Angus Macdonald.

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promises various secret services which it is un-
necessary to detail/ It is hardly possible to believe
that Donald Gorme, who at this time had been
newly put in legal possession of his lands by King
James VI., should have been actively conspiring
against his authority. On the other hand the
document contains internal evidence of having been
concocted by Sir Laachlan Maclean of Duart, the
greatest diplomatist and schemer among the High-
land chiefs of his day, and who did not long survive
its composition, as it is marked by the year of his
death. That Donald Gorme was earnest in his
desire to take service in the Irish war is proved by
a letter written from the Antrim Glens on the 3rd
August of this same year and addressed to the Lord
Deputy. He promised that on being guariinteed
sufficient recompense he would serve the English
Queen against all and sundrie, the Scottish King
excepted. This exception in King James' favour
throws still further doubt upon the authenticity of
the offers to Queen Elizabeth, which made no such

The Chief of Sleat does not seem to have received
any encouragement in his search for Irish adventure,
and as the sinews of war were not forthcoming, he
soon returned to the Isles. It was probably not
long after this Irish visit that a feud arose between
Donald Gorme of Sleat and his neighbour Rory
Macleod of Dunvegan, which convulsed the extensive
regions over which they both held sway. The
merits of the controversy are, like many other
historical questions relating to the Highlands,
clouded with much obscurity. The accepted version
of the story has been that Donald Gorme Mor

' Clan Doiiakl, vol. II., p. 757.


married Mary Macleod, sister of the Dun vegan
Chief, that after some time he divorced and sent
her home to Danvegan, and immediately thereafter
married another lady. This story has been further
embelHshed by a tradition that did service
before, namely, that the Macleod lady was blind of
an eye, and that she was sent home on a horse,
followed by a dog, and accompanied by an atten-
dant similarly afflicted. There is reason to believe
that the actual occurrence was somewhat different
from this. The practice of handfasting — of having
wives on approbation — had not quite died out in
the Highlands in the time of Donald Gorme Mor.
It was still regarded as Celtically legal, and the
Church of Rome recognised its validity and the
legitimacy of the offspring, but not being
celebrated before the altar, it was from the
feudal standpoint irregular. It is highly probable
that the union between Donald Gorme and the
sister of the Dunvegan Chief was of this loose and
irregular description. In 1601, after much blood
had been shed, an obligation was given by Donald
Gorme to Rory Mor, to which reference may now be
made by anticipation, because it contains an allusion
to the repudiated wife. It is somewhat significant
that she is alluded to in that document as Mary
Macleod, lawful sister to Rory Macleod of Dunvegan,
without a word to indicate that she had been the
lawful wife of Donald Gorme. What led the Chief
of Sleat to cast off this lady is a mystery upon which
no light is shed either by history or tradition ;
suffice it to say that it proved the casus belli in a
bloody and disastrous feud. Roderick Macleod of
Dunvegan, or Rory Mor as he w^as called, having
failed to induce Donald Gorme Mor to take back the


repudiated wife, embarked on a policy of revenge.
Assembling tlie fighting men of his clan, he carried
fire and swoid int') the district of Troternish, so long
the bone of contention between the rival families,
while we are informed that the Clan Donald, by
way of reprisals, invaded Harris, slew many of the
itihabitants, and carried off a spoil of cattle. This
feud between Donald Goime Mor of Sleat and Kory
Mor Macleod of Dunvegan was the occasion for the
emergence out of obscurity of one of the bravest,
most powerful, and skilful warriors, as well as one
of the most interesting characters in the history of
the house of Sleat, Donald Macdonald, known in
the songs and traditions of the Isles as '' Domhnull
Maciain 'Ic Sheumais." He was the grandson of
James Macdonald of Castle Camus, late tutor to
Donald Gorme Mor, to whom he stood in the
relation of second cousin. While part of the story of
his life may appropriately fall under the genealogical
section, we must make some record of the large
part he played at this criticpJ period in the history
of the Clan Uisdein.

The traditions of the Long Island and Skye are
at issue with Sir Robert Gordon, author of the Earls
of Sutherland, as to the sequence of the two great
fights that signalised this feud, namely, the battles of
Culeen and Carinish. Differing from the authority
just referred to, there is good reason to accept the
tradition that it was at the battle of Culeen that
Domhnull Maciain 'Ic Sheumais made his first
appearance as the Achilles of the Clan Uisdein.
This warrior spent a great ])art of his life in Uist,
and the traditions of that reo-ion have the best claim
to credibility as regards the earlier })ortion of his
career. At the battle of Culeen the Macdonalds were


under the command of Donald Gorme Mor of* Sleat
and his younger brother Archibald, surnamed the
Clerk ; while the Maclsods, in the absence of Kory
Mor, who was away in Argyll, were led by his
brother Alexander. The Macleods encamped besidi
Ben-na-Culeen, and awaited the attack of the Mac-
donalds, on whose arrival the battle commenced.
Both sides fought with great bravery and resolution
during the greater part of the day. According to
our traditional account, Donald Mac Iain, who at
that time lived at Eriskay, a small island south of
South Uist, arrived at the Culeens just as the battle
was about to commence. It was his first serious
engagement, and at once his soul was filled with

" That .steini joy which warriors feel
111 foemen worthy of their steel,"

and laid about him with his broadsword to such
purpose that his efforts contributed materially to
the victory of his Clan and the total rout of the
enemy. Alexander Macleod, the leader of the
Dunvegan men, and 30 of the chief heads of families
were taken prisoners. The hero of the conflict,
Donald Mac Iain, who courted the muses almost
as successfully as he wielded his mighty brand,
celebrated the battle of Culeen in lines which still
linger among the people of the Western Isles —

" Lhtha dliomh 's a' Chuilthionu chreagach,
Bha beul sios air luchd nan leadan ;
Bha larach am brog san eabar :
'S lad Clann Domhnuill rinn an leagadh ;
Lamh-dhearg Dhomhnuill lamh Ghilleasbuig."

The next noteworthy phase in this feud was the
battle of Carinish, which must have been fought not
many months after the Macleod reverse at Culeen.


Eory Mor, exasperated by the continued success of
liis 0]>ponent, and wishing to strike iiim unexpectedly
at the 2)art which was at the time weakest, invaded
the iskmd of North Uist, the property of Donald
Gorme, at the head of 60 warriors of his clan, all of
them expert bowmen. They landed at Loch Ephort,
on the east side of the island, where the chief
remained with a small body-^ruard, while his kinsman
and second in command, " MacDhomhnuill Ghlais,"
went on a raiding expedition through North Uist at
the head of the remainder of the force.

Meanwhile tidings of the invasion and " spulzie,"
scjcula nan creach, reached Maclain 'Ic Sheumas in
his island home at Eriskay, and no sooner did they
come to his ears than he took prompt and immediate
action. Accompanied by his twslve gillemores, the
stalwart band that always manned his galley and
followed him to battle, he started for North Uist,
and although his force was numerically but a tithe
of that which he expected to oppose him, he was
neither disheartened nor dismayed. During his
progress towards Carinish his force was augmented
to 15. and as he approached the mainland of North
Uist, early in the forenoon, he learned that the
Macleods were assembled with their spoil in the old
temple of Trinity at Carinish, after having break-
fasted on a cow, part of the proceeds of their foray.
No sooner did the Macdonald warrior learn the
position of the Macleods than he placed his men
in the most advantageous positions. The Macleods
had no idea that danger was so near. Up to this
time they had it all their own way, had encountered
no opposition, and were expecting none. Maclain
Ic Sheumas was too skilful a strategist to attack
the Skyemen in so strong a place as the Temple, and


being well acquainted with every inch of the ground,
he disposed his men as follows : — -Dividing them
into three detachments, he concealed the first, which
consisted of seven men, behind the rising ground
north-east of the Temple, and south of the rivulet
called Feithe na fala — ^the bloody brook ; the next
division, consisting of four men, he placed in conceal-
ment behind a knoll, half-way between the position
of the first detachment and the Temple, and the last
(consisting of the remaining four) was appointed to
proceed towards the Temple and give the alarm to
the Macleods that Maclain 'Ic Sheumas had arrived.
Each division had its definite instructions, and
Macdonald himself took up an elevated position in
the neighbourhood of where his first division stood.
Thence he had the satisfaction of seeing his little
band carrying out his instructions to the letter.
The alarm having been raised, the Macleods rushed
out of the Temple in great confusion, and before they
were aware of the imminence of the peril four of
them were taken down by the cool aim of the
Macdonald archers. These having carried out so
much of their orders, fell back with all speed upon
the second party and awaited the approach of the
enemy. The latter hurrying on, not in the best
order, were suddenly checked by another shower of
arrows, which made eight of them to reel and bite
the dust. The Macdonald second and third divisions
now together retired to the position in which the
first or main division was concealed, and waited as
before until the enemy was within range, when all
suddenly springing up and letting fly a third dis-
charge of arrows with the same galling effecc, rush;ia
across the hollow through which the road now
passes, and took up their position for the brunt (^f


the day a little below where their leader stood.
The Macleods, now perceiving the force which
opposed them, pressed on with great fury to contend
with their adversaries upon even ground. At this
moment it is said that Macdonald received a further
accession to his strength from an unexpected quarter
in the person of a foster brother who had crossed
with the Macleods, but on a favourable opportunity
arising came over to Maclain's side and gave him
valiant assistance during the rest of the day. There
was one circumstance that militated greatly in favour
of the Macdonalds, and which, as soon as discovered
by their leader, was instantly taken advantage of.
Early in the fight Donald Maclain observed that
the bows of his opponents were much less powerful
than those of his followers, and that consequently
their range was much more limited. Greatly
desiring to preserve the members of his little force
as nmch as jjossible, he caused them to retrograde
gently during the course of the action, so that while
their arrows told with deadly eftect upon the
Macleods, the arrows of the latter were falling spent
at their feet. MacDonald Glas, the Macleod leader,
saw his ranks gradually growing thinner, without a
gap being made in the small band of his adversaries,
for though he was gaining, and his foes retiring, this
was achieved at terrible cost. The disparity in
numbers was now so much reduced that MacDonald
Glas, seeing the day assume a more and more
unfavourable aspect, and that the line of his retreat
to Skye was in danger of being cut off, made a
furious onset upon the Macdonalds. He was met,
however, with the most stubborn resistance, which,
combined with the same skilful tactics, still further
reduced the number of efficient Macleod warriors.


Donald Maclain, who was now apparently on the
eve of victory, approached nearer the enemy than
was prndent, and received a wound from an arrow
which laid him on his length in the brook, called
from this accident, Feithe na fala. The Mac-
donalds, seeing their loved header laid low, got
exasperated, rushed furiously upon the foe, and in a
few minutes cut them all to pieces. Five or six
managed to make their escape, and took to their
heels in good earnest. One of these, who, from his
spare lean form and extraordinary swiftness, was
called " Glas nam beann," made for the fleet at Loch
Ephort, and was the first to carry the woeful
intelligence to the Du-ivegan chief The latter
refused to believe the news, and threatened to hang
the bearer, but another fugitive, covered with sweat
and blood, repeated the tale of misfortune, and
Macleod, seeing that matters had come to the worst
possible pass, took to his boats and held off the land.
The other fugitives were not so foitunate. The
Macleod leader and two or three of his men, finding
their retreat cut off, made for the island of
Baleshare, but were overtaken by some of the
Macdonalds and slain upon the strand, which is
known to this day as Oitir Mhic Dhomhnuill ghlais,
the strand of MacDonald Glas. From the effect of
the wound he had received Maclain soon recovered,
for he is not many weeks thereafter on his way to
Skye to visit his chief in the Castle of Duntulm.
Such was the battle of Carinish, one of the most
remarkable fights in the history of Highland warfare.
The feud between Donald Gorme and Kory Mor
had now assumed such disastrous proportions that
the Privy Council actively interfered, and the rival
chiefs were ordered to disband their forces and


desist from further molestation of one another.
Macleod was enjoined to t^nve liiinself up to tlie Earl
of Argyll, Macdonald to surrender himself to Huntly,
and both were strictly charged, under penalty of
treason,' to remain with these noblemen until the
controversies between them were settled by the
Kincr and Council. It is said that a reconciliation
was brought about by the good offices of Angus
Macdonald of Dunny veg and other friends, and they
agreed that their differences should be adjusted by
the peaceful arbitrament of the civil power. During
the course of these negotiations, the two chiefs
entered into an miderstanding, first at Ellandonan
and afterwards at Glasgow, in which it was agreed
that the peace should be preserved ; but this was
not to prevent Mary Macleod taking such civil action
against Donald Gorme as she might be advised to
do. The quarrel appears to have been definitely
adjustedin IGOl.

It was probably not very long after the events
just recorded] that the conspiracy of Hugh Mac-
Gillespick Clerach against his Chief came to light.
The powerful position of this M^cGillespick sept in
Troternish, and their hostility to the family of the
Chief, have already been alluded to. A few inci-
dents in Hugh's career since he caused the embroglio
with Maclean ^[^of Duart may now be referred to.
We find him in 1586 molesting those engaged in the
fishings of the North Isles and adjacent mainland,
for whiclr>onduct he was summoned before the
Privy Council. In' 1589 we find him bailie of
Troternish, and receiving a remission for crimes
committed against^ the Macleans, but his bailiary
seems to have been very unacceptable, and was
probably very lawless, for in 159G, when Donald


Gorme was coniinD- to aa understandins: with tlie
Crown regarding his property, and it was ordained
that the Castle of Camas should be a royal fortress,
there is the strict stipulation that " Hucheon
McGillespick Clerich" should be " plaige and none
other." This proves that he was no longer bailie of
Troternish. and that his danoferous character was
clearly recognised. Indeed, in the King's letter of
Tack, granting the 8 merklands of Troternish to the
Chief of Clan Uisclein, the bailiary was meanwhile
reserved. It does not appear that Hugh was loner
detained in captivity as a pledge, for the traditions
bearing upon the dark deeds of his latter days
imply his personal liberty. There are hints in the
records of 1600 which seem to suggest a total breach
in the relations between Hugh and his chief. In
April of that year he is accused along with others of
robbery on the high seas, and receives the designa-
tion of " Hugh M'Gille,?pick in Walernes." The
fact that the locus is no longer in Troternish, but in a
district belonging to another chief, is a very signifi-
cant comment upon Hugh's relations at the time to
the chief of Clan Uisdein. a state o" matters which is
confirmed by the whole trend of island tradition.
It would appear, however, that after the peace was
made up between Donald Gorme and Rory Mor,
Hugh was once more received into favour at
Duntulm. He was permitted to build a residence
for himself at a place called Cuidreach, and also a
strong fort at the sea side, the ruins of which
survive, and are still known by the name of "Caisteal
Uisdein." About the time this stronghold was on
the eve of completion, Hugh was forming a con-
spiracy for the destruction of Donald Gorme and the
leading men of the Clan, after which he himself,


with the support of those wlio were with him in the
plot, would assume the chief'ship.

The bold and treacherous design was to be carried
out at a feast which was to celebrate the completion
of Hugh's new residence. His own hand forged the
weapon which wrought his doom. While in Uist he
wrote two letters — one to William Martin, a tenant
of Donald Gorme's, at Eastside of Troternish, in
which he solicited Martin's assistance in his nefarious
scheme — the other to the Chief of Sleat, con-
taining warm professions of affection and fidelity.
By a strange oversight the letters were wrongly
addressed, the Chief's letter going to Martin, and
Martin's finding its way into the hands of Donald
Gorme. The Chief at once decided to take effective
measures, and sent a strong party to apprehend him
under the command of that pillar of the House of
Sleat, DomhnuU Maclain 'Ic Sheumais. Hugh, who
knew that such emissaries were on his track, took
refuire in an ancient fortress, called Dun-a-Sticir,
situated on a lake at Newtown in the Sand district of
North Uist, communicating by stepping-stones with
the shore. There Hugh, who was a man of immense
physical] strength, was, with some difficulty, seized,
and carried prisoner to Skye, where he was incar-
cerated in the dungeon at Duntulm, and, as tradition
reports, allowed to die in an agony of thirst.

The first decade of the 1 7tli century was a some-
what (juiet and uneventful period in the annals of
the House of Sieat. In tiie month of August.. 1604.
we find the Chief, with Sir Kanald Macdonald of
Antrim, in the north of Ireland, at the head of seven
score men, but on N\hat errand it is impossible to
guess. Donald Gorme seems again quiescent until
1607, when he is found co-operating with Angus of


Uuunyveg in his efforts to save his inheritance from
Campbell rapacity, and fears were entertained by
Qneen Elizabeth's de|)uty in Ireland that an invasic^i
of that kingdom was contemplated. The movements
of the two Macclonald Chiefs did not go beyond
a demonstration in force. The year 1608 was an
important one to the Highland Chiefs, for it was
then that the Statutes of I'Columkill were enacted,
and a fresh chapter was opened in the social history
of their country. Donald was summoned by Lord
Ochiltree to meet him at Aros ; was involved in the
somewhat shabby trick by which a number of the
Highland Chiefs were inveigled on board the Govern-
ment ship " Moon," and was placed in durance vile
in the prison of Blackness. He was one of tiie
signatories to the petition to the Privy Council, also
subscribed by Maclean of Duart and Maedonald of
Clanranald at Blackness, praying to be restored to
liberty, and promising good conduct for the future.
Donald Gorme was liberated some time pfterwards
on condition of finding security for returning to
Edinburgh on a certain day, and for concurring with
and assisting the Bishop in making a survey of the
Isles. The survey was completed in the summer of
1609, and in the last week of August the Bishop
held a Court at I'Columkill of the Chiefs and gentle-
men of the Isles. On the 23rd August the Statutes
of I'Columkill were formulated, and on the following
day Donald Gorme and eight other principal Isles-
men signed a bond declaring their adhesion to the
Protestant religion, and binding themselves for the
improvement of the Isles. Although there are no
evidences of hostility to be traced between the Chief
of Sleat and his great rival, Bory Mor Macleod, since
the peace was made in 1601, there is strong reason



to suspect that tlie relations betwetii them were by
no means of tlie fVIendHest, otherwise it would not
have been necessary that on the very next day after
the Statutes of rColumkill were enacted, and very
appropriately on that holy isle so long dedicated to
the doctrines of peace and brotherhood, they should
be made to enter nito a contract of friendship and
mutual forgiveness of injuries. What the nature
and extent of the injuries were that made such a
bond necessary at this particular time we have no
means of ascertaining.

Durino- the remainder of Donald Gorme's life
much of the history of Clan Uisdein consists of
annual statutory compearances and exhibitions of
chieftains in Edinburgh, which do not in themselves
demand detailed notice. In the summer of 1614 we
find the Chief of Sleat in the Scottish Capital
engaged in the transaction of important business.
On the 21st July he received a new charter for the
lands of Sleat, North Uist, and Skeirhough, with the
reservation to the Kinof of Castle (Jamus and 40
shillings of the lands of North Uist. The rents
payable to the Crown as superior were fixed — with
augmentation — at the gross sum of £257 6s 8d.
Why Donald Gorme, who had been duly infefted in
all these lands in 1597, should have sought fresh
titles in 1614 is explained by a new move on the
part of his neighbour, Rory Mor. In 1613 this
somewhat grasping and ambitious, though able.
Chief, who had by this time been knighted by James
VI., got himself served heir to his uncle, William
Macleod of Harris, for the lands of Troternish, Sleat,
and North Uist, and on the 11th December of that
year obtained a charter for the same. A precept
of sasine followed on the 12th June of next year,


and sasine was actually taken at the principal
messuage of Duntulni. The charter of 1542 by
James V. to the Macleod of that day is (jiiuted as
the chief ground for these proceedings, and it is
provided in the new charter that corporeal and
actual seizure of earth and stone at Duntulm would
suffice for possession of Sleat and North Uist, as
well as for the Barony of Troternish. Speedy action
was evidently demanded by the exigencies of the
case. How it was found practicable to obtain sasine
even at Duntulm without any hostile movement on
the part of Donald Gorme is somewhat inexplicable.
This attempt on the part of Rory Mor to wrest from
the grasp of the Chief of the Clan Uisden the bulk
of his patrimony explains the steps which the latter
took shortly thereafter to secure his inheritance by
a new Crown charter. Sasine followed upon this
charter on the 14th August, 1614. The Barony of
Troternish, of which Donald Gorme obtained a
lease in 1596, probably continued to be effectively
occupied by himself and his clan, notwithstanding
the charter and infeftment granted to the Chief of

During Donald Gorme's visit to Edinburgh in the
summer of 1614 he appeared, like other chiefs, before
the Council for the renewal and ratification of the
Acts passed for the peace and welfare of the Islands
in 1609. Being required, like others, to name a
domicile in which he was bound to remain until he
received liberty to depart, Donald Gorme, either on
his own initiative or perforce, chose Glasgow as the
scene of his compulsory sojourn, for on the 14th
September he received permission to go from thence

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