Trumpan Church, or Kilconan Church as it was once known, sits just east of the shores of Ardmore Bay on the edge of the Waternish peninsula, has a dark and bloody past.
On the first Sunday of May in the year of 1578 a raiding party of MacDonalds from Uist glided silently around Dunvegan Head into Ardmore bay on the isle of Skye, unnoticed by anyone and bent on vengeance. It was a Sunday morning, and many of the people had gone to worship in the local church. Slowly and silently the MacDonald men moved in on the building and piled brushwood against the door of the building and set it alight, trapping all who were within the walls.
Picture the dismay of the worshippers when there is a loud shout at the church door, and they turn to see the door guarded by armed men, triumphant and without pity. Escape is impossible. Resistance is useless, for the men are unarmed in the church. As the congregation stand there, the women and children terrified, the men defiant yet powerless against the claymores that guard the narrow door, wisps of pungent smoke enter the church and soon the crackle of flames is heard. Shrieks and wailings echo through the doomed building, while outside a piper plays wild and scornful music to drown the cries of the dying. Unperceived in the dense smoke, a teenage girl manages to squeeze through a narrow slit at the corner of the church severing one of her breasts in the process.
She managed to warn the MacLeod’s in Dunvegan. Waving the famous Fairy Flag, an army of MacLeods wreaked their revenge in a swift and bloody savage counter attack. Every member of the raiding party was slaughtered as they couldn't sail to freedom as the tide was so low they could not launch their boats. The battle was named the ‘Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke’ (’Blar Milleadh Garaidh’ in Gaelic) so called because, when all was over, the corpses of the MacDonalds were dragged off and thrown at the side of a stone and turf dyke whereupon the dyke was simply toppled over the dead MacDonalds, so heinous was their act of butchery that it was deemed they did not warrant a decent burial.
It is said that for many years after the battle the bones of the dead MacDonalds could be seen sticking out from the toppled dyke, a gruesome reminder of an awful event.
It’s hard to imagine standing here today that a peaceful congregation gathered together in a church, a place of sanctuary, supposedly, and every man, woman and child being slaughtered. It's even harder to imagine when you stand here listening to the wind and a few distant seabirds that this slaughter actually happened. Now we have to ask ourselves, did the MacDonalds just go about setting fire to churches full of MacLeods?
Or was there more to this story? For a number of years there had been continuous feuding between Clan MacDonald and Clan MacLeod.
During the winter of 1577, this feud came to a terrible climax on the Isle of Eigg. The tradition runs that a small party of MacLeods had landed on that island, whereupon some of the MacLeods staying on the island became too amorous with the local maidens. They were seized, bound hand and foot, and set adrift in their own boat, but managed, to reach Dunvegan. Forthwith, to avenge them, the MacLeod Chief sailed for Eigg. Seeing his overwhelming force the inhabitants of the island, some three hundred and ninety five in number, took shelter in a great cave called St. Francis, also known as the Massacre Cave, which had a single narrow entrance. Their plan seemed successful.
Macleod searched the island, but failed to find them, and at last set sail. Looking back, however, the MacLeods spied a man on the top of the island. Returning immediately, by means of his footsteps in a sprinkling of snow which had fallen, they traced him to the mouth of the cave. There they demanded that the persons who had set their men adrift should be given up for punishment, or as we say in Scotland, "A square go". This was refused whereupon MacLeod ordered his men to gather huge amounts of heather and brushwood.
This was piled against the mouth of the cave and set on fire, Their intention, apparently, was to drive the MacDonalds out into the open but as they could not pass the flames at the cave entrance, none of the MacDonalds managed to escape and the blaze was kept up until all within were suffocated to death. Several centuries later the bones of those who perished were gathered together and reverently interred. Only one family escaped the massacre because they had taken refuge in a different cave.
When news of this slaughter reached the MacDonald chief, the outcry of the clan could be heard for miles around and they in turn, then planned their awful revenge on the MacLeods. This tit for tat mentality went on as almost a way of life until these two clans until 1601 when they finally ceased to wage war on each other after one final and bloody conflict on Skye at Coire ne Creiche in the Cuillins..
Stone of Destiny
Like the Great War before it, the Second World War pulled Scotland and England together in a fight against a common enemy - Germany.
Old rivalries and tensions between the two countries were put aside as the whole of Britain put its shoulder to the wheel to defeat the Nazis.
It was during the war, however, that the seeds of the idea of Scottish independence were quietly being sewn - seeds which, just over half a century later, would germinate in the country once again winning home rule.
also known as Battle of Old Byland
Since 1314 King Robert the Bruce had sought a peace treaty in order that the war ravaged realm of Scotland could recover. Edward II was obdurate and impervious to the pleas from his lords, so, each year, the Bruce instigated forays into northern England to extract tribute and booty to help rebuild a bankrupt Scottish economy. He hoped the raids would put pressure on the English barons to persuade King Edward II to negotiate a peace treaty which would recognise Scotland as an Independent Kingdom with himself as its rightful king. Accordingly he sent Sir James Douglas (The Black Douglas) and Sir Thomas Randolph (The Earl of Moray) in a series of wide ranging raids into Northumberland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Durham and Yorkshire to extract tribute which for a medium sized town was 2000 silver merks or £1,300 English pounds (worth £140,000 by today's standards.)
The Treaty of Northampton in 1328
The Treaty of Northampton was the formal document that concluded the First Scottish War of Independence. However, one thing we can conclude about the Treaty of Northampton is that it is easy to get confused about the Treaty of Northampton.
On the one hand, it is sometimes referred to as the Treaty of Edinburgh, which unhelpfully risks confusion with the other Treaty of Edinburgh of 1560. For another thing, it was concluded in one month, endorsed in a later month and then backdated to an even earlier date, just to add another level of confusion. To add one final confusing ingredient, it was made between the English and Scottish Kings, neither of whom were actively present at its ratification.
For long we have heard little of the Kirk, which between 1720 and 1740 passed through a cycle of internal storms. She had been little vexed, either during her years of triumph or defeat, by heresy or schism. But now the doctrines of Antoinette Bourignon, a French lady mystic, reached Scotland, and won the sympathies of some students of divinity—including the Rev. John Simson, of an old clerical family which had been notorious since the Reformation for the turbulence of its members. In 1714, and again in 1717, Mr Simson was acquitted by the Assembly on the charges of being a Jesuit, a Socinian, and an Arminian, but was warned against “a tendency to attribute too much to natural reason.” In 1726-29 he was accused of minimising the doctrines of the creed of St Athanasius, and tending to the Arian heresy,—“lately raked out of hell,” said the Kirk-session of Portmoak (1725), addressing the sympathetic Presbytery of Kirkcaldy. At the Assembly of 1726 that Presbytery, with others, assailed Mr Simson, who was in bad health, and “could talk of nothing but the Council of Nice.” A committee, including Mar’s brother, Lord Grange (who took such strong measures with his wife, Lady Grange, forcibly translating her to the isle of St Kilda), inquired into the views of Mr Simson’s own Presbytery—that of Glasgow. This Presbytery cross-examined Mr Simson’s pupils, and Mr Simson observed that the proceedings were “an unfruitful work of darkness.” Moreover, Mr Simson was of the party of the Squadrone, while his assailants were Argathelians. A large majority of the Assembly gave the verdict that Mr Simson was a heretic. Finally, though in 1728 his answers to questions would have satisfied good St Athanasius, Mr Simson found himself in the ideal position of being released from his academic duties but confirmed in his salary. The lenient good-nature of this decision, with some other grievances, set fire to a mine which blew the Kirk in twain.
The Presbytery of Auchterarder had set up a kind of “standard” of their own—“The Auchterarder Creed”—which included this formula: “It is not sound or orthodox to teach that we must forsake sin in order to our coming to Christ, and instating us in Covenant with God.” The General Assembly condemned this part of the Creed of Auchterarder. The Rev. Mr Hog, looking for weapons in defence of Auchterarder, republished part of a forgotten book of 1646, ‘The Marrow of Modern Divinity.’ The work appears to have been written by a speculative hairdresser, an Independent. A copy of the Marrow was found by the famous Mr Boston of Ettrick in the cottage of a parishioner. From the Marrow he sucked much advantage: its doctrines were grateful to the sympathisers with Auchterarder, and the republication of the book rent the Kirk.
In 1720 a Committee of the General Assembly condemned a set of propositions in the Marrow as tending to Antinomianism (the doctrine that the saints cannot sin, professed by Trusty Tompkins in ‘Woodstock’). But—as in the case of the five condemned propositions of Jansenius—the Auchterarder party denied that the heresies could be found in the Marrow.
It was the old quarrel between Faith and Works. The clerical petitioners in favour of the Marrow were rebuked by the Assembly (May 21, 1722); they protested: against a merely human majority in the Assembly they appealed to “The Word of God,” to which the majority also appealed; and there was a period of passion, but schism had not yet arrived.
The five or six friends of the Marrow really disliked moral preaching, as opposed to weekly discourses on the legal technicalities of justification, sanctification, and adoption. They were also opposed to the working of the Act which, in 1712, restored lay patronage. If the Assembly enforced the law of the land in this matter (and it did), the Assembly sinned against the divine right of congregations to elect their own preachers. Men of this way of thinking were led by the Rev. Mr Ebenezer Erskine, a poet who, in 1714, addressed an Ode to George I. He therein denounced “subverting patronage” and
“the woful dubious Abjuration
Which gave the clergy ground for speculation.”
But a Jacobite song struck the same note—
“Let not the Abjuration
Impose upon the nation!”
and George was deaf to the muse of Mr Erskine.
In 1732, 1733, Mr Erskine, in sermons concerning patronage, offended the Assembly; would not apologise, appeared (to a lay reader) to claim direct inspiration, and with three other brethren constituted himself and them into a Presbytery. Among their causes of separation (or rather of deciding that the Kirk had separated from them) was the salary of Emeritus Professor Simson. The new Presbytery declared that the Covenants were still and were eternally binding on Scotland; in fact, these preachers were “platonically” for going back to the old ecclesiastical claims, with the old war of Church and State. They naturally denounced the Act of 1736, which abolished the burning of witches. After a period of long-suffering patience and conciliatory efforts, in 1740 the Assembly deposed the Seceders.
In 1747 a party among the Seceders excommunicated Mr Erskine and his brother; one of those who handed Mr Erskine over to Satan (if the old formula were retained) was his son-in-law.
The feuds of Burghers and Antiburghers (persons who were ready to take or refused to take the Burgess oath), New Lights and Old Lights, lasted very long and had evil consequences. As the populace love the headiest doctrines, they preferred preachers in proportion as they leaned towards the Marrow, while lay patrons preferred candidates of the opposite views. The Assembly must either keep the law and back the patrons, or break the law and cease to be a State Church. The corruption of patronage was often notorious on one side; on the other the desirability of burning witches and the belief in the eternity of the Covenants were articles of faith; and such articles were not to the taste of the “Moderates,” educated clergymen of the new school.
Thus arose the war of “High Flyers” and “Moderates” within the Kirk, a war conducing to the great Disruption of 1843, in which gallant little Auchterarder was again in the foremost line.