The Battle of Altimarlach

THE BATTLE OF ALTIMARLACH: A BALLAD.

‘Twas morn; from rustic cot and grange
The cock’s shrill clarion rung:
And fresh on every sweet wild flower
The pearly dew-drop hung.

Given up to thoughtless revelry,
In Wick lay Sinclair’s band,
When suddenly the cry arose,
“Glenorchy’s close at hand!”

For now the Campbell’s haughty chief
The river Wick had crossed,
With twice seven hundred Highlanders–
A fierce and lawless host.

“To arms! to arms!” from street to lane
The summons fast did go;
And forth the gathered Sinclairs marched
To meet the coming foe.

Where Altimarlach opens up
Its narrow, deep ravine,
Glenorchy’s force, in order ranged,
Were strongly posted seen.

They meet, they close in deadly strife,
But brief the bloody fray;
Before the Campbell’s furious charge
The Caithness ranks give way.

Flushed with success, Glenorchy’s men
Set up a savage cheer,
And drove the Sinclairs panic-struck
Into the river near.

There, ‘neath the Campbell’s ruthless blade
Fell more than on the plain,
Until the blood-dyed stream across
Was choked up with the slain.

But who might paint the flood of grief
That burst from young and old,
When to the slaughtered Sinclair’s friends
The direful tale was told!

The shrieking mother wrung her hands,
The maiden tore her hair,
And all was lamentation loud,
And terror, and despair.

Short time Glenorchy Caithness ruled,
By every rank abhorred;
He lost the title he usurped,
Then fled across the Ord.

While Keiss,1 who firm upheld his claim
Against tyrannic might,
Obtained the Sinclairs coronet,
Which was his own by right;

That coronet which William2 wore,
Who loved his Prince so well,
And with his brave devoted band
On fatal Flodden fell.

— James Traill Calder.

1 George Sinclair of Keiss, 7th Earl of Caithness.
2 The second Earl of Caithness [of the Fourth Creation (1455)].