Angus Macdonald.

The clan Donald (Volume 3) online

. (page 44 of 48)
Online LibraryAngus MacdonaldThe clan Donald (Volume 3) → online text (page 44 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


men of that region did not join he would waste and
burn their country. This threat, accompanied by a
sight of his commission, had the eflect of rallying to
his standard several hundreds from the septs of
Badenoch and Braemar. Marching southward from
Badenoch to Blair- Athole, he met at last, to his
great joy, the Marquis of Montrose bearing the
King's commission as lieutenant of his forces in
Scotland. He was in humble guise, " cled in cot
and trewis, upon his foot," travelling in the character



602 THE CLAN DONALD.

of a timber merchant. Along with his own com-
mission there was a new one for Alastair as major-
general and second in command.

So far as Alastair's subsequent career in Scotland
is closely associated with that of Montrose, it wilL
generally speaking, be unnecessary to follow it with
much detail. The junction of the royalist leaders
and the consequent increase of their forces moved
the Covenanters to strenuous efforts to crush the
expedition at the outset ; but confronted by such a
strategist as Montrose and a warrior of Alastair's
prowess, this was more easily devised than accom-
plished. The first blood was drawn at Tippermuir,
near Perth, where a battle was fought on the 1st
September, 1644. The forces of the Covenant out-
numbered the royalists by nearly five to one, and
the disparity was increased by Montrose's want of
cavalry. Macdonald's musketeers had only one
round of ammunition ; but making a rush at their
opponents they discharged their pieces in their face,
and clubbing them, they laid about them with such
terrific force and effect that they soon sj^read dismay
and death through the ranks. In other parts of the
field the royalist attack was delivered with such
power and effect that the army of the covenant Avas
soon flying before its foes like chaff' before the wind.
The next military exploit of Montrose's army was
on the 12th September of the same year. It was
fought at Crathes, fifteen miles from Aberdeen, and
there also Alastair and his Irishmen covered them-
selves with glory. Though opposed by a greatly
superior force, victory lay with Montrose. Aberdeen
was captured, and the increment of gear to the
royalist force was so great through the spirit of that
city that Colonel James Macdonald of the Irish



AL AST AIR MAC COLL A. 603

contingent says — '' The riches of that town and the
riches got before hath made all our soldiers cavaliers.'
After this there was great marching and counter-
marching on the part of the two sides — the King's
men leading their opponents such a wild goose
chase that Argyll at last, in weariness, returned to
Edinburgh, and, for the time being, threw up his
commission.

After this the scene of interest shifts to the
Western Islands, whither Alastair and his second-in-
command were despatched to rouse the clans. The
Chiefs of Clanranald, Glencoe, Glengarry, Keppoch,
the Stewarts of Appin, and the Camerons of Lochaber,
flocked to King Charles' standard, and, under the
leadership of Montrose's brave lieutenant, marched
across Drumuachdar to Athole. The season being
too advanced for military operations, the next three
months were spent in winter quarters, the time being
largely occupied in a raid of vengeance upon the
region of Argyll, a pursuit doubtless highly con-
genial to Alastair and the many scions of the house
of Dunnyveg who followed him in battle. Having
" discussit " Breadalbane, Argyll, Lorn, and other
lands — to use the euphemism of a contemporary
historian — from the 1 3th December down to the end
of January, Montrose's army once more turned
northwards, marching through Lochaber. The trend
of events is now moving towards the field of Inver-
lochy, a field that has already been described in the
history of the Clanranalds. There Alastair performed
prodigies of valour with his great two-handed
sword, dealing death on every side, crowning his
tale of the vanquished with the laird of Auchinbreck,
whose head was severed by a blow.



604 THE CLAN DONALD.

After some time spent at Iiiverlochy, and an
expedition into Forfarshire, where several critical
situations were successfully evaded, Alastair made
one more progress to the Isles, partly to gather new
recruits and partly to bring back the clansmen who
had ao-ain retired into their fastnesses. In the
beo-inning of May, 1645, Montrose took up his posi-
tion at Auldearn, and General Hurry, whom he had
driven to Inverness, having been largely reinforced,
offered battle on the 9th of that month. The odds
against Montrose were great, his 1700 foot and 250
horse being opposed by 3500 foot and 400 horse,
and it was with much reluctance that he accepted
battle ; but as he was not only pressed in fiont
by Hurry, but threatened by Baillie, who was
advancing by forced marches from the South, he
had no alternative but to choose his ground. He
entrusted the Royal standard to Alastair, wdrom he
placed on his left wing, and round whose exploits in
that stubborn fight the history of the engagement
clusters. The Highland warrior and his men were
put in the shelter of a garden, with the strict
injunction that he and his men were on no account
to allow themselves to be drawn from the entrench-
ment, from which, without much danger to them-
selves, they could keep up a destructive fire upon
the foe. To Alastair, the comparative inactivity of
having to remain on the defensive was entirely
uncongenial, and he was unable to resist the
temptation of making a dash at the strong position
of the enemy. This proved a tactical mistake, but
reckless daring was more characteristic than cool
strategic movements. The company on emerging
from its trenches was almost instantly surrounded,
and only saved from annihilation by a rapid retreat.



I



ALASTAIR MAC COLLA. 605

The battalion was saved by the heroism of the
leader and the masterly way in which he conducted
his retirement, When the emergency arose, it was
seen that he could carry out a strategic movement.
As he marched out of the entrenchment at the head
of his men, so might his towering form be seen
covering their retreat, almost with his single arm
checking the advancing foe, whose pikes and arrows
were most industriously plied. So near was the
enemy to the Macdonald warrior that their pikes
were fixed in groups in the broad shield with which
he protected himself, and these with his trusty
claymore he cut off at intervals in sheaves at a
time. As he was, along with several others, fight-
ing the way back to the entrance of the enclosure,
at the critical moment, his sword broke, Davidson of
Auchincross handed him his own, and in the act of
doing so fell mortally wounded. When Alastair
gained the entrenchment a number of the enemy
entered at the same time ; but Macdonald attacked
them, drove them out, and cleared a way for many
of his own followers, who were still struggling
without.

In the meantime the battle had elsewhere
progressed favourably for the Royalists. The
Covenanters opposed to Montrose's right wing were
routed with great slaughter. Alastair and his n:en
havinor again formed into order of battle, once more
marched against the foe, and this being accom-
panied by a simultaneous attack from the right
wing, resulted in the total rout of the Covenanting
army. After the battle of Auldearn, the Western
Highlanders and Islesmen again took French leave,
and Alastair once more had to move westward to
recruit a fresh levy for the King's service. In his



606 THE CLAN DONALD.

absence the battle of Alford added a new and signal
victory to Montrose's list of triumphs. Alastair
and the Highland host were present at Kilsyth, and
contributed in large measure to the victory won
there by Montrose on 15th August, 1645. Shortly
after this, Alastair was despatched to Ayrshire to
suppress a rising for the Covenant under the Earls
of Cassilis and Glencairn. The levies were soon
and peaceably dispersed, the two earls on Alastair's
approach having precipitately fled to Ireland. The
Countess of Loudon, whose husband was a con-
spicuous anti-Pioyalist, received the Highland leader
in her castle, and entertained him with magnificent
hospitality. On his joining Montrose at Bothwell,
on the 3rd September, he received at his hands
the honour of knighthood in presence of the whole
army, and in virtue of powers with which the
Marquis had been invested by the King.

Sir Alastair Macdonald's action in leaving Mon-
trose for Argyllshire at this juncture has been the
occasion of much criticism and censure, and doubt-
less demands apology or explanation. It is fair to
say that the 3000 Highlanders who constituted the
flower of Montrose's army could not, under an}'-
circumstances, have been kept in the field during
the winter season owing to the exigencies of their
home concerns, and, before Sir Alastair had declared
his intention, had, in a body, demanded liberty to
return, at anyrate for a time. Without them
Montrose could not assume the offensive, and Sir
Alastair thought the chance opportune to make a
descent upon Kintyre to avenge the many cruelties,
murders, and acts of treachery sustained by his
friends at the hands of Argyll. Sir Alastair's
motives can without difficulty be guaged. He had



AL AST AIR MAC COLL A. 607

fought for King Charles with might and main since
he left Ireland in the summer of 1644, and now he
felt that the time had come to strike a blow for the
Clann Iain Mhoir. Ilis father, old Colla Ciotach,
was the lineal descendant of John Mor Tainistear of
Dunnyveg and the Glens, and the rightful heir of
those princely domains in Isla and Kintyre which
had been alienated through the duplicity and schem-
ing of the Campbells. Smarting under the sense of
many injuries, past and present, inflicted upon those
of his own race and name, is it altogether strange
that his cavalier loyalty yielded, for the time, to the
patriotism that was nearest his heart ?

Sir Alastair's movements after this are not very
clearly defined, but it is certain that he invaded
Argyllshire, which he over-ran with fire and sword,
and finally took possession of Kintyre, which he
occupied during 1646 and till the summer of 1647,
when we find him there with a force of 1400 foot
soldiers and two troops of horse. It was on the
24th July, 1646, that Sir Alastair Macdonald,
described as the leader of the " bloodie Irrishes and
others under his command," is accused by the
General Assembly of " spilling much Christian blood
on the ground lyke water " and " summarlie ex-
communicated." There is no denying that Sir
Alastair wreaked his vengeance upon the Campbells
in tolerably thorough style ; but, as he adhered to
another religious communion than that of the
Scottish Kirk, the relevancy of the solemn sentence
is not apparent. The events of 1647 proved the
inexpediency of the move which separated Sir
Alastair from Montrose. Together they were in-
vincible, separate they met with disaster. Montrose's
defeat at Philliphaugh enabled General Leslie to



608 THE CLAN DONALD.

invade Kintyre. There seems evidence that Sir
Alastair was taken by surprise, and that the fatal
error was committed of failing to defend the passes
into that region, a measure which would have
rendered invasion an almost impossible task. As it
was, no serious stand was made. Retiring before
superior forces, a skirmish was fought between Sir
Alastair's rear and General Leslie's vanguard at
Rhunahaoirine Moss in the Parish of Killean, which
probably checked for a little the advance of the foe
and enabled the Highland leader to throw a garrison
into the stronghold of Dunaverty. On the 26th
May, 1647, Sir Alastair crossed to Isla, and having
left a garrison in the castle of Dunnyveg under his
father's command, he shortly thereafter sailed to
Ireland never to return. Tlie fate of Dunaverty and
Dunnyveg are matters of history.

The rest of Sir Alastair's history is soon told.
Shortly after his return to Ireland, he received a
high command in the army of the Confederated
Catholics, who were still engaged in the struggle
with the English power. Lord Taafe had the
chief command, and Sir Alastair held under him
the post of Lieutenant-General of Munster. The
opposing army of the Parliament was commanded
by Inchiquin. On the 13th November, 1647, the two
armies met atCnocanos, between Mallow andKanturk,
in the county of Cork. Taafe's army consisted
of 7000 infantry and 1000 cavalry, of which the
right wing, under Sir Alastair's command, was com-
posed of 3000 foot and two regiments of horse. The
right wing, under the command of Sir Alastair,
was in the first instance victorious, breaking up the
enemy and chasing them to the gates of Mallow.
Had the left wing fought with the same force and



ALASTAIR MAC COLL A. 609

intrepidity, the English army would have been
crushed. As it was, Taafe's left suffered defeat at
the hands of the opposing force, which, on scoring
a decisive victory, was able to direct an attack suc-
cessfully on the wing commanded by Macdonald.
During the latter part of the engagement Sir Alas-
tair met his fate. He rode up to an eminence to
reconnoitre, as the tide of battle was turning against
him, and while thus engaged was, with a small
number of followers, surrounded by the enemy.
The accounts of his death differ, but it seems clear
that, after making a brave and unavailing defence,
he had to yield to overwhelming odds and was
taken prisoner. A savage of the name of Purdon,
who held the rank of major in the English army, on
hearing that this noted rebel had received quarter,
at once drew his pistol and shot him through the
head. His remains were laid at rest in Clonmeena
Churchyard, in the Parish of Kanturk, in the
vicinity of his last battlefield. Thus died one of
the boldest and most heroic warriors that the Gaelic
race has produced. His memory has been maligned
because of his hatred to the Campbells and his
rough handling of them when opportunity arose ;
but if we bear in mind the many injuries inflicted
upon his kiudred by the race of Diarmid in the
past, and in his own day, who can deny that, on
the ordinary principles of human reckoning, there
were left — even by Sir Alastair — many and grievous
arrears unrequited ?



39



610 THE CLAN DONALD.



FLORA MACDONALD.

Flora Macdonald — the heroine of the '45 —
was the only daughter of E-anald Macdonald of
Bahvanich and Milton, son of Angus Og, son of
Ranald, 1st of Benbecula. She was thus first cousin
to the bard Alastaii Mac Mhaighstir Alastair. The
two farms tenanted by her father were part of the
patrimony bestowed by charter upon the founder of
the Benbecula family, and it is likely that he had a
residence upon both holdings. Ranald was advanced
in years when he married, as his second wife, Marion,
daughter of Rev. Angus Macdonald of South Uist,
of muscular memory, and he died in 1723 when
Flora was quite an infant, in the Benbecula home of
his family at Balivanich. In these circumstances,
the natural inference would be to regard Balivanich
as the natal soil of the heroine in the absence of
documentary proof to the contrary. On the other
hand the traditions of South Uist are so positive
that we do not feel called upon to disturb the
current belief that her birthplace was her father's
residence at Airidh Mhuilinn, or Milton, in the year
1722. When Flora was six years of age her mother
married Hugh Macdonald, of Camuscross in Skye,
grandson of Sir James Macdonald, second baronet of
Sleat. There is an improbable tradition that the
young widow was abducted by the ardent Hugh ;
but for this story there is no evidence either on
record or in the inherent probabilities of the case,



FLORA MACDONALD. 611

There was no social or other inequality in the union,
which seems to have been of, at least, average
happiness for the parties chiefly concerned. Angus,
Flora's brother, though her senior by some years,
was quite a boy at the time of his mother's second
marriage, and his stepfather appears to have faith-
fully seconded his wife as the natural guardian of
the children, by supervising the management of
their patrimonial holdings on the Clanranald estate.
It is not likely — as recent writers have alleged —
that Flora was left in charge of her brother, Angus,
in South Uist, while her mother resided with her
husband in the Isle of Skye. Both being still
children of tender years, the older probably not
more than ten, it is morally certain that they were
brought up till they were adults under their mother's
eye, she and her husband sometimes alternating their
residence in Skye by prolonged visits to Milton
and Balivanich with the view of more effectually
guarding the interests of their young charges. As,
however, Angus grew up to man's estate, and was
able to manage his own affairs, he took up his
residence at Milton, where Flora also established
her permanent home.

Flora was perhaps more fortunate than many of
her station in life in obtaining educational advan-
tages usually denied to all but the noblest families
of her time. Through the kindness of her chief
and his lady, she shared in the home lessons of the
young Clanranalds, and there is ample evidence
that her strong intelligence and natural refinement
of taste enabled her to assimilate and permanently
appropriate the various branches of learning and
the polite accomplishments placed within her reach.
She received an excellent English education, and



612 THE CLAN DONALD.

made rapid progress in the manipulation of the
spinet — a rudimentary piano of that age — and she
sang and played with much feeling and expression
the beautiful Gaelic melodies of her native island.
Nor did the friendly offices of the Clanranald family
sum up the advantages she received. Her maternal
connection with Skye brought her under the notice
of Lady Macdonald of Sleat, in whom she ever found
one of the best and truest friends. Sir Alexander
Macdonald and his lady both took a deep interest
in Flora, and when she was seventeen years of age
she paid them a visit of eight months' duration,
part of which was spent in Mugstot, and the
latter part — the winter of 1739-40 — in their home
in Edinburgh. It was then that they decided to
place her in one of the boarding schools of the
Capital, where she passed three years completing
her education, and at the end of this period she
paid another visit to her kind patrons, which only
came to a close in the summer of 1745. It is inter-
esting to note that during these years of her sojourn
in the Modern Athens, Allan, the older son of Mac-
donald of Kingsburgh, was also pursuing his studies
in that centre of learning, under the patronage of
Sir Alexander, and it is permissible to believe that
the young people must often have met in the house
of their patrons, and laid the foundation of a friend-
ship which in after vears was to ripen into a still
more intimate relationship.

After an absence of five years. Flora returned to
her native and dearly loved isle in the month of
June, 1745 — a year that was to be pregnant with
events of deep historic interest, and to lead to the
turning-point of her hitherto unchequered life. The
story of the Rising of 1745, with its brilUant



I'LORA MACDONALD. 6lS

episodes and tragic close at Culloden, need not
here be told. The Prince, a fugitive and a wan-
derer, landed at Benbecula on the 5th Ma}^ 1746,
and soon thereafter the Government soldiers were
dogging his footsteps, and the Hanoverian net was
being drawn so tightly round him that destruction
seemed to be his inevitable fate. Fortunately for
the Prince he had friends in the island, even among
those who were loyal to the reigning dynasty.
Consultations were held to devise means of escape,
and Flora, whose calm courage and disciplined intel-
ligence were of the utmost value from start to finish,
was deep in the confidence of all. One thing is
certain, and cannot be too strongly maintained, that
political motives had no weight in the deliberations
— Flora herself, the chief actor in tlie drama, by
upbringing and environment being a staunch up-
holder of the reigning family. The action that she
eventually took was as advantageous to the author-
ities as to the Prince. She saved the Government
from themselves. There was much Jacobite feeling
in Britain, which the inadequacy of Charles' re-
sources and the hopelessness of his cause allowed
to lie dormant. Had the Prince been captured and
executed, it is hard to say what political tempest
might have burst upon the House of Hanover,
the loyalty of the nation to which was a matter
of political expediency rather than of enthusiastic
devotion.

The history of the Prince's rescue and the
modified captivity which his brave rescuer endured,
it would be superfluous here to detail. In danger
and in safety, in durance and at liberty, in the presence
of royalty itself, her judgment, her courage, her
modesty never failed. Throughout one or the most



614 THE CLAN DONALD

stirring episodes in British history which has stimu-
lated the fancy of poet and romancist, and given
birth to lyric effusions of the highest order, the
heroine herself was the quietest and least excited of
all whose pulses were quickened by such epoch-
making events. While she made history that would
never die, she was conscious of doing nothing more
than yield to the dictates of a kind and gentle heart.
Every known incident of her life after her memorable
escape betokened the same brave, unaffected, truly
exalted character. On returning to her native Uist
after delivering the wanderer from the jaws of
destruction, she received a summons to return to
Skye to answer to the charge of helping his escape.
Her friends besought her to disregard the citation
and to lurk in concealment till the political storm
abated. This, doubtless, she might have done ; but
such action was beneath her ; with her wonted
magnanimity she declined, and her brave action at a
trying time invests her character with special lustre.
She met her accusers with modest mien but un-
daunted beait, denying nothing, apologising for
nothing. On the 7th November she set out for
London, \\here in due time she arrived, and had the
honour of a brief incarceration in the Tower, dedi-
cated from hoary antiquity to the custody of only
the chiefest of political misdemeanants. Her
experience of the Tower was short. She was
allowed to put up with influential friends who
became responsible to the Government for her
appearance. The Government realised that popular
sentiment was too strongly on her side to permit
the imposition of severe restraint.

For twelve months Flora was a prisoner of State,
and never surely was prisoner so lionised. Were it
not for the strength of her qualities of intelligence



FLORA MACDONALD. 615

and common sense, her head would have been turned
by the incense that was burnt at her shrine, and
that she maintained her simplicity through it all is
one of the best tributes to her memory. The
Londoner was taken by surprise. Instead of the
heroine he expected from the savage Hebrid Isles,
somewhat uncouth and rustic as contrasted with the
courtly dames of the capital, he saw a maiden,
Highland indeed to the very core, but, withal, the
pink of refinement, without self-consciousness, the
mistress of rare accomphshments without a shadow
of ostentation. She even had a visit from Frederick
Prince of Wales, father of George III., which the
historian has done well to place on record. There
was the inspiration of genius in her answer to his
question, how she dared to assist a rebel against his
father's throne, when she said she would have done
the same thing for him were he in the same distress.
There was something here that raised her action far
above the platform of political interest to the sphere
of pure humanity — the one touch of nature which
makes the whole world kin. The time for her release
expired, leaving her unspoilt. Young though she
was the garish day of London had no fascination for
her, and it was with real delight that she turned her
face once more to her home and friends. She did
not " sigh to leave the flaunting town," as she pre-
ferred the simple yet cultured life of a Highland
lady to all the meretricious attractions of London
society. It is to the credit of the three strains of
Macdonald blood that mingled in her veins, Clan-
ranald, Dunnyveg, and Sleat, that they combined to
produce the most illustrious woman that has adorned
the annals of the Scottish Highlands.

The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.



Online LibraryAngus MacdonaldThe clan Donald (Volume 3) → online text (page 44 of 48)