She at once joined them in the hall, and having drunk one or two glasses along with them, she remarked that it was a very poor thing for the Macleods to be deprived of their own lands in Gairloch, and to have to live in comparative poverty in Raasay and the Isle of Skye. "But," she said to them, "prepare yourselves and start to-morrow for Gairloch, sail in the black birlinn, and you shall regain it. I shall be a witness of your success when you return."
The men trusted her, believing she had the power of divination. In the morning they set sail for Gairloch--the black galley was full of the Macleods. It was evening when they entered the loch. They were afraid to land on the mainland, for they remembered that the descendants of Domhnull Greannach (a celebrated Macrae) were still there, and they knew the prowess of these men only too well. The Macleods therefore turned to the south side of the loch, and fastened their birlinn to the Fraoch Eilean, in the well-sheltered bay opposite Leac-nan-Saighead, between Shieldaig and Badachro. Here they decided to wait until morning, then disembark, and walk round the head of the loch.
But all their movements had been well and carefully watched. Domhnull Odhar Mac lain Leith and his brother Ian, the celebrated Macrae archers, recognised the birlinn of the Macleods, and determined to oppose their landing. They walked round the head of the loch by Shieldaig and posted themselves before daylight behind the Leac, a projecting rock overlooking the Fraoch Eilean. The steps on which they stood at the back of the rock are still pointed out. Donald Odhar, being of small stature, took the higher of the two ledges, and Ian took the lower. Standing on these they crouched down behind the rock, completely sheltered from the enemy, but commanding a full view of the island, while they were quite invisible to the Macleods, who lay down on the island. As soon as the day dawned the two Macraes directed their arrows on the strangers, of whom a number were killed before their comrades were even aware of the direction from which the messengers of death came. The Macleods endeavoured to answer their arrows, but not being able to see the foe, their efforts were of no effect. In the heat of the fight one of the Macleods climbed up the mast of the birlinn to discover the position of the enemy. Ian Odhar observing this, took deadly aim at him when near the top of the mast.
"Oh," says Donald, addressing John, "you have sent a pin through his broth." The slaughter continued, and the remnant of the Macleods hurried aboard their birlinn. Cutting the rope, they turned her head seawards. By this time only two of their number were left alive. In their hurry to escape they left all the bodies of their slain companions unburied on the island.
A rumour of the arrival of the Macleods had during the night spread through the district, and other warriors, such as Fionnla Dubh na Saighead, and Fear Shieldaig, were soon at the scene of action, but all they had to do on their arrival was to assist in the burial of the dead Macleods. Pits were dug, into each of which a number of the bodies were thrown, and mounds were raised over them which remain to this day, as any one landing on the island may observe.
In 1611, Murdoch Mackenzie, second surviving son of John Roy Mackenze, IV. of Gairloch, accompanied by Alexander Bayne, heir apparent of Tulloch, and several brave men from Gairloch, sailed to the Isle of Skye in a vessel loaded with wine and provisions. It is said by some that Murdoch's intention was to apprehend John Tolmach, while others maintain that his object was to secure in marriage the daughter and heir of line of Donald Dubh MacRory. The latter theory is far the more probable, and it is the unbroken tradition in Gairloch.
John Macleod was a prisoner in Gairloch, was unmarried, and easily secured where he was, in the event of this marriage taking place. By such a union, failing issue by John, then in the power of John Roy, the ancient rights of the Macleods would revert to the Gairloch family, and a troublesome dispute would be for ever settled, if John Tolmach were at the same time captured or put to death.
It may easily be conceived how both objects would become combined but whatever the real object of the trip to Skye, it proved disastrous. The ship found its way--intentionally on the part of the crew, or forced by a great storm--to the sheltered bay of Kirkton of Raasay, opposite the present mansion house, where young MacGillechallum at the time resided. Anchor was cast, and young Raasay, hearing that Murdoch Mackenzie was on board, discussed the situation with his friend MacGillechallum Mor MacDhomhnuill Mhic Neill, who persuaded him to visit the ship as a friend, and secure Mackenzie's person by stratagem, with the view of getting him afterwards exchanged for his own relative, John MacAllan Mhic Rory, then a prisoner in Gairloch. Acting on this advice, young Raasay, with Gillecallum Mor and twelve of their men, started for the ship, leaving word with his bastard brother, Murdoch, to get ready all the men he could, to go to their assistance in small boats as soon as the a]arm was given.