Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Battle of the Clans

According to Rampant Scotland, the battle between Clans Chattan and Kay that serves as  focal point for the action in Scott's "The Fair Maid of Perth" occurred on September 28, 1396.  Robert III of Scotland witnessed the event, in which 30 men from each side fought each other until only one remained alive of Clan Kay.  The Chattans lost 19.

Scott describes the two sides: 'The course of our story will be best pursued by attending that of Simon
Glover. It is not our purpose to indicate the exact local boundaries of the two contending clans, especially since they are not clearly pointedout by the historians who have transmitted accounts of this memorable feud. It is sufficient to say, that the territory of the Clan Chattan extended far and wide, comprehending Caithness and Sutherland, and having for their paramount chief the powerful earl of the latter shire, thence called Mohr ar Chat. In this general sense, the Keiths, the Sinclairs, the Guns, and other families and clans of great power, were included in the confederacy. These, however, were not engaged in the present quarrel, which was limited to that part of the Clan Chattan occupying the extensive mountainous districts of Perthshire and Inverness shire, which form a large portion of what is called the northeastern Highlands. It is well known that two large septs, unquestionably known to belong to the Clan Chattan, the MacPhersons and the MacIntoshes, dispute to this day which of their chieftains was at the head of this Badenoch branch of the great confederacy, and both have of later times assumed the title of Captain of Clan Chattan. Non nostrum
est. But, at all events, Badenoch must have been the centre of the confederacy, so far as involved in the feud of which we treat.


Of the rival league of Clan Quhele we have a still less distinct account, for reasons which will appear in the sequel. Some authors have identified them with the numerous and powerful sept of MacKay. If this is done on good authority, which is to be doubted, the MacKays must have shifted their settlements greatly since the reign of Robert III, since they are now to be found (as a clan) in the extreme northern parts of Scotland, in the counties of Ross and Sutherland. We cannot, therefore, be so clear as we would wish in the geography of the story. Suffice it that, directing his course in a northwesterly direction, the glover travelled for a day's journey in the direction of the Breadalbane country, from which he hoped to reach the castle where Gilchrist MacIan, the captain of the Clan Quhele, and the father of his pupil Conachar, usually held his residence, with a barbarous pomp of attendance and ceremonial suited to his lofty pretensions.'

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