BADGE: Braoileag nan con (arbutus uva ursi) Bear berry
SLOGAN: Cnoc Ealachain (or Cnoc an t-seilich)
PIBROCH: Caismeacha Chloinn a' Chompaich
If the battle of Glenfruin remains the most outstanding, triumphant, and disastrous landmark in the history of Clan Gregor, it remains also the most notable in that of their old enemies, the Colquhouns. Every day, all summer through, a great stream of tourists makes its way up the silver reaches of Loch Lomond, and strangely enough the two interests which most engross the attention of the pilgrims are the associations with Rob Roy on the eastern shore of the loch and the memories of the great battle which the Colquhouns fought with the MacGregors in Glenfruin on the western side. This wide "Glen of Sorrow", as its name means, opens away among the hills some three miles above Balloch, at the southern end of the loch, and, while its "water" has become famous among anglers within recent years, the interest of the glen to most passers-by must remain for all time that of the great clan conflict in which the Colquhouns suffered so severely at the hands of their invading enemies.
Sir Walter Scott, who, it is said, had been treated with somewhat scant courtesy on the occasion of a visit which he paid to the residence of the Colquhoun chief, has put the triumph of the clan's old enemies into a nutshell in his famous MacGregor boat-song in Rob Roy:
Proudly our pibrochs have thrilled in Glenfruin,
And Bannochar's groans to our slogan replied;
Glen Luss and Rossdhu they are smoking in ruin,
And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side.
Widow and Saxon maid
Long shall lament our raid,
Think of Clan Alpin with fear and with woe;
Lennox and Leven glen
Shake when they hear again
Roderich vich Alpin dhu, Ho ieroe!
The ultimate result of the battle was very different from what might have been expected. While the MacGregors were hunted and harried through all their fastnesses, the Colquhouns quietly settled again on their lovely loch shore, and their subsequent fortunes illustrated well the old saying, "Happy is the nation that has no history". From the foot of Glenfruin to the head of Loch Lomond, and over the hills along the whole side of the Gareloch and Loch Long to Arrochar, stretch the fair mountain possessions of the Chiefs of Colquhoun at the present hour. On Gareloch side the fair garden city of Helensburgh has risen on their estate; and their possessions include not only their ancient lands of the time of the battle of Glenfruin, but also the territories of the Macaulays at Ardencaple, and of the wild MacFarlanes at Arrochar. There is no lovelier avenue in the Highlands than that from the south gateway below Glenfruin, which winds along the silvan shores of the loch for a mile and a half, to Rossdhu, and thence for another mile northwards on the road to Luss. Rossdhu itself stands, a stately seat, on its promontory, with deer park and noble woods about it; and the Colquhoun village of Luss, at the foot of its own beautiful glen, remains, in spite of the streams of tourists who pass it by in steamers and motor cars, one of the most sequestered and unspoiled spots in all the Highlands.
Curiously enough the original seat of the family was not on Loch Lomond side at all. Dunglass Castle, just below Bowling on the opening Firth of Clyde, at the spot where the old Roman Wall is believed to have had its western end, was the early seat of the race, and the three mile stretch down the western shore of the Firth thence to Dunbarton rock formed the old barony of Colquhoun from which the family took its name. Some five centuries ago, however, the laird of Colquhoun married the heiress of the older lairds of Luss, and thus by and by the headquarters of the family were removed to Loch Lomond side.
Here the heads of the house seem to have steadily increased in prosperity, and the followers of their name to have grown in numbers. For the most part they appear to have been a peaceful race, and it was not until towards the end of the sixteenth century that they began to be mixed up in the distressful business of the making of history. Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, the chief of that time, in 1582 purchased the heritable crownership or coronership of Dunbartonshire, to be held blench of the Crown for the annual fee of one penny; and it was this Sir Humphrey who, ten years later, first came into conflict with Clan Gregor. In face of an assault by the MacGregor clansmen from the other side of the loch, he was forced to take refuge in his strong castle of Bannochra, of which the ruin is still to be seen in Glenfruin, and here, it is said, he fell a victim to the treachery of his servant. This man, in lighting the chief up the stair at night, so managed his torch as to throw the light upon his master, and make him a mark for the arrow of an enemy outside, by whom Sir Humphrey was shot at and slain.
The story goes that the death of the chief was brought about by his second brother, John. At any rate an entry in the diary of Robert Birrell, burgess of Edinburgh, dated 30th November, 1592, mentions that "John Cachoune was beheidit at the Crosse at Edinburghe for murthering of his auen brother the Lairde of Lusse". Further confirmation of the tradition that John was the guilty man is to be found in the fact that Sir Humphrey was succeeded, not by his second but by his third brother, Sir Alexander Colquhoun.
This chief, Sir Alexander, was the man who figures in the great contest with the MacGregors at Glenfruin. In his introduction to Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott lays the blame of beginning the feud upon the Colquhouns. His narrative runs, "Two of the MacGregors, being benighted, asked shelter in a house belonging to a dependent of the Colquhouns, and were refused. They then retired to an outhouse, took a wedder from the fold, killed it, and supped off the carcase, for which they offered payment to the owner. The Laird of Luss, however, unwilling to be propitiated by the offer made to his tenant, seized the offenders, and by the summmary process which feudal barons had at their command, caused them to be condemned and executed". Sir Walter adds that "the MacGregors verified this account of the feud by appealing to the proverb current among them, execrating the hour when the black wedder with the white tail was ever lambed". There is at the same time another and probably a truer account of the outbreak of the trouble. It would appear that the MacGregors were instigated to attack the Colquhouns by Archibald, Earl of Argyll, who had his own ends to serve by bringing trouble on both clans. As a result of the constant raids by the MacGregors, thus brought about, Sir Alexander Colquhoun in 1602 obtained a licence from James VI to arm his clan. On the 7th of the following February the two clans, each some three hundred strong, came face to face in battle array in Glenfruin. The battle was so much a set affair that Alastair MacGregor divided his force into two parties, he himself attacking the Colquhouns in front, while his brother John came upon them in the rear. The Colquhouns defended themselves bravely, killing among others this John MacGregor; but, assailed on two sides, they were at last forced to give way. They were pursued to the gates of Rossdhu itself, and 140 of them were slain, including several near kinsmen of the chief and a number of burgesses of Dunbarton who had taken arms in his cause.
According to a well-known tradition, some forty students and other Dunbarton folk had come up to witness the battle. As a watch and guard MacGregor had set one of his clansmen, Dugald Ciar Mhor, over these spectators. On the Colquhouns being overthrown, MacGregor noticed Dugald join in the pursuit, and asked him what he had done with the young men, whereupon the clansman held up his bloody dirk, and answered, "Ask that! "
The MacGregors followed up the defeat of the Colquhouns by plundering and destroying the whole estate. They drove off 600 cattle, 800 sheep and goats, and 14 score horses, and burned every house and barnyard and destroyed the "Haill plenishing, guids, and gear of the four-score pound land of Luss", while the unfortunate chief, Sir Alexander Colquhoun, looked on helpless from within the walls of the old castle of Rossdhu, the ruin of which still stands on its rising ground behind the modern mansion.
Retribution, swift and terrible, however, was visited upon the MacGregors. Some sixty Colquhoun widows in deep mourning, carrying their husbands' bloody shirts on poles, appeared before James VI at Stirling. It has been suggested that this parade was not all genuine, that these women were not all widows, and that the blood on the shirts had not been shed in Glenfruin. But the King was sufficiently moved, and forthwith letters of fire and sword were granted against the MacGregors. Their very name was proscribed and the sheltering of one of the clan was made a crime punishable with death. While his men were hunted with dogs along the hills, the chief, Alastair Gregor, was induced across the Border by the promise of his false friend, Argyll. The latter had given his word that he would see him safely into England, whither the King had by that time removed his court; but no sooner was MacGregor across the Border than Argyll had him arrested and carried back to Edinburgh, where on 20th January, with four of his henchmen, he was tried, condemned, and hanged at the Cross, while all his possessions were declared forfeited.
A few years later a drama of another kind was carried out at Rossdhu. The son of the chief who fought at Glenfruin was made a baronet. Sir John Colquhoun married Lilias Graham, eldest sister of the great Marquess of Montrose, and he returned the Kings favour by proving a devoted loyalist in the Civil War, for which action he was fined £2000 by Oliver Cromwell. Besides this, Sir John had another trouble in hand. He appears to have run away with a younger sister of the Marquess of Montrose, Lady Catherine Graham, who had taken refuge at Rossdhu. He was accused of having used the Black Art for the purpose of enticing her, and of having employed, among other witches and sorcerers, one Thomas Carlippis, whom he kept as his ordinary servant. Along with certain love philters, he is said to have used a certain jewel of gold set with divers diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones, and from this fact one may doubt whether there was much necromancy after all in the attractions with which he overcome the scruples of the fair young lady. As a consequence, however, the gay baronet was outlawed and excommunicated, and, what with the expense of his love-jewels, his fines as a Royalist, and other extravagances, he was presently forced to dispose of his life-rent of the estates, and it was only with difficulty that possession was recovered by the bargaining of his shrewd brother, Humphrey Colquhoun.
The male line of the Colquhouns came to an end with Sir John's grandson, Sir Humphrey. This laird was a member of the last Scottish Parliament and an ardent opponent of the Union with England. He had an only daughter, Anne, who was married to James Grant of Pluscardine, second son of the Chief of the Grants. He was most anxious that his daughter should inherit his honours and estates, instead of his nephew, John Colquhoun of Tillie-Colquhoun, now Tilliechewan, near Balloch. To secure this he resigned his baronetcy and estates into the hands of the King, and in 1704 received a new charter securing the life-rent of these possessions to himself and entailing them afterwards upon his daughter and son-in-law. Then, in order that the name and estate of Colquhoun should at no time become merged with those of the Grants, he provided that if at any time the Laird of Colquhoun should succeed to the lairdship of Grant, the Colquhoun estate should at once pass to the next Colquhoun heir.
Curiously enough, Sir Humphrey was not long dead when his daughter's husband succeeded his elder brother as Laird of Grant. Thereupon the Colquhoun estates passed to Anne's second son, Ludovic Grant, who forthwith took the name and designation of Sir Ludovic Colquhoun. By and by, however, Sir Ludovic's elder brother died, and he himself became Laird of Grant, and had to resign the Luss estates to his younger brother, the third son of Anne Colquhoun. Then came a curious incident. A poacher was charged at Dunbarton Sheriff Court with trespass on the lands of Sir James Colquhoun, Baronet of Colquhoun and Luss. The lawyer who defended him pleaded that the indictment was irrelevant, as the accuser was not Sir James Colquhoun, Baronet, and he won his case. The fact was that in arranging for the succession to the estates, Sir Humphrey Colquhoun had failed to provide for the simultaneous succession to the baronetcy, which now really belonged to the descendant of his nephew, John of Tillie-Colquhoun. The Laird of Luss, however, was made a baronet of Great Britain in 1786, and by the failure of the line of Tillie-Colquhoun, the original baronetcy afterwards returned to his descendant.
In more recent days the Lairds of Luss have played a not less distinguished part in Scottish affairs. They have been members of Parliament and Lords Lieutenant; one was a Principal Clerk of the Court of Session, and another a Sheriff Depute of Dunbartonshire, while one member of the family, John Colquhoun, was author of the well-known open-air book, The Moor and the Loch, and his daughter, Mrs. L.B. Walford, is one of the best-known novelists of our time. In 1847, when Queen Victoria visited Dunbarton Castle, she was received by Sir James Colquhoun as Lord Lieutenant. The carriage in which he drove her Majesty from and to the landing-place is still kept in the coach-house at Rossdhu, and a picture representing Sir James in the act of receiving her Majesty still hangs in the hall.
Alas! this same Sir James, twenty-six years later, came to his end in a way which is recalled yet as one of the most tragic of Loch Lomond's memories. On the 18th of December, 1873, with five of his keepers he had gone to the Colquhoun deer island of Inch Lonaig to secure Christmas fare for his tenants and friends. On his return in the heavily-loaded boat he had reached Inch Tavanach, the "Monk's Island", off Luss, when, in a sudden storm the boat was swamped and all on board perished.
Sir Iain Colquhoun, the present possessor of the estates and holder of the title, is the third successor since then. Before the war he held a commission in the Scots Guards, and was a noted athlete, winning the light-weight boxing championship of the British army. On the outbreak of war in 1914 he went to the front in France, where he greatly distinguished himself, won the D.S.O. with bar, was mentioned in dispatches and held the rank of Major. He is now Lord-Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire.
SEPTS OF CLAN COLQUHOUN