The Royal Scots Cap Badge


Beinn a'Ghriam


The event that inspired this tune occurred in July, 1601. It is of a time when there what was an unusual and temporary alliance between fierce rivals, the Sutherlands and the MacKays, who joined forces to confront the intrusion of the Earl of Caithness into Reay country en route to attack Sutherland.


Uisdean MacKay, 13th Chieftain, was supported by the Earl of Sutherland, Munro of Contullich and MacLeod of Assynt. They took up a strong defensive position in the vicinity of the mountains Griam Mor and Griam Beg. Their troops were arrayed between two small lochs with swampy ground in front of them. Caithness camped three miles off.


Clansmen on both sides well knew an ancient prophesy which said that a battle would be fought between Sutherland-MacKay forces on one side and Caithness forces on the other. The prophesy predicted a costly victory for the MacKay–Sutherland side who would suffer huge losses – but not as devastating as those that would be infflicted on the Caithness side. This prophesy seems to have influenced the outcome of the affair.


Caithness had trouble holding his force together, let alone persuade them to attack the well–entrenched enemy in the face of the dire results predicted by the prophesy. When the MacKay-Sutherland forces threatened to attack their timid enemy, Caithness called for a truce which was agreed to. Caithness returned to his own glens and disbanded his troops.


The composer of this piobaireachd is unknown.


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