Inventory Battlefield

Battle of MulroyBTL26

Date of Battle: 4 August 1688

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (

Designation Record and Full Report Contents

  • Name
  • Summary Information
  • Overview and Statement of Significance
  • Inventory Boundary
  • Historical Background to the Battle
    • The Armies
    • Numbers
    • Losses
    • Action
    • Aftermath and Consequences
  • Events and Participants
    • Context
  • Battlefield Landscape
    • Location
    • Terrain
    • Condition
  • Archaeological and Physical Remains and Potential
  • Cultural Association
    • Commemoration and Interpretation
  • References


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
NN 26922 81936
226922, 781936

Overview and Statement of Significance

Mulroy is significant as the final major engagement which can be classed solely as a clan battle within Scotland. Shortly after Mulroy is fought, the political climate is transformed by the so-called Glorious Revolution and the nature of clan life and warfare in the Highlands is transformed along with it.

The Battle of Mulroy is known as the last clan battle. It was fought between a force of Highlanders from the MacDonalds of Keppoch, along with allies including Camerons and Macmartins, against the army of Lachlan Mackintosh, with support from his Clan Chattan allies and several hundred Government infantry.

Despite Mackintosh's advantage of numbers, the Highlanders were able to defeat his force and even capture Lachlan himself. However, they were forced to release him when soldiers moved to attempt his rescue and over the coming months the MacDonalds would face a campaign of brutal reprisal, until the Government forces were recalled in the build up to the Glorious Revolution.

Inventory Boundary

The Inventory boundary defines the area in which the main events of the battle are considered to have taken place (landscape context) and where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected (specific qualities). The landscape context is described under battlefield landscape: it encompasses areas of fighting, key movements of troops across the landscape and other important locations, such as the positions of camps or vantage points. Although the landscape has changed since the time of the battle, key characteristics of the terrain at the time of the battle can normally still be identified, enabling events to be more fully understood and interpreted in their landscape context. Specific qualities are described under physical remains and potential: these include landscape features that played a significant role in the battle, other physical remains, such as enclosures or built structures, and areas of known or potential archaeological evidence.

The Inventory boundary for the Battle of Mulroy is defined on the accompanying map and includes the following areas:

  • The summit of Maol Ruadh, on the southern slopes of which the battle took place. The MacDonalds may have approached their final position from the northern side of the hill, taking them close to the summit on their approach.
  • The lower southern slope of Maol Ruadh, including that part of the village of Roybridge to the west of the bridge. This area may have included the location of Mackenzie's original position, the night before the battle.
  • The area to the north-west of Tom na Faire, as the direction Argyll's forces were driven back.
  • The flood plain of the Rivers Roy and Spean on which the fort is probably located, on the Motte and Bailey castle built on a natural gravel terrace on the western bank of the Roy. Keppoch House is located on a higher terrace, though the location of the original house, present in 1688 and razed during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, may have been in a slightly different location (the present house was built in 1760s).

Historical Background

When his forces gathered at the end of July 1688, Lachlan Mackintosh ordered the construction of a fort near Keppoch House, physically claiming the land that the law upheld as his. The Rivers Spean and Roy were running high and it was not possible to cross them (the accounts are vague as to whether the builders were trapped on the MacDonald side of the rivers). As the construction of the fort continued, Coll MacDonald's force gathered, shielded by the hills of Glen Roy. Captain Mackenzie of Suddie was dispatched from Inverness to aid Mackintosh.

Mackintosh's force, commanded by Captain Mackenzie, had to wait until the first week of August before they had the opportunity to meet with their enemies. Upon crossing to the north of the Spean and to the west of the Roy, they found their enemies arrayed on good ground on the slope of Maol Ruadh.

The night before the battle, Mackenzie's men were drawn up in battle array between the fort and the MacDonalds on the hill. During the night, the number of MacDonalds and their allies increased from around 200 to 600 or 700. The next morning the two forces met on the slope of Mual Ruadh. The MacDonalds and their allies, who were positioned on the high ground, executed a classic Highland charge down the slope towards the Mackintoshes. While some accounts describe the MacDonalds discharging one volley before charging forward to meet their foes with drawn swords and Lochaber axes, another quite detailed account describes a fire-fight lasting for up to an hour (MacBane). The fighting resulted in many casualties, including Mackenzie and several leading members of Clan Chattan, before the Mackintoshes were routed.

The regular troops of Mackenzie's force returned to their garrison at Inverness, carrying with them some of the wounded. The MacDonalds captured Lachlan Mackintosh and his family, along with his possessions and supplies that had been moved to the old fort near Keppoch House. Mackintosh was forced into a written agreement regarding the tenancy of the MacDonald lands, but the prisoners were hastily released before they could be rescued.

The Armies

The battle is often remembered as the last clan battle and this is reflected in the nature of the two opposing sides. The MacDonalds and their allies, which included the Camerons and the Macmartins were led by Coll MacDonald and their force built very much on traditional clan lines. The Chattan alliance, however, was supported by regular government troops based in Inverness under the command of Mackenzie of Suddie.


Mackintosh: Mackintosh and his Clan Chattan allies were able to raise 400-500 men and were augmented by a government force to bring their total strength to approximately 1000 (Mackenzie 1688, Drummond 1842, Gregory 1881, Roberts 2000).

MacDonald: The MacDonalds of Keppoch mustered an estimated 200 men of their own clan, but were able to add 500 or so more men from the Camerons of Lochiel and the MacMartins of Letterfinlay (Mackenzie 1688, Gregory 1881, Roberts 2000).


Casualties were reportedly heavy, though no exact numbers are quoted in any of the sources.


When the invasion force gathered at the end of July 1688, Lachlan Mackintosh ordered the construction of a fort near Keppoch House, physically claiming the land that the law upheld as his. In a letter to the Earl of Perth Mackintosh writes,

'My freinds and I are here makeing up a little fort, in quhich we are to leave some men for secureing me in my possessione, this being the onely most probable meane for reduceing the rebells, and hat it not been for this we had been at them ere now, besides that the spates are impassible, but how soone the waters fall we hope to make account of them' (Mackintosh 1688: 352).

As Mackintosh reported, the Rivers Spean and Roy were running high and not able to be crossed. As the construction of the fort continued, Coll MacDonald's force gathered, shielded by the hills of Glen Roy. Captain Mackenzie of Suddie, dispatched to aid Mackintosh by the Privy Council, describes the tense waiting game in a letter to General Douglas, the commander of the King's army in Scotland:

'Mey it pleas your Excellence, According to your ordor I joynd McIntoshie at this place Saturday last, in quhich tym wee have alwayes exterordinar rains. The first two or three dayes wee could see non off the rebels, bot now that the waters ar not passable for ther greatnes and ther being no bridges bot an off on tree bredth, ther apear about 200 off them on the other syd off the watter about half a myle from ws, and we have intelligence that ther ar presently the lyk number, iff not greater, not farr off hear; by this wee conjectur that ther freinds from all places to run to them, for all that trybe off the MacDonalds on Duck Gordons land and McIntoshes will not exceed 200 men' (Mackenzie 1688: 299).

Mackintosh's force, commanded by Captain Mackenzie, had to wait until the first week of August before they had the opportunity to meet with their enemies. Upon crossing to the northern banks of the Spean and Roy, they found their enemies arrayed on good ground on the slope of Maol Ruadh. Historians such as Hopkins and Roberts estimate the battle to have taken place around 4 August, though William Mackintosh of Borlum reports that the fighting occurred on the morning of the 7 August. In a letter describing the battle to the Duke of Gordon, Borlum writes that events

'drew to a full head upon Monday's night, the 6th of August.... And C:McKenzie with his company, seconded with near 300 of Mackintoshe's men drew up betwixt them and the ffort, and there all that night both parties stood in armes within a musket shot to one another, under cloud of which night the rebells incressed to the number of 6 or 700...' (Mackenzie Papers, Manuscript 39200, folio 3).

The next morning the two forces met on the slope of Maol Ruadh. The MacDonalds and their allies, who had gained the high ground, executed a classic Highland charge down the slope towards the Mackintoshes. They fired one volley and charged forward to meet their foes with drawn swords and Lochaber axes. Fighting reportedly lasted an hour and resulted in many casualties, including Mackenzie and several leading members of Clan Chattan before the Mackintoshes were routed.

Secondary sources do not go into detail of the battle, merely citing the action as a classic Highland charge. According to Borlum, however, the MacDonalds first concentrated on the left of the Mackintosh force 'to pass by us to Keppach [sic] and thr seise Mackintoshe, his Lady, and all our baggage, horses, and spoile at the old ffort in Keppach' (Manuscript 39200, folio 3), but met resistance from Captain Mackenzie. The attempt then switched to the right of the Mackintosh force and was quickly followed by a full charge against the whole of the line, under the force of which Mackintosh resistance crumbled. Borlum describes the final mass charge:

'[T]their whole body immediatly rushed furiously over a Stryp that rune betwixt them & us, (all naked except their shirts) and forced a detashd partie that stood in defence of that pass opposite to Mackintoshe his coulours, to retire hastily to their owne body, which our body perceiwing gave ground at first, and then immediatlie shamefully began to run disorderly towards the scounce (?) notwithstanding of all the strokes and threats of their officers to the contrary' (Manuscript 39200, folio 3).

In his reminiscences, Donald MacBane describes his experience as a young soldier in Mackenzie's regulars from his position on the right of the Mackintosh line:

'The two Clans was both on Foot, and our Company was still with Mcintosh, who Marched towards MacDonald and his Clan, untill we came in sight of them. Then both Parties ordered their Men to March up the Hill, a Company being in the Front, we drew up in a Line of Battle as we could, our Company being on the Right; we were no sooner in Order, but there Appears Double our Number of the MacDonalds, which made us then to fear the Worst, at least for my part, I repeated my former Wish (I never having seen the like) The MacDonalds came down the Hill upon us without either Shoe, Stocking, or Bonnet on their Head, they gave a shout, and then the Fire began on both sides, and continued a hot Dispute for an Hour; then they broke in upon us with their Sword and Target, and Lochaber Axes, which obliged us to give way, seeing my Captain sore wounded, and a great many more with Heads lying cloven on every side, I was sadly Affrighted, never having seen the like before, a Highland-man Attacked me with Sword and Targe, and cut my Wooden handled Bayonet out of the Muzel of my Gun; I then Clubed my Gun and gave him a stroak with it, which made the Butt-end to fly off; seeing the Highland-men come fast upon me, I took my Heels, and Run Thirty Miles, before I looked behind me, every Person I saw or met, I took him for my Enemy, at length I came to the Garrison of Inverness; what was left of our Company came up some time after; we remained there untill the next Year 88, when King William came over, and our Company was broke' (MacBane 1728: 75-77).

The regular troops of Mackenzie's force returned to their garrison at Inverness, carrying with them some of the wounded, including their commander Mackenzie, who would die of his wounds (Hopkins 1986). The MacDonalds captured Lachlan Mackintosh and his family, along with his possessions and supplies that had been moved to the old fort at Keppoch House. Mackintosh was forced into a written agreement regarding the tenancy of the MacDonald lands, but the prisoners were hastily released when a force of either Macphersons or Grants arrived to save him (Hopkins 1986).

Aftermath & Consequences

The aftermath of the action on Maol Ruadh was one of violent reprisal against the victorious MacDonalds of Keppoch. The presence of royal troops, and their casualties necessarily involved the Privy Council, which wanted a garrison stationed in Lochaber to impose order. In response to Mulroy, the Privy Council sent 150 foot and 60 dragoons to raze the Keppoch lands and exterminate men, women and children. Despite these harsh orders, most of the inhabitants escaped to the hills, though houses, crops and food stores were destroyed. After a month of punishing the Keppoch MacDonalds, the government troops were quickly recalled as James VII's attention became focused on the anticipated invasion of William of Orange and the start of the Glorious Revolution.

The battle of Mulroy illustrates the importance of ground in Highland battles and how the successful combination of advantageous terrain and the momentum of the Highland charge could be used to great effect. Precisely the same tactic used by the Keppoch MacDonalds was used a year later, again to resounding victory, by the Jacobite army of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee at the battle of Killiecrankie.

Mulroy is remembered as the last of the clan battles. Soon after Mulroy the Glorious Revolution and the installation of William and Mary on the British throne resulted in a consolidation of government control and the stationing of regular government troops in the Highlands. Mulroy occurred at a point when traditional clan rule was being incorporated into a more centralised authority.

Events & Participants

As the Battle of Mulroy was a clan battle, albeit with national resonance, it is perhaps unsurprising that none of the participants were major national figures. However, the main opponents were important figures within the Highlands, with Coll MacDonald, a former university student, perhaps representing a more forward looking generation than his foe Lachlan Mackintosh.

Coll MacDonald was the fifteenth Chief of Keppoch. He was a committed supporter of James, who also commanded the army of highlanders at Mulroy in 1688 and was with the Jacobite armies at Killiecrankie the previous year and at Sheriffmuir in 1715. He had been Chief since the death of his father Archibald in 1682 and inherited from him the dispute of land and tenancy which had first caused Lachlan MacKintosh to successfully press the Privy Council for a commission of fire and sword in 1681. Coll was studying at the University of St Andrews at the time of his succession, a clear indication that the upper strata of the highland clans were not the uncultivated mountain men which Lowlanders generally regarded them to be. Initially, he sought to resolve the situation through negotiation but when this failed, and indeed led to him spending some time in jail, he was equally capable of demonstrating that there was also warrior's blood flowing through his scholar's veins.

In 1688, Mackintosh had the commission of fire and sword renewed but this time it came with the added value of assistance provided by royal troops based in Inverness. These men were under the command of Captain Kenneth Mackenzie of Suddie, who was mortally wounded during the battle, dying on his return to Inverness. Lachlan Mackintosh was also taken, along with his wife and family whom he had brought with him, but was released very soon after, perhaps in anticipation of the reprisals which were inevitable given the defeat delivered against government troops.

Ironically the best known figure at Mulroy was not a clan chief or military officer but a private soldier. Donald MacBane was a private soldier, present at the battle of Mulroy in 1688 and Killiecrankie in 1689, immortalised his exploits in his memoirs, and in doing so provides one of the most detailed accounts of the battle at Mulroy (his mention of an hour long fire-fight is interesting as it flies in the face of traditional models of clan warfare which would have a single volley fired before muskets were thrown down and swords drawn). He ran away from both battles and if his entertaining writings are to be believed, he made the famous jump from one side of the River Garry to the other at Killiecrankie to evade the pursuing Jacobites, at the place now remembered as Soldier's Leap. He would go on to run a brothel and become an instructor in fencing (also publishing a manual of swordsmanship) and on his death he was buried in the garrison cemetery in Fort William.

The battle is also notable for the presence of Lady Mackintosh, who was taken prisoner by the MacDonald's. It was not unusual for armies to have women travelling with them on campaign but it is unusual for them to be recorded by name.


Late-seventeenth-century Scotland was fraught with political upheaval and civil unrest. The political turmoil of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the 1640s was followed by decades of religious tension. Friction between Catholics and Protestants as well as Episcopal and dissenting Protestants was exacerbated by the policies of Charles II when he was restored to the throne in 1660. Upon the death of Charles in 1685, his younger brother became James VII. In England, James's succession was immediately contested by Charles II's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. Monmouth launched a rebellion, gaining the support of Scottish Protestants, such as Archibald Campbell, Duke of Argyll. Argyll led an invasion of Scotland by a force of Scottish Protestant exiles from the Netherlands, but Argyll was unable to raise sufficient support for the rebellion among his clan connections. With the weight of the government mobilised against him, Argyll's movement crumbled and he was captured near Paisley and beheaded in Edinburgh in June 1685.

After the collapse of Argyll's rebellion, James's government failed to establish order in the Scottish Highlands. Government troops looted the lands of Presbyterian landowners, such as Argyll and his clansmen. The previous policies of government cooperation with clan chiefs were largely abandoned. Instead, Lowland regiments of regular troops were sent into the Highlands to recruit independent companies, which strained relations with clan elites even further. Early in 1688 the crown renewed commissions of fire and sword. These commissions granted local nobility and gentry the power to punish crimes in the Highlands, where the government's authority was not able to reach. Such commissions were vulnerable to abuse and were often used in on-going power struggles between clans. In 1681, one such commission was issued to Lachlan Mackintosh of Torcastle to punish Coll MacDonald and the MacDonalds of Keppoch, who lived on Mackintosh's land but refused to acknowledge Mackintosh as their feudal overlord and pay the required rent. The following year Mackintosh invaded the lands of Keppoch and constructed a fort near Keppoch House, though the fort was subsequently dismantled by Coll MacDonald. In 1688, with the renewal of commissions, Mackintosh again attempted to assert authority over the MacDonalds, this time securing government support. A force stationed at Inverness under the command of Captain Kenneth Mackenzie of Suddie was dispatched to join Mackintosh. In July of 1688 1000 men gathered for a second invasion of Keppoch territory and the following month they crossed Glen Roy to find a 700-strong force led by Coll MacDonald and his clan along with his allies the Camerons of Lochiel and Macmartins of Letterfinlay arrayed against them.

The battle that ensued on the slope of Maol Ruadh (anglicised as 'Mulroy') became known as the last clan battle. Though government troops were involved, the fight was essentially a localised, private power struggle between clans. It was the result of deeply-entrenched, on-going clan tensions exacerbated by decades of political upheaval and lack of centralised authority in the Highlands. The battle of Mulroy immediately preceded the Glorious Revolution, highlighting King James' tenuous political authority and inability to maintain order in Scotland. Just months later William of Orange arrived in Britain and was crowned monarch, along with his wife Mary, in the following spring.

Battlefield Landscape

The description of the location of Mackenzie's men between the fort and the MacDonalds on the high ground of Maol Ruadh, or Mulroy would place the fighting on the southern, lower slopes of the hill. The slope of Maol Ruadh has not been developed, although a recently cleared strip of tree plantation may coincide with part of the initial MacDonald deployment, with the fighting perhaps taking place on the lower slopes below this. The village of Mulroy may have impinged on some areas of activity, which might include Mackenzies initial position on the night before the battle but the prospects for the fighting itself to have taken place on the slopes above are good as the accounts suggest Mackenzie advanced towards the MacDonalds prior to battle being closed.

Remains relating to what appears to be the fort which was twice slighted can be seen on the lip of the bailey associated with the motte and bailey castle mounds located around 250m to the south-east of Keppoch House.


The battle took place on the southern slope of Maol Ruadh near the village of Roybridge in the district of Lochaber. Historians, primary sources and map sources, such as the First Edition and subsequent Ordnance Survey maps, place the battle location firmly on Maol Ruadh, but do not record the position of Mackintosh's aborted fort.

The original fort of 1681 is reportedly located at the site of Keppoch House and it is there that Borlum locates the capture of Mackintosh, his family, and his goods. Historians (Roberts 2000, Hopkins 1986, Gregory 1881), however, are vague as to the line of approach of the force commanded by Mackenzie. They variously cite that the Mackintoshes were separated from the MacDonalds by the high waters of the Spean, where as others state that they were separated by the Roy (MacLean 1939; Mackay n.d.). According to the oral traditions recorded by Rev. Mackintosh Mackay, Mackintosh's force gathered 'on a site pitched upon by Mackintosh, on a precipitous bank of the river Roy, about a musket shot south of the spot where a bridge now crosses that stream, and where the walls, to the height of a few feet are yet to be seen' (Mackay n.d.: 327). As the construction of the new fort progressed, the MacDonalds and their allies gathered 'in a narrow glen, behind the ridge of hills that rises to the north-east of Keppoch, and the sloping declivity and heights of which, towards Keppoch, are called Maolroy.' (ibid. 327) Mackay further describes the route of the Mackintoshes after the battle as passing 'very near where the Bridge of Roy now stands' (ibid. 329) and fleeing up Glen Roy 'so well known now as the site of the parallel roads' (ibid. 330). The parallel roads are the lines of ancient lake shore created when a retreating glacier dammed the glen. They run on both sides of the River Roy at the height of 260 m, 325 m and 350 m.


The battle took place amidst the rugged hills of Glen Roy near the confluence of the Spean and Roy rivers. The battle itself took place on the sloping ground of the southern side of Maol Ruadh. The terrain and rivers complicated the engagement. The sloping ground was well-suited to the tactics of a Highland charge, while the rough ground and rivers limited the approaches and routes of flight to and from the battlefield.


The slope of Maol Ruadh has not been developed, however a patch of plantation, recently felled, covers part of the slope, potentially obscuring part of the battle site.

Development has been limited to the immediate area of Roybridge at the base of the hill and does not encroach upon the slopes of Maol Ruadh itself, where the battle took place. The survival of the unfinished fort, however, has probably been impacted by the growth of the communities of Roybridge and Bunroy. Roy's Military Map of 1747-55 shows small-scale agricultural development on the northern bank of the Roy with a smattering of farm buildings and ploughed fields. Likewise there is cultivation along the northern bank of the Spean, including the grounds of Keppoch House.

By the first edition of the Ordnance Survey, the farmsteads to the north of the River Roy have gone out of use. Maol Ruadh is labelled as 'Site of Battle between Clans'.

At the time of the first revision of the Ordnance Survey map in 1902-3, the community of Roybridge had grown with the addition of buildings at the confluence of the Roy and Spean, as well as along the river banks. There is also the addition of the West Highland Railway line.

Today the community of Roybridge extends to the foot of Maol Ruadh, bounded by a road that runs north along the course of the River Roy. There is a patch of forest plantation that covers a swathe of the battlefield area, which would compromise the archaeological evidence. Curiously, the current OS map no longer records the existence of the clan battle.

Archaeological & Physical Remains and Potential

Despite the small scale of the engagement, it is probable that archaeological evidence remains. Hand-to-hand fighting in a defined battlefield area would result in the deposition of a variety of physical remains. Spent and dropped ammunition, damaged weapons and personal accoutrements like buckles and buttons would have been lost or abandoned during the action and subsequent flight. The recovery of large amounts of musket balls would add credence to MacBane's account of an hour-long fire-fight.

Physical remains on the site include the abandoned fort foundations. A site visit carried out in support of this report may have shed important new light on the location of the fort. Some 250 m to the south-east of the present Keppoch House (c. 1760s, the original was burned to the ground during the 1745 Jacobite Rising), are the remains of what appears to be a motte and bailey castle (NN 2705 8077), which is known locally as Keppoch Castle (NN28SE 2). There is however some disagreement as to whether this feature, which is built into a natural gravel spur on the west bank of the River Roy is a medieval castle or a fortification first built by the 6th chief of MacDonell of Keppoch in the early sixteenth century. Whatever the case, it seems likely that this impressive feature provided the basis for the fort which Mackintosh attempted to build on the site. The outer rim of the bailey has what might be a later bank running around it and there is some suggestion of square/rectangular earthen structures within.

A rigorous reinterpretation of the battle using archaeological survey techniques, such as topographical and metal detector survey, would illustrate the details of the battle that are not found in written source material.

Cultural Association

Given its clan character it is not surprising to find Mulroy remembered in number of songs, poems and tunes. The pibrochs called Latha na Maoile Ruadh (the Day of Mulroy, also known as Isabella Mackay) and Blar na Maoile Ruaidh (the Battle of Mulroy) were composed in celebration of the MacDonald victory. There is also a more modern reel called the Battle of Mulroy and a Gaelic song titled Thàinig sgeul o'n àrmailt.

Commemoration & Interpretation

A small cairn stands as a monument to the battle, alongside the road which runs along the southern slopes of Mulroy, 1 km to the north of Roybridge, though this was only erected in recent years.

Given its clan-based participants it is no surprise that the battle is commemorated in a number of poems, songs and pieces of music.

The Rev. Mackay collection in the National Library of Scotland (NLS MS 874 fos.325-39: Rev. Mackintosh Mackay, from oral tradition) includes a number of poems and songs directly or indirectly related to the battle. The following is an extract from a Gaelic song in the collection called 'The Battle of Mulroy':

As a quarter of a mile;

Ye did not offer to flee

From the company of sure whistling (guns)

Till they drowned your breast;

That was the company that destroyed you.

By the King! sharp-set were the men,

Who were on the hill to which they retreated,

They were obliged to bend,

When they could not stand;

Though thy own partisans cried aloud

In the late approach (belly) of evening,

They were scattered like small cattle,

Those of heaping the peeks. (rent-lifters)

Many a frizzle-haired Mackintosh,

Is in this country with their theft,

Between the Lamp meadows of May.

And the borders of Lochaber*,

Who is ascending the ladder,

Paying rent to the bolts and bars.

By the King! satisfactory was the day,

Ye brought out a good hunting-match,

Upon men of porridge and brose;

Their marches, men not successful,

Many a spade and shovel,

In an evil hour was in they army,

That was now going to dig graves,

Beneath the banks, for thy friends.

(* Two lines omitted, viz.

"Who would sit as stately,

As a place-man of the Abbey.")



Barron, E. M. 1930. Inverness and the MacDonalds. Inverness: Robert Carruthers & Sons.

Hopkins, P. 1986. Glencoe and the End of the Highland War. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers LTD.

McBane, D. The Expert Sword-Man's Companion (Glasgow, 1728), pp.75-7.

Roberts, J.L. 2000. Clan, King and Covenant: History of the Highland Clans from the Civil War to the Glencoe Massacre. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Information on Sources & Publication

The battle of Mulroy is well documented in both primary and secondary sources, though no rigorous modern assessment of the battlefield has been attempted. The background to the conflict is well illustrated with legal documents relating to the quarrel of tenancy between Mackintosh and the MacDonalds of Keppoch. These include Mackintosh's original writ of fire and sword as well as the reinstated commission of 1688, petitions by Coll MacDonald, records of the involvement of the Privy Council, etc. As to reports of the battle action, there are letters written by those involved, such as Lachlan Mackintosh and Captain Mackenzie. These particularly deal with the events immediately prior to the battle. Gaelic poems and ballads were written about the engagement, passed on through oral tradition and transcribed by later antiquarians and scholars. These, however, have been embellished with details and speeches of dubious veracity (ie Reverend Mackintosh Mackay's account in the National Library Scotland, MS 874 fos.325-39).

Primary Sources

Drummond (of Balhaldie), John, Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheill, Chief of the Clan Cameron, ed, ed. J. MacKnight (Edinburgh: Abottsford Club, 1842), 229-31

McBane, D. The Expert Sword-Man's Companion (Glasgow, 1728), pp.75-7.

Archive/Library: National Archives Scotland

15th November 1688. Bond by Ronald M'Donald of Ferset. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. XIII (1686-1689), p. 354.

19th November 1688. Bond by John Cameron of Glen Nevis and others for keeping the peace. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland.

Act annulling the commission of the Earl of Moray to hold courts in Lochaber, as the said commission prejudices the hereditary stewardship of Lachlan M'Intosh of Torcastle. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. III (1669-1672), p. 403

Appointment of a commission to execute letters of fire and sword against certain of the name M'Donald. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. VII (1681-1682), pp. 191-2 [a similar act in much the same wording appears, pp. 194-96.]

Breadalbane Collection, GD 112/1/612. Bond by Ronald MacDonald of Fersatt and Donald MacDonald in Inverey, uncle of said Ronald, as cautioners for Alexander and John MacDonald, brothers of said Ronald, tacksmen of 3 merkland of Drumleard

Breadalbane Muniments, GD 112/39/144/2, Carwhin to Breadalbane, 18 Aug. 1688 [Former Ref: GD 112/40/3/56-7]. Langwell's bargain; Ardchattan's affair; conflict with McIntosh is great news at present; proposal for a garrison in Lochaber; despatch of troops under command of Captain Straitown for reducing the rebels; sends a bottle of ink.

Breadalbane Muniments, GD 112/39/144/3, James, 4th earl of Perth, Edinburgh, to Breadalbane, 22 Sep. 1688.

Breadalbane Collection, GD 112/39/146/5. Petitions recipient to remember what passed at their meeting, since he is now going to London; wishes advice and protection; is content to receive his capitulation and submit to the present government. Dated 8 Sep 1689.[Former Ref: GD112/39/1209]

Breadalbane Muniments, GD 112/39/155/10, Breadalbane, Glenurchy, to Carwhin, 14 Nov. 1691.

Campbell of Barcaldine, GD 170/629/10, Breadalbane to Barcaldine, 24 Aug. 1688.

Campbell of Barcaldine, GD 170/670, Coll Macdonell of Keppoch, Dated at Keppoch 1692, January 17.

Campbell of Barcaldine, GD 170/3327, Attestation that Coll MacDonald of Keppoch has sworn allegience to King William and Queen Mary, dated 13 Dec., 1691.

Drummond (of Balhaldie), John, Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheill, Chief of the Clan Cameron, ed, ed. J. MacKnight (Edinburgh: Abottsford Club, 1842), 229-31

Fraser-Mackintosh Collection, GD 128/21/1. Recommendation by Privy Council to General Douglas to reinfoce Capt. Suddie's company lately 'affronted' by MacDonalds in Braes of Lochaber, while 'assisting' Macintosh, 9 August 1688.

Hume of Polwarth Earls of Marchmont, GD 158/1063/3. Duncan Forbes of Culloden to Marchmont, 14 August 1694.

Hume of Polwarth Earls of Marchmount, GD 158/1104/2, Mackintosh of Torcastle to Marchmount, 7 Jan. 1697. Invernes. On his criminal libel against Coll MacDonald, and 'those rebellious and most vicked crew of the Brea Lochaber men', anent murder of Captain Mackenzie of Suddie; wishes a commission of fire and sword.

Jacobite Papers and Letters, 'Information of the grounds of differences betwixt'Macintosh and Keppoch', MS 295, ff. 1-2

Mackay, M. MS 874 fos.325-39: Rev. Mackintosh Mackay, from oral tradition.

Mackenzie, K. 1688. Letter from Kenneth M'Kenzie to General Douglas. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. XIII (1686-1689), pp. 299-300.

Mackenzie, K. 1688. Letter from Kenneth M'Kenzie to Sir William Paterson. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. XIII (1686-1689), p. 299.

Mackintosh, L. 1688. Letter from L. Macintosh of Torcastle to the Earl of Perth. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. XIII (1686-1689), p. 352.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/582. Letter from Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll, to Lachlan Mackintosh [McIntosh] of Torcastle, dated at Glenurchy [Glenorchy], 30th May 1679.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/593. Petition by Lachlan Mackintosh [McIntosh] of Torcastle to the Lord High Commissioner and Estates of Parliament to be put in possession of his lands of the Brae of Lochaber and office of Steward thereof; and for a Commission of fire and sword against the MacDonalds [MacDonalds] there; dated on the back, 1680.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/603. Letter from Lachlan M'Intosch [McIntosh], dated at Contulich [Contullich], 3d September 1682, to his nephew, William M'Intosh [McIntosh] of Torcastle.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/606. Articles of Agreement between the Marquis of Huntly and the Laird of Mackintosh [McIntosh] at Inverness, 23d February 1683.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/615. Two Petitions by Lachlan M'Intosh [McIntosh] of Torcastle to the Privy Council, in 1685.

Mackintosh Muniments GD 176/624. Three Acts by the Privy Council of Scotland following supplications by Lachlan Mackintosh of Torcastle (1) to put in force the commission of fire and sword by them on 20th September 1681. 8th August 1688.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/629 [UFP]. Letter from Viscount Dundee to the Laird of Mackintosh [McIntosh], urging him to take a stand for the King.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/656. Petition by Lachlan Mackintosh [McIntosh] of Torcastle against the intended release of Coll MacDonald [MacDonald], son of the deceased Archibald MacDonald [MacDonald] 'my tenent' in Keppoch, c. 1700.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/641 [UFP]. Paper of Information and Advice as to the sale of Lochaber, dated February 1693.

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/659. Commission by Lachlan M'Intosh [McIntosh] of Torcastle, narrating that a license has been granted to him by the Lords of Privy Council to treat with Coll M'Donald [MacDonald].

Mackintosh Muniments, GD 176/668. Agreement between the friends of the Laird of Mackintoshe [McIntosh] on the one part, and Coll Mackdonald [MacDonald] of Keppoch with Sir Donald Mackdonald [MacDonald] of Slait [Sleat] as his cautioner on the other part, made in presence of Brigadier Maitland, governor of Fort William, at Fort William on 22d May 1700.

MacPherson of Cluny Papers, GD 80/168, Copy Letters directed to the Lyon King-at-arms for summoning Coll MacDonald of Keppoch, Martin Mcmartine, elder of Letterfindlay, Duncan Mcphersone of Cluny, Lachlan Mcintosh of Strowan, etc., to appear before the Privy Council on 11 Dec 1684.

MacPherson of Cluny Papers, GD 80/217. 1689, May 10. Copy Commission by Committee of Estates to Duncan MacPhersone of Clunie.

MacPherson of Cluny Papers, GD 80/276. 1695, May 31. Commission by Lachlan McIntoshe of Torcastle to Muriach Mcphersone of Clune as his stewart-depute of the Lordship of Lochaber.

Papers of the Shairp family of Houston, West Lothian, GD 30/2079. Receipt by David Gourly [Gourlay], servitor to Sir William Patersone [Paterson], to Ensign Sharp, for scarlet cloak and other apparel belonging to the late Kenneth McKenzie of Suddie (Scots Fusiliers).

Papers of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, GD 103/2/316. (Part of) Agreement between John Ferqwharsone of Innercald, William McIntoshe, elder, of Borlum, and others, as trustees for Lachlan McIntoshe, elder, of Torcastle, and Coll MacDonald, son of deceased Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch, as to the lands of Braelochaber.

PC (Privy Council) 1/50, ff. 107-08. Letter from the Councill to the King anent the Laird of Mcintoches losses.

PC 1/50, f. 219. Protectiones Cameron of Locheill and MacDonald of Keppoch.

PC 1/51 (Acta Sep 1696-Jul 1699), Recomednatione to the Lord Advocat to draw two acts fore McIntosh. Act Renewing McKintoshes Commission of Fire & Sword against Coll MacDonald & others. Commission ' the Laird of McIntosh against MacDonalds & others. Coppie Letters of Councurrance & Intercommuning the Laird of McIntosh against MacDonalds. Letter from Keppoch to the Vicount Tarbat. Warrand to Brigadier Maitland to allow men to the Laird of McIntosh for maintaining his possession against Keppoch.

Regarding the feudal dispute between MacDonad of Keppoch and Mackintosh: commission of fire and sword and petitions. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland.

Supplication by Coll M'Donald, son of the deceased Archibald M'Donald of Keppoch, for warrant to the magistrates of Inverness to release him their tolbooth, where he is illegally warded by the Laird of M'Intosh. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. VIII (1683-1684), pp. 36-37.

Warrant to the Earl of Murray, sheriff of Inverness, to hold courts in Lochaber. Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. III (1669-1672), p. 222

Archive/Library: National Register of Archives Scotland

Acts of Parl. 1690, c. 43, i.x, pp. 190-91, reign of William and Mary. ACT in favours of the Laird of McIntosh anent his Cefs.

Atholl Papers. Information for Col MacDonald the Laird of Keppoch against the Laird of Macintosh, dated 1695 (same as NLS, Jacobite Papers and Letters, 'Information of the grounds of differences betwixt'Macintosh and Keppoch', MS 295, ff. 1-2?)234/Box 42/1/1/40, Atholl Papers

234/Box 42/1/1/41, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/1/138, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/8/48, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/8/84, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/9/104, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/9/258, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/9/281, Atholl Papers, Keppoch to Tullibardine, 12. Aug 1697. [cited as Blair Atholl MSS, Box 29 I (9) 281, Keppoch to Tullibardine, 12 Aug. 1697]

234/Box 29/1/9/340, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/10/9, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/10/27, Atholl Papers

234/Box 29/1/10/29, Atholl Papers

Archive/Library: British Library

Mackenzie Papers, Add 39200 ff. 2-8, William Mackintosh of Borlum to Duke of Gordon, 17 Aug. 1688 + 19thc. Copy of British Library Additional Manuscript 39200, folio 3, being part of the collected papers of Mackenzie of Suddie. Note: Folio 2 is the original document of 1688 and folio 3 an 1883 transcript. What follows was copied from folio 3 and doubtful handwriting was checked against folio 2.

Cartographic & Illustrative Sources

Roy, W. 1747-55. Military Survey of Scotland. Available digitally at [Last accessed 19/3/2010].

Secondary Sources

Barron, E. M. 1930. Inverness and the MacDonalds. Inverness: Robert Carruthers & Sons.

Creichton, J. & Swift, J. Memoirs of Captain John Creichton, Swift, Miscellaneous and Autobiographic Pieces, ed. H. Davis (Oxford, 1962), 160-1.

Gregory, D. 1881. The History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland, from AD 1493 to AD 1625, with a Brief Introductory Sketch from AD 80 to AD 1493. Second Ed. London: Hamilton and Glasgow: Thomas D. Morison.

Groome, F.H. (ed.). 1882-1885. Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland : a survey of Scottish topography, statistical, biographical and historical. Edinburgh : T. C. Jack. Shelfmark: Atlas Bibliog JQ 1882-O vol. 1-6. Also available in National Library Scotland and British Library, along with various subsequent editions. Original can be accessed digitally via SCRAN.

Hopkins, P. 1986. Glencoe and the End of the Highland War. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers LTD.

Mackintosh, A. M., The Mackintoshes and Clan Chattan, 262, 274-86, esp. 281-2.

Mackintosh of Kinrara, 'Epitome of the Origin and Increase of the Mackintoshes' in Macfarlane's Genealogical Collections, vol. 1, 395-7.

Maclean, J.A. 1939. The Sources, particularly the Celtic Sources, for the History of the Highlands in the Seventeenth Century. Unpublished University of Aberdeen Ph.D.

Roberts, J.L. 2000. Clan, King and Covenant: History of the Highland Clans from the Civil War to the Glencoe Massacre. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Innes, C. (ed.), The Black Book of Taymouth, With Papers from the Breadalbane Charter Room (Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, 1855), pp. 261-2.

Nether-Lorn, 'Last Clan Battle in Scotland,' Oban Times, no. 2334 (19 Aug 1899), 3.

'The Battle of Glenroy,' Northern Chronicle, no. 204 (12 Nov., 1884), 3

RCAHMS. Mulroy Battlesite. Site number NN28SE 1. [Last accessed 18/3/2010].

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Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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