Gairloch, originally the possession of the Earls of Ross, and confirmed to them by Robert Bruce in 1306 and 1329 was subsequently granted by Earl William to Paul MacTire and his heirs by Mary Graham, for a yearly payment of a penny of silver in the name of blench ferme in lieu of every other service except the foreign service of the King when required. In 1372 Robert the II. confirmed the grant. In 1430 James I. granted to Nele Nelesoun (Neil son of Neil Macleod) for his homage and service in the capture of his deceased brother, Thomas Nelesoun, a rebel, the lands of Gairloch. [Origines Parochiales Scotiae, vol. ii, p. 406]
Although Hector was in possession of Crown charters to at least two-thirds of the lands of Gairloch he found it very difficult to secure possession of them from the Macleods and their chief, Allan MacRory, the former proprietors. This Allan had married, as his first wife, a daughter of Alexander, VI. of Kintail, and sister of Hector Roy, with issue--three sons. He married, secondly, a daughter of Roderick Macleod, VII. of Lewis, with issue--one son, Roderick, subsequently known as Ruairidh Mac Alain, author of an atrocious massacre of the Macleods of Raasay and Gairloch at Island Isay, Waternish, Isle of Skye, erroneously attributed in the first edition of this work to his grandfather, the above-named Roderick Macleod of Lewis. Allan of Gairloch was himself related to the Macleods of Lewis, but it is impossible to trace the exact connection.
Two brothers of Macleod of Lewis are said, traditionally, to have resolved that no Mackenzie blood should flow in the veins of the future head of the Gairloch Macleods, and determined to put Allan's children by Hector Roy's sister to death, so that his son by their own niece should succeed to Gairloch, and they proceeded across the Minch to the mainland to put their murderous intent into execution.
Allan MacRuairidh, the then Macleod laird of Gairloch, was personally a peacefully disposed man, and lived at the "Crannag," of which traces are still to be found on Loch Tolly Island, along with his second wife, two of his sons by the first marriage, and a daughter. The brothers, having reached Gairloch, took up their abode at the old Tigh Dige, a wattled house, surrounded by a ditch, whose site is still pointed out in one of the Flowerdale parks, a few hundred yards above the stone bridge which crosses the Ceann-an-t-Sail river at the head of Gairloch Bay. Next day the murderous barbarians crossed over to Loch Tolly. On the way they learnt that Allan was not then on the island, he having gone a-fishing on the Ewe. They at once proceeded in that direction, found him sound asleep on the banks of the river, at "Cnoc na Mi-chomhairle," and without any warning "made him short by the head." Then retracing their steps, and ferrying across to the island where Allan's wife, with two of her three step-children were enjoying themselves, they, in the most cold-blooded manner, informed her of her husband's fate, tore the two boys--the third being fortunately absent--from her knees, took them ashore, and carried them along to a small glen through which the Poolewe Road now passes, about a mile to the south of the loch, and there, at a spot still called "Creag Bhadain an Aisc," the Rock at the place of Burial, stabbed them to the heart with their daggers, and carried their bloodstained shirts along with them to the Tigh Dige. These shirts the stepmother ultimately secured through the strategy of one of her husband's retainers, who at once proceeded with them to the boys' grandfather, Alexander Mackenzie, VI. of Kintail, at Kinellan or Brahan. Hector Roy started immediately, carrying the bloodstained shirts along with him as evidence of the atrocious deed, to report the murder to the King at Edinburgh. His Majesty on hearing of the crime granted Hector a commission of fire and sword against the murderers of his nephews, and gave him a Crown charter to the lands of Gairloch in his own favour dated 1494. The assassins were soon afterwards slain at a hollow still pointed out between Porthenderson and South Erradale, nearly opposite the northern end of the Island of Raasay, where their graves are yet to be seen, quite fresh and green, among the surrounding heather. [Mackenzie's History of the Macleods, pp. 342, 343.]
One of the family historians says that this was the first step that Hector Roy got to Gairloch. His brother-in-law, Allan Macleod, gave him the custody of their rights, but when he found his nephews were murdered, he took a new gift of it to himself, and going to Gairloch with a number of Kintail men and others, he took a heirschip with him, but such as were alive of the Siol `ille Challum of Gairloch, followed him and fought him at a place called Glasleoid, but they being beat Hector carried away the heirschip. After this and several other skirmishes they were content to allow him the two-thirds of Gairloch, providing he would let themselves possess the other third in peace, which he did, and they kept possession till Hector's great-grandchild put them from it." [Ancient MS.]
The Earl of Cromarty, and other MS. historians of the family fully corroborate this. The Earl says that Hector, incited to revenge by the foul murder of his nephews, made some attempts to oust the Macleods from Gairloch during John of Killin's minority, but was not willing to engage in war with such a powerful chief as Macleod of Lewis, while he felt himself insecure in his other possessions, but after arranging matters amicably with his nephew of Kintail, and now being master of a fortune and possessions suitable to his mind and quality, he resolved to avenge the murder and to "make it productive of his own advantage." He summoned all those who were accessory to the assassination of his sister's children before the Chief Justice. Their well grounded fears made them absent themselves from Court. Hector produced the bloody shirts of the murdered boys, whereupon the murderers were declared fugitives and outlaws, and a commission granted in his favour for their pursuit, "which he did so resolutely manage that in a short time he killed many, preserved some to justice, and forced the remainder to a composition advantageous to himself. His successors, who were both active and prudent men, did thereafter acquire the rest from their unthrifty neighbours." The greatest defeat that Hector ever gave to the Macleods "was at Bealach Glasleoid, near Kintail, where most of them were taken or killed." At this fight Duncan Mor na Tuaighe, who so signally distinguished himself at Blar-na-Pairc, was present with Hector, and on being told that four men were together attacking his son Dugal, he indifferently replied, "Well, if he be my son there is no hazard for that," a remark which turned out quite true, for the hero killed the four Macleods, and came off himself without any serious wounds. [Duncan in his old days was very assisting to Hector, Gairloch's predecessor, against the Macleods of Gairloch, for he, with his son Dugal, who was a strong, prudent, and courageous man, with ten or twelve other Kintailmen, were alwise, upon the least advertisement, ready to go and assist Hector, whenever, wherever, and in whatever he had to do, for which cause there has been a friendly correspondence betwixt the family of Gairloch and the MacRas of Kintail, which still continues."--Genealogy of the MacRas.]
The massacre of Island Isay followed a considerable time after this, and its object was very much the same as the murder of Loch Tolly, although carried out by a different assassin. Ruairidh "Nimhneach" Macleod, son of Allan "Mac Ruairdh" of Gairloch, and nephew of the Loch Tolly assassins, determined not only to remove the children of John Mor na Tuaighe, brother of Alexander Macleod, II. of Raasay, by Janet Mackenzie of Kintail, but also to destroy the direct line of the Macleods of Raasay, and thus open up the succession to John na Tuaighe's son by his second wife, Roderick Nimhneach's sister, and failing him, to Roderick's own son Allan. By this connection it would, he thought, be easier for him to attain repossession of the lands of Gairloch, from which his family was driven by the Mackenzies.
Roderick's name appears as "Rory Mac Allan, alias Nevymnauch," in a decree-arbitral by the Regent Earl of Murray between Donald Macdonald, V. of Sleat, and Colin Mackenzie, XI. of Kintail, dated at Perth, the 1st of August, 1569, in terms of which Macdonald becomes responsible for Roderick and undertakes that he and his kin shall "desist and cease troubling, molesting, harming or invasion of the said Laird of Gairloch's lands and rowmes, possessions, tenants, servants, and goods, while on the other hand Kintail shall see to it that Torquil Cononach shall cease to do the same in all respects to Macdonald's lands." In 1586 Roderick is described as "of Lochgair," but another person is named in the same document as "Macleud, heritor of the lands of Gairloch," which proves that Roderick Nimhneach was not the actual proprietor of even the small portion of that district which was still left to his family. He was the second son, and one of the objects of the massacre on Island Isay was to cut off his father's only surviving son and heir by his first wife--a daughter of Mackenzie of Kintail--who escaped the previous massacre on the Island of Loch Tolly.