The Royal Scots Cap Badge

 

Lament For Hector Roy MacLean - 1651

 

On the 17th March, 1650, Commissioners were sent by the Estates and the Church of Scotland to confer with the Prince Regent (Charles II), who was resident in Holland, in the hope of persuading him to return to this country. The terms of the Commissioners were rather rigid, being based on the National Covenant, but after some consideration they were finally accepted and, on 13th July, 1650, the Prince arrived in Scotland.

 

The Royal progress aroused the Council of State in Whitehall and, determined to counteract it, a force was sent under Cromwell, who crossed the Tweed on the 16th with 1,600 trained veterans. The Scots immediately collected a large army of raw recruits, composed chiefly of lowlanders and Englishmen, and the two armies finally met at Dunbar, with the well known result. The Scots were soundly defeated and their forces scattered in retreat.

 

During this period the Prince sojourned first in Fifeshire and finally in Perth, where he was crowned King on January 1st 1651. After this Coronation the king became popular with all parties, and he proposed that an equal number of Royalists and Covenanters should be chosen as Colonels of the new army which he was forming. This was agreed and, among the Colonels of Foot was Sir Hector MacLean of Duart, Chief of his Clan, a loyal Jacobite and the subject of this Lament.

 

Needless to say, Cromwell was most anxious to destroy this new army and, unable to draw the Scots out of their entrenchments, sent a General Lambert with a large division of his army across the Firth of Forth at Queensferry. Having landed without opposition, he began to fortify himself on the hill between the North Ferry and Inverkeithing.

 

When the news of Cromwell's movements was received at the camp, General Holburn of Menstrie was despatched to check Lambert's movements to the North. Holburn had a regiment of cavalry 1000 strong. Along with him was Sir John Brown of Fordel with 200 cavalry and two battalions of Lowland foot. These were supported by Sir Hector MacLean with 800 of his clan, and the Laird of Buchan with 700 of his followers. Lambert was thus intercepted by the Royalists on the very day of his arrival. He drew up his army in battle order on the rising ground immediately south of Inverkeithing. As soon as Holburn saw the Highlanders engaged in the struggle, he drew off his cavalry without firing a shot and this left the remainder of the Scots at the mercy of treble their number.

 

The brave Sir Hector witnessed the flight of the craven dragoons with pity and contempt, though not with dismay. He instantly called to him the Laird of Buchan and Sir John Brown, to whom the young chief addressed a few words expressive of his resolution, even with the small force they had, to continue the battle. Sir John Brown remarked that they were engaging their enemies, not only under great numerical disadvantages, but the position of the enemy was another important advantage they had over them. Sir Hector quickly replied:

“What would you have me do? Would you have me fly like that cowardly old horseman, Holburn, and be for ever the scorn of honest men? Our honour and our loyalty demand that we do our best.”

 

The battle was commenced from Lambert's left, where, from a battery planted on the brow of the hill, the firing was fearfully destructive to the MacLeans and Buchanans, whose exposed position on the lower ground it completely swept. Sir Hector, noticing that the MacLeans and their brave allies were becoming furious from the destructive effect of the enemy's artillery and were every moment more eager to be within the claymore's length of their foes, threw himself in the midst of them and led them up the hill. Here the overwhelming numbers of Lambert enabled him literally to encircle the devoted Highlanders. Sir John Brown, with his cavalry and foot soldiers, had to withstand the whole weight of the enemy's right, and was therefore unable to afford any relief to Sir Hector. Borne down by numbers after repeated conflicts, in which they behaved with honour and suffered severely, Sir John's division took to flight, leaving their gallant leader prisoner in the hands of the enemy and mortally wounded.

 

The desperate purpose of, the Chief of MacLean neither to yield nor fly was his fixed resolve. No idea of asking quarter was dreamt of. Under these disadvantages, even terrible to contemplate, did he maintain the unequal contest for four hours, repulsing not only the attacks of the foe but repeatedly charging him in return – their foes suffering equally as severely. At length the diminished numbers of the Highlanders rendered them an easy prey; still, to yield was a dishonourable alternative. He encouraged his faithful followers to persevere, telling them that the cause of their king was worthy a greater sacrifice. The last and decisive charge made by Lambert's cavalry could only be met by the exhausted Highlanders with the last effort of despair. The enemy in this charge directed his attacks more particularly against the spot occupied by Sir Hector. His noble and heroic clansmen, now seeing that the principal object was to cut off their beloved chief, the few that still survived flocked around his person. In their devotion those fearless spirits offered their own breasts to the weapons aimed at him, with the exclamation: Fear eile airson Eachainn. With life only, ended the resistance of the fearless Sir Hector. His body, already covered with numerous deadly wounds, received the immediately fatal one from a musket shot; the ball penetrated his breast and he fell dead on the spot. He was 27 years of age.

 

Lament For Hector Roy Maclean was composed by A. MaeLean, the chief's piper, on his way home to Duart, being one of the forty survivors of the carnage at Inverkeithing. The tune is to be found in Ceol Mor, page 211. General Thomason gives it the Gaelic appellation of Eacheann Ruaidh nan Cath, but Eachean Ruaidh nan Cath was an ancestor of the subject of this Lament and was killed at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.

 

Sir Hector MacLean's Lament.
I got the news that harassed me
Very early on Sunday;
There was no talk of anything else
But the treachery of Holborn
They all went helter-skelter,
With no attempt at an orderly retreat,
And they abandoned the MacLean
To bear the brunt all alone.

Great was your lack of men,
Though pride made you hold your ground
And surpassing,numbers
Had come over the sea:
I would lay the wager
That were they of equal number (to your own)
They would not have attacked you
In the battle so cheerfully.

it was not the adventure of the Mull men
To Grunnart Bay* that destroyed us
And increased my sorrow,
But that the excellent son of Sir Lachlan
Is a prisoner with the English,
And that he failed to escape from them:
That hero in the strife
To whom war was second nature.

No cudgel in the hands of a dolt
The weapon of this warrior,
No tremor seized him
Whilst announcing the challenge,
Seeking to battle with an opponent,
And he set upon them
When Holborn fled with his cavalry.

Many a white-fisted stalwart
Who was arrayed under your banner,
And a handsome youth
Was mangled under horses;
And a stout farmer
Who knew no fear
Who would unsheath a sword
As keen as a razor.

You inherited our nature
From him who was struck down in Grunnart:
There was no enterprise without peril,
No gain without danger,
Whilst artillery roared
And guns thundered,
At the right hand of my darling,
Causing his friends to suffer.

Where was there on earth
A blood drop so beautiful
As that heir of Duart
Loch Buie and Aros?
Many a red-lipped woman
Whose head-dress was disordered
When she heard the first rumour
That you were wounded in battle.

Your domain is now closed -
The palatial mansion of the Gaels -
Painful to state that
In view of the faithfulness of your adherents:
Thetree of choicest apples
Has been stripped at the moment
Alas! O Mary! my ruin,
The bloom has faded from the garden.

*Grunnart in Islay, where the MacLeans were annihilated by the MacDonalds.

Fhuair mi sgeula mo leiridh,
B'ann gle mhoch Di-Domhnuich;
Cha robb tuille de sheanchas
Ach an ghoill a rinn Hobron:
Chaidh iad uil' thar a cheile
Gun retreuda an ordugh,
'S dh' fhagiad shios MacIlleathain
Cur a chatha 'n a onrachd.

'S mor bha dhuireasbhaidh lamh ort
Ged thug ardan ort guireach;
Agus tuille's an t-anbharr
Theachd a nall air an luingeas;
'S mis' chuireadh an geall, sin,
Mur bfiodh ann ach na h-uiread,
Nach buaileadh iad baing air
Anns a' champa gu subhach.

Cha b' i 'n ruaig ghabh gir Mhuile
Gu Traigh Gruinneirt a chreach sinn;
'S e a mheudaich mo mhulad
Ach sar mhac urrant' Shir Lachlainn,
E bhith 'n sas aig luchd Beurla
Is nach d' cheud e dhol as uath';
B' e sin connspunn na troide
Chuir an cogadh an cleachdadh.

Cha bu shlacan aig oinid
Culaidh - chomhraig a' ghaisgich
Dol an coinne a namhaid
Cha chrith - mhanntainn a ghlac e:
Nuair bhuail e 'm beum – sheith
Shireadh ceile co-chath ris,
Is a hug e 'n an comhdhail
Theich Hobron's a mharc-shluagh.

Gur h-ioma laoch dorn-gheal
Chaidh an ordugh mu, d' bhrataich,
Agus oganach sgiamhach
Bha 'g a riasladh fo eachaibh,
Agus spailp de chear – taighe
Nach robh athadh 'n a phearsa,
Bheireadh claidheamh a duille
Cheart cho guineach ri ealtuinn.

'S ann a thug, thu do dhualchas
O 'n fhear bhuaileadh an Gruinneart:
Cha robh lomairt gun fhuathas,
Cha robh buannachd gun channart;
Aig torrunn an lamhaich,
Agus tairneanaich ghunna,
Ri deas lamh mo ghraidh – sa
Cur a chairdean gu fulang.

C' ait an robh e air thalamh
Boinne fala a b' aille,
Na 'nt – oighre sin Chubhairt,
Loch Buidhe is Arois?
Gur h – ioma bean bheul – dearg
A bha breid air, dhroch 'caradh,
Nuair fhuair iad beachd sgeula
Gun chreachdadh 's a' bhlar thu.

Tha do phairc air a dunadh –
Ionad – luchairt nan Gaidheal
Gur deacair siud innseadh Aig ro – dhilseachd do phartaidh:
Tha a' chraobh a b' fhearr ubhlan
Air a rusgadh an thrath – s' diubh;
Och, a mhuire, mo dhiobhail,
Chaidh am flur bharr a' gharraidh.

 

Exit Lament For Hector Roy MacLean and return to the Lament Piobaireachd Stories

 

 


 


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