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The interest of Clan Uisdein history at this period
centres largely, not in the relation of that tribe to
other claimants to their inheritance, but in those
domestic broils, conspiracies, and assassinations which
have cast so terrible a stain upon the early annals of
Sleat. Donald Gallach resided in the Castle of
Dunskaich, in the barony of Sleat, where, notwith-
standing Clanranald parchment, he exercised the
powers of a great Highland Chief His father had
several other sons, of whom some notice must now
be taken, as they were involved in proceedings which
bulk largely in the history of Clan Uisdein in the
early part of the 16th century. One of these was
Donald Herrach, or Donald of Harris, so called from
the fact that his mother was a daughter of Macleod
of Harris, where Donald probably passed a portion
of his early life. There was another, known as
Angus Collach, whose mother was the daughter of
Maclean of Coll. Another, whose name was Archi-
bald, was the son of a daughter of Torquil Macleod
of the Lewis, and one of the name of Angus Dubh
was by a daughter of Maurice Vicar of South Uist.
In the continuation of Hugh Macdonald's MS., as
yet unjDublished, there is the following reference to
Donald Gallach, the chief, and some of the other
sons of Hugh : — " Donald Gallich was a moderate
man, inclined to peace, black haired and fair skinned,
and lived in the time of King James TH, and IV.
He divided all his lands and possessions with his
brother, Donald Harrich, when he arrived at his
majority, by giving him North Uist, the upper
Davach of Sleat, and the Davach of Dunskaich,
with four Davachs in west side of Trotternish, and
kept the rest of the lands and estate of Lochbroom
to himself Two of their brethren were allotted


particularly for their patrimony for each of them.
Donald Gallach was to provide for Archibald and
for Anous Collach, Donald Herrach was to provide
for John and Angus Du." We have here the uncon-
firmed tradition that the Sleat family possessed lands
on the west of Ros? and in the region of Lochbroom,
but for the accuracy of the statement it is, of course,
impossible to vouch in the absence of more reliable
authorities. There seems to be still less foundation
for the assertion that Donald Herrach possessed
lands in Skye, as both history and tradition connect
the Clan Domhnuill Herraich with North Uist
exclusively. That Donald Gallach made provision
for John, the son of Hugh, who was dead by the
time the former became head of the house, is, of
course, absurd.

Archibald, the son of Hugh, known as Gilleasbuig
Dubh or Black Archibald, appears to have been dis-
contented with the provision made for him out of
the family inheritance, and the flame of discontent
was fanned by his foster father, Mackinnon, who
taunted him by saying that the whole of his father's
estate was divided between the son of the Crowner
of Caithness's daughter and the son of Macleod's
daughter. We have this on the testimony of the
traditional historian, who further states, what later
events were to confirm, that from that day Archibald,
the son of Hugh, whose soul was as dark as his com-
plexion, resolved to put both Donald Gallach and
Donald Herrach to death. The dreadful resolution
was ere long put in force. His two half-brothers,
Angus Collach and Angus Dubh, were instruments
ready to his hand for carrying out the inhuman and
uimatural scheme, and he promised that if they
aided him he would greatly increase their patrimony.


The circumstances attendant on the murder of
Donald Herrach may be more appropriately detailed
in connection with the cadet family of Griminisli and
Balranald. Suffice it to say here that Archibald,
Angus Dubh, and Angus Collach compassed his
murder on the Inch of Loch Scolpig in a barbarous
and revolting manner.

Archibald having carried through one part of his
desperate resolve went from Uist to Skye for the
purpose of completing it. On his arrival at Dun-
skaich, the chief — Donald Gallach — was delighted
to see him, and after dinner brought him out to see
a galley that he had on the stocks, and wherewith
he had purposed to pay him a visit in Uist as soon
as it should be ready. After a careful inspection of
the boat, Archibald bent down to examine the stern,
and observed to his brother that there was one
faulty plank at least in the galley, namely, the keel
plank. Surprised that such should be the case,
Donald bent down to satisfy himself as to the
correctness of the observation, when Archibald drew
his dagger and stabbed him in the back. The blow
was not immediately fatal. Donald fell, but had
time to remonstrate with his brother as to the
fiendish atrocity of his conduct. The latter stared
for a moment at his victim, dropped his weapon, fell
on his knees, and, struck with remorse, poured out
his lamentations, regrets, and self-rejj roaches, and
would give the world that the deed was not done.
Seeing this, the dying man begged of him to spare
his son, who was a mere boy, and the murderer
assured him in the most earnest manner that he
would rear him with the same care as if he were his
own son. Singular to say, this promise appears to
have been kept. Archibald, who, though married,


had no family of his own, hved in the island of
Oronsay, in North Uist, and broug'ht up the sons of
the two murdered brothers, Donald Gruamach, the
son of Donald Gallach, the heir to the chiefship and
patrimony of the House of Sleat, and his cousin
Ranald, the son of Donald Herrach, as if they were
his own offspring.^ He was evidently satisfied in
having the control of the Clan and the possessions
of the family, and not having a son of his own was
content that in due time his nephews should enter
into their kingdom. Not long after the double
tragedy, which seems to have taken place in 1506,
Uist appears to have become too hot for the blood-
stained Archibald, and he was forced by E-onald
Bane, the laird of Moydart, to betake himself to the
Southern Hebrides, where he joined a band of
pirates, and was for about three years engaged in
the congenial employment of robbery on the high
seas. Archibald did not possess the honour which
is said to exist among thieves, for at the last he won
the favour of the Government by rounding on his
partners in crime, John Mor and Alister Bearnich,
of the Clan Allister of Kintyre, takmg them by
surprise and handing them into custody. After this
he returned to the Clan Uisdein country, assumed
the leadership of the Clan, and obtained the bailiary
of Troternish, all with the consent of the Govern-
ment, who seemed to have winked at his previous
enormities. He was acting in this capacity in 1510."
During the period of Archibald's piratical career,
the history of Clan Uisdein in Uist is a tale of
violence and lawlessness. Angus Collach, the son
of Hugh, who had a hand in the murder of Donald
Herrach; paid, according to the Sleat Seanachie, a

^ Long Island tradition. -' Privy Seal,


notable visit to the Island of North Uist — a visit
which proved to be his last. This hero travelled in
state, taking a considerable number of followers
in his train. Sunday coming round, Angus and
his "tail" attended divine ssrvice in the Parish
Church of Saint Mary's, though the sequel does
not suggest the possession of profound piety.
Donald Macdonald of Balranald, a gentleman of the
Clan Gorraidh, was at the time from home, but his
wife, a lady of the Clanranald family, was present
in Church. Angus Collach, meeting her after
service, proposed that he and his followers should
partake of the hospitality of Balranald for that
night, as it was in the near vicinity of the Church.
This was cheerfully agreed to, but when other pro-
posals inconsistent with the marriage vow were
made by Angus, the lady of Balranald had, in the
first instance, to dissemble, and afterwards contrive
by stratagem to make her escape to her friends in
South Uist. The result was that 60 men were
sent to North Uist under Donald MacBanald, who
collected a further large contingent of the Siol
Ghorraidh, with whom he surprised Angus Collach
at Kiikibost, killed 18 of his men, and took himself
prisoner. Angus was sent to Clanranald in South
Uist, where he was tied up in a sack and cast into
the sea. His remains afterwai'ds turned up on the
shore at Carinish, where also they were buried.
Such was the violent end of a lawless life, Ano^us
Dubh, another son of Hugh of Sleat, seems to have
been involved in the irregularities of his brother,
and was about the same time apprehended by Clan-
ranald, and kept for a long time in close custody.
One day he was let out of ward, and permitted by
his guards to run on the Strand of Askernish, in


South Uist, to see if be could do so as swiftly
as before bis incarceration. Angus finding tbat bis
fleetness of foot was almost unimpaired, attempted
to outrun bis keepers, wlio closely pursued him, and
one of them bitting bim on tbe leg witb an arrow,
and the wound being considered incurable, he was
put to tbe sword.

By this time almost all tbe sons of Hugh of Sleat
have come to a violent end, and as the years are
passing, tbe dark shadow of retribution is falling
deeper and darker on the first villain of the Clan
Uisdein tragedy, the treacherous and unnatural
Gilleasbuig Dubh. Soon after his return, we find
bim taking a terrible revenge upon the descendants
of Godfrey, who were concerned in the capture and
punishment of Angus Collach, by putting a large
number of them to death, but Nemesis was no less
surely drawing nearer to himself, and was destined
in the end to overtake him, however slow and
deliberate its tread.

The story of the events that led up to the final
catastrophe in the life of the Captain of the Clan
Uisdein is told witb very circumstantial detail by
the Sleat Seanachie. According to this authority,
Donald Gruamach, son of Donald Gallach, was at
the time of his coming of age resident in tbe house
of the Earl of Murray, and bis uncle Archibald
sent for himself and his cousin Ranald, son of the
murdered Donald Herrach, to go to see him in Uist.
Another traditional account culled from the best
Seanacbies in Skye and Uist between 40 and 50
years ago, and which appears to us the more
reliable of the two, states that the two young men
were all along under their uncle's guardianship, and
as they both approached manhood occasionally dis-


played slight symptoms of disaffection towards their
uncle — symptoms which were perceptible only to
Archibald's wife — he himself being so far put off his
guard by their uniform gentleness and obedience.
[t was a beautiful day in summer, and Gilleasbuig
and his nephews, with their crew of Gilliemores,
were on a hunting expedition in the hills called
Lea, which lie to the south of Lochmaddy. While
their attendants were beating up the hill, the Captain
of Clan Uisdein and his young kinsmen were stationed
at the pass between the two Lea hills called
" Bealach a Sgail," waiting until the game should
be driven through. Overpowered by the heat of
the day, Gilleasbuig Dubh stretched himself on the
heath, and fell fast asleep. This sleep was to be his
last. His two nephews immediately planned his
destruction, and the question was who would be the
executioner. Donald Gruamach appears to have
had scruples against having a hand in the deed, but
on Ronald consenting to undertake it, he is reported
to have spoken these words^"Dean, dean, agus
cuimhnuich m' athair-sa agus t' athair ft in " (Do, do,
and remember my father and your own). The blow
v\as struck with fatal effect, and this man of blood
paid the penalty of his crimes by death, while tradi-
tion loves to record that on the spot where his blood
flowed out neither grass nor heather ever grew.
Such was the detestation in which not only his
fellow-men but even inanimate creation held the
memory of Gillcashuig Dubh.

On his uncle's death, which probably took place
about 1515-20, Donald Gruamach, who was prob-
ably now of age, assumed the leadership of the
Clan Uisdein as the third chief of his line. We do
not find much of his history in the State Records,


but it is clear that he did a great deal by his bravery
and force of character to raise the status and repair
the fortunes of his house. He had a difficult part to
play in view of unfriendliness in high places, and no
doubt the "grimness" from which he derived his name
stood him in good stead in those troublous times.
On 3rd July, 1521, "Donald McDonald Gallych of
Dunscayth " entered into a Bond of raanrent with
Sir John Campbell of Cawdor "to be commyn man
and servand to ane honorabyll man Sir John Camp-
bell &c. Knycht both meself and my broder and
John McKorkyll Mcloid &c. signed with my hand at
the pen at Castle Mear." The following year Colin,
Earl of Argyll, assigned to his brother, John Camp-
bell of Cawdor, a Bond of Manrent which had been
given to the Earl by " Donald Gromach McDonald
Gallach and Alexander Mc Allan Mcroyrie." This
assignation was signed at Inveraray, but the par-
ticular day and month are blank.

The year 1523 seems to have been a somewhat
eventful one in the life of Donald Gruamach His
Bond of Manrent to Cawdor bound hun to the
service of that chief, and this appears to have led
him into courses which do not reflect lustre on his
memory. The Chief of Sleat seems to have followed
Cawdor in the campaign of the Duke of Albany
against England in 1523, which had a somewhat
inconclusive and inglorious termination, for we find
him among a number of notabilities, who, along with
Cawdor, received a remission for quitting the field,
or, as it is called in the Act of Remission, " le hame
seek in" while engaged in the siege of Wark Castle.
It was probal^ly while on their way home from the
bordeis that Sir John Campbell of Cawdor and his
accomplices, among whom was the Chief of Sleat,



assassinated Lauchlan Cattanach of Duart. in the
burgh of Edinburgh.^ For those and other offences
Donald Gruamach received a remission in Edinburgh
on the 15th December, 1523. In 1524 he entered
into an important alliance with the Chief of Mackin-
tosh, and in 1527 he formed a bond of a similar
nature with Mackintosh, Munro, Foulis, Rose of
Kilravock, the inevitable Cawdor of course heading
the list."- Donald Gruamach authorises his sign
manual to be adhibited as " Donal I His with my
hand at the pen." These various Bonds of Manrent
and alliances in which Donald Gruamach was con-
cerned with mainland chiefs not in his near neigh-
bourhood, show that his support and co-operation
were greatly prized, and that the Clan Uisdein,
though technically "'' broken," were a powerful and
influential community to be seriously reckoned with,
and whose assistance was greatly prized in those
unsettled times. Donald Gruamach received con-
siderable aid from his half-brother, John Mac-
Torquil, Chief of the Clan Macleod of Lewis,
in his efforts to vindicate his rights, and in 1528
their joint forces were successful in expelling Mac-
leod of Dunvegan and his vassals from the Barony of
Troternish. In return for this the Chief of Sleat
afforded valuable aid to the Chiief of the Clan Toiquil
in obtaining effective possession of Lewis.

Macleod of Dunvegan naturally objected to being
driven out of Troternish, and at his instance a
summons was issued that same year by the Council
against both the offending chiefs for this wrongous
ejection. As the disturbances in the Isles continued
to increase instead of diminishing, the Privy Council

' Clan Donald, vol. I., pp. 3.36-7.
- Thanes of Cawdor.


In 1530 ordered the tenants of the Isles, and prom-
inently among them Donald Gruamach and Macleod
of Dnnvegan, to appear before the King on 24th
May, 1530, to commune with him for the good rule
of the Isles, In the course of the same month
these two chiefs and seven others of the principal
island chiefs sent an offer of submission to the King,
who granted them a protection against the Earl of
Argyll, provided they came to Edinburgh, or where-
ever the King held his Court for the time, before the
30th June, and remain as long as the King required
their attendance, the protection to last 20 days after
their departure on their way home.^ In the following
year both the chiefs and Ewen Mackinnon of Strath-
ardill were frequently cited before Pailiament, but
failed to appear. After 1530 Donald Gruamach's
career seems to have been peaceful and uneventful —
at anyrate we do not again find his name appearing
in any of the State records of the time until his
death, which appears to have taken place i)i 1537.

Donald Gruamach was succeeded in the chiefship
of Clan Uisdein by his son, Donald Gorme, wiiose
brief but brilliant career was terminated by his
death at the siege of Islandonan Castle. This
having been already recorded in the first Volume of
our History obviates the necessity of dealing with it
in the present chapter. Donald Gorme was suc-
ceeded in the chiefship of his clan by his son
Donald, who was a child at his father's death, and
who always appears in subsequent historical notices
as Donald Gormeson. The leadership of the Clan
Uisdein during the minority of its young chief
devolved upon his grand-uncle Archibald, surnamed
the Clerk, son of Donald Gallach. This Archibald —

' Acts of Lords of Council,


in view of his designation — must have received

training qualifying him for holy orders, but Gdleas-

hui^ Cleireach does net appear to have exulted in

his attainments when he exchai oed the pastoral

staff for the sword, for he allows his name to appear

in the list of Donald Duhh's barons as signing like

the rest with his " hand at the pen," always an

avowal of illitfracy. According to the traditional

historian of Sleat, a strong effort was made by the

Privy Council to get hold of the person of the

young Chief of Sleat. In view of his near kinship

to the Lords of the Isles, and his father's pretensions

to the forfeited dignity, as well as in view of

subsequent events, the seanachie's statement has the

stamp of credibility. He further informs us that

the young chief was first of all conveyed for safety

to his uncle, Roderick Macleod of the Lewis, when

for greater security he was for a while kept in a

fortified island named Barvisaig, lying to the west

of Lewis. Afterwards his uncle, Gillesbuig Clerach,

took him to England, where he lived for some years

at the English Court, enjoying the protection and

apparently the hospitality of Queen Mary,^ and

for this reason he was in later life known

among his countrymen as Donald Gorme Sassenach.

Archibald the Clerk was evidently recognised

by the Government as the representative of the

family of Sleat, for in 1540, the first year of

his tutorship, we find the whole of the island of

North Uist, amounting to 45 merklands, exclusive

of the Church lands, let to Archibald on a lease (^f

five years for a yearly rent of 66 pounds. Tliere is

evidence in 1542 that Archibald the Clerk made his

aniuial payments. We have also notice of an inter-

^ Vide Clan Donal.l, vol. II., p. 7G0.


estirig and somewhat remarkable fact to wliich
allusion is made in the Exchequer Rolls of 1542.
It is stated that the whole Island of North Uist
extends to GO merklands, of which twelve belonged
to the Cliurch and the rest — 48 — to the King. Of
these, however, it was observed that two merklands
were destroyed by the inroads of the sea, thus
leaving 46 merklands claimed by the Crown.

In 1542 a charter is given by James V. to Alex-
ander Macleod of Dun vegan in liferent, and to
William Macleod in fee, of the lands of Troternisli,
Sleat, and North Uist, for good, faithful, and free
service. The reasons for the grant it is impossible
to fathom, for during the previous two years it does
not seem that the Chief of Dunvegan was in any
greater political favour than the rest of the
Hebridean chiefs — in fact, he shared their captivity
in 1540, the year of the King's voyage round the
Western Isles — an occasion on which the Captain
of Clan Uisdein was allowed his freedom. The
charter was never followed by infeftment, and the
King's death shortly after it was given rendered it
still further inoperative. In 1545 the Captain of
Clan Uisdein appears as signatory to the Com.mission
granted by the Barons of the Isles to the two Com-
missioners who. were to treat on behalf of Donald
Dubh with the English King. From this date we
lose sight of Archibald the Clerk, who, according to
the Seanachie of Sleat, was murdered by his own
nephew, John Og, son of Donald Gruamach. We
still further gather from the unjjublished portion of
Hugh Macdonald's MS. that John Og had before
then been appointed by the Clan Uisdein tribe to
the tutorship of the young chief of Sleat, as the
Clerk must have by that time been advanced in


years and unable to lead the clan in battle. John
Og probably acted in loco tuto'ris until Donald
Gormeson came of age.

We are not aware of the year when the young
chief attained to his majority, or whether he was
still a minor iri 1552, when a grant of the bailiary of
Uist, Troternish, and Sleat to Archibald, Earl of
Argyll, was subscribed by Queen Mary. The tirst
notice we have of Donald Gormeson in history is in
1553, when Mackenzie of Kintail charges the
Government " not to suffer McGorme ane broken
Hielandman to tak ony tymber furth of his boundis
for making of lar.gfaddis."^ From this and other
sources we gather that the feud betvveen the family
of Sleat and the Mackenzies, in which the late chief
lost his life, was still unabated.

For some time prior to 1554, the factions in the
State were a source of great weakness to the Scot-
tish executive, and disorder and anarchy prevailed
to an unusual extent in the Highlands. In that
year, however, the Queen Dowager took the reins of
government with a strong hand, and steps were
taken for the restoration of peace and order. The
Privy Council ordained that the Queen's lieutena'its,
Argyll and Huntly, in their respective districts,
should pass with fire and sword to the utter exter-
mination, among others, of Donald Gormeson and
Macleod of Lewis and their associates who had
failed to present hostages for their good behaviour.
Donald Gormeson appears to have submitted to the
Government shortly after this, and for a period of
eight years acted the part of a peaceable subject.
Towards the end of these years, however, we find
himself and his clansmen at variance with the

* Compota Thesaurie Scotie.


Macleans of Duart, for in 1562 he and James
McConnel, liis uncle, Donald McGillespick Chlerich,
Angus McDonald Herraich, and others, received a
remission from Queen Mary for fire-raising, her-
schipps, and slaughter committed in the Maclean
territories of Mull, Coll, and Tiree. The nature and
causes of the quan-el leading to these outrages do
not appear to be known, unless they were connected
with the quarrel of the Clan Iain Mhoir with Duart
regarding the Rhinns of Isla, which seems to have
broken out about this time.

In 1565 the Earl of Argyll and vassals were
involved in the rebellion of the Duke of Chatel-
herault and tlie Earl of Murray as regards the pro-
posed marriage of the Queen and Henry Lord
Darnley. Commission was given to the Earl of Athole
to proceed against the rebels, and Donald Gormeson
was among the chiefs who took an active part in
quelling the insurrection. Though the Chief of
Sleat on this occasion stood by the party of the
Queen, he appears to have adopted the teneLs of the
Reformation, and was of much service to the party
of James VI. during the Regency of Murray and
Lennox. He became a great favourite with these
two noblemen, and obtained from each of them a
promise that when any lands in his neighbourhood
happened to fall into the King's hands through
forfeiture, he should obtain a grant of them.

In 1566 there arose a somewhat peculiar episode
in the history of the Chief of Sleat. In that year he
advanced a claim to the patrimony of the Macleods
of Lewis, a claim which arose out of a curious page
in the history of the Siol Torquil, and must now be
briefly referred to. Roderick Macleod of Lewis was
first married to Janet, daughter of John Mackenzie

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