Battle of Rannoch Moor
In June 1306, shortly after his crowning on March 27th at Scone, King
Robert the Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven by the Earl of
Pembroke, the English Governor of Perth. It had been a surprise attack in
the woodlands and was a serious defeat for Scotland. Bruce headed
west with the survivors of his army and sought refuge in the Perthshire
hills. It would be some years before Perth saw him again.
A mile or so down Strathfillan lies `Dail Righ' or Dalry, the King's
field and it was here that Robert the Bruce almost met his death after he had
fled from Methven. Bruce was attacked in this low lying strip of
land by a formidable band of MacDougall and MacNab clansmen led by the
celebrated John MacDougall of Lorn. The MacDougall chief was the
maternal uncle of the Red Comyn, who had been a claimant for the
Scottish throne. Lorn owed Bruce a blood vengeance for Bruce's
sacrilegious murder of John `Red' Comyn, the Lord of Badenoch, in church at Dumfries
in February 1306. One of the men of Lorn caught hold of Bruce's
plaid in the melee and despite a deadly wound kept dragging Bruce back
toward his attackers with such force that Bruce could only free himself
by releasing his plaid. His plaid broach went with it and remains
a trophy in MacDougall hands. It is now preserved at Dunollie
Castle in Argyllshire by the descendants of those same MacDougalls of
Lorn. Bruce and his remaining men managed to escape this ambush and took
refuge for a while in Glen Falloch and in a cave near Inversnaid in what is
now MacGregor country.
Fortunately, Bruce found a strong friend in Rannoch. Long
centuries have now passed since Donnachadh Reamhar sent around the Fiery Cross or
`crois taraidh' to gather his clansmen for Bruce at Fea Choire, `the
assembly place'. This site is a secluded glen connecting Rannoch with
Glenerochty and was the central rallying place for the defense of the clan
territory. Twice the MacDougalls and their allies came into Rannoch to find and
kill Bruce and twice our clansmen were mustered to defeat them.
The first invasion was from the south so Duncan deployed his forces to
meet the MacDougall invaders at the point where the glen emerges into
the flat lands at the east end of Loch Rannoch. Although details of
the Battle of Innerhadden are not clear, it was definitely a victory for
the supporters of Bruce since the place names associated with this battle
are still well known. Innerhadden was the name given to the place
where the battle started. Dalchosnie means the `Field of Victory' and
that name commemorates the battlefield site. Glen Sassunn or `Glen of
the English' is the glen where the MacDougall's English allies fled and
the name of the site of the victory beacon, Lassintullich, are all
still in use today.
Shortly after this defeat, the MacDougalls and their MacNab allies
again threatened. This time they approached from the northwest and
camped within two miles of Loch Rannoch. Scouts reported their presence but
`Stout' Duncan decided to determine for himself the strength of the foe before
he committed his forces.
Disguised as a beggar or travelling man, he was able to enter and
wander about the MacDougall camp. Unfortunately, his great stature gave
him away and he had to take to his heels with the enemy chasing after
him. Having outdistanced all but one of his pursuers, `Stout' Duncan turned
back and slew him. This allowed his other pursuers time to catch
up. According to tradition, the remaining MacDougalls soon had
Duncan trapped at the River Ericht where he made a prodigious standing leap of
16 feet and was able to clear the river and escape. This rocky site is
still called Leum Donnachadh Reamhar or "Stout Duncan's Leap".
Based on the information he learned during his visit, the surprise
attack early the following morning was totally successful. Not only were
the surviving men of Lorn scattered over the wasteland of the Rannoch
Moor but their leader, Alexander MacDougall, was captured. Duncan
placed his prisoner in the island fortress known as the "Isle of the
Gulls" at the western end of Loch Rannoch. He remained in this island
fortress until he tricked his captors and managed to escape in his jailor's boat.
This second defeat ended MacDougall incursions into Rannoch and `Stout'
Duncan didn't meet up with them again until 1314 when the clan was
at Fea Choire a third time to join Bruce at Bannockburn.
James E. Fargo
Map and Picture
The Shieling in the Braes of Rannoch MP3