torquil on board 
of the prize, and requested him and his party which 
included the redoubtable Donald Cam Macaulay to 
sample the wine. The wine was good, and the guests were 
enjoying themselves. Presently, Donald Cam, who had 
kept his head tolerably clear, became conscious of the fact 
that the ship was moving, and was beginning to roll. He 
immediately hastened on deck and discovered that they 
were in the open sea. With a warning cry to Torquil 
Dubh that they were betrayed, he rushed for his arms, 
only to find that they had been removed. Then the plot 
was revealed in all its perfidy. The ship's cable had been 
secretly cut ; the weapons of Torquil Dubh's party had 
been taken away ; and a band of selected and well-armed 
warriors, who had been carefully concealed by the Brieve, 
now came upon the scene. A gigantic follower of John 
Morison, named John Roy Mackay of Bragar, seized 
Donald Cam and lashed him to the mast, a number of 
bravos meanwhile standing with their swords at his breast. 
Another party seized Torquil Dubh and bound him ; and 
his fate was sealed. The wine of the Dutchman proved 
his ruin, and the strategy of the treacherous Brieve was 
crowned with complete success. The ship was steered for 
Ullapool, where the prisoners were handed over to Torquil 
Conanach. Donald Cam and his son-in-law were fettered 
together by a heavy chain, attached to a large block like an 
anvil. They were, however, not too closely watched, and 
managed to make their escape to Applecross, whence they 
reached Skye. From Skye they crossed to Harris, and at 
length reached their Uig home in safety. The return of 
Donald Cam alarmed his enemies, for they knew the 
character of the man. John Mor Mackay fortified Dun 
Bragar, and built himself a hut close by as a dwelling- 
place. Donald Cam mustered the Uig men, captured 
Mackay in bed, and afterwards despatched him without 
mercy. A number of Morisons took refuge in Dun 


Carloway, but the vengeance of Macaulay followed them. 
With the aid of two dirks, Donald Cam climbed to the top 
of the broch, threw bundles of heather inside, set fire to 
them, and smothered and burnt the inmates. The 
Morisons had their revenge subsequently at Brue, Barvas, 
where a fight took place between the rival clans, resulting 
in the overthrow of the Macaulays.* 

Torquil Conanach having his rival in his power, had no 
scruples about putting him out of the way. Doubtless, it 
would have been more to his liking had the Brieve con- 
veniently dropped Torquil Dubh overboard, or otherwise 
disposed of him without throwing the responsibility on his 
shoulders. Morison shrank from extreme measures, and 
wisely left his employer to incur the odium of his rival's 
murder. Torquil Conanach had now gone too far to draw 
back. It is probable that a sham trial took place, at which 
the enormity of the crimes attributed to Torquil Dubh was 
duly set forth. All we know is that in July, 1597, Torquil, 
by the orders of his competitor, was made " short by the 
head," to quote a Mackenzie manuscript. It is not unlikely 
that Torquil Conanach justified the execution of Torquil 
Dubh, by asserting that it was a fitting punishment for the 
ravaging of Coigeach. It is quite obvious that the real 
motive was the removal of a rival ; and the act was one 
of sheer murder, in which Torquil Conanach, Mackenzie 
of Kintail, and the Brieve were all accomplices, directly or 
indirectly.t Sir Robert Gordon relates that " at the verie 
instant of the execution, ther wes ane earthquak which 
much astonished the malefactours, though naturallie 
hardened with crueltie and mischeifT." And there is a 
Lewis tradition which states that when the murder was 
committed, the hands of every milkmaid in the Isles 
became bloody. 

So great an impression did the execution of the unfor- 
tunate Torquil Dubh create among his contemporaries, 

* Traditions of the Macaulays of Uig. 

t Writing to Queen Elizabeth in 1598, Donald Gorm of Sleat informs her 
that Torquil was betrayed and murdered "be ye craft and meyane of 
McKeanze of Kyntaill." (Clan Donald, Vol. II., Appendices, pp. 757~8-) 


that a meeting of the chiefs friendly to his interests was 
held in Skye, " to consult about the affair," those present 
at the conference being Macleod of Harris, Maclean of 
Duart, the Captain of Clan Ranald, Macdonald of Dunyveg, 
and Donald Gorm of Sleat. It was felt by the chiefs that 
Torquil Conanach could only have resorted to such an 
extreme measure at the incitement of Mackenzie of Kin- 
tail, and they decided to act in concert against Mackenzie 
and his tool. Whether the suspicions entertained of 
Kintail were justified by facts or not, he was at least a 
man whom they could not catch napping. On learning of 
the inimical measures about to be directed against him, 
he promptly abducted from school in Glasgow, Tormod, 
the younger brother of Torquil Dubh, resolved to keep him 
as a pledge against any unfriendly acts on the part of his 
supporters. At the same time, he took steps to protect 
the borders of his territories against hostile attacks. His 
men succeeded so well in guarding their charge, that the 
first attempt at invasion was repelled, with fatal results to 
the aggressors. This was a discouraging beginning. The 
members of the coalition, realising at the very outset of 
their campaign, that Kintail was a dangerous foe to tackle, 
wavered in their resolution ; Maclean was reluctant to 
proceed further ; and ultimately the enterprise was aban- 
doned, all the more readily, seeing that the immediate 
interests of the confederacy were not directly assailed or 

Meanwhile, Torquil Conanach was as far off as ever 
from the attainment of his ends. The execution of Torquil 
Dubh, instead of opening the way to Lewis, shut him out of 
the succession even more decisively than before. Torquil 
Dubh had left three young sons, and the clan, furious with 
Torquil Conanach, were determined to support to the death 
the offspring of his victim. In Neil Macleod, by far the 
most distinguished of old Ruari's bastard sons, they found 
a man with a fertile brain and a strong hand, who was 
well qualified to lead them. Neil willingly undertook the 
guardianship of the orphans, and meanwhile, by virtue of 


his relationship to them and his superior abilities, took 
command of Lewis and ruled as their representative. The 
Morisons of Ness were the objects of his vengeance, and 
tradition has preserved accounts of many sanguinary fights 
which took place between that clan and the Macleods. 
The Morisons appear to have got the worst of the 
encounters, for many of them were forced to take refuge 
in Durness and Eddrachillis in Sutherlandshire, where 
a branch of the clan was settled. According to the Old 
Statistical Account y the inhabitants of those districts in 
1793 were, with a few exceptions, all Morisons, Macleods, 
and Macleays. 

From these local feuds, we now turn to consider a matter 
of wider importance, viz., that epoch in Lewis history 
which is known as the attempted settlements of the Fife 


IN December, 1597, two important Acts were passed by 
the Scottish Parliament, both of which had a direct bearing 
upon the Long Island. One, entitled " The Inhabitants 
of the lies and Hielandis suld schaw thair haldingis," 
required that all landlords, chiefs of clans, and other 
proprietors of land and fisheries in the Highlands and 
Isles, should appear in Edinburgh before I5th May, 1598, 
and produce their deeds. The other, entitled " Anent the 
bigging of burrowes townes in the lies and Hielandis," 
ordained that for better "civilitie and polecie" in those 
parts, there should be erected a burgh in Kintyre, one in 
Lochaber, and one in Lewis, each with lands to be granted 
by the King, and to be endowed with all the privileges 
enjoyed by any other burghs within the realm.* 

The preamble of the first Act sets forth that the lords 
of the districts concerned had neglected to pay the feu- 
duties, or to perform the services due by them to the Crown. 
They are called hard names for their barbarity and cruelty, 
which, it is affirmed, had resulted in the fertile lands and 
rich fisheries in their possession being left undeveloped. 
Then follows the charge to produce title-deeds, failure to 
do so involving absolute forfeiture of the lands to the 
Crown. It is easy to see what lay at the root of this 
drastic Act. The impecuniosity of the King, in conse- 
quence of his extravagance, was notorious. Money had 
to be raised somehow and somewhere. The Act was 
plainly devised to replenish the Exchequer at the expense 
of the Highlanders and Islesmen. It was the first step 
in the policy of confiscation upon which James the Sixth 

* Acts of Par!., Vol. IV., p. 139. 


had set his heart. The Act enabled him to initiate his 
plan with an imposing show of legality. It was well 
known to the King and his advisers that several chiefs 
had lost their title-deeds. It was well known that some 
of them would find it difficult, if not impossible, to find 
the required security for their good behaviour. It was 
shrewdly suspected that certain of them, who possessed 
title-deeds and could find the necessary bail, would never- 
theless fail to put in an appearance at Edinburgh. All 
these contingencies were clearly well considered, before 
the machinery of the Law was put in motion to grab the 
land of ignorant or careless chiefs. This remarkable 
Act of Parliament was conceived in guile, drafted with 
duplicity, and executed, as we shall see, with violence. 

The Act for creating three free burghs in the disaffected 
districts was, to all appearance, an innocent measure. 
That it was likely to prove beneficial to those districts 
may be readily conceded. But that it was part of the 
great scheme for swamping the natives with Lowland 
colonies, or improving them out of existence, is also 
tolerably clear. To this Act, the burghs of Campbeltown 
in Kintyre, Fortwilliam in Lochaber, and Stornoway in 
Lewis owe their origin, but Campbeltown is the only one 
of the three whose claims to the full privileges of a Royal 
burgh are undisputed ; and its erection did not take piace 
until 1700 the last creation of the kind previous to the 
Union of Parliaments. On 4th May, 1598, a Council was 
appointed to consider how the meaning of the Act was to 
be effected, the Isles reduced to obedience, and "justice 
and quietnes establishit thairin." Of the ten Councillors 
thus appointed, two Sir George Home of Wedderburn, 
and Colonel Sir William Stewart, Prior of Pittenweem 
soon afterwards appear as participants in an act of 
legalised robbery : the seizure of Lewis by the Fife Adven- 
turers. So much for the constitution of this Council, and 
the disinterested motives of its members. 

There are no records to show what chiefs failed to 
present their title-deeds by 15th May, 1598. We know, 


however, that Lewis, Harris, Dunvegan and Glenelg, were 
declared to be at the disposal of the Crown. The title of 
Rory Mor to his estates was unimpeachable, but whether 
his failure to fulfil the requirements of the Act was due to 
ignorance and simplicity (as he himself afterwards pled), 
or to other unexplained reasons, his estates were, as stated, 
declared forfeited ; and it was not until after a lapse of 
many years that he succeeded in re-establishing his pro- 
prietory rights. There is some reason to believe that the 
Act may have been mainly designed to enable the King 
to grab Lewis, and dispose of it to good advantage. 
Torquil Dubh, the late chief of the Macleods, had been 
declared a rebel ; the title-deeds had been carried off 
by Torquil Conanach, and subsequently deposited with 
Mackenzie of Kintail ; and finally, the island was torn 
asunder by family and inter-clan feuds. Truly, this was 
a most promising territory to fall like ripe fruit into the 
waiting hands of the King. According to the reports 
received by James, it was a pleasant land, a land flowing 
with milk, yellow with corn, and teeming with fish, within 
and around its bounds. What wonder was it, therefore, 
that this, his remote Hebridean territory, should strike the 
imagination of its most high and mighty prince, and that 
its supposed store of wealth should arouse his easily 
awakened cupidity? 

In the records of the Privy Council, there is an entry 

relating to the ratification of a remarkable contract dated 

28th June, 1598. The parties to this contract were the 

King on the one hand, and on the other, Patrick, Com- 

mendator (Prior) of Lindores, James Leirmont of Balcomie, 

Sir James Anstruther, younger of that ilk, James Spens 

of Wormiston, Sir James Sandilands of Slamannanmure, 

i Captain William Murray, John Forret of Fingask, Sir 

j William Stewart, Commendator of Pittenweem (one of the 

j ten Councillors), Sir George Home of Wedderburn (Comp- 

| troller, and another of the Councillors), his son and heir 

i David Home, and last but not least, Ludovick (Lewis), 

Duke of Lennox, cousin and prime favourite of the King. 



The contract thus ratified bound the undertakers " to 
plant policy and civilisation in the hitherto most barbarous 
Isle of Lewis, with Rona-Lewis and Trotternish, and to 
develop the extraordinarily rich resources of the same for 
the public good and the King's profit." The full particulars 
of the agreement are to be found in the Parliamentary 
records which contain its ratification. An analysis of the 
conditions is here given. 

The contract, which is a lengthy one, lays stress upon 
the difficulties experienced by the King in reducing the 
lands to obedience, " be reasoun of the evill dispositioun 
and barbaritie " of the inhabitants, who from time to time 
have directly opposed the introduction of " ony policie or 
civilitie " among them. His Majesty " perfytelie under- 
stands" that the lands are "be speciall Providence and 
blissing of God inrychit with ane incredibill fertilitie of 
cornis and store of fischeingis and utheris necessaris, 
surpassing far the plenty of any pairt of the inland. And 
yet, nevertheless, the same ar possest be inhabitantis quha 
ar voyd of ony knawledge of God or His religioun, and 
naturallie abhoiring all kynd of civilitie, quha hes gevin 
thameselfis over to all kynd of barbarietie and inhumani- 
tie . . . occupying in the meantime and violently 
possessing his Hienes proper landis without payment of 
maill (feu-duty) or greffum (fine of entry) thairfoir." 

Then follows a statement of the undertakings entered 
into by the Syndicate of Adventurers. As a definition of 
their general attitude, they are most willing, to the utter- 
most of their power, to "advance and set fordwart the 
glorie of God, the honour of thair native countrey, and 
his Majesty's service." They undertake to augment the 
yearly rent and revenue of the Crown. They undertake 
to plant " kirkes " and other " policie " within the lands in 
question, all at their personal expense, besides hazarding 
" thair owin bodyis and lyves and the lyves of utheris 
thair kyn and freindis." The consideration to be paid to 
the King for his grant of the lands is next stated. Until 
the year 1600, the Adventurers, in view of their initial 


expenses and expected improvements, are to be free from 
any payment of feu duty. Afterwards they are to pay for 
Lewis, Rona and " Ilanshand " (the Shiant Isles), with 
their pertinents, an annual rent of 140 chalders of beir 
(barley), to be delivered annually at any part or most con- 
venient port in Lewis between Christmas and Easter. For 
the eighty merks Crown lands of Trotternish (which in 1596 
had been leased to Donald Gorm of Sleat at an annual 
duty of 380 merks), they are to pay a feu duty of 400 
merks, in half-yearly instalments, at Whitsuntide and 
Martinmas. And certain stipulations are also specified 
regarding payments by the heirs of the Adventurers, on 
their entry to the lands. 

The contract goes on to lay down regulations for the 
government of the burghs of barony which the Syndicate 
are empowered to erect, and of any ports and havens 
which they may create. Provision is made for the building 
of four parish churches within the lands of Lewis and 
Rona, and two churches in Trotternish, the patronage of 
which is to be vested in the Syndicate, being dissolved 
from the Bishopric of the Isles. Provision is also made for 
the erection of a Stewartry or Justiciary to be independent 
of the Sheriffdom of Inverness, and to be endowed with 
ample powers for the administration of justice, the nomi- 
nations to this office to be in the hands of the Adventurers. 
Exemption from service other than in foreign wars, or in 
expeditions to conquer the other islands, is granted to the 
members of the Syndicate, and even the exceptions are to 
be binding only on occasions when they are charged to 
accompany the King and his successors in "proper person." 
Nor are these exceptions to apply, unless the commissions 
ordering them to accompany the King or his lieutenants 
have reference to districts north of the Ness. 

The Adventurers are also exempted from all taxation, 
except special imposts, Lewis to be reckoned as forty 
pound lands and Trotternish as eighty merks. But even 
this tax is not to be recovered from them by law nor are 
any of them to be dispossessed by " violent force." 



When the Adventurers are infeft in the lands of Lewis, 
Rona, and the Shiant Isles, either by resignation of the 
lawful proprietors or by lawful recognition of their (the 
Adventurers') rights therein, they are to resign Trotternish 
into the King's hands ad remanentiain, and are thereupon to 
be infeft anew in warrandice, an equal distribution to be 
made to them and their heirs male. 

And finally a stipulation is made for the ratification of 
the contract by the next Parliament* 

On 7th July, articles anent Lewis, in favour of the Syndi- 
cate, were drawn out by the Privy Council. With reference 
to the Act " maid aganis the Hielandmen and Isles " for 
non-production of their titles, it was ordained that a 
process of forfeiture be prepared against them (for "the 
crymes of tressoun following, specialie raising of fyre, 
steilling, murtheris ") and a new title made out in favour 

of the Adventurers. It was further ordained that a com- 

mission of lieutenancy be given to the Duke of Lennox, 
empowering him to issue proclamations in all parts of the 
North for concurrence and assistance the Duke's house- 
hold and companions to be furnished with shipping and 
" viveris " (provisions) at the King's expense for at least 
two months after the arrival of the party at their destina- 
tion. And to obviate the danger of attack by the natives, 
a charge was to be given to the principal men of the Isles 
to assemble together and " demolische and destroy " the 
whole of their birlings and lymphadsf within fifteen days 
after being so charged. Likewise, " they upon the main- 
land " were to be charged to deliver, within the same time, 
their vessels for the use of the Syndicate, the only excep- 
tions to these orders, both in the case of the Islesmen and 
the mainlanders, to be " all sic boittis as rowis with thrie 
airis in the syde." And further, no more vessels were to 

* Reg. of P.O., Vol. V., pp. 462-3. Acts of Parl y Vol. IV., pp. 160-4. 

f A "birling" was a long-oared boat of twelve to eighteen oars. A 
"lymphad" (long-bhata=long-boat) was a galley with one mast. Galleys 
carried from eighteen to twenty-four oars. The crews of birlings and 
lymphads varied in number, according to the number of oars, reckoning 
three men to each oar. 


be built for the space of three years. It was also ordained 
that a dispensation be granted to the Adventurers, freeing 
them from all actions against them, and from all taxation, 
for at least a year after their arrival in Lewis. 

By the same articles, the King granted the Syndicate a 
commission for " uplifting of men in quhatsumevir part 
within this realme, in burgh or land, be all ordiner meanis 
observit in sic caissis," a somewhat cryptic reference which 
apparently applies to the levying of assistance for the 
enterprise, or the planting of settlers in the new colonies. 

The articles further provided for the ratification by the 
next Parliament of the securities and infeftments granted 
to the Syndicate, with all " neidfull solempnities in ample 

So far as the natives themselves were concerned, the 
sting of the document lay in its tail. For the. last clause 
stipulated that no part of the Highlands or Isles should 
thereafter at any time be " disponit in few, tak or utherways 
bot to Lowland men," or at least to such Highlanders as 
could find Lowland cautioners. 

By an Act of the Privy Council dated i/th August, an 
assignation of the 140 chalders barley appointed to be 
paid for Lewis, Rona, and the Shiant Isles, was made to 
the Duke of Lennox for a period of five years, beginning 
with the crop of 1600, and ending with that of 1604 ; and 
the feuars were commanded to pay the Duke their feu- 
duties accordingly during that period. The consideration 
for this assignment consisted in the forthcoming services 
of Lennox as the King's lieutenant in Lewis, with its 
pertinents, and Trotternish, " quhilk office will not onlie be 
hazartus to the said Lord Duke's persone," but also an 
expensive undertaking for him. The arrangements for the 
expedition were then in progress, for the Duke, it is stated, 
was to " pas schortlie accumpaniet with the gentilmen 
aventuraris."t On 25th August, the authority of Lennox 
was limited by an instruction to consult the King, or 

* Reg. of P.C., Vol. V., pp. 467-8. 
T Reg. of P.C., Vol. V., p. 480. 


those nominated by him, before showing favour or over- 
sight to any of the Islesmen. King James was a little 
suspicious of his lieutenant exceeding his authority. 

An Act of Parliament during the same year, entitled 
"Anent the Lewis Adventurers," refers to a petition by 
the members of the Syndicate, craving that the exemption 
from actions against them, as granted by the Privy Council 
on yth July, be extended to themselves and their followers, 
as well for causes to be " intentit " as for those already 
" intentit." But Parliament, considering that this extension 
might cause the ends of justice to be defeated, referred the 
decision to the senators of the College of Justice, who were 
to be requested by the King to find a way of granting the 
petition of the Adventurers, without prejudicing the interests 
of suitors. And the Estates agreed to ratify whatever action 
might be taken in the matter. 

The preamble of this Act deserves special attention. 
The cloven hoof is displayed in the avowed intention of 
"ruiting out of the barbarous inhabitants occupiaris of 
the same of befoir, void of all religioun and humanitie."* 
The Adventurers were to teach the Lewismen religion and 
humanity by deporting or exterminating them. 

On 3Oth October, the Adventurers, who were then ready 
to set out for Lewis, petitioned the Privy Council for 
amplification of a supersedere, and exemption from actions, 
granted by the Council for one year on 7th July, and re- 
mitted to the King and the senators of the College of 
Justice. The importance attached by the Adventurers to 
this dispensation is significant 

The foregoing official records clearly demonstrate the 
origin, nature, and objects of the plot laid by the King for 
the "ruiting out" of his subjects in the Island of Lewis. 
It originated in his impecuniosity ; its character was ruth- 
lessness itself ; its purpose was to fill the Exchequer. To 
justify a course of action which was wholly indefensible, he 
had recourse to hypocrisy ; and James VI. could play the 

* Acts ofParl.,\o\. IV., pp. 175-6. 


role of hypocrite to perfection. It cannot be denied that 
the Lewismen were wild, unruly, and irreligious ; that they 
stood sorely in need of civilising influences ; nor that their 
code of ethics was laxness itself. But the statements of 
the crimes attributed to them by their King crimes, the 
enormity of which grew in a crescendo fashion with each 
successive Act of Council or Parliament are too highly 
coloured to be received without the most profound sus- 
picion. It is only too obvious that the character of the 
Lewismen was purposely limned in the blackest colours, 
and the reason for this exaggeration is not obscure. It is 
no uncommon circumstance for a man to bolster up a weak 
case by damaging the character of his opponent, and that 
was precisely the course followed by his most Christian 
Majesty. It may be argued that the Lewismen had no 
character to lose, and that the extirpation of a set of bar- 
barians such as they were held to have been, was justifiable. 
But they possessed at least a character for bravery, as the 
Fife filibusters discovered to their cost. When King James 
and his Council found that the primitive instinct of self- 
defence still flourished in Lewis with undiminished vigour, 
their language became more abusive than ever. They ex- 
hausted their vocabulary of vituperation. 

The logical expression of the King's passion for civilising 
Lewis would have been the despatch of a band of mis- 
sionaries and schoolmasters to the island, instead of an 
organisation of land-grabbers, backed by a military force. 
The process of civilising a people by " ruiting " them out 
of their homes has yet to be discovered. Muskets, not 
missionaries ; swords, not schoolmasters, were the weapons 
of civilisation chosen by the King. All too tardily it was 
discovered by James and his advisers, that force was a 
means of permanent subjugation which it was futile to 
employ against the warlike Hebrideans, for it frequently 
recoiled upon the heads of those who used it. And when 
a more enlightened policy was adopted, the beneficent 
results were immediately apparent. That the Lewismen 
were amenable to genuine methods of civilisation, is proved 


by the fact that when, in 1610, Lord Kintail brought the 
Rev. Farquhar Macrae to the island, his ministrations 
were gladly welcomed, and his own person was treated with 
the utmost respect. But the colonising scheme of James 
was obviously a brazen attempt to fill his coffers by means 
which stultified his professions, and revealed his insincerity. 
He appears in the light of a company promoter who places 
a concession on the market, puffs it by crafty advertisement, 
and disposes of it on the most advantageous terms to 
himself. The gentlemen from Fife and the Lothians, impe- 
cunious like their Royal master, acquired the concession 
with the firm resolve, as business men, of making as much 
as possible out of it for themselves. This Syndicate ot 
chartered buccaneers was brought into being, with aims 
which the most hardened association of money-grubbers of 
the twentieth century might hesitate openly to avow. By 
their King, they were directly incited to accomplish the 
process of " civilisation," much in the same manner as the 
early settlers in Australia " civilised " the aboriginal black- 

While these preparations were proceeding in the South, 
fighting was proceeding in the North and West. Taking 
advantage of the disturbed state of Lewis, Donald Gorm 
revived the pretensions of the Sleat family to the island, 
and invaded it with a strong body of followers. Neil 
Macleod, the bastard son of Ruari, called out the 
Lewismen to defend their homes, and a battle was 
fought at the west side of the island, resulting in the 
discomfiture of the invaders.* Reports, however, reached 
the Lowlands that Donald Gorm had " spoyled and left 
the Lewes voyd and bare,"t so he had apparently succeeded 
in working much mischief before his defeat. The Southern 
Hebrides were also disturbed by a revival of the feud 
between the Macdonalds of Dunyveg and the Macleans of 
Duart, in which Macleod of Harris and Macneill of Barra 
sided with the Macleans, and helped to defeat the Mac- 

* Traditions of the Macaulays of Uig. 
t Anderson's MS. Hist, of Scotland, Vol. III., fol. 295. 


donalds at Bern Bige in Islay (1598). These disturbances 
roused the King to assert his authority, and a proclamation 
was issued in June, 1598, calling out a levy to meet him at 
Dumbarton, James avowing his intention of proceeding in 
person to Kintyre and other parts of the Highlands and 
Isles to reduce the clans to subjection. Two months later, 
a further proclamation of a similar but more peremptory 
tenor, was issued, and all the shipping at Glasgow, Ayr, 
and Irvine was impressed into the King's service. At the 
end of August, James actually proceeded to Dumbarton 
with a portion of his Court, leaving part of the Council in 
Edinburgh under the presidency of Lord Seton. He had 
made elaborate arrangements for his personal safety. He 
selected for his own use a ship of Ayr, whose owner 
was charged to find a crew of the best and ablest 
mariners that the town could produce, and to get a loan of 
artillery or munition from any burghers who possessed 
them. But he never reached Kintyre, much less the 
Hebrides. The shires and burghs had gauged his pusil- 
lanimity to a nicety ; hence their neglect to obey his first 
proclamation. They were convinced that he would hesi- 
tate to trust his sacred person in the Hebrides, being a man 
of big words but timid action. The expedition was aban- 
doned from no known cause save the King's indecision. In 
1600, a similar farce was enacted, and with the same result. 
One of the proclamations of that year was particularly 
concerned with the " suirtie of his Heynes persone," which 
it did not accord with his " honnour " to " hasard in thay 
pairtis," unless adequately supported. Not thus was 
James IV. accustomed to arrange his expeditions to the 
Hebrides. But James VI. was,more careful of his person 
than of his honour and dignity. The personally-conducted 
expedition was once more abandoned, never again to be 

The exact date of the Adventurers' departure for Lewis 
is uncertain, but they appear to have sailed early in 
November, 1598, and this is confirmed by a contemporary 
diarist (Moncrieff of that ilk): BirreVs Diary and Moysie's 


Memoirs (p. 138) state that they sailed in October, 1598, but, 
as we have seen from the official records, they had not taken 
their departure by the 3Oth of that month. Mr. Gregory 
says (p. 290) they did not leave until October, 1 599, and is 
at a loss to account for the delay in setting out on their 
voyage. From documents which have recently been pub- 
lished, as well as from the evidence already mentioned, 
it is now established beyond any doubt that they were 
actually in Lewis before the first week of December, 1598. 

Under the supreme command of the Duke of Lennox, 
the expedition sailed from Leith, and appears to have 
reached Stornoway within four days of the date of 
departure. The members of the Syndicate were accom- 
panied by several gentlemen volunteers, keen on so pro- 
mising an adventure, and on the prospects of plunder. 
The military force consisted of some five or six hundred 
hired soldiers. A number of miscellaneous tradesmen 
represented the intended permanency of the settlement, 
and the expedition was thoroughly equipped with all the 
requisites for an encampment. Contemporary historians 
were under no illusion as to the severe measures which 
were intended to be taken, nor as to the ultimate object of 
the scheme. Archbishop Spotswood declares that the 
intention was " to plant Lowlandmen in the Isles and 
transport the inhabitants into the mainland, where they 
might learn civility," and that the Adventurers " made a 
beginning at the Isle of Lewis."* 

At the time of the invasion of Lewis, the government of 
the island was in the hands of Murdoch and Neil Macleod, 
the surviving illegitimate sons of old Ruari. Murdoch was a 
man of superior education, who possessed not only the dis- 
tinction of being able to sign his name, but could actually 
draft legal documents with a precision and shrewdness 
which could not be excelled by an Edinburgh lawyer. Neil, 
too, could write a good letter, as we shall have occasion to 

* The late Dr. Fraser -Mackintosh informed the author that he had in his pos- 
session a holograph letter from the King, being one of several addressed to 
influential Highland gentlemen, requesting them to aid the Adventurers. 


see hereafter ; but he was more at home with the sword 
than with the pen. The suggestion, therefore, that these 
men were mere savages, who were destitute alike of man- 
ners, morals, and education, is not borne out by facts. Mur- 
doch, as the elder brother, was in supreme command of 
Lewis ; according to Spotswood, he " carried himself as 
Lord of the Isle," but used his authority in a tyrannical 
manner. The two brothers, who were probably made 
aware of the departure of the expedition to Lewis, pre- 
pared to resist the Lowlanders. There are no details of 
the fighting which took place, but the resistance appears 
to have been of an obstinate character. It was, however, 
finally broken down ; and in December, the news reached 
Edinburgh that Stornoway Castle had been captured. 
Murdoch Macleod, who is said to have distrusted the 
fidelity of his followers, fled from Lewis, and apparently 
took refuge with Torquil Conanach, whose partisan he had 
consistently been throughout his career. Neil seems to 
have remained in Lewis, with the object of worrying the 
colonists by means of guerilla warfare. 

Having temporarily overawed the natives, the Low- 
landers now commenced preliminary operations for an 
effective settlement of the island. Towards the Lewis 
people generally, they appear, notwithstanding their blood- 
thirsty mandate, to have acted with moderation. Either 
the power, or the will, or perhaps both, were wanting to 
initiate a policy of extermination. It is not improbable 
that they quickly made the discovery, that they had to 
deal with a people whose character had been painted in 
darker colours than the facts warranted. Their own posi- 
tion was not particularly enviable. They found themselves 
threatened with a scarcity of provisions, for the natives 
had apparently cleared the country of supplies. Their 
shelter was inadequate, the encampment they had formed 
being insufficient to protect them against the November 
gales and the dampness of the climate. Exposure brought 
on an epidemic of flux or dysentery, to which many of the 
colonists succumbed. It was under these circumstances 


that one of the members of the Syndicate, James Leirmont 
of Balcomie, was sent South, probably to apprise the King 
of the progress which had been made, to discuss general 
matters connected with the settlement, and to obtain a 
supply of provisions against the winter months. 

Leirmont never reached his destination. On 7th 
December, 1598, his ship was attacked off the coast of 
Ross-shire (or Sutherlandshire) by Murdoch Macleod, 
who commanded a small fleet, consisting of a galley, two 
birlings, and one smaller boat. Murdoch had with him, 
besides his own men, his brother William another son of 
old Ruari whose name has never before appeared on record 
and his followers ; William MacAllan, and his sons and 
servants ; Alexander MacAllan and his men ; and two 
sons of the Brieve of Lewis, viz., Angus Mclan " Bref," 
and Ian Dubh " McBrief " ; thirty men in all. Murdoch 
Macleod was in command of the galley, and, according to 
his own account, took no part in the actual fighting : he 
was, he says, without " ony wapin usit be me, bot steiring 
the galay." His associates used their " wapins " to some 
purpose, for several of the passengers, as well as the crew 
of the Syndicate's ship, were killed, the names of the 
slain which are known being Arthur Hamilton of Both- 
wellhaugh, Joseph Leirmont, and David Short. Two of 
the Lowlanders attempting, apparently, to escape in the 
ship's boat, were captured by the birling, which was under 
the command of William MacAllan, and were killed and 
stripped. The laird of Balcomie himself, with those of 
his company who were left alive, was kept, for ransom, a 
prisoner in the Isle of Ristol (one of the Summer Isles) 
from 7th December, the date of his capture, until the 26th 
of the following January, that is, for fifty days. On 28th 
December, he signed at Ristol a bond in favour of 
Murdoch Macleod, for the sum of 300 merks, as ransom 
for Thomas Cunningham, a burgess of Crail who had been 
captured by Angus Morison and eight comrades. The 
person who negotiated most actively for the release of 
Balcomie was Donald, son of the bloodstained Neil Mac- 


ieod of Assynt. For some unexplained reason, Assynt 
espoused the cause of the Fife Syndicate ; perhaps he 
hoped to reap some advantage to himself by being on 
what appeared to be the winning side. Murdoch Macleod 
fixed Balcomie's ransom at 3,000 merks, and a bond for 
that sum was signed by the prisoner, with Assynt and 
nine of his friends as cautioners. Assynt also became 
cautioner for an additional sum of 500 merks, as ransom 
for Thomas Cunningham, the Crail burgess, and one John 
Mure, who were fellow-captives with Balcomie. Murdoch 
showed considerable shrewdness in drawing up the bond 
for the 3,000 merks. In order to keep the principal and 
his cautioners strictly to their agreement, he stipulated 
that if the whole sum were not forthcoming by Whit- 
Sunday, 1600, he was to be paid interest on the unpaid 
balance at the rate of ten per cent.* This was not bad for 
a simple barbarian, an untutored savage ! The ransoms, 
together with the captured ship and the money found in 
her (consisting of 200 merks and 40 merks of Spanish 
reals), constituted a good haul for one day's work. But 
Murdoch did not enjoy his triumph long. 

On the news reaching Lewis that the laird of Balcomie 
had been captured, the colonists seem to have sent Colonel 
Stewart, Spens of Wormiston, and others, to perform the 
mission with which Leirmont had been charged. Stewart 
was probably the ablest military commander the colonists 
possessed. He had been chosen Lieutenant of the Isles in 
1 596, and Queen Elizabeth had been solicited to aid him 
in subduing the Hebrideans ; but her refusal seems to 
have rendered his commission inoperative. Taking ad- 
vantage of the absence of Stewart and Spens, Neil 
Macleod suddenly attacked the colonists with what an 
indictment of i6i3t calls, "200 barbarous, bludie, and 
wiket Hielandmen," armed with bows, darlochs (quivers of 
arrows), two-handed swords, hackbuts (arquebuses), pistols, 
and other weapons ; it is evident that the arms of the 

* Keg. of P.C., Vol. XIV., Appendix to Introduction, 
f Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, Vol. III., pp. 244-7. 


Lewismen were well up-to-date. They killed twenty-two 
of the colonists, burnt property valued at 20,000 merks, 
and carried off horses, cows, oxen, sheep, and other 
" bestiall " worth ten thousand pounds. 

The news of the raid soon reached the ears of the King. 
In a letter dated I5th June, 1599, to the Chancellor and 
other Lords of the Privy Council, he commanded them to 
" haist " Colonel Stewart and his comrades in concluding 
the consideration of matters connected with the Isles 
which was then proceeding. " For," added the King, " we 
have ressavit letters out of the Lewis " showing that their 
" returne is maist ernistlie craved and thocht maist 
necessar to be haistned." Four days after the date of 
this letter, Stewart, Spens, and Thomas Cunningham, 
the Crail burgess, appeared before the Privy Council, 
craving for themselves and for the Syndicate, that a day 
should be appointed for charging Mackenzie of Kintail 
with such " crimes " as they were prepared to advance 
against him ; and the 25th September was fixed for the 
purpose. It is probable that the worthy burgess of Crail 
had discovered, during his imprisonment on the Isle of 
Ristol, that Kintail was a secret enemy of the Syndicate, 
and knew more about Murdoch Macleod's doings than he 
openly professed. No doubt Cunningham was to have 
been the chief witness against Mackenzie ; but the appli- 
cation, so far as the records show, was fruitless. Kenneth 
Mackenzie had a perfect genius for getting himself out of 
a tight place. 

It is not surprising that there should have existed in the 
Highlands and Isles generally, a feeling of great irritation, 
not unmixed with profound disquietude, at the intrusion 
of the Lowland strangers. The fate of the Lewismen 
to-day might be that of their neighbours to-morrow. The 
conquest of Lewis was the thin end of the wedge. The 
cession of Trotternish was sufficient to stimulate the active 
antagonism of Macleod of Harris and Macdonald of Sleat, 
both of whom laid claim to that territory. The great 
chiefs of the western seaboard viewed with alarm the 



planting at their doors of a strong body of vigorous Low- 
landers, who in time might spread their tentacles across 
the Minch, and grab the fertile territories on the mainland. 
The hostility of Mackenzie of Kintail is therefore intelli- 
gible on grounds other than his desire to acquire Lewis 
for himself. It was bad policy to have aroused the well- 
founded suspicion of the powerful clans of the West. It 
could only have one effect : that of arraying them in 
secret, but none the less active, dangerous, and solid 
antagonism towards the schemes of the King and his 
Land Syndicate. A man like Mackenzie of Kintail was 
a particularly undesirable foe. Of great ability, and of 
no greater scrupulosity than the majority of Scotland's 
magnates, Lowland and Highland alike, he was sufficiently 
powerful to be able to make or to mar the success of the 

A commission of lieutenancy to last for a twelvemonth 
was, on Qth July, 1599, granted to Lennox and Huntly, 
the latter of whom had been pardoned for past offences, 
and during this year was created a marquis. The Act of 
Council constituting this lieutenancy commences with the 
usual recitation of the " frequent villanies and barbarous 
cruelteis " of the " wicked and rebellious " inhabitants of the 
Isles (the Highlands are this time included in the category), 
who are " void of all feir or knauledge of God," destitute of 
reverence for prince, law, or justice, and guilty of treason, 
murders, and intolerable actions, " very aft every ane of 
thame batheing themeselffis in the blude of utheris." 
Then comes the old complaint the crux of the whole 
matter about the loss of revenue to his Majesty, owing 
to the shocking state of society in those parts ; and refer- 
ence is made to the " daily practice by force and policy " 
of disappointing the King's service in Lewis. To remedy 
this state of matters, Lennox and Huntly are appointed 
Lieutenants and Justices within the whole bounds of the 
Highlands and Isles, and full indemnity is given them and 
their assistants for any " slauchter, mutilatioun, fyre-raising 
or utheris inconvenientis " which they might commit in 


the discharge of their duties. They are specially ordered 
to assist with their whole forces the Lewis colonists, and 
they are charged to expel from Lewis any who refuse to 
submit to the Adventurers. They are further charged to 
" prosequite with fyre, sword, and all kind of hostilitie " all 
open enemies or secret thwarters of the colonists. Full 
general powers are conferred upon the lieutenants to do 
everything necessary for settling the Isles, and they are em- 
powered to convocate, with the counsel and advice of certain 
specified landlords, the lieges north of the Dee, as often as 
they think expedient in the fulfilment of their commission. 
And lastly, the lieges themselves are charged to obey the 
lieutenants, who are also empowered to appoint the Lewis 
colonists as their lawful deputies. In the instructions to 
Lennox and Huntly, they are charged to pacify the Isles, 
and to assist the Lewis colonists to enable the King to 
receive yearly, " ane thankfull payment of the dewiteis con- 
tenit in thairinfeftment, quhairby his Majestei's rentis salbe 
greatlie augmente."* And in the performance of this task, 
the lieutenants are to be counted worthy of great reward 
as indeed they well deserved to be. The Earl of Enrol, 
the Earl Marischal, Lord Forbes and others named, are to 
act as counsellors to the lieutenants' in the matter of raising 
levies of men for service in the Isles and the disaffected 
parts of the Highlands. The hands of the lieutenants 
were further strengthened by an Act of Council, dated 
I9th November, 1599, making landlords and chieftains of 
clans answerable for the conduct of their men. And a year 
afterwards (25th November, 1600) a decree in favour of 
Lennox was published, transferring to him the rights of 
jurisdiction over the western seas hitherto held by the 
Argyll family. 

The powers thus conferred upon the Duke of Lennox 
and the Marquis of Huntly were of a sufficiently compre- 
hensive character. In effect, the lives as well as the lands 
of the Islesmen were handed over to the tender mercies of 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. VI., pp. 8-10. 


these two noblemen. Lennox might perhaps be trusted 
not to abuse the absolute powers with which he was in- 
vested, but as subsequent events show, Huntly was quite 
willing to undertake the extirpation, root and branch, of 
half the population of the Hebrides. That these men 
should have received unlimited authority to slaughter the 
Islesmen at their will, is a further indication of the policy of 
the King. Little recked he of the lives of his Hebridean 
subjects, so long as his rents were " greatlie augmente." 

On his release from captivity, Leirmont of Balcomie 
sailed for home in January, 1599. But the unfortunate 
laird never again saw Balcomie. Attacked by a fever, he 
was landed at the Orkneys, and enfeebled as he was by 
the hardships of his captivity, quickly succumbed to the 
disease. The laird of Balcomie must have formed a 
striking contrast to the rough islanders. He was on one 
occasion denounced from the pulpit by a plain-speaking 
minister (Alexander Melville) as a " Frenchiest, Italianest, 
jolly gentleman,"* the adjective "jolly," as the context 
shows, being a back-handed compliment, implying that 
his morals were far from being unimpeachable. The death 
of Leirmont infuriated the colonists in Lewis, who were now 
determined to get hold of Murdoch Macleod, and punish 
him for his outrage on their comrade. But Murdoch was 
far too wary to permit himself to fall into their hands. In 
their extremity, they resolved to come to terms with Neil, 
hoping thus to obtain their revenge on Murdoch, and rid 
themselves of Neil's guerilla warfare. They succeeded 
almost beyond their expectations. Neil was irritated with 
his brother for the friendship which he maintained with 
the Brieve and his clan, whom Neil cordially hated. The 
complicity of the Morisons in the capture and death of 
Torquil Dubh had never been forgotten by Neil, in whose 
rugged breast there beat a heart full of loyalty for his 
murdered chief. The colonists promised him that if he 
would deliver Murdoch into their hands, they would give 

* Chambers' s Domestic Annals^ p. 309. 


him a grant of land in Lewis, and secure a free pardon 
from the King for all his offences. Neil's cupidity thus 
aroused proved too much for his fraternal instincts, and he 
gave his assent to the proposal. Whatever the means 
he adopted for getting his brother into his power, he 
succeeded, by an act of base treachery, in capturing 
Murdoch, with twelve of his followers. The latter were at 
once executed without further ceremony, and their leader 
was handed over to the tender mercies of the colonists.* 
As Moysie puts it, by means of " ane speciall Hielandman 
of that lie" thus is Neil described twelve were seized 
and beheaded ; their heads were sent in a " pok " to Edin- 
burgh and set upon the city gates. A ghastly cargo of 
human heads in a sack from the distant Island of Lewis 
was an object-lesson to the burgesses of Edinburgh which, 
it may be hoped, they took to heart. But it was, after all, a 
poor freight for an impecunious King, whose chief concern 
was to secure his rents. 

Murdoch Macleod such is the irony of fate was sent 
to Balcomie in Fife, where he was detained as the prisoner 
of John Leirmont of Birkhill, brother and successor of the 
laird who ended his days in the Orkneys. While at Bal- 
comie, he made a written confession, dated 3Oth January, 
1600, of the events of 7th December, 1 598. Four days after- 
wards, he signed a written discharge of all sums stipulated 
as due to him for the ransom of James Leirmont, and a 
quitclaim of all right to pursue either the executors of the 
late laird, or Donald Macleod of Assynt, for recovery of 
the money. The document was drafted by Balcomie's 
factor, John Orme, and one of the witnesses was Thomas 
Cunningham, the quondam prisoner of Murdoch. 

It is fairly evident from these documents that the prospects 
of a pardon were held out to Macleod, in consideration of 
his renouncing all benefits derived from his capture of 
Leirmont. But the very day he signed the quitclaim 
at Balcomie (3rd February), a Royal order was despatched 

* Spotswood (p. 468), who states that Neil laid an ambush for his brother. 


to the Justices of Fife charging them, notwithstanding al 1 
precepts to the contrary, to proceed to the immediate trial of 
Murdoch, who is described as " of Sebuste " (? Shawbost), 
and as the brother of Torquil Macleod of Coigeach, no 
longer, be it noted, " of Lewis." The trial was ordered to 
take place at St. Andrews, and the Justices were com- 
manded, if they found the prisoner guilty of the " crimes " 
with which he was charged, to sentence him to be hanged, 
drawn, and quartered, and his head to be affixed above the 
" Nether Bow " of Edinburgh, as a warning to others.* 
This letter put an effectual stop to whatever negotiations 
may have been set on foot for the pardon of the culprit. 
Murdoch was found guilty by the Fifeshire Justices to 
whom his trial was entrusted because his " crimes " were 
committed against the Fife Adventurers and the sentence 
prescribed by the King was carried into effect at St. 
Andrews. Looking at all the circumstances from an im- 
partial standpoint, it cannot be said that the sentence was 
a just one. The members of the Syndicate and the dis- 
possessed Lewis chief were at open warfare. The resistance 
of the Macleods to the invasion of the Adventurers was 
wholly justifiable, and indeed patriotic ; while the attack 
on Balcomie's ship was a fair stand-up fight ; and whatever 
barbarities may have accompanied the victory of the 
islanders were, according to Murdoch's statement, com- 
mitted without his authority. But it was useless to expect 
such considerations to weigh with judges who were 
deliberately chosen for their local prejudice against the 
prisoner, and who dared not run counter to the plain 
wishes of their Sovereign. After all, in their view, the 
execution of Murdoch Macleod made one Lewis barbarian 
the fewer for their friends, the Syndicate, to cope with. 

Murdoch being now disposed of, the Adventurers made 
overtures to Mackenzie of Kintail for a compact whereby 
they might secure his powerful friendship. Accordingly, a 
minute of the heads of an agreement was drafted at Perth 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. XIV., Appen. to Intro. 

P 2 


on ist April, 1600, by one Patrick Orme, and signed by 
Mackenzie and three witnesses. The heads of the agree- 
ment are briefly as follow : 

1. The Syndicate having suffered great loss through Murdoch 

Macleod and his accomplices, Mackenzie binds himself to call 
to account any of his friends, servants, or tenants, who may be 
implicated in the theft of goods or gear from the colony ; and 
that any such cases shall be adjudicated upon by two arbi- 
trators, to be chosen by Kintail and two members of the 

2. In view of the strained relations between Mackenzie and Donald 

Macleod of Assynt due, it is alleged, to Macleod's friendli- 
ness to the colonists it is agreed that if Mackay of Strath naver, 
who is acting as umpire in the quarrel, does not succeed in 
restoring the friendship of the two chiefs, the matter shall be 
referred to four arbitrators as before stated ; and that in the 
meantime, Kintail shall not molest Macleod, nor his friends 
and servants. 

3. It is agreed that Mackenzie shall do his best to arrange a com- 

promise between Torquil Macleod and the Syndicate ; and 
that in the event of Torquil refusing to accept whatever 
reasonable terms may be offered him by a Board of Arbi- 
trators, Kintail shall withdraw his protection from him ; with 
the reservation, however, that without breach of bond, the 
Syndicate shall have power to pursue the Coigeach men for 
the theft of boats and ships. 

4. In view of certain allegations by Kintail that Neil Macleod had, 

since last May, committed " divers wrongs and injuries '' to 
Mackenzie's tenants, the Adventurers are willing, in the event 
of Neil's refusal to submit to arbitration, to adjudicate upon 
the matter and to give Mackenzie satisfaction. They also 
agree to Kintail taking any lawful means he pleases, for 
punishing Neil in respect of whatever charges may be proved 
against him ; but that any wrongs committed by Neil prior to 
May shall not be accounted a breach of friendship between 
Mackenzie and themselves. 

5. That each of the partners of the Syndicate and Mackenzie shall 

maintain friendly relations with one another, and shall perform 
the mutual duties demanded by law, conscience, and friend- 

This document serves to explain the general situation. 

* Reg. of P.O., Vol. XIV., Appen. to Intro. 


The heads of the agreement seem to show (ist) that 
Mackenzie had been a party to the worrying tactics of the 
natives ; (2nd) that he had bitterly resented the friendly 
attitude of Macleod of Assynt towards the Lowlanders ; 
(3rd) that he had been backing Torquil Conanach in his 
rightful claims to Lewis ; (4th) that Neil Macleod had been 
annoying Mackenzie by attacks on the mainland ; that 
his compact with the Syndicate was made in May, 1599 ; 
and that since that time he had maintained friendly 
relations with the colonists. True to their promises, the 
Adventurers, or those of them who went South to give 
evidence against Murdoch Macleod, had taken Neil with 
them and obtained for him a free pardon from the King. 
He returned to Lewis with his Lowland friends, the latter, 
who were accompanied by the new laird of Balcomie, 
rejoicing doubtless in the fact that they had put one of 
their two principal enemies out of the way, and secured 
the co-operation of the other, and the more dangerous, 

According to Sir Robert Gordon, Murdoch Macleod 
revealed certain incriminating facts about Kenneth Mac- 
kenzie of Kintail, which placed that clever schemer in a 
perilous situation. He was ordered to Edinburgh to answer 
these charges the head and front of his offending being 
apparently his secret thwarting of the Adventurers and 
was committed to prison, but escaped trial through the 
influence of his friend, the Earl of Montrose, Lord Chan- 
cellor of Scotland. In view of these statements, the com- 
pact between him and the Syndicate, which must have 
immediately followed his release from imprisonment, is 
rather curious. We must believe either that he succeeded 
in clearing himself from the charges said to have been 
made against him, or that the Adventurers, convinced of 
his enmity towards them, powerless to crush him, and 
dreading his further machinations, resolved to make a deal 
with him. It is possible that the evidence of his secret 
hostility to the Lowlanders was sufficiently strong to have 
secured his conviction, if he was brought to trial, but that the 


King and his Council dreaded at this stage his open enmity. 
Hence his escape from trial on the charges of the Syndicate; 
and, subsequently, on the charges by Murdoch Macleod. 
It is quite conceivable that the King and his Councillors 
actually connived at his release from prison, and that the 
Syndicate had special instructions to conclude an agree- 
ment with him, in order to prevent further trouble through 
his instrumentality. There are no records to show whether 
or not the agreement between him and the Syndicate was 
ever signed. If the bargain was actually carried out, its 
conditions did not long remain in operation. 

Whether or not as the result of the negotiations between 
Mackenzie and the Adventurers with reference to Torquil 
Conanach, it is a curious fact that the latter, who was in 
February described as " of Coigeach," appears on 2nd April 
in the Privy Council records as " of the Lewis." A com- 
plaint was on that date lodged with the Council by George 
Monro of " Mekle Tarrell " that on I5th June, 1599, certain 
persons named, " all household men " of Torquil, had 
threatened and " dang " his tenants and " spuilzied " twenty- 
one " pece of hors and meris." Torquil and his men, not 
appearing to answer to the summons, were ordered to be 
denounced as rebels. As showing the intimate relations 
between Torquil Conanach the " poor unable " as a con- 
temporary calls him and the Morisons of Lewis, it may 
be mentioned that among the names of his men are to be 
found those of" Hucheon Breiff" and " Allane Brieff," who 
were probably sons of John Morison, the Brieve of Lewis. 
The denunciation of Torquil Conanach as a rebel must 
have modified that part of the proposed compact between 
Kintail and the Syndicate which related to Mackenzie's 

In the same month, the name of Tormod Macleod, the 
younger brother of Torquil Dubh, whom Kintail had 
abducted from school, appears in the Privy Council records. 
By one John Davidson, Tormod lodged a complaint with 
the Council against his guardian, setting forth that Mac- 
kenzie had seized and detained him without just cause. 


If Tormod complained at the instigation of Neil Macleod 
which is not improbable he quickly discovered that he 
had made a mistake. Kintail not appearing to answer the 
charge, was merely ordered to present Tormod before the 
Council, the latter understanding that Tormod " is a chieff 
and speciall man of that clan, and that thairfoir it is necessair 
that ordour be tane for his deutifull obeidyence and gude 
behaviour."* But neither Mackenzie nor Tormod appears 
to have complied with the order. 

Ruari Macleod of Harris also came in for his share of 
attention by the Council during this year. Donald Macleod 
of Raasay, whom he had in March, 1 596-7, left as his hostage, 
disappeared before 3Oth November (the date by which 
Ruari was ordered to attend personally before the Council), 
and the lord of Harris stayed at home. Proceedings were 
instituted against him in November, 1599, and in May, 
1600, a protest was lodged by the Treasurer and the King's 
Advocate in the matter of the 10,000 merks which Ruari 
had forfeited by his contumacy. The wily chief naturally 
enough threw every obstacle in the way, hoping to defer 
payment as long as possible if he did not succeed in evad- 
ing it altogether. He had requested the Crown officers to 
produce before the King and Council the letters charging 
him to pay the fine, and had succeeded generally in 
wearing out the patience of those officials. In view of the 
experimental stage which the King's great colonising 
scheme had then reache'd, it was good policy at that junc- 
ture to handle so powerful a chief as Ruari Macleod some- 
what tenderly, and this fact Ruari was shrewd enough to 
perceive. He appears neither to have obeyed the summons 
to appear before the Council, nor to have paid the fine of 
10,000 merks. The charming nonchalance displayed by 
the chiefs, in face of the numerous orders for their appear- 
ance before the Privy Council, is the best proof of their 
well-grounded belief that the arm of authority was not 
long enough to reach them, nor powerful enough to compel 
their obedience. 

* Keg. of P.O., Vol. VI., p. loi. 


Meanwhile, the members of the Syndicate were being 
confirmed in their possessions, so far as legal titles could 
do so. The Parliament of 1600 ratified an Act of 
I4th December, 1599, conveying the infeftment of Lewis 
and Trotternish to the Adventurers. The lands specified 
in the ratification comprise, besides the two main terri- 
tories, Rona, the Shiant Isles, Great and Little Bernera, 
the Flannan Islands, and "twa cunying islands."* The 
customary strong language is used about the Lewismen. 
They are accused of " maist detestabill, damnabill, and 
odious murthers,fyiris,reveisching of wemen, witchcraft, and 
depredatiounes maid amangis thameselffis, extendit maist 
unmercifullie to all sorttis of persounes, without ony pitie 
or mercie ather of young or auld," as well as of the usual 
" treassonabill practeisses." The document sets forth how 
the members of the Syndicate had conquered the lands, 
and somewhat naively remarks that they have set an 
example which others would do well to follow. In 
consideration of their patriotic services, the yearly duty 
has been reduced to one thousand pounds in money, 
1,000 keling (codling), 1,000 lingfish and 1,000 skates. 
A charter of the lands under the Great Seal is to be 
prepared by the King for himself, as legal representative 
of his son Henry Frederick, " Prince and Stewart of the 
realm and Lord of the Isles," by the tenor of which the 
Syndicate, consisting of the Duke of Lennox, Patrick of 
Lindores, Stewart, Leirmont, Anstruther (the Queen's 
Master of the Household), Spens, Sandilands, Murray, 
Forret, and David Home, heir of Wedderburn, are to be 
confirmed in their possessions in equal shares, including 
the fishings, patronage, teinds, &c. 

Power is given them to build ten parish churches in 
Lewis, and as many in Trotternish as they may think 
proper, such churches to be independent of the jurisdiction 
of the Bishop of the Isles. They are also empowered to 

* Dean Monro calls them Sigrain-na-Goinein (coinein) "wherein there are 
many cuninges " (rabbits). Blaeu calls them Sigram-na-geinen, and places 
them near Pabaidh in Loch Roag. They are doubtless the islets named 
Shiaram Mhor and Shiaram Bheag. 


construct harbours and collect for their own use the petty 
dues, reserving for the King the " great customs " on all 
fish and other goods imported and exported. Encourage- 
ment is given them to open taverns, &c., for the accom- 
modation of strangers. They are empowered to erect as 
many burghs of barony as may be requisite, such burghs 
to have all the privileges of "free" burghs of barony, 
and to call them by whatever names they please ; to 
appoint weekly market days and free annual fairs, to be 
held within each burgh so erected, with a special pro- 
tection to all people resorting thither ; and to create and 
incorporate what is to be called in all time coming the 
free Stewartry of Lewis, with all the privileges of a free 

The Act further ordains that Lewis and the other lands 
are to be equally divided into ten parts, each part to be 
erected into a free barony under a special denomination, 
with a principal messuage appertaining thereto ; that the 
Adventurers are to be exempt from all military service, 
except for foreign wars, for expeditions undertaken for 
the conquest of the rest of the Isles, and for the quelling 
of disturbances north of the Ness. 

Then follow valuations of Lewis and its pertinents 
(40 pound lands of old extent) and Trotternish (80 merks) 
for taxable purposes ; stipulations as to the nature of the 
tenure (feu-farm heritable) ; and the terms for payment of 
the rent, that for Trotternish being fixed at one-third of 
the money payment for Lewis. Concerning the salaries 
of the ministers, " ane ressonabill stepend " is to be pro- 
vided from the teinds "for thair sustentatioun and inter- 

It will thus be seen that so far as Royal encouragement 
could make the enterprise a success, the Adventurers con- 
tinued their efforts under the most favourable auspices. 
The project set forth in the foregoing Act was an 
ambitious one. Its aims were nothing short of revolu- 

* Acts of Par!., Vol. IV., pp. 248-250. 


tionary; and on the whole, it may fairly be said that 
they were apparently beneficent. But it cannot be too 
frequently emphasised, that at the root of these civilising 
measures lay the canker of gross injustice, and utter dis- 
regard for the rights and liberties of the natives. It is not 
too obscurely hinted, that the conquest of Lewis was to be 
the first of a series of similar conquests throughout the 
length and breadth of the Hebrides. A scheme such as 
is here set forth would have been wholly commendable, 
had it been undertaken with the object of teaching the 
natives the arts of peace, and diverting their turbulent and 
warlike habits into channels of industry and progress. 
We are bound, however, to examine the motives of the 
undertaking : and it is only too plain that these were 
dictated by selfishness alone. We are forced to the con- 
viction a conviction which becomes stronger with every 
Act and proclamation relating to the plantation of Lewis 
that the intention was to extirpate the natives, and 
replace them with strangers from the South. If the 
Adventurers adopted a more humane policy, it was in 
spite of, rather than in obedience to, the spirit of their 

As a supplement to the confirmation of the Adventurers 
in their possessions, there is an engagement dated at 
St. Andrews, 7th October, 1600, by Stewart, Leirmont, 
Anstruther, Spens, Forret, and Murray, which ratifies 
a contract entered into on the previous June, obliging the 
members of the Syndicate, among other things, to plan 
a town in Lewis, apportion land for the purpose, build 
houses thereon, and divide the whole of the remaining land 
among themselves. The signatories to this engagement 
state that they are prevented by weighty reasons from 
being present in Lewis 'to fulfil their part of the contract, 
but they give authority to their associates to carry out, 
in their absence, at any time before Michaelmas, 1601, 
the arrangements made in respect of the points stated ; 
the agreement in all other particulars to remain intact. An 
imperfect memorandum has come to light setting forth the 


Contract Articles submitted for the consideration of the 
partners in the enterprise. The points so submitted relate 
to their minister, their kirk, their schoolmaster and their 
school ; to the bounds of the town, its fortifications, its 
first houses, and the burgh roads ; to the division of the 
lands, people, and goods ; to the salmon fishings, mines, 
minerals, whales, teinds, and the duty on fish ; to the social 
duties of the colony ; to compensation for those colonists 
who suffer most severely from attack ; to shipping matters ; 
to the institution of a common fund ; to the debarring of 
marriage or friendship with the natives unless by general 
consent ; to the protection of the Syndicate against an 
increase of partners without the consent of the contractors; 
and to the prevention of any individual member attempting 
to exercise undue authority to the prejudice of the common 

The framework of the Society is seen from the fore- 
going synopsis. The provisions are in the main excel- 
lent enough, so far as the internal economy of the colony 
is concerned. But it is evident that the colonists were 
to form a separate and superior caste in the island. The 
natives were to be treated as pariahs. No intercourse 
between the two races was to be permissible except in 
the relations of masters and serfs. The King was for 
extermination ; the colonists preferred segregation ; no one 
suggested amalgamation. 

Having secured temporary immunity from attack, the 
colonists commenced to carry out their programme. They 
planned their town and proceeded to build houses, the 
material being stone, timber, and "saill" (turf). Finally, 
they completed what Sir Robert Gordon calls a " prettie 
toun," which they fortified. There is no reason for doubt 
that the modern town of Stornoway covers the site of this 
village. The remains of some ramparts and fortifications 
existed at the point of Holm, a short distance from Stor- 
noway, although they are no longer discoverable ; and it 

* fieg.ofP.C., Vol. XIV., Appen. to Intro. 


has been supposed that these were relics of the occupation 
of the Adventurers, but it will be shown that they belonged 
to a later period. That the village of the colonists adjoined 
the old Castle of Stornoway the most natural site for it 
is proved by a charter of 1607, in which the location of 
" Villam de Stroneway " is so described. 

Everything was now looking bright for the young colony ; 
and a peaceful occupation seemed assured. But it was a 
delusive peace ; it was the calm which precedes the storm ; 
for soon their dreams of security were rudely dispelled. 
That stormy petrel, Neil Macleod, was the disturbing 
element. The alliance between him and the Lowlanders 
never contained the germs of permanency. The incon- 
gruity of their friendship is easily apparent. Neil was 
with them, but not of them. His proud and restless spirit 
could ill brook to see the ancient possessions of the Siol | 
Torquil parcelled out among insolent strangers. The re- 
straints of civilisation, too, probably became irksome ; he 
despised the trading instincts of the Lowlanders ; he longed 
for the old life with its ploys and its plunder. His was a 
masterful personality, a revengeful disposition, an uncurbed 
temper, and a code of ethics that was in many respects 
different from the laws which governed the conduct of his 
temporary associates. It is probable that his relations 
with the Adventurers gradually grew less cordial, and that 
the hollow friendship patched up between them became 
more and more distasteful, and mutually so. And then 
an event occurred which hastened the inevitable severance 
of association. Irritated beyond measure by some un- 
named injury at the hands of Spens of Wormiston, Neil 
suddenly broke off all amicable relations with the colonists, 
and being a man who never did things by halves, became 
once more the bitter enemy whom they dreaded. This 
quarrel, initiated perhaps by some trivial incident, changed 
the whole face of Lewis history. Had Neil Macleod con- 
tinued to be the friend of the colonists ; had they been 
sufficiently politic to avoid giving him offence ; the descen- 
dants of the Fife men might to-day be the ruling caste 


in Lewis, and it is difficult to say what the consequences 

might have been to the Hebrides generally. And yet it is 

I not easy to conceive that a man of Neil's temper could 

; have become a permanent ally of the Lowlanders, with 

whom he had so little in common ; nor is it easier to 

! imagine the turbulent Lewisman playing the part of a 

peaceful trader, or a meek agriculturist. 

No sooner had he quarrelled with the Adventurers than 
j he re-commenced active hostilities against them. The 
colonists now determined to get rid of this troublesome foe 
once for all. Being unable to seize him by force, they had 
recourse to strategy. One very dark night in December, 
! 1 60 1, Spens of Wormiston, who was the cause of the 
; quarrel, sent a body of men from the camp to capture Neil 
j and one Donald Dubh MacRory, " a gentleman of the 
i island " who had also incurred the enmity of the colonists. 
i But Neil was on his guard, and discovering the plot, turned 
I the tables on his would-be captors. He suffered them to 
leave the camp some distance behind them, and then burst 
upon the surprised Lowlanders like an avalanche. The 
! latter, taken completely off their guard, made no stand. 
The darkness of the night accentuated the confusion. 
Hither and thither ran the colonists seeking in vain to 
break their way through the Lewismen, who barred their 
retreat to the camp. Their comrades sent a force to the 
rescue, and the remains of the punitive force at length 
found safety behind their friendly ramparts, leaving, accord- 
ing to one authority, sixty, and according to another, fifty 
men stark and stiff outside. Neil Macleod now became a 
more dangerous antagonist than ever, and the Adventurers 
realised that far from their colony being secure, they were 
now only on the threshold of their difficulties, and that the 
re-conquest of Lewis was imperative. 

Watchful eyes were directed from the mainland on 
the events transpiring in Lewis. Mackenzie of Kintail, 
negotiations with the Syndicate notwithstanding, main- 
tained inviolate his purpose of ruining the colony. He 
was sufficiently far-seeing to realise that the alliance 


between Neil Macleod and the Lowlanders was bound to 
be evanescent. As soon, therefore, as his expectations 
were fulfilled, he made a move in carrying out his care- 
fully-matured plans. Knowing the attachment of the 
Lewismen to Torquil Dubh and his family, he released 
Tormod Macleod, and sent him to Lewis, feeling assured 
that Neil and the islanders generally would rally round the 
brothers of their old chief and rise in revolt against the 
colonists. Nor were his hopes disappointed. No sooner 
had Tormod reached Lewis, than Neil placed his sword at 
his disposal, and the revolt received a fresh impetus. 
Commenting on the enthusiasm with which Tormod was 
welcomed in Lewis by his clansmen, Sir Robert Gordon 
remarks, "for all these ilanders (and lykwayes the Hie- 
landers) are by nature most bent and prone to adventure 
themselves, their lyffs, and all they have, for their masters 
and lords, yea, beyond all other people.'' Sir Robert has 
here struck the right nail on the head. For the attributes 
which he mentions are precisely those which rendered 
possible the numerous rebellions in the Highlands and 
Isles already noticed, and those which were to follow. 

Tormod Macleod lost no time in following up the 
success obtained by Neil. Accompanied by the latter 
and a strong body of natives, he attacked and stormed the 
camp of the colonists and burnt their fort. The Low- 
landers, though taken by surprise, defended themselves 
stubbornly, and it was not until the greater number of 
them were killed that the remainder surrendered uncon- 
ditionally. Tormod, a generous conqueror, was not averse 
from treating the vanquished colonists with considera- 
tion. He agreed to set them at liberty on the following 
conditions, viz. : 

ist. That they should "purchase" from the King a 
remission for all offences present and past of 
himself and his followers. 

2nd. That they should resign to him their rights in 




3rd. That Spens, with his son-in-law Thomas Monypenny 
of Kinkell, should remain in Lewis as pledges, 
until the first two conditions were satisfactorily 
fulfilled and confirmed.* 

The colonists had no option but to accept these conditions, 
which they accordingly did, very much against the grain, 
as may be imagined. Under the leadership of Sir James 
Anstruther, the prisoners made a humiliating departure 
from Lewis, the attenuated remnant of the company who 
had so blithely undertaken the conquest and colonisation 
of the island three years previously. The detention of the 
pledges was a prudent move on the part of Tormod, for 
the King was forced to grant the desired remission, and 
give the required security for the transference of the 
colonists' rights to Macleod, in order to obtain the release 
of Spens and his son-in-law. Subsequent events show 
that the conditions would never have been fulfilled but 
for the prisoners in pledge. The King and the Adven- 
turers acted with " Punic " faith towards the Lewismen : 
according to their code of honour, promises to wild 
Hebrideans were made only to be broken at a favourable 
opportunity. The rough islanders came out of this trans- 
action far more creditably than the civilised Lowlanders. 
Eight months elapsed before James Leirmont, son of the 
Laird of Darcie, was sent to Lewis to obtain the release 
of the pledges, by ratifying the treaty entered into by 
Tormod and the colonists. The islanders honourably 
performed their part of the agreement, and the last of the 
Fife men sailed from Lewis, glad enough, no doubt, to 
cross the Minch on their homeward journey. And thus 
ended, in miserable failure, the first attempt to make the 
subjection of the island a dividend-paying concern. 

Tormod Macleod was now in undisputed possession of 
the island, with the faithful Neil as his lieutenant. One 
of his most active partisans was John MacDonald Mac- 

* Spotswood, p. 468. 


Hucheon Macleod of Sandey, a short but powerful man, 
and a redoubtable fighter. Apparently, he had been 
watching for a chance of seizing Torquil Conanach, and 
finally succeeded in apprehending and bringing him to 
Lewis. And thus the arch-enemy of Tormod's brother 
was at length in his power. Tormod demanded from him 
the writs and infeftments of Lewis, but Torquil Conanach 
truthfully enough replied that they had passed out of his 
possession into that of Mackenzie of Kintail. The 
question now arose, what should be done with Torquil? 
Tormod's followers demanded his blood. But here again 
the Macleod chief showed that whatever other lessons 
he may have learned from Kintail, inhumanity was not 
one of them. With a generosity which contrasts strongly 
with the bloodthirsty spirit which actuated the rest of the 
Macleods, he refused to butcher his relative, and instead, 
set him at liberty, unconditionally so far as we know. This 
forbearance is all the more remarkable, in face of the fact 
that Torquil Conanach was primarily responsible for the 
execution of Torquil Dubh, Tormod's brother. But it is 
probable that Tormod regarded Torquil Conanach as being 
merely a tool in the hands of Kintail, and such, indeed, 
he appears practically to have been. 

During Tormod's government of the island, John 
Morison, the Brieve of Lewis, met his end in the fol- 
lowing manner. The Brieve, who had been compelled to 
leave Ness and had taken refuge in Assynt, was in an un- 
enviable condition. His act of treachery towards Torquil 
Dubh had made him a marked man. John Macleod, the 
active fighter, and the captor of Torquil Conanach, was 
on his track. Macleod had previously fought against the 
Morisons in Lewis, and had suffered defeat at Carloway, 
so he had a score to wipe off. He met the Brieve in a 
house at Inverkirkaig in Assynt, Morison having six 
men with him, and John Macleod only four. As might 
be expected, it was not long before the two parties fell 
to blows, and a " pretty ploy " ensued. The result of the 
fight was, to say the least, surprising. The Brieve and 


no fewer than five of his followers were killed, while of their 
opponents, not a man fell. Sir Robert Gordon piously 
ascribes the remarkable outcome of this fight to the inter- 
position of Providence in favour of the Macleods, the 
wicked Brieve and his followers being deprived of the 
power to resist. Evidently the Morisons had met better 
men than themselves ; picked swordsmen, perhaps, who 
had come upon them, apparently by accident, but really 
with the set purpose of fighting them. 

Among the numerous islands on the coast of Eddra- 
chillis is one called Eilean na Breitheamh, or the Judge's 
Island, which derives its name from the following circum- 
stances. The friends of the Brieve, hearing of his death, 
came across from Lewis in a galley to bring the corpse 
home, but owing to contrary winds, they were driven to 
this island ; whereupon they decided to disembowel the 
body and bury the intestines, which they did ; and on 
the wind changing, they set sail again, and arrived in 
safety at Ness. John Morison was succeeded in the 
chiefship of his clan by Malcolm Mor Maclan, who was 
determined to avenge the death of the Brieve when chance 
should throw John of Sandey in his way. They met at 
length at Coigeach, when a fight took place, in which 
the Morisons were worsted and Malcolm himself was taken 
prisoner. His captor handed him over to Tormod Mac- 
leod in Lewis, who forthwith made him " short by the 
head."* He had no qualms of conscience about despatching 
a Morison. 

The year 1601 was marked by strife in parts of the 
Long Island other than Lewis. The Lowland colony in 
Lewis was harassed by the natives ; the two most power- 
ful clans in Harris and North Uist were at deadly feud. 
Donald Gorm Macdonald who, on i/th August, 1596, got 
a charter of Sleat and North Uist, with lands in South 
Uist, and Benbeculat had married a sister of Ruari Mac- 
leod of Harris. The marriage proved an unhappy one. 

* Traditions of the Morisons of Ness, 
f Reg. J/rt. Sig. (i593-i6o8), No. 472. 


The husband took a violent dislike to the wife, owing 
to jealousy or some other cause of displeasure. He there- 
upon packed the lady off to her friends, repudiating her 
as his wife. This high-handed proceeding roused the ire 
of Rory Mor, who sent to Donald Gorm desiring him 
to take his wife back. The latter not only refused, but 
promptly divorced her, and married a sister of Mackenzie 
of Kintail. Macleod thereupon took his revenge by 
devastating Trotternish. Donald Gorm retaliated by in- 
vading Harris, which he wasted, killing some of the 
inhabitants and carrying away much booty. Ruari Mac- 
leod then instructed his cousin, Donald Glas, to invade 
North Uist, and carry off from Trinity Church, at Carinish, 
the goods which the Uist people had placed there for 
safety. With forty men, Donald Glas proceeded to obey 
these instructions, but was met by John Mac Ian Mac 
Sheumais Macdonald, a near relation of Donald Gorm, 
with twelve men. Although the Macleods so greatly 
outnumbered the Macdonalds, they were utterly routed, 
their leader with all his men, except two, being killed. 
This repulse disheartened Ruari Macleod, who retired from 
Port-na-Long to Rodil, Harris. Donald Macjames, while 
on his way to Skye to report the Carinish affair to Donald 
Gorm, was driven by a storm to take refuge at Rodil, 
where he and his followers were hospitably entertained 
by Rory Mor, who was unaware of the identity of his 
guests. When it became known who they were, the strict 
laws of Highland hospitality were strained almost to 
breaking point. They stood the strain, and bloodshed was 
averted. But some of the Macleods, thirsting for revenge, 
set the Macdonalds' dormitory on fire during the night. 
The birds had flown, however, for the Macdonalds had 
wisely determined not to trust their hosts too implicitly. 

The feud now became more deadly than ever, and the 
two clans raided and spoiled one another's territories so 
mercilessly that the inhabitants were reduced to the direst 
extremities. Food became so scarce that the wretched 
clansmen were forced to the necessity of sustaining life by 



eating their horses, their dogs, their cats, " and other filthy 
vermin." This is a striking example of the misery inflicted 
upon the common people by the vindictive personal quarrels 
of their chiefs. The slaughter and starvation of innocent, 
but blindly devoted clansmen, was a heavy price to pay for 
an unhappy marriage. 

Donald Gorm finally decided to bring matters to a 
definite issue, and crush the Macleods in a decisive fight. 
Collecting his forces, he invaded Macleod's lands in Skye, 
while the chief was away seeking the assistance of the Earl 
of Argyll against the Macdonalds. Alexander Macleod, 
brother of Rory Mor, assembled the whole fighting strength 
of the Siol Tormod to repel the assailants, and with him 
were some of the Siol Torquil of Lewis, who had been 
summoned to help their namesakes. The Macleods posted 
themselves on the shoulder of one of the Coolin Hills and 
awaited the attack. A fierce and obstinate fight ensued, 
lasting nearly the whole day. Both sides realised the 
decisive nature of the contest, and each was resolved to 
win ; the Macleods were compelled ultimately to acknow- 
ledge defeat. Two near kinsmen of Rory Mor, John 
MacTormod and Tormod MacTormod, were killed, with 
many others of lesser note ; and the chiefs brother, Alex- 
ander, with thirty-two of the leading men of the clan, was 
taken prisoner. 

What the final issue of this bloodthirsty feud would 
have been, if the clans had been left to themselves, can only 
be conjectured, but the Privy Council now interfered in the 
quarrel. Assistance by others to either of the contending 
parties was strictly forbidden ; and the chiefs themselves 
were ordered to disband their forces and leave Skye 
temporarily. Macleod was enjoined to give himself up to 
the Earl of Argyll, and Macdonald to the Earl of Huntly ; 
and both were charged to remain with these nobles until 
their dispute had been adjudicated upon by the King and 
the Council. In the end, a reconciliation was effected,, 
through the instrumentality of Angus Macdonald of Duny- 
veg, Maclean of Coll, and others. Donald Gorm handed 

Q 2 


over his prisoners to Ruari Macleod, and thus the feud was 
terminated.* But what of the divorced wife, and still more, 
what of the starving people? In after years, when a dis- 
pute arose between the Macleods and the Macdonalds, they 
referred it to the Law Courts, for the arbitration of the sword 
was too expensive an operation. When the Highland and 
Hebridean chiefs substituted the pen for the sword, they 
became as famed for their litigious proclivities as they had 
previously been for their prowess in arms. Fighters always, 
they found in the Law Courts a safety valve for their pug- 
nacity, which in other times had been provided by their 
interminable feuds. 

The events just narrated may have been the direct cause 
of a fresh commission of lieutenancy, to last for a year or 
until discharged, which, on i6th June, 1601, was issued to 
the Duke of Lennox and the Marquis of Huntly. The 
King having already proof of the " guid and happie suc- 
ces " which had attended the efforts of Lennox, enlarged 
his scope of jurisdiction to include Kintyre, Islay, and 
other lands of Angus Macdonald of Dunyveg ; also Mull, 
Tiree, lona, Coll, Barra, Rathlin, Morvern, and Ardna- 
murchan. Absolute authority over the lives and liberties 
of the people was vested in the lieutenant, with an indem- 
nity for " slaughter or any other inconvenient " committed 
in the execution of his commission. 

Similarly, Huntly was granted autocratic sway over Skye, 
Harris, Hert (St. Kilda), Uist, Scalpa, Rum, Canna, Raasay, 
Eigg, Eilean Tirrim, and Arisaig ; and his commission was 
extended to cover any Highlanders on the mainland who 
were the avowed partisans of the Islesmen against the 
authority of the lieutenant. The earls, lords, barons, and 
" substantious " landed men of Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin, 
Forres, Nairn, Inverness, Caithness, Cromarty, and the 
burghers of these counties, were charged to assist Huntly 
under pain of treason. And a reward was promised to 
the Marquis if he were successful in " settling " the Isles. 

* Conflicts of the Clans (from MS. written circa 1620). 


Ruari Macleod of Harris having been charged to appear 
before the Council on loth August, a promise was exacted 
from Huntly not to put his commission in force against 
him or any of his friends until the expiry of that date. 

It is evident that suspicions were entertained of Mac- 
kenzie of Kintail being an active instigator of the Lewismen 
against the Lowland colonists, hence the veiled threat to 
Highlanders on the mainland contained in the commission 
But all the Acts of Parliament and of Council, all the pro- 
clamations, and all the commissions of lieutenancy failed, 
and failed utterly, to effect the permanent conquest of 
Lewis, much more of the Hebrides generally. 



THE failure of the first expedition to Lewis disheartened 
the Adventurers and exasperated the King. In spite of the 
undertaking given to the Lewismen, no sooner were the 
hostages released, than preparations were set on foot for a 
fresh attempt to conquer the island. In June, 1602, James 
appointed a Convention of the Estates to be held at Perth 
on the 26th of that month, for the express purpose of con- 
sidering a new scheme for " repossing " Lewis, and for 
bringing the Isles generally under subjection to the Crown, 
whereby the King's revenue from them might be increased. 
These matters were duly discussed by the Estates. It was 
proposed to send an army to Lewis to re-conquer the 
island, and the King asked for a subsidy of twenty thou- 
sand pounds sterling to be raised by the Church and the 
burghs, to carry out the project. On i6th July, James 
addressed Parliament in a speech lasting half-an-hour 
" after his accustomed manner when his lords meet " 
the major portion of which was occupied with his scheme 
for invading Lewis. He represented to the Estates that 
it was not consistent with his honour, to submit to the 
indignities which he had suffered at the hands of the 
" barbarous " Lewismen. He told his hearers that the 
people of England were saying, that a King who could 
not rule a handful of people like the inhabitants of Lewis, 
was not fit to govern them. 

To this appeal the Estates turned a deaf ear. The 
truth was, they were tired of hearing about Lewis, and 
they doubtless realised that it was hopeless to attempt a 
permanent settlement there. They were willing to endorse 
the King's fulminations against the islanders ; they were 


ready to describe them officially as the vilest wretches that 
cumbered the ground ; they would bless the Adventurers 
and curse the Lewismen to the heart's content of their 
Sovereign. But on the question of supplies they were 
adamant ; none of the nation's money, they were resolved, 
would be spent on such a wild-cat scheme. The Adven- 
turers were welcome to waste the whole of their private 
means on the undertaking, if they pleased ; but that was 
entirely their concern. 

Foiled in his attempt to extort money by lawful means, 
King James had the effrontery to propose the coinage of 
base money, wherewith to pay the soldiers who were to 
serve in Lewis. The English people were laughing at him, 
their future Sovereign, and all on account of a few stubborn 
islesmen who had set him at defiance. Such a thing was 
not to be tolerated. He would crush the rebels and punish 
their insolence while keeping his own sacred person at a 
safe distance. But the soldiers had to be paid, and his 
Parliament would grant no supplies. What matter ? He 
would cheat his soldiers by paying them in false coin, and 
would thus revenge himself on the Lewismen at a minimum 
of expense, and with a clear conscience, if Parliament 
sanctioned the proceeding. To their credit, the Estates 
did no such thing. The King who stooped to make such 
a proposal could be defied with impunity ; and defy him 
they did.* 

The matter then passed into the hands of the Privy 
Council, the members of which were more pliant than the 
stubborn Estates. As the result of the deliberations of the 
Council, it was resolved that a proclamation be issued, 
calling out the Highlands to assist the Marquis of Huntly 
to re-conquer Lewis, and place the Adventurers again in 
possession of the island. Mackenzie of Kintail was in 
Edinburgh at this time, for the purpose of interviewing the 
King, relative, probably, to affairs in Lewis. He appears 
to have succeeded in disarming the suspicions which were, 

* MSS. in Public Record Office (State Papers, Scotland, Eliz., Vol. LXVIII., 
Nos. 73 and 86). (See Appendix B.) 


not unreasonably, entertained of his fidelity to the cause of 
the Adventurers, for on the Qth December, 1602, he was 
formally admitted as a member of the Privy Council, 
having previously been a nominal member only. As for 
the Marquis of Huntly, it is evident that the marks of the 
Royal favour conferred upon him, were not universally well 
received. The feeling against Roman Catholics was strong 
in the country, and the influence of the Presbyterian 
ministers was powerful. Huntly, as the most prominent of 
the Catholic pseudo-converts, and as a brand plucked from 
the burning, was well watched by the suspicious Presby- 
terians. James was fond of lecturing people, and his 
lieutenant did not escape the infliction. About the time 
that Huntly was preparing to undertake the invasion of 
Lewis, we find the King exhorting him to conform and 
keep himself in " the religion," and to avoid " Papist traf- 
fickers " ; promising, if he did so, to be his friend, and 
warning him of his enmity if he failed to follow his advice. 
Thus exhorted, counselled, and strengthened by his Royal 
patron, Huntly proceeded to his task of subduing the 
Islesmen, who, for their part, were little concerned whether 
their invaders were Papists or Presbyterians. They were 
Sasgunnaich ; and that was enough for them. 

In accordance with these preparations, a proclamation 
was issued on I9th July, calling out an armed force for the 
recovery of Lewis. The preamble of this proclamation is 
in the strain to which repeated allusion has been made. 
But on this occasion, it was apparently found necessary to 
travel beyond the bounds of Britain to find wickedness 
parallel to that of the Lewismen; a sign that the vocabulary 
of epithets was getting exhausted. Obviously, the acme 
of vituperation was intended to be reached, when it was 
declared that the " monstrous cruelteis " of the Lewismen 
were such " as hes not bene hard of amangis Turkis or 
Infidellis." Incidentally, the incredible " fertilitie " of the 
land and richness of the fishings were again touched upon, 
as having a direct bearing on the enterprise which the 
Adventurers had undertaken. A resume was given of the 


events which followed the conquest of Lewis : how certain 
of the " principals " of the island had taken the colonists 
by surprise, and set upon them with fire and sword, and 
how they had re-captured Lewis, intending to hold it in 
defiance of the King, with the help and concurrence of 
" utheris disorderit theiffis and lymmaris of the His." The 
King having resolved to " re-take the island and repres the 
insolence of the lymmaris," now called upon all his subjects, 
between the ages of sixteen and sixty, in Aberdeen, Banff, 
Elgin, Forres, Nairn, Inverness, Cromarty, Caithness, 
Orkney and Shetland, to assist their Sovereign, or his 
lieutenant, in carrying out his purpose. The lieges were 
charged to prepare for war, and provide themselves with 
sufficient provisions to last for forty days after their arrival 
in Lewis. The Orkney and Shetland men were to meet 
Huntly in Lewis on loth October. The men of Caithness 
and Sutherland were to be in readiness to meet him, at 
such days and in such places, as should be appointed by 
proclamation or otherwise. The levies from all the other 
places were to assemble at Inverness on 2Oth September, 
and pass forward with the Marquis as directed. And all, 
without exception, were to follow the instructions of 
Huntly, under pain of loss of life, lands, and goods.* 

It is clear that the prime mover in this fresh enterprise 
was the King himself, for there is evidence to show that 
most of the Adventurers were utterly disheartened by 
their want of success, and were not altogether averse from 
washing their hands of the whole affair. Such, at least, is 
the inference to be drawn from a charge to Stewart, 
Home, Leirmont, and James Forret, son of the late John 
Forret, the father not improbably having been killed in 
Lewis. These partners of the Syndicate had neglected 
to find caution for the rent of the island due to the King, 
and were now attempting to "schaik af that yok and 
burdyne" altogether. Others of the partners, who had 
found caution, were repenting of having done so, and 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. VI., pp. 420-1. 


wished to draw back. Stewart and his colleagues, who 
had not found caution, and their comrades who regretted 
having done so, were ordered to appear before the Council 
on 27th July, the former to be accompanied by their 
cautioners. Stewart and his friends were to bind them- 
selves to fulfil their undertaking, or forfeit their shares, 
while those who wished to be freed from their caution 
were to have their wish granted on renouncing all their 
rights in Lewis.* The friction between the King and the 
Adventurers appears to have been overcome by means of 
this order, for the necessary caution was ultimately found. 
The members of the Syndicate were very much in the 
position of shareholders in a good many modern Com- 
panies, who realise that they have made a bad investment, 
but, having to choose between forfeiture of their shares and 
finding fresh capital for a re-construction scheme elect, after 
many misgivings, to do the latter, on the chance of getting 
their money back, if nothing more. 

On 28th July an order was issued, charging all chief- 
tains and heads of clans in the Highlands and Borders to 
appear before the Council, and find caution for keeping the 
general Bond, and for maintaining the laws against sorners 
and broken men ; and in October of the same year, a fresh 
bond was entered into by the landlords of those districts 
against "thieves, murderers, and oppressors," among the 
subscribers to which appear the names of Lennox and 
Huntly. So far as the bearing of these measures on the 
Outer Hebrides is concerned, they seem to have been 
utterly useless in quelling the turbulence of the natives, 
or in fitting these islands as a dumping ground for Low- 
land colonists. 

The muster of men for the invasion of Lewis was an 
intolerable hardship for the lieges of the North, who had 
no direct interest in the undertaking, and who, not un- 
reasonably, must have anathematised the very name of 
the island, and with still greater reason, the name of the 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. VI., p. 421. 


Fife Syndicate. They endeavoured to escape service by 
representing its great inconvenience, at a time of the year 
when the crops had to be gathered, and when the winter 
was approaching. These representations prevailed, and 
a proclamation was issued on I5th September, delaying 
the expedition until the following spring. 

Accordingly, on 3rd March, 1603, each of the partners 
of the Syndicate was ordered to hire thirty soldiers, well 
furnished with "armour, powder and bullet," and sixty 
bolls of meal ; to proceed in person with his company to 
Lewis "for recoverie of the same" ; and to find sufficient 
provisions for a year, under a penalty of a thousand pounds 
and forfeiture of his share. Each of the principal share- 
holders was instructed to build a "sufficient" house of 
stone and lime, or mortar, for his own defence and safety, 
within a year from the date of his landing in the island ; 
and was to pay the rent due to the King at Whit-Sunday 
and Michaelmas silver at the former, and fish at the 
latter term. Failing in the performance of these con- 
ditions, he was to forfeit his share to the partners who 
fulfilled them. The King on his part agreed, that if by 
means of his levies, he failed to succeed in re- instating 
the Adventurers in the possession of Lewis by Midsum- 
mer, the bond and caution furnished by them should be 
null and void.* 

It will be seen that the re-organisation of the Syndicate's 
affairs involved fresh sacrifices on the part of the members, 
which were by no means inconsiderable. It is not sur- 
prising that they hesitated, or appeared to hesitate, about 
undertaking new liabilities; but the glamour of Lewis and 
its undeveloped resources was irresistible. So far, it had 
proved a delusive Eldorado ; but with the help of the 
King's levies, re-inforced by their personal exertions, they 
might hope to make the investment pay, and pay hand- 
somely. But an event occurred which drove Lewis and 
its affairs clean out of the King's head, and effectually 

* Reg. o'T.C., Vol. VI., pp. 545-6. 


stopped all preparations for the intended invasion of 
the island. Queen Elizabeth died on 24th March, and 
James VI. of Scotland became James I. of Great Britain 
and Ireland. 

During 1602-3, the feud between the Mackenzies of 
Kintail and the Macdonnells of Glengarry over their lands 
in Wester Ross, reached its height. The bitter enmity 
between the two clans was intensified by acts of a retalia- 
tory character, which were marked by more than usual 
barbarity. In the result, the Mackenzies acquired the 
disputed lands; the Castle of Strome, the last stronghold 
of the Macdonnells in Wester Ross, was blown up ; and 
the influence of Clan Kenneth became paramount in the 
North. That the increased power of the Mackenzies had 
a direct bearing upon the affairs of Lewis, is evident from 
the events which we are now about to relate. 

In 1603, the enmity between Macleod of Harris and 
Donald Gorm of Sleat seems to have broken out afresh, 
but there are no details of what actually happened. Lord 
Fyvie, writing to the King on 29th April, soon after the 
departure of the latter for England, makes a passing refer- 
ence to the matter. He writes : " Since your Highness' 
departure from us (thanks to God) all is in reasonable good 
quietness, nor we have heard of no break as yet of any 
consequence, except in the far Highlands, some trouble 
among themselves between Donald Gorm and Macleod 
Harris which does not trouble the Lowlands."* The 
words in parenthesis in this letter are deliciously, although 
unintentionally, ambiguous. Doubtless, not a few Scotsmen 
thanked God when James VI. left his native country to 
become James I. of Great Britain and Ireland. 

The burden of three kingdoms pressed too heavily on 
the shoulders of James to admit of his paying immediate 
attention to the distant island in the Hebrides, which had 
in the past proved a veritable nightmare to him. But 

* Abbotsford Club Collection, pp. 46-7. On 2Oth October, 1603, the Earl 
of Argyll was commissioned to restore order in the Isles. Hist. MSS. Cow., 
Report IV., p. 489. 


Lewis was not permanently forgotten by the monarch 
whom the islanders, on his own showing, had made the 
laughing-stock of England. In July, 1605, an Act for 
pacifying the " rebels " in Lewis was noted in the Minute 
Book of Processes. On the i8th of that month, a fresh 
Commission was appointed. The conventional tirade 
against the natives is again in evidence, the "beastlie 
crueltie " of the rebellious " theives and lymmers " being 
held up to reprobation. The Lewismen are declared to be 
the avowed enemies of traffic and of the profitable trade of 
fishing, whereby the lieges might be greatly benefited. It 
was not in accordance with the King's honour that such a 
state of matters should be allowed to continue. 

James (now Sir James) Spens of Wormiston, Sir George 
Hay of Netherliff, and Sir Thomas Ker of Hirth, were 
therefore appointed to act for a year as the King's Justices 
and Commissioners in Lewis, with full power to convocate 
the lieges in arms, to seize and search any persons in 
the island whom they might suspect of crime, and to detain 
them pending trial. Courts of Justice were to be con- 
stituted in convenient places. Power was given to pursue 
fugitives from the law who might take refuge in " strenths 
and housses," and to seize them by force, not sparing the 
use of fire or any " warlyke ingyne " in reducing the 
" strenths " ; and from all consequences of violent measures 
used in apprehending the fugitives, full exoneration was 

In addition to Lewis, the adjacent islands of the Outer 
Hebrides and Skye were now directly threatened. Macleod 
of Harris, Donald Gorm of Sleat, Macneill of Barra, and 
Mackinnon of Strathswordale were specially charged to 
deliver up their castles to those appointed to receive them, 
as pledges for the obedience of their people. That this 
order was intended to embrace the whole of the castles in 
the North Isles, is clear from the context. Among others, 
the " havers, keipers, and deteiners of the castell, tour, and 
fortalice of Sternoway " were charged as above. The per- 
emptory nature of the order is shown by the fact, that the 


chiefs were to remove themselves and their servants from 
the castles within twenty- four hours after being charged, 
otherwise the castles were to be besieged with fire and 
sword, and their defenders treated as traitors and rebels. 

As with the castles, so with the shipping of the islands. 
The King having resolved to employ some of his own 
ships and forces in the conquest of Lewis, and the Council 
realising that the aggressiveness of the natives and their 
sympathisers, and their means of escape from punishment, 
were much facilitated by the number of galleys, lymphads, 
boats, and birlings at their command, enabling them to 
move about freely among the islands, ordered the owners 
of these craft to bring them to Loch Broom, and deliver 
them to those empowered to receive them. And a strict 
charge was given that no help, direct or indirect, was to be 
afforded the Lewis " lymmaris " to escape. In case of 
refusal to deliver up the castles or the shipping, full power 
was vested in the Commissioners already named with the 
additional name of Robert Cunningham of Airdrie to 
compel obedience to the order, with a dispensation for 
whatever steps they might take in enforcing it. And the 
commanders of the King's ships were charged to assist the 
Commissioners, and to employ the King's " ordinance, 
powlder, and bullet to that effect." 

A further proclamation emphasised the order to ostracise 
the people of Lewis. The preamble sets forth how the 
Lewismen had " violentlie expellit " the Adventurers, and 
" instrusit thaimselfis " in the island, where they live " most 
lasciviously and insolentlie." They are declared to be the 
avowed enemies of the King's peaceful subjects, and of all 
strangers engaged in fishing, or driven to Lewis by stress 
of weather. The King deemed it inconsistent with his 
honour to suffer " sic a unfamous byke of lawles lymmaris " 
(wasp's nest of lawless vagabonds) to remain in any part of 
his dominions, seeing he had the power to root them out ; 
and he accordingly directed that this expedition be under- 
taken. In view of the practice of the natives, when pursued, 
to betake themselves, with their goods, to the other islands, 


where they were befriended while they formed fresh plans 
for harassing the colonists, the King ordered that no such 
assistance be given in future, and commanded the lieges 
by proclamation at the market cross of Inverness and at 
other needful places, that none of them were to presume to 
" resset " or supply any of the inhabitants of Lewis, their 
wives or children, nor show them any "comfort, countenance, 
or relief." On the contrary, they were to seize any of them 
or their goods that came within their bounds, and detain 
them until they could be conveniently handed over to the 
Commissioners ; failing which, they were to be counted as 
part-takers with the Lewismen, and punished severely.* 

These elaborate preparations for the re-conquest of the 
island appeared to spell disaster for the natives. The toils 
seemed at length to be closing around them ; every avenue 
of escape was to be closed. We shall see how the uncom- 
promising spirit of these proclamations was carried out. 
Incidentally, there is light thrown on the methods of war- 
fare adopted by the Lewismen. They present a close 
analogy to those of the Boers in the South African War, 
after their resistance had degenerated into the guerilla 
attacks of predatory bands. When pursued, the natives 
dispersed, apparently to Harris, the Uists, Barra, and per- 
haps to Skye, where they found the same active, though 
secret, sympathy as the Boers experienced among their 
compatriots, when chased by the British troops. Safe 
among their brother Hebrideans, the Lewismen concocted 
their plans for fresh raids on the Lowlanders, just as the 
" peaceful agriculturists " of the Transvaal and the Orange 
Colonies assisted their brother Boers in organising the 
means of harassing the foreign invaders anew. And in 
respect of elusiveness, the Lewismen had their De Wet in 
the person of the redoubtable Neil Macleod. The plan 
adopted by James and his Council for effectively stopping 
the supplies of the Lewismen and forcing them to surrender, 
embodies the precise principle upon which the advocates 

* Keg. of P.C., pp. 84-90. 


of extreme measures towards the Boers and their sym- 
pathisers founded their claims to be heard. 

That service in the Isles was unpopular is shown by a 
petition from the nobles in the West, asking to be relieved 
from the duty. They urged various reasons for their 
unwillingness to serve, one of which was that most of the 
Hebrideans already stood forfeited, and the rest were at 
the horn ! Exemption, however, was refused, and the peti- 
tioners were ordered to perform the service required of 

Meanwhile, Tormod Macleod and the " Tutor of the 
Lewis" as Donald Gorm described Neil Macleod in a 
letter to Queen Elizabeth were undisputed masters of 
that island. The restless Neil seems to have varied the 
monotony of life by occasional piracies on the main- 
land. One of these is recorded, for Neil had to answer 
for it later on. Crossing to Loch Broom, he attacked and 
captured the fishing boat of two peaceful burgesses of 
Perth ; put the owners ashore ; murdered the crew, con- 
sisting of seven or eight men ; burnt the vessel ; and made 
off with the plunder, including the very clothing of the 
crew.* This atrocious crime is one of the blackest marks 
against the far from blameless record of Neil Macleod. 

The second expedition to Lewis sailed in the month of 
August, 1605. It is clear that by this time most of the 
original shareholders had finally abandoned all hope of the 
island proving a lucrative investment, and we learn from 
Spotswood, that the lairds of Netherliff and Airdrief 
acquired the rights of some of them. Spens of Wormiston 
is the only member of the old Syndicate who appears to 
have taken an active part in the new enterprise. The 
records are strangely silent about the Duke of Lennox, the 
leader of the original grantees, and subsequently the King's 
lieutenant, jointly with Huntiy, over the Highlands and 
Isles. It is probable that his stay in Lewis was as short 

* Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, Vol. III., pp. 244-7. 

t Spotswood seems to have confused Robert Lumsden of Airdrie with 
Robert Cunningham of Airdrie. 


as he could decently make it : to a man like Lennox, life 
in the Outer Hebrides meant exile in an aggravated form. 
After his departure for England with the King, this Duke 
of the blood-Royal practically severed his connexion with 
Scottish affairs. 

The military force which accompanied the expedition 
was strengthened in the North by Mackenzie of Kintail, 
Donald Gorm of Sleat, and Mackay of Strathnaver. The 
Earl of Sutherland sent a body of men under William 
Mac-Vic-Sheumais, Chief of the Clan Gunn. Thus were 
impressed into the service of the King, the secret enemies 
and lukewarm friends of the Adventurers. On their arrival 
in Lewis, the leaders sent a message to Tormod Macleod 
offering terms. They promised, in the event of his sub- 
mission, to send him to the King in London, obtain a 
pardon for his attack on their predecessors, and offer no 
opposition to any attempts he might make to gain the 
favour of James and a means of livelihood. Realising that 
resistance was useless against so powerful a force, Tormod 
agreed to the terms, against the advice of Neil, the irrecon- 
cilable. The invaders then took formal possession of the 
island, the stalwarts under Neil retiring to a place of 
safety, there to bide their time. Tormod went to London, 
and having obtained an audience of the King, laid his 
case before him. The generous terms which Tormod had 
granted to the defeated colonists, four years previously, 
must have prepossessed the King in his favour, and the 
personal accounts by the Adventurers of Tormod's 
demeanour must have deepened the favourable impres- 
sion. Here at last appeared in his presence one of the 
wicked Lewismen, who, far from answering the description 
which he had so frequently fastened indiscriminately upon 
the islanders, was a person of a modest and gallant bearing. 
James became interested in the young man, and listened 
not without sympathy to his tale of injustice, and to his 
request to be re-instated in the possession of his patrimony. 
It is not conceivable that the King ever thought seriously 
of restoring the status quo in the island ; but that he was 


desirous of bringing about an amicable arrangement 
between Tormod and the colonists seems likely. The 
Adventurers had their friends at Court some of them 
being the domestic servants of James who kept them 
advised of what was going on. Alarmed at the prospect 
of Tormod's supplications prevailing with the King, they 
instructed their friends in London to poison the mind of 
his Majesty against the young chief. The King's suspicious 
nature was not proof against their insinuations. By what- 
ever diplomatic arts or downright lies they effected their 
purpose, the fact remains that the unfortunate Tormod was 
dismissed from Court and sent to Edinburgh, where he was 
imprisoned for ten years, his only crime being a not un- 
natural desire to get back the land of which he had been 
robbed. This is another instance of the " Punic " faith dis- 
played by the Honourable Company of Adventurers. We 
may as well state here, in a few words, what remains to be 
told of Tormod's career. He never saw Lewis again. 
Receiving, in 1615, the gracious permission of the King to 
enter the service of Maurice, Prince of Orange, he was 
released from Edinburgh Castle, and crossed over to 
Holland, where he ended his days. Whether he left any 
issue is unknown. For aught we can tell, he may have 
descendants at the present day, in the persons of stolid 
Dutchmen, who may have never as much as heard of the 
Island of Lewis.* Tormod Macleod stands out in Lewis 
history as a brave and chivalrous man, whose character is 
not marred by the acts of cruelty and treachery which 
disfigure the lives of most of the members of his family. 

Having got rid of Tormod, the partners concluded that 
their troubles were practically over, and in that belief 
returned to the South in November, 1605, leaving a force 
of soldiers to protect the young colony from any possible 
incursions by the natives. During the winter months, the 
colonists were subjected to periodical attacks by Neil 

* In Stodart's Scottish Arms (Vol. II., p. 43) it is stated that "many 
cadets of Macleod settled on the Continent, and there is at least one 
existing branch in Holland." 


Macleod and his companions, but these were successfully 
beaten off. 

A number of Tormod's adherents had been banished 
from Lewis by the Adventurers, and had promised never 
to return. They continued, however, to maintain com- 
munication with the island by means of their spies, who 
watched the colonists closely, and succeeded in conveying 
information to their exiled friends. The spies pretended 
to be in the service of such of the natives as professed 
friendship to the Adventurers, and had thus opportunities, 
of which they availed themselves, for stirring up a fresh 
insurrection. The plot which was being hatched came to 
the ears of the colonists, who forthwith applied to Edin- 
burgh for assistance in checkmating the conspirators. To 
meet the threatened revolt, the Privy Council issued, on 
1 3th March, 1606, a proclamation setting forth the designs of 
the Lewismen, charging the whole of the inhabitants of the 
Isles, under pain of death, that none of them repair to 
Lewis without the permission of the Adventurers ; and for- 
bidding such of the " auld " inhabitants of Lewis as were 
allowed to remain in the island, to bear, wear, or use any 
armour or weapons, save one knife " without ane point to 
cute their mait " ; disobedience to this order to incur the 
death penalty.* This proclamation seems to have proved 
effective in staving off for a time an organised rising in 
Lewis ; but there was no cessation .to the harassing tactics 
of the natives. 

In the spring of 1606, the laird of Airdrie returned to 
Lewis with a supply of fresh provisions ; building opera- 
tions were vigorously renewed ; and the colonists com- 
menced to prepare the land for their crops. But before 
long, there was fresh trouble. Money began to run short, 
and a number of the artisans left the island. The soldiers, 
too, for the same reason, began to desert ; it was a thankless 
task for them to be constantly harassed by the natives, 
without being well paid for their services. Emboldened 

* Reg. of P.O., Vol. VII., pp. 204-5. 

R 2 


by these defections, Neil Macleod and his friends became 
more troublesome, and by the summer of 1606, the colonists 
were in a parlous state. It was under these circumstances 
that the Adventurers sent a memorial to the Privy Council, 
describing the events connected with the colonisation of 
Lewis, and complaining of the aggression of the natives, 
which was hampering their work so grievously. The 
names of the islanders whom they charge with harassing 
them are detailed. The spelling suggests that they were 
taken down from dictation by some one unacquainted with 
Gaelic, and the phonetic rendering is not a little curious. 
The list commences with the names of Neil Macleod and 
his nephew, Malcolm. 

According to the statement of the colonists, " a number 
of the poor inhabitants and labourers of the ground had 
submitted themselves to their rule, glad to be rid of the 
tyranny and oppression " of the insurgents. The latter not 
only remained in Lewis against the will of the complainers, 
but molested the "poor country people" who had submittted, 
compelling them by threats to join their ranks. The 
insurgents were also charged with holding secret communi- 
cation with their neighbours in the other islands, urging 
them to act in concert with them against the Lowlanders, 
and preparing for a general and open rising, to the " heavie 
hurt and prejudice " of the colonists. 

In reply to these charges, the Council, on 3ist July, 1606, 
ordained that letters be sent to the Officers of Arms and 
Sheriffs of the district, directing them to denounce the 
persons named in the complaint, and put them to the horn.* 

Truly, the Island of Lewis proved anything but a bed of 
roses to the Lowland colonists, or at best, a bed of roses so 
plentifully strewn with thorns as to make their settlement 
the reverse of comfortable. It is probable that their 
statement about the country people the agriculturists and 
non-fighters was correct. But that the secret sympathies 
of the latter lay with their compatriots there can be little 

* Reg. of P.C., Vol VII., pp. 229-30. 


doubt, notwithstanding the statement of the colonists to 
the contrary. Two points may here be noticed. The first 
is, that the policy of exterminating the islanders was 
definitely abandoned, if, indeed, it was ever seriously 
attempted on a wholesale scale. Either the impossibility 
of giving effect to it, or its unnecessary and inhuman 
nature, determined the Lowlanders in adopting milder 
measures. The second point is, that the elaborate precau- 
tions taken against any assistance being given to the 
insurgents by their fellow-Islesmen proved ineffective. 

That the Lewismen were not only secretly but openly 
assisted by their neighbours, is proved by a commission 
granted on 3Oth September, 1606, to Mackenzie of Kintail. 
Mackenzie was charged by the Council to convocate the 
lieges of Inverness and Nairn in the King's name, and 
proceed with fire and sword, by sea or land, against certain 
chieftains, notably Macneill of Barra and the Captain of 
Clan Ranald, who had gathered together their followers, 
invaded Lewis, assailed the camp of the colonists, and 
" committit barbarous and detestable murthouris and 
slauchteris upon thame." Kintail was ordered to "tak 
and slay " the invaders, or carry them to Edinburgh for 
trial, and was empowered to proceed to Lewis for the 
relief of subjects " distressit and grevit " by them, or 
prisoners in their hands ; this end to be accomplished by 
force or " policie," as he might see fit.* 

There is no record of Kintail's doings in connexion with 
this commission. Whether he carried it out by force or 
by " policie," it is impossible to say, but in view of the fact 
that there does not seem to have been a serious outbreak 
in Lewis for six months afterwards, it may be assumed 
that the powers with which he was invested bore fruit.t 

In March, 1607, there occurred a recrudescence of the 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. VII., p. 255. 

t In October, 1606, a minister named John Ross was ordered to be banished 
to Lewis, as a punishment for having taken part in the General Assembly held 
at Aberdeen on 2nd July, 1605. lie was to exercise the functions of his 
ministry in the place of exile. He had plenty of scope there, if his mission 
was to the natives. 


troubles in Lewis. On the 2nd of that month, the King 
sent a letter to the Privy Council of Scotland, charging the 
members with remissness in dealing with matters connected 
with the Isles. He greatly marvels that nothing has been 
done, the spring having arrived, which was the best season 
for making preparations, and seeing that the partners of 
Lewis, who had been harassed so much last year, were 
fearing that trouble was again brewing. He mentions that 
the Marquis of Huntly and the Earl of Argyll, on the 
occasion of their last visit to London, had completed 
arrangements with him for reducing the Isles to order, and 
that nothing now remained but to carry out their plans, 
He tells the Council that if Huntly and Argyll were 
responsible for the delay, he should have been advised of 
their remissness. But if the Council were to blame, he has 
just cause to weary of continuing to be their instructor, and 
reminding them of his orders, " as tutoris are accustomat to 
repeat thair lessonis to thair childrene." He concludes by 
hoping that this admonition would save them from further 
reproof. This letter, written in the best fatherly style of 
King James, is the first clear intimation we have of a 
comprehensive scheme for " dealing " with the Hebrides, 
the- outcome of which we shall presently notice. 

There is a curious charter under the Great Seal to 
Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, dated iyth March, 1607* 
In addition to his properties on the mainland, the Island 
of Lewis, with Assynt and Waternish, is included in the 
grant.* Sir Robert Gordon informs us that the grant of 
Lewis was obtained through Kintail's friend, the Chan- 
cellor, after the Adventurers had returned to Fife ; and 
this statement is probably correct. The fact seems to be 
that the leaders of the colony went south to represent to 
the King their unenviable position, and that Mackenzie 
took advantage of their absence to obtain the charter, 
construing, possibly, their departure into an abandonment 
of the enterprise. He was in Edinburgh, doubtless on this 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1593-1608), No. 1,879. 


business, about 5th March, for on that date he is charged 
before the Council with having pitched Alexander Bane 
of Logy downstairs in an Edinburgh house, and broken his 
ribs. Mackenzie was not the man to do police duty in Lewis 
for nothing, and the grant of the island was apparently 
regarded both by him and the Chancellor as a fitting 
reward for his services, apart from his claim by virtue of 
Torquil Conanach's resignation in his favour. But for 
once, the cautious chief over-reached himself, and the grant 
of Lewis was not allowed to stand. 

The Council, after the lecture by the King for their 
dilatoriness, quickly set to work to avoid a fresh rebuke. 
Argyll appears to have retired from the business, and it 
is much to his credit to have done so, for the Council and 
the King on the one hand, and Huntly on the other, now 
initiated a series of negotiations which, for sheer rascality, 
it would be hard to beat. The Council, in the name of the 
King, submitted to Huntly certain proposals for reducing 
the North Isles, and ensuring to James a safe annual 
revenue therefrom, and Huntly was asked to state his 
terms in writing. These embraced the infeftment to him 
of Uist, Eigg, Canna, Rum, Barra, Raasay, and St. Kilda, 
with the rest of the North Isles, except Skye and Lewis ; 
a commission of lieutenancy extending from the Dee 
northwards, with power to raise levies within these bounds 
to assist him in his enterprise; and the gift of a " pynnage " 
for the service. For those islands he offered the feu-duty 
that had been paid u at ony timeheirtofoir," with an exemp- 
tion for nine years ; and engaged to complete the subjuga- 
tion of the natives within that period. He was willing, 
however, to modify his terms if they were not agreeable to 
the King. 

These proposals were considered by the Council, who 
decided to forward them to the King with their own 
opinion. Briefly, that opinion was altogether unfavourable, 
the terms being, in their estimation, unreasonable. The 
proposal as to feu-duty they thought unsatisfactory, inas- 
much as the islands never having been rented, nor under 


perfect obedience, except the half of Uist (the duty for 
which was one hundred and twenty pounds) the total offer 
of the Marquis seemed to amount to only 300 merks, 
including the duty for Uist. * They held, therefore, that 
the rent of the North Isles should be made proportionate 
to that of the South Hebrides, and that each island should 
be separately valued. The proposed exemption for nine 
years they also considered unreasonable, seeing that the 
Lewis Adventurers, notwithstanding the more difficult 
nature of their services, were exempted for two years only. 
Nor did they think it desirable to confer upon the Marquis 
the powers of lieutenancy which he desired, as it was mani- 
festly unfair to the King's lieges to serve in a private 
enterprise of this description. The " gentlemen of Lewis " 
never sought such a commission, notwithstanding their 
inferiority in means and influence to the Marquis. And 
they were further of opinion that the service should be 
completed within the space of one year.* 

In the following month (April), a fresh rising took place 
in Lewis. The plan of campaign adopted by Neil 
Macleod on this occasion, was more creditable to his 
astuteness than to his bravery. But to a man of his 
stamp, the end justified the means, especially when dealing 
with Sasgunnaicli. Neil and his friends planned to effect 
by treachery what they could not accomplish by force. 
He sought and obtained an interview with the leaders of 
the colonists, who had by this time made considerable 
progress in founding villages, all of them doubtless in the 
vicinity of Stornoway. He professed to them that he had 
been mistaken in their intentions, which he now perceived 
were for the good, and not, as he had supposed, for the ill 
of the island. He frankly acknowledged his mistake, 
submitted unconditionally for himself and his followers to 
their will, promised their obedience, and offered their 
services in promoting the prosperity of the colony. Com- 
pletely deceived by his plausibility, the Lowlanders 

* Reg. of P.O., Vol. VII., pp. 340-2. 


accepted the submission of Neil and his friends, only too 
glad to be rid of their troublesome attentions. They 
actually gave Neil a post of superintendence, which 
enabled that cunning schemer to mature his plans for 
their ruin. When these were completed, the storm burst 
upon the deluded colonists. In the dead of the night) 
Neil, with 300 men armed with swords, dirks, bows, 
darlochs, arquebuses, muskets, and pistols, entered the 
camp of the sleeping Lowlanders and commenced the 
work of destruction. The houses of the lairds of Nether- 
liff, Airdrie, and Wormiston, recently erected on the South 
Beach of Stornoway, were burnt to the ground; The 
servants of these lairds, aroused from their slumbers by 
the heat and smoke, rushed for their lives from the burning 
houses, only to be met by the Lewismen and mercilessly 
put to the sword Several newly-built houses were 
similarly reduced to ashes, and the total destruction of 
property in the colony amounted to ten thousand pounds.* 
The disaster to the Lewis colony infuriated the King, 
and was probably responsible for the sudden change which 
took place in his policy of bringing the North Isles to a 
state of obedience. To no other reason can be attributed 
the savage orders with which the Marquis of Huntly was 
now charged. We have seen the stage at which the 
negotiations with Huntly had arrived in the month of 
March. On 3oth April, the Privy Council made definite 
proposals for the acceptance of the Marquis. The service 
in the Isles was to be completed in a year, and rent was 
to be paid on the expiration of that period. The whole of 
the North Isles, with the exception of Skye and Lewis, 
were to be held by Huntly in feu, as being the King's 
property, either by forfeiture of the possessors " or uthir- 
wayes." A " reasonable " rent to be fixed by the Comp- 
troller, on the basis of the revenue derivable for similar 
lands in the South Hebrides, was to be paid. The whole 
of the expense connected with the enterprise was to be 

* Pitcairn's Crim. Trials, Vol. III., pp. 244-7. 


undertaken by the Marquis, without the assistance from 
others which his appointment as the King's lieutenant 
would involve. But the most remarkable of the proposals 
was that which provided that the service was to be ended, 
" not be aggreement with the countrey people, bot be extir- 
patioun of thame"* 

That this brutal order was given at the instigation of 
the King is clear, for the preliminary negotiations had 
been submitted to him, and the definite proposals, as set 
forth above, were obviously the result of the correspon- 
dence. That the Council would make such a stipulation 
on their own initiative is altogether incredible. 

Without hesitation, Huntly agreed to extirpate the 
whole population of the Isles in question within a year, 
and waived his stipulation for a lieutenancy to assist him 
in the work. He " craved," however, a commission of 
lieutenancy and justiciary over the islands after their 
subjugation, with the special object of preventing the 
re-setting of the people. But the money question blocked 
the way to a final agreement between the parties. The 
massacre of hundreds of fellow-Scotsmen was a matter 
of little moment, compared with the rent of the lands 
of which they were to be robbed. Huntly, a cautious 
man of business, tacitly refused to leave the rent to be 
fixed by the Comptroller. He offered 400 pounds Scots, 
three-fourths of which was to be for Uist, and the balance 
for the rest of the islands, with an exemption from pay- 
ment for one year. 

The Council considered his terms to be very reasonable, 
with the exception of the feu-duty, which they thought 
was a very " meane " offer. A report of the negotiations 
was forthwith prepared for the consideration of the King, 
with whom lay the final decision. The letter sent by 
the Council to James reported that all the conditions had 
been arranged with Huntly, except the rent, which, he 
argued, should be low, in view of the expense entailed 

Reg. of P.O., Vol. VII., pp. 360-2. 


by the undertaking. It was with difficulty that he was 
induced to improve upon his original offer, but, " to draw 
him on," the Council offered him the islands Skye and 
Lewis excepted for a rental of 10,000 pounds,, which 
was considered to be about the equivalent of the amount 
paid by the Lewis Adventurers. The Council were pre- 
pared to reduce this offer no doubt very considerably 
had Huntly shown any disposition to meet them, but he 
refused to budge from his offer of 400 pounds Scots ;* 
and there the matter rested. The report concluded with 
an ominous reference to proceedings pending against 
Huntly, touching his obedience to the Kirk. The dif- 
ference between the Council's offer and that of Huntly 
is, it will be noticed, so great as to be farcical. Either 
the Council asked far too much, or Huntly offered far 
too little. Obviously, the Marquis having considered the 
expense and trouble of subjugating the islands, and 
having weighed the chances of making the enterprise 
ultimately a profitable one, deemed himself justified in 
offering so small a sum ; whereas the Council based their 
valuation on the revenues of the richer and comparatively 
loyal islands south of Ardnamurchan Point. Huntly's 
offer was doubtless well on the low side, but the Council's 
demands were, under all the circumstances, preposterously 
high. It is difficult to resist the conclusion, in view of 
subsequent events, that the intention of the King and 
the Council was to force an unfair bargain on the Marquis, 
the alternative being, that if he failed to accede to their 
terms, the storm which was then gathering about his head 
would be allowed to burst. 

On 20th May, James sent his reply. After expressing 
surprise that Huntly should have modified his terms so 
considerably in such a short time, he protested that his 
selection of the Marquis for the work was not dictated 
by any personal preference for that nobleman, but by 

* Reg. of P.O., Vol. VII., pp. 523-4. Sir Walter Scott states that Huntly's 
offer was 400 sterling, but the Privy Council records clearly state that the 
amount was 400 pounds "Scottis." 


his desire for a speedy settlement of affairs in connexion 
with the islands in question. Huntly was to be instructed 
to specially undertake and bind himself to " extirpat and 
rute oute the Captane of Clan Rannald with his hole clan 
and their followaris within the ilis of Knoydert or Moydert, 
and als McNeill Barra with his clan, and the hole Clan 
Donnald in the North." The Marquis was to be further 
charged to assist the partners of Lewis against all their 
enemies, either in Skye, Lewis, or any other part of the 
North Isles ; and to plant, within a year, a colony in 
those islands of " civile people," Badenoch and Lochaber 
men being, however, specially excluded. And James con- 
cluded his letter by expressly excepting from the islands 
to be thus colonised, Skye, Lewis, " that part of the Lewis 
callit the Hereis," and the small isles appertaining to 
Skye and Lewis. There is no reference in the King's 
letter to the real point at issue, viz., the amount of 
rent to be paid, an omission to which, in acknowledging 
receipt of the letter, the Council called attention, and 
suggested that the matter be left to the decision of James 
and the Comptroller, who was shortly due in England. 
That the King's reply was deliberately evasive is obvious, 
and his rejection of Huntly's offer is tacitly shown by 
the proceedings which were soon taken against that un- 
principled but harassed nobleman. . 

On 23rd June, Huntly was charged by the King's 
Advocate with failure to attend the services of the Kirk 
" and heiring of the sermone," and with teaching his 
family doctrines opposed to the tenets of Presbyte- 
rianism. The Marquis confessed that he was not fully 
" resolvit " in the doctrines of the Kirk, and did not 
desire to communicate until he could more fully accept 
the established religion. The Lords of Council therefore 
ordained, as a punishment, his confinement within the 
burgh of Elgin and a circuit of eighteen miles round 
it ; that while in this durance, he must be ready in public 
and private to listen to the sermons of Presbyterian 
ministers for his instruction in the Reformed faith ; and 


| that he must forbear from trafficking with seminary priests 
or excommunicated Papists. 

From these proceedings, it may be inferred that having 
failed to extort better terms from Huntly for the sub- 
jugation of the islands, the King, chagrined by his stub- 
bornness, determined to abandon him to the intolerance 
I and rancour of the extreme Presbyterians, who were bent 
; on the ruin of the Catholic Marquis. The interference 
! of the Kirk was as opportune as the deadlock over the 
! rent was fortunate, for the latter circumstance led to the 
withdrawal of the King's favour, which would otherwise 
have protected Huntly against Presbyterian bigotry. It 
may be hoped that the Marquis profited by the sermons. 
Homilies on the sixth and eighth commandments might 
have proved more efficacious than expositions of the 
principles of Calvinism, for the Marquis of Huntly was 
apparently impervious to the teaching of both command- 
ments. As for the King who deliberately consigned 
hundreds of his subjects to extermination, like so much 
vermin, he has to thank religious intolerance and a sordid 
money squabble for saving his memory and the Stuart* 
name, from being stained by a crime which would have 
horrified the civilised world, caused the Stuart dynasty 
to be execrated by Highlanders, and, perhaps, rendered 
the risings of 1715 and 1745 impossible. 

The following despatch in the Venetian archives, dated 
23rd May, 1607, summarises the situation created in the 
Highlands by the negotiations between Huntly and the 
King and his advisers. It states : " News has come from 
Scotland that certain inhabitants that look towards the 
islands and Ireland have risen, and opposed armed forces to 
the King's officers. The reason is, that as these people 
were always turbulent, some of the Scottish gentry offered 
to subdue them, and a few months ago obtained leave to do 
so. When this was known, the people rose. The rebels do 
not exceed 3,000, though their numbers may increase, for 

* The popular spelling "Stuart" is here and in the following pages 
adopted, instead of the more strictly correct rendering of " Stewart," 


they have elected chiefs and given other signs of growing 
tumult. No steps have been taken here (in England) as 
they do not wish to exacerbate that haughty race, especially 
as the Earl of Argyll the greatest person in that king- 
dom who seems destined to the command against the 
rebels, promises to reduce them speedily without any 
further trouble. All the same, the matter has greatly 
disturbed his Majesty." And on 3Oth May, it is stated 
that orders were given to Argyll to use " dexterity rather 
than force " in warding off the peril.* 

No other records are traceable to show how Argyll 
accomplished his mission, but it is likely that he used 
" dexterity " and thus averted the danger. It might be 
inferred from the document quoted above, that the Western 
Highlanders were threatened with extermination as well as 
the inhabitants of the islands mentioned in the negotiations 
with Huntly. It is more likely, however, that the despatch 
relates to the latter only, although the islanders in rising to 
resist their proposed extirpation, doubtless received assis- 
tance from the mainland. It will be remembered that the 
inhabitants of Knoydart and Moidart and the " hole Clan 
Donnald in the North" were included amongthose sentenced 
to destruction. The determined resistance which his in- 
tended victims were preparing to make, seems to have 
alarmed the timid soul of King James ; hence, doubtless, 
the instructions to Argyll to use " dexterity rather than 
force." The King perceived that he had aroused a dan- 
gerous rebellion in the Highlands, and was anxious to 
smooth matters over. He never openly revived his inhuman 
scheme : it was too risky an experiment. 

We now return to Lewis, where the situation had further 
developed. Ruari Macleod of Harris had made common 
cause with the Lewismen against the colonists. Landing 
in Lewis with a body of his clansmen, he surprised and 
captured Stornoway Castle and other " fortalices " belong- 
ing to the Lowlanders ; and refused to give them up. An 

* Cal. of State Papers (Venetian, c.), Vol. X., pp. 500-1 


order of the Council was sent on I3th August, charging him 
to deliver the fortresses to the Commissioners nominated by 
the colonists, within six hours after being so charged, under 
pain of being declared a rebel and being treated accord- 
ingly. The result of this peremptory order is not stated ; 
it appears, however, to have proved effective. But the 
castle was not long in the hands of the colonists before it 
was again surprised and captured by the Lewismen, under 
Neil Macleod and Donald Cam Macaulay, Angus, a brother 
of Donald Cam, being killed on the South Beach by a shot 
from the castle during the fray. The natives then pro- 
ceeded to demolish some of the houses of the colony, 
fortifying others and victualling them against a siege. 
The Council now had recourse to one of their own number, 
Mackenzie of Kintail, to help them. On 3rd September, 
Kintail received a commission of six months' duration to 
recover Stornoway Castle and the other fortresses, held by 
the " rebellious thevis and lymmaris of Lewis." For this 
purpose, he was empowered to convocate the lieges, invade 
Lewis, and pursue Neil with fire and sword, using all kinds 
of " weirlyke ingyne " for reducing the forts. Incidentally, 
the commission declares that those of the Lewismen who 
had submitted to the colonists were treated by Neil with 
barbarous cruelty ; a statement which may not have been 
without foundation.* 

Here, again, we are without particulars of Kintail's 
doings in Stornoway, but whether or not he succeeded in 
reducing the castle and the other fortresses, he failed in 
restoring order and re-instating the colonists in quiet 
possession of the island. The Lowlanders were ruined ; 
the colony was broken up ; the survivors shook the dust 
of Lewis off their feet and returned home disillusioned, 
disheartened, and discomfited. Thus ended in disaster the 
second attempt to colonise the island, and to conquer the 
intractable natives. 

* Reg. */ />.., Vol. VII., p. 435. 



IT has been shown in the two preceding chapters how, 
on two separate occasions, the attempt to plant a colony 
of Lowlanders in Lewis failed, and failed utterly. It now 
remains to show how the third and last attempt met with 
a similar fate, and how the island passed into the hands 
of the Mackenzies, who retained undisputed possession of 
it for nearly two and a half centuries. 

On 1 8th October, 1607, charters under the Great Seal 
were executed, conveying in equal shares to James, Master 
of Balmerino, Sir James Spens of Wormiston, and Sir 
George Hay of Netherliffe, (i) the Harris, Skye, and 
Glenelg properties of Ruari Macleod ; (2) Duntulm, which 
had previously belonged to Macleod, and was now in the 
possession of Donald Gorm ; (3) the Crown lands of 
Trotternish, which had so long formed a bone of con- 
tention between these two chiefs ; and (4) the Island of 
Lewis, resigned by Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail in 
favour of the grantees.* Ruari Macleod was now forced 
to reap the fruits of his antagonism towards the colonists, 
while Donald Gorm, in a smaller degree, had to undergo 
similar punishment for past offences. The means by 
which Mackenzie had obtained possession of Lewis having 
apparently been exposed by the Adventurers, he was 
compelled to resign the island to the trio who had now 
acquired the rights of the Syndicate. In terms of the 
charter, the new proprietors were to erect, for the increase 
of "policie," the town of "Stroneway" into a free burgh 
of barony, the inhabitants to be free burgesses, and to 
have power to elect bailies with the advice of the three 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. (1593-1608), Nos. 1,981-2. 


grantees.* The new proprietors took no immediate steps 
to make good their title to the lands conveyed in the 
charters. Early in 1608, preparations on an extensive 
scale were set on foot to bring the Hebrides generally to 
a state of order, and it is probable that the invasion of 
Lewis was deferred pending the outcome of this project. 
A commission was granted to Andrew, Lord Stewart of 
Ochiltree, and Andrew Knox, Bishop of the Isles (to 
which names were subsequently added that of Sir James 
Hay of Beauly), for the purpose of conferring with, and 
receiving offers from, Angus Macdonald of Dunyveg and 
Hector Maclean of Duart. The demands of the Com- 
missioners were eight in number, comprising (i) security 
for the feu-duties payable to the Crown ; (2) obedience to 
the laws by the chiefs and their followers ; (3) delivery of 
all strongholds, which were to be at the King's disposal ; 
(4) renunciation of hereditary and other jurisdictions, and 
submission to the authority of the Crown officers ; (5) 
acceptance of whatever dispositions of their lands the 
King might make, and whatever conditions of tenure he 
might impose ; (6) destruction of all vessels, except such 
as might be required for the conveyance of the King's 
duties, paid in kind, and for other necessary purposes ; 
(7) provision of education for their children, and for those 
of their clansmen who could afford it, under the directions 
of the Privy Council ; and (8) abstention from the use 
of guns, bows, and two-handed swords, the only arms to 
be allowed being single-handed swords and targes. 

These severe conditions were backed by a display of 
force which augured badly for any resistance to their 
adoption. Lord Ochiltree was placed in supreme com- 
mand of the expedition, and was invested with the title 
of Lieutenant of the Isles. The expedition was attended 
with more complete success than its promoters could have 
dared to hope. The force of regulars and militia which 
had been mustered was sufficiently powerful to overawe 

* The duties payable by the trio consisted of 180 merks (ward) and 900 
merks (marriage). 


the chiefs. The castles of Macdonald and Maclean were 
surrendered and garrisoned without opposition, and Ochil- 
tree then proceeded to Mull, to carry out that portion of 
his commission which related to the destruction of the 
islanders' vessels. Having previously proclaimed that in 
virtue of his office, he would hold a Court at the Castle 
of Aros in Mull, which all the chiefs of the Hebrides were 
summoned to attend, he was perhaps agreeably surprised 
to find that his invitation met with an unwonted response. 
Neither Neil Macleod nor Macneill of Barra came from 
the Long Island. The former was too careful of his safety 
to do so, and the latter was wisely suspicious of the 
summons ; but Macleod of Harris, his brother Alastair, 
Donald Gorm of Sleat and North Uist, and Donald 
MacAllan, Captain of Clan Ranald, represented the 
Outer Hebrides. The conference which took place was 
not wholly satisfactory, but Lord Ochiltree was deter- 
mined that there should be no half-measures. The chiefs 
were invited on board the King's ship, the Moon, to 
hear a sermon by the Bishop of the Isles. With the 
exception of Ruari Macleod, they accepted the invitation ; 
the lord of Harris was much too old a bird to be snared 
so easily. After the preaching came dining ; and a dear 
sermon and dinner it proved to the chiefs. Their host 
outraged the laws both of hospitality and honour by coolly 
informing them, after dinner, that they were his prisoners 
by the King's command. It was a rare bag for a day's 
sport, although there can be only one opinion about the 
unsportsmanlike method employed. Lord Ochiltree was 
the hero of the hour when he returned south. From Ayr 
he took his prisoners to Edinburgh, and presented them 
before the Privy Council, by whose directions they were 
confined in the castles of Dumbarton, Blackness, and 
Stirling. In his report on the expedition, Lord Ochiltree 
stated that the lateness of the season prevented him from 
going north to the Long Island, and seizing Neil Macleod 
in Lewis and Macneill in Barra. Probably he was not 
sorry to have a decent excuse for not embarking upon that 


difficult enterprise ; and, in any case, Maclean of Duart 
was made responsible for his part-taker of Barra. He 
also stated that he had destroyed all the vessels he could 
find in the parts which he visited ; but it needs no great 
perspicuity to see that this part of his mission, at least, 
was not carried out with the thoroughness which had been 

Never had King James had so favourable an opportunity 
of carrying out his cherished scheme for bringing the 
Hebrides under complete subjection to the Crown. He 
appears to have had a perfect mania for rooting out Celtic 
subjects, and re-placing them with settlers of Anglo-Saxon 
descent. In pursuance of this fad, he was at this time 
actively engaged in expelling the natives of Ulster, and 
granting their lands to English and Scottish settlers, whose 
descendants are, at the present day, so clearly differentiated 
in race, religion, and character, from the Celts of Ireland. 
What he had failed to do in the Northern Hebrides, he 
accomplished in Ulster, but the means of accomplishment 
is to this day a bitter memory in the hearts of the Irish 
Celts. It is easy to argue that, as the energy and industry 
of the English and Scottish settlers have made Ulster 
what it is, so the energy and industry of the Lowland 
settlers would have transformed the face of the Hebrides. 
But the ethics which bear upon the extirpation of a people 
must be judged apart from the ultimate results of the 
operation, for the morality and success of an enterprise 
are far from being inter-dependent. The plantations in 
Ulster were clearly designed by the King to go hand- in - 
hand with the reduction of the Hebrides to obedience. 
But whereas the brutality of his former intentions in regard 
to some of the Scottish islands was now, in a measure, 
transferred to the North of Ireland, his policy towards the 
Hebrides underwent an important modification. He is no 
longer bent on extirpation, but on pacification. In a letter 
dated 6th February, 1609, ne gives his views at length on 
the matter. He professes himself unwilling to resort to 
extermination, or even to transplantation, unless compelled 

s 2 


to do so. He divides the inhabitants of the Hebrides into 
three classes : the chiefs, who maintained their power by 
force of arms ; those of their kinsmen who found fighting 
a more profitable occupation than farming ; and the tillers 
of the soil, the hewers of wood, and the drawers of water. 
He proposes to reduce the power and possessions of the 
chiefs ; to make the second class work or quit, at their 
option ; and to give the third class the benefits of good 
government. This was a vast improvement on his past 
projects, and a very commendable plan, but it proved much 
more difficult in the execution than the inception. 

Donald Gorm and Maclean of Duart had in November, 
1608, petitioned the King for their release, submitting them- 
selves entirely to his will ; and the other imprisoned Isles- 
men were equally tractable in demeanour. James resolved 
to pursue his advantage to the uttermost. Commissioners 
were appointed to receive the offers of the Islesmen, and 
to deliberate upon Hebridean matters generally. Various 
communications passed between the Commissioners and 
the chiefs, both those in prison and those at large, and 
the Bishop of the Isles went to London to submit to 
James the suggestions of the deliberative body. The result 
of these negotiations was, that in accordance with the 
instructions of the King, modified in certain details, the 
Bishop of the Isles was sent to visit and survey the 
Hebrides. The imprisoned Hebrideans were set at liberty, 
upon their finding substantial security to return to Edin- 
burgh on a fixed date, and to assist the Bishop in the 
service with which he was charged ; while the latter was 
invested with full powers to compel the obedience of any 
recalcitrant chiefs, by means of his new allies. Donald 
Gorm's bond included an obligation to present before the 
Council, on 2nd February, 1610, Roderick Macleod, son of 
Torquil Dubh, and it is curious to note that his cautioners 
in the sum of ten thousand pounds were Mackenzie of 
Kintail and Sir George Hay of Netherliff, the former of 
whom was ordered to keep Macdonald's nephew against 
the uncle's appearance. In July, 1609, tne Bishop met in 


lona nearly all the principal men in the Hebrides, who 
unreservedly submitted themselves to him as the Com- 
missioner of the Crown. The representatives of the Long 
Island were Macleod of Harris, Donald Gorm, and the 
Captain of Clanranald. Then were enacted, with the 
consent of the chiefs, the celebrated Statutes of Icolmkill 
which form a landmark in Hebridean history, and the 
operations of which modified in a remarkable degree the 
turbulent habits of the Islesmen. The Statutes are nine 
in number, each one of which deserves attention. Mr. 
Gregory has given an excellent synopsis of them in his 
well-known history.* The nine Statutes deal with : (i) 
the maintenance of the clergy and churches ; (2) the 
establishment of inns ; (3) a reduction in the number of 
idlers attached to the chiefs' households or otherwise ; (4) 
the punishment of sorners ; (5) the drinking habits of the 
Islesmen ; (6) education ; (7) the prohibition of firearms ; 
(8) the discouragement of bards ; (9) enactments for 
enforcing obedience to preceding Acts. 

The success of Bishop Knox in concluding this epoch- 
making agreement with the chiefs of the Hebrides, is 
a noteworthy object-lesson in the taming of a warlike 
people. What the military expeditions of successive kings 
had failed to accomplish in a century, the persuasive argu- 
ments of a clergyman brought about in the course of a 
single interview. The policy of pacifying the rebellious 
Hebrideans had proved fruitless, because the means em- 
ployed had been wrong-headed. Conquest by force had 
failed ; but the eloquence of the silver-tongued Bishop 
proved irresistible. The character of the Islesmen had 
been misunderstood by the monarchs of Scotland and their 
councillors. It was left to a man who had studied their 
characteristics, to show how the habits of a quarrelsome 
and lawless people could be diverted into channels of 
peaceableness among themselves, and loyalty to constituted 
authority. The Bishop of the Isles deserves an enduring 

* History of the Western Highland* and Isles of Scotland, pp. 330-33. 


place in the memory of all who love the Hebrides ; for the 
Statutes which he framed revolutionised the religious, 
social, and economic conditions of his diocese, and im- 
planted a new and far healthier spirit throughout the length 
and breadth of the Isles. Disorder in the Hebrides was 
not permanently stamped out, but its area was restricted, 
and its effects considerably modified, by the operation of 
the Statutes. One of the first results of the lona agree- 
ment is seen in a contract of friendship and mutual for- 
giveness of injuries which, on 24th August, 1609, was 
entered into between Macleod of Harris and Macdonald of 
Sleat ; and on 28th June, 1610, an obligation was entered 
into by seven chiefs, viz., Macdonald of Dunyveg, Maclean 
of Duart, Donald Gorm, Macleod of Harris, the Captain of 
Clanranald, Allan Cameron of Lochaber, and Mackinnon 
of Strath, binding themselves to assist, with their whole 
forces, the King's representatives in the Hebrides ; to live 
together for the future " in peace, love, amytie"; and to 
settle any disputes between them by the ordinary course 
of law and justice. But the Statutes did more ; for from 
their enactment dates the commencement of that re- 
markable attachment to the Stuart dynasty, and cohesion 
in a common cause which, in after years, characterised the 
Highland chiefs. The agreement carried in its train 
political and economic results of far-reaching significance. 

One island of the Hebrides formed a marked exception 
to the general conversion ; and that island was Lewis. 
For Neil Macleod and his followers held it against all- 
comers. The Privy Council would have acted wisely had 
they commissioned Bishop Knox to confer with Neil ; but 
instead of the emissary of peace, they sent the wielders of 
the sword. Of the three grantees of Lewis, one, viz., Lord 
Balmerino, the Secretary for Scotland, had been convicted 
of high treason, and after his forfeiture, his share of Lewis, 
Trotternish, and the properties of Ruari Mor passed, on 
1 5th November, 1609, to his co-partner, Sir George Hay/* 

. Mag. Sig. (1609-20), No. 167. 


The latter, with his colleague, Spens, was now ready to 
undertake the re-conquest of Lewis and the capture of 
Neil Macleod. 

Upon Kenneth Mackenzie who, on i;th November, 
1609, was created Lord Mackenzie of Kintail, chiefly in 
acknowledgment of his services in Lewis devolved the 
duty of rendering active assistance to the colonists in 
re-conquering the island. This was an unpalatable task 
to Kintail, for the success of the Lowlanders meant the 
disappearance of his own hopes of securing Lewis for 
himself. In the circumstances, he acted a double part, the 
particulars of which appear to be well authenticated. He 
sent his brother, Roderick Mackenzie of Coigeach, with 
400 men to Lewis and then proceeded secretly to wreck 
the whole enterprise. Besides the levy of men, he seems 
to have been relied upon to send a supply of provisions 
across the Minch, to meet the necessities of the colonists 
and their allies. Accordingly, he despatched a cargo of 
stores to Lewis, but apprised Neil Macleod of what he was 
doing, and advised him to intercept the vessel. Neil was 
not slow to follow this advice. The provision ship was 
seized, and the colonists perhaps received the sympathy of 
Kintail. Their necessities would appear to have been 
pressing, for their leaders, Hay and Spens, were compelled 
to disband their allies and send them home to the mainland. 
They themselves made a hurried departure to Fife, for the 
purpose of procuring reinforcements and provisions. A 
small garrison was left in Stornoway to keep the colony 
intact, pending the arrival of help and stores from the South. 

The ever -vigilant Neil Macleod at once seized the 
opportunity to strike another blow. Collecting his forces, 
which were under the joint leadership of himself and his 
nephew, Malcolm, son of Ruari Og, he attacked the 
colonists, slew many of them, took the rest prisoners, 
and sent them safely home whence they never returned.* 

* At the present day, there is only one Lewis family whose descent is 
directly traceable to the Fife Adventurers ; and it is a family of which 
Stornoway may well be proud. 


This appears to be the occasion referred to by Sir Walter 
Scott in his Tales of a Grandfather, when he states that 
some of the old persons in Lewis, who were alive in his 
time, talked of a very old woman living in their youth, 
who used to say that she had held the light while her 
countrymen were cutting the throats of the Fife Adven- 
turers. Parenthetically, it may be remarked that the 
leisurely process of despatch which the cailleactis story 
suggests, hardly tallies with the well-grounded statement 
that the prisoners were permitted to return home in 
safety. The gruesome picture of a shambles arises before 
the mind's eye rather than the deportation of the van- 
quished across the Minch. But the old woman's tale 
may have been true in isolated instances, or in the 
case of those who refused to submit to the terms of the 

Sir Walter also relates a romantic incident in connexion 
with the dispersion of the Fife men which should find a 
place here. The wife of one of the principal colonists fled 
from the scene of violence to a wild desert, called the 
Forest of Fannig. In this wilderness, she became a 
mother. A native, who happened to be passing, saw 
the mother and child, who, through exposure, were at the 
point of death. Taking compassion on them, he killed 
his pony, cut it open, removed the entrails, and placed 
the mother and infant inside, the warmth of this novel 
receptacle serving to keep both alive. He then succeeded 
in removing them to a place of safety, where the woman 
remained until she found her way home. The sequel to 
this incident is also told by Scott. The woman who 
had undergone the remarkable adventure just described 
became, by a second marriage, the wife of a leading 
citizen of Edinburgh, her husband being a Judge of the 
Court of Session. One evening, while looking out from a 
window of her house in the Canongate, just as a storm 
was coming on, she overheard a man in Highland dress 
say in Gaelic to a companion : " This would be a rough 
night for the Forest of Fannig." The latter was a never- 


to-be-forgotten name in her memory, and her attention 
was immediately arrested. A second look revealed the 
fact that the Highlander who had made the remark was 
no other than her preserver. She called him into the 
house, received him, as well she might, in the most cordial 
manner, and on learning that he had come to Edinburgh 
on law business of importance, used her influence on his 
behalf to such good purpose as to secure a satisfactory 
settlement for him. The Lewisman returned home, we 
are told, laden with presents.* 

On 2Oth February, 1610, Lord Kintail and others were 
commissioned to seize certain named persons, unrelaxed 
from a horning of i8th January, among the number being 
Malcolm, Norman, and Ruari Macleod in Lewis. On 
I9th July, 1610, the Privy Council granted Kintail a 
commission appointing him Justiciary for the space of 
two years over the island, with full authority to seize 
the " traytour " Neil Macleod and his " infamous byke 
of lawles and insolent lymmaris." This commission, in 
its scope and general tenor, is of much the same nature 
as those previously given to Lennox and Huntly. It is 
pointed out that of all the islands, Lewis alone has now 
the doubtful distinction of being rebellious and disobedient. 
The Lewismen are charged with committing murders and 
other crimes, not only among themselves, but on those who 
resorted to their island for the fishing, thereby rendering 
that industry unprofitable, " to the grite hurte of the Com- 
mounwele." In order to facilitate his operations, Kintail 
was authorised to take the galleys and other boats of Lewis 
and the adjacent islands, returning them to the owners on 
the expiration of the service. And authority was given to 
impress in the service, levies from the whole of the North 
Isles, as well as from Kintail's own lands, persons of the 
names of Fraser, Ross, and Munro excepted. 

This story, in many of its details, presents so remarkable a resemblance 
to a tradition of the Mackenzies relating to the escape of John of Kintail 
after Flodden, as to suggest that they have a common origin, a supposition 
which is strengthened by the fact that the Forest of Fannig, or Fannich, is 
not in Lewis, but near Loch Broom. 


On the same date that this commission was granted,. 
Donald Gorm and Ruari Macleod were charged by the 
Council to deliver to Kintail, two sons of Torquil Dubh, 
Ruari and Torquil, the former being in the keeping of 
Donald Gorm, and the latter in that of Macleod. And, on 
the 24th July, Macleod was ordered to detain Donald Cam 
Macaulay and Malcolm, his brother both of whom were 
then in his custody until 3ist May, 1611, on which date 
they were to be brought before the Council to answer 
the charges against them. It would appear, however, that 
the Macaulays escaped to Lewis perhaps with the con- 
nivance of Macleod for tradition ascribes to them an 
active share in the stirring events which took place in the 
island about this time. 

Kintail was not slow in putting his mandate into execu- 
tion. He sent his brother Ruari across the Minch with 
700 men, who quickly reduced the Lewismen to sub- 
mission. Neil Macleod, however, refused to give in. 
With Malcolm, William, and Ruari (the three sons of 
Ruari Og), Torquil Blair Macleod whose exact relation- 
ship to Neil it is difficult to determine Torquil's four 
sons and thirty others, he retired to the Islet of Birsay 
(Bereasaid/i) in Loch Roag, on the west side of Lewis, and 
there he was, for the present, safe against attack. With 
great foresight, he had for years been provisioning Birsay, 
which, to use a modern phrase, he evidently regarded as 
his " last ditch " ; and he had also taken the precaution to 
provide two boats wherewith to pass to Bernera or Lewis, 
and replenish his larder when his stock of provisions began 
to run low. That he made a free use of the boats for this 
purpose, is proved by the indictment against him when, 
three years afterwards, he fell into the hands of the 
Privy Council and was tried for his life. He was charged 
with having run various forays on the mainland which 
probably means Lewis and having stolen goods and 
cattle from a certain Malcolm Macaulay and Malcolm 
Macdonald. According to tradition, Donald Cam Mac- 
aulay, another of the leading stalwarts, took refuge from 


the Mackenzies on a rock west of Uig, called " Donald 
Cam's stack," which he fortified, and where his wants were 
attended to by his daughter. About this time, Lewis 
passed into the hands of Lord Kintail in the following 

It has been shown how the third and final attempt to 
colonise Lewis turned out a disastrous failure. The leaders 
of the colonists, Hay and Spens, were no less disheartened 
than their dependents, and were ready to part with their 
concessions on the best terms they could obtain. In these 
circumstances, Lord Kintail found it easy to negotiate a 
deal with them. On 2oth July, 1610, by a charter under 
the Great Seal, the terms of which are similar to those 
of the charter of 1607, Lewis and Trotternish were granted 
to Kintail, on the resignation of Hay and Spens of their 
rights in those lands.* The exact consideration for the 
transfer is not stated in the official records of the trans- 
action. From other sources, however, it appears that 
Lord Kintail agreed to give the second parties to the agree- 
ment, the sum of 10,000 merks, in substitution for which, 
he afterwards granted them the woods of Letterewe for 
iron-smelting. Hay seems to have been interested in the 
ironworks of Loch Maree as far back as 1607, and it is not 
assuming too much to suggest that it was while at Poolewe, 
planning the conquest of Lewis, that his attention was first 
directed to the possibilities of Letterewe for the smelting of 
iron. On 24th July, 1610, Hay acquired by Crown charter 
the share of his colleague, Spens, in the properties of 
Macleod of Harris,f and he appears for some years after- 
wards to have continued his operations in iron-smelting at 
Letterewe. Probably his stay at Loch Maree was more or 
less against his will, but in 1616, he was appointed Clerk- 
Register, and in 1622, became High Chancellor of Scot- 
land. In 1627, he was raised to the peerage by the title of 
Viscount Duplin and Lord Hay of Kinfauns, and in 1633, 
was created the first Earl of Kinnoull. The son of Peter 

* Keg. Mag. Sig. (1609-20), No. 341. 
t fieg. Mag. Si*. (1609-20), No. 346. 


Hay of Melginche was a man of remarkable ability, and 
his attempted colonisation of Lewis was perhaps the only 
great failure of his life. Sir James Spens of Wormiston 
had also a distinguished career after severing his connexion 
with Lewis. He was high in favour, not only with King 
James, but with Gustavus Adolphus. He entered the ser- 
vice of Sweden, and at the time of his death, was General 
of the English and Scottish mercenaries attached to the 
Swedish army. 

Returning, after this digression, to Neil Macleod and his 
small band of followers, we find them in an unenviable 
plight. It may be readily believed that the transference of 
Lewis to the Clan Kenneth stimulated Ruari Mackenzie 
to fresh efforts to capture the bold refugees of Birsay, or, 
failing that, to prevent any co-operation between them and 
their sympathisers in Lewis. The Mackenzies, being of 
Gaelic speech and of Celtic blood, like the Lewismen them- 
selves (the Norse element may, for the moment, be dis- 
regarded), found little difficulty in reconciling the latter, 
generally, to their occupation of the island, and the area 
of disaffection was reduced to small proportions. The 
Macleods and their dependents alone were opposed, and 
not unnaturally so, to the domination of Clan Kenneth. Neil 
consequently had little prospect of organising a general 
insurrection against the new owners of Lewis. His game 
was up, and all he could hope for was to secure a pardon 
from the King, and come to terms with Kintail. An oppor- 
tunity soon presented itself of ingratiating himself with the 

One day, the anxious eyes of the Birsay stalwarts 
observed a strange ship drop anchor close to Kirkibost, 
Bernera. The vessel turned out to be the Priam, com- 
manded by Captain Peter Love. Not a peaceful merchant- 
man was she, but one of the most renowned pirates of the 
day, manned by as desperate a set of cut-throats as ever 
ordered an unfortunate captive to walk the plank. Neil 
Macleod, a fellow-outlaw, and a man who was himself no 
novice in the piratical profession, soon struck up a friend- 


ship with Captain Love. The story of the latter was 
simple enough. He had narrowly escaped capture off 
the coast of Ireland, where a number of his comrades in 
crime were cut off by a party from the shore. There was 
a rich cargo on board the Priam, consisting of cinnamon, 
ginger, pepper, cochineal, sugar, 700 Indian hides, and 
twenty-nine pieces of silver plate which had been taken 
from an English ship ; and a remarkable box, containing 
various precious stones of great value, which had been 
captured from a Dutchman ; also, according to a con- 
temporary writer, a large number of muskets. This valu- 
able cargo had to be taken to a safe place of refuge, and 
Love chose the Island of Lewis for the purpose. He could 
not have made a worse choice. For a time, all went well 
with the pirates. They resumed their occupation off the 
Lewis coast, and captured the ship of a Lowland Scot, 
one Thomas Fleming (Richieson) of Anstruther, whom 
they detained as their prisoner, using his vessel as their 
guardship. They also seized a Flemish buss, transferring 
five of the crew to the Priam to work as slaves, and re- 
placing them with a similar number of pirates. The buss 
was driven by stress of weather on the coast of Shetland, 
where the crew landed to the detriment, doubtless, of the 

The accounts given of Neil Macleod's dealings with 
Peter Love are conflicting, but the main facts are tolerably 
clear. A bond of mutual offence and defence seems to have 
been entered into by the two outlaws, and for a time their 
friendship remained unimpaired. The intimacy, indeed, 
became so great that Love was about to marry a daughter 
of Torquil Blair Macleod, who (apparently erroneously) is 
described as Neil's aunt.* It is impossible to say what 
was the immediate cause of the tragic interruption to the 
friendship between the two men ; but an impartial ex- 
amination of the facts points to the conclusion, that Neil 
deliberately hatched a plot to seize the pirates and hand 

* We are not informed who Torquil Blair was ; he may have been another of 
old Ruari Macleod's illegitimate offspring. 


them over to justice, in the hope of securing a pardon for 
himself. The way in which he effected his purpose was 
quite in accordance with the treacherous methods of the 
times. " Honour among thieves " was not an axiom to 
be found in Neil's ethical code. He had been feasted on 
board the Priam, and he gave a return feast at Birsay ; 
preliminaries, possibly, to the approaching nuptials of 
Captain Love. As events happened, it was Love's last feast ; 
Neil's banquet led to a scaffold, and not to a wedding. 
For while Neil was entertaining the pirate chief and some 
of his ship's company, Torquil Blair was bent on another 
errand. While the ardent lover was, mayhap, basking in 
the smiles of his future bride, the bride's father was pre- 
paring to seize the ship of his intended son-in-law. The 
plot succeeded, but not without bloodshed. Captain Love 
and his companions found themselves trapped by their 
quondam allies ; and the Priam, after a short but desperate 
scuffle, in which several of the pirates were killed, became 
the prize of Torquil Blair and his followers. Four Dutch- 
men, who had been captured and enslaved by the pirates, 
were released and sent across to Lewis, and a Scotsman, 
who was in a like condition, was detained by Neil, pending 
instructions from the Privy Council as to his disposal. 
According to tradition, which is probably correct, a large 
quantity of money was found on board the Priam, which 
was divided among Neil and his followers, Donald Cam's 
helmet being used to measure it out.* In the official 
records, there is no mention of this money among the 
articles found on board the Priam, and the inference is 
obvious. Such articles as cochineal and pepper were of 
little use to the outlaws, but hard coin was a welcome 
addition to their resources. And here we find another 
reason for Neil's betrayal of his ally. His cupidity was 
probably aroused by the knowledge that this money was 
on board the Priam ; so that the capture of the pirate 

* The Priam's name is not mentioned in the confused narrative of tradition, 
but the episode appears to be connected with the attack on that vessel. In 
1613, a pot of gold was dug up near Kirkibost. 


served a double purpose, in providing him with ready 
cash, and in offering the means of reconciliation with the 

Having secured his prize, Neil sent a messenger to 

inform the Privy Council of his feat, which, he doubted 

not, would be highly commended at head-quarters, as 

indeed it was. His emissary made out as favourable a 

case as possible for his master, asserting that the latter 

had merely forestalled the pirate in a plot which Love had 

formed to seize Macleod. It was a matter of small concern 

to the Council for what reason, or by what means, the 

capture was accomplished, but at the first blush, it is 

curious to find both Neil and his messenger disclaiming 

the credit of a premeditated attack upon the pirates. 

Instead of asserting that he had seized the Priam in order 

to serve the State, as in the circumstances might have 

been expected, Neil strove to excuse himself for the act, 

and sought to acquit himself of responsibility. In a letter 

to the Council dated i6th October, 1610, he protested that 

he was not personally present at the capture, which was 

effected by his men. The cause of this excessive modesty 

on Neil's part is not too obscure. His letter plainly hints 

that in the interval between the seizure of the Priam 

and her delivery to himself, his men might have helped 

themselves, for which, he suggests, he cannot be held respon- 

sible.f Evidently he feared the disclosures of Captain 

Love, and not without good reason. It may be taken for 

granted, that any articles of the Priam's cargo which 

were of use to Neil and his men, were not found on board 

when the ship was handed over to the representatives of 

the Crown. The Council sent one Patrick Grieve to take 

possession of the Priam, and Neil, according to his letter, 

delivered the ship with all her appurtenances exactly as 

he had received them. Love and nine of his men were 

* Analecta Scotica, Vol. II., pp. 282-3 5 Miscellanea Scotica (both MSS.) ; 
Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, Vol. III., pp. 99-101. 

t Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, Vol. III., p. 102. Neil's letter is superscribed 


delivered to Grieve, and on 8th December, 1610, the pirates 
were tried for their lives at Edinburgh. According to the 
indictment, their nationality was a mixture : there were, 
besides the captain (who was a native of Lewes, in Sussex), 
four Englishmen, two Welshmen, and an Irishman, all of 
whom were comprehensively described as " wicket Impes 
of the Devill." The remaining two men who were handed 
over to Grieve, appear to have died of wounds received in 
the fight. The prisoners were all found guilty of piracy, 
and were condemned to be hanged on the sands of Leith.* 
They went to Loch Bernera to secure their plunder and 
escape pursuit, but they discovered to their cost that they 
had tumbled into a veritable hornet's nest. 

The service rendered to the State by Neil secured for 
him a temporary respite, but not a permanent pardon. 
On 29th August, 1610, Lord Kintail was informed by the 
Council that in view of Neil's successful exploit against 
the pirates, and his promise to deliver his captives and 
their ship to those appointed by the Council to receive 
them, they had given him an assurance of freedom from 
molestation until the following Whit-Sunday, if he availed 
himself of their invitation to come to Edinburgh to arrange 
their mutual grievances. In the meantime, Kintail was 
charged to defer, until the expiry of that period, further 
hostilities against the fugitives of Birsay. Neil was, how- 
ever, too cautious to trust himself in the hands of the 
Council. As we have seen, he duly implemented his 
promise to deliver the pirates, their ship, and their plunder, 
to the bearer of the Council's letter, but he himself gave 
Edinburgh a wide berth. 

Lord Kintail died in February, 1611, and was succeeded 
by his eldest surviving son, Colin (Cailean Ruadh), who 
was only fourteen years of age at the time of his father's 
death. The management of the Mackenzie estates, during 
the minority of the new proprietor, devolved upon his 
uncle and guardian, Ruari Mackenzie, the famous Tutor of 

* Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, Vol. III., pp. 99-101. 


Kintail. It will be remembered that Ruari was married 
to Margaret, the elder daughter of Torquil Conanach. 
When the marriage took place, in 1605, Kenneth Mac- 
kenzie gave his brother a charter of Coigeach, reserving 
the life-rent to Torquil Conanach and his wife (Glengarry's 
daughter) ; and in 1608, a further charter of Coigeach and 
other lands was granted to Ruari by Kintail. The latter 
was confirmed by a Crown charter dated I7th November, 
1609, perhaps on the death of Torquil Conanach, whose 
last recorded appearance occurs in the same year. The 
laird of Applecross, in his Genealogy of the Mackenzies, 
states that the consideration for Lewis, which island Torquil 
Conanach and his son-in-law had made over to Kintail, 
consisted of certain lands disponed to Ruari, and of certain 
sums of money advanced to Elspeth, the younger daughter 
of Torquil. The Tutor thus possessed, through his wife, a 
more equitable claim to Lewis than his brother, although 
he had surrendered his legal rights to the latter ; and it is 
perhaps not surprising to find that after he had subjugated 
Lewis, he sought to have these rights recognised. 

On nth June, 1611, a commission over Lewis was 
granted to Ruari Mackenzie and four other chieftains of 
the Clan Kenneth, viz., Colin Mackenzie of Killin (or 
Kildun), Murdo Mackenzie of Kernsary, Alexander Mac- 
kenzie of Coul, and Kenneth Mackenzie of Davochmaluag ; 
and on the same date the Tutor became caution for one 
Neil Mac-an-t'sagairt, a member of a clerical family who 
appear, from the records, to have been particularly active 
participators in the Lewis troubles. On i6th August, a 
proclamation was issued, following the commission of June 
nth. This proclamation informs us that the Lewis rebels, 
taking fresh courage on account of the death of Kenneth, 
Lord Kintail, and counting upon the assistance of their 
neighbours, had risen in arms against the Tutor, whom the 
Council had appointed to the office of Justiciary of Lewis, 
rendered vacant by his brother's death. The proclamation 
goes on to say, that although it cannot reasonably be 
supposed that such assistance will be afforded to the 


Lewismen by their loyal neighbours, yet, in order to leave 
the latter without any excuse, Donald Gorm of Sleat, 
Macleod of Harris, Macneill of Barra, Mackay of Farr, and 
his son and heir, are charged, under pain of rebellion, to 
abstain from rendering help, direct or indirect, of any kind 
whatsoever, to the insurgents. On 28th May, 1612, the 
commission of nth June, 1611, was renewed, the terms 
being very similar to those of the commission granted to 
Lord Kintail on ipth July, 1610. 

The Tutor now applied himself to the task of chasing 
Neil Macleod and his comrades out of their stronghold on 
Birsay. Neil had recently been engaged on a foray in 
Lewis, where he was attacked by the Mackenzies and some 
Lewismen, but managed to make his escape back to Birsay. 
Ultimately, his followers were dispersed by a stratagem, if 
Sir Robert Gordon is to be believed. The Tutor despaired 
of carrying Birsay at the point of the sword, or of starving 
the defenders into submission. He was exasperated, too, 
by the loss of two of his men who were stationed on a rock 
within gunshot of Birsay, one of them having been killed 
outright, and the other wounded, by Neil. He therefore 
conceived a plan, by means of which he hoped to compel 
the little band to surrender. He gave orders to seize the 
wives, children, and other relatives of the insurgents, and 
place them at low tide on a rock, sufficiently near Birsay 
for the occupants to hear and see the wretched people. 
He then informed Neil that unless he and his companions 
surrendered immediately, their helpless relatives would be 
left to drown on the return of the tide. Fearing that the 
stern Tutor would keep his word, if his orders were not 
obeyed, Neil and his followers capitulated, on condition 
of being allowed to leave Lewis ; a condition to which 
Mackenzie acceded. Neil then took refuge with Ruari 
Macleod of Harris. 

It is difficult to say whether this account is perfectly 
reliable, or, if reliable, whether Mackenzie really meant to 
carry out his inhuman threat. The earliest MS. dealing 
with the troubles in Lewis, which was written apparently 


about 1620, makes no reference to the incident. It simply 
states that Neil was " wearied " of remaining on Birsay, 
and at length abandoned the stronghold and dispersed his 
followers, he himself going to Harris.* Gordon's MS- 
was not completed until 1630, and his account of the 
Lewis troubles appears to be an amplification of the earlier 
MS., the author of which is unknown. The fact that the 
latter makes no reference to the Birsay episode related 
by Gordon, suggests that the story about the wives and 
children may be apocryphal. Certain it is, that Neil gave 
himself up to Ruari Macleod. As far back as 1610, Mac- 
leod had been commanded, in a letter written by the King, 
and transmitted to Ruari through the then Earl of Dunbar, 
to assist the Earl in effecting the capture of Neil in Lewis ; 
and on his own showing, he had undertaken the com- 
mission. The delay which had taken place in discharging 
this duty was due to the fact to quote Ruari's own words 
that Neil had " keepit himselff so warlie," although it is 
not difficult to conceive that reasons other than the wariness 
of Neil had contributed to his want of success. But Neil 
was at length actually in his hands. If, as appears to have 
been the case, the notorious outlaw sought refuge with his 
namesake of Harris, and if, as Sir Robert Gordon affirms, 
Macleod undertook to conduct Neil to England, where the 
latter apparently had the notion of throwing himself on the 
mercy of the King, then an indelible stain rests on the 
name of Rory Mor. For, on 2nd March, he appeared 
before the Council; and made them the welcome present of 
Neil and his son Donald, t both of whom were promptly 
lodged in the Tolbooth. On 4th March, Ruari Macleod 
presented a petition to the Council, craving for a declaration 
by Act of Council that he had fully executed his com- 
mission in respect of the capture of Neil. The petition 
was readily granted, and Macleod was protected during his 

* Miscellanea Scotica, Vol. II., p. 75. 

t Donald Macleod was soon set at liberty, but his sentence of banish- 
ment seems to have weighed lightly on his shoulders, for he soon re-appeared 
in Lewis, as defiant and troublesome as ever. 

T 2 


stay in the Capital against arrest for certain undischarged 

In order to appreciate the true inwardness of Rory Mor's 

change of attitude, it is necessary to hark back a little. 

Macleod had tried rebellion and found himself a landless 

outlaw, who dared not show his face in Edinburgh. A 

letter of 4th May, 1610, granting him a remission by the 

King for all his past offences, marked a change in his 

relations with the Crown ; and the commission with which, 

in the same year, he was entrusted for the capture of Neil, 

points in a similar direction. The reward of loyalty quickly 

followed. On 4th April, 1611, by a charter under the 

Great Seal, all his lands were restored to him, and he 

received, in addition, a grant of Waternish in Skye, a 

property which had belonged to the Siol Torquil, and 

which had passed with Lewis to the Mackenzies.t Clearly, 

loyalty was a more paying game than rebellion, and Rory 

Mor was not slow to realise the fact. When, therefore, he 

delivered up the confiding Neil to the Council, he was only 

fulfilling the commission with which he had been charged 

by his Royal master. This argument may serve the 

sophist, but will hardly satisfy the upholder of Highland 

honour, nor accord with the well-grounded belief in the 

sacredness of Highland hospitality. Ruari meant to profit 

by his services in capturing the redoubtable rebel. Nothing 

short of a visit to London to see the King would satisfy 

him. Accordingly, he received permission to proceed to 

Court. He left Scotland plain Ruari ; he returned to his 

native country, Sir Roderick. The surrender of Neil and 

the receipt of the honour of knighthood form an unpleasant 

conjunction of events. They may be merely a coincidence ; 

but if so, the coincidence is unfortunate. It is impossible 

to dissociate them, or to regard them otherwise than as 

cause and effect. Whatever Neil's offences and they 

were not few he had placed his life in the hands of an 

old comrade, and had been basely betrayed. It may be 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. X., p. 3. 

f Reg. Mag. Sig. (1609-20), No. 458. 


argued that Ruari had to yield to circumstances, for the 
Tutor of Kintail had apprised the Council of the departure 
of the pair for the South, and the lord of Harris was 
ordered, on his arrival in Glasgow, to hand over his com- 
panion. But what are we to make of Ruari's petition to 
the Council, claiming that he had fulfilled his commission 
by capturing Neil ? Or what of his parade of the service 
he had rendered, and of his journey to the King? He 
cannot have gone to intercede for Neil, for his acceptance 
of a knighthood appears to preclude that idea, and suggests 
the real object of his visit to Court. Viewed in the most 
favourable light, it is impossible to relieve Macleod of the 
odium which attaches to the delivery of the famous outlaw, 
to trial and certain death at Edinburgh. 

Incidentally, it may be noticed that on i6th September, 
1613, Rory Mor was served heir to his uncle in the lands 
of Trotternish, Sleat, and North Uist. Ruari was in high 
favour with the King in that year : his visit to London 
was productive of good results. In the orders, dated 
1 5th September, 1613, to the Macers of the Sherififdoms of 
Inverness, Tarbat, and Perth, to proceed to the service of 
the briefs proclaimed by Roderick Macleod to serve him 
heir to his uncle's estates, it is significantly added that the 
privilege was granted to him on account of the " guid, trew, 
and thankfull service " rendered by him, notwithstanding 
the unrelaxed hornings against his predecessors. 

The rest of Neil Macleod's story is soon told. On 3Oth 
March, 1613, he was tried in Edinburgh on a series of 
charges, any one of which was sufficient to hang him. 
Neil, who was examined through an interpreter, pled 
guilty. The verdict was a foregone conclusion. The 
prisoner was condemned to be taken to the market cross 
at Edinburgh, and there to be hanged ; his head to be 
struck from his body, and placed above the Nether-Bow 
Port of the town ; and all his possessions to be forfeited 
to the King.* The sentence was carried out accordingly. 

* Pitcairn's Criminal Trials^ Vol. III., pp. 244-7. 


In a letter dated ?th April, 1613, written by Sir Thomas 
Hamilton to the King, it is stated that Neil died at his 
execution " verie Christianlie." And why not, it has been 
asked, seeing his only offence was the defence of his 
family's property against outside aggression ? If this 
argument were true in fact, there would be nothing but 
praise for a man who so gallantly and persistently 
defended his native island against a gang of land-grabbers. 
But no one who examines impartially the record of Neil 
Macleod can resist the conclusion that he was a truculent 
and treacherous ruffian, the only redeeming feature in his 
character being his undoubted bravery, and his deter- 
mination, at all costs, to retain unimpaired his own 
independence, and that of his fellow Lewismen, from 
foreign domination. It may be urged that his actions 
were only a reflection of the spirit of the times in which 
he lived, and that the circumstances of his environment 
furnish a sufficient excuse for his crimes. Judged, how- 
ever, even by that low standard, it is impossible to gloss 
over the perfidy which betrayed a brother to his enemies 
and an ally to his doom, for the sake, in each case, of 
material advantages; or the cold-blooded massacre of 
inoffensive fishermen ; or other incidents in his career 
which have been noticed. It can only be regretted that 
the most notable figure in the struggle for independence 
against the chartered instruments of King James's ruth- 
less scheme of extirpation, should be so bloodstained as 
to vitiate any claim to hero-worship, or even to whole- 
hearted respect. Otherwise, a monument might well be 
erected in Stornoway to the memory of Neil Macleod, 
the patriot. 

Neil's associates on Birsay seem to have taken refuge 
in South Uist with Donald MacAllan, Captain of Clan 
Ranald. On 4th March, 1613, a complaint was made at 
the instance of Sir William Oliphant of Newton, the 
King's Advocate, setting forth that all the chieftains and 
principal men of the Isles had made submission to the 
Crown, with the exception of Neil Macleod and his 


comrades, among the latter of whom appear the names of 
two of Neil's sons, Donald and Ruari, and of Donald 
Maclan Dubh, the Brieve.* We have seen the tragic 
result of Neil's attempted submission, and his followers 
were now to be hunted out of South Uist, the Captain of 
Clan Ranald and eight others being denounced as rebels 
and put to the horn for harbouring them. On 28th April, 
Macleod of Harris was charged by the Council to deliver 
to the Tutor of Kintail, Malcolm and William, sons of 
"the late" Neil Macleod, together with Murdo and 
Malcolm Mac-an-t'sagairt and one Donald MacAngus 
(all of whom are described as ringleaders of the Lewis 
insurgents), who had been apprehended by Alexander 
Macleod, brother of Rory Mor. 

The disappearance of Neil Macleod from the arena of 
strife did not prove the finishing blow to the resistance 
of the Lewismen. On 24th June, 1613, a fresh commission 
was granted to the Tutor of Kintail and his former 
colleagues, empowering them to proceed to Lewis and 
seize certain natives who had been denounced as rebels 
on 2nd February of the same year. In the list of rebels 
are the names of Ruari and Donaldf Macleod (sons of 
Neil), the Brieve, three sons of the priest ("sagairt") 
including the two whom Macleod of Harris had been 
charged to deliver three sons of Torquil Blair, and 
William and Ruari, the sons of Ruari Og.+ The com- 
mission of June, 1613, was renewed for one year on 2ist 
July, 1614, and a proclamation was issued, charging all 
the inhabitants of the North Isles and those within the 
bounds of Kintail's properties Erasers, Rosses, and 
Munroes excepted to assist the Commissioners in 

* This complaint seems curiously belated, seeing that Neil and his son 
Donald were delivered to the Council on 2nd March. We find the Morisons 
here, and later, siding with the Macleods. Tradition has it that they had 
quarrelled with the Mackenzies. 

t Donald was in prison in Edinburgh on this date ! He was released on 
1 3th July, 1613. 

t On 3<Dth July, Macleod of Harris and Campbell of Auchinbreck became 
cautioners for the good behaviour of the three sons of Torquil Blair, and an 
illegitimate son of Neil Macleod who had entered the service of Rory Mor. 


seizing the persons named in the former charge. That 
the Tutor's time was fully occupied in the reduction of 
Lewis, is evident from the fact that he and his nephew, 
Lord Kintail, were specially exempted from the operation 
of a commission with which the Marquis of Huntly was 
charged to suppress a quarrel which had broken out 
between different factions of the Camerons. The circum- 
stances of this exemption are stated in a commission from 
the King, dated I4th September, 1614, confirming the 
authority of Kintail and the Tutor to reduce the Lewis- 
men to obedience. The inhabitants of Lewis are charged 
with being "godles and laules," being "traynit up from 
thair youths in all kynd of impietie and wickednes," and 
the Mackenzies were excused from any service which 
would disturb them in completing the subjugation of the 
island. The conquest of Lewis, the King "asserts, is 
necessary alike for his own honour, the peace and quiet- 
ness of the Hebrides, and the safety of his subjects who 
resort to the fishing. According to this commission, 
several of the insurgents had already been executed, and 
in February, 1615, others who had been taken south by 
Macleod of Harris were handed over to the Mackenzies 
by the magistrates of Edinburgh, to be kept in ward 
pending their trial.* A week later, Ruari (Neil Macleod's 
son), who was one of the Lewismen presented to the 
Council by Macleod of Harris, was set at liberty on taking 
his oath to leave the country within forty days, and in the 
meantime not to show himself north of the Tay, the 
penalty for disobedience being death. The unfortunate 
Tormod Macleod, the only legitimate representative of 
the Siol Torquil then living, who had lain in prison since 
1605, was released on the same conditions. The Tutor 
of Kintail appeared in Edinburgh as his nephew's repre- 
sentative, and gave his consent to the release of the two 
Macleods, taking the precaution to secure from the 
Council an acknowledgment of his non-liability, and that 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. X., pp. 270-1. 


of Lord Kintail, for any further expenses of Tormocl. 
Three months after Tormocl was set at liberty, Colin, 
Lord Kintail, was served heir to his father in the posses- 
sion of Lewis (23rd May, 1615). 

That Ruari, Neil's son, broke his word and returned to his 
native island, is shown by the fact that his name appears 
among a number of disobedient Lewismen, who created 
fresh troubles in the following year. The leader of this 
rising was Malcolm, son of Ruari Og, and associated with 
him were Ruari and Donald, Neil's sons, the latter of 
whom had, in 1613, undertaken to leave the kingdom and 
never return, or find caution for his good behaviour in the 
future, under pain of death. A commission dated 28th 
August, 1616, renewing the powers granted in the former 
commissions, was delivered to the Tutor and his colleagues 
to reduce Lewis to obedience. The expiration of the 
Tutor's previous authority had, it appears, given fresh 
courage to the Macleods and their allies in the island, and 
encouraged them to break anew into open insurrection, 
which the Mackenzies were now called upon to quell. 
The terror of the Tutor's name was sufficient to nip the 
rising in the bud, but Malcolm Macleod managed to effect 
his escape. 

Next to Neil Macleod, Malcolm MacRuari Og was the 
most remarkable of the Siol Torquil of this period. He 
had an adventurous career. Chased by the Mackenzies 
out of Lewis, he joined the Macdonalds of Dunyveg in 
their unsuccessful rebellion. Subsequently, he associated 
himself with Coll MacGillespic (alias Coll Keitach, or the 
left-handed, father of " Colkitto," the famous lieutenant 
of Montrose) and others of the Clan Donald in the 
piratical life upon which they embarked. In the year 
1615, these marauders were the terror of the West High- 
lands and Isles. A commission of fire and sword which 
was issued against them broke up the confederacy, but 
Malcolm evaded capture, and although a reward of three 
thousand merks was placed upon his head, he escaped to 
the Antrim estate of Sir James Macdonald. Returning 


from Ireland, he became the leader of a band of pirates 
on the west coast of Scotland, and in March, 1616, the 
machinery of the law was again put in motion against 
him. Campbell of Lundy, brother of the Earl of Argyll, 
with Campbell of Auchinbreck and Campbell of Ard- 
kinglas, was commissioned to proceed against him and 
his associates, but Lundy's refusal to act under the com- 
mission enabled Malcolm again to escape capture. In 
April, the Tutor of Kintail was charged with the appre- 
hension of the pirates should they land in Lewis, a 
contingency which, it was shrewdly suspected, should be 
guarded against. Malcolm, however, fled to Flanders, but 
soon found his way back to the Western Isles. With 
a band of desperate men like himself chiefly Sorley 
Macdonald and the adherents of the House of Islay 
he seized a French ship and fitted her out for a fresh 
career of piracy. They picked up a crew in the Hebrides, 
and then set out to look for their prey, the latter being 
the merchants and fishermen frequenting the North Isles, 
and especially Lewis. They were assured of active help 
from a number of Harrismen, and in that assurance set 
sail for the Long Island, landing at Lochmaddy, where 
they sent word to Harris of their presence. The con- 
federates discussed the feasibility of a descent on Lewis, 
and the capture of the merchant ships lying at Stornoway 
and elsewhere in the island ; and it was agreed to await 
a favourable opportunity of pouncing on their prey. From 
Lochmaddy, the pirates went to " Lochchennart " (? Loch 
Eynort), where they were soon joined by the Harrismen, 
who told them that the ship of one Robert Alexander, 
a Burntisland skipper, was lying either in the Bay of 
Stornoway, or in Lochfurna (? Thurnabhaigh, Loch Grim- 
shader), and offered to pilot them to her on condition of 
sharing in the spoil. The pirates gave a ready assent to 
this proposal, and a night attack was planned. Malcolm 
Macleod, with forty men armed with muskets and targes, 
got into the eight-oared boat of the Harrismen and found 
the Burntisland vessel in " Loche-sturin " (? Loch Storno- 


way). It was midnight when they boarded her, and the 
crew were all asleep. A scuffle ensued, in which Alexander 
and several of his crew were wounded, but eventually the 
Lowlanders were all overpowered and their ship captured. 
But Macleod had other business on hand. This was a 
matter of profit, but an affair of revenge now claimed his 
attention. Landing with twenty men, he came, under 
the guidance of the Harrismen, to the house of John 
Mackenzie, Lord Kintail's piper, who was settled at 
" Ratirnes " (Ranish), murdered him in his bed, killed 
some of his servants, destroyed his house, and returned on 
board boasting of the exploit. The Burntisland ship was 
then taken in tow to the anchorage where Malcolm's vessel 
lay, and her cargo, consisting of wine and general mer- 
chandise, was transhipped. The unfortunate master of the 
merchantman and his crew lost everything, down to their 
very shirts, but their lives appear to have been spared. 
The plunder was divided between the pirates and their 
Harris confederates. The latter took their spoil to 
Dunvegan Castle, where they openly sold it.* 

The exploits of Malcolm Macleod as a pirate were 
followed by an attempt on his part to organise an insur- 
rection in Lewis, in 1616, which, as we have seen, was 
sternly repressed by the Tutor, at whose hands Macleod 
would probably have received short shrift had he fallen 
into them. But Malcolm had as perfect a genius for 
evading his foes as his great prototype, Neil, and once 
more he got away, on this occasion to Spain, where he 
joined his friend Sir James Macdonald, with whom he 
returned to Scotland in 1620. We shall meet the elusive 
Malcolm on two later occasions. 

The little that we know of the remaining representatives 
of the Siol Torquil may be told in a few words. Sir 
Robert Gordon informs us that at the time he wrote his 
history ,t Ruari, the eldest son of Torquil Dubh, was a 

* Keg. of P.C., Vol. X., pp. 634-5. And all this time Rory Mor was loud 
in his protestations to the Privy Council that not a man of Malcolm Macleod's 
following would receive the slightest countenance from any of his tenantry ! 

t History of the Earldom of Sutherland. 


student at the University of Glasgow, and that Torquil, 
the third son, who had been bred by his uncle, Macleod 
of Harris, was a youth of " great expectations." William, 
the second son, appears to have died when a youth. No 
trace of the descendants of Ruari or Torquil, if they 
left any, can be found. Donald, the eldest son of Neil 
Macleod, took refuge in England with Sir Robert Gordon, 
with whom he remained for three years. He then seems 
to have returned to Lewis, and taken part in the insur- 
rection of 1616. Escaping from Lewis, he made his way 
to Holland, where he may have joined Tormod Macleod, 
who, it will be remembered, took service in 1615 with the 
Prince of Orange. Of Ruari, the other surviving son of 
Neil, there is no record subsequent to 1616; he may have 
shared the fate of the sons of Ruari Og. 

Lewis was now in undisputed possession of the Mac- 
kenzies, and no further attempt was made to resist their 
domination. The Tutor of Kintail made certain repre- 
sentations to his nephew and chief, Colin, Lord Kintail, 
and offered in exchange for Lewis, to resign his title to 
Coigeach and his other possessions on the mainland. 
Kintail, however, refused to listen to these representations, 
and the refusal resulted in a temporary estrangement 
between uncle and nephew. But the Tutor's loyalty to 
his chief proved equal to the strain, and friendly relations 
were ultimately re-established between them. 

Thus ended the drama which was enacted in Lewis at 
the close of the sixteenth, and the beginning of the seven- 
teenth century. The fall of the Macleods of Lewis from 
their high estate, and the extinction of the historic House 
of the Siol Torquil, as a force to be reckoned with in 
the Highlands, furnish an object-lesson to the moralist. 
That retribution followed the misdeeds of the last Mac- 
leods who ruled in the island, is in accordance with the 
eternal fitness of things, if not in accordance with universal 
experience. As they sowed, so they reaped. The hoary, 
but not wholly unamiable sinner, Ruari the last chief 
whose claim to Lewis was undisputed with the trans- 


gressions of a lifetime on his bowed shoulders ; his sons, 
some of them bearing the brand of Cain on their fore- 
heads, and wading through a sea of blood to the con- 
summation of their ambitions ; his grandsons, living in an 
atmosphere of perpetual violence, and striving in vain 
against the inexorable Fate, which decrees that the sins of 
the father shall be visited upon the children ; what wonder 
is it that, with the inevitability of a life drama, the tragic 
note persists throughout? The prologue of the tragedy 
sounded a note of disaster ; the epilogue voices the wail of 
despair. In ringing down the curtain on the unfortunate 
Macleods of Lewis, let it be done with a pitying hand. If 
they sinned much, they suffered much ; if many were their 
faults, heavy was their punishment. Let it at least be 
remembered, to their credit, that they bravely saved their 
native island from the domination of an alien people, who 
came to conquer, and not to coalesce with, the inhabitants 
of Lewis. But although the Siol Torquil lost Lewis for 
ever, the Macleods have far from disappeared from the 
island. On the contrary, not only are they at the present 
day, the most numerous clan in their ancient patrimony, 
but their influence is felt in every department of activity 
which marks the modern life of Lewis. The male line of 
the Siol Torquil being extinct, the chiefship passed to the 
family of Raasay, the present representative of which is 
now in Australia. The female line is represented by the 
descendant of the Tutor of Kintail, in the person of the 
present Countess of Cromartie. 



WHILE the Clan Kenneth were engaged in the difficult 
task of subjugating the malcontents in Lewis, trouble was 
rife in the other sections of the Long Island. The inter- 
minable disputes of the chiefs of Clan Donald and the 
Siol Tormod over their various properties were again 
raging. In former days, these quarrels would have been 
decided by the sword, but under the new regime, more 
peaceful, if less expeditious, methods of settlement had 
to be adopted. First, there arose a question between 
Donald Gorm and Donald MacAllan, Captain of Clan 
Ranald, touching the thirty merklands of Skeirhow (How- 
more) in South Uist, the twelve merklands of Benbecula, 
and the pennylands of Gergrimenes, which Clanranald 
held from Donald Gorm. These lands, with the twenty- 
three merklands of Kandish and the six merklands of 
Boisdale, both in South Uist, were, in July, 1610, granted 
by Crown charter to Clanranald, with a provision stipu- 
lating for the superiority of Donald Gorm over Skeirhow, 
Benbecula, and Gergrimenes.* In July, 1614, the latter 
received a Crown grant of Sleat, the forty pound lands 
of North Uist, and the Clanranald properties of which he 
held the superiority.! This charter roused Ruari Macleod 
of Harris to take action, for less than a year previously, 
he had been served heir to Sleat and North Uist ; and now 

* Peg. Mag. Sig. (1609-20), Nos. 342 and 344. 

f Reg. Mag. Sig. (1609-20), No. 1,087. 9 n 4^ March, 1566, Donald 
Macdonald of Sleat entered into a contract with Archibald, Earl of Argyll, 
by which the Earl bound himself to obtain an infeftment to him and his heirs 
of Trotternish, Sleat and North Uist (of which lands Argyll was Bailie), to 
be held of the Queen in feu farm ; and thereafter to infeft Macdonald therein, 
to be held of the Earl in feu. The consideration was 1,000 merks Scots and 
the vassalage of Macdonald (Appen. to 4th Report Hist. MSS. Coin., p. 482). 


his old rival had triumphed over him. Both chiefs, by 
their astuteness, had well earned the soubriquet " Mor," but 
if greatness be measured by ultimate results, it must be 
conceded that Donald Gorm Mor Macdonald proved himself 
to be a more capable man than Sir Ruari Mor Macleod. 
The latter, seeing his lands filched from him, appealed to the 
King, who had within recent years shown him signal marks 
of his favour. In his letter, which is dated /th January, 
1615, he states that the King's "worthy goodsir of famous 
memory " had heritably infeft the Siol Tormod in their 
lands, but that after his death, the Clan Donald, who were 
then of "greatest power, force, and friendship in the Isles," 
had driven Ruari's forbears " with great slaughter " out of 
them, and retained possession of them by force. Macleod 
goes on to state that he had lately been served heir to his 
father in the lands now forcibly held by Donald Gorm,. 
who, taking advantage of the Act of Parliament requiring 
the Islesmen to exhibit their infeftments an order with 
which Ruari had failed to comply was resolved to fight 
him in the Courts. He protests that he never took part 
with any of the rebels against the King's authority ; that 
he appeared before the Council in 1596 and found the 
necessary caution; that never thinking the Act of 1597 
could apply to such a law-abiding person as himself, he 
had neglected, from ignorance and not from contempt, to 
produce his titles ; and that, in point of fact, he could not 
produce them, because Donald Gorm had been infeft in the 
lands.* He then proceeds to state his conviction that the 
King would see justice done between himself and his rival. 
The Act of Parliament, he avers, was passed " to draw 
brokin Ilismen to obedience, and not to snair simple, 
ignorant, and lauthfull (law-abiding) subjectes " ! He con- 
cludes his epistle by calling James the " fountain " from 
which all distressed subjects received comfort, and beseeches 
the King to instruct the Session to do justice between 

* Donald Gorm got a grant of the lands by charter dated 1 7th August, 
1596. The grant included the lands in South Uist, and Benbecula, con- 
cerning which he had come to a friendly arrangement with Clanranald. (See- 
P- 205.) 


Donald Gorm and others, the Act of Parliament and its 
results notwithstanding.* 

The " others " referred to by Ruari Macleod probably 
included the Tutor of Kintail, whose niece Donald Gorm's 
heir had married. The Tutor espoused the cause of Donald 
in his dispute with Macleod, and the charter which deprived 
the lord of Harris of his lands was secured partially, if not 
wholly, through the instrumentality of the Clan Kenneth, 
whose influence at Edinburgh was now more powerful than 
ever before. 

The upshot of the quarrel between Macleod and Mac- 
donald dissipated the hopes of the former ; his ingenuous 
pleading, his blandishments, and, it may be added, the 
justice of his claims, were alike ignored. Donald Gorm 
Mor died in 1616, and was succeeded by his nephew, 
Donald, afterwards Sir Donald Gorm Macdonald, who by 
a charter dated I2th March, 1618, was confirmed in the 
possessions of his uncle.f Ruari Macleod was obliged 
to resign his claims to Sleat and North Uist, receiving as 
compensation a sum of money ; the acceptance of this 
arrangement being clearly the only course left open to him. 
The Crown lands of Trotternish, too, remained in the 
possession of Kintail, whose brother-in-law, Sir Donald 
Gorm, was retained in peaceful occupation as Mackenzie's 
tenant. Thus ended a dispute of long standing between 
Rory Mor and Donald Gorm Mor. The facts of the dispute 
explain a good deal of the jealousy between these chiefs, 
which is apparent in the incidents hereafter related. 

In 1622, the relations between Sir Donald Macdonald of 
Sleat and the Captain of Clan Ranald were, to say the 
least, strained. Apparently, the feu-duty payable by Clan- 
ranald to his Superior in the Long Island was in arrears. 
Donald Gorm subsequently sought and obtained decrees 
of removal against Clanranald and his people, but the latter 
treated the decrees with contempt. They were promptly put 
to the horn for their disobedience, but they retained posses- 

* Abbot sford Club Collection, pp. 245-7. 
f Reg. Mag. Sig. (1609-20), No. 1,795. 


sion of the lands. Donald Gorm petitioned the Privy Council 
for redress against Clanranald, who, he says, had greatly 

molested " him in his lands of Skeirhow and Benbecula, 
and, in defiance of the decrees of removal against him, had 
debarred the rightful owner (himself) from taking possession 
He therefore begged the Council to remedy this state ot 
affairs by causing Clanranald to find caution not to molest 
him further, or, failing caution, to commit him to prison 
until the required security was found. Clanranald's father- 
in-law, Ruari Macleod, here stepped into the breach with 
the necessary caution, and the whole dispute was ultimately 
referred to arbitration. The arbitrators met at KintaiPs 
Castle of Chanonry, and their decision, as might be ex- 
pected, was in favour of Donald Gorm. The latter was 
empowered to obtain wadsets over the lands in question, 
and in satisfaction of his claims against Clanranald, was 
awarded the superiority of Kandish and Boisdale.* Follow- 
ing the disposal of these lands a little further, it may be 
noticed that in 1627, John Moidartach, the son and successor 
of Donald MacAllan in the captaincy of Clan Ranald, 
received from Donald Gorm, a precept of dare constat for 
Skeirhow, Benbecula, &c. In 1633, the Earl of Argyll 
acquired, in satisfaction of a debt owing to him by Donald 
Gorm, the wadset rights of those lands, and had also 
assigned to him the superiority of Clanranald's holdings 
from the Crown.f 

It may serve a useful purpose, as illustrating the gradual 
declension of the independence of the Hebridean chiefs, to 
give a summary of the relations which existed between the 
Clan Donald of the North and the lord of Harris on the 
one hand, and the Privy Council on the other, during the 
period under review. The records of the Council here 
drawn upon are eloquent in their very baldness. 

In June, 1613, Donald Gorm Mor appeared before the 
Council, gave caution on a question of rent to be settled,. 

* According to the Privy Council records, Donald Gorm and Clanranald 
came to an agreement in October and November, 1622, and Ruari Macleod 
was relieved of his caution. 

T Clan Donald, Vol. II., p. 324. 



and was ordered to produce his titles. Twelve days later, 
he gave a bond to appear before the Council when required 
to do so. In July of the same year, the King granted 
three missives in favour of Macleod of Harris, who, on 
giving his bond, was permitted to return home. In July, 
1614, he was committed to ward in the Castle of Edin- 
burgh for not producing certain Lewis rebels, whom he 
had been charged to seize. In August, 1614, he and 
Donald Gorm appear among the chiefs who ratified the 
Statutes of Icolmkill, and entered into a bond (i) for their 
future appearance annually before the Council ; (2) for 
their obedience in ecclesiastical matters to the regularly- 
appointed ministers ; and (3) for their co-operation with 
the clergy in the service of the Kirk. The same chiefs 
also made declaration that there were no feuds existing 
between them, although there were certain civil actions 
pending. Donald Gorm advocated arbitration to settle 
these disputes, but Macleod wanted legal procedure, and 
in this view, he received the support of Maclean and 
Mackinnon. For the convenience of the Council, domi- 
ciles in Edinburgh were fixed for future citation of the 
chiefs, when their presence at the Capital was desired. In 
the same month (August, 1614), Donald Gorm was charged 
to remain in Glasgow until the Council permitted him to 
depart ; and in the following month, he was released, in 
order to assist the Bishop of the Isles in his mission 
against the Macdonalds in Islay. In August, Macleod 
gave a bond engaging to do his utmost to seize the Lewis 
insurgents who had slipped through his fingers, and to 
appear again before the Council on ist December follow- 
ing. On the latter date, he again appeared before the 
Council, and bound himself to return on loth July 
following, engaging, meanwhile, to do his best to apprehend 
the Lewis rebels. In February, 1615, letters were sent to 
Donald Gorm and the Captain of Clan Ranald, charging 
them not to permit any of the Islay rebels to be " reset " 
within their bounds. On the same day, Macleod of 
Harris and the Tutor of Kintail appeared before the 


Council, and promised that none of the rebels, especially 
Coll MacGillespic and Malcolm MacRuari Macleod 
should be " reset " within their territories, and that they 
would be hunted down if they put in an appearance. A 
proclamation to that effect was delivered to the Tutor, and 
a letter was sent through him to Donald Gorm, charging 
him to keep his country free from the insurgents. In 
March, 1615, leave was given to the Captain of Clan Ranald 
to return home, provided he bound himself to pay the 
rent due by him, and to appear again on ist November 
following. In April, 1615, a commission against the 
Islay rebels was given to Macleod, Donald Gorm, and 
Donald MacAllan, among others. In June, 1615, letters 
were sent to the three chiefs, charging them with the 
pursuit of Sir James Macdonald of Islay. In the same 
month, a further commission was granted to them against 
the Islay rebels, ordering them to provide 200 men each 
for the service ; and they were also charged to send 
each a contingent to assist Campbell of Lundy in his 

From these entries in the Council records, it is obvious 
that a sharp eye was kept upon the island lords. It was 
changed days for those proud warriors to be treated like 
naughty schoolboys, who are not permitted to be out of 
their master's sight too long, and who have to report 
themselves at head-quarters every year under pain of 
punishment. Verily, Bishop Knox, by his Statutes, had 
revolutionised the spirit of the Hebrides. That the chiefs 
of the North Isles were anxious to distinguish themselves 
in the police work which the Council had set them to 
perform, would appear from an interesting epistle from 
that famous letter-writer, Rory Mor. That the true 
reason of their emulation was not a love of law and 
order, or an overpowering sense of loyalty to the Crown, 
but a hope of reward in the shape of charters and other 
material benefits, is not too obscurely hinted in Macleod's 
letter, which is dated i8th June, 1615, and addressed to 
Lord Binning, Secretary for Scotland. Rory Mor relates 

U 2 


how he left Edinburgh in the month of April to visit his 
" barnes," who were at school in Glasgow. During his 
absence, Coll Keitach, with his followers, came to the North 
Isles, and passed to Donald Gorm's land in North Uist, 
where he was " reset " and supplied with provisions by 
Donald Gorm's wife (a daughter of Mackintosh) and by 
young Donald Gorm, Lord Kintail's brother-in-law. Coll 
was persuaded by Donald Gorm's wife and nephew, and by 
the Clan " Neill Vaine, the speciall tenents " of North Uist, 
to pay a hostile visit to Macleod's island of St. Kilda ; and 
they provided him with two pilots for the purpose. The 
attacking force slew all the horses and cattle in St. Kilda, 
sparing nothing but the lives of the inhabitants. They 
returned to North Uist, where they shared the spoil with 
their supporters, and then sailed for I slay. Macleod 
goes on to state that after Sir James Macdonald had 
escaped from prison in Edinburgh, he went to Lochaber, 
Morar, and Knoydart, thence to Sleat, where he got a big 
boat and " entercomed " (intercommuned) for some time 
with Donald Gorm, some of whose men of the " Clan 
Tarlich" (? Maclennans) threw in their lot with him. 
From Sleat, Sir James proceeded to Eigg, where he met 
Coll Keitach and his followers, the total number of the 
rebels being twelve or thirteen score ; but what their 
future plans might be, Macleod was unable to say. He 
recommends Lord Binning, however, to commission the 
Superiors of the Isles to pursue the rebels with fire and 
sword in three companies, the first under the command of 
Maclean of Duart and Maclean of Lochbuie, the second 
under Donald Gorm and the Captain of Clan Ranald, and 
the third under the direction of himself (Ruari Macleod), 
the lord of Coll and Mackinnon, with Kintail's forces, 
co-operating. Let each company do its best, proceeds 
Rory Mor, and " he that doeth best therein have the 
greatest honour and perferment of his Majestic and 
Counsal." He points out that the rebels were of the same 
blood as Donald Gorm and Clanranald, but that the 
Macleans were deadly enemies of Sir James and his men. 


The next sentence deserves special attention, in view of 
the confession it makes. " And as for me, Your Lordship 
knowes verie well that I have geven a proof of my 
obedience and service to his Majestic and Counsell 
alreddye, in taking and apprehending and delyvering my 
own name and blood, the rebellis of the Lews, and in 
making these lands peaceable to his Majestic." He 
protests that his house never rebelled, nor ever will rebel ; 
that he will continue to be a good subject of the King to 
his " lyves end " ; and will pursue these and all other 
rebels to the King's authority, u yea if it wes my father, 
brother, or sone."* 

There is much that is instructive in this letter. Its 
animus towards Donald Gorm and the Captain of Clan 
Ranald is conspicuous. It is plainly hinted that the 
former sympathised secretly with the rebels, while profess- 
ing openly to be a loyal subject of the King ; and an 
insidious doubt is thrown upon the zeal of Clanranald. t 
That Ruari Macleod's insinuations were coloured by his 
personal feelings is suggested by a letter, dated 24th June, 
1615, addressed by the Earl of Tullibardine to Lord 
Binning, in which it is stated that Clanranald would have 
nothing to do with Sir James Macdonald, and refused to 
permit him to land within his bounds ; and that Donald 
Gorm had adopted the same attitude. Probably, however, 
Ruari Macleod knew more about the secret plans of his 
fellow chiefs than did Lord Tullibardine ; but his hostile 
sentiments towards them detracts from the value of his 
evidence. That Sir James Macdonald tried to enlist the 
support of the whole Clan Donald is obvious. He sounded 
Glengarry, Donald Gorm, and Clanranald, and succeeded 
in seizing, and afterwards enlisting the active support of, 
young Glengarry, as well as of Keppoch ; also, apparently, 
of some of Donald Gorm's men, and some of the Clan 
Ranald of Uist. But the chiefs of Clan Donald of the 
North were now too much overawed by the Government, 

* Metros Papers, Vol. I., pp. 214-7. 

t Clanranald married a daughter of Ruari Macleod. 


or too regardful of their own interests, to range themselves 
on the side of their harassed clansman, in whatever direc- 
tion their secret sympathies may have lain. The artfulness 
of Ruari Macleod's proposal to Lord Binning consisted in 
its suggestion of separating the wheat from the chaff ; of 
making a distinction between the enemies of Clan Donald, 
who were the loyal subjects of the King, and the kinsmen 
of the rebels who were the lukewarm, or unwilling instru- 
ments of the Crown; while the outcome of this separation, 
and the subsequent apportionment of rewards, were awaited 
with confidence by the astute lord of Harris. 

Lord Binning, in his reply dated 3Oth June, commended 
Macleod's loyalty, and urged perseverance in the good 
cause, assuring his correspondent that the King would not 
forget to reward him. He thought Macleod's advice was 
sound, and called attention to the fact that the commis- 
sion suggested by him had been issued. He promised 
that the wrongs complained of by Ruari should be duly 
redressed, but in the meantime, the latter was desired 
by the Council to avoid retaliation, and if attacked by 
his neighbours, to defend himself with all " convenient 
moderatioun," lest the King's service should be hindered. 
Lord Binning also promised to write the King, letting 
him know what a paragon of loyalty Ruari was, and 
adjured his correspondent, for their mutual credit, to act 
up to his professions.* 

The Secretary probably wrote this letter with his tongue 
in his cheekj but to him the all-important matter was to 
secure the co-operation of the chiefs in capturing the 
rebels ; the private feuds of Rory Mor and his neighbours 
could afford to wait. The trouble in Islay commenced 
with the seizure of Dunyveg Castle by the Macdonalds, 
and its subsequent re-capture by Campbell of Calder, the 
details of which it is beyond the province of this work to 
traverse. But on the very day that Lord Binning wrote 
Ruari Macleod, the Privy Council advised the King that 

* Mdros Papers ', Vol. I., pp. 224-6. 


the castle had again been seized by the Macdonalds, under 
the leadership of Sir James, their chief. It was therefore 
politic in the highest degree to keep the Hebridean chiefs 
well in hand, in order not only to prevent the disaffection 
from spreading, but to unite them in a solid resistance to 
the Macdonalds of Islay. Hence the cooing words of the 
Secretary to Rory Mor, whose " verie loveing freend " he 
signed himself. 

Sir James Macdonald became alarmed at his position, 
after his open defiance of the Crown by surprising and 
re-capturing his ancestral stronghold. On 1st July, 1615, 
he wrote a pitiful letter to Lord Binning, beseeching the 
Secretary to befriend him against his enemies (the Camp- 
bells), so that the King do not permit them to " root him 
and his " out of Islay, which they had possessed for five or 
six centuries. He pleaded for the restoration of the island 
as the King's tenant, promising to find surety for the rent, 
and for the obedience of himself and his clan. If, however, 
this request were refused, he desired that the island should 
become the absolute property of the Crown. " For," he 
adds, " that is certane, I will die befoir I sie a Campbell 
posses it."* But the petition of the unfortunate Sir James 
was unavailing. The Earl of Argyll, who appears to have 
found the pleasures of the English Court more congenial 
to his tastes than the task of subduing the Macdonalds, 
and who was not too anxious to meet his Scottish 
creditors, at length waived, under pressure, his plea of 
ill-health, and after being appointed Lieutenant over 
the whole of the Hebrides, undertook the subjugation of 
the Islay rebels, whom he finally dispersed after a short 
and successful campaign. Sir James Macdonald was com- 
pelled to flee from the island, and Coll Keitach, who held 
Dunyveg Castle, finding his courage unequal to facing 
Argyll's artillery, made terms for himself, and surrendered 
the castle, being subsequently employed by his captor 
against his former associates, whom he harried with all 
the zeal of a time-serving pervert. 

* Metros Papers, Vol. I , pp. 226-8. 


The dispersal of the rebels entailed a renewal of police 
duty on the part of the chiefs of the Long Island, who 
were enjoined to pursue the fugitives with alacrity. In 
view of the ease with which the most daring of the rebels 
escaped their vigilance, this duty does not appear to have 
been performed with whole-hearted eagerness. Ronald 
MacAllan of Benbecula, brother of the Captain of Clan 
Ranald, was sufficiently troublesome towards the end of 
1615 to occupy the exclusive attention of his relative, who 
received a commission to seize him and his accomplices, 
who were disturbing the possessions of Clanranald, and 
raising disorder in the Isles ; while Ruari Macleod and 
Donald Gorm had their own little differences to adjust. 
We find Macleod making declaration to the Council, 
in March, 1616, that he had left his brother in charge 
of his properties, with instructions to prevent any of 
the Islay rebels from resorting thither ; and solemnly 
promising that no insurgent should receive any counte- 
nance within his bounds. The part taken by the Harris 
men in the piratical exploits of Malcolm Macleod in the 
Long Island, which has been already related, exemplifies the 
laxness of the measures employed for the due fulfilment of 
this promise. That the Council were not disposed to place 
implicit confidence in Ruari, is apparent from the circum- 
stance, that in spite of the King's recommendation that he 
should be relieved from the necessity of making an annual 
appearance in Edinburgh, " my lords " deemed it inadvis- 
able to concede the relief. On the contrary, they charged 
both Macleod and Clanranald, under forfeiture of their 
lands, to remain in Edinburgh during their pleasure, and 
compelled them to find the caution which was imposed 
upon them. They had decided to clip the wings of these 
Highland eagles still further, in order to minimise their 
power for mischief. And this is the form the clipping 

On 26th July, 1616, six of the Hebridean chiefs, viz., 
Macleod of Harris, the Captain of Clan Ranald, the 
Macleans of Duart, Coll, and Lochbuie, and Mackinnon 


of Strath, were obliged to enter into a bond to observe 
the following conditions, (ist) That they should appear 
annually before the Council on loth July, and that all 
necessary measures for the preservation of peace by their 
clansmen should be employed by them. (2nd) That they 
should produce annually a certain number of their kinsmen 
as a further guarantee of good order. Macleod was to ex- 
hibit three, and Clanranald two ; of their clansmen. Clan- 
ranald, it may be remarked, disclaimed responsibility for 
his three brothers, who were apparently beyond his control. 
(3rd) That the number of gentlemen attached to the house- 
hold of each chief was to be strictly limited, Macleod and 
Clanranald being each apportioned six gentlemen, while 
the number appointed for the other chiefs was three apiece. 
(4th) That they were to purge their bounds of sorners and 
idle men. (5th) That they were to be permitted to wear 
pistols and hackbuts only in the King's service, and that 
none of their servants, except the gentlemen of their 
households, were to carry any weapons or wear any armour 
whatever.* (6th) That they were to reside at fixed places 
of abode, Macleod's residence to be at Dunvegan, and Clan- 
ranald's at Eilean Tirrim in Moidart, and that they were 
to take the mains or home-farms into their own hands, and 
cultivate them, with the view of being usefully employed, 
instead of leading lives of idleness. There being no home- 
farm attached to the Castle of Eilean Tirrim, Clanranald 
selected the farm of Hobeg, in Uist, as his mains. (7th) That 
at the following Martinmas, they were to let the remainder 
of their lands to tacksmen at a clear rent, without the 
additional exactions which they had been accustomed 
to impose upon their tenants. (8th) That no chief was to 
have more than one birling of sixteen or eighteen oars in 
his possession ; and that when travelling through the Isles 
in their birlings, no sorning on the people was to be 
permitted. (9th) That all their children over nine years 

* On i8th September, 1616, the King granted a warrant to the Council to 
issue to certain of the chiefs and their kinsmen, permits for carrying firearms, 
to be used within a mile of their own houses only. 


of age were to be sent to schools in the Lowlands, to learn 
to read, write, and spell English ; and that any of their 
children who had not been so instructed were to be ex- 
cluded from their inheritance. (loth) That the chiefs were 
not to use in their houses more than a stated quantity of 
wine, Macleod being allowed four, and Clanranald three 
tuns ; Maclean of Duart was permitted four tuns, and the 
remaining chiefs one tun each. Their tenants were not 
to be allowed to buy or to drink any wine whatsoever. 
Sureties were found by the chiefs concerned for the due 
fulfilment of this remarkable bond, which was a sort of 
second edition of the Statutes of Icolmkill.* 

Donald Gorm, who was prevented by illness from 
appearing in Edinburgh, was compelled to ratify the 
agreement ; he found the necessary caution in the month 
of August, Clanranald being one of the sureties. He 
named Duntulm in Trotternish as his place of residence ; 
and the Council permitted him six gentlemen for his 
household, and four tuns as his allowance of wine ; while 
the number of kinsmen to be exhibited by him annually 
was fixed at three. And thus the Council sought to 
dragoon the lords of the Hebrides into ways of industry 
and sobriety. 

An examination of the conditions which have been 
enumerated reveals certain features which are of special 
interest. The first is, that the chiefs of those days, in 
their relations to their tenantry, and the common people 
generally, were not the ideal landlords which they are 
sometimes supposed to have been. At whatever period of 
Highland history the Golden Age of the clan system may 
have been if it ever had a Golden Age it was obviously 
not at the beginning of the seventeenth century. That the 
exactions by the chiefs from their tenantry were such as to 
merit a stern rebuke from the Privy Council, hardly bears 
out the idea of patriarchism with which Highland sentiment 
clothes the working of the clan system ; while the necessity 

* RegofP.C.* Vol.X., pp. 773-6. 


imposed upon the Council for repressing the practice of 
sorning, indicates that oppression of the people by the 
chiefs was so rife as to be a matter of common notoriety. 
It does not, however, necessarily follow that the heads of 
the clans were uniformly tyrannical in their conduct to- 
wards their inferiors. The fidelity of the clansmen to their 
hereditary leaders, unique though it was, could not have 
stood the strain of consistent oppression and unrelieved 
despotism. The chiefs had rough and ready methods ; 
they were not influenced by the fine distinctions which 
prevail in modern communities, where justice between man 
and man is a recognised principle ; they were arbitrary in 
their dealings with their followers, as they were uncertain 
in their relations towards one another. But while they 
took from the people with one hand, they gave with 
the other ; while they exacted calps from their tenantry, 
they feasted the calp-payers right royally ; while they 
plundered their clansmen to replenish their wine-cellars, 
they let the wine flow in a common carousal. The exac- 
tion of calp, it may be explained, consisted in an acknow- 
ledgment of dependence on a chief; it took the form of a 
death duty represented by the best horse, cow, or ox of 
the deceased tenant, which was claimed by the chief as a 
matter of right. The practice gave rise to various abuses, 
and in 1617, was finally abolished in the Highlands and 

The uprooting of the Gaelic language and the substitu- 
tion of English, as the current tongue in the castles of the 
Hebrides, formed part of the policy of the Council for 
Anglicising the chiefs. The importance of language as a 
vehicle for modifying character, thus received due recogni- 
tion at the hands of the Edinburgh statesmen. That the 
prevalence of Gaelic was deemed by them to constitute 
a stumbling-block in the way of reform, is evident from 
an Act of the Council passed in December, 1616. The 
provisions of this Act included the establishment of an 
English school in every parish of the kingdom, and the 
Bishops were charged with the duty of carrying out the 


scheme. The universal use of English throughout the 
length and breadth of Scotland was the aim of the Council, 
and this admittedly involved the extirpation of Gaelic. 
The desire of " my lords " was that " the Irishe language, 
whilk is one of the cheif and principall causis of the con- 
tinewance of barbaritie and incivilitie amongis the 
inhabitant's of the His and Heylandis, may be abolisheit 
and removit." Notwithstanding, however, the establish- 
ment of Parish Schools, and, in modern times, of Board 
Schools, with all the discouragements to the persistence of 
the Gaelic language which the educational machinery of 
the present day entails, the ancient tongue still survives, 
and if the enthusiasts of the Celtic Renascence have their 
wish, it will not only survive, but will have a fresh lease of 

An Act passed by the Privy Council, simultaneously with 
the signing of the bond by the six chiefs, emphasised the 
pressing necessity of imparting instruction to the children 
of the leading members of the clans. The Act bears that 
the principal cause of the backwardness of the Isles lay 
in the neglected education of the children, who, from the 
example set them in their youth, grew up in a state of 
ignorance and barbarism, from which it was impossible 
to reclaim them ; whereas, if sent to the Lowlands to be 
educated, they would return home instructed, not only in 
English, but in the ways of virtue and obedience to the 
laws. The Act, therefore, confirmed the provisions in the 
chiefs' bond that in future, they should be compelled to 
send their children south to be educated.* 

Another Act of the same date, accentuated the clause 
in the agreement bearing upon the consumption of wines 
in the Isles. . It narrates that great excess prevailed among 
the Islesmen, insomuch that not only were the drinking 
habits provocative of many of the cruelties and barbarities 
practised in those parts, but they were the direct cause of 
much of the destitution among the common people, and of 

*Reg. of P,C., Vol. X., p. 777. 


the prevalence of theft to relieve their actual necessities. 
This striking indictment was therefore the occasion of the 
stringent provisions in the bond relating to the consumption 
of strong drink, which the Act of Council duly confirmed.* 
These Acts throw a strong light upon the social con- 
ditions of the Hebrides at this period. Education, even 
in its most elementary forms, was at a low ebb, and some 
of the chiefs were unable to sign their own names. The 
prevalence of the drinking habits mentioned by the Acts, 
receives ample confirmation from the testimony of the sean- 
achies, who gloried in the flowing bowl, and measured 
the popularity of the chiefs by their capacity for wine, and 
their generosity in keeping the beakers of their guests well 
filled. MacVurich, in a glowing panegyric upon Rory Mor 
and his hospitality, refers to the " overflowing cups " of 
that chief, and his " generous wine" which would " overcome 
the hardiest heroes." Rory Mor's famous drinking horn 
in Dunvegan Castle is a standing proof of that chiefs 
capacity for his " generous wine." The reduced quantities 
permitted to the chiefs by the Council, were sufficiently 
large to furnish eloquent testimony to the superabundant 
hospitality which preceded the restriction ; the feasts, 
which sometimes lasted for days, were conducted on a 
scale of magnificence which puts far in the shade the most 
lavish of modern banquets. Incidentally, it may be noticed 
that whiskey, which at the present day is so frequently 
associated with the Highlands, was at this period, if not 
unknown, at least not in common use. The prohibition of 
the use of wine probably led to the distilling of " aquavity " 
from barley and oats, whiskey not being wine " within the 
meaning of the Act." Anti-prohibitionists may quote this 
as an example of the evasions which follow attempts to 
make people sober by Act of Parliament, but the advocates 
of temperance reform will deplore the introduction to the 
Hebrides of a liquor which, from their point of view, has 
wrought so much mischief. 

* Xeg.ofP.C.,Vol.X. t p777. 


The importance of the measures which have just been 
noticed, in reforming the social condition of the Hebrides, 
cannot be over-estimated. Gradually, but surely, the old 
days, and in many respects the bad days, were passing 
away, and the structure of society in the Isles was shifting 
from its ancient foundations. Whatever may be said about 
the policy of stamping out the old language, there can be 
no doubt that the educational machinery which was set in 
motion, widened the mental outlook, and softened the as- 
perities, of the Hebridean people. And the steps taken to 
convert an aristocracy of fighters into captains of industry ; 
to teach the lords of the Hebrides temperance, and their 
dependents total abstinence ; while only partially suc- 
cessful in their results, paved the way, with the help of 
education, to a more enlightened conception of mutual 
duties and responsibilities than had hitherto prevailed. 

The Bond of 1616 was followed by some years of com- 
parative quietness in the Hebrides. When, in July, 1622, the 
chiefs paid their annual visit to Edinburgh, they were able 
to give a satisfactory account of themselves, although their 
remissness in keeping the parish kirks in a good state of 
repair was reprimanded by the Council. With the ex- 
ception of the land trouble between Macdonald of Sleat 
and Clanranald, they were living in an unwonted atmos- 
phere of peace among themselves. Clanranald seems to 
have been the black sheep of the flock. We find him 
ordered to appear before the Council, at the instance of the 
burghs, to answer to the charge of molesting and oppressing 
fishermen in the Long Island. According to this charge, 
he and his men were in the habit of boarding the Lowland 
smacks, cutting their nets, and commandeering their fish 
and provisions. A specific instance is given of Clanranald 
having seized a boat and taken possession of her nets 
and herrings, compelling the owner to buy them back 
from him.* For the protection of the fishermen who 

* There were three lasts of herrings, for which Clanranald demanded a 
hundred and twenty pounds per last, and three nets, for each of which he 
required forty pounds. 


frequented the Long Island, the Council compelled Donald 
Gorm, Ruari Macleod, Clanranald, Ranald MacAllan of 
Benbecula, and Sir Lauchlan Mackinnon of Strath, to 
enter into a bond ; but the undertaking does not appear to 
have carried weight with Clanranald. In 1625, the Council 
commanded Ruari Macleod, "all excuissis sett asyde," to 
co-operate with them in suppressing the lawlessness of 
Clanranald, who had been annoying, not only Scottish sub- 
jects, but those of friendly nations. Ruari was threatened 
with dire penalties for non-compliance with this order : it 
will be hard for him, wrote the Council, to "eshaip the 
weyght of his Majesteis arme." Seeing that Macleod two 
months previously, had been held responsible, with Clan- 
ranald and Maclean of Coll, for encouraging a state of 
piracy in the Isles, it would appear that the old distrust 
of him by the Council was again uppermost. 

The lack of sobriety in the Hebrides again received, in 
1622, the attention of the Council, and an Act of great 
stringency was passed, forbidding, under severe penalties, 
the masters of ships from carrying wines to the Isles. 
According to the preamble of this Act, the people were 
possessed by such an insatiable love of wine that when 
a ship arrived, they spent " bothe dayis and nightis in thair 
excesse of drinking," the result of these excesses being to 
breed quarrels and lead to bloodshed.* It will thus be 
seen that the repressive measure of 1616 had proved 
abortive in respect of the prohibition of wines ; evasion of 
the law, as might have been expected, followed the attempt 
to enforce total abstinence. 

There is on record an interesting letter to the Council by 
Ruari Macleod, dated 3 1st August, 1622, written on his own 
behalf, and that of his son-in-law, Clanranald. He empha- 
sises the fact of his family having ever been " trew and 
obediant subjectis," and complains that in this "dilectable 
tyme of peax," he is forced to appear before the Council 
annually. When the chiefs are away from home, he says, 

*Reg. of P.O., Vol. XIII., pp. 20-1. 


there is "no vertew hot vaiging (stravaiging) among the 
yemans (yeomen), dependaris and servandis." He there- 
fore petitioned the Council to be allowed to remain at 
home for the next seven years, in order to develop his 
estate, and thus enable him to pay his creditors. He asked 
for a dispensation from the Act abolishing the imposition 
of calps. On behalf of Clanranald, he petitioned for a 
supersedere for seven or five years from all civil actions by 
Clanranald's creditors.* 

Rory Mor's petition met with no direct success, but it is 
significant that, by an Act of Council in 1623, the com- 
pulsory attendance of the chiefs every year was abolished, 
and we find in that year, Maclean of Duart and Maclean 
of Morvern making themselves answerable for the appear- 
ance of Ruari Macleod, at any time during the succeeding 
three years that his presence might be required by the 
Council. Rory Mor's letter suggests that both he and his 
son-in-law were hard pressed by their creditors. In view 
of the extravagance of living which prevailed among the 
Highland chiefs of those and later times, it is not sur- 
prising to find them in a constant state of debt and 

Turning now to Barra, we find a condition of domestic 
discord which augured badly for the prosperity of that 
island. Going back to the end of the sixteenth century, we 
read of strange happenings in Barra. Ruari Macneill was 
not too scrupulous in his means of adding to his revenue. 
In plain English, he was a noted pirate. He was com- 
paratively safe so long as he confined his attentions to 
Dutch or French ships. Unluckily for him, however, he 
pursued his avocation on the coast of Ireland, and spread 
such terror there that the news of his exploits came to the 
ears of Queen Elizabeth, who complained to King James 
of the chiefs depredations upon her subjects, and requested 
him to take steps to bring Macneill to justice. Desirous 
above all things to avoid giving offence to the Maiden 

* Reg. ofP.C., Vol. XIII., pp. 745-6. 


Queen, of whom he stood in wholesome awe, James cast 
about him for the most likely instrument of capturing the 
old rover. The reputation of Roderick Mackenzie, after- 
wards the Tutor of Kintail, as a bold and resolute man, was 
known to the King, and to him he gave the task of seizing 
Macneill, a task not devoid either of difficulty or danger. 
Mackenzie readily undertook the commission, and con- 
ceived a plan for getting the lord of Barra into his posses- 
sion by strategy. Disguising himself as a peaceful skipper, 
he arrived before Macneill's Castle of Kisimul with the 
greater number of his men under hatches, the remainder 
posing as the crew of the merchantman. He had a 
plausible story to tell Macneill. He was a trader bound 
from Norway to Ireland. On his way to Barra, he had met 
a French ship, and had bought from her a quantity of first- 
rate brandy and wines. Would the Chief of the Macneills 
deign to accept his hospitality on board of his ship, and 
sample his liquor ? The Chief of the Macneills was 
not proof against the temptation, for he liked a cup of 
good wine as well as anyone in the Hebrides. Attended 
only by his ordinary body-guard, he accompanied the 
pseudo-trader on board, and the flowing bowl was soon 
in evidence. On a given signal, the men under hatches 
rushed out and made the whole party prisoners ; the anchor 
was weighed, and soon the outlines of Barra faded in the 
distance. Here we have one more example of the part 
which wine and treachery played in the Hebrides, in 
effecting the capture of desperate men. 

In due course, Ruari Mackenzie brought his captive to 
Holyrood before the King and his Court. Great was the 
surprise of James to find in his presence, not the rough, 
evil-looking desperado whom he had expected to see, but a 
tall, good-looking, elderly gentleman, with a benign counte- 
nance and a long grey beard, who looked more like a 
reverend Father of the Kirk than a pirate whose robberies 
had formed the subject of diplomatic correspondence. And 
the chief of Barra was a humorist to boot. When asked 
by the King his reason for harassing the subjects of the 


Queen of England by his piracies, the ready-witted son 
of Barra replied that he thought he was doing his Majesty 
good service by annoying " a woman who had killed his 
mother ! " This reply was too much for James. Turning 
to Ruari Mackenzie, who, throughout the interview, had 
acted as interpreter, he exclaimed : " The devil take the 
carle ! Rory, take him with you again, and dispose of him 
and his fortune as you please." Which Rory accordingly 
did. He restored the estate of Barra to Macneill, reserving 
the superiority to himself, in recognition of which, Macneill 
agreed to pay him and his heirs, forty pounds per annum, 
provide a hawk when required, and on extraordinary 
occasions, assist his Superior with his men, if so desired.* 

We find the Captain of Clan Ranald soon afterwards 
casting longing eyes on Boisdale in South Uist, which 
formed part of the Barra property. By virtue of a charter 
of 1427, confirmed in 1495, Ruari Macneill's title to Bois- 
dale was undoubted. Clanranald, however, finding him an 
inconvenient neighbour, determined, in 1601, to oust him 
from South Uist. Attacking Macneill in North Boisdale, 
he drove him out of Uist, forcing him to take refuge in one 
of the remote islets of Barra. Thus it was that Boisdale 
passed into the possession of Clanranald, and was included 
in a Crown charter of the Clanranald properties dated 24th 
July, i62O.f 

On 1 3th June, 1605, Macneill of Barra was charged with 
other islesmen to appear before the Comptroller, produce his 
titles, and find caution for payment of his rents. On 9th 
January, 1610, a commission was issued to seize him, owing 
to his refusal to give obedience to the King and Council. 
He was charged with committing all " kynd of barbaritie " 
on the poor inhabitants of Barra and of the adjacent isles ; 

* Eraser's Earls of Cromartie, p. xliii. Genealogy of the Mackenzies, p. 9. 

f Clan Donald, Vol. II., pp. 304-5. Hist. MSS. Com., App. to Report IV., 
p. 482 (175). It is a curious fact that Boisdale continued to be comprised in 
the estate of Barra after the middle of the seventeenth century. When 
Sir John Mackenzie in 1627, and Sir George Mackenzie in 1655, were served 
heirs to the properties of the Cromartie family, including Barra and its perti- 
nents, the latter embraced Boisdale. In the charters of Boisdale, to the Clan- 
ranald family, it is described as " Bowistill " and " Benistill " of North Uist. 



from which it would appear that the mild-looking outlaw 
was again at his old tricks. The outcome of this commission 
is not recorded. 

About this time, a piracy occurred on the coast of Barra 
which created a considerable stir. A ship belonging to a 
certain Abel Dynes, a merchant of Bordeaux, appeared off 
the coast, and according to Lewis tradition, the natives 
supposed she had been sent to subjugate the Long Island 
on behalf of the Scottish Government. The same tradition 
relates that the clans in Lewis held a Council of War, set 
off for Barra in the Brieve's galley and two other large 
" schuyts," boarded the strange ship, and killed the whole 
of the crew, with the exception of one man, his wife, and 
child. From the boy so the tradition relates the Mac- 
kinnons of Lewis are descended. Whether or not this 
narrative has been erroneously connected with the capture 
of Abel Dynes's ship, it is certain that the piracy of the latter 
gave rise to a domestic quarrel among the Macneills, which 
placed the members of that unhappy family in two opposing 
camps, and embittered the declining years of old Ruari. 

The latter had contracted a " handfast " marriage with a 
sister of Maclean of Duart, by whom he had several sons, 
the eldest, named Donald, being the leader of the attack 
on the Bordeaux ship. A commission was given to 
Clanranald to apprehend him, which the latter carried out 
in February, 1610. The prisoner was confined in the Tol- 
booth of Edinburgh where he "endit this lyffe." Ruari 
Macneill's lawful wife was a sister of Clanranald, and the 
action of the latter, in seizing Donald Macneill, aroused the 
enmity of Donald's brother, not only against Clanranald, 
but against his nephews, Ruari Macneill's sons by Clan- 
ranald's sister. This bred bad blood between the brothers- 
german; and the sons of the senior family, assisted by their 
uncle Maclean, in revenge seized Neil, the elder son by the 
second marriage, and sent him to Edinburgh to stand his 
trial as a participator in the piracy. Neil, however, was 
found innocent of the charge, and through the influence 
of Clanranald, was set at liberty. And so the quarrel was 

X 2 


perpetuated, the enmity between the brothers-german in- 
creasing, instead of diminishing, with time. That the old 
chief should be dragged into the feud was inevitable. 
Apparently, his leanings towards his junior family were too 
pronounced to escape the notice of his eldest sons, who 
strongly resented his attitude. Neil Og and Gilliconneill, 
who are described as Macneill's " natural sons," at length 
decided upon a bold step. With their partisans, they be- 
sieged and captured Kisimul Castle, seized their father, and 
kept him a prisoner in irons. The old man and Gilleonan 
Og, a son by the second marriage, lodged a complaint with 
the Council on nth March, 1613, and the Council imme- 
diately sent a charge to the King's messenger to denounce 
as rebels, Neil Og, his brother, and John MacAllan. A 
commission was given to Clanranald to pursue the 
rebels, " thair being no uther who wald undirtak suche a 
commissioun."* Armed with this commission, Clanranald 
succeeded in terminating the quarrel, in a manner which 
was satisfactory to himself, his nephews, and the old chief 
of Barra. He secured the succession to the chiefship for 
the eldest son of the junior family, on the death of Ruari 
Macneill, an event which occurred soon afterwards. By 
a Crown charter dated i6th July, 1621, the grant of Barra, 
with its pertinents, to the Tutor of Kintail, was confirmed, 
and his son, Sir John Mackenzie of Tarbat, was, in 1627, 
served heir to the estate.f We find the property still in 
the possession of the Cromartie family when, in 1655, 
Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat was served heir to his 
father, Sir John.f At the commencement of the eighteenth 
century, the then chief of the Macneills held the island from 
Macdonald of Sleat. According to Dr. George Mackenzie, 
Barra was transferred by Sir John Mackenzie of Tarbat to 
Sir Donald Gorm Macdonald ; but it is difficult to recon- 
cile this statement with the facts already mentioned. In 
any case, the Macdonalds obtained the superiority by 
marriage, and it still remains, nominally, with them. 

* Reg. of P.O., Vol. X., p. 817. 

t Inquis. Retor. Abbrev. (Ross and Cromarty, No. 71 ; Inverness, No 78). 


The Macneills of Barra were not the only chiefs of the 
Long Island who augmented their incomes by occasional 
piracies. John Moidartach, Captain of Clan Ranald, and 
great-grandson of his more famous namesake, did not 
despise this lucrative occupation. In 1625, a Leith ship, 
with a cargo of tea, wines, and general merchandise, was 
rounding Barra Head bound northwards, when Clanranald 
and some of his men, cruising about in their galleys for 
likely prey, fell in with her. The stranger was without 
ceremony boarded by the Macdonalds and plundered. It 
requires no great stretch of the imagination to assume that 
the self-denying ordinance of total abstinence, prescribed 
by the Lords of the Privy Council, was on this occasion 
more honoured in the breach than in the observance. A 
similar exploit on the part of Clanranald occurred in 1636, 
when the Susannah, an English barque bound from France 
for Limerick, was driven ashore off the coast of Barra. The 
vessel sent up signals of distress which were seen by the 
Barra men, some of whom went out to her, and with a 
remarkable business instinct, arranged with the captain for 
salvage. They towed the ship into harbour, but on landing, 
were confronted by John Moidartach with 300 of his men, 
who seized the Susannah as his lawful prize. Her cargo, 
consisting of wine, fruit, corn, &c., was taken possession of 
by Clanranald, who, to give some show of legal colour to 
the proceedings, compelled a wretched youth who was on 
board to call himself the agent for the cargo, and in that 
capacity, to sign a document, professing to sell the mer- 
chandise for a certain sum, which Clanranald promised, but 
failed to pay. The owner of the vessel was similarly dealt 
with. The ship was valued at 150, but the owner was 
forced to sell her for 8 ; glad enough, no doubt, to escape 
with his life.* For these piracies, Clanranald was, on both 
occasions, put to the horn, but that was a sentence which 
could be lightly borne with such rich hauls in his posses- 
sion. The Long Island was a place to be avoided by 
peaceful traders, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

* Clan Donald, Vol. II., pp. 325-7. 



COLIN, Lord Kintail, was now the master of Lewis, but 
the embers of disaffection had not yet been completely 
stamped out. After the return of Malcolm Macleod from 
abroad, he resumed his old game of annoying the Mac- 
kenzies, by attempting to stir up a fresh insurrection 
against them in the Outer Hebrides. Gathering together 
a body of adherents, he became the terror of the Isles, 
and more particularly of the fishermen frequenting the 
coast of Lewis. In consequence of these depredations, 
the Privy Council granted, on I4th November, 1622, a 
commission of fire and sword to Lord Kintail, Ruari (now 
Sir Roderick) Mackenzie of Coigeach, and others of the 
Clan Kenneth, for the pursuit and apprehension of Macleod, 
and the suppression of the enterprise upon which he and 
his associates were engaged ; and a proclamation, ordering 
the concurrence in these proceedings of other inhabitants 
of the North Isles, was simultaneously issued. These 
measures had the desired effect ; but Malcolm, slippery as 
ever, again escaped from his enemies. Four years later, 
the resolute outlaw once more appeared on the warpath, 
and commissions similar to that of 1622 were, on 2Oth 
September and 28th November, 1626, issued by the 
Council, the latter commission embracing, besides the 
Mackenzies, Macleod of Harris, Macdonald of Sleat, and 
Maclean of Duart. With nearly the full power of the 
Northern Hebrides thus arrayed against him, Malcolm 
was rendered powerless to do further mischief, and this 
seems to have been his last descent upon Lewis. Ac- 
cording to a MS. history of the Mackenzies, he retired 
to Ireland doubtless to the Antrim estate of Sir James 


Macdonald where he died. His two brothers, Ruari and 
William, were afterwards captured by Sir Ruari Mackenzie, 
and executed. 

On 23rd December, 1623, Lord Kintail was created 
Earl of Seaforth and Viscount Fortrose, taking the former 
title from Loch Seaforth in Lewis.* In 1625, he took 
part with Macleod of Harris, Donald Gorm, and the 
Captain of Clanranald, in subduing the rebellion of the 
Macians of Ardnamurchan, who, despairing of obtaining 
justice against the powerful House of Argyll, were driven 
to a career of piracy. Macleod and his son-in-law, Clan- 
ranald, were severely reprimanded by the Privy Council 
for their want of energy in pursuing the outlaws, but 
Macleod subsequently received a handsome apology for 
the strictures passed upon him, after he had contributed 
to the final defeat and dispersion of the Macians. Soon 
afterwards, the chequered career of Rory Mor came to an 
end by his death. His public acts were not always credit- 
able, but his private character, if judged by the testimony 
of MacVurich and the Lament of MacCrimmon, his famous 
piper, was that of a hospitable Highland chief, to whom 
his clansmen were greatly attached. 

In 1625, Colin, Lord Seaforth, received from the Privy 
Council a commission of justiciaryship within his own 
bounds, but without prejudice to the hereditary rights of 
jurisdiction possessed by the Argyll family over the Isles. 
In 1628, a spirited controversy took place between Lord 
Lome, as representing the House of Argyll, and the chiefs 
of the North Isles, headed by Seaforth, touching the 
location of the Courts of Justiciary in the Hebrides, these 
being kept distinct from the Justice Ayres recently re- 
organised in Scotland by Charles I. While the discussion 
was proceeding, Lord Lome secured a charter, ratifying 
previous grants of the office of Justiciary over the Hebrides ;f 
and in 1629, he was authorised to hold his Courts for the 

* The original name was "Seafort " (Seafiord), and the chiefs of the Clan 
Kenneth so signed their names down to the eighteenth century. 

t Hist. MSS. Com., Report IV., pp. 486-7 ; App. to Report VI., pp. 624-5. 


North Isles at Inverness. In March, 1634, a commission 
was granted to George, second Earl of Seaforth, to proceed 
against the disorderly and "broken" Islesmen who were in 
the habit of raiding Ross; but in July of the same year, this 
authority was delegated to Lord Lome, who evidently 
feared that his rights would be infringed.* And in 1641, 
Lord Lome (then the Marquis of Argyll) lodged a formal 
protest in Parliament against any infringement of his justi- 
ciary privileges, by reason of the infeftment of Seaforth in 
the Island of Lewis/f The emoluments, as well as the 
influence, flowing from the justiciaryship were not in- 
considerable, and the tenacity with which the Campbells 
clung to the office is intelligible. In addition to the 
sovereign power which the office conveyed to its holder, 
half the amount of fines and escheats of the Court went 
to the Justiciary, and in the state of society which then 
existed in the Isles, that represented an important source 
of revenue. 

While the Earl of Seaforth was engaged in checkmating 
the House of Argyll, he was also busily employed in laying 
plans for developing the resources of Lewis. The first hint 
we have of these projects is contained in the petition of 
James Galloway, Master of Requests, and Nathaniel 
Udward of Leith, in August, 1627, relative to a patent for 
casting iron, ordnance, and shot. The petitioners had 
secured their patent from the King, with a promise of an 
advance of 2,000 sterling for the prosecution of the work ; 
but the money not having been paid, they had entered into 
partnership with Seaforth, who proposed to start ironworks 
on his estate for carrying out the objects of the patent. 
It was now desired that no payments of any kind should 
be exacted by the Crown for the space of five years, the 
patentees thereafter, during the life of the patent, to pay 
the King the sum of 200 sterling per annum, the exemp- 
tion being claimed on the ground that the ordnance to be 

* Hist. MSS. Com., Report IV., pp. 486-7 ; App. to Report VI., pp. 624-5. 
f The Earl of Sutherland also protested, probably in connexion with the 
superiority of Assynt. 


cast was intended for the service of the country. The 
Privy Council recommended the King to grant the prayer 
of the petitioners, and in June, 1628, the latter received a 
patent for twenty-one years, empowering them to manu- 
facture all sorts of ordnance with bullets, &c., and to erect 
the necessary works for the purpose. 

In the meantime, Seaforth seems to have gone to London, 
with the object of securing from the King a patent for the 
erection of Stornoway into a Royal burgh. A few words 
of explanation are required to show the importance to 
Stornoway of a charter of erection. 

As already stated, it had been erected into a " free " 
burgh of barony, but this did not confer upon it the trading 
privileges of a free burgh Royal. A free burgh of barony 
enjoyed certain trading rights in cattle, horses, and sheep, 
&c.,but only the freemen of the Royal burghs were entitled 
either to import foreign merchandise or and this was the 
important point for Stornoway to export native com- 
modities by sea. The consequence was, that the acknow- 
ledged capacity of Stornoway for expansion was denied 
any scope, solely on account of its exclusion from the 
charmed circle of the Royal burghs. The loch fishings 
of Lewis were in the hands of the burghs, and by statute, 
they had the sole right to " pack and peil" (pile) ashore. 

The theory underlying the constitution of Royal burghs 
was, that the feuars should hold direct from the Crown. 
In practice, there were important exceptions to this rule. 
Both Glasgow and Inverness, for example, held from 
Superiors other than the Crown. But the Royal charters 
conferring upon such towns the trading privileges of free 
burghs, were sometimes loosely interpreted, as also giving 
them a title to call themselves " burghs Royal." In course 
of time, the fundamental difference between the constitu- 
tions of the two kinds of burghs was obscured, if not 
obliterated, except where it was raked up to resist en- 
croachments upon privileges ; an instance of which will 
presently be noticed. The ridiculous monopolies of the 
free burghs Royal were curtailed by a statute of 1672, 


initiated by Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh in the 
teeth of the free burghs. In 1690, another Act was passed, 
expressing the law as it stood in respect of these privileges, 
the enforcement of which became increasingly difficult, 
until, in 1846, they were abolished for ever. 

These, then, were trie circumstances under which Lord 
Seaforth set out for London to obtain a charter of erection 
for Stornoway. Without the charter, the burgh was useless 
as a centre of foreign trade ; for the produce of the island 
and of the sea which surrounded it, had to pass through 
Inverness, or other Royal burghs, which fattened on Storno- 
way 's loss. And the import trade of Lewis with foreign 
countries, was similarly hampered by the existing system 
of monopolies. The Lewis traders could only retail foreign 
merchandise, which they had bought from the freemen of 
Royal burghs. Seaforth's representations to the King 
proved successful ; he secured a charter, and thereupon 
petitioned the Convention of Royal burghs to give effect 
to it. On 1 3th June, 1628, the Convention of burghs 
considered the petition, and after " mature deliberatioun," 
decided against it. The grounds upon which this decision 
was based were twofold, material and technical. It was 
argued that the proposed erection would prove prejudicial 
to a number of adjacent burghs, especially of Tain and 
Inverness. It was objected that Stornoway would become 
the depot of the Highlands and Isles for articles of export, 
such as beef and tallow, forbidden to burghs of barony ; 
and lying so remote, would carry on an uncontrolled trade 
in those commodities ; that the trade in cattle and fish, 
which formed a source of profit to the adjacent Royal 
burghs, would be diverted to Stornoway ; and particularly, 
that the benefits of the fishing of those parts, " which is the 
only fischeing of this countrey," would fall into the hands 
of the Hollanders whom Seaforth proposed to import for 
the development of the industry. 

A technical objection to the charter was founded on the 
law and practice of the country, which provided that the 
privileges of a Royal burgh could only be conferred upon 


such burghs as owned no Superior save the Crown ; whereas 
the immediate Superior of Stornoway was the Earl of 
Seaforth. It was proposed by the charter that Seaforth 
was to hold Stornoway in feu, with the liberties of the 
King " allanerlie " (only), but this provision, the Convention 
argued, did not remove the legal difficulty. 

The fishing at Stornoway, said the Commissioners, was 
prosecuted by the West burghs, the rest of the Northern 
burghs, and men from the Fifeshire coast. The fishermen 
visited Stornoway annually and took their fish home, 
supplying, according to law, the kingdom's wants before 
exporting any. If Stornoway were made a Royal burgh, 
the inhabitants of the town would appropriate the fishing, 
and cause the whole of the fish taken by others to come 
to the burgh, where the owners would be compelled to 
sell them. The Stornowegians would export the fish to 
" forraine plaices," and thus Scotland would receive no 
benefit from the fishing grounds ; while the free burghs 
would be also deprived of the means of exchange with 
foreign countries, to the " utter overthrow of all trade and 
ruine of the haill schipping of this kingdom." So the 
Commissioners argued. 

But the chief fear which the burghs professed, lay in the 
intrusion of strangers. James I. of England had granted 
Hollanders, on certain conditions, the right of fishing in 
Scottish seas, keeping themselves always " ane kenning " 
(14 miles) from the land, the shore and loch fishing being 
reserved for natives. If, said the Commissioners, this 
charter were confirmed, Seaforth would have power to give 
the Dutchmen these reserves within his bounds, in which 
case, the whole fishing of the country would pass into the 
hands of the foreigners, who would export the total catch, 
leaving the country " cast loose and desolate." And in 
course of time, these strangers would get hold of the 
plaiding, skin, wool, and yarn trades, which were the only 
ones that remained, and so the whole trade of the country 
would pass to foreigners, from whom the necessities of the 
natives would have to be obtained. The shipping of the 


country, too, would be ruined, for foreign bottoms would 
alone be employed in the carrying trade.* They knew by 
experience what these Dutchmen were capable of doing, 
when once they obtained a footing in the country. Thus 
the Commissioners of Royal burghs moaned their com- 

An impartial examination of the objections urged by the 
Convention, cannot fail to show that they had a weak case. 
The legal objection was clearly invalid, for some of the 
existing Royal burghs did not hold from the Crown. 
While it may be conceded that some of the fears expressed 
may have been not altogether baseless, it is clear that the 
Convention's arguments were, on the whole, somewhat 
fanciful, if not frivolous. Morbidly jealous of their privi- 
leges, the burghs felt, not unnaturally, uneasy at the prospect 
of their monopolies being invaded by a town which they 
regarded with contempt. No suggestion appears to have 
been made for providing such safeguards in the charter, as 
would prevent the foreign invasion which the Commissioners 
professed to dread. The attitude of the Convention was 
that of uncompromising hostility to the proposed erection ; 
and any objection, however unreasonable or far-fetched, 
was considered good enough to bolster their case. The 
interests of Tain, Inverness, and the Southern burghs were 
considered before those of Stornoway ; and so Stornoway 
had to suffer. 

A week after the Convention met, the King addressed a 
letter to the Privy Council, desiring the erection of Stornoway 
into a Royal burgh, provided no material objections were 
offered by the free burghs of Scotland. He states that his 
" right trustie and weil-belovit cousine, the Earl of Seafort," 
had petitioned him in the matter, and having in view the 
promotion of civilisation in these " remote islands/' which 

* The burghs themselves were not above chartering Dutch vessels for export- 
ing their herring, when it suited their interests to do so. The Dutch merchant- 
men being worked more economically than the Scotch vessels, and carrying 
outward cargoes of timber, could afford to accept one-third of the freight 
demanded for native tonnage. The latter, too, sometimes got ice-bound, and 
had to cover that risk in the freight. 

f Records of Convention of Royal Burghs* Vol. III., pp. 257-62. 


would accrue from the erection, he had signed a charter 
giving effect to the petition. He was all the more willing 
to grant Seaforth's request, because it was the intention of 
the latter to proceed home immediately, to complete his 
plans for starting ironworks and casting ordnance.* The 
King, therefore, ordered the Council to communicate with 
the Provost and Bailies of Edinburgh, desiring them to 
convene a meeting of the Royal burghs for 8th July, and 
thereafter to state their reasons, if any, against the proposed 
erection. If any material objections were made by the 
burghs, the matter was to remain in abeyance until such 
objections had been laid before his Majesty for his con- 
sideration ; but if no injurious results were urged, such as 
would tend to the ruin and decay of the other burghs, or 
would prejudice the interests of the kingdom generally, 
the signature was to hold good, and the charter was to be 
" exped."t 

It is obvious that the King had an inkling of the atti- 
tude adopted by the Convention of burghs : the similarity 
between their arguments and the " material '' objections 
mentioned in the letter of Charles suggests, indeed, that 
means had already been taken by the Commissioners to 
acquaint him with their views. On 2nd July, John Hay 
Town-Clerk of Edinburgh, reported to the Convention 
that the charter had been signed by the King, who had 
referred the matter to the consideration of the Lords of 
the Exchequer ; and a meeting of the representatives of 
the principal burghs was called for 8th July, to consider the 
best means of opposing the signature. On nth July, the 
burgh of Edinburgh was appointed to represent the Con- 
vention at. a meeting of the Privy Council, and was em- 
powered to act generally in the interests of the burghs, in 
respect of the matter. 

* It is not quite clear whether the ironworks were to be started in Lewis, 
or whether Stornoway was simply to be the market for the output at Letterewe. 
There were copper and lead mines in Lewis at the beginning of the seventeenth 
century,. as appears by a patent granted to "Archibald Prymrois " (Reg. of 
Privy Council of 'Scotland ', Vol. X., p. 525). Matthew Symson (1738) states 
(The Present State of Scotland, p. 18), that there were iron mines in Lewis. 

t Reg. of P.C. (2nd series), Vol. II., pp. 336-7. 


During the month of July, the fight for and against the 
charter was vigorously contested between Seaforth and 
the burghs. The Privy Council listened to the arguments 
and counter-arguments on both sides, and then resolved 
to do nothing. From letters addressed by the King to the 
Exchequer, Seaforth, and the burgh of Edinburgh, on 
1 8th July, it appears that he was in favour of delay, and 
the Privy Council were thus enabled to escape, temporarily, 
from the necessity of giving an immediate decision. Sea- 
forth was made a Privy Councillor on 8th July, an appoint- 
ment which, doubtless, strengthened his position ; but the 
objections of the burghs were not to be lightly ignored. 
In the meantime, the Earl was directly encouraged by the 
King to treat with the Dutchmen for settling in Lewis, but 
was cautioned against coming to any definite understanding 
with them, until the fate of the charter had been finally 

In the following year (1629), the whole matter was re- 
opened. The immediate cause seems to have been the 
precipitancy of Seaforth, who exceeded the King's autho- 
rity by bringing certain Dutchmen to Lewis, while the 
question of the charter was still pending. This was an 
impolitic act, which had a direct bearing upon the ultimate 
defeat of the Earl in his tussle with the burghs. The 
latter immediately complained to the Privy Council, and 
in March, Seaforth and his opponents were before that 
body fighting their battle of words once more. The 
burghs triumphantly cited, in support of their complaint, 
an Act passed by the Parliament of August, 1621, con- 
firming the Acts of previous Parliaments, which ordained 
"that no strangers nor other inhabitants within this 
kingdome sould packe or peill in anie place of the His 
outwith free burrowes, nor transport anie forbiddin goods 
furth of the same." Seaforth, instead of furthering these 
Acts of Parliament, as " by his birth and place quhilk he 
halds in the state," might have been expected of him 
had, " to thair great greefe, drawin hither ane nomber of 
strangers, who daily resorts to and fra Holland to the 


Lewes and continent nixt adjacent, and hes caused thame 
be answered of all such commoditeis as these bounds 
affoords, as namelie, with fishes and beaves (black cattle), 
quhilks, with the hyde and talloun (tallow), with manie 
uthers commoditeis, they transport to Holland." Accord- 
ing to the burghs, the Earl had been misled by " the 
insinuatiouns and projects of strangers, who ar ever bussie 
to pry in the secreits and mystereis of nighbouring estats 
where the hope of gayne is apparent," and who had " inculcat 
in his eares manie great hopes and projects of wealth and 
credite by erecting of a burgh in the Lewes and planting of 
a colonie of strangers thairin." A doleful picture was 
drawn of the injury these strangers had inflicted upon the 
trade of the country. Ruin stared the Scottish traders 
in the face, their families being left destitute, and their 
shipping being about to be sold for want of employment* 
Against this weighty indictment, Seaforth simply argued 
that the burghs had no standing to pursue him, and that 
he was responsible to the King alone for any breach of the 
Act. But this objection was overruled, and the Earl was 
ordered to observe the Act within his bounds. And the 
burghs obtained a letter from the King to the Lords of the 
Exchequer, charging them to withhold the charter. 

The discomfiture of Seaforth gave rise to unexpected 
developments. In July, the Convention of burghs formu- 
lated a scheme for confirming them in possession of the 
Lewis fisheries, and for securing the necessary powers to 
erect a free burgh in the island and improve the fishing 
industry. This was an artful move which, if successful, 
would at one stroke have frustrated any " open-door " 
policy. John Hay was authorised to conduct the negotia- 
tions on behalf of the burghs ; and the Convention could 
have hardly have made a better selection for the purpose. 
While these arrangements were in progress, the King 
wrote the Lords of Exchequer, instructing them to endea- 
vour to effect an amicable arrangement between Seaforth 

* JReg, of P.O., Vol. III. (2nd series), pp. 95-6. 


and the burghs, so that the charter might be completed 
without further delay. But nothing was further from the 
intention of the burghs than to permit the passing of the 
patent, on any consideration, and it is not surprising to find 
that the well-meant attempt of Charles to settle the matter 
was fruitless. Far from adopting a conciliatory attitude, 
the burghs again petitioned the Privy Council to redress 
their grievance in respect of the Hollanders in Lewis, 
towards whom, it is interesting to notice, the inhabitants ol 
Stornovvay were favourably disposed. The Council referred 
the petition to the King, and suggested that Seaforth's 
presence at Court offered a good opportunity for dealing 
with the matter, But at this stage, fresh developments 
were appearing. 

In the month of November, the question of the 
Stornoway charter was being considered in London. The 
document was then in the hands of Sir William Alexander, 
Secretary for Scotland, and certain clauses in it, deemed 
specially objectionable, were under discussion. One 
Captain John Mason, who appears to have had some 
personal knowledge of Lewis, suggested to Secretary 
Coke, as a means of settling the difficulty, that the charter 
should be cancelled, and that the island should be pur- 
chased by the King and those associated with him, in a new 
fishing venture which was then in contemplation. Fishing 
stations would be established in the island, and a free 
burgh erected, with privileges similar to those about to be 
granted to the Dutch settlers by Seaforth's charter. The 
co-operation of the Scottish burghs was to be obtained, their 
existing rights in the Lewis fisheries to remain unimpaired. 
The natives of the island were to pay rent to the pur- 
chasers, who, it was estimated, would by this means redeem 
the purchase price in fifteen years.* Sir William Monson 
supplemented these suggestions by formulating a scheme 
for working the fisheries of Orkney, Shetland, and Lewis. 
Besides the proposed grant of privileges to the Adven- 

MS. in Public Record Office. State Papers (Domestic), Charles I., 
Vol. CLII.,No. 66. 


turers, he suggested the institution of a revised system of 
government in those islands ; the erection of a principal 
town in each of them ; and the instruction of every child 
of the islanders in the English or Scottish (Lowland) 
language, with other forms of education according to the 
ability of the natives. He also deprecated any communica- 
tion between the islanders and the people on the mainland, 
stating that it was impolitic to allow the former to be too 
friendly with the Highlanders, "who are naturally the 
most dangerous and worst people living." Monson further 
submitted a statement of the advantages derivable by the 
Dutch from the possession of Lewis, and enumerated the 
benefits which the country would receive from the encour- 
agement of the fishing by subjects of the King.* The 
representations of Mason and Monson soon bore fruit. 

In January, 1630, a letter from the King was read at 
a meeting of the Privy Council of Scotland, in which 
Charles announced that he had taken another course of 
action in reference to Lewis, " whiche, as we doe conceave, 
may verie muche import the good of that our kingdome " ; 
that, in the meantime, Seaforth's charter was to be stopped 
in Exchequer ; and that no more foreigners were to be 
allowed to settle in the island. In the same month, Hay 
reported to the Convention of burghs that the passing of 
the charter had been delayed, but that the matter was to 
be further considered in the following March. The Con- 
vention instructed Hay to press for the absolute cancelment 
of the patent, and to obtain an injunction, restraining 
Seaforth from settling any more foreigners in Lewis, thus 
retaining in the hands of natives (of Scotland) the fishings 
"which God and Nature hes vouchsafed upon them." 
He was also empowered to continue the negotiations for 
securing to the burghs, the exclusive right to develop the 

At the Privy Council meeting on 26th January, the 
matter again came up for discussion. Incidentally, we 

* Calendar oj State Papers (1629-31), Vol. CLII., No. 67. 



discover that the Dutchmen who had settled in Stornoway 
traded in tallow, butter, hides, skins, and plaiding a 
respectable list of exports, which shows the comparative 
capabilities of the island in those days as a centre of 
export. Charged to appear to answer for his Dutch 
dependents, Seaforth informed the Council that there were 
only " ten or twelffe men " altogether.* So all this pother 
was about a dozen inoffensive Dutchmen, who were doing 
useful work by instructing the Stornowegians in the arts 
of fishing and trading. But it is fair to the burghs to say, 
that the few Dutchmen in Stornoway were evidently the 
pioneers of a considerable influx. Furnaces and other 
necessaries for making train oil had been imported into 
the island, the enterprising foreigners having included a 
whale fishery in their projects. The Council ordered 
Seaforth not to add to his "ten or twelffe men," and 
informed him that he would be answerable for any breach 
of the laws committed by the latter. 

On Qth March, the discussion was renewed at a meeting 
of the Council, the proposals of Seaforth and of Hay 
being under consideration. Hay offered, on behalf of the 
burghs, to people Stornoway with " natives onelie " ; a 
proposal which suggests unpleasant reminiscences of the 
Fife Adventurers. Unable to come to any decision, and 
having in view the King's hint of an alternative scheme, 
the Council, at their meeting, ten days later, determined 
to refer the whole matter to the decision of Charles, with 
the suggestion that he should pay regard to his own 
interests, rather than to those of the contending parties, 
neither of whom had substantiated their statements by 
proofs. The whole of the arguments on both sides were 
accordingly forwarded to London, together with the 
famous charter. 

Seaforth followed his charter to London in order to 

* Capt. Dymes, who visited Lewis in 1630, states that besides seamen, 
there were only seven Dutchmen, including the Agent of the Dutch merchants, 
residing in Stornoway. They had built there "a pretty dwellinge house" 
and a storehouse. 


protect his interests, but his attention to business was 
interrupted by illness. In May, a meeting between the 
Lord Treasurer, Seaforth, Monson, and Mason, was 
arranged to discuss the charter. As the result of that 
interview, the charter was finally and absolutely cancelled, 
doubtless by mutual consent. Mason had previously 
proposed that Seaforth should join the company of adven- 
turers, to assist them by his influence, and to " keepe the 
islanders in awe." It is more than probable that the Earl 
agreed to the proposal. He had no special leanings 
towards Dutchmen. All he wanted was to develop the 
fisheries and the general trade of Lewis, and to break 
the monopoly of the Royal burghs by obtaining for 
Stornoway the privileges to which it was entitled. Satis- 
factory assurances being given to him on these points, he 
was not concerned to press further for his charter. 

The circumstances concerning the inception of the new 
scheme for developing the fisheries of Britain, deserve 

From an early period as far back as the ninth century 
the fishermen on the east coast of Scotland carried on 
an export trade with the Low Countries. By an ordinance 
of the Royal burghs in 1429, this trade was restricted to 
the surplus catch, after the wants of the Scottish coast 
towns had been supplied at a fixed rate : a decree that led 
to the emigration of a number of Scottish fishermen to 
Holland. This Scottish settlement gave a fillip to the 
industry in the Low Countries, where improved methods 
of curing had been discovered not many years previously. 
The pupils soon became as expert as their teachers, and 
surpassed them in enterprise. The Hollanders began to 
export fish themselves, and from that time onwards, their 
prosecution of the fishing industry was attended with 
phenomenal success. 

In the reign of James the Fifth, their busses appeared on 
the coasts of Scotland, where they had a verbal license to 
fish outside a limit of twenty-eight miles. Some of the 
Hollanders presumed on this license, by fishing near the 

Y 2 


shore in the Firth of Forth. King James being a man who 
would stand no nonsense, sent men-of-war after them, and 
many of the foreigners were captured. As a warning to 
their compatriots, the King decapitated the prisoners, and 
sent a barrelful of their heads to Holland, with their names 
affixed to their foreheads on cards.* In 1594, the Dutch 
appeared on the coast of Lewis for the first time, armed 
with a license granted to them by James VI., which 
permitted them to fish outside a limit of twenty-eight 
miles. In very early times, the Hebridean herring fisheries 
were worked by Frenchmen and Spaniards, but it was not 
until after 1580, that the wealth surrounding the Lewis 
coast was discovered by the fishermen of the Lowlands. 
The latter confined their operations to the loch fishings of 
the island, where their success was, beyond doubt, the 
main factor in instigating the proceedings which led to the 
expedition of the Fife Adventurers. 

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the 
Hollanders had made great strides in the fishing industry. 
According to the testimony of Sir Walter Raleigh and 
John Keymer,f the work of the Dutchmen in British waters 
gave employment to a huge army of their fishermen, 
seamen, and tradesmen ; and the States of Holland derived 
from the fisheries alone, a revenue twice as large as that 
yielded by the entire Customs of England. As many as 
3,000 Dutch busses were sometimes at work on the Scottish 
coasts, Shetland, especially, being their favourite ground. 
Their encroachments gave rise to various complaints on the 
part of the natives, and ultimately to the appointment of a 
Commission for the purpose of arranging with the States 
to redress the Scottish grievances. The negotiations wjere 
fruitless, and the Duke of Lennox was on the point of 
forming a Scottish Fisheries Company, when his death 
nipped the project in the bud. Meanwhile, certain Dutch 

* MS. in Public Record Office, State Papers, Vol. CLIL, No. 63. See 
Appendix D. 

f In 1674, according to L'Estrange, there were twice as many Dutch 
busses as there were in Raleigh's time, and the value of the fish taken by 
foreigners in British seas was no less than ^10,000,000. 


merchants who were anxious to obtain a footing in Lewis, 
agreed with Seaforth that if he succeeded in obtaining a 
charter for Stornoway, they would be willing to form 
a settlement there, with the view of developing the fishing 
and other resources of the island.* In 1628, in pursuance, 
doubtless, of this understanding, Dutch busses re-appeared 
on the coast of Lewis, and their success was marked. In 
less than three months, four of them made a clear profit of 
^7,500. The master of one of these busses stated that 
there was fish enough for a thousand busses. .And yet the 
local boats numbered only a dozen all told."!" It is not, 
therefore, surprising that Seaforth was so anxious to obtain 
trading privileges for Stornoway. 

It will be seen that there was plenty of scope for a 
purely British Corporation, to work the valuable fisheries of 
the kingdom. The King resolved upon the formation 
of such a Corporation, not merely to prosecute so lucrative 
a calling, but to quote his own words to serve as 
" a nurserie of seamen and to increasse the shipping and 
trade in all parts of our dominiouns." In 1630, the articles 
of the proposed Corporation were drawn up, and in July of 
that year, the King's intentions in the matter were made 
public. Sir William Alexander delivered to the Estates a 
letter from Charles, setting forth his views in respect of the 
Scottish fisheries. A beginning was to be made with an 
addition of 200 vessels of thirty and fifty tons each, to the 
existing fleet, at a cost of 120 per vessel, the crew to 
consist of sixteen men and boys, whose wages were to 
be at the rate of 135. 4d. per month. The net profits for 
the year, after deducting the cost of construction, equip- 
ment, wages, stores, &c., were estimated at rather more 
than 827 per vessel. Lewis was to be established as 
the seat of a continual fishing along the west coast of 
Scotland, and Secretary Coke estimated that the profits 

* It was supposed by some that Seaforth sold Stornoway to the Dutchmen, 
and then tried for a charter to cover his action. There is, however, nothing 
to justify belief in this assumption. 

t MS. in Public Record Office (Captain Dymes's Report}. See 
Appendix F. 


of the Lewis fisheries would reach, in one year, a sum 
of 18,270. 

The King stated his intention of inaugurating local 
societies in the chief cities or burghs of every district in 
England, the supreme direction to be in the hands of a 
central Corporation. A similar course, it was suggested, 
should be followed in Scotland, each district contributing 
its share of the expenses, and receiving its share of the 
profits. Captain Mason was employed by Charles to treat 
with the Lords of Council in Scotland, and lay his instruc- 
tions before them. 

The chief hope of Charles lay in the Hebrides, and 
especially in Lewis, where the fishing was to be carried on 
all the year round. One Captain John Dymes visited 
Lewis, and was commissioned to draw up a report on the 
island, with special reference to the fishings, and to the 
most suitable places for the erection of one or more free 
burghs, and the establishment of a market for traffic. The 
result of these preliminary arrangements appears in the 
King's instructions about the island, as follow : 

" And becaus the Lewes is the most proper seate for a 
continuall fishing along the Westerne Coasts, yow ar to 
lett the lords know that we are resolved to take it into our 
awin hand as adherent to our Crowne, yitt purposing to 
give suche satisfactioun to the Erie of Seafort as sail be 
honnourable and just. To whilk end, the lords sail 
demaund the said Erie ane trew particular of the rents he 
receaves there, and certifie us how they may be main- 
teanned and made good from tyme to tyme. It is also 
our purpose, as yow must accquaint the lords, to erect 
in that ylland one or moe free burrowes, in suche places 
as sail be fittest for advancing of the fishing and for 
magazens and stages."* 

On 3Oth July, the King's instructions were read to the 
Scottish Privy Council, at a meeting held in the Lord 

* Acts of Par/., Vol. V., pp. 220-3. 


Chancellor's bedroom, who was lying ill of gout. The 
gouty Chancellor was the Earl of Dunfermline, Seaforth's 
father-in-law, and we know by letters from Seaforth and 
Captain Mason, that Dunfermline did all in his power to 
further the views of Charles. John Hay violently opposed 
the scheme, and made a bitter attack on Seaforth for 
bringing the Dutchmen to Lewis. The King's letter was 
laid before Parliament, and a committee was appointed to 
consider the proposals. 

Meanwhile, pressure was being brought to bear upon the 
nobility to interest themselves in the plans of Charles. In 
a letter to the Earl of Carlisle, Seaforth commends him 
for exerting his influence in this direction, but points out 
that the burghs formed the real stumbling-block. They 
are disinclined, Seaforth asserts, to associate themselves in 
the undertaking either with strangers or natives. " They 
like not that noblemen or gentry should understand 
matters of industry." They will do what they can to 
induce the King to delay giving effect to his scheme. But, 
adds Seaforth, if Charles will pay regard to the good of his 
kingdom and his own profit, he will carry out his intention 
of erecting a free burgh in Lewis. 

That the Scottish burghs were inclined to adopt a policy 
of obstruction is clear from their proceedings. On pth 
August, a set of articles was drafted by the Convention for 
the consideration of the burghs. The first matter to be 
decided was the expediency, or otherwise, of co-operating 
with England in the new scheme, and whether or not the 
English should be permitted to establish themselves in any 
part of the Hebrides. The desirability, or otherwise, of 
accepting as partners in the undertaking, the nobility and 
gentry of the country had also to be decided, together with 
the conditions of such partnership in respect of capital and 
profits. If the decision of the burghs were opposed to a 
joint-stock undertaking of this description, it was matter 
for further discussion whether the burgesses as a whole 
should accept the proposed responsibility, or whether a 
Company be formed, and if so, whether the burgesses who 


remained outside the Company should be debarred from 
any share in the venture. And if the latter point were 
decided in the affirmative, the question of raising capital 
had to be considered.* 

On the following day, the subject was further discussed 
by the Convention. It was pointed out that notwith- 
standing the withdrawal of the charter to Seaforth, the 
Flemings had not yet left the island the dozen Dutchmen 
in Lewis apparently came from South Holland and John 
Hay was empowered to endeavour to persuade the King to 
expel them, and in the meantime to delay granting per- 
mission to any more strangers to settle in Lewis.* 

The influence of the burghs was, meantime, apparently 
brought to bear upon the Committee appointed by the 
Estates. In their report, the Committee declared against 
any association with England, and stated that the Scottish 
burghs were willing to work the loch fishings, and the 
fishing ground comprehended within a limit of " twa 
kennings " from the coast, provided they were allowed to 
plant stations in suitable places. The natives of Scotland, 
they said, had always been in possession of this reserved 
ground, and the reserves had never been encroached upon 
by the Hollanders. But Commissioners were appointed 
by Parliament to confer with the Englishmen and exchange 

In November, the Earl of Monteith, President of the 
Privy Council, presented to Parliament a report on the 
proceedings of the Scottish Commissioners, together with 
the King's instructions, the Commissioners' observations 
thereon, and the reply of the English Commissioners to 
the Scottish objections. Commenting on the proposal of 
Charles for the erection of one or more free burghs in 
Lewis, the Scottish Commissioners reported that no answer 
could be given until the next meeting of Parliament, because 
it was necessary to consult the Royal burghs on the matter. 
The King's letters and instructions, addressed to the Estates 

* AV. of Con. of Royal Burghs, Vol. III., pp. 321-3. 


and the Privy Council, showed how dear to his heart was 
his pet fishery scheme. The furthering or hindering of his 
plans, he declared, would oblige or disoblige him " more 
than anie one bussines that lies happened in my tyme." 
In order to arrive at a working agreement, Charles ordered 
the Estates to delegate representatives, invested with abso- 
lute powers, to confer and conclude arrangements, with the 
English Commissioners. 

The reply of the English Commissioners sounded a note 
of impatience. The hardly veiled opposition to the views 
of Charles, in respect of Lewis, was received with dis- 
approval. The Commissioners declined to interfere between 
the King and the Estates, but plainly hinted that it would 
be more becoming to fall in heartily with the wishes of 
Charles than to cavil at them, and that it would be well 
not to strain the King's prerogative unduly. 

Finally, the Estates, as commanded, delegated Com- 
missioners, including John Hay for the Royal burghs, 
invested with full powers, but with definite orders how to 
act. On 1 3th November, the Convention of burghs gave 
Hay his instructions. He was strictly charged to exercise 
due care and diligence, that nothing be done to prejudice 
the privileges enjoyed by the Scottish nation, either in 
England or Ireland. He was told to do his utmost to 
obtain for the burghs a reservation of the fishings claimed 
by them ; and in order to secure this condition, was allowed 
to give way to the Englishmen, if they insisted upon taking 
over the Lewis fishings ; provided they refrained from fish- 
ing in the reserved waters, and undertook not to establish 
any other stores or plantations in the Hebrides, or north of 
Buchan Ness. But Hay was to insist upon the right of 
the burghs to establish stations in Lewis being recognised, 
as well as any other privileges to which they held them- 
selves to be entitled. 

He was also charged to petition the King (i) to remove 
the Flemings from Lewis, and to approach the Estates of 
the Low Countries with the view of arranging that their 
fishermen should keep " ane kenning " from the Scottish 


shores ; (2) to obtain the assistance of Sheriffs and other 
officers of the Crown in order to prevent all strangers from 
fishing in the reserved waters ; and (3) to expel all foreigners 
from Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, and all other places in 
Scotland frequented by them, and to restrain the natives 
from trading with them. And having regard to the liberties 
granted to English fishermen in Scotland, he was further 
instructed to endeavour to obtain for the burghs, permission 
to prosecute the pilchard fishings of England and Ireland.* 

In a letter to Secretary Coke dated I5th December, 
Seaforth states that he has received a summons to Court, 
with regard, as he conceives, to the fishing, and he promises 
to attend as ordered, and will meanwhile do what he can 
to hasten the proceedings of the Commissioners. He 
recommends that the King hold firm to his intention of 
erecting a Royal burgh in Lewis. This was exactly what 
the burghs intended to prevent, by any means in their 
power. The shelving of the question until the next meet- 
ing of Parliament, was plainly a pretext at the instigation 
of the burghs, designed to defeat, ultimately, any such 
erection. There is no record of the question having ever 
been discussed in Parliament, or a committee appointed to 
consider it. 

The two sets of Commissioners at length got fairly to 
work. Asked to describe, specifically, the waters which 
they wished to be reserved, the Scottish Commissioners 
were at fault, and were compelled to refer home for par- 
ticulars. When these arrived, the proposals of the Scotsmen 
were put in a tangible form. The fishings of the Outer 
Hebrides which they wished to be reserved for the use of 
natives, extended from the most easterly point of Lewis 
to the most westerly point of Barra, including a limit 
of fourteen miles from the coast. The Privy Council of 
Scotland suggested certain modifications in respect of the 

* Rec. of Con. of Ryal Burghs, Vol. III., pp. 324-6. The Convention 
records from 3rd March, 1631, to 3rd July, 1649, being unfortunately missing, 
it is impossible to follow, from that source, these interesting negotiations 
further. But the Acts of Parliament (Scotland) and the State Papers in th 
Public Record Office supply the information which is lacking. 


Commissioners' proposal. It was not until September, 
1631, that the Royal burghs emitted a declaration, approv- 
ing of the Council's recommendations. The bearing of 
these upon the reserved fishings of the Long Island was, 
that the latter, as finally agreed upon, covered the Minch 
from the Stor of Assynt to the most easterly point of 
Lewis, and extended along the east coast of Lewis to Barra, 
including the lochs on that coast, with the Broad Bay and 
Bayble Head fishings.* 

The Earl of Seaforth wrote Secretary Coke in January, 
1631, from Edinburgh, explaining that his delay in coming 
to Court was caused by the dangerous illness of his wife. 
He prophesied that the fishing business would again be 
! put off during that year, unless the King exercised his 
i authority. That his fears were well-grounded is evident 
from the facts already mentioned ; apparently the Scottish 
burghs left no stone unturned to hamper the negotiations 
as much as they dared. In June, Seaforth, then in London, 
was again in communication with the Secretary ; pleading 
| illness for not going to Court ; begging Coke to let him 
know what plans had been decided upon concerning the 
plantation (of Lewis) ; and expressing a hope that his 
rights would be respected. Sir William Alexander and 
Hay being about to return to Scotland, Seaforth suggested 
the desirability of concluding the agreements before their 
departure, and of issuing definite orders for erecting 
Stornoway into a free burgh. He adds : " Ye shall never 
have undertakers till ye know where to fish." We find the 
Earl again writing Coke on the subject in January, 1632, 
urging haste, as he was a great loser by the delay. The 
Scottish Commissioners appear to have made a point of 
the existing statutes, which forbade strangers to fish in 
Scottish waters, or Scottish fishermen to sell their fish to 
strangers ; and to have held that Englishmen were included 
in that category. Captain Mason, impatient with the 
obstructionist tactics of the Scotsmen, suggested that the 

* Acts of Part. , Vol. V., p. 238. 


King should, until the next meeting of the Scottish Parlia- 
ment, construe this statute as not applying to natives of 
England, and in the meantime, should purchase Lewis and 
proclaim a free fishing to all his Scottish subjects, paying 
to Seaforth the usual ground-leave to " pack and peel." 
The efforts of the Scottish burghs to keep the Englishmen 
out of Lewis proved unavailing, and John Hay was obliged 
to give way as, in fact, he had been empowered to do, if 

The Company of the General Fishery of Great Britain 
and Ireland received its charter on igth July, 1632, and in 
September of the same year, the charter was read before 
the Privy Council of Scotland and ordered to be " exped." 
It provided for the appointment of twelve Councillors, one 
half of whom were to be Scottish, and the other six, English 
or Irish. Exclusive jurisdiction in cases relating to the 
fishings was granted to the Company, and powers were 
given to fish herrings or " sea " fish in all British seas, 
salmon fishing being excluded, and the loch fishings being 
reserved for the use of the natives. Certain peculiar privi- 
leges were conferred upon its members, which included 
liberty of exportation, exemption from ordinary taxation, 
and from liability to serve the Crown in other capacities, 
in order that the fishing might suffer no interruption. 

The Corporation being now constituted, and ready to 
commence operations, instructions were conveyed to the 
Privy Council of Scotland to remove all strangers who 
fished in the Isles, especially in Lewis and Shetland. 
Attention was directed to the detriment caused by the 
foreigners inhabiting Lewis, and fishing and trading there, 
contrary to the laws of the country. The Council were 
reminded of the complaint which had been made by the 
Royal burghs against Seaforth, who had been required to 
bring the strangers before the Lords, but had failed to 
comply with the order. He was now to be charged to 
obey the Council, and the foreigners were to be censured 
for transgressing the laws by exporting forbidden goods, 
and failing to pay the Customs duties ; and were to find 


surety for abstaining from such courses. The heritors of 
the Isles were to be ordered to prevent foreigners from 
fishing or trading within their bounds, and to do their 
utmost to preserve the fisheries for the use of natives and 
the members of the Fishery Company.* 

The first branch of the Corporation to establish itself in 
Lewis appears to have been one, at the head of which was 
the Earl of Portland, the Lord Treasurer of England. 
Captain Mason was consulted as to the manner in which 
the Association's stock should be employed. He had the 
whole scheme mapped out. The partners were to become 
naturalised Scotsmen (thus escaping the disabilities under 
which the law placed non-Scotsmen) and be made burgesses 
of a free burgh to be erected at Stornoway in pursuance 
of the Act of Parliament passed during the reign of King 
James VI. thus enabling them to conduct general trading 
as well as fishing. The King was to purchase Lewis from 
Seaforth, giving him other lands in lieu thereof, and the 
whole island was to be given up to the fishing industry. 
A company of soldiers was to be sent to Lewis, and ten 
pieces of ordnance were to be supplied by the King for a 
fort at Stornoway. Six acres of land near Deptford were 
to be set apart for building dwelling-houses and workshops, 
for those employed in spinning and making nets. And 
detailed suggestions were made for the general conduct of 
the Associates' business.f 

In February, 1633, the Council of the Corporation had . 
the Lewis fisheries under consideration. Captain Mason 
was admitted as a Fellow of the Corporation, and was 
charged to consult John (now Sir John) Hay, in respect of 
the ground-leave to be paid to Seaforth. All the pre- 
liminaries having been arranged, the fleet of herring-busses 
and trading vessels set sail for Lewis under the command 
of Mason. In May, Mason's vessel, the St. Peter, was 
appointed flag- ship of the fleet, and power was given to 
him as the chief Agent of the Corporation in Lewis, to try, 

* Acts of Par!. Vol. V., pp., 244-5. 

t MS. in Public Record Office, State Papers, Vol. CCXXIX., No. 95, 


and punish offences committed by the fishermen and sailors 
of the fleet. 

Another Association, headed by the Earl of Pembroke 
and Montgomery, received about this time (apparently 
against Lord Portland's wish) the sanction of the Cor- 
poration for working the Lewis fisheries, and established 
a station in the island. We shall see later on how the two 
Companies fared there. 

Colin, Earl of Seaforth, only lived long enough to see 
his efforts for encouraging the development of the fishing 
industry in Lewis, crowned with success. He died at 
Chanonryon I5th April, 1633, at the early age of thirty-six, 
his premature death being probably the result of some 
malady, of which there are hints in his letters. 

He was a man of conspicuous ability, and his efforts for 
developing the resources of Lewis and raising the status 
of the town of Stornoway, should be remembered with 
gratitude by Lewismen, although primarily, perhaps, his 
exertions were instigated by a desire to add to his personal 
income. He was a munificent patron of the Church, and 
a warm friend of the cause of education. His style of 
living was magnificence itself. When he visited Lewis in 
state, he was attended by a bodyguard which Royalty 
might envy, and a flotilla of boats was required for the 
stores of wines and beer which accompanied him. He 
built Brahan Castle and made considerable additions to 
the Castle of Chanonry. All this magnificence had to be 
paid for, and we are not surprised to learn that he imposed 
high rents upon his tenants, which they, very naturally, 
considered a most " grievous imposition." He was by far 
the most influential landlord in the Western Highlands 
and North Isles, and it is with pardonable pride that the 
author of the Ardintoul MS. relates how Maclean, Clan- 
ranald, Raasay, Mackinnon, and other great chiefs came to 
pay their respects to him. His sister, Janet, was married 
to Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat ; and his sister Sybilla 
was the wife of Macleod of Harris. Thus, by family influ- 
ence, as well as by territorial power and personal ability, 


he exercised an unquestioned authority over the neigh- 
bouring chiefs. By his wife, Margaret Seton, daughter of 
Alexander, Earl of Dunfermline, Lord High Chancellor of 
Scotland, he had a son, Alexander, who died in his youth ; 
and two daughters, the elder of whom, Anna, married 
Alexander, second Lord Lindsay, who was created Earl of 
Balcarres by Charles II. in 1651. We shall meet Lord 
Balcarres later on. Anna Mackenzie's second husband 
was Archibald, ninth Earl of Argyll, who was beheaded in 
1685. Seaforth's younger daughter, Jean, was married to 
John, Master of Berridale, their son being George, sixth 
Earl of Caithness. Seaforth was succeeded by his brother 
George, who was served heir to Lewis on 24th May, 1633. 

The new Earl professed as great a friendship for the 
fishing venture in Lewis as did his predecessor. Captain 
William Buxton, who had been deputed to ascertain his 
views, submitted to Secretary Nicholas a report, which 
was entirely favourable. Seaforth entertained Buxton at 
Chanonry, and promised to do all in his power to assist 
the undertaking. The natives of Lewis, and the Lowland 
fishermen (the " Highlanders " and the " Scotch ") were 
greatly influenced by Seaforth's attitude, and when Buxton 
visited " Leeas " (Lewis) in May, 1633, he found that the 
general prospects were decidedly rosy. His imagination 
pictured great hauls of herring, ling, and cod, sufficiently 
large, in his estimation, to supply London with plenty of 
fish during the " hard time of winter." 

Soon after Buxton's visit, Seaforth was called upon by 
the Council of the Corporation to " explain " his interest 
in anchorage and ground-leaves in Lewis, and he desired 
to be heard thereon at the next Council meeting on 
ist July. Thus early, these dues claimed by the heritors 
of the Hebrides promised to be a fruitful source of trouble 
to the Englishmen. The ancient custom was to exact, for 
ground-leave and anchorage, the following dues, viz. : 
From each boat, a barrel of ale or of meal at the owner's 
option ; for each anchor laid on shore, six shillings and 
eight pence ; a payment of three pounds in money for 


every last (12 barrels) of fish caught; and the benefit of 
every Saturday's fishing. About 1620, however, Macleod 
of Harris, Macdonald of Sleat, and Clanranald entered 
into a contract with certain East Coast burghs, providing 
for the payment of thirty-six shillings Scots only, for every 
boat engaged in the herring fishing, and twenty merks for 
every one employed in the grey and white fishing. 

These dues were apparently considered excessive by the 
English settlers, for we find that in 1634, on their initiative, 
the heritors of the islands where the Englishmen fished, 
were called before the Privy Council of Scotland to give 
an account of their imposts. Among those who appeared 
before the Council, and gave evidence relative to the 
history and incidence of the dues, were Macdonald of 
Sleat, Macleod of Harris, Clanranald, and Macneill of 

In the same year, the King wrote the Privy Council with 
reference to the accommodation to be provided in Lewis, 
for the use of the Fishing Associations. In pursuance of 
his determination to resume possession of lands in 
Scotland alienated from the Crown by his predecessors, 
Charles claimed the ownership of Lewis perhaps the only 
instance in which he gave effect to his resolution. He 
was credibly informed, said his Majesty, that he had an 
undoubted right to Lewis ; that a great many bygone feu- 
duties remained unpaid ; and that from every point of 
view, he had a better title to the island than Seaforth. 
Unwilling, however, to be too hard upon the brother of 
his late favourite, the King announced that he would be 
content with so much of the island as might be required 
for the use of the Associations, provided that the Earl 
took a new grant of the remainder of the property, paying 
the old feu-duty. The Council were ordered to settle the 
matter accordingly for the good of the new enterprise.* 

The deep interest taken by Charles in the scheme is 

* Collect, de Reb. Alb., p. 106. Charles does not seem to have troubled 
his head about the omission to pay the duties, until the fishing question 
brought Lewis prominently to the front. 


shown at every step. He invoked the Bishop of the Isles 
to co-operate in furthering the interests of the adven- 
turers ; and directed the Privy Council of Scotland to 
inquire into the charges levied by the heritors of the Isles, 
and to ascertain whether or not foreigners were being 
brought to the islands by the proprietors. The Privy 
Council appointed Lord Lome and the Bishop of the Isles 
to institute the necessary inquiries, and late in 1634, 
submitted their report, containing the details of the dues 
as noticed above. Seaforth, who had good reasons for 
maintaining cordial relations with the King, informed the 
Commissioners that he imposed no charges at all on the 
Englishmen in Lewis, and that no foreigners were allowed 
within his bounds. 

We shall now see how it fared with the English settlers 
in Lewis. In order, doubtless, to impress the natives with 
the fact that the King of Great Britain, France, and 
Ireland was the patron-in-chief of the Fishing Corporation 
and its off-shoots, the Resident Agent at Stornoway caused 
the Royal standard to be unfurled on the walls of Storno- 
way Castle. The intrusion of the Englishmen was a 
bitter pill to the Lowland fishermen, who had hitherto 
monopolised the best fishings of the island. One of the 
Lowlanders, a fisherman named Thomas Lindsey from 
Crail, Fifeshire, became the ringleader of an organised 
opposition to the new-fangled Society and its representa- 
tives. When he saw the Royal colours flying at Stornoway 
Castle, he ran up the flag of the Duke of Lennox beside 
them, and went about Stornoway telling the people that 
the Duke had more lands in England, Scotland, and 
France, than he who called himself King of France. 
" Charles I. has nothing to do with Lewis," he declared. 
He was never proclaimed in the island, and had therefore 
no authority over it. In January, 1635, Lindsey had a 
serious quarrel, over a question of wreckage, with the 
Association of the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Earl 
Marshal of England, who, on the death of Lord Portland, 
had assumed the direction of the affairs of the Company, 


of which his son, Lord Maltravers, had from the first been 
an active member. A ship, laden with a cargo of herrings, 
and a fishing buss, both belonging to the Association, were 
riding at anchor in Stornoway Harbour when a storm arose 
which drove them ashore ; but no damage was done or 
loss sustained. Lindsey appeared upon the scene with 
a body of armed followers, and pretending to be the 
representative of the deputy of Lord Linlithgow, Vice- 
Admiral of Scotland, seized the ship and her cargo, and 
the buss. The Englishmen produced their certificates 
from the Council of the Fishing Corporation, and protested 
against the seizure as illegal. Lindsey, who was unable 
to show any written authority for his action, treated the 
certificates of the Englishmen with contempt. Repeating 
his statement that King Charles had nothing to do with 
Lewis, he threatened to be the death of every Englishman 
in the island.* 

The example of Lindsey was contagious. The natives 
now began to treat the strangers in a high-handed fashion. 
A number of them, fully armed, and drawn apparently 
from all parts of the Long Island, surrounded the English- 
men's busses while engaged in loch fishing, boarded the 
boats and carried away their kettles and provisions, alleging 
that they did so in payment of the dues to which their 
chiefs were entitled.* 

These proceedings resulted in a strong complaint being 
forwarded to the Council of the Corporation by their 
representatives in Lewis. The latter besought their 
directors to request the Privy Council of Scotland to take 
cognisance of the matter, so that the cargo of herrings 
seized by Lindsey might be returned to them, and he 
himself punished for his share in the transaction. It was 
suggested, too, that the heritors should be bound by the 
Privy Council, to restrain their tenants from committing 
any outrage upon the petitioners' fishermen, busses, or 
nets, and from disturbing the fishing on account of pre- 

* Cal. of State Papers (1635), pp. 130-2. 


tended dues. The directors were also urged to have the 
question of ground-leave finally settled on a fair basis, and 
to secure that a similar arrangement be made with Seaforth 
in respect of packing houses, store-houses, and lodgings, 
at Stornoway. A petition couched in similar terms was 
addressed to the King himself. A previous statement of 
grievances had embodied suggestions, for the appointment 
of deputy-judges to administer justice in all matters con- 
cerning the fishing ; the exemption of the petitioners' 
vessels from all taxation ; the legalising of information 
taken on oath ; the ejection of all fishermen from Lewis, 
except those holding certificates from the Council of the 
Corporation ; and the opening of negotiations in respect 
of an import tax recently imposed on herrings shipped 
to Flanders. 

The directors of the Corporation at once adopted vigorous 
measures for the protection of their representatives in Lewis. 
Letters were addressed to the Privy Council of Scotland, in 
the sense indicated by the petitioners, and the King was 
approached to lend his support to the protest. The directors' 
proposal for settling all future controversies in respect of 
wrecks, or pretended wrecks, in Stornoway Harbour, and in 
respect of the fishings generally, was eminently practical. 
Four judges were to be appointed to hear and adjudicate 
upon all fishing disputes, and the King was requested to 
command that in future, the parties were to bring all such 
cases before this Court for trial. Charles entered heartily 
into the proposal, and declared at a meeting of the Council 
of the Corporation, that he would not permit their employes 
to be interrupted in their work, by officers of the Scottish 
Admiralty questioning them about pending disputes ; he 
would only allow them to be questioned by the Council, or 
by such judges as the Council might appoint. 

The King wrote the Privy Council of Scotland about the 
complaints from Lewis, and charged that body to bring 
the delinquents to justice, and to restore to the petitioners 
their goods, if they had been taken from them unlawfully. 
The lords and barons of the lochs of the Western Isles 

z 2 


were to be sent for to Edinburgh, and bound over to restrain 
their tenants from committing outrages on the King's 
subjects. And all questions of ground-leave were also to 
be settled by the Council, particularly with the Earl of 
Seaforth. In a second letter from Charles to the Privy 
Council concerning the now famous case of wreckage in 
Stornoway Harbour, then pending in the Admiralty Court, 
he ordered the case to be decided in that Court with all 
equity and expedition. But all future cases connected 
with the Lewis fishings, were to be decided by the judges 
who had been appointed by the Council of the Fishery 
Corporation. Sir John Hay, Clerk-Register, was at the 
same time charged by the King to see that the abuses 
complained of were tried and punished, and that the fishing 
was to be allowed to proceed without interruption. On 
the same date, Charles also wrote Seaforth, commanding 
him to protect the Englishmen from being disturbed in a 
work in which he (Charles) had taken so much pains, and 
a work which promised to be for the public benefit 

In response to the representations made by the King, 
the Privy Council of Scotland issued a proclamation, the 
preamble of which set forth that the King's subjects were 
being robbed of their fish and victuals by the Islesmen, 
who broke the shoals of herrings, and threatened to break 
the heads of the fishermen. Among those who were charged 
to put a stop to these proceedings appear the names of 
Seaforth and Macleod of Harris, who, with their colleagues, 
were forbidden to give warrant to any persons under them, 
except those for whose good rule they would be answer- 
able. These measures for the protection of the Corpora- 
tion's servants in Lewis appear to have had the desired 
effect, for we hear no more about the persecution of the 

One of the petitions presented in 1635 to the Lords 
Commissioners for the Fisheries of Great Britain and 
Ireland, is of peculiar interest to Lewismen. The peti- 
tioner, one Captain Alexander Moure (Muir), stated that 
thirty-six years previously, he and his brother belonged to 


the band of Fife Adventurers who attempted to colonise 
Lewis. They remained in the island seven years, when, 
" on a sudden incursion," the petitioner lost his brother and 
the estates of both, valued at 8,000, and was dangerously 
wounded as well. Returning home to obtain redress from 
King James, he was forced to go abroad to the war, and 
after many travels apparently as a soldier of fortune 
returned to England about 1621. By command of the 
King, whose wishes were made known to Muir by the 
Duke of Richmond and Sir William Monson, he was 
ordered, under promise of a reward, to remain in England 
to give information about the Long Island, in connexion 
with fishing colonies which it was proposed to plant there. 
This is the only intimation we have of any renewed attempt 
on the part of James I., to tackle the thorny problem of 
planting a colony in Lewis. Whatever plan may have 
been suggested, the scheme evidently proved fruitless it 
was probably shelved until a more convenient season. 
About the time of the accession of Charles I., Muir was 
again approached by Monson on a similar errand, from 
which we may conclude that the great fishery scheme of 
Charles I. was the outcome of deliberations extending over 
a considerable number of years, and was suggested, in the 
first instance, by the richness of the scaly spoils of the 
Minch. Muir claimed to have spent 1,000 (which he had 
earned in the foreign wars) during the time he was then 
detained in England, and found himself so much in debt 
that he " dare not walk the street.' 1 He therefore claimed 
compensation, with what result does not appear. The 
war-worn veteran certainly deserved some consideration at 
the hands of those who had utilised his information.* 

The intention of Charles in respect of Lewis proved to 
be no empty threat. Whatever arrangement the King had 
proposed to make with his favourite, Colin, Earl of Seaforth, 
it is clear that George, the second Earl was, notwithstanding 
the previous declaration of Charles, treated with scant 

* Cal of State Papers (1635), Vol. CCXCL, No. 46. 


ceremony. When he petitioned the King for the ratifica- 
tion of his right to Lewis, he received a point-blank refusal. 
Again Seaforth made application, and again his petition 
was unavailing. In August, 1635, the question was referred 
to a joint committee of the Lords of Council and the Lords 
of Session. The King's Advocate on the one side, and 
Seaforth on the other, having both been heard, the com- 
mittee's report was submitted in January, 1636. Seeing 
his case was hopeless, the Earl wisely announced his 
decision of placing himself unreservedly in the King's 
hands. In October, 1636, a contract was accordingly 
entered into by Charles and Seaforth, which was followed 
by a charter to the latter under the Great Seal, dated 
1 3th March, 1637, and ratified by Parliament in 1641. In 
terms of this charter, Lewis, with its pertinents, was granted 
to Seaforth, to be held in feu from the Crown for an annual 
payment of 2,000 pounds Scots. The town and burgh of 
barony of Stornoway with its castle, harbour, and as much 
land as might be required for the General Society's fishings, 
and the accommodation of the fishermen, with pasturage, 
fuel, and " foggage " (coarse rank grass) in the adjacent 
fields, were, under this charter, resigned absolutely in 
favour of the King and his heirs in perpetuity. And 
" for reducing of the inhabitants of the said He of Lewis 
to civilitie, and for increase of policie within the same 
ile," Stornoway was to be erected into a free burgh 

When, by a charter dated 3Oth September, 1678, ratified 
in 1 68 1, the Seaforth estates were transferred to Sir George 
Mackenzie of Tarbat, Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Coul, 
and Colin Mackenzie of Redcastle, under circumstances 
which will be noticed later on, Stornoway was reserved to 
the Crown in terms exactly similar to those embodied in 
the charter of 1637, but the stipulation concerning its 
erection into a Royal burgh appears in a modified form ; 
and the modification is important. In the later charter, 

* Acts of Par I. > Vol. V., p. 530. Revenues of the Scottish Crown, pp. 


ic wording is : " erected or to be erected by his Majesty for 
educing the inhabitants of Lewis," &c.* It is inconceiv- 
ible that a lawyer like Sir George Mackenzie would be a 
ty to this cautious phrasing, unless there was some 

mnd for the belief that the erection had actually taken 
place. Writing in 1681, Sir William Purves, Solicitor- 
General for Scotland, states that in 1637, Charles I. was 
very anxious for the reservation of the Burgh, Castle, and 
Port of Stornoway, intending to make them " very advan- 
tagious" to the kingdom, and to stop the fishing of others 
in those parts. " Yet," he goes on to say, " notwithstand- 
ing that his Majesti (Charles II.) now hes undoubted ryght 
to the same, throw the distractiones of the tymes, his 
Majesti's ryght hes not been looked efter."f 

The intentions of Charles I. in respect of Stornoway 
are quite clear. We have already noticed the proposal 
to make the representatives of the Fishery Corporation 
burgesses of the free burgh of Stornoway, to be created 
under the Act of 1597. That the Englishmen in Lewis 
enjoyed, as burgesses of Stornoway, all the trading privi- 
leges of freemen, is proved by allusions to the fish which 
they exported to foreign markets from that port. That 
the town was, therefore, during their occupancy, in posses- 
sion of the exclusive trading rights of a free burgh Royal 
cannot be doubted. The Act of 1597 authorised the 
creation of a burgh possessing those privileges, and the 
legal quibble under which the Convention of Royal burghs 
took refuge, in objecting to its erection, was demolished by 
the action of the King, in assuming the proprietorship of 
the burgh, thus constituting it a de facto " King's burgh." 
At whatever time, and in whatever manner, the Act of 
1 597 was carried out ; whether or not a charter of erection 
was ever granted to the community, or to Seaforth, as 
representing the community ; it is clear that the weight of 
evidence lies on the side of the erection having, in some 
manner, become an accomplished fact ; otherwise the 

* Acts o/ParL, Vol. VIII., pp. 382-4. 

f Revenues of the Scottish Crown, pp. 119-20. 


Englishmen must have been trading illegally, an altogether 
improbable supposition. Stornoway is certainly entitled 
to a patent of arms, with supporters, as a Royal burgh,* 
if proof that it actually exercised the privileges, and 
occupied the status, of a free burgh Royal, justifies the 

For a time, the fishing operations in Lewis appear to 
have been carried on with success, merchants from London, 
and even goldsmiths, venturing their lives and their capital 
in the far-off island, hoping to reap a golden harvest from 
the treasures of the Minch. Then financial difficulties 
arose. Some of the shareholders, disappointed by the 
results, or finding safer outlets for their capital, failed to 
meet the calls on their shares. The Association headed 
by the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, had established, 
about 1633, a factory in Lewis, which seems to have been 
less successful than that owned by the Lord Treasurer's 
Company. Captain John Smith, author of Trade and 
Fishing of Great Britain, had been sent by the Earl, in 
1633, to report upon the Shetland and Lewis fisheries. 
Captain Smith's report on the Dutch fishermen is interest- 
ing. He tells us that the Hollanders a people of " constant 
labour and unwearied industry " monopolised the Shetland 
fisheries. They had 1,500 herring busses, each of about 
80 tons, with about 400 dogger boats of 60 tons and 
upwards, for the cod and ling fishing, the whole being con- 
voyed by over twenty warships, each carrying thirty guns. 
Smith states that the " ' composition ' of the Dutchmen was 
an annual rent of ;ioo,ooo sterling and .100,000 in hand," 
which had never been paid, the arrears amounting to no 
less than two and a half million pounds.! This report was 
distinctly discouraging to new-comers, and it doubtless 

* In 1898, on the initiative of Provost Anderson, an attempt was made to 
assert the claim of Stornoway for recognition as a Royal burgh. The attempt 
was based upon the charter to Colin, first Earl of Seaforth, which, as we have 
seen, was withdrawn. The Convention of burghs decided to offer no opposi- 
tion to the claim, but, owing to constitutional difficulties, no practical result 

t The Dutch gave ^30,000 in 1636 for leave to fish on the coasts of Britain, 
hus compounding, apparently, for bygone debts. 


induced the Earl of Pembroke to try Lewis in preference 
to the Shetlands. His Lewis representatives managed his 
factory so badly, that in two years they had exhausted the 
whole of the available capital and were largely in debt. 
Some of the Earl's colleagues refused to find any more 
capital, but with the assistance of the others, and by con- 
fining the work of his factory chiefly to the curing of 
herrings, he managed to keep the concern afloat. Accord- 
ing to his own showing, the Earl of Pembroke at length 
" attained to the true and perfect art " of taking and curing 
herrings, making nets and casks, and building busses, and 
had also found out the best foreign markets for the fish. 
But this state of prosperity was rudely disturbed. The 
Dunkirkers and other foreign pirates swooped down upon 
a number of the busses, and carried off the crews to captivity, 
where some of the men died, and the others had to be 
ransomed at a heavy cost. The total loss sustained by the 
Earl's Association through the Dunkirkers was estimated 
at .5,000, and in his statement submitted to the Council 
of the Corporation in February, 1640, Lord Pembroke 
professed his inability to send his boats to sea again with- 
out fresh capital. In these circumstances, he left the King 
to find some method of continuing the work, suggesting, 
however, that a good plan for raising funds would be to 
give his Association the power to start a standing lottery, 
similar to the grant obtained by the Virginia Company in 
1612 ; the management of this lottery to be in the hands 
of the most " discreet " members of the Association. Lord 
Pembroke also desired that the King should take steps for 
the recovery of damages from the Dunkirkers, and subjects 
of the King of Spain, and for protection from their depre- 
dations in the future. Charles happened himself to be 
present at the meeting of the Council when this remon- 
strance was under consideration, and at once assented to 
the Earl's suggestion of a lottery. His attitude towards 
the proposal for obtaining restitution from the Dunkirkers 
was, however, more guarded. If Lord Pembroke saw fit, 
he could send an agent to demand reparation, and if 


satisfaction were denied, letters of marque or some other 
remedy would be granted to the Association.* 

We find, from a letter dated 3ist August, 1638, written 
by Simon Smith, Agent for the Royal Fisheries, to Sir 
John Pennington, that while the general affairs of the 
Corporation were represented as being in a flourishing 
condition, their station in Lewis was apparently in an 
unsatisfactory state, for it was proposed to abandon it. 
And in July, 1639, there is a reference in a petition of the 
Corporation's creditors, to " sundry provisions and houses 
at the Isle of Lewis valued at 1,659 8s. id.," which, it 
may be observed, was regarded as a doubtful asset. But 
the representatives of the Earl of Pembroke's Association 
were, in 1640, still in Lewis, and were preparing fresh plans 
for making the station pay. If, therefore, any Lewis 
station was given up before 1640, it must have been that 
of the Lord Treasurer. There are no further records of 
the Englishmen's venture in Lewis, and it may well be 
supposed that in the turmoil of the Civil War, the fisheries, 
in common with the other industries of the country, 
became completely disorganised. There are no traces left 
of the English settlement in Lewis ; but half a century 
later, Martin discovered in Hermetra, Sound of Harris, the 
remains of a store-house used by the strangers ; and they 
are believed to have built one, also, on a small island in 

In 1 66 1, Charles II. attempted to revive the project of 
his father, by inaugurating a Society on the same lines as 
its predecessor. The King invested 5,000 in the under- 
taking, and received the support of a number of merchants 
and noblemen ; while, to assist the funds, lotteries were 
established in England, and voluntary collections were 
made in the parish churches. When the old Corporation 
was formed, the Dutchmen who were in Lewis were forced 
to leave the island. When the Association of Charles II. 
came into being, Dutchmen were invited to settle in 

* Cat. of State Papers (1639-40), pp. 440-1. 

t The charter of the parent Corporation was not annulled until 1690. 


Stornoway in order to assist the undertaking. Surely this 
was a signal triumph for the foresight and wisdom of Colin, 
Earl of Seaforth. Some Dutch families actually settled 
in Stornoway,* and in view of the reputation which the 
Hollanders of that period had earned for industry and 
frugality, it may well be believed that their presence was 
beneficial to the town. But when the rupture between 
England and Holland occurred in 1665, the Dutchmen 
were compelled to return home. In 1669, stock was again 
being raised for the Company, but according to Sir George 
Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, many merchants refused to sub- 
scribe, fearing to be " overawed " by the noblemen, while 
many noblemen held aloof, fearing to be cheated by the 
merchants. In these democratic times, when noblemen 
are sometimes business men, and merchants sometimes 
men of title, no such difficulty could arise; but different 
class distinctions and different standards of morality pre- 
vailed in the reign of the Merry Monarch. The King 
himself, always impecunious, finally withdrew his capital 
from the Company, requiring the money for other and 
probably less worthy objects ; the merchants followed his 
example, and the whole concern collapsed. 

In 1677, a new Company was formed under the Royal 
auspices, and was endowed with special privileges. Most 
of the Company's busses were built in Holland and manned 
by Dutchmen ; and a promising commencement was made. 
But during the war with France, six out of the seven 
vessels were captured by the French, and in 1680, the 
Company sold its remaining property. Fresh subscriptions 
were raised by a number of merchants to repair these 
losses, but the death of the King and the political troubles 
which followed that event, rendered the project ineffectual. 

Soon after the Revolution, a further attempt was made 
to form a Fishery Company, but it proved unsuccessful. 
Several similar efforts were put forth after the Union. In 

* Symson (The Present State ofScotlami) states they so improved the inhabi- 
tants during their short stay, that they still (1738) ' exceed all those of the 
neighbouring isles and mainland." 


1749, a Corporation came into being for the promotion of 
British fisheries, and a system of bounties was established 
which continued until 1830, with unsatisfactory results ; 
the bounty being paid on the tonnage, boats were equipped 
to catch the grant rather than the fish. In 1786, the 
British Society was established for extending the fisheries 
of the Highlands and Isles of Scotland. The chief objects 
of this Society were to provide employment, and thus stern 
the tide of emigration ; and to create a new nursery of sea- 
men by the establishment of fishing towns and villages. 
Like its predecessors, the Company met with no permanent 
success, although several towns, such as Ullapool, 
Tobermory, and Pulteney Town owe their origin to its 
operations. Only one station was established in the Long 
Island. During the nineteenth century, the fishing 
industry of Scotland was allowed to develop without 
extrinsic aid, except such as was provided by the Fishery 
Board. At the present day, the depredations of steam 
trawlers on the coast of Lewis exercise the minds of the 
community, in much the same way as the encroachments 
of the Dutch fishermen disturbed the equanimity of the 
Scottish burghs in the seventeenth century. 

While Charles I. was employed in fostering the fishing 
industry of Scotland, he was still more strenuously 
engaged in attempting to wean his unwilling Scottish 
subjects from the principles of Presbyterianism, back to the 
discipline and ceremonies of Episcopacy. His father had 
partially succeeded in stemming the flood of popular and 
clerical opposition to prelacy, and Charles, a more devoted 
and less politic Episcopalian than his predecessor, had set 
his heart on completing the work. But he quickly 
discovered that the changes which John Knox and his 
followers had wrought in the religious sentiment of the 
Lowlanders of Scotland, far from being a passing phase, 
had become permanent principles ; the Reformation in 
Scotland was, in fact, nothing short of a Revolution. The 
revulsion of feeling which followed the overthrow of 
Romanism had, it is true, been modified by the insidious 


measures of James, and Episcopacy, linked with Presby- 
terianism, was tolerated by the people ; but the insistence 
upon outward forms of prelacy, which in the minds of the 
populace were associated with the abhorred Church of 
Rome, had been suffered to remain in abeyance, until the 
time became ripe for the introduction of a measure of 
uniformity with the Church of England. 

Charles made the mistake of supposing that such a time 
had arrived ; his zeal for the Anglican Church outran his 
discretion. When, in 1635, he promulgated in Scotland 
the canons for establishing ecclesiastical jurisdiction, his 
action was viewed with profound suspicion, but did not 
excite active opposition, in the land of Knox. The 
hierarchical domination and the civil interference in 
ecclesiastical matters which these canons entailed, did not 
appeal to the prejudices of the people so strongly as to stir 
them up to revolt. The case was different when the new 
liturgy was introduced. The fears of Scotland revived 
under the influence of this outward expression of prelacy. 
The aesthetic beauties of the Anglican service and the 
literary beauties of the liturgy, met with no appreciation at 
the hands of a people steeped, it must be admitted, in 
prejudices which were not unnatural, and resolved at all 
costs, to reject conformity with any semblance of that 
Church which they regarded as Antichrist. The 
struggles of the past between Presbyterianism and Episco- 
pacy had rooted in their hearts democratic principles, 
which rebelled equally against prelatic domination in the 
Church, and monarchical absolutism in the State. The 
struggle which was about to ensue a struggle which led 
indirectly to the great Civil War in England and the 
execution of the King ; to the promotion of democratic 
ideas, the ultimate prevalence of which paved the way to the 
extinction of the Stuart dynasty that struggle, although 
initiated by the opposition of the Scottish people to a very 
harmless and a very excellent book, had its real origin in 
far deeper causes. The Presbyterian form of ecclesiastical 
government is nothing if not democratic. Parity in the 


Church tends to inculcate a belief in parity in the State. 
Hence it is that Presbyterian Scotland is democratic in 
politics as in religion. And when Charles I. attempted to 
place Episcopacy in Scotland on a logical basis, he was 
confronted by a wall of democracy, the foundations of 
which had been laid so surely by John Knox, that it pre- 
sented a solid barrier against the encroachments of the 
monarchy, backed by the full force of prelacy. But the 
liturgy was the apparently insignificant cause of fanning the 
embers of discontent into the fierce flame of open rebellion. 
The rigidity and ornateness of the Episcopal service were 
alike repugnant to the individuality of the new religious 
spirit, with which the elasticity and simplicity of the 
Presbyterian forms were more in accord. The gorgeous 
ritual of the Church of Rome had shared in the revulsion of 
feeling against Romanism, and a ceremonial of extreme 
plainness became the ideal of uncompromising Presby- 
terianism. The cope had to give way to the gown ; short 
prayers to long sermons ; feast days to fast days ; Sunday 
recreation to Sabbatarianism ; and, ultimately, the priest to 
the presbyter the common origin of both names notwith- 
standing and the Church of the State to the Kirk of the 
People. The attempt of Charles to rivet the chains of 
Episcopacy on Scotland resulted in the consolidation of 
Presbyterianism, and its final and permanent triumph as 
the established form of religion of the Scottish people. 
It does not concern us here to follow the incidents of the 
great trial of strength between Charles and his Scottish 
subjects, except so far as they relate to Lewis and its pro- 
prietor. As a matter of religious significance, the contest 
was of small importance to the people of the Highlands 
and Isles, [t was not until many years afterwards, that 
Presbyterianism obtained a permanent foothold among 
them, and its final acceptance was preceded by a spirit 
of uncompromising hostility to its tenets. Even at the 
present day, the inhabitants of certain districts in the 
Highlands cling to Episcopacy, as, in certain other dis- 
tricts in the Highlands and the Long Island, they cling 


to the Roman Catholic religion ; and it would be a rash 
and unfounded statement to assert that in those parts, the 
Christian, social, or domestic virtues are less prominent 
than in the localities where Presbyterianism is rampant. 
It is curious to observe, that Presbyterianism of the most 
aggressive, and, it is to be feared, the most uncharitable 
type, is now found in remote districts of the Highlands, 
which it entered at a period when the asperities of Low- 
land Presbyterians had been softened, and their narrow 
prejudices modified by the hand of Time. And a similar 
modification will probably, in like manner, become apparent 
at a later stage of religious development, in those places 
which were the last to embrace Presbyterianism. 

George, Earl of Seaforth, was a member of the Table of 
Nobility which, with the other three Tables of the kingdom, 
produced the Covenant ; that famous document which 
united Presbyterian Scotland in its opposition to the 
innovations of Charles. To say that the Earl was influenced 
chiefly by his religious convictions in joining the ranks of 
the Covenanters, is an assumption which is hardly sup- 
ported by his character, as displayed by his actions. It is 
difficult to resist the conclusion, that with Lord Seaforth, 
self-interest was the first consideration. Otherwise, it is 
impossible to offer any satisfactory explanation of the turn- 
coat principles with which contemporary historians have 
charged him. 

In 1638, he entered into a bond of friendship with Argyll, 
and in the following year, figured as the principal leader of 
the Covenanters north of the Spey. In 1640, his fidelity to 
the Covenant began to be doubted, and for four years 
he lay under the ban of suspicion.* The compact with 
Argyll was dissolved in 1640, and a quarrel took place 
between the two men, which may have been either the 
cause, or the result, of a commission given to Argyll by the 
Committee of Estates to secure the West, together with 
the Central Highlands. So well did Argyll perform his 

* Spalding, Vol. II., pp. 46, 55, and 420. 


task that he received in 1641, a pension of ;i,ooo for his 
services ; and, significantly enough, two days later, a com- 
mission from the King granted him the power, during 
his lifetime, to uplift all the feu-duties, teinds, &c., of the 
Bishoprics of Lismore and the Isles. In 1642, he leased, 
for a term of nine years, to Donald Mackenzie, Commen- 
dator of the Isles, the teinds of " all fishes " in the South- 
West and North- West Isles, for a yearly payment of 100 

In 1644, Alastair Macdonald, alias the famous Mac Coll 
Keitach (" Colkitto ") landed in Scotland with 1,500 men 
to fight for the King. The far-seeing General Leslie had 
endeavoured to effect a reconciliation between him and 
Argyll, in whose hands were the persons of Alastair's father 
and brothers, as well as their lands. The obduracy of 
Argyll frustrated Leslie's design, and Macdonald, swearing 
revenge against the Campbells, returned to Ireland to raise 
his men for the King, and, incidentally, to fulfil his vow, a 
vow which, after again landing in Scotland, he kept only 
too faithfully. Alastair had in his possession a letter from 
Charles, conferring upon Seaforth, in accordance with his 
request, the office of Chief Justice of the Isles. The policy 
of playing off Seaforth against Argyll, whose justiciaryship 
was, by the appointment, annulled, failed to secure the 
open adhesion of the Chief of Clan Kenneth, who, after 
temporising with Mac Coll Keitach, finally threw in his 
lot with the Covenanting forces which assembled to block 
the passage of the Spey against Macdonald. Had Alastair 
arrived before the dispersal of the troops of the Marquis of 
Huntly, Seaforth's decision, according to his own showing, 
would have been different! 

The advent of Montrose upon the scene as Commander- 
in-Chief of the Royalists, again shook the resolution of the 
Earl. His surrender to that general at Elgin ; his promise 
to rejoin Montrose with his full fighting strength when so 
ordered ; his subsequent double-dealing with both parties ; 

* Hist. MSS. Com., App. to Report IV., p. 480 (132). 
f Britane's Distemper, p. 68. 


and, ultimately, his open espousal of the Covenanting cause, 
display an extraordinary vacillation of mind, or, what is 
probably nearer the truth, a desire to keep on the winning 

In May, 1645, the battle of Auldearn was fought, in 
which a Lewis regiment, commanded by John, son of 
Murdoch Mackenzie of Kernsary, took part. The events 
which preceded and followed the battle clearly prove that 
both Urry, the Covenanting general, and his colleague, 
Seaforth, were half-hearted Covenanters. There is 
evidence to show that it was in contemplation to disband 
Seaforth's forces, if not, indeed, to offer Montrose the 
services of some of his men. But circumstances proved 
unfavourable to the maturation of this scheme, and Urry 
and Montrose ultimately faced one another in the vicinity 
of the village of Auldearn. For a time, the issue was 
in doubt, when Mac Coll Keitach, Montrose's lieutenant, 
showing more valour than discretion, was drawn out of 
his entrenchments and then forced to retreat. The mag- 
nificent personal courage of Macdonald, and particularly 
the strategy of Montrose, saved the situation and the 
battle. The Covenanters were totally defeated with heavy 
slaughter accounts of their loss vary from 1,000 to 4,000 
men while the loss of the Royalists was slight The 
Lewismen, who fought magnificently, were cut to pieces, 
among the killed being the Chamberlain of Lewis (Donald 
Bayne, brother of the laird of Tulloch) and Angus Mac- 
aulay of Brenish, Donald Cam's son. Tradition states that 
only three Lewismen escaped from the battle. 

It has been suggested that the result of the battle ot 
Auldearn was pre-arranged by Urry, who purposely 
ordered his dispositions in such a manner as to give 
Montrose the advantage.* This is a most serious charge 
to make, but it is not substantiated by facts. Yet, when 
we consider all the circumstances : how Drummond was 
tried and shot for having betrayed the army, by his flight 

* Vide MS. quoted in the History of the Mackenzie*. 

A A 


with the horse ; how disproportionate were the losses of 
the two armies ; and how Urry joined Montrose in the 
following year ; there seems to be a certain basis for the 
suggestion that treachery of some sort was at work, 
although the facts are obscure. The defeat of the 
Covenanters is sufficiently intelligible upon other grounds. 
On the one side was Montrose, animated alike by the 
cause for which he fought, and by his uninterrupted series 
of victories. The disparity in numbers between his army 
and Urry's, was counterbalanced by the belief held by his 
men in the invincibility of their general. On the other side, 
was an army hastily assembled, and, though stiffened by the 
regiments of veterans, largely composed of ill-trained troops, 
indifferently led by commanders who were Covenanters by 
name but Royalists at heart. 

After Auldearn, Seaforth hesitated no longer in declaring 
for the Royalists. He arranged with Montrose that before 
joining him openly, he would endeavour to secure the co- 
operation of Lord Reay, Balnagown, Lovat, Sir James 
Macdonald of Sleat, and John Macleod of Harris. John of 
Moidart, the Captain of Clan Ranald, was already heartily 
with the Royalists, having, with Glengarry, joined Mac 
Coll Keitach when the latter despatched the fiery cross to 
summon the clans to his assistance. Soon afterwards, 
Seaforth's " Remonstrance " and his consequent excom- 
munication by the General Assembly, placed him definitely 
and openly on the side of Montrose. It is at least creditable 
to the vacillating Earl, that his public declaration for 
Montrose was made after the battle of Philiphaugh, when, 
by a rapid change of fortune, the brimming cup of success 
was dashed from the lips of that great commander. 

With the exception of Macdonald of Sleat, none of 
Seaforth's colleagues responded to his call to join Montrose 
at Inverness, the siege of which was raised on the approach 
of General Middleton. The latter subsequently captured 
the Castle of Chanonry, which was obstinately defended by 
Seaforth's Countess, who had the responsibility thrown 
upon her shoulders of preventing the stores and ammuni- 


tion placed in the castle for the use of Montrose, from falling 
into the hands of the enemy. The Countess was treated 
with great consideration by her captor, who restored the 
castle into her possession, after removing the munitions of 

When Montrose was compelled by the King's command 

to disband his forces and retire to France, Seaforth found 

himself in an embarrassing position, and was forced, as the 

price of forgiveness by the Estates, to undergo the ignominy 

of doing public penance in sackcloth within the High 

Church of Edinburgh. His restoration to favour was 

partly, if not wholly, due to the attitude of the " commons " 

of his clan, who, in 1648, resolutely refused to follow the 

" uther " (who is unnamed) appointed to command them ; 

they would fight under no one but their chief.* Shortly 

afterwards, Seaforth joined the Earl of Lanark with 4,000 

picked and well-armed men, chiefly drawn, apparently, 

from Lewis, to suppress the insurrection of the extreme 

Covenanters in the West. Lanark achieved some minor 

successes, but failed to follow them up with the energy 

which his superior strength demanded. Eventually, a 

treaty was arranged in 1648, in terms of which the 

opposing armies were disbanded ; the insurgent " Whiga- 

mores " went home to cut their corn, which was " ready 

for the sickle " ; and Seaforth's men returned to the North, 

after a campaign which yielded little glory and probably 

less loot. 

After the execution of Charles I., Seaforth, whose debts 
were hanging like a millstone round his neck, announced 
his intention of retiring permanently to the Island of 
Lewis ; but instead of crossing the Minch, he repaired to 
France, where he was cordially received by Charles II., 
who appointed him one of his Secretaries. While in 
France, he appears to have instigated the rising of 1649, 
which took place in the Highlands under the leadership 
of Mackenzie of Pluscardine, a soldier of Continental 

* Hist. MSS. Com.y Report II., Ft. I., pp. 125-6. 

A A 2 


renown. The insurrection, ill-timed, ill-organised, and ill- 
conducted, was soon suppressed by General David Leslie, 
who surprised the insurgents at Balveny and dispersed 
them. In 1650, Montrose returned to Scotland, and 
embarked upon his ill-fated campaign, which, had it 
synchronised with Pluscardine's insurrection, would pro- 
bably have had a different result. His raw, foreign and 
Orcadian troops were overwhelmed at Carbisdale, his 
opponent, Lieutenant-Colonel Strachan, having previously 
accomplished the great feat of outwitting so incomparable 
a strategist as Montrose. His subsequent so-called be- 
trayal by Neil Macleod of Assynt (or his wife), and his 
trial and execution in Edinburgh, are familiar incidents. 
A great soldier ; a commander who inspired the love and 
implicit confidence of his followers ; a man capable of 
going anywhere and doing anything; his death proved 
a serious loss to Scotland in the troublous times which 
were close at hand. 

When Cromwell had brought Scotland under his iron 
heel ; when clerical interference with military matters had 
borne fruit in the terrible slaughter at Dunbar ; when the 
Protector and Argyll were negotiating for the total sup- 
pression of monarchy throughout the length and breadth 
of Britain ; the independence of the country, the influence 
of the Covenant, and the fortunes of Charles II. appeared 
to be equally at their lowest ebb. But it has ever been at 
such crises that the spirit of the Scottish nation has shown 
itself at its best. 

The tocsin of alarm resounded throughout the length 
and breadth of the kingdom. " For King and Covenant " 
was the rallying cry, which brought fighters alike from 
the remote Hebrides and the Border counties. On 23rd 
December, 1650, a levy was called out, in which were 
included all the chiefs of the Long Island, viz. : Lord 
Kintail (Seaforth's son and heir) ; Sir James Macdonald of 
Sleat and North Uist ; Roderick Macleod of Talisker, the 
uncle and tutor of Roderick Macleod of Harris (then a 
minor by the death of his father, John Macleod); the 


Captain of Clan Ranald ; and Macneill of Barra. Charles 1 1. 
was crowned at Scone on 1st January, 1651, and took 
command of the army of 20,000 men which was raised 
to dispute the pretensions of Cromwell. The successful 
tactics of Lambert, and the fight won by him near Inver- 
keithing at which the Highlanders particularly distin- 
guished themselves opened a free passage for Cromwell to 
the North of Scotland. The difficult position in which the 
Scots found themselves was relieved by the bold resolution 
which, on the King's initiative, was taken, to carry the 
war into the enemy's country, and to raise the English 
Royalists. Cromwell himself, bold strategist though he 
was, never anticipated such a daring and skilful move, and 
was compelled to follow his opponents with all possible 
despatch. The two armies met at Worcester, the Royalist 
forces having been reduced by desertions to 14,000 men, 
of whom 2,000 were Englishmen ; while Cromwell found 
himself at the head of 30,000 troops, two-thirds of whom 
had concentrated at Worcester to oppose the advance of 
the King. The battle of Worcester, which was fought on 
3rd September, 1651 the anniversary of Dunbar was as 
stiff a fight as even Cromwell had ever seen. The High- 
landers fought with great bravery ; but the odds were 
too great, the generalship of Cromwell too skilful, and 
(according to Clarendon), the influence of the Kirk again 
too powerful, to leave the final issue in doubt. The King 
was completely defeated and had to seek safety in flight. 
The defeat was disastrous to the Highlanders, and more 
particularly to the Macleods. Under the leadership of 
the Tutor of Macleod and his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Norman Macleod of Bernera (Harris), a regiment of no 
fewer than 1,000 Macleods marched to the fatal field. The 
carnage among them was so great most of them were 
killed, while others were sold as slaves that by general 
agreement of the Highland chiefs, the Macleods were 
relieved from further participation in all future risings of 
the clans, until they had had time to recuperate from their 
terrible losses. And it may here be remarked that the 


general lukewarmness of the clan, and in some cases, their 
active opposition, to the Stuart dynasty in the risings of 
the eighteenth century, may conceivably be attributable, 
in part, to the neglect which they experienced at the hands 
of Charles II. after the Restoration. Roderick and his 
brother were knighted, but received no other recognition 
of their services and the clan's sacrifice. Norman Macleod 
was taken prisoner at Worcester and tried for his life, but 
he escaped and lived to prove a thorn in Cromwell's side. 
The Mackenzies do not appear to have obeyed with 
unanimity the summons to arms. The Kintail men refused 
to rise under the young laird, who was a mere schoolboy. 
Seaforth himself they would follow anywhere and the 
King was censured for not bringing him over from Holland 
and placing him at their head but to commit their 
destinies to Lord Kintail, who was " but a child," was not 
in accordance with their ideas of the fitness of things. 
That doughty fighter, Mackenzie of Pluscardine, with 
Alexander, son of the laird of Gairloch, brought, however, 
a force of Mackenzies south, who shared in the experience 
of Cromwell's "crowning mercy" at Worcester. 

There is no satisfactory explanation of Seaforth having 
remained abroad, while these stirring events were in pro- 
gress. From a letter written by Montrose to the Earl on 
1 5th August, 1649, we have a hint that Seaforth's presence 
elsewhere presumably in Scotland would be desirable ; 
but, writing on i8th January, 1651, Elizabeth, Queen of 
Bohemia, informed the Earl that " I now finde you have 
a great reason not to venture to soone amongst them." 
What that reason was we are left to surmise, but from the 
Queen's ironical reference to the loyalty of "that brave, 
valiant Lord Argille," we may assume that the enmity 
of Argyll had something to do with Seaforth's continued 
absence from Scotland.* We are told that on receiving 
the news of the disaster at Worcester, Seaforth fell into 
a deep melancholy and died at Schiedam in 1651. But it 

* Wishart's Memoirs, pp. 444-5. 


is barely conceivable that the intelligence of the defeat 
would prove fatal to a man in the prime of life he was 
only forty-three unless he was the victim of some disease 
which, as in his brother's case, carried him off prematurely ; 
his end possibly being accelerated by the sad tidings from 
England. He is described by the Earl of Cromartie 
not an unbiassed critic as "a nobleman of excellent 
qualifications " ; and Montrose himself, in a letter to the 
Earl, congratulated him upon his "noble and resolute 
carriage towards the King and his kindness to his friends, 
which had procured him so much respect among all honour- 
able people as it is not to be exchanged for a world "... 
and he could " never forget n what he owed to him.* The 
importance of this testimony, coming from such a source, 
cannot be overlooked, and goes far to mitigate the harsh 
judgment which, on account of his feats of political jugglery, 
posterity has inevitably passed upon his memory. When 
it is recollected that, according to Clarendon, it was " a 
very rare virtue in that time " for a man to be " the same 
man he pretended to be " ; that Montrose, Urry, Middleton, 
and Balcarres were all ardent Covenanters, and no less 
ardent Royalists, at different periods of their careers; it 
may be admitted that Lord Seaforth's mixed politics were 
not peculiar to him, although his was perhaps the most 
glaring case of inconsistency. He may have been a 
"subtill" man so he has been described but he was 
undoubtedly both an influential partisan, and in his private 
relations, a generous friend, and a chief who was capable 
of inspiring the devotion of his clansmen. 

* Wishart's Memoirs, pp. 443-4. 



WHILE Cromwell was pursuing the Royalists in England, 
General Monck was engaged in the task of bringing Scot- 
land under the domination of the Commonwealth. So 
thoroughly did he perform his mission, that by the end 
of 1651, the whole of the Lowlands had submitted, Inver- 
ness was in the hands of the English, and the country 
became, to all intents and purposes, a province of England. 
The Marquis of Huntly had disbanded his men ; the Earl 
of Balcarres had followed his example ; and there was no 
organised resistance to the victorious arms of the Republic. 
A few stalwarts, however, continued to hold out, among 
them Kenneth Mor Mackenzie, then a youth of sixteen, 
who, on his father's death, became Earl of Seaforth and 
Chief of Clan Kenneth. The career of this chief has been 
strangely overlooked by Highland historians. Indeed, the 
insurrection itself, in which he took so prominent a part, 
and in which the Island of Lewis bulked so largely, has 
received but the scantiest notice at the hands of all writers 
who have dealt with this period. An attempt will be 
made in the following pages to supply the omission, to 
some extent. 

After subjugation came administration. Monck, the 
capable general, proved himself a capable governor. 
Moderation was the keynote of his policy, and in his 
care to avoid exasperating, he succeeded in reconciling 
the Scottish people to his rule. The institutions of the 
country were re-organised and Anglicised, and inter- 
meddling of the clergy with State affairs was put down 
with a strong hand. But it cannot be asserted that, 
except for the loss of its independence, the country 


suffered by the change ; the contrary, it must be 
admitted, was the case. According to Clarendon, Monck 
"was fear'd by the nobility and hated by the clergy, 
so he was not unlov'd by the common people, who 
received more justice and less oppression from him than 
they had been accustom'd to under their own lords." 
According to the same authority, the clergy had good 
reason to regard the English with loathing. "Their 
preachers," he says, " who had threaten'd their princes 
with their rude thunder of excommunication " were " dis- 
puted with, scoffed at, and controlled by artificers, and 
corrected by the strokes and blows of a corporal." 

To compel the submission of the Highlanders who 
still held out, three forces, commanded respectively by 
Colonels Lilburn and Overton and General Dean, were 
sent in the summer of 1652 to cross the mountains. Their 
mission proved to be an utter failure, and they were 
obliged to retrace their steps without doing any good; 
the Highlanders, in short, outwitted and befooled them. 
Clarendon describes in the following words, the methods 
pursued by the mountaineers in harassing the unwelcome 
English. "The Highlanders, by the advantage of their 
situation and the hardness of that people, made frequent 
incursions in the night into the English quarters, and 
killed many of their soldiers, but stole more of their 
horses, and where there was most appearance of peace 
and subjection, if the soldiers stragled in the night or went 
single in the day, they were usually knock'd on the head, 
and no enquiry could discover the malefactors." The 
failure of the English to cope with this state of matters 
led to an agreement between them and Argyll and Huntly, 
in terms of which, and in consideration of a sum of .50,000 
to be divided between the two Marquises, Argyll under- 
took to pacify the Western, and Huntly the Northern 

The duties of these noblemen as policemen of the 
Highlands may have been efficiently performed, but 
circumstances proved too strong for them. The outbreak 


of the war between England and Holland, and the 
departure of Monck from Scotland to co-operate with 
Blake in the command of the English fleet, encouraged 
the spirit of insurrection in the Highlands. The oppor- 
tunity of driving the English from the country was too 
favourable to be neglected. Early in 1653, negotiations 
were opened with the exiled King, with the object of 
utilising in the Royal service the differences between the 
Commonwealth and Holland. Lord Balcarres, who had 
submitted to the English, took an active part in these 
secret plans. On 23rd February, he wrote Charles con- 
cerning a proposed cession of the Hebrides, or some of 
them, to the Dutch. Here is his proposal with reference 
to Lewis. " As to the offer of the islands contained in 
the instructions, I think it may be of some use as to the 
engaging of the Hollanders to own your Majesty's 
interest; and besides, I conceive that the island of Lewis, 
which was most considerable and of greatest use to them 
of all the islands in Scotland, may be had, if the offer of 
it shall be more acceptable to them; so I am persuaded 
that my Lord Seaforth and his friends, out of their 
affection to your Majesty's service, shall be easily induced, 
upon your Majesty's command, to give them possession 
of the chief harbour in it."* Balcarres, who was married 
to Seaforth's cousin, no doubt relied upon his influence 
over his young relative to persuade him to hand over 
Lewis to the Dutch. Balcarres and the King were both 
apparently unaware of the fact that Stornovvay Harbour 
(as well as the town of Stornoway) was, in point of fact, 
the property of the Crown, and as such, was at the King's 
absolute disposal. However, Lewis was not ceded to 
the Dutchmen, whose support was purchased by other 

Whether with the special object of negotiating with 
Seaforth for the cession of the island, or in pursuance of 
his plans for fomenting a general rising in the Highlands, 

* Fragments Relative to Scotish Affairs, p. 53. 


Charles sent an Englishman named Crawford not, by 
the way, an aggressively English name " a black proper 
man," to Lewis, where he was received by the Earl. In 
May, 1653, while Crawford was with Seaforth, a privateer 
belonging to one Captain Brassie, and commanded by 
Captain Edwards, arrived from Ayr in Stornoway Harbour. 
The arrival of this ship puzzled Seaforth and his friends, 
who came to the conclusion that she had been sent by 
the King for Crawford. But all doubt was soon set at 
i rest by the appearance of a lieutenant with seven or eight 
men, who came ashore for provisions, when it was ascer- 
tained that the Fortune was employed, not in the King's 
service, but in that of the Commonwealth. Seaforth at 
once decided on a hazardous course of action. He 
seized the lieutenant and his men, and sent a message to 
Captain Edwards, summoning him to surrender his ship 
for the King's service, and promising him terms. The 
letter written by the Earl is a naive document. It 
assumed that the captain and crew of the Fortune were 
employed in their present service with "greife of heart," 
and that they would willingly embrace the opportunity 
of transferring their allegiance to the King. The captain 
replied in a blunt, sailor-like fashion. Brushing aside the 
ingenuous sophisms of Seaforth, he demanded the instant 
delivery of his men, otherwise he would use the power 
" which it hath pleased God to putt into my hands." But 
the Earl in his own island, and among his own people, 
was not so easily intimidated. He made preparations for 
seizing the ship, whereupon the captain, recognising the 
futility of resistance, and notwithstanding his brave words, 
sailed out of the harbour, after discharging a couple of 
broadsides at the town.* 

This overt act of hostility against the Commonwealth 
marked the beginning of Seaforth's undoing. Captain 
Brassie lodged a complaint with Colonel Lilburn, who 
succeeded Monck as Commander-in-Chief in Scotland ; 

* Scottish History Society, Vol. XVIII., pp. 140-1. Mcreurius Foliticus 
(Vol. XLIV., pp. 2547 and 2820). 


and Lilburn at once ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Blount 
to seize the Tutor of Seaforth (Mackenzie of Pluscardine) 
and as many others of the leading Mackenzies in the 
neighbourhood of Inverness as he could get secure. In 
reporting these occurrences to Cromwell, on i8th June, 
Lilburn suggested that Colonels Fitch and Cooper be im- 
mediately sent to Lewis with two men-of-war. " I doubt 
nott," he adds, "but what wee may bee able to doe 
uppon that island will soe startle the whole Highlands 
and islands that wee shall nott bee much troubled with 
them in such like cases heereafter. Undoubtedly, to make 
the Lord Seaford and his island (called the Lewes) ex- 
emplary will bee a very great advantage to the peace of 
this nation." Three days later, Lilburn reported to Crom- 
well that the Tutor of Seaforth and some of the other 
chiefs of the clan had been seized as hostages, including 
Sir John Mackenzie of Tarbat. He suggested that this 
step be followed by more drastic measures, comprising 
the sequestration of Seaforth's estates, the seizure of Lewis, 
" which is very considerable, and would be of great ad- 
vantage to our nation," and the garrisoning of Stornoway 
Castle to strike terror into the neighbouring islands.* 

On hearing that his kinsmen had been arrested and 
imprisoned, Seaforth wrote an indignant letter to Blount, 
their captor, stating that before receiving the news, he had 
decided to release the men of the Fortune. He was not 
to be intimidated by the measures which had been taken : 
not " one haire of their head " would he release on that 

Meanwhile, Lilburn had received Cromwell's commands 
to reduce Lewis, with which he was eager to comply, con- 
ceiving it to be " a great opportunity " to punish Seaforth, 
from whom he had heard nothing about the men of the 
Fortune. The Earl received early intelligence of the pre- 
parations for his destruction, and immediately took counsel 
with his friends how to avert the storm. He was determined 

* Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XVIII., pp. 148-9. Idem., pp. 151-2. 


to resist the invasion of the English. In order to strengthen 
Stornoway, he sent to Kintail for his guns, and constructed 
a fort on a small peninsula (Holm) near the town, where 
he placed two great guns and four sling pieces. No time 
was to be lost. A fleet of men-of-war and merchant ships 
i with provisions was getting ready at Leith for the conquest 
! of Lewis, the military force being under the command of 
Colonel Cobbet. The expedition attracted a considerable 
amount of public attention throughout the kingdom, the 
i general feeling being that the seizure of the island was a 
1 strategic and commercial measure of the first importance ; 
I inasmuch as it would strike a deadly blow at the Dutch 
j fishing industry, further the trading interests of the Common- 
l wealth, and overawe the neighbouring districts.* During 
the month of July, Seaforth was occupied in pushing 
i forward his preparations for defence ; and Crawford was 
I hurried out of Stornoway to France, with the subscriptions 
1 which had been collected throughout the Highlands for 
j the King. The Earl then left Lewis to consult with his 
confederates at Lochaber, taking with him the men of the 
Fortune, whom he set at liberty ; Lilburn, notwithstand- 
ing, still keeping Pluscardine and Sir John Mackenzie in 
! prison pending the reduction of Lewis. A crisis was now 
approaching, and the Royalist leaders at Lochaber fully 
realised the gravity of the situation. The King's com- 
mission was read ; the Earl of Glencairn was appointed 
Commander-in-Chief ; and a general rising of the clans 
appeared imminent. Middleton, who, taken prisoner at 
Worcester, had escaped from the Tower of London, was 
in Holland working energetically for the assistance of the 
Dutch, his efforts being seconded by Colonel Drummond. 
The latter proposed to the States the pawning of Lewis, 
Skye, and other fishing centres, if they would send a fleet 
to Scotland.-j- But the Hollanders were slow to commit 
themselves. The arrival of a ship at Lewis with ammu- 

* Whitelocke's Memorials, p. 564 ; Merc. Pol. (Vol. XLV., pp. 2597-8, 2989). 
.Seaforth is said to be playing * Rex " in Lewis. 

t Scott. Hist. Sec. t Vol. XVIII. , pp. 235-7. Thurke, Vol. I., p. 460. 


nition and officers, of whom Lord Forrester was the most 
prominent, suggests, however, that the efforts which were 
being made on the Continent had not proved altogether 

Seaforth, accompanied by Lord Balcarres, left his col- 
leagues at Lochaber, and returned to Stornoway to perfect 
his defensive measures. To his great chagrin, he failed to 
secure the support of his clansmen in the crisis which was 
now at hand. They regarded his seizure of the Fortune's 
men as a youthful indiscretion which bade fair to involve 
them in his own ruin. As their chief, they owed him 
respect and sympathy, but they repudiated his precipitate 
action and declined to associate themselves with it. From 
which circumstance, it may be inferred that even at this 
period, the blind attachment which in earlier times bound 
the clans to their chiefs, and led them to espouse their per- 
sonal quarrels, irrespective of the merits of the dispute, 
was showing signs of weakening. Such being the attitude 
of Seaforth's clan, -we are prepared for the fact that many 
of " the chief inhabitants " of Lewis fled from the island 
before the arrival of the English ; and Seaforth himself 
again crossed the Minch, leaving his natural brother in 
charge of his interests in Lewis.* 

The prospect of the English meeting with no resistance 
from the Lewismen caused Lilburn to issue fresh instruc- 
tions to Cobbet. The latter was ordered to leave one of 
his companies at Orkney, and when he had garrisoned j 
Stornoway with four or five companies under Major Bird j 
(the future governor of Lewis), to make for Kintail and 
seize and garrison Eilean Donain Castle ; then to pro- 
ceed to the coast of Lochaber, whence he was directed to 
sail for Mull, and seize as many as possible of the Macleans, 
who were active enemies of the Commonwealth. Two of 
Colonel Cooper's companies, one of Major Bird's, and one | 
of his own (Cobbet's) were considered by Lilburn to be 
sufficient to garrison Lewis. Cobbet was further instructed 

* Scott. Hist. Sec., Vol. XVIII., pp. 160, 186, 221. 


to call at the islands which lay on his route to Mull, and 
summon the chiefs on board to give security for keeping 
the peace. To facilitate negotiations, he was told to take 
with him from Lewis some of the natives, to serve as in- 
struments of his commands to their fellow-Celts. In short, 
a complete subjugation of the Hebrides, as far south as Mull, 
was now in contemplation. Cobbet was encouraged in his 
mission by his superior officer, with the somewhat vague 
assurance that its successful accomplishment would carry 
with it his wish, that he might be crowned with more than 
a " lawrell." On the completion of his errand, Cobbet was 
to return to Lewis " to see how things are going on," and 
from Lewis he was to sail for Dundee with all possible 
despatch. His duties while at Lewis were mapped out. 
" Let your men o' war while you stay at Lewis go abroad 
two or three days if they may conveniently ; perhaps they 
may catch a Dutch East Indiaman." Special instructions 
were given to him about Sir James Macdonald of Sleat, 
who had refused to join the Highlanders, and had sent to 
Lilburn for an order of protection. " Be civil to him," 
ordered the cautious Commander-in-Chief, " but keep him 
or some of his friends as hostages till you return to Lewis, 
if you dare not trust him, but do it that he may not be 
discouraged."* Macdonald, however, a far-seeing man, 
and, according to Lord Broghill, a man of very great 
abilities, remained faithful to the Commonwealth to the 
end. The Captain of Clan Ranald had taken the same 
side, and had two months previously asked for a com- 
mission to employ as a privateer against the Dutch, a 
small frigate which he owned. Armed with the fore- 
going instructions, Cobbet sailed from Leith, but before 
he arrived at Lewis, the complexion of affairs had some- 
what altered. 

On 2/th July, a proclamation was issued, calling upon 
the chiefs of whom a lengthy list is given to come 
south, provided with sufficient caution for keeping the 

Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XVIII., pp. 186-8. 


peace. The reply of the Highlanders was to unfurl, on 
the same date, the King's standard at Killin. Early in 
August, the Earl of Glencairn had a force of 4,000 men 
under his command, Middleton, who had just arrived in 
Scotland with some men and a supply of arms and 
ammunition, proving a valuable auxiliary.* Seaforth, 
having left his brother to make the best defence of Lewis 
he could, was now endeavouring to raise his clan to join 
the Royalists, and Macleod of Harris, who had hitherto 
remained neutral, was engaged on a similar mission. Lord 
Lome, the eldest son of the Marquis of Argyll, had also 
joined the Royalists, while "the old fox," his father, 
ranged himself on the side of the Commonwealth. This 
was a convenient arrangement for preserving the estates 
of the Campbells from forfeiture, whichever side proved 
victorious ; a system of hedging not uncommon in later 
insurrections. Seaforth appears to have succeeded in 
overcoming the temporary estrangement of his clansmen, 
who, seeing their chief irretrievably committed to the cause 
of the King, rallied round him, fired by his appeal to their 
patriotism and their ties of clanship. He sent the " firdix 
crosse " before him, summoning the Mackenzies to arms, 
and by I2th August, found himself at the head of 800 
men, with whom he marched to the rendez-vous at Inver- 
lochy.t Reinforcements had meantime arrived from Ireland 
to join the Royalists, who were determined to have 12,000 
men in arms by the 2Oth August ; and their determination 
appeared to be realisable. The moment seemed pro- 
pitious for a concerted onslaught upon the English in the 
Highlands, and had Fortune proved kind, the enemy 
would probably have been driven south of the Grampians. 
But at this juncture, the news reached the Highlanders of 
the disastrous defeat, on 2Qth July, of the Dutch fleet by 
Monck off the coast of Holland ; a defeat which was 
accentuated by the death of the brave Admiral Tromp. 

* Middleton's arrival in Scotland in 1653 appears to have been overlooked 
by our historians, who deal exclusively with his second appearance in the 
following year. 

t Merc. Pol (Vol. XLV., p. 2954). 


This news greatly dispirited the Royalists, who had 
counted upon the Dutch resistance creating a situation 
calculated to favour their projected campaign, if not, 
indeed, upon the active assistance of the States. The 
want of funds at the disposal of Glencairn also consti- 
tuted a serious source of concern, while the tactics of the 
enemy in waiting to be attacked, instead of assuming the 
offensive, weakened the fighting ardour of the clansmen. 
The result was that the army which had lately formed so 
formidable a threat to the continued occupation of the 
English, melted away, like snow when the rays of the sun 
beat upon it. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Cobbet was making a long voyage 
to Lewis, the weather being unfavourable. The protracted 
passage, coupled with the general movement on foot for 
driving the English out of the country, gave fresh courage 
to the Lewismen, who were afforded ample time to 
prepare for resistance. Lilburn reported to Cromwell, on 
6th August, that the men in Lewis were up in arms to 
fight Cobbet. A fleet of twenty or twenty-five Dutch 
warships was reported to be on the north coast of Scot- 
land, and it was believed that they were lying in wait for 
Cobbet's fleet, in order to obstruct his passage to Lewis ; a 
belief which may have been shared by the Lewismen 
themselves. Whether these were phantom warships, or 
whether Cobbet managed to elude them, he had no 
encounter with Dutchmen during his voyage. When, on 
1 6th August, the English fleet hove in sight off Storno- 
way, it was found that the Lewismen had evacuated 
their fort, the strength of the English being probably 
greater than they had anticipated. The official report 
assigns no reason for the sudden collapse of the antici- 
pated resistance. With military terseness, Lilburn 
merely states that the defenders quitted the fort and 
the town of Stornoway, and fled to the hills. But 
supplementary details are supplied in a letter dated at 
Stornoway, 7th September, written, apparently, by one of 
Cobbet's officers. He informs us that on the advance of 

B B 


Cobbet, the " Redshanks " fired their beacons, and fled with 
their cattle and arms to the hills. Cobbet followed them 
in hot pursuit, but the Lewismen poured flight after flight 
of arrows on them in the valleys, until at length the 
English were " constrained to make face about." Cobbet 
then issued a proclamation calling upon the people to 
return to their homes, and assuring them of his protection. 
The refugees accordingly came in from the hills, but only 
some of them gave up their arms. Doubtless, they were 
agreeably surprised to experience such unexpected leniency 
at the hands of men whose character for ferocity, we may 
feel assured, had been represented to them in the blackest 

Major Bird having died of a fever the day the fleet left 
Orkney, Major Crispe was left by Cobbet to govern Lewis 
with four companies. Crispe, probably fearing an attack 
by the Dutch, immediately proceeded to strengthen the 
fortifications of Stornoway and Holm. On Seaforth 
receiving the news of the capture of Lewis, he made 
preparations to strengthen Eilean Donain Castle, but his 
efforts do not seem to have been warmly seconded by his 
followers in Kintail. The day after the English landed in 
Lewis, a man-of-war was observed taking soundings near 
Eilean Donain, but Cobbet appears to have abandoned his 
intention of seizing the castle, judging, possibly, that the 
garrison at Stornoway would suffice to overawe the men of 
Kintail. He sailed from Stornoway on 27th August for 
Mull, calling at Skye on his way to secure the submission 
of Macleod of Harris (" Rory the Witty "). Receiving no 
reply to his summons to the young chief, he landed a 
party on the following morning, and found Talisker, the 
Tutor of Macleod, ready to resist him. Talisker was 
forced to retreat, whereupon Cobbet advanced to Dun- 
vegan Castle, which was evacuated on his approach. The 
troops of the Commonwealth took possession of the castle, 
and on the following day, sent the Skyemen who had fled 

Merc. Pol. (Vol. XLV., pp. 2071, 2719, 2750, 2987). Scott. Hist. S*c., 
Vol. XVIII., p. 221. 


to the hills, a summons to surrender. In the meantime, 
Sir James Macdonald had been sent for to assist Gobbet 
in treating with the Macleods. Macdonald arrived next 
day, and succeeded in inducing them to come in. Terms 
were arranged, Macleod and his kinsmen binding them- 
selves not to act against the Commonwealth on pain of 
the forfeiture of their estates ; while Macdonald agreed to 
become sponsor for the laird's appearance before Lilburn 
to give security. We have seen that Macdonald had 
asked Lilburn for protection against possible molestation 
by the English. This was granted by a letter from the 
Commander-in-Chief, in which he forbade the soldiers to 
seize the stock, or to offer any violence to the persons 
or property, of Macdonald's tenantry in North Uist, " they 
doing nothing prejudiciall to the Commonwealth of 
England, and giving obedience to the present Governe- 
ment." Sir James secured a similar protection for Clan- 
ranald, of whose sympathies Lilburn was evidently in 
doubt, and who was granted the order only as a mark 
of favour to Macdonald. The latter, as a further stimulus 
to his friendship for the Commonwealth, was allowed 
an extension of two or three months further time in which 
to find security, in common with the rest of the chiefs.* 

The Outer Hebrides and Skye being thus virtually 
annexed to the Commonwealth, Cobbet sailed to Mull 
to complete his mission, arriving there on 3rd September. 
After the dispersal of his army, Glencairn went to Mull, 
where a safe asylum awaited him with the Macleans, but 
he seems to have left the island before the arrival of 
Cobbet, who, with the assistance of Argyll, quickly re- 
duced the Macleans to submission. 

Lilburn was meanwhile corresponding with Cromwell 
concerning affairs in Lewis, which, says Lilburn, " seems 
to be a considerable place." Cobbet had sent the Com- 
mander-in-Chief an account of the island, which Lilburn 
had transmitted to head-quarters. The Protector gave 

Merc. Pol. (Vol. XLV., p. 3032). 



express instructions about fortifying Lewis, stating that 
the Dutch had " an eye on it," and that it was necessary 
to keep it at all costs from falling into their hands. 
Lilburn endeavoured to re-assure him by stating that 
they were more likely to prefer Shetland, but promised 
to obey Cromwell's commands. Money and ammunition 
in the island were both running short, and Lilburn was 
forced to send to Edinburgh Castle and Leith for the 
requirements of the garrison. In view of the possible 
contingency of Middleton and the Dutch agreeing to 
capture Stornoway and fortify the harbour (or a harbour 
in Orkney), Cromwell was asked to send money and men 
in order to make the town secure against attack. Cromwell 
immediately ordered Lilburn to hasten the work of forti- 
fication, and to reinforce the garrisons in the Hebrides. 
The Commander-in-Chief, while anxious to obey the 
Protector's orders implicitly, found the resources at his 
disposal inadequate to cope with the situation. He dis- 
cussed the matter with Cobbet, who had returned from 
Mull, and with others " who knew the islands," and in- 
formed Cromwell that the men who could be spared were 
insufficient to garrison the Hebrides efficiently. Even if 
they had 4,000 men, it would be easy for Middleton or 
any other enemy to land in twenty different places, unless 
the coast could be guarded by a squadron of warships, 
the assistance of which was impossible, pending the issue 
of the peace negotiations with the Dutch Republic. 
Lilburn therefore asked the Protector to re-consider his 
instructions, promising to carry them out faithfully if con- 
firmed ; he had already ordered the governor of Lewis 
to strengthen the fortifications of Stornoway. Lilburn's 
representations appear to have prevailed with Cromwell, 
for nothing further is heard of the proposed reinforce- 
ments, though there can be no doubt that the forts in 
Lewis were strengthened.* 

That Cromwell, who had his spies everywhere, had 

* Scott. Hist. Soc. t Vol. XVIII., pp. 225-7, 230-232. 


some ground for his fears of an attack on Stornoway by 
the Dutch, may be admitted. Middleton was again busy 
negotiating with the States- General on behalf of the 
King. He offered, with the assistance of 1,200 infantry 
and 200 horse, to put them in possession, twenty-four 
hours after their arrival, of whatever islands they might 
want for trading and fishing ; to permit them to erect 
whatever forts they might deem necessary for the pro- 
tection of their interests ; and to place the revenues of 
the Orkneys at their disposal. And he represented to 
them that they might count upon the sympathies of the 
natives, who were ill-disposed towards the English. The 
States, fearful of embroiling themselves afresh in a costly 
war with the Commonwealth, received his proposals with 
the same caution that they had displayed on the former 
occasion. They would not supply him with men, but 
they would give him money, arms, and ammunition. On 
i/th October, they resolved to assist the Highlanders with 
a grant of 180,000 guilders, and by an order of 24th 
November, Middleton was permitted to convey to Scot- 
land a specified quantity of arms and ammunition. 

A recrudescence of activity was beginning to be apparent 
among the Highland Royalists. Glengarry and others 
were hard at work recruiting in the North Isles, and 
Seaforth was again moving in the same direction, although 
it was hinted in some quarters that he was not indisposed 
to come to terms with the English. One thousand men were 
to be ready about Martinmas, of which number Seaforth 
was to provide 300, Lochiel and Maclean each 200, while 
the remaining 300 were to be found by Glengarry and 
the Commander-in-Chief, the Earl of Glencairn. A move- 
ment of English troops from Inverness was thereupon 
ordered to " amuse and discourage some of Seaforth's 
confederates," and this measure seems to have gained its 
object. Seaforth received about this time a letter from 
the King, dated I2th September, in which Charles thanked 
him for his affection and courage, and promised never 
to forget the good services of himself and his father. He 


would reward the Earl " as soone as wee shall be able." 
He encouraged Seaforth to proceed in his good work 
against the enemies, not only of his Royal person, " but 
of the nobility and auncient gentry of the Kingdom whom 
they intend to extirpate if they can." The King con- 
cluded his letter by hoping that Middleton would soon 
be with Seaforth, bringing him arms, ammunition, and 
good officers.* The attempt to show that the war resolved 
itself into a struggle between the classes and the masses 
will not, of course, hold water. Otherwise, it might have 
occurred to the Royal writer that the common people in 
the Highlands would, not unreasonably, be tempted to 
throw in their lot with the democracy of England, not- 
withstanding the ties of clanship which bound them to 
their chiefs. But Charles II. was as artful in winning 
the support of his friends by appealing to their personal 
interests, as he was forgetful in fulfilling his promises after 
their services had been secured. 

A curious episode occurred in connexion with Glengarry 
and the Earldom of Ross, which may here be mentioned. 
Glengarry laid claim to the Earldom as the chief, according 
to his showing, of Clan Donald. In February, 1653, Lord 
Balcarres recommended the King, by letter, to create Glen- 
garry Earl of Ross ; and at the same time, by his agent, 
verbally advised Charles to do no such thing ! t The King 
stoutly denied having ever promised the Earldom to Glen- 
garry, but in a letter to the chief himself on the subject, 
evaded the difficulty by pretending that the lack of an 
official to prepare the necessary patent, was the reason of 
his non-compliance with Glengarry's wish. He would not 
be forgotten when the King came to his own ; and so forth. 
The sequel to the story is not without interest. Charles 
actually granted Glengarry several warrants for the 
Earldom, but they never took effect. After the Restora- 
tion, Glengarry petitioned for the execution of these 

Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XVIII., pp. 201-2. 

f Fragments Relative to Scottish Affairs, p. 53. Clarendon Papers, Vol. 
II., p. 205. 


warrants, but was obliged to rest content with the title 
of Lord Macdonell of Aros. The reason why he never 
secured the Earldom is sufficiently obvious. It was tardily 
discovered or wilfully overlooked that on the forfeiture 
of John, Lord of the Isles, the Earldom of Ross had been 
inalienably vested in the person of the second son of the 
reigning monarch ; whence the impossibility of conferring 
the title upon any other subject Early in the eighteenth 
century, Lord Ross of Halkhead made a similar attempt 
to obtain the Earldom, but for a like reason, if for no 
other, the attempt proved fruitless. 

The King plied the Macleods with soft words, just as he 
plied Seaforth and Glengarry. Colonel Norman Macleod 
of Bernera had joined him in spite of Macleod's sub- 
mission to Cobbet and had urged him to erect a Royal 
burgh in one of the islands ; but in a letter sent by Charles 
through the Colonel to Talisker, the Tutor of Macleod, 
evasion is again the chief feature. The convenient excuse 
that there was no officer to prepare the requisite formalities 
was once more employed, but the Tutor was encouraged 
to persevere in his project, and to hope for the time when 
the King could add " grace and favour " to it.* Thus did 
Charles stimulate his Highland adherents with vague pro- 
mises, which were not infrequently evaded when their per- 
formance was inconveniently pressed. He was thoroughly 
conversant with the art of hooking fish with glittering baits 
of future rewards when the King should " come to his 

It has been mentioned that Middleton succeeded in 
obtaining, in October and November, a grant of money 
from the States of Holland, and permission to send a 
quantity of arms and ammunition to Scotland. Con- 
current with Middleton's attempts to raise the sinews of 
war, a gathering of Royalists had taken place during 
September, in Stirlingshire, which Colonel Kidd, the 
governor of Stirling Castle, attempted to suppress. In 

* Scoff. Hist. Soc., Vol. XVIII., p. 255. 


the attempt, he was badly beaten, with the loss of sixty 
men, by Glencairn, under whom were Lord Kenmure, 
Lord Lome, and John Graham of Deuchrie, the author 
of Glencairris Expedition in Scotland. This successful 
skirmish brought fresh accessions to Glencairn's standard, 
Glengarry, Lochiel, Macgregor, Sir Arthur Forbes, and 
the Earl of Atholl all bringing contingents. Glencairn 
now had the men, and when Middleton had secured the 
money and the arms, the insurrection bade fair to become 
formidable. But once more misfortune, or the superior 
generalship of the English, nipped the rising in the bud. 
Morgan, an active officer of the Commonwealth, marched 
from Aberdeen to prevent a junction between Glencairn's 
army, and a force which was being raised at Cromar by 
Farquharson of Inverey. Glencairn was surprised by 
Morgan, and was forced to retreat through a glen leading 
to the forest of Abernethy, where he was pursued by the 
English and narrowly escaped disaster. This check neces- 
sitated a supply of additional reinforcements before further 
active measures could be taken ; and Glencairn, perforce, 
remained inactive for about five weeks at Cromar and 
Badenoch, awaiting recruits. 

While these events were transpiring, the young Earl of 
Seaforth was not idle. In October, or early in November, 
he and Glengarry set out with 300 men to Lochaber, where 
they hoped to raise a considerable number of recruits, to 
fall upon the North and wrest it from the English. Foiled, 
apparently, in the attempt, Seaforth joined a band of 
Highlanders who were engaged in the congenial employ- 
ment of harassing the English. The accession of Seaforth 
greatly heartened the Highlanders, whose tactics consisted 
in cutting off detached bodies of the enemy, in pursuance 
of which system of warfare, they penetrated as far south 
as Falkirk.* As the result, probably, of Seaforth's con- 
nexion with these " Highland Tories," his estates were 
sequestrated, a proceeding which Lilburn had recommended 

* G Wynne's Memoirs, p. 213. 


to Cromwell some months previously. Pluscardine had 
become Seaforth's cautioner, and had acquired an infeft- 
ment upon a portion of his nephew's estates as security. 
In a letter dated loth December to the Commissioner at 
Leith, Lilburn instructed that official to respect Plus- 
cardine's rights in the process of sequestration. The laird 
being one of the chiefs of " a great clan," it was politic not 
to drive him to extremities, and his security was therefore 
to be allowed to remain intact.* 

The mind of Cromwell being still exercised about the 
security of Lewis against attack by the Dutch, he desired 
Lilburn to send him certain particulars about the island, 
which the Commander-in-Chief, after a conversation with 
Cobbet, duly supplied. He took occasion to point out to 
the Protector that the bays to the north of Stornoway 
were "very convenient places for landing men," and com- 
menting upon the absence of a sufficiency of fresh water 
for the garrison, stated that he had sunk a well at 
Stornoway, " which proved very well."f He again re- 
assured Cromwell on the subject of a Dutch invasion, 
asserting that the Hollanders rarely touched at Lewis, but 
were constantly calling at the Shetlands, from which fact 
he inferred that it was more important to have the latter 
group fortified during the war with the States.J Soon 
afterwards, Lilburn had occasion to feel alarmed for the 
safety of Lewis, against an attack from a totally unexpected 

A man of Seaforth's temperament could hardly view 
with equanimity his great island-territory in the hands of 
the English, and he only awaited a suitable opportunity for 
making an attempt to wrest it from their possession. When 
he returned to the North after his adventures in the South, 
he set about planning the re-capture of Lewis, with the help 
of his sympathetic neighbours. News of these prepara- 

* Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XVIII., pp. 294-5. 

t This well may still be seen ; it is situated near the junction of South 
Beach and Kenneth Street, 
t Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XVIII., p. 275. 


tions reached the ears of Lilburn, who was much exercised I 
in his mind how to avert the threatened danger. The * 
want of shipping proved an insuperable obstacle in the way } 
of preventing a landing in the island. He had asked for I 
seven ships of war to patrol the coasts efficiently, but only j 
three had been sent, and of these he could not spare one to < 
help the Stornoway garrison or give them warning of their 
peril. To make matters worse for the English, some Dutch 
ships were discovered to be prowling about on the coast, 
acting in concert with the Highlanders. Captain Brassie 
(the owner of the Fortune}^ who had been trading in Lewis, 
came across one of them which had just landed arms at 
Lochaber, and exchanged shots with her, but was afraid to 
come to close quarters. Next day, the Highlanders put 
some men on board the Dutchman, and Brassie sailed away. 
The Tutor of Macleod, whose fidelity to the Commonwealth 
was not of long duration, was Seaforth's principal associate 
in the projected recovery of Lewis, and as a preliminary 
measure, passed over to Harris with the object of raising 
his tenantry there. But the Harrismen declined to arm, being 
overawed by the garrison at Stornoway, whose vengeance 
they feared if the attempt were unsuccessful. They took 
good care, notwithstanding, to give no hint to the English 
of Talisker's presence in Harris until he had safely reached 
the mainland. On his way back from Harris, Talisker 
tried to surprise some trading vessels belonging to Captain 
Brassie, which seem to have been lying at anchor at the 
Long Island ; but his intention being discovered, the ships 
put out to sea, and managed to escape. What with the risk 
of being attacked by the Highlanders, and the danger of 
being snapped up by Dutch warships one of which was 
at that time in the Minch, acting in conjunction with 
Macleod the English vessels then trading at the Outer 
Hebrides, had experiences which were not devoid of excite- 
ment. Talisker's men, it appears, consisted chiefly of Irish- 
men who had fled from their native country, and these troops 
were expected to be reinforced by Lord Kenmure.* 

* Gwynne's Memoirs, p. 223. 


In January, 1654, a "very strange report" reached Dal- 
keith, that Lord Seaforth had stormed the fort at Stornoway 
with 1,400 men, and taken it a report which the correspon- 
dent "cannot believe," as the governor was confident of 
holding his own against "thousands." Later, this vague 
rumour crystallised into definite information. Colonel Nor- 
man Macleod had landed in Lewis (at Loch Shell) with four 
or five hundred men and had taken to the hills, where he 
remained for three or four days, waiting for a favourable 
opportunity to attack the garrison. The landing had been 
effected so secretly and expeditiously, that the English 
seem to have been totally unprepared. A party of the 
garrison were in the town of Stornoway, unsuspicious of 
danger, when Colonel Macleod pounced upon them and 
killed twelve men, before the soldiers in the castle were 
aware of what had happened. Assistance was quickly 
forthcoming from the fort, and the Englishmen were 
relieved by their comrades. In the fight that ensued, 
Macleod was beaten back, and the garrison, after remov- 
ing their goods into the castle and burning their houses, 
prepared for a siege. Local tradition states that the attack 
on the garrison was made at night, jointly by Seaforth 
himself and Norman Macleod, the former leading his force 
by the lands of Torry, and the latter by Bayhead. 
According to Lewis accounts, the Islesmen killed many 
of the garrison and attacked the trenches, but were unable 
to draw the Englishmen out of the fort, and having no 
artillery, Seaforth was compelled to abandon the siege. 
Whatever the exact facts may be, it is certain that the 
attack failed, and that Lewis remained in possession of the 
j English.* It is strange to find a Lewisman who wrote 
only thirty years after the event, making the amazing 
statement that the garrison was " under Cromwell." 
Probably the writer (John Morison of Bragar) merely 

* Gwynnc's Memoirs, pp. 238 and 243 (from Merc. Pol\ John Morison's 
Account of Lewis (Sfiott. Misc., p. 342). Clarendon Papers, Vol. II,, p. 314. 
1 Torry" is obviously Eilean Thorraidh near Marabhig (Lochs), and seeing 
Macleod landed at Loch Shell, it is probable that the column from Torry 
was led by him, and that from Bayhead by Seaforth. 


meant that it consisted of Cromwell's men, but his state- 
ment appears to have given rise to misunderstanding. I 
That the Protector himself was popularly believed to 
have acted as governor of Lewis, may be inferred from \ 
the fact that the principal thoroughfare in Stornoway at ] 
the present day is named " Cromwell Street," a curious 1 
illustration of the inaccuracy of tradition. 

The failure of Seaforth's attack led to savage reprisals. 
There is no room for doubt, that prior to his attempt, the 
Earl had been in close communication with his friends in 
the island, and that his plans for storming the fort were 
not only made with their connivance, but were carried out 
with their active assistance. The garrison, infuriated by 
their losses, proceeded to slaughter without mercy those 
who had taken part in the plot, and " the old natives " of 
Lewis joined them in the butchery. Fighting for their 
lives, Seaforth's men made a stout resistance, and 
accounted for a number of the Englishmen ; while the 
inter-clan war which was re-commenced between the 
Lewismen themselves, caused, we are told, "great devasta- 
tions in those parts."* The " old natives " can be no other 
than the descendants of the Siol Torquil and their sympa- 
thisers. The renewed hostilities between the Macleods and 
the Mackenzies carry us back nearly half a century, when 
similar scenes were being enacted. It is a striking fact 
that after fifty years of Mackenzie rule in Lewis, the 
Macleods were still unreconciled to it, and were eager to 
seize a favourable opportunity of striking a blow at their 
ancient enemies. It affords clear proof that there had been 
little real fusion between the two clans during a whole 
generation, and that the remembrance of the wrongs which 
they believed their chiefs to have suffered at the hands 
of the Kintail family, had rankled deeply in the hearts of 
the Macleods. The history of the past was not to be 
eradicated in fifty years, in spite of the undoubted benefits 
conferred upon the island by the Mackenzies. But the 

* Whitelocke, p. 584. Gwynne, p. 257. 


memories of Highlanders are proverbially long ; especially 
[for injuries sustained, not only by themselves, but by their 
forefathers as well. 

We left Glencairn at Badenoch awaiting the arrival of 
ireinforcements. These consisted chiefly of 1,000 foot and 
150 horse, under the command of Lord Lome, who joined 
Glencairn about the middle of December. A fortnight 
later, owing probably to some disagreement, he secretly 
left the camp, taking with him the whole of his men. 
| Glencairn at once gave orders to Glengarry and Lochiel 
i to pursue him, and, if necessary, take him back by force, 
la proceeding which appears to have been more than just- 
ified by the fact that Lome was making his way to Ruthven 
I Castle, then garrisoned by an English force. The Camp- 
; bells were overtaken, and Lome, with his horse, inconti- 
inently fled, leaving his infantry at the mercy of their 
'pursuers. There was bad blood between Lome and 
(Glengarry they had on one occasion gone the length 
of drawing upon one another and in view of past feuds 
and the incidents of the Montrose campaign, it could 
hardly be expected that a chief of Clan Donald would be 
disposed to treat the Clan Campbell with lenity, if he had 
it in his power to deal them a blow. When, therefore, the 
Campbells offered to return to the camp, Glengarry was 
for attacking them, but the opportune arrival of Glencairn 
prevented bloodshed. The Campbells were persuaded to 
deliver up their arms, which were, however, restored to 
them, on their promising allegiance to the King and 
obedience to Glencairn. The incident thus terminated 
peacefully, but the Campbells again deserted in a body 
a fortnight afterwards. Lome himself, the prodigal son, 
returned to the bosom of his family, and to the paths of 
submission and safety. 

The defection of Lord Lome and the Campbells was a 
serious blow to the Royalists, but it was partially repaired 
by accessions from other quarters, among the recruits 
being a party of London volunteers under Colonel Vogan, 
a gallant officer who was soon afterwards wounded in an 


engagement, and, as the result of unskilful surgical treat- 
ment, succumbed to his wounds after an apparent recovery. 
Finding himself sufficiently strong to take the offensive, 
Glencairn marched into Aberdeenshire to menace the 
English and obtain supplies for his army. At White- 
lums, near the Earl of Mar's Castle of Kildrummie, where 
an English garrison lay, Glencairn remained for a fort- 
night, inactive and unmolested. Thence he moved to 
Elgin, which he made his head-quarters, and where he 
was joined by the Marquis of Montrose (son of the great 
Montrose), and by Lord Forrester and others. 

In March, 1654, Middleton landed in Scotland with two 
vessels from Holland. He was accompanied by Lord 
Napier, Sir George Monro, Major-General Dalziel, Colonel 
Lewis Drummond, and about 200 men, and was furnished 
with a commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Royalists 
in Scotland. In that capacity, he sent a communication to 
Glencairn at Elgin, desiring him to move north and join 
him in Sutherlandshire. At the grand muster of the com- 
bined forces which took place at Dornoch, Middleton 
found himself in command of 3,500 foot and 1,500 horse. 
These included 600 of Seaforth's men under the leadership 
of Kenneth Mor, who had marched from Ross-shire to join 
Middleton, after having distinguished himself by capturing 
with boats, an English vessel laden with a cargo of arms 
and ammunition.* The supersession of Glencairn by 
Middleton gave rise to considerable ill-feeling among the 
partisans of the former, which reached a climax at an 
entertainment given by the superseded General to his 
successor. An imprudent, not to say impudent, remark 
by Sir George Monro about Glencairn's following led to 
hot words, followed by two duels, one between Glencairn 
and Monro, in which the latter was severely wounded, and 
the other between Captain Livingston, a friend of Monro, 
and a gentleman named Lindsay, resulting in the death of 
Livingston. These disputes were peculiarly unfortunate 

* Whitelocke (April, 1654). 


for the Royalist cause. Disunion at this juncture was 
'fatal. Glencairn, perhaps, acted a wise part in withdrawing 
'himself with 100 horse from the army Middleton had 
placed him under temporary arrest for fighting Monro, and 
.Lindsay had been shot for killing Livingston until these 
divisions should be healed. Passing successively through 
Assynt, Kintail, and Lochaber, he reached Killin, where he 
was joined by Sir George Maxwell, the Earl of Selkirk, 
f and Lord Forrester. His forces being now increased to 
1400 men, he sent them to Middleton, while he himself 
proceeded to the castle of Colquhoun of Luss, from which 
centre he endeavoured to foment a Royalist rising in the 
(Lowlands. Ultimately, he made terms with the English 
ion 4th September, 1654. Thus ended Glencairn's con- 
nexion with the insurrection, in the conduct of which he 
ishowed himself to be a brave soldier, if not an energetic 
(leader, and a staunch Royalist, if not a military genius. 
If he failed to win decisive victories over the enemy, he 
[succeeded in winning the affection of his men ; and his 
supersession by Middleton, while it weakened his rival's 
authority with the army, elevated Glencairn into the posi- 
tion of a popular hero who had received shabby treatment. 
Middleton's campaign against the English proved to be 
short-lived. He, too, was a gallant soldier, and a com- 
pander of greater renown than Glencairn ; but it required 
a. Montrose to surmount the difficulties which surrounded 
|iim. And Middleton, good general though he was, had 
no pretensions to be the lineal descendant of Montrose. 
The worst blow that befell the Royalists was the final 
arranging of peace between England and Holland, in 
April, 1654, after protracted negotiations. The English 
lavy was now free to co-operate with the land forces, and 
nterrupt the communications of the Royalists. " That 
::>cace," as Middleton expressed it at a later date to Hyde, 
' did strike all dead."* But in spite of this severe dis- 
ippointment, much might yet be done to harass the 

* Scott. Hist. Soc.> Vol. XXXI., p. 196. 


English ; a system of guerilla warfare was now, indeed, 
the only course open to the Royalists. 

After peace had been made with Holland, General Monck 
returned to Scotland to resume the chief command of the 
Commonwealth troops. One of his first acts was to vest 
in trustees the estates of the leading Royalists, including 
those of Lord Seaforth; and on the same date (i2th April), 
to pass an ordinance for the union of Scotland with the 
Commonwealth. The Town Councillors of Edinburgh vied 
with one another in showing him every mark of respect. 
A feast, which took six days to prepare, was given in 
his honour ; and, with disgusting servility, the Bailies of 
Edinburgh stood and served at table as amateur waiters.* 
By feasts and fireworks, the City of Edinburgh rejoiced in 
a humiliation which, from one standpoint, should more 
fittingly have been mourned in sackcloth and ashes. The 
pride in national independence, which from the earliest 
time had been the birthright of every Scotsman, seemed 
to have been temporarily forgotten, or was outwardly 
suppressed, by the civic authorities of the Capital of 
Scotland. That the Highlanders, at least, regarded their 
struggle against the Commonwealth in the light of a 
patriotic duty, is suggested by a notice which, during one 
of their raids, they posted on the market cross of Dum- 
barton ; making it clear that their quarrel was with " our 
ancient old enemy, the Kingdom of England." 

Monck commenced the government of Scotland by 
plastering the market cross of Edinburgh with proclama- 
tions. By these, he declared Cromwell to be the Protector 
of the three kingdoms ; he formally united Scotland to 
the Commonwealth ; and forfeited the estates of the leaders 
of the so-called " rebels," among whom figured Kenneth 
Mor, Lord Seaforth. He endeavoured to end the insurrec- 
tion in the Highlands by the same method. A proclama- 
tion was issued, imposing fines upon parents whose sons 
had joined the insurgents, and upon parishes which had 

* Nicoll's Diary ; p. 125. 


supplied them with volunteers ; but the fines do not appear 
to have ever been exacted. The same proclamation offered 
a reward of 200 for the capture, dead or alive, of the 
leaders, who are specifically named as Middleton, Seaforth, 
Kenmure, and Dalziel. " Such a vile sum," wrote Hyde to 
Middleton, "will be contemned in the Highlands"; and 
so, in fact, it was, the offer being received with derision.* 

The attempt to wage war by proclamation having failed, 
Monck had recourse to sterner measures ; fire and sword 
were now the weapons to be employed. In concert with 
Morgan, he endeavoured to come into touch with the 
insurgents in the Highlands, Colonel Brayn, with 2,000 
foot from Ireland, co-operating in the attempt to hem the 
Royalists in on all sides, and force them to an engagement. 
The policy of Middleton was to avoid a pitched battle, and 
by constantly harassing the enemy, to tire them out and 
force them to retreat. These tactics nearly proved success- 
ful, the English troops being reduced to great straits for 
want of food ; but by his persistent watchfulness, aided by 
good luck, Morgan at length succeeded in getting in touch 
with the insurgents, whom he surprised in a defile near 
Loch Garry, on iQth July. Middleton was caught at such 
a disadvantage, owing to the nature of the ground, that he 
was unable to offer battle on equal terms, and an orderly 
retreat was the most he could hope to effect. His troops 
behaved gallantly, until the pressure of the enemy became 
so severe that they were forced to disperse, every man to 
shift for himself. The loss of life was small, but the dis- 
persal was complete ; and the insurrection was virtually 
brought to an end.t 

Monck behaved like the statesman that he was, after 
Morgan's success at Lochgarry. Instead of inviting a 
fresh rising by harsh measures of reprisal, he sought to win 
over the leaders of the insurgents, by offering them fair and 
reasonable terms. The wisdom of this policy was proved 
by its results. The back of the insurrection had been 

* Scott. Hist. Soc., Intro., Vol. XXXI. p. 29. 
f Heath, pp. 361-2 

C C 


broken, but by a series of petty skirmishes, in which the 
insurgents met with some success, the spirit of resistance 
was still maintained. But the conciliatory attitude of 
Monck and his subordinates gradually reconciled the 
Royalists to the inevitable, and one by one, most of the 
leaders gave in their submission. Middleton and Seaforth 
were invited to avail themselves of Monck's clemency, and 
seemed disposed to come to terms. But on re-consideration, 
Middleton withdrew from the negotiations, on the ground 
that his submission might be construed as a cession of 
Scotland by him, as the King's representative, to the 
Commonwealth ; a punctiliousness which, although honour- 
able to Middleton, certainly showed a want of recognition 
of existing facts. The negotiations with Seaforth were 
also abortive at this stage : he appears to have decided to 
stick loyally by Middleton. In a despatch to Cromwell 
dated 7th July, Monck described Seaforth, Glengarry, and 
the Clan Cameron as the " stubbornest enemies in the 
hills," who overawed the other clans. He was yet to 
find that their stubbornness was proof even against his 
well-meant efforts to bring them in. 

In a memorandum to the Earl of Lauderdale, drawn up 
by the Earl of Moray in 1662, it is stated, in a series of 
charges against Kenneth M6r and his father, that the 
former wished to marry Cromwell's daughter, and under- 
took, if his desire were consummated, to secure the High- 
lands in the Protector's interests. A letter from Seaforth 
to the King, dated 2nd June, 1654, contains what is probably 
a reference to this rumour. In that letter, Kenneth Mor, 
after regretting that his services to Charles had been so 
fruitless, and remarking that notwithstanding the desperate 
state of his fortunes, he conceived it to be his duty to 
continue his work in the Royal interest, expressed his 
appreciation of the King's concern for him, "espetially that 
mark of kyndnesse your Majesty has been pleased to 
expresse concerning my mariege." " I know not," he went 
on to say, " that (how) your Majesty may have heard of it, 
bot indeed no designe that way hath ever entred in my 


thoughts. And if it had, your Majesty's commands wold 
certainly dirrect me from anything might be displeasing to 
your Majesty."* If, as there seems reason to believe, the 
projected marriage that displeased Charles II. was that 
between Kenneth Mor and the daughter of Cromwell, we 
have here a categorical denial from Seaforth himself of the 
truth of the report. And of course, if there were no founda- 
tion for the report of the marriage, its corollary, the intention 
of Seaforth to endeavour to bring the Highlands over to 
the English, was equally baseless. 

The same memorandum makes the statement, that Sea- 
forth ultimately capitulated with the English, without the 
knowledge of Middleton, who was his guest at the time ; 
and Middleton himself charges the Earl with having basely 
deserted him.t But the facts of the capitulation and the 
events which immediately preceded it, are these. Early in 
September, Middleton, with his allies, made preparations 
to land his forces in Skye, where he could reckon upon the 
assistance of the Macleods, but upon the antagonism of 
the Macdonalds. Whether this move was intended to 
secure Skye as a base of operations, or whether it was 
directed against Sir James Macdonald of Sleat as a puni- 
tive measure, we are not informed. But it is certain that 
one Captain Monson was sent to Skye, to prevent Middleton 
from effecting a landing on the island ; and that Macdonald 
of Sleat assembled his men, marched to meet Middleton, 
and beat him back, the Royalist forces being compelled to 
retire in the direction of Lochaber. Captain Monson 
remained at Skye to re-victual, and gave a supply of 
ammunition to Macdonald, who is described as being 
"very faithful to the Commonwealth." It appears from 
a letter dated 26th October, from Monck to Cromwell, that 
Seaforth, Glengarry, Lochiel, and Macleod, who seem to 
have been co-operating with Middleton, repaired to their 
various spheres of influence to recruit their clansmen, and 

* Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XXXI., pp. 117-8. 

t MSS. in Brit.Mus. (Add. 23,117, Fol. 17). Hist. MSS. Com., Rep. XL, 
Part I., p. 137. 

C C 2 


were under engagement to meet Middleton on the following 
25th November. We are left in doubt as to the result of 
their efforts, but in November, 500 Irishmen landed in 
Skye to join Middleton, who was simultaneously reinforced 
by Seaforth and his recruits. Judging, however, by the 
sequence of events, the attempt to organise a fresh rising 
on an important scale, was unsuccessful. In December, 
Middleton was in Kintail with Seaforth, and while there, 
tried, with the assistance of Colonel Norman Macleod, to 
intercept Macdonald of Sleat, who was passing through 
the country on his way to Skye. But Macdonald was on 
his guard, and succeeded by means of a ruse in eluding his 
pursuers. He divided his men into two parties, one party 
with the baggage going in a certain direction, while he 
himself, with the rest of his men, went another way. 
Middleton captured the baggage party, but missed the 
laird of Sleat, who crossed to Skye in safety.* 

A terrible storm was raging in the West Highlands 
during the month of December ; the worst that had been 
known for twenty years. To the fugitives in the hills, 
this was an additional misfortune. Their sufferings were 
so great, that the question of arranging terms with the 
English again forced itself to the front. The first to 
commence negotiations with Monck was Middleton him- 
self, who wrote the English General on the subject, on 
1 5th December. Seaforth followed suit, by approaching 
Colonel Fitch with a like object. On loth January, 1654, 
the treaty with Seaforth was signed. An impartial 
examination of the conditions cannot but lead to the 
conviction that they were absolutely fair, if not generous, 
and were entirely free from the element of vindictiveness. 
The clauses of the agreement, briefly stated, are these. 

(i.) A general amnesty to be granted, except to those 
who had killed men in cold blood, and Seaforth to be 
confirmed in possession of his estates. 

(2.) For the lands in Kintail and other places, which had 

* Scott. Hist. Soc., Vol. XXXI., p. 225. 


been wasted and burnt by the English, no cess (land tax) 
to be payable by the Earl or his tenants until the following 
harvest ; and for the lands which had escaped devastation, 
the tax to be remitted till ist January, 1654, from which 
date the tax was to be exacted. For the rents payable by 
the Earl to the Crown, and now due to the Protector, one 
half of the arrears to be remitted till ist January, 1654, 
from which date the whole amount was to be payable. 

(3.) The Castle of Eilean Donain to be garrisoned by 
the English, when so desired, and Seaforth to give security 
for its delivery. 

(4.) The Earl and his followers to proceed to an 
appointed place near Inverness within thirty days, and 
there deliver up their arms, after giving twenty-four hours' 
notice. All horsemen who embezzled or concealed their 
arms, to lose the benefit of the treaty. 

(5.) The Earl to give security, amounting to .6,000, 
within thirty days after delivery of the arms, for the 
peaceable deportment of himself and his clan ; his tacks- 
men and officers also to provide security ; and all others 
of the Clan Kenneth to give an undertaking to keep the 

(6.) Seaforth's officers to have permission to retain 
possession of their horses and swords, which they were to 
sell within three weeks ; and to be provided with passes 
to their homes. The Earl and his clan to be allowed to 
carry arms, for their defence against broken men and 
thieves within their own bounds. 

(7.) The money expended on the survey of Seaforth's 
properties, by order of the Trustees for Surveying Delin- 
quents' Estates in Scotland, to be refunded before the Earl 
entered into possession. 

(8.) Those concerned (of whom a list is given) in inflicting 
damage upon the laird of Foulis to be tried by court- 
martial. Seaforth, his uncle Simon Mackenzie of Lochslinn, 
Kenneth Mackenzie of Coul, John Mackenzie of Ord, John 
Mackenzie of Applecross, and Thomas Mackenzie of 
Inverloath, to give satisfaction, according to judgment of 


law or court-martial, to Neil Macleod of Assynt, for such 
damage as he had suffered by them ; unless they could 
show that Assynt sent supplies to the enemy, in which 
case he was to have no reparation. 

(9.) The articles of the treaty to be ratified by the 
Protector or Parliament, and delivered to the Earl within 
two months.* 

The treaty was signed by Monck, and, on behalf of 
Seaforth, by Sir Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine. The 
clause which mentions Neil Macleod, relates to the depre- 
dation committed by the Mackenzies, in the previous year, 
on his estate. The feud between the Seaforths and Neil 
is a long story, which need not be told here. It has been 
shown how the Macleods of Lewis became possessed of 
Assynt, and through them, the estate passed, early in the 
fifteenth century, to Tormod, second son of Roderick 
Macleod, who thus became the founder of the Assynt 
branch of the Siol Torquil. After the Mackenzies had 
obtained possession of Lewis, they sought means to enforce 
their claims to the superiority of Assynt, the lands and 
barony of which had been included in the barony of Lewis. 
It is not proposed to enter here into the merits of the 
dispute, nor of the persecution which Neil Macleod suffered 
at the hands of his powerful opponents, particulars of 
which are given in Mr. Alexander Mackenzie's histories of 
both clans. Suffice it to say, that Neil was bested by the 
Seaforths, not only in the field, but in the Courts of Law ; 
his charter-chest was conveyed to Brahan Castle ; the Clan 
Kenneth obtained the legal rights to, and the actual pos- 
session of, Assynt ; and all the efforts made by Neil and 
his friends failed to oust them. The prejudice existing 
against Macleod, owing to his supposed complicity in the 
delivery of Montrose, operated adversely against him 

The negotiations between Middleton and Monck again 
fell through, and the Royalist General remained irreconcil- 
able, until his departure from Scotland in 1655. Macleod 

* Scott Hist. Soc., Vol. XXXI., pp. 234-7. 


arranged a treaty of peace with the English on 2Qth May, 
and Glengarry, who adhered to Middleton until the latter 
left Scotland, accepted, on 8th June, the terms offered him 
by the enemy ; he was the last of the chiefs to give in. 
Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel was no less stubborn in his 
resistance to the Commonwealth. By his daring exploits 
and his harassing tactics, as narrated by Pennant, and 
fully confirmed by the Public Records of England, Lochiel 
created so profound an impression upon the English, that 
they were only too pleased to accept his submission on his 
own terms. He marched to Inverlochy with pipes playing 
and banners flying, and laid down his arms in a manner 
more befitting a victor than a suppliant for peace. The 
governor of Inverlochy, in admiration of the Highlander 
who had twice decisively beaten his soldiers with greatly 
inferior forces, paid the respect to his foe which one brave 
lan pays to another. He prepared a feast in Lochiel's 
mour, and at this unique ceremony, the old enmity 
>etween the two was quenched in the flowing bowl. After 
the Restoration, Lochiel went to London to arrange for a 
mt of land, which, in the apportionment of rewards by 
le King, he richly deserved ; but by a " trick " of the Earl 
>f Lauderdale, his mission proved unsuccessful. 

The insurrection was now a thing of the past. The 
Highland chiefs had achieved nothing by their spirited 
resistance to foreign domination. Undoubtedly, their 
innate loyalty to the monarchy was the chief motive in 
icir struggle against the Commonwealth ; but the loss of 
national independence, antipathy to the rule of the Saxon, 
md, perhaps, the hope of future reward for their services, 
fere also factors which were not without weight. What- 
ir their motives, it is to their credit that they acted 
le part of patriots while the Edinburgh Bailies were 
:ting the part of waiters. It may be freely admitted, that 
ic English commanders in Scotland conducted the war 
against the Highlanders on humane principles. It is true 
lat instances are on record, where the exasperated English- 
men compelled their prisoners to throw dice, "and the 


tenth man was hanged or shot " ; * and the massacre of 
Seaforth's adherents in Lewis does not redound to their 
credit ; but their general behaviour, in view of all the 
circumstances, appears to have been exemplary. The 
discipline of the soldiers, in conjunction with the con- 
ciliatory policy of Monck, went far to prevent the insurrec- 
tion from assuming more formidable proportions ; and 
served effectively to stamp out the embers of rebellion, 
which a series of reprisals would have fanned anew into a 
conflagration. But the disunion among the insurgents 
themselves produced more fatal consequences to them, than 
the measures taken by the English to subdue them. In 
a letter from the King to Seaforth, dated October, 1654, he 
deplored the jealousies existing among his friends ; and in 
stating that the Earl's adherence to Middleton should serve 
as an example to the other chiefs, he expressed the pathetic 
hope that " poor Scotland " might be destroyed by the 
malice of her enemies, not by the disunion of her friends.! 
John Morison of Bragar tells us that Stornoway Castle 
was " broken down by the English garrison in Cromwell's 
time." This statement is doubtless correct, for, apart from 
Morison's credibility, it is only reasonable to suppose that 
prior to their departure from Lewis (in the reign of 
Charles II.), the English would have dismantled and 
demolished the forts. An undated document which, how- 
ever, bears internal evidence of having been written early 
in the seventeenth century, states that " the house of 
Stornowa in the Lewis is fallen, albeit it had bidden the 
canon be the Erie of Argyle of auld, and by the gentilmen 
ventourares of lait"+ The latter reference, of course, is 
to the Fife Adventurers, so it may be assumed that the 
Mackenzies rebuilt, or restored the castle, after they 
obtained possession of Lewis. The remains of the fort 
were removed in the year 1882, owing to the exigencies 
of increased harbour accommodation ; an act of apparent 

* Whitelocke. No other historian mentions this practice. 
t Scott. Hist. Soc. t Vol. XXXI., pp. 206-7. 
See supra> p. 147. 


Vandalism which the circumstances of the case, unfortu- 
nately, rendered necessary. A flagstaff now marks the 
site of the historic building. 

There seems reason to believe that soon after his sub- 
mission, Seaforth's fidelity to the Commonwealth became 
suspected ; or that the Royalist insurrection in England 
in March 1655, which was easily suppressed, may have 
induced Monck to adopt extraordinary measures of pre- 
caution to prevent trouble in the Highlands. Whatever 
the cause, Seaforth was, in that year, lodged in prison in 
Inverness. He was obviously not regarded as a dangerous 
captive, for he obtained leave, under bail to Governor 
Miles Man, to visit Kintail ; and on his way there, organised 
a great deer hunt in the forest of Monar, and a programme 
of athletic sports for the delectation, apparently, of the 
Englishmen who accompanied him.* 

In 1656, intelligence reached Cromwell that the King 
was preparing for a descent upon Scotland. Monck at 
once seized a number of Scottish Royalists, including Lord 
Seaforth, who had been actively engaged in the recent 
rising. When, owing to the energy of the Protector, or 
from other causes, the projected invasion was abandoned, 
the King's partisans were set at liberty. But in 1659, after 
the resignation and retirement of the gentle Richard 
Cromwell, and the restoration of the Rump Parliament, the 
Royalists, both in England and Scotland, again bestirred 
themselves. The conspiracy in England was dissolved in 
July, by means of the treachery of Sir Richard Willis ; and 
in the following month, Monck, fearing that the King 
might land in Scotland during the commotion in England, 
once more seized the Royalist leaders and imprisoned 
them, Seaforth being again among the number. There is 
nothing to show the nature or extent of the Earl's con- 
nexion with these plots for the restoration of the King. 
Whether he was actually engaged in any or all of the con- 
spiracies, or arrested on suspicion of complicity, or what 

* Anderson's Guide to the Highlands^ p. 435. 

374 HISTORY OK Till* Ol 1'KR 1 1 KHKll >KS. 

is perhaps most likely, merely clet. lined in order to keep 
him out ot mischief, the fact remains that he was not set 
at liberty until the Restoration opened his prison d 
Of his subsequent career little is known. He was Com- 
missioner of Excise for Inverness-shire in 1001, and Sheriff 
of Ross in iooj, the hounds of that shire having, in the 
previous year, been finally delimited. In 1667, he was 
appointed, jointly with the Earls of Argyll and Atholl, 
Overseer of the Highlands, with comprehensive powers for 
the punishment of thieves and the restoration of stolen 
goods. In the same year, we find him figuring as Com- 
missioner of Supply for Ross-shire. In 1675, the com- 
mission of shrievalty was renewed to him and to his 
eldest son, Kenneth, jointly. The appointment as Sheriff 
was preceded by a dispute between him and the Karl of 
Moray, the predecessor of the latter having had a gift from 
Charles I., in 1647, of the Sheriffdom of Inverness, of which 
Ross, at that time, formed a part.* This dispute led to the 
drawing up of the memorandum by Moray to the Earl of 
Lauderdale, which has been quoted in the preceding pages ; 
a document marked, not unnaturally, by a strong anti- 
Seaforth bias. Lord Seaforth, it appears, had presented 
two petitions to the King, which based his claim to favour- 
able consideration, on the services rendered by his father 
and himself to the Crown, and the losses suffered by both 
in the promotion of the Royal interests. The petitions also 
complained of the rigid dealings of the Earl's cre^ 
and sought a remission of past feu-duties payable to the 
Crown. The Earl of Moray, in reply to Seaforth - 
ttons, enumerated the charges against father and son, some 
of which have been noticed. The father, accord i 
Moray, %% never suffered but by his misgovernment of hi> 
private estate. And the sone hes been so farr from a 
sufferer that he hes been a gainer ; for these lands his 
creditors ought to have been in possession of, accord 

* It wvmld appear that the Act of 1503, providing for the division ot the 
Sherifidom of Inverness, did not take effect ; or was allowed to become 
inoperative j or that the Sherifldoiu <* Ross was at first subsidiary to that c 

: .-. ..-.. 


;ir rights, he raised the rents thereoff, as he did off all 
the rest of his estate, he not wanting a farthine of his rent, 
notwithstanding some sufferings of his tennants, or such of 
his friends as had possession by private rights." The 
memorandum denied the rigid dealings complained of by 
Seaforth, and sarcastically combated the suggestion that 
the arrears of feu-duty should be remitted.* 

It is probable that these charges against Seaforth in- 
fluenced the King and his advisers in their dealings with 
the Karl, for, with the exception of the Sheriffdom of Ross, 
and the other offices which have been named, there is no 
record of any mark of Royal favour having been shown 
him. But he was not alone in this neglect. While 
honours were showered upon Middleton, none of his old 
Highland comrades if we except Glengarry who got a 
trumpery title received rewards which were in any way-- 
adequate to the sacrifices which they had undergone for 
Charles II. It may be that loyalty should be its own 
reward, but gratitude is a virtue wherever it is found ; and 
gratitude was not one of Charles Stuart's strong points. 

By an Act of Parliament, a Commissioner was ap- 
pointed to report upon the losses of various Royalists 
during the " usurpation " ; and Seaforth 's name is found 
on the list. If the Earl had hopes of relief from the 
creditors of his estates, they were rudely dispelled by an 
Act passed in 1663, ratifying certain comprisings led 
against the property by virtue of an Act of 1649. The 
Acts of the Parliament of 1649 were, after the Restoration, 
declared to be null, but an exception was made in this 
instance for the protection of the rights of private persons. 
In 1678, an arrangement was made with the creditors, 
by virtue of which the Seaforth estates were vested in 
trustees (Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat and others) for 
behoof of the heir, Kenneth Og.f We shall notice, later, 

* MS. in Urit. Mus. (Add. 23,117, Fol. XVII.). 

t Seaforth wrote Tarbat on 7th August, 1678, alluding to a current report, 
which he refused to believe. He expressed the hope that whatever preferment 
Tarbat might receive from the Duke of Lauderdale, would not " interfier " 
with him (Seaforth). 


the legal proceedings which arose out of this arrangement. 
For the present, it suffices to state that during the lifetime 
of the first Earl Kenneth, the Seaforth estates were in the 
hands of his father's creditors. Had the Royalist rising 
been successful, the Earl would probably have effected the 
recovery of his property, but it was not to be. Kenneth 
Mor, the big Earl, big both in body and mind, must have 
been a disappointed man and a disillusioned Royalist 
when he breathed his last in December, 1678. He was 
succeeded by his eldest son, Kenneth Og, whose mother 
was Isobel, sister of Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat. 

Kenneth Og inherited the political faith of his father, 
and, early in his career, he was provided with an oppor- 
tunity of striking a blow in the cause of the Stuarts. 

The unsuccessful insurrection in Scotland of the Earl of 
Argyll, who was brought to the scaffold, like his father the 
Marquis, and the equally useless rising in England of the 
Duke of Monmouth, were the first signs of the gathering 
storm which was soon to sweep the Stuarts for ever from 
the British throne. When, in 1688, the storm burst, and 
James II. lost, by his tyrannical bigotry, his crown, his 
kingdom, and the respect of his subjects, a minority, 
influenced by considerations of personal attachment, 
religious sympathy, or unswerving loyalty to the name of 
Stuart, was left to champion the luckless King. Among 
these was the Earl of Seaforth, a co-religionist of the 
deposed monarch, and therefore attached to his cause by 
the strongest of ties. He accompanied James to France, 
or joined him there ; and when the King, in 1689, sailed to 
Ireland to head his partisans in that country, Seaforth was 
one of the four Earls who attended him. He took part in 
the famous siege of Londonderry and other engagements, 
and as a reward for his services, James created him 
Marquis of Seaforth.* 

Meanwhile, the Jacobites in Scotland under John Gra- 

* His son was also recognised as a Marquis by the Jacobites. Kenneth 
Og was made a Privy Councillor in 1685, and was one of the eight original 
Knights of the Thistle on the revival of that order in 1687. 


ham, Viscount Dundee, were stirring. By the Covenanters 
in the latter part of the reign of Charles II., the two best 
hated men in Scotland were Graham of Claverhouse and 
Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat. The former harried 
them in the field, and the latter showed no mercy in the 
Courts. Hence the " bloody Claver'se " and the " bloody 
Mackenzie" became the bogies of the Convenanting 
Whigs. Whether they deserved the obloquy which at- 
tached, and in a modified degree still attaches, to their 
names, may, conceivably, be a debatable point. That 
their measures were harsh, vindictive, even cruel, may be 
fairly granted. But their conception of their duties, how- 
ever repugnant to modern ideas, if it does not excuse 
their severities, at least palliates them. It is certain that 
they were neither the monsters which they are sometimes 
represented to have been, nor, probably, was Claverhouse 
the pattern of chivalry which some of his modern apolo- 
gists would have us believe. The truth here, as in so 
many other cases, doubtless lies between both extremes. 
Graham and Mackenzie were both men of marked ability : 
one was probably the greatest soldier, and the other the 
greatest lawyer, of the day, in their native country. 
Mackenzie was a Lord of Session at the age of thirty- 
one, and successively filled the offices of Lord Justice- 
General and Clerk-Register of Scotland. He was also a 
Privy Councillor, and in the reign of Queen Anne was 
appointed Secretary of State for Scotland. He adopted 
the judicial title of Lord Tarbat ; was in 1685 made a peer 
of the realm, with the titles of Viscount of Tarbat, Lord 
Macleod,* and Castlehaven ; and by Queen Anne was 
created the first Earl of Cromartie. At the Revolution, 
Mackenzie went over to the side of William of Orange, 
and rapidly rose to great influence and authority, crowning 

* The Cromartie family emphasised their descent from the Macleods of 
Lewis in various ways. In 1688, an unnamed person, but who from 
internal evidence appears to have been John Mackenzie, son and successor of 
the first Earl of Cromartie, threatened to bring an action against Seaforth for 
the recovery of the lands of Lewis, which, he asserted, belonged formerly to 
one of his predecessors (? Torquil Conanach) by his daughter who was an 
heiress. (Hist. MSS. Com., Report II., Part II., page 24). 


his career in the reign of Queen Anne by being one of 
the chief promoters of the Union. But his old colleague, 
Dundee, remained faithful to King James, and ended his 
career at Killiecrankie. This, then, was the man who was 
the Jacobite mainstay in Scotland, at the time his Royal 
master was fighting for his crown in Ireland. 

Opposed to Dundee was General Hugh Mackay of 
Scourie, an ex-soldier of fortune, like Graham himself, 
both being men who had made their military reputation in 
the Dutch wars. Dundee depended entirely on the High- 
land clans for the success of his insurrection. Viscount 
Tarbat, who, a Highlander himself, understood his fellow- 
Highlanders better even than Dundee, endeavoured to 
checkmate the latter by detaching the Highland chiefs 
from the cause of James. There seems good ground for 
believing, that if the negotiations had been left in his hands, 
the movement would have been stopped at the outset, and 
much useless bloodshed and misery averted. But the 
business was bungled, and the differences between the 
Jacobites and the Williamites were referred to the arbitra- 
tion of the sword. The events of Dundee's campaign are 
well known to every student of Highland history ; from the 
first hide-and-seek campaign of Mackay, down to the final 
encounter at Killiecrankie, on 2/th July, 1689 J when one of 
the most complete victories ever gained by an army of 
Highlanders was practically nullified by the death of their 
leader. When Dundee was in Lochaber, a month before 
the battle, he wrote a letter to John Macleod of Harris 
(whose harper, by the way, was the famous " Clarsair Dall," 
Roderick Morison, a native of Lewis) reviewing the situa- 
tion generally. From that letter, it would appear that 
among the chiefs who had mustered their men in obedience 
to the summons of the General, were Allan Macdonald, the 
youthful Captain of Clan Ranald, attended by his tutor, 
Ranald Macdonald of Benbecula, Sir Donald Macdonald 
of Sleat and North Uist, and Macneill of Barra ; the whole 
of the heritors of the Outer Hebrides being thus engaged 
in the Jacobite cause. Macleod, however, for some reason, 


abstained from joining Dundee, while Seaforth, of course, 
was fighting in Ireland at the time ; so it may be doubted 
if there were either Lewismen or Harrismen at Killie- 
crankie, though the Uists and Barra were represented. 

In a letter dated 3<Dth November, 1689, addressed by 
James to Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, the King inti- 
mated his intention of sending Seaforth to Scotland to 
head his clan ; the Duke of Berwick, the natural son of 
James, to follow him as soon as the season permitted the 
shipment of horses from Ireland. In this letter, the King 
expressed himself as " afflicted " at the news of the death 
of Dundee ; but hoped that the work so "happily begun" 
by that general would be carried on, since " no less than the 
preservation of the hereditary succession of our Crown is at 
stake." Above all things, James urged union among his 
partisans, and in wishing success to their joint efforts, pro- 
mised that he would reward them " out of such forfeitures 
as shall come to us by the unnatural rebellion of the rest of 
our subjects there."* It may be questioned whether, even 
as a matter of policy, Charles II. or James II. helped their 
cause much by appealing to the cupidity of their sup- 
porters. By taking such low ground, they eliminated the 
higher considerations which influenced the most chivalrous 
of their friends in drawing the sword for them. An appeal 
to the generosity of the Highlanders would have proved a 
more powerful incentive to the best of the chiefs. While 
winnowing the chaff from the wheat the mere fortune- 
hunters from the men of principle such an appeal would 
have ensured the enthusiasm of a staunch, if reduced band 
of adherents, whose support was not to be measured by 
material rewards. This system of drawing bills on futurity 
was not flattering to the motives of the Highlanders. In 
the case of Charles II., few of the bills had been met at 
maturity ; and it says much for the credulity, or, as we 
prefer to put it, the innate loyalty of the chiefs, that after 
their past experience, they continued faithful to the family 

* Cat. of State Papers (1689-90), p. 338. 


of large promises but small performances. Prince Charles 
Edward avoided the mistake of his ancestors in the rising 
of 1745. His appeal was directed to the best part of the 
Highlanders' nature, and the result was a passionate 
attachment to his person and his cause, to which history 
furnishes few parallels. But James II. was of a meaner 
spirit, and preferred to secure the allegiance of the High- 
land clans by inciting them to break the tenth command- 

In January, 1690, Seaforth was still in Ireland. In that 
month, he wrote from Dublin to Macdonald of Sleat, 
expressing great satisfaction to hear of the readiness of 
himself and his men to serve the King, "which is the 
greatest proof you can give of your loyalty." " Nothing," 
he adds, " shall be wanting on my part to do you right and 
kindness ; and that I may appear a true gentleman, pray 
order some one in your island to have a fine plaid ready 
for me."* From the petition of one Sir Thomas South- 
well, we find that Seaforth left for Scotland on 1st May. 
Southwell, whose life Seaforth had saved after he had been 
condemned to death by the Earl of Clanricarde, and who 
accompanied Seaforth to Scotland, makes the astonishing 
statement that he drew the latter to King James's party, 
and thus disappointed the enemy of 3,000 of his clan.f 
Whether this was mere braggadocio on Southwell's part, or 
whether the Earl was really wobbling between the two 
parties, we are left to conjecture ; but the suggestion of dis- 
loyalty to James, is strongly at variance with Seaforth's 
expressions of aggressive Jacobitism. 

The death of Dundee placed the supreme command of 
the Highlanders in the hands of Colonel Cannon, who 
might have achieved some success with an army of 
regulars, but who was totally unfitted to lead the clans. 
The fruits of the victory at Killiecrankie, which, had 
Dundee lived, would probably have meant the subjugation 
of the whole of Scotland, were wholly lost by the incapa- 

* Cal. of Treasury Papers, Vol. XL, No. 51, p. 153. 
f Cal. of State Papers (Nov. i69l-Dec. 1692), p. 91. 


city or inertness of his successor. Mackay of Scourie was 
soon enabled to take the field again, confident of retrieving 
the defeat at Killiecrankie, now that the " deil o' Dundee " 
no longer led his formidable Highlanders. His anticipa- 
tions were realised, for the caution, not to say the timidity, 
of Cannon, and his impolicy in restraining the fighting 
ardour of the clans, gave Mackay an advantage which 
decided the issue in his favour. The repulse of the High- 
landers at Dunkeld, where the gallant obstinacy of the 
Cameronians saved themselves from annihilation, further 
dispirited the clans, and finally led to their voluntary dis- 
persal, disgusted with their commander, but steadfast in 
their loyalty to King James. Mackay, a generous enemy, 
endeavoured at this juncture to induce them to lay down 
their arms ; but a spirited letter addressed to him by the 
chiefs, in reply, showed that although temporarily dis- 
couraged, they were not disposed to admit defeat. " We 
scorn your usurper and the indemnity of his Government. 
Those of us who live in the islands have already seen and 
defied the Prince of Orange his frigates."* Such were the 
uncompromising terms in which they answered Mackay 's 
well-meant overtures. And among " those of us who live 
in the islands " appear the names of Sir Donald Macdonald 
of Sleat, Macdonald of Benbecula, and Macneill of Barra.f 
! A week later (24th August), a bond was signed by the 
insurgent chiefs, obliging themselves to assemble in Sep- 
tember for the service of King James, and in the meantime, 
to stand by one another in the event of attack. Mac- 
donald of Sleat was to bring 200 men, Benbecula, 200, and 
Barra, 50. Lochiel was by common consent chosen to 
command the clans, Colonel Cannon, in whom the High- 
landers had lost all confidence, being now an impossible 
leader. Mackay, disgusted with the supineness of the 
Government, wished to throw up his command, but failing 
to obtain even temporary leave of absence, applied himself, 

* Parl Records (Keltic's Highlands, Vol. II., p. 385). 

t Colin Mackenzie, afterwards of Kinachulladrum, Seaforth's uncle, was 
one of the chiefs who signed the defiant message to Mackay. 

D D 


like the good soldier that he was, with additional energy, to 
the suppression of disaffection in the Highlands. His plan 
was to erect a fort at Inverlochy, of sufficient strength to 
overawe the Western Highlands ; and in spite of the want 
of Government support, he managed to surmount his diffi- 
culties with the help of the citizens of Glasgow. These 
preparations were not without their effect upon the insur- 
gents. But the arrival of Major-General Buchan from 
Ireland, in April, 1690, whence he had been sent by James 
to assume supreme command of his supporters, heartened 
the Highlanders afresh. A conference took place to decide 
upon a course of action, when it was resolved to renew the 
contest immediately after the spring. In the meantime, 
Buchan was to harass the enemy on the borders of the 
Lowlands, while emissaries were sent to the islands, in 
particular to Skye, to sound the clans and ascertain the 
support upon which the insurgents might count from that 
quarter. On ascertaining that Buchan had taken the field, 
Mackay ordered Sir Thomas Livingston, who was stationed 
at Inverness, to keep a watch on the movements of the 
Jacobites. The operations that succeeded in which 
Lieutenant-Colonel Buchan, a brother of the Jacobite 
General, was associated with Livingston were not produc- 
tive of any tangible result, until Livingston came in touch 
with the insurgents at Cromdale on the Spey. A skirmish 
took place, in which Buchan, taken by surprise, was worsted, 
and his men were dispersed. 

Such, then, was the condition of affairs in Scotland when 
Seaforth came over from Ireland, with a body of troops, to 
give his powerful support to the Jacobite cause. Mackay 
having completed the erection of a fort at Inverlochy which 
he named Fort William in honour of the King was about 
to lead a force to Mull to subdue that island, when he 
received orders to proceed south in view of an anticipated 
invasion of the French. The insurgents took advantage of 
his absence to resume offensive operations, but the promis- 
ing commencement of this fresh campaign underwent a 
change when Mackay, on the subsidence of the French 


1 1 alarm, returned to the North to lead the Government troops 
i in person. Buchan and Cannon, the latter of whom had 
jj rejoined the Jacobites as second-in-command, had pushed 
I as far north as Inverness, where they waited for Seaforth, 
| with whose reinforcements they intended to make a con- 
|j certed attack upon the town. But the celerity of Mackay '"s 
I movements wholly disconcerted them, that commander 
I having wisely determined to disperse the insurgents before 
I the rising in the Highlands could become general. The 
arrival of the troops in the neighbourhood of Inverness, 
|j before the Mackenzies had joined their allies, completed 
I the discomfiture of the insurgents. Buchan and Cannon 
I turned tail and fled to Lochaber ; and the insurrection was 
I at an end. 

Seaforth was placed in an awkward situation. Had the 
f proposed junction between him and Buchan been effected 
in time, the whole course of the campaign might have been 
altered, but the flight of Buchan left him exposed to the 
| vengeance of Mackay, whom he was too weak to meet 
single-handed. There was nothing for it but to make the 
best terms he could. He sent his mother and Mackenzie 
of Coul to interview Mackay. The latter refused to con- 
sider any terms which did not include the personal surrender 
of Seaforth. A reluctant consent to this condition was 
wrung from the Earl ; but to save his credit, he desired 
Mackay to send a body of men by night, who were to effect 
his capture in such a way as to create the impression that 
he had been surprised by them. But Seaforth failed to 
play the game, for on the arrival of the troops sent to 
I apprehend him, he declined, on the plea of ill-health, to be 
arrested. His unconditional surrender would have placed 
his vast estates at the disposal of the Privy Council of 
Scotland ; and although his deception may have been inex- 
cusable, his strong objection to place himself at the mercy 
of an unscrupulous gang, like some of the members of the 
Council, is perfectly intelligible. Mackay, annoyed at the 
trick played upon him, prepared to proceed to extremities, 
and informed the Earl that unless he surrendered at once, 

D D 2 


his estates would be ravaged by fire and sword. At the 
same time, he instructed the Earl of Sutherland, Lord 
Reay, and Ross of Balnagown, all staunch Whigs, to hold 
in readiness 1,000 men under Major Wishart to occupy 
Lewis, should Seaforth persist in his obstinacy. Notwith- 
standing these preparations, Mackay was unwilling to give 
effect to them. Seaforth's men were " all Protestants, and 
none of the most dangerous enemies," although the Earl 
was a Catholic ; and the General, himself a sound Protestant 
and, what was better, a man of sound principles, was averse 
from making the innocent Mackenzies suffer for the stub- 
bornness of their chief. He therefore sent a secret intimation 
to Seaforth of his intention, hoping that at the eleventh 
hour, the Earl would re-consider his decision.* In the result, 
Mackay was relieved from an unpleasant duty. Seaforth 
surrendered and was sent to Edinburgh under a strong 
guard, but was released on giving security for himself and 
his friends. Probably he had to thank his uncle, Lord 
Tarbat, for the leniency of the Government. 

In June, 1690, after negotiations with the Government, 
undertaken with the express sanction of King James, the 
Jacobite leaders agreed to a cessation of hostilities until 
ist October ; and we find that Seaforth was compelled to 
provide further security against taking up arms until the 
expiry of that date. The Earl of Breadalbane a name 
of sinister import to Highlanders conducted the negotia- 
tions on behalf of the Government. In order to make the 
submission of the Jacobites permanent, he was entrusted 
with a sum of .15,000 or 20,000 to buy up the claims 
which the Earl of Argyll and other Superiors exercised over 
their feudal vassals. No more unfortunate choice of an 
agent could have been made. A contemporary describes 
Breadalbane as being " cunning as a fox, wise as a serpent, 
but slippery as an eel." Before the Highlanders, he posed 
as a friend of theirs and of King James ; before the Govern- 
ment, he posed as a zealous partisan of King William. But 

* Mackay's Memoirs, pp. 101-2. 


the truth is, that the man for whom he worked was neither 
King James nor King William, but John Campbell, Earl of 
Breadalbane. How the money which was placed at his 
disposal was employed, remains a mystery to this day. 
M The money is spent, the Highlands are quiet, and this 
is the only way of accounting among friends," was his 
answer when required to give an account of his steward- 
ship. Wherever the money went, there is nothing to show 
that the Highland chiefs received much benefit from 
it. As the result, however, of the negotiations between 
Breadalbane and the Jacobites, who received the sanction 
of James for arranging a treaty, the Government issued a 
proclamation, on 2/th August, 1691, promising an in- 
demnity to all who had been in arms, and who should take 
the oath of allegiance to King William before the ist of 
January, 1692. James and his supporters recognised that 
their cause was, for the time, hopeless, and that the stern 
necessity was forced upon the Highlanders to come to 
terms with the Government. But the expectation of the 
Government, that at last the trouble was over, proved to 
be illusory. 

In the autumn of 1691, the Highlands were once more 
in a state of political ferment. A fresh rising was being 
organised, and a number of Highlanders again unsheathed 
their claymores. Among the latter was Seaforth, who was 
driven to the hills, and Brahan Castle was occupied by 
a garrison under Ross of Balnagown. King William's 
Councillors were divided in their opinion as to the best 
means of putting down the rising, and preventing a spread 
of the conflagration. There was the peace party, the ablest 
exponent of whose policy was Lord Tarbat ; and there 
was the party whose sole remedy was uncompromising war 
to the knife. "Several of your Councillors," wrote Tarbat 
to King William, " thought it dishonourable to treat with 
them, and all these thought it better to root them out by 
war than to give them any favour." The Earl of Argyll 
trimmed. Without going the length of the war party, he 
"was against such concessions as affected his interests." 


The Earl of Breadalbane proposed a fresh armistice until 
the end of November, and offered his services to treat with 
the clans. General Mackay, who was then ready to lead 
his troops against the insurgents, was opposed to a policy 
of conciliation, having, as a soldier, a greater belief in the 
efficacy of force than in the negotiations of statecraft. The 
firebrands prevailed ; and a force under Major Fergusson 
was sent to reduce the West Highlands and Isles to sub- 
mission. At this stage of the proceedings, Tarbat inter- 
vened to save, if he could, the Highlanders from " ruin," 
and to prevent those who were wavering from being driven 
to desperation. But although backed by Colonel Hill, the 
brave and humane governor of Fort William, Tarbat's 
representations were frustrated by the war party, and the 
expedition against the insurgents was set in motion. Major 
Fergusson harried the coasts of the Jacobite chiefs, from 
Mull to the Long Island ; while the Highlanders on the 
mainland discreetly kept out of the way of Mackay, who 
" judged it not fit to seek them out." Much credit seems 
to be due to Colonel Hill, for his methods of warfare 
against the Highlanders. Instead of exasperating them 
by seventy, he sought to subdue them by treaty. He suc- 
ceeded in detaching Seaforth from the irreconcilables, and 
in extracting a promise from him not to rejoin the enemy, 
until the result of the pending negotiations should be 
declared. In terms of his agreement with the Colonel, 
Brahan Castle was to be evacuated by the garrison, and 
the Earl suffered to re-occupy it peacefully. Hill com- 
municated with Lord Tarbat on the subject, and sent a 
report to the King's Commissioners ; but for some unknown 
reason, the report never reached its destination, and Sea- 
forth was left to nurse his chagrin in the hills. When 
General Mackay left the Highlands, Colonel Hill resumed 
his negotiations with the chiefs. With the exception of 
Seaforth, they had all determined to hang together which, 
although in a totally different sense, was precisely what the 
war party wanted them to do and treat for peace in a 
body ; and they had decided to inform King James of 


their resolution. All they required was to have a general 
indemnity, security in their possessions, and a small pay- 
ment to certain of their number " to put them at ease." 
The attitude of the chiefs was well known to Hill, who thus 
found an easy basis for negotiations. But, with criminal 
recklessness, the Government continued to ignore the advice 
of the peacemakers, and to listen to that of the Jingoes. 
The Commissioner, though convinced by Hill and Tarbat 
of the wisdom of pacific measures, was over-ruled by the 
war party, and refused to interfere with the military dis- 
positions which were being made for crushing the insurgents. 
General Mackay again took the field with so considerable 
a body of men, as to render organised resistance on the 
part of the Highlanders, impossible. 

It was at this stage that Lord Tarbat again addressed 
a long and weighty letter to the King, detailing the recent 
occurrences, and earnestly pressing for a reversal of the 
policy which was being pursued. He pointed out the vast 
expense which was being incurred, with such barren results, 
and the misery suffered by peaceable subjects, equally from 
the " necessary harassing" of the army and the " ravaging 
and robbing " of the enemy. " Twenty such campaigns," 
he declared, would not reduce the Highlanders; for, notwith- 
standing the utility of the Fort William garrison, it would 
never conquer the enemy nor adequately protect the Low- 
lands from their incursions. " All their estates will not 
recompense a tenth of one year's losses, and giving them 
what they desire is less loss than to keep up the army 
three months, besides three years." But he had an alter- 
native suggestion to offer. " I ventured to tell you that 
persuading the Highlanders was a good way to fatigue 
your enemy and waste money, but in my opinion was not 
so fit a way to reduce the Highlands as by posting the 
army so as to block them up within the hills, and mean- 
while invest them by sea. But neither way is so easy and 
secure as by treaty, which the tenth part of what is already 
expended would have done." With reference to Seaforth's 
position, Tarbat wrote in the same spirit. The Earl was 


still in the hills, he told the King, but had not joined the 
enemy. " Nor do I wish he should, for he would add too 
much strength to them." If tolerable conditions were 
offered to him, he would probably " come over and be a 
peaceable subject to you, and if he should join the enemy, 
ten times so much will not reduce him." The " tolerable " 
conditions suggested by Tarbat, embraced an indemnity 
and protection for his person and estates; a payment of 
1,000 to repair the damage done to Brahan Castle and 
estate by the garrison ; and relief from the oath, as bearing 
on his religious belief, " because he is a Papist." 

There is a notable statement in Tarbat's letter to King 
William, which deserves special attention. " One thing," 
he declares, "all the clans desire, which is as much for your 
advantage as theirs, which is, that all these superiorities be 
bought from the Highland lords, so that they may hold their 
estates immediately of you, and having them immediate 
vassals." By assuming these superiorities, and by keeping 
a small garrison in Lochaber, and a man of ability, " being 
no Highlander," as lieutenant-governor there, " you will be 
indeed master of the Highlands much as ever King of 
Scotland was." Lochiel and Glengarry Lord Tarbat calls 
the " activest " of the chiefs, Maclean and Macdonald (of 
Sleat) the " most powerful." The distribution of 10,000 
among the chiefs would, he thought, be sufficient to satisfy 
them ; and he expressed his willingness to go north, pre- 
sumably to treat for peace.* Tarbat had considerable 
confidence in his own influence with his fellow-Highlanders, 
and more particularly with his own clan. Some years 
previously, he boasted to Mackay that he would overturn 
in eight days, more than Seaforth could advance in six 
weeks, in the country of the Mackenzies. But he did 
nothing to confirm this boast. 

An instructive contrast to Tarbat's pacific views are 
those given in a memorial, drawn up, apparently, by an 
Englishman, relating to affairs in Scotland at this period. 

* Cal. of State Papers (Nov., i69i-Dec., 1692), pp. 60-2. 


The writer entirely gives his case away by the virulence 
of his animosity against the Highlanders. They are 
" barbares " ; a people " without any principle of religion 
or honour " ; always ready to strike a blow " without 
; caring what they have promised, if they are not disarmed," 
I " Religion," he declares, " serves here (in Scotland) some- 
times as a pretext ; or else they are generally poor, and 
I having to fish in troubled waters, gold and silver, or the 
hope of obtaining some, is always the principal motive 
which moves them." After these unflattering statements, 
we are prepared for the policy which is proposed. " The 
only way of feeling sure of them" (the Highlanders) "is 
by restraining them by means of small garrisons." Three 
garrisons, supported by two regiments of foot and two of 
dragoons, would be sufficient to subdue them. According 
to the memorial now quoted, the chiefs had told Bread- 
albane openly, when negotiating with him, that they would 
have no compunction about breaking their word in the 
event of a rising in Scotland, or an invasion from abroad, 
taking place.* But there is reason to believe that their 
attitude was secretly encouraged by Breadalbane himself, 
who, judging by subsequent events, was quite capable of 
luring the unsuspecting Jacobites to their ruin. 

The part taken by Breadalbane and the Master of Stain 
in effecting the destruction of the Macdonalds of Glencoe, 
is well known. The result of the inquiry which was held 
on the infamous massacre, is detailed in Somers' Collection 
of Tracts (pp. 529-561), and it would be foreign to the 
scope of this work to attempt to apportion the blame, or 
discuss the painful subject in any way. But recent research 
has brought to light the interesting fact, that far from 
Macdonald of Glencoe being the only one of the Highland 
chiefs who had neglected to take the oath of allegiance 
before the ist of January, 1692 (as is generally believed), 
we have the authority of King William himself for stating, 
that by the nth of January, "all of them" had refused 

* Cal. of State Papers (Nov., 1691 -Dec., 1692), p. 62. 


the offers made by the Government, and " several of their 
chieftains and many of their clans" had not taken the 
preferred indemnity. The truth is, that the Government 
knew beforehand that the chiefs would not all come in 
by the 3ist December, 1691 ; and a fortnight before that 
date, orders were given for taking active measures against 
those who remained obstinate. And we find the King 
informing the Privy Council of Scotland, on nth January, 
1692, that an expedition under Sir Thomas Livingston 
was to be sent to the Highlands, to " cut off those obstinate 
rebels by all manner of hostility." A war of extermination, 
in point of fact, had been decided upon, the expeditionary 
force to be empowered " by fire and sword and all manner 
of hostility, to burn their houses, seize and burn their 
cattle, plenishing, or clothes, and cut off the men." No 
terms were to be offered ; but those who surrendered un- 
conditionally, as prisoners of war, were to have their lives 
spared. If the common people submitted, they were to 
receive quarter, but would be required to take fresh tacks 
of their property.* 

The massacre of Glencoe was the beginning and the 
end of the war of extermination. Not only was it a crime 
unsurpassed, even in Scottish annals, for treachery and 
ferocity, but it was a mistake which might have cost 
William of Orange his throne. The thrill of horror which 
ran through the length and breadth of the land, gave just 
cause for alarm to the Government. With the state of 
feeling in the country which the tragedy had aroused, all 
further attempts to "cut off " the Highlanders had to be 
abandoned. Indeed, the "barbarous" Highlanders were 
so horrified by the doings of the emissaries of civilisation, 
that, for the moment, they were quelled into submission. 
Colonel Hill, in a letter to the Earl of Portland, dated 
28th February, declares that the events of the winter 
campaign had "put the Highlanders under great con- 
sternation," and that they were all "very submissive and 

* CaL of State Papers (Nov., i69i-Dec., 1692. Intro.). 


humble." He recommends mercy to the fugitives from 
Glencoe, then hiding in " caves and remote places," and 
adds, "there are enough killed for an example and to 
vindicate public justice." Seaforth, whose Castle of Eilean 
Donain was in Hill's hands, had come in,* therefore his 
clansmen were likely to remain quiet. Young Sir Donald 
Macdonald of Sleat is a "peaceable inclined man," and 
his relations in Skye being mostly Protestants, no danger 
is to be apprehended from them. Clanranald " who is one 
of the prettiest, handsome youths I have seen " had, with 
all the chief of his friends, taken the oath, "with the 
greatest frankness imaginable." He had gone to his 
uncle, Macleod, to get some money to enable him to wait 
upon the King in person ; and he (Clanranald) would be 
governed by the King's pleasure, but was anxious so to be 
disposed of as to " better his education." " It will," adds 
Hill, " be an act of great charity to breed him ! " "I have 
sent," says the Colonel, "to McNeil of Bara (a remote 
island) who I doubt not will come in with the rest, so all 
the work is now done but the settlement of a civil juris- 
diction," for which, according to the writer, the people 
were crying out.t But Colonel Hill's optimism was not 
justified by events. 

From a fragment of a proclamation by the King in 1692, 
we find that Sir Donald Macdonald Hill's "peaceable 
inclined man" Allan Macdonald of Clan Ranald the 
" pretty handsome youth " Glengarry, Lochiel, Maclean, 
and Colin Mackenzie, the uncle of Seaforth the latter 
being in prison were again in open rebellion. Lord 
Tarbat was now offered an opportunity of putting his pet 
theory of pacification into practice. He was empowered 
to offer in the King's name, " such honour under that of 
earl, and such sums of money not exceeding ^"2,000 
sterling, to any one chief or tribe of those above men- 

* He had apparently surrendered, and was imprisoned in Edinburgh, but 
was released in January, on finding caution to appear when called upon, and 
on condition that he should not go ten miles beyond the walls of Edinburgh, 

t Cal. of State Papers (Nov., idgi-Dec., 1692), p. 153. 


tioned ; and also to secure them in all that they possess by 
law, or were secured in by gifts from our Royal uncle, 
King Charles, under the Great Seal of Scotland ; and so 
indemnify them and every one of them who shall come in 
and submit to us and our laws, in manner aforesaid, against 
all accusations, punishments, and dangers, for all crimes 
and deeds committed by them preceding their submission."* 
Such a complete reversal of the policy of extermination, is 
the clearest possible indication of the state of panic into 
which the Government had been thrown, by the strong 
feeling aroused by the butchery at Glencoe. From extreme 
severity they now turned to unexampled leniency. " Bribe 
these troublesome Highlanders into submission. Give them 
anything they want : make them knights, peers, anything 
short of an earldom, to get rid of them " ; such, in effect, 
was their cry. And the choice of an agent fell upon the 
right man. Had Lord Tarbat's counsel been followed 
earlier, the insurgents would have long before given in 
their submission ; great loss of life and vast sums of money 
would have been saved ; and the massacre of Glencoe 
would have been rendered impossible. The precise use 
that Tarbat made of his authority is uncertain ; but we 
know that the system of pensioning the Highland chiefs 
was pursued by King William, and continued by his* 

In July, 1692, King William ordered the Privy Council 
of Scotland to cause process of treason to be issued against 
the Earl of Seaforth, " for his invasion with forces from 
Ireland and his behaviour since."t The Earl appears to 
have led an exciting life during the first six months of 1692, 
a term of imprisonment alternating with an escape ; that, 
in turn, being followed by a fresh surrender. Ultimately, 
he was lodged in Inverness Castle, and the Government, 
losing patience, decided to proclaim him a traitor. A 
lengthened spell of imprisonment broke Seaforth's spirit, 
and he threw himself upon the Royal clemency. On ist 

* Cal. of State Papers (Nov., i69i-Dec., 1692), p. 547. 
t Idcm. t pp. 366-7. 


March, 1697, an order was issued for his release, and for 
the desistence of the process of treason. Whether Seaforth 
believed that Lord Tarbat was responsible for his troubles, 
or had failed to help him out of them, it is certain that the 
relations between the two men were strained ; and although 
attempts were made by the Mackenzies, on the Earl's 
release, to patch up the quarrel, there is nothing to show 
that they were successful. Seaforth seems to have passed 
the remainder of his life mainly in France, the manage- 
ment of his estates being in the hands of his mother and 
his brother, Colonel Alexander Mackenzie of Assynt and 
Conansbay. He was married to Lady Frances Herbert, 
daughter of the titular Marquis of Powis, and was suc- 
ceeded in the Earldom of Seaforth or the Marquisate, 
from the Jacobite standpoint by his son William (Uilleam 
Dubh) who, on his father's death in Paris in 1701, was a 
mere youth. 



THE Jacobite rising of 1715 had its inception in dis- 
appointed ambition on the one hand, and an act of 
incivility on the other, although its roots lay deeper than 
both. John Erskine, eleventh Earl of Mar, was Secretary 
of State for Scotland at the time of Queen Anne's death 
in 1714, having succeeded the Earl of Cromartie in that 
office. A Whig at the time of the Union, he had found 
no difficulty in changing his political views when his 
opinions formed a barrier to his advancement. When 
King George, on his arrival in England, threw himself 
into the arms of the Whigs, Mar was ready to adapt 
himself to the altered circumstances. His position, as 
dispenser of the late Queen's bounty to the Highland 
chiefs, provided him with a means of influence in the 
North of Scotland which he sought to turn to good 
account. He procured the signature of a number of 
the chiefs to a letter, professing loyalty to the person 
of George; and endeavoured to deliver to the King an 
address by the Highlanders, of like import to that which 
his brother, Lord Grange,* had prepared. By thus hint- 
ing, not obscurely, that he had the clans at his back, who 
were prepared to be the friends or the foes of the new 
regime at his dictation, Mar hoped to secure the Royal 
favour. But the King refused to receive the address, on 
the ground that it had been concocted at the Court of 
the "Pretender." Mar's advances were rudely repelled, 
and he was unceremoniously dismissed from office. As 

* This Lord Grange was the husband of the unfortunate lady who was 
abducted from her home and kept concealed in St. Kilda, Uist, and else- 
where for a number of years. Her sufferings ultimately affected her reason, 
and she died in Waternish in 1745 in a state of poverty and idiocy. 

THE RISING OF 1715. 395 

a matter of policy, no graver error could have been made 
by George I. The King acted like a boor, and had soon 
to pay a heavy price for his rudeness. Mar swore 
revenge, and the insulted chiefs were heartily with him 
in his resentment. No Stuart would have behaved so 
ungraciously as this German new-comer had done ; and 
their secret attachment to the native House was intensi- 
fied by the attitude of the foreigner. They were ripe for 
a rising, and the man to lead them was ready to place 
himself at their head. But they had yet to learn that 
an able statesman is not necessarily a skilful soldier. 

The convocation of the Jacobites, held at Braemar, on 
27th August, 1715, under cover of a great hunting match, 
was the first move in the projected insurrection. Those 
of the assembly who hesitated to take the irrevocable step 
were won over by the persuasiveness of Mar, who was 
more fitted for the council-chamber than for the field. 
The youthful Earl of Seaforth was one of the Highland 
chiefs present. His adhesion to Mar evidently preceded 
the Braemar gathering, for he was attainted for treason 
on 24th June, 1715, and his estates were forfeited to the 
Crown.* He was suspected of, and arrested for, com- 
plicity in the ill-fated French expedition of 1708, and 
was probably kept under close surveillance after his 
temporary detention. Mar himself, as the great-grandson 
of George, second Earl of Seaforth, had Mackenzie blood 
in his veins, and, curiously enough, was the vassal of the 
head of Clan Kenneth for certain lands which he held in 
the Highlands. 

The Government attempted to meet the threatening 
danger by means of legislation. They passed the Clan 
Act, hoping to detach loyal vassals from Jacobite Superiors, 
and vice-versa. They passed an Act, calling upon those 
noblemen and chiefs who were suspected of Jacobite 
proclivities to appear at Edinburgh, within stated periods, 

'Appeals to the House of Lords (1719), p. 156. Elsewhere, it is stated 
that he was attainted on 7th May, 1716, for the part he took in the rising of 
1715. The correct date is given on the Earl's portrait in Brahan Castle. 


to give security for their allegiance. But the time was 
past for legislative intimidation. With few exceptions, 
the summons to Edinburgh was ignored, and the insur- 
rection was begun. Scarcely had the Jacobite chiefs 
reached their homes, when they were again summoned 
by Mar to meet him at Aboyne, on 3rd September, to 
decide upon an immediate plan of campaign. 

The attitude of Seaforth, with his powerful following, 
was of the utmost importance to the Jacobites. Without 
his assistance, their chances of success were greatly 
diminished ; upon his help appeared to rest, to no 
inconsiderable extent, the issue of the impending struggle. 
The young Earl seems to have been largely under the 
influence of Brigadier Mackintosh of Borlum, a fervent 
Jacobite ; and that influence was exerted with all the 
persuasiveness that " old Borlum " possessed. But it is 
unlikely that any outside pressure was really necessary 
to induce Lord Seaforth to take up arms. A sincere 
Jacobite, and an attainted rebel, he was forced both by 
sympathy and self-interest into the arms of the Govern- 
ment's foes. His young English wife Mary Kennett 
of Coxhoe in the County of Durham and his mother 
entreated him to keep out of the rising. A number of 
his clansmen, too, were opposed to the enterprise, and 
drew up a remonstrance urging caution, especially until 
the active co-operation of Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, 
of the Tutor of Macleod, and of Mackinnon, could be 
assured. To the women his answer was, that they 
possessed neither the spirit, courage, nor virtues of the 
Spartan mothers ! Possibly not, but they possessed the 
quality of prudence, in which the impetuous youth had 
shown himself to be conspicuously lacking. Brigadier 
Mackintosh opened the ball by marching into Inverness 
on 1 5th September, and proclaiming the Chevalier at the 
Market Cross. This bold step seems to have decided 
Seaforth. He proceeded to give effect to his fine heroics, 
and made preparations for assuming the offensive. He 
drew up a list of officers to command his retainers, and 

THE RISING OF 1715. 397 

the following Lewis names appear among the nomina- 

Captains: Colin Mackenzie of Kildun, son of George 
of Kildun, Seaforth's grand-uncle; Alexander 
Mackenzie of Achilty, who was Chamberlain of 
Lewis and Assynt in 1735; Norman Macleod; 
and Donald Macaulay. 

Lieutenants: J. Macaulay, Bragar; John Macaulay, 
Kirkibost ; Kenneth Maciver, and John Macaulay, 

Ensigns: Kenneth Mackenzie, merchant in Stornoway; 
Rory Mackenzie, Achilty's brother; S. Maciver, 
Callernish ; and George Mackenzie. 

"But," writes Seaforth's agent, "notwithstanding of the 
above nomination of the Lewes livetenants and ensignes, 
my lord referrs to their captaines to have others, if they 
think them more proper, and to transmit their names to 
his lordship that he may examine whether or not they are 

The ardour of Seaforth was damped on finding that the 
Earl of Sutherland, with the Mackays, the Rosses, and the 
Munroes, was prepared to bar his way. The dispersal of 
the Whig clans was necessary before a junction with Mar 
could be effected, otherwise the Mackenzie country would 
be left exposed to ravage. In this dilemma, Seaforth was 
compelled to remain inactive, until the timely arrival of 
Sir Donald Macdonald, with 700 of his clansmen, and con- 
tingents of Mackinnons, Chisholms, and others, enabled 
him to commence a forward movement. Presumably, the 
arrival of these reinforcements tended to remove the 
objections of those of his clansmen who had endeavoured 
to dissuade the Earl from his enterprise ; for he found 
himself at the head of a well-equipped body of Mackenzies, 
Macraes, and other vassals, the whole consisting of 2,000 
foot and 500 horse. His nomination as " Lieutenant- 
General and Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Counties 

* Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus. 

F E 


to his Majesty King James VIII." did not tend to diminish 
his sense of importance. It was not until 8th of October 
that the combined forces marched to give battle to the 
Whig clans. They encamped at the Clairs, preparatory to 
attacking Sutherland's levies at Alness, where these had 
arrived three days previously. On loth October, they 
reached Alness, only to find that on the previous day, the 
enemy had fled. Sutherland's raw soldiers inferior in 
numbers, and some of them armed with long spear-pointed 
poles were hardly fit to cope with Seaforth's army, and a 
panic had seized them, clear evidence of which is afforded 
by the fact that they threw away their arms and left their 
cannon behind. The Earl of Sutherland and his son, Lord 
Strathnaver, with Lord Reay, made good their retreat into 
Sutherlandshire, attended by only forty men, the remainder 
of their forces being left to shift for themselves. Sutherland 
subsequently excused his flight, by stating that he dismissed 
his men to enable them to secure their crops. Munro, the 
younger, returned home to Castle Foulis, which was gar- 
risoned and fortified by his father. Seaforth, puffed up by 
his success, endeavoured to turn his bloodless victory to 
good account, by summoning the Munroes, the Rosses, and 
others, to find security for their peaceable behaviour, 
threatening them with his enmity if they failed to obey. 
Kenneth Sutherland, Lord Duffus, who accompanied him, 
was sent to Tain to proclaim the Chevalier, while the Earl 
proceeded to enforce his authority upon the Whig clans.* 
At Kincraig, he received the submission of several Rosses, 
Macleod of Cadboll, and Macleod of Geanies. He is 
charged by Munro of Foulis, and by Rae the historian, 
with having abused his triumph by gross acts of cruelty 
and oppression. " Goths and Vandalls," says Munro, 
" never shewed more barbarity than the Earl of Seafort 
practised on my people " ; and he then proceeds to give 
particulars of the offences. The truth, however, is to be 
found in the report of Munro of Culcairn, who states that 

Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus. 


THE RISING OF 1715. 399 

" a few men of disreputable character did damage wantonly, 
and their proceedings are said by Seafort's enemies to 
have been countenanced by him."* The fact of the Earl 
having sent a party in pursuit of the marauders, is sufficient 
to show that his hands were clean in connexion with these 
deplorable excesses. 

At Cromarty, where Seaforth intended to proclaim the 
Chevalier, he was resisted by Captain Stewart of the 
Royal Ann, who threatened to lay the town in ashes if 
a single rebel entered. Stewart made good his threat by 
opening fire on the Highlanders, whom he prevented from 
obtaining possession of the cannon which lay on the Point 
of Cromarty. Seaforth thereupon withdrew his men, and 
proceeded on his march to join Mar at Perth. On 1st 
November, he passed Blair Castle with 2,000 men, having 
previously left 500 with Sir John Mackenzie of Coul to 
hold Inverness. That town was invested by Hugh Rose of 
Kilravock (Sir John's father-in-law), Duncan Forbes of 
Culloden,t and Simon Fraser of Lovat, the latter of whom 
had by this time apparently made up his mind that the 
Jacobites were likely to prove unsuccessful and trimmed 
his sails accordingly. Sir John Mackenzie sought the 
i assistance of Macdonald of Keppoch and the Mackintoshes, 
but the activity of his assailants frustrated the attempt, 
and Mackenzie was compelled to surrender on terms which 
included permission for him to return home. 

The Earl of Sutherland, by retarding Seaforth's advance, 
rendered an important service to the Government. For, 
had the Mackenzies come up sooner, the Earl of Mar 
would, without doubt, have taken the offensive earlier, and 
the Duke of Argyll, the Government Commander-in-Chief, 
would have been overwhelmed by the disproportionate 
strength of the Jacobites. A bolder or more energetic 
commander would have struck a decisive blow, without 

* Murray Rose's Historical Notes, p. 32. 

t When at Inverness, Seaforth sent George Mackenzie of Gruinard and, 
after him, Lord Duffus, to summon Duncan Forbes to surrender, but that 
staunch loyalist defied them ; and the Jacobites deemed it prudent to leave 

E E 2 


waiting for the Mackenzies, but Mar allowed the precious 
time to slip by, until Argyll was joined by reinforcements 
from Ireland, which enabled him to take the field with 
some degree of confidence. 

The trial of strength between the opposing forces took 
place at the famous, but indecisive, battle of Sheriffmuir, on 
1 4th November, 1715. The men of Uist, under Sir Donald 
Macdonald and Allan Macdonald of Clanranald, were on 
the right wing of the first line of Mar's foot, commanded 
by General Gordon, and the Lewismen, under Seaforth, 
formed part of the centre of the second line.* The 
memorable charge of the Highlanders on the right wing, 
which scattered Argyll's battalions like chaff before the 
wind, should have proved decisive, if Mar's generalship had 
been equal to that of his antagonist. Mar made no attempt 
to utilise the enormous advantage he had gained, whereas 
Argyll profited by the steadiness of his right, when charged 
by Mar's left, to throw a body of cavalry on the flank of 
the Highlanders. This masterly movement disconcerted 
the attack, and threw the Highlanders into confusion. 
Mar's left wing and the whole of the second line were put 
to flight ; and the curious spectacle was thus witnessed of 
the left wing of both armies being broken and routed, 
while the right wing of both was victorious and in pursuit. 
Thus, with only half the number of men opposed to him, 
the Duke of Argyll, by his superior skill and experience, 
averted defeat and gained what, in effect, was a moral 
victory. Had Montrose or Dundee commanded the High- 
landers, it is permissible to say that Sheriffmuir would have 
been no drawn battle, as it proved to be, but a crushing 
defeat for the Government troops. But this supposition 
in no way detracts from the conduct of Argyll, who, by his 
skilful handling of his troops, and his humane treatment 
of his prisoners, added to his reputation as a brilliant 
general and a brave man. He saved the Government, 
and afterwards got his reward by being deprived of all his 

* Macneill of Barra also took part in the rising (Burfs Letters , Vol. II., 
p. 285). 

THE RISING OF 1715. 401 

employments. He was not sufficiently servile to the 
Government ; his influence in Scotland was too great ; the 
Duke of Maryborough was jealous of his military repu- 
tation ; and so this great descendant of MacCailein Mor 
was disgraced by a shameless Administration. 

The combined losses sustained by the combatants at 
Sheriffmuir were heavy. According to the version of the 
Government side, Argyll lost in killed, wounded, and 
prisoners, 610 men, and the Jacobites suffered a loss of 
about 800 men in killed and wounded. According to the 
version of the other side, Argyll's loss in killed and wounded 
was between 700 and 800, while Mar's loss in killed 
amounted to 60 men only, and in wounded, to a very small 

The truth probably lies between both statements, in 
which case it will be seen that Argyll's casualties were 
much more severe than those of his opponent. 

Perhaps the most regrettable loss on the side of the 
Jacobites was that of young Clanranald, who fell at the head 
of his men when charging the left wing of the Government 
army. His fall momentarily checked the ardour of his 
followers, who adored their chief. Glengarry, seeing their 
hesitation, started from the ranks, waved his bonnet, and 
shouted three or four times, " Revenge, revenge ! to-day for 
revenge, and to-morrow for mourning," which so animated 
the men that they " followed him like furies close up to the 
muzells of their muskets, push'd by the bayonets with their 
targets, and with their broadswords spread nothing but 
Death and Terror wherever they came." Mar, seeing 
Clanranald fall out of the ranks, and ignorant of the cause, 
is reported to have asked him why he was not at the front. 
" I have had my share," said the dying chief, and so saying, 
he expired. It will be remembered how anxious young 
Clanranald was to have a military education with William 
of Orange. He had his wish gratified, but in a different 
school. He was trained in the French Guards, and returned 
to Scotland a thorough soldier. He espoused the Jacobite 
cause with enthusiasm. "My family," he replied to Mar, 


when summoned to join him, " have been on such occasions 
ever wont to be the first on the field and the last to leave 
it."* His death was a great blow to the Jacobites, and 
affected his followers so much, that many of them returned 
home and took no further part in the insurrection. 

Seaforth does not appear to have played a very dis- 
tinguished part at Sheriffmuir. According to one account, 
he remained in the rear, surrounded by forty of his mounted 
clansmen,-)- who acted as his bodyguard, Lord Duffus 
having in vain tried to induce him to lead his men on foot. 
It may have been that by Mar's orders, he attached himself 
to his own body of horse, instead of leading his infantry ; 
a mistake, no doubt, but one for which it is difficult to 
say that he was blameable. A Highland chief employed 
in cavalry work, does not appeal to the imagination in 
the same way as a Highland chief heading his unmounted 
clansmen in a desperate charge. And there can be little 
doubt that the absence of Lord Seaforth at their head, must 
have tended to damp the enthusiasm of the Clan Kenneth 
foot. Among the prisoners taken by Argyll was Colin 
Mackenzie of Kildun, who was a captain in Fairburn's 
regiment, and was one of the Lewis officers nominated by 
Seaforth. J 

After the battle, Mar sent Seaforth north for the purpose 
of re-capturing Inverness. But the Earl soon perceived 
that this was a hopeless task, and that his resources would 
be sufficiently strained to protect his estates from the 
ravages of the Whig clans. Discouraged by the result of 
Sheriffmuir, and depressed by the general outlook, the 
enthusiasm of Seaforth fell to zero, and he was fain to 
submit, the Earl of Sutherland offering to mediate for 
him. But the arrival of the Chevalier in Scotland induced 

* Before joining Mar, Clanranald destroyed his Castle of Eilean Tirrim to 
prevent its falling into the hands of Argyll. Tradition has it that he was shot 
at Sheriffmuir by one of his own men, who bore him a grudge, and who in 
view of the belief that the young chief bore a charmed life, used a crooked 
sixpence to compass his end. 

f That arch-grumbler, the Master of Sinclair, calls them in his sarcastic 
style, "fortie scrub horse of servants." 

Patten, and Annals of George I. 

THE RISING OF 1715. 403 

him again to take up arms, and that sealed his fate with 
the Government. Lord Lovat who had materially reduced 
Mar's strength at Sheriffmuir, by detaching the Frasers 
under Mackenzie of Fraserdale from the Jacobite standard 
was, with General Wightman, commissioned to bring the 
headstrong youth to his senses. The Earl fled to Lewis, 
taking with him Brigadier Campbell of Ormidale, an 
experienced soldier who had served in the Russian army, 
and who had just returned to Scotland. Two detachments 
of Government troops were got ready; one, under Colonel 
Clayton, to invade Skye, where Sir Donald Macdonald, 
with about 1,000 men, still held out ; and the other, under 
Colonel Cholmondeley, to operate against Seaforth in 
Lewis. Clayton had a short and successful campaign in 
Skye, but failed to capture Macdonald, who fled to North 
Uist for safety. About that time, three French ships 
arrived off Uist with munitions of war for the Jacobites. 
A consultation was held by Sir Donald Macdonald and his 
colleagues, to decide whether to fight or to fly; and the latter 
course was agreed upon. Accordingly, two of the French 
ships, instead of discharging their cargoes, sailed for home 
with about a hundred Jacobite officers on board, among 
the number being George Keith, the Earl Marischal. The 
third ship, while riding at anchor off Uist, was captured by 
a Government man-of-war, the Lively ', with her cargo of 
fifty chests of small arms and 1 50 barrels of gunpowder.* 

Meanwhile, Colonel Cholmondeley had sailed for Lewis 
with a strong force. Seaforth, recognising his lack of 
military experience, had placed his men under the 
command of Brigadier Campbell, who was apparently 
prepared to offer a stubborn resistance to Cholmondeley. 
And now a strange thing happened. According to the 
contemporary accounts,t the whole of the Lewismen 
abandoned the Brigadier at the critical moment, and left 
him to tackle the enemy alone. Disdaining to fly, 
Campbell was taken prisoner where he stood " in a charging 

* Rae, p. 373. 

f Annals of George /., pp. 288-9. Confirmed by Rae. 


posture." If this story be true and the picture of the 
gallant Brigadier, emulating Horatius of old by holding his 
post single-handed against an army, seems rather too 
melodramatic to be altogether convincing we can only 
conclude that the Lewismen had no heart in their work, 
and little or no confidence in their Russo-Scottish comman- 
der. What part Seaforth himself took in this fiasco is not 
clear. The whole affair is involved in some obscurity, but 
it may be confidently inferred from subsequent events, that 
the rank and file of Seaforth's followers were tired of the 
Earl's aggressive Jacobitism, and anxious to be allowed 
to resume their peaceful avocations. Little recked the 
average Highland retainer whether his king was named 
James or George. To the bulk of the clansmen, the 
question of the ruling dynasty was immaterial, and the 
high politics of the chiefs failed to appeal to their less 
instructed followers. Those of them who lived in the 
remote Island of Lewis probably knew little, and cared 
less, about the merits of the war in which some of them 
had shed their blood at Sheriffmuir. Their only master 
was Seaforth, and their only politics were his commands. 
But even Seaforth's example and influence were powerless 
to make them enthusiastic in a cause, which had already 
brought disaster on their chief and misery on themselves. 
Looking at these facts, their unwillingness to fight becomes 
intelligible, if their desertion of Campbell remains in- 
excusable. We are not left in doubt as to the issue of 
Cholmondeley's campaign. He effectively occupied the 
island, and forced Seaforth to fly across the Minch to the 
mainland, whence he made his escape to France. With 
the young firebrand out of the country, it is unlikely that 
Cholmondeley remained in Lewis for any length of time : 
in Seaforth's absence, there was no danger to be appre- 
hended from that quarter. 

Seaforth's clansmen in Ross-shire continued to evade the 
Government's orders, being encouraged, no doubt, to do so 
by his authority. The patience of General, afterwards 
Earl, Cadogan, who was in command of the garrison at 

THE RISING OF 1715. 405 

Inverness, was severely taxed by their demeanour. While 
not daring to resist Cadogan openly, the Mackenzies com- 
plied in a very leisurely fashion with his orders to deliver 
up their arms. Irritated by their attitude, Cadogan at 
length informed the Countess Dowager of Seaforth, who, in 
her son's absence, managed the affairs of the estates, that 
unless all arms were given up at Brahan and Coul by a 
certain date, the agencies of fire and sword would be 
employed to punish her stubborn tenantry. According to 
Lord Lovat, who wrote the Countess on the same subject, 
Cadogan intended to ravage the whole of the Seaforth 
country, and to send ships to Lewis to " destroy " it. 
These threats alarmed the Countess, materially accelerated 
the surrender of arms, and put a stop to what Cadogan 
termed " trifling and amusing the Government," which, he 
added, "will be more resented in London than open 
resistance." The General congratulated the Countess on 
the success of her efforts, being persuaded that " very near 
all my Lord Seafort's people have come in, and that it is 
principally owing to the good advice your Ladyship gave 

Seaforth's warlike aspirations left both himself and his 
people in a sorry plight. In April, 1716, the Countess 
Dowager declared to Cadogan that " the tenants and 
country are now so impoverished that I can expect nothing 
from them." Zachary Macaulay, Donald Cam's great- 
grandson, who was then Chamberlain of Lewis, writing, a 
year later, to Colonel Alexander Mackenzie, Seaforth's 
uncle, told him that the people in Lewis were in a 
deplorable condition. The Countess Dowager, for account 
of the Seaforth estates, entered into an agreement with 
Colonel Mackenzie in January, 1717, in terms of which, 
the Countess was to give the Colonel as the curator of 
Kenneth Mackenzie of Assynt orders on her agents in 
Lewis and Leith to pay him the rents of the island, not a 
fifth of which was obtainable ; also the profits derived from 

* Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus. 


the crop of 1716; and "for any goods or cargoes sent to 
Leith from said island for the said year." The Colonel, on 
his part, obliged himself to pay the Countess an annuity 
for life of 1,000, to come out of the rents of Strathconon, 
Brahan, and Chanonry, " any deficiency to be made out of 
the Lewis revenue."* Towards the end of 1717, trouble 
arose with the Church in connexion with the Lewis estate. 
Queen Anne had made a gift of the teinds of the island to 
the Synod of Argyll, but for ten years ( 1 706- 1 7 1 6) nothing 
had been paid, and the Sheriff of Argyll threatened to take 
proceedings for the recovery of the arrears, which amounted 
to 400. The claim was ultimately compromised for 
.200. t All this time, Seaforth was residing abroad, but 
in 1719, he re-appeared in Lewis in a somewhat dramatic 

One April evening in that year, a Council of War was 
held in a room in Stornoway, where a distinguished com- 
pany was assembled, to confer upon subjects fraught with 
momentous issues. The men who took part in the 
conference were men of note. They had already made a 
stir in British history, and some of them subsequently 
acquired European renown. The Earl of Seaforth ; the 
Marquis of Tullibardine ; George Keith, the hereditary 
Earl Marshal of Scotland ; his younger brother, James, 
who afterwards became the famous Marshal Keith ; a 
brother of Kenneth Sutherland, Lord Duffus ; Campbell of . 
Glendaruel ; Brigadier Campbell of Ormidale, who had 
escaped from his captors, and was now once more on Lewis 
soil ; these were the persons who were met together in 
Stornoway to deliberate upon matters of high politics. 
How they came there ; what their purpose was ; and in 
what manner they proposed to effect that purpose, it will 
now be our business to state. 

In the summer of 1718, the Jacobite cause was in a 
parlous condition. The funds of the party were almost 
exhausted, and some of the exiles in France, who bore the 

* Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus. 

f Idem. " The Lewis yielded not a fifth part of its rent in 1716." 

THE RISING OF 1719. 407 

proudest names in Highland history, were almost destitute. 
The death of Mary of Modena, the widow of James II., 
deprived the Jacobites of one of their main sources of 
supply, her pension from France dying with her. None of 
the foreign Powers were disposed to help them. Not a 
break was to be seen in the clouds. Such was the state of 
matters, when suddenly an unlooked-for change took place, 
which once more revived the drooping spirits of the 
Jacobites, and quickened their hopes afresh. Cardinal 
Giulio Alberoni, the son of an Italian gardener, and an 
ex-village curate, was at this time the most powerful 
Minister in Europe. By his ability, he had restored to his 
adopted country, Spain, some measure of her former great- 
ness, and he was the absolute dictator of her policy. In 
1718, his relations with England, which had previously 
been not unfriendly, became somewhat strained. When, 
in August of that year, his attempt to seize Sicily was 
frustrated by the intervention of England and the dispersal 
of the Spanish fleet by Sir George Byng, an open rupture 
became unavoidable. It was in these circumstances that 
the Cardinal bethought himself of a plan, whereby he could 
strike England in a vital part. He would invade her on 
behalf of the Stuarts, and thus add civil war to the external 
difficulties of the English Government. 

In pursuance of this plan, Alberoni entered into negotia- 
tions with the Duke of Ormonde, a brave soldier and a 
zealous Jacobite, whose abilities, however, according to 
his contemporaries, were not of a commanding nature. 
Ormonde was, without difficulty, won over to the views of 
the crafty Cardinal. All the more easily was this effected 
by reason of Alberoni's assurance, that the famous Charles 
XII. of Sweden, who was then on bad terms with England, 
had expressed his readiness to enter into an alliance with 
Spain against their common enemy. It was arranged that 
Ormonde should have the assistance of 5,000 Spaniards, 
with a supply of guns and ammunition, and thus provided, 
should land in the West of England, obtain recruits, and 
march upon London. 


The desirability of a diversion in Scotland, concurrently 
with the invasion of England, was pointed out to the Car- 
dinal by the Duke, the latter suggesting the name of 
George Keith, the young Earl Marischal, who had fought 
under Mar, as the best man to raise the Highland clans. 
Alberoni agreed to the suggestion, and Keith, who was then 
in Paris, was invited to Madrid, but without being told why 
his presence was required. Accompanied by his brother, 
James, Keith set out for Madrid, and on his arrival sought 
an interview with the Cardinal, who unfolded his plans to 
him. The enterprise appealed to the adventurous and 
chivalrous spirit of the young Earl Marischal, and prepara- 
tions were at once set on foot for a descent upon Scotland. 
Mar, who was created in 1715 a titular Duke, took no active 
part in the movement, his influence being now over- 
shadowed by that of his rival, Ormonde. 

What the outcome of the insurrection would have been, 
had the soldierly King of Sweden carried out his intention 
of landing in Britain with 10,000 men, can only be con- 
jectured. His death at Frederickshall, on nth December, 
1718, again dissipated the hopes of the Jacobites. But the 
Cardinal's project was not suffered to drop. Preparations 
for the invasion were pushed forward, and, early in 1719, 
had reached an advanced stage. The Earl Marischal was 
provided with two frigates, 2,000 muskets, money, ammuni- 
tion, and a detachment of Spanish troops. He sailed for 
Scotland from the port of San Sebastian, accompanied, 
among others, by Brigadier Campbell, and bearing letters 
from the Duke of Ormonde to the Duke of Gordon, Glen- 
garry, Maclean of Brolas, and Donald Macdonald of Ben- 
becula, Clanranald's cousin, tutor, and successor in the 
chiefship. The whole force, including officers, numbered 
307 men. George Keith was followed to Scotland by a 
number of officers, including Clanranald and Lochiel, who 
sailed from Bordeaux. 

James Keith had a special mission entrusted to him. His 
duty it was to meet the Scottish Jacobites who were in 
France, and persuade them, if persuasion were necessary, 

THE RISING OF 1719. 409 

to embark upon the enterprise. He found the Marquis of 
Tullibardine at Orleans ; he met Seaforth, Campbell of 
Glendaruel, and a brother of Lord Duffus* in Paris. Sea- 
forth was at first unwilling to take part in such a doubtful 
venture, but on pressure being brought to bear upon him, 
apparently by the Chevalier's agent, General Dillon, he 
yielded. James Keith's party embarked at Havre on 8th 
Marcht in a small vessel of twenty-five tons, bound for 
Lewis, where they were to meet the Earl Marischal and 
his companions. They had a lucky escape from capture 
when off Land's End. They passed, unobserved, through 
an English fleet, which at first they took to be Ormonde's 
ships, but which turned out to be a squadron of King 
George's warships, employed in carrying troops from Ire- 
land to England to repel the expected invasion. On 24th 
March, James Keith and his party arrived at Lewis, landing, 
apparently, at Loch Roag. On inquiring about the Earl 
Marischal, Keith discovered that his brother's frigates had 
not yet arrived, nor could he ascertain any news about 
them. After a lapse of some days, intelligence reached 
Keith that the frigates had arrived via Barra on the east 
side of Lewis. He immediately set out to meet his brother, 
only to find, from a " gentleman of the country," that the 
ships had gone on to Stornoway, " the only toun, or rather 
village, on all the island." The two brothers exchanged 
confidences, the younger telling the Earl Marischal that he 
had discovered a feeling of dissatisfaction among some of 
his associates, on account of the way the Duke of Mar had, 
in their opinion, been slighted. James Keith also told his 
brother that just before embarking, Tullibardine received 
from General Dillon a commission, the nature of which 
had not been disclosed to him ; but that the Marquis had 
declared to him that he was ready to obey any one who 
had a higher commission than his own. This was the first 

* Lord Duffus himself, after his release from the Tower, where he was 
confined till the passing of the Act of Indemnity, went abroad and died 
an Admiral in the Russian service. 

t The dates given in connexion with this expedition are " old style " 


hint of the friction between the leaders, which was soon to 
arise and mar the whole enterprise. 

Seaforth and Tullibardine joined the Keiths on the fol- 
lowing day at Stornoway, and in the evening, the Council 
of War was held to which reference has been made. The 
chief question to be decided by the Council was, whether 
it was the more advisable course to take up arms at once, 
or to wait until advice was received of the landing of the 
Duke of Ormonde in England. Tullibardine and Glenda- 
ruel were strongly in favour of the latter course, but the 
majority were opposed to it. The plan suggested by the 
Earl Marischal to Cardinal Alberoni was, to land on 
the mainland as quickly as possible, and, with the High- 
landers and their Spanish auxiliaries, march straight upon 
Inverness, where there was a garrison of only 300 men. 
After taking possession of Inverness, it was proposed to 
await there the arrival of reinforcements before marching 
south. The Council of War ultimately decided to carry 
out this plan, and to order the force to sail for the main- 
land three days later. The Spanish troops were then told 
to come ashore to stretch their legs, after their voyage of 
forty-two days. 

But on the following morning, Tullibardine called for 
another Council of War. After having made a speech, 
" which nobody understood but himself," he presented a 
commission superior to that held by the Earl Marischal, 
who at once resigned the command to him, reserving, 
however, the authority with which Cardinal Alberoni 
had invested him over the Spanish frigates. Tullibardine 
and his supporters then made another attempt to carry 
their point about waiting for the news of Ormonde's land- 
ing. Seaforth, having in view the difficulty of getting the 
Highlanders to rise, with such scanty encouragement of 
success, not only supported Tullibardine, but would not 
hear of leaving Lewis until news was received of 
Ormonde's arrival. It was pointed out to him that the 
isolation of Lewis greatly increased the difficulty of 
obtaining prompt intelligence ; besides which, there was the 

THE RISING OF 1719. 411 

danger of blockade by Government warships, if their pre- 
sence in the island became known. All except Seaforth 
were against remaining in Lewis for an indefinite period ; 
and the result of the conference was, that the decision of 
the previous day was confirmed, " tho' plainly against the 
grain " of Tullibardine and his supporters. 

The expedition sailed from Stornoway for Lochalsh on 
4th April, but owing to contrary winds, had to put in at 
Gairloch, where they heard a false report, which was 
credited, that Ormonde had landed in England. Glen- 
garry, who had joined the expedition at Gairloch, and 
Glendaruel were subsequently sent with letters to known 
sympathisers, urging them to rise. Two days later, the 
Jacobites sailed for Lochalsh, but again encountered bad 
weather, and had to return to Stornoway on the 7th. They 
again set out on the nth, but were once more driven back 
within four leagues of Stornoway. The wind changing, 
they were at length enabled to reach their destination, on 
the 1 3th, and on the following day, were re-joined by 
Glendaruel, with a "gentleman of no small considera- 
tion."* ' 

And so the Jacobites finally left Stornoway, where 
Seaforth's chamberlain, Zachary Macaulay, turned their 
visit to good account, by supplying the Spanish ships and 
the troops with provisions valued at ;i53-t 

It is unnecessary to detail the events which followed 
their arrival on the mainland, culminating in the battle of 
Glenshiel and the dispersal of the insurgents.]: Sir Walter 
Scott states that Seaforth raised a "few hundred High- 
1 landers in Lewis," but there is no contemporary evidence 
to show that a single Lewisman accompanied the expedi- 
tion. When it was decided to muster Seaforth's men, it 

* Memoirs of Marshal Keith. Mar's Distinct Abridgement. Scott. Hist. 
Soc., Vol. XIX. 

t Hist. MSS. Com., Report X., Part I., p. 123. 

t Full particulars of these events and of the battle of Glenshiel are to 
be found in Vol. XIX. of the Scottish History Society's publications ; in 
Terry's The Chevalier de St. George, compiled from contemporary sources ; 
and in Hist. MSS. Com., Rep. X., Pt. I., p. 196. The famous Rob Roy 
took part in the fight. 


was too late to obtain assistance from Lewis ; for the Minch 
was commanded by English warships, three of which had 
anchored at Lochalsh and blown up Eilean Donain Castle. 
The total number of Seaforth's recruits does not seem to 
have exceeded 500, of which number, 400 were Loch 
Carron men. 

The Glenshiel skirmish for it hardly merits the name 
of battle lasted three hours, and the loss sustained by 
Wightman was considerably greater than that of the High- 
landers. The Hanoverian troops had 21 men killed and 
121 wounded, including officers, among the latter being 
Munro of Culcairn, who was severely wounded. The 
Jacobites lost less than ten men killed and wounded, 
among the wounded being Seaforth and Lord George 
Murray. It is clear that the fight simply resolved itself 
into a case of sharpshooting on the part of the High- 
landers, who had no desire to come to close quarters with 
the enemy ;* and a large number of them were simply 
spectators. Seaforth undoubtedly bore himself well during 
the skirmish, holding his ground after his followers showed 
a disposition to retire ; and the wound which he received 
in his arm, when waving his sword to encourage his men, 
left a scar of honour. Accompanied by Tullibardine and 
the Earl Marischal, he made his escape, it was supposed 
to Lewist, but he does not seem to have remained there for 
any length of time. Meanwhile, Wightman made a tour 
through Kintail, in order to strike terror into the hearts of 
the people, by burning the houses of those who had joined 
their chief. 

The affair of Glenshiel has usually been described as 
a drawn action, and Sir Walter Scott states that the 
Government troops "were compelled to retreat without 
dislodging the enemy " ; but contemporary accounts on 
both sides clearly disprove that statement. The High- 

* According to the Annals of George I. (Vol. IV., p. 254), "the rebels 
skipped off from rock to rock when they had discharged their muskets." 
The Historical Register (Vol. IV., p. 285) states they never ventured to come 
to a close engagement. 

f Hist. Reg., Vol. IV., p. 285. 

THE RISING OF 1719. 413 

landers failed to hold their positions, and Wightman was 
left master of the field. Thus ended one more fruitless 
attempt on behalf of the Stuarts. The causes of failure 
were various. The death of Charles XII. of Sweden at 
Frederickshall ; the dispersal of Ormonde's fleet by the 
elements ; the friction between the leaders of the Scottish 
expedition ; the lukewarm attitude of the Highlanders 
generally ; these causes combined to wreck an enterprise 
which, under more favourable auspices, might well have 
proved successful. That the wisest course for the Jacobites 
at Lochalsh was to have made an immediate dash on 
Inverness, as recommended by the Earl Marischal ; or to 
defer rising until success was better assured, as Tullibar- 
dine and Seaforth wished, is tolerably plain. The com- 
promise was fatal, for it extinguished the flame of rebellion, 
and left no hope of its being re-kindled. The divided 
counsels and the petty jealousies of the leaders were 
sources of weakness, which materially contributed to the 
utter failure of the insurrection. 

Some of the leaders of the rising of 1719 lived to make 
history in later years. The Duke of Ormonde, deprived 
by the fall from power of Cardinal Alberoni, in December, 
1719, of the means of resuscitating the Jacobite attempt, 
settled in Spain, where he kept in touch with his confederates. 
The Marquis of Tullibardine enjoyed the distinction of un- 
furling the standard of Prince Charles Edward Stuart at 
Glenfinnan in 1745 ; he died next year in the Tower. His 
brother, Lord George Murray, became Prince Charlie's 
ablest officer in the '45. George Keith, the Earl Maris- 
chal, rose to distinction in the service of Prussia, after a 
chequered career, and became Prussian Ambassador at the 
Courts of Paris and Madrid, and Governor of Neuchatel. 
It is said that Rousseau licked one hand alone in Europe, 
that of le bon milord Marechal. George Keith went to 
Scotland after the removal of the disabilities affecting 
Jacobite exiles, but he ultimately returned to the Conti- 
nent. He died at Potsdam in 1778. His younger brother, 
James, had the most distinguished career of all the Jacobite 

r F 


leaders. He entered the service of Russia, but soon drifted 
to the Court of Frederick the Great, and became a Field- 
Marshal of Prussia and one of the most renowned generals 
of his time. His death was that of a soldier. He was 
killed in 1758 at the battle of Hochkirche. To this day, 
his memory is cherished, both in the German Empire 
and in Banffshire. His statue adorns Berlin ; and in 
1889, the German Emperor gave orders that the 22nd 
Silesian Regiment should thereafter be called the Keith 

The leaders of the ill-starred rising of 1719 were com- 
pelled to shift, each man for himself, when their hopes of a 
fresh insurrection were finally dissipated. Seaforth fled to 
France, after addressing a circular letter to his people, in 
which he counselled them not to pay their rents to the 
Government.* A copy of this circular was sent to every 
parish comprehended in the Seaforth properties, and as 
the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates soon discovered, 
the advice which it contained was faithfully followed. A 
body of Lewismen under Mackenzie of Kildun who, 
according to Burt, had "power over the inhabitants of 
Lewis" co-operated with the Mackenzies on the main- 
land, in resisting the soldiers who, on two different occa- 
sions in 1720, were sent to 'compel payment to the 
Government agents. The determination and strategy of 
Daniel Murchison, Seaforth's intrepid factor, baffled the 
officers of the Crown, and they were forced to relinquish 
the attempt to coerce the refractory tenantry. Murchi- 
son collected the rents and remitted them to Seaforth,f 
giving the tenants receipts, which protected them from 
having to pay the money over again to the Government. 
When General Wade, in 1725, received the submission 
of the Seaforth tenantry at Brahan Castle, he indemni- 
fied them against any proceedings which might be taken 
for the rents so remitted (the factors had threatened 
to make them pay over again) ; * and agreed to their 

* Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus. 

f Burt's Letters (Full account, pp. 268-284). 


stipulation that their chief should be granted a free 

While Seaforth was in hiding, previous to his departure 
for the Continent, his friends were doing all in their power 
to keep his estates intact. The story of their clever 
jugglery, and of the events which preceded it, is instructive. 
Colin, first Earl of Seaforth, contracted large debts by his 
extravagant style of living and his legal disputes with 
Argyll. George, the second Earl, claimed to have spent 
a million of money in the cause of Charles I., and it is an 
undoubted fact that his debts were enormous. His credi- 
tors sued him, apprized his estates, and in 1649-50, were 
infeft in the property. Luckily for the Seaforths, the ablest 
lawyer in Scotland and one of the wiliest men of his day, 
Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat (the first Earl of Cromar- 
tie) came to the rescue, and found the means of circum- 
venting the creditors. Conjointly with Sir Alexander 
Mackenzie of Coul and Colin Mackenzie of Redcastle, he 
compounded with nine of the creditors who had recovered 
the first apprizings, and had their decrees transferred to 
him and his associates, and vested in their persons as 
trustees for the heir to the estates. We have already seen 
how, in virtue of these apprizings, Tarbat and his co- 
trustees were infeft in the Lewis property, with the rest of 
the Seaforth estates, by a charter dated 3Oth September, 
1678. Being thus in virtual possession of the estates, the 
Mackenzies were enabled to exclude the other creditors 
from their payments. After Sir George Mackenzie and 
his friends had re-imbursed themselves for their outlay, 
they made over their rights, in 1680, to another trustee of 
the family, viz., Kenneth Mackenzie, brother of Sir George 
Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, the Lord Advocate. By him 
they were, in 1681, transferred to Isobel, widow of Kenneth 
Mor, third Earl of Seaforth. The matter was further com- 
plicated by the existence of a bond, which the Countess 
Isobel was prevailed upon to execute, for payment of an 
annuity of 1,000 to Frances, wife of Kenneth Og. In 
1685, tne Countess Frances obtained a Crown charter, 

F F 2 


under which she was infeft in the estates for payment of 
her annuity. This annuity, after the death of Kenneth Og, 
formed the subject of tedious litigation, but the Countess 
Frances ultimately prevailed in her suit. As we have seen, 
an amicable arrangement was made in 1717, between the 
Countess and Colonel Alexander Mackenzie, in respect of 
the annuity. 

The Countess Isobel made a disposition, or conveyance, 
of the nine apprizings to Kenneth, son of John Mackenzie 
of Gruinard " a Scots gentleman living abroad," who after- 
wards married the Countess Frances. Under cover of these 
deeds, Kenneth Og, the fourth Earl, kept the creditors out 
of the estates till his death in 1701 ; and under the same 
cover, his son, William, likewise retained possession until he 
was attainted in 1715. The attainder introduced a new 
element into the question, and called for renewed ingenuity 
on the part of the Mackenzies to keep the property in the 
Seaforth family. 

Accordingly, advantage was taken of an Act passed by 
the Parliament of Scotland in 1700, entitled "An Act for 
Preventing the Growth of Popery." By this Act a pecu- 
liarly stupid piece of legislation, which had the effect of 
sending the Roman Catholics in a body over to the 
Stuarts it was enacted that no Papist over fifteen years 
of age should be capable of succeeding as heir to an estate, 
unless and until he renounced his religion. William, Earl 
of Seaforth, was a Catholic ; he married a Catholic wife ; 
and he remained true to his religious convictions. Here 
was an opportunity for making a bold move to prevent the 
Government from grabbing the property. 

According to an enactment for extending the time to 
determine claims to forfeited estates, the date fixed as the 
time-limit within which such claims had to be presented to 
the Court of Session, was ist August, 1719. Two sets of 
claimants appeared for the Seaforth estates. The first 
petition, in the names of Kenneth Mackenzie of Assynt 
and Colonel Alexander Mackenzie, his guardian, set forth 
that the estates belonged to Kenneth, as the nearest Pro- 


testant heir of Isobel, late Countess of Seaforth,* in whose 
person the deeds of trust had been invested for behoof of 
the family ; and that William, Earl of Seaforth, as a pro- 
fessed Papist had no title to the property. The other claim 
was made on behalf of Kenneth Mackenzie of Gruinard, in 
virtue of the deed of conveyance made in his favour by the 
Countess Isobel. The Commissioners and Trustees of the 
Forfeited Estates opposed both claims. They objected 
and the Court of Session sustained their objection that 
the conveyance to Gruinard was invalid, inasmuch as the 
deeds of trust were for behoof of the family, and could not 
be assigned to Mackenzie to the prejudice of the family. 
They objected to Assynt's claim, that it was founded on 
the fact of his being the nearest Protestant heir to the 
Countess Isobel, as trustee ; not as being nearest Protestant 
heir-of-blood to the family of Seaforth.f Therefore, they 
argued that his claim could only apply to the office of 
trustee, and could only carry with it the property right 
which belonged to Earl William. The one was a trust, 
the other a property right ; and the latter not having been 
claimed, must remain with the public. To these objections, 
Assynt replied that Earl William, being a notorious Papist, 
was by the Act of 1700, incapable of succeeding to, or 
enjoying, the estates ; and that the succession consequently 
devolved upon him. The Commissioners urged that the 
plea of notoriety failed to hold good, as Earl William had 
it in his power to exclude Assynt by taking the oath of 
recantation ; besides which, they said (and rightly), the 
present claim was made to deprive the public of the 
estates, not to deprive his kinsman of it, otherwise it 
would have been heard of before. And so the lawyers 
split hairs. In addition to the Seaforth possessions, Assynt 

* Kenneth Mackenzie of Assynt was the only son of John, second son of 
Kenneth Mor. His uncle (and Seaforth's), Colonel Mackenzie, was the fourth 
son of Kenneth Mor. Colonel Mackenzie's two grandsons subsequently suc- 
ceeded to the estates. 

t Probably the form which Assynt's claim took, arose from the consideration 
that, while he desired to be recognised as heir to the estates, he had no wish to 
inherit the debts as well ! The debts, as a matter of fact, were considerably in 
excess of the value of the estates. 


claimed the superiorities of six of Earl William's vassals, 
viz., John Earl of Mar, Sir John Mackenzie of Coul, John 
Mackenzie of Avoch, Alexander Mackenzie of Applecross, 
Alexander Mackenzie of Davochmaluag, and Roderick 
Mackenzie of Fairburn, who had all been attainted of high 
treason. The Court of Session, on i8th August, 1719, gave 
a decree in Assynt's favour on all points. The Commis- 
sioners appealed to the House of Lords against the decision, 
and the whole question was re-opened. It was stated for 
the respondent, that the apprizings on the Seaforth estates, 
not having been redeemed within ten years, when the equity 
of. redemption expired, the property became absolutely 
vested in the creditors ; that the nine apprizings carrying 
priority were vested in the Countess of Isobel's person as 
trustee for the heir (i.e., Assynt) ; that the trust for the 
family was not declared until after he had presented his 
claim ; that as soon as Earl William reached the age of 
fifteen, and remained a Catholic, his rights passed from 
him to the nearest Protestant heir (Assynt) ; that the two 
living children of Earl William were debarred by the Act 
of 1700 from the succession ; and that he (Assynt) was, on 
23rd November, 1716, served heir to the Countess Isobel 
(who died in 1715). The House of Lords reversed the 
decision of the Court of Session in respect of the Seaforth 
estates, and, subsequently, in respect of the six superiorities 
claimed by Assynt.* 

In spite of their ingenuity, the Mackenzies thus failed to 
wrest the estates from the hands of the Commissioners. 
Whether or not the decision of the Court of Session was 
sound in law and that is a question entirely for lawyers- 
it is at least fairly evident that, in spite of their ingenuous 
pleadings, neither Gruinard nor Assynt intended to derive 
personal advantage from their claims. It is difficult to 
resist the conclusion that both claims were the fruit of a 
conspiracy among the Mackenzies, to keep the property 
intact for Earl William ; and if either claim had been 

* Appeals to the House of Lords (1719). Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus. 


established, the attainted chief of the clan would have been 
the person to reap the solid benefits. The nominal owner 
of the Seaforth estates would have been Kenneth Mac- 
kenzie of Assynt, or Kenneth Mackenzie of Gruinard, but 
the real owner and the recipient of the rents would have 
been Earl William, the only possible head of the clan, 
according to Highland notions, had he been proscribed for 
his politics, and disinherited for his religion, a hundred times 
over. Frances, Countess of Seaforth (Kenneth Og's widow), 
being in doubt whether to oppose, or concur in, Assynt's 
claim, was advised by her lawyers that " it may be easier 
dealing with the Protestant heir than with the Crown." 
And so, in truth, it would have been, had the claim proved 

In 1726, Seaforth, who had returned to Scotland after a 
final rupture with the Chevalier, received a pardon, chiefly 
through the instrumentality of General Wade. Argyll was 
opposed to the pardon, but the bluff General threatened to 
throw up his commission, if his promise to the Mackenzies 
were not implemented. He added, as a further reason for 
the pardon of Seaforth, that it was good policy on the part of 
the Government to maintain the balance of power between 
the four men who ruled the Highlands, viz., Argyll, Atholl, 
Gordon, and Seaforth. His representations prevailed.* 

In 1727, the Earl was in Edinburgh attending to business 
matters. The Trustees for the Forfeited Estates were 
about this time engaged in reducing the debt on the 
Seaforth property, by selling parcels of it, and applying the 
rents collected by them for the same purpose. Seaforth was 
now not in receipt of a farthing from the property, except 
a certain income derived from compounding with the 
creditors. The Countess Frances, his mother, was engaged 
in an unsuccessful lawsuit in respect of her jointure, which 
seems to have been in arrears for a considerable time. The 
Earl abstained from identifying himself with the interests 

* Lockhart Papers, Vol. II., p. 300. In 1667, the Earls of Argyll, Atholl, 
and Seaforth were appointed to have the oversight of the Highlands, with the 
effects of all thieves and forfeiture of their associates, after restoring stolen 
goods to their owners. CaL of State Papers , p. 356. See supra, p. 374. 


of the Countess, which were inimical to those of the creditors, 
but he offered an allowance to his mother, which she declined. 
It is abundantly clear that he himself was in straitened 
circumstances. In 1730, he was compelled to solicit a 
Crown pension for his support, which the King, through 
Sir Robert Walpole, declined to sanction. Duncan Forbes, 
the Lord Advocate, used his good offices on his behalf, and 
urged Walpole to give the Earl a grant of the arrears of 
the Lewis feu-duty ; the latter, as is elsewhere explained, 
not having been collected, owing to the difficulty of setting 
legal machinery in motion "in those remote parts." In 
1731, the arrears amounted to 3,916 135. 4d. sterling,* 
from which it appears that the duty had not been paid for 
twenty-three and a half years. We find that the Countess 
Frances received from her agent a sum of four thousand 
pounds Scots (333 6s. 8d. sterling), as feu-duty of Lewis 
for two years from July, 1706, to July, 1708, and that seems 
to have been the last payment made to the Crown. In 
May, 1731, Seaforth presented a memorial to the Lords of 
Treasury, praying for a grant of the 3,916 135. 4d., "that 
he may have something to live on," his estates having been 
sold for the use of the public. On 2oth June, 1732, by a 
warrant to the Barons of the Exchequer, under Royal sign 
manual by the Queen, the Earl's request was granted.f 
An Act of Parliament, passed in the following year, removed 
the disability which, under his attainder, precluded him from 
taking or inheriting any real or personal property that might 
descend to him. 

The complete history of the Seaforth forfeited estates 
will not be known until the papers in the Register House, 
Edinburgh, are published. 

Shortly before the commission of the Trustees expired, 
a Bill was before Parliament for facilitating the collection 
of rents on the Seaforth estates, and making it an act of 
felony to oppose the proprietors. It was stated that no 
one had then appeared to bid for the property, except the 

* Treasury Board Papers (275), No. 20 (Feb. 16, 1730-1). 
t Idem (North Britain), Book X., p. 266. 


friends of the Seaforth family, and that they being the 
highest (and only) bidders, must get possession of it, if no 
other purchasers appeared before the expiry of the com- 
mission. In view, therefore, of the fact that the Bill would 
probably have the effect of strengthening the hands of the 
Mackenzies, without benefiting the public, it was rejected. 

The author of the Highlands of Scotland in 1750 states, 
that when Seaforth obtained his pardon in 1726, a " creature 
of the Earl's " bought the property for less than three years' 
purchase, the remoteness of the estates and the disaffection 
of the tenantry deterring others from bidding. The debts 
on the property were more than twice the rental value, and 
the sale resulted in the ruin of a number of the creditors. 

According to the recently published Report by the 
Crofters' Commission on Lewis, the Seaforth estates, in- 
cluding the island of Lewis, were sold by public auction to 
Mr. John Nairn of Greenyards for 16,909 8s. 3^d., under 
burden of an annuity of 1,000 (capitalised as 9,000) to 
Frances, Countess Dowager of Seaforth.* The transaction 
was understood to be in the interest of Seaforth's son, 
Kenneth, Lord Fortrose. 

During the debate which took place in Parliament on the 
above-mentioned Bill, some hard things were said about 
the Seaforths. One speaker made a bitter attack upon 
them, declaring that they had been a " lawless family for 
several generations," and that if they had paid their debts, 
they would have been without an estate many years before. 
" I don't know," said he, " but it might have been the 
desperate circumstances of the family that pushed them on 
to the late rebellion." It is impossible to ignore the fact 
that the Seaforths, like others of the Highland chiefs, were 
playing for high stakes in taking up arms for the Stuarts. 
The odds were against them, but were fairly represented 
by the ratio which existed between the risks of failure and 
the rewards of success. The successors of George, the 

* In the Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. II., p. 1126, the death is chronicled, 
on 1 5th December, 1732, at Paris, of the "Duchess Dowager of Seaforth." 
This would seem to imply that Kenneth Og was created a titular duke before 
his death. 


second Earl, were not in legal possession of a foot of 
territory. The re-establishment of the Stuart dynasty 
would, doubtless, have enabled them to free the estates 
from the creditors, and extricate themselves from a hope- 
lessly involved financial situation ; while the addition of 
further honours were not impossible. But it is hard to 
believe, and we do not believe, that they acted contrary 
to their convictions. They were loyalists to the core, and 
their attachment to the unfortunate Stuarts cannot be 
measured by the hopes of material advantages. At all 
events, their political sympathies brought them, in the 
result, nothing but suffering and an accumulation of trouble. 
Earl William, the last of the Jacobite Seaforths, was in 
some respects, the most unfortunate. He succeeded to the 
Earldom at a period when it required an older and a more 
level head than his, to manage his affairs judiciously. He 
was the prey of flatterers, and the tool of those who used 
him for ulterior purposes. Had there been only himself to 
consider, the results of his rashness would have been less 
serious. But his people were involved in the disastrous 
outcome of his Jacobitism ; and it says much for the spirit 
of Highland clanship, that they stood by him faithfully, 
although he was responsible for their troubles. It is diffi- 
cult to discover in the clan feuds, or the various Stuart 
risings, the operation of the patriarchism which, we must 
believe, originally formed the basis of the clan system. It 
was present in theory, no doubt ; but the spirit of genuine 
patriarchism, the desire to act in the best interests of the 
clan, as the animating motive of its head, was conspicuous 
by its absence. Personal advantage or personal quarrels 
swayed the least worthy of the Highland chiefs ; altruistic 
loyalty to a dynasty governed the noblest of them. But a 
conception of duty, which implied the subordination equally 
of personal ambition for themselves, and unselfish loyalty 
to the Stuarts, to the happiness and prosperity of the clans 
whose welfare was a sacred trust committed to their charge, 
does not appear to have presented itself even to the best of 
them. Yet, in at least one instance that of the gallant 


Lochiel of the " '45 " the misery resulting to his clan from 
the rising, caused him the most poignant grief. 

In the year 1732, an attempt was made to close the 
Custom House in Stornoway and transfer it to Glenelg. 
The moving spirit seems to have been Norman Macleod of 
Harris (grandson of Ian Breac) who, in a letter to John 
Forbes of Culloden " toothless John Forbes " as he calls 
him refers to a conversation which he had with Culloden 
on the subject.* The ostensible reason for the proposed 
transfer was the prevalence of smuggling on the coast of 
Skye and Glenelg ; but, in a memorial presented a few 
months later by the Commissioners of Customs in Scotland 
to the Treasury, a different cause is assigned. The memorial 
in question gives a curious instance of boycotting, as prac- 
tised in Stornoway in those days. The Comptroller who 
had recently been appointed to Stornoway, had received 
instructions to exercise special care, that no debentures (i.e, 
the certificates entitling exporters to a drawback on certain 
goods which had paid duty) should be issued for greater 
sums than the merchants were entitled to receive. Accord- 
ingly, he refused to grant a debenture for a parcel of fish, 
said to have been exported, because neither he nor any of 
his subordinates had seen the fish shipped. The people of 
the island " made him so uneasy and intimidated him so 
far, as forced him to leave the place after a short stay 

The memorial goes on to say that Stornoway was not 
entitled to the privileges of a " port," or a " creek " which 
was inferior to a " port " having never been set out as such 
by a commission from the Court of Exchequer. Officers 
were stationed there only for the convenience of fish ex- 
porters during the fishing season. It was pointed out 
that this object would be better met if the officers resided 
at Bernera, in Glenelg, opposite Skye, " and adjacent to the 
several lakes and creeks where the greatest resort is for 
fishing," and where a constant garrison was kept, " which 

* Culloden Papers, pp. 128-9. 


may be a help to the officers." Authority was therefore 
requested for the proposed change of residence.* 

I* 1 X 737> the question was revived by the Commissioners 
of Customs, who again laid stress upon the frequent loss of 
revenue, by reason of the debentures issued at Stornovvay. 
They drew a picture of commercial immorality which is 
not over-flattering to the Stornoway traders. A certain 
William Smith, land surveyor at Prestonpans, had been 
sent to Lewis during the previous fishing season, to inquire 
into the truth of the charges of fraud made against the 
merchants. His report was that, in point of fact, greater 
quantities of fish were certified than some of the ships could 
possibly carry. He adds : " Besides the inconveniency and 
detriment to the service, the fair traders are much injured, 
for the fishing being in the lakes upon the mainland, they 
are first obliged to ship their fish and then proceed to 
Stornoway, where there is no quay to land them on, but on 
the contrary, a stony beach which cuts the barrels and 
damnifies the fish ; under pretence whereof, it appears the 
officers have sometimes taken the shipmaster's oath for the 
quantity on board, without landing, viewing, examining, and 
branding the casks . . . that the ships being thus detained 
in proceeding to the Island of Lewis, is often the occasion 
of the loss of markets." 

The Commissioners conceived that these inconveniences 
could only be remedied by removing the Custom House to 
the " entry of Loch Broom," as being more central for the 
most important fishing lochs, and more suitable than 
Bernera, which had formerly been proposed. They there- 
fore prayed the Treasury for a commission, whereby the 
residence of the officers might be fixed at some convenient 
place near Loch Broom. The Treasury, in reply, stated 
that they had no objection to the Commissioners applying 
for a commission.f The rest of the story is missing, but 
Stornoway does not appear to have ever been deprived of 
its Custom House. Incidentally, the information given in 

* Treasury Board Papers (281), No. 40 (Feb. 27, 1732-3). 
f Idem (294), No. 36 (March 25, 1737). 



IN LEWIS IN 1740. [To /ace page 425 


respect of the fishing grounds a hundred and seventy years 
ago, is not without interest at the present day.* 

William, Earl of Seaforth, died in Lewis in 1740, and is 

said to have been buried in the Church of Ui, the ancient 

burial-ground of the Macleods.f He was succeeded by his 

son, Kenneth, who bore, during his lifetime, the courtesy 

title of Lord Fortrose, one of the subordinate titles of his 

father. The Act of Attainder of Earl William omits all 

mention of the original title of " Lord Kintail " ; and it 

I appears to be doubtful whether the Act affected the barony 

of Kintail. The question was not raised by Earl William's 

son. By his intimates, he was called " Lord Fortrose," and 

occasionally, even " Seafort," but he, himself, signed his name, 

I plain "Kenneth Mackenzie." There is ample evidence 

that he was a level-headed, prudent man, who entertained 

! no false notions either about himself, or about the " Divine 

Right " of kings or chiefs to misgovern their people. No 

sooner had he succeeded to the estates than he entered 

upon public life. In 1741, he was elected Member of Par- 

I liament for the Burgh of Inverness ; and in 1747, he sat 

for the County of Ross, being re-elected seven years later. 

In the interval between his first appearance as a Member 

I of Parliament, and his election for Ross-shire, events of 

supreme importance had taken place in the Highlands, 

which now call for notice. 

* It may be observed that in 1737, the salary of the Collector of Customs at 
Stornoway was 30 per annum. The officers who were stationed there seem 
to have been dismissed from the service pretty frequently. 

f His wife died in France, in August, 1739, when on her way to Scotland. 
(Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. IX.) 



THE romantic enterprise upon which Prince Charles 
Edward Stuart embarked in 1745, has formed the theme 
alike of song and story. It is not proposed to re-tell in 
these pages, the history of the most splendid failure with 
which the Highlands are associated. But the inception 
of the rising, and, especially, the adventures of the Prince 
after Culloden, are so intimately connected with the Long 
Island that they call for detailed mention in a work of 
this kind. 

The failure of the French expedition of 1744 the 
elements once more proving adverse and the fickleness 
of France as an ally, decided Charles Edward to throw 
himself upon the generosity of the Highland Jacobites. It 
was an undertaking from which the boldest heart might well 
shrink. The Highlanders were at peace with the Govern- 
ment. Some of the most powerful of the chiefs were 
members of the British Parliament. The lessons of the 
"'15" and "'19 " had not been forgotten. The most ardent 
of the Jacobites were unwilling to rise unless there were 
reasonable prospects of success. And their view was, 
that success was only attainable with the help of French 
troops. But Fortune favours the brave ; and an enter- 
prise from which even the most courageous of the Prince's 
adherents endeavoured in vain to dissuade him, came, as 
events proved, within a measurable distance of fulfilling 
the wildest hopes of its promoter. 

Accompanied by the Marquis of Tullibardine whose 
younger brother, a Whig, had ousted him from the Dukedom 
of Atholl Sir Thomas Sheridan, Sir John Macdonald 
an officer in the French army Colonel Strickland, Captain 


Sullivan or O'Sullivan, George Kelly, a clergyman, ^Eneas 
Macdonald brother of Kinlochmoidart, and a banker in 
.p ar i s and a Mr. Buchanan,* Charles Edward sailed from 
Belleisle for Scotland upon his hazardous mission. He had 
engaged two ships, La Doutelle, or Du Tellier a frigate of 
sixteen guns, whose owner Walsh was on board and the 
Elizabeth ; and the Prince and his companions embarked 
on La Doutelle in July, 1745. His destination was the 
Long Island, its remote situation offering the means of 
i initiating his plans with the greatest degree of secrecy. A 
I retainer of Lochiel's named Duncan Cameron, who was 
i brought up in Barra, was chosen to act as pilot in the 
Outer Hebrides. A disaster occurred before the Long 
! Island was reached. Off the Lizard, an English warship 
named the Lion attacked the Elizabeth. Both vessels 
were well battered during an engagement which lasted 
nearly five hours, the Elizabeth being so severely mauled 
that she had to return to France. By this stroke of ill- 
luck, Charles Edward was deprived of the assistance of a 
hundred able officers, besides a large quantity of arms. 
From the deck of La Doutelle, the Prince was an anxious 
spectator of the fight, in which the small frigate took no 
part, her owner deeming it imprudent to engage the Lion. 
La Doutelle was afterwards chased by another warship, 
which she outsailed ; and on 22nd July, the coast of 
Bernera, off Barra, was sighted. Duncan Cameron's ser- 

vices were now requisitioned. The appearance of a large 
ship cruising off the island created a scare, and the course 
of La Doutelle was altered. Cameron piloted the vessel 
along the east coast of Barra, and on 23rd July brought 
her to anchor in the strait between South Uist and the 
little Island of Eriskay. 

Duncan Cameron, who was the only one on board who 
had the slightest acquaintance with the country, rowed 
ashore to Eriskay to spy the land. Meeting an old 
acquaintance, the piper of Macneill of Barra, Cameron 

* The first seven of these were afterwards known as the " Seven Men of 


took him on board, where he was closely questioned. It 
was decided to land at Eriskay. An eagle was observed 
hovering over the vessel. "An excellent omen/' said 

The landing place of Charles Edward in Scotland is 
known to this day as " Coilleag a' Phrionnsa," or the 
Prince's Strand, on the west side of Eriskay. A pink 
convolvulus with fleshy leaves is found there, and nowhere 
else in the Hebrides thus giving rise to the tradition 
that the flower has sprung from seeds which the Prince 
planted, to commemorate the occasion. The convolvulus is 
commonly known as " the Prince's flower." Charles and 
his party had to feel their way cautiously. His followers 
told the people of Eriskay that he was a young Irish priest, 
and he was taken to the house of the tacksman of the 
island, Angus Macdonald, who held his tack from Clan- 
ranald. The latter an elderly man and his brother, 
Alexander Macdonald of Boisdale, were, the party learned, 
in South Uist, Boisdale having a house at Kilbride. A 
message was sent by the Prince to Boisdale, requesting 
him to come and see him, for it was known that his in- 
fluence with his brother was considerable. A visit was 
paid, probably by the Macdonalds of the party, to Barra ; 
but Macneill was not at home. An enemy, whom Duncan 
Cameron calls " a devill of a minister who did us a' the 
mischief that lay in his power " (doubtless the Rev. John 
Macaulay of South Uist), was, however, in Barra, and 
seems to have suspected the identity of the strangers 
at Eriskay. He conveyed his suspicions to the proper 
quarter, but his story was received with incredulity. A 
debate which subsequently took place in the House of 
Commons on the rebellion, makes it abundantly clear 
that the Intelligence Department of the Government was 
sadly at fault. 

Charles passed the night at the tacksman's house,* 
where his host did everything possible for the comfort of 

* It is stated that this house has recently been demolished ; an unfortunate 
piece of Vandalism. 


_ [ To face page 428. 


his guests. In the morning, he returned to his ship. It 

was an anxious time for the Prince when Boisdale arrived. 

Old Clanranald was incapacitated by age and infirmities 

from taking any active part in the rising, so that the 

adhesion of his clan depended largely upon Boisdale's 

decision. The Prince entreated Boisdale to accompany 

him to the mainland, and induce young Clanranald, 

who was then in Moidart, to take up arms. Boisdale 

refused point-blank. He spoke strongly about the folly 

of attempting an insurrection without foreign assistance, 

! and declared his intention of doing all in his power to 

prevent his brother, or his nephew, from having anything 

to do with the enterprise. This was not a very promising 

! beginning, but Charles persevered in his attempt to win 

over the blunt Highlander. Could he depend upon the 

support of Macdonald of Sleat and Macleod of Harris? 

i Here, again, he got cold comfort. Both chiefs had been 

: looking for the arrival of Charles in the Long Island, 

1 and had charged Boisdale, if he had opportunity, to tell 

i the Prince that unless he came supported by a force of 

regular troops, they would hold aloof from the rising. 

While Charles and Boisdale were engaged in this dis- 
cussion, two ships made their appearance, which caused 
Walsh to weigh his anchor and make for Moidart. The 
discussion continued, but when Boisdale, obdurate to the 
1 last, stepped into his boat, the Prince had abated no jot of 
his determination to persevere in his attempt. 

On the following morning, La Dotitelle anchored in 
the bay of Loch nan Uamh, between Moidart and Arisaig. 
The Prince sent a boat ashore with a letter to young 
Clanranald. On coming on board with some of his 
kinsmen, Clanranald discussed the situation with Charles, 
who poured upon him the blandishments which had 
proved so fruitless in the case of his uncle, Boisdale. 
Accounts vary in their statement of Clanranald's attitude. 
Maxwell of Kirkconnel says that the young chief frankly 
offered his services, while Home's version is that he 
refused to take up arms in such inauspicious circumstances, 

G G 


and was only won over by the passionate declaration of 
young Ranald Macdonald, brother of Kinlochmoidart, who 
offered to draw his sword in the cause of the Prince, if he 
were the only man in the Highlands to do so. 

Having thus engaged the interest of Clanranald, Charles 
sent him to Macdonald of Sleat and Macleod of Harris, 
to secure, if possible, the adhesion of those powerful chiefs. 
During his absence, Dr. Archibald Cameron, Lochiel's 
brother, was among his visitors to the Doutelle, bringing 
with him the cheerless intelligence that the assistance of 
the Camerons was not to be counted upon, for Lochiel 
had decided not to take part in the rising. Dr. Cameron 
and Hugh Macdonald, brother of the laird of Morar, 
concurred in regarding the proposed insurrection as 
hopeless, and in urging the Prince to return to France 
and wait for a more opportune time. To these repre- 
sentations Charles turned a deaf ear ; nothing, he declared, 
would divert him from his purpose. So long as he could 
get six trusty men to skulk with him in the mountains, 
he proposed to remain in Scotland instead of going back 
to France. When Clanranald returned to the Doutelle, 
with the tidings that Macdonald of Sleat and Macleod of 
Harris absolutely refused to join, the Prince found himself 
in a minority of one ; for all his friends, without exception, 
were now in favour of the abandonment of the enterprise. 
Charles remained obstinate. And his obstinacy prevailed ; 
for the chivalry of Clanranald, at least, was not proof 
against it. That gallant, if imprudent, young Highlander 
determined to throw in his lot with the Prince, the very 
hopelessness of the cause appealing to his generous nature. 
When Charles reached Borradale, a farm belonging to 
Clanranald, the crucial point was reached. For it was at 
Borradale that the interview with Lochiel occurred, the 
result of which decided more than one chief who was 
wavering. There is reason, indeed, to believe that if 
Lochiel had remained neutral, the rising would never have 
taken place. 

Donald Cameron of Lochiel, whose aged father was 


attainted and in exile for the share he had taken in the 
risings of 1715 and 1719, was a grandson of the famous 
Sir Ewen Cameron Macaulay's " Ulysses of the High- 
lands " whose prowess against the forces of the Common- 
wealth has already been noticed. " The gentle Lochiel " 
was the finest specimen of a Highland chief who was 
"out "in the " forty-five." His name sheds a lustre over 
it which brightens its darkest phases. Brave in the field, 
prudent in the council- chamber, generous to his friends, 
and magnanimous to his foes, he was a leader who well 
deserved to inspire the respect and the whole-hearted 
confidence of his fellow-Highlanders. In his chivalrous 
character there was not a trace of duplicity or self-seeking. 
Loyalty to his friends was with him a passion; and the 
Highlanders well knew that once Lochiel espoused a 
cause, his high sense of honour would impel him to remain 
true to the end. Such was the man whose invaluable 
support Prince Charles secured at Borradale. No one 
was more alive to the foolhardiness of the insurrection 
than Donald Cameron. When he left his home to meet 
Charles Edward, he was fully resolved to have nothing to 
do with it. But the magnetic personality of " bonnie 
Prince Charlie " weakened his resolution ; and his un- 
answerable arguments were as naught when weighed in 
the balance with an appeal to his feelings. The romantic 
figure of the young Prince, who had come to the High- 
lands with eight men to overthrow a dynasty, touched his 
imagination ; and he exemplified the Celtic nature by 
permitting sentiment to conquer prudence. When Lochiel 
agreed to draw the sword for the young Chevalier, the die 
was cast. 

Meanwhile, the famous Duncan Forbes of Culloden, now 
Lord President of the Court of Session, was actively 
employed on behalf of the Government. Forbes was a 
man of ripe judgment, sound commonsense, and sterling 
integrity. It is not too much to say that he was the chief 
saviour of George II., and the chief obstacle in the path of 
Charles Edward. His services to the Government were 

G G 2 


never requited ; his sole reward was a good conscience. 
The resentment of the Jacobites against him was intense. 
It was felt and with a good deal of reason that the 
accession of the Macleods, the Macdonalds of Sleat, the 
Mackenzies, and the Erasers would, in the depleted state 
of the country's defences, have rendered the Prince's army 
irresistible ; and it was afterwards declared by the Jaco- 
bites that with the addition of those clans, they might have 
made themselves masters of London.* The attitude 
assumed by the chiefs of the clans in question was mainly 
due to the influence of Duncan Forbes. This is plain from 
contemporary correspondence, and it was admitted by the 
Prince himself. Sir Alexander Macdonald, in a letter to 
Forbes dated nth August, 1745, was very emphatic in his 
opinion of the rising. " That we will have no connection 
with these madmen is certain," he declares. " Young 
Clanranald," he adds, "is deluded" . . . " and what is 
more astonishing, Lochiel's prudence has quite forsaken 
him." Norman Macleod stigmatised the insurrection as a 
" mad rebellious attempt." And yet, if Murray of Brough- 
ton is to be believed his own record is far from blameless 
Macleod played a double-dealing game, promising his 
support to the Prince, while assuring Forbes of his un- 
swerving loyalty to the Government. The sympathies 
both of Macleod and of Sir Alexander Macdonald were 
undoubtedly on the side of the Jacobites, but Macdonald, 
at least, never promised to take up arms for the Prince. 
As for Lord Fortrose, Forbes himself declared that " he 
was extremely zealous for his Majestie's Government."f 
Simon Fraser of Lovat temporised as long as he dared, 
and when at length, after a series of unparalleled acts of 
duplicity, he decided to assist the Prince, the time had 
passed for his help to be of any real service. The shifty 
conduct of this chief whose complex character is still a 
puzzle met its reward. In his efforts to keep on good 
terms with both sides, he overreached himself, and finally 

* Culloden Papers, p. 272. 
f Idem, p. 246. 


brought his aged head to the block. He lived as a trickster, 
but he died like a philosopher. He was a curious blend of 
the fox and the lion, but his vulpine qualities predominated.* 
The chiefs of the Mackenzies, Macleods, and Macdonalds 
of Sleat did not maintain their neutral attitude long ; they 
soon ranged themselves openly on the side of the Govern- 
ment. The statement has been made that Lord Fortrose 
was a Jacobite at heart, although he declared for the 
reigning dynasty. But his actions were opposed to this 
hypothesis ; and we have not only his own declarations, 
but the testimony of Duncan Forbes, to support the 
contrary view. There is nothing, on the other hand, to 
suggest that his attitude was inconsistent with his 
sympathies. And it must be remembered that he had 
good cause to be grateful to the existing Government. A 
curious episode is related which has a bearing on this 
matter. According to this account, the Rev. Colin 
Mackenzie of Glack, minister of Fodderty, was the first in 
his district to receive the news of the landing of the Prince. 
He immediately went to Brahan Castle to acquaint his 
chief with the all-important tidings. It was the dead of 
night when he reached the castle, and Lord Fortrose, like 
all respectable men, was in bed. The Rev. Colin, it is 
said, prevailed upon his chief to keep out of the way and 
thus avoid trouble. The two men went west, and remained 
in retirement at Poolewe. One day, when Lord Fortrose 
was dining off a sheep's jawbone, two boats full of Lewis- 
men were observed sailing into Loch Ewe. His lordship at 
once signalled to them to return to Stornoway, waving 
them back with the jawbone which he was in the act of 
picking. And thus, according to the story, was fulfilled 
the prophecy of Kenneth Mackenzie (Coinneach Odhar) 
the famous Brahan Seer who was himself a native of 
Lewis " that next time the men of Lewis should go forth 
to battle, they would be turned back by a weapon smaller 
than the jawbone of an ass." This story, if not embellished 

* Lovat promised Seaforth to assist the insurgents in the rising of 1719, 
but failed to implement his promise (Seaforth MSS. in Brit. Mus.). 


to give point to the accuracy of the seer's predictions, is at 
least wanting in circumstance. There is no information 
vouchsafed, from which we may gather for what purpose, 
or by whose directions, the Lewismen crossed to the 
mainland. If it was their intention to join the Prince, it is 
obvious that Lord Fortrose was opposed to the step. But 
there is reason to believe that the incident occurred, 
not at the commencement of the rising, but early in 
1746, when it was in progress. The Lewismen who 
crossed the Minch were probably those who composed one 
of the eighteen Independent Companies, raised for the 
service of the Government. This view is supported by the 
fact that the Lewis company took no part in the operations 
on the mainland. It was the last company raised, and it 
appears to have been immediately disbanded by Lord 
Fortrose, its services being found unnecessary. About the 
time that the standard was unfurled at Glenfinnan, Lord 
Fortrose summoned all his retainers on the mainland to 
meet him, for the purpose of acting in defence of the 
Government. Writing to President Forbes on i3th 
October, he tells him that some " young fellow " of his name 
had attempted to raise men for the Prince, but that he had 
charged his tenants not to stir without his leave, under 
pain of death. His attitude was so much appreciated by 
his people that they " blessed " him for protecting them, 
and assured him that they would do nothing without his 
orders. So determined was Lord Fortrose to keep his 
tenantry from rising, that he went among them, threatening 
to burn the corn-yards of any whom he found away from 
home ; and he actually turned one house into the river on 
finding its owner absent.* To some Mackenzies in Argyll- 
shire, who asked him for his advice how they should act, 
his reply was curt but sensible. " Stay at home and mind 

* A booklet called The Wanderer, by an unknown author, which was 
published in 1747, declares that Lord Fortrose had great difficulty in keeping 
the Mackenzies out of the rising. The same authority states