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Torquil, Knight of Lochrainabhat (I)
Torquil, Knight of Lochrainabhat (I)
A story of Peggy Macaulay, daughter of Domhnall Cam, by the late Dr Norman Morrison, Shawbost. Part I.
During the clan feuds in Lewis it was quite common for one clan to steal cattle from another clan - the time-honoured occupation of 'cattle rustling'. It was usually done during the dead of night when everybody was sleeping.
During this time Domhnall Cam had his castle up in Valtos, Uig, near where the old cemetery is situated. He was staying in the castle with his daughter Peggy Macaulay who was a beautiful girl, with dark curly hair, sallow complexion and red cheeks. She was about 18 years of age.
On this particular day, she was draining potatoes at the door and on looking up she saw a beautiful ship coming into the harbour of the Kyles of Pabbay. She was taken by the beauty of the ship. She carried twenty-one sails and indeed she looked a beautiful sight.
Peggy ran into the house and called "Father, father, there's a beautiful ship coming into the harbour."
He answered and said "I suppose it is one of the Norwegians trading in timber along the coast of the Hebrides and down the west coast"
Peggy went out again and saw that she was dropping anchor and called to her father, "She is dropping anchor."
Her father answered and said, "Oh yes. I suppose the captain will come up and see me." It was the custom of captains in those days to call on the clan chiefs as a matter of courtesy.
After some time Peggy went out again and saw that they were lowering a small boat and again saw that the small boat was making for the shore. Peggy was in a state of high tension and went up to her room to dress.
She came down from her room, went out and saw the Captain coming up the Brae to the Castle. She got very excited and said so to her father. Her father said,"We shall treat him very well whenever he arrives."
The Captain arrived, the old chief shook hands with him, and then the Captain shook hands with Peggy who was very shy and only gave him the tips of her fingers. Domhnall Cam then told the captain to sit down and said,"We are going to sit down to dinner and you will join us at the table."
The captain thanked him. Domhnall Cam then went to a cist and brought out a big jar of whisky and filled a tumbler of the whisky for the captain and one for himself. After the whisky they were both on amicable terms, and then sat down to a sumptuous meal. They discussed various topics throughout the meal and by this time the captain couldn't take his eyes off Peggy, as she was so beautiful.
At this particular time Domhnall Cam was scheming to make a raid on the clan McLeod of the West Side, Torquil McLeod being their Chief. Domhnall invited a friend from Harris, also a McLeod, to come and help him on this raid.
As the day wore on the Captain said that he had to go as he had some more calls to make down the coast. Domhnall Cam said,"I'll accompany you down to the shore as I'll need to ferry Peggy over to Pabbay Island as she usually sleeps with her Granny there."
The Captain then said, "Don't you bother. I will put her ashore for you as I have to go out to my ship anyway." Domhnall Cam thanked him and when the small boat left with Peggy aboard Domhnall waved good-bye to the captain.
When the Captain was nearing his ship he asked Peggy if she would like to go aboard and go round the ship. Peggy answered that she would. On going alongside he helped Peggy up the gangplank and at the same time he called out to the crew, "Hoist all sails and heave anchor." This was said in Norwegian so that Peggy would not understand.
He took her down into his cabin and showed her everything. He could hear the crew on deck hoisting sails and going about their business. Peggy inquired what was going on on deck. He said they were preparing for the voyage down south." When Peggy was satisfied with all she saw she asked the captain to take her up on deck and on arriving on deck she saw that the ship was under full sail and heading for the Old Hill. She screamed hysterically but the captain told her everything is all right. "No! No!" she said. "Bring me back to my father."
"I will," he said, "in due course."
She screamed again and told him,"If you have any compassion for me, take me back to my father."
He said, "It is my compassion for you that is making me do all this I intend to take you home to Norway whenever I deliver this timber, marry you and then we can come back to Bhaltos and see your father."
Peggy had got very hysterical by this time and kept calling to him, "Take me back! Take me back!"
By this time the ship was passing the Old Hill but after a little while it became suddenly calm. With the tide race going east, the ship started drifting towards the Dalbeg shore. Who was fishing on that same day near Traigh Dalbeg but Torquil McLeod, the chief of Macleod. He was staying with his sister Morag in Lochrainbhat Castle, on Loch Rainbhat Loch a few miles west of Shawbost. The ship was drifting towards the shore and Peggy was getting more hysterical all the time, screaming loudly.
Torquil and the crew were fishing for haddock and getting a good supply. By this time the ship was so near that they could hear the screams coming across the water. Torquil called out to his crew, "Row the boat over to that ship. There is a woman in distress aboard." He told one of the crew to stand in the bow and to have a haddock in his hand, held aloft pretending they were selling fish.
As they were going alongside he told the crew to unsheath their swords and to follow him up the ladder. They got alongside, went up the ladder and Torquil approached the Captain and demanded to know what was going on. The Norwegian Captain faced him and said, "What business is that of yours?" and with that he drew his sword and lashed out at Torquil. Before Torquil got out of the way the sword took a chip of flesh from his shoulder, which started to bleed profusely. Torquil's crew then attacked the foreign Captain and lashed him securely to the mast.
Torquil then went to the cabin and saw the girl crying her heart out. He called out, "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"
The girl said, "I am Domhnall Cam's daughter and the Norwegian Captain kidnapped me while I was going to sleep with my granny on Pabbay Island."
"Well!" Torquill said, "I am Torquil Macleod, the chief of the clan Macleod and your father is my bitter enemy."
Peggy cried, "Don't let us go into that at this place in my life. God knows that I have suffered enough already." With that Torquil took compassion on her and told her to get ready and that he would take her home to his castle, and that his sister Morag would look after her.
Peggy at this stage was anxious as she knew her father was scheming to go on one of his rampages throughout the island, and to steal the West side cattle, including Torquil's. She had this in mind all the time, and was anxious to get in touch with her father, some way or other.
Peggy got ready to leave the ship and Torquil took her gently by the arm and guide her up the steps of the companionway up to the deck and onto his boat and sitting together in the stern, they made for Dalbeg Sands. The crew were rowing for some time when Peggy was alarmed to feel something warm going thickly down her right arm. She put her hand under her blouse, took it out, and she screamed, "Torquil! You are bleeding profusely."
Torquil answered, "It is alright. Morag, my sister, will dress it for me when I get home."
Peggy opened her McAulay plaid, put one end on the deck floor and ripped a length of bandage from it. She then opened Torquil's doublet and started to bandage his shoulder. Torquil then thanked her and told her that he was now comfortable, and would tell Marion how good the bandage was. It has never been known in the history of Lewis for a soldier to be bandaged in a Macaulay tartan.