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Mr Kenneth Macdonald, Town-C'lerk of Inverness, thereafter read a paper, entitled, “A Modern Raid in Glengarry and Glenmoriston.” Mr Macdonald's paper was as follows :
A MODERN RAID IN GLENGARRY AND GLENMORISTON. THE BURNING OF THE CHURCH OF CILLIECHRIOST.
Our party numbered four, our host Bailie Duncan Macdonald, of Inverness, a Glenmoriston man, proud of the beauties and historic memories of his native glen, and of its men, and his three guests, the Provost, the Senior Bailie, and the Town Clerk of Inverness. On a cloudy day in July, 1888, we landed from the “Gondolier” at Cullochy, where we found ponies awaiting us. A ride of two or three miles along the Northem flank of Glengarry, first over a rough road, and then over rough pasture land, bog, and rock, brought us to the neighbourhood of the so-called “cave” of Allan Macranald of Lundie. Leaving our ponies, we scrambled over rock and bracken to the verge of a deep ravine at the bottom of which rushed a noisy torrent. Led by our guide we carefully let ourselves down the side of the ravine, and then picked our way over the rocky bed of the torrent to the “cave.” Cave, properly so-called, there was none, and apparently never had been. A portion of the precipitons rocky bank of the stream had at some remote period become detached from the parent rock, and slipping down, lay among a heap of debris within a few feet of the cliff. To make a passably comfortable, and, in a friendly neighbourhood, an entirely safe hiding place out of this would be easy enough, and, according to tradition, this was one of the hiding places of Allan of Lundie after the raid of Cilliechriost. The other was on an island in Loch Lundie, a mile or two further up the glen. There is no trace on the island of its having been inhabited, nor, with the exception of a few doubtful chisel or hammer marks, is there any such evidence at the cave. The tradition, however, connecting both places with Allan Macranald and his exploit in Brae-Ross is distinct. The rude heap of stones, therefore, which may have once afforded shelter to the man whose name has come down to us branded as the perpetrator of the act of savagery with which the name Cilliechriost is associated, had an interest for us, and we lingered over it for a time discussing the story.
The story of the burning of the church of Cilliechriost, with which we are now so familiar, was given to the public for the first time, so far as I have been able to ascertain, when Gregory published his History of the Western Highlands and Islands fiftytwo years ago. The story, as told by Gregory, is that in 1603 “ The Clanranald of Glengarry, under Allan Macranald of Lundie, made an irruption into Brae-Ross, and plundered the lands of Kilchrist and other adjacent lands belonging to the Mackenzies." Up to this point there is evidence to support Gregory. But he goes on to say, “this foray was signalised by the merciless burning of a whole congregation in the Church of Kilchrist, while Glengarry's piper marched round the building mocking the cries of the unfortunate inmates with the well-known pibroch which has been known ever since under the name of Kilichrist, as the family tune of Clanranald of Glengarry.” This is, as I have said, the earliest printed notice of the burning of the Church of Cilliechriost, but that there was a floating tradition of the burning of a church full of people by the Macdonalds of Glengarry, long before Gregory wrote, is proved by a passage in Johnson's Tour tɔ the Hebrides (p. 108, 1st edn.), where the author relates that as he sat at the table of Sir Alexander Macdonald at Armadale, in Skye, and the party were being entertained by the music of the bagpipes, “an elderly gentleman informed us that in some remote time the Macdonalds of Glengarry, having been injured or offended by the inhabitants of Culloden, and resolving to have justice or vengeance, came to Culloden on a Sunday, where, finding their enemies at worship, they shut them up in the Church, which they set on fire ; and this, said he, is the tune that the piper played while they were burning.” This story was told to Johnson in 1773, and it is worth noting that he renders the name given to him of the place where the burning took place into Culloden-a name with which he was naturally familiar. Hugh Miller in his “Schools and Schoolmasters” makes a passing reference to the passage in Johnson, and says that the scene of the atrocity was the Church of Cilliechriost, not Culloden. The Origines Parochiales repeats the story of the burning of the Church, and quotes Hugh Miller in addition to Gregory and the authorities quoted by him. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's “ Legend of Allan with the Red Jacket” gives an extended version of the story of the Raid of Cilliechriost, touched up here and there by bits of local colour, which, while they serve to present the narrative in an attractive form, put an end to any pretension it might have to be treated as serious history. In the “ History of the Mackenzies,” Mr Alexander Mackenzie treats the whole tradition of the Raid of Cilliechriost as historical fact, and not merely so, but he embodies in his history a narrative which appeared in a book entitled “ Highland Tales and Legends," edited by himself, containing statements which there never was even a vestige of tradition to warrant. According to the veracious author of those tales, Allan Macranald, whose personal prowess was only equalled by his intense ferocity, burning to avenge the losses of his clan in recent encounters with the Mackenzies, and particularly the death of the young Chief of Glengarry (to whose body a tradition, not mentioned by the writer, says unspeakable indignity was offered at the church of Kintail), gathered together a number of the most desperate of the clan, and by a forced march arrived at the Church of Cilliechriost on a Sunday forenoon, while it was filled with worshippers of the Clan Mackenzie. Surrounding the building, the Macdonalds set fire to the thatched roof. While a gentle breeze from the east fanned the flames, the song of praise mingled with the crackling of the flames until the worshippers, becoming conscious of their situation, rushed to the door and windows, where they were met by a double row of bristling swords. The writer then goes on to describe the wild wail of despair, the shrieks of women, the infuriated cries of men, and the helpless screaming of children, which, mingled with the roar of the flames, appalled the Macdonalds, but not Allan Dubh, who commanded that all who attempted to escape should be thrust back into the flames, “and they were thrust back or mercilessly hewn down within the narrow porch until the dead bodies piled upon each other opposed an insurmountable barrier to the living.” Mothers threw their children from the windows, but “at the command of Allan of Lundie, they were received on the points of the broadswords of men in whose breasts mercy had no place." The Macdonalds are described as listening with delight during the tragedy to the piper of the band, who played round the burning building, to drown the screams of the victims, an extempore pibroch, which has ever since been the war-tune of Glengarry. Then follows this brilliant piece of writing—“East, West, North, and South, looked Allan Dubh Macranuil. Not a living soul met his eye. . . . not a sound met his ear, and his own tiger soul sunk within him in dismay. The parish of Cilliechriost seemed swept of every living thing. The fearful silence that prevailed in a quarter lately so thickly peopled, struck his followers with dread, for they had given in one hour the inhabitants of a whole parish one terrible grave. The desert which they had created filled them with dismay, heightened into terror by the howls of the masterless sheep-dogs, and they turned to fly.” The writer then goes on to say that Allan, before leaving Cilliechriost, divided his party into two, one returning by Glenconvinth, and the other by Inverness. He then describes the pursuit of the two parties, the former, which was under the command of Allan himself, by a party of Mackenzies under Alexander Mackenzie of Coul, and the latter by a party under Murdoch Mackenzie of Redcastle. Redcastle overtook the Macdonalds he was in pursuit of while they were in a house at Torbreck, near Inverness, resting. He set the house on fire, and the Macdonalds, thirty-seven in number, suffered the death which, according to the writer, they had earlier in the day so wantonly inflicted. The party under Coul, says the writer, overtook the Macdonalds as they were resting on the hills towards the burn of Aultsigh, a burn which we know lies to the south of Glen-Urquhart and between it and Glenmoriston. The Macdonalds fled towards the burn, but many missed the ford and fell under the swords of the Mackenzies. The remainder held on for miles, and, when morning dawned, Allan and his party were seen ascending the southern ridge of GlenUrquhart (that is, still towards the Aultsigh), with the Mackenzies close in their rear. Allan called on his men to disperse, and then set forward at the height of his speed, but, after a time, found the Mackenzies still following him in one unbroken mass. Again, says the writer, Allan divided his men, and bent his flight towards the shore of Loch Ness, but the foc still followed him. He then commanded his few remaining followers to leave him, and they did so. What follows had better be given in the writer's own words :-“ Taking a short course towards the fearful ravine of Aultsigh" (one would like to ask the writer if this is the same Aultsigh near which the previous night's battle took place), “he divested himself of his plaid and buckler, and turning to the leader of the Mackenzies, who had nearly come up to him, beckoned him to follow ; then, with a few yards of a run, he sprang over the yawning chasm.” Mackenzie attempted to follow, but only succeeded in touching the opposite bank with his toes. Slipping down, he clung to a slender shoot of hazel which grew over the brink. Allan, noticing the agitation of the hazel, returned, and, saying to Mackenzie, “I have given much to your race this day, I shall give them this also,-surely now the debt is paid,” cut the twig with his sword, and Mackenzie “was dashed from crag to crag until he reached the stream below a bloody and mis-shapen mass.” Allan recommenced his flight, but, being wonnded by a musket shot from one of the Mackenzies, he plunged into Loch Ness, and swam towards the opposite shore. Allan's friend, Fraser of Foyers, attracted by the sight of the armed men on the opposite side of the loch, and seeing a man swimming, had his boat launched, and rescued Allan, who remained in the house of Foyers until his wound was cured.
Such is the account given of the raid of Cilliechriost in the “ Highland Tales and Legends,” and quoted in the “ History of the Mackenzies," and it is quoted in all seriousness without comment, -all but the statement that the leader of the Mackenzies was killed, which Mr Mackenzie correctly points out was not the fact. Alexander Mackenzie of Coul, the leader of the party who went in pursuit of Allan Macranald, is known to have lived until 1650 forty-seven years after the raid. In this very important particular, therefore, of the fate of the leader, the legend is admittedly inaccurate. Moreover, its account of the battle on the banks of the Aultsigb, the subsequent pursuit by moonlight, until in the morning the Macdonalds were seen ascending the southern ridge of Glen-Urquhart, still towards the Aultsigh they had been fleeing from all night, is a grotesque absurdity. The fearful silence, of which the chief characteristic was the howling of masterless sheep dogs, is somewhat difficult to realise, and it is quite as difficult to understand how if, as is stated in one sentence, the Macdonalds had given the inhabitants of a whole parish one terrible grave, the next can be true which states that the terrible deed roused the Mackenzies as effectually as if the fiery cross had been sent through their territories. If the first statement were true, there would be no Mackenzie left in Kilchrist to carry the fiery cross, or to be roused by the terrible deed.
Stripped, however, of its admitted inaccuracies and of its unintelligibilities, the narrative contains these assertions, the truth of which I mean to test :
1. That the Church of Cilliechriost with its congregation of worshippers was burnt by the Macdonalds under Allan Macranald of Lundy in 1603; and
2. That the Macdonalds fled hurriedly from Cilliechriost, and, when pursued by the Mackenzies, their flight became a roni.
The two must to some extent be taken together,
It will be remembered that, so far as the reading public is concerned, the story of the burning of the Church originated with Gregory. The authorities quoted by Gregory are the Letterfearn MS.; Sir Robert Gordon's History of Sutherland, p. 248; and Reg. Privy Seal XCIV. 142. I have not seen the Letterfearn MS., but I have seen one of earlier date, which I shall immediately refer to. Sir Robert Gordon's History was written in 1639, and the writer was an interested spectator of events in the Highlands for many years before that. At the date of the raid, he was 23