William Fraser.

The earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence (Volume 1) online

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M"" Ewin M<=quein witiies Donald mak quein witnes

The following is a translation of the above Contract :—

This is the condition and agreement on which Mac Leod is giving his son
namely Norman to John the son of the son of Kenneth, and this the condition on
which he is with John, namely, if so be that John die first, the child to be with
his wife until she get a husband for herself, but the guardianship of the child to
belong to Angus son of the son of Kenneth so long as she is without a husband,
and so soon as a man marries her, the child to be with Angus himself from that
time forward during his life, and if his brother, namely Donald the son of the son
of Kenneth be the longer liver after Angus, the child shall be with Donald in like
manner; and Mac Leod has a son's share of the stock during the lifetime of
three, namely himself, and his son the heir, namely John the son of Mac Leod,
and Norman this foster-child of John the son of the son of Kenneth, against John
and against Angus son of the son of Kenneth, and against Donald son of the son
of Kenneth, and against the two sons of Donald the son of Murdoch, namely
Roderick and Murdoch, and against the two sons of Duncan the son of Donald,


namely John and Donald, and against Brian son of the son of Murdoch : and
against Gillecallum Mac Pherson : and this is the stock which John son of the
son of Kenneth put in possession of the child Norman, namely four mares, and
other four which Mac Leod put in his possession, along with three which he pro-
mised to him when he took him to his bosom ; and the charge and keeping of
these seven mares which Mac Leod gave to the child shall be with John son of
Kenneth, in order to put them to increase for his foster son ; and the care and
keeping of the four mares which John son of Kenneth gave to his foster son shall
be with Mac Leod to put them to increase for him in like manner ; and these are
the witnesses to this, namely Mr. Ewen M'Queen minister of Diurinish, Donald
son of black Paul, and John M'Colgan minister of Bracadale, and Turlough
O'Morissy, now the eighth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand
six hundred and fourteen.


Turlough O'Morissy

as witness. John M'Colgan, witness.

Mr. Ewin M'Quein, witness.^ Donald M'Quein, witness.

After the death of Torquil Oiglire, the heir-designate, without issue,
his elder half-brother, Torquil Connanach, took up arms to maintain his
rights as son and heir- apparent of his father. He was supported by his
kinsmen, the Clan Kenzie. He was, however, stoutly resisted by his father
Iiorie and his followers, the Siol Torquil, or Macleods of Lewis. They were
assisted by the Clandonald, under Donald Gormeson, who claimed to be the
heir of the Lewis, in. default, as he alleged, of lawful heirs of Eorie Macleod
of Lewis. This claim was made by Donald in 1566. In the course of the
feud, the old chief of Macleod was seized by his son, Torquil Connanach, and
kept four years a prisoner. While in captivity, he was brought before John
Earl of Mar, then regent, and compelled to take a new destination of his
whole estates, including the Lewis, Assint, Coigeach, etc., to himself in life-
rent, and to Torquil Connanach, as his son and heir, by a Crown Charter

1 National MSS. of Scotland, Part III. No. 84.


under the Great Seal.-^ On Rorie's release he immediately revoked all he
had done on the ground of coercion. The new regent, Morton, and the
Privy Council effected a reconciliation between old Eorie Macleod and his
son, whereby the son received the district of Coigeach and various other
lands during his father's lifetime.

Eorie Macleod survived his second wife, and married, thirdly, a sister of
Lauchlan Maclean of Dowart. Of that marriage there were two sons,
Torquil Dubh and Tormod. Of bastard sons he had also several, Donald,
Euari Oig and Neill, Tormod Uigach and Murdoch, all come to man's estate.
He again disowned and disinherited Torquil Connanach, and named Torquil
Dubh as his heir.

After this ensued a contest for the possession of the Lewis, which was
only terminated in 1613 by the Tutor of Kintail. In the course of that con-
flict father fought against son, brother against brother, and ruthless cruelties
were perpetrated on either side. In the course of the contest John Macleod,
son and apparent heir of Torquil Connanach, was killed by Euari Oig, his
bastard uncle, at Stornoway ; Coigeach was ravaged by Torquil Dubh, who
was himself betrayed into the hands of Kenneth ]\Iackenzie of Kintail, who
caused him to be executed in 1597. In that year the island was forfeited to
the Crown ; and to complicate matters stiU further, in 1599 the King granted
the island for colonisation to certain gentlemen of Fife, known as the Fife
Adventurers. But Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail purchased from Torquil
Connanach in 1605 all his lands, with reservation of the liferent to him and his
wife. Kenneth of Kintail also arranged with his brother Eorie Mackenzie,
who at that time married Margaret Macleod, Torquil's eldest daughter, to get
Coigeach and certain other lands ; and in like manner he purchased the
rights of the Fife Adventurers, and obtained from the Crown a charter to
1 Charter dated Hth Feb. 1571. Great Seal Redster.


himself of the Lewis and other lands belonging to Torquil Macleod. Through
that arrangement, Kenneth of Kintail ultimately succeeded in obtain-
ing possession of the island. On 19th July 1610, Kenneth, then Lord
Mackenzie, got a commission against the Lewismen, and speedily reduced
them, with the exception of Neill Macleod, one of the natural sons of old
Rorie of the Lewis, and a few of his followers, who carried on a desultory
warfare till they were finally expelled by Sir Eorie Mackenzie, in his capacity
of Tutor of Kintail, as already explained in the history by his grandson, Lord
Cromartie.^ The Island of Lewis continued to form part of the Seaforth
estates till recent times, when it was sold by the Honourable Mrs. Stewart
Mackenzie of Seaforth to Sir James Matheson, Baronet, who takes his terri-
torial designation from the old Macleod inheritance of Lewis.

An interesting picture of the state of the islanders of the Lewis at a later
period is contained in a letter by Mr. Zachary MacAulay, the Gaelic bard."
The letter refers to the collection of the rents in the Lewis, which the loyal
tenants were still partly in the habit of paying to their former master, the
forfeited Earl of Seaforth, in the same way as the tenants of Kintail had
done. The letter is in the following terms : —

Stornova, February 2 2d, 1721.
Gentlemen, — Yours of the 16th January I receaved upon the eight of
February. It's not practicable to conveen the tennents of the Lewes att such a
season as this ; but I shall take care that the contents of your letter be com-
municated to them all att their respective dwellings. I beleive yee know, with-
out my information, that my Lady Dowager of Seafort meddled with cropt one

1 Neill Macleod was executed in 1613. On Lewis. — History of the Machenzies, MS., hy

14th September 1G14, Sir Rorie and Colin Dr. George Mackenzie.

Mackenzie of Kintail got a licence for them ^ MacAulay is the author of " lorram na

and the vassals of Kintail to stay at home Truaighe," a poem written in honour of Mac-

from assisting the Marquis of Huntly against kenzie, the laird of Kildun ; and of " Gliogram

Lochiel, then an outlaw, that they might use Cas," the air of which, under the name of

their whole force against the rebels of the Liggeram Cosh, was a favourite with Burns.


thousand seven hundred and fifteen, and CoUonel Alexander M'^Kenzie with cropts
one thousand seven hundered and sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen, either
by himself, or his doers. None has meddled with cropt one thousand seven
hundred and twentie.

For the ordainary method of payment of the Lewes rents, please know that
the rental consists of four branches (whatever mistake Glenkindy might have
been in), viz., money, meal, butter, and mutton. The three last branches were
punctually received in their seasons. As for the money branch, ther was very
little of it payed in cash. But in the monthes of October and November, cowes
were raised and slaughtered, and the beefe sent to such mercats as the manadgers
thought fit. Then in January, February, etc., aquavity was received for a con-
siderable pairt of the money rent. In short, there was hardly anything the ground
produced but was received in its season, and after all, a Whitsonday clearance,
even for one cropt, was never yet gotten in the Lewes.

I know no effects now in season (or that can be expected before May or June)
but meal or some aquavity, and for the meal, being it 's a little dangerous to leave
it in the hands of the tennents, and that others more responsable may need it,
I 'le make bold to raise as much of it as the tennents may handsomely spare, and
be answerable att a day for it. The aquavity they may delay to your own
arrival. The nixt product is milk cowes in the month of May. These for the
most pairt may be sold within the Island. Therafter, in June and July, driveing
cowes. How to dispose of them, yee know much better than I.

As for resistance or disobedience, ther is no danger att all, ther being no
spot of ground in Great Britain more effectualy disciplined into passive obedience
than the poor Lewes Island. But I can assure yee shall find one rugged hag
that will resist both King and Government, viz.. Poverty.

It 's possible that this account from a person in my circumstances may seem
disingenuous ; but I only intreat that yee intertain no wrong impression that
way, but suspend your judgements till time and your own experience determine the
matter, and accordinglie pass your verdicts upon the report of
Gentlemen, your humble servant,

Zachaey M'=Aulay.^

To Mr. William Ross of Easter Feme and Mr. Robert Ross, Bayly of Tane.

1 Original Letter in Seaforth Forfeited Estates Papers in Register House, Edinburgh.


The rebellion of Sir James Macdonald as to the Island of Tslay occurred
in the year 1615. In the beginning the leaders were Coll M'^Gillespic and
Malcolm M°Eorie M^'Leod, a son of Euari Oig, one of the natural sons
of Eorie Macleod of the Lewis. In these troubles the Tutor of Kintail was
relied on to uphold the Government in the North Isles, as appears from the
following entry in the Eegister of Privy Council : —

Apud Edinburgh, xvij Februarii 1615.
The quhilk day Sir Eorie M'^Cleud of Hereis and Eorie M'^Kenzie of Cogach,
Tutour of Kintaill, comperand personalia befoir the Lordis of Secrete Counsel!,
promeist that thay sail send present adverteisment and directioun, viz., the said
Sir Eorie to his countreis landis and possessionis, and the said Eorie M'^Kenzie to
the Lewis, that nane of the rebellis of Yla, especialie Coill M'^Gillespick and
Malcolme M°Eorie M'^Cleud, salbe ressett in the saidis boundis ; and yf the saidis
rebellis salhappin to come thair, that they sail hunt, followe, and persew thame
with fyre and sword, as rebellis and traytouris to God, thair King and countrie.
Lyk as thair wes delyuerit to the said Eorie M'^Kenzie ane proclamatioun pro-
hibiting the ressett, supplie, and intercommvning with the saidis rebellis, and ane
missive letter direct from the Lordis of Secreite Counsel! to Donald Gorme of
Slaitt, willing him to keepe his countrie and boundis clene and frie of the saidis
rebellis, quhilk proclamatioun the said Eorie M'^Kenzie promeist to cans publishe,
dewlie and ordourlie at the marcat croce of Inuernes and vtheris placeis neidfull in
the north ; as alsua he promeist to send the missive foirsaid to the said Donald
Gorme Avith diligence.'

During the time that Sir Eorie Mackenzie acted as Tutor of Kintail, he
had intercommuned with the clan Gregor, then outlawed ; though to what
extent or in what form Eorie Mackenzie assisted them does not appear.
But he was fined in the sum of £4000, on the 31st July 1613, "for his resett,
supplie, and intercommuning with the said Clangregour." This fine was
paid by him, as appears from the discharge^ granted to him by com-

^ Reg. Sec. Cone. Acta penes Marchiarum - Original Discharge, dated at Edinburgh

et Insularum ordinem, 1608-1623, p. 148. 15th January 1614, at Tarbat House.



missioners having power under an Act of the Lords of Privy Council, dated
2 2d July 1613, to receive fines imposed for intercommuning vi^ith any of the
clan Gregour. The discharge was to have the force of a free pardon, and is sealed
with the Earl of Argyll's seal, as His Majesty's lieutenant against that clan.

Eleven years after his man-iage, Sir Eorie Mackenzie built the mansion
of Castleleod, which to this day still forms such a prominent feature in the
beautiful landscape of Strathpeffer. The castle stands on the west side of
the Strath, near the foot of a fine round-topped hill. The castle is five
stories in height, exclusive of the attics. There are three bartizans on the
south or front, and east and west sides. Above the principal entrance are
three armorial stones, which still bear traces of the family arms having been
carefully carved on them, although they are now much decayed, and in
many parts so defaced by time as to be illegible. Two windows on the
north side have initials and dates over them ; the one E. M. K. 3 Agvs. and
the other M. M. C. 1616. These stand for Eoderick Mackenzie and Margaret
Macleod, 3d August 1616, and show that the castle was erected by Sir
Eoderick. Like most old baronial keeps, its walls are of great strength
and thickness, in many parts from seven to eight feet. It has four turrets,
and numerous loopholes. The hall, which is of considerable height, has a
fireplace upwards of ten feet long by five feet high, with stone seats at
each end. The whole is built of red sandstone. Sir Eorie's will, which was
made just before his death, is dated at Cultealeod.

Sir Eorie, who had now been knighted by King James the Sixth, with
whom he was in much favour, having in the six years during which he con-
tinued tutor to his nephew managed his affairs with so much dexterity and
success, that he left him in quiet and peaceable possession of a great estate,
settled and quieted the Lewis, and ended the inveterate feud with Glengarry,
next turned his attention to the settlement of the conflict between the

t •


Macleans of Dowart and the Earl of Argyll, and also to subdue Macneill of
Barra, who had been a source of great annoyance to the Government. Lord
Cromartie in his History thus relates these matters : —

Shortly after that, he took the management of M'Lean's estate, and recovered
it from the Earle of Argyll, who had fixed a number of debts and pretences on it.
So by his means all the isles were composed and accorded in their debates, and
settled in their estates, from whence a full peace ensued amongst the Islanders,
M'Neill of Barray excepted, who hade been an hereditary outlaw. Him, by
commission, Sir Rorie reduced, took in his fort of Kisemull, and carried him
prisoner to Edinburgh, where he procured his remission. The King gifted his
estate to Sir Rorie, who restored it to M'Neill for a sum not exceeding his
expense, and holding it of himself in feu. This Sir Rorie, as he was beneficial to
all his relations, establishing them in free and secure fortunes, he purchased con-
siderable lands to himself in Ross and Moray, besides the patrimony left him by
his father, the lands of Coigeach and others, which, in lien of the Lewes, were
given him by his brother.

According to the account of the Historian of the Family, Sir Rorie cap-
tured Macneill by a stratagem common at that time.

The King being informed that Rorie Mackenzie was one of the most bold
and resolute men in the north, and had the greatest management of the
Highland chieftains, he resolved to try him. His Majesty received a letter
from Queen Elizabeth complaining that one of his subjects, MacISTeil of Barra,
was constantly infesting her subjects in Ireland by his frequent piracies and
robberies upon that coast, and therefore desiring that he would punish him
according to his deserts. The King was pleased to honour Rorie with a
letter, wherein he told of the complaint made by his sister, the Queen of
England, against MadSTeil of Barra, who, by his frequent piracies upon the
coast of Ireland, very much incensed her ; and if he could get him appre-
hended, and bring him a prisoner to Edinburgh, he should not only be
rewarded, but likewise have his royal favour.


This was another opportunity for Sir Eorie to display his valour on behalf

of the Crown. He provided a small bark, and having put on board a supply

of wine, and a few men well armed and of approved valour, he sailed straight

to ]MacNeirs house. An old writer gives the following description of Mac-

iSTeil's island castle : —

'• The little isle of Kismul lies about a quarter of a mile from the south of
this isle of Barray. It is the seat of MacNeil of Barra. Ther is a stone wall
round, two stories high, reaching the sea, and within the wall is an old tower and
an hall, with other houses about it. There is a little magazine in the tower to
which no stranger has access. I saw the officer called the cockman (whose office
is to stand on the top of the tower, and to give notice of all ships, barques, or
boats that are comeing, and to bring a report from what port they came, and
where they Avere bound). When I bid him ferry me over the water to the island,
he told me he was but an inferiour officer, his business being to attend in the tower ;
but if, says he, the constable, who then stood on the wall, will give you access, I'le
ferry you over. I desird him to procure me the constable's permission, and I
would reward him ; but haveing waited some hours for the constable's answer,
and not receiving any, I was obliged to return without seeing this famous fort.
But neither MacNeil nor his lady's being at home was the occasion of this." ^

The narrative of the expedition to Barra is thus continued : —

" Mr. Eory being arrived at this island with his barque, he appeared in the
habit of a skipper, attended only with a few seamen, keeping all his other men
concealed under the hatches. The cockman being sent to bring the skipper
to MacNeil, he most willingly obeyed the message, and, being brought befor him,
payd him all manner of respect, and told him that he had come from Norowy
and was bound for Ireland, and that in his voyage he had met with a French ship,
from whom he had bought some brandy and wines, as good as ever came from
France, and that if his honour would be pleas'd to come on board of him to
taste them, so that he might satisfy himself, he might command what he pleas'd.
The proposal was accepted, and MacNeil went on board with his ordinary guard,
for ther only appeard on board of the ship two or three mariners, and some ship
boys, being what was only necessary to sail the ship. When they were on board

^ Description of the Western Islands, by Martin, as quoted by Dr. George Mackenzie.


he entertaind them for some time in the cabine with the tasting of the liquors ;
but at length, upon a signal, the hatches were open'd, and his men rushing in
upon them, made them all prisoners, and the ship being immediately put under
sail, he carryd him straight to Glasgow, and from thence to Edinburgh, where he
presented him befor the King. The whole Court were enamour'd with him, for
he was a very tall, well-favour'd man, haveing a long gray beard reaching to his
middle, and of such a reverend aspect as challeng'd a due respect from all that
saw him. Being examin'd, amongst other things the King desird Mr. Rory to
ask at him, for he could speak no English, what moved him to commit so many
pyracies and robbrys upon his sister, the Queen of England's subjects in Ireland,
since he was a gentleman that had a sufficient competency in the world to sustain
him and his family 1 He answered to this, that he never thought that he could
have offended his Majesty by creating all the trouble and uneasiness he could to
a woman who had murdered his mother ; which being reported to the King, he
rose up and said, ' The devil take the carle. Rory, take liim with you again, and
dispose of him and his fortune as you please.' And accordingly he sent him
home to his own house, only he obliged him to hold his lands of him as his
superior, and to pay to him, as such, 40 pounds per annum, and a hauk, if requir'd,
and the assistance of his men, when required, in any extraordinary occasions.
And this Mr. Rory and his son keept all their lifetimes, but the late Earl of
Cromarty transferred it to Sir Donald Macdonald of Slate." ^

Sir Eerie obtained a Crown Charter of the lands of Torresay, etc., whicli
formerly belonged to Hector Maclean of Dowart, erected into the barony of
Dowart 11th April 1617. In the beginning of the same month Eorie
Mackenzie received a commission from King James the Sixth and the
Privy Council, stating that whereas the King had granted him infeftment of
the lands and Isles of Mull, Morverne, and Terey, that formerly belonged to
Hector M'Clayne of Dowart, and that he must now be answerable for the
inhabitants of the same, and make them obedient to law, order,, and justice,
and understanding " that it wilbe a mater verie hard and difficle for the said
Rorye to reclayme the said is inhabitantis fra these barbarous, rude, incivile,
^ History of the Mackenzies, MS., by Dr. George Mackenzie.


and godles formes wliairin thay haiff levit thir mony yeiris bigane," unless he
were authorised with a warrant and commission ; and also, understanding
"the goode dispositioun and inclinatioun of the said Eorye, and how that he
is most willing to bestow his panes, trawellis, and best endevoiris to establishe
religioun, peace, justice, and quietness within the saidis boundis," and there-
for appointing him commissioner and justice within these bounds ; to resort
thereto with a sufficient force, make acts and ordinances, apprehend criminals
and put them to assize, and if convicted, minister justice on them, etc. And
in case of any insurrection being made " aganis our souerane Lord and his
auctoritie, or aganis the said Eorye himself, to frustrat and hinder his
Maiestie's seruice committit to the said Eoryis chairge," with power to him
to convocate the lieges in arms, to hunt, follow, and pursue with fire and
sword the authors of the rebellion, till it should be finally settled and
suppressed, to besiege strengths and houses, " and to raiss fyre, and vse all
kynd of force and weirlyke ingyne that can be had for wyning and recouerie
thairof " Dispensing with whatsoever " slaughter, mutilatioun, fyre raising, or
vtheris inconvenicntis that salhappin and fall oute in the executioun of this
commissioun." The commission, dated 3d April 1G17, was to last for a year.^
With his usual success in reducing the disobedient islanders to peace,
Sir Eorie Mackenzie, in the short space of less than two years, brought the
unruly inhabitants of Mull, Morverne, and Tiree to be loyal subjects, and
more than that, he generously restored to the Macleans the right in these
islands, which had been granted to himself, having resigned them in favour
of his nephew, Hector Maclean, apparent of Dowart.^ Sir Eorie also resigned,
in the hands of the Bishop of the Isles (of the patrimony of which bishop
the lands of the abbacy of lona formed a part), the lands of Schabbay, and

^ Reg. Sec. Cone. Acta penes Marchiarum et - Extract Procnratory of Resignation, dated

Insularum ordinem, 1608-1623, p. 228. r2tii August 1623, at Tarbat House.


others in the Island of Mull, and also the isle of lona, in favour of Hector
Maclean, son of Hector Maclean, sometime of Dowart.^

Besides acting as tutor for his nephew, the Earl of Seaforth, Sir Eorie
was also tutor for the families of Macdonald and Maclean, and in these