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Battle of Glen Fruin, 1603
The tragedy opened as a minor incident in the early winter of 1602. Two MacGregors, travelling from Glasgow to their home at Dunan near the head of Loch Rannoch, were benighted while passing through Colquhoun's land by Loch Lomond. Cold and hungry, they asked food and shelter at Luss and were refused. At this breach of Highland hospitality they took shelter in an empty hut, killed a sheep, and ate. Next day, Sir Alexander Colquhoun had them seized and executed, although they offered payment. No proscription against Clan Gregor was at that time in force.
A report on the judicial murder went to the chief, Alasdair of Glenstrae, who lived on the north side of Loch Rannoch, where he held land under Menzies of Weem. He felt bound to act. It was a merit of the clan system that while every man gave his chief the respect due to a father by his family, and found there his first duty, the chief in turn was responsible for the life of every member. The mutual trust engendered was almost wholly good, but even Tacitus had noted a danger: 'The Celts adopted all enmities as well as friendships.' An injury to one was a hurt to all, and unless a chief understood how profoundly true that was it led him to feuding. The close-knit Clan Gregor were in present circumstances the least likely to let the Luss injury pass, and Colquhoun should have known it. Alasdair was a man of mettle and gave the punitive order.

On 7 December 1602, a MacGregor raiding party of eighty men came down Glen Finlas in the hills above Colquhoun's old castle of Rossdhu by Loch Lomond. They killed two men and lifted three hundred cows and more than double that number of sheep, goats, and horses, which they drove into Argyll (MacCailein Mor was at feud with Colquhoun), and reset the stock at Kinlochgoil, Ardkinglas, Strachur, and Appin. A stratagem for revenge occurred to Colquhoun. He led a large party of Luss 'widows', mounted on palfreys, before King James VI at Stirling. James was known to be squeamish at the sight of blood, so to gain the desired effect each sham widow carried her man's 'bludie sark' aloft on a spear-point. The shirts had been dipped in sheep's blood to give a uniform exhibition. Horrified by the sight, James responded by granting Colquhoun Letters of Fire and Sword.

The MacGregors were enraged by the deceit of the Stirling exhibition, by the exaggerated, one-sided report, and at royal condemnation without a hearing. Alasdair of Glenstrae now had MacCailein Mor's assurance of moral support and advice to take vengeance. Blinded by the moment's passion he failed to see that his clan were being hounded out against Campbell's enemy at the most ill-chosen moment. The king must feel it a personal affront. No one could profit except MacCailein Mor.

Alasdair of Glenstrae gathered three hundred men and led them to Loch Longside, where he cut back south-east to the head of Glen Fruin, which ran down into Colquhoun's best farmland. Colquhoun had early warning and gathered in three hundred mounted men and five hundred foot. They met at the head of the glen on 7 February 1603. The MacGregors' courage in attacking such greatly superior force was justified by Alasdair's generalship. The Colquhoun force was routed. The Register of the Privy Council reported that eighty Colquhouns were cut down. Their chief escaped to his castle of Bannachra in the lower glen, while six hundred cows were lifted and still more sheep, goats, and horses. As before, these were reset in Argyll's land, by Loch Fyne and Loch Goil. An angry king gave his order to 'extirpate Clan Gregor and to ruit oot their posteritie and name'. On 3 April 1603, an Act of the Privy Council proscribed the use of the names Gregor or MacGregor, and prohibited those who had borne the names from carrying arms. The execution of the Act was entrusted to commissioners who were men of power, chiefly to Campbell in the west and Murray of Atholl in the east.

The hunt was on and prosecuted with extraordinary venom. Hounds were used to track the Gregarach and no mercy was shown. Warrants for their extermination were put on public sale as though they were game to be killed for sport. Their women were branded on the cheek, their homes burned, their livestock and possessions carried off, their families left destitute.

- Extract from W H Murray's 'Rob Roy MacGregor'

GLEN FRUIN, Battle of (1603)

Following a raid on his property in 1602, Alexander Colquhoun of Luss was granted a lieutenancy by James VI to pursue Clan Gregor The following February, when warned of the MacGregors' approach, Colquhoun tried to reach the head of Glen Fruin before confronting them. But Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae forestalled him by leading his men from Loch Long over the watershed into the head of the glen, where he divided his forces He himself took his stance in a narrow defile while his brother remained concealed near the farm of Strone in order to cut off Colquhoun's retreat The battle took place at Strone The Colquhouns were surrounded on boggy ground which rendered their horses useless and their foot soldiers, charged by MacGregors, broke ranks and fled 120 people were killed, amongst them prisoners Government reprisals included the proscription of Clan Gregor.

- Encyclopaedia of Scotland', edited by John & Julia Keay

The Conflict in Glenfruin

In an effort to explain the rancour between the MacGregor's and the Colquhoun's, several authorities have put forward the claim that the feud was the result of the actions of the Laird of Luss [as above]........
....The problem with this legend is that there is no evidence that it [the summary execution of the two MacGregors for the theft of the sheep] ever took place. The MacGregors were raiding into Colquhoun territory as early as 1525, over 75 years before the battle took place, and during subsequent years there were further raids by the clan. None of those brought forward for the killings at Glenfruin ever put forward this story as an excuse for the invasion.............
.................included in their [MacGregor's] ranks were Robertsons, Macleans, MacIans of Glencoe......opportunists who saw the chance of plunder...........
.....................what made their crime worse was that listed among the number killed [140] were fifty unarmed men who had surrendered and were prisoners.............
.........The story is often told that the MacGregors also murdered 40 Dumbarton schoolboys who had come to watch..............once again there is no written proof....

-'A Brief Account of the Events in Glenfruin, 1603',
published by the
Clan Colquhoun Society of the United Kingdom, 1998.
The full booklet is available from the Clan Colquhoun Heritage Society Museum in Luss, Scotland.
Well worth the read, most detailed account I have came across and there is a more detailed account available but current no copies are available.

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