One day, long in the past, sometime between the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, the Morrisons of Ness were resting in the mighty Dun Carloway, cattle grazing peacefully outside. It was summer and the days were long, birdsong filled the air. But peace was evanescent and this was the Morrisons’ fault. The cattle did not belong to them; they had taken it from the Macaulays while those were away to the Flannan Isles. Coming back home and finding their cattle gone made them go after the thieves immediately and much sooner than the Morrisons had expected.
The Macauleys found the Morrisons still fast asleep in the Dun; a big cauldron sat on a huge fire, in it the carcass of one of the stolen cows, next to it a sleeping man. Donald Cam, their leader and probably the most notorious Macaulay in history, and the big smith of the Macauleys who had accompanied him on the reconnaissance mission, killed the man; they took the meat out of the caldron for their men were very hungry, and threw the dead cook in the boiling cauldron instead. The smith took the meat back to his men and Donald Cam killed the man on guard. He was renowned to be quick with his sword. By now the rest of the Macaulay had arrived. They blocked the door so the Morrisons could not escape. Then they threw burning heather and anything they could find that would ignite over the Dun’s walls. Then as now it had no roof. They kept doing it until all the Morrisons were all dead inside. Killed by fire and fumes.
This is, so the local legend, why Dun Carloway looks the way it looks now; built more than a thousand years before the tragic feud between the Macauleys and the Morrisons.
According to tradition Donald Cam was buried at Baile na Cille graveyard. Blogpost soon to come.
Liked the read? There’s more here…
Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.
Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.
sources and further reading:
Donald Macdonald: Tales and Traditions of The Lews. Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2009
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