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BLAKLEINE, OE THE BATTLE OF THE SHIRTS.
A STORY OF HIGHLAND WARF VRE.
The sail up the Caledonian Canal from Inverness to Oban—the weather propitious—is one of the most enjoyable of Highland tours. Historically or archaeologically, there are few routes that present so rich a field to glean from as the "Great Glen." And the tourist who intent only on luxuriating in abundance of fresh air; or on feasting his eyes on the beauties of magnificent scenery will have his reward. Borne swiftly along in the well equipped passenger boat, he gazes ou a panoramic exhibition, that unfolds one after another scenes so attractive, and that impress the memory with reminiscences so agreeable, that there are few who have seen those sights but would gladly enjoy a repetition of the tour. "We think the scenery along this route is not much, if at all, inferior to the far-famed Rhine scenery.
Let us suppose ourselves at the point at which the steamer leaves the canal and enters Loch Lochy—the fourth in the chain of lakes that lie along the valley. The ground through which the canal passes here was formerly known by the name of Daliuairi—a considerable part of which was submerged, when the water level was raised to serve canal purposes. On this ground was fought, on the 15th of July 1544, one of the best contested and bloodiest fights in the annals of Highland warfare —a very Otterburn of Higliland combats—literally realising the fable of the Kilkenny cats, that ate each other to the tails.
Allan Mac Ruairi of Eileantioram, in Mudart, was Chief and Captain of Clanranald from 1481 till 1509, when he was executed in presence of James IV. at Blair-Athole. "What the crime laid to his charge was, for which he suffered the last penalties of the law, is not very clear. The probability is, that his principal offence was the part ho acted in a raid upon Athole headed by Donald Dubh, the well known aspirant to the Lordship of the Isles. This Clanranald chief was 'twice married. His first wife was a daughter of Macian, the Macdonald Chief of Ardnamurchan; and after her death he espoused the Honourable Isabella Eraser, daughter of Thomas, fourth Lord Lovat, and sister to Hugh, fifth Lord Lovat This lady, after the death of Clanranald, her first husband, married John Mor Grant, first of the Grant lairds of Glenmoriston. The Glenmoriston tradition is, that after the death of Clanranald, she left Mudart for her brother's residence in the Aird—whether on a visit or with the purpose of permanently residing there is uncertain. Anyhow she passed through Glenmoriston on her way—encamped there with her attendant retinue—and, according to the courtesies of those times, sent one of her band to the laird to inform him of her arrival; at the same time soliciting his protection. Lady Clanranald and her retinue were hospitably entertained, and so favourably impressed by the good qualities of her host, that before parting she consented to be his wife. Their sons were Patrick and James. Patrick was one of the few -who survived, the Kinlocldochy fight unwounded—where he and his men fought bravely in the interest of his uterine brother, Eanald Gallda.
By his first wife—Maeian'a daughter—Allan Mac Euairi had two sons, Ranald and Alexander. Eanald was a man of action and ability; and for a time steered the Clanranald bark safely between the rocks, and through the breakers of many dangerous clan feuds. But eventually driven by self interest or stress of weather to the commission of crimes which made him amenable to capital punishment, he also suffered the last penalty of the law at Perth in the year 1513. He was succeeded in the chieftainship by his son Dugald. He also died an untimely death. Because of cruelties and crimes against his own kin he was assassinated, and his sons formally excluded from succeeding to the chieftainship. The command of the clan and possession of the family estates reverted to his uncle Alexander, the second son of Allan Mac Euairi by his first wife. It does not appear that this chief was married; but he had a natural son, John, well known in Highland story as Ian Mudartach—a man of high capacity both for diplomacy and command—a born chief. These mental endowments, along with his great physical prowess, made him so popular that the circumstance of his illegitimacy was ignored, and on the death of his father he was unanimously elected by the clan to be their captain and chief—to the exclusion of cousins, and his uncle, Eanald Gallda, any of whom had legally a preferential claim.
Allan Mac Euairi, as already narrated, married, as his second wife, the Honourable Isabella Fraser of Lovat, by whom he had a son, Eanald, who, from the circumstance of his being educated among his mother's friends, the Frasers, went by the soubriquet of Eonald, or Eaol Gallda. His two elder brothers dead, and the representatives of Eaol Ban the elder of the two being disqualified, Eaol Gallda was undoubtedly the rightful Clanranald Chief. But such was the influence of John Mudartach that his opponent's efforts, and those of his friends, to obtain recognition of his rights proved quite unavailing, until John, with other chiefs, was apprehended by James V., duriDg his expedition for the pacification of the Highlands and Isles. Of this circumstance Lovat immediately availed himself to assert the rights of his nephew; and eventually he succeeded in obtaining the revocation of the charters formerly granted to John Mudartach, and in procuring fresh title-deeds in favour of Eanald Gallda as heir of his father, the deceased Allan Mac Euairi. This new arrangement lasted only during the time John Mudartach remained in confinement On his release—whether by permission or escape is uncertain—he hastened with all speed to his mountain home, and by the singular influence he possessed over his clan, drew them again to his banner—was acknowledged as their chief—and Eanald Gallda, whose more refined accomplishments were not at all to the taste of his wild Mudart kinsmen, had to betake himself for shelter and protection to his uncle Lovat, who took steps to re-assert the rights of his injured nephew. John Mudartach was too fiery and impetuous a spirit to abide invasion. He took the initiative. In alliance with the Macdonalds of Keppoch and the Cauierons of Lochiel, headed by their respective chiefs, he ravaged the districts of Abertarf and Stratherric belonging to Lovat, and those of Glenmoriston and Glen-Urquhart, belonging to the Grants, who sided with Lovat. He also invested the Castle of Urquhart, of which the laird of Grant was Constable; took it by storm; put the garrison to the sword, and settled a large portion of his followers in the surrounding d istricts as in a conquered territory. These were serious and formidable in vasions upon the rights of the lieges; and as a necessary consequence br ught John Mudartach and his allies into collision with the crown. The Castle of Urquhart being a royal fort, Huntly, the King's Lieutenant in the North, was authorised to take immediate steps towards chastising these chieftains. He lost no time in raising an army, including, in addition to his own dependents, the Frasers, the Mackintoshes, and the Grants. His first operation was to clear the invaded territories of their new settlers. He then marched westwards against the Macdonalds of Keppoch and the Camerons, after which he led his forces into the wilds of Mudart, and without much opposition put Lovat's nephew in possession of Eileantioram, but as the sequel shows, not in possession of the clan. John Mudartach was not in a position, single-handed, to encounter the King's Lieutenant; and wisely realising this, he retreated or advanced as occasion required, but always kept a watchful eye upon the foe, waiting his opportunity to strike a decisive blow should a favourable occasion turn up. Huntly having, as he supposed, secured the object of his expedition, retraced his steps homewards as far as Glenspean, through which was his nearest route to Badenoch and Strathbogie. Here he and the Frasers agreed to part company. The Spean route suited Huntly better, while Lovat elected to march down the Great Glen as the most direct road to his country. There seems to be no evidence, as some historians affirm, that this arrangement was suggested by Huntly to entrap Lovat. On the contrary, he offered him an escort in case he might be attacked by the way, which Huntly suggested as possible. But as there was no appearance of this—the Clanranald keeping carefully out of sight—Lovat courteously declined the offer. He had reason to repent of this. It is pretty certain that John Mudartach and his allies foresaw there would be a division of Huntly's forces. Guessing the route Lovat was likely to take, he marched down behind the range of mountains to the north of Lochlochy, and encamped on the night previous to the battle in a glen among the hills immediately behind the farm of Kilfinnan, near a small loch, called Lochan-nam-bata, the loch of the staves. In the muddy margin of this little loch, the Mudart men left their staves on the morning of the battle, that by the number of unclaimed ones they might ascertain their losses in the impending struggle. Such, according to tradition is the origin of the name. Gregory says, the Clanranald and their allies marched with displayed banners down the south side of Loch Lochy on the morning of the day of battle. But tho traditional story is—and we think the more probable of the two—that they encamped out of sight at Lochan-nam-bata, till of a sudden they descended like birds of prey from their eyry, on the morning of the 15th. And this is all the more probable, as it was John Mudartach's best policy to conceal his forces till Lovat was in a position in which he could not decline battle against superior numbers. The Frasers numbered about three hundred men. Tho Clanranald brought five hundred warriors to the field. This disparity, sufficiently great to begin with, became greater, as Lovat found it necessary to detach fifty of his men, under command of his Lieutenant, Beathan Ckirach, to secure a safe retreat in case of discomfiture, which he apprehended owing to the disparity between the combatants. But for this precaution, seeing the Frasers fought so well, it is not impossible but victory might have alighted upon their banner. Anyhow John Mudartach's tactics proved successful. Just as Lovat with his followers arrived at the east end of Loch Lochy, he descended with his grim warriors from the hills right opposite; a movement, judging from the distance, which could be performed in a very short time. Lovat was now fully alive to the error he had committed in not accepting Huntly's proffered escort, but it was too late to mend matters. He had no alternative but to accept the chances of battle. Accordingly he made the best disposition of his forces he could—placing the gentlemen of his little army, who were well armed, in front, and the others in the rear. The day—the fifteenth of July—was unusually hot—the heat no doubt intensified by the narrowness of the position, shut in as it is by towering hills on either side. To ease themselves as much as possible of this solar heat, they prepared for the conflict by stripping themselves of their upper raiment all but their shirts and kilts. Hence the name Blarleine, or Blar-nanleine, by which this battle is known among Highlanders, The fight began with a discharge of arrows—the usual mode of Highland warfare in those times—and when their arrows were expended, the struggle was carried on hand to hand with the sword. From the allusion to gunpowder, in the following lines, adapted to a pibroch composed in commemoration of this action, we infer that fire-arms must have been used— at least to some extent:
Fhriseilich a chail chaoil,
Chloinn Domhnuil an fhraoich,
Luaidhe chruinn ghorm,
The battle was fought from midday till late in the afternoon, and consisted latterly of isolated single combats. Botli sides fought with determined courage, neither side yielding until—if we can believe tradition—of the Frasers only four remained unwounded, and of the Clanranald only eight. The others were either dead or disabled. Banald Gallda was accounted the best swordsman of all that fought in this well contested field. Many of the foe fell beneath his powerfully-handled weapon; and it was by strategem, and not by strength or skill, that he was disabled towards the close of the struggle. Two noted Mudart warriors, father and son, fought under the banner of their chief. The son, known by the soubriquet of "an gille maol dubh," while performing deeds of valour himself, had his eye upon his aged sire, marking how, as foe after foe fell neath the weapon of Banald Gallda, that warrior came nearer and nearer to the old man. The two at length joined in deadly strife. The older combatant gave ground before his more vigorous rival—on observing which, the "gille maol dubh" exclaimed, "'S beag orm ceum air ais an t-sheann duine," I like not the backward step of an old man. The father replied, "A" bheil thusa 'n sin a ghille mhaoil duibh, ma tha bi 'n so'." Are you there, if so be here; whereupon the son stepped forward and took his father's place at the moment he had fallen mortally wounded. For a time the contest was doubtful, but rinding himself overmatched by the skill and prowess of his oppoent, the "gillo maol dubh" exclaimed, "Cha bhi mi 'm brath foille 's tu, seall air do chulthaobh," I won't take advantage of you, look behind. Apprehending treachery, Ranald instinctively turned round, and in the act of doing so the Mudart man felled him to the ground. This ended the fray. Eanald Gallda dead, as it was thought, John Mudartach had nothing to fear from him; nor the Frasers anything further to contend for; and the few that survived unscathed on either side sullenly withdrew from what may be called a drawn battle. Lovat, his eldest son the Master, and Ranald Gallda, with eighty gentlemen of the Frasers, besides others of less note had fallen. Gregory says—As both sides were about to give battle, to Lovat's grief he was joined by the Master, a youth of great promise just returned from abroad. He had been strictly charged by his father not to take part in the expedition, and accordingly remained at home after its departure. But stung by the taunts of a stepmother, who insinuated cowardice, she secretly hoping his fall might make way for the advancement of her own son ; the gallant youth chose twelve trusty companions, followed his father and clan, and arrived at Kinloehlochy in time to take part in the fight which brought him to an untimely end. Lovat's first wife, the Master's mother, was a daughter of the Laird of Grant. His second wife, the lady who is suspected of ensnaring the Master in favour of her own son, was a daughter of Ross of Balnagown. Fraser of Faraline was among the slain ; and Fraser of Foyers was so badly wounded that but fox the fidelity of a retainer he also would have perished. Norman Gow, though himself sorely wounded by an arrow, yet, forgetful of his own peril, carried his master all night on his back as far as FortAugustus, to die there of his disinterested exertions. He was an armourer, as his name bears, and as a last request desired that his sword should be huried with his remains. His grave was known for generations thereafter, and it is said, when opened towards the end of last century, the remains of a sword were dug up, supposed to be that of Norman Gow. In appreciation ot the faithful services of this man, his descendants had lands free of rent conferred upon them by the lairds of Foyers, as long as any of them remained to claim the gift. There is, right opposite the battlefield of Dalruairi, where the present road curves westward towards the farmhouse of Kilfinnan, a hillock, still known by the name of Cnocan-oichoich. Oich! in Gaelic is expressive of pain. On this hillock, at the time the battle was fought, there was, as tradition says, a hostelry, and a barn adjoining, into which many of the wounded were carried to have the benefit of such medical skill as was then available. Into this barn Ranald Gallda, dangerously wounded, was with others carried. During night, the surviving Macdonalds indulged largely in potations of " mountain dew," were jubilant over the discomfiture of the Frasers, and boasted of their own individual feats in arms, Ranald Gallda, who overheard their conversations, unwisely remarked "that there was one Macdonald,