109055: Sir Roderick Mor MacLeod

Roderick Mòr, Ruairidh Mòr (1573-1626) was 15th Chief of Clan MacLeod of Harris and Dunvegan. 

About 1600 Clan MacLeod became involved in a feud with the MacDonalds of Sleat. Donald Gorm Mòr, chief of Clan MacDonald of Sleat, rejected his wife Margaret, who was Roderick Mòr’s sister. Donald Gorm sent Margaret back to Dunvegan and refused all demands to take his wife back, instead divorcing her and remarrying in short order. That insult was to be the start of the enmity between the two clan chiefs.

In May 1601, following skirmishes in Trotternish and Harris, Roderick Mòr took a group of 40 to 60 clansmen to North Uist, either landing at Locheport or Newton Ferry, according to different sources. Whilst he stayed near the landing place with a group of bodyguards, he sent his men, under the leadership of his kinsman mac Dhòmhnaill Ghlais MacLeod, to raid MacDonald lands in North Uist. A day or so later Roderick Mòr received the news that the MacLeods had suffered a bloody defeat at the Battle of Carinish, losing to a smaller but tactically astute band of MacDonalds, led by Donald mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais.

Three weeks later Roderick Mòr was at Rodel when a fierce storm blew up, forcing a MacDonald ship to seek shelter. On the ship were none other than Donald mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais and his men. Realising that the weather conditions were severe, Roderick Mòr could not refuse his help and made it clear to his men that they were to keep the peace. The weather improved overnight and the MacDonalds left their quarters before dawn, preparing to sail for Skye. This was to prove fortuitous because the MacLeods, without the knowledge of their chief, burnt the building to the ground.

The feud continued through the year. Whilst Roderick Mòr was away on the mainland, the Battle of Coire na Creiche resulted in even more bloodshed. It finally took the intervention of the Privy Council to bring the feud to an end.

Roderick Mòr was knighted by King James IV in 1613. He died at Fortrose in 1626.


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