death on the moor

WaternishIt is a hard guess how many Highlanders died on the moors of their country, it must have been thousands over the centuries.

Large as their number might be, the agony and fear of the warriors dying in battle will have been a very personal experience, lives ended on the moors. They died for their country, for their clan, for a feud or for somebody else’s greed. Few deaths are marked on the moors but some are.

Roderick MacLeod of Unish, a long time ago deserted settlement on the Northern tip of the Waternish peninsula on Skye, died a few miles away from his home on the vast open and wind-swept moor.

UnishHe might have heard the sea hitting the cliffs, he might have seen seabirds and birds of prey circling above his head, he might have felt the cold wind blowing as he drew his last breath. No one knows.

WaternishBut it is known that he died on this very spot on the Isle of Skye in one of the bloodiest battles the island has seen in the year 1530, a war between the MacDonald of Trotternish (the peninsula to the East) and the MacLeods of Waternish that culminated in the burning of the church at Trumpan.

WaternishThe American Clan MacLeod Society put up a cairn to commemorate his death as a kind of one man graveyard out there on the vast moor of Skye.

Waternish walkWalking along miles of windswept land it seems difficult to understand how men could fight over land as barren as that in the first place but the land was not really what the dispute was about. It was fight for power and supremacy that drove the men into it and need for retaliation that kept it going.

All that is left is a stone cairn, cold and lonely up there on the wild moor of Waternish. Cold and lonely as Roderick MacLeod of Unish will have been the moment he died.

For the killings at Trumpan church see: Burn the church!

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