Ours, Yours and Mines

Historical novels set in Scotland and based on real people and events.

Scots News Magazine story sample - February 2014

One of the stories in this month's edition covers the anniversaries of two great Highland conflicts - the warring clans of the MacDonalds and the Campbells at the Massacre at Glencoe (February 1692), and the MacGregors and the Colquhouns  battle at Glen Fruin (February 1603).

Bloodshed in a lawless land

In any dispute there are two sides to the story. The stories of the warring Highland Clans have filtered down the generations and depending upon whether you are a Campbell or a MacDonald, a MacGregor or a Colquhoun, for example, you will have no doubt heard variations on the stories. Historians have gathered similar, but different, facts about these bloody encounters and depending upon who you talk to, the MacDonalds and the Colquhouns were the victims (but not according to the Campbells and the MacGregors).

LIFE in the highlands of Scotland in the 1600s was often a battle against the elements and warring clans.

The Battle of Glen Coe on February 13, 1692 when 38 members of Clan MacDonald were massacred at the hands of the Campbells, under order from the government, has been well documented.

The slaughter was eloquently addressed in Jim Mclean’s song The Massacre at Glencoe:

"They came from Fort William with murder in mind

The Campbells had orders, King William had signed

Put all to the sword, these words underlined

And leave none alive called MacDonald

Some died in their beds at the hands of the foe

Some fled in the night, and were lost in the snow

Some lived to accuse him, that struck the first blow

But gone was the house of MacDonald."

You can hear a version of this song, sung by The Corries at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cPitxtk4m0

Perhaps a less well-known battle took place on February 9, 1603 between Clan Gregor and Clan Colquhoun at Glen Fruin in the Loch Lomond area of Dunbartonshire.

While the Colquhouns may have a different version of how the conflict began, according to Clan Gregor two of their clansmen found themselves in Colquhoun lands and unable to make it home before dark, so they sought a bed for the night in a Colquhoun home. The host was most inhospitable and sent them on their way, so they slaughtered a sheep and feasted on it in an abandoned outhouse where they spent the night.

When they were discovered they were brought before Sir Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss, chief of the Clan Colquhoun, who sentenced them to death.

When news of the death of their kinsmen reached Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, chief of Clan Gregor, he led more than 300 men, including Macfarlanes, from the banks of Loch Long by way of Highlandman’s Pass towards Colquhoun lands.

Having been given advance warning of the approaching MacGregors, the Colquhoun chieftan gathered almost twice as many men, including Buchanans, Grahams and others from the surrounding district.

When MacGregor reached Glen Fruin and saw the army that Colquhoun had assembled, he was fearful that they would be slaughtered and thought about turning back, but legend has it that a seer pushed the MacGregors forward with his vision of ‘shrouds of the dead wrapt’ around their opponents, and MacGregor felt that the force of right was on his side.

Chieftan MacGregor sent a large contingent of his men in to battle the Colquhouns head on, while his brother Iain Dubh MacGregor led a force to flank the Colquhouns.

Literally bogged down by the muddy ground of the glen, the large forces of the Colquhouns were stopped in their tracks and the MacGregors galloped on against their foe. Over 200 Colquhouns and their allies were lost.

The Colquhouns chieftan had his horse killed from under him and to add insult to death and injury, the MacGregors made off with large numbers of horses, cattle, sheep and goats and it is reported that women and children were injured and houses raised to the ground.

The MacGregors were believed to have lost few men, though significant among them was Iain Dubh MacGregor.

But the MacGregor’s victory was short lived as a price was put upon the heads of 70 or 80 of them, by name, by the government. All who had been at the conflict at Glen Fruin, and involved in burning the lands of the Laird of Luss, were prohibited, under penalty of death, from carrying any weapon except a pointless knife to eat their meat.

Eventually thirty-five of the clan Gregor were executed.

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