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
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
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
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  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.