Battle of Bealach nam Broig

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Battle of Bealach nam Broig
Part of the Scottish clan wars
Ben wyvis.jpg
Ben Wyvis seen from the west. Carn Mòr is the smaller hill on the far left, the pass lies between the two.
Dateprobably 1452 (may be as early as 1299)
Location
between Inverness and Ullapool, near Garbat

grid reference NH422713[1]
Coordinates: 57°42′3″N 4°39′4″W / 57.70083°N 4.65111°W / 57.70083; -4.65111
Result "Munros and Dingwalls won a sorrowful or hollow victory"[2][3]
Belligerents
Allies of the Earl of Ross:
Clan Munro
Dingwalls of Kildun
Clan Fraser of Lovat
Septs of Clan Mackenzie:
Clan MacIver
Clan Macaulay
Clan MacLeay
Clan MacLennan
Commanders and leaders
George Munro, 10th Baron of Foulis[4]
William Dingwall, Baron of Kildun[4]
Hugh Fraser, 1st Lord Lovat[5]
Supporters of Alexander Mackenzie, 6th of Kintail:[4]
Donald Garbh MacIver[4]
Duncan Macaulay.[6]
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
According to Sir Robert Gordon (1630):
"lost a great number of men"[2]
According to George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie (1669):
Munro of Foulis and 3 sons killed[7]
According to Alexander Mackenzie (1894):
140 Dingwalls killed[4]
11 Munros killed[4]
According to Sir Robert Gordon (1630):
"Utterly Extinguished"[2]
According to George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie (1669):
All 26 men killed[7]
According to Alexander Mackenzie (1894):
"Extirpated" (Extinct)[4][8]
The historic district of Ross.

The Battle of Bealach nam Broig (Scottish Gaelic: Pass of the Brogue; also known as the Great Battle of Bealach nam Broig, Bealach nam Brog, Beallighne-Broig, and Bealach na Broige) was a battle fought between Scottish clans from the lands of north-west Ross, against north-eastern clans of Ross who supported the Earl of Ross. The actual date of the battle is debated, it probably occurred in 1452[9] but the Conflicts of the Clans suggests a date as early as 1299.[10]

Bealach nam Brog lies about 20 miles northwest of Inverness in the parish of Fodderty, overlooking the A835 road that goes west past Loch Glascarnoch to Ullapool. The pass separates the high ridge of Ben Wyvis from the lower summit of Carn Mòr, overlooking Loch Bealach Cùlaidh to the east. Thomas describes it as 2 miles north west of Garbat, at the watershed between the Strathrannock River and Garbat River, and also as being between Ferrin-Donald and Loch Broom.[6] The Garbat and Strathrannock both run into the Blackwater, a tributary of the River Conon that flows east from Loch Glascarnoch.

Archaeology[edit]

"A perfect specimen of an arrowhead" was found near the battlefield in 1913.[1]

Accounts of the battle[edit]

17th century manuscripts[edit]

Sir Robert Gordon (1630)[edit]

The earliest account of the Battle of Bealach nam Broig was written by Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656) in his book History of the Earldom of Sutherland.

A rising took place against the Earl of Ross by highlanders living in the mountains, consisting of the "Clan-juer" (Clan Iver), "Clantalvigh" (Clan-t-aluigh, i.e. Clan Aulay), and "Clan-leajwe" (Clan-leaive, i.e. Clan Leay).[2]

The Earl Ross responded by capturing the leader of the insurrection and imprisoned him at Dingwall Castle. Incensed, the revolting clans seized the Earl of Ross's second son at Balnagown, to aid in the release of their leader, and carried him with them. The Munros and Dingwalls in response pursued and overtook the rising clans at Bealach nam Broig. A bitter battle ensued, fuelled by old feuds and animosities. In the end the MacIvers, MacAulays and MacLeays were almost utterly extinguished and slain, and the Munros and Dingwalls won a hollow victory: though the Earl's son had been rescued, they had lost a great number of men.[2]

George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie (1669)[edit]

George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie wrote an account in his MS History of the Family of Mackenzie in 1669.[7] He placed the battle immediately after the Battle of Harlaw, in 1411.[7] George Mackenzie states that it was a Mackenzie ("Murdo Nidroit Mackenzie") who was made prisoner by the Earl of Ross, and that the Ross Laird of Balnagowan was then seized by a force of Mackenzies.[7] The Munros then pursued and attacked the Kinlochewe men who held captive the Laird of Balnagowan who was a friend and neighbor of the Munro Laird of Foulis.[7] George Mackenzie's account states that four of the Mackenzie's Kinlochewe men carried the Laird of Balnagowan from the battle while the rest, who numbered twenty-six, were killed to a man.[7] On the other side George Munro of Foulis and his three sons were also killed.[7] The Mackenzie's Kinlochewe men were then successful in using their captive in bargaining for the release of their leader in exchange.[7][6]

John Mackenzie of Applecross (1669)[edit]

John Mackenzie of Applecross wrote his manuscript history of the Mackenzies around the same time that George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie wrote his and the two tally closely in details.[11] It has therefore been suggested that they derive from a common source.[11] Like Cromartie, Mackenzie of Applecross places the battle before the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.[12] However, Mackenzie of Applecross states that the Kinlochewe men were led by one Duncan MacAulay.[12] MacAulay apparently apprehended the Laird of Balnagowan and marched away with him.[12] They were pursued by the Munros and Dingwalls who MacAulay resolved to fight at a pass called Bellach ni broigg.[12] He sent two of his men to flee with the Laird of Balnagowan but the two men instead tied the Laird to a tree to stop him escaping and so that they could join in with the battle.[12] MacAulay's arrows having run out he was forced to quit the pass.[12] The Dingwall Laird of Kildun was killed with seven score of his men and the Munros lost thirteen who were allegedly supposed to succeed the Munro Laird of Foulis.[12] As with Cromartie's account, MacAulay then used his prisoner to bargain for the release of his master who was a Mackenzie.[12]

Wardlaw Manuscript (1674)[edit]

James Fraser wrote the Wardlaw manuscript in about 1674. It states that the Battle of Bealach nam Broig took place in 1374. Fraser states that there was an insurrection against Hugh, Earl of Ross. (At the time the Earl was Euphemia I, Countess of Ross however the chief of Clan Ross was Hugh Ross, 1st of Balnagowen). Fraser states that the rebels attempted to seize the Earl at Dingwall, who being aware of this made an expedition and captured their leader Donald Garve MacIver. The rebels in response captured the Earls' second son, Alexander at Balnagowan. The Earl then acquaints Fraser, Lord Lovat who with the Monroes and Dingwalls pursued the rebels and overtook them at Beallach in Broig, where they were encamped and there ensued a cruel conflict. The rebel clans were almost cut off and the Monroes had a sorrowful victory of it, having lost a great number of their own men but carried back the Earl's son. The Laird of Kildun was killed along with seven score of the name Dingwall.[3]

Letterfearn Manuscript (c.1675)[edit]

The Letterfearn manuscript, written in the late 17th century, contains a bardic story concerning the "battle of the brogues". However, Euphemia I, Countess of Ross had died by 1398 and Euphemia II, Countess of Ross had died by 1424. The generally accepted date of the Battle of Bealach nam Broig is 1452 which therefore casts doubt on the story written in the Letterfearn manuscript.

The story runs that Euphame of Ross wished to marry Mackenzie, despite his refusals. Her followers imprisoned him and tortured his servant, who stated that Eilean Donan Castle would never be surrendered by its constable, Macaulay, except to the one who wore Mackenzie's ring. The ring was then taken from Mackenzie, and used to deceive Macaulay into handing over the castle as a pledge that Mackenzie would not break his alleged engagement to the countess. When Macaulay learned that he was tricked snuck into Dingwall Castle, and communicated with Mackenzie who devised a plan to kidnap the countess' uncle. When the deed was carried out, Macaulay was then pursued by Munros and Dingwalls. When Macaulay and his followers were about to be overtaken he sent his prisoner and two men to continue while he stood to defend a pass. The pass, the story says, has since then been known as the 'pass of the brogue', because the pursuers were forced to cover their chests with their brogues to defend themselves against the arrows of the defenders. When Macaulay's arrows had run out he was forced to quit the pass and retreat towards Kintail. Along the way he surprised a party of Rosses who were carrying provisions to Eilean Donan Castle. Macaulay and his followers then arrived at the castle, passing as the Rosses with provisions, and re-took the castle. Macaulay prepared for a long siege and sent word that he would hang his prisoner, the Laird of Balnagowan, unless his master, Mackenzie, was set free—and so Mackenzie was freed in exchange for Ross of Balnagowan.[6]

19th - 20th century publications[edit]

John Anderson (1825)[edit]

Historian John Anderson wrote an account of the Battle of Bealach nam Broig in his History of the Frasers in 1825, quoting from the MSS of Frasers (Wardlaw MS), MSS of Mackenzies and MSS of Foulis family – in the Advocate's Library.

In 1374, vassals of the Earl of Ross rose against him, the bulk of who were MacIvers, MacAulays, and MacLeas. It was decided they would surprise the Earl, but having been forewarned, the Earl captured and imprisoned their leader, Donald Garbh MacIver in the castle of Dingwall.[5]

The rebelling faction then apprehended the Earl of Ross's second son, Alexander, at Balnagown and carried him captive with them to make a deal with the Earl.[5] The Earl of Ross asked for assistance from the Laird of Lovat, who then sent 200 men and a force of Dingwalls and Munros, in aid of the Earl. This force overtook the clans at Bealach nam Broig where they had encamped. During the battle which followed the clans Iver and Leave (MacLeay) "were almost cut off."[5]

The Laird of Lovat and his force were victorious in the affair, as he had rescued the Earl's son, but the victory was dearly bought. The Dingwalls suffered heavy casualties including their chief, William Dingwall of Kildun, and 140 of his clan. The Munros besides losing many men, also suffered losses to their leading family of Foulis. The Munros of Foulis lost 11 members who were to succeed one another, and after the battle the succession of the house fell to an infant.[5]

Alexander Mackenzie (1894/1898)[edit]

Clan Mackenzie tartan in the Clan Munro exhibition at the Storehouse of Foulis
Clan Ross tartan in the Clan Munro exhibition at the Storehouse of Foulis

Alexander Mackenzie maintained the battle was fought in 1452, citing a manuscript, (the Fowlis papers), which backed up his theory. If the battle was fought in 1452 then the Earl of Ross at the time was John MacDonald of Islay (Lord of the Isles). The battle was instigated by Donald Garbh MacIver and vassals of their chief Mackenzie of Kintail, who attempted to seize the Earl of Ross. After MacIver's plot was discovered he was imprisoned in Dingwall Castle by followers of the Earl of Ross.[4][8]

Mackenzie's followers from Kenlochewe, consisting of MacIvers, MacLennans, MacAulays, and MacLeays, freed him and then seized Alexander Ross of Balnagown (chief of Clan Ross) who was a relative of the Earl of Ross.[4][8]

The Earl of Ross then asked for assistance from the Lord Lovat (chief of Clan Fraser of Lovat) who was "His Majesty's Lieutenant in the North". Lovat sent 200 men who joined Ross's vassals including the Munros of Foulis, and the Dingwalls of Kildun. This force then overtook the clans from Kenlochewe, at Bealach nam Broig.[4][8]

The clans of Kenlochewe were said to have been almost extirpated, while all Dingwalls who numbered 140 were killed and the Munro family of Foulis lost 11, which included the leading men of their clan.[4][8]

R. W. Munro (1978)[edit]

Historian R. W. Munro published a book "The Munro Tree 1734" in 1978 which includes both the details of a Munro family tree dating from 1734 as well as his own historical research into the Munro family. Munro states that the Munro tree of 1734 mentions the Battle of Bealach Nam Broig but it does not say that the Munro chief was killed even though it does mention that other Munro chiefs were killed in other battles such as the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333 and the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547, and it is therefore possible that the Mackenzie statement that the Munro chief was killed at the Battle of Bealach nam Broig is incorrect. There is also no mention on the Munro tree of 1734 of the eleven Munros stated by earlier accounts to have been killed in the battle who were supposed to succeed each other as chief of the clan.[13] However, R. W. Munro does state that it is recorded that George Munro of Foulis was dead by 1453, just a year after the battle.[14]

Mythical account of the name 'Pass of the Brogue'[edit]

A mythical account of the Battle of Bealach nam Broig gives light as to the origin of its name. At a great battle between the Mackenzies and Dingwalls, where the Dingwalls were defeated by the vastly smaller force of Mackenzies who had the aid of a little bodach (old man). Before the battle the old man came to the Mackenzies and promised to help them. He told the Mackenzies to put the left brogue on the right foot and the right brogue on the left foot, and because of this the MacKenzies were able to kill all the Dingwalls.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Bealach Nam Brog". canmore.org.uk. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, (Canmore (database)). Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gordon, Robert (1813) [Printed from original manuscript 1580 - 1656]. A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Edinburgh: Printed by George Ramsay and Co. for Archibald Constable and Company Edinburgh; and White, Cochrance and Co. London. p. 36.
  3. ^ a b Fraser, James (1905) [Edited from original manuscript (c.1674) with notes and introduction, by William Mackay]. Chronicles of the Frasers: the Wardlaw manuscript entitled 'Polichronicon seu policratica temporum, or, The true genealogy of the Frasers', 916–1674. Inverness: Printed at the University Press by T. and A. Constable for the Scottish History Society. pp. 82–83.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mackenzie, Alexander (1894). History of the Mackenzies with Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name. Inverness: A. and W. Mackenzie. pp. 76–79.
  5. ^ a b c d e Anderson, John (1825). Historical Account of the Family of Frisel Or Fraser, Particularly Fraser of Lovat. pp. 53–54. Quoting from the MSS of Frasers, MSS of Mackenzies and MSS of Foulis family – in the Advocate's Library.
  6. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Capt. F. W. L. (1879–80). Traditions of the Macaulays of Lewis (PDF). pp. 381–382. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2007. Quoting Robert Gordon's Genealogie of the Earles of Southerland.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Fraser, William, Sir, K.C.B (1876). The Earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence. 2. Edinburgh. pp. 470–471. Fraser's 1876 book contains a transcript of George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie's 17th century History of the Family of Mackenzie
  8. ^ a b c d e Mackenzie, Alexander (1898). History of the Munros of Fowlis with Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name. Inverness: A. and W. Mackenzie. pp. 17–21.
  9. ^ Scotland's Historic Fields of Conflict Appendix 4: Initial Priority List of Battles, Battlefields Trust, p. 16
  10. ^ Foulis, Robert (1764). The History of the Feuds and Conflicts Among the Clans in the Northern Parts of Scotland and in the Western Isles: from the year M.XX1 unto M.B.C.XIX, now first published from a manuscript wrote in the reign of King James VI. Foulis press.
  11. ^ a b MacPhail, James Robertson Nicolson (1914). Highland Papers. 2. Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable for the Scottish History Society. pp. 2–4.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h MacPhail, James Robertson Nicolson (1914). Highland Papers. 2. Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable for the Scottish History Society. pp. 14–17. MacPhail's 1914 book contains a transcript of John Mackenzie of Applecross's 17th century MS History of the Mackenzies
  13. ^ Munro, R.W (1978). The Munro Tree 1734. Edinburgh. p. v. ISBN 0-9503689-1-1.
  14. ^ Munro, R.W (1978). The Munro Tree 1734. Edinburgh. p. 9 – on opposite unnumbered page – paragraph M. ISBN 0-9503689-1-1.

External links[edit]