CLAN CARRUTHERS INT SOCIETY CCIS PROMPTUS ET FIDELIS
A COMPARISON AND CONTRAST OF THE HIGHLAND AND BORDER CLANS OF SCOTLAND- CHAPTER 2
The Territorial Nature of the Highlands and Borders
In the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, the Highland and Border clans were constantly engaging in combat of one type or another. Sometimes the fighting was between just a few individuals. At other times whole clans would turn out to fight each other. On an even larger scale, the same clans would be part of a force fighting on a national scale and including many other clans fighting side by side with government troops who were not fighting under the banner of a clan chief. When fighting on a national scale, the Scottish clans, both Highland and Border, sometimes fought with the government and sometimes against it. Through all this fighting it is important to understand why the clans were involved in the conflict in the first place. While there were a variety of reasons for this, this thesis will discuss but two: territorial transgressions, where one clan invades the territory of another or is on the receiving end of the invasion, territorial disputes, and in fulfilling obligations of loyalty to one side or another who were preparing for combat.
Territorial Transgressions: Invasions of Territory
This motivation for a clan to war with another clan highlights some important similarities between Highland and Border clans. In both the Highlands and the Borders, clans possessed certain territories. Sometimes the border of clan territory was defined by the extent of land that the chief and a clan could hold by the strength of arms. Clan Gregor appears to be one of these clans. As the Campbells of Glenorchy persecuted them, there seems to be a lack of legal appeal, such as one finds submitted by the Colquhouns against the MacFarlanes (to be discussed shortly). Had they held their land by charter, either from the central government or by a feudal superior, they could have appealed to the source of the charter for redress. In his research on the Statutes of Iona, Julian Goodare notes that there were few clans in the Hebrides who possessed legal documentation that would be acknowledged by the Crown.
Other clans held their lands, as previously mentioned, either from the crown or from a feudal overlord. The MacFarlanes and Clan Donnachaidh were two such clans. An ancestor of the MacFarlanes, Duncan, received a charter for the lands of Arrochar from the Earl of Lennox, a near kinsman. This charter was later confirmed by James I. Robert Riabhach received a crown charter in 1451 for extensive lands in Athole for apprehending the murderers of James I.
Similarly, in the Borders, the Johnstones acquired the beginning of their territory in Annandale from the Bruce family. They added to that territory at the expense of the Douglas clan. In 1455, the Black Douglases were in open rebellion against the crown. At the Battle of Arkinholm, the royal army opposing them was made up of Border clans who would not live under Douglas dominance any longer. Leading this force was John Johnstone of Annandale and Lord of Johnstone. For his part in the victorious battle, Johnstone was awarded some of the Douglas lands in Annandale. In this case, the Johnstones were similar to the MacFarlanes and Robertsons, who acquired their territories from the crown.
The MacDonalds and MacDougals represent a hybrid of these two systems: acquiring and holding the land by the sword on one hand, and holding the land through legal charter on the other. Their ancestor, Somerled, was of mixed Norse and Gaelic heritage. Proving to be an able leader, he conquered much of the Hebrides and Argyle, carving out his own kingdom from what had previously been Norwegian territory. His descendants, who include the MacDonalds and their many branches, the MacDougals, and the MacAllisters, continued to hold the territory Somerled conquered. The MacDougals and some branches of the MacDonalds actually allied themselves with King Haakon IV of Norway against King Alexander III of Scotland at the Battle of Largs. Despite this defeat, the clans of the Isles retained their lands, yet were then under the rule of the Scottish king. The royal seal of approval for the MacDonalds came when Angus Og (young Angus) threw his lot in with Robert the Bruce. Angus Og’s brother, Alexander, who was the birthright son, sided against Bruce, along with the MacDougals. As Bruce proved the victor and became Scotland’s king, Angus Og MacDonald acquired large portions of his unfortunate brother’s forfeited territory, as well as much of the MacDougal territory. It pays to be a winner. So the MacDonalds under Angus Og inherited territory from their ancestor, Somerled, who acquired it through strength of arms. This territory and much else, at the expense of other tribes, received the royal confirmation through backing Robert the Bruce.
Two clans that experienced rapid growth in territory through backing Robert the Bruce were the Campbells and the Douglases. Both proved extremely loyal to the Bruce and were rewarded handsomely at the expense of the Bruce’s enemies’ territories. The Campbells would continue their policy of backing the government in Edinburgh, much to the chagrin of their neighbors in the Highlands. The Douglases would do so until the sixteenth century, where their scheming against the crown and subsequent loss on the field of battle would lead to their demise.
However it happened that a clan acquired their lands, clan chiefs were under nearly a sacred obligation to defend the borders of their respective territories from any incursions from other clans. The concept of duthchas was one of a people belonging to the land, rather than land that belonged to a particular person. Duthchas not only referred to the land of a clan but the resources of that land as well. The steward of the land resources was the clan’s chief. In time this concept was to change as chiefs preferred to live in Lowland and even English cities. With this trend, they lost the paternal feeling that had previously been more typical of a chief toward his clan. While this trend was to have dire consequences for the rank and file of the clans, it didn’t really catch on until after the time period this study is concerned with. During the 1300-1500’s clan chiefs still felt not only the obligation to defend the perimeters of their territory, but also the inhabitants of that territory. Territorial transgressions could occur on a small scale, involving raids which included only the chief and his closest men, or could see hundreds of men take the field in disputing the ownership of or title to a specific district.
The Highland clans were always probing the territory of their neighboring clans. This was often done through cattle raids. Cattle raiding was an ancient Gaelic tradition that is evident in the earliest legends of that culture. The Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) is an ancient Irish legend which revolves around a massive cattle raid conducted by the Queen of Connaught against the kingdom of Ulster. Cattle raiding was conducted by the majority of the Highland clans. Martin MacGregor comments that “The fundamental form of warfare [in Gaelic Scotland] was the creach, or cattle raid…” In the introduction to the Wardlaw Manuscript, William MacKay points out that in the Highland tradition, cattle lifting, as it is often referred to, was not regarded as petty theft. It was a noble endeavor conducted by the clan elite, differentiating it, in MacKay’s eyes at least, from the “petty larcenies” of common highwaymen and “the mosstroopers of the Borders.” It actually served more than to simply enrich the clan at the expense of their neighbor. The Daoine Uasal, or clan gentry, usually made up the raiding party, which might consist of a dozen men or 350 men. It was led by the chief or a man who would soon succeed the chief. On this raid, the man in charge had the opportunity to prove his worthiness to lead men in combat due to his courage and wit. Truly, raiding was such an important part of Highland culture that Cathcart phrased it as “an integral part of the clan structure itself.”
Of course it wasn’t just cattle that were stolen. In most descriptions of cattle raids, homes are burnt and portable goods are taken. Those unfortunate enough to be caught in between the raiders and the goods were cut down. When the raid was conducted against another Highland clan, the chief had a serious decision to make. If he did nothing he could be perceived as weak, not only by his own clansmen, but also by the offending party, who might then see an opportunity for expansion. Thus, two reasons for entering a conflict appear: one, for probing and testing the strength of a neighboring clan, the other, for displaying the required strength to not only maintain the clan’s territory, but also to earn the respect of a chief’s clansmen.
Such an affront to a clan’s territory spawned many clan conflicts. The MacFarlanes were notorious cattle raiders in a region known for cattle raiding. In his History of Clan MacFarlane, James MacFarlane relates the details of a feud between the MacFarlanes and the Colquhouns of Luss (pronounced Cuh-HOON). Humphrey Colquhoun sued for forty oxen, sixty cows, and ten horses. On a later occasion, the MacFarlanes allied with MacGregors, themselves notorious raiders, and descended on the fields and pastures of Luss. The number of the invading party is not given but this does seem to be a larger one than when the raid was carried out by stealth and under the cloak of night. The same Humphrey Colquhoun assembled a force to repel the invaders. Although the defenders fought hard and drew much blood, they were outmatched by the raiders. Sir Humphrey fled to his stronghold of Bannachra, pursued by the MacFarlanes and MacGregors, where he was shot by an arrow through a loophole. After killing Sir Humphrey, they killed some of his close friends, raped his daughter, and then set fire to Bannachra.
On occasion, the cattle raid was carried out in retribution for some offense. In The History of the Feuds and Conflicts among the Clans in the Northern Parts of Scotland and the Western Isles; from the Year MXXXI unto MDCXIX, a conflict which is illustrative of this occurred. The inhabitants of Athole, in the central Highlands, mistreated John Monro, who was on his way from Strathardle, in the southern Highlands, to Ross, in the north. In return, Monro brought back 350 of his best men to exact retribution for his treatment. They pillaged and plundered, carrying away the cattle of the region.
The Highland clans did not have a monopoly on cattle raiding. This was practiced extensively in the Border country and is one of the matters that really make the two regions look similar to each other. The Calendar of Border Papers is a collection of papers detailing the day-to-day affairs of the Borders. In this collection is repeated reference to Scottish raids across the border, where their conduct looks much like the raids of the MacFarlanes described earlier. It wasn’t just cattle that were taken, although in certain entries they are specifically mentioned. Under the entry for March 10, 1579 is found a “Muster of the East Marches.” Numerous villages describe the depredations of Scottish border reivers enriching themselves at the expense of the villages. Sometimes, the villages are vague in their report, claiming only that they have suffered from “Scottish rebels.” In other entries, the record is specific. Certain names seem to appear more than others in this specific part of the Calendar. The Scots of Buccleuch are recorded by name (“Bucklughe”) as raiding the villages of Learmouth, Mannylawes, Pawstoun, Cowpland, Kirknewton and West Newton, Wouller, and Dodengtoun. The Kerrs of Ferniehurst (“Fernnyhurst”) are included in the record for Cowpland. Mention of the men of Liddesdale are interspersed throughout the Muster of the East Marches for this date as well. Although they are not mentioned by name, the most prominent clans from this area are the Armstrongs and the Elliots; both known as active Border Reiver clans. 
In a later entry, dated July 12, 1587, Sir Cuthbert Collingwood reported to Sir Francis Walsingham, the principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth, of the terrible state of affairs on the border, caused by Scottish raiders. He includes a list of depredations preceded by the title of the guilty party. The reoccurring names in this part of the Calendar are the Kers, Hepburns, Doulases and Elliots, though one must read between the lines to get this information. The clans are listed by the titles of their chiefs as well as the district they inhabit. The Kerrs had two branches: those of Ferniehurst and those of Cessford. They were often at odds with each other yet both appear here (not necessarily in concert) as conducting raids across the border into the English Middle March. They are recorded in this record under these titles (Fernnyhurst, or Farnehurst, and Cesford). The Hepburns are recorded as “Bothwell”. The Earl of Bothwell at this time was Francis Stewart, who inherited the title from his mother, who was a Hepburn, and to which family the title traditionally belonged. Ironically we find the Douglases under the title of the Earl of “Anguish”. He certainly was a source of anguish, although the name most are now familiar with is “Angus”. Although the Douglas chiefs who held this title tended to run in less parochial circles, the rank and file of the clan were Borderers and were apparently quite active as raiders in the English Middle March. The only clan in this part of the record to be mentioned by name are the Elliots, although they actually appear under an older form of their name; Elwood.
Under the titles held by the heads of these clans are specific depredations they wrought on the English side of the border, mostly in Cookedale and Rydsdale (Redesdale). The record shows that on some occasions the party was relatively small. On 1 May, 1587, eight Kers of Cessford rode to a village called Eldirton and made off with six “horse and meares.” On 25 May, 8 Kers of Fernehurst rode out and took four horses from Rothbury. Other entries describe large raiding parties that obtained quite a significant amount of plunder. On 12 May, the Hepburns embarked with four hundred men to Clenell and took sixty head of livestock and even included some of the natives as captives. A party of eighty Hepburns and Douglases set out on 3 June to Rydsdale and brought back sixty “oxen and kye, 100 sheep, and sundry prisoners.” The same clans set out on 23 June and took “500 head of cattle, 300 sheep and 20 prisoners to Lydesdale.” Between 30 April and 7 July, the total of goods taken from the English Middle March totaled “700 oxen, kye and geld cattle and mo., 80 horsse and meres and mo., 400 sheep and mo –with 30 prisoners ransomed to better then on hundrethe poundes starlinge.” 
The Middle and East Marches of England were not the only areas that suffered depredation from the Scots. An entry in the Calendar under the date of June, 1583, is titled “Rules for Defense of the Borders,” and pertains to the English West March. It describes the main defensive positions of that region and what can be done to deter the Scots. The language gives the impression that the inhabitants of this march were more worried about “…the keepinge out of the Scottishe theves of Greteney, Redhawll, Stilehill, and others of the Batable landes of Kinmowthes retynewe, that comonlie use to ride in the nighte time through the said barronrie of Browghe to th’incontrie, and not onlie breake pore mens howses and onsettes, but bereave them of- all that they have, bothe Incite, horsse and cattle, and that which is worse, their lyves also…” than they were about a Scottish government force sent from Edinburgh. The Johnstones were a tribe of the Scottish West March who were described as treating their neighbors property as though “it had been taken from their lands, and that their acts are but legitimate appropriations.” This Border clan had a well-known spot for keeping their stolen cattle, no doubt some of them being the subject of the previous Calendar entry. It is a pocket in the midst of steep hills north of Moffat, known affectionately as the “Devil’s Beef Tub.”
Therefore, both Highland and Border clans shared a common practice of cattle raiding. In the Highlands these raids were carried out against other Highland clans, and, in cases where the clan lived close to the Lowlands they would target Lowlanders. In the Borders, these clans would also target each other but are found in abundance crossing the border and riding off with English livestock and other forms of plunder. In both cases, although killing the men in the targeted area doesn’t seem to be a main objective, neither Highland nor Border clans appear averse to this action if it is the difference between a successful mission or a failed one. Although cattle raiding in the Borders seems to lack the ancient foundation it had in the Highlands, the Border Reivers seem to have become equally adept at this practice.
Territorial Transgressions: Territory Disputes
Raiding wasn’t the only problem between the clans when it came to territorial problems. As mentioned earlier, feudalism brought by the Normans took a uniquely Scottish shape as the natives adjusted to this new element in the ruling elite. Unlike England, the Normans came to Scotland in a largely peaceful manner. There was no Scottish equivalent of the Battle of Hastings. The Normans came into Scotland invited by David I in the twelfth century and were given land and title. This occurred in all regions of Scotland. Those regions easily accessible by Edinburgh experienced a more profound change than did more remote areas. Yet even in the remote areas of the Highlands and Borders, this new system found a way to form a symbiotic relationship with native institutions. This was facilitated by the fact that the Crown had key players in even the most remote of areas. In the western Highlands, which had a reputation for an antagonistic stance toward central authority, the chief of the Campbells promoted the interests of the Crown. This was one of the major factors in their rise to power. In the northeast the Gordon Earls of Huntly represented the central government. Interestingly, the Campbells descend from native Gaelic nobility while the Gordons descend from Norman settlers in Scotland. Both leaders could exercise the power of a Gaelic chief while moving comfortably in the royal, Anglo-Norman circles of the Lowlands.
This uniquely Scottish feudalism saw the old mormaerships transition into earldoms. Wormald articulately describes this concept of fitting feudalism over pre-existing political concepts. As an example she uses the earldoms of Badenoch and Sutherland, the earls of which “fitted comfortably into the role of Highland chiefs, wielding a more or less traditional hegemony over largely Gaelic-speaking clients.” This was also true of the Earls of Argyle who also wore the hat of the chiefs of the Campbells (clan Diarmuid), styling themselves MacCailein Mor (son of Colin the Great). Wormald illustrates how mormaers became earls, “Most ‘provincial lordships’ corresponded to pre-existing regional power structures…” and “Most twelfth-century earldoms were based on pre-1100 mormaeships, and ‘earl’ is merely the English term for ‘mormaer’.”
The chiefs of the Border clans also held titles yet it wasn’t as common for Borderers to be the chief of a clan and hold an earldom as well. Many of the clan chiefs of the Borders did hold some sort of title, yet they weren’t as territorial as those held by Highland chiefs. Anna Groundwater supports this by saying of the Border clans, “…there was no direct association between the surname and the lands held by its individual members, in the way that there was, perhaps, an assumption of lands held for a clan in some parts of the Highlands.” What the Border chiefs did have was a system of governing the Borders by breaking it down into Marches, referred to previously. Each country had its own east, middle and west March. They did not match up exactly but were close. Each March had its own Warden. These wardenships, at least on the Scottish side, were held by the head of a surname, or clan chief. This was an appointment, not a hereditary title.
The duty of the march wardens was basically to keep order on the Border. The English Crown appointed their own wardens for their corresponding marches. This was a very territorial based position. Unlike Highland earldoms, this position did not originate or grow out from an older position, like a mormaer. The system of governing the border, with marches and wardens, was a solution to a problem that developed and existed in the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries. Both Highland earldoms and Border wardenships changed hands throughout the years. Yet in both regions, certain families came to be associated with the title and position. In the West March, the position of warden alternated between the Johnstones and Maxwells, as wells as the Douglases. In the Middle March, the Douglas, Stewart and Ker clans were the most common appointees. During the sixteenth century, the wardenship of the Middle March “was held almost exclusively by the Kers of Cessford.” In the East March, the position of Warden went back and forth between the Homes and Douglases.
In the Highlands the picture is similar. Certain chiefs were associated with certain titles. The chief of the whole Campbell clan was always the Earl of Argyle. On the other hand, like the wardenships of the marches, Highland titles changed hands as well. There was less bouncing back and forth, as with the Maxwells and Johnstones, yet changes did occur. The Lordship of Lorne started out as a MacDougal title. The Highland Stewarts acquired the title in the late fourteenth century. Eventually, this position became one of the many titles belonging to the Chief of Clan Campbell. Another example of a lordship changing hands is the Earldom of Sutherland. This title was held for centuries by the de Moravia family but changed hands, through marriage, to the Gordons in the sixteenth century.
Understanding the territorial nature of both Highland and Border titles and the fact that they were often held by men who were also chiefs of clans provides the context to understanding the conflicts between these clans over territory. The line between a clan feud and nobility fighting over title and territory was a blurry one. This type of conflict provided some of the greatest civil conflicts within the Scottish nation during the period under study. Clan against clan fielded hundreds, sometimes thousands, of warriors against each other. Sometimes these conflicts were part of a dispute between two different government factions. Other conflicts arose purely between one clan and another. Often they were a mix of the two, with government forces on one side and a clan, or alliance of clans, on the other. Most often the government relied on clan rivalry to bolster their numbers, as they could count on the aid of a clan who was at odds with the clan opposing the government. This provides yet another similarity between the Highland and Border clans. Examples will clarify.
The Earldom of Ross was a hotly contested title and territory and provided the focus for a series of clan conflicts. The territory of Ross is a massive piece of real estate in the northern Highlands. The possessor of this title controls extensive lands and resources. This earldom was contested by generations of MacDonalds from the early fifteenth century well into the seventeenth century. This mighty Highland clan did not feel it too big of a task to confront government forces over the issue. In the early 1400’s, this earldom lost its last male heir and a contest began for the now vacant title. The two claimants were Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, and the Regent Albany, who was a Stewart and was actually pursuing the title or his son, John Stewart, the Earl of Buchan. The Regent, in his powerful position so close to the Crown, was able to secure the title in his and his son’s favor. This was unacceptable to Donald, who rallied his supporters in an effort to enforce his claim. The conflict gave birth to a series of battles, the first of which is known as the Battle of Harlaw and took place in 1411.
On the side of the Lord of the Isles, this was a massive clan affair. Not only did the Lord of the Isles command several of their own septs, each a respectable clan in their own right, he also enjoyed the support of several major Hebridean clans. Their leaders bore some very colorful names, such as Fierce Iain MacLeod of Dunvegan and Red Hector “of the battles” MacLean of Duart. The Lord of the Isles also had two prominent mainland clans on their side who sported their own descriptive names: Dark Donald Cameron and Little Calum Mackintosh. Most sources give the number of men following the Lord of the Isles as 10,000. The forces supporting the government, rather the Stewart, claims were led by the Regent’s nephew, Alexander Stewart Earl of Mar, who happened to be Donald’s own first cousin. The men that Mar brought to confront Donald’s troops were largely troops who responded to their feudal duty to the nobility of northeastern Scotland. However, there were clans who rallied to the call of their chiefs in opposition to the MacDonalds and their allies. Members of Clan Ogilvy were among those who rallied behind their chief in defense of their lands.
What seems to be skipped over in many of the histories of this coming battle is the conflict which took place with the MacDonald forces en route to Aberdeenshire. This army took time to stop in the country surrounding Inverness and lay it to waste and collect the spoils. They were met in the vicinity of Dingwall by a force of 4,000 men under the command of Angus Dhu MacKay, chief of the MacKays. The MacKays were defeated in battle and the MacDonalds and company continued on their way to confront the Regent’s army. James Browne, in his History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans, asserts that at this point, Donald could have secured his claim to the Earldom of Ross. He became overly ambitious and drove into Aberdeenshire and into his encounter with Mar’s troops. It is worth stopping to observe that this battle, the Battle of Dingwall, was a clan battle in which there were no government troops. Every man on the field was answering to the call of a chief. These forces each numbered in the thousands. This kind of engagement was never seen in the Border country.
Emerging victorious from their encounter with the MacKays, the Islemen moved on to confront the Regent’s forces under the Earl of Mar. Tactically, the Battle of Harlaw was inconclusive as each side sustained heavy casualties and neither side was able to drive the other from the field. Strategically, it was a win for the Regent as the Lord of the Isles and his massive yet depleted army moved back to their homes, leaving the Earldom of Ross for the Regent’s son to enjoy. Harlaw marked the beginning of military conflicts over Ross that involved no troops from the central government. Other perspectives need consideration with respect to the argument. Donald brought thousands of men to war who responded to their leaders as clansmen. Their force was big enough to contend with the Crown on equal terms. To restate this, there was a force within the Scottish nation that was independent of the central government and was as large and as capable as the forces of the central government, and was based upon the Highland clan structure. The Border clans had no comparable event or capability. The Douglas clan tried something similar forty-four years later at the Battle of Arkniholm. The title in dispute was actually the Crown itself. The principle here is the same but the scale differs so drastically that it cannot be compared with Donald’s efforts at Harlaw.
Another instance which serves to illustrate the conflicts that Highland clans had over territory occurred in 1517 between the MacKays and the Earl of Sutherland. The reader should understand that this example is but one in a long history of feuding between these regions. This particular battle is known as Torran – Dhu. The occasion was the change of ownership of the Earldom of Sutherland from the Clan Sutherland to the Gordons through marriage. Seeing the opportunity to take advantage of the change of ownership and a possibly associated lack of leadership, John MacKay rallied men from Strathnaver, Assynt, and Eddrachillis to invade the lands of Sutherland. What he didn’t count on was the bond of loyalty between Alexander Sutherland and the current Earl of Sutherland, Adam Gordon, his brother –in -law. Upon hearing of the invading MacKays and the ensuing destruction, Alexander called upon John Murray and William Mackames, with their men, for help. Exactly how many warriors were in each force is not given in History of the Feuds and Conflicts. However, there is mention of casualty numbers.
MacKay would have been at the head of a considerable force. Upon his defeat, MacKay retreated to a safe place and selected “a number of the ablest men in all his host, and with these he himself returned again to the conflict.” When considering that MacKay has lost men already, and then, of those who remain only a portion are selected to return to the fight, the force he returned to engage the Sutherlands with must have only represented a small number of the original. The second engagement went poorly for MacKay. He barely escaped with his life. Recall that MacKay set out with men from three districts: Strathnaver, Assynt, and Eddrachillis. No numbers are given for the men from Eddrachillis. Of those from Assynt, their chief, Niell Macean – Macangus was slain, with “divers of his men.” Only for the men of Strathnaver are exact numbers given. 216 died on the field of battle in the second engagement, with more dying in the route that ensued. The original force that MacKay entered Sutherland with must have been numbered by the hundreds. No numbers are given for the other side, led by Alexander Sutherland but considering they won the battle, even if they didn’t have quite as many as MacKay had, they were at least more than competitive. The picture emerges of two forces led by alliances of clan chiefs, numbering in the hundreds, and facing off for battle.
This same Alexander Sutherland who so valiantly opposed John MacKay at the Battle of Torran – Dhu, ended up marrying MacKay’s sister, thus building an alliance between the two clans. This alliance became very beneficial in Alexander’s bid for the Earldom of Sutherland. So much for that bond of loyalty between Alexander and his brother-in –law, Adam Gordon. There is more detail to this struggle than given for the Battle of Torran – Dhu, but less of numbers. Alexander’s initial offensive included enough men to take Dunrobin Castle, the seat of the Earls of Sutherland. Adam Gordon, who was in Strathbogie at the time, arrived in Sutherland with enough men to retake Dunrobin.
A final clash occurred between the forces of Alexander and Adam. Adam discovered Alexander walking on the beach as though he had already won the conflict. What the record relates next does give some hint about numbers engaged on either side. Adam instructed his friends, Alexander Leslie, John Murray (or Morray), and John Skorrigh – MacFinlay to engage Alexander Sutherland in a skirmish while he (Adam) went to bring more men to the fight. Through his marriage to a MacKay, Alexander would have had access to a significant pool of men. This was important for not all Sutherlands were loyal to Alexander, some preferring to side with his sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Adam Gordon. When Alexander took Dunrobin castle, he killed such of these clansmen as would not support him in his contest for the earldom. Those loyal to and serving with Alexander Sutherland must have presented a large enough for that Adam felt unprepared to engage him in a direct conflict. As a member of the leading family of the Gordon clan, Adam had plenty of men to send for.
In the Borders, most of the conflicts over titles or land seem to be centered on which clan will occupy the wardenship. This was definitely a source of contention between the Maxwells and the Johnstones. Up until the battle of Dryfe Sands, the conflict took the usual shape it did amongst the Borderers: raid and counter raid. Occasionally the numbers involved were large, approaching those commonly seen in the Highlands. More often they were smaller numbers. In the Johnstone/Maxwell feud, the Johnstones could “put no more than 300 men in the saddle.” The Memoirs of Robert Carey contradict this. He claims that, during the same time period, the chief of this notable Border Reiver clan could “wave his hand and a thousand men would leap on horseback.” So this conflict may not have been as lopsided as Fraser would have us believe. The Maxwells were apparently better off when it came to manpower. In a raid which took in 16 miles of Johnstone territory, the Maxwells brought along 1700 lances. This, however, did not end in a pitched battle, which was probably fortunate for the Johnstones. Eventually things did come to a decisive head. At Dryfe Sands, the chief of the Maxwells arrived at the head of 2000 men. Johnstone, by this time, was able to muster 400. Fortunately, he could count on the alliance of members of the Elliots, Scotts, Irvines, and English Grahams. Despite having numbers in his favor, Johnstone proved tactically superior and turned a victory into a route, pursuing his enemies into the town of Lockerbie, cutting the fleeing Maxwells down as they ran.
Another feud that centered around a contention for the wardenship of the Middle March was that of the Kers of Cessford against their kinsmen, the Kers of Ferniehurst. A branch of this feud involved a unique case where the Kers of Ferniehurst found themselves at odds with the town of Jedburgh during the 1570’s. This unusual feud came to a head in February, 1572 when Ker of Ferniehurst assembled a force of 3000 men, providing one of the instances where a Border chief did bring a large force to bear, completely independent of any part in a larger scale conflict that involved the government. Fraser claims that part of the feud between this branch of the Kers and Jedburgh had to do with these Kers being in favor of Mary, Queen of Scots and Jedburgh choosing the side of James VI. There is something important to understand when it comes to this kind of matter. Often, factions which are at feud with one another will use ongoing conflicts as a premise to legitimize their violence against each other. This was true of the Scots at this time, as well as of different American factions during the Revolutionary War, and during the Civil War. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in the causes these factions claim to espouse. Usually, there was already bad blood which was started by something much more personal. Fraser gives the Ferniehurst support of Queen Mary as the premise for the Scotts, who also supported the Queen, joining up with them for their descent upon Jedburgh.
Against a marauding force of 3000 Kers of Ferniehurst, Scotts of Buccleuch, “broken men” from England, as well as a contingent of outlaws under a man named Alexander Trotter, the town of Jedburgh stood little chance. A force sent by Ruthven from Edinburgh, however, came to their aid, as did a number of riders under Kers nemesis, Ker of Cessford. In this way a town was pulled into the feud between the Kers of Ferniehurst and Cessford, which had as a major source of contention the wardenship of the Middle March.
In the discussion about why Highland or Border clans decided to fight, this thesis only used examples that dealt with territory. Religion proved to be a major reason for going to war, especially in the sixteenth century, yet it will have to wait for the next research paper. When discussing territorial disputes, the Highland and Border clans look very similar. Both Highland and Border clans turned cattle raiding into a fine art. In both cases, the raid could be a tool for the up and coming men of the clan to prove themselves. On the surface, some of these raids were retaliatory in nature but did not exclude the practical element of getting the clan’s property back. Cattle weren’t just a sign of wealth, they were what’s for dinner.
When it came to territorial disputes, the principle was the same yet the form was slightly different in the Highlands than it was in the Borders. In the Highlands, the titles held by the clan chiefs were very territorial in nature, much more so than in the Borders. The holder of the Earldom of Ross possessed a vast tract of Highland real estate, which the MacDonalds and their allies felt was well worth fighting for. In the Borders, the title that was most fought over was that of warden of one of the three marches. This was the premise for the Johnstone/Maxwell feud as well as the Ker of Ferniehurst/Cessford feud.
 Julian Goodare, “The Statutes of Iona in Context,” The Scottish Historical Review LXXVII, no. 203 (April, 1998): 34.
 William Fraser, The Lennox: Vol. 1 Memoirs (Vol. 2 Muniments), (Edinburgh: 1874): 228.
 A study done by Bryan Sykes and Jayne Nicholson concerning the DNA of individuals bearing these surnames indicates that the claims of these families being descended from Somerled are more than fanatasy. See Bryan Sykes and Jayne Nicholson, “The Genetic Structure of a Highland Clan,” The University of Oxford, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.
 Oliver Thomson, The Great Feud: The Campbells & The MacDonalds, (Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 2000): 4, 12.
 Martin MacGregor, “Warfare in Gaelic Scotland in the Later Middle Ages,” Edward M. Spiers, ed. A Military History of Scotland. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012): 216.
 James Fraser, Chronicles of the Frasers: The Wardlaw Manuscript, (Edinburgh: University Press and T. and A. Constable, 1905): xxviii.
 Alison Cathcart, “Crisis of Identity? Clan Chattan’s Response to Government Policy in the Scottish Highlands c. 1580-1609,” In Steven Murdoch and A MacKillop, ed. Fighting for Identity: Scottish Military Experience c. 1550-1900. History of Warfare, 15 (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill: 2002): 165.
 James MacFarlane, History of Clan MacFarlane, (Glasgow: David J. Clark Limited, 1922): 72. Note that Colquhoun could sue for this property because he possessed it by legal charter.
 Ibid., 72-73. So engaged in cattle raids were the MacFarlanes that their pipe tune (pibroch in Gaelic) was titled “Thogail nam Bó Theid Sinn” (To Lift the Cattle We Go). Not always on the giving end, the MacFarlanes are said to have obtained their slogan, or war-cry, in recovering their cattle from a party of Athole men. This happened near Loch Sloy, at the foot of Ben Vorlich, and became their battle-cry.
 The History of the Feuds and Conflicts among the Clans in the Northern Parts of Scotland and the Western Isles; from the Year MXXXI unto MDCXIX, (Glasgow: J&J Robertson, 1780): 5-6.
 Joseph Bain, ed., vol. 1 of The Border Papers: Calendar of Letters and Papers Relating to the Affairs of the Borders of England and Scotland, (Edinburgh: H. M. General Register House, 1894): 14.
 Ibid., 262-63.
 Ibid. It should not be assumed that everyone on this expedition would have borne the name of Hepburn or Douglas. Those in leadership likely did, as well as a fair number of those that followed. There were also likely many who came from loyal yet smaller clans from the same districts.
 Ibid., 101.
 W. Robertson Turnbull, History of Moffat, (Edinburgh: W. P. Nimmo, 1871): 47.
 The Gordons are an interesting case when it comes to culture. Were they a Highland clan or were they Lowlanders who owned property in the Highlands? Cathcart points out that “at this time, there was still little clear-cut distinction made between Highlander and Lowlander particularly in areas like Huntly’s Aberdeenshire where Gaelic and Scots were both spoken and cultural differences minimal.” The Gordons, while operating out of a stronghold in the Aberdeenshire lowlands, were very active in the Highlands, as Cathcart effectively illustrates. Cathcart, “Crisis of Identity?” 164. Another source that provides a thorough investigation of the blurred nature of this cultural divide is A. MacCoinnich, “’His spirit was given only to warre’: Conflict and Identity in the Scottish Gaidhealtachd, c. 1580 – c. 1630,” in S. Murdoch and A. MacKillop, Fighting for Identity: Scottish Military Experience, c. 1550 – 1900, History of Warfare, 15. (Netherlands: Brill, 2002):132 – 162.
 Wormald, Scotland, 58.
 Anna Groundwater, The Scottish Middle March, 1573-1625: Power, Kinship, Allegiance, (Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, 2010): 52.
 Ibid., 83.
 To name a few of these MacDonald septs which existed at this time: MacDonald of Clanranald, MacDonald of Glencoe, MacIain of Ardnamurchan, and the MacAlisters.
 One of these is Lynch, Scottish History, 347.
 Fitzroy MacLean, Highlanders: A History of the Scottish Clans, (New York: Viking Penguin, 1995): 50.
 James Browne, History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans, IV. (Glasgow: Fullarton & Co., 1840): 435.
 Alastair J. Macdonald, “The Kingdom of Scotland at War, 1332-1488,” In Edward M. Spiers, ed., A Military History of Scotland, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012): 172.
 History of the Feuds and Conflicts, 19-20.
 Sir Robert Gordon, A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland from its Origin to the Year 1630, (Edinburgh: George Ramsay and Co., 1813): 96
 Fraser, Steel Bonnets, 173.
 Robert Carey, Memoirs of Robert Carey, Earl of Monmouth, (London: De La More Press, 1905): 58.
Fraser, Steel Bonnets, 175.
 Ibid., 177.
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