Conflicts of the Clans

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The Conflict of Torran Dubh

Adam Gordon, first of that surname, Earl of Sutherland having married Elizabeth Sutherland, heiress of that country, took journey to Edinburgh, the year of God 1517, to dispatch some affairs there, which did concern the settling of his estate, leaving the commandment of the country, in his absence, to Alexander Sutherland (base brother to his wife Elizabeth) and to John Murray of Abirscors; which John Mackay of Strathnaver, understanding (having now appeased his civil discords at home, by the death of his uncle Neil) this occasion, in the very change of surnames in Sutherland, to try if he could gain anything by spoiling that country; and thereupon assembling together all the forces of Strathnaver, Assynt and Eddrachillis, with all such as he could purchase out of the west and north-west isles of Scotland, invades the country of Sutherland with all hostility, burning and spoiling all before him.

The inhabitants of Sutherland do speedily convene together with all the parts of the country; and so, under the conduct of Alexander Sutherland, John Murray, and William Mackames, they rencounter with John Mackay and his company at a place called Torran Dubh, beside Rogart, in Strathfleet, where there ensued a fierce and cruel conflict.

The Sutherland men chased John Mackay's vanguard, and made them retire to himself where he stood in battle array, then did he select and chose a number of the ablest men in all his host, and, with these, he himself returned again to the conflict, leaving his brother Donald to conduct the rest, and to support him as necessity should require; whereupon they do begin a more cruel fight than before, well fought on either side.

In the end, after long resistance, the Sutherland men obtained the victory; few of these that came to renew the fight escaped, but only John Mackay himself, and that very hardly. Neil MacIan MacAngus of Assynt was there slain, with divers of his men. . There were 216 of the Strathnaver men left dead in the field, besides those that died in the chase. There were slain of Sutherland men 38. Not long thereafter John Mackay sent William and Donald, two brethern, with a company of men, to invade John Murray, with whom they met at a place called Loch-Sallachie, in Sutherland. After a sharp skirmish, both the chieftains of the Strathnaver men were slain, with divers of their men, and the rest put to flight; neither was the victory pleasing to John Murray, for he lost there his brother, called John Roy-Murray.

Thus continued the inhabitants of these countries infesting one another with continued spoils, until the year of God 1522, that Alexander Gordon (Earl Adam's eldest son) overthrew John Mackay at Lairg, and forced him to submit himself to Earl Adam; unto whom John Mackay gave his band of manrent and service, dated the year of God 1522.

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