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The Battle of BUN GARBHAIN

Circa 1570

Cameron of Lochiel's Own Website

The Clan Cameron was in anarchy.  Donald Dubh Cameron, XV Chief of Clan Cameron, had died, leaving an infant son at the head of the clan.  Young Allan Cameron's tutors, primarily Ewen Cameron of Erracht, had their own interests in mind.  Erracht claimed the chiefship for himself and soon entered into an agreement with his relative, Macintosh of Mackintosh.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with many Camerons, especially those from the Lochiel line.  As such, it was rescinded, and a Mackintosh invasion was imminent.  At this time of great peril a near relative to young Allan, Donald "the Taillear Dubh" Cameron, came forward to lead the loyal men of Clan Cameron.

Sometime around the year 1570 Macintosh, at the head of 200 men, invaded the Cameron lands near Loch Arkaig.  The Mackintoshes had approached by Lochielside where, meeting no resistance, they made camp for the night.  The following day Macintosh led his men past Beinn an t-sneachda and approached Loch Arkaig from the south.  Baring their way, with a strong position on a hillside, were the men of Clan Cameron.

With the widely feared Taillear Dubh and his men wielding their deadly Lochaber axes, a "bloody battle" ensued.  Though outnumbered, the Camerons had the high ground and soon the field was littered with Macintoshes both dead and injured.  The remainder of their army was put to flight.  Mackintosh led his men in retreat around the head of Loch Eil to the Ardgour shore and rallied his men.  The Camerons were in swift pursuit and a second engagement took place, with similar results as the first.  In the midst of this action the Taillear Dubh and Mackintosh met face to face, and the fearsome Lochaber axe felled Mackintosh to the ground.  His followers took their stricken chief and fell back to Bun Garbhain (Bun Garvan).  Both sides met once again for an indeterminate time, before disengaging for the night.  The Mackintoshes made camp in a small hollow called Cuil nan Cuileag, and thought that they were safe.  However, the Taillear Dubh was not done with his mortal enemies, and along with his men stormed the encampment and fell upon them.  Not a single Mackintosh would leave that hollow and the Cameron victory was absolute.

An interesting footnote of this battle relates to the mother of Clan Cameron's infant chief.  Following the battle the Taillear Dubh bore the news of their victory to Eilean nan Craobh.  According to legend, the infant chief's mother was a Mackintosh by birth.  Upon his arrival, the lady asked him how the battle went, to which Donald replied: "Gun robh bian cait an diugh air plang, agus rogha's taghadh air peighinn" ("A cat's skin might be had that day for a plack").  This, of course, was a reference to the men of Clan Mackintosh, whose symbol was a cat.  After inviting him into her home (seemingly for further discussion) the lady became so enraged that she threw her own infant son into the embers of the fireplace.  The horrified Taillear Dubh, watching his young chief treated so roughly, emphatically raised his axe and ordered her to take up the child.  She knew that this same axe had recently hewn her Mackintosh kinsfolk, and had no great wish to suffer a similar fate.  Young Allan Cameron was safely retrieved and his Mackintosh mother was bound to a horse, her face to the tale, and was driven from Lochaber forever.