The Scottish Journal of Topography, Antiquities, Traditions, etc., Vol. I, No. 22, January 29, 1848
Topography, Antiquities, Traditions,
SOME PARTICULARS REGARDING THE FAMILY OF INVERNAHYLE.
COPIED FROM A MANUSCRIPT IN THE POSSESSION OFDR THOMSON, LATE OF APPIN, BY JOSEPH TRAIN.
ALEXANDER, the first Invernahyle,was son to Allan Stewart,third Laird of Appin. He marriedMargaret Macdonald, daughterof Donald Macdonald of Moidart,commonly called Donulan Lochan. He had only onechild, Donald, who succeeded him. Alexander,it would appear, lived in Island Stalker. Herose early on a summer morning, and steppedover to the Nan Gall, which lies contiguous.He had in his hand a Lochaber axe, which at thatperiod was frequently used instead of the sword.He reclined upon a verdant spot of the isle, withhis Lochaber axe laid carelessly by him. A deadlyfeud existed at that time between his family andthat of Dunstaffnage. A brother of Dunstaffnage,called Cailen Uaine, arrived at the islandwith his barge, and a number of men to assist himin executing his bloody purpose. He landed unperceivedby Alexander. Upon being observed,he assumed the mask of friendship, and was aboutto salute him; but, seeing Alexander defenceless,he cast his eye on the axe, which still lay uponthe ground, and eager to be possessed of thatwhich, if in the hands of the other, might makehim pay dear for his expedition, he hastily graspedit, expressing himself thus—“Sma an tua soAlasdair na on bioda leor sauich innte.” Alexanderquickly replied—“Bheil duil agad nach eilsin innte,” and also laid hold of the axe, beingfully sensible of the spirit of Colin’s remark.During the struggle, Colin’s men surrounded Alexander,and basely murdered him. Donald, hisinfant son, was suckled by Morag, a woman fromMoidart, and wife to Rab a Pheti, the smith ofthat district. Colin, foreseeing that the black deedhe had committed might not pass unrevenged,was very anxious to destroy the child. In this,however, he was disappointed by the prudenceand activity of the faithful nurse, who, with astrength of attachment truly valuable, understandingwhat had happened, regardless of her ownsafety, fled away with the child to her own country.Having informed her husband of the circumstances,they agreed to bring up the child asif he was their own, and to keep the secret of hisparentage concealed from the world, even fromhimself, till a proper time arrived for disclosing it.
Donald was accordingly educated in the familyof Rab a Pheti, the blacksmith. When he acquiredsome strength, he was often called to assisthis supposed father in carrying on his trade. Beingof a strong, athletic make, he performed everytask proposed to him with ease, little thinking hehad any right to be otherwise employed. Oneday, when about eighteen years of age, it beinghis turn to work in the smithy, he took hold of alarge hammer, which required the strength of anyordinary man to wield with both hands, and, ofcourse, deemed too unweildly for a stripling of hisage, yet he found so little difficulty in managingit, that he wrought it with one hand; and notsatisfied with this exertion, he took another hammerof the same size in his other hand, and beataway with both alternately, without much apparentexertion. His supposed father, Rab a Pheti,seeing this, gave up his work and went to thefaithful nurse to tell what he had seen. Thishonest couple, who had as much affection for Donaldas though he had been their own child, cameto the resolution of disclosing to him the secretthey had so long kept of his birth and parentage.Donald was called, and the mournful tale of hisfather’s death, and the risk he ran of sharingthe same fate, was circumstantially laid beforehim. If we can judge by his future actions, wemay conclude that he listened to the mournfulstory with strong emotions. The smith took himin his arms and embraced him. “Your education,”he said, “has been necessarily obscure, butI trust the blood that runs in your veins, and thespirit of your fathers, will ever inspire your conductand direct your steps.” The smith then presentedhim with a sword, tempered with all theart of his trade, praying it might be the means ofclearing his way through difficulties, and extricatinghim from every danger. Donald received itas a valuable token of love. Nor did he allow itlong to remain peaceful in its scabbard. Previousto his setting out for Appin, he, by the advice ofhis foster-mother, Morag, waited on his mother’sbrother, Macdonald of Moidart, who gave him avery warm and hearty reception, and offered freelyto support him with his interest and influence inrecovering his paternal property, which had beentaken back to the family, on the supposition ofhis death when a child.
Donald, upon coming to Appin, and his historybeing made public, got the name of Donul nanOrd, by which he was known ever after. Naturewas very kind to Donald. He had ready wit, aquick invention, an excellent address, an uncommondegree of firmness of mind, strength of body,and activity. Those qualities rendered him a fitleader of a chosen band in those restless and warliketimes. He soon became a terror to the enemiesof his clan and of his friends. His first stepwas to kill Cailen Uaine, the murderer of hisfather. Nor did he stop till he had destroyednine other gentlemen of the family of Dunstaffnage.This cost Donald several skirmishes; buthis attacks were so bold, and so well managed,that he was always successful. Argyle soon cameto be interested in the distress that Donald wasbringing on his clan, and employed several partiesto cut him off, but in vain. Donald seeing Argyle’sintention, instead of being intimidated,penetrated with his chosen band into the heart ofArgyle’s country, spoiled his tenants, carryingaway a considerable booty from the sides of Lochow,which at that time gave a title to the chief ofthe clan.
There is still handed down a little roundlet,which narrates this transaction—
Argyle, much enraged at the affront offered himby Donald, began to think of serious revenge, byraising his whole clan and followers to destroyhim; but wisely seeing that this could not bedone without some noise, and aware that Donaldmight be supported by his mother’s powerfulfriends, and also by the Camerons, set on foot anegotiation with the Laird of Appin, to get Donaldto make restitution and be peaceful. Theresult was, that Appin, and his other friends, insistedwith Donald that he should come to termswith Argyle, threatening, if he did not comply, toleave him to his fate. Donald, unwilling to splitwith his friends, and thinking that he had doneenough in revenging his father’s death, complied,and actually went to Inverary with a single attendant,to hold a conference with Argyle, at hisown place, and among his numerous friends. Argyle,who was a man of the world, conceived that,from Donald’s rusticity, he could easily, by persuasion,get him into a scrape that might provefatal to him. But Donald, though he agreed allat once to the terms proposed, got himself easilyextricated. Upon Donald’s reaching Inverary, hemet Argyle in the fields, and is said to have accostedhim thus—
In the course of conversation, it would appear thatDonald not unfrequently indulged in a loud hoarselaugh—a habit which some of his descendantswere noted for, as far down as the eighth generation.To rally Donald a little upon this, Argyledesired him to look at a rock in a hill above Ardkinglass,then in their view, which resembles aman’s face reclined backwards, the mouth beingconsiderably expanded. He asked if he knew thename that rock went by. Donald answered in thenegative. Argyle then told him it was GaireGranda. Donald perceiving the allusion, and,with his other qualifications, being no mean poet,replied off hand—
When at length they came to talk of business,the terms upon which Argyle offered peace were,that Donald should raise a hership in Moidart,and another in Athole, thinking probably thathe would be cut off in these attempts; or ifsuccessful against such powerful people, that hisdisgrace would be less in what was done to hisown lands. Donald readily agreed to the terms.He set out openly for Moidart, discovered to hisuncle the engagement he had come under, andasked his advice. His uncle told him that thepeople of certain farms in that neighbourhood havingoffended him, to go and spoil them; that he, tosave appearance, when it came to his knowledge,should pursue him to retake the spoil; but shouldnot be in such haste that Donald ran any risk ofbeing overtaken. Donald did so; carried off hisspoil; set fire to two or three farms, and got safeoff. The affair made a great noise, and reachedArgyle’s ears, who was astonished at Donald’srashness. He went next to Athole, and playedthe same card with equal success; came back toArgyle, and a peace was concluded, though notwith much cordiality upon either side.
There is a well-known anecdote, which we cannotpass over in silence. Donald was, on a time,returning from an expedition into Stirlingshire,and, passing through Monteith, called at a tenant’shouse, where they were preparing a wedding dinner.The Earl of Monteith was at the marriage,and was to partake of the dinner. Donald andhis men were hungry, and asked for a supply ofmeat, which being refused, they were so unpoliteas step in and eat up the whole dinner. Uponthe Earl’s arrival with the marriage people, theywere enraged at the affront put upon them. Theypursued Donald, and soon came up with him.They called to him to halt, which he did, andone of the Earl’s men cried out ironically toDonald and his men, alluding, no doubt, to thequantity of broth they had consumed—
One of Donald’s men, with great coolness, drawingan arrow out of his quiver, replies—
And with this took his aim at the Monteith man,and shot him through the heart. An engagementensued betwixt the parties, in which the Earl waskilled, and a number of his followers.
Donald was twice married; first to M. Stewart,daughter of John Stewart of Bun Rannock, aliasJan MacRoibeart. By her he had four sons,1. Alexander, who had the misfortune at an earlyperiod to be