Lieutenants of the Coast 1
Alanus MacKaskyll, a scribe in a monastery at Perth in the 16th century, wrote:|
"The MacAskills were the lieutenants of the MacLeods, both by sea and by land, from whom they held large territorial possesions in reward for their services as commanders of their galleys or birlinns; and one of them, clad in full armour, always accompanied the chief as his henchman."(3)
One of the traditional posts held by the MacAskills was that of Constable of the main MacLeod stronghold in the South of the Island, the castle of Dunscaith,(4) and they are said to have held it through several sieges.
In effect the family were responsible for safeguarding the South and West approaches to Skye and their base at Rudh-an-Dunain was strategically sited for the purpose. Such, it appears was the service given to the MacLeods by the MacAskills that one of the MacLeod chiefs decreed that every MacAskill gravestone should have carved upon it a warrior in full armour and the clan emblems. Canon MacLeod, brother of the 26th and 27th chiefs and clan historian, states in 1927 that the Isles were littered with these headstones and that they probably came from a monastic factory on Iona.
The galleys, or birlinns, of the day were a development of the Norse longship, probably smaller but much more manoeuvrable, having a rudder instead of a steering oar.(5) Communications between the Isles and between the West coast of Scotland and Ulster in the early days would have been by wicker and skin "curraghs", but with the arrival of the Norsemen wooden galleys and birlinns became the common transport and these stayed in use until the Jacobite rebellion.
Full armour would have meant a long coat (habergeon) of mail, similar to that displayed today in Dunvegan Castle, and a conical steel helmet. A great two-handed sword would have been carried. As late as 1545 a Highland army in Ireland under Donald of the Isles is described as "tall men clothed for the most part in harbergeons of mail, armed with long swords."(6)
Asgall had two sons, Donald and Allan who were granted lands, the former at Rudh-an-Dunain (Clann Mhic Dhomhnaill Dhuibh) and the latter at Talisker (Clann Mhic Ailein). The Tallisker branch were moved to Glendale by Rory Mor, 16th chief of the MacLeods of Dunvegan, to make room for his son, Sir Roderick in the early 17th century. Apparently they did not prosper in Glendale and ceased to exist as a distinct family. The senior branch at Rudh-an-Dunain continued and held that land, father and son, as tacksmen until the difficulties of the mid 19th century forced them to emigrate.
On to the Lieutenants of the Coast 2.
Home Page | Angus | History | Links | Tartans | Wallace | Message Forum