The Macaulay Resistence

The Rev William Matheson, “Mac Gille Chaluim” and the pre-eminent Island genealogist of his day, gives the following account of the Macaulays resistence to, and eventually tentative alliance with, the Mackenzies who took ownership of the Isle of Lewis in 1610, after the decline of the ruling Macleods and the failed attempt at colonisation by the Fife Adventurers.  This is from his History of the Mackenzies, first published in the Stornoway Gazette in 1955.

The dislodgement of Neil Macleod [natural son of the last chief of the Lewis Macleods] from his island fortress of Berisay may be said to signalise the conquest of Lewis by the Mackenzies. This was effected by a force led by Alexander Mackenzie of Coul in the summer or autumn of 1611; for it is stated that it was within a few months of the death of Kenneth, Lord Kintail, which took place in February of that year. The expedition to Lewis was under the command of Lord Kintail’s brother Roderick, better known as the Tutor of Kintail, and we are told that, after the execution of Neil Macleod in 1613, he “returned to the Lewis, banished those whose Deportment he most doubted, and settled the rest as Peaceable Tenants to his Nephew.” It is probably that it was about this time that Alexander Mackenzie was appointed chamberlain, and that he was the principal agent in these transactions.

Among the last to accept losses from the new chamberlain were the Macaulays of Uig. Their chief at the time was the redoubtable Domhnall Cam mac Dhughaill. It is greatly to his credit that he stood by the Macleods to the last. Even now, when all seemed lost, he was by no means in a yielding frame of mind, and apparently maintained his independence in Uig for a number of years. Eventually, Alexander Mackenzie and other officers were sent by the Tutor of Kintail to negotiate with him, but he rejected all their offers out of hand.

Their threats made no impression on Domhnall Cam, but it was otherwise with his son Angus. When the plenipotentiaries took their departur, Angus Macaulay had second thoughts, and set out after them. He overtook them as they were making their way from Valtos to the Uig Ferry at a place call Braigh Thais. There the conference was resumed, and the outcome was that Angus Macaulay agreed to accept lands from Lot Kintail.

To confirm the pact, it was arranged that he should marry Alexander Mackenzie’s daughter Ann.  This marriage was duly solemnised and Anna nighean Alasdair, as she was called, took up residence with her husband at Brenish, which was the tack he received in virtue of the treaty with his father-in-law. In Uig she is represented as having developed into something of a termagent; but it must be remembered that, whatever her disposition, she can hardly have been a welcome intruder among the Macaulay clan.

Anna was of course the one who sent her husband off to the battle of Auldearn with her scolding, and he stopped on his stone to consider his fate.  Rev Matheson goes on to indicate that the Mackenzie genealogies uphold the tradition of the marriage between Anna and Angus, giving Alexander a son-in-law by the name of Angus Mac Conil Vic Cowil, ie Aonghus mac Dhomhnaill mhic Dhughaill, and that therefore “the rest of the story may be relied upon in the main.”  Alexander himself was supposed to be a very capable man, but fell out of favour with the Earl of Seaforth and Matheson wonders if it was his alliance with the Macaulays that was the cause of it. Alexander is meant to have lived at Eilean Chaluim Chille in South Lochs, on the garden island.

Rev Donald Macaulay also tells this story, with a little more colour, here.