The murder of John Stewart, Lord of Lorn on his wedding day, the killing of his murderer Alan MacDougall in battle and a graveyard for the line of the legitimized bastard – the dramatic birth of the Stewarts of Appin.
At the beginning of the Clan Stewart of Appin was lust, maybe even love. It was the year 1445 and Sir John Stewart was on his way home to his castle (Dunstaffnage) when he met a young woman with whom he fell in love with. Awkwardly enough Sir John was a married man. It did not stop him though to father a son with this woman, a daughter of MacLaren of Ardvech whose name remains obscure, but whom he eventually married five years after his rightful wife had died. She had left him with three daughters but no male heir, he was forced to secure the line.
The marriage of the long ago lovers took place on 20th December 1463 but didn’t last long. The wedding party was attacked and Sir John fatally wounded by a dagger, they dragged him to the chapel and the ceremony was completed.
“The priest helping him, he pushed the ring on his bride’s finger and died.”
The bride was a widow.
Their son Dugald, eighteen years of age, was now the rightful heir to his father’s fortune and estate, orphaned moments after being legitimized.
It was this former bastard and now rightful heir of Sir John Stewart, Lord of Lorn, who started the line of the Stewarts of Appin. The first of many chiefs and clan members that are buried to this day on the small Duror burial ground in Appin.
The wedding day murderer was Alan MacDougall, the MacDougalls had formerly owned what was now John Stewart’s, Castle Stalker.
Now Dugald Stewart of Appin took over the seat and planned his revenge.
Another five years came and went and 1468 it culminated in the bloody battle of Stalc.
A massive granite stone on a crag above the graveyard of Portnacrois marks the site where “many hundreds fell, when the Stewarts and the MacLarens, their allies, in defence of Dugald Chief of Appin, son of Sir John Stewart, Lord of Lorn and Innermeath, defeated the combined forces of the MacDougalls and the MacFarlanes. “
The site strangely feels rather peaceful, thick foliage hides the stone that marks the death of so many above the graves of Portnacroish.
Alan MacDougall, the murderer of Dugal’s father, was killed as well. Dugal then ruled Appin for over thirty years.
His story is one of murder and betrayal, of love and revenge, of bloody battles and blood lines. It might sound linke the romantic notions of the 19th century but if this is really how it happened, it but must have been a shocking experience for young Dugal to suceed to a father who was killed on the day he married his mother.
Sources and further reading
W.H. Murray: The Companion Guide to The West Highlands of Scotland;Collins, London, p.137
Reblogged this on Glenshiel.
In 2011 I spent a cold, windy and sleeting February night, wrapped in a blanket and tarp, maybe five yards from the base of the monument at Holy Cross Church. As darkness closed in on the loch the sounds of the waterfowl reminded me of Malcolm Jones’ guitar. The ground was soft and the sleet made a peaceful drumming on the tarp. You will not find that experience in a hotel…
Hi I would like to point out, that the story surrounding John’s murder is pure speculation. The actual record only that states that John Stewart of Lorn was killed and then later a McDougall was accused of the murder by the Kings Court. The wedding part is a romantic fabrication from 19th century authors including Logan, Skene, and Stewart 1880. Cordially Hilton
Thank you for your input Lorin. This is not a blog for historical facts and debate, this blog recalls the echoes of the past, especially the romantic ones, folk lore rather than records. Still, I would like the stories to be as truthful as they can be in the minds of the people. Kindly, NME