Clan Battles

 Clan Battles

There are four clan battles in the traditions of Dugald Stewart and his supporters, consisting of Stewarts, McColls, M’olchallums, McVicars/McLaurins and possibly Livingstones. The last battle in 1497 costing Dugald Stewart of Appin I his life. There are no contemporaneous written accounts of any of these battles, so the descriptions are suspect, “Leacann an Dothaidh” in 1464, “Lagan na Phail” in 1468, the little known “Caochan na Fola” in 1480 or “Leachada” Dougall’s death in 1497. 

1463  Battle of Leacann an Dothaidh

On the shores of Loch Tulla across the Glen Orchy Bridge many miles east of Appin was the site of the disastrous Battle of Leacann an Dothaidh at the foot of Beinn Dorian in 1463. Other accounts place this battle in the year 1497 when Dugald Stewart of Appin and MacDonald of Keppoch were both supposedly killed, see section below, “1497 Battle of Leachada”. 

“A small eminence near the road leading to Auchallader & on the rising ground to Leacann Dhothadh, on the side of which are the remains of some cairns, nearly overgrown with heath, said to have been erected over those that fell in the battle which was fought at Doire an Tobair. Sig. [Signification] Knoll of the Cairns”, according to the Scotland’s Places” website. 


Battle of Leacann an Dothaidh

“On the slope of a hill in the neighbourhood Several Cairns now partly overgrown with heath and moss indicate the spot where a bloody conflict was fought of which some tradition still survives." New Stat Ac/. [Statistical Account]

Several cairns, still visible on the heath mark the place where the slain were interred. Scotlands Places

The following is the traditional account of the Battle of Leacann an Dothaidh from the viewpoint of the Appin Stewart historians in 1880.

“Whatever may have been the reasons for the inaction of Walter and the Campbells, it was undoubtedly left to Dugald to avenge his  father's murder, and for this purpose he at once ordered a muster of the  followers of his family in Lorn, while he hastened in person to Strathearn and Balquidder to raise the whole clan of the Maclarens. 

The odds against him were indeed heavy, for he was opposed not  only by open foes in the field, consisting of a numerous section of the  Macdougalls, ” who, with their followers, were still a powerful clan in Lorn, ” backed by the Earl of Ross, but by secret enemies as powerful, and, in reality, still more dangerous. Personally entirely unknown in 

Lorn, Dugald's claims to the succession had no recommendation save that of their inherent justice. This, however, was unhesitatingly acknowledged by the clan, and was sufficient to secure him universal support from the retainers of his family ; .and, sustained by the consciousness that " thrice armed is he who hath his quarrel just," Dugald at once took the field, marching, himself, with the Maclarens through Glendochart and Strath Fillan to Leac-a-dotha, on the skirts of Bendoran, at the head of Loch Awe, having been joined by his father's retainers and followers from Lorn, whose route had latin through Glencoe and the Black Mount He would thus, within ten days of his father's death, have finally crushed Alane Macdougall and his adherents, had not the latter been reinforced by the MacFarlanes from Loch Lomond. 

The traditions of the Stewarts and Maclarens combine to relate that this assistance was rendered at the instance of the Campbells; but whether this be true or not, it is certain that the MacFarlanes were at this time closely allied with the Campbells. Duncan MacFarlane, the sixth chief, had married Christian, daughter of Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow, aunt of Glenorchy, and grand-aunt of Argyll ; and from their dwelling inland on the banks of Loch Lomond, and their connection at that time with the family of Dernely, they were not likely to have any share in the 

rebellion of the Earl of Ross. The MacFarlanes, arriving from Lochlomondside, joined the Macdougalls near Dalmally, whence they marched northwards through the glen leading to the Bridge of Orchy, near Leac-a-dotha. A battle ensued in which Dugald was worsted. The engagement must have been a bloody one, more than one hundred and thirty of the Maclarens having been killed, while among the Stewarts it is said there were no less than fifty slain, whose widows bore posthumous sons. On the side of their opponents a son of Alane M'Cowle fell, and the losses of that clan were so great that they were never subsequently so numerous in Argyllshire The chief of the MacFarlanes was also killed, under circumstances which show the relentless nature of the conflict which had been waged, and prove that the sentiments of chivalry had not as yet influenced the contests in the Highlands. A wounded Maclaren had asked the MacFarlane to give him in his shoe a drink from a well close at hand, and as the chief was stooping down to fill the shoe, the wounded man drew his bow and sent an arrow through his back. MacFarlane put his hand behind him to feel for the arrow, when the dying Maclaren, exulting in the penetration of his shaft, called out, " Search in front of you, and you will find it." 

After this bloody battle, Dugald retreated with the remainder of his forces behind Loch Etive into Upper Lorn or Appin ; and though apparently he was unable to invade Middle Lorn in force, and risk another pitched battle, he continued unflinchingly and successfully to maintain his right of possession until the compromise in 1649, the particulars of which will hereafter appear.” “Stewarts of Appin” 1880 Pg 83.

1468 Battle of Lagan na Phail

"The renegade MacDougals and MacFarlanes, accompanied probably by a stiffening of Campbells among their number, came over the Appin border and attacked Dougall again in 1468 in Appin, he won a great victory in Lagan na Phail, or treacherous hollow, behind the present Episcopal Church at Port-na-Croish, and close to Castle Stalcaire. But the slaughter again must have been more terrible even than before ... Both sides were now helpless ... Under these circumstances, an enforced compromise was effected by him with his Uncle Walter as the least of evils; Dougall remaining in his possession of Upper Lorn or Appin, and Walter Stewart his uncle obtaining the rest of his Lorn patrimony. It is a noteworthy fact that immediately after Walter received Lorn he handed it over to Campbell of Argyll.

Despite the recognition by the Earl of Argyll and by Glenorchy, in 1469, of Dougall Stewart's right to hold the whole of Appin, including Lismore, from the Crown, Argyll's clansmen continued to hold a narrow strip of Appin north of Invercreran and Loch Creran and to hold almost one third of Lismore. These illegally occupied lands Argyll "gave" to Glenorchy, but he warned Dougall Stewart that the full fighting force of the Campbells of Argyll would be behind Glenorchy's men. The Stewarts of Appin were ot strong enough to oust Glenorchy, but they demonstrated their refusal to accept the situation by raiding both Glenorchy's own lands and the Argyll Campbell lands in Barcaldine. The two outstanding strips of Stewart of Appin territory were not handed over until after Dougall Stewart's death, in, 1497" (Seaforth, 1996)

The strip of land north of Loch Creran held by Glenorchy included Ardveich, Appin, Dougall’s home, Dougall never got it back during his lifetime. The second strip of land, Invercreran, is north of the loch near the junction with Glenure. Two centuries later my ancestor John MacLaurin and many other MacLaurins lived nearby at Coire Bliochdaig, Elleric and Fasnacloich in 1686.

1480 Battle of Caochan na Fola

The Battle of Caochan na Fola in 1480, Dougall MacLaurin Stewart of Appin and Clan Gregor wins a foothold in Loch Rannoch.

Lieutenant MacGregor, Innerhaddon's, Memoirs contain the following account of this family :—

"Patrick, who first settled in Dunan in Rannoch and was the founder of this family, was the son of MacGregor of Roro in Glenlyon, who accepted his patrimony, from his father, consisting of a number of cattle, and a few men and set out to seek his fortune, as it was termed, about the year 1480. He happened to set out at a very fortunate time, for having proceeded only the length of the hill of Gar-Dunan, where he lodged all night with his cattle, a messenger, reached him early next morning from the camp of an adventurer who had lodged all night upon the opposite side of Loch Lydon, to try his hospitality ; and upon learning where they were, he sent their commander a fat cow. Their commander seemed much astonished at so unusual a gift, and asked his man who it was that had sent it, they could not tell, and consequently sent back to enquire.

The two leaders met and having communicated their views to each other, MacGregor learned that he, who he had entertained, was the son of the Laird of Appin and the head of a party of men intending to take revenge upon the inhabitants of the Braes of Rannoch, called Clann Ian Bhuidhe, and the clan Ian Maileaich, who had but recently offered an affront to the Laird of Appin's men who were passing by. They then agreed to join issue, and that when they had rooted out the inhabitants. they would divide the conquered lands between them. 

They proceeded, and succeeded in conquering from the west as far as Errocht on the north side of the Loch, and as far as West Camghouran on the south side. MacGregor took possession of his own share and Stewart left a representative and a party of men to occupy his part, and returned to his own country, upon the next succeeding Sabbath, each with his party proceeded to the parish Church of Killiechonnan, which, when they were about to enter, a dispute arose about which should enter first, MacGregor or Stewart's representative, when both drew their swords and MacGregor slew his opponent.

Word was immediately dispatched to Stewart to inform him of what had happened, to which he replied, 'That if he were there in person, there might be some cause for disputing MacGregor's precedence, but that he had never authorized his servant to dispute it for him that the fellow only met with what he deserved, adding that as they could not agree together, MacGregor might enjoy the whole of it for him; which was the case, and MacGregor shortly sent, and settled one of his brothers in Learagan, from whom that family are descended and another at Learan from whom Clann-macGeal Galium, are descended.

Reflections may, of course, be made as to the lawlessness and turbulence of these proceedings, but those were times when physical courage and strength of arm, with some address in taking advantage of opportunities, were the only qualities much esteemed, and they knew no other means of gaining a livelihood. Traditions of a similar kind were very graphically told by many in the Highlands up till a few years ago, having been transmitted down by word of mouth with the full intention of neither adding nor taking away from them, although some deviations must have

been unavoidable. (History of The Clan Gregor, 1898)

So you see, the tradition of jealousy, of who gets to enter the kirk first on the Sabbath is a common plot of Scottish clan stories. The same plot found in the MacLaren versus MacGregor history at Kirkton, Balquhidder.

1497 Battle of Lechadhu

Dugald Stewart 1st of Appin, did not die going to the aid of McLarens from Balquhidder who had stolen cattle from the MacDonalds of Keppoch, that is a plot used by past McLaren historians to accommodate the myth that Dugald came from Ardveich, Strathearn. Dugald died stealing cattle for himself from MacDonald of Keppoch. In 1497, Donald Angusson the then Chief of Keppoch, and Dugald MacLaurin Stewart of Appin were killed at Leachada, in Glen Orchy. The battle took place near the same Glen Orchy location as the supposed battle of “Leacann an Dothaidh” in 1463.

There are different accounts of the battle. I prefer to accept the following version where the Stewarts of Appin, their allies the Appin McLaurins and the Fletchers, battle the MacDonalds of Keppoch. It is the only version that has a supporting artifact, a plaque at Dunans, Glendaruel.

Stewart / Fletcher account:

"The first chieftain on record was Angus Mac-an-Leister (Fletcher), who was born about the year 1450· There is not a great deal written about the early Fletchers, but in 1497 they took part in one of the fiercest clan fights ever joining the side of the Maclarens, together with Stewart of Appin, against the Macdonalds. The Maclarens were raiding the Macdonald country, and were driving off some of the Macdonald's cattle when they were overtaken at Achallader [near Bridge of Orchy] by the Macdonalds. The Maclarens were outnumbered, and Stewart and Fletcher came to their assistance. During the battle Donald Macdonald of Keppoch and Dugald Stewart of Appin were both slain, and there are many cairns in the neighbourhood of Achallader which bear witness to the conflict. The Stewarts of Appin thereafter entered into a bond of friendship with the Fletchers, in gratitude for their assistance, and this bond was sealed by an oath on the dirk. A plaque on the wall outside Dunans in Glendaruel commemorates this alliance. The agreement was for mutual assistance if and when the necessity arose, the Stewarts agreeing to pay the 'eirig' for any crime committed by any of the Fletchers. The actual document was at one time with the Appin family papers, but has unfortunately been lost.” Margaret Mason, 1973, Clan Fletcher website.

Plaque at Dunans, Glendaruel commemorating the Battle of Lechadhu, 1497

Copyright Hilton McLaurin 2022 - All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment