Glen Discovery in GlenLyon
About us
Tour Guide

Amelia Volume 1 Chapter 15

MacGregor of Glenstray

[page 158}
RETURNING to the MacGregors of Glenstray it was noted in Chapter V. that John of Glenstray died of the hurt of an arrow, and was succeeded by his brother. VI. Gregor Roy MacGregor of Glenstray, who was never infeoffed in this property although bearing the title of it. Archibald Earl of Argyll sold the superiority of the twenty markland of Glenstray to Colin Campbell of Glenurquhay in 1556, and granted the ward and marriage of Gregor MacGregor, heir of the late Allaster, to him.

The “Black Book of Taymouth” contains the following short history :-
“Gregor Roy his ( John’s) brother succeidit to him. The said Gregour Roy mariet the Laird of Glenlyoun’s dochter, ‘by whom he had’ Allaster McGregor and Johne Dow McGregour his brother. The foresaid Gregour was execute be Coline Campbell of Glenurquhay.”

Possibly Sir Colin might have befriended him if he had been willing to give up his own Clan, but Gregor evidently preferred to cast in his lot with his persecuted brethern. His name is found in several of the complaints against the MacGregors, and in 1563 we have seen in a previous page [1]   that he endeavoured to “fortify” himself, as it was called, by the treaty of alliance with Stewart of Appin, a family who had also “trokings” with MacGregor of Roro; but there is no evidence of his having led any great outbreak, and the notices of the Clan in the twenty years succeeding the death of Duncan Ladosach and his son Gregor, also called Roy, not having been specially turbulent, it must be supposed that [page 159} there were some feuds, the history of which has not been transmitted, or other causes to excite the malignity of Glenurquhay and as it seems the displeasure of the Government. Tradition appears to confound the death of Duncan Ladosach with that of young Glenstray; both deeds were the work of Glenurqhuay, but it is apparently to the latter to whom reference is made in the Biography of Sir Colin in the “Black Book” : “he beheiddit the laird off McGregour himselff at Kandmoir in presens of the Erle of Atholl, the justice clerk and sundrie other noblemen.”

“In 1569. A commission was given to the Laird of Glenurchy to ‘justify’ Gregor McGregor of Glenstray, who was accordingly beheaded on the green of Kenmore.” - Breadalbane Papers in Report of The Historical Commission.

“Obituary. 1570 the 7. day of Apryll Gregor McGregor of Glensra heddyt at Balloch.”

There have been some conflicting theories as to the hero of the beautiful Gaelic song “Cumha Ghrioghair MhicGhriogair,” but from tradition and various circumstances it seems probable that Gregor of Grenstray was the Gregour Roy nam Bassan gheal (of the white hand or palm), and from the “Black Book” his marriage with a daughter of Campbell of Glenlyon has been ascertained. The Gaelic words of this old lament are here given with the English translation, both copied from the “Killin Collection of Gaelic Songs” by Charles Stewart, Esq., Tighduin Killin, which has the following preface giving the Glenlyon tradition of the story :-

“In the latter half of the sixteenth century lived Duncan Campbell of Glenlyon who was so celebrated for his hospitality that he was known as ‘Donnacha Ruadh ne Feilach.’ His residence was ‘Caisteal a Curin-bhan’ about two miles above the pass. He had a daughter whom he intended giving in marriage to the Baron of Dall, on the south side of Loch Tay. The daughter was of a different opinion for having met with young Gregor MacGregor of Glenstrae she gave up to him her heart’s warmest affections and which he fully returned. In spite of all opposition she left her father’s house, and married him. Duncan was bitterly vexed, and so were the then heads of the eastern Campbells, Sir Colin of Glenurchay [page 160} and his son ‘Black Duncan.’ In consequence Gregor and his wife were followed with the most unrelenting enmity. They were often obliged to wander from place to place, taking shelter in caves under rocks, and in thickets of woods. On the night preceding the 7. of April 1570, they had rested under a rock on a hillside above Loch Tay. Next morning after taking such breakfast as in the circumstances they could compass, the young wife sat herself on the ground, and dandled her young babe in her arms whilst Gregor was fondly playing with it. This endearing episode of pure love and affection was ruthlessly broken in upon. In an instant they were surrounded by a band of their foes, and carried off to Balloch. Gregor was at once condemned to death, and beheaded at Kenmore in presence of Sir Colin; his wife, daughter of the Ruthven, who looked out of an upper window; Black Duncan; Atholl the Lord Justice Clerk, and Duncan Campbell, of Glenlyon. Most pitiful of all, the unutterably wretched wife was forced to witness her Husband’s execution. Immediately thereafter, with her babe in her arms she was driven forth by her kindred helpless and houseless. The kindness however thus cruelly denied, was abundantly given by others who sorely pitied her sad case. In her great anguish she composed the song that follows later in this chapter, and sung it as a lullaby to her babe :-

[page 161}
“Ochan, ochan, ochan, uirigh,
‘S goirt mo chridhe a laoigh ;
Ochan, ochan, ochan uirigh,
Cha chluinn d’ athair ar caoidh

1. Moch ‘sa’ mhadain là di-Dòmhnaich
Bha mi ‘sùgradh marri ‘m gràdh
Ach, m’ an d’ thanig meadhon latha
‘S mise bha air mo chradh.

2. Mallach aig maithibh ‘s aig càirdean,
Rinn mo chràdh air an dòigh ;
Thainig gun fhios air mo ghràdhsa,
‘S thug fo smachd e le foill.

3. Na ‘m biodh da-fhear-dheaug d’ a chinneach
‘S mo Ghriogair air an ceann,
Cha bhiodh mo shuil a sileadh dheur,
No mo leanabh fein gun daimh.

4. Chuir iad a cheann air ploc daraich
Is dhoirt iad ‘fhuil mu ‘n làr,
Na ‘m biodh agamsa sin cupan,
Dh’ òlainn di mo shàth.

5. ‘S truagh nach robh m’ athair ann an galar
Agus Cailein ann am plaigh,
Ged bhiodh nighean an Ruthainaich
Suathadh a’ s laimh.

6. Chuirinn Cailein liath fo ghlasaibh,
‘S ‘Donnacha Dubh’ an laimh ;
‘S gach Caimbeulach a bha am Bealach
Gu giulan nan glas-laimh.

7. Rainig mise réidhlein Bhealaich,
‘S cha d’fhuair mi ann tamh,
Cha d’ fhag mi ròinn m’ fhait gun tarruing,
No craicionn air mo laimh.

8. ‘S truagh nach robh mi ‘n riochd as h-uiseig
Spionnadh Ghriogair ann mo lamh,
‘Si chlach ab ‘airde anns a chaisteal
Clach ab ‘fhaisg do ‘n bhlàr.

9. ‘S truagh nach robh Fionnlarig na lasair,
‘S Bealach mor na smàl,
‘S Griogair bàn nam basa geala,
Bhi eader mo dha laimh.

10. ‘S ged tha mi gun ubhlan agam,
‘S ubhlan uile làch,
‘S ann that m’ ubhal cubhraidh grinn,
A ‘s cul a’ chinn ri làr.

11. Ged tha mnaithibh chàich aig baile
Na ‘n laidhe s’ na cadal seimh,
‘S ann bhios mise aig bruaich mo leapa,
A bualadh mo dha laimh.

12. ‘S mor a bannsa bhi aig Griogair,
Air feadh choille ‘s fraoich,
Na bhi aig Baran crion na Dalach,
An tigh cloich a ‘s aoil.

13 ‘S mor bannsa bhi aig Griogair,
Cur a chruidh do ‘n ghleann,
Na bhi aig Baran crion na Dalach,
Ag ol air fion ‘s air leann.

14 ‘S mor a bannsa bhi aig Griogair,
Fo brata ruibeach rionn,
Na bhi aig Baran crion na Dalach,
Guilan siòd a ‘s sriol.

15 Ged biodh cur a ‘s cathath ann,
A ‘s ‘latha no seachd sion,’
Gheibheadh Griogair dhomsa cragan,
‘S an caidlimid fo dhion.

Ba hu, ba ho, aisrain bhig,
Cha ‘e ‘eil thu fathasd ach tlàth,
‘S eagal leam nach tig an latha,
Gun diol thu d’ athair gu bràth.”

LAMENT FOR GRIGOR MACGRIGOR (Translated by Charles Stewart )
“Ochan, ochan, ochan, ooree,
Breaks my heart my own wee dear,
ochan, ochan, ochan, ooree,
Thy slain father cannot hear.

Early on last Sunday morning,
I was joyous with my love ;
Ere that noonday had passed o’er us
I was pierced with sudden grief.

Cursed be nobles and my kindred
Who have storely stricken me ;
Foul betrayed my own heart’s darling,
Siezed him fast and laid him low.

Were there twelve men of his clan,
And my Grigor to lead them,
My sad eyes were not thus streaming,
Nor my child so sore bereft.

His dear head upon an oak-block,
They have placed, and shed his blood ;
Could I have a cup of that, then
Ah, how deeply would I drink.

Oh ! that Colin were plague-smitten
And my father in sore pain,
Whilst the daughter of the Ruthven,
Rubbed her hands and palms in vain.

Grey haired Colin I would dungeon,
And ‘Black Duncan’ make secure,
Every Campbell within Balloch
In chained wristlets, I’d make sure.

When I reached the plains of Balloch
There no resting place I found ;
Not one hair left I untorn,
Nor may palms one shred upon.

Could I fly as does the sky-lark
I’d tear Grigor from their hands,
And the highest stone in Balloch
As the lowest I would lay.

Oh, for Finlarig in blazes,
And proud Balloch steeped in flames.
Whilst my Grigor, the white palmed one,
In my arms rested safe.

Though now reft of my own loved one,
Whilst all others have their own,
One I had both fragrent, lovely,
But his head is lowly laid.

When the wives of all my kindred
Are deep wrapped in balmy sleep,
On my bed I sit sad weeping,
And my heands I wring in grief.

Fain would I be with Grigor,
On the heath, or ‘mongst the woods,
Than of Dallach the wee Baron’s
Housed in walls of stone and lime.

Fain would I be with my Grigor,
Driving cows along the glen,
Than of Dalach the wee Baron’s
Drinking beer and quaffing wine.

Fain would I be with my Grigor,
‘Neath a wrapper torn and bare,
Than of Dalach the wee Baron’s,
Silks and gauzes as my wear.

Though it snowed, and though it drifted,
On a ‘day of seven blasts’
Yet a crag my Grigor found me,
Where I warmly there could rest.

Ba hu, ba ho, my own wee dearie
Though are but a little child,
E’en I manhood, I much fear me,
You his death can’t full redeem.”

[page 163}
The compiler of “The Lairds of Glenlyon” records his version of the Glenlyon tradition on the subject of Gregor MacGregor of Glenstrae’s marriage to be that her father, Duncan Roy Campbell of Glenlyon, was friendly to Gregor, although probably obliged to follow the lead of his chief, Colin Campbell, at the last. In this work the following prose version of the translation is somewhat closer to the original :-

“ Ochain, ochain, ochain, uiridh,
Sad my heart my child :
Ochain, ochain, ochain, uiridh,
Thy father hears not our moan.

“Under ban the nobles and friends
who pained me so:
who unawares came on my love,
and overmastered him by guile. Ochain &c.

“Had there been twelve of his race,
and my Gregor at their head,
my eyes would not be dim with tears,
nor my child without their father. Ochain &c.

“They laid his head upon an oaken block:
they poured his blood on the ground:
oh had I a cup
I would drink of it my fill.

“Oh that my father had been sick,
and Colin in the plague,
and all the Campbells in Balloch
wearing manacles.

“I would have put ‘Gray Colin’ under lock
and ‘Black Duncan’ in a dungeon,
though Ruthven’s daughter
would be wringing her hands.

“I went to the plains of Balloch,
but rest found not there:
I tore the hair from my head,
the skin from my hands.

“Had I the wings of the lark
the strength of Gregor in my arms,
the highest stone in the castle
would have been the one next the ground.

“Oh that Finlarig were wrapped in flames,
proud Taymouth lying in ashes,
and fair haired Gregor of the white hands
in my embrace.

“All others have apples:
I have none:
my sweet lovely apple
has the back of his head to the ground.

“Other men’s wives
sleep soft in their homes:
I stand by the bedside
wringing my hands.

“Better follow Gregor
through heath and wood,
than be with the mean little Baron of Dall [3]  
in a house of stone and lime.

“Better be with Gregor
putting cattle to the glen,
than with the mean little Baron
drinking wine and beer.

“Better be with Gregor
under sackcloth of hair,
than wear silken sheen
as the mean Baron’s bride.

“Though it snowed and drifted,
and was a day of sevenfold storm
Gregor would find me a rock,
in whose shelter we might lie secure.

“Ba hu, ba hu, my orphan young,
For still a tender plant art though
And much I fear the day wont come
When thou shalt earn thy father’s fame.”

The latter version is much tamer and the last verse especially seems to miss the widow’s longing that her boy should revenge his father’s murder.

[page 166}
The following letter addressed by Sir Colin Campbell of Glenurquhay to Gregor McAne, keeper of the Castle of Glenurquhay, only a few months after the execution of Gregor of Glenstray, shows the old Knight in a very different light; kind, considerate, and cheerful to a curious degree for a man who acted as executioner by choice :-

“1570 August 18. Gregor McAne - I commend me hartilie to yow. McCallum Dow hes schawin me quhow the Clangregour hes tam up your geir, and your puir tenentis geir, the quhil I pray yow tak no thocht of, for albeit I haf na ky to recompanss yow instantlie, I sall God willinge mak yaw and youris suir of rowmis that sail mak yaw mair profeit nor the geir that ye have tint at this tyme, ye beand ane trew and faythfull seruand to me. And gif the puir men that wantis geir duellinge onder yow be trew to yow, tak thame into the place upoun my expenssis, and gif to thair wyffis and bairniss of my victuall to sustein thame as ye think expediant. I pray yaw have the place weill provydit with sic furneshing as ye ma get, and spair nowther my geir nor yat your awin for God leuwinge us our heilthis we will get geir enewche. I pray yaw and als commandis yow that ye lat nain within the place but your awin traist seruandis albeit I gaif yow ane command to resaue sum utheris at my departing, and keip this writing far your warrand; for albeit the geir be awa and the ground waistit, I keepand that auld houss and haldand the regis haul as God willinge I sail, ye beand ane faythfull seruand to me, my bairnis and youris sail leif honorabill in it will God, quhen the plage of God will leyth upoun tha and thair posteritie out of memorie that molestis me and yow at this present. Send word to me gif ye mister men or ony uthir thinge ye wald have doand with this berar, quha is ane man I credeit and ye ma schaw to him your mind. I sail provyid sum scharp boy that can writ and reid to yow schortlie, and hald ye him on my expenssis sa lang as this induris becaus credeit ma nocht be gevin to boyis. The rest to your wisdomn, and to treit yourself weill and be merrie, and tak no thocht of geir for we will get geir enewche, will God., quha mat have yow in keepinge. At Ilanran - youris,

The severe measures, however, towards the rest of the Clan only provoked acts of revenge

“1570. August 22. John McConil Dow VcGeglas VcKessoch slayn besyd Glenfalloch and thirteen of the Lardis of Glenurquhay’s men slayn that da be Clangregour and thar complessis. Gud in hawin stance them of ther vykytnes. So be it.

[page 167}
“1571. Nov. 16. Death of Gregor son of the Vicar of Fortingill in the houss of his father and buried in the Church there.

“1572. Sep. 24. Allester McAllester slain and his son ane yonge barne of sewin yer ald callyt Gregor and Duncan brodyr tyl Allester [4]   al slain in Stromferna be Patryk Dow McGregor VcCondoquhy Lawdossyt [5]   with his complessis and be the drath (‘draucht,’ artful scheme) of Allester Gald VcGregor. [6]   The saidis Allester and his son and brodyr zyrdith (buried) in Fortingill.

“1572. Nov. 10. Death of Donald Elder McQuhewin ai Theneff in the house of his son. Donald

“1572. 3 Jan. 9. Death of Katherine Neyn Allester VcOlchallum VcGregor wife of Patrik McQuhewin at Ardtrasgyr, ‘in gallocate’ (insane ?).

“1573. March 30. death of Ronald McGregor VcCouil in the nordland and buried in the Church of Taldow in Strathdayn.

“1574. Donald Dow McConil VcQuhewin heddyt at the Kenmore be Collene Campbel of Glenurquhay April 7. and zirdit in Fortingall same day.

“April 28. Gud Mald NcAyn Vay in Glenlyon spous till the clerk McNiven and zirdit in Branwo.

“Death of Ellyssat Neyn Huston VcEwin spouse of Donald McCondoquhy Voyr at Fortingill.

“Murder of Patrik [7]   Dow McGregor VcDuncan Lawdossyt at Bofudy (Balquhidder) by Clandowilchair. Oct. 4.

“1576. June 30. Death of Joneta neyn Duncan VcGregor wife of Donald McQuhewin at Thyneff and buried at fortingill.”

This entry ends the last part of Fortingal Obituary.

From “Chartulary” :-
“1571. 1. Jan. To a messenger ‘Passand of Edinburgh to Stirlin with lettre to summon an assize to Duncane McGregour to be accusit of certain crimes and justifiet at Stirling.” - Lord High Treasurer’s Books.

[1] Chapter XII, page 132 volume 1 chapter 12

[2] From the Killin Collection of Gaelic Songs by Charles Stewart of Tighnduin.

[3] A MacOmie of son of Thomas.

[4] Their identity not ascertained.

[5] This Patrick was murdered two years later by the Clan Dougal Ciar. Although his patronymics read Patrick, son of Gregor, son of Duncan Ladosach, he is not identical with Patrick Aulach, who was son of Gregor. Two explanations occur, either this Patrick Dow was a ntaural son of Gregor, or he was his brother, and “McGregor” is merely mentioned as a surname.

[6] Younger brother of Gregor Roy.

[7] See above, 1572, September 24