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broken up and intermingled with each other. Thus, beginning at the Firth of Clyde, and proceeding along the line dividing the Highlands from the Lowlands, we find Colquhouns, Buchanans, Macfarlanes, Macgregors, Maclarens, Maclachlans, Grahams, Stewarts, Drummonds, Murrays, Menzieses, Robertsons, Ogilvies, Farquharsons, either occupying small patches of territory, or so mixed together that they cannot be separated. Besides being split up by collisions, the clans in this quarter suffered unquestionably from the pressure of the Lowland settlers, and the grants made of their lands to favourite retainers of the Scottish monarchs. The Macgregors, whose settlement was the district north of Loch Lomond, were one of these maltreated frontier clans.
ORIGIN AND EARLY HISTORY OF THE MACGREGORS-THEIR
SUFFERINGS AS A CLAN.
Chroniclers tell us that in the year 831, at the time when the Picts and Scots were contending for the mastery of the northern part of the island, there was a king of the latter people called Alpin. His son was Kenneth II., or Kenneth Macalpine, who, after conquering the Picts, reigned over the joint races of Scots and Picts. He had a son Gregor or Gregory, who, in the Gaelic fashion, would be called Gregor Mackenneth Macalpine; and it is from this person that the Macgregors claim their de scent. This claim of the Macgregors to an ancient and royal descent, forms the burden of two Gaelic rhymes referring to the clan; one of which runs thus—“ Hills, waters, and Macalpines, are the three oldest things in Albion;" and the other asserts the hereditary claim of the Macgregors to the Scottish throne. Being of so illustrious a lineage, the Macgregors, although excluded by circumstances from the throne on which their progenitors had sat, were naturally in early times one of the most considerable families in the kingdom. They had originally very extensive estates in Argyleshire and Perthshire, measuring in one direction from Loch Rannoch to Loch Lomond, and in another from Loch Etive to Taymouth. The seat of the principal branch of the family was Glenurchy, in the district of Lorn.
One of the first authentic notices of the Macgregors of Glenurchy is during the period of the struggle for independence against Edward I. of England. In 1296, John Macgregor of Glenurchy was made prisoner by Edward at the battle of Dunbar, where the fortunes of Baliol and the Scottish nation were shattered; and in the list of the prisoners, this Macgregor is styled one of the Magnates of Scotland. His lands and his liberty were afterwards restored to him by the conqueror, on condition of his going over to France to assist in the war which the English were then carrying on with that kingdom. It is
probable that he returned to Scotland towards the close of the stormy period, 1297–1306, and lived on his property of Glenurchy. In this last-mentioned year, 1306, Robert Bruce, after killing his rival John Cumin, assumed the Scottish crown; but not being able to cope with the English forces then in Scotland, and disowned by a large faction of the Scottish nobles, he had to quit his kingdom, and seek refuge in Ireland. Passing through the Highlands, the fugitive king was attacked and pursued by the Lord of Lorn, who had married Cumin's sister; and as the king in his flight passed through the territory of the Macgregors, it is probable that they assisted Lorn on this occasion. When, therefore, King Robert had seated himself firmly on the throne, he remembered the injury he had suffered at the hands of the Macgregors, and inflicted a severe punishment for it, by depriving the clan of a great part of its ancient possessions,
The commencement of a long series of misfortunes and persecutions dates from the time of Robert Bruce. Rendered weak, and at the same time fierce and disaffected, by the loss of so large a portion of their possessions in this king's reign, they resented, but could not resist the encroachments which, in these lawless times, their neighbours tried to make on the portion which still remained. While other more loyal clans secured their possessions by written charters from the king, the Macgregors scored to retain theirs by any other right than the right of the sword; and hence, year after year, they found their territory diminishing, eaten into, as it were, on all sides by the cupidity of their neighbours. The “greedy.” Campbells, as the enemies of this powerful and distinguished clan used spitefully to nickname it, were the neighbours from whose aggressions on their property the Macgregors suffered most; and early in the fifteenth century, Glenurchy passed finally out of the possession of the Macgregors into that of the Campbells. Accordingly, in a charter of the date 1442, we find the title of “Glenurchy" applied to Sir Colin Campbell, a younger son of Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe.
The Macgregors were now a landless clan. But although deprived of all legal right to their ancient possessions, they were too numerous and powerful to be actually driven off the face of the lands in Perthshire and Argyleshire which they occupied. They accordingly continued to reside on them nominally in the capacity of tenants either of the crown or of some neighbouring clan chief, such as Campbell of Glenurchy, but really as independently as if they still were their own landlords. The legal title, however, having once been alienated from the Macgregors, they became a doomed race, subject to annoyances and persecutions at the hands of every one.
Of so little consideration were they, along with other broken clans, that it was customary for the Scottish government, in the fifteenth century, to reward
noblemen of tried loyalty by bestowing on them portions of the unreclaimed crown lands in the Highlands, with all the uncivilised natives upon them, whether Macdonalds, or Macnabs, or Macgregors. As the fortunate nobleman who obtained such a grant required to subdue or extirpate the natives before he could take possession of their lands, such a measure in these rude times was shrewd and politic; it was employing the griping spirit and fierce passions of the nobility to extend civilisation and preserve order in the kingdom. The task, however, of subduing or extirpating the native Highlanders was long, tedious, and occasionally impossible. The Macgregors, especially, seem to have been inextinguishable. Remaining doggedly and resolutely in their native glens, they cared little who was called their landlord, whether he were the king, or only a Campbell; and every attempt to exercise a landlord's rights met with a stern resistance. Sometimes acting on the defensive, and attacking any party which might enter into their territories for a hostile purpose sometimes acting on the offensive, invading the territories of their foes in turn, burning their houses, and carrying off their cattle, the Macgregors soon acquired the reputation of being one of the most intractable and unruly clans in the Highlands. Hence it became a standing question with the Scottish government—How shall we clear the country of these Macgregors?
Probably, if the seat of the clan had been farther north, their wild and lawless conduct would have attracted less notice. But that such a clan should continue to exist, and to commit its outrages on the very borders of the Lowlands, within a few miles of royal residences and courts of justice, seemed to be a disgrace to any set of men intrusted with the government of a country. So at least thought the Scottish authorities of the fifteenth century; for in the rudest times the ideas of justice, order, and good government are always familiar to public functionaries. The whole resources of the police of that period were therefore employed against the Macgregors. We have already shown in what these consisted-in stirring up clan against clan, in making the passions and the interests of one clan, pledged to the cause of order, clash with those of another reputedly disloyal.
The Campbells were the great enemies of the Macgregors during the fifteenth century. Favoured by grants from the kings, and by their own strong “ acquisitiveness,” they pushed themselves not only into Glenurchy, but farther east still-through Breadalbane as far as the banks of Loch Tay-ploughing their way, as it were, through the Macgregors, and casting the remnant of that doomed clan up on both sides, like the ridges of earth made by a plough. The Macgregors now, instead of being a whole and unbroken population, were divided into two separate tribes or masses, the one inhabiting the banks of Loch Rannoch and the north of Glenurchy, the other living in the immediate neighbourhood
Balquidder. Both these bands of Macgregors appear to have made it their great object and occupation to retaliate on the Campbells the injuries they had received, by making expeditions into the territories of which they had taken possession, carrying away the cattle, and doing all the mischief in their power. A Macgregor of the fifteenth century, whether born on the banks of Loch Rannoch or on the banks of Loch Lomond, was taught, as his first duty, to hate a Campbell. Nay more, the Macgregors had no other means of subsistence than harassing and “harrying" the Campbells. Hence, by the end of the fifteenth century, the Macgregors, formerly known as an unruly and intractable clan, had come to be notorious as robbers and cattle-stealers. In 1488, the first year of the reign of James IV., an act was passed by the parliament for the “ stanching of thift, reiff, and uther inormiteis, throw all the realme;” and, as was customary, the task of doing so was committed to the great landed proprietors, the proprietors of each district becoming bound to do their best to put down crime within their bounds. The Macgregors appear to have been specially aimed at by this act, for we find the following three proprietors, Duncan
' of Glenurchy, Ewen Campbell of Strachur, and Neil Stewart of Fortingal, appointed as a commission of justice to inquire into and punish the depredations committed in the districts of Glenurchy, Glenlyon, Glenfalloch, &c. the very districts inhabited by the impoverished and desperate Macgregors.
We have sketched the history of the Macgregors down to the year 1500, at which period we find them, not spread over Perthshire and Argyleshire, as they had been two or three centuries before, but accumulated in two masses, one on the banks of Loch Rannóch, the other on the banks of Loch Lomond. The principal agents in effecting this change had been the Campbells; but in the beginning of the sixteenth century, we find the Macgregors of Rannoch involved in a new feud with the Menzieses. In 1502, Robert Menzies of that ilk, already an extensive proprietor in the north of Perthshire, obtained a grant of the lands of Rannoch. In making this grant, the government did not trouble itself with the question, What was to become of the Macgregors who at present held the lands? It simply said to Menzies, “Here is a desirable piece of property filled with Macgregors, and we make you a present of it on condition that you fill it with Menzieses.” Embracing the proposal, the Laird of Menzies made all preparations for expelling the poor Macgregors; who, on the other hand, having no means of emigrating, and not choosing to be driven into the sea, or to break up the clan and dissipate themselves through the kingdom, prepared as resolutely to remain where they were. They clung so desperately to their lands, and made such incursions into the territories of their oppressors, that the poor lairds of Menzies began to wish from their hearts they had never been made
lords of Rannoch. The honour was very great, but the income was very small. By accepting the grant, they had incurred a sort of obligation to the government, which they found themselves unable to discharge. Thus, in 1523, we find Robert a Menzies putting in a petition to the lords of the council, begging to be exempted from all liability in the matter of keeping the Macgregors in order, “ seeing that the said Macgregor forcibly entered the said Robert's lands of Rannoch, and withholds the same frae him maisterfully, and is of far greater power than the said Robert, and will not be put out by him of the said lands;" and in 1530 we find the same laird, or his successor, “ asking instruments, that without some good rule be found for the clan Grigor, he may not have to answer for his lands, nor be bounden for good rule in the same.” This state of things continued through the whole of the sixteenth century, the Menzieses being the legal lords of Rannoch, and bound for good behaviour within the same; and yet the lands being held forcibly by the “ broken men of Macgregor,” who, though growing weaker and weaker every year, still refused to be rooted
out. Such, during the sixteenth century, was the condition of the Macgregors of Rannoch; nor was the condition of the other mass of the Macgregors, accumulated in Balquidder and on the borders of the Lowlands, happier or more peaceful. Their enemies, however, were far more formidable than the Menzieses; they were the Campbells of the neighbourhood, backed by alí the power of the great Earl of Argyle, and by all the authority of the government. It must, indeed, have been galling to the Scottish council, sitting at Perth or Stirling, where also the king sometimes resided, to hear every day of depredations committed by the Macgregors in Glengyle, Strathearn, or Balquidder almost, as it were, at their doors. Not only so, but the Macgregors began also to make incursions into the Lowlands, and to harass the most quiet and peaceable of the king's subjects. Now striking a blow at their old enemies, the Campbells of Glenurchy and Breadalbane, now making an expedition southward into the territories of the Colquhouns, the Buchanans, the Grahams, the Stewarts, and the Drummonds, sometimes even dashing in amongst the honest burghers working at their trades in the Lowland towns, the robber clan became a pest and a terror to all the neighbourhood. Accordingly, their name occurs frequently in the justiciary and other public records of the sixteenth century.
To such a pitch of violent and angry feeling was the privy, council raised by the continual depredations of the "robber clan," that in September 1563, in the reign of Queen Mary, it issued an edict of extermination by fire and sword against the whole of the Macgregors; appointing the Earls of Argyle, Moray, Athole, and Errol, Lords Ogilvy, Ruthven, and Drummond, Sir Colin Campbell of Glenurchy, and John, Laird of Grant, as commis