"Duncan Stewart of Appin was murdered by
the Macleans of Duart in about 1519. It appears that there had been a
between the two clan chiefs. The Duke of Argyll's daughter, (see Lady
's Rock) who was married to Maclean, used her influence with both parties
and effected a reconciliation. What the nature of the quarrel between
the two was is not clear, but apparently, in order to ratify the new
friend- ship, it was arranged that the Stewart go to Duart. As his visit
was friendly, he went unarmed and accompanied by one man only Sorley
or Sombairle MacColl, who was an outstanding athlete and accomplished
swordsman. MacColl in relation to his duties to the chief was Gille-
cas-fluich (the servant of the wet feet). The name arose from the practice
of chiefs having the equivalent of batmen, part of whose duties was to
carry their masters over streams. On arrival at Duart, it was found the
Macleans had arranged sports for the entertainment of their guest, the
MacColl took part in the sports and established
such a great superiority over the local athletes that their jealousy
and displeasure was aroused
to such an extent that they attacked the Stewart's servant and killed
him. Maclean of Duart tried to pass off this grave breach of hospitality
by a light remark which referred in some way to the appearance of MacColl
as he lay dead at their feet. The Stewart angrily replied that the appearance
of MacColl alive or dead could not be otherwise than good for "it
was not on the white roots of wild skirret, nor on the black whelks of
the Mull shore that my gille was fed." This remark so enraged the
Macleans that they killed the Stewart also and hanged his body from the
battlements of Duart Castle. Tradition has two versions of what happened
to the body thereafter. The better known relates how news was brought
to Lismore to the Baron of Bachull (Livingstone) who was a great friend
of the murdered man. He set out immediately for Duart with his two red-haired
daughters and managed to recover the body. As they were on the point
of returning to Lismore, however, the Macleans discovered their presence
and gave chase.
Good as the red-haired daughters of Livingstone were
with the oars, they were no match for four Macleans in the boat that
followed and caught
up on them at Buinne-nam-Biodag. But the old Baron was equal to the situation.
He threw the helm over hard to starboard and sent the boat between two
skerries washed by the sea. The pursuers endeavoured to do the same but
a wave swung them round too far and they were thrown on to one of the
skerries and there were held fast. The Livingstones escaped to shore,
where they left the body concealed in the shingle, until the following
day when a party took it and buried it in the Church of Kilmoluag."
An earlier account published in The Celtic Review April
15 1909, pp 356-375 by Alexander Carmichael goes:
It is not quite clear whether a fostership or a marriage connection
or both existed between the Stewarts of Appin and the Livingstones
but the friendship between them was strong and enduring. A Gaelic proverb
says: 'Cairdeas gu caogad co-altas gu ceud'- relationship to fifty,
fostership to a hundred. The following incident throws a lurid light
upon life in
the Highlands - and indeed in the Lowlands also - in the first decade
of the sixteenth century. There had been wolfish feuds about lands
between the Stewarts of Appin and the Macleans of Duart.
The Earl of Argyll - whose daughter Elizabeth - the subject of Campbell's
poem of 'Glenara'- was married to Maclean-brought about a reconciliation,
and Stewart went to Duart to ratify the peace. There were games and feats
of strength and arms, in all of which Sollamh Mac Colla, Solomon Maccoll,
the gille cas fliuch of Stewart, was victorious. The Macleans were 'neither
to haud nor to bind,' and they fell upon the luckless gille cas fluich,
and beat him to death.
Then they jeered at the body, saying, 'nach ann ann a tha an smior chnamh
; nach ann ann a tha an ola dhonn! ' ' Is it not in him that the bone
marrow is? is it not in him that the neatsfoot oil is?' and other taunting
terms, as if they had a newly killed cow before them.
Stewart was grieved at the death of his trusted man, and riled at the
taunts of his slayers, and he replied with more warmth than wisdom, 'Cha
b'e brisgeanan ban an raoin agus faochagan dubh a chladaich idir teachd-an-tir
mo ghille-sa.' 'The pale silverweed of the field, and the black whelk
of the strand were not at all the sustenance of my man.' The insinuation
- perhaps all the more from the latent truth it contained - roused the
Macleans to red heat, and twenty Duart swords came down on the hapless
head of Appin.
Not content with slaying Stewart, the Macleans suspended his corpse
against the wall of their castle, and threatened death to any who would
dare to take it down.
The men of Appin fled for their lives, landing on the nearest point
of Lismore, nor did they rest till they placed that island and the sea
on either side of it between them- selves and Mull.
Livingstone of Bachuill was grieved when he beard of the death of his
good friend Stewart of Appin. He said nothing, however, but when night
came, he and 'his two red-haired daughters went away in their skiff,
nor were they long in reaching Duart. Livingstone and his daughters miraculously
managed to 'bring the body of the Lord of Appin to their skiff, and to
put to sea before they were discovered, but they had hardly left the
shore when the Macleans came rushing down with wild tumult and wilder
They immediately launched their 'boats and leapt into them, but as hurriedly
leapt out of them again, amidst yells of execration, for boat after boat
filled with water and sank beneath their feet. The wise Baron had been
before them and driven auger-holes through their boats. Ultimately they
managed with much difficulty to launch a sixteen-oared war galley less
damaged than the rest, that had brought home to Duart many a 'creach'
from distant island and near mainland.
After a terrible struggle, amidst the swirling currents of Boinne nam
Biodag,' the Macleans came up to the Livingstones in running through
the narrow shallow strait that separates the small islet of Musdal from
the main island of Lismore.
Just as a crowd of Macleans - a tithe of whom would have sent it to
the bottom - was about to jump down into the little skiff of the Livingstones,
a swift, swirling current threw the large galley on a sunken rock, on
which it was left hard and fast by the rapidly receding tide, while the
same rapid river-like current rushed the little skiff of the Livingstones
far beyond reach.
They rowed their hardest, and soon reached a creek, where they landed,
and hurriedly buried the body in the shingle of the beach. The people
of Lismore and Appin gathered, and carrying the body of Stewart to Clachan,
buried it in the cathedral church of Saint Moluag.
And there in the 'dim religious light' of the old fane the tombstone
of the Lord of Appin is still to be seen, and the story of the good Baron
of Bachuill and his two brave daughters is still told.
The creek where the Livingstones landed and buried the body is called
'Port Chailleach,' the port of the women.
Even yet the mention of the two red-haired daughters of the Baron of
Bachuill brings a flush to the face of a Maclean!