109064: Feud between MacDonalds of Sleat & MacLeods of Harris

Sometime around 1600 Donald Gorm Mòr, chief of Clan MacDonald of Sleat, rejected his wife Margaret, sending her back to her brother Roderick Mòr, chief of the MacLeods of Harris and Dunvegan. Roderick asked Donald to take Margaret back, which Donald refused, instead divorcing her. This insult resulted in enmity between the two clan chiefs.

The district of Trotternish, held by the MacDonalds, had long been an area of contention between the two clans, and was attacked by the MacLeods.  In retaliation the MacDonalds attacked MacLeod lands in Harris, killing inhabitants and stealing cattle.

In May 1601 Roderick Mòr sent a group of men, led by his kinsman mac Dhòmhnaill Ghlais MacLeod, to raid MacDonald lands in North Uist. A small band of MacDonalds under the leadership of Donald mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais were the victors in a bloody battle at Carinish.

Three weeks later, with his wounds healed, Donald mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais headed for Skye to report the victory, but a storm forced his men to shelter at Rodel. They were hosted by Roderick Mòr MacLeod, who wouldn’t refuse his help in such weather, and insisted his men keep the peace. With improved weather the MacDonalds left their sleeping quarters before dawn, which was fortunate because MacLeod’s men, without the knowledge of their chief, set fire to the building.

Whilst Roderick Mòr was away helping on the mainland, the MacDonalds invaded MacLeod lands on Skye. The Battle of Coire na Creiche, on the slopes of the Black Cuillins, resulted in another resounding defeat for the MacLeods.

Finally, after so much bloodshed, the Privy Council intervened. The chiefs were ordered to disband their forces whilst peace was negotiated. An understanding was eventually reached, with peace preserved. Interestingly however, the ruling allowed Margaret MacLeod to take ‘such civil action against Donald Gorme as she might be advised to do.’

Record Type:
Historical Event
Date / From:
1 Jan 1600
31 Dec 1609
Record Maintained by: