History of the Clan Macrae

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Battles of Park

(Previously: Duncan, son of Christopher, known as Donnacha Mor na Taugh)

The Battle of Park, which was fought at Strathpeffer between the Macdonalds and the Mackenzies shortly before the death of Alexander Ionraic, which took place in 1488.1   The circumstances which led to this famous fight were the following: -- Coinneach Bhlair (Kenneth of the Battle), the son and heir of Alexander Ionraic, had married Margaret, daughter of John Macdonald of Islay, who laid claim to the lordship of the Isles and the earldom of Ross.  One Christmas eve Kenneth was insulted by Alexander Macdonald of Lochalsh, the nephew and heir of John of Islay.  In revenge for the insult Kenneth sent his wife back to her father.  The lady, who was blind of one eye, was sent away mounted on a one-eyed horse, attended by a one-eyed servant, and followed by a one-eyed dog.  John of Islay and Alexander of Lochalsh, roused to fury by this outrageous insult, mustered all their followers, to the number of more than fifteen hundred warriors, and set out on an expedition to punish the Mackenzies.  The Macdonalds, plundering and destroying as they went, directed their march to Kinellan, in Strathpeffer, where the Baron of Kintail was then residing.  They arrived at Contin one Sunday morning and burned the church, together with the priest and a large congregation of aged men, women, and children, who were worshipping in it at the time.

Meantime, on the approach of the enemy, Kenneth and his two brothers, Duncan and Hector Roy sent their aged father for safety to the Raven's Rick, a prominent and precipitous hill overhanging the Dingwall and Skye Railway between Strathpeffer and Garve.  They then led their followers, who numbered only six hundred men, against the Macdonalds, and the battle was fought on the moor which is still known as Blar-na-Pairc, a well-known spot about a mile west of the Strathpeffer wells.  The Mackenzies were led by Kenneth himself, and Alexander of Lochalsh seems to have acted as leader of the Macdonalds, while their chief warrior was Lachlan Maclean of Lochbuy, called Lachlan Mac Thearlaich (Lachlan, son of Charles).  Duncan Mor, who was one of the personal attendants of Kenneth, thinking that he had been somewhat slighted in the arrangements made for the battle, showed unmistakable signs of sulkiness.  He was persuaded, however, by Hector Roy to take up a battle-axe and join in the fight.  With his battle-axe he did so much havoc that the Macdonalds began to give way before him.  Lachlan Mac Thearlaich, seeing this, put himself in Duncan's way in order to check his murderous career.  The two champions met in deadly combat.  Lachlan being a powerful man, clad in mail and well trained in the use of arms, seemed at first to be having the best of the fight, but, in an unguarded moment, he exposed himself to his opponent's battle-axe, which at one deadly stroke severed his head from his body.  The superior strategy of Kenneth was already telling severely against the much larger army of the enemy, and the Macdonalds, seeing their champion killed, gave up the struggle as lost, and fled.  Duncan Mor took a foremost part in the pursuit, which was continued on the following day as far as Strathconon, until most of the Macdonalds were either slain or taken prisoners.  Both John of Islay and his nephew, Alexander of Lochalsh, were among the prisoners, but within six months they were both magnanimously released.  This victory, to which Duncan Mor had so greatly contributed, "put Kenneth in great respect throughout the North," and he was afterwards knighted by James IV "for being highly instrumental in reducing his fierce countrymen to the blessings of a civilized life."

Next: Bealach Glasleathaid, and a Druim a Chait

Footnotes:

1. The exact date of the Battle of Park does not appear to be known, the official records relating to the Highlands at this time being exceedingly meager.  Sir Robert Gordon, in his History of the Earls of Sutherland, a book written about the close of the sixteenth century, says it was fought shortly after 1476.