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Desperate Battle Of The Cuillin


The Desperate Battle of the Cuillin, 1601, was the very last battle in the centuries long MacLeod/MacDonald feud. It followed shortly after a skirmish at Carinish, North Uist. At the time of the battle, Ruaridh Mor MacLeod was away in Argyll seeking the Earl's help against the MacDonalds of Sleat and the MacDonalds of Clanranald.


At a place called Corrie na Creiche (Corrie of Plunder) on Skye, the MacDonald force under their Chieftain, Donald Gorm of Sleat, trounced the MacLeod's under command of Ruaridh's brother, Alasdair. Many of MacLeod's leading men were taken prisoner.


An incident that embodies the widespread attitude of the time about fighting, is told about this battle. It seems that two Kintail men, Duncan MacRae and John Og with their servants were in Skye trading in horses. They came upon the battle and decided to get involved. Duncan, who had a MacLeod mother joined the MacLeods. John Og joined the MacDonalds just to keep things even. Both, with their servants, gave valuable service and survived unscathed. After the battle they joined up and made their way home to Kintail.


It was following this battle that King James VI intervened and put a stop to the senseless, destructive and seemingly never-ending feud. Out of the settlement came three well-known tunes composed by MacLeod's piper, Donald Mor MacCrimmon:
  • MacLeod's Salute.
  • MacDonald's Salute.
  • MacLeod's Controversy.


The Desperate Battle of the Cuillin is attributed to Donald Mor MacCrimmon who composed it as a tribute to those who fell. The tune has a different accent than Waternish, reflecting a loss that left nothing to boast about.


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