Colla Ciotach and Dunstaffnage

The site of Dunaverty Castle, Southend, Kintyre.
The site of Dunaverty Castle, Southend, Kintyre.

After the defeat and murder of Sir Alexander MacDonald’s (Colla Ciotach’s son) followers at Dunaverty (Dunàbhartaidh) in Kintyre, General Leslie and the Earl of Argyll crossed over to Islay (Ile) and besieged Dun-naomhaig, held by Colla Ciotach. After a short resistance, Colla consented to surrender on certain conditions, to which Leslie agreed. While the terms of surrender were being drawn out, Colla thinking that all was settled, went out of the fort to speak to MacAonghais an Duin (MacAngus of the Fort, the patronymic of the Dunstaffnage  (Dun-staidh-innis) family), a gentleman for whom he had a great regard. No sooner was Colla out of the fort than he was made prisoner, taken to Dunstaffnage, and placed in irons, but received every kindness and leniency that Dunstaffnage could afford him, and was allowed to roam about as he pleased. Dunstaffnage having occasion to go to Inverary (Ionaraora), was asked by the Earl of Argyll if he had Colla in irons. MacAonghais answered that he had. The Earl swore that if he found out that he allowed Colla to be at large he would make him suffer for it. A man on horseback, with orders to change horses at every stage, was at once despatched to Dunstaffnage to see if it was true what he was hearing. Dunstaffnage gave a sign to his foster brother (Comhalta) MacKillop, who was along with him, and who set off at once, taking all the by-paths between Inverary and Dunstaffnage, and outran the rider. When they both took the road by Port Sonachan (Port Shonachain), the footman arrived first at the ferry; consequently the Earl’s horseman had to wait till the boat came back. When the Earl’s messenger was at Connel (A’ Chonaill), the man on foot was on the hill above the road south of Tigh-na-h-uallaraich, and seeing the reapers in a field over opposite, and Colla binding sheaves after them, he cried, “Colla fo gheimhlibh!  Colla fo gheimhlibh!” (Colla in fetters). Colla himself was the first to hear the cry; he understood how things were, ran into his prison, and placed himself in irons.

Shortly after this he was sentenced to be hanged. He was hanged from the mast of his own galley, which was placed across a cleft of the rock on a hill called Tom a’ chrochaidh (hill of hanging). He met his fate without fear or dismay, entreating that they would bury him so near to the place where MacAonghais would be buried that they might take a snuff from each other in the grave. When his request was told to Dunstaffnage, the latter ordered him to be buried under the second step at the door of the burying-place, and when they would be burying him, that they would step over Colla’s grave. Colla Ciotach was carried prisoner to Dunstaffnage after the fall of Dun-naomhaig in 1647.

— Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

 

 

Là Inbhir Lòchaidh

Ruins of Inverlochy Castle near Inverlochy and Fort William, Highland, Scotland.
The ruin of Inverlochy Castle near Inverlochy and Fort William, Highland, Scotland.

Alasdair of sharp, biting blades,
if you had the heroes of Mull with you,
you would have stopped those who got away,
as the dulse-eating rabble took to their heels.

Alasdair, son of handsome Colla,
skilled hand at cleaving castles,
you put to flight the Lowland pale-face:
what kale they had taken came out again.

You remember the place called the Tawny Field?
It got a fine dose of manure;
not the dung of sheep or goats,
but Campbell blood well congealed.

 

 * * *

Sèist

Hì rim hò ro, hò ro leatha,
Hì rim hò ro, hò ro leatha,
Hì rim hò ro, hò ro leatha,
Chaidh an latha le Clann Dòmhnaill.

An cuala sibhse an tionndadh duineil
Thug an camp bha ‘n Cille Chuimein?
‘S fada chaidh ainm air an iomairt,
Thug iad às an naimhdean iomain.

Dhìrich mi moch madainn Dòmhnaich
Gu bràigh caisteil Inbhir Lòchaidh;
Chunnaic mi ‘n t-arm dol an òrdugh,
‘S bha buaidh a’ bhlàir le Clann Dòmhnaill.

Dìreadh a-mach glùn Chùil Eachaidh,
Dh’aithnich mi oirbh sùrd bhur tapaidh;
Ged bha mo dhùthaich na lasair,
‘S èirig air a’ chùis mar thachair.

Ged bhiodh iarlachd a’ Bhràghad
An seachd bliadhna seo mar tha e,
Gun chur, gun chliathadh, gun àiteach,
‘S math an riadh o bheil sinn pàighte.

Air do làimh-sa, Thighearna Labhair,
Ge mòr do bhòsd as do chlaidheamh,
‘S iomadh òglach chinne d’ athar
Tha ‘n Inbhir Lòchaidh na laighe.

‘S ioma fear gòrsaid is pillein,
Cho math ‘s a bha riamh dheth d’ chinneadh,
Nach d’ fhoad a bhotann thoirt tioram,
Ach foghlam snàmh air Bun Nimheis.

‘S iomadh fear aid agus pice
Agus cuilbheire chaoil dhìrich
Bha ‘n Inbhir Lòchaidh na shìneadh,
‘S bha luaidh nam ban à Cinn-tìr’ ann.

Sgeul a b’ àite ‘n uair a thigeadh,
Air Caimbeulaich nam beul sligneach,
H-uile dream dhiubh mur a thigeadh,
Le bualadh lann ‘n ceann gam briseadh.

‘N latha a shaoil iad a dhol leotha
‘S ann bha laoich gan ruith air reothadh:
‘S iomadh slaodanach mòr odhar,
A bheir aodann Ach’ an Todhair.

Ge b’ e dhìreadh Tom na h-Aire,
‘S iomadh spòg ùr bh’ air dhroch shailleadh,
Neul marbh air an suil gun anam
‘N dèidh an sgiùrsadh le lannan.

Thug sibh toiteal teth ma Lochaidh,
Bhith gam bualadh mu na srònaibh,
Bu lìonmhor claidheamh claisghorm còmhnard,
Bha bualadh ‘n lamhan Chlann Dòmhnaill.

Nuair chruinnich mòr dhragh na falachd,
‘N àm rùsgadh na ‘n greidlein tana,
Bha iongnan Dhuimhneach ri talamh,
An dèidh an lùithean a ghearradh.

‘S lionmhor corp nochte gun aodach
Tha nan sìneadh air Chnoc an Fhraoiche
On bhlàr an greasta na saoidhean,
Gu ceann Leitir Blàr a’ Chaorainn.

Dh’ innsinn sgeul eile le fìrinn,
Cho math ‘s nì clèireach a sgrìobhadh,
Chaidh na laoich ud gu ‘n dìcheall
‘S chuir iad maoim air luchd am mì-rùin.

Iain Mhuideartaich nan seòl soilleir,
Sheòladh an cuan ri là doillear,
Ort cha d’ fhuaireadh bristeadh coinne,
‘S ait’ leam Barra-breac fo d’ chomas.

Cha b’ e sud an siubhal cearbach
A thug Alasdair do dh’Albainn,
Creachadh, losgadh, agus marbhadh,
‘S leagadh leis Coileach Strath Bhalgaidh.

An t-eun dona chaill a cheutaidh,
An Sasunn, ‘n Albainn, ‘s an Èirinn,
Ite e à cùrr na sgèithe:
Cha miste leam ged a ghèill e.

Alasdair nan a geurlann sgaiteach,
Gheall thu ‘n dè a bhith cur às daibh,
Chuir thu ‘n retreuta seach an caisteal,
Seòladh glè mhath air an leantainn.

Alasdair nan geurlann guineach.
Nam biodh agad àrmuinn Mhuile;
Thug thu air na dh’fhalbh dhiubh fuireach,
‘S retreut air pràbar an duilisg.

Alasdair Mhic Cholla ghasda,
Làmh dheas a sgoltadh nan caisteal ;
Chuir thu ‘n ruaig air Ghallaibh glasa,
‘S ma dh’òl iad càil, gun chuir thu asd’ e.

‘M b’ aithne dhuibhse ‘n Goirtean Odhar?
‘S math a bha e air a thodhar,
Chan innear chaorach no ghobhar
Ach fuil Dhuibhneach an dèidh reothadh.

Sgrios oirbh mas truagh leam bhur càramh,
‘G èisteachd an-shocair bhur pàistean.
Caoidh a’ phanail bh’ anns an àraich,
Donnalaich bhàn Earra-ghàidheal.

— Iain Lom MacDonald (c. 1624–c. 1710).

Castle Sween

Castle Sween is located on the eastern shore of Loch Sween, in Knapdale, on the west coast of Argyll, Scotland. It is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late XII century. The castle’s towers were later additions to wooden structures which have now since vanished.

Castle Sween takes its name from Suibhne, who is thought to have built the castle. Suibhne is believed to have been a grandson of Hugh “the Splendid” O’Neill who died in 1047.

In the XIII century the Clan MacSween, or descendants of Suibhne, governed lands extending as far north as Loch Awe and as far south as Skipness Castle on Loch Fyne. In the later half of the XIII the MacSween lands of Knapdale passed into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Menteith.

By the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacSweens took the wrong side, and when Robert the Bruce became King of Scots, he displaced the MacSweens from their lands. After Robert the Bruce had defeated MacDougall Lord of Lorne in 1308, he then laid siege to Alasdair Og MacDonald in Castle Sween. Alastair gave himself up and was disinherited by Robert Bruce who then granted Islay to Alasdair’s younger brother, Angus Og, the king’s loyal supporter, who also received the Castle Sween in Kintyre from the King.

In 1310, Edward II of England granted John MacSween and his brothers their family’s ancestral lands of Knapdale (though by then Castle Sween was held by Sir John Menteith). It is possible that this could be the “tryst of a fleet against Castle Sween,” recorded in the Book of the Dean of Lismore, which tells of the attack of John Mac Sween on Castle Sween.

In 1323, after the death of Sir John Menteith, the Lordship of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson. In 1376, half of Knapdale, which included Castle Sween, passed into possession of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, by grant of Robert II of Scotland to his son-in-law John I, Lord of the Isles.

During the MacDonald’s century and a half of holding the castle, the castellans were first MacNeils and later MacMillans.

Castle Sween from the loch.

In 1490 Castle Sween was granted to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, by James IV of Scotland.

In 1647, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Castle Sween was attacked and burnt by Alasdair MacColla and his Irish Confederate followers.

Skipness Castle

Skipness Castle stands on the east side of the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland near the village of Skipness.

The main structure of the castle was built in the early XIII century by the Clan MacSween with later fortifications and other additions made to the castle through the XIII, XIV, and XVI centuries.

The castle was garrisoned with royal troops in 1494 during King James IV of Scotland’s suppression of the Lordship of the Isles. Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll, granted Skipness to his younger son Archibald Campbell in 1511.

During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in 1646, the castle was besieged by forces under the command of Alasdair Mac Colla. During the siege, Alasdair’s brother, Gilleasbuig Mac Colla, was killed in August 1646.

The castle was abandoned in the XVII century.

Alasdair Mac Colla Chiotaich Mac Domhnuill

A figure of Gaelic folklore, Alasdair the son of Colla the Left-handed MacDonald was born into Clan Donald around 1610 on the island of Colonsay in the Outer Hebrides. As Clan Donald was spread across them, Mac Colla had experience of both the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the Gaeltacht of Ireland. A soldier like his father, and being particularly renowned for his expertise with the claymore, his youth was taken up with the perpetual conflict between the Presbyterian Covenanter Campbells and the Catholic MacDonalds. He came to prominence in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms during which Clan Donald sided with the Royalists and Irish Confederates.

Attacked by a Covenanter/Campbell force, Mac Colla was forced to flee the Western Isles early in the war. Colla, his father (“Collkitto”), was taken prisoner by the Campbells. Upon the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Mac Colla found himself in Antrim, under the command of Randal MacDonald, the chief of the Irish MacDonalds. Mac Colla quickly became involved in fighting the Protestant settlers in east Ulster. He was implicated in several massacres of Protestant civilians, but he also scored some notable military victories. He was defeated and wounded in an attack on Lurgan and was rescued by Dónall Geimhleach Ó Catháin. The Scottish Covenanters landed an army in Ulster and drove the Irish Catholic forces out of the greater part of the province.

In 1644, he was selected by the Supreme Council of Confederate Ireland to lead an expedition to Scotland to aid the Royalists against the Covenanters there. He was charged with an army of perhaps two thousand Ulstermen. Arriving in Scotland, Mac Colla joined forces with the Royalist James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, and he also raised more men from among his MacDonald clansmen and other anti-Campbell clans.

In the subsequent Scottish Civil War, Mac Colla and Montrose won a series of victories at the battles of Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Auldearn, Alford, and Kilsyth. Perhaps the most notable of these battles was the Battle of Inverlochy, during which the Marquess of Argyll left the command of his army to his General, Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, and retired to his galley anchored on Loch Linnhe to watch the battle. In many respects, the Battle of Inverlochy was as much part of the clan war between the deadly enemies Clan Donald and Clan Campbell and their allies as it was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and that is how it was portrayed in Gaelic folklore.

During his Highland campaign, Mac Colla also freely pillaged Campbell lands, killing all the men he could find there. On January 14, 1645, Mac Colla sacked Inveraray, the seat of the Campbells of Argyll. In an incident in Argyllshire after the Royalists were ordered to lay down arms, Mac Colla burned down a building full of Campbell women and children becoming known as the “Barn of Bones.”

Mac Colla has been credited with inventing the tactic of the Highland Charge in the Civil Wars– a tactic whereby his men ran toward the enemy infantry, fired a single volley at close range, and then closed in hand-to-hand combat. This tactic proved remarkably effective in both Ireland and Scotland, due to the musket’s slow reloading time and the poor discipline and training of many of the troops Mac Colla’s men faced.

Mac Colla’s father was killed by the Campbells in retaliation for his son’s atrocities in the Campbell country. Mac Colla himself retreated to Kintyre and then to Ireland with his family, where he re-joined the Irish Confederates in 1647. His troops (both Irish survivors of the 1644 expedition and Scottish Highlanders) were split up and assigned to the Leinster and Munster armies, with Mac Colla attached to the latter. Mac Colla’s men were mostly killed in the Confederate defeats at the Battle of Dungan’s Hill in County Meath and then at the Battle of Knocknanauss in County Cork. Alasdair Mac Colla himself was killed by English Parliamentarian soldiers at Knocknanauss after he had been taken prisoner.

Continue reading “Alasdair Mac Colla Chiotaich Mac Domhnuill”