Archive for the ‘Clan History’ Category

We started the story…

  • …of Inchaffray Abbey, and Bruce’s endowment to it in PART ONE, I talked about Bruce’s decision to give an endowment for a chapel to St. Fillan and a brief history of the early, awful months of 1306.
  • In PART TWO, I got into the detail of the Battle of Dalrigh, which, according to one source, is likely the 1306 event for which Bruce credited Fillan’s help.  I finished with:

Now comes the fun (or frustrating) part of research.  The more answers we find, the more questions arise, and all too often, those answers conflict with one another.  We’ll get into some of those tomorrow, along with more on Inchaffray itself and St. Fillan.

[Yes, I just used the quote feature to quote myself.  Now that I've been quoted, does that mean I'm famous?]The frustrations are that some things we just will likely never know for sure.  And that sources sometimes conflict.  The fun…is the same thing.  Mysteries and questions abound!In the case of Bruce’s endowment for the chapel to St. Fillan, his motivation is given in one paper (The Kingship of Robert I, 1306-29) as being ‘in thanks for the intercession of that saint during Bruce’s flight into exile through Perthshire in 1306.’  His source: S. Taylor’s ‘The Cult of St Fillan in Scotland’, in T.R. Liszka and L.E.M. Walker eds., The North Sea World in the Middle Ages: Studies in the Cultural History of North-Western Europe (Dublin 2001).  Not having access to that source, I don’t know what their basis is for linking the endowment to Dalrigh.

Wikipedia, without citing a source for his motivation in particular, says that the gift was in thanks for the miracle at Bannockburn, while Temple of Mysteries, the website of The Stone of Destiny: In Search of the Truth, says only that Bruce’s building of the ‘priory’ (it is called a priory, rather than a chapel here) so shortly after Bannockburn suggests repaying a favor.  He does not speak to which favor, but I would hazard he means the miracle at Bannockburn.

The remains of St. Fillan’s Priory

Regarding the use of the word priory, one site says Bruce ‘endowed a chapel’ which was ‘attached to’ the Inchaffray Abbey.  Temple of Mysteries says he built a priory.  This may not be different things, although the choice of words might infer different things on first reading.  We do know that the original Inchaffray Priory was created around 1200 by Gilbert, Earl of Strathearn and his first (known) wife.  It became an abbey about 1220.

And here we come to another Fun/Frustrating aspect of research: the rabbit holes!  What is the difference between an abbey and a priory?  In short, so as not to digress, a priory is generally considered a ‘lower level’ or subordinate to an abbey.  If you’d like to go down that rabbit hole yourself, you can read a bit more here.

My guess is that Bruce’s endowment for the chapel to St. Fillan does not need to be assigned as thanks for either his escape at Dalrigh or his miraculous victory at Bannockburn.  It may have been a more general thank you for both of these and possibly for more incidents that have not survived in recorded history.  [We sometimes seem to forget that just because our earliest sources mentioning Bruce praying to Fillan date from a hundred years after the fact, (as mentioned in Temple Mysteries) that does not mean that's the first written mention of it.  It may have been documented in multiple sources that did not survive.]

So my guess is that it was in thanks for both and possibly for more.

Bruce had long had a devotion to St. Fillan.  What becomes the interesting question to me is where this devotion started.  It’s not a question I have deeply researched, but it is mentioned in Temple Mysteries that St. Fillan was said to have suffered from leprosy.  Many sites claim Bruce did, too.  So the suggestion put forth is that the leprosy connection (not to be confused with the Rainbow Connection–Muppet reference for you young ‘uns.) is what led to Bruce’s affinity for Fillan.

I tend to side with those who say Bruce had a skin condition that was often erroneously called leprosy at some historical point or perhaps got garbled in translation somewhere along the line–but was not the Biblical leprosy we think of.  But a man with leprosy would likely not be living among others, as Bruce clearly did.  I suspect even for a king, such a thing would not be allowed, and if he had, he did, and it was–wouldn’t we hear about more noblemen around him having leprosy, too?

While I have not researched it in particular, I have also not, in my years of familiarity with St. Fillan, ever heard that he had leprosy.

I would offer that his devotion to Fillan may have begun with the blessing from the abbot at the Culdee Church and the Dalrigh escape.  Or perhaps it started earlier, which is why he credited Fillan with that escape.  Fillan was one of the great Celtic saints, and Bruce certainly had Celtic roots through his mother.

In the end, what we can safely say is that in the first three months of 1318, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, endowed something–priory or chapel–dedicated to St. Fillan, in connection with Inchaffray Abbey, in thanks for the Saint’s help at some time or times plural.

As a writer, this gives enough information to be historically accurate and enough room to work it into the story.

More on St. Fillan: Temple of Mysteries  and A Family of Saints by Dmitry Lapa (the picture above is his–it was the only picture I could find anywhere of the ruins; lots of great pictures on his page.)

~ ~ ~
If you would like to read more medieval history, there’s a great deal more at my other blog.
To learn more about my books, click on the images below
If you would like to follow this blog, sign up HERE
If you like an author’s posts, please click like and share
It helps us continue to do what we do

How does a woman tell her betrothed that she  murdered her first husband?


Elise Kingston is a wanted woman. Nothing,  not even Highlander Marcus MacGregor, will stop her from returning home to  ensure that the man responsible for her daughter’s death hangs.


Until she must choose between his life and  her revenge.


My upcoming release and first book in the Highland Lords series, the Scottish Historical My Highland Love, is set in 1825. When I began my research for this  book, I was intrigued by the history behind the centuries long feud between the  MacGregors and the Campbells.


Here’s a glimpse into how the conflict  began.


In 1519, Iain of Glenstrae died with no  direct heirs. This plunged the Clan Gregor into disarray as the powerful  Campbells asserted claim to the last remaining MacGregor lands. In 1560, the  Campbells dispossessed Gregor Roy MacGregor, who waged war against the Campbells  for ten years before being captured and killed. His son, Alistair, claimed the  MacGregor chiefship but was utterly unable to stem the tide of persecution which  was to be fate of the “Children of the Mist.”


Argyle and his Clan Campbell henchmen were  given the task of hunting down the MacGregors. About sixty of the clan made a  brave stand at Bentoik against a party of two-hundred chosen men belonging to  the Clan Cameron, Clan MacNab, and Clan Ronald, under command of Robert  Campbell, son of the Laird of Glen Orchy. In this battle, Duncan Aberach, one of  the Chieftains of the Clan Gregor, his son Duncan, and seven other MacGregors  were killed. But although they made a brave resistance, and killed many of their  pursuers, the MacGregors, after many skirmishes and great losses, were at last  overcome. Excerpt taken from Wikipedia  Clan Gregor.



So we move forward in time to the eighteenth century and find that the  Highlanders are betrayed by their own lords.


The Highland Clearances (Scottish Gaelic:  Fuadach nan Gàidheal, the expulsion of the Gael) was the forced displacement of  a significant number of people in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and  19th century, as a result of an agricultural revolution (also known as  enclosure) carried out by hereditary aristocratic landowners. The changes were  seen to be supported by the government, who gave financial aid for roads and  bridges to assist the new sheep-based agriculture and trade. The clearances were  particularly notorious as a result of the late timing, the lack of legal  protection for year-by-year tenants under Scots law, the abruptness of the  change from the traditional clan system, and the brutality of many  evictions.


Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, Duchess of  Sutherland, and her husband George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland,  conducted brutal clearances between 1811 and 1820. Evictions at the rate of  2,000 families in one day were not uncommon. Many starved and froze to death  where their homes had once been. The Duchess of Sutherland, on seeing the  starving tenants on her husband’s estate, remarked in a letter to a friend in  England, “Scotch people are of happier constitution and do not fatten like the  larger breed of animals.”


According to

Nobody pursued the clearance policy with  more vigour and cruel thoroughness than Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, and  her name is still reviled in many homes with Highland connections across the  world to this day.



Donald McLeod, a Sutherland crofter, later wrote about the events he  witnessed:


The consternation and confusion were  extreme. Little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property; the  people striving to remove the sick and the helpless before the fire should reach  them; next, struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The cries of  the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted at the same  time by the yelling dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether  presented a scene that completely baffles description — it required to be seen  to be believed.


A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole  country by day, and even extended far out to sea. At night an awfully grand but  terrific scene presented itself — all the houses in an extensive district in  flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o’clock in the evening,  and counted two hundred and fifty blazing houses, many of the owners of which I  personally knew, but whose present condition — whether in or out of the flames  — I could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the  dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days a  boat actually lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but  at night was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of the  flames.



From there, I discovered something very interesting: the Campbells, a very  powerful clan, took advantage of the turning political tide to rid the land of  their old enemy, and seized MacGregor land at every opportunity.


These are the major elements behind the family history of Marcus MacGregor,  the hero in My Highland Love. Clan leader Marcus MacGregor, Marquess of Ashlund,  is next in line to rule his branch of the MacGregors. Marcus is an educated man,  a modern man. He understands the need for peace. But the blood of his ancestors  cries out at each atrocity that is still committed against his people by their  centuries old enemies.



Here’s a peek into Marcus’  thoughts.


Marcus surged to his feet. He strode to the  wall, where hung the claymore belonging to his ancestor Ryan MacGregor, the man  who saved their clan from annihilation. Marcus ran a finger along the blade, the  cold, hard steel heating his blood as nothing else could. Except… Campbells.


Had two centuries of bloodshed not been  enough?


Fifty years ago King George finally  proclaimed the MacGregors no longer outlaws and restored their Highland name.  General John Murray, Marcus’s great uncle, was named clan chief. Only recently,  the MacGregors were given a place of honor in the escort, which carried the  “Honors of Scotland” before the sovereign. Marcus had been there, marching  alongside his clansmen.


Too many dark years had passed under this  cloud. Would the hunted feeling Ryan MacGregor experienced ever fade from the  clan? Perhaps it would have been better if Helena hadn’t saved Ryan that fateful  day so long ago. But Ryan had lived, and his clan thrived, not by the sword, but  by the timeless power of gold. Aye, the Ashlund name Helena gave Ryan saved  them. Yet, Ryan MacGregor’s soul demanded recompense.


How could Ryan rest while his people still  perished?




I think Marcus captures the heart of what  Hal MacGregor of the MacGregor clan says on his blog:

From the MacGregor viewpoint, they had  always seized and held their substantial properties by the sword, and, in their  own judgment, were quite capable of doing just that. Their fierceness in  defending their homelands was renowned and had been proved time and time  again.


My Highland Love is now available at Silver Publishing.