Sieing the bark is come heir with the meal I desire now that you send onelie about threttie seckis alongis in Auchnabrekis boat and lat all the rest remaine till my farder ordours. In the meantime haist heir all the amunitione, powder, lead and matches that come fra Glenurquhy and send back this boatt of Macleanis with it and send some trustie man with it and some of the sojouris that are coming up to guard it. And lat it be haisted with expeditioune. Iff this overtake Auchnabrekis boatt lat the amunition be sent on hir. And howsoevir you shall not faill to haist both McCleanis boat and your awine sax oared boat with all possible diligence. And so I rest, your loving Coosen,
Inverlochie, last Jan. 1645.
After the writing hereof I have stayed yor awine boatt and so send the amunition in the reddiest boatt.
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).
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.