Colquhoun’s Leap

Pass of Glencoe, looking westwards.
Pass of Glencoe, looking westwards.

Some time before the Massacre of Glencoe, the laird of Appin (Tighearna na H-Apunn) had a servant of the name of Colquhoun, in whom he placed great confidence. On a certain occasion he sent him to Inverness (Inbhirnis) for money. The road from Appin to Inverness passed through Glencoe, but Colquhoun was afraid to take it on account of the wild character of the MacDonalds. Avoiding Glencoe, he went down Glen Leachd-na-Muighe, ascended the big pass (Am bealach Mòr), and thence made his way over the hills to the Highland capital. Having done his business, he returned by the same route. As he was passing over the hills above Glencoe, who should he meet but MacIain and his men, who were out hunting. They had rested to take luncheon, which consisted of barley-bread, cheese, and whisky. The bread was in the form of sausage-shaped cakes about seven inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. Colquhoun being invited to partake of the fare, he complied without hesitation. As they were seated on the grass around the chief, the MacDonalds began to confer with each other as to the propriety of using means to prevent Colquhoun from reporting to his master the kind of food they had. Colquhoun overheard what they said, but appeared as though he did not notice it. In order to throw them off their guard, he proposed that they should try who would take the largest bite out of a cake and eat one most quickly. When he saw their mouths full he took to his heels. A party of the MacDonalds followed him as soon as they recovered from their surprise. A waterfall being in his way, he leaped across it, which only two of his pursuers succeeded in doing. Turning upon the foremost of these he cut him down. The other, deeming discretion the better part of valour, gave up the pursuit. The waterfall is to this day called Leum Mhic-a-Chombaich — i.e., Colquhoun’s Leap. When Colquhoun reached home he informed his master of the treatment he had received from the MacDonalds. His master reported the case to the authorities, informing them at the same time that it was not safe for any one to go to Glencoe. This formed one of the many charges that had been accumulating against the unfortunate MacDonalds.

Note. — The following is from the pen of “Nether Lochaber”: “At the battle of Inverlochy (1645) a young man whose name was David Colquhoun, from Loch Lomond side, performed such prodigies of valour that Stewart of Appin took special notice of him, and soon afterwards took him into his own service. David Colquhoun married, and had lands given him in Duror. In course of time the Colquhouns multiplied, and became an important sept under the banner of MacIain Stiùbhart. Seventeen Colquhouns from Appin were at Culloden, where eight of them were killed. They were physically a very fine body of men, being accounted the biggest and heaviest men of the western mainland. Their descendants even at the present day are remarkable for personal strength and size. They are called the ‘dimpled Colquhouns’ from a peculiar dimpling all over the face when they smile, giving them a most pleasing expression. This dimpling is characteristic only of the Appin sept. Other Colquhouns have it not.”

— From the Gaelic of Archibald Campbell, Black Crofts, Benderloch;
Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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