109424: The downfall of Uisdean MacGhilleasbuig Chleirich

Two extracts tell of the downfall of Hugh MacDonald, Uisdean MacGhilleasbuig Chleirich, who plotted against his uncle, clan chief Donald Gorm Mòr MacDonald. The first comes from page 48 of The Clan Donald:

About the time this stronghold [Caisteal Uisdein] was on the eve of completion, Hugh was forming a conspiracy for the destruction of Donald Gorme and the leading men of the Clan, after which he himself, with the support of those who were with him in the plot, would assume the chiefship.

The bold and treacherous design was to be carried out at a feast which was to celebrate the completion of Hugh’s new residence. His own hand forged the weapon which wrought his doom. While in Uist he wrote two letters – one to William Martin, a tenant of Donald Gorme’s, at Eastside of Troternish, in which he solicited Martin’s assistance in his nefarious scheme – the other to the Chief of Sleat, containing warm professions of affection and fidelity. By a strange oversight the letters were wrongly addressed, the Chief’s letter going to Martin, and Martin’s finding his way into the hands of Donald Gorme.

The second extract, telling of Hugh’s capture by Donald MacDonald, Dòmhnall mac Iain mhic Sheumais, is taken from pages 191-192 of the History of the MacDonalds:

Before the usurper was aware of what he had done, Donald Gorm despatched a messenger to his kinsman and relative Donull MacIan ‘ic Sheumais in Uist, to seize Uistean, and bring him prisoner to Duntulm. Without loss of time, Donull Mac Ian put his liege lord’s instructions into execution. He resorted to the house [Dun an Stìcir] where Uistean resided, and as he approached with a strong retinue, the usurper dreaded that all was not right, and seeing the impossibility of effecting his escape, had barely time to dress himself in female attire, and to commence grinding with a quern, or hand-mill, at which the inmates had been at the time engaged. The size and masculine appearance of the grinder soon attracted the notice of the party when they entered the house. They laid hold of him, but his great agility and bodily strength, together with his being rendered violent by despair, made it doubtful for a time whether or not the party could retain him. At length, being encumbered with his dress, and unable any longer to defend himself against the men who surrounded him, he was seized, fastly bound, and carried prisoner [to Duntulm Castle]. He was cast into the dungeon of the castle, which was a dark, secluded vault on the ground-floor of the edifice, where he was chained in the centre of the apartment. He was fed on salt beef, and when he stretched forth his hand to grasp a covered pitcher which was placed near him and which he no doubt supposed to contain water, he found it empty! Writhing in agony with thirst, he found neither alleviation or repose until death put an end to his sufferings. 

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