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Amelia Volume 1 Chapter 4

Sketch of the Reigns of King James I to IV

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KING JAMES I., born in 1390, was captured by the English on his way to be educated in France, shortly before his father, King Robert III.’s death, which took place 4th April 1406. The first part of his reign the sovereign power was exercised by the King’s uncle, the Duke of Albany, who was succeeded as Regent by his son Murdoch. King James I. returned from his captivity in England in 1424. He was an energetic ruler who sought to curb the power of his nobles, and also to crush the Highlands by severe measures. Tytler in his “History of Scotland,” regarding this reign, gives the following description of the country at that time :-

“Besides such Scoto-Norman barons, however, there were to be found in the Highlands and Isles, those fierce aboriginal chiefs who hated the Saxon and the Norman race, and offered a mortal opposition to the settlement of all intruders within a country which they considered their own. They exercised the same authority over the various clans and septs, of which they were the heads or leaders, which the baron possessed over his vassals and their military followers; and the dreadful disputes and collisions which perpetually occurred between these distinct ranks of potentates, were accompanied by spoliations, ravages, imprisonments and murders which at length became so frequent and so far extended that the whole country beyond the Grampian range was likely to be cut off, by these abuses, from all regular communication with the mere pacific parts of the Kingdom.” [1]  

Amongst sundry enactments in the Parliament held in March 1424, the following was issued :-
“46. Anent remissions to be given, and assithment or partie, Item it is ordained be the Parliament, that quhair the King gives remissiones til onie man, with condition to assyth the partie skaithed and compleinand; That consideration be had of the Hieland [page 37} men, the quhilkis before the Kingis hame cumming commonlie reft and slew ilk ane utheris; bot in the Lawlands quhair the skaithes done may be kend of all, or of part that there be chosen gud men and leil sworne thereto, to modifie amendis after the qualitie and quantitie of the person, and of the skaithes, gif the parties cannot concorde be themselves; or the quhilks modificationes, baith the parties sall hald them content” [2]  

Mr. Tytler thus comments on this part of the Act :-
“It was declared to be the intention of the sovereign to grant a remission or pardon of any injury committed upon person or property in the lowland districts of his dominions, where the defaulter made reparation, or, according to the Scottish phrase, ‘assythement,’ to the injured party, and where the extent of the loss had been previously ascertained by a jury of honest and faithful men; but from this rule the Highlands were excepted, where on account of the practice of indiscriminate robbery and murder which had prevailed, previous to the return of the King, it was impossible to ascertain correctly the extent of the depredation, or the amount of the assythement. The condition of his northern dominions, and the character and manners of his Highland subjects, whose allegiance was of so peculiar and capricious a nature, had given birth to many anxious thoughts in the King, and led not long after this to a personal visit to these remote regions, which formed an interesting episode in his reign.” [3]  

The murder of King James I. by the traitor Graham, in February 1436, again plunged Scotland into the troubles of a long minority amidst rival factions seeking their own interests.

The following entries relating to the fifteenth century are taken from the “Chartulary” :-
“1436-7 Feb. 18. King James I. murdered at Perth. Henry MacGregor appears to have been an actor in the murder, and to have suffered death for his share in that barbarous deed. The proof of this is contained in a charter [4]   of King James III. in favour of Robert de Ros, dated 14th August 1479. ‘James (III.) by the Grace of God, &c. : Whereas it hath lately, come to our knowledge that the late Henry McGregour, father of the late Murdac Henrisoune, was present at the traiterous and most cruel death of our late most serene grandfather, the most illustrious James I., King of Scots, and for this was executed, and the said Murdac, son of this traitor, had one tenement [page 38} with pertinents lying in our Burgh of Perth, acquired by the said Murdac, &c.’ The name Murdac affords a slight presumption that Henry McGregour had been a partisan of the late unfortunate Regent Murdac, part of whose offenses is understood to have been the alienation (in imitation of his father, the previous Regent) of the Crown lands.

“1440-1, 21st June. Charter by King James II. to John Menzies, son and heir of David Menzies Kt: and monk of the Monastery of Melrose and to his heirs, of the barony of Rawir, Lands of Weyme, Aberfallibeg, of Cumrey, and the lands of the Thanage of Crennich &c.

“1440, Jan. 8. Charter by John Lockart of Bar to his son Robert of the lands of Bar in Ayrshire witnessed among others by ‘Gilb: Greresoun’ Register of Great Seal, III-148.

“1463, July 5th. Malcolme Johnsoun of Auchrevach disponed his lands of Auchinrevach, [5]   lying in the barony of Glendochir and shire of Perth, to Colin Campbell of Glenurchay Kt. by charter. The charter by Johnsoune is signed at Perth, and one of the witnesses to it is ‘Murdacus Henrisoun.’

“King James II., who had succeeded his father at the age of six, in 1436 was killed by a splinter from the explosion of a gun at the siege of Roxburgh, 3d August 1460, having shown himself a sovereign of vigour and capacity.

“1483, Feb. 19th. Donald Balloch MacGregor with several others ordered by the Lords Auditors ‘to content and pay to the Prior and Convent [6]   of the vale of Virtue beside Perth the soume of fourty pund, aucht be him for the mailes of their landis in Athol.’

“1484, Oct. 21st. In the action and cause pursued by Schir Duncan McGregore, Vicar of Drumman, against James Arthursoune, for the wrongous occupation and detention of the mansion of Drumman, and taking up the fermeze and profits of the said mansion, and for the withholding of ‘ane vmast cloth’ pertaining to the said Vicar by the decease of Jonet Badly and for the with holding of 10s of borrowed silver. The Schir Duncan being present, and the said James being lawfully called and not compeired, the Lords decree and deliver the said James does wrong in the occupation of the said mansion.

1484, Oct., 11. In an action by Margaret Lady Torre against Lioune of Logyalmond and others for wrongous occupation of the Manys of Logy, &a occur the names of Alane Grigsoune and Johne Gregorsoune.”

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King James III. was killed at, the battle of Sauchie Burn, 18th June, 1488. The notices of the Clan during the previous stormy period are meagre. The Obituary has the following entries :- [7]  

“1440, April, 20th. Death of Malcolm, son of John dhu MacGregor, at Glenurquhay, on the 20th of April; he was buried in the manner formerly mentioned.

“1461. Death of Patrick MacGregor Laird of Glenstray, [8]   at Stronemelochane; he was buried in Dysart, in the way before mentioned.

“1477, February 17th. Death of Duncan Beg MacGregor, at Roro.” [9]  

In the first Parliament after the accession of James IV., held in Edinburgh, 17th October 1488,
“A determined effort was made for the putting down of theft, robbery, and murder - crimes which were at this moment grievously prevalent - by dividing the kingdom into certain districts, over which were placed various Earls and Barons, to whom full authority was entrusted, and who promised on oath that they would, to their uttermost power, exert themselves in the detection and punishment of all offenders. [10]  

“On this occasion, the districts of ‘Renfrew, with Dumbarton, the Lennox, Bute and Arran’, were entrusted to the Earl of Lennox, Lord Lisle, and Matthew Stewart; Stirlingshire to the Sheriff of Stirlingshire and James Shaw of Sauchie; Menteith and Strathgartney to Archibald Edmonston; Glenurquhart, Glenlyon, and Glenfalloch to Neill Stewart, with Duncan and Ewin Campbell; Athole, Strathern, and Dunblane to the Earl of Athole, Lord Drummond, and Robertson of Strowan.” [11]  

The following is the text of part of the enactment :-
“Item anent the stanching of Theft, Reft, and other enormities through all the realm; the Lords underwritten have made faith and given their bodily oaths to our Sovereign Lord in this his parliament, that they, and each of them, shall diligently with all care and besinace, search and seek where any such trespassers are found or known within their bounds, and to take them and justify them, or make them to be sent to our Sovereign Lord to be justified. And they shall have power of our Sovereign Lord, under his white wax, to take and punish the said [page 40} trespassers without favour according to Justice. And also to give them power to cause others, small Lairds within their bounds, to mak faith likewise; And to rise and assist them in the taking of the said tresspassers; and this Act to endure to our Sovereign Lord’s age of xxi years, &a.”

“Among these Lords we find Duncan Campbell, Neille Stewart, and Ewyne Campbell for Discher, Toyer, Glenurquhar, Rannoch, Apnadule, Glenlioun, Glenfalloch” (“Parliamentary Record,” first Parliament of King James IV.) [12]  

“In 1491, Duncan Campbell of Glenurchy had a Charter of the Port and Isle of Loch Tay, and certain of the King’s lands adjacent to Loch Tay. In 1498 he had the ‘Balliary’ of all the King’s lands of Discher, Toyer, Glenlyon, and the Barony af Glen Dochart.” - (Dr. Joseph Anderson.)

“1499-1500. Precept of Remissioun to Patrick McGregor, Remittand to him the slauchter of umquhill Gillaspy McNeluss, &a” (all after crime).

Continuation of the notices in the public Records, after the Act of James IV’s first Parliament, as taken from the “Chartulary” :-
“1499-1500. Decree at the instance of Alexander, Earle of Menteith, against his tenants of certain lands, Ledard, Franach, Dowlocheon, &a, and amongst these tenants are Malcolm MakGregour and John Dow Malcolmson, whose names immediately follow that of the others. Acta Dominorum Concilis and Secessionis.

“1499-1500, February 20th. A precept of Remissioune for Patrick McGregor : Remittand him the slauchter of vmquhile Gillaspy McNeluss, and for all crime that may be imputed to him zairfoir alanerlie, &c, the usual exceptions for capital crimes, treason, &c, following de data xx : Februarij anna Regis xij. Registrum Secreti II. 4.

“1500, December 16th. Charter by King James IV. at Stirling to Robert Porterfield, son and heir to John Porterfield of that Ilk, and to Janet Maxwell, spouse to the said Robert, and lawful heirs of their body of the forty shilling lands of Porterfield, with the liberty of the Burgh of Renfrew, reserving to the said John a free tenement, and to Katherine ‘MacGregor’ (‘Nighean Vic Gregor’ that is daughter of MacGregor), a reasonable tierce. Register of Great Seal.

“1501, June 14th (13th year of the reign of James IV.). Duncan Campbell of Glenurchy having compounded with the King, and bound himself for the good order of the inhabitants of Discher, Toyer, Glenlyoun, Glendochart, Glenlochy, and Glencoich, obtains a general Remission to them all, of all crimes committed by them before the above date, with the usual exceptions of Treason, Murder, Fireraising, and Rape.

“1502, September 1st. The following lands let on feu to Robert Menzies of that Ilk by Charter of our Lord the King; ‘Rannauch,’ viz., Downane, Kinclaucher, le twa [page 41} Cammysyrochtis, Ardlaroch, Kilquhonane, Laragne, (Learnan?), Ardlar, Laragan, Insula de Lochranach, the louchies of Rannach Yrouchy (Ericht) [13]   cum aliis lacubus et Insulis eiusdem cum pertinentibus. Rentale Supremi Domini Nostri Regis. [41]  

“1503, April 22. Charter by James IV. ‘confirming one of same date by John Lord Drummond of the lands of Fynlarg (Finlarig) in the Lordship of Glendochart, to Duncan Campbell of Glenurquhay.

“1503, April 22. Charter by James IV. of certain lands in Lordship of Strathire and Stewartry of Buchquhidder sold to the Earl of Argyle in a cause ‘Argyle versus Walter Buchanan of that Ilk’

“1503, September 21st. Item ye xxi day of September to Makgregoris man which brect venisoun to the quene x. s. Compot Thesaur.

“On the 8th June 1504, Alexander Robertson of Strowan and, ‘MacGregor in Inenvich’ [15]   were noticed by the Parliament as charged with Treason. Parliamentary Records of this date ‘Probation of the summondis of Alexander Robertson of Strowan and Makgregor Inenvich. The said day Thomas Chisholm, Sheriff deput, swor in jugement that he execut the summons of tresson upon Makgregor Inenvich befor the said witnesses sworne in jugement.’ Continuatio summonitionis Makgregor Inenuyck et Alexandri Robertsone de Strowane. Quo ecciam die Makgregore Inenuyck et Alexro Robertson de Strowane sehe vocat per tras dui Regis sub testimonio Magni Sigilli et tenore eiusd ad respondere dicto supremo domino nostro Regis super certis proditoriis actionibus in eisdem literis contentis; et non comparentibus continuantur ad decimam diem Octobris, &c.” - Parliamentary Records.

“1504, August 1st. Item the first day of August to ane man to pas with the Kingis writing to Makgregor 9 shillings, Lord Treasurer’s books, commonly called ‘Compot Thesaur,’ doubtless the same as he who had sent venison to the Queen the previous year.

“1505, Novr. Sir Robert Menzies sublet Rannoch for five years to Earl of Huntly, whose daughter he married.

“1506, August 28th. Item the 28th day of August to the Vicar of Balquheder quhair the king lugeit, 28 shillings.

“Item for a cloke to the King in Balquheder, 27 shillings and 8 pence.

“Item the 1st day of September in Inchcalloun to ane Clarscha (‘Clarsair,’ harper), 13s.

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“Item the 2d day of September to Makgregouris men hed corn etin tua nychtis; £6.

“Item to Makgregouris servandis brocht tua surches to the King, 4 shillings.

“Item to ane man to turs (pack) tua surches of deir to the Quene at Linlithgow, 4s.”

Lord Treasurer’s Books :-
“1506, September 8th. Item to Makgregouris man of bridil silver of ane horss giffen to the King, 13s. Compot Theasaur.
“King James IV. had been on a hunting expedition at Balquhidder and Strathfillan in September 1502. ‘Item the samyn nycht (Sep. 13th). To the King at ye park of Buquheder to play at ye eartes xviijs.’ He had that day received a present from Duncan Campbell whose servant, the bearer got nine shillings from the King’s Treasurer. The Countess of Argyll had sent a present to the King on the same day, and her messenger received the same sum. ‘Item ye xvj. day of September for four hors in Strafilane to ye King to rede to ye sete of ye hunting ixs: ‘Item to the rnen of the place quhair ye king lay, and for hay that was taen fra him xüjs.’ On September 18th is the following entry- ‘Item to ye man that gydit the king fra ye fote in (of) Bynemore to Buquhedder iijs,’ and the following, ‘Item the samyn day to ye vicar of Buquheder quhaire the King baited xiijs.’ The King’s horses had on their way to the hunting been turned, as would seem, into the vicar’s cornfield, as under 14th September the following entry occurs-

‘Item to ye priest bes his corne etin with ye court hors, be the Kings command xiijs.’ Bards and minstrels had flocked to the Sovereign, who gave them various sums of money. [16]   “1507, 4th July. Preceptum Remissionis Nigelli McAne Moil, ane McFinlason et Johannis McLeache pro receptatione Patricii [17]   Duncanbegsone et Johannis Dow sui fratis &a Apud, Perth, 4th July 1507 (Privy Seal, iv. 113).

“1510, September 6th. Preceptam Remissionis Donaldis Robertsoun pro communicatione cum Johanne Moill McGillaspy, Gilberto Moil, et eorum complicibus et pro omnibus aiis actionibus (with the usual exceptions) le data apud [page 43} Tympane (Tempar) prope Lochrannoch, vj Septemibris anno pro-edicte (1510) gratis Jacobo Redeheugh ex mandato Domini per A. Galloway (Privy Seal, iv. 113).

“1511, September 18th. Charter [18]   by Robert Menzies of that Ilk to Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenurquhay, among other witnesses has Domino Jac. McGregoure,17 Notario Publico, [19]   and Dugallo Johneson, of same family.

“1512, October 31st. Charter by Sir Robert Menzies to his eldest son of other lands at the west end of Loch Tay. Kynnaldy, now called Kinnell, which embraced Killin at this time and also the lands of Moreyinche” - Red and White Book of Menzies, by D. R. Menzies, F.S.A. Scot., 1894. The quotations are given by express permission of the Author.

In the reign of James IV. great progress was made towards the general pacification of the country.

“The policy which he adopted was, to separate and weaken the clans by arraying them in opposition, to each other, to attach to his service by rewards and preferment some of their ablest leaders, to maintain a correspondence with the remotest districts, and, gradually to accustom their fiercest inhabitants to habits of pacific industry, and a respect for the restraints of the laws.” For the purpose of quieting the lowland districts the king adopted a system of engaging the most powerful of the resident nobles and gentry in a covenant or band which under severe penalties obliged them to maintain order throughout the country.” [20]   Proud of the success attending his efforts James IV. set out “on horseback unaccompanied even by a groom, with nothing but his riding cloak cast about him, his hunting knife at his belt, and six and twenty pounds for his travelling expenses in his purse. He rode in a single day, from Stirling to Perth across the Mounth, and through Aberdeen to Elgin.”

But in the disastrous year 1513 King James IV. and the “flower of his nobility” unfortunately fell at Flodden, while his only son was still an infant.

The minority of James V. was a time of great trouble to the nation, and little heed was taken of the Highlands. In 1528 many contentions occurred in the Isles, and the King showed much skill in conciliating the island chiefs. But other troubles, occupied the King’s short life, and wearied and worn he expired in the thirty-first year of his age, on the 13th December 1542.

[1] Tytler’s “History of Scotland,” first edition, Vol. iii. page 215.

[2] Acts of Scottish Parliament, King James I., March 1424.

[3] Tytler’s “History,” Vol. iii, page 197.

[4] From the same Charter it appears that Murdac had no lawful issue.

[5] The lands of Auchinrevach are believed to have been the earliest MacGregor possession in Perthshire. - Ed.

[6] “Charterhouse of the Vale of Vertu.” This and the three entries occur in the “Acts Dominorum Auditorum,” formerly at Perth.

[7] See Chapter Vi. volume 1 chapter 6

[8] Son of the preceeding, and the first mentioned under the designation of Glenstray.

[9] The first mentioned of the family of Roro in the obituary. See Chapter vi.

[10] Tytler’s “History,” Vol. iv. p. 293.

[11] Abridged from ibid.

[12] Given in “Chartulary”.

[13] Errochd, “around which were many broken men of the ClanGregor.” - Black and White book of Menzies.

[14] These lands were at some time erected into the free Barony of Rannach – Red and White Book of Menzies.

[15] Inenvuyche or Innervucht in Glenlyon.

[16] A well-known tradition relates that on the occasion of a Royal visit to MacGregor, the Sovereign, surprised at his large following, asked how he could afford to keep so large a retinue, to which the now landless Chief relied : “My wash hand bason is sixteen miles long, and my towel twelve yards,” alluding to Loch Tay and to his belted plaid. “Thou art greater than a King,” is said to have been the reply. - Rev. Wm. MacGregor Stirling.

[17] This Patrick, son of Duncanbeg (probably he who died at Rorow, 1477), may gave been the Patrick MacGregor who is said to have got possession of Dunan in 1480. He died in Morinch, 1522.

[18] The lands conveyed by this charter were those of Crandyncht or Crannoch, north-west side of Loch Tay.

[19] See later, Sir James MacGregor, Dean of Lismore.

[20] Tytler’s “History,” 1st edition, Vol. v.