Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll

Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, 8th Earl of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, (March 1607 – 27 May 1661) was the de facto head of government in Scotland during most of the conflict known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. He was a towering figure in the Covenanter movement which fought for the Presbyterian religion and what they viewed as Scottish interests during the English Civil War of the 1640s and 1650s. He is often remembered as the arch-enemy of the royalist general James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose. Painting by David Scougall.

Is It True That He’s a Traitor?

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose.

Montrose, Montrose, you were the rose
You gave your life for loyalty
But it’s no’ the hour for a rose tae flower
Between the kirk and royalty
Montrose

Father, father, tell me, why do the horsemen ride
Why do the troopers look so grim by Jamie Graham’s side
Is it true that he’s a traitor, father, tell me why
There’s no’ a man among them all will look him in the eye

Hide your eyes, my bonny boy, for the deed is a’ but done
The headsman’s axe will win the day, the Graham’s race is run
For honour rode with courage, but evil rode with guile
And the darkest horse among them a’ was the vengeance of Argyll

Hearken now, my bonny boy, as we stand before the kirk
Or does the thunder o’ the horses’ hooves hide a’ the devil’s work
For the Covenant’s a Campbell mare that rides across the law
And ere a Stuart bridles her, a Graham’s heid must fa’

I’ll read you now a riddle by the shining o’ the moon
When king and kirk sit down tae sup, wha needs the longer spoon
When Scotland hides her head in shame and justice looks awa’
And the scaffold buys an English throne wi’ the bravest heart of a’

Montrose, Brian McNeill.

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”