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CLAN CHISHOLM

BADGE: Raineach (filix) Fern

PIBROCH : Failte Siosalaich Strathglas

One of the most remarkable episodes among the adventures of Prince Charles Edward in the West Highlands, between the time of his escape from Benbecula by the aid of Flora MacDonald and his final setting sail for France on board the Doutelle, was that of his shelter and protection by the Seven Men of Glen Morriston. The names of these seven men, as given in the Lyon in Mourning, were Patrick Grant, commonly called Black Peter of Craskie, John MacDonnell alias Campbell, Alexander MacDonnell, Grigor MacGregor, and three brothers Alexander, Donald, and Hugh Chisholm. These seven were afterwards joined by an eighth, Hugh Macmillan, These men had been engaged in the Jacobite rising, and, as a result, their small possessions had been burned and destroyed. Seventy others of their neighbours who had surrendered they had seen sent as slaves to the colonies, and in desperation they had bound themselves by a solemn oath never to yield and never to give up their arms, but to fight to the last drop of their blood. Several of their deeds are recounted in the work already referred to. About three weeks before the Prince joined them, four of them, the two Macdonnells and Alexander and Donald Chisholm, attacked a convoy of seven soldiers carrying provisions from Fort Augustus to Glenelg, shot two of the soldiers dead, turned loose the horses, and carried the provisions to their cave. A few days later, meeting Robert Grant, a notorious informer from Strathspey, they shot him dead, cut off his head, and set it up in a tree near the high road, where it remained for many a day, a terror to traitors. Three days later, word reached them that an uncle of Patrick Grant had had his cattle driven off by a large party of soldiers. Near the Hill of Lundy, between Fort Augustus and Glenelg, they came up with the raiders and demanded the return of the cattle. The three king's officers formed up their party for defence and continued to drive away the cattle; but the seven men, moving parallel with the party, kept up a running fire two by two, and finally, in a narrow and dangerous pass, so beset the soldiers that they fell into confusion and fled, leaving the cattle, as well as a horse laden with provisions, to the assailants.

To these men the Prince was introduced as young Clanranald, but they instantly recognised him, and welcomed him with the utmost enthusiasm and devotion. They took a dreadful oath to be faithful to him, and kept it so well, that not one of them spoke of the Prince having been in their company till a twelvemonth after he had sailed to France. Charles told them they were the first privy council who had sworn faith to him since the battle of Culloden, and he lived with them first for three days in the cave of Coiraghoth, and afterwards for four days in another of their fastnesses two miles away, the cave of Coirskreaoch.

John Home, in his history of the Rebellion, quoting the narrative of Hugh Chisholm, says that "when Charles came near they knew him and fell upon their knees. Charles was then in great distress. He had a bonnet on his head, a wretched yellow wig, and a clouted handkerchief about his neck. He had a coat of coarse dark-coloured cloth, a Stirling tartan waistcoat much worn, a pretty good belted plaid, tartan hose, and Highland brogues tied with thongs, so much worn that they would scarcely stick upon his feet. His shirt (and he had not another) was of the colour of saffron". The outlaws undertook to procure him a change of dress. This they did by waylaying and killing the servant of an officer, conveying his master's baggage to Fort Augustus.

On 6th August, learning that a certain captain of militia, named Campbell, factor to the Earl of Seaforth, was encamped within four miles of his hiding-place, Charles determined to remove, and, during the night, attended by his rude but faithful bodyguard, he passed over into Strathglass, the country of The Chisholm. The Prince stayed in Strathglass for four days, then passed over into Glen Cannich, hoping to hear of a French vessel that had put into Poolewe. Disappointed in this, however, he returned across the Water of Cannich, and, passing near young Chisholm's house, arrived about two in the morning of 14th August at a place called Fassanacoill in Strathglass, where the party was supplied with provisions by one, John Chisholm, a farmer. Chisholm was even able to furnish a bottle of wine, which had been left with him by a priest. It was not till the 19th of August that the Prince passed from Glen Morriston to Glengarry. On finally parting from his faithful protectors at a wood at the foot of Loch Arkaig, the Prince gave their leader, Patrick Grant, twenty-four guineas, being nearly all the money he possessed. This made an allowance of three guineas for each man, which cannot be considered a preposterous acknowledgment, seeing that anyone of them could, at any moment during the Prince's stay among them, have earned for himself the reward of £30,000 offered by Government for his capture.

Of one of these seven men, Hugh Chisholm, in later days, an interesting account is given by Sir Walter Scott. Towards the close of the century he lived in Edinburgh and became known to Scott, then a young man at college, who subscribed to a trifling annuity for him. Scott says "he was a noble commanding figure of six feet and upwards, had a very stately demeanour, and always wore the Highland garb . . . . He kept his right hand usually in his bosom, as if worthy of more care than the rest of his person, because Charles Edward had shaken hands with him when they separated". In the end he returned to his native district, and died in Strathglass some time after 1812.

The humble clansmen who appear thus heroically in Scottish history in the eighteenth century, were members of a race whose origin is lost in the mists of antiquity. By some the family is believed to have taken its name originally from a property on the Scottish Border, and to have been transplanted thence at an early date to the district of Strathglass in Inverness-shire. Another theory is that the Chisholms, whose Gaelic name is Siosal, are derived from the English Cecils. If either of these theories be correct, the case is little different from that of many others of the most notable Scottish clans, whose progenitors appear to have settled in the north in the time of Malcolm Canmore and his sons, much in the same way as Norman and Saxon knights were settled in the Lowlands by these monarchs, and probably for the same reason, to develop the military resources and ensure the loyalty of their respective districts.

Whatever its origin, the race of the Chisholms appears early enough among the makers of history in the north. Guthred or Harald, Thane of Caithness in the latter part of the twelfth century, is stated by Sir Robert Gordon to have borne the surname of Chisholm. His wife was the daughter of Madach, Earl of Atholl, and he was one of the most powerful and turbulent of the northern chiefs, till William the Lion at last defeated and put him to death, and divided his lands between Freskin, ancestor of the Earls of Sutherland, and Magnus, son of Gillibreid, Earl of Angus. Upon that event the chiefs of the Chisholms, it is conjectured, sought a new district, and about the year 1220 settled in Strathglass. From that time to this they have been located in the region, and to an early chief the saying is attributed that there were but three persons in the world entitled to be called "The" - the King, the Pope, and The Chisholm.

In the Ragman Roll of 1296 appear the names of Richard de Chesehelm, in Roxburghshire, and John de Cheshome, in Berwickshire, but it cannot be supposed that these individuals had any but the most remote relationship with the Clan Chisholm of the north. In 1334 the chief of the Chisholms married the daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Lauder of Quarrelwood, presumably the estate of that name in the parish of Kirkmahoe in Dumfries-shire, who was at that time Constable of the royal castle of Urquhart at the foot of Glen Morriston on Loch Ness. Robert, the son of this marriage, succeeded through his mother to the estate of Quarrelwood, and became keeper of Urquhart Castle. He was one of the knights who was taken prisoner along with the young King David II at Neville's Cross in 1346, but procured his freedom, and left a record of his piety at a later day by bestowing six acres of arable land within the territory of the old Castle of Inverness upon the kirk there. The deed, dated in 1362, is still preserved, and the ground, still the property of the Kirk Session, has its revenue devoted to the relief of the poor, and is known on that account as the Diribught, "Tir na bochd", or poor's land.

By way of contrast to this piety, Sir Robert Chisholm, Lord of Quarrelwood, was accused in 1369 of having wrongously intromitted with some of the property belonging to the bishopric of Moray, and twenty-nine years later John de Chesehelm was ordered to restore the lands of Kinmylies, which belonged to the church. In the Register of Moray, under the date of 1368, is preserved the record of an act of homage performed to the Bishop for certain lands by Alexander de Chisholme, presumably a son of Sir Robert. "In camera domini Alexandri, Dei gratia Episcopi Moraviensis apud Struy, presente tota multitudine Canonicorum et Capellanorum et aliorurn, ad prandiurn ibi invitatorum, Alexander de Chisholme fecit hornagium, junctis manibus et discooperta capite, pro eisdem terris", etc.

The main residence of the chiefs of that time appears to have been Comar, and in an indenture dated 1403 Margaret de la Aird is stated to be the widow of the late chief, Alexander Chisholm of Comar. This indenture was for the settlement of the estates between the widow, Alexander's successor Thomas, and William, Lord Fenton, as heirs portioners, and it detailed the family property as lying not only in the shires of Inverness and Moray, but also in the counties of Aberdeen, Forfar, and Perth.

At the end of the fourteenth century the chief of the time, John Chisholm, had an only child, Morella, or Muriel. By her marriage to Alexander Sutherland, baron of Duffus, a large part of the property of the chiefs was carried out of the family, and John's successor was left with little more than the original patrimony of his ancestors in Strathglass. Muriel also carried into her husband's family the Chisholm insignia of the Boar's head as an addition to its coat of arms.

Somewhere during those centuries occurred a tragic incident which has retained a place among the traditions of the clan. One of the Chisholm chiefs, it appears, carried off a daughter of the chief of the Frasers. To ensure her safety he placed her on an island on Loch Bruaich. But her father's clan having mustered in force, traced her to this retreat. A fierce struggle followed, and in the course of it the young lady was accidentally slain by her own brother's hand. The incident is the subject of a wellknown Gaelic song, and around the spot are still to be seen the burial mounds of those who fell in the battle.

For some two centuries Comar appears to have remained the residence of the chiefs. In 1513 amid the troubles which followed the defeat and death of James IV at Flodden it is recorded that Uilan of Comar, along with Alastair MacRanald of Glengarry, stormed the royal castle of Urquhart. And again in 1587, when the chiefs of the Highland clans were called upon to give security for the peaceful behaviour of those upon their lands, the name of "Cheisholme of Cummer" appears on the roll.

Within the next century, however, Erchless Castle had become their main stronghold, and at the Revolution it was garrisoned for King James. After the battle of Killiecrankie it was deemed important enough to call for a special effort at reduction, and General Livingstone found no little difficulty, though he besieged it with a large force, in capturing the place and preventing the clansmen from regaining possession.

Among the Highland chiefs who signed the loyal address to King George I, which was presented to that monarch by the Earl of Mar on his landing at Greenwich in 1714, appears Ruari or Roderick MacIan, the Chisholm chief of the time. George I, as all the world knows, treated the address and its bearer with scant courtesy, and by that proceeding directly brought about the rising of the Jacobite clans under the Earl of Mar in 1715. In that rebellion the clan was led by Chisholm of Cnocfin, and in consequence, after the defeat at Sheriffmuir, his estates were forfeited and sold. In 1727, however, the veteran procured a pardon under the Privy Seal. The lands had meanwhile been acquired by MacKenzie of Allangrange. On the pardon being granted he conveyed them to Chisholm of Mucherach, who, in turn, conveyed them to Roderick's eldest son, with an entail on his heirs male.

In 1745 the clan again turned out in support of the Jacobite cause, and was led on the occasion by Colin, the youngest son of the chief. The protection afforded Prince Charles Edward by the seven men of Glen Morriston during the critical days of his wandering in the Chisholm country and its neighbourhood, was only part of the devoted effort put forth by the clan on that memorable occasion.

Alexander Chisholm, who succeeded to the chiefship in 1785, and died in 1793, left an only child, Mary, who married an Englishman, James Gooden, and settled in London. The chiefship and estates then passed to his youngest brother, William. This chief married the eldest daughter of MacDonnell of Glengarry, and his elder son and successor, Alexander, sat as Member of Parliament for Inverness-shire. On the death of the latter in 1838 the estates and chiefship passed to his brother Duncan. The clan is fortunate in still possessing a chief of its name well known for his public spirit in Highland affairs, while Erchless Castle, the ancient family seat, remains one of the most beautiful and picturesque of Highland residences. Near the Castle, on a green mound surrounded by ancient trees, a number of the early chiefs were buried, and here also, by his own desire, lies Alexander William, the chief who died in 1838; but the burying-place of most of the family was at Beauly Priory, where a tablet set up by his only daughter, Mrs. Gooden, commemorates Alexander, the chief who died in 1793.

From an early date a branch of the clan was settled at Cromlix, or Cromlics, in Perthshire, which includes the episcopal city of Dunblane. At the Reformation, this branch produced in succession three. bishops, all of the name of William, each of whom strenuously opposed the tenets of the Reformation. The first of these, who died in 1564, was notorious for his moral shortcomings, and seized the pretext of the Reformation, when church lands were being cast into the melting pot, to alienate the episcopal estates of Dunblane to his illegitimate children. The second of these bishops, who was appointed co-adjutor to his uncle in 1561, and succeeded him as Bishop in 1564, acted as envoy for Mary Queen of Scots from 1565 to 1567. Before 1570, like several other Catholic Scottish bishops, he withdrew to France, where he was appointed Bishop of Vaison. In 1584 he became a monk of the Chartreuse, and latterly was prior of the Chartreuse at Lyons and Rome. This bishop also was succeeded by a nephew, who became bishop of Vaison in 1584. He was notorious for his intrigues in Scottish affairs in 1602, when, in the interest of the Scottish Catholics, he endeavoured to obtain the cardinalate. He was rector of Venaissin from 1603 till his death in 1629. Finally, by the marriage of Jane, only daughter of Sir James Chisholm of Cromlix, to James, second son of David, second Lord Drummond, who afterwards became Lord Maderty, the lands were carried into the family of that nobleman, and gave his descendant, Viscount Strathallan, his second title, which is still carried by his descendant, the Earl of Perth, though the superiority of the lands afterwards passed to the Earl of Kinnoul.

Two other Catholic prelates of the name were personages of importance in the Highlands. The elder of these, John Chisholm, was educated at Douai, was made a prelate as titular Bishop of Oria in 1792, and became Vicar Apostolic of the Highland district in the same year. He was succeeded by his clansman, Aeneas Chisholm, who, after an education at Valladolid, became tutor at Douai in 1786, and priest in Strathglass three years later. After being raised to the prelacy as titular bishop of Diocaesarea in 1805, he became Vicar Apostolic of the Highland district in 1814.

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