Mac an t-Sronaich’s First Murder

This version of the story comes from the CE Uig annals but we haven’t (yet) identified who the storyteller is.

Now, another story I heard from an old minister in Ullapool about Mac an t-Sronaich.  We’re in Ullapool, 30 miles away from Garve where Mac an t-Sronaich came from originally.  Stronach is a common name on the west coast and his family had a small boarding house in Ullapool, where people would come and stay with them.  This is where Mac an t-Sronaich was living, and he had a sister who was friendly with a young girl who was staying with them.

The two girls always shared a bed – there were no single or doubles in those days.  These people who stayed with the Stronach house were fairly well off, and the girl had a gold chain around her neck.  Mac an t-Sronaich had his eye on it, and he meant to get it somehow.  He thought he would go into her room while she was sleeping and snatch it, and no one would know anything about it.

The girls, being girls, were silly, and Mac an t-Sronaich’s sister asked the other one if she could wear the gold chain around her neck for the night, as she herself didn’t have anything like that. The visitor let her have the chain for the night.  Mac an t-Sronaich chose that night to go into their room.  When he grabbed the chain, the girl awoke and cried out, and he killed her there and then, in case he was caught.  Of course, it was his sister, and when he found out in the morning, he ran off and went into hiding, coming to Lewis and living for the rest of his time as an outlaw.

He was captured and hanged in 1836.  His father was an innkeeper at Garve so it may all have happened there, rather than in Ullapool.  The story, with minor variations, is also offered by Bill Lawson in Harris in History and Legend, with the suggestion that the girl who escaped being murdered was Marion Maclean (c1794-1861) from Skye who was subsequently married to Murdo Maclennan in Ardbheag.  If this is accurate and she was indeed a young girl at the time, it dates the beginning of Mac an t-Sronaich’s criminal life to about 1812.

7 thoughts on “Mac an t-Sronaich’s First Murder

  1. thank you for making this information it will really help with my school work thank you alot

  2. one quick-witted woman undoubtedly saved her own life in a ness shieling . she was alone, in bed, when she heard the door, which was locked, being rattled. she called out loudly ‘mary, wake up, theres someone at the door’. the person at the door, who is widely believed to have been mac an t-sronaich, went away.

  3. Theres doesnt appear to be much in the way of any hard evidence regarding what, if any crimes Mac an T-Sronaich committed, other than than a warrant was issued for the arrest of some kind of fugitive in 1834. Is there even any hard evidence that he was indeed hanged, if were talking 1830s, 1840s and said villian was indeed hanged either on Lewis or the mainland, the records of this should not be difficult to track down.

    I once knew a person who was a notorious drunk, about 15 years ago they stopped drinking, but in the village that they came from all manner of stories still circulate about this friend of mines drunken escapades, and these stories are pretty much all gross exaggerations of the truth, theyve been juiced up to make them more entertaining or they are simply false in the first instance. I suspect the Mac anT-Sronaich ‘story’ is of a similar ilk.

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