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June 10th 1646

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Roy of the Hens takes a MacDonald head

There is a famous story of a wedding at Finlarig Castle between James Menzies and a daughter of Sir Robert Campbell.

In the middle of the celebrations word reached the guests that a party of Macdonalds were proceeding northwards along the slopes of Stronclachan driving large numbers of stolen cattle before them. There was consternation and fury among the guests and though Major Menzies, a kinsman of James Menzies, advised caution and endeavoured to persuade them to take a route round the hill so that they might fall upon the raiders from above none were disposed to listen.

They rushed up the hill and engaged the Macdonalds with fatal results, some eighteen of the Campbell lairds being killed. The chief of the Macdonalds literally lost his head with one blow from Major Menzies sword but the main body escaped with their booty. Next day a body of Breadalbane tenants pursued the raiders and killed almost all of them.

These are the bare bones of a story that was later told by Angus McDiarmid in a small volume called ĎThe beauties of Edenample and Lochearnhead. McDiarmid was a ghillie who taught himself English with the aid of a dictionary. The language is somewhat peculiar but has a certain poetic charm as this extract shows.

ďA rapacious crowd of people arrived from north to the vicinity to take away the inhabitants cattle there. The said ravished crowd was convicted or discovered on a brae-face near Killin called Scronachlachan; at which the inhabitants obtained the unacceptable tidings, that the sudden perplexity seized their minds in uproar of the highest bustle, confusion and tumult at their assembling to resist the ravishers. A gallant gentleman resided at Glenlarig, near Killin at this time, whose surname was Menzie, had a nickname Major Roy of the Hens; a valiant hand, stout, personally puissant. He projected a plan to them for the detriment of the ravishers, which he incited to adopt, that they should take quietly around the hill on which its face the ravishers were discovered, to descend rapidly on them as an aid to recess them; otherwise if they were to ascend to them from below, that was giving advantage to the ravishers to cut them down like fearn, to be salivated with their blood. But the inhabitants were in such uproar that the said plan was overthrown by them and they proceeded from below in conflict manner.

The commander of the ravishers were ambitiously to obtain a sight of the said gallant gentleman in consequence of his hearing that he was a man eminately for bravery, to have his hand imbrued in his blood. In consequence of his atrocious search for that sanguinary intent, the first man he interrogate for him, the same was the one he was in quest for. He asked, in proud expression, how he could have a view of Major Roy of the Hens among his asocial crowd? To which the Majorís reply, that he was the very same man, instantly facing him. Whereupon they drew the swords, had but a short duel, when the Major cur off his antagonistís head; which head ran down with a steep part of the hill: to the amazement of the hearers the head uttered three times ĎHení, the word that was in the mouth at the cutting the headís juncture. It is probably that the tongue remained partly in power to recapitulate her momentary expression as the head parted with his cement. The inhabitants and the ravishers engaged in the most hostile manner; which conflict was attended with such dreadful bloodshed, that a small brook descending from about the place where the bloody engagement was fought, running totally red, by the blood of the slains, emitting incopiously effluxion to it.

Women were bewailing over the deprivation of their correlative husbands; mothers lamented the bereaving of their sons, finding some of them ex animato having no resemblance of life, others wallowed in their blood, parting with them at the emission of their breath. Many families sobbed with audible mournful noise, in the fatal consequence of the deprivation of their rulers.

The ravishers were well furnished with bows and arrows; their eyes were close on the foresaid gallant gentleman Major Roy, their jaws were open to embrace every opportunity to cut his tract of life, and observing that he was a daring adventurous man; a coalisive number of these assassinate devourers plunderers, thirsty after this eminent gentlemenís blood, assayed to encompass him to have their sanguinary design executed, by which he was seized of no less than nine arrows. Which occurrence in lower degree would force many to retire; but in state of that he showed such splendid courage that he swimmed over that of the river near Killinís Inn, in that posture, to his habitate, to have himself extracted of the arrows.

The day after that fatal day, a valiant number of Breadalbane people, or tenants, went after the ravishers, and took the prey back, after killing the ravishers utterly, except about two escaped.Ē 

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