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Standoff at theFords of Arkaig

September 1665

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In 1664 Ewen Cameron, XVII Captain and Chief of Clan Cameron and the Chief of Clan Mackintosh were ordered before the Privy Council to settle the dispute over the lands near Loch Arkaig (Loch Arkaig and Glen Lui) once and for all.  Both appeared and while MacKintosh was declared to have the legal right to the lands, Ewen was declared de facto owner, being ordered to pay MacKintosh a large sum to satisfy the claim.  MacKintosh refused this settlement, a very complicated transaction which had been drawn up on June 15, 1664, setting the stage for the most significant clan face-off ever to be seen in Lochaber.

Reports came in from Cameron scouts that MacKintosh, along with 1500 men of Clan Chattan (which he no longer had dual claim to as chief, granting the chiefship of Clan Chattan in a notorial deed to Andrew MacPherson of Cluny in exchange for his assistance in this campaign) had invaded the disputed lands, taking up position to the north of the River Arkaig, in what is now known as the Caig Parks.  Being adequately forewarned by his men, Ewen had raised his clan along with some MacIans of Glencoe and MacGregor volunteers to a number of approximately 1,000 men.  They took up a defensive stance on the Achnacarry side of the river at the Fords of Arkaig, securing the only ford on the river.  Ewen's biographer stated that there were 900 men armed with guns, broadswords and targes, and an additional 300 with bows in place of guns.  Indeed, it seemed as though the battle to end all battles between these two ancient adversaries was ready to commence.  

Realizing that the ford was impassable, MacKintosh moved his men two miles further west along the side of Loch Arkaig.  Having thrown up an embankment at the ford, leaving a strong force of "fifty doughty clansmen," Ewen followed with the main body of his men, taking up a position opposite of the enemy.  His usual confidence was not supplied from mere ego or bravado; once again the Chief of Clan Cameron had a plan in the works.  Cameron of Erracht, along with a body of picked men, would be sent via boats to the northern side of Loch Arkaig to fall upon MacKintosh and his assembled Clan Macintosh/Chattan forces in the rear.  In the meanwhile Ewen and the main body of Camerons would make an eighteen mile forced march around the head of Loch Arkaig to outflank the enemy and attack from the west.  Whether this brilliant battle plan of Ewen's would have succeeded is now a matter of mere speculation, since a moderator entered into the situation at this time.  John Campbell, later the Earl of Breadalbane, appeared on the scene just after Ewen had launched his dual attack.  Campbell brought 300 men with him, stating that he would join in fighting against whomever initiated the impending battle.  Needless to say this gave Ewen adequate reason to recall his troops.

As a result of this new development MacKintosh finally had to agree to selling the disputed lands.  On September 20, 1665 a contract was drawn up at Clunes, which was subscribed to by both Ewen and MacKintosh.  The disputed lands were sold to Ewen for the sum of 25,000 merks.  Additionally, even though a Mackintosh did not resided there, it was agreed that he and his heirs should be entitled to the style or designation "of Torcastle."  Mackintosh history relates that their chief resided at Torcastle at one point early on, but Macpherson history contradicts this, stating that Torcastle never belonged to the Mackintosh chiefs.  They contend that Lachlan Mackintosh merely styled himself "of Torcastle" to annoy Lochiel, since it was the Cameron chief's residence at that time.

What is said to have been the longest and bloodiest clan feud in the history of Scotland (lasting 360 years), finally came to its true end that day in Lochaber.  Agreements and contracts aside, Ewen and twenty-four of his men crossed the water of Arkaig and met face-to-face with MacKintosh and an equal number of his men.  There at Clunes the men of Clan Cameron and Clan Macintosh met face to face and shook hands for the first time in generations, exchanging swords as a token of reconciliation, and drinking to one another's health.  The agreement was signed by both parties, and dated June 15, 1664, which as aforementioned was its original date of draft.  In the Lord Lyon's records the grant of Arms for Mackintosh of Torcastle reflects this same date in 1664.

Ewen Cameron added this worthy accomplishment to his list of accolades; indeed he was considered a "Chief amongst Chiefs," all at a mere thirty-six years of age.