History of the Clan Macrae

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Bealach Glasleathaid, and a Druim a Chait

(Previously: Battles of Park)

Duncan Mor afterwards took a very prominent and active part in the great feud between Hector Roy and the Macleods of Gairloch.  We are told that "Duncan, with is son Dougal, who was a strong, prudent, and courageous man, with ten or twelve other Kintail men, were always, upon the least notice, ready to go and assist Hector whenever, wherever, and in whatever he had to do, for which cause there was a friendly correspondence between the family of Gairloch and the Macraes of Kintail."  The greatest defeat that Hector Roy inflicted on the Macleods was at the battle of Bealach Glasleathaid near Kintail.  Both Duncan and his son Dougal took part in this fight, in the course of which Dougal was attacked by four men at once.  On being informed that his son was in great danger, Duncan calmly replied, "Leave him alone, if he is my son there is no fear of him," and so it turned out for Dougal killed the four Macleods without receiving any serious hurt himself.  At the battle of Druim a Chait1 (the Cat's Back), which was fought on a subsequent occasion at the place so called on the west side of Knockfarrel, in Strathpeffer, between the Mackenzies under Hector Roy, and the Munros, Dingwalls, and Maccullochs, under Sir William Munro of Foulis, Duncan once more distinguished himself and largely contributed to the defeat of the Munros and their allies, which was so complete that few of them escaped alive.  "It is said of this Duncan that he was in many conflicts and combats, and always came off victorious, but never without a wound.  He was a facetious and yet a bloody man."

Duncan Mor na Tuagh is sometimes spoken of as Mackenzie's ploughman, but it is not at all likely that a member of what appears at this time to have been the leading family in Kintail next to the Baron himself should occupy such a position.  The Gaelic term Scallag, which in this case has been translated ploughman, formerly meant any servant or retainer.   In the MS. history of the Mackenzies, which was written by Rev. John Macrae, author of the Macrae Genealogy, it is stated that Duncan Mor happened accidentally to be present the day of the Battle of Park, on some other business, and that he was the principle officer of Kintail.  Comparing the various traditional and MS. accounts of this remarkable man, perhaps the most natural conclusion to arrive at is that at this time he may have been young and untried; that he first gave proof of his valor and prowess at the Battle of Park, and that he afterwards became either the factor of Kintail or perhaps the principal officer of the Baron's fighting men.  It is not at all unlikely that Duncan Mor began his career as a page or personal servant, that is as the scallag of Mackenzie, probably of Sir Kenneth Bhlair, but whatever the commencement of his career may have been, it is quite certain that a man around whose memory so many legends and traditions of a heroic kind have gathered must have been, in spite of possible eccentricities, an important and leading man among his own countrymen.2

Next: (gen 3). Finlay

Footnotes:

1. This battle is sometimes called the Battle of Tobair-nan-Ceann (the well of heads).  It is said that Hector and his men, being armed with battle-axes and two-edged swords, did so much execution among their enemies that no fewer than nineteen heads rolled down into a well in a hollow below a spot where they overtook a party of the enemy during the pursuit--hence the name Tobair-nan-Ceann.

2. For a more detailed account of the exploits of Duncan Mor na Tuagh, see chapter on Legends and Traditions of the Clan Macrae.