History of the Clan Macrae

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Origin of Feud between Kintail and Glengarry

(Previously: Christopher)

The circumstances which led to the great feud between Kintail and Glengarry(1) appear to have been somewhat as follows: -- Donald Macdonald, who was Chief of Glengarry about 1580, when the feud broke out, inherited parts of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, and Lochbroom from his grandmother, Margaret, one of the sisters and co-heiresses of Sir Donald Macdonald of Lochalsh, while Mackenzie of Kintail acquired the portion of the other co-heiress, by purchase, in 1554.  With the territories of two such rival clans as the Mackenzies and the Macdonalds, not only closely adjoining, but in some instances mixed up together, as those territories now were, trouble was bound to arise.  Men were constantly coming and going between Lochcarron and Glengarry, and it appears that in passing through Mackenzie's territories they frequently committed acts of violence against the people.  In such circumstances it was not difficult to find an excuse for a quarrel, and an incident soon occurred which brought matters to a crisis.  One of Glengarry's men, having found it necessary for some reason to leave his old home, settled, with his family and cattle, in Glenaffric.  Being a great hunter, he frequently resorted to the neighboring deer forest of Glasletter, which then belonged to Mackenzie of Gairloch.  One day, while hunting there, accompanied by a servant, he was surprised by Gairloch's forester, who called upon him to surrender.  The forester was a Macrae called Fionnla Dubh Mac Ian Mhic Dhomh'uill Mhoir, or Fionla Dubh nam Fiadh (Black Finlay of the Deer) (2), and he also was accompanied by a gillie or servant.  The hunter refused to surrender, whereupon Finlay Dubh and his companion killed both the hunter and his servant, and buried them under a bank.  As soon as the murdered men were missed, suspicion fell upon the forester and his gillie, both of whom were brought to trial by Mackenzie of Kintail, but nothing could be proved against them.  Shortly afterwards, however, the bodies of the murdered men were found by their friends, and, very little doubt being now left as to who were the perpetrators of the dark deed, a party of the Macdonalds set out to take vengeance.  Arriving at Glenstrathfarrar, which then belonged to Mackenzie of Redcastle, they plundered the place and killed a brother of Finlay Dubh, the forester, called Duncan Mac Ian Mhic Dhomh'uill Mhoir, whom they found plowing  plowing in his own field.  When tidings of this outrage reached Roderick Mor, who was then the Laird of Redcastle, and who had old grievances of a similar kind against the Macdonalds, he resolved at whatever cost, and in spite of the advice of more cautious friends, to take up the quarrel.  Such, then, was the commencement of this feud, which lasted, with little intermission, for more than a quarter of a century, and which ended in favor of Mackenzie, who obtained a Crown charter for Glengarry's possessions in Lochcarron and Lochalsh in 1607, and the superiority of all his other possessions.

Next: Duncan called Donnacha Mac Gillechriosd

Footnotes

1. For an exhaustive account of this feud, see Mackenzie's History of the Mackenzies, new edition, chapters on Colin Cam and Kenneth, first Lord of Kintail.

2. For the Kintail tradition of Fionnla Dubh nam Fiadh and his exploits on this occasion, see chapter on the legends and traditions of the clan.