Chapter VII. – A.D. 1516-1588, pp.80-102.

[History of the Scottish Highlands Contents]

Kings of Scotland:- 

James V., 1513-1542. James VI., 1567-1603. 
Mary, 1542-1567.  

Doings in Sutherland – Battle of Torran-Dubh – Feud between the Keiths and the clan Gun – John Mackay and Murray of Aberscors – Alexander Sutherland, the bastard, claims the Earldom – Contests between John Mackay and the Master of Sutherland – Earls of Caithness and Sutherland – Dissensions among the clan Chattan – Hector Macintosh elected Captain – His doings – Disturbances in Sutherland – Feuds between the Clanranald and Lord Lovat – The ‘Field of Shirts’ – Earl of Huntly’s Expedition – Commotions in Sutherland – Earl of Huntly and the Clanranald – The Queen Regent visits the Highlands – Commotions in Sutherland – Queen Mary’s Expedition against Huntly – Earl and Countess of Sutherland poisoned – Earl of Caithness’ treatment of the young Earl of Sutherland – Quarrel between the Monroes and clan Kenzie – Doings of the Earl of Caithness – Unruly state of the North – The clan Chattan – Reconciliation of the Earls of Sutherland and Caithness – The Earl of Sutherland and the clan Gun – Disastrous Feud between the Macdonalds and Macleans – Disputes between the Earls of Sutherland and Caithness – Reconciliation between Mackay and the Earl of Sutherland. 

   IN the year 1516, Adam Earl of Sutherland, in anticipation of threatened dangers in the north, entered into bonds of friendship and alliance with the Earl of Caithness for mutual protection and support. The better to secure the goodwill and assistance of the Earl of Caithness, Earl Adam made a grant of some lands upon the east side of the water of Ully; but the Earl of Caithness, although he kept possession of the lands, joined the foes of his ally and friend. The Earl of Sutherland, however, would have found a more trustworthy supporter in the person of Y-Roy-Mackay, who had come under a written obligation to serve him the same year; but Mackay died, and a contest immediately ensued in Strathnaver, between John and Donald Mackay his bastard sons, and Neill-Naverigh Mackay, brother of Y-Roy, to obtain possession of his lands. John took possession of all the lands belonging to his father in Strathnaver; but his uncle Neill laid claim to them, and applied to the Earl of Caithness for assistance to recover them. The Earl, after many entreaties, put a force under the command of Neill and his two sons, with which they entered Strathnaver, and obtaining an accession of strength in that country, they dispossessed John Mackay, who immediately went to the clan Chattan and clan Kenzie, to crave their aid and support, leaving his brother Donald Mackay to defend himself in Strathnaver as he best could. Donald not having a sufficient force to meet his uncle and cousins in open combat, had recourse to a stratagem which succeeded entirely to his mind. With his little band he, under cloud of night, surprised his opponents at Delreavigh in Strathnaver, and slew both his cousins and the greater part of their men, and thus utterly destroyed the issue of Neill. John Mackay, on hearing of this, immediately joined his brother, and drove out of Strathnaver all persons who had favoured the pretensions of his uncle Neill-Naverigh. This unfortunate old man, after being abandoned by the Earl of Caithness, threw himself upon the generosity of his nephews, requesting that they would merely allow him a small maintenance to keep him from poverty during the remainder of his life; but these unnatural relatives, regardless of mercy and the ties of blood, ordered Neill to be beheaded in their presence by the hands of Claff-na-Gep, his own foster brother.1 

   In the year 1517, advantage was taken by John Mackay of the absence of the Earl of Sutherland, who had gone to Edinburgh to transact some business connected with his estates, to invade the province of Sutherland, and to burn and spoil every thing which came in his way. He was assisted in this lawless enterprise by two races of people dwelling in Sutherland, called the Siol-Phaill, and the Siol-Thomais, and by Neil-Mac-Iain-Mac-Angus of Assynt, and his brother John Mor-Mac-lain, with some of their countrymen. As soon as the Countess of Sutherland, who had remained at home, heard of this invasion, she prevailed upon Alexander Sutherland, her bastard brother, to oppose Mackay. Assisted chiefly by John Murray of Aberscors, and Uilleam Mac-Sheumais-Mhic-Chruner, chief of the clan Gun in Sutherland, Alexander convened hastily the inhabitants of the country and went in search of the enemy. He met John Mackay and his brother Donald, at a place called Torran-Dubh or Cnocan-Dubh, near Rogart in Strathfleet. Mackay’s force was prodigious, for he had assembled not only the whole strength of Strathnaver, Durines, Edderachillis, and Assynt, with the Siol-Phaill and Soil-Thomais; but also all the disorderly and idle men of the whole diocese of Caithness, with all such as he could entice to join him from the west and northwest isles, to accompany him in his expedition, buoyed up with the hopes of plunder. But the people of Sutherland were nowise dismayed at the appearance of this formidable host, and made preparations for an attack. A desperate struggle commenced, and after a long contest, Mackay’s vanguard was driven back upon the position occupied by himself. Mackay having rallied the retreating party, selected a number of the best and ablest men he could find, and having placed the remainder of his army under a command of his brother Donald, to act as a reserve in case of necessity, he made a furious attack upon the Sutherland men, who received the enemy with great coolness and intrepidity. The chiefs on both sides encouraged their men to fight for the honour of their clans, and in consequence the fight was severe and bloody; but in the end the Sutherland men, after great slaughter, and after prodigies of valour had been displayed by both parties, obtained the victory. Mackay’s party was almost entirely cut off, and Mackay himself escaped with difficulty. The victors next turned their attention to the reserve under the command of Donald Mackay; but Donald dreading the fate of his brother, fled along with his party, which immediately dispersed. They were, however, closely pursued by John Murray and Uilleam Mac-Sheumais, till the darkness of the night prevented the pursuit. In this battle, two hundred of the Strathnaver men, thirty-two of the Siol-Phaill, and fifteen of the Siol-Thomais, besides many of the Assynt men, and their commander, Niall-Mac-lain-Mac-Aonghais, a valiant chieftain, were slain. John Mor-Mac-Iain, the brother of this chief, escaped with his life after receiving many wounds. Of the Sutherland men, thirty-eight only were slain. Sir Robert Gordon says that this “was the greatest conflict that hitherto hes been foughtin between the inhabitants of these cuntreyes, or within the diocy of Catteynes, to our knowlege.”2 

   Shortly after the battle of Torran-Dubh, Uilleam Mac-Sheumais, called Cattigh, chief of the clan Gun, killed George Keith of Aikregell with his son and twelve of their followers, at Drummoy, in Sutherland, as they were travelling from Inverugie to Caithness. This act was committed by Mac-Sheumais to revenge the slaughter of his grandfather (the Cruner,) who had been slain by the Keiths, under the following circumstances. A long feud had existed between the Keiths and the clan Gun, to reconcile which, a meeting was appointed at the chapel of St. Tayr in Caithness, near Girnigoe, of twelve horsemen on each side. The Cruner, then chief of the clan Gun, with some of his sons and his principal kinsmen, to the number of twelve in all, came to the chapel at the appointed time. As soon as they arrived, they entered the chapel and prostrated themselves in prayer before the altar. While employed in this devotional act, the laird of Inverugie and Aikregell arrived with twelve horses, and two men on each horse. After dismounting, the whole of this party rushed into the chapel armed, and attacked the Cruner and his party unawares. The Clan Gun, however, defended themselves with great intrepidity, and although the whole twelve were slain, many of the Keiths were also killed. For nearly two centuries the blood of the slain was to be seen on the walls of the chapel, which it had stained. James Gun, one of the sons of the Cruner, being absent, immediately on hearing of his father’s death, retired with his family into Sutherland, where he settled, and where his son William Mac-Sheumais, or Mac-James otherwise William Cattigh, was born. 

   As John Mackay imputed his defeat at Torran-Dubh mainly to John Murray of Aberscors, he resolved to take the first convenient opportunity of revenging himself, and wiping off the disgrace of his discomfiture. He, therefore, not being in a condition himself to undertake an expedition, employed two brothers, William and Donald, his kinsmen, chieftains of the Sliochd-Iain-Abaraich, with a company of men, to attack Murray. The latter having mustered his forces, the parties met at a place called Loch-Salchie, not far from the Torran-Dubh, where a sharp skirmish took place, in which Murray proved victorious. The two Strathnaver chieftains and the greater part of their men were slain, and the remainder were put to flight. The principal person who fell on Murray’s side was his brother John-Roy, whose loss he deeply deplored. 

   Exasperated at this second disaster, John Mackay sent John Croy and Donald, two of his nephews, sons of Angus Mackay, who was killed at Morinsh in Ross, at the head of a number of chosen men, to plunder and burn the town of Pitfour, in Strathfleet, which belonged to John Murray; but they were equally unsuccessful, for John Croy Mackay and some of his men were slain by the Murrays, and Donald was taken prisoner. In consequence of these repeated reverses, John Mackay submitted himself to the Earl of Sutherland on his return from Edinburgh, and granted him his bond of service, in the year 1518. But, notwithstanding this submission, Mackay afterwards tampered with Alexander Sutherland, the bastard, and having gained his favour by giving his sister to Sutherland in marriage, he prevailed upon him to rise against the Earl of Sutherland. All these commotions in the north happened during the minority of King James V., when, as Sir R. Gordon says, “everie man thought to escape unpunished, and cheiflie these who were remotest from the seat of justice.”3 

   This Alexander Sutherland was son of John, the third of that name, Earl of Sutherland, and as he pretended that the Earl and his mother had entered into a contract of marriage, he laid claim, on the death of the Earl, to the title and estates, as a legitimate descendant of Earl John, his father. By the entreaties of Adam Gordon, Lord of Aboyne, who had married Lady Elizabeth, the sister and sole heiress of Earl John, Alexander Sutherland judicially renounced his claim in presence of the sheriff of Inverness, on the 25th of July, 1509. He now repented of what he had done, and, being instigated by the Earl of Caithness and John Mackay, mortal foes to the house of Sutherland, he renewed his pretensions. Earl Adam, perceiving that he might incur some danger in making an appeal to arms, particularly as the clans and tribes of the country, with many of whom Alexander had become very popular, were broken into factions and much divided on the question betwixt the two, endeavoured to win him over by offering him many favourable conditions, again to renounce his claims, but in vain. He maintained the legitimacy of his descent, and alleged that the renunciation he had granted at Inverness had been obtained from him contrary to his inclination, against the advice of his best friends. 

   Having collected a considerable force, he, in absence of the earl, who was in Strathbogie, attacked Dunrobin castle, the chief strength of the earl, which he took. In this siege he was chiefly supported by Alexander Terrell of the Doill, who, in consequence of taking arms against the earl, his superior, lost all his lands, and was afterwards apprehended and executed. As soon as the earl heard of the insurrection, he despatched Alexander Lesley of Kinninuvy, with a body of men, into Sutherland to assist John Murray of Aberscors, who was already at the head of a force to support the earl. They immediately besieged Dunrobin, which surrendered. Alexander had retired to Strathnaver, but he again returned into Sutherland with a fresh body of men, and laid waste the country. After putting to death several of his own kinsmen who had joined the earl, he descended farther into the country, towards the of Loth and Clyne. Meeting with little or no opposition, the bastard grew careless, and being observed wandering along the Sutherland coast, flushed with success and regardless of danger, the earl formed the design of cutting him entirely off. With this view, he directed Alexander Lesley of Kinninuvy, John Murray, and John Scorrigh-Mac-Finlay, one of the Siol-Thomais, to hover on Sutherland’s outskirts, and to keep skirmishing with him till he, the earl, should collect a sufficient force with which to attack him. Having collected a considerable body of resolute men, the earl attacked the bastard at a place called Ald-Quhillin, by East Clentredaill, near the sea side. A warm contest ensued, in which Alexander Sutherland was taken prisoner, and the most of his men were slain, including John Bane, one of his principal supporters, who fell by the hands of John Scorrigh-Mac-Finlay. After the battle Sutherland was immediately beheaded by Alexander Lesley on the spot, and his head sent to Dunrobin on a spear, which was placed upon the top of the great tower, “which shews us” (as Sir Robert Gordon, following the superstition of his times, curiously observes), “that whatsoever by fate is allotted, though sometymes forshewed, can never be avoyded. For the witches had told Alexander the bastard that his head should be the highest that ever wes of the Southerlands; which he did foolishlye interpret that some day he should be Earl of Southerland, and in honor above all his predicessors. Thus the divell and his ministers, the witches, deceaving still such as trust in them, will either find or frame predictions for everie action or event, which doeth ever fall out contrarie to ther expectations; a kynd of people to all men unfaithfull, to hopers deceatful, and in all cuntries allwise forbidden, allwise reteaned and manteaned.”4 

   The Earl of Sutherland being now far advanced in life, retired for the most part to Strathbogie Aboyne, to spend the remainder of his days amongst his friends, and intrusted the charge of the country to Alexander Gordon, his eldest son, a young man of great intrepidity and talent. The restless chief John Mackay, still smarting under his misfortunes, and thirsting for revenge, thought the present a favourable opportunity for retrieving his losses. With a considerable force, therefore, he invaded Sutherland, and entered the parish of Creigh, which he intended to ravage, but the Master of Sutherland hastened thither, attacked Mackay, and forced him to retreat into Strathnaver with some loss. Mackay then assembled a large body of his countrymen and invaded the Breachat. He was again defeated by Alexander Gordon at the Grinds after a keen skirmish. Hitherto Mackay had been allowed to hold the lands of Grinds, and some other possessions in the west part of Sutherland, but the Master of Sutherland now dispossessed him of all these as a punishment for his recent conduct. Still dreading a renewal of Mackay’s visits, the Master of Sutherland resolved to retaliate, by invading Strathnaver in return, and thereby showing Mackay what he might in future expect if he persevered in continuing his visits to Sutherland. Accordingly, he collected a body of stout and resolute men, and entered Strathnaver, which he pillaged and burnt, and, having collected a large quantity of booty, returned into Sutherland. In entering Strathnaver, the Master of Sutherland had taken the road to Strathully, passing through Mackay’s bounds in the hope of falling in with and apprehending him, but Mackay was absent on a creach excursion into Sutherland. In returning, however, through the Diric Moor and the Breachat, Alexander Gordon received intelligence that Mackay with a company of men was in the town of Lairg, with a quantity of cattle he had collected in Sutherland, on his way home to Strathnaver. He lost no time in attacking Mackay, and such was the celerity of his motions, that his attack was as sudden as unexpected. Mackay made the best resistance he could, but was put to the rout, and many of his men were killed. He himself made his escape with great difficulty, and saved his life by swimming to the island of Eilean-Minric, near Lairg, where he lay concealed during the rest of the day. All the cattle which Mackay had carried away were rescued and carried back into Sutherland. The following day Mackay left the island, returned home to his country, and again submitted himself to the Master and his father, the Earl, to whom he a second time gave his bond of service and manrent in the year 1522.5 

   As the Earl of Caithness had always taken a side against the Sutherland family in these different quarrels, the Earl of Sutherland an action before the Lords of Council and Session against the Earl of Caithness, to recover back from him the lands of Strathully, on the ground, that the Earl of Caithness had not fulfilled the condition on which the lands were granted to him, viz., to assist the Earl of Sutherland against his enemies. There were other minor points of dispute between the earls, to get all which determined they both repaired to Edinburgh. Instead, however, of abiding the issue of a trial at law before the judges, both parties, by the advice of mutual friends, referred the decision of all the points in dispute on either side to Gavin Dunbar,6 bishop of Aberdeen, who pronounced his award at Edinburgh, on the 11th March, 1524, his judgment appearing to have satisfied both parties, as the earls lived in peace with one another ever after. 

   The year 1526 was signalized by a great dissension among the clan Chattan. The chief and head of that clan was Lauchlan Macintosh of Dunnachtan, “a verrie honest and wyse gentleman,” says Bishop Lesley, “an barroun of gude rent, quha keipit hes hole ken, friendes and tennentis in honest and guid rewll;”7 and according to Sir Robert Gordon, “a man of great possessions, and of such excellencies of witt and judgement, that with great commendation he did conteyn all his followers within the limits of ther dueties.”8 The strictness with which this worthy chief curbed the lawless and turbulent dispositions of his clan raised up many enemies, who, as Bishop Lesley says, were “impacient of vertuous living.” At the head of this restless party was James Malcolmeson, a near kinsman of the chief, who, instigated by his worthless companions, and the temptation of ruling the clan, murdered the good chief. Afraid to face the well-disposed part of the clan, to whom the chief was beloved, Malcolmeson, along with his followers, took refuge in the island in the loch of Rothiemurchus; but the enraged clan followed them to their hiding places and despatched them. 

   As the son of the deceased chief was of tender age, and unable to govern the clan, with common consent they made choice of Hector Macintosh, a bastard brother of the late chief, to act as captain till his nephew should arrive at manhood. In the meantime the Earl of Moray, who was uncle to young Macintosh, the former chief having been married to the earl’s sister, took away his nephew and placed him under the care of his friends for the benefit of his education, and to bring him up virtuously. Hector Macintosh was greatly incensed at the removal of the child, and used every effort to get possession of him; but meeting with a refusal he became outrageous, and laid so many plans for accomplishing his object, that his intentions became suspected, as it was thought he could not wish so ardently for the custody of the child without some bad design. Baffled in every attempt, Hector, assisted by his brother William, collected a body of followers, and invaded the Earl of Moray’s lands. They overthrew the fort of Dykes, and besieged the castle of Tarnoway, the country surrounding which they plundered, burnt the houses of the inhabitants, and slew a number of men, women, and children. Raising the siege of Tarnoway, Hector and his men then entered the country of the Ogilvies and laid siege to the castle of Pettens, which belonged to the Laird of Durnens, one of the families of the Ogilvies, and which, after some resistance, surrendered. No less than twenty-four gentlemen of the name of Ogilvie were massacred on this occasion. After this event the Macintoshes and the party of banditti they had collected, roamed over the whole of the adjoining country, carrying terror and dismay into every bosom, and plundering, burning, and destroying everything within their reach. To repress disorders which called so loudly for redress, King James V., by the advice of his council, granted a commission to the Earl of Moray to take measures accordingly. Having a considerable force put under his command, the earl went in pursuit of Macintosh and his party, and having surprised them, he took upwards of 300 of them9 and hanged them, with William Macintosh, the brother of Hector. A singular instance of the fidelity of the Highlanders to their chiefs is afforded in the present case, where, out of such a vast number as suffered, not one would reveal the secret of Hector Macintosh’s retreat, although promised their lives for the discovery. “Ther faith wes so true to ther captane, that they culd not be persuaded, either by fair meanes, or by any terror of death, to break the same or to betray their master.”10 

   Seeing no hopes of escaping the royal vengeance but by a ready submission, Hector Macintosh, by advice of Alexander Dunbar, Dean of Moray, tendered his obedience to the king, which was accepted, and he was received into the royal favour. He did not, however, long survive, for he was assassinated in St. Andrews by one James Spence, who was in consequence beheaded. After the death of Hector, the clan Chattan remained tranquil during the remaining years of the minority of the young chief, who, according to Bishop Lesley, “wes sua well brocht up by the meenes of the Erle of Murray and the Laird of Phindlater in vertue, honestie, and civile policye, that after he had received the governement of his cuntrey, he was a mirrour of vertue to all the hieland captanis in Scotland.”11 But the young chieftain’s “honestie and civile policye” not suiting the ideas of those who had concurred in the murder of his father, a conspiracy was formed against him by some of his nearest kinsmen to deprive him of his life, which unfortunately took effect. 

   The Highlands now enjoyed repose for some years. John Mackay died in 1529, and was succeeded by his brother Donald, who remained quiet during the life of Adam Earl of Sutherland, to whom his brother had twice granted his bond of service. But upon the death of that nobleman, he began to molest the inhabitants of Sutherland. In 1542 he attacked the village of Knockartol, which he burnt; and at the same time he plundered Strathbroray. To oppose his farther progress, Sir Hugh Kennedy collected as many of the inhabitants of Sutherland as the shortness of the time would permit, and, being accompanied by Gilbert Gordon of Gartay, John Murray of Aberscors, his son Hutcheon Murray, and Mac-Mhic-Sheumais of Killiernan, he attacked Mackay quite unawares near Alt-Na-Beth. Notwithstanding this unexpected attack, Mackay’s men met their assailants with great firmness, but the Strathnaver men were ultimately obliged to retreat with the loss of their booty and a great number of slain, amongst whom was John Mackean-Mac-Angus, chief of Sliochd-Mhic-Iain-Mhic-Hutcheon, in Edderachillis. Though closely pressed by Gilbert Gordon and Hutcheon Murray, Donald Mackay made good his retreat into Strathnaver. 

   By no means disheartened at his defeat, and anxious to blot out the stain which it had thrown upon him, he soon returned into Sutherland with a fresh force, and encamped near Skibo. Houcheon Murray collected some Sutherland men, and with them he attacked Mackay, and kept him in check till an additional force which he expected should arrive. As soon as Mackay saw this new body of men approaching, with which he was quite unable to contend, he retreated suddenly into his own country, leaving several of his men dead on the field. This affair was called the skirmish of Loch-Buy. This mode of annoyance, which continued for some time, was put an end to by the apprehension of Donald Mackay, who, being brought before the Earls of Huntly and Sutherland, was, by their command, committed a close prisoner to the castle of Foulis, where he remained a considerable time in captivity. At last, by means of Donald Mac-Iain-Mhoir, a Strathnaver man, he effected his escape, and, returning home, reconciled himself with the Earl of Sutherland, to whom he gave his bond of service and manrent, on the 8th of April, 1549. 

   During the reign of James V. some respect was paid in the Highlands to the laws; but the divisions which fell out amongst the nobility, the unquiet state of the nation during the minority of the infant queen, and the wars with England, relaxed the springs of government, and the consequence was that the usual scenes of turbulence and oppression soon displayed themselves in the Highlands, accompanied with all those circumstances of ferocity which rendered them so revolting to humanity. The Clanranald was particularly active in these lawless proceedings. This clan bore great enmity to Hugh, Lord Lovat; and because Ranald, son of Allan Macruari of Moidart, was sister’s son of Lovat, they conceived a prejudice against him, dispossessed him of his lands, and put John Macranald, his cousin, in possession of the estate. Lovat took up the cause of his nephew, and restored him to the possession of his property; but the restless clan dispossessed Ranald again, and laid waste part of Lovat’s lands in Glenelg. These disorders did not escape the notice of the Earl of Arran, the governor of the kingdom, who, by advice of his council, granted a special commission to the Earl of Huntly, making him lieutenant-general of all the Highlands. and of Orkney and Zetland. He also appointed the Earl of Argyle lieutenant of Argyle and the Isles. The Earl of Huntly lost no time in raising a large army in the north, with which he marched, in May, 1544, attended by the Macintoshes, Grants, and Frasers, against the clan Cameron and the clan Ranald, and the people of Moydart and Knoydart, whose principal captains were Ewen Allenson, Ronald McConeilglas, and John Moydart. These had wasted and plundered the whole country of Urquhart and Glenmorriston, belonging to the Laird of Grant, and the country of Abertarf, Strathglass, and others, the property of Lord Lovat. They had also taken absolute possession of these different territories as their own properties, which they intended to possess and enjoy in all time coming. But, by the mediation of the Earl of Argyle, they immediately dislodged themselves upon the Earl of Huntly’s appearance, and retired to their own territories in the west. 

   In returning to his own country, Lovat was accompanied by the Grants and Macintoshes far as Gloy, afterwards called the Nine-Mile-Water, and they even offered to escort him home in case of danger; but, having no apprehensions, he declined, and they returned home by Badenoch. This was a fatal error on the part of Lovat, for, as soon as he arrived at Letterfinlay, he was informed that the Clanranald were at hand, in full march, to intercept him. To secure an important pass, he despatched lain-Cleireach, one of his principal officers, with 50 men; but, from some cause or other, Iain-Cleireach did not accomplish his object; and, as soon as Lovat came to the north end of Loch Lochy, he perceived the Clanranald descending the hill from the west, to the number of about 500, divided into seven companies. Lovat was thus placed in a position in which he could neither refuse nor avoid battle. The day (3d July) being extremely hot, Lovat’s men, who amounted to about 300, stript to the shirts, from which circumstance the battle was called Blar-Nan-Leine, i.e., the Field of Shirts. A sort of skirmish at first took place, first with bows and arrows, which lasted a considerable time, until both sides had expended their shafts. The combatants then drew their swords, and rushed in true Highland fashion on each other, with fierce and deadly intent. The slaughter was tremendous, and few escaped on either side. Lord Lovat, with 300 of the surname of Fraser, and other followers, were left dead on the field. Lovat’s eldest son, a youth of great accomplishments, who had received his education in France, whence he had lately arrived, was mortally wounded, and taken prisoner. He died within three days. Great as was the loss on the side of the Frasers, that on the opposite side was comparatively still greater. According to a tradition handed down, only four of the Frasers and ten of the Clanranald remained alive. The darkness of the night alone put an end to the combat. This was an unfortunate blow to the clan Fraser, which, tradition says, would have been almost entirely annihilated but for the happy circumstance that the wives of eighty of the Frasers who were slain were pregnant at the time, and were each of them afterwards delivered of a male child.12 

   As soon as intelligence of this disaster was brought to the Earl of Huntly, he again returned with an army, entered Lochaber, which he laid waste, and apprehended many of the leading men of the hostile tribes, whom he put death. 

   The great power conferred on the Earl of Huntly, as lieutenant-general in the north of Scotland, and the promptitude and severity with which he put down the insurrections of some of the chiefs alluded to, raised up many enemies against him. As he in company with Earl of Sutherland was about to proceed to France for the purpose of conveying the queen regent to that country, in the year 1550, a conspiracy was formed against him, at the head of which was Macintosh, chief of the clan Chattan. This conspiracy being discovered to the earl, he ordered Macintosh to be immediately apprehended and brought to Strathbogie, where he was beheaded in the month of August of that year. His lands were also forfeited at the same time. This summary proceeding excited the sympathy and roused the indignation of the friends of the deceased chief, particularly of the Earl of Cassilis. A commotion was about to ensue, but matters were adjusted for a time, by the prudence of the queen regent, who recalled the act of forfeiture and restored Macintosh’s heir all his father’s lands. But the clan Chattan were determined to avail themselves of the first favourable opportunity of being revenged upon the earl, which they, therefore, anxiously looked for. As Lauchlan Macintosh, a near kinsman of the chief, was suspected of having betrayed his chief to the earl, the clan entered his castle of Pettie by stealth, slew him, and banished all his dependants from the country of the clan. 

   About the same time the province of Sutherland again became the scene of some commotions. The earl having occasion to leave home, intrusted the government of the country to Alexander Gordon, his brother, who ruled it with great justice and severity; but the people, disliking the restraints put upon them by Alexander, created a tumult, and placed John Sutherland, son of Alexander Sutherland, the bastard, at their head. Seizing the favourable opportunity, as it appeared to them, when Alexander Gordon was attending divine service in the church at Golspikirktoun, they proceeded to attack him, but receiving notice of their intentions, he collected the little company he had about him, and went out of church resolutely to meet them. Alarmed at seeing him and his party approach, the people immediately dispersed and returned every man to his own house. But William Murray, son of Caen Murray, one of the family of Pulrossie, indignant at the affront offered to Alexander Gordon, shortly afterwards killed John Sutherland upon the Nether Green of Dunrobin, in revenge for which murder William Murray was himself thereafter slain by the Laird of Clyne. 

   The Mackays also took advantage of the Earl of Sutherland’s absence, to plunder and lay waste the country. Y-Mackay, son of Donald, assembled the Strathnaver men and entered Sutherland, but Alexander Gordon forced him back into Strathnaver, and not content with acting on the defensive, he entered Mackay’s country, which he wasted, and carried off a large booty in goods and cattle, in the year 1551. Mackay, in his turn, retaliated, and this system of mutual aggression and spoliation continued for several years.13 

   During the absence of the Earl of Huntly in France, John of Moydart, chief of the Clanranald, returned from the isles and recommenced his usual course of rapine. The queen regent, on her return from France, being invested with full authority, sent the Earl of Huntly on an expedition to the north, for the purpose of apprehending Clanranald and putting an end to his outrages. The earl having mustered a considerable force, chiefly Highlanders of the clan Chattan, passed into Moydart and Knoydart, but his operations were paralyzed by disputes in his camp. The chief and his men having abandoned their own country, the earl proposed to pursue them in their retreats among the fastnesses of the Highlands; but his principal officers, who were chiefly from the Lowlands, unaccustomed to such a mode of warfare in such a country, demurred; and as the earl was afraid to entrust himself with the clan Chattan, who owed him a deep grudge on account of the execution of their last chief, he abandoned the enterprise and returned to the low country. Sir Robert Gordon says that the failure of the expedition was owing to a tumult raised in the earl’s camp by the clan Chattan, who returned home; but we are rather disposed to consider Bishop Lesley’s account, which we have followed, as the more correct.14 

   The failure of this expedition gave great offence to the queen, who, instigated it is supposed by Huntly’s enemies, attributed it to negligence on his part. The consequence was, that the earl was committed a prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh in the month of October, where he remained till the month of March following. He was compelled to renounce the earldom of Moray and the lordship of Abernethy, with his tacks and possessions in Orkney and Zetland, and the tacks of the lands of the earldom of Mar and of the lordship of Strathdie, of which he was bailie and steward, and he was moreover condemned to a banishment of five years in France. But as he was about to leave the kingdom, the queen, taking a more favourable view of his conduct, recalled the sentence of banishment, and restored him to the office of chancellor, of which he had been deprived; and to make this act of leniency somewhat palatable to the earl’s enemies, the queen exacted a heavy pecuniary fine from the earl. 

   The great disorders which prevailed in the Highlands at this time, induced the queen-regent to undertake a journey thither in order to punish these breaches of the law, and to repress existing tumults. She accordingly arrived at Inverness in the month of July, 1555, where she was met by John, Earl of Sutherland, and George, Earl of Caithness. Although the latter nobleman was requested to bring his countrymen along with him to the court, he neglected or declined to do so, and he was therefore committed to prison at Inverness, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, successively, and he was not restored to liberty till he paid a considerable sum of money. Y-Mackay of Far was also summoned to appear before the queen at Inverness, to answer for his spoliations committed in the country of Sutherland during the absence of Earl John in France; but he refused to appear. Whereupon the queen granted a commission to the Earl of Sutherland, to bring Mackay to justice. The earl accordingly entered Strathnaver with a great force, sacking and spoiling every thing in his way, and possessing himself of all the principal positions to prevent Mackay’s escape. Mackay, however, avoided the earl, and as he declined to fight, the earl laid siege to the castle of Borwe, the principal strength in Strathnaver, scarcely two miles distant from Far, which he took after a short siege, and hanged Ruaridh-Mac-Iain-Mhoir, the commander. This fort the earl completely demolished. 

   While the Earl of Sutherland was engaged in the siege, Mackay entered Sutherland secretly, and burnt the church of Loth. He thereafter went to the village of Knockartol, where he met Mackenzie and his countrymen in Strathbroray. A slight skirmish took place between them; but Mackay and his men fled after he had lost Angus-Mackeanvoir, one of his commanders, and several of his followers. Mackenzie was thereupon appointed by the earl to protect Sutherland from the incursions of Mackay during his stay in Strathnaver. Having been defeated again by Mackenzie, and seeing no chance of escape, Mackay surrendered himself, and was carried south, and committed a prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh, in which he remained a considerable time. During the queen’s stay in the north many notorious delinquents were brought to trial, condemned and executed. 

   During Mackay’s detention in Edinburgh, John Mor-Mackay, who took charge of his kinsman’s estate, seizing the opportunity of the Earl of Sutherland’s absence in the south of Scotland, entered Sutherland at the head of a determined body of Strathnaver men, and spoiled and wasted the east corner of that province, and burnt the chapel of St. Ninian. Mac-Mhic-Sheumais, chief of the Clan-Gun, the Laird of Clyne, the Terrell of the Doill, and James Mac-William, having collected a body of Sutherland men, pursued the Strathtnaver men, whom they overtook at the foot of the hill called Ben-Moir, in Berridell. Here they laid an ambush for them, and having, by favour of a fog, passed their sentinels, they unexpectedly surprised Mackay’s men, and attacked them with great fury. The Strathnaver men made an obstinate resistance, but were at length overpowered. Many of them were killed, and others drowned in the water of Garwary. Mackay himself escaped with great difficulty. This was one of the severest defeats the Strathnaver men ever experienced, except at the battle of Knoken-dow-Reywird. 

   On the release of Mackay from his confinement in the castle of Edinburgh, he was employed in the wars upon the borders, against the English, in which he acquitted himself courageously; and on his return to Strathnaver he submitted himself to the Earl of Sutherland, with whom he lived in peace during the remainder of the earl’s life. But Mackay incurred the just displeasure of the tribe of Slaight-ean-Voir by the committal of two crimes of the deepest dye. Having imbibed a violent affection for the wife of Tormaid-Mac-Iain-Mhoir, the chieftain of that tribe, he, in order to accomplish his object, slew the chief, after he violated his wife, by whom he had a son called Donald Balloch Mackay. The insulted clan flew to arms; but they were defeated at Durines, by the murderer and adulterer, after a sharp skirmish. Three of the principal men of the tribe who had given themselves up, trusting to Mackay’s clemency, were beheaded.15 

   In the early part of the reign of the unfortunate Queen Mary, during the period of the Reformation in Scotland, the house of Huntly had acquired such an influence in the north and north-east of Scotland, the old Maormorate of Moray, as to be looked upon with suspicion by the government of the day. Moreover the Lords of the Congregation regarded the earl with no friendly feeling as the great leader of the Roman Catholic party in the country, and it was therefore resolved that Mary should make a royal progress northwards, apparently for the purpose of seeing what was the real state of matters, and, if possible, try to overawe the earl, and remind him that he was only a subject. The queen, who, although Huntly was the Catholic leader, appears to have entered into the expedition heartily; and her bastard brother, the Earl of Murray, proceeded, in 1562, northwards, backed by a small army, and on finding the earl fractious, laid siege to the castle of Inverness, which was taken, and the governor hanged. The queen’s army and the followers of Huntly met at the hill of Corrichie, about sixteen miles west of Aberdeen, when the latter were defeated, the earl himself being found among the slain. It was on this occasion that Mary is said to have wished herself a man to be able to ride forth “in jack and knap-skull.” This expedition was the means of effectually breaking the influence of this powerful northern family. 

   George, Earl of Caithness, who had long borne a mortal hatred to John, Earl of Sutherland, now projected a scheme for cutting him off, as well as his countess, who was big with child, and their only son, Alexander Gordon; the earl and countess were accordingly both poisoned at Helmsdale, while at supper, by Isobel Sinclair, wife of Gilbert Gordon of Gartay, and sister of William Sinclair of Dumbaith, instigated, it is said, by the earl; but their son, Alexander, made a very narrow escape, not having returned in time from a hunting excursion to join his father and mother at supper. On Alexander’s return the earl had become fully aware of the danger of his situation, and he was thus prevented by his father from participating in any part of the supper which remained, and after taking an affectionate and parting farewell, and recommending him to the protection of God and of his dearest friends, he sent him to Dunrobin the same night without his supper. The earl and his lady were carried next morning to Dunrobin, where they died within five days thereafter, in the month of July, 1567, and were buried in the cathedral church at Dornoch. Pretending to cover himself from the imputation of being concerned in this murder, the Earl of Caithness punished some of the earl’s most faithful servants under the colour of avenging his death; but the deceased earl’s friends being determined to obtain justice, apprehended Isobel Sinclair, and sent her to Edinburgh to stand her trial, where, after being tried and condemned, she died on the day appointed for her execution. During all the time of her illness she vented the most dreadful imprecations upon her cousin, the earl who had induced her to commit the horrid act. Had this woman succeeded in cutting off the earl’s son, her own eldest son, John Gordon, but for the extraordinary circumstances of his death, to be noticed, would have succeeded to the earldom, as he was the next male heir. This youth happening to be in the house when his mother had prepared the poison, became extremely thirsty, and called for a drink. One of his mother’s servants, not aware of the preparation, presented to the youth a portion of the liquid into which the poison had been infused, which he drank. This occasioned his death within two days, a circumstance which, together with the appearances of the body after death, gave a clue to the discovery of his mother’s guilt.16 

Taking advantage of the calamity which had befallen the house of Sutherland, and the minority of the young earl, now only fifteen years of age. Y-Mackay of Far, who had formed an alliance with the Earl of Caithness, in 1567 invaded the country of Sutherland, wasted the barony of Skibo, entered the town of Dornoch, and, upon the pretence of a quarrel with the Murrays, by whom it was chiefly inhabited, set fire to it, in which outrage he was assisted by the Laird of Duffus. These measures were only preliminary to a design which the Earl of Caithness had formed to get the Earl of Sutherland into his hands, but he had the cunning to conceal his intentions in the meantime, and to instigate Mackay to act as he wished, without appearing to be in any way concerned. 

In pursuance of his design upon Alexander, the young Earl of Sutherland, the Earl of Caithness prevailed upon Robert Stuart, bishop of Caithness, to write a letter to the governor of the castle of Skibo, in which the Earl of Sutherland resided, to deliver up the castle to him; a request with which the governor complied. Having taken possession of the castle, the earl carried off the young man into Caithness, and although only fifteen years of age, he got him married to Lady Barbara Sinclair, his daughter, then aged thirty-two years. Y-Mackay was the paramour of this lady, and for continuing the connexion with him she was afterwards divorced by her husband. 

The Earl of Caithness having succeeded in his wishes in obtaining possession of the Earl of Sutherland, entered the earl’s country, and took possession of Dunrobin castle, in which he fixed his residence. He also brought the Earl of Sutherland along with him, but he treated him meanly, and he burnt all the papers belonging to the house of Sutherland he could lay his hands on. Cruel and avaricious, he, under the pretence of vindicating the law, for imaginary crimes expelled many of the ancient families in Sutherland from the country, put many of the inhabitants to death, disabled those he banished, in their persons, by new and unheard-of modes of torture, and stripped them of all their wealth. To be suspected of favouring the house of Sutherland, and to be wealthy, were deemed capital crimes by this oppressor. 

As the Earl of Sutherland did not live on friendly terms with his wife on account of her licentious connexion with Mackay, and as there appeared no chance of any issue, the Earl of Caithness formed the base design of cutting off the Earl of Sutherland, and marrying William Sinclair, his second son, to Lady Margaret Gordon, the eldest sister of the Earl of Sutherland, whom he had also gotten into his hands, with the view of making William earl of Sutherland. The better to conceal his intentions the Earl of Caithness made a journey south to Edinburgh, and gave the necessary instructions to those in his confidence to despatch the Earl of Sutherland; but some of his trusty friends having received private intelligence of the designs of the Earl of Caithness from some persons who were privy thereto, they instantly set about measures for defeating them by getting possession of the Earl of Sutherland’s person. Accordingly, under cloud of night, they came quietly to the burn of Golspie, in the vicinity of Dunrobin, where, concealing themselves to prevent discovery, they sent Alexander Gordon of Sidderay to the castle, disguised as a pedlar, for the purpose of warning the Earl of Sutherland of the danger of his situation, and devising means of escape. Being made acquainted with the design upon his life, and the plans of his friends for rescuing him, the earl, early the following morning, proposed to the residents in the castle, under whose charge he was, to accompany him on a small excursion in the neighbourhood. This proposal seemed so reasonable in itself, that, although he was perpetually watched by the Earl of Caithness’ servants, and his liberty greatly restrained, they at once agreed; and, going out, the earl being aware of the ambush laid by his friends, led his keepers directly into the snare before they were aware of danger. The earl’s friends thereupon rushed from their hiding-place, and seizing him, conveyed him safely out of the country of Sutherland to Strathbogie. This took place in 1569. As soon as the Earl of Caithness’s retainers heard of the escape of Earl Alexander, they collected a party of men favourable to their interests, and went in hot pursuit of him as far as Port-ne-Coulter; but they found that the earl and his friends had just crossed the ferry.17 

Shortly after this affair a quarrel ensued between the Monroes and the clan Kenzie, two very powerful Ross-shire clans. Lesley, the celebrated bishop of Ross, had made over to his cousin, the Laird of Balquhain, the right and title of the castle of the Canonry of Ross, together with the castle lands. Notwithstanding this grant, the Regent Murray had given the custody of this castle to Andrew Monroe of Milntown; and to make Lesley bear with the loss, the Regent promised him some of the lands of the Barony of Fintry in Buchan, but on condition that he should cede to Monroe the castle and castle lands of the Canonry; but the untimely and unexpected death of the Regent interrupted this arrangement, and Andrew Monroe did not, of course, obtain the title to the castle and castle lands as he expected. Yet Monroe had the address to obtain permission from the Earl of Lennox during his regency, and afterwards from the Earl of Mar, his successor in that office, to get possession of the castle. The clan Kenzie grudging to see Monroe in possession, and being desirous to get hold of the castle themselves, purchased Lesley’s right, and, by virtue thereof, demanded delivery of the castle. Monroe refused to accede to this demand, on which the clan laid siege to the castle; but Monroe defended it for three years at the expense of many lives on both sides. It was then delivered up to the clan Kenzie under the act of pacification.18 

No attempt was made by the Earl of Sutherland, during his minority, to recover his possessions from the Earl of Caithness. In the meantime the latter, disappointed and enraged at the escape of his destined prey, vexed and annoyed still farther the partisans of the Sutherland family. In particular, he directed his vengeance against the Murrays, and made William Sutherland of Evelick, brother to the Laird of Duffus, apprehend John Croy-Murray, under the pretence of bringing him to justice. This proceeding roused the indignation of Hugh Murray of Aberscors, who assembled his friends, and made several incursions upon the lands of Evelick, Pronsies, and Riercher. They also laid waste several villages belonging to the Laird of Duffus, from which they carried off some booty, and apprehending a gentleman of the Sutherlands, they detained him as an hostage for the safety of John Croy-Murray. Upon this the Laird of Duffus collected all his kinsmen and friends, together with the Siol-Phaill at Skibo, and proceeded to the town of Dornoch, with the intention of burning it. But the inhabitants, aided by the Murrays, went out to meet the enemy, whom they courageously attacked and overthrew, and pursued to the gates of Skibo. Besides killing several of Duffus’ men they made some prisoners, whom they exchanged for John Croy-Murray. This affair was called the skirmish of Torran-Roy. 

The Laird of Duffus, who was father-in-law to the Earl of Caithness, and supported him in all his plans, immediately sent notice of this disaster to the earl, who without delay sent his eldest son, John, Master of Caithness, with a large party of countrymen and friends, including Y-Mackay and his countrymen, to attack the Murrays in Dornoch. They besieged the town and castle, which were both manfully defended by the Murrays and their friends; but the Master of Caithness, favoured by the darkness of the night, set fire to the cathedral, the steeple of which, however, was preserved. After the town had been reduced, the Master of Caithness attacked the castle and the steeple of the church, into which a body of men had thrown themselves, both of which held out for the space of a week, and would probably have resisted much longer, but the interference of mutual friends of the parties, by whose mediation the Murrays surrendered the castle and the steeple of the church; and, as hostages for the due performance of other conditions, they delivered up Thomas Murray, son of Houcheon Murray of Aberscors, Houcheon Murray, son of Alexander Mac-Sir-Angus, and John Murray, son of Thomas Murray, the brother of John Murray of Aberscors. But the Earl of Caithness refused to ratify the treaty which his son had entered into with the Murrays, and afterwards basely beheaded the three hostages. These occurrences took place in the year 1570.19 

The Murrays and the other friends of the Sutherland family, no longer able to protect themselves from the vengeance of the Earl of Caithness, dispersed themselves into different countries, there to wait for more favourable times, when they might return to their native soil without danger. The Murrays went to Strathbogie, where Earl Alexander then resided. Hugh Gordon of Drummoy retired to Orkney, where he married a lady named Ursula Tulloch; but he frequently visited his friends in Sutherland, in spite of many snares laid for him by the Earl of Caithness, while secretly going and returning through Caithness. Hugh Gordon’s brothers took refuge with the Murrays at Strathbogie. John Gray of Skibo and his son Gilbert retired to St. Andrews, where their friend Robert, bishop of Caithness, then resided, and Mac-Mhic-Sheumais of Strathully went to Glengarry. 

As the alliance of such a powerful and warlike chief as Mackay would have been of great importance to the Sutherland interest, an attempt was made to detach him from the Earl of Caithness. The plan appears to have originated with Hugh Murray of Aberscors, who made repeated visits to Strathbogie, to consult with the Earl of Sutherland and his friends on this subject, and afterwards went into Strathnaver and held a conference with Mackay, whom he prevailed upon to accompany him to Strathbogie. Mackay then entered into an engagement with the Earl of Huntly and the Earl of Sutherland, to assist the latter against the Earl of Caithness, in consideration of which, and on payment of £300 Scots, he obtained from the Earl of Huntly the heritable right and title of the lands of Strathnaver; but Mackay, influenced by Barbara Sinclair, the wife of the Earl of Sutherland, with whom he now publicly cohabited, broke his engagement, and continued to oppress the earl’s followers and dependents. 

From some circumstances which have not transpired, the Earl of Caithness became suspicious of his son John, the Master of Caithness, as having, in connection with Mackay, a design upon his life. To put an end to the earl’s suspicion, Mackay advised John to go to Girnigo (Castle Sinclair), and to submit himself to his father’s pleasure, a request with which the Master complied; but, after arriving at Girnigo, he was, while conversing with his father, arrested by a party of armed men, who, upon a secret signal being given by the earl, had rushed in at the chamber door. He was instantly fettered and thrust into prison within the castle, where, after a miserable captivity of seven years, he died, a prey to famine and vermin. 

Mackay, who had accompanied the Master to Girnigo, and who in all probability would have shared the same fate, escaped and returned home to Strathnaver, where he died, within four months thereafter, of grief and remorse for the many bad actions of his life. During the minority of his son Houcheon, John Mor-Mackay, the cousin, and John Beg-Mackay, the bastard son of Y-Mackay, took charge of the estate; but John Mor-Mackay was speedily removed from his charge by the Earl of Caithness, who, considering him as a favourer of the Earl of Sutherland, caused him to be apprehended and carried into Caithness, where he was detained in prison till his death. During this time John Robson, the chief of the clan Gun in Caithness and Strathnaver, became a dependent on the Earl of Sutherland, and acted as his factor in collecting the rents and duties of the bishop’s lands within Caithness which belonged to the earl. This connexion was exceedingly disagreeable to the Earl of Caithness, who in consequence took a grudge at John Robson, and, to gratify his spleen, he instigated Houcheon Mackay to lay waste the lands of the clan Gun, in the Brea-Moir, in Caithness, without the knowledge of John Beg-Mackay, his brother. As the clan Gun had always been friendly to the family of Mackay, John Beg-Mackay was greatly exasperated at the conduct of the earl in enticing the young chief to commit such an outrage; but he had it not in his power to make any reapration to the injured clan. John Robson, the chief, however, assisted by Alexander Earl of Sutherland, invaded Strathnaver and made ample retaliation. Meeting the Strathnaver men at a place called Creach-Drumi-Doun, he attacked and defeated them, killing several of them, and chiefly those who had accompanied Houcheon Mackay in his expedition to the Brea-Moir. He then carried off a large quantity of booty, which he divided among the clan Gun of Strathully, who had suffered by Houcheon Mackay’s invasion.20 

The Earl of Caithness, having resolved to avenge himself on John Beg-Mackay for the displeasure shown by him at the conduct of Houcheon Mackay, and also on the clan Gun, prevailed upon Neil-Mac-lain-Mac-William, chief of the Sliochd-Iain-Abaraich, and James Mac-Rory, chief of the Sliochd-Iain-Mhoir, to attack them. Accordingly, in the month of September, 1579, these two chiefs, with their followers, entered Balnekill in Durines during the night-time, and slew John Beg-Mackay and William Mac-lain-Mac-Rob, the brother of John Robson, and some of their people. The friends of the deceased were not in a condition to retaliate, but they kept up the spirit of revenge so customary in those times, and waited a favourable opportunity to gratify it. This did not occur till several years thereafter. In the year 1587, James Mac-Rory, “a fyne gentleman and a good commander,” according to Sir Robert Gordon, was assassinated by Donald Balloch-Mackay, the brother John Beg-Mackay; and two years thereafter John Mackay, the son of John Beg, attacked Neil-Mac-Iain-Mac-William, whom he wounded severely, and cut off some of his followers. “This Neil,” says Sir R. Gordon, “heir mentioned, wes a good captain, bold, craftie, of a verie good witt, and quick resolution.” 

After the death of John Beg-Mackay, and William Mac-lain-Mac-Rob, a most deadly and inveterate feud followed, between the clan Gun and the Sliochd-Iain-Abaraich, but no recital of the details has been handed down to us. “The long, the many, the horrible encounters,” observes Sir R. Gordon “which happened between these two trybes, with the bloodshed, and infinit spoills committed in every pairt of the diocy of Catteynes by them and their associats, are of so disordered and troublesome memorie, that, what with their asperous names, together with the confusion of place, tymes, and persons, would yet be (no doubt) a warr to the reader to overlook them; and therefor, to favor myne oune paines, and his who should get little profite or delight thereby, I doe pass them over.”21 

The clan Chattan, fifty years earlier, must have been harassing the surrounding districts to a terrible extent, and causing the government considerable trouble, as in 1528 we find a mandate addressed by King James “to our shirreffs of Kincardin, Abirdene, Banf, Elgen, Fores, Narne, and Invernyss; and to our derrest bruthir, James, Erle of Murray, our lieutenant generale in the north partis of our realme, and to our louittis consingis [ ] Erle of Suthirland; John Erle of Cathnes,” &c., &c., commanding them that inasmuch as John McKinlay, Thomas Mackinlay, Donald Glass, &c., “throcht assistance and fortifying of all the kin of Clanquhattane duelland within Baienach, Petty, Brauchly, Strathnarne, and other parts thereabout, committs daily fire-raising, slaughter, murder, heirschippis, and wasting of the cuntre,” to the harm of the true lieges, these sheriffs and others shall fall upon the “said Clanquhattane, and invade them to their utter destruction by slaughter, burning, drowning, and other ways; and leave na creature living of that clan, except priests, women, and bairns.” The “women and bairns” they were ordered to take to “some parts of the sea nearest land, quhair ships salbe forsene on our expenses, to sail with them furth of our realme, and land with them in Jesland, Zesland, or Norway; because it were inhumanity to put hands in the blood of women and bairns.” Had this mandate for “stamping out” this troublesome clan been carried out it would certainly have been an effectual cure for many of the disturbances in the Highlands; but we cannot find any record as to what practical result followed the issue of this cruel decree.22 

In the year 1585 a quarrel took place between Neil Houcheonson, and Donald Neilson, the Laird of Assynt, who had married Houcheon Mackay’s sister. The cause of Donald Neilson was espoused by Houcheon Mackay, and the clan Gun, who came with an army out of Caithness and Strathnaver, to besiege Neil Houcheonson in the isle of Assynt. Neil, who was commander of Assynt, and a follower of the Earl of Sutherland, sent immediate notice to the earl of Mackay’s movements, on receiving which the earl, assembling a body of men, despatched them to Assynt to raise the siege; but Mackay did not wait for their coming, and retreated into Strathnaver. As the Earl of Caithness had sent some of his people to assist Mackay, who was the Earl of Sutherland’s vassal, the latter resolved to punish both, and accordingly made preparations for entering Strathnaver and Caithness with an army. But some mutual friends of the parties interfered to prevent the effusion of blood, by prevailing on the two earls to meet at Elgin, in the presence of the Earl of Huntly and other friends, and get their differences adjusted. A meeting was accordingly held, at which the earls were reconciled. The whole blame of the troubles and commotions which recently disturbed the peace of Sutherland and Caithness, was thrown upon the clan Gun, who were alleged to have been the chief instigators, and as their restless disposition might give rise to new disorders, it was agreed, at said meeting, to cut them off, and particularly that part of the tribe which dwelt in Caithness, which was chiefly dreaded, for which purpose the Earl of Caithness bound himself to deliver up to the Earl of Sutherland, certain individuals of the clan living in Caithness. To enable him to implement his engagement a resolution was entered into to send two companies of men against those of the clan Gun who dwelt in Caithness and Strathnaver, and to surround them in such a way as to prevent escape. The Earl of Caithness, notwithstanding, sent private notice to the clan of the preparations making against them by Angus Sutherland of Mellary, in Berriedale; but the clan were distrustful of the earl, as they had already received secret intelligence that he had assembled his people together for the purpose of attacking them. 

As soon as the Earl of Sutherland could get his men collected he proceeded to march to the territories of the clan Gun; but meeting by chance, on his way, with a party of Strathnaver men, under the command of William Mackay, brother of Houcheon Mackay, carrying off the cattle of James Mac-Rory, a vassal of his own, from Coireceann Loch in the Diri-Meanigh, he rescued and brought back his vassal’s cattle. After this the earl’s party pursued William Mackay and the Strathnaver men during the whole day, and killed one of the principal men of the clan Gun in Strathnaver, called Angus-Roy, with several others of Mackay’s company. This affair was called Latha-Tom-Fraoich, that is, the day of the heather bush. At the end of the pursuit, and towards evening, the pursued party found themselves on the borders of Caithness, where they found the clan Gun assembled in consequence of the rising of the Caithness people who had taken away their cattle. 

This accidental meeting of the Strathnaver men and the clan Gun was the means, probably, of saving both from destruction. They immediately entered into an alliance to stand by one another, and to live or die together. Next morning they found themselves placed between two powerful bodies of their enemies. On the one side was the Earl of Sutherland’s party at no great distance, reposing themselves from the fatigues of the preceding day, and on the other were seen advancing the Caithness men, conducted by Henry Sinclair, brother to the laird of Dun, and cousin to the Earl of Caithness. A council of war was immediately held to consult how to act in this emergency, when it was resolved to attack the Caithness men first, as they were far inferior in numbers, which was done by the clan Gun and their allies, who had the advantage of the hill, with great resolution. The former foolishly expended their arrows while at a distance from their opponents; but the clan Gun having husbanded their shot till they came in close contact with the enemy, did great execution. The Caithness men were completely overthrown, after leaving 140 of their party, with their captain, Henry Sinclair, dead on the field of battle. Had not the darkness of the night favoured their flight, they would have all been destroyed. Henry Sinclair was Mackay’s uncle, and not being aware that he had been in the engagement till he recognised his body among the slain, Mackay felt extremely grieved at the unexpected death of his relative. This skirmish took place at Aldgown, in the year 1586. The Sutherland men having lost sight of Mackay and his party among the hills, immediately before the conflict, returned into their own country with the booty they had recovered, and were not aware of the defeat of the Caithness men till some time after that event. 

The Earl of Caithness afterwards confessed that he had no intention of attacking the clan Gun at the time in question; but that his policy was to have allowed them to be closely pressed and pursued by the Sutherland men, and then to have relieved them from the imminent danger they would thereby be placed in, so that they might consider that it was to him they owed their safety, and thus lay them under fresh obligations to him. But the deceitful part he acted proved very disastrous his people, and the result so exasperated him against the clan Gun, that he hanged John Mac-lain-Mac-Rob, chieftain of the clan Gun, in Caithness, whom he had kept captive for some time. 

The result of all these proceedings was another meeting between the Earls of Sutherland and Caithness at the hill of Bingrime in Sutherland, which was brought about by the mediation of Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindun, was sent into the north by his nephew, the Earl of Huntly, for that purpose. Here again a new confederacy was formed against the clan Gun in Caithness, who were now maintained and harboured by Mackay. The Earl of Sutherland, on account of the recent defeat of the Caithness men, undertook to attack the clan first. He accordingly directed two bodies to march with all haste against the clan, one of which was commanded by James Mac-Rory and Neil Mac-lain-Mac-William, chief of the Sliochd-Iain-Abaraich, who were now under the protection of the Earl of Sutherland; and the other by William Sutherland Johnson, George Gordon in Marle, and William Murray in Kinnald, brother of Hugh Murray of Aberscors. Houcheon Mackay, seeing no hopes of maintaining the clan Gun any longer without danger to himself, discharged them from his country, whereupon they made preparations for seeking an asylum in the western isles. But, on their journey thither, they were met near Loch Broom, at a place called Leckmelme, by James Mac-Rory and Neil Mac-lain-Mac-William, where, after a sharp skirmish, they were overthrown, and the greater part of them killed. Their commander, George-Mac-lain-Mac-Rob, brother of John Mac-lain-Mac-Rob, who was hanged by the Earl of Caithness, was severely wounded, and was taken prisoner after an unsuccessful attempt to escape by swimming across a loch close by. After being carried to Dunrobin castle, and presented to the Earl of Sutherland, George Gun was sent by him to the Earl of Caithness, who, though extremely grieved at the misfortune which had happened to the clan Gun, dissembled his vexation, and received the prisoner as if he approved of the Earl of Sutherland’s proceedings against him and his unfortunate people. After a short confinement, George Gun was released from his captivity by the Earl of Caithness, at the entreaty of the Earl of Sutherland, not from any favour to the prisoner himself, or to the earl, whom the Earl of Caithness hated mortally, but with the design of making Gun an instrument of annoyance to some of the Earl of Sutherland’s neighbours. But the Earl of Caithness was disappointed in his object, for George Gun, after his enlargement from prison, always remained faithful to the Earl of Sutherland.23 

About this time a violent feud arose in the western isles between Angus Macdonald of Kintyre, and Sir Lauchlan Maclean of Duart, in Mull, whose sister Angus had married, which ended in the almost total destruction of the clan Donald and clan Lean. The circumstances which led to this unfortunate dissension were these:- 

Donald Gorm Macdonald of Slate, when going on a visit from Slate to his cousin, Angus Macdonald of Kintyre, was forced by contrary winds to land with his party in the island of Jura, which belonged partly to Sir Lauchlan Maclean, and partly to Angus Macdonald. The part of the island where Macdonald of Slate landed belonged to Sir Lauchlan Maclean. No sooner had Macdonald and his company landed, than, by an unlucky coincidence, Macdonald Tearreagh and Houcheon Macgillespic, two of the clan Donald who had lately quarrelled with Donald Gorm, arrived at the same time with a party of men; and, understanding that Donald Gorm was in the island, they secretly took away, by night, a number of cattle belonging to the clan Lean, and immediately put to sea. Their object in doing so was to make the clan Lean believe that Donald Gorm and his party had carried off the cattle, in the hope that the Macleans would attack Donald Gorm, and they were not disappointed. As soon as the lifting of the cattle had been discovered, Sir Lauchlan Maclean assembled his whole forces, and, under the impression that Donald Gorm and his party had committed the spoliation, he attacked them suddenly and unawares, during the night, at a place in the island called Inverchuockwrick, and slew about sixty of the clan Donald. Donald Gorm, having previously gone on board his vessel to pass the night, fortunately escaped. 

When Angus Macdonald heard of this “untoward event,” he visited Donald Gorm in Skye for the purpose of consulting with him on the means of obtaining reparation for the loss of his men. On his return homeward to Kintyre, he landed in the Isle of Mull, and, contrary to the advice of Coll Mac-James and Reginald Mac-James, his two brothers, and of Reginald Mac-Coll, his cousin, who wished him to send a messenger to announce the result of his meeting with Donald Gorm, went the castle of Duart, the principal residence of Sir Lauchlan Maclean in Mull. His two brothers refused to accompany him, and they acted rightly; for, the day after Angus arrived at Duart, he and all his party were perfidiously arrested by Sir Lauchlan Maclean. Reginald Mac-Coll, the cousin of Angus, alone escaped. The Rhinns of Islay at this time belonged to the clan Donald, but they had given the possession of them to the clan Lean for personal services. Sir Lauchlan, thinking the present a favourable opportunity for acquiring an absolute right to this property, offered to release Angus Macdonald, provided he would renounce his right and title to the Rhinns; and, in case of refusal, he threatened to make him end his days in captivity. Angus, being thus in some degree compelled, agreed to the proposed terms; but, before obtaining his liberty, he was forced to give James Macdonald, his eldest son, and Reginald Mac-James, his brother, as hostages, until the deed of conveyance should be delivered to Sir Lauchlan. 

It was not, however, the intention of Angus Macdonald to implement this engagement, if he could accomplish the liberation of his son and brother. His cousin had suffered a grievous injury at the hands of Sir Lauchlan Maclean without any just cause of offence, and he himself had, when on a friendly mission, been detained most unjustly as a prisoner, and compelled to promise to surrender into Sir Lauchlan’s hands, by a regular deed, a part of his property. Under these circumstances, his resolution to break the unfair engagement he had come under is not to be wondered at. To accomplish his object he had recourse to a stratagem in which he succeeded, as will be shown in the sequel. 

After Maclean had obtained delivery of the two hostages, he made a voyage to Islay to get the engagement completed. He left behind, in the castle of Duart, Reginald Mac-James, one of the hostages, whom he put in fetters, and took the other to accompany him on his voyage. Having arrived in the isle of Islay, he encamped at Eilean-Gorm, a ruinous castle upon the Rhinns of Islay, which castle had been lately in the possession of the clan Lean. Angus Macdonald was residing at the time at the house of Mulindry or Mullindhrea, a comfortable and well-furnished residence belonging to him on the island, and to which he invited Sir Lauchlan, under the pretence of affording him better accommodation, and providing him with better provisions than he could obtain in his camp; but Sir Lauchlan, having his suspicions, declined to accept the invitation. “There wes,” says Sir Robert Gordon, “so little trust on either syd, that they did not now meit in friendship or amitie, bot vpon ther owne guard, or rather by messingers, one from another. And true it is (sayeth John Colwin, in his manuscript) that the islanders are, of nature, verie suspicious; full of invention against ther nighbours, by whatsoever way they may get them destroyed. Besyds this, they are bent and eager in taking revenge, that neither have they regaird to persone, tyme, aige, nor cause; and ar generallie so addicted that way (as lykwise are the most pairt of all Highlanders), that therein they surpasse all other people whatsoever.” 

Sir Lauchlan, however, was thrown off his guard by fair promises, and agreed to pay Macdonald a visit, and accordingly proceeded in Mulindry, accompanied by James Macdonald, his own nephew, and the son of Angus, and 86 of his kinsmen and servants. Maclean and his party, on their arrival, were received by Macdonald with much apparent kindness, and were sumptuously entertained during the whole day. In the meantime, Macdonald sent notice to all his friends and well-wishers in the island, to come to his house at nine o’clock at night, his design being to seize Maclean and his party. At the usual hour for going to repose, Maclean and his people were lodged in a long-house, which stood by itself, at some distance from the other houses. During the whole day Maclean had always kept James Macdonald, the hostage, within his reach, as a sort of protection to him in case of an attack, and at going to bed he took him along with him. About an hour after Maclean and his people had retired, Angus assembled his men to the number of 300 or 400, and made them surround the house in which Maclean and his company lay. Then going himself to the door, he called upon Maclean, and told him that he had come to give him his reposing drink, which he had forgotten to offer him before going to bed. Maclean answered that he did not wish to drink at that time; but Macdonald insisted that he should rise and receive the drink, it being, he said, his will that he should do so. The peremptory tone of Macdonald made Maclean at once apprehensive of the danger of his situation, and immediately getting up and placing the boy between his shoulders, prepared to preserve his life as long as he could with the boy, or to sell it as dearly as possible. As soon as the door was forced open, James Macdonald, seeing his father with a naked sword in his hand and a number of his men armed in the same manner, cried aloud for mercy to Maclean, his uncle, which being granted, Sir Lauchlan was immediately removed to a secret chamber, where he remained till next morning. After Maclean had surrendered, Angus Macdonald announced to those within the house, that if they would come without their lives would be spared; but he excepted Macdonald Terreagh and another individual whom he named. The whole, with the exception of these two, having complied, the house was immediately set on fire, and consumed along with Macdonald Terreagh and his companion. The former was one of the clan Donald of the Western Islands, and not only had assisted the clan Lean against his own tribe, but was also the originator, as we have seen, of all these disturbances; and the latter was a near kinsman to Maclean, one of the oldest of the clan, and celebrated for his wisdom and prowess. This affair took place in the month of July, 1586. 

When the intelligence of the seizure of Sir Lauchlan Maclean reached the Isle of Mull, Allan Maclean, who was the nearest kinsman to Maclean, whose children were then very young, bethought himself of an expedient to obtain the possessions of Sir Lauchlan. In conjunction with his friends, Allan caused a false report to be spread in the island of Islay, that the friends of Maclean had killed Reginald Mac-James, the remaining hostage at Duart in Mull, by means of which he hoped that Angus Macdonald would be moved to kill Sir Lauchlan, and thereby enable him (Allan) to supply his place. But although this device did not succeed, it proved very disastrous to Sir Lauchlan’s friends and followers, who were beheaded in pairs by Coll Mac-James, the brother of Angus Macdonald. 

The friends of Sir Lauchlan seeing no hopes of his release, applied to the Earl of Argyle to assist them in a contemplated attempt to rescue him out of the hands of Angus Macdonald; but the earl, perceiving the utter hopelessness of such an attempt with such forces as he and they could command, advised them to complain to King James VI. against Angus Macdonald, for the seizure and detention of their chief. The king immediately directed that Macdonald should be summoned by a herald-at-arms to deliver up Sir Lauchlan into the hands of the Earl of Argyle; but the herald was interrupted in the performance of his duty, not being able to procure shipping for Islay, and was obliged to return home. The Earl of Argyle had then recourse to negotiation with Macdonald, and, after considerable trouble, he prevailed on him to release Sir Lauchlan on certain strict conditions, but not until Reginald Mac-James, the brother of Angus, had been delivered up, and the earl, for performance of the conditions agreed upon, had given his own son, and the son of Macleod of Harris, as hostages. But Maclean, quite regardless of the safety of the hostages, and in open violation of the engagements he had come under, on hearing that Angus Macdonald had gone on a visit to the clan Donald of the glens in Ireland, invaded Isla, which he laid waste, and pursued those who had assisted in his capture. 

On his return from Ireland, Angus Macdonald made great preparations for inflicting a just chastisement upon Maclean. Collecting a large body of men, and much shipping, he invaded Mull and Tiree, carrying havoc and destruction along with him, and destroying every human being and every domestic animal, of whatever kind. While Macdonald was committing these ravages in Mull and Tiree, Maclean, instead of opposing him, invaded Kintyre, where he took ample retaliation by wasting and burning a great part of that country. In this manner did these hostile clans continue, for a considerable period, mutually to vex and destroy one another, till they were almost exterminated, root and branch. 

In order to strengthen his own power and to weaken that of his antagonist, Sir Lauchlan Maclean attempted to detach John Mac-lain, of Ardnamurchan, from Angus Macdonald and his party. Mac-lain had formerly been an unsuccessful suitor for the hand of Maclean’s mother, and Sir Lauchlan now gave him an invitation to visit him in Mull, promising, at the same time, to give him his mother in marriage. Mac-Iain accepted the invitation, and on his arrival in Mull, Maclean prevailed on his mother to marry Mac-lain, and the nuptials were accordingly celebrated at Torloisk in Mull. No persuasion, however, could induce Mac-lain to join against his own tribe, towards which, notwithstanding his matrimonial alliance, he entertained the strongest affection. Chagrined at the unexpected refusal of Mac-Iain, Sir Lauchlan resolved to punish his refractory guest by one of those gross infringements of the laws of hospitality which so often marked the hostility of rival clans. During the dead hour of the night he caused the door of Mac-Iain’s bedchamber to be forced open, dragged him from his bed, and from the arms of his wife, and put him in close confinement, after killing eighteen of his followers. After suffering a year’s captivity, he was released and exchanged for Maclean’s son, and the other hostages in Macdonald’s possession. 

The dissensions between these two tribes having attracted the attention of government, the rival chiefs were induced partly by command of the king, and partly by persuasions and fair promises, to come to Edinburgh in the year 1592, for the purpose of having their differences reconciled. On their arrival they were committed prisoners to the castle of Edinburgh, but were soon released and allowed to return home on payment of a small pecuniary fine, “and a shamfull remission,” says Sir Robert Gordon, “granted to either of them.”24 

In the year 1587, the flames of discord, which had lain dormant for a short time, burst forth between the rival houses of Sutherland and Caithness. In the year 1583, Alexander, Earl of Sutherland, obtained from the Earl of Huntly a grant of the superiority of Strathnaver, and of the heritable sheriffship of Sutherland and Strathnaver, which last was granted in lieu of the lordship of Aboyne. This grant was confirmed by his Majesty in a charter under the great seal, by which Sutherland and Strathnaver were disjoined and dismembered from the sheriffdom of Inverness. As the strength and intluence of the Earl of Sutherland were greatly increased by the power and authority with which the superiority of Strathnaver invested him, the Earl of Caithness used the most urgent entreaties with the Earl of Huntly, who was his brother-in-law, to recall the gift of the superiority which he had granted to the Earl of Sutherland, and confer the same on him. The Earl of Huntly gave no decided answer to this application, although he seemed rather to listen with a favourable ear to his brother-in-law’s request. The Earl of Sutherland having been made aware of his rival’s pretensions, and of the reception which he had met with from the Earl of Huntly, immediately notified to Huntly that he would never restore the superiority either to him or to the Earl of Caithness, as the bargain he had made with him had been long finally concluded. The Earl of Huntly was much offended at this notice, but he and the Earl of Sutherland were soon reconciled through the mediation of Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindun. 

Disappointed in his views of obtaining the superiority in question, the Earl of Caithness seized the first opportunity, which presented itself, of quarrelling with the Earl of Sutherand, and he now thought that a suitable occasion had occurred. George Gordon, a bastard son of Gilbert Gordon of Gartay, having offered many indignities to the Earl of Caithness, the Earl, instead of complaining to the Earl of Sutherland, in whose service this George Gordon was, craved satisfaction and redress from the Earl of Huntly. Huntly very properly desired the Earl of Caithness to lay his complaint before the Earl of Sutherland; but this he declined to do, disdaining to seek redress from Earl Alexander. Encouraged, probably, by the refusal of the Earl of Huntly to interfere, and the stubbornness of the Earl of Caithness to ask redress from his master, George Gordon, who resided in the town of Marle in Strathully, on the borders of Caithness, not satisfied with the indignities which he had formerly shown to the Earl of Caithness, cut off the tails of the earl’s horses as they were passing the river of Helmsdale under the care of his servants, on their journey from Caithness to Edinburgh, and in derision desired the earl’s servants to show him what he had done. 

This George Gordon, it would appear, led a very irregular and wicked course of life, and shortly after the occurrence we have just related, a circumstance happened which induced the Earl of Caithness to take redress at his own hands. George Gordon had incurred the displeasure of the Earl of Sutherland by an unlawful connexion with his wife’s sister, and as he had no hopes of regaining the earl’s favour but by renouncing this impure intercourse, he sent Patrick Gordon, his brother, to the Earl of Caithness to endeavour to effect a reconciliation with him, as he could no longer rely upon the protection of his master, the Earl of Sutherland. The Earl of Caithness, who felt an inward satisfaction at hearing of the displeasure of the Earl of Sutherland with George Gordon, dissembled his feelings, and pretended to listen with great favour to the request of Patrick Gordon, in order to throw George Gordon off his guard, while he was in reality meditating his destruction. The ruse succeeded so effectually, that although Gordon received timeous notice, from some friends, of the intentions of the earl to attack him, he reposed in false security upon the promises held out to him, and made no provision for his personal safety. But he was soon undeceived by the appearance of the earl and a body of men, who, in February, 1587, entering Marle under the silence of the night, surrounded his house required him to surrender, which he refused to do. Having cut his way through his enemies and thrown himself into the river of Helmsdale, which he attempted to swim across, he was slain by a shower of arrows. 

The Earl of Sutherland, though he disliked the conduct of George Gordon, was highly incensed at his death, and made great preparations to punish the Earl of Caithness for his attack upon Gordon. The Earl of Caithness his turn assembled his whole forces, and, being joined by Mackay and the Strathnaver men, together with John, the Master of Orkney, the Earl of Carrick, brother of Patrick, Earl of Orkney, and some of his countrymen, marched to Helmsdale to meet the Earl of Sutherland. As soon as the latter heard of the advance of the Earl of Caithness, he also proceeded towards Helmsdale, accompanied by Mackintosh, Roderick Mackenzie of Redcastle, Hector Monroe of Contaligh, and Neill Houcheonson, with the men of Assynt. On his arrival at the river of Helmsdale, the Earl of Sutherland found the enemy encamped on the opposite side. Neither party seemed inclined to come to a general engagement, but contented themselves with daily skirmishes, annoying each other with guns and arrows from opposite the banks of the river. The Sutherland men, who were very expert archers, annoyed the Caithness men so much, as to force them to break up their camp on the river side and to remove among the rocks above the village of Easter Helmsdale. Mackay and his countrymen were encamped on the river of Marle, and in order to detach him from the Earl of Caithness, Macintosh crossed that river and had a private conference with him. After reminding him of the friendship which had so long subsisted between his ancestors and the Sutherland family, Macintosh endeavoured to impress upon his mind the danger he incurred by taking up arms against his own superior the Earl of Sutherland, and entreated him, for his own sake, to join the earl; but Mackay remained inflexible. 

By the mediation of mutual friends, the two earls agreed to a temporary truce on the 9th of March, 1587, and thus the effusion of human blood was stopped for a short time. As Mackay was the vassal of the Earl of Sutherand, the latter refused to comprehend him in the truce, and insisted upon an unconditional submission, but Mackay obstinately refused to do so, and returned home to his own country, highly chagrined that the Earl of Caithness, for whom he had put his life and estate in jeopardy, should have acceded to the Earl of Sutherland’s request to exclude him from the benefit of the truce. Before the two earls separated they came to a mutual understanding to reduce Mackay to obedience; and that he might not suspect their design, they agreed to meet at Edinburgh for the purpose of concerting the necessary measures together. Accordingly, they held a meeting at the appointed place in the year 1588, and came to the resolution to attack Mackay; and to prevent Mackay from receiving any intelligence of their design, both parties swore to keep the same secret; but the Earl of Caithness, regardless of his oath, immediately sent notice to Mackay of the intended attack, for the purpose of enabling him to meet it. Instead, however, of following the Earl of Caithness’s advice, Mackay, justly dreading his hollow friendship, made haste, by the advice of Macintosh and the Laird of Foulis, to reconcile himself to the Earl of Sutherland, his superior, by an immediate submission. For this purpose he and the earl first met at Inverness, and after conferring together they made another appointment to meet at Elgin, where a perfect and final reconciliation took place in the month of November, 1588. 

1  Sir Robert Gordon, p. 90. 

2  Sir R. Gordon, p. 92. 

3  Sir R. Gordon, p. 93. 

4  Sir R. Gordon, pp. 96, 97. 

5  Sir R. Gordon, p. 97. 

6  It was this excellent Bishop who built, at his own expense, the beautiful bridge of seven arches on the Dee, near Aberdeen. The Episcopal arms cut on some of the stones are almost as entire as when chiselled by the hands of the sculptor. 

7  Hist. of Scotland, p. 137. 

8  P. 99. 

9  This is the number given by Bishop Lesley, whose account must be preferred to that of Sir R. Gordon, who states it at upwards of 200, as the Bishop lived about a century before Sir Robert. 

10  Sir R. Gordon, p. 100. 

11  Hist., p. 138. 

12  Lesley, p. 184. – Sir R. Gordon, pp. 109, 110. – Shaw’s Moray, pp. 265, 266. 

13  Sir R. Gordon, p. 133. 

14  Lesley, p. 251. 

15  Sir R. Gordon, p. 136. 

16 Sir R. Gordon, p. 147. 

17 Sir R. Gordon, p. 154. 

18 Sir R. Gordon, p. 155. 

19 Sir R. Gordon, p. 156. 

20 Sir R. Gordon, p. 173. 

21 History, p. 174. 

22 See Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. ii. p. 83. 

23 Sir R. Gordon, p. 185. 

24 History, p. 192. 

Leave a Reply