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Robert Abrach and Tomzarloch

By Peter Lawrie, ©2018

Introduction

The interventions of King James VI made the survival of Clan Gregor as an entity impossible. Following the Battle of Glenfruin, the king’s ‘Justice’ offered all MacGregors (whether or not they had been involved with Glenfruin) a stark choice:- death or find a lord prepared to guarantee future behaviour and take the Lord's name in place of their own.

The King's edict of 3rd April 1603 had ".. it was ordanit that the name of McGregoure sulde be altogedder abolisched, and that the haill personnes of thatt Clan suld renunce thair name and tak thame sum uther name, and that they nor nane of thair posteritie suld call thameselffis Gregor or McGregoure thairefter under the payne of deid." For more details see "edict for the extermination of Clan Gregor" here. This proscription of an entire clan was almost unique, but not quite. James had issued a similar draconian order for the extermination of Clan Chattan in 1583, although it appears that the lords who had been instructed to carry it out failed to do so. See here for the text of this extirpation of Clan Chattan.

It is apparent that clan lineages such as Glenlednock and Ardeonaig which took service with the Drummond Earls of Perth escaped much of the persecution. The Fortingal lineage in Strath Tay almost disappeared from the record as MacGregors, taking virtually no part with the rest of the clan. Lords, such as Robertson of Strowan, Menzies of Weem and Murray of Tullibardine, all employed MacGregors as servants who mostly took the names of their cautioners in place of MacGregor. The greatest employer of MacGregors may well have been the Earl of Argyll in the lead up to Glen Fruin, a period in which his lieutenandry gave him great power over the clan.

Some of the clan refused to accept such subservient status and remained in rebellion despite royal and lordly pressures. Undoubtedly they must have been surreptitiously aided in this by their settled kin, hence the frequent condemnation of reset by the Council in Edinburgh and complaints of disorder by the Lairds of Glenorchy and Luss. The rebels had been deprived of the wherewithal to support themselves legally, so they resorted to raiding the lands of their enemies, and retreating into the least accessible hiding places in the hills.

Bentoig

Donnchadh Ladasach had been executed in 1552 personally by Cailean Liath - Grey Colin - Lord of Glenorchy from 1550. Ladasach had resisted Grey Colin's attempts to subborn members of Clan Gregor into his own service. Ladasach killed several of the kindred for entering into bonds of manrent with Grey Colin.

Following the execution of Alastair of Glenstrae in 1604, Duncan Abrach, (also Abroch and Aberigh and, in Gaelic, Donnchadh abrach) - a grandson of Donnchadh Ladasach - led a group of MacGregors in continuing rebellion. Duncan Abrach and his son Griogair were killed at the conflict of Bentoig. His surviving sons were Raibart abrach and Padraig aldoch. Raibart abrach would become one of the most violent of the rebels and a survivor against all the odds as discussed below. The great great grandson of Padraig aldoch would be John Murray, elected 20th chief of the clan in 1775 and 1st Baronet MacGregor in 1795. see the genealogy here

According to Sir Robert Gordon's account of Bentoig, Robert Campbell, a son of Black Duncan of Glenorchy, with his own Campbell followers supported by "some of the ClanChameron, Clanab, and Clanronald to the number of two hundred chosen men fought against thriescore of the ClanGregor in which conflict tuo of the ClanGregor were slain, to wit Duncan Aberigh (one of the chieftanes) and his son. Seven gentlemen of the Campbell side were killed, though they seemed to have the victory."
Black Mount from the A85 a mile North of Loch Tulla  from Google maps The conflict of Bentoig (also Bintoig) occured at a location close to Beinn Toaig (OS map ref NN263456), a peak of 834 metres / 2750 feet in the Black Mount area to the west of Rannoch Moor, about two miles to the North-West of Loch Tulla.

This image of Beinn Toaig is taken looking due west from the present A82 trunk road (Glasgow to Fort William) north of Loch Tulla (at OS mep ref NN306456). The actual site of the conflict is likely to have been near the path, on the slightly higher ground leading to Glen Coe, later followed in the 1720s by Wade's military road and the present West Highland Way footpath.

The old military road and West Highland Way run across the middle of the image, behind the rise in the foreground .

Bentoig was the last recorded occasion on which a body of MacGregors were involved in open battle with their enemies.

Tomzarloch

Some MacGregors from Glen Lednock and Glen Almond had given their submission to the Earl of Perth and adopted the name Drummond, in obedience to the King's edicts. The remaining rebels, including some from Balquhidder, led by Raibart abrach resented this. It seems likely that these rebels intended to attack their kin on the Drummond lands for their betrayal. However, it appears that their purpose had been betrayed. Most of the group were killed and some captured at Tomzarloch in 1612

"Tomzarloch" has been almost impossible to locate. It cannot be found on maps and gazetteers or even in documents contemporary with the events apart from the one brief mention by the Earl of Perth who stated that it was "within the low country". The place had to be in a populated area as the MacGregors "having occupied some houses were dislodged by means of fire applied". From the context I felt it was most likely to be in upper Strathearn, somewhere either along Loch Earn or between the loch and Drummond Castle, the principal seat of the Drummond, Earls of Perth.

I have made use of "Place-names, land and lordship in the medieval earldom of Strathearn", a St Andrews University PhD thesis by Angus Watson in 2002, hereinafter referred to as Watson.

Tomzarloch is only mentioned once by Amelia, on page 398 of volume i. She quoted from an article entitled "The Wicked Clan Gregor" by Joseph Anderson, which was published in the Scottish Review of 1890. See here for the full text. Anderson referred to "a memoir of the Earl of Perth, written by himself". The original of the Earl's memoir does not appear in the extracts from the Register of the Privy Council by MacGregor-Stirling, documented in the "Chartullary of Clan Gregor", which was the principal source for Amelia's "History of the Clan Gregor".

Following an enquiry to Drummond Castle, Lady Willoughby de Eresby kindly responded with a page from the Spalding Club Miscellany, which included the actual text of the Earl's memoir. See below under "A memoir of the Earl of Perth" for the full text.

Lady Willoughby also stated that "Tradition has this encounter being at Glen Artney, although I do not know where about".

The Gaelic tom usually means a mound, hillock or knoll. However, in placenames, it can also mean a thicket or bush, so instead of an obvious hillock, it may refer to a heavily wooded spot, especially with uneven underlying topography. Land use changes over four centuries could well have removed the thicket, while a hillock would be a more persistent feature unless quarried away, for instance, by the now-closed railway which was built along the strath in the 19th century.

My first thought, not being a Gaelic speaker myself, was that 'zarloch' may have derived from Teàrlach, the Gaelic for the personal name Charles. However, Paraig MacNeil, official bard to the Clan Gregor Society, advised that 'Charlie's hillock', would have been Tom Theàrlaich in which (genitive) case the letter 'T' would be dropped and therefore it would be pronounced as Tome Harlaich and, in any case, no such place can be identified in Strathearn.

Paraig suggested the closest Gaelic to 'tomzarloch' would be tom earr loch - pronounced: tome-yeaarr-loch - literally 'East loch hillock or thicket'.
Furthermore, Paraig pointed out that the Earl of Perth's non-Gaelic speaking clerks would have spelled Gaelic place names phonetically. The obsolete letter ȝ (yogh) in the Scots language was usually written as 'z'. (Menzies, for example - 'Menȝies' - which is pronounced 'Mengyes). Hence tom earr loch, could well have been written down by the Earl's clerk as tomzarloch.

Dr Simon Taylor, a foremost scholar of Scottish placenames, advised that anything beginning "c", "ch" or even "th" is very unlikely to come through as z (yogh), and he would be much more comfortable with an underlying Gaelic "gh" + front vowel. Hence he suggested looking for tom gheàrr loch which would mean ‘hillock (or thicket) of the short loch’. Loch Earn is certainly not a 'short loch' but, apart from the loch of Balloch, there are no significant bodies of water between Loch Earn and Drummond Castle.

Unfortunately for this theory, no such placenames are listed in Strathearn or Glen Artney by any source I have come across.

In the following discussion of other possible sites, I will take into account that the documented 'zar' would have been 'yar' in speech.

I noted in Watson's gazetteer, Allt na Ceàrlaich (OS map ref NN644243) near Derry half way along the North shore of Loch Earn. [1]   with the meaning "Burn of the thread". [Dwelly lists Ceàrlaich or Ceirslich as an obsolete word meaning hanks of yarn, so it may be conjectured that, prior to industrialisation at the end of the 18th century, the water of the burn may have been used for retting locally grown flax in the production of linen yarn. ]

In a chapter following his gazetteer of the parishes within the lordship, Watson discussed the changing use of the genitive feminine form na in Gaelic placenames in the Lordship of Strathearn during the 16th and 17th centuries. He stated that the same placename could be found at different times both with and without na, hence it may be that in local usage, both forms Allt na Ceàrlaich (which he listed) and Allt Ceàrlaich (which he did not list) might be used.

Keeping in mind Dr Taylor's comment, it seems unlikely that the Gaelic Ceàrlaich (Chiar laych) could been interpreted by a non Gaelic speaker as "yarloch" and thus written as "zarloch" So I do not believe this can be the place.


Little Port Hill
The National Library of Scotland Map section suggested Tomzarloch might possibly refer to Little Port Hill, which can be found on the 6inch map from 1888 here: and on the 1 inch map, ( 1955) to the right.

'Port' refers to Port of Locherne which was the 17th century name for the village now known as St Fillans at the eastern end of Loch Earn. Little Port Hill itself is the summit of the steeply rising ground to the North of the present A85 as one leaves St Fillans. There were no houses on the hill then or now, but it is possible that houses at the foot of the hill may have been referred to.

Watson, on page 187 of his thesis, lists the older name Tom na Ceàrdach for Little Port Hill at NN714245 - meaning hill of the smith, which usually implies a bloomery where there had been ironworking. Dropping the genitive na it could be pronounced 'tom kyard ach', but as Dr Taylor states, this also would seem unlikely to have come through as z (yogh) for a non-Gaelic speaker 'tom yar loch'.

Also, while it could be argued that Tom Ceàrlaich at Derry might refer to an 18th century activity (retting flax) and that the name may have been modified from an older, but similar name by later generations. This argument would not apply to Tom na Ceàrdach as such small scale iron working bloomeries date from a time earlier than 1612. Thus this also seems to be an unlikely site for Tomzarloch.
Little Port Hill on OS 1 inch map Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/index.html
Garrichrew on Ponts Map of 1583  Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/index.html Garrocherow / Garchory
I am grateful to Dr Neil McGregor for his contributions to this paper and for drawing my attention to Garrocherow. Part of Pont's map of Strathearn in 1573 is on the left. Garrocherow is clearly shown.

Watson cites a number of variations in the name between the 15th and 19th centuries, such as 'Garchory', 'Garricherow', 'Garcharrow', and most recently, Garrichrew. From the earliest forms, 'Garchory', Watson derived the name as garbh choire (rough corrie or den) or perhaps geŕrr choire (short corrie or den). He went on to suggest it could also be garbh cheathramh - the rough quarterland, [a quarterland being a measure of taxable area.],

Garbh may be pronounced 'garv' or 'garr'. The place is on the edge of steeply rising ground and is inhabited to this day. Tom as above, could either be a smallish rocky knoll, of which there are many in Upper Strathearn, or a small area of dense woodland. The rocky knolls will not have disappeared in 400 years, but the woodland might have.

While documentary evidence can show past spelling variations we cannot discover pronunciation changes. Assuming that Garrocherow is the location of Tomzarloch, then if we pronounce 'Garr' as 'Yar' and elide the 'erow' ending, is it possible to arrive at tom yar och?

Watson, on pages 161 and 162 of his thesis, listed the settlement of Garrichrew at NN742237

'Garrichrew' is the name of the farm on the 1888 six-inch map shown on the right. There are no lochs nearby, but plenty of thickets.

On the latest 1:50000 map, the farm is named Whitehouse of Dunira. It is about 3km east of Little Port Hill and half way between St Fillans & Comrie.



Garrichrew on OS 6-inch map of 1888 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/index.html
Satellite view of the Drummond estate showing the Pond of Drummond, from Google maps Does the site now lie beneath the waters of the Pond of Drummond, NN855185, which is to the North East of the Castle, and part of the landscaping of the Drummond Castle Gardens? While there is no mention of the placename 'Tomzarloch', the Pond of Drummond was created by damming the burn which rose in the elevated land to the west of the castle.

Watson has: "Where the Pond of Drummond is now, there was once a cultivated valley, which was portioned out by the King's Commissioners on the forfeited estates, as a reward for some of the bravest men who hazarded their lives in the Rebellion of 1745" {NSA MUT, 314).

I considered whether there have been a small, or gheàrr loch, on the burn prior to the creation of the larger 'pond'? But with no evidence to support this, it has to be ruled out.

On the Pont map of 1583-1614, only the loch of Balloch is shown. (Top left on the image.) It is the only body of water shown on Pont's map between Loch Earn and Drummond Castle. While it is quite short - approximately 250m by 500m, none of Watson's discussion of the placenames around the loch, which date back to the Lands of Ballach in 1490, are of assistance in placing Tomzarloch near here.

Could Tomzarloch have been in Glen Artney?
I considered Lady Willoughby's statement that tradition placed the site of Tomzarloch in Glen Artney. This would certainly be a feasible route for a small band finding their way from Balquhidder to Drummond Castle, using a less well travelled passage. Perhaps via Glen Buckie and the west bank of Loch Lubnaig to Kilmahog, north of Callander.

I examined all of Watson's references in Tullichettle parish which encompasses Glen Artney, but found only one possibility, on page 341. Tom-oir, says Watson, was given by Stobie in his map of 1783 (OS Ref NN726 169). Watson stated that "the spelling was not clear", but he interpreted it as tom-oir translated as 'golden hillock'. The OS reference is to a site just south of the farm of Mailerbeg with an un-named structure close by (it turned out to be a sheep fank). I located Stobie's map, and the name appears to be "Tomvoir". Neither placename, Tom-oir/Tomvoir, is present on the modern OS map or on the 6-inch 1888 map.

Tomvoir suggests a big hillock - which does not describe the site at all. Possibly this is the reason for Watson indicating that the spelling was not clear. Could Stobie's Tomvoir which Watson interpreted as Tom-oir have actually been Tom earr, meaning 'east hillock'? Or perhaps tom gheàrr, meaning ‘short hillock’.

Stobie 1783 map showing Mailerbeg and Tomvoir
However, there are no lochs nearby, or, indeed, anywhere in Glen Artney, so this derivation misses the final desired syllable - loch. This leads on to questioning whether the original toponym may have had an -och suffix, rather than refer to a loch? For example tom gheàr-luch - "a hillock of moles" or tom gheàrragach - "a hillock abounding in young hares". I didn't see any moles but there are certainly rabbits there!

Unfortunately for my theory, Paraig advised that "Tom followed by a gh rather than a simple g denotes genitive usage of the noun following for emphasis. In other words if this was the name i.e. Tom a' Ghearr Luch ('y' sounding) then it would have to translate ' the hillock of the short mole'. If it was to be the short hillock of moles then it would be rendered as Tom Gearr Luch. ('g' sounding) On the other hand, if we use the 'gh' - 'y' sounding rather than 'g' sounding then the (in this case) the adjective is coming ahead of the noun rendering it as 'short mole' rather then 'short loch' (ghear loch) or east loch (gh'earr loch). Therefore it can only be Tom gh'earr Luch. Also luch is pronounced as looch. I think it also unlikely that a place would be named for something as temporal as moles, although not impossible."

I drove up Glen Artney to Mailerbeg farm at NN726172 in May 2018 and spoke with the farmer's wife, explaining my purpose. She was unable to help, but clearly these are very old references - 1612 for Tomzarloch and 1783 for Tom-oir/Tomvoir. The farm of Mailerfuar, shown but not named on the current OS map at NN730170 is derelict, although it appeared to have been occupied at the time of the 1880 6-inch map.

Around 280 metres on the rising ground south of the farmhouse of Mailerbeg the hillside flattens into a small but obvious knoll (Gaelic tom) with the land then dropping by about 2m in elevation to a slight streamlet. The remains of an ancient dyke covered by moss and heather was apparent here, demarcating the edge of the knoll from the streamlet. At either end of the curve, the dyke could be followed down the hill side towards the present farmhouse. Within the enclosure of the dyke it was possible to identify the traces of at least two structures, possibly more, which may have been single-roomed turf buildings - some footing stones could be felt forming a rough rectangle through the grass. It appeared to me following a quite brief examination that this was probably the site of a small farming settlement which almost certainly pre-dated the nineteenth century clearances by the Breadalbane estate. The last known reference to Tomvoir was by Stobie in 1783. The place must have been deserted well before the time of the 1880 maps, which only show the sheep fank about 100 metres to the east.

I noted on the Pont map of Glenartney (1583-1614) at https://maps.nls.uk/view/00002315 that Maylor and Mailyrowar are shown (but no Tom-oir / Tomvoir). Mailyrowar is probably the now deserted Mailerfuar.

mailerbeg on OS 6-inch map of 1888 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland This image from the 1880 6-inch map shows the farm of Mailerbeg (still occupied) and the site of Mailerfuar which is now a ruin. Regular field boundaries which are still visible today, contrasts strongly with the outline of the ancient and irregular remains of a dyke running east of south from the road for a little over 300 metres to a point beyond the sheep fank, then north of west to a point where it turns in a north-easterly direction to the point on the road with the elevation mark 691. My impression is that this field predates any late-18th/early-19th century improvements and probably delineates the farming township which Watson identified as "Tom-oir". "Golden hillock" seems an unlikely name which does not fit the site. I believe Tom earr or Tom gheàrr or something which sounded similar would be more suitable.
looking east down Glen Artney from Tom oir, image by Peter Lawrie In this picture looking east, down Glen Artney from "Tom-oir" towards the 19th century sheep fank, the dip towards the streamlet and the remains of a dyke can be seen. In the foreground, on the flat area at the top of the slope lay traces of structures which may have been turf houses.
What is the meaning of Tomzarloch for Clan Gregor?
Perhaps we shall never be able to discover the actual site. However the 'where it was' is less important than the 'what it was' for Tomzarloch represented the dishonourable betrayal of kin for personal redemption.

In February 1603, King James, a few weeks prior to his departure for London, had specified the leaders of Clan Gregor who were to be hunted down, including Raibart abrach:
"And siklyke quhatsumevir persoun or personis will tak, apprehend and present to us the personis undirwritten, and failyeing thairof thair heidis,-thay ar to say, Duncane McGregour VcEwne, Johnne Dow Gair Ewne, and Duncan Pirdrachis, Robert Abroch McGregour, Patrik Aldoch, and his twa sones, Patrik Mcconnoquhy in Glen, Gregour McGregour, sone to Duncane Glen, Charles McGregour VcEane, Callum McGregour Ruy, Johnne Dow, Duncan Bane McRobertis sone, Allaster McGregour VcEane Dullihaith, and Allaster McRobert, his brother, -that not onlie sall the said apprehendair and presentair have a free pardoun and remissioun for all thair bygaine offensis, except for the barbarous attempt laitlie committit within the Lennox, bot with that thay sail have twa hundreth merkis in present and reddy payment deliverit unto thame, as alswa quha evir will bring and present unto us ony utheris personis quhatsumevir culpable of the said barbarous crueltie committit within the Lennox, or ony utheris of the name of Clangregour quha salbe denuncet fugitives and rebellis for not compeirance, before us and oure Counsale, that the saidis apprehendairis and presentairis sall not onlie have a free pardoun and remissioun for all offences committit be thame (except and aIwyse the attempt of the Lennox), bot with that thay sall have ane hundreth merkis of present and reddy payrnent deliverit unto thame.

In the Act of the Scottish Privy Council, as directed by King James, in January 1611, any MacGregor that slew another of the same rank ‘shall have free pardon and remissioun’, while the slayer of one of six specified leaders, including ‘Duncane Mcewne McGregour now callit the Laird’, (Donnchadh MacEoghan in Moirinch) should have a thousand pounds reward. [2]  

The king granted to Argyll in November 1611
“For suche as ar yitt rebellis and outlawis after the Counsell he considered of the roll presentit unto thame by my Lord Argyle that ther be no pardoun grantit unto any nor takin in will except he present a better head at least ane as goode als his awne or such two thrie or more as salbe enjoyned to him by the Counsall. And for Robert Abroche who is now Chief of thame that ar presently out that he be not pardoned unless he bring at least halff a dusone of thair headis." [3]  

If the essence of clan society was the bond of kinship, then the purchase of individual forgiveness by the betrayal to death of one or more of one’s kin strikes at the very heart of such a social order. In 1613 we find Raibart abrach receiving the King's forgiveness. Why?

“1613. Jan 21. Proclamation in favour of Robert Abroche.
“James &a. To all and sundry. ‘Forasmuch as Robert Abroche McGregour being moved with a hatred and detestation of the wicked and unhappy trade of life, of the rebellious thieves and limmers called the ClanGregour, and being most desirous to become our lawful subject, and to live hereafter in the rank and condition of a humble and obedient subject, he has for this effect, not only entered in action against the said limmers and brought in some of the specials of them who have worthily suffered death, but with that he has come in to our court, and offered to employ his person in whatsoever our services, as well against the ClanGregour as others.’
“Received into favour on finding caution and taken under special protection, defence, supply, maintenance and safeguard. 21 Jan. 1613. [4]  

We are not told the extent of the service, or betrayal, by Raibart abrach to deserve this favour. [5]  


An account of Tomzarloch
“1612. March. At this time a skirmish took place between the Earl of Perth at the head of a considerable force composed partly of MacGregors who had taken the name of Drummond and a body of MacGregors at Tomzarloch, the latter having occupied some houses were dislodged by means of fire applied, when five were captured and six killed."

Five of the six reportedly killed were John Dow MacGregor, Donald Gramich MacGregor VcCulchere, John McPhatrik Nadidin MacGregor VcCulchere, Gregor McEan VcEanan MacGregor Elensisens (Gillespie?) MacGregor. Those named are probably all Clandoulcheire men from Balquhidder. The captives may have been among the ten MacGregors executed in Edinburgh in July 1612. However the Earl's memoir [below] stated that only three were captured and there are only two obviously Clandoulcheire names among those executed in July.

The Earl’s force is thus specified in a pardon issued to them early in 1614, [from the Register of the Great Seal]
An asterisk (*) marks the probable MacGregors, mainly of the Glenlednock kindred, who had taken service with the Earl of Perth.

“John Earl Perth (the 2nd Earl) John Master of Madertie James Drummond his brother Sir Alexander Drummond of Carnock Knight, Alexander brother of Sir William Drummond of Hawthornden, James Drummond of Millness, David Drummond, Chamberlain of Drymen, Thomas Drummond of Drummowhence,* John Drummond of Innerzeldie,* James Drummond his brother,* Duncan Drummond late of Kincart beg,* Duncan Drummond in Pitluir,* Duncan Drummond in Wester Dundorne, James Drummond officer, Patrick Drummond in Dalmarklawis* John Drummond in Auchinskelloch,* Duncan Drummond in Mawia, James Drummond in Balliclone, Patrick Drummond in Williamsoune,* John Drummmond in Wester Dundorne, Alexander Stewart in Port, Alexander Reidheugh* David Malloch, John Drummond of Drummondearnoch, Patrick Drummond forester of Glenartney,* John McCoruther, James Drummond of Pitzalloun* Malcolm McAndrew in Dundorn, James Stewart late in Torry,* James Menzies in Mewis William McNiven in Glen Artney,* John McCoruther in Blairtown, James Dow in Glenkishon." [6]  

Dr Masson summarised the situation as follows:-
"King James finding that the ' utter extirpation ' of all the Clan Gregor would be too troublesome, resolved on some to execute justice and the rest to take to mercy, and to transplant them and the wives and children of those that are killed or executed. Accordingly, he submits a series of proposals to the Council, among which are the following : —
For those of the MacGregors that have come in will or surrendered themselves, if any of them have killed a MacGregor as good as himself, or two, three, or four of them which in comparison may be equal to him, he shall have a remission if he find surety, but for such as have come in will and done no service by killing of MacGregors, nor cannot find surety, then the law to have its course and no favour at all to be shown. For such as are yet rebels, that there be no pardon or surrender taken unless he present a better head — or one at least as good as his own. or such two or three more as shall be enjoined unto him by the Council.
Robert Abrach was not slow to take the hint," [7]  


A memoir of the Earl of Perth
In a memoir of the Earl of Perth, written by himself, (that is, by the Earl, although the language has been modernized by Joseph Anderson) there is an account of the affair at Tomzarloch as a result of which Raibart abrach would obtain the King's pardon.
"In March, 1612, I came from Edinburgh to Drummond Castle. Some dozen of the MacGregors came within the low country, Robin Abrach and Gregor Gair being chiefs. Abrach sent for my chamberlain, and alledging that his comrades were about to betray him, contrived to let them fall into the hands of justice. The plot was cunningly contrived, and six of that number were killed, three were taken, and one escaped, besides Robin and his man."

The full text of this memoir by the 2nd Earl of Perth reads as follows: -
"In the meantime, some dussein of the Clangregor came within the leach of the countrie, Robin Abroch, Patrick M'Inchater, and Gregor Gair being chiefs. This Abroch sent for my chalmerinlan, David Drummond of Innermey, desiring to speak to him. After conference, Robin Abroch, for reasons known to himselfe, alleaging his comrads and followers were to betray him, was contented to take the advantage, and to let them fall into the hands of justice. The plot was cunninglie contrived, and six of that number were killed upon the ground where I with certain friends were present; Three were taken, and one escaped, by (i.e. besides) Robin and his man. This execution raised great speeches in the countrie, and made manie acknowledge that these troubles were put to an end, wherewith King James himselfe was well pleased for the time," [8]  

The Privy Council record mentioned five captives, while the Earl's memoir has "three taken ... besides Robin and his man" - thus Raibart abrach and his servant must have encouraged the survivors to surrender themselves but were themselves released by prior arrangement with the Earl's chamberlain, while the others were probably taken to Edinburgh and were among the ten executed in July 1612.

Here were the half-dozen heads for which the King had stipulated as the price of Raibart abrach's pardon, but the wily fox instead of carrying them to the Privy Council in Edinburgh went direct to the King himself in London, and the first intimation the Council had of the matter was a request from the King to draw out a remission in his favour. It was in vain that SirThomas Hamilton, Sir Duncan Campbell, and others remonstrated in the strongest terms that "Robert Abrach was the most bloody and violent murderer of all that damned race" ; the King will have his way, and Robert Abrach is commended for good service and fully pardoned. [9]  


Griogair gear
What of Griogair gear, mentioned along with Raibart abrach as a leader of the party? Griogair gear was a son of Padraig ruadh in Strathyre (who would himself be executed in 1613). His brother, "John McPhatrik Nadidin MacGregor VcCulchere", was among those killed at Tomzarloch. Gregor appears to have had a son “Dowle Oig McGregor Ger" apprehended by "Scogy McIntyre” who in March 1614 received a reward for the service, and Dowle Oig was thirefter execute to the deid." [10]  

Gregor may have been the one escapee from Tomzarloch mentioned by Perth. However, he did not appear to share in the King's forgiveness of Raibart abrach and was listed as number #1 in the Luss list of the clan in 1613, as he had "not found caution for his good behaviour".

At a meeting of the Privy Council on February 17, 1614, "It was alleged by the Laird of Madertie, that he could take no burden for Robert Abroch, because the Vicount of Haddingtoun had taken a dealing for him, and would find caution to make him furth coming and answerable. and it was alleged that Gregor gair was in Ireland, and so there was no necessity of finding caution for him. To this, it was answered by the Laird of Lundie in name of the Erle of Ergyle, that the said Robert Abroche and Gregor Gair were taken by the Erle of Perth, the Lord of Madertie, and the Master his son, and that they were a long time in their company." [11]  

This appears to suggest that Griogair gear had not escaped, but had being taken by the Earl of Perth with Raibart abrach. Yet while Raibart abrach had been specifically pardoned by the King, over the objection of the Council, there is no such pardon for Griogair gear. Despite the Laird of Lundie's claim, it seems more likely that the King had made Raibart abrach the responsibility of Viscount Haddington after pardoning him, while Griogair gear had not been pardoned but had escaped, perhaps after a period of imprisonment by the Drummonds, and had gone to Ireland.

John Ramsay was a favourite of James VI, being knighted by the King in 1600. In 1603 Ramsay travelled with the king to London, being appointed a Gentleman of the bedchamber. He was created Viscount Haddington in 1606 and later the Earl of Melrose. If Maddertie claimed that Haddington had been made responsible for Raibart abrach, it must follow that Abrach remained in London for a time.

Abrach in rebellion again
In 1621 and 1622, Raibart abrach is being condemned once more.
“1621. Sep. 24. “JAMES R. “ ‘ Right Trusty &a we greite you well Wee have seen a note of your proceedings this last counsell day, and are well pleased that the proclamation which you have caused to be framed against the Makgregors be published but much is to be done in that businesse before ainie good effects, can follow according as we intende at some fitte occasioun more at length to aduertise you heirafter farewell. Given at our mannor of Hampton the 24 of Sep. 1621.’

“Sep. Item to a messenger passing from Edinburgh with letters to be published at the market crosses of Crieff and Dunkeld and ther inhibit all and sundry his Highness lieges none of them take in hand to receive, supply, or intercomoun with Robert Abroch McGregour nor with the bairns of umqle Patrik Abroch McGregour with certification to them who do the contrary, that they shall be pursued punished, and fined to the rigour, at the arbitriment of the Council. And likewise passing with letters to charge the Earl of Perth as cautioner and surety for the number of 20 McGregours who have taken upon them name of Drummond, to bring, present, and exhibit them before the Lords of Secret Council, the 19. day of Sep. instant to give a prove of their obedience to his act of cautionery.

“1622. Jan. 17. Commission against Johne Angus and others. The persons above written have associated unto them Robert Abroche McGregour a declared rebel, traitor and lymer. [12]  

Forgiveness except for Raibart abrach
Moving on to 1624, a general Forgiveness of Clan Gregor appears, specifically excepting Robert Abrach. Although constraints are placed on them, that they do not gather in groups of more than four and do not possess weapons. However, it appears that all clan Gregor members are being asked to appear personally before the Council on 17th March 1624 in order to obtain this, which would surely be very difficult. Raibart abrach is excepted from this

“1624. Jan. Commission against certain McGregouris. “Forasmuch as the King’s Majesty having by the force, and strength of his Royal authority, reduced the Highlands and Isles of this kingdom to obedience, and established peace, justice, and quietness within the same, so that no part thereof, stands out in a professed and avowed rebellion; yet, there is some few numbers of mischeant (mischievous) and lawless limmers within the said bounds, who being received to his Majesty’s gracious favour wherof they were most unworthy and having given their oaths and found caution for their future good behaviour as namely, Robert Ramsay sometime called Robert Abroch McGregour, Patrik McPatrik Aldoch, and Callum McPatrik Aldoch his brother, have broken loose against their faith and promised obedience, [13]  

“1624. Feb. 3. at Edinburgh. Protection to the ClanGregor.
“Forsamekle as there has been a proposition made to the Lords of Secret Council, in name of the Clangregour, proporting that they for testification of their submissive and willing disposition to become his Majesty’s peaceable and willing subjects, and to live hereafter, under the obedience of his Majesty, and his laws, are not only content to redress and satisfy parties skaithed, and to find caution for their future good obedience, and for their personal compeirance before his Majesty’s council upon all occasions when they shall be lawfully charged, But with that, to compeir personally before the said Lords, upon the 17 day of March now approaching, for finding of the said caution, Whereas in the meantime they be in surety to be untroubled, apprehended or warded for any cause whatsoever, And the said Lords, having considered of the said proposition and finding it expedient for the good of the country, that the whole persons of the Clangregour, except Robert Abrach, who is no way comprehended in this warrant, but excepted, and reserved furth thereof; shall be secured and warranted, to come in, and to present themselves before the said Lords, to the effect abovewritten. Therefore the said Lords upon good respect, and considerations for the peace and quiet of the country, have given, and granted, and by the tenour hereof, give, and grant, their warrant, permission, and allowance, to all and sundry persons of the ClanGregour, except Robert Abroche and his followers who are specially reserved, out of this warrant, as said is, to haunt, frequent, and repair publickly, and avowedly in all parts of the country, at their pleasure, without any search, stay, and arrestment to be made for or upon them, for whatsoever deed, cause, or occasion or by any person or persons. All which stay, and arrestment (not) to be made on any person of the Clan foresaid, except Robert Abroch and his followers, as said is, The said Lords discharge and ordain to rest until the 21. day of the said month of March next, Discharging hereby all his Majesty’s lieges, and subjects of all taking, apprehending, or warding of any persons of the Clan foresaid, (except before excepted) for whatsoever deed, cause, or occasion, but to suffer them peaceably brouke the benefit of this warrant, until the day abovementioned, without anything to be done, or attempted by them to the break, or violation thereof, as they will answer upon the contrary, at their peril. Providing always that in this meantime they behave themselves as peaceable and good subjects, that they forbear theft, reiff, sorning, and oppression, and the wearing of unlawful and forbidden weapons. That they keep not companies, nor societies together; nor exceed not the number of four persons, in one company, and that they give their compeirance before his Majesty’s council, upon the said 17 day of March next to come certifying them, that shall fail, in any point of the premisses that they shall be pursued, and punished as thieves, rebels, and limners, with all rigour, and that letters of publication be directed hereupon.” [14]  

Finally Raibart abrach surrenders
“1624. Oct. 20. Robert Abborach ane MacGregor and great Lymmer who had been once or twice forgiven, and remitted by his Majesty for his oppression, upon hope of his amendment, and who yet still, continued in his courses after there had been much searching for him in the Highlands and all his friends had been charged to apprehend him came into Perth this day being Sunday, or preaching day after sermon. He fell down upon his knees having a tow about his neck, and offered his sword by the point to the Chancellor of Scotland. The Chancellor refused to accept of it and commanded the Baillies to ward him, Likeas they instantly warded him, and put both his feet in the Gadd where he remained. Chronicle of Perth in Scott’s Collections, A.D. Lib.” [15]  

Raibart abrach released from prison and ordered to join MacKay's mercenaries going to Germany and never return.
"1626. August 22. Warrant for delivery of Robert Abroch and others to Colonell Mcky.
"Forasmuch as Sir Donald M'ky Knight Colonel of the Regiment lifted by him for his Majesty's service under the charge of Count Mansfield has petitioned the Lords of Privy Council That Robert Abroch McGregour, Duncane Drummond and . . . . some times called McGregours, Charles M'Cleane and Johnne Robiesoun who have been this long time bygone prisoners in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh may be delivered unto him and he will transport them out of this kingdom and employ them there in the wars. And the said Lords finding it more expedient that they shall be delivered to the said Colonell to be employed in the wars than to be detained longer in ward in the said Tolbooth Therefore the said Lords ordain and command the Provost and Baillies of Edinburgh that how soon the said Sir Donald or any in his name having his power and commission shall require delivery to be made of the persons foresaid to him That then the said Provost and Baillies shall send the persons abovewritten to the town of Leith sufficiently guarded by some of their officers who will be answerable for their not escaping and there deliver them a shipboard to the said Colonell or to others in his name as said is to the intent they may be transported forth of this realm And ordain the said Colonell and others having charge under him to have a special care that the persons foresaid escape not, as they will be answerable upon the contrary at their peril. Providing always that before the said persons be taken out of the Tolbooth they compeir before his Majesty's Justice and his Deputes and there act themselves that they shall never return again, within this kingdom, under the pain of death And touching their jailor fee and other things bestowed upon them by Andrew Whyte Keeper of the Tolbooth the said Lords will have a care to see him satisfied by his Majesty's theasaurer and deputy theasaurer and receiver of his Majesty's Rents" - Record S.C.

"August 24. at Edinburgh. The which day in presence of Justice Clerk, Robert Abroch MacGregour, John Robieson, Charles Mcclane, Duncane Drummond alias McGregour and Duncane Hay alias McGregour being brought furth of waird by Patrik Eleis ane of the bailzies of Edinburgh and according to an act of Privy Council 22d instant obliged themselves to depart of this country with Crowner McKy to serve in his Majesty's wars beyond sea and never to be found again within any part of his Majesty's dominions in time coming under the pain of death &c."-High Court of Justiciary. [16]  

Five Tolbooth inmates including the notorious Robert Abroch Macgregor were delivered to Sir Donald Mackay for his unit In August 1626, and explicit instructions were added that their exile was permanent under pain of death. [17]  

Raibart abrach returned
However, despite Abrach's exile, "never to return":-
Letter: 5 October 1629. Archibald Campbell [of Glencarradale] to the laird of Glenurquhy, younger, sheriff principal of Perth. Sends the king's declaration which was written for; Loudoun is home and intends to meet recipient's father along with writer;
"your ould frend Robert Abroch is cumming home to attend your service". [ref: GD112/39/39/8]

They even discuss giving him a tenancy on their lands.
16 November 1629. Letter from Lord Lorne to the laird of Glenurquhy, his cousin. Inveray, Bearer of letter, Robert Abrache, wishes tenandry of some of his kindly lands; asks that he should be preferred thereto. [Ref: GD112/29/12/18. ]

Robert Abrach adopted the alias Ramsay, almost certainly as a result of him being referred to, in 1614, as under the charge of John Ramsay, Viscount Haddington and Earl of Melrose.

1631. June 16. Be it kend to all men be thir presents Wee Johne Grahame alias McGregor off Brekland, James Grahame his sone, Robert Ramsay alias Aberich McGregor, Patrik Aberich McGregor his brother, Donald Roy McGregor Brother to umqule Patrik Aulich, Duncane McGregor sone to ye said Robert Aberiche, Johne Dow , Duncane Mcphatrik McGregor, Johne McKewne McGregor, Alaster McIlchetir, Patrick McGregor vig. [18]  

"1632. April 3. at Forden. Be it known to all men by these presents we Robert Ramsay alias McGregor Abroch and Donald Roy Mcpatrik Aulich that forasmuch as the Decreet Arbitral, pronounced, betwix Robert Buchanan of Leny for himself and taking burden upon him for the rest of his kin and friends on the one part, And the said Donald and sundry others persons our friends on the other part as the same Decreet dated at Forden 24. October 1628. years
The said Robert Buchanan of Leny was discerned to make payment to the bairnes of umqule Patrik McGregor Aulich the sum of 650 merks more and the bairnes of umqle Callum Mcpatrik Aulich the sum of 325 merks more, in satisfaction of the said bairnes for the slaughter of the said umqule Patrik and Callum and seeing the said Robert Buchanan of Leny and Walter Roy Buchanan in Bochastell have given us a bond subscribed with their hands as nearest friends to the said bairns, and in thair names for payment making to the said bairns of the said sums, when¬soever they were of ability to.

"Letter of Slaines for the said slaughter, of the said bond as the date of these presents bears, And therefore the said Robert Ramsay and Donald Roy nearest friends to the said bairns for ourselves and taking burden on us for our friends, assisters and partakers, …. or leis directly or indirectly …. the faith and breath of our own bodies, fully remit with our hearts and forgive the said Robert Buchanane of Leny, Walter Roy Buchanane, Rob. Buchanan servitor to the laird of Leny, Ard: Buchanan in the Port of Menteith and his son, and John Campbell alias McLauchlan and all others their friends, men, tennents, assisters, and partakers, the said slaughter of the said umqule Patrik and Callum and Donald McGregour and hereby discharge them all actione of law whatsoever intended, or to be intended by us, or any of us, aginst them, or any of them therefore. So that the said deed and ….. fully binds and never …… be us hereafter directly nor indirectly And obliges us to live in honesty, love, society, and friendship with them hereafter Besides we acknowledge that the said deed was done only upon mere accident and no forethought of felony And therefore by these presents request our Sovereign Lord to grant to the said persons a remission for their said deed in form as accords. in witness whereof we have subscribed the same with our hands at Forden the 3. day of Apprill 1632.
Before these witnesses Sir James Campbell of Lawers Knight, Johne Campbell of Clathick, George Stirling brother german to William Stirling of Ardoch, Oliver Maxtone and John Grahame servitors to the said Sir James Campbell, and Patrick Drumond notary, writer hereof. [19]  




[1] Placenames, Land and Lordship in the Medieval Earldom of Strathearn, Angus Watson, 2002, , Unpublished thesis, University of St Andrews
Allt na Cearlaich NN644243 (1) W 348 COM. G 'burn of the (ball of) yarn or thread' ? This may be a reference to spinning or weaving being carried out on the Derry lands. The factors for the Annexed Estates cl755 report that spinning was becoming a common occupation in this part of Perthshire (Wills 1973, passim) .
Tom na Cearlaich is not listed but is likely to be a small hillock close by

[2] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 369, Record of Council Acta

[3] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i,390, Royal letter dated November 1611

[4] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 407, Proclamation in favour of Robert Abroche, Record of Secret Council

[5] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 406, Record of Secret Council

[6] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 398, Proclamation in favour of Robert Abroche, Record of Secret Council

[8] Spalding Club Miscellany, Aberdeen, 1842, volume ii, page 396-400

[9] Dr Masson, in VoL xiv. of the published edition of the Register of the Privy Council quotes a letter from the Earl of Perth in which he states that the raiding MacGregors were deliberately betrayed by Robert Abrach in return for the King's pardon. Although this extract found in the 'Chartulary of Clan Gregor' based on the research of William MacGregor Stirling, it is omitted from Amelia's published History of Clan Gregor, as it cast Robert Abrach in a very bad light. the full text of Dr Masson's remarks are here

[10] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol ii, 253, quoted by MacGregor Stirling in a MS. Memoir of the House of Dougal Ciar from the "Lord High Treasurer's Books,"

[11] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 429, Record of Secret Council

[12] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 445, Record of Council Acta

[13] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 450, Record of Council Acta

[14] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 451, Record of Council Acta

[15] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 453, Record of Council Acta

[16] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol ii, 26, Chronicle of Perth in Scott’s Collections, A.D. Lib

[17] http://theses.gla.ac.uk/941/1/1973fallonphd.pdf page 76 - (Note 66) - RPC 2nd Series, 1,385

[18] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol ii, 33,

[19] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol ii, 34,