Conflicts of the Clans

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The Troubles of the Lewis

Rory Macleod of the Lewis had three wives. He married, first, Barbara Stewart, daughter to the Lord Methven, by whom he had Torquil Oighre, who died before his father, without issue. After Barbara Stewart's death, Rory married Mackenzie's daughter, who bore Torquil Connaldagh, whom Rory would not acknowledge as his son, but held him always a bastard; and, repudiating his mother, he married Maclean's sister, by whom he had Torquil Dow and Tormot. Besides these, Rory had three base sons -- Neil Macleod, Rory Og, and Murdo Macleod.

After the death of old Rory Macleod, his son, Torquil Dow Macleod (excluding his brother Torquil Connaldagh as a bastard), doth take possession of the Lewis, and is acknowledged by the inhabitants as the lawful inheritor of that Island. Torquil Connaldagh (by some called Torquil of the Cogaidh) perceiving himself thus put bye the inheritance of the Lewis, hath recourse to his mother's kindred, the Clan-Mackenzie, and desires their support to recover the same.

The Lord Kintail, Torquil Connaldagh, his brother -- Murdo Macleod, and the Brieve of the Lewis, met altogether in Ross, to advise by what means Torquil Connaldagh might obtain the possession of the Lewis, which they were out of all hope to effect so long as Torquil Dow was alive; whereupon the Brieve of the Lewis undertook to slay his master, Torquil Dow, which he brings thus to pass:-- The Brieve, being accompanied with the most part of his tribe (the Clan-vic-Gill-Mhoire), went in his galley to the Isle of Rona; and by the way, he apprehended a Dutch ship, which he brought by force along with him to the Lewis; he invites his master, Torquil Dow, to a banquet in the ship; Torquil Dow (suspecting no deceit) went thither, accompanied with seven of the best of his friends, and sat down in the ship, expecting some drink; instead of wine, they bring cards; thus were they all apprehended and bound by the Brieve and his kindred, who brought them to the Lord of Kintail's bounds, and there beheaded them every man, in July, 1597.

Neither did this advance Torquil Connaldagh to the possession of the Lewis; for his brother, Neil Macleod, opposed himself, and pursued the Brieve and his kin in a part of the of the Island called Ness, which they had fortified, where he killed divers of them, and made them leave the strength. Thus did Neil Macleod possess the Island, to the behoof of his brother, Tormot, and the children of Torquil Dow, whom he acknowledged to be righteous heirs if the Island. Torquil Connaldagh had now lost both his sons, John and Neil, and had married his daughter to Rory Mackenzie (Lord Kintail's brother), giving her in marriage the lands of Colgeach.

Hereupon, Kintail began to think and advise by what means he might purchase to himself the inheritance of that Island, having now Torquil Connaldagh and his brother, Murdo Macleod, altogether at his devotion, and having Tormot Macleod in his custody, whom he took from the schools; so that he had no one to oppose his designs but Neil Macleod, whom he might easily overthrow. Kintail deals earnestly with Torquil Connaldagh, and, in end, persuades him to resign the right of the Island into his favour, and to deliver him all the old rights and evidents of the Lewis.

In the meantime, the barons and gentlemen of Fife, hearing these troubles, were enticed, by the persuasion of some that had been there, and by the report of the fertility of the Island, to undertake a difficult and hard enterprise. They conclude to send a colony thither, and to civilise (if it were possible) the inhabitants of the Island. To this effect, they obtain, from the King, a gift of the Lewis, the year 1599, or thereabouts, which was alleged to be then at his disposal.

Thereupon, the adventurers, being joined together in Fife, assembled a company of soldiers, with artificers of all sorts, and did transport them into the Lewis, where they erected houses and buildings, till, in end, they made a pretty little town, in a proper and convenient place fit for the purpose, and there they encamped themselves. Neil Macleod and Murdo (the sons of old Rory) withstood the undertakers. Murdo Macleod invaded the Laird of Balcolmy, whom he apprehended, together with his ship; and killed all his men; so, having detained him six months in captivity in the Lewis, he released him upon his promise to pay him a ransom.

Now, Neil Macleod was grieved in heart to see his brother, Murdo, entertain the Brieve and his tribe, being the chief instruments of their brother, Torquil Dow's slaughter; and, thereupon, Neil apprehended his brother, Murdo, which, when the undertakers heard, they sent a message to Neil, showing that, if he would deliver until them his brother Murdo, they would agree with himself, give him a portion of the Island, and assist him to revenge the slaughter of his brother, Torquil Dow. Whereunto Neil hearkened, delivered his brother, Murdo, to the undertakers; then went Neil with them to Edinburgh, and had his pardon from the King for all his byepast offences. Murdo Macleod was executed at St. Andrews.

Thus was the Earl of Kintail in despair to purchase or obtain the Lewis; and therefore he lends all his wits to cross the undertakers; he setteth Tormot Macleod at liberty, thinking that, at his arrival in the Island, all the inhabitants would stir in his favour against the undertakers; which they did indeed, as the natural inclination is of all these Islanders and Highlanders, who, of all other people, are most bent and willing to hazard and adventure themselves, their lives, and all they have, for their lords and masters.

The King was informed, by the undertakers, that the Lord of Kintail was a crosser and hinderer of their enterprise; whereupon he was brought into question, and committed to ward in the Castle of Edinburgh, from whence he was released, without the trial of an assize, by the Lord Chancellor's means. Neil Macleod, returning into the Lewis, with the undertakers, fell at variance with them; whereupon, he went about to invade their camp, and they began in like manner, to lay a snare for him. The Laird of Wormistoun, choosing a very dark night, sent a company to apprehend Neil; who, perceiving them coming, invaded them, and chased them, with slaughter, to their camp.

By this time, came Tormot Macleod into the Island, at whose arrival the inhabitants speedily assembled, and came to him as to their lord and master. Thereupon, Tormot, accompanied with his brother, Neil, invaded the camp of the undertakers, forced it, burnt the fort, killed most part of their men, took their commanders prisoners, and released them after eight months' captivity. Thus, for a while, Tormot Macleod commanded in that Island, until the undertakers returned again to Lewis, being assisted by the forces of all the neighbouring countries, by virtue of the King's commission, directed against Tormot Macleod and his kin, the Siol-Torquil.

How soon their forces were landed on the Island, Tormot Macleod rendered himself to the undertakers, upon their promise to carry him safe to London, and to obtain him a remission for his byepast crimes; but Neil Macleod stood out, and would not submit himself. Tormot being come to London, the King gives him a pardon; but, withal, he sent him home into Scotland, to be kept in ward at Edinburgh, where he remained until the month of March, 1615, that the King gave him liberty to pass into Holland, where he ended his days. Tormot thus warded in Edinburgh, the adventurers did settle themselves again, for a little while, in the Lewis, where, at last, the undertakers began to weary; many of the adventurers and partners drew back from the enterprise; some, for lack of means, were not able; others died; others had great occasion and business elsewhere to abstract them; many of them began to decline and decay in their estates; and so, being continually vexed by Neil Macleod, they left the Island, and returned to Fife.

The Lord of Kintail, perceiving all things thus fall out to his mind, did now show himself open in the matter. He passed a gift of the Island in his own name, under His Majesty's great seal, by the Lord Chancellor's means, by virtue of the old right which Torquil Connaldagh had before resigned in his favour. Some of the adventurers complained hereof to the King's Majesty, who was highly displeased with Kintail, and made him resign his right into His Majesty's hands; which right, being now at His Majesty's disposition, he gave the same to three of the undertakers, to wit, the Lord Balmerino, Sir James Spence of Wormistoun, and Sir George Hay; who, now, having all the right in their persons, assembled their forces together, with the aid of the most part of all the neighbouring counties; and so, under the conduct of Sir George Hay and Sir James Spence, they invaded the Lewis again, not only to settle a colony there, but also to search for Neil Macleod.

The Lord Kintail (yet hunting after the Lewis) did, underhand, assist Neil, and publicly did aid the undertakers by virtue of the King's commission; Kintail sent a supply of victuals, in a ship from Ross, to the adventurers. In the meantime, he sent quietly to Neil Macleod, desiring him to take the ship by the way, that the undertakers, trusting to these victuals, and being disappointed thereof, might be forced to return, and abandon the Island; which fell out accordingly; for Sir James Spence and Sir George Hay, failing to apprehend Neil, and being scarce of victuals to furnish their army, began to weary, and so dismissed all the neighbouring forces. Sir George Hay and Wormistoun then retired into Fife, leaving some men in the Island to defend and keep the fort until they sent them a fresh supply of men and victuals; whereupon, Neil, being assisted by his nephew, Malcolm Macleod (the son of Rory Og), invaded the undertakers' camp, burnt the same, apprehended all those which were left behind in the Island, and sent them home safely; since which time they never returned again into the Lewis.

Then did the Lord Balmerino, Sir George Hay, and Sir James Spence, begin to weary of the Lewis, and sold their title of that Island to the Lord of Kintail for a sum of money; whereby, in end, after great trouble and much blood, he obtained the Island. And thus did this enterprise of the Fife undertakers come to no effect, after they had spent much time, and most part of their means, about it.

Kintail was glad that he had now, at last, caught his long-expected prey; and thereupon he went into the Island, where he was no sooner landed but all the inhabitants yielded unto him, except Neil Macleod, and some few others. The inhabitants yielded the more willingly to Kintail because he was their neighbour, and might still vex them with continual excursions if they did stand out against him; which they were not able to do. Neil Macleod was now forced to retire to a rock, within the sea, called Berrissay, which he kept for the space of three years.

During the time of his stay in the fort of Berrissay, there arrived an English pirate in the Lewis, who had a ship furnished with great wealth; this pirate (called Peter Lowe) entered into friendship and familiarity with Neil, being both rebels; at last, Neil took him prisoner with all his men, whom he sent, together with the ship, to the Council of Scotland, thinking, thereby, to get his own pardon, and his brother, Tormot, released out of prison; but neither of them did he obtain; and all the Englishmen, with their captain, Peter Lowe, were hanged at Leith, the year 1612.

Neil Macleod, being wearied to remain in the fort of Berrissay, abandoned the same, and, dispersing all his company several ways, he retired into Harris, where he remained a certain while in secret; then he rendered himself unto his cousin, Sir Rory Macleod, whom he entreated to carry him into England to His Majesty; which Sir Rory undertook to do; and, coming to Glasgow, with a resolution to embark then for England, he was charged there, under the pain of treason, to deliver Neil, whom he presented before the Council at Edinburgh, where he was executed in April, 1613.

After the death of Neil, his nephew, Malcolm Macleod (the son of Rory Og), escaping from the Tutor of Kintail, associated himself to the Clan Donald, in Isla and Kintyre, during their troubles against the Campbells, in the years 1614, 1615, and 1616; at which time Malcolm made a journey from Kintyre to the Lewis, and there killed two gentlemen of the Clans Mackenzie; then he went into Spain, and there remained in Sir James Macdonald's company, with whom he is now again returned into England, in the year 1620.

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