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The MacLeods of Assynt,

Edited by Peter Lawrie, from History of the MacLeods, by Alexander MacKenzie, 1889

THE male representatives of this family are the senior cadets of the MacLeods of Lewis. Torquil MacLeod, IV. of Lewis, married Margaret, daughter of MacNicol, or Nicolson, who then possessed the lands of Assynt. MacNicol or "MacKrycul," - the latter, “MacCricail," being the Gaelic form of the name even at the present day - had no male issue, and his daughter, as sole heiress, carried his lands to her husband, Torquil MacLeod, IV. of the Lewis, who, about 1343, in the reign of David II., has a Royal charter in his favour “terrarrum baronie de Assynt, cum fortalicia," etc. The terms of the charter are said to have been "as long as a cow gives milk and waves beat upon a rock" The fortalice is described as in the Island of Assynt, and MacLeod was to give the service of a ship of twenty oars when required. The Thane of Sutherland, then superior of the lands, consented to the marriage, and the King gave his approval, granting the charter already named; which carried with it the superiority resigned by the Thane of Sutherland in favour of Torquîl MacLeod and his bride. Early in the 15th century the lands of Assynt were given by Torquil's son, Roderick, V. of Lewis (reserving the superiority to himself and to his heirs and successors in the Lewis), to his second son,

I. TORMOD OR NORMAN MACLEOD, the first of that family and name who possessed the extensive lands of Assynt, which are situated on the mainland, opposite the Lewis, in the County of Sutherland. The district of Assynt is said to have belonged to the Thanes of Sutherland before it became the property of the MacNicols, the first of whom received it as a reward for having recovered a great number of cattle carried away from the county of Sutherland by a horde of Scandinavians, who, in addition to stealing the cattle, set fire to the magnificent fir forest which at that time covered Assynt, and other extensive woods in the adjoining districts. Tormod died in the reign of James 1. (1406-1437). He married, with issue-
1. Angus, who was called "Old Angus" by the men of Assynt.
2. John Riabhach, who possessed Coigeach, and was famed for his valour and manhood. He had one son, John Mor, of whom the "Sliochd Iain Riabhaich."
3. Tormod Bàn, of whose descendants, if any, nothing is known .

Tormod was succeeded by his eldest son,
II ANGUS MACLEOD, second of Assynt, who married his cousin. Margaret, daughter of Malcolm Beag Mackintosh, X. of Mackintosh, and widow of Alexander Matheson, "Alastair MacRuairi," of Lochalsh, beheaded on the Castle Hill, Edinburgh, shortly after 1427, in which year he was taken prisoner along with the Earl of Ross, and several other Highland Chiefs at Inverness. Matheson's widow was left tutrix to her eldest son. John, the young heir of Lochalsh. Angus MacLeod of Assynt was induced to marry her by the extent of property committed to her care, and he was apparently determined to take possession of it and hold it for himself, right or wrong. The immediate result of the marriage was the flight of John Matheson's heir to his grandfather, Malcolm Mackintosh, X. of Mackintosh, while his younger brother, Donald Bàn Matheson, fled to Sutherlandshire, where he became progenitor of the Mathesons of Shinness and Achany in that county. Angus MacLeod of Assynt was thus left at liberty to enjoy, without interference. the property which he had taken possession of on his marriage to the heir's mother. This enjoyment he continued until young Matheson grew up, when he solicited the assistance of his relative, Mackintosh of Mackintosh, in the effort which he was about to make to regain possession of his father's heritage. Mackintosh at once consented, after which Matheson communicated his intention to his friends in Lochalsh. all of whom agreed to help him and to enter cordially into his plans.

Angus MacLeod of Assynt feared all along that John Matheson, the heir, might return, and be received and supported by the people of Lochalsh; and he placed spies throughout the whole district to advise him of any approaching danger in that connection. It was at that time the custom for a certain class of beggars - outcasts from their own districts - to seek shelter among other Clans, and this was invariably accorded them. It is said that many of this class came from Assynt to Lochalsh and that MacLeod was naturally, in his peculiar circumstances “well affected towards them”, They were known among the natives as." Buthanaich," literally, livers in tents, and the class to which they belonged were usually ready to perform any task, however degraded, which might be allotted to them by those who sheltered them. One of these strangers, writes Captain Matheson, author of the Bennetsfield manuscript, was this occasion insinuated by Angus MacLeod into every family in Lochalsh. "Aware of this it was concerted that on their retiring to rest, these noxious parasites should be severally despatched" on the night on which young Matheson should introduce his body of resolute Mackintosh volunteers into the district. On his arrival he formed his doughty little band in a hollow between Reraig and Kirkton of Lochalsh, at a place still called "Glac nam Fear," and then proceeded alone, disguised as a hawker of wood, and carrying a wallet of heath, to “Torr-an-t-Slachdaire” where his mother and her husband, Angus MacLeod, then resided. He sent a message to the lady of the house asking if she would purchase any fancy woods. She at once requested him to go in and submit samples of what he had. While exhibiting his varieties, he managed to introduce a reference to her eldest son, and artfully contrived to ascertain whether she wished to see that young gentleman some day reinstated in his ancestral possessions or not. Having in this way discovered that his mother still entertained friendly feelings towards him he made himself and his designs known to her, and was warmly received.
During the night all the Buthanaich were slain, in accordance with the pre-arranged plan between John and his friends, except one named MacEachern, who succeeded for a time in escaping capture, but he was finally overtaken and slain. as he arrived within a short distance of MacLeod's house, whither he was proceeding to inform him of what had occurred. The place where he was slain is still called “Featha Mhic Eachern” or MacEachern's Bog.
Meantime young Matheson surrounded the mansion­house and set it on fire, “ he himself attending to the safe escape of his mother, which she effected; but not before she secured that of her husband, concealed under her night-gown, and who, after she had passed those placed to intercept him, reached “Doirre Damh,” in Duirinish, where he engaged a poor boatman to convey him to Lewis under promise to give him a free grant of land. On his arrival, however, the Laird of MacLeod, indignant at what had happened, ordered a gallows to be erected by the oars of the boat, and, hanging up the Lochalsh man, observed sarcastically, that at the foot or the gallows he might enjoy free land for ever in terms of Angus’s promise.
Soon after this Angus MacLeod attempted a descent on Lochalsh. Having landed at Ardhill, he came to an engagement at Kirkton, where he was again beaten at a place still called “Blair-na-Saighdearan” and his retreat having been intercepted, a number of the routed force threw themselves into the church, trusting to it as a sanctuary invariably observed in those days inviolate. The sanctuary was however disregarded in this instance by a man named Duncan Matheson who set fire to the building, and hence he ever after retained the sobriquet of "Donnachadh-an-Teampuill." MacLeod himself, with a broken remnant of his followers, escaped, but he was not so fortunate in a subsequent expedition, for, soon after, having landed again at Fernaig, he was encountered by Matheson and his followers, at Sail Fearna, when he was overpowered and killed.

The origin of the first church erected in the district, at Kirkton, at the head of Loch Assynt, is ascribed to Angus MacLeod, Laird of Assynt, between 1436 and 1443, who, we are informed, travelled into France and Italy, and having received favours from the Pope, vowed that “he would build and endow a church at Assynt.". As late as between 1780 and 1793 there remained of the original building an arched vault, “the burying place of the MacLeods of Assynt," with an apartment above it supposed to be a place of private devotion. The earliest record found of this church is in 1455.

It is curious to find that in 1386 Robert II granted in heritage for his service, to " Fearchair Lighich.'' or Farquhar the Healer, described in the charter as "Fer­charde Leche," along with numerous other isles, all the islands lying between " Rowestornastynge” - Stoer Point. in Assynt. and “Rowearmedale” – Armadale Point, on the north coast of the county of Sutherland, in the parish or Farr. The famous Farquhar is said to have cured the King, during a tour to the Western Isles, of some serious complaint, and this is the handsome manner in which he was rewarded for his services to a grateful Majesty. It does not, however, appear that Farquhar ever received much benefit from the Royal grant.

In the beginning of the fifteenth century the lands of Assynt were held by Roderick MacLeod. V. of the Lewis. In 1502 James IV,. granted a commission in favour of Alexander, Earl of Huntly, Thomas, Lord Fraser of Lovat, and William Munro of Fowlis, or two of the three, Huntly being always one of the two, to lease the lands of Coigeach, Assynt, and all the ferme lands that belonged to Torquil MacLeod. VIII. of the Lewis, then in the King's hands, "through the being of the said Torquil, his rebel, fugitive from the laws, and at his horn." with power to give part of the lands to good, true men, for such term as the Earl should deem expedient for the King's honour.

Six years later, in 1508. the lands of Assynt and Coigeach, forfeited by Torquil of the Lewis, were granted by the same King for life to Y Dubh Mackay of Strathnaver, for his services in resisting and attacking the King's rebels and others, with power to sublet them.

In 1511, His Majesty granted to Malcolm, son and lawful heir of Roderick MacLeod, VIl., and brother of Torquil, VIII. of the Lewis, forfeited in 1506, along with the other ancient possessions in that island and in Skye, the lands of Assynt, " in the earldom of Sutherland," and the lands of Coigeach “ in the earldom of Ross," with the provision that if the lands of Assynt were formerly held of the Earl of Sutherland “he should suffer no loss of his superiority of the same."

In 1525 John Kynnard was seised in the lands of Assynt on a precept from Adam, Earl of Sutherland.

On the 2nd of April, 1538, James V. granted to Roderick, son and heir or the deceased Malcolm MacLeod, IX. of Lewis, the non-entry and other dues of the lands and barony of the Lewis, including Assynt.

In 1541 the lands of Assynt, on the resignation of the same Roderick (X.of the Lewis), were regranted to him and to his affianced spouse, Barbara Stewart, by James V.

In 1572 James VI. granted to Torquil (Conanach), the son and heir apparent of the same Roderick MacLeod of Lewis. and to the male heirs of his body, with remainder to Gillecallum Garbh MacLeod, III. of Raasay and his male heirs, and to Torquil's male heirs whomsoever bearing the MacLeod surname and arms, the lands and barony of Assynt, included in the barony of the Lewis which Roderick had resigned, reserving to Roderick the life-rent, on condition that he and Torquil should remain faithful to His Majesty.

In 1614 Patrick Kynnard of that ilk was served heir to his Great-grandfather in the lands of Assynt. and in 1616 his son John was similarly served heir to his father in the same lands.

In 1633 “George Mackenzie was served heir male to Colin Earl of Seafort in the lands and barony of Assynt, with the mill, fishings, and adowsons of Churches” situated in the district.
During the whole of this period, however, the MacLeods seem to have held actual possession of the land. either as proprietor, or "in tenandry “under the MacLeods of Lewis.

By Margaret Mackintosh of Mackintosh, and widow of Alexander Matheson of Lochalsh, Angus MacLeod had issue -
1. Angus Mor, his heir and successor.
2. Roderick;
3. Norman; and
4, John.

John, the youngest, had two sons of his own- Neil and John Mor. Neil was killed "by the Sutherland men of Torran-Dow-Reawigh," leaving no issue. and John Mor was wounded at the same battle. This last-named John left issue, his descendants being known as"Sliochd lan Mhoir."

On his death in Lochalsh, Angus was succeeded by his eldest son,
III ANGUS MOR MACLEOD, third of Assynt, who married Anne Mackenzie of Coigeach, with issue, several sons; of whom survived,
1. Donald Cam, his heir and successor.
2. Norman, who succeeded his brother Donald
3. Angus Beag, who succeeded his brother Norman.
4. John Riabhach, who succeeded his brother Angus.
5. Neil, who succeeded his brother John.
6. Hucheon, who had issue - Neil, Donald, John, Roderick, and Angus. He had also a natural son, Alexander.

Angus was slain by his nephew, the son of his brother John, at the Stoer. He was succeeded by his eldest son,
IV. DONALD MACLEOD, fourth of Assynt, called “Domhnull Cam” from his being blind of an eye He fought a battle with John Mac Torquil MacLeod of the Lewis., in the vicinity of Loch-an-Assaidh, where he defeated his opponent and took him prisoner, but he was himself mortally wounded, and died shortly after. He married Margaret, daughter of Alexander Macdonald, VII. of Glengarry, widow of Cuthbert of Castle Hill, Inverness. She afterwards married, as his second wife, Torquil Connnach MacLeod, who makes a grant of lands in her favour in 1590. without issue. Donald was succeeded by his next brother,
V NORMAN MACLEOD, fifth of Assynt, who was slain by his brother, Angus Beag, at Leth-bhad. He died unmarried, and was succeeded by his next brother,
VI. ANGUS BEAG MACLEOD, sixth of Assynt. He was soon after slain by his bastard brother, Alexander, in revenge for the murder of his predecessor, their brother Norman, to whom Alexander was devotedly attached. Y Roy Mackay of Farr, whose daughter was married to Angus Beag of Assynt was very angry about the death of his son-in-law, and he vowed vengeance against Alexander, who left the district and betook himself to the hills of Wester Ross, where he was ultimately captured by Mackay, and put to death. From this Alexander descended "Sliochd Alastair Mhic Aonghais."

Angus Beag married Florence, daughter of Y Roy Mackay of Farr, without issue. He was succeeded by his next brother,
VII. JOHN RIABHACH MACLEOD, seventh of Assynt, whom Sir Robert Gordon describes as "a valiant gentleman” who “ commanded and governed the country of Assynt for 15 years, with great commendation ; and when he died he left the government of his country and children, who were under age, to his brother Neil." He married Christina, daughter of Macdonald of Keppoch, with issue-
1. Angus Mac lain Riabhaich, his heir, who was lame of one leg.
2. John, who had several children.
3. Duncan, who died without issue.

For a time Neil Mac Angus, as tutor for his nephew, Angus Mac lain Riabhaich, had command of the estates and the leadership of the Clan. He opposed the claims of the Mackenzies and Torquil Conanach in the Lewis and fought against them. " Neil Anguson of Assint, and the blood-stained Ruari Mac Allan," of Gairloch - Ruairi Nimhneach - were among the leading partisans of the Chiefs of Lewis and Sleat; whilst Torquil Connanach MacLeod and John Mackenzie of Gairloch were the most active on the other side. His brother Hucheon felt aggrieved at Neil for excluding him, for some reason or other, during his nephew's minority, from any command or position in the government of the district. Hucheon took Neil prisoner, but soon after released him on certain conditions. Neil, however. never forgave the insult offered to him by his imprisonment and, on one occasion, when Hugh and his second son Donald were on a visit to him at the family residence on the Isle of Assynt, he killed them both. For this crime Neil was apprehended by Torquil Conanach MacLeod of the Lewis and Coigeach, who had him sent to Edinburgh, where he was executed in 1581.

Hucheon, who had been killed by his brother Neil, had issue - Neil, Donald, John, Roderick, and Angus.
Neil Mac Angus, who was executed at Edinburgh in 1581, was married to Margaret, daughter of Donald Macdonald, VIII. of Glengarry, with issue-
1. John Rîabhach, who died in captivity in Girnigo Castle, Caithness, during his father's life, without issue.
2. Donald Bàn, who ultimately succeeded as head of the house.
Neil had also three bastard sons - Tormod, Angus, and Alexander.

On the death of Neil MacAngus,
VIII. ANGUS MACLEOD, Mac lain Riabhaich, " who was impotent of ane leg," having in the meantime come of age, succeeded as his father's eldest son and lawful heir. In about a year, however, he was dispossessed by Hucheon MacAngus's sons, and by Tormod, Angus, and Alexander, the bastard sons of Neil MacAngus, who divided the estate among themseves, Angus Mac Iain Riabhaich, his brother John, and the bastard sons of Neil MacAngus getting a third of the property between them, while Hucheon's children, though he was his father's youngest son, had the other two-thirds.
Hucheon's eldest son, Neil, by the common consent of all parties, was chosen leader and commander of their united followers. Shortly after this arrangement was entered into, a dispute arose among themselves about fishing rents. Neil and his brothers proceeded to Ullapool, where the others resided, there attacked and after a sharp skirmish defeated them, killing Alexander, the son of Neil MacAngus, and wounding John Mac lain Riabhaich. Soon afterwards, Tormod, son of Neil MacAngus, was slain by Angus son of Hucheon, at Inch-na-damh. To revenge this, Donald Bàn Mor, second son of Neil MacAngus, attacked John, Hucheon's son, and killed him at Cuileag, Lochinver. Neil, Hucheon's eldest son, still maintained his position at the head of the peoples possessed the Clan lands. But in 1585, Y Mackay, whose sister Donald Bàn Mor, the second. and now only surviving son of Neil MacAngus, had married, took Donald's part, and, assisted by the Gunns, laid siege to the Isle of Assynt, Where Neil resided. Alexander, Earl of Sutherland, came to the rescue and compelled Mackay to raise the siege and retire to Strathnaver, in consequence of which Neil was able to keep possession for some time longer. These family feuds continued, the various claimants in time killing each other, until there were scarcely any of themselves or their families left, and most of those remaining were slain by others. Angus, son of Alexander, Neil's son, who was among the last survivors of them, killed his father-in-law Neil, Hucheon's son. For that crime he was apprehended in Tain, and there executed by the Laird of Balnagown.

The estates were then taken possession of by
IX. DONALD BAN MOR MACLEOD, second son of Neil, fifth son of Angus Mor, III. of Assynt, and immediate younger brother of John Riabhach MacLeod, VII. of Assynt.
There was additional slaughter after Donald's accession, but for further details the reader must be referred to Sir Robert Gordon's Earldom of Sutherland. (pp. 262-265], the author of which was contemporaneous with the events which he describes; for he was born in 1580. He was also closely connected with all the parties by family alliance.

In June, 1623, Sir Robert was appointed Sheriff of Assynt; the manuscript of the work itself is dated 1639 - and the author was alive in 1651, in which year his relative, Gilbert Gordon, brings to a close his "Continuation " of Sir Robert's History of the Earldom, which deals with the period from 1639 to 1651.

That Donald John Mor was not the rightful heir and lawful successor to the Chiefship of the MacLeods of Assynt is clear from what Sir Robert Gordon tells us. Angus MacLeod, the eighth Chief, who was dispossessed by Hucheon MacAngus's sons and their bastard cousins, after having ruled for only one year, survived the sanguinary feuds and slaughters which afterwards took place among his relatives.
Sir Robert Gordon says that "Angus Mac lain Riabhaich (who was impotent of one leg) died very aged in Assynt, and left a son, Duncan, of great expectation; who, claiming that country as due unto himself, made diverse incursions in Assynt against Donald Ban, Neil's son, until he gave him a fourth part of the country, which he possessed until the year of God 1609, that he died, leaving four sons ; and thus did Donald Ban, Neil's son (alias MacLeod ), happily bring his troubles to a prosperous end, and is at this day [1639] in quiet possession of the country of Assynt."

Sir Robert further says that Donald " hath purchased a new title and right of the country of Assynt, from Kenneth Mackenzie, first Lord of Kintail, and hath settled it upon his own posterity; the Lord only knoweth how long it will continue in his line. He is become a provident and industrious gentleman, having, in his time, escaped many dangers and troubles."

Donald Bàn was bred and brought up, away from the broils of his kindred, by Robert Munro, fifteenth baron of Fowlis. In 1642 he received a charter of confirmation under the Great Seal from Charles 1., dated the 21st of November in that year, in which he is designated "Donaldo MacLeod de Assynt", confirming to him and his heirs the lands of Annat and others in lnverness-shire, which were united by the same charter to the barony of Assynt.

In May 1646, the family residence on the Isle of Assynt was beseiged by the Mackenzies. It was held and defended by Donald Ban who is described as being, "then laird of Assint." On the conclusion of peace, about the middle of that month, between the King and the Kirk, the Mackenzies raised the siege and retired.

Donald married Marian Mackay, daughter of Donald, first Lord Reay, with issue-
1. Neil, his heir and successor.
2. Donald, who died without issue.
3. Angus; 4. Roderick; 5, James.
6. Margaret, who married Sir Alexander Gordon the youngest son of Alexander, Earl of Sutherland, with issue­ five sons and two daughters.
7. Catherine, who married John Gordon, another son of the Earl of Sutherland.
8. Anna, who married Hugh Gunn of Kilearnan. progenitor of the MacJameses, or Jamiesons of Caithness.

Donald married, secondly, Christian, daughter of Nicolas Ross of Pitcalnîe, with issue-
9. Donald, of whom there is no succession ; and
10. Hugh MacLeod, first of Cambuscurry, Edderton, who married Christina, daughter of Walter Ross of Invercharron, with issue-
....(1) Roderick, his heir, who married a daughter of Hugh Munro of Newmore, with issue-
........(a) Aeneas, who married Janet, daughter of Alexander Mackenzie, VII. of Davochmaluag, with issue - an only daughter, Mary. who married John Urquhart of Mont Eagle
........(b) George; (c) Isabella; (d) Christina; (e) Elizabeth; and (f) Ellen, all honourably married.
...(2) Aeneas, first of the MACLEODS OF CADBOLL, of whom hereafter.
...(3) Alexander MacLeod of Sallachy, who married, with issue - several sons and daughters.

Donald Bàn Mor MacLeod was succeeded by his eldest son,
X. NElL MACLEOD, tenth of Assynt. He does not seem to have long outlived his father, and nothing worthy of note regarding his life can be ascertained.
He married Florence, fifth daughter of Torquil Conanach MacLeod of Lewis, with issue-
1. Neil, his heir and successor.
2. John, who, on the death of his brother Neil without issue, carried on the male representation of the family.

John (the second son of Neil) married, in 1710, Jean Cartier, belonging to a family of repute in that country. He died in 1717, leaving issue by his wife, two sons - John Baptiste Pierre MacLeod.
The eldest of these two sons became a merchant in Courtray, and, in 1773, married Francois de C1ereg, with issue-
...(1) Louis Joseph MacLeod, who was also a merchant and linen draper in Courtray. In 1759 he married Angelina van de Bourde, with issue- three sons and three daughters, Francois Louis; Louis; Jacques Benoit; Maria Angeline ; Maria Theresa; and Maria Jeane.
...(2) Francois Joseph MacLeod, who married Constance Nolt, of Courtray, with issue- two daughters:, Marie Therese Joseph, who joined a religious order (Beggrunch), and Regina Joseph. who married John Francois Parmenter, of Bruge with issue- one son, John Antoine, and two daughters, Marie Therese and Caroline.

Neil was succeeded by his eldest son,
XI. NEIL MACLEOD, eleventh of Assynt, who became notorious in connection with the betrayal of Montrose, in 1649.
Gilbert Gordon in his continuation of the Earldom of Sutherland, brought down to 1651, describes the facts of this case from personal knowledge. The Sutherland family, who fought against Montrose, Sir Robert Gordon. and the author of the Continuation. were all friendly towards MacLeod of Assynt, who fought under the Earl of Sutherland. It may therefore be taken for granted that neither of the Gordons would write anything derogatory to their own friend, especially when that friend was instrumental in capturing the leader of an army which was overrunning their property and slaughtering their people.

This writer says that "James Graham [Montrose] and the Earl of Kinnoul escaping with six or seven in their company, wandered up that river the whole ensuing night and the next day, and the third day also, without any food or sustenance, and at last came within the country of Assynt. The Earl of Kinnoul being faint for lack of meat, and not able to travel any further, was left there among the mountains, where it was supposed he perished. James Graham had almost famished but that day he fortuned in this misery to light upon a small cottage in that wilderness, where he was supplied with some milk and bread.

"Immediately after the fight, Captain Andrew Monro" [younger of Lemlair], he continues, "did write to Neil MacLeod, laird of Assynt, who had married his sister, desiring him earnestly to apprehend any that should come to his country. The laird of Assynt was not negligent, but sent parties everywhere. Some of them met James Graham [Montrose], accompanied only with one Major Sinclair, an Orkney man. The party apprehends them, and brings them to Ard Bhreac, the laird of Assynt's chief residence. James Graham made great offers to the laird of Assynt if he would go with him to Orkney, all which he refused, and did write to the Lieutenant-General that he had James Graham in his custody, who presently directed Major-General Holburn, with a party of foot to bring him to Sutherland which was done. James Graham was two nights in Skibo, and from thence he was conveyed to Brahan, and so to Edinburgh."

Being presented there before the Parliament, he was sentenced to be hanged publicly at the Market Cross of Edinburgh. and to be quartered ; his head to be put above the tolbooth of Edinburgh, where his uncle, the Earl of Gowrie's head was formerly placed, the year one thousand and six hundred. His four quarters were appointed to be sent to Glasgow, Stirling, Saint Johnston, [Perth], and Aberdeen, there to be hung up, and his body to be buried in the Borrow-Muir. where the most odious malefactors were usually hanged and buried ; all which was duly performed." He was executed in terms of this horrid sentence on the 21st of May, 1650, having been previously forfeited by Parliament, and excommunicated by the Church.

The same writer, who describes Montrose as "a man certainly inbued with great gifts, if they had been rightly employed," says that " the Laird of Assynt went then [June 1650] south to the Parliament, to crave his reward for the apprehending of James Graham, which he received from the Estates. Twenty thousand pounds Scots was secured to him ; he was also made Captain of the garrison of Strathnaver, with the consent of the Earl of Sutherland, who, before James Graham's coming into Orkney, had made the Laird of Assynt his Sheriff-Depute in Slios-a-Cholais. The Estates at the same time did bestow a reward upon Hacket and Strachan for their good services against Graham, “ One thousand pounds sterling and a gold chain was given to either of them."

These are the facts as recorded by a contemporary friendly author in the very year in which the events occurred, and to most minds, keeping that fact in view, they will appear conclusive.
Let us now see what a friend of Montrose, also a contemporary writer, says, The famous Bard of Keppoch, lan Lom Macdonald, in his Cumha Mhontrois, in the poignancy of his grief for the illustrious hero, exclaims­

Mhic Neill a Assainn chianail,
Nan glacainn ann an lion thu,
Bhiodh m'fhacal air do bhinn.
"S cha diobhrain thu o'n chroich.

Thu fein as t-athair-ceile,
Fear-taighe sin na Leime
Ged chrochte sibh le cheile
Cha b' eirig mo lochd.

Chraobh ruisgt' de'n Abhall bhreugach.
Gun mheas, gun chliu, gun cheutaidh,
Bha riamh ri murt a cheile,
'N ar fuigheall bheum is chore.

Marbh-phaisg ort a dhi-meis,
Nach ole a reic thu'm fir-eun
Air son na mine Litich,
As da-thrian di goirt.


The sour meal mentioned by lan Lom refers to 400 bolls of damaged meal which MacLeod is alleged to have received from Leith, in addition to the twenty thousand pounds Scots in cash paid to him by the Estates, for his betrayal of Montrose.

Napier, in his well-known life of the hero, also mentions this part of the reward -. He says Montrose "gave himself up to MacLeod of Assynt a former adherent, from whom he had reason to expect assistance in consideration of that circumstance, and indeed from the dictates of honourable feeling and common humanity. As the Argyle faction had sold the king, so this Highlander rendered his own name infamous by selling the hero to the Covenanters, for which 'duty to the public' he was rewarded with four hundred bolls of meal (MacLeod's indictment, Criminal Records, 1674). He was tried for that treachery' but saved by means of bribery and the interest of Lauderdale, the enemy of Montrose. lan Lom, the bard of Keppoch, wrote a beautiful lament for the fallen hero, in which he does not spare Assynt."

Soon after the restoration of Charles II ., MacLeod was arraigned before the Scottish Parliament on this charge, as appears from the following documents, printed at length in the Appendix to Bishop Pococke's Tour in Sutherland and Caithness, so carefully and ably edited by Mr. Daniel William Kemp, Edinburgh, and published in 1888.

Letter to the King's Majesty (dated. Edinburgh, 8th October,1663) anent Neil MacLeod of Assynt (spelling modernised),_
''Most Sacred Sovereign,-There being a criminal process depending before your Parliament at the instance of your Majesty’s advocate with the concurrence of the Marquis of Montrose as his informer, against Neil MacLeod of Assynt, for his alleged betraying and giving up of the late Marquis of Montrose to those who murdered him, and for taking a sum of money from them in recompense of that treacherous act. And he being brought to the bar, and the dittay, with his answers thereunto, the reply made by your advocate and his duplies, being at length read and considered; we find he (MacLeod) denies the matters of fact alleged against him.
But, supposing the same were true, he grounds his defence upon the indemnity granted by your Majesty to your Scots subjects in the treaty at Breda in the year 1650, and the ratifications of the same passed by your Majesty at your being in this kingdom in the years 1650 and 1651; though it was instantly offered to be proven under his hand that he had received the money above mentioned and that this treaty could be no security to him, it not being produced, and not being (if any such thing be) before the deeds quarrelled. And we, considering that in all former processes during this Parliament, it was your Majesty's express pleasure, and, accordingly, all those crimes which were libelled against any person as done before that treaty and these assurances of which had any ground of defence from them, were laid aside and not insisted on, having conceived it suitable to our duty and your Majesty's commands to forbear further procedure in this particular till your Majesty was acquainted therewith;
That your Majesty, upon consideration of the business, may be pleased to give order whither for the further prosecution thereof before your justice, or for sisting of all further proceeding; or for any other course therein which your Majesty in your Royal judgement shall think fittest for your honour and service. This is, in name and by warrant of your Parliament,
signed by your Majesty's most humble, most obedient, and most faithful subject and servant.

At a sitting of the Privy Council in Edinburgh on 1st December, 1663, a petition was presented by Neil, stating that he had been a prisoner in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh for over three years "upon groundless allegations of his accession to the betraying of the late Marquis of Montrose, by which imprisonment, etc, he is redacted to that condition by sickness that it is impossible to him to escape death if he remain any longer in that place;" and craving to be released from prison, and to have the liberty of the city of Edinburgh, upon sufficient surety being found for his appearance when called upon. Medical certificates having been laid before the Council their Lordships ordered him to be set at liberty, upon finding sufficient caution for his reappearance, and bound him not to leave Edinburgh under a penalty of £20,000 Scots.
On the same date (1st December, 1663), we find Neil MacLeod of Assynt, as principal, and Colin Mackenzie, younger of Logie, and Captain William Hardie, as cautioners, acted in the books of the Privy Council, in a bond of caution, that MacLeod "should re-enter my persone in prisone within the said tolbuith of Edinburgh whenever I shall be requyred by the sds Lords of Council. And that in the meantime I shall confine myself within the citie of Edinburgh and that under the payne or 20,000 pounds Scots in case of failzie."

The following letter from the King was read by his Majesty's commissioner, to the Privy Council, in February, 1666 -
Charles R - Right trusty and right entirely cousin and counseller. We greet you well, forasmuch as by one letter dated at Edinburgh the eighth of October, 1663, sent to us by our Parliament, we were informed that the criminal process depending at the instance of our advocate for the time with the concourse of the Marquis of Montrose against Neil MacLed of Assynt, for the alleged betrayal of the late Marquis of Montrose and for taking a sum of money in recompense of that treacherous act. Which said Neil did deny the said crime alleged against him, but yet, supposing the same were true, he did defend himself under the indemnity alleged granted by us at Breda in the year 1650, and the ratification by us of the same by us at our being in Scotland in the years 1650 and 1651, and that our Parliament ceased doing that in all form or process during that Parliament. It was our express pleasure that all those crimes which had any ground of defence from the treaties and assurance aforesaid should be laid aside and not insisted in, which was accordingly done in several other crimes against several other persons. and that the parliament conceived it their duty and suitable to our commands to forbear further process in this particular, till we, upon consideration of the business, might be pleased to give order either for further prosecution thereof before our justice, or for sisting of all further proceedings as in our Royal judgement we should think fit.
And we, considering also that by the public indemnity made in the second session of our first Parliament, there is no exception of the said Neil MacLeod, but that he is included within our first general pardon and indemnity, whereby all manner of treasons, murders and offences done by any person by virtue of any power or warrant from any pretended Parliament, council, committee, commanders of armies, or other pretended authority, under whatsoever title, name or designation, since January 1637 until September 1660, or by any of their abettors and assisters are pardoned and discharged. And it being also represented to us that, notwithstanding all the foresaid Acts of Indemnity, and sure pardon and the sisting of proceedings against him before the Parliament as is mentioned in the said letter, yet the said criminal process was of new again intented before the justice, and the said Marquis of Montrose, with concourse of our advocate, insisting therein.
And having considered the said letter from our Parliament, and the said general Act of Indemnity, and being most tender and careful that the public security and free pardon which we have so graciously indulged to our subjects for liberating them of their minds and composing their minds to cheerful affection for our Royal person and government should [not?] be violat, broken, or impeached in any case wherein there may be any ground for defence from the said Act of Indemnity granted in the second session of our first Parliament, or from any pretended Act of Indemnity granted at Breda or in Scotland in the years 1650 and 1651.
Wherefore it is our will and pleasure that the foresaid process against Neil MacLeod, for the alleged betraying of the late Marquis of Montrose, and taking of the said recompense therefor, should be sisted and no further proceeded against in our justice, and that our judges, civil and criminal, should be discharged to meddle or proceed in the said matter. And that the aforesaid Act of Indemnity ought and should free and liberate the said Neil from any [blank] for the deed aforesaid.
And that this our will and order be intimated by you our Commissioner and Lord of our Council, to our justice, and the said justice accordingly discharged to proceed, and that no [blank] be thereafter intented or moved against the said Neil MacLeod, before whatsoever judges for the aforesaid crimes and deeds, for sisting and discharging these presents shall be a sufficient warrant, which you shall communicate to the Lords and others of our Privy Council.
Given at our Court at Whitehall, the 20th day of Feb, 1666, and of our reign the 13th year.
The said Lords of Council having heard and considered the aforesaid letter, ordain the same to be recorded in the books and to be intimated and the judges therein mentioned discharged in manner therein appointed.

MacLeod, it will be noticed, was thus set at liberty, not on the ground that he was innocent of the charges made against him, but on the plea set up on his behalf that his offence was covered by the Act of Indemnity passed by Parliament in the second year after the Restoration, by which "all manner of treasons, murders, and offences done by any person by virtue of any power or warrant from any pretended parliament, council, committees, commanders of armies, or others, pretending authority under whatsoever title, name, or designation, since January 1637 until September 1660, or by any their abettors and assisters, are pardoned and discharged."

He was not, however, even yet clear of the matter. Fourteen years after, he was again placed upon his trial for these and other alleged crimes and offences. On the 2nd of February, 1674, he was placed in the dock upon an indictment "charging him with several treasonable crimes; viz.-
1st, with betraying, under trust, the late Marquis of Montrose, his Majesty's Commissioner and Lieutenant-General. and delivering him a prisoner to the rebels in A.D. 1649, who murdered him, for which the said MacLeod of Assint received a reward or 400 bolls of meal.
2nd, with having in A.D. 1654, assisted the English rebels commanded by General Morgan in burning and plundering the north.
3rd, with having, in AD, 1669, exacted arbitrary taxations upon all shipping that came to anchor in any of the creeks belonging to the prisoner.
And, 4th, with having, in A.D. 1670, fortified and garrisoned his house of Ardbreck, and defended the same against the Sheriff of Sutherland, who had His Majesty's warrant to eject him. Now, although the two first articles in the indictment are by much the deepest of the crimes with which MacLeod of Assint was charged, His Majesty's advocate declared, "he did not insist upon the two first crimes libelled but only as aggravations"'.

On this occasion MacLeod was again acquitted, but the result of this trial and other misfortunes was that he lost the family estates.

In 1681 Kenneth Mor Mackenzie (eldest son of the Hon. Simon Mackenzie of Lochslinn, fourth son of Kenneth, first Lord Mackenzie of Kintail), then of Glenmarkassie, and afterwards first of the Old Mackenzies of Dundonnell, is designed as Chamberlain of Assynt, and is acting under the orders of Roderick Mackenzie, elsewhere described as " Servitor to the Marquis of Seaforth".

In 1690, the Hon. John Mackenzie of Assynt, second son of George, third Earl of Seaforth, is in possession and is designed "of Assynt;" and in that year he grants a discharge to the Chamberlain, Kenneth Mackenzie of Glenmarkcassie, for 2448 merks, being the full rent of Assynt for crop 1689. In the same year the Chamberlain received orders to remove Neil MacLeod from the district.

We are indebted to Mr. Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, M.P., for a copy of the order of removal, which bears on the back of it, "Orders to Kenneth Mackenzie for removing Neill MacLeod out of the lands of Assint, 5 August, 1690." The document itself is as follows-
"By Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Lumsdain, in the Lord Strathnaver's Regiment of Foot, and Commander-in-Chief of their Majesties' Forces in and about Inverness.
Being informed that Neil MacLeod, late Laird of Assint, has violently, at his own hand, taken possession of the house and lands of Assint, belonging to Peter Forbes, merchant, Edinburgh, and doth thereby molest the tenants, and interrupt the herring and salmon fishings; Therefore you are hereby ordered to remove and turn out the said Neill MacLeod and his servants furth of the said houses and lands, and to take care that he makes no disturbance in the country; but if he hath any pretence to the said lands, let him take a legal course conform to the rights he pretends to have thereto. And in case he disobeys, or makes any resistance, you are to secure his person, ay and until he gives security for his peaceful behaviour. Given at Inverness, the 5th day of August 1690.
Signed. Rot. Lumsdaine,
For Mr. Kenneth Mackenzie, Glenmarkness, Chamberlain and Bailie to Mr. John Mackenzie of Assint.

We have not ascertained whether Neil had been removed or not, but he appears to have secured at least nominal possession of the property, for, on the 25th of November, 1691, a summons of Reduction, Improbation, and Declarator is signetted against him at the instance of the Hon. John Mackenzie, and a note on the back of the writ shows that a copy of it was served upon him personally on the 27th of the same month, two days after - a fact which proves that Neil must have been in Edinburgh at the time. In 1716, "Kenneth Mackenzie, now of Assint.," is described as the son of the late John Mackenzie of Assynt. He died without issue.
The Mackenzies, however, were never in full possession of the lands themselves, for almost immediately after getting nominal possession they wadsetted Inverkirkaig, Phillin, lnver, Badidarroch, Torbreck, Bracloch, Little Assynt, Loch Bearnock, Achnaloich, and Clashmore; and all the lands were judicially sold about 1760.

Sir Robert Douglas puts Neil's case in the most favourable light. He says-
"There having been some old incumbrances upon the estate of Assynt, incurred through the iniquity of the times, and this Neil having become security for some of his friends in several small sums, some of his more powerful neighbours took advantage of his indolence, and of the distance he lived from, and difficulty of access to public justice at that time, bought up his debts with an old apprising or two, whereby they carried off his whole estate for less than half the value; and though both he and his heirs have intented several processes for the recovery of their just rights, yet they have never hitherto obtained any redress nor have they recovered any part of their paternal inheritance. The spite of his enemies was carried so great a length against this unfortunate gentleman that, not satisfied with having deprived him of his estate, a criminal process was intented against him before the Court of Justiciary, when he was tried by a jury of his countrymen for different dittays laid to his charge, but was most favourably acquitted, as appears from the record of the Court.

Neil married a daughter of Colonel John Monro of Lemlair, without issue, and on his death, the representation, but not the estates, devolved on his next brother,
XlI. JOHN MACLEOD, who married Jean, daughter of Malcolm Ross of Kindeace. with issue-
1. Captain Donald, designated of Geanies, and first of that family, of whom presently.
2. Neil, a Captain in a foot regiment, and at one time governor or Blackness Castle.
John had also four daughters, all of whom were well married.


MacLeods of Assynt - A Downloadable PDF extract from History of the MacLeods by Alexander MacKenzie